The Becoming of the Royal Thief:Part Six
All actions have consequences.
With only one more hour of darkness, Veifira had to gather her courage and confront the head councilmember Malabaricus if she hoped to get back to the Lost Desert Castle before sunrise. When she and her twin sister Astael ascended the throne, their late father King Adranika formed a council to watch over them. During his time, they were his most trusted advisors. But after he passed, they betrayed his trust and looked to take political advantage of the younger princesses. They constantly advocated for the equal allocation of resources to both Sakhmet and Qasala, although the latter was much more impoverished, because they themselves lived in Sakhmet and wanted to reap the rewards. In retaliation, Veifira turned into the Dark Thief at night, taking from the excessive wealth of Sakhmet citizens and passing it down to the Neopians of Qasala. And here she was now, dressed in a dark cloak and a scarf that changed her voice (a Brightvale invention and a gift from her new Krawk Island thieving partner, Vatalyn), standing outside of Malabaricus’s sleeping chambers.
Veifira took a deep breath and pushed the door open. “Malabaricus, you know who I am.” Her voice was altered by the scarf over her nose and mouth, and she didn’t sound anything like the princess she was during the day.
The Wraith Pteri scrambled up in his massive, Lost Desert cotton-covered bed. “The… the Dark Thief!” he exclaimed. “But how?”
“Your attempts to secure yourself are laughable at best. You are not above anyone else, councilman,” Veifira growled.
“I’ll summon my guards if you take another step,” Malabaricus threatened, but his voice was shaking.
Veifira scoffed. “There’s no need for that. I’m just here to talk.”
“To talk?” Malabaricus asked. “That is not what you’re known for, thief.”
“Well, maybe I’m turning over a new leaf,” Veifira said, rolling her eyes. Dealing with Malabaricus as the Dark Thief was no more pleasant than meeting him in the day as one of the two Lost Desert princesses. “I’m here to speak for those who have no voice.”
“Meaning?” the councilman asked.
“The citizens of Qasala.”
Malabaricus’s eyes narrowed. “And what of them?”
“Don’t play dumb,” Veifira snarled. “You and your council have worked tirelessly to block any efforts in providing the needed aid to Qasalans. While you flourish here in Sakhmet, living in ease.” She gestured to the room around them, aptly decorated with priceless paintings and ceramics.
Malabaricus stared at her in shock. “You wouldn’t!”
“Wouldn’t what?” Veifira asked, unsure about what he was talking about.
“You wouldn’t dare take my treasures, you know I would never allow you to get away with that!” Malabaricus called out.
What? Veifira thought. Even when confronted with his corruption, Malabaricus continued to care only of his valuables. His greed was overpowering, overshadowing the needs of all the Lost Desert civilians, those he was meant to work for, not against. Unable to help herself, Veifira laughed. “This isn’t about your treasures, councilman. This is about allowing the Lost Desert rulers to work on their own accord, allow them to extend the help Qasala needs without forcing them to match every resource used to Sakhmet as well.”
“The princesses?” the Pteri asked. “They don’t know what they’re doing –”
“Enough!” Veifira shouted, slamming her hands on a table. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m the one in power here, I’m the one who’s going to call the shots. If you have any desire to keep your treasures intact, you will listen to me.”
When Veifira daydreamed about confronting Malabaricus, admittedly she imagined it going a lot smoother. But here, she was allowing her emotions to get to her, which was something the Dark Thief could do without. She then remembered something Vatalyn had told her earlier. Words and knowledge tended to yield more power than brute force, he had said. He also noted that she could do with being a bit subtler. Veifira removed her hands off the table and crossed them instead.
Malabaricus nodded slowly. “What would you have me do?” he asked, finally. There was a hint of poison in his voice. Clearly, he did not enjoy being on the recipient end of demands.
Veifira smiled triumphantly, even though it was hidden under her scarf. “Write to the princesses – tonight. Give them full autonomy, except for the yearly reviews, and allow them to assist Qasala unhindered.”
Malabaricus frowned. “How do you know so much, Dark Thief?”
“I hear everything,” Veifira answered. “Knowledge is power. And I will know if you do not comply.”
“And if I do this,” Malabaricus began, “you can assure me that you will leave me alone?”
Veifira nodded. “Yes. But if you don’t, I can also assure you that there is no place in Neopia you can hide yourself and your valuables from me.”
Malabaricus pursed his lips, clearly shaken. “And what of the other council members?” he asked. “What if they don’t approve?”
“I only meant to speak with you,” Veifira said. “It’s your job to discuss the upcoming changes with them.”
And with that, she moved towards the window in the room, opened it gently, and rushed back out into the night, her dark cloak fluttering behind her. Now, there was just enough time to return to the castle before sunrise if she kept a steady pace. As she left the Sakhmetian residential area, Vatalyn sidled up to her.
“And?” he asked, as he took a bite from a ripe Tchea Fruit.
Veifira pulled the scarf around her face down, as she didn’t need to disguise her voice or face anymore, and looked at him sideways. “You weren’t listening in?”
“I figured you had it under control. And trust between partners, or something like that,” Vatalyn said, waving his hands.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Veifira replied with a laugh. “It went… well enough. I guess we’ll see in the morning.”
Vatalyn shrugged. “Sounds about right.” They were back at the castle now, standing under the window in Veifira’s room. “Get some sleep, I’ll see you in the evening,” Vatalyn said, giving a nod before disappearing into the fading darkness.
“Bye, Vat,” Veifira said, even though he had already made his leave. With that, she climbed up into her room, relieved to see that no one had checked up on her during the night. She yawned, tired, but managed to gather enough energy to get ready for bed, stashing her Dark Thief clothing into a hidden compartment in her wardrobe. Within seconds, Veifira fell asleep in her bed…
It was almost afternoon time when the line in Veifira’s room rang. It could have only been her sister, Astael, since it was a direct line connecting both of their rooms. Veifira was still asleep, exhausted from the night before but, after a few more rings, she woke up. She reached a reluctant hand over to pick up the receiver.
“Hullo?” she mumbled groggily.
Astael was indeed on the other line. “Vei, you won’t believe what I just received by courier – wait, were you sleeping?”
“Um… yes,” Veifira answered. “But uh, anyway, what were you saying?”
“Okay, well, we’ll discuss your sleeping habits later,” Astael said. “For now, Malabaricus’s personal courier delivered a letter a few moments ago. I opened it without waiting for you, assuming it was just more council demands and paperwork, but you won’t believe it! It says, well, to be honest I’d rather have you come and read it for yourself. I’ll be in the main sitting room in fifteen minutes. Please join me, Vei.”
“Of course, Astael,” Veifira replied. “I’ll see you soon.”
After hanging up, Veifira sat up in her bed in slight disbelief. Had Malabaricus really followed through on the Dark Thief’s demands? It was truly a wild thought that Veifira, who had adopted a second life to commit to thievery to appease her thrill-seeking need for adventure, would actually be able to use that side of herself to make real changes in the Lost Desert. Astael was able to assert her kind, fair rule over the desert, but Veifira was more effective under the cover of the Dark Thief, if the letter in fact complied with her requests.
Curious now, Veifira sprung out of bed and rushed to get ready. After freshening up, she pulled on a pair of linen trousers and a loose, long-sleeved top and headed towards the main sitting room.
Astael was already waiting there, her hands folded across her lap patiently. She was dressed in a flowing light blue dress that laced up around her waist, a fitting look for the princess who all of Lost Desert saw as a shining oasis.
“Good morning, Vei,” Astael said sweetly, her clear voice echoing in the hall.
“It’s afternoon for you, and all the other desert folk though,” Veifira responded light-heartedly. “What did the letter say?”
Astael brushed her hand over the table, where the letter was. “See for yourself,” she replied, unable to contain a small smile.
Veifira walked over to the table and picked up the heavy, official parchment paper.
To Princess Astael and Princess Veifira,
Thank you both again for meeting with the council last week. The yearly review we held was informative and eye-opening to myself and the board members. After further deliberation, we have decided to revert some of our requests during that time, including the implementation of monthly reviews and required meetings before you two decide to make any changes. Still, this does not mean we will not be assessing your work at the end of every year, as that was the late King Adranika’s decree and we will continue to honor it. We apologize for our hasty decisions then, but we now realize we share the same intentions, to improve the quality of life for all of the Lost Desert. And with that said, we will no longer require resources given to Qasala to be matched for Sakhmet. We hope you both do the highest level of work with this new autonomy, and we would like you both to know that we are still available as advisors, if you would have us.
Sincerely and on behalf of the whole council,
Head of the Lost Desert Advisory Board
“I’m not sure what came over the council, but I’m just glad it did,” Astael said, when Veifira had finished reading.
Veifira nodded. “Me too,” she said. “So, what do we do now?”
Astael smiled up at her, her ocean-blue eyes sparkling. “Real change.”
To be continued…