In the dark streets of Neopia Central, somewhere between the campfire where tales were told and the coffee shop, a single Kacheek lurked, hiding in the shadows.
Likewise, a Zafara, dagger in hand, darted through the buildings, leaving not a trace that she was there. The night was chilly, but that didn't stop her. She had come here for a reason--and she wasn't going to let anything stop her.
The Kacheek turned around. The first thing she saw was not the Zafara herself, but rather, the shining dagger, gleaming in the meager lighting from the streetlights. She didn't flinch, however.
"Don't tell me you're here for the coffee, now," continued the Zafara Rogue, tauntingly. Brista Lightfeet almost attacked her, but thought better after the Zafara made a show of brandishing her knife around.
"I'm not, Calliope," replied the Kacheek, just as scornfully. "Now what do you want?"
"I suppose you have intention of getting the paintings," countered the Zafara Rogue. "And I might as well add that you shouldn't get used to calling me that. I am known by many different names."
Brista raised an eyebrow. "I will get the paintings, whether you're there to stop me or not, Calliope," she said, emphasizing the Zafara's name.
"I'm not trying to stop you," laughed Calliope. "I have the same aspiration, and I've figured that instead of stopping you, I should be helping you. I mean," she smirked, although Brista was nowhere near convinced, "don't both of us have a similar goal? To get the painting worth millions currently on display at the Art Gallery, the portrait of Roberta, the niece of Hagan and Skarl?"
"We do," said Brista. "But I know better than to work with you. How do I know you won't run away with the painting the second we get out of the gallery?"
"You'll have to trust me here," Calliope replied, her voice clear like windchimes, high and breathy.
I don't, thought Brista, but she said, "I'll take your word for it, but don't forget. I have a few tricks of my own..."
The Zafara Rogue smiled, though her eyes remained cold and calculating.
She won't be able to flee with the painting, thought Brista Lightfeet, if I get away first...
Stupidly, the Art Gallery was unguarded. The glow of light emanated from the interior, but there was no one to stop them from breaking in. The lock Calliope picked easily, with the tip of her dagger, and they were inside.
"This is stupid," muttered Calliope, and secretly, Brista agreed with her, although the Kacheek hushed the Zafara Rogue roughly for fear of being discovered.
"We must be quiet," insisted Brista. "I'm not going to get caught because of you."
It was surprisingly easy to find the portrait of Roberta, which was displayed ostentatiously near the doorway, surrounded by an elaborate gold frame that took away the portrait's splendor. It was completely without protection. There was absolutely no form of security in the art gallery, which made Calliope just the smallest bit suspicious--was this supposed to be some sort of trick? She fingered the dagger at her waist, her eyes darting around the room nervously.
Brista lifted the portrait from its hook with a sense of accomplishment; it was almost as big as she was, but she managed to tuck it under her arm, and upon Calliope's word, they slipped silently out the door.
"Now, where's my half?" Brista demanded, the second they reached the Catacombs. "I helped you steal the painting, now you must give me my dues."
"I never promised you half the profits," said Calliope, raising herself to her full height--which was considerably higher than Brista. "I said you could choose to trust me, but I never told you that I was going to give you half of what we got."
"I trusted you--"
"And that was a mistake. I would have thought better from a master thief like you, Brista, but alas, I was wrong..." said the Zafara Rogue, the hint of sarcasm creeping into her voice. "It seems that you're no better than the simple thieves who snitch rotten shoes from the Money Tree."
Brista glared, disbelievingly; it wasn't that she had expected Calliope to carry through with her end of the deal, but rather that she, Brista Lightfeet, had gotten fooled by the Zafara Rogue.
"Isn't that nice..." Brista muttered, casting her glance around the area and finding that she was trapped against the wall, the portrait still under her arm. "I suppose you're going to dispose of me, now that you've finished with me?"
"And it looks as though you're smarter than I expected," whispered Calliope.
She whipped out her dagger, cleverly concealed at her waist, and pointed it at the Kacheek.
"I'm sorry it had to come to this, Brista, but if I'm going to get out of this unscathed, you can't be here to provide evidence," she hissed.
"Not quite, dear," laughed Brista. "Didn't I tell you that I have a few tricks of my own?"
The Zafara's eyes widened as Brista drew from the folds of her skirts a ruby-encrusted dagger of her own, wincing at the sound it made as it sliced through the perfectly-still air. Things weren't looking good for her, and Calliope had enough experience to know that when things got bad, nothing would do better than to run.
But Brista knew what she was going to do.
"Don't even think about running," she cautioned, taking a few strides towards the Zafara Rogue. "You start running, and you'll be gone," she snapped her fingers, "Just like that."
Calliope knew it was impossible to barter with her.
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Absolutely nothing. I'm already known as a thief, and another portrait won't make much of a difference to how they see me," said Brista.
"Same here. I have nothing to lose, so," the Zafara Rogue, with a flick of her wrist, sent the dagger flying towards Brista, narrowly missing her throat. "The portrait is mine."
Then she realized that without her dagger, she was completely unarmed, while the Kacheek holding the painting still held the ruby-encrusted blade in her hands.
"That was unbelievably stupid," taunted Brista. "Now, step aside, dear. It's my turn to take the spotlight."
The Zafara realized the extent of her actions. She had no means of getting the incorrigibly sneaky Brista to do what she wanted. The only other option was to do as she had been told—to step aside, and let the Kacheek take the spotlight, for once.
“It’s been a pleasure stealing with you, Calliope,” mocked Brista, walking away. “I look forward to working with someone as compliant and submissive as you again.”
Compliant and submissive indeed... Calliope couldn’t help but feel a sense of loathing for Brista Lightfeet, who had turned the tides against her, who was supposed to be her accomplice but had made off with the portrait easily.
She could clearly see the shadow of the said Brista, making her way down the roads of the Catacombs, but somewhere between the campfire and the coffee shop, a figure jumped out from behind a building.
Brista’s shriek was all the compensation the Zafara Rogue ever needed.