The Moment to Live and The Moment to Die (Flitz)
#All right – Jarret's and Flitz's in-the-past stories continue! Dun-dun-DUU!
I'm horrible in mole speech so I hereby apologize beforehand this incorrect rendition ^^'' #
"'Dis is enuff furr to'noight. Time t' git 'ome"
Giving out a relieved gasp, Jarret slip into sitting position, letting a sword he was holding rest besides him. The seventeen-seasons old half-breed was panting, his face and chest gleaming from the sweat he had worked on him.
"Did I do well?" He asked, looking up to his mentor who never seemed to be tired out after their sword-practice.
Master Beech smiled and nodded his black furred head, while putting his sword away.
"Ho aye, you dunn gurt"
Blacksmith Billet Beech was a mole, one of the few beasts living in the village who wasn't a mouse - with long legs or not. He was short as moles tended to be, but he had arms so strong he could lift two a bucket of ore on both his shoulders and carry them around whole day without even breaking a sweat. Besides worn out trousers he didn't bother to wear anything else as leather-apron was all he needed when working in-front of the forge's fire.
"I ginna leef 'de closing-up t' 'ee. Shut ee vents an' prepare ee fireplace fur tumurrow. An' rimember lockie ee duur"
"Of course master Beech"
"'en gudd noight, laddo"
"Good night master Beech"
After master Beech had left, Jarret stayed on the floor for a while, looking around in the smithy. Like some village's home-holes, Beech's Smithy was mined into the very bedrock of the ground. In other parts of village tunnels and living-quarters were dug into the softer soil, where the walls, floors and everything were treated and stamped stiff, strengthen with wooden support structures. But the Sithy was built into bedrock, as it was the most safest location when dealing with fire and heat.
With small grunt Jarret stood up on his feet and turned to fulfill his duties as blacksmith's apprentice. First he had to cover the forge's ember with coals so that they would burn till the morning. The fire was always easier to start when there was some hot ember left in the forge.
The forge was in the back-corner of the smithy and different kind of forging tools hanged on the walls near it. Jarret checked everything there was in order - As he did same for the cold water sink and massive block anvil next to it.
Then he pulled the chains, closing the air vents for the night. When there was a blazing fire in the forge, the underground Smithy become boiling hot very fast. And without vents it would be impossible bear the heat.
"That should do it...", he said, wiping his hands. Next thing was to check the store-side of the smithy. Master Beech's Smithy was a quite large room since other side of it functioned as the shop for all the things Jarret helped the blacksmith forge day after day. There were many metal tools like shovels and hoes, axes and saws, but also some other every-day ordinary things like kitchen knives, cauldrons and things like that.
Surprisingly there was a large empty area in middle of the Smithy, but master Beech had made good use for it, as he usually tested out the weapons he forged. Yes, master Beech forged also weapons and there were many ready specimen hanging on the cave wall on their wooden holders. There was a line of swords - both long and short - and javelins too as sometimes fisherbeasts used them when killing off sharks that swam too near the village's coast. But there was also real spears, too heavy actually be thrown, but dangerous when trusting, couple of shields and many more.
Master Beech was very painstaking when it came to the weapons and he checked carefully if the weapon - be it sword, javelin or spear - was balanced accordingly. So it was good to have some space in the Smithy to do the testing. And, for last three years it had also been a practice area for Jarret, as the mole-smith had taught him how to use a sword. It had started when master Beech had caught him trying to swing one of the sword from the rack. What had his master said back then? 'Wi' 'at wooving ee b'ain't hitting yurr oppoonent even iffen hee stuud still'? And then the mole had showed how to hold on the weapon correctly…
But enought the memory trip - he should get going. Everything here seemed to be clean and reaqdy for the tomorrow. Jarret grabbed his shirt and collected the sword from the floor. After he placed the weapon in its place, he stretchred his arms. He was always tired after sword-practice but in good way.
"I wonder if Flitz is already up...", he pondered to himself.
Flitz was indeed already up. Ever since her encounter with Jarret as a dibbun she had practiced long and hard into rising early for a jerboa. It was early to bed and early to rise for her, the older jumpers would tease her and say she had a childs bedtime, but Flitz was always very well rested. She snuck out of her room and into the kitchens quietly, being sure not to wake the rest of the children still in her bed. The only other person in the orphanage who was awake this early was her grandmother.
Flitz quite liked mornings, there was a small moment of peace and quiet she had to herself before the children woke up. A strong smell wafted in the air, her grandmother was already awake, sitting at one of the many long tables, enjoying her breakfast of fruit and flatbread, drinking deeply of a strong black coffee. She smiled, and spoke in a hushed voice to her grand daughter.
Her grandmother smiled as she watched Flitz stand on her tippytoes to get into the cupboards. "Get down from there, I already packed you breakfast. There's a smallsack for the nice boy you hang out with too."
Sure enough there were two small sacks of food lovingly wrapped next to the dishes. Flitz was relieved, she preferred her grandmother's cooking to her own (as did Jarret) and carefully took the sacks, kissing her grandma on the cheek.
"Thank you very much gran!"
"Shucks enough now. Go see your friend and remember to be careful." She scolded gently.
"I will gran!"
Flitz bounded off to Jarret's home, and when she found he wasn't there, made a stop for the smithy.KNocking on the door, she called out his name. "Jaaaaaarrett?"
Elsewhere a looming black omen lurched over the savannah, scouring the seering hot empty flat land, feeling his temper rise with the temperature. A large vermin hoard trailed behind him, along with a wretched chain of slaves, and beside him, a frightened weasel doing his best to appease his captains mood. "I swears its not too far from here cap'n!" Ratel was a massive honeybadger, born with a badgers bloodwrath, armed with twice the size and ferocity, he was not to be crossed. His chest heaved in and out with anger as he scanned the empty horizon. "Days out roaming around aimlessly in this wretched pile of filth, Rotgut, days! Most of our galleyslaves are dead from the treck, so help me if there isnt a village full of fit beasts, we're turning tail and you filthy lot can pull the oars." He raised his voice for his whole hoard to hear. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?" "AYE AYE CAP'N." Rotgut wrung his hands together nervously. He could have sworn there was a village up ahead. (The pirates haven't arrived yet, I'll let you know when they have.)
While Flitz had learned how rise up early, Jarret had adjusted to how stay up late. But in half-mouse's case things had been little more difficult as Jarret still had to wake up fairly early, especially after since he had started working in the Smithy. (as the young half-breed had come to notice after his first week as the blacksmith's errand-boy) But Jarret was nothing if not capable think up some solution. If he couldn't get enough sleep at night, then he would sleep at day! After all, jumbers did it, so why couldn't he?
So ever since there weren't a day you couldn't find the half-mouse snoring somewhere in his afternoon nap - or naps. The trick was to fall asleep as fast as you could and Jarret had become pretty good at it. So he could get enough rest from snoozing around, stay up till the small hours and still get himself up in time for the work. Of course it had became harder to find time for catnaps, after Jarret had become a full-time-apprentice for the master Beech. But the half-mouse had always managed to find time for them. Even though might have seem like he was lazing around (well, in fact he was, but he had a good reason for it!).
But there he was again: sitting on the floor, resting against the warmth of the forge hands behind his head eyes closed, dozing off. After all, the Smithy was as a perfect place for a small nap when it had become silent….
There was a loud knocking on the Smithy's door followed by voice calling his name, that woke Jarret up - and almost made him kick over the poker, as he was startled by the sudden noise. .Jarret yawned and scratched the back of his head, looking around a bit dazed. Oh yeah, he had decided to take a short rest...
"Yeah, yeah - comiiiiing...", the half-mouse answered while he stood up, pulling his shirt on. At the door he pushed it open with his shoulder and was greeted with familiar face.
"No need to bring the door down, you know", he noted with a jovial smile.
Jarrett answered the door groggily and was greeted with a humongous goofy grinn. A sack of food was held out in front of his face, tantalizing odours wafting from its confines. Because of the difference in their biological clocks, the two of them had to work around their bodies sleeping schedules to spend time with eachother, but it worked in the end.
"Here! Sorry for interrupting your snooze, this outta cheer you up!"
Ratel stopped abruptly in his traps, causing the soldiers following behind him to tumble into a heap. They had arrived at their destination, a small island of dry shrubs and rocks, not a soul to be found. "So. This is it?" He scowled, looking at the sight in disapproval. Rotgut's voice shook with tremors of terror, "Aye sir, this is it!" "These are our new galley slaves, BUSHES AND ROCKS!?" "Sir I-" "RIGHT LADDOS! GET TO IT! CAPTURE THE SHRUBS AND STONES! KILL ALL WHO RESIST! COME ON!" The crew hesitated to obey Ratel's ranting and raving. It was death not to carry out an order immediately. A few stoats approached the inanimate objects with skepticism, looping ropes over the bushes. Ratel heaved into them, cleaving them almost completely in two with his mighty claws, roaring into the fresh corpses. "IDIOTS! FOOLS! SONS OF-" A sudden birdcall interrupted Ratel's violent tirade. He froze suddenly, scanning the area with keen eyes. "Birds captain?" He shook his head. "No. There's not a tree or bird in sight. Search the area carefully. You're lucky Rotgut, you might get to keep your life yet!" (The alarm for danger has been set)
A sight of packed food and its marvelous smell made Jarret's oval ears perk up attentively, the half-mouse suddenly fully awake. After both work-day and sword-practice in the Smithy Jarret felt like he was starving.
"You bet I'm hungry", the half-mouse said, reaching for the sack, but then stopped in half-way. His yes shifted from the food to Flitz.
"...This IS your Granny's made, right?", Jarret ensured with hint of cautious in his voice. It wasn't a secret that Flitz was a lousy cook - and that wasn't an underestimation. Flitz's cooking somehow always ended up tasting like something had gone horrible wrong with the recipe. That's it, if the dish even managed to survive out of the pot or pan without being burned.
Honey badger's underlings scattered quickly to follow their captain's orders as no-one wanted to be next in line to face the Warlord's wrath. As they searched, every member of the crew hoped silently that they would find even a small community of new galley slaves. Because if they didn't, nothing was going to save them from Ratel's bad mood. Rotgut would face a horrible death for sure - but the rest of the crew would still suffer the failure in their hides.
"Yep! Gran made it just for you!" Flitz wasnt offended by his question, she preferred her grandmother's cooking to her own as well, that and jerboas and mice held very different eating practises, if Jarret had picked up the wrong package, he'd find a lot of his lunch would include insects. "She said 'it's for that nice boy you hang out wit' hehehe."
Suddenly a trill bird call pierced the air. Flitz's fur stood upright and she froze in place, eyes wide. She was a dibbun the last time she heard the call, her family was larger then.
"Put out the fire Jarret, into the tunnels now, quickly!" Immediately her thoughts were with her grandmother and the children, but she knew she wasn't stupid and was probably well away into her hiding spot by now, she hoped.
Ratel's troops searched the perimeter of every shape protruding out of the earth, shrubs and rocks alike, and found nothing, yet nobody had the nerve to admit it. They kept on their search hoping the Captain would put two and two together on his own. Eventually he grew tired of watching his piteous crew over look the most important details. "Ugh, out of my way idiots!" He approached a boulder and sniffed around it. "Th-there's nothing there captain, we searched all over it!" "But not under it!" He non chalantly kicked a boulder to reveal a small, concealed entrance. "Covered in shrubs too, perfect, we'll smoke them out. Hop to it boys, Rotgut, grab the flint n tinder, the rest of you ready your nets and weapons, we're going to be the first pirates to ever catch a jumper. HAHAHAHAHAHA!" He howled his laughter into the sky. (It's okay for you to steer some rats if you like no prob)
As the trick of finding the village had been revealed, the corsairs started to look for other entrances, turning boulders around with a new found enthusiasm. Meantime some hurried to collect wood while the others started to built the fires in front of the found entrances. The first flames were already licking the wood when a rat wearing a vest, cloth-belt and red bandana came running
"Cap'n, cap'n!", he shouted "We found som' bigger entrances over 'dere, cap'n"
The rat pointed at the direction. "Big enough for som' of us to fit through… An' it seems 'dere is quit' lot of tunnels down 'dere"
The rat was grinning wickedly, all his yellowish teeth showing. .
"...Should we send 'de boys look for loot an' spoils of raid? They can chase the ground-dwellers up"
After all, it was how corsairs lived: robbing other ships and coast-villages, taking their foods and drinks and of course any valuable items they happened to find. If the villagers were lucky, that was everything what that vermin took - besides the lives of them who didn't manage to hide or escape from the vermins' rampage. In the unlucky cases corsairs were in need of galley slaves and they would capture as many village-beasts they could get, killing those who weren't fit to be slaves, like elderly and kids.
This village was going to be very unlucky one.
Jarret sighed, rolling his eyes. "She makes it sound like I'm still eight-years-old", he said when he took the food-sack from Flitz. "I wish your Granny would stop calling me that"
It was a bit embarrassing to be called 'a boy' when your 18th birthday was around the corner, only couple of months ahead. But still Fritz's grandmother was the nicest old jumber lady Jarret had ever met. She was one of the few whom Jarret truly liked in this village. Granny Kalitz, like Flitz and master Beech, didn't treat him like he was carrying some uninfectious but disgusting disease...
The sound of bird call made Jarret's heart skip a beat and his mind went almost blank. After so many years not having heard that alarm made the young half-mouse doubt his own ears... But Flitz seemed to hear the same thing, or so Jarret judged by her horrified expression.
"The forge's fire is already out ", Jarret said, bushing the Smithy's door closed, locking hurrily the door. "There's an old side-tunnel's entrance nearby - let's use that!"
Many homes were connected by the underground tunnels just in case of emergency like this happened: to ensure villagers had the alternative routes to reach the escape-tunnels, where-ever they were. But they had to be quick because those routes would be sealed to make sure the cruel pursuers would fail to follow the fleeing villagers.
Meanwhile a thick smoke started to crawl through the village's tunnels and homes, making it difficult both to breathe and see. But there was another thing traveling ahead of it. A booming of a drum echoed through the web of underground tunnels and corridors. The village had a large drum, made from giant log and eel-skin and it was located on the center of the village, in a giant hall that functioned as underground market place. The drum was only used to announce the great dangers and now it's warning rung through the air.
Ratel stroked his chin, considering the new find his crew mates have made. "Anyone willing to suffocate in the smoke filled tunnels can be my guest, I could do with less idiots aboard my ship. In the meantime, guard the large entrances, we can catch them once they come running out to escape the smoke. Once everyone has been murdered and captured and is well out of the way, you're free to loot their homes as you wish and keep what you can find, how's that me cullies?"
He almost shook on the spot, grinning an evil toothy grin. He could not contain his excitement, it had been so long and he couldn't wait to hear their screams reverberating through the quiet village.
It was a well known fact between Flitz and her gran that no matter how old either of them got, in her long years she would still view them as children. Jarret was doomed to forever be a little boy in her grandma's eyes, as were most of the young adults. It was inevitable. "Hehe fine I'll tell her to call you a horrible nasty boy instead!" Flitz joked, but not for long. She nodded at Jarret and hastened to follow his instructions, quickly grabbing a small skinning knife from the wall, and then following him into the tunnels beneath the smithy. The tunnels were thick with smoke, Flitz eyes began burning as she made meager attempts to cover her mouth with her food satchel, coughing hoarsely. Muffled screams could faintly be heard from the surface. "What's going on!?" She asked in a panic
Above the tunnels the first hapless victim made his attempt to escape the smoke, only to fall into the clutches of the ruthless Rotgut. "HAHAHAHAHA I CAUGHT ONE CAPTAIN!" The helpless mouse squirmed in the net, and was dragged off to be fitted with chains.
The rats expression changed showing he hadn't thought about the dangers the Warlord had just pointed out.
"Aye cap'n. Dang, you're smart." the rodent said, making almost military-like salute, while chuckling. "We'll wait 'til 'de fires ar' out. It's not like 'de loot is goin' anywhere…"
Ratel's plan was starting to pay off as more and more villagers, both jumpers and mice alike, started to pour out of the tunnels, which entrances the vermin were guarding. The air was soon filled with desperate screams of townbeasts as they were captured by Ratel's troops. Some tried to fight, but the resistance was futile and it only painted the rocks and sad bright red.
The screams from the surface didn't go unnoticed by Jarret either and hearing them made the young half-mouse almost halt. Looking over his shoulder he saw Flitz's panicked eyes and felt a sudden urge hold the girl's hand - which he did, grabbing clumsily the jumber's paw, squeezing it tightly in his own.
"Come on - we need to hurry", he said, through his own coughing, leading the jumper by the hand as he hurried along the corridor. "We're almost in the main-tunnel..."
This smoke couldn't go on forever -- the main tunnels were bigger and had better ventilation so after they reached there, they could breathe much easier... Just little more....
But when they reached the main-tunnel all that waited them there was more smoke - and now other villagers fleeing in panic. For a moment Jarret just stood there staring the erupted madness and chaos. He could hear a small dibbun crying, mother calling desperately her children, males yelling... An uncontrollable terror had spread through the minds of villagers as they panicked between being lost in the tunnels, trapped in the deadly embrace of the smoke and the prospect being captured - maybe killed - by the pirates if they did managed to get out.
And suddenly Jarret understand this wasn't a smoke from destroyed and burned down property.
"They're trying to smoke us out", he whispered, realizing how horribly clever this plan was. The village's way of defense had been turned against itself with the simplest thing as a smoke. For the underground town was built with the plan that its inhabitants could seek safety its deeper tunnels and hiding-places. Ii the enemy ever came, the complex routes would confuse them while the villagers had the advantage of knowing all the routes, which would buy them enough time to hide from the danger - or prepare for defend themselves.
But with a simple trick that advantage had been stripped from them. The tunnels were no-more refuge but death-traps filled with smoke. Through the smokescreen familiar corridors didn't look so familiar anymore and with throughout spread panic it was villagers who got lost down here.
When the pirates just waited on the surface, waiting for the village to be ripe for reaping.
Suddenly someone crashed right onto Jarret, knocking him down and his hold on Flitz's hand slipped. The half-mouse fell heavy on the floor, the panicking villager top of him, who, in his behalf quickly struggled back on his feet and continued his escape. Jarret himself would have been over-run by couple of running paws if he hadn't managed to roll out of the way -- and after that he realized, that he couldn't see Flitz anywhere.
A horror squeezed its cold claws around his hearth.
"Flitz! FLITZ!", he shouted through the sounds of fleeing villagers and their stomping, trying to catch a glimpse from familiar figure among the commotion. "Where are you? Answer me!",
"Aye, if you're smart like me maybe one day you can 'ave yer own hoard. Til then, keep snatching up more mice n jumpers!"
"Aye aye captain!"
Flitz graciously accepted Jarrets hand and held it tight, terrified for their life and everyone else's. She followed him wherever he lead her, not wanting to lose sight of him. It would only take one leap to escape, but she knew there was nowhere to escape to, and she didn't want to leave Jarret behind. Either they were going to get captured, or suffocate to death in the tunnels. Bodies of dibbuns, their tiny little lungs unable to handle the smoke, already littered the ground. Whatever their fate was, they were going to meet it together. _"They're trying to smoke us out."_ "WHAT!?" In this dry and arid climate one loose spark could set the whole savannah ablaze, an unchecked untamed fire was ludicrously dangerous! Truly they were dealing with madbeasts! Chaos was erupting among the unruly subterannean inhabitants, and suddenly Jarret was lost to the crowd. "JARRET! JARRET!" Flitz abandoned her satchel and crawled through the masses on all fours, her keen nightvision never once losing sight of her target. "I'M COMING JARRET! STAY PUT!" A strong pair of paws shoved through the crowd and in a moment they would be grasped firmly about his shoulders. "Jarret it's me! Take this!" A long fleshy appendage with a tuft of fur on the tip was placed into Jarret's paws. Flitz tail was easily twice the length of her body, and would make a good rope in a pinch. "Hold onto my tail! Don't let go! Do you understand!?" She unwound the necklace from around her neck and tucked it away into her inner vest pocket and held the skinning knife tight. "I'm going to get us out of here! Hold on!"
Above ground, the long line of chains was being fitted with new slaves as more and more villagers poured out of the tunnels to breath. Ratel howled his victory into the air.
"HAHA LOOKIT THEM ALL BUCKOS! WITH THIS MANY SLAVES PULLING OUR OARS THE SHIP WILL FLY THROUGH THE WATERS!"
A familiar set of paws landed on his shoulders and Jarret felt rush of relief when seeing Flitz face. He tried to say something, but just ended up coughing badly.
"But - but we can't go… to the surface...", half-mouse tried, but was interrupted as Flitz placed her tail on his paws, gesturing him to get up. Clearly jumber wasn't going to listen the arguments and honestly they were short of choices already. It was either die here in the smoke or try their chances in the surface. Even with the risk of pirates.
Fingers barely working properly Jarret grabbed Flitz's tail tight and half-mouse rose up, being now the one who was guided through the smoke. Jarret wondered, which one was actually doing the recuing here... From the day they had first met he had always, always wanted to protect Flitz but somehow she beat him to it, ending to be the one look after him (sometimes very motherly-like which bit annoyed Jarret).
You would expect a frail framed jumber, with her long slender legs, to be the one who needed help and rescuing in dire situations... Well, Flitz took those beliefs and showed them down in your throat. She didn't need someone to come and rescue her - she was the one who came rescue YOU. Whatever you liked it or not.
That was the thing - Flitz had never been like other town-girls. She was bossy and more scurrilous than most of the towns' boys with zero tolerance towards them who said something bad about her or someone she cared for. She would never be the tale's lady-in-distress - she was one with the bad temper who was ready to jump in the action and smack some sense in those, who in her option deserved it.
Looking at Flitz back, Jarret tried to cover his mouth with his free arm. He already was feeling dizzy from the smoke. It hurt his eyes and he couldn't see clear. Were they on the right path? Did they make wrong turn somewhere?...
"Hoy! Ees anybody thurr? Can ee heer me?"
Jarret's head perked up in sound of that familiar voice and he halted - making Flitz stop as well, as he was holding tightly her tail. Jarret would recognize that dialect even cotton stuffed in your ears.
"Master Beech!", Jarret called, as loud as he could, looking around. "Master Beech, over here!"
"Jarret?", the voice responded and only couple moments later from the thick smoke emerged Billet Beech's sturdy figure. His voice was muffled because he spoke through scar wrapped around his pointy snout. He was wearing odd pair off goggles protecting his eyes and in his strong arms he was carrying small mouse dibbun.
"An' lil' miz Kalitz too! - Thunk guudness youm' both alrighty!", clumsily the blacksmith tried hold the little mouse better in his arms. The little one was unconscious and clearly not well at all.
"No time t' tally - Ee all need som' gudd air breethe in. Thurr'm safe place neer, foller me", he gestured both of them follow.
"An' keep yore heeds down, yurr youngsters - ee air is eesier breethe neerer the floor"
"But - but we can't go… to the surface..."
There was no real rescue mission. This was a gamble, a 50/50 chance of dying, and Flitz would be damned if they were both going to be suffocated beneath the dirt. She held tight to her skinning knife and pressed onward. If she were to die, she'd like to have a slim fighting chance.
Jarret had been a good friend to her all these years, he was a good beast through and through, regardless of what sort of beast he may or may not have been. They were two completely different people, Flitz frail body built for flight, and Jarrets large frame and heavy claws built for fight. Beneath the tunnels, they had a chance at neither. She knew Jarret cared deeply for her and would do his damndest to rescue her in this sort of scenario.
They looked out for eachother. They were friends, that's what friends do. Jarret was caring and thoughtful despite the whispers among town, and she wanted desperately for them to escape, but for that they'd need nothing short of a miracle, and it arrived in a stour furry package with long claws.
She heard a deep rustic bass voice and felt a tug at her tail, causing her to stop promptly. It was Jarret's teacher Billet Beech, who seemed perfectly prepared for the scenario, as moles always were. He carried an unconscious infant in his humongous paws. The situation couldn't be any more dire.
Flitz did as she was bidden and lay low, crawling along the ground where the smoke was thinner, and hastily followed the mole, glancing back only to see if her friend was still behind her.
On the surface, Ratel's crew were trying up the last of their captives. The crowds were thinning out now, less and less people poured out of the entrances, and the crew was growing impatient. "Don't suppose any more of em are gonna pop up now cap'n. Can we goes in the tunnels now?" "Wait til the smoke clears, then you can grab whatcher please." (The rest is up to you to get us to the surface and fight Ratel. I'll play Ratel.)
Jarret followed, trying to hold on Flitz's tail as hard as he could. In the smoke it was impossible to judge the time which passed (as it felt like eternity when you were dying for the freah air), so the half-mouse dind't know how far they had gotten before he heard master Beech's muffled voice again:
"Hurr - we'm ar' thurr.. Hold 'er furr a moment", master Beech turned and placed mouse-kid on Flitz's arms, as he himself turned towards the tunnel's wall, starting to scoop the soil with his big claws. At the first Jarret thought master Beech was going to dig an actual tunnel, but that wasn't the case. Since there already was the one, after master Beech had moved away the earth, which had covered its entrance.
"Thurr 'ee go", the blacksmith gestured youngsters to the tunnel. It was small, enough room to go on your hands and knees, if you were a mouse.
"Miz' Kalitz, 'ee go furts. Jarret, help 'er take lil' lass with 'er… Quickly now before ee smoke gits in. Oi will close ee hole arter uz"
Jarret helped Flitz to get the dibbun in the tunnel and after that followed them right behind. For him it was a bit cramped, for he was a bigger than average mouse, but he could crawl... And luckily he didn't need to crawl long, as soon the small tunnel ended in large room.
It was Master Beech's home-hole - they had emerged from the mole-made hole in the wall. And why master Beech had decided to use a narrow crawling-tunnel instead of the door, could be seen quite clearly: the whole front-door was covered with the soil, the dirt sealing all small cracks and slits where the smoke could crawl in. With that master Beech's home was well secured from the smoke - the air in there was a bit warm, but breathable.
And quick look around revealed that Jarret and Flitz - and small mouse-dibbun - weren't the only ones visiting here. Across the floor there were sitting or laying exhausted villagers, both big and small, young and old, all of them looking like worse for wear.
Jarret wasn't that surprised seeing that many beast in here... After all master Beech was a mole who just wouldn't sit on his tail when he knew there were somebody needing a help. Apparently, right after the blacksmith had realized what was going on, he had made his home safe from the smoke and then had headed out to the corridors, starting to gather all survivors he could find, bringing them here.
Okay, I shall taka the reins tehn... Still, there is couple of ways get our alts to the surface... They could be chased there after Ratel's troops raid the village. Or they could go try to free captured villagers (Jarret is reckless enough try just that xD). Which option you'd prefer? ^^ And of course if you have ideas of your own, I'd like to hear them.
Flitz followed Master Beech's path and stopped at a dead end. If she knew anything about moles though, she knew there was more to it. She relieved Master Beech of the small child he was carrying, holding it close to her while he went to work and was thrilled to find him uncover a secret tunnel. How long it had been there she'd never know, moles had always been resourceful crafty creatures.
"Miz' Kalitz, 'ee go furts. Jarret, help 'er take lil' lass with 'er… Quickly now before ee smoke gits in. Oi will close ee hole arter uz"
Ladies first. Billet wasn't short on manners. "Here, hold her will you?" Flitz handed Jarret the child and wiggled through the tunnel with difficulty, struggling to fit her long gangly limbs in, emerging through the other end with a pop and a thud. She reached her arms through the hole and scooped up the child so that her friend could crawl in.
She found herself in a small tunnel, and crawled awkwardly along it until she was standing in a large chamber. The room was full of villagers hiding to escape the smoke, and judging by the furnishings, was also Master Beech's home.
While they were scrambling around in a panic, the industrious mole was rescuing villagers and sheltering them in his own home.
"Oh mister Beech!" Flitz exclaimed, taking long gulps of air. She felt safe now, and let the dibbun go, stretching her long limbs and clearing her lungs of the smoke. "Thank you so much! Do you suppose we could hide here until those nasty vermin leave?"
Ratel had his crew put out the fires and clear the smoke out. There weren't any more villagers coming out of their holes, and he had already amassed a handsome line of new galley slaves. "Alright boys, in you go! Take whatever you can find and report back to me you hear?" The crew cheer and raced into the tunnels for the chance at finding treasure. Ratel smiled, he doubted a humble little village like this would have anything of value, if they did, he certainly wouldn't be sharing it. One of the crew members returned carrying armfuls of weaponry. "Look Captain! These people have a smithy full of weapons, and just look how fine they are!" "Perfect! Dish them out to the crew and let them have their pick, all of you could use a new toy." Elsewhere homes were robbed of their silverware, fine silks, and family heirlooms. Ratel was surprised by what they actually found, but being generous always strengthened the loyalty of his crew and lessened the chance of deserters. Besides, he could steal it from them later if he wanted it bad enough. Beneath the tunnels, all the vermin were finding were dead bodies. They pushed the corpses aside and kept searching, gossiping amongst eachother. "Huh, lookit this sorry lot. That's what you get for muckin around under the dirt like a bunch of filthy moles." "Funny though aint it, all of them underground and not a one of them is actually a mole." "Strange isnt it? I couldnt stand living like this, give me an open sea any day over all this dirt." "Stow the gab, you hear that mate?" "Hear what?" "Voices!" "There aint a soul alive down here, your head is playing tricks on you." "No I swears, listen!" The rat stood quietly for awhile. "Doesn't sound like anything to me, but we'll go take a look anyway if ti makes ye feel better ye big scaredy cat." The sound of the large group of vermin kept getting closer and closer. In the other room, Flitz held her breath and hoped the vermin would pass over them. "Nothing here but dirt." "Go on give it a shove." "Shove it yourself, you're not the boss of me!" A long rat like face protruded out of the wall in Master Beech's home. "Ha! Lookit them here, havin a lil party and they didn't think to invite ol' Scumtripe. Get em lads!"
Gotta love the way you portray those pirates xD And sorry for the delay – this took muck more time to wrote as I expected....
"We'm goin' t' be hookay, doan't worrie miz Kalitz", the mole assured, lifting his goggles up his forehead and lowering the scarf. The blacksmith had ash-grey stripes on his face in the areas which weren't covered with the cloth. " 'dose vurmints won't foind uz frumm yurr"
"They will", spoke a hoearse voice suddenly and an older mouse, his pelt silvered by the age, stepped forward. "That's why we have to get to the escape routes. If we sit here on our tails, they'll sooner or later find us."
Master Beech shook his head, his face grim. Jarret, who had known his master for long time know, could read the frustration from moles usually so calm composure.
"Meester Chewnut", the mole said with strained patience. It seemed like this conservation had been repeated more than once. "Smoke's thick an' everywhurr. Vents can't git'n eet all out as long 'dose scums keep the foirs up. Goin' out thurr b'ain't save...."
"That?s one more thing I'd like to voice out", mister Chewnut said in loud voice. "How they realized use the smoke? How they even knew about us?", the mouse sounded almost hysterical now. "I say, someone must have tipped them off..." The mouse didn't add anything more, but he gave very clear and suspicious glare at Jarret's direction that it didn't went unnoticed ny anybeast..
Jarret just stood there, feeling like all his limbs had just turned into a stone. He couldn't move, he couldn't say a thing - he couldn?t even think too clearly. All he managed to do was to stare mister Chewnut and his nasty glare, suddenly feeling more than just one eye-pair on him.
Billet Beech on the other hand looked like he was about to explode. His face was so red from the anger, that not even his black fur couldn't hide it all.
"Mister Chewnut", the mole said with all the patience he could still muster. "Oi understand you'm affrighted as are we'm all. But pliz stop spoutin' nonsense. Nobeast livin' in 'dish village wudden do such a thing"
And before difficult elderly could say something that really would make mole toss him outside, Billet Beech turned towards Flitz.
"Miz Kalitz, could you koindly hand out som' water furr all of uz? A small sip t' wash daown ee nasty taste o' smoke. You can foind ee water-vat 'dere in ee corner, cups in ee cupboard - an' ask som'beast help you"
Then the mole-smith called the half-mouse, gesturing him to follow.
"Jarret? Coom yourr furr a moment.."
Jarret felt almost relieved when master Beech called for him, young half-mouse tip-toeing past the staring eyes like he was walking over eggshells.
Right after he had heard the muffled corsairs' voices, Billet Beech had grabbed his battle-hammer which were hanging on the wall like some kind of memento. Jarret hadn't ever seen master Beech touch that giant hammer before - nor had he ever seen the blacksmith move so swiftly, as he did when the rat's head emerged from the tunnel. With quick leap mole was in front of vermin, the weapon raised over his head and swinging it right down.
The hammer fell hard and crushed the rat's skull as easy as if it was a chestnut. The beast died immediately.
"Ev'ryone! Git'n to back-tunnel!", master Beech shouted, lifting his weapon again as the villagers started
"Jarret, git'n 'dem out of yiurr now!"
At the North End tunnels a boards of the corridor's walkway were pushed out from their places, revealing a hole underneath them. Only a moment after Jarret's head popped out from the hole, as the half-mouse scanned the corridor's both ends, listening and looking for any sight of the danger.
But at least at the moment he wound none and letting out relieved sigh he reached for the edge and hurrily climbed up. The hole wasn't a deep one, not for him anyway, so it was easy for him.
"Quickly now - head for the escape route and don't close it before every one is passed...", Jarrret whispered, as he turned towards the villagers, that came pouring out of the hole. Some climbed out on their own (for jumbers it was easy jump to make) and some needed the assistance reach the edge... Jarret tried to offer his help, but it seemed like no-one wanted it (or rather, they turned away from it). So the half-mouse let his hand drop and instead focused to keep watch-out, his paw resting on the sword's handle.
Yes, he had a sword now... Master Beech had handed it to him when he had followed the mole out of the large room where the villagers resided.
_"Oi was plannin' to give et when yurr big day comes, but oi may as well give et now", the mole said, as he placed the weapon on Jarret hands, smiling a bit sadly. "Happy birthday, laddo… Oi wasn't expecting you might need et at ee same day you'd receive it", the blacksmith sounded remorseful. "But you need
"Second thing ees 'dis" Billet Beech continued as he pushed a door open. What Jarret had expect to be closed or pantry, turned to be a dark long tunneld behind the wooden door.
"Molers never put their trust just one tunnel" master Beech explained, as he pulled the door shut."'Dis will leed you t' Norff End Corridors, not too fur frumm 'dat aree's escape route." Billet Beech spoke now in lowly tone, not wanting aynone else to hear.
"Old mister Chewnut might be roight in un' thing: ee pirates might foind uz... An' iffen eet happens, oi want you to take care ee villager. Oi stay an' handle ee pirates."
"But--", Jarret tried.
"No buts", master Beech interrupted with stern voice and expression, which then softened a bit. "Lukk, 'dey aren't fighters, ee folks over 'dere" Master Beech nodded towards the larger room full of villagers."So et's up to ee strong ones to protect 'dem an' oi can't be in two places at once. So iffen the worst cumms to pass, you leed 'dem out."
"I won't leave you behind"
"You won't. You guard frunt an' I guard rear. An' we'm meet when i caught up wiv you...."_
'When you caught up with us', Jarret thought, as he in turns looked down the corridor and back the tunnel's entrance, praying master Beech really would show up after all the villagers. He wished he could wait there and be sure, but master Beech had given him the duty guard the front. The sword hanging in its scabbard on his belt suddenly felt heavy as if it was resembling the responsibility which he now felt on his shoulders.
At the sound of the voices echoing through the tunnel, Flitz became silent as a ghost. A few reassuring words from Master Beech calmed her somewhat. He was right, they were all going to be okay, the vermin would pass over them, clear the tunnels, and they could return to the surface once they all left. Her heart pounded in her chest and she sat silently. Waiting….waiting....
The sound of an old mouse caused her to jump out of her trance, fur rising on the nape of her neck. The atmosphere in the room was tense, and the mouses conspiracy theories stirred the people in the room into restlessness. She wished he would quiet down, lest the sound of his wailing lead the vermin right to them.
She didn't like what he was insinuating. All eyes in the room turned to Jarret, and she felt her friend would snap under the weight of their accusatory gazes. Quickly she rose from her seat, throwing an arm over her pal Jarret, leading him away from the crowd and whispering in his ear.
"Don't you worry about that one mate, he's gone senile with age."
"Miz Kalitz, could you koindly hand out som' water furr all of uz? A small sip t' wash daown ee nasty taste o' smoke. You can foind ee water-vat 'dere in ee corner, cups in ee cupboard - an' ask som'beast help you"
"Of course!" Flitz clapped her hands together. "Chewnut must be mad with thirst! Jarret would you-" It seemed Master Beech had other plans for Jarret. She shrugged it off and commandeered the help of a young mouse girl instead.Cups were dished out, and the villagers washed the smoke out of their parched throats with gusto, and Flitz drank greedily as well.
Suddenly a rat poked his head through the tunnel. His head burst like a ripe fruit and Flitz screamed, dropping her cup on the ground with a crash, eyes darting about the room, madly looking for a place to run, but they were trapped.
"Jarret! Jarret!" She lept towards him in a panic, clutching her skinning knife. Her friend was standing near what appeared to be cabinet doors, but revealed yet another escape route when they were swung open.
Thank the heavens for moles.
Villagers poured out of the crowded room and Flitz stood dumbfounded, not sure what to do. She bounced impatiently on the spot, eying the exist and the vermin, wishing everyone would just hurry up so she could escape with Jarret, she wasn't leaving without him and was in quite a hurry to leave, yet some of the villagers seemed apprehensive about accepting help from Jarret.
"Oh for the love of-!" People unwilling to receive Jarret's assistance were shoved unceremoniously through the hole. Once everybody was safe into the escape route, she turned to Jarret and to Master Beech, hoping they were ready to follow suit.
"Jarret!? Beech!? Let's go!!!"
The vermin on the other end of the tunnel weren't so lucky. There was no way for them to all fit through the small opening, and it was easy for Master Beech to pop their tops off one by one as they tried to squeeze in. "The rotten ol' xxxxxxx killed Scumtripe!" "Fall back you idiots! He'll slay the lot of us! Widen the opening before they escape!"
Ratel waited on the surface. Something wasn't right, the party searching the tunnels were taking an awful long time. Bending over, he pressed his ear to the earth and listened.
"Ragtag, bring more nets to the entrances, something is going on down there, we might catch more creatures yet."
Last of the jumbers and mouse climbed up from the hidden entrance and it was then when Jarret realized that Flitz wasn't with the last ones. Where was she? She had been next to him when he had opened the back-way's door, but when he had leaded the villagers to the other end of the tunnel, he had lost a sight of her.
Half-mouse turned look at the villagers. They moved so slowly, as many of them were injured or small kids, who couldn't walk by themselves very fast. And there were lots of tunnels ahead, which could be crawling pirates… Jarret bit his lips, for a moment torn by two different forces, but that battle's result was already decided.
Jarret quickly lowered himself over the hole on the walk-way, shouting as loud as he only dared:
"Flitz! Where are you?"
If the jumper didn't show up after this very moment, he would go back and find her -- he didn't care if he had to go against master Beech's wishes and leave the rest of villagers here alone and unprotected. He wasn't going to leave Flitz behind!
"Oh? Diggin' around ar' ee? Well, dig around 'des!" Billet Beech grabbed his large and heavy table, making it fall on its side and then pushing it against the wall, so that the table's surface was pressed against the hole. It covered the small entrance and a large portion of the wall around it. Pleased at his handiwork Billet Beech patted the furniture's wooden leg.
"Et's a gudd ol' thick oak, ee snitchers - ee just troi t' claw yore way through eet... "
As if an answer the table jolted, moving from its place and blacksmith quickly tossed himself against it, pushing it back to block the hole.
"Hurr, then again - ee maabbe can push et out o' the way", the mole muttered as he leaned back first to the table, holding it firmly against the wall while the vermin behind it were fiercely trying to get in. He needed something barricade this thing in place...
He realized miss Kalitz hand't yet gone with others.
"Hurrr, miz Kalitz, ee better hurry efter others. Ur..."
"Flitz! Where are you!" a muffled voice echoed from back-way tunnel and Billet Beech almost smiled.
"… Ur Jarret will bit off his own tail iffen ee won't show op quick soon."
The table was psuhed again and Billet pushed it back even harder.
"Oi ees comink roight efter ee -- Just go before that steemhead forgets 'bout anythin' else and cumms lookin' furr ee. Hush ee go!"
For a moment the pirates were making some headway with the soil, until the appearance of heavy oak wood impeded their digging. Claws scratched at the wood, but it was no use and the vermin let it go.
"What's the matter with yous?!"
"Cap'n, s'all blocked! No beast can dig through wood."
"Then push you lousy lot, push!"
The vermin hoard pushed and strained, but it felt like some sort of impenetrable force was blocking their exist. Little did they know it was only one mole. Flitz stared dumbfounded at the mole, then back at the escape route, then back at the mole. Jarrets frantic calls could be heard from the tunnel. She was hard pressed for time, and had to make a decision quickly.
"… Ur Jarret will bit off his own tail iffen ee won't show op quick soon."
"But what about you!?"
"Oi ees comink roight efter ee – Just go before that steemhead forgets 'bout anythin' else and cumms lookin' furr ee. Hush ee go!"
By steamhead she knew he meant Jarret. She bid him farewell and leapt into the tunnels, jumping right next to Jarret. "Right here! Come on now let's move!"
The party of distressed villagers hurried their way through the tunnels into freedom, the threat of pursuing villains hot on their heals motivating them to run as fast as their limbs could carry them. Unbeknownst to the sad lot, there were vermin behind and in front of them, and they were making their mad dash straight into trap. Jarret and Flitz were leading the party, and Flitz being the faster of the two, was first to leap right into a snare trap. The more she struggled, the more her gangly limbs became tangled in the heavy ropes. More villagers piled into the trap, and the ones that tried to escape were chased down and dragged back to the nets, kicking and screaming. "Let me go, let me go!" Flitz screamed and struggled. Ratel laughed at the villagers puny attempts at escape. "HAHAHAHAHAHA. I KNEW SOMETHING WAS UP. That's a sneaky bunch the lot of em! That should be it now, have them fitted with a set up chains and we'll be on our way! Mind the jerboas! One leap is all it takes for them to escape! If that happens I'll have your hides now move it!" Not wanting to risk letting any prisoners loose, a large stoat dragged the net towards the slave line, where Frisker and Flitz's older sister Frazzle were waiting. Seeing her opportunity, Flitz struck out with her skinning knife and snuck it between his ribs. She tried to make her escape as the net let loose, but found she was still tangled. "GRAB THE NET! GRAB IT!" Not wanting to lose their hides, the crew made for the net and rounded up the prisoners. It wasnt long before Ratel stormed into the fray, grabbing Flitz by the ears, plucking her like a rabbit out of a hat and shaking her violently. "HARHARHAR! TOUGH ONE AINT YE!?" ooc: sorry you had to wait so long for this post. The Jarret x Ratel fight'll happen now.
They made it to outside. And whatever was left from their lives in peaceful village, crashed into a chaos.
Nets and robes swung over the air, tangling and capturing the villagers who tried to made the run for their lives. It was like hell had broken loose, all the screaming and shouting, spilled blood on the ground and the fleeing figures trying to get away from the torment that waited the captured.
And devils chasing after them, rounding them up and with evil laughter and vicious sneers dragged them back.
And Flitz just got tangled under one of their nets.
"Fli–-!!" Jarret's shout and attempt to rush young jumper's help was cut short as noose flew around his neck, yanking him backwards and making him almost fell on the ground. His hand grabbing the chocking loop Jarret looked the other end of the rope, staring eye to eye a scar bodied stoat, who seemed to be as surprised as half-breed. Like the corsair hadn't expected a catch like this one.
"What the devil's whiskers --? Aren't yah a rat?" the stoat said, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. After all, till this point all the villagers they had managed to capture were either puny mice or those freaky long-legged jerboas.
Anger fizzed inside Jarret and tried to made a jump on the stoat, but was stopped in middle of it when another rope captured his free hand, pulling to the opposite direction than the one around his neck.
"Got 'im matey -- hold it tight!", the stoat's comrade assured.
Stoat jumped further "Whoa! -- a feisty bugger too!" he said, pulling the rope to keep it tight and growling rat in the control. The rope dug into Jarret's neck, half-mouse trying to desperately keep it from chocking him. If he only could reach his sword!.. But while the other arm captured, the moment he would let go of the loop around his neck he would be strangled for sure!
"GRAB THE NET! GRAB IT!"
The shout snatched Jarret's attention and among the moving figures he could see vermin rushing to grab the loosened net. And then - a giant honey badger arrived, stretching his black clawed paw and seizing Flitz up by her ears. Hurting her.
Jarret's mind went blank and then it got flamed up by hatred like nothing before. Never ever had he felt so vicious urge to kill an another living beast, and had Jarret been more in his senses, he would have startled this violent feeling which shook him down to his core. Like hot burning dagger it cut his head free from pain in his neck and carved five flaming words into his mind.
…Don't you dare!
The hand grabbed the robe which was holding its wrist as captive, and with strength that came from years of working in the smithy, Jarret pulled with furious howl. A weasel on the other end of robe made a startled yelp as he was suddenly yanked forward, leaving him no time to adjust his balance. And so corsairs snout was introduced to the sandy ground while the rope slipped out of his paws.
Now his other hand free Jarret's paw flew on the sword's handle and with one sharp flash he cut the remaining rope, freeing his neck too. And not a moment too soon as the weasel was back on his feet, clutching his club as he attacked the young half-breed.
Jarret whirled around, catching the blow with the sword, and swinging it to the side aimed a vicious sweeping kick at the weasel's legs, making him fall back first onto the ground with a loud crash. Another beast would have ended the helpless vermin's life right there but Jarret's boiling blood wasn't after this corsair's life.
Half-mouse's blazing glare turned back to where honey badger stood Flitz in his clutches.
Let her GO!
Jarret sprinted - he only had this opportunity to make it before the other vermin would realize…
"Hey -- HEY! Stop that rat!"
The shout was heard, but only few beast were fast enough act up it. When he had almost reached his destination Jarret saw a blade coming at him. A another weasel had stepped between him and his target, slashing his corsair's cutlass horizontally, apparently expecting the crazy intruder run straight into the cold steel. But Jarret suddenly dropped on his knees, sliding under the blade which passed over his nose so close it chipped away some of his whiskers. Though the half-mouse didn't even note that -when the cutlass had passed over him and the weasel was still perplexed of what had just happened, the half-blood swung his owns sword, its sharp and unused cutting edge slashing the vermin's unprotected back, making him scream.
(Maybe he didn't have a REAL battle-experience but if you practiced swords with a mole who's one well landed blow could send you flying across the room, you took it in your heart to learn how to defense and dodge. )
Again, Jarret didn't stop. As now there wasn't nothing between him and the giant beast. Not many in their right minds would charge head on at something so enormous like honey badger, without a good plan at least. But Jarret wasn't in his right mind. He. Was. Mad. So mad that all the reason had fled from him, leaving the youngster be consumed by the flames of hatred.
"GET YOUR DIRTY PAWS OFF HER!" Jarret roared atop of his lungs as he jumped at the honey badger, his sword raised
A sudden explosion of chaos erupted from the ranks in the form of a half rat tearing through the crew. Ropes and stoats and vermin could not restrain him. Ratel was startled at first, but watched passively as Jarret ripped through his crew like a hot knife through butter and scoffed. Good riddance to bad rubbish, if they couldn't take down just one rat, they were hardly any use of him. The rat mouse fought like ten beasts, and a smirk played across Ratel's face. He could use a man like that.
He signalled to his crew members, and the army formed a ring around the duo. Jarrets boldness struck a chord with Ratel, causing him to emit a low chuckle. The plan was simple, and with how hot headed Jarret was he knew it was going to work too. Passively standing, pointlessly and cruelly he shook and buffeted the little jerboa about as to purposely get a rise of out Jarret.
"Harharhar, you're welcome to come and make me lad."
"NOOO JARRET DON'T DO IT!"
Pain shot through Flit'z ears, head and neck, and her crying only worsened her agony. She pleaded with Jarret not to fight. It wasn't like their childhood, grandmother wouldn't be there to save him from his assailant. Sometimes you can't make them, sometimes it's better to back down from the challenge, better to accept defeat in the slave lines than die, but Jarret wasn't going to do that. He was going to throw his life away, and on her account too.
She made a stab with her skinning knife but it felt like a pinprick in his hide. He scooped it away from her and laughed.
"Your friend doesn't seem to have much faith in you. She's right you know, you'll die, and so will she, and there's nothin you can do about it rat."
ooc: from here on out the posts should be shorter since its just a fight