Chapter 74
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Standing on the edge of the table I hop down onto the chair, my little body thudding against the wood as I drop down. Then again a second time as I spring down to the floor. Blood splashes around in the air, coating my already gross fur as I land. My feet feel sticky and wet, which is fine since I’m used to it; having lived in a sewer all of my life and all.

 

  Scampering across the room I scurry-scurry as I hurry-hurry to the other side, running beneath the brazier over to the wooden counter. I don’t think she notices me as she is too busy uh… grieving. Which is fair enough, but I am pretty big. Not the biggest ratty rat. But a big ratty rat, you know? So she must be out of it. There is an opening on the left where the entrance to behind the bar is and I go through there, stepping over the single dead body behind the construction. Looking around, this little niche is filled with a variety of bottles. All in different colors, sizes and shapes. All filled with a variety of liquids. I even recognize one in particular. Stopping, I look at it.

 

  It is the same kind of bottle like the one the dungeon-master gave me that one time. But this one has a label still, several uh… hmm. Plants? Fruits? Berries? Something like that, adorn the label along with a whole bunch of text I am unable to read. I shudder as I see it, the disgust welling up in my body as if an instinctive reaction to the sweetly pungent drink that tasted like feet arises; even if it has been so long ago. Even if it wasn’t this body. As if the memory of my soul was enough to disgust me even in this new form.

 

Ugh. I won’t lie though, I have a strong urge to knock the bottle over and have a drink anyways. But I resist because the memory of the nausea is just too strong.

 

  Walking past them all instead, I see the small pile of wood there in the dusty corner and climb up to the top with relative ease and set to work. Gnawing in to one of the small logs on top that are about the size of a large rat brother I set to work shifting it loose. They are all still covered in bark and the wood is light and porous, smelling strongly of the forest. The smell bringing back fresh memories of the beautiful area and my short time there. Pressing my body between the wall and the light log I push with all the strength my tiny body can muster.

 

  The piece of wood budges with a rough scraping sound, bits of bark flaking off and falling to the ground around me as I press against the wall. There is a sharp call from the center of the room but I don’t understand it. I guess she’s heard me? The piece of wood slides loose from the top of the pile, falling down to the stone floor with an echoing clamber as it settles after the impact, rolling a few feet. Scamper-scampering I realize this is going to be the hard part.

 

  Pressing my body against it I begin to turn the log sideways and then push it forward to roll it. It takes a minute, but I roll it past the body of the cultist, through the puddle of his blood and out past the counter with a final strong push, before stopping to catch my tiny-rat breath. All the while I hear the elemental talking and calling nervously. I guess she can’t see me from the center of the room, all she can do is hear the rolling wood. Assuming she can hear which uh, I do. Since she can talk. How a creature made purely of magical fire is capable of having such senses is outside of my domain, friend. Maybe instead of asking how a creature made out of fire can hear, ask how there is a creature made out of fire to begin with, you know? Keep your feet on the ground, guy. Come on.

 

  Pressing forward past the counter I push the log around to the left and continue rolling onward. Oof. This is a real workout. I take a second to stretch, feeling a crack in my tiny back. Looking up the elemental standing in the brazier we meet eyes. She is looking at me curiously and I’m just standing here like, hey, what’s up? I push the log forward. It’s hard being me, friend. It’s hard being the hero. But it’s what I do, you know? The log ‘thunks’ out as I reach the metal brazier. She has been talking to me this whole time, but I can’t really understand her so… I’ll spare you the details I guess. I’m sparing myself the details too, so it’s only fair you know?

 

  Looking up I see her bent over the edge of the metal bowl, her hands clasping the side as she looks down to me, her expression bewildered and confused, which I can understand. I assume for her this is quite the day honestly. For me it’s just… I dunno. Normal? Looking up to her I nod. Flames from her fingers snake down and reach towards the log leaned against the metal, touching the surface licking and singeing it and I step back, not wanting to be part of the meal. I’m just glad she’s so stretchy, I was worried I was going to have to get the log up there to her somehow. That would have been hard.

 

As the fires consumes the log and my consciousness has been satiated, I turn and walk away towards the door the hero-party came through before. There is nowhere else to go in this room apart from that and the secret stairs back down, so it seems like the obvious way to go.

 

As I approach the door and look at it, I wonder. How am I going to get past this? I sink my teeth into the edge and begin to gnaw. But I quickly realize, this is going to take forever. The wood is heavy and dense, even with my little razor teeth it will be hard work. Oh well, nothing else to it but to do it!

 

A voice calls out from behind me and I look at the elemental who is standing there waving at me with both arms in the air. What? She points to me and then to herself. I’m flattered but honestly she’s not my type, you know? Too hot-headed. I squeak.

 

  She points up behind me to the door. Oh. Ooooooh. Hmm. Hmm. Yeah? Yeah! I think that could work. But how am I going to get you here? I wonder to the creature silently. But then I see her body jump down out of the brazier and for a moment I tense up wondering what she’s doing. But then she lands in the log. Her flame dies down to a tiny smolder, her size shrinking to that of a candle-light just my own size and I understand. Walking back towards her I nod. She nods back.

 

Nobody questions any further than that. Just a rat and a fire-elemental coming to an unspoken agreement in a room full of dead cultists. This is prime dungeon life friend. The real deal.

 

  Sinking my teeth into the non-burning end of the log I pull it out and then begin to roll it forward towards the door. As the log rolls, the flame always stays upright on the other side of the piece of wood as she looks over me curiously. Once or twice I catch her eye the dead people around us as we go past them, but she returns her focus to the task at hand, pushing down whatever she emotions she is feeling in the name of survival. I can appreciate that friend, I like someone who is goal oriented. Sure all of your friends and family are dead around you, but there’s work to be done so let’s get on with life. It’s a healthy way to live, tell you what. Maybe not emotionally healthy, but you know? Sometimes you have to make compromises, that’s just how it is.

 

  As we reach the door she presses out of the log like a genie leaving a bottle and touches a hand against the construction, which immediately begins to crackle and smolder underneath the touch of the magical flame burning a hole into it. I look on in awe as she burns through the material in seconds and then as the flames expand, enlarging the gap significantly. More than enough for us to press on through. Once the work is complete she nods to me. I nod back.

 

Team work makes the dream work, friend.


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Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel

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