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The Rat Trap

Despite herself, the serving maid at the Servant's Lure tavern was flustered, and stood fanning her beet-red face in pleased surprise. True, she had heard that Swashbucklers were debonair scoundrels who had a knack to dazzle unsuspecting ladies with a sly grin and unexpected comment. However, in her fantasies, she had always pictured some rugged human privateer or maybe even a dashing half-elf fencer. Never did she expect to be expertly flattered when delivering ale to the table of a mangy ratonga thief. She was so surprised that she forgot to slap him before retreating.

Grinning to himself, Bruxx ground his teeth in the traditional laughter of his people. Ratonga were often maligned as filthy, honorless creatures, little better than the common vermin these rat-man bore a resemblance towards. However, these sons and daughters of Bristlebane, the god of mischief, enjoyed a good joke when given the opportunity. The prejudices of some of the citizens of Qeynos offered many such opportunities, and it was one of the reasons he settled here after betraying the malevolent Overlord of Freeport.

Bruxx's grin slipped off his muzzle and he took a mournful dreg from his tankard. The memory of Freeport soured his humor somewhat, as he would always remember Freeport as a place where his fellow Ratonga were forced to stab eachother in the back for a few crumbs of filth. "If you looks like a rat, you should bes a rat," he had been told by his mother, "Otherwisez, yous are givens to Kerrans as toyzes." It was a prophetic warning as, upon failing a mission as a scout for the Overlord, his mother was indeed given to one of those cat-like citizens as a plaything - an invariably fatal assignment. The oppression of his people was the real reason he was here, in the free city of Qeynos, despite the great personal risk involved.

It was a risk he was still living today. A shadow appeared, looming over his table. Bruxx had just enough time to reason that a barbarian had slipped up behind him when his suspicions were confirmed. His shoulders were suddenly in the vice of a pair of large and hairy hands, pinning him to his chair.

Before he could look up and see the face of his captor, a high elf smoothly took the seat across from him. "Well, well, well, if it isn't Bruxx. Fugitive of Freeport. Found a new little hole to hide in, little rat?" The elf wore a kind of sadistic grin that Bruxx had seen somewhere else before, when one of their ilk was about to witness some long-planned torture or humiliation finally to come to fruition.

Bruxx's eyes darted around the room. As he had guessed, other than himself and his two aggressors, the room was empty of life. The patrons must have went home and the serving maid was likely off recovering her composure. It was uncommonly sloppy of him to sit with his back to the entrance to the room. He knew that even the Qeynos Harbor was not safe from the Overlord's hand and letting his guard down like that was almost asking for trouble.

Bruxx thought fast. He spoke evenly with unusual elegance for a ratonga, "Gentlemen! I'm sure this is some kind of misunderstanding."

A commanding glance from the elf, and the barbarian's crushing grip bore down on Bruxx's shoulders like boulders. Bruxx clenched his teeth in pain. Had his deft hands not forged this armor himself, he was sure he would have suffered broken bones.

The elf's sadistic grin twisted with pleasure. "Oh no, there's no misunderstanding, little rat. In your bid to convince the people of this city you were worthy of their pathetic ideals, you have sabotaged countless works of the people of Freeport. Your antics have even gained the notice of the Overlord himself. Congratulations, vermin: You're now worth your weight in platinum. As light your kind might be, that's a weight I plan to collect: Bone... by... bone..."

The elf closed his eyes and silently moved his lips. In a moment, Bruxx knew, a spell would be cast from which he would only recover from when he was about to step into the execution pit back at Freeport. Negotiations had clearly come to an end. It was just as well, as he was only buying the time he needed slip a paw down to activate the spring-loaded dagger in his right boot.

In a flash, Bruxx's boot dagger had cut through a front leg of his chair. The Barbarian's steady downward pressure on his shoulder broke the chair under Bruxx and allowed him the necessary slack to throw the huge man off balance and pivot him forward, over the table, and into the elf. The table, barbarian, and elf all collapsed in a splintery heap. A blue glow flashed, the spell gone awry, and the Barbarian went limp.

The elf roared in anger as he clawed his way out from underneath the Barbarian's inert body. As Bruxx had surmised, he was really a dark elf, his broken concentration had dispelled the illusion and revealed his dark blue skin. His red eyes searched for Bruxx, hungry for revenge. Bruxx, however, was not to be found.

"You worthless vermin! Come out and face your better! I will rend the sinews from your flesh! Your animated corpse will serve my ancestors for eternity!" The dark elf was overturning tables in his mad zeal to find the ratonga and make him pay for his inconvenience. However, he had forgotten one important thing that should be known about a Swashbuckler: never let them out of your sight.

With a howl of pain, the dark elf located Bruxx: he was affixed to his back with dual poisoned stilettos. The ratonga was in his element now, staying just out of reach of grabbing hands, stabbing with practiced precision, and neatly hamstringing his opponent. It was over in a blink, an angry Dark Elf reduced to a lump - alive, but his arm and leg muscles cut and numb from toxins, helpless.

A contingent of the Qeynos guard came clattering up the stairs to find Bruxx ruefully lamenting his overturned ale tankard. "What took you so long?" he asked dryly. The Corporal in charge of the watch surveyed the ruin quickly, his eyes widening as they fell upon the dark elf. He gestured to the guards in his command, "Take these Freeport bounty hunters to the dungeon. It seems that Bruxx has trapped some more."
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