House Fly (Permanently Open)
(OOC: http://www.redwallslegacy.com/forum/index.php?topic=2615.msg46227#new for information an' stuff)
In the dreary night of the mid-summer, Venkas sat around a whimpering fire which shot out embers into the night sky. Venkas himself knew little of the land he was in, all he knew that he hated it. The release from the cold winter air of the north was not as appeasing as he thought it was, and cooking inside his own armor was not comfortable. Venkas had been warming his hands beside the dim fire light which produced more smoke then it did heat. The rat retracted his hands, slowly undoing his armor of his breastplate which was held by thin string. Upon unbuckling his heavy burdening armor, setting to his side, Venkas painfully arose in tired and lonesomeness and rummaged through the viddles, foraged berries and small edible leaves which had become a strict part of his diet.
Venkas the Rat was a damaged rat, with a eye covered by a dark green cloth and his body riddled with war wounds, half of his tail was missing. The rogue surrounded himself in the most lonesome place north-east of Mossflower forest in the deepest woods where no one could easily bother him, content that the world had stopped in his personal palace of tree roots, poorly pitched tent, and thick bushes. Venkas had never been more bored, but to him this was a easier way of living then his real 'job'. Venkas ate, remembering the first slaving job he had ever did, a difficult task of dragging a mouse farmer for miles to a warlord whom would throw the slave over his walls but moments later for talking back. Venkas was never paid for that job, but he remembered it well, a waste of life for both him and the mouse.
"I wonder whom his name was? Probably not important, but it would be curious to put a name to his face" thought Venkas.
Venkas had done slaving jobs from the tips of the north to the very edges of Salamandastron, avoiding patrols and militias whenever necessary. Venkas was never interested in fame or glory, just a good life he would tell himself in his head, but the seeds of ambition were there. Venkas thought as he ate the perfect position, a captain next to a great leader worthy of his skills, going forth for conquest and he would never want again, never have to taste these rotten foods, or have such ruined armor. Yet, he would always snap back to his reality whenever he ate of some edible leaves, a disgusting taste to him personally but it was cheaper then buying food or even raiding it.
At the moment in Venkas's rest, the sound of some sticks snapped from loud feet. Reacting quickly, Venkas threw his food and quickly grabbed his sword and wielded it, going into a defensive position.
"I heard that! Come out or go away, I don't care which!" Cried out Venkas. There was no response. For a moment, Venkas thought he was just paranoid, lowering his sword a little until he heard another snap of foilage, making him get on his guard. In a moment, another smaller rat had creeped through the bushes.
Venkas charged the rat with his full force and disarmed the wanderer's mere dagger and put his sword to the beast's throat whom looked wide-eyed at Venkas whom did not strike at him.
"Hell's tooth and claws, you should have answered me!" Venkas said more annoyed then angry, but keeping his sword's blade to the rat's throat "Sneaking up on me was your first mistake, speak!"
"P-p-put your sword down, good rat! I am but a courier and I saw your campfire!"
"The hell you want me for then?"
"I have a message to be sent to the nomads and wandering vermin of the woods, Reaven the Slaver is calling for slaves and hordebeasts of any kind to follow him at the camp north-east of here!" The rat focused on Venkas's blade whom lowered it with caution.
"Huh. Really? I will join this slaver, for I am as such as well. How many he got so far?"
"Last I saw, good rat only 80. However he said he wanted '500' "
Venkas raised a eyebrow at this. It wasn't common for a slaver to have any more then ten in a group so that they could profit from their share with a safe amount of defenders and slave watchers. Twenty slavers was in fact odd, but 500? Venkas was curious, but it was better then his lacking jobs right now.
"500? Whats he planning to do? Raid all the countries and all the castles known to the world?"
The courier simply shrugged, but backed away slowly "I know not. He also says to bring slaves. . ."
Venkas thought and waved off the frightened courier "Next time, mate, if a rat says to show himself, ya do it."
"I fear if I do, hostile bandits will kill me." explained the courier
"If you don't do it, they will kill you anyway. Now begone you idiot." The courier quickly ran through the brush and far from Venkas's encampment
In the Mid-morning, Venkas had awoken to his camp fire's death and the smoldering smoke. The rogue had stomped out the fire and packed up his camp, struggling to put on his armor before heading out. Venkas in truth preferred the cold then the heat, but his comforts mattered little then his growling stomach. He believed he could forage on the way to finding this camp, and a warlord seeking '500' or so vermin would have a pretty obvious encampment, especially in the edges of Mossflower Forest. Venkas was lucky, as he had passed by some berry bushes untouched by scavenger hands in his travel as he passed through the woods. Venkas was deep in territory he had never officially become familiar with, and often stayed to the most 'obvious' paths. He saw footprints of some otters and shrews, and even a mole, but had bothered not to track them further. He guessed the hamlets and hermits were mostly going southward to escape the rise of this new warlord.
Venkas yawned and passed his time singing a old northern tune;
Ye ol' vermin bright and true
bring us straight to straight
coast to coast, ye will know
the might of the dragon fly
he flies and wanders marsh to swamp
eternal and beautiful
small and grand
better tasting then a butterfly
As Venkas did not know all the words, he hummed the rest as he traveled over the rocks and heavy grass, climbing over roots and storm-destroyed logs, and slowly by the burden his armor made his way towards the best points of the north-east. "The poor fool of a warlord. Raven or something? Hmph, stupid name if I say so. Mother must of hated him that much?" Venkas thought, wondering on the size of the horde which bothered him. "500? Does that fool think he is going to get away with that? If the Long Patrol don't kill him, then the armies which wander this forest in some way will."
As dawn began to break, a commotion of noise and battle had made Venkas stop as he saw figures in the distance. Slowing his pace and drawing his sword, Venkas went forward toward a clearing and stopped. Venkas despised clearings and slowly went toward the river instead and up towards another edge of the forest where something was happening. As the rat approached, he saw a not-to-common sight. Five typical vermin, all ferrets, were bothering a group of otters. One of the older otters, who's fur was brown and wore a celtic garb was fending off the cautious attackers with a short sword, having chopped down the tips of the ferret's spears.
"You won't take us, vermin foul-brains!"
"Break away his sword you idiots!"
"Use your spears!"
Venkas slowly approached and studied the movements of both parties. One of the ferrets turned to Venkas and waved him off "No! These ones are ours!" Venkas looked at the situation, as the elderly otter was clearly winning with his family huddled near a cart. They were frightened enough and smart enough not to run, as they would only be run down by the ferrets whom were trying to reach around the older otter whom fended them off from the front. "It looks like you don't have them at all. I am Venkas, and you are heading to the new slaver's camp as well?" Venkas guessed, but said his words in a annoyed and aggressive manner.
The ferret paused and nodded. The would be bandits continued to pathetically attacked a far more trained warrior whom knocked aside their spears as Venkas spoke to the ferret whom had turned to greet him. "I am a slaver as well, I will kill this one and we can split the three others and the cart items as payment. Deal?"
The ferret sneered "No way am I going to let you steal my loot!" As he said this however, the older otter had cut through another one of the ferret's spears and cut him across the face. The bandits had never faced such a creature and eventually found themselves at a loss. Venkas looked at this pitiful group before the confronted ferret sneered again "Fine! Take care of him! Half and half!"
The bandits stopped their attack as Venkas strode forward "Spread outward around the cart, make sure those slaves don't escape during the fighting. Do not kill them, you sulking buffoons." spat Venkas as he appeared before the tired warrior. The otter pointed his sword at Venkas "You assume we will be slaves to you, rat! I am Salkit Puddle, and you will know my name!"
Venkas came forward and raised his shield and did not answer back, charging to try to knock the sword from the warrior's paws. The otter, as Venkas predicted, went to the side as Venkas leaped into the otter with shield raised and crashed him into the cart. Venkas dueled the swordsbeast as Salkit called out "Reama! Make a run for it! Now!" cried Salkit, hoping his family was fast enough to outrun the ferrets. They were not, as before they could leap off their cart, the ferrets had swarmed around them and taken the three otters prisoner. The otter tried to slice into Venkas's armor, but only managed to dent the armor. Using the opportunity presented to him, Venkas pulled his own sword into the otter's neck, ending Salkit in a sliding blow. Victorious in his battle, Venkas wiped his blade with Salkit's garbs.
Reama cried out seeing her husband dead upon the ground and went to his body. Horrified, her two youngsters were kept back by the vermin. One of the ferrets, the one Venkas had communicated with, had approached Reama from the back.
"Tie them up, and qu–" Venkas ordered the ferrets, but took notice of the tearful faces of both had become wide-eyed followed by shouts, held back by the ferrets. Venkas recognized this reaction as that of surprise, he had seen it before many times over his years between two insane warlords. Venkas turned and found that the ferret had sliced open the throat of the otter wife, adding to a pile of bloody corpses upon the ground.
"The fires with you, you damnable idiot!" Venkas cried out as the ferret turned with his bloody knife "You had one job, and you foiled it! We could have sold this one as well!" the rat raged.
"It was pitiful otter wife, broke our spear heads. Too old in me books, mate. Would have never made a trip." The ferret mocked. Venkas came forward, and the ferret back off and raised a spear to him.
"Don't do anything foolish, now go rat fool! This loot be ou--" before the ferret could finish his words, the spear was knocked from his hands by the force of a sword whacking against it. The ferret, not wishing to stay to figure out what Venkas had planned to do next to him fled along with the other ferrets whom feared the rat would kill them or worse. Venkas sheathed his sword as the ferrets fled, but caught up to the two younger otters whom had been bound and grabbed to Venkas's side before they could make their escape. The younger otters watched their parents as Venkas chained the older otter's legs and used left over rope to tie them both to the wagon.
This wagon was simple in design, for a farmer more then a merchant, wooden and had no covering. This wagon, the otter's personal use, had served them well up until now. The youngest slave, far to young and little to do anything important, was tied in the wagon while the older one was tied to a pole for pulling the wagon. Venkas got under one of the poles and growled "Pull hard, or you will join them." Venkas nudged his head at otter's parents whom were left unburied. The otter held back both infuriation and sorrow as he nodded. Venkas and the otter pulled the cart towards the north-east toward the camp of Reaven.
The three, after a day and half of trecking and short lived camp, finally reached a large hill, partially cleared by logging crews. The difficult trip of carrying the cart and it's cargo had left Venkas dazed, having nearly lost the cart due to the tired otter whom had been helping him pull the cart uphill. Venkas came across a massive camp, with large palisades surrounding the hillside and guarded by large groups. On the hills as Venkas saw was a large red tent and a wooden structure next to it, as Venkas assumed those were the tents of Reaven right off the bat. When the group appeared before the rat guards, they were stopped. When the cart stopped, the otter fell to the ground in exhaustion. The rat guards snickered as Venkas groaned and untied the otter from his post and pushed into the back of the cart.
"What, mate? Venkas, is that you ol' fool and mud-stained slave maker?" One of the guards said with surprise. Venkas did not regonize the rat at first, but then groaned lighter, as this rat he knew from a slave raiding party in the north.
"I don't know your name, mate. I've come to join this slaver and I bring loot and slaves."
A weasel intervened "Well, you should report to the captain Lugod, he be hand'ln the new recruits of late. You got some fancy armor der, rogue."
Venkas ignored the guard and looked at the rat he knew "Where should I park this lot?"
"I don't know about carts, but there be a large slave pen yonder. Let me introduce you to Lugod first."
The guards called for help to push the cart inside, but lucky for Venkas he did not have to far to meet the captain Lugod. Lugod had deeply gray fur and tribal markings of the lands of Ice and Snow, rare for his kind to go southward according to Venkas but not entirely unknown to him. Lugod was at the very entrance of the camp, writing down in a ledger. Lugod's ledger had the names, professions, and payment codes for all new recruits. When Venkas appeared to the gray rat, the captain looked a bit surprised, a feeling not shared by the strictly faced Venkas.
"Full name, you idiot."
"Venkas Musikat Tail-tolly."
Lugod looked from Venkas to the cart and it's slaves "You look like a successful brute. You have any commanding experience?"
"No. I was in the vanguard for two warlords of the north, neither name is known to you."
"Belkis Longsnout and Tartiv Warscar."
Lugod thought and scratched under his snout "Belkis? Really? I've not heard of a Tartiv, but a vanguard of a warlord can be useful. You a slaver?"
"I am." Venkas said with contempt ushering in his voice from the questions.
"Good, we need folks like you. You will be joining the first groups tomorrow in assignments, in which I will be leading. You look skilled, so you can have that tent over there instead of sleeping in the muck like these younger lot. Those slaves yours?" Lugod pointed to the two otter, as they were helped down, still bound, from the cart.
"I brought them here as slaves, yes. Aren't you looking for slaves?"
"We are. A bit young, the lad will probably do at least 3 years of work till he is killed, not sure about the younger one though. You look skilled with a blade, as said, but if you want to keep them as your servants I wouldn't object."
Venkas thought it over and looked at the two otters. He thought it over and looked back to Lugod "That is fine by me. I suspect this however is not out of the generosity of your heart."
Lugod smiled, but said nothing. "Ambition, bane of hordes. He wants a favor, I am certain." Thought Venkas.
Facing the two slaves and leading them to the tent given to him, Venkas pushed out some unwanted visitors of some sleeping hordebeasts and set himself up. He faced the two otters outside of his tent, and unshackled the older one's leg bindings and cut the rope from their paws.
"You there, name." Venkas pointed to the older one. Twitching his paws, the older creature angrily answered Venkas "Orson Puddle". Venkas noted this immediately and slapped the otter, clawing apart of his nose and followed up by kneeing him in the stomach. "You address me only as 'sir' or 'master', understand whelp? If I hear any aggressive peep out of any of you, I will start cutting paw fingers! Now answer me properly."
"Orson Puddle. . .sir." Answered Orson, coughing up on the ground blood. Smartly, the younger otter had decided to answer Venkas more correctly "Oalt Puddle, sir."
"See, isn't that better? Now. . ." Venkas took the cut bonds and formed loops and placed rope collars about their necks "This is a mark of your bondage to me, just in case you get mixed up with other slaves. Do not take this off. Your duties are simple, you bring me food and get me water and make sure my camp isn't being ransacked while I am gone. If you even think of escaping, I will beat you. If you talk back, I will beat you. If you step in the wrong place. . ."
"You'll beat us, I know." Orson said as he got up. Whether ironically or not, Venkas proceeded to beat the otter viciously. When Oalt tried to intervene on his brother's behalf, he had received his own beating as well. Overpowered and broken, Venkas put the two to work on cleaning his armor and laying straw on the ground of his tent, making some makeshift beds for them. Venkas awaited patiently for his assignment, exploring the camp and getting to know it's vermin inhabitants.
=-=Black an' Blue/Late Summer=-=
Venkas had groaned in his sleep, his tent had poorly muffled the noise of a sound filled camp where screams of slaves and laughter of impatient vermin bandits huddled around fiery logs which threw smoke into the night sky. Venkas stirred in his sleep, kicking at invisible enemies. Wounds were not so easily healed in time, as the dreams of slain enemies, ruined lives, and murderous friends seeped into the rat's mind and thought, a eternal stress which he found to annoy him without end. In his tent, Venkas's two slaves were not as peaceful as him, as Orson Puddle and his brother Oalt looked out at the tent from their hay beds, tied by their legs to a tent spike.
Orson looked over at a knife which had been laid in the tent, a simple carving knife that Venkas often carried as a secondary weapons and for other practical uses, piled near the stuff an' things the Rat carried around. Venkas was vulnerable, as the otter eyed the knife from afar. Perhaps he could reach it, or perhaps simply end up dead. Even if he killed Venkas now, there was a bunch more vermin to deal with, as Orson kept his younger brother close to him. He dared not seek freedom just yet, not with so much on the line, but the two remained sleepless from the constant noise.
The camp was growing and growing, with more vermin pouring into the camp even in the night from promises of food and easy loot. Vermin presented personal slaves they had from their camps, bandits promised the support of their javelins and axes, and marauders brought armor and shields to swear to the cause.
"Gurb. . .ya wanker. . . .get out of that ditch. . . .or i'll drag you out me'self" grumbled Venkas in his sleep.
"Get out. . .arrows. . . .volley! You idiot, Gurb. . . ."
The morning brought light into the camp as Venkas was awoken by a blast of a horn which tore him from sleep like a sudden storm tearing a loose bottle from the edge of a ship. Terrified and wide-eyed, Venkas had grabbed his near by sword and was ready for battle, breathing deeply and seeing nothing. His sudden movement had also brought the two otters to wake from a restless sleep, with Oalt yawning loudly.
"Heh. . . .Mess horn. . . .got it?" Breathed Venkas deeply, calming himself. He looked at the two otters whom looked back in silence, with Orson's furious glances having not shown him to be truly 'broken' as of yet in Venkas's eyes.
"Bah. You there, Orden is it? Get up, and you two small whiskers." Venkas commanded as he sat on the edge of his hay bed. The two got up slowly as Venkas tried to slow his breath "These are my tasks for you lot. Three meals a day, the morning, when the sun is over your heads, and when its dark. You are to report to the mess hall, wherever it is, and bring me that food on time. In the mean time, you are to keep my armor and weapons clean." Venkas ordered. The two simply stood there, looking dumbfounded until Venkas arose and untied their leg bonds.
"Well? What in all the hells you waiting for! For me to beat you!" Venkas said angrily and kicked both of them "Get a moving!"
Alone at long last as both went on their way, Venkas sat on his hay, not looking forward to the day. Hay was more comfortable then tree root beds or hard ground, a luxury he had not been in since his service to another warlord. Venkas had missed having personal slaves to kick around and his lodge, a bed, the best viddles, and the respect of warriors. His time in Mossflower's wilderness had been miserable perhaps, but at least it has paid off in some odd way.
After a few moments, the two otter were back but with company, another rat whom Venkas did not recognize.
"Oi! You there, you scabby sloth! These water dogs yers?" The rat said, throwing both before the tent.
Venkas sighed and got up, seeing a small crowd of vermin. He answered with a bored tone, seeing how they were just a watching crowd. "They are. What is the meaning of this?"
"You get your own viddles, ya yellow-toothed varmint! No slave ain't worth entering the mess hall to fetch ya our food!"
Venkas pinched between his eyes and shook his head "Look, ya idiot. I sent these slaves to do a task, to get me food. Leave them alone, and be on your way. Please."
"Then get yer own food ya sloth!"
"You really do not want to do this."
The vermin around the two began chanting for a fight, entertained by the standoff. Rather suddenly, the rat attacked Venkas in a charge, but had mistaken to find Venkas slid to the side and grappled the failed bandit from the bad. In a fury, Venkas began to dig his claws deep into the back of the rat, but found himself punched into his face with the rat's elbow, sending him back into the ground. The two wrestled as Orson and Oalt fled to the tent and out of the way as the two fought paw to paw for a good amount of the time. Venkas was unfortunate to have his wounds as his opponent took notice and scratched deeply into Venkas's soft patched and scars to gain a desperate upper hand.
Venkas had eventually won the battle, but just barely hanging to life, as he found a way to grab a hold of the rat's head and throw him into the crowd and bit deep into the rat's neck. Choking on blood, Venkas's opponent left in a daze away from Venkas whom panted from the intense battle. Venkas called out to the vermin around him "Anyone else have a issue with me slaves?!"
Venkas was answered with a mixture of laughter and nods, but were more entertained then impressed. Venkas returned to his tent and sat on his hay bed, growling out his orders "Breakfast. Now." The two otter, not waiting to see what Venkas would do if they delayed their orders went about their tasks quickly.
The Otur returned with bread and a moldy cheese, with both starring hungrily at it. Not having eaten since yesterday since being orphaned by the vermin, the two had no time to mourn let alone eat. Venkas ate of his meal as the two simply starred. The rat addressed the issue after a quarter of his meal had been left "You don't eat till tomorrow, these bruises wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you idiots getting yourselves in trouble."
Orson gave a reactionary growl "We wouldn't be here if you didn't kill me pa."
Venkas redirected his eyes at Orson, not really giving any indication of anger which disturbed Orson into silence "Ya, and if it wasn't for me you'd both me dead or be dying soon with the rest of those slaves in the pen. You are extremely lucky I have a use for slaves of my own. Talking like that, water dog, will cost you. Dearly."
Orson's face swelled with furious anger, but said nothing. As Venkas finished his meal, he brought gave tasks to Oalt as he edged Orson along "Old, or whatever you call yourself. That armor better not only be there, but cleaner then a midnight star when I get back. If you are gone or try to escape, I will throw your brother's head over the walls." Oalt only nodded as Venkas dragged Orson along.
Venkas had been exploring the camp grounds, admiring and studying everything of the camp from it's walls to it's structures. A large wooden hall was just right of his tent, and a larger camp seated on top of the hill where other (and important) vermin planned. They wore more cleaner cloths then most he known, but more importantly, there was a armory of sorts where a line had started for weaponless villains to get spears, pitiful armor, and to drop off loot for quick pay. Venkas had however went towards the slave pen to see it's size, even he was impressed by the feet of vermin building that was the camp's prisoner stockade. It was a walled cage with dirt and muck, where the slaves were thrown into and left to rot, all of them chained by a single lead by their paws. Venkas however cared little for them, but went towards the watching slavers.
"You there, where is the slave master at?"
The guard, a common weasel looked at Venkas. "He over there, near the tents. Can't miss him. If ya hear to drop this slave off, we'll take him off yer hands."
"No, that won't be needed. This one is mine, given to me by the recruiter."
"Really?" The weasel took notice of the otter's rope collar and shrugged "Heh."
"So whom is the slave Master?"
"Breket, a former corsair. Look for the purple and blue headband. Sea rat."
Venkas nodded and dragged Orson toward the tents, attempting to find the sea rat and had little luck. It wasn't until he camped near the rat's tent itself is when Breket showed himself. Breket was a fat creature and smelled of grog, and clearly looked like a miserable sort whom was zombie by day, and a wild creature at night next to a bottle of their favorite drink.
"I don't have time for this, if ya want to be paid for bringing in your slaves, just talk with me gua–"
"This is my slave. I want him punished properly. Bad mouthing." Orson's face became crunched with anger, but continued to say nothing until Breket looked him over. "Oh fine. Bring him to that stool, and I'll give him a couple whacks."
"Just return him to my tent when it's done, its in the southern part of the camp. I have business to conclude." waved off Venkas.
"Alright. . ." Breket took Orson from Venkas as the mercenary went about his business, going about somewhere else towards the recruiter.
(OOC: Try being descriptive, if you can of course, because I don't have much mind on how large the group is)
The group whom had captured Gilan and the group were a pair of rats, led to the recruiter whom took notice of the large group. The group were redirected by the guards at the front gate to the main recruiter whom drank from a flask. Pulled forward, the slaves were stopped and checked by the assistants of Lugod, including a couple fellow slaves. Lugod came forward to Gilan, noticing the malnourishment. After getting the rat's name and profession, they were redirected as a mercenary force to their own tents to await orders of Reaven.
"The heck are you trying to sell me here? This slave isn't even worth much in pounds. Take these slaves to the compound and lock them up."
The slaves were redirected to the main pen where Gilan was chained by a single paw to a large line of chains. The pen was wooden and stunk of disease and filth, many slaves miserably waiting for whatever awaited them. Many of the slaves were in fact personal slaves from the common bandits and other hordes, others were unlucky children, hermits, or travelers whom had gotten in the way of the call of Reaven. Gilan found himself chained next to a hedgehog and a mouse. Soon after in the day, the slaves were fed by other slaves, the food a mix of whatever the vermin could scrounge up from the mass. There was banter coming from much of the pen speaking of what was happening.
"Where they taking us anyway?"
"I think north, but I could be wrong."
"North? The heck is north of us? More vermin?"
"Don't talk of such nonsense, they plan to build a fort I swear. We'll be worked to death soon enough."
"Don't talk like that, you idiot!"
In the distance however, a distinct cry could be heard of high-pitched scream of a otter. The hedgehog next to Gilan commented "Poor lad, just a youngin too. That the sound of willow breaking against a back if I ever knew it."
OOC: Ah. Sorry. Speaking, what extent do you mean for when and if a player hears something?
"Alone again, Alone again,
Always th'way it is fer me…"
Fiasco counted on his claws. A-lone a-gain was four, so the first bit had… think think think. Eight! Eight sounds to it. His ears perked up as he realised his second line had eight bits too. His ears drooped again, and he slouched onward through the forest, a length of rope wrapped around his fist. Jojari had taught him that. One rainy afternoon in the big red fortress, they'd hidden from the crowds of distrusting woodlanders of whom they were both tired. The feral cat had carried the little weasel to the library, they had bundled up under a tattered cloak to ward off the wind whistling under the door, and with ink, quill and paper, Jojari had taught Fiasco how to count. And when they had tired of that, he'd taught him how to read, and even clumsily sign his own name. They had started learning with songbooks, since the lyrics were always short and simple, since they had to be sung. Simple words, simple ideas like drinking or harvesting the fruits of a long season of labour. That's when Fiasco had realised he actually had a decent singing voice.
"Alone again, Alone again…"
The young feral cat's face scrunched up. He'd been stuck on this verse the full morning. He wanted to sing, but all the songs he'd learnt off by heart with Jojari were about stupid woodlander things. Making ale, fixing barrows, baking bread, wooing little mouse maidens in white skirts. Fiasco didn't know how to make things, but he'd been named Fiasco for good reason when it came to breaking things. He didn't want to sing any songs of his own tribe either. The Juska were nothing to him anymore. Once he had been Fiasco Juskaverde Taggerung, but the war had been and gone, and now there was no more Juskaverde, and since his tribe was now dead, he had no right to call himself Taggerung either. So, he was just Fiasco. A big Fiasco, that was the story of his life.
He wanted to sing the way he felt. Abandoned, lonely, frustrated. Everybeast kept leaving him. His birth mother had disappeared when he was born, his adoptive mother and father were both dead, and now his friends were scattered to the eight points of the compass. He only knew what a compass was because he'd worked for a time with travelling merchants. They had traded with Redwall and a few camps here and there in Mossflower, but all it had taken was one bad deal to split the group three ways. Jojari and Sanjay had stayed in the red fortress. Racket, Cissa and Worm had run off. Fiasco didn't trust the latter, and the woodlander's fortress was no home to him. Maybe it was better this way.
"Huh?" Fiasco blinked, his yellow eyes full of confusion as he turned to look at the beast attached to the other end of the rope by her neck. He had almost forgotten he had an audience, if only because the hare was so quiet now. Fiasco guessed she was resigned to her fate, or something. She had been easy to capture, for a beast of such a famous tribe. In fact, she had been sound asleep when he had prowled into her shambles of a campsite. He suspected she had gotten lost, separated from the rest of her group somehow. She didn't put up much of a fight either, he only had to give her a black eye to get her obedience.
"Alone again, naturally. That scans, I think! One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four. Yep! That works." The hare nodded her head cheerfully. "I wouldn't start a performance with that though, if you're thinking of getting into the professional game. Best start with something loud, get the ale flowing, then move into the more melancholic stuff later on when everybeast's feeling sentimental. That's what I'd do anyway. Creative differences and all, eh, wot?"
Fiasco blinked, and shook his head, turning back to trudge on. "Your talk means naught, hare."
"Cassandra, Fiasco. See? I remembered your name. Though I guess that's a bit unfair since I only have to remember Fiasco, which is already a word. I won't make you remember Cassandra Gildalily Ffolkes-Leapscut, though if you did I'd be jolly thrilled." The hare stopped talking for a moment to ponder, a thoughtful expression on her face, which was a rather difficult thing to pull off given she was near being dragged along at a trot by her large captor's quicker pace. "Though congrats on identifying me by the right species, and all. Most of you vermin types have an awful time trying to tell us apart from rabbits."
"Reckernised th'jacket," Fiasco muttered. His former fox friend Racket had always boasted about the red jacket he wore, taken off a Long Patrol hare he had killed. The feral cat had never seen the Long Patrol tribe, but he knew they were all hares, not rabbits. This one was particularly talkative, but most of the time Fiasco could lose himself in his thoughts and ignore the never-ending stream of words pouring from her mouth. He could smell the myriad musky scents of rats, ferrets and other creatures ahead. Fear, aggression, and quite a bit of sweat. The familiar stink of a large camp. Fiasco supposed that would be a good place to trade her. He had few material needs; since his shaggy, black-striped white-to-brown fur kept him warm he only wore a pair of worn old breeches. He did like cooked food though, something he had difficulty making himself. The hare was young and strong - perhaps she would buy him a tent, and a hot meal. Fiasco actually wasn't sure how much slaves were worth in a trade, since his former band had never dealt in them.
The feral cat must have seemed a strange sight to the camp's guards at the gate. No armour, no weapons, but paws big enough to crush heads, though his long, sharp claws were diplomatically retracted. His big yellow eyes stared down at them, expression unreadable. He was actually quite a young cat, only just into adulthood, but the only clue to an observant beast as to his age was the lack of scars on his body. Most beasts tended to just focus on his size though.
"Trade th'hare for food and tent. Yes or no?" Fiasco demanded. Former trader though he might be, his style of negotiation left little room for flexibility. Laconic, Jojari had called it. The feral cat sorely wished his weasel friend was here. Jojari was so much better at dealing with strangers.
"I say, might want to sweeten the deal there, Fiasco, wot?" Cassandra protested. "I think my life's worth a ruddy bit more than a bowl of unseasoned slop and a moth-eaten old tent!"
A low growl rumbled from Fiasco's throat. "I give discount. She's a talker."
As the feral cat came near the fortress, there had been a lot of activity. Vermin bandits were coming in and out of the fortress often, many bringing in large loads of slaves from their own encampments or from recent raids on the near-by countryside. The vermin came from all walks of life, as bandits rushed past Fiasco and his capture wearily often upon reaching the fortress, avoiding interaction to either join with Reaven's cause or to do a simple trade for quick food and loot. They would have approached from the south gate, as the east gate had been having heavier traffic and those stuck dealing with it's guards were held up by a livid ferret, angry while trying to sell a sickly slave and was denied entrance, and it was many times for practical to use the south gate.
The guards whom greeted the feral cat were no impressive sight, but were clearly well armored for typical vermin. Leather jerkins, spears, wooden shields, and other raider essentials adorned them and look weathered in spite of what also appeared them to be of young age. A rat and a weasel, they both looked over the slave and it's owner before speaking up "Go on in. Ya wanna talk to recruiter for yer payment of food, but don't expect to getta tent unless ya joining on into the horde itself."
The rat sneered at the hare "Bloody long ears, all talk but no fight I betcha. Welcome to Reaven's camp."
The weasel pointed to the recruiter's desk, occupied by a long line of vermin trading in weapons, slaves, and other loot from their camps for food and a tent. The recruiter himself was a gray rat, larger then typical rats, and adorned with very distinct tribal scars which ran from his head to his toes. "The gray rat is Reaven's best captain, a northerner he is. Says he fought beside the wolverines, been fightin wars up and down from the ye cold north to here."
Venkas had wandered towards the recruiter, not even in his armor yet and put his paws onto the desk to lean on it. This however earned the wildly mad eyes of Lugod. "Get your paws off the desk!"
Venkas retracted himself and grunted "I apologize, but I am still waiting for my assignment."
"You will get it in due time, Vunkus. Be a little more patient."
"Well, I'd lik–-"
"Hey!" Cried a annoyed black rat "I am trying to get me viddles, get in the back of the line!" Venkas had looked at the rat, taking only the slightest notice of the vermin awaiting to be dealt with by Lugod. However, as it seemed, Lugod had seemed to find more enjoyment dealing with Venkas then dealing with the beasts whom could barely hold their blades right let alone clean their dirt-stained garments. Venkas sneered at their displeasure and avoided their gaze as he spoke to Lugod "Well, i'd like to know what exactly I should be getting ready for? Give me a clue at least."
Lugod snorted "You will get your orders when it comes, now leave."
Venkas, annoyed with the lacking information, was growing impatient with waiting. He was uncertain if he should prepare for battle or for tracking, going back to his tent to rest and leaving the gray rat to his business in a fruitless venture to get his assignment.
Fiasco trudged through the gate, his pace unhurried now the day's journey was coming to an end. He parted the stream of vermin bandits and slavers with his bulk; most of them seemed all too keen to dodge past him and leave, clutching whatever bits and pieces they had traded with the camp. Now Fiasco was past the wooden stakes of the palisade, he could see the camp's layout a little better. The clearing ahead was littered with tents, coils of blue smoke wafting over their tops where a few vermin had their cooking fires. Beyond the mess and bustle of the main camp, Fiasco could see a much grander tent sitting on the summit of the hill. He guessed that Reaven lived there. The guards had mentioned him a couple of times, but the name was all Fiasco knew of the camp's leader.
"What's th'Horditself?" Fiasco asked, his sharp gaze turning on the hare behind him.
Cassandra blinked, confused, then seemed to realise what the feral cat was saying. "Oh, he said 'the horde itself.' Itself is a reflexive pronoun, I think, if me old Pater taught me my grammar right. He means if you join up with this lot and do as they say, they'll give you a tent. Just speaking one honest beast to another though, Fiasco, I think you're being taken for a nice long wagon ride off a short pier with this deal."
Now it was Fiasco's turn to look bewildered. Cassandra shook her head, and pointed at the grey rat recruiter.
"See him, and this long line of destitute chaps? The ones joining up are the sorts of beasts with nothing to lose, and everything to gain. That Reaven big-wig is getting vermin together to go steal a lot of loot or fight some big war. In exchange, they get food, shelter, weapons, maybe a bit of loot or a slave if the going's good." Cassandra sighed, and looked apologetic. "Most of them will be dead in a few seasons. It's only the wiliest, toughest old buggers that survive."
"I have nothing either," Fiasco pointed out. "Did lots of trading. What did I get in th'end? Betrayal! And some pants."
Fiasco pointed at his pants with one claw to emphasise the point. Cassandra snorted, and covered her mouth with one paw while she tried to suppress her giggling. Fiasco snarled indignantly, and swiped at her with a heavy paw, but the hare darted back out of range. Fiasco yanked on the rope around her neck, and she stumbled forward, onto her knees, paws raised in surrender.
"Alright alright, sorry! Don't know why you're so miffed, you've got great comedic timing. I thought you wanted to be a performer!" Cassandra chattered, her voice raspy from the tightness around her neck. Fiasco scowled at her for a few seconds, before rolling his yellow eyes and stooping over to loosen the knot a little. Small woodland creatures were so fragile, he knew that from experience. He didn't need his only possession of value to choke to death just before he traded her.
"Not a performer," Fiasco growled, quietly now they were close, and face-to-face. When the hare raised her eyebrow, the feral cat snorted in irritation, his gaze focusing on loosening the knot. "Okay. I sing. For myself. Not for you."
"Hey, you used a reflexive pronoun!" Cassandra said cheerfully, her ears perking up in a way the feral cat found a bit comical. The hare then became very serious. "But it looks like you won't be getting a tent without signing your life over to that rat. If you really were a trader, even you must see that's a rubbish exchange. You'd pretty much be a slave. Want my advice? Let's ditch this circus."
The feral cat stood back up to his full height, and pulled Cassandra along, heading for the grey rat. They walked right past the long line of vermin, some of whom started staring at the intruders with increasing hostility. Fiasco didn't notice, though he could sense Cassandra was getting more fidgety as he approached the recruiter. He muttered a few choice curses to himself in the language of the Juska, and tugged a little harder. "Hare got better plan? Maybe I walk you to Long Patrol tribe instead, huh? See if they give me pretty red jacket!"
"Ah, Fiasco, old son, don't mean to disrespect your cultural heritage, whatever it is, but didn't your tribe have the concept of the queue?" Cassandra asked, her ears flicking nervously. "Only I rather think we're cutting in line, here."
Fiasco was ignoring Cassandra again. Hordes sounded a bit like tribes, and Fiasco would much rather be in one of those than all alone. The hare kept acting like he was throwing away some great gift. What did she know? Fiasco had been practically raised from birth to be somebeast else's muscle. When he was on his own, he didn't know what to do with himself. That was how he'd ended up capturing Cassandra in the first place, just on a whim and luck.
The feral cat pulled the hare to his side, so the rat could see what Fiasco was bargaining with. There were some noises of protest behind them, as Fiasco had rather obliviously just cut ahead of the shambling line of miserable vermin. Even if the Juska did have the concept of the queue, they never would have imposed such a thing on Fiasco.
"Captain who has fought with wolves and things," Fiasco said loudly.
Cassandra coughed, and muttered under her breath. "I think that was wolverines, Fiasco."
The feral cat's left ear flicked in annoyance, but he continued. "I am Fiasco. I trade this hare, and I join… th'horde itself. For food and tent. I have my own pants. Would also like a hitting thing. Mace, or club, or hammer. Fiasco is named well, I break many bones for you. Good deal?"
The gray rat had looked up from his ledger, looking as if he had his toe paws stepped on lightly. Lugod gave little to no emotion in his face, looking only briefly at the Hare before returning his gaze to Fiasco. "Heh. That is a tall order for a young idiot like yer'self." The gray rat wrote into the ledger "Right, welcome to Reaven's crew. For the Hare, you will get to choose what'cha need from the armory, but a tent? Ha! You're going to have to prove to me otherwise ya can even wield a blade and well mind ya. We got few tents as it is."
Lugod motioned one of the vermin guarding him, a assistant more then a guard, to check the Hare. The assistant looked for any known signs of disease or any known medical aliments which would have demeaned the price of the hare. Satisfied for the most part, and perhaps a little laziness on the part of the rat whom checked the hare, the slave was led along to the pens to shackled with the remaining prisoners.
"You will get your assignment soon enough." The rat took out a small paper with a ticket stamped onto it, a tiny thing with a black dot surrounded by links of chain delicately with ink which was slowly fading out. Handing it to Fiasco, Lugod sneered "Don't lose this, cause ya'll need it. Present this to the armory captain Loggo, he be a brown rat handling this kind of business. Whatever supplies are in there, ya get one for the slave ya brought. Not sure if there is a hammer there, but don't be surprised if there ain't. We been getting nothing but spears and arrows tips mostly."
Lugod looked back down on his ledger to write notes "Also, since you are new here, heres the basics. You eat when the cook feels like you should eat, and don't cause trouble. Do not kill the slaves, and do not speak or attempt to talk to Reaven, your chief, unless asked. If I get whiff of trouble, you will be hung as a example. If you try sleeping in a empty tent, you will be kicked out. They are reserved for real warriors, the vanguard, and the most experienced. Basic rules. Your contact here ends probably within a year and a half, in which viddles and loot will be given per successful raid or mission we complete."
Lugod lifted his head to the side, done with the feral cat in order to deal with the remaining host which had been going in and out. Around the main host tents, most of the vermin had been mostly laying out in the sun due to such a small camp cluttered with such a large host. Many of the vermin were board or on edge, waiting for orders to be assigned to the correct squad. The vermin intermingled with violent tendencies and quick rivalries coming to blows without much command. Having so quickly tired of one another, vermin battled over arbitrary things, such as the lack of tents. Any vermin whom had brought their own tent was not a lucky beast. As quickly as one was set up, a small group would try to take it over.
As for the slaves themselves, only some could be found in the camp outside of the main pen. The screams of Orson Puddle could be heard throughout part of the camp near the pens, where the otter had been given 20 lashes and sent back to his master by the camp's slave master. Some of the slaves were used as common servants to aid in the camp's activities such as preparation of meals or to maintain a tent.
"No," Fiasco shook his head. "No deal. You want real warriors? I fight whole war, and you mistake me for kitten! Captain who has fought with wolves, you bargain like hamster. My life, this slave, for little piece of paper? I am not so stupid as to take that offer, tiny rat. We go."
Fiasco turned on his heel and marched from the desk, almost bowling over the assistant that had come over to inspect Cassandra. He didn't need to tug on the rope, for the hare was quick-marching right beside him. The feral cat shook his head when she opened her mouth to speak, and for once she seemed to understand. The two walked back down the line, and this time, Fiasco did take a long look at the faces of the vermin queuing up for what amounted to daylight robbery. Fiasco's cheeks felt warm under his fur, and he realised he was blushing, adrenaline starting to make his movements quick and jerky. His tail flicked irritably from side to side.
He was upset, and he realised after a little thought, that he wasn't even angry at the rat. He was angry at himself, because he could have just used his eyes and ears to realise what a foolish idea this had been. Cassandra had even told him the truth, over and over, but he'd been been too thickheaded to listen. He was seeing what the hare meant, now. These vermin really had nothing, nothing to sign over to the rat but their lives. Anything would be an improvement for them. Fiasco didn't like foraging or fishing, or his attempts to cook and burning his claws. Yet he was a Juska at heart, at ease in nature, strong and resourceful. Coddled though he had been by his tribe, he would not starve. He was better off than all of them. The rat had told him the slave was worth a spear, or whatever dull bits of metal they had to offer. Fiasco needed no knife or spear, he had ten sharp claws and moved fast as a striking snake. And as for the slave's worth, Cassandra had proven herself far sharper than any spear.
The feral cat was deep in thought as they left the camp. The guards were too busy with the stream of vermin going in to care much about those going out. The two beasts vanished into the forest, keeping stealthy for a while in case they were followed. When all seemed clear, they hid in a small, dry cave nestled in a nearby moor. There, Fiasco knelt, and took the rope from around Cassandra's neck. The hare looked at him warily, not sure if the strict no talking rule was still in effect.
"Okay. We ditched th'circus," Fiasco said, his voice low, and surprisingly, just a bit more humble than his usual arrogant tone. "I was wrong. Th'horde is not like my tribe. Bad trade. I don't have… I have no clever words to get my way. All I have is making mess of things. Tch. Fiasco is well-named indeed."
The cat broke eye contact, hanging his head and looking down at the ground like a kitten being scolded. He didn't know what he expected from the hare. He guessed she would just leave. He owed her, somehow, even if all her help had been ignored. What he was not expecting was for her to chuckle, and lightly punch his brawny arm.
"Ah, come on, so you're a bit thick-skulled. Doesn't matter, Fiasco. Brilliant schemes and cunning plans are only ever remembered if they work. This idea didn't. Dust yourself off, and try something new, that's what I say, eh, wot wot?" Cassandra said cheerfully. Fiasco slowly looked up, confused yellow eyes meeting her kindly grey ones. "By the way, that bargain was a jolly rotten scandal. Me, a fit hare with all my teeth, in exchange for some rusty old tuning forks? Please. They were taking advantage of your ignorance in the market values."
"Try something new? Try what?" Fiasco asked. He slumped over to sit on the cave floor, extending his long, sharp claws to rake them idly through the sandy soil.
The hare tapped her chin thoughtfully, before she smiled, and knelt beside the big cat. "In this case? Try again. You want a tent? I say we do things the vermin way. We watch that horde. Study their little routines and patrols and which guards are the laziest. Then when the moment's right, we sneak in and take them for all they've got. Bet you there's loot in there somewhere that could buy you a hundred tents. We nick it. Maybe leave an insulting note too."
Fiasco couldn't help it. he laughed, and the hare laughed along with him. The two of them sat there for a pleasant moment, grinning like idiots. Then, reality started to trickle back into Fiasco's mind. The hare was serious. He could see it in her eyes, behind that ditzy, talkative exterior, she had a steely resolve. She wanted to hit the slavers right where it would hurt most; their pockets and purses. She was willing to work with her captor to do it, too. Cassandra was his slave. Or had been. He wasn't so sure now, but he hadn't exactly thought of her as a friend. Yet plotting revenge, laughing together, sharing in each other's problems… wasn't that what friends did? The feral cat fixed her with a searching glare. "What do you get, then? Why help me?"
"The slaves," Cassandra said simply. "That's what I was investigating with the Long Patrol out here, before we got separated. You help me bust them out, Fiasco, we split the loot fifty-fifty... and yes, I bally well promise I'll get you the prettiest red jacket in all Salamandastron. In your size, plus a shiny new medal for your service."
Fiasco opened his mouth, then closed it. Was that Cassandra's plan the whole time? Get close to the camp so she could work out some kind of slave rescue? It was sheer brilliance, and in hindsight, the cat really should have wondered why the hare was so compliant with his demands. He hadn't been taking her away from the Long Patrol, he'd been unknowingly helping her scout out her mission the whole time. There was a kind of deviance to it that Fiasco had to admit, he quite liked. Plus, the idea of showing up the slavers and their haughty captain was all too appealing to the cat's mischievous side. He grinned, baring his sharp white teeth, spat on his paw, and grasped Cassandra's with claws sheathed. "This plan, I like. Where do we begin… Cassandra?"
The hare grinned. "Knew you'd remember it eventually."
=-=Old Urges/Late Summer=-=
Venkas had been resting himself in his tent, sharpening his blade until Orson Puddle had dropped in. The otter shook with each step till he dropped onto the hay bedding, holding back tears and fright as Venkas only gave a confirmation of his existence through a short grunt. The rat sharpened his blade with a stone, keeping himself busy as he could. Venkas thought more openly to himself, piecing things togeather and wondered why there were so many vermin in the camp. Perhaps there is more then one courier? Regardless of what he thought, Venkas's thoughts were interrupted by the sniffling of Orson and Oalt.
"Stop sniffling, you two. The last thing I need is your whining. Go get me some lunch." Venkas demanded. The veteran rogue had considered getting his own lunch himself, but the truth was to him that he pitied Orson and Oalt truly. He had known that the misery they had now was minor compared to being abandoned in the lonesome wilderness to rot or to be dragged to some quarry and whipped to death for the entertainment of a cruel overseer. Venkas had tried not to think about it, and it was honestly disturbed him that he thought like this or even focused on it. Slaving may have been his business, but it was always a dirty business filled with a lot of 'what ifs' and risky venture.
Venkas's train of thought was interrupted by the sound of excited warriors and tribesbeasts whom had been passing by Venkas's tent. Venkas stood up and grabbed his sword and slowly put on his padded armor as more vermin rushed past with shouts of cheers and rabid excitement. By the time Venkas had gotten out of his tent, he feared whatever had excited the vermin had passed. He was curious, but more importantly, he knew a excited horde became excited for good reason. He shoved past the main horde cautiously as they had gathered around the tents with other vermin holding them back as Venkas shoved his way to a line-of-sight of what made the vermin so excited. At long last, the vermin got to see their chieftain and benefactor, Reaven Brakar.
The wildcat had a very bright orange coat of fur with long ears and a groomed tail. His eyes were a very distinct orangish color more similar to yellow then a pure orange. Reaven's armor was that of a rich beast, a garb of white, gold, and red with a great head covering of white held by a black and red headband. Reaven's cape was that of similiar colors, with dirt-caked stains from walking about. The main armor as Venkas could see of Reaven's was a leather jerkin, accompanied by a great long sword to his side which gleamed in the sunlight. It was almost pitiful to see such a richly colored beast walking amongst the grays, browns, and blacks of the horde whom had gathered to see what Reaven had planned to say. Venkas listened intently as Reaven spoke to the crowd before him, surrounded by a elite guard from the Brakar realm.
"Vermin of Mossflower! Slave traders, bandits, marauders! Listen to me now, Reaven Brakar of the North had come to give you loot, viddles, and war a-plenty!" Reaven spoke with a gathered cheer, his voice was that of a elder and low-key, a booming voice which spoke with true authority.
"There are many of you here, and have I not promised you these things? In due time, sooner then you think or know, we shall set out through these lands and bring it's villages to it's knees! With this great horde of slavers, we will march slaves to the north of my dear brother, and you shall have your loot. Keep to me, stay with me, and you shall have wine which flows from the river, a slave for every member of your household, and your name made eternal!"
The vermin spearmen slapped their spears on the ground while others slapped weapons on their shields, the only sensible creatures were Venkas and some smart slavers whom cared little for promises. Venkas had taken note of Reaven's guard, seeing they had very impressive weapons and armors. The guards whom accompanied Reaven had chainmail and pikes, something which made Reaven curious. It is considered rare for vermin from some place northward to have such expensive gear, but what made him more curious was that they had red and white tabards depicting two seals with tridents facing one another and a crown in the middle.
Once the speech was done, Lugod had come forward and was crossing off Fiasco's name in his ledger and stood before the vermin "Now you lot, we are separating you into groups of 50. There be 367 of you lot, so listen up closely. Buddlecup, Loadstrike, Dea–"
Lugod listed off groups of 50 or so vermin under a single leading captain, issuing them their roles. Those whom had skill with bows were put into one group, and a group of spearmen into another. Venkas realized rather quickly that this was no usual grouping of mass slavers, but rather the beginning of host building, gathering warriors into a army. The 6 groups had followed; 3 pairs of infantry (1 in which where spear wielders), one group of archers, one group of guards, and one group of slavers. Venkas found himself, and some others whom also had armor for themselves, were paired directly into the vanguard of Lugod and other captains.
"Pair up with your groups and seperate yourselves in that part of the camp. Breket will be commanding the slavers and Luggo the guards. If you don't like your position, take it up with your captains first. The captains are as follows for each group, Kel--" began Lugod. Venkas had zoned out of the northman's command as the group separated and Venkas continued to think and ponder. He folded his paws and watched the warlord looking proud and smug at his host, but could see his smile looking to fail. Venkas knew the signs of a disgruntled commander, he had known this look from his first employer in the vanguard of Belkis. Once the meeting had concluded, Venkas and some others were gathered to Lugod whom took command of them.
"You are going to be my vanguard in leading the main attack on the village tomorrow. I will be leading the charge on the ri---"
One of the weasels interrupted "What attack?" For his question, the warriors was slapped harshly by Lugod "Don't speak when I speak, fool."
"Heh, I nearly forgot, didn't I? There is a village nay but a couple miles from here, a scout called Logid. Mice, dormice, moles, squirrels. . .the lot. This is the start of the campaign, not that it matters to you lot. We will be raiding all around, but our target is the villages."
"I don't know of a place called Logid." Interrupted a ferret, whom again was slapped by Lugod "What did I just say!"
"You said to not speak when you are speaking, sir." said a rat. Lugod slapped this poor creature as well.
"For the sake of the northern snow! If you kill me while we are attacking these villages, I will come back and drag you with me to the dark forest!"
"We don't plan to kill ya though, chief." said the weasel whom rubbed his scratched cheek, only for it to be scratched again as Lugod drove the vanguard off. Venkas however had stayed until Lugod acknowledged him.
"Get ready for the morrow, and make sure your shield is good."
Venkas nodded and went back to his tent, going about his business.
Orson and Oalt had more success then the morning getting Venkas his lunch. Venkas himself was studying his shield and, tossing it to the brothers as he received a lunch of bread crumbs and cheese. Looking rather disappointed at the meal, he commanded the two otters "Make sure that shield is spotless, and my armor just as so. We are campaigning tomorrow."
Orson sighed and gave a obedient nod as he collected some rags, tossing some to his brother as they got to work on the armor of the rat. Venkas thought long and hard, as he had never heard of any villages since he had been to Mossflower, let alone knew if they existed. He had seen hamlets, and has heard of the great Redwall Abbey, but of a small village called Logid? He knew little of it. Perhaps the otters know?
"You ever knew of a place called Logid? A village near by?"
Orson looked at the rat, giving a look of confusion "I haven't."
Venkas gave Orson a cautious eye, as the otter quickly corrected himself "I haven't, sir."
The rat ate from his bark plate and wondered loudly "So apparently we are attacking a non-existent village? Otter, what villages do you know of around here?"
Orson shrugged "I don't know, we never left the Holt. . .up until it was burned down."
Why campaign against invisible villages? It makes no sense unless this fool wants to be killed. Not unless he knows some place we do not know of, and we are being fooled. Venkas continued to eat as Oalt looked to his brother and complained silently "I'm hungry, Orson." The older brother sighed and only looked down at the ground as he continued to work. Venkas ate a little more before he stretched "You wanna eat? Then don't back talk me. Understood, otter?"
Orson looked up at Venkas again and gave a nod. The rat growled and mumbled to himself some curses "Fine you lot. I can't abide grumbling stomachs. Get yourself something to eat from the slavers guarding the slave pen and return quickly. You have more work to do." Orson and Oalt left as Venkas found himself alone once again in his tent.
As grand and awe-inspiring as Reaven Brakar's speech to the assembled vermin must have been, neither Fiasco nor Cassandra had ears sharp enough to hear it from outside the camp. The feral cat was naturally good at scaling trees, able to move his large bulk with impressive dexterity up a particularly sturdy trunk on a nearby hill. The hare too seemed accustomed to climbing, one of many skills that apparently all hares of her tribe were trained in as a matter of practical necessity. She had sensibly left her bright red jacket on a lower branch, however, since it might foil their plans to be spotted before they had even started any mischief. They could see Reaven's distinctive armour that marked him out from the drab browns and greys of his guards and newly-recruited hordebeasts.
"See them moving into groups?" Cassandra said, as the vermin milling around the camp started to shuffle into their divisions. "Looks like that's as many recruits as they need for… whatever it is Reaven is planning. Going on the offensive, most likely. Question is, are they packing up camp entirely, and taking the slaves, or are they just forming up for a raid in the area?"
Fiasco slowly blinked, his keen eyes making out one tiny figure in the distance, whom parted the masses of vermin like the brow of a raft through the water. The Captain who had fought with wolves, he was sure. "They stay for tonight. Fiasco has fought beasts with walls before. They like to hide behind their walls at night, when they sleep. Juska never fear th'dark, so we never build walls."
"Juska, eh? I thought you might be something like that. Don't you chaps normally do the tattoos? Or are you the lot with the poison smoke?" Cassandra chattered. There wasn't that much for them to do besides talk, now they had to wait at least until nightfall.
"That's th'Flitchaye, not Juska. We do war-paint yes, but I never made it. Don't know how," Fiasco explained. He shrugged. "Besides, I'm not Juska anymore. My tribe is gone."
Cassandra tutted. "Now, don't think like that, old son! If I was the last of the Long Patrol I wouldn't renounce it, I'd try and rebuild it. Who says you can't recruit your own Juska group again, wot? I know you like to name the tribes after yourselves, so what'd that be? Juskafiasco? Juskasco? Juskafi? I dunno, I'm not a bally poet."
Fiasco raised his eyebrow, but did not break his gaze from staring down into the slaver's camp. "Father told me Juska is old word for family. Can't recruit a family. That is why Juska is special. Can't get it back now it's lost."
The two companions fell into silence for a while after that. The vermin below them were preparing for war, but Fiasco had other things to watch for. He was making mental note of when guards were changed, where the officer's tents were, and when the prisoners were checked or moved. He was also memorising the layout of the tents and fires relative to the slave pens and walls. If he was going to sneak back in under cover of darkness, the last thing he wanted was to get lost in the camp halfway through the job. After a while though, the feral cat's focus began to wander. He glanced at the hare, and decided it was time he learn a bit more about her than her name.
"I tell you about th'Juska," Fiasco began gruffly. "What of th'Long Patrol? Strong tribe, yes?"
Cassandra chuckled. "It's more of an army… or it's supposed to be. Our strength seems to wax and wane depending on how big the next whopping great existential threat to Salamandastron is. Er, that's our home, y'see. Big lonely mountain by the sea, you can't miss it. Tea is at noon, should you ever be passing our way. Just yell 'Eulalia' at the gates. I'll properly introduce you to my Patrol, if we can link up with them. There's only fourteen of us out here though, so confronting a vermin force this large is out of the question. The others are probably laying low for now, waiting for word of reinforcements."
"Twenty-four," Fiasco corrected. He grinned proudly, and thumped his chest with with fist. "Fiasco is worth ten fighters. I can also add numbers."
Cassandra gave a good-natured snort. "I didn't take you for a scholar, old boy. Your father teach you arithmetic?"
Fiasco shook his head. "Learned with old friend. Jojari, little weasel child I work with as trader. He was always reading books, and saying clever things. I… miss him, now. He lives in th'red stone fortress, and I cannot go back there."
"Red stone...? Ah. Redwall." Cassandra sighed. "I can guess why it wouldn't suit you."
As the sun began to dip below the treeline, the forest became a mass of black silhouettes, and the camp a maze of stark shadows, as the torches lit small orange patches of the walls and tents. For Fiasco, it was easier to let his night vision and acute senses guide him, rather than look for sources of light. Cassandra was less fortunate, and had to descend from the treetops before it got altogether too difficult to make anything out. There was patchy cloud cover, so moonlight would be unreliable, both for the thieves and their targets. They moved stealthily, cutting a wide path around the camp to the west, making their way uphill whilst laying low as not to be spotted from the west gate by the guards.
Fiasco and Cassandra had debated back and forth that afternoon over the exact details of the plan. They both needed each other to pull it off, but at the end of the day, they both still had their own separate interests in mind. After some stubborn argument, Cassandra had conceded that the first part of the night's raid would be the robbery. At least they could slip away quietly by themselves if the alarm was raised; if they tried to free the slaves first, they would not have time to steal anything afterwards. As to what and where this robbery would take place, both of them were in agreement. Reaven's tent would not only have the finest loot, but Cassandra also wanted to check if the warlord had any papers, like maps or battle plans, or even letters that might give the Long Patrol a better clue as to how to defeat him.
This was only part one of the plan; sneak into the most well-guarded tent in the whole camp, whilst Reaven was inside, and swipe something without being noticed. Fiasco was nervous, to say the least. For once, he really hoped he did not live up to his name tonight. After some tense, quiet manoeuvring, the two thieves were positioned in the darkness nearby the black shape of Reaven's tent. The hour had grown late, it was now nightfall, and the guards were looking dozy. They had to do this now, before the fresh guards of the night's watch changed over. Fiasco looked at Cassandra, and she nodded back. For this to work, above all they had to trust each other. Creeping forward bit by bit, they slowly approached the tent.
=-=The Sin of Greed/Late Summer=-=
The wildcat sweated underneath his garb in the late evening, and upon finishing his grand speech, he escorted himself to his tent. Followed by his guard of rats and even a ermine, the Wildcat ascended the hill towards his grand tent. In spite of his discomfort from the heat, Reaven still kept a disturbed grin on his face, as he had many plans and now had the resources to begin his own campaign that would cement his surname permanently like brand onto loose skin and fur. The wildcat had kept silent in coming up, avoiding giving any glance at the cheers or praise he had from pitiful vermin he viewed as little more then savages and a loose collection of convenient barbarians willing to give their all to him.
Reaven's tent was colorful on the inside as it was on the outside, truly a place any hedonistic vermin warlord would call home. His grounds covered in the wool carpet and the sides of each tent draped in orange and red cloth. On his right was a beautifully crafted desk and chair, filled with papers, reports, and written ledgers. On his left was a pile of accessories such as perfumes, writing supplies, left over gold, spices, and the best dried foods from his father's personal stores. Five whole bottles of blueberry wine laid in his pile, one half-drank from his toast with Loggo 'the Tasked', a deal he sorely regretted to gain the quick aid of such a large horde.
The tent was large enough to hold it's own cot, a bed filled with goose feathers and heavy blankets adorned with Reaven's greatest treasure, a gold tinted pillow bearing his surname, a relic from home. The pillow was crafted by his father, whom besides being a mighty warrior, warlord, and tyrant of both family and horde was also a humble craftsman whom had built many things as he had destroyed. Reaven did not go to his cot right away, but rather to his own work station, his desk, to write up yet another report to his brother in the north. Despite all the supposed surroundings, Reaven felt little more then a slave himself to his brother.
"Evening, mi'lord." Wimpered a low voice as Reaven began to write up his letter. Reaven groaned and said in rude manner "Grime, be sure my guest arrives safely. Tell Lugod my spy will arrive shortly, and I want no one to frighten him off."
The voice came from a older shrew, one of the three personal slaves of his father divided up amongst his sons and daughter. The Shrew use to have a better name, but it had been beaten out of her long ago. Grime was Reaven's to command, and was a well learned beast, a useful tool in helping to command his voice to his captains without actually being there himself. Grime went about her task, but stopped short way, her task late as Lugod marched into the tent and stood at attention.
"Lugod! Out out! I just cleaned that, ya know!" shouted Grime
Lugod obeyed at once, knowing better then to question a creature of higher rank then himself. Lugod had always assumed Grime was Reaven's property as much as he was in a odd sense, but Grime was well protected and well liked, unlike him or the other captains Reaven had found annoying. Lugod had wiped his feet off, grumbling as he did as the two guards which faced him gave mocking looks. Once 'clean' the rat came back in and stood at attention as Reaven had gotten up and moved his gaze to Lugod.
"We better be under attack, northerner, or you will be cleaning the slave pens for the rest of the campaign."
"Your 'spy' has arrived, my lord." said the Lugod
"Well, where is he?" Asked Reaven, growing a bit impatient. Lugod gave out a loud whistle and a small and poor clothed vole had appeared, sneaking about in a black hood and keeping his distance understandably. The vole greeted Reaven in a mocking polite manner with a bow and spoke with a raspy voice "Reaven, I presume."
"Ah, Orgit Long-Grass." Reaven said cheerfully, his face brightening up "It is good you have arrived. Grime, get out guest a pillow to sit on and bring us some wine glasses, we have much to discuss. Lugod. . . .get out." The rat got out as quickly as he could before setting off, leaving the three in the tent alone. Once Orgit was comfortable, Reaven got to business by dripping the wine from his store himself as Orgit looked greedily at the pile of treasures.
"So the last time we met, I had you by a rope leash Orgit. It is good you are willing to talk like this, because this better be worth my time for your sake. How many are in Lugod?"
Orgit gave a snicker however in response, confusing the Wildcat at first "Lugod the town or Lugod the rat? Not sure how many of anything can fit in that hollow fool. Did ya know he mistaken me for a slave at first? He is lucky I showed him this." Orgit produced a ring, a silver ring with a strange insignia upon it bearing a mayfly and it's eggs within a black gemstone scrawled out in delicate silver lining. This was the ring taken off a infamous enemy of the Brakars, a family whom had now been wiped from existence and now worn in their absence as trophies. Taking the ring back, Reaven gave a short chuckle himself "Well, Lugod has been trying to convince me once we take the town to change it's name."
"I bet he has, but to answer a previous question. . . .120 at most, mostly smaller families of course. Plenty of young ones, the village has not suffered from plague or wars so often." Orgit said with a sarcastic glee.
"Good. So where is Lugod?"
Orgit took a sip of his wine and smiled "Right under your nose, past the old graveyard and into the thick forest, protected by high walls and 20 guards. They know you already built a camp here, so make that 60 guards last I checked."
Reaven squatted to Orgit's level, looking like a child receiving candy "Good, good Orgit! Of course, as a honorable beast I am, you will get 20% of all loot we raid from the town, including it's wine cellars in the noble's hall."
"Including any choice of slave I want?"
"Of course. I didn't know you were interested in such things?"
"I am usually not, but think of it as a reminder of good deals gone right? That idiot squirrel of course whom keeps throwing rocks at my house should suffice."
Reaven smiled and nodded as Orgit continued to talk over the deal, and would eventually help sketch the map to Lugod's doom. The map including the secret entrance by the river into the town instead of the difficult 'normal' way through the thick woods towards well defendable walls. Reaven watched as Grime and Orgit worked on the map through sketches. In his maps, using paints of red, Orgit drew watchmen positions, the barracks, and even where the badger noble and his family slept.
As night fell across the camp, the vermin watch had been put on the lowest alerts as more then one beast was sneaking about in the night. Orgit had decided to leave in the night through the west entrance and towards Lugod, his home. Lugod the Rat however had been placed as captain of the watch for the night with some vermin around the camp fires preparing midnight snacks or speaking about tomorrow's grand venture. The typical watchers were that of the guard's group, whom were not well shaped for any duty. Slaves twitched uncomfortably in their raised arms shackled to a long lead.
Some vermin told stories, specifically about the ancient morgue which laid in the forests to the south, ghost stories usually meant to entertain typical creatures.
"They say that a thousand creatures fell in battle, mates."
"Aye, I'll tell you of a story, they says the graveyard is filled with a ancient evil of the north, cannibals and murderers. They say they were possessed by the darkest of spirits, driving them mad to hunger. They say they had tails which could whip thunder, and eyes as white an' blue as a blizzard! They say they aren't really even dead in that place, but rather they were all buried alive to contain their fury and rage, walking dead called Revenants whom walk out into the snows of the coldest winter to murder and devour."
"What a bunch of nonsense, no one really believes that?"
"I saw one once!"
"No you didn't."
This conversation had ended with tackling and bruises before the night was done.
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Fabiana trudged wearily back to the slave pan along with other slaves. She was then shackled to the line. Fabiana huddle down miserably in the muck. Her tunic and shirt, torn and stained over her matted fur. She rubber her wrists under the shackles, they have been rubbed raw and scabbed over and rubbed raw again. Accepting some food from the slave handing out food and wolfed it down, not making eye contact and nearly spat it out. It tasted like filth and she was sure it was.
It's true, Fabiana has seen better days, just a few months ago she was out at Redwall Abby visiting some old friends, and when she left she got caught by slavers. Her bow and arrow nor her saxe knife was a match against the slavers and she was quickly over.
Speaking of which that one slaver had her bow and saxe knife, not to mention her thick wool cloak. Fabiana sniffed as a tear rolled down her dirty face, everyday was getting harder and harder to deal with, the work and lack of food, deteriorated Fabiana faster then she knew. It showed, she was just skin and bones, her once bright eyes gleamed dully, her proudness, gone.
Now there was talk about them going north to build some fortress for the wildcat, and that's why she was here. How far north would they have to go? Half of the slaves, mostly the older wouldn't even make it half way. Already she has seen a few dead, passed away in the cold night. She shivered and then shuffled squeezing her way through other slaves over to a small fire, trying to get some warmth for her cold aching body, chains clanking as she rubbed her hands together.
Fabiana looked around at the slaves around her, all huddled together for warmth. Cries and sniffles filled the night and Fabiana could help but curl up in a ball and cry, she used to help beasts and now she was helpless. The pain of not able to do anything to ease the suffering of the other slaves was slowly killing her. She sob quietly and repeated over and over , "please… Martin... Save us... Save me..." Before she drifted off in a restless cold sleep.
The night was shivering cold as the the massive pen roof had seemed more oppressive then usual but also provided a unusual comfort for most slaves. Unlike the twelves guards outside whom watched over the large pen, the slaves were at least sheltered from the cold night and were pushed together close enough to provide some warmth. The pen was bigger then the barracks certainly, a odd design for typical vermin nomads. The pen was dug out with wooden netted bars with a much thicker roof, so that there was a incline in the pen itself. Most slaves found themselves huddled by a long chain lead, a single shackle connected to a paw raised over their head for smaller creatures. This long chain itself was connected to a peg outside this pen near a guard whom sat near it, with the shackle kept tight to prevent the chain swinging during a breeze and waking the discontent guards.
The guards themselves were not particularly interested in dealing with the slaves, a blessing and a curse. As the slaves could not simply be hoisted out to use the latrine, the close pen smelled terrible. The guards didn't beat the slaves often however, and often used the camp's slaves (the ones many in the pen called 'lucky') to deal with the issues. Many slaves itched with what was going to happen to them, and why the vermin had not bothered to do much with them. Others were more calm, being already slaves themselves as camp servants to common bandits, or being a capture traded between master to master for food or drink.
Then there was Breket, the captain of Reaven whom handled the slaves, a drunken creature whom took no pleasure in his job and was yet merciless in his evil. In such a time in the night, the drunken creature had sobered up and was flanked by 3 of his crew as he unlocked a wooden gate and stepped down into the pen. He peered about as he kicked some slaves awake, mumbling to himself as he did.
"Cursed sun-colored puke-ridden runt. . .telling me to check's his slaves. . . .I'll give him a checkered back I tell's ya." Breket grumbled. The rat strode the pens, his rats keeping a candle close as Breket was soon finding the bodies of dying woodlanders. Looking for a squirrel elder who's smaller son had not noticed his passing, Breket gave a low annoyed growl.
"Borbus, Lord, take the dead meat and giv'em to Loggo to bury, I can't deal with this rotten stuff."
The rat next to him gulped "Loggo is a mad beast, chief. He'd kill us for sure if we bothered him this late!"
The rat grumbled and got up, and got out his signature whip. This whip had been with the slave master since his time whipping galley slaves with a crew in the southern coasts, and now was the best way in his opinion to make any beast obey. With a loud crack of a whip, a thunderous crack had made scared beasts come awake in a heartbeat.
"Listen ya useless, flea-ridden ninnies! Get up! Get up!"
Breket pointed to some of the dead and growled lowly "I got a deal to offer ya. I need some beasts to bury some of these dead weights, otherwise you'll be draggin them in the dirt all the way to the North! A need a crew of three grave diggers in a chain gang, and the first three volunteers get extra viddle!"
Already, one hand had shot up, another squirrel whom had not looked well and had wounds up and down his face, and slowly some hands rose as well.
Venkas did not sleep peacefully as he dreamed in his bed of hay, breathing heavily. In his dreams, he found himself in the fields of the north and facing his first kill, a young weasel whom had strode the battlefield. The battle was short, but Venkas remembered his first kill very well, a truly marvelous duel between Venkas and the warrior. Had not Venkas turned his blade on his opponent by bashing him to daze him long enough for a thrust upward into the weasel's face, Venkas would not have survived. The rat however was haunted by these images, specifically of battles long fought and friends killed by their own ignorance. Venkas remembered, and struggled to forget as he churned his dreams. Eventually, the dead themselves surrounded Venkas in battle and prepared to tear him apart until he awoke groggy and terrified.
The breath of the less then happy rat had also awoken Orson, whom was tied by a paw to the bed post. Venkas calmed down and realized he had to go to the latrine and quickly. "Keep yourself awake until I get back, waterdog. Yell 'thief' if some idiot tries to grab anything in my tent while I am gone." Venkas commanded.
Orson gave his own grumbling distaste for being ordered as Venkas left the tent, going about his business with only his knife. Many vermin were sleeping, others keeping watch for intruders or unwanted eyes. However, Venkas made his way to the bushes to do his business. It wasn't until Venkas began to finish up his discomforts that he noticed lights in the distance.
This that Logid? Venkas peered close at the lights and noticed there was more then just one small light, but several. It was distant, perhaps it was just a small camp like their own? It wasn't certainly any community Venkas had noticed in his travels, but then again he knew very little (let alone cared) of maps and where places were. Once finished in sight seeing, Venkas made his way back to his tent rather slowly and noticed some vermin were gathered near his tent. Going quickly, Venkas came across a rather sad sight as Orson and Oalt were being forced to the ground by some waking vermin watch.
"Your the owner, yes?" Demanded a rat.
"I am." Answered Venkas. The rat grunted and starred at the otters whom had their bonds cut and were being stepped on by the rats. Their crime was obvious, as the rat handed him his sword which was unsheathed. The otters had cut their bonds in his absence, but failed to realize there were more guards then they anticipated. Orson looked angrily at the ground, but this anger turned to concern and pity for his younger brother, stricken with fear as he glared at the emotionless Venkas.
Venkas broke the silence "Mind if I borrow that stick of yours?" Venkas asked one the guards "I will deal with my own."
One of the guards tossed Venkas a small oak stick, a smaller cane the vermin was using to mark his spot in the ground or to play with in his free time, but now felt Venkas had more use for it and he could simply find a new rod later. Venkas stared at the rod as the guards watched the warrior come forward toward Oalt. Orson shouted out "Deal with me! I was the one whom tried to escape! It's not his fault!"
Venkas knew this already, but the otter's words fell on deaf ears at the rat guards held Orson back as Venkas gave the younger otter five harsh beatings. Drawing blood and listening to the pained whines and screams of the child, Venkas looked in silence at Orson to deal with him more harshly. Tearing at Orson's throat, Venkas beat the otter until satisfied, uttering not a single word as he did so. Having beaten both, the guards returned to their post as Venkas dragged both back into the tent where he chained their paws to a peg by each paw to a shackle. Orson tried to comfort his wimpering brother as Venkas, looking tired, returned to his bed. Orson gave out a harsh word to the rat as he dozed off.
"Just kill me. . .I'll never break. . ."
Venkas lifted his head, staring at Orson. You idiot otter.
"I thought you were smarter then that, but here's the deal." Venkas said calmly "If you lift that peg and try to escape, which you will not, I will kill you and throw your brother with the rest of those poor creatures. Now. Get to sleep, or I will start using a blade to beat you." Venkas downed his head into the hay and tried to go to sleep, the two otters incapable of of moving from their beating. Orson sobbed softly until he had gone to sleep, the rest of the night Venkas had hoped to be uneventful.
Throw a rock, Cassandra had said. It would distract the guard, she had said. So they had waited until inevitably, one of the guards outside the tent had wandered off a short way into the trees to relieve himself. Then Fiasco had thrown the rock right at his head. Not quite the hare's plan, but Fiasco felt that the whole rock-distraction would take up too much time. The rat was still breathing, but Fiasco suspected he'd done some permanent harm anyway. Knocking beasts unconscious typically only had two effects - one, they recovered only a minute or two later - or two, they didn't recover very well at all, even many seasons after the attack. The nice middle-ground of knocking out a beast for a good twenty to thirty minutes and then have them miraculously awake with no recollection of what had happened simply did not exist. Fiasco might have considered finishing the rat off out of mercy, but they didn't have time. Cassandra needed to get changed, after all.
A hunched figure with a spear tottered back out of the treeline, and stood smartly to attention outside the tent. The guard on the other side glanced over, bored out of her skull as the night's watch drew on. Then, she blinked, and whirled around, mouth dropping open. Her fellow rat guard had lost his tail and sprouted two very long ears out of his helmet. The 'guard' grinned at her.
"Wha-" Fiasco's heavy paws closed over the rat guard's head from behind, and nobeast heard a word from her again.
Ditching the helmet and spear she'd 'borrowed', Cassandra crept up close to the tent flap. Her long ears were pricked up, as she ever so slowly lifted the flap. Fiasco watched nervously, squinting down the hill every few seconds, just in case any other guards were coming this way. Down in the camp, he could make out a few figures taking swings at each other, and the sounds of violence and angry calls. In other words, a typical evening in the company of vermin. Nothing to worry about yet, until the guards changed over. Cassandra beckoned to him, and slipped under the tent flap. Taking a deep breath, Fiasco followed.
The first thing he noticed was the ground felt very soft beneath his footpaws. The air felt stuffy, still and warm. As his yellow feline eyes adjusted to the dark of the tent, he could see the floor was swathed in carpet. The darkness bleached away all colour to shades of bluish-grey, but he could still make out the intricate patterns woven on the materials adorning the inside of the tent. Cassandra was a dark, creeping silhouette, edging towards the desk, each step carefully placed. Fiasco could hear him, the tent's owner breathing as he slept. Fiasco supposed that many beasts, if they were in his place, would take the opportunity to slay Reaven Brakar where he lay. Fiasco wasn't interested in assassination though - he had no feud with Reaven cat-to-cat, he just wanted to nick the warlord's stuff. Besides, attacking his opponent in his sleep? The feral cat wouldn't have it said of him that he was a coward. Cassandra might have wanted to take a more pragmatic approach, but as it was, she was still unarmed, and would have a hard time strangling Reaven without him overpowering her. Then there would be a loud commotion, and the game would be up.
Cassandra was indiscriminate with her looting of the desk. She carefully took wad after wad of reports and letters, and stashed them in her jacket, which she had buttoned up tight. Fiasco would have followed her method, except he didn't have a jacket, or pouches or satchel or anything to carry off heavy items. There were various valuables lying around the tent, and Fiasco knew from his days as a trader that gold wasn't the only expensive commodity on the market. First, he targeted the few bits of gold he could wear rather than carry, sliding a few gold rings down each of his claws (luckily they were made for cat-sized paws). He left the bracelets and tail rings. He didn't want to take anything too loose, in case it made a noise as the jewelry clinked together. The spice jars seemed too large to take, as much as he wanted to swipe them. Instead, he made sure the stoppers on the little jeweled perfume bottles were jammed in tight, then crammed a couple of them into his mouth, hoping desperately the stoppers would not come loose. Perfume was a rare vanity, and it would go for a decent price with merchants travelling to the wealthy lands of Southsward. He'd leave out the bit about it travelling in his mouth when he sold it, though.
The whole robbery could not have lasted more than a minute, both beasts being filled with a terror-induced adrenaline, stealing things right out from under Reaven's nose. Cassandra had warned Fiasco ahead of time that he would be tempted to rush the exit - make some fatal slip-up in his haste to leave. So with a stealthy and deliberate pace, they carefully crept from the lair of the warlord, out into the cooler night breeze. Fiasco felt Cassandra's paw on his arm, and he stopped, looking around in case of danger. The hare shook her head, and pointed down at the slave pens, which were off to the left past a patch of trees as the hill sloped down. There were muffled shouts coming from within the pen, and Fiasco was sure he heard the crack of a whip. He shot a questioning glance at Cassandra. She motioned for them to get moving. The hare and the cat crept closer through the trees, eyes and ears alert. They had expected the guards to be half-asleep and the pens to be quiet. This racket was an unforeseen complication. Fiasco was tempted to call off the rescue, but they had already done one impossible thing tonight. Perhaps the opportunity would come to do another.
(OOC: I am making a assumption they are moving through the camp, correct me if I am wrong lol)
Even though the thieving had gone well, the journey to free the slaves did not do well at all, and in fact seemed to go disastrously. As the Hare got closer to the slave pen, stepping over the sleeping vermin the two had bumped into a livid Lugod whom had turned a wrong corner, bumping into them. Captain Lugod had at first mistaken the two for common hordebeasts in his tired state, but was quick to realize he recognized the two rather quickly, along with the stuff they carried. Lugod look wide-eyed at the two before yelping out loudly as he drew his war axe.
"Intruders! Intruders! Get up you lazy vermin idiots! Intruders!"
The two would be in for a nasty fight, as the vermin around them were plenty, but at least a little confused from being tired. The vermin were coming awake, as well as the changing of the guard also coming awake from as well. Even when the two get ready for whatever they prepare for, they could hear the furious outrage on top of the hill which was brewing. Reaven was awoken and look wide-eyed and drowned in his nightgown.
((OOC: This works for me. ))
"Aye! Stop the intruders! To the gates, to the gates!" Cassandra barked out, doing her best impression of a vermin officer. Not bothering now to watch their step, the hare and the feral cat bolted for the treeline back up the hill, stepping over or on unfortunate vermin as they went. Fiasco's energy, tensed and held at bay by all this sneaking around, was let loose like a bowstring. He took off at a long loping gait, pulling ahead of the hare, whom was slowed down as she had to keep a tight hold of the papers lodged in her jacket as she ran. As they hurried back the way they had come, he looked up the hill to see Reaven in his nightgown.
Fiasco curved around to the right and Cassandra followed him, heading northwest into the dense black forest. His night vision was good enough to let him leap and bound between the trees and over rocks and roots, but he heard her cry out and fall. He skidded to a halt and looked back, ears pinning to his head. Though to her credit, she had misled a few of the vermin to go the wrong way, there were still angry shouts coming closer, and the glow of torches. Some vermin had woken and armed themselves quickly, and they were starting to catch up.
It was at this point, only a split-second in reality, that Fiasco realised that he could leave the hare to her fate. She would slow the vermin down, and they might even abandon chasing him altogether. He would have wealth, and once again he would free of any responsibilities or worries. In that same instant though, he also remembered he was Fiasco, son of Wildgrass, and that name did not belong to a coward. He sprinted back through the trees to where Cassandra was struggling to get back up, having injured her footpaw as she tripped on a root. Without a word of explanation, for his mouth was still full, he knelt beside her and turned his back. She understood at once, and leapt up to ride on his shoulders. He grunted as he felt her paws clinging to his shaggy fur, and stood to run. He was slowed down now he had her weight on his back, but neither was she heavy, nor was he weak. Still, the cries of their vermin hunters were drawing ever nearer, even as Fiasco put all his boundless energy to use evading them.
So busy was Fiasco with keeping ahead of the vermin, he only realised he could scent other hares by the time he was already amongst them. He saw the flash of a shined spearhead as it caught the light of the torches behind him. A flurry of spears passed Fiasco by, some only inches from striking him, and he heard screams coming from the pack of vermin that followed behind.
"Oh blimey! Wildcat!" A voice cried ahead.
"He's with me! Patrol, fall back! Fall back!" Cassandra commanded from her vantage point on Fiasco's back. The feral cat could make out the shapes of other hares now, darting through the trees with him. He watched as one stopped to let loose another spear at the most determined of the pursuers, and there was a satisfying yelp that signaled the spear had found its mark. They harassed the vermin in this manner until the pursuit was broken off. Since some runners were more agile than others, the group that had followed the feral cat and the hares was now spread thin amongst the woods north of the camp. There came a time where the amount of injuries and whizzing of spears overhead turned capturing the intruders into a waste of effort when weighed against any benefit they would get from it.
Once they were sure that the last of the vermin trackers had lost their trail, the group all but collapsed in a secluded clearing. Fiasco slumped to his knees, having run the entire deadly race with his breathing impaired by the perfume bottles in his mouth. He took them out, and clutched the two bottles in his paw, his chest heaving as he struggled to regain his breath. Cassandra slipped off him, and hobbled to a tree stump to examine her footpaw. All around them were red-jacketed young hares, armed with spears , bows and swords. it seemed they had run right into the little 'army' Cassandra had been telling Fiasco about, though there were only thirteen other hares beside her.
"Botheration! We got close, Fiasco. Close enough to see this is not going to be an easy job, no sir! Still, there's bound to be another opportunity soon. That is, if you're still with me," Cassandra said.
Fiasco thumped his chest with his free paw, his tongue still lolling from his mouth. "We… agreed. I help you... you help me. I still... want... that red jacket. You promised!"
"Beggin' your pardon, Captain, but wot was all that ruckus and why are you consortin' with this 'ere wildcat chappie? I rather thought the whole vermin operation was being run by wildcats," one of the hares piped up.
"Feral cat," Fiasco snorted, holding up one gold-ringed claw to make his point. "We're… like wildcats... but better."
Cassandra grinned, and stood back up carefully, testing out her hurt footpaw. Fiasco saw that she was still limping a little, but that was far better than if she had actually broken anything. His gaze missed nothing, he saw the way she held her paw to her buttoned up jacket, checking to make sure the precious papers were still secure. Satisfied she still had her prize, Cassandra drew herself up to her full height, and patted Fiasco's shoulder. "Introductions are in order, wot! Lads and lasses, this here is Fiasco, beast of many talents as I'm quickly learning. Fiasco? Meet the Long Patrol."
tessa last edited by
ooc: Oh I'll try my best, and I'll try not to control any characters
Fabiana woke up in grassy clearing, sunlight shone softly through the leaves and nearby a stream gurgled over rocks. Looking down she saw her chains were gone, her fur shone in the light, what scars she had was gone, muscles ripped under her fur as she sat up. Gone was the slave pit, the stench the dead, what she felt was a peacefulness. Looking around wide eyed wondering where she was, then it hit her, she was in Mossflower Woods but how was this possible? This couldn't be a dream could it? A red wall caught her eye and she stood up, 'Is it?' she muttered, walking forward she looked up at the Great Redwall Abby Gates.
Walking through the gates she looked around, "hello? Tessa! Jessie! Where are you guys! I"m back!' she spun around in a circle, her eyes darting everywhere. A breeze picked up and she though she heard her name being whispered, the wind tugged at her fur, drawing her toward the great hall. Entering the great hall she looked up at the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. She stiffled a gasp as Martin stepped down out of the tapestry. She took a few steps back, her eyes getting even wider. "Stay strong Fabiana, don't give up.. your mission in life is not over, you still have a role to play." Sadness took over Fabiana, "How?" she asked quietly.
"You have to look inside yourself and get back what you have lost." Martin replied softly. She looked up at him, "They took everything from me…my weapons, my friends, my life my freedom!" Her voice raised, "They destroyed me! I have nothing left to fight for!! They took it all! And you tell me I have still a role to play!?" She was screaming now, "HOW CAN I PLAY MY ROLE IN LIFE WHEN I CAN"T EVEN SAVE MYSELF!"
"You can save yourself." Martin said calmly, "You just forgotten who you are...Fabiana, remember who you are and where you came from, fight for you what you want, take back what is yours." He rested a paw on her shoulder, "I'll always be next to you..you are never alone...."
She jumped awake as the whip cracked. She staggered to her feet, her stiff body protesting about the sudden movement. Biting back a sob she rubbed her eyes, trying to calm her breathing down, which currently came in gasps. The whip terrified Fabiana, all what could come to her mind was the pain she endured when she first was captured. The whip had broken her, she would do anything not to feel the whip on her back again.
Fabiana waited for the stinging pain of the whip to hit her but it never came. Standing before her she saw Breket wave his whip around yelling_,'I go a deal to offer ya. I need some beasts to bury some of these dead weights, otherwise you'll be draggin them in the dirt all the way to the North! A need a crew of three grave diggers in a chain gang, and the first three volunteers get extra viddle!"_
You still have a role to play…fight for what you want. Somehow Fabianas hand shot up without her thinking, it must of been her the word viddle that made her volunteer for the task and Martins voice still ringing in her head.
She looked around and met the pained gaze of a squirrel with face wounds staring at her, his hand raised also in the air. His gray eyes filled with pain and fear. She tore her gaze away and looked around, looking at all the other slaves, children to elder from all races, they came from something and these vermin took away their freedom, her freedom, his freedom. The chain tense and Fabiana was yanked forward. But that didn't stop her from feeling a tiny spark of hope inside her.
Caterpillar last edited by
OOC: Finally I think I found a good scene to hop in! ^^ Oh gosh, so many amazing posts ahead of me… Getting some performance pressures here xD
Tinderwick's live was simple… Well, maybe not that simple, if you actually stopped to think about it. Or who would have thought that finding food and dry place to sleep were far more difficult that it first sounded? Not him…. Of course he didn't presume that foot and drink just magically appeared on the table, whenever you're hungry, but he hadn't thought that it would be this… This difficult either. You would think there was bound to be something to eat in a large woods like these -- DANG! Wrong! There wasn't! Edible berries didn't grow in every single bush you happened past by and you didn't find nuts as easily as just by brushing aside some of the dead leaves on the ground... Heck! It had taken him couple of hours to dig up some roots he could chew to seat his hunger and he still was hungry when he had returned the small, hollow cavity of a large tree's trunk, which had been his temporary dwelling place for half of week. Oh how he sometimes missed to be back in towns….
Well, the rat thought, before he fell asleep on his makeshift bed of moss and grass. At least in here no-beast bothered him and his experiments… And he couldn't possibly get into troubles with locals just because of small accident with fire….
Little did sleeping Tinderwick knew that trouble was about to find - in a form of one feral cat and group of battle-hardened hares. As the Long Patrol and Fiasco finally stopped their running and halted on the small clearing, the large three. in which Tinderwick slept, happened be growing almost right next to it
On that night Tinderwick was a light sleeper, so hearing the running steps and noise of something dashing through the bushes shook him awake, startled. At first he just lied still, wrapped in his red cloak and listened.
No, he hadn't misheard… voices… He heard someone talking - couple of voices in fact. Still little bit drowsy the rat sat up and peered outside. The voices came from behind those near trees… And even he sacked some of the single- words, he could not make out the whole sentences. What was going on? Who was there?
The instinctive idea was to crawl quickly back inside the hollow and stay as silent as possibly. The experience had taught Tinderwick that it was a lone wanderer's best interest not to bump into shady beasts at middle of night in middle the forest. Actually, on these restless times, was best not to be bumping into anyone in middle of the woods. Many anxious rumors were circulating on this area nowadays and they made beasts jumpy. For an example, there were those hearsays about the vermin who, according to spiderwort, was gathering vermin-kin and slaves somewhere in the Mossflower Woods…. Rumors like that put many kinds of beast on the move, mostly the kind Tinderwick instinctively wanted to steer clear of.
But curiosity won, however, and carefully the rat crawled outside through the little entrance hole and closer to the sounds, wanting to find out who or what had woke him up from his comfortable slumber.
He quickly expressed the silent hope that he would have listened his first instinct. In the dark woods he did not see very well, but with the help of starlight, which penetrated through the foliage, Tinderwick was able to distinguish a number of large, long-eared figures standing on the small clearing.
Long Patrol! Tinderwick ducked quickly back behind the large roots, over which he had just peeked, trying to swallow his own heart back to its rightful place. Oh, just his luck! Hide… must hide quickly -- there was no telling what those long-legs would do to him if they find him... Even though he hadn't done anything wrong, it could be that those long-legs would impale him first and ask questions later… Vermin-ilk and Long Patrol hares mixed as well as water and oil….
=-=The Forest Shadows/Late Summer=-=
The vermin had scurried and called out pathfinders and used the guard to chase the intruders into the woods, but after fruitless searching for the remainder of the night the soldiers returned with the bodies of fallen guards whom were unlucky to fall into a ambush or trap, their bloodied corpses were laid before Reaven whom wisely chose to hold himself back and let his captains handle the affair. It was early morning before Reaven could fully realize what had happened, his armored put on him by Grime and his captain Lugod whom strode next to Reaven closely as he reviewed the bodies of two vermin soldiers whom had fallen trying to recover the warlord's items. Reaven did not look pleased, but to the vermin horde whom surrounded him, he didn't look angry either. Lugod had been telling the warlord of the events the night before of what had been happening and the intruders.
"The Hare must have been a Long Patrol spy, some kind of elite army of this region. We should tread more carefully me'lord. Otherwise we will get a visit from the Badger Lord of these lands."
Reaven gave a glancing look to Lugod and snorted "I fear no Badger, nor do I fear any long-earned hooligan playing soldier. They escaped?"
Lugod sighed "Yes. They disappeared into the north-west, north of the Wanderer's Clearing."
As the two talked, surrounding the corpses of the two fallen vermin, two of Reaven's guard had brought forward a brown rat whom had been tied up and thrown to the ground in front of the warlord. Looking fearful and skittish, Reaven was only told recently this was the captain of the guard whom were suppose to keep watch over the camp as the vermin slept. The poor beast became a scapegoat for Reaven and was to be swiftly executed for 'sloth and incompetence', the fearful vermin had tried to plead for his life before he was sentenced publicly to be hanged in the forest beneath the graves of the two vermin whom died in the search. Crying out for mercy as the guards dragged him away, the wildcat then promoted another one of the guards to position of Captain of the Guard Unit, whom accepted the title rather just as fearfully.
Reaven brought his advice from Lugod, but also yet another captain named Fegot, a circus performing stout whom had been with Reaven for a short while but who's skills and intelligence the warlord had grown to rely on. The stout was invited into the main camp where Reaven and Lugod held their meeting, but with Fegot being from Mossflower the Stout was assumed to know much of their new found enemies. The three listened to plots of each other and general information was passed around.
"So the Long Patrol are here? Should we be worried, Fegot?"
Fegot played with a coin he flipped and made disappear with a flick of his paw and gave a sarcastic reply "Long Patrol? Oh no, of course not! All they are, are a bunch of hopping death machines whom could slay a group of vermin with the ease a elder warlord slays a small child! You shouldn't worry yourself, my lord. How do you even know they are Long Patrol anyway?"
Lugod coughed and shrugged "No beast I know could escape that many vermin and lived, and have also taken two of our own. I heard they are legendary beasts of weapons and skills of survival, so I am making a good assumption here."
"This 'feral' cat with them, whom is he?" Reaven interrupted
"A former mercenary whom tried to join us, but walked out when I didn't give him a tent. To few of them to not mistake for something else, I crossed off his name in the ledger."
"They took off with my map, my letters, and my perfume. This is a personal blow to me. If these creatures are from around here, then we should deal a personal blow to them. The village just east of us will do for now."
"Why not attack Lugod?" said Fegot as he wrapped his paw around Lugod the rat whom pushed him away.
"Easy. If these two plan to share there information with anyone important, they will try to defend Lugod, not some farming village. We attack the village of Paiser North, hopefully before the villagers escape to the town of Lugod and hold up with it's lord. We know town lays pass the graveyard, and we may need to get intact with Orgit once again, but we will recoup from this and strive to keep moral up. Keep a double guard here while we are gone."
"At once, my lord." Fegot bowed
Venkas had awoken in the morning, discovering rather late of the raid on the camp from vermin. The rat had unlocked the shackles which bound his two tent slaves whom he ordered to go about their business, with Venkas acting as if nothing had truly happened. Bringing the rat his breakfast, Venkas had also discovered the horde had plans to move on a village just east of them, and that Venkas would be in the vanguard. Once breakfast had been settled, the rat instructed Orson and Oalt on how to armor him, as it was easier for another pair of paws to help him put on his breastplate and leggings onto his padded armor.
"Make sure those strings back there are tight. If they aren't, the armor will fly off." Venkas ordered as he inspected his shield and sword. Orson gave no sound as he did as the rat commanded, but only signified he heard Venkas by a angry grunt. Venkas had caught this and in a harsh motion grabbed the otter and thrust him forward to his front, choking him by his neck as Venkas gave a small rant.
"Listen to me, you idiot. If I hear a wimper of disproval from your mouth, I will personally have you hanged and throw your brother in with the rest of the lot. You are lucky I haven't already. Do not make me regret keeping you on a short leash as it is, as I have every right to do so! I know you are smarter then this."
Orson nodded as he choked, as Venkas let go and let Orson drop to the ground to cough and gasp for air. Oalt had done nothing, which was wise in itself in fear what Venkas would do to him. Orson looked up at Venkas, still bruised from the day before and his right eye black and puffed. In a fit, Orson had thought of tackling him, but Venkas kept watch of him and his movements. Venkas had been right about one thing, Orson was smarter then this and knew even if he succeeded in killing Venkas, he endangered himself and his brother. Obeying Venkas's word, the otter continued to help Venkas put on his armor whom was relieved Orson had not decided to do anything rash. Perhaps he could be broken after all. Saves me the trouble of doing something sad. Damnable, stupid idiots.
The slave master had picked out from the slaves the squirrel, Fabiana, and another mouse, but was distracted in the night by the escapees. Once all had been done and over with, the three in the morning were put to the sad and despicable task, the other two amazed that despite the rat's drunken nature had remembered the night before rather well and had brought the three slaves out of the pit and gave them three tools. The first was a shovel handed to the squirrel, the other two receiving log picks. In addition to this, all three were chained by their legs, but not to each other as Breket gave the task to them.
"You three will be picking out the dead weight from the pens, that and not limited to. . .erm. . .the dead. Can't have that rot becoming fly farms and causing issues, it be a nasty business for certain. Use those picks to drag them up the pen's slope and bury them. . .erm. . .near the bushes I guesses. No proper funerals, to costly and time wasting. Make sure to get the ones in the back. . .they stink of intense death for certain." Breket took a drink and pointed to a couple guards near by "These lads will watch ya and give ya food at lunch. If I see and slackers, I will bury you alive and make the other two watch." the rat warned.
This morbid task began with mostly checking the bodies as a livid and talkative guard often unshackled chains and confirmed the death of those chosen by thrusting a spear into the gut to find a reaction, making sure the slaves were not pretending to be dead. The slaves would then hoist the body up the dirty slope to the squirrel whom carried the body into a cart to be dragged towards the bushes to begin creating a mass grave, a informal reality. Of those dead included a group of sickly shrews, a squirrel child whom had died in the night from a wound, and the parents of a otter child whom had cried to cling to long dead creatures whom truly did smell of death and flies beginning to swarm near them, and another squirrel elder who's companion child had just realized they had passed away.
The picks were used for a single purpose, digging into larger creatures whom were to heavy to lift and haul them up the slope towards the cart. This morbid scene had terrified many of the woodlanders, especially those not use to slavery. Breket kept watch, but kept up his drink from a wooden flask. Breket complained to one of the guards in a loud manner.
"This lot won't last long, if disease doesn't hit them first, then the starvation will."
"We got food, right?"
"Not really. Supposedly we are getting another shipment of food from the King, but we aren't scavenging."
"Hopefully it comes soon. Otherwise our entire shipment is ruined for certain. How much do we have left?"
"2 days at most. Then its done, gone. I already have this lot at one'sixth rations as it is."
As the group of slaves worked, what looked to be the entire horde was moving past them with Reaven at it's head, looking to go eastward. In formations of 50, four groups of vermin bearing flags depicting the Brakar lineage of red and white seals. The vermin marched past the workers with a group of carts also rolling past them, pulled by some of the camp slaves and accompanied by more experienced slavers, the rattling of chains loud and obvious. Reaven brought with him Lugod and Loggo 'The Tasked', a bandit chief from Mossflower whom had joined up with the warlord. Loggo, the brown rat commanding the unit of archers, moved away from the group, preparing battle positions. A guard looking after the slaves looked almost cheerful.
"Hopefully they bring back some food! Good food!"
Within the village of Paiser North, the local field mice worked diligently on their harvest. The local village elder had been reading a letter of his supposed safety by Lugod's army, signed in part by Steward Orgit. Unaware of their impending doom, assuming that the vermin would be dealt with quickly by the local militia, the villagers were preparing for a harvest feast. The elder sighed as he looked out the window of his town and into the main fields, enjoying the summer air and wondering why the vermin fires still burned. Were they getting closer?