Grundlink hurried back to his room and picked up his pack, taking a minute to check that everything was still inside and intact. After confirming it, he slung it over his shoulders and returned to his friends.
"We're takin' an awfully huge risk, you two comin' alon'," He noted to the squirrelmaid and wildcat. "But if ye say that it is safe in your vermins' paws, then I won't argue against it. Let's move!"
The two beasts who'd been left in charge of the Inn appeared from the kitchens, joining another behind the bar counter.
"You can count on us!" assured a white rat, holding a steaming frying pan with sauteed onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The chestnut pine marten beside him sprinkled a small pinch of salt into said mixture. "Myself and Ravirak here will protect the Inn with our lives!"
"No monsters would dare steal the Inn from Mossflower's fledgling vermin cooks, Nivort and Ravirak!" Azem laughed as he too picked up his travel bag and chugged the last of the cognac straight from the pitcher, which his brother couldn't help but snicker at.
"Come on, one last drink?" A brown ermine offered a bunch of empty tankards to the departing group. "It's on th' 'ouse, mates!"
Azroel waved a paw in polite refusal. "Sorry, Gajiron, we've really got to move. Besides, I'm sure everyone has had enough to drink. Thank you, though."
Gajiron shrugged it off, not in any way offended. "Aye, if ye say so! But all o' ye are welcome 'ere anytime an' everytime. Madames Arries," The ermine and his Horde brothers bowed elegantly before their former masters. "We swear on our lives an' in th' name o' th' former Fierce 'Orde that we shall guard th' Inn in your absences. May your journeys be safe, your 'earts ligh', an' your bellies full!"
"Where's Ragclaw?" Azem took a sweeping glance around the main room, but the stoat was nowhere to be found.
"Disappeared!" Ravirak vouched, coming back out from the kitchens to return the pan to the stove; Nivort watched over it while the rat explained. "Probably took after tracking Kradilus and his brothers. Nothing we can do about him. What's worse, though, is that he swiped four of the raisin cinnamon oatcakes from the larders, too! But, he's long gone, like a shadow." Ravirak shrugged hopelessly. " Shame, he'd have been a huge help to the Inn. He chose the path of darkness instead, while we all remain in the light. Nevertheless, farewell, brothers and sisters! May we, all of us, meet again! Farewell, farewell!"
With shared cries of farewell, Grundlink, Cockleburr, Azem and Azroel, and the two Arries departed the Inn, exiting the building into the golden sunlight. Gajiron locked the door loudly behind them.
Grundlink shielded his eyes from the morning sun and looked to the northeast. "Ye said ye knew th' shortcuts, aye, foxes?"
"Aye!" Azroel pointed in the same direction. "Just stay close together and we'll be there in no time, early or just in time for tea! Not to brag, but Starlight makes the best - and we mean, the best! lemon-honey tea in Mossflower!"
Azem adjusted his pack over his back and held out a paw to Arries the wildcat. "Well, my lady? Shall we?"
Azroel smirked at Grundlink and Cockleburr. "I was right, my brother's gone a little crazy. Not too much, but enough."
A hot pink blush decorated Azem's cheeks, and he stumbled over his words. "S-shut up, Azro! I'm just…just being rice - er, NICE! Just...showing r-respect to the daughter of Sinom the Fierce, the crown princess...of the Empire and heir to the throne! I'm being a gentlebeast, nothing more! Anyway," He did not take back his paw and selflessly extended it towards Arries. "Does my lady require an escort?"
Regardless of her reaction, the company set off down the northeast road, their hearts light, spirits high, and minds open, and bellies most definitely full.