Tales from Neopia Central: Part Seven
Robbing the Hood – The Thief's Tale
Neopia Central had changed a lot – and far too quickly for Kanrik.
It was a strange sensation for a thief to be stolen from, let alone the leader of the Thieves Guild – but Kanrik had been.
He'd always enjoyed a good partnership with Mr. Jennings – Jennings had ensured that thieves were pressured into joining the Guild, and in return Kanrik had ensured that they didn't cause that much trouble in the grand scheme of things.
But now Mr. Jennings was dead, and people knew. There was no one to ensure that thieves were joining the Guild, and with people happily looting in the streets, there was little incentive for them to either.
Kanrik was having his members stolen from him. For the first time in recent history, unregistered thieves actually outnumbered registered ones. The Thieves Guild were in the minority, a situation that hadn't happened since Galem Darkhand was in power and the Guild had all but cannibalised itself in a pursuit for cursed Bori artefacts.
The decline of the Guild had immediately preceded the plotting that had ultimately led to Galem's downfall – understandably, Kanrik was not altogether liking the present situation.
And he was taking it out on Crooked Tony.
The brown Tuskaninny had always been the guy you went to if you wanted to sell something without the Guild knowing. Of course the truth of the matter had always been that the Guild had known, but as per their agreement with Mr. Jennings, they simply hadn't acted.
Now Jennings was dead, there was nothing protecting Tony.
This was evident to him as two thieves forced him back into his chair and Kanrik stepped out of the shadows.
The hooded blue Gelert gave his best sinister smile. "Hello, Tony."
"What do you want?" Tony demanded.
"I thought that would be obvious at this point," Kanrik told him. "We want what you want."
"And what's that?" Tony asked.
"An end to all of this," Kanrik explained. "I know you're getting trouble from people in Little Shenkuu. I'm sure you don't want trouble from me as well."
"If you think you can threaten me, you can think again," Tony told him. "What you can do to me is nothing compared to what's coming out of Little Shenkuu these days."
"Oh, I know I can threaten you, Tony," Kanrik corrected him. "Because I'm the one in the room – not goons from Shenkuu. So I'm a much more immediate concern. The way I see it you have two options. You can close up shop completely, or you can give us a cut of the profits."
"Why should I want to help you when someone from Little Shenkuu can come here and torch my shop tomorrow?" Tony demanded.
"I thought you might say that," Kanrik said, tossing an object onto the desk. "That's why I came with an incentive."
The object was an amulet. A solid green emerald encircled by a golden Cobrall. It was the mark of the Thieves Guild, a mark of membership.
"You want to make me a member of the Guild?" Tony asked.
"You'd get full protection," Kanrik told him. "Johnny Twobit isn't going to last long against the Smuggler – but us, we're global. We can't be taken down overnight."
Tony merely laughed.
"You?" he asked. "You are offering me protection? I have more customers than I've had in decades, Kanrik. The Guild is practically non-existent in this city now. If I want protecting by thieves, I'll go to my existing clients – there're more of them. I thought you were going to offer something useful, like eliminating the Smuggler – but you can't even do that. You've lost your touch, Kanrik, you're nothing."
He shook himself free of the two thieves that were holding him and threw the little amulet back at Kanrik.
"Now get out of my office," he demanded. "Before I call in some real criminals to get you out."
Kanrik left, more out of surprise at the way Tony had reacted more than anything. He was right though, so right. The Thieves Guild had lost this city – it was time to face the truth.
"Errol," he said to a young blue Kyrii nearby. "Spread the word. We're pulling out. Everyone is to take the first ship they can to Terror Mountain. We'll focus our efforts there. Head for Jack, Moody's boy, first, his lads will be able to move quicker through the city to tell people than you."
"You heard me," Kanrik growled.
Errol nodded and ran off down the street.
Kanrik meanwhile was stalking across the street to a figure who had been a familiar presence out of the corner of his eye for the past few weeks.
"You!" he addressed the yellow Lutari. "You're Viridian Funk, aren't you?"
"I don't know what you mean," the Lutari answered.
"Well I do," Kanrik answered. "I know you're part of the Defenders, special branch or whatever Judge Hog calls it. You've been assigned to watch me, haven't you?"
"Or to help you out, perhaps?" Viridian suggested. "The Judge needs thieves keeping order among thieves as much as Jennings did."
"You haven't been doing a very good job then," Kanrik stated.
"It's been more difficult than I anticipated," Viridian replied. "What do you want?"
"I need to know where to find Judge Hog," Kanrik explained. "I'm going to tell him we're leaving town."
Viridian nodded, "He'll be sad to hear it. You'll find him on Pike Alley. They're having a fight with some looters."
With that, Viridian turned and disappeared into the evening streets.
Kanrik nodded at the remaining thieves, who followed him off towards Pike Alley. Tony watched them go from outside his shop, but his face fell when he saw new figures turning the corner to meet him.
They were from Shenkuu, without a doubt. And they didn't look happy.
"Great," Tony remarked. "Where's Johnny Twobit when you need him?"
"You're not coming?" Kanrik asked from the gangplank.
The blue Aisha smiled back at him, "The way I see it, there's going to be a niche opening in this city for a qualified thief like me very soon. I guess you'll be wanting this."
She threw the Thieves Guild amulet towards Kanrik, who caught it. She was Light Fingered Sarah – once upon a time she had been one of Mr. Jennings's most favoured operatives.
"No," Kanrik said, after a moment's thought. "Keep it."
He threw it back. "We'll need someone in the city to tell us when we can come back, after all."
The two shared a little smile before Sarah disappeared into the mist of the docks and Kanrik boarded the ship. With everyone aboard, it set sail. There was a small amount of hope on the deck, mainly from the young thieves headed by Jack, the red Blumaroo who had only recently joined the Guild – to him it was a grand adventure. But to most, it felt like they were leaving their posts, deserters in a war they didn't want to be fighting.
A shadow Hissi slithered up to Kanrik. He had previously run a sort of black market for information behind the city's Welcome Centre.
"Last I heard there was a breakout at the Defenders Headquarters," he announced. "Lady Frostbite is meant to be heading towards the Docks."
Sure enough, a moment later the water by the quayside began to freeze as the maddened cackle of the blue Krawk filled the air. The remaining ships were frozen in place, but they had gotten out just in time. They watched, like a paralysed audience slowly drifting away into the harbour mists, as the Defenders arrived to try and tackle Frostbite. In the distance, they heard an explosion that heralded the destruction of Jennings's tower.
"We'll be back," the optimistic voice of Jack was telling his young friends. "And everything will be alright again, don't worry."
Neopia Central slowly drifted from view, obscured by the mists. The last thing they saw was a green flash through the haze, and a distant bang.
"What was that?" the shadow Hissi questioned.
"I don't know," Kanrik replied honestly. "But I can't imagine it was good."
The green Krawk entered the witch doctor's hut. The grey Krawk stopped in his chanting.
"How did you get here?" one Krawk asked the other.
"Dennan showed me the way," the green Krawk told him.
"Non-believer," the shaman cursed. "He will be punished."
He seemed to be reaching for some sort of doll, but the green Krawk stopped him.
"I thank you for your... medical touch," he announced. "I understand you were vital in nursing me back to health."
"Your body healed itself," the shaman explained. "I only brought back your soul from the netherworld which it was drifting towards."
The green Krawk smiled weakly, "Well, whatever it was, you have my thanks. In any case, I feel I am now able to leave under my own steam, do you concur?"
"You cannot leave," the shaman told him.
"Well how long do you predict this 'recovery' of yours to take?" the green Krawk asked.
"You misunderstand," the shaman answered. "You cannot leave, at all. You have work to do."
"Work?" the green Krawk asked.
"I know you," the shaman explained. "The spirits of this island know you. They have told me a great many things about you. Of the things you have done. Of the names you have used. Ji Qin, General of Shenkuu. Horatio Jennings, man of Neopia Central."
"Horatio?" the Krawk questioned. "I've only ever told that name to one person. How do you know that?"
"The spirits, they tell me many things," the shaman smiled. "You went to Neopia Central and you healed it, Ji Qin. The spirits of the island brought you to me. They wish for the same. You spent one life in Shenkuu, and another in Neopia Central. You have been granted a third by this island. It has claimed your soul – you will help the spirits to heal this island. You cannot leave."
The green Krawk sighed, "I have had quite enough of your spirit talk. You cannot keep me here, I am leaving."
The Krawk turned to leave, but found his legs were unwilling. He simply could not move. He turned back to the shaman, to find that he was now clutching the little doll, somehow using it to stop his visitor in his tracks.
"How...?" the green Krawk gasped.
"You will help the spirits to heal this island, one way or another, Horatio Jennings," the shaman told him. "Be it willing, or unwilling."
"I imagine, after this, it will be somewhat unwilling," the green Krawk pointed out.
"So be it," the shaman replied, grabbing the head of the doll and ripping it clean off.
The green Krawk fell to the floor, unconscious.
To be continued...