Shadow Play:Part Eight
Terra stiffened—she trusted Blynn, but of course there was that split second of panic as the owner feared the worst anyway. She was not very good at not worrying.
The door creaked open, without any further remarks from either brass head, revealing a storeroom full of treasure. “Whoaaaa,” Blynn said as she wandered inside. “We always find cool stuff.”
Hyren let out a relieved laugh. “How did you—I can’t believe that worked!” he said, following her inside.
His sister grinned. “It’s a logic puzzle,” she said. “If you ask if someone will tell you that they’ve got the correct door, if it’s with the person who tells the truth, the person who lies will say ‘no’, because they would tell you ‘yes’ and they gotta lie about lying, which means telling the truth anyway.”
“What if the liar has the right door?” Terra asked.
“Then they’ll say ‘yes’ and it’ll be the truth,” Blynn said, “’cause they would have told you ‘no’. Again, lying about lying.”
“I’m… still trying to wrap my head around that,” Terra said.
Blynn giggled. “That was fun,” she said. “We should install one of those doors on our house!”
“Absolutely not,” Hyren said.
“Blynn… thank you,” Zoltan said. “I must admit… I am glad you came.”
“And you wanted to leave me behind,” Blynn said with an impish smile.
Isengrim regarded them in amusement for a moment, before turning to look around at the piles of Neopoints and valuable-looking objects around them. “This must be where Vile keeps his most important treasures,” the Werelupe said. “If only we could return all of them to their rightful owners.”
“It reminds me of your own hoard,” Zoltan said. Terra had seen that hoard before as well, and she thought so too. This storeroom was packed with magical items, paint brushes, incredibly rare Smugglers’ Cove goods, and many other things Terra didn’t recognise. Zoltan held up his amulet, and with another flick of his wrist, his scimitar disappeared in a flurry of magic. He raised his now-free paw and seemed to use it to scan the inventory, glancing occasionally at the amulet to see where it was looking, and adjusting his course accordingly.
Isengrim shifted his weight uneasily. “Of a truth,” he said, “my hoard is not so large anymore. I no longer take things that belong to others. I have been doing my best to return those treasures where I can, and put the rest to good use. It is unfortunate that most of it is so old that I may never be able to find the original owners.”
“I think you’re doing the best you can,” Terra said, patting his arm, “and that counts for a lot.”
He smiled and squeezed her hand. “Thank you,” he said. “I am certainly trying.”
As Terra’s eyes wandered around the contents of the room, her attention fixed on a bare sword leaning against the wall among a few other weapons. All of the weapons were quite ornate, but something about this sword stuck out to her. The hilt was made of a white-gold metal with silver accents, the crossguard emblazoned with the sigil of a sun. The blade itself was thin and elegant—not like a rapier, but certainly not the width of Isengrim’s claymore. A swirling design that included several pure white gems wound up the blade for a few centimetres past the blade collar.
Terra fell in love with that sword right then and there. She knew now how her Draik felt when he’d picked up his Staff of the Deep Forest for the first time. How Hyren felt all those years ago when he first hefted faerie-forged steel. How Isengrim felt when Hyren gave him the sword now on the Werelupe’s back. It was like this blade was something she had been looking for her whole life, and the joy of finding it was all-consuming.
But, she was also a sensible person and would not just act on her emotions like this. “Isengrim,” she said, tugging on her Werelupe’s paw.
“Mm?” He followed where her finger pointed to the weapons. “Oh, those are quite nice-looking blades,” he said. “It’s a shame they’re gathering dust down here.”
“I…” Terra paused. “Is it bad that I like that sword with the white gems?”
Isengrim raised his eyebrows, and smiled. “Why would it be bad?” he asked. “That looks like a very well-made weapon, and the style seems like it would suit you. Let’s go take a closer look at it. You do need a new sword.”
“But it’s not ours,” Terra said as they approached it. “I mean—obviously it’s not ours, but—Malkus Vile stole it from somebody. If we steal it from him, that makes us thieves just like he is.”
Isengrim put a paw to his mouth thoughtfully. “I can see why you would think that,” he said. “But let us consider that our motives are wholly different from Vile’s. We are trying to stop him hurting or stealing from anyone else. You are going to need a good weapon to aid in this cause. Perhaps you were meant to find this sword at this time.”
Terra held her arms. “But… I don’t want to turn into somebody like Vile while I’m trying to stop him,” she said quietly.
Her Werelupe chuckled. “You are the polar opposite of Malkus Vile,” he said, “trust me. And it is admirable that you want to remain on the straight and narrow path, no matter what. But there are times, I have found, when you must let the spirit of the law guide you, as I have done when dismantling my hoard.” Terra chewed on this a bit, and Isengrim said, “What about when you, Hyren, and Blynn found the faerie weapons in the mountains? You took them without the permission of their owners, did you not?”
Terra blinked. “Well—yeah,” she said, “because their owners were long gone. And I’m not about looting archaeological sites, but in our situation we needed those blades. They served us well throughout that entire adventure, and for years afterward. And they still do,” she said, pointing to Isengrim’s claymore.
“So you see what I am getting at,” Isengrim said with a nod.
A sense of peace filled Terra. “And… it felt right,” she said. “Like we were meant to have them. And that’s how I’m feeling now, about this sword.” She fisted her hands. “I don’t know who its real owner is. But I think they’d want me to use their weapon to fight against and stop the Neopet who stole it from them. I just have a good feeling about it.”
“Your heart will never lead you astray,” Isengrim said. He looked over his shoulder. “Zoltan! Do you have a moment?”
“Almost,” Zoltan replied. He was bent over a treasure chest, Hyren and Blynn helping him rifle through the contents. “Ah—there it is!” The Kyrii pulled out an object on a gold chain, which his Amulet of the Unblinking Eye focused on intently. It was a deep blue stone in a gold setting, and inside the stone, a storm seemed to swirl.
“An Amulet of Chaos,” Zoltan said, putting it in one of his harness pockets. “Quite a fitting object for this spell, I think.”
Blynn pumped her fist. “Whoo!” she said. “One down, four to go! I wonder if any of the Defenders are finished yet.”
“Only one way to find out,” Hyren said. “Terra, Isengrim, you guys ready? Whoa, those are some nice blades.”
“What did you need?” Zoltan asked Isengrim, coming over to look at their find as well.
Isengrim pointed to the slim sword. “Are there any nasty enchantments on that one?” he asked. “Curses or the like?”
“You want it for yourself?” Zoltan asked.
Isengrim shook his head and put a paw on Terra’s shoulder. “She does,” he said. “I think it suits her.”
The Kyrii looked down at Terra for a long moment, his ears turning back slightly. “I see,” he said quietly. “Well… we certainly cannot leave her weaponless.” He extended a glowing claw to the sword, then tentatively picked it up. It was much too small for a creature of his size, but looked like it would fit Terra’s hands well. Nothing happened when Zoltan touched the sword, so he drew it closer to himself, sniffing the blade as though he could smell the magic there.
Terra worried there was something wrong with it, but then Zoltan said, “It checks out,” and presented it to her carefully.
The owner’s heart leaped as she reached for the sword. As her hands touched the leather grip, an overwhelming sense of rightness filled her and empowered her. This sword was meant to be used by her, somehow. She could feel it with her entire being.
She couldn’t stop smiling as she gave it a few test swings. The weight was perfect for her strength—balanced a little differently than her old sword, but that would just take some getting used to. It was swift and maneuverable, and could be wielded easily with one or both hands.
“You picked out a beauty,” Hyren said. “That’s some amazing workmanship.”
“And the light enchantments on it are powerful,” Zoltan said. “It must have been made by an expert.”
It was really too good to be true, Terra thought, and yet here it was. “I—I hope it’s okay,” she said. “I don’t know… the only other time I’ve wielded a weapon this fancy was years ago, when I had Hyren’s sword for a few days back when we first met. I feel odd… letting myself use this.”
“You deserve this, trust us,” Hyren said as Terra let Isengrim inspect the sword. “You deserve this, trust us. We couldn’t be happier for you.”
Terra reached up to wipe a few tears from her eyes. “Thanks, guys,” she said. “I won’t let you down. We’ll be awesome together until I find the real owner.”
“I know we will,” Hyren said.
“Do you see the scabbard anywhere?” Terra asked, turning back to where she had found the weapon. It was strange for a sword to be lying out of its sheath like this, but she couldn’t spot any empty scabbard nearby.
Isengrim moved aside piles of treasure. “Mm… no,” he said. “I am not seeing any scabbards. Peculiar.”
“Me either,” Hyren said. “It doesn’t look like it’ll fit in the one you’re wearing now.”
He was right. Terra tried to put the sword in her old sword’s scabbard, but the blade was thinner and slightly longer, so it stuck out and rattled around in the leather. “Well… I guess it’ll have to do for now,” she said. “We can get a new one made, right?”
“Absolutely,” Hyren said. “Now, let’s get out of here before anybody else finds us.”
As they left and closed the door behind them, Terra looked up at the brass Neopet heads. “Hey… do you guys get bored down here?” she asked. “I feel bad for you, stuck on that door all day.”
The Jubjub smiled. “Well, aren’t you sweet,” it said.
“No need to worry about us,” the Lupe said. “We pass the time—“
“—By coming up with new riddles,” the Jubjub said. “We enjoy our existence here.”
“Come to think of it,” Hyren said, “using a brain teaser as a security system seems kind of flimsy.”
“You would be surprised—“ the Lupe said.
“—How few Neopets get that one right,” the Jubjub said.
“And how few Neopets—“ the Lupe said.
“—Come here in the first place,” the Jubjub finished.
Hyren shrugged. “I guess we’re just lucky Malkus Vile didn’t install a Virtupets security system,” he said. “Those are even more of a pain than you two if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Zoltan had indeed re-enchanted his Amulet of the Unblinking Eye, and once again it led them through the twisting tunnels, back toward the surface. It wasn’t long before they came across the Zafara Rogue again. She was still stuck in gum, but she was in the process of biting off mouthfuls of the pink sticky stuff and spitting them onto the floor. She had one paw nearly free. When she saw them approaching, she froze and scowled.
“What do you think?” Isengrim asked her. “Are you willing to consider a better life for yourself?”
The Rogue glared down at Blynn. “What else am I supposed to do?” the red Zafara asked the disco Zafara. “All I know how to do is steal and fight. I can’t make things work out right for anyone. Not even myself.”
“Not with that attitude you can’t!” Blynn said. “You just need to learn the right way. The Defenders of Neopia can help you.”
The Rogue stiffened. “The Defenders!” she hissed. “They’ll lock me away for life!”
“No, they won’t,” Blynn said. “I know there’s probably all sorts of rumours about ‘em, but we know ‘em personally, and they want to help everybody. Even criminals. They’re helping our friend Tally right now.”
The other Zafara’s ears twitched and her eyes widened. “Tally?” she asked. “Shadow Gelert thief?”
Blynn nodded. “She came with us to help the Defenders catch Malkus Vile,” she said, “and now they’re helping her find a new job that doesn’t break the law.”
The Rogue looked aside. “But… why did she aid you?” she asked.
“Because she was tired of wasting her life hurting people,” Isengrim said. “I think she’d be happy to see you making better choices as well.”
The Zafara thought for a moment. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Why aren’t you treating me like everyone else does—like an enemy?”
“Because,” Isengrim said, “we believe that the best way to deal with one’s enemies is to turn them into friends. I prefer solutions that benefit everyone involved. I do not see you as an enemy. I see you as one who is suffering under the burden of her own choices. I wish for you to now choose the path of healing, for your own sake. What do you say?”
The Rogue stared at him, then down at Blynn, who gave her a thumbs-up. “All right,” the Rogue said. “But if I get to Defenders headquarters and it’s not what you said it is…”
“Here, let’s help you get out of this mess,” Terra said. She drew her sword and began to cut through the strands of gum, and Hyren helped her. In no time at all they had the Rogue free, and much to Terra’s relief she did not try to run off or attack them again.
The Rogue made a face as she pulled at globs of gum still stuck to her fur and clothes. “Please tell me you have a magical way of removing this,” she said.
“Not unless you count peanut butter as magic,” Blynn said. “Don’t worry, you can get cleaned up at Defenders HQ.”
Isengrim took the Rogue’s dagger from the wall and brought it over to her. “Can I trust you with this?” he asked her.
She looked up at him. “You’re seriously giving me back my weapon?” she asked. “After I tried to take you down with it?”
The Werelupe King nodded. “You have decided to trust us, and I wish to return that trust,” he said. “And if you truly want to make something more of your life than hiding in the shadows and hurting people, then you will need to re-learn what you have forgotten about trust.” He handed the blade to her.
She wrinkled her muzzle and grabbed her dagger, staring at it like she wasn’t sure if this was a trap. Terra’s stomach clenched, and she hoped she knew what Isengrim was doing. He usually did, but that didn’t stop her from worrying. But she guessed that if the Rogue did try anything, Zoltan would intervene.
“Well… thank you,” the Rogue said, sliding her dagger back into its sheath at her hip. “You’re a more honourable sort than most, I’ll grant you that. Few have ever shown me such kindness.” She paused. “I hope Tally is doing well.”
“She is,” Blynn said as they kept moving down the tunnel. “We get Neomails from her occasionally. She’s somewhere safe from Malkus Vile, and she’s getting all the help she needs.”
The Rogue blinked. “Malkus Vile?” she asked. “She got tangled up with him?”
“She was working for him,” Hyren said.
The red Zafara shook her head. “That’s dangerous business,” she said. “I hate the idea of that kid having anything to do with Vile’s operations. You can’t beat the pay, but if you get on his bad side… And once you’re in, he won’t let you leave.”
“Are you working for Vile?” Isengrim asked. “I cannot think of any other reason why you would attack us.”
A guilty silence from the Rogue said it all as she looked away. “I—I’d never work for him full-time,” she said, “but he does pay me to keep an eye on his stash down here. And…” She bit her lower lip with a fang. “He told me that he’d been betrayed by a large dark Werelupe travelling with an owner, a blue Grundo, and a disco Zafara, and that if I saw the Werelupe I was to deal with him immediately.”
Isengrim frowned. “I shall have to be more careful, then,” he said.
“No idea who this fellow is, though,” the Rogue said, looking over at Zoltan.
The Kyrii stared back at her. “Did Vile say anything about expecting anyone down here?” he asked.
“No,” the Rogue said. “I’ve not seen anyone pass that way in ages.”
Zoltan put a paw to the pouch where he’d stowed the Amulet of Chaos. “Then it seems we are one step ahead of him,” he said.
Isengrim nodded and said, “Good.”
“Blynn,” the Kyrii said to the Zafara. “Again… thank you. If not for you, I am not sure what the outcome of this mission would have been.”
Blynn grinned. “Just doing my job, ace,” she said.
“’Ace’?” Zoltan asked, one ear rising curiously.
“It’s a term of endearment,” Hyren said. “It’s a Blynn thing.”
Zoltan stared at her for a moment, and then a small smile worked its way up his muzzle. “I suppose I should be flattered,” he said.
To be continued…