Tails of PaTail

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Tails of PaTail

Raspberries

Photo Courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

The air smells of raspberries and peaches, cinnamon and nutmeg and, beneath the sweet spice of the jam vendor’s stall, there’s the scent of rain on cobblestone. This early in the morning few people actually wander the market and the few who do are quiet, their bartering kept low so as not to break the peace of the sunrise.

You pass the jam vendor a few coins and accept a small jar of raspberry in exchange. It’s a rare treat but, for your little sister’s birthday, it’s worth the cost.

Turning away from the stall, you almost catch the tail of a well-fed rat before he scurries down a sewer grate.

“Clumsy human!” he hisses over his shoulder.

You hiss back at him before moving along. Ugly rats act as the dog guard’s eyes and ears of the city. It’s the only reason they’re allowed to infest the under city.

But today, of all days, you’re not going to let a rat ruin your fun.

You weave your way out of the market and head toward the merchant’s housing quarter. In your mind, you picture your sister waking to the smell of warm pancakes cooked in fresh butter. The surprise on her narrow face when she sees the ruby jar will make waking at dawn a small inconvenience for the joy in her gray eyes.

As you draw nearer to your home, the quiet of the morning disappears under the angry shriek of an old woman. Her raspy voice carries on the chill air like that of a disturbed crow.

“You’ve got the wrong house!” she insists. “There’re no cats here.” Her voice is familiar. You hurry your steps until you round the corner to find Nan confronting two guards from the dog watch.

“We smell it,” one guard, a dark colored shepherd mix, insists.

“If your nose is so good,” Nan counters, “then why didn’t you find it when you searched the house?”

It’s then you see the beginning signs of a search. A shirt lies at Nan’s feet in the doorway. Tucked underneath it looks to be one of Nan’s underthings. No wonder she’s so fired up. The dogs dragged half her wardrobe into the street.

silver cat“A cat?” you ask as you approach, “here?” You keep your tone light, almost laughing.

“I saw it,” says a new hissing voice. “It tried to eat me.”

From the sewer grate beside the house appears a whiskered nose. You’re almost certain it’s the rat from the market.

“Then where is it now?!” Nan stoops and grabs a pebble from the doorstep. In seconds, it’s flying toward the grate.

The rat disappears and the pebble follows it into the sewers. There’s a yelp a moment later.

You almost pity the rodent. Nan’s aim is impeccable. You’ve experienced it many times, usually with the slap of a thrown shoe.

“Now, now,” says the second guard, a hound with such droopy ears that he’s almost standing on them. “No call for that.”

“He’s accusing me of harboring a cat!” Nan shoots back. “That’s call enough for me.”

“We’ll leave you to your breakfast.” the hound nudges his companion with his shoulder. “But as you know, we’ll have to follow up on this accusation later today.”

Nan huffs and watches the two dogs wander away with her hands on her hips. As soon as they disappear, she spins on a heel and marches inside. “Grab my cloths, will you,” she hollers over her shoulder. It’s not a question.

You gather her garments as you follow her inside.

She slams the door closed behind you and you jump, not realizing she was standing right there. When you look at her with a raised brow, she mouths your sister!

Oh no. You realize what must have happened. Lila has an incurable soft spot for baby animals. And somehow, she finds them all the time. A mouse, a badger, an owl, she even tried a porcupine once but Nan drew the line on that one.

But a cat! In the dog run city of PaTail. It spells disaster for sure. Time in the dungeons with the sewer rats or possibly a sentence on the chow lines feeding the military dogs.

Just then, Lily peeks her head into the kitchen. The rest of her body stays hidden in the hallway. Those gray eyes are pleading as they look at you.

“Can we have an adventure today?” she asks. It’s her way of begging you to help her smuggle the cat out of the city. You can’t deny those pleading eyes.

Usually, you’d use the sewers for such a task but obviously, the sewer rat will be watching. You might be able to enter the sewers a street or two away and avoid him but it’s risky with how alert he’ll be.

Or the orchards might give you a tree high enough to go over the wall tonight. You’d have to hide in the trees for the day though because the dog guards will be back by noon.

You and Lily have a code for each place. You’re looking for treasures in the deeps for the sewers or picking up dessert for Nan for the orchards.

Do you tell her…

A. Treasures in the Deeps?

or

B. Picking up Dessert?

Thanks for joining in the adventure. Vote for your choice by leaving a comment below. Next Thursday, we’ll see what happens next!

Blessings,

Jennifer

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