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Setting the Boundaries

It was after the building in Clockhaven had collapsed into the sewers that Tepic noticed things had changed. Not only down on that side of the City, where the old bolt holes were clogged with debris or even underwater, but also around Babbage Square. The traps had been disturbed, some even broken open, and the few voles he had caught seemed more frightened than ever, quite a feat for the small creatures!

Something had moved, and from recent rumours among the urchins about adventures under the Gangplank, Tepic had a worrying thought about whom it could be. It was probably time to set some boundaries, and remind certain persons of old stand-offs.

It took a little bit of searching, but he found all the odds and ends he needed. Soon, there were new traps down in the sewers, still able to catch his natural prey, but with a tiny spring activated striker. If anyone tried to break into one, the striker would spark against a small strip of magnesium foil, enough to startle but not harm the person holding it. If his suspicions were right, it should have a good effect on whoever was raiding the traps, hopefully warning them off.

It wasn’t his intention to drive the newcomers away, after all, everyone had to live, but they had to be clear what not to touch, and that foxes, however small, were not to be trifled with! As a precaution, he also rigged a darklamp with a magnesium dropper, so that at the press of a switch he could flood all around him with the brightest light. He also slipped two flares into one of his many pockets, longer burning than the magnesium, and insurance to make sure he could safely leave the depths of the sewers.

This was his City, his sewers, and he was prepared to defend his territory, as any self respecting fox would……

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  1. Spurgan Morlock Spurgan Morlock February 27, 2013

    Spurgan unrolled the parchment and began to read:

    • From henceforth the hunting and consumption of the tender ones within the city limits, or within sight of the city walls, will be considered a capital offense. The consumption of the recently deceased is still permissible but any action that facilitates their demise will not be tolerated.
    • The tampering of traps set by the tender ones is highly discouraged. Violation of this rule shall be met with a shunning.
    • From henceforth eye protection must be worn at all times. Welders goggles will be provided to the entire brethren. Violation of this rule shall be met with a severe chastisement and a banning of foray privileges for a week.

    Spurgan looked up from the parchment. “I will now take questions.”

    Stanton raised his hand. “What about the consumption of their elders?” 

    “For now that is still permissible though it is strongly encouraged that you confine yourselves to tourists and other transients.”

    Stanton raised his hand again. “These restrictions are troubling. Do we not receive any concessions in return?”

    “Thomas is negotiating with the foxboy as we speak.” Spurgan paused as if considering his words. “Beyond the foxboy remaining discreet regarding our location, the details of that negotiation remain private. However I suspect a small supply of the rodents will be involved in return for a guarantee of protection and or alliance in the event of such occurrences as Martian invasions or subterranean attacks.”

    Stanton raised his hand again. “What about the boy we have been following since Father’s disappearance, Maloos. Is he not involved?”

    “Thomas is handling this on his own.” Spurgan held up his hand. “There will be no further questions.”

    • Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin February 27, 2013

      Tepic read the words slowly and carefully by the light of his lantern, beam narrowed to the smallest in deference to his companion. The meeting had been set up by the simple expedient of the drawing of clasped hands by one of the traps, along with a simple diagram leading to a sewer platform large enough to give both parties room to feel reasonably safe.

      He had positioned himself under the ladder, leaving the manhole open, ready to break for freedom if the need arose, lamp sheding light in a pool around him like a bright fortress. From the other side of the platform he had seen a ghostly white figure with thin, long and very strong looking limbs skitter to the middle, drop a rolled paper, then retreat into the near darkness.

      The boy had moved forwards, mimicing the stranger’s trust by moving away from his protecting light, picked up the missive and returned. He then crouched and began to read, darkening the lamp as he began to understand the import of the words. Eventually, he sat back on his heels and looked at the figure, which had moved closer as the light dimmed but still kept a distance between them.

      “Yer giving up a lot, if yer the blokes from down deep, an if yer from where i thinks yer are…”

      He saw an almost imperceptable nod, a flash of white, then considered his next words carefully.

      “Recon a bargin to be kept has ter be a fair one ter both sides, so i suggests this – you keeps ter what yer wrote here, an ye’ll get word of what yer needs ter know ter keep yer safe an well. Ain’t just whispers of anyone knowing where yer are, but also where there may be tubs of salt pork an beef layin unwanted, an when there is a livestock shipment comin in, when they brings em ashore, there may be the odd one or two as don’t quite make it, if yer get me drift….”

      After a few seconds pause, he continued, “If yer makes yerself too cons.. cosp… errr… if yer get noticed, can’t do much about that, though would try ter let yer know. An there is cows out past the City Wall, them as has girt long horns, they belongs ter Mr Tenk, yer best leavin them be, but don’t recon many will miss one or two of the other ones.”

      Pulling out a small wooden flute, he blew a few soft notes, watching the reaction of the shadowy figure.

      “Yep, thought yer might like that, well, recon i could arrange fer some music for yer, if yer wanted. There is some deep caverns in the sewers where the music sounds right, an a few of us could play there sometime without intrudin on your new home, an who’s to say who might be listening in the shadows? Course, them as plays or listens is safe on the way in, durin an out, alright?”

      Taking out a stub of pencil, Tepic carefully signed his name across the bottom of the paper, then stepped forward and placed it between them.

      “You get yer lot ter agree an we’ll meet again, an seal the bargin proper, in the old way.”

      With that, Tepic hoisted himself onto the bottom rung and up, out of the hole.

      • Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin February 27, 2013

        The word passed swiftly among the urchins – not about the agreement, which would be kept a closely guarded secret amongst those few who used the sewers on a regular basis, but about how the colapse in Clockhaven had changed things in the underground world. Specifically, the area under Babbage Square was no longer safe. Such warnings were common, there would be no question, and it word would stay with the urchins – after all, why would any of the adults need to know such things?

        ((The agreement is between the urchins and the Morlocks, and would not generally be know outside those comunities, or the details known even inside those comunities!))

  2. Thomas Morlock Thomas Morlock February 27, 2013

    *In a dark recess beneath the streets of Babbage Square two figures as still and white as marble lay entwined upon a blanket. Look: like pieces of stonework, you might easily mistake them for discarded gargoyles too fearsome for any builder to consider. But listen carefully: one speaks, hardly above a whisper, into the ear of the other…*

    “I trust the foxboy Spurgan, and this agreement is for the best. We can only survive in secrecy. Those above may be weak but they have strength in numbers. They are like ants that can never truly be eliminated, and like ants and worms they will one day consume us as we now consume them.

    “But that is not what troubles me. The destruction in Clockhaven was no accident. What’s more, I sense her, I believe she has surfaced, and nothing but pain does she leave in her wake. If the boy is to lead us, as Father did before, he must be warned.”

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