Jack gripped his sword tightly.
It was dark, musty, decay flooded his nostrils. He felt the environment permeate him, cling to him. Holding his breath he could hear them, the patter of countless feet echoing in the dark.
Forward, it was too late to turn back now.
Forward, if he couldn’t do this how would he ever become a hero?
There he came to it, by the dim magelight orb floating just behind his shoulder he could make out the grain stores, stepping closer he could see the holes. It was time for his work to commence, taking a small circular object wrapped in cloth out of his leather pouch he placed it gingerly on the ground. Raising the hood of his hunter green cloak he quietly tiptoed behind some crates.
It didn’t take long for the mischief to gather around it tearing at the cloth with yellowed gnarled teeth. It was times like this he wished he could cast explosion, or fireball, or at the very least, orb of minor combustion, but his talents never seemed to lie in the offensive magics, their rhythms were just too harsh. He incanted as silently as he could, remembering the flow of the spell.
rats rats don’t you see
rats rats it’s not just me
rats rats you look so tired
rats rats it’s time to retire
rats rats don’t make a peep
rats rats just go to sleep
A triple double ending on the command word, ample amplification for the situation. The scurrying stopped, holding his sword aloft Jack approached the rats. Fifty copper, his first quest in a new town, all he had to do now was a little unpleasantness. Jack tried several times, plunging the sword down directly, stepping further away and using a chopping motion, but he just couldn’t follow through. He hadn’t quite killed anything before, not yet anyway, eventually dragons would fall under his mighty sword, and bandits, and ogres, goblins too. But these were just rats just eating grain to feed their little rat families, and they didn’t look quite so disgusting sound asleep as they were. After deliberation he grabbed a burlap sack and held it open. He reached out to grab one by the little pink scaly tail and thought better of it, not even with gloved hands.
Rats rats don’t you just know
Rats rats that in this bag you go
That was lazy but they were sleeping so no need for anything more complex. Stacked neatly on top of each other and jostled in the large bag they awoke just as he managed to cinch it closed.
“So what is your plan with the bag of rats? You are just going to…carry it around with you? Maybe you can be known as the mighty Jack, Jack Ratking, Jack and his bag of trained rats! Maybe you can even train the fleas. Charge admission and then for once we could stay at a halfway decent inn.”
“Ohh I am so sorry great and merciful ratking please don’t hurt me”
“Why did I even take you with me?”
“Otherwise you’d get lonely, you hate that”
Whistling and holding the bag as far from himself as he could, he tried to distract himself from the din coming from the rat bag.
He spun around and saw it, red eyes, long stained teeth, matted black hair, about the size of a medium dog. A dire rat, guess the little fellows called him out. Placing the sack down behind him, Jack extended his sword arm to point at the rodent of unusual size.
“Oh come on, just let me take care of it” The voice spoke and was ignored.
The rat lunged at Jack who plunged his sword into the stone, the rat hitting its head on the flat of it.
Quickly quickly, think of a spell! It recovered from its head trauma and was about to renew its assault.
The flash coming from the orb temporarily blinded the rat giving Jack just enough time to think of something better.
Dire rat dire rat your heart is like snow
It’s icy cold but I know it can glow
Just so you know I’ll melt it and so
Dire rat dire rat please let me go
A quad pretty good under the circumstances. Was it enough? The rat looked confused, not exactly what he had been going for but should work. Jack grabbed the bag and started to backup to the entrance of the cellar his sword cautiously pointed at the direrat. Dazed it jumped in the direction of the noises it heard, splitting its head in the process.
“Hey you killed something! Always knew you had it in ya champ!”
“Shut up” Jack said mournfully wiping the blood of his sword.
“Aww cheer up, your last spell wasn’t *that* bad, he probably just came from a long line of iron willed dire rats, maybe he was the prince of all rats! From the line of the Dournsville rats you know. Then one day you came along, and mercilessly ended it. Today rats from all around the realm will be in mourning.”
Should he put it in the sack of rats? No, that just feels… wrong, the innkeeper will just have to deal with it himself.
He was glad to be out of the cellar, he could now turn in the quest.
“What’s with the bag?” The innkeepers befuddled tone was evident.
“Uh, in case you wanted them?”
“What would I want with a bag of rats? What would *anyone* want with a bag of filthy squirming rats?”
Jack had to admit his plan of giving the bag to the innkeeper was *a little* flawed.
“You had a dire rat by the way”
“Let me guess got it in a nice box for me with a bow, train it as a pet did ya?”
“Nah you’ll find it in the basement, just thought it might be worth a few extra copper”
“Oh my shining great hero of course, and I shall tell the bards, soon the whole town will be singing the praises of mighty Jim rat slayer, rodent conqueror”
“Sorry my lord, mighty Jack rat slayer, here I’ll add an extra five copper and an ale” Handing Jack the fifty five coppers.
“Think I’m gonna serve ya right now? And what, you’ll just cooly sit there drinking it next to a chattering bag of rats?”
“Well then” His face turning red Jack slipped the money in his coin pouch grabbed his bag and hastily left.
“That went really well Jack, really well, really really really well, really, I mean it so what’s the plan?”
Jack was used to ignoring the jibes constantly emanating from behind him. Only Jack could hear it and from experience he knew arguing with it just made him look crazy. Well even crazier than a man walking in broad daylight covered in dust and grim holding a wriggling bag filled with rats. He would go to the forest and release them there. Forest rats, that’s totally a thing right? Jack assured himself that yes, forest rats were indeed a thing.
The forest was over an hour walk, giving him more than enough time to reflect on what a truly grueling chore it was. He couldn’t imagine Elgrey the Magnificent ever holding a bag of rats, let alone for an hour.
“You little bastards better appreciate this!” He futility addressed the writhing bag.
Walking the high road, he was getting more attention that he would like, I mean, Jack didn’t care of course, but just, it was so many looks. He decided to go off the path to one less taken.
Soon he found that a good reason to not take the road less taken is that it turns out that is the very road bandits tend to prefer.
Crap he should have left his coins at the inn.
“Come on use me! Let me at them! I get so bored in here!”
“What’s in the bag?”
“Rats, fresh rats, hearty healthy rats filled with vim and vigor want them?”
“Listen ‘ere we don’t have time for no traveling rat merchant” in truth, no one did “jus’ fork over your coin an’ your valuables”. There were three of them, burly chaps two had clubs with chains around and the leader had a spear. They were stereotypical enough to make the cover of Bandits Monthly.
“Come on take me out! They are begging for it”
Jack went over his options, as they began to approach he knew he had to act fast.
“Really these rats are the highest quality in all the realm! Have a look yourself I insist!” Jack had opened the bag and threw it at the men who had a healthy fear of the little black beasties. He used the opportunity to heroically retreat. They were close enough to the forest anyway, probably. He pictured a few of them limping into the forest and frowned.
“You really are no fun Jack, you didn’t even try your magic on those guys”
“You know I don’t happen to know their bloody names, even if they did look pretty dense, I am fairly certain they would still be classed as sentients.”
“You could have used me, you know any other young adventurer would treat an enchanted ax better than you, they’d be happy, they’d let me go chop chop chop chop”
“I told you an ax isn’t a proper hero weapon!”
“And rats are?”
“I just happened to free the rats at an opportune time, anyway you’re soulbound so you can stop wishing you were being held by some blood thirsty barbarian”
“You know what Jack?”
“You smell like rats”