A/N: Waycaster: Rolf hasn't done any losing yet :P I mean, it's his job. But he's getting fired, oh noes. I have read Bihto's segment. It's why I like Bihto. It's also probably what made writing the fight scene so hard- I reeeeeeeeally didn't wanna copy the fight scene so Alphonso ended up going down way easier than he might have otherwise. Still, he'll be back.
Barfing Bird? Foreshadowing? Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe :p
Now armed with an overly-large trophy (a useful tool for bashing beasts out of his way) Kew-Kew stomped through the market district of Plomplemoof. Word seemed to travel far in the city for creatures great and small offered him all sorts of gifts. The cowering, simpering preythings had no doubt heard of his prowess and had come to offer their new apex predator his due respect.
"This pearl!" exclaimed a ragged old vixen clutching at an egg-sized jewel. "Will grant good luck to the holder! Whomsoever has it shall win all their bets, win all their matches, and clear all their debts- for big money it catches!"
Kew-Kew accepted the pearl with an excited squawk- he wasn't sure what 'mon-ee' was (Margaret had yet to explain it to him)- but if it was big it was most certainly worth catching.
Further down the street a tailless squirrel was selling extravagant and flamboyant hats. "Feathered, fancy, piratical- I've got the lot!"
These gifts too, the wearet accepted without hesitation. By the time he was done bedecking his trophy it greatly resembled a coat-hanger. The squirrel had run away screaming. No doubt, thought Kew-Kew, he had left something cooking in the oven.
A choice apple, several slices of a cheese and onion turnover and even a fancy blanket to wrap around his tail were all given to Kew-Kew and the wearet accepted them most graciously. He remembered his manners of course. Marr-garr-ett had taught him quite a few things about politeness.
"Thank you preythings!" he squealed, flashing them all a big, goofy grin. Several beasts screamed, several stumbled backwards, some even asked him to help with thieves!
"HEEEEEEEEELP! THEIF! He's stealing all my onions!"
Armed with a growing collection of trinkets, Kew-Kew thanked them all and left the traders considerably poorer and shivering in their boots.
"Nice city," the wearet sighed.
"Ye wanna plushie?" boomed an incredibly deep voice. Kew-Kew turned to find a massive, black-furred wolverine glaring daggers at him from behind a stall laden with stuffed animals. From her size, tone and the menacing way she seemed to breathe Kew-Kew could tell she was a fellow predator.
His tail wagging happily behind him, he skipped forwards. "What is plush-ie?"
The wolverine, who had never in all her years of stitching plushies had a willing customer (let alone a curious one), cocked her head to the side. "It's like a pillow… but wiv personality…" she considered his eagle-feathered skirt, the silken cape wrapped around his tail, the giant trophy he carried with a pearl inside it and several hats dangling from it's handles. Her eyes darted from his furless arms to his dirty, bandit-masked face. After much staring she realized she had no idea what she was looking at. "What is… yew?"
"I is Kew-Kew," once more he employed his signature grin.
"Auslag." They shook paws. "Ye new here?"
"Yes. I is following a friend- he is big champie-thing here. Kew-Kew wanted to see Rolf-mousie fight but can't find mousey anywhere," he sighed dramatically. "Too much fear-stink in the air. Can't smell Rolfie."
"Rolf, eh? Well lucky for yew I happens te know every fighter in this city- it's 'ow I can get all 'em plushies made. Let's see I've got two 'Wolf's- short for Wolfgang and Wolfnag a'course, I've got a coupl'a Ralphs- none of 'em are mice though. An' there's Rudolf a'course," she withdrew a fierce-looking stuffed hare from her wares. A pair of gnarly horns stretched out from the top of his head. "Calls hisself the Red-nosed Rain-deer. Current champion o' the Molepit. 'E's one o' my favourites, he is."
"Hmmmm, what is this one?" a gnarled claw was pointed in the direction of a smaller plushie, a stuffed rat with a nosering.
"Ralph, newer fighter. Hasn't won any real matches yet but they insist 'e's gonna be a big thing. He's got a fight later t'day actually. Tell ye what, paw over that pearl an' I'll give ye the Ralph an' tickets te see his match."
Kew-Kew cocked his head to the side, his brow furrowed in confusion even as he reached for the pearl. "Tick-ate?"
The wolverine shook her head. "Ye know what? It's been too long since I played tour-guide. Yer new round 'ere an' I like yer outfit." She snatched the pearl from his paw and produced a set of flimsy white papers. "Let's go see a few rounds- my treat, I've got tickets te everythin'!
And so the wearet did not spend much more time looking for Rolf- it was obvious he would have no luck finding the mouse with a hundred other smells in the air- and instead decided to play at being a tourist. Not that he knew what a tourist was or ever used long, complicated words like 'tourist'.
"I-I'm gonna be a real fighter?" Ralph, predictably, only heard the parts that related to himself. "A-and get into th- the Hanzaman's Hut? A-as in the Hanzaman's Hut?"
"That's what Carrabas said," muttered Rolf, through tightly-gritted teeth.
"Finally! Oh finally! I'll be goin' places! Fame! Fortune! I- I gets te hit somebeast hard!" the rat bounced from footpaw to footpaw, unable to stay in place for longer than a second.
"As if you've never done that before." Perhaps for the better, Rolf's contempt went unheard. Ralph's bubbling excitement had made him even more oblivious than usual. The brown rat chattered incessantly, his nosering swinging to and fro.
"I'll gets myself a big villa a-an' from the balcony I'll wave at my fans all day long. There'll be a swimmin' pool-"
"Do you even know how to swim?"
"An' fruit trees an' a garden!"
"A garden of weeds."
"Ooooh an' I'll get an obedient servant!"
"So long as it's not me."
"An' I can have a cupboard full of my trophies!"
"Misplaced another one, did you?"
Only this seemed to give Ralph pause. After a while the rat shrugged. "Trophies don't mean much anyway. I'll have another by the end of the season and more soon after..." Ralph's face darkened. "But if I ever catches the beast what took 'em…" he cracked his knuckles menacingly, and Rolf made the mental note to not bring up the subject of Ralph's trophies ever again.
"Y-yeah, y-you'll do the scumbag in p-p-proper," the mouse swallowed audibly.
Ralph's eyes widened horribly and for a split second Rolf was convinced he was about to be done in proper. It was not until the rat with the nosering spoke that Rolf realized he was safe. "I can't be a real fighter if I fakes all ma victories, can I? S-so what are yew goin' to do?"
Rolf breathed a sigh of relief and shrugged. "Haven't been told yet. I suppose Carrbas'll have something, for later on I guess. Dunno. Might be jobless for a while."
"Oh," the rat's ears noticeably drooped, his shoulders sagged and he drew his paws closer to tweedle his thumbclaws. If Rolf did not know any better he'd say Ralph looked guilty. As it was, Rolf felt he knew better.
"Hey it's fine!" Ralph declared, perhaps a bit too forcibly. "I'm sure Carrabas has a job for ye. Somethin' easy an' good. An'-an'-" the rat's face lit up, as if he had just gotten the greatest of ideas. "An' yew can always be ma number one fan, eh? Doesn't that sound like somethin'!"
Rolf made a noise of misery, and clutched at his ears.
This, Ralph didn't notice. He was far too busy thinking up his ingenious scheme. "Yew can go around tellin' beasts when an' where I'm fightin' an' makin' sure they come an watch me win. An' yew can start booin' whenever it looks like I'm about to lose. An' then there's the laundry of course."
"RALPH! RALPH! RALPH!"
It never ceased to amaze Rolf that in a town with at least a hundred fights going on at any time, there was always a crowd willing and waiting to cheer Ralph on to victory. Ralph the stupid. Ralph the smelly. Ralph the rat who couldn't fight any better than a toad yet was placed again and again in the position of victor.
It was not that he liked his job. Rolf was the first person to tell himself that he hated it. He was paid well, but suffered greatly. True, he had enjoyed the first few seasons of his time with Ralph, when they had been travelling around from town to town to put on their performances. He had even liked some of their training sessions. But most of all he had loved the looks of admiration and pride his family had given him whenever he whipped out a new trophy.
Rolf sighed. If he was lucky, Carrabas would pair him up with another beast called Ralph…
"Aaaaaaaaand in this corner, our challenger of the evening, the one, the only, the Rooooooooooooooolf!" From his place in the shadows Rolf raised his fists high and marched into the ring amidst a cacophony of booing.
"Rolfie! Rolfie! Rolfie!" A single, much smaller voice cheered him on, but the mouse was quite convinced this was his imagination trying to cheer him up. Touching paws with a grinning Ralph, he braced himself for the coming pain.
Kew-Kew had spent an enjoyable few hours in Aslaug's company. Together they had cheered the Red-nosed Rain-deer in his sixty-eighth consecutive victory. Together they had won a heaping big pile of inedible yellow things betting on a blind shrew. They had spent the inedible yellow things on large heaps of food and spent the next few matches gorging themselves before retiring to a smaller arena, in which they could wind down while watching some of the less-serious fights.
And just when it looked like his day could not get any better, Rolf appeared, his tiny mouse-fists held high. At once, Kew-Kew leapt to his talons and cheered with all his might. "Rolfie! Rolfie! Rolfie!"
His encouragement was swiftly swept away by the crowd's negative response. A concentrated chorus of booing erupted around the eagle. His fur bristled, his whiskers twitched, his chest swelled, his face went red and Kew-Kew turned to snarl at the nearest booers. "Rolf-mousie is big champie fighter-thing, owns lotsa cupses and is nestmate of Kew-Kew!"
Everybeast in the immediate vicinity silenced themselves.
"Yer rootin' for the mouse?" Aslaug did not bother hiding her surprise.
Kew-Kew nodded excitedly. "I is coming here to see him win tro-fee!"
A bell rung, and the battle begun. Rolf's opponent was a rat not much taller than him, though he was much wider, who's sole distinguishing feature was an overly-large nosering that swayed left and right with his every pawstep.
He was a formidable foe and came at Rolf in a blur of fists and swings. Kew-Kew watched with bated breath (having understood from a previous incident earlier in the day that he was not supposed to jump into the arena should his favourite fighter lose) as the nimble mouse weaved between the blows as if he knew they were coming. He even managed to land a jab!
The eagle cawed with joy and practically flapped into the air with excitement. "Rolfie! Rolfie! Rolfie!"
His excitement was short-lived however as a second later the rat's villainously long tail curled around the mouse's ankle and brought Rolf crashing into the ground.
"No! BOOOOOOOO!" screeched Kew-Kew as the crowd around him leapt up and screamed 'RAAAAAAAAAAAALPH!'
"Who's de best?" demanded the noseringed rat.
"Raaaaaaaaaaaaalph!" screamed his avid supporters.
"I can't hear ye!"
"Rolfie! Rolfie bite the ratty! Bite!"
"Nobeast can challenge me!" Ralph boasted. "Remember that pipsqueak!" his great, slimy, worm-like tail struck Rolf hard across the back. Even Kew-Kew, who had inflicted all sorts of pain upon his roommate, winced.
"I said remember that pipsqueak!" Ralph repeated, now bringing his foot down upon the downed mouse with extreme prejudice.
Kew-Kew hissed like a mutant swan, and shook with all the intensity of a boiling kettle. He would have swooped down into the arena without a second thought had Aslaug not put a firm paw on his shoulder.
"Oi, relax yerself bird-brainhin. I ain't gettin' kicked out of another arena just coz yew lost a bet." Aslaug clicked her teeth. "Ye know it's pretty funny I've never seen this Rolf win a fight… but I swear 'e looks just like that mouse Ralph was pummelin' last season."
"I saaaaid, remember that pipsqueak!" By now even the most avid Ralph supporters in the audience were giving half-hearted cheers.
As if suddenly remembering himself Rolf at last cried out. "Mercy, oh mercy, oh Ralph the Great! You have once more proven yourself superior to me in- in the art of combat. I have no choice now but to wallow in my defeat f-for all eternity. You have defeated me, just as you have in the last season, and the one before that… and the one before that... and I have no hope now but to beg for your mercy!" Every word was visibly forced, every syllable hammered out of an unwilling throat. Yet nobeast in the audience seemed to catch that. Most were too busy ogling the trophy that had just been wheeled in.
"And the winner tonight iiiiiiiiis RAAAAAAAAAAAAALPH!" A cup-thing was presented to the noseringed rat. A humble-looking thing when compared to Kew-Kew's own, but it glittered with a dozen sparkly stones.
In fact, it looked identical to some Kew-Kew had seen before. In Rolf's collection.
The eagle's lower beak dropped open as realization set in.
Footnote: Kew-Kew has just realized something! But what could it BE? Now, you probably think this is the end of this chapter, but it's not! Technically it is, but much like the first chapter where I opened with Kew-Kew's app I'm going to toss in Rolf's application here. Which is basically his fight with Ralph from this chapter from his point of view. Thus without further ado... Rolf, duelist, mouse.
Rolf was used to all the noise. The bruises, the pain. The inevitable defeat. Losing was, after all, in the job description.
"Who's de best?" Came the voice of his opponent, the rat's nosering swinging left and right. Down upon the floor Rolf rolled his eyes. "Who's de champion?"
The crowd roared back with just as much ferocity. "Ralph! Ralph! Ralph!"
"I can't 'ear ye!"
"Raaaaalph." Rolf muttered from the floor. The rat's name was ringing between his ears. Wherever they went, all he ever heard was 'Ralph, Ralph, Ralph' with a side-dish of 'haha it's the loser!'
But I guess I should have thought about that before taking the job...
"Nobeast kin challenge me!" Ralph thumped his chest. "Remember that pipsqueak!"
And now he hits me…
The rat brought his tail crashing down upon the 'helpless' mouse.
And now I beg for mercy…
That was always the worst part. Being payed to say things like 'please oh great and powerful Ralph, mercy, mercy' had been a pretty fair way of making a living for a while, but Rolf was sick of it. The very thought of doing it again was revolting.
Just once… I'd love to have the spotlight…
"I said remember that pipsqueak!" Ralph repeated, now bringing his foot down upon the downed mouse with extreme prejudice.
Not this time Ralph… not this time…
"Hey Ralph!" The mouse pushed himself to his feetpaws, to the astonishment of the crowd and the big rat. The vermin's jaw dropped, his nosering beginning to shake again. "Thought I'd let you know a few things." The mouse clenched his fist, drew his arm back and delivered the single most powerful haymaker in the history of rodent combat!
The crowd grew wild again, hopping about and cheering. Finally, a worthy opponent!
"You hit… way too hard." Rolf chuckled, his own paw sore from the ferocity of his blow. "And that irritates me." Before the stunned Ralph could think of a reply, Rolf turned on the spot, bringing his whip-like tail into the vermin's face. "Lousy, isn't it? Being the one on the losing side? Try and remember that, the next time you're rubbing your 'victory' in." The mouse next delivered a swift pair of jabs directly to the rat's nose. "It makes me mad to see you on top. It angers me. Coz deep down, you know I'm a better fighter than you." Rolf turned to the crowd. "I let him win! Every. Single. Time! And you know what? I am done!"
He brought another fist into Ralph's jaw, knocking a tooth loose. The roar of the crowd was deafening.
"I am done with losing!" Rolf cried, lost in the moment. "Done begging for mercy! From here on in you won't see me on the floor!" He bathed in the glow of their cheers. "My destiny is in my paws and victory is at hand!" Gonna have to work on the speeches… "Oh and Ralph?" Rolf placed his paw upon the vermin's nosering. "I quit." Rolf drew his arm back swiftly, and there was a terrible noise. Ralph screamed. The crowd cheered. And in his paw the mouse held a bloody nosering.
"I saaaaid, remember that pipsqueak!" Ralph repeated, kicking the mouse again. By now the crowd was much less interested in the two.
Suddenly remembering himself Rolf sighed wistfully, before continuing with the act. "Mercy, mercy. Oh Ralph the Great!"