Rumored Legacy: Part One
Purrow sighed as he nibbled on an omelet. Thieving had been slow since Kanrik devoted all his time and 90% of the Thieves' Guild to that darn obelisk. And what was so great about it anyway? Fighting the other factions in a never-ending war only to have the "Oracle" bestow meager boons upon the victors, never actually revealing what lay inside the obelisk. It all seemed rather nonsensical, like chasing your own tail.
Now Purrow was left with a half dozen other thieves to continue on in their usual mischief, but more were leaving by the week. The skirmishes weren't going well in the Thieves' favor, so Kanrik sent out summons to any and all thieves in Neopia, requesting or demanding help. What were they supposed to do? They were thieves, not warriors. They slunk around in the dark of the night; they didn't engage in open battle.
Really, at first, Purrow didn't mind that most of the thieves were gone to fight. It left easier pickings for him; he'd even scored a thing or two from Kanrik's own stash in the Ice Caves. But the thrill soon became commonplace and it bored him. All he had to compete with now were the Money Tree ghosts, and they weren't much for conversation.
Even Meesha had gone to fight, lured by the promise of fantastic prizes, leaving Purrow alone with his omelet.
"Well," Purrow figured, "I guess I'll just have to make my own way now."
"Ah, a young Aisha finds ambition," the tender, an old Lupe chuckled. "You be careful, young one."
"I'm always careful," Purrow assured him lightly, tipping the tender and leaving.
Actually, he had lots of opportunity. As he walked through the outskirts of Meridell, it was like the sun shone upon him, granting him favor in his new exploits—whatever those were as he had no real plans yet. They were vague ambitions, coming together like pieces of a secret map. With Kanrik gone, his territory was largely unguarded. Oh, sure, he could keep the freezing cold of Terror Mountain, but Purrow reflected on how easy it had been to get into Meridell. Or maybe that had something to do with his disguise. The Mall was every thief's best friend.
At any rate, there was some great expansion potential here. He had little desire to build a rival guild or become some overworked leader like Kanrik, but there was something to be said for establishing a firm presence. Without Kanrik and the Thieves to worry about, he could easily graduate from petty pickpocketing in common marketplaces to grand heists from the palaces of Faerieland. If he was lucky, one day he might break into the Hidden Tower itself.
Purrow was glad to shed the Purple Plaid Shirt and Waistcoat—the one that just reeked of wide-eyed tourist—and trade it for his usual thieving jacket and black collar. His bag was reversible, changing from a tacky brown Gnorbu-wool knapsack into a waterproof rucksack. He ditched the sandals, pulled on his soft boots, and ventured deeper into the woods to sit on a log and plan.
How did one plan to undermine the greatest thief in Neopia, anyway? Kanrik had establishments, followers, and nearly inexhaustible sources of income. Purrow had a sleeping bag and the remains of his omelet. Most of his friends had left him and he hadn't done much honest thieving lately and thus no real Neopoints to speak of. He was forever the Aisha Thief of Neopia; no one would ever take him seriously.
That was the problem with branding, he figured. Once one established a name, he could be called by nothing else. He was branded a petty thief, the Thieves' Guild-wannabe. Truth be told, none of them had ever had any real interest in being part of the Thieves' Guild. They were in it to win it, not try to be some major political force.
But he couldn't be the only one who thought that. Purrow certainly wasn't the only thief in Neopia not part of Kanrik's guild. There had to be others, those who were uninterested in either the guild or the obelisk. He just had to find them.
Krawk Island was as good a place as any to start, though Purrow was less than thrilled about having to barter work for passage, swabbing decks under the ruthless eye of a pirate Lenny and being picked on by the other swabs for his small size and apparent lack of experience.
This put him in a rotten enough mood that he figured he could handle anything the Warf Wharf had to throw at him. But even as he took two steps off the ship, Purrow could feel a rumbling in his stomach. He hoped it was just hunger, but when he took off his pack, his omelet was gone! He looked up just in time to see a Buzz slipping into the crowd, the omelet in hand.
Purrow gave chase, now grateful for his small size as he wove to and fro around angry sailors loading and unloading cargo. He never lost sight of the Buzz as it darted down a dank, smelly alley. As it started to fly over a rough wooden fence, Purrow put on an extra burst of speed and tackled the Buzz, landing on top of the fence and falling head of wing over paw and finally crashing into a garbage can.
"All right, all right!" the Buzz cried. "I yield! Take your stupid omelet!"
Purrow snatched his omelet and munched on it deliberately, sitting across from the Buzz who got back on his feet.
"What are you staring at?" the Buzz grumbled.
"You're not part of Kanrik's guild," Purrow stated.
"It's hard enough stealing enough for myself—these sailors are a tough bunch—I can't afford to dole out 25% to Kanrik, too."
"It's up to 25%?"
"Since the Obelisk, yes. And what do you care?"
"Do you know who I am?"
"Oh, one of the Aisha Thieves. Pickings must be getting slim for you, too, if you have to barter your way here and tackle me just for 1/3 of an omelet."
Purrow felt his skin burn with embarrassment and anger. "Maybe. But I'm trying to change that."
"Yeah? How's that?"
"I'm going to undermine Kanrik."
The Buzz clicked out a laugh. "Undermine Kanrik. You're funny, Purrow; I like you."
"I'm serious. Gold pickings are slim—and by slim, I mean boring, but he's left his territory wide open. If Krawk Island is so tough to work, why don't you leave? Mystery Island isn't so far from here." He did not give a chance to answer. "It's because Kanrik controls most of Neopia, isn't it? He even controls Krawk Island and has arrangements with the smugglers, but because of the constant flow of goods, you can squeak out a modest pull. Am I right?"
The Buzz hesitated. "What are you thinking?"
"We find more thieves like us—we're not part of the guild and have no interest in the obelisk. We band together and go out thieving wherever and however we want. Nothing formal, nothing flashy, but we get better picking places and better hauls at the end of the day. What do you say?"
"Whatever you get is yours. We protect each other, but it's nothing rigid like the guild."
"I don't know."
"The only reason we're not doing this now is because Kanrik has left enough of his goons to keep watch on his turf. I can't do anything about it and neither can you, but if we band together, we can take them and take territory. What do you say?"
Finally he nodded. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"What's your name, anyway?"
"Glad to make your acquaintance, Roxon."
"Where will we start?"
"The sewers; not all us Aisha Thieves left for the obelisk."
"Kanrik, sir, we have an envoy," a young Jubjub thief said at the entrance to the tent.
"Not now!" Kanrik barked, turning his attention to the map before him.
"Oh, now Kanrik, that's not how you receive guests."
In one fluid motion, Kanrik swept the map off the table and clumsily into a drawer as the Duchess strode in.
"It's no use," the Duchess said matter-of-fact. He gaze remained on Kanrik. "The south gorge is already being exploited by the Brute Squad; they're going to block it off by causing a rockslide, effectively cutting you off."
"Did I say I was planning on the south gorge?" Kanrik growled.
"Actually, you did. My little Crokabeck's are nosy little creatures."
"What do you want? You can't force out out of this war; we will take the obelisk."
"And in doing so, lose all your Neopian possessions."
"Are you threatening me?"
"I am warning you, Kanrik, and this has little to do with the obelisk." The Duchess pulled a small scrap of paper from her sleeve and handed it to the Thieves' Guild leader who took and read it cautiously. "Unlike us, you foolishly pull all your eggs in one basket—or one gorge. While you have been away fighting, it seems you left your backside wide open and one young thief is trying to undermine you."
"Purrow," Kanrik chuckled. "A young Aisha thief is hardly my biggest concern right now."
"Aishas are far cleverer than we often give them credit for, Kanrik."
"An Aisha thief, Duchess. They live in the sewers of Neopia and steal from the Chocolate Factory."
The Duchess sighed. "Kanrik, we are not so different, you and I. We value structure, order. The Sway operates on a larger scale, but your little guild mirrors it well. Your thieves pay commissions and go on grand heists anywhere in Neopia. You have establishments, territory; you the land that exists within all other Neopian lands, liquid citizens of your own kind. And life goes on.
"If this Aisha is successful, even to a small degree, it could spell disaster. Ideas, Kanrik. Ideas are dangerous things. The notion that thieves no longer need a leader to guide them to great and valuable treasures, that they do not need to pay commission for protection and passage, that their only competition is each other, these things upset order, Kanrik. Your order is a pyramid, and what happens when a pyramid's base crumbles?"
Kanrik held the Duchess in a steady gaze. "He is an Aisha thief, Duchess. And I have bigger problems to worry about."
Meesha was not the only one curious about the visit from the Duchess, and certainly not the only one who was unnerved by it. Even her shadow seemed to watch each one of them, sucking their secrets out like candy.
Being an Aisha thief, Meesha was able to follow the Duchess quietly and listen on top of a crag overlooking Kanrik's tent. At first she thought her listening equipment was malfunctioning, but no, the Duchess made no mistakes.
Oh, Purrow, Meesha thought. Why did I leave you to your own devices?
Was he really foolish enough to try to rally the remaining thieves and undermine Kanrik? Did he actually think this could be accomplish? They would trample him! She had to talk some sense into him, but she couldn't just leave the camp. She'd made a commitment.
Kanrik rejected the notion that Purrow was any threat to him or the Thieves' Guild. And really, Purrow wasn't a threat. He could never pull off that great of a heist, but he could certainly cause enough damage trying.
To be continued...