Scarlet Shadow - A Thief's Uprising: Part Five
Scarlet fell with a thud on the ground. Cenoal looked skeptic. “Scarlet, are you feeling alright?” he asked. During the past few days, the Lupess hadn’t been giving her all in their training sessions. He had guessed it was because she was to make sure Kanrik wouldn’t get into trouble. Although once in a while, the three had their small talks, Cenoal wasn’t very fond of the Gelert and neither was the Lupess. For the months that the Gelert and Lord Riqon had been there, it seemed there was friction between all three of them, although more on Scarlet and Kanrik’s part.
“Yeah, I’m...” Scarlet sighed, rubbing her hands over her face. It was only then Cenoal noticed the dark circles under her eyes.
“Scarlet, what’s going on?” Cenoal questioned.
“Nothing, Cen,” Scarlet responded, finally picking herself up. Her head throbbed and she sat back down. “I’m fine,” she continued.
“By the looks of it, no, you aren’t,” Cenoal countered. “Are you sick?” He stretched out a hand and felt the Lupess’ forehead. “You’re burning up,” he hissed.
“I’ll be fine, Cen!” Scarlet returned, standing despite the protest of her head.
Kanrik walked into the training grounds. He stopped when he saw Scarlet. “Wow, you don’t look so good...”
“You think?!” Cenoal exclaimed.
Kanrik turned serious. “What happened?” he asked.
“Nothing!” Scarlet yelled. Thankfully, no one was in the arena. “I’ll be-” Her eyes widened and she fell to the ground, petrified...
“What caused this, Arlion?” Cenoal questioned as the herbalist, a Quiggle, dabbed Scarlet’s lips with a moist towel. The Lupess was so pale! Kanrik stood a few feet away, watching silently.
“I’m guessing it has something to do with this.” Arlion pointed to the small needle-like piece of metal on the table. “I’ve been able to draw a bit of the poison and it seems like Anubis Venom.”
“An Anubis has venom?” Kanrik asked, speaking for the first time since they had arrived at the infirmary.
“No, but Anubis saliva mixed with numerous other herbs would make a deadly combination,” the Quiggle replied. “Although, all those herbs grow in completely different regions of Neopia! And only one needle means it was probably a single, venom-filled dart. The poison came out when it hit her.”
“So wait, that means this was no accident?!” Kanrik exclaimed.
“Kanrik, not now!” Cenoal ordered. He turned back to Arlion. “What do we do?”
“It’s actually very easy to make the anti-venom,” the herbalist continued, “but I need the exact same mix from the exact same batch of venom.”
“And where do suggest we find that?” Cenoal snapped. He rubbed his temples. “Sorry, Arlion...”
“Not to worry, Milord,” Arlion responded. “Considering the strange way in which the needle was edged in her arm, I’m guessing the dart wasn’t meant for her. It was shot by a highly-trained, highly-paid assassin; of this I am sure...”
“So that means he didn’t get his target,” Kanrik concluded. “That means his target may still be alive...”
“All we need to do is find the target,” Cenoal stated, eyes alight with determination. “No doubt he’ll try striking again.”
With that thought, Cenoal made his way out the door. Kanrik followed, catching up with the Aisha. “Cenoal, wait.” He reached out and grabbed the Captain’s shoulder before he could go any farther.
Cenoal turned. “What?”
“You have to slow down!” Kanrik said.
“Slow down?” Cenoal questioned. “Slow down?! Scarlet is lying in that infirmary bed, dying!”
“I realize that, but you need to CALM DOWN!” Kanrik yelled. “You can’t just storm around asking if anyone’s seen an assassin! You have to watch silently and wait for him to strike!”
Cenoal shook his head. “Look, thank for the advice, Kanrik, but I think I can do this on my own...”
Cenoal walked about the caverns. He had asked around all day and no one had seen or heard anything. And it was deadly difficult keeping a secret in a thieves’ guild. He knew whoever had the assassin hired would have to be one of high ranking.
“Watch out!” A figure slammed into him, bringing them both to the ground. Cenoal looked up into the face of the Zafara. Lord Riqon! They both stood. Cenoal saw the dart plastered on the wall, right where he had been standing. He pulled it free. The poison flowed to the ground, now useless. Cenoal grit his teeth.
Lord Riqon was beside him in seconds. “Thank you, Milord,” Cenoal said.
“Cenoal, come,” the Guild Master ordered. He led Cenoal to his quarters, closing the door quickly behind them. He gave a sigh of relief. “It looks like I’m not the only one being followed now.”
Kanrik soon emerged form the darkness of the room. “Are you two alright?”
“Yes, we’re fine, Kanrik,” Riqon replied.
“What on Neopia is going on here?!” Cenoal exclaimed.
“Assassins have been going for Lord Riqon for the months we’ve been here,” Kanrik explained. “At first, it was just me getting rid of them, but soon enough, they were getting more and more talented. Whoever had been hiring them was starting to pay for higher-trained assassins.” Kanrik sighed. “So, I asked the only one I trusted to help. Scarlet agreed, of course, noble Captain that she is. A few days ago, she spotted an assassin aiming a dart at Riqon from the hall. She was able to intercept it, but at her own expense. It seemed like just a regular dart, meant to paralyze the target. She was doing fine until...”
“Until today,” Cenoal whispered.
“Yes,” Riqon replied in Kanrik’s stead. “Now we need your help, Cenoal. Please.”
“With my best thief on the line, you think I’d decline?”
Hraian the assassin crept silently through the halls. His figure could hide even in the torch-lit hallways. Despite the fact that he was obviously a Grarrl, he was small, about the size of a Meerca. His dark shadow pelt had him able for any job, big or small... as long as the price was worth it.
His bag of darts was full. Each dart was filled with his favorite poison – Anubis Venom. His aim was perfect, the speed was lightning, and the death was often unexpected. One could go for days without finding much of a side effect until it was too late.
He shook a fist at the red Lupess. She had intercepted one of his darts – an almost impossible feat. She had ruined the seemingly easy job. Now the Guild Master was fully-guarded by the stupid Gelert. And that Aisha was asking far too many questions. No matter. It would only take three more darts. No mistakes this time. First the Aisha, then the Gelert, THEN the Guild Master. The assassin grinned evilly. My, would that Wocky have a high bill...
The door of the Guild Master’s chambers opened. The Orange Zafara stepped out cautiously. Well, the plan’s orders could easily be changed... The Grarrl took a dart from his bag. He aimed carefully...
“Thank you, secret chambers!”
A hand grabbed the dart, clutching it tightly. Hraian turned, surprised to see Cenoal attempting to pry the dart from his hands. The assassin’s grasp tightened. He had to get the dart back! Surprisingly strong for one so small, he felt the Captain’s grip slipping. “You shall regret meddling with Hraian the assassin,” he hissed in a cold voice.
Without warning, Cenoal tripped the assassin by releasing the dart. Hraian stumbled back and the dart flew from his hand. Cenoal caught it quickly and pointed it at the Grarrl’s throat. “We’ll see who begins to feel regrets.”
“AGAIN, who hired you?” Kanrik questioned for the umpteenth time. They were now in the infirmary, where Arlion was mixing the anti venom for Scarlet. They were interviewing the assassin there at Cenoal’s request.
“I shall tell you nothing, Gelert!” Hraian hissed back.
“You will, or else!”
“Or else what?” Hraian mocked. “What will you do?”
“Aw, and we thought you’d appreciate freedom.” Scarlet was sitting up. Although she still seemed weak, she cut Cenoal off before he could protest. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll lock you up in the deep dark dungeons of the guild caverns; keep you there for oh, I don’t know... forever maybe? You’ll lose all the money you’ve stashed and you’ll never see it again.” She smiled. “What do you say to that, assassin?”
Hraian looked horrified. Kanrik and Cenoal grinned. No one could rival Scarlet’s powers of bargaining. “I’ll tell you everything.”
Cenoal walked about the halls of the caverns. He was no longer sure what to think. Hraian had spilled the beans and had been set free – without, of course, his precious darts. Then his thoughts drifted to what the assassin had told them. Everything was so clear now. And of course he had his suspicions, but it still hadn’t really sunken in. They all agreed to have Riqon talk to the culprit, but then it would be so dangerous for the Zafara...
“Cenoal!” Kreio exclaimed, walking up to the Aisha.
Cenoal froze. Then and there he made his decision. “Milord, I know about the assassin.”
The Guild Master looked surprised, then angry. Kreio walked off, Cenoal following. The throne room was where the Wocky halted. The Lord of the Scarabs dismissed everyone inside. He turned to the Aisha, his voice shrill with anger. “How did you know?”
“Kanrik and I were able to get him to talk,” Cenoal replied. He left out Scarlet. If something went wrong, at least she would still be on Kreio’s good side. “He told us everything and we set him free.” Cenoal gave a cold gaze. Kreio returned his look. “You were out of line.”
“I am well in my rights,” Kreio replied.
“Rights?” Cenoal stated coldly. “You’re putting the entire guild at risk. What’s worse is that you don’t have any reason to do it!”
Kreio’s short sword met Cenoal’s saber. “Don’t you speak to me like that!” the enraged Guild Master yelled.
“You don’t belong on that throne!” Cenoal replied. “Had that assassin you hired killed Lord Riqon...”
The two thieves were in a duel now. Saber and sword did their work. The sound of metal clashing against metal was enough to call in the guards outside. Soon, the thieves were in the room, but none made a move. “You fools!” Kreio exclaimed. “Arrest him!”
Scarlet entered the room as the two thieves continued their duel. Immediately, she held a hand up for the guards to stay where they were. She wasn’t going to allow anyone to interfere, and that alone kept them at bay.
The two thieves now circled each other. “Scarlet, remove this traitor from my sight immediately!” Kreio bellowed.
“I cannot do that, Milord.”
“WHAT?! Why not?!”
“This is a duel for the leadership of the guild,” she replied. “No one is allowed to assist.”
“I don’t care about silly rules, Scarlet! Just get him out of here!” The Guild Master had dispatched from the fight and stood beside the Lupess.
“As I said before, I cannot...” Kreio’s blade found Scarlet’s butterfly sword as it came at her. “Do not involve me, Milord. I SHALL side with Cenoal.”
Kreio looked back at Cenoal. “If this is a battle for leadership, then come, let us settle this properly.” Cenoal nodded. The Wocky turned to Scarlet. “I’ll deal with you later...”
Every thief in the guild poured into the Elite Training Grounds as Cenoal and Kreio took their places in the larger circle. Both bared their weapons grimly. Scarlet watched from atop one of the columns. Kanrik was with her. Both were worried for Cenoal. They knew he was, indeed, a talented swordsman, but Kreio had a whole guild full of archers, assassins, and who knew what else behind him. Scarlet knew she had to keep her eyes peeled if she wanted it to be a fair duel...
Two battle cries rent the air. The two thieves charged at each other, and immediately after, Scarlet saw the first archer draw his bow back. Silently, she slipped down and into the crowd. As the arrow shot right for Cenoal, her sword cut it in half. Another arrow was speeding toward the Aisha. Kanrik’s dagger met it halfway. Soon, he was beside the Lupess. “I’ll watch the left, you watch the right.”
Scarlet nodded. “Looks like we’re going to miss the duel...”
Cenoal was fully aware of the deadly arrows, but was too preoccupied to wonder why none of them had hit him yet. As his previous leader’s sword came down on him, he ducked and slashed back.
“You know, I never expected you to betray me like this,” Kreio stated, playing for time. One of the deadly shafts would find its target soon enough. Whoever was keeping them away would tire. “For that matter, I never thought of you as the betraying type.”
“You betrayed yourself, Milord,” Cenoal replied. “You used to be much nobler. You were an excellent Captain. I would have served under you much longer had you stayed that way. But, you decided being a Captain wasn’t enough. You wanted to be a Guild Master. You drowned in your own pitiful power.”
Kreio sneered. The arrows were coming farther now. He had to keep Cenoal talking for just a few more minutes... “So, you think you’d be a better Guild Master?” he questioned.
“I wouldn’t attempt to have my brother ‘eliminated,’” Cenoal stated firmly. He needed no assurance. Everyone around had heard his statement. The arrows stopped coming. “I wouldn’t be so foolish as to start a war we could never win,” Cenoal continued. “Don’t you get it? Had your attempt been successful, we’d be looking at a full-out battle with the thieves of Meridell and Brightvale...”
“Do I look like I CARE?!”
“No, you don’t, and that’s the problem,” Cenoal replied calmly. Kreio suddenly felt hundreds of cold stares being directed toward him. He looked around. Every single one of his thieves glared at him. He knew in his heart it was over. The Aisha had won, but his head wasn’t willing to accept it...
He held his sword up, ready to strike, when two of the thieves strode forward. Soon, all the thieves were by Cenoal’s side. The Aisha smiled. “You’ve lost, Kreio,” he stated. “You are banished. Go, and don’t let me see you here again.”
The Wocky grit his teeth. “This isn’t over.”
He ran to his mount, who was waiting right outside the arena. As he mounted, the Uni bucked, throwing the Wocky off. “I’m staying here, thank you,” he hissed. Kreio glared at the Uni before running off into the desert, not stopping once to look back.
Cenoal turned to see Scarlet beside him. “Great job, Cen,” she said, tipping her head in respect.
“Please, I just did what you suggested a year ago,” he replied.
“You couldn’t have picked a better time,” Kanrik stated from behind the Aisha. “Now, will you be needing anything... Milord?”
“Not funny, Kanrik,” Cenoal replied, shoving the Gelert playfully. The little ordeal had brought the three of them closer than a hundred years could have.
“Forget it, Kanrik, a good joke’s being wasted on the Aisha,” Scarlet stated, her lips straying close to a smile.
“Oh, be quiet, you two!” Cenoal ordered. “Your new Guild Master commands it!”
“Aha! A confession!”
“Well, I suppose we should prepare the celebration for your achievement,” one of the thieves, a Buzz, stated, turning to the new Guild Master. He stood gawking at the three thieves laughing their heads off.
“Oh, leave them alone for a while,” Riqon ordered. In his hand, he held a small piece of parchment, a message from his guild. Soon, he would be leaving the Lost Desert with Kanrik and, hopefully, a rambunctious young Lupess...
The festivities were grand in the underground hideout. So much food had been ‘borrowed’ in honor of the new Guild Master. Cenoal sat in the middle of the large mess hall at the main table. Scarlet and Kanrik were on either side of him with Lord Riqon seated beside Scarlet.
“Have you made your decision?” Riqon asked. The question wasn’t noticed by any others at the table, mainly because they were all speaking with Cenoal.
“Yes,” Scarlet replied. “I...” She paused for the slightest moment. “I’d be honored to come with you...”
Riqon nodded. “We would be honored to have you.”
“When are we leaving?”
“Tonight, as soon we can slip away unnoticed.”
“Unnoticed?” Scarlet questioned.
“If we stayed, there would surely be another party, and I wish to get back to my guild as soon as possible.”
Scarlet nodded. “Very well, but I must ask to be allowed one good-bye.”
“As you wish...”
Cenoal stood with the three departing thieves and their Unis. He heaved a heavy sigh. “Well, I guess this is good-bye then?” he asked, his gaze shifting from Riqon to Kanrik and finally to Scarlet. Shade had decided to go with her once more.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Scarlet agreed. She had not assured him they’d see each other again; she had not attempted to say she’d visit. To someone who knows the risks in life, she knew those words were useless, yet... “I’ll see you soon, Milord,” she stated, almost reluctantly.
“You’d better,” he replied. He turned to Kanrik. “Don’t you DARE let anything happen to my best thief.”
Lord Riqon laughed. “I think you mean MY best thief, Cenoal.”
The Aisha nodded. “Whatever, just don’t let anything happen to her.”
“You know, I’m right here!” Scarlet exclaimed. “And for your information, I can take care of myself!”
Cenoal crossed his arms and gave her a look. “Yeah, sure...”
“I can!” she yelled. Riqon and Kanrik imitated Cenoal, though they were obviously struggling to keep a straight face. “Don’t you have a party to get to?” she asked.
“Yeah, I do,” Cenoal replied. “Don’t go messing up that form we practiced for months; got it?”
Scarlet smiled. “Whatever you say, Cen.”
Cenoal returned the statement with a smirk. “Two smiles and a laughing fit? All in one day? Are you sure that venom’s out of your system?”
As the three home-bound thieves rode off, Scarlet cried one last remark, “You’re still too cocky, Milord!”
“Oh my...” Scarlet whispered as they crossed the border into Meridell. The land was battle-beaten and the town lay in ruins. She could barely recognize the place she had once called home.
“This is worse than the first war,” Riqon sighed. “Come, the guild’s this way...”
They weaved through the great forest near the trail. Every tree they passed looked alike to Scarlet. Shade chuckled. “Strange, I’ve never seen you at such a loss like this,” he stated.
“How do you find your way around here, Milord?” she questioned, ignoring the Uni’s remark.
“Easy. I know these woods like the back of my hand,” Riqon replied. “Every thief under me must memorize it at some point or other. Isn’t that right, Shade?” Scarlet shot up in surprise. She had never told the Guild Master Shade’s name. “Don’t look too surprised, Scarlet,” the Zafara warned. “Others may take it as a weakness.”
“How DO you know Shade, Sir?” Kanrik questioned.
“Let’s just say that we have a history,” Riqon responded.
As they reached the end of the woods, they met a large mountain standing behind a small campsite. There were a few thieves here and there. Scarlet wondered where all the others were...
Riqon smiled. “I am here, my thieves!” he bellowed. The announcement echoed through the grounds. A large purple Grarrl ran toward them as crowds swelled from inside the mountain. Surprise seemed to dance around his eyes, but the emotion manifested only there. “My Lord,” he stated, “I am pleased that you have returned.” He glared at Kanrik.
“Indeed, Galem,” Riqon replied. He turned to Scarlet. “Scarlet, this is Galem, my second-in-command.”
The Lupess stretched out her hand. Galem took it and gave her a strong handshake. “Nice to meet you,” she stated.
“Likewise,” Galem replied. He turned back to Riqon. “My Lord, you must be tired. Allow me to take you to your tent.”
The Guild Master nodded. “Thank you, Galem,” he stated as the Grarrl led Echo forward.
Scarlet dismounted. They had been traveling for two days with few breaks. She was exhausted, but she wasn’t about to let anyone see that. “You’re tired, aren’t you?” Kanrik questioned.
“How’d you guess?” she asked.
“C’mon, there’s a tent over that way for you,” Kanrik replied. “Riqon told me to take you there when we got back.”
Just before she entered the tent, the young Lupess could barely keep her eyes open. She turned to Kanrik and Shade. “A new place and new thieves... This will be interesting.”
To be continued...