Chapter 3

Scrachtface was the unofficial leader of the slave rebellion force. They were a weak and peaceful lot who were unaccustomed to leading. Honest creatures would not normally let a rat lead them, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Amid unconstrained chatter under the patter of rain above on the thatched roof on the longhouse, Scrachtface held up his paws for silence. “Friends, please, I beg your attention… No, Grewl, I can handle this…Please, friends…” “We are no friends of yours, rat!”

A sullen silence filled the slave building. Scrachtface leaned his head to the source of his voice. A young badger, Markus, clad in nothing but a purple loincloth and barely more than 12 seasons old, snarled menacingly at the rat.

“We do not need you, vermin. And you dare call us friends? Ha! You are here only out of the mercy of my heart! Why, if I felt like it… Owch!”

Grewl had bonked Markus between the eyes with a wooden ladle. “You’m be quiet loik naow, zurr Murkis. Let maister Scrachyface speak!”

Scrachtface bowed his head “Thank you, Grewl. Now then, listen, one and all. I have something to say which you may disagree, but tell you, ‘tis true. The time for escape has come!”

There was an immediate outburst of argument from the assembled slaves. Grewl bounded his ladle against a wooden support beam, bringing silence. Scrachtface continued: “We have all seen how Zorkaan has been lazing about. He has grown lazy and overconfident. If ever we had an opportunity to free ourselves, this is it!” “I already have a plan. Lean closer, brothers and sisters, and I will tell you how we shall gain our freedom.” As the plan was laid out, Crossclaw copied every word with bark and feather quill. When the deed was done, he removed his ear from the funnel set in the side of the barracks, and went off to report to his master.

Zorkaan was in his armory when the news was brought to him. He had been sharpening his tusks, a matter of great privacy to boars, when Crossclaw came scurrying in with the document. At the sound of pawsteps, he hurled his sharpening knife into a torch basin.

“Snnnerrrkp! Out, bucket-brain! Can you not see I am busy? Out, I say, now!”

But Crossclaw would not go. Zorkaan knew that such blatant disobedience was never without good reason from his apprentice. Keeping one claw on the axes tied to his back he questioned the weasel. “Hm? Well? Why do you stand there, scuryjaw? Out with it!”

Crossclaw scampered over to kneel at his master’s footpaws and presented the slaves’ escape plan. Zorkaan scanned it meticulously, never missing a single detail, his sneer ever increasing. He rolled the parchment up and stuffed it into his thin, velvety tunic.

“Is this accurate?”

“Yes, my Master.”

The overly armored boar laughed gleefully. “Snrksnrksnrksnrk! You have done well, my good right claw. So the slaves think they will have their freedom? Well, they will I will help them to escape into the bowels of Hellgates, Grhahahahaha!”

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