The Becoming of the Royal Thief:Part Five
Night always comes, slowly but surely.
The strange thing about the Lost Desert being overrun with thieves was that there wasn’t actually that much darkness during the night. The sun beat down over harshly during the day, hung in the sky late into the afternoon, and left briefly for only a few hours after midnight. These few hours, known to the desert citizens as “doom’s time,” were especially dangerous in the streets and even at home. Princess Astael had to install a curfew during one to four a.m. to minimize attacks on innocent civilians. It lowered the crime statistics, with both robberies and burglaries, but no policies had yet apprehended the Dark Thief. The Dark Thief was known for being quicker and bolder than the others. No one was able to keep their eyes on the mysterious figure for long, and most citizens were starting to believe that they were just seeing things. But the stolen goods, often jewelry and other valuables that could be taken apart and sold in untraceable parts, were proof that the Dark Thief did, in fact, exist.
It was nearing midnight and Veifira, the other princess of the Lost Desert and the true identity of the Dark Thief, was gearing up to enter the night. Her new accomplice, Vatalyn, hummed a strange tune.
“What song is that?” Veifira asked, looking up from lacing up her leather boots.
Vatalyn shrugged. “Not one you’d know.”
“Oh, come on,” Veifira said. “We’re partners now, and partners don’t keep secrets.”
Vatalyn laughed. “I’m keeping yours, princess thief.”
Veifira rolled her eyes. “And here you are, accompanying me on one of my excursions. You’ll keep a secret if it benefits you.”
“You should learn to do that too, if you know what’s best for you.”
“What do you mean?” Veifira asked, as she tied her signature dark cloak around her shoulders.
“Knowledge is power. The pen is mightier than the sword. You know what I mean, don’t make me become a walking proverb,” Vatalyn scowled.
“Ah,” Veifira said with a frown. “You think I’m all brute force.”
Vatalyn laughed. “Something like that. You could do with being a bit subtler.”
“Tonight isn’t about being subtle. I need to make sure my message gets across.”
It was over a week since Veifira and her twin sister Astael had their first council meeting to review their performance over the last year. It marked a year of them being the top ruling body over the Lost Desert, and a year since their father, the former king, had passed. Although Astael had done groundbreaking work during that time, the council still came down hard on the two, claiming they barely passed their expectations. It may have been warranted towards Veifira, who spent most of her time milling about in Qasala, but it was entirely unfair to Astael, who committed all of her time and efforts to bettering the desert. Veifira couldn’t do anything towards the council then but, as the Dark Thief, she could retaliate.
Veifira wanted to give the council members a scare the night of the meeting, but Vatalyn insisted she wait before taking any action. After all, it would be a little too obvious if the Dark Thief showed up at their houses the very day they upset the princesses. It was logical, of course, but Veifira still spent the last week seething. To pass the time, she helped Astael pore over paperwork that the council had sent over and, along with Vatalyn, spent nights doing small raids across Sakhmet. Nothing too big, nothing that would attract the attention of the council members and make them overly cautious.
“It’s a song my mother used to sing to me.”
“What?” Veifira asked, her thoughts interrupted.
“The tune I was humming earlier,” Vatalyn explained. “It’s a song my mother used to sing to me when I was younger.”
Veifira blinked, taken aback that Vatalyn chose to share something personal. “Oh,” was all she managed to say.
“You don’t have to say anything, I –”
“No, no,” Veifira insisted. “I’m sorry. I was just a little surprised, that’s all. Were you two close?”
“She’s still around, princess,” Vatalyn answered with a laugh. “Granted, we don’t talk, but it’s a nice melody.” He laughed again.
Veifira shook her head. “And here I thought you wanted to open up to me.”
Vatalyn chuckled. “Sorry, it’s too easy to get your hopes up. Are you ready to go?”
Veifira rolled her eyes. Without a word, she walked toward the windows of her room in the Lost Desert castle and slid down into the bushes below. A moment later, Vatalyn joined her, expertly landing on his feet.
“Just follow me,” Veifira said, cutting to the back of the castle. “We’re going to Malabaricus’s mansion first.”
Vatalyn nodded. “The head of the council, of course. I’m glad even you can see he yields most of the influence.”
The two of them followed a sandy backend path; sand was known for disguising sound but preserving footprints, but Vatalyn and Veifira both knew how to walk without leaving a trace. They moved in silence for a while, until they came up to the residential area of Sakhmet. Here, there were guards. Veifira counted eight night patrol members. Although they were just civilian volunteers, she still needed to be careful. After all, her thieving outfit was just a dark cloak and sound-reducing boots. She wore a hood over her hair but, overconfident, she made no effort to hide her face. And anyone in the Lost Desert would easily recognize her face, that of one of the royal princesses. After moving along undetected for a while longer, they arrived at one of the largest houses in Sakhmet, Malabaricus’s.
Vatalyn tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
Veifira whipped around. “What?” she hissed. “You are not going to convince me to wait any longer to confront Malabaricus, so don’t even try.”
“Well, no,” Vatalyn said, pretending to be offended. “I wasn’t going to do that. Here,” he said, handing over a rolled object to her. “I just thought you could use this.”
“What is it?” Veifira asked, accepting it from him. It was a sturdy but lightweight black scarf, seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. “A scarf? To cover my face?”
“Yes and no,” Vatalyn replied. “It can alter your voice, too.”
“It can what?” Veifira asked in disbelief.
Vatalyn sighed. “Just try it on,” he said.
Warily, Veifira wrapped the scarf around her face, covering her nose and mouth, and threw it over her shoulders. “Now what?” Startled, she gasped, putting her hand over her mouth. Her voice had been altered by the scarf somehow. It sounded deeper and seemed to echo within itself. It was entirely unrecognizable. Wide-eyed, she stared at Vatalyn questioningly.
“It’s a little something I picked up from Brightvale’s vaults. The scholars there have a lot of inventions under wraps, and you can see why they wouldn’t want that one out in the world,” Vatalyn said, gesturing to the scarf.
Veifira pulled the scarf away from her mouth. “Wow,” she said, her voice back to normal. “Um, thank you. This is really something.”
“Not a problem, princess. I do hope you decide to extend your thieving reach to other parts of Neopia one day. Sakhmet is full of riches and jewels, but if you ever want to get your hands on true artifacts and inventions, you’re better off elsewhere.”
Veifira shrugged. “I’m still thinking about it.”
“We can talk about it later. For now,” Vatalyn said, motioning to the house looming over them, “there’s only an hour or two left of darkness. You’d better get moving.”
Veifira nodded, pulling up the scarf back to cover her mouth and nose. Expertly, she scaled the side of the house, looking for an open window. Although this was her first time entering Malabaricus’s house, she had scouted it countless of times, always tempted to take something along with her. She had never seriously considered entering until now.
With rumors of the Dark Thief terrorizing the night, most Sakhmet citizens had gotten into the habit of locking their doors and windows, but the heat of the Lost Desert often made them keep upper-floor windows open to let in air. Veifira caught sight of an open window, opened it wider, and slipped in. It was a guest room on the second floor, where she knew Malabaricus’s room was located as well, although it was on the other side of the mansion.
It was always silent during the night, but whenever Veifira entered a house, it seemed to get even quieter. She almost thought she could hear the beating of her own heart, she was so nervous. Veifira went towards the door, wrapped a hand around the handle, and pulled it open. Immediately, she noticed that the hallway was reinforced with a laser security alarm. Of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Gathering her courage, Veifira took her first step outside the room, carefully assessing the layout of the security system. It was clearly built to catch someone larger than her, so she was able to finagle her way through it without setting it off. Although the obstacle proved easier than it looked, it still took almost an hour of her time. That left about one hour left with the cover of night.
In time, Veifira found herself in front of Malabaricus’s room. She took a deep breath, looking up at the tall oak doors. It was finally time to confront the head councilmember.
To be continued…