Once a Thief: Part Two
On the opposite side of Qasala, Elrique's mansion was alive with activity. The dining room was bustling as dinner was being brought out by servants fully clad in white uniforms. Once a week Elrique held a large dinner for various members of his faction in his enormous dining room, the second largest room in the mansion besides his office. The long table draped with a red silk cloth was surrounded with a dozen of his members with Elrique at the head. They wore their finest apparel that reflected the elegant design of the dining room; crystal chandeliers hanging from the high mosaic ceiling, oil paintings of Neopian landscapes and other things heisted, and more stolen sculptures decorated the large chamber. Servants set down mounds of food for the faction that could feed a small army, and though the setting was regal, the way the food was handled was that of a rowdy food sampling at Meridell Castle.
"Does it look appetizing, Quincy?" Elrique shouted across the unruly table at one of his Skeith guards who was known for not really having a way with words.
"Delicious," Quincy replied after a moment of silence, and the table erupted in cheers and clanks of mugs filled with hogshead.
Elrique sat back and basked in the glory of his crew. His leadership role was stressful at times, but the rewards were immense. He was financially set for life and his organized crime rings guaranteed the wellbeing of other cunning yet loyal thieves. These dinners were a way to connect with different members of his faction, showing that even though he was constantly holed up in his office, he was one of them.
The relaxation was short lived.
"Elrique!" A fire Eyrie burst into the dining room, much to the alarm of the guests and servants. The room immediately fell silent, but Elrique calmly set his silverware down and turned to the Eyrie.
"Vaughn, I'm sure this is a pressing matter?" he inquired.
"I... can't even believe it..." Vaughn stammered. "You must be excused."
"Excuse me," Elrique said to his guests as he rose from his chair. "Continue on without me, won't you?"
Everyone nodded and proceeded to down their food as a Kiko servant opened the door, and Vaughn followed Elrique outside.
"I found Ingilaug," Vaughn hissed. "She's in the holding cell as we speak."
Elrique's face fell.
"Under her eye and it extends to her cheek."
The Krawk shook his head and pushed back his bandana. It was actually happening.
"Unbelievable. Where was she?"
"She was robbing Desert Arms. Had a few others with her but we took care of the matter."
Elrique brushed past Vaughn and made his way to the cell to deal with a matter that he never thought would come.
"Look what we have here."
The voice interrupted Ingilaug's half awake, half asleep trance. She had been escorted for what felt like eternity across the desert in the middle of the night, with people whom she could not distinguish due to their disguises. She was not sure if she was still in a dream, especially after hearing that voice. But upon seeing who was standing outside the bars of her cell, Ingilaug's face became flushed. She recognized that voice and figure anywhere. "Elrique?"
"I see you're well-off... living the dream you've always wanted," Elrique mused. "Is the cell comfy?"
"What are you doing here?" Ingilaug frantically lunged for the irons bars. "Elrique, please help me." She scrambled to hoist herself up. "I've been taken here against my will. I need to escape."
"So now that you're in trouble, you want me to go out of my way to help you?" He chuckled. "It doesn't work like that."
"Just this once," Ingilaug begged. "And it will be like we never saw each other."
"Tempting," Elrique mused and tapped his claw on the cell bar. "Do you know where you are?"
"I was blindfolded the entire way here. Haven't the slightest clue." She scowled.
"I'll come clean," he interrupted. "You're in my holding cell. Of my basement. Of my home. So for you to be free is not an option."
She squinted. "Do you own a prison?"
"Quite the opposite," Elrique unlocked the cell door and opened it with ease.
"Eh?" Ingilaug could not believe she was being freed so easily. She rose hesitantly, flicking her tail back and forth to rid herself of the soot that stuck to her fur.
"It's late. I'll provide you with a room slightly better than this, but not much else."
With the last remarks, Elrique escorted Ingilaug through his mansion. It was a stark contrast to the dreary cell in the basement, with marble floors and mahogany walls that rose to the high ceilings graced with chandeliers.
"This is all yours?" Ingilaug's voice cracked in regard to the lavish riches that decorated his vast home, but Elrique's claw pierced into her skin and made her yelp. The fire Eyrie that had taken Ingilaug was making his way down the hallway, who the Kougra did not recognize due to his face scarf.
"Hello, Elrique." Vaughn nodded in acknowledgment at his boss and then eyed Ingilaug.
"Would you excuse us, Vaughn?" Elrique inquired, and Vaughn passed by them immediately.
"Who is he?" Ingilaug whimpered and rubbed her arm.
"My most trusted faction member," Elrique hissed in Ingilaug's ear. "While you were out squandering away savings, he was there for me. And he turned out to be far more cooperative than you ever were. He knows nearly everything about what I do. But if he doesn't know something, he doesn't protest the unknown, he just goes along with it. He's the only one who knows the truth about you."
"Ha! So you erased me from your life. Wonderful! Are you trying to prove a point?" Ingilaug spat. The fact that Elrique was acting like she never existed made her cringe. The truth was, she was incredibly envious of Vaughn. The truth was, working with Elrique was never a burden. His wits and wisdom were unparalleled and he was the smartest of his kind in the field. It was Ingilaug's greed that caused her to leave him.
"We're done with the tour. I wanted to show you what your backstabbing-self missed out on."
"Well, it worked, I feel great," Ingilaug muttered. "Before you lock me away to rot once again, I have a request."
"What is it?"
"Please go rescue my crew."
The Krawk rolled his eyes. "What about your crew?"
"They're excellent workers," Ingilaug protested. "If you train them yourself, they will be even more valuable to your operation, I swear."
"They are not joining me," Elrique replied without missing a beat, and Ingilaug knew it was best to say nothing. "From this moment on, Ingilaug, you are not to advise me on any subject matter."
"Come on! We were a good team before," she argued.
"What was the last thing you said to me before you left?"
Ingilaug froze. Elrique's voice was hushed, but he got his message across.
"I don't care how much you stole from me. I have made a fortune that you would not even be able to wrap your head around. But no one, and I mean no one gets away with stealing from me. You will pay the price for your actions. And from this moment on, we are not related. We never were."
Ingilaug stiffened. She could feel every hair on her body stand on end. "And if I refuse?"
"I will get rid of you faster than the last time you walked away from me."
"Now answer one question for me before I get you out of my sight," he seethed. "What are you doing in Qasala?"
"I was trying to start anew. Had not a clue that you were here as well. I guess siblings really do think alike."
That was enough from her. "Quincy!" Elrique bellowed down the hallway. Immediately a checkered Skeith popped out from the corner. "Please escort this individual to the spare room. Make sure she doesn't leave."
"Certainly, sir." The Skeith took Ingilaug by the arm and yanked her away.
Ingilaug frantically looked back over her shoulder to see Elrique shining a nearby ceramic sculpture on a pedestal with his sleeve. He seemed so satisfied, she thought bitterly, that his backstabbing sister was walking away on his terms.
"Jesqe was one of them!" she screamed out to her brother. "Jesqe was with me at Desert Arms! She's been working for me for years!"
Quincy kept trying to pull her forward but Ingilaug watched as Elrique stopped shining the vase. Satisfied that she had delivered a blow to his heart, she faced forward. That was when she heard a crash as the ceramic vase was pushed off its pedestal and shattered on the ground.
The Tyrannian Kougra was shoved into a barren corridor in the lower level of the mansion. The room Quincy escorted her to was windowless and had one deflating mattress on the wooden floor. If Quincy stepped into the room, she surely would have suffocated from its lack of air and space.
"When can I leave?" Ingilaug asked in a daze.
"Whenever Elrique is ready to see you again," Quincy stated.
"Will I be given food? Water?" Ingilaug kicked the mattress. "A pillow, perhaps?"
"None of these luxuries have been asked to be provided for you, so no. And consider this an upgrade." Quincy stepped out of the room and slammed the door, locking it behind him. Ingilaug groaned and fell on the mattress, rubbing her eyes with her paws. She had nothing better to do than try to sleep until the next morning, accepting the fact that she was locked in her brother's dream world.
To be continued...