The Becoming of the Royal Thief:Part Four
Be careful what you wish for.
Half an hour later, Astael and Veifira were called back into the meeting room. There was leftover muttering between the council members, but when the princesses entered, an immediate silence washed across the room. Veifira glanced over to see if her sister was nervous but, even if she was, Astael had a neutral facial expression on. Astael was a politician first, and never let her emotions overtake her.
Malabaricus, the head of the council, cleared his throat and spoke up. “After some deliberation, we as a council have decided…” he paused for effect. Veifira tried not to roll her eyes. “That the work you two have done as the ruling body of the Lost Desert is… passable.”
Just passable? Veifira thought, unable to keep a scowl off her face. Unlike her sister, she wasn’t much of a politician and her emotions always came first. She knew the work she and her sister had done was extraordinary, more than most rulers could get done in a year’s time.
Veifira wanted to give Malabaricus and the rest of the council a piece of her mind, but Astael subtly put a hand on Veifira’s arm, as if to let her know that Astael had it under control. Veifira backed down reluctantly and let her sister speak.
To the council, Astael nodded graciously. “Thank you for your assessment. Veifira and I are delighted and grateful to know our work is recognized. We are disappointed that we only just fulfilled your expectations, but we will strive to exceed them in the following year.”
Saiybella nodded. “We hope to see more progress this year, princesses. Additionally, we believe in increasing communication with the council, with monthly updates and notification if there are any big changes to be made.”
Veifira was furious. Their father had left the kingdom to the princesses, not to a panel of stuck-up councilmen and women. More meetings just meant more voting and confirmation, which would only slow progress down. Astael always had put the citizens of the Lost Desert first, so it wasn’t like she was going pass corrupt legislature. Veifira was about to speak up, but Astael made a motion for her to back down again.
“We can arrange that,” Astael replied sweetly, although the smile on her face was fading. “Is there anything else on the agenda?”
“No,” Malabaricus said, standing up and straightening out his robe. “That will be all.” He bowed quickly, before gesturing to the door. “We will be leaving now, thank you for hosting this meeting, and we will be in contact about the next one.”
“Of course,” Astael said. “Safe travels.”
Astael stepped forward to personally say goodbye to each of the council members as they filed out but Veifira stayed at the head of the table, seething quietly. The council had undermined their work and belittled them for the last time, she thought. Maybe Veifira the princess had to keep up appearances, but Veifira the Dark Thief didn’t follow anyone’s rules.
After a bit, Astael returned to her sister’s side. “That went…” she began.
“Horribly,” Veifira finished for her. “I still can’t believe father thought having a council was a good idea. It’s offensive. You are more than capable to run this kingdom. You have the temperament and intelligence to rule all the kingdoms of Neopia if you wanted to. And he well knew that.”
Astael shrugged. “Maybe, but it is what it is, Vei. We can’t change it, we can only try harder and be better.”
“You’re the best, Astael,” Veifira insisted. “Lost Desert has never seen such a balanced ruler before, you’re equally loving, reasonable, and firm.”
“Thanks, Vei,” Astael said, smiling genuinely for the first time since the meeting began. “If only the council could see it that way. Now, I need to attend to Vatalyn, the Krawk Island noble, if he chose to stay. Would you like to join me?”
Veifira laughed. “No way,” she said. “That meeting was enough politics for me.” But moreover, she was still offended Vatalyn had played her like a fool! He had revealed that he knew her secret side as a thief without revealing anything about himself. “And I have some thinking to do,” Veifira added ominously.
“Okay,” Astael said with a nod. She pulled her sister into a hug. “Thank you for standing next to me, Vei. I know you oppose of all the politics, but it means the world to me to have you with me.”
“Of course,” Veifira replied. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
After a moment, the sisters parted ways. Veifira began to walk toward her bedroom on the opposite side of the castle, lost in thought. What would be the best way to introduce the council to the Dark Thief? The council members needed to learn that they weren’t above everybody else. As of yet, she hadn’t broken into any of their homes, afraid that they would retaliate at Astael if something were to happen to them. But after today’s meetings, all bets were off. Veifira had them as her next victims in mind.
Suddenly, Veifira bumped into someone else. That was strange, since the castle’s servants usually stepped aside when she walked by. She looked up, and was shocked to come face to face with Vatalyn.
“Funny running into you here,” he said casually.
Veifira’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here? My sister is looking for you, the meeting ended.”
“So, it did,” Vatalyn mused. “I’m offended you didn’t agree to go with your sister to meet me.”
“Why should I?” Veifira retorted. “You were entirely disrespectful to me in the Haunted Woods, and you are continuing to be rude by interrupting my personal time right now.”
Vatalyn scoffed. “You think you’re the only one allowed to have a little fun in your life, don’t you? Astael runs the whole place, and you can’t even take a joke.”
“This is a joke to you?” Veifira asked, her blood starting to boil. “This is my life.”
“The joke,” Vatalyn continued. “If you would stop taking everything so personally, was my request. I mean, my request to receive the Ring of the Lost Desert from you.”
“Oh,” Veifira said, calming down slightly, although she was confused now. “So, what was that about, that show in the woods?”
Vatalyn shrugged. “My fun, I suppose.”
Veifira shook her head. “Well, you had it. Is there anything else, or are you going to keep Astael waiting for you all day?”
“Well,” Vatalyn started. “I’m glad you asked. I don’t want the ring, and even if I did, I could easily just take it for myself. But what I am looking for is… a partner. A new thieving partner.”
“Keep your voice down!” Veifira shushed. “You don’t need to share my secret with the entire castle staff.”
Vatalyn chuckled. “Trust me, they’re not around. If they were, I would’ve heard them shuffling around from a mile away.”
“Right…” Veifira said. Of course, Vatalyn had probably honed his own thievery and sneaking skills since birth. He was Krawk Island royalty; he must see her like a lowly apprentice thief, if even that. “Why would someone like you need a partner?” she asked.
Vatalyn shrugged again. “Sometimes it gets too easy, if you can believe it. This life,” he said, gesturing around him. “I’ve conquered nobility, mastered thievery, and now… now, I look for new challenges.”
“And I’m the challenge?” Veifira asked, already knowing the answer.
“I don’t make mistakes,” Vatalyn stated pointedly. “But you, on the other hand…” he trailed off, looking at her for her response. “You make mistakes.”
Veifira knew she wasn’t perfect, but it still hurt to hear it so point-blank. “So, what?” she asked. “What are you getting at?”
“I want to accompany you on your nighttime excursions, and in exchange I’ll keep your secret, princess,” Vatalyn said. “See, my thieving life has gotten, well, boring, to say the least. It’s too easy. But accompanying you will give it new life. You fumble, you’re much too loud, and you can hardly keep your emotions out of anything you do. I’ve seen you avoid looting kinder Sakhmet citizens in favor of the greedier ones. Riches are riches, and you can’t seem to be unbiased towards anything.”
Veifira glared at him. He had been following her at night, judging her from afar, and she had no idea this whole time! “You can say what you want about me, but I haven’t been caught,” she said.
Vatalyn shook his head. “You’ve been caught by me, princess. Don’t think you’re so stealthy, the night patrol guards your sister had instated are amateur at best.”
That was true. The night patrol just consisted of volunteers, who spent more time gossiping between themselves then keeping watch. Veifira snuck by them easily.
“But what you said about my emotions,” Veifira continued. “That holds, whether or not you’re coming with me. I refuse to turn a blind eye to who I’m stealing from. The good citizens stay untouched.”
Vatalyn nodded. “Values, I can respect that. We’ll do it your way, princess.”
Veifira rolled her eyes. “Are you going to drop the princess thing, now that we’re ‘partners?’” She couldn’t help but put “partners” in air quotes. She still found it hard to believe that a master thief like Vatalyn would want to team up with her.
In response, he laughed. “No.”
To be continued…