Chapter 55
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The wet splashes around me as I scamper down the filthy tunnels, dredging through sledge and sewage and muck on my way. Filth coats my fur, coats my body. The poison doesn’t hurt me. Rat is strong. Rat is born of filth. Strong. Strong. I pass a brother, a brother passes me. No meat. No fight. Scamper, I scamper down the tunnels left and then right until I reach a large crossing. The first chamber of few. First. First. I look down at the drop before me, at the end of the pipe the green water rushes out of. It falls down far, splashing somewhere into the darkness below. The chamber itself is a large, tall cylindrical room; filled with pipes criss-crossing in all directions. Filled with rats criss-crossing in all directions. Brothers. Brothers. I sniff the air, trying to find the way. Trying to discern the smell of the rat-queen to find which direction she is in.

 

  Many pipes, many ways, many brothers. No meat. I hop down onto the pipe below, my sharp nails ringing against the metal as I land. Many scampers. Brothers walk past me and I walk past brothers, the large pipe appearing as if it were moving from the coating of hundreds of rats crawling over it every direction. I look around trying to get back a little in to focus again. These pipes are really huge actually, like the adventurers could probably stand hmm… maybe three people shoulder to shoulder on one? Two if the hero is one of them with his massive shoulder armor. Pauldrons? Spaulders? Shoulder pads? Dunno. He has big metal bits on his shoulders is what I’m trying to say.

 

  Of the many rats here I am one of the larger, though there are some that are larger than me still. Mangey creatures walk by me, covered in ragged fur. Some covered in hairless patches and inflamed scar tissue clearly visible beneath. Others in more dire straits carrying clearly gangrene, infected wounds into which the sewage has seeped. The goo entering their bodies, entering their blood. Mixing. Contaminating. It seeps out of their teeth, out of their spit, out of their eyes. The sewage flowing through them as if they were of it and it of them.

 

It is.

 

Us. Us!

 

  All of us share the same ratty, blackish-gray tone. Our fur is permanently wet and slimy. Our eyes are always yellow and faintly glowing ever so slightly. We are small, smaller than adventurers. Smaller than goblins. Big rat is same as big red-cap. Big. Big. Rats better, red-caps nasty. Hate. Hate! Some more fecal matter smeared over the metal by another rat squishes between my bare feet, squeezing up through my toes with a wet squelch.

 

  Rats aren’t strong but we are many. Many-many. Many bites. Many nibbles. Swarm. Swarm. I stop on the pipe and rise up onto my hind, my pointy nose wiggling as I sniff the air for her scent. There. I smell her. Smell queen. I look down and jump over onto another pipe effortlessly, landing in-between another group heading the opposite direction. I wiggle, they wiggle, rats wiggle. Wiggle-wiggle.

 

  Many paths. Many secret spots. Many hiding spaces. Many brothers. My eyes dart around as I enter the next tunnel, searching for anything out of place. But honestly down here it could be anything. Everything seems to be out of place. Metal piping juts out in all directions, fluids and steam shooting out of them in wild sprays that coat the walls, coat the rats who drip with it. The secret could be anywhere. Everywhere. Rats love secrets. Many secrets. Every brother has a secret. Secret corner. Secret rock. Secret meat. Many rats. Many secrets. I look up, there is a pipe I need to get to. Very high. Too high. Must take long way.

 

No-no.

 

  I leap, my body arching downward against the pipe before springing up with the force of the ability that sends me hurtling upwards almost frighteningly high. I fly up past the pipe and for a moment I think I’m going to miss it and plunge down into the seemingly endless darkness beneath us. But thankfully I am nimble, graceful and manage to stick the landing. I look down, brothers sniff at me, reaching for the pipe too. They can not reach. I turn and keep walking to the sub-boss arena which my rat brain is telling me is this way.

 

Why am I going there?

 

Because my rat brain is telling me to go this way. I sniff. Hmm. Wait. No. No. Keep it together. Shoo shoo rat, shoo shoo! I blink my eyes a few times extra hard, mostly just for emphasis as I more or less shake myself awake again. I keep drifting away into the rat. No, be methodical. Logical. Check your menu, check your map. Map-map.

 

I open my menu and have a peek. I don’t think the other rats will care, they aren’t very… um… you know, smart.

 

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Looking over it I see several winding passages, by the looks of things in multiple depths all on the same floor, which makes sense. There are criss-crossing pipes everywhere, all dangling over the abyss below.

 

Hmm.

 

I can’t read the writing anymore. What a shame, but that’s life, guy. But as usual I don’t spot anything extremely out of the ordinary on my map, but it’s nice to have I suppose. I know my way around here though, I’ve lived here my entire life after all. Home. Home. Mine.

 

  Putting my menu away I scamper forward down the tunnel to see her. As I proceed to make my way through the goo, through the foul water I can’t help but think about how unfortunate it would be if the fairy of the fountain could spawn on this floor. Uf, that would be rough. Though… well… no. No. For a second a part of me wanted to say that I would enjoy her having to suffer a little like I do. But… well, no. I don’t want her to have a bad time just because I do sometimes. That wouldn’t make anything better.

 

   I smell meat. An urge twitches through my body as I run towards the carcass surrounded by brothers. Towards the rotting body floating in raw sewage. They are smaller than me. My meat! Mine! Mine! I charge towards them hissing and baring my teeth and they scamper-scamper! Mine! I jump onto the corpse and tear into it, breaking off a rib and digging into the liver. It squishes between my teeth. Blood and whatever other indiscernible ooze was filling it leaking out of my mouth, squirting into the back of my throat. Looking down as I eat I see the red leaking out, streaming down the water from its mangled head. Red. Red.

 

Ugh.

 

I stop chewing and spit out the chunk of organ in disgust. Climbing off the meat I continue down the way I was going. As soon as I leave I hear a dozen little fangs resume their gnawing and tearing. Towards the end of the tunnel I reach the second chamber. Hers. Hers.

 

  I stand up atop a high crevice. Down below I see her sitting on her throne of rats. Brothers, many brothers pile together for her to sit upon. Thousands squirm beneath her body, their heads poking out and tails whipping the air as they fight to make her throne. To serve sister. To serve queen. Serve. Mine!

 

  Crawling down the rat-gnawn cracks in the brick walls of the great round chamber, I descend and go down lower and lower, walking around the length of the entire room in a circle as the chewed path follows a downward spiral along the wall. Many brothers pass me. Many brothers behind me. All go to see queen. All go to do as she commands. I am near the bottom now and we squirm, swarm as we approach her. The next wave of rats. Of brothers. Many like me. Many. Many.

 

Our claws scratch the smooth stone floors covered in sewage and rat droppings. Thousands of squeaks ring out from beneath her as they vie for a spot below her.

 

  We stand before queen, hundreds of brothers and me. We rise to our haunches and look-look at her. Queen beautiful. Queen fairy. Fairy fairy. Sharp ears. Sharp face. Like rat. Like us. Many fairies in dungeon. Yes yes. We serve rat fairy. She looks at us, we stiffen up as her cool gaze washes over us. We squeak, asking for commands. We serve. Serve. Queen.

 

She tilts her head and moves. A thousand rats beneath her squeak in frantic panic at the sudden shift. Queen rarely moves. Scary! Scary!

 

Hands. Hands! She reaches towards us. Towards brothers. Towards me.

 

HANDS!

 

I dare not move. Queen has chosen me. Grabbed me. Hands on my body. Fear. Fear. Fear. I shake.

 

  Thousands of violent, angry jealous squeaks lash out from below in protest that she would touch me. That she would pick me up and not them. Anger. Brothers angry. Fear. Anger. Squeaks. The rats at her feet are rising in waves like the crashing surface of the ocean as they try to nip at my tail dangling in the air.

 

She looks at me curiously.

*~+---SPECIAL THANKS---+~*

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel

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