:: Early Jhinday Morning, the 93rd of Jhyel's Slumber ::
"Uh-oh. Company! Looks like you're right Tinker, let's go."
Outdistancing the grovels wasn't very difficult, with their short legs and peculiar gait, the pursuers were unable to gain even short bursts of speed. With the unconscious forms of both Saw and Cory nestled in the powerful steel cords that were Tinker's arms, the unlikely pair passed swiftly through the hostile forest. As the unlikely allies attempted to elude the violent cries and stunted forms behind them, a gentle snow, light but persistent, began to fall from the dark night sky.
"That'll teach them to try and chase a scurry!” Theo chuckled breathlessly, as the last of the clamorous noises of the grovels dropped behind them.
"The snow will cover our tracks, we'll be able to stop soon,” replied Tinker, apparently not even winded from the strenuous exertion of escaping and carrying two unconscious scurries.
"I miss Old Grey, I miss Kindle, too,” muttered Theo morosely to himself. "Maybe they'll let me trade Saw and Cory for them,” he added, brightening a bit.
"You know that you couldn't trade yourself because you're not worth enough. They wouldn't give you a pawshake for your hide,” retorted Cory weakly.
"Why, Cory, you're alive! That's wonderful because I've lost *count* of how much red wine you owe me! Though if you bought the
and turned it into Thousian wine, that might *begin* to cover the tab!" Coven Sea
"Always the rapier wit Theo...” whispered Cory hoarsely in a sarcastic tone, apparently fading off into unconsciousness again.
"We should begin looking for protection from the elements for you and your friends, though I'm carrying them as gently as I can, they would be far better off resting in some form of shelter. I believe that we have lost our grovel followers,” Tinker said to Theo, gesturing with his head to Cory and Saw.
"You don't suppose that there's an inn around here somewhere?” said Theo, looking about hopefully.
* * *
"I could *almost* get used to this,” thought Theo to himself, nestled in the cool confines of a hollow tree. "What am I thinking, you foolish scurry,” he berated, catching himself in the ridiculous thought. "No pretty lasses, no red wine, no good music ... could anything be worse."
And with the satisfaction that Tinker was keeping a watchful eye on himself and his friends, Theo drifted off into dreams of Lizbeth and sleep, with little more than a casual glance over at Saw and Cory, nestled comfortably in their oak leaf bedrolls.
* * *
"I thought you might be hungry, so I took the opportunity to gather some acisha nuts, irga root and some spring water,” said Tinker to a bleary-eyed Theo.
Small bits of snow where slowly melting on Tinker's silvery surface, and looking past him, Theo could see that it nothing short of a blizzard was striking Tisden Weald. To Theo, looking with half lidded eyes through a soft morning haze, Tinker seemed a beautiful harbinger sent by Jyhel.
"A king could not ask for more, Tinker” replied Theo, gratefully savoring an acisha nut. An acisha nut, which Theo didn't doubt, was the best one he had ever eaten. After washing it down with some icy water, Theo began absentmindedly munching on an irga root, savoring its earthy, bitter taste.
As he gnawed, Theo pondered his options. Though terribly anxious to return home to red wine and female companionship, Old Grey and Kindle were like trusted friends and Theo was loathe to leave them behind.
Apparently the acisha nuts were aiding in the scurries' thought processes, because a plan began to slowly form in his mind.
"Wait a grain! This blizzard, which I would normally consider a bothersome nuisance, would be wonderful to cover one scurries entrance and exit out of a grovel village. Theo, you've truly outdone yourself this time, you're a marvel” smiled Theo, basking in the glow of his own brilliance.
* * *
Looking down from his treetop hiding place onto the peaceful grovel village, which was now covered in a pale cloak of snow, the town looked peaceful and *almost* beautiful. Thankfully, Saw had woken up, and though groggy, gave some clues, from his brief glimpses of the vicinity, as to where they might have taken Old Grey and Kindle.
"Let's see, Saw mentioned the remains of a rusted, cauldron,” thought Theo, as he slowly scanned the village, trying to discern what white heap would be the most likely candidate for a cauldron. "I don't even see any of those filthy, ugly little faces, grovels must be afraid of the cold."
But travel through the branches, even to Theo's intuitive scurry grip, had been arduous at best. The snow was piling up fast and the boughs of most trees were slick with ice. Theo's hands were all but completely numb, and he breathed frosty tendrils of breath into his closed palms in a seemingly futile effort to warm them.
"Ahhh, hell-o, *that* must be a cauldron,” said Theo, espying the shattered remains of a cast iron cauldron, it's belly smashed and gaping, swallowing more snow with every passing wick.
Making good his namesake, Theo scurried softly down the trunk of the large oak which he'd been perched in, and quietly crouched in a snowdrift piled against the hovel of his interest. Surveying the situation, Theo quickly found a loose log in the ramshackle hut. Sticking an eye and a whisker into the said opening, he pulled himself into one of the two rooms of which the shack was composed. Wrinkling his nose, Theo was assaulted by the smell of rancid meat and unwashed bodies.
"I don't recall ever smelling anything *worse*!” grimaced Theo to himself.
Resisting the urge to call for Kindle and trying not to gag on the stench, Theo mutely began to search the filthy room.
On a cluttered workbench strewn with small bits of rat, dead frogs, black vials and other un-nameables, Theo found the object of his search. Peeling off a dried worm and what looked to be a toad belly, Theo pushed Kindle into the belt at his side. A few moments later, Old Grey was pulled down from a peg driven into a half-rotten log that composed part of a wall.
"I'll *never* lose you again, old friends!” whispered Theo, almost hugging Old Grey while he caressed Kindle's hilt.
Then Theo, hearing the sound of two people entering the room, froze.
"Can you at least tell me if the scurries *knew* anything!” came the deep, gruff voice, which was decidedly not that of a grovel.