An Uprising of Sweepers: Part Two
The town, though small is separated out into four different areas. The town centre faces the sea, in between its North and South sections. Towards the East, and surrounding it is a forest which spans for miles. It is through this forest that many use its ways to get to other parts of the region in those days. While it provides many a traveller, good shelter from scorching sun, it also provides many hiding places for the Neopians one wouldn’t like to meet. And in this forest there are many secluded areas... ---
Nudging awake his sleeping apprentice; Nikos, with a foot, Adian got to work making sure the small fishing boat he inherited from his grandfather was ready to sail. “Wake up, lazy boned apprentice! We’ve an urgent order!”
The young Mynci woke up with a shock and rolled off the nets that he had been using as bedding. “Urgent order? For what?” he queried while he rubbed sleep out of his eyes. “Squid. Go make sure we’ve the bait for them.”
“But Sir, now’s not the season for them! Are you –“
His reply was cut with a glare, though the tone that Adian gave was not stern. “Drop the “Sir”, I told you “Adian” will do. And I know that. But we’ve a client that needs them by tomorrow night the latest. So we’ll do the best we can.”
Nikos nodded with an air of resignation and opened his mouth again, this time to ask “How many does this client want?”
“Let’s see. We want at least 7 and all have to be alive. So make sure that we’ve got a place to hold them also.”
“Got it.” The young Mynci quickly set to work, checking the supplies and making sure that they’ve a big enough holding container to keep the live squid in. Adian looked over his co-fisher with small pride, glad to find the Mynci who is 3 years younger than him a quick and determined worker.
After Nikos’s father was badly injured by the bandits, he had to stop working as a carpenter. Nikos felt that he had to help his father and not rely entirely on his uncle’s help even if he had both Nikos and his father come live with him and his family after the incident. His uncle after all, is also not well to do and has to provide for his family. So he did what he could by finding places where he could get apprenticed or a simple paying job. It was hard for Nikos to find someone who was willing to take him on due to the circumstances in town, but Adian came to his rescue. While he wasn’t able to pay him much, the burly Wocky fisher was willing to train Nikos in the ways of the fishing trade and allowed him to take home any of the extra catch that wasn’t sold alongside meagre pay he could give.
Once all the preparations were made, they set sail. “Where will we be heading to first?” asked Nikos as they pulled out of the port.
“Hmm… we’ll cast our nets for fish in the usual three top spots. After that, I’ll be concentrating on getting the squids.”
“And where we’ll be heading to for that, Si- I mean, Adian?” he corrected himself quickly.
“I have two places in mind, but expect to move from spot to spot a lot.” ---
“Si- Adian, we’ll have to head back now if we’re to sell our fish fresh.”
“I know,” came a gruffer than normal reply from the tired Wocky. Already on their 6th fishing spot, they had only managed to catch two tiny squids and dawn is already breaking. To make matters worse, they didn’t catch as much fish as they normally would last night because of the time they had allotted for squid catching. “Look, we try one more spot before I call it quits.”
As always, Nikos nodded and got to work hauling up the nets as Adian steered the boat to another spot not too far from the port. There, they cast the nets and quickly drew them up. To their surprise, the net was almost filled with squids, what more, the large sized ones! But due to the sudden sheer weight, the boat started to tip and Nikos fell in the water. As it was a prerequisite for all fisher apprentices to be able to swim, Adian was not worried for Nikos. But when he did not come up as fast as he should, seeds of worry start to take root. Also, the weight was getting to him too. “Nikos!”
The Mynci’s head popped out of the water with a dazed look in his eyes but looked none the worse for dunking.
“What took you so long?”
“Sorry. I saw something else in the water aside from our catch.”
“Well, it looked like a water faerie…”
“Water faerie! You must have fallen asleep, everyone knows the bandit raids had kept the faeries away from these waters!! Help bring those squids up and set aside 10 for our client. Gut the rest along with the fish, we’ll sell them as well since we don’t have much fish.”
“On it, Si- Adian!”
The daily fish market was already at full swing when they got back to shore and their usual space had been taken up by other fishers. They had no choice but to do their selling on their boat. It is a good thing that few of their regulars were looking out for them since the market started or they wouldn’t been able to sell any fish. As there was not enough fish and not many regulars were interested in squid, they had to take orders for delivery later and go fishing again once the market is done. All the while, Adian kept a lookout for the stranger but saw no feather nor talon of that Eyrie. It was only when they were down to their last few fishes when an Eyrie turned up. But it wasn’t the stranger. Rather it was Corbio; the town mayor, with his aide.
Relatively new to the post, Corbio is more town mayor in name than an actual one himself. When the previous mayor took strict action on the bandits, he and his entire family met a sad end through the bandits’ first of many brutal and ferocious attacks on the town. Corbio got the post because he was former deputy to the previous mayor and would know something about running and leading a town… which he doesn’t do much of.
Mostly, he keeps to himself in the former mayor’s residence and comes out only when it’s necessary. The town council members get exasperated by his lack of backbone during those meetings, as the only action he takes whenever the bandits were brought up was to “let them do as they want”. And it had been 4 years since the incident! Even then, he couldn’t be blamed entirely for being so fearful ever since and can be understood if he wishes to keep a low profile. And clearly, he was doing so, by coming out to market so near to closing time. As most of the other fish stalls are closing up, he approached Adian’s boat. “Good morning, what have you here?” he queried.
“G’ morning, Mayor. Sorry, all the fish has been sold. There’s squid if you don’t mind, unless you still want fish? But you’ll have to order. I’ll have them delivered to you later.” Nikos had already dashed off to grab an early lunch and to get the necessary baits and equipment for the second round of fishing. He’ll have to be informed about the latest order for fish if the Mayor puts in one.
“You can do that?”
“Well, we always put our customer first, Mayor.”
“Admirable policy! I won’t say no to some squid either, I could do for a change to my fare.”
“It is good to try new things,” agreed Adian politely. “How many?”
“I’ll take three. For the fish, could you deliver three of which ever fish that goes well with squid?”
“Will do. Here you are, Mayor.”
While this exchange was taking place, he suddenly noticed the stranger leaning against the wall of a nearby building, watching the proceedings with Eyrie-eyed precision. It looked as though he did not plan to approach at all until the transaction is done with. As though he could read his thoughts, the Mayor suddenly asked “I heard a stranger managed to fight off some of those bandits?”
“You heard right.”
“And he made arrangements of some sort with you?”
“He just wanted some squid.”
“I see… did you sell him any?”
“Nope. He hasn’t come by.”
“Is that so? Pity, I would’ve like to meet him. Well, I’ll be taking my leave.”
The Mayor then left, but not before asking Adian to pass on a message to the stranger that he would like to meet him personally to thank him for helping Mother Euthia. True enough, the stranger immediately approached from where he was observing the doings. “That Eyrie… who is he?”
“Him? That would be the town mayor, Corbio. Here’s your squid. You’re lucky we managed to catch anything at all.”
“I’m sorry. I hope it wasn’t too inconvenient.”
“Ah, we do our best to cater to our customers. Now, for the price…”
It took a surprisingly short while. He had expected the stranger to start bargaining when he quoted the price, as he had to include the time and effort spent for sudden request: draining the squids’ ink into the flask that was shown to him the night before. But the stranger merely just paid it up (in a small but heavy bag of coins) and quickly strode back to the inn, but not before he said his thanks and Adian passed on the Mayor’s message. He also pondered the way the Eyrie took the message. The least he expected would be indifference to the invitation. But, it seemed for a moment the Eyrie fledgling showed slight fear before putting on an air of slight curiosity.
“Odd,” he thought aloud, glad that he had already sent Nikos off and was therefore not present to witness the strange transaction. “Thought you would think so.”
“Wha- Oh, it’s just you,” he muttered when he turned in shock to find Orcius, grinning in amusement.
“What brings you here?”
“What else, but your last client.”
“Why? What about him?”
“That’s the thing I am about to tell you. But you just said so yourself.”
“Which one? That he’s odd? Anyone would’ve said that, if they knew what he told me to fish for.”
“And if they knew what he came for in the apothecary today.”
“Whatever did he go there for?”
“Oh, just normal ingredients. But not just any normal ones.”
“When you’re done telling riddles, feel free to enlighten me,” Adian replied shortly. “I have to be out in the boat soon and want to be done with my orders fast.”
“Alright then. Those ingredients are ones that you normally see for those wanting to change their appearances.”
“What, appearances? You mean that he’s not an Eyrie but something else?”
“Something else, maybe. But I am very sure that he’s definitely an Eyrie. You see, to change your type of species requires ingredients that costs more and has many complicated steps in preparation. Something tells me he’s in a rush and wouldn’t go through the trouble of it. Also, the ingredients he asked for are mainly used in mixtures and potions which causes you to change colours. For instance, you would use such potions to change yourself from red to blue. To do that, you’ll need a base ingredient that can give that colour… in which case, live shellfish.”
“I see! Interesting. But, so what if he’s buying such things?”
“Don’t you think that he’s trying to hide something? Surely, your sharp Wocky eyes would have picked up a few things.” That triggered the details he noted in the actions of the Eyrie stranger since setting eyes on him. “Like… a secret identity?”
“Knew you would come to that conclusion,” replied Orcius happily.
“Alright, you got me there… again!” Adian smiled ruefully at his friend. “What do you want to do about it?”
“This will take a while. But since Father says that he will be in charge of the apothecary today, I’ll join you on your fishing boat now. We may as well discuss then.”
“Fine. But you’re going to be help out as well!” ---
Adian yawned and rubbed his drowsy eyes, as he waited for Orcius to give the signal to start. Not only had Adain used up time for a nice breakfast and a good sleep to catch fish, he had to make sure that it was all cleaned and delivered. He was glad that he can rely on Nikos to do the deliveries, as he now had to do what he never would have thought he would do again since he Wocky kit: shadowing.
Thanks to Orcius’s curiosity, both the Vandagyre and Wocky had lots of experience in shadowing their townsNeopians as younglings, though it had gotten them into trouble often. Overtime, Adian stopped due to priorities and disinterest. However, he wouldn’t put it past his friend to continue on his own. Orcius always thought life is more interesting when there are mysteries to be solved. He now felt a little annoyed that he let his friend talk him into putting off his much needed nap to join him in another of his “mysteries”. For all they know, what the Eyrie stranger would do with the things that he bought from them is nothing of interest.
Still, he had to admit that the stranger was… acting strangely. They had followed the Eyrie the moment he stepped out of the inn after lunch. Noting it was the time of day when most townsNeopians would be resting indoors from the heat, he hoped that where the Eyrie planned to go would have some shade from the sun. The stranger walked purposefully towards the forests behind the town, though it was clear that he did not want to be followed. He often turned to look back and also seemed to make detours. Always, Orcius and Adian barely made themselves scarce; staying undercover behind buildings or the foliage of the plants around them in the forest nearby. They found their quarry difficult to shadow, almost losing him many times. But they forced themselves on, while worrying that he would realise they were following him.
Finally, the stranger and his “shadows” arrived at a secluded clearing, upstream of a river that runs through this particular forest. Adian, whose doubts had died down when he watched the stranger actions the whole time they had followed him, now whispered in his mind again. The stranger might’ve just wanted a swim on a warm day like this, even if he went about it strangely. Adian wouldn’t blame him if the stranger was worried hero worshippers (and there’s a small group town now) would follow him when he wanted time for himself. But they had already followed him all the way to the river, there was nothing to do but continue observing and Adian will give Orcius a long “I-told-you-so” lecture if his thoughts are proven right.
Still unaware that he had been followed, the stranger separated and mixed the ingredients that he bought earlier at the apothecary in two bowls. In one of them, Adian was quick to notice that he put in the squid ink and mentioned it to Orcius. “Of course he would. After all, he might actually be a lighter coloured Eyrie and would need the ink to darken his colour.” The Eyrie then, took up the bowl without the squid ink in it, put his paws into the mixture and rubbed himself all over in it, taking extra care to get it in between his feather and fur. “What is he doing that for?”
“That’s a mixture used to make the new colours will stay on longer and more natural looking. It also helps remove any initial layers of colour in the fur, feathers or scales.”
“I see… but, he would save himself the trouble of coming up here if he did this in his inn room!”
“Hmm. If I remember right; you need a clean, fast flowing water source, not ones from wells and the like for this kind of colour changing. It’s something to do with ingredients reacting to certain types of waters differently. In any case, he never asked me anything earlier, which tells me this is not his first time.”
The fledgling was about to immerse himself in the river when he stopped suddenly and looked around, particularly in the direction where his “shadows” were hidden. Adian and Orcius held their breaths… had they been found out already? To their relief, the stranger must have decided that he must be imagining things and entered the water, scrubbing himself thoroughly. Black coloured water come away from his feathers and fur. To Adian’s surprise, it’s a deep blue coloured Eyrie that he was now seeing. But Orcius started to mutter “Huh, this Neopian… why does he seem familiar?”
Suddenly, “Ah, Sir! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” a voice called out loudly. Cover blown, Adian turned to see who was the unwelcome tag-along… and found himself staring right at Nikos. Orcius stepped out of their hiding place, and quickly got a firm grip on the stranger; who upon hearing the calls, quickly got out and tried to hide in the shrubbery nearby. A tussle ensued, causing Adian to cut short his yelling at Nikos and help Orcius hold the Eyrie firmly… which was no easy task as the stranger was not only stronger than he looked, but is capable of putting up a good fight. Clearly he is capable of taking on those bandits!
“Hold still! We just want to ask you some questions!” Orcius ordered.
“And I won’t answer! Why are you all so interested in my doings?”
“Well, we wouldn’t if you weren’t so secretive in the first place! Now, who are you?” demanded Adian. But Nikos, hearing and seeing the Eyrie, started and exclaimed:
“No way… Khaenos?? Khae, is that you? The Eyrie looked up in shock and recognition of Nikos.
Orcius, upon hearing the name that Nikos called out gasped. Adian, who never heard his friend gasp turned to him, with an inquiring look.
“Khaenos? As in… Khaenos, son of Thaenos?”
Now, it was Adian’s turn to be shocked. “Thaenos, the previous mayor?”
And when they all thought there would be no more surprises after this, a new voice suddenly broke in the strange scene that has taken place. “Well, well… Looks like things have gotten really interesting!”
To be continued…