Of Rats and Men

Talbot Quillfeather

UP: Catskills

    Seldom safe from petty thieves, the streets and merchant stalls of Western Britain have become quite accustomed to daily cries of "Stop Thief, Guards!". So it was with little surprise that I witnessed a well-armored member of our Lord's guards raise her halberd and pummel a shambling hooded figure into unconsciousness. After all, a cup of ale is much more entertaining than witnessing a criminal get their just desserts. My contemplation of the most blessed of beverages was rudely interrupted, however, when a shout of alarm began echoing through the city streets and right through the window next to my habitual perch in the Cat's Lair Tavern.

Glancing up in irritation I was horrified to see not less than twenty upright rodents dashing past my view of the courtyard outside. The ratman, in my opinion is a horrible aberration of nature - quite possibly the ugliest, and indeed the most odorous, of all the foul sub-humanoid species that populate our land. So it was in a moan of revulsion tempered with journalistic discipline that I grabbed my satchel and bolted after the scurrying mob. Fortunately for me and my potential to bleed rather easily, the ratmen were floundering through an open midden at about the same time that I managed to extricate myself from a sudden entanglement with an enraged, and recently robbed, cheese merchant.

Unfortunately for the ratmen, however, a well-armored band of warriors, heedless of the stench and filth from their target's choice of escape routes, had plunged and waded their way into the sewers in pursuit of the fleeing thieves. Holding a handkerchief over my nose, and bemoaning the loss of my favorite boots, I trudged after the armed ensemble towards the sounds of screeching and harsh, echoing clangs of steel. Before long, I began to see the first bodies drift by in the middens. I must confess, I have no love for ratmen and the sight of the drifting, headless body of one failed to trigger any emotion other than a disgust that grew more and more pronounced as I worked my way deeper into the lair.

Turning a corner next to a particularly foul and slime encrusted passage, I saw first hand the scope of the battle. Fighting valiantly, the gallant justice-seeking warriors were rapidly slashing their way through a mass of seething, fur-covered bodies towards a large central chamber filled with piles of sewer flotsam and ill-gained goods. While I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to the heroic mob's intentions, I suspect their fervent assault was motivated more by the spilt sacks of gleaming yellow gold than by a desire to enact justice. Within minutes, most of the ratmen lay bleeding to death in the filth around the group who barely stopped to kick the bodies into the running middens before leaping into the rubbish heap of ill-gotten gains before them.

I do not love ratmen, you'll not find a reason to accuse me of being a member of a sub-humanoid rights movement, but I cannot help but pity their fate at the hands of this band of "justice" seeking warriors. It is one thing to punish, but to slaughter without remorse simply to fill your own coffers is in this writer's opinion, unconscionable. Not one gold coin nor stolen item was returned to the victimized merchants of Britain that day, but I suspect that quite a few of those coins found their way into a tavern keeper's purse by evening's end.

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Tuesday, June 20th 2000