The Rat Run

by Stealthcat

Summer 707

Toby unsheathed his blade, wearily he looked about. His ears swivelled about as his nose and whiskers twitched in the cool, moist air. The air was so damp in the cavern that it began to soak his short, white fur. He shook his head to clear his senses, large red eyes blinked and refocused on the darkness as his sword arm trembled.

The young warrior cursed himself again and again; how did he fall, how could he have allowed himself to fall down that crevice? In his mind he went over his bane. If he’d only scratched at the stones more frantically, if he’d only scratched at them less frantically or perhaps allow himself to just fall and save energy or shift and loose weight to gain a better grip... or he could have just not gone up this way to begin with!!!

Light still shone on him from above – from where he slid down. He had no hope of scampering up there now, he tried and tried and only succeeded in tiring himself. The light still shone on him, as if mocking him. The only way out, if there was a way out, was ahead of him, into the darkness.

A chill ran up his tail and spine, ending with his ears going erect. Did he just imagine it or was he not alone in this cavern? He took deep breaths, sniffing deeply through his nose but he could only smell the water and it did smell nice, not stagnant like he thought it would but actually refreshing.

After many minutes spent literally solid with fear his rational mind began to chisel away at his imagination. The white rat realised if he remained here he’d loose his body to starvation and loose his mind to itself. Just fifteen minutes in this place had already done more then enough damage.

Lifting his foot paw, Toby only just realised how stiff he’d become. His toes were cold and numb, he could hear his claws scraping against the stone but he could only feel the sting of pins and needles for the most part. His first step ended poorly; unable to see the ground he didn’t realise the angle of the floor and slid forward quite a ways, grappling the rock face behind him with his long claw-tipped fingers as he slid downward.

To his credit, Toby didn’t chitter or squeak on the way down though probably due to his voice catching in his throat. When he reached the bottom the rodent took stock of his injuries, hopefully he sustained none but his bare tail was sore. He pushed himself off the rocks and felt around the ground – he lost his sword in the slide and didn’t even realise.

After feeling around for a bit, at first patently but gradually at a more frantic pace he found his sword, grasping the blade with his fleshy pink paw... Toby’s nose wrinkled to the scent of his own blood. He didn’t inflict any real damage on himself or feel any pain but it was still a burden, another burden that he didn’t need.

Hefting the baneful blade, the rat staggered forward in the pitch blackness, swinging his sword about to ward against the unseen and the unknown.

He travelled for who knows how long, almost an hour perhaps. The air gradually became dryer and the light improved, going from nil to a fraction. Or was his mind just playing tricks on him? Almost another twenty minutes passed by until the rodent could begin to make out the walls of the cave. In addition to the light, warmth seemed to radiate, pushing away the moisture.

Without realising it, Toby could soon make out enough of the cave that he could see clearly all around him. He finally got a good look at his paw; the blood had dried and stained his tunic a dark crimson on the sleeve. He tried to rub the dry, caked on blood from his skin and fur. It fell off into specs on the ground. The rat grimaced when the familiar tang hit his nose – he’d reopened the wound.

He wasn’t quite sure why but using his tail as a bandage for his palm seemed like a good idea. At the very least he’d keep his tail warm and it was comforting to grasp something in that dark place. Tail in hand, Toby pushed on, ever sniffing every portion of the air.

Nothing smelt out of place though, the further he travelled the dryer the air became and the more the light intensified but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. Some rocks fell, they were pebble sized and didn’t pose any threat but all the same he jumped and pointed his sword, examining the small slide to discern the cause but he was no geologist.

The sound of scurrying claws came to Toby’s ears. It sounded like something scratching deep within the walls of the rock. And then it stopped... The rodent continued quietly and carefully, his heart racing. The scurrying sound returned and the rat stopped to listen. Was it a reptile, a rodent, a bird or something else?

...was it attracted to the rat’s blood?

Toby began to walk faster, trying to put distance between himself and the sound but it followed him. The scurrying sound got closer and it was no longer in the wall... it was behind him. The rodent warrior spun about and pointed his blade into the darkness but there was nothing there, he should have been able to see something moving but he couldn’t, he could just hear something unseen getting closer and closer.

The rat spun back around and broke into a run yet the scurrying didn’t leave him and it became louder and louder. Toby screamed and sprinted as fast as he could. He cried out for help through cracks in the rock – he could now see the sky but only in tiny cracks, far too small for him to squeeze through and he didn’t even have time to try.

As Toby ran the tunnel got smaller and smaller. He ditched his sword to loose weight and then his armour as the tunnel got smaller still. Eventually it got to the point that he had to duck and crawl. He soon got stuck and had to shift to a smaller form just to free himself!

He didn’t even know if he was still being followed or not, he just wanted to get out of there. The tunnel continued shrinking more and more until he shifted to nothing more then a full white rat and he still needed to squeeze through but he could see light up ahead and he crawled towards it. He crawled further and further, pulling himself through the tight passage until he made it out... and down.

The rat popped out of a hole in a cliff face, the ground far below. Fortunately he wasn’t so far from the ground that he’d popped out above the tree line, he fell towards a branch close by on which a wild cat perched looking at him.

The cat opened it’s mouth wide and before Toby could remotely comprehend anything that had happened he fell into the feline’s mouth.

Everything went dark.