The Becoming of the Royal Thief:Part Two
What happens when one side of your life meets the other?
A chill wind blew through the thicket of the Haunted Woods. Veifira froze, hearing the stranger’s words but refusing to process them. “I know your secret,” he had said. What else could it be but her clandestine life as a thief, but how could he know that? She knew she had to say something to deny his words because, after all, it was a big allegation towards one of the two princesses of the Lost Desert.
Finally, Veifira cleared her throat and spoke. “I do not know what you are speaking of, but I assure you there will be consequences for–“
The stranger interrupted her. “For what, princess?” His voice had slowed to a drawl now, with a mocking undertone. “I know what you are. Do you need me to say it?”
From his voice, Veifira knew that he was not bluffing. Somehow, this strange Draik knew that she stole from richer Sakhmet citizens to give to the more impoverished Qasalan townspeople. She lowered her voice. “You don’t,” she said, avoiding his eyes. “You don’t need to say it.”
“I thought so,” the stranger said.
“What do you want?” Veifira asked, defeated. Although she was taught never to negotiate with hostiles, she knew she had no other options. That another person knew about her secret life threatened the whole infrastructure of Lost Desert’s ruling. According to the bylaws, both her and her sister Astael had to rule in order for the board to approve of their notions. And if they knew Veifira was a thief, obviously the board would remove her from her position immediately. With Veifira scorned, although the sisters would stay royalty, the two would have to abdicate their ruling rights to the council fully, and that would break Astael’s heart. Veifira was cornered.
The stranger took a step forward. “The better question is, what do you want?”
Veifira stood up straight, looking right into the stranger’s red eye. Although she didn’t feel confident, she needed to act it. She tried to keep her voice steely as she said, “I want to keep this under wraps. My secret does not concern you, but since you have made it your business, I will do my best to placate you from making it public knowledge.”
The mysterious Draik chuckled. “Leaking your other life to the public, you think that’s what I want?”
“Well, I…” Veifira stuttered. She was confused and slightly caught off guard. What else could he do with that information?
“I want you to steal something for me.”
“You… you what?” Veifira asked, startled. Although he had made it clear he knew her secret earlier, it was odd hearing it out loud. Even though she had been a thief for a year now, ever since she and her sister inherited the throne, she had never said it aloud.
The stranger smiled slightly. “That’s what you do, isn’t it? Steal things?”
Veifira shifted uncomfortably. “It’s… it’s not like that,” she stammered. But it was like that. No matter what her intentions were, even if she was taking from the rich Sakhmet citizens and giving their luxuries to the Qasalan people, it was stealing. She suddenly furrowed her eyebrows. “How do you know about this?” she asked. Since she was already made, there was no use in hiding it. Now she had questions for her mysterious stranger.
The Pirate Draik shrugged. “I might know a thing or two about thievery, princess.”
“Who are you?” Veifira asked, although she was sure that she wasn’t going to get a straight answer. The way things were going, she knew she had no leverage in this conversation, but it didn’t hurt to ask.
As she expected, he just shrugged. “Not someone in a bad spot, that’s for sure,” he said with a chuckle.
Left without an answer, Veifira decided to try a different approach. “How did you find out about me?”
“You aren’t the only one interested in pilfering rich Sakhmet residents,” the Pirate Draik said, laughing. “I’ve seen you staking some houses out and your face isn’t exactly unrecognizable. You really thought your dark attire could hide who you really are, princess?”
Veifira blushed. Admittedly, she kind of did, which was a little naïve now that she thought about it. But how could she have known better? She grew up in a castle, with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was living in her own world, her own bubble of safety. And even though she thought she was risking everything to pursue thievery, her thieving was completely different from that of real thieves with nothing to lose.
Ignoring his question, Veifira continued. “So, what’s this about?” she asked, waving her hands. “Neopoints? Because I can get you Neopoints, a lot of it.” Veifira knew she could get away with removing some Neopoints from the royal vault. The treasurer would ask her about them, sure, but she could just pass it off as funds for a Qasalan street repair or something.
“What I want can’t be bought with Neopoints, princess,” the Pirate Draik said.
Veifira pursed her lips before asking, “What do you want, then?”
“The Ring of the Lost Desert.”
Veifira’s heart sank.
When Veifira and her twin sister Astael’s father passed, he left his daughters the Ring of the Lost Desert. It was a sizable yellow diamond held between two gold Wadjets, with sparkling blue aquamarines for eyes. It was symbolic of the desert’s ruler, as he or she was expected to wear the jewel, adjusted to how the wearer needed it to be, at all times. But for the first time in Lost Desert history, there were two rulers. Neither princess wanted to wear the ring, as they didn’t want to undermine the other, but eventually Veifira managed to convince Astael to don the sparkling gem. After all, Astael was the oasis of the Lost Desert. Astael had the ring tightened to fit her dainty finger and wore it all the time. It was truly a gorgeous piece.
Veifira shook her head adamantly. “No,” she said. “Anything but that.”
The Pirate Draik shrugged. “That’s the only thing I want. You would really rather have everyone know you’re the Dark Thief?”
Veifira bit her lip. As rumors of her anonymous pilfering spread across Sakhmet, the shaken citizens nicknamed her the Dark Thief. This name and her actions often made the front page on the Lost Desert Expose, printed next to articles detailing her sister’s fine work in improving the quality of life for Lost Desert citizens. The thing was, Astael truly loved being the heart of her people, and genuinely cared about the well-being of each and every one of them. Veifira couldn’t step out of line in front of the council, so they could never know about her being the Dark Thief.
Veifira took a deep breath in, readying herself to say the words. “No, you’re right. I will get you the Ring of the Lost Desert.”
The Pirate Draik smiled. “I thought you would see it my way, princess. Now, for the details. Bring the ring here by the end of week. I will know when you have entered the woods and I will meet you.”
“How?” Veifira asked. “I wouldn’t want to be kept waiting if – I mean, when I do bring you the ring.”
Stepping backwards now, the Pirate Draik winked. “I have eyes everywhere. We will meet again.”
After he stepped into the thicket of the woods and disappeared from sight, Veifira let out a huge sigh. What had just happened? she thought to herself. She had just negotiated the Ring of the Lost Desert to protect her secret identity. And it wasn’t even eight o’clock in the morning.
Still stunned, Veifira slowly trekked out of the woods and across the desert. Her heavy cloak was way too hot in the desert sun, so she slung it over one shoulder instead, not caring that it wasn’t a princess-like thing to do. As she neared the castle, Astael, who was waiting by the front gates, ran over to her.
Although Veifira looked like a mess, Astael was impeccably put together and beautiful. She wore a white Grecian gown with sheer sleeves, a fashionable homage to one of the Lost Desert’s most famous princesses, Princess Amira. Her brown hair was put in a half-up, with a fresh laurel pinned through her tiara and her loose hair flowing in soft waves. Her neck, wrists, ankles, and waist were adorned with gold cuffs and plating, and around her right-hand ring finger was the Ring of the Lost Desert, glistening in the morning sun.
“Vei!” Astael called out, clasping her sister’s hands when she reached her. “Where have you been? Did anything happen?”
Veifira shrugged, unable to look her sister in the eye. Her eyes were instinctively drawn to the Ring of the Lost Desert, but she turned away. “I just went for a walk, that’s all,” Veifira mumbled.
“With that cloak? It must be a hundred degrees out here!” Astael exclaimed as she started to lead her sister back inside. “Your lady-in-waiting said you weren’t in your room, and it was so strange because she had been waiting there hours before you even woke up to make sure you couldn’t slip past her! What is happening?”
Veifira shrugged again. “You know how I feel about these stuffy council meetings. I needed some alone time.”
“Still,” Astael sighed, looking closely at her sister with concern. “There is no need to make everyone worry.”
“Sorry,” Veifira said. “I’ll get ready now.”
Astael shook her head. “There’s hardly enough time to make any preparations on what you’re going to say. But I did prepare something for you to wear, it’s already in your room.” Astael looked at Veifira pleadingly. “Please, please wear it. And I’ll meet you in the main common area in half an hour.”
“Can do, sis,” Veifira said, her voice still monotone. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
Veifira turned away from her sister, the guilt from the earlier exchange with the mysterious Draik still lingering heavy on her mind. She didn’t know how she was going to give up the Ring of the Lost Desert to this stranger, but she did know she needed to put up appearances for the yearly review. She would have to deal with her dilemma later.
Opening the large door to her chambers, Veifira was glad to have a minute alone, even if she had to ready herself during it. The outfit that Astael left for her was a loose-fitting culotte jumpsuit, white like Astael’s dress. It was linen, and not as embellished with gold as Astael’s outfit was, much to Veifira’s relief. The castle staff had long given up trying to make Veifira wear dresses, and Astael made it a point to order alternatives made for her sister.
Veifira put the jumpsuit on and looked in the mirror. Although she felt the farthest thing from ready for the council meeting, at least she looked the part. Sighing for what it felt like the umpteenth time, Veifira left her room, making her way towards the common room.
On her way there, she overheard voices talking.
“I truly apologize, I had no idea you were visiting our land today!” came Astael’s voice.
Veifira moved closer to the doorway to one of the side rooms. With the layout of the room, no matter how she angled herself, she couldn’t see who her sister was talking to.
“No, it’s my fault, truly,” the guest said. It was a polite male voice. “I should’ve announced it. I can come back another time, when I’ve announced myself in a proper way.”
“No, no,” Astael insisted. “My staff can attend to you while I finish my board meeting, if you would care to stay.”
“That would be lovely, then, thank you.”
Astael nodded, pleased with his answer. “My sister should be around here, why don’t I introduce the two of you before we leave for our meeting? I’ll be right back.” She turned to leave without waiting for his answer.
“Oh, there’s no need –,“ he began to say, but Astael was already walking towards the exit.
Before Veifira could react, Astael spotted her. For all the sneaking around Veifira had done her whole life, she was caught off guard at the most inopportune time.
“Perfect timing, Veifira! Please, come in,” Astael called out. “We have a visitor, one of the throne-holders of Krawk Island. We have always been interested in strengthening our ties with the water-based lands, as the desert is so arid, and he just happened to be docking nearby.”
Pasting on a smile, Veifira walked into the side room, preparing her diplomatic self. But when she turned the corner, she was unable to hide her surprise.
The mysterious guest was the Pirate Draik from the Haunted Woods! Veifira couldn’t believe her eyes. Instead of the suspicious cloak he was wearing earlier, he was wearing a white silk shirt and red buccaneer suit, with a flared-out tailcoat. Veifira couldn’t process any of it. How could this be? The Draik that mocked her princess title earlier was a noble himself!
Astael ignored her sister’s stunned silence. “Veifira,” she started. “This is–“
“Vatalyn,” the Pirate Draik said, interrupting gently. “My name is Vatalyn, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
To be continued…