South of Mossflower country, along the border of Southsward, there was a small, but fairly prosperous, town known as Ashbrook. Anybeast was welcome, as long as they didn't cause trouble. A single tavern known as the Wandering Wind occupied a lot next to the town square. A hooded figure stepped inside, the scent of strong ale and other fermented drinks, as well as dirty beasts. The figure wrinkled it's nose at the smell, and stepped inside. Soon, after finding a place to sit off to the side, the figure removed it's hood, revealing itself to be a fairly young male fox, with almost silvery fur. He glanced around, then sighed in irritation. ~Wonderful. I guess it beats sleeping on the ground….~
This was not, really, what Izzy wanted to be doing. She was good at it, sure, and didn't mind a little hard work when it was needed– and honestly, the pickings off drunk travelers were pretty good-- but she was getting a little bored of this. Waitressing. It wasn't, really, what she was cut out for, she decided. Of course, an old adage about beggars and choosers floated to the top of her mind when she thought about quitting just because she could, or because she wanted to take on something bigger and more her speed.
She really couldn't afford to be noticed right now, anyway, Izzy reminded herself, adding as an afterthought to take down the fresh set of blood wanted posters in the square. Damn that Lord Greenleaf for all he was worth, doing a dirty thing like sending out wanted posters.
Still, at least it was a moderately quiet night. Just the locals, and some older wanderers. She stood behind the bar drying tankards and bowls, humming along with the cook's off-key singing, when her reverie was interrupted by a guest. Izzy eyed him carefully. Dressed nice, moved with grace. No surprise he was a fox, then.
She flipped a rough towel over one shoulder, did a half-automatic smoothing of her garish yellow apron and her unruly auburn hair, and wandered over to him.
"Good Eve'nin, sir," she had a thickly southern accent that wasn't uncommon on the Southern Shores. "Ya want I should fetch a drink ta warm ya up? Or sommat from th' kitchen? Our cook's an ugly bugger, an' can't sing worth a damn, but he makes a perfect potato and leek stew."
At the other edge of the village, a pair of well-dressed young beasts, a weasel and a vole, finished posting some very new, very fancy-looking wanted posters for a mousemaid with a host of known aliases.
Sylvakryst didn't respond for a bit, lost in thought and only vaguely aware of the presence next to him. After a bit, the silver fox glanced up. "Hmm…? Oh....Uh...Sure. I haven't had anything to eat all day." His accent was different, definitely not from around these parts. He didn't even sound like he was from Mossflower country, either. Sylvakryst eyed the waitress. Auburn hair, yellow apron. A mouse. Something seemed off about her, though. She seemed....familiar. The fox shrugged it off as having seen someone similar earlier in his roaming. "Some water would be nice, too." He glanced over as a loud crash echoed through the tavern as a fight started up between a drunken sea rat and a hedgehog. "Wonderful...." Sylvakryst muttered under his breath. ~I'm going to have to stay on my toes, since somebeast will try to slit my throat and rob me...~
Izzy nodded, her eyebrows arching at the accent. It was nothing from around here, that was for sure. She couldn't have actually pinpointed exactly where it originated, but she didn't get much time to contemplate exactly where the mist-colored fox was from before a fight broke out between one of the settlement's locals and a passing searat on shore leave.
She sighed heavily and pivoted on one heel towards the racket they were causing, hearing her customer's muttered oath and glancing over her shoulder. "I'll be righ' back wit' yer meal, sir," she told him sweetly, as someone hollered from the back, "Lida, what's goin' on out there!"
Obviously, the voice was reffering to her. She had started to go by Lida Bassam a few days before she arrived to this town. It served her fine. "Nothin' worth hollerin' over Figgy! Do me a favor an' dish up some stew, would'ja? Got a hungry belly out here!" Carefully going around to the other side of the bar, she crouched and hefted a rather large bucket out from where it usually stayed out of sight.
"An' wake up Boris, too! We migh' need 'im out here if Dancy's oldest whelp won' stop upsettin' th' guests!"
As she spoke she waddled over to the brawling couple, carefully staying out of range of flailing punches and kicks. "Oh-kay, c'mon, break it up or yer both gittin' a cold shower, ya bad-tempered whelps!" When they didn't respond, she sighed, shook her head, and threw the water on them. She did manage to take care to aim it mostly at the MacCurdy lad, though. Didn't do to disturb the guests too much.
Sylvakryst watched the waitress go, then resumed his contemplation. He was travelling north, to Mossflower country. The fox had been through there before, but that was some time ago. Now, he was on his way back, for good or ill.
The silver fox rolled his eyes at the brawling pair. ~No matter where you go someone always lets it go to their head…~ He reached down to his coinpurse, revealling for an instant a very elaborate sword in an equally elaborate sheath. His weapon was once again hidden from view just as quickly as it had been revealed as the fox rolled a couple of coins in his paw. Despite his appearrance, he didn't really have much, but did have enough to afford a bed to sleep in from time to time.
His eyebrow raised in curiosity when the mouse maid picked a large bucket up, then carried it over to the brawling pair. He continued to watch, then smirked in amusement when she drenched the pair. Nevertheless, he kept his eye on the brawl.
The water did seem to get the pair's attention, as they suddenly stopped, glaring at the interruption. "Wot yew do dat for!?" The hedgehog shouted.
Izzy was quite obviously not impressed or intimidated by the hedgehog's shouting or glaring. Instead, she rather primly flicked a bead of water off her apron, and then set her tiny fists on her hips. "Because yer makin' a great big mess a'th'place, Dace MacCurdy!" she snapped. When the searat snickered under his breath at her railing of his opponent, she turned a baleful look on him. "Ya both know th' rules, an' don't play dumb 'cause it is not becomin' of ya! Yer lucky I don' throw ya' both out on yer tails! Or tell yer pap, MacCurdy! He's already tanned yer hide once fo' this type'a manner, an' no doubt he'll do it again!"
After a moment to let that sink in to them, she pointed in opposite directions. "Now. Go to different corners an' act like civil creatures. If ya can't do that, I'll take this bucket to yer heads so bad ya'll still be feelin' it at midsummer."
With a nod in satisfaction, she watched them for a moment more, gave another pointed look, and then flounced to the bar, where the fox's meal was waiting to be delivered. A tankard of cold. clear water was pumped out, and she brought the lot over and set it down in front of him. "Sorry ya had ta see that, sir," she sighed, wiping her paws on her rag and flipping back over her shoulder. "Lemme know if I can git ya somethin' else, yea?"
There was a creak and a jingle of a bell that spoke of more arrivals, and she turned to greet them, but turned right back around, the color draining from her face. Well. This certainly wasn't going to be fun.
Striding towards the bar were a weasel and a vole, dressed in identically well made brown tunics. Each had a short sword and a dagger on their hips, and on both the right arm and the breast was a carefully intricate green leaf insignia. Greenleaf's men. Damn and double damn. She held herself stiffly, turning to keep her back to them as they progressed to the bar and began to speak to Boris, the brawny, sleepy-looking otter that helped with the heavy lifting.
Sylvakryst watched the mouse maid break up the fight, a smirk on his face. ~Idiots….~ He quietly waited for her to return with his food, growling slightly as his stomach did the same. When she sat the plate and tankard down, the fox handed her the payment. "Thank you, ma'am. There's no need to apologize really. I'm used to seeing that kind of stuff. No matter where you go, someone always starts a fight, sometimes even with you." Sylvakryst nodded and watched her walk off.
He was about to dig in when he heard the door ring. The foxe's eyes travelled to the door, watching the two newcomers walk in. Then he noticed the mousemaid turn around suddenly, looking like she had seen the devil himself. ~Odd....~ He went back to the newcomers, studying them closely. ~Hmm....They look like guards of some kind. What could they possibly be doing in a place like this?~
Boris was neither heroically smart nor horribly stupid. Yes, he let others do the thinking for him most times, but that suited him just fine most of the time. Still he did not like it when ill-tempered strangers waved parchments at him and talked at him like he was a pup. And to top it all off, these strangers were armed, and didn't look like they played fair most of the time. He really wished Lida would come over and talk with them; she had a sharp tongue and this way of looking at you that made her look less like a mousemaid and more like a wildcat. But she was busying herself with the clean up of yet another of Dace's infamous tussles, her back turned to them.
"Wot's all this, then?" Figsworth Ashram, proprietor and cook, finally waddled out from the kitchens then. The small, rotund hedgehog wiped his clean paws on his apron and eyed the two uniformed beasts with annoyance. Often, some of the worst behaved guests here were soldiers.
The uniformed vole saluted politely to him, and passed the parchment to Figgy. "Sir, we're here on official business of Yurrick Greenleaf, Lord of Bridescliff and Under Chancellor to Castle Floret."
That got Figgy's attention, and from where Izzy was doing her best to be both busy and invisible, she didn't bother to hide the eyeroll she gave. Pompous little git with pompous little git guardsmen.
Figgy raised his eyebrows with interest. "Oh? And what does his lordship require of a simple in owner like meself?"
This time the weasel took up speaking. "We're looking for a thief. A mousemaid going by the name Julietta Marrakesh began working as a chambermaid just before the turn of the season. It turns out that she was simply a thief in need of a decent cover. She stole something both very dear to the Lord's heart and very valuable. He's offering a large bounty on her head to the beast who returns her to his custody, to be dealt a proper punishment."
At this point, Izzy had to snort, but held it in. Quite the little drama queen those two were. Still, it was no small thing, having a bounty on your head. Creatures did awful things for money, she knew. Instead, she got on her knees and started to sop up the puddle on the floor.
The weasel handed over a parchment to Figgy, who squinted at it but couldn't read worth a damn without his glasses, which he was constantly loosing. "S'a very fione wanted poster, this…" he commented. And it was. Greenleaf had gone through the trouble of even having an artist create a woodblock portrait of the thief in question.
"He's anxious to have the thieving wretch brought to justice. We've had no luck in finding her, though we've been ranging all through Mossflower. We've fund where she's been, the names she's used and others who she's stolen from, but never her. We're hoping that you'd let us post this here, in your pub, seeing as it's a place where many travelers pass through. Perhaps even someone who has seen her, or knows of her whereabouts."
Boris squinted down at the picture, but though the maid looking back at him seemed somewhat familiar, he couldn't place her. He whistled in low appreciation of the amount Lord Greenleaf was intent on offering for her. Figgy, still not able to find his glasses, sighed and nodded. "Very well...you may post it outside my door, so everyone can get a look... now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stew on the stove and you'll be happy not to have me burn it." With that, he turned and stalked back through the kitchen.
The guards blinked at the stiff dismissal, shrugged, and after declining both dinner or a drink, turned to leave. As they did, they stopped at Sylvakryst's table and showed the poster to him. "You've not seen this maid, have you?"
Sylvakryst continued to watch the guardsmen, silently eating his food. He listened in on their conversation, his ears pricking up at the mention of a thief. ~A mousemaid thief…~ He noticed out of the corner of his eye that the waitress who had served him seemed rather...edgy. The silver fox continued to watch her, then went back to listening to the conversation. Sylvakryst occasionally glanced back over to the mouse waitress, noting that she was still quite edgy. In fact...it seemed like she was trying to avoid being seen.
The silver fox noticed the guards approaching, and drained what was left of his soup in one big gulp. Wiping off his muzzle, he glanced back to the guards. One of them approached. "You've not seen this maid, have you?" Sylvakryst looked at the poster, studying it carefully. ~Hmm....My waitress is definitely hiding something....Still, she'll probably be killed if she's caught. I suppose I'll throw them off...hopefully.~ "As a matter of fact...yes, I have. I caught her trying to steal my coinpurse and cut her head off. T'was just the other day, I believe. Now if you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I've been travelling all day and I would like some rest." The fox stood up, revealing something that hadn't been completely obvious at a distance. He was huge. More tall than bulky, it's a wonder he didn't smack his head on the ceiling. The silver fox walked towards the door, heading for the small inn nearby.
Izzy had been walking a little more confidently once Greenleaf's guards were turning towards the door, but it evaporated when they turned and questioned her guest. He had no reason to lie for her, and she tensed, waiting for the right moment to bolt. But she didn't have to, it seemed. She blinked in astonishment, whirling for a moment to look at the fox. The guards were already sagging a little at the thought of going back empty-pawed because she'd already been beheaded. An' as if I'd git caught pinchin' a coinbag, Izzy thought, repressing the odd, insane urge to go over and show him just how wrong he'd be. But she held on, watched him turn and go towards the door, and decided that she'd find him later and thank him for the service he'd done her.
Raggar, the weasel half of the duo, looked on in open astonishment. That fox had just admitted to slaying the very little whelp they were hunting for. And in such a matter-of-fact, almost cheery tone, too. And he was huge. Big enough that there was no doubt that if he had wanted to, the thief Marrakesh would be dead before she even knew it.
Beside him, Beyard swore and then followed the fox persistently. "Where did you kill her? Do you remember? We need proof before we can go back."
Sylvakryst stopped, looking back at the weasel. "Do you remember the last time you killed somebeast, hmm? And the answer is no, not really, considering I was camping in the forest away from the roads to avoid highwaybeasts. What a lot of good it did." He continued up the stairs, his sword briefly revealed as his cloak billowed out behind him. After he was at the top of the stairs, down came the shout of "Even if I was able to tell you the exact spot where I executed her, it wouldn't matter because what's left of her would've been eaten by now!" He paused for a moment, ignoring the odd look he was receiving from a ferret maid, and thought about what he just shouted down the stairs. ~Whoops….Oh well....~ He thought about the whole situation, then began to chuckle. The silver fox decided to take it a step further, and began to laugh loud enough to be heard from upstairs. He almost sounded....maniacal. ~I wonder what they would think of me now....Sylvakryst the Mouse Maiden Head Cleaver....Hmm....Too long...~ He shook his head and made his way to the room he had bought for the night. The fox suddenly paused, looking behind him, then turned around and entered the room, a click being heard as he locked the door.
Beyard and Raggar swore again. Not only was this fox large and unbothered by killing anybeast who annoyed him over much, he was mad to boot. This made things difficult. Greenleaf wanted Marrakesh, to do with as he saw fit for her actions. And if she were truly dead, they'd be coming back empty pawed to an already angry Master. Something, obviously, had to be done.
They exchanged glances, and stalked out the door.
Izzy watched all this with raised eyebrows and a strange worry in her heart. Thief's intuition told her that pair were going to be up to no good, but couldn't think of what they'd actually do, aside from call in reinforcements or a nasty mercenary or two to lean on him or the Inn itself.
Still, it was time to get back to work. They'd be closing up soon. After a glance out the window, she went back to collecting dishes and fetching drinks.
As the vole and weasel trod down the street, muttering sourly, the poster placed very visibly by the door, where anybeast could see it and the portrait of the thief they were willing to pay good coin for.
Sylvakryst took his cloak off, hanging it by the bed, and sat down. He removed the medallion from his neck, looking at it. ~Look where I am now….claiming to have cut off some thief maiden's head when in actuallity she served me soup. Next thing you know I'll stumble upon a wild tribe who'll think I'm a marlfox or something. Or maybe a king...~ The silver fox unstrapped the sword, and removed it from it's sheath. He looked the blade up and down, smirking a little. Sylvakryst ran his finger along the blade.
~It seems I'm heading back to Mossflower once again....Who would have thought I'd end up heading back there again.~ His expression became downcast, recalling old memories. ~It's been three seasons since that day...I still don't know what I'm looking for.~ Sighing, the silver fox lay in the bed, covered himself in the blanket, and drifted off to sleep, his sword unsheathed sword laying next to him out of sight. Just in case....
The hours drew thin, the night turned towards morning. Izzy helped Figgy and Boris clean up, doing the dishes and sweeping the floor for the next evening of business. She bid them goodnight perhaps a little more affectionately than usual. If they noticed, they didn't say, and she had a good reason: This was to be her last night here. She wasn't one for skipping out, but this was getting dangerous. Those guards were trouble, and she didn't want them attracting more. Figgy didn't need that, and neither did the town.
She dawdled in the main room after the other two had gone to bed, wandering around and touching things. Saying goodbye. This place had been good to her. Or, at the very least, to Lida Basam. Finally, though, she padded to the front door and locked it tight. She didn't notice that the poster by the door had been ripped down, only a scrap of parchment hanging by one nail.
On edge and too irritable to sleep, Izzy sat up and wrote a letter to Figgy. Long winded but not really telling him anything, she apologized for having to leave, thanked him for giving a helpless drifter like her a chance, and advised that Lorr Fortuna probably wouldn't mind the work. It was as she was putting the note on the bar that she heard the back door being jimmied open.
Not bothering to look, knowing that they were Greenleaf's, she ran upstairs, skirts flying and footpaws barely making a sound. She hopped over the creaky floorboard in the upstairs hall. Izzy didn't have enough time to look for an empty room; she pulled the picks from her blouse pocket and toyed with the simple tumblers. It clicked open quietly, and slipped inside just as she heard voices in the main room downstairs.
With a sigh of relief, she closed the door and sagged back against it, too quiet for most to hear. She'd only stay here for a minute. Just long enough for them to be convinced she wasn't here. How the hell they found out she was here, though, was the question. But one for later. Opening her eyes and deciding to take stock of her surroundings, she spied the fine cloak the fox traveler was wearing earlier. Her 'murderer'. Hopefully he wouldn't be woken up by her entrance.
"I suppose you've come in here to haunt me, oh headless one?" The lump in the bed didn't move, but it was obvious he was awake. He sat up, very quickly but eerily silent. Sylvakryst eyed the mouse. "You've certainly gotten yourself into a pickle." The fox threw the bedsheet off, revealing that he was still dressed as he had arrived, minus his cloak, and the sword was in his paw. "Exactly what did you do to irritate a noble so much? Steal his underwear?" The large fox stood up and silently padded over to his cloak, putting it on. "I'm assuming you wouldn't just come in here without reason, so what's going on?"
Izzy twitched upright and muttered a very unladylike swear at the sound of his voice. Still, as annoyed as she was at him for being awake and really the whole situation in general, she couldn't help but appricate how quiet his movements were.
"I'll be fine," she whispered a little tetchily. She didn't often welcome help, but realized that given the fact that she was cornered, didn't have a choice in the matter. But that didn't mean she liked having to admit that the water was rising and if she didn't scram soon, it might just be over her head. "I've been in tighter spots, O mighty beheader," she added, paws on her hips as she tilted her head back to see him. "Thanks fo' that, by th' way," Izzy smiled, managing to be quite gracious, despite her flippant words.
She was opening her mouth to say more when there was the pounding of foot-paws up the stairs and thudding down the hall. She had left a lantern burning low as a little bait for her pursuers. She held her paw up to her mouth in the international 'hush' gesture, and cringed when she heard her door get kicked in. Low snarls and swears of disappointment could be heard, and she strained to hear snatches of conversation. When it was evident that they'd kick down every door in the inn to get her, she decided she needed to get out and attract some attention to herself. When it was evident that they knew where the fox was staying and had decided to start there, she started for the window. "We migh' wanna go, fellah. They're not happy. prolly won' be any happier towards ya, an' I don' wanna tussle righ'now." Izzy glanced back at him as she pushed and shoved the window up. "Ya can jump, right? It's only a liddle ways up."
Sylvakrsyt nodded. "You're welcome. I don't think it would be fair for you to get your head chopped off because you pocketed a few coins, and you aren't the type to be a murderer." The silver fox turned and looked to the door. ~It seems she's really riled up a hornet's nest.~ "You go first. They're looking for you, and they won't expect you to be in here. If they barge in, I'll stall them." He walked over to the window, standing in front of it, putting his cloak on to block the window. "Hurry, they'll be in here any second. I'll be right behind you." ~That's the last thing I should have said. Now I'm going to get shot, stabbed, drowned, burned, lynched, pummeled, and who knows what else….."
She was giving the window– stubborn and swollen in it's frame by the humid air-- one last shove when the door slammed inward and a pair of angry soldiers stepped in like they owned the place. Beyard, seemingly the most aggressive of the two, already had his short sword drawn and brandished in front of him. Like the sight of a sword could make her swoon and give into them. Pfft.
Izzy turned and, instead of baring her teeth or growling about how they'd never take her alive or jumping out the window and leaving her new companion as guardmeat, she smiled. Rather a sweet, sheepish smile, too. Like a child with her paws in the pudding. "Hi, fellas."
Raggar was the one to step forward with a length of rope to bind her paws together behind her back. "Julietta Marrakesh, you are under arrest for the robbery of the Lord of Bridescliff Yurrik Greenleaf, and the vandalism of Bridescliff Manor. You are to be detained and returned to Bridescliff to stand trial and await sentencing for your crimes."
There was a pause, where both the guards looked at her expectantly. Of course now that she was cornered, she would have no choice but to give up and go with them quietly. Izzy smiled again. "Nah. But thanks fo' th' offer, fellahs," she replied, shrugging one shoulder. It was then that Beyard realized her paws were behind her back, hiding something. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but never made it past the first syllable before a heavy earthenware water jug was lobbed at his head. It broke with a quiet, less than satisfying crash, and he landed in a heap on the ground. Raggar seemed frozen in shock but Izzy knew it wasn't going to last too long. She grabbed for the Fox's wrist, tugging him towards the window, crying, "C'mon, b'fo' he start's makin' a ruckus!"
Sylvakryst eyed the pair as they came barging in the door, then looked at the bed, then looked back to the door, and rolled his eyes at his ignorance. ~I should have just pushed the bed in front of the door…~ Much to his surprise, they all but ignored him, and he smirked as a water pot suddenly went flying through the air. "Don't you know it's rude to barge in uninvited, gentlemen?" The silver fox suddenly lunged at Raggar, bringing his foot up and executing an earth shattering kick, aimed at the weasel's face. Afterwards, whether it connected or not, the fox turned, ran, and dove through the window, tucking and rolling in a sort of sommersault when he hit the ground. The silver fox then looked to his companion. "So, how do you plan on losing them?"
Izzy was in the process of getting up, pushing her hair out of her eyes and righting her skirts. It was stupid and dangerous and she had dragged someone else into it now, too, but part of her thrived on this type of thing. The risk of getting caught, the act of loosing those who aimed to capture her. She had always assumed it was a hereditary thing, and simply lived with it.
And as she stood and reached a paw down to help him up, she was all professionalism. "Over th' river an' through the woods, a'course," Izzy told him, grinning. Well, almost all professionalism, then. From above there were groans and shouts as Figgy and Boris were finally roused to deal with the situation. "C'mon, c'mon, my fine lanky friend. We need ta scoot, befo' them idiots wake up." With that, she turned and started to head for the riverbank edge of town.
Past dark little houses and shops, toward the ferry and the rough bridge that connected Ashbrook to the rest of the forest, Izzy didn't skulk but strutted almost. As if perhaps she owned the road, or had express permission by the beasts who did.
Izzy led him to the bridge, but instead of ascending it, she walked around and onto the ban under it. Paws on hips, she nodded once. "Here we are. Everythin's righ' where it should be."
Under the bridge was muddy and smelled of unwashed bodies and strong alcohol, and there were a few loud snores. Drunks tended to congregate here in the summer when they had no way to pay for a room once their bar tab was settled, and looked like possibly the least appealing place to hide in the whole of the town.