Anything You Can Do: Part Four
“Kanrik, how do I fend off this thing?!” Hannah cried desperately, dodging to the side to avoid a gigantic backhand from the furious Snow Beast.
“Bluff an attack, try to back it against the wall and run!” Kanrik shouted back; Hannah didn’t have the strength to wound the Snow Beast well enough to subdue it, but her agility was far greater than the beast’s, and given a clear escape route she could easily outrun it.
Hannah tried her luck and feinted to the left, thrusting the dagger out in front haphazardly; it had the desired effect, as the Snow Beast lunged to the right to avoid it. This momentary lapse in stance was all Hannah needed. She tore down the cavern, heading for a succession of steep, slippery ledges near the entrance; she wasn’t going to abandon Kanrik, who was still trying to paddle back to land as quietly as he could. Keeping an eye on her friend, Hannah jumped up the ledges in a few agile leaps, and landed on an outcrop just out of the Snow Beast’s reach.
The beast roared furiously as it swiped at Hannah, always missing by a few inches each time. It was much too heavy to attempt a jumping swipe, and the ledges were too thin for the beast to climb with its enormous hands. The beast grunted, disappointed at his lack of a catch, but didn’t look too downtrodden; after all, there was another potential prize within reach. Kanrik immediately noticed the beast’s deadly gaze settling on him, and his blood ran even colder than the water he was in. On land, he would never have been so frightened, but he was at a severe disadvantage in the water.
The beast waded into the icy lake, unfazed by its temperature, and grabbed Kanrik by the hood of his cape. The Gelert struggled against the beast’s grip to no avail; his time in the water had slowed his movements considerably. The Snow Beast was well aware of this and took his time in eyeing up his prize, growling lowly as he stared Kanrik down. The Gelert let out a growl of his own, helpless to do anything else as the beast raised his massive paw to shove Kanrik under the surface of the water—
But Kanrik instead found himself being flung into the air, landing heavily upon the top of the small mountain he had been trying to climb only a short while ago. The beast was roaring madly, trying to throw something off its head; in the time the Snow Beast had been eyeing its prey, Hannah had darted from the safety of the ledge and jumped onto the shoulders of the Snow Beast, grabbed onto its horns and was throwing the beast’s balance off by pulling on them wildly.
“K-Kanrik, catch!” Hannah struggled to shout, throwing something to her companion as best she could with the dizzying ride the Snow Beast was subjecting her to. Kanrik instinctively threw an arm out to catch what she had lobbed- and was pleased to feel the familiar form of his dagger’s handle back within his grasp. Rising shakily to his feet, Kanrik spotted several outcrops on the side of the cavern wall; perfect stepping stones down to the other side of the lake. With all the skills he had honed during his time as a thief, he ran at the outcrops and deftly jumped between them. His luck held out as he reached the other side, as Hannah had managed to guide the rampaging beast right under him.
The final blow happened in one exhilarating instant; Hannah relinquished her grip on the Snow Beast’s horns and fell awkwardly onto the hard floor. Kanrik landed on the beast’s snout, replacing Hannah’s grip on its horns with his own. With one hand firmly wrapped around a horn, Kanrik unsheathed his dagger and pulled his arm back, aiming for the bone of the other horn. The beast screamed in fright and lunged over to one side, desperate to avoid Kanrik’s well-aimed strike; while his attention was completely focused on the pin point of Kanrik’s dagger, Hannah slammed her body into the beast’s leg to throw it off balance. The Snow Beast’s leg gave way under him; the beast seemed to fall in slow motion, with the right side of his face taking the brunt of the impact.
Kanrik was once again thrown across the room, landing heavily near the entrance, and Hannah darted over to aid her fallen friend. “I’m fine,” Kanrik assured her, pushing himself up onto his knees. The pair glanced over at the Snow Beast as it howled pitifully in a corner of the cavern; the fall had snapped off one of its horns and chipped one of its long tusks. Its self-esteem in tatters, it hobbled out of the cavern and down into the long tunnel. Hannah and Kanrik watched in bemusement, both letting out a breath they hadn’t realised they were holding in.
“...Think it has friends nearby?” Kanrik asked idly, reattaching his dagger to its rightful place on his hip.
“Snow Beasts always do. I think we should go before he comes back with a vengeful army,” Hannah replied, climbing to her feet and offering Kanrik a hand up. He didn’t take it, instead resting a hand on Hannah’s shoulder for support. The Usul simply tutted, laughing and stepping to the side when Kanrik attempted to wring his soaking cape out over her head.
“I suppose no one won this bet, then...” Hannah sighed, disappointed at her lack of talent for fighting and pick pocketing.
“Yes, but... Perhaps it’s for the best. If we could both treasure hunt and pick pockets, we’d lose what makes us unique.”
“Quite true. But you could’ve done with getting some of those gems; you have a promise to keep, after all.”
Kanrik opened his mouth to respond, and then promptly shut it again. He pondered his options for a moment before putting on a very fake, sugary smile. “I couldn’t ask a favour of you, could I?”
Hannah smiled and waved off his request, fetching a pickaxe from her backpack. “This favour’s on the house. Get ready to leave- I’ll be right back...”
As Kanrik watched Hannah leap from the outcrops over to the field of gemstones in a matter of mere seconds, he made a mental note to slip a good portion of the gems she retrieved into her backpack when she wasn’t looking. It only took the Usul a few minutes to uproot all of the most beautiful gems and jump her way back over.
“Here. Oh, by the way, I promised those Unis a hefty portion of that treasure...” she said sheepishly, packing some of the gems into her already full backpack.
Kanrik just rolled his eyes, not entirely surprised, and started a quick pace down the tunnel leading outside. “Let’s just get somewhere warm, before either of us catch our deaths,” he huffs, teeth chattering as he pulls his damp cape around him for warmth in vain. “Think Taelia will take two more underprepared travellers?”
“Doesn’t she always?”
With the constant threat of the Snow Beast returning with friends, the pair found it easy to keep a quick pace as they headed for the exit. The trek up the mountain was short; their luck continued to hold out as no storms hampered them and an aurora lit their way to Taelia’s, and both shared a relieved sigh as the Snow Faerie’s igloo came into view. An inviting glow pouring out the windows into the glittering snow, dancing slightly as the fireplace inside yearned to the frozen travellers. The Snow Faerie herself was outside, enjoying the aurora, and beamed when she saw the two approaching.
“Hannah! My, I haven’t seen you since I cured you of that curse! And just look at you, you’ve gone blue with cold! And Kanrik, you’ve got icicles hanging off your nose! Inside, both of you!” Taelia garbled her words slightly in surprise, but wasted no time in rushing over and shooing the frozen creatures into her house. Kanrik and Hannah seemed to float towards the fireplace, sighing immensely grateful thanks to the faerie as they sat down in the orange glow of the hearth.
The Gelert found himself smiling as the Uni brothers trotted over from the sofas, settling themselves next to their leader.
“The fireplace is delightfully warm, sir!” the striped Uni said happily, curling up on the rug with the others.
“It certainly is... Oh, I believe I owe you something,” Kanrik said as he handed over a lump of gemstone to each Uni, finding that he didn’t mind parting with this treasure as much as he thought he would. After all, he would be asking the Unis for a lift back to Krawk Island when they were all warm and dry. The Uni brothers brayed in wonderment, absolutely content in this moment, and curled up around their spoils as they drank in the warmth from the fire. Taelia smiled happily, and got up from the fireplace to head for the kitchen.
“You all stay here while I make some borovan—oh, who’s this?”
The door to the igloo opened once again, letting a flurry of snowflakes in to settle on the sofas. A tall figure clad in a short-sleeved trench coat hobbled in, brushing icicles off his fur.
“Honestly, these blizzards! They come out of absolutely nowhere! Perhaps I should’ve taken that woollen jumper from Brynn, after all... Ah, Taelia!” The newcomer cried, giving the Snow Faerie an overly grandiose sweeping bow. “I couldn’t barter a night of shelter from you, could I?”
“Of course, Hanso. But you must start coming to Terror Mountain more prepared for the weather, this is the fifth time! Here, take a seat with the others- I’ve some borovan to make,” Taelia sang, showing the Ixi over to the fire. Hanso took a seat next to Hannah and quickly saddled up to her.
“Hello, pretty miss! Who might I have the honour of sitting next to, then?” Hanso said, voice suddenly smooth as silk as he took Hannah’s hand and attempted to place a kiss on it. The Usul managed to slip her hand away at the last moment, resulting in Hanso kissing his own palm.
“Ah... Hannah. Hannah the Great. And you are...?”
“Hanso,” Kanrik answered for the Ixi, eyes dark and expression sour. The Uni brothers quickly backed away onto the safety of the sofas, wondering if the two thief masters were going to fight it out in front of Taelia’s fireplace.
“...Oh! You’re the Ixi upstart that’s threatening Kanrik’s authority!” Hannah realised, joining the Uni brothers on the sofa.
“Oh, come now, I’m not threatening your position, Kanrik! I’m not even in the guild anymore! It’s just... Well, given my title of Master Thief, it can’t really be helped if more people start looking up to me, you know?” Hanso attempted to weasel his way out of the potential brawl, hands behind his back and head inclined in a small bow. Kanrik considered his words for a moment before getting up to loom over the Ixi.
“I’m not willing to start a fight in Taelia’s house,” he said simply, voice quiet.
“Oh, you are a gentleman, Kanrik! I’m sure Taelia will be pleased for tha—”
“But we will settle this another way,” Kanrik cut over Hanso, pulling the Ixi by the lapels of his coat over to the dining table. He pushed Hanso down by his shoulders onto a chair, and then swooped around the table to take up the chair directly opposite him.
“Ah, Kanrik... What’re we doing?” Hanso inquired, his confusion almost tangible.
For the second time in as many days, Kanrik slipped off his glove. Hanso stared at Kanrik’s hand in much the same way Hannah had done. “Huh. You DO have skin under those gloves...”
“We arm wrestle for the title of Master Thief,” Kanrik said simply, rolling his eyes as he held his hand out for Hanso to take. The Ixi simply eyed the Gelert’s hand for a moment, considering his offer.
“...I don’t suppose I’m really in a position to refuse, am I?”
Hanso laughed nervously as he removed the glove from his right hand and slapped it onto Kanrik’s, gripping it as tightly as he could. Kanrik smirked horribly, gripping Hanso’s hand just as hard.
“Hannah, would you referee for us?”
The Usul wore a smirk of her own as she trotted over and raised one arm into the air.
“On your marks!”
Both men hunched their shoulders and planted their legs firmly on the floor.
Grips were tightened, eyes were narrowed and teeth were clenched in determined smiles.