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233 The Rat King part one

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Nix sat up slowly, his head throbbing in agony. He was sitting on a metal-framed bed with springs that squeaked in protest when he moved. He had blacked out the moment they activated the Octagon.
[Dragon Eyes]
Nix's eyes turned dark orange in the darkness causing him to smile despite his circumstances. Dragon Eyes was a gift from Vooni and didn't fall into the category of Base or Archon Class. The smile quickly faded when he discovered that there were a half-dozen other occupants in the cell with him, all of them were rats.
Nix quickly spotted Ducky and the three members of the Qi family. Ducky was still laying down on what Nix assumed was a bed. The small stature of the Qi family made them easy to identify, they were already up and pacing.
The cell itself was a 10-foot square with bars on all sides, there were no torches or light of any kind. two buckets hung from a bracket attached to the bars. "Ain't this f*cking great? I'm back in jail."
"Nix?" The voice of Uta carried into his cell.
"You guys okay?" Nix moved closer to the bars and gripped them in his hand.
"Yes, Ducky is still out." The worry in Uta's voice made Nix's opinion of him raise quite a bit.
"I can see that." Nix walked around the cell, checking every bar for looseness. He was substantially stronger than most humans if he could find a loose one...
"Do you have Night vision Nix?" Sasi was talking while she chased a rat around her cell, she caught it almost immediately and bit the head off.
"Thermal vision." Nix felt a wave of nausea come over him, was that his dinner also?
One of the buckets on the wall held what Nix guessed to be clean water, the other smelled like something he had no interest in picking up. He used the small tin cup that was in the bucket to take a drink. It was lukewarm and tasted like it had been in the bucket too long.
Sasi watched him curiously, the rat still in her hand. He walked to the door of his cell and started banging his cup against the bars. "What are you doing Nix?"
Nix ran the cup across the bars a few more times and then stopped. "Sorry... always wanted to try that." He shrugged and started examining the floor in his cell. The tiles were made of stone; they were tightly fitted and cemented in place. "Hey, Sasi... Can I have that rat?"
Sasi stared at the rat in her hands. "I was about to eat it." She sighed heavily and tossed it to him when he extended his arms through the bars.
He caught the rat and gave her a thumbs up. He started back toward his bed but stopped. "Where's the head?"
Sasi frowned in disgust, "the head isn't good to eat Nix."
"Please?"
Sasi looked around her cell for a moment before finding the head. "It's a little chewed up." She tossed it into his cell. "What are you doing Nix?"
Nix looked up, he was pulling the straw stuffing out of his mattress. "Got any metal? Hair clip or belt buckle?"
"I do!" Rabi removed a small belt and threw it at Nix, he watched the human remove the buckle from the belt. The sound of metal grinding against stone carried in the darkness.
"You're sharpening it?" Uta finally took an interest in Nix's activities.
"Yes. Don't kill any more rats please." Nix slowly began to file down the edge of the buckle.
After a few minutes of work, he felt the edge was passable. He took the ill-smelling bucket down from the bars and sat it on the floor next to him. Slowly he started to skin the rat.
Sasi licked her lips from her cell, the smell of fresh rat meat made her regret giving it to him. "Can I have a piece?"
Nix nodded his head and continued working; the skin broke in several places and other times came away with large chunks of meat attached. He was more than half finished when he received the message.
[Skin the Nether Rat?]
"Yes."
A neatly skinned pelt appeared on the floor next to the bare rat carcass.
Your Taxidermy Skill has improved to 2.
Nix walked to the door of his cell and tossed the Rat carcass across the hallway to Sasi. "Gonna need some more rats, please. As many as you can catch."
He walked back to the bed and used the buckle blade to slice open his mattress. He pulled out large bunches of straw and placed them on the floor. Then he cut a few strips of the fabric off and starting unraveling the thread. In the background, he could hear the miserable squealing of rats as they were caught and killed by the Qi family.
Nix folded the mattress in half and examined the springs with his fingers. He could feel the rust on them and after a minute of bending back and forth felt it heat up in his hand; a sure sign that it was about to break. When it finally snapped he sat on the floor and used the rough stone to sharpen the end to a point."
Nix placed the rat pelt, the straw, the broken spring, and the cotton string carefully on the floor. In his head, he pictured what the Taxidermist Queue should look like.
[Outer Layer: Rat Pelt] [Inner fill: Straw] [Tools Required: Needle [Modified Steel Spring], Knife [Sharpened Belt Buckle] Thread [Cotton Thread]
As soon as he placed them all together, Nix received the message he'd been looking for.
Create a Rat Mannequin?
"Yes."
Your Taxidermy Skill has improved to 3
Your Taxidermy Skill has improved to 5
Your Taxidermy Skill has improved to 7
Nix inspected the Rat Mannequin, he was forced to use his hands for inspection since he could only see thermal images and the Mannequin was very dead. "At least it feels like a rat."
After an hour Nix took a break. He had a dozen lifeless rat dolls on his floor and his Taxidermy skill had climbed to 24.
"Nix?" Ducky finally woke up, she looked around in the darkness unable to see.
"Hey! I'm over here, it's fine Ducky."
"I don't like the dark." Ducky's voice held a sliver of dread. She was in the cell directly across from Sasi.
"He's working on a plan to get us out Ducky, just put up with the dark for a bit." Sasi knew exactly what to say. "Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself while he works."
Nix made six more while he listened to Ducky tell them about her old life as a Water Nymph, she wasn't shy at all about spilling the details.
Congratulations, your Taxidermy skill has risen to 25.
[Do you wish to animate the Nether Rat Mannequin?]
"Yes."
The rat doll in his hand moved slightly and let out a squeal before disappearing in a stench filled cloud of smoke.
Nix grabbed his nose and fell back on the bed. "Oh god... that smells like Pon."
*********************
"You know you aren't allowed to directly interfere Mistress." The emotionless voice of her Majordomo filled Deidra's ears.
"I'm not going to do any fighting. I don't have to, I'm a Breach Commander too."
"Of course Mistress. At least alter your appearance."
Deidra nodded and placed a hand on either horn, they immediately shrunk until they were tiny nubs similar to a dragon descendant. "Better?"
"Yes of course." The Majordomo sighed heavily and left the room without saying another word.
"Let's see..." Deidra considered her options for a moment.
[Create Breach: Loki]
She stepped onto the beach, it was already late in the day but the Oasis sun hung stubbornly in the blue sky above. Deidra only took a few steps towards the town before a squad of Ain'Dhassi Rangers appeared in front of her.
A small ranger stepped forward. "This is Loki, you are trespassing on lands belonging to the 12 Pillar Alliance."
The armor-clad woman stared at the Ain'Dhassi Ranger. "I would like to speak to someone in charge please."
The Ain'Dhassi pointed to herself. "That would be me. I'm Nix, the Guild Leader of Inferno."
"Nix is a male and also a human, you are neither of those."
Bali frowned at the trespasser. "Since you don't wish to cooperate, we'll do this the hard w..." She trailed off suddenly. "Welcome to Loki. State your business please."
"Well met traveler. I'm Captain Locas of the Inferno Rangers." A voice spoke from behind the group, the barest trace of annoyance was hidden in his tone, Locas felt certain Bali had been doing something she shouldn't.
"I'm one of the Breach Commanders from Solomon City, your Guild Leader has been captured while participating in a Nether mission."
*****************
/Inferno: Jun Li: All fighting members of Inferno are to report to Loki immediately, I want all hands on deck!
/Alliance Command: Jun Li: I'm assuming command of the Alliance, all members prepare for Breach Deployment.
Jun Li walked into the Guild HQ located on Loki Island, it was only the second time she had been there. Captain Locas and a dragon descendant were talking just inside the door.
/Inferno: Semmi: Alpha Team is enroute, we have Fajii, Vooni, and Chiba with us.
Deidra nodded to herself while she read the deployment sheet. Nix had an abundance of allies for someone new to Command. She brought up an alternate Deployment hud and started adding his Allies to it.
[Deployment Menu]
Alpha Team
Pathfinders
Inferno
12 Pillar Alliance
"Breach Commander Deidra?" Jun Li had already been briefed while she was coordinating their allies.
Deidra nodded. "You must be Vice-Leader Jun Li, I'm prepared to brief you on the situation."
"Thank you, if you don't mind I'll take that briefing after my officers arrive." Jun Li took a seat at the conference table and brought up her hud.