Fools And Their Maps (Maillac first, then open)
It was a cool crisp spring morning, and a popular roadside tavern was busting at the seems with every sort of beast. Inside, creatures were yelling, pointing, frothing at the mouths with excitement. "What would cause this?" One might ask. Well simply put, a stoat with a map.
"Your eyes don't deceive you mah friends!" The stoat proclaimed. "This is the bona fied map of the legendary scourge, Rugwell the Red!"
"Eets a fake!"
"Rug burned all iz maps afore he croked!" Were just a few of the things shouted from the crowed.
"Now now, I assure you fine gents, this piece of parchment will lead any who follow it to a life of luxury!" The silver tongued ermine proclaimed. "Whom will answer my call!"
"Yur mum!" A lone rat responded, followed by an eruption of callous laughter. Deflated, the stoat found an empty booth and sat there quietly.
After a minute or so, the stoat's display had been mostly forgotten. The tavern quieted down to the normal bustle of life. At this point, a caped and cloaked figure stood up from one of the tables and approached the defeated stoat.
"Excellent job selling your proposition. I won't lie, you made quite a fool of yourself," the figure said in a deep soft voice. The large beast sat in the booth across from the stoat, his bulky figure looking quite cramped in the seat.
"I have an offer for you. As preposterous as your tale sounds, there is wealth to be had," the beast continued, "that is, if you are telling the truth. I can't travel myself I am afraid, but if you are interested, I can form a small party to aid you. For a cut of course."
The stoat looked over the cloaked creature. "Well of course of course!" The stoat said in a exited hushed tone. He wasn't risking humiliating himself again. "That's why I'm here. I'm trying to get a group together to go seek this loot. It's only fair the whole company gets a cut." The ermine stuck his paw out. "The names Prattle Hafter, and thanks for joining."
The other stoat (for stoat the figure was) took the offered paw in his own and grasped it firmly. "Nihilus Morgue, though I have been known by other names," he said. Rising from the seat, he took a look around the tavern. "Now, I am going to seek out some suitable partners for this quest. I will try a little bit different approach on the… sales pitch," Nihilus explained. He first went over to a nearby table and pulled a young, nervous looking weasel to her feet. "Here, take this to start with," he said, pushing the weaselmaid in Prattle's direction, "one of mine, at least a half decent thief, but I will have to find better." He stalked off to find more party members, leaving the weasel standing awkwardly next to the booth.
(OOC: At this point we can try and find more members to be recruited.)
You mean you want others to join in?
((OOC: Yes, we are! If people would like to join, they can just show up at the table with Prattle, assuming Nihilus has already filled them in that there is a search for treasure that will (probably) make them rich and that Prattle is leading it.))
(OOC: I'll give this a go, making up a character for this thread)
The first thing Dorian felt was his pretty face getting new bruise. There was the sharp sting of a footpaw connecting with his cheek, then the hot sting as it swelled. The hare squirmed. His footpaws were tied to a branch, which explained why he could feel the blood rushing to his head. He swung, upside down, trying to work some feeling back into his arms. Ah, they were tied behind his back, the twine knotted so tight he could feel his pulse. Memories were flooding back to Dorian. He remembered screaming, mostly. A black night, and a bandit raid gone terribly wrong. And it was all his fault.
"Wakey wakey, Greywood," a familiar voice growled. Another kick to Dorian's poor, sweet face. "I want yeh awake to feel this."
Dorian groaned and blearily opened his eyes. he could see the blurry outline of the fox's knees, but not much else. "Please, Marcel… I'm awfully sorry..."
"Awful sorry ain't gonna cut it, Greywood! Stupid rabbit, you had one job. One job! All yeh had to do was merrily skip ahead o' the patrol an' alert the ambush team!"
Dorian gulped, and wriggled his arms. They were really bound too tight. His eyes widened as the events of last night crystallised into clarity. "Did Blacky make it? She must've cut down three Long Patrollers last I saw, wot..."
Another savage kick, this time to his injured shoulder. Fiery pain shot through his aching body. He'd twisted his arm the wrong way when the Long Patrol sergeant had hammered his shield with a claymore. Dorian yelled hoarsely, but there was nobeast but his old friend to hear. When Marcel spoke next, the hare could hear bitter regret in the fox's voice. "Rowena Blackfield is dead. Like most o' your team, Greywood. All 'cept you an' me. An' I doubt the Long Patrol will take a traitor like you back."
Dorian dared to look up at Marcel's face. Their eyes met for a moment, then the fox turned away. Dorian gasped for air, the pain of his shoulder making it difficult to speak. "I know it's my fault, Marcel. I didn't mean for this, old son. Nobeast was meant to get hurt..."
"My friends are dead. Farewell, Dorian," Marcel muttered. The fox walked away, leaving the hare tied up and helpless. After a few minutes of trying to hold back his tears, Dorian gasped out a reply.
"They were my friends too."
Dorian had not gotten to be leader of an ambush team of bandits for being unprepared. Despite his fatal mistake last night and the lives it had cost, the hare did have a trick or two still up his sleeve. Literally, he'd sown a small blade into each of his sleeves for the day he was captured and tied up by Long Patrollers or meddling otter clans. He'd never thought he'd be left hanging by an old friend like Marcel though. After working a little feeling back into his paws, the hare managed to get the blade against the twine, and frantically began working at cutting his bonds. The twine snapped with a satisfying crack, and Dorian's paws were free. His left shoulder still hurt like somebeast was hammering it. The next step was to work up the strength to bend up to his footpaws and cut himself loose from the tree branch. The hare was young and strong, and after a couple of attempts, managed to get the sharp little blade sawing through the ropes. The fibres of the rope slowly twisted and broke, dropping the hare to the forest floor and winding him. He lay on the grass and fallen leaves for a minute, groaning. He was out of breath, injured, and most importantly, unarmed. Marcel must have taken his sword. "Come on, Dorian, one thing at a time," The hare growled to himself, slowly getting to his feet. He staggered and slumped against the nearby sycamore tree. His legs had gone numb, and they tingled as the blood began to return to them. "Think of your priorities, old boy. A jolly old spot of tuck, I should think, to calm your nerves. Might be difficult without any wealth to your name and no sword." Dorian flexed his fingers and balled his paws into fists. Marcel had left him for dead, and as far as Dorian was concerned, good riddance to the old fleabag. Dorian was in his youth, he wasn't ready to be poor and alone yet. He wanted food, he wanted weapons, he wanted riches and he wanted pleasant company. The fox could provide none of these, so there was no point tracking him. Instead, this could be a new beginning for Dorian. He'd find new friends. Better friends, even. The hare staggered away from his former execution spot, trusting his knowledge of the woodlands and his luck. The tears he'd wept for his dead companions and failed old life were drying already. It wasn't long before he came across a road, and a few miles down the dirt track, a rowdy looking roadside tavern. The hare grinned, and dusted down his faded black jacket. He liked this jacket, it was padded for warmth, and had slashed sleeves to show the cream-coloured shirt underneath. Last night's battle had left a few tears in the fabric, and the odd dried spot of blood. He still had his sword belt, but it felt strange to Dorian to not have the reassuring weight of his sword in his hip. Still, he had his fists, and his wits. Dorian strode into the tavern, his eyes squinted, giving the patrons a mean glare. He got a few looks, and one rat had the nerve to tug on the hem of his jacket. "Oi, fancy lad, this ain't no place fer yeh..." The hare drew his breath and aimed to spit at the rat's feet. His aim was a bit off though, he blamed the rat's short stature, and the fact that he'd spent the morning hanging upside-down from a tree being kicked in the head. The spit ended up in the rat's eye. The rat yelped and wiped his eye furiously, looking up at the hare in shock. A few other patrons were also watching with incredulity. Dorian was just as surprised as them, but outwardly just sneered and growled in a low voice. "Go on, draw your sword." The rat gulped and sat down, shaking his head. The hare inwardly sighed in relief, if the rat actually had the courage to draw his blade, he'd be in trouble. He grabbed the hilt of the rat's sabre and yanked it from his belt. Dorian sneered again, seeing the rat cringe. Dorian resisted the urge to laugh. Did it count as stealing if the rat was basically letting him take it? The other vermin in the tavern didn't dare challenge him, in fact, he was almost certain a few of them were amused at the cowardly rat. Dorian swaggered over to the bar, sliding his new sword through the leather loop on his belt. The sharp, curved blade was a familiar, reassuring weight, the leather handle new and the metal shined. The rat must have been using it as a fashion accessory more than a weapon. He leant against the counter and gave the bartender a casual nod. The bartender was in the middle of wiping a filthy flagon with an equally filthy mug. He stared at the hare in mild confusion, shrugged, and went to fill the flagon with ale. The weasel set the filled flagon on the counter and slid it down to Dorian, who missed it. The flagon ended up in the paws of a pine marten next to him. Dorian eyed the marten, who quickly handed the flagon over with a timid, "Sorry!" Dorian gulped down the ale, hoping that it might take the pain out of his aching shoulder. His thoughts wandered back to the previous evening. Why should he mourn for his dead bandit friends? They wouldn't want him to be miserable on their account, surely? His youth was simply too precious to waste away frowning and sobbing over mistakes and lost hopes. Deep down though, the hare twisted in guilt. Was he being selfish, trying to forget their faces? Was he being cold, not even bothering to find their bodies, or say a final goodbye? He might be a bandit, but when the cards were on the table, he was still a goodbeast, wasn't he? Dorian didn't know how to answer himself. He tried putting it out of his mind, for now. Dorian was just contemplating how he was going to get out of this tavern without paying when the stoat with the map began making his scene. Dorian listened, his face a mask of apathy. Inside though, his heart was racing. Rugwell the Red's treasure? Gold and precious jewels and the finest crafted weapons ever stolen? The hare's mind conjured up beautiful images, seeing himself wearing a circlet of pure gold, wielding jewelled broadswords, fine silk clothes and a personal castle just for him. That was why he'd gotten into banditry in the first place, that's why he'd betrayed his own kind. Wealth! Dorian's grip on his flagon tightened. The hare's tall ears flicked in the direction of the stoat's booth, and listened intently as the beasts spoke. When he'd heard enough, and Nihilus had moved on, Dorian stood up, and moved in. "Er, 'scuse me, old son," Dorian said genially, as he squeezed past a couple of mustelids. The stoat he wanted was seated at the booth, so the hare slid into the seat opposite. He was quite a bit taller than the stoat, and his large ears managed to increase the appearance of height as he leant over. "Your little speech there managed to prick my curiosity. The name Rugwell the Red, now _that_ got my attention. My name's Dorian Greywood, and you couldn't ask for a fiercer fighter, sah. In fact, you probably shouldn't. Too many beasts, too much dividing of the loot, eh, wot? I see you've got your small thief already, "Dorian gave the female weasel by the booth a conspiratorial wink, and leant back in his seat," but you'll need me for any bigger, nastier beasts that try and get in our way. On the guarantee that I get a fair'n'equal share of any profits made, I'll be by your side from start to the bally end."
Prattle was ecstatic at the arrival of the hare. "Yes yes, you'll get a nice cut of the treasure. I mean after all, if I didn't want to share I wouldn't have made a huge fool of my self in front of a couple dozen bloodthirsty scoundrels now would I?" Well this was a turn of events! Moments ago the ermine was the laughing stock of the tavern and now he has two able body volunteers ready to go!
"Now to the formalities out of the way, my name is Prattle Hafter. Who are you, good sir?" Prattle had never been so excited. When he entered this establishment, he really didn't have high hopes. He'd thought he was going to have to find a couple of cutthroats that would demand pay upfront and then most likely take off with the map at night.
"If you both are well enough readied, and no one else will join, I'd like to take off post haste."
"Yur mem would loike to take off haste!" Bellowed the same voice that humiliated him not long ago. The stoat rolled his eyes and sighed as the tavern lit up with laughter again.
Red vaulted over a table and landed on his hind paws beside Prattle. "The name's Redtail Foxworthy," he bowed, "I heard you was getting a party together to search for treasure." Redtail, as his name suggests, had a fiery red tail. Even from birth, his tail had been a much brighter red than the rest of his body. At this moment a dark gray cloak envelopes his body and he wears a saber at his side. Apart from that, a black broad brimmed hat covers his head and ears. "What may I do for you good sir?" he said to Prattle.
As the others made introductions, Kaitlynn stepped back a little without speaking. She lowered her head and kept to herself, her nerves a little on edge. She didn't particularly like the idea of risking her life on this adventure, but she wasn't going to say no to Nihilus. That wasn't something that you did if you knew what was good for you.
As the tavern burst out in laughter again at Prattle, Nihilus located the source of the jeers. The large stoat made his way over to the rat, pushing smaller beasts out of his path. Kaitlynn bit her lip nervously, seeing her employer move towards the unfortunate. "Oh no," she whispered quietly, "not now."
Nihilus strode up to where the rat was sitting nd stood, looming over him. Only the outline of the grim stoat's expression was visible under his hood. The rt looked up in confusion, grunting, "can I 'elp yah?"
"Would you be interested in joining the expedition to find Rugwell the Red's treasure?" Nihilus asked, his voice cold and threatening.
"Are y' kidd'n me? Yur mum would!" the rat exclaimed.
"Well then, I am sorry to have wasted your time. Goodnight sir." With that, Nihilus took on arm and threw his cloak over the rat's head, pulling the hapless rodent to himself. There was a brief moment that the rat struggled, then a crunch. The lifeless creature fell to the ground, his neck rolling at a unusual angle. Kaitlynn cringed, even though she had anticipated it. "Had a bit to much to drink I suppose," Nihilus said calmly, "gone and offed himself." The other beasts at the table just nodded in agreement, not loyal enough to their companion to go to his defense.
"Pleasure's all mine, Prattle old boy. You can call me Dorian, if you like, or Greywood, or Grey. Just don't call me 'rabbit', eh? I'm a hare at any rate, and calling somebeast by their species is a bit rude if you know their name, don'tcha think?" Dorian shook the stoat's paw with his strong grip, grinning cheekily. At that moment, another beast made for their booth giving a spectacular vault over a nearby table. Dorian gave an impressed whistle. He liked this beast already, they both seemed to appreciate having a theatrical flair.
"What may I do for you good sir?" The newcomer addressed his question to Prattle. The hare gave an answer though, mainly because he wanted to have a word or two with the next prospective member of the team.
"You can take your bloomin' hat off indoors, don'tcha know, sah!" Dorian quipped lightly, giving the acrobatic beast an amused look. If Redtail had been trying to draw attention to himself, he had certainly succeeded. The hat in question was wide and floppy enough that the hare couldn't even make out the newcomer's face. All he could see was Redtail's… red tail. They sure know how to name themselves practically, these vermin, Dorian thought. He tapped the table in a businesslike manner and puffed his chest a little. "Now look here, Redtail Foxworthy old chap, I'd rather like to look you in the eye and know your face if we're going to be depending on each other's jolly old lives, wot!"
The hare didn't stop talking there. He had a feeling Prattle had never organised a band of treasure hunters before. Neither had he, but he did know something about picking beasts for a team of bandits. So, he decided to help Prattle in recruiting this Redtail chap. "Now we've already got a stealthy beast, a navigator, and I'm the muscle, so to speak," Dorian explained, "So what's your special skill, sah? Acrobatics? Scouting?"
As Dorian was speaking, he noticed Nihilus out of the corner of his eye. The rat he had grabbed fell to the ground. The hare gulped, and his ears drooped a little. He wouldn't have minded beating the stuffing out of the rat that kept telling jokes about other beast's mothers, but Nihilus had snapped his neck without a second thought. Once Redtail was finished speaking, Dorian muttered a few words to the quietest member of the new team. "Remind me not to get on the bad side of your chum over there, eh?"
He looked at the nervous weasel thief and tried to reassure her with a smile. "I didn't catch your name, miss," he said, speaking in a gentler tone than the boisterous one he'd been speaking in to the others. He held out his paw to shake. "If we're going to be travelling together, we might as well get to know each other a bit, eh? Speaking of travelling..."
Dorian glanced at the bartender for a moment, a guilty look on his face as he turned back. "I suggest we start our bally adventure sharpish. I'd rather get out of here before anybeast else gets their neck snapped, mine included. Any moment now that bartender's going to ask me to pay for my drink." Dorian of course, had nothing to pay the bartender. It seemed unless anybeast was willing to pay for him, he would have to do a runner, as the vermin called it.
(OOC: Danker, I suggest we leave the tavern in your post, so we can get started with the adventure! ;D)
Prattle clapped his paws together joyfully as his party gained an additional member. "Right! I think it's time we make our leave. After all we talk while we walk right?" He placed a small bag of silver on the table. "This should cover any bill made by our stay. Lets go shall we?" Prattle signaled the bunch to the exit.
(Not much I know, but it should suffice to get the ball rolling)
Red tried to answer the hare's question but gave up when he realized that there would be no time for any other beast to speak while the hare rambled on. Instead, he surveyed the group critically and Prattle most of all. A beast which claimed to have a map of the great Rugwell must either be mad or lucky, or, he thought with a righ grin, just plain gullible. Nihilus had been right to send him. This beast needed watching.
As Prattle stood and plunked the bag of silver on the table, Red wondered why the stoat was searching for a treasure when he clearly had money. Maybe the stoat was making free with his money since he had the prospect of much more. "In that case," Red thought as he walked toward the door, "there is a chance to get rich without finding treasure." This idea was seeming better all the time.
"I didn't catch your name, miss, If we're going to be travelling together, we might as well get to know each other a bit, eh?
"Kaitlynn," the weasel replied softly. She took the hare's offered paw in greeting. She listened intently as Prattle began speaking, and everyone started out the door. Kaitlynn held back a bit, letting the others go ahead. When they were far enough for comfort, she swiped the small bag of silver before the bartender had seen it. Slipping it into her pouch, she hurried to catch up with the others.
Nihilus noticed her deed, and gave a small nod of approval. He prepared to leave the tavern as well, but a bit behind the others. He had other business to attend to. He trusted Kaitlynn to make sure he received what was "his."
"Well, that's us all acquainted then!" Dorian said as they sallied forth from the tavern. It was warm and sunny outside, the day was full of promise for an adventure, some decent tuck, and back home in time for tea and medals. Well, he'd probably be so rich by the end of the trip he wouldn't need medals, would he? He'd be too busy building a private castle, or having his own personal lake dug out for him, with the riches he'd claim! Dorian grinned at the thought and stretched his limbs, taking in a deep breath of air and blinking as his eyes adjusted to the bright greens of the forest. Before them, either way stretched the dirt path, though it twisted and turned through the fields and woodlands, leading to who-knew-where.
"So, Prattle me lad! Do tell us more about our destination. Up a great blinkin' mountain perhaps? Or is it in a cave underground, wot?" Dorian looked left, then right, his large, perked ears turning this way and that. He swaggered alongside Prattle, his left paw tapping the hilt of his new sword. He was grateful he didn't have to pay a thing for his drink, being chased by angry vermin would not have been a fantastic way to start their lucrative journey. Being rich would be little consolation if they decided to cut off a finger or two as punishment for thievery. Really, some drinking establishments could be downright barbaric to a chap just looking for a cool drink to calm his nerves! Dorian flexed his fingers squeamishly.
"Come along miss Kaitlynn! No dawdlin', by the left!" Dorian blustered in his good-natured, yet over-the-top way. Most of his speech and mannerisms came from his training officers in the Long Patrol, back when he had supposedly been a 'good' hare. Well, all that was jolly well in the past and long forgotten by this point. Dorian had always been greedy even by hare standards, and with a bit of a mean streak and an opportunistic flare, that had led him to abandoning the military lifestyle for banditry. There was less being yelled at and having to wait his turn being a bandit. He could take what he wanted, when he wanted, from whoever was unfortunate enough to get in his way. Sure there was a bit of bullying and fighting to be had, the rat he'd taken the sword from being a case in point. But life was too short and youth was too precious for Dorian to regret his ways. Well, until he'd gotten his bandit friends killed and himself tied to a tree being kicked in the face. He was still smarting over that, but Dorian knew he'd soon forget it once he'd tested out his new sword on whatever beasts challenged them. He was almost itching for a fight, the hare's natural energy putting a spring in his step.
As the group leaves the tavern, Prattle listens to Dorian. "That's a good question." The stoat takes out the map. It's clearly seen better days. The parchment is wrinkled, covered in burn marks and stains, and also had a funky smell. Fortunately, the cartography was still legible. Prattle starts to point out everything on the old map. "Our first stop is here." The illustration shows a tombstone with a bony paw on it. Next to the grave, there was some writing. "Lets see here: 'Avast me hardies! If ye be reedin this, I've croked! Hed to the river side cemetary for ya first cloo!' At least Rug knew enough grammar to make it readable." Hafter clears his throat. "Right, the cemetery Rugwell was mentioning isn't too far from here. It's about three miles down this path." He points to the right.
"Is everyone sure they've got everything they need? 'Cause it'll be a while before we ever come back to this lovely establishment." The stoat asks his team of questionable morality.
Ooc: Sorry Danker but I see no way to go with what you posted unless Red left something behind. Was there something you had in mind?
Kaitlynn hurried up, keeping pace with the others, though slightly behind. She kept a lookout behind the group, checking in the trees for any followers. The weasel peered over Prattle's shoulder at the map, curious about its contents. Rugwell might not have been particularly booksmart, but he knew how to lead beasts on a merry chase, so much so that he had become a legend to most.
"Who is buried in this cemetery?" Kaitlynn asked, "is there a village nearby?"
Prattle listened to the young miss. "This cemetery is the burial site of some of Rug's crew." Prattle rolled the map up and stuck it in his satchel. "As for the contents that's there, I haven't the faintest idea. It could be some parchment with some bizarre code or a hat with a secret compartment. Whatever is there, we need it."
The stoat began walking down the road, company in tow.
(((OOC Just let me know when we're ready for the cemetery.)))
I am, let's get this show going.