Today was a good day. It didn't matter if the aky was over cast and cloudy, it didn't matter if the waves of the sea were churning or if the fall chill was blowing through the coast making ripples across the tall yellow grass he set foot on. Today was a good day for it was one more day closer to payday.
Scar of course was not the otters name. It was a mostly self made title to sound intimidating but also fit well with the scar running across his eye brown and cheek, the bi product of a life of adventure and violence.
Scar was a wiry beast and short for his species, runt of thr litter one could say. What he lacked in height and build he more than made up for in intimidation. A wide brimmed hat with a feath adorned his head to make him fashionable, a saber at his side made others know that he was not defenseless, and the sleevless otter hide vest made others not dare to challenge that fact.
"You seem to be in a chipper mood thar mate. You've been whislin the same tune fer hours. Drivin me nuts that is."
"Payday always makes me chipper. Just a few more hours and I'm going to be rich…er than I was yesterday."
"Well sorry to rain on your parade but we need ta find ourselves some cover soon."
The otter looks to his side, passing Inktail a narrow glance. He didn't like working with others but he needed a field guide and the vixen came highly recomended. Named for her black tipped tail the brown furred swift fox had an almost tribale appearence. A tribal appearence that liked civilized food obviously.
Rolls of flesh hung over her leather loin cloth and clung tightly to her hips and neck where a second chin was starting to form.
She covered her torso in a leather jacket of sorts that left much to be exposed. Unfortunetly.
What can Scar say? He was shallow and judged people by their appearence. "I ain't stoppin so you can rest yer lazy arse. We are pressing onward through the night iff needed but-"
"Oh lazy nothin." The vixen rests her spear over her shoulders with both paws. "Storms coming. Bad one. You are going to have to stop soon, so 'less you want to make camp out in de rain I know a place up de coast. Not far. You'll like it. I prommise."
Scar peered at the vixen intently. "You just want a hot meal..."
The fox only grins, "Be that as it may there is an Inn just over that ridge near the woods. We can rest there tonight. Head out by morning."
Scar growls but pressed on in silence, tugging on the rope attatched wrapped around the prisoners writs.
With in half an hour the tavern can be seen. A simple building with two stories set against the back drop of the forrest behind it. It was built on a small rocky hill that gradually led to the shore to the west. A shore that was starting to turn violent.
A forceful yank from the rope made ash-grey rat staggered in his next step and poor fellow stumbled for a while before finally getting his feet back to the balance. The rodent was a skinny, average in his height thought he had the habit of walking in a small crouch – just so that he would appear smaller and unworthy for attention. And more importantly so that no-one would think him as a threat of any kind.
The rat wasn't wearing any other clothing besides a hooded cape and under it a leather item belt, which had pouches and casings attached to it. His hands, which were now tied together in front of him, were covered with brown arm-length gloves
The rat was known by couple of aliases -- you came to possess a bunch of them when you wanted to cover up your trail -- but mostly he was known as Tinderwick Packwork. Or "Patchcoat" or "Patchlout" depending how much you wanted twist it on your tongue.
There was a reason for the rat's unusual nickname and it was solemnly thanks to his hooded cape. The clothing was practically made from the different sizes of patches. Most of them were different shades of red but in their midst also orange and orangish-yellow swatches made an appearance, creating a reddish hue mess.
He glanced furtively the bounty hunter and the guide then gazed over his shoulder to look back the trail their paw-prints had drawn in the sand. Sniffing pitifully the rat's shoulders. Then he almost tripping over soft sand, as if his legs didn't work properly.
The rat whimpered and twitched compulsively and with his leather glove covered paws he tried to reach something in his pouch belt. But the bundled hands were always snatched back forward by the rope holding otter. The rat whimpered again.
"P-please", Tinderwick squeaked as he tried yet again to reach his belt. "I just need one thing from my pouch… Just one thing! Could you please let me have it? Please, kind sir?"
"No," comes the stern reply. Scar takes a sharp breath as he addresses the vixen. "And yer sure we can't make it to the city by nightfall?" In reply the fox giggles before moving towards the tavern.
Even before they made it to the log building rain began to pour down on their heads. It started light but promissed to drench those who lingered out in the open. "Quit your fidgiting and move it!" The otter pulled roughly at the rat, practically dragging him along. "Yer lucky yer alive. The bounty for just yer head isn't THAT much less. Not for this much trouble…
The light from the shuttered windows lights the way as the rain grows stronger. Throwing open the door the beasts are greeted by the warmth of well stocked hearth. The fire place is to the right with a sparrow roasting inside, filling the room with the pleasent aroma of cooking meat.
The tavern is not too special other than having a wooden floor, as opposed to simply being filled with dirt. A large pine bar encompasses the far wall. A stair case wraps along the left wall, leading to the fooor above. Behind the bar there is a large wooden door leading to the kitchen.
Save for the sound of rain and fire the tavern is quit, deserted and empty. There are plates left on the tables and drinks half filled on the bar. But there was no sign of life...no signs of struggle.
Scar raises an eyebrow, stepping cautiously inside and pulling the rat along with him. "Hey! I want some service!" He shouts, "Hello?"
The fox peers over the counter and checks the kitchen, "I don't see anyone. Maybe they went outside?"
"I guess we can just wait for them to get back.." the otter moves for a free table when the fox yelps.
"Shouldn't we look for the beasts? What if something bad happened to them? What if they are laying dead outside right now and we are just about to walk into a trap!" Scar raises an eyebrow as he peers into the soulfull puppy dog eyes of the fox.
Rolling his head back he sighs, "Fine...i'll go take a loom. Just make sure the rat doesn't escape or It'll be on yer head. Mark my words."
With a discruntled mumble about annoying foxes Scar hands the rope off to Inktail. He hesitates at the door before heading back out into the rain. As he leaves the the fox to her own devices inktail smiles. Tieing off the rope around her belt the fox turns for the bird roasting in the fire place, licking her chops. "More for us, right?" She giggles, having no intention of actually sharing with her captive.
"Pleasent fellow Scar is, eh? He went through a lot of work to catch you. Almost makes me think you are worth more than he told me..." she slices into the bird with a knife taken frok a near by table.
Tinderwick knew that was out-right lie… The claim that he was alive only 'coz bounty hunter's goodwill and laziness drag a severed head around. If Scar really was paid so well that hunting one rat across the whole continent was worth of trouble, Tinderwick could only think one party who had wealth pay that kind of reward-money. And if it really were them… then he was much more valuable live than dead.
So Scar wouldn't kill him -- but he could make his existence utterly miserable many, many other creative ways. The plain fact the bounty hunter kindly liked to remind him every time otter got sick of his whining. Or if he caught him trying to escape. And heaven only knew how many times he had already tried! But Scar was watching him like hawk would, not planning to give the rat opportunity slip through his fingers this time…
…Tinderwick woke up from his depressing thoughts as the three beast stepped in the tavern -- or two beasts stepped, Tinderwick was more like dragged over the doorstep, in which he stumbled and this time fell face flat on the floor. He squeaked and holding his sore snout, carefully lifted himself up.
The tavern was eerie quiet and empty, as if all the customers and staff had disappeared into the thin air… Not that Tinderwick cared much… He just wanted rest his sore feet and think about other things later.
Breathing heavily -- he never had been beast with great stamina -- Tinderwick flopped on the floor, near the fire-place. He was worn out from the travel, hungry and now, top of all, wet like old dishcloath. His red patched cape was dripping water, but at least he could move closer to fire's warmth as the vixen was so interested about the roasted bird.
And so where Tinderwick. He lick his lips and felt how his stomach rumbled. From the day Scar had captured him, he hadn't had a decent warm meal, so of course hot cooked sparrow made the ash-grey rat drool.
It was Inktail's snooping, masked in innocent statement, that broke the spell the roasted bird had casted over the rat. Tinderwick tore his eyes of the food and lift it up to the fox - thought it didn't stay there for a long. Under his hood Tinderwick's eyes were always moving, skipping their attention up and down and left to right, like the he was following a drunken bug's fly. It was a weird -- like the rat didn't know where to put his gaze.
"Uuum -- I… I don't think he wants me to answer that… he'll kick me fo'sure…", Rinderwick said with hesitation, his eyes now sweeping along the floor.
Needed to be careful… Those two beasts seemed like partners, but closer observation had lead the Tinderwick to believe, that wasn't the case. Sure, Scar made use of Inktail's skills but otter had only told her the most necessarily things about his job. He did not want to talk over his mouth. Mainly because if Scar got angry, he was the first beast suffer the consequences.
"Dawwww, surely you can tell little old meeEEee." The vixen flashes a smile as she rips the drum stick off of the bird. She takes several deep bites, chewing loudly as her teeth rend the meat to peicies. "What if ol Scar face wasn't an issue anymore? Perhaps you would like to tell me then?"
The fox wavers the bird leg tantilizingly infront of the rats snout. "Maybe if I gave you something to eat, yes? It does no beast good to starve. I know that feeling, believe it or not." She gives her stomach a pat, "When I was young, there was a famine in our land. A deadly one. Our family were hit hard because we were poor." The fox seems to stare into the fire for a long moment. "From then on I decided that I was not going to be hungry or poor anymore. Our riverdog friend, he seems to think you are worth money. LOTS of money. And I want to know why?"
The door opens, cutting the vixen off. Making a bee line for the fire Scar enters soaking wet. "Blazes it is coming down out there!" He peers at the fox and the odd look she is giving him, "What?"
The fox doesn't reply. Instead she takes back the offered drumb stick and begins to rip into it again.
"Right…anyway, I didn't find any body so I guess that means we got the place to ourselves."
"Woo! Free inn!" Inktail tosses her paws in the air. "At least until the owners come back, yesh? I will take first watch down here." Untieing the rolp Inktail tosses it to Scar.
Scar rolls his eyes. "Fine. If the owner comes back tell them I'll pay in de morning. Blasted greedy gut fox." Scar mumbles. After finding the appropriate key the otter leads his captive up stairs, leaving Inktail to her meal...
Tinderwick's ears dropped. This was pure torture.. Looking at someone enjoy their fresh meal while your own stomach groaned its emptiness… Didn't the vixen have any mercy in her? Surely she knew how hungry he was yet she chewed the sparrow so casually right before his eyes… He could understand why Scar had so little compassion left for him. The rat concluded anybeast would be royally pissed if someone caused as much trouble for him as he had afflicted on Scar. But what he had ever done to vixen?
Games, games… It's always the games... She wants to reel you in her own game. Game she plays against Scar... And Scar plays against her... All games...
Tinderwick shook his head. To silence the voice that echoed inside there but also to clear his own focus. It was a bit hard to concentrate on the vixen's words when your stomach wanted to stare the food.
...Food that was suddenly offered oh so close to him that he could smell clearly every herb and spice used in the steaming meat. There was a parsley, butter, black pepper... and that bitter sweet aroma... the bird had been marinated in apple cider before the cooking! A moan escaped from him. The meat made his mouth water.
Tinderwick was torn between two different directions and it was clearly shown in his face. On the other paw he was scared of Scar. But as the otter was now gone and the food was at present, his hunger felt unbearable. When was the last time he had eaten a roasted bird? Or any decent meal to begin with? What if this was his only opportunity get something good to eat for a chance?
Right now being able feed on something this good felt like worth of being kicked couple of times.
Tinderwick's eyes followed with rapt attention the bird leg which was waved right in front of his snout. And very carefully he leaned little bit closer .
"Umm" he began, reaching hesitantly for the meat "w-well, you see…"
The door opens and rat instantly shuts up, retreating quickly back against the fire place. But luckily the bounty hunter didn't seem to suspect anything, he just marches in.
Tinderwick shots a pleading look at Scar but either the otter didn't notice or he didn't care, since he was again hauled back to his sore feet and dragged along towards the stairs. He didn't want leave the warm place besides the fire… He would be fine by sleeping on the floor if there was warm rattling fire next to him… And of course down there was the food. Didn't otter see all those deliciousness? Tinderwick eyes had counted at least three different types of cheeses on the unfinished plates, newly baked breads and untouched stray of scones! Not to mention his keen nose had picked the scent of at least five different ales…
There it was again… That odd, bit sweet odour that lingered in the air. Tinderwick had smelt it when they first entered the tavern, but that scent had soon vanished under the fragrance of foods and ale. Like it did now.
And speaking of the food… All delicious looking food and the drink lying around on the tables -and the otter just walked away from it? It was like a buffet! Practically all free! How could the otter permitted only vixen to stay in here and enjoy the food? Tinderwick gave at Inktail's direction a quick jealous glare before another impatient tug from the rope compelled him to follow after bounty hunter.
It's quite simple, actually, small part in Tinderwick's mind rationalized, …When you were weak of hunger, you didn't have strength to escape… Or your mind was so fixed to grave next meal that it there wasn't no room to think anything else. The games...
Oh shut up!
As they climbed the stairs, Tinderwick glance nervously the bounty hunter.
"Ki-kind sir…?" he starts, looking at the otter hesitantly, but also with hopeful expression. "…I have been good, haven't I? Not causing problems, haven't tried to run away for days…. So - so could I have a hot meal tonight, sir? J-just this once… I-it's not asking much, is it?"
The otter reguards the beast for a moment, eyes peering into his hopefull eyes and skinny figure. "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…" he says while rubbing his chin.
"No." The otter then drags him up the stairs, whistling as he goes. Perhaps he found the rat easier to boss around with him half starved, maybe he felt this was some kind of abstract justice, punishment for the rats alleged crimes.
Or maybe he was just cruel.
The upper floor wasn't that big. There were six rooms total in the inn. Choosing the room at the far end of the hallway the door opens to a sparesly decorated but clean-ish room. A wardrobe is here on the left. A small single bed is here on the right. Scar pulls a feather pillow from the bed and tosses it on the floor, indicating where the rat is to sleep tonight.
"Don't let the bed bugs bite." Scar then plops his tail down in the rooms only chair. He casts his hat over his eyes and crosses his paws over his chest and promptly begins snoring.
And while the otter sleeps the fox is left to play.
Indeed, all the un eaten food just...sits there, waiting for some beast to come devour it. It is sad really, letting such food go to waste.
Inktail intends to fix that.
It doesn't take long for the fox to finish the roasted bird, not with her greedy muzle. Leaning back in her chair the fox sighs as she strips the last of the meat from the bird. She hick ups once and giggles. "One of these days gal yer greedy gut is going to be the end of you..." she laughs to herself. "At least y'll die happy..."
Picking herself up Inktail stretches out her back. Her stomach is so swollen with her meal that a sliver of flesh is left exposed on her belly. Charming.
"Ah ferget them." She says in reference to the still absent inn owners. Leaving the buffet of un eaten food alone the fox goes to wash down her heavy meal, deciding to go strait to the source for a drink and bypassing the bar completely.
She moves past the kitchen and down to the cellar. It takes a while for the beasts eyes to adjust to the darkness. The stairs creak under her paws. Once she reaches the dirt floor she smiles, catching site of several barrols of wine.
The foc giggles in delight. Setting her spear against the wall she stretches herself out by the barrol. She opens the tap and lets the wine pour into her open maw, letting wine flow freely down her gullet and over her muzzle.
The sound of her own giggling and drinking drowns out the rusling noise at the far end of the cellar. A pair of eyes stares down at the fox and a shadowy beast moves closer towards her until its massive head is centered over the feasting fox.
"Hello..." it hisses.
Scar is awoken by a loud ear peircing scream. Jumping to his feet his sword comes free. "Stay here or I'll cut yer tail off!" He shouts before he is out the door...
There was a small ray of hope lurking behind Tinderwick's eyes but it got crushed like a bug. Tindewick looked so hurt and miserable as if Scar had just kicked him right in the chin.
What was more, Scar's unreasonable behavior seems to be gaining new dimensions. If the otter wasn't planning to use the bed, why make him sleep on the floor? That made no sense, and he really had behaved during these couple of days! Really had! So would it kill the otter cut him some slag here? And maybe it was just the hunger that made him this cranky, but Tinderwick really felt like spark of anger began to gather inside him.
"Oh that's it! You know what? I–", Tinderwick caught himself just in time before he said something he couldn't snatch back. Scar was still somewhat in good mood and making him to cross over to the bad mood wasn't something he should do. He was going to bed hungry, but it was many times better than the choice to go to bed hungry and day light beaten out of him. Tinderwick gulped and his posture slumped.
"…nu'thing", he sighed as he dragged his feet to the corner where the pillow was. He tried to make himself comfortable, but hard cold floor and still wet cape didn't give much of privileges for that. Well, at least he had given him a pillow… though Tinderwick would have traded it for a food in blink of eye. How the otter expected him to sleep this hungry? Oh yeah, he was knackered from the today's march...
Tinderwick was somewhere between the wake and slumber when horrible scream echoed from the downstairs. In a flash Tinderwick was up, looking around himself in panick, trying to locate where the danger was.
Scar vanished out of the door but Tinderwick wasn't going to stay in here and wait otter's return, regardless of the seadog's threat. He could as fell try and take this chance... If he really managed to get out from here, the rain would wash away any track he'd leave behind.
…It's in the third pouch. The tin vial, sealed with red…
Tinderwick reached for his item belt and after a minut he drew out a small tin-vial, Using his front teeth the rat opened its cork cap, which was sealed with red wax and carefully… And uttermost cautious…he tilted the small container above the robe that bound his wrists. Thick liquid started to pour out and when it came to contact with the bindings, the rope started to smoke and dissolve with faint crackle. The acid ate the rope and before long the bindings become loose enough for Tinderwick to squirm free, he quickly shaking the ropes off of him.
They should have told the bounty hunter , Tinderwick thought as he moved towards the door (no window in this room, so the door was his only way out). They should have told him he was an alchemist and there was many, many things he could do with right mixture of different raw materials… The professions was a bit unknown in this land, so it got easily mixed with herb-healers. Of course it suited Guilds plans just fine. And of course Guild would never reveal itself to an outsider like Scar was. The Guild didn't want loose ends wandering around, which might be the partial reason they had sent beasts after him.
"The games, the games…", Tinderwick muttered to himself as he carefully opened the door and peered into the hallway. No sign of Scar. Good. Not let's get out of here. Tiptoeing towards the stairs Tinderwick tried stay out of sight as he hadn't forgotten about the blood chilling scream. Something had caused that so let's not rush from the pan into the fire… Let's take a look what actually happened there… And run if there's a chance.
Tinderwick peered downstairs.
The inn was surpringly undisturbed. Tables were still up right, laden with unfinished meals, drinks had not been spilled. It was as if the room has not changed.
And then Scar comes flying across the room, smalling into the room and dropping his saber from the terrible impact. The otter rolls to his side, coughing violently and managing to grab his sword before a scaly tail wraps around his waist. He screams once as the tail hoists him into the air, curling around him and binding his arms.
"Gack!" The otter belts out as the beast begins to squeaze.
The tail belonges to a large snake, even larger than an adder. A whiptail. How it manages to coil itself around and through tables with out spilling them is a feat unto itself. Its scales are a criss cross of various shades of green with a light greenish tan under belly.
There is a disturbing lump in the snakes midriff, a section of its scales distended from a previous meal. It doesn't take long to imagine where the inn keeper has gone, or perhaps where Inktail has dissapeared too, until the snake moves his massive body out of the way to reveal the portly vixen huddling against the wall next to the fire place.
"Now that wasSSss not very nissse." The snake says with a grin, "Trying to sstab me in the backsh. How rude." The serpants tone turns darker as it squeezes the literal life out the otter. Scar lets out a gasp as the air is pushed from his lungs. His eyes bulge and his feet kick useflessly in the air. The sword slips from his paws and clatters against the ground.
The snake narrows his eyes as much as a serpant can before depositing the otter roughly by the fox. Scar begins to gasp and cough for air, clutching at his throat as he does. "Such rude beastsss. Interupting my nap, shtabing me in the back." The snake coils him self in a half circle around the beasts. Blocking their escape. The fox and the otter hold each other tightly and shiver in fear with the snake looming over them.
"At the very leasst you sseem to have brought me dinner…"
With the snakes back turned to Tinderwick he has yet to notice him...
After seeing who just had tossed Scar around like the otter was just a rag doll, Tinderwick covers his mouth so that no sound would escape from him and reveal his presence. Snake… of course! That oddly sweet odour he had smelled before… That was scent the snakes emitted from their scales!
Tinderwick tried to stop his shaking, telling himsef that the snake hadn't noticed him yet… Everything was going to be okay, just don't let the snake notice you… The front-door - the door wasn't that far and he was a good sprinter. A beast easily became one when he didn't have any fighting skills and his life depended solemnly on how fast he could run away from the danger. So maybe he could…
..Snakes move faster than you could ever run, stupid. At the firs noise you make, he's after you.…
Tinderwick slumped back against the wall. Right, right… so getting out of the front-door was out of question as long as the snake stayed in the hall… Maybe he just could stay hiding?
A good plan. At least until the snake's tail wraps around the beasts foot paw. With a powerfull yank the snake pulls the beast out from beyond the stairs, hoisting him high by the paw.
With no concept of personal space the snakes head is practically eye to eye with the rat when he speaks, "Well hellooo! What do we'sh have here? A..scrawny little rat…" the snakes dissapointment is evident in his voice. "I wash hopping for anotjer pudgy foxy, but I guessh shome one needsh to fill the roll of /appitiser/"
Tinderwick manages only let out a high pitched shriek when he feels the snake's tail seize his ankle. And in the next heartbeat he finds himself hanging upside down by the foot, looking eye to eye the giant snake. He could practically see his own reflection in the snake's huge eye ball!
"Aah, aaah" the violently shaking rat hyperventilated, hovering at the edge of great shock, unable to make out any sensible word. His eyes tried to look away but the snake was so huge, filling his whole line of sight.
Too close, too close… The snake was too close! The horror was too much, the panic was too much… Tinderwick could almost feel how his mind crumbled toward the final breakdown…
Oh, for the love of–- !
Tindeewick's always and everywhere moving eyes came to sudden halt and his uncontrollable shaking stopped as quickly. The ash-grey rat straight at the snake, like seeing it the first time. But now there wasn't panic in his features - fear yes, but not panic. Though the rat's eyes seemed a bit glazed...
Then there was a whimper. Then it came out louder. And lastly came the wailing.
"Oh nononoNO_no_!" Tinderwick howled, burying his head in his hands like looking at snake was too much for him to handle.
"You shouldn't eat me, oh Mighty One! I'm not worthy suck a honor", Tinderwick wept like little child. Fat tears started to run down – or this case up his cheeks, dropping on the floor that hovered either above or below his head, depending on the perspective.
"I know I broke the Guild's code! I defiled your sacred Inner Chamber! Oh how could I, howcouldI?" continuing his disoriented babbling , Tinderwick dared to look snake behind his fingers.
"You're come to punish me aren't you, Mighty One? Yes, yesyes… that's what I deserve, nothing escapes from your Eyes, just like the old scripture say… " Tinderwick hands suddenly dropped towards the floor, the rat hanging like he had tossed himself completely at the mercy of the giant reptile.
"But you shouldn't eat me, not this miserable leech I am… You should just crush me in your advent - melt me in your poison like you do all the unworthy not fitting to serve you in your Order…"
There is a long uncomfortable silence. The snake for his part raises a scaly eyebrow. "Uhhhhhh…" he looks to the other beasts who are just as shocked as he is. "Hey, don't look at me. This is a new one for us as well."
"Riiight. I am jusht going to put you downsh now..." the snake deposits the rat by the fox and otter less the rats crazyprove infectious. "If it bringsh you any comfort I do not plan to actually eat you...well...ONE of you anywayssss." The snakes smug grin returns. "Thatsh right. I am on a three beasht diet and I am already digeshting a particularly plump lizard." The snake leans back to show off his stomach, rubbing his tail around his distended middle.
"Sssso one of you lot is going to go free...and do what ever it ish you peashentsh do with your meashly livesssSSss. But how to decide, how to decide...oh!" The snake coils his tail in into the shape of a makeshift table, resting his chin on it.
"I will letsh you decide what you want to do. We can play a game...or perhapsh tell riddlesh...maybe even shtoriesh! I am open for entertainment of any kind. The winner of course goesh free. The loosher..." he chuckles. "I shouldn't have to tell you what happenssss to them." His eyes narrow, "You have one minute to convince me why you ssshould live..."
The fox and otter both gulp. "I'm not good with riddles." Scar whispers.
"Yeah? Well I ain't no bard and story teller what are we going to do?" Both beasts turn to thwir once captive, hopefull looks on their faces.
"Oh, I know a story!", the rat said almost immediately, hopping to the sitting position and looking at the snake in childish-like eagerness shining on his face.
"It's the first one I ever learned, Mighty One. Thought you very well know it, it was the very thing that inspired me to join the Order… So for your honor only, I shall repeat it… The Tale of Sky Serpent, the One Who Coils Around the World…"
The rat took a deep breath and started
"Of course we call him with many other honorable titles like the Great Emerald-Eyed and Strangler of the World… But many prefer call him the Ageless One. He has scales of gold and their seams nacre… His eyes are bright like two emeralds and they saw clearly every hidden truth when they gazed upon the earth. He is the holder of the forgotten knowledge and knowledge yet to be found… He is ancient as the time and till the end of all time he will remain, as such is his power. "
"Many beasts sought him but very few ever found. But then there were three beasts who found their way into the the sacred lair where Sky Serpent's earthy avatar resided. And as they stepped forward, the Ageless One's mighty figure towered over them like a mountain. And he spoke with voice which had been when mountains were but tiny hills"
"He said: 'You have seeketh for me and now you have found me. Now tell me what is it you have cometh to ask of me?' "
"The First Beast stepped forward and said: 'Give me a strength rivaled by none other. Bestow on me the power to destroy my enemies' strongholds to rubble, to make the stone around them burn and the earth open up beneath their feet and swallow them whole' "
"And Ageless One gave him a bottled fire sealed inside lightning's thunder. Every time the beast would open the bottle, the rumbling fire would emerge and smite his enemies, leaving no-one or nothing stand in his path. "
"Then was the Second Beast's turn. Ageless one turned to him and asked: ' What is it that thou seek, Next of the Three?'. And the Second Beast answered: 'Give me an endless wealth. Bestow on me the power of turning the stone into a gold, have the glass turned to crystals and coil into diamonds' "
"And the great Serpent touched the beast's hand with his tooth and though it's venom burned and scarred the whole limb, the beast was now gifted with wondrous touch. In his paw stone turned into a pure gold, the ordinary glass into finest crystals and black coals into diamonds of colors of the rainbow."
"Then the Ageless one turned to the Third Beast and demanded: 'And what about you? What is it that thou seek, Last of the Three?' And the Third Beast spoke, humbly: 'I wish to learn the secret of life neverending. Bestow on me something from your sacred being so I may have chance of finding it.' "
"And the Ageless One shed his skin and let the Third Beast have a tear from it. The spoke he to the Three: 'I have given you gifts of my knowledge, but my share is still pending. Go now. After three years time you are to be back to present your gifts for me and the payment for what you have just received.' "
The room became quite after the rat finishes. Dreadfully quiet. That was, rather good Inktail thought, then with horror she remembers the snakes words. Only one of them wqs going to survive.
And Tinderwick now had a head start on them both.
The snake head tilts to one side, rubbing his chin with his tail. "You are an odd one. I like that. I am currious though, how did he hold the fire while it was trapped in lightning? Wouldn't that…kill him?" The snake pauses for a bit then shrugs. "It also ended ona cliff hanger, meaning there is a chance that I may not hear the ending if your friends can beat it..."
Basilisks gaze swivels towards the bounty hunters and they both gulp in unison. "Well," Begins Inktail, "Mine aint as fancy but no less entertaining. There was once a vixen..." the fox steeples her paws, sitting crosslegged like her grandmother would right before imparting a lesson upon her, a lesson like she was going to give now.
"She was a youthfull vixen, full of well earned pride and vanity for she was the fastest vixen in the woods. Every half year the wolves would come hunting foxes to make them into clothing. Her brethern may have fell each year but they could never catch the fox. And she knew it."
"She would taunt them, letting them get close enough to think they would finally catch her, then bolt away like lightning."
"The fox how ever was a greedy one with an insatiable appitite for eggs. She had found a small farm ran by badgers. It was filled with chickens. And where there were chickens there were eggs. Now this greedy fox she easily dug a hole under the fence and crawled into the farm. Slipping into the chicken coop she slaughters the chickens!" Inktails eyes go wild as she uses her paws to illistrate the story. "And she ate up the chickens. But she wasn't full yet. So she ate up the chickens little dibbuns. But the fox wasn't full yet. So she ate up all the eggs, from the top roost to the eggs in the bottom roost. THEN, covered in yoke and belly ready to burst, the fox was full."
"She could hardly move by then though for her belly was so swollen it stretched far past her legs. She had to waddle awkwardly out of the chicken coop, barely able to fit through the door. She squezed out just as the morning sun was rising. The fox by now was getting worried for she knew the badgers would kill her if she was found there."
"To her dismay she found herself too big and fat to fit through her own hole! Try as she might the vixen was stuck half way in and half way out of the fence. She tried to push and push to get free until..."
"The badgers came and killed her?" The snake interupts but the fox takes it instride.
"No! Until the fence gave way and fell over! The fox went free and lived happily everafter..." the vixen adds with a smile. "Until the next day when she heard the hunting howls of the wolves..."
The snake gets a laugh out of this. "I liked it because the fox got eaten in the end. The nissse flessshy fox..." the look Basil gives Inktail makes her gulp. His gaze then turns to Scar. The otter twitches an eye. Him? Tell stories? He was doomed!
Adjusting the belt around his waist the otter growls, "My story ain't no fancifull tall tale or what ever that was the rat gave. My story is about me...and its true..."
Some time passed...
"...And that's how with a spoon and pair of tweezers I killed off Shady McGrue the ax murderer." The otter crosses his arms with a smug smile. Top that, he seemed to say to the others.
Both Inktail and Basil looked...disturbed. Both their jaws were slack with shock. "That wassss...certainly violent. Especially when the ssalt sshaker came into play." Basil shivers. "So...all very entertaining. It will be hard to decide who livessss...before I do...rat...that shtory....where did you come by it?"
Cheeeater! >XD You can't tell tale like that and leave the most important parts out! WHAT DID SCAR EVER DO WITH THE SALT SHAKER??? I demand to know! xDDD
It seemed more and more likely that something had snapped inside Tinderwick's head as he didn't seem to view this situation dangerous at all… Like being eaten by snake wasn't a fate to be scared of. In fact he was humming softly when Scar finished his tale!
But for moment rat's expression had changed into a confused one and it had been the time when the snake had asked him about the fire in the bottle.
"You mean thunderpowder?" the rat had been baffled. "But of course you know about it Mighty One… I think the tale just describes it bit differently, to make it sound something unbelievable, just in case… But as you know, it's very easy to use…"
The rat's voice had drifted away as vixen had started his tale. But all in all red-caped rat didn't seem to listen either of them, but he stayed as quiet as possible since Basil was interested in them.
Now, when all the tales were told and Basil turned towards the Tinderwick, who immediately stopped his humming at looked up with admiration.
An another baffled look crossed his face. This time with a particle of doubt.
"Where I came by it…? But - but surely you know, Mighty One--?" Then the realization flashed across his features and rat's face brightened.
"Ah, I see! -- you're testing my memory, aren't you Mighty One?", he chuckled, his voice vanishing bit by bit into silent mumbling. "Just like in the writings, just like in the writings… the games…."
And suddenly the rodent straightened his posture, like a child who was prepared for a review of his important homework.
"It's written in the walls of Outer Coil, of course", he answered eagerly, " with pictures and all. I have walked past it thousands of times…. O-or at least I used to…"
The rat's eyes fell on the floor like he was ashamed and his index-finger started to draw invisible circles on the floor before him.
Once again Basilisk is at a loss of words. This story is too elaberate to be made on the fly. To…detqiled to be madness. Realitivily speaking.
The snake snaps his tail, a feat which impresses both Inktail and Scar. "Ah! Culture! I undershtand now. He hailsh from a culture that worshipsh shnakessss!" basil grins delightfully at the thought. "Dare I say thisss addsh to my judgement...which bringsh ush back to our firsssst victim..."
The snakes tail wraps once around the vixen's hips than again around her chest pinning her arms to her body. "Between you and the otter I do believe you to be the better sssstory teller. But alash, you are fat and tasty."
Inktail lets out a high pitched yelp. "No! Not me! Please! Y-you can't eat me!" she begins to wail, "I have so much left to live for! I don't want to be eaten!"
"People rarely do." the snake admits, "If it makesss you feel better you are actually a little too plump. I don't think I could eat you whole...but thankfully itsss a civilized era. Sssso I'll roast you...or posssssibly a shtew is in order..."
Inktail begins to cry at the thought of being roasted or stewed as a pleasent alternative to being swollowed alive.
"I think you should roast her." Scar concludes, "Make her WELL DONE!" It wasn't his best war cry he admits but it would have to do. The otter reaches into the fire, ignoring the pain as he grabs a flaming peice of wood and hurls it at the snakes fore head.
Recoiling the snake lets out a painfull shout, releasing his soon to be victim. "Run! Run for the door!" Scar shouts.
#lol! Nope no Scar story for you! :3 now time for action!#
Everything happened so fast that the rodent had hardly the time comprehend all of it. It felt like the time had slowed down when the flaming firewood left the otter's paw and it spun through the air… And when it hit the snake's forehead – making the reptile loose his grip from the vixen -- it was like magic word to broke the spell.
Just when Scar was about to follow his own advice, something grey and reddish clashed against him.
"Noooo!" Tinderwick screams with top of his lungs as he tosses himself against the otter, clawing, hitting and biting him like a maniac. "How could you? Horrible otter, horrible! Don't you dare raise your hand against Mighty One! Don't you even dare!"
Firmly believing that no bounty how ever great can be spent from inside the belly of a snake, Inktail bolts for the door. Saddly, as the snake said, Inktail was very fat and thus very slow. Ariving at the door only intime to see the great snake block her path as he flails about in pain. With the snakes tail landing in front of the door the vixen turns and leaps for the window.
Pushing the shudders open with brute force the fox pulls herself through and…that is about as far as she can get. With her middle wedged firmly in the window the fox is caught balf wah escaping into the night and halfway trapped in the tavern. Struggle as she might she cant seem to move forward or backward.
Again...as the snake said...she was /very/ fat.
But no longer the snakes object of attention...
"Get off! Get off!" Scar shouts as he is clawed, bite, and beaten savagely by the rat. What he lacks in strength he obviously makes up in crazy! But in the end it is not enough. Tearing tinderwick away from him and leaping away Scar draws a hold out knife frok his boot. "You crazy fool, you are going to get us all killed!" The otter raises the knife to slay the beast. The blade is small but more than sharp enough to deliver the fatal blow.
"Wrong!" Comes the shout of Basilisk. His tail comes next. Slaming against the top of the otters head with enough force to drive him to the ground and bounce into the air. The snake then swings his mighty tail again, striking ghe air born bounty hunter like a base ball bat senidn him flying towards the far wall.
The fire place eruptes is savage heat as Scar lands inside, the roar of the flames filling the place of the scream he never got to shout. "Only you are going to die..." the snake sneers at the otter as the flames slowly die down.
After a sbort moment he slowly turns his head toward the rat. Peering over him intently the snake utters only one word. "WhyyyYyyYyyyy...?"
It didn't call for a great strength to tear out the screaming rat… And quickly the insane rodent was kicked (while squeking in high pitched voice) onto the floor, as the otter raised his hand for the final struck…
…Which never came - or it came, but in form of the slash of big tail which sent the river-dog to his red-hot and painful death.
The rat stared back to snake, as if he was being captive by the serpent's gaze. He looked bewildered, as if he was as surprised from his outburst as the snake was.
"I– I...", he shuttered, trying to form sensible sentences. "I thought...he dared....you... You didn't wish for help, o Mighty One?"
Right after saying that, it seemed like a realization struck the rat - like a bolt of lighting - making his shoulder slump as he cover his face ashamed.
"What am I saying ? -- Of course you, Mighty One, don't need help from creature as insignificant as me!", he cried out, starting to babble non-stop. "You, who can smite his enemies with a single strike… Forgive me my insolence to presume -- not my place to act, never my place to act…!"