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Jun 13

Chapter 79: Conspiracy

Chapter 79: Conspiracy

In Which Plans Are Make To Break Out Of Afrin.

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Yazeth: Night comes early to the slums and with a cowed and poor population, the night is dark and quiet with no lights or festive beasts to make it otherwise. Jozra sleeps uneasily, concerned about Holstadt and Azrun but fortunately it’s a dreamless sleep.  Morning comes, washed out and gray, the sunlight absorbed by the more prosperous part of the city.

Arrin Woodgreen: Having woken up much earlier, Soquan’s bed is empty. Upon further inspection, he can be seen perched in the open window, balanced neatly on the wide ledge as he looks out over the slums.

Yazeth: Jozra rolls off her mat at about the same time Zander rubs his face, yawns and props himself up on his elbows. Jozra blinks at the otter. “G’morning, Soquan.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan glances over his shoulder briefly at the ferret and gives her a small smile before turning back to the city. “Morning.”

Yazeth: She stretches a little as Zander begins clambering out of his box-bed. “so, what was that about breakfast?” Jozra ruefully puts a paw over her grumbling belly.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan answers absently from the window as he climbs down. “I could probably whip something up.”

Yazeth: Zander nods. “That sounds like a good idea. If you need me for anything… I’ll be up on the roof.” With that he glances somewhat meaningfully at Jozra and then makes for the window.

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter gives a smile to the ferret as he passes her on the way to the kitchen. “Go ahead, go catch up with your friend.”

Yazeth: Jozra smiles back at Soquan. “Okay.” She heads towards the window where the woodrat exited and looks about, puzzled for a moment, before finding the handholds in the side of the building. With a twist and a little shimmy Jozra pulls herself out the window and onto the handholds, after checking up and down the street to see if anyone was watching, of course. At the top, she finds Zander beginning the Scorpion’s version of the sunrise stretches. After a moment, she joins in.

Arrin Woodgreen: While Jozra and Zander busy themselves with stretches, Soquan moves around downstairs, using what supplies they have to make a small breakfast.

Yazeth: Zander and Jozra finally roll out the last of the stretches and sit quietly for a moment, looking easterly. Here on the rooftops, sunlight is easier to get to. After a moment, Zander speaks. “I had something for you… You left it behind but they took it from me.”

He smiles briefly and sadly. Jozra merely gazes seriously at him for a moment. “We all thought you were dead.”

Zander sighs a little and then chuckles. “I thought I was too.  I don’t know when I came to, but when I did the rest of you were long gone, and I couldn’t make any sense of your tracks. So I started to head back towards the original mission.”

Jozra looks at the woodrat in concern. “You weren’t… sick at all, were you? We scattered to the wilderness for two weeks, to make sure we hadn’t caught the sickness.”

Zander’s gaze hardens a little. “…I’m not entirely that’s what it was anymore.” He stares Jozra in the eyes.

She’s incredulous, for a moment, and then thinks about it. “I have my doubts too.  Especially…” No, she doesn’t want to even mention that, even while she’s sitting in warm sunlight. “We have to deal with this first, though.”

Zander nods. “I’ve been scouting and there’s some key things you should know. First, they keep everything they confiscated in one building in the compound. It’s impossible to get to from the front, too heavily guarded. But…” the woodrat’s eyes twinkle, “…they never look UP! Because, after all, the only things that climb are squirrels right?”

Jozra snickers. It’s a relatively true assumption until you get to Scorpion training on the sheer cliff walls overlooking the Ravine River. That could make an expert climber out of a mole.

Zander chuckles as well. “The other main thing is that this… this machine runs quickly and efficiently, but only on what orders they have. Anything out of the norm they have to go back up to the top to find out what to do. Meaning,” Zander gives Jozra a very pointed look, “…meaning it’ll all fall apart without the guy at the top.”

Jozra narrows her eyes but nods in understanding.  Zander hesitates a moment before continuing. “…another thing that I don’t want to think about but have to add. They say that the camps started in mid-winter, that the catalyst was a band of vermin destroying a colony of ‘good beasts’ up North.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Having cleaned up the small home and set up a makeshift breakfast table, Soquan pokes his head out of the window and calls up to the roof. “Breakfast’s on when you two lovebirds are ready.” He pulls his head in quick before any retaliation can be made, and seats himself at the table.

Yazeth: Jozra’s quiet contemplation of what Zander has told her is broken by Soquan’s call, and she shakes herself out of her unpleasant mood. She tries to smile and gets it right on the second time. “Let’s go. You haven’t tasted it yet for yourself but Soquan’s cooking is excellent.”

Zander smiles a little as well. “I’ll just have to see about that.” He leads the way back down and through the window.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan gives a wave as he spots them entering. “I hope you like oatmeal.”

Yazeth: The woodrat glances at Jozra with an eyebrow raised. “Oatmeal? I thought you said he was a phenomenal cook.”

Jozra laughs. “You haven’t even tried it yet!”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan pouts at the woodrat. “Hey! I only had so much to work with!”

Yazeth: Zander mock-rolls his eyes and sits at the table. “Alright, alright… I’ll give it a try.”

Arrin Woodgreen: The otter swallows a mouthful and grins at Zander from across the table. “That’s the spirit!”

Yazeth: The woodrat looks at Soquan somewhat dubiously and then tries a taste. He rolls it around in his mouth for a moment and then looks back at the otter. “…that’s actually really good. I’m sorry I doubted your cooking prowess, Soquan.” He digs in.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan pokes at his meal a bit. “I don’t blame you for not trusting me. It does look kinda dodgy, doesn’t it?” He takes a spoonful and swallows. “I guess one thing about not being able to see, is that you don’t know what your meal ends up looking like.” He turns a grin towards Jozra, “Remember when I first tried to feed this to you?”

Yazeth: The ferret chuckles a little sheepishly. “Yeah. That was before I learned to trust your cooking, though.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan laughs, “I swear, you were going to throw it at me.”

Yazeth: Zander snickers. “Really now… You should know better than to throw food at a cook, Joz.”

The ferret rolls her eyes. “Well I know NOW.”

Yazeth: Zander snickers and winks at Soquan. Breakfast is soon finished and the three set to cleaning up the small hovel. Dishes are cleaned and the ‘walls’ are re-hung and when all that is done, the three stand around for a moment, looking at each other, wondering what to do. The moment doesn’t last long, however. The facts of living in the slums soon assert themselves and Zander gives Soquan and Jozra a crash course in living there. Food is hard to come by as the only store in the area is badly stocked and yet more expensive than most beasts living in the slum can afford. Bread lines are infrequent and they run out quickly. The small community garden is often trampled when the hares do their frequent patrols through the slums.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan sits quietly through Zander’s ‘lesson’ and afterwards his brow furrows in thought, however the scowl that had found it’s way onto his face during the discussion remains. “There’s no marketplace or trade house?”

Yazeth: The woodrat shakes his head. “Not as such. I’ve told you already that most of the beasts here are highly distrustful. Some of them are here because they are ‘vermin sympathizers’, others are only here because somebody didn’t like them and simply accused them of being sympathizers. There is some trading, but it’s largely underground. And often for items not quite as mundane as food, such as medicine.”

Arrin Woodgreen: He gives a nod. “So either of you have any idea how we’re going to bust out of here?”

Yazeth: Zander eyes Jozra for a moment and then looks back to Soquan. “Ah, right to the point. Good.” He smiles a little. “I cannot in good conscience just escape and leave all these creatures who have it as bad… or worse…. here without some plan to get them out too. I think the best way would actually be a mass breakout. We’d need a fairly hefty distraction to begin it, though. Something that would focus the attention of the guards elsewhere while we free everybody. I have a few ideas for that distraction but I don’t know where we could go that would shelter so many beasts.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan goes back into ‘thinker mode’. “Good question.” He remains silent for a good minute or so, before turning to Jozra with an odd mix of expressions on his features. Hope, unease, worry and just a dash of smugness. “A place for those who need help and have nowhere else to go.”

Yazeth: Jozra looks at Soquan, her brow wrinkled in thought. “But where?  …ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” She scratches absentmindedly behind her ear. “I don’t think the safehouse could manage that many people, though. Unless… unless you mean the whole town.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan beams at her. “Of course I mean the town, but the safehouse can help a lot probably. Sound like a good idea?”

Yazeth: The ferret nods. “I’m not sure if they’ll necessarily be happy about it, especially Kirrian, but I think they’ll offer whatever help they can for a few days. At least it’s a destination.” She thinks a moment longer. “And… if they’ve fixed the bridge, it would be pretty easy to get there quickly and then defend until the hares find another way across.”

Arrin Woodgreen: His brow furrows. “Unless we mix ’em up. There’s that big log remember. We can split everyone up, the hares won’t know which way to go.”

Yazeth: Jozra nods thoughtfully as Zander looks on. “I think the bridge is the more direct route, and the log is treacherous but if we took enough beasts that would be able to cross the log… they would probably be fit enough to double time to the log and back. It would at least make whoever ends up trailing us hesitate, at best they’d split their forces up.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan nods as well. “Once we’re in Kodan, we’re home free.”

Yazeth: The ferret nods somewhat hesitantly and Zander catches her eye for a second. “It’s only a temporary solution, though. Kodan can’t take care of that many people forever. The city’s going to have to grow quickly or they’ll have to find a better solution. But for getting people out of here, it works.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan gives a sigh and leans back. “Alright, now on to the hard part, how are we going to distract all the guards enough to free everyone?”

Yazeth: Zander shuts his eyes, leans back and rubs his face as he sighs, trying not to give Jozra a pointed look. “I’ve given this a lot of thought and so far I have no best solution, just a lot of ideas. We need something that will confuse the guards and direct them away from the slums and the camps. I’ve seen them in turmoil when one of their Corporals was killed but as soon as there was a promotion and somebody giving orders again, they were back to being the machine you know.”

He rubs the corners of his eyes near the bridge of his nose. “They wouldn’t care about anything happening here in the slums. There was a riot a few weeks ago but they stopped it rather efficiently because they don’t care about the people in here. A fire in the main city perhaps. A large enough one that all of the guards would be needed to attend to. Or a manhunt. I observed them as being disorganized when they tried combing the city for an escapee. I think the most sure-fire way, though, is to take out a high ranking officer. …or even better. The beast in charge of the city. They take all of their orders from him.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan scratches absently at his chin. “That last one sounds like the best way to go, but it seem to be the hardest as well.”

Yazeth: Zander chuckles a little, though more in surprise than in humor as Jozra avoids his eyes. “I must confess I expected a little more of a… moral objection to that idea, though I suppose with what you’ve seen of this place…” He trails off and gestures around a little.

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan shakes his head a bit. “I don’t have too much of an objection to getting rid of the beast that thinks its okay to treat beasts like this.” He gestures around as well.

Yazeth: Zander nods firmly. They understand each other. “The problem, as you said, is that it is difficult. I don’t know very much about the city proper. I do know that this ruler… He calls himself ‘Mayor’ though I’m more inclined to call him a warlord…. Mayor Astor lives in a small mansion in the center of the city. I don’t know how well it’s guarded.” A moment’s thought and Zander quirks an eyebrow. Soquan isn’t ‘in’ on the Scorpions. He wouldn’t know… “And, of course, we’ll have to find someone to do the deed.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan turns towards the window. “Know anyone, or have any beast in mind? If not, I guess we need to keep our ears open on the streets.”

Yazeth: Zander smiles grimly as Jozra glares at the woodrat from the corner of her eye, her back to the otter so he can’t see their interaction. “Indeed. I know of a couple of possibilities but that’s all they are. Possibilities.” He stretches and then stiffly gets to his feet. “I propose for now we keep this between us and try to find something to eat for dinner.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan nods and stands slowly, picking up his staff from the wall he’d been leaning against. “I’ll go have a poke around the area for anything being distributed tonight; it’ll let me get to know the area better.”

Yazeth: The woodrat nods. “It’s probably best if we all split up, actually. There’s a lot of ground to cover and not too much danger, despite the squalor. Though Jozra might not want to be seen wandering the streets alone.” He frowns. “A ‘vermin’ roaming free would be rather suspicious to any patrols.”

Jozra interjects before either Zander or Soquan can say something else. “I get it, I’ll lay low.”

Arrin Woodgreen: Soquan grins at both of them before exiting the small home and making his way onto the street. “Stay safe, both of you.”

Yazeth: As soon as the otter is out of earshot, Zander turns towards Jozra. “Actually, you’re my only possibility. I can move fast in a pinch but with this leg, I think my days of stealth are over.”

Before the ferret can object, he snatches up his cane and hobbles out of the house and down the stairs. Fuming, Jozra glares where the woodrat had been and then, after checking out the window again, she makes her way up to the roof.

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