A New Job
“Tomns! Buck up, girl, or we’ll never make it back to Brightvale by nightfall!”
Rolling her eyes, Tomns picked up the pace, half jogging to keep up with the merchant wagon she was meant to be guarding. It had seemed like a simple enough job when she had signed up; she would get to sit in some poncy merchant’s wagon and if on the very unlikely chance it was attacked, she would wave her sword at the idiot who thought they’d nick something valuable from a wagon with “Shiny Trinkets. They’re really cool... Honest!” painted haphazardly on the side.
Unfortunately for the Usul, Mr. Briggs the Techo who owned the wagon had filled it with so many ‘valuable’ items that there was no room left for Tomns. So she was forced to go on foot, practically sprinting after the wagon as it jerked merrily down the path, swaying dangerously as its wooden wheels dipped into the occasional pothole.
“One thousand neopoints... One thousand neopoints!” Tomns muttered between pants. She needed those points. Every year her village hosted a sword fighting tournament, with honor and glory promised to the winner. Every year she watched with bright eyes as the finest warriors from around Neopia flocked to the tournament and fought in the dust. Every year she longed to enter, and every year she’d been too young, until now. But she still needed to earn the last neopoints for her entry fee.
“Nearly there now, lass,” chuckled Briggs as he eyed the panting Usul from his plush seat at the back of the wagon. “Reckon we’re only half an hour away! And a good thing too; I’m getting mighty tired!” Suppressing the urge to glare at the lounging Techo, Tomns simply nodded. Sadly for her, in the second she looked down, the wagon jerked to an abrupt stop and she ran straight into the hard wood, falling to the ground with a soft thud.
“Oww...” she whined, rubbing her tender rump with a paw, “that hurt!” Then in a louder voice she asked, “Why have we stopped?”
But instead of the overly cheerful Briggs’s voice replying, there was a loud war cry and she found her eyes widening in shock. They were under attack! Instantly forgetting the pain in her backside, Tomns jumped to her feet, pulling her heavy wooden sword from the sheath tied around her waist. Ignoring Mr. Briggs’s panicked mutterings, she ran to the front of the wagon, brandishing her sword before her.
Racing down the road towards them was a cloaked figure. In his hands, he wielded an axe that shone brightly in the sunlight. With an angry yell, he drew back his arm and brought the axe violently across the front of the wagon, sending a shower of splinters high into the air.
“Briggs! You wretched thief! Give it back, give me my sword!” The cloaked figure raised his axe again but Tomns quickly stepped in front of him, parrying the blow with her own sword. Sparks flashed through the air as the two weapons collided and Tomns was forced to stagger backwards as the combined weight of her own weapon and her attacker’s made her arms tremble. “Get out of my way, girl!” snarled the mysterious attacker as he swung his axe towards her stomach. Tomns danced backwards and out of his reach, just managing to dodge the deadly weapon.
“Make me.” She smirked. The cloaked figure growled in annoyance as she jabbed him with her sword, testing his defenses. “Now clear off! There’s nothing for you here.” As she spoke, she swung her sword up, to strike her opponent. He dodged, but the tip of her blade snagged in a fold of his cloak, ripping it to reveal the face of an angry looking Usul.
“There’s nothing for me here?” He snorted disbelievingly as they traded blows. “Come now, minion, even you aren’t foolish enough to think you can trick me.”
“Who are you calling minion?” Tomns spat, disregarding the rest of the Usul’s words as she increased the pace of her strikes.
The Usul raised one eyebrow. “I believe it was you I called a minion, minion.” As he spoke, he shoved Tomns roughly to the ground, drove the handle of his axe into the front axle of the wagon and shoved. The wagon gave a loud groan of protest as it was upended, the well placed lever toppling it in one swift motion. Mr. Briggs let out a yelp of surprise as he was tipped from the comfy seat from where he had been watching the fight and landed in front of the mysterious Usul. He cowered and scuttled around to the far side of the wagon. The Usul let him go. He appeared far more interested in the numerous objects that had slid from the wagon's interior in the rough fall and now littered the road.
Tomns groaned, shaking stars from her eyes. The shove had momentarily stunned her and she had been pelted with bits of debris and junk from the toppled wagon. The world around her stopped spinning just in time for her to see the other Usul pick up a long, rectangular box. It was made from polished wood and looked much more expensive than any of the other trinkets. With a cry of triumph, the other Usul flipped open the latches and pulled the lid back, exposing a gleaming silver sword. He pulled it free from its velvet lining and without a backwards glance at the chaos he had caused, he left.
“What are you waiting for?” roared Mr. Briggs, emerging from his hiding place to shout at Tomns. “Do your job and catch the thief. I want that sword back!”
Nodding her head dazedly, Tomns sprinted after the disappearing figure, trying to ignore the annoyance she felt towards her employer.
“Come back!” she yelled, waving her sword threateningly. But it was no good, the other Usul ignored her completely, sprinting ahead and away from the path and into the dense trees that surrounded it. “More running,” Tomns growled under her breath as she followed, “this wasn’t in the job description!” Promising to get in better shape, Tomns gritted her teeth and sped fourth. The extra burst of speed was enough to allow her to catch up to the thief as both Usuls raced into a clearing.
Tomns leapt, catching the thief around the knees in a tackle that sent them both sprawling to the ground.
“What are you doing? Get off me!” the thief snarled, trying to free himself from under her weight, but she clung on and fastened her hands around his waist.
“Not until you return that sword!” she hissed as she reached around to take it from him, her paws scrabbling across his front.
“S-stop that,” he cried, swiping at her as he tried desperately to dislodge her. “T-that tickles!” His flailing paws failed to dislodge her; instead they succeeded in making him lose balance and once again both Usuls fell to the floor in a bundle of limbs and weapons. Tomns watched as the stolen sword flipped through the air in a graceful arc, landing at the base of a thick oak tree. She scrabbled to her feet, ignoring the other Usul’s cry of protest as she accidentally kicked him in the stomach in her haste to reach the sword.
Clasping it tightly in one paw and her own sword in the other, she whirled to face the thief who had managed to get to his feet. They stared at each other across the clearing, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Slowly the strange Usul edged closer and Tomns tightened her grip on both weapons. His axe was still fastened tightly to his side and she was unsure what he was doing. Surely he wasn’t going to attack her with no weapon. The Usul kept on edging closer, much to Tomns’ confusion and she decided to make a break for it and get back to Mr. Briggs. Suddenly, the strange Usul lunged. Silver flashed in front of Tomns’ eyes and she raised one paw to protect herself from whatever weapon the strange Usul had produced. She felt something cold attach itself around her paws.
“You’re under arrest.”
Tomns’ eyes bugged wide open and she stared in the shock at the pair of handcuffs that bound her paws together. “I’m what?” she shouted in outrage. “For what?”
“For the theft of the Prince’s sword,” replied the stranger shortly. As he spoke, he removed said weapon from her outstretched paw along with her own weapon.
“Excuse me?” Tomns was flabbergasted. “You’re the one who stole the sword in the first place!” she screeched.
The other Usul gave her a strange look. “I was recovering the sword on the Prince’s behalf.”
“A likely story,” snorted Tomns. “You didn’t even bother to introduce yourself! You just attacked, and frightened an innocent old man half to death, and you almost made me break my tail!” She was breathing heavily by the end of her rant. To her disgust, the strange Usul merely laughed, prodding her and indicating she should walk ahead of him.
“If you wanted a name so badly all you had to do was ask.” He grinned. “The name’s Jim.”
“Well, Jim,” spat Tomns, trying to inject as much venom into her voice as possible. “As much fun as this has all been, why don’t you give me back the sword and take these ‘cuffs off. If you do it nice and quick, I might even be able to persuade Briggs not to press charges.”
Jim frowned. “You don’t get it, do you?” he said slowly as he forced Tomns to take a few more steps forward. “You’re under arrest for theft, peasant.” He dragged her forwards by the handcuffs, forcing her to pick up the pace as they made their way through the trees.
“You’re not kidding?” asked Tomns slowly, trying to make sense of this strange turn of events. Then her brain fully processed his sentence. “And who are you calling peasant?”
“I thought that was obvious,” said Jim with a smirk. “I was calling you peasant, peasant,” and then he burst of into a peal of laughter.
Tomns suppressed the urge to groan. She wasn’t sure which was worse: the fact that she seemed to have been arrested, or the fact she had been arrested by this moron.