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The Parade

Llamao December 4, 2011 User blog:Llamao

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A short compilation of stories by myself and Redmight (updates are imminent)

The Parade

Like on most normal days, nothing was amiss or abroad in Mossflower. A fine day indeed it was. Like any other, the streams and rivers flowing slowly and silently on, as if they themselves wanted to stop to witness the natural beauty, and perhaps to take a rest from the tedious job of constantly moving from one place to another. But it was work not in vain, for even insignificant droplets of water would not have wanted to witness the events that had took place by the banks of the River Moss that day.

Sunlight wove its way through leafy canopies to make its way to the forest floor, where it settled and rested before it would be whisked away as the sun disappeared again over the horizon. The air was filled with energy, the sun radiantly glowing overhead, a bright sign of life and renewal. Nothing was amiss or abroad in Mossflower.

One creature in particular, a certain ferret, was feeling quite splendid after having killed an innocent vole and robbing the old beast of his valuables and food. "Y'won't be needin' these anymore. Why not donate 'em to a creature in need? He-he." The ferret sauntered off through the woods, chewing on freshly made bread and cheese while admiring a small dagger with a small ruby studded into the hilt.

As he continued weaving his way through the quiet expanse of Mossflower, however, the ferret began to feel anxious, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He had the odd feeling that many eyes were trained on him, simply watching. But he constantly looked from side to side, into the trees, and saw nothing. Nothing at all.

The appearance of the small rat made him forget about his apprehension, and he approached the quaint creature, unaware of its gaunt sunken face, and its eyes, which were milky white orbs with no centers. Only as the ferret got closer did he notice the rat's abnormal features; and by that time, the rat's flaky lips had curved into a gruesome smile, and it had pulled out a dagger of its own.

"Say …" The creature's voice was raspy, and its breathing came out as a painful grinding sound heaving from its chest, which seemed to be filled with dust, as if the creature had been laying unused for many seasons "You haven't seen a parade 'round here, have you?"

The ferret raised an eyebrow and gestured to the trees. "Look around ye. Wot idjit'd be 'avin a parade 'round these parts?" The rat's chuckle caused the ferret to flinch, its long filthy nails caressing the hilt of its dagger.

"Well, you must be deaf not to hear it, EH?!" The rat paused for a moment to compose itself before continuing. "There's a parade here … and I want to be in it!" The ferret shook his head at the rat's odd behavior and drew his own dagger.

"Ah met a little vole earlier, an' I put 'im in the parade. I'll do th'same t'you!" The ferret thrusted his dagger towards the rat, who nimbly leapt out of the way, laughing maniacally the whole time while responding.

"Oh, you'll see the parade soon enough! The question is whether you'll be alive to see it! Hahahaha!" The rat counterattacked the ferret and used its small size advantage to weave around the ferret, confusing the enemy. But the ferret was able to get one swing of his dagger's hilt down upon the rat's head, and the rat flopped onto the ground, its dagger flying off in another direction.

But it was still laughing. Ignoring its pain, the rat got up, blood beginning to leak from an open wound on its head. With the audacity of a true warrior, it staggered up to the ferret and exposed its neck willingly. "Hahaha! Come on! One swipe and I'm done! That’s all it takes! One swipe! Hahahaha!" The ferret slammed the hilt of his dagger into the rat's head again in alarm, stepping back as he did.

However, the rat continued to stand there as the wound expanded and more blood began to gush out freely. "Oh, you'll have to do better than that!! Put the pain where it belongs! Free me! FREE ME FROM THE PARADE!! Hahaha!"

At that point, the ferret was in no state to argue with the rat, and he slashed the rat's neck clean and through with his dagger. But even moments before death, the rat kept on talking. Its pupils began to reform as its eyes returned to normal, and the rat chuckled weakly. "Thank you … you have no idea … he-he." And with that, the creature died with a crooked grin, its blood soaking into the soil and mingling with the ferret's footpaws.

The ferret stepped back slowly and looked at the rat's face, the ghost of its last smile still flickering over it. He shook off a frightening feeling and thought about searching the rat for valuables, but decided against it. However, his mind was taken off the subject by the noise he heard next.

A deep rumbling echoed throughout the forest, an energetic sound filling up Mossflower woods. A sound that would seem as if it were coming from … a parade. The pounding of paws upon large drums was heard from a great distance, and the ferret looked around gingerly, not sure which direction the noise was coming from.

The ferret stared at the rat's body as if it were some sort of haunted apparition, and as he turned back around, he saw through the bush a creature walking through the forest. Now two, and three, and more creatures kept appearing, all marching with an upbeat pace, clashing and honking their instruments rhythmically and in tune with the beat of their footpaws.

The ferret gaped in awe at first, but after seeing their faces, he quickly found cover under a leafy bush. Their eyes glowed with that same milky fluoresce as the rat's eyes had, and their tongues snaked out from between their dark lips periodically, sliding over their mouth as if they were expecting something to be there.

The ferret peered out ever so slightly as the parade passed by him, none of the creatures aware of his presence. He witnessed ferrets juggling knives, weasels juggling a variety of fruits, and even a chained badger juggling rats. And all of them had that same grievous expression. Otters marched behind, banging their drums with such force that the ferret had to cover his ears.

Flutes and cordions and an assortment of the oddest instruments to have ever existed materialized before the ferret. However, the one thing that he found most deceiving was the fact that all of these creatures - otters, mice, squirrels, rats, foxes, weasels, ferrets, and stoats were marching together as friends, with not another care in the world it seemed, as their mouths were arched into grotesque grins.

And right in the middle of it all, a giant platformed throne was being carried by an assortment of creatures. Around the throne bearers marched another ring of creatures, each clashing cymbals together in an upbeat rhythm that matched their pace.

Atop the throne sat a most regal looking wolf, his white fur giving off a shining glow as the sunlight reflected off of it. A blue cape was tied about his shoulders and fluttered gently in the wind. His unnerving smile frightened the ferret, who dug his footpaws deeper into the earth as the throne passed … and the giant wolf seemed to look straight through the bushes - right at him.

Just as the rat had said … A parade had come to the forest.

"So … are you joining?" The ferret yelped slowly as the disturbing voice seemingly materialized behind him. He flinched, and his dagger fell from his paw, striking a tree root. He crawled forwards and turned around, expecting to see another creature like the masses that he had just witnessed.

However, only the smile of a normal female rat greeted his apprehension. Her bright green eyes stared him down, and while she didn't seem so hostile, the ferret could sense some evil lurking beneath her skin. But that would have been hidden by her pure black fur.

She raised her left arm to wave, but no arm was there. Instead, a metallic, arm-like structure with a metal claw attached to the end was somehow attached to her shoulder by means of some intricate mechanisms. He finally found the voice to answer her question with, inching closer to his dagger as he did. "J-join? I'm already in the parade! See?" He grabbed the dagger in a quick movement and held it up to her throat. "This dagger 'ere, wuz given t'me by th'Lord."

However, like the rat he had faced before, this one just stared at him with glee and smiled. "You're lying, of course. I've been spying on you, and you are no member of the king's horde! I suggest you join now … while you still can!"

The ferret crawled back, tension filling his body, and he held the dagger out. "I-I told, you, this dagger … it was given t'me by the horde!" However, the rat continued to chuckle, treating the ferret like an old friend.

"Oh, come on. There's no need to lie or be scared! I can introduce you to our king! Plus, if I'd wanted to kill you, I'd have done it a while ago!"

"Then why didn't you, scum?" The ferret charged forward with his dagger, but the rat easily sidestepped and produced thin metal wires from a pouch around her waist, which, seemingly by command of her will, wrapped themselves around the ferret, bringing his bound form crashing down roughly on the forest floor. He spit dirt and dead leaves out of his mouth, cursing and struggling with the bonds.

The rat pushed his head down and put her face close to his, her smile filling his vision. "I suggest you don't struggle. Those wires are highly flammable, and they'd give anything to be set on fire again. Your body heat's just helping with that. A few hours like this, and you'll be in flames!" The ferret went limp, his eyes widening.

The rat continued to smile. "That’s much better. Now, where were we? Oh yes … you were about to join the horde. You can see, we're a united community, a happy haven from your daily problems. Trust me, I'm more merciful than any of them. We don't tolerate creatures like you. I assure you, you'd be dead had any other beast found you. So consider yourself lucky, and join the parade!"

The glint in her eyes was enough to kill the ferret, but he didn't die. No, it was the job of fate to make this day as miserable as possible, and to finally kill him off at the end. He spat in the rat's face. "I'll never join yer brainwashed ranks!" His muscles tightened against the bonds as he attempted to break through, but the strong wires only served to cut deeper into his skin.

Sweat began popping up from his temples, and the rat, seeming to notice, began laughing. "Oh, the king's gonna like you." But the ferret wasn't listening, as he felt the bonds begin to loosen. He kicked out at the dirt and sent himself flying backwards. As he did this, the bonds stayed behind, giving him minor trouble as they slashed his footpaws.

He leaped up after finding his dagger with one paw, and faced the rat. "It's over, rat! Over!"

But the ground below him erupted into flames as the wire suddenly caught fire, and the ferret leapt back. The rat began to produce more tools from her various pouches, sharp metallic objects, complex in their design. The ferret, after glancing for a moment at her maniacal smile as she handled her weapons, turned and took heel into the forest, heading for the River Moss, which wasn't far south of his location.

And the rat, for the first time that day, frowned. "Well that isn't fun. Now we'll have to kill him."

The ferret ran as fast as his lean legs would carry him, but he could still hear the beating of the drums, pounding through his head and filling his ears. His vision was clouded with images of ferrets juggling knives, mice performing balancing acts, and all other oddities he had observed.

But as he ran, the air filled with a cold wind. The atmosphere began to feel heavier, pushing down on the ferret's shoulders, forcing his heels into the dirt. The world had become a shrinking sphere, and it was harder to breath properly now. The evil and soulless aura followed the ferret as he trudged onwards, panting and swiping at the dense air foolishly.

But it was no use, and a large paw clamped on his shoulder and pulled him into the ground. And as his eyes rolled back into his head as he fainted , his last sane vision was the sight of a pure white wolf smiling down at him, a huge blue dagger in its paw.

"Welcome … to the parade."

The Inconvenience of Being Dead

"'S not easy, doin' wot we do, mate."

The slender weasel was leaning on his spear, his eyes staring forwards inattentively. His fur was the color of rust, brown with a red tint to it, a rare color combination for one of his species. His spear bent slightly as his weight was pressed upon it, the point of the spear slowly digging its way into the wooden floor to make its own impression next to the other countless numbers of indents in the ground.

"Heh. Seems pretty easy so far, Rigger. Wot's so 'ard about guardin' a big ol' door, eh?"

His companion, a short albino stoat named Baines, stood fully to attention, spear held out forwards threateningly, pointing at a nonexistent enemy. The weasel Rigger lifted his head a little bit to glance at his companion, his eyelids drooping down slowly.

"One day ye'll learn, Baines, t'isn't fun guardin' the chamber. But yew ain't been 'ere fer long. All the new recruits think it's an importan' job. But wait'll I tell ye wot 'appened t'poor 'ol Slim." The stoat, Baines, turned to his companion, scowling.

"Ah, shut yer gob, Rigger, stan' up an' hold yer spear ready! Ye never know when there's gonna be a threat."

Rigger let out a loud, gaping yawn as Baines ended his sentence, and the stoat dealt him a rough blow to the gut with the end of his spear. Rigger flinched and the spear fell out from underneath him. He fell forwards with the spear, his arms flailing wildly, and his face slammed into the hard wooden floor beneath him.

Baines snorted contentedly. "Hah! Serves yew right, disrespectin' me, an' sleepin' on th' job anyway." But the stoat's merry smile turned upside down as a crimson liquid began to trickle out from under Rigger's limp body. It formed a red aura around the weasel's lifeless form, and collected in the cracks of the floorboards. Most of it, however, spread out and began flowing towards Baines. "R-Rigger?" The stoat backed up, holding his spear out at the dead body as if it was a ghost. "C'mon, matey, I know yer just playin' around. G-get up, this ain't funny!"

But the blood kept on running, and it had Baines backed up against the door, threatening to flow into his footpaws. Baines had a mortal fear of blood, and the only thing he could do to escape from the red liquid would be to open the door behind him. But that would mean instant death, everybeast in his right mind knew that. No sane creature walked into the Queen's chambers without special permission.

But Baines hadn't even been thinking about opening the door behind him. He knew what happened to those who entered the Queen's chambers without an appointment. But as he backed up, he slipped on the wooden floor, and his body fell backwards into the door, causing the rusted hinges to snap. As Baines got to his feet, rubbing his head and moaning, the stoat's eyes fell upon the most gruesome scene he had ever set eyes upon.

~*~*~

Baines clawed at the thick fibrous rope that was tied tightly around his neck, trying to undo the sophisticated knot, but it was to no avail. He, like many others, had become part of the collection. A vixen was sitting at a small table in front of him, tossing various colors of fur, bones, and red powder into the air while chanting to herself.

In the corners of the old room, a unique array of instruments sat, layers of cobwebs and dust collecting on them. flutes, percussion instruments, and a wide assortment lay unused, as if they had been made only to serve as interior decor.

Powder and dust floated freely about in the dank room, causing Baines to sneeze every so often. And every time he did sneeze, or make any noise for that matter, her chanting would become louder, until she began screeching, and Baines had to cover his ears. But even that didn't stop the piercing sound from entering his earlobes, shattering the sound barrier.

Soon enough, his lifeless body hung like a ragdoll, next to the countless other rotting mounds of flesh hanging from ropes attached to a high ceiling.

The vixen paid no attention to Baines's body, for she was too busy enjoying her own snack, a bloody piece of unidentifiable fresh meat. She spit out a mound of brownish red fur; the fur of Rigger. The vixen picked out a large bloodied splinter of wood that had been embedded into Rigger's head as he had fallen. She flicked it onto the floor, chuckling. One of the weasel's eyeballs was sitting nearby, pointed at the body of Baines.

She started hacking and coughing as she chuckled, pounding her chest with a fist until it subsided into a slow rumble within her throat. Then the vixen began to talk to a dead Baines, quietly at first. "Poor dear, entering my chambers without permission." She took Rigger's eyeball and caressed it gently. "If only I could see your beautiful face … but I have my other eyes to help me! Heeheehee!"

Her lips curved into a gruesome grin, with gnarled yellow teeth protruding at odd angles from her mouth. She had no eyes, nothing but empty eyeless sockets. They were seemingly never-ending holes embedded into her skull, like vacuums in space. And around her, the lifeless bodies had no eyes either. They had all been extracted, collected by the vixen to use as her own seeing eyes.

Her delirious visions and practices had not ended well for those who had ventured into her chambers. Painful deaths had ensued for those such as Baines. Soldiers had learned that the position of Queen's guard wasn't an honorable one. But still nobeast alive had set eyes upon the Queen herself. The Queen who never came out of her chamber, yet who ruled over a vast kingdom.

Generals in the army pretended that they had met with the Queen personally through special appointments. But even they hadn't received personal invitations from her Majesty, and none dared to venture into her chambers. What went on behind those closed doors was still a mystery.

~*~*~

"Gen'ral, 'fraid the two Queen's guards've both disappeared. Killed, we're thinkin', judgin' by th' puddle o' blood we found outside 'er Majesty's doors."

General Magnus Clawford, commonly known as "The Iron Claw" amongst his soldiers, threw down the messenger with his paw. "I know, you idiot! Rigger's dead, 'e wuz one o' my best! An' the other new recruit, that 'un looked like an 'ard fighter." Clawford paced around the barracks room, kicking the messenger as he made a round. "Git up, idiot! An' find th'bodies!"

The messenger looked up in fear as he rubbed his rear. "F-find them? But … th'Queen probably 'as 'em! They're done for! Yew know nobeast ever comes back once they go in there!"

Clawford, a weasel, turned on the messenger. "D'ye wanna get a visit from th'Skinner, eh?" At those ominous words, the messenger whimpered and scurried out of the room, head down.

"Yes, sir, o' course, sir. We'll find 'em!" Clawford scowled at the messenger's retreating figure and settled down hard in a chair, wondering himself what lay behind those large doors.

The weasel picked up a sharp gleaming dagger from the edge of a table. He was famous for using it to skin his victims, and he liked to call it "Skinner". A threat that would convince anybeast to do his bidding, the "Skinner" was a useful weapon in most circumstances.

Clawford groaned as he pulled himself up from the chair and stumbled forwards a bit. He opened the barrack doors and glanced outside, where his messenger was lying on the ground in fear, being bullied by a few large rats. The weasel sighed indistinctly and shoved the doors open, catching the attention of the gang of three rats.

The bruised messenger held his paws over his face, rocking back and forth. "I ain't lyin', yew kin ask Gen'ral Clawferd!" The three rats - Zipper, Westin, and Kantor, looked up as Clawford stole up on them. Zipper, a black furred muscular rat, boldly strode up to Clawford.

"This 'un 'ere sez yew gave th'order fer us t'get into th'Queen's chambers t'find out wot she does in there." He turned to his companion and chuckled. "If she exists, that is." Westin and Kantor began to laugh as well, and Clawford growled.

"Shut yer fat gobs, course she's up there. Ah've seen 'er wi' me own eyes. Now don't you wanna see 'er too? Ain't that everybeast's dream wot lives in 'er kingdom, eh? Well, yew kin git the chance, me 'earties." The rats looked at each other uneasily as Clawford smiled at them.

Westin then piped up. "You seen wot 'appened t'Rigger, mates! 'Im, an' even Slim, too, a couple o' seasons ago. Never stood a chance agin th'Queen, those 'uns." Clawford raised an eyebrow.

"Who said th'Queen killed 'em, eh? Those idiots killed 'emselves Now go find those bodies … unless ye want an appointment with th'Skinner!" Clawford pulled out the dagger, and the rats backed off, chuckling nervously, their eyes darting back and forth between the dagger and Clawford's grim expression. Zipper hauled the messenger up.

"Well, this 'uns comin' with us!" Clawford nodded, smiled, and turned away, the pleas and protests of the messenger falling on deaf ears.

"The more the merrier," he laughed.

~*~*~

Soon enough, four more dead bodies hung from the ceiling of the High Queen's chambers. It was a turning out to be a fine day. Wood shavings fell from the table as Zipper's dagger carved patterns in it, and finally, the old vixen let go, and the dagger clattered to the floor.

Her raspy voice bounded and rebounded off the corners and edges of the cavernous ceiling as she whispered gratingly. "What poor poor children, entering my chambers without an appointment." A throaty rumble formed in her throat and emerged as a deep cackle. "Oh, how sweet their meat is …"

Her bony fingers slowly drifted across the table, a few stray eyes rolling about on the uneven surface. Suddenly, her eyebrows raised simultaneously. "I think … we have a guest, young ones. A long, long awaited guest, oh yes, heh heh."

And a guest is exactly what she had. The door to her chambers, which had now been uselessly propped up into place after being broken by the body of Baines was knocked down once again as the white wolf strode in regally. "Well, HELLO THERE! Heh heh, what're you doing with all those eyeballs, EH?"

The vixen's fingers on one paw continued to drum on the tabletop while the other gently lifted an eyeball from the table. "Oh … these, these are just, my personal rewards." Her eyes gleamed as she moved the eyeball around in her paw, staring at the wolf, who looked back with even more glee than before.

"OH! THAT looks fun, ha-ha!! How about you let ME try, EH?" The wolf trudged forwards, and the vixen shielded her eyeballs from the massive paws.

"I don't think so, heh. We had a deal. I supply, you pay. I don't think there were any eyeballs mentioned in that deal!" The wolf frowned, but his expression quickly changed.

"Ah, yes, THE DEAL, HEH HEH!" What seemed to be a fur belt around the wolf's waist suddenly dropped down, and the body of a bloody ferret unfurled on the floor. The vixen's eyes lit up.

"Just what I wanted … a ferret! The only one in my castle never shows himself up here … Heh, now my collection is complete!" The vixen slowly got up from her rickety chair, her body shaking uncontrollably. She gingerly walked forwards until she was kneeling down at the dead ferret's side. She inhaled deeply with a contented expression as she caressed the bloody fur of the ferret. The wolf tapped his paw on the floor as he looked down at the odd ritual.

"WELL? WHAT about MY side of the deal?" The vixen slowly looked up as if she could see the wolf, but her eyeless sockets were gaping holes in a mass of fur.

"Of course." She pointed to a far corner of the room, where the stack of dust covered instruments lay in piles littering the floor. They looked as if they had been unused for centuries, and it seemed like to sweep the dust away would be disturbing their natural environment. However, the wolf seemed pleased at the vixen.

"Oh HAHAHA! Just as I wanted them to be done! These will add a TON MORE OF FUN to the parade, hahaha!" He then turned to the vixen. "What about YOU, EH? Don't YOU want to be a part of the parade instead of sitting around in this old PRISON?!"

In response, the vixen tilted her head at an odd angle and chuckled to herself. "Ohoho … you just don't understand, eh?" The vixen looked up and directed her gaze straight at the wolf's. "You should know even more than I do … there are some prisons that you can just never escape … heh."

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