Having loaded up the hand cart with crates of ginger beer an a barrel of the latest distillate from the still, Lisa and Tepic pushed it through the streets from the Warrens to the Great Fire Memorial. Stormy was waiting for them in the front garden of Dr Sonerstein’s place. The youngsters quickly set out the cart and two old crates, found in the junkyard opposite, for the heroes to stand on during the presentation.
Slowly people started arrive, mostly urchins but also some of the citizens who had heard rumour or had followed the excited youngsters. Jimmy and Max arrived, with Lil Max the clockwork lad tagging along behind. Miss Zaros and Miss Garnet came from the direction of City Hall, greeting the lads and lasses, Tepic directed them to the hand cart, offering drinks to celebrate the occasion, joking that people had better grab a drink fast, before Jimmy finished it all! Miss Garnet asked what the gathering was about, and Stormy told her about the medals for the Emperor Crumb and Beryl Strifeclaw, with Jimmy chipping in about how heroic they had both been.
Miss Momoe arrived just before Beryl, who held up a scrap of paper with the words “come at once, urgent!” scrawled over it and asked “What’s this all about?”.
” Ah cat of the occasion! Get over here and take a stand.” called Miss Zaros, continuing with a smile, “you’re going to love this.”.
She nudged the bemused cat towards the crates that had been set up, and Tepic called for his friend to come over.
Jimmy yelled a friendly greeting to Ollie, another urchin, and a young lady whom Beryl introduced as Miss Eppie, explaining that she was not too familiar with the City’s language. Thankfully Miss Zaros was able to translate and explain the occasion.
Despite there being a little confusion as to whether the Emperor and Beryl were supposed to stand on or be in the crates, particularly as no one had actually seen the Emperor that day, Tepic managed to persuade his friend to stand up on one, while everyone had to imagine the Emperor was there as well. He paused as everyone greeted Loki, then began…..
“The other week there were trouble in the City….” he shouted, to be heard over the amiable chatter of the crowd, “old man Effingham were makin trouble, with the lot from the Builders….”
The voices hushed, listening in to the story being told, though there was a gasp from some of the urchins.
“till two of our mates stood up an sorted em out! The Emperor Crumb went face ter face with old man Effingham, who were a ravinin monster at the time!”
Behind Tepic, Beryl edged to the back of the crate, beginning to look nervous.
“he told ‘im off right proper, an breathed on ‘im till he gave in an blew up!”
Stormy piped up “Cause the Emperor has death breath!”, and Jimmy, noticing Beryl had stepped back off the crate yelled out “Mr Beryl fell off th’ crate!”
Not to be put off his stride, Tepic ignored the interruptions and shouted out “Three cheers fer the Emperor fer saving us!”
The whole company roused up in cheers and clapping, the noise echoing off the thick walls of the buildings.
He waited until the hullabaloo subsided, then continued “durin the fracas Strifeclaw threw himself over Stormy an Rudy, as a buildin was fallin on em, savin em both from certain death!”
There were spontaneous exclamations from the crowd as Beryl crouched lower behind the flimsy protection of the crate.
“now the Builders say it were a gas explosion, an don’t want ter give the credit where it’s due…. but us urchins know’s the truth, an we’s got somethin fer our heroes…”
There were cries that the Builders lied, and even one calling down with the Builders!
“we ain’t been able ter find which pub the Emperor is in just now….. but, we got Stirfeclaw here….” the boy turned to find two empty crates and looked around wildly before seeing the cat almost invisible behind one of them, “oy, Strifeclaw mate, hop back up here fer a moment….”
“I don’t want it.” the cat hissed, “Someone’s going to try to kill me and make a name for themselves.”
“errrr…. right…” the lad said, a little confused as to what was happening to the best laid of plans, before finding his place again, “first off the Emperor… so i’s going ter put his medal on the box he were going ter stand on, lets have a cheer!”
There was a huge roar of appreciation for the Emperor, along with more calls of Down with the Builders, and a few of Up with Booze, some of the urchins having managed at least three rounds of drinks!
“so please accept this medal yer Honor, fer saving us all the other week… even though you ain’t here just now!”
He turned his attention to Beryl, who had stood up to better see the slightly unusual presentation, and before the cat was properly aware, had moved him back onto his pedestal.
“an now Strifeclaw, the other hero of the day!” Tepic paused for the cheers to subside while Beryl looked nervously around, “please accept this medal with our thanks fer savin of Rudy and Stormy!”.
He reached up and pinned the medal onto Beryl’s lapel to a rousing chorus of appreciative yells and clapping.
As Beryl stood up there was an eerie howling from behind the wall and everyone jumped in shock as the figure of Rasend the werewolf leapt onto the cornice, growling fiercely.
“What are you doing here!” Beryl exclaimed.
“I am obviously here to kill you and make a name for myself!” declared the wolf.
“I KNEW IT!” shouted Beryl, as the crowd drew together in front of their hero, some of them drawing assorted weapons from their coats as everyone prepared to defend the cat.
The wolf threw back his head and laughed, “Ha! Fooled you! Congratulations, cat!”, and with that he bounded off towards the back of the building.
Everyone sighed with relief, and started to put back their weapons, smiles creeping onto sheepish faces.
“Right you lot!” yelled Tepic, trying to regain the initiative now the crisis had passed, ” now we done the fancy stuff, lets nip over the wall here into that empty yard and have us a bit of a dance!”
The now relaxed company stepped into Miss Farstrider’s yard, various urchins produced musical instruments from who knows where, and within short order there was a merry party in full swing……
Later that night, a small figure detached itself from the dark shadows and approached a prone shape on the ground. It seemed to fasten something to the front of the shape’s jacket, before whispering quietly, “there ya go, yer Lordship, an you keeps yerself safe, yer hear?”.