Dancing on the Edge

June 8, 2011

“Where’d yer get those funny specs, Cobby me ol’ Gob?  Can I try ’em on?”  Bludd swiped at the mole’s goggles, less out of curiosity than the fun of watching him squirm.  He was jumpy as a riled up pike!

“Um… Oi’d appreciate you’m stopping that, Bludd. Besoides, you’m would be bloind as a bat wearing these, burr hurr!”

“Oh.” Bludd’s ears straightened as though an electric current had run through them.  “Aloysius is blind?!”

“No, no!  Oi mean… er…” Cobb cleared his throat.  “Oh, forget Oi said anything.”

The wildcat giggled, licking the scraps from her whiskers.   “Yer a canny one, Cobby.” Her eyes shifted to the mole’s plate. “Ahoy, gonna finish yer vittles, mate?”

“Not so fast.” Cobb guarded his food against a testing swat with his claw. “Oi’ll even get you’m some of that fresh custard if you’m tell Oi more about th’ cloakpin.”

Bludd leaned back so that her chair reared up and balanced on its hind legs.  “Pins is pins. Aintcher already got one of yer own?”

Cobb fiddled with his claws. “Aye. We’m do, Miz.”

“‘s rotten swag,” the wildcat murmered, slouching forward.  “Too runty t’swipe. Why’re you lubbers so keen on it, anyway?”

“Hurr, we’m not be looking to take it from him! We’m just be coorious.”

Bludd’s only response was a long, level stare. Cobb nearly shrank from the sudden silence, but pushed on.  …”Were Brother Tompkins wearing th’ cloakpin? Did you’m see it recently?”

The kitten blinked. “See wot?  Y’mean that monster longy-leg spider wot just crawled on your noggin?”

To her surprise, the mole grinned widely.  “It’ll be on your’s soon if you’m doan’t tell Oi more about th’ pin!” He reached up to feel for the arachnid. There was nothing there.

And then neither was Bludd.

“Creepy ‘ol git!” The wildcat gasped for air as she scurried away under the tables as fast as her paws could take her. Reaching the end, she considering making a break for it across the courtyard when voices reached her.

“Hey, Rip, let’s sit over here.”

Bludd crouched perfectly still, recognizing the voice as Foweller’s.  Her tail wiggled like mad as she leaned back on her haunches.  Ripple would never see it coming!

Another set of footpaws approached.  “Oh, hi Foweller.  Can I see you for a moment?” Bludd gave her whiskers a little twitch in recognition of Noel’s voice.

“All right.  Be back in a tic, Rip.”

The two males wandered off and Bludd nearly cackled with glee; her target was isolated.  Now was the time to strike!

Ripple let out a bark of surprise as a furry cannonball struck him square in the chest.  His chair wobbled perilously, but didn’t fall back.   “Oi!  What have I tole ye about doin’ that?”

“Don’t.”  She batted him on the nose.  “But yer looked so down!  So I thinks to myself, me ol’ second mate could use a bit of a pick me up!”

Bludd wriggled away to the unoccupied chair next to Ripple.  He glowered. “Ye know, I wouldn’t be lookin’ so down if somebeast would behave an’ stop gettin’ other beasts in trouble… an’ lyin’ about there bein’ hares.”

“There wuz a hare sellin’ stuff! I saw ‘er earlier today.”

Ripple gave the kitten the stink eye, and she curled her tail around her shins. “Cor, mate, I’m sorry…”

“I know ye are, but sometimes just sayin’ ‘sorry’ ain’t enough!”

Bludd’s ears drooped and she mewled pitifully.  Ripple’s own expression softened.

“Look, if ye want to be my friend, ye gotta learn how friends ought to treat each other.”

The otter leaned back, on account of the cat’s face suddenly close to his.  “How do I learn that?!”

“Um, I don’t really know how to explain it right now.” He pushed her away.  “I’d have to ask Brother Aloysius. He’s got a chant for it an’ everythin’.”

Bludd wiped her nose with a paw.  “Sounds great, mate! But first, Cap’n Bludd’s gonna liberate a few tankards of sweet cordial.”  She swiped at the air with a paw, sporting a grin that would have made a shark jealous.  “Yer wanna come with me?”

“Um…” Ripple looked around.  “I would, but I’m still s’posed to be doin’ chores. I gotta ask Skip when I can be done…”

Bludd’s face fell.  “Oh.  Well, later then?”

“Aye, maybe.”

The wildcat scurried off, her tail at half-mast.  She had wanted to tell Ripple about Aloysius being blind, but didn’t much feel like it anymore.

Bludd sighed, flopping over the side of an open keg of strawberry cordial like a bandy rag.  It wasn’t quite seaweed grog, but the rosy liquid did have its perks.  She licked her lips – fizzy!  Just the right tonic to heal a wounded corsair’s spirits.

The kitten craned her neck at the other barrels and the truth unfolded before her.  It was so obvious:

Hidden inside the deepest depths of the Castle lay the wooden vessel holding the fabled and miraculous Ale of Wonder. The evil, greedy King Carter wanted to keep it for himself, but Captain Bludd would be the one to liberate-

What was that?

Bludd’s ears perked – voices. With an otter’s grace, she slipped out of the cordial and crouched beside the barrel, hidden in its shadow.

“You checked the doors?” That was a female’s voice, but unfamiliar.

“Of course.” This one was male, and Bludd saw the speaker in her mind even before the hedgehog stepped into her line of vision. Brother Sebastian was always nice to her, letting her taste the cordials when she came down to play about the cool stones of the cellar

“Mm.” The other beast revealed herself as a mouse.  “Tell me,” she whispered.  “What do you make of the young weasel?”

“Virrel?”

“No, his brother.  Noel.”

Sebastian nodded. “Oh, aye.  I’ve seen ol’ Carter’s taken an interest in him as well.”

The mouse’s eyes slit to the smallest of half-moons.  “I think he might have seen the incident with Cassius’ lot.  It would certainly explain our abbot’s newfound interest in him.”

“If that’s the case, we might need to protect him, Selendra.” The hedgehog’s silhouette flickered, and he toyed with something unseen.  “Just this morning, I caught the tail end of a conversation betwixt Brother Tompkins and Sister Delores.  They were talkin’ about Noel.  Apparently, he gets into scrapes an awful lot… I imagine it wouldn’t be difficult to do away with him and make it look like an accident.”

Bludd’s ears grew hot; she nearly spit her anger at the two beasts.
Poor Brother Tompkins had been her very first friend at the abbey. It seemed everybeast and his brother was picking on him when he wasn’t even around to defend himself!

It wasn’t right.

And now all this nonsense about pins.  Bludd wasn’t sure what make of it all.

It took a moment for the wildcat to realize that silence that had once again washed over the cellar walls.  She peeked over the barrel only to see familiar shadows and nothing else.  She leaned back against the barrel to think.

Should she tell somebeast?  Her ears perked.  Of course!  I’ll tell Ripple.  May’ap e’ll know wot ter do.

The kitten was already galloping up the stairs when Ripple’s disinterested face swam into view, and she felt her paws deaden even as she stepped outside into the cool air.  He probably wouldn’t care about what she had to say.

“Hello there, Miss Bludd.”

She let out a startled hiss, but let her fur fall flat when she realized it was only Abbot Carter approaching her.  He chuckled.

“No need to be alarmed; I won’t be keeping you for long.  Just one thing…”

“Yessir?”

“Do you consider young Ripple a friend?”

Bludd looked fixedly at her pawpads.  “Aye, sir. I tole ‘im I wuz sorry fer gettin’ ‘im in trouble like I did, but-”

A strong paw ruffled the fur on her head, and she held back the urge to give it a good slash  “That’s a good lass,” Carter said.  “And I know you didn’t mean anything by it – dibbuns will be dibbuns after all.  But all the same… do try and keep out of trouble.”

Despite his kind words, there was a very clear Or else lingering in the otter’s gaze.  Bludd was used to picking that out.

His piece finished, Carter smiled and walked off.  Bludd stood for a moment, her blanket cape rustling faintly. An idea struck her and she bolted, in pursuit of Noel.  He might be interested in what she’d heard…

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One Response to “Dancing on the Edge”

  1. reviewer Says:

    I like how Bludd's the first one to notice that Carter isn't all smiles and benevolence. The fact that it's the youngest kid in the story who sees through him best is hilarious and sad at the same time.

    Carter: "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids! And your cat, too!"


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