“That arrogant, krait-sucking piece of filth!” Tatianna raged as soon as we were out of the Undermarket and making our way down the Old Woman’s Road again. “Whole organisation is falling apart and he’s too proud to see it.” Her words were punctuated with a sharp kick to a small stone, sending it skipping down the dusty path.
“I could conflagrate his ship.” Fotti, who had arrived just as we left the cavern, offered with a vicious, toothy grin. “While he was aboard.”
“And have half of Lion’s Arch down on our heads?” Coalpaw rumbled. “We’re in enough trouble as it is.”
“It would make us all feel better.” I offered, which drew a short laugh from the charr.
“Aye, that it would.” He looked to Tatianna, his expression sobering. “So we need to get back on The Covenant.”
“How?” She sighed. “It’s no doubt crawling with Lionguard. Fiegrsonn thinks this is his chance to get me, he’s not going to leave the only place he knows I might go unwatched. A pity he’s not stupid enough to try and ambush us here. Would solve a lot of problems.”
“You’ve a history with him?” Baen asked, echoing my thoughts.
“He’s been trying to peg something on me for years now.” Tatianna muttered. “But since he’s on the payroll he’s always been forced to bury any evidence or look the other way. Apparently he’s decided he doesn’t care about that anymore.”
“The captain might have also rubbed his nose in it once or twice.” Coalpaw added dryly, earning first a sharp look from Tatianna and then a smile that would have been called sheepish on a lesser woman.
“So it’s personal for him?”
“Very.” Tatianna stopped suddenly, all of us stumbling to a halt behind her. “Gives me an idea, of sorts.” She whirled to face us with her most dazzling smile, suddenly as cheerful as the moment we’d first met her. “But I’m going to need all of you to make it work.” She turned to Baen and I, and I could see her excited face reflected in my spectacles. “How about it?”
“Remind me why we’re doing this?” Baen asked me quietly, her eyes flicking back and forth as we lay nearly flat on the rooftop, overlooking the The Covenant where it nestled in its darkened bay.
“Because this is how we move forward, because she offered us a bonus and because it’d be suspicious if we turned down extra money for what should be a simple job. Besides Tatianna’s plan is a good one.” I answered, once again admiring the ship in the midnight torch light. “Fiegrsonn might suspect a ruse, but he’s not likely to just ignore a sighting of her this close to him. He’ll want to go after her himself.” I felt a grim smile form on my face. “I saw the way he looked at her.”
It wasn’t lost on me that just about every man, even the most repulsive examples, seemed to want Tatianna, and a familiar pang of jealousy flickered in me like an ember in the breeze. It wasn’t unlike having Cymea back in my life; the same wanting glances, the admiring looks thrown her way.
“I understand the plan, Varr.” Baen snapped, adjusting her pack’s straps around her shoulders and pulling my focus back to the present. “My question is why are we helping her? Seems like Levaunt is a better bet if we want to find the Mis.”
“He’ll never trust us.” I scoffed. “I doubt we could get so much as a meeting with the man, and even if we did we’ve got nothing to offer him.”
“We have Tatianna.”
“No.” I said immediately, fast enough to surprise even myself. “She’s our only concrete lead and besides, we don’t have anything on her anyway.”
“We have the rest of the stash Tianne could bring in.”
“We don’t know how long that’ll take to get here.” I said. “I don’t want to ask anything from her.”
“And I don’t want your pride or your misplaced sense of camaraderie messing up our first mission.” She hissed back, turning to look at me. “Listen, we’ll do this, but we’re trying to play the long game here and rushing in like this is not a good way of doing it. If we tie ourselves up with what’s clearly the weaker camp now we might never get any higher than stooge level for months, if not years, and that’s not what I signed up for.”
“I hear you, alright?” I replied, almost snarling as I tried to keep my voice down in spite of my rising anger. “But Mishael is a bad idea. Just… trust me on this.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I…” I hesitated, thinking back to way Mishael had looked at Tatianna. I knew that look, the roving, predatory gaze of a man who thought he already owned what he lusted after. I’d seen it a million times before. The way some men had looked at Cymea, wanting, but somehow almost nauseating, was exactly what Mishael Levaunt’s eyes had done. It was more than lust. “Just trust me, alright?”
“You’re going to have to-” She fell silent as a pair of Lionguard drew closer, heading our way along the dry dock’s walkway. “We’ll talk about this later.” She hissed, moving into position at the very edge of the roof.
“I can’t wait.” I crept silently alongside her, wriggling on my stomach like a snake and forced my breathing to slow as the two Lionguard – an asura and a human – moved closer, close enough now for me to see through their eyes. I saw Baen hold fingers in front of her face, counting down for the both of us, and when the one became a fist, I dropped off the roof.
The asura had just enough time to turn around before my knee slammed into his face. He squawked, hands going for his bloodied nose, but I grabbed him by the floppy ears and pulled him hard down against the wooden boards. There was a sharp crack, and he stopped moving. Baen had the human in a sleeper’s hold, her mercilessly strong forearm constricting his throat. I stepped forward as his vision was dimming, punching him in the gut to drive the last of the air from his lungs and clamping my hand over his nose and mouth.
When he was as unconscious as his partner, we bound and gagged their comatose bodies, dragging them out of sight inside one of the darkened workshops. Baen quickly stripped the human of his overcoat and hat, slipping them on while I grabbed a workman’s cap I found lying on a workbench. It wasn’t much of a disguise, but it would lessen suspicion from our silhouettes and even a moment’s hesitation could mean the difference between future and success.
“Come on.” She whispered, slipping out of the workshop and walking calmly along the walkway while I kept my head down and followed.
We made sure to amble, not moving too quickly or too slowly, but as The Covenant loomed closer I was wondering if we weren’t moving too fast. There were still guards there, and a quick count told me there were at least six visible, which meant there could be as many a dozen. Unlike the bandits on the road, I didn’t think our odds were anything I would bet on if it came to an outright fight. These were trained – albeit often spottily – warriors, and there seemed to be a fair number of norn and charr amongst them, further stacking the scales against us. Tatianna’s distraction was late, and the closer we drew to the ship the lower our chances fell of getting out of this alive, let alone undetected.
“Come on… come on…” I muttered under my breath, gritting my teeth. “Krait spit, Aurcattio, what’s taking so long?”
As if hearing my whispered complaint, a sudden chorus of shouts with the word “Aurcattio” clearly audible rose into the night, and I spotted Coalpaw’s massive form leap from a rooftop and take off at a dead run, gunfire ringing out. The Lionguard surged into motion, weapons clearing sheaths and many of them taking off in pursuit of the charr. I saw Fiegrsonn burst from The Covenant’s hatch, a weapon in hand as he rushed to catch up with his underlings.
Baen and I rushed forward, ducking low to keep from being easily spotted, heading for The Covenant’s bay. Her pack opened and the knotted grappling line appeared, the wicked hook at the end flashing in the fire light. She hooked it into the sturdy wood of the walkway, waited for me to arrive so I could use her eyes as she handed me the thick rope, then dropped quickly into the darkness below.