Author Topic: Sleeping Sickness  (Read 465 times)

Adeen Pinebarrow

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Sleeping Sickness
« 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.
"Scribing didn't save them." Adeen clutched the folds of her sooty robe. "And these bloated scutbuckets need to feel what it's like. You agree, don't you?"