The Rat Cellar

Fate in the Plaza

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Story

As Kat walked into the square she was excited. I can’t believe I might finally get out of that dump of a bar… She looked around the square, watching the rich nobles relaxing by the grand fountain, listening to the distant banter of a slave auction at the other end, and watching a procession of clergy enter the gates to the Divine Palace. No sign of Bella yet, but Kat was early. She walked around the square a few times to make sure no one was tracking her moves then looked for a cool spot in the shade to wait.

It was almost two hours before Ella entered the square from the East wearing a blonde wig, an old sky blue dress, and a yellow shawl. She had adopted the disguise earlier that morning while asking around for Pellene, not wanting to be recognized should she find him. She had no success and it was already well after noon when she had given up and decided to head for the rendezvous. I wonder if Kat will recognize me. She thought as she stood in the middle of the plaza scanning the faces around her. She was frustrated by her lack of progress this morning, but hoped the girl would have more information.

It wasn’t long before Kat noticed Bella from her spot along the edge of the plaza. The wig would have thrown her off but there was something out of place with the way Bella carried herself. Something Kat couldn’t quite put her finger on. She stood and slowly walked toward Bella without looking at her. As she passed her she pretended to trip. “Oh! I am so sorry Miss. Please excuse my clumsiness.”

“That’s quite alright, my dear” Ella said before looking at the girl’s face. “Kat?! I take it that wasn’t an accident” she said smiling. “Shall we take a stroll around the square while we continue our discussion from the other night?”

“Sure…” Kat said while she looked around, “but let’s not stay in the plaza. The guards don’t exactly trust me.”

The two began walking toward the side of the plaza leading down to the docks as they talked in casual tones.

“As for the person you asked about, Pellene, he’s not much to talk about,” Kat told Bella. “He’s a scribe that was expelled from school for drawing the Gods as ordinary people. I’ve never seen him talk to strangers before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was getting in over his head.”

“Interesting. I’ve heard of avant garde artists before, but never concerning the Gods. I don’t suppose you know what shop he works at?”

“Unfortunately I don’t,” Kat said as they neared the edge of the plaza, the shouts of the slave auctioneer carrying over the crowd nearby, “but I can try to find out. He may come back to the bar.”

“Thanks, I’d appreciate that. I know you hate working there, but our poking about might lead to some new opportunities. Speaking of which, what exactly are you hoping to get out of this, Kat? Do you even know what business the man I met with is involved in? I’d hate for you to get in over your head.”

Kat looked at Ella uncertain of how to respond.

Ella nodded. “I’d better not tell you too much, but let’s just say that man has a keen interest in certain information. I’m actually quite interested in finding out what he does with it. Perhaps this Pellene will know more.”

“That makes sense. He has met with the man a few times. What can I do to help?” Kat asked as she glanced around the plaza. “I’m sure I can do something and if it helps me get out of The Rat Cellar, I am in.” Her sentence trailed off slightly as her eyes lingered on the slave auction, she wasn’t sure what it was, but something there grabbed her attention and wouldn’t let it go. She turned to look more closely.

Ella noticed Kat’s wandering eye. “Slaving… an unfortunate business but a profitable one. I swear, most nobles wouldn’t know how to use a privy without one,” she whispered while thinking of the slaves in her father’s estate. I wonder if they’re still alive.

Ella’s musing was cut off by a sharp breath from Kat. It was the eyes, blue eyes like the mid-morning sky, piercing and full of life. Not the muscled hulk on the block being squabbled over by the nobles, but the thin young man behind that hulk, the next in line. An unassuming man, the sort that could easily get lost in a crowd, his wiry frame covered in bruises and lashes, telling the story of those defiant blue eyes. Kat recognized him immediately.

“Oh Gods…” Kat whispered as her feet pulled her towards the line of slaves…,“Fabine…” Her feet moved faster and eventually became as run as she screamed, “FABINE!”

What is she doing? Ella thought to herself as she feigned disgust at the impropriety of such a public outburst. She’s drawing so much attention to herself. She glanced around to ensure no one had noticed Kat speaking to her before staring a leisurely stroll towards the auction. I had best see what she’s all worked up about.

As Kat neared the auction, shoving the crowd violently out of her way and yelling for Fabine, his expression slowly changed from defiance to "He runs off so often, butbit still scares mesurprise. As he turned and watched her pushing her way to the front of the crowd his eyes became soft with concern. He shook his head emphatically trying to will her away.

Kat knew he was trying to warn her. Swallowing her need to rescue him she grabbed the nearest boy not facing her and spun him around. Going to her knee she said, “Fabine! Where…” She let her voice trail off as if she just realized this child was not who she was looking for. “I am so sorry! I thought you were my little brother.” Kat made another round of apologizes and slipped back into the crowd as if she were still looking for her “brother”. Even so, her eyes kept checking on Fabine as she moved around the plaza. What am I going to do? I need to get him free, Kat thought, I can’t believe I acted so stupidly. Now everyone is watching me. Surely I’ve ruined any chance of working with Bella. As she looked toward where she was last with Bella a gruff hand landed on her shoulder and she turned to look up into the narrowed eyes of a member of the city watch.

“Oh! Thank goddess! Officer, my brother has seemed to have gotten lost in the crowd. I thought this young man was him.” Kat started to cry, hoping this wasn’t an officer she’d met before. Thankfully the guard had thousands of members. “He runs off so often. I’m sure he is fine. I am so sorry to cause a distribance. I’m going to head home and see if he is there like always.”

“If it was an honest mistake then you won’t mind coming with me and explaining why you made a scene here to the captain, will you, street rat?” The guardsman said as he began to pull Kat in the direction of the slave auction.

“Absolutely not, but would you mind not pulling me quite so hard?” Kat smiled up at the guard hoping he would loosen his hold a little. As he snarled at her and pulled her gruffly along, she glanced around hoping the crowd or the start of the auction would give her the opportunity to cause another distraction and get away. When the crowd got too heavy for the guard to weave her through easily, she knew she had her chance. At first Kat looked around for a large man hoping to pinch him quite inappropriately on the rump inciting anger and hopefully a violent distraction. But damn it all if the guard didn’t drag her through a pack of gossiping hens. Rolling her eyes at her ill luck Kat went for it and grabbed a handful of the nearest woman’s sizable breast with a firm squeeze. It certainly got a reaction, not the violent outburst she was hoping, but as the woman shrieked and leapt away the guard turned to look and subconsciously loosened his grip. Kat’s skillful fingers left both the guard and woman uncertain as to what just happened and Kat took the opportunity to make a break for it.

Kat shot through the crowd like butter. Her small and adept body weaving easily in and out of them. She turned and looked over her shoulder to see the guard pushing the irate woman out of his way and struggling against the weight of the crowd. Kat was out of the square and down at least three alleys before she stopped, leaning against a wall to catch her breath. She smiled in a moment of ecstasy until she remembered Fabine’s battered face on the auction block, his head shaking slightly but desperately begging her to stay free. She brushed the tear out of her eye and regained her feet, deciding what to do next.

Kat was determined to find out what was happening to fabine. She looked around the alley and wiped her face with some soot from a fire pit. On her way back to the plaza she took some cloths of a line down another alley and ditched her old clothes on the go.

When she entered the plaza she tried to slip back into the crowd unnoticed, with her eyes and ears peeled for the guards in case her disguise was not good enough. As she neared the thickest part of the crowd she heard a woman’s voice behind her crow “you there, aren’t you that girl who got in trouble with the guard?”

Kat froze, hoping the voice was talking to someone else, until the hand landed on her should. The woman looked her in the eyes and said “I think I recognize that scar.”
“You have the wrong woman.” Kat said in a voice that was halfway between an old woman and a eunuch, and not particularly convincing either.

By the time the woman had started calling for the guard Kat had slipped out of her grip and deeper into the crowd. Half her attention was focused on escaping the woman’s attention and the other half on trying to eavesdrop on conversations that may have something to do with Fabine. Unfortunately everyone was talking about the big man on the block before Fabine or the attractive young woman after.

As it dawned on Kat that they were talking about the next slave on the block her eyes darted over and she saw that Fabine was no longer there. She looked frantically around the plaza for any sign of him. Then she saw a gnarled old man leading two burley guards who held the manacles of a small crowd of slaves. She recognized the man from a moment ago, he was manhandling Fabine as she entered the plaza. Kat started to move toward the group to get a better look and then recognized Fabine’s gate among the crowd.

They were almost at the edge of the plaza and Kat raced to catch up, while still trying not to draw any more attention. They had already disappeared down a road leading toward the West Gate when she flattened herself against the wall of an Inn along the plaza.
Peering around the corner her eyes locked with one of the burly guard. His eyes were suspicious and attentive and when he caught her gaze he immediately turned toward her. “What are you looking at street rat, care to join this lot?” he hollered with a booming voice as he snapped a heavy whip.

The loud sound startled Kat and with her close shave only a few minutes before, she lost her nerve. She disappeared down another side alley.

Kat knew that Fabine was probably enslaved for his crimes of theft, vagrancy, and being to poor to afford an advocate. He was too slight to be an imposing guard and too wily to be a trustworthy runner or house slave. Fabine was destined for manual labor of some sort, she was certain, and if they were headed toward the West Gate then it was likely on a farm somewhere outside the city. Farms always needed large numbers of slaves.

Kat wished that she could have somehow caught that old man’s name. She could head back toward the auction and ask around, but she was certain nobody would remember. To them Fabine would just be another broken down slave. They probably forgot him before they even noticed him. Besides there was too much risk that she would be recognized. But she knew that he was alive. That was something. Manual labor was hard and brutal, but Fabine was tough. Kat vowed then, as she walked among the alleys in the shade of the late afternoon sun, that she would find Fabine, and that she would do everything in her power to set him free.

* * *

Ella watched from the crowds as Kat was both apprehended and escaped. As Kat disappeared down a nearby ally Ella felt a presence next to her. “Interesting girl, she’s more resourceful than I would have initial thought, and those quick hands could come in handy.” Ella turned to see her employer standing casually next to her, his hands on his hips, looking toward the alley that Kat disappeared down.

Ella did her best to maintain her composure, but jumped slightly upon seeing her employer. “Yes, she’s an observant one, but obviously not very discrete. The scar doesn’t help, I’m sure. Do you any idea what she was yelling about?”

Ella noticed a smirk on the man’s face from the corner of her eye. “Oh, of course, but that’s not why I’m here.” The man turned and look directly at her. “You’ve been trying to track down Pellene, haven’t you Ms. Talsoon.”

She felt her heart skip a beat when she heard her real name escape his lips. How could he have found out? She kept her gaze on the auction, took a deep breath, and tried to mask the nervousness in her voice. “I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong name. It’s Bella, as you know. As for Pellene… well, I wondered if you’d catch wind of my inquiries. You didn’t really expect me to quit your game, as you like to call it, so easily?” She turned to meet his eyes, giving him the faintest of smiles. “You know how us girls love a bit of mystery.”

The man’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Unfortunately, for my business knowing too many people can cause trouble. And since you now know Pellene both by name and appearance it’s only a matter of time until you track him down. However, there’s one connection I can sever. You don’t know who I am, not really anyway.” The man smiled at her then, a flawless congenial smile. “From this day forth, you are cut off. I will not be speaking to you again, seeing you again, or buying from you again. If you care to make money in this trade then I suggest you do a better job of hunting down Pellene, because he’s the only client you are like to find.”

Ella flushed in anger at the prospect of losing her only source of income. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said curtly. “Could you at least satisfy a girl’s curiosity and tell me what my intel was used for?” she said while raising her hand to pat his bicep. Let’s see if my touch can coax some information out of him.

The smile vanished from the man’s face. “You think that I would trust you with my secrets when I don’t even trust you with your own? You’re a fool. It seems this parting was overdue. Good-day madam, and best of luck to you.” The man turned and began to walk away.

Ella nearly let an insult escape her tongue, but the surrounding crowd gave her pause. Instead, she tisked at the man, sending him off with two dismissive flicks of her hand. As she was about to turn away she thought she saw the glimmer of a smile on the side of the man’s face but then he was lost in the crowd. She turned and left the slave auction. Well, there goes my only source of income, she thought. Pellene better be worth the trouble.

* * *

Pellene closed up shop shortly after sunset has he did every day but God’s day. His hands were sore from writing and his eyes tired from staring at pages all day. He put away the parchment, sealed the ink pot with wax to keep it fresh, and placed his last bit of work for the day on the master’s desk. As he locked the outside door and walked the 10 feet to the door leading up to his apartment he was lost in thought. How could he track down that young lady, and should he even if he could. He was curious but also wary of offending the mysterious man.

As he opened the door he heard a soft rustling and realized that he had kicked a small piece of parchment. That’s the second day in a row someone has left something for me behind the locked door of my apartment, perhaps I should consider a better lock he thought. He reached down and retrieved the parchment. It contained only an address. No explanation, no request, nothing else helpful in any way. That’s awfully mysterious Pellene thought as he stuffed the note in his pocket and proceeded up the stairs to a meager stew and some stale bread and little drawing before bed.

Conclusion

Kat

  • Will 0/1
  • Disguise 1
  • Soothing Platitudes 0/0/1
  • Falsehood 0/1/0
  • Customer-Wise 0/1/1
  • Sleight of Hand 1/0/0
  • Speed 0/1/0
  • Inconspicuous 0/0/1
  • Stealth 0/0/1
  • Streetwise 0/1/0
  • Used 3 Fate
  • Used 1 Persona
  • Gain Fate: Belief expressed, need to find someone that can get me out
  • Gain Persona: Belief resolved, fabine is alive and Kat knows he’s a slave
  • Gain Persona: Workhorse
  • Gain Persona: Embodiment

Ella

  • Circles 0/0/1
  • Disguise 1/0/0
  • Beguiling Touch 0/0/1
  • Gain Fate: Belief expressed, need to find out how the information is being used
  • Gain Fate: Instinct expressed, stayed innocuous when Kat was causing a scene

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