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5. Local galley slave discovers he had been rowing a beached ship for 20 years, has a extensional crises.

I really like this one for some reason. Just imagining him swabbing the decks and standing to attention for inspections every day by himself. Probably makes his own slave gruel, then goes to set the silverware at the empty captain's table. I could write a whole story about that guy.  😉

Also, that idea reminds me of Kryten, from Red Dwarf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psidz_-s00c

posted in Mossflower read more

Fiasco found it difficult to remember names, especially to faces that looked quite similar. Still, he listened patiently as Cassandra made her introductions. The hare that had been questioning his presence was a big, barrel-chested beast named Allister. He had two stripes on his red jacket that showed his rank, though the feral cat was completely ignorant of it, or how high or low Allister was in the Long Patrol's hierarchy. He looked older than Cassandra, and two other more mature hares called Barrett and Blackburn stuck close to him. Fiasco guessed these three were the 'old guard' of the group, the more experienced (and heavily scarred) hares that made the decisions when their captain was not around, and kept the young ones alive.

Beside them, there were the hares Kendrick and Cadogan, who seemed a bit younger, but their chipped ears and Kendrick's crooked nose suggested these two had seen a fight or two. They had thick fur, and thick round shields painted with sigils Fiasco did not recognise. They were hares from the Northlands, he was told, they had come down a few seasons ago and joined up with the Long Patrol in the defence of seaside settlements from coastal raiders.

The next three hares were Edwin, Elric and Gawain, who all seemed to be the firmest friends. Edwin bore a short sword, but Gawain held one large enough to be used two-handed. Both seemed very eager to show them off when they noticed Fiasco's interest in them, claiming that they had forged the swords themselves with the help of their badger Lord. Elric, the white-furred hare amongst them, bore a black longsword, and did not seem interested in showing it to the feral cat.

After those three came Selwyn, Pippa and Talbot. At first Fiasco didn't realise that Selwyn was male and Pippa and Talbot were female, as the three seemed near identical. Cassandra explained that they were, in fact, triplets. When Fiasco asked what triplets were, she explained they were like identical twins, but the three of them had been born at the same time, an even rarer occurrence. The feral cat had never actually seen any identical twins before either, so that didn't help him very much.

Finally, the two youngest hares were Griff and Rufus, whom seemed near inseparable, never letting each other out of their sight. They both wielded bows and wore mottled green-brown cloaks over their jackets to keep them hidden in the forest. They were the slimmest and stealthiest of the hares, and whilst polite, Fiasco felt that their gazes held a certain cold quality, as if they were evaluating whether or not they would shoot him when his back was turned.

The older hares set about getting a fire started, so Cassandra could read the papers they had stolen. They had a few packs stashed around the woods, with a few supplies and weapons to keep the company alive in the wilderness. Cassandra gave him one, if only to stop him carrying around his valuables in his mouth, and also so he could share the load of the group. Fiasco did not complain, since that meant he got a lot of things for free, like waterskins, flint and tinder, a bedroll and a knife. Not quite a tent, but Fiasco was pleased. Kendrick, whom seemed the most tolerant of their new feral cat ally (perhaps being more used to cats in the Northlands), suggested he might want a sword or spear too. Fiasco refused, though. His tribe rarely, if ever had access to swords, and he could do far more damage with his claws anyway. If he was going to have a weapon, it would have to be big and destructive, not finicky and unfamiliar to him.

It was just as Cassandra was kneeling next to the little campfire to read, when in one fluid motion, Rufus nocked an arrow to his bow, and drew it back, aiming right over Fiasco's head. The feral cat froze, his yellow eyes fixed on Rufus' deep brown ones. The hare shook his head ever so slightly.

"Don't move," he muttered. Griff nocked an arrow too, and crept off into the bushes. Fiasco licked his teeth nervously, suppressing a twitch of his ear. Rufus raised his voice, and now he spoke clearly, Fiasco could detect a slight Northlands accent from the hare. "I'm talking to you now, hiding in the trees. Whether you mean us harm or nought, skulking back there will do you no further good."

Fiasco slowly turned his head, and sniffed. Lots of hare scents, confusing his senses, masking the distinctive musk of… rat. He bared his teeth. "It is one of Reaven's creatures, come to spy on us. Slay it and be done!"

As Fiasco spoke, he noticed the other hares creeping towards the vermin's hiding place, paws on weapons. The feral cat crouched low and unsheathed his claws, ready to pounce. He doubted the archers would miss their mark, but he would not risk their position being given away by an escaped spy. He was tired of running for tonight.

posted in RP Groups / Mentorships read more

"They took off with my map, my letters, and my perfume." - Reaven Brakar.

This is a hilarious line, you made me laugh. Well done.  😉

A question about the letters and map, what information would they or would they not contain? The Long Patrol have been assuming up till now that Reaven's acting on his own, so would they now know he has a brother in the north? Is there anything else of relevant interest in the papers? And is there anything that I should still assume to be secret? For example I imagine Reaven wouldn't write down anything about his plotting to overthrow his brother.

Also, it's interesting that Fegot should bring up the Long Patrol's reputation for being able to take on massive odds and still winning. I was actually thinking I would avoid any direct confrontations between the Long Patrol and Reaven's army, because unlike in the books, I can't rely on anyone coming in to save the day in the nick of time! My intention is the Long Patrol unit should be good at harassment and small skirmishes, but they can't go around killing 50 vermin each like some of the battles seem to go in the books.  😉

posted in Mossflower read more

((OOC: This works for me. 😉 ))

"Aye! Stop the intruders! To the gates, to the gates!" Cassandra barked out, doing her best impression of a vermin officer. Not bothering now to watch their step, the hare and the feral cat bolted for the treeline back up the hill, stepping over or on unfortunate vermin as they went. Fiasco's energy, tensed and held at bay by all this sneaking around, was let loose like a bowstring. He took off at a long loping gait, pulling ahead of the hare, whom was slowed down as she had to keep a tight hold of the papers lodged in her jacket as she ran. As they hurried back the way they had come, he looked up the hill to see Reaven in his nightgown.

Fiasco curved around to the right and Cassandra followed him, heading northwest into the dense black forest. His night vision was good enough to let him leap and bound between the trees and over rocks and roots, but he heard her cry out and fall. He skidded to a halt and looked back, ears pinning to his head. Though to her credit, she had misled a few of the vermin to go the wrong way, there were still angry shouts coming closer, and the glow of torches. Some vermin had woken and armed themselves quickly, and they were starting to catch up.

It was at this point, only a split-second in reality, that Fiasco realised that he could leave the hare to her fate. She would slow the vermin down, and they might even abandon chasing him altogether. He would have wealth, and once again he would free of any responsibilities or worries. In that same instant though, he also remembered he was Fiasco, son of Wildgrass, and that name did not belong to a coward. He sprinted back through the trees to where Cassandra was struggling to get back up, having injured her footpaw as she tripped on a root. Without a word of explanation, for his mouth was still full, he knelt beside her and turned his back. She understood at once, and leapt up to ride on his shoulders. He grunted as he felt her paws clinging to his shaggy fur, and stood to run. He was slowed down now he had her weight on his back, but neither was she heavy, nor was he weak. Still, the cries of their vermin hunters were drawing ever nearer, even as Fiasco put all his boundless energy to use evading them.

So busy was Fiasco with keeping ahead of the vermin, he only realised he could scent other hares by the time he was already amongst them. He saw the flash of a shined spearhead as it caught the light of the torches behind him. A flurry of spears passed Fiasco by, some only inches from striking him, and he heard screams coming from the pack of vermin that followed behind.

"Oh blimey! Wildcat!" A voice cried ahead.

"He's with me! Patrol, fall back! Fall back!" Cassandra commanded from her vantage point on Fiasco's back. The feral cat could make out the shapes of other hares now, darting through the trees with him. He watched as one stopped to let loose another spear at the most determined of the pursuers, and there was a satisfying yelp that signaled the spear had found its mark. They harassed the vermin in this manner until the pursuit was broken off. Since some runners were more agile than others, the group that had followed the feral cat and the hares was now spread thin amongst the woods north of the camp. There came a time where the amount of injuries and whizzing of spears overhead turned capturing the intruders into a waste of effort when weighed against any benefit they would get from it.

Once they were sure that the last of the vermin trackers had lost their trail, the group all but collapsed in a secluded clearing. Fiasco slumped to his knees, having run the entire deadly race with his breathing impaired by the perfume bottles in his mouth. He took them out, and clutched the two bottles in his paw, his chest heaving as he struggled to regain his breath. Cassandra slipped off him, and hobbled to a tree stump to examine her footpaw. All around them were red-jacketed young hares, armed with spears , bows and swords. it seemed they had run right into the little 'army' Cassandra had been telling Fiasco about, though there were only thirteen other hares beside her.

"Botheration! We got close, Fiasco. Close enough to see this is not going to be an easy job, no sir! Still, there's bound to be another opportunity soon. That is, if you're still with me," Cassandra said.

Fiasco thumped his chest with his free paw, his tongue still lolling from his mouth. "We… agreed. I help you... you help me. I still... want... that red jacket. You promised!"

"Beggin' your pardon, Captain, but wot was all that ruckus and why are you consortin' with this 'ere wildcat chappie? I rather thought the whole vermin operation was being run by wildcats," one of the hares piped up.

"Feral cat," Fiasco snorted, holding up one gold-ringed claw to make his point. "We're… like wildcats... but better."

Cassandra grinned, and stood back up carefully, testing out her hurt footpaw. Fiasco saw that she was still limping a little, but that was far better than if she had actually broken anything. His gaze missed nothing, he saw the way she held her paw to her buttoned up jacket, checking to make sure the precious papers were still secure. Satisfied she still had her prize, Cassandra drew herself up to her full height, and patted Fiasco's shoulder. "Introductions are in order, wot! Lads and lasses, this here is Fiasco, beast of many talents as I'm quickly learning. Fiasco? Meet the Long Patrol."

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This thread has been resurrected twice now. I know you guys like your resurrections, but really!  😛

posted in Mossflower read more

Throw a rock, Cassandra had said. It would distract the guard, she had said. So they had waited until inevitably, one of the guards outside the tent had wandered off a short way into the trees to relieve himself. Then Fiasco had thrown the rock right at his head. Not quite the hare's plan, but Fiasco felt that the whole rock-distraction would take up too much time. The rat was still breathing, but Fiasco suspected he'd done some permanent harm anyway. Knocking beasts unconscious typically only had two effects - one, they recovered only a minute or two later - or two, they didn't recover very well at all, even many seasons after the attack. The nice middle-ground of knocking out a beast for a good twenty to thirty minutes and then have them miraculously awake with no recollection of what had happened simply did not exist. Fiasco might have considered finishing the rat off out of mercy, but they didn't have time. Cassandra needed to get changed, after all.

A hunched figure with a spear tottered back out of the treeline, and stood smartly to attention outside the tent. The guard on the other side glanced over, bored out of her skull as the night's watch drew on. Then, she blinked, and whirled around, mouth dropping open. Her fellow rat guard had lost his tail and sprouted two very long ears out of his helmet. The 'guard' grinned at her.

"Wha-" Fiasco's heavy paws closed over the rat guard's head from behind, and nobeast heard a word from her again.

Ditching the helmet and spear she'd 'borrowed', Cassandra crept up close to the tent flap. Her long ears were pricked up, as she ever so slowly lifted the flap. Fiasco watched nervously, squinting down the hill every few seconds, just in case any other guards were coming this way. Down in the camp, he could make out a few figures taking swings at each other, and the sounds of violence and angry calls. In other words, a typical evening in the company of vermin. Nothing to worry about yet, until the guards changed over. Cassandra beckoned to him, and slipped under the tent flap. Taking a deep breath, Fiasco followed.

The first thing he noticed was the ground felt very soft beneath his footpaws. The air felt stuffy, still and warm. As his yellow feline eyes adjusted to the dark of the tent, he could see the floor was swathed in carpet. The darkness bleached away all colour to shades of bluish-grey, but he could still make out the intricate patterns woven on the materials adorning the inside of the tent. Cassandra was a dark, creeping silhouette, edging towards the desk, each step carefully placed. Fiasco could hear him, the tent's owner breathing as he slept. Fiasco supposed that many beasts, if they were in his place, would take the opportunity to slay Reaven Brakar where he lay. Fiasco wasn't interested in assassination though - he had no feud with Reaven cat-to-cat, he just wanted to nick the warlord's stuff. Besides, attacking his opponent in his sleep? The feral cat wouldn't have it said of him that he was a coward. Cassandra might have wanted to take a more pragmatic approach, but as it was, she was still unarmed, and would have a hard time strangling Reaven without him overpowering her. Then there would be a loud commotion, and the game would be up.

Cassandra was indiscriminate with her looting of the desk. She carefully took wad after wad of reports and letters, and stashed them in her jacket, which she had buttoned up tight. Fiasco would have followed her method, except he didn't have a jacket, or pouches or satchel or anything to carry off heavy items. There were various valuables lying around the tent, and Fiasco knew from his days as a trader that gold wasn't the only expensive commodity on the market. First, he targeted the few bits of gold he could wear rather than carry, sliding a few gold rings down each of his claws (luckily they were made for cat-sized paws). He left the bracelets and tail rings. He didn't want to take anything too loose, in case it made a noise as the jewelry clinked together. The spice jars seemed too large to take, as much as he wanted to swipe them. Instead, he made sure the stoppers on the little jeweled perfume bottles were jammed in tight, then crammed a couple of them into his mouth, hoping desperately the stoppers would not come loose. Perfume was a rare vanity, and it would go for a decent price with merchants travelling to the wealthy lands of Southsward. He'd leave out the bit about it travelling in his mouth when he sold it, though.

The whole robbery could not have lasted more than a minute, both beasts being filled with a terror-induced adrenaline, stealing things right out from under Reaven's nose. Cassandra had warned Fiasco ahead of time that he would be tempted to rush the exit - make some fatal slip-up in his haste to leave. So with a stealthy and deliberate pace, they carefully crept from the lair of the warlord, out into the cooler night breeze. Fiasco felt Cassandra's paw on his arm, and he stopped, looking around in case of danger. The hare shook her head, and pointed down at the slave pens, which were off to the left past a patch of trees as the hill sloped down. There were muffled shouts coming from within the pen, and Fiasco was sure he heard the crack of a whip. He shot a questioning glance at Cassandra. She motioned for them to get moving. The hare and the cat crept closer through the trees, eyes and ears alert. They had expected the guards to be half-asleep and the pens to be quiet. This racket was an unforeseen complication. Fiasco was tempted to call off the rescue, but they had already done one impossible thing tonight. Perhaps the opportunity would come to do another.

posted in RP Groups / Mentorships read more

Scotish, I won't post the actual robbery just yet, for a few reasons.

Since this is your character's tent and belongings my characters are going to be trying to steal from, I'll need you to tell me if Reaven actually does have any treasures/valuables or maps/battle plans/unpaid parking tickets in his tent for them to even find in the first place. I didn't want to assume anything, since he is your character.  😉

I'm thinking the alarm should be raised depending on whether or not more people join as slaves first. If T.J is still planning to join with Fabiana, I think it would be a really cool twist for Fiasco to recognise her, because they know each other from the Story Arc thread that happened last year. It would just be some nice continuity for us. 😉

If she or some other people want to RP as escaping slaves, or slaves-not-escaping, I'd say the alarm should be raised about halfway through Fiasco and Cassandra trying to get the slaves out of the pens, so some characters can escape and others get left behind.

If nobody else joins up soon-ish though, I'd have Fiasco and Cassandra get discovered on their way out of Reaven's tent, so they'd have to run for the hills and try to free the slaves later in the story.

What are your thoughts?

posted in Mossflower read more

As grand and awe-inspiring as Reaven Brakar's speech to the assembled vermin must have been, neither Fiasco nor Cassandra had ears sharp enough to hear it from outside the camp. The feral cat was naturally good at scaling trees, able to move his large bulk with impressive dexterity up a particularly sturdy trunk on a nearby hill. The hare too seemed accustomed to climbing, one of many skills that apparently all hares of her tribe were trained in as a matter of practical necessity. She had sensibly left her bright red jacket on a lower branch, however, since it might foil their plans to be spotted before they had even started any mischief. They could see Reaven's distinctive armour that marked him out from the drab browns and greys of his guards and newly-recruited hordebeasts.

"See them moving into groups?" Cassandra said, as the vermin milling around the camp started to shuffle into their divisions. "Looks like that's as many recruits as they need for… whatever it is Reaven is planning. Going on the offensive, most likely. Question is, are they packing up camp entirely, and taking the slaves, or are they just forming up for a raid in the area?"

Fiasco slowly blinked, his keen eyes making out one tiny figure in the distance, whom parted the masses of vermin like the brow of a raft through the water. The Captain who had fought with wolves, he was sure. "They stay for tonight. Fiasco has fought beasts with walls before. They like to hide behind their walls at night, when they sleep. Juska never fear th'dark, so we never build walls."

"Juska, eh? I thought you might be something like that. Don't you chaps normally do the tattoos? Or are you the lot with the poison smoke?" Cassandra chattered. There wasn't that much for them to do besides talk, now they had to wait at least until nightfall.

"That's th'Flitchaye, not Juska. We do war-paint yes, but I never made it. Don't know how," Fiasco explained. He shrugged. "Besides, I'm not Juska anymore. My tribe is gone."

Cassandra tutted. "Now, don't think like that, old son! If I was the last of the Long Patrol I wouldn't renounce it, I'd try and rebuild it. Who says you can't recruit your own Juska group again, wot? I know you like to name the tribes after yourselves, so what'd that be? Juskafiasco? Juskasco? Juskafi? I dunno, I'm not a bally poet."

Fiasco raised his eyebrow, but did not break his gaze from staring down into the slaver's camp. "Father told me Juska is old word for family. Can't recruit a family. That is why Juska is special. Can't get it back now it's lost."

The two companions fell into silence for a while after that. The vermin below them were preparing for war, but Fiasco had other things to watch for. He was making mental note of when guards were changed, where the officer's tents were, and when the prisoners were checked or moved. He was also memorising the layout of the tents and fires relative to the slave pens and walls. If he was going to sneak back in under cover of darkness, the last thing he wanted was to get lost in the camp halfway through the job. After a while though, the feral cat's focus began to wander. He glanced at the hare, and decided it was time he learn a bit more about her than her name.

"I tell you about th'Juska," Fiasco began gruffly. "What of th'Long Patrol? Strong tribe, yes?"

Cassandra chuckled. "It's more of an army… or it's supposed to be. Our strength seems to wax and wane depending on how big the next whopping great existential threat to Salamandastron is. Er, that's our home, y'see. Big lonely mountain by the sea, you can't miss it. Tea is at noon, should you ever be passing our way. Just yell 'Eulalia' at the gates. I'll properly introduce you to my Patrol, if we can link up with them. There's only fourteen of us out here though, so confronting a vermin force this large is out of the question. The others are probably laying low for now, waiting for word of reinforcements."

"Twenty-four," Fiasco corrected. He grinned proudly, and thumped his chest with with fist. "Fiasco is worth ten fighters. I can also add numbers."

Cassandra gave a good-natured snort. "I didn't take you for a scholar, old boy. Your father teach you arithmetic?"

Fiasco shook his head. "Learned with old friend. Jojari, little weasel child I work with as trader. He was always reading books, and saying clever things. I… miss him, now. He lives in th'red stone fortress, and I cannot go back there."

"Red stone...? Ah. Redwall." Cassandra sighed. "I can guess why it wouldn't suit you."

As the sun began to dip below the treeline, the forest became a mass of black silhouettes, and the camp a maze of stark shadows, as the torches lit small orange patches of the walls and tents. For Fiasco, it was easier to let his night vision and acute senses guide him, rather than look for sources of light. Cassandra was less fortunate, and had to descend from the treetops before it got altogether too difficult to make anything out. There was patchy cloud cover, so moonlight would be unreliable, both for the thieves and their targets. They moved stealthily, cutting a wide path around the camp to the west, making their way uphill whilst laying low as not to be spotted from the west gate by the guards.

Fiasco and Cassandra had debated back and forth that afternoon over the exact details of the plan. They both needed each other to pull it off, but at the end of the day, they both still had their own separate interests in mind. After some stubborn argument, Cassandra had conceded that the first part of the night's raid would be the robbery. At least they could slip away quietly by themselves if the alarm was raised; if they tried to free the slaves first, they would not have time to steal anything afterwards. As to what and where this robbery would take place, both of them were in agreement. Reaven's tent would not only have the finest loot, but Cassandra also wanted to check if the warlord had any papers, like maps or battle plans, or even letters that might give the Long Patrol a better clue as to how to defeat him.

This was only part one of the plan; sneak into the most well-guarded tent in the whole camp, whilst Reaven was inside, and swipe something without being noticed. Fiasco was nervous, to say the least. For once, he really hoped he did not live up to his name tonight. After some tense, quiet manoeuvring, the two thieves were positioned in the darkness nearby the black shape of Reaven's tent. The hour had grown late, it was now nightfall, and the guards were looking dozy. They had to do this now, before the fresh guards of the night's watch changed over. Fiasco looked at Cassandra, and she nodded back. For this to work, above all they had to trust each other. Creeping forward bit by bit, they slowly approached the tent.

posted in RP Groups / Mentorships read more

I had to alter course a bit on the plot for my characters, Scotish. I couldn't work out a way that Fiasco would accept the deal without being too out-of-character, or getting violent which would probably have gotten him killed. I hope that isn't too jarring having him walk out. I think my new idea will work more interestingly. I always intended for Cassandra to be plotting a slave breakout, I'm just going to do it a bit different now. Whether it succeeds or fails depends on how it all plays out, but I should wrap it up in a few posts just so I don't drag out my part in this. Also, if other players join, that may change my plans too. 😉

posted in Mossflower read more

"No," Fiasco shook his head. "No deal. You want real warriors? I fight whole war, and you mistake me for kitten! Captain who has fought with wolves, you bargain like hamster. My life, this slave, for little piece of paper? I am not so stupid as to take that offer, tiny rat. We go."

Fiasco turned on his heel and marched from the desk, almost bowling over the assistant that had come over to inspect Cassandra. He didn't need to tug on the rope, for the hare was quick-marching right beside him. The feral cat shook his head when she opened her mouth to speak, and for once she seemed to understand. The two walked back down the line, and this time, Fiasco did take a long look at the faces of the vermin queuing up for what amounted to daylight robbery. Fiasco's cheeks felt warm under his fur, and he realised he was blushing, adrenaline starting to make his movements quick and jerky. His tail flicked irritably from side to side.

He was upset, and he realised after a little thought, that he wasn't even angry at the rat. He was angry at himself, because he could have just used his eyes and ears to realise what a foolish idea this had been. Cassandra had even told him the truth, over and over, but he'd been been too thickheaded to listen. He was seeing what the hare meant, now. These vermin really had nothing, nothing to sign over to the rat but their lives. Anything would be an improvement for them. Fiasco didn't like foraging or fishing, or his attempts to cook and burning his claws. Yet he was a Juska at heart, at ease in nature, strong and resourceful. Coddled though he had been by his tribe, he would not starve. He was better off than all of them. The rat had told him the slave was worth a spear, or whatever dull bits of metal they had to offer. Fiasco needed no knife or spear, he had ten sharp claws and moved fast as a striking snake. And as for the slave's worth, Cassandra had proven herself far sharper than any spear.

The feral cat was deep in thought as they left the camp. The guards were too busy with the stream of vermin going in to care much about those going out. The two beasts vanished into the forest, keeping stealthy for a while in case they were followed. When all seemed clear, they hid in a small, dry cave nestled in a nearby moor. There, Fiasco knelt, and took the rope from around Cassandra's neck. The hare looked at him warily, not sure if the strict no talking rule was still in effect.

"Okay. We ditched th'circus," Fiasco said, his voice low, and surprisingly, just a bit more humble than his usual arrogant tone. "I was wrong. Th'horde is not like my tribe. Bad trade. I don't have… I have no clever words to get my way. All I have is making mess of things. Tch. Fiasco is well-named indeed."

The cat broke eye contact, hanging his head and looking down at the ground like a kitten being scolded. He didn't know what he expected from the hare. He guessed she would just leave. He owed her, somehow, even if all her help had been ignored. What he was not expecting was for her to chuckle, and lightly punch his brawny arm.

"Ah, come on, so you're a bit thick-skulled. Doesn't matter, Fiasco. Brilliant schemes and cunning plans are only ever remembered if they work. This idea didn't. Dust yourself off, and try something new, that's what I say, eh, wot wot?" Cassandra said cheerfully. Fiasco slowly looked up, confused yellow eyes meeting her kindly grey ones. "By the way, that bargain was a jolly rotten scandal. Me, a fit hare with all my teeth, in exchange for some rusty old tuning forks? Please. They were taking advantage of your ignorance in the market values."

"Try something new? Try what?" Fiasco asked. He slumped over to sit on the cave floor, extending his long, sharp claws to rake them idly through the sandy soil.

The hare tapped her chin thoughtfully, before she smiled, and knelt beside the big cat. "In this case? Try again. You want a tent? I say we do things the vermin way. We watch that horde. Study their little routines and patrols and which guards are the laziest. Then when the moment's right, we sneak in and take them for all they've got. Bet you there's loot in there somewhere that could buy you a hundred tents. We nick it. Maybe leave an insulting note too."

Fiasco couldn't help it. he laughed, and the hare laughed along with him. The two of them sat there for a pleasant moment, grinning like idiots. Then, reality started to trickle back into Fiasco's mind. The hare was serious. He could see it in her eyes, behind that ditzy, talkative exterior, she had a steely resolve. She wanted to hit the slavers right where it would hurt most; their pockets and purses. She was willing to work with her captor to do it, too. Cassandra was his slave. Or had been. He wasn't so sure now, but he hadn't exactly thought of her as a friend. Yet plotting revenge, laughing together, sharing in each other's problems… wasn't that what friends did? The feral cat fixed her with a searching glare. "What do you get, then? Why help me?"

"The slaves," Cassandra said simply. "That's what I was investigating with the Long Patrol out here, before we got separated. You help me bust them out, Fiasco, we split the loot fifty-fifty... and yes, I bally well promise I'll get you the prettiest red jacket in all Salamandastron. In your size, plus a shiny new medal for your service."

Fiasco opened his mouth, then closed it. Was that Cassandra's plan the whole time? Get close to the camp so she could work out some kind of slave rescue? It was sheer brilliance, and in hindsight, the cat really should have wondered why the hare was so compliant with his demands. He hadn't been taking her away from the Long Patrol, he'd been unknowingly helping her scout out her mission the whole time. There was a kind of deviance to it that Fiasco had to admit, he quite liked. Plus, the idea of showing up the slavers and their haughty captain was all too appealing to the cat's mischievous side. He grinned, baring his sharp white teeth, spat on his paw, and grasped Cassandra's with claws sheathed. "This plan, I like. Where do we begin… Cassandra?"

The hare grinned. "Knew you'd remember it eventually."