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Round Five / Blackwhiskers
« Last post by Thrayjen on September 26, 2017, 09:43:36 AM »
Part One

Thrayjen’s heart stopped in his chest. His body trembled as the nursery door opened with unsettling slowness.

“What in all of River Moss…” a stern voice growled out, and the young marten whose mouth spoke with practised patience followed. “ going on out there?”

Behind the twisted marten, the sound of chatter grew louder and louder. High pitched squeals, giggles, and the familiar noise of children playing stirred the rat’s stomach. For a horrifying moment he barely managed to swallow the whimper that clawed up his throat.

The marten peered up at Aldridge, then Rinam, and finally he rested on Thrayjen. The rat could not look away from the squinting youth.

“I know you,” Marik said as he crossed his arms. “You’re the Blackwhiskers.” The marten’s easy smirk betrayed his nature. “One of my dibbuns told a bedtime story about you. Then none of them could sleep for a week! Thanks for that!”

“Sorry,” Thrayjen shrugged, unable to help himself from smiling. Dramatic stories of evil pirates and the awful Blackwhiskers, of bold heroes and saved innocents reeked of his own weaving.

“What’re you doing here, anyway? Slaves aren’t supposed to be here,” Marik pressed, eyeing the collars around their necks.

Thrayjen lifted his wrist, the metal band flashing. The marten snorted.

“You lost?” The scolding mirth vanished. “Those don’t mean anything here at the top. Any level of the Crater but this one. You’ll have to go back down below now, or I’ll be forced to report you. I’ve got to finish feeding these rascals lunch, so if you’ll excuse me…”

“Wait, please!” Thrayjen stepped forward. “My chi-“

Marik shook his head, turned away, and shut the door with a click.

Thrayjen stared at the door, numb with indecision. A familiar heat flared in Thrayjen’s chest and he raised his fist to the door.

thud-THUD Thud thud

The rat’s knocking echoed down the hall. Within seconds, the door creaked open again and Marik scowled at him from behind the threshold.

“Look, I know what you’re going to ask, and the answer is ‘no’, you can’t come in.”

“Please,” Thrayjen started softly as he gestured to himself. “My children, I…I don’t even know if they’re alive…I’ve heard nothing.”

The marten softened, tilting his head as he looked from the rat to his hopeful companions. With a heavy sigh, Marik pinched the bridge of his nose and grumbled, “What’re their names, then?”

“Helix!” Thrayjen immediately answered. “And Verna. They’re-“

“Hedgehogs,” Marik’s scowl deepened. “What’re you playing at?” He eyed the rat curiously, scratching at his neck in thought. “You’re not the first to come asking questions about those two.”

Thrayjen’s sandy tongue was sluggish in his parched mouth and, lost for words, he stood gaping down at Marik. The marten shifted uneasy and took a step back as his paw, still on the door knob, twitched.

“Please,” Thrayjen pleaded, his voice low and shaking. “Let me see them. Please…”

The marten once again looked from Thrayjen to Rinam and Aldridge. The white mouse smiled hopefully, her paws clasped together over her stomach as she stood beside the anxious but silent stoat. Marik looked behind him then, into the nursery, his face creasing as sympathy and frustration wrenched his brow every which way. Finally, he groaned and stepped aside.

“Be quick,” the marten hissed, looking down the hallway. “The guards are coming by soon and there’s absolutely no one allowed in here without Nire’s written permission!”

“Truly?” Thrayjen squeaked, sure the marten would begin to laugh at any second and close the door again.

“Hurry up,” Marik insisted as he rolled his eyes.

“Go on,” Rinam urged, and her voice stirred him.

The floorboards creaked beneath Thrayjen’s feet and somehow everything felt…sticky. The rat was overwhelmed by the scent of sticky fur, dripping noses, and fresh baked cookies. Every bit of furniture was half the size of one an adult would use and Thrayjen couldn’t stop himself from chuckling as he saw dozens of pictures tacked only a few paw lengths up the wall.

At least a score of dibbuns crowded around a table on the far side of the room, their voices unified as they counted and sang and bickered. While the older children carefully poured ladles of hot soup into wooden bowls, the younger dibbuns banged their spoons and cheered as a fat hedgehog lad with a very serious frown divided out cookies between them all.

Breath wheezed from Thrayjen’s lungs, hot and mournful.


The hedgehog looked up, a cookie poised just above the plate of an eager otter lass. He dropped the treat and an enormous smile spread across his face.

“Papi Thrayjen! Verna, Verna! Papi Thrayjen’s here!”

The hedgehog shoved his chair back and grabbed the paw of a smaller lass with a woolen shawl tangled in her quills. Helix dragged her from her chair and charged forward, past the crowd of his playmates and letting go of his sister’s paw as he squealed in sheer delight.

Thrayjen’s muscles moved on their own accord. Thrayjen’s arms stretched out as he stooped, feet carrying him forward as Helix reached expectantly with chubby paws towards the enormous rat. Emotions flooded his mind and heart as he scooped the little hedgehog’s round body up and pulled him tightly against his chest. Panic, indignation, disappointment, fear, and utter joy smothered and choked the rat until his eyes poured and conversation was foreign.

“Helix, my sweet Helix, oh my boy, I’ve missed you so…” The name, clutched to his tongue as tightly as the child himself, was repeated over and over with unleashed happiness. Action seized him and the rat’s claws combed through the hedgehog’s quills, brushing crumbs and hidden snacks from between the rows, grooming his whispers with spit, all in between tight hugs and kissed cheeks. The giggling child squealed the whole time, tickled with affection, but eager to return the embraces of his long lost guardian.

“Are you all right?”


“Do they feed you?”


“Has anyone hurt you?”



Such a soft voice was barely heard above the onslaught of questions but it ground Thrayjen’s jaw to a stop. His dark eyes raised to meet her soft grey ones and the child’s face bore a look of lost confusion.

“Verna…” Thrayjen whispered, shifting Helix in his arms. She trembled as she looked from him to Helix.

“My little Sweetnose,” Thrayjen said with quivering lips. “My little Verna, come see me? Please?”

Still she hesitated.

“I told you he’d come back, Verna!” Helix said cheerfully. “I told you he wouldn’t forget us!” Helix looked up at the rat and gestured towards the door and the winding halls of the Drag. “We saw you light up the magic fire one night! Marik let us stay up late because he said that the fire show was safe for us to watch because he doesn’t want us to watch the fighting shows because Marik said that it could give us nightmares!”

The child laughed, grinning from ear to ear.

“I told everybody a bedtime story and they had nightmares. I didn’t, though! I’m braver than everybody. Fable has lots of nightmares. Verna said she saw the Blackwhiskers through the window when me and Fable and her snuck out one time, and she had nightmares! I didn’t see, though…”

Thrayjen couldn’t help but hold Helix tighter, wondering with amazement when the hedgehog had learned to form his words properly. Gone was the infant’s accent. He was bigger, both in girth and in height, and his quills had grown longer and darker.

Gone, too, was Thrayjen’s happiness. Verna wouldn’t come to him. She was frightened.

Frightened of you

“Verna, please,” Thrayjen said, his pitch rising with the cracking of his voice. “I’ve missed you so much…”

“You need to go, now.” Marik nervously eyed the door.

“No,” Thrayjen insisted. “Verna, Sweetnose, come here. It’s all right, it’s just me…”

“The guards will be by on their patrol and they check in; you need to go now,” the marten insisted.

Aldridge stood over him, looking down with uncertain eyes at the rat who steadfast refused to look away from the hedgehogs.

“Nooo!” Helix clutched tightly at Thrayjen, who looked despairingly at Verna. Aldridge’s paw upon his shoulder loosened Thrayjen’s arms but it was Verna who coaxed him to let Helix go. Her tears rolled down her face and an otter lass embraced her in a careful hug, prompting the small child to wail.

Marik straightened himself as much as he could and tried soothing the crying hedgehog.

“Say good bye, babies,” Marik murmured, taking up Helix’s paw and nodding to Aldridge as the stoat began to pull Thrayjen away.

“I’ll come back,” Thrayjen croaked, holding onto Helix’s clinging paw even as Aldridge guided him away. “I’ll come back!” the rat promised once more.

“But I wanna to go home,” Helix said, his lower lip shaking as he pulled himself away from his marten caretaker and curled his paws towards himself. “I wanna see Nan!”

“You will see them again,” Aldridge urged, murmuring into Thrayjen’s ears as the rat gasped and hesitated. “But not like this. We’ll work something out. We’ll get you back to them.”

Fresh tears, cold without joy, blurred Helix’s form as Thrayjen followed the stoat. He felt numb, barely able to lift his head and look back as Helix’s crying carried him out the door and into the hallway. The door clicked shut and a deadbolt lock slid into place with a resounding clank.

“Are you all right?”

Thrayjen nodded at the question, trying to convince himself that he had gotten more than he had hoped for with the short visit. The pain of hope still clung to him, unwilling to stop its rampage since it had seized him the day he discovered his hedgehogs might just be alive. To know they not only lived but to feel Helix’s warmth still on his paws, to know the children lay just on the other side of a simple door…

Fire in his chest spurred Thrayjen to clench his teeth and hiss. He seethed as anger boiled within.

“We should go, though.” Aldridge’s voice sent writhing tremors down Thrayjen’s spine. The rat’s whiskers twitched. “Coins can only buy so many minutes for us.“

“You stopped us,” Thrayjen said, his voice so quiet that Aldridge walked several pace before realizing he was being spoken to. “At the top of the stairs,” Thrayjen continued, his voice rising and suddenly he was marching down the hallway towards the stoat.

“You stopped me. You didn’t want me to see them, after…after everything…”

“Blame not the bowyer.” Rinam’s voice, stern and kind, halted the rat. “All That Is demanded a moment, but still gave you time with your loved ones. Be grateful for what you gained. It’s more than most will ever know.”

“IT WASN’T ENOUGH!” Thrayjen’s scream sent Rinam recoiling.

“Easy,” Aldridge scolded. He frowned, reaching to comfort Thrayjen with another paw upon his shoulder but the rat smacked him away.

“You stole my time away. I could have seen more of them! I could have reached Verna. She was scared and she just needed ANOTHER DAMN MINUTE!”


“QUIET,” Thrayjen roared, stepping towards Aldridge and thrusting his chin into the stoat’s face. “She needed me and I couldn’t help her. I didn’t have time and it’s your fault!”

”Ridiculous. Rinam’s head was full of Adeen’s ink, and that alone would have taken you both into the grasp of the tyrant with no thought for your own survival. More time would have left you dead.”

Rinam nodded in agreement, but to no avail.


The yelling attracted beasts that craved dramatic entertainment. From the suites along the hallway’s length, various beasts opened their doors and stepped outside in curiosity.

“Don’t you dare pretend to,” Thrayjen warned. “You don’t’ know what it’s like to lose your family. You couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to have someone torn from you when all you wanted to do was care for them!” The rat’s lips curled back until all his teeth were bared viciously at Aldridge. “Just like with my father.”

The stoat gaped, holding up his paws in protest. ”Currathalla died naturally, and well, and he loved you til the end."

“Oh?” The rat’s head tilted to such an extreme angle his entire body seemed crooked as he backed Aldridge down the hall and towards the stairs. “Every piece of advice I tried to give Curathalla…every single time I tried to help him, there you were, whispering things into his ears, telling him you knew best, undermining me as I tried to help my father!”

”Slaughter doesn’t work forever. Rebellion always rises. The beasts of Rogues’ Reach rose against your father three times in twelve seasons, and you would have had him slaughter everybeast there. And yet when the theatre was built and the playwrights got to work, did they rise again? I helped your father, where I could.“

“You made him weak,” the rat growled, shoving the stoat backwards to accentuate his point, to intimidate, to cow, to prove to the stoat that he would not let him get away with his meddling.

“That’s the Blackwhiskers talking,” Aldridge snapped sharply, his own teeth beginning to slide out. “That’s the selfish prince who wanted the world. That’s not you, Thrayjen.”

“We both know that’s a lie,” the rat said, voice low and sultry. A smirk curled towards his eyes as he began to roll his sleeves up. “You don’t believe the Blackwhiskers is dead. She doesn’t, either.” He jabbed a claw in Rinam’s direction. His tongue slathered about his maw. “Nobody does. Why should I keep bothering, then? The Blackwhiskers gets what he wants.”

The crack of his fist off Aldridge’s jaw rang like a bell and immediately the beasts in the hallway divided themselves. Some called for bets, for the stoat to fight back, for the rat to put him in his place. Others hollered for guards.

Aldridge stumbled back and fell; Thrayjen leapt after him with claws and fangs and lashing tail. Rinam tried to stand between the two males, calling for order, only to be flung back as her comrades collided.

They swung at each other, stoat falling to a sweep from Thrayjen’s tail. Aldridge attempted throwing Thrayjen from him, but the rat gleefully perched on the stoat’s chest and delivered punch after punch. Blood and fur flew through the air as they rolled and bit into each other, hides scarring with fresh marks and gouges appearing in the floorboards when their claws missed.

The jeering in the hallway grew louder but the heavy sounds of boots came louder still. A tray dropped, glasses shattered, and beasts snapped and groaned as guards fought through the crowd of spectators.

“What is goin’ on here?!”

The voice was foreign, drowned out by Thrayjen’s rage. Paws grabbed at his arms and tried to haul him off of the stoat, but the rat merely cracked his tail against whoever had dared try to pry him from righteous wrath. Still the guards tried, and he turned from Aldridge as his patience wore out. The rat reared up and slammed his fist into the pretty face of a blue eyed ferret.

Immediately, everything stopped.

“Oh no,” Thayjen breathed. Aldridge echoed the statement through a bloodied nose. Every ounce of anger fled from Thrayjen’s body and his mind cleared. He stepped back and raised his paws to his mouth.

Blue sprawled on the floor, her cheek split from the rat’s knuckles. Her paws scrabbled at the floor as she searched for her balance. Behind her, guards in Crater uniforms shoved aside the crowd of bystanders. Redshore the otter headed them, smirking when he saw Blue on the ground.

“I’m…so sorry, Miss Blue,” Thrayjen whispered through clenched teeth.

“Not yet you’re not,” Redshore informed him. He stabbed Thrayjen in the side and Thrayjen grimaced, looking down at the familiar blue dart that would send him into a dead sleep. His vision blurred, from regret or from the sleeping serum, he did not know. Aldridge and Rinam were no longer there, but their shadows lingered on the stairwell long enough for Thrayjen to catch Blue’s sharp eyes and silent tongue blessing the subtle escape.

“I didn’t mean it, Miss Blue,” Thrayjen beseeched the ferret as she finally stood. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”

The rat begin to feel the pull of the dart’s ambitious alchemy. It had taken two to bring him into sleep the first time, as well as a bash to the head, but Thrayjen simply let himself sink to the floor.


The hours crawled along. Thrayjen lingered in a state of half-consciousness until the cold and damp coaxed him into waking. He lay on his side, soaking in a pool of water that trickled in through a crack in the stonework, and simply stared into nothingness.

Nan. Helix. Verna.

Each name, once a glorious symbol of his abandoning the influences of his heritage, became desecrated.

Verna was scared of you. Scared of the Blackwhiskers. Of you. Scared of me…of what I’ve done for her…

He had not attacked Aldridge for the hedgehog lass, or her brother, or their safety. Aldridge’s pain had been for him, and the Blackwhiskers had enjoyed every second of the stoat’s suffering. Every word Curathalla spoke to Aldridge instead of Thrayjen, every smile that should have been his, had broken out and in doing so had broken him. The Blackwhiskers won; he always got what he wanted, and he wanted blood.

I’ve ruined everything. I couldn’t stop myself. Every beast I’ve hurt for Nire, everything I’ve done to find my family…

Thrayjen slowly sat up.

I didn’t want any of this. The rat’s tongue nudged against his gold tooth. I didn’t want to hurt any beast… His notched ear flicked. Oh Nan, what have I done…I’m just a filthy vermin after all.

Nire. The lynx would use the hedgehogs, Thrayjen didn’t doubt, and demand carnage from the rat. Together, they would be used up and worn out and thrown away when the Crater sands called for blood.

And I’ll keep giving him what he wants. Whatever my loyalty could have bought was thrown out the moment I struck Blue. Helix, Verna my Sweetnose…you were safer without me trying to find you. I should have left you alone, like Blue said…

The screaming of unoiled metal from down the corridor failed to stifle Thrayjen’s despairing thoughts.

I’ve lost.

Two sets of paw steps approached, though Thrayjen only recognized the hard falls of Hargorn’s peg leg. The weasel eyed Thrayjen as he stopped directly in front of his cell, looping his claws into his belt and spitting at the slave.

“Nice manners an’ fancy titles ain’t helping you? Poor widdle ratty,” Hargorn chuckled at his own joke.

Thrayjen stayed his gaze low and missed the second body that followed Hargorn.

“Eh, well, yew’ve still got some friends, though, ah…” The weasel leaned against the cell bars, watching Thrayjen carefully. “Yew wouldn’t catch me near the Blackwhiskers, not without that there collar ‘round yer neck and a short leash attached…”

The weasel ushered the second beast forward with prodding paws. He meandered back down the corridor as he eyed the orange fruit bat who looked upon Thrayjen with large, curious eyes.

“Mister Hracken…?”

He was unable to stop the small smile. An evening spent at the bar, sharing drinks with Sly while Kentigern swung Kali around the room in a ferocious dance, was his fondest yet of the Crater. Both Sly and Kentigern were dead, though, and Thrayjen assured himself he’d be not long after his former drinking mates.

“Miss Kali,” Thrayjen greeted her gently, barely raising his eyes except to see if she was truly there.

The bat stood silently, rubbing her neck with her wingtips, glancing every which way except at him. Several times she opened her mouth to speak but not once did she speak.

“Is there something you’d like to hear?”

It was surreal to see Kali, the epitome of enthusiasm and glee, with a collar of her own around her neck; Thrayjen pitied the poor beast’s fate.

Kali drew a deep breath, holding it until her plump cheeks quivered.

“Is what they say true?”

“Aye,” Thrayjen sighed.

“I’ve heard some nasty things, from guards, and slaves, and even some beasts in the stand.”

“It’s true, Miss Kali,” Thrayjen said, his insistency turned to irritation. Was she hoping he’d tell her that what she’d heard were all lies? That he was just the sweet gentlerat that rubbed her back and held her ears back as she vomited up her attempts at carnivorous intimidation?

Before today, you could have told her ‘yes’.

“So,” Kali said, her lip turning up. “You really did eat babies?”

“No,” Thrayjen answered quickly, eager to dispel what was, in fact, myth. Kali sighed in relief, but the rat only shook his head. Sweet Kali deserved to know.

“There was a village I suspected of harbouring thieves that stole a pay cart on its way to one of the iron mines. I had every infant under five seasons skinned alive and their hides turned into gloves and hats.”

Kali had to physically close her jaw as she reared back, a single toe keeping her from scattering across the ground.

“I made their mothers watch so that nobeast from that village would dare contemplate stealing from my father’s coffers again."

“You…MONSTER,” Kali shrieked. “I thought you were a NICE guy!”

“I thought so too, once,” Thrayjen stated, shrugging. “Now I know better. I’m where I belong down here, Kali. I hope that brings you some comfort”

Thrayjen went to turn away, unwilling to further destroy Kali’s perception of him. It hurt to see her face wrench in disgust, to know she had come to hear him sooth her concerns only to break her heart.

“How can you just…just SAY it like that?! Like it was nothing? You murdered babies! Y-y-you murdered babies, and you touched me! You BABY EATING FIEND! Aug!”

Kali flailed her wings, brushing her fur as though she could clean the memory of Thrayjen’s paws away. The rat closed his eyes again.

Celine tried that, too.

“How did you pretend to be so nice for so long?!” the bat demanded, still twisting as she combed her fur. She managed to twist herself until she fell with a yelp, her rump hitting the ground hard.

“I didn’t pretend,” Thrayjen said quietly, repeating himself when Kali squinted in question. “I…I left those dark days behind, a long time ago. I left home, I left my kingdom, my culture, my family, and I made a new life for myself.” He steadied his jaw, holding himself up as he tried to coax his regret back down. “And those days are gone now, too.”

Kali shuffled forward, dragging herself along the ground until she wrapped her wingtips around the metal bars that separated them.

“Gone where?”

Here,” Thrayjen said. “The Crater. With the other broken hopes and dreams of every beast that bears a collar.”


“You foolish little imp,” Thrayjen cursed. He leapt to his feet and paced towards the wall. “Nire. Nire takes everything from everyone. He took my family, he took away my peace, my freedom…Our lives will join his collection soon enough, Miss Kali. The sooner the better, personally. I never wanted to be the Blackwhiskers again. Never wanted to hear that damned name, but Nire brought it back to life and here I stand!” The rat gestured to himself and barked out a single exasperated laugh. “Doing everything he says so that I can try and save my children.”

The rat let himself topple, landing with a shallow splash and dropping his head into his paw.

“I never should have told him. I should have just kept lying. I’ve been an idiot. I played his game too long and I lost, Kali.”

Thrayjen flexed his fingers, the bruises and broken skin a reminder of how far he had fallen into the cat’s paw.

“And I’ve hurt the only beasts who wanted to help me.”

The bat sneered, standing and drawing herself to her full height. “You’re an idiot, all right. Blabbering about a big secret like being a miserable baby murdering, blood loving, nasty tyrant.”

Thrayjen shrugged.

“You should go, now.” Thrayjen cupped his paw into the water, slurping from his palm. “A bright beast like you can’t thrive in this kind of darkness. Don’t think of me anymore, Miss Kali. It was kind of you to visit, but I’m not the fellow who sang with you and showed you sympathy once upon a time. He’s just another victim of the Crater. Think of the Blackwhiskers; maybe he’ll be the one to kill you one day.”

Kali backed up, her wings loosening from the cell bars.

“You can’t mean that.”

Thrayjen brought another pawful of water to his lips.

“I came here for a new beginning,” Kali whispered. “I thought this would be my grandest stage yet, but all I’ve found here is misery and hopelessness.”

“Hope is a plague.”

“No, it isn’t,” Kali growled. The rat at last looked up, taken aback by her tone and furthermore by the expression of sheer determination on her face.

“Eleven beasts had hope that I would save them,” Kali continued, her gravelly snarl simmering into anger. “Eleven beasts, and I saved one.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Kali,” Thrayjen offered half-heartedly.

“That one beast is why I won’t lose hope, Mister Blackwhiskers. Hracken. Thrayjen. Whoever you are! There’s one beast alive because of me, and that means all the world to her! One beast can make a difference! It only takes one beast to help another, and when there are many helping many then things can change!”

Thrayjen’s ears twitched. Her words were the lyrics of forgotten songs, melodies of hope and of freedom. Those songs were no longer sung.

“That sounds suspiciously like propaganda,” the rat said, eyeing Kali through narrowed eyes. “You haven’t been speaking to Trainer Hapley, have you?”

For a moment it looked as though Kali had been excited by the mention of the tod but she quickly collected herself. Clearing her throat, she mumbled a slow, “Nooo…?”

“That doesn’t sound convincing.” Thrayjen frowned at her. “I’m going to warn you, like I did Kentrith. Kali, look at me. Look at me. No, that’s a spider. Kali!” The rat whipped his tail; it sliced into the pooling water and the smacking noise startled Kali to strict attention.

From down the hallway, Hargorn coughed.

“Rebellions never prosper,” Thrayjen whispered slowly, enunciating every word.


“No, Miss Kali,” Thrayjen interrupted her, biting back his annoyance. “Rebellions fail. Beasts die. The world moves on. Business as usual.”

The rat sighed, his frustration spent. He hung his head again, despair curling his shoulders down until his nose frothed against the stone. Minutes passed in tense silence, the soft dripping of water timing their breaths.

“Would you rather die a villain,” Kali began, her voice cracking as she bravely restrained angry tears. “Or would you rather die trying to help those who deserve better?”

“I’ll do whatever I have to…to protect my children,” Thrayjen replied lowly.

“Then help the resistance,” Kali whispered. “They want to help, and they’re trying. They’re trying to help so many beasts here…”

The bat reached between the cell bars, urging Thrayjen to take her thumbclaw.

“Hope is what you make it, Mister Thrayjen. You wanted to become a better beast, then let somebody help you fight what Nire wants you to be.”

Thrayjen stared at her outstretched wing. She was unwavering, the leathery skin and thin bones completely still. Her eyes, wide and earthen and bright as summer, gleamed with hardened determination.


Kali pleaded softly, patient as she offered him all of her hope and her dreams and her forgiveness in a single look. It shook the rat’s very soul, easing away his regrets and his despair, offering him a chance that he had not tasted since Nan opened her door to him for the first time.

“Because you’re worth it,” Kali cooed, nuzzling the rat’s scarred face. “Every life is worth the bother.”
Contest Discussion / Re: Setting Sail
« Last post by Airan on September 21, 2017, 10:16:56 PM »
I've messaged you privately. Please respond.
Contest Discussion / Re: Setting Sail
« Last post by Ander on September 21, 2017, 09:27:18 PM »
Adieu, matey.

See you elsewhere.
Contest Discussion / Re: Setting Sail
« Last post by Laurence Copeland on September 21, 2017, 08:31:53 PM »
I'm sorry to hear things haven't been working out so well. You were a great teacher, and a super talented writer.

Wishing you the best of luck on all future endeavors, mate!
Contest Discussion / Setting Sail
« Last post by Tooley Bostay on September 21, 2017, 08:01:53 PM »
Hey everybody.

When I first joined the community, it was with fairly great trepidation and hesitation. Wasn't sure if this whole "Survivor Contest" deal was a worthwhile pursuit, but, against much fear, I applied anyway. Imagine my surprise when I ended up having the time of my life! I learned so much about the art of writing, I got to do some nifty art collabs with people, heck, I even made some people cry with my death post! More importantly, I was introduced to some wonderful people I'm proud to call friends.

Behind the scenes, the Survivor community has shifted toward greater strife and drama. Unfortunately, these fractures haven't faded with time, but rather have gotten worse. I'm not having the same enjoyment and fun with the group that I used to have, and I certainly do not want to inadvertently contribute to the troubles going on right now. Therefore, I've decided to take a step back from the community on an active level. This wasn't an easy decision, nor one made hastily. I've thought about this for many months, and come to the conclusion that this is necessary.

I want to thank everyone who has written with me, who has left reviews, who has helped make this place be the wonderful experience that I had. Truly, it's been a pleasure, and I'll cherish those memories throughout my life.
Round Five / Sleeping Sickness
« Last post by Adeen Pinebarrow on September 21, 2017, 10:26:24 AM »
"Will ye please talk wit' me?" said Fletch. "Miss Mayor?”

Fletch the ferret apprentice twisted in place before Rinam. She lounged, near bare, in the back corner of one of The Drag's coveted storage caves, atop a bed of fine cloth and feathers plucked from fallen avian combatants. A few times arena veterans demanded the prime space. In quashing their complaints she gained yet more trophies: tournament belts, coin pouches, and even a love letter she did not read. The battered mouse only flipped the pages of the journal on her lap, a blanket of bandages winding along her body.

At the center of the display, directly above Rinam's feathered throne, hung a torn cloak stitched with golden poppies.

"C'mon...I said I was sorry. She paid me a lot, y'know. A. Lot. I didn't mean t'hurt yew, honest."

The Widow paid Fletch forty silver pieces, as the journal recounted. Forty silver for bellowing about Rinam's ambush at the dinner table, hiding Adeen’s journal, and delivering it onto Rinam should things go wrong. The margins beside the expenditure listed calculations of how much was too much, or too little, for an "ambitious young ferret seeking validation."

Rinam read through a few more pages before replying.

"That is the point," said Rinam. "If you've a price for one thing, you've a price for another. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Miss Ma...Miss Rinam." He wiggled towards the cave's exit, but stopped short of leaving. "Am I still fired?"

"...we received a shipment of onions this morning. The guards are expecting us to clean and prepare them." Fletch jumped in place and offered incorrect pawsigns of gratitude. "Go, and start mincing. I'll join you after I dress."

Rinam dove back into the journal as soon as Fletch left. The book ran the thickness of a fist, and near every page crammed full with accounts of Crater beasts and their uses.

The mouse quivered as she opened to random pages. Every margin bristled with the vole's tight script, evaluating the data the main page contained.

...Moor’s undoing lies therein. Start with the youngest, should the need arise...

...The North is an organization which cannot stand. Split by conflicting ideals and inad…

...why Nire pulls the cord escapes me, yet it is a nightly ritual and I cannot locate...

...Rinam of the Cellar...

The obvious stood before Rinam. She did not search for herself in the journal as the weaknesses of future arena opponents took precedent. But now, at random, the entry called.

Known as: kitchen mouse, Mayor of Bastion, The Pearl Dawn, Chief Hechet's first Daughter-Son

A slam as she snapped the book shut and searched for a distraction.

Rinam unfolded a simple, scarlet dress her match winnings afforded. The ensemble came with slippers, a beaded hat, and a satchel too small for carrying anything important. She disregarded the slippers and hat, but kept a pair of bangles tucked into the small satchel.

The bracelets wrapped firm on her bandaged wrists, and already she saw the cheap metal strain. This was not the work of a Mouse of Dawn, for their adornments were born of desert gold, which remained strong against any sandstorm.

Rinam passed a hanging sheet of polished metal and saw her reflection. The bandaged gladiator in a thin, pressed dress was not a Mouse of Dawn, was not Hechet's first Daughter-Son.

She opened the Widow’s journal once more, and found her name again. Near every detail of her home's subjugation lined the pages, from the repelled Rapscallion settlers, to the diplomatic banners of Southsward, to the installment of Bastion and Duke Granz.

The ink ran sharper at the bottom, smeared from the haste of writing.

Rinam, open the 17th earmark

A fallen beast's last command. Rinam’s claw ticked off the folded corners of the journal, until she found the 17th. No filigree or adornment filled this page. Only tight lines spidered from margin to margin.

If you are reading this then my planning failed and I've passed.

Perhaps Canen overcame me, perhaps you did in the arena. It matters not. If you own this book, and Fletch saw it to your paws, then Canen is dead as well. My plan did not follow the correct path, but we can take pride in his end as we you continue. It's likely you're a gladiator if Nire did not execute you outright - consult earmark 5 if you're imprisoned indefinitely. If gladiator remains the case, then you must compete until your name becomes a regularity in the betting pools. Fame will keep you safe, as it's the only thing Nire must respect. It would've for me if I let The Widow grow, but you've training where I have had none.

If Speakeasy kept his part of our bargain, then your dagger rests in The Hall of Greats. Search for Prowler Envar and Tanra the Terror. A hollow behind their placard hides your weapon, various levers (earmark 3 for lists of the blackmailed beasts,) and a measure of sleeping powder (a pinch buys you an hour, a palmful approaches death.) If you're unsure of your approach, then I've included all cleaning and patrol schedules on the reserve of this page.

True to her written word, Rinam found names and estimated times on the reverse of the page. The timings included the heightened security, and even then many gaps in coverage remained.

By now you know my intentions, or, rather, my lack thereof. I'd no home to return to, no family to find. But you do. In following you I found a beast of strength I cannot know. You care for your apprentice though he's beyond your kind. You pray and believe though fate has taken much from you. I would see you continue safely as you rid this prison of its warden.


Again, Rinam saw him smiling from the stands as Canen fell, as The Widow charged.

Earmark 19 details how you can best reach Nire. Felling him will prove easy between my knowledge and your strength. But what happens after? Therein lies the challenge. No amount of research can reveal what chaos dethroning the lynx will unleash. Some have proven they wish to take his seat. Many others will simply flee. Trust no other lest your back become a ladder's rung.

Use this journal and keep the throne empty, Rinam. With it you can keep The Mice of Dawn, and all of Mossflower, safe.

"What?” She reread the ‘Mice of Dawn’ line again and again. “But I am alone..."

She turned the page. A trio of names, with one line beneath each, centered an otherwise blank sheet.

Master Kadar of the Iron Sea
Gravedigger at St. Zivesta's Mission, confirmed through Mortician Muda's supplier.

Master Pavaiz the Wind's Muse
Tavern wh server at the Arbington, confirmed by boasts of volunteer gladiators.

Miss Safira, Where Water Once Flowed
Courier for East Northvale Trading Company, infrequent arena attendee.

"They live." Rinam set down the journal and rose. "She knew!?"

The instinct for paw signs, for clarity through the design of All That Is, demanded she still, but the evidence centered the page so clear, so damning. The Mice of Dawn still lived, and even in death the Widow saw Rinam’s faith in her web rewarded.

Adeen's cloak still smelt of whiskey and blood, but Rinam wore the garment hood down and drawn at the shoulders. She left the bandolier of scrolls, but holstered the journal on a belt clasp.

The dagger waited, and Rinam would not any longer.


"My've changed."


Adeen willed herself forward and the elements obliged. Her heart sang as her love waited only petals away.

The wife stretched her arms, prepared for an embrace. The husband kept his arms at his sides. One passed through the other as a ship through fog. Once, twice, until her claws whipped frantically through Fenton's chest.

"Why can't I..." said Adeen. "What's happening!?"

Flames rose on every horizon as she panicked. With each thrash they drew closer, a ring of fire igniting the poppies and doubling the scent of bitter-sweet smoke.

"What is this?" Again, feebly, Adeen reached for Fenton but found only air. "Please...I..."

"This is the end, dearheart."

"But we’re apart..."

"This is your end. I'm here to see that it becomes our end."

Fenton waved a paw across Adeen's body and the damage returned. Her face twisted from pottery shards, her thighs and hips ran white with blade and claw slashes, and her skull and body riddled with clotted impacts. Adeen screamed, and smoke blotted the sun as the flames approached faster.

Fenton waved his paw once again and the scars vanished, the wildfires halted. He smiled though the effort of keeping his wife whole, and the fires aside, dulled his image about the edges.

"These are the choices you made." Fenton lowered until his paws graced the flowers. "Ugly within and without, but these can heal. If you wake then they must heal, or else..."

"I'm...I'm still alive?"

"In a fashion. You're between. Close enough so I may see you, but too far to touch."

"Then there's still hope..."

"Yes." Fenton smiled. "Hope remains, my poppy. Let me show you."

A well opened at the center of the poppies, gel-like and translucent. The colors therein coalesced into a picture of Adeen in the waking world. The scribe lie on a table before a wooden wall covered in symbols. A pair of tea-filled censers hung above Aldridge, who sat at her side and held her paw.

"You were saved by this stoat and his friends. Your kindness in honoring his loved ones was repaid in kind." Fenton tilted his head and dismissed the well. "And their willingness keeps you between, but only between."

Adeen lowered herself down, expressionless as she watched the patch of dirt where the well once circled.

“Are Silva and Thrane with you?" said Adeen.

“With me, aye. Older and able, though you’d recognize them at once. She’s my stunning good looks and he has your, ah, creativity.” Fenton chuckled but Adeen only smirked for half a second. “Only I could afford to meet you here. With effort we’ll be together again.”

“But I did everything right. Or at least…" The snarl only barely kept from the vole's muzzle. "What must I do? Must I bow before some altar. Must I recover a relic of power."

“There are things you’ve left undone, things you must decide.”

"Things left undone...then Nire’s alive." Only then did she notice the flowers passed through her as well, though she smelt the smoke and saw them ignite only yards away. "The lynx, show me. Is my plan at least in motion? Did Rinam fail?"

She did not look up as Fenton passed before her, as he folded his paws and wrung.

"That’s not what I meant, but...but is that what you wish?"

"The fall of tyrants? It is all I wish."

"But this is what brought you here." Fenton knelt before her and she turned away. "I-is there nothing more?"

"There is nothing else so long as the cat and his ilk live." Adeen walked through her husband and pawed at the ground where the well once stood. "He's the reason I'm here; he's the reason anybeast suffers!"

“You cannot mean that. Have you forgotten what happened...?”

“I have not. Every fang of Nire’s grin, the rhythm of Hargorn’s...insistence, and every note of Canen’s screams." Adeen clutched at her own shoulders, as if fending off the cold. "All suffer at the paws of kings, and we’ll be together once they’re struck down. I know now as I did then. Soon, my love. Rinam will cut the cat down and see us together.”

The husband stepped back as the wife clenched her fist. He raised his paws to the sky, dread growing on his face as he took in the words Adeen would not hear.

", please!" Fenton spoke with the sky, with the clouds now swirling above. "She’s only blind. Give me more time, more-!"

Fenton wept, and dissipated to nothingness at his wife's verdict.

Her scars returned, the fire advanced. Adeen tried floating away, but the elements no longer obeyed. The flames did not ignite her battered hide when they closed about her, and the smoke did not fill her lungs. Only on realizing did she open her eyes.

The host of Hellgates rose from the poppy ash.

Blazing iron, molten and laced with razor vines, erupted from where the flowers once stood. Ever high the gate climbed, cutting the smoke-filled horizon in half with lattice walls which extended beyond sight.

Bodies writhed behind the strained, locked bars. Infinite vermin who dashed against walls at their master's call, woodlanders who kept their hearts and minds in cages of their own design, forgotten kings and peasants alike. Bare and broken they intertwined, until their charred bones tore from their forms and constructed into gigantic, ember claws and a piecework fox skull.

The clawtips reached through the bars, stretching for another soul.

“I...” No gravel churned in Adeen’s throat before the gnashing muzzle of the dread vixen. “I never wanted to…”

The skeletal colossus pulled along the ground, ever closer for Adeen's hide. She could not run, or consult her journal, or summon the ink which kept her-

“Bastion is not safe with beasts like Canen and Granz above us. Their greed will wash away another, and then another, until this jail fills.”

The jail before her bristled.

“Then take a page from old nettle-noggin and help poor beasts stay out of the storm. Or you can keep slashing at the sky for the rain.”

The sky above her surged, the clouds reflecting the image of herself in the well.

Aldridge sat motionless before her broken body, before the wall of symbols uniting all under his care as one. The ‘would-be king’ only wished her safe; her friend brought all beasts together for the good of The Crater.

“This is all...”

Adeen’s whisper stuttered across her muzzle. As the words summoned her scars sealed away, her body returned, the claws slowed.

“This is all my fault.”

Energy the scent of cinnamon and citrus, of Eastern white tea, burst forth in the space between the skeletal remains and its prey, repelling the imminent swipe. Adeen curled into a ball behind the aegis, trembling between the truth and the end.

Every body beyond the Gates pressed their muzzles against the bars. They spoke as one, their voice vulpine and infinite as Adeen huddled.

"Soon, my daughter. Soon."


Rinam found Tanra the Terror.

As the journal promised, not a soul tread the Hall of Greats though the vandalized mural loomed over all. The Tanra plaque hung in an unassuming corner, between a stone statue of a badger gladiator and a case of scrolls. She only brushed the corner before the memorial gave loose and spilled into her waiting paws.

A satchel of powder and a sheath of paper binding objects unseen.

The glint of gold.

The rondel fit neat into Rinam's paw. A backpaw stance, a few strikes at the air before her, a switch of paws as she repeated the pattern twice over. She added the stepwork into the routine, and she found the rhythm ever easier with her heirloom in paw.

The dance would see Nire broken, see her kind and more free.

"A reader and a dancer. A rare find in these cold halls."

Rinam recognized the voice at once, and turned with her dagger at the ready. The Blackwhiskers stood at the opposite end of the hall, and approached in measured steps. The mouse and blade remained poised all the same, sharper still when he halted only a pike's length between them.

Thrayjen took in the rough cut of Rinam's tunic, the flow of Adeen's cloak along her sides...

A stomp brought the savage rat from his studying.

"This hall is meant to be empty. Who let you free?"

"Some of us have more than kitchen duties on our side." The Blackwhiskers raised his wrist, showing a metal bracelet with a box and arrow carved along - freedom for the enslaved along the lower tiers. "And sneak all you will, but your little book does not watch your back. I could, you know. If I may be so bold..."

"Fools and jesters, you and the stoat alike. You both can barely hide your greed in the asking. Speak plain. I will not suffer honeyed words."

Rinam tightened her grip, expecting a charge from the great rat for her goading. Instead, he looked away, and studied the badger statue as he spoke.

"The Widow would know the whereabouts of most beasts, yes? There are a few...dear to me that I wish to know of. Nothing more."

The journal hung heavy from Rinam's belt, and her ashen paw gripped the rondel tighter.

"You've pulled at innards as a dibbun gathers yarn. 'Dear' takes a different meaning between you and I."

"Does it?" He drew closer, to where only one twitch of her forearm would see the rat gutted. "You wear the cloak and follow the word of one you savaged. Where is your excuse? Where is your honor?"

"Charges of honor from a Rapscallion. Your claws grasped for my home, and now for my last treasures." The word 'treasures' stuck in Rinam's throat, but she barreled through. "My reasons are my own, their weight worthy."

"As are mine!" He leaned forward, until their noses almost touched. Rinam felt the reflex to strike, but her heart betrayed what her mind had made. "Are you a monster for doing what you must?"

The rat's nostrils flared. Once, twice, until Rinam knew he sniffed for more than breath. She glowed pink beneath the fur, and lashed out with her off paw. The punch caught him between the ribs, and he stumbled back coughing.

"Stay back." The rat obliged and backed up a few more paces. Rinam drew the journal with her off paw and set it flat upon the scroll shelf. "Their names."

"H-helix. And Verna. They’re hedgehog pups. Boy and a girl."

A flutter of pages, and the mouse found the inventory of children under Nire's care. A farmer's daughter who asked far too many questions, a too-old rat maid who kept mostly mute by choice, and...

Helix, male, hedgehog, dependent youth.
Brother of Verna. Penchant for gluttony, shown in his squirrel-like habits and form. Content and simple besides.

Verna, female, hedgehog, dependent youth.
Sister of Helix. Enabler. Eager to please, and bends before authority. Somehow not under the Crater's spell; homesick.

The top of the inventory set their location as Upper Tier, East end of the 'suites.' Rinam bit her lip, realizing her capture, their intent of murdering Canen, happened only a hall's length from slumbering babes.

Rinam searched the margins and beside the hoglets ran two short lines.

Unclear origin, perhaps addled. They claim they're related to a rat.

Rinam's head tilted as she struggled with the logistics, but soon realized the giant vermin could adopt as easily as her tribemates cared for one another's young. The reasoning eluded her still; the reasoning no longer mattered as a plan formed.

She took her time in closing the journal, in securing its holster and hiding her dagger behind. Only after she straightened the hem of her makeshift tunic, only after she raised Adeen's hood and vanished within, did she respond.

"Your bracelet will not allow you near, but I can see us safely there." Rinam patted the journal in affirmation. "Understand that you're in my debt."

"They're alive? They're safe!?"

"We shall see. Right now." The taste of ink flooded black and inevitable, until her voice churned like gravel. A large rat would be of use in distracting Nire's guards. Enough for a beast her size to slip in and strike. "But I've a task for you in kind. Do you understand?"

"Of course. Yes...yes! All you want, and more!"

At first he ran for the wrong exit, then the correct one, then back to Rinam on realizing she never said where the hoglets hid. Rinam rolled his naked ambition across her tongue, across the opportunities his sudden enthusiasm would provide. A nefarious prince opened many avenues in crushing the lynx' arena, toppling his throne, burning his temple to...

A voice. One of grit as the one inking her mind, but finer still. Pale. A swirl of sand which at once stood her fur on end and chilled her through.

...speak if you remain...

Rinam ripped the hood from her head, whispered the repentance verse in her tribe's cant, and cycled through too many pawsigns to count. The prince stepped backwards, opened his mouth to implore the frantic mouse who, in his eyes, only flailed and muttered just out of hearing. Rinam finished her rite and tossed her head towards the Northern exit.

They barely rounded the corner when another beast, watching from the shadows, fled through the Southern exit.


The mouse and rat progressed through The Crater with little issue.

All guards followed the routes penned on Adeen’s makeshift maps. Only when they reached the central stair did Rinam let any sense of triumph fill her chest.

She stopped halfway up their climb, and checked the hollow step which once contained her rondel and the scribe’s baselard.

“What’s wrong?” The Blackwhiskers tilted his head as Rinam dislodged the false stair. “A beast of secrets, you are. I’ll have to keep a closer eye on you.”

“Your ‘eye’ is close enough-”

Rinam yelped as something sharp pricked her paw. She bent lower still, and found a needle, a spool of white thread, and a stretch of black linen. The coil of vines and poppy flowers lined the square of cloth.

A look over her shoulder to ask the rat for insight.
A follow of his gaze revealed they were not alone.

Aldridge Moor stood upon the Upper Tier’s landing.

A sheen of sweat dampened the stoat’s brow though the upper tiers ran cool with a highland breeze. Rinam noticed he did not fix upon The Blackwhiskers, but the hem of Adeen’s cloak and the journal at her hip.

“What are you doing here?”

Rinam breathed in the stoat’s subdued anger, the twitch of his arms hanging tense at his sides. She drew her dagger and crossed the grip over her chest, a scorpion’s sting at ready.

“It is none of your concern. Not all needs your approval, Lowlander. Leave.”

“I fear what you do will quickly become my concern.” The stoat breathed deep with purpose, as though dispelling an enchantment in the air. “There’s more at work than you know, and your scrounging only disrupts lines already drawn. Come, let us plan together.”

“Commands from a would-be king.” Gravel churned in Rinam’s throat, setting a rattle to near every word. “I’ve seen what must be done, and you are powerless to stop me.”

The line played exact from Adeen's notes, as sharp as the dagger in her paw. Yet, the stoat laughed. He swallowed his bitter guffaws and smirked through his words.

“Oh, yes. And I’m sure ‘what must be done’ accounts for how I arrived before you. Hmm?”

The confusion churned against the ink within, and melded the sensation into dark purpose. The stoat stood on high, carried on as the lynx, as Canen, as Granz before. Rinam invoked the Widow and assessed the tools about her, finding the most effective still stunned at her side.

“Blackwhiskers.” The rat snapped awake at the mouse’s call. “Remove him.”

“There must be…”

“I call your favor. Do this and we’re even.”

The ink seethed as the rat remained still. His heavy muzzle swung between the would-be king and the scribe revived, his tail coiling in indecision. Rinam’s grip redoubled, she tensed her forearm, but the prince gave in and climbed the stair before she lashed free.

Paw to paw, the Blackwhiskers rose a few heads taller. Still, Aldridge held his ground.

“You heard her,” said Thrayjen. “This doesn’t concern you.”

“You must see reason,” said Aldridge. “One misstep and you’re due for a cage, all our efforts could crumble. Do you really trust her so?”

Rinam’s forearms trembled, her knees bent to launch should the rat disobey.

“She’s helping me, right now. You’re in between me and what matters most. Do I trust her? What do you think?” The rat paused though he knew no answer would come. “By the time I count to three, if you’re not out of my way, I’ll turn you into the next legend by the Blackwhiskers.”

“You cannot mean that.”


“Thrayjen, I would help us all if you’d-”



The Blackwhiskers’ count halted.

“Rinam. What does your book say of this beast in front of me? Not Thrayjen, but the Blackwhiskers? Does it say that he will gladly carve and gut a beast at Nire's will? Does it say anything at all? Check now. We have the time."

“You only buy time. Carry on, prince. Our window closes as he delays.”

“No guards come. Not for a while still. Adeen isn’’re not the only beast with arrangements.”

The slant of the sun spoke the mid-morning hour. By the Widow’s journal all guards should’ve patrolled the central stair by now. Yet, Rinam heard no boots approaching on the stone, or sensed deception in the stoat’s tone.

The journal flipped open in Rinam’s off paw with practiced ease. The prosperous gladiator section would provide all the information she needed. Hracken the Kraken’s entry filled with notes on fighting style, adornment, and winning odds. No mention of Thrayjen, or Blackwhiskers, or any Rapscallion prince.

The margins. She pored over the margins and found…

Bet takings. Adeen won far too much coin from Hracken’s victories, but not once was his origin or heritage mentioned. Rinam flipped the pages, checked other sections, once, twice, and many times over. Sweat dripped from her nose and smeared the ink, her clawtips tearing at the pages in her frenzy.

"Nothing, hm?” Aldridge spoke as Rinam continued her search. “That book is the mind and memory of a beast. A remarkable one, true - but a beast all the same, with all the flaws that entails. And as Mara Kincaid taught us before she died, a beast working alone is doomed to fail."


Rinam slunk backwards down the stair, the journal heavier still, her throat all but flooded.

“Am I…”

The stoat hunkered down where he stood, watching her closely, and the rat turned on his mistress in concern. The names of her tribemates, etched in Adeen’s careful script, scrolled through her mind. Rinam’s vision blurred, and unbidden images surged forth, blown in on the Pale sands.

The underbelly lit with alchemical fire, and the scribe at her cell’s bench as she carved memorials.
The surge of muscle as she sealed the Widow’s madness with the slam of pottery.

The hare splitting like paper above the pangolin, her ink drenching the sand and the creature’s eager tongue.
Promises of unity, of understanding, falling aside at the first opportunity for glory.

The Upper Tier doused in moonlight, only yards from where they stood now.
Adeen twisting with joy as she crouched before Canen’s door, drinking in the lamentations of a father.

The truth came once more as her mind gathered the pieces. She’d spoken then. She’d told the Widow what her own heart forgot.

No, you don't do this for anybeast else, not even yourself. Did you even plan an escape?

Rinam’s own question rang through her mind, electric, the surges vaporizing the claws of ink within. The death of Nire would not open gates. The death of Nire would not save her kind from service in Northvale. The death of Nire would not uplift the broken beasts of the Crater.

The dagger in her paw trembled, and she let the weapon free.
The journal in her off paw sunk, and she let it drop to the stone.
The cloak on her back burned, and she ripped it off with one swipe.

...speak if you remain...

The Pearl Dawn raised her paws and shook free the ink staining her white claws. The bitter ash lifted from her fur and rode the breeze past the beasts on the stair. Aldridge smiled, looking at some point above and ahead of her, and Thrayjen’s eyes ran wide with naked panic.

The mouse lowered her arms and exhaled the remaining flakes of ink from her lungs, which flitted before her and dissolved to nothing.

“I understand the Widow’s error, what this tome embodies. No beast should bear it alone.” Rinam enacted the signs for wisdom, for thanks to All That Is, as she continued. “Please. Forgive me.”

Silence at first. In time they pieced about the mouse and her discarded equipment. The rat gathered the rondel and tucked it behind Adeen’s journal in its holster. The stoat gathered the discarded cloak, the stitching, and ushered all further up the stair, folding the fabrics with great care and whispering something to them when he thought that the others could not hear.

“There is nothing to forgive.” Aldridge said. “You acted as you thought best, and you did not cling when you realized that you had been wrong. We will speak more of what just happened some time soon, if you wish.”

“Or never.” Thrayjen shivered.

Rinam tasted his fear, his resentment. The ash still lingered on her tongue, but she breathed free and held close the names of those she’d rescue: her tribemates, herself, and Adeen held fast in the land beyond.

Together they’d see them safe, and the first step stood hulking and shaking at her side.

“Stand strong, prince.” Rinam smiled and put a paw on his arm as they climbed the remaining stairs. The rat shirked away from the touch on reflex. “This is a moment of triumph, not fear. The children await. Rejoice.”

“I wouldn’t call it fear. No, you’re-”

A door in the Upper Tier’s hallway opened as they reached the landing.
Contest Discussion / Re: Nice Guys Don't Last (in the Crater)
« Last post by Silas Hetherton on September 20, 2017, 10:45:23 PM »
What are some scene ideas or concepts that you had but didn't get a chance to?
As you know, Silas needed reading glasses. I thought that could be a sweet, small moment, if Minerva or someone else who cared found some for him (somehow).

I wanted Silas to sort of adopt Kali gradually, which could have been fun.

I wanted to highlight a little more the conflict Silas had with killing even monsters at times (like the colossal crab - he felt bad about that and especially that it took as long as it did). I was going to do a scene where he fought a nest of (wingless) wasps also, where he just held perfectly still instead of trying to kill them all, and then delicately, quietly, pushed them off the pedestal into the arena sands. Remaining calm seems to be the best defense against a swarm while killing and flailing is the worst, and he would have learned this from Jace. I only had one round to have Silas face ALL his monsters, though, so I had to condense it all into "Monster Marathon."

I did originally want Silas to take on Blasio in the arena - perhaps near the end. I wanted him to get his revenge, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would solve nothing, and having him "fail" for the right reasons would preserve his "humanity" (so to speak) far better than exacting his revenge.

Was there any character in the top 10 that you wish you could have interacted with more before your death?
Kali maybe could have been fun. I did want to do more with Adeen, but we never seemed to be able to match up our characters quite right after the initial intro. I know Silas would not have been too understanding of her slaying her faithful husband, and I thought that would be an interesting conflict to explore. I also wanted at one point to have Silas rescue/save Adeen, but again, it didn't work out.

If Silas had survived and fulfilled his mission of killing Blasio, what might his Epilogue have looked like?

I would like to think that he would find a way to rebuild his life and try to make the world a better place. Maybe even Northvale. Perhaps, as I suggested in an earlier response, he might have adopted a Crater orphan or two. Fable, if Minerva didn't make it ;)
Contest Discussion / Re: Storyteller's Vigil
« Last post by Tooley Bostay on September 19, 2017, 10:56:47 PM »
That's very kind of you to say, Thrayjen. Thank you for taking the time to do so. I'm glad my reviews are of help, and I am very much looking forward to seeing more of these well-built characters and exciting ideas!

Just, ah, one tiny thing. I think you mean to award your 'Best Description' to Aldridge for his 'Loggerhead' post. As much as I'd like to take credit for that line...alas, I can't! XD

Wait, what? Naw, no way, that must be--*rereads post* ... oh

*hurriedly fixes it* Thanks for the note! My bad. =P
Contest Discussion / Re: Storyteller's Vigil
« Last post by Thrayjen on September 19, 2017, 10:49:50 PM »
Aw, shucks, Tooley, I'm flattered. Your reviews are immensely helpful in our pursuit of a fantastic story with well-built characters and exciting ideas. I'm glad you're enjoying Thrayjen so much as to put him onto the safe list; I'm very relieved, heh!

Just, ah, one tiny thing. I think you mean to award your 'Best Description' to Aldridge for his 'Loggerhead' post. As much as I'd like to take credit for that line...alas, I can't! XD
Contest Discussion / Re: Storyteller's Vigil
« Last post by Tooley Bostay on September 19, 2017, 10:17:11 PM »

We came. We saw. We haven't conquered the Crater yet. Yes, it's that time once again for our weekly look at the week that was!


Some really, truly excellent bits here. Silas' aside about his family - and son in particular - was genuinely stirring, Adeen's handling of the Hargorn depravity was both artful and tasteful, and Kali's references and surprising added depth with her "today is a new day" peptalks. This goes to Aldridge, for his line of "A general's words." It's a moment that all authors should look to learn from--how to say a lot in very few words. More than just a fanciful spin of craft, though, it works because we know Aldridge's character, and we believe that he would understand and catch these details. A sharp moment that changed my entire perspective of Eve.


My my, lots of things set up in this round. Aldridge and his Barrowbuddies building up steam for a redeem-the-Crater crusade, Adeen's odd-but-intriguing twist with Rinam/Fenton, Eve's underhanded and cutthroat ways coming to light, Kentrith being found out by Nix, or Kali's getting further roped into plans far above her paygrade. In what is no surprise to anyone, however, this one goes to Thrayjen, for the twist of him falling to Nire's expectations. It makes perfect sense for the character, shifts a former strength into a weakness (his amiable nature), and promises tremendous conflict down the line. I am at the edge of my seat to see where the author goes with this. Keep it up, Thrayjen--don't drop the ball on this and lose the juicy conflict you've got going. Keep me engaged, keep me guessing, and keep me begging all that's good that Thrayjen doesn't ultimately succumb to Nire's whims.


Oof. Some of these were more far-reaching than others. The FTN wholesale trusting Minvera and Silas with one of their leader's identities, Aldridge having another "I don't like this but K" moment with Eve, or Minerva's consistent amazingness at heavy combat despite really only being a well-built and serious farmwife. But this goes to Komi, for how well everything ends up going for our resident stoat runaway. She's back with Aldridge, a kiss is all that's needed to avoid certain death, Jossia is tossed out by Nire because #reasons, she gets her drum back, etc. It's too many steps too far, and really ends up robbing the scene of my connection to Komi and her personal struggles when they're resolved so quickly and easily.


No art this time. I'm sorry! Perhaps next week.

So this will be the last time four of you beasts will make my list, as next week, we cut it back to three. As a new addition, however, alongside my praise will also be one criticism to keep in mind going forward.
As always, in no particular order:

1: Aldridge
+ great promise with his personal driving ethic, his deep relationships with cast and NPC alike, and a proactive goal.
- occasional poor use of present opportunities in scene structure/cast interactions. Start playing your cards.
2: Kali
+ consistently enjoyable prose, vivid and bold character, now wrapped up into a larger plot
- runs the risk of only being a pawn or bit-player in the story. Kali will need to affect great change on her terms and because of her actions to survive.
3: Adeen
+ twist with Fenton is engaging, Rinam seems primed to work as an excellent mirror to Adeen, craft continues to impress.
- no idea what story Adeen is exactly telling now, given the sudden and surprising shift. Next round better make this clear.
4: Thrayjen
+ great turnaround, compelling character conflict, active role within the world and plot.
- runs the risk of dropping the ball by not wholly addressing the conflict, turmoil, and change Thrayjen has just undergone.

As we move into the Fifth Round of the contest, I wanted to congratulate all who've made it this far, and give you a woozle-y pat on the back for providing a consistently engaging story to read. I'm very excited to see how it ends. Best of luck moving forward!
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