A Life Less Interesting: Part Five
“Listen, I am not a thief! You can’t expect me to help steal something from a king!” Oscar shouted.
Sarah clasped her hand over his mouth.
“Would you just be quiet? At this rate we’ll be arrested before we even reach Meridell,” Harry whispered.
Sarah relaxed her hold.
“Besides, we don’t want you to do the actual stealing. We want you to do what you do best, talk to people about insurance,” Sarah reassured him.
“We’ll go over the plan again in the morning when the ship docks. Get some sleep,” Harry said.
He got up and walked across the deck to his cabin, leaving Oscar and Sarah alone.
“I don’t want to do this; stealing doesn’t sit well with me,” Oscar confessed.
“Yet assaulting member of the Defenders of Neopia does?” Sarah asked wryly.
“You know what I mean,” Oscar snapped.
“Listen, you think I wanted to be a thief when I was a little girl? That’s just what life gives you, like it or lump it,” Sarah said in a matter of fact voice.
“But still...” Oscar said, unable to find the words to counter Sarah’s point.
“Exactly, there isn’t a comeback. Now, what do you know about this Harry?” she asked, changing the subject.
“He’s an adventurer. He said he helped out the Lost Desert amongst other things,” Oscar explained.
“I see... one of those is he? Good chance he also helped out Meridell when they waged war with Darigan then,” Sarah thought out loud.
“What difference does that make?” Oscar asked.
“It makes every bit of difference. People don’t go around offering to steal crowns with other people. He might be planning to sell us out; be on your guard,” Sarah told him.
With that, she got up and retired to her cabin, leaving Oscar to stare at the moonlit waves in silence.
Two days later, Oscar kneeled before King Skarl in the audience chamber of Meridell Castle. A quick trip to a second hand clothes shop had replaced Oscar’s torn clothes and he had replicated some official looking documents. If he didn’t know better, Oscar himself might have thought he still worked for Neopia Central Insurance, Inc.
King Skarl was certainly fooled.
“Your majesty, I am afraid that due to the recent rise in Neopian interest rates, we have to re-evaluate all insurance policies currently held with us,” Oscar lied convincingly.
“Will we have to pay more?” Skarl asked grumpily.
“Some policies may end up being more expensive, but many are actually going down in price,” Oscar explained.
It had the desired effect; the idea of spending less appealed to Skarl, who displayed a wide grin.
“Very well then, what will you need?” Skarl asked.
“I need free roam of the castle for myself and my assistant for the next 24 hours, sire,” Oscar said, indicating a smartly dressed Harry who was kneeling next to him.
“Very well, very well, get on with it, though, would you?” Skarl said, waving his hand regally.
Oscar and Harry were ushered out of the audience chamber. Once they were out of earshot of the guards, they began talking.
“So far so good, but he’s wearing the crown. How do we get it?” Oscar whispered.
“That’s not the crown we are going after. The one he is wearing now is for daily use; it’s lightweight. The one we are going after is the ceremonial crown; he only uses it for official occasions. That’s in the King’s bedchambers,” Harry explained.
They waited until night had fallen before making their move, filling the time by pretending to survey the library and dungeons. Eventually they made their way to Skarl’s room while the king was eating dinner. Two guards stood, appropriately enough, on guard outside.
“Halt! Who goes there?” one of them demanded.
Oscar flashed an important looking forgery of an insurance policy in front of them.
“We are to survey the king’s room,” Harry ordered.
“Very well,” the guard said, and moved aside.
Everything was going exactly according to plan.
Skarl’s chambers were ironically, fit for a king. Lavish silks and linens draped from all corners and several wild beasts provided a plethora of rugs that lay underfoot. A large four-poster bed sat against one wall, with a walk-in wardrobe opposite. Harry made his way quickly to the window and opened it. A second later, Sarah dropped in from outside.
“I don’t see why Oscar couldn’t have had two assistants,” she muttered under her breath.
She had been hanging from the palace walls for many hours.
“Because insurance brokers don’t normally go around with wanted criminals,” Harry sniped quietly.
Harry led them over to the wardrobe and opened the door. A hallway as big as a wing of the castle was revealed to them, bordered with all kinds of robes in a spectrum of colours that would make even the most beautiful rainbows jealous. Gold and silver sparkled off almost every surface, blinding Oscar temporarily until he caught a glimpse of their prize at the end of the hallway. It was a sat on a very simple pedestal, but even the most spectacular platform would have seemed insignificant when compared to the masterpiece atop it. Sarah and Oscar gasped in unison. It was roughly the size of a mixing bowl, but crafted out of gold threads that seemed to be woven in a vine-like design, occasionally interspaced with rubies, diamonds, sapphires and other glittery stones. At the top of the crown, a single blue sapphire as big as a fist shone brightly.
“Well, there you go,” Harry said simply, leaning against the wall.
Sarah and Oscar made their way down the hallway, entranced by the beauty of the crown. Harry remained where he was.
“So, how do we get it out of here?” Oscar asked.
The details of the plan were fast escaping him.
“We don’t, the crown is too obvious; you can’t sell something like that. No, we are here for this,” Sarah told him.
She took out a small knife and grasped the crown with her other hand. Then, very gently, she pried off the large sapphire.
“That’s worth a lot?” Oscar questioned.
“Whilst a gemstone like this can only have come from here, it has added black market value because it can be cut up,” Sarah explained, pocketing the stone.
“Halt, thieves!” a commanding voice boomed from the other end of the wardrobe.
Sarah and Oscar turned on their heels to see the Knight Jeran and a host of guards standing in the entrance with their weapons drawn. Harry was standing next to them grinning widely.
“I knew he’d sell us out,” Sarah grumbled.
“Why me, what did I do?” Oscar complained as the guards drew closer.
“You assaulted Lightning Lenny. That’s the problem with do-gooders; a criminal is a criminal to them, even if they are only petty,” she explained.
Had his heart not been racing quite so fast at that point, Oscar might have taken offence at being called petty.
A brief moment of inspiration flashed before Oscar’s eyes. In a heartbeat, he turned and grabbed the crown.
“Stop or I’ll smash it!” he bellowed.
The delicate gold vines looked as if burping in their general vicinity would damage them; Oscar was pretty sure throwing it to the ground would cause serious damage. As one, the soldiers stopped their approach.
“Give yourselves up and we may show mercy,” Jeran barked.
“Thanks all the same, but I’d much rather escape,” Sarah replied.
With but a millisecond’s delay she launched a handful of throwing knives in the direction of the soldiers, and in the same instance grabbed Oscar and threw him in the air over the top of the guards with, what Oscar had to admit, was quite impressive strength. As Oscar landed, Sarah jumped into the air, perching neatly on the helmet of a guard and vaulting off it. She landed gracefully next to Oscar and picked him up once more, breaking into a run.
“Sorry, but thieves are thieves. I helped Hannah fight the guild once, you know?” Harry shouted from the doorway. He was holding a small dagger.
As if on cue, Oscar hurled the crown at Harry, hitting him squarely on the head. The adventurer crumpled into a heap on the floor as Sarah and Oscar rushed past, the rabble of guards pursuing not far behind.
Sarah moved like the wind, albeit a wind carrying a podgy Kacheek. The corridors blurred as she sped down them. They were in the courtyard of the castle before Oscar knew it, the shouting of the guards far behind them.
“Halt, enemy of the King!” a frail voice shouted from the archway leading out of the castle grounds.
A small, ancient looking yellow Lupe hobbled out of the shadows. He was a knight; there was no mistaking that. His armour was a dead giveaway. However, it was rusty and far too big for the withered old man, who seemed to be made primarily of wrinkles.
“Who are you?” Sarah asked in the tones of one who can’t quite believe what they are looking at.
“I am Sir Bernard of the King’s Realm. Now, give yourselves in,” the old knight replied from beneath a beard almost as long as he was.
“No, thanks all the same though,” Sarah replied, breaking into a run at the gates.
“Please? My back’s playing up today,” Sir Bernard complained.
Sarah kept running.
“Fiddlesticks,” he added, before reaching down to unsheathe his ancient sword.
He held it in front of him, but its weight was clearly too much for him. He toppled forward, becoming a mass of complaining and cursing as Oscar and Sarah lightly stepped over him, escaping the castle.
Oscar sat in the corner of the tavern, taking slow sips of his drink. He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but he knew it wasn’t grog, and that was enough. He surveyed the farmers drowning their sorrows; not one of them seemed to be on the verge of starting a fight. It had been a while since Oscar had been in such a respectable place.
“So, what are you going to do?” Sarah asked him impatiently.
The town they had stopped in was a few miles from Meridell, but she kept looking around just in case the knights of Skarl burst in to arrest her.
“Sorry?” Oscar asked, returning from his daydreams.
“Well, like I told you on Mystery Island, I work alone. I don’t have room for sidekicks. I can take you somewhere out of the way before I leave you though; I hear Shenkuu is nice this time of year,” she told him.
A shiver ran down Oscar’s spine.
“I think I’ll pass on Shenkuu, if it’s all the same,” Oscar replied.
“Well, where do you want to go then?” she asked.
Oscar thought about it for a few moments. He sat staring at the bartender. He had a strange look on his face that Oscar didn’t recognise. It was, in fact, the look of someone who is not currently plotting how to burn down their tavern.
“I think I might stay here. I was talking to an apple seller outside; she said nothing much really happens around here,” Oscar said gleefully.
“You want to stay... here? It’s a bit boring, isn’t it?” Sarah said disapprovingly.
“Yes, I know. Amazing, don’t you think?” Oscar said happily, taking another swig of his mystery drink.
It wasn’t mineral water, but that didn’t matter; nothing was perfect.
As they finished their drinks, Sarah said farewell to Oscar and left the tavern, heading towards Kiko Lake in the hopes of finding a ship to Shenkuu. Oscar stood in the main street of the small village and observed the people. They all went about their business without theft or murder or other exciting things, choosing to grow potatoes or weave baskets instead. Oscar’s face spread into a wide grin as he walked down the street looking for an inn. He was planning all the things he wouldn’t do, thinking of all the things that wouldn’t happen to him, and looking forward to a life less interesting.