Fine Line: Part Five
Alamor awoke at sunrise and dropped Lasa off at a nearby tent where one of Lasa’s young friends lived, a Lupe named Zakaro. The pet’s father Deftan knew Alamor well, and the camouflage Kougra often left his son in the care of the lanky brown Lupe. The two had once collaborated on a job, back before Lasa had even been born. Despite the fact that the Lupe was a sneaky thief, Alamor knew that they were similar and that Deftan could be trusted.
As the tent city of Hajiro slowly began to wake up, Alamor hurried through the sea of canvas in search of a blood red canopy. His dark brown cloak billowed behind him despite the lack of wind, and he was a fierce sight, jaw set, eyes straight ahead. Neopets moved out of his way as Alamor briskly walked along the sandy road.
At last, he arrived at Yasmyn’s crimson tent, but before he opened the flap Alamor took a moment to compose himself. Dealing with the trader was risky business, but at last he was ready to break away. He just had to make sure that everything would go smoothly.
Alamor pushed his way through the red fabric and into Yasmyn’s shop. The white Ixi was busy cleaning a fragile clay pot that had faded markings painted on it. She sat on the ground with a rag, holding the pot in her lap and stroking it as if it were a child.
She looked up when Alamor walked in. “Hello there,” she said, raising her eyebrows and giving Alamor a coy smile. “Is tonight the night?”
“For me, yes,” said Alamor, walking over to the Ixi. Yasmyn put the pot down and brushed some dirt off of her violet silk clothing. “For you, no.”
Yasmyn stood up, turning her head to stare at Alamor curiously. “And what,” she said quietly, “is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not stealing the Bust of Nefertissi for you,” said Alamor. The camouflage Kougra folded his arms. “Our partnership is over.”
“Alamor,” said Yasmyn softly. She walked over, reaching forward to stroke her hoof over the Kougra’s shoulder and up his chin, “Alamor, what are you trying to do? You can trust no one as much as me.”
“Be that as it may,” said Alamor, knowing that nothing was further from the truth, “I have decided that I’m not going to go through with this. My days as your petty thief are over.”
Yasmyn pulled one hoof up to her face, her eyes sparkling. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said, a hint of amusement in her voice. “You really think you’re turning a new leaf.”
Alamor hesitated, but he could not think of anything more to say. He turned away from the white Ixi, taking a step toward the tent flap.
“Don’t be a fool,” said Yasmyn coldly. Her normally soft voice was clear and strong. Her hoof fell from her face and she stared at Alamor as he turned to face her. “You know who you are, Alamor.”
The Kougra hesitated. “I don’t,” he said quietly. He shook his head, backing away from the Ixi. “I don’t know who I am. I only know that... that I don’t want to be who I used to be.”
“Alamor,” said Yasmyn, the soft tone creeping into her voice once again. “Listen to yourself. You’re talking nonsense. Look what we’ve done together. You have a skill, Alamor, a talent.” She began walking toward him again, slowly. “You and I, we’ve done well, haven’t we? Haven’t we, Alamor?” The Kougra stood still, looking into Yasmyn’s eyes as she approached. She moved hesitantly, at times reaching toward him with a hoof only to bring it back, but her gaze never dropped. “I’ve been good to you, Alamor,” she said. “Look at Lasa. Would he be fed and cared for, if you ran off to who knows where? What are you trying to do, Alamor?” She was close to him now; he could smell her faint perfume. “Think of Lasa,” she whispered, looking up into his eyes. “Think of me.” Yasmyn dropped her gaze for a moment. Her eyelids flitted as her eyes darted up again. “Think of what’s best for you.”
“What’s best for me,” said Alamor slowly, not moving, “and for Lasa, is to leave this tent and never come back.”
Alamor backed away from the white Ixi, who did not move, still standing and leaning forward ever so slightly. He reached for the crimson tent flap.
Yasmyn’s tense body relaxed, and she lowered her head, staring out at him with dark eyes. “You can’t escape who you are,” said the Ixi, and Alamor pushed through the canvas and stepped outside into the midday sun.
It wasn’t any hotter than usual, but Alamor was sweating as he paused for a moment outside the blood red tent. His dark brown cloak hung limply about his shoulders, which sagged as the Kougra breathed heavily, attempting to gain control over his worried thoughts.
You can’t escape who you are. But who was he? Alamor knew that he was a thief, but he was also a father, a friend... Wasn’t he? Weren’t those things far more important? Didn’t those define him much more than his actions ever could?
But Alamor was unsure. Having sufficiently caught his breath, the camouflage Kougra began walking through the sandy streets of Hajiro, the tent city, den of thieves. With the dome of the palace in Sakhmet glistening in the hot sun, and the Gebmids looming in the distance, Alamor kept his eyes at his feet, which pounded away at the dust in rhythm with his swiftly beating heart.
Who was he? Iris had called him her prince, her dear thief. She had known who he was, she had accepted him. Brief mental images entered and left Alamor’s mind like soldiers marching in single file: Iris, Lasa, Jufra, Rahad Septerville, the bust of Nefertissi, staring at him with those cold, knowing eyes. Those stone eyes, with their royal presence; their regal gaze never seemed to leave Alamor’s thoughts, lurking in the shadows of his consciousness as the bust lay hidden away in the ancient queen’s tomb.
Who was he? What was he doing? The Kougra was planning to steal a priceless artifact and sell it to a greedy Tuskaninny. The thought of it made him sick, and yet it was far from the first time. He had stolen before, more times than he could count. Why should this time be different? Alamor didn’t know why, but he had lost the magic touch, the confidence and power which had always filled him before going on a job. He was losing it, he was losing himself... What was he losing? Alamor’s mind continued to reel. Which self was he losing, anyway? The one that was a thief, a sneak? Perhaps it would be better to let that self go, and take the good self, and Lasa, and just leave.
But he couldn’t leave. There was work to be done. It would be more difficult this time, but it would be done. Alamor knew this. Uva had predicted it. Yes, the Kau fortune teller had promised that he would succeed in his mission. It would be done.
Of course, and the thought crept into Alamor’s mind like a serpent sliding through the sand, Uva had made another prediction. She had said that there would be a price, and as Alamor finally arrived at his white tent he worried that the price would be just a bit too much.
Deftan, Alamor’s brown Lupe friend who watched Lasa while his father was away, lived in a tent just a few down from Alamor. Once the camouflage Kougra found himself in front of the white canvas of his home, he could see nearby the burly Lupe and his son, Zakaro, who was playing with Lasa.
The little white Kougra was prowling along the ground, crouched low as if he were hunting. Zakaro sat watching, the small Lupe suppressing giggles with a paw clamped over his mouth. Deftan was sitting on a stool, whittling a staff with his back turned to the two young ones. Alamor hesitated in front of his tent, watching.
Lasa was right behind the stool, waiting and watching as Deftan carved away. After a few moments, the Lupe stopped and put down his knife, brushing some of the wood shavings away with his hand.
The white Kougra swiftly reached out and grabbed the knife from behind, much to Zakaro’s delight, and pranced away with it, bumping right into his father, who had approached.
“Oh!” cried Lasa, falling back into a sitting position in the sand as Deftan turned around. “Hi Dad.”
“Well, look at that!” said Deftan with a hearty laugh. “The little guy nabbed the knife right out of my hand, he did. He’s a crafty one, eh Alamor?”
Zakaro was giggling, Deftan was grinning, Lasa ventured a proud smile, and Alamor felt like he was going to sway off balance. His senses swam, Lasa holding the sharp knife aloft with a smile, the two Lupes chuckling in the background, and Alamor standing over his son feeling like his head was lost in a cloud.
Alamor blinked. “I don’t want you playing with knives,” he said, taking the blade out of Lasa’s hand. He gave it to Deftan. “You need to watch him,” he said.
“I will from now on,” said Deftan, giving Lasa a pat on the back. “Next time he’ll be off with my good staff, I’ll wager. A chip off the old block, right Alamor?”
The camouflage Kougra wondered if he was going to faint. He had never felt like this before. He needed to get himself under control.
“Yeah,” he said vaguely, feeling the eyes of all three Neopets boring into him. He swallowed. “I’m... going into town...”
“I know,” said Deftan. “You told me when you dropped off Lasa. What are you doing back here?”
Alamor paused. “I thought I’d just say bye before I leave,” he ventured, feeling the heat of the sun produce sweat on his neck. “I won’t be back until late. Lasa might have to sleep in your tent, if that’s all right.”
“No problem,” said Deftan. “You told me that already, too.” The brown Lupe peered at Alamor. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine,” said Alamor. The words seemed to be spoken from somewhere far away. He needed to bring himself back... He needed to get a grip. “I’ll be back tonight,” he said, taking a few steps away from the three curious Neopets. “I... I’ll be back late.”
“Bye Dad,” said Lasa, turning back to Zakaro. Alamor was relieved that his son had not noticed his sudden change.
Alamor turned around and began heading through the sandy streets of Hajiro. Instead of making for the Gebmids, however, he headed for the open sands, where a midnight blue tent could be seen far off in the distance.
Alamor needed to get himself back under control. He needed a glimpse into the future. He needed to know that everything was going to be all right, because right now, everything was uncertain.
The line was blurred, and Alamor had no way of knowing if he had strayed too far. He needed someone with insight, someone who could bring things into clearer focus. Alamor needed to be able to see.
Otherwise, he feared that he would fall.
To be continued...