by Stealthcat

The rafters wouldn't stay in one place, at one point they were far above, at another he felt he could reach them. It had been a rough night, after two whole weeks without the slightest hint of change the curse struck him down in that one night. One very long, painful, sleepless night.

The pain was gone, replaced with fatigue and dizzy spells. He could barely move. Stealth managed to turn his head to see another patent in the next bed, they ether brought him in during the night or he never noticed, with good reason. A dragon was sprawled out on his chest and he wasn't moving. His wings were bound in bandages, the finger bones were held together with splints and the wing membrane was covered everywhere in stitches. Those tears were still visible where there were no bandages; they looked taught, like they could tear open further, perhaps up to the bone. The thought made him shiver.

"It looks like your change is complete." Coe entered the room and began his rounds. "Here, try to sit up," he helped up the newly cursed keeper and tried to examine him. There was a mirror on the bedside table, after a nod from Stealth the healer held it up. A black nose, hazelnut eyes with a black bar running down from each one and gold fur with spots. Despite the changes the face looking back was haggard. He knew what he was but couldn't be bothered thinking about it, at that point he didn't really care just so long as the pain was gone.

"Try to eat this, you'll feel better," the healer handed Stealth a plate full of meat.

'Are those organs?' he thought to him self, not all of it looked like flesh. But he slowly got a chunk of it with the fork and eventually had a bite. It wasn't too bad, he thought for a moment that the new form had enhanced the taste but there are plenty of people who eat such things and enjoy it. In fact you would have to if you ever found yourself in the situation of killing and preparing a small woodland creature to survive.

'Bla', he imagined for a moment the meat was rabbit guts or something. Coe was now tending to the Dragon, getting him to drink something. It would have been hard with that mouth Stealth thought as he took a sip of water, thankful that he still had lips. They could open up revealing a full set of sharp teeth but were strong enough to clamp shut and create a seal.

The racoon healer left and Stealth turned to see the dragon morph staring at him. He was sitting upright fully facing him. His chest was moving with a slow trembling motion with each breath and his draconian face held a venomous expression. "Bad change?"

"I thought it always was," the cheetah said back without hesitating, he did nothing to deserve that look so the dragon was probably dealing with his own pain or that was a natural visage, "how'd you end up here?" he added.

The other morph paused for a moment and looked up as he recalled, "I was in a convoy attacked by bandits." There were stories of bandits from the south or even some Metamorians conducting raids to ether take advantage of the weakened security since the attack or out of desperation due to it or both.

"I got cut off and hid in a cave, after the change I got stuck in it," he clenched a fist for emphasis, "I was stuck in that confined space with jagged rocks, till someone found me," he said bitterly with his other hand over the fist, claws digging into the scales for another visual aide while he paused again, "I didn't know about the curse, I didn't know I could morph into a smaller form," he emphasized the last part with frustration making Stealth cringe.

"And you?" He asked trying to forget the pain and humiliation.

Now it was Stealth's turn to pause, more out of discomfort than poor memory. "A keeper came to our town one day, I think he stole something so they caught him and started talking about some nasty things. So, ya' know I put things into perspective ...they said I was tainted. In fact everyone knew I was more or less a sympathiser already, then again you only need to not call keepers demons to be considered a sympathiser. Plus they didn't care for my beliefs or lack of. So when he somehow escaped they blamed me and locked me up.

"A few hours later," he paused, "...a bear busted me out, the other guy was something small so he just got through the bars." He tried to recall more about them. "Let's see now, the other guy was a squirrel, said he needed supplies bad and was gonna pay them back. Hmm, you know, I don't know if they were spies or what but they took me north. I could have gone anywhere but I made my choice." They were both silent for a moment.

"I'm Rugger."

"Stealth," it was a nick name he was given at an early age and eventually embraced. Neither of them were moving much but Stealth wanted to get out of that place, he looked toward the window, the sun was up so it wasn't that early, not in the valley.

"Stealth, how long have you been here?"

"Since last night, why?" The cat said stretching.

"You were here when they brought me in; you were in a lot of pain."

"Well, I feel a lot better now, I should get going."

"No you shouldn't!" Was shouted from down the hall. The cheetah flinched and his ears folded.

Coe could probably hear everything they were saying. This prompted the big cat to try his own new senses; the hospital smelled like... a hospital. Okay that was no good so he tried to listen out... hmm... just sounds that he probably would have heard anyway. His ears drooped; maybe he didn't have any new senses. With that he yawned and slumped back.

Days later Stealth had adjusted well enough to the change, he was a courier, running around in full form with a back pack. Mostly the deliveries were being made to places in the lower ward and Euper, usually for packages too late or to urgent for delivery by carriage. Although cheetahs aren’t distance runners this form was still useful to him for winding through crowds in town.

Those crowds, it was kinda embarrassing but fun seeing their faces when he had time to look up from the path. Besides it isn't as bad as being a taur he thought. Misha had insisted he try it, it would be fun, easier and faster to work as a taur rather than a full form cheetah but he just wasn't comfortable with the idea, not yet.

But now the feline was heading out of the keep toward a nearby field, he had gotten in touch with Rugger again; the dragon had something to show him and needed something delivered out to him.

The pack with its special item was moving independently to each stride, it was already strapped down properly, any looser and it would be annoying as well as possibly damaging to the goods. Any more and it would restrict his movement, maybe even the circulation.

The black lines running down from his eyes were helpful in keeping him fixed on the path ahead but he still noticed the sound of something approaching. Stealth slowed down and took a look back to see a full form wart hog running at him. The cheetah jumped to the side to avoid being gored, the wart hog charged again.

Stealth sprinted off at full speed leaving the wart hog in the dust. He was shaking off the adrenalin and wondering why he had been attacked when he could hear something approaching again. Who ever this guy was he was catching up he had caught up ...he was faster!

Stealth jumped out of the way again to see the wart hog run past and attempt to cut him off. The cheetah ran to the other side and went past; out of desperation he jumped over a mound and fell into a watering hole. It was only the middle of spring and the water was freezing, he was soaked, his bag and the clothing inside were soaked and the package, the package was ruined! 'That bloody thing will pay!' he thought crawling out of the water then through the slippery mud making his way back up from the other side of the mound with muddy paws.

'!? Or maybe not' he thought, In a split second the cheetah was open mouthed and wide eyed both in surprise and terror just as he was during the chase, although far more in terror this time. In that same second he ducked as some metal rods hit the top of the mound. The wart hog was now morphed and armed with a cross bow. The top of the mound was bone dry in contrast to the bottom, the cheetah noticed as the bow bolts right before him brought up dust as they embedded themselves. Stealth ran as fast as he could in the other direction, back down into the makeshift trench, this time jumping over the edge of the water, hoping like hell he wouldn’t slip in the mud.

He ran into the trees and took advantage of his tail rudder, desperately winding through the obstacles. The wart hog assassin, thief, whatever he was, was back in full form in pursuit again this time struggling to catch up in the twisting path. The cheetah heard a 'thud' and looked back. The other full form creature was stuck; his tusks were caught on the trunks of two trees.

Stealth went back to morph form and quickly removed the cross bow that was slung around the pig's back, there were no more bow bolts but the cat still used it to give him a blow to the head. After that crazy little pig was taken care of he stumbled back to a safe distance, only than aware of his state, completely wide eyed, ears flush with the scull, rapid breathing, rapid heart beat and trembling all over. 'Okay, deep breaths.' He wasn't far now from where they were meant to meet up so the feline slowly walked of, trying to regain his composure while reaching into the back pack to try to squeeze dry his clothes and put them on.

When he arrived there were two others there, the woman standing near some rubble was a gender morph called Alex, she had the same name as before. Her change was just a few months earlier. The other was another animal morph, his name was Fell, and he was, of all things a gazelle. Fell was a good friend of Alex; he helped her through the change and taught her some magic tricks.

The three of them were just hanging out, doing nothing in particular, probably waiting for him. When Stealth got close he almost stepped on a dead animal, in fact there were a few about. He wondered what killed them and if this was really such a good place to stay. "About time." Fell said, he was looking around, they all were. Like they had lost something in the long grass.

Rugger looked him over, the cheetahs golden fur was marred by more than the usual black spots. His arms, legs and tail were covered with a light coating of mud. His feet were bare, the boots were held in one hand, dripping on the grass. His clothes were damp and Rug could tell they had been squeezed out quite a bit and he had probably tried to remove the dirt from his fur. "What happened to you?"

Stealth grabbed him by the collar, "you tell me!!!" The dragon shrugged. "Why was there a wart hog that was faster than me!? Why the hell was that psycho trying to kill me!!? Is it because of this? Not that it matters now."

He held up the backpack in a muddy hand, Rug looked inside while Stealth contemplated attacking his still sore and injured wings, breaking the splints and tearing out the stitches. "It's fine, good thing they didn't get it," he had in his green scaled hand a magically sealed but otherwise uninteresting looking box and opened it to reveal some sort of materials, some of it looked to be mithrill. "Stealth, did you really think you wouldn't get attacked? It happens to convoys all the time, and what did you think you were delivering? A sandwich? Besides, you're okay, just be more careful next time." He prepared what ever it was for what ever he was doing.

The dragon then answered his previous question. "If he was faster he was using enchantments, where is he now?"

"About a ten minute walk back that way, I knocked him out and took this," he said and displayed the cross bow. "If that's to be expected then where are your weapons?"

The dragon pointed to the ground, there was a long sword like pile of ash. "Just a side affect, I fixed it now." Stealth was about to say something when he was interrupted.

"There!" Alex said in excitement pointing to the ground, there was nothing there.

"Kay', right, I couldn't use more of these till I had the material." Rugger said back and got something out of a pouch.

Fell was scanning the ground, "It will have to do, now you see this down here?" He asked Stealth. The cheetah looked closer; there was just grass and some bugs.

"Excuse me," Rugger said to Stealth and pulled out some of the hairs on his fore arm, some of the few that weren’t muddy.

"Arr! What the?" Rugger held it over some small stones about 40mm in diameter then looked at them for a while.

"Okay, now pay attention to the ants." The arm forgotten he raised an eyebrow and stepped back.

The dragon dropped the stone. There was a small explosion then a flame red field radiated out from it. Stealth went wide eyed with terror expecting to be consumed by the flame but it just went past him. As it got bigger it faded and dispersed. For the second time that day the feline was trembling with a rapid heart beat; he looked around to see everyone else grinning, as best they could.

Jaw dropped, revealing the two large canines he just looked at them. Fell pointed to the ground, it still looked the same. After the fear subsided Stealth felt irritated at his reaction, and didn't know what he was meant to be looking at, there was just bugs and grass. But on closer inspection the bugs weren’t moving in fact they had curled up, there was nothing alive on the ground but the plants.

"It's a bomb that kills all animal life except who ever has been immune to it, I've been working on it since I got here." 'Immune', Stealth looked at his arm then to the other two keepers; they both moved a hand over where something was pulled out.

"And before you ask, no there is no one else around, even if there was it wouldn't have killed them at that range, the effect is weaker further out." They instinctively looked around anyway. The south east of the clearing led into more ruins, the east and north east was the tree line, in fact it was just further up that tree line where the chase had ended. He started to wonder if the wart hog had woken up, broken free and made his way into the range of the bomb.

"What happens if we're in a fight and allies show up?" Stealth asked.

"Then I won't use them."

"Hmm," the cheetah didn't look satisfied with the answer, which wasn't hard for a creature that seemed to naturally look detached, although he did a good job of it both of the times he thought he was going to die.

"Oh, come on, there's a risk with everything besides you can just throw it at the enemy when no one else is there."

"And how the hell can you afford mythrill?" Did it belong to that pig perhaps? The big cat wondered.

"I can't, I'm just borrowing this. It doesn't get expended, and I just need it to create the enchantments," Rugger said hoping to end the interrogation, if anyone's going to be grilling someone it's him. "So, how are you coping with..." Rug motioned with his hand toward Stealth's new form, the cheetah was scanning the ground looking for how many small dead animals there were and he had gone back to removing the dirt.

The backpack and boots were on the ground, he gave up on the boots and the idea came to him of running into the baths and diving in, in full form.

"It's not so bad, it hasn't affected me as much as some others." Half of all animal morphs seemed to loose the use of opposable thumbs, it was worse for others. Then there were the other two curses.

"Sure is cold out here," Rugger said changing the subject.

"I think it's quite nice," the cat said. It was cold but the wind wasn't blowing. He could have gone for a run to warm up but knew that wouldn't have done the dragon any good, or would it? If they breathe fire wouldn't they be warm blooded? He doubted anyone else would have wanted to race anyway.

"It's lunch time," Alex suddenly said changing the subject again. With everything around them dead there wasn't much more reason for them to be there.

"Let's just eat Fell," The dragon said.

"I didn't know you swing that way," Fell countered.

Rugger was going to say something back when he heard something. It was soft but still loud enough to hear, it was like rocks falling down a quarry, offcourse it came from the ruins. Alex was the closest, she looked past the rubble ...lutins.

They knew the keepers were there but didn't attack, they just stood there, they didn't have weapons. These lutins were just desperate scavengers. How long had they been there? They had probably been trying not to be noticed. After the shock wore off both sides quickly armed themselves with what ever they could find from the ruins.

The lutin scavengers had bricks, the keepers were more fortunate and found some pipes. They ran into the ruins swinging at anyone before they could throw the bricks or land a punch. It was over as soon as it started; Alex took point and saw some further up in the ruins.

"Rug, how long does it take you to use those things?" Stealth asked.

The dragon pondered, "not long, but I can't do it in the middle of a fight."

"Then you stay back a bit and use them when I say."

"Okay, but I only have three left," the remaining stones were splayed out on a scaled hand. They were more like pebbles and that hand made them look even smaller.

"It should do." The keepers tried to find some better weapons in the debris, mostly bigger pipes or logs and some bottles that had been lying in the derelict ruins for years. With out much to prepare they went through a still standing arch way and rushed into the next area.

With a quick blow to the head the first few went down, Alex grabbed one and held him up for Stealth to knee in the head, meanwhile Fell slammed another into the remains of a wall then kicked the one behind him. At times they were just keeping the lutins busy by grabbing them and throwing them into each other.

The trio weren’t daunted at first but they had underestimated their numbers, there were many more lutins here and more on the way, the adrenalin could only help so much and Stealth was soon overwhelmed and cut off. "Rugger!" He saw the small flash and the field starting to form, it seemed to be much slower this time but as it went through the score of lutins they dropped. The last ones were easily dispatched. Some of them tried to climb up the crumbling walls to safety but it did them no good.

Alex took point again. "It's clear here, go!" They all moved off to the next area, there were less lutins than before but they were joined by a very large orc! He was standing in the middle of what was once a room and was holding a large log. Fell moved to one side using a bottle to cut with, he had already broken it over someone’s head. Alex was on the other side with a pipe. Stealth approached the orc and darted back again to avoid the log, he moved closer and jumped back, on the third try he moved in right away and stabbed the orc with a broken bottle in the side before he could react. The large creature cried out but showed no sign of slowing.

Stealth tried to use the same process to ether kill him or just tire him out. Eventually the orc got him with the log and the cheetah made some chirping sound as he was lifted off balance and knocked to the ground a small distance away. Despite the fierce appearance the log must have been to heavy to be used properly, it just knocked the wind out of him. He brushed the dirt off and called out. "Rugger!" A black pebble hit the orc's head, it killed the nearby lutins but the orc was just stunned. "Do it again!" Another pebble hit the orc in the same place; it killed the lutins that replaced the ones that had just died before but not the orc.

Even so Stealth took advantage of the situation and stabbed the orc again while the other two helped; there were no more lutins for them to fight. Stealth had thrown cation to the wind by not bothering to jump back this time and got slammed to the ground again, in addition to dirt he was now covered in dust. The cat took a pipe off the ground and ran at the large creature again while he was distracted fighting off the other two.

A blow to the hand and the orc dropped the log. The feline punched him in the stomach then struck him across the face with the pipe, he went down.

They were tired and shaken, even Rugger got caught up in it when the lutins got to where he was, plus he had joined in at the end, but none of them had any real injures except for the ones Rugger already had. The Keep was near by so it didn't take long for the guards to arrive and clean up, not all the invaders were dead. "Do we still have to go out on patrol?" Fell asked.

"Probably." Rugger said, the gazelle groaned.

"Excuse me, lad, do you know this man?" The gender morphed guard asked Stealth, she was escorting a wart hog who had been bound.

"Yes, that guy attacked me with this," he held up the cross bow. It was next to the bag and boots, both of which were still damp.

"Thank you, that's all we needed to know, but I will need that as evidence." He handed it over; disappointed, hoping he could keep it. After getting patched up they started to head back, except Stealth, he was curious.

"Come on, it's just rubble, man, let's go." Fell said.

"Na, you guy's go ahead, I think I'll look around." So he did, the other three followed.

The ruins got denser further up. Fell insisted there was nothing there, and it had been there for years. Unlike the other three he had grown up in the valley and knew of many such ruins. But the cat was curious.

He went inside a part of the structure still standing and started moving bricks from the wall. The gazelle tried to tell him again but the cheetah was more interested in looking around, his tail was flicking about to emphasise the point. The others were about to leave when Stealth removed another brick causing the wall to collapse.

The three returned to see in to the small room that had been revealed but it was empty. Still the big cat searched inside, he removed some worn planks from the floor revealing another room below it. Looking around, almost sniffing around he jumped down into the darkness. Alex created a witch light and they hesitantly followed.

The room below looked like the ruins above but as they moved on it looked more intact and, more importantly, it was stable. The walls went from crumbling dust to solid brick and cement. "Should we really be here?" Rug asked.

"When are we gonna be here again? Besides you can go back if you want." They didn't. Eventually they came to a large wooden door.

"Step back everyone," Fell said and started moving his hands about. With mage sight Rugger noted it looked like he was weaving something; many magical strands began to wind around the door leading to his hands.

When he was ready the gazelle moved his wrists about as if gathering up the slack, he then tugged and both sides of the door were torn apart and towards Fell, the strands contained any stray splinters of wood.

The passage ahead was made of stone, there was a descending stairway. The witch light floated down and everyone followed. It was very cold down here; even the two keepers that had fur were cold because their coats were intended for warm climate creatures. At the bottom the passage continued on a strait path for some time until they came to another door.

It was a bad idea to be here, but they were drawn to the place, how long had it been since anyone was last here? Everyone talks about how the valley is so small but if you just spent some time underneath it you could be down there forever or for a long time anyway. Fell used the same spell to open the door but this time he didn't pull the strands, he made a circular movement with his arms and pushed forward into nothing causing the door to burst inward. Inside was significantly larger so Alex had to create more witch lights.

The room, the part of it that was in sight, was full of scaffolding. It was a mess and they couldn't make out anything of interest. There were steps to the right, Stealth checked their condition, they were strong in fact they looked brand new. "These stairs have been preserved with spells and runes, everything in the room has been." Rug said. He had a strange look on his face in the witch light, probably from using the mage sight.

"Why?" Alex asked for everyone.

"It must be a bunker, they had no use for it so it's been preserved for future use," Rugger answered. The little conversation was the first time any of them had spoken since the first door.

Stealth put a hand on the railing and slowly began to walk up, and the stairs went up quite far, 25 meters or so, it felt even further in the darkness. Fortunately they were built into the wall and that put the cheetahs mind at ease. At the top the wooden platform turned to the left and stoped, it was a dead end. The felines ears drooped again, he strained to see in to the darkness and then he could almost see something in the distance, was it his imagination? "Fell, I need you to reach something for me, somewhere over there," he pointed roughly in the direction. Fell reached out with his strands and Rugger used his mage sight to confirm there was a mechanism, it was bound by the same spells and runes that protected it from the affects of time.

The gazelle was moving his hands about until there was a sound in the distance, it was followed by the sound of moving gears and then a platform appeared, the cat was about to step on when Fell grabbed him by the shoulder, "let me rig this up first." He threw some strands around the cables above and the railing near where they were standing; he attached the other end to the platform.

"Ill go first then," he said and stepped on, nothing happened.

"I think it can only be activated from the other side," Fell said and cast some more strands back to the panel in the darkness, 'click'.

The platform moved, it was stable and balanced so he didn't have to hold onto the railing but he did anyway. On the other side he felt around for the panel and pulled the leaver again sending the platform back, then on the signal he puled it again. It took some time as they went one at a time just in case. And it didn't help that it was making such a loud creaking noise.

The wooden platform continued on into the darkness, even with the witch lights there was nothing but darkness all around them. Stealth was frustrated at not being able to use any new senses in this form, he reflected how he likes being in the company of non animal morphed keepers, there was a sense of solidarity. He looked down past the railing to the side but he couldn't make out anything.

Stealth imagined what would happen if he fell down there, he know he wouldn't fall forever, probably hit the ground and live breaking every bone in his body, then he would be completely bound in bandages and one of the racoon healers assistants would feed him strange looking bits of meat. Or maybe the path had descended or the ground ascended and it was just two meters down. The cheetahs ears perked up, what if this was a hidden vault and just there out of sight was a pile of gold. As soon as they perked they folded back, if there was treasure it was out of sight.

"Alex, move a witch light down there," he waved a spotted, still slightly dirty arm into the darkness.

"I can't, I don't know how to." The gender morph replied.

"What? Just try!"

"I can just keep them floating in front of us, I don't know enough about them."

Stealth turned to the other keeper, "Fell?"

"What are you looking for?" The gazelle seemed uninterested.

"Isn't there anything down there?"

" No, there's nothing down there." The cat's tail began swaying in agitation, he was tempted to just go back the way they came and take a look but that was probably a bad idea, he didn't know what was in this room.

His frustrated thoughts turned from the 'treasure' to his lack of new senses, the bloody curse meant he was stuck in the valley and had gained nothing practical, maybe the full form, that was useful and he could use the heightened senses in that form but that's no good now. Besides that all he got out of it was that he sometimes made bird noises. And the rest of the time he would be just as vulnerable to ambushes as the non animal morphs, he won’t even be able to tell when someone is around by scent or sound as the others can.

But then again maybe it means he's still an omnivore, the other animal morphs would probably love to still eat the kinds of things that they use to. And his sight is still the same as before. Then there are the things that wouldn't have changed ether way, unlike other felines cheetahs sleep during the night, not that it stops the other morphs, and the fur coat is useless in winter, yes, but he won't boil in summer. He continued down the path feeling a little vindicated, with the others in tow. The small wooden platform led to another stone corridor, at the end was a door.

The door, if it was a door as the carvings indicated, was solid stone. Fell could handle it but preferred an alternative that wouldn’t be as much of a strain. There was a small gap in the wall, which would have been great if one of them was a mouse morph or something similar so that wouldn’t do. The witch lights revealed a ledge above. "Rug." The dragon morph lifted him up without any trouble. "Whoa!" Stealth managed to grab the ledge and scamper up to a level above, it's a good thing the backpack wasn't heavy. He was followed by Alex then the two of them tried to pull up Rugger while Fell attempted to give him a boost. The fact he wasn't just big but injured made things more difficult. He managed to grapple the carvings on the door with a huge scaled hand and climbed up.

After Rugger was up he grabbed Fell by the wrists with one hand and pulled him up. "Eep!"

"What is this place?" Alex asked.

"I think its part of an aquifer," Fell said while checking his wrists, the gazelle was checking to see if any fur had been pulled out. "The place we were just in was built later; some of these aquifers are still in use for the keep."

"Well let’s hope we don't find any, we're down stream." Rug said.

After a short time they came to a hole in the wall, on the other side was a vast room but one small enough to be illuminated. There was a water line but the room was dry, it still made Stealth anxious; the thought came to him of drowning trapped in a place like this. At the back of the room stairs were leading up. He took comfort in the fact that they hadn’t travelled that far from the ruins above, in case this lead to a dead end ...unless the way they came from mysteriously vanished.

At the top there were paths going off in every direction, the cat chose one that went in the direction of the keep and went down it. At the end was an intersection, he was about to head back then got another idea. Going on the advice given to him in previous weeks Stealth concentrated for a moment then after a few seconds down one of the halls they could hear something, it was a clicking noise, the other three were startled, "Oh, shit, should we run?" Fell asked.

"I can only hear one." Rug said.

"Yeah, one what?" Alex asked.

They braced for what was approaching, and then the creature appeared before them. The cheetah smiled, "Hello Goldmark."

"...hello there, I'm sorry, have we met?"

"Yeah, but," Stealth brushed the fur on his fore arm, "it was a week or so ago..."

The rat was gnawing on a chew stick. "You're that guy that got lost down here? You're lost again?" 'Typical' Goldmark thought, 'should have known he'd turn into something like this, what is it about cats and wondering into places they can't get out of, it would never happen to a rat.'

Stealth quickly defended himself, "not really," the cat hooked a thumb back, "we know how to get back but I was hoping this would lead somewhere."

"They all lead somewhere; wanna see this cool place I found?"

Alex groaned, "Not really, can you show us how to get back to the keep?"

The rat chewed on the stick a bit more. "Very well, this is the fastest way, follow me."

20 minutes later they were at the mule. Stealth was feeling disappointed but relieved, he was hoping to find something in that place but at least they were above ground again. Goldmark had joined them curious about their journey and brought along some fellow rats from the cellars, after getting introduced the cheetah had described the place and its location. "Hmm, no, can't say I've been there." He chewed on the stick again and added, "Yet."

"Kyia?" Fell asked.

"No," Rugger said, "it was opened up by time."

"Well I'll gladly take a look." He moved in closer and said softly, "if there's anything down there, like treasure, we'll talk about dividing it up."

That made Stealth smile, although he doubted they would find anything, still it could be fun to go exploring some more. He might get Rugger to make more of those stones though; the feline wondered how the rat would take to having a tuft of fur pulled out.