I'm such trash starting another story. Such trash. But, the plot bunny bit me hard and I had to write it down. In any case, this fandom could use some more fics. I've been looking through them and there are some really good ones. Maken' me cry all over again y'all. Too cruel.
It was dark.
So, so dark and very cold.
He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, but he couldn't stop the shaking.
He didn't know how long he had been walking, but his feet hurt. He had stumbled over a rock earlier and now his foot throbbed with every step he took.
He wanted to stop and sit down, but he was afraid.
It was so, so dark.
He couldn't see at all.
"Dad." He whimpered softly.
How long had it been since he was listening to his Dad play his saxophone softly as they waited for the laundry to finish drying? It seemed like forever now. He didn't mean to wander away from Dad, but the grate started banging and he wanted to see why. He had no idea that the thin wisps of mist would be so strong and drag him down, down, down. Into the darkness.
He stumbled again and fell, scraping his hands and knees as he hit the unforgiving stone.
It was so, so dark.
He couldn't even see the blood on his hands.
A tear slipped down his cheek. Then another.
Soon Gregor was sobbing brokenly in the darkness. He called out to Dad. Mom. Anyone.
Ripred didn't believe the rumor when he first heard it. He didn't know anyone that did. Aside from Mange, of course, but that fool believed anything. Ripred wasn't sure why Lapblood chose him as her mate. He was a gullible fool most of the time. Honestly, only Mange would believe that an Overlander was wandering around the Underground, completely alone.
Even the increasingly more insane Gorger was skeptical.
After all, how could a child, much less an Overlander child, survive in the harsh Underland?
Then Boneclaw died.
The stab wound that landed the killing blow was damming, but the ones that found his body claimed they found the dead body of a Regalia soldier and bonded flier not far from the old gnawer. Though, if the rumors were to be believed it looked like the soldier was dead before Boneclaw himself was killed. Gorger didn't care for rumors, however, and immediately pin the blame on Regalia. He flew into a rage and forced everyone to tighten their patrols before going off on a raid into the Nibbler's colonies regardless of multiple voiced disagreements from those with even a lick of common sense. He flirted with war more and more frequently lately and not everyone was comfortable with it.
This still didn't convenience Ripred of the silly Overlander rumor, but it was all the proof Mange needed to drag him and Lapblood off on a ridiculous quest to find the miraculous human.
"They say, that they caught a faint scent of Overlander in this area," Mange spoke quickly as his eyes roved over the area and his nose twitching frantically.
Lapblood caught Ripreds eye and rolled hers.
"And who is this 'they'?" Ripred asked putting no effort into hiding the annoyance dripping from his voice.
If Mange noticed, he was doing an admirable job of ignoring it as he continued forward, creeping around a corner as though the rumored Overlander would leap out to kill him at any moment.
"You know," He replied distantly. "Them."
"Very helpful," Lapblood muttered sourly. Her tail; however, belayed her amusement.
Ripred scratched at an itch behind his left ear and tilted his head to catch the scent of running water and another gnawer he couldn't quite place. He clicked his tongue on the back of his teeth and blinked in surprise at the image it brought him. A pup?
Lapblood and Mange had caught the scent now as well and they three of them exchanged a glance before they turned another corner and stepped into the soft light created by the algae in the river.
On the other side of the water, a small bundle of furs was hovering at the edge peering into the water.
"Watch out!" Lapblood warned sharply. "Don't touch the water or you'll get your paw bite off!"
The bundle of jerked and fell back revealing, not a pup, but a human child underneath all the fur. The four of them froze, staring at one another in shock until Mange started cackling in triumph. Lapblood shoved him; starting a fight. Ripred sighed and turned to the brat. The boy was still watching with wide eyes but had produced a broken blade held out in the sloppiest defense Ripred had ever seen. Now that he was looking closer at the pelt the child wore, it looked strikingly similar to what the Regalians used to try and cover their scent on more covert missions in or around their territory.
It made sense now, why everyone only caught brief hints of Overlander scent. Though how exactly the child survived for at least a week, if he was remembering when the rumors started correctly, was still in question.
He rolled his eyes and made a split-second decision. As Lapblood and Mange were still rolling on the ground snapping at each other, he flopped on the ground in the most unassuming fashion and switch to the humans preferred language.
"Hey brat, why don't you put that broken thing down?" Brown eyes snapped to him; anxious. Ready to run.
"It's not like we can get you across the water like that. Not that I can't swim, mind you, but I prefer not to get eaten by the nasty fish living in there."
The boy remained tense.
"Could be a trick." The voice was soft and slightly hoarse, likely from lack of use and perhaps a shortage of water.
Ripred bared his teeth in an approximation of a human grin and lolled his tongue out. "Sure, it could be, but wouldn't you like more information on where you are?"
The sword was lowered slightly, and eyes widened with desperate curiosity.
"Let's do an exchange of sorts? I'll answer your questions and you answer mine. Sound good?"
Lapblood and Mange were silent behind him now. He could feel the burn of their gazes on him; their questions were practically a physical weight. But, they held them back. Allowing him to take the lead.
The boy nodded slowly.
"Alright." He plucked a nibbler skull from the water with his tail to gnaw on, barely managing to dodge a nip from the blood-hungry fish swarming around the edge. "So, let's start with something simple. My name's Ripred. The two behind me are Lapblood and Mange. What's your name?"
The boy blinked. "Gregor."
Ripred accepted the answer with a nodded and gestures with a flick of his paw for the boy to ask his question.
"Where am I?"
"Uh-uh, It's my turn now." The boy glowered at him, but it looked more like a pout than anything threatening. "Alright, my next question is where did you get that broken sword and those furs of yours?"
The boy glanced down at the weapon in question and hesitated briefly. "Found 'em."
Probably off a dead body, Ripred surmised.
"What is the Underland?"
He had to physically hold back a snarky answer. "It's a world below yours. Underground."
The boy frowned. "The subway is underground."
"What's a subway?" He heard Mange whispered softly behind him.
Ripred rolled his eyes. "The Underland is further down than the subway. Much further."
"My turn. Where you the one that killed Boneclaw? He was a gnawer, like us, but was a scraggly, dark grey mess of bloodlust and rage."
Eyes filled with tears and shoulders began to tremble underneath all the furs immediately.
"I don't know."
He barely heard the muffled reply over the sound of the rushing water. Ripred narrowed his eyes at the pathetic sight.
"It's a yes or no answer. Did you drive your sword into his throat, yes or no?"
Trembling hands dropped the blade in question as the boy rocked back on his heels, looking as though Ripred had struck him across the face with his tail. Lapblood stepped forward, demeanor much softer than he had ever seen from her before.
"If you can't answer directly, why don't you explain what happened?" She asked gently in the human tongue.
The boy opened and closed his mouth a few times before looking down and clutching the furs to him tightly. For a moment, Ripred didn't think he'd answer, but his voice drifted softly across the water a few moments later.
"I was lost. It was so, so dark. Didn't know what to do. B-but I saw a light in the distance and followed it." A sniffle and Ripred caught smell the salty scent of tears. "I-I found an adult with a torch, b-but there was so much b-blood. The rat came out of the shadows and I was so scared. He said something about wanting Overlander m-meat. Tried to run, but just tripped. I thought I was going to d-die, but then everything went weird. My vision was w-wrong. Things were dim, but not really. Like the kaleidoscope dad gave me for my birthday. Everything was broken. Then next thing I knew…I-I was holding the sword and i-it was in…in…there was so much blood…so much..."
He broke off and started rocking back and forth hunched in the furs until he almost disappeared, muttering about blood.
Ripred slowly pushed himself back to his paws and shared a glance with his companions. He wasn't sure what a 'kaleidoscope' was, but he was intimately familiar with the fractured vision brought forth by his own instincts. Things were starting to make more sense now.
An Overlander child lost and surviving alone in the Underland? Not a chance.
But, a ragger surviving? A slightly higher chance.
His mind flickered over the possibilities. Even if the child survived this long it was doubtful, judging by the haggard and hungry look about him, that he'd last much longer. It was pure luck and the basic instincts of a ragger that must have gotten him to this point.
If Gorger knew about him, he'd kill him immediately.
The Regalians, on the other hand, would welcome him with open arms. He nearly snorted at the thought of Solovet practically salivating at the idea of a ragger Overlander, young and pliable for her to mold into a perfect soldier. A ragger was a devastating asset on the battlefield. Ripred would know. Being one himself. Sometimes even the mere threat of him getting serious was enough to stave off a fight.
A wavering voice dragged his attention back to the sniveling mess across the river. "C-can I go home? I- want t-to go home."
"We have to tell King Gorger," Mange whispered in their own language.
"He's just a pup," Lapblood replied, tail lashing in frustration.
Ripred ignored them. Focusing his attention on the boy.
"No, probably not." He stated bluntly. "But, you can come live with me if you want."
"Ripred!" Mange hissed.
Brown eyes blinked slowly at him, already tainted with a familiar wary acceptance Ripred had often seen in warriors far older.
"You're going to eat me."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not."
He glanced over at slightly curly light brown locks and lightly tanned skin peeking out from dirt and dried blood.
Son of the Sun indeed.
"Let's call it an investment."
Gregor stumbled over another rock and nearly landed on his face, again. He managed to catch himself and land on his knees instead. His lip wobbled traitorously as the sting from the bruised and scrap skin on his knees seemed to zap up his legs like lightning.
"Come-on Overlander!" The weird rat from across the river taunted. "You can do better than that!"
He frowned and rubbed his eyes, to try and stop the tears already building up. It wasn't his fault that his feet hurt. He had been wandering in the dark for so long before finding that light he had tripped over a bunch of rocks. His toes were swollen, and he had a bunch of cuts that made every step throb with pain.
"The bridge isn't far up ahead!" The nicer rat called out. "You can do it, pup! Just a little longer!"
He pushed himself to his feet again wincing at the pain it brought but continuing to take a few more steps forward. He tried not to think about what might happen when they got to the bridge. Even if the scary rat, Ripred, had tried to assure him that he wouldn't eat him Gregor still had his doubts. The nicer rat was encouraging, but Ripred was mean and the third rat hadn't even said a word. To him at least, he was making squeaking noises at Ripred now, that Gregor assumed must have been their language.
Cindy, at school, said that animals couldn't talk and made fun of all the other kids in class who thought they could, but now Gregor had the proof. Not that he could rub it in her face now. He scrubbed fiercely at the stubborn tear that slid down his cheek. Ripred said he'd explain more when they weren't talking across a river, but he had told Gregor bluntly that he couldn't go home.
He couldn't see Mom or Dad.
A tear slipped down his cheek.
Or Lizzie or Grandma.
Another droplet followed.
Or even baby Margret who wasn't even born yet. He would never get to see her.
More tears escaped till his vision was blurry and it hurt to breathe.
"Wouldn't you quit that crying over there?!" Ripred snarled, making Gregor flinch away and almost stumble again.
"Ripred!" The nicer rat admonished, sounding a lot like his Mom when she was lecturing Dad about letting Gregor do something that she called reckless, but was usually lots of fun.
A weak giggle escaped him when the nicer rat pounced on Ripred and they tumbled in the dirt. It had looked really scary at first, but Gregor had realized, after the third time, that they weren't actually hurting one another. It was like when the Thompson twins from the second floor of their apartment building started fighting. They weren't serious, even if it looked like it.
"The bridge is up ahead." The third rat said, speaking in English for the first time.
Gregor tried to spot it, but couldn't see much past the tears. He wiped the tears away as best he could, but his eyes stung and his vision was still blurry. He blinked several times. If he squinted, he could see something over the river. That must be the bridge they were talking about. He wondered how the rats made a bridge if they didn't have thumbs.
Maybe there were humans down here?
He kept an eye on the rats as he continued forward, but none of them darted for the bridge as it got closer and closer. They kept pace with him, that they had been doing and bickered among each other in a mixture of squeaks and English that was hard to follow.
He glanced down at the broken sword in his right hand, it dragged along the ground as he walked. It was so heavy he had to use two hands to lift it, so he usually didn't bother unless he was scared something was going to eat him.
(Like the scary rat with blood soaking its fur and dripping from its mouth as it tore a chunk off the body's leg and swallowed it whole. The body had screamed. The body wasn't dead. It wasn't dead even after Gregor had yanked the broken sword out of the monster's corpse. Its glassy eyes had followed Gregor as he snatched the furs off of the ground to keep him warm and ran. He ran. And the body watched him go without a sound. He wondered if the body was still there. Still watching.)
His breath stuttered, and he tried to push the memories away, taking deep breathes like his Dad taught him to do when he was angry.
He continued walking.
When he got to the bridge, none of the rats made a move to cross it. Leaving the choice up to him.
"You can walk away, brat," Ripred said as he scratched behind his ear lazily. "Go try and survive on your own. You won't last much longer. You're hungry, aren't you? You don't how to hunt or what to hunt. You don't how to get clean water or where to find a safe place to sleep. You'll die of starvation and thirst, or you might get eaten. Like that adult you found, right?"
Gregor flinched away from knowing eyes and pushed the memories away again. He sniveled for a moment, glancing back at the darkness behind him. The light from the river didn't stretch very far. That's why he had been staying close to it, even though there more scary creatures hanging around. He thought that it was better to see them than meet them in the darkness.
He glanced at the group of rats across the river.
They were talking among themselves.
'Probably talking about how to cook me.' He thought meanly. 'Like those trolls from the book dad was reading to me.'
His stomach twisted in a mixture of hunger and fear. He swallowed but winced at the scratchiness of his throat. He was only able to snatch small handfuls of water at a time because of the fish. Ripred was right, even if he was mean. Gregor griped his sword and started across the river slowly, trying not to look down into the rushing water where he knew those nasty fish were definitely waiting to eat him up. The ugly bite on his left hand throbbed at the thought. Instead, he focused his attention on the rats.
They were silent now.
Watching him cross without making a move towards him.
As he set a dirt and blood covered foot on the other side he felt his eyes close waiting for the inevitable.
(He wondered if he would be like the body. Lying in the gloom. Unable to move as a rat tore through his skin and muscle. Would he scream? Or would he just lay there, silently accepting his fate?)
A wet nose brushed against his feet and he flinched sharply but didn't open his eyes.
(He wondered if that weird feeling would come back. He was almost tempted to open his eyes to see if his vision was breaking like it did before.)
"Ripred, the wounds on his feet are already starting to get infected." He heard the nice rat murmured. The voice was so close, he figured that the nice rat was one who nudged his foot. He relaxed a fraction at the thought.
"I can smell that," Ripred replied though it seemed to have less snap.
Gregor's curiosity got the best of him and he couldn't help but open his eyes. Just like he thought, the nicer rat was crouching in front of him. Eying his feet with an expression he couldn't figure out. Ripred was to his left a few feet and the other rat was behind him.
"Show me your hand." The rat in front of him demanded.
The tone reminded him some much of his mother he raised his hand obediently without hesitation.
"Surprised you could even hold that broken thing." The rat murmured eye flickering between the bite wound and the sword still clutched tightly in his other hand.
Ripred chuckled. "Watch out Mange, your mate has already claimed the boy as her own pup."
The other rat, Mange, let out a series of squeaks that made Ripred laugh harder and the nice rat turn sharply and squeak out her own response. Gregor blinked, unable to understand the conversation so instead tried to figure out the difference between the nice rat and the other rats. He had no idea that the nice one was a girl. But now that he was looking harder he noticed that her voice was higher, and she was slightly smaller than the others.
His thoughts were interrupted abruptly as Ripred strolled over to him.
He tensed, but the rat just rolled his eyes at him.
"I told you I'm not going to eat you, you brat. I don't eat sickly trash."
Gregor frowned. He wasn't sure whether to take that as an insult or be glad.
Ripred crouched down with his side to Gregor.
"Come on brat, can't have you walking too much on those feet."
Gregor blinked slowly, not understanding for a moment, making the scared rat huff in annoyance.
"Get on my back."
Gregor nodded his eyes wide. He stumbled closer but hesitated when he realized he wasn't sure how to get on the large rat.
"Oh, honestly…" The rat mutter and reached around lightning fast to snatch him up by the furs and toss him on his back with a flick of his head.
Gregor settled down meekly, still awkwardly holding onto the broken sword and half expecting to be eaten at any second. The three rats took off through the tunnels leaving the dim light behind and heading into the horrible darkness once more. He flattened himself on Ripreds back with a soft whimper, the sword clattered to the ground and both his arms came up to clutch at the course fur beneath him.
He couldn't tell whether his eyes were open or not. He buried his face in the fur and trying to block out the darkness and the memories. Eventually, his heart slowed from the rapid beat from his initial panic and he found himself suddenly very, very tired. The rats every movement made him sway gently. It was soothing. He wavered on the edge of sleep for what seems like a long time before he finally dropped off to sleep.
He woke up when they stopped.
It was still too dark to see anything.
"Where are we?" He whispered.
Ripred shifted under him and he felt one of the other rats brush up against his right leg. He hoped it was the nice girl rat, instead of the other rat, Mange. He got the feeling that he didn't like him.
"Your new home, brat."
He blinked slowly, but the darkness didn't diminish.
Gregor wasn't sure whether he should be happy or sad.
He felt a little of both.
Ripred let out a raspy chuckle.
"Don't worry brat, you'll get used to it."
So, I've been working on this off and on for a couple of months. I thought about going over it, adding a little and maybe finishing it today, but when I opened it all my work was gone. I couldn't even recover it. I had to go into my backup files on a flash drive and recover the document from there. Needless to say, that scared me into finishing it tonight. lol
In any case, this was just another little brainchild I couldn't get out of my head. Basically, Gregor ends up in the Underland before his dad did and is picked up and raised by Ripred (who is ever the opportunist and not nearly as cold-hearted as he'd like everyone to think). This, of course, would change a lot in the story and especially with Gregors interaction with the other characters.