The Rat Who Leads the Cat

Tales Of The Transblade

by Hawl Enroygall and Charles Matthias

by Hawl Enroygall a.k.a. Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon

“Here it is fellows, I hope you enjoy it.” Kimberly smiled as she served three brass bowls filled a stew of tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and a trace amount of beef, in a broth that was a wonderfully balanced combination of spices.

“I know we will, it smells of a dish fit for the Duke himself, my dear Lady Kimberly.” Charles sweet talked to his wife, the former scribe had always been quite the charmer to her.

“Oh Charles, you say that about every one of my meals.” Kimberly said as she handed out bowls to the tiger, ferret, and of course to her darling husband.

“And it’s always true.” Charles smiled, taking his first spoonful and found it to be most towards his liking as he predicted.

Hawl sniffed his bowl as the rodent brought it. He wasn’t a tiger for too long and as such not used to finding out things by scent. For a good few more seconds than he should have he sniffed the bowl trying to find any sign of poison. However, Hawl realized very quickly that this was a fool’s errand because he had no way at all of knowing what exactly poison would smell like if he found it or what he’d do to battle the Sondeck’s power if he did. “What’s wrong Hawl? Does it smell bad to you?” Kimberly asked, looking somewhat distressed on her face. “You haven’t even tasted it yet.”

Hawl looked towards Kimberly and felt a little guilty. “Uhh, no just savoring the scent.” he lied as he took a spoonful to his muzzle, missing his ability to sweat already as the moment called for it. The tiger took a spoonful and sipped it lightly. Garigan on the other paw had actually half-finished his bowl. The tiger now knew one thing, if that bowl was poisoned then he had found the one pleasant way to die that came close to falling to extreme exhaustion because of lewd activities involving one’s self and the entire female portion of the Metamor Guard. Nasoj really knew how to turn a man into a woman and his skills with doing so appeared to be equal to Kimberly’s cooking prowess! Hawl finished that stew in record time finding himself in love with every single drop, every morsel of corn, every cut of beef, and every slight scraping of potato.

“You really must have been famished! Why I’d wager a copper that you didn’t even taste it.” Garigan commented in sheer awe, he had not even seen pigs eat like that. Keeper or otherwise.

“Pay up, I’m used to sub-par pub food and this, this was amazing, this stuff was like nectar of the gods.” Hawl even began to lick the bowl.

Kimberly laughed at Hawl as she watched him do this. “If you want another bowl, all you had to do was ask.”

“YES PLEASE!” Hawl smiled, handing his bowl over to the she-rat who took it and began to get up.

“I’ll get it dear.” Charles offered taking the bowl from Kimberly as he kissed her on the cheek.

They all ate well, though Hawl had to ask. “No kids?”

“As I had said, James is watching them at a friend’s house.” Charles reminded and he began fondly recounting his children. “Darling little angels really. Perhaps you can meet them when you return from jail. As for now we don’t have time for social calls if I’m to teach you effectively.”

“Right your manservant….” Hawl yawned as he rubbed his belly after finishing his second bowl seconds after being handed one by his rodential host. “I’ve never been one for kids myself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Charles said with disappointment evident in his voice, being a proud father of four he had personally seen the joy in his life that had sparked from the mere existence of young ratlings who looked up to him and Kimberly recognizing them as their loving father and mother respectively. Especially since Charles Jr., Bernadette, Erick, and Baerle were all overly eager to return that love. “Shall we get started?”

“I’ve got nothing better to do, but this better not be boring.” Hawl yawned, rising out his chair. “I can’t believe I’m actually about to train to be a Warrior Of Justice!”

“He has the Sondeck?” Kimberly asked looking at Charles with wonderment. “You’re building up a little collection of them now aren’t you.” She jested.

“He’s not a Sondeckis, just a braggart who will pick his words more wisely if he doesn’t want to learn how strict of an instructor I can be.” Charles said, looking at Hawl with a degree of contempt building for him, contempt that would work its way out of the brown furred patriarch of the Matthias clan in due time.

Hawl had followed Charles out into a field for their training. “First off I would like to test your combat prowess, this will also be a good way to help you get used to your tiger body. Please tell me are you proficient with any weapons?”

“Actually I’ve used a big cat form for combat before, that and a golem form. I find the tiger works better, it’s much faster.” Hawl admitted weighing the question in his mind at as he crack his knuckles aching for a brawl especially one that seemed like it’d be easy. “Though I’m partial to a one-handed short sword.”

Charles took out such a weapon from some bags he had brought with him and handed it to Hawl who took a few practice swings, before beginning to show off moves he had read about in books about ancient warriors who fought against powerful demons. All fiction written by fools who knew nothing of real combat. “You sure you wanna have a practice spar? I’m a tiger, you’re a rat. I’m sure you know that much about the animal kingdom.”

“True, but we’re half human, and the human element is full of surprises.” Charles smiled standing perfectly still with the sondeshike holstered on his back. “When you’re ready Hawl.”

Hawl holstered his weapon. “Hey I’ve got enough charges, I don’t need murder too. So… you sure you want to do this?”

“Anytime you’re ready.” Charles repeated, not even bothering to get into a battle position. Standing calm and casual, even closing his eyes and breathing inward, as Hawl taunted and jeered at him with various growls and snarls.

“Here it is, I’m gonna claw your face off!” Hawl said running towards the rodent with bloodlust in his eyes. “Take this” He screamed as his fist flung downward to the top of Charles’ head when the rat opened his eyes at the last second and ducked down low to perform a sweeping kick causing the tiger to begin to fall downward.

“Lesson one, never announce your plans to your opponent. Lesson two….” Charles said as he prevented Hawl’s fall by swiftly grabbing his tail. “Your body can work for you, or against you. Next time try pouncing instead of charging, your body is built far more for agility than strength.” Charles said pulling Hawl towards himself and restrained the tiger by his arms. “Can you break this hold?”

Hawl struggled for a bit. “No fair, you’re using that Sondeck stuff and you haven’t even taught me anything!”

“Like I said before, I am not teaching you the ways of the Sondecki! Lessons on that power are sacred, secret, and most of all useless to you!” Charles explained for the umpteenth time as he angrily furrowed his brow. “If I were using the Sondeck. Trust me, you would know when the bones in your body shattered to dust.”

“What is everyone’s obsession with breaking my bones in this crazy kingdom!” Hawl growled trying to throw the rat off of him. “Oh come on this is hardly fair I don’t have shapeshifting anymore!”

“Neither do most people I use this hold on, remember it’s as I said. Your body can be made to work for you or against you. If it’s not working for you then it might as well be you who is holding yourself.” Charles advised while tightening his grip to cause Hawl more pain.

“You speak in riddles rat!” Hawl roared in anger. “Speak Galendish!”

“I am, give my words some thought and maybe you’ll learn something. But if you cannot figure your way out of this hold after I’ve already told you the answer then I know that you are unteachable.” Charles warned.

Hawl growled for a second. “Talking in babble and pretending it means something, just like a follower.”

“Do not test my patience Hawl.” Charles warned tightening his grip slightly.

Hawl thought. “Make my body work for me…. hmmm..” The tiger looked behind him and noticed the rat was very small in comparison to himself and wasn’t even all that muscular compared to himself. “Hey Charles! Catch!”

“What?” Charles asked.

Hawl laughed as he shifted his weight backwards falling on top of the rat. “I got it working for me.” The rodent made a few squeaking noises as the orange and black pile of muscle came tumbling down over his body and crawled from under his back.

Once the rat was free he dusted himself off. “That you did.”

Garigan who had watched the whole thing in silence couldn’t help but laugh.

“So does this mean I get one of those cool sashes you two have? I want one in black! Black’s a cool color.” Hawl said pointing at the black sash that Charles was wearing around his waist.

“WHAT!?!?! The entry level for Sondecki is yellow, it takes years of training for one to become a black. The point is moot anyway, because as I said, you are NOT a Sondeckis!” Charles bursted forward, putting extra emphasis on the word not.

Hawl smiled slyly making his clothes change to now include a yellow sash among his robes. “Riiiight, got ya. I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to discourage me so I get mad and try harder.”

“...No I am not.” Charles sighed rubbing his paw down his face after he turned away from the sash feeling like the subject of much mockery. “...I think it’s time Garigan and I showed you those meditation exercises.”

Garigan narrowed his eyes. “Or maybe more sparring. I think if we hit him on the head hard enough it’ll sink in.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Charles warned his apprentice as he walked through the field and found a nice quiet spot beginning to sit down on his knees in the tall warm grass taking a penitent pose and holding out his paws together Garigan doing the same. “Now Hawl lay down in a position that is comfortable for you. It does not have to mimic ours.”

Hawl did so, though found this questionable, his pose was more laid back finding a tree and leaning his head back against it. “Then what?”

“Clear your mind of all thoughts, let it drift freely towards your destination, but do not force it.” Charles instructed. “Let it flow naturally.”

Hawl did this and did this well, for a few seconds before yawning and getting up. “Hey while you two do that. I’m gonna go for a walk. I have problems sitting still anyway.”

“No you will not, lay back down.” Charles instructed

“But it’s too hard!” Hawl complained

“I’m asking you to lay down and let your mind drift. There is no effort involved on your part.” Charles spoke up. “If you cannot do it then you are truly the most lazy person I have ever met.”

“I can’t stay focused.” Hawl pouted.

“What I like to do is pray for Eli to bless me and those I love with strength for the journey ahead.” Charles advised, having slight difficulty and annoyance with talking and meditating at the same time. “Maybe you should pray, I find it helps gain the proper mindset.”

“Journey?” Hawl asked not remembering anything about a journey. “Where are we going?”

“Life is a continuous journey until we go to be with Eli for our eternal reward.” Charles clarified. “It is never too late to start praying, Eli is patient and forgiving, always willing to listen.”

Hawl opened his eyes and folded his arms. “I don’t pray to any gods. They’re all just high and mighty fools who think they’re worthy of worship just because they’re big and immortal. Pah, they deserve our scorn, not our praise.”

Charles furrowed his brow and began clenching one of his paws into a fist before sighing and putting it back into prayer position. “I’m not saying you have to worship Eli. Isn’t there at least one you can confide in? You’re living on a land no stranger to attacks or dark magic. Our very bodies are the result of said dark magic. You can at least trust the divine to help you for your own sake.”

“Are you extorting me Charles?” Hawl thought about it a little harder. Though he did not care to admit it, he would often play pretend in the forests even though he seemed much too old for childish games. The fresh air, the green beneath his toes, the running water, and if he felt like taking the proper form for it, the grazing of fresh wild grass. Sometimes he’d take a sword for the chance to let his mind live the adventures he had read about in thrilling fantastical texts. “Well… it’s a little silly, but sometimes… I.. I like to think about the Lothanasi Goddess Artela.”

“That’s a promising start, I’ll let you figure it out from there.” Charles said relieved to get back to his meditation.

Hawl laid back down beginning to regain his focus all the while painting a picture of Artela in his mind. From all that Hawl had read from fiction that had used her and religious talks overheard by foreigners to the north. The goddess was beginning to form in Hawl’s mind starting with hair, long hair was a longtime staple of womanhood and Artela had long black hair, braided and very thick. Which then brought her eyes into view, her eyes had a very similar dark color and she herself had incredibly tanned skin. It was coming into view now, the great goddess of the hunt’s visage, though with Hawl’s perverse mind her proportions were not realistic at all. The important stuff was present though, her raw natural and untamed beauty. This was a woman of the wild, her likeness then began taking on an artistic approach from Hawl’s imagination. Her tanned skin began taking on a greenish tone and in her hair which was turning from black to a dirty orange to watch the colors leaves turn in the autumn and had a few leaves stuck in it. Artela herself was dressed in clothes fashioned from deer skin and decorated with flowers. It appeared to be working, as Hawl’s nostrils began flooding with the scent of various animal musks and natural spices such as cinnamon and mint. A scent described often as being the aura of Artela. He heard her voice speak to him it was much like a mother bear’s powerful enough to strike fear in her enemies, yet soft enough to be comforting to those who are kin to her. “Hawl Enroygall! You have sought the guidance of Artela, Goddess Of The Hunt. Speak quickly wounded beast.”

“...I have lost my shape shifting abilities and am trapped in Metamor with no obvious way out. A cat, trapped by a rat! I have never prayed before, but Charles insists upon it.” Hawl spoke in his mind.

“You are a caged beast, free yourself with your inner strength.” Artela spake, petting Hawl between his ears. Him cuddling up to her in the form of a feral tiger. “If you trust in your inner strength then no human woman donned in purple nor rodent with a stick could ever keep you in that cage young tiger.”

“...But my shapeshifting…” Hawl started to speak before Artela’s finger was put to his lips, it tasted of dirt, grime, and dried blood.

“Free yourself Hawl, a roaring snarling alone beast does nothing.” Artela warned. “I must go…”

“But you only just got here!” Hawl roared.

“Hawl… I’ve been with you for the better part of an hour. If you can get yourself out of this situation call on me. If not, then you will become prey for the rat and be forever shamed.” Artela warned before running away and fading into the distance. “I am needed elsewhere.”

Hawl opened his eyes and saw nothing but the field in front of him and Charles and Garigan just rising. “It has not been an ho… Where did Artela go?”

Charles smiled. “Glad to see it worked for you, now that you’ve had a chance to clear your mind. Let’s see how well you do with sparring now.”

Hawl grinned. “Okay, the first time was a fluke. I’m gonna wreck you Charles!”

“Oh no no no, this time Garigan will be your opponent.” Charles clarified. “I wanted to test your weapon skills and quite frankly I think Garigan will be a much better person for a real scrapping. Previously when I had you go against me I had greatly overestimated your abilities. You see I had assumed that due to being chased by the flesinoir all your life you had picked up some combat skills along the way.” He said, though Hawl felt insulted the rat was blunt and to the point.

“I feel insulted.” Hawl said, feeling insulted.

“I was merely stating the facts… I am sorry if that aren’t exactly in your favor.” Charles countered, not sure why Hawl was getting offended. If he didn’t have the skills he didn’t have the skills. Telling something that they have skills they don’t will only cause trouble for everyone. “Now, I worry Garigan may be a little out of your league, but still give it your best shot.”

Hawl rolled his eyes and began pondering if this was a giant excuse to beat up a heathen. But still, Garigan came forth swinging the bo staff putting Hawl immediately on the defensive. Fearing being hit, because staves hurt a lot, Hawl dodged various times. Quickly discovering that he was quite agile as a feline, even with his bulky size. The tiger began making a game out of it and laughing at the ferret. “What’s the matter Garigan? Can’t hit the orange and black blur?”

Garigan was getting fed up with this, how could Hawl have gained the skill necessary to throw him off this badly in such short amount of time? It just didn’t make sense. He had no choice but to call upon the sondeck to trip Hawl with a quick gust of wind aimed towards his feet.

This appeared to have worked, Hawl fell backwards and just as it seemed he’d land defeated he put out his paw re-balancing himself and giving him the chance to propel himself forward, landing right in front of Garigan with his shortsword unsheathed and began countering his hits. Garigan was now quite nervous and was just trying to hit Hawl. This didn’t make sense. Hawl was no one, an ill-tempered loser who showed no respect when respect was due, and Garigan was trained by a hero of Metamor Keep. A Keep like no other and a mentor like no other. Did it have something to do with his flesinoir shapeshifting powers? Hawl had demonstrated a skill with acrobatics that keepers who have been training since three gates without ever managing. Eventually it became quite heated. Hawl had cut Garigan’s staff in half and who had proceeded to use the divided sticks as makeshift swords. Eventually Garigan began cooling off as Hawl showed various weaknesses in his technique. This allowed for the ferret to wedge Hawl’s weapon from his paw and send it hurdling behind him.

“Oooh, sorry master!” Garigan cried as he turned around and realized the blade was heading right for Charles.

“Just be glad it was headed for me, anyone else….” Charles paused as he ducked and grabbed the sword by its handle right out of the air. “And there would have been a serious wound. Congratulations Hawl, you did far better than I had expected…. I’m wondering if your power to change bodies has given you a strange mastery over them. That flip you did and the way you dodged Garigan’s attacks was far beyond my assessment of what you’re capable of. Still, I hope you learned your lesson.”

“That I am awesome? Yeah, yeah I learned that very well.” Hawl boasted, rubbing his knuckle to his chest arrogantly.

Charles sighed and struck Hawl with the handle of the blade. “No, anger leads to defeat. Garigan would have hit you a lot sooner had he not lost his temper. Just as you would have lasted longer against me had you not been infuriated from taking both orders and a loss from me. The other thing I hope you picked up was that over-confidence will be your downfall as well. Had you been properly equipped and less smug. You may have bested Garigan. Not an easy feat for someone of your level of skill.”

“Properly equipped? I love swords, there is no other weapon for me!” Hawl exclaimed. “Or did you give me a trick blade incase I decided to turn rogue on you.”

“Actually no, this blade.” Charles said “Ow”, squirming as he pricked his hand to show off the blade’s sharpness. “Is very dangerous, I just didn’t put it together soon enough. That it looks ridiculous in the hands of someone as big as you. This sword is more than heavy enough for someone of my stature, but I’m not entirely convinced Garigan knocked this out of your hand so much as you threw it at me by mistake.”

“Gee, give me some credit master.” Garigan sighed.

“You did a fine job Garigan and I think we’ve all earned a rest. We’ll get up early tomorrow to continue.” Charles smiled, patting the headfur of his assistant. “Now Hawl, I’m warning you, I don’t allow sleeping in so make sure you sleep well.”

“And more of your wife’s wonderful cooking.” Hawl purred, pondering what Lady Kimberly could be cooking for dinner. Perhaps a roasted chicken? Yes, a chicken leg would be wonderfully filling right about now.

“Actually we don’t eat breakfast on sunday.” Charles informed, much to Hawl’s disappointment, disappointment was a light word to use as Hawl had been violently pushed out of his world of culinary delights and cakes. Hawl hadn’t actually eaten much in his voyage from Mugal to Metamor Keep and the idea of missing meals was frightening. How simple the needs of the Enroygall.

“No breakfast on sunday, aww, I was hoping we could have sausage, or maybe cinnamon rolls. Not many people know how to make cinnamon rolls, or how about blueberry muffins. Oooh muffins, let’s have muffins for breakfast. I mean who DOESN’T love muffins?!?!” Hawl decried with excitement and true passion for muffiny goodness.

“No, we’re taking a Break and Fasting. Besides, discipline is good for your lessons.” Charles glared, though in his mind he chuckled a bit as he was reminded of Misha Brightleaf. It wasn’t so much that Charles found Misha’s muffin obsession amusing, if anything it got on his nerves quite a bit. But he was thinking of how much he’d rather be with a dear and trusted friend than Hawl who proved quite difficult to even talk to, but still, he knew that under this thick skull and massive ego there was someone who truly longed to do good for the world.

“Fiiiiine” Hawl sighed as he followed Charles back to his home for a good night’s sleep.

That night Artela came to Hawl again in another dream. “By the time you awaken your wounds will be soothed, but only for one more day. You must leave Metamor and avoid returning for several days or Nasoj will be the one who has caged you.” She spoke, her words had a strong vibe of severity and harshness. These words burned into Hawl’s mind like the brand on a wild horse.

“What are you saying?” Hawl asked, he likely would have been able to understand the Goddess better had he not been using. “Nasoj can cage me? The Flesinoir cannot cage me! He has little chance.”

“You do not know what you say, run little deer, run.” Artela said, run from the rat he works with Nasoj to cage you.

“Hey I’m not a….” Before Hawl could say anything he took the form of a small doe. “What the…” But before she could question it she heard a voice from behind him.

“Come here little deer, my wife will make a hearty stew of you.” Spoke Charles Matthias, one that was not clothed, heavily stained with blood, his eyes warped and insane, and his teeth were jagged and crooked much unlike how they were in real life. He was cackling and rubbing his paws together with wicked ideas.

“Indeed Sir Matthias. Mwhahaha” Laughed an evil shadow. Hawl didn’t actually know what Nasoj looked like, so his subconscious created this shadow. “Gnab him Charles, my curse shall be the seasoning that will bring out the finest flavors of this little venison.”

Hawl was not the two legged variety of deer, but rather the four legged, so her combat options were limited. Even if she could use a weapon, the only sensible thing to do would be to run for her life. And run she did, but she never seemed to shake Charles and Nasoj, even without them having to move. “No, stay away, I don’t want your curse!” she screamed.

Artela’s voice rang in her mind with one final reprise. “You have only one more day, leave Metamor by sunset or they will catch you.”

“NO! NOOOO! DON’T EAT ME!” Screamed Hawl as she ran and ran, still making no progress. “I’LL NEVER LET YOU CATCH ME!” Thunder struck her and Hawl woke up. Now a doe in real life due to his bad habit of transforming into whatever shape he takes during his dreams. “What the hell…” Hawl found her covers thrown off and her still running in the air on four hooves.

“Uhh Hawl are you alright, you sound odd.” Charles said, the thunder from Hawl’s dream had been in reality the rat knocking on the door. “You’re not feeling under the weather are you? Or cursed, has the curse started?”

“Ah no.. sometimes I shift…” Hawl realized quickly that if Charles didn’t know he had his shape shifting back he could use it to his advantage, maybe even escape Metamor Keep. “Around in my sleep.. that wears my… throat… out?” Instantly the doe froze inplace, knowing that the slightest clip clop from her hooves could give her away.

Something about that sounded off, but Charles didn’t question it much as he could not pinpoint WHAT exactly it was that seemed wrong with this excuse. “Well, get dressed and we’ll get you some water, you can at least have that. No food or ale though. If you aren’t downstairs in two minutes I’m coming, with Sondeshike. Only warning.” And with that the rat was out of the deer’s fur.

Hawl exhaled a sigh of relief and quickly shifted back to the tiger form once Charles was out of earshot. He quickly redressed and thought his dream over, clearly what it meant was that some form of harm would befall him if he chose to stay with Matthias. Well of course, he seemed like a nice guy, but he was still going to send Hawl to jail and for some reason he hates breakfast. How could you hate breakfast? Hawl knew it was the most important meal of the day. How could someone who didn’t realize that breakfast was the most important meal of the day really have his best interests at heart? No the powers were back and that was that, first he just needed to get out of the house. He thought about this for awhile, as a bug he may be able to sneak out, but he didn’t want to take the chance of being squashed by the rat’s ninja skills or idly stomped on by the ferret or girl rat. Any other animal and they would likely realize it was him. Normally he wasn’t this careful with his shapeshifting, but when Artela talks mortals listen. Even someone who hated the divine as much as Hawl knew that. Escape Charles and Metamor Keep or suffer the loss of his powers, this message was clear as day and even someone as thick skulled as Hawl Tygarus Enroygall knew that much. Heh Tygarus, his middle name was Tygarus, as in TIGER-US, Hawl JUST noticed that and giggled accordingly.

Though it seemed that Hawl took too long in thinking this over as Charles came in the door and he had his bo staff. “Hawl, I told you to… oh you’re up, naked I see, but the fur is covering everything important so that’s acceptable.” The rodent had very much expected Hawl to be snoozing peacefully and to be fair under ordinary circumstances that would have been exactly the level of Sloth that Hawl’s character contained. “Well, come downstairs and join us in prayer. It is the sabbath after all, afterwards we can begin our training for the day.”

“Being a Keeper means I can run around naked all the time?” Hawl asked, with a smile, that sounded pretty great actually. Whenever he tried running about naked in Mugal it was public indecency and he was scaring the locals. Bleh, prudes who had not yet caught up to his way of thinking or that’s what he told himself anyway.

“Well if you have fur, sure…” Charles scratched his head in a bit of confusion. Hawl was still wearing his robes, they were just invisible now.

The two descended down the stairs where Kimberly and Garigan were awaiting their presences downstairs to begin their sunday prayer. They would go to church instead but there were no Follower Temples in Glen Avery as the place was lived in mostly by worshippers of the Lothanasi faith and thus the church would do little good for the community at large. Occasionally the Matthias Clan would go out of town to attend temple, but not often as they had children and thus didn’t like to travel if they could avoid it. Today they didn’t have their children, but Charles needed to finish training Hawl and ensure he stayed behind bars to serve his sentence for his crimes against Metamor Keep. Still, they remembered the Sabbath and kept it holy just as the Canticles asked of them.

As per usual, Charles the head of the household lead them in prayer, Hawl joined in with them, though he wasn’t really paying attention to what his host was saying. He could have been blabbing on about socks, not that anyone who lived in the Matthias house could wear socks, for all Hawl had cared. It was a shame really, Charles was no fool. When he prayed he prayed with all his heart, he spoke with such conviction you’d swear that he was actually looking Eli in the face as he said it. The mere passion and energy of the Holy Spirit that surrounded this man from not his words, but from where they came from, his very heart would keep him and his loved ones energized for the rest of the day and open their hearts to Eli’s glory. Yet Hawl pushed it away, declaring it boring and keeping his heart cold and shriveled. Though Eli was only one path to the enlightenment, he was ignoring them all, not wanting to hear of anything that could potentially turn a light on in his heart. Even with a little ember of light he could at least find something about Eli he found commendable, but now. Hawl rejected it to stay in his cave alone, and if he continued down this path. His heart would eventually turn black and with powers like his, who knows what problems that may cause, not just himself, but anyone around him friendly or against him.

Eventually they all said their amens, except for Hawl who needed to be nudged by Garigan next to him to realize the prayer was over. “Oh amen, well that’s over.. let’s get started on training. Oh boy I sure do love training. Let me tell ya…”

Charles noted the lack of conviction in Hawl’s voice and began to ponder if anything from the previous day had stuck, anything at all. Could he still meditate? Did Hawl have some form of learning based affliction? No no, he was simply demanding too much from his latest student to be a changed man this swiftly. That is why repeated attempts to teach him were so required. Still the tiger was to be taught basic things to help him find his focus and serve his sentence with dignity. Well, one more might do it. One more time, taking this striped axe straight to the grinding stone and holding him there until he was sharp enough to slice through the mighty oceans of this world!

Hawl and Garigan followed Charles out towards a nearby field, this was of course, after handing a new sword to Hawl. A simple short sword he put into his invisible robe which in this instance doubled as a bag of holding. Though they did not make it because of the events that transpired once Dame Seranima Eloniv and another knight who wore spectacles much like Fox Cutter did, only hers were tinted making it very difficult to see anything out of them. Many pondered what the point of this action was. She went by the name of Dame Duchess Plaguethy, she wasn’t a duchess, that was merely her first name. “Greetings Sir Matthias, Garigan, and I assume the tiger is our prisoner? Some one I saw yesterday too…” Dame Seranima said to the trio. “Malisa has received your note about training him. Something we’re all suspicious of. While we don’t believe you hold any ill will. We’re not sure about him.” She explained, accusing finger pointed at the tiger.

“Were I in your position Matthias. I’d rip the little maggot’s head off and defecate down his neck!” Duchess Plaguethy said, scrunching her face angrily in Hawl’s direction.

Matthias recanted and recoiled, it had been awhile since he was last in the presence of this particular knight. They weren’t close, but he remembered that Plaguethy had always had a knack for saying inappropriate things and always remaining full of the flames best left on the battlefield. And becoming a woman had not changed this behavior in the slightest. “Don’t worry, I’m not teaching him anything dangerous just enough for him to retain his focus calm in stressful….. oof!”

“I hope you practice what you preach Charlie!” Hawl said grinning, having tackled the rodent and began scratching at him. The knights wanted to act quickly, but the one thing preventing this action was after the first time they rolled in their fight they couldn’t be sure which to apprehend. Hawl had copied Matthias’ form down to the last detail, not bad for a rush job. The only tell was that Hawl had his eye marking on the wrong eye. Of course both rodents were moving too fast for this to go noticed. Eventually one of the rodents got up, he was the one in worse shape, his clothing battered and his body bruised, but the other held on to his tail with a fierce grip.

“Fair knights, please get this charlatan off my tail. I give you my word as a man of Eli that I am the real Charles Matthias.” This Charles said as he tried tugging his tail free.

The knights got into action, feeling the shape shifting one would be the stronger one as the power was mysterious and unheard of in this land and Hawl was known to be very impolite. As the amazons descended upon the Charles on the ground, he let go and the Charles standing turned around and smirked at Charles situation. “Excellent work bagging that criminal… and on those thighs of yours… very lovely.” The standing Matthias said, head tilted as he looked towards the derrieres of the female knights.

“I don’t think that’s my master.” Garigan stated the obvious, noticing not only the eyemark mistake, but he knew very well that Charles would never look at the Second Gate Knights in this manner, if anything he was a little afraid of them and their unrealistic proportions. Not to mention incredibly faithful to his wife Kimberly. Upon closer inspection, Hawl’s disguise didn’t even contain a wedding band, which the real Matthias would never be without. “I know it isn’t, there’s your prisoner, and I think he just overstayed his welcome.”

“Agreed” Spoke Charles as the she-knights stood him up. “You are no man of Eli, and after this stunt I cannot believe you have the gall to call yourself a man at all.”

Hawl laughed as he stepped back from the knights, quickly shifting his form to that of a female physique. Though it was still recognizable as Charles, merely female. The original was actually a great deal disturbed by this. “Then call me a woman, my most gracious host.”

“It’s arse kicking time!” Duchess Plaguethy called out as she attempted to tackle Hawl, but Hawl foresaw this and shifted feral, running towards the nearest bushes as fast as her little rat legs could take her.

Charles looked toward those bushes and decided there was only one chance at apprehending Hawl, and thus he abandoned his clothes to swiftly move after her in rodent form. As Charles was more accustomed to the body he did not require much effort to maneuver through the bushes, while as Hawl was going slowly unsure what to do about all the branches nearby, hoping to himself the snapping of them wouldn’t attract predators or knights. Charles was coming up on Hawl quickly and the latter rat realized this quickly enough to charge forward, assume the form of a hawk and loop de loop around to take the rodent and fly off with him.

Charles struggled, trying to use the sondeck to break free from Hawl’s talons. Though since Enroygall’s main plan was escape, not the defeat of Charles, he gave pretty quickly. This left another problem though as now the Rat Of Might was hurdling from very far in the air gaining a velocity that knocked the eyes to the back of their sockets. Well this was a fine predicament. All Matthias could do was hope he landed with a roll or someone did something clever. He was however smart enough to recall that the smaller a living creature is the more likely he is to survive a fall. Still there was a long way to go before the rodent hit the ground.

Luckily Duchess Plaguethy had noticed the rat falling. “That’s our man.” she said, assuming that it had to have been Charles or perhaps Hawl got carried off by a bird and managed to escape. Either way what followed was the best idea she had. With great rapidness she loaded her crossbow and timed her bolt just right hoping to nearly pin the rat to try and break momentum.

“What are you doing? What if that’s Master Charles?” Garigan asked in a panick, not close enough to catch the falling rodent.

“Could be the good rat, or the bad rat, but I’m in the one with the crossbow!” Duchess spoke taking her shot.

Charles, tumbling head over tail with the world spinning around him, first snatches of brilliant blue sky amidst the boughs of redwood, and then the dark earth filled with thorn laden brambles eager to rend his flesh as he hurtled past, glimpsed a mote speeding toward him with a whistle in the air. A brief squeak left his throat as he twisted his body as best he could, stretching out his claws and pouring the Sondeck within as his heart pounded at his chest like a prisoner rattling his cage door. He sucked in his breath as the vicious arrow-head slipped past, the edge of metal shearing a few strands of fur in its wake, and then, time almost still , he latched onto the bolt with all four of his limbs, claws digging into the wood. His whole body snapped as the bolt yanked him through the air, and together they spun wildly out of control, all momentum lost, and collapsed in a patch of moss. Charles, staggered as he tried to rise, forgetting that he was still in the guise of a common rat. And then, to his delight, the paws of his student were there to catch him before he fell into an ignominious heap. He was safe.

Once Charles landed he reformed to an anthropomorphic version of the animal he already was. He was feeling dizzy after all that but otherwise fine. Once Garigan pawed over his clothes he swiftly redressed. “Thank You Garigan” he said to the ferret. “Hawl got away, he was the Hawk that carried me. I doubt we’ll be able to find him.”

“Heh, got you down without harming even a hair on you. DAMN I’M GOOD!” Duchess cheered, taking this as another opportunity to lavish herself with praises as she usually found excuses to.

“Indeed you are Dame Plaguethy. Indeed you are.” Ordinarily Charles would disapprove of the chauvinistic female and her infinite pride, but since his life had just been saved by her he would cut her some slack. “I just hope that wherever Hawl winds up, it’s somewhere where he can learn to act like an adult and make an honest life for himself.” He said looking up to the sky. “He has potential, but I fear that without someone to steer him the right way, it may end up wasted.”

Seranima nodded in agreement. “Well… we’ll tell Malisa what happened.” she said. “Though, it seems like whatever Hawl was or where he came from, it’s none of our business now.”

“Hey we’re not gonna get charged for anything are we?” Garigan asked, kicking at the grass. “I mean, it is kind of our fault he escaped.”

“Of course not Garigan, I doubt either of you will see a slap on the wrist. None of this was your fault.” Sera sighed, well, that was the end of this chapter. It was time to go back and finding other problems in Metamor to fix up.

Still, it took Charles a while to stop looking towards the sky, even after the knights left. Eventually he stopped, but not before uttering a prayer for Hawl to be watched over by Eli, where ever he wound up. “Well Garigan… I guess we should continue training.”

“I suppose so master..” Garigan said, looking up at the sky where his teacher looked. “Think he’ll be alright?”

“That is for Eli to decide Garigan.” Charles stated plainly.