by Chris Hoekstra

Kayla didn't have a great deal of trouble tracking down Rickkter upon overhearing some idle conversation about what happened at the Mule. Not only did she have Kyia's help in Metamor's changing layout, but she had a pretty good idea of where he would be at this point. Sure enough, as soon as the corridors of the keep began to look like those near his apartment she ran into the lingering miasma of skunk musk that she herself was so familiar with.

The source was soon apparent, too, it being an angry gray raccoon in cheap white robes with a sack over one shoulder. Rickkter's angry stance, flattened ears, and slowly lashing tail were enough to tell Kayla that he was as upset as she had overheard him described. She just hoped that she could calm him down before he did something rash.

"Rick, wait up!" At least he stopped after turning back to look at her, Kayla reflected as she jogged up to his side, her tail sweeping back and forth behind her acting as a natural counterweight. The scowl on his face and the downward slant of his ears did give her some reason for concern, though.. Her eyes were drawn over the cheap robes used in Metamor's baths, as well as the areas of still slightly damp fur on his exposed neck line and a rather heavy looking ruby and gold talisman around his neck. "I'm glad I found you," she chuffed as she came to a stop. "We need to talk."

"About what?" he asked innocently enough.

It had been the strong lingering odour of Muri's must that had enabled her to track Rickkter, and there was no doubt he had indeed been hit full force with it. Kayla had long since grown used to her own musk, but had not been exposed to an actual spray victim in a long time and muffled the cough that was tickling her throat. Doing so would probably not help her cause and only serve to remind Rickkter of his predicament.

"I heard about what happened at the Mule," she eventually managed. "I see it wasn't an exaggeration. Are you alright?"

The raccoon snorted back, his tail lashing around behind him. "You mean you smell that it wasn't an exaggeration. I'm fine, aside from this cursed smell. Though I still have a score to settle with that thrice damned skunk."

He started to turn away only to have Kayla grab his arm. "What do you mean? What are you going to do to him?"

"I figured I'd start by pulling that tail of his off by the root and then beating him with it!" Rickkter hissed in return through clenched teeth. "After that, I'm still debating. Though by the time I finally find him I should have decided." He pulled his arm from her grip and started back up the hall.

"Why? Because he's a skunk?" Kayla murred quietly. Rickkter stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back to her. Her head was tilted a little to one side and she was quirking one ear in that curious fore-to-back motion that Rick remembered was her way of raising an eyebrow since she could not do the latter. The tip of her bushy tail had been coiled around one of her shins. He glanced back at her for a moment, then shrugged.

"What does that have to do with anything? Yeah, he's a skunk. That doesn't mean he has to paint a tavern full of folks just because one fat little human scared him."

"He's a skunk." Kayla reiterated, crossing the hall to stand a couple feet away from him. She didn't seem to find the heavy, all encompassing reek to be all that distressing now. At least the expression on her face was not screwed up in a look of disgust and frustrated anger as he might have expected. "Skunks do that," she explained.

"Skunks do that." Rick echoed with a chuff, looking around the hall. He couldn't believe he was having this discussion with her or letting it go for so long. He also couldn't believe no one else had come across them. Then the realization that any animal morph with a working nose, and probably the rest of the Keep as well, would have the sense to stay away from one like him made his muzzle curl up in a snarl, a low growl boiling up from his throat. Turning his attention back to the skunk he asked, "Have you?"

Kayla merely looked at him for a few long moments, her eyes holding steady for several heartbeats before she tore her gaze away from his, looking across at the far wall of his room, and nodded once, slowly.

"Oh?" the raccoon asked in surprised, his eye ridges going up a few inches. It came as an amazing bit of news, that the mild tempered lady standing next to him could ever be pushed so far as to use the same ability Murikeer seemed to use at the drop of a proverbial hat. "When? On whom?"

"A long time ago." She sighed softly, looking at her hands as she folded them across her from, tightening her legs and the clasp of her tail around the one. She plucked lightly at the thin fabric of her dress and took a deep breath. "It was not long after I changed, and I was still pretty unsettled because of the whole situation. I was being… helped, by human here who… thought he could take advantage of my condition for his own benefits." She looked up, briefly catching the raccoon's curious gaze before looking back at her nervous paws. "When I finally decided that he had absolutely no care for me I tried to break it off… but he would not let me go."

"Why?" Rick asked, the irritation gone from his voice, replaced with genuine interest.

"He thought I owed him. He figured that, because I was penniless, I would be easy prey for him." She hissed softly, flexing her fingers for a moment at the memories.

"So you sprayed him?"

She nodded slowly, her ears folding back. After a long moment she looked up, one corner of her muzzle drawn up in an unreadable expression, "He tried to have his way with me after I had told him to leave off, that I was going to go my own way." Rickkter shook his head at that. He had seen far too many women in his many years as a mercenary treated with the same cold, callous regard. "I let him go… to a certain point, then let him have it."


That enigmatic twist of her muzzle grew a little evil as she raised her hand, and placed the black tip of her claw against her lower lip, her muzzle opened slightly. Rick blinked as he looked at her teeth, perfect, gleaming white. They were not the long, slender fangs that filled the raccoon's muzzle, being somewhat shorter, a little thicker, but just as sharp at the points. It took him a moment to pull his gaze away from how beautiful even her noticeably inhuman teeth were and meet her gaze.

It was another moment before he realized what she was trying to say. Once he did, he bust out laughing before turning back with an incredulous smirk on his face

"In the mouth?" his statement trailed away in disbelief. "It didn't kill him?!"

Kayla smiled and shook her head, averting her gaze once more. "No, but it sure made him wish he were dead, and he never came near me again." She reached out and placed the pads of her fingertips lightly against his own lips as her smile softened warmly. "No one had anything to remove my musk then, so he had to live with it for weeks. He very nearly starved to death."

"I'll bet." Rick muttered, looking at the skunk across from him with a new found regard. "So who was he?" he asked, his ears perked up atop his head.

"Someone of no regard at all," she told him with a grimace, folding her arms over her chest. Kayla tilted her head to the side and regarded the raccoon for a moment, uncoiling her tail from her leg. Well, the hard part of her task had been accomplished, she had managed to calm Rickkter down. Now to ensure that he didn't go off again. "So where did you find an unguent to clean up with?"

"Pascal," he explained, hooking his finger over his shoulder. "Though I can tell you that she wasn't pleased to have me walk in on her like that. Seems that I wasn't the only victim of this skunk's antics," he said, leaving forward a few inches and drawing up his lips to emphasise the point.

"His name is Murikeer," she murmured.

"Whatever. All I know is that he also sprayed another group the day before, or so the man at the baths told me. I went there after seeing Pascal. I didn't get two feet into the door before she was screaming at me to get out and literally threw scent remover at me. It was a good thing I managed to catch it or else I would have been knocked cold. I just spent over an hour in one of the private bath rooms putting the stuff to good use. I guess I was 'lucky' to have gotten one of those for myself," he concluded with a small snarl.

Kayla was visibly taken back by his sudden turn of mood and had retreated several steps before reminding herself that this was for a fellow skunk she was doing this. Muri was still new to Metamor and she didn't want him to feel as much an outcast as she was. Stealing herself, she advanced once more on the raccoon, braving his temper and the reek of skunk spray.

"I thought I explained why he did that, Rick?"

"What? You mean because he's a skunk? That still doesn't excuse him from dousing damn near half the bar! If every animal morph gave into their instincts like that, we'd have a lot more accidental killing and eating of other keepers."

Kayla winced at his accusations but held her ground before shouting back at him. "Damn it, Rick, don't you ever bother finding out something about the people who attack you before retaliating? From what I've seen here, I'd guess not, and am frankly surprised you've lived as long as you have! Did it ever occur to you to ask WHY he was so frightened of that obnoxious little fat man in the Mule? No, I bet it didn't!" Pausing for a breath, she momentarily reflected how surprising it was that he hadn't snapped on her and was just standing there with a stunned look on his face and his muzzle hanging open a few inches. "Perhaps you should have. Because if you did, you might realize that Muri is nothing more than a frightened young man who has spent the last few years fighting for his life in the wilds to the north. You might even realize how much more *you* managed to terrorize him in there. You might even see that this was all a mistake on his part and perhaps let it go."

Snorting, though not in a condescending manner, Rickkter directed his gaze to the floor then off to one of the walls. His tail swished around in lazy patterns behind him. "Perhaps your right," he finally admitted. "And since you know so much about him, perhaps you'd care to explain some of this to me?"

Kayla sighed, relaxing some. She was never one for confrontations, but then again she was never one to let friends down. And while Muri was only a new friend, he most certainly still was a friend. After all, animal morphs at Metamor always seemed to gather together and stick up for each other, be they horse or fox or rat or cat. And she was not going to let one of the very few of her own kind come to any harm if she could help it at all. Nodding at the raccoon, she conceded.

"Good, we can do it at my place. I want to get rid of these clothes as soon as I can," he said, hefting the bag of clothes over his shoulder. "I want to see if there is anything I can do about the smell on these."

The tip of the skunkette's tail flittered cat-like around as she clasped her paws behind her back and favoured the warrior with a demure smile much like she used to do before the change. "Okay, then. You lead the way."