Wagging Tongues Will - Part XXXVI
harles felt good that day. It was almost noon, the sun was shining down upon the white streaked roads of Metamor, and Charles was once more free. He walked along those roads, enjoying the cold feel against his toes. In the two days he’d been held in the dungeon, not much progress had been made in repairing the Keep, but a few of the burned out husks had been finally torn down, and a couple roofs patched up. He knew that he would miss most of the rebuilding, and that did dampen his spirits, but he kept his thoughts to his purpose that day.
With a renewed grin, he remembered the delightful conversation he’d shared with Father Hough that morning. The boy priest already knew of their imminent wedding, as Bishop Vinsah had been unable to resist telling him the news. Hough was bubbling with excitement the whole time they talked, eager to explain what was needed, and what would be required of the rat. Charles had listened with eagerness, sharing a bit of the priest’s cider as they talked. Of course, Hough and Charles only discussed the general ordering of events, the more specific minutiae he left to his sweet Lady.
Had they been wed in the Summer as they had originally planned, Charles would have worked paw in paw with his fiancèe to make sure that everything was perfect. Being as they were rushed in the matter, he left all of the decoration decisions up to her. Hough knew how that worked, and had offered many of the supplies that he had discovered in the cathedral during his time there, but Charles assured him that Kimberly was the one to show those. The rat was also sure that she would look and fuss over each one of them before deciding which she liked the best. And, chuckling lightly to himself, he knew that she would worry ceaselessly about whether he would like it, though he’d assured her that he trusted her judgement implicitly. After all that was one reason he wanted to marry her!
While he suspected the answer would not satisfy his love, their time constraint made any more participation practically impossible. He promised himself that he would check up on her later that afternoon if he could. There was much he still had to do after all. While in a few days everyone at Metamor would know he’d been cleared of the charges against him and was marrying his betrothed, there were some who were not amongst the Long Scouts or the Writer’s Guild who Charles had every intention of inviting to his wedding.
He’d already spent the early part of the morning before he’d talked with Father Hough with the rats in the cellars. He’d never seen them all so delighted, even Julian had born a real smile upon his muzzle. Hector had not waited long before cloistering himself back in his quarters with the stated declaration that he had to make something for them both. Elliot had been too flabbergasted to say anything other than “Congratulations!” over and over again. Goldmark reared and pranced about in his taur form, hooting and hollering for all the world to hear. Saulius had begun reciting rather bawdy poetry that made the rat’s ears blush!
Charles sported a wide grin as he remembered all of that. He would miss their company, even if they could be entirely too frustrating at times. At least Saulius was willing to show himself on a day to day basis now, he only remained in the cellars to give his fellow rodents his companionship. He wondered if the others would ever leave the cellars for good, but doubted that they could now.
Glancing about the blue sky and the pleasant homes, many of which remained standing firmly, he could not help but grin. The cellars were their homes, and that was how they liked it. Just as the rest of the Metamorians each had their place, they had found theirs. All that Matthias could do was hope that it was the one that they could enjoy. He knew that no matter how much he would miss Metamor, he would still enjoy himself at the Glen.
He then came upon a rather familiar looking building, or what was left of it. The oven was no longer completely exposed, as a row of bricks had been laid around it where the old walls had once stood. Charles could see the tabby Brennar staking several more stones to one side, next to a bucket of plaster where the snow had been swept out. The cat saw him approaching and waved, whiskers drawing back into a feline grin, exposing several sharp teeth. Charles had long since grown used to it, and eagerly stepped forward to greet the Baker’s apprentice.
“Brennar! It is good to see you again. How comes rebuilding?” Charles said inclining his head respectfully, long tail darting back and forth behind him.
“Charles, it is very good to see you again!” the tabby exclaimed, setting his last load of bricks down. “I’d heard that you’d been put in the dungeon! What happened?”
The rat grimaced and then shrugged. “Oh, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time I suppose. There was enough evidence to hold me in suspicion, but the Prime Minister ruled me innocent of everything except bad judgement. I’m free to go now.”
Brennar grinned then. “That is good to hear! Well, if you are free, do you think you could help us build the Bakery again? My master’s trying to see Thalberg, requesting more help in this effort. So far it’s just us.”
“I’m afraid I cannot help right now,” Charles said as he shook his head. “Maybe tomorrow or the next day, but not for very long. Part of this whole mess requires me to spend the next five months off at Glen Avery. Temporarily being reassigned or something of that sort.”
Brennar’s face fell a bit a that. “Oh, well, at least you’ll be back in time for the Summer Festival, right?”
Charles nodded and smiled to his friend. “Of course! I hope Gregor lets you make a lot more bread this year.”
Brennar glared down at the bricks. “Well, it would help if we can get this place rebuilt. Gregor has to use the Keep’s kitchens for now, and he so complains about them. You should hear him!”
“I can imagine well enough, thank you!” Charles was quite aware of the capybara’s foul temper whenever anything interfered with his work. “But I have good news that you can give to him. Lady Kimberly and I are going to be married in five days time!”
Brennar’s eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped for a moment before it drew back up again into a wide grin. “That’s wonderful to hear! Congratulations!”
“And both you and Gregor are invited of course. It will be at the Cathedral, I hope that won’t bother either of you.” Charles knew well how fervent a Lothanasi Gregor was.
Brennar nodded as he beamed. “Oh this is an honour, thank you Charles! Of course it won’t bother us. This is about you, not us. We’ll be happy to attend. Well I certainly will be!”
Charles smiled broadly then. “I’m glad to hear it! And let Gregor know that I want him to do the baking. I trust he’ll find this an interesting challenge.”
“How many will be there?”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m running around inviting people still!”
Brennar just shook his head, smile firmly planted upon his feline features. “This is remarkable, Charles. Congratulations to you again! And give Lady Kimberly my fondest wishes as well. I know you two will be very happy together.”
Charles bowed thankfully then. “I am afraid I must run off, there are others I must invite still.”
Brennar nodded and waved. “I will see you again soon I hope. Congratulations, my good rat!” The tabby then turned about and went about his work with quite a bit more enthusiasm. Charles smiled broadly then, his whiskers twitching in murine delight, and with a bounce to his step, he continued on his way.
Several times he passed people he knew, and to each he would offer a pleasant greeting before breaking forth with his good news. In every case, the listener was delighted and congratulated him on his good fortune. And they all assured him that they would be there for his wedding. Even those nearby who he did not know, offered him their best wishes. Some were suspicious of course, having heard what he’d been accused of, but most of them appeared to believe the rat when he told them he’d been cleared of all charges. Despite the misgivings of some, Charles felt too energized to let their doubts hamper his good mood.
And after walking for a bit, he came to one of the less damaged portions of town, and to the Shoeshine Inn. He smiled to himself as he gazed across the wooden frame of the humble building, admiring the placard of shoe and cloth hanging from the lintel. It was shortly past noon, and he wondered if his new friend would be there. Although it had only been four days since he had put up the donkey here, it felt like an eternity.
Stepping through the main doors, he shook the snow from his footpaws, and was greeted by pleasant warmth. He felt it fill his fur, even through his thick garments. Already there were several groups of Keepers piled around tables enjoying the Pavlik’s hearty stew. Sam Pavlik, the bright sixteen year old lass was carrying another pair of bowls to one of the lacquered tables when she saw him. Setting the bowls down, she hurried over to the foyer where the rat stood letting the warmth inside the high ceilinged room fill him.
“Charles Matthias?” she asked, her voice uncertain, eyes strangely wary. It appeared that she had also heard of his arrest.
“Yes, that is me, and no, I did not do what you’ve likely heard about me either.”
Sam blinked a few times and then blushed rapidly. “I’m sorry, sir.”
The rat waved one paw. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was found innocent of the charges against me. Is James still here?”
“The donkey?” she asked. When Charles had nodded, she gestured to the stairwell in the back leading up to a balcony. Beyond the railing were several doors, and a hallway that turned around the side of the building, certainly housing more rooms for guests. “I haven’t seen him all morning.”
Charles grimaced, idly watching the lynx morph Kurt brining in drinks for the Keepers. “Is he in his room?”
She nodded. “I think so. He was up late last night drinking after he heard that you’d been locked up.”
The rat frowned and rubbed his paws together. “Can you tell me what room he is staying in? I do have to pay for it after all.”
“Of course,” the girl nodded, her face uncertain, but mostly from concern. It only took her a few seconds to recall the room number, and then Charles was quick on his paws across the pleasant hall, ears turning at the boisterous laughter of some of the patrons. The stairs at the back were only as wide as he was tall, but they were ample enough. The hallway was also narrow, but two men could have walked side by side down it comfortably.
James’s room was just around the corner. He could smell the firm scent of the donkey as he stopped at the door, but could not quite discern any feelings from the odour. The rat stopped and listened at the door, but did not hear anything from beyond it. Balling his paw into a fist, he lightly rapped at the wooden door, and could hear a stirring of bed sheets, and then the clopping of hooves upon wood.
Charles smiled brightly when the door opened, revealing a dimly lit room not much larger than the cell he had been held within the last few days. The donkey was standing beside the door, peering down at him first in resignation, then in surprise. “Charles!” James shouted, voice shocked. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to check up on you. Sam tells you me got awfully drunk last night, so I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
James did not appear to hear him, his ears did not move from their upraised position, and his eyes still held the quality of a man who was expecting to wake up at any moment. “I thought you were in the dungeon.”
“I had been, but they let me go yesterday. I was cleared of all the charges against me except one, and that one merely amounted to bad judgement. So I am free again.
James finally seemed to hear him, as he smiled at last, running one of his two fingered hands across his brow, trying to straighten his mane out once more. “When I heard you got put in the dungeon, I just started drinking, I couldn’t stop. I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be ashamed of. Had I heard about it I would have wanted to get drunk too. They just don’t allow us to have mead in the dungeons. Very impolite of them wouldn’t you say?”
It took the donkey a moment to realise the levity in Charles’s complaint, as he stared at the rat in befuddlement before breaking into a light chortle. He then gripped his head between both hands, letting out a slight moan.
“Still suffering, eh/”
The donkey nodded, and glanced back at his unkempt bed. “I just got up a few minutes ago. I think I need to sit down again.”
Charles nodded and gestured towards that bed. “Then let us sit for a few moments and talk.” James invited him in with a wave of one hoof-like hand, and Matthias closed the door behind them. The donkey almost collapsed upon the bed when he reached it, but managed to prop himself up with the feather pillow against the wooden wall. His guest just sat with his legs folded before him, tail curling around so that the tip rested between is toes.
“So, what have you been doing these last few days?” Charles asked.
James shrugged a bit as he blinked some of the weariness from his eyes. “I did what you told me, I tried to help out with the rebuilding, but it was always with a new group each day. I never could find any of the others.” There was a bit of bitterness still in his voice, though Charles was not certain to whom it was direction.
“So, have you figured out what you are going to do now?”
James shook his head. “No, I don’t have anything left to start anything with.”
The rat frowned, and then a sudden idea struck him. “Well, I do have some good news to tell you.”
“Lady Kimberly and I are going to be wed in five days time! And I want you to be there for it.”
That did brighten James’s face, the ears rising again completely, and the brown eyes filling with sudden life. “That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you.” He then seemed to realize that last thing the rat had said, and his ears folded back, the insides reddening in a blush. “Why do you want me there?’
“Well, you are my friend, and I want all of my friends to be there.”
“But you only just met me,” James said. “And I’ve been taking your money ever since.”
“Nonsense!” Charles declared. “I consider myself a very good judge of character. You are just the sort of person I want to have as a friend. And I do expect you to be at my wedding.”
James continued to blush but he nodded. “I’ll be there. I don’t have much to wear, but I’ll be there.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Charles admonished. “Most of them won’t have much to wear either. You will fit right in with everyone else.” With a wide grin he went on. “And afterwards, I think you might enjoy joining us into moving to Glen Avery.”
“Glen Avery?” the donkey asked, his face suddenly surprised again.
“Yes. They lost a good number of folks too, and could certainly use somebody like you to help them rebuild. They are a small community, and I know you’d fit right in.”
“But I don’t know anyone there,” James said, his voice low.
“And apparently you don’t know too many people here either. Kimberly and I are moving out there to start our lives together. You have to start your life anew as well. Why not do it at Glen Avery? I think you might find it easier that way. I know a good number of the folks there, I can help you out as well.”
The donkey’s eyes stared down at the overturned sheets as if lost in thought. Clearly the idea of leaving Metamor had not occurred to him, but now that it had, it grew within his mind until it became inevitable. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes would work,” Charles said, smiling brightly. He knew he would have this jack’s companionship now. He’d done his bit to rebuild Metamor, even if only one of her citizens.
James nodded then, smiling, “Yes, I will go with you to Glen Avery. Thank you, Matthias. I’ve never had anyone do anything like this for me.”
“Well I’m glad I got to be the first,” Charles smiled then, reaching over to pat him on the shoulder. “Now come on, let’s go down and get something to eat. I know I could use it.’
“Don’t you have other things to do to get ready?”
“Of course, but I need to eat too. Might as well do so here with a friend.”
James smiled then, face bright as he rose from the bed. Charles jumped down with a large grin upon his muzzle. Yes, going to Glen Avery was a wonderful idea, he knew that now.
Cerulean, being as large as he was during the daytime, was unable to assist with most of the repairs. However, his great size did allow him the opportunity to move the rubble that was not fit for building materials outside the city walls. The great sky blue dragon was undertaking such a journey in fact when caught sigh of that speck in the distance fast approaching. Hefting the discarded wood and stone within the thick canvas between his rear legs, he climbed higher into the sky to take a better look at his distant cousin.
The dragon that was flying towards Metamor was also blue in colour, though not nearly as bright as Cerulean’s own scaled flesh. The Keeper glided over the mountain peaks that were the beginning of the Barrier Range as he watched, borne up by a rising thermal. With a twist of his toe claws, he unleashed his load, dumping the wood and stone down into the snow topped peaks. The wind scattered much of the splinters, but the stones fell resolutely downwards before landing in a small recess between two peaks. Snow shot upwards at the impact, but settled back down. Cerulean had chosen that spot because there was no fear of an avalanche there.
After his load was gone, he returned his attention to the other blue dragon that was fast approaching. Cerulean’s eyes of course could see much farther and more clearly than any human’s, even better than a hawk. So it only took him a few seconds before he was able to note the familiar cross piece that was strapped over the other dragon’s massive chest. They had met before, many months ago, when that dragon, Heraclitus was his name, brought back the rat Matthias from Whales. What reason could he have for visiting Metamor at this time?
Cerulean pumped his wings once more, lifting higher into the sky, until he found another thermal that would bring him along side his draconic cousin. He then glided, on that cold winter air, barely feeling any of it through his body mass. Heraclitus acknowledged him, and turned in his own path, long spaded tail dipping through the air as he moved. It only took a minute before the air currents brought them side by side, both headed towards Metamor.
“Greetings Heraclitus!” Cerulean boomed, his voice easily carrying across the good distance between them. Another dragon could have flown in the air between them, though it would have been a tight fit.
“Greetings Cerulean!” Heraclitus returned, his own voice deep, and mixed with a sense of urgency that it had not held the last time they’d spoken.
“What brings you this far from Whales?”
Heraclitus tapped the small locket that was affixed to the centre of his breastpiece with one claw. “An urgent message for his Highness Prince Phil of Whales.” The other dragon then cast almost luminescent blue eyes towards the large canvas that Cerulean had bundled within his toes. “What is that for?”
Cerulean nodded his head towards Metamor. Already the tallest of spires could be seen above the mountains. “We’ve just been in a terrible battle only a few weeks ago. I was dumping much of the rubble that could not be used for repairs in the mountains.”
“A great battle do you say! Pity that I could not have been here then.”
Cerulean shook his head then, even as the valley began to emerge from behind the Barrier Range. “I was of no help. They came under cover of a terrible blizzard that first night. I could never have even seen them upon the ground if even I could have been in the air. And afterwards almost all of the fighting was held within the Keep.”
“Tis a pity. I pray that you won?”
“Yes. The victory was ours, but not without a cost.”
“No battle can be won without a cost,” Heraclitus opined gravely, even as he began to descend, the last of the mountains behind them. Cerulean followed suit, dipping his head and raising his tail, wings sliding smoothly through the air as they glided downwards. The fields surrounding the castle itself were relatively clear, and Cerulean was quick to realise that such was where his companion was headed.
He angled slightly away, back towards where the workers who’d been loading the rubble had been, and bid the Whalish dragon a farewell. There was much work to be done still. He just hoped that Heraclitus was bringing good news, but knew that it could not be so, not with such an unpleasant look in his eyes.
|Talk to me!|