Chapter 1:

A City of Rats(New)

The Wolf Among Rats (Old)

Nick, the toad of a human groaned as he sat in his favourite seat. His lavish clothing struggles to hold back an endless tide of fat. "Well then? What do you two need to get the job done?"

I turn to the short strawberry-blonde elf standing next to me with my plan practically pouring out of my eyes. He takes one glance and sighs. "Who's going to be the distraction this time?"

I can't help but laugh a bit. "Oh, come on Ren, you act as though being the distraction isn't the best part!"

"Not when you take so damn long each time!"

"I'm actually very quick. You're just-"

I'm interrupted by Nick snapping his fingers at us. "Hey. I don't want you two in my house any longer than necessary. Tell me what you need and get out."

I take a deep breath to calm myself before answering. "We'll need two human cloaks of different colours. And maybe a sword to complete the disguise. You'll get one of the cloaks and your sword back."

Nick rings a small bell on his desk and a maid enters the room. She'd be cute if she were an elf, but Nick hates elves as much as we hate humans. There's no way he'd hire one of us for anything legal. He orders her to gather the items I asked for then looks back at us. "Remember that if you get caught-"

"We don't know each other, yeah yeah. We're not idiots." He scoffed and took a swig of some expensive booze. Before long, the maid returned with Ren's cloaks and his sword belt so Ren and I took our leave. As we made our way out of Nick's house and onto the city streets, I explained my plan to my human-sized friend. The city we live in, Solaris, requires that all non-human residents wear clothes that mark them by race.
Elves have to wear clothes with a symbol of two knives, representing our ears, sewn into them. If we're caught without our mark, we could be punished. And no demi-human is permitted to carry a weapon of any kind.

Ren voiced one of his iddy bitty concerns. "Are you trying to get me killed? If anyone bothers to stop us and look under my hood, I'm dead."

"No one's going to stop us. We're a perfectly normal master and servant wandering the streets during rainy season. It's more believable than two elven friends walking in the market district in the rain. Besides, all attention should be on me. You'll be fine."

Under the night sky, lit only by the moon, our conversation turns hushed. "Oh you're the distraction this time. I thought for sure that you'd have me rip off my hood and invite the whole city to kill me. How are you going to get their attention?"

I shrug and state "Haven't figured that part out yet."
He looks up at me like I'm an idiot. "Don't look at me like that. I at least have an escape plan. I'll use the central well."

"That just leads to the river you dolt. Think again."

"And around the river are maintenance tunnels. How do you think they keep the city from falling into the river? Haven't you read anything I've given you?"

Instead of admitting that he doesn't read anything I tell him to, he deflects the question. "Kar, have you actually checked to see if there are tunnels down there?"

I haven't, but there's no way I'm wrong about this. So I deflect his question. "How long have you known me Ren? How often has the great Kar'Desh been wrong about these things?"

Before I even finish the question he starts answering. "Last week. You kindly suggested that we try a new 'tactic' to hit on some girls. I was smaked and you were- blah blah blah. Kar'Desh is great. I'm just a sore loser who can't handle your greatness- And you're not hearing anything I'm saying."

I let out a hearty laughter. "Fret not young Ren'Klalen. One day, perhaps my greatness will rub off on you."

His fist lightly crashes into my shoulder which knocks me off balance for a second. "We're the same age you dolt."
As our conversation strays further and further from its original topic, the buildings surrounding us became gradually less luxurious until we eventually reach the slums where we live. The streets are no longer paved and there are no more houses. Only communal buildings with small house-like rooms for individual families. As Ren and I pass through the narrow path, we have to step over loose limbs from elves unfortunate enough to only own their name.
We step over them as if they aren't there. As if their plight means nothing to us. Poor sods. Curse the humans who did this to you.

Before too long, we reach the slums' centre, marked by a large oak tree. We part ways for the night and meet up again in the morning.

The sky is gloomy despite the Sun freshly arriving from the South-East. My cloak deflects the few raindrops that hit me. The streets are as empty as the main market square of a busting trade city can get. The conditions are perfect. I place the boxes containing Ren's spare cloak in an alley behind our target and turn to my disguised friend. "Well master. Are we ready then?"

He looks up at me from under his hood. His bluish-purple eyes burn with 'annoyed.'
"Don't call me master. It's weird. Do you have a distraction yet?"

I proudly smash my fist against my chest and raise my chin. "I'll woo the crowds with my dashing good looks."

He scoffs. "Yeah right. You look like a bandit. You'd scare the crowd off before you 'woo' them."
He shakes his head and looks through the box for the dozenth time. "Oh well. You always manage to come up with something. Don't get caught."

I slap his back as I turn to leave and make my way back into the crowd. Now. How am I going to get everyone's attention? Our target is a lone fruit vendor who just bought a shipment of exotic fruits. I could take a bite and pretend to be poisoned. Nah, no one would care that much. At most they would just avoid him for a bit. I could always go with the cult skit. That usually provokes these fanatics.
Then I see it. My distraction comes skipping merrily to visit his father on a rainy day. Our target's family just came to visit him for whatever reason. What a beautiful scene. Time to destroy it.

As I shift through the crowd, a human's sword escapes its sheath and finds its way hidden in my cloak. And he didn't even notice. To distracted with his map. Idiot. After brushing against a few more people, I manage to get into ring of vendors. After pulling up my mask, I march towards our target.

He notices me approaching and his smile lessens. "Welcome elf. Are you out to grab some things for your master? What are-"
My sword creates a shallow cut along his chest and I snatch his kid with my free hand!

The kid screams, "Daddy! Help!"

The target draws his sword and the mother screams, "Nathan!"

Stares from all around fall on me and the crying kid. Perfect. A few weapons are drawn and they rush to strike me down. I yell at the crowd, "Stay back! O-or the kid gets it!"
I raise my sword to show off my weapon. They all have their weapons pointed at me, but keep their distance. All as planned. I slowly back up towards the well in the middle of the market centre.

The parents approach me with shaky weapons. "Let him go! What do you want?! Do you have any idea what'll happen to you!?"

Pick a thought and stick with it human. Don't just spew random questions and demands. Don't you have any idea how this works? Oh well. They're playing into my hand well enough. I shout back with as much maniac I can muster, "Me?! Why would I care what happens to me!?"

The mother squeals at me, "What about your family? We'll have them killed!"

Like a puppet to her strings. "My family's dead! You humans! You think you can just do whatever you want! Take what you want! Maybe I should take everything from you!"
I'm spewing nonsense. My family's fine and I have no intention of hurting the kid. But I'm spreading the fear and panic Ren needs, as well as putting on a good show. All eyes are on me. You're welcome Ren. I continue to shout my sob story I picked up from some of those homeless elves back in the slums.

As my shouting match with the parents continued, a large horse broke through the crowd. Draped across its sides are the emblems for the Holy Temple of Sol. On it's back it carried two templars clad in the rosy armour. Damn it. I hate dealing with these zealots. And the templars are the worst.
The crowd broke apart to let them through. All humans worship Sol, the Sun god, and the templars are the temple's enforcers. So naturally, when the templars of Sol come passing through, humans move.

The smaller templar riding on the back, hopped off and made his... Her? She walked gracefully towards the parents. The clinking of her rosy steel boots seemed to silence the crowd. Her white surcoat, gently flows around her. And... A white blindfold conceals her eyes. She's blind?
Now that I look, the bigger templar with the reigns is wearing a blindfold as well. How did they manage to navigate the city streets? No matter. I know what they're doing. Send the smaller, easier-on-the-eyes person in to make the target drop their guard. Ren and I use the strategy all the time to flirt with girls. That won't work on me!

She-templar places her hand on the father and in soothing alto claims, "Calm yourselves. The Holy Temple of Sol will retrieve your child."
I pretend to lose my composure a bit and stumble into the side of the well. Great. My escape is secured. Now to deal with her. She elegantly walks to me and says, "You are quite the sinner. How impure your soul must be, to hold a child hostage."

I spit back, "Don't come any closer!"
My sword readjusts on the kid's neck. He sobs a bit more, but she's unconcerned. She takes one step closer and stops. She's extraordinarily tall for a human woman. The top of her braided brown hair reaches my neck.

There's no hint of malice in her voice as she speaks. It's a bit unnerving.  This is one reason I hate dealing with these zealots. Most humans openly wear their contempt on their sleeves, but the templars are so emotionless. Creepy. She starts up again. "My name is Summer. I am here, not to reprimand you. I wish only to heal you. Allow your soul to bathe in Sol's purifying light. Lay your weapon before me and return what you have taken."

Ren should be finished about now. I look over She-templar and see Ren's red cloak disappear into the alley with leather sacks almost overflowing with our target's exotic fruits. We're done here. Time to make my exit. "No! I don't trust you! You'll just kill me when I let go of the kid!"
Before she can respond I speak again. "No. I won't let you humans take any more from me! I'll take my own life!"
I kick the kid away and fall backwards into the well. By the Lords! This is a huge drop! How high up are these wells!? Just dive! I'll be fine!

With my hands pointed into an arrow above my head, I sink down into the raging river and use the momentum to curve back up into the surface. By the Lords this is fast! And cold! So cold! I don't know what I was expecting, but this is insane! And kinda fun. I should do this more often. I manage to swim my way to the edge of the tunnel and crawl onto the walk way. How far down-river did I go? I should run a little further until I find one of the normal access points I read about.

As I run, I ditch my cloak and mask by throwing them in the river. And there it is! An iron gate, locked from the outside, marks the final part to my escape plan. I run up a long flight of stairs until I reach another iron gate. Also locked from the outside.

I'm greeted by a gloomy sky and my wet hair absorbs the few raindrops that hit my head. That's it! I made it. That's another successful job for us and another one of Nick's competitors eliminated.

Taylor Victoria