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Chapter 85: Bells

Chapter 85: Bells

In Which the Alarm Is Sounded.

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Back at the Hovel, Soquan begins to stir. The previous night flashes though his minds eye, and the otter’s eyes snap open as he looks over to check on Jozra.

Noticing the ferret’s absence, and the presence of the necklace-wrapped dagger, he rises from his bed. After taking the objects into his hand, he moves to shake Zander awake. Once the woodrat is conscious, he presents the dagger to him. “Something tells me you know something about this.”

~

Jozra chooses to leave the way she came in and returns to the broom closet. As she opens the door, however, light from the main room’s narrow windows penetrates the small closet and reveals a map with a detail that shouldn’t be there.

The map shows a large part of the continent including the desert, most of which is marked with the words “Unexplored” except for a prominent river, the Ravine, and a small valley.

Jozra freezes. Then quickly fetches a candle, lights it, and ducks back into the secret office to investigate further.

~

Zander makes a show of blinking his eyes blearily and gazing at the dagger with incomprehension. Then he catches the look in Soquan’s eyes and drops the act.

He sighs. “I don’t think I have the answers to all of the questions you’re asking.” He glances out the window, noticing the daylight.

“Hurry. We need to pack everything we’re taking with us. I’m not sure when we’re leaving but we need to be ready for it.”

~

With the day advancing swiftly, Jozra knows she only has a short time to find out why this hare had a map that included Oparanth. And it’s soon apparent why the room was secret. Classified dispatches from a ‘Lord Brind’, detailed maps, reports, preliminary plans.

There’s too much to take but it’s too important to just leave behind. Praying she has enough time, Jozra begins breathing deeply, finding a sort of a trance state. Another useful tool all Scorpions learned was memorizing precisely detailed information.

Too precisely in some cases, with unnecessary borders and embellishments thrown in. Information memorized in such a way isn’t readily accessible, locked away as it is. To have more than one chance to relate all of it, exactly as seen, is incredibly rare.

Jozra begins the memorization process.

~

Soquan gives Zander a hard stare for a few moments, then a nod. “Alright.”

He shakes his head while moving across the room.“That ferret and I need to have a nice, long talk when this is all done with.”

Blankets, food, and other useful things in the Hovel that can be taken are scooped into packs and deposited by the door.

On edge, the otter watches Zander as he keeps watch while idly fiddling with Jozra’s dagger. Suddenly, he makes a small, frustrated noise and takes a piece of parchment from the packs, and writes.

Zander watches Soquan curiously for a moment, and then goes over his small apartment once more, making sure everything necessary is taken, hoping that Jozra shows up to carry the third pack.

No, just that she shows up.

The woodrat finally settles himself on the window ledge, watching.

~

A knock on the main doors starts to break Jozra’s concentration. She’s read through and memorized most of what is in the secret office, much of which is vital information though she can’t make that distinction in such a state.

She begins the deliberate process of locking the memories of what she’s looked at into her head as a guard finally opens the main door and calls to the other room. She’ll need a key.

Usually it’s a mental key, but with this much information in this short amount of time, she’ll need a physical one. The document with orders involving Oparanth and bearing the seal of Lord Brind will do very well indeed.

By the time the hares have discovered the murder and are calling the alarm, Jozra has finished her memorization trance and has lit various piles of paper, and particularly the large map, on fire.

Document safely tucked behind a sheath against her leg, Jozra vaults out the ventilation hole. The hall is a mess; the news has spread fast. Servants and guards rush about urgently but without purpose.

Someone has the presence of mind to ring the bell at the top of the building and, surprisingly, other bells take up the call. She hadn’t thought to look for a city wide alarm system.

~

Holst’s stay in the prison camps has not been good to his physique. As his stay lengthened things had gone from bad to worse and, along with his body, his will began to deteriorate as well.

Until he heard the bells.

Normally, their wake up calls were sharp raps on their cage like cells. Bells meant something had gone wrong. He was up from the dusty ditch he called a bed in an instant.

He peered out through his cell bars and noticed the camp in utter chaos. The night crew hadn’t been locked down when the bells began and were giving the guards some trouble.  Any guards not in the fray were frantic.

Now was his chance.

~

Zander jerked upright as he heard the bells. Out the window he saw a detail of hares race up the road, towards the city proper. He turns to Soquan. “Now. We need to alert everyone.”

~

In the palace, Jozra is pursued. In the confusion she’s able to often lose her pursuers, but the ferret in the black cloak is a dead give away, anyone stupid or brave enough gives chase.

The open window is a convenient escape.

~

Soquan glances up at the woodrat and nods, scribbling something quickly on the parchment before tucking it away with the dagger. He picks up two of the packs and double packs them.

“That leg of yours up for some running?”

~

Holst leans his frail weight against the bars of his cell to no avail. If he were in the yard perhaps he would have a more tangible chance.

Suddenly, the door at the end of his cell block bursts open. The hare feebly attempting to hold back a mob is trampled and beaten savagely. As Holst pleas to the passing beasts he merely receives dirty looks and curses.

They knew what he had done.

Soon the hall is empty except for the hare in his death throes. Too far for Holst to reach the keys.

He sinks to the ground, head in paws, how much longer would he have to pay for it?

~

Jozra isn’t surprised when the two hares pursuing her hesitate to jump out the window onto the roof as well. They seem very secure in their ground dwelling ways. She’s able to get ahead and, with a few tugs on strings, the ‘robe’ is now free to use as a decoy.

She drops it on an unsuspecting hare as he races around the building. The other hares, since they don’t look up, catch glimpses of their quarry through the crowd, and are disappointed when it turns out to be one of their own.

Jozra skulks away, moving through back alleys as fast as she can without revealing herself for further chase.

~

The woodrat raises an eyebrow as he shoulders his own pack. He grasps his cane tightly. “It’d better be.”

He leads the way down the stairs and out into the street where already slum-dwellers are beginning to mill in confusion.

Soquan gazes around the area and shouts just enough to be heard to those close by. “The hares are in a panic, if you all know what’s good for you, you better get out of here now.”

He sets down the road and motions for Zander to follow. “C’mon let’s go get Holst and whoever else wants to be busted out.”

~

Holst pulls himself together, his mind clicking with its familiar logic. His puts his emotion an arm’s distance away. There had to be a way to get out, there always was.

He scans the floor for anything that might help. He grabs for something. His paw grasps it.  He frowns, a twig can’t do much.

~

Zander shouts over the commotion that breaks out after Soquan’s statement. “Take only what you need! Stay together! There’s strength in numbers!”

He thinks a little. “And we could use some help, breaking our imprisoned friends out!”

~

Jozra’s made it back to the roof tops. By now nearly everyone in the entire city has spilled out in confusion on to the streets. She can move faster that way, though she’s more exposed.

An arrow whistles by and punctuates that point, fortunately into a chimney and not into herself. She’s able to out distance the archers quickly, though, and is soon back in the slums. The ferret casts about, looking for her companions.

On the ground, Soquan manages to spot movement on a nearby roof. He squints a moment then gives a shout, waving a paw. “Joz!”

~

As Holst is grasping for something to help him out of his cell, a shadow blocks the light flooding into the hallway. The figure steps over the dead hare, looting the keys and tossing them within Holst’s reach.

 

“Let’s finish this, killer.”

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