Arries the squirrel walked into the old, broken down inn. It needed a lot of work, but soon, it will be ready. Who knows, maybe she will even get some customers!

Arries the wildcat paced back and forth in front of her unfortunate generals.
"So what you're saying, is that you can't find a single civilization for me to conquer!" She growled.

ooc- open for anyone!

Into the Inn entered Grundlink. The traveler rat from the South had come a long way, moving barely without cease all morning and afternoon. Having seen the Inn at the bottom of a hill from the northwest, Grundlink greatly and cheerfully welcomed the opportunity of food and rest; wiping his pilgrim's boots on the rug behind the front door, Grundlink happily approached the counter, coming before Arries the squirrel.

"G'afternoon, miss!" Grundlink nodded at her cordially and began to make an order. "Non-alcoholic cognac, if ye have any, an' a meal o' seeded rye bread wit' butter, strawberry jam an' white cheese. Table for one, no smokin'."

He looked around the Inn with interest, curiosity, and skepticism. "New place, eh? Am I th' first customer? Well, lucky for me and for ye, as well! I'll just go have a seat in th' back over yonder." He indicated a table by the window with a single chair, overlooking the land outside and around the establishment itself, and did so immediately while waiting for his order.

His first sight upon taking the seat was the wildcat in the corner, reprimanding her ashamed generals for their failure to find any lands to conquer. Grundlink bit his lip to avoid any slips of the tongue to reveal information about possible conquests. He had friends and family in other parts of the world, and the last thing wanted was a conqueror invading them, and starting a tyranny.

_Word o' advice, miss: steer clear o' th' five Eastern Islands. I've been there, and ye do not want t' mess wit' those places. Believe me, I've seen their power. Don't get complacent and stay away from there. Just somethin' important.

Don' drink too much, Grundlink. This is a wildcat out t' rule th' world. Whatever ye do, watch yer mouth around her. She means business; mind yer own._

Nonetheless, Grundlink put up his feet on the table, gazing out the window at the slowly setting sun over the tall hills around. What a serene sight to see. It relaxed the rat, and he sat back in his chair.

Arries shook her head as she gave Grundlink his order.
"She came in yesterday,  and I couldn't refuse her, plus she gave me a lot of money, and I need it to serve other customers. Besides, she hasn't done anything yet."
She sat his stuff down in front of him.
"Do you mind?" She asked, gesturing to the other side of the table.

“Hmm?” Grundlink looked from her face to his hoisted feet on the tabletop. “Oh! Oh, right'. I’m so sorry.” The rat quickly pushed and pulled his legs down properly to the floor, and clapped his paws together once at the arrival of his order.

“Never though’ I’d find non-alcoholic cognac anywhere! In all my years travelin’ th’ world, there’s just too much dependency on liquor, yeah?” He took a sip of the ice-cold wine-like drink, detected not a trace of alcohol, and sighed in satisfaction and laughed heartily. “Marvelous, miss! Absolutely marvelous! I’m your first customer, and I’m lovin’ th’ place already!

“So ‘er over there’,” – he indicated the wildcat to the side with a jerk of his thumb – “ye two know each other? And…share th’ same name? Grand! Now I’m confused.” Grundlink scratched his head in this utterly dumbfounded state of mind. “Well, then again, I suppose ye wouldn’t ‘ave th’ inn if not for ‘er help, eh? Thank ye again for th’ meal, madam. I’ll take it from ‘ere.”

Grundlink unstrapped his weapons from his belt and back and laid them upright in a wall corner behind his back. A blazing warm happy fire burned in the hearth on the right side, separating the rat and the wildcat.

Did this inn just pop up out o’ nowhere? Grundlink asked himself while spreading strawberry jam on his fresh warm toast. Is it new? I’ll be darned, this must have been quite a stretch, in every sense o’ th’ word!

Hoping that neither of the two creatures named Arries was watching, Grundlink dove into his knapsack and withdrew a parchment map. Rolling it open, it revealed a comprehensive and heavily detailed sketch of the Eastern Islands, five inhabited landmasses far out to the ocean. Far past Marshank, far past any civilization, a world all their own.

Grundlink spread said map on the table and examined it, chewing gratefully on his toast, but also keeping a watchful eye on the other creatures, lest they start asking suspicious questions.

Arries shuddered. "Yes, we have the same name. mor grandparents were ver-, I mean, friends. Well, let me know if you need anything, and a room."
Arries moved away, and started cleaning a few dishes. after she was done she started polishing the counter, As she did this, she noticed Grundlink take out a map. She looked to see if the other Arries noticed, but she was too busy yelling at her hordebeasts. She silently noted to tell him to not look at his maps, unless he was in his room, or a mile away. The wildcat was dangerous.

Grundlink wiped his paws on a napkin and followed his fingers along the map of the Eastern Islands, holding it close to his body, to refuse the others to see.

“I’m t’ go t’ Maraul? Aye, those were th’ instructions! I’m needed over there, but when? They said somethin’s happenin’, somethin’ incredible, miraculous!” His voice raised practically over a whisper as the adjectives rolled from his mouth. “Massive! Stupendous! Revolutionary and revelatory!”

Grundlink hastily composed himself; had the others named Arries heard? No, they were both too busy. He did fairly feel the squirrel’s eyes on him, disapproving of the map. The last thing that should happen was to allow a stranger to touch down on the Islands uncalled for. Grundlink returned to it, cupping his elbow in an open palm and tapping his chin again.

“He’s comin’ back…” Grundlink whispered to himself in great wide-eyed awe. “Soon and fast. The signs’ll tell o’ his return. T’ unite against a familiar darkness, th’ five lights shall burn, an' under a banner shall th’ five blades cross. Three signs o’ six; beats me abou’ th’ other half. Must have patience. Th’ Chieftains know, they could sense it. Th’ world’s about t’ change. From out o’ th’ darkness shall shine th’ light.”

The words sounded far more cryptic out loud.

I didn’t just say all that, did I? Great Scott!

He dared not touch the cognac anymore but scanned the map a third time. Strange messages drawn by charcoal in mysterious runes decorated every edge and side, and on the shapes of the Islands themselves. Messages intended only for the most enlightened of minds to decipher and understand. Grundlink knew their meanings but always kept them to himself. Nevertheless, they all pointed towards one revelation:

In a short time, He would return.

Arries the wildcat's ears perked up.

"Massive! Stupendous! Revolutionary and revelatory!" She heard the newcomer say. what was his name, Grindle? Gundfink? It didn't matter. She kept chewing out her generals, giving them the usual punishment, as she closely listened to the rat, hearing him say a riddle, and more interesting things. She would have to confront him later.

Mentally, meticulously, Grundlink reviewed the meanings of these runes in his mind; remembering every word, phrase, line and precept. Then the rat carefully and neatly folded up the map, and wrapped it up in a sackcloth covering with a twine string to seal it together. After doing this, he returned it to his knapsack.

He knew deep in his heart that it was a mistake to bring the map out in the first place, especially in front of these unfamiliar creatures. Nonetheless, only he could read the runes, and anybeast who translated them would scarcely make sense of it anyway. Both under his breath and inside his head, Grundlink recited the enigmatic words to himself.

“Familiar shadows…lands o’ memory. Lights on hills o’ rock an’ stone. Five weapons an’ one flag…”

That was all he could make out, only three out of six. What did they mean? Shadows already well known, or related to a remembered shadow that long departed from this world? Five lights…five suns? There was only one sun that shone for this world. Or perhaps that line referred to physical beast-made lights that would burn together: one starts to burn first, and the other four follow in succession?

That was all just on the front side; Grundlink knew of much more written on the back, but had not yet translated it. Perhaps for the better, some things must just remain secret.

Hoisting himself upright, Grundlink unstrapped his coinpurse from his belt, stood up from his chair, and approached the counter.

“Thank ye again for the tasty delectable meal, miss. How much would ye like me t’ pay for it, and for a room also? I’ll just be stayin’ overnigh’.”

Arreis the squirrel looked at him kindly.
"Hmmm, I would say about, 4 coins, 2 for the meal, and 2 for the room."
She quickly glanced at the wildcat Arries, and turned back to Grundlink. Arries the squirrel did not want Arries the wildcat to hear.
"I'm glad you liked your food, would you like me to show you to your room?"
Aries the wildcat looked at Grundlink and the squirrel conversing. She was too far away too hear, but she was suspicious. If the squirrel was hiding something, like the map, she would be sorry. She MUST have that map, it was the only way to a civilization that wasn't one that did not have many, many warriors. At least none that she knows of. She needed a land to rule over, she must redeem herself!

The next one to enter the Inn was a hedgehog, Cockleburr by name. He came  up to  Arries and asked for an October Ale. He was a friend of Grundlink and didn't know he was there until he came in. He saw him  conversing with the squirrel and saw the wildcat looking at them suspiciously. "Grundlink!" he said. "Long time no see! What are you doing with yourself?"

Grundlink paid for both the meal and room and was just about to return to his table to finish the meal when a familiar voice hailed him. The rat twirled over his shoulder to see the hedgehog.

“Cockleburr!” Grundlink walked up to and hugged the hedgehog. “Haven’t seen ye much these days, either! I’ve been keepin’ well, just’ visited my parents yesterday, then got back t’ travelin’ again. I came upon this nice place abou’ a few minutes ago myself. You've still got yer old habits, eh? October Ale an’ nothin' else.”

Grundlink excused himself while Arries the squirrel escorted him to his room. Simple and humble: a feather bed in the corner, a small end table with chair, and a large dresser and closet. The basic things, never materialistic or wealthy. He smiled encouragingly at Arries.

“Got everythin’ I need here, and can see this inn havin' a brigh’ future! Keep workin’ hard, miss Arries, and ye’ll have yer place like a rich palace before ye can say ‘cognac’! Thank ye, I’ll just drop off my stuff.”

He fetched his knapsack and returned to the bedroom, leaving it on the end table, strapped tight and shut. Hoping that nobeast would dare try to steal it, Grundlink closed the door and entered back out into the main area, inviting Cockleburr to join his table.

The cognac had been fine! Nothing wrong with it, as the rat lifted the cup to drink again. He had simply overreacted. He beckoned Cockleburr over and spoke to the hedgehog in a low voice.

“I’ve translated the front side o’ th’ map. It’s strange t’ me. I can’t figure anythin’ out. Anythin’ you've heard from the Islands that I should know?”

Arries blushed deeply as Grundlink commented on her inn.
"Thank you, it means a lot for you to say that. "
She went downstairs and went the counter where a hedgehog was. She quickly went and grabbed the October Ale for him. She saw Grundlink and the hedgehog greet one another, then converse in quiet tones.
She went over to thier table.
"Do you need anything?" she asked, then added softly, "Like a private room or table?"

Cockleburr sat down with Grundlink. A hedgehog and a rat talking together looked strange to  anybody looking, but the hedgehog had been friends with the rat for so long that he thought nothing of it.

He also spoke in low tones, not liking the way the wildcat was looking at them. "I'll look at it with you later. I heard a few things from the Islands, but also something more important that I heard from a Sparra. It is this…" Then Arries came up. There were too many ears around. He looked up at the squirrel. "Yes, I think we need a private room and table," he said, taking a sip of his October Ale. "And I'll have what he's having."

He winked at Grundlink. They would have a lot to talk about later when they were away together.

Arries nodded, then showed them the back room of the inn, which was like the main part, but was more secluded, more decorated, and the wildcat wasn't allowed to go in there, in case she might break something.
She quickly went back and grabbed what Cockleburr ordered.
"By the way, I suggest you don't bring out your map anymore unless you are in your room. " She said as she set down the beverage, "Or anything cryptic, or anything valuable."

Another beast entered the inn of a weathered looking ferret with a walking staff of sorts. From a first glance of the ferret he had the appearance of an experienced fighter and seen much on their travels, especially from how he rubbed fresh dirt off his worn boots on the rug behind the front door. With a steady walk and clicks of his staff hitting the floor he made his way to the counter, not caring if the wildcat and what seemed to be lackeys with her in one corner of the inn.

Lance Drifter he was, hailing from lands far to the north and while some might not guess where he came from exactly, as those can guess hes traveled far from how worn his clothes looked. He waited patiently for the innkeeper to come back and place his order for his stay there, all the while keeping a passive eye under hood towards where the wildcat was.

Arries came in from the other room, and saw that another beast had entered.
"Oh, sorry, didn't see you there. What would you like? " She asked.

A flicker of surprise came in the form of a raised brow under his hood, but it quickly disappeared from Arries arrival. "Bread and ale, care not for what kind." He said in a gruff and distinct northern accent as he headed over to a table in a corner of the room away from the wildcat and her lackeys. Taking off his pack he set it to the side of him with a audible thunk and leaned his staff against the wall beside him as he took his seat.

Pulling out a small map from a pocket and he unfolded it onto the table before him as he looked it over. At a glance one can tell it showed a different land and had foreign writing in runic shapes as he looked it over. Mentally he plotted out his course for his next destination and how long it would take as he muttered to himself lowly.

Arries quickly grabbed the bread and ale, and hurried over to his table. As she caught sight of the map, she muttered under her breath, "What is it and cryptic maps in plain view today?"
She sighed and placed the food and drink on the table.
"Would you like anything else?" she asked.

Arries the wildcat quickly saw the ferret, and noticed he was from far away. Maybe he would have some info too, she would have to ask later. She dismissed her generals and went to a table.
"I need some food over here!" She yelled.
Arries the squirrel glared at her."Could you wait a minute, I have to deal with a customer!" She shouted back.

Lance caught the muttered words Arries made and caught slight interest for the ferret. "Cryptic, no. Useful? Up till a week before crossing into…." he struggled to find the word, "Mossflower, yes." He says before giving a grunt of approval for the food and took a bite from the warm bread. Always nice to have the occasional warm food in ones belly from long travelling considering how far north he came from and how beasts acted very differently this far south.

He could tell the wildcat is a leader of some sort, but one he might get a job with? He drank some ale and shoved that idea out of his head, a wandering mercenary has to have at least some standards if any. "Any reason for...being suspicious of maps?" He asked with slight interest but not really.

"How much? Food and lodging for one night?" Another question along with his first one as he still had some leftover money from his last odd job.

Hurrying back to his bedroom, Grundlink grabbed his knapsack and followed Cockleburr into the private room that Arries had shown them, barely noticing the newcomer ferret entering the inn.

“Miss Arries.” Grundlink bowed before her respectfully and gave her a promising assuring nod.  “My map is written in a language that is ancient an' intrinsic in nature, beyond th’ understandin’ o’ even th’ most brilliant o’ minds on our planet. My friend Cockleburr and myself are th’ only ones able t’ read it. You've done great to help us today. Thank ye for this private room.”

After the squirrelmaid had left, Grundlink sat comfortably down on one side of a red velvet sofa, patting the cushion beside him for Cockleburr to join in. The black-and-white-faced rat’s eyes appeared to expand in his high piqued curiosity; he raised his half-empty glass of cognac at the hedgehog, encouraging the story.

“Now, my mate Cockleburr, wha’ is it ye heard from th’ Sparra? Wha’ are they doin’ in th’ East? Or does this concern somethin’ different, their own business? Is it somethin’ ‘bout th’ map?”

Grundlink opened up his knapsack to retrieve the map. Undoing the twine knots and unwrapping the sackcloth covering, the rat spread it out on a large birch round table before the sofa.

“Part o’ this front’ side is translated, or wha’ little I can gather. Best ye write this down, it’s a tiny little piece..”

Grundlink cleared his throat and read meticulously, tracing his fingers along the runes imprinted on the sides of the map.

‘Familiar shadows…lands o’ memory. Lights on hills o’ rock an’ stone. Five weapons an’ one flag.’

Makes no sense; can’t get my head around anythin’!” He folded it up lengthwise and passed Cockleburr’s glass of ale to him. “Puttin’ it aside, for now, wha’ have ye got? Wha’ do th’ Sparra say?”

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