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 Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5)

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Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) Empty
PostSubject: Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5)   Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) I_icon_minitimeSun Sep 02, 2012 3:38 pm

PART 1 : The Smallest Plaything
PART 2 : The Gate of Fear
PART 3 : Meeting the Family
PART 4 : Making a Man...
PART 5 : Face in the Crowd

“Meeting the Family” - Now well settled in Freeport, Missus Meerka and The Xzott thought the young Dustpaw needed a family, so they set about finding him one...


Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) StoryMeetingTheFamily

”His attention was diverted by a tiny nose
digging through his pocket, sniffing for cookies.
He carefully picked Squirrley up, placing her
back beside Tress with a wag of his finger.”



Dawn was just breaking as Meerka laced on the last of the kits' travelling clothes. The three knew something different was happening today and had been quite a handful trying to determine what was going on. Ever since the Xzott had insisted that everyone ate a hearty breakfast, they had been creating havoc. None of their favourite things to eat – no leisurely chat at the table – no time to learn new words. Just a determined attempt to cram as much food into them as possible, then dress them in these unfamiliar clothes.

Meerka sighed and tried to explain as, for the umpteenth time, Zvek sulked and took off his waterproof overshoes.

Xzott gave a sharp whistle, causing the children's ears to perk immediately towards their father.

"The Xzott hopes you is all fulls, because we haves long trip today. So rubs sleep froms your eyes ands perk up your whiskers."

He leaned down to the children, hands on his knees, smiling at them with a twitch of his whiskers.

"Is very exciting day today, we is goings to meet Grandma ands Grandpa-..."

His attention was diverted by a tiny nose digging through his pocket, sniffing for cookies. He carefully picked Squirrley up, placing her back beside Tress with a wag of his finger.

"Nows pay attention this is importants... Zvek, please puts your shoe backs on. Uncle Dustpaw wills be here in a moment ands you don'ts want him to sees you withs one shoe off, do yous?"

Momentarily distracted by the prospect of “Uncle Dustpaw” visiting, Zvek allowed Meerka to redo his laces.

Moments later, there was a polite, quiet knock at the main door. Dustpaw slipped inside and closed the door firmly behind him, not allowing any of the mist to enter. He was dressed, as requested, in his adventuring clothes – long tunic over waterproof leggings, a short cloak with a good hood attached and a stout pair of walking boots. The smooth length of his Quarterstaff was slung over his shoulders alongside a small travelling pack. They were only expecting to be travelling for one day, so the Xzott had told him to pack light.

“Have you eaten?” asked Meerka, gesturing to the remains of the hearty porridge with various meaty extras that they had all enjoyed while getting ready.

“Yis... er, yes I have, thank you, but I could squeeze a little more in if we have time?”

Meerka nodded and turned back to Zvek's laces as Dustpaw selected a spoon and bowl.

= =

Casting an expert eye over the group, the Xzott turned to face Meerka and Dustpaw. He was wearing his full armour and heavy pack and had just slipped a wicked flanged mace into his belt.

"Okays...The Xzott isn'ts expectings any troubles fors trip, but has beens some interesting characters lurkings under city lately, so is very important that you alls pay attention."

The Xzott took this moment to look eat kit in the eye to ensure they were watching and listening as he outlined his plan...

For the initial part of the journey, he was to travel in front. He would be carrying the heavy pack but not one of the children. Squirrley had sulked at this point until he had pointed out that it would only be for a short while. Meerka would go next, carrying Tress and Zvek, but no pack, just her collection of pouches with things for the children. Dustpaw would bring up the rear with his small pack and Squirrley. The children must be sure to cling on tightly until they had passed below the sewers – only then would they be allowed down to walk. If there was any trouble, any at all, only he was to defend them. He looked sternly at Dustpaw and made it very clear that Meerka and *all* of the kits were to be taken to safety. He would not accept any disobedience or heroics.

Glancing one last time round the house, the Xzott lead them outside and locked the front door carefully. Thick, damp mist clung to their legs and came to well over their waists. At least with a kit on each hip, Meerka was well balanced, but Dustpaw had to adjust his pack over to one side until Squirrley could find a comfortable position.

Leading the way, the Xzott took them to the entrance to the Thieves Way. One by one, they slipped down into the damp and darkness...

= =

They had been moving quickly and quietly for a few minutes through the twisting, turning tunnels before the Xzott motioned them to stop. So far, all of the denizens of the sewers – slugs, serpents, muck toads and so on – had given them a wide berth. Even the diseased Ratonga who were cast down here to die had not troubled them. But, ahead in the darkness, something else lurked. Something unknown and potentially very dangerous...

Ears and whiskers forward to catch the tiniest vibration or noise, the Xzott crept closer to a corner. A stray breeze had carried the faintest of odours to his sensitive nose so he had halted...

There should have been a torch here but it had gone out. The next one further down was missing from it's bracket – probably fallen into the water... for about twenty yards, the sewer and all alcoves were in total darkness. Waiting for his eyes to adjust, he crept forwards again... straining to see... an Ogre... crouched motionless in a darkened alcove. The merest scrape of metal on stone told him he had been spotted, but still the beast did not move. The corridor was wide enough for him to pass safely... but what about Meerka, Dustpaw and the kits? He flexed his fingers on the handle of his mace and debated his choices. What was it waiting for? Why did it not attack?

Motioning for the others to stay back out of sight, he stepped forward and out into the middle of the corridor. This would give him as much room to move as was available and would make him seem confident. Still the Ogre did not move. It smelled of armour and stale sweat, but not of blood or anything else more dangerous. Now closer, the Xzott could see that it was wearing full plate except for its head. A great eight-foot long spear rested on the ground near a mighty gauntleted hand.

It was the Ogre who broke the stalemate first. Still crouching, it looked directly at the Xzott and gestured past itself with a bushy eyebrow. Go on. Get out of here. You are in the way of my... business. Move!

Keeping a careful eye on the creature, the Xzott chirruped once softly and waited alertly until both Meerka and Dustpaw with their precious cargo were safely past. As he turned to resume his place at the front of the group, he spotted an extinguished torch lying half out of the water. The Ogre had created this trap... but for whom?

Last edited by DanielCoffey on Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:56 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5)   Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) I_icon_minitimeSun Sep 02, 2012 3:41 pm

Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) StoryMeetingTheFamily

They had left the sewers under the city and were now far out in the subterranean passages under the Commonlands. Ages ago, huge underground aqueducts served the city of Freeport. Now abandoned and largely forgotten, they provided secret highways for bringing goods and people into and out of the City unseen.

For a while now, they had been passing a section of wall with niches for statues. Most of the niches were empty or the statues vandalised, but occasionally an intact one would emerge from the gloom. Finally, the Xzott stopped at a niche that, to Dustpaw, looked just like all the others.

Looking ahead and behind and straining his ears, the Xzott decided they were probably unobserved. He stood in the niche, just where a small statue about three feet high would have once rested. Grunting in annoyance, he shifted his weight slightly from one foot to the other. Nothing happened... at first... but finally, with a reluctant click, a small panel of cunningly concealed stone gaped and yielded to a tentative push.

The opening was roughly square, barely a foot on a side. Far too small for anything bigger than a Ratonga to squeeze through. Seeing Dustpaw's querying eyebrow, the Xzott pointed to where he had been standing and softly chrred a single word... counterweight. If a Gnome or Halfling stood there, the weight would be wrong and the panel would remain locked. Only an adult Ratonga was the correct weight and size.

Poking his head through the entrance, the Xzott could not hear or smell anything, so he squeezed through.

“Kits first... thens you, Mrs Meerka. Dustpaw, keeps watch fors us, please.”

One after another, the children were passed through, then Meerka, then all their packs and belongings. Only once everything was safely secured again, did the Xzott allow Dustpaw to push his way through.

Glancing one last time into the main tunnel, the Xzott quietly closed the doorway with a faint click. Complicated locks and wards snapped into place, securing the space they were in from unwanted intruders.

Having left the sewers and passages of the Above World safely behind them, they were now in the tunnels of the Ratonga. Smoother. Straighter. Safer.

Pushing them forward again, the Xzott made them march for half an hour before allowing a rest.

With a smile and a twitch of his whiskers, he patted the kits one at a time on the head, also giving Dustpaw a congratulatory pat on the shoulder.

“You haves all dones very well. We haves travelled further than The Xzott expecteds by this time, so we cans relax now. Children... Dustpaw... Lovely Wife, The Xzott is proud ofs you. Well dones!”

As he finished, he gave Meerka a sweet kiss on the cheek before he resumed speaking.

From here on, he explained, the journey would be much safer. The children would be allowed to walk if they desired. They would be allowed to use a light, and there could be talking. These tunnels were close to Meerka's home. They might even meet a few other Ratonga they could talk to.

This was, in fact, the case. Tress was curled up in Meerka's arms asleep, but Zvek was walking with Dustpaw and Squirrley was making good progress herself, tail held by the Xzott's own, when they met their first Ratonga traveller.

Their pace slowed as Meerka met more and more people she recognised. They all insisted on being introduced to the children. Some, who had not met the Xzott received more formal introductions, and then invariably their eyes would turn towards Dustpaw. Not wanting to cause any concern, Meerka simply introduced him as a friend from Freeport who was coming to visit her family, with the promise of stories afterwards once everybody was settled at home.

Home. A bright, messy, cheerful home. It was filled with good scents, sleek furred mischievous kits in various stages of growth, food, and fresh wood.

Leaving the Xzott and Dustpaw outside with their packs for a moment, Meerka swept into the main room with the three children to find her mother. Shrieks of delight and childish giggles erupted as Meerka's younger brothers and sisters spied their new playmates. Soon, all the children were playing, rolling over and over in a bundle of fur, tails and whiskers.

Leaving Meerka to keep an eye on the tumult, Missus Sarrian, her mother emerged from the doorway to greet the Xzott and Dustpaw. Rubbing cheeks with the Xzott she exclaimed how well he looked and how delighted she was to see him again.

“A grandmother! I's a grandmother at last!”

Beaming with pride, she turned at last to Dustpaw who was fidgeting, busying himself with a strap.

“So – yus is Meerka and Mister Xzott's new friend? Dustpaw, yis? My daughter has spoken of yus several times, always with admiration. Be welcome to our home!”

With the quickest of glances at the Xzott, Dustpaw summoned his courage and stepped forwards. Offering his paws, he nodded...

“I's... I am Dustpaw, yes. Thank you for welcoming me to your beautiful home.”

Taking his paws for a moment, she returned the polite greeting, then, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, she swept him into a big hug which caused him to give a small squeak of surprise.

“Enough formalities. I's husband Mister Maliek, I's nest mate, is out working at the moment but will be home later.”

Turning back towards the main door to the dwelling, she called out in a clear voice.

“Dad – come and say hellos to everybody! We have Meerka and the Xzott with their children, and their friend, Mister Dustpaw too! Out! Come and be sociable!”

From one of the side rooms, an old grey-muzzled Ratonga named Cuthy came out slowly, bright eyed, taking in the chaotic scene. He looked at the young ones first, then Mister Dustpaw, nodding at Mister Xzott in passing.

“So, you're Meerka's deep dustpaw friend are you?”

Sharp eyes looked Dustpaw up and down and he sniffed.

“Yous don't look like any dustpaw I've ever seen, and I've set eyes on one or two. What yous do, rob a bank?”

For a moment, Dustpaw's ears flattened in alarm, but he rallied admirably.

“N-no, sir, I's... I didn't, but... I'm working on it!”

“Good! Good! That's what I like to hear.” chuckled Grandad with a twinkle in his eyes. Turning to the Xzott, he continued...

“So, Mister Xzott. I hear you have brought my great-grandchildren to see me, yes? I assume from the noise that they are indoors. Why don't yous come in too and us men can share a pot of tea while the ladies talk about children.”

Taking both the Xzott and Dustpaw by the shoulders, the old Ratonga led them inside to his favourite room.

= =

Later on that evening, Meerka, her mother and the two eldest of the siblings set out a big feast. Since it was a special occasion, there were exotic ingredients from the Above Ground, plus a dish or two that Mister Xzott had prepared in advance and finished off in the kitchen.

Short-legged tables were dragged next to each other and covered with cloths. Everybody sat round on firm cushions since it was an informal gathering. The enormous piles of exotic food brought wide-eyed stares of delight from all the children (and even Mister Dustpaw). Once Meerka's father, Mister Maliek, had spoken a short dedication, the conversation flowed as freely as the food and drink. Her father, normally quiet, said few words, but proved a polite listener as Mister Xzott brought him up to date with surface affairs. He was also interested to hear that Dustpaw had adopted the trade of Woodworker, or Gnawer-of-Wood, as he called it, since this too was his chosen profession.

Little Zvek was proud to be on the Xzott's knee for the meal, and he used the opportunity to make the most of the treats on offer at the table. While Tress sat with Meerka, Squirrley was whispering things to Grandpa who would on occasion tell her in quiet whispers tales of his surface adventures, eliciting delighted giggles from the young ratling.

Dustpaw was attempting to entertain and feed Meerka's littlest brother who was proving quite a wriggler. At one point, Meerka's mother asked if he wanted to pass him over or put him down, but Dustpaw produced a small wooden toy from a pocket which instantly captured the youngster's attention.

Squirrley was humming away when she wasn’t stuffing her face, and a couple of the younger ones tried to keep tune with her. The results weren’t overly wonderful and eventually Missus Sarrian shush’d them all. It was a good meal, ending with fresh cheese.

One by one, the younger kits started yawning, and as they did so Meerka carried them into the sleeping rooms gently. The older kits stayed up, excited by the visitors and their stories and playing with various small gifts that Mister Xzott and Mister Dustpaw had brought.

Meerka's mother asked Dustpaw about his childhood and he haltingly spoke of it, and of the no-fur who had saved him. She clucked in dismay at the story, the outcast kits with no family and no support. She took in his now-shining fur, his obvious kindness and competence. When he had finished telling his story of his escape from the Underfoot and subsequent arrival in Freeport, she looked at her husband and caught his eye. He nodded silently. She then glanced over at Cuthy whose old eyes were shining brightly, laughing at her. He too gave a small nod.

Getting up from her cushions, she went over to Mister Dustpaw. Motioning for him to stand, she hugged him.

“Yus ordeal is overs now, Mister Dustpaw. Now yus have a family all of your owns.”

She kissed his cheeks and continued...

“Would yus likes to be part of our family?”

She held his eyes so that he would know the offer was sincere. Dustpaw looked over at Meerka and the Xzott, who were looking back at him with big beaming grins. He nodded eagerly and in a small, choked voice managed a single word...


= =

Later, Mister Maliek brought pen and paper and wrote out the formal adoption certificate.

The next day, the adults went to the town council. It took some time to arrange, as Mister Dustpaw was, well, indeed a dustpaw, but Meerka’s family stood surety for him and the adoption went though.

Mister Dustpaw might have grown up alone, but he had a family now.

Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) DustawTheEnd
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Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) Empty
PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5)   Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) I_icon_minitimeSun Sep 02, 2012 4:42 pm

That was a very sweet story. Thank you.

Blind faith is a liability: Skepticism a necessity.
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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5)   Dustpaw : Meeting the Family (3 of 5) I_icon_minitime

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