A Spy's Tale: New Life - Part One
The summer sun was as bright as a florange against a clear sky in Brightvale. Two Brightvalian knights patrolled the city's deserted streets during the afternoon siesta. The golden emblem of Brightvale shimmered on their green tunics, and their shining black boots and trousers stood out against grey cobblestone buildings and streets.
One of the knights, a tall, lanky spotted Gelert named Leon, pricked an ear. "Tabur, do you feel that? Or am I just crazy?" the Gelert quietly asked his companion, a stocky brown Lupe. The Gelert felt slight vibrations in the ground: footsteps.
Tabur paused a moment to listen. "I think you're crazy," he replied, and continued walking. Leon rolled his eyes and followed.
Tabur suddenly jerked sideways and noticed a blue paw reaching into his pocket. Before the knights could react, a blue Elephante turned into an alley with Tabur's wallet.
"Hey, thief!" the Lupe shouted. "Come on, Leon, after him!" The pair unsheathed their swords and dashed off towards the alley.
As they reached the alley, Leon swore. The Elephante was nowhere to be seen. "Five thousand neopoints down the drain," Tabur grumbled. However, as they began to exit the alley, the Elephante dropped from a high ledge and blocked their way. Leon wondered how such a large beast could climb up to the ledge so swiftly, but quickly dismissed the silly thought. A gruff-looking pirate Kyrii followed, then two Meercas, and a springy pirate Kougra.
The outnumbered knights backed away from the thieves until their backs touched cool stone; they were cornered.
"A'ight, big boy," the deep-voiced Kyrii ordered Leon, "toss me yer wallet." Leon stealthily emptied the wallet's contents into his pocket and threw the empty leather pouch at the thief. The Kyrii, seeing that the wallet was empty, spat on it.
"That wallet is worth something, you know," Leon murmured.
"Mr. Sneaky emptied it in his pants," said an observant Meerca with a nasally voice. The Kyrii rolled his eyes.
"It's time we teached them palace boys a lesson," said the Kyrii, unsheathing his dagger, "Stealin' our money 'cause we don't pay taxes ain't chivalrous."
"It's not as though you don't do enough stealing on your own, scum," Tabur retorted.
Each of the thieves unsheathed their own daggers, following the Kyrii's lead. They grinned menacingly, showing their few crooked teeth. Their old, soiled clothes made a dreadful swishing. For nearly the first time in their lives, Leon and Tabur felt defeated.
Get a hold of yourself, Tabur, the brown Lupe thought, You're a strong knight, not some filthy street rat with no dental hygiene! But Tabur still could not make himself move away from the wall.
As the thieves began to close in, a small female white Gelert peeked into the alley from behind a wall, shaking her head as if to say, "Don't acknowledge me." She held a silvery dagger and a short, thick piece of wood. Padding towards the thieves in her soft leather slippers, she was as quiet as an Angelpuss stalking its prey.
The Gelert waited for a moment, tapping her foot silently. Suddenly, she swung her weapons, aiming her makeshift club at a Meerca's head and the bronze hilt of her dagger at the Kougra's. With simultaneous groans, the two thieves fell.
"What's goin' on?" the Kyrii demanded, turning to see his fallen men and a grinning Gelert. "Oi, you!"
While the Kyrii recovered from shock, the white Gelert sped about the alley to knock out the clueless Elephante and the last Meerca. She then turned to face the Kyrii. As soon as he swiped his dagger, the Gelert dodged, and rolled behind him. The Kyrii could not turn towards her quickly enough, however, and she pummeled his skull with her club. The Kyrii thief sank to the cool cobblestone ground with a grunt.
Leon and Tabur could only stare at the Gelert. Though her build was unusually small, she seemed to be seventeen or eighteen. The straight black hair on her head reached her shoulders. Her peach knee-length dress was tattered, and the sleeves seemed to be torn off.
The Gelert checked each of the thieves. When she was satisfied that each thief was unconscious, she sheathed her fine dagger. She picked up the spit-stained wallet with a disgusted look on her face, then retrieved Tabur's clean leather wallet. Tabur and Leon gaped at her as she approached.
"So," she began, handing the wallets back to their owners, "what brings you two into the Thief's Alley?"
Leon was the first to reply. "That Elephante stole Tabur's wallet." He motioned towards his Lupe friend. "We chased him in here."
"It was a trap," Tabur stated.
The white Gelert nodded in understanding. "I'm Audri," she said, holding out a paw to Leon.
He shook it and introduced himself. "Sir Leon of Emerald Coast." Tabur did the same.
"Nice to meet you two." Audri smiled. "I'll be off now."
Well, isn't she cheerful? Leon thought to himself. Her cheerfulness was contagious, and he found himself holding back a smile.
"Wait," Tabur called after her as she began to leave.
Audri turned around and pushed a lock of black hair from her eyes. Her smile was replaced with a questioning look. "Yeah?"
"Um," Tabur tried, taking a gulp.
Leon finished his friend's thought. "Since you saved our lives, can we do anything for you?"
"I don't think the code of chivalry applies to me," Audri replied. A wry smile appeared on her snowy-white face.
"Our afternoon shifts are over. Come back to the castle with us," Tabur suggested, seeing merchants setting up their stands for the evening market. The white Gelert finally agreed and began to stroll back to the castle with the knights. On the way, the Leon informed the next shift of guards about the unconscious thieves. The two knights also decided to interrogate Audri out of curiosity.
"Where'd you learn to fight like that?" Leon asked her.
"Oh, I've just got a few tricks up my sleeve," she answered modestly.
"Understatement," Tabur coughed, amused by her meekness. "Where do you live?"
"I've got a room at the Glazier's Inn," Audri replied.
After pausing for a moment, Leon inquired, "What do you do?"
Audri raised an eyebrow in question.
Leon restated the question. "How do you make your money?"
"Random little tasks at the Inn," the female Gelert stated.
It doesn't sound like she's telling the whole truth, Tabur mused, but pushed the thought to the back of his mind.
Soon enough, the trio reached the Brightvale Castle. Audri took the chance to gaze at its protruding marble towers and emerald roofs. The castle's many colorful stained glass windows seemed to twinkle from the vanishing sunshine and the merlons on the castle wall were decorated with an assortment of bright green stones and sparkling emeralds.
Audri, who had only seen the palace from afar, gaped until Leon asked her a final question, "You've never seen the castle close up?"
Audri shook her head. "It's beautiful."
"Not when you're used to it!" Leon chuckled.
"Look at the sun! Nearly set," Tabur realized. "Time to get ready for supper."
"Why don't you dine with us?" Leon suggested to Audri, "After all, we do owe you our lives."
The white Gelert smiled. "I'd love to."
After a bit of thought, however, Audri frowned. "What should I wear?"
"Just your normal clothes," Leon replied.
"This ugly thing?" Audri pointed to her dress with a look of disgust.
"You do have other—?" The Gelert knight paused when Audri shook her head. "We have a while. You can go to the castle tailor for some clothes."
* * *
After following Leon through winding hallways decorated with beautiful paintings and tapestries, Audri found herself in a cozy sewing room. A yellow Kau showed her to a red cushioned seat before rushing off to finish a hem.
"What kind of 'random little tasks' do you do?" Leon asked when the female Gelert settled down, "Could you fix a stained glass window?"
"Depends on its condition," Audri explained, "I fix tapestries, tables, torn clothes, and other things like that, and I spy on some of the—"
"You what?" the spotted Gelert demanded.
"I spy on some of the guests at the Glazier's Inn so that the innkeeper can get better gossip," she repeated, raising an eyebrow in question.
"Because I get paid," she replied bluntly.
Leon tried to find the right words. "You know it's, um—illegal—to spy on Brightvalian citizens, right? The only legal spies are employed by the royal spymaster, and only the most excellent spies get the job. Otherwise, it's called 'disturbing the peace.'"
"I didn't know. But that's so stupid. The law cares more about the fact that I did a bit of eavesdropping than the fact that I knocked out five thieves," Audri stated.
"I know," Leon agreed, "But I can't change the law."
"So you're going to arrest me?" Audri asked in a small voice. She suddenly seemed like a harmless, innocent petpet.
Leon contemplated the situation. He truly did not want to arrest the small heroine, even if she had broken the law.
"I have to ask Tabur," he said calmly, "Meanwhile, I'll let you get your new clothes."
* * *
"Audri's a spy?" Tabur bellowed, making Leon cringe. "Do you know what this means? We have to arrest the girl!"
"I don't see why we have to arrest her! She did save our lives," the Gelert pointed out, annoyed by his friend's temper.
Tabur sighed deeply, attempting to calm himself. "I know. But if we don't arrest her, we'd be breaking the law as well."
"Fine," Leon agreed, "but we're going to give her a fair trial, and that's final."
"Where is she now?"
"At the tailor's," the Gelert replied.
"Wait," Tabur realized, "you left her alone? She could easily sneak off and never get caught!"
Leon mentally kicked himself. "Oh, Fyora!"
The pair bolted to the tailor's, unaware that the female Gelert was waiting for them patiently. A surprised look lit Leon's face when he saw Audri staring up at them with her twinkling crystal-blue eyes, her tattered peach dress nowhere to be seen. Audri was clothed in a sleeveless thigh-length dress, dyed the shade of a rose, over a billowy cream-colored shirt. Under her shirt and dress, she wore a pair of leggings, the same color as her undershirt, and a pair of soft leather boots. Clad in such clean, new clothes, Audri looked like as though she had been born in the castle.
She gently placed her other clothes in an adjacent chair, and stood, her arms raised as if she were waiting for handcuffs.
"We're not handcuffing you!" Leon panted, pushing her paws away.
"Oh," Audri replied, dropping her outstretched arms.
"We're actually going to give you a trial," Tabur told the girl.
Audri had something else in mind. "Leon, earlier you told me that it was legal to spy for the spymaster, right?" Leon nodded.
"Could I work for him?" she asked the knights hopefully, her eyes as bright as sapphires.
Tabur bit his lip. "We'll see. Be warned, though; he's a monster."
To be continued...