Scarlet Shadow - A Thief's Uprising: Part Two
Cenoal made sure the Ruki was out of hearing range before speaking once more to the Lupess. “Well,” he stated, “now you know my secret.” The Aisha scowled. “Will you keep it?”
Scarlet was lost in her thoughts. The Lupess was a deep thinker, exactly like himself. Finally, she nodded. “I might as well stay on the winning team,” she said. She looked up. “Besides, you’d sooner kill me now than let your precious secret out.”
Cenoal gave her a smirk. “I wish I could tell you more,” he said, casting a wry glance back toward the other thieves. “But, how do I know you won’t just turn your back and betray me?”
“You have my word,” Scarlet said without hesitation.
“Scarlet!” Vrelos’ voice ran clear though the desert afternoon.
“Why don’t you go on back to camp?” Shade said. “I’ll catch up.” Scarlet didn’t question him. She merely dismounted and made her way back to the campsite.
“Can I really trust the word of a runaway noble?” Cenoal asked after the Lupess had gone over the dune.
Shade snorted. “If you can’t, Cenoal,” he said, “I don’t think anyone can.”
Cenoal nodded. “Why do you trust her?”
“Not with my secrets I don’t,” Shade replied.
Cenoal looked down. “Then why do I trust her?”
Shade grinned. “I trust your judgment more than any other, Cenoal,” he replied. “And I trust Scarlet’s skill and loyalty more than most.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if I was in a sticky situation, she’d be the one I’d want on my side. The girl is fiercely loyal.”
“Loyal enough to run away from home?” Cenoal scoffed.
Shade’s cold gaze sent a chill through the Captain’s spine. “Do not cast judgment before you know the full story, Cenoal,” Shade warned. “Scarlet’s loyalty to her home is second to none...”
A cry rent the night air. Cenoal’s face pictured annoyance. “Well, it was nice of them to tell me they were planning to attack TONIGHT!” he hissed as his steed galloped toward the camp.
Scarlet watched around her as mayhem unfolded. The thieves seemed to know exactly who to attack and who was a friend. Unfortunately for her, BOTH sides thought her an adversary. She was clashing swords with literally everyone! The Lupess was getting annoyed.
Suddenly, the thieves backed off. Only one remained before her. The Electric Wocky looked her up and down. Without saying a word, the two charged. The clash of their swords was like music to the observing thieves. It seemed the entire battle had stopped to give way to the scuffle. Scarlet could tell she faced a true master. His short sword surged and blocked with terrifying accuracy. The Lupess’ training, however, had suppressed the intolerable fear that most would have crumpled at.
The Wocky seemed impressed. Scarlet was panting, surprised at her opponent. It seemed he was not even fazed. His skill was out of her league. Yet, even with the knowledge that she would most likely lose, the Lupess stood her ground. She was not going to allow intimidation into her mind, not even for a moment.
“I am impressed,” the Wocky stated. His voice was deep and penetrating. “I never expected anyone from the Anubis Clan to posses such skill.”
“None of them do,” Scarlet stated. “I am not from the Anubis Clan.”
The Wocky sheathed his sword and walked before her. “Then you are neither from Anubis nor from my Scarabs,” he stated. “If so, I believe I could use your services far more than these fools.”
“I have already enlisted her, Milord.” The Wocky smiled. Scarlet saw Cenoal standing behind him, his hand on the hilt of his saber.
“You have done well, Cenoal,” the Wocky said without turning. He stretched his hand out to Scarlet. “I am Lord Kreio, Lord of the Desert Scarabs.”
Scarlet shook the Guild Master’s hand. “I am afraid I am void of such titles, Milord,” she stated. “I am merely known as Scarlet here.”
Kreio looked around. The Anubis Clan thieves and his own were still standing stock still, watching. Cenoal walked into the gawking crowd and brought out three Unis. One, she knew, was his own steed, Arc, another was obviously Lord Kreio’s, and the last was Shade. He handed the reigns over to Kreio and Scarlet. Kreio raised an eyebrow as he watched Scarlet mount Shade.
“Shade Meloran,” he stated, mounting his own Uni. “This young lady is your student?”
Shade nodded. “In a way, she is, Milord,” he responded. “Though, I take no credit for her combat skills.”
Kreio nodded as Cenoal rode beside him on Arc. “That talent must be honed,” he said. Looking around at the still-stupefied thieves, he grunted. “I leave it to you, Emros,” he stated to the Ixi standing beside him. He looked back to Scarlet and Cenoal. “You two follow me...”
The riders navigated through the deserted alleyways that littered the great city of Sakhmet. Scarlet was taking in her new surroundings. The situation she was in felt... strange. After all, she was travelling with the Lord of the Desert Scarabs and his Captain! Funny how she had no clue who these ‘Scarabs’ were. The only thing she knew for sure was that they were some sort of Thieves’ Guild.
It hit her. Of course she knew of the Desert Scarabs! The guild of thieves in Sakhmet was one of the most feared and hated in the entire Desert. The scarab marks they carried were tattoos – pitch black in color and meant to stay there until the very end. Some whispered it would even mark their bones when all flesh had rotted.
The riders soon stopped before a small building. They entered. The building was empty, not a single candle burned within the dark walls. No windows let in any light and it was extremely stuffy. There were no chairs, no tables, no rugs, absolutely nothing stood in the small room. Kreio dismounted and walked over to the middle of the room. “Welcome, Scarlet,” the Lord of Scarabs said, turning toward her, “to a thief’s world.” The Wocky stamped his foot seven times. The ground sounded completely solid. Kreio uttered words in a strange language. He whispered so quietly Scarlet could barely hear them.
Scarlet ran the Wocky’s words over in her mind. She knew many languages. This was one that was long dead. Translated loosely, it came out as: I, Kreio Malezis, have returned! The Lupess smiled, remembering the long lessons with Lord Inel she had loathed. Now she would have given anything to be back in her room, studying for another language test...
Kreio stepped aside as the floor right below where he had been standing descended. Within seconds, the five of them were making their way down a torch-lit stairway. Down they went until finally coming to the bottom. Everything was brilliantly lit, all by torches. A slight breeze could be felt, strange due to the lack of any openings.
Soon enough, Scarlet found herself in a large room. Kreio walked toward the middle and sat atop the throne. He looked the Lupess up and down once more. The Wocky spoke without hesitation. “Countless others have failed in showing true potential when they are given the opportunity. I was impressed.”
“An impression is not difficult to give you then,” Scarlet replied. Although, inside she still felt the moment she realized how near she had been to defeat. The other thieves in the room froze. Everything stayed deadly silent for quite some time. Finally, the spell was broken – by Kreio’s laughs.
“Sharp tongue,” he said. “You’re not afraid to speak your mind, I see. Cenoal’s decision was a wise one.” Scarlet had guessed earlier that Kreio knew the whole time she was on his side. He was testing her throughout the length of their attack.
Kreio had her there for one reason and one reason alone: to be a thief in his guild. Scarlet would have rather died than do it... had she been in any other situation. Now, she needed to be someone completely different. She needed to be the farthest from ‘Princess Crystal’ as she possibly could. She needed to start anew, whether she liked it or not.
“Indeed, Milord,” she stated. “That decision has earned you a thief.”
Kreio smiled. “Excellent. Although, you still need some improvement,” he continued. “Cenoal shall be the one to train you.”
Cenoal raised an eyebrow. “Me?”
“I would not have any other train her, Cenoal,” the Lord of Scarabs stated simply. “I want you to teach her how to be a true thief. Anyone else would ruin the talent she possesses.”
Cenoal chuckled. “I see I have no other choice...”
After grabbing a quick snack, Scarlet and Cenoal weaved through the numerous halls. It seemed never ending. Scarlet had expected thieves to be about, but not a thing stirred. “It’s quiet here, isn’t it?” Scarlet said, munching on the strange fruit hungrily. This was her third... What was it called? Tchea Fruit?
“Most of them are tired from the little ‘escapade’ we pulled earlier,” Cenoal replied, popping a piece of bread in his mouth. “Give them half an hour more. It’ll be busier than a buzzer hive by then.”
Cenoal was right. First it was only a few thieves here and there, but then a full swarm had come out. The wide halls were now somewhat crowded, yet for some reason or other, it still wasn’t stuffy. Although, Scarlet had to keep track of where the Aisha was at all times. She would have hated getting lost.
Strangely, as they continued on, the crowds thinned once more. Finally, the Captain stopped in front of a pair of doors. Nothing seemed too special about it, save for the strange Scarab mark on the wood. Cenoal slid a key in the lock and opened the door. He led Scarlet inside and shut the door. Another long stairway met them.
As they climbed, Scarlet grew curious. “Where exactly are we going?” she asked.
“Elite training grounds,” Cenoal answered simply. As he spoke, they reached the top of the stairs. A strange stone archway stood there. A thick curtain was the only barrier. Cenoal pushed it aside and they stepped into the structure.
The training grounds were quite strange. It was above ground, explaining the long staircase. Its design was of a HUGE stone cage. The bars were set apart quite nicely, enough for anyone to easily leave, but the thought of being caged in still lingered. The surroundings were ancient. The bars were also designed beautifully, like the marble columns in Meridell’s palace. Etched on the ground were three large rings. A much larger ring, spanning the entire stadium, overlapped the three. Looking past the bars, all Scarlet could see were the many sand dunes. They were nowhere near the city.
There were already a couple thieves in the first small ring. Spectators, apparently allowed to watch, but not train in the reserved grounds, cast bets on the two while seated on the numerous stands. One was a green Lupe and the other a desert Shoyru. Scarlet’s gaze was glued to the fight. Cenoal shook his head and took the Lupess’ arm. “C’mon, Princess,” he said, leading her to the middle ring. “Ignore those two and focus.”
Scarlet nodded. “Sorry, it seemed like an interesting battle.”
“Just focus,” Cenoal responded. He suddenly drew his saber, coming at the Lupess. He was quick. Scarlet barely dodged the attack.
Scarlet drew her swords quickly. “Give me a warning next time, will you?” she hissed.
“This is a thieves’ world,” Cenoal warned. “Always expect the worst.”
Scarlet and Cenoal were both unaware of anything around them as they continued their bout. The raw talent possessed by the two was revealed by their scuffle. Cenoal had to admit, the girl was good. The Captain had yet to find any angle needing improvement save her obvious disdain for the unfair. He gave her a low swing while showing plans for a high one, causing the Lupess surprise. It hit Cenoal. She relied on vision far too much.
From there, he made sure to attack her blind spots. Every move was countered by one totally unexpected. His blade pointed at her throat within the next five minutes. Scarlet smiled. “Looks like you win,” she stated.
Cenoal allowed a grin. “You’re better than you look, that’s for sure. We’ll make a thief of you yet...”
“Who’s this, Cenoal?” the green Lupe from the other arena questioned. Suddenly, the two snapped back into reality. All the spectators from the previous duel were watching them.
“Kreio found himself a new thief,” Cenoal stated. “Asked me to train her. Why do you ask, Azers?”
“Just wondering,” Azers replied. “She isn’t very powerful, is she?”
“Power isn’t the only thing that matters,” Scarlet stated coolly.
“No, but it sure matters a bundle,” Azers responded, matching the Lupess’ tone. “I can best you within minutes.”
“Would you like to prove that?” Scarlet’s eyes grew darker.
Cenoal stepped between the Lupes. “Ok, ok, break it up, you two!” he commanded.
“Huh, whatever you say, Captain,” Azers said mockingly.
“You tell him, Shadow!” one of the spectators shouted.
Scarlet was about to retort when Cenoal grabbed her arm and led her back to the arena. “Shut that trap of yours. Now, let’s try getting something done about those blind spots.”
To be continued...