An Uprising of Sweepers: Part Six
The following few hours after the earlier excitement was much quieter, except for buzzes of activity in some parts of town. To any of the bandit scouts still present in town at this point of time before a raid, it would have appeared as though it was nothing out of ordinary. After all, what would these towns of Neopians be doing but day-to-day activities? They might be more of them on the roofs today, but some of the roofs are flat enough to be doing chores there. But had they looked much closer, they would have been surprised to see some fishing nets there as well. Or that the Neopians were actually in the act of hiding things away there.
The leaders of the Sweepers, together took less than an hour explaining everything to the council members from the very beginning; from when the bandits raided the town and Thaenos, the previous mayor tried to put a stop to it. Which meant it had to begin with Khaenos. While he gave only a short version of his story, it was there that they heard more details of the night he left the town. ---
They were all in separate rooms, when the bandits swarmed into the house unannounced; he was with his mother and sister in the family room and his father was with Aide Corbio in the office across the small hall for entertaining guests. The bandits barred the rooms and guarded them. The argument they heard between Thaenos and the bandit leader was so loud that they could hear what was going on… the ultimatum being: Thaenos allows the bandits free run of the town and not call for outside help. In return, not only will the family be spared but they will also have a share in whatever the bandits’ raid from the townsNeopians.
“Think of it this way, you are getting dues the townsNeopians owe you for services in managing this town!!!” boomed the bandit leader.
“I am managing this town alright, but without your help nor by collecting beyond what the townsNeopians are supposed to pay!! I don’t know what you see in letting your lot have run of this town as management but WHAT YOU ASK OF ME, I’LL NEVER DO!!!” shouted back Thaenos with equal if not more fire than the bandit leader.
“I told you that it would come to this,” a familiar voice said; one that Khaenos couldn’t immediately place but only very much later realise, was Corbio speaking to the bandit leader.
“Wha- what are you saying?” Thaenos asked in a shocked and confused manner that it frightened Khaenos, who never heard his father talk in that way. But he knew it meant one thing; he had to get help, no matter the cost! And their mother thought so too. “Khae, Kara, go get help! Get through the window and run to the nearest house!”
Khaenos got through the window first. As he landed onto the plants underneath, he heard a loud bang as though the door suddenly opened followed by screaming. He was frozen for a moment when he saw from the shadows cast by the oil lamps that both mother and sister were being dragged away from the window by their hairs and heard loud thuds as though they were forced to the floor. Shouts from the bandit leader that his family will suffer the consequences if his father doesn’t comply, jerked him to action. He took off into the air… and was spotted by the bandits on guard in the compound. Not expecting any of them to be archers, the next thing he knew was a sharp pain in his wing and an arrow plummeting down painfully to the ground. He had only time to get up and start running before the bandits caught up to him. ---
Once Khaenos reached the part where he was chased into the forest, he stopped talking only for Nikos to help carry on with the story, only responding to nod in affirmation at certain parts or when asked for clarification. After that, he spent the rest of the time in silence while the rest carried on telling what had been done thus far. The council members didn’t even wait a moment to ponder deeply over what heard when the Sweepers were done but got to business immediately.
The first problem was to discreetly inform the rest of the town about the raid that is to happen and getting the townsNeopians help when it starts. The council members settled it by writing short notices to be sent by their messenger yooyus. Then, there was the matter of making sure that all traps and pranks were in place and properly set up. Hence, the Neopians being a little more active than normal on the rooftops. For the Sweepers, it was as though a storehouse was opened wide for their use! Their leaders were more than happy with the amount of townsNeopians willing to help now, even if the bandits are most likely to come armed to their teeth or beaks.
However, that didn’t guarantee victory for them… not yet. For that to happen, they had to be well prepared and that also extended to getting enough rest. As such, Maevia gave her final instructions to her team of decoys and runners who will be doing a more running than usual later to be well fed and rested before the evening shadows lengthened. “And since we don’t know what situations we will be in later, word of advice: don’t panic, plan ahead in line with the main plan. As decoy runners, you need to do that to survive. That’s it! All the best for later and see you then!”
She took off and glided back home to roost and rest for a while. She was joined by Nikos, who was heading back the same way. “Great speech you gave back there,” he commented.
“Hah, bet you couldn’t have done better!”
“Nope. But I’ll do just fine as both fighter and decoy runner.”
“If you had told me that a few months ago, I would have laughed right in your face and said that was a bad joke.”
“Sure you would.”
“But you’ve proven us three wrong. I thought of you as an uptight and serious Mynci that can’t take a joke. Very inflexible.”
“After working with you, I see that you had your reasons. Thena admitted that could be why you are like that when we asked her. You turned out to be pretty adaptable and capable of doing more than just fishing and chasing us off when we come by to have fun. And surprisingly, you also know how to poke fun, even if it’s during the oddest situations,” she continued.
“Hmm, my idea of when to have jokes and fun is different from you three. In any case, you yourself turned out to be pretty reliable as far as pranksters go.”
“For a prank to work, all partners in crime must be reliable,” shot back Maevia. Their light hearted bantering continued as they headed back as fast as they could for their much needed rest. ---
The sun was already heading west towards the sea but Thena was already at the sites where her tricks will be played out, checking and double checking that all was in order and in place. Shaking her head at herself, she never thought herself capable of this kind of behaviour. From her cousin Nikos, maybe. But from Thena herself? The unruly third daughter of Carpenter Aeson? Well, she’s aware of her reputation as troublemaker and wasn’t ashamed of it. Maybe it was the time spent planning traps and tactics together with Orcius that influenced her. Even if she is absolutely confident her pranks will work, it does pay to be sure that the most essential things that are required are there. Admittedly, there had been times when her pranks don’t go the way she wants… and that had some pretty nasty consequences. So, for the fun and games later on? Their pranks not happening the way it should is not an option. Not with lives at stake.
Meanwhile, the townsNeopians went about their daily business with some closing up shop for the day, all giving the appearance of having little idea that the following few hours will be even more exciting. Except for a certain group of Neopians. As they started to gather at various meeting points around the town, the Sweepers felt nervous and excited about what they were about to do… This will after all, is something that will become a tale worth retelling over and over again. Getting into positions, every one of them waited for the action to begin as the sun dipped lower into the sea. ---
In an alleyway, Aurelia put the finishing touches on her face. Turning to Khaenos who was tagged to be with her for this part of the operation, she asked “Do I look like myself?”
Khaenos had seen what she could do earlier, impressed with her disguise and the act she pulled for the blacksmith. And he is impressed yet again, now with her disguise as a bandit scout, a red Yurble about her size. “Except for when you remove your hood and let your eyes be seen, not at all. It’s only when you speak then I can tell it is you.”
“Really?” she asked this time in a raspy voice.
“Now, I wouldn’t able to tell if I didn’t know better,” he replied.
“Alright, thanks! We’ll wait for him to come this way to inform his group.”
“And when is that?”
“Oh, about a quarter of an hour from now barring any delays.” After that, they sat in silence, waiting and looking as part of the shadows. “It’s a little difficult to believe that tricksters can get picked on,” Khaenos quietly remarked suddenly.
Earlier; Khaenos and Aurelia were moving to their respective positions, as were the other Sweepers. Adian and Orcius were with them for part of the way, chatting on how all of them changed through this. It came about when Adian expressed his respect for Orcius in getting “that Feena” (meaning, Thena) to take responsibility for ensuring the traps were already set up. Aurelia had jumped into their conversation by adding that even if she didn’t like it, Thena was glad that all the “grilling” that Orcius gave her during the planning and preparations made her a better prankster. “After all, Thena can be responsible when she wants to be. Especially when it comes to her pranks.”
“Really? Can she be as meticulous as her cousin?” queried Khaenos.
“Thena wouldn’t be as thorough as that normally! She feels that being open to “unexpected” events and adjusting from there is much better than a plan with too many unessential details. After all, things can happen unexpectedly.”
“That… is true in some situations.”
“Isn’t it? But when we three talked together of late, she mentioned it and we agreed that there are benefits of being insanely prepared for any possible situation. It’ll mean less injuries happening.”
“Less injuries? What do you mean?” asked Adian. That was when Aurelia told them the story of how the three of them got to be friends. ---
Maevia had been picked on for her smaller than Pteri average size when her family first moved into the town to start a bread business. Thena on the other hand; had long since gained a reputation as a prankster among her peers and stood out with her strawberry coloured fur even longer than that, for which she had mercilessly made fun of by some. The two of them were instantaneously friends and fought back their tormenters with Thena’s agility and outrageously planned pranks in combination with Maevia’s newly found speediness on land and in air since she learnt how to fly... Their method of fighting back eventually gained them another unexpected friend.
It so happened there was an empty house on a nearby hill, which the younglings whispered among themselves to be haunted. Daring themselves to prove their “bravery”, all of them decided to explore the house, including their two mischievous pranksters. The house turned out uninteresting even if it is larger than most houses in town. It wasn’t long before the nastier ones started their next favourite pastime activity: tormenting Thena and Maevia. But they were ready for it, they had rigged some of the objects in the house as they passed by, to move around and fall over when the bullying starts. But what they did not account for, was the quiet voice that spoke out of nowhere. “Who disturbs the sleep of Japius?”
Everyone ran out from the room with screaming to really disturb the sleep of the dead, save Thena and Maevia, who were frozen in shock and horror. Being a little braver than the rest, the two of them forced themselves to look towards the direction of the voice. They saw a white Acara coming out from under a table with drapes covering it. Both of them recognised her as one of the “pretty ones” and a daughter of the textile merchants opposite Thena’s house. Expressing their admiration with her ability to use her voice in that manner, Aurelia simply shrugged, saying that she sometimes gets bored with what her friends does. However, her voice-acting for her own amusement alongside wearing disguises gained requests from her friends to stop her “embarrassing habit”.
In the end, the three of them got into trouble for scaring their peers so much that some injured themselves in haste to get out of the “haunted house”. But the two pranksters found a kindred spirit and if anything, their pranks got more outrageous and occasionally dangerous. Which had led to more injuries on those occasions. ---
“Well, the pranking is probably a shield for Thena and Maevia. They got it worse compared to me, I only got laughed at when I started spending more time with them,” Aurelia replied matter-of-factly to Khaenos’s remark.
“Still, it wouldn’t have been easy.”
“Nah. But then, we’re used to it and have each other to lean on.”
“True. I don’t think anyone will be laughing at you or the two others after this is over.”
“Hmm. Probably. We three also agreed that doing this gained us comrades that sees us as more than troublemakers. So, that may- do you hear that?”
Khaenos had already tensed his body into position, and his experienced ears told him that the Neopian coming this way had a purposeful step to it, is light footed and was practically running. The manner of running too, is characteristic of that of a Yurble. It could only mean one thing: their quarry has arrived. ---
Orcius had been waiting for his team scout when the young Cybunny told him the red Yurble bandit scout is around the corner with the bandits. He made a signal with his hand and everyone moved into position, making their way down as fast and silently as they could. Some were already in little alleys adjacent to the alleyway the bandits will pass through and were loosely holding ropes that spanned across it. Only Orcius kept his position at the corner of a flat rooftop overlooking the alleyway. It wasn’t long before the cloaked bandit scout came running up, followed closely by the bandits no more than 3 steps behind while urging them all to move faster in a raspy voice.
“3 – 2 – 1,” he counted in his thoughts and he made another signal. Immediately, all the bandits fell over their feet much to their surprise (except the “red Yurble”, who was ahead of them by more than three stride lengths). Because they did not expect to fall so suddenly, they had no time to fight back when townsNeopians and some Sweepers appeared to apprehend them and collect the weapons they had dropped. Amongst them was Khaenos, who had followed quietly from behind. He looked up to where Orcius was perched and called out “Nice timing!”
“Well, I am just glad that the “tripping” prank worked out. And good thing the townsNeopians on this side of town are brave enough to come out and help.”
“Indeed. But we’re not sure about other parts of town, are we? I’ll go to help where it is needed now.”
“We’ll come once we’ve cleared up here.”
Khaenos nodded and flew up to the rooftops to get a better vantage view for the parts of town needing his help next. Below, Orcius made sure that all the bandits had every weapon; hidden or otherwise, taken from them before ordering his team to march them to the town centre, the appointed place to hold the captured bandits. ---
That night in town never saw such a thing before. Festivals, yes. Raids, more than its share. An uprising of townsNeopians against those raiders? Not since some of the braver townsNeopians and its former mayor fought back against the bandits, nor of the scale which they were doing that night. It was full of skirmishes in the streets, some homes and buildings and even the roofs! Some parts of town had the bandits being lured into getting netted, tripped over on their feet and “spicy powder” blown into their eyes by the brave Sweepers acting as decoys (which also involved the three troublemakers) running all over town that night. As for those bandits who managed not to be caught in those traps or were in other parts of town, these met by the Sweepers who could physically fight… and by any capable townsNeopians who were finally convinced to come out and defend their town.
Adian blocked a blow with his thick stick and followed up by pushing back at the bandit that he was fighting with. Unfortunately for him, the bandit just staggered back and none the worse for wear. Adian himself on the other hand already bore some wounds and injuries from some of his other earlier skirmishes. The only thing he can do is get the bandit to make openings in his attacks and hit those as often as possible, as this bandit is able to match blow for blow in strength. To do that, he will have to take in some blows… which was what he had been doing the whole time. That was part of the reason why he and those Sweepers with a little extra strength were tagged in all the areas of the town.
Adian could only hope that the other lighter footed fighters like Nikos would know how to keep away from those stronger ones. They could and would be injured seriously, making it harder to move fast from place to place as both decoys and fighters since they have less strength and rely more on speed, technique and wits. He seen Nikos earlier in fact, doing all kinds of quick stunts that his slightly larger opponent couldn’t keep up before using a niftier technique that only a light footed Neopian could do to bring him to the ground.
Frowning, he looked over his opponent. The opponent glared back, making it clear that he would not stop even a second to attack Adian… he quickly made his move. The bandit did so likewise… and found himself missing Adian by a hair’s breadth. It was a feint! Before the bandit could recover, he was already knocked over and wrestled to the ground. Trying to fight back and realising it was extremely difficult, he could only huff out “Why? How are you so strong?”
“I am a fisher. I wrestled fishes heavier and stronger than you. Of course I am strong!” He tied the bandit’s hands after checking for hidden weapons, hauled him to his feet and led him to the town square in town centre. There, he met Orcius who was actually herding a small group of bandits in together with some of the surprisingly ferocious townsNeopians. “We got a good number of them,” Adian commented when he got much closer to his Vandagyre friend.
“I’ll say,” agreed Orcius. “This looks about half of them.”
“More are coming in though. Look.”
They watched as some large sized bandits were forced to sit with the other captured bandits by a few of the stronger fighters, with assistance from Khaenos. The number of townsNeopians out and about that night struck an amount of fear into these bandits. They whispered among themselves later on that it was as though the townsNeopians were bewitched. While some Sweepers and large number of the townsNeopians ended up badly injured from the battle; it was the fury, the tenacity and the combined efforts of the Sweepers and townsNeopians that ended with all of the bandits being captured and placed at the town centre.
“Well! We’re done!” crowed one of the Sweepers happily from a rooftop of one of the buildings lining the town square. Nikos scanned through the lot of them and turned to Khaenos in horror. “I don’t see the one you described as the leader!”
“What? I thought I heard someone had tackled that bandit!”
Thena who was on the rooftop edge of a low building nearby answered “Seems he disappeared into the disorder after that someone ended up with really nasty injuries… he’s still being patched up from what I heard.”
“Is that so? Glad to hear he is… hanging on,” an amused voice said behind her.
“Haha, not funny Aurelia! And what is with the two of you?”
This she directed to the two staring up at her in shock. Only when Thena felt the point of a blade poking right into the nape of her neck, did she belatedly realise and need not turn to know that it wasn’t her friend, Aurelia.
To be continued…