Stealth's been down these corridors many times before but this time things were different.
I mean honestly, making a delivery from the keep just to another place within the keep? That's like hitching a ride on a carriage to go from one side of the commons to the other. Humpf! He's a courier not a messenger and not a coyote he's a cheetah!
And no running!? What the hell is up with that? The client explicitly stated that, so the package is fragile, why did he hire someone intended to make haste?
The cheetah looked around his surrounds; studying the suits of armour off to one side and the windows on the other side. The sun shone bright outside he could see but the windows were in the shade and the corridor was bathed in darkness. ...it's still cold.
The corridors opened up in to halls and then into a great hall, void of keepers and wrapped yet tighter in the shrouds of cold and darkness. The great hall terminated and exited out to the side into a small corridor that did a better job of sustaining some light and warmth. However it still contained yet more windows rendered useless by the shadows. All accept one, a sole narrow arched window unhindered by the oppressive walls and spires outside, it flooded the immediate area in a warm glow.
Package temporarily forgotten, he took a seat on the wooden bench placed against the window sill and immediately began to feel re-energised. Then again, sweet warmth has a habit of draining your energy. The courier placed the item underneath the bench and lay down on the polished timber feeling his energy slip away. "Yawwwwn!" 'If I'm late I'll just blame the variable geometry.' He thought and yawned again, exposing a full set of sharp carnivorous teeth.
His tail curled up along side, the tip of it the only thing still moving as he began to purr and eventually 'zzzzzzz'.
Later Stealth found himself observing a series of blobs, one of which shifted and transformed into an image of him. The courier found himself confronting a box, the box got bigger and tried to consume him. Eventually it just resorted to advancing toward him until the cat found himself slipping and tried to scamper back up but the enormous box wouldn’t let him, with a chirp the cheetah fell and awoke from his slumber on the cold stone floor with bed sores.
To Stealth's dismay the sun beam had moved up during his cat-nap leaving him lying on the floor staring at the box under the bench. The courier was brought back to his duty and stretched in an attempt to re-gain his strength, he somehow managed to form an arch.
The cat snatched up the package off the floor, 'all right, let's get this over with.' he told himself but... what's that wonderful smell? The smell, it's simply divine! 'Hmm, chocolate... and... Chicken, mmm, hey wait a minute, that combination is gross!' Still, his senses, although still human and substandard, led the cat to the nearby kitchens.
They were actually another floor down, more of a sub floor; two meters down another level separated by a balcony and accessed by a far off set of stairs appeared. But the door to the kitchens was right there across the balcony...
'Hell with it!' He thought, taking the package into one hand preparing to make his way down the barrier. He hesitated for a moment to get his footing right then dropped down, causing a suit of armour to tip over and crash on the ground upon his landing. The cat scurried on, paying no heed to the mess as he followed the aroma.
And the sight that beheld him, nothing short of spectacular. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, on one silver platter the fruit had been covered in a smooth coating while another had thick messy strands dwarfing the fruit and resembling twigs. Another table held a plethora of poultry; turkey, chicken, pheasant, quail and sparrow? Nobles are weird. Anyway, the birds were covered in all kinds of herbs, probably rare and exotic ones. The smell was rich and crisp.
Over to the side lay more herbivorous delicacies, every kind of bread loaf and pastry imaginable. A huge area had been set aside for the incredible feat of baking. And near-by, a fantastic selection of cheese, cheese upon cheese and after that, yet more meat! Every kind of meat in every kind of cut, or it seemed like it.
Not to mention they were cooked in as many ways as you could imagine; from bake to boil to fry, spit roast, steam and probably some other methods naught seen before. And they ranged from well done right to rare right through to raw, although the feline preferred one of the more crisp slices.
Then there were the vegetable’s; a fantastic array of prey-friendly foods resembling a miniature forest... no, a valley, a valley complete with little towns containing buildings made out of small cheese blocks followed by a mammoth fruit display, carved, assembled even sculptured into the shape of a fortress. It's Metamor. Every detail appeared so precise, so perfect that the military could even rely on it, until it goes off or falls apart that is.
Stealth set the package down next to the chocolate coated strawberries. 'Just one.' He told himself, 'the nobles won't miss them.' He moved closer to the messy platter and took up a strand in his claws, it wouldn't break free and eventually broke off taking more strands and some of the strawberries along with it 'Oops.'
The cat made short work of the dessert, it melted in his mouth and his carnivorous scissor-like teeth easily shredded the fruit to bits.
'Just a bit more from the other platters ...for balance.'
Being a creature that's suppose to be a carnivore the cat predictably made his way to the poultry and went in for a closer inspection. Stealth looked over larger birds and eventually snagged a small pheasant. He licked the tangy herbs and then pierced the crisp flesh with his fangs, tearing out a large chunk of the breast. For the most part, like the cat he was he made a point to eat the snack in a tidy manner although he still greedily devoured it in no time.
The cheetah, despite somewhere getting the feeling he shouldn't be here, practically began jumping for joy; all this food and not a predator in sight! The cat ran his padded fingers over the poultry and accidentally brushed them on another one of the smaller birds. 'Hmm, they won't want to eat that now, it has my germs on it, whatever germs are. I'll relieve them of it! I'm doing them a favour.'
The feline placed his 'kill' near the box on the table holding desert platters and then eyed the other meat platters, 'hmm, that deer look's a bit seedy... and the pork and that cheese.'
He snatched each in turn, 'damn opportunistic instincts!' He thought with a smile.
Stealth finished his little pillaging rampage but then wondered about the herbs used in the meat. On the table in front of the window sill a small number of plants grew in pots. Sniffing the scent, making a noise somewhere between a purr and a pig grunt, the cheetah approached the plants and continued to sniff the bitter sweet smell while running his muzzle into the leafs.
It felt wonderful on his nose; moist and silky. He started to chew on one side of the plant, it had a great texture.
"Mmm?" Stealth mumbled and turned an ear back, still focused on his salad.
He finally turned around and tilted his head down a bit to see the tan mouse-morph. "What? I'm just admiring your work." He said with an innocent grin.
Bernadette remained firm and tried to pry the cat away from the platters next to the plants that he began to sniff around. "No you don't! Go on, shoo! Shoo!"
He relented but not without looking to her with a hopeful expression, when she didn't bite that became a sad, pleading expression.
Still Bernadette didn't go for it and gently but firmly bated him with her paws and herded him closer to the door.
He gave up and went to retrieve the package near the door so the mouse gave him his room. Stealth collected the average sized box from the table and then remembered his snack for the road, it remained safely hidden from view behind the box but how could he collect it?
Bernadette glanced briefly at the cheetah as he prepared to leave then jerked her head back to him, slightly wide eyed. The bloody cat had a pheasant in his muzzle. He stood there and returned the look that the mouse had given him.
"PUSS!!!" She shouted in exasperation, she ran out of patience and reached for one of the pantries. Wielding a pot in one paw and preparing to hurl a pan with the other, the mouse chased the cat out, shouting "scat!" And "naughty!" As she did so. As the thieving feline got the hell out of there she successfully threw the pan at him; it brushed past the tail and hit him on the butt eliciting a muffled 'hiss.'
Soon after his escape he put the still to be delivered package in the crook of his arm, taking the poultry in his hand. The tension left and Stealthy made a show of it, "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ahahahaha!"
The laughter died down and the cheetah tried to recompose himself, "yah hahahahaha!" '...oh, I am so busted! But it was worth it!' The cat thought to himself as he gobbled down on the bird, 'Num num num...'
He licked the grease off his fingers as the mirth left and wondered what to do with the bones. Stealth contemplated chucking them in a suit of armour or behind a tapestry or something but as if Kyia would allow that, plus people would sniff it out. Chucking them into a hearth seemed like a good idea but that could still encourage vermin.
The train of thought broke off and the cat stopped at a side-path along the corridor, there was nothing special about it but something just didn't seem right.
Stealth placed the package down along with the bones just inside the entrance and went inside. Not far in another turn off appeared, the cheetah peaked around the corner to find a woman kneeling on the floor with her head buried. His senses have been non-existent so far, at best on and off but he could detect the smell of tears and of a friend.
"Alex?" He asked not entirely sure. She froze and didn't look up so he approached closer, it is her.
The feline sat down in front of the female and stroked her hair, "what's wrong?" He whispered.
She caught her breath, "...it just hits me sometimes, that's all."
He pried her arms away and gave the gender morph a hug, instinctively he rubbed his muzzle against her cheek and neck as he did so. They stayed like that for a while.
Alex began to open up a bit and started to give the big cat a scratch behind the ear, he couldn't help himself but move his head into her fingers and begin to purr.
Stealth sniffer her hair; it seemed messy. He almost began to groom the head fur of his fellow coalition member, granted such coalitions don't have females but she is like one of the guys, ether way he remembered himself and just continued to hug her tight, he didn't stop purring however.
"Thank you..." She whispered, "...were you eating chicken or something?" She added.
The purring stoped with a grunt and he thought of what to say. "...no."
Later on Alex felt much better, she sat upright and wiped the dry cruddy tears from her eyes, she looked up at the cheetah, "Whoa, pal, you must have been more distraught than me!"
He smiled and gave her a nudge. "Are you okay now?"
She stretched and nodded, "Aye, of course! I just need to kill some lutins or something." Alex suddenly looked up and rased her eyebrows.
Kee had emerged, he turned his attention to Stealth. "A message from the Steward, sir." He handed it to the weary cat and took off somewhere.
Stealth opened and read the message, he suddenly looked aghast. Alex took it from him and began to read, "...you have to move around metal for the smithies, assist Dan in the green house and gardens, clean out the hen house and feed the chooks, help set up the next Gnawers Support Group meeting and clean up after it, write an essay for the Steward about why greed and gluttony is wrong, then it says you have to do the dishes after the dinner event tonight." She looked up at him for his reaction and explanation.
His ears drooped and he started to slump, the gender morph quickly took the animal morph in an embrace. "There, there." She said, "Shhhh, its okay." She continued.
"...I think I'm getting indigestion... ow."
"Come on, walk it off, let's get out of this dank place." Alex helped him up and pat the cat on the back. They headed back out the way the cheetah had entered. The box hadn’t moved, nether had the bones, the woman looked at them and smiled a bit.
The cat courier collected both and then rolled his eyes upon remembering its destination. "Alex, could you take care of this for me? I need to take this somewhere."
She hesitantly took the bones and looked up to see the cheetah give her a grateful smile and take off to get the delivery finished and done with.
Stealth timidly entered the Stewards chambers and confronted the large crocodilian.
"Ah, the keep's own courier, only today you've been taking rather than delivering, yes? And you're hoping to prevail upon my well-known mercy? Well, this is for your own good my boy, finish your chores and we shant talk about it again. Fortunately this wasn't a big event and I've taken into account the kitchen staff's tendency to sample the food, anyway you could just get something out of this!" The apathetic big cat half expected him to go on about how things were his day.
"It's not that." The cat said.
"Then what? Would you like to see how things are done? Are you considering a career in this field and looking at working more within the kitchens?"
"No." He said and clenched his teeth.
"This is for you."