Vampire Slayer Ferdie, Chapter Six:
Coffee, coffee, my kingdom for a double espresso.
Nightfall was fast approaching by the time our diligent band of would-be heroes found the Wandering Forest and most of the group was on the verge of exhaustion, not too mention starvation since they had skipped dinner in order beat the sunset. However, once inside the Wandering Forest, everyone perked up a little. It might have been the welcoming presence of the forest itself or just the comforting knowledge that pretty soon they would be able to collapse for the night. The rebel base camp turned out to be in the exact center of the forest, in a large lightly wooded area that had, of all things, a substantial creek running nearby. No one asked how a stretch of land that constantly wanders about could have it's own running water. Iiwi was personally convinced the answer would scare her.
The camp is just a bit further down this path, she called in an encouraging tone. Several happy moans sounded in response, chiefly from Beak (who currently lugged around a worn out Bob) and Hazel who was practically dragging her uncle. They weren't the only ones with burdens. Squeaks had a weary Ferdia riding piggyback and Ravyn had ended up carrying Ferdie who still hadn't fully recovered from Hazel's 'medicine'.
A series of whistles and chirps echoed through the woods around them and a motley band of rebels suddenly appeared, led by a gigantic and disturbingly chipper looking dark gray rat. At the sight of him Hazel let out a piercing squeal of delight, dropped the owl and flung herself at him screaming, Big brother!
A collective twitch ran through their audience when he yelled back, Little sister, then proceeded to pick her up and fling her about in the air.
By the great and merciful Guardian, he's going to be even more cheery than usually, one of the natives was heard to mutter.
Hallo Uncle, the rat cried, scooping the poor owl up and into a bear hug. Hazel was clinging to one huge arm. Glad you made it safely through the wildlands. Nasty buggers out there.
Harm, Ravyn called softly. I'm sorry to interrupt your family reunion but our visitors are extremely fatigued. Please lead us to the base camp and we will gladly answer all your questions.
The look of total adoration the rat gave her was alarming and Ravyn involuntarily sighed. Sure thing Ravyn honey. Hoisting both his uncle and sister into his arms. Okay everyone, follow me and watch your step.
Their destination was mostly just a huge cluster of makeshift shelters; the largest resting in the middle and the center of activity. A diverse crew of birds and mammals scurried back and forth, some calling orders, others carting around everything from weaponry to crates of food. However, practically all activity ceased when they appeared in the clearing.
Sirius, sir they've arrived, someone yelled, which broke the spell and suddenly the group was surrounded by rebels. The crowd sort of swept them along to the large wooden structure until the Professor managed to emerge from the throng, a bit breathless.
Disperse, another voice called out and the horde thinned out. Allow our guests some breathing room please.
The remainder of the pack parted to reveal a tall golden brown mouse marching towards them. Everything about him screamed authority and several rebels scrambled to get out of his way as he walked up the owl and bowed.
It is an honor to see you again Learned One. I am pleased you made the journey safely. Welcome all of you to our camp. It isn't much but we call it home. Please, if you will follow me, we have food prepared for you as well as a place to rest. You all most be very tired after everything you have been through to reach the forest so quickly.
The new arrivals were taken into the temporary command center where a feast waited for them. The food was quickly devoured, some of the dishes consumed without identification. Their host watched, half-amused, and just ordered more food. Eventually the ravenous consumption slowed down and the Professor began introductions.
This is my nephew Harm, the owl said, pointing at the giant rat who smiled happily and waved. Harm is the second in command in the camp and very useful to have about.
If you need anything, just ask, Harm informed them. Our resources can be a bit limited at times but I'm at your service.
The base leader is this young one here, the Professor continued, indicating the golden mouse at the head of the table. This is Sirius, Lord of the Dragonwoods.
Forgive me for interrupting, one of the sentries said as he hurried into the room. Sir, we've discovered a problem on the western perimeter. Also a message has arrived from the south camp with urgent news. He passed a note along to his superior who quickly scanned it.
Please excuse me. The golden mouse rose to his feet. Ravyn would you accompany me?
Certainly. Ravyn stood as well and followed him out of the rough wooden hut.
You have other campsites, Ferdia asked, startled. Where are they?
The forest is quite large, the Professor replied. There are five other sites aside from this one. Three to the south of us, one to the east and a small one along the western border that serves mostly as a lookout given it's proximity to the edge of the woods. However, this base camp is the main one, where the command center, if you prefer, was established. As I told you, we have quite a sizable army built up, despite our loses.
There are still many mundanes eager to defend our little world, Harm informed them. They'll fight, no matter how big a risk. To give up after so many sacrifices is unthinkable.
I admire your fighting spirit, Squeaks responded. From what the Professor has told us, the odds against victory aren't good.
We will do whatever is necessary to protect our world. War should always be the last resort of any just being but these fiends don't respect our honorable and righteous ways. Therefore it is up to every peaceful and freedom loving creature to fight against the terrible tyranny of our oppressors!
Hazel began clapping halfway through her brother's impassioned speech. Bravo my brother. It is only when the righteous band together to overcome tyranny that justice is truly served. Now that we have the Slayer, no fiend will be safe from our worthy crusade!
They cannot be for real, Ferdia said softly to Squeaks, rolling her eyes. He stifled a snicker and just shook his head.
I bet you two are happy to reunited, Beak commented. The brown kiwi surreptitiously snagged all the plaintains off the table and into his pack.
I'm absolutely bonkers about having my little sister at my side again, Harm replied, squeezing Hazel as he did. Sirius and meself were thrilled when we found out the lassies were joining us here. Thanks for taking such good care of them.
Ferdie half raised his hand. Uh, question. Why would Sirius care?
Well that's his own lil sis, just like my Hazel here, Harm jovial responded.
Ravyn's older, Hazel reminded him.
Oh yeah, that's right. I always forget she's a mite bit older than him. Never know it by looking at the pair of mousies.
They're siblings? Ferdie stared at him in shock.
Half siblings, Hazel corrected him, of course.
The rat snorted. No distinction if you be asking me! A sister is a sister, right Uncle? I mean Hazel and meself don't have the same parents obviously but she's still my sister, make no mistake about that. Right Hazel dearie?
Well of course, Hazel replied, punching him in the arm.
Thick as thieves those two are, Harm continued. Right adorable it is too. Course you can't blame the lad, Ravyn's a charmer she is.
My brother's very fond of Ravyn. Hazel looked straight at Ferdie as she spoke.
Oh yes, those two are quite good friends, the Professor put in, smiling benignly. Ravyn's a very kind lass, sweet and good-natured. She's friendly to everyone.
And you don't want her to be anything but friends with your nephew, Ferdie silently concluded. She's just the help, the one you all send to do the dirty work because, after all, those are *her* people. She fits in among them. Never mind that you're asking her to betray them *or* just using her and not even giving her what she really wants - acceptance.
While Harm took the new arrivals on an extended tour of the campsite, Sirius' subtle attempt to isolate his sister so she could be interrogated as they journeyed to the western border of the forest was failing miserably.
So what do you want to speak to me about, Ravyn asked her brother point blank as soon as they were out of earshot.
Sirius grinned. You know me far too well.
Your urgent news was simply another report that the Phantom King was spotted heading towards the western border. You do not need my help in dealing with him, as the sprite is harmless. Which means you want to talk.
Maybe I just wanted to enjoy your company little sister. It has been awhile since we last spent time together.
Ravyn laughed. Little? We both know I'm older than you by more years than either of us cares to contemplate.
So? You're shorter, that makes you the little sister.
Bah, I remember you when you were just a mousling.
As I recall you weren't that much older at the time so don't rub it in. But yes, I did want to speak to you about something.
Well we're alone so talk.
Tell me about the Slayer. What do you think of him? We've had reports come in about the incident at Hallmar but
well they aren't very detailed.
Allow me to hazard a guess. Just glowing praise about the Slayer's friends?
Exactly. I would like to know what really occurred.
Sighing, the black mouse shook her head. I fear I am the wrong one to ask. When the night ghouls attacked I wasn't even in the village. Hazel and the Learned one could tell you what you wish to know, though.
No, they wouldn't. Neither of them is any help. Hazel can be as bad as Harm and the owl is too busy defending his actions to everyone to be totally honest. Sirius sighed as well. It is not that I question his wisdom, I just wish I knew more.
They did save the village, Ravyn pointed out. Surely that must count for something.
It does of course. However, I am accountable for what happens here. The Elders are being less than supportive right now. This whole situation grows more dangerous each day. I am convinced that the fiend is planning something huge. That is the only explanation for his movements the past few months. However, not everyone is in agreement with me. The optimists want to believe the fiend was just preparing to cower in fear of the coming of the Slayer. Why else would he retreat into the heart of his territory, they say, and limit the activity of his minions. Foolishness! Something terrible is going to happen soon, I know it. Sirius growled in frustration. Out of curiosity, where were you?
When the village was attacked? With the Slayer. We were in the woods.
And just what were you two doing in the woods, Sirius demanded.
To his amazement, Ravyn blushed. Talking brother, just talking. Then the night ghouls appeared and I
well I had to save him. But only because he fell off a cliff.
That is *not* comforting!
I know that Ferdie doesn't seem like much of a warrior and, in truth, I don't think he is. But he is extremely knowledgeable. Plus his companions are obviously trained fighters. It is a measure of his character that he inspires such loyalty in others. Granted, he may not be very heroic and he does have a tendency to scream uncontrollably. Nevertheless, I think it wouldn't be fair to underestimate him. Maybe the Slayer isn't a hero in the traditional sense; maybe he was never supposed to be. He may still be our savior and our only hope.
Ivan was *not* having a good day. So far he'd endured the escalation of a nearby turf war, received a scathing 'invitation' from Bobetta to visit her in her ridiculously lavish and frou-frou mansion (the kiwi was living proof that good breeding did *not* automatically mean good taste) and then knocked unconscious by a band of sci-fi rejects on some sort of warped scavenger hunt. As far as he was concerned, coming to and discovering he was chained to a wall in some dank, smelly cell in an unknown location was basically the final straw. Plus he had a pounding headache and no clue how to get a hold of some aspirin. Quite frankly, he was beginning to wonder if Death had decided he'd make a suitable playtoy after all.
Then the voices spoke in the darkness.
Think he's awake yet, something snarled, voice like gravel.
Don't matter, another voice seemed to boom through the air. Master say no play with this one. He useful - has to stay in one piece.
There was a fangy sort of snarl before the other voice responded, highly petulant. No fair! The Master can't give us new toys then say we can't have fun with them! The girl rabbit is no touch too. Fraggit, I want to torture something!
Girl rabbit? Lita undoubtedly, Ivan decided. At least he knew where one of his wards was. Not that the idea of Lita being in this place was comforting. Even if this 'Master' had declared them both hands off. Despite all her experience, the young dust bunny was still a child in some ways and things that lurked in the darkness could scare even the bravest child. That just left the Sign Holder unaccounted for. Hopefully the kid was okay; he was clever for his age but impulsive.
The sound of thudding footsteps echoed through the dungeon before gradually fading in the distance. Apparently his jailors were leaving. Then something scraped against the door and a low voice called out, Sir?
Lita, Ivan responded in shock. Are you okay? Where's the kid?
I don't think they grabbed him, Lita replied, struggling to get the makeshift lock pick to work. I haven't seen or heard any mention of him.
How long have you been conscious?
Long enough to find out a few things. Wanna report? It'll give me something to do while I get this stupid door open.
Despite the situation, Ivan chuckled. Go ahead.
Quickly Lita related everything she had discovered so far, including the spontaneous unlocking of her cuffs and cell door. Basically they wanted Bobetta and took us because we happened to be in the mansion. They want to use me to send some sort of message to the Slayer. Probably something like 'Surrender or we kill you fiancée'.
Ivan swore under his breath. It figures that stupid kiwi has gotten us mixed up in another of his crazy schemes.
At least it's not space this time, right Sir?
Somehow, that isn't comforting. There was the sound of something breaking and a pained yelp. What's wrong?
Pick broke. This isn't a normal lock, I can't get the door open Boss, I'm sorry.
I suspect our captors aren't normal either. I'm afraid we're going to need help.
I know where the misfits are. Someplace called the Wandering Forest. It can't be too far from here, but I have to find the place before dark or it disappears or something.
If Bob is here, then the detectives are too, especially if the blue feathered wonder came with him. She usually tries to keep her brother out of trouble. Redbird might have tagged along, too. Can you get out of this place without getting caught?
I think so. Something seems to be going out of its way to help me so I should be safe. But I don't want to leave you here Sir. This isn't exactly a pleasant place. There's a sign on the wall behind me that says 'The floggings will continue until morale improves.'
I'll be all right. For some reason, I'm off limits, no torturing allowed. Besides, you need to leave *now*, before it gets dark.
On the other side of the door, Lita hesitated, torn between finding help and protecting her guardian. Booming footsteps began echoing through the hallway, steadily sounding closer.
Furball go! Now!
With a whispered, I'll be back soon, I promise, the dust bunny fled.
Morning dawned on this unusual world, brining with it new hope and possibilities (mostly for infinite pain but hey, hope is hope). Slowly crawling out the tent he had to share with Beak and Ferdie, Bob whimpered as he stood and straightened painfully stiffened joints. Coffee, coffee, my kingdom for a double espresso, he muttered before staggering to food tent. Glaring in loathing at an already awake and chipper Beak he sat down to breakfast on berries, cream and, to his immense disgust, water.
Where is everyone, Bob finally managed to ask, once he felt less homicidal.
Beak looked up from his meditation and shrugged. Miss Iiwi is out scouting around with some of the natives. Both Ferdia and Squeaks are still asleep, they took the last watch shift and I saw Ferdie wander into the woods with Miss Ravyn as a guide. He said he wanted to discuss more of the local history with her.
Laughing snidely, the yellow kiwi rolled his eyes. Oh yeah, I'm sure he wants to 'discuss' lots of things with her.
That is what he said, Beak replied innocently, completely clueless as usual.
Bob let it drop; knowing subtlety was usually lost on brick walls. Strange Ferdia and Squeaks aren't up yet. I thought they'd be used to getting no sleep by now.
Beak shrugged again. Miss Iiwi said they were extremely tired when they retired to their tent early this morning.
A stream of water suddenly struck the poor brown kiwi in the face as Bob choked then stared at him in astonishment. Wait, *their* tent?
They had to share because of limited space and tents, Beak explained while trying in vain to dry out his feathers. They didn't seem to mind.
He finally looked a little worried when Bob began cackling evilly.
While a certain yellow kiwi began plotting a stunt that would mostly get him killed, Ferdie and Ravyn had wandered a short way into the woods and now perched across from each other on one of the massive oak trees (which had very kindly rearranged it's branches so they could climb up). The bluebird was listening attentively as Ravyn related more of the history of her world.
And that's why, at the end of the Fifth Great War, all centralized government was abolished, Ravyn concluded. Everything was pretty peaceful after that. Until the Master Vampire appeared anyway. I hope I haven't been boring you.
Ferdie quickly shook his head. No way. This is extremely important research you know.
You are very much the scholar, Ravyn replied, amused. Truly I had no idea the Slayer would be so learned.
Hey, knowledge is power. But, yeah, I guess you were all expecting the Slayer to be the fearless warrior type, like my sister.
Perhaps. But that does not mean our expectations are correct. As you said, knowledge is power and you are very knowledgeable. Maybe you can find a way to defeat the fiend, something no other has thought of. Ravyn frowned. My brother is very worried.
He believes the fiend is planning terrible. And that this event will occur soon, *very* soon. However, none of the Elders will listen to his warnings. Now that you have arrived, everyone believes we have nothing more to worry about.
Ferdie shifted uncomfortably. Yeah well, that's kind of foolish.
Please forgive them. I think that, after living in fear for so long, the end draws near and it makes them incautious.
There's a saying in my world. You have nothing to fear but fear itself.
The mouse stared at him, startled. Do you truly believe that?
Nope. I say, show me someone who, after believing something that dumb, *didn't* die a horrible, gruesome, painful death.
Unexpectedly, Ravyn started laughing. You have a fascinating mind.
Uh, thanks. Mind if I ask you something?
Are you happy Ravyn?
Blinking for a moment, she suddenly smiled. Of course. I am quite content to be here, talking with you.
Doggedly fighting back the blush, Ferdie shook his head. No I meant here, in this place.
Oh. Ravyn paused, looking uncertain than gave a half-shrug. I am content, she replied, tone less then sincere. I have a home here and friends. Then there is my brother, Sirius. We are the only family each of us has.
What if you could go somewhere else?
You *could* come live in my world.
Ravyn sat silent for several minutes while Ferdie contemplated his stupidity. But I know nothing and no one in your world, she finally responded.
You know me. And the others, he hastily added. We could teach you everything you'd need to know. It wouldn't be the first time. Squeaks is also from another
place. Plus you could stay my family al long as you needed to. Think of it as starting over, this time in a world with limitless possibilities. No one there would care about your heritage, trust me.
Ravyn opened her mouth to reply but whatever she was about to say was cut off by a sound like thunder; but close by and it repeated.
Those were gunshots, Ferdie cried, almost falling off his branch.
It came from the campsite, Ravyn replied, slipping from her perch to the ground. Hurry!
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