23 Ring, 6099 RTR (4 Sep 1999) Willow deals with a Titanian mob, then discusses matters of faith with the cheetah priest.
(Airship) (Nordika) (Willow) (X)
The Merryweather is an outdated sky ship by most standards, having the elongated "zeppelin" envelope design and sails, yet rarely having an air mage to provide the propulsion to justify such features. The hanging gondola "sea-vessel"-style undercarriage would be an open invitation to winged boarders, according to modern air combat specialists, as well. But, somehow this ship still gets by, with patches, replacements and scars here and there as souvenirs of the scrapes it has survived so far.

Willow has returned to the safety of the airship Merryweather. Here, most of the crew is hiding out, rather than partaking in the evidently hazardous Titanian "festivities" presently going on. The chain-wearing motozaki-driving Titanian has driven off, and there's no sign yet of Burr and his cargo. (Willow, after all, took the short cut.)

Whitehead peers over the railing, chittering, "Dat's one angry bunch of Titanians!" He turns to look at the recently arrived Willow. "You didn't have anything to do with riling 'em up, did ya?"

"Not a thing. They riled themselves up." Willow hobbles to the deck and heads towards the doctor's cabin, shooting the other rat with an angry glare. "Why? You insinuating that I'm a troublemaker?"

Whitehead shrinks down at least an inch or two, and back as well. "N-n-no! Not me! I mean … no! Not 'tall! Just … just curious, see?"

A couple of explosions go off somewhere down in the canyon below the docks, rocking the airship lightly a few seconds after. All through the settlement, this little tiff seems to have spread like wildfire, as the Titanians can be seen brawling with each other – as likely just because they like to do so as any problem with a preachy masked priest.

The steel gray rat ducks into her office and grabs a few random bottles of herbs, medications, and quite a few bandages. "Burr got tangled up in a snarl, but I'm expecting him any moment. You'd probably do best to stay on the ship in case one of the doggies decides to start chunking rocks at us or something." She starts to limp back down off the ship.

Willow catches sight of a couple of furry spotted ears hiding behind an empty keg on the deck – far too small to belong to Burr, of course. But as she finally gets down the gangplank, along comes a big cheetah carrying a robed and masked priest over his shoulders. He's got a few scratches, and a red stain on his cowl, but at least he doesn't appear to be staggering or limping.

She eases herself down on a rock and motions for Burr to set his other companion in front of her. "He conscious? And what about you? Take your hood off." She starts setting out bottles around her for quick access.

Burr sets down the priest, who groans and moves around a bit, demonstrating that he's still alive (and that there probably aren't any broken bones). Burr pulls back his cowl, revealing a patch on his crown where it looks like he got, well – crowned. It probably looks worse than it really is, but it will still require some cleaning, and even at a glance, it'll probably require at least a couple of stitches.

For now Willow just grabs a wad of bandages, dumps a bottle of strong smelling disinfectant into it and hands it to Burr. "Help me get this guy's armor off. I saw him get pegged in the head at least once and I can't treat it through a helmet."

Burr nods, and wrestles with the fallen priest's helmet. The priest begins flailing about, as if fighting off the large cheetah … but the helmet at last pops out. Underneath the helmet is another cheetah face.

The helmet must have some protective purpose after all, because there's not so much as a scratch underneath – though the fur is all mussed up. (And part of that could be because of Burr's rough removal of the helmet. It looks like there was a chin-strap that should have been unfastened first.)

"Beh," is all the rat grunts out at the sight of the priest's face – yet another wacko. She hands the wad of bandages to Burr. "Put this on your head, and if this fellow thrashes about too much, use your free hand to hold him down." She looks at her "patient" for the first time. "You took a whomping. I'm making sure you're all right."

The "wacko" nods, not trying any hand-signs – or any further struggling – for the moment. Burr, meanwhile, applies the bandages to his head … something he's had some experience with, at least.

Some howls echo from down the ledge-path, and a few Titanians can be seen tromping up the rocky way that Burr came, holding torches, lanterns, and big hammers.

Burr's ears flatten back reflexively … and he winces, then adjusts his bandages a bit.

Willow starts poking the priest's ribs and arms. "You know I understand handsign… If there's any particular part that hurts, let me know. I don't think the Titanians cracked anything, but it doesn't take much." Her head rises up with the noises in the distance. "Great. A right happy little lynch mob, except they'll probably just chew you up and make you into sandwiches instead."

The priest winces at a few points … but these appear to just be bruises. The Titanians may have decided to play 'catch' with him, but nobody decided to try making a wish. He sits up a bit, and frowns as he sees the mob. "Thank you," he signs, "but if that is my fate, so be it. You have helped me – I am grateful – but this is not your responsibility."

The rat rolls her eyes. "Oh please. None of this martyr talk… It makes my ears itch." She pulls herself up to her feet. "As long as you don't get me in trouble, you can join me on the Merryweather. The cap will probably bail the moment the mob comes into view anyhow, and we can dump you off at the next port."

The mob has slowed down as it approaches the airship, and a somewhat more squat Titanian (still tall by Skreek or Savanite standards) with an abundance of metal and bone jewelry dangling from every available spot, pushes his way to the fore, hobbling a bit with the aid of a large "hammer" that appears to be more of a staff in function. He's white around the edges, but still ornery by the looks of things, even in his old age.

The priest signs, "I assure you, it's not my intent to be a martyr, but how would it look to my converts if I ran – "

At this point, Burr yanks the (somewhat) smaller cheetah up and off the ground, and makes for the gangplank. He catches sight of Thorn's ears and makes a shooing gesture with his free hand … answered by the disappearance of the cub's ears, and rapid padding of paws across the deck.

"Alive. Who would they look up to, if you stayed here and got mashed?" Willow sighs and turns in the direction of the approaching elder.

Rather than letting the priest hang around long enough to make a retort or speech in agonizingly slow hand-sign, Burr hauls the other cheetah onto the deck and – for the moment – out of sight.

( Okay… Hopefully Burr will have the sense to knock that moron out cold if he makes a fuss. Thank fires Savanites can't talk. ) Groaning at the protests of her broken limbs, Willow grabs up the cheetah's helmet and starts back up the gangplank.

At this point, the mob slows to a stop, none daring to push in front of what appears to be their leader. The older wolf chews on his lip for a moment, giving Willow an angry look, then snorts and growls, "Me Chief Rumble! Dis First Son Steelfang!" He gestures with his hammer-staff, swinging it into the stomach of a younger (and taller) wolf standing beside him. The blow shouldn't be enough to bother a Titanian, but the First Son obligingly makes a pained-sounding "OOF!" and stumbles backwards, before adopting his tough-guy pose again.

Rumble continues, "Me see spotties get on ship. Give over spotties! Dey in big zaki-doo!"

The rat stops her ascent halfway. "The spotties belong to me. What did they do?"

Rumble barks, "Big spotty yank down pants of First Son!" He tugs at Steelfang's leg, but the younger wolf protectively grabs his belt-rope and gives his elder a bewildered look. "Foreign spotty cause big heap break-down!"

Another wolf pushes his way through the crowd to stand next to Rumble. It's that Titanian with the motozaki and the taste in leather and chains. "Sorry Chiefie. Motozaki went PBBBBT."

"Well First Son was trying to hit him in the head with a hammer! Spotty skulls aren't as tough as Titanians'." Willow looks around, "As for the breakdown, how exactly do you mean? All this rioting? Please! This will be something you can tell the pups about … the day the pilgrims came home and you had a big free for all. I thought you folks liked stuff like that."

The leather-and-chains wolf nods agreement, and lets out an enthusiastic howl – but it's quickly cut off by a stomach-slam by Chief Rumble's hammer-staff.

"Shut jaw, Second Son!" Rumble then frowns and grips his hammer-staff a little more tightly. "Spotty dishonor First Son. First Son demand contest."

First Son Steelfang slams a fist into a palm, making it evident what sort of "contest" he has in mind.

"I own those two spotties, and it is MY responsibility to punish them. Nobody else's. They cost me darn near a gold and I won't have that money squandered over this." Willow folds her arms. "Not to mention one of your fellows has already put a dent in him already."

The rat's eyes flick over towards "Second Son". ( He must take after his mum… )

Another wolf comes up behind Willow this time … though he looks like a dwarf compared to the Titanians. It's Captain Merryweather. "Ah … Willow … why not just let the nice Titanian fellows… " He's talking through a stage grin. "… have their fun with Burr? I mean, he's a big guy. He can take it. Just have Burr throw a fight with … ah … that nice first son of the CHIEF over there … and I'm sure they'd be a lot nicer to us, don't you think? Right?"

The Second Son grimaces a bit, rubbing his belly. He then notices Willow (took him a moment), and grins and waves. "Hey! Dere's the little ratty who didn't weedle on my seat affer going across like WHOOOOOOOO-PA!" He pantomimes with his hand "jumping" through the air, then laughs loudly. He gets another belly sock. "Ow! STOPPAT, Chiefie!" He gets a third. "Aw!"

"Shut jaw, Chain," growls First Son Steelfang. "I gonna MASH dat spotty." He eyes Willow. "Or maybe ratty-boy."

"They'll KILL him," Willow snaps back, barely holding her voice in. "If they kill him, so help me captain I'll quit and I'll take Morning-Mist and as many people as I can with me. You'll be losing the best doctor and translator your ship has ever had, its best scullery maid, and probably one of the few people left on this ship that can actually keep it safe if we get raided by pirates… " Her eyes narrow at First Son.

"Can I name someone to fight in his place?" Willow pipes up.

The Captain breathes in deep through his nose, still trying to look friendly, but ending up looking more like a cornered animal. "Willllow? What are you DOING? These people have lots of METAL. I know iron's not what it used to be … but it's STILL worth a load … and they have artifacts, too! Do you realize how much we stand to LOSE here?"

Chief Rumble grunts, and looks sidelong at First Son. First Son frowns deeply, but at last returns with, "And what if ratty COULD?"

Willow looks to Second Son. "You… Can I talk to you for a second? Over here, privately?"

Second Son flashes a grin to everyone, then makes a wide-shouldered stride over to Willow. "Sure, ratty! Whazzup?"

"Could you fight for me?" Willow whispers to the larger Titanian. "Burr's already hurt, and I know your brother will kill him. You… you're tough, and I bet if you win this, your pop will probably be lighter on you and pound on your brother more. I can't offer you much in return except my gratitude… "

The chain-wearing Titanian's ears perk up … and he slowly turns to look at First Son … grinning.

First Son raises an eyebrow. "Rrrr?"

"DEAL!" shouts Second Son, as he grabs his hammer, runs over, and clobbers First Son on the head!

"CHAIIIIIIN!" bellows Chief Rumble angrily, as he swings his hammer-staff around – but the brawl is already on, and the Titanians quickly lose interest in Willow, knocking over barrels and crates and junk in order to get themselves ringside seats for the brawl.

"Thank yo-… " Willow grabs the rail of the gangplank, steadying herself after the other Titanian's quick departure. ( Hopefully all those bonks he's gotten from his dad will have made him tougher than his bro. )

"NO FAIR! MOM SAY YOU CAN'T – OOF!" bellows First Son. "I'LL GIT YOU!"

Hammers swing, chains rattle, Titanians whoop, and Captain Merryweather just tries to look friendly and harmless. "Ah … aheh. Hi there … ah … Chief Rumble. Nice fight, huh?"

"You can have me flogged on the deck after this is over if you want, Captain. It won't be my first time." Willow grips the railing and looks over to the chief. "I'm allowed a champion, right? He didn't say no."

Chief Rumble simmers, his body shaking, as he grips his staff tightly … but he looks at the fight. "No sense waste good fray," he grumbles, then hurries off to get a good seat.

Once Rumble is out of earshot, Captain Merryweather lets out a long breath. "Willow … First Ones help me … I know you're good … but you're a Dagh-cursed Exile, the way you act! What got into your head? I want an explanation, and I bloody well deserve one!"

Not immediately finding a good seat, Chief Rumble makes one. *WHACK*

"I don't like watching people die. Fires know why. With Morning-Mist in that crazed village, it was because she'd done nothing wrong and they were going to slaughter her like a fat Bromthen. She sort of reminded me of me when I was a pup. Then in Sylvania there was a wacko who was going to knife herself; in Abu Dhabi there was a book shop… and in Chronotopia it was the Bloody Shekel. If you want to know about it, I'll talk, but you'd best swear that nobody else in the crew hears, understand me?" The rat's gray eyes look up to the top of the ship and her voice lowers.

The Captain peers up at the deck, but there aren't any Eeee ears to be seen … and the Titanians sure aren't paying any attention. "All right … fine. If it has to be a secret, so be it. I just want to know what's going on, so I can figure out if we're going to be ducking and running every time we hit port."

"I'm not hunted by the cops, if that's what you mean. I'm a law-abiding citizen with a cleaner record than most of your passengers." The rat jerks her head back towards the fray, "This started because some loony was preaching to the Titanians about how they shouldn't lie and steal and bonk each other on the head. I… well… I couldn't just sit and watch these guys tear him to giblets. It would have been like watching that horrible celebration in Bakanal… "

The Captain shudders at the mention of Bakanal … but lets that mention pass. "Preaching? Wait … you don't mean that spotty in the probably stolen Temple robes that your Burr dragged on board, do you? Since when do Titanians understand Wiggle-finger?"

"NOT THE FACE! NOT THE FACE!" comes a howl from the fight.

"He's not from Sinai. A Sinai spotty wouldn't be as stupid as this fellow. I think he came from the Red Cliffs, since he arrived the same time as the pilgrims. He had a couple of Titanians with him that were playing Hammersong." Willow cranes her neck at the assembled mob to see if the cheetah's companions might be among them somewhere.

If they are, they must have abandoned their robes and instruments for more traditional Titanian attire. There are no familiar faces to be seen (especially since most of them are looking the other way just now).

The rat shakes her head. "Either that, or he really is a loon, and I have a tendency to attract loons. I'm beginning to wonder if there's some kind of sign on my back that tells folks like that about how gullible I am. Seems like every town I pop in, there's a religious fanatic that I have to deal with in one way or another – except for Weatherwax, but I suppose that to some folks he was just as important as a god."

"Not from Sinai?" The Captain bites his lip. "All right, all right. You felt sorry for a stupid spotty. That's all fine and good … but it's not worth getting us all in trouble for. A nice young lady Cervani, sure. Some Chronotopians out for a steam-train ride, certainly. And I can breathe a mite easier that Weatherwax isn't still in the air. But if you have to go playing hero when somebody's pet fuff'nar is stuck up a tree, that's too far. By the Gods, this is just a SAVANITE!"

"I SEE HORRIBS, I SEE ANTS, I SEE YOU AIN'T GOT NO – OOF!" More ruckus from the fight.

"Beh. Here you are worried about your cargo. You ever traded slaves? You know how expensive they are?" Willow shrugs. "I don't know what to say, Captain. Fuff'nars don't have conversations with me like the spotties do. I guess I just take pity on stupid folk."

The Captain sighs. "Oh, please, not one of these 'Spotties aren't just animals' arguments. I'm no philosopher. But if it's a matter of expense, just who owns this crazed spotty, anyway? Surely you aren't going to claim him? I'm not going to raise your pay just so you can feed another mouth." He stops, pondering. "Although … maybe he'd fetch a good price in Rephidim, if we got someone to fix up some papers… "

"I never said that spotties weren't animals, they're just smarter than fuff'nars." The rat looks back at the fray, trying to figure out the current winner. "He won't cost you anything. Whatever he eats I'll deal with, and I never said I had any intentions of keeping him." She sighs. "Look, I'm a good worker and I try to do you good. You'll probably never have trouble in Chronotopia again, which makes up a little for this. And as for metal, you can probably sift the ground for the broken bits from the fight and come home with a fortune without paying for a thing. And for artifacts… " She hands the Savanite's helmet to the captain. "Here."

The Captain looks at the helmet. "This … this looks … Temple. Ah … " He looks back to Willow. "I'm not going to go selling off 'artifacts' and then get dragged in by some Inquisitors and asked how I got hold of some relics stolen from some odd shrine, or pulled off of a Templar." Still, he turns the helmet over in his hands, peering at it curiously, and occasionally sniffing.

"EAT THE HAMMER!" bellows a Titanian. "NO! YOU WIN! YOU WIN! OW!"

The big wolves bellow and hoot and wave their hammers around. Sounds like we have a winner.

"Maybe the spotty had a few things besides fancy robes." Willow jerks around towards the fight, trying to eye the winner. ( Pleasepleaseplease… )

A Titanian limps out. It's First Son Steelfang. He leans heavily on his hammer. He just glares at Willow.

His belt line is almost up to his chest. It looks fairly uncomfortable.

The rat grins a little. She leans over and glances behind First Son. "Think of it this way; I think we've definitely made a friend with a tribe out here. And I'd say that he's just gotten an influential spot as well."

Captain Merryweather looks up from the helmet, his tentative grin dropping quickly. "Ah … the chief's son doesn't look too happy, really… "

Just then, a big Titanian with a big grin (and a big gap where there's a tooth visibly missing) swaggers out of the crowd of Titanians, basking in the hoots and hollers and back-slaps he gets as he comes out. He points at his mouth. "Losht me firsht toof frumma FRAY!" He has one of his chains over his head, but otherwise he looks to be in far better shape than First Son.

"He's got no ground to stand on. And you can't please everyone. The important thing is that most of the Titanians are happy now." Willow waves to Second Son. "Way to GO!"

Chief Rumble comes out of the crowd, laughing loudly, and he claps Second Son Chain on the back as he passes. Then, he looks at First Son Steelfang and frowns. "First Son, fix you TROUSERS, dummy!" He goes over and gives the pants a hard yank, which results in a loud YELP from the First Son. The thoroughly humiliated wolf grabs his hammer and stomps off, tail low.

Chief Rumble then looks at Willow. After a moment's pause, he just says, "Hmph." With that, he marches down the path, after his retreating son.

Willow makes a point of looking dejected at the brush off. "If they won't trade with you, tell them that you'll have me flogged in front of the lot of them if they'll reconsider." The rat exhales angrily through her nose. "Just don't make me take my shirt off. I'd rather Whitehead didn't see me. Now, if you excuse me, I think I have a religious loony to talk to… "

Merryweather just nods. Turning to the Second Son, he brightens and, mimicking Willow's intonation, cheers, "Way to go, big fellah! Say, those are some nice chains you have there. Do you make those? We have some really nice goods we picked up, and maybe you'd like to see if you'd like them. Maybe we could work out a trade… "

The rat glances back and grins one final time at Second Son before heading into her office where she thinks three cowering spotties are lurking.

Second Son grins back at Willow … but he's soon distracted by some strong-smelling ale from a keg that Merryweather taps in order to pour a "toast" to Second Son's victory … as a sample, of course.

Eventually, Willow hobbles her way back to the sick room … and, sure enough, there are three spotted cats (and one Cervani) taking cover inside. The "wacko" sits on the sick bed, with a sheet draped over his head, while Burr has Thorn in his arms. Morning-Mist does some tidying up, but steps out to make room for Willow as the rat arrives.

"Misty, take Thorn with you, if you could. Everything's all right now." Grunting, Willow eases herself into a chair.

Morning-Mist nods. "That's good. I'm glad things are quieter." She pauses, hearing some howling and banging and other cacophony outside. "I mean, relatively speaking." She scoops up Thorn, who clings to her like a bundle of his namesake, and quietly slips out of the room.

Once Morning-Mist is out of the room, the priest cheetah pulls the sheet off of his head. "They went away?" he queries in sign.

Willow pulls herself up again and locks the door before sitting back down. "Yes. They wanted to fight Burr here for rescuing you. Probably would have killed him. I convinced the brother of the one issuing the challenge to fight in Burr's place. There still might be trouble, and I suggest that you stay on this ship until we reach the next port, unless you want to be ripped to pieces."

The priest nods his head. "I am indebted to you. You are most gracious."

Burr frowns, and nods as well, rubbing his bandaged head.

"To you as well," the priest adds, looking to Burr. "You are very brave, and a credit to the People." He looks to both Willow and Burr, signing and gesturing to mean, "May the Star bless you both."

"You'd better be. I'm already in trouble with my captain and we all almost ended up walking home from here. Can you work at all or do you have anything of value? Otherwise you'll just be dead weight here." The Skreek pulls some strips of bark from her herb pouch and chews on one strand before offering Burr the second. She swats wildly at the air as though fending off some bug. "Don't make your crazy blessings at me! I neither want nor need them."

The cheetah looks quite surprised, as he draws back his hand. "It is not I who bless, but the Star. I have no such power. And … of value? I know the value of labor, but I do not have the currencies of this land. I've found a few of your people to greatly value pieces of garbage, but it varies. I have much to learn of your world. Have you seen my helmet?"

Burr chews on the strand of bark, focusing intently on it as if it's a great mental task – or to distract himself from the general weirdness going on.

"Then keep your Star away from me – and your Star talk. Every deity people bring up means trouble for me." The rat flattens her ears. "My captain has it right now. He won't sell it because he can't, and I'll see about getting it back… but I'm not making any promises." She rubs her nose. "You have any of this 'garbage' on you right now?"

The priest frowns. "My helmet is very important. I can't very well go about naked." He glances to Burr, then back to Willow. "No offense meant to your customs, that is. As for garbage… " He rummages around in his robes, finding a few of his booklets and pamphlets crumpled and stuffed in odd places, but he also pulls out a few twisted pieces of metal, crystal and less identifiable materials. They're all about the right size to fit in one's hand, though their actual value on Sinai would vary from being considered just as much garbage here, to perhaps being considered minor luxury items. These days, it would all depend upon the presentation, and whether the "iron glut" has hit the area yet.

"Naked?" The rat raises a dubious eye, "You should have thought of that before you got a whole tribe of Titanians mad at you. I'll see what I can do. Beyond that you can just tromp around with a sheet on your head until we can replace it."

"As for the Star … I will respect your wishes. If I cannot tell you of the Star," signs the priest, "then at the very least I can listen."

Willow leans back, "Listen to what?"

The priest signs, "Surely there must be a reason why you are to averse to hearing of the Star. And I thank you for not expressing your distaste in the same way that the Titanians are inclined." His ears wiggle faintly.

The rat raises up her bound left arm. "I'm in no condition to, even if I wanted. As for the rest… you hoping you can debate dogma with me and win a convert?"

The priest sighs. "That is hardly my aptitude. But it is my purpose to spread the message of the Star's Light. If you should see the tale and refuse it … " The next sign is a shrug. "… then that is between you and the Star. If you do not wish to see signs of the Star at all … then at least tell me what you believe. As I have signed, I have much to learn of this world."

"So far," the priest signs, "I've only learned about 'gremlins'."

"You want to know what I've learned? All right… I've learned about the Earth Mother, who believes in killing the weak and ugly so that the strong and beautiful can live. I know about Amaranth, who summons ghosts and demons and sucks the lives out of people. I know about Dagh, who seems to take an interest in me and probably enjoys watching me squirm around. But all of these people had roots to normal folks who just didn't care about anyone but themselves, which is why for some reason I keep diving in and yanking folks out of trouble when I should have the common sense to sit still and walk away." Willow's breathing quickens and she looks away, perhaps not even really talking to the cheetah priest anymore and instead just venting about something she's never had the chance to. "I believe that when I croak, the only thing I might have to look forward to is having my body ground up into food for the Creens and ending up as a messy splotch on the heads of everyone I hate… "

The priest folds his hands together, just watching and listening.

The rat points a finger at the priest. "And look at you. Where was your Star when you were about to get torn to shreds by the Titanians out there, eh? The same place every other god I've ever asked for help has ever been. Nowhere. Feh… It's just a big load of yiffle dung that they feed to naive' kids to convince them to eat their vegetables and not pull on their brother's tail. The only things I've ever seen that have remotely resembled a god were all unpleasant creatures that should make me want to live as long as possible. If I were you, I'd take my books and go home. This is no place for you or your Star."

The priest smiles faintly.

Willow frowns. "And don't patronize me. I hate that."

The smile quickly vanishes, as the cheetah shakes his head. "Please, no. I just … Well, you asked me a question. Where was my Star? Right where the Star always is. I believe that the Star sent you, whether you know it – or believe it – or not."

"I'm no agent. I'm just a stupid rat with a soft spot for idiots." She jerks her head towards Burr. "And Dagh will use me just as easily, and probably Amaranth, and probably the next one to come along after that."

"Why do you say that? You try to help those whom others shun – even a silly old priest, when you care not for gods." The priest tries to smile. "You try to show love for others. That is the way of the Star – and, I deeply pray, the way of those of us who choose to follow the Star. If you listen to the Star's urgings – to show love, and not hatred – then this 'Dagh' and 'Amaranth' cannot hold you."

Actually, the cheetah's signs for 'Dagh' and 'Amaranth' are pretty mangled. In his use of phonetic sign, he appears to be overcompensating for what he perceives to be an "accent".

The rat lowers her head. "When I came in here, my first urge was to sock Burr up side the head, and all he did was what I told him to do. It was only that his kid was watching that I didn't, because if the pup hates me then Burr might be more prone to run away. My reasons for being kind are selfish, and it wasn't even a month ago that I murdered a man I deeply hated for no other motivation beyond revenge. It's why I'm in casts right now. You still think I'm kind?"

The priest signs, "I do not know your heart. Who am I to judge? When I first came to this world, I labeled the Titanians as worthless brutes. Is that fair? By my beliefs, their eternal souls could be in jeopardy, based on the decision they make, whether to follow the Star or not. If I chose not to tell them of the Star's love for them – then I was, in essence, murdering them … not only in body, but in spirit, for all eternity. Even if you don't believe that … I believe that, so I could have been guilty of a far greater murder."

"Well, I hope that Weatherwax is in the deepest pits of Hell for what he did, and I'll be happy to judge him. My only regret is that I didn't tell him who I was when I pushed him off the train." Willow grabs a bottle from the shelf and takes a pull from it. "I don't ask for all of these crazy people to pop up in front of me; they just do."

The priest looks to Willow. "I don't know this Weatherwax. Evidently I never will. But I believe – as much as you try to hide it, and as much hatred as you hold onto – there is still a desire for good in your heart. Don't lose hope. There is a greater purpose in this world. I may not have the signs to convince you … but it is true. Your attempts to help others are a testament to that. Why help someone, if it is only a delay in the inevitable? If they, too, will become … 'food for Creens'?"

"They might return the favor someday. If I beat Burr's son whenever he happened to annoy me, Burr might decide to not be there when someone's about to stick a knife in my back. The crew of this ship might not be there to help me if I did nothing but insult them and rob from them all the time." Willow leans back. "Just because I don't believe in an afterlife doesn't mean I want to find out about it any sooner."

The priest nods his head. "Well defended." He gets up from the sick bed, and reaches over to a hand-towel. "May I borrow this?" he inquires in sign.

"Help yourself. And I suggest that if you plan to stay here, you meet up with Misty and work your spots off, because if you laze around it's going to make the Cap all the more ready to chunk us all off this ship."

The Skreek turns to Burr. "… and if you hear anything about the tribal leader making a special arrangement for trading with him that involves me, let me know, all right?"

Burr bows his head in obedience.

The cheetah priest bows his head, taking the cloth. "I will do my utmost to earn my passage. May the … " He pauses in mid-blessing, drawing back his hand. He bows his head, draping it with the towel, and then heads out the door.

Sighing, Willow follows out after the priest – if only to see how trade is going.

The priest, his peripheral vision blocked by the towel, can be seen to quickly sign, as soon as he leaves the sick room, "Star, please bless them both." He heads back up to the deck.

Up on the deck, most of the crew is still shy of the loud Titanians … but a small gathering has developed, consisting of Captain Merryweather and his newfound friend, Second Son Chain – and a few hangers-on who are busy "sampling" the ale (maybe a bit too much, for the good captain's liking … but who's to argue too loudly with a drunk Titanian?) Still, it's looking like some of the ice has been broken, and Merryweather is at least in his element, working on those negotiations with an interested party. (Hopefully, Willow's backside will be spared.)


GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 3 days before Midsummer's Day, Year 29 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6128)