Defender Scarlet Shadow in the Backstab Knight: Part Two
"Right! I think it's time we discussed why Scarlet and I are here. We're here to help you guard the shield." Aspen said. Harvard raised an eyebrow.
"I'm glad we'll have you around Sir Aspen but I'm not sure if Scarlet Shadow would be of much help." He said. Sopherie bristled at those words. It seemed like today was 'Underestimate Sopherie' day. Jeran approached Sopherie.
"So, Scarlet Shadow, what weapons are you experienced in?" He asked her.
"The bow and the whip." Sopherie replied automatically. She'd been asked that a lot when she was training to be a Defender.
"Anything else you're skilled with?" Jeran enquired.
"I'm also skilled in being stealthy. If I can, I'll often get the jump on opponents I may face." Sopherie said. Jeran nodded his head thoughtfully.
"You know, if someone does want to steal the shield, having someone they can't see come from behind them might prove useful. You knew this, didn't you Sir Aspen." Jeran said.
"I may have had a faint idea, Sir Jeran. But I honestly brought Scarlet here along because I trust her. But I did know that she could somehow be utilised, yes." Aspen said.
"What if I couldn't be utilised, what would you have done then, Phantom Warrior?" Sopherie asked him.
"I would have accepted that I royally messed up." Aspen replied with a deadpan tone. Sopherie glared daggers at Aspen while Harvard sniggered.
"Sir Aspen, I was always told you had a great sense of humour. But I think Defender Scarlet Shadow would have been helpful no matter what." He said, flashing a smile at Sopherie. Sopherie smiled back at Harvard, but something about his eyes still made Sopherie feel very uncomfortable.
"Well, I did train her myself. But I would like to show her the real shield. She works better if she sees what she's protecting." Aspen said.
"Of course. Harvard and I will enter with you. Not that we don't trust you, we're just doing our job." Jeran said. Harvard produced two keys and unlocked the door and all four of them entered. The King's Shield lay in a display made of what looked like glass. But Sopherie knew from what she had read that this glass was as magic as the Shield itself. It was enchanted to be unbreakable and the only way to get it out was to possess the key to the case. That must be what the second key Harvard has is for. Sopherie thought. The shield inside had the Meridellian family coat of arms painted on it in blue and red and the rest of it shined silver from the alloy it was made of. She looked at her mentor and noticed he had a strange look on his face as he looked at the shield. Sopherie knew that face very well, Aspen wore it when there was something off. Was there something off about the shield? Then Aspen noticed that Sopherie was looking at him and the look on his face quickly vanished. What do you know that I don't, Aspen? She silently asked him.~~~
Night fell in Meridell and the ball was underway. Aspen, Jeran and Harvard were arranged in a triangle in front of the door that lead to the room that held the Shield of Kings. Sopherie had hidden herself in an alcove nearby, holding her bow. She would stay hidden from sight in the alcove that as long as she didn't move. The most fatal mistake most people made was when they moved to get away from someone coming close to their hiding place as the movement made them visible. It often surprised Sopherie how close someone could get to her hiding place and yet never saw her because she stayed still. Then she heard footsteps coming from the corridor ahead. She immediately became alert and carefully nocked a paralysis arrow. She knew that the only Neopets who would be coming down this corridor would be foes. Suddenly, the footsteps quickened and a group of rough and unruly Neopets charged the three knights. The sound of steel on steel filled the area and Sopherie began shooting Neopets with paralysis arrows and none of the intruders could seem to figure out that she was in the alcove and didn't have time to look as the knights engaged them. Then suddenly, Harvard ran out from the crowd and he was carrying the Shield of Kings with a grin of pure evil on his face.
"Harvard?! What are you doing?!" Sopherie shouted at him, moving out of her alcove.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not what everyone thought I was. The Shield of Kings is now mine!" Havard said as he dashed down the corridor.
"Traitor!" Sopherie spat and she dashed after him.
"Scarlet, wait!" Aspen called after her, but could not follow as the Neopets still standing prevented him.
Sopherie chased Harvard through all the twists and turns he tried to take. It was obvious he was trying to lose her, but Sopherie's Defender training didn't allow villains to lose her. They allowed her to keep up and eventually catch them. But Harvard was no slouch either. Sopherie had tried to wrap her red dance ribbon whip around one of his ankles, but he agilely dodged every time. They eventually made it out of the castle and that's when Sopherie lost sight of him. She looked around but it was as if Harvard had melted into the night. Then Sopherie caught sight of a dark figure that was running away from the castle and pursued it. But then the light of the full moon in the sky washed over them both and Sopherie saw the last person she thought she'd see out here. But the eventide fur was unmistakable.
"Jaidenenk?!" Sopherie exclaimed in disbelief.
"Sophs?!" Jaidenenk said, his face mirroring her own. It was obvious that Sopherie was the last person he expected to see out here. "What are you doing here?" He asked her.
"I could ask you the same question, Jaidenenk Cloud!" Sopherie retorted.
"Oh, me? I was just... Procuring something from the castle." Jaidenenk said, putting one hand behind his head. Sopherie knew that was a nervous tic of his.
"Stealing something, you mean. Ah, never mind. I'll let the knights deal with you, I've got something more important to do." Sopherie grumbled.
"Something more important to do?" Jaidenenk asked, looking rather miffed that Sopherie was just going to disregard him.
"Did you see a woodland Ixi in knight armour with a distinctive shield go by you?" Sopherie asked him.
"Um, yeah. I saw him running to the north." Jaidenenk said.
"So that's the way Harvard went." Sopherie said.
"Harvard?" Jaidenenk hissed.
"You know something about him?" Sopherie said.
"Only if he's who I think he is. Sopherie, I wouldn't go following that guy. Especially alone. You're better off going back and getting some help if you're going to chase that guy down." Jaidenenk said in a serious tone.
"That's not an option, Jaidenenk. If you know any more about this guy, like where he's going I would sure be grateful." Sopherie replied. Jaidenenk sighed, then he pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper, wrote something on the piece of paper and then handed it to Sopherie.
"That's directions to his hideout. But the place is a veritable nest of thieves and bandits. You could find yourself in between a rock and a bunch of bandits so for Fyora's sakes, be careful!" Jaidenenk said. "But that's all the information I'm giving you. I'm not going to be anymore responsible for a suicide mission than I already am. Ciao."
And with that, Jaidenenk stalked off. Sopherie looked that the directions that Jaidenenk gave her and set off following them. Against her better judgement, she trusted Jaidenenk and nine times out of ten, it was the right thing to do. She just hoped that tenth time wasn't today.~~~
As the directions Jaidenenk gave her said, she had found a trapdoor right on the outskirts of Meri Acres underneath a boulder that looked like a giant closed fist. She had carefully pushed aside the boulder and hoped that nobody would be below her when she opened the trapdoor and jumped down. Luckily there was no one underneath her or to the sides of her as she had entered a long underground tunnel, so she had made it inside undetected. The way to her right had light shinning at the end of it while the other way was pitch black. She closed the trapdoor and made her way to the right. She wasn't too keen to go travelling into the dark. As she got halfway, someone suddenly came from behind her and pushed her into the side wall of the tunnel.
"Well, well, Scarlet Shadow. How nice to see you again." A familiar voice said. It only took a few seconds for Sopherie to recognise who the voice belonged to.
"Harvard!" She growled.
"Not Harvard, I'm afraid. That's just an alias I use. One that served me well through all those years with the Meridellian knights, but an alias none the less. They call me Dusk as the night is my friend. When night falls, I become invisible in it, provided I am underneath the night sky but never mind that." Dusk said as he pressed Sopherie harder into the wall. "You're my guest here and I treat my guests very well."
Sopherie quietly gulped. Dusk's tone of voice suggested quite the opposite.
Back at Castle Meridell, the sun was rising, the knights were in shambles and Jeran tasted the bitter flavour of failure. The Shield of Kings was gone and worse, it was one of his own knights. He had trusted Sir Harvard and it turned out that he was a traitor. He had figuratively been stabbed in the back and the King was going to be furious.
"Sir Jeran." Sir Aspen said quietly to him.
"What is it, Sir Aspen?" Jeran asked. He hated how defeated he sounded, but it matched with how he felt.
"Harvard may have not gotten away with the shield completely." Sir Aspen replied. Jeran's went from drooping to straight up when he heard Sir Aspen say that.
"What do you mean?!" Jeran asked him.
"The Scarlet Shadow chased after Harvard. It's very possible that she caught up with him." Sir Aspen explained.
"She did? But Harvard is an experienced knight, despite the fact he betrayed us. Would the Scarlet Shadow be able to stand up to him?" Jeran said.
"I don't know, Sir Jeran. I need to ask you this. I need to stay here to be here for the King. Please go and find the Scarlet Shadow. She's formidable but if she gets seriously hurt because I couldn't be there for her, I'd never forgive myself because I brought her here. Please, Jeran. Be there for her in my place!" Aspen pleaded.
"... Alright Sir Aspen. I'll go after Scarlet Shadow and maybe even get back the shield while I'm at it too." Jeran said.
"Thank you, Jeran. Go now, Scarlet may be fighting Harvard as we speak." Aspen said. Jeran nodded, his strength renewed and he headed out of the castle. But before he got too far, he heard a quiet 'psst' from his left and saw it was an eventide Kougra sitting on a fence a few metres away from him in the light of dawn
"Do you need something?" Jeran asked him.
"I think it's you who will need something, 'o' Champion of Meridell," The eventide Kougra replied. "Did Phantom Warrior send you out to look for the Scarlet Shadow?"
To be continued…