Friday, July 03, 2009

Of Brave Vermin, Gnomes, and a Troll

By Andy Brim

Here is written the account of Fen – once Rat King and ruler of the Vermin under the house Forrester, as recorded by Rasc, the court scribe.
~ ~ ~
The uneasy truce between the Vermin (Rats, Mice, & Moles) and Spiders had lasted long in the house Forrester. I, Fen, and the Spider’s ruler, Ungoth, had struck a deal with the owner of the house of Forrester, one James Polk Forrester to ensure our own survival. He had lived there for many years, first with his wife before her death, and now with his daughter. Ungoth and I had realized early on that James Forrester was, one, not aware of his role in the house Forrester and, two, afraid of spiders. Therefore the James Forrester dealt the most with Ungoth (who lived in the attic with his brood) and who could use the man’s fear to manipulate him. The James Forrester would also occasionally deal with me, but those events are well documented by Rasc, the court scribe.
The James Forrester was a very good father and worked hard to appease the many rogue elements that vied for rule of the house Forrester in the true king’s absence. There was of course Ungoth and I who each required specific tasks done for each of our peoples nightly. But the James Forrester also had to deal with Mjilntoc of the Gnomes of the Yard, Bill the Cowboy Ghost (who resided in the Living room and had a penchant for old Western movies), and on occasion the three trolls who lived under the bridge that spanned a small ditch. The James Forrester would have to perform additional duties for these groups nightly as well. Regardless to say, the James Forrester was a busy man at night keeping all the individual parties happy. Again, the James Forrester’s nightly duties have been well catalogued by the ever-watchful Rasc, the court scribe. This of course was all done for his daughter, whom was still quite young. Everything the James Forrester did or suffered through each night was done for the sake of protecting his child. Had I been nobler I would not have taken advantage of the man, but you must remember that there was no king at the time.
However the nightly tasks began to become too much for the James Forrester and so he called the most hated enemy of both Spider and Vermin alike – the Orkin Man. Fortunately for the rest and myself, Ungoth had a spy follow James Forrester everywhere. Ungoth’s spy informed him of the James Forrester’s plans and not long after he and I met to discuss our options. It was Ungoth who pushed for an option that was against every rule and code we were to follow under a king, but as Ungoth pointed out (and perhaps rightly) – there was currently no king of the house Forrester.
So we worked jointly; something I had never believed possible - but when one finds he is facing death he is willing to make strange bedfellows. With James Forrester at work and his daughter at the Grandmothers we had full run of the house most days. My Mice rifled through the phone book and the Rats took the phone off the cradle. Ungoth dialed the number my Mice gave him with his graceful legs and then we all waited with a quiet hush.
“Hello, Orkin Man.” The voice on the other end greeted us.
“Greeting, my name is James Forrester and I would like to cancel my upcoming appointment.” Ungoth said in his most human like voice. Both Ungoth and I spoke Human extremely well, but Ungoth had argued that my accent wasn’t close enough to the James Forrester’s to fool the Orkin Man. Reasoning I couldn’t argue against as one slip up might raise the suspicions of our most hated enemy.
“And when was that appointment for?”
“Tuesday, the twenty-first.” Ungoth responded calmly, although I could tell he was becoming nervous. He and I had hoped it would be a short call, but with each passing moment our chances of being discovered grew. We feared most of all that the Orkin Man might try to trick us.
“Would you like to reschedule?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
“Alrighty then partner, your appointment has been canceled. If you do need anything please don’t hesitate to call.”
“Of course, thank you.”
The line went dead with a push of one of Ungoth’s long leg. The Mice and Spiders squealed and the Rats harrumphed at our coup, but Ungoth and I both knew we needed to remain wary. So he stationed one of his minions over the answering machine to delete any messages the Orkin Man might leave during the day. Again we both justified it as the just and right thing to do, because there was no king.
And so for many days the James Forrester was unaware of our betrayal, but that was changing slowly, day-by-day, as those under us began to follow our example.
My Mice were the first to act out, partly because they are a mischievous sort and partly because I gave them too free a hand. No matter the reasons, they raided the kitchen and ate to their hearts content in an all night binge. The Moles also rebelled by digging multiple tunnels under the driveway and walkway. In the night the cement fell and collapsed the tunnels, sinking the driveway and tilting the walkway. Their folly also killed three moles. Finally a few Spiders broke the greatest rule.
The James Forrester had agreed to our demands with only one stipulation – the daughter could not be awakened, scared, or harmed in anyway by one of our followers. To this rule Ungoth and I had held as true to as we would to a King’s rule. But these Spiders were young, rebellious, and venomous ones who were born without a King. They saw no reason to respect the order of things or to follow the commands of a man (king or otherwise). And with no king in authority over them (although certainly Ungoth tried his best in place of the king) they went into the daughter’s room and feasted on her blood, awoke her and scared her frightfully.
The James Forrester was outraged (and rightfully so), he demanded the Spiders responsible to be cast out or killed (it was the most kingly James Forrester had acted in some time), but Ungoth could not relent. The rebelliousness of those Spiders was spreading and his position was becoming dangerous as the other Spiders began to tip the balance of power in the attic. James Forrester went away without saying a word; he knew as well as we all that the Spiders now controlled the house.
As theses events were relayed to me, my heart sank and my mind saw with absolute clarity what it was that Ungoth and I had truly done. We had both bent the rules and order of life until they no longer mattered or applied to us (so we thought). I desired greatly to somehow alter my actions in the past and yet there seemed no way to change the coming course of events. I am none too proud to admit it; but I languished in self-pity under the house. There was a dark and dreary cloud that hung over the house Forrester from that hour on.
Finally on Monday, the twentieth, in the still of the night (while I still was entranced by my self-pity), the rebellious Spiders struck out against Ungoth. For all his cunning and guile he was unable to save himself from their fierce attack and he was overthrown and killed. The Spiders acted quickly and did their best to present the pretense of business as usual (a fact we all believed).
The next morning all seemed well. The James Forrester awoke his daughter and let in the nanny (a very pleasant woman of short and round stature) whom watched the daughter on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He left for work and we all went about our routines.
It was at around noon when the Spiders struck. The nanny had gone outside to get the mail and so they closed the door and locked her out. They then sealed the daughter in her room with a finely weaved wall of webbing as she played. The nanny’s calls to be let back in slowly rose in intensity as the situation became more frantic. My own scouts were meeting resistance from Spider blocking forces in the walls and vents. I personally went to the house above and demanded to see Ungoth. The Spider who led me to the attic had a strange expression I only now recognized as smugness, but I was then to preoccupied to realize it.
The new Spider Lord was named Cinth, a wretched seven-legged Spider covered in a black fur. He told me of Ungoth’s death and the glorious future he and the other Spiders had planned. They believed that by capturing the James Forrester’s daughter they could get him to surrender the house to them (and us). He would still have to own the house, but he could never return, sell the house, or have them exterminated or else they would find the two of them and kill the daughter. The plan was the most twisted and unnatural plan I had ever heard; it only could have come from those who did not know or fear the true power of a king.
Cinth told me James Forrester’s watcher was informing him as we spoke and that it would only be a matter of moments before a new age would be born. Indeed the nanny’s cell phone rang and after a brief and terse conversation she left; confused and extremely shocked, just as Cinth had ordered. The Spiders cheered and gloated at their “inevitable” victory. And so the lament I had felt since my awakening the night before felt colder and deeper then I ever thought possible. I could not believe in that moment that forgiveness was even possible for me for my part in this betrayal. Or even if I did find forgiveness I doubted if it could assuage my guilt. The situation was hopeless as the Spiders were sure to get their way.
The daughter now cried out from her sealed room and my heart broke further. I left without saying a word and made directly for the foundation where we Vermin live. There I gathered all of my people and with the throng around me I did what I never thought I would do… I renounced myself as the Rat King; casting aside what little power and authority I had claimed in my foolishness. While the title had no true power (as I was no true King), I had taken the name as a lark once the James Forrester had begun to deal with Ungoth and myself. The name was as false as my claim to power and rule over the Vermin of the house of Forrester; certainly I was chief among them but I was no king. There is only one king of the house and neither I, nor any other, could take his place. The crowd was silent as I explained why I had taken such action.
“In my own proud heart I called myself king. I told myself that there was no real king and to be fair there seemed to be no king of this house. I called myself king and I now tell you I sit on a throne of ruin and taste the bitter spoils of my insolence. I now see and know just what damage a selfish heart like mine can work. Because of my actions, the Spiders mean to overthrow the true king of this house and to that I cannot abide. Therefore I leave the name Rat King and swear allegiance again to the true king of the house Forrester. And I mean to die fighting for him to save his daughter.”
My eyes were like spears, piercing the crowd before me, asking of them to swear the same oath as I. Moments of silence hung over us but then a rumble began to come up from the center. The Rats were the first to declare their allegiance with loud shouts that drowned one another out, followed by the Mice, and finally the Moles. Satisfied I sent for my fastest runners to speak with the Gnomes, Trolls, Bees, and other enemies of the Spiders throughout the neighborhood. A house controlled by the Spiders was a menace to us all. I then ordered all Vermin to ready for battle.
While the peace we shared with the Spiders was genuine, I had not allowed myself or my people to believe that peace would last forever, so we had remained vigilant and ready. The many swords, shields, and spear points of the Vermin were brandished with a mighty roar. We Vermin would fight for the King again.
It wasn’t long before I heard back from my runners. The Gnomes of the Yard would come to the King’s aid (he had always been fair to the plants and trees of the yard), one troll would fight for the king (the other two were too busy arguing with each other to come), and the Queen Bee would send two squadrons (albeit they could only remain in the battle for a short period). The Vermin of the other houses of the neighborhood however refused to come to our aid. They too faced similar struggles with the Spiders, with other enemies, or had simply fallen into the trap I had fallen into and refused to help a true king. Thus my suspicion and fear that too many houses now also lacked a king came frighteningly true.
Yet even with the other Vermin, the Spiders would still outnumber us. Our only hope lay in the King, the James Forrester of the house Forrester (who even then was racing home under the watchful eye of his Spider spy) - but his fear of Spiders gave too much power to our enemy. If the James Forrester would not take his place as King then our enemy would win, but maybe… just maybe he would take on the mantle of true king and face his fear and his daughter could be saved. It was placing much on his shoulders, but he was the only one who could save his daughter even if he didn’t know it yet.
As we awaited his arrival I held a war counsel with Mjilntoc of the Gnomes, the Queen Bee, and the Troll (whom no one stood by since he smelled most foul). The many unknowns still present in the house above limited my plans. None of my scouts had breached the Spider blocking forces and thus I knew only little of what the Spiders had deployed or where any potential weak points were. It was therefore madness to attempt a rescue on our own or even with the king (should he attempt one) as we could easily be overwhelmed. Mjilntoc of the Gnomes laid the first flagstone for our plan.
“We should remain concentrated. That plays to our greatest strength as we lack the mobility that the Spiders have.”
“It will also concentrate the Spiders, allowing my squadron to amass against the larger force and use their time more wisely.” The Queen Bee declared through her interpreter, a mouse named Buzic. Since it was growing colder, the Queen’s bees would only be able to remain on the field of battle for close to a half hour before they would have to seek sanctuary back in their hive.
“And I can bash more,” The troll, he was named Trollin incidentally, also added in his simple tongue.
“Then we must choose the place that will allow us best to aid the king and provide a bottleneck to funnel the Spiders into our defenses. I suggest the front door and hallway; if the King intends to rescue his daughter he will need to both enter and exit through there. The hallway will force the Spiders to come straight at us, with only a single air duct in our flanks for them to use against us. This position gives us the best chance of success - if we can hold it long enough.” I summarized the plan that boiled in my mind. Despite my shallow confidence, holding the front door would be akin to suicide against such numbers, but we could only hope our defenders held staunchly.
We all agreed and so the plan was set in motion. The Gnomes, with help from Trollin, moved their Lawn Gnome Statue Towers up onto the front door landing. They would offer indirect fire into the hallway once the door was open and protect against any Spider attempts to flank us from the outside. Trollin found himself a large stick and then sat on the steps to bite his finger nails (despite his bravado I think the poor brute was scared). The Queen and her Bees rested in the eaves over the door – ready for my signal to enter the fray. And then finally my Vermin waited under the bushes beside the steps, a low murmur coming up from the tense troops.
The James Forrester pulled up short of the driveway but sat in his car, eyes sweeping the house front. I stood at the top of the steps and watched him, noticing the way his eyes twitched and flittered as the tiniest movement caught his eye. He was afraid. Slowly he got out of the car and made long strides for the door. Had I not cried out he might have stepped on me, for I was certain he hadn’t noticed me.
“Hail King!” I declared.
The James Forrester stopped in mid-step and looked down upon me.
“Rat King?” He queried, his face was drawn and his eyes dark. I was disheartened just to look at him for I knew my own role in bringing about his pain.
“I am the Rat King no more, for I have renounced that title and have sworn again allegiance to the true king. I am now Fen, your humble servant.” I added a long low bow to punctuate my words. The James Forrester just stared at me as if I were a world away; his eyes haunted.
“My… my dau… my daughter is in there.”
“I know my lord and we wish to aid you in recovering her.” I swept my arms over the whole army that had assembled - pride clearly in my voice. A cry rose up from the vermin, gnomes, and others gathered on the doorsteps. The James Forrester’s eyes swept the motley group with a look of bewilderment.
“You do?!” The James Forrester eyes were clearer when they rested on me for a moment but then the haunted look returned.
“They said if anyone tried to stop them they would hurt her.” His voice was almost a moan and he was clearly pained now.
“Our only hope then is to act quickly and decisively. You my lord must enter the home and find your daughter. We will hold the front door to ensure it remains open for you to escape through. Once she is safe we can deal with the Spiders more evenly.”
“Could you take your army and free my daughter?” He asked, his voiced pained and brittle and there was a pleading edge to it. I shook my head and he looked away from me. I dare not speak to him in this moment; my words would have been wasted as he struggled in his own being to find the strength to save his daughter. His eyes swept the assembled army underneath him and then they met mine. They were wet with tears but they held a resolute look in them.
“O.k.” He stepped forward to open the door.
“The mice will enter first and secure the ducting and walls… you cannot fail in holding them Cavish! The Gnomes must hold the doorsteps while we Vermin and Trollin take the threshold! Let not one foot, paw, or claw fall back… FOR THE KING!” I yelled and the door thrust open.
Millions of eyes stared back at us, millions of legs moved throughout the hall, and millions of fangs dripped with poison. Many of us would die this day, of that I was sure, but I was resolute in giving my last breath to the King. The mice rushed into the duct and fighting began right away in the close quarters of the ductworks. We rats took the threshold and formed our line of battle. We were a sight to see, our weapons drawn and our eyes hard – it makes my heart proud even now.
We sized up our foe. They were a mangy bunch of spiders led by one I remembered was named Silgot, a brown recluse. They seemed taken aback at first but the shock wore off and they rushed us. When I say they were led by Silgot, I rather mean that he was the first to charge ever so haphazardly towards our strong line. While we Vermin may not seem fierce fighters I would like to think that we proved for all time that to be a great untruth. The first wave crashed into our line and they fell before our swords and the Gnomes arrows.
Silgot, the coward that he was, without meeting anyone in combat pulled back from his fallen comrades spitting poison as he retreated. There was a pause while he gathered another group of Spiders and rushed forward again.
It was then that I noticed the James Forrester had not stepped into the house. My heart fell.
“My King you must save your daughter!” The words seemed to dash themselves broken against his frozen face and he continued to stare at the assembled Spider forces. I ran to his feet and pulled on his pant leg screaming at him to move quickly. In a panic I chose a most ignoble deed and pierced my sword into his ankle. He jumped and looked down at me with wide eyes.
“Your daughter, my king! You must go now!” I looked from him to the front line that was beating back another attack. I could see a few fallen Vermin here and there but more dead spiders lay before our line of battle. How long could that last against such numbers though?
A foot fell amongst the spiders, crushing many of them and scattering another attacking wave. The Spiders moved away as each foot fell and the James Forrester moved into the house. A smile came to my face – at that moment I could not help feeling proud of my King.
My attention was stolen by the screams of mice in the duct to our flank. A weak and wounded mouse came to me and bowed.
“Don’t bow to me Cavish. What do you have to report?”
Cavish was propping himself up with his small sword. “We will not be able to hold for long sire. They come in great numbers and have the duct well prepared to defend it.”
“Then we will have to break those defenses.” I whistled and looked back over the front steps to the lawn. Out of the mounds came my reserves – the moles. Blind as they were I could not use them in the line of battle, but in the ducts they may well turn the tide.
“My king” said Dittle, the head mole miner.
“I am not the king,” I said with some exasperation. “The spiders have the duct better held than I feared. You will need to clear it and hold it. Follow Cavish and he will lead you into the ducting.”
“With a will,” Dittel said with a wide grin on his face. Cavish grabbed his paw and he and the other moles moved into the duct. I turned to look back at the front lines as a fresh attack crashed into them. The fighting was becoming more desperate and so I looked for Buzic amongst the Gnome towers. He stood beside the Queen Bee with his sword drawn, ready to protect her with his life – a good mouse.
I ran to them and gave Buzic an approving look. “We will need your fighters now Queen.”
Buzic translated, but the Queen was already fluttering and dancing her command to her bees ,who now waited in the flowers beside the front step. They sprung up with a will, blotting out the sun with their formation, and then poured into the open doorway. The spiders shrieked as the bees fell upon them – I was glad of the sight.
I ran to the front lines again and looked for the James Forrester beyond the spiders amassed to destroy us. He was at the daughter’s door but was standing there with his hand on the handle. I looked closer and could make out the form of a spider on his arm – Cincth! I wished for nothing more in that moment than to be there with James Forrester, my King, and to help him deal with the traitorous spider, but my own vermin were beginning to waver.
“Hold for the king!”
* * *
The James Forrester held his arm perfectly still. Cincth was perched on his wrist, his legs holding tightly to wherever they could find purchase.
“There is no need for this James Forrester. Simply meet my demands and all will be well with you and your daughter. Continue in this and your daughter will die. I have but to give the word and it is done.” Cincth’s eyes gloatingly moved over James Forrester’s frozen form. The smell of sweat was strong and Cincth could feel the man shake ever so slightly.
“Howdy Jimmy.”
Both Cincth and the James Forrester turned suddenly to look at Cowboy Bill, the ghost cowboy, resting against a nearby doorway. He tipped his hat at the James Forrester and gave a wiry smile.
“Wish I could be a lick o’ help to ya’ll, but I can’t seem to do much to these buggers.” He swept at a spider climbing the wall he was leaning against, but his hand passed right through. “You being a real nice folk to me and all, I’d like to repay ya’ll.”
“Silence dog!” Cincth barked over the din of fighting down the hallway, but Bill just kept on talking like he hadn’t even heard him.
“I think I’ll be moving on… to where I haven’t the foggiest, but it should be a good ride regardless.” A pause as Cowboy Bill took in his surroundings for the last time. “Yep, I’ll miss this old house, but I’ve long stayed my welcome.”
“Good riddance!” Cincth spat, but Bill continued to ignore him.
“I do really wish I could do something more for you though, but there’s nothing more I could do for ya’ll now.” Cowboy Bill pushed off from the wall and made to leave, but stopped. His eyes lit up and a big grin came across his face. “I do have some good news though.” He snapped his fingers and the lights came on, he snapped again and they turned off. Snapping three times and the TV in the living room came on.
“Pretty neat, eh, Jimmy?” James Forrester looked confused, but Cowboy Bill continued to give him his big grin. “I can also do this.” He clapped his hands and the phone started to ring in the kitchen.
“I can talk through it too!” The confused mask on James Forrester’s face fell and a slow realization took over. “It seems I learned at just the right time too. I’d hate for your appointment to have been canceled. It’s the twenty-first today, isn’t it?”
“NO!” Cincth’s cry was earsplitting and even Bill looked at him this time.
“Consider it my parting gift partner. Go take care o’ your girl now.” Bill gave a wink and then faded away. The sun seemed to brighten and the air felt less oppressive in James Forrester’s lungs. Cincth looked into James Forrester’s eyes and he did not like what he saw – courage. No, he did not like that one bit.
“Your daughter dies if you do not submit.” Cincth declared, but much of his venom was lost. James Forrester looked down at Cincth with hard eyes, they were wet with some tears, but there was no weakness in them anymore.
“Let my daughter go and get out now.” James Forrester had said these words calmly, but each word was a hammer blow directly leveled at Cincth. It was now Cincth who was frozen with fear. James Forrester opened the door to his daughter’s room. She sat on her bed with a small spider on her shoulder. The hour glass shape could be easily seen on the spider’s thorax, she was a Black Widow Assassin Spider Cincth had hired for his coup. She looked as surprised as the other spiders in the room to see the James Forrester enter the room – not as just a man, but as king. (What a powerful presence that must have been.)
The James Forrester, King of the House Forrester, strode up to his daughter, spiders scampering to escape under foot, and flicked the Black Widow off her shoulder. His daughter fell into his arms and tears fell freely as she sobbed.
The Black Widow, unaccustomed to failure pulled herself up from the gap between the bed and the wall where she had landed, with a black look in her eyes. She dashed across the bed towards the two humans, fangs open wide to deliver a fatal dose of venom. The James Forrester saw her out of the corner of his eye, scooped up his daughter in one powerful arm, stood and moved away from the bed, and with another grabbed a near-by book. The Black Widow changed course and made for the head board of the bed; she would use the board to spring onto her prey. The James Forrester saw her intent and made to cut her off but two other Spiders jumped at them. Wielding the book like a weapon, the James Forrester swatted the Spiders in mid-flight, sending them sprawling into the far wall.
The Black Widow now on the head board and sensing an opening, jumped while the James Forrester’s back was turned. But instead of landing on the James Forrester, she hit with a great force the book. The James Forrester had spun around and brought the book up to block the attack. Stunned, the Black Widow clung to the book, so the James Forrester threw it down and he was rewarded with a splat as the Black Widow was crushed between the book and the floor. He stepped on it to make certain she was dead.
The two turned around to leave, but Cincth and several other Spiders were closing up the doorway with webbing.
“This house will be ours James Forrester! With or without you!” Cincth’s voice was wild and desperate. He and the other spiders all hissed at him and made to lunge. At the same moment the window broke and the room filled with a flash and smoke. More crashes and bangs could be heard in the back of the house, but the James Forrester’s eyes fell on the spiders covered the walls and floor. They were moving quickly away from the smoke, but they couldn’t escape the room as they had closed it with webbing.
They were tearing at it with all their strength, Cincth foremost among them, but the gas caught them. Through the mist the James Forrester could see them begin their death throes. They began to bind up and scream a final note of pain. The webbing tore away and a form in black stood there spraying a can over the spiders that still fought for life.
“Come with me!” The voice was muffled by a gas mask. He tossed two masks to James Forrester and his daughter who put them on and then move out into the hallway with the man. He was spraying gas in all direction trying to move to the back of the house where another man in black was waiting.
“We need to get to the back door!” The three moved through the smoke to the back but a muffled yell held them short. The man in black at the back door struggled to take off his vest and mask as more and more spiders jumped onto him.
“Dang it! Front door!” The man spun around in a hurry, his spray cans still releasing their fury in all directions. The spiders were starting to run in all directions as the three moved through the house to the front door.
“Don’t kill the rats!” the James Forrester said through mask and the man nodded.
* * *
From my location in the doorway I of course had seen the van pull up in front of the mailbox and the heavy booted men race over the Troll’s bridge. My instincts told me to run at the sight of them, but my will held me. They moved to the back of the house and my attention was again on the battle at hand. Silgot was again leading another charge at our line. Our numbers were now half what we had marched out with. The Moles did hold the ducts and the Gnomes were fighting a flanking attack from the outside, but my rats and mice were suffering grievous casualties with each assault.
I stepped forward from our line and held my sword out at Silgot. The Spider’s around him stopped their charge and even Silgot slid to a stop.
“This ends now Spider!” My gaze was like a spear and it pierced Silgot’s cowardly heart. He turned to run but I ran forward to meet him. My rats and mice followed behind me with a triumphant call. We fell upon the Spiders with great fury. It was a tangle of claws, legs, fur, and fangs.
I found Silgot and plunged my sword into his uppermost eye, he screamed and fell dead. I was a whirlwind amongst the Spider horde and many fell to my blade. A fear swept over the Spiders and we could feel their urge to run, but they could not retreat because a smoke was creeping towards them from the back of the house.
I turned to order my troops back but a fang sunk into my back. Buzic fell upon the spider and Cavish pulled me from the fighting. We never saw Buzic again, but as we retreated we could hear his war cries over the din of battle – the best of mice he truly was. We retreated to the landing, the Spiders now rushing past us without a will to fight… their minds preoccupied with escape from the floating death that swept towards them. Those that didn’t escape curled up and died on the spot, although some tried to struggle vainly.
Three human figures rushed out of the fog and over the threshold. They stopped at the lawn and two others joined them from the van. The three were sweating and breathing heavily of the clean air. The James Forrester was holding his daughter tightly as she wept into his shoulder. My own eyes welled with tears as I watched the man and truly saw the King I had so longed for the first time.
Cavish stood guard over me, but he was looking pensively at my wound.
“Find Rasc for me, Cavish.” He nodded and set off to find the scribe. I watched with tired eyes as the humans from the van looked to the care of the James Forrester and his daughter.
“Who are you?” I heard the James Forrester ask.
“We’re the Orkin Man. We had called to reschedule, but when we didn’t hear anything we knew something might be up. We’ve dealt with this enough times to know there could be real trouble,” The largest man, the one who had ran out of the house with the James Forrester, said. He handed a canteen to the James Forrester and his daughter. They took it and drank greedily.
“And your man at the back door,” James Forrester asked
The Orkin Men were silent for a moment. “Marcus didn’t make it,” The Orkin Man said reverently. “This was his first mission.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It was a risk we all take. It’s something we have to face in this job.”
Cavish and Rasc approached me and then Cavish bowed away. Rasc knelt beside me and looked me over.
“I’m afraid you’ll not have enough time to properly record what happened here today my old friend,” I said with a light chuckle. The poison was beginning to numb my hind legs and the pain was starting to creep up my spine.
“I will do my best to record the acts of this day. Of brave vermin, gnomes, and a troll who fought for the King. But most of all I will record the acts of our leader, Fen.” He looked at me with sad eyes.
“Old friend… There are too many others who deserve acclaim. I have summoned you to record my folly so others do not fall into it.” Rasc put his pen to paper and began to write every word - of Ungoth, of our pride, of the time without a king, and my shame.
And now I speak my last and I pray they do not fall on deaf ears.
“To the vermin, I implore you to serve the King and to man, I ask you… be a King.”