"I don't know, some of them might be mice."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
How could she forget? How did she not notice? Any acolyte could tell you that you didn't just waltz into an opposing deity's temple and wag your bushy tail in their face unless you were actively trying to rile them up and had the power to back up your taunts. And the Order of the Falcon, no less, who were notorious for their grudges against the followers of Tanuki. Any way she looked at it, it was a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do. And like all things of that nature, she blamed it on the most stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid person she knew.
"This is all your fault, you know."
"My fault? How is it my fault?"
"All your bad luck rubbed off on me."
"Meh, I don't believe in luck."
"Okay, then all of your errant stupidity is rubbing off on me."
"Oh come on, this could be much worse."
"Ummm... the rats could be five feet tall and eat people?"
"..." Raelle decided to change the subject. "So, what have you heard about Gastopan?"
"It's a nice little town?"
"Ah, one of those." Raelle's cynicism was at its peak, made harsher by the toll her growing weariness took on her body and mind. "Well, I guess we'll find out when we get there--" Raelle stopped abruptly and squinted her eyes. "Is that a door or something down there?"
Gavin and Raelle exchanged curious glances, shrugged, and went to examine it, though they hadn't seen any other tunnels branching off from their main one, so there weren't very many other options.
Script letters adorned the heavy-looking brass slatted door, and the two stared at it. The other side was as dark as the rest of the tunnel, and Raelle squinted, but could make out no details.
"'The humble and small shall find the key, and predator will become prey to he.'" Gavin scratched his head as he read the passage outloud.
"What, those guys back there don't count as predators?" she said exasperatedly.
Gavin tried to shove the door inward, but it didn't budge. "There's got to be a button or trigger for this thing somewhere."
Raelle set the lantern down. Why did everything have to be so difficult?
It seemed to happen in an instant; Raelle shifted her weight such that she was leaning on the door, and with a screech, it flung itself open. The raccooness lost her balance and fell to the other side....
...where a very large cavernous hole caught her fall, or rather, didn't.
"AAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!" Raelle screamed as she fell.
Gavin stared down the shaft for only an instant, a horrified expression on his face as she was quickly swallowed by darkness, and jumped after her.
Peval paced at the foot of the Mirror of Oracularity. The acolytes hadn't come back yet, which meant they must have either run into some resistance or had lost track of the followers of Tanuki. He clenched his fist in frustration. To think! The bane of their race, the symbol of the scourge of all deities, had been sitting right there in front of him! He would have earned a place in the Ministry proper in an instant if he had snatched it out of her hand right then and there. But gradually, he calmed himself. It was no matter whether it was sooner or later. His soldiers wouldn't lose the Tanuki worshipper now. What was important now was to make sure no more... complications arose.
After what seemed like eternity, the swirling surface began to bear the visage of another person, in similar clothing.
"Reverend Fedrial." Peval crossed his arms over his chest and bowed respectfully, even though the two knew each other fairly well.
Fedrial was about 6 feet tall, and had sharp features, dark skin, and hair that was braided in multitudes of tiny braids that fell to her back. Her voice was as harsh as her appearance indicated it might be, but her words were ones of concern for her long-time friend.
"Peval. What's the matter?"
Peval hesitated, thinking. "Please let me speak with the High Minister, Reverend" he spoke, again with more formality than he would have otherwise.
Fedrial's eyebrow's arched. Her hand rested on her sword's hilt as she came to stand akimbo, and she looked at Peval strangely. "And what shall I say this is regarding?"
"Tell him we have located the Tanuki Amulet."
"The... where are the damned... you're not in danger, are you?" Fedrial's face grew angry and frantic, though the tone of her voice remained steady.
"I don't think so." Peval said, shaking his head. "There's only two of them this time. But please. It's important. We all know what happened the last time one of us 'found' the amulet."
Fedrial nodded quickly, and intoned in a low voice. "I'll summon the High Minister. Be careful, Pev."
Peval's brow tightened. "I will, Fedri."
"This can't be real. I died or something, right?"
"Squeek squeek! Squeek squeek!"
"Well, I did hear it was a nice little place..."
"I fell asleep. I ate too many funny purple berries, and I'm having hallucinatory dreams." Raelle paused, looked around her, and shook her head again.
"I absolutely did not fall down a hole..."
"...that splashed down into a pool of molten /cheese/...."
"...that led to a waterslide..."
"...that led to a maze...."
"...that led to a /rat's amusement park/."
"Hey, I hear people pay a lot of money in foreign lands to go to amusement parks overrun by mice. And you know, I can kind of see why Chet likes them so much. They are really cute on those bumper cars."
"Yes?" Gavin was grinning.
"Are the bumper cars going to help us get out of here before the Order of the Falcon catches up to us?"
"Well, they might have people-sized ones stashed away somewhere. Have you asked?"
Raelle got up from the rock she had been sitting on in the brightly illuminated field of mice and stomped off in frustration. Gavin stood to follow, his smile still in place. For some reason, Raelle's typical sour mood just didn't phase him.
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