Azroel crept along the ramparts of the mansion, one step at a time amongst the statues of gargoyles. The black fox was sweating lightly; he never liked heights.
How do the squirrels make this look easy?
Coming up behind the last gargoyle on the eastern end of the ramparts, his eyes spied a small object concealed beneath the dais. He carefully bent down to pick it up.
A trowel? Who left this here?
He turned the iron trowel over and over in his paws. Looking down at the dais again, he found a pair of tools: a hammer and chisel.
Where did these come from?
Azroel tucked the tools under his arms and climbed down from the ramparts to the back entrance of the mansion. He made sure to grab the Sprite soda he’d planned to drink earlier before his accidental encounter with Jurou.
Azem went out to the empty dance floor, picking up the trash and throwing them into a receptacle, as he made his way up to Grundlink, the black-and-white Rat DJ.
The Rat was switching off his DJ set and various instruments and packing his equipment away. Seeing the fox twin approaching, he frowned at Azem.
“Before ye ask, no, I didn’t cause any o’ this chaos, I swear.” He stood up from putting his laptop in his bag and folded his arms incredulously. “I’ve been ‘ere all nigh’. I ain’t done anythin’, Azem!”
Azem held up his palms. “It’s all right, Grundlink. I believe you.”
Grundlink nodded and dropped his arms, letting them hang by his sides. He cleaned up his DJ set and returned his scratch vinyl records to their sleeves. Azem helped him pack away his sampling board.
“Ye gotta admit, though.” The Rat was grinning a bit cheekily. “I made some real sick mixes an’ beats, didn’t I?”
Azem laughed and nodded. “Yeah, you did! I’m glad you were here tonight, Grundlink. You were the best DJ for the job. Dominique made the right choice picking you.”
Grundlink snorted and bowed. “Give Miss Dominique my thanks. It was a tremendous 'onor t' be 'er musical 'ost for 'er epic party.”
Azem and Grundlink carried the gear to his car.
“If ye still want me t’ take ye an’ Starlight ‘ome, I’m fine wit’ that. I’m in no ‘urry t’ leave.”
“Thanks again, Grundlink.” Azem nodded and returned to the group.
“Okay, so, Grundlink was at his turntables the entire party. He never moved from there except to get food and go to the bathroom a couple times. So, he’s innocent.” He turned to Azroel. “Bro, any luck?”
Azroel showed him the masonry tools. “Curious things, these. Any idea where they came from, how they got there, and more importantly, who owns them?”
Azem shook his head cluelessly. “Would that we knew how to do a fingerprint test, like the police do.” He shrugged. “Back to square one, I guess?”
OOC: I honestly hoped the Party would go on longer. More partying and less conflict.
Captain Yallug nodded to Aynur and stepped out of her tent to wait outside. As he did, he watched Leon and his two Second Captains walk past at a brisk pace, once more in full gear with their weapons drawn. "Captain!" Yallug called, saluting his companion. He and the other captain disagreed on a number of points, but the sable still considered Leon to be a good bit better than that prissy noble wannabe Kyte. "Where are you off to?"
Leon waved nonchalantly and pointed towards the edge of the camp. "Going for cleanup duty after the watermeadow raid. The rest of my troops are a little preoccupied with lunch at the moment," he laughed.
"I could spare a platoon if you need one," Yallug began but Leon shook his head.
"It's not a tough job, and it's better suited to a small group of stealthier creatures -- no offense, of course," he added, pausing in his tracks across from Yallug while the two other officers took a position behind their superior.
"None taken." The sable chuckled. "Great fighters -- louder than a ship full of grogged-up seabeasts." He tightened his grip on his spear and nodded to the three. "Get back in one piece."
"No promises." With that, the three scouts took off at a jog out of the camp and into the forest surrounding the clearing. Yallug relaxed for a moment.
"Let’s not keep the Warlord waiting any longer than he already has, Captain," he heard from behind him. He spun on his heel, saluted once more, and fell in step behind the Lady Aynur, as they made their way towards Ansurr's tent.
Inside, Noel was tapping his claws against Ansurr's map table rapidly. The General (who, by the way, did not know exactly how many creatures he had under his command -- merely the number of officers) was not exactly a patient creature. "My lord -- sir," he amended, at a tired glance from Ansurr, "I swear that my troops must have taken care of the shrews entirely. Why are you still concerned?"
Ansurr waved the statement off with a shrug. "That's not what I'm concerned with." He stood behind the table and looked down at the map, tracing the path that Noel had outlined. "What I'm worried about is the amount of time that it will take us to reach the Abbey from here. Not only that, but we are a good bit too close to those water meadows for my comfort. What if the shrews catch wind of our location?"
Noel opened his mouth to protest, but he closed his mouth as he realized that Ansurr was right -- their current location was suitable in every respect except its vulnerability to the local tribes of creatures. He sighed and laid back in his chair. "Then what would you suggest, Ansurr?"
The warlord paused, then pointed to a place on the map. "Here."
Noel sat up to look closer. The place that Ansurr had picked was about four days' travel from their current position, at a sharp curve in the River Moss: it was much nearer to the Abbey, as well. "Sir, if I may disagree, the odds of the Abbeydwellers knowing our exact location are a good deal higher if we move so close to them," the fox said, very slowly, as he continued to scan the map.
"Perhaps." Ansurr sat back down, with a paw on his chin in thought. "However, look there." He tapped the map again, next to the location he'd specified. "This quarry . . . I'm guessing it's where the stone for the Abbey came from. A building that large, that renowned, must have taken a lot of the stuff. How large is it?"
"The Abbey?" Noel wasn't quite sure yet where Ansurr was going, though he had an idea.
That idea was soon confirmed. "The quarry. It could be a good hiding spot for our troops."
Noel stared at the map. "It would have to be enormous."
Ansurr nodded, still thinking for a moment, before he looked at Noel. "That shrew you took charge of . . . would he know anything about it?"
Rufus, who was standing outside the tent, tugged at his tunic's collar nervously. It was a small thing, compared to the ones that most of the vermin soldiers around the Guosim defector wore, yet it fit him perfectly. Too perfectly, in fact -- it was stiff, and the grey fabric clung to his body, making him sweat in the post-storm sun.
From inside, he heard two claps: the signal that Noel wanted him. However, just as he was about to enter, he heard pawsteps behind him, and turned to see General Aynur, followed by Captain . . . what was it . . . Yorug? sweep past him and into the tent.
While everyone gathered around the renewed bonfire, Azroel and Starlight momentarily opened one of the spare coolers full of ice and began passing out water bottles to all those who were drunk. Starlight also placed plates of food in their paws. Azem stayed in his place at the bonfire, playing a game on his phone while it was plugged into a portable battery pack.
Azroel gave ice-cold water bottles to Etain, Hinata, and Jurou. He bent down and placed a paw on the back of Jurou’s head. “You all right?” he asked, closely inspecting it. “It doesn’t look too bad. Do you want me to get you an ice pack? Or do you think that pipe of yours will magically numb the pain?” he posed the last question a bit jokingly. “Nah, I’m just kidding. Here.” He placed a plate of soft cookies and on the bench beside the black ferret. “My treat.”
“Aaargh!” Azem growled from the bonfire, hitting the ground in frustration with his phone-free fist, and nearly spilling his water bottle in the process. “Those damn Clone Troopers on Coruscant again!”
“I told you to work on leveling up your MagnaGuard!” Azroel called back, not holding back his laughter. “What did I tell you?”
“Yeah, you told me to level up my MagnaGuard!” Azem shot back playfully, flipping his phone upright in his paw and drinking his water bottle. “But two days ago, you told me to do the same for my Royal Red Guard and my Snowtrooper, too!”
“No, I did not!” Azroel laid down a second and third plate of cookies beside Etain and Hinata. “I told you not to train them both at once! And you didn’t listen to me, and now look!” He came right back over to his brother’s side and pointed at the game on his iPhone. “You almost ran out of Training Droids, and now your MagnaGuard and Nightsister Talia are suffering as a result! As I’ve recommended to you time and again, Azzy, use Vader or Dooku as your Ally unit!”
Azem smirked at his brother with pretend incredulity, holding a white macadamia nut cookie halfway to his mouth. “What, you think you’re doing any better, Azro?”
Azroel nodded in a rather dignified and modest manner. “Well, of course, I am! I’m 10 levels ahead of you, and I have all my Dark Side team members leveled appropriately, with more than plenty of Training Droids to spare! Vader, Dooku, Sidious, Nihilus, and now, almost Revan! I hit 100 Dark Side Battles yesterday, remember? Come on, bro. Go back to Coruscant and try again. I’m sure if you play more strategically, the Clone Troopers won’t be able to – mmf!”
He was cut short by Azem comically stuffing a chocolate chip cookie in his mouth. He pulled it out and stood up straight, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, “All right, fine, play that way. Dumbass.”
“We may be 10 levels apart here,” Azem called after Azroel as he walked back to where the Senshaans sat, shaking his phone furiously like a fist. “But we’re only three minutes apart in age, brickhead!”
“If you ever need a tutor, Azem,” Azroel called over his shoulder at his brother, smirking and snickering with his fangs. “Let me know!”
Starlight skipped cheerfully over and kissed her brothers lovingly on the cheek, before heading back to the basketball court to play with her friends. Azroel handed out the rest of the water bottles, took one for himself, and rejoined Azem by the fire, pulling out his iPhone.
“What do you say we conquer the galaxy together, twin brother?” Azroel suggested in a mock diabolical tone, his fox eyes reflecting in the bonfire light.
Azem grinned from ear to ear and put his phone up against Azroel’s. “Count me in, twin brother. The galaxy shall fall to our superior might and power! May the Dark Side of the Force be with us!”
Vanora's paws began shaking, The fur rose up and down the otter's back from her neck to her rudder and she seemed to stare off into space, breathing as though she'd run a mile without stopping. "I only h-h-heard a little ab-about the bloodwra. . . about it, I n-n-never tho-thought an-anybeast c-could. . ." She stared wide-eyed into one of her blades as though trying to look through the metal and see something or somebeast on the other side.