All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Five
Jennings peeled himself from the mountain shadows and dropped silently to the rope bridge below.
This place, this place he remembered.
It was a curious feeling, returning to the Shenkuu of the past. In Neopia Central he hadn’t felt it in quite the same way, having only arrived there relatively recently. But he’d grown up in Shenkuu. Now, seeing the buildings that would no longer be there in the future, and the spaces where buildings would one day be, almost put him in mind of his youth. It was nostalgic, but somehow the city seemed smaller than it had done when he was a child.
He had resisted the urge to visit his younger self, who at this stage would be enrolled in the Imperial Army as a recruit, far away from the General’s status he would one day achieve. Professor Thornpipe had warned him against it when he explained the plan. Apparently direct contact between two versions of the same being resulted in something complicated that the fabric of the universe was quite allergic to.
Instead, Jennings was strictly attending to business. The palace was his destination, and his years as the head of the Empire’s armed forces meant that he knew the place like the back of his hand. Every room, every corridor, and every secret passageway.
The Krawk weaved his way across the rope bridges that snaked through the mountain mists, avoiding the night guards as they made their patrols. As he approached the Imperial Palace, he veered off to one side, dropping from the rope bridge and edging along a mountain ledge until he came across a cave concealed with plant life. He ducked inside, disappearing into the darkness.
The tunnel within spiralled upwards, towards the palace. It emerged somewhere in the kitchens near the rear of the building, which at that time of night were thankfully deserted.
Jennings may have known the blueprint of the palace, but the guard patrols changed monthly, meaning he couldn’t simply walk to the treasure house. He stalked carefully in the shadows of the corridors, his progress slow.
Eventually, he reached the doors of the treasure house and carefully prized open the door. Inside, the moonlight glinted off riches beyond the imagination of most Neopets – though Jennings had seen it all before. Pride of place in the room was a jade statue of a Dandan, though Jennings ignored it, and made his way to the back of the room where he began searching for his desired prize.
Eventually he found it, a tired old book that hardly looked as if it was worth a single Neopoint.
The ragged book did not have a title on the cover, only a mysterious symbol – almost like a letter C with a vertical line scored through. A frail length of rope bound the volume shut.
This was it, Jennings could tell – the Thieves Code, the holiest of books for the Thieves Guild. For hundreds of years it had passed between owners in Neopia Central, before finally making its way to the Haunted Woods and meeting a Shenkuu scout who had brought it to the city. As far as those in Neopia Central were concerned, the book was gone.
Now, it would become lost to the ages once more, disappearing from the Shenkuu treasure house.
Jennings pocketed the book, and made good his escape.
It was nearly a week later when Jennings returned to Neopia Central and ventured into the Docklands to strike his bargains. The Headquarters of the Defenders was nearing completion; Jennings had to get this right to have any chance of success.
The Krawk made his way to the Old Shambles, an ancient street, even by Docklands standards. The houses there overhung perilously, and were home to a variety of backstreet butchers that in Jennings’s time were mostly boarded up, but here still had the last fires of life burning.
Jennings found the building he was looking for – this one really was boarded up, but intentionally so. It was deserted in the future, though its previous use had become well known in the area. It was the city’s Thieves Guild meeting hall.
A stocky yellow Grarrl stood on the door, barring entry. Thieves gained entry by showing an amulet, a golden Cobrall encircling an emerald. Jennings sadly did not possess one.
“I have an appointment with Mr. Darkhand,” he announced to the Grarrl.
“Don’t know who you mean,” the Grarrl replied gruffly.
“He will wish to see me,” Jennings added. “I have something of value.”
Jennings briefly took the book out from under his jacket, allowing the Grarrl to glimpse the symbol on the cover. The Krawk saw the Grarrl’s eyes light up.
“As I said, I have an appointment,” Jennings repeated.
“So you do,” the Grarrl agreed, standing aside.
Jennings entered the building, following a small wooden staircase down into the cellar which made up the Guild Hall. In the dim candlelight that greeted him, Jennings could make out several thieves gathered around tables, talking in hushed whispers about their various crimes. Most of them Jennings didn’t recognise, but a few faces stood out to him – a young Malkus Vile, for example.
Jennings took note of one of the faces in particular – a red Lupe, the one who had stolen his cane a fortnight previously. He made a mental note to speak with him before leaving, but for the time being made his way to a table that was empty aside from the purple Grarrl that sat behind it.
Galem Darkhand was still young, having only just taken over the Guild. The scar that ran down his jaw was still fresh, having occurred when he made his grab for power. Jennings sat down opposite him and smiled pleasantly.
“Who are you?” Galem demanded.
“My name is Mr. Frobisher,” Jennings told him. “I’m in Acquisitions.”
“How did you get in here?” the thief growled.
“Your man on the door let me in.”
“Because,” Jennings said, taking the book from inside his jacket, “I have acquired something.”
Galem’s eyes went wide when he saw the symbol on the cover.
“The Codex Raptorum...” Galem gasped. “That’s been lost for centuries!”
The Grarrl’s hand instinctively reached forwards, but Jennings drew the book back.
“Where did you get it?” Galem demanded.
“That’s not important,” Jennings told him. “What’s important is that I have it, and I want to give it to you, in return for your loyalty.”
Galem smiled an awful smile. “I could order you killed, right here, and take the book myself.”
“You could give the order, certainly,” Jennings replied without fear. “If it could be successfully carried out before I had dealt with everyone in this room is another matter entirely. But that’s unpleasantness, Mr. Darkhand, and I’m not here for unpleasantness.”
Jennings pushed the book forwards slightly before adding, “I’m here for trade.”
“Loyalty? What’s that supposed to mean?” Galem considered.
Jennings paused, not sure if it was a question about the specifics of the deal or if Galem had simply never encountered the concept before.
“Judge Irons is making your life very difficult at the moment,” Jennings explained. “I’d like you to make his life very difficult. Theft, concentrated theft, by all Guild members across the city on a single day. That’s what I want.”
Galem regarded the Krawk sceptically, “What do you get out of the deal?”
“Chaos, Mr. Darkhand,” Jennings lied. “There are people who desire wealth or power, and then there are people who would set the world on fire simply to watch it burn.”
“That’s all you want?” Galem questioned.
“That’s all you have of value that I want,” Jennings told him. “Though, there is a red Lupe sitting in the corner. I should very much like to have some time alone with him to explain a few things about life, and how fragile it can be.”
Galem seemed to think there was a catch, but eventually nodded, shaking the Krawk’s hand. Like a greedy child, Galem seized the book and began pouring over the pages.
Jennings supplied a grim smile – he had not done Galem a favour by giving him the long lost tome. The Thieves Code wasn’t a book of rules; honour among the creed changed on an almost daily basis. Instead, it was a book of lore, detailing several mythological hoards. One in particular would catch Galem’s eye, details of a gem capable of granting eternal life.
The myth detailed in the Thieves Code would become Galem’s obsession for the next twenty three years. He would devote all of the Guild’s efforts into recovering the treasure, reducing the presence of the organisation in Neopia Central to that of a mere ghost. It would sow seeds of doubt and unrest in his ranks, and eventually lead to his removal as leader of the Guild, replaced by the far more capable Kanrik who would remodel the organisation and return its presence in the city.
No, Jennings had not helped Galem. He had signed the man’s death certificate.
Still, that was history, even if it hadn’t happened yet. Jennings turned to the red Lupe in the corner, eager to recover his stolen property.
To be continued...