A Spy's Tale: New Life - Part Two
Two days after Audri so valiantly saved Sir Leon and Sir Tabur from a group of malicious thieves, she found herself in the Brightvale dungeons. The Gelert soon discovered that it was impossible to ignore the obnoxious yells and pleas from the prisoners, and eventually clapped her paws over her ears. Later, as her first day in the dungeons ended, the prisoners settled down and dozed off.
Audri, deciding that sleep was a good idea, rested her head on a pillow Leon had provided. As she began to curl up, however, she heard a familiar voice.
"Audri?" Leon whispered, "Are you up?"
The small Gelert mumbled her reply and blinked in the scarce light.
"I saved you a honey cake," her new friend stated cheerfully. "Here."
Audri, accustomed to the dim light at last, took the sticky cake from Leon. She squinted at it, seeing that it was coated in sweet honey and almonds, and took a bite. Her mouth filled with the flavors of lemon, soft vanilla cake, and almond extract. Compared to the castle's other gourmet foods, the cake was only bronze, but to Audri, it was the best thing she had ever eaten. Audri mumbled her thanks after she swallowed the delicious mouthful.
"So," Leon began, his mint-green eyes bright in the dark, "are you doing okay here in the dungeons?"
"As well as can be expected," she said, smiling wryly, "At least I only have to stay here four days."
"After that, you get to meet everyone's favorite spymaster: Mr. Jaute," the knight mumbled sarcastically. In a more serious tone, he added, "You've got to be careful around him. He will do anything to keep his position as spymaster. Anyone better than him, in his eyes, is inferior."
"If I can make a living, I'll take the job," Audri decided, dusting the cake crumbs off her paws, "Then, I'll buy myself a nice house in the city and live like a normal Brightvalian citizen."
"You could live in the castle," Leon pointed out.
"Really?" Her eyes were as wide as teacups. "In this amazing place? But I could never afford it!"
"A job at the palace means a room at the palace, not to mention, meals, wardrobe, and training," the knight explained, counting off on his fingers. "But you don't get paid much."
"If King Hagan provides all that, I hardly need to get paid."
"True." Remembering why he had come to Audri, he said, "By the way, Tabur's going to request a law change. Both of us agree that this 'no eavesdropping' law is stupid."
Leon saw her mouth curve into a smile. "Thanks," she said quietly.
"You're welcome," the knight replied, "But really, Tabur and I should be thanking you for saving our lives." The tall Gelert stood and stretched. "I'm going now. Sleep well."
"G'night, Leon," said Audri, waving. After he left, she curled up on her thin blanket and rested her head on the soft pillow. As soon as her head was down, she slept.
* * *
Four days later, Audri stepped out of her cell, sighing happily. Freedom. She gently pushed the cold iron door closed behind her and stretched, grinning at Leon and Tabur. Wearing short sleeves, Audri wore a simply embroidered blue band around her wrist that Leon had not noticed before. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind.
"Well," said Leon, smiling back, "now that you're free, we should let you meet Jaute."
"Alright," the white Gelert agreed, leaning on one of the bars that made up her cell. "But first, I should tell you what might happen if you don't examine these cells more thoroughly. First off," she said, gently pulling one of the cell's bars clean out of its socket, "you might want to thoroughly secure these bars. You never know if some sneaky prisoner knows the art of staff fighting." Audri demonstrated her skills with the metal rod, fighting and dodging an invisible opponent, before placing the bar back. Tabur, Leon, and the other inmates who watched her could only gape.
"Next," she said, "you should probably have someone check the cells for loose bricks. I found three in my cell." She lifted three adjacent bricks from their foundation with ease, revealing a dark hole in the floor.
"Um, why didn't you escape?" asked Tabur, amazed.
"Because I'm not that stupid," Audri answered. "If I had escaped, I would've been in more trouble than I am now." The two knights bit their lips.
"Okay, then," said Tabur, changing the subject. "Let's go."
The trio split up; Tabur made sure that the castle carpenters examined every cell thoroughly, and Leon showed Audri to Jaute's office.
"Why isn't Jaute called 'sir' or 'lord'?" Audri asked Leon, on the way to Jaute's office.
"Well, he's not a knight, and he hasn't a drop of noble blood in him," the spotted Gelert explained, "so he's called 'mister'. You'd address him as Mr. Jaute."
As they neared his office, Leon warned her, "He won't be nice. Trust me. He's as disgusting as a mutant miamouse, but he's clever. He'll do anything to keep his rank as spymaster. No matter what he does to you, never give in to his childish games."
"Lovely," the tiny white Gelert mumbled. "Anything else?"
"Don't stare at the emerald frog for too long," said Leon. Though confused, Audri nodded her "okay".
At last, the pair found themselves facing a plain maple door, with an even simpler brass doorknocker. Leon reached up to knock, since Audri was too small to reach.
"Come in," a raspy voice beckoned from the other side. Taking a deep breath, Audri turned the cool doorknob and entered. She found herself in a musty room, covered wall-to-wall with shelves of junk, books, and some useful trinkets. When her eyes located a twinkling green frog, covered entirely with emeralds, she quickly looked away.
"Little girl," a skunk Moehog sneered, barely visible in the messy room, "did you leave your doll in the courtyard?"
"Mind your tongue, Jaute," Leon ordered, his temper rising, "Miss Audri happens to be—"
"Seventeen," she replied. Audri kept her face as blank as a sheet of parchment, masking her emotions flawlessly.
Surveying Jaute with her crystal-blue eyes, Audri saw how repulsive he truly was. He had spots of bare, flaky skin mixed in with greasy patches of charcoal fur. His hooves seemed uncared for, his tusks uneven and yellow. Audri winced in disgust. How could he be her new boss?
"I'm here for a job as a spy," the white Gelert announced.
"Oh? Leave us, Sir Leon," Jaute ordered, flapping his hooves.
"Yes, ma'am," Leon mumbled, so quietly that only Audri could hear. The little Gelert hid a smile behind her hand as the knight left.
"Name?" Jaute demanded.
"Audri Blake," Audri answered, squaring her shoulders proudly.
"And why would you like this position?" the Moehog asked.
"I'm fairly good at spying," she replied, "And I know how to wield daggers, staffs, and clubs."
"Hm," Jaute drawled, pointing his nose in the air, "I'm going to ask you a few questions about spying. When you're spying inside a building, what do you do to keep away from creaky floor boards?"
"Stand on your tiptoes, as close to the wall as possible."
"That was an easy one," he stated, unimpressed. "Now for something harder. How do you shield your room from spies?"
"If you're a mage, you can cast a simple spell," Audri answered, ignoring Jaute's bored expression, "but if you're not, you can use a magic lock to keep your door closed."
The filthy Moehog barely acknowledged her reply with a tiny inclination of his head. "What is the proper attire for spying?"
"Tight fitting black clothes at night, so no one can grab you by your clothes. In the day, you have to look as normal as possible. And you always wear your hair up in a tight bun if you're a girl."
"Which weapons would you use?"
Audri could answer immediately. "Thin blades and daggers, hidden in sheaths under your clothes. But you can carry a short staff or club, just in case."
"Good enough," Jaute barked. "You've passed my basic tests. You will join the spies-in-training on the first day of the Month of Hiding. Report to my office on that day. Dismissed."
Audri curtseyed clumsily, though he was only a fraction of a rank higher than she was, and exited the repulsive room. In the cool, fresh hallway, the white Gelert took deep breaths of soothing clean air to replace the mustiness of Jaute's office.
"Hey, Audri," a deep voice spoke behind her. Audri turned to see Leon and Tabur.
"Since you're going to start training in a month and a half, we should get you a room," Leon told her. "Tabur has your new clothes in his room. Can you bring them to the servant's corridor?" Tabur nodded and left.
"You were eavesdropping," Audri realized, her eyes dancing with amusement.
Leon grinned at the smaller Gelert, and beckoned her to follow him. "So, how'd you like Jautipoo?" he asked as they walked.
"He was marvelous," Audri said sarcastically, returning his grin with a toothy smile of her own, "But his office was about as pleasant as a field full of dung." She told him of the events during Jaute's interview until the tall knight stopped at a door labeled "Servant's Corridor." He gave the door a few raps, and it opened almost instantly.
"May I help you, Sir Leon?" asked an old blue Cybunny in a white blouse and fawn-brown skirt. Her hair was a deep russet, framing a round, white face. Her rose-and-white ears flopped over her small forehead. She was slightly plump and had a cherub's face, but she had a strong build.
"Mornin', Bekka. This is Audri. Audri, Bekka," Leon introduced the two women. "Audri is going to start training for Mr. Jaute soon, and I was wondering if you could find her a room. Can you?"
"I sure can," Bekka replied, giving Audri a warm smile. "Watch out for that nasty ol' spymaster," she admonished the female Gelert teasingly. The Cybunny ushered Leon and Audri inside the servant's corridor. Inside, all turned to look at the newcomer.
"That's the girl who saved Sir Leon and Sir Tabur!" whispered a servant.
"She's so small!" said another. Audri ignored the remarks and followed Bekka.
The plump Cybunny poured over a diagram of the rooms in the women's dormitory. She pulled a red "vacancy" pin out of a room, replacing it with a green "occupied" pin.
"I'll take ye to yer new room," Bekka informed the female Gelert, taking a brass key out of a drawer. "Do ye need any belongings to be moved?"
"I have them here," a baritone voice replied, making Leon jump and Audri turn. They hadn't noticed Tabur's arrival. The Lupe handed Audri her stack of clothing.
"That's all?" Bekka asked Audri. When the Gelert nodded, Bekka said, "Alrighty. Let's go."
After following an extensive hall, past the occupied rooms of the women's dormitory, Bekka halted abruptly at a door and opened it with her key.
Upon stepping inside, Audri found herself in a room of color. The pale green walls reminded her of mint leaves. Forest-green curtains were pulled aside to reveal a fine stained-glass window, depicting a field of white flowers. A large mahogany bed covered with cream sheets and a coffee-colored comforter stood under the window. Audri leapt backwards onto the soft mattress with a sigh.
"I guess ye like it, eh?" Bekka asked, smiling, "If ye need anything else, ye know where to find me. G'bye."
As soon as the Tabur and the blue Cybunny left, Audri gave a joyful squeal. Leon, surprised by her outburst, gave her an odd look.
"What?" Audri asked, correctly reading his expression. "Am I not allowed do girly things like squeaking at nice things? Not all spies have to be dark, sinister, and manly. I mean, honestly. Look at Jaute. He isn't dark, sinister, or manly at all." Pretending to feel ashamed, she added, "My bad. I don't think I should say that about my soon-to-be boss."
Leon was too busy laughing to notice her added remark. Once the knight regained his composure, he steered the smaller Gelert out of her room and gestured for her to lock the door.
"Well, Audri," said the amused knight as the two Gelerts headed for supper, "I believe you've made yourself a new enemy. And you only spoke with him for less than an hour."
* * *
As the lazy summer whizzed by and the Month of Swimming approached, Leon decided that a visit to the Emerald Coast, his home fief, was necessary. After the knight had accounted for the Month of Relaxing's events in a lengthy letter to his parents, he received a reply. In the reply, his parents stated that they wished to meet the Gelert who had saved his life. Leon was more than happy to bring Audri to his home fief.
After bringing the news to the Audri that afternoon, the tiny white Gelert grinned. "Emerald Coast? You mean the beach? I'd love to go! How far away is it?"
"Only about ten miles south from here," Leon replied, smiling back, "We're going to stay there for five days. Make sure you pack your swim—"
Before he could finish his sentence, the Gelert was already sprinting towards her room. Audri hastily shoved clothes for five days, a swim-dress, and a few dinner dresses into a bag. Along with those, she packed her toiletries, an empty canteen, her prized dagger, and a number of other objects. A few minutes later, she returned to Leon's room with her bag, panting.
"Um," Leon began, his eyes twinkling with mirth, "We're not leaving until tomorrow."
Audri opened her mouth to express her opinion but shut it. Instead, she stated the obvious. "I'm packed."
"I can tell," the knight replied, even more amused. "Just so you know, we're going to fly there on Unis. Is that alright?"
"You mean like up in the sky?" Audri whispered. She was not afraid of heights as long as she had something solid and sturdy under her or behind her, like a wall. But she had never flown on a Uni's back, and she wasn't sure she wanted to try.
"You okay?" Leon asked, raising an eyebrow.
Audri looked up at him. Peering into those mint-colored eyes, she felt as though she were looking into the highest windows of an extremely tall tower. "Yeah, yeah," she replied quickly, blinking, "I'm fine."
The pair was silent for a moment. Leon, finding that moment awkward, broke the silence. "So, um, do you want to go meet the Unis?"
"Sure," Audri replied cheerfully. The two took a leisurely stroll to the stables, passing early-summer flowers, purblare bushes, and tangela trees. They found a massive brown Uni, Draft, and a sweet spotted Uni named Nutmeg nibbling grass in the pasture.
"G'afternoon, Sir Leon," said Draft as the pair of Gelerts approached. "And who's this?"
Leon introduced Audri to the two Unis. "Can she ride you, Nutmeg?"
"'Course," the female Uni replied. Nutmeg strode towards Audri, who held out a paw to stroke the Uni's muzzle. Once Nutmeg was saddled, Audri took her for a trot around the pasture. She even attempted to fly, and glided in the air for a few minutes. Afterwards, Audri took a long soak in the women's baths to assuage her sore legs, using a gentle soap that smelled of lavender. At last, she retired to her bed and instantly fell asleep.
To be continued...