Sneax owes "rent money" to Russitan Lassiter, a dangerous thug from the Docks District of the port city of Wanderhaven. Desperate to avoid getting her ears cut off for failing to pay, she volunteers to help Lassiter with a shady deal up at the Old Church, only to discover that the deal involves a Fire Elf!
Sneax and her best friend, the apprentice mage Elaina Emboo, were put on lookout duty while Drax the Fire Elf and Lassiter finish their deal over a valuable alchemical substance called Distilled Tiger Essense. But when the Tiger Essence is stolen, Sneax has no choice but to go after it at the City Guard Headquarters. But she comes up empty, and then runs into Lassiter himself! Soon, Sneax and Elaina are headed for the Docks--and a showdown with Fire Elf Drax.
And now... Chapter 7: Showdown!
It wasn’t hard for Elaina to figure out that Lassiter would take Sneax down to the Docks. What was hard was figuring out where on the Docks he’d take her. With that, though, Elaina had a little help.
She had magic.
Using a standard Divination spell, Elaina homed in on Sneax’s location. Then she fired off a spell—one that she should have used a long time before—to call for help. With that one gone, she headed out, feeling better than she had in awhile.
Still, the old warehouse was a scary place. It was a creepy old burnt out wreck, and Elaina wouldn’t have gone there at all if she wasn’t absolutely sure that her best friend’s life depended on it. As it was, however, she didn’t have much choice. So she cast her Invisibility spell on herself and moved to get in close.
She arrived in time to see Lassiter meet up with his dockside thugs, and then she watched helplessly as he pushed Sneax forward into the warehouse. Then she heard Lassiter and Draks talking about the Distilled Tiger Essence, heard Russ blame the theft on Sneax. After that, even though Melanie McGonagalland Thorin Battleaxe hadn’t arrived yet—had maybe not even gotten Elaina’s magical summons yet—Elaina knew that she couldn’t wait any longer. She headed into the warehouse herself and, even though she knew that casting another spell would cancel her Invisibility, she fell straight into casting.
This time, Elaina’s Sparkleburt spell went off without a hitch. The room virtually exploded with light, and magical thunder ripped across the room. Lassiter threw up his arm and cried out, and in that instant, Sneax dove for cover. Even Draks the fire elf was caught off guard, though he didn’t drop his crossbow or anything. His eyes widened when he saw Elaina.
But then the room was plunged back into darkness. It was only Elaina’s spell that had lit it in the first place, and when that ended, it was as dark as before—only now Elaina couldn’t see. On the plus side, though, she doubted anyone else could, either. Lassiter immediately started yelling something, but Elaina ignored it. Instead, she scrambled to get outside the warehouse before Draks could put a hole in her with his crossbow. There was a sharp twang as Draks’s crossbow fired, but Elaina stumbled at just that moment, and amazingly the bolt didn’t hit her. She ran behind a couple of burnt up racks and ducked, and then she was back outside.
Elaina looked around frantically, but there was still no sign of Melanie MacGonaghal. Instead, what she saw was Lassiter’s two bully boys.
When Elaina’s spell went off, Sneax was as surprised as anyone. The only advantage she had was that she’d already been looking for a way out—any way out—so she was already ready to run at the slightest opportunity. So while the Sparkleburst caught her by surprise, the fact was that she’d already been planning to dive and make a run for it. She took the opportunity of the distraction to make her break, and in a moment, she was back in the shadows and running for her life.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take Lassiter long to recover. He roared with frustration, but then the Sparkleburst ended, and once the warehouse was back in darkness, it wasn’t like Sneax had some big advantage or anything. True, she was small, and she could hide, but against that, Lassiter was also a trained thief like she was, and he’d have a good idea of where she was likely to head.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Sneax made it only a dozen steps before she ran straight into the back wall of the warehouse—one of the few that was actually intact! She turned frantically and looked back, but she could see that Lassiter had already found her and was closing in. She turned back, but the wall was solid, and while she might be able to get around and out another way, there were racks between her and the rest of the warehouse, and in any event, Draks was still out there, and he was, if anything, even scarier than Russ.
“So this is your plan, Russ? To blame it all on me? What’d you do, take Draks’s money and then try to keep the Distilled Tiger Essence for yourself?”
Suddenly Sneax understood. “You’re the one who called the Guard the other night. You needed Thorin and his boys to provide a distraction for your heist. I’ll bet the only reason you even wanted me and Elaina up there was so you’d have someone else to blame it all on.” Sneax was suddenly angry. “You’ve been setting me up from the beginning!”
“You’re a clever girl, Sneax,” Lassiter said. His short sword and dagger gleamed wickedly in what passed for moonlight inside the warehouse. “But it’s over now.”
“You’re darned right it is,” Sneax replied.
She set her feet and drew her little knife. She didn’t know what good it was going to do against Lassiter’s sword and dagger, but she knew that she was tired of running.
Russ closed in quickly. Sneax watched him come and thought back to the last few times that she’d seen him. Both times he’d gone after her ears and gotten them cleanly. She knew that she was faster than Russ, but he’d caught her by surprise twice, and she’d wound up getting dragged around by the ears both times. She couldn’t afford a mistake like that this time.
Fortunately, Russ was predictable. And big. And just as he’d done the last two times, he came in high again. This time he wasn’t trying to grab Sneax ears but to actually cut them off with his short sword, but the effect was the same. Sneax saw it coming and dove, forward and through Lassiter’s legs. Her hand whipped out as she passed, and her little knife nicked into Russ’s calf. He howled and stumbled, and Sneax rolled up to her feet. She spun and kicked out, landing a foot right on Lassiter’s butt. He fell forward, and she was on him, stabbing hard into the hand that held the short sword.
Russ cried out and dropped the sword, and Sneax sprang up and away.
“Why you little—" Russ began.
“Choose your next words carefully,” Draks said.
As always, the fire elf appeared as if by magic out of the darkness. Lassiter blanched. Sneax turned and readied her knife, but Draks merely smiled.
“That won’t be necessary, Sneakatara,” Draks said. He looked at Lassiter and shook his head. “As if a girl like this could ever steal a crate of Distilled Tiger Essence. For shame, Lassiter. She’s not even big enough to carry it.” He cocked his head. “Although... she does seem to have gotten the better of you lately.”
“I didn’t steal anything, Draks,” Sneax said.
“Did I not just say as much, dear?” Draks asked. He smiled, and Sneax felt ice in her guts. “Now go. I will deal with Mister Lassiter.”
The dockside bullyboys each had wooden Billy clubs. Elaina knew that she should be scared, but after what she’d just been through, she couldn’t be. Instead, she gathered power to herself, letting arcane magic flare around her like a nimbus of fire.
“Before you come any closer, boys,” she said, hoping that her voice sounded dangerous, “I want you to think about this. I just faced off against your boss and that fire elf, Draks, and I’m still here. So what do you two think you can do that the two of them together couldn’t? Huh?”