Chapter 2.5: Meanwhile

“GET HIIIIIM!” calls the alligator Captain, taking pursuit alongside his troop of 10 armoured men of varying races, wielding swords, spears and bows.

The thieving rat makes a break for the village wall, lugging a tatty sack over his shoulder. Holding his paltry haul in his teeth, he leaps to the top of the nearest house, barely reaching, digging his claws into the thatched roof and pulling up before heading towards the edge of the village. The soldiers on the ground cease the chase and take aim with their spears and bows, launching bladed projectiles at the thief. A single arrow sliced against the thief’s thigh, stopping him only for a brief moment.

“REMOVING YOUR HANDS AREN’T ENOUGH TO COMPENSATE FOR YOUR CRIMES, IT’S TIME FOR THE GALLOWS! GIVE IN!”

Recovering from the initial sting of the wound, the thief dashes again, pouncing towards the high wall surrounding the village, clinging as hard as he can to the rough jagged stones. He climbs up, scrambling for his life, the clinking and clanking of arrows hitting the rock beside him. Finally, he reaches the top, looking up, he sees a lone guard on the walkway with a lit torch.

“Take that!” shouts the guard, beating the thief across the face with the torch, burning his fur, melting his whiskers and covering him in ash. The guard loses balance trying to grab the thief by the hair, nearly falling to his death over the wall. The thief seizes the opportunity to dash up, past the guard and leap off the other side into the glittering moat below.

The guard atop the wall rushes to see where the thief heads. Looking down, he only sees the disturbed water and a stream of bubbles emerging from a cloud of red slowly growing beneath.

“I guess that’s over,” the guard mutters under his breath, as he turns to report to the captain of their success.

Moments later the thief lunges out of the water, gasping desperately for air, before flopping exhausted onto the riverbank. His vision blurring with tears and fatigue, grasping at the grass tight in his fists and pounding on the dirt angrily, struggling to keep himself from screaming.

“I want to sleep, I don’t want to be here, I need to leave, can’t s… stay h-here,” he whimpers pulling himself to his feet and limping into the dead forest to the burrow in the ground he calls home. He collapses once again, onto a pile of dusty rags to rest and inspect his loot; wet bread, now-bruised fruit and a broken bottle that once held fresh-pressed tomato juice.

With very little choice he wolfs down what little food he has, and turns over to rest, falling asleep instantly despite every joint and muscle screaming with pain, his thigh still stinging and seeping with blood.

Praying tomorrow will be different…

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