Jun 11

Chapter 78: Zander

Chapter 78: Zander

In Which Old Friends Can Be A Help. …And A Bother.


Catamount: The slums are crowded and filthy as the pair soon find out. The first order of business is to find a vacant place to stay until they can find out what to do next, but step one was proving to be harder than expected. And the beasts living in the slums are tight lipped and keep to themselves.

The sun is setting as the two turn yet another corner, though the slums got dark early considering how closely spaced the ramshackle two and three story buildings are.  They’re about to continue on when a voice calls from a second story window, “Jozra?!”

Arrin: Soquan’s head jerks up at the sound of the unknown voice and instinctively grasps his staff a bit tighter. “Who’s there?”

Catamount: Jozra whips around in the direction of the voice, one hand moving automatically to where her long knife no longer is, the other moving towards a concealed knife that is there. And then she stops when she recognizes the face that the voice belonged to. “Zander?!”

Arrin: Soquan’s head whips towards the ferret at an almost painful speed. “You know each other?”

Catamount: The ferret nods, as at this point denying it would be a terribly obvious lie.  “…he lives, or lived, I guess, in a village near the one I grew up in. All us kids would hang out on market and fair days.” It’s a plausible explanation. And she makes sure to say it just loud enough that the rodent named Zander can hear it as well.

Arrin: Soquan nods. “If you trust him, then that’s alright.” He gives a small smile and turns his head upwards towards the rodent. “Happen to have room for two more up there?”

Catamount: Zander grins. “Sure do! Come on up and tell me your story! Stairs are right there.” He points to a narrow, shadowy alcove below and to the left of himself. “The door’s open.”

Arrin: “We’ll be right up!” The otter nudges Jozra gently. “Lead the way.”

Catamount: The ferret does so and leads the way through the trash and rubble that clutters the street and into the graffiti stained stairwell. They soon arrive at the door to a small, one room apartment. It’s neatly kept with curtains made of carefully stitched together pieces of fabric to partition the room. Zander is waiting for them just inside and he embraces Jozra as they step inside. “Welcome! Who’s your friend here, Jozra?”

Arrin:  Soquan removes his blindfold and gives his eyes a quick rub before offering a paw. “T’name’s Soquan.”

Catamount: Zander shakes Soquan’s paw warmly. “Zander… though, I suppose you already know that.” The rodent looks like a mouse, but he nearly has the size of a rat. He motions the two of them into his humble apartment. “I’d offer you a place to sit but as you can see… furniture is a little limited.”

Arrin: Soquan looks around slowly. “Looks better than what I’ve caught glimpses of.”

Catamount: Zander blushes a little. “I try my best.” As he moves to twitch a curtain aside that leads into a make-shift kitchen, Jozra notices an obvious stiffness in Zander’s leg. Looking about, she notices a cane propped near the door.

Arrin: Soquan notices the rodent’s gait and asks in a concerned manner. “Did they rough you up when they caught you too?”

Catamount: Zander pauses in his retrieval of a couple of crude cups. “…this? Ah… not exactly. But I’m sure they made the old wound worse.” Jozra tries to hide her puzzlement. Frankly, she was convinced Zander was killed in Ostoria, but now was obviously not the time to talk about that.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan gives a sort of half-grin, crossing his arms over his chest. “I guess everyone gets mixed results coming in here ‘eh?”

Yazeth: Zander chuckles. “Yeah. They weren’t sure if they should beat me for being a rat or welcome me for being a mouse. Apparently, deermice are confusing enough that those hares didn’t know where to put me.”

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter shakes his head slightly. “Said Joz here, and the other we were traveling with were ‘obviously violent.’” He barks a laugh. “They’re the ones who attacked in the first place.”

Yazeth: The ferret grins in amusement at her old friend. Zander pours some water from a corked container into the two cups. “Just water, I’m afraid. It’s clean though, and that’s sometimes hard to find.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan nods and accepts the cup gratefully, taking a small sip. “Thank you.”

Yazeth: Zander shuffles back into the other ‘room’ and pulls a couple of crates away from the wall. He chuckles a little as he does so. “My chairs. My place is your place, now. I doubt you’ll find somewhere else to stay anyway.”

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter grins from over the top of his cup and motions out of the room towards the street. “Not really a helpful bunch out there, are they?”

Yazeth: The woodrat shakes his head as he settles himself down on a crate-chair. “No. They’ve already lost their freedom and most of their possessions. What they have they don’t want to share as they’re afraid they won’t get anything in return, or that the patrols will decide that sharing’s a crime.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan harrumphs, muttering some choice words under his breath about speciests. “So is there any other sorts of beasts we should watch out for? Or are the hares it?”

Yazeth: Zander shrugs a little. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell. ‘Vermin sympathizers’ get thrown in here as well so I can’t say beware of all squirrels, mice and moles. A good rule of thumb is someone well dressed walking down the street with several guards.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan mulls this over in his mind, nodding slowly. “So do you know how all this started?”

Yazeth: Zander shakes his head as Jozra takes her own seat and a sip of water. “Well, not exactly. I have my theories and I’ve heard some rumors…” He glances briefly at Joz. How much could he tell without giving anything away? “As I understand it, the latest ruler of Fifer is not at fan of so called ‘vermin’ and had been imposing restrictions based upon species whenever he could get away with this. Naturally this elevated tension between species and he ended up with more and more excuses to for more restrictions. Why that makes any difference here, I’m not sure. It seems Fifer has a huge influence on these surrounding cities.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan looks disgusted. “So there’s more places like this?”

Yazeth: Zander nods. “At least, that’s what I heard. What’s perplexing is how fast this all happened. I’ve been talking with a few of the beasts in here that have lived in the city for years and apparently this ghetto and the so-called work camp have only existed since about mid-winter.”

Arrin Woodgreen: “Soquan’s expression turns troubled, and his brow furrows. “Do you know much about the work camps?”

Yazeth: The woodrat shrugs helplessly. “I’ve tried to find out as much as I could about them… I have a friend in there as well. They’re heavily guarded, though, and it’s very difficult to get close to them with the many patrols. They’re prisons, that much I know for sure.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan growls and grips his cup tightly. “We need to do something about all this, it isn’t right. None of all this seems right.”

Yazeth: For a moment, Zander stares at Jozra very seriously as he quietly replies, “Yes, we do.” He turns to look at Soquan again. “I have been trying to find out some information that might be useful, but it’s difficult to organize when your neighbor might be a spy.”

Arrin Woodgreen: His anger subdued again, Soquan is back to nodding as the woodrat speaks. “Understandable.”

Yazeth: Jozra sits uncomfortably for a moment, knowing that Zander has things he can’t tell her while Soquan can hear. Zander breaks the mood by clapping his paws and rubbing them together and then stiffly rising to his feet. “We can talk about this more later. I suspect you’re both very tired. Lets see if we can’t get a few more beds set up, shall we?”

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter rises to his feet. “Sure thing. What do we need to do?”

Yazeth: “Well…” The woodrat hobbles back over towards the door and retrieves his cane. “I see you both have large cloaks that could work as blankets so we can use those. We can take down some of the walls to make mattresses. They’re just hooked up there, Joz, they come down easy.” He adds this last bit as Jozra moves towards one of the blanket walls.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan eyes up the walls and looks back at the ferret. “I’ll get one, you grab the other? Or do you want to grab the things from our packs?”

Yazeth: The ferret nods. “Sure.” Meanwhile, the woodrat reveals the crate bench in front of the small window to be the narrow frame for a bed filled with straw. He chuckles, “It itches and it’s hard to get out of but it’s pretty soft. I don’t mind if either of you wants to take it instead.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan waves a paw absently from here he is removing the ‘walls’. “You two go ahead and pick whatever, I’ll use whatever’s left.”

Yazeth: Jozra grins slyly at Zander. “I think you need the softer bed… old man.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan releases both walls with a dull ‘thump’ on the floor.
“Now Joz, is that any way to thank Zander for taking us in.” He grins suddenly, “Remember what we leaned as young-uns. Respect your elders.”

Yazeth: Zander gives them both a dirty look as he unfolds a threadbare blanket from where it was tucked into a crate. “I’m barely older than either of you.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan tisks softly and turns to Jozra with a wink. “Looks like some beast’s getting cranky ’cause he’s been up too late.”

Yazeth: The ferret chuckles as Zander rolls his eyes. “I’m afraid I don’t have much to feed you. There’s a few shriveled potatoes and some stale bread which we can either have for dinner or wait and eat them for breakfast.”

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter thinks this over for a minute and turns to Jozra, his brow furrowed. “Did the hares leave us anything?”

Yazeth: Jozra turns back to their packs from where she had been spreading out their cloaks. After a little rummaging she comes up with some odds and ends. “Not much. They left the flour, took the scones. There’s a little cheese left.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan gives a half grin. “We’ll leave food for tonight, and why don’t we see if we can scrounge anything up tomorrow?”

Yazeth:  Zander nods. “Sounds like a good idea. Especially since there won’t be enough light to see with soon. Candles are also short in supply.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan nods in understanding and looks around the small room. “So where are we crashing for the night?”

Yazeth: Zander gestures about. “Anywhere you can find the room to, really. I like to keep things tidy during the day but at night, especially with the walls down, it doesn’t really matter.”

Arrin Woodgreen: “Alright then.” The otter hands the ferret her wall and motions for her to go ahead.

Yazeth: Jozra folds the patched together blanket together until it becomes a rectangle just large enough for her body. She sets it over near one of the room’s actual walls and then drapes her cloak over it.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan mimics her movements with the blanket and places his near the ferret’s, although not close enough to raise any questions with the woodrat.

Yazeth: Zander sets his cane on the floor near his make-shift bed and rolls in smoothly. For a rodent with a stiff leg, he’s otherwise rather fit and agile.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan hunkers down on his mat and curls up within his cloak. “G’night both of you, see you in the morning.”

Yazeth: The ferret slips under her own cloak and pads her head with her paws. She smiles a little at Soquan’s comment and adds her own goodnights.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan lies in the darkness for a time, letting his brain slowly seep in today’s information as he drifts off into a light sleep

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