Scarlet Shadow - A Thief's Uprising: Part Six
“All hail Galem Darkhand!” The Acara’s voice could be heard by the entire guild as they crowded around the large tent. “Galem has been chosen! Riqon has gone! All hail your new Guild Master!”
“Darkhand! Darkhand! Darkhand!” the thieves shouted. A few days back, Lord Riqon had disappeared. The only trace of him left was a letter that proclaimed Galem as Guild Master. A specialist had come to look at the letter, and had proclaimed it true...
Scarlet was apart from the crowd, seated on the high branches of an oak tree. She was scowling when Kanrik suddenly jumped up beside her. “You’re ruining your face,” he stated plainly.
“I don’t care,” Scarlet replied in a voice that would have made any other thief shudder. Kanrik, however, didn’t even bat an eyelid.
“Why so upset?” he questioned.
“You know perfectly well why,” she hissed. “That note was forged. Riqon disappears without a trace and Galem just ‘happens’ to find that note pinned to a tree... after a STORM?! ” Kanrik saw Scarlet’s indigo eyes turn so dark, he jumped back in surprise.
“You alright?” Kanrik asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied curtly. She sighed. “I’m sorry, it’s just...”
“Relax,” Kanrik replied. “I’m as annoyed with Galem’s leadership as you are. But we have no choice. At least, not at the moment...”
“Yeah,” Scarlet agreed. She turned her attention back to the guild grounds.
With rasping wheels and noisy creaks, a cart entered the campsite. Galem looked excited as his thieves ushered the cart, as well as a bunch of others like it, into the large cave cut into the mountain. A majority of the thieves lived inside the mountain. The campsite was only a mask. Scarlet decided to stay out of it, climbing down the tree and retiring to her tent...
“So, what are your plans?” Masila questioned once Kanrik and herself were out of sight of the other thieves. The two had formed a secret alliance within the guild. A number of the thieves were with them. The meeting Galem had called had revealed the need of a key to open something up in Terror Mountain, apparently a treasure.
“I must have two of your most trusted thieves,” Kanrik replied.
“I cannot do what you ask,” Masila stated. “I need those thieves to keep an eye on Galem.”
“Very well then,” Kanrik said. “Scarlet will be willing to help me.”
“On second thought,” Masila said hastily, “I can get two thieves for you right away.”
“Never mind, Masila, Scarlet will do better than any two thieves you can give me.”
“Galem has sent her on one of his tasks,” Masila lied. The Acara didn’t like the Lupess... at all. She was one of the few who could rival Masila in beauty and in wit. The green Acara was, after all, the mistress of double-cross. “I’m afraid you must settle for two of my thieves.”
“Very well,” Kanrik agreed. It was no use arguing. Everyone knew of the Acara’s dislike of the Lupess.
“Scarlet,” Masila greeted, her voice dripping with fake hospitality. “Come, Galem must speak with you.”
As they entered the tent, Scarlet looked about her. The tent was furnished expensively with small gold trinkets set on the oak wood tables. Large cushions were scattered atop a large carpet. At the end, two thrones were set. A purple Grarrl sat atop the larger of the two. “Ah, Scarlet. Take a seat.”
“I’d rather stand, thank you,” Scarlet replied. “What do you require?”
“Not one for small talk, are we?” The Grarrl grinned. “I need you to go to Terror Mountain ahead of us.”
“To keep the thieves there off your scent?”
Galem was surprised. “I did not see you in the Meeting Cavern...”
“News travels quickly, Milord.”
“I see,” Galem replied. “Now that you know what I want, name your price.”
“You are the best bargainer this guild has.”
“I thought Masila had that title.”
“Well, I need her here.”
Scarlet thought for a moment. The last thing she wanted was to go to Terror Mountain, but at least she wouldn’t have to go searching for some weird key thing... “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to befriend the Guild Master there. Her name is Lady Cios. Get her to agree to our little search,” Galem stated. “Afterward, you may have your reward...”
“Remind me again what we’re doing here,” Shade begged. If there was one thing the Uni couldn’t stand, it was the cold. The two were in the pine woods and it was sub zero.
“We’re here to get meet Lady Cios,” Scarlet replied, looking at the crude map given to her. She held her coat tighter. “We’re supposed to be looking for some large, abandoned-looking, mountain-ish castle...”
They had stopped now. The castle standing before them had obviously seen better days, but Scarlet was still impressed by its structure. The palace had no outer gates and looked like a small mountain. Slowly, the Lupess stepped forward and knocked at the entrance. Not a sound came. The Lupess drew her blades out and pointed them toward one of the peak-looking towers. “I come in peace and in the name of Galem Darkhand, Guild Master of Veneration!”
The Lupess stepped back as the doors swung open. An Island Aisha stepped out. She was in a long winter coat with fur trimmings and knee-high boots. Winter gloves hid her hands and her messy strawberry blond hair reached her shoulders. “Last I heard, Riqon was Master of Veneration,” she said.
“He’s gone missing and has ordered Galem to take his place,” Scarlet replied. “You must be Lady Cios. I have come to deliver an important message.”
The Aisha looked Scarlet up and down before stepping aside to let her and Shade pass. They traveled down a long hallway, its walls decorated by beautiful paintings and expensive tapestries. Scarlet had heard of the Guild Master’s love for artistic pieces. Soon they stopped before the entrance to a large room. A large, circular glass table stood in the center with chairs surrounding it. Cios motioned her to sit. Scarlet obeyed.
“So, what message do you bear?” Cios questioned, seating herself beside the Lupess. Soon, two servants came and placed steaming hot tea before the two.
“Lord Galem is planning to come here to search for a treasure hidden in the mountain. He only has a third of his force with him, so it should be an easy target for you,” Scarlet stated, taking a sip from the glass cup.
“I thought you were a part of his guild,” Cios said, sipping from her cup as well.
“I’m not,” Scarlet replied. “I was part of Lord Riqon’s guild. When he left, I was no longer bound to it.”
“So you betray your Guild Master,” Cios concluded.
The Lupess nodded. “He shouldn’t be seated on the throne in the first place.”
“My brother has told me much about you, Scarlet,” Cios claimed. “He visited a week ago. It’s a shame you missed him.”
Scarlet was surprised, but didn’t show it. Who was she talking about? The Aisha looked her in the eye and Scarlet recognized the gaze. Cios had the exact same icy blue eyes as her brother. “Cenoal never told me he had a sister.”
“No, he wouldn’t, I suppose,” Cios replied. “Tell me, why is it your guild is called Veneration? I thought the guild was supposed to be named after its land.”
“It is,” Scarlet replied. “Meridell and Brightvale used to be one land with, of course, one thieves guild. Seeing how Skarl was their father’s favorite, he demanded half of the territory from Hagan. This had to be done, seeing how the previous king ordered it so in his will. So, the two brothers named their lands differently. Hagan went with Brightvale and Skarl with Meridell.”
“That’s quite interesting...”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Scarlet said respectfully, “but I feel as though we are drifting off subject.”
Cios yawned. “Very well. We will take no action against Galem’s efforts.”
“If they find the treasure, we’ll just show up and take it by force. After all, you stated earlier that they only have a third of the guild with them.”
“Quite a strategy, Milady,” Scarlet commented.
“I will need eyes and ears,” Cios continued.
“You knew I’d accept that job the moment I told you his plan.”
“No, I knew the moment you came in...”
“The Guild here won’t disturb the search,” Scarlet stated as soon as she entered the tent. She had stayed with Cios a couple more days. That way, Masila wouldn’t get suspicious of the haste of the meeting. Now that she was back, the Lupess needed to make sure to KEEP suspicion off.
“How sure are you?” Galem questioned.
Galem nodded. “Well done,” he complimented, handing the Lupess a bag of silver coins.
Scarlet took it and exited. She walked a few feet off, making sure she wasn’t being watched. She hopped up one of the trees in order to keep a lookout on the Guild Master’s tent. It wasn’t long before Valin appeared and entered the tent. She hopped down and hid quickly, eavesdropping on the trio. Once she heard all that she needed to hear, the Lupess dashed into the woods, where Shade was waiting impatiently.
“Well?” he questioned.
“No time to explain,” Scarlet replied, mounting the tall Uni. “C’mon, I think Masila’s off to see Kanrik. Knowing that Gelert, he’s probably found the key to this all already.” Shade sped off into the darkness as Scarlet held on tight to the reigns...
“We’re lost, aren’t we?” Scarlet questioned, looking around. They were deep in the woods somewhere. Neither saw nor heard anything that would lead them to Masila and Kanrik.
Shade snorted. “I’m never lost!”
“Whatever you say...”
“You try wandering about here on your own, Princess...”
“Yes, it is. You can’t hide a smile from me.”
“I’m not smiling!”
“Shush!” Shade hissed suddenly. He listened as a crack of thunder echoed through the night.
“Will you relax? It’s just lightning!” Scarlet retorted. Neither of them was in a very good mood.
“Ok, sorry, got spooked a bit there, ok?” Shade snapped back.
Scarlet dismounted. “Ok, we’re lost, cold, hungry, and, well, LOST!” Scarlet buried her head in her hands in frustration. “What next?” Suddenly, her whole body shook as she felt freezing water pour down on her. Her teeth chattered as she struggled to stay standing.
“SCARLET!” Shade yelled, seeing the Lupess’ red pelt turn pitch black.
“I’ll be alright,” she replied. Evil cackling echoed through the night as the Lupess used her remaining strength to hoist herself into the saddle.
“I’m getting you to Cios!” Shade exclaimed, already galloping toward the pine woods...
Scarlet woke up. Slowly, she rose to a sitting position. “You alright?” Shade questioned once he was beside the Lupess.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, feeling slightly dizzy. “What hit me?”
“Believe it or not?” Shade continued, snorting. “Rainbow water.”
“What?” Scarlet asked, bringing her hand up to her head. She stopped and stared at her hand for a full minute. “Shade, my hand seems to have turned shadow...”
“Yup, and so has the rest of you,” Cios stated, stepping into the small room. Scarlet looked into the mirror on the wall of the room. Cios was right. Her whole body had now turned completely black. Her indigo eyes were now more noticeable, but the birthmark... was so close to being completely gone...
“How did this happen?” she finally asked.
“No idea,” Cios replied. “There have been reports of this kind of thing happening before, but no one seemed to know HOW it happens.” The Aisha sat beside the Lupe on the mattress. “It’s been three days. Thankfully, we’re well equipped to deal with hypothermia.”
Scarlet brought her blanket up higher, wrapping it around her shivering form. “What happened to the thieves?” she questioned.
“They were attacked by a monster,” Cios replied, shrugging. “Apparently, it can bring ice to life in the form of skeletons. They’ve made a pact with it.”
“I see,” Scarlet stated. “Did you see Kanrik and Masila, by any chance?”
“Kanrik was punished for releasing the beast,” Cios responded. “Masila poisoned him.”
Scarlet kept the concern from her features with much effort. “Then what happened?”
“My spy kept to the camp while they brought him out into the blizzard.”
Scarlet rose, attempting to steady herself. “I’m going to go now. They might suspect your attack if Masila notices I’m missing.”
“Suspicion or no suspicion, we aren’t attacking,” Cios stated firmly. “I don’t know what beast that was, but I’m certainly not sending any of my thieves out there with it.” She watched Scarlet plop back down to the mattress. “You shouldn’t go out there either if you know what’s good for you. That thing didn’t look like the kind to keep agreements.”
“Thanks, but I have to,” Scarlet replied. “I’ll stay until I get my bearings, but then I leave...”
“You should’ve stayed, you know,” Shade scolded as they made their way toward the mountain. A large tunnel was present like a scar upon the land. Rumbling sounds echoed around them as the passageway shook. Thieves began pouring out, screaming and pushing to get in front.
“What’s going on?!” Scarlet yelled over the mass hysteria. Seeing how no one was paying any attention to her, Scarlet snorted. “This is just great... TO THE SHIPS IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!”
Apparently, this plea was heard and the thieves ran past her toward the harbor, where a fleet of hired ships was waiting to bring them back to Meridell. Scarlet rode behind them on Shade, who was greatly enjoying the chase. “This is the best running I’ve had in ages!”
“Shade, please remember that I’m feeling dizzy...”
Scarlet popped her head in the large ice mansion. Taela’s home was truly a wonder. The Snow Faerie was renowned for her quests as well as her assistance to many a lost Neopian. Scarlet looked around as she and Shade stepped inside. The creature across the room was a strange, old-looking... “Bori,” he stated when he saw her odd gaze. “I am a Bori.”
“O-oh, forgive me for staring,” Scarlet said quickly.
“It is no trouble, child,” the Bori replied. “I am the Keeper of Time.” As he said this, Scarlet noticed Kanrik sleeping on the soft couch. A mischievous grin came upon the Lupess’ pretty features. The Keeper chuckled. “I see you are also one for petty troubles.” He gave her a sympathetic smile. “Although, this one has been through enough larger troubles for today.”
Scarlet nodded. Deciding not to wake the sleeping Gelert was a decision she felt was more of a sacrifice. Instead, the Lupess sat down beside the large fire. Shade trotted beside her and settled down comfortably. “Shade?” she asked.
“How long has it been since...?”
“Two years, Princess.” Scarlet elbowed the Uni. “You’re definitely not her any more, are you?”
“I suppose not...” Scarlet could barely keep her eyes open. She curled up beside the fire and slept peacefully for the first time in two years...
Kanrik looked the Lupess up and down, finally recognizing her. “Well, I must say, I wasn’t expecting you to show up here...”
“Hey, Taela picks up lost travelers all the time!” Scarlet countered, still rubbing her eyes. “I figured you’d be here!”
After a great deal of explaining, Scarlet was getting annoyed by Kanrik’s questions. A brown Usul popped her head from the doorway of the other room, saving the Lupess from any more interrogation. “I don’t suppose you’re one of Kanrik’s thief friends, are you?” she inquired, furrowing her eyebrows.
“I am, but I wasn’t there in the tunnel,” Scarlet replied. “You can relax, I’m not out to get you or anything. What happened down there, anyhow?”
“A lot,” the Usul replied, extending her hand. “I’m Hannah, by the way.”
“Scarlet,” the Lupess replied, shaking Hannah’s hand. “This is Shade.” Shade nodded in acknowledgment.
“Armin,” another Bori stated. He was standing beside Hannah and was definitely younger than the Keeper.
“Nice to meet you two,” Scarlet stated. She turned back to Kanrik. “What happened to Galem and Masila? They were the only ones I didn’t see.”
“Masila must’ve run off,” Kanrik replied, his voice no longer displaying anything, for the Acara. “As for Galem, well, we won’t be seeing him anymore...”
Scarlet nodded in understanding. The five stood in silence. Slowly, mischief played around the Lupess’ features. “Well, it looks like you’re Guild Master now... Milord!”
Author’s note: Wow, sorry for the loooong delay! X3 Oh well. Yay!! Finally done with the prequels! Ok, sequel’s coming up. I’ll get to explaining Lord Riqon’s disappearance and his ‘history’ with Shade eventually... sometime... hopefully... In the meantime, look out for the next story – Scarlet Shadow: Secrets and Reunions! I actually finished that one before this, so it’ll be with you all sooner than normal. ^-^