From the Bunk
Titles Minister of War, Admiral
Age 24 (Soggus 27th 1707)
Significant Other Jeshal the Ironclaw
Height: 5'0” Eyes: Dark green. Alignment: Neutral.
A small, savage little vixen with half of a left ear, covered in all manner of scars and with immense, dark eyes ringed with black dye.
A convoluted mess that ends as such:
Shambling into the room with a deliberate gait, which seemed far too heavy for the skill he possessed, the shackled and escorted Kerri Quilane blinked at the strangely immaculate interior of the MinoWar's central office. Its conversely scruffy occupant sat at the desk scanning a copy of the Smelt, absorbing the locale in silence as he was urged forward by the weasel and rat lieutenants who had been dispatched to bring him in to see Minister Tanya. Although her ragged ears twitched to register the presence of the creature as she spoke, the vixen appeared to give no further indication of acknowledging the beast otherwise. She turned one of the fragile, yellowed pages, savoured the crisp crackle the action yielded, and let her sharp eyes fall upon the horoscopes, hawk-like in the unbearably still silence.
"Your guards," the tomcat hissed with confounding affability, expression unreadable between the immense smile and venomous, crystalline eyes when his gaze fell upon the heavy, battle-scarred katana resting upon the desk before Toxic, "hit me. Multiple times, in fact. Force was not necessary, and I do not appreciate you-."
"You killed me sister, you liddle scumbag!" the weasel lieutenant interjected with a snarl, seizing the diminutive tomcat by the scruff and dragging his focus back up from the blade to Tanya again, "I didn't need no excuse - when I saw your name on the list I was all too 'appy to bring y' in and break-."
"That'll be enough. Leave th' pris'ner wi' me an' wait outside."
Wrinkling his nose in disgust that he should not see revenge, but unprepared to risk going against the unnervingly calm vixen at the desk, the weasel released his grip on the soundless Kerri with a light shove and followed his colleague out of the room. The hollow boom of the large, ornate doors slamming shut permeated the air for several long moments before Tanya finished her reading and dog-eared the Smelt, blinking at the pale-furred tom who stood before her so delicately despite his injury, so much more laughably feminine than her, and was once again struck by the paleness of his eyes and the gore on his chin. Even now, manacled and bloody-faced, he seemed more lucid and normal than ever before, as if the gravity of what was to come had mobilised him to actually focus upon reality. That or the cut on his temple and bruised eye had beaten a little temporary clarity into his abnormal brain.
"I'll repeat: Yer late." came the rasp to break the silence.
"A mere formality. Much unlike the manner in which you had me brought in and the ridiculous pretence it was under."
"Wot? That liddle scratch? pah, 's nothin'. 'Sides, can' 'ave yeh bein' taken in all pretty-like can we? Why, an assassin - mercenary - torturer - wi' your records ain't the type to make many frien's, an' elseways everybeas' else wants yer dead. 'Sides the murder charge works, don't it? Yer killed four've yer seven brothers, didn' yer?"
"Six seasons ago, yes."
"Well, then, there y' go." Tox grinned amiably, stretching as she relaxed in her chair. Kerri took a proffered seat opposite the little vixen and frowned lightly.
"Rather delayed a charge, do you not think? Will there not be suspicion?"
"Bah, th' court won' care, much less end up knowin'. Nobeas' does. On the subject of delayed fings that mus' be done, I believe an employer of yers wants a word wi' yer as well as me. I fink you know why."
As the cat had correctly divined from the presence of the Peacemaker on Tanya’s desk, the creature named The Ironclaw was indeed within the room. No further Captain of the Guard had been appointed since his promotion to Minister of Commerce and so the blade still belonged to the fox. Naturally he had left it there for show. When Jeshal peeled into view, however, all dressed up in his formal chasuble and cavalier hat, none of his usual theatrics were visible. The typical half-smile was nowhere to be seen. He looked solemnly at the prisoner, remembering the night loyalty had failed.
Quilane had come to him that night when the docks brought in old faces, most of which he had never met, only read about, many of whom he had believed to be dead. That, at least, had made him feel a little safer. Perhaps the Imperium was all bark. The white cat had informed him and Jeshal had stolen away that very evening. For a long while he had waited in an alley, staring at the thriving Bilge, listening for every raised voice. Dressed down in casual corsair attire, he moved closer as the time passed. Among the hubbub he picked out the voice of the Admiral, sharp and wary. She was going to get herself killed, or ignored and then killed.
Their relationship had very scarcely improved since the days of his betrayal. If anything, their accidental marriage had placed an odd feeling of tolerance and aloofness between them. It grated on him that a few drunk words and an idiot witness could provide a legitimate document making everything yet more complicated. It may have been some warped recognition of this that made Jeshal slip into the tavern. At first he moved slowly, meandering until he could see a clear path to Tanya. Then, with a hiss of breath, he stalked across the room and seized her by the wrist. Before she could make more than a snarl of protest, he fixed her with the most compelling gaze he owned.
”I be needin’ ter talk with ye. Now. An’ no, it be not somethin’ that can wait,” he had hissed.
Somehow it worked. Blocking his ears to any words that may have been uttered at his presence, he escorted Tanya out into the street.
And they had talked.
Now, fur prickling at his neck, Jeshal was seeing the fruits of their discussion had become ripe, maybe even rotten. He no longer could remember whether it had been his decision or hers, only too surprised that they had reached an agreement on anything, but the cat was the lynchpin. The unfamiliar pang of fear gnawed at his innards with the knowledge that their fate rested in Kerri’s paws. It was a foolish plan. Was the risk even worth it? Yes. They had to try. Still the anxiety would not leave him, that there was no trusting the devil feline. Not with something this big. But it was far too late.
“We be making our move this night, Quilane,” he said with a hint of menace. “What exactly that be depends on you. Ye shall be knowin’ the details, says I, an’ then ye we be seein’ where this ends.”
"Tonight?" Softly rounded ears perked in response to the Ironclaw's comment and, suddenly, Kerri's posture became that much more alert, pale eyes that much more focused in spite of his headache as he stared intently at the copper todd, thin brows raised, "I assume you are meaning, then, to demand what you wish of me at such short notice? I am not sure if-."
"Yeh will be supplied wiv everyfin' you need, fr'm garottes to guilders, wivin the hour if you so need't," Tanya rasped tiredly from her plush chair, ink-black shadows cast by the wall behind dissecting her narrow face to lend the Minister an aura of ethereal threat. Her tone, whilst worn, gave no room for manoeuvre. "Time is all you 'ave agains' yeh, an' if you don' fink you got the skill, speak up now so's we can arrest y' proper-like in 'oldin' cells until this be done."
This seemed to have the desired effect; twisting his paws within the cuffs uncomfortably, the tom shifted on his seat and his smile grew even broader - a gesture, Tox now realised, was a display of heightened anxiety in the feline who must, thusly, be a paranoid sort. "No, no, if that is how things must be. I thank you for the faith you place in me: not many would dare assume I could perform a task without leaving a knife somewhere in their ribs or back, you understand. Now then, Mister Ironclaw, Ryalor; please do explain to me exactly what it is these....details....consist of."
It had taken less than thirty minutes to fully outline what was required of the feline: thankfully astute enough to fill in gaps and skip unnecessary explanations, Kerri picked up on the cues and intimations with no problem, breezing through the directions and expectations with his trademark grin.
"Well," he eventually concluded as silence began to settle oppressively within the ornate office, leaving with it a bemusing sense of both relief and foreboding, "I cannot say that this will be a task I undertake lightly nor with great amusement, which is a shame really because in any other circumstances I should be rather delighted to do as you have asked. You are both aware of the risk involved, and what should happen if anything...unexpected...were to occur? I ask you one final time if you wish to reconsider."
Stone-faced, the vulpines didn't even give themselves the luxury of a moment's hesitation; they both nodded stiffly and, satisfied with the gesture, Kerri rose to his footpaws, moving with much lighter ease than previously.
"I won' lie: yer a twisted, slimy liddle weasel 'o 'as the ability ter scare 'Gates out've me" Tanya murmured from the dark as her gaze met Kerri's unflinchingly for the first time, "but yer sort, for all the unpredictability, don' lie. Yer a refreshin' sort, Quilane: if yer do as tol', you an' yer ladyfriend'll find money enough back at y' bunks to do 'zactly wot I 'ear you two've been plannin' these last months. Keep yer ear to the ground an' per'aps we'll find a means to see one 'nother again, in this life or the next. Fair winds, cat."
He didn't even give her another word; dipping his head politely, the white tomcat gave Jeshal an exultant bow, twisted his paws with a flourish and let the cuffs previously binding him clatter to the floor. A dagger materialised in one delicate, pale-furred paw, dredged from the depths of his black coat, and the tome departed in silence. The guards on watch outside the MinoWar's door would later be found with slit throats and missing fangs.
In the wake of the strange little feline's departure, Tanya's shoulder sagged once again and her blank demeanour became haggard and moribund. Permitting herself an unladylike yawn and flex of the arms, she gave Jeshal - her proverbial partner in crime, her torturer, her former aide, her faux husband - a glance from the corner of her eye and softly - hesitantly - patted his good paw with her own.
"All fings considered" she whispered, almost afraid to break the strangely comfortable quiet that had lulled between the foxes, "I fink this is the smartest fing we've done yet."
The void that Jeshal imagined expanding in his stomach did not prevent him from agreeing with the Minister of War. Now that they were alone again he could still feel the crawl of his flesh at the constant reminder of unfinished business, but it was a discomfort only he owned. His original intentions were long since passed and, if not forgiven, certainly dulled in importance. The fox did everything he could not to flinch at her touch, an impossible action for an impossible day. He turned to face her, gave her a look of volatile gentleness. Breath caught in his chest and only the barest thread of thought saved him from the mistake of pouring out a piece of unblackened heart. Even for an impossible day, to tell her would have been absurd.
Last Will and Testament of Jeshal (Smith), alias The Ironclaw.
In the event of my death (being a strong possibility in the next few nights), this document may be found copied and distributed amongst several sources in the Imperium. Any counterfeits will not have my coded message in the footnote. The code may be found in my journal, which I have bequeathed to a trusted party. In any case, on with the matter at hand: my properties. Firstly, the Gothic “A.M.” must be sold and the profits sent to the Kreehold coffers. My suite is to be given to Etty. It is not far from her tea shop and her efforts should be rewarded. She won’t thank you, but she’ll take it anyway. The castle I give to the crew of the Golden Hide. Don’t ask me what they’ll do with it, that won’t be my problem. My possessions should be divided evenly amongst the same crew as well as the Kreehold. All money I leave to Admiral Tanya Ryalor, or otherwise her kin. Captaincy, unless otherwise agreed with the Admiral, will fall to Armina Rogue else any other she deems appropriate for command.
Before I must confine myself to the chasm of the ‘Gates, I dole out one final piece I own. Acknowledging that it exists, I leave whatever else is left of my pirate heart and soul to Tanya. Craven to the end, it seems I did not reveal what my once rash actions truly meant, perhaps for the best. Laugh at my grave, vermin, that she was my everything and she did not know. Kindness was not my greatest virtue. There you have it, irony from an Ironclaw.
Farewell, you cur of a city. I will miss you.
(Here follows a witness signature by an S. Ashpaw and an illegible coded message)
The Ironclaw finally chose a reply for the Admiral.
“It be done, then.”
As last words went, they had a certain poignancy.
The following day, the offices of Smelt reporters and network of Ministry links alike buzzed to life at a fever pitch as word spread like wildfire that two Ministry buildings - War and Commerce - had both suffered great disaster when a raging fire and alcohol-fuelled explosion respectively gutted the two imposing buildings, sweeping through all rooms and leaving few beasts alive to tell the tale.
All that was left? A warped earring, once for the nose, with a strange pinkish crystal in the centre, and a crumpled, blackened iron gauntlet.