Enemy Within

by Stealthcat and Christian O'Kane


He hated these jobs but sometimes they came up; manual labour of heavy goods, and the carriage driver refused to enter the premises!

“I’ve got deadlines” The stoat said with a crack of the horse whip, “And I’m running late!”

As the cheetah worked furiously to stack and move the boxes, a child approached from the gates.

“Refreshments?” She asked, holding out a cup of tea.

Stealth smiled at the kid, “Thank you, dear.” He stopped and took a sip, feeling rejuvenated and amazed at how the child had managed to transport the cup without spilling the contents all the way from the Jolly Collie’s kitchen. The kid was an AR, yet still a true child also; 14 or so. Stealth hadn’t seen much of the staff but they were always about the Inn, fussing over cleanliness and other duties.

“Could you fetch me some help, or a guard to watch over these boxes while I move them?”

The young girl pointed to two men in uniform approaching, “Don’t worry; the watch is here. They can, er, keep watch.”

The two watchmen stopped and gazed at the boxes before one of them turned to the child and said, “These don’t go here, love.”

“Actually,” The feline interrupted, “I put them there.”

“Oh, never mind then.” The watchman answered and turned back to the servant, “When will you have these cleared? There is a tariff on obstructions.”

“I’ll move them. And I am unaware of any tariffs...” Stealth commented.

“Be on your way!” The watchman ordered, “Clear these, now” He said to the human.

“I’m trying...” The AR whimpered.

“I can move those quickly.” Stealth said loudly. “And they are my responsib...”

“Do not interfere! Now away with you!” The watchman said, waving his spear about. “Clear this mess, lass, or the tariff will be double.”

“Why are you picking on her?!” The cheetah demanded.

“Leave or you will be arrested.”

“Alright...” He said slowly, “I’ll fetch the manager...”

“This is sick...” The feline complained, “SICK!”

He’d been left in that cell for almost all of four hours, he’d never raised a fist in anger or become abusive, they dragged him away when he began to leave.

Still more time passed. He paced, sat, stood and repeated the process. Frustration grew but there was no release for it short of punching the stone walls or trying to shake the bars.

The feline’s ears perked... he could hear the guards talking to someone... It was Misha! He could hear the watch giving their ‘report’, their account, and every word of it was a bloody lie... Stealth began to snarl and claw at the wall. His anger built up when he could hear them mentioning the bail cost. Was the fox considering it?!

“DON’T GIVE THEM A COPPER!” He shouted out.

“Oh?” Misha asked in surprise, “I thought you said he was being held at a different watch house.”

“He is currently being held here at this time, pending a...”

“I want to see him. Now” The fox demanded.

“Now, see here, that’s a decision for the sheriff, following a review of the arrest this week.”

“NOW” He ordered.

“You don’t give the orders here.”

The fox forced his way past the officers, to the cells.

It was like a liberation army storming a dark citadel, or so it went in the feline’s mind. Of course Misha stopped short of forcing open the bars and instead listened calmly to Stealth, as he had to the Watch. The feline was more forthcoming with the events that unfolded and the vulpine quickly weighed up both stories before turning back and shouting, “WHY WERE YOU HARRASSING HER? THE TRUTH AND NOT THAT ($^%&*% CRAP YOU TOLD ME!”

“Threatening the watch?”

Misha swore in a dozen different languages and threw a metal cup at the wall before demanding answers again.

The watchman crossed his arms and said calmly, “There’s room in that cell for you, master Brightleaf.”

“You’re arresting ME!?” he shouted then suddenly seemed to calm down. “All right,” he said in a deadly soft tone. “Arrest me. And let’s let the Duke decide what happened. And who should be punished.”

“Good lord, please not that!!!” The watchman said melodramatically, “...is that what you expected me to say? The duke will listen to reason, not an axe wielding maniac.”

“Who do you think Thomas will believe, a simple watch sergeant? Or the leader of his elite scouts and a good friend.”

“Why are you interfering yourself?” The mink snarled, “You and that cat. Just leave us to our business.”

“And what is that business? Upholding the law or harassing people?”

“Now wait just a minute, I work hard for a living. And I DON’T need some dummy spitting egotist who lives in a castle interfering in my job.”

“Interfering?” Misha said in a voice as cold and hard as a steel sword blade. “If you actually did your job I wouldn’t have to get involved you stupid, donut eating moron.”

“LET’S forget this happened.” Another watchman cut in, physically separating the two, “Both sides did some stupid things tonight.”

The mink took a deep breath and emanated a deep guttural sound, “I suppose we can process you and your friend, now. We’ll let you off, this time.”

“Spots, I want to you head back to the Collie and check up on Claudice. Tell her she can have a couple days off.”

The cheetah nodded, “Should I pretend I have no knowledge of what you’re going to do?”

“It would be for the best but I’ll try not to get into trouble.” The vulpine said and turned on his paws back to the watch house.

Misha stopped well short of the door and changed direction, heading down a tight alleyway. He eventually found a portion of the walls he found sufficient for scaling and in moments was on the rooftops. Stepping cautiously and silently, the fox scout found an iron bared window on one of the higher levels. Placing his foot paws on the edge of the roof he stood on, Misha allowed himself to fall forward until his hands rested on the wall of the watch house, on either side of the barred window. The total size of the gap between the two buildings was less then three feet.

The fox gently pried open the window with his claws and perked his ear towards the gap... He could hear voices within...

“He’s gonna need us, when she steals something. When she commits crimes. Why didn’t the pink skins just leave after Three Gates, they’re gonna let in lutins now. That’s what that fox is doing, you know that?”

“We used to be pink skins, Devyn.”

“Yeah, and tell that to them down south. We’re freaks and we’re stuck in this hole. Even the Duke shuns them, that’s why he married a donkey and his daughter won’t be heir to the throne.”

Misha shook his head sadly. “I’ve got lots of enemies outside the valley and now 1 more. Inside.”

There was a toasty fire roaring in the Collie’s commons and the treats baked up were delicious but the vulpine was too preoccupied.

“He’s not an enemy,” The cheetah interrupted, “He’s an idiot. If you count every idiot out there as an enemy, then, well, that’s everyone.”

The fox waved his hand, “Yeah but this idiot has some form of power and, dare I say it, respect... I think we should leave the watch alone for a while... but I’ll be watching him.”

“Report him to his superiors,” Stealth mentioned after a sip of tea, “Or steal his clothes and dye him pink, or what you do.”

“I HAVE to do something about him. I just don't know what... but I will say this, it will be an experience, I can tell you that.”

“Bureaucracy always protects these people.”

“I wish we were in Marigund.” Misha said.

“Marigund?" Stealth asked surprised. “Why?”

"Because then I’d just go to his superior and bribe him to reassign the fool to somewhere nasty."

“Naughty fox.” The cat said.

Misha nodded vigorously and wagged his tail. “Hey! That might work here! I wonder if the sewer has a watch post.”