“There is another of them devices by the theatre…” Tepic warned them. The small group nodded as they prepared to leave the raft. Arnold told them he couldn’t deactivate it and they agreed since that would just send another raptor running.
“I’ll shut me eyes,” Gil assured them as they climbed the ladder and came out near where Holmes lived. Felicia was confused as to what device they were talking about and the cat repeated what he’d told Avariel, that they made people want to kill him.
She’d seen them, but didn’t think they had an effect on her. He tested her by asking what she thought of raptors, which apparently was nothing as she had never heard of them.
“The lizard things from the plague,” he clarified and her expression became sour as she said she hatred them.
They reached the alley, watching to make sure no grownups were watching, and made their way past the device and into the hideout that Arnold had never known was there.
Gil kept his eyes closed and passed, but Felicia stared into the device curiously. Tepic shouted, “Come on Lisa!”
“I wonder what a king is…” she murmured as she walked towards the den. Who or what had mentioned kings Arnold wondered…he wasn’t sure now if she wasn’t affected after all. In fact quite a few of the urchins could be affected.
Despite the fact he could be walking into a trap he followed them…
Arnold finished cleaning Gils wound with boiled water as Felicia cooked a stew. There hadn’t been anything sterile to bandage it with so he had used what they had. Gil told him he’d be fine and wanted to show Arnold the back way in, “Tis a leap o’ faith… ye gotta go blind.”
The rat ducked underneath a quilt and the cat followed him out. It was dark now as he joined him across the way, seeing things he’d never seen before.
The urchin started to point out a few things to him, before leading him back. They heard Felicia talking just as they arrived again, “I can ask the cats to keep watch. They know better than to get too close.”
Tepic was nodding, “Fer now, yer can stir the stew, cus I guess they’s gonna be starvin’ when they comes back!
Arnold stared at Felicia, as did Gil as they entered, “…you can ask cats?” Arnold spoke in his natural language, “Do you understand me?” Lisa whirled around, looking at Arnold surprised and he must have looked just as shocked.
“Lisa has a way with cats, that’s best left at that….” Tepic said, and the feline looked at Tepic, then her, and then sat at the table and ignored her. He was familiar with not wanting to talk about something.
Gil sighed as he edged next to the table, “I’m gonna be bit again. Cats fink I’m deelish… seems like most things do.”
“An I can understand yer fine, Mr Arnold…..” Tepic added in Cat. Felicia bit her lip and kept stirring the stew.
“Why ye guys all yowlin’?” Gil asked scratching his head, which just made her hide her face more.
Tepic said in a rough dialect of rat, “Just chatin in cat!”
Gilhooly giggled and chittered back, “Ye got a vole accent,” Arnold nodded, agreeing in vole without thinking.
Gilhooly blinked at him and gaped, “Mister A, ye can talk ta rodents?”
Arnold nodded, “Yes, especially after last September.” He couldn’t speak snake, bird, horse, dozens of human languages, or freaking beep…but thanks to those voles the language of rodents had suddenly become easier to understand. He thought it best not to mention that though as Felicia ladled them stew into bowls she set at the table.
“But yep, Mr Arnold, this place is a secret, fer all urchins…No adults no times… ‘cept ye o’ course…” Gil said, “Yer a ‘onorary urchin tho.”
Arnold blinked, paw frozen as he had stirred the meal. Looking at their smiles he didn’t know what to say, “Thank you.” He managed. “That means a lot. Honestly.”
“Best take the urchin oath…” Gil said, and Arnold looked at him waiting patiently for a time. When no one said anything he asked what it was and Lisa turned to Gil, who had to think about it, “Oh er… ‘i’ll never betray me urchin friends…we’ll stick together til the world ends.”
“I’ll never betray my urchin friends. We’ll stick together till the world ends.” Arnold spoke, raising his right paw. He realized that he was probably binding himself to this, but he still continued.
“Good times or lean, scraps, or peace, lads an’ lasses together like a pod o’ peas. No matter city or country or where we’re in…proud ta be a urchin till the end.”
Arnold repeated it and added only one thing, “So I swear.”
They cheered, and Arnold felt a little different, better in a way as well. Gil looked at him and crossed his arms, “New recruit’s gotta get the next meal….”
Arnold half shrugged, and grinned, “I’ll figure out how to do that while in hiding. The Church is right there…I could swipe something from the soup kitchen…or I could cook something, though really I have a feeling you’re making that up.”
Lisa and Gil both grinned, “Yer a urchin already. Most o’ the new ones fall fer it!”
“The suspicious nature of a cat,” She shot a small grin at him.
Arnold smiled, for a cat with a muzzle, and nods as he began to eat …and only realized he didn’t taste test it about twenty minutes later.