And why should I help you? said the rat.
Tonunda thrust the rat in the cat’s direction, and held the rodent at arm’s length. The cat hissed, moving closer on its haunches.
Enough; I will do it! the rat squeaked.
Tonunda pulled the rat back, narrowly avoiding a swipe of the cat’s claws.
How can I find a human female in so large a place? said the rat. They are all the same to us.
Tonunda scanned the floor. His gaze fell on a meagre pile of possessions. With his free hand, he extracted a yellow ribbon and held it up for the boy to see. He then pointed the same hand at Dekra’s name on the wall.
“Aye, that is Dekra’s.”
Tonunda held the ribbon to the rat’s nose.
This one is easy to find said Tonunda. That is her scent; take that with you. You can also tell her by sight. She will be in one of the many houses that wears white.
The human female wears white too?
Aye, but she is different. Her eyes are narrower than those of other men, and… she is smaller.
What is to stop me from running off once you release me? posed the rat.
Tonunda grinned. I already have your scent. If I do not hear from you by dawn… He growled and snapped at the tiny head. Then I will seek you out myself and eat you.
I will do as you ask the rat squeaked.
Satisfied, Tonunda placed the rat on the floor and stood between it and the cat as it made its escape. He crouched by the fire again to warm himself. Conscious of an eerie silence, he turned.
The boy stared at him, open mouthed.
“You spoke to that rat?”
It sounded like a question, but his stare belied his words as a statement.
Tonunda nodded, his secret now discovered.
“Then the legends are true. You are Tonunda the Savage; king of Nusalle.”
To hell with legends and kings! We are friends.
He attempted to emphasise the statement with a stern look. Unfortunately, it lacked the desired affect, as the boy’s expression hadn’t changed.
“Then did he tell you anything?”
Tonunda shook his head.
“What do we do now?”
He scribed a new word on the floor. Wait.
“Wait!” erupted the boy. “Is that all…?”
Tonunda snapped his head aside, growling so savagely that the boy took a backward step. His anger spent, he regarded the youth a moment more then thrust his stick at the word, before angrily throwing it on the floor.
They waited as Tonunda demanded, but in total silence. He felt uncomfortable as the boy seemed agitated from minute to passing minute. A little over an hour elapsed when he smelt the familiar odour of the rat before it emerged from the shadows. The boy watched hopefully as the rodent crossed the floor to stop by Tonunda’s feet.
You have news? said Tonunda.
The one you seek was easy to find. Go to the end of the street and turn in the direction of the sun rise.