_The mouse was a bit tall but Riversong didn’t really notice that half so much as she noticed the sword. Shining and sharp it would be if it were pulled, she felt that certainly though she had no idea why. Her leg drummed hard on the packed earth as she crouched down rather then rise up. She had as good a pair of legs as any but she was smaller then other squirrels and against a mouse so tall with such a long sword she wasn’t about to do any wide kicking. A few moments beating the earth with her off leg was enough to ward off most lone beasts. If it came to it though short and sharp would serve better and though she was afraid of the sword, the mouse and so many other things she couldn't recall at that moment she held her ground.
Ages passed in the span of furious heartbeats as Riversong waited but the mouse simply looked at her. Proud and suspicious it was like every shop keeper who’d ever laid eyes on her, looking into the black pit of her heart and finding her wanting. The drumming went from warning to challenge as she felt the unfamiliar call to battle rise up in her blood. She’d done nothing to this mouse but he was judging her already like everyone already did and it was infuriating.
“Good beast!” She spat the word like a curse.
“Who are you to me that you can look on me so!” Lower and more dangerous these words took on a silken edge that threatened true violence. Behind the mouse Garn Split-ear and Cracked Claw looked on with amusement as Sharn concerned himself chiefly with the ground. He’d never been much of one for anything, even when it came to keeping the captives in line Split-ear had always had to tell him what to do thought it was Garns skill with the whip that had frightened the other slaves. As in life they had no particular interest in Riversong if no coin was to be made and she was preoccupied with the imperious mouse.
“What of them!?” Riversong demanded as the mouse pointed a single sinewy paw toward the group. Looking on them she remembered the evening she’d at last gone free and her role in the groups demise. No sense of accomplishment fallowed nor even malice. They’d done to her as they’d done to every slave before her and she’d ended them in to ensure her escape.
“Ah yes, I forget, good beasts don't care for cold blood.” She moved forward, her legs still save as they rose and fell to carry her about as she encircled the mouse. Having grown up surrounded by vermin she moved more like a stoat then a proper squirrel in that moment.
“You always want a fight, to make things hard and painful.” She didn’t understand how but the mouse managed to face her no matter how she moved without seeming to lift a single foot paw just as the vermin slavers stayed always at her right just at the edge of her vision.
“Well I’m no good beast nor vermin. LEAVE ME ALONE!” She shouted the last and sprang away into the swamp away from the slavers and the mouse. In the course of her brief life she’d done many things other beasts would consider terrible and would likely commit many more but she had no true quarrel with the mouse or the shades of days and deed long gone by. Without a backwards look she fled into the nightmare swamp of her childhood and felt relief among the familiar shadows._
The chill of dew on her nose woke Riversong to the wane light of morning and with a growl she sat up in her makeshift nest. Her dream had been disturbing but wakefulness blurred the details into a wash of emotion and a few disconnected images. Rising up to stretch she wondered at the vermin appearing as she had not thought of them in many seasons while the sympathetic face of a mouse made her tail bristle with anger even as her face heated with shame. There was something to it that made her feel vulnerable and oddly tolerated though she had no idea why, just as she could not account for why she felt as though she had been up running all the night rather then sleeping as she surely had been.
Shrugging the strangeness off she gathered up her few possessions and turned her eyes to the distance. From her perch she could see a far off clearing and a smudge of red. There was no real reason for her to seek out the fabled abbey but she’d been heading toward it knowingly and sometimes otherwise for seasons. With the place within eye sight she felt suddenly reluctant to venture closer as she knew that the truth of the place could not hold up to her daydreams and snippets of story she’d heard about it. All the same though with her backpack hoisted securely on her shoulders she bounded off into the trees. Come what may she would see her strange little quest through to the end if only so she could kill the dream properly and be done with it.
OOC: Figured I'd drop in and see if you're still about. ;3
–---------------------------- IC: ------------------------------
It was only by accident that Rillgruf happened upon a group of four vermin. They seemed as surprised as he when he’d breached the clearing and awoke them with his trudging through the shrubbery.
It had been a calm morning before, one the old corsair had met with eagerness. He’d been allowed a few meager hours of sleep, but it came without the cost of nightmares, something he wasn’t sure whether to be grateful for or worried over.
Still, it was a pleasant change of pace. Nothing but the exhaustion of pure sleep had met him. And as the sun rose and the birds began to trill he felt it was time to move on. Perhaps things were starting to change, but he couldn’t be certain.
He’d supped on what bread and cheese he had left and knew before the day was done he’d need to spend a couple hours foraging. He was nearly out of supplies though his flask of water was still full. He had little to worry over, but it was something he’d have to keep in mind.
That was…until he’d tromped right into the middle of a party of sleeping vermin.
A stoat lied dead nearby, a gaping wound in his stomach where the ex-corsair’s cutlass had run him through. Now the others, two weasels and a ferret, had readied themselves and stood menacing the lone rat with snarls and yellowed fangs.
“Yew’ll pay dearly fer killin’ our mate, rat!” The ferret spat out as he brandished a slightly rusted curved sword.
His weasel companions bore an axe apiece, long daggers stuffed into the belts of their dirty tunics.
“I imagine I will.” Rillgruf responded gruffly, his cutlass readied and in paw. That was his payment for a few hours calm sleep it seemed…so perplexed had he been he’d allowed himself to drop his guard and found himself in this mess.
The beauty of the calm morning was lost now as blood oozed from the dead stoat’s body nearby. The birds had all vacated ever since the creature had called out with his dying breath. And with the cackling and snarling of the vermin now, no creature dared stray too close.
They knew better.
Nobeast was ready to move just yet, but they all stood by, loaded like springs. Muscles tensed as they eyed one another and sized each other up. Finally, the ferret gestured to his weasel companions.
“Round ‘im, don’t let ‘im escape!”
Slowly the weasels began to circle the rat. Rillgruf attempted to back away but found his back against a towering elm trunk. He cursed himself for not having been more aware.
“We’re gonna’ kill yew slow, mucker!” One weasel threatened.
“Aye, put yew on a spit and roast yew alive!”
“I hear a lot o’ talk but don’t see nobeast actin’. Attack if’n ye dare, landlubbers!” Rillgruf roared in a thick corsair brogue as he charged the weasel to his right and bulled the creature into a large boulder. Stunned, the creature couldn’t act, but his friends were swift to join. The other weasel hissed as he jumped at the rat’s exposed back. Rillgruf was quick to turn and meet him, slashing out to match blades, he pulled a paw free and punched the weasel square in the nose. The creature reeled as lights exploded in his eyes, dropping his axe to the ground.
The stunned weasel that was now behind Rillgruf recovered and trapped the rat to his chest by setting his axe haft against the corsair’s neck. He pulled tightly, feeling as Rillgruf kicked and choked, his blade dropped and forgotten in the sudden motion. The weasel called to his allies.
“I got ‘im! Come on n’ finish ‘im off!”
The ferret snuck forward with a cruel sneer as the other weasel whimpered nearby, holding a bleeding snout.
“Told yer yew’d pay, mucker.” The ferret threatened as he licked his sword blade and snickered. “Any last words afore I slice ye?”
Vermin killing other vermin was not an uncommon thing. Even close band mates might turn on each other over trinkets or slights but as Riversong watched the goings on she found herself rather more curious then usual. A sea rat was not a particularly normal site so far inland. There were pliable rivers nearby but none so large as permit the sort of vessel they preferred unless she’d missed something which was entirely possible. Badly outnumber it was no surprise how the row went so quickly against the lone rat. Watching without any sympathy Riversong fished out a rock from one of her pouches. It was smallish and ground to have facets. Despite its unimpressive appearance she’d intend to carve it properly and paint it eventually.
“Told yer yew’d pay, mucker.” The ferret threatened as he licked his sword blade and snickered. “Any last words afore I slice ye?”
It wasn’t any of her business but all the same the stone went winging through the air to strike the ferret in the eye. A rather dismal display of marksmanship if you knew she’d been aiming for its chest. As if was though the distraction worked as the ferret reached for its eye with a shriek of pain and she dropped down from her perch only just reaching out to grab the lowest branch a few feet above the weasel and the rat. Her foot lashed out and struck the weasel a hard blow to the head and Riversong took advantage of the back spring of the branch to pull herself up onto it properly rather then dropping to the ground. She wasn’t about to tangle with superior numbers while ground bound that was for certain.
“Turn tail.” She snarled at the rat, attention split between it and the other vermin. She had her reasons for intervening but a desire to win friends and influence among the local vermin population wasn’t on the list. She wasn’t going to stick her tail out any further for him let alone her neck, he could leg it or die.
The situation looked far grimmer that it possibly was, one could surmise. As he struggled against the weasel’s axe haft, his tongue shot out to lick at his lips. He calmed down as the ferret faced him, a plan formulating in his mind as the vermin threatened him with death. Rillgruf’s plan involved kicking out at the ferret’s stomach, then using that moment to break away from the weasel. He might have sustained wounds, but he would have lived.
But luck turned, so it seemed, as a lone sling stone caught the ferret in his eye, no doubt permanently blinding him in the organ forever more. Rillgruf was amazed the creature even survived.
Not knowing from where he was receiving aid, he wouldn’t be so fortunate until the weasel behind was issued a sharp kick from above. That indicated a couple things, most likely of which the creature’s race. Rillgruf guessed it could be either squirrel or marten as he turned to view the beast from underneath.
Rillgruf would do no such thing.
With the ferret screeching in pain, he was half blinded, and now the weasel that had been holding the rat was stunned from a vicious blow to the head. The old searat used the moment of opportunity to retrieve his cutlass and run the weasel through. The creature had just prepared to stand as he was suddenly the owner of a gut full of steel.
The ferret was next in line, seeing what happened he was quick to retrieve his sword and charged at the rat without faltering. Rillgruf matched blades with the creature and kicked out at his footpaws, leveling him in the dirt. Before he could recover Rillgruf’s blade was buried into the creature’s chest, forcing him to gasp out and clutch the blade before he died.
The other weasel that sported a bloody snout had gathered his weapon, but now that his mates were all dead thought twice before attacking. Rillgruf turned to him with a severe stare that managed to send the weasel running into the thick shrubbery, hoping to escape further retribution.
He was rewarded as the old corsair sighed to himself and wiped a paw across his brow. He wiped his cutlass off on the ferret’s tunic and slid it silently back into his sash. Touching his throat where bruises were starting to form, he cast a sideways glance to the tree where the stranger had appeared to help him.
“I thank ye.” He muttered gruffly as he checked his paw for blood. It was clean. He’d be left with naught but a sore throat for a couple days and a couple bruises hither and thither. “But…the Torbane don’t run from nobeast.” He stated finally, panting slightly as he turned to the space he last saw the squirrel, not knowing if it was still there. "Not like the forest'll miss the likes o' those scum." He added as he tightened his sash.
Kazack was watching from a branch in a near by tree.The act of violence and death was causing him to stir.When he saw the weasel run he could bare it no more.He took after him.He went around the rat and squirrel,laughing loudly while he did it.The weasel stopped and turned to see what made the noise…only to be tackled and mauled to death by Kazack.The ferret cried and yelled in pain as Kazack laughed and tore into the pore creature.
“If ya thankful then don’t make a racket like a good beast babe. Yer head won’t be on yer shoulders long elsewise.” Riversong grumbled, tail lashing irritably. She disliked thanks, hollow words carrying less weight then the air it took to give them voice. Tail lashing irritably she made to bound off to the next tree and resume her journey when something making a terrible noise came rushing through bushes nearby. Thinking it a member of the vermin who had been off relieving himself or some such thing she froze, waiting to see if it intended to attack or flee. She cringed at the ghastly sounds that fallowed. She’d heard a weasel’s death cry before and it was not a pleasant sound.
“Ell is that?” She wondered aloud, shaken.
Well wasn’t she a charmer? Rillgruf might’ve snorted indignantly, but he knew it would’ve done no good getting upset at some comment offered by a young squirrel. How could she know, anyway? It wasn’t her fault. She could only judge on what she’d witnessed, and sure enough Rillgruf had let his guard down foolishly.
But if only she knew why…
‘Spose yer right.” The rat muttered almost to himself as he readied himself to depart.
But no sooner had the last words left the corsair rat’s lips that a crazed creature went crashing through the underbrush. It appeared from his side, looped round in an awkward pattern and went chasing in the direction the last weasel had disappeared.
Rillgruf had drawn his cutlass, but the creature had never had any interest in him. And now all the old corsair could hear was the scream of the weasel some few yards away and the sound of flesh rending and bones breaking.
It was a grizzly ordeal.
Perplexed, the rat raised a brow at the oddity and debated on his course of action. A crazed creature loose in forest woodlands was probably a bad thing…and judging from what he saw the beast might not be right in the head. So Rillgruf followed tentatively, sword drawn and at the ready, he used the blade to move the branch of a forest shrub so he could peer into the small clearing where the insane searat now huddled over the weasel’s motionless body.
Rillgruf frowned as the crazed rat tore at the body, blood freshly spilt all about the area, staining leaves and trees about him.
The ex-corsair pondered over the possibilities. The rat might’ve been insane, or even diseased, and in either case leaving him loose to do as he pleased would be most unwise.
With a decision made the old corsair crept forward. He twisted his cutlass in his paw, testing its weight carefully as he moved in behind the insane creature as silently as a shadow.
Once close enough, he swung for the creature’s neck, intent on beheading the deranged beast.
Kazack dived forward and twist sprang back up.He faced Rillgruf and just starred at him.Blood running down his arm and spatters on his waist and face."Hello….Goodbye."He jumped up and grabbed a branch and quickly climbed up it.He bounded over Rillgruf and landed in front of Riversong."Hello...HahaHAHA!!!GOODBYE!!"He lunged at Riversong,blades torward her head.
Riversong might have been a great deal more unnerved or shocked but it wasn’t the first time a lunatic had taken a run at her. To be precise it was the third counting the hydrophobic stoat who’d nearly nipped her when she was younger before he was taken out. That had been a bad week in the slave camp with many a vermin and slave going on the bonfire after being bitten or suspected of being infected. Like mange it was the sort of thing dealt with swift and mercilessly.
So not quite as surprised as she might have been Riversong stayed right where she was in the face of the rush until the gap closed dangerously between her and her attacker. Leaning back as if falling she held onto a thicker branch in front of her, her weight bowing it down. In that heart beat between the rabid rat getting in striking distance and actually being able to hit she let go of the branch allowing it to unbow with tremendous force as she did a full turn in the air before landing on all fours on the ground at the base of the tree. She hoped the branch broke the rat’s neck or crushed his throat at the very least though she’d settle for a split skull and a fallow up knifing to finish him if it came to that.
The ex-corsair was startled at the creature’s alertness as it leapt back and fled. Quirking a brow, he lost sight of the creature in the trees as it scurried off, possibly after some other target, the squirrel from earlier, or for all he knew, nothing at all.
All Rillgruf could do was stare at the canopy and watch for movement, but within a few moments it seemed it had gone quiet.
That was until he heard a great thunk! and was all but completely baffled at what it might’ve been.
As he rushed back towards the clearing he reached it just in time to catch the squirrel jumping down to land on all fours at the base of a nearby tree. Recognizing her, he simply halted, blade drawn, but he was menacing her in no way; he was simply ready for anything that might happen next.
He looked about, confused.
“Where’s th’rat?” He asked, wondering where the insane creature might be.
Kazack fell back.Stunned,but still alive and laughing."I love it when they fight!"He looked at Rillgruf and Riversong.Out numbered,he backed flipped over to a tree,climbed up it,and made his escape.His laugh echoing through the woods.
Riversong pointed upward at an angle that descended until the rat came crashing down out of the tree a bit way. She was surprised it was still alive let alone laughing off the blow it taken but that was what made the crazy so dangerous. Even if it were seriously hurt it might simply not care or even know. She made no move to go after it as it flipped away. Without only knives she wasn’t in a position for any sort of proper fight.
"Yu think hydraphobic er flat cracked?" She asked Rillgruf in an almost conversational tone. She had thought the other rat was rabid but on reflection it might have just been insane as it wasn’t foaming at the mouth and had run off. That indicated at least barebones intelligent thought.
Rillgruf turned as the rat crashed onto the forest floor nearby. Paw gripping his cutlass tightly, he prepared for a charge, but it seemed the creature was intent on simply cackling and making a break for the woods.
The ex-corsair eyed the direction he fled to, his ear swiveling to catch the squirrel’s dry remark.
Rillgruf scoffed lightly as he slid his cutlass back into his sash, “Puh, madder n’ a March hare. That creechur won’t be doin’ nobeast any good long as ‘e’s alive.” He kicked out at the ferret’s dead body as his sight turned downward. “He’s be better off dead like this'n.”
Rillgruf moved to search the shrubbery close by the clearing and retrieved the traveling pack he’d discarded upon happening upon the unlucky foursome earlier. This he hitched up to his shoulders and withdrew a flask of water which he drank from soothingly. After emptying half the vessel he wiped a paw across his maw and offered the flask in the squirrel’s direction. “Not much, jus’ water, but, I figger you might be a bit parched y’self.”
Riversong nodded and accepted the water, giving it a superstitious sniff. She wasn't snubbing the offer, simply being cautious as she was with anything that wasn't clear running. Drinking a small amount she rummaged around in her side belt pouch and offered a small bundle wrapped in a scrap of rag to the sea rat. Inside were a few raspberries. To her mind everything was either a matter of trade or treachery and she preferred a simple transaction.
"Er, pretty good pickins round here." Was her only comment on the point.
The grizzled rat nodded as he accepted the cloth and picked a few berries, popping them into his mouth thoughtfully. He understood the code of the wanderer, fair exchange and fair trade. Even some of his former crewmates lived such a motto. He agreed with the squirrel subtly as she remarked, “Oh aye, fair ‘nuff ‘tis. Good ‘untin’ in these parts, plenty o’ vittles t’be found.”
And it was the truth. Rillgruf had fared well in Mossflower. He was able to trap birds, catch fish and forage for natural growing foodstuffs. He knew of several wild caches which he checked seasonally as he wandered the countryside.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad life. Much better than what he’d had before.
Eventually the rat accepted back his flask after the squirrel had drunk her share, and he offered back the cloth, having left one of the plumpest berries for the original founder. He didn’t feel right eating all of what small amount she had. He then tucked the flask back into his pack and nodded to the maid, tugging his ear in recognition.
“I thank ye again for yer ‘elp. ‘Fraid I can’t tarry any longer, though. That beast is dangerous, I’d best be trackin’ ‘im down and puttin’ ‘im outta’ ‘is misery. Was a pleasure.” He noted finally and then moved to track after the mad rat.
He had no intention of letting the creature run rampant in what was now his homeland.
Kazack was in a creek bathing.He was cleaning the blood off him so no one could smell the blood.He snapped a creck out of his neck."Stupid squarel.I'll rip 'er spine out wence I find them again."He went back to his tree platform and laid down."I best sleep.A tired killer iz easy killin'."As he laid down he herd passing creatures.
"Ya mind a helpin paw? I aint fond o the idea of im catching me later on. Rather catch im if yah get me." She said simply. The slavers in the wood could be avoided, bargained with and fought. A mad beast was a whole other thing though. She wouldn't be able to sleep knowing it was still running free.
The old corsair paused and turned as the squirrel spoke. The last thing he’d expected was for her to want to tag along. She didn’t seem the friendly sort. But as she spoke it made plenty of sense.
The old bilge rat nodded knowingly, “Aye, sounds fine t’me. Wot’s yer name, marm? I’m Torbane.” He tugged his ear again out of respect, the bedraggled cloth tied about his head moving slightly in the wind as he did so. As he listened for her response he bent down, inspecting the earth where the rat had passed into the shrubbery. He definitely wasn’t taking any precautions. His steps were heavy and wild and told an easy to read tale about the direction he traveled.
Up until he’d jumped into the trees, that was.
Rillgruf stood and peered up into the foliage overhead then turned back to the squirrel, “I don’t be supposin’ ye can find any trace o’ the beast up there, can ye?”
"Riversong." She said and emulated the ear tug automatically. A certain level of mimicry was necessary for survival so she was keen to pick up anything that seemed like it was polite. Or a threat for that matter, it was important to know how to converse with a beast as they were accustomed.
“I don’t be supposin’ ye can find any trace o’ the beast up there, can ye?”
Riversong didn't bother answering and instead jumped up and used the tree trunk to bound from so she could catch hold of the lower branch of the tree. She was small so it was difficult to make a straight vertical leap at times but she'd grown so used to it that it was not much of a handy cap. Moving on fours among the branches it didn't take much to spot the trail. If anything the cylindrical mess of broken twigs and the odd claw mark were probably easier to read then ground tracks. The mad rat could climb but a squirrel he was not.
"I's got is tail now." She said and started moving at a steady pace so that the rat could fallow. It would take a bit of time to catch up to the crazed beast as he'd moved at a break neck pace but Riversong wasn't concerned about that. When they met again she intended it to be on ground of her choosing not its.
The old rat watched with a grizzled stare as the squirrel bounded up into the trees and rustled around a bit. He blinked studiously, fangs and sharp incisors slightly visible from beneath his upper lip as he gazed upward. He heard her call out and nodded, more to himself then to her.
"Awright then, lead on, Mizz Riversong, I ken foller ye fine from down 'ere." He yelled up to her as he tightened his pack's straps and prepared for a brisk run.
As she took off through the trees he followed, listening to the subtle sounds overhead that denoted her presence. He'd be able to keep up the pace for a time, but not forever. In his younger days, sure, but now? He was getting into his seasons and he wasn't capable of all he'd used to be.
He just hoped what he had was enough to at least partially catch the mad rat slightly up.