The Merchant's Mayhem: Part Six
One had to be extremely wealthy in order to stay at the Governor's mansion, even for a day. And that was exactly what Elrique, also known as Winston to unsuspecting clients, possessed; unspeakable wealth. Though Marcilli did not approve of his career choice as the leader of a thieves faction, he was a caring individual who could provide for Felicia. That was why she left her in his hands.
Now Marcilli stood in front of the looming Governor's mansion, a place never frequented unless one was the Governor's dear friend or a bumbling island tourist. It was a magnificent place that enhanced the island's overall worth and appeal, but it was rather secluded to everyone. That was why Marcilli had no idea if approaching would be a smart move, as the front door was blatantly opened. It seemed to taunt her, challenging her to enter.
What was the worst that could happen?
Upon entering the grand hall that housed a personal fountain and abundant oil paintings, Marcilli approached a Pteri maid who was polishing the golden rails of the staircase with a rag. Even with the rhythmic sound of Marcilli's footsteps, the Pteri did not look up, even upon being spoken to. "Excuse me, I'm here to see someone named Winston."
"I do not believe he was expecting visitors," the Pteri answered flatly.
Marcilli cringed. Apparently the rich estate did not pay enough for kind staff members. "He wasn't expecting anyone. I'm just here to talk to him."
That moment was when a voice interrupted. "A visitor! I'm flattered, really."
The voice of a thousand suns... the voice that belonged to a homely individual that would consistently drive Marcilli up a wall during her youth. The ghost Krawk that stood at the stop of the staircase made Marcilli scowl. The last time she saw him, she was saying goodbye to Felicia and he was urging her to hurry it up.
"This Draik wanted to see you, sir," said the Pteri with a voice that was dripping with excitement.
Unfazed, he answered, "She can follow me to my suite. Room service has just stopped by with some beverages."
"I'm grateful for your hospitality, Winston," Marcilli plastered on a fake smile that made Elrique smirk.
Marcilli followed her cousin down the lavish hall, keeping a reasonable distance behind him. He strolled with excessive confidence, his ghostly form radiating the hallway. Why Elrique had decided to paint himself ghost, Marcilli may never know. Elrique paused in front of a door and opened it, his gleaming red eyes watching Marcilli as she walked by him and into his enormous suite.
"I did not think that I would be seeing you so soon, Marcilli," he said as he gestured to the mugs on the table and closed the door. "Help yourself to some krakuberry or bomberry grog."
She stood in dumbfounded silence, which caused Elrique to chuckle. "I sense that something isn't sitting right with you."
"Oh, where to begin?" Marcilli tapped a finger on her chin. "Maybe it could be the fact that I just delivered talismans cursed with the souls of my parents to Felicia's father. Meanwhile, the person that I appointed Felicia's guardian is the one that dealt with Ulf himself. Sound familiar?"
His cousin was always matter-of-fact. "Of course. I was asked by a client to be in charge of the talismans. Ulf was his name, right?" Elrique mused. "Ah, I'm just kidding. Ulf is no stranger. I've known him for a long time."
Marcilli's jaw dropped. Had she heard that correctly? "There's no way... no, there's absolutely no way you know this guy."
"Ulf is an old friend I met when I was staying in Shenkuu long ago; old as in he has no idea about my faction and thinks my name is Winston, but knows that I'm equipped with enough resources to help his cause."
"Be warned, this story is a doozy. You see, after years of losing touch, Ulf and I reunited in Shenkuu a couple of weeks ago when I was there to make a 'delivery' to a customer," he paused to emphasize the fact that the word delivery was a codename for a heist. "And he broke down and told me about his fruitless search of his daughter and the pirates that took her. When he started describing the raiders and mentioned Felicia... oh, Marcilli, you should have seen the look on my face, because I knew right away who he was talking about. What are the odds that my aunt and uncle would be the ones that ruined my good friend's life, and what are the odds that his daughter is Felicia, the little blue Tonu that I raised for so long?"
With a smile branded on his face, the wealthy faction leader continued on, even though his cousin appeared to be anything but at ease.
"Once I told Ulf that I knew the pirates all too well, he begged me to bring them to him. I remember how superstitious your parents were, so I told Ulf I would go the extra mile for him and curse them to talismans that resemble the ones they liked to steal and wear. But the fact that Felicia was under my care... I kept that to myself."
He was waiting for Marcilli to add her two cents, to which she happily obliged. "I understand you keeping Felicia a secret from Ulf, to prevent him from going ballistic. But I don't get why you willingly cursed your own aunt and uncle!"
Elrique held up his hands in defense. "Hey now, I only provided the talismans. I had some Krawk Island superstitious voodoo magicians do the rest. I don't know a thing about ancient spells. And it's nothing personal, I'm just pleasing the clients," he shrugged nonchalantly.
The Draik was all but pleased with Elrique's carefree mindset. "And another thing. You gave them to Clauret and told him to give them to me. How did that end up happening?"
"You're the merchant of the Krawk Island and Shenkuu route. I didn't know who else would be able to bring them to Ulf. But I couldn't just find you and ask you myself, you see. Because then there would be questions and no time for answers. So I asked around the dock for some insight. Apparently you didn't talk to many on the dock, except for Clauret, of course. He was a tough one, though. When I told him the payout was ten million Neopoints, he was ready to tackle the route himself. I had to pay him half of that sum myself to keep him quiet when confronting you."
Elrique would spend unreasonable amounts of money for anything he deemed fit. It made Marcilli sick; sick that he would waste his money in such a way, but more importantly, how he went behind her back. "Why couldn't you just bring them to Shenkuu yourself? Was that too easy for you?" she interrogated.
"What are you, the newest Defender of Neopia?" Elrique scoffed and raised his cup for another sip of grog. He pursed his lips together at the tart mix before responding. "Believe it or not, I was going to set sail and deliver them to Ulf myself, but I wasn't sure if some negative curse would come out of them. I didn't want my new ship to be damaged. I knew you would be able to handle it if something happened to your... what was it called... the Seagreen Kelpflake?"
Marcilli gritted her teeth at her cousin's ill comment. "The Silver Kazeriu. I am the merchant captain of the Silver Kazeriu."
The hostility in her voice made him a bit uneasy, so he chose to avert the subject. "Right, of course, my mistake. Besides, the payment for bringing them to Shenkuu wasn't nearly up to my liking. You know, I'm surprised you haven't yet asked about Felicia's well being."
An abrupt change of subject. Elrique rarely stuck to the same conversation for an extended period of time. "Forgive me, my brain is a little scattered at the moment," she said dryly. "Where is she?"
The solemn look plastered on Elrique's face was highly unusual. "Gone."
Gone? The word did not register in the Draik's mind. "You just had her in Qasala! Where is she now?"
"I told you," he repeated slowly. "She's gone."
"What? What's happened with Felicia?"
"It was years ago. She wanted to leave Qasala and explore the world. I secretly advised her that Shenkuu would be a nice place to visit."
"No, don't tell me..." Marcilli rubbed her temples in frustration. "She set out for Shenkuu?"
"All I know is that it was by boat. Where, how, with who... I don't know. But Felicia sailed away."
Elrique was being cryptic about the entire situation, leading Marcilli to try and deduce something based on his words. "She's currently in Shenkuu?"
His face became grim. "I never said she made it."
"Never made it?"
"The ship never docked in the Shenkuu ports. There's no records of it at all."
Impossible. "Maybe she went somewhere else?"
He stared at his reflection in the grog. "It was confirmed that remains of the ship were found sunken near Maraqua."
Elrique did not even have to peruse Marcilli's way to know that she was upset. He heard the chair she was sitting in tip over and crash to the ground. "You're lying! You don't want me to bring Felicia back to Ulf so he can keep the talismans! So you're lying about Felicia, which is cowardly and pathetic!"
"I may be a scoundrel in numerous ways, but I would never lie about something like this."
And with that, Marcilli broke down. Her sister had been gone for years and she had not even known. Elrique leaned next to the window and gazed out of it, not sure how to handle his cousin's state.
"Exactly who are you crying for?"
"My mother, my father, and my Felicia!" Marcilli said between gasps. "The family that I no longer have is who I'm crying over!"
The guilt panged his soul. At this point, Elrique completely regretted participating in the cursing of his aunt and uncle. He needed something to make himself feel a bit better about the situation he found himself in. "You never liked your parents, Marcilli," he gently reminded her.
"They brought Felicia into my life," Marcilli cried out and buried her face in her hands. "Even though the way that they did was barbaric, I can never thank them enough for giving me a little sister."
That did not help at all. Elrique longingly traced his finger around the rim of the grog, silently admitting defeat. "Tell you what. Take me with you to Shenkuu on your next delivery. I'll soften up Ulf and steal the talismans. Then we can free your parents."
Marcilli was dumbfounded. "What's with the sudden change of heart?"
Elrique sighed. "You lost Felicia... you can't lose your mother and father as well."
To be continued...