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, that he and Draks are working to import an illegal shipment of DISTILLED TIGER ESSENCE into Wanderhaven. But when that shipment goes missing?
That's when things start getting crazy...
The Adventures of Sneax & Elaina Emboo
Part 1: Sneax & Elaina Emboo and the Fire Elf
Elaina figured that Lassiter would take Sneax down to the Docks. The tough part was figuring out where. Elaina had a little help with that, though.
She had her magic.
Using a standard Divination spell, Elaina honed in on Sneax’s location. Then she fired off a spell—one that she should have used long before—to call for help. With that on its way, she headed out.
The old warehouse was a scary place. It was a burnt-out wreck, and it looked like it hadn’t been used in decades. Elaina wouldn’t have gone close to the place if she wasn’t absolutely certain that her best friend’s life depended on it. But Sneax needed her, so there wasn’t much choice. Elaina cast her Invisibility spell again and headed into the darkness.
She arrived in time to see Lassiter meet up with his dockside thugs and then had to watch helplessly as he pushed Sneax into the warehouse in front of him. She heard Lassiter and Draks talking about the Distilled Tiger Essence and heard Russ blame the theft on Sneax. After that, Elaina knew she couldn’t afford to wait any longer. She headed further into the warehouse, and even though she knew that casting another spell would cancel her Invisibility, she fell straight into it.
The power was all around her. Elaina felt it and reached for it. She was afraid, but she let her fear infuse itself into the spell. The magic was there, she just had to shape it, to give it life. When she had it in her mind, she held it and forced herself to be calm.
This had to go better than it had at the Old Church. Sneax’s life depended on it.
Elaina spoke her word of power, and the room exploded with light. Magic thunder ripped across the floor, startling everyone and throwing Lassiter’s thugs from their feet. Lassiter himself threw up his arm and cried out, and in that instant, Sneax dove for cover. Even Draks was caught off guard, though he didn’t drop his crossbow in panic or anything.
His eyes widened when he saw Elaina.
The room plunged back into darkness. Elaina couldn’t see, but she doubted anyone else could see, either. Lassiter started yelling, but Elaina ignored him. She scrambled to get outside the warehouse. There was a twang when Draks’s crossbow fired, but Elaina stumbled at just that moment, and the bolt didn’t shatter her spine. It slammed into a wooden strut above her, where her head would’ve been if she hadn’t tripped. She ran behind a couple of burnt up racks and ducked, and then she was back outside.
Elaina looked around frantically. There was still no sign of Melanie McGonagall. Instead, she saw was Lassiter’s bully boys coming out of the warehouse right behind her.
Sneax was as surprised as anyone by Elaina’s spell. The only advantage she had was that she’d already been looking for a way to run for it. She saw her chance and dove under a jagged wooden rack, using her size to get into the kind of tiny space that a full-sized person could never have gotten into. She rolled through and back to her feet, and then she was back in the shadows and running for her life.
It didn’t take Lassiter long to recover. He roared with frustration, but then the spell burst ended. Once the warehouse was back in darkness, it wasn’t like Sneax had some big advantage or anything. She was small, and she could hide, but Lassiter was also a trained thief, and he’d have as much idea of where she was likely to head as anyone, including Sneax herself.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Sneax made it barely a dozen steps before she ran 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. She whirled back around, but the back wall was solid, and while she might have been able to get around and out another way, there were racks between her and the rest of the warehouse. There was no escape.
“So this is your big plan, Russ?” she cried. “Blame it all on me? What’d you do, take Draks’s money and then try to keep the Distilled Tiger Essence for yourself?”
Sneax suddenly understood. “You’re the one who called the Guard last night. You needed Thorin and the boys to provide a distraction for your heist. I’ll bet the only reason you even wanted me and Elaina there was so you’d have someone to blame it on.” Sneax realized then that she was furious. All her fear, her worry, it was all because of Lassiter and his stupid plan to steal from Draks. “You’ve been setting me up from the very beginning!”
“You’re a clever girl,” Lassiter said. He held a short sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Both gleamed wickedly in what little light filtered down into the warehouse. “But it’s over now, smarty.”
“You’re darned right it is.”
Sneax set her feet and drew her 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.
Lassiter closed the distance quickly. Sneax watched him come and thought back to the last two times she’d seen him. He’d gone after her ears both times and gotten them cleanly. Sneax was faster than Lassiter, but he’d caught her by surprise twice, and she’d wound up getting dragged around because of it. She couldn’t afford a mistake like that again. But she was lucky because he’d shown himself to be predictable. And he was big.
Just as he’d done the last two times, he came in high.
Sneax saw it coming and dove, forward and through Lassiter’s legs. Her hand whipped out as she passed, and her knife punched deep into Lassiter’s calf. He howled and stumbled, and Sneax rolled through and back to her feet. She spun and kicked, planting her foot on Lassiter’s butt. He fell, and she was on him, stabbing hard for the hand that held the short sword. Russ cried out and dropped his sword.
Sneax sprang away.
“Why you little—” Russ began.
“Choose your next words carefully,” Draks said.
The fire elf appeared from the darkness as if by magic. Lassiter blanched. Sneax turned and readied her knife, but Draks merely smiled.
“That won’t be necessary, Sneakatara,” he said. He looked at Lassiter and shook his head. “For shame, Lassiter. As if a girl like this could ever steal a crate of Distilled Tiger Essence. She’s not even big enough to carry it.” He cocked his head. “Although... she does seem to have gotten the better of you in this instance.”
“I didn’t steal anything, Draks,” Sneax said.
“Did I not just say as much, my dear?” Draks replied. He smiled, and Sneax felt ice in her guts. “Now go. I will deal with Mister Lassiter myself.”
The dockside bullyboys each had a wooden truncheon. Elaina knew she should be scared, but after what she’d just done, she couldn’t be. She gathered power to herself, let arcane fire flare around her like a halo.
“Before you boys come any closer,” she said, “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 exactly do you two think that you can do that the two of them together couldn’t? Huh? Think about it. I’m not going anyway.”
|Cover by Alan Evans|
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