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Housepets: World of Fantasy 
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
That's the price I pay for trying to multitask... :roll:


Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:59 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
well finals projects are eating me alive but while I have a free moment take a quick look at what I found

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4BuL886bJA

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Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:23 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Wow that is just awesome! Great job on finding it!


Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:57 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
I liked the background story for the crew a lot, the pacing feels pretty good with this kind of chapters in the middle.
But land adventures do have a lot more variables, let's see how the party handle themselves.


Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:09 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Krytus The Dreamer Wrote:
well finals projects are eating me alive but while I have a free moment take a quick look at what I found

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4BuL886bJA


I LOVE Critical Role! Not gonna lie, it's one of the biggest inspirations for this whole fanfic.

There's another, more serious toned, intro too!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dz2o_bVkgPA


Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:44 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
With Captain Fox and his new friends from Griffonrock keeping themselves busy with their rescue mission, Spring decided now was as good a time as any to get going with her usual… errand.

With her satchel hanging off her side, Spring went up to the ship’s first-mate, Bailey.
“Bailey?” Spring said, grabbing her attention from organizing the other crew-members. “I’m going to be taking off. Usual rules apply?”

Bailey nodded. “Usual rules. Three hours, then you head back. If you find anything substantial, we’ll put together a proper investigation. If you’re not back in three hours, we’ll send a search party for you.”

Spring nodded, having done this nearly every time their ship made port. “Well then… I suppose I should get going.”

Spring turned and walked off before Bailey called out.

“You think you’re gonna find something this time?” Bailey said.

Spring was silent for a few seconds before calling back over her shoulder. “I can’t have any worse luck than the last few times.”

Bailey nodded, having long ago abandoned trying to talk the doctor out of this. “Stay safe.”

Spring returned the nod before stepping off the gangplank and onto Coraggio’s docks. With no real destination in mind, Spring flagged down the nearest dock-worker she saw.

“Excuse me…” She began, grabbing the dock-worker’s attention. “I’m looking for someone. A green husky, looks a lot like me.”

The dock-worker raised an eyebrow. “A green husky, y’say? Can’t say I’ve ever seen such a sight. Would certainly remember if I did.” The dock-worker passed a glance towards Spring. “Why you ask, lass?”

Spring looked down, crestfallen. “She’s my sister. Her name is Summer.”

The dock-worker shrugged. “Sorry lass, can’t help ya. But I suggest speaking to our trading station. If anyone on this island saw your sister, they probably would have seen her there.”

Spring nodded. “Thank you.”

With that, Spring turned towards the docktown proper, doing her best to keep her hope.
Something that was becoming harder to do with each passing year.
---
The two guards stationed at the front door of the Rainier Estate were suddenly treated to an odd sight. A tiny white rabbit wearing colorful and exotic fabrics was confidently making his way down the path to the estate, happily strumming along his lute as the music permeated the still air of the sunset-cast clearing.

“Ho, there!” The rabbit said, making his stand before the two, imposing brutes in front of him. “Allow me to introduce myself: Zachary Arbelt of the travelling Arbelt Brothers.” Zach said, giving a low bow to the guards who shared an apprehensive look.

“Your master, Lord Rainier, has hired my services as entertainment for this lavish do.” Zach said, trying to keep his fake smile from faltering. “If it’s all the same to you gentlemen, I would like to get situated right away. There is some preparatory work I must do before I perform, as it were, and I would hate to keep the festivities waiting.”

One of the guards kept a steady gaze on Zach. “Wait here.” He said simply before turning to enter the estate, leaving Zach alone with the other guard.

A moment of silence passed.

“Lovely evening, isn’t it?”
---
“Are we sure the lad can pull this off?” Fox said, inspecting his flintlock. “I don’t much care for sending him into the lion’s den alone.”

Fox, as well as the rest of the party sans Zach, were all in position atop the tallest hill overlooking the estate, a straight shot from the precipice of the hill to the window of the estate’s second floor.

Bino laid across the grassy crest, keeping an eye on Zach through a spyglass.
“Worst comes to worse, he can use that ‘charm-talking’ thing to at least get through the door.” Bino said.

“Charmspeak.” Max corrected. “And remember, he can only influence, not command. At least, not for more than a few seconds before giving away the whole charade.”

“He knows what he’s doing, right?” Grape asked. “He’s done this before?”

Bino shrugged. “Ask Peanut. I laid out the plan, but Peanut seemed to think Zach was up to the task.”

Peanut nodded. “There’s a reason I picked him for this job. Any of you hear of the Arbelt Brothers?”
“Can’t say I have, though I’m not exactly the most cultured cutpurse out there.” Bino admitted.

“I’ve heard of them.” Max said, a look of realization crossing his face. “Tiger and Marvin Arbelt. Those two are legendary among tales of Bards. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard of them charming and finagling their way to wealth and riches from Griffonrock to Solomon Cove.”

Max turned to Peanut. “I should have recognized the name as soon as I heard it. Are you saying our own Zachary is…?”

Peanut nodded. “None other than the third Arbelt Brother.”

Max shot a impressed look towards Zach, before his face twisted in confusion. “Now hang on, I’ve heard tell of only two Arbelt Brothers. This is the first I’m hearing of a third.”

Grape cast a sidelong glare to her adoptive brother. “Peanut…”

Peanut held up his hands defensively. “Admittedly, he may not have the same experience as his elders, but he was trained by them in everything Bardic. He may not have the experience, but he definitely has the skill.”

Peanut looked down at Zach, still trying to engage the other guard in conversation.

“Give him a chance.” Peanut said. “I’m sure we’ll soon be hearing tales of Zach’s feats as well. Who knows? This might just be the first.”
---
“So the way I’m hearing it…” Zach began, placing a comforting hand on the weeping guard’s shoulder. “Is that you simply want your father to recognize your contributions rather than just expecting it out of you.”

The guard wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. “Is that so hard? One little ‘Good job, son’?”

Zach nodded, placing a hand on his heart. “My friend, you have my condolences and my support. I’m afraid the only guidance I can offer is to speak with your father and let these feelings be known. He’ll never know how your hurting otherwise.”

The guard broke down, sobbing as he scooped the diminutive rabbit into a bear hug, picking Zach up off his feet.

“Oof!” Zach exclaimed, feeling the wind rush out of his lungs. “There… There…” He strained. “Let it all out…”

The other guard chose that moment to return, a rather confused look on his face as he stepped through the door. “Uh… Lady Rainier wants to… speak with… What in blazes is going on here?”

The sobbing guard dropped Zach in a panic as he quickly tried to compose himself. Zach quickly scrambled back to his feet, making sure he wasn’t too dirty from the fall. “An emotional breakthrough, nothing major.” Zach said.

Clearing his throat, Zach turned to face the returning guard. “Ah, you said Lord Rainier’s wife wanted a word with me?”

The guard shook his head, still clearly confused at the display he had just witnessed. “No, his daughter: Lady Kay Rainier.”
---
As Zach was escorted into the estate by the guard, he was quickly approached by a young ocelot woman wearing an absolutely stunning red evening gown. The ocelot regarded Zach with a rather neutral gaze, one where Zach could sense neither hostility nor friendliness.

That said, Zach recognized the air of a noblewoman in the way the ocelot carried herself. He gave a dramatic bow, being sure to lower his head below his waist as was ‘proper’.

“Might I be bold to assume that I speak to the fair Lady Kay herself?” Zach said, rising as the ocelot lifted her hand in permission.

“You are indeed, Mister Arbelt.” Lady Kay said, keeping her voice level and refined. Zach noticed her ‘noble’ voice seemed a little strained, as though she hadn’t practiced it much. No noble ever speaks to commoners in their actual tone, Zach knew, but there was something in Lady Kay’s voice that made it seemed as though she was trying a little harder than other noblewomen to put on airs.

Chasing away those errant thoughts for now, Zach presented his lute to Lady Kay. “As I have told your staff, I have been hired by your father to provide entertainment for your guests here in your lovely home.”

Lady Kay raised an eyebrow. “That’s rather funny, Mister Arbelt, as my father has been away at sea for some time now. How would you have gained word of my soiree?”

Zach nodded, remembering the tips Marvin gave him.

They will always try to trip you up, Marvin would say. Try to test your knowledge against theirs. Do the same in kind, build off what they say to make a narrative they can’t disagree with. A lie is never too big, so long as you remember all the details.

“Indeed, it was the sea where I ran into your father. Or rather a port town he made business in.” Zach said. “Happenstance, one might say though I would say providence. A chance encounter between the two of us led to him hearing of my relation to the famous Arbelt Brothers. Upon hearing this, he simply had to hire my services for one of your regular parties.”

That was a gamble on Zach’s part. He had no way of knowing Lady Kay made a habit of such arrangements, banking partly on the fact that, simply put, she was a noblewoman, and partly on that she didn’t seemed surprised that her father knew about said party, implying they were a regular occurrence.

That said, Zach did enchant his words with just the smallest amounts of charmspeak. Just to be safe.

Whether by the charmspeak or Zach merely satisfying her caution, Lady Kay’s posture relaxed as her mouth turned up to the slightest smile.

“Well, I suppose this evening has become something of a dry affair. And who am I to snuff my father’s thoughtfulness. You came just as Lord Herrigan was about to start another rousing soliloquy about his flourishing textile business.” Lady Kay said, stifling a light giggle.

Zach offered a smile in turn. “Providence indeed, my Lady. But before I can perform, might I beseech you for a room with which to tune my instrument.” He said, playing an off-tone chord as an example. “If I am to play for you and your guests, It must be the best I can give. A fair Lady such as you deserves no less.”

Little bit more charmspeak.

Lady Kay’s smile widened ever so little. “I’m sure my father won’t mind if you use his lounge to make whatever preparations you need. Though I insist one of my guards stays with you at all times. Can’t be too careful these days.”

“Completely understandable, my Lady. A maiden so fair must certainly exercise all caution.” Zach said, starting to feel a twinge of a headache from using his charmspeak so much.

Lady Kay was about to turn back to the dining hall to rejoin her guests, before turning back towards Zach. She stood there for a moment, seemingly sizing Zach up.

Zach suddenly became very worried. Did he play his hand too fast? Too far? Did he say or do something to tip Lady Kay off?

Zach was suddenly very aware the group didn’t make much of a contingency plan if Zach became just as much of a prisoner as Breel. If Lady Kay even bothered to take him prisoner at all.

Instead, Lady Kay’s smile returned, only this time showing off just a little bit of her sharp, predatory teeth.

And predatory was a perfect description of the glint Zach saw in Lady Kay’s eyes.

“Perhaps, after the guests have all retired for the evening…” Lady Kay began. “I can give you a proper tour of the estate. Maybe have the lounge… all to ourselves.”

With that, Lady Kay gave a wink to Zach and walked back into the dining hall, leaving Zach standing stock-still.

Uh-Oh, Zach thought. Maybe a little too much charmspeak.


Last edited by JageshemashFTW on Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:08 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Looks like Zach may end up getting some more unwanted attention now. he better be careful about what he does next. LOL


Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:48 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Fixed the ‘A lie is never too little’ line to ‘A lie is never too big’ if anyone was confused by that.


Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:50 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
This story is getting better and better, and the artwork is great. Keep up the good work both of you.

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Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:36 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Yeah I saw that you fixed that line. Doing that makes MUCH more sense.


Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:03 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
“Okay, so you all gather together at the tavern to discuss your next quest.” Joey said, still in the process of getting all his notes and papers squared away as his players situated themselves.

“Wait, did I level up? I think I’m supposed to get another spell?” Bino asked, staring quizzically at his character sheet.

Max rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. You’re gonna give me another fire spell?”

Bino glared at Max. “Look, when I can no longer solve all of my problems by setting them on fire, then I’ll get another spell.”

“You know, your character is also an alchemist. You don’t really take advantage of that skill all that often.” Joey said.

Bino shrugged. “Why would I need to when we got a walking hospital with us.” He said, gesturing towards Max.

“Hey, Sasha needs to recharge every time she uses her spells.” Max argued. “You could at least make us a few potions to fall back on.”

Sasha raised an eyebrow. “Wait, I thought I was playing a bow-and-arrow guy?”
“Ranger.” Joey offered.
“Right, what did I say?” Sasha asked.

“Not you-you Sasha.” Max said. “The character Sasha, my character.”

Grape groaned, putting her face in her hands. “Whose bright idea was it to have us all play as each other? Zach, no offense, but your Bard is freaking worthless in a fight.”

“He’s a Bard, he’s not supposed to be a fighter.” Zach said defensively.

“Easy for you to say. You got the dual-wielding pirate out of the trade.” Grape said.

“Pirate-Hunter.” Zach reminded.

Joey grimaced. This was not the first time they have had this argument. “Look, this is supposed to be a role-playing game. There wouldn’t be a lot of role-playing if you all just played yourselves.”

“Hey, I’m not complaining!” Peanut offered. “I’m actually having a lot of fun playing as Bino.”
“You mean your having fun slandering me!” Bino snapped. “Seriously, what’s all this garbage about me wanting to be a ‘family’ with Fido’s cat-friend? You’re making me want to heave over here.”
Peanut shrugged. “You needed a character arc. What am I supposed to do? Make you hate everyone and everything?”
Bino nodded. “Yes, that would be preferable.”

Joey was about to mediate when Fox chose then and there to walk through the door, as he hurriedly but down his bags next to his chair.
“Sorry I’m late, guys.” He said, rummaging through his bag for his character sheet.

“Heh, life imitates art.” Max said.

“Hey, Joey?” Fox began. “When are we hitting a store? Grape’s been using the same sword and shield since we started this campaign.”

Joey sighed, today’s session already off to a grueling start.

“Let’s just… pick up where we left off.” Joey pleaded. “I’ll make sure to give you guys time to shop after the intro.”

With that, everyone more or less gave Joey their attention, differing levels of eagerness to continue their adventure.

“Right then. You are all gathered at a tavern to discuss your next quest…” Joey began.

“Wait!” Bino interrupted. “I never got my new spell!”

Everyone at the table groaned.

---

This is so non-canon, it hurts...
Happy April Fools Day, everyone!


Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:20 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Now we know why Joey doesn't like RPing with the other pets on Babylon Gardens. LOL


Mon Apr 01, 2019 3:42 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Trailing behind his guard escort, Zach breathed a sigh of relief that, not only was Lord Rainier’s lounge on the upper floor, but on the side of the manor the team was waiting for their opening.

Course, he still had to take care of this guard. He probably wouldn’t buy Zach wanting to open the window for ‘air’.

Thankfully, Zach did have something prepared.

As they entered the lounge, the guard took position by the door, blocking Zach’s exit. The guard regarded Zach with a curt nod. “Hurry with whatever you have to do. Don’t keep Lady Kay waiting.”

“Perish the thought.” Zach said, twisting the tuners to his lute as he gave a few experimental strums.

Zach risked a look out the window. He saw the ledge where the team was supposedly waiting for him to open the window, but he could not spot the team themselves under the dark of the night. Though Zach supposed that was a good thing. If he couldn’t see them, then it was probable that none of the guards could see them either.

Without wanting to waste any more time, Zach turned towards the guard. “Does this sound good to you?” He said, before playing a few somber chords.

The guard looked as though he was about to reply, but the words died in his mouth as the music entered his ears. The guards faced drooped as his eyes became glassy and blind to the world. His posture slouched and it would appear to all the world that the man fell asleep whilst standing.

Zach smiled. A simple Trance Song. Nothing too complicated, but it got the job done. The only problem now was that Zach couldn’t stop playing else the spell would be broken.

With his fingers still strumming the lute, Zach scrambled up a couch that had been thankfully situated next to the window. With a little luck, Zack managed to finagle the latch to the window open with his foot. A simple nudge later, and Zach’s job was done.
---
“We got our opening.” Bino said, peering through his spyglass. “There’s a guard in there with him, but he’s got him entranced.”

Bino turned away from the manor and reached into his belt, pulling out a small block of wax. “Zach said you’re hearing needs to be unimpeded for the spell to affect you, so we’ll have to plug up our ears while we’re in there. We should still be able to hear each other, just muffled.”

As Bino said this, he got to work pulling and shaping some of the wax into three sets of crude earplugs.

“Who’s going in?” Grape asked.

“Myself and Peanut, for starters.” Bino said. “We have the best skill set to move through the manor unnoticed.” Bino stood up, an uncomfortable look on his face. “That said, we will need Sasha to go with us.”

Sasha looked surprised at this. “Me? Why me? I’m not exactly a master of stealth.”

Bino nodded. “I know, but the truth is we don’t know what kind of condition Breel will be in when we find him. This rescue will be ten times easier if he were able to walk on his own feet as opposed to one of us having to carry him. We need you to make that happen if you can.”

Sasha looked apprehensive, but nodded all the same. “Okay… Just… I’m worried about alerting the guards.”

“Stay behind me and Peanut and let us clear the way. If we have to, we’ll leave you hidden somewhere in the manor and bring Breel to you.” Bino said.

Sasha nodded. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“And what will the rest of us be doing during your gallant rescue?” Fox said.

“You, Grape and Max are our best frontline fighters. You’re the contingency in case this goes up in flames and we have to fight our way out. If the guards are alerted to us, you’ll attack the manor and distract the guards while we make our way out. You’ll just have to fight them long enough to buy us time, then you’ll make your to the ship and we’ll haul out as fast as we can. If we’re lucky, the three of you won’t need to do anything at all. But I don’t plan for luck.” Bino explained.

Grape sighed. “I wish we had time to come up with a tighter plan. But time really isn’t a luxury we have.” Grape looked around the group, regarding them with a nod. “You all have your jobs, let’s get this done.”
---
Peanut launched the barbed arrow through the window, and it struck true to the wall of the lounge. As Peanut tied the other end of the rope attached to the arrow to a tree behind them, he turned to Sasha.

“Bino will slide down first. He’ll scope the situation and give us the signal to follow him. I’ll piggyback you down.” Peanut said, earning a nod from Sasha who was busy trying to fit the earplugs in place.

Peanut gave the rope an experimental tug before turning to Bino. “You’re good to go.”

Bino nodded and swung a length of leather over the rope, grasping the other end and tossing himself off the edge of the hill. A few tense moments passed as Bino flew silently through the air before vaulting passed the window and landing in the lounge with a roll.

Bino quickly stood up, regarding Zach with a nod. “Is he still out?” Bino asked, pointing at the guard with his thumb.

“Yeah…” Zach said, still concentrating on keeping his music playing. “But you guys need to make yourselves scarce before I take him back downstairs.”

“Just keep it up for a few more moments.” Bino said, walking over to the window and waving to the hill the team was waiting. Seconds later, Peanut and Sasha slid down together on Peanut’s bow. Sasha tensed up seeing the guard but gradually relaxed as she realized he was not taking in anything around him.

“Weird…” Sasha mused, waving her hand in front of the guard’s face before Bino pulled her back.

“Let’s not push our luck.” Bino warned her. “We’ll hide out in that closet while you take our friend downstairs.” Bino told Zach. “We’ll wait a few seconds before following you down. Did you happen to see anything that might look like a way to a basement?”

Zach’s fingers were starting to ache. “Best I can think of is a kitchen to the left of the stairs down by the entrance hall. Maybe they have an underground pantry? That’s about all I got.”

Peanut nodded. “It’s better than nothing.”

“Wait.” Zach said “There is a bit of a… wrinkle.”

Bino groaned. “We really don’t have time for wrinkles.”

Zach winced. “It’s just… Lady Kay, Lord Rainier’s daughter. She’s, well, taken a bit of a liking to me…”

Bino blinked. “You’re kidding, right?”

Zach shook his head. “I wish I was…”

Bino crossed his arms. “And… This is a problem? Zach, do you have any idea how many times I wished I had a honeypot during heists?”

Zach shot Bino a look. “A honey-what now?”

Bino sighed. “I can’t believe I have to explain to you how much of a good thing it is that a woman has a crush on you. If you’re charming the Rainier woman, you’re keeping her attention on you and off of us.

Bino placed his hands on Zach’s shoulders, careful not to disturb his playing. “Zach, for the good of the mission, you must flirt with the pretty lady.

Zach gulped.
---
The guard regarded Zach as he fiddled and tweaked with the tuners of his lute. “Does this sound good to you?” Zach said, before playing a few somber chords.

The guard was about to respond when a wave of nausea overcame him. But it passed just as quickly as it came. The guard glanced around to see what could have caused the sudden wave of disorientation, but he only saw the young rabbit waiting for a response.

The guard shrugged, assuming it was just something he ate. “It’s fine. Are you ready to go?”

Zach nodded, an excited smile stretched across his face. “Yes, let us not keep the Lady waiting, shall we?”

With that, Zach followed the guard outside into the hallway, closing the door to the lounge behind him… and seconds later, the closet within the lounge opened and the three hopeful rescuers came clambering out.

“Thank the gods…” Bino said, taking a deep breath. “The crook of your bow somehow got jammed up my nose.” He said to Peanut.

“What? Aw, come on…” Peanut mumbled, wiping the top crook of his bow off with a doily from one of the lounge’s end tables.

“So… Do we make our way to the kitchen now?” Sasha asked.

“Give Zach a few moments to get everyone’s attention downstairs. Hopefully, if he can keep the Lady of the manor’s eyes on him, everyone else will too. Nobles love to gossip.”
---
A few moments later, Zach was escorted to the main hall of the manor. Given the size of the manor as a whole, Zach wouldn’t be surprised if the main hall made up the majority of the manor. Who ever built the manor probably started with the main hall and built the rest of the manor around it.

Zach could tell that there would usually be a long banquet table in the center of the hall, but apparently Lady Kay had it moved someplace else to open up the floor for her guests to walk about and mingle.

As a few of the guests paused in their conversing to regard Zach, no doubt taken aback by his brightly colored, exoctic attire, Lady Kay chose just then to approach Zach and regard him in front of her guests.

“Ah, Mister Arbelt!” Lady Kay said, the same predatory glint Zach saw still in her eyes. “I hope your preparations went smoothly?”

Zach bowed again, trying to maintain cover. Though he was surprised Lady Kay would just come up to him and speak to him so casually, especially in front of so many of her peers. “Yes my Lady, I am ready to provide wonderful music to you and your assembled guests.”

Lady Kay gestured with her hand for Zach to rise. “Oh, enough of that, please Mister Arbelt. We are indebted to you for saving us from mundanity. Entertainment is truly the most rarest of commodities in today’s dreary world, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I would have to my Lady, else I would not be a bard.” Zach said. He had to mentally will himself for his next words, Bino urging for a ‘honeypot’ still fresh in his mind.

Ahem. Concerning your… earlier invitation…” Zach began, earning a raised eyebrow and a look of interest from Lady Kay. “I would certainly be a great fool to… spurn such a lovely woman’s… attention. What say after my performance, you and I can meet up for a proper tour.” Zach gave what he hoped was a charming smile and not a nervous one.

Whether Zach succeeded or if Lady Kay’s predatory glare meant she preferred the later, Lady Kay gave a smirk and held out her hand. “I’ll be waiting… with baited breath my dear.”

Zach took the invitation, taking Lady Kay’s hand in his own and giving it a chaste kiss, more aware now then ever how many eyes were on them.

Withdrawing her hand, Lady Kay gestured to an elevated alcove at the corner of the hall. “I took the liberty of having my staff clear an impromptu stage for you to work your magic, as it were.”

Yes, as it were, Zach thought to himself.

“I will, of course, leave you to your craft Mister Arbelt. If you’ll excuse me, I have to continue hiding from Lord Herrigan.” With that, Lady Kay turned on her heel and disappeared back into the crowd. With Lady Kay’s display over, many of the gathered nobles returned to their own accords.

Not wanting to draw any attention, or rather the wrong kind of attention, Zach quickly made his way to the alcove, gently pushing his way passed the assemblage.

“Pardon me, excuse me, oh, terribly sorry…”

“Zach?”

Hearing his name said by a familiar voice he couldn’t quite place, Zach turned and was face to face with someone he had not seen in a long time.

A female opossum glared at him, fire in her amber eyes. Her hard but no less beautiful face was twisted into a scowl. What really took Zach by surprised was what she was wearing. Her midnight-blue gown was a far cry from the clothes Zach was used to seeing her wear.

“What in the seven hells are you doing here?” She demanded.

Zach almost didn’t register her words, still shocked at seeing her again after so many years.

“Jessica?”
---
It was thankless work, guarding a bunch of snobby nobles as they hobnobbed and generally flaunted their wealth. But at least it was easy work of standing about and doing nothing. After all, who would want to attack some out of the way minor Lord’s manor on some podunk island in the middle of the ocean?

That was the last thought running through one of Lady Kay’s guards standing at the foot of the stairs before something whizzed past him, grazing his arm ever so slightly.
The guard gave a pained wince as he grasped his arm before the room started to spin around him. Before he could register another thought, he closed his eyes and passed away into dreamland.

Moving as quickly as he could while still remaining silent, Bino grabbed the falling guard and dragged him to a cupboard underneath the stairs, graciously opened for him by Peanut.

“Nice shot.” Bino remarked, stuffing the guard into the cupboard. “What is that stuff anyway?”

Peanut shrugged, grabbing his arrow from the floor. “Just a simple sleep poison. Perfectly harmless aside from the headache he’ll have when he wakes up.”

“That’s the fastest acting sleep poison I’ve ever seen.” Bino said, giving a signal to Sasha at the top of the stairs to come down.

“I’ll introduce you to my apothecarist when we’re done.” Peanut said. “Now, shall we head into the kitchen?” He said, pointing at the innocuous double doors where Zach described.

“Now hold on…” Bino said, raising his hands. “We can’t just go barging in looking like this. Don’t worry, I have a plan for that too.”
---
Only a few minutes passed before the double doors opened again, when one of the manor’s chef’s passed through holding a plate of entrees. He kept his head high and his back straight, just as the head chef screamed at him to do every day of his miserable life, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Excusez-moi?” The chef heard behind him. “Oui?” He said, turning around.

Bino punched the chef in the face, knocking him out cold. Peanut barely had time to grab the plate of entrees from crashing to the ground while Bino gripped the unconscious chef by the collar.

That was your plan?!” Peanut hissed, trying very hard not to yell.

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Bino grunted as he carried the chef to the cupboard.

Peanut sighed as Bino got to work exchanging his leather outfit for the chef’s uniform. He was taken aback, however by a munching sound next to him. He turned to face Sasha, who was currently stuffing her face with entrees.

“What?” Sasha said, defensively. “They have mini-weenies. Like I’m not going to eat them?”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sorry this one came so late. Had some pretty bad writer's block throughout this chapter.


Tue May 21, 2019 4:45 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
I really do like how you wrote this chapter! Wonderful job!


Tue May 21, 2019 3:55 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Quite a lot happened for Zach here and seems like is far from over, sorry for u writer's block but still u delivered great


Wed May 22, 2019 6:02 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Very well done, I love this story and the team!

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Sun May 26, 2019 5:48 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Gotta hear how Bunny-Boy is gonna explain his way outta this one … Jessica's not going to be thrilled.


Sun May 26, 2019 8:31 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Two years ago…

In the small town of Aurelane, out in the rustic farmlands of the Kingdom of Babylon, a crowd gathered like moths to a flame in the town square, where beautiful music echoed throughout the tired, still air of the town.

The music, somber and slow to match the late, orange-skied evening came from the instruments of two bards, eagerly accepting coin from the crowd in a chest as they played their songs in front of a fountain in the town square.

One of the bards was a golden dog with orange eyes, blowing into a shimmering silver flute. The other was a buttercup yellow cat with striking violet eyes, drawing a bow delicately over the strings of a violin.

A crude painted sign, propped up on the rim of the fountain read The World Famous Arbelt Brothers: Tiger and Marvin!

As the melody subsided, the second of silence that followed was immediately filled with an enthusiastic applause.

Tiger bowed his head again and again. “Thank you! Thank you! You are all most kind!”

Marvin gave a bow himself, dramatically waving the bow to his violin. “We will be here every day for the rest of the week, so please come again for more if you so wish!”

As the applause subsided, the crowd dispersed, casually discussing among each other about the show and other trivialities of life, until Tiger and Marvin were left alone near the fountain.

“How did we do?” Tiger asked, cleaning out the mouthpiece of his flute.

“Could have been better, could have been worse.” Marvin said, counting the coins in the case before depositing them into a satchel on his belt. “It’s enough to get us through the next few days if we’re careful.”

“And… what about Zach.” Tiger asked, side-eyeing his brother.

Marvin sighed. “Obviously Zach is our first priority. Before food, before lodgings, before anything else. But…”

Tiger turned to Marvin, worry clear in his eyes. “But what?”

Marvin didn’t answer at first, instead staring pensively at the empty instrument case that once held only so much coin. “We’ve tried everything Tiger. We’ve tried doctors, clerics, shamans, and even crackpots who only made things worse. And they all say the same thing.”

Marvin rubbed his eyes as tears threatened to return. “Our brother… is dying.”
---
First, herbs and medicine for Zach. Nothing that could cure him, but could at least dull the symptoms. Second, paying off another day of rent at the inn for the three of them. Third, a light meager meal for the three to share. As much as Zach could eat, at least.

This has been the Arbelt brothers spending habits for the past few weeks now. They were certainly used to living much more fancily. They were never rich, but neither did they ever struggle.

But with a third of their group now… indisposed and much of their time and money being spent on medicine and treatment, things were not as glamorous as they usually were for the Arbelt brothers.

The three were now resting in their room, Zach having passed out after Marvin struggled to get him to eat something, anything.

As the other two brothers ate in silence, Tiger kept eyeing the small rabbit in bed. Watching his chest slowly rise and fall.

“How much longer?” Tiger said.

Marvin swallowed his dry bread. “The doctors think another week or two. And then…” Marvin sniffed. “They say he’ll just… go in his sleep. If we keep him medicated, he won’t be in pain.”

Tiger nodded. Picking up his glass of water… before throwing it at the wall, shattering it into pieces.

“Tiger!” Marvin yelled, then stopped as he saw his brother’s face.

Tiger’s eyes were waterfalls as a stream of tears fell to the floor. His face was screwed into a furious scowl as he brought his hands to his face, choking out in sobs. “It… It can’t end like this! We can’t just let him…”

Tiger was crying openly now as Marvin shifted over to him, wrapping him in a hug.

“There’s still… There’s still something we can do.” Tiger choked out.

Marvin tightened his embrace. “Please Tiger, don’t do this to yourself. Zach would never survive the journey.”

“He’s a dead man either way, Marvin! What difference does it make!” Tiger yelled, pushing Marvin away.

Marvin met Tiger’s glare with his own. “The difference between allowing him to pass peacefully or have him freeze to death on a gods-forsaken mountain! And if the freezing cold doesn’t kill him, or us for that matter, the Rajann definitely will.”

“I’M WILLING TO DIE FOR HIM!” Tiger screamed, rising to his feet. “Aren’t you?”

Marvin opened his mouth to answer, only to stay silent.

Tiger waited for an answer all the same.

“Of course I am.” Marvin finally said. “Of course I am, but we don’t know if it’s even real or, if it is, if the Rajann will even let us have it.”

“All stories have some basis in truth... no matter how outlandish…” A tired, quiet voice said, cutting a knife through the tension. The two looked to the bed and saw that the subject of discussion was indeed awake.

“Isn’t that… what you taught me, Marvin?” Zach strained to say.

Marvin’s ears drooped. He got up and walked to Zach’s bed, sitting by the rabbit’s side.

“Are you sure?” Marvin said.

Zach yawned as he fought to stay awake. “I can’t ask you to make the journey. I know it’s dangerous. But if you do decide it’s worth it, then I will-”

“Zach.” Marvin interrupted. “Are you sure?”

Zach was silent before he grasped Marvin’s hand in his own. “I… I don’t want to die.”

Marvin sighed, then smiled at his brother. “All I needed to hear.”
---
The Rajann, like the Telani, were one of the many wandering tribes that made up The People. But whereas the Telani stuck to the roads, travelling from settlement to settlement to sell and trade their wares, the Rajann were much more isolated. Choosing instead to live away from what many consider ‘civilization’ entirely, making long-lasting camps in the high peaks of Babylon’s many mountains. Moving only once a year for a sacred pilgrimage.
The details or meaning behind this pilgrimage a secret to all except the Rajann themselves.

Of course, stories and rumors abound when concerning a group so isolated and secretive. And the most prevalent legends of all centered around the mystical Water of the Rajann.

No one is sure where the stories first came from, but every fish-wife and storyteller in Babylon could tell you about the Rajann’s miracle cure for nearly any and all ailments, whether of the natural or supernatural world.

Of course, if such water even exists, the Rajann we’re the only ones with access to it. And any lucky enough to meet a Rajann to ask about it would receive a spear to the throat demanding silence.

A scenario that kept playing in Marvin’s mind as he and Tiger carried Zach up a mountain that local Rangers confirmed held a Rajann camp.

Zach was currently asleep again, bundled up like a swaddled babe in a makeshift cot.

The three had trekked the mountain for three days, with Zach’s condition only worsening with each day. And without immediate access to any doctors or medicine, the only times Zach was not in pain was when he wasn’t conscious.

Part of Marvin told him that this was a mistake. That they were putting Zach through unnecessary pain and hurt to chase a fairy tale. But Zach’s words kept echoing in his mind.

I don’t want to die.

Whatever doubts Marvin had, he ignored them. If there was a chance, a slight chance that the Rajann could cure Zach, then he would gladly face all of their warriors and all of their spears.

On the eve of the third day, Marvin and Tiger laid Zach down to make camp. Their supplies were running low. If they couldn’t find the Rajann soon, they would be forced to backtrack to replenish, taking time they quite simply did not have.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, one of the Rajann found them first.

As Tiger prepared a stew over their campfire, Marvin did what he could to find sticks and branches that were not drenched by the cold mountain snow.

He honestly did not know how he couldn’t hear it coming, not a single crunch of footsteps on the snow nor a single shadow in the white expanse, but Marvin was forced to drop his bundle of sticks when a powerful arm wrapped itself around Marvin’s throat. While his brain was still trying to register what happened, he felt something sharp and metal poke the side of his ribs, stopping just short of drawing blood.

Tiger reacted immediately, grabbing his rapier from his side to engage Marvin’s assailant, but stopping short when he saw the short spear threatening to skewer him.

Tiger couldn’t get that good of a look on the assailant. Outside of the darkening night skies reducing his vision, they were covered head to toe in heavy, padded clothes to protect from the cold. The assailant even wore a frightening wooden mask of a snarling beast with jutting tusks.

“Who are you!?” Tiger demanded, not risking another step but keeping his sword up.

The masked assailant tightened their grip on Marvin’s neck. “You are the trespassers and you will answer my questions. What business do you have here?” The assailant hissed. They’re voice was guttural and low, as though it was a strain to even speak.

“We’re… ngh… We’re looking for the Rajann…” Marvin gasped.

“And if the Rajann do not wish to be found?” The assailant said.

“Please… We just need… the water...” Marvin struggled to breathe. The assailant’s grip was getting tighter by the second.

“Of course, I should have known. Thieves and brigands, all of you.” The assailant said. “Always trying to take what isn’t yours.”

“We weren’t going to steal it! We were going to ask for it!” Tiger tried to explain.

“Do not lie to me!” The assailant said, bringing their spear closer to Marvin’s ribs. “You are not the first thieves to plague the Rajann and you will not be the last!”

“STOP!!” A voice called out, echoing across the quiet wind of the mountainside. The assailant risked a look to the source of this new voice and saw Zach, awakened from his slumber and desperately trying to crawl out of his cot towards Marvin.

“Please…” Zach coughed, and everyone could see specks of red on the white snow below him. “Please, let him go.”

Marvin almost felt the assailants grip loosened, only for it to tighten again.

“There is magic in your words.” The assailant said, more to themselves than anyone else. “I’ll ask again, who are you people and speak only the truth.”

“We’re just bards.” Tiger explained. “That magic you felt? That was charmspeak. We’re just here because our brother-” Tiger said, gesturing to Zach. “Is dying. We’ve tried everything to cure him and nothing has worked. The Water of the Rajann is our last hope.”

“Please…” Marvin managed to wheeze out. “Whatever we need to do… to earn your trust, we’ll do it. Just… Just don’t let our brother die.”

With the mask on their face, it was hard to tell where or whom the assailant focused their attention. But Tiger got the sense they were reading their faces, looking for dishonesty.

The assailant regarded Zach again, still sprawled over the cold snow. They regarded the specks of red on white.

Marvin heard the assailant sigh behind him before they spoke again. “You will throw your sword over the edge. You will not be allowed to keep your weapons. Understood?” They said to Tiger.

Tiger was apprehensive until Marvin nodded. With a little hesitation, Tiger did as he was demanded and chucked his rapier down the mountainside.

Slowly and deliberately, the assailant released their hold on Marvin, who collapsed into Tiger’s arms as he tried to breathe in the biting cold air.

The assailant kept their spear raised as they brought a hand to their mask, which the brothers could now see was attached to a hood covering the rest of their face.

As the mask was pulled over the assailant’s head, the brothers saw that she was actually a female opossum. Off-white fur blending into the white background of the snow and ice.

The opossum was silent for a second, glaring at the brothers as she kept a tight grip on her spear.

“I will return to the camp. You will be allowed to follow. If you fall behind, you will be left behind. Are we clear?” She demanded.

Tiger and Marvin said nothing, only nodding in understanding. Marvin already getting to work easing Zach back into his cot while Tiger kept his eyes trained on the Rajann.

As Tiger and Marvin hoisted Zach’s cot up, the opossum gave a curt nod before turning and marching back up the mountain path.

“Wait!” Tiger called out. “We’re leaving now?! But it’s already well into midnight! Shouldn’t we wait until morning?!”

The opossum turned her head back, glaring at the goldenrod dog. “I’m sorry, I thought you said your brother was dying? I believe time is of the essence here, wouldn’t you agree?”

With that, she turned back towards the path and continued onwards, clearly not waiting for the three any longer.

With little more than a look and shrug between Marvin and Tiger, the brothers began following the opossum up the path.

With Tiger and Marvin trailing behind, struggling to keep pace as they carried Zach, the rabbit called out to their for-now ally.

“We… didn’t exactly exchange pleasantries.” Zach said, trying to ease the lingering distrust. “I’m Zach. My brothers are called Tiger and Marvin. May we know your name?”

The opossum said nothing for a moment, and Zach wondered if she even heard him, before replying.

“Jessica.”
---
As the group continued their trek, the mountain path began to give way to more uneven, treacherous terrain. Little issue for Jessica as she simply climbed and clambered over any rock in her way, but the Arbelt brothers were having a more difficult time navigating the sharp stones while also balancing Zach’s cot between them.

“Will you… slow down…” Tiger panted. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re a little handicapped back here.”

Jessica didn’t even look back as she called out. “I told you before. If you fall behind, you’ll be left behind. Don’t blame me if you can’t keep up.”

Marvin was about to exchange some very colorful language with the mountain lady, when a loose stone gave way under his foot. With his feet slipping out from under him, Marvin fell and started sliding down the snowy incline of the mountain, accidentally dragging Zach and his cot along with him.

Tiger tried what he could to keep his grip on his side of the cot, but the sudden change in force ripped the cot from his hands.

All three brothers screamed in terror as Marvin and Zach slid closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.

Within seconds, however, Jessica managed to pounce from stone to stone like a mountain goat to the two sliding brothers, stopping Zach’s cot with a foot and reaching her spear out to Marvin who managed to grab it before falling off, his feet just dangling over the edge of the cliff.

“Oh! Oh gods! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Marvin cried out as Jessica pulled him up to the stone foothold with her.

Jessica replied with a grunt as she helped Marvin pull Zach out of his cot. Marvin tried to save the cot itself before Jessica stopped him.

“Leave it, you’re not getting anywhere with that thing weighing you down.” She said. “You’d be better off carrying him on your back.”

“Zach won’t have the strength to hold on.” Marvin tried to argue before Jessica raised her hand to interrupt him.

“I gave you your options. It’s not like you have much choice.” She said simply, standing up.

Marvin was about to argue more, before he felt a hand tug on his shirt sleeve. Looking down, Marvin saw Zach, still clearly shaken up from the fall but trying his hardest to keep a smile on for his brother.

“It’s okay Marvin. I think I can keep a good grip.” Zach said. “Jessica’s right, we’re not going to make it to the Rajann if we keep me in that cot the whole time.”

Marvin wanted to keep arguing, then found that he couldn’t. With a sigh, he clumsily lifted Zach to his feet before offering his back to him, which Zach clambered onto and held on as tightly as he could.

Which wasn’t nearly tight enough as far as Marvin was concerned

Still, Zach held on as Marvin and Jessica made their way back to the path with Tiger. Tiger’s relief was palpable as he hugged his brothers close, whispering an apology for letting go.

As the brothers disengaged from their embrace, Tiger turned towards Jessica who was merely watching them with an unreadable expression.

“Er… Thank you.” Tiger finally said. “I… I couldn’t bear losing them.”

Jessica gave a curt nod before resuming her climb. “If we keep this pace, we’ll reach the camp by sunrise.”

The brothers watched Jessica go for a hot second, still collecting their thoughts after the ordeal, before getting back to their feet and climbing after Jessica, Tiger promising to switch carrying Zach with Marvin once he got tired.
---
The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon now, but the group was unaware of this as the light of the sun was now blocked by a not-too-small wall of sheer rock in front of them.

Jessica looked back at her impromptu travelling companions who were short of breath, having to carry both their own weight as well as Zach’s throughout the night. Zach himself was looking far worse than when Jessica first saw him, his eyes glassy and distant while his breathing was hurried and ragged. Mentally, he checked out a while ago, no longer taking in the world around him as he drifted through a waking slumber.

It was clear from the look of worry on Tiger and Marvin’s faces that Zach was not going to be much longer for this world.

“We’re almost to the camp now.” Jessica offered. “We just have to climb this last wall.”

“How?” Tiger snapped. “Zach can no longer hold on to anything and Marvin and I could never hold him long enough to make the climb.”

Marvin shot a glance towards Zach, and his heart pained in his chest as Zach stared through him, not even registering his brother’s presence.

Jessica stared at Zach as well before sighing to herself, tearing the sleeves off her padded, wool coat.

Tiger and Marvin looked up at the tearing sound and saw Jessica binding the stips of her sleeves into makeshift ropes. “Prop him on my back then bind his arms and legs around my neck and waist. That should keep him on me while I climb up. The two of you will follow close behind me and keep him supported on my back.”

Tiger and Marvin considered the plan before nodding, helping Jessica with whatever she needed to secure Zach to her. With Zach’s makeshift lifeline to Jessica in place, the three began their final climb.

With Jessica’s experience climbing up and down this very wall hundreds of times, and Tiger and Marvin doing their best to push Zach up and alleviate some of the weight on Jessica. The climb was taxing but, ultimately, successful.

While Marvin and Tiger took a second to kneel at the top of the wall to catch their breath, they eventually did look up and had their breath taken away all over again, this time from the sheer awe of what they witnessed.

The two brothers weren’t sure what they were expecting the Rajann camp to look like, but it certainly wasn’t this.

This was less of a camp and more of a small wooden town. From their elevated vantage point above the camp, the two brothers witnessed the many animals of many races, wearing padded, off white clothing similar to Jessica’s, milling about in between the rustic but no less beautiful wooden buildings that dotted the snow-kissed clearing within the heart of the mountain. Some buildings were clearly residential, cozy and compact homes where Rajann children were playing just outside, throwing snowballs at friends.

Other buildings looked to have more purpose, such as a conical building that had a plume of smoke rising into the sky. A more regal building was guarded by two dour-faced wolves brandishing the same type of spear as Jessica’s.

But what truly caught the brother’s attention was a cave off to the far end of the clearing, framed by two twin wooden statues of snarling, feral wolves as though they were guardians of whatever was inside.

“I… don’t understand.” Marvin finally said, once his brain caught up to his mouth. “I’ve heard the Rajann migrate to a different mountain every year.”

“How do you build all of…” He gestured vaguely about the camp. “This! In less than a year?”

Jessica, despite herself, allowed herself a small, prideful smirk. “Less than a year? Try less than a month.” She chuckled at the befuddled expressions on the two brothers’ faces. “Welcome to the Rajann camp.”
---
While Jessica, who still had Zach strapped across her back, was clearly known throughout the camp, and that gave the group enough leeway to march through the clearing unimpeded, Tiger and Marvin could still clearly tell that every single passing Rajann’s eyes were on them. Some regarded these outsiders with curiosity or even bemused interest. While others glared with hostility, clearly not trusting these outsiders regardless of who they came with.

Marvin couldn’t help but gulp as he noticed that all of the glaring Rajann were the same Rajann brandishing spears.

Of course, Jessica led the two right up to the cave flanked by the giant, wooden wolves. Marvin couldn’t help but think of how this was all an elaborate trap and now he and his brothers were going to be cooked on a spit.

Jessica stopped at the mouth of the cave before turning to the two brothers. “Allright, here’s the deal. I may have brought you here, and that will be enough to at least grant you an audience with the tribe’s chief, it’s not up to me whether or not you can have any of our water. That will be entirely up to our chief. When we go in, let me do all the talking at first. Speak only when spoken to, understood?”

The two brothers nodded in understanding, then followed Jessica into the pitch black cave entrance.

Marvin will say this, the interior of the cave was much more well lit than the outside when leave one to believe. Candles were propped up everywhere: On the floor, in iron-wrought sconces lining the walls, in candelabras arranged around the room. The light of the flames made shadows dance across the dry stone walls of the cave, making the whole chamber feel warm and cozy. Especially in comparison to the frigid, snowy mountain outside.

The cave was done up to look like some kind of cross between a throne room and an altar, with none of the wooden furniture or furnishings going against the same rustic, almost primal feel of the rest of the camp. Though it certainly wasn’t primitive. Everything was carved with such care, precision, and artistry that Marvin knew that they were all made from the hands of master carvers and woodworkers.

While Marvin couldn’t see anyone living within the cave, it was definitely for more pragmatic purposes as opposed to domestic, it still looked quite lived-in. Many of the wooden furniture was padded with wool and furs and were clearly designed for comfort and lounging.

But what really took Marvin and Tiger aback was that the cave was absolutely full of wolves, spread out throughout the chamber, wearing similar off white padded clothes, and clearly enjoying the morning in the comfort of the cave before being interrupted. There were wolves as young as pups, looking up at the brothers with wide curious eyes. Sitting in a dark corner was an incredibly elderly wolf who kept a steady, stoic gaze on the near-unconscious rabbit on Jessica’s back.

At the far end of the cave was a practical but no less imposing wooden throne, and sitting upon the throne was a rather large and muscular wolf who, to Marvin’s slight ease, did not look all too perturbed by their intrusion. If anything, he wore the same curiosity Marvin saw in many of the Rajann outside. Marvin could only assume that this was the Rajann’s chief.

“Jessica. I see you’ve brought some new friends into the camp.” The wolf said, regarding the brothers with a nod. Another wolf, a female, strode to the side of the throne, gingerly pacing her hand on the chief’s arm. She looked a little more apprehensive at the brothers’ presence within her cave, but said nothing.

Jessica stood at attention, making a strange salute neither Marvin nor Tiger recognized. A clawed hand dragged from the top of her left shoulder to the right side of her stomach. “Chief Miles.” She said, addressing the wolf on the throne.

“North already saw you coming from the west end of the camp. Needless to say, I’m very curious about the young man currently drooling over your shoulder.” Miles said, smirking a little at his own joke.
Jessica grimaced, untying Zach from her back and laying him on his back on one of the wider cushioned furnishings, a couple wolves quickly getting out of the way to give her more room.

“These two here…” Jessica said, pointing a thumb at Tiger and Marvin. “Were attempting to bring their brother here to our camp so as to ask us for some water. Evidently, this rabbit is very sick.”

Miles’ expression fell a little upon hearing that, though he remained cordial. “How sick?”

Jessica closed her eyes for a second. “He’s dying. From what they told me, they’ve tried everything else to cure him. I can only assume the sickness is magical in nature. Going by his condition, he won’t live for more than a day or two, if that.”

Miles nodded. “Do you believe them?”

Jessica was quiet for a moment, turning to meet Marvin and Tiger’s eyes. Their silent pleading clear to her.

“I don’t think they’re lying.” Jessica said. “But that doesn’t mean-”

Miles held up a hand, bringing Jessica to a silence. He turned his attention to another female wolf who, up until now, was only watching with interest. “Elaine, would you take a look at him?”

The wolf, Elaine apparently, nodded, handing a cub that was bouncing on her knee to a one-armed wolf sitting next to her. Marvin had to hold back his tongue as Elaine walked over to Zach and immediately stuck her fingers into his mouth, prying it open so she could get a good look inside.

“Lucretia, come here and bring a candle. I need light.” Elaine said over her shoulder.

The female wolf standing beside Miles looked to him, as if for permission. When the chief nodded, the wolf Marvin could only assume was Lucretia picked up one of the candles off the floor and held it over Elaine and Zach.

“Hmm…” Elaine mumbled. “Hard to tell with these giant, buck teeth. I’m not used to working on lapines. Ah, there we go…”

With a little more fiddling, Elaine finally removed her fingers from Zach’s mouth, wiping the drool off her pants leg.

“Well?” Miles said, and Marvin could swore he actually looked worried.

Elaine sighed. “It’s as I feared. This poor boy’s been hit with soulrot.”

“Soulrot?” Marvin parroted, earning an elbow in the ribs from Jessica. Though she seemed to be the only one offended by his voice.

Elaine nodded at Marvin. “What manner of witch did you three run afoul of? Jessica’s right. Your brother’s ailment is magical in nature, and no ordinary magic either. A terrible curse that drains the very soul from the body. You can tell from a build-up of black bile where the teeth meet the gums. The only problem is the bile only starts to creep in when you’re in the late stages of soulrot so it’s hard to identify early on. And by that point, it’s almost always too late to do anything. Not that there’s much you can do regardless.”

Tiger and Marvin’s faces fell upon hearing this, made worse when Elaine kept going. “This is powerful, rare, necrotic sorcery. This is the kind of thing you’d only be able to get from a seriously ticked off master of necromancy. So…” Elaine said, turning her gaze towards the two brothers.

“Who did you tick off?” Elaine said, folding her arms.

Marvin and Tiger shared a glance, each unable to come up with an answer. “We have no idea.” Marvin finally said. “From our perspective, Zach just… got sick one night, and got worse every night after. We didn’t even think something was seriously wrong until he started coughing up blood.”

Marvin risked taking a small step forward. “Please, you have to believe us. We have no idea how Zach got sick. We’re just trying to save our brother.”

Elaine ‘hmm’ed to herself, narrowing her eyes. Marvin wasn’t entirely sure she believed his words, but then she turned back to Zach, apparently accepting them either way.

“In any case…” Elaine started, looking over Zach some more. “There’s very few things on this earth that can truly cure your brother, especially with the soulrot at such a late stage. I’m… I’m sorry.”

Marvin spoke before he thought, desperation starting to take hold. “What about the water!?”

“Marvin!” Jessica hissed, pulling him back from the wolf pack. Marvin noticed that the wolves still didn’t seem all that upset over his speaking out of place. Rather, they looked… apologetic.

Ashamed.

“Please understand.” Miles began. “It’s not that we do not wish to aid you, it’s just that… Things are more complicated than that.”

Miles sighed, getting up from his throne and slowly making his way towards Marvin. “Let me just say this here and now. Yes, the water exists. And yes, it may be able to cure your brother. I can’t promise that it will, but it is a possibility. But the problem is we only have so much water to give.”

Miles turned his head, unable to meet Marvin’s pleading eyes. “You are aware of how the Rajann migrate once every year, yes? While I cannot divulge the details to outsiders, the true reason for this migration is to restock our supplies of water for the tribe. It is not something we can just make more of at any given time. Life is hard and unfair on the mountains, and any sickness could be a death-sentence for any of my people. Thus, we need as much water as we can spare before we can replenish at the end of the year. Especially with winter so close to the horizon.”

Marvin was starting to tear up now. So close to salvation, only to be told ‘No’ and have the door slammed in his face. “You can’t spare just a little water? Just this once?”

“It’s not that easy.” Jessica said, placing a hand on Marvin’s shoulder. “The water might cure Zach, but it won’t happen overnight. It’s a treatment, Marvin. Meaning he would have to stay in the camp and take the water regularly for days, maybe even weeks.”

“Definitely weeks, given the soulrot.” Elaine added.

“That adds up over time, Marvin.” Jessica said. “I’m sorry, I truly am. But we need to put the lives of the tribe first.”

Marvin couldn’t believe it. Part of him wondered if he was trapped in a nightmare, where every light at the end of every tunnel turned out to be another dead-end. After everything, all of the doctors, medicine, and prayers. After braving the entire mountain and coming so far…

It was too much. Marvin collapsed to his knees and began to cry. It was not silent either. He howled, he cursed, he screamed at the void.

“I PROMISED HIM!!” Marvin screamed between sobs, pounding the stone floor of the cave. “I PROMISED HIM I WOULDN’T LET HIM DIE!! HE WAS SCARED TO DIE!!”

“... I’m scared… I can’t lose him...”

Marvin continued to break down in front of the wolves, who could offer no more than sympathy.
He finally looked up from his stupor when he felt a hand on his shoulder, seeing Tiger gazing down at him, tears in his own eyes as well. No words were said, for none needed to be said. Tiger merely knelt down to Marvin’s side and held him as tightly as he could.

Jessica was conflicted, watching the two brothers try in vain to comfort one another in a situation that offered none. She knew something had to be done, and she knew what she had to do.

And if the consequences fall on her shoulders, so be it.

“Chief Miles.” She said, grabbing the chief’s attention from the brothers. “I think I may have a solution. A trade, maybe.”

“A trade?” Miles asked, raising an eyebrow in confusion.

“We need to spare as much water as we can for our own tribe, correct? Well, what if they joined the tribe?” Jessica offered, and already every single eye was on her, including the red, tear-stained eyes of the Arbelt brothers.

Many were shocked and stunned by the very insinuation. Some, like the one-armed wolf, almost wore a smirk, as though impressed by Jessica’s proposal. Tiger and Marvin risked even the tiniest bit of hope. They had no idea what Jessica was doing, but if it could save Zach…

Jessica continued. “You said it yourself, winter is on the horizon. This is the time of year when life for the tribe is at its hardest. When every single tribe member, young and old, need to pull their weight to survive. Well, what if we had some extra help? If these two swear by their blood to live among us and aid us as any Rajann would until the winter is over and we can replenish our water, then we would be honorbound to heal their brother as we would any of our own.”

“It would be a temporary arrangement.” Jessica added, already able to tell she was swaying the wolf pack. “When the winter is over and we’ve officially migrated to another mountain, then they can leave the tribe and return to their old lives, if they so choose. But until then, they are considered just as much Rajann as anyone else.”

Jessica turned her attention towards Marvin and Tiger, who were now standing up and listening intently to every single word from Jessica. “And of course, they will be expected to act like Rajann as well. As would be their great honor. Right?” Jessica offered, hoping the two were smart enough to catch her bait.

The two said nothing, merely nodded numbly.

Miles, to his credit, seemed to seriously consider the offer. He regarded the Arbelt brothers once more, as if sizing them up, before his glance turned back to the dying rabbit in his cave. Finally, Miles nodded and smiled.

“If they are willing to live with us, eat with us, sleep with us, and work with us. If they are truly willing to be Rajann, even if only temporary.”

Miles placed a hand on both brothers’ shoulders. “Then we will be happy to welcome them as Rajann… and all that comes with.”

Marvin sniffed. “You mean… you’ll…”

Miles nodded. “Your brother will be Rajann, same as you. He will drink from our water.”

Marvin and Tiger could not find the words where only action could convey. So consumed and compelled by relief after so much heartache, they couldn’t care less about decorum or status.

They both leapt forward and hugged Miles tightly, who graciously returned the hug. “I suppose that is a yes, then?”

“Yes!” Marvin yelled. “Thank you! Thank you!” He pulled away from Miles and turned to Jessica, fresh tears now framing his jubilant smile.

Jessica almost managed to get away from Marvin grasping her and pulling her into her own hug as well. “Thank you…” Marvin whispered.

Jessica was stock-solid, stunned by the sudden affection but still managing to give Marvin a quick pat on the back all the same.
---
As Marvin and Tiger were not yet officially Rajann, they were not allowed to witness Elaine grab a small vial of water from wherever the Rajann stored it. The water itself clearly held more magical power than any water either of the brothers have ever seen, shimmering and sparkling blue instead of clear.

Marvin and Tiger sat beside Zach as Elaine lifted his head, helping the water go down his gullet. Within seconds, Zach’s body seemed to tense then immediately ease and relax. His ragged breathing slowed to a much more natural tempo. Finally, his near-dead eyes closed, and he drifted off into sleep.

Elaine nodded, pulling the vial away from Zach’s lips. “He’s not out of the woods yet. It will take a lot more water than this to heal him. But it’s a start.”

Marvin nodded. “Thank you.” He said, the words having lost all meaning now after how many times he said it.

“Oh, don’t thank me yet.” Elaine said with a smirk. “You two have no idea what you just traded to get this. Have fun!” Elained said, before walking off with a wave to the two brothers.

Tiger and Marvin were a bit confused by this, before an arm casually wrapped itself around Marvin’s shoulders. Marvin looked to his side and saw the one-armed wolf smirking at him, as if he were privy to a joke that Marvin hadn’t heard.

“So, new-bloods! Let’s get you started on all the chores for today. If we’re lucky, we can finish before midnight. Oh, you guys are gonna LOVE getting your tattoos!”


Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:39 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Unexpected, but very heart warming. Backstory seems to be your favorite bit :D I'm enjoying it

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Wed Jun 19, 2019 8:09 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Really have enjoyed how this part has come out! A really wonderful addition! I loved reading it!


Wed Jun 19, 2019 4:40 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
I love how you develop your characters. I really like the backstory for the Arabelt brothers. Keep up the good work!

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Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:23 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Excellent twist. Looking forward to more.

I assume we might meet the witch later in the story.

Considering the characters' personality are similar to their canon counterpart, it must be quite another story to see how Tiger went from a neurotic big-eater with a disdain for Zach to a sensible person who's willing to risk his life for him.

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Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:59 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
I wouldn't mind seeing how Tiger went from that personality either.


Sun Jun 23, 2019 4:00 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Oh hey look I'm still alive. I haven't been around on the forums much cause I was trying to get my drawing skills to improve. That being said I ran into several art blocks so I decided to check in to get some ideas. I'm just putting this here in case I forget to finish it digitally cause it'd be a waste.

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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:04 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
That came out awesome, man!

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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:41 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Nice. I like it.

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Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:53 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
OK. Who is the hunk and where would one be able to find him? XD


Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:10 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
That is one cool dude 8-) Nice job!

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Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:28 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Ah... I see. well its not finished yet so I'm gonna make a conscious effort to digitize it and color it in, maybe a background coloring too

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Thu Jul 25, 2019 7:47 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Once you get that done we really will need to know about that character including the backstory behind him, what he does and if he is single. :lol:


Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:03 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Nice to have you back, Krytus! The art looks just as cool as ever.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that Sasha? The design on the robe looks similar to the last one you did.

If so, great job making Sash look absolutely hardcore!


Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:13 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Wait a second? That's SASHA!? :shock: I thought that it was a hunky new fanmade character that you had in mind. :geek: Wow I'm really dumb then. He looked so handsome and dashing but he is actually a she :lol:


Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:02 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
Wait a second? That's SASHA!? :shock: I thought that it was a hunky new fanmade character that you had in mind. :geek: Wow I'm really dumb then. He looked so handsome and dashing but he is actually a she :lol:

Well... she is still very handsome and dashing!


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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Despite himself, Zach couldn’t help but find his whole situation funny. Six weeks of agonizing sickness seemed to fly by rather quickly as the Rajann’s mystical water did its job of purging all traces of the soulrot from his body.

With the help of both his brothers and the few Rajann who were quick to welcome them into the tribe, most notably Chief Miles and his family, Zach underwent an exhaustive but no less effective treatment regimen to get him back on his feet. Not just imbibing the water, but other herbs to bolster his weakened immune system as well as physical therapy to undo the weeks of atrophy buildup. The tribe’s Medicine Woman, Elaine, was clearly a master of her craft. Zach thought it almost a shame that she kept her talents in the mountains, so isolated from the rest of society.

His mind recovered before his body, and he was certainly surprised to hear about the deal his brothers made in return for the water. Not that Zach was complaining, mind you. A half-year of living with friendly, if standoffish, mountain-folk was a small price to pay for his life. The labor and aid he and his brothers gave to the tribe was gladly given, especially considering that nothing was asked of them that no one else in the tribe would do themselves.

That said, he did wish the tattoo wasn’t quite so… mandatory.

As Zach stared at the offending mark on the back of his right shoulder in the mirror, a black spiral with thorns jutting out the sides, he remembered Jessica explaining to him the significance of the tattoo.

Evidently, all of the disparate tribes that made up the People had their own unique symbols that each and every member of each tribe were expected to wear with pride. They were apparently used to identify members of one tribe to others should they ever cross paths while traveling. In which case, their laws dictate the two parties were to break bread and share resources.
But it was more than that, according to Jessica. The brand was meant to be a symbol of the bond of family and brotherhood that tied the tribes together. That no matter how far apart the tribes spread or whatever different customs they might adopt, they were all still parts of a much grander whole.

And it’s not as though Zach didn’t take pride in his mark, far from it. It was just he wasn’t sure if he deserved to be a part of that expansive lineage. Tiger and Marvin made it no secret that, however indebted to the Rajann they might have been, this arrangement was purely temporary. Once the Rajann had successfully completed their migration after winter, and replenished the water Zach used up, they would consider all debts repaid and, just like that, the Arbelt brothers would be back to their old Bardic shenanigans, far away from the cold, stoic dwellers of the mountains.

In the end, Zach just didn’t... feel like a Rajann. And that wearing their mark was nothing more than a lie.

His melancholy was cut short when he heard the door to the modest hut he shared with his brothers opened. A familiar face popped through.

“Zach?” Jessica said, striding into the living room. “I wanted to ask you…” Jessica trailed off as her gaze drifted to the rabbit.

Zach was suddenly very aware that he was currently shirtless in front of a lady. Scrambling to grab his tunic from the chair he had laid it across, he frantically squirmed into it as he sputtered an apology.

“Ah, s-sorry. I wasn’t expecting you to… to come over.” Zach said, finally decent again. “So! You, uh, wanted to speak to me?”

Jessica shook her head. “Right, so… There’s something I wanted to show you.”

Zach raised an eyebrow. “Oh. Um, okay. What are you… ?”

Jessica brought her finger to her mouth. “It’s a surprise.” With that, she turned to leave, gesturing Zach to follow her. “Trust me, you’re going to like this.”
---
With winter waning as the year passed by, a revigorating energy was spreading throughout the camp. The Rajann knew the next migration would be soon, and many were already preparing.

One such preparation that took Zach by surprise was dismantling their own homes.

Evidently, this was one such method the Rajann employed in order to build each new camp quickly. Their structures and abodes were designed to be disassembled and reassembled when moved to a new location, held together and sealed from the elements with a special paste mixed from tree sap and various herbs. Though how the Rajann managed to carry such massive loads of wood up and down the mountains was something that still baffled Zach and his brothers.

Apparently, the Rajann who had already broken down their homes were bunking with their neighbors, the tribe being careful in systematically dismantling each structure based on who was living where and where they could stay until the migration officially began.

After nearly one hundred years and one hundred migrations, the Rajann went about this process like a well-oiled machine.

Zach and Jessica enjoyed a leisurely stroll across the campgrounds, Zach waving and bidding good-morning to the few Rajann he maintained a friendly acquaintanceship with. That was another thing that Zach felt separated himself from the rest of the tribe. He mostly kept to the hut he shared with his brothers, spending his days with them when the three of them weren’t tackling their many, many chores.

He got along well enough with many of the Rajann, Miles and his wolf-pack took an immediate liking to him and his brothers. But if he had to say if their were any in the tribe he would consider a friend in the truest sense of the word, there would really only be a single candidate.

Jessica.

Jessica… was a hard woman to connect to. The first few days when Zach was actually well enough to work, she had been assigned to be, in essence, his supervisor. She gave him his tasks for the day and made sure they were done properly.

For a while, that was the extent of their relationship. But Zach had always felt a deeper connection than that, or at least the potential for one. This was the same fearless warrior who aided him and his brothers up a mountain, saving Zach from death. How could he not be drawn to her.

It was a slow, but steady, friendship they developed. Zach could tell he gained Jessica’s respect with how tirelessly he worked, so eager to pay back his debt to the Rajann.

But it was more than that. Zach got the sense that Jessica… didn’t have many friends among the tribe. She was certainly well respected. A warrior without peer among the soldier-class of the tribe. Zach once peeked in on a sparring match between Jessica and three other spear-wielding Rajann. Not a free-for-all, but all three working together to take her down.

They should have brought more.

Zach remembered staring gobsmacked in awe at the opossum. Twirling and bending around and about her opponents as though she were made of water. Wielding her spear with such grace and precision, Zach wondered if she was fighting or dancing.

But then, like the flip of a switch, grace and beauty turned to terrifying ferocity. Jessica would maneuver her way to the center of the three Rajann, then release a primal growl while she pummeled them all to submission, coming just short of leaving any permanent injuries, as though constantly reminding herself that it was just training.

Zach remembered hiding behind a wooden post, watching it all unfold, hoping she wouldn’t see him. It scared Zach, but no more than it amazed him.

So, of course, Jessica was held in high-regard among the Rajann, and she took her position seriously. Not only did she take charge in most of the day-to-day operations, but she seemed to serve as a form of advisor or assistant to Miles himself. Though Zach doubted she had any kind of official title to that effect, that did not change all that she did for the tribe.

But, if Zach read her situation right, it seemed lonely at the top. So devoted was she to the continued livelihood of all around her, that she seemed to leave little room for herself.

Zach supposed she simply enjoyed his presence as something new. Something she could get involved with personally. Something that didn’t come with all the expectations she cultivated around herself.

He supposed it would be a bit presumptuous to assume she merely enjoyed his company. As he did hers.

After a bit of walking, Zach noticed that Jessica was taking him outside the borders of the camp. It didn’t take long for the terrain to become uneven enough to force Zach to climb and clamber with his hands just to keep up. They were definitely heading for higher ground.

“Um… Jessica?” Zach said.

“Just a little farther.” Jessica offered, apparently aware of how confused Zach was.

After about a minute’s climb, Jessica had led Zach to a small alcove, hidden within the sheer rock wall of the mountain, overlooking the camp below.

Zach let out a gasp at the sight. Not only the camp and the Rajann milling about below him, but the sun-kissed horizon spreading for what seemed like forever. “Wow, what a view. If I had my lute, I bet I could come up with a pretty good song right now.”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “Then I consider it fortunate that you left it behind. Now come here, that isn’t what I wanted to show you.”

Zach tore his eyes away from the horizon as turned to look at Jessica. She was currently in the process of feeling her hands around the back wall of the alcove, clearly looking for something.

“Aha.” She said, as she pressed against what was apparently a loose rock in the wall. That led to her tearing out another rock, and another rock, until a hidden chamber within the alcove was revealed.

And what was in the chamber made the horizon seem a paltry sight in comparison.

Within the chamber, awash with a brilliant blue light that reflected on Zach and Jessica’s faces, was a not-too-modest stone pedestal, carrying atop it an intricately crafted clay basin.

Within the basin was a substance Zach knew all too well, having imbibed it near religiously for six weeks.

The shimmering blue Water of the Rajann.

“Oh… Oh gods.” Zach said.

“Possibly.” Jessica shrugged.

Zach shot a confused glance at her statement before Jessica spoke again. “To this day, we really don’t know what actually makes the water, we’ve just learned to harvest it. It could be divine in nature, though I’ve never been one to put much stock in the gods.”

Jessica sat down in front of the basin, staring at it with a melancholy expression while Zach sat next to her.

“Personally, I think it’s just a naturally occurring resource. Magical, definitely, but there are so many magical substances out there just growing out of the earth. The Rajann are just the only ones who know how to get it.” She mused.

Zach thought for a bit. “If that’s the case, why not share this knowledge with the world?” Zach asked. “Think of how many lives could be saved if all had the means to harvest the water.”

Jessica snorted. “A naive thought that others had before you. There are only four known locations in all the world, here in Babylon, where the water can be harvested. And even then, it takes years for the water to naturally replenish itself. That’s why the migration is so important to the Rajann. Simply put, it’s the same problem as any other resource. There just isn’t enough to share.”

Jessica shot an annoyed look at Zach. “So, yes Zach. We hoard the water all to ourselves. We keep it away from the rest of the world. Because if the rest of the world knew how to take the water for themselves, we would not have the numbers nor assets to fight to take it back.”

“But why do we have to fight at all? Why must it come down to who can take the most of it and not just give it to whoever needs it?” Zach asked.

Jessica stared at Zach as though he sprouted a second head. “Are you serious? I thought you bards were supposed to be these ‘wise, worldly travelers’. How can you be this ignorant? ‘Need’ is irrelevant here Zach. Your ‘civilized’ societies will always take and take and take until there is no more to take. For no reason then because they feel they have a claim to it. Whatever claim the Rajann might have will be ignored because we live outside your society. And if we try to keep our claim, we will be slaughtered ‘for the good of all’.”

Jessica returned her gaze to the basin. “You want to talk about ‘Need’, Zach? The Rajann need the water. Life atop our mountains is harsh and dangerous. Dozens of Rajann are injured or become sick every year. If it weren’t for the water, our tribe would have gone extinct decades ago.”

“To ask us to ‘share’ the water, is to ask us all to die a slow death.” Jessica turned to look at Zach. “Almost like you did when you first came to us.”

Zach shook his head. “I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that. There has to be someway where all can benefit and none are harmed. The water is too potent, too powerful, to just be locked away.”

Jessica gave a humorless laugh. “When you figure it out Zach, you let me know.”

The two sat in silence a while longer, still transfixed, though for different reasons, on the glowing basin.

“You’re a good man, Zachary Arbelt. Better than what most men deserve.” Jessica finally said. “But I worry for you. You don’t yet know the cost of being a good man in a cruel world.”

“The world isn’t cruel.” Zach argued. “The world isn’t anything but a rock. It’s the things on it, the people, the places, the magic and mundane. They can be of good or evil. The trick is to never let a single example lead you to believing that all are the same.”

“Hmph. I’ve had a lot of ‘single examples’.” Jessica said. “But who knows, maybe you’re on to something. I mean, fate brought you here. And so far, that’s been nothing but good.”

Zach blushed. “I… consider it my greatest fortune, thus far. To know the cusp of death and return all the stronger. To know the Rajann, the proud and sure People of the Mountain.”
The tips of Zach’s fingers brushed against Jessica’s.

“To know you, Jessica, my saviour, my protector… and my friend. To know you, and know your strength, honor and kindness.”

Jessica stared at Zach, her expression blank and unreadable.

“Jessica… I-” Zach’s words were cut short when Jessica practically pounced on him, silencing him with a deep kiss.

The force made Zach lose his balance as he fell to his back, Jessica falling on top of him. With a ‘pop’, the two separated as Zach hit his head against the stone floor of the alcove.

“Ow!” Zach said.
“Sorry.” Jessica said.
“It’s alright.” Zach said.

And then they immediately resumed their kiss.
---
Zach wondered how his brothers would react if he chose to stay with the Rajann.

Zach knew he was being ridiculous. In a choice between his brothers, whom he had known all his life, or the mad mountain lady he had known for six weeks, it seemed to Zach like the choice should be obvious.

And yet, laying on this hay bale staring at the stars, with Jessica long since passed out and snuggling against him while she snored loudly in his ears, the line seemed to become a little blurry from Zach’s position.

He gave a vain thought to the idea of trying to convince Jessica to go with them when they did leave the Rajann, but he immediately dismissed those thoughts. Jessica was a proud and loyal Rajann. She would never abandon her tribe, not even for love.

Love, Zach thought. Is that what this was? Zach had never been in love before, so he couldn’t be sure. He respected Jessica, admired her, felt an ease and warmth around her.

He was certainly attracted to her.

Did all of that together make love, though? And of course, all of this ignored how Jessica felt for him.

Clearly, she felt for him strongly enough to kiss him. But how far did that really go as far as she was concerned. Zach knew it would be dangerous to presume he knew what she wanted or felt regarding him. Unfortunately, she was a bit too unconscious right now for Zach to ask and ease his concerns.

Zach was brought out of his thoughts by Jessica wrapping her arm around his chest, tightening her grip on him.

Oh well, Zach thought. Such questions can wait till morning. And, of course, he would not actually be leaving until the Rajann completed their migration. Zach had plenty of time to figure out what to do.

For now, Zach was content to lay his head back, close his eyes, and count his lucky stars that he managed to get this far. As long as he didn’t do anything to screw it up.
---
He smelled the smoke before he saw the fire.

The panicked and anguished screams of the camp immediately awoke Zach and Jessica from their nap. They both looked up, horrified at the plume of smoke and red light originating from the camp.

“No…” Jessica gasped, before rolling off the hay and grabbing her spear from the ground in a single motion. “NO!

She sprinted off towards the camp, Zach barely managing to stumble off the hay bale fast enough to catch up to her.

“Jessica, wait!” Zach cried out, but Jessica ignored him. The two charged headlong into the camp and were horrified by what they saw.

The entire camp was at war. The warriors of the Rajann were clashing their spears against an army of invaders.

The invaders wore mostly light-armor and brandished a number of weapons against the Rajann. Zach noticed the invaders were not above fighting dirty, striking at weak spots and overwhelming the Rajann with flanking tactics. There was an entire group of invaders stationed on top of the cliff overlooking the camp, taking pot-shots with their crossbows. Every time a Rajann managed to pick one off with a bow, another invader immediately took their place.

While most of the invaders fought off the Rajann, some seemed utterly devoted to the single cause of burning the camp to the ground. The Rajann were fighting a losing battle as they were pulled back and forth between fighting off the invaders, putting out the fires, and protecting their non-combatants.

Jessica grabbed at Zach’s collar and practically screamed in his face. “Go and gather as much of the tribe as you can! Take them to the cave and keep them safe!”

“What are you going to do?” Zach asked.

Jessica turned back to the fighting, tightening her grip on her spear. “I’m going to kill every last one of them.” She snarled.

Zach drew his rapier from its scabbard, Jessica having retrieved it and his brother’s swords from where they first met, and ran off to the blazing inferno.

He stopped and turned back to Jessica. “Stay safe.”

Jessica nodded. “You too.”

With that, Jessica charged into the fray, slashing at every foe who dared to come near.
---
Zach rammed his shoulder into the door of the burning building. It took a couple of tries before the weakened door finally gave way a little, allowing Zach to use his sword to pry the rest of the way inside.

“Hello!? Hello!? Is anyone here!?” Zach called out. He was sure he heard voices from outside.

A cry called out from deeper in the room and Zach followed the sound. He came across one of the invaders about to drive their sword into a frightened Rajann laying on the floor.

STOP!!” Zach called out, enforcing absolute control over his charmspeak. The invader froze as if paralyzed, allowing Zach to get in a solid slash with his rapier, dropping the invader to the ground.

Zach stumbled as the mental recoil of exerting so much control hit him. He shook it off as best he could. He had a job to do.

He held out his hand, helping the Rajann to her feet. “Can you move?” Zach said, and the Rajann woman nodded.

“Make your way to the cave. If you can help anyone else without endangering yourself, do it. Otherwise, stick to the shadows and don’t let them see you.”

The Rajann woman nodded again, grasping Zach’s hands in her own. “Thank you! Thank you!” She said, before running towards the cave.

One down, Zach thought. An entire camp left to go.
---
Zach almost breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his brothers alive and well, but that relief soon passed as he saw they were currently engaged with four of the invaders themselves, struggling to fight them off two to one.

An idea crossed Zach’s mind as he sheathed his rapier, drawing his lute from his back.

Zach desperately played an upbeat tempo from his lute, running as fast as he could towards his brothers so they could hear it over the chaotic cacophony of the battle.

The bardic magic of his song did the trick, as a warm, white glow started to imminate from Tiger and Marvin, who now fought with renewed vigor and ferocity, as though they had suddenly doubled in skill and strength. With Zach’s Inspiration Song driving them on, Tiger and Marvin made short work of their foes.

With a moment of rest, the three brothers exchanged a wordless embrace before they made their way to the cave.
---
Working together, the three of them were able to rescue a good number of Rajann from the invaders, and were now leading a small escort of Rajann to the safety of the cave. Already, they saw Elaine and her one-armed husband, Jack, ushering Rajann into the cave and away from the fight.

“Hurry! Inside!” Elaine called out.

Zach and his brothers stayed behind, making sure that each Rajann they found made it in.

“CHIEF MILES!!” A new voice called out amidst the chaos. Looking towards the source of the voice as a massive figure approached, paying no mind to the destruction around him.

Zach knew that this must have been the leader of these invaders as they all seemed to give him a wide berth as he neared the cave. A massive leopard wearing the same leather armor as his followers and wielding an imposing two-handed khopesh that rested lazily on his shoulders.

Many of the Rajann’s archers had fallen back to the cave to set up a defensive position. And every single one of them trained their bows at the leopard, stopping him in his tracks. In response, the crossbowmen among the invaders trained their weapons at the few Rajann outside the cave.

The fighting ceased for the moment. A stand-still.

The leopard gave a wicked grin. “Chief Miles!! I know you can hear me!! Hiding among your pack!! You know what I want!! And you know what I’ll do to get it!!”
The leopard snapped his fingers, and one of the invaders brought forth a Rajann, bound and gagged, before tossing him unceremoniously at the leopard’s feet.

“Come out, Miles!! NOW!!” The leopard screamed. He raised his khopesh off his shoulders, bringing it down slowly just above the captive Rajann’s neck. “Before I do something you’ll regret!!”

“STOP!” Miles called out, stepping out from the shadows of the cave. Zach saw he was wearing far more than just the white coat of the Rajann. Miles was dressed for war, bearing down on the leopard in plates of metal strapped to his body at his shoulder, stomach, arms and legs. War paint had been adorned all across Miles’ body, making him seem like a cross between a wolf and a tiger.

On his back was a large gunstock war club with a single metal spike jutting out the edge.

“Stop this, Jata!” Miles said, earning another sneer from the leopard. “Stop this carnage at once!”

Jata lifted his khopesh away from the frightened Rajann’s neck. “So nice of you to come out, old friend! When was the last time you and I had a chat?”

“How did you find us, Jata!” Miles roared out, demanding an answer.

“How?” Jata parroted. “Why, we had a little help on the inside. You were betrayed Miles, by an outsider you called your own.”

Like a switch, many of the Rajann’s eyes fell to Zach and his brothers. Lucretia, who stood beside her husband, shot a furious glare at the trio.

“N-No… He’s lying.” Zach pleaded. “We would never-”
Zach was silenced by Tiger pulling him back, away from the angered stares of the Rajann.

“What do you want!?” Miles demanded.

Jata lazily scratched his chin. “I want what is rightfully mine. What has always been mine. I want the water!”

“The Rajann do not kotow to thieves and brigands!” Miles said.

“You call me a thief?” Jata said, mocking shock. “Was it not the two of us who discovered the water together?” Jata reached a hand up to undo the straps of his cuirass, revealing a sickening scar going down the length of his chest and stomach. “Was this not your own handiwork before you took the water all for yourself!?”

Zach shot a surprised look to Miles, and saw he was not the only one taken aback by Jata’s claim. Despite all the chaos and confusion, a twinge of a thought sparked in Zach’s mind. The Rajann had been migrating around Babylon’s mountains for nearly a century, rumors and legends of their mystical water have permeated since those days. If what Jata claimed was true, if he and Miles were the original discoverers of the water…

Just how old were the two of them?

Miles tensed up, his hands balled into fists. “It was so much more than that, and you know it Jata! You would use the water to bolster your band of criminals and scum. The Rajann use the water for no goal beyond survival.”

“Petty details.” Jata scoffed, redoing his cuirass. “The point still stands. It was the both of us who discovered the water, and I will have what is due to me, old friend!” Jata snarled.

Jata pulled himself back and raised a hand, as though to calm himself. “But, I am a fair man, and we do have our history to consider. So, allow me to make this offer…”

Jata swept his hand across the still burning landscape of the village. “My men and I have already done quite a bit of damage to your home, and we are capable of doing so much more.”

Once more, Jata hovered his khopesh over the captive Rajann. “And do not make the mistake of believing that this is our only prisoner. You may make a headcount if you wish, but we have many more of your tribe waiting to fall to my blade.” Jata’s smirked return as he looked Miles dead in the eyes. “At your insistence, of course.”

Zach started to panic as he began to notice that Jessica was nowhere in sight. Was she captured by the raiders? Or was she…?

“But we can end this now, just the two of us.” Jata said, pointing the tip of his sword at Miles. “And we’ll even follow your laws to do so. A trial by combat, Miles, just the two of us. My men will stand by and watch, as will yours.”

“What are your terms?” Miles demanded.

“If I win, I will take whatever water you have stored away, and you will give yourself up as my prisoner, where you will then show me how to harvest the water at the rest of the sites.” Jata once more gestured to the burning camp. “As a show of good faith, my men will even release all our prisoners and leave the camp immediately. No more have to die.”

“And if I win?” Miles asked.

“If you win, all prisoners will be released and my men will leave the camp with no more fuss. I’ll even surrender myself to you and whatever punishment you see fitting. Win or lose, either outcome is far better than simply allowing the razing to continue.” Jata said. “And I know you will accept the outcome of the trial. Your honor would never allow you to do otherwise.”

Jata snapped his fingers once more, causing his raiders to scramble away, dragging the poor captive Rajann back behind their lines. The raiders formed a tight half-circle around their leader, ensuring their was no escape for any of the Rajann now trapped within the cave.

Miles closed his eyes and took a breath. “The last time we fought, it did not end so well for you.” He said.

“Hmph. The last time we fought, you got in a lucky shot then ran away like a coward.” Jata said, brandishing his khopesh and getting into a ready stance. “I’m hoping this will provide a more conclusive result.”

Miles was silent for second… before reaching behind him and pulling out his war club. “So be it!!”

With that, Miles charged forward and clashed his club against Jata’s sword. The trial by combat had begun.

Zach instinctively took a step forward to help, but he and his brothers were pushed back by two of the Rajann crossing their spears in front of them. Zach turned to give a pleading look towards Lucretia, who met him with scorn.

“You three will not interfere. We will decide what to do with you after the fight.” Lucretia stated.

“Please, you have to believe us! We didn’t do anything!” Zach begged. But his words fell on deaf ears as all of Lucretia’s attention was focused solely on the fight at hand.

With no other option but to watch and pray, Zach turned his eyes to the fight.

It was obvious that both combatant not only possessed titanic strength, but both knew how to throw their weight into the blows. What resulted was a battle that consisted mostly of large, powerful strikes to knock the other off-balance, both fighters switching frantically from offense to defense.

After a number of deafening blows, Miles and Jata’s weapons clashed against one another, as the two pushed against each other in a deadlock.

It was then that Zach noticed something odd. It seemed as though Jata was intentionally trying to pin Miles in place with the deadlock, even stepping so as to turn Miles.

Zach, working on a hunch, looked over to where Miles’ back was turned to, and saw one of the raiders hiding in the shadow of the cliff, raising a long, thin tube up to his mouth.

“MILES!! BEHIND YOU!!” Zach screamed out, but the warning came too late.

The raider blew into the blowgun, and fired a miniscule dart that struck the back of Miles’ neck.

Miles disengaged from Jata as he brought a hand up to his neck, pulling out the source of the pinprick.

“You… Honorless… Scum…” Miles drawled out, fighting to keep his eyes open.

“Can’t blame me for evening the playing field.” Jata smirked. With Miles falling to his knees, Jata savored his victory, raising his khopesh high above Miles’ head. “Farewell, old friend!

NO!!!” A voice cried out before a masked Rajann leapt from the burning rooftop of a nearby hut, landing atop Jata’s back and driving their spear into the back of his shoulder.

Jata let out a pained roar, dropping his khopesh to the ground. He reached back and grabbed the masked Rajann, throwing them off his shoulder and driving them into the walls of the cave. The masked Rajann fell in a broken slump, their mask shattering against the cave wall revealing a bloodied opossum’s face.

“JESSICA!!” Zach cried out, attempting to go to her but was held back by the Rajann’s spears.

Jata reached back and, and with a snarl, pulled out Jessica’s spear, breaking it in two across his knee.

KILL THEM!!” Jata called out to his raiders. “KILL THEM ALL!!

The trial long forgotten, both the Rajann and the raiders charged at each in full force, completely engulfing Jata and Miles at the epicenter of their clash.

Even the Rajann guarding Zach and his brothers abandoned them to fight alongside their fellow Rajann. Zach could even see Lucretia going into the fray, revealing powerful magic building up in her hands that burned any raider that got close to her.

Zach tore his gaze away from the battle towards Jessica’s broken and crumpled body in the snow. He took a step towards her, hoping she was still alive.

“JESS-” Zach felt something solid hit him on the back of the head, and his vision started to tunnel. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was Tiger reaching down towards him.
---
However long passed before Zach regained his senses, he saw that he was being carried on Tiger’s shoulder like a potato sack as he and Marvin trekked down the mountain.

Zach recognized that they were near the bottom, far far away from the camp. The morning sun was just starting to rise and greet the day. Zach looked up and saw that there was still a plume of smoke coming from the top of the mountain.

“STOP!!” Zach cried, wriggling his way out of Tiger’s grasp until he fell face first into the snow. He sputtered out the white powder as he clambered back to his feet, already running back up the mountain.

“We need to go back! They need our help!” Zach yelled out as he ran, only to feel Marvin’s hand on his shoulder pulling him back.

“Zach, stop! We can’t go back!” Marvin tried to explain. “You heard what Lucretia said, you saw how they all looked at us. They think we betrayed them to that psycho! If we go back now, they’re just going to kill us!”

“But we didn’t do anything!” Zach cried. “If we just explain-”

“You think they’ll believe us? We’re outsiders, Zach. We have been ever since we first arrived.” Tiger said. “From their perspective, who else but us would they blame?”

Zach tried to argue. “But we can still help! They’re still in danger!”

Marvin shook his head. “The Rajann have lived this long, they’re not going to be taken down by some bandits. But we need to look out for ourselves. If we go back Zach, we will be asking to lose our heads.”

“But-”
“ZACH!!” Marvin yelled, grasping Zach tightly by his arms. “I know. I know you want to help. I know you don’t want to leave them behind. But what choice do we have?”

“We can’t just…” Zach said.

“We always knew we would leave the Rajann eventually, it just happened sooner than we thought.” Marvin said.

“But… Jessica…”
“Zach…” Marvin pleaded, and Zach looked him in the eyes and saw how close his brother was to tears. “I almost lost you once already. Don’t ask me to go through that again.”

Zach stood stock-still, still covered in snow. He glanced back toward the smoke, before sighing and turning back to his brothers. “Okay… Okay…”

“The Rajann will be fine, Zach.” Tiger assured the young rabbit. “And we got what we wanted from them anyway. No reason to stick around now.”

“Yeah…” Zach said, wiping his eyes on his sleeve, his mind still stuck on the image of Jessica’s bloodied face. “No reason to stick around.”

Happy that their brother saw reason, Marvin and Tiger turned to continue down the mountain path, Zach following them after only a few seconds of hesitation.

In the back of his mind, Zach knew it was for the best. He was alive and he and his brothers would be able to continue their adventurous lives together, just the three of them against the world.

But he couldn’t stop his tears as it hit him in full force that he would never see Jessica again.
---
Present Day

“So… It’s been a while.” Jessica said, swishing a wine glass in her hand as she glared at Zach.

Jessica, here in front of him! Alive and well! And clearly very, very unhappy to see him.
In the middle of a rescue mission to save Prince Keene's boyfriend.

Zach praised the fates, while at the same time cursing them for their timing.

Zach was completely at a loss for words, until his mouth deciding to speak without consulting his brain.
“You look nice.”

In retrospect, as Zach was sputtering out the wine Jessica splashed in his face, probably not the best thing to say.


Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:06 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Really great job on this chapter and how it went! It is so awesome!


Sat Jul 27, 2019 1:35 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Great job ob on this chapter! Keep up the good work!

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Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:50 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Aw dude I love this chapter, i wonder who's gonna be the real traitor

anyway yeah that is supposed to be Sasha I don't have a whole lot of experience with feminine figures which is why i went with her in the first place. while i was at it i tried to improve my digital coloring too.

Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
Wait a second? That's SASHA!? :shock: I thought that it was a hunky new fanmade character that you had in mind. :geek: Wow I'm really dumb then. He looked so handsome and dashing but he is actually a she :lol:

I do have a sketch of a fanmade character lying around i might ink her and color her in. In fact I may do a couple more depending on how i feel.

Image

I kinda want to come back to writing but getting back into the swing of things is proving to be more difficult that i expected

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Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:15 am
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
She's looking great, man!

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Sat Jul 27, 2019 1:05 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
If you do end up drawing then posting and digitally coloring an OC or other character, can the character instead be a hunk male please? XD


Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:29 pm
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Post Re: Housepets: World of Fantasy
Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
If you do end up drawing then posting and digitally coloring an OC or other character, can the character instead be a hunk male please? XD

Amazee, are we sure you’re not Sasha? :lol:


Sat Jul 27, 2019 3:15 pm
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