Once a Thief: Part Four
Elrique was usually brief with his talks to faction members, but the meeting with Carson was running a tad longer than usually. It was why Vaughn snapped to attention immediately as he saw Carson round the corner and into the wing.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"I... saw... Nabile..." Carson murmured in disbelief.
"Ah yes." Vaughn nodded. "She's an honorary member of the faction."
The shadow Wocky tilted his head in amusement. "How did that happen?"
"I may know a lot, but the circumstances of that deal are not familiar to me. But don't mind her, brother. What did Elrique say?"
"Oh yes. I'm part of the group," Carson replied absentmindedly.
"Wonderful." Vaughn grinned, not really expecting a different outcome but relieved that it became official. The tiring training and hard work had finally paid off. "Brother, you have done well. You are set for life."
"All that time that you spent training me was for this. I never would have guessed."
"I would never have been able to provide for our family if I did not work for Elrique. You will be able to provide for your family in the future by working for this faction."
"It's the least I could do."
Carson paused. "What will be my first assignment?"
"Elrique is briefing us tomorrow," Vaughn answered. "It's going to be a good one."
Ingilaug awoke from a light sleep to the sound of the door to her slightly upgraded cell creaking open. Elrique poked his head inside and examined his weary sister.
"I don't even know if it's morning, afternoon, or night!" Ingilaug blurted out.
"It's actually extremely late in the evening. You slept quite a while... still tired from your attempted raid?" Elrique chuckled.
She said nothing.
"I'm checking up on you." His face became deadpan.
"Let me go," Ingilaug hissed and rolled to her side. "I can't take this room anymore. I'm going mad!"
"Not so late into the evening. Now that I know you're up I'll order some dinner to be made for you. Any requests?"
She shrugged. "Whatever is left in the kitchen."
"So be it. I have a surprise for you." Elrique nudged the door open a little more and a Crystacat wobbled into the room.
"What am I supposed to do with that?" Ingilaug muttered as the golden creature plopped down into the corner and licked its paws.
"Make acquaintances with it. Valentina was what the pet store had named her," Elrique shrugged. Of course the truth was Nabile insisted that it looked like a Valentina upon her triumphed return from her first "raid" and demanded her name be kept. "And one more thing, Ingi."
Ingilaug tilted her head. She had not been called by her childhood nickname in quite a long time.
"Yes?" she whispered.
The sense of endearment, something she had not experienced in for a while, took her off guard. She was not prepared as Elrique charged forward, grabbing Ingilaug by the neck and ramming her into the wall. He pushed her up so her feet dangled frantically in the air, and she tried to pry his claws off her throat. But her brother was much stronger than before, and the Kougra could do nothing except gasp for air.
"YOU BROUGHT JESQE INTO THE BUSINESS? JESQE?! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!"
He would have confronted her about Jesqe sooner or later. "She... had... potential..."
"Self-centered, ignorant, pathetic..." Elrique spat. "We agreed to NEVER do that to Jesqe!"
"Things... come... up." Ingilaug tried to say.
"Let me guess... after we parted ways, you went back home for Jesqe? She would have been so young! That explains why I could not find her when I tried... I had been looking everywhere for her so I could bring her to Qasala where she would live a carefree life. I scoured all of Neopia and I couldn't find her. But she was with you the entire time, her life in incredible danger!"
Before Ingilaug could say anything more, Elrique had tightened his grip on Ingilaug's throat and slammed her to the ground. She collapsed in a heap as he slipped out of the room and locked the door shut, still muttering to himself the monumental mistake of Ingilaug. The Crystacat jumped at the loud noise and shivered.
"It's ok..." Ingilaug wheezed and reached out her paw for the Crystacat to sniff it curiously. "It's ok, Valentina."
Elrique entered his enormous bedchamber that was just as spectacular as his office. He sat on the edge of his bed and pushed the bandana off his forehead, hunched over in disbelief. His eyes wandered over to his nightstand. Besides a ship in a bottle there was a golden picture frame with a torn photograph inside. It was a black and white picture of Elrique and Jesqe. Jesqe was just a baby Blumaroo and Elrique was a young Krawk, and they were sitting by a part of Kiko Lake. It was because of Jesqe that Elrique and Ingilaug took up the careers of thieves, to provide for her the life that they never had.
"What has Ingilaug done to you?" he whispered. "You don't deserve a life like that."
Elrique informed for everyone to assemble in his office at six in the evening sharp. An escorted-by-Quincy Ingilaug was the last to join an awaiting Vaughn, Carson and Nabile. They silently acknowledged her presence, unaware of what she was doing with them.
"Today's the big day?" Vaughn smirked at Nabile while Carson remained star struck.
"Elrique finally gave in!" Nabile boasted proudly. "I told Jazan that I was doing a tour around Shenkuu and I would be back eventually."
"Much to my dismay, I believe Nabile is ready." came the voice of Elrique as he stood the entrance to his office.
"Good evening, Elrique," Vaughn remarked. But Elrique did not return the welcome as he cut straight to the chase.
"We're going to rescue a faction."
"Which one of us was caught?" Vaughn was wide-eyed as Elrique sat behind his desk. No one ever fell into the enemies' hands and needed a rescue.
"None of us." Elrique looked at Vaughn and then abruptly turned his focus to Ingilaug. "We're dealing with her crew members."
The Kougra snapped to attention. "Really?"
"You've... never done something like this before," Vaughn added quizzically.
"You're letting her free?" Carson asked. He felt that now he was a faction member he should (and had a right to) speak up.
"I wouldn't call it freedom, really. More like a test of loyalty," Elrique responded, but Carson still was not sold.
"Why do we care about them?"
"Use the term 'them' loosely. We only care about one. And I'll be coming."
"Elrique, we've got a dozen members that can do this petty job. Why are you coming?" Vaughn persisted.
Elrique glared at Ingilaug. "One of them is my sister."
No one said a word.
"You have a sister?" Carson asked while Vaughn became pale. Elrique had in fact talked to him about having two sisters before, but mostly spoke of his former partnership with Ingilaug. Jesqe was rarely mentioned because Elrique would become choked up remembering his baby sister that he had not seen in years. When reprimanding Ingilaug and her faction at Desert Arms, Vaughn had absolutely no idea that the Blumaroo was Jesqe. If Elrique ever found out that Vaughn held a knife to Jesqe's throat, he would surely go ballistic.
"Little Jesqe was a member of this rousing leader's faction," Elrique stated. "And I have not seen her in a long, long time. She has grown up now. And I will see her again."
"You know where she is?" Ingilaug asked, genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of her sister.
"I sent out a scout yesterday who confirmed they were being held at the Defenders of Neopia post outside of Qasala."
"Excellent." Nabile's eyes lit up. "What's the plan?"
"There will be one clerk working the desk and one guard on duty. Prisoners are kept in the basement, and besides a couple that are locked up, Jesqe is staying in a cell. Carson, you will stand guard outside the post. Nabile, you take care of the secretary as Vaughn takes care of the guard. Ingliaug, you will come with me to free Jesqe."
"What about Saraoka and Willa?"
"The two other members of your faction are staying put."
There was no use in arguing, Ingilaug thought bitterly.
"After we have rescued Jesqe, Ingilaug and I will bring her home. The three of you should take the opportunity to stay behind and disable the Defenders of Neopia button. Carson, you can be in charge of that."
"Certainly," Carson mused.
"Vaughn and Nabile will stand guard while you do so. We don't need the clerk or guard or anyone calling for help, so make sure that button cannot be traced by any means. And scour the place for anything worth taking, but be quick about it."
"Wear these and choose your weapons." Elrique gave Ingilaug, Nabile, and Carson the same black cloaks and face scarves that Vaughn had worn at Desert Arms and motioned to the gleaming swords and daggers propped up next to his desk. He turned to Nabile, reaching for something in his jacket. "And Nabile, drink this. Safety precaution."
He popped the cork off of one vial and handed it to the Ixi. In one gulp Nabile drank the contents, placing the vial on the desk and waiting for something to happen. Immediately her flesh twisted, and in a blinding light an Island Xweetok emerged.
"I like this new look." She grinned and inspected her new, bushy tail. "I just don't think Jazan will go for it."
"He won't have to know," Elrique insisted and held out another. "And the second vial, please."
"What does this do?" Nabile squinted at the glittery purple contents.
"If you do happen to get into some trouble, Jazan won't be able to know. It inhibits you from being tracked by his... sorcery."
"Come now, what makes you think I'll mess up?"
"I don't think you will. But again, it's a precaution to protect the faction. I have the reversal for afterwards." Elrique patted his jacket pocket.
Nabile sighed and downed the liquid. "Am I supposed to feel any different?" she asked.
"Not at all," was Elrique's reply as he pulled his hood over his head. "Prepare for our departure at sunset. And Ingilaug... you aren't trusted enough yet to have a weapon."
"Fine." Ingilaug huffed and threw four blades back on his desk.
To be continued...