Squinting his eyes against the dark, Thicket Slatepaw wrapped both paws tight around the thick wooden shaft and set his weight against the pile of debris. With an enormous heave and a rumble of crumbling stone, the great hammer was ripped free from the rubble, the shifting stone allowing a small ray of midsummer sun to illuminate the cavern. Shading his eyes, Thicket grumbled as he set the hammer aside and began to carefully scale the heap. This had all seemed such a grand plan a few hours earlier, but the big mountain hare was beginning to rue his luck.

Having grown tired of the cold northlands, Thicket had elected to begin moving southwards. A chance meeting with a traveling caravan of moles had directed him to the quickest path to his destination:

The Northern Passage: A great, winding tunnel through the base of a mountain range, its exit would place Thicket right on the road to the sunny southlands. Tucking the the scrap of paper the kindly moles had offered into his belt, three days' hiking had brought him to a rough semicircle of stone, the cavernous mouth of The Northern Passage just ahead.

In retrospect, the mountain hare supposed that he should have probably taken the fallen support beams littering the entrance to heart, but as he peered through the narrow gap to the outside world, he admitted it was probably a tad too late for that.

Turning his head to the dim tunnel behind him, Thicket shrugged.

After all, it could always be worse.

Crossing her paws huffily, Cammy stomped irritably. This wasn't how this was supposed to go!

Following the scrap of map that otter had given her had led her to the foot of an enormous mountain, where a tunnel SHOULD have been waiting to carry her further on her glorious quest-finding quest and a resume of heroic deeds so great the Long Patrol would BEG her to join them.

Instead, she found herself staring at an enormous rock pile.

Clearly a recent addition, the pile sat in the mouth of the cave like the thumb squarely upon the nose of her little sister, mocking her.

Well! She wouldn't stand for that little brat mocking her, much less this stupid great pile of rocks! Tossing her head haughtily, Cammy swept a paw back across her head, ensuring her ears were properly tucked into their ribbon. As she looked over the wall before her, a small spot of blackness near the top caught her eye, and she grinned fiercely. Nothing this insignificant could stand in her way!

Glaring at the obstacle before her, she stormed up to it and began to make her way up over the errant boulders and piles of scree, chastising it soundly as she went.

"Well! I must say I've met some with nerve before, but just look at you, you! Trying to block an innocent young maid's path like this, of all the rude, inconsiderate-!" Her tirade promptly took a decidedly less ladylike turn as, stepping on a loose rock that looked far more secure than it had any right to, she found herself sliding backwards.

"Oh, that is IT! When I find my way up there, I'm going to wring your rocky neck! There's no mountain too tall for Chamomile Camellia Camembert!"

Struggling and cursing, Cammy's paw hit upon the hole in the wall, and she pulled herself up.

Imagine her surprise to find a face on the other side waiting for her!

Hearing the tirade from below has piqued Thicket's curiosity. As the constant stream of cursing finally reached the top, he was taken aback to see the face of a young haremaid!

Blinking a moment, Thicket grinned. No reason for rudeness here, especially not to a maid!

"Weel noo, 'tis a grand auld afternoon to ye, missy. Go on wi' yerself, what's a braw wee thing like you doin' up this high on such a luvverly morn?"

For a moment, Cammy found herself lost for words, but she quickly composed herself. Unusual circumstances were no cause for a rude introduction, after all. And he had seemed a pleasant sort, if a bit difficult to understand.

"Well, I must say I didn't expect to find anybeast here, of all places. As for what I'm doing, I suppose the same as you, sir- Trying to pass through this unfortunate state of affairs! I don't suppose you would be willing to move aside and let me pass through? I'm on my way south, you see, and I-"

Cammy's voice trailed off as she examined her new conversational partner. After a moment, she spoke again, an audible excitement in her voice. "Sir, please don't think me rude for asking, but you wouldn't happen to be on assignment with The Long Patrol, would you?"

Overwhelmed by giddy excitement, Cammy leaned into the hole, supporting herself on her forepaws. "Oh, do say yes!"

Despite himself, Thicket let out a deep belly laugh. Such enthusiasm!

"Well, missy, Ah've had mahself a braw bonny toddle 'round the north mountains- That long enough? Now, as fer passage, dinnae fash yerself."

Moving back from the hole, he gestured grandly with a paw. "Far be it frae me tae stand in the way of a grand auld mountain-strangler such as ye, aye?"

Disappointed as she was, Cammy couldn't help but giggle.

"I'm afraid that's not exactly what I meant, sir. You see, The Long Patrol are a great army of peerless warrior hares, defending all the land from villainous vermin and other ne'er-do-wells!"

Pausing in thought a moment, Cammy let herself drop back down to her paws and gave as polite a bow as the thin rock ledge would allow.

"I've only just realized I've not yet properly introduced myself yet. Chamomile Camellia Camembert, soon to be of the Long Patrol, at your service!"

Noting that only his head was visible, Thicket inclined it respectfully, flopping an ear low in respect.

"And well met to ye, miss Camamalillalambert!" Thicket grinned; He was so good at names! "Mah own's Thicket Slatepaw, and 'tis guid ta see sich formidable recruits tae such a braw band. If'n they've got e'en a titchy bit of yer spirit, woe to anybeast fool enough tae face 'em. By the by; If'n yer comin' in, might ye have a light? 'Tis darker'n nightblack."

Cammy's entire left side cringed at the absolute butchering of her name by the grinning hare.

"W-well! It's a pleasure to meet you, mister Thicket. And if you would kindly call me Cammy, I believe it would be much easier on the both of us. As for a light…" Looking around, Cammy sighed with resignation as she realized that the scrubby, stunted little pine trees a few minutes back the way she came were her best choice.

"I'll be back in just a moment!"

Scrabbling back down the heap, Cammy dashed over to the little copse of pines. Stripping a few branches, she promptly tarred and wrapped them with strips of bark, creating a pair of simple torches. Running back, she practically leapt the hill of debris, her excitement building again.

"Here we are! Two torches, ready for what lies beyond!"

"Just right!" Thicket grinned hugely. "Away wi' all that 'mister', d'ye ken? Ain't fer me. Come on then, wee Cammy. In you come!"

Moving away from the aperture, Thicket offered a paw.

Taking the paw delicately, Cammy nimbly slipped through the hole.

"Well then, Thicket- Thank you. It really is such a lovely thing to find such manners this far- EEEEP!"

Hopping down on the other side, Cammy promptly realized that the passage was as far down on this side as it was on the other. Clinging to Thicket's paw, Cammy gently settled herself on a stable rock and began her descent in an attempt to hide her wounded dignity.

"Well! Um, I believe my thanks are in order. You're wonderfully study when such things are called for. Come along, now, down we go!"

Thicket followed her down to the cave floor, shaking his head. Definitely a lawful, this one. Laying one of the torches down, he began to fumble with several pieces of rubble, striking one against another in an attempt at a spark.

"Careful, wee Cammy. Dinnae fret, Ah'll catch ye whene'er Ah can."

After a good deal of grumbling and striking, Thicket let out a growl of triumph, raising the now-burning torch. "There we are! Proper set tae light our way." Rising to his full height, he raised the torch out towards the darkness, watching the flickering light push the shadows further. "A grand auld day fer a march, no?"

Little did the beasts know that the road ahead would be far deserted and the journey far from safe.

Dylan peers into the darkness ahead, draeing a deep breath. Its hard to say what kind of lizard Dylan is. His red scales are covered by a yellow shirt and brown buttoned vest. The rapier at his side hangs lover over his hip and his wide brimmed hat has a red feather plume.

"Cheer up Dylan, soon we will be rolling in money." says the fox as he wraps his arm across the lizards shoulder and leans into him. Dylan pushes him away but struggles to do so.

For a swift fox Dale is quite the opposite in build. Most of the garments Dale wears are made of leather, from his hat to his sleeveless vest which he leaves open to expose his rather generous gut.

Tied into the same belt as his long flowing loin cloth the heavy set brown fox wears a short sword at his side, but its the spear that will do most of the fighting.

"Or dead. You know what waits for us in there…" Dylan says in a flat tone.

"Ah, don't you worry. We don't know what has been making beasts dissapear in the tunnels, not for sure. And if it turns out to be what we think it is, I'v experience with the beasties."

"Right." Dylan says in a way that suggests he doesnt believe it. "What do we do if we find other beasts down there? Travelers already in the tunnels?"

The fox belts out a laugh, taking a peice of jerky from his snatchle and eating it, "No one would question us stumbling upon more victims of the tunnel monster dylan."

With that the two vermin and their companions enter the tunnel...

(OOC: Whoops wrote up an entire post and didn't actually hit 'post' ^_^;)

Lighting her own torch from the one Thicket held, Cammy skipped ahead, excitement bubbling forth from her lips as conversation.

"A historic day, Thicket. The day the legendary Long Patrol Brigadier Camembert took her first true steps towards glory! The next time I set paw in this tunnel, I'll have tenscore hares at my back, true military formation!"

Leaping to the top of a nearby stone, she drew her 'sword'. A funny little thing, it was a stick of some sort clearly fashioned to resemble a rapier. In actual fact, it was her mother's antique candle-snuffer, the bell of which she'd hammered flat over the end and sharpened, leaving a wicked tip.

Swishing it about grandly, she parried, feinted and thrust around a hundred imaginary enemies.

"Elegant and graceful, a wonder to behold! Vermin hordes flee in terror and young recruits trip over themselves to get a glimpse of Brigadier Camembert!"

Turning, she winked cheekily at her huge companion. "And, of course, her stalwart and loyal Sergeant Slatepaw!"

((ooc All right if I join using my two favorite characters?

((bic  Icefurr trudged up the steep foothills. He was looking for the tunnel, that the old mole had said would be at the base of the mountain. He needed a break from his home, the northlands.

The arctic fox wore a silvery cloak, over a dull, travelstained tunic. His belt and boots were both in shambles, made of the same old leather. A curved sword was thrust lopsidedly into the belt, and a bow was slung over his shoulder, with a few arrows in a quiver at his hip.

His companion, Gilan, walked along him. This was a strange creature. His fur was a mottled brown and gray, making it shimmer in the grass and whatever trees they passed. He wore a dark brown cloak, with a crossbow on his back and throwing knives lining his belt. A quiver of bolts joined the crossbow. He'd come through the mountains to see Icefurr, and invite him to Gilan's home. Now, they were both looking for the easier way.

As they walked, GIlan's sharp eyes spotted a light on…no, it seemed like IN the side of the mountain!

"Icefurr! Look! Over there! Someone's in the tunnel. We found it," he burst out. He broke into a run, with Icefurr on his heels.

When they got to the spot that Gilan had pointed out, Icefurr held up a paw. "Wait," he said. "We don't know exactly who this is. Maybe it's an enemy?" He sniffed the air. "I smell...rabbit? And hare?" He looked at Gilan, puzzled. "Let's check this out." They crept silently into the tunnel.

Laughing, Thicket gave his companion a friendly pat on the shoulder. "Nay, missy- The soldierin' lark is nae fer me. A great braw figure such as yerself, though- Aye, Ah can see it grand."

Continuing forward, he stopped at a fork in the tunnel. "Hmmm… Now there's the trick, innit?" Placing a footpaw on a large, square stone sitting between them, he rested a paw on his knee and began to think. "Hmmm... Now just which way..."

The two friends dashed forward silently, until Gilan spotted the light again, and this time, Icefurr as well. "There it is!" they both whispered at the same time. Gilan held up a paw.

"Still smell it?" he asked the fox.

"Yeah, but this time…I smell vermin," came the reply.

Gilan kept moving, but pulled out a few knives at the same time. He readied himself for attack. They came to the source of the light.

They saw a hare, and another, but this other one was small, and thin. Not in the normal build. They both held a torch, and the small one carried what seemed to be a sharpened stick. She was jabbing around with it as she spoke.

"They look friendly. Why don't we see who they are?" Icefurr said. He stepped out into the light. "Ho there, hares! Who are you?"

((ooc Don't forget that Icefurr IS a fox, so...

Staggering under the force of the big hare's paw, Cammy hurriedly drew herself back up, sheathing her swordstick and adjusting the bow on her ears reflexively before following him down the tunnel.

"Oh, we'll soon see about that- Once you see them for yourself, you'll be hooked! I'd dare say-" Trailing off as she caught up, she joined Thicket in a meditative posture. "Hmm. Yes, this might be an issue. I don't suppose there's a sign-?"

Turning at the sound of a voice behind them, Cammy's paw fell to her weapon's hilt. A silver-white fox, modestly dressed but for a rather lovely cape, accompanied by a… Well, Cammy wasn't sure quite what it was, but mother had taught her appearances weren't everything.

Hmm… That IS true, I suppose. Mama always said that all creatures deserved a fair chance, be they bat, shrew, badger or mole... Never mentioned vermin, though... Oh, there's absolutely no cause for rudeness.

Raising her paw in greeting, Cammy beamed winningly at the newcomers.

"Good afternoon, sirs! An absolutely lovely afternoon, wouldn't you say? This cavern does add a slightly more macabre atmosphere to the proceedings, but after all- How can we properly appreciate a beautiful summer afternoon without a point of comparison?"

Hopping to the square stone Thicket had rested on, she sat daintily on the edge, placing one leg over the other and crossing her paws in a ladylike fashion.

"My name is Chamomile Camellia Camembert- That's 'Cammy' to my friends, if you please- and my heavily-armed friend here is Thicket. Who might we have the pleasure of addressing?"

Of course, being respectful doesn't mean I shan't let them know we'll defend ourselves.

Dylan shivers as he walks. He always hated caves, damp and cold and far away from the sun. Of course Dale was much to insulated to be effected by the cold. The round bellied fox continues to smile as he walks, torch lighting the way.

Behind them were a ferret and pine marten. The ferret could not be confused with anything but a sellsword. He wore a tight fitting green shawl to cover his head and the sides of his face. He also wore a dark green tabbard over his slender figure. Normally there would be chainmail under it, something he grumbled about being banned from using.

Created too much noise they said.

The pine marten was a taller lass and like the fox was a victim of good food. Her tight fitting sleeveless jerkin could not contain her portly stomach. She wore a bandana across her head and generally peered down the tunnel with a coy smile. It was hard to tell if she was excited or just over compensating for nervousness.

Both carried broad swords at their hips but it would be the spears they carried that would do the killing.

"I wish we could have hired more s-souls to accompany usSSs." Dylan stammers, completely droppinv his well defined accent in the cold.

"We will make do. Besides, less people to share the loot with this way," Dale replies.

"Won't do us any good if we are all dead…" Dale quiets the lizard with a raised paw. It takes him a moment to hear it to.

Voices.

And by their lack of screaming it would appear that the beasts have not yet met with the Tunnel Monster...or monsters...

Dale gestures for the marten and ferret to stay behind. He leaves his torch with them. Giving himself a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dsrk he and Dylan both journey forward, sticking to the shadows as best they can...

"My name is Icefurr," the fox said. "This is GIlan. Who are you two fine creatures?"

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