The Tip.It Times

Issue 2299gp

Rat King - Part 1

Written by and edited by Tip.It

Borr whistled a merry tune to himself as he spun the wheel around, inspecting his latest work. Shadows danced on the wall, stirred by the flickering torchlight. The thick smoke left a thick coating of soot on the damp stones that made up the arches of the sewers under the city. The light was barely enough for a normal person to so much as lace up their boots, but Borr had lived in the sewers almost his entire life and it was quite adequate for him. It wasn't easy to do what he did, let alone do it well. Still, his creations, filthy shrieking balls of fur and filth, were well appreciated by both his masters and the crowds they entertained. His Rat Kings were his pride and joy, doubly so because he fancied himself as the only person in the entire kingdom who grasped every stage of the intricate process fully.

First he had to knock out the rats. This was surprisingly delicate work, as he had to blow the exact amount of smoke into the cages. Too little, and they would wake up halfway through to take a chunk out of his hands or face, a lesson that the scars that covered him reminded him of every day. Too much and they wouldn't wake up at all. This was even worse, as a dead rat couldn't fight and thus cost the pit bosses money, and down here money was everything.

Once the rats were unconscious, it was time to prepare them for the bonding. This involved a large twelve-spoked cartwheel. With his thin bony fingers he lashed each rat to a spoke with thin strips of leather, carefully tying them in place. Once they were all set the messy part of his job began. He carefully took each of the rat's tails, coiling them together at the center of the wheel. When he was sure they were secured, he reached into his bucket of paste. Paste was of course a euphemism, but "carefully measured mixture of mud, blood and fecal matter" didn't have quite the same pleasant ring to it.

It took several thick gobs of paste to secure all the tails in place. Once he was done sculpting the ball of gunk that would mold all the rats together, they would be left on the wheel for several hours to dry. By that time they would of course have waken up, and they usually reacted to being tied to a wooden spoke in all the usual ways a rodent could be expected to react. Hellish squeaks and shrieks echoed off the wall, creating a hellish cacophony. It was at this point that Borr usually resorted to plugging his ears with some of his own paste. His superiors often complained about the smell that created, but he felt he still smelled rather pleasant for someone who was forced to spend most of his time up to his ankles in filth.

Borr gave out a content sigh. His newest Rat King was finished. It was a complicated creation, a special order for a special night. By this time next week the boss would come visit. Borr didn't know who she was, except for the fact that she apparently owned these rat pits and that the overseers were as scared of her as he was of them. They would have to put on a spectacular show for her, and his Rat King would be the main event. The mad beast let out a chorus of wild howls as he lowered it into the specially prepared cage.

Just as he was about to end his sigh of relief, he felt his breath being taken away, quite literally. From the shadows behind him something wrapped itself tightly around his neck, digging deep into the skin as it cut off the flow of blood to his brains and the flow of air to his lungs. It took all of his focus not to pass out right then and there.

"Hello Borr, it done?"

"Y-yes sir..."

He felt the noose around his throat loosen slightly, and even the fetid air of the sewers felt refreshing, flooding back into his lungs with a series of wheezing coughs. He blinked a few times to banish the spots that were swimming in his vision, and he saw the hulking figure of Vorse, the head rat catcher, stooped over the cage to inspect his work, one burly hand still clutching the rat pole that had latched on to Borr's fragile neck.

The witless half-orc grunted in satisfaction. "You did good, her pleased. Make main attraction!" The rumbling laugh made Borr wonder if a section of the sewer hadn't just collapsed, and the congratulatory pat on the back sent him tumbling onto the slimy floor, driving the air that had just refilled his lungs back out again. He swore he could feel the ground shake as the foul-smelling demi-human stomped his way back out of the narrow room, leaving behind a stack of cages and the faint smell of the rotgut rum that was served in a highly diluted form to the rat pit spectators but that Vorse drank by the pint.

Borr was once again left alone with his rats. The rat king was still squeaking, but it was easily silenced with a handful of food spread around the compartments of the cage. He knew he was supposed to keep his creations hungry, but he ignored it. He absentmindedly rubbed the raw skin of his throat, muttering a litany of curses aimed at the rats, Vorse, the other rat catchers, the overseers, the boss and anyone else that came to mind. He idly spun his wheel, wondering how much longer he would put up with the filth that surrounded him everywhere. They said that if you rolled around in filth long enough, you would become part of it, and he had sworn an oath to himself long ago that he would never allow hat to happen. He knew that he would have to act soon, and that the mysterious boss that would be visiting the pits soon would be his ticket out of this mess.

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Tags: Fiction

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