This is an account of the demise of the Sneaky Vole, as seen by the urchins present. It is possible there is another viewpoint on events…….
Tepic lay back on top of the wall, warming himself in the air coming up from the hot boilers, the satisfaction of new plans and new adventures comfortable in his mind. It was a shame about the old Sneaky Vole, but it had been getting a bit too much attention – only that afternoon he had seen several of the factory overseers casually wandering by so it was best they were on the move. He hadn’t reckoned on it being the Builders though, what were their names? Scorpion, him with the hard eyes and dressed in black, and his sidekick, Lapdog, or something like, anyway, he danced to the other one’s tune, they were mean bullies!
The evening had started quietly, Sandi sleeping off her afternoon’s drinking safely on top of the Vole, Rudolf and himself sitting chatting gently with each other, munching on the occasional now slightly soft girkin, and taking smalls sips of ginger beer. Lalelu, the foreign lad with the gimpy leg had just joined them when two blokes dressed in black showed up. The fox boy vaguely recognised them, and though it was not that common to have adults drinking at the Vole, it wasn’t unknown, so he greeted them cheerfully and asked their pleasure. He did notice Rudolph had hunkered down in his seat, trying not to be noticed, but given how open it was, it wouldn’t be long before one of them recognised him as a Messenger!
The Brothers declined the vole milk kumis, and after it being explained that the spirits mostly had a somewhat wiggyfish flavour, one of them accepted the offer of wine, from the gift the urchins had received. Oddly, the wine hadn’t gone down well with most of the urchins, with most of them declaring a bit sour, but for gentlemen of this quality it was just the thing! While Tepic expertly opened the bottle by knocking the neck off on the edge of the bar, Brother Lapis noticed Rudolph for the first time and began questioning him as to his state of sobriety. Thankfully, he had only had a couple of beers, unlike Sandi, whose incoherent sleep muttering could be heard faintly from above…
It was around this time that Janet, another of the Messengers turned up, probably not the best of timings, as both the Brothers raised an eyebrow. They then started going on about education, and how the urchins could go to school at the Church. All the urchins at the bar remembered the previous attempts to start a school in the City, and the disasters that followed, though both of the churchies seemed to have enjoyed their youthful school days, reminiscing fondly. Tepic thought it odd that Brother Lapis had taken the wine from him but not drunk any of it, setting it on the Merryman’s windowsill behind the bar, and what’s more, he hadn’t offered any payment! The Brothers seemed a bit non-plussed, their offer of education, clothing and food having been more or less ignored by the urchins, and Rudolph having just about passed the sobriety test they had put to him – after all, standing on one leg with your eyes closed after a skinful was a favourite Sneaky Vole late night bar game, and most of them could managed it even while sozzeled! The kitsune wondered if they knew just how many new urchins arrive in the City each day during the summer, and where they would put them all if they did mean their offer….
The tack of praise and inducements having apparently failed, the hard faced one started going on about the stated of them, calling them unwashed and filthy! Well, since two of them were Messengers under the supposed care of the Church, and Tepic, like all foxes, was fastidious about washing, it seemed a bit rich. It wasn’t as if Jimmy or DreadPirateBob were there, so there was nothing really to complain about. Of course, it wasn’t easy to keep clean, and you couldn’t wash your clothes too much or they would just fall apart like the worn out rags they were, but it wasn’t really fair to call so much attention to it! It was then they started to go on about the poor factory urchins, and how unhealthy they were, which was no news to Tepic and the crew, those were the ones who couldn’t make it out on the streets, and were willing to trade hard work and bad conditions for a place to sleep with regular if unappetising meals….
” Getting a proper education, you may find you would not have to work in such factories. Or, if one enterprising as yourself, had the proper education, you could begin your own safer business..”, Brother Scorpio said to the short barkeep.
” errr…… i got couple of business….. an this one is quite safe, Brother…”, he replied, then with a dark look at the other man, “course yer get the odd bloke as askes fer wine then don’t pay fer it…..”
“A very dangerous business indeed. You should go to school. Come with us.”
“eh? i can’t leave me customers, evening’s just starting!”
“There is no reason children should be drinking. Close it down.” Brother Scorpio said, drawing himself up and making an imperious gesture at the bar shack. Rudolph looked at him incredulously and said “Oy, we like ter have fun same as anyone!”
Tepic, who could see where this might be going, asked the famous traditional question that should always be put at times like this – “an who put yer in charge, mate?”, to which he got the expected answer from the Churchman: ” I am an adult. I order you to cease and desist this business at once.”
This did not get the reaction the older man had expected, with Tepic blowing a raspberry and both Rudolph and Janet protesting vehemently. Even Sandi began to take notice, stirring in her sleep.
“You have created and are maintaining a public health hazard here.”, maybe a different tack would work, thought the Brother, was Tepic was sure his place was clean, didn’t he take scrupulous care of it all? To demonstrate, he held up his disreputable cleaning cloth and protested.
” eh? s’ all clean, i wipes everything every night, with this…”
” And you do not have the proper permits.” trumped Scorpio.
” errrrrr…….”, hesitated Tepic, ” permits?”
The cleaning rag caught Brother Scorpio’s notice, and he rolled his eyes. Time for decisive action!
Lapis, seeing the lack of notice the urchins were taking of his companion’s orders, pushed against the shack, testing the sturdiness of the structure, then kicked out one of the poles.
” I’d hate to see someone get hurt.” he said, almost as an aside and Scorpio half-heartedly attempted to cover up a smirk. There was a chorus of complaints from the urchins, and Sandi slid to the edge of the roof, almost dropping over except a nail caught her coat, and she was deposited gently on her feet, which seemed to sober her slightly.
” oi! cut that out, yer girt big bully!” cried Tepic.
Brother Lapis yanked on the awning and threw it aside before it caught fire on the overturned hurricane lamp, and Scorpio pulled out his hammer, tapping on one of the wooden boards on the side, “This is rather flimsy.”
” course it is if yer hits it with a mallet, daft git!”
Janet, despite normally being all for firestarting, thought that’s just mean! She ran towards Brother Lapis and aimed a kick to his shins. “Get outta here!”
“So we’ll build it up sturdier. Right, Tepic?” exclaimed Rudolph, and Sandi added “zzzz zzzz “pygmy blue waptoad loom!” zzzzz”
“Not here you will not.” Scorpio stated, taping a bit harder, until a board came loose, “If I could do that, so could the strong breeze.”
Brother Lapis picked one of them up by his collar and dragged him away, ” Drinking stunts a developing mind and body.”
Rudolph flailed against the tug at his collar. “Oy! I wasn’t finished me drink!”
“You are now.” his captor said.
Tepic had drawn away from the group, scooping up a pickle jar as he went, and now amused himself by slingshotting a girkin down Scorpio’s neck. The Brother looked over to Tepic, narrowing his eyes, “Do not press me, boy.”
” Why don’t you let your hammer help you decide if the structure is built on sound principles, Brother?”, asked Lapis. Scorpio nodded to Brother Lapis and swung the hammer in a wide arc, boards shattering, just as Tepic placed a girkin in the Brother’s ear…. He grimaced and removed the gherkin, tossing it aside.
Rudolph twisted out of Lapis’s grip and darted back by Tepic. as Janet grabbed a shattered board and started swinging it at the Brothers, apparently mistaking herself for Babe Ruth.
“hit em with the girkins!” yelled Tepic, as Scorpio swung wildly at the structure, boards flying.
” I am certain the Mayor will be very pleased with hearing that his messengers are drunkards” sneered Lapis, as Scorpio slipped in behind what hasn’t fallen, sheltering from a girkin shower, “Stop it! I am warning you!”
Lapis put his hand on his sword and approached the boy, who backed away shouting “whatcha gonna do, hit us with yer hammer too?
Scorpio nodded and threw the hammer towards Tepic, aiming for a near miss. The boy dodged aside nimbly, while turning his attention to Lapis “or use yer pig sticker on us? bully!!!”
Some of the absurdity of starting a sword fight with a small boy armed only with girkins seemed to sink in to Lapis, who backed away, releasing his grip on the sword, but kicking over the remaining boards to level the shack and relieve his frustration. All the while Janet continued to try and hit the Brothers with broken boards, hampered by the detritus scattered around, and Lalelu and Tepic kept up a rain of soggy girkins.
Scorpio ran after his hammer, shielding himself, picked it up and tossing it harder, he aimed closer to the lad, “Go on!”
” so yer’s smashed the place up, yer happy now!” cried Tepic dodging aside and running to the discarded hammer, scooping it up in passing. Scorpio seethed, running after the boy and his hammer, but before he could reach him, he was on the canal bridge, holding it over the edge…
” haha!” the boy laughed, “canal’s best place fer it!”
He dropped the hammer, straight down, making sure the cleric had seen the point it dropped, for he had seen it was a handsome tool as he picked it up, and it would be a shame to see it lost forever.
Lapis puts his hand on Scorps’ shoulder, restraining his fury. Scorpio glared at Tepic, “You will pay for that.”
” ha! yer mate didn’t pay fer his drink, he can pay yer!” taunted the boy.
“Let’s see if they can swim,” suggested Lapis, ” They all look like they need a bath.”
Janet started to heave assorted rocks at them, with Sandi joining in from an open barrel of apples she had found by a warehouse. Both the men made grabs for the urchin nearest to them, but were dodged. Tepic realised there was not much point in pushing things further, and it was time to beat a retreat, before beatings were administered! He ran to the edge of the canal, yelled “see ya!” over his shoulder, and dived gracefully into the dark waters.
” Get back here!” called Scorpio, only to be taunted by Tepic’s cry of “come in an get me, yer daft lumox! heheh”
Rudolph snickered, then eeped as he stumbled back onto his butt, “Whoa, hey!”
Lapis picked up Rudolph by the legs, dangling him upside down and went back to the bridge, dangling him over the canal. He let go of one leg, only for Rudolph to kick at him with his freed foot, sticking his tongue out at the man.
“Hope you can swim.” the cleric laughed, and released the boy to splash into the waters.
“run fellas! they done what they came ter do!” shouted Tepic, swimming some distance away. The others backed away from the men, melting into the shadows.
“Your business here is finished. Go.” Scorpio called out, to be followed by Lapis ” Don’t even think about rebuilding! We will find you! And we won’t be nice about it next time.”
“Enterprising little bastards” he continued, soto voice.
“Every time that ‘tavern’ goes up, I will be there to knock it down.” Scorpio promised
” They didn’t get your hammer, I hope.”
” He dropped it in the canal. I can swim.”
Brother Lapis put his hand over his mouth in a thoughtful gesture to stop from laughing, as his companion looked into the water, scowling.
“Tsk, Your best hammer too….. Wasn’t that your favourite throwing hammer?”
“It was my Grandfather’s.”
“Let’s go back and get that bottle. That was a damned good vintage.” Lapis suggested, and Scorpio nodded in agreement ” I could use a drink.”
The two men wandered back along the street, and so didn’t notice the raft, propelled by Tepic, glide silently under the bridge to pick up the urchins hiding under there. Rudolph was fished out, and he took off his boots, pouring the water from them. As they rafted along to a quay, the urchins discussed the rebuilding of the Vole, and the loss of their alcohol supply. To their surprise, the erstwhile bar owner was quite upbeat about it, and he explained that he had been thinking of moving the Vole anyhow, having found a really good secret place for it, and most of the booze had been hidden away. The greatest loss were the barrels of girkins, but something was bound to turn up! He took them to see the new place, and they all agreed it was most suitable. All they had to do was set up the bar, and they would be back in business. To celebrate, the fox boy pulled a bottle from under his shirt, and passed it round – good, warming rum always cheered people up!
The others were gone their separate ways, and Tepic was left alone with his thoughts. It hadn’t been a bad day really, bit of excitement, everyone banding together against the common foe.. Though those two churchies could do with an eye being kept, they were bad news. It was a shame the Church School closed during the summer, gave them blokes far too much time on their hands to work mischief. Ah well, they weren’t worth bothering about really, by the autumn they would be busy again, and people could carry on as usual…… He settled back, and shortly the sound of light snoring could be heard.