You could smell the stench of civilisation, or what passed for civilisation in the sink of souls that is named Solis.
Even down in an old cellar, where the cloying smell of damp and decay lingered long. It seemed to linger on the nose and you could, if you thought about it, even taste it. Sweet, yet with a tang that told you to keep well clear. Unless you were a rat of course. And this rat, all beady eyes and sharp teeth, was well aware of where that homely (to a rat) smell issued from.
The stench became stronger, carried on a man made breeze as the folk who worked the night dragged more of their illicit cargo up the winding rough hewn passage that would take ratty back to his home when he'd finished here. Torchlight flickered beyond the stout half open door, picking out shiny eyes should anyone of consequence have been watching, and voices, cursing the steps and low ceilings carried from below. And while back down there, in the sludge and detritus of the sewers, was food a plenty and everything a rat could need in his short, foetid life, here was dry, warn and exotic.
Ratty sniffed the air, cocked an ear then hurriedly squirmed his way back into the beaten, bashed and bruised wooded crate hed been using as a preening perch. Not a moment too soon, though it was unlikely the smugglers who were dragging more contraband into the already crammed space would have given him a second glance even if they had noticed him. Not exactly uncommon, his type, and rats, like brats, were mostly ignored.
All this, a pair of beady eyes watched from the darkest of corners. Not a rat this one, but a brat from the streets. A street rat if you like, and rat-like in more ways than his wirey stature and sharp features. Scuz, they called him, a small kid, quiet, agile, sneaky and so very inquisitive. As easily ignored as any rat, sat on a street corner above ground, but if these smugglers found him now, well rat food....
But they wouldnt find Scuz, hidden away under the stairs in among the debris and the long forgtotten detritus of this smugglers dens former life. Not if he could help it anyway. And of that he was sure. Just another watchers job this one, for that dark hearted bastard who flicked him coin now and then for his efforts. Mind you, dark hearted or not, Malice had never raised a hand to him, nor even his voice come to think. But you wouldnt cross him, street kid, city guard or bloody SLord of Solis, no you'd make sre you didnt do that!
"Keep a watch, Scuzzer, and you make a good note of their faces and theres a few coin in your grubby hand for it" he'd been told a few days ago. And so he'd taken Malices coin, well the promise of coin, in return for a little sneaking and peaking. And here he was, a rat in a run, watching smugglers at their job. Faces were not easy to pick out in this torch shadowed gloom, but the swagger of their walk, the cut of a cloak, the sound of their voices all told him as much about them as a face ever would. They were Blazes' boys, for sure. moonlighting for a few extra bits in the purse, not taking as much care as they should, not thinking they needed too. The room descended into muted darkness once again as Blazes' boys went back into the bowels for whatever else they had down there where the smells would make your eyes water. And so it was time for this hidden rat to make his way back up above and collect that coin, maybe buy a decent breakfast.
What was it about rats? Not given a second glance most of the time. Except when the rat catchers about. A rat needs all his wits about him then. And one of Blazes' boys had a knack for ratting. From a small gnawed hold in an old crumbling crate, a pair of ratty eyes watched disinterestedly as another rat met its untimely but often expected end. At the hands of a ratter who wasnt aware that, with a single swing of his sand-filled sap, he'd just crossed Malice the black hearted bastard, but who, if hed known, would almost certainly have not cared anyway. Thats the nature of rat catchers. A rat is a rat and its catching the rat that matters, not whose pet the rat might have been. After all, the're cheap and plentiful, and you could always get another one.