Chapter 58
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The hero’s and queen’s conversation comes to an end slowly but surely, judging by the lull in their voices and the resolute stare and nod the hero gives in return. Some of the energy and life I am more accustomed to him possessing returning once again to his gaze and expression. The orange tinge in his eyes really catching the light for a moment as he raises his head up high to look down the way towards the stairs leading below. They seem to be discussing something within their group now. The rat-queen sits and waits and pets me.


  I look at the monk. She’s been looking rather green lately now that I think about it. Didn’t she have some kind of coughing fit or throw up or something like that? I stare at the creature with the yellow clothes and wooden beads with some curiosity. The priestess’ white-magic seems to be perking her back up though and I watch as the color returns to her face. The wizard-girl is kneeling down and offering a piece of dried meat to a brother who resists the temptation with iron-will. Queen has not allowed us to move and he is loyal. She looks a little disappointed. Strong-strong brother.


  All the while of course, she is staring at me. I can feel her thinking, plotting, scheming. She wants to get me. To stab me. Cut me. But she won’t make a move here. Why? Too many brothers? Scared? No. We pose no threat to them realistically. One fire-spell and this chamber would explode in an instant, killing everything with more than two legs. I know the wizard can do that much and that’s ignoring the hero who can do more. The hand runs along my back again.


  Because of the rat-queen? Does she not want to upset her? No. The rat-queen is strong but I think she’d lose to the hero pretty easily if it came down to it. The insolent thought makes me feel unwell. I don’t know what her reason is, but I can see that it’s bothering her. I can see it in her shadowy face, in her eyes shining from beneath the hood. Sheesh. She really hates my guts, huh? Oh well, I’ll make the most of it I think to myself and close my eyes, feeling the hand running along my fur. It’s so soft and warm here. Ah. This is the life, guy. I wish they could all be like this.


  They seem to reach a consensus and turn back to face the queen. The hero gives an affirming nod and the queen smiles clapping her hands together. The hero nods to the thief-girl who grits her teeth in displeasure. The elf digs into her bag and pulls out something. A piece of fabric. Dark blue. No, Purple and looks at it closely for a moment. Her fingers clutch tightly shut around the fabric before she relents and hands it over to the queen. All eyes stare at her in jealousy as she comes close to touching her. The rat-queen takes the scrap of worn out, old material and looks at it carefully. A thousand tiny bodies tense up at the sound and she speaks to me in rat-tongue.


“Hey, look. This has your color doesn’t it?” She says with a laugh and for a moment I tense up as well. Have I been discovered?


  She turns to the rest of the room, to the rest of my brothers and holds out the material. “Find this. Return to me once you have. Scamper.” Without another word the mass of meat in the room shifts as the many yellow eyes run off into the darkness. Scamper-scamper. The many gnashing teeth biting each other as they run to be the first one out. To be the first one to find what it is that the queen wants. For the chance to be her favorite. I too rise to jump to the occasion, happy to have an excuse to run away before the thief-girl gets a chance to stab-stab me.


“Ah!” The hand grabs my neck and holds me tight. “You stay here, little one” says the queen. I am honored, but also fearful. “I have another use for you.”


  Uh, weird? But okay, I suppose. If that’s what the rat-queen wants, who am I to say no? I look up at the thief-girl and do my best to give the rat equivalent of a shrug feeling like I owe her an explanation for something. Suddenly my body jerks in the air. “Huh?” says queen as she raises me up again and looks me into the eyes once more with her own eyes narrowed. I shake, fear. Fear. She looks back up away from me and then back down to me again. “Hmm? You’re a bold one, aren’t you? Looking at another lady while I’m right here.”


Fear. Fear.


  Queen laughs and turns me around to face the thief-girl. “I think this one likes you, elf. He’s been staring at you this entire time.” I have angered queen, fear. Fear. Fear. Only eyes for you queen! Only love for you! My little heart is striking violently, the blood surging through my body not doing so fast enough to keep up with my frantic breaths.


  The monk at this proposed revelation bursts into laughter, slapping her legs and dragging the wizard with her into her jubilation. The thief yells something short out in sharp words that I can’t understand and crosses her arms to look away in a huff of indigence. The priestess stands by her with a hand on her shoulder waving it off, as if telling her it was just a joke and the hero is just sighing waiting for the commotion to settle down. I can’t help but feel a little insulted honestly.


A hand strokes my back.


“Would you like to take him with you?”


Huh? Wait. Wait what?


"He's not getting along with his brothers. Maybe he'll be less lonely with you."


  The wizard-girl explodes up off of the ground as her demeanor turns from drying humor to a new, vivid excitement. Her eyes shining and her movements like that of an excited child. No. No. No. Not again. I can’t do it again. I don’t want to be a pet again. At least not to anyone but the rat-queen. But then I realize the mistake of my thinking. The point where my thoughts went astray right at the start.


She’s not holding me out to the wizard-girl.


I see a pair of curious, shining green eyes looking out from beneath a shadowy hood. I see a wide, angled smirk grow on the bottom of her sharp face, see it grow like the toothy smile of the rat-queen.


No. NO.


The thief-girl holds out her hands and I fear-fear.

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

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel