Puma yanked me along by my arm, with my feet barely touching the ground. We ran through the courtyards of Novice Order, ducking and dodging to avoid crashing into Lumineers. The Lumineers hardly seemed to care, as if a cougar and a girl running amok in their fort was completely normal.
“Come on and catch up!” Puma yelled in my face, pulling my arm almost out of its socket.
“Should we ask someone where the Shadow Thieves are?” I asked her. She is really hurting my arm and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Puma finally stopped and released my arm. “I suppose we should.” She turned her head to the side, and her eyes lit up. “Hey, let’s ask that girl over there!” she exclaimed.
A few feet away, a girl with brown hair and red eyes was watching a fleet of airships pass by. She wore a waistcoat and a black skirt, and her boots almost came up to her knees. She wore a silk scarf around her neck and a silver hoop earring in her right ear. We approached her, and she smiled at us.
“Hey, you guys must be part of the new group who just came here, with the old captain and the Armada marine?” she asked us.
“That’s correct,” Puma chimed. “I’m Puma Laveer, and this is Alexandria Quinn. We heard there are Shadow Thieves here, is that right?”
The girl gave a sly smile, and then nodded. “I know where they are. Just follow me, and I’ll show you to them.” Something about her smile was hiding secrets, I could obviously tell. What is this girl hiding, and why didn’t she tell us her name?
I kept my thoughts to myself as the girl led us to a small, hidden cabin by the back of the fort. She opened the door and ushered us inside, closing the door behind her.
There was absolutely nothing in the cabin at all except for a set of stairs. We followed her down the stairs into a dark, also very empty room. She lit a candle and set it on a table standing nearby.
“What the heck, I thought you said there’d be Shadow Thieves!” Puma growled, glaring at the girl.
The girl smiled her sly smile again. “Oh, we’re all here, or at least I’m here right now.” With that, she began to transform.
Her skin became a dark purple-black color, and a long tail materialized from a hole in her black skirt. Her head was almost completely spherical shaped, and her ears became slightly long and pointy. Her eyes grew larger and her hair also turned purple-black and shrunk. Finally, her fingers grew sharp claws that were white in color. She opened her eyes (which were still red), and grinned. “My name is Harriet,” she said, “I’m a Shadow Thief privateer.”
I will admit, I was pretty freaked out by the transformation, so I almost forgot my manners. I shook her hand and forced a smile all the while my mind was racing with awe and shock. “N-Nice to…meet you,” I stammered.
Puma was smiling with absolute amazement. “Ok, that was pretty awesome, what you just did,” she breathed.
Harriet grinned again and bowed. “Thank you. I do apologize if it freaked you out a bit, especially you Alex,” she said, looking in my direction. “We have to disguise ourselves as humans so we don’t freak anyone out. Apparently, transforming still scares most people.”
I nodded my head. “If I was being rude, I’m sorry.”
“Oh no, no, no, don’t be sorry!” she assured me. “It’s fine, really.” She looked around her surroundings. “Nigel, Aura, Nikita, where are you guys?”
“Over here!” a voice called. Two boy Shadow Thieves jumped down from somewhere on the ceiling and landed in front of us. The tallest boy wore a musketeer’s hat, a silk scarf around his neck, a vest and shorts, tall boots, and stylish gloves on his hands. He carried two knives in each hand, and his shorts were held up by a black sash belt. A piece of ribbon was tied on his tail.
The second boy was wearing a much simpler outfit. He was wearing a long purple cloak with a hood and carried a staff with a small Blue Sky dragon perched on a crystal orb. He had a striped ribbon tied around his neck to keep the hood from covering his face, and he wore sandals on his feet. A string of pearls was wrapped around the end of his ax-tail. He didn’t say anything except for a grunt, glaring up at Puma and I in boredom.
Harriet looked around. “Where’s Nikita?” she asked.
The tallest boy stretched his arms behind his back. “She went out on a mission of some sort, so she’ll be back.” He turned in my direction and smiled. “Who are these lovely ladies?”
Harriet glared at him. “The cougar is Puma Laveer, and the girl is Alex Quinn. Mind your tone of voice while you’re at it, ok Nigel?”
The tall boy smiled and walked up to me. He took my hand and shook it vigorously. “My name’s Nigel, and it’s a pleasure to meet ya.”
I nodded my head. “Nice to meet you too. Who’s your friend over there?” I asked, looking over at the smaller Shadow Thief boy.
Nigel spun around, staring at the smaller boy. “His name is Aura, and he’s a witchdoctor. I’m a swashbuckler, by the way.”
Aura sniffed and looked up at Puma and I. “Yeah, so my name is Aura and all, big deal. I’m okay being a witchdoctor, but then again, I really don’t care all that much.”
I stared at him sideways. “Do you always frown?” I asked.
He shrugged, which probably meant yes. He just isn’t the chatty type, I suppose.
Puma glanced around her. “So, how old are you all exactly?”
Harriet cleared her throat. “Nigel and I are both 14, and Aura is 12. Nikita’s not here, but she would tell you that she’s 25 years old. She’s my sister, and Nigel and Aura’s cousin. Technically, since Cassandra got all mad and left, Nikita is our guardian.”
“Wait, did you say Cassandra?” I breathed, standing completely still.
“Yeah, why? Is there something wrong about her?” Harriet asked.
“Uh, yes there definitely is,” Puma snarled. “She and a bunch of other rogue Shadow Thieves kidnapped our friend Paolina! We got her back, and she’s here now, safe and sound for now.”
Nigel gulped, acting nervous. “Oh no, then what she said before she left was true. T-This is not good, really not good at all!”
“What did she say?” I questioned him, now worried.
Nigel rubbed the back of his neck, and then sighed. “Cassandra said that she’s going to stop at nothing to find the treasure maps for the Mayor. The Mayor’s name is Newhall, and he wants the treasure of Akhra. He lives in Mylfor Castle, with tons of other Shadow Thieves that keep the castle clean and ok. I heard he’s nice, but something tells me that Cassandra is up to something sinister there, I can feel it.”
I turned to Puma. “We need to tell Serena about this. This is the third place we need to go, after the Abandoned Lighthouse and Ezra Nova.” I spun around to the Shadow Thieves. “Thank you all very much.”
“No worries mate,” Nigel said, tipping his hat. “You should get going, however.”
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