by Chris O'kane

Misha idly considered if it was worth the energy to get up and get another sandwich. "Is there anything left in the basket?" he asked Matthias.

The rat who was seated next to Misha stopped his writing and looked in the basket. "There's a bunch of grapes left. You want them?" he asked.

The fox sat up. "Sure, pass them over please." Matthias took a grape and handed the rest to his friend. As Misha slowly ate the grapes he watched Caroline and Kimberly splashing and playing in the river below them. "This picnic was a good idea Charles."

"That it was," Matthias replied. "We should have done this before."

"Sometimes you just have to relax and forget about the cares of the world," Misha said waxing philosophical.

"How are you doing? Any problems?" Charles asked.

"None really. Why? Is there something wrong?" the fox asked.

"No, but I heard Thomas ordered you to remain near the keep and not go on patrol." Matthias.

Misha nodded, "After Varnal's attempt on my life, Thomas decided it would be best for me to play it safe for a while."

"That makes sense," the rat replied.

"It does, but I'm bored silly," Misha explained.

"What are you doing?" Matthias asked.

Misha shrugged. "Mostly training recruits and scouts. Raven has asked me to give wilderness survival training to some of her initiates. That's pretty interesting. I'm the first non-Lightbringer some of them have ever gotten to know personally. The one girl was terrified of me. She thought I was some sort of homicidal maniac."

Charles chuckled at that remark. "Gee, it couldn't be because you carry a six foot battle axe and have a collection of your victims ears."

The fox laughed and shook his head. "Nah, everyone knows I'm a warm and lovable person."

"How long before the Duke lets you go out and play up north?" Matthias queried.

"A month or two. After that the novelty of the reward will wear off and I can relax a little," came the answer.

Misha turned to fully face Matthias and took deep breath. "Matt. Thomas, Phil, George and myself have been talking a few things over."

Matthias stopped writing and put his pad down. "About what? Me?" he asked.

"What do you know about the Long Scouts?" Misha asked solemnly.

The rat shrugged. "Not much. Just that they are a group of special scouts here at the Keep. They supposedly only report to the Duke."

"That's partially right, we report only to Thomas and Phil. We do a lot more that just scouting though," Misha explained. "You could say that we're the Keep troubleshooters. If there's a problem, we handle it. Bluntly put we are Thomas's commando's."

Charles looked at the fox in surprise. "You're a member?"

The scout gave a yip of amusement. "Not only am I a member. I'm the founder and leader. We're a small group, less than ten people. We think your special skills would be of great help. Would you consider joining the Long Scouts?" Misha asked.

"Me? I'm flattered, but I don't know," Matthias replied.

"Being a Long isn't easy. It means a lot of long, hard, dangerous work. And you'll be away from home for many weeks at a time," the Long Scout added. "But you do receive a lot of benefits, like higher pay and your exempt from Keep taxes. The greatest benefit is that you can really make a difference. No mindless patrolling. A lot of what we do is guerrilla warfare, hit and run raids, ambushes, and making things difficult for Nasoj. I don't expect you to give me an answer right away. Take your time, this is a big decision."

Matthias didn't answer right away, but looked at Caroline and Kimberly who were still playing in the water. "I'll think it over Misha, but that's all I can promise you."

"Fair enough," Misha replied.

"One question," Matthias asked. "Thomas sent me to Glen Avery as a test, didn't he?"

The fox nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I suggested it."

"Hey you two!" Caroline shouted. "Quit skulking around and come on in. The waters great!" The otter gave her tail a slap and drenched both the fox and the rat.

Dropping everything, both of them rushed for the water. All serious business forgotten.