Secrat reached into his leggings. Cigarettes were almost always on him. He used them so little. Copé threw one of them onto Ess' lap, for which Brutus responded with a grateful nod. Leaping up to his feet, Brutus leaned forward toward the brewing flame, lit it, and then flopped back down against the tree trunk. "I mean, there will be a lot of people around and that makes it easier to blend in, but that also means more eyes on us."
"If we don't do anything foolish then it'll be fine," Samuel answered. "Most of us know exactly what we're doing, and the ones that don't will be watched over. This heist isn't about just plucking everything we see. We're after what's worth most, not the quantity or bulk of items stolen."
"Who will I be watched over by?" The round-faced boy inquired.
Brutus chuckled at the thief's lack of self-confidence.
"You have the least experience. Lewis might very well be on the brink to becoming an Elite, and Secrat was almost one before his dismissal." Samuel explained. "And I hope this keeps my next statement from sounding too much like an insult, but I won't be having you assist any of us in the heist. Your contribution will be to watch over the wagon as the others scavenge amongst the Aer Festival. That's an important job," Samuel's face got serious, but Secrat heard another chuckle from Brutus.
Samuel's expression broke a subtle moment, but he regained himself at once, "All the items stolen from the Aer Festival will be in that wagon, which means if anybody finds the wagon or anything else, our entire expedition will accomplish nothing. I would even venture to say you have the most important job of us all."
Secrat saw Brutus bite his lip in an attempt not to laugh, and Secrat couldn't help but smirk as well. The wagon would be far enough away to keep any of the guests of Italina from stumbling upon it, and even if they did, it'd be covered with a tarp and would look like an ordinary wagon.
"Can you handle this responsibility, Taison?" Samuel asked. Secrat made a mental note of his name.
The round-face thief's expression looked confused and stupid. Secrat couldn't tell whether or not he was bothered and frustration, or if he didn't understand the words said. The chubby boy smiled with a big grin. "I will, if nobody else wants to take on the responsibility," he said.
Bastard, Secrat thought. Nobody was that stupid.
Once Secrat finished his fish, he felt filthy and disgusting, like he wanted to jump into the creek like Brutus had done earlier. But, of course, the leaches kept him from actually acting on his intentions. Instead, after scraping the gunk out of his teeth with his finger nail, he walked down to the creek and dipped his clothes into the water. All except for his under-leggings.
After that, he rung them out, making for certain there were no bugs or insects embedded on them. It made him feel better. He hung them up over a tree branch, well near where the fire still brewed. It would have to be put out sooner or later, but hopefully it'd still help his clothes dry in the night.
Secrat left his clothes and begun his search for somewhere to sleep. Brutus had already fallen out of consciousness against the hollow tree trunk. He snored and carried all the grace of a dying elephant as he slept.
Looking at the fire, Secrat flinched at the sound of rustling leaves behind him and turned to see Lukas Lewis staring back at him.
Lukas' face didn't demonstrate anger or frustration, but it wasn't forgiveness or anything painstakingly obvious. Secrat didn't know what it was. "I have been talking to Samuel," Lukas said, speaking soft. Secrat feigned a face of interest. "He tells me I have to accept the situation as is. That pouting won't change things, and in the grand scheme, I know it isn't a big deal,
He glared at Secrat with a tough-guy disposition, but relented, feeling, for once, at ease: "People die, and The Red Flux has been the cause of many. Toucan Veras makes himself out to be a man of peace, all while lugging his giant sword around with him. We call ourselves thieves, but we're also killers, and at times, I feel I might as well be a Carver."
Secrat's expression changed, sudden surprise, he responded, "We aren't Carvers, Lukas. Toucan doesn't go around chopping people in twos and threes, and we don't torture for the thrill of it all. Don't EVER compare us to them. Don't ever compare ME to them. I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me like them."
Lukas smiled. "I don't think you're like the Carvers, Secrat," he said plainly. "But I don't think you're good either, and I will never be able to trust you again. Because, when you killed Elson, I saw a side to you I had never seen before. A side that was mirthless and didn't care. It's for those reasons, above all else, I don't want you to be in The Red Flux."
Lukas' comment irked Secrat some, and he knew it was visually apparent, but he didn't want Lewis to have the small victory, "I am sorry to inform you of this, but I won't be leaving anytime soon."
"But I'll see to it that you're always a nobody here," Lukas Lewis fired back fast. "Veras told me the only way you'll ever be made an Elite is if I offer forgiveness. And unless he goes back on that, that means you'll never be an Elite."
Lukas Lewis' words sounded less and less like that of anger or bitterness, and more and more like somebody who realized he had full control of the situation. Secrat didn't like that.
But Secrat only smiled. "I am sorry you see it that way. I hope I'll one day be able to have your forgiveness."
The sound of crackling sticks roared in the raging fire. It almost had a rhythm to it. Or at least, Secrat took a liking to it. His legs out-stretched as he sat down on the grass, feeling the warmth of the fire in-front of him. Dark outside now. The night-air vanquished by the blaze, the blackness and smoke traveling up with the stars. All of it was very necessary to him. A sanctum for his wearied bones.
He gnashed his teeth into the side of the cooked fish.
Brutus Ess was a skilled fisherman.
A crunching sound happened with every bite he made. Perhaps it had been in the fire for too long. But Secrat didn't mind. It was a different kind of taste to what he had become accustom to. Fish wasn't something he had eaten many times before.
"I don't see why none of you joined me in the creek, would've been able to catch your own fish. Been a nice bonding moment for all of us!" Brutus spoke with such unsteady enthusiasm that Secrat hardly recognized him.
Brutus took a swig out of his flask. Not as nice as the one Secrat had. Ess' flask had a brown and fuzzy-looking fabric wrapped around it. The flask was likely hand-made by Brutus.
"The leeches you'll discover on your more sensitive areas might help you figure out why no one wanted to bond with you," Samuel commented dryly.
Samuel wasn't wrong about the leeches either, when Brutus arose out of the water, his legs were covered in them, and because his leg hair, he was still finding more as the night progressed.
Brutus scratched at his leggings, now dressed, the fire long-since dried his body. "Toucan's sense of time and distance don't seem to be what they used to be." Brutus let out. "We wasted a whole day doing absolute nonsense and will still arrive at Italina with time to spare."
"I don't have a problem with it," the round-faced thief exclaimed. "I am only happy it has gotten me a day off from cleaning the horses." A obnoxious laugh followed that sealed the chubby fellow as a new target for insult. "He wanted us to establish a rapport before we actually made it Italina. He wanted for this added day to make everybody a little bit more comfortable with each other and help us all function together coherently." Samuel answered back
"But, we're all comfortable with each," the chubby thief stopped. He threw a glance over to Secrat and then to Lukas, figuring it out for himself.
A laugh from Brutus Ess followed. His body was leaned back against a hollowed tree trunk covered in dirt and moss. This left nothing about his heavy protruding stomach to the imagination. Some might have been insecure about such a figure. Maybe have felt the need to hide it. Brutus wasn't like that. He wasn't ashamed of anything about himself, and he let his gut hang out to show it. "That's right, Father Toucan doesn't want Lukey Luke or Secrat over there," motioned at both as he spoke, "Ripping into each other. He 'specially doesn't want it happened in somewhere as crowded as the Aer Festival. But I don't think we got nothing to worry about, you ain't going to kill each other, are you boys?" Brutus asked, looking forward over at Secrat, who was now feeling uncomfortable.
Copé gave a polite smile as distraction. Distraction so he had time to find a team-building response that would benefit him more than work to his detriment. "There are no ill feelings for me to Lukas Lewis. He did nothing wrong and I can only hope his anger for me subsides in time." Secrat replied. The words felt awkward as they came out of his lips. No inflection in them, and no emotion. Like he was reading a bit of dialogue out from a storybook, but nobody seemed to catch onto his phoniness.
Brutus chuckled aloud some more, laughing at a joke that nobody but him seemed to be let in on. "That's right," Brutus said, both his hands resting on his belly.
Secrat found himself with an odd mental-visual of Brutus playing the drums with his stomach. Brutus looked through the fire at Lewis, "And what about you?"
Secrat threw his eyes over to Lukas also. The fire was in-front of him, making a slight discoloration on Lukas as well as brought him into the light.
Lewis looked like a demon, but Secrat knew Lukas wasn't a demon, and knew that Lukas looked through the flames at Secrat and saw the same thing. Secrat wasn't completely sure that he, himself, wasn't one of the devil's men.
Lukas Lewis looked at them with cold-eyes and replied, "I'm not the one that kills people."
Nobody said anything for a moment. Leave it to Lukas to end a wonderful night on such a somber note, Secrat thought, but didn't say aloud. After all, that wouldn't have been very team-building.
Brutus Ess was the one to break the silence, as Secrat was certain everybody expected. "I don't 'spose any of you has any smokes," blurted out, coming off a little sadder sounding than usual, perhaps out of empty. "I think I dropped all mine somewhere near the creek."
It was empathy that made Brutus sad, but inconvenience. He dug his finger-nails into his teeth, scraping the pieces of fish out the gaps between them. Brutus had already finished two of the fish he had caught, whereas Secrat was still chomping at the bits with one of them and thought it unlikely for him to be able to finish it.
"Do you think it'll be difficult stealing at the Aer Festival," the round-faced thief asked. Like Brutus, he had already dug into two fish by himself, while everyone else was finishing their first.
"What exactly are you doing?" Secrat asked. He looked away from Brutus with discomfort. Even more than his grotesque physique, it was Brutus' body hair that was most jarring and despicable. With no patches of skin visible on his stomach and legs.
Brutus was kind enough to leave on his black undergarments. Brutus flashed a smirk that struck The Thief as more terrifying than suave or good humored. "Going swimming," Brutus replied.
"Uh-huh, I wish you the best of luck with that," Secrat said.
Brutus didn't seem to fathom the sarcasm in Secrat's voice, which was likely for the best. Instead, he backed away from the creek a short moment before running forward to make a leap.
Splash! Brutus' body flopped down into the water like how a large boulder would. A ca-plunk sound followed, and a wave of water rushed out from the creek. Secrat hadn't even thought to back away, and his attire was soaked because of it.
The water was cold. Shaded by the leaves and the trees but was easy for Secrat to attune himself to. Copé still shivered at first, however.
Brutus stayed underwater for a couple of seconds. The top of his head poking up out of the water. His long grayish hair revealed a large bald-spot now that it was wet.
Copé crawled back from the creek while Brutus splashed around like a crazed baboon.
Secrat heard footsteps behind him; Samuel Syi's, and behind him was Lukas Lewis. Samuel laughed, taking in the sight.
Lewis looked at the whole spectacle with nothing short of apathy. In-fact, Lukas didn't even pay attention to it. As if it was too close in vicinity of Secrat to take the risk.
Secrat, on the other-hand, looked down at the creek, feeling like a child watching his father embarrass him. His Father, however, would never stoop to such a level.
"Do I even want to ask what he is doing?" Samuel asked. Unable to hide his chuckling amusement.
Brutus paddled himself near the edge of the creek, bringing his head out from under the water and resting his forearms on land. His drenched hair looked almost comical and his smirk only added to that. "I figure we have time to kill," he said.
Samuel nodded back at him, "And I suppose this is one way to do it." Syi walked forward and sat down a little further out than Secrat, his feet dangled off the edge of the creek and into the water.
Lukas Lewis, on the other-hand, remained standing, uncomfortably crossing one of his arms while the other rested at his waist.
Samuel seemed to notice Lukas' discomfort as he turned and faced him for an instant, "I don't suppose a swim would cool off the hot-bloodedness you've got going, am I wrong?" Samuel asked.
Lewis' face reddened, but as much as he might have wanted to bite Samuel's head off and spit it somewhere, he didn't.
Samuel watched over in quiet amusement until Ess brought the attention all back on him. The unsettled splashing and rustling of his body beneath the water, but as the large man leaped his torso out into the open, he let something out of his hands and onto Samuel's lap.
Syi reacted about as any of them would. He flinched, but once he realized what it was, he couldn't help but be impressed.
The buffoon Brutus had gone ahead and caught himself a fish. The fish was large and flopped across Samuel's lap, trying to make it back to the creek, but Samuel kept it from happening.
Marc Sero was a capable fighter, however, and was known for often boasting during combat. That was where he felt most comfortable.
The other thief was somebody Secrat had seen around before but never figured out the name of. A round-faced boy with a small, but protruding stomach. Brutus Ess' gut was from alcohol, but this boy looked like he simply let gluttony get the better of him. A boy. That was the best way to describe him.
Brown hair was even and tidy at the front. A small stubble of facial hair at the bottom of his chin.
Secrat Copé climbed out of the wagon and dropped off to the ground. The green grass under his feet. The sky was without denigration from the clouds, yet the smell of damp-grass washed ashore Secrat's nostrils. Morning dew had a magical existent more curious than all the Aeonians combined.
The Thief stretched his legs; they ached. He hadn't been on his feet very long, but the hurt would leave him soon.
He was uncertain of their location. Somewhere between Acera and Italina obviously, but with the time they had to kill, he wondered if Samuel might have taken a detour at the reins.
The soil beneath some of the grass was as dark as charcoal. That implied they were nearer to Acera and perhaps even Urgway than they were Italina. Agriculture was a necessity to Acera and was all that Urgway had to offer except for a faster route to Jalint. Once they neared Italina, they'd see the soil become brighter and fainter at the blink of an eye. In Italina, there was essentially no means for fertilization.
Copé could see Lukas Lewis leaned against one of the trees not too far off, speaking to Samuel Syi.
Besides the wet-grass, The Thief could also smell something very distinctive in the air. Beyond the smell of the leaves and the dirt, the freshness of it all, he could also smell the saltiness of the Amisoic Seas. The Seas wrapped around all Maharris, and in some areas, the Seas extended to small creeks and lakes throughout the Unprotected Wilderness. Secrat followed the smell. His legs marched through bushes and twigs, crackling some of them and sweeping through others. He could hear the loud hissing noises from beetles somewhere on a nearby tree. That, and the crickets roaming around.
Copé stopped as he met a creek. The water was a slight greenish tint and rocks led a path as the creek became deeper and deeper. Enough to submerge his body to his waist, the creek went on for as far as his eyes could see and the width from his side to the next exceeded ten feet. Secrat dropped down to his knees near the rocks and held one of the stones in his hands. The weight of it.
He chucked it into the creek and watched it skip and make a splash.
The sound of thick footsteps came behind him, but he didn't turn around to see who it was. Brutus Ess walked with such oomph that it was easy to distinguish him from everybody else. Unless, it was a bear. Secrat hoped it wasn't a bear.
"It wasn't exactly true what I said back there," Brutus said. His voice sounded more serious than usual.
"About what part?" Secrat asked, throwing his eyes over to Ess.
Copé fidgeted with a stone in his hands. Rested it in his palms. Wrapped his fingers around it.
"I have never seen Veras angrier than the night he found out what you'd done."
Brutus walked nearer to Secrat. His haggard body moved damn-near like a snail, but Copé didn't pay it much mind in this moment. Soon, Ess dropped down on his bottom beside Secrat, without grace, he landed, sending several rocks tumbling down off from the creek's edge and into the water.
"It was a mistake."
"Nobody's doubting that, not even Veras. But the whole thing burrowed into his skin, like a worm festering through the dirt. You see, that's a man with thick skin. Thick as it comes. But the simple thought you could betray him or this troupe, even by mistake, was enough to send him over the edge."
Secrat said nothing. He looked down at the stone in his hands like a nervous child being lectured by an adult.
"Veras sees something special in you. He has a long time, but to see you fail like that, that's something I didn't think he'd be able to move past."
"I never asked to be held to a higher stan..."
"But it's that high standard that saved your ass, boy!" Brutus quipped.
"That higher standard does nothing but good. Tell me, what would happen if, in some made up world, Lukas Lewis would've done been in your situation? If he'd killed Elson instead of you? If you'd been traumatized by it? Think Old Daddy Toucan would've let him come back?" Brutus Ess' voice didn't change throughout. His voice was unsteadily loud but not because anger but because inebriation.
"Toucan Veras," Secrat began, but then stopped, "Father would have made certain to have Lukas' severed head on a pike."
"That's right," Brutus agreed.
Secrat looked down at the stone in his hands. The weight of it. A lot to bear. And like last time, he would chuck it out and into the creek.
"I can be everything Toucan wants me to be," Secrat said, a smirk forming on his face at the thought of it. Humility didn't last him very long, and frankly, he figured everybody else knew it to be true. His eyes went off the creek and over to Brutus, who smiled at him with amusement.
After a snort, Brutus exclaimed: "You and Veras might not be blood, but you're his son, that's for certain."
Secrat's eyes went back to the creek, but he flinched when he heard the sound of Brutus rising up to his feet. Copé watched him a moment, as Brutus stripped out of his leggings. It wasn't a very attractive sight, because, as described, Brutus was far from physically fit. His legs like tree-trunks and his stomach round like a barrel. Brutus' body was covered in hair. It was a bear behind him after all, Secrat thought to himself.
Traveling light wasn't an issue for Secrat Copé. All he had to his name was his flask and a few knives. Not even the special-knives Father Toucan Veras had made him. Instead, they were sharpened stones with vine around the bottom to make a hilt. Everybody else was also able to make do with little. Everything they had could be carried on their person. Some food was loaded up in the wagon, but it'd only last a day or two for normal stomachs. The bare essentials, and if they needed more, it'd be hunted for or bought at the festival.
The trip wouldn't a long one. The Red Flux was in the middle of Acera and Italina, who often considered themselves as neighbors. They weren't that nearby, but it'd only take a day or two to arrive at Italina with horses.
Riding in the wagon as the horses pulled each of them, Secrat couldn't help but feel an unaddressed awkwardness. This was the same wagon carrying him before he killed Elson Mans.
His back was propped up against one of the walls, and opposite him was Brutus Ess; grouchily sighing after each rickety bump the wagon endured.
Samuel Syi was at the front, in the carriage, watching over and navigating the horses with the reins. Lukas Lewis was sitting to Secrat's right, some ways away, beside another of the Elite thieves. To the left of Brutus, side closest to the horses, was another of the young trainees.
Secrat sat without saying a word, nobody said a word for a while. It was early and without much breakfast in their bellies, nobody felt especially talkative. All they could do was listen in on the ruckus of the wagon wheels atop the dirt, tumbling over tree roots and rocks and whatever else. That, and enjoy the sights of the scenery around them as it changed ever-so fast.
But nobody said anything. At least not until they came to a stop.
Secrat dug his fingers down into the wood, the memories of it weren't lost on him. Memories he knew weren't lost on Lukas Lewis either. As the wagon began to slow, each of the thieves went up to their feet. They had spent the last few hours in silence but Secrat could tell it was starting to lighten up a little bit. Samuel Syi stepped out from the carriage and walked over to the wagon. It was customary for the head-Elite to be held to a high standard. However, as Samuel stepped onto the wagon, he discovered Brutus Ess' teeth gnawing on some bread. The bread had been kept in small crates dressed with a tarp over each.
Syi smiled. "I don't suppose you could've waited," he said.
Brutus stopped his eating, holding a chunk of bread in his mouth. It broke in half and part of it fell to the floor. "I waited several, ... several seconds," Ess fired back.
"The Red Flux has an image to uphold." Samuel replied.
"Who fed you those lies? Our image is the scummiest of scum."
"True, but that doesn't mean we have to be rude scum," Syi replied, letting out a soft chuckle as Brutus handed him a loaf of bread.
They each became seated again once the bread was handed out. The taste wasn't the best, but it'd be filling enough. Secrat watched Ess delve his teeth into his loaf of bread. Soon, Ess would adjust to his normal self with food in his belly. Although, his regular demeanor was a little less ill-tempered.
Lukas Lewis leaped out from the wagon, without saying anything to anyone. Secrat watched him step out and walk further out into the forest. His eyes traveled back over inside the wagon. Brutus Ess stared over at him.
This might have been the first time Secrat could recall Brutus acknowledging his existence since being withdrawn from The Flux. "That boy really hates you, you know?" Brutus remarked. The way he said it felt more like a blunt statement than a judgment.
"I made a terrible mistake and all I am looking to do is repent," Secrat Copé replied. He had rehearsed his lines many times. Killing Elson Man felt no different than killing Azlak Temps, or more accurately, the man he thought to be Temps. Such an act was always the same. Still, he felt guilt at his mistake.
But opted not to dwell.
"Lukas Lewis isn't really made to be a Thief. Thick-skin. That's what you've got to have, and Lewis' skin could be sliced by the blade of a leaf."
Brutus Ess said matter-of-factly, chomping down on a second loaf of bread. Secrat smirked but regained himself. He had not expected that. Even from Brutus.
"People die," Brutus remarked, stopping a moment to let the declarative statement sink in. "Fact is, Lukas didn't even know Elson, not like I did. If I can get over what you did, he should be better by now. It's not that he's bothered by Elson's death, but that he's bothered by death itself. He best get comfortable with it."
"You weren't exactly the best of friends with Elson, however," Samuel Syi countered, sitting down in the middle of the wagon with his back leaned against the crates. "The act made Veras angrier than I had ever seen him. Secrat took one of our own. And yet, it's Lukas Lewis that feels excluded and distant from the Flux."
"Toucan's been angrier than that, I'll tell you that much for absolute certain. If he were really angry than this fella wouldn't be standing here with us," Brutus said, motioning to Secrat.
"Perhaps," Samuel added. It seemed as though he wanted to say something else or offer a rebuttal, but his passiveness restrained him.
"A loss of innocence and a loss of a friend, I can only hope time will heal his wounds. Time will bring forgiveness faster than anything I could ever do," Secrat said with a somber inflection.
Samuel Syi nodded at Secrat Copé. His dark-skinned face never looked angry or annoyed or frustrated but did look sad.
Samuel climbed out of the carriage and started way toward where Lewis was headed, leaving Copé and Ess with the other thieves.
The Elite's name was Marc Sero and he was a keep-to-himself fellow that didn't talk very much or step out of line. A lot like Lewis in that sense, except Lewis could be friendly or likable. Lukas could be sociable at times too, but Sero only spoke a word when he had to.
Lukas turned from him, locking eyes with Secrat Copé. Copé offered him a warm and inviting grin, patting the side of the wall and welcoming him to join. Lewis did not. Opting to stand on the other-side of the Trophy Room instead.
Secrat recognized the Elite thief. By his voice more than his physique or facial features. His voice sounded raspy and like it was filled with tar. The fellow thief's name was Brutus Ess and he had once been a primary member of The Red Flux. In-fact, only years back, Brutus was the right-hand man for Toucan. An heir to the throne until his thirst for alcohol washed down his ambitions. Now, he was out-of-shape and no longer had anything worth a damn to say for himself. But, besides belching random slurs and making an ass of himself, Brutus was a terrific and well-respected thief.
Toucan didn't keep them waiting much longer. Copé could see him spreading out one of those scrolls he had on his desk but was in no position to see its contents. Father spoke plainly: "Italina is the wealthiest of the five major cities."
"And the weakest," Brutus mumbled beneath his breath. Secrat heard it, and evidently, so did Toucan, who stopped momentarily.
"Italina is also the most difficult for a thief. Entering Italina, the gates are open, but at night, they close. The guards remember faces as well. Trained to have suspicions. That's why The Flux opts against it." Father Toucan leaned himself back in his chair, taking his hands off from the table. When he sat up straight, it only emphasizes his height. "We've set ourselves a formidable foundation with frameworks, not based on wealth, but on survival. We don't take what's not needed. That's something I believe in, and I believe the Elite believe as well, and it's something important to be bestowed on young thieves." Toucan looked over to Lukas Lewis with the last line, though, not Secrat.
"Italina itself has some of the biggest gluttons of all Maharris. Materialism subtracts senses and strengthens brutality for superficial gains. And yes, far be it from us to play the righteous hand, I think they deserve to be reminded of something." A small smile formed on Toucan's face. Secrat had forgotten how good he was speeches. "With fear comes humility, and with humility comes betterment. Our job isn't to better outsiders but if our survival leads to enlightenment, so be it. It's time we rob Italina's finest and rob them blind."
Secrat smiled at that last line. He found Father Toucan Veras to be about as self-righteous and arrogant as they came, but he was smart. The way he did things was a more practical reason for admiration. With such confidence and believability. The man spoke a sermon about the unimportance of wealth and ended it by reminded them all of their thirst for exactly that.
They fell for it.
Brutus Ess said some of his raspy and incomprehensible strings of dialogue, and other thieves came out of their lulled demeanors as well. Secrat kept in check, not the type to lose composure less alcohol was involved.
Toucan waited. Like he expected somebody to ask him the 'what' and 'how' of it all and nobody did. That didn't stop him from answering, however.
"The Aer Festival offers more than swine sipping sparkling water from a decorative glass. It offers opportunity." Viciousness plagued Toucan's voice in a way that would stifle the average man. It almost intimidated Secrat.
The Aer Festival was a semi-annual festival held in Italina. The festival includes parades and the whole town swarmed with quietly abrasive music. Violins and harps strummed in the most pretentious way possible. The restaurants all serving up their finest. Everyone had something to do, nobody was home, and it was all very messy and crowded.
"How does it offer us opportunity?" one of the thieves calmly inquired.
Secrat recognized him as well. Samuel Syi was one of the neater and more articulate in the Flux. Secrat couldn't remember a time when Samuel lost his temper or showed fear or emotion other than being at ease. One of the few levelheaded ones, and where Brutus once was, Samuel found himself now as Father's right-hand.
"The reason we don't rob Italina isn't lack of interest, but lack of means. If three or more thieves entered beyond the gate into Italina, it'd raise suspicions... an understatement, they'd have every one of the thieves locked up before nightfall," Toucan said.
"You're suggesting the Aer Festival will be opportune?" Samuel asked.
"We'd be indistinguishable," Secrat Copé added.
Father Toucan Veras' eyes went off from Samuel Syi and over to Secrat. "Precisely," he commended. "A group of thieves, all of them scattered out. If you hide into the crowd, it'll be easy to blend in. Pickpocketing. Raiding. All of it, anything you can think of. Have your pockets filled."
"Have the wagon brought out on the outskirts of Italina, somewhere away from the guards and suspicion, but close enough it can be reached fast. Come back to it on and off through the night until it's full. Make a killing," Secrat suggested.
Toucan smirked. "We can do that."
"The guards only welcome guests during the day but at night, they are sealed up tight." Lukas Lewis pointed out.
Secrat couldn't help but think had it been anyone else, he would've kept his own mouth shut. "Yes, but this isn't any ordinary day," Secrat replied matter-of-factly.
"He's right," Samuel reciprocated. "There's an exception to that for the Aer Festival. It still closes, but does so, hours into the night."
Lukas Lewis' head went down in defeat, saying nothing in response. Secrat couldn't help but smirk, however, Toucan soon took the conversation back for himself.
"I have sat on this heist for very long, amongst others, and only now do I believe The Red Flux has assembled a wardrobe of thieves capable enough. In defeat, loyalty should be at the reins, as should it in jeopardy." Toucan stopped for a moment. He rolled the scroll up in his hands. For theatrics, Secrat presumed. "Gather supplies but travel light. Each of you will be leaving before sundown. You should make it to the gates of Italina with time to spare, but you aren't to enter into Italina until the festival begins. I don't need to stress you the importance of not being caught, and I shouldn't need to stress that murder in any form and for any reason won't be tolerated." Toucan shot a look over to
Secrat at that moment.
Copé heard a small noise from Lewis. Not a chuckle. A sigh of remembrance.
Secrat Copé didn't fire back at Father Toucan Veras, as much as he wanted to, and in-fact, he said nothing in-response, offering a nod as substitute. Toucan wasn't the type for negotiating, and Secrat's body felt too battered and wearied from the day's travels to try and make him see reason. The dirt was cool and hard. It was uncomfortable. But he didn't care. With nothing to his name except the muddied clothing on his person and the empty flash in his pocket.
The Sword of Tertius wasn't even in his possession anymore as Veras had taken it to the Trophy Room.
The thief slept on the ground for what felt like an eternity, ignoring the commotion from everybody else around him. To his good fortune, nobody stomped on him or caused him heart-ache. When he awoke, while his clothing was, of course, still filthy, his body felt rejuvenated and reinvigorated.
* * *
The next couple of months expired fast. The thief managed to keep himself without issue or complication. It was different than how he left it. He no longer associated with friends and mostly kept to himself. The rest of the Flux didn't hate him, or at least, he didn't believe they did. Lukas Lewis hated him, that much was clear, but not the rest. The vision of Secrat taking the life of Elson Mans had evidently engraved itself in Lukas' mind. Everyone else hadn't forgotten, but forgiveness came easier to them.
Secrat felt no need to seek forgiveness to any of the Flux. The relationships could be re-established once he had their respect and was considered of high worth. He simply didn't want to risk it. As loveable a personality as Secrat had, it had makes him more enemies than friends.
Lewis didn't talk to him any in that time, but that didn't bother Copé much. He wanted to give him more time to cool off and to allow everything to slowly fall back into place. It didn't happen very fast, but like Father had said, the time away in the Whispey Deserts humbled the thief. That, and the wounds obtained made him feel too weak and fragile to defend himself. He needed the time to heal.
The two months weren't pleasant. Cleaning the shit out from the horse's den was always one of his least favorite chores and having to do it a second time around wasn't any better. He gritted through it, however, and to his surprise, it wasn't the worst activity for him. Oh no, that title belonged to helping the older women watch over the children. They filled silence with witless banter Secrat took no interest in.
* * *
By the beginning of the third month, Secrat Copé finally took the time to add a little more to his abode. He dug out several more feet and before long, the thing started to resemble somewhere livable. Not a house, but more like a cold and uncomfortable cave, but it felt familiar. And it was his.
The hole remained small. His hope of joining the Elite's still hung around, and the idea of digging a whole new home felt too much to bear. His need for necessity soon swayed his judgment and the hole was dug for about five feet around and six feet deep. The hole took him days to dig, with only a few hours dedicated each day.
A bed of leaves and a blanket he'd sewn together while watching after the children. Sewing came surprisingly easy to him. Other-wise, beyond something with resemblance to a bed, his hole was mostly empty. No furniture. Nothing like that. The essentials.
Secrat Copé staggered out of his hole. A night's worth of sleep behind him.
It was early in the morning, but some folk were up and about.
Secrat recognized a woman named Alisuh first of all, an elderly woman, twenty something years Secrat's senior. She smiled at him. It was a polite smile. One that lasted only about a second or two. Darker skin, black hair and a haggard looking face. The woman most likely came from Acera or somewhere near there. Somewhere hotter. She led herself out and away from him. Her job consisted of babysitting after the children, as well as babysitting the younger folk who were supposed to help her.
Copé rubbed his eyes. The taste of dried blood unpleasantly layered his mouth. He had been woken by a nameless man he did not recognize. Presence ordered by Father Toucan. The Thief knew it was about a heist. No details were offered, but Secrat felt it. Or, perhaps, he desired it to be.
Boredom plagued Secrat, a ho-hum lifestyle since returning to the Flux, he craved something more to sink his teeth into.
Secrat stepped by the trees, feeling the dirt between his toes. The trees shaded him from the sun. In the Whispey Deserts, the heat beamed down on him and he couldn't take in a breath without scarfing down sand. Here, he took in the breath and let it leave him. He saw familiar faces as he neared the Trophy Room. Walking side-by-side in conversation, some of them, but Secrat had no interest in that. Instead, all he did was keep his eyes forward and put one foot in-front of the other. As he made it down to the Trophy Room, he saw Father Toucan Veras, who sat, stone-faced, at the desk.
Secrat walked on. Some of the Elite members had already been seated in the chairs before the desk. Three of them. All of them older than Secrat.
Copé walked over to the remaining chair but Lukas Lewis came in-front of him fast. So fast Copé could barely keep from a collision. He managed, however. Secrat looked at Lewis. His go-lucky expressions all a thing of yesterday, he looked cold and cruel, but Copé knew his disposition was a ruse.
A 'tough guy' act meant to accomplish something Secrat couldn't figure out.
Emotions were strange like that sometimes. Copé had no interest in heightening the flame, however. He relented, backing away from the chair and allowing Lewis to take the seat.
Secrat walked over to the corner of the room, off to the side, and leaned himself against the wall. Toucan's eyes went over to him a moment, though, he said nothing. Still, Secrat could have sworn he saw the flicker of a smirk on the face of Father.
Veras sat in his chair. His elbows at his desk, the palms of his hands touching, and his fingers clasped over one another. More thieves poured into the room.
An Elite thief walked over to Lukas Lewis. Long-black hair with whiskers jutting out over the neckline of his dirtied shirt. Overweight, though, not incredibly so, stomach caused by alcohol indulgence above all else.
"Move," the Elite said. The slur in his voice made it difficult to understand.
Lukas Lewis looked up at him, and at that moment, his tough-guy act disappeared. For that moment, he was about to be a scared boy that only wanted to avoid conflict. Lewis leaped out from the chair and up to his feet, moving back and motioning for the man to take a seat. The man obliged, but not before letting out a self-congratulating chuckle on his behalf.
Small speckles of mud were visible on the blade. Faint enough that Copé hoped Toucan wouldn't notice.
"I see," Father responded, standing up from his chair as well. His eyes went over the blade. Father was never known much for sharing his emotions, aside from anger, frustration, or a simple lack there-of. This moment was not an exception.
The thief tried his best to remedy the situation, to remember how Azlak Temps had spoken of the sword with such passion: "It would seem to me that someone here hasn't been reading their history books. When the Aeonians first ascended up," Secrat began, but before he could really get into digging his grave, Toucan lifted his hand up, silencing him once more.
"I am aware of who Charles Tertius is." Toucan brought a breath of air into his lungs and let it dissipate out. "That sword will make amends with The Red Flux. That sword will welcome you back into our troupe and into our family." Secrat smiled. His head looking down at the sword, he stood back to his feet and eased himself. "Thank you," Secrat said beneath his breath before flashing his smile over to Father Toucan Veras.
However, Veras didn't appear to be finished: "The Red Flux is a forgiving entity because it has to be. Thieves in the night, we've all killed somebody once before in our lives. I've killed more than my fair share and those are scars I wear for which I am not proud." Toucan's voice was calm but underneath that, Copé heard something else in his voice as well. Deep and hidden away, but it was there. "I look at you as one of my biggest accomplishments. I've never said that before but it's the truth. But I also look at you as one of my biggest failures, and do you know why?"
Secrat knew what he was hearing in Toucan's voice now. It was shame and pity and it was frustration. All three of those things, each more abundant than the last. It was the words coming out that bothered Copé. They offended him, and it bothered him more to know whatever Father would say, would more than likely be true. But Secrat cared not about morality, and only cared about it his lack there-of being addressed. Holding his tongue, however, as there was nothing to earn from having a fit.
"Why, Father?" Secrat merely asked. Humoring Father. Bracing himself.
"You never change, and you never learn." Toucan answered. "You are the same selfish and egocentric fool you've always been!" His voice was loud for the final sentence but that all went away as a quieter tone commenced, "Or at least that's what I am thinking. I am thinking you're the same as you always have been. Maybe you're a little humbled by your time away, knowing it's a lot more difficult to make it out-there on your own. But that's not what I am looking for. That's not change and that's not how one seeks to be forgiven. I don't want you welcoming yourself back because it's convenient to you. I look back at all the wrong things I've done with feelings of disappointment and feelings of disgust, but you look at them like humanity itself is nothing more than an obstacle standing between you, riches and treasure."
Toucan counted on his fingers with each addition to the list. "And women. And alcohol. And you don't think of others as people." Secrat made an offended face, but fixed himself, trying not to lose his composure. "I won't keep you out of The Red Flux. I can't keep you out of The Red Flux. Not for killing another member. You're worth more than banishment. But you said something before I brought you in here, and do you know what that was?"
Copé shook his head.
"You told Lukas Lewis you didn't need his forgiveness. That's where your issue lies. You don't need it, but you're supposed to want it." Toucan Veras said, and for some unexplained reason, Copé made eye-contact with Father. His eyes made The Thief feel weak. And how a stare could be so condescending, Copé knew not.
"Lukas isn't like you. Murder isn't something he has been in-contact with. He's weaker than you are. But he IS loyal, and he IS a good person. These are traits I'd like more than anything for you. Lukas will have a room dug for him in the Trophy Room in due time. But you, you'll be starting at the very bottom. And the only way you'll ever go anywhere at all, be trusted on your own heist, or move up the ranks ... is if Lewis approves."
Secrat felt goosebumps on the back of his neck by those words. Toucan smirked with satisfaction. "Welcome back to The Red Flux, Secrat. Your former home has since been filled; you'll have to dig yourself a new one. I'll sort it out with the rest of the members once they've awoke. Goodbye now,"
Secrat looked at Veras' large scimitar lying sheathed at his side. He always carried it around with him. It was a large blade that only stressed the sheer size of its owner.
Lukas Lewis looked over at Toucan for a moment with eyes that seemed pleading and afraid, and his voice ushered out words Secrat couldn't understand, like he was about to speak but decided to muffle his words. Lukas turned his head from Secrat, with hesitation, and started way toward his hole in the ground.
But, before that, before fully making his leave, he stepped in-front of Toucan. His back to Secrat. He heard what Lukas said in a voice that tried not to tremble, "Don't forget what he did. One of our own is dead because of him."
Toucan looked neither frustrated nor annoyed, nor did he look sympathetic to Lewis, his stone face expression watched Lewis leave and join his family. "Father," Secrat Copé started, but Toucan raised his hand and silenced him.
"We'll talk about this in the trophy room. Too many eyes and ears," Toucan
Secrat Copé nodded back at him and followed while the leader of The Red Flux led. As Secrat walked, he expected to see stares and confused looks on his way. That there would be members of The Red Flux standing outside of their homes wondering about the conflict that had arose. But there weren't any. Or at least, none Secrat noticed.
It was still early in the day and was to chance that many hadn't awaken from their beds yet. Even the Elites were unlikely to be awake.
Only reason Lukas was awake is because he wanted to be an Elite.
A thief in-training often accompanied Elite members and taught the trade by them. Once they were deemed fit to work alone, they were allotted certain privileges and opportunities.
Secrat was allotted the chance to work alone in a heist, one where he was expected to rob Azlak Temps, and the one where he ended up killing Elson Mans instead.
Before that though, a lot of manual labor went into it all, those wanting to be considered as Elite had the responsibility of tending to the horses and making for certain everything was in-order for the next heist.
Elson Mans was an Elite and was taking Lukas Lewis out for a steal.
Secrat followed. No eyes staring at him kept him calm. Lukas Lewis' reaction wasn't expected and made the thief feel a little uneasy. He was unlikely to be considered as in the good graces of the Red Flux after what happened, but he hadn't expected the emotion and boiling tension that he was feeling.
Toucan led him down the dirt-made steps of the Trophy Room. A lot of steps. Footprints layered every one of them. Wanderers weren't allowed to be in here, but at a glance, it was no different than one of the other dugouts.
Once they went down enough and the roof went over head, it looked something like the Sidian Inn in Acera. Doors on the left and on the right, each made of bamboo that had been bound together with rope. Each of them with a sign on the front and a name scribed onto it. These rooms belonged to members of the Elite. All the rooms were without vacancy, and so, for new recruits, a new room would be dug for them.
The hallway went on for long enough to assure they'd never run out of room for a new hole. The living conditions seemed strange to foreigners, but to The Flux and its thieves, digging their home was a rite of passage for selfbetterment.
There had been many times Secrat had walked through these halls to talk to Toucan, but he couldn't remember whether he'd ever seen inside of one of the rooms.
Down some more steps, Toucan's quarters went several more feet underground. A lot of work had been done before Copé had ever been born, and it likely took every man, woman, and child to help dig it. Candles lit every several feet and between each room of the Elite, as well as on the left and right side of the stairs.
The end of the stairs led to three rooms, the one walking in had Toucan's desk. He didn't spend that much time sitting around, so the area was often vacant and didn't have a whole lot when it came to decor. Toucan's large desk stood in-front of several wooden chairs, and the only time it was ever used was on occasion for when he had meetings with the Elite.
Secrat recalled having once snuck under Toucan's desk and eavesdropped on one of the meetings when he was a child.
The desk was wooden and riddled with dust. Toucan was hardly a slob but there was nobody in their right mind that would refer to him as cleanly or wellkept. His attention was always on different matters rather than filth and grime.
Regardless of his extravagant wardrobe.
The desk also had several scrolls, Secret knew not what they had on them. To the left of this room was another that also belonged to Veras, it was his bedroom. A bed rested in the middle as well as a small candle lying on a large drawer. Secrat didn't know whether Veras kept clothes in there or something else, but Toucan never struck him as the type to have hobbies. His life was the Red Flux.
To Copé's knowledge, he never took much to lovers or alcohol, and lived a dull and boring life absorbed by selflessness and the will to keep everyone else happy.
Which isn't really living at all, so Secrat assumed Toucan kept his whores a secret.
The third and final room was the Trophy Room, and its name told of what it contained. Behind Toucan's desk, and behind a large, dark-red cloth was everything that The Red Flux had. Not everything they had ever stolen, of course, that isn't how it worked at all in the troupe.
Father Toucan Veras wasn't a King, and there wasn't mountains and mountains of treasure behind him.
When a successful steal happens and a member or members of the Flux make out with loot, the items are taken to the Trophy Room, where they stay until a trip is made to the Whispey Deserts or another reputable area for merchantman. The Elites and Veras make sure everyone is clothed and fed, and in-return, they only ask for loyalty.
Secrat looked around the room with a certain feeling, like goosebumps, except his arms felt smooth, it all felt very strange to be back inside this room. The coolness of it and the way it smelled so strongly of dirt. The smell was suffocating and only gave-way to the feeling that everything was about to cave in on him.
The last time he had been here the smell didn't bother him. It must have been a long enough time that the smell was no longer engraved in his nostrils.
Father Toucan Veras walked forward. Unstrapping the scabbard and the scimitar off from his waist, he dropped it slowly to the side of his desk. It always looked so small when it was near Veras that Secrat forgot how easy it would've been to slice him in half with it.
Toucan motioned forward, informing Secrat of the chairs in-front of his desk for sit. Secrat, while already aware, answered his pleasantries and seated himself. Toucan sat in the chair in-front of him, behind the desk. His eyes ventured off from the ground and over to Secrat. The stare made The Thief feel less than welcome, but Toucan didn't mind that. Father might as well have been staring a hole into him by the way is glare refused to sway or waiver. Secrat smiled awkwardly. About all he could think to do in a time like this, and even though he was certain it'd lead to his hand being stomped on again, he went ahead and did it anyway. "Why have you returned?" Toucan's voice sounded about as angry as it always did, yet it was enough to unsettle the Thief on inflection alone.
Secrat gulped, his eyes venturing away from Father's. "Before I left, you may recall saying I'd be able to repent my sins and amend the wrong I'd done. You told me of a way to make all of this heart-ache lessen and to welcome myself back into The Red Flux." Copé chose his words like they were straight out of scripture, that was by design. It was meant to create the illusion of being this 'whole new person,' because he knew Father wanted that from him. And yet, Toucan didn't seem taken by his Son's words. He maintained his stoic expression of collected indifference.
"I remember," Toucan Veras responded.
He rested his hands at the top of his desk. Flat. Both of them large, just as the rest of him, and they looked as if they could wrap themselves around
Copé's skull like a small rock. Secrat hoped this would never be tested.
His hands were also filthy. Copé could see the black under the nails and it looked as though they hadn't been washed in some time.
Secrat nodded nervously at Toucan, "I believe I had done that, or at least taken a very necessary and meaningful step in achieving such," Copé answered, his words carrying as much confidence as they could under the circumstance.
Toucan's ears didn't exactly prick, but his eyes seemed to carry at least a flicker of curiosity by the statement. "Oh?" is all he said.
Secrat stood from his chair upon kneeling to one knee before his father's desk, like how a loyal knight would've done a King. He unsheathed the sword and presented it in his hands, lying flat. "I offer you the Sword of Tertius," he said at once.
Lukas Lewis wasn't nearly as receptive, however, and his eyes showed both anguish and passion. It didn't look like hatred. That's what Copé had expected to see. Instead, it looked like fear and uncertainty, an uncertainty in ones' self or what should be felt. That's what Secrat got out of the look on his brow.
"What are you doing here, Copé?" The words sounded unlike Lewis. The words reminded Secrat of when he talked to the knight back in Acera. How the knight tried to come off fierce and respectable, and Lukas, like him, came off phony and fake. Lewis wasn't exactly respectable and most certainly wasn't fierce, but Secrat could tell he still felt emotional turmoil caused by their last meeting.
The two of them had once been friends, or at least, the closest thing Copé ever really had to friends. Casual acquaintances that tended to get along and meet for drinks. None of that seemed to add up to very much though. After Copé took the life of Elson Mans, all of that seemed completely forgotten. Copé deemed this a proper moment for one of his smirks, realizing how often they benefited him in the past. Lukas Lewis brought his spear back and readied it, feigning a preemptive strike. "Uh-aha...," Copé said, backing away, his hands up in a pleading gesture. "I know I am likely not your favorite person, but if you could keep yourself from whacking me, I promise I'll seldom ask you for anything else ever again, honest."
Secrat put his smirk away, realizing how little it had benefited him in the past
Lewis lowered the spear down. Holding it with one-hand at his side. Secrat looked down at the stick and noticed the sharp-rock on the end of it. At least Lewis only intended to bonk him with it and now tear into his flesh.
Lukas Lewis' expression didn't change.
"Thank you." Secrat said. "And, now, I must ask you for something else.
Which I promise I will repay once I've had a couple nights' sleep." Secrat resisted the urge to smirk, realizing his smart alleck ways weren't helping him. "I won't be seeing you after a couple nights. I'll ask again, why are you here?"
Secrat heard Lewis slapping the spear against his side. A nervous fellow, Lewis always had trouble keeping his emotions in-check. Similar to a fire always lit, nothing was hidden or obscured when it came to Lewis. "I need to speak to Father," Secrat said, his eyes neither pleading nor apologetic in their gaze.
Lukas Lewis' stare back said a lot more than his words ever could. The man still hadn't forgiven him!
"Toucan is away," Lewis replied. His voice was unsteady, like a lit wick, it sounded like he could explode at any moment.
He was lying, however.
Secrat could easily see that much. Lewis had always been a terrible liar, a terrible liar and terrible at withholding his emotions when he was hurt or angry.
Secrat smiled at him and offered his retort: "Where is he then?"
"He won't be back for a couple of days, I'm afraid," Lewis beckoned back. His composure regained itself some, no longer cracking or trembling.
Secrat's smile regained itself. Lewis' expression remained. "I don't believe you, Lukas."
"Leave, or I swear I'll have YOUR SEVERED HEAD on this stick!"
Lukas Lewis' face was blood-red, and for all it's worth, at that moment, Secrat really believed Lewis meant what he said.
Secrat wasn't afraid though. He'd never be afraid of Lukas Lewis. The man and him had thrown back beers in earlier years. They fought around as kids, and as kids, Secrat always won. Secrat couldn't be afraid of him. He did flinch, however. Lewis was overly sensitive, but was never one for loud words or tantrums, even as a kid, and it caught Secrat off-guard. The spear was pointed up, right beneath Secrat's chin and Lewis looked like he was contemplating his kill. But something soon after made him cease and withdraw. Lewis lowered his spear down again and backed away.
Secrat turned his head and saw what it was, a woman named Mirai and a small child whose name escaped him. Mirai was Lewis' mother. Not old, but not youthful, late forties at best, and in-front of her black hair, strewn up in a ponytail, she wore a look of fear. The small child looked frightened as well.
"Lewis, what's going on?" Mirai's voice called out after him. Not shaken. Not afraid. Meant to be soothing. To calm her son. Lewis stopped and looked at her for a second, but only a second before his neck jerked back and he faced Secrat once again. Copé's eyes were on Mirai, who hadn't looked over at him. "Go back inside," Lewis replied calmly.
"Mother Lewis, it's wonderful to see you again," Secrat said, sounding enthused. "And look at you," pointing at the small child, "You've gotten so big since I left." Even if I can't remember your name. That didn't seem to make Lewis very happy and it wasn't supposed to. All Copé wanted was to stall long enough until one of the elite thieves came outside. They had a much lighter head about things such as murder and would be more helpful than Lewis.
"What is he doing here?" Mirai said. But before Copé had a chance to answer Lewis' question for him, Lukas fired back at her: "Take Ansh and go back inside." Ah, yes, Ansh, of course!
To Secrat's surprise, Mirai held her tongue and did as she was advised, walking back down the dirt-steps, beneath the stick-made roof and into her humble abode. Mirai was a good woman. Or at least that's the impression Secrat always got of her. She didn't help with the heists, so he didn't see her much, she was one of the women that stayed at home and looked after the children. Copé had been raised to respect that, and truth be told, could never imagine a world as dull and dreary as having to look after a bunch of anklebiting monkeys.
Secrat waited until both Mirai and Ansh were both out of sight before he spoke again. "I understand you're a little miffed and one day both of us will have to sit down, have a cup of tea and hatch this out, but I am not in the mood for you right now, what I am in the mood for is to atone for myself with Father. I don't need to atone with anyone else," Lukas beamed at The Thief, who added: "At least not now."
That didn't sit well with Lukas, once more, Secrat expected as much. What he did not expect was Lukas' reaction to be so violent.
Lewis dropped the spear to the dirt. Copé looked down at it with something reminiscent of relief, ... before Lewis grabbed him by the throat. Secrat knew he wasn't in any condition to defend himself; he was ready to take a couple of fists and be done with it. Lewis shoved him forward, leaning his back against one of the walls concealing the horses. Copé could hear a ruckus from the inside of the pen.
Lukas' hand was wrapped tight around Secrat's throat, and for an instant, Secrat even felt like he was about to start gasping for air. But before his suffering had a chance to begin, a voice called off the dog, Lukas, that is, and freed Copé from his grasp.
"You'll be joining your mother and brother in your home as well," the voice called out. Secrat didn't even have to look to know who it was. The deep and raspy voice easily distinguishable, and the way Lewis freed Secrat a second later left no doubt.
Father Toucan Veras stood.