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February 2008

February 2008 -- Rats

Gallery

Columns

  • Behind the Art:
    Sketching in the Field
  • Myths and Symbols:
    The Crafty One
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Rules of Art
  • Artist Spotlight:
    The Art and Life of Sulamith Wulfing
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Making It Last!
  • EMG News:
    EMG news for February 2008

    Features

  • The Gimp for Beginners: Two Basic Tasks
  • I Knew It Would Come To This: Painting Walkthrough

    Fiction

  • Poem: Smithkin's Rats
  • Fiction: Oh, Rats

    Comics

  • Falheria: Rats!
  • Tomb of the King: The Map, Pt 1


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  • Oh, Rats
    by Shannon Wolff

    "It's bad enough the witch turned me into a rat, but did she really have to sic her cat on me?" Kesse gasped as he flung himself behind a table leg to hide and catch his breath.

    "You might as well come out," Quartilla laughed in a near cackle as she watched a hungry looking orange tabby slink along the floor in preparation to strike. "My little Assassin will find you soon enough. Come out now and he'll probably swallow you up in one gulp."

    "There's a pleasant thought."

    Reminding himself how good a cat's hearing could be, Kesse turned his attention back to the problem at hand: mainly, how to avoid the cat long enough to find some way to turn himself back into a human being and escape before Quartilla could turn him back in a rat. And to think, when she invited him over this afternoon he'd thought it would be to apologize for causing him and Carla so much grief, not punish him for refusing her affections.

    "I always heard that all men were rats," Quartilla jeered as her cat continued to prowl. "And I guess now you really are a rat."

    Kesse had no less than seven unflattering things to scream at her in response, but as none of them were worth drawing Assassin's attention, he climbed the table leg instead.

    Only the vaguest of plans in mind, he scurried upwards in the hope the cat was dull-witted enough to pass him by. If nothing else, the remains of the afternoon tea Quartilla had offered was still on the table. Even if Assassin wised up enough to sniff him out, the smell of stale tea cake and potion-laced tea should distract the cat long enough for him to get away, but this was a temporary solution at best. No, it was only a matter of time before Kesse's claws gave out and Assassin caught up to him for good.

    Kesse couldn't help but curse himself for a fool under his breath. Quartilla had been trying to convince him to leave Carla and run away with her since the first day they met. It caused Carla no end of tears. What ever had made him think she'd suddenly changed her mind and given up? How often had Quartilla vowed, to his face, that if he wouldn't have her she'd ensure he could never be with anyone else? He should have known the invitation was a trap, but he'd walked blindly into it all the same. Though, now that he thought about it, Quartilla had only ordered Assassin to attack once Kesse had refused to promise to be hers if she changed him back.

    "It's still not too late for us, Kesse," Quartilla called in a singsong voice as Assassin continued to wander around the room, clueless. "Just swear you'll never see that girl again and I'll turn you back. It's not too late to start planning a spring wedding."

    Kesse's lunch threatened to reappear and he swallowed back his revolution.

    "I suppose if you want that girl around so much, I could always turn her into a rat as well," Quartilla chuckled, her footsteps drawing closer to Kesse's hiding place. "I don't think I'd mind your fixation on her nearly as much if she was your pet."

    Kesse's heart jumped into his throat. His rat eyes narrowed and his whiskers twitched in furry. How dare she? How dare she? And she'd do it, too. Kesse shuttered to think of his beloved Carla trapped in a cage at the witch's mercy. He needed a plan, NOW. Who knew what she'd do to Carla regardless of today's outcome.

    "All right!" Kesse cried and climbed onto the table. "You win, I'll marry you. Just promise not to hurt Carla."

    "Is that the only reason you'll have me? So I won't hurt that slip of a girl you're so enamored with?" Quartilla growled and walked right to the edge of the table.

    "Does it matter? I'll be yours and we can go as far away from her as you'd like. I'll never see her again." Kesse's stomach did flip-flops as he rested his paws on the lip of an abandoned tea cup and Quartilla ventured closer. "Isn't that what you want?"

    The witch eyed the rat on the table, clearly questioning the validity of his offer. She knew there was little he wouldn't do to protect Carla, but did that include entering into a loveless marriage? More importantly, did she really care? After all, regardless of his motivation, she was getting exactly what she wanted. Him.

    "And you won't try to contact her?" Quartilla questioned, placing her hands on the table so she could lean over Kesse. "Won't try to run away with her after we're married? Won't so much as utter her name again?"

    "I'll do what I have to."

    Having played the role of heartbroken lover perfectly, Kesse quickly shoved all his weight against the tea cup, spilling its contents on Quartilla's hand.

    "NO!" The witch shrieked. Her hand turned into a rat's paw before their very eyes. "What have you done?!"

    "What I had to," Kesse answered in a hushed tone, his eyes locked on the witch in horrified fascination.

    A stream of curses flowed from Quartilla's mouth as she continued her slow transformation into a rat. She vowed revenge, she vowed to make sure Kesse never so much as thought of Carla again, she vowed, she vowed. But in the end, it was no more than the squeaks of a rat on the floor.

    "How do we change ourselves back?" Kesse demanded from the table, his eyes still on Quartilla.

    "You miserable wretch!" Quartilla howled from the floor. "You've doomed us both!"

    "The spell's reversible! You were going to turn me back!"

    "And why would I do that now? There's no way you can marry that girl like this."

    "And there's no way you planned on spending the rest of your life as a rat," Kesse huffed in triumph, not taking his eyes from the rat witch for a moment. "You can't turn yourself back now without letting me know how."

    "You fool! There's no way two rats can make the potion alone. We're both lost now!"

    "Then we'll get help! Just tell me how to counter the potion."

    "And let you marry that girl? Never, you son of-"

    "Look out!"

    Quartilla turned moments before Assassin found the rat he'd been looking for. She opened her mouth to order the dull-witted cat away, but since when had a cat ever listened to its prey?

    A shriek of terror escaped Quartilla's mouth as she ran towards the table, Assassin close on her tail and getting closer. Without thinking, Kesse pushed the upturned tea cup off the edge of the table in the hopes of hitting the cat before he could eat his dinner only to have the porcelain shatter on the floor as the cat hurried past.

    Moments later Assassin had Quartilla cornered and pounced despite her many squeaks of protest while Kesse watched helplessly from the table. In the end, all he could do was cringe as the cat pounced upon, and ate, his victim.

    His stomach now full, his mission complete, Assassin waddled over to the cat door and let himself out onto the outside doormat and ventured off, leaving Kesse alone on the table in stunned silence.

    For a miniature eternity Kesse sat on the table, wondering what to do next. How could he have failed to take the cat into account when he laid his plans? Granted, he didn't have much time to think things over, but still, how could he; he'd only spent the better part of the last quarter hour trying to keep from being eaten.

    Maybe he'd thought Assassin wouldn't attack his owner, regardless of her form. Or maybe, somewhere deep down where all his darkest thoughts lived, he'd wanted the cat to eat her so she'd never bother him and Carla again. Much as he recoiled from the thought, it would ensure she never interfered with their lives again. That much was something he truly wanted, but he certainty hadn't wanted the witch gone before he knew how to change himself back. How could he be with Carla now? In a little cage with a water bottle strapped to the side and an exercise wheel in the corner?

    "There has to be a way." Kesse whispered to himself with quiet resolve, his eyes still fixed to the place where Quartilla had lived her final moments.

    While Kesse hated to speak ill of the dead, he never considered her to be the best of witches. She almost certainly hadn't memorized the recipe for the potion that had turned them into rats. And that meant it was written down somewhere. Since she'd used it recently, chances are it was somewhere close by. Why, Kesse was willing to bet his whiskers that one of the many thick, dog-eared books resting on the over crowed bookshelf in the corner had the spell within its age-yellowed pages. And if the spell had come out of a book, the counter-spell had to be there as well. If he could find the remedy he could always get someone else to mix it up, or whatever was needed, and they he'd be back in Carla's arms.

    But how could one rat search through all those books? He couldn't even get one off the shelf, much less look through it. And what would he do if Assassin came back? Kesse shuttered at the thought. He had to plan better than he had before. He'd just inadvertently fed the cat his dinner; he had no intention of being dessert.

    "I guess there's just no way around it, then," Kesse sighed and trotted over to the telephone.

    Getting the receiver off the hook proved harder than he thought it would, but before long he'd punched in a phone number and was waiting for someone to pick up on the other end.

    "Hello?" A woman's voice asked on the other end of the line.

    "Hi, Honey." Kesse cleared his throat and hoped what he said would be more than a series of unintelligible squeaks. "No, I'm fine…….sort of. Look, Carla, try not to be too alarmed, but I really could use some help here..."

    Shannon Wolff was born in Alaska and grew up in a little town called North Pole. This fact has lead every one of her relatives not familiar with Alaska, and complete strangers, to ask if she knows Santa Claus. She now resides in Cartersville, Georgia and is having mixed results with informing her new neighbors about her previous residence.
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