Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Adventures of Sneax & Elaina Emboo (Part 6)

Our Story So Far:
Sneakatara Boatman was abandoned as a child by parents she never knew.  Life in the orphanage was tough for a tiny girl with few ways to defend herself, so she lit out as soon as she was able.  But the streets of Docks District are no safer than life was at the orphanage, and now the loathsome street criminal Russitan Lassiter has Sneax at his mercy.

Elaina Emboo is a rich girl from a merchant family, but her controlling father already has her entire life mapped out.  Elaina envies Sneax's freedom without truly understanding its costs.  Still, she agree to help when Sneax asks her to head up to the Old Church to meet with Lassiter.  

Sneax and Elaina get the scare of their lives when they realize that Lassiter has an appointment with Draks, the fire elf.  

Then things start getting crazy...

The Adventures of Sneax & Elaina Emboo
Part 1: Sneax & Elaina Emboo and the Fire Elf
Chapter 6

It didn’t take long for Sneax to search the Guard’s headquarters building, especially since she was only concerned with the third floor.  Thorin Battleaxe kept his office there, and that was also where the Guard kept impounded evidence.  With the Guard preoccupied by the threat of fire elves, the building itself was nearly empty, giving Sneax nearly free run of the place.  She had to dodge guardsmen twice, but it was late, and neither time were they attentive, and besides that, the building was dark.  Only a handful of oil lamps were lit, and these threw scattered pools of light at best.  There were lots of shadows—and lots of places for Sneax to hide.  It didn’t help.  No matter where Sneax went or how completely she searched the building, she couldn’t find the Distilled Tiger Essence.  At first she thought that Thorin had hidden it in some particularly clever spot, but after a half-hour’s searching, Sneax had to face the truth.  
The Distilled Tiger Essence just wasn’t there.  
She could keep searching—she could search all night—but there was nothing to find.
Deflated, Sneax made her way back to the portal she’d used to break into the building.  She waited for the guards to pass on the street below, clambered down the building’s side, and melted into the shadows.  Soon she was back in the alley where she’d left Elaina.
Elaina wasn’t there.
“Over here, Sneax.”    
Sneax whirled, her little knife coming to hand.  That wasn’t Elaina’s voice!
He emerged from shadows on the other side of the alley.  One arm ran around Elaina’s neck while he had his dagger drawn up beside her ear.  Elaina’s eyes were big and round like saucers.
“Now, now,” Lassiter said.  “I didn’t come here for your friend, Sneakatara.  All I need is you.  We got to go see a man about a deal.  Seems one of us owes him an explanation of some kind.”
“You’re giving me to the fire elf?!”  
“I just need you to explain to the man what happened is all,” Lassiter replied.  “I figure maybe he’ll take it better if it comes from you.”
Sneax stared at Lassiter.  He was serious!  
She could get away if she tried.  Lassiter was holding Elaina; he’d never be able to react in time if Sneax ran for it right then and there.  But that didn’t matter.  Sneax had been fooling herself.  All her of worrying, her searching, her schemes…  Lassiter had her.  He owned her.  Elaina would never survive if Sneax ran, and Sneax wouldn’t be able to live with herself if Elaina got hurt.  Not when Elaina was only in danger because Sneax had asked her for help.  Elaina was so vibrant and alive, and she had so much to live for, and Sneax had put that in jeopardy.  Her idiotic fears might cost Elaina her life.
Sneax felt sick.
There was nothing she could do.
“Yeah alright,” she said at last.  “Whatever you say, Russ.  Just let Elaina go, okay?”
Lassiter smiled.  He shoved Elaina away from him, and she stumbled and fell.
“You get on home, okay Elaina?” Sneax said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sure thing,” Elaina murmered.  She was lying on the ground where she’d fallen, facedown on the cobblestones, but that didn’t stop her from drawing power.  This thing with Lassiter had gone far enough.  Live or die, Elaina was going to blast that stupid thug right in the middle of his stupid face with every ounce of magic she had at her command.  
“Come on, girl,” Lassiter said to Sneax.  “We got work to do.”
Elaina forced herself to breath.  She needed a moment to clear her mind and focus her magic.  When she was ready, though, she began slowly climbing to her feet.  
She turned, magic in hand.  
Lassiter was gone, and he’d taken Sneax with him.  Elaina hadn’t been fast enough.  She’d missed her chance.  She slumped to the ground, and her power ebbed away.  
It’s not fair, she though.  I could’ve helped her.  I could have!
It was all so frustrating.  Elaina thought about the past two days.  About Master Marconi’s words and about all the missed opportunities to get Melanie McGonagall involved.  Sneax liked Melanie, had even lived with her at the Temple of Apollo when she was younger.  Melanie could have helped.  Sneax would have listened.
Maybe Melanie still could help.
Elaina sat up.  She gathered whatever arcane power still remained around her and began furiously shaping it into a new spell.
“It’s not too late,” she told herself.  
She could only hope that it was true.
Lassiter led Sneax back towards the wharf, to an abandoned warehouse at the edge of Docks Ward.  The place was a wooden structure, and it was old.  Clapboard shingles made up the walls, weather-worn and faded with age.  Like the Old Church, the roof on the warehouse was partially caved in.  It was big.  Sneax guessed it had once been a major shipping depot, but at some point fire had gutted the roof and one of the walls.  All that remained was a hollow shell, a manmade cave complete with wooden outcroppings in lieu of stalactites and stalagmites.  Racks that had once held bundles of wool and straw and barrels of whiskey now stood blackened and empty.  Shadows grew thick in the place; what little moonlight shone overhead failed utterly to penetrate into the structure’s interior.
They approached the warehouse, and Lassiter motioned to the shadows.  A couple of bullyboys emerged, rough-looking characters straight off the wharf.  The one on the right—Sneax thought of him as Righty—had a sharp-face and mean-looking eyes.  He wore a dark sweater with holes worn through and a pair of dirty dungarees not unlike Sneax’s own.  Righty’s greasy black hair was tied back in a ponytail, and his chin was rough with stubble.  Lefty—the one on the left—could easily have been Righty’s brother, but his face was rounder, and his eyes were ice blue.  Instead of an old sweater, Lefty wore a long, black leather sailor’s coat.
“You boys seen anything?” Lassiter asked.
Lefty answered.  “Nah, man.  It’s been quite.  You sure this is the place?”
“’Course I’m sure,” Lassiter snapped.  He threw Sneax out in front of him.  “It ain’t like old Draks can just walk around town, is it?  He’ll be here.  Ain’t that right, Sneakatara?”
“Yeah, Russ.  Whatever you say.”
Righty and Lefty both smiled like Sneax had made a joke.  She wondered what was funny.  Can’t be anything good, she thought.
Russ came up behind her.  “Well, don’t just stand there, girl.  Go on in.”
He pushed her, and Sneax turned, ready to push back.  But he already had his dagger in one hand and his short sword in the other, and his face was tense.  Sneax gulped and turned back around.  The building’s shadows loomed before her.  She took a step forward but couldn’t make herself go further.
“Go on,” Lassiter said.  “This ain’t the time for half-steppin’.”
Sneax wasn’t sure how she did it, but somehow she kept walking.  She put one foot down in front of the other, step by step, until the building was all around her, the shadows swallowing her whole.
“Um… hello?” she called.
A silky voice answered from within the shadows. “If it isn’t the lookout.  And Mister Lassiter.  Good evening to you both.”
Draks emerged from the darkness with a loaded crossbow.  The string was cocked, the bolt pointed at Sneax’s head.  Gone was the dandy from the Old Church.  That Draks had seemed dangerous but playful.   This one was an assassin in the night.  He wore black fighting leathers and had his hair tied back in a simple fighting braid.  He could kill both Sneax and Lassiter in seconds and dump the bodies into the Bay.  It’d be a miracle if they were ever found.
“I should warn you that you are surrounded, Mister Lassiter,” Draks said.  “Have you brought my Distilled Tiger Essence?”
“I, uh… I ain’t got your stuff, Draks.  But I know who took it.”  Lassiter shoved Sneax in the back.  “It was this stupid little sneak-thief right here.”
Sneax whirled.  “What?  But I didn’t—”
Lassiter cuffed her hard, right on the ear.  “I only just caught her,” he said.  “But I figured, you know, maybe you’d want her.  So’s you could make her talk and all.  Make tell you where she hid the stuff.”

Draks smiled.  It was the scariest thing Sneax had even seen.  
“Well,” he said, “I guess you’d better hand her over.”
Before Lassiter could do it, the building exploded.
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