Time: 19th Century Earth
It was snowing. It wasn't supposed to be fucking snowing. Come to sunny Venice, Shaxy had written to him. It's beautiful and warm.
After a brutal autumn in Siberia scouting for gems in the Urals, Verin had been so ready for warm. And it was fucking snowing. Of course it was.
Shax was inside the palace, playing the visiting nobleman, stuffing his face and drinking good wine while he schmoozed with the rich ladies and gentlemen in their nice warm velvets and furs. And Verin? He was out on the damn canal with the rowboat they'd use to slide away in once his snooty precious highness had what he wanted. Verin pulled his hood up farther to shield his nose from the swirling flakes. The heavy wool primarily hid his great curling horns, but he was grateful for it as more than camouflage now.
This is troll shit. I'm so fucking tired of being cold. Demons from his neighborhood of Hell weren't designed for it. He pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around his shins, puffing steam into the little cave made by his cloak. Even the bats roosting under the bridge looked miserable. They should've been flying around hunting but they huddled together jostling for space and squeaking. C'mon, Shaxy, hurry up, steal the shit, and get out here.
A splash of oars rounded the bend behind him accompanied by the sound of the drunken shouts and terrible singing of several plastered young Venetians.
"Hey, old man! You can't block the steps from the palazzo like that! Move along and find a doorway!"
He'd thought he was under the bridge far enough, hidden in the deep shadows by the steps. Maybe the steam had given him away.
"Come on, you old fart! Maybe some whore'll take pity on you and take you in!"
"Why doesn't he move? Is he dead?"
"Nah. You can see the steam of his breath."
"You poke him."
Oh, for the love of hell's fucking pointy gates…
They'd steered their boat too close from the sound of things. This could only end in tears. Theirs, of course. Verin let the oar poke him before he seized it with a snarl, lifting his head so the drunken morons would see his blazing eyes and the sparks snorting from his nostrils.
Bad thing was he'd underestimated his own shock value. The five boys in the other boat shrieked and scrambled over each other to try to get away, even though they were in a fucking boat. The poker dropped his oar, lost his balance and tumbled into Verin's rowboat just as their boat capsized. The splash, the sudden weight on his starboard side and Verin's own shock tipped his rowboat far enough to dump him in the canal.
The frigid water shocked the fight out of him and he came up spluttering, ignoring the human kids and their caterwauling as they tried to right their boat and haul each other out. Verin swam to the steps and climbed out. Because he wasn't an idiot. His boat was still upright and had both its oars, unlike some people. He huddled on the lowest step above the water 'cause now he was fucking wet and fucking freezing.
The idiot drunk boys managed to get themselves together and paddle away with their remaining oar. Verin, shivering and swearing, took small comfort in the fact that at least two of them were crying. Stupid little rat-bastards. Maybe they'd learn something from it but he doubted it.
The cathedral bells chimed the hour twice more before Shax finally showed up, swaggering down the steps like he owned the damn city.
"Ver? Why aren't you in the boat?"
"Don't wanna hear it, bonehead. Did you get what you wanted or not?"
"I did. Oh, I did. We'd best retreat with all possible speed. The marchesa will be missing her emeralds soon enough." Shax stopped on the step above him, his boots polished, perfect and dry. "Why are you wet?"
"Cause I went for a fucking swim in the freezing fucking water in fucking January in a snowstorm. Why do you think?"
"A little flurry is hardly a snowstorm and if you're so cold, that wasn't a terribly good idea."
The urge to toss his irritating highness in the canal, velvet brocade and all, was strong. Verin managed to grind his teeth and puff a huge cloud of smoke instead. "Get in the damn boat."
Shax did and actually peered at him with concern as Verin made his stiff, shaking way to his seat. "You want me to row, Ver? You really don't look so good."
"Yeah. Think you better. Don't think I can hold the oars." Verin curled in on himself as Shax got them moving down the canal. "You should've seen the other guys, though. So scared they'll be shitting bricks for days."
"Good then." Shax patted Verin's knee and had to adjust his velvet hat over his own little horns. "So long as you had fun."
"Promise me we're gonna stay in bed and eat like fire trolls. Any more damn fun might just kill me right now."
"But there's a masquera—"
Shax tilted his head in that way he did when he considered. "All right. Sleeping and gorging it is." He rowed for a few minutes in silence. Then, "Maybe we should go to America. It has warm spots."
"Nah. Too far. Let's just go to Morocco."
"Oh, yes. Good choice. Much better food than America."
By the time they reached their rented townhouse, where the servants had left fires banked and food in the larder, where a soft down bed with thick blankets waited for him, he almost felt grateful for Shaxy helping him up the steps. Tossing the little twerp in the canal could wait another day.