The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

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The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:38 am

By Grufftoof & Mumak of The Third Way

For P


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:39 am

Prologue


Can rats swagger? They can skitter certainly. And scatter most definitely. Scamper and such of course. But swagger? I’m sure you’ll agree a swagger needs two legs. And possibly a cigar.

But, should it be possible, this rat certainly seemed to swagger. Cock-sure they may have called it, if it were a chicken. Or a particularly well endowed rodent. Either way, this rat had a purpose to its small stride. A glint in its evil little red eyes. And bugger me (please don’t) even a grin across its white whiskered face.

For this was no ordinary rat. This was Whiskers. Formerly lab rat of some crazed troll. This was Whiskers. With his pharmaceutical dependency and hooked on 40 a day. This was Whiskers. Scarred and shaved, with those odd patches where no hair grew, and that strange ear-shaped thing that grew from his back. This was Whiskers. With his electrode studded brain - a guinea pig in rat clothing. This was Whiskers. And Whiskers had a plan.

***

“Squeak” Whiskers addressed the assembled masses. “Squeak, squeak”. Now he had their attention, it was time to put his plan into motion. He cleared his little rat throat “Squeak” and began…

“Squeak!” a murmur of dissent from a rat in the third or fourth row. The albino made a note of the muzzle and moved on. In the New Rat Order there would be no place for questions. No place for trouble in the furred ranks. The New Rat Order would rule with an iron fist! A tiny iron fist; which would more accurately be described as claw-shaped. His whiskered kin would follow the New Rat Order - or perish!

The choice was simple! “Squeak!” From the throng a hushed awe. If rats could hush. Or indeed be awestruck. Nevertheless those hundreds of pairs of eyes turned to the albino squeaker and listened. It should, perhaps, be said that some of those eyes were blind. Or, through misadventure or not-so-misadventure, solitary. And hence not actually in pairs. So it was really many hundreds of eyes, paired and otherwise, which turned to the rat.

“Squeak!!” the legion of rats called in unison. “Squeak!!” again came their cry! For rats were surprisingly easy to win over. Surprising to rats, but probably not to the reader. For rats believe themselves very clever. And, whilst it is true they have an animal cunning, a viciousness (especially when acting en masse); something akin to intellect, it is nothing a carefully constructed maze and a lump of smelly cheese cannot easily win over.

Like many of the baser beasts hunger led them. They thought with their stomachs. Well, no that’s not true, they thought with their brains. But their brains often listened only to their stomachs. When full (unlikely) or empty (more likely). Their brains also listened to their genitalia. But that isn’t a topic I shall discuss (at least not now).

It was to their stomachs Whiskers made his plea (by way of their ears and brain). “Squeak?! Squeak. Squeak-squeak”. Shocked? Well, so you should be. For such a thing is monstrous. Yet such a thing was to come to pass. For the New Rat Order would rise.

All hail the New Rat Order!

All hail King Rat!

“SQUEAK!”


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:40 am

Chapter 1


The Tauren stretched and yawned as he strode along the moonlit shore of Moonglade's lake. His latest dreams had left him with a pungent taste in his mouth every time he awoke, and today was no different. Silently he snickered to himself, rats on a conquest... Smee an automaton... indeed. As if his tasks in the Emerald Dream were not taxing enough, he now had his former comrades prancing around in his regular dreams as well.

The vivid after-images of a specific Troll and his unclean pastimes did seem rather realistic though. Dunking his shaggy head into the cool water, he drank deep to chase away these unwelcome thoughts. As he shook his mane, he realised this matter would haunt his daydreams if he did not find out more. With a rumbling sigh the hulking druid called upon the Earthmother's grace to send him a messenger. As soon as the owl (seemed the Earthmother too was not without irony) alighted on his arm, the druid whispered his commands.

As soon as the owl took flight, the Tauren spotted two Sentinels waiting at a respectful distance, their wounds apparent underneath their armour. With a gentle smile, he acknowledged their presence and strode towards them. "Yes my stalwart protectors, they await. I know. Let us step into the realm of nightmare once more." As they strode towards the village of Moonglade, the wounds on the Night Elves already faded away to nothingness. And as the Tauren set his mind to the upcoming, relentless struggle to keep Azeroth's sleeping world safe, a small portion of his mind kept wondering what news the owl would bring back.

***

Clever as he was (which was, as I’m sure you no doubt see for yourself, very clever) Whiskers was still a rat. Albeit a rat with an oversized brain and an overactive pituary gland (amongst other glands… and organs). He understood this was a picture (a concept lost on most of the rats. Pictures were not real. Not usually anyway. And they weren’t food. Again, not usually anyway. Not even when they were pictures of food – sometimes even Whiskers brain ached when he thought of such alien things).

It was a picture of a two-leg. But a two-leg made from other two-legs. A two-leg made from other two-legs and stuck together with bits of other stuff. The non-two-leg things that weren’t food. The kind of things which were all around his old cage in the laboratory. Like the electrode that fizzed in his over-sized brain. Or the sheet of metal bolted to his ribcage. This was before the big flash. And the funny smell. And the heat which burnt the end of his tail.

Such things were difficult to comprehend. But Whiskers was clever. And he had plans. The New Rat Order would raise. “Squeak”. Indeed, it was much more eloquently put when seen that way. Far simpler to understand. “Squeak!”

And so, as one, as a swarming mass of rat. A living carpet of fur, teeth, and claws. The New Rat Order began its work. Like a skittering tide they rolled down the sewer, Whiskers born afloat, chittering orders, directions, driving the New Rat Order to their Ratopia. “Squeak!!”

“Squeak-squeak!” came the reply. His brethren (indeed many were directly related, evidenced by the webbed-paws and other genetic… ‘differences’) surged onwards. They had fed on things unknown, on tainted flesh, on pools of evil liquid, on odd blobs of matter. The detritus of the laboratory and the apothecary. They were the rodent demon seed of the Undercity. And they had arrived at the secret gate from the sickly waterways; their exit from this place.

Through this entrance, Whiskers told them, Ratopia would be found!

"Squeak"

And there they would found their New Rat Order!

"SQUEAK!"

But first they had to figure out how to open this big bloody door...
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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:43 am

Chapter 2

It was no hoot. It wasn’t even very funny. That bloody owl, again. Somewhere in the city. Calling out (tuuuuwit), then flitting somewhere and answering its own plaintive call (twoooo). It really must be a very simple owl. Or drunk. Do owls get drunk, Grufftoof was perplexed by this. Which didn’t help his sleep much. An intellect as vast and superior as his needed plenty of rest as well as stimulus. And now was a time for rest. If only that bloody owl would cease its din… surely half the city was annoyed by this nocturnal visitor. Grufftoof raised himself on one elbow and, with bloodshot eyes and through purple haze, looked out of the grill-like window of the Lab. No lights save those of the guard posts. Not one other soul seemed bothered by that incessant feathered nuisance. That bloody owl… bloody owl… damn… now Grufftoof was hungry too.

***

CLANG!

“SQUEAK!”

CLANG!

“SQUEAK!”

CLANG!

This had been going for some time now. Scores of rats lay dazed and confused in front of the great iron door. Their heads swimming, eyes crossed, stunned as they tried to bash the door with their small rodent heads. Whiskers muttered to himself and cursed their stupidity, “Squeak?... Squeak!”

The clanging stopped abruptly. Those eyes that were able turned to the white rat, expectantly, waiting his words, confirmation of his plan.

“Squeak, squeak”

It was a plan of cunning. Simple yet brilliant. Alone the rats were failing. But together…?

“Squeak!” A New Rat Order! “Squeak!” To King Rat!

The rodents gathered, they skittered and scattered, and as one they writhed. They bit and clawed and held fast, a strange sight indeed unfolding in that dank, dark place. They swarmed and there grew a body, a rat, of many made. A symbol of the New Rat Order. A homage to King Rat. As one they would act, and through this strength no two-leg door would stand in their way.

Whiskers scampered up the wickerwork of rat bodies. Climbing to its very ‘head’, the brain of this terrifying legion. “SQUEAK!”

And forward the golem-rat surged, each individual working for the whole. A true wonder of the New Rat Order.

CLANG!

THUMP!

CLANG!

“SQUEAK!!”

And then with a scrape and a creak the giant gate was open, a light at the end of that tunnel. A sight of Ratopia.


***

Grufftoof scanned the city. He looked atop the chimneystacks and the crooked gables of the Orcish stronghold. Yet nowhere did he see it.

But Grufftoof was clever and so he looked down as well as up. He bent and looked at the sand covered streets. For the visitor must have left as sign of its passing. And by passing he meant poo. Or maybe pellets, it being an owl.

The streets, however, were bare. Bereft they were of poop. As the skyline was bereft of feathers. Neither statement was true of course, the Tauren were not all city-trained, and the stormcrows of war were ever present these days.

Yet, blast it, there was just no sign of the owl. It haunted the troll though. Its hoot and howl. Its twit and twoo. Every night they sounds filled his dreams with their eerie music. His slumber seldom took him to pleasant places. But usually the dreamscapes were a little less disturbing. Or disturbed. And much less green.

The doctor needed something. Something to still his mind. To set aside the feathered beast. The answer, well, was obvious. Drugs. Drugs were the logical solution. Perhaps drink too. Though drugs (were usually) preferable. Especially as they were free, or at least readily available in the Lab.

Oh, yes. What would be better than a cocktail of drugs and drink. Maybe a hot bath too? Grufftoof was sure he had read this somewhere. A hot bath, and candles, and maybe some oil. Or rose petals. Or rose petal oil. Or something. Though, well, this all sounded a bit… human.

Drugs, drink, and yes, the hot bath (his muscles were sore, honest, just a soak for his muscles) and the candles (how else would he light his pipe?). this sounded like a plan. A way to silence that bloody bird. Grufftoof staggered labward (its difficult to walk when you haven’t slept in over a fortnight. Even more so when your muscles ache… from exercise… yeah…). He would find his therapy!

Necking a handful of pills (all except the blue ones, he wasn’t sure about those) and lighting his pipe the troll submerged his body in the steaming bath. A blissful smile crept across his tusked face as the warm, wet peace enveloped him, like a warm, wet peaceful thing. The tallow candles (well, it was a shame to waste the fat from some of his procedures) flickered around the troll’s tub. He blinked, his spectacled eyes becoming heavy, drifting off into his wonderful narcotic dream world.

And then, as he slipped further, his neck lolling back on the bath’s rim, the lens of his goggle fogged. In the distance the feint sound of an bird’s heavy wing beats. Then, a plaintive hoot. And the world went green.
It was no hoot. It wasn’t even very funny. That bloody owl, again. Somewhere in the city. Calling out (tuuuuwit), then flitting somewhere and answering its own plaintive call (twoooo). It really must be a very simple owl. Or drunk. Do owls get drunk, Grufftoof was perplexed by this. Which didn’t help his sleep much. An intellect as vast and superior as his needed plenty of rest as well as stimulus. And now was a time for rest. If only that bloody owl would cease its din… surely half the city was annoyed by this nocturnal visitor. Grufftoof raised himself on one elbow and, with bloodshot eyes and through purple haze, looked out of the grill-like window of the Lab. No lights save those of the guard posts. Not one other soul seemed bothered by that incessant feathered nuisance. That bloody owl… bloody owl… damn… now Grufftoof was hungry too.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:46 am

Chapter 3



Ratopia. How do I begin to describe its wonder? “Squeak” would be a start.

More than that. Ratopia was “Squeak”, as “Squeak” was Ratopia.

Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to you (it isn’t really that clear to me, and I’m the one telling this tale). But Ratopia wasn’t simply a place. No, it was the place. The place inside every rat. The place that they skittered to when scared. The place they sought refuge from the two-legs. The place that made them. The place that held them. And the place that set them free.

It was the only place truly theirs. Their reason for being (save food, sex, and sleep - and all three combined in some parts or in full). The philosophically inclined rat may have described it (whilst stroking his rodent beard, smoking his rodent pipe and wearing his rodent-cardigan – the one with the little leather patches) as both their rat ego and their rat id. To others still it would be the rodent soul.

Which ever way you looked at it. Ratopia was here. Here, on Azeroth. In a house, by a lake, near the mountains.


***

Surrounded by swirling incandescent energies, the druid stood atop a mountain peak deep within in the Emerald Dream. His companions were ill at ease as they stood, weapons drawn, scanning the surroundings. The Tauren grunted with the effort of opening the window on the waking world. Through the opaque surface a small owl could be seen which hooted its message to its friend. The druid nodded to his feathered friend; "Thank you. If your findings are correct, we should soon meet a fragment of his dreaming soul in this realm"

Without any warning the energies winked out of existence, and with them the window on the waking world. With a serene smile the Tauren looked at his nervous Elvish companions. "What? You're worried now? This promises interesting times when we find the Troll's dream-self and ask him about his connection to the rats."

The Sentinels merely shrugged and followed the Tauren down the rocky slope.

***

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise. So the song goes. Though really it raises more questions than gives answers. Why is the teddy bear picnic in the woods, and not somewhere more civilized like a park, or somewhere with a scenic vista? What are little children doing in woods anyway? Such places are full of dangerous beasts, kobolds, goblins, gnomes, and (if the song is to be believed) sentient, hungry bears. Indeed why are teddy bears picnicking in the first place? If you became sentient would you suddenly want a picnic? Or would you growl ferociously (these are bears after all) and hunt down the bastard who stuffed you?

Teddy bears aside – in fact, woods, picnics and inquisitive and troublesome children aside (for now) – if you went down to the lakeside abode of Mr Zebediah J. Thrumpleton today you would be in for a very, very big surprise. Or rather, a small surprise, many nasty, small, furry, biting surprises.

Ratopia was no place for a two-leg. Sure, Zebediah may have argued that this wasn’t Ratopia, this was the Thrumpleton Smallholding. It said so on the deeds held in Southshore Town Hall. But rats weren’t really ones for record keeping (though Whiskers still clutched the ragged bit of paper from the Lab). Nor were they ones for debating the land rights of two-legs, the nature of ownership or much else besides. Well, perhaps “Squeak”. But most two-legs failed to see the relevance or appeal of such a topic.

Yesterday just so happened to be the funeral of little Margot Thrumpleton. Search parties had found the body quick enough after the alarm was raised. What was left of her had been discovered by the lake. The fish had just begun to nibble at her pale little fingers and toes, but her dress was recognizable. Which was a good thing, for as her body was pulled from the reedy water, it became gruesomely apparent that she was missing something quite important. Her head.

Margot’s corpse was removed with care, draped in a blanket and taken home. Amid much wailing and cries she was interred in a little wooden box, and a hole dug deep in the family garden. Prayers to the light were led by the preacher from Southshore in order to deliver her little soul safe to the other side. When his back was turned the older, more superstitious locals made prayers of their own, to the Lake-Spirit , The Boatman and the Mother of the Fields. Carefully the box was lowered and Margot lay still in her final resting place.

The damp earth was scattered atop, final prayers were said, final tears cried. The preacher and nearby farmers returned to their homes, and the Thrumpleton’s returned to their small home. All was quiet, all was still, until, in the middle of the night the sound of scratching could be heard from the freshly made grave.


***

Even with the monumental amount of drugs Grufftoof had “administered” over the years this was an experience unlike any other. It started innocently enough, drifting off in his tub, eyelids closing.

The sleeping darkness was lit by wave after wave of green. The rhythm of the light like the ripples in his tub. Then he was there, floating on a sea of verdant green. Floating in his tub, piloted by unseen currents like a canoe down river. He turned marveling at the green sea, an island off to the port, or was it the starboard, a giant blue island. And another to the other side. The tub-boat bobbed and floated on. Grufftoof turned to look behind him. Only it wasn’t behind him. It was him. Staring at himself, gigantic, sat in a bath tub. Troll in tub, in tub with troll. Trolls and tubs all the way down.

The tub was caught in a swift current now, the brilliant green waters draining down some unseen hole. Round and round the tub-boat went. Down and down. Grufftoof looked back one last time at his mammoth mirror image. “Irey! Mon, down da plug’ol wiv ya!” boomed his giant-self with a grin.

And he was gone, tumbling in his tub. Through the cosmos, past stars and planets. But it wasn’t the inky black of space. It was green. And, no, that wasn’t a star at all. But a brilliant green flower. Millions upon millions of twinkling flowers, dotted throughout the lush sky. Shooting star-flowers zipped and weaved around. Planets turned to giant budding plants. The universe unmade, remade as a beautiful garden of green.

Then he was still. And around the floral sky was laid out as a meadow. Greens of every hue painted large across the world. A sense of growth, of life. Grufftoof tingled, he felt at once alive and dreaming. Both right here and now, and far away.

“Dok, iyv a feelin we aynt in Orgimma ani mo”

***

A distraught Zebediah held a torch above the small patch of earth under which his daughter lay. The scratching was loud. Occasionally it would stop altogether and a feint muffled noise would be heard. What manner of evil was this? Surely the illness which gave birth to the Scourge was not found here. Hadn’t the preacher given the correct blessings? Maybe Zebediah should have been more pious? Could this be retribution for his most inappropriate thoughts about the Widow Matlock? Zebediah swore by the most holy Light that he would never think of such unseemly acts. At least for the time being.

The scratching grew louder still. Barely beneath the surface. There, twitching, moving, the soil began to churn. Zebediah stepped back and stumbled upon the wet turf. His legs buckled and he fell heavily on his rear. Fear gripped him, the taste of it in his mouth, the bilious discharge of his horrified guts. The lamp fallen on the floor flickered and grew dim. Zebediah whimpered and fell silent. For all around and about him, pouring from the grave like a sea of furred corruption, were hundreds and hundreds of rats.

At their head was a foul wee beast; twisted and grotesque, a cruel fusion of metal and mammal. The albino rat turned as if to take the measure of the man laying before him. The rat host stopped, eyes glinting in the pale moonlight.

“Squeak”.

And with teeth and claw they fell upon him.
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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:49 am

Chapter 4


The Tauren scratched his mane. Twice now they had been assaulted by things never seen before in the Dream. His protectors were still panting and whispering to each other as he let his rejuvenating powers do their work.

A fragment of a whispered sentence caught his ear and he nearly lost his concentration. "What was that? Those phantoms we fought were surely not rats? I fear we have even less time to lose in this case. We have to find that Troll and make him see what he has set in motion! You two move ahead towards that mountain peak where these rat-phantoms came from."

As the Elves set off towards the mountain, the druid concentrated and felt his muscles and bones shift and realign. With a snarl a large sabre-toothed feline sat in his place. It had the vague scent of Troll in its nostrils, and powerful muscles propelled it towards its quarry.

***

The rats had made short work of the farmer. They made short work of his sleeping parents, his cattle, the dog and, for good measure, they made very short work of the contents of the small holding’s meager larder.

Ratopia was founded on the bones of the Thrumpleton farm (quite literally). Claws and teeth were put to work excavating tunnels to and from the buildings. In packs and groups the rodent horde made barricades and blocked doors and windows. Ratopia was dug down and out. Spreading across the farmland like a cancer.

And like a plague the rats brought with them disease and death. Within days the crops withered and died. The garden and trees rotted and warped. It was as though the earth itself became blighted by their malevolent presence. Corrupted by their creation. Their Ratopia.


***

The troll began to walk, the cushioning floor of flowers lifting his steps, making each footfall soft, silent. Everywhere around was the beauty of nature untouched. The grass swayed under feint warm breeze, the air hummed with the sound of thousands of bees, the sun shone brightly upon this wonderful green paradise. The scents, the sights, the sounds. Dreamlike and yet very real.

But, the thing with dreams is they can quickly go down hill. Especially when you’re a drugged-up, slightly unhinged troll with a penchant for strange behavior. When you fit that bill dreams tend to start down hill. And get worse fast. So it would appear here too. For Grufftoof saw, in the distance of the swaying meadow, a catlike form in the grass. Bearing down upon him with unnerving speed.

***

In the bowels of their new haven, in a cavernous space the had excavated directly below the old farmstead, Whiskers stood before a mighty horde or his brethren. Their numbers had swelled dramatically as whiskered whispers spread throughout the area. Tales of Ratopia, of King Rat, or the New Rat Order.

And this made Whiskers happy. For he would need many of his brothers and sisters. So many of his kin. King Rat demanded it. To found the New Rat Order, a true Ratopia, they would bring him forth. With King Rat at their head the wave of furred would sweep away the world of the two-legged.

For such a thing they must work together, must slave together in the dark. And for such a thing, certain steps must be taken.

Turning to the rough hewn altar in front of the giant effigy of King Rat, Whiskers called out “Squeak!” and raised his little claws.

And the first sacrifice died squeaking.
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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:55 am

Chapter 5


As the sleek muscles of the large cat propelled it forwards, it became aware of a subtle change in the very air. Stray dreams drifted by, some of them being rent asunder by a bloated miasma of something very, very wrong. Whisps of thought, alien and unsettling, were discernable in the churning black cloud. "Squeak" seemed to be the most prominent of these.

Urging his body to greater speed, the druid spotted a slouching figure in the distance. Somehow, the wrongness was linked to this figure, and it was no wonder at all that the features of this figure slowly clarified into those of his Troll prey. Oblivious of the threads of dream-matter linking him to the roiling miasma, the Troll seemed to be in some form of daze.

Although the druid was not easily angered, the overwhelming sense of foreboding that emanated from the mountains behind him combined with the presence of his clearly drugged up former comrade in arms sparked a discordant note. So it may not be with a total lack of smugness that he leapt straight for the Troll after this one mumbled something that sounded like "Ere kiddy kiddy!". In mid-leap, the druid forced his sleek catform to grow several hundred pounds of muscle and fat.

After a most satisfying "OOF!" from the Troll, Mumak sat atop Grufftoof's chest and greeted his old friend with a soft-spoken "Hello Doctor".

***

A giant cat. With the face of a flower. A giant flower-faced cat. Which flew. Or was flying. Now it was sat on him, talking. Or wait. It wasn’t flower-faced. That was… hmm, it was familiar. In some way. Not a cat. But. Was it Mumak?

Grufftoof rubbed his eyes, but the dream was still there. The cat/Tauren/flower still sat on top. It seemed only right to talk to it. Seeming as it had a friendly face. Or at least one the troll seemed to think might be friendly. One he hoped was not specifically evil. Yes… he hoped.

Thoughts swirled and shifted like mist. The world at once solid seemed to shift and warp. Wherever this was, it didn’t seem very… stable. Stability being questionable when related to anything Grufftoof.

Why was it now talking too. Talking? No. Mooing. Yes. No. Yes. Music? The troll didn’t know, and the world kept spinning.

Grufftoof wasn’t usually scared. Indeed he was brave and strong. Or foolish. Which was almost the same. But this drug-induced dream was scary. It must be a dream. This flower beast was some kind of nightmare.

“Dat be trew, yuz” the Troll spoke to himself (startled slightly by his dream-voice echoing in his ears) “diz all be a dreem an ting. If I cloze mi eyez dey go awayz!”.

And with that Grufftoof shut his eyes tight and tried to think of something cosy and pleasant. Like a nurse, in uniform, bending over the operating table… but why were there little eyes everywhere. And what was that noise…

That squeaking?!

***

The furry bodies lay broken and torn. The hearts ripped from their little bodies piled in front of the towering mockery that was the colossus of King Rat. The cavernous space of the Ratopia temple-pit was awash with blood and gore.

Still more sacrifices were brought before the crude altar. Their lifeless corpses tossed aside. They no longer died squeaking, they shuffled to their fate with an eerie calm, transfixed by the events, willingly going onward for the twisted glory of the New Rat Order. Their life, their suffering for King Rat.

A murmuring chant filled the once proud farmstead… “squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak…” The diseased and rotten place was now shrouded in a noisome darkness. Shapeless beings twisted and writhed in the encroaching shadow… “… squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak…”.

And at the centre, amidst the bloodied bodies of scores of rats, his white fur stained red with the lifeblood of his brethren given for a greater cause, Whiskers chittered and squeaked.

“Squeak!”

For the time of King Rat was soon to come.


***

Mumak wondered how matters could have gotten so complex over so short a period of time. He looked at the dazed Troll and prayed to the Earthmother he would gather his wits about him soon. The flecks of nightmare swirling around him were increasing in intensity and even tangibility. The squeaking grew louder and in the distance a sickening crunch could be heard.

All slowness disappearing from his large frame, the druid spun to Grufftoof and shook the Troll roughly: "This is not just a dream Gruff. Something ancient stirs in the distance. Something that should not be. You are somehow tied to this. Now snap out of it man, and tell me what you have done!"

***

A mumbled voice in the darkness. Green lights sparkling. Scratching, squeaking noises. A friendly hand on his shoulder.

“GETOFF!” the troll sat bolt up right, eyes wide beneath his thick-lensed goggles. He flailed at unseen beings, jumping up and shaking his mane of hair. Then he looked down and blushed. Suddenly he realised he was quite naked and sopping wet. And that certainly wasn’t a rodent.

***

The air above the once proud farm was rent asunder by a massive fork of lightning. A bloodcurdling cry echoed across the foothills, causing the local populace to lock doors and windows, and pray to their false gods.

“Squeak!”

In a delirium of power, his body warping and pulsing with the magickal energies twisting between this world and that of the King Rat, Whiskers gnawed on the hearts of the sacrifices to the New Rat Order.

The miasma surrounding the farm churned, drawing together, forming itself. A mockery of an animal. A nightmare of fur, tail and claw.

And as one the rat voices continued to chant “… squeak, squeak, squeak …”


***

The Tauren backed off a bit, allowing the Troll to come to his senses. The goggles obscured much of the Troll's eyes, but maybe the situation was starting to sink in.

"Welcome to The Dream, doctor" The Tauren chuckled softly.

"We have little time for pleasantries, but I suppose you have questions? Let's try and get those out of the way first then."

In the distance a high-pitched keening sound could be heard, and the intensity of the whispered squeaks increased slightly. All around, across the meadow, large creatures of chimaeric nature could be seen fleeing from the mountain range where the dark clouds were gathering. Most of these creatures looked nothing like the kind that would flee easily...

The Tauren suppressed a shiver as his thoughts went out to his Elven companions. His composed demeanor slipped for an instant as he swirled back to face the Troll "Make it quick Gruff. I hope it's not too late to clean up the mess you caused".
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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:56 am

Chapter 6



Naked in a field with a Tauren. Not the first time perhaps, but nevertheless certainly a startling experience. Yes, in a green, dreamy place with a Tauren. Well, it didn’t take a genius (lucky for Grufftoof) to put two and two together.

“Wayur in Mulgor iz dis den?”

The Tauren covered his face with his palm and shook his great head.

“Oh… not Mulgor den… wayut wot did yu say jus den?” a dim light flickered in the Troll’s mind “Diz iz da dreem? Da emuruld dreem? Feck!”

Questions, yes, this situation demanded questions. Or answers, it demanded answers, but to reach them questions would have to come first. Or perhaps clothes.

Modesty and questioning would have to wait. Grufftoof shook his head and looked around him. With a new clarity he saw that The Dream was a marvelous place indeed. But a troubled place. Here and there pockets of darkness moved in the green oasis, writhing shifting shapes in the shadow. And ever present, at once close and far away, the sound of hundreds of tiny paws scraped and skittered.

The Tauren wore a look of pained desperation on his face, and off in the distance dark clouds roiled around an imposing peak.

“I dig ya mon, letz get movin, yuk an tell me jus wot I be doin wrong az we go”

And as the pair made haste for the mountain, the once warm breeze seemed chilled against the Troll’s naked skin.

“… We betta not be goin near no bluddi nettulz …

A smile briefly appeared on the Tauren's face. "I'm glad to see you've not completely lost your sense of humour."

As he set off at an easy, groundcovering, pace Mumak outlined his take on the events:

"For a while now, the Dream has been restless. I have dedicated most of my time since leaving the Stand to understanding the Dream, and helping battle all manner of manifestations of - for lack of a better word - Evil. Not that long ago, all signs indicated something was stirring in the Dream. Something not quite right."

As if to emphasize his words, the keening in the distance changed pitch and something massive and ancient screeched as if in rage.

"My investigations found evidence of these events being linked to you, Grufftoof. I do not possess all pieces of the puzzle, but I was hoping you could fill in the missing ones. Whatever it is that has arisen in the Dream, it is something that doesn't belong here. As if an unformed dream, never meant to be, suddenly gained substance and power beyond anything I've encountered here. And at the centre of it all, there is you. And squeaking. Whatever this thing is, it wants to break through. If this happens... well, let's not dwell on that yet. So, doctor Grufftoof, what in the name of the spirits have you been meddling with?"

As they neared the foothills of the cloud-capped mountains, the two stumbled upon a ravaged corpse of an Elf. The body showed signs of multiple deadly gashes, and then having been hurled a tremendous distance. Already it was dissolving into green motes of mist. The Tauren shook his head with a sad expression and as he returned his gaze to the Troll a look of cold determination slowly formed. For a mere second, it appeared as if several feathers sprouted from his arms, but after the blink of an eye they were no longer visible.

***

They made something of an odd, if imposing sight. The powerful, heavy Tauren in his druidic robes, and the magenta haired Troll, naked save for goggles. They stared at the great mountain, the roiling cloud and mist around its peak wracked by flash and flame.

The cacophony of sound had grown much louder, something seemed to tear at the very mountain itself. Crunching thuds and cracks, unearthly tearing sounds, and the ever present pawing of a thousand claws, the squeaked calls of countless voices.

“I dunt kno wot I dun mon…” Grufftoof turned to his companion “But I swayur down, I dunt rememba makin anyfing… dis bad… leezt nut fer a whyul”

“Yet it seems, something is tearing at The Dream. Something akin to that dreaded Nightmare. And something, my friend, linked to you”

The troll sighed, it was not the first time he’d made mistakes. But usually they were relatively easy to explain. Or at least cover up. But this time the rabbit hole went a little too deep. And Grufftoof wasn’t sure they could climb back out easily.

“Yak no wot… dat noyze… dat squeekin… it sowdnz a lot lyk… ratz. But dat dunt mayk no senz. Can ratz evun dreem enuff ta get into diz playce?”

Though, it must be said, the Troll was not quite sure how he had made into Ysera’s Dream. If he could find his way, why not a rodent? Which made him think…

“Oh bugga…” He gulped, his tusked mouth frowning. “... ya see, der woz dis mizap in da Lab…”


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:58 am

Chapter 7


As he stood listening to the Troll, the Tauren's face changed from impatience to disbelief and finally to something akin to panic. When Grufftoof finished his story and shrugged with a lopsided grin, saying "Dat be all I no mon, youz fink dis be my Whiskaz doin?" Mumak replied:

"Surely this is not the result of one escaped lab-rat's dream? It cannot be! Rat's are not meant to dream coherently. They are what they are for a reason, and have their uses I'm sure... What goes on beyond this ridge is an amalgamous mass produced by a multitude of likeminded creatures. What one would expect from a Cult of the Old Ones, not... rats!"

As if to put his words to shame, a massive fleshy yet still transparent tail could be seen lashing the air beyond the ridge, catapulting the mangled body of another Elf beyond where the two companions stood.
The Tauren growled and suppressed the urge to run to is wounded friend, because he would be too late. He turned back to the Troll with a look of outrage.

"Deep down I know, friend Troll, that you cannot be held responsible for this yet much suffering can be laid at your feet already. We have to go and see what manner of monstrosity lies beyond this ridge and what we can do about it. Will you stand with me and face this offspring of rat-dream? I cannot demand of you to fight this, but I know that behind your mask of controlled insanity lies a warrior's heart."

The Tauren assumed a stance of relaxed readiness and awaited the Troll's reply.

Brave like a warrior. What a silly Tauren. Thick-headed like a bull. How fitting. Though doing "something" certainly seemed to be the only thing to do.

Sometimes da Dok had to administer to diseases of the body, sometimes of the heart, and now, it seemed, to the twisted dream-minds of rats. But a surgeon needed his tools...

“I ges, dis bein a dreem an all…” Grufftoof screwed up his face in concentration. Thinking hard about his great, rusty cleaver, its heaviness in his hand. And there it was, forming from the dream-matter. The wicked, gore-caked blade.

The Troll grinned at the Tauren. “We bezt be seein if we kan fynd da medicin fer diz problum mon… keep up”

And with that his bare blue arse was disappearing into the mist as he ran up the mountain side, his trusty cleaver brandished ready.

***

As he started his sentence "Very well, let us prep..." the Troll charged up the hillside and disappeared over the ridge. Mumak growled a curse under his breath as he let the Change come over him and a muscled horned lion charged after the Troll in a blur of speed.

When he crested the rise, the vista stunned him momentarily. Filling the valley before him, a massive form of a monstrous rat writhed there, amidst a churning cloud of spectral teeth and claws. The very air screamed in agony as the Rat God clawed its way from to the Dream to the Waking world. Its gargantuan fleshy tail swiped the valley floor and a tiny naked form could be seen sailing through the air spouting the vilest curses. Embedded in the tail, a small cleaver could be seen.

***

An unseen force shook Ratopia. Tunnels collapsed and furry bodies were crushed beneath the earth. The darkening clouds were split and, briefly, feint sunlight shone once more upon the farm. But the darkness was strong, the corruption would not give way.

The ground reverberated as a giant rift was torn in the earth. Whiskers was broken from his trance, a still beating heart in his paw, his muzzle bloodied with his evil meal. All around confusion spread like fire amongst the rats. The chanting came to an abrupt end. Its place taken by the worried cry as rats scurried hither and thither.

“Squeak!” Panic! The rat’s unholy ritual halted. Their link to King Rat wavered and faltered. The New Rat Order faltering. Streams of thought, darkness, twisted in their minds. Whiskers called shrilly “Squeak! Squeak!!” beating against the scurrying vermin.

He raised a tiny paw towards the caverns roof, and there, in the place between that world and the next, was the twisting image of the great King Rat, and two figures (two-legs?!) chopping and charging. “SQUEAK!” The rat host stopped at once, their evil eyes focused on the scene. Across the corruption of farmland Ratopia fell silent.

With a call the host turned as one again, and the chanting was renewed with a zealous rage “… Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! ...”. And in the mirror onto the other world, a thousand nightmare-born rats bore down on the two figures, swamping them with tooth and claw. The image grew faint, replaced by the twisting darkness once more, as Whiskers held aloft another beating heart, and the sacrifices and chanting continued without end.

“… Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! ...”


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:59 am

Chapter 8

The Troll hit an outcropping of rock with a sickening crunch. As the Tauren shifted form again and ran towards Grufftoof, already releasing a stream of rejuvenating energies, the Troll jumped back to his feet and like a psychotic bouncing ball he charged back to retrieve his cleaver while cackling "Iv datz all youz got, da Dok will cut yoo gud!" Despite his injuries, the Troll somehow managed to dodge most of the gnashing teeth that materialized around him and grabbed hold of his cleaver again.

From a distance Mumak wove spell after spell to keep the maniacal Troll's flesh knitted together. And although the Troll seemed to inflict some serious damage with his cleaver and the shadows leapt to obey his commands to sear monstrous ratflesh, the massive bulk of the newly arisen Rat God was in no way mortally wounded. More claws appeared, more rending and gnashing teeth. Time and again the Troll was repulsed and limped back to renew his attack. The Tauren felt his spiritual reserves lessening, and the shadows no longer came with the same frequency to lend aid to the Troll.

With a bone shuddering SQUEAK a relentless stream of smaller spectral rats drove the Troll straight into his Tauren companion. Surrounded by a roiling mass of biting and clawing ghost rats the Druid was barely in time to grab hold of Grufftoof's arm and yell into his ear "We cannot hold! Please, we must fall back! This is too much for us!" He half feared the Troll would break loose and charge towards a certain death, but a light of reason still shone somewhere behind a drug-induced gaze and Grufftoof nodded.

Calling upon his last residues of power, the Tauren summoned a gale that drove back the multitude of rats and the two companions ran back over the ridge, their wounds hampering them both in their movements. Although the Troll was more seriously injured, his flesh was already knitting itself back together without any help from the druid's restorative powers. With a keening filled with rage and victory permeating the valley behind them, the Troll and the Tauren sank to the ground on the other side of the ridge. Despair marked Mumak's face as he whispered "Too much. Too much."

***

The mist was coalescing. A creature from the warp, born by the twisted dreams of countless rodent minds. A monster breaking down the barrier between worlds.

Red eyes in the night, shining like unholy stars. Hanging in the sky, searching, unblinking. The glint of monstrous teeth in a mouth-like maw. A dark tail of matter flicking and flailing as it found shape in that place.

“… Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! …”

An answer to the chant, echoing across the farmland. The abomination found its voice, a terrifying wail, a thousand beasts crying as one.

“SQUEAK!”

A muzzle now formed, gigantic, twisted, a warped atrocity begot from nightmare. Razor claws glinted in the moonlight.

Whiskers staggered, reeling from the power, stupefied by the ruinous influence of King Rat. They were close “Squeak!”. Ratopia “Squeak!. The New Rat Order “Squeak!”. King Rat would soon bring to them his bounty, give birth the rodent dawn.

“… Squeak! Squeak! SQUEAK!! …”


***

Bloodied and bruised Grufftoof had fought on. Heedless of his companion’s calls until the very last wave of chittering drove them bodily back. Panting and exhausted, he was dazed by the bloodlust, by the mojo and by the flickering power of shadow coursing through his veins. The Troll knew to withdraw was their only real option.

As they collapsed to catch a brief respite, to find their thoughts, Mumak seemed broken, though he had few visible wounds. Grufftoof watched the seething mass as it lashed out, claws and teeth without number gnashed and gnawed at the air. Whatever this was, it was yet to be. A being without shape, yet seeking to be born. The Dream had indeed given birth to another Nightmare.

“I aynt ova till I be sayin so” the Troll said with an authority and strength he was not sure he possessed “Get on ya feet mon. I be startin ta undastand dis playse a bit betta… but I styl dunt undastand dat beazt owt der… I barelee urt da fing. But I fink it noze we iz ere now…”

In the valley, tendrils of the corruption wound around and around, searching, grasping out. The creature, seemed intent on this pursuit, for it no longer grew so quickly. It no longer seemed to be seeking to form a cohesive shape. Instead it was flailing with myriad whip-like tails, with its numerous wicked claws and viciously toothed maws.

Grufftoof stood, his body stiffening after its exertion. It was time to find some answers, if answers there be in The Dream. With a flex of his muscles and gathering his trusty weapon in hand, he turned fully to his friend.

“P’rapz we shuld go av a wurd wiv sum ov yer kin in diz playce… see if anyun knowz how dat fing woz mayde, an maybe we kan unmayke it, innit… if da Dok bugga up, da Dok betta bludi fixit, irey?!”

The Tauren looked up, his eyes sunken, the strain evident on his face.

“Indeed, but you’re not alone. Help me to my feet friend. I think I know someone who may be of assistance. Doesn’t nature teach us that together in numbers even the smallest thing can be mighty?"

“Dat it mite do… but I fink doze dreem-ratz av da saym ideeur mon. Dey be small, but dey sure do byte and claw me lyk sumfing byg an strong!”

Grufftoof looked at his marked body “An' maybee next tym I shuld put on sum pantz…”

"Nature will find a way. The Dream will not fall further to The Nightmare. And maybe you will find yourself some clothes!” The Tauren managed a grin, the fire sparked in his friendly eyes.

And below the darkness swirled and twisted. But there was strength still in the companions. Strength enough? Only time (and tailoring) would tell.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:01 am

Chapter 9


The Troll's spirit seemed to lift his own, and the Tauren managed to find a smile again. "I think I do know of a place where we might find answers. Speed is of the essence now. Hang on, friend Grufftoof." As the druid spread his arms, a glow of power obscured his features and a large stormcrow stood in his place. With a challenging screech, the huge bird of prey rose in the air and grasped the Troll by the shoulders.

The dream landscape sped by under them as they flew a steady course towards their goal. The Troll was beginning to recognize several features in the land below him and was about ask something of his winged companion, when they suddenly started their descent towards the opening of a cavern. The vegetation surrounding the place wash lush and verdant, but somehow twisted as if a malicious child had drawn its idea of a killer jungle there.

In front of the cave, a figure stood looking up at the approaching duo. As the stormcrow dropped the Troll in front of the figure, an elderly Elf in robes, it shifted back to Tauren form. Once again Grufftoof attempted to formulate a question, but Mumak cut him off by addressing the Elf: "Greetings Naralex. We are in need of your knowledge of these caves, for they are not equal to their counterpart on Azeroth I presume. As if hit by a revelation, Grufftoof spat out "Ey! Dat wuz Crossroads we floo ovah! But den, dese be... de Waylin Caverns? Wot can we possibly do ere mon?"

It was unclear who was more confused, the Elf or the Troll, but Mumak responded with something of a mischievous look in his eye "My old friend here will lead us to a place where someone attempts to breach the Dream. Someone who has command over some things we need. Let's hope they're hungry!"

As the Troll burst out in hysterical gales of laughter, Mumak erupted in deep rumbles of laughter as well. Quickly he settled in to some chuckling and grabbed the Elf by the arm. "Come, my confused immortal friend, show us the way to what passes for Cobrahn's den here. He has an appointment we don't want him to miss."

Accompanied by Grufftoof's cackles, the trio disappeared into the gaping maw of the cavern.

***

The cavern system seemed to shift and change as the group moved deeper and deeper towards Cobrahn’s pit. Whilst at once familiar to the still naked Troll, this place was quite different from the place he knew in the true Azeroth.

The vegetation writhed like the snakes and reptiles which were numerous beyond count. The air was filled with a sickly perfume of vegetation, corrupted somehow, left to grow old, unkempt.

Rhythmical breathing, something slumbering could be heard ahead. Torches flickered against the walls, casting their shadows to dance eerily across the tunnel floor. The breathing grew louder, and clearer, and now they could make out a rasping, hissing sound.

For here lay Cobrahn, the Fang Lord. And hopefully someone with an answer to their problems.

***

As the three came to the pit, an eerie light permeated the air around them. Naralex cringed, but seeing as neither of his two new companions as much as blinked he drew himself up to a respectable height again. Mumak looked around, and seemed to look for recognisable marks in the cave around them. "Yes. Yes, this is the place. It has been long since I embarked here to prove my prowess and dedication to the Earthmother, and it was in another world. But here is where I have faced the Fang Lord before. He apparently hasn't learned from his mistakes. He has remained in a place that defies growth of the spirit, and as such is not much stronger than when I last faced him it seems. Here is where his futile efforts to punch through into the Dream are bound to fail time and again. But today... today Cobrahn will succeed."

A wicked grin formed on the druid's lips. "Gruff, could you accommodate me and gather the shadows around us, we would wish to appear sufficiently impressive when greeting our guest." The Troll grinned broadly. "Irey mon. Will do." With a minute effort of will, the shadows coalesced around the three, lending them a most frightful appearance. Mumak clapped his meaty hands together with a thunderous sound and the air in front of them crackled with incandescent energy. As if a very thin veil were being made even thinner a solitary figure could be seen standing inside a crudely drawn circle of candles, inscribed with mystical symbols. In the gathered darkness the Troll and the Tauren grinned wickedly, and it was perhaps only to the good that the shadows obscured them from the view of Naralex, for the poor Elf would have surely run at the sight. Grufftoof waited for the Tauren's nod and he flexed his sinewy arm in anticipation.

***

Somewhere near Crossroads, a group of brave young adventurers made ready for the final stage of their assault on the last cave deep within the stronghold of the Wailing Caverns. They had faced many dangers, and they were at the end of their resources, but their will to succeed was strong. Only the Lord Cobrahn was left. He was the mightiest of the foes they had faced so far, and they made no illusions about the deadliness of the situation ahead.

The caverns around them were filled with a booming voice, taunting them onwards, and promising pain beyond belief if they dared enter his demesne. Suddenly the insults and exclamations of grandeur were cut off by a strangled yelp. As if heard through a thick curtain, the Forsaken warrior swore to his companions later in the tavern, he could hear something that sounded like "Comm'ere yoo littul git".

Not knowing what to expect, but ready to embrace victory or death, the five brave adventurers stormed into the cavern. Their echoing, desperate battlecries slowly faded away as they stood facing the puzzling scene before them. There was no great and malefic Fang Lord. There were no mounds of treasure. There wasn't even a grovelling minion to take them to his master... All there was, was a crudely drawn circle of candles, inscribed with mystical symbols. And in the midst of this circle, stood a pair of boots, with their owner missing as if he had been pulled from them with significant force.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:02 am

Chapter 10


Grufftoof shook his fist in the Fang Lord’s face. Naked as he was other things shook too, probably more threatening than his fist, certainly quite unpleasantly close to Cobrahn.

The druid licked his lips with a forked tongue. Sweat trickled down his brow. He was scared. These two, the druid and the Troll, had accosted him most severely. They had broken his ritual. And now they were threatening him with, well, he didn’t know what really. He had ideas, but they didn’t really bare thinking about.

The pair had been helped by Naralax, something Cobrahn swore he would deal with, should he make it safely away from here. There they sat in some squat cave overlooking a tumbling valley and the peak of a crooked mountain, shrouded in a roiling mist. The Tauren had barely spoken, letting the Troll animatedly shout and scream. The Fang Lord was lucky if he understood one word in ten. If this creature spoke a common tongue it was one broken and mangled by the Troll’s tusked mouth.

Rats? Was that it? A rat infestation? Something to do with the mountain outside? What a Troll was doing in The Dream, and why he was interested in rats Cobrahn was finding it difficult to imagine. The mountain did look a little strange as they had arrived. The dark mist shrouding it seemed alive almost, certainly something stirred in it, and the Elf was quite sure he heard squeaking, calls in the distance.

The silent Tauren laid a hand on the Troll’s shoulder. Lowering his great rusty blade, his companion stepped away silently and turned to look out across the valley. The Tauren turned then to the Elf, and in a deep earthy voice, told him exactly what the pair expected of him.

***

"Listen closely, Fang Lord, for this might very well be your only chance of redemption for the wrongs you have committed. By all rights we should kill you where you stand, but circumstances have provided you with this opportunity. Your dabblings in the Dream, and the disruption thereof have given you some insight. It is your command of your slithering brethren that we seek to use."

With growing discomfort the Elf listened to the Tauren. Not so much his words were disturbing, as the very presence of these two lunatics. The Troll, the one with his cleaver, was at this moment uttering a string of syllables that could possibly mean he meant to do things with that very cleaver that defied Cobrahn's limited imagination. He looked to the Tauren imploringly, as if to beg him to hold off his insane naked companion for a while, and nodded eagerly to show his willingness to cooperate. The Tauren continued:

"The Dream has become tainted with things not meant to be. The very nature of this infestation is vile beyond your meager intellect, but it boils down to rats. Thousands of them. Spectral, but no less dangerous, they surround a foe my companion and I mean to battle. We need an opening, something to occupy the rats while we engage their monstrous master. You will use your powers to call upon the wraiths of your scaled minions and command them to attack the rat-swarm. Do this, and we will let you return to your pitiful schemes back in the Wailing Caverns."

The Tauren's eyes took on a steely glint as he added "If you even think of betraying us, or holding back, we will obliterate you with the merest thought and never allow your spirit to return from the Dream. Do not doubt me in this."

Lord Cobrahn, leader of the Druids of the Fang, potentate of the Wailing Caverns, looked from Tauren to cleaver-wielding Troll and wept a single bitter tear but nodded his agreement to their terms. "You leave me little choice, I shall do as you ask."

Adding his powers over the Dream to the Fang Lord's, the Tauren watched as Cobrahn gathered energy around him. What started as a faint whispering sound, soon turned into a cacophony of hissing as the snakes started forming in an ever expanding circle around Cobrahn. From huge King Cobras to small venomous Diamondbacks, hundreds of snakes soon filled the space around the Fang Lord and his captors. The Tauren turned to his Troll friend: "His powers are even weaker than I feared, but at least this gives us a fighting chance. Now is the time, friend Grufftoof, his minions are not rooted deeply in the Dream. We strike now or lose this opportunity."

Squaring his broad shoulders, the Tauren faced the ledge and the nightmares that lay beyond as he waited for his friend's signal of readiness.

Grufftoof grinned wickedly, hefted the cleaver in his hand, and turning over his shoulder told his friend “Irey mon, ya bezt keep up den!”.

With that he bounded down the valley side. Shadow coalesced around him as he called on the spirits of the damned and the dead. He slid on the loose scree beneath his feet, charging headlong towards the monstrous evil. The cloud of shifting, shapes. The nightmare born of countless rodent minds.

The Tauren was fast behind him, issuing a challenge in his native tongue. With a guttural roar a mighty bear smashed past the Troll into the roiling mass of spectres and was immediately swallowed into the darkness.

His brother in arms was close beside, cleaver sweeping wildly, biting rat-shapes as they in turn fought with tooth and claw. Grufftoof cackled manically the berserker-rage upon him. The foe all around, nipping and gnawing, a thousand mouths and claws hungered for blood.

Grufftoof could hear the Tauren’s bear-voice growl above the chitter and chatter and incessant squeak. Shadows leapt from his fingers to smash into the night-mare cloud, his weapon bit deep into the physical manifestation of the rat-mind.

Close by the immense bear smashed and swiped at the prey, headless of the wounds he endured, crushing the foe. His heavy head swung at the rodents, flinging them far, or goring them on his great horns.

But their progress was slow, they were swamped, surrounded. Though they fought to find each other, standing back to back, cutting and smashing, the enemy was ever there, innumerable.

They had reached barely half way across the valley, far still from their true foe, the rat-host circling about them; when the din of battle was cut sharply by a new sound. The rats still circled but their numbers thinned, rank upon rank fled south towards something unseen.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:04 am

Chapter 11



It happened quickly enough. One minute Whiskers looked out upon an assembly of squeaking rodents, the great model army of the New Rat Order. The next, destruction, devastation.

Tiny furred bodies were thrown through the air to thwack against the cavern walls with a pathetic crunch. Shadow and claw, metal and tooth rent the air, tearing between the worlds, assailing the mass of rats.

Ratopia was slow to act, reeling from its earlier exertion, confused by this sudden onslaught. But act it did. And with a terrible fury. A furry fury.

"SQUEAK!!"

And the rat host surged in body and mind, pushing through into the Nightmare world, as deadly and destructive as a great plague.


***

A mighty hiss, like the cry of a raging fire extinguished by a mighty stream. Cobrahn the Fang Lord called upon his scaled kin and they assailed the rodent demons. For the rats had long been enemies of the snake, and the two hosts (though the snakes were massively outnumbered) now clashed on the field of battle. Cobrahn himself cried out and his body writhed as he assumed the form of a gigantic serpent.

***

“Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!”

The rat-host fought between worlds. Furred bodies broke, burnt, ruined, fell limp to earth of Ratopia. But on they fought, biting, clawing.

“Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!”

Whiskers led the fray, his nightmare-self a blurred spectre. Against the giant bear and howling two-leg he led his brethren. They screamed and fought, their bodies and minds linked to the darkness of King Rat. A wave of tiny death.

Though countless brothers and sisters of the New Rat Order were sent reeling, falling lifeless, mind and body severed, there were many more to take their place. The tide was turning. And the rats circled as they continued to gnaw and claw.

“Squeak! Squeak… squeak!!!”

A new call, a challenge! As one, the host searched for the reason, a thousand minds looking for that which dared stand against them. And with a vengeance and enmity born of millennia of struggle, the snakes were upon them.

Fang met tooth, as scale scaled body and furred danced in deadly combat. Though few in number the serpents had the element of surprise. Their attack bit deep into the rat-host flank. The dark army swept aside as the slithering mass bore down upon them.

A mighty two-leg rode the serpents like a wave. His body shimmered in a steamy haze, a forked tongue rasped between his teeth. Then suddenly he flew upon the rodent horde his body warped and twisted into that of a giant snake. The look of wrath in his lidless eyes.

***

Hearing the snakes enter the fray gave the friends fresh hope. They fought on, ever moving, pushing forward. They were circled and the foe was numerous, but the battle was not lost now. Not yet.

In the centre of the host, barely metres from their position, the true opponent loomed menacingly. From the darkness that surrounded them, the darkness that gave birth to the very enemy, a massive claw swiped down upon the battling companions.

Grufftoof was swatted aside like a mere fly. His arm and leg snapped like a twig, his cleaver skittered across the floor. Mumak was already shifting, the bear fur withdrawing as he stood once more as a Tauren fast over his fallen friend. Sweet-scented flowers sprang forth in bloom about them. Their perfume a heady elixir of healing. The Troll’s wounded limbs knit back together and he winced as he stood to face the foe.

***

Whiskers’ nightmare self let cry “Squeak!” and the rodents ripped into the slithering mass. With the enmity of a thousand years the scaled and the furred did battle. Breaking upon each other like storms upon the shore.

But the rats were legion. There numbers unfathomable, and slowly, by tooth and claw, the fate of battle swung once more. The serpents held on, some fought in small packs, lashing out with venomous hatred, but their crashing charge was soon swamped on the bank of black fur and fangs.

The serpent born of two-legs still fought like a being possessed. The giant snake snapped and swallowed, spitting poison like acid upon the rodent horde. But, as wildly as it fought, as strong as it was, it was but one snake, amid a sea of corruption.

And squeaking a death cry, Whiskers led his brethren onward, and they leapt upon the beast, dragging it to the ground in ruin. It thrashed and fought against the midnight tide.

“Squeak!” the bloodied nose of Whiskers twitched, the power of rodent-host upon him, King Rat flowed into him, and he abandoned the still writhing figure to lead the ill-born army to real foe.

For standing bloodied and bruised were the two-legs, and King Rat called to all who could hear. Reckoning was at hand.

“SQUEAK!”


***

A malevolent face appeared massive in the gloom. Grinning a toothsome smile, wicked teeth shined sharply. Grufftoof spat and cracked his knuckles, looking to his friend “Lukz lyk it be clobberin tyme mon… onlee, I dunt kno which wun ov uz be givin, an which receevin”.

Mumak’s gaze did not leave that of the monstrous enemy. His eyes were filled with emerald fire, though his face was wracked with pain. “Cobrahn’s allies have bought us time, let not their sacrifice be without meaning”.

And as a warm breeze wafted upon the beleaguered pair, the powerful Tauren pulled himself up to his full height and feathers formed on his mighty arms.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:06 am

Chapter 12


Several tendrils of gnawing spectral rats had already disposed of their unexpected scaled foes and were streaming towards the wounded companions. As the Troll picked up his cleaver and readied himself for a renewed assault, the Tauren's body took on more bulk as fur and snout were replaced by feathers and a hooked beak.

The air around the Owlkin crackled with discharges of lightning. The first rats to come near were incinerated as multiple forks of jagged lightning stabbed down from the heavens. The Troll let out a warcry and charged through the opening the storm had created. Abandoning his control, Mumak gave in to the monster within him. But where once cackling coo's of malice had resounded, now utter silence reigned as the druid pulled the very stars from the heavens to strike their furry enemies.

***

Now truly as one their minds were his. King Rat. The New Rat Order. Ratopia. “Squeak!”

The darkness was manifest in a thousand sharpened claws, countless wicked teeth. As a single entity they moved, shadow forms to King Rat’s will.

SQUEAK – SQUEAK – SQUEAK – SQUEAK

Promises of Ratopia. Within grasp of every rodent claw.


***

For a long time the sound of chaotic battle filled the valley. Snake met rat in an age old resolution of enmity, and Shadow and Nature's Fury rent the flesh from an enraged rat God. The snakes were nearly all defeated, and Cobrahn was being overwhelmed by a host of rat minions, his cries of powerless fury swallowed by the gnashing and gnawing of a thousand small hungry mouths. But as their allies were dying around them, the druid and his troll friend had reached their massive nemesis. The flank of the Rat God was rent asunder by ball after ball of crackling green energy, and although the creature possessed prodigious regenerative powers, the assault on its godly dream-flesh was proving effective! With a shriek of otherwordly rage, the powerful tail dealt a mighty blow to the Owlkin and it crashed to the valley floor several meters away.

The Troll seemed to have been waiting for this very moment and with outstretched hands unleashed a vortex of darkness that seemed to dim the light that was all around. Into the gaping wound made by the druid's energy the vortex went. For the first time since the battle started, the shrieks of rage were filled with something else. Pain... and fear! The host of rat minions wavered and seemed to lose their focus. Alien thoughts reverberated across the valley floor, promising POWER - PAIN - HUNGER - DISEASE if only they would serve. Mumak picked himself up from the ground and looked at his companion. The Rat God writhed in pain as its body was being assaulted from within by the Troll's shadows.

***

Then pain, panic. The two-legs lashed out with shadow and starfire. The heavens themselves turned against the might of the rodents and their King Rat.

Promises of Ratopia. Dragged away, become as insubstantial as a breeze. The host army lost cohesion, a thousand tiny minds screamed out in dread “SQUEAK!”.

And at their head, red-eyes wide in fear and anguish, Whiskers screamed. Nightmare tumbled, broken. No sooner had victory, Ratopia, the New Rat Order been within their grasp, than it was smashed away by the two-legs.

King Rat and his swirling army of darkness were ripped asunder in a cataclysmic explosion. The Nightmare defeated by The Dream.


***

It was rather unclear who struck first, but at the same time a massive beam of arcane energies flashed from the heavens to strike the Rat God's wounded body , a wave of shadowy energy washed over the defeated creature. The shrieks and squeals of a multitude of rats could be heard as if from a great distance. Incandescent flares of power wracked the Dream and the massive bulk that had filled the valley started to shrink at a rapid rate. Soon nothing was left but two battered and exhausted friends.

With a visible effort Mumak returned his body to its normal form and he looked at the Troll.

"Just like a walk in the park. A park of flesh eating plants. With a raiding party of young alliance knights charging you. But a park nonetheless..."


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:07 am

Chapter 13


The Troll grinned to his companion. A walk in the park? Silly druids, with their tree-hugging metaphors. Though the sound of flesh-eating plants seemed interesting, Grufftoof made note to look into that when he returned to the lab.

“Dat be an irey fite mon” he wheezed, breathless “I fort doze snakez’d neva show up tho”.

Littered across the field were the bodies of many of the mass of snakes. The serpent army had taken heavy casualties, many still writhed and thrashed helplessly in their painful final moments.

Cobrahn now a tall, lithe elf again, strode toward the battle-brothers. He shook his head at the devastation wrought around, and sighed.

“Many lay broken and for what? My salvation? Yours? What ere this evil was, twas not of my dreaming. And yet, I fought for you. Do I feel fulfilled by my deeds? Do I bask in the glory of battle?” The Fang Lord looked at the Dream turned Nightmare. The ruinous desolation where once the world was verdant green.

“No. Your foolishness has cost me dear. And The Dream shall wear this wound a long time. I leave you to it. I go to dream of paradise, a world re-made anew. My world.”

And with that, in a green mist with the noise of water and the smell of lush vegetation, the snakes coiled around his feet, the druid was gone.

Grufftoof spat after the retreating Elf “Bah, goez bak to ya cayve mon, an lik ya woundz wiv ya fork’d tung”.

Mumak turned dejectedly, sad in the knowledge that some things never change, some creatures cannot escape their dreams, no matter how twisted. “Time for us, my friend, to see what this battlefield can tell us. Find an answer where we only had questions...”

“... squuuueaak…”

And they walked forward to source of the broken cry.

***

Still battered from their ordeal, the companions waded through the small broken bodies. At the centre of the battlefield, the miasma that had surrounded the Rat God had all but dissipated. As the Tauren and the Troll reached the source of the pitiful wailing, they looked down in silent wonder.

A bloated albino rat lay on its side, its white matted fur damp with blood. Wounded as it may have been, the creature possessed plenty of malice as it chittered its inarticulate rage at them. It repeatedly snapped its incisors at the duo, but sheer exhaustion kept it from actually moving.

The Tauren looked at his friend and asked "Yours?" The druid seemed truly perplexed now that they stood face to face with the evil that lay at the source of recent events. Briefly the Tauren considered raising a hoof and crushing the rodent, but this was not his to finish.

"You were at the start of this, Grufftoof... now bring the circle to its end." With this, the druid stepped aside.

***

The little rat surely looked familiar. Though, Grufftoof wasn’t quite sure. There had been many rats - they were useful test subjects. Better than leper-gnomes at any rate; taking less to feed, and generally keeping most of their appendages intact.

“It kinda lukz familiur” the Troll mused, stroking his heavily whiskered chin.

He bent down and with a flicked it at with a long finger. The rodent squirmed and spat, hissing and squeaking feebly. Grufftoof picked it up by its flailing tail and adjusted his goggle to peer at it closely. The vicious red eyes fixed on his face, the rodent’s angry mouth snarling, blood bubbling at its corners.

There had been one rat. One rat on which a dizzying number of experiments had been performed. The Troll preferred the terms research and development. Experiments seemed such a base term. One rat who through countless hours had become a warped being.

Whiskers snapped at Grufftoof and bit into his finger.

“Fekkit! Bugga!”

With one swift movement the Troll snapped the tiny beast’s neck and tossed the twitching body aside.

“Did ya see dat? Da git bit me!” Grufftoof winced as he sucked at the blood pouring from his finger. The wound already tasted foul, spoilt. And, in time, the Troll would carry a deep black scar in the spot - his body refusing to forget the encounter.

“Ya kno… cum ta fink ov it… I woz rite befo… der woz dis rat ya see, Wizkurz… onlee… I fix’d im a bit. Mayd ‘im betta, ya dig?”

As the broken rodent’s body disappeared, like a mist on a breeze, Grufftoof turned to Mumak to relay the story.

“Wayurd yu go mon?”

The Troll stood alone, battered, bruised and quite naked on the field of the fallen, as a full moon shone down the heavens.

***

As the Troll cast his eyes left and right for the Tauren, the very earth seemed to heave. "Bugga!" he cried again as his body was introduced to the rocky soil in a most unpleasant and rough fashion. As he frantically attempted to regain his footing, the earth around him started rippling and churning and he was cast about like a piece of flotsam on the ocean. All around him seemed to lose its substance and sparks of green flashed in the corners of his eyes. Thrashing wildly, the Troll was being drawn to the centre of the vortex of earth and rock and inexorably he was going under. For a final time the Dream was disturbed by a loud and resounding "FEKKIT!" and then all was quiet again.

Bellowing loudly Grufftoof realised there was no earth to drag him under. No bright green heavens above him. He sat naked and covered in bruises in a large bath tub. Several empty phials lay scattered across the bathroom floor and a slow grin spread over the Troll's face. "Groovy dreem..." As he spoke those words a sound drew his attention to the windowsill, where a white owl coo'ed loudly and flew off into the night. As the Troll struggled to get a grip on his sense of reality, he became aware of a throbbing pain in his finger, where he noticed a small puncture wound, blackened around the edges.


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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

Post by Grufftoof on Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:08 am

Epilogue


Grufftoof was a genius. Some people may call him other things. Those people were numerous, but foolish. Grufftoof was a genius. And he knew just what to do!

The Troll jumped out of the bath (the water was very cold, as he just realised. Very, very cold). “You reek sir!” the helpful leper-gnome stood close by informed him. Smiling, Grufftoof hit the servant with the back of his hand, sending the unfortunate being – along with the contents of a nearby shelf – crashing across the Lab.

Within minutes the Troll had arranged a flight north. The wyvern master a little perturbed by the naked, wet doctor, had freely given the reigns to him. If only to get him out of the way.

Now Grufftoof soared northwards. The wind chilled as he flew above the forests of Ashenvale, Felwood and further still. The flight gave wings to his tired brain. His thoughts flew free and far. It all made sense!

The owl was Mumak! And the moon, on that battlefield? Well, that was obvious. It meant it was night time (truly a leap of genius unlike that of most mere mortals)!

Mumak was a druid. And Grufftoof knew well that most of his kind liked nothing better than standing round the trees and lakes of Moonglade and hugging nature. They were weird that way.

So, as the wyvern made its descent, its great leathery wings beating as it flew low across the canopy, Grufftoof knew it was here he would find his friend. And maybe find out just why the bugger had left him alone on that field of furry nightmares... be it a dream, groovy or not.

***

Paying no mind to the Wyvern keeper at his destination, Grufftoof contentedly dismounted. His infallible calculations had laid bare the mysteries of his dream that wasn't a dream! As he tried to get his bearings a young dryad cavorted out of the trees. "Skooz me, deer!" Gruff yelled and snickered to himself at yet another clever play on words. The dryad cautiously approached the naked Troll and maintained a healthy distance as it spoke up politely "Yes sir? How can I be of assistance?"

The Troll squinted his eyes and looked around the wooded area before realising the Dryad still stood before him. "I be wantin to no where I kin find Mumak. He be a druid, irey?" As she concentrated really hard to understand this attempt at language, something suddenly dawned on the young dryad and a beaming smile greeted the Troll. "You must be Doctor Grufftoof! Come, follow me, I will bring you to Mumak!" And she started bounding off towards the trees. Slightly dumbfounded Grufftoof set off after the dryad, at least his friend had gathered a welcome party it seemed.

Cursing under his breath Grufftoof managed to keep several snagging branches from emasculating him and he stumbled out of the woods into a clearing. Slightly miffed he looked for the dryad and his eyes fell upon an imposing figure striding towards him. A vague memory dimly flashed up in the recesses of his brain and he put a name to this creature; Remulos.

"Hullo mon. Becuz dat jumpy one din't bring me to mah frend, I rekkin you know where 'e iz?"

Gladekeeper Remulos smiled down on the Troll and in a soothing voice he addressed him: "You seek the druid called Mumak? I was forwarned by him you would come looking for him. Come, we will walk to where he awaits. I managed to glimpse fragments of your struggle in the Dream. Mumak was right, you took responsibility in the end. Tell me, friend Troll, were you aware your friend has a present for you?"

***

A childish grin crept across the Troll’s face. “A prezunt?!” he exclaimed. He was excited, it wasn’t often anyone thought highly enough of him to give presents. Threats with legal action sure, but seldom surprise gifts.

“Wot iz it den?” Grufftoof asked enquiringly.

“All in good time” mused the Keeper “all in good time. We have much to discuss. The balance of life was tipped most erratically with your recent” Remulos paused for reflection “mistakes”.

Remulos’ face hardened for a moment as he stared down at the naked Troll “Though, you have more than made amends. And it seems you’ve embraced a more natural side indeed!”

Rich, deep laughter filled the woods as the pair walked toward a moonlit glade a little ahead. Grufftoof merely looked at his naked body and shrugged. Then began to chuckle too.

A little ahead, in the light of a silvery full moon, a great owl sat atop a branch overlooking the glade. It blinked and turned its head as the two entered the glade and hooted a greeting.

***

Sparing but a glance for the owl, Grufftoof looked about for his Tauren comrade in arms. Remulos had come to a halt and stood at the edge of the clearing. Underneath the branch upon which the owl perched, something stood upright in the earth. His curiosity got the better of the Troll and he approached the object. His eye kept casting weary glances on the owl above him, for he knew all too well his friend's sense of humour when it came to bird excrement.

As he stepped into the shadow of the great tree, he grunted an appreciative "Pritty". Lodged in a large mound of earth, a polished staff stood. A magnificent bird of prey was carved at the top of the staff, and by some arcane means, lightning crackled around the staff. Looking over his shoulder Grufftoof asked of the Keeper "Dis be my prezent mon? It be shiny!" Expecting his Tauren friend to step from behind a tree, the Troll snickered to himself and called out "Enuff hide n seek mon, come 'ere an 'and me mah prezent!"

The Tauren wasn't ready apparently, for nothing disturbed the small glade besides a warm and gentle breeze. Remulos approached the Troll and came to a halt next to him. Gruff looked into the ancient eyes of the Keeper and saw something there that prompted him to suppress his upcoming irritation and speak softly "I don' mind suhprizes mon, but tell dat bull ta come out. I hav betta fings to do dan stand nekkid in a glayd." As if to soften his words, the Troll smiled a toothy grin at the Keeper.

Remulos smiled back and gently placed a hand on Grufftoof's shoulder. "Then I suppose we won't keep you waiting much longer, friend." With his free hand, the Keeper indicated the mound of earth and the Staff that stood upright on it. "This was found here not more than an hour ago, with our feathered friend here guarding it. I managed to interpret that it was meant for a Troll that would be coming here. A Troll that had struck a mighty blow at the very essence of Nightmare." Grufftoof found this very interesting, but failed to see the importance of this story. He did appreciate his friend coming here to arrange this surprise for him, but he wished the antlered Keeper would finish his spiel and get to the part where a Tauren jumped from hiding and yelled "SURPRISE"

The Keeper saw the Troll's desire for an explanation battle with his attempts at remaining polite and continued in his gentle voice: "But I see, friend Troll, that you are impatient to speak to your friend to relate of your ordeal in the Dream. I shall leave you to it then." With those words the Keeper strode back towards the trees. Grufftoof scratched his chin and yelled after him "Oy! When is dat cow comin den?" As Remulos slowly disappeared into the forest, his voice drifted back to Grufftoof on the soft spring breeze "You are standing at his final resting place, Troll. Mumak Storm-Born passed away several months ago, having fought his final battle in the waking world. This grave has been here for all of that time. Speak to your friend, say your goodbyes, for he is bound to roam the Dream and can never return."

As the meaning of those words started becoming clear, Grufftoof slowly sank to the ground in front of the grave. As if relinquishing his charge, the owl hooted one final time and launched itseld from its perch, leaving the Troll alone in the clearing, surrounded by a warm breeze carrying with it the promise of a hot summer.

***

In an abandoned farm by a lake near the mountains, a hundred tiny eyes looked around nervously.

In the fields, the moonlight broke through the inky darkness. A large, powerful owl, hooted and swooped on the summery breeze, down to its tiny prey.

A rat stopped, its whiskered muzzle twitching as it sniffed the air. And silently the bird broke the rat's neck. White fur ripped to pieces by a powerful beak.

For such is the way of things.

Rats. Nothing more than scared, timid creatures, skittering and squeaking in the dark.


The End
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Re: The Tail of King Rat (or Dreams of Things Lost)

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