Banditry For Dummies (open, easy-going doncha know)

Mossflower in summer was a sight to behold. There were all manner of trees of all specie: Maple, ash, elm, oak, alder, blackthorn, pine, etc, etc, etc!  The path which ran down from the chaotic north and up from the lazy south was almost always in shade, especially at this time of day. Slanting shadows lay across the dusty flattened soil in some places, in others was golden sunshine. It was not too hot, but muggy.

The shadow play was perfect for roadside thieves, as creatures trundling by in the sunlit areas found it very hard to see beasts lurking in the shadows, but the bandits could always see their targets.  Kidje Floatpaw was one such wandering thief. The plain-featured rat sat waiting just to the east of the broad walkway, picking his claws with his dagger and hoping to see some bumpkin mice or funny-voiced moles come passing by. Preferably with lots of supplies on them.  He felt a hankering for strawberry cordial and he knew that goodbeast travelers almost always carried it. Growing impatient, the rat stood and paced about in some moss. He spotted a dry-rotted log close by and took an experimental knife throw at it, but missed terribly.  Cursing, Kidje was made to root about in the surrounding foliage for the blade until he finally found it embedded in a fallen sycamore branch.

The rat, embarrassed but glad nobeast was around to see his mistake, returned to his watch. Squinting, he noted a distant figure coming along, striding almost down the center of the path. He couldn't tell at this distance what sort of creature it was, but it was assuredly not a mirage.  Kidje assumed the position, crouching behind the very same log he had thrown the dagger at.

Agnes was hot. The day was really quite nice, warm and seasonable, and noticeably more comfortable than her own home at the height of summer. But despite walking in the shade, and using a huge dock leaf as a fan, she was still entirely too hot for her own comfort. She knew that it was probably the baby making her hot; she remembered when Auntie Rita was carrying her youngest and was always so hot that she walked around in nothing but a shift for the last trimester, even though it was midwinter and Uncle Tavish threw fits about indecency and frostbite. None of their neighbors seemed to mind…well, the wives did, but their husbands were always especially helpful then...

A sharp kick jolted Aggie out of her wandering thoughts and she absently reached down and rubbed at her belly. "Petit, ya gotta quit kickin' Mama lak dat…" she mumbled.

She glared up at the sky as she walked, trying to judge how far she'd walked. She had stayed with a pair of extremely old woodland bachelors for the night, happily helping them with any tasks they were too old to complete, and she'd left them early in the morning. She'd been walking ever since, with only a few breaks here and there to rest. But now she was coming out of the half-trance that fell over beasts traveling on their own, with no one to talk to. She realized that her back and footpaws ached, and she was incredibly hungry. The baby seemed to realize that too; as her stomach growled, her unborn child spun and kicked inside her.

After another particularly sharp kick under the ribs, she sighed. "Okay, okay..." Aggie veered off the path and the woodlands. It was slightly cooler, and with a sigh she lifted her hair off the back of her neck. At least she hadn't worn that stupid bonnet Aunt Babbette had pressed upon her...

She scowled at the memory of their last, frosty parting last season. Still what was done was done, and deciding to put more important matters first, she cast about for a place to sit. Aggie's gaze landed on a log that was slowly being covered by moss, and after an experimental prod with one foot, settled herself slowly down on it with a groan. "Why on earth do Ah always end up walkin' so damn far befo' Ah rest?" she mumbled, to herself and the baby, as she fished a flask of water out of her pack.

She didn't even notice the fact that just on the other end of the log, there was a rat crouched and watching her, she was so tired and hungry.

Kidje took a long hard look at his intended target as the creature approached with a highly unusual gait.  The rat wondered why in Hellgates the distant figure was waddling in such a manner.  Hw clenched his teeth. The only thing he could think of was some sort of veteran killer–-a beast raised in the Northlands... or maybe Southlands, or Eastlands, or...nevermind...any place would do---with an old injury that made them limp.

The figure came closer, moving at a fair pace despite the heat of the day.  The rat stifled a loud guffaw with his paw at his own foolishness.

Disfigured assassin indeed! It was only a mousemaid, and a pregnant one at that.  Easy pickings!  The rat crouched lower.  The figure moved nearer, fanning away at her perspiring face with a large dockleaf and talking to her own perfectly round belly. With a shudder the thief wondered why they always did that. Well, it wasn't as bad as those beasts that took visible signs of conception as an invitation to molest the poor expecting mother.

He remained perfectly still, expecting the mouse to carry on her way, to go past the log he hid behind. Instead, she came right at the hiding place with a tired-sounding groan and prodded it with her footpaw.  Kidje was afraid he'd been discovered, something near-impossible for him to imagine. He was a patchwork of boring brown hues, invisible in the detritus and undergrowth of the woodlands.

"Why on earth do Ah always end up walkin' so damn far befo' Ah rest?" the mousemaid asked herself in a foreign dialect that Kidje had never heard before, even though he'd plundered hundreds of travelers.  She got out a flask that immediately attracted the rat's attention. He wondered what was in it---mice and such always had all sorts of goodies:  Plum cordial, dandelion and burdock water, mint and sage tea, peach brandy, or even good blackberry wine. Standing slowly to avoid the leaf litter crackling tellingly, the thief brandished the dagger slightly too high overhand and altered his voice so that it was harsh and menacing-sounding:

"Yah, hand over yer vittles, missy, afore I fix this little toothpick in yer gizzard..!"

Aggie froze in the process of pulling out something to eat. There was a strange, menacing voice demanding she hand over all her food. Slowly, she straightened up, and then looked over her shoulder at the…the rat--goodness, but was he hard to see in the shade like that. The sun glinted off the point of his 'liddle toothpick'. She knew that she should just leave the pack and go, that that would be the prudent, and above all, safe thing for her to do.

But the very fact was that after all that walking in the warm sun, hell, after a season's worth of walking and ferries and short rides on passing hay carts, she simply did not want to get up from this spot and let him have her pack. It seemed that everyone wanted to take something from her. And her temper was already quite past it's snapping point.

Instead of raising her paws in the universal 'I'm harmless, take whatever you want' gesture, she glared at him. That glare turned into a half-snarl, and she growled. "Ya kno' wat?" she asked him, slowly turning to face him on the log. "Ya kno' wat? Ah don' tink Ah'll be doin' dat taday, podna. Ah t'ink Ah'm jus' gone sit here an' have some bread, mebe a liddle bit o' honey ta go wit it. Ah t'ink dat yous should jus' put dat damn knife away, befo' ya hurt ya self wit it, or Ah hurt ya myself. Ya should be ashamed a'yaself! Tryin' ta steal when all it would'a had ta do was ax nicely an' Ah'da shared wit yous. An' if'n dats too much fo' ya pride, dere's a whole big forest full a'stuff ta eat! Ah didn' come all dis way jus so yous could tek all my rations an' stuff ya face! Damn fine hospitality, Ah tell ya!" Agnes's voice had slowly been gaining volume as she upbraided him, and had been yelling for a bit now. In one paw she was stabbing the air with the small knife she was going to cut her bread with.

"So ya c'n eithah put dat ting away an' come ax nicely ta share," she continued, "Or ya c'n git de hell outta here!" To punctuate that, she slung the paw with the knife out and back towards the road. The knife slipped, and spun out of sight to get lost among the roadside scrub. For a moment, she just looked dumbfounded at the loss of it, first at her empty paw and then at her would-be robber.

Then, she sniffed, blinked furiously, and burst into tears.

At first it seemed the pregnant mouse would fearfully give up the pack slung across her back as she paused with her paw half-in and half -out if it.

Kidje's heart leapt into his throat as the seemingly harmless creature instead stood up square in his face and began angrily berating him, sounding like a badgermother that had just caught her babe breaking delicate vases for the fun of it.

"Ya kno' wat? Ah don' tink Ah'll be doin' dat taday, podna. Ah t'ink Ah'm jus' gone sit here an' have some bread, mebe a liddle bit o' honey ta go wit it. Ah t'ink dat yous should jus' put dat damn knife away, befo' ya hurt ya self wit it, or Ah hurt ya myself. Ya should be ashamed a'yaself! Tryin' ta steal when all it would'a had ta do was ax nicely an' Ah'da shared wit yous. An' if'n dats too much fo' ya pride, dere's a whole big forest full a'stuff ta eat! Ah didn' come all dis way jus so yous could tek all my rations an' stuff ya face! Damn fine hospitality, Ah tell ya!"

The rat cringed visibly as her voice cut down all the nerve he had left in his scrawny body, even more so when she brandished the small breadknife from her pack threateningly.

"So ya c'n eithah put dat ting away an' come ax nicely ta share," she continued, "Or ya c'n git de hell outta here!"

As the pregnant mousemaid jabbed her knife out over the road to the south, where she had came from it slipped from her paws, the force of her gestures sending it flying as if she'd meant to sling it.  Kidje's sharp eyes caught sight of it glinting as it came down on the other side of the path somewhere in a patch of English daisies that were in bloom.  At first he was emboldened by the loss of the mouse's weapon, but this feeling quickly was banished as the female began crying rather loudly.  Floatpaw took a hasty step back away from this… this... fearsome shebeast, accidentally stepping clear off the log and falling backwards into the undergrowth.

"Oof!" he grunted, scrabbling to right himself embarrassingly. He stumbled out beside the path, trying not to gore himself with his dagger as he skidded to a halt a pace or two away from the mousemaid.

"D-don't you shout at me, mouseypaws. I ain't afeared o' you, a-an' I ain't no begger," the rat eyed the area where the knife had fallen as he lied rather obviously, taken aback greatly by the exchange.  He had not expected such a,well, helpless looking beast to be so much trouble. A squirrel, sure. A posse of moles, of course, those ornery giant shrews could insult like no beast, but a mousemaid with child? Kidje shook his head in disbelief, pointing a bony claw at the pack still swinging from his "victim's" shoulder, "You either give it or I'll take it! An' quit yer bawlin'! I-It ain't h-helpin' you none!"

Oh, but it was.  It so was.  Kidje was shaking with the instinctive desire to "calm down the crying beast--at whatever cost".  But he was sure if he tried to shut her up any other way but with threats she'd wallop him in the snout.

Oh, great. Now that she had started to cry, she couldn't seem to stop. Aggie had always been a bit on the emotional side, yes, but ever since getting pregnant she'd mist up at the drop of a hat and sob at things that normally didn't bother her, or that simply made her angry. It was embarrassing. She honestly didn't know what was worse, the fact that she had started to cry in front of the rat who wanted to steal all her food and stab her, or the fact that she was worried if he'd think her some dithering, hysterical thing. She shouldn't be worried. She should just punch him in the face and be done with it. That's what she would have done before.

But before wasn't now. Before she'd been in a city with friends and –mostly horrible-- family. Before she hadn't been traveling alone for nearly a full season and a half, with compainionship that didn't last outside of a shared ride across the river, or a night in some old widow's farmhouse. Agnes was a clan animal. She got lonely easily, and right now, she was so lonely that even her 'attacker' was weclone company.

"You either give it or I'll take it! An' quit yer bawlin'! I-It ain't h-helpin' you none!"

For a moment after his shout, she hushed, and just looked at him. Her hair was a mess and sticking to her wet cheeks, her nose running a little. Her eyes were red and swollen. It was evident that she wasn't scared of him, not in the least. She was just angry, at herself and him, and horribly lonely. Then, right when her breathing was calming down and she was ready to sigh in relief that this latest storm of tears was over, she hiccuped, her lip and chin quivered, and she felt the dreaded, mortifiying prickle of tears behind her eyes.

"A-a-ah don' ti-ti-tink Ah caaaaan!" she sobbed again, letting the pack slide to the crook of her elbow forcefully. Sniffling loudly, she took it and hugged it to her, looking vastly like a youngling. "Ah'm tired an-an-an' hot an l-l-looonlely an' deeee firs' beast Ah c-come cr-cross tada-a-ay holl'rs atatat m-me an' wan-wants ta tek m-m-my pack offa meeeee!"

She had been gaining volume again, and if she couldn't stop, she was worried about the mess passerby, should there be any, would be walking into and possibly making worse. And she wasn't normally such a pity party, which just made her more mortified which did nothing to staunch her tears. "An n-n-now Ah ca-can't st-st-stop cryin' an ya probl'y t-tink Ah-Ah'm some whiny ol' hou-housew-wi-wife an' Ah-m nooot but why yous gotta beee so mean!?"

Ugh. Not only did she have some sort of crying issue, but she felt she had to spill her guts to him now, too. As lonely as she was, just then she wished the ground would swallow her up.

((OOC: Sorry, I don't think I could've put Aggie's lines in my own post this time. That accent's a killer!))

BIC:

To Kidje's great surprise the mouse swiftly stemmed the flow o tears down her face and fixed him once again with that strange unhappy look, one which the rat thief associated quite rightly with a creature that sincerely wished to punch something but was not allowed to do so.  Boy, was she a sight now.  She looked like Father after a tankard of horrid seaweed grog.  Actually, more like Mother after a tankard of grog.

Then she hiccuped, sending herself into a tizzy once again. Floatpaw jerked slightly in alarm as the silence was broken by the pregnant beast pouring out her nearly indecipherable dialect at him.  She appeared to be detailing her day's entire story to him as she hugged the desired traveling pack to her pitifully, making the rat shuffle uncomfortably.

Ugh. She was the spitting image of his Mum now–berating him soundly and calling his lifestyle into question.  Kidje put his free paw to his forehead and rubbed tenderly, his brain hurting from trying to interpret the heavily-accented sobbing and decide how to best avoid the awkwardness that was manifesting in the roadway.

"Why you think I gotta be mean?! I'm a bleedin' thief! I cain't just spend all day makin' daisy chains with mouseymaids th' likes o' you!" he groaned, his raspy threat-voice slipping by accident and slipping into more the reedy tenor it was supposed to be, "You care wot I think of you, eh? Well I don't give a dead acorn whatchew think o' me..!" The rat paused, his mouth open slightly as he lowered his small blade, "Y'know wot? Just keep th' damned bag! Gimme one bleedin' flask outta there an' I'll be gone, miss. That's all it takes." His exasperated growl died down into a more wheedling one, hoping to throw the odd mouse off with the offer of a compromise.  These mice were generally easy to do that to... but he couldn't be sure about this one.  She seemed mighty feisty, as if her unborn babe were contributing the emotion of two into the body of one.  Kidje suppressed a shiver. Pregnant females were scary.  Not as bad as angry otters, but unnerving nonetheless...

ooc: Hey, sorry to interrupt, but does anyone mind if I join in? I know it says open, but I thought I'd ask out of politeness, eheh. n.n;

((I don't mind in the least! More the merrier. Better wait for mucha, though.))

((Sorry for the tardiness. I was really sick for the last few days. And no, I don't mind another rper at all! It is open, after all!))

Well fine. If he wanted to be awful, so be it. Her sobbing hadn't abated, but she was slowly growing more angry than lonely, and his abrupt nastiness was rankling her.  She'd let him go with one of her flasks, and then sit down and try and stop her sobbing before she made herself sick. It was for the best, probably. He didn't look that intimidating, but charging forwards and punching him in the eye would still be a bad idea. Attractive to think about, but damn stupid. And he didn't warrant shooting him with an arrow. He was just a petty thief, not actually going to murder her and leave her in a ditch on the side of the road.

Aggie glared at him through the tears and gasping breaths for a long moment, then ground out a "Fine, ya couyon," before opening the pack and sorting through the supplies she had in there. She didn't want to give him anything she really liked, after all.

A moment's searching produced a glass bottle of amber liquid. It was stoppered with a cork that had a few nicks in the top, and the sheer fact that Aggie had to really thnk before remembering what it was was good enough reason to give it to him. Ugh, it was that awful cider that had been pressed into her paws by the Ferry Owner's wife, months ago. She'd tried to drink the other bottle of it and it made her sick.

"Here," she groused, thrusting the bottle at him with a look that told him that being choosy would only result in the same bottle thrown at his head. "Tek it an' git, ya git."

OOC: I apologize for taking a little while to post, as I wasn't able to yesterday because I was at a friend's and the storm that passed through killed the internet there.

Not too far off, a white weasel lay under a tree, a piece of cloth draped over his face to block out the sun as he slept. His nose twitched, and the weasel rolled over. A very irritating noise was cutting through his sleep, causing him to twitch and roll until finally, his eyes opened. Growling, he looked around but didn't see anything. ~Figures….hundreds of miles of woodlands and I still can't find some peace and quiet.~ He stood up and stretched, his back popping loudly several times. Listening closer to the aggravating sound, the weasel recognized it as somebeast crying. Curious, he began to walk in that direction, bringing both of his scimitars along just in case. After about three or four minutes, he burst out the woods in the middle of the road, about three feet from Agnes and Kidje.

The rat bandit was in the process of reaching out to take the offered cider flask when the snowy-hued mustelid burst forth from the dense foliage on the east of the woodland road.  With a squeak that was quite a bit less masculine than he would have preferred Kidje jumped, fumbling his dagger and dropping it into the dust.  Just one look at those two long, curved blades the weasel carried just screamed "fighter" to Floatpaw, and he dropped to his knees to retrieve his knife with all haste.

"E-Eh?! Who're you?! You some kinda 'ordebeast?!" Kidje stammered out, speaking the first thing that came to him. After a breath and a moment of thought he realized that calling a vermin stranger "hordebeast" right off simply because he carried blades of war was probably a stupid thing to do, whether the white creature was one or not. Kidje sincerely hoped he was not. Hordebeasts had no qualms about tormenting and slaying other vermin, even fellow rougues, highwaybeasts or soldiers for hire. He gulped nervously and stood quickly, "Whaddya want? I warn you, this mousey's mine. If yer a robber, you'd better scram, 'cuz I was gonna get this 'un!"

Aggie honestly didn't know if this day was getting better or worse. First her "robber' and now this formidable-looking weasel bursting out of the greenery and coming towards them. He could be more troublesome than the rat, and trouble of a more skilled kind. She suddenly wished her bow wasn't unstrung or tucked into her bedroll. She stood up a little straighter and scrubbed her eyes with the back of one paw, sniffling a little as she did. Unlike her little friend, though, she strove to appear neutral, neither neither too eager to throw herself at him or to attack, a tactic that she had learned from her time around the city watch.

However, as soon as Kidje laid his claim on her, she scowled. Forgetting for the moment that there was a possibly dangerous beast standing within arm's reach of them, she turned and scolded him, "Oh shut up, sil vous plait! Ah don' belon' ta anywone, an' certainly not to yous!" She reached out and prodded him in the chest with the cider bottle to punctuate that point. "An put dat liddle knife away! Damnfool wavin' a knife 'bout lak yer gone off ta war. Don'chew kno how ta be civil at all?"

The weasel stared at the pair completely dumbstruck. ~I got woke up by these two…..?~ He sighed, reaching behind his head to scratch his ears. The weasel's nose twitched at the antic of this random mouse maiden and supposed rat robber. The weasel frowned at being called a hordebeast. "Do I look like a hordebeast to you?" On closer inspection, he actually looked rather clean. Eyeing the knife the rat held in his paw, the white weasel sighed. Zerstoren eyed the mouse, arching an eyebrow at her. "I take it he's trying to rob you?"

Kidje shied away from the attacking cider flask with a disgruntled yelp, reaching up and rubbing his chest indignantly. Well, this wasn't going well. If he couldn't even handle a fiery-tempered pregnant mouse wielding a refreshment and a few choice words, how could he possibly hope to come up against this tough-looking weasel?  Floatpaw had never seen a hypomelanid before, though he knew they existed.  Such beasts had to be smart and strong to survive in the wide world.

"Do I look like a hordebeast to you?" the weasel asked. The rat thief blinked at him.  No, he didn't think so.  But he did look like a skilled warrior that was well-armed.  Though oftentimes the worst of the vermin were the most immaculately well-kept, horde leaders or Emporers or tyrant princes and whatnot.  Kidje had no idea which. He was not among the horde-going type, prefering his own company and occasionally that of other vagabonds.  "I take it he's trying to rob you?"

The rat scowled, baring his teeth slightly. He slipped his paw back a bit cautiously to where his bolas hung on the back of his belt.

"'Tryin''?! I was almost done!" he growled, taking a step back from either of them in case he needed room to suddenly run for it, "Any'ow, what's it t' you, whitefur? It ain't none o' yer business wot happens t' some whiny mousemaid in th' woodlands! It ain't even like she's hurtin' none-_-_one measly cider flask when she got five others!" Floatpaw scoffed the last bit, bringing up some bitterness from within he held about his vagrant, none-too-well-off lifestyle. "Che!" He spat on the ground to the side, even in his passion to scared to dare putting it any closer to the dangerous-looking fighter. Or the not-very-dangerous looking mouse.

"'Tryin''?! I was almost done!"

"Oh, come on!" she growled, wanting to swat him, though he had wisely moved out of reach. Bon rein. "Ah gave ya dis damn bottle, an' ya know it." She crossed her arms and set her weight on one hip, fixing him with an icy, but still almost tolerant look.

She leaned over a little in the weasel's direction, adding in a slightly quieter tone to him, "Ah dunno if'n he knows how ta use his manners. Ah axed him if'n he might wanna share, but noooooon. Gotta make de misere, dis wone." She flapped her paw over her shoulder at Kidje and shook her head. "Ah don' tink hes gone try an' draw blood, though." Idly, she raised the cider in Kidje's direction to get his attention, and then lobbed it lightly at him. Without waiting for him to catch it, she fished around in her pack until she pulled out her battered water flask and offered it to the white traveler. "T'irsty? Is warm out taday."

Despite the fact that he could be anyone from a perfectly polite and wealthy traveler to some sort of violent and dangerous royalty, Aggie was happy to be polite to him. And if he was someone dangerous, all the better to be polite and not make him mad.

Zerstoren eyed the pair, watching them argue. Rolling his eyes, he leaned against a tree and sat down. Seeing the flask offered to him, the weasel blinked. "Err….umm...no, not really, no. Thanks anyways." Zerstoren watched the rat, almost as if he were....curious? ~At least the mouse is nice...I mean, here I am, a complete stranger, and she offers me a drink.~ "So tell me, what brings you out here?" The weasel lay back, folding his paws under his head and lounging. However, a very light snore could soon be heard emanating from the sleeping musteline.

What in blazes..?

Did he just fall asleep in the middle of talking to me?

Looking first to the left and then right down the road for no reason other than nervousness, Kidje hesitated for a second.  How do you fall asleep in the middle of speaking to someone?!?  The rat couldn't comprehend it, especially when the conversation partner was holding a knife in your direction.  Floatpaw shook his head, then very timidly stretched one footpaw out to prod the napper in the lower leg.

"Wot in th'…" he muttered, finding himself looking anxiously over at Aggie without meaning to.  He quickly averted his eyes. "Wot in Hellgates...?"

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