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Chapter 92: Love, Forgiveness, Loyalty

Chapter 92: Love, Forgiveness, Loyalty

In Which The Refugees Maybe Get the Wrong Idea.

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Chris: Holst wakes to a mumur.  He holds still, slitting his eyes open and noting the outline of a crowd gathered around him. His eyes open wider, stunned to find all pairs of eyes fixed on him.

Yazeth: Jozra’s eyes crack open as she finally wakes from a finally deep and dreamless sleep. She’s just as perplexed as the fox, though, when she realizes that the slowly waking crowd is staring at the three of them.

Arrin: Soquan wakes at the stirring of his companions and stretches out with a yawn, blissfully unaware of the staring. “Morning guys.”

Chris: Holst sees that they’re standing at the foot of a large granite statue depicting three beasts standing in rather heroic poses.

The fox, mightily barrel chested, looked on with a softness in the eyes and face finely crafted by the sculptor, the word ‘LOVE’ engraved in large letters at his feet.

The otter, puffing out a stout chest, was posed with determination and given solid proportions.  Below his feet the word ‘LOYALTY’ was engraved.

The ferret looked on with the softest look of all, one paw placed over her heart, the other paw stretched out as if awaiting a companion’s paw. The word ‘FORGIVENESS’ was engraved beneath her feet.

It was worn as if it had been there for ages. Longer than their lifespans by a long shot.  All Holst could muster was a gulp.

Yazeth: Jozra’s eyes widen in astonishment as she takes in the statue. She glances back at the staring refugees and then to the statue again. All she can manage is a hoarse, “Err…”

Arrin: Soquan blinks a few times to make sure he’s seeing what he’s seeing, then casts a glance back at the mob, then back at the statue again. With a loud sigh, he places his head in his paws and very quietly mutters a few choice words.

Chris: Holst shrugs and plasters a nonchalant look on his face. He pats Soq’s arm. “Alright, look it says

‘LOVE’ for the fox…” he points to himself, “Really? Come on, can’t be. It’s ME.”

Yazeth: It’s too much for the poor ferret. The combined comments from otter and fox make her snicker. Grinning – because now she can’t take it seriously, it’s just too bizarre –  she moves away from the statue, stretching and trying to ignore the looks the refugees are giving her. “I think we need to find out about breakfast very soon.”

Arrin: Soquan rises with Joz and hefts his pack. “Something tells me that means something, maybe we should talk with Alvasia tonight?”

Chris: Holst shudders. “I really hope it doesn’t. Either it’s a lot for me to live up to, or the state of love in the world is very sad.” He flashes a quick grin in front of nervous eyes and begins to follow Joz.

Yazeth: Jozra’s response to the otter is a barely intelligible, “Mmm.” She heads towards the main door, stepping around the small campsites set up by refugees and trying not to feel too weirded out when said refugees withdraw in what seems almost like reverence. “I wonder where Trendorn is. He probably knows how to feed everybody.”

Arrin: The revered looks the trio is getting weirds the otter out, and out of habit he finds himself resting his hand on the ferret’s forearm, despite his visual capabilities at the moment. “I wouldn’t know where to start, really.”

Chris: Holst shrugs, his nervousness obvious. “Beats me, although I wonder if he’s feeding himself. Maybe we should just start looking and… go somewhere else?”

Yazeth: Her companions nerves are catching and the stares of the onlookers is just creepy enough that Jozra picks up the pace, muttering to the closest of these onlookers, “Gonna go find you guys some breakfast,” by way of explanation.

The great doors are reached, shoved upon, and soon the trio are standing alone on the cobbled path leading to the door. Jozra takes a breath of fresh morning air. “Whew,” she says, meaningfully.

Arrin: Soquan lets out a sigh, scrubbing a hand through his headfur as he looks around the area in search of the elusive hare. “That was… strange.”

Chris: Holst shudders a bit, trying to shake the feeling off. “We’ll probably find him where the food is if I know my hares. How’s your sense of smell now that your sight is back Soq? Think you can lead us to the kitchens?”

Yazeth: Jozra laughs at Holst’s comment, finally breaking the chilly feeling creeping up her back. “Fantastic idea.”

Arrin: The otter grins at the fox. “I’m sure I can. My nose hasn’t failed me yet!” With that the otter lifts his head, testing the air. For a moment, all he can smell in incense, then… there, the smell of cooking eggs and meat. “This way!”

Chris: Holst follows Soq with a will, happy to have a goal in mind. The thought of the statue still gnawed at the back of his mind. He could figure out his and the otter’s meanings, but the ferret… forgiveness?  Maybe it would be a good time to watch his back.

Yazeth: With the otter in lead, they’re soon close enough that the ferret can start picking up hints of delicious breakfast as well. Her stomach growls happily in response but the beginning of a frown tugs at a corner of her mouth. “We arrived so suddenly, what if they don’t have enough food for everyone?”

Arrin: Soquan pauses in his sniffing in order to reply, but continues down the corridor. “Well, Trendorn did say they’d be able to accommodate all of them. Maybe it’s taking a while because they have to cook so much?”

Chris: Holst rolls his sleeves up. As they draw closer they hear a frantic hustle and bustle in the kitchens. Pans clattering, voices shouting, and the occasional painful smash of dropped plates. As they look upon the scene, only one word could describe it: chaos.

Holst rolls up his sleeves. “Well, might as well help out.”

Yazeth: Jozra’s eyes widen at the sight. The temple was big, sure, but it didn’t seem like it was big enough to accommodate such a kitchen. She catches sight of the hare calmly giving directions amidst the mayhem and winds her way through the crowd to him, following Holst’s suggestion. “Can we lend a hand?”

Arrin: The hare is grateful to have some extra paws amidst the chaos, and the three are sent to different ends of the kitchen. Holst is pointed towards the dishwashing station, Joz is directed to go cut up some meats, and Soquan is shuffled into an assembly line of sorts.

Chris: Holst’s ears droop a bit at the mention of dishwashing duty. He mutters to himself as he begins to shuffle over to the sink. “Wish I could show them how to make pancakes proper…”

Yazeth: Jozra doesn’t quite realize how terribly appropriate her job is until she’s well into it. She suppresses a shudder and coaxes her mind back into mundane things, like the fact that this is a kitchen and the cook next to her apparently likes to use lots of fire.

Arrin: Soquan’s ears flick this way and that while he helps assemble some sort of breakfast… thing. He can’t quite tell what it is. A wrap of sorts? He does his best to keep tabs on his companions as he works, the separation in the chaos making him uneasy.

Chris: Holst gets fed up washing dishes and seeing the pancakes being made so poorly. He walks over to a mouse and motions for him to let Holst take over. “I’ll show you how I used to make them at the camp.” He adds fuel to the fire, bring it up to a higher temperature.

Yazeth: Fortunately most of it is fish, something Jozra’s used to preparing. Unfortunately this also means her paws and forearms are now speckled with shiny scales. There’s a pause where the ferret cranes her long neck, looking for her companions but she only catches a glimpse of Holst before another basket of fish arrives.

Arrin: It’s a good hour before the hare in charge declares that there is enough of the food prepared and soon the trio is set to carrying out trays to the large foyer. Carefully as to not upend anything from his own large tray, he makes his way through the crowd to Holst and Joz’s general direction as they’re shuffled out the door.

Chris: The trays are laid out on large tables for the refugees. Luckily the hare had directed that portions be already placed on platters to lessen the chaos. As onlookers notice the trio, Holst gets nervous once more. “Don’t really know how we should address this.”

Yazeth: Jozra gives the crowd an appraising, if concerned, look. “Let’s just try to get through breakfast first,” she murmurs, hoping to completely avoid addressing it at all.

Arrin: As he sets down his tray, the crowd gets a once over from the otter as well. “Maybe we can ask Trendorn about this,” he murmurs. “It’d be faster than waiting for nightfall to see Alvasia.”

Chris: A male and female weasel approach Soq holding a small bundle out to him. The mother speaks to Soq. “Please sir, after saving us, and the miracle this morning, we would be honoured if you blessed our son…”

Yazeth: Jozra nearly fumbles the plate she’s handing out as she hears the weasel couple address Soquan. She bites her lower lip, straining to hear what Soq might say, unsure how he should, and how she would, handle the situation. At the same time she tries to act nonchalant, just passing out food to the refugees. It’s not working.

Arrin: The otter freezes mid-motion at the request and for a moment his mouth works soundlessly as his brain scrambles to come up with a reply. Finally, he manages a soft reply: “I’m no deity, I’m flesh and blood just like everyone else here. I have no power to bless your kit.”

Chris: The weasel mother falters and looks to her mate. Her mate nods and there’s a pause. The weasel outstretches a paw. “Then may I shake your paw and take your name as his middle? I will tell him that you and your friends are why he lives and breathes when he is old enough to know the value of life.”

Yazeth: Jozra breathes a quick sigh of relief at Soquan’s, and the weasel father’s, handling of the situation. She shoots a small, quick smile in Holst’s direction and returns her full attention to what she’s doing, and just in time too as she narrowly avoids colliding with another server.

Arrin:  Soquan finishes placing down the platter before gently grasping the weasel’s proffered hand gently. “My name is Soquan, and I would be honoured for you to give your son my name.”

Chris: The weasel family gives their many thanks to Soquan and this gesture catches the attention of many of the other beasts around. Holstadt pats Soq on the arm. “Handled very nicely I think.”

Yazeth: Jozra shoots a small smile over her shoulder at the otter, nodding in agreement with Holst.  As she does so she catches sight of a small fox with big ears and tries to beckon him over. Azrun gradually meanders over, eating a breakfast cake out of his hand.

Arrin: “I sure hope so.” The otter gives his two companions a small smile as they settle in step with one another, and as Azrun approaches the trio, he offers a wave in greeting.

Chris: Holstadt watches as the fox approaches, noting that he might have to do the same thing Soquan did in the next few days.

Yazeth: Azrun dusts crumbs off his whiskers and then smirks and mocks, “So here’s the saints I’ve been hearing about all morning.”

Jozra glares at the kit fox. “Don’t cause trouble. We’ve enough of that already.”

Arrin: Soquan groans in response to the ribbing, wearily scrubbing a paw across his face. “Really. Honestly, blessing kits? What’s next, curing the sick and injured?”

Chris: Holstadt sizes up the fox and decides to let it go. He thinks briefly, about his time in the work camp, about the souls he saw suffering and those surviving beatings and hardships as he watched through gratings and could do nothing.

A barrier shattered in his mind and heart. “We’re giving these beasts hope right now and that’s all they have. Maybe we don’t have what they expect, but maybe tending to wounds and trying to mend broken spirits is what we should be doing.”

Yazeth: Jozra nods slowly, what Holst is saying makes a lot of sense. Azrun brushes it off with a flippant wave of his paw as he selects another small corn cake from one of the recently delivered trays. “Whateffer,” he says as he stuffs it in his mouth and saunters away.

Jozra narrows her eyes in thought as he walks away. Something about her fellow Scorpion is not quite right, not what she remembers, and he has the same haunted eyes of the other refugees.

Arrin: The otter watches Azrun walk off for a moment before replying to Holst. “I’m all for lifting spirits. And I don’t mind being looked up to, if it’s for something I did. But I am not a deity, just because I woke up under a statue of one.”

Chris: Holst nods, calming a little bit, and looks out over the destitute masses with a faraway look in his eyes. “I don’t think we should get caught up with whether we’re magical or gods for real. I guess…” Holst pauses, quelling a quaver in his voice. “…maybe a god isn’t about blessings or magic. Maybe it’s just about caring and helping. And maybe, we can be ‘gods’ for them in that sense.”

Yazeth: Jozra bites her lip, still very uncertain about the sudden mystical turn everything has taken. The deities of Oparanth are fierce, and best avoided. “There’s so many of them,” she says, pensive. “Where are they all going to go? I don’t think Kodan’s big enough for all of them.”

Arrin: Soquan watches the refugees descend on the food table en masse while he replies, a vaguely concerned expression flickering across his face. “Perhaps once we find our missing hare, we’ll have a better idea what to do, but I think for now we may just need to keep our ears open and put the word out once we set off again.”

Chris: Holst nods as if finally deciding on something. He smiles at his friends. “Love, eh? …really?”

Yazeth: Startled, Jozra looks up at Holst with a “Huh?” just in time to catch a pair of tall ears moving through a crowd that parts, muttering. She gestures in the hare’s direction, “There he is!”

Arrin: Soquan’s head turns to the direction of the ferret’s gesturing and he sets off towards the hare, confident his companions are behind him. The hare’s name is hollered through the din of the crowd and the trio arrive just as the hare turns towards them.

Chris: Holst notes the noise level and relative exposure of the group. “Maybe we should go somewhere more quiet?”

Yazeth: Trendorn inclines his head, his long ears swivelling around to lay flat against his neck and shoulders as he does so rather than accidentally whap any one of the trio with the tips. “This way,” he says, and leads the three to a small office with walls of bookshelves and tiny skylights set into the ceiling.

Arrin: The trio follow the hare and Soquan offers a small smile as they settle around the room. “Hello again, Trendorn.”

Chris: Holst grins as they enter the room. “Pretty nice.” He leans against one of the bookshelves. “So we’ve come this far, but keeping this lot fed and sheltered is going to be a tough job.”

Yazeth: The room has a broad table, overcrowded with books both open and closed in a manner that suggests someone has been doing some research. The only other furniture is a comfortable armchair with good lighting and a few stools meant for the table.

Trendorn gestures to these in an invitation to sit but remains standing himself as he tucks his paws back into his sleeves. “Of course. Our resources are thin as well, the loss of the bridge has limited our trading opportunities until recently. I’ve begun to gather messengers to approach other communities about the possibility of taking in many of the refugees.”

Arrin: Gingerly perching on one of the stools, Soquan nods approvingly as the hare speaks, shooting a glance at his companions before speaking. “After what they’ve been through, these beasts deserve a nice place to stay.”

Chris: Holst nods, thinking a bit before adding, “The thing I wonder is how we keep it from happening to them again.”

Yazeth: Jozra crosses her arms and leans against one of many sturdy shelves. “I have… thoughts on that.”

The hare inclines his head slightly in the ferret’s direction. “I’m sure you do. And,” he adds, facing the fox again, “there are a few towns I can think of that will be sympathetic to their plight and vigilant against pursuers. Though they may not be enough.”

 

HERE ENDS CP-ALPHA.

To be restarted…

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