The Becoming of the Royal Thief
The hardest things to keep are secrets…
It was a scorching hot morning in the Lost Desert when Veifira woke up to a blaring alarm clock. She stirred groggily, reaching out a hand to slam down on her clock. Having an alarm wasn’t even her idea, as she preferred to wake up naturally. And by naturally she meant whenever she wanted to. After all, alarms and schedules were for people who actually had important things to do. And she, well, even as one of the two princesses of the Lost Desert, didn’t feel like she ever had anything important to do. This was because her twin sister and the other princess of the desert, Astael, dealt with all the politics, civilian laws, and rulings. And that was just how Veifira liked it. She would much rather be spending her time browsing the merchant stalls in Qasala, asking about any items that looked like they would have a colorful history, and sampling street foods that simply weren’t available at the castle. The palace chefs refused to serve Meat and Fruit Kebabs and Qando Fruit foods, even when Veifira had asked them to.
Since the alarm had gone off today, that meant Astael had Veifira’s lady-in-waiting set it, and that meant there was a meeting later today. Astael was the one who put that alarm clock in Veifira’s room and promised to only set it for important days, least Veifira throw it out. Although Veifira was able to pass all the ruling responsibilities to Astael, she still had to attend council meetings. Veifira rolled her eyes and reluctantly sat up in bed when a different ring came from her bedside table. Ever since Veifira had moved her chambers to the other side of the castle, the absolute furthest from Astael’s room, Astael had the castle technician install a connecting cable between the rooms so she could ring Veifira at any time. The alarm and direct line weren’t too bad, though, Veifira thought. Better than having to actually hold any responsibility. Bracing herself, Veifira reached over and picked up.
“Good morning!” came a sweet voice from the other line. “Sister, I trust you had a good sleep? You do remember the board meeting today, yes?”
“Yeesh,” Veifira growled. “It’s not enough you wake me up before my time, now you try to inject me with cheeriness, too?”
“I slept well, thank you for asking,” Astael replied happily. Although the two were polar opposites, they were the closest of siblings and understood each other’s jokes. “The meeting is at nine o’clock sharp, which gives you about two hours to get ready.”
Veifira snorted. “I only need about five minutes to get ready. I’ll be going back to sleep, thank you very much.”
“Oh no, you don’t!” Astael shot back. “I already have your lady-in-waiting by your door. I need you to look like you’ve actually been contributing to the crown’s rule for the past year, okay? It’s all I ask of you. Today’s our yearly review.”
“I’ll try my best,” Veifira replied with a frown. Even though she was the difficult princess, she didn’t want her sister to get in trouble for her actions. “I’ll see you soon, Astael.”
“Bye for now, Vei,” Astael replied with an audible smile.
Veifira sighed. Ever since their father, the late King Adranika, passed last year, the two sisters were given the crown to be shared equally. His last decree was for both of his daughters to rule together, or neither could. He had a board of his trusted advisors make sure of this, which is why the two sisters were to have a review later today. It marked the anniversary of the two ascending to the throne. The only thing, though, was that where Astael was devoted to the Lost Desert and any necessary politics and paperwork – the perfect fit for a princess, Veifira had no interest in the officials of ruling. Veifira wanted to be with the people of her land, gossiping with merchants, assisting the elderly, and playing games with the younger citizens. But the board wasn’t going to look too fondly at that.
And the other thing was, well, Veifira was a thief by night.
Nobody knew, of course (it did tend to work that way, didn’t it?), and Veifira hoped to keep it that way. She was like the Lupe from the book Robin Lupe, taking from high ranking Lost Desert officials and nobility in Sakhmet and passing the wares down to the less fortunate in Qasala. The rich usually had so much that they didn’t even notice anything was missing, but Veifira was also talented at her craft. After all, growing up, she had done so much sneaking around the palace, trying to avoid her handmaidens who were attempting to get her ready for a formal event this, official meeting that.
Veifira loved all her people, she really did, but in her heart, she favored the rundown city of Qasala over the flourishing wealth of Sakhmet. Sakhmet was more Astael’s place, with all the Neopets wearing beautiful gowns and concerned with the luxuries of life. As close as the twin sisters were, they were different in every way. Even with how they looked – although they were both Royal Draiks, Veifira was a cool blue tone color whereas Astael was a bright purple. And even though they both had blue eyes, Veifira had a washed-out, dull blue and Astael had a wash of bright aqua eyes. No matter what Veifira’s ladies-in-waiting tried, her hair never seemed to listen but Astael had gorgeous, flowing brown locks that stayed glossy even in the dry Lost Desert air. Veifira would usually just yank away from her maidens and quickly braid her hair out of the way. She wasn’t very concerned with her outer appearance, anyway. Astael was beyond beautiful and had suitors from every Neopian land visit in hopes for her hand in marriage. But she belonged in the Lost Desert, so she politely declined all of her suitors in favor of staying there.
Veifira felt as though she should have been a descendant of Krawk Island, the land fabled as the birthplace of famous thieves and pirates. She would always lose herself in the stories of Hannah and Kanrik, whose thieving adventures were of legend. Growing up, in addition to hiding and sneaking about the castle, she also begged the castle guards to teach her how to fight and use a sword. They all ignored her, but her grandfather and former king, Vitellis, noticed her interest and decided to teach her in secret. After etiquette classes with Astael, Veifira would sneak off to her grandfather’s garden and practice both hand and weapon combat. Grandfather Vitellis was a war veteran king and believed that all rulers should know a thing or two about fighting. Veifira was grateful for that, as it seemed like no one else in the castle felt that way. After a few years of training, though, Vitellis had become bedridden and was unable to show her more. Although the lessons stopped, Veifira still went to her grandfather’s chambers to chat with him and receive wisdom. And she still trained in the garden under her grandfather’s watchful eyes, and he helped her fix her posture and made her movements more efficient and powerful.
Having all these thoughts, Veifira sighed, wanting to get away from the palace for a little bit. Knowing that her lady-in-waiting was right in front of her door, Veifira changed quickly and left out the window instead. From her many thieving nights, she already had a discreet setup to leave through the window. Veifira slid down soundlessly, avoiding the eyes of the castle guards. She sped through the gardens into a running leap over the side gate. Clearing the wall easily, she landed deftly on her feet, her worn but thick leather boots softening the impact. Her dark cloak fluttered behind her.
It was still bright and early, so Veifira decided to walk into the Haunted Woods instead of through her city. When she crossed over to the woods, the sun from the desert immediately faded behind the thick, immense foliage of the dense trees. Veifira was glad she brought one of her warmer night cloaks rather than one of the airy linen ones that she wore in the Lost Desert during the day. Here, almost no sunlight penetrated the leaves and it was perpetually dark and cold. She figured no one else was in the woods, as Haunted Woods was notorious for only being active at night. However, she shouldn’t have let down her guard – only when her guest was extremely nearby did she hear that she wasn’t alone.
Startled, Veifira whipped around. “Who goes there?” she asked into the near darkness. “Show yourself!”
“So, it’s true then,” came a deep voice from the darkness. “You have quite a keen sense of hearing, princess.”
Veifira’s eyes narrowed. “I said, show yourself.”
“Or what?” the voice asked. “I don’t see any of your precious bodyguards with you.”
“You don’t want to see what,” Veifira said, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice. After all, her threats really were empty. If she exhibited any of her fighting ability, it would surely raise suspicion in her mystery visitor. “Now why don’t you come out of the shadows, coward?”
“In due time,” the voice said. Slowly, Veifira could make out the figure stepping out of the darkness, with his hands slightly raised to show he did not have bad intentions. In the wavering light, the figure turned out to be a Pirate Draik, with an eyepatch over his left eye. He had styled blonde hair and fiery red eyes, and was wearing a dark, hooded cloak. “Relax, princess,” he said, “I know your secret.”
To be continued…