Defender Scarlet Shadow in the Backstab Knight: Part Three
Jeran stared at the Eventide Kougra, not quite believing his luck.
"Yes, he did! Do you know where she went?" Jeran asked him. The eventide Kougra sighed.
"I was hoping to catch the geezer himself. But he must be busy and you're the next best thing." The eventide Kougra said and held out a piece of paper.
"What's this?" Jeran said, taking the piece of paper.
"Directions to where both the Scarlet Shadow and who she was chasing after went. Although, I wouldn't go there alone. But as far as I understand, it wasn't an option for Scarlet Shadow so it probably isn't one for you." The eventide Kougra said. Jeran wasn't about to admit how true that was to this Kougra. Then the Kougra shrugged. "But what do I know? But here's something I do know. That Harvard guy, that's a well known alias of a guy named Dusk. Know him?" The eventide Kougra continued. Jeran's eyes widened in surprise. There wasn't a knight that didn't know about Dusk but there was one detail wrong.
"But isn't he a stealthy Ixi? This Harvard is a woodland Ixi." Jeran replied.
"Well, he repainted himself so you wouldn't catch on, duh. If he hadn't, one of you muscle-brains would of figured it out." The Kougra said disdainfully. Then he hopped off the fence and went on his merry way. Jeran stared after him wondering why he was being so helpful. He claimed to know Sir Aspen and the Scarlet Shadow but he seemed to be the unscrupulous type. He would have ask them both about him later. Right now, he had to trust in what the Kougra had said and follow his directions. What other leads did he have to follow?
Dusk had deftly tied Sopherie's hands together before pulling her away from the wall and then manoeuvring her through the many tunnels, passing some of the bandits and thieves that Jaidenenk had mentioned. They had jeered at her as she and Dusk passed by them. He led her to a room with a cell and quite predictably manoeuvred her inside. Dusk then sat her down in a chair inside the cell and used more rope to tie her to the chair. Then he confiscated all her weapons and lastly, as Sopherie couldn't stop him, he took off her mask.
"Well, you're even prettier without this on." Dusk said with a grin. "I don't know why you bother to wear this when the face underneath is so pretty."
"It's to protect my identity. Speaking of that mask, I'd like it if you would put it back." Sopherie said icily.
"Hm... No, I think I'll be keeping it. It hides too much of your face and I like to see the face when I interrogate someone. The face shows so much about the answers they give and what I can do to force answers out." Dusk said with a dark kind of pleasure in his voice. Sopherie was quickly regretting not following Jaidenenk's advice of not going alone. "Although, if you just tell me what I want to know with no trouble, you'll get through this in one piece. And I would really like it if you did. After all, I hate to hurt the great Scarlet Shadow after my dream of having her come to Meridell came true." Dusk said, a dreamy look entering his eyes. Suddenly, Sopherie knew why having Dusk's eyes on her made her feel uncomfortable. Not just because he was a villain. He was a villain with a crush on her! She shuddered at the thought of it. "Well, now. Let's get started now, shall we? You do know that the shield I stole was fake, didn't you?" Dusk asked her.
"Wait, the shield you stole was fake?" Sopherie exclaimed.
"Yes it was fake! It's a wooden shield painted to look like the Shield of Kings!" Dusk shouted. Another mystery's solution dawned in Sopherie's mind. Aspen must of known the shield was fake when they saw it back when they were in the room for the shield. That's why he had that expression on his face. Aspen must of wondered why there was a fake shield in the room instead of the real one.
"I swear that I didn't know that it was fake." Sopherie said. Then the air was knocked out of her as Dusk punched her in the stomach, hard.
"Didn't I say that I like you to tell me what I want to know without any trouble? That includes not lying to me!" Dusk said angrily. Sopherie's own anger surfaced. She was being accused of lying, when for once she wasn't lying in front of a villain.
"I'm not LYING!" She yelled and kicked Dusk where she knew it would hurt most. Dusk let out a very satisfying cry of pain and doubled over.
"Why you little nothing!" Dusk growled at her when he was able to stand straight again.
"Bite me, you son of a lady Gelert!" Sopherie retorted while kicking him with both feet in the stomach. But the force of the kick made her tip over the chair she was tied to so she fell over from her own force. Dusk said some very colourful words while trying to get his breath back and pulled up Sopherie's chair, bringing her face very close to his.
"I see my normal methods won't get you to tell me anything. Much less where the real shield is. But I much I didn't want to have to rely on other methods, it looks I don't have a choice," Dusk said in an icy voice. "I have a comrade here who is an expert in torture. I'm sure after a session with him you won't feel much for lying." Dusk said. Then he let go of the chair and walked out of the cell, locking the door behind him. Sopherie thought too late that perhaps fighting back wasn't the best idea she ever had. But the damage had been done and Sopherie would simply have to endure what she had to until she saw an opportunity to escape or for someone to come to her rescue.
Meanwhile, Jeran had found the same trapdoor that the Scarlet Shadow had found before him. Jeran drew his sword, then opened the trapdoor and down it. The pair of bandits that he surprised as he jumped down in front of them didn't have much of a chance to react when Jeran hit them both over the head with the flat of his sword.
"Dusk does have a stronghold filled with bandits that serve him. Wonderful." He muttered to himself as he hurriedly made his way through the right side of the tunnel. He slowed down when he heard voices from a cavern ahead of him and pressed himself against the wall to listen to them without being seen.
"Did you hear what that crazy broad with the mask in the interrogation cell to the left of this cavern did to Dusk?" The first voice said.
"Sure did! Didn't she kick him hard in the stomach?" The second voice asked.
"Not just that, man! She also got him where it really hurts!" The first voice replied.
"No way! I bet Dusk got really mad with her."
"No kidding. But I bet she won't be so bold when the torturer is through with her!"
Jeran waited until he heard them walk away from the cavern, then he hung a left from there, hoping he wasn't too late. He quickly arrived in at the interrogation cell and sighed in the relief as he saw Scarlet Shadow in the cell, who was trying to pull at the ropes that were keeping her tied to a chair and hadn't noticed him yet.
"Scarlet Shadow!" He called to her softly. The Scarlet Shadow looked up and saw that she wasn't wearing her mask.
"Sir Jeran? But how?" She asked.
"Never mind that now. We need to get you out of here." Jeran said, looking around for a key. Then he heard footsteps and retreated to a dark corner. A mean-looking mutant Korbat with raggedly wings entered and unlocked the door.
"C'mon, princess. I heard what you did to Dusk. I'm going to take great pleasure in teaching you a lesson." He said with an evil-looking grin.
Sopherie's heart sank as she looked at the mutant Korbat. Jeran had come, but he had come just a little too late. Then she heard a curious sound of something blunt hitting the Korbat and he fell over, revealing Jeran. He had hit the Korbat over the head with the flat of his sword. He then went over to her and cut the ropes.
"Thanks. Nice trick you have there." She said to him.
"Well, a flat of a sword to the head sometimes is just as effective as a slash." Jeran said with a grin. They exited the cell after retrieving Sopherie's weapons and mask from a closet inside and set themselves to getting out for now. But then Dusk came out from a side cavern and obviously couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the two of them.
"Sir Jeran?! How in the blithering blazes did you get in here?!" Dusk said, bewildered.
"You don't keep good security, Dusk. You just joined the knights to steal the shield, didn't you?" Jeran said.
"Of course I did, you self-righteous ninny! And I hated every minute of it. I have hated knights for as long I can remember. Meridellian, Brightvallian, it doesn't matter to me. But I had to become what I most hated to get the shield and I had to betray some who although were knights, I had come to respect. But you put a fake shield in it's place and all my deceit was for nothing!" Dusk growled.
"Wait, the shield you stole was fake?" Jeran said.
"It's news to you too, Sir Jeran?" Sopherie said. She wouldn't have guessed that Jeran didn't know it was fake too, but she did feel better that she wasn't the only one who was in the dark about it.
"Don't mock me by acting like you didn't know." Dusk said, his voice low. He then drew his sword and began an onslaught of overhead strikes at Jeran. Jeran rose his shield to block the strikes, but Dusk's anger would only last for so long. He would become more formidable as his anger drained and tactical thought entered his head. His hate for knights would make him continue. Sopherie had to think fast if she didn't want to risk Jeran's life. It took her a few precious seconds to make up her mind. She began to back up away from the two and once she was a few metres away, she took her bow, nocked a paralysis arrow and pulled it back.
"A present from me to you, Dusk." Sopherie muttered. Then she let the arrow fly.~~~
Back at the Meridell Castle, everything was merry again. Sopherie's aim happened to be true as the paralysis arrow got Dusk in the forehead and now he lay in the castle dungeons, awaiting his punishment for both his previous crimes and his betrayal. Aspen had come with a number of knights to go after both Sopherie and Jeran and had found them by following a trail to the stronghold that Jeran himself had left. But alls well that ends well and the bandits that where in the stronghold that been captured too so they wouldn't be causing any more trouble. But Sopherie learned something rather astonishing when it was time to say good bye to King Skarl. She asked him about the fake shield and he took the real one out from behind his throne.
"I actually came up with the idea to hide the real shield in my throne room and replace the one in its room with a fake one!" He proudly proclaimed. Sopherie couldn't believe that King Skarl of all Neopets had come up with that little trick. "You see, I knew it couldn't be a simple coincidence that only knights I trusted were being struck down by illness, so I swapped the two myself without even any of my knights even noticing." King Skarl continued, obviously quite proud of himself. Maybe in some ways, he was as smart as his brother.
"Wow, that was pretty clever, Your Majesty." Jeran said. He obviously couldn't believe it either.
"Yeah, almost too clever." Sopherie added.
"Oh? Why do you say that, Defender Scarlet Shadow?" King Skarl asked her.
"Because Your Majesty, you tricked everyone including Sir Jeran that shield was the real Shield of Kings. I think Sir Aspen was the only one not fooled." Sopherie replied. The King upon hearing this began to chortle with laughter and Aspen looked smugly on.
"But of course. I'd seen the real shield enough times so I know a fake when I see one." Aspen said. Jeran came up to Sopherie and held out his hand to shake.
"It was a pleasure to work with you, Defender Scarlet Shadow and I couldn't thank you enough from saving me from Dusk's wrath." He said. Sopherie smiled and shook his hand.
"Honestly, Sir Jeran you saved me from getting led to a torture chamber so I say we're even." Sopherie said. She had grown to like Jeran and she was sure she would like to see him again. She just hoped that the circumstances would be a little better the next time they met.