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Das Loot [closed]

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Evening brought the scent of resinous pine and scrub on a warm breeze as the sun set over the hills of Eastern Thanalan and night crickets sang their soft song. The land was a warren of box canyons, gullies, and valleys, cut by the deserts occasional torrential rainfall. Grieder Trelaine lay on his belly on a sun-warmed ridge gazing down into a shadowed valley. The floor of the valley, cool with the absense of sunlight, was dotted with irregular blocks of stone, leftovers from some Lalafellan settlement in an earlier age, while tuco-tuco grazed on valley grass. Two pairs of figures faced off against each other, two female, two male. Grieder couldn't hear what was being said, but he understood the purpose well enough: The females were there to trade something with the males. One of the women, a Seeker, clutched a leather case in her arms, the breeze snapping her light, flowing robes. Her companion kept up a wary watch, clearly a guard.


The males formed an almost comical contrast. A Lalafell, his decadent Ul'dahn outfit looking out of place in the remote landscape, held up a tiny box, opening it for the women to see. Standing next to him, a towering dark-skinned Au Ra scanned the area while paying no attention to the trio standing near him. Not one guard, then, but two. Grieder fingered the oddly shaped metal box in his hand, his thumb stroking a smooth button set in the surface. A Garlean stun-bomb. What his employer had to go through to acquire it he didn't know, nor did he care. If he used it at the right time, it should take down all four, so long as they kept standing together. The only question were the guards. Would they see it? Would they be able to evade it? Would they - calamity of calamities - be able to pull their respective clients out of danger? His free hand reached inside his jerkin, feeling the pendant that hung on a leather cord around his neck. The little crystal would take him instantly to Horizon, and to safety, once he'd taken the case from them.


The Seeker was moving forward. She hefted the case in her hands, then turned it to face the Lalafell, opening it. Grieder couldn't see what was inside, but he could see the response on the Lalafell. His eyes widened, wonder on his face. He nodded, then stepped forward to meet her with a word to his tall companion. He handed the Seeker the little box, and took the case in exchange. He grinned up at her, saying something, as the pair turned to walk away. Grieder smiled to himself. This was going to be too easy. The money his employer had paid Babajon's assistant was well spent. He looked down at the stun-bomb and braced himself to rise and throw it.


A crack like a gunshot echoed loudly in the valley, and Grieder looked up in surprise. The tuco-tuco scattered, and the four figures looked wildly around. Grieder could see a flicker of movement on the opposite side of the valley, and he cursed. Clearly his employer wasn't the only one who knew of this meeting. As he watched, the tall Au Ra lifted his Lalafellan companion by the collar and moved, surprisingly quickly, through the valley and away, the case clutched tightly in the Lalafell's hands. Grieder cursed, scrambling to keep up with them, running low to the ground and staying behind cover. He knew this valley - it's steep sides would channel the pair. He increased his pace, his young legs flashing.


The Seeker cried out as the valley seemed to come alive, then dashed away, her goal the other end of the valley and freedom. Her guard was running, an arrow bobbing almost comically from her shoulder, towards a lanky Duskwight that had sprang from her hiding place. Two additional figures, a Lalafell and a muscular Hyur, darted out from cover, dashing towards the fleeing males. They looked at each other as they ran, surprise on their faces. How many people, Grieder wondered, did Babajon's man talk to? How many did he sell this meeting site to?


A flash brought him back to the present. The pursuing Lalafell had thrown something at the fleeing males. Something that flashed red and snapped as it struck. Grieder increased his pace. The males had tied their chocobos nearby. He knew he couldn't reach them in time, but he also knew that the valley curved sharply to the left, and he could cut them off before they made it out. He risked a look back, long enough to see the Duskwight emerge from a billow of distracting smoke and fire an arrow at the males. The scream of a chocobo brought a grin to Grieder's face. Escape on the swift birds was no longer a possibility. He would happily trade that for the additional complications the extra pursuers. The Seeker's guard was nowhere to be seen. Grieder marked the Duskwight as the most dangerous of the pursuers. The Hyur moved cautiously, keeping his eyes on the fleeing males. He was an unknown.


Grieder leapt over a stone then dropped ot a crouch. The valley narrowed below him, a pinched-off place of steep walls and little cover. The two males struggled free from their stricken bird, while all three pursuers ran into the narrowed place, almost upon them. Grieder's thumb pressed the raised metal stud hard, felt a crack of crystal inside the box, and it warmed in his hand. He overhanded it, watching it arc into the center of the valley, between them all. The Duskwight looked up, then turned and ran the other way, her long legs carrying her rapidly away. He closed his eyes until he heard the crack and saw a violet flash, bright even through his eyelids. Four figures writhed on the ground below. He cursed. The Duskwight was nowhere to be seen. He had to act fast.


Rocks skittered down the steep slope as he half-ran to the valley floor. Seven steps took him to the prone Lalafell, still clutching the case. He grabbed the handle, set his soft-soled boot against the Lalafell's back, and pulled. It came free and he laughed. He took a moment to glance back, and his eyes widened at the sight of the Duskwight, her bow nocked, an arrow aimed at his back. He threw himself to the side, the arrow striking the ground where he'd stood, and sprinted away. Ten strides, then five more, and then a reaching leap and he hit the ground behind a block of pale stone. Dust billowed, and his chest heaved as he scrabbled in his jerkin for the pendant, his fingers closing around it. Something struck the ground near him, vile green smoke billowing from it. The crystal pendant shone, and he faded from view.


The Duskwight moved cautiously towards the block as the green smoke cleared away, followed by the Hyur, then the Lalafell. The little Lalafell, his white robes flapping, adjusted an eyepiece, focusing on the spot where Grieder had squatted not twenty heartbeats ago. Their quarry had escaped, leaving them looking suspiciously at each other in the quieting light of the evening.

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