Thief in the Cellar ((coolcoyote))
The cellar door was open. Eileen hadn't heard it open, probably because she had oiled the hinge only last week. But the door was open, and she spotted it on her way back from the privy. It lay open like a dark maw in the otherwise smooth, moon-silvered grass of their back lawn.
It was late spring and the night was balmy and still. A light shiver ran through her anyway. There was nothing in the cellar but what was left over from winter and supplies for the next big growing season. Nothing to worry about, nothing to rush over. Pints of honey and dried peaches, a few elderly crates of potatoes. There were also barrels of bee's wax and neatly labeled, carefully sealed boxes of seeds.
There was also a short sword. Eileen crept towards the opening in the earth, and then down the first few steps with a trained solder's quiet footfalls. She could hear the faint clink of broken pottery and wet, smacking noises. Raiding the larders, then. In the dark, she felt along the ceiling found the scabbard wrapped in oiled cloth, and pulled it out of the tiny cavity it was mounted in. She flung the wrapping out the door onto the grass and considered going back and letting her Uncle Conary know what was going on.
But at the same time, she could handle herself and hadn't had a challenge in months. With another little shiver, this one almost in anticipation, she crept towards the soft noises below.
Only heaven knew what the beast might be thinking. Such darkened corners however familiar tend to conjure a beasts most wild imagination. Perhaps there were monsterz down here. Things with wild teeth and claws ready to devour the wayward traveler! Nah, that was far too silly. Perhaps it was bandits! Bandits were reall and just as dangerous as any imagined monster.
And then there was Rascal.
If nothing else the fox was certainly anti climatic. He was a youthfull but well out of his dibbun years. The red furred beast dressed like a bandit at least, wearing a rough and weathered vest and otter hide belt.
He was also very, very fat. A fact most easily noticed as he lay propped against the box of bees wax. His belly was horribly swollen even with the rolls of flesh to accompany it. The honey across his muzzle and paws told the tale of how he came to be so…engorged. Never had a beast looked so content and so ill at the same time. The honey the potatoes even the some of the seeds lay scattered across the ground.
For right now the beast sat clutching his distended middle, licking his chops and patting himself on the back for a job well done.
He never even heard the beast approaching let alone notice them...
Eileen looked at the tableaux before her and couldn't decide what she felt more, disgust or disappointment. All the excitement of the coming fight were gone. The cellar was a mess, seeds and potatoes and chunks of beeswax scattered on the floor. And in the center of it all, lay a fat little thief not even smart enough to keep from eating himself sick. So content to lay in the lantern light and not worry about anything.
She made an involuntary noise of disgust and strode forward to kick at his feet. "What in tae seven 'ells do yae think yer doin'!"
Eileen towered over him, sword brandished and furious. Before he could move, she spotted the empty jar that held the peaches preserved in honey. The last jar. With a gasp, she started to kick at him more, her hair loosening from her braid and getting in her eyes. "Those wer me favorite, ye ken? Ugh, ye wee nastly liddle worm Aye hope ye enjoyed yersel' because no' yer gonnae clean! It! Up!" She punctuated the end of her tirade by slapping him across the face with her free hand.
((If you check out my signature, the links for all my characters are there. You'll want the one for Eileen and Fergus of Clan Kelley.))
It took a while for the danger to register on the fox. It had to wade through food indused coma before the fox's brain realized what was going on.
"Wait! There is a perfectly logical explamation for all this!" the portly beast whines, shielding himself with his paws from any more stinging slaps. He seems to curel into a ball, tail wrapped tighly about his legs, "You see, uh…uh...of cheese it."
For such a bloated creature the fox moves surprisingly fast. He stands, twists, and digs his paws deep into the barrel of sun flour seeds behind him before tossing it at the squirrel.
Then the fox makes a run for it. He takes two steps before the weight of his belly brings him down like an anchor at see. Very nearly collapsing there on the spot the fox manages to recover, making a dash on all fours for the exit!
Instincts were rusty, but still she managed to bring an arm up in time to block the barrel of sunflower seeds Fergus had bartered for nearly three summers ago. He had thought it would be a grand idea at the time, but almost as soon as he had handed over the copper for it, the barrel had gone down to the cellars, nothing more than a waste of space, money, and time. And now it was actually being used against them. The seeds were old and the barrel cheaply made, but it still nearly made Eileen stumble and swear acutely. The lid popped off when it fell to the ground, but she was already turning to chase after the filthy beastie. She didn't need to turn and look to know the sound of an unholy mess getting much larger.
"Git back here, thief boy," she snarled, half under her breath. He managed to get up the steps before she could catch up to him. Abandoning the sword, Eileen got close enough to tackle the -surprisingly- quick little bugger, trying to pin him down and subdue him with her weight pressed against his shoulders and back.
(Mucha! Hello! Ill try to post soon!)
(Or you know…eventually...:/ sorry whole slew of stuff happened this week that made me idle :/)
Rascal gets a wiff of fresh air before the beast tackles him. He manages a quick yelp before he falls muzzle first into the ground outside, sliding down the stairs.
Paw out stretched the portly thief shouts for help, "Help! Help! I'm being murdered! Help!"
"Oh ye ar nae gittin, murdered, Theifboy," Eileen huffed from atop him. She shifted a little, setting her weight squarely and then grabbing for his arms. "At least nae yet." Satisfied that she had him still and held tight, she turned her head to call out to the farm house for help, only to find lit windows upstairs and a lantern bobbing quickly out the back door.
"Spark, wha' in all th' blazes is goin' on oot here?" The voice was thick and gravely from sleep and too much pipe tobacco.
"Jus' caught me a theif Uncle," Eileen called out, her voice only the slightest bit triumphant. "'E was doon in th' cellars, eatin' all las' years left overs an' makin' one 'ell of a mess."
There was a low noise of disgust from Conary as he slid out of the dark and lowered the lantern. He was still broad and barrel chested in his late sixties, with what would prove to be a full head of silver hair and a face weathered by years of hard work out of doors. He had hastily strapped the sword belt on before running out the door, despite the fact that he hadn't used the thing in well over five summers.
"Oh," he asked, gently nudging Rascal's shoulder with one foot. "An' wha' do ye have ate say fer yersel' m' wee liddle pincher?"
The fox cringes as he is subdued. This was it. They were going to kill him and make him into a fancy coat or hang his hide over the fire place where he will be stewed and eaten! Do squirrels even eat meat?
The fox whimpers as his shoulder is kicked. Ears flat the beast thinks of what to say that will get him out of this mess. Shall he say his family needed the food? No, too obvious. Claim he is a poor starving traveler? No with the size of his belly! How about pleading for mercy and promising not to do it again?
The fox gulps then puts on his best nervous smile, "What's for dessert?"
Eileen pressed her lips together firmly to keep the sudden twitch of a smile from being seen. It had statled out of her even though at the same time, it only served to anger her more. From the harsh laugh that barked out of her uncle, he had a similar reaction.
"Oh ho!" Conary sneered, shifting to squat by the pinned fox, not taking too much care about keeping the lantern out of Rascal's eyes. "Dessert! My wee liddle friend, Aye donae ken ye 'ave room fer dessert." He glanced at his niece speculatively. "Wha do ye ken we do wit our guest, 'Leen?"
Even if the beast pinned between her knees wasn't terrified, Eileen wouldn't have bothered to draw the situation out. It was late, she was tired, and it wasn't likely that there'e be much sleep for her tonight. She poked him between the shoulder blades and said, "Weel, 'e did just eat damn near his own weight in our food. Lots'a energy fer cleanin' oop th' mess he made."
Shifting to grab both his wrists, she added in a bright, cheery tone that dripped with sarcasm, "An' once tha's done wit' we can discuss how 'e intends tae pay fer th' damage an' eaten goods."
Carefully, she moved to get up, her hands tight on his wrists and Conary watching his every move as she pulled him upright. She was short, but managed to lean up to ask into Rascal's ear, "Sound fair, theifboy?"
The fox closes his eys as they talk. If he was about to be put to the sword he sure didn't want to see it!
Then they talk about letting him live…to put him to work...
That was even worse! "W-wait, wo-o-ork? PAY?! Ah man can't you just...turn me into a hat or something? Y-you know I hear fox stew is tasty!"
Despite his protests the grain filled fox didnt fight back. Like a creature cornered in a hen house he just held his head low and tail between his legs. "Ah maaaaaaan..."
"Weel," Eileen said with a certain smirk in her voice, "Aye could say sommat about actions an' consequences, but Aye'll bet ye ken all 'bout alla that, mmm?" She let herself relax now that he seemed done fighting. Still, her hands were secure around his wrists, lest he get the impulse to bolt.
Conary nodded in agreement, looking for all the world like a disappointed parent. He was about to turn back to the house for the cleaning paraphernalia when out of the dark floated a new cheery voice and the bright spot of another lantern.
"Oooch, Leen. Ye've gone an' made yersel a new friend."
Eileen huffed and peered out from behind the fox, for she was, predictably, too short to see over him. "Hush Fergus. I'm surprised ye actually got oop outa bed a'tal."
"Oh, me wee heart," Fergus shot back, finally materializing, his own lantern adding to the muted light of Conary's. He was grinning and sleep rumpled, and something in the way he stood there, lanky and expectant, gave him a very undisciplined air, so unlike the other two.
Instead of replying to that, Eileen huffed. "Uncle, could ye go an' git this git th' broom? Th' sooner he starts, th' sooner we can all git tae bed." To Fergus, she jerked her head down towards the cellar and said, "Come help me keep our guest comp'ny, aye?"
With out waiting for an answer, Eileen turned Rascal around and marched him down the steps. Over his sister's rod-straight back and stiff shoulders, Fergus asked the fox, "Wha did ye even do, boyo?"
Ducking his head Rascal cringes like a beast being led to the gallows, his mind abuz of all the horrible things the squirrels might do to him after finishing his work. His though sounds much more confident than he was actually feeling. "When I can understand the accent I will let you know."
He pauses at the bottom of the stairs, looking at the mess he made. Admittedly he had gone a bit overboard with his gluttony spree and left quite the mess in his wake. "I did what foxes do best when raiding a pantry lacking a chicken coop…" he glances over his shoulder at the squirrel leading him in, wanting to ask her what his ultimate fate is but daring not to. He sighs, "Bring me a broom..."
"Well, there goes our latest recruit." the fox turns away from his hiding place. Like Rascal the beast is a redfox. He wears a bandana over his neck and a pair of trousers to keep himself decent.
"He lasted longer than the last one." The vixen stretch from where she sits. A cross fox that didnt mind showing off her black underbelly between her vest and trousers. "Well, I suppose we should save him before the savages slaughter him in the cellar."
"No." both foxes turn to their third and last companion. The fox was a little more meaty than his companions but mostly it was muscle. Mostly. He wore an wolf hide cloak over one shoulder and the weasel hide sash across his green trousers.
"Rascal knew the risks, and he failed his test to get into the group. Besides, it's late and we can hit easier targets down the road."
The vixen nods, "Alright, we can come back later, see if he escapes."
"Or if one of them is sporting a new fox hide coat," chuckles the leaner tod. He gives them both a currious glance at their disgusted faces. "Wot...WOT?"
The foxes just shake their head and slowly disperse from the forrest around the homebstead.
Fergus' eyebrows raised and he grinned a bit at the little show of spine from the firmly beaten fox. "Ooch, such sass from ye, laddiebuck. Be careful wi'tha sharp tongue, yee ken?" His voice didn't carry a threat, just a light, gentle teasing, almost as if he was egging the lad on. It wasn't nice to have someone rob your cellars and make just about as much of a mess as possible while doing it, but…well, Fergus had always liked meeting a new face.
In front of him, Eileen just snorted, and finally, finally let the fox's wrist go. They were down in the cellar proper, now, and with both herself and Fergus to block the stairway, she wasn't too worried he'd get loose. If he even felt like risking it, at this point, which, by his body language, didn't look like it. "Donae encourage him, Fergus," she cautioned glaring at her younger brother. She was still hot with anger and annoyance that anyone had attempted --and succeeded, if only just-- rob them, and wasn't nearly as interested in making friends. "Ye either, pup," she added, pointing a stern finger in Rascal's direction as the stairway became brighter once more, and Conary returned, carrying a sturdy broom, and a bucket filled with hot, soapy water and a scrub brush. "Here we are, noo," he announced, handing the broom to Eileen, who stiffly held it out to their 'guest'. "Hop tae, pup."
"I'm not a /pup/." Rascal clarifies most pointedly. "My names Rascal, and before you ask, yes my parrents really were that unimaginative. I loved them anyway." he supposes it doesn't hurt to mention that he has a family, just in case they were planning on slaying him after he finished working for them. The chances of that happening seem to be growing lesser by the minute.
Not that he wasn't thankfull, but the feeling of embarassment was there, having to face his potential victims. It could be worse, there were plenty of beasts, vermin and woodlander alike who would have put the chubby thief to the sword and then steal his hide to make into a coat. The thought chilled him.
Despite the fox's lazy appearence he works hard and quickly. It doesn't mean he works WELL, just quickly and not wanting to give them any mkre reason to hate him.
The floor is scrubbed, the shelves are cleaned, and the mess is slowly taken care of, one grain of seed at a time.
By the end the fox is exahsted. He lays against a crate, head kicked back, tongue hanging out the side of his muzzle, and his portly stomach raising slowly with each labored breath.
"Floors…clean..." he says at last.
The sky would be lightening soon. Dawn was still hours away, but as someone who hadn't slept, Eileen decided that hours away was still too soon. But, the floors were clean. Not spotless, but clean. Rascal had worked hard, she had to give him that. No real fuss once he was going, no real lip. He worked himself to pieces. The annoyance at being robbed was there, still, and would probably linger well into the week. But as she padded over to him, her voice was softer "Oi, boyo."
She perched on a heavy wooden crate next his and held out a tin mug filled with cold, fresh water. "Ye did good. Thankee fer cleanin' oop yer mess."
The fox lifts his head up to look at the squirrel. His paw reaches shakily for the water. He nods his thanks and then gulps it down. Perhaps a bit too quickly. Its already gone and he is still thirsty.
"Thanks…for, well, you know." Not one to bemoan his fate but it has been on his mind a lot in the last few bours so he asks, "I suppose...you are going to keep me here now until the athorities show up?" he rubs his chin, "Come to think of it I don't even know who the athorities are here..." his ears fall flat with worry.