The rats in the walls are smarter than they look. They may not talk much, but they listen. And they hear a lot. After all, who suspects that a rat might be listening? And even if they suspect the rat, who imagines that the rat understands?
Of course, to carry information out, the rats need to learn to write, which you already know.
They are almost due for another round of alternatives.
With the right tech selected, the rats can carry their messages further and faster.
Raven pondered for a moment, then turned to me. “Sydney, we think you are ready to move on to the real game. Do you feel ready?”
“Yes. Yes I do.” And oddly enough, I was not exaggerating. I really was ready.
All my fears about what had been going on had melted away when Raven turned up and revealed that it was all his show. I’ve never known why I trust the avatar of a trickster god, but I do. And that trust has washed my earlier fears away.
“This world has been serving as a training platform. Now, we need to move you to somewhere you can do some good. We’ll bring Gwen and Bruce along since the three of you clearly make a good team.”
At that news, Gwen looked startled for a moment. There was a subtle glitch in my perception, and she was back to normal. I might not have noticed the glitch if Bruce hadn’t picked that moment to appear. “Hear that Bruce, Raven has volunteered you for his little project.”
“Oh, not again!” we all stared at the cat. “I mean, wow, sounds like fun!”
So with that, we stepped through a doorway and found ourselves in a familiar looking city. It was dark and murky, but clearly not with a chance of storming. The city looked like murky was its normal state. Raven had shifted to his larger than usual bird form, Bruce was being quiet for a change, and Gwen was continuing to remain aloof.
Raven gestured at a three or four-story building nearby. “Go on, they’re waiting for you in the rehearsal space.”
In search of fish, indeed. Well that turned out to be something of a wild goose chase. We even found a wild goose. She didn’t know anything helpful, and declined to come along, possibly out of fear that she might end up gracing our dining table. I have to admit that fear might not have been without grounds.
I know things happened the rest of the afternoon. I have the sunburn, scratches, aches, and pains to confirm it. But I don’t know what happened. And that worries me more than a little. The faint smell of perfume worries me even more. Also, we were found tied up and to each other around the base of a tree. That isn’t the kind of thing that happens normally without remembering it.
Gwen seems even more disturbed than I am. I suspect it takes strong magic to mess with a dragon, the old stories all claim that dragons are almost immune to magical attacks. Waking up to find you are literally tied up in evidence of such an attack has to be rather disorienting. Then there’s the fact that she seems to believe she has failed in her duty to protect me. It is true that she did not protect either of us. But I’m not entirely convinced that she should take the blame alone. After all, I bear an apparently powerful magical tool and did not protect us either.
Regardless of assigning the blame, nearly seven hours are completely unaccounted for, vanished into a void.
I can assure Gwen that nothing untoward happened, but the very need for that assurance is untoward. Unexpected even. And worrying.
And Dragons like to worry.
I think the event has suggested to her that we are on the wrong path as well.
My worry is that the chicken will cross us, cross the path, and get in the way of the cat. The cat who has yet to offer me a name, or any reason at all to trust him. The cat that acts like Gwen is his pet dragon. He’s been along on this ride too, and he’s not saying whether whatever happened happened to him too. Cats being 99% dignity, after all. Admitting it did happen would be nearly as hard on him as answering the question.
I’m pretty sure the crew who came through my inn were involved in a cult. They all had glazed eyes and vacant stares as they methodically unloaded their goods. Their leader seemed more interested in keeping them out of sight than in exactly what deals were made. I did pick up some fine casks of brandy before he took notice.
When he did take notice it was only to prevent further trading or interaction. He didn’t seem concerned enough to try to reverse the trades just made even if I did make out like a bandit. Not that I felt all that guilty. They were going to stay here as they usually did when they made an appearance at market, and if past visits were any example, I could expect some broken furniture, annoyed barmaids, and generally bad manners out of the bunch.
There must be something mighty powerful about their beliefs. They shrugged off discomfort and pleasure alike, approaching everything with the same blank featured stare. Staring as if they could see into the very heart of creation. And they had no interest in explanations. I tried on several occasions to get them talking. They just ignored the questions. It wasn’t as if they were sworn to silence, they would speak readily enough about most things, but were silent on the nature of their order.
Then their leader would be by, and with significant looks and glares would separate his charges from us. He never actually brought out his big stick, but its presence was always assumed.
They’ve moved on since, but their absence is welcome. We are back to our usual load of local drovers and farmers. Handling them is as easy as apple pie, as they say.