Agent of the Sway: Induction - Part One
13 Years ago...
It would have been poetic to start with the tinkle of broken glass. But that's not what happened - these were Guild operatives. They didn't make such casual noises when breaking into stately homes in the middle of the night.
There was the tiniest of cracks as the young blue Gelert forced the lock on one of the drawing room's windows, before silently pulling it open and gesturing to his fellow thief, a brown Kougra.
The Kougra made his way over from the wall where he had been keeping lookout, holding the window open while the Gelert climbed in. Once inside, the Gelert took the window again while the Kougra climbed through, closing it silently behind them.
"The library," the Kougra whispered.
The Gelert's hand shot out across the Kougra's front, halting his progress.
"Something's wrong here, be careful," he instructed in similarly hushed tones.
Together they crept from the drawing room across the great hall, their footfalls barely audible on the polished marble. The library was directly ahead of them, and within it lay their prize.
The Kougra hastily made his way to the desk in the corner of the modest library, reaching for the handle to the desk drawer where he knew their target had been hidden. The thief had barely touched the handle when a match lit in the darkness. It illuminated a middle-aged striped Kyrii sat in an armchair in the corner. With his free hand, he was absently playing with a golden locket.
"Looking for something?" the Kyrii asked casually.
Both thieves had been frozen at the sudden appearance of the Kyrii, but at once the Gelert leapt into action, throwing himself through the plate glass of the library and disappearing into the grounds.
The Kougra was paralysed, rooted to the spot.
"You're not running," the Kyrii observed.
"No," the Kougra replied.
"Why ever not?" the Kyrii asked.
"We were clearly set up," the Kougra answered, eying the amulet in the Kyrii's hands.
There were engravings on it, depicting an ancient race of mythical Neopets. Some called them the Bori - the amulet, that had been the goal. Galem Darkhand, their leader, was determined to get his hands on any Bori artefact he could.
"This doesn't explain why you are not running," the Kyrii said.
"You might have placed traps in the grounds," the Kougra answered. "You are expecting me to run. That's exactly why I shouldn't."
Instinctively the Kougra's hand went towards the blade hidden beneath his cloak.
The Kyrii smiled, "Quite intriguing."
He flicked open the amulet's cover briefly, and whatever was inside seemed to shine with an almost hypnotic gleam. But at once, the amulet was snapped shut as a Crokabek flew in through the shattered window, perching neatly on the arm of the Kyrii's chair and depositing a scroll in his lap.
There was a loud sigh from the Kyrii, "One moment, please."
He unrolled the scroll and scrutinised it, before glancing sceptically up at the thief.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"You think I'm going to tell you that?" the Kougra answered.
"Yes," the Kyrii replied, with a glance to his Bori amulet. "One way or another."
There was silence for a moment.
"My name is Lord Faversham," the Kyrii supplied eventually.
"I believe your name is Clayton," Faversham added. "You are a new member of the Thieves Guild, and your co-conspirator who so rudely defenestrated himself is another new recruit who goes by the name of Kanrik. You were sent here on the orders of Galem Darkhand, the Guild Master, to steal this amulet from me. It is of Bori origin, and Galem is gathering such objects like a greedy, petulant child. Have I hit the mark?"
"Who sold us out?" Clayton asked.
Faversham merely laughed, "I am no simple rich man, Clayton. I know things because it is my role to know things."
"I could have use for someone like you... with your... 'talents'," Faversham said. "I guarantee to pay more than the Guild."
It was Clayton's turn to laugh, "No one can protect people from the Guild."
"You don't truly believe that, do you?" Faversham asked.
The Kyrii stood up abruptly, making his way over to the door.
"I am going to retire to my bedchambers," he said. "You may let yourself out. We will speak again soon."
"You're not going to call the Defenders?" Clayton asked.
"Of course not," Faversham answered. "A gesture of good will. Don't make me regret it."
With that, he left the library. Clayton lingered for a few moments, before following Kanrik's tracks through the smashed window.
Faversham meanwhile made his way up to his bedroom, placing his Bori amulet on the nightstand with the scroll. It read simply:
'Recruit him. His name is Clayton Moore.'
A new Crokabek was tapping at his window already, carrying a fresh message. Wordlessly Faversham let the creature in. It lingered only long enough to deposit the new scroll on his bed before taking off into the night once more. Faversham unrolled the new missive, it was unusual to have so many in a single night. Something was wrong.
'We expect the esteemed Dr. Sloth will break his silence soon. It is time for our plans regarding him to be set in motion. Our scientist has been instructed to begin work on his craft, but as expected he requires the merchandise from the Defenders. Your new recruit will be helpful in this regard. Sloth cannot succeed, all our plans hinge on his downfall or silence. Preferably both.'
Faversham read the note over a few times before taking both it and its predecessor to the fire and throwing them in. It never served to leave evidence of the communications. That was one of the first lessons they learned.
"Change is afoot," Faversham mused to himself.
It was standard practice that after a theft, successful or otherwise, you didn't return to the Thieves Guild headquarters for some time. Clayton was in no mood to suffer the anger of Galem over their failure, so that policy suited him just fine.
Instead, the Kougra lay low as best he could, moving about the marketplace in the heart of the city. Things were quieter than usual, although the term quiet could hardly ever be applied to a place like Neopia Central.
There were rumours of abductions, people suddenly going missing in the middle of the night. They were still just rumours though. The Thieves Guild prowled the streets at night, and they had seen no evidence of kidnappings - so if it was happening, the perpetrators would have to be exceptionally well financed.
The Defenders were spooked though, as patrols had been upped. Clayton hid his face and tried to look interested in a vegetable stand as best he could as one of the low-level Defenders passed him. It was a foolish manoeuvre, Clayton was a new thief who didn't have a known face, but the Defenders were schooled by Judge Hog in learning to recognise people who didn't want to be seen.
The Tonu paused in his patrol, his eyes piercing the back of Clayton's head. The Kougra heard the heavy footfalls as the Tonu approached, and his hand went towards the dagger stored under his cloak. His breathing slowed as he readied himself. A quick swipe as he turned, that would disorient the Defender long enough for Clayton to disappear into the crowd. If he managed to make it to the Docklands, he would be home free. The Defender would run into Seth Vargo's goons and Clayton would be able to slip away in the confusion.
He waited for the hand on his shoulder, but it never came.
Instead, an electronic crackling echoed over the entire Marketplace, bringing trade to a complete stop. There was the brief noise of someone clearing their throat, before a voice began to speak loudly and clearly, everyone in the area, and indeed city, being able to hear.
"Greetings, citizens of Neopia! You may not remember me, but I have been watching your planet for a very long time. More than you could possibly imagine. And now, I have perfected a gift for you, to show you just how much I care. In the coming weeks, I will be launching a new exciting project that I have called Virtupets. Please stay tuned for further information. I'll speak to you again - this is Doctor Frank Sloth, signing off."
The message concluded with a sharp collection of noises that hurt Clayton's ears, like a curious whistling. Most of the Neopets gathered in the Marketplace were as nonplussed as Clayton, but the Tonu Defender was now marching back towards Headquarters, all thoughts of his encounter with the thief forgotten.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Clayton was about to melt back into the crowd when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned round to see Faversham, the Kyrii from the previous night.
"Interesting, wasn't it?" Faversham remarked.
"What do you want?" Clayton asked, breaking free of the Kyrii's grip.
"Your help," Faversham answered. "You heard the message, did you not? Dr. Sloth has returned."
Clayton gave a blank look.
"You think, perhaps, that the recent spate of disappearances may be related?" Faversham suggested. "Or that maybe, the good doctor is not as pure hearted as his tone would imply?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Clayton said. "None of my business."
"But you are... interested, are you not?" Faversham asked.
Clayton had no response, he could not deny it.
"Good," Faversham said with a smile. "It is always easier when people have an innate interest in the unknown. Remember last night I said I could use someone with your talents? Well, I have a task for you."
"I don't work for you," Clayton said.
"You can do it freely, or..."
Faversham gently stroked the Bori amulet around his neck.
"This contraption, it can be really quite persuasive," Faversham explained darkly. "But subjects with free will intact tend to make better agents. If you help me, I give you my word I will explain exactly who Dr. Sloth is and what he has planned."
"What do you want?" Clayton asked.
"I need some merchandise procuring from the Defenders Research and Development Laboratory," Faversham explained.
"You want me to break into Defenders Headquarters!?" Clayton gasped. "I'm not an idiot."
"No, you are a thief," Faversham replied simply. "And I have every faith in your abilities. The Defenders are developing a space craft for use by Captain K - very advanced. I require the power source. Once you are done, return to me at my home. Then I will tell you what you need to know."
With that, Faversham disappeared into the crowd, leaving Clayton alone. For a moment, the Kougra considered ignoring the encounter - but he expected that Faversham would have means of finding Clayton should he disobey, and he didn't much fancy finding out what that amulet of his really did.
To be continued...