Chapter 56
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The rat queen holds me in the air as her yellow eyes look over me, look through me. Fairy eyes. Fairy eyes. I remember the words of the fairy of the fountain, that fairy matriarchs can see inside of people, inside of creatures. Can she see my purple? Can she see the first me? I want to squirm but the rat-brain dares not move. I dare not kick or scratch or bite or struggle. Queen holds me, it is her will. It is not my place to resist. What I can not control however is the lurch of my chest striking outward from the throes of my wildly thrashing heart.

 

  As she holds me out at an arm’s length she tilts me from side to side looking over my filthy body. Her fingers pressing into my greasy, muck covered fur with indifference to the grime and the stink as the floor below us thrashes with jealousy and rage. Does she know that I don’t belong? That I am an intruder here? A stranger? Do I look different on the inside than the other rats? I guess I would, wouldn’t I? Who are you rat-queen? Why are you a fairy? Why are there so many fairies in our dungeon? Who does your nails? They look fantastic!

 

  Her gaze leaves me for a moment as her head turns to look around the room. Thousands of rats jump up into the air fighting for her attention. Squeaking and biting and clawing each other as they form into a writhing, massive pile that constantly collapses in on itself. All of them are desperate for her to see them, to hold them. But she looks through the swarm, looking through the collective for something she can’t seem to find. Only after she has examined the entire room does she look back to me and I can feel the hundreds of eyes glaring daggers into my tiny heart. She speaks.

 

“You’re a lonely little thing, aren’t you?” says the fairy woman in rat-tongue looking at me curiously.

 

  Huh? For a second I’m having some big time deja-vu here, guy. As she speaks the rest of the room explodes with squeaks and frothing rodent hisses, the noise almost overpowering her words. Queen is talking to me! Me! Me! They are furious. Envious. Livid. She looks closer at my eyes, now only a foot away from me. I can feel my heart stopping. Not worthy. Not worthy!

 

  Wait. Not worthy of what? I shake my head realizing the rat-brain is telling me nonsense again. She shifts back lowering herself down to the ground. Immediately the swarm of rats cease their lashing and clawing and swarm beneath her, fighting for the honor of becoming her throne. Scrambling atop each other to become tribute for her to sit upon. I just want to take a minute here to make clear that it’s not a fetish thing, guy, I swear. Rats are just really obsessive about their queen. Really obsessive.

 

  Even now as she sits and I am closer to the ground none of them dare place a foot on her leg to try and reach me, none of them dare to climb atop the queen even if it was to get me, the most hated brother in the room right now. Insulting queen is worse than death. Death-death. I pull my tail up and hold it against my body so that the others can’t reach. She is still staring at me.

 

  “Oh, you’re a clever little one.” She looks around the room at the rippling swarm of rats. At this point others have come and stand up on high, fill the room from wall to wall. Thousands of beady yellow-rat eyes stare at me in an otherworldly jealousy. Their teeth bared, their paws twitching and their posture stiff and tall as they make themselves threatening as they watch.

 

  “Look at you. Already causing trouble” she smiles a toothy smile. “Lonely people tend to cause mischief, or so I’ve heard.” She places me on her lap. The room explodes. Wrathful, ear-piercing shrieks fill the air with their shrill tones, the room filled with a noise like that of a symphony of hunting banshees at midnight. Her sharp face twists in an instant, contorting and warping as I look up at it.

 

“SHUT UP!”

 

  The room falls silent immediately. All know what it would mean to make another sound. No squeaks. No hisses, no squirms. Everything is quiet. Quiet-quiet. I tremble. Fear. Fear. Hand. HAND!

 

  She places a single hand on my head and strokes me lengthwise, petting me. This is too much, in that instant as her hand touches my head another cries out in his anger and impudence. Fool. Fool. Fool.

 

  She looks at the single rat who made a noise. The single brother who dared to move against her command. She hisses, spittle flying out from between her clenched razor teeth; flying into the air and covering some of the others who consider themselves blessed to be struck by it. Flying onto me who, well, doesn’t. But it’s not much worse than sewer goo really. An instant later the room shifts into motion. The walls move as a thousand rats scramble down it, jump down it to obey her command. Many die, many break their legs as they fall, crashing against the sharp stones beneath. Many more are crushed by others who fall onto them.

 

  They trample, swarm, circle the brother and tear. Tear-tear. Brother screams, screams-screams, but his screams turn red and stop. The room is quiet. All brothers are quiet again. They sit and they dare not disobey. Even the mangled and injured make no noise to signify their pain. Once he is dead, once the others return to silence her hand returns to me and pets me again. None dare disobey a second time, we all know brother’s fate was lenient. The usual punishment is worse. Queen is generous. Sister queen is loving. Love-love.

 

  So we sit there inside of the giant chamber filled with sewage, filled with poison and filled with rats and she holds me on her lap and pets me. I am the envy of all rats. It is a rare day a rat is chosen and I am blessed. Blessed-blessed by her mercy. I mentally pull myself back in again, back into the forefront of my thoughts. I don’t remember the rat-queen, guy. Rat me does, but I don’t know more than he did. But she’s definitely a fairy and she’s definitely the bossman here. Mm, bosswoman, pardon.

 

  I don’t know why she’s doting on me though, I guess it’s because of my… purple aura? Rats apparently don’t have purple auras often. I look around and wonder. But then I understand. Rats are community oriented creatures. They live together in tightly wound societies, we are brothers. Yes, we eat brothers. We kill brothers as queen desires. But we are brothers, deep bonds. Deep-deep. I don’t have that. There’s too much of me and too little rat. I don’t have the connection that the others have. The familial bond that makes them whole, that must give their aura something… that binds it together. Something like a shared color perhaps?

 

  Wait… what floor is this again? Ninety-three… wasn’t it? Yeah, yeah I think so. So wait. Why are there rats on the lower floors? Are rats not bound to their sub-boss? I mean, the spiders weren’t a floor ago. But… no wait. Spiders don’t give experience, right? My yellow goo. So… rats don’t either, right? Yeah. Didn’t I kill a rat once? Yeah, pretty sure I did… So that means creatures that don’t give experience aren’t bound to their sub-boss. Ah, that makes sense I suppose. I think? Didn't I eat a fish once though that gave experience?

 

Hmm.

 

I sit and I wonder about the work I still have to do. Her hand runs over my back again and scratches my ear. Ah, that’s nice though.


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

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel

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