The Return: Part Three
Elephante & Castle Market was one of the largest markets in the city outside of the main Marketplace. It was a bazaar located just within the reaches of Little Shenkuu on the city's west side, near to the Helm, and the ruined castle from which it gained part of its name.
The Market took up an entire city block, with the original covered market at the heart, surrounded by many open air stalls that came and went with the weather. The place pre-dated the more upmarket stalls of the modern Marketplace, and seemed more like a piece of Sakhmet had been uprooted and deposited in Neopia Central. It attracted many tastes and smells not native to the city, with caravans from Shenkuu, the Haunted Woods, and the deserts beyond arriving regularly.
The Faerie Kougra walked through the corridors of the bazaar, pushing her way through the crowd. Enough travellers and adventurers frequented the market to make her armour and cloak look almost trivial.
This place had changed so little. She remembered the market. Remembered the noise, the chaos of bartering... and a chaos of a different type.
She paused at a stall selling foods from the Lost Desert, casually picking up a Tchea Fruit and examining it.
In her day, such a thing was a rare treasure from a distant, almost mythological land. Now, judging from the price, they were quite common.
The storekeeper was busy bartering with a customer over an Ummagine, and the Kougra placed the Tchea back down, reaching out with her magic.
"What do you mean, two thousand?" the customer, a Nimmo, suddenly shouted. "That's extortionate!"
"That's the price!" the Techo storekeeper snarled in response.
The Faerie Kougra smiled, the wheels now set in motion.
"I saw you charge the person before me one thousand!" the customer shouted.
"That's the price," the Techo maintained. "Especially to one of you people."
The Nimmo gasped and recoiled slightly, glancing down at his Shenkuu garb.
"What's that supposed to mean!?"
"You heard me!" the Techo snapped. "I've had enough of you freeloading Shenkuu idiots, nothing but wastes of space!"
The Nimmo leapt across the counter to tackle the Techo, sending the Lost Desert fruits toppling over the floor. A crowd gathered to watch the fight, and the Faerie Kougra disappeared into it, her work done.
Hanso led a group of thieves through the night air of Neopia Central, leaving the safety of the hideout on High Gate and heading south. They stuck to the rooftops in the Docklands areas, pinning themselves to chimneys to avoid casting shadows down onto the streets. The last thing they needed was someone catching sight of them and summoning the Defenders.
When they reached the streets closer to their destination, they had no choice but to come down from the rooftops as the buildings became more spaced out. Soon, they saw the building come into view – the National Neopian Bank.
The Bank was largely deserted at night, relying on a few security guards and an array of alarm systems to deter thieves. But Hanso was determined that the Guild should return to Neopia Central with a bang, and not the fizzle Kanrik seemed committed to. Holding up the Bank would announce the Guild back on the stage, and Hanso along with them.
Nodding to his fellow thieves, Hanso covered his face and stalked closer to the main doors, taking out his lock picking set. A few moments later, the glass doors of the bank slid open, giving them access to the Bank's lobby.
They had timed their entry to the second, a guard having just left the lobby on one of his patrols. Another would enter from the corridor leading to the safety deposit boxes in thirty-three seconds. Hanso nodded to two of his co-conspirators. One headed off to knock out the guard who has just left, while the other disappeared into the shadows of the safety deposit box corridor, lying in wait to ambush the oncoming guard.
The remaining thieves joined Hanso near the lift shaft that led down into the Vault. Out of business hours, the lift was at the bottom of the shaft, and hacking into the computer systems to call it upwards was not possible without the Manager's personal codes.
Instead, Hanso took out a crowbar and forced open the lift doors. Abseiling down, they entered the lift at the bottom of the shaft, and forced open the bottom set of doors.
The Vault lay before them. It was the pinnacle of safe technology on Neopia. It required a physical key, voice recognition, a five digit passcode, and a DNA sample from the Manager himself.
The physical key would not be an issue, any thief worth his weight carried a skeleton key and Hanso was no exception. He set about unlocking that particular system while one of his fellow thieves walked forwards to the microphone. With practiced ease, the Kyrii spouted off a sentence in a voice that almost perfectly mirrored that of the fat Skeith Bank Manager.
The DNA sample was similarly easy to come by, Hanso having brushed by the Manager on his way home from work. He applied the few skin flakes obtained to the scanner now and waited for confirmation – three locks disabled.
The forth would be the hardest, as the passcode was known only to the Manager. Hanso made his way over to the keypad and dusted it with a light powder. The powder stuck to the dust, revealing the five keys that were used more regularly than the others.
Examining the keys closely, he could tell which two numbers were the first and last – they had been pressed harder than the others, and their numbers had begun to rub off. Tracing a path through the powder with his hand, Hanso tried to imagine the actions of the Skeith, and which directions his hands would go in order to produce the pattern in front of Hanso.
At last, Hanso came upon a combination that appeared to make sense, and he punched it in. A green light on the console confirmed his guess, and the Vault was ready to open.
Turning the wheel and pulling back the door, the thieves readied themselves for a mountain of gold within.
Instead, the large room was empty, save for a green Krawk busily writing at a desk. He looked up at the sound of the door opening, finishing his writing and beckoning them closer.
"Do come in, Mr. Hanso And Associates," Jennings greeted them. "I have been expecting you."
"What are you doing here?" Hanso demanded. "Where's the gold?"
"I took the liberty of asking the Manager to relocate the contents of the Vault to one of the safety deposit boxes for the night," Jennings explained. "As for what I am doing here, I would have thought it was obvious – I am catching up on paperwork."
"In a bank vault?"
"Someone burned down my offices," Jennings supplied. "But seeing as you are here, we do have business to discuss."
"You said the gold's in one of the safety deposit boxes, so we just search them all," Hanso replied, turning away.
"You might want to think about that," Jennings replied casually, returning to his paperwork. "You might want to rethink the entire operation, come to think of it."
"Oh certainly you won't rethink, Mr. Hanso, you're quite stupid," Jennings said. "I was talking to your friends."
The other thieves cautiously turned their attention away from Hanso.
"You see, Mr. Kanrik did something quite interesting this morning," Jennings added. "He opened an account at the National Neopian, and deposited the cumulative earnings of the Guild into it. So you see, if you rob the National Neopian, you will be stealing your own money. Seems a little... pointless, if you ask me. But if you wish to waste your time, go ahead and join Mr. Hanso on his fool's errand."
Jennings busily scribbled something on his notes, ignoring the thieves.
"Is he telling the truth?" the Kyrii asked Hanso.
"How should I know?" Hanso replied.
"I'm not stealing from myself, Hanso!" a Bruce complained.
"Alright, alright, we'll think of something else," Hanso agreed. "Let's head back to High Gate for tonight. Tomorrow we'll hit the Museum or something."
The thieves and Hanso retreated, leaving Jennings alone in the Vault. He finished his paperwork, stacked it neatly in a pile, and stood up.
He made his way out of the Vault, resting on his cane, entering the lift. Keying in the code the Manager had supplied, he rode it upwards in comfort, leaving the lobby and emerging into the night.
The thieves and Hanso were stood there. They had been blocked in their escape by a dozen Defenders who had surrounded the building.
"I forgot to mention that I was expecting Judge Hog," Jennings remarked. "How silly of me."
"Surrender without a fight and we'll go easy on you," Judge Hog announced.
The thieves glanced to Hanso, who seemed to be considering it.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jennings caught sight of a Faerie Kougra, smirking in the distance behind the Defenders. For a moment Jennings thought he felt the tingle of magic, and he glanced down to the green gem atop his cane, but it appeared normal.
In front of him, the atmosphere changed slightly, the thieves becoming more energised.
"Give them no quarter!" Hanso yelled, running forwards at the Defenders.
The previously anxious thieves followed him without question, and the Defenders followed in kind.
It was a pointless battle, the thieves were not warriors and the Defenders hopelessly outclassed them. Jennings observed the battle from the steps of the Bank – in the distance, the Faerie Kougra had walked away into the gloom.
A few of the thieves managed to escape back to High Gate, but most were captured by the Defenders.
To be continued...