Rumored Legacy: Part Two
It wasn't hard to convince the remaining Aisha Thieves to join him, but then, most of them were young and inexperienced; they would believe anything Purrow told them. This also made them the greatest liability. While they remained loyal to Purrow so they would not leave him for the obelisk or the guild, they were also most likely to run away in a fight. They were thieves, not warriors.
"Where are we going?" one young Aisha, Pearl, inquired.
"Our first stop will be the Haunted Woods," Purrow explained. "We'll just work our way around Neopia. But first, we need to stop at the Rainbow Pool."
"Why?" Gary asked.
"For this." Purrow pulled out a Baby Paint Brush. "Someone, step forward."
"Why do we need that?" Carissa wondered.
Pearl opened her mouth again, but before she could say a word, Purrow slapped her with the brush and did not stop until she was tiny and blue and her collar had turned into a binky. She wiggled her way out of her thieving clothes which were now far too big on her.
"Now let's go."
"But I'm huuuungryyyyy," Pearl wailed.
"We'll eat once we get to the Haunted Woods and do some proper thieving," Purrow growled.
He almost regretted his decision to paint her Baby. Oh, he could not deal with her wailing and crying as they trekked through Neopia Central, drawing more stares than was appropriate for thieves.
"Why don't we go after Kiko Lake? Or Roo Island?" Roxon wondered.
"And steal what? King Roo's hat or a glass bottom boat?" Purrow shook his head. "Maybe later. Right now we need to win some real territory before we worry about outer boundaries. Besides, Kanrik has no presence in either of those places because they're useless. What would that say about us? Ooh, we're Aisha Thieves and we're out to undermine Kanrik and our first act is to take over Roo Island and Kiko Lake."
"Okay, so not there. You said Haunted Woods and then Lost Desert. What about Meridell or Brightvale or Faerieland?"
"Faerieland is too much for us right now; that's one of our end goals. I don't feel like facing Queen Fyora, do you? I haven't worked out Brightvale or Meridell yet."
"Well, after the Haunted Woods and Lost Desert, we'll either have to cross the mountains, go to Brightvale, or cross to Krawk Island. Or we could double-back and cross to Tyrannia."
"And go knocking on Kanrik's front door? Are you insane? No, we'll keep as far away as we can from Tyrannia and Terror Mountain."
"Hush! We're here!"
They'd reached the edge of the Haunted Woods, a sign toothily spelling out "Wel--me -o t-- H-unted Wo-ds." A lonely rotting sign farther down the trail read "Beware! Turn back now!" And somewhere deep in the shadows, a stick snapped. Pearl began to cry.
"D-do we have t-to go in there?" Francine whimpered.
"Yes, we do," Purrow told them, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. "Come on."
Signs of civilization gave them hope only until they saw said civilization. The Brain Tree watched everyone in the area while Esophagor moaned for food. The Castle of Eliv Thade loomed in the center of the clearing with Edna's Tower accenting its dominance.
"Where do we start?" Gary whispered.
"How about over there?" Purrow suggested, pointing to what looked to be a roller coaster.
The Deserted Fairground was no more welcoming, but it looked more promising as tourists lined up for Bagatelle and Coconut Shy and other rigged games. Children ran around Test Your Strength and listened, wide-eyed, as tour guides frightened them with ferocious tales of Castle Nox and the part it played in the Faeries' Ruin before leading them inside.
"There," Carissa said, pointing to a Ghost Kacheek and Shadow Poogle hiding behind the scratchcard kiosk. A Zombie Usul moaned behind them and they shushed it as someone looked around.
"Guild or not guild?" Roxon wondered.
"Hard to tell, but I'm guessing not guild," Purrow mused. "Kanrik doesn't like his thieves traveling in groups and usually has them painted a solid color."
"So what's the plan?"
"We have a winner!" Sydney said. "Five thoussssand Neopointssss."
The newly-rich Elephante cheered and collected his prize. As he turned, he noticed a little Baby Aisha, tears streaming down her cheeks, bottom lip quivering.
Carissa and Gary quickly cleaned out the Elephante's pockets—fending off more than a few Money Tree ghosts—while Purrow and Roxon tackled the Kacheek, Poogle, and Usul. The Usul managed to flee but the Kacheek and Poogle were quickly subdued, the Kacheek taking a bit of work seeing how she was, in fact, a ghost.
"All right, fine!" the Kacheek snapped. "It's yours." She snorted. "There's more tourists around here anyway. Take your commissions and get out of here."
"We're not here for commissions," Purrow told them.
"Yeah? So are you just here to tackle a couple thieves trying to make an honest living?"
"Don't I know you?" the Poogle wondered. "Purrow, isn't it? So this is what you've come to?"
"Let him speak!" Roxon ordered.
"Fine. What do you want?"
Sandy ran, or shuffled as befitted a zombie. She hid behind a tree at the edge of the fairground, jumping and moaning when something landed on a branch above her. It was a Crokabeck.
"I like what you're saying," the Poogle, Sam, said, "but what's the catch?"
"No commissions, no insane structure," Riley the Kacheek went on, "and still we protect each other. It sounds too good to be true. You have to be part of a guild to get the kind of protection you're offering."
"It's not a formal guild," Purrow told them. "Any thief can do as he likes; his only competition is other thieves. But if one thief is in trouble, he can rely on any other thief to help him."
"There is no help amongst thieves," Sam said. "It's a fake luxury perpetuated by Kanrik so he can make commissions on other thieves' work."
"Well I'd like to be part of it as long as I can remain here."
"That's the point," Roxon said. "And if you wanted to leave you could leave without worrying that Kanrik will suddenly have his goons in place when you return."
Riley scoffed. "Don't we know it."
"Where are Kanrik's thieves around here anyway?"
"Neovia, naturally. The games here are rigged, so thieving is as hit-and-miss as the Coconut Shy. But the shops and patrons of Neovia are a little more predictable. Overall it's fewer Neopoints, but it's a steady stream, which is what Kanrik likes, and the prizes aren't as cheap. And the Almost Abandoned Attic is a good challenge every so often. Not that we would know."
"So what do you propose?" Sam challenged. "If your theory is so great, get us back into Neovia."
A Shadow Kyrii and a Skunk Lupe patrolled Neovia as often as they looted it. Like Riley had said, the overall Neopoints were fewer, so there wasn't as much work to be done. The Kyrii and the Lupe seemed to be new recruits, too loud and bumbling for their own good. It wasn't hard for two Aishas, a Buzz and a Poogle to trap them in an alley.
"Let us go!" the Kyrii hissed. "We'll call for help! We'll call Kanrik!"
"At what cost?" Roxon click-laughed. "Another 5% commission? Can you really afford it in this stump of a town?"
The Lupe glanced uncertainly at the Kyrii.
"You let us thieve here, and we won't tell Kanrik how you got your tails handed to you," Sam declared. "And if you give us any trouble, then we will have help coming and it doesn't even cost anything."
It was tough to judge anyone's sincerity, but the payout potential won over and the two guild thieves agreed.
"That was almost too easy," Sam said as they sat at the river's edge.
"Like we said, if they give you any trouble, send word and a thief will help," Purrow promised.
"Where are you going next?" Riley asked.
"The Lost Desert, where else? We're just taking Neopia back one land at a time."
Using Qasala as a base, it wasn't hard to establish a presence in the desert. The Thieves' Guild ruled Sakhmet, but the opportunity arose when a rich Vandagyre ambassador was due to arrive. The guild, Purrow's non-guild, and some freelancing thieves got away with valuable trinkets and gems, and ended up in a back alley, squabbling over the bounty. Kanrik's thieves were not happy with Purrow's sudden rise to power, but with most independent thieves buying into the non-guild idea, they could not say no to "sharing" territory.
"So, we've conquered the Haunted Woods and the Lost Desert," Roxon figured. "Where are we going now?"
"I figure to Krawk Island, actually. It's small enough; we can make quick work of it. Then Mystery Island and Moltara, Altador and Shenkuu, then cross back over the mountains to reinforce our presence here and then Brightvale, Meridell, and finally Faerieland." Purrow was proud of his plan. And with Kanrik away, he would be none the wiser.
"You're sure about this?" Kanrik said.
"Absolutely sure," the Duchess replied. "I leave nothing to chance, least of all my little birds."
Kanrik sighed and rubbed his eyes. "The ambition of a child..."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I can't leave the obelisk."
"So you would send an ambassador."
"One leader must always confront another; it is cowardice to send an 'ambassador.'"
"I commend you for your nobility, Kanrik."
"Did your little birds mention where they are heading next?"
"As a matter of fact, they did. Little Purrow was kind enough to outline his plans in their entirety."
Meesha listened as the Duchess recited Purrow's list of destinations. She had to get to him, stop him from doing something stupid. Ignoring whatever threats Kanrik had made upon her arrival about desertion, Meesha grabbed her sack and set out across the plateau.
To be continued...