This story takes place about a decade into the future from anything I've written previously about Sneax and her friends. Sneax is a teenager in the The Priest of Loki and The Crown of Pluto. In this story, she's in her late 20s or early 30s.
A Sneakatara Boatman Story
“Da! Da, come quick! There are heroes in town!”
Da turned slowly and looked down. Seeing the expression on his father’s face, Franklin felt his own smile start to vanish. Why wasn’t Da excited about the heroes?
“Go get your sister and tell her to get inside. And lock the door,” Da said. He smiled. “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright.”
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Franklin nodded and started to scamper off. But he stopped when he saw where Da was headed. He was going into his old army trunk!
“Da! Are you gettin’ your sword?” Franklin asked. He could barely suppress his excitement. Maybe Da was gonna help the heroes! Somehow, Franklin had always known that Da was a hero, too.
“I told you to get your sister, Franklin,” Da said. “Now go!”
Franklin took off. He found Yulia out behind the cabin, next to Momma’s grave. Yulia was hanging wet laundry out on the line. One of Momma’s old wicker baskets sat by her feet, still mostly full of wet clothes and bed sheets.
Yulia was annoyed at receiving orders from her younger brother, but in the end, she did as Da had instructed. Franklin followed her into the house and then past, heading for the front door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Yulia asked. Her eyebrow arched the way it always did when she caught Franklin doing something.
“Da told you to get inside, not me. I’m goin’ to see the heroes!”
“Franklin no,” Yulia cried. “Get back here. Da’ll kill me if something happens to--”
Franklin didn’t hear the rest. He’d scampered out onto the porch before his sister could finish and then shut the door behind him. He stopped just long enough to stick his tongue out at Yulia, who was watching through the window. Then he was off, heading at dead run towards where he’d left the heroes and their horses up by the road.
It didn’t take him long to catch up with Da.
“Da! You’re wearing your sword!”
“Franklin?” Da whipped around, a ferocious scowl on his face. “What’re you doing here? I thought I told you to wait back at the house?”
“But Da! I wanna see the heroes!”
“Do not worry, good sir. We mean you know harm. Your son is safe enough.”
Franklin stopped, awestruck. It was one of the heroes!
He was a big man--bigger than Da--and he wore real armor. It was solid metal, painted black with a great eagle on the chest, and it covered the hero’s torso with a single plate. Great hulking shoulder pieces stuck from the sides, giving the man a kind of size that made him seem superhuman, and though his arms were only covered with silver links, these too seemed very impressive in their own way. The man had long, flowing blond hair and steel blue eyes. Franklin had never seen eyes like that before. A massive sword hung at the hero’s waste. It was bigger than Da’s sword by a lot.
Franklin wondered if the hero would show it to him.
Two more men sat horse behind the hero, though they were not armored the same way. They both had weapons though, and Franklin could tell that they were heroes, too. There was only one who wasn’t a hero. It was a girl about Franklin’s size wearing a black leather vest over a pair of old dungarees. Her eyes were black, and she had a tiny little crossbow strapped to her leg, along with a short sword. She had her hand at her side like she might draw her sword, and when she looked at Franklin, he couldn’t help shuddering. For some reason, though, it was she who held the reins to the hero’s horse.
“What d’you want?” Da asked.
“I am Sir Gustuv Plantagaryean, goodsir,” the hero replied, “and these are my men, Owen of Cottswald, Fat Tydor of York, and Miss Sneakatara Boatman, late of the Kingdom of the Western Isles. We mean you no harm, we merely seek shelter for the night. We fought the goblins that have been troubling this region and would like to rest and dress our wounds before we continue on our way.”
Franklin was confused. Why had the heroes fought the goblins?
“How many’d you kill?” Da asked carefully.
“Why… all of them, of course,” the hero replied. “They shall trouble you no longer!”
Da sighed and shook his head. “The goblins weren’t no trouble, m’lord. They always paid for what they took, anyway. But I guess there’s nothing for it now.”
The hero was incredulous. “You… you mean, you call yourself goblinfriend?” he asked.
“I call myself farmer,” Da replied, “and I trade with whoever there is to trade with. But I guess your lordship wouldn’t understand something as simple as that.”
“Why you impudent knave…” the hero began.
“Leave ‘im alone Gus,” the girl said. Her name was Sneakatara, Franklin remembered. What kind of name was Sneakatara? “Man’s got a family. Does what he can to survive. We’d all do the same.”
“Aye, m’lord,” Da said, “your companion has the right of it. Unless you and yours plan to be here with an army when King Snurr comes down from the mountains looking for vengeance or weregild.”
“That can be arranged,” the hero replied, “if it would free you from the goblins’ tyranny. I mistrust this… arrangement... that you seem to have.”
Da thought about a bit, but then shook his head. “Nah, your lordship. I reckon that would only make things worse. I’ve already done my bit in that line, and if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather my son not have to face it just yet. There’s an inn down the road a piece, maybe five miles. You and yours can rest up there and maybe get a meal. I expect that’d be best for everyone.”
“But this is ridiculous,” the hero exclaimed. “We have wounded!”
“It’s alright,” the girl--Sneakatara--said. She moved her hand, and Franklin realized that she was bleeding. She’d been holding her hand to cover a wound in her side. “I can make another five miles, Gus, and I expect we’ve already caused problems enough around here as it is.”
The hero turned and gave the girl a hard look. “Are you sure, Sneax?”
Da put his hand on his sword’s hilt. “I’m askin’ you to move along, your lordship. I don’t reckon I could make you, but I’m tellin’ you now that I’d have to try.”
“Unbelievable,” the hero said. He turned and took his horse’s reins in hand. A quick step, and he was up and into the saddle. “I wish you good morrow, sir, and, uh, hope we’ve not caused you undo concern.”
And then he was gone.
Franklin watched him ride away. He wasn’t sure what he thought about it, yet, but he was glad, at least, that he’d had a chance to see a real hero. That was something, at least.
Like this story? Check out Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki, available now for the Kindle.