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A Thief's Promise


by summerlove77

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Zeretek stood stock still at the peak of Terror Mountain. The young Zafara's fur, now flecked with snowflakes, rippled in the howling winds. He squinted into the blinding snow, ears perked up and ready to pick up the slightest sound, waiting...

      Finally, the outline of a hooded figure could be seen at the base of the great mountain. It began its ascent, stumbling every now and then when a particularly strong gust of wind came along. At last, the creature had reached Zeretek, panting a little from the effort. It reached up a few frozen fingers to push its hood back and reveal its face.

      "Masila," Zeretek said, a hint of relief in his voice. "I thought you wouldn't come - I've been wait-"

      Masila harshly grabbed her hood again and covered her head once more. "You fool!" she hissed from under her cloak. "Standing here at the top of the mountain where anyone could see you - did I not say this needed to be secret?"

      Zeretek had no idea how to respond. He stood silently, wondering what had happened to the sweet Masila he had met days before.

      Masila let out a long, low sigh. "Forgive me," she murmured, silently reminding herself that she needed to be pleasant - for now. "It's been a hard trek up the mountain, and the high altitude can make me short tempered."

      "It's okay," Zeretek said awkwardly. "Well..."

      "Let us get out of the open and into that cave." Once safely tucked away in an ice cave, conversation resumed.

      Masila flashed a charming smile. "Have you done what I asked of you?"

      "Yes. Well - sort of."

      "Sort of?" Masila repeated rather sharply, her sweetness threatening to evaporate once again.

      "I mean, I got the dubloons."

      "Good boy," Masila said warmly, taking the bag of coins from Zeretek and pocketing it. "What's the problem then?"

      "Well, Captain Scallywags didn't believe me. I told him I really needed them, just like you said, and I did everything you told me, but he didn't give me any dubloons."

      "So where did these come from?"

      "I earned them on Krawk Island."

      Masila considered this. "You have failed my task, Zeretek. I thought better of you." The Zafara hung his head. "However," Masila continued "you showed great loyalty and sacrifice by earning what you needed yourself. You know why I chose you to do my tasks, Zeretek: your cleverness, quick thinking, and agility. Now I see you have more virtues.

      "It still disappoints me that you were unable to get dubloons from Captain Scallywags. Therefore, your reward will not be as grand as I had planned - you will receive Grey Ice Cream. Now, let me instruct you again on begging."

      Masila promptly began a lesson on the art of begging, an art which she had perfected herself when she was young. Now, she was far too well known as a villain for any shopkeeper or holder of riches to give her so much as a single neopoint. That was why now, when Masila was short on riches, she instructed young pets (who were too ignorant to know of her) on how to get items for her. In return, she gave them food that was far too expensive for their owner to feed them, but still earning herself quite a nice profit. Zeretek, Masila noted, showed a lot of promise, and she began planning a grand task for him...one that would leave her with riches if he succeeded, and would ruin him if he failed.

      Masila showed Zeretek time and time again how to tell a convincing tale of sorrow, plea for anything anyone could give, all while not sounding like just another beggar. Finally, Zeretek was near as good as Masila herself, and she was satisfied.

      "Meet me behind Sakhmet tomorrow at sunset. Have codestones from the Techo Master," Masila whispered, and turned to leave the cave. She moved smoothly but rapidly, and was soon out of sight.

     ***

      It was sunset before Masila could begin her journey to the Lost Desert to meet Zeretek. She had been busy planning the Zafara's next task. As the sun's last golden rays slipped beyond the horizon, Masila realised she had no time to make it to Sakhmet on foot - she needed wings. Masila called upon a Dark Faerie she had befriended.

      "Masila," the faerie said, nodding her head in acknowledgement when she appeared.

      "I need to go to the Lost Desert - making good time. I need wings," Masila ordered.

      The Dark Faerie muttered and waved her hand, and wings spurted from Masila's back.

      "Thank you. And one more thing - be at the gates of Jhudora's Cloud all day tomorrow disguised as a Floud and take any orders you are given. Your reward will be plentiful. Now I must go." And Masila took off into the darkening sky.

      Meanwhile, Zeretek was pacing behind Sakhmet. He had the codestones - but would Masila ever show up so he could show her what he'd accomplished? Suddenly, Masila swooped down and landed at his feet. As she did so, the wings on her back disappeared.

      "Ah, Zeretek - do you have them?" she asked, dusting herself off.

      "Yes. Here." He handed her the heavy bag. She accepted it and looked into his expectant eyes.

      "You're waiting for a reward, are you not?"

      "That - that would be nice," Zeretek admitted.

      "Well this reward cannot be held. But it is far far more than you ever you dreamed," Masila proclaimed. "Are you ready?"

      "Yes," Zeretek said, quivering with anticipation.

      "I want you to quietly enter the Hidden Tower. Make no noise, and do not let yourself be seen. I want you to create a distraction, and while the shop is in a state of confusion, get the Amulet of Thilg - be agile and quick; blend with the shadows. After you have the amulet, take three other items - things that look valuable. Don't let anyone know what you're doing, and I repeat: you cannot be seen by anyone, least of all Fyora."

      "But how will I pay for the items if Fyora can't see me?" Zeretek asked timidly. Masila was extremely tempted to roll her eyes at how naive he was being.

      "Well, obviously you won't have to pay," Masila started, as though everyone should know that. "Oooh, but you don't know about Fyora's policy, do you?" Masila said as if she'd just realized something.

      "No."

      "Well, if you can manage to take the item, she believes that you deserve it," Masila explained. When Zeretek still looked rather doubtful, she added, "'Only the weak and dull must pay, the clever may get away' is what Fyora says, you know," Masila finished, stating her own motto.

      "Oh."

      "Now, Zeretek, as soon as you have the items, go to the gates of Jhudora's Cloud. You will see a Floud - tell it to call for Masila. I will then arrive and bless these items so that they may be yours forever. Whatever you take will be worth millions, or hundreds of thousands at least. And they will all be yours."

      "Oh, really, Masila? You'll let me have them?" Zeretek breathed. "You're so generous!"

      Masila just smiled.

     ***

      The next day, Zeretek was in his neohome gathering everything he'd need for his trip to Faerieland. His paws shook with excitement - he was about to have more than he had ever dreamed he could.

      "Where are you going today?" his owner asked.

      "I'm going to Faerieland to buy a petpet. Maybe a Magaral," Zelazin answered, remembering just in time that Masila had told him to tell no one what he was doing. "'Bye." He set off.

      It was nearly noon when Zeretek arrived at the Hidden Tower. He began to climb the spiral staircase that led to the room where Fyora sold her items, stepping softly so as not to make a sound. But suddenly, Zeretek heard voices. He quickly turned to a door on the stairwell. It was marked, "Storage". He shoved himself against some broken Battledome items and breathlessly strained to hear what seemed to be two Acaras in conversation.

      "Oh wow! What I wouldn't do for that Baby Paint Brush!"

      "Yeah right, like you want to go around looking like a baby all the time? I'm dying for some of that wicked battle dung!"

      "Pffft, you'd pay that kind of money for DUNG?"

      "What are you talking about? It's not just ANY dung..."

      The voice drifted off as the companions made their way down the stairwell. Zeretek felt himself relax. He hadn't been seen.

      Wasting no time at all, Zeretek got back to his task. He crept his way up the stairwell and was finally outside the sacred room where Fyora was selling. He surveyed the glamorous items, looking for the amulet. Finally, he spotted it. Reaching into his bag, he took out what he'd packed earlier with care: a slithering Cobrall, ready to spit negg juice. Using all his strength, he hurled it across the room. Unis screamed in terror, others screamed at the chaos, and others jumped away. More were crying out and scattering when the petpet began to spit negg juice. Zeretek darted into the room, grabbed the Amulet of Thilg, two Darigan Paint Brushes, and a bag of the Battle Dung the Acaras were discussing. He was back into the shadows by the time the cacophony the Cobrall had caused was dying down, and by the time the shop was back to normal, he had scampered down the stairwell and was waiting for Masila to bless the items.

      ***

      Fyora was minding the Hidden Tower's shop that day. It was rather busy, although, she noted with annoyance, most of the potential customers didn't even have a million neopoints. They ogled her items and got fingerprints all over them and then they just left. Some begged first, but most took one look at the faerie queen's defiant posture and thought better of it. At long last, a serious buyer approached her. It was a Striped Kougra.

      "Excuse me, may I buy the Faerie Queen Doll?" he asked, holding out a bag of money. The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a scream was heard and the shop erupted into more shrieks and movement. Fyora quickly forgot her customer as her sharp eyes scanned the room.

      There was a Cobrall, hissing and spitting and slithering. When she saw it was only a petpet, she began to look around some more instead of immediately restoring order. It seemed to have come out of nowhere, and was obviously upset. Everyone in her shop was milling about helplessly, all with a look of fear or surprise or confusion on their face. Everything was disorganized. Except - who was that? A creature was darting with quick, agile, decisive moments. Fyora ran closer to it, having no trouble blending in with the rest of the customers. It was a green Zafara who looked rather poor, and he was shoving her items into his bag!

      Fyora's first instinct was to run out and stop him, demanding he apologize for disrupting her shop (for it was obviously he who had thrown the Cobrall as a distraction) and to give her her items along with a hefty fee. But then she realized how the pet looked rather poor, and definitely not bright enough to know about her tower, let alone plan to steal from it. Fyora decided to wait and see what this Zafara did. She called upon a light faerie who helped her manage her shop.

      "Please look after things here. I have some business to take care of," Fyora told her, and promptly became invisible.

      Unseen, she hurried to the stairwell. She spotted a green Zafara tail disappearing out of sight. From there, she followed the Zafara all the way to Jhudora's Cloud.

      "Jhudora!" Fyora breathed, wondering if the dark faerie hadn't enchanted her cloud so that she could not set foot on it. But as she saw the Zafara talking to a floating Floud on the cloud and motioning to his sack, she knew she had to try. Fyora flew onto the cloud, and came to a rest right outside the gates just yards away from the pet who had stolen. Relieved that she was able to be on the cloud, Fyora then concentrated her efforts on the conversation at hand.

      "You know Masila?" the Zafara asked.

      "Yes, yes, and she'll come in a moment."

      "Really?"

      "You pesky neopets...yes! Yes! I'll summon her now!"

      Almost instantly, the infamous Masila strode up to the cloud and joined the others. "Zeretek! Show me what you've stolen!" she barked, in her eagerness forgetting to be pleasant.

      "Stolen?"

      "Earned. I meant earned. I misspoke...oh, give me the bag!" She snatched it from his paws. When she saw that contents were worth millions, she smiled, satisfied.

      "So um...can you bless them?" Zeretek ventured tentatively.

      "Bless them?!" Masila threw back her head and cackled. "You stupid thing, I'm going to keep them! Now, be off!"

      Fyora had heard enough. The time was now. She became visible once more.

      "You're still as cunning as ever, I see, Masila," she said with a smile.

      Masila's hand that had been frantically digging through Zeretek's sack suddenly froze. She regained her composure quickly. "Oh, hello Fyora. No, this is strict business today. This Zafara simply misunderstood my terms."

      "Masila, don't trouble yourself making up anything more," Fyora said, holding up her hand. "I've witnessed everything. Now I'm going to have to demand you give my items back." Before giving Masila a chance to respond, Fyora simply recited some spells to send the sack flying into her hands. "And I'm afraid I'll have to report you."

      Masila's eyes narrowed and filled with fury. "Watch your back, Fyora. You'll be sorry for this!" She turned to the Floud. "You! Help me!" The floud instantly became a dark faerie, who grabbed Masila's hand and disappeared with her into a puff of purple smoke.

      Fyora sighed. Masila had gotten away. The Zafara turned to her, his eyes wide. "F-Fyora?"

      "Yes...?"

      "I-I didn't know. I'm sorry."

      Fyora sighed once more and patted him on the head. "I know. Far greater neopets than you have been fooled by Masila. Now go on, before your owner knows what you've been up to. And never meddle with thieves again - what is your name?"

      "Zeretek."

      "Never meddle with thieves again, Zeretek. Farewell."

The End

 
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