The guard stepped through the front door and up to a desk. Stylus followed close behind. There was a verbal exchange between the guard and another guard who sat behind the desk. Unable to understand a single word,Stylus started sweating. Then the guard walked over to a door and went inside a small room where there was yet another lizardman sitting behind a desk. He was wearing the same uniform as all the other guards, but there were more patches and medals pinned to his shirt.
“You must be the captain of the guard.” Stylus said quietly to himself.
The guard croaked. The captain stood up and croaked. The guard stepped aside and the captain walked right up to Stylus and waited. On the desk, Stylus saw a red crystal necklace and a stack of blank paper. He grabbed a piece of paper and drew a picture of Poople, Noople, Donut, and Quill. The two guards watched patiently.
Stylus put his hand on the captain’s shoulder. “These people are villains. They destroyed my village, killed my sister, cut off my hand, and plucked out my eye. Now they are following me and will destroy your town. Protect me.” The green ring glowed. The captain’s face went neutral. The captain croaked, presumably repeating what Stylus had said in lizardman language.
The guard saluted the captain, took the piece of paper, and walked out the door. The captain sat back down and opened a drawer in his desk. From that desk, he took a key and handed it to Stylus. Stylus looked at the key and then the captain. The captain croaked. Stylus shrugged. “Man I am sick of not being able to decipher what the heck you hideous reptiles are barking about.” He put his hand on the captain’s shoulder. “You're going to give me that crystal because you want me to understand what all the lizardmen are saying.”
The captain’s face went flat, he made some noises. He then handed the crystal to Stylus.
Stylus hung the crystal around his neck. “Now what is the key for?”
“There is an apartment in the basement with a guard that stands outside. You will be protected from your enemiesl down there.” The captain said. “The door to the basement is right behind me.”
“Don’t forget, they aren’t just my enemies. They are everyone’s enemies. They live to destroy and ruin.”
The captain nodded.
“Is there actual food down there? Like not bugs or swamp water but real food I can eat?” Stylus asked.
The captain nodded. “I just put some chicken on a stick in the fridge.”
Stylus smiled, unlocked the door and went down into the basement. There was a small hallway that led to a door with a lizardman guard standing in front of it. “The royal tenant has arrived, step aside.” He waved his key and the guard stepped out of his way.
Inside his new apartment, Stylus immediately invaded the refrigerator. “Chicken sticks!” He grabbed a container full of chicken sticks and opened it with his hook hand. As soon as the lid came off, a dozen flies buzzed out. “Oh come on! What is with these reptile freaks and their bugs!” He threw the container to the floor and then kicked it, sending the chicken sticks flying across the room. “So hungry and there is nothing but bugs, bugs, BUGS!”
There was a knock at the front door.
Stylus walked over and opened the door. The guard peeked in. “Everything okay? I heard screaming.”
“Fine. Everything is great. Nothing to eat except insect infested poultry and I am just about starving but yeah, everything is fine. Great, actually.” Stylus slammed the door in the guard’s face. He walked back to the chicken stick mess and began picking it up. “I guess if I cook it that will get rid of the bug germs.” He put the sticks on a dish and popped them in the oven.
He closed the oven door and explored. In addition to the main room that was a living room/kitchen, there was a bedroom, a bathroom, and a library. He scanned the book titles. “How to Catch a Thief”, “The Worst Kind of Criminals”, “The Policeman’s Guide to Weapons”, “Criminals, Criminality, and Crime”, and so on. He grabbed the one on weapons and read a little bit.
There was a pretty neat section on an exploding arrow that when it exploded could release magic smoke, like a sleeping gas, or a poisonous gas, or whatever. Stylus noticed that the chicken was starting to smell good. There was another knock at the door. “What! I'm fine! I'm reading a book.”
The knock repeated.
“Argh!” Stylus ran up to the door and opened it. “What!?”
The guard balked. “I just received word that some of the people you identified as a threat to you are inside the city.”
Stylus shrieked. “What! Who? Which one of my mortal enemies has arrived?”
“The two that look like cats, sir.” The guard said quietly.
“Poople and Noople! Have them killed. Decapitated would be great but set on fire or dropped off a cliff is fine too.” Stylus said. “Wait. No. Have them captured and put in jail. I have a plan.” He handed the guard the book on weapons he was reading. “Take this book and make these exploding arrows. Have it filled with sleeping gas. Shoot them with the arrow and then put them in separate jail cells. I'll tell you more later.”
“But I'm just a guard, sir. I have to stay here.” The guard looked scared.
Stylus put his hand on the guard’s shoulder. “You won't get it trouble. Just do as I asked you to do.”
The ring glowed and the guard's face went neutral. “I won't get in trouble and I will do as you asked me to do.”
The guard left. Stylus turned around to see that he had left the chicken too long in the oven and it was on fire. “I'll never get anything to eat!”
Stylus rushed over to the kitchen. He grabbed a pitcher from the fridge, opened the oven, and threw the water inside. Smoke came bellowing out.
“Great. Now I have wet, crispy chicken sticks. Worse than bug infested? Better.” He pulled the pot out of the oven and slammed it on the counter. “Still hungry. Still nothing to eat. This swamp hole of a town hates me and I hate it back. As soon as I get my total revenge on those flea infested cats, I’ll burn this place to the ground.”
He walked back into the library and pulled a random book from the shelf. It was all about how to pretend to be a criminal when you were really a police officer so you could trick the bad guys. He looked at the title: “The Undercover Officer”
There was a whole chapter called “Voice Lessons” about how to copy other people's voices. There was another chapter called “Disguises and Deception” on how to look like someone else. At the end of the chapter they even talked about how to make a fake dead body.
There was a knock at the door. Stylus jumped. “Argh! I'm reading!”
The knock happened again.
Stylus stood up and ran to the door. “This better be good.”
The guard nodded, “We've captured the two cats, sir. They are asleep in a prison cell.”
Stylus clapped. “Excellent! Have them put in separate cells. Dark cells. Chain them up and put an officer in the cell with them… also chained up.”
The guard started to speak. Stylus interrupted. “And bring me some chicken sticks with NO flies!”
The guard gasped. “Chicken sticks without flies? That sounds horrible, sir!”
Stylus slammed the ground with his foot. “No, it sounds edible, you idiot. Now go do it!”
The guard ran away.
Stylus took a shower then headed upstairs. The captain greeted him. “I'm afraid what you ask is impossible, friend.”
“What do you mean, impossible?” Stylus asked.
“No one makes chicken sticks without flies.” The captain made an apologetic face.
Stylus frowned. “Fine. Whatever. I'll starve. Just take me to the prison where the two flea bags are at.”
When they arrived at the prison, Stylus was very busy. He had to train two guards to copy his voice. He had to help make two fake dead bodies that looked like him. He had to teach four guards to pretend to be dead when Poople and Noople punched them. It was exhausting work and he had to give Poople and Noople several more doses of sleeping gas, keeping them unconscious for 2 entire days. Lucky for Stylus, he had access to a good library and the neutral faced ring.
He also finally got some chicken sticks without flies. When he ate it, he found it to be super boring. He was so hungry he ate it anyway but it was like chewing cardboard.
“Try it with flies!” The captain handed him a chicken stick that was swarming with bugs.
Stylus shrugged, grabbed the stick, and took a bite. “Woah! Delicious.”
Poople woke up to find herself in complete darkness. She was cold. She was hungry. She was handcuffed to a cement wall. She was anklecuffed to a cement wall. The last thing she could remember was running down an alleyway chasing Stylus. Something had happened. She pulled her arm forward, testing the strength of her binds. They held firm.
“So, you’re awake.” A voice called from the darkness.
“Who is that?” Poople said.
“Who does it sound like?” The voice said.
Poople thought for a moment. “Stylus?”
“That’s right.” The voice said. “We got shot with sleeping arrows.”
“Why?” Poople asked. “Who shot us?”
“The lizardmen. They hate us all.” The voice said.
“Where are we?” Poople asked.
“No idea.” The voice replied. “But we’re stuck together. Want to escape?”
Poople snorted. “I don’t trust you, liar. Don’t even try to trick me.”
The voice fell silent. Poople waited. After a time, she heard snoring. She fell asleep. Or maybe she didn’t. It was hard to know, in the darkness so complete, if she was awake or asleep, if what she was experiencing was real or a dream, or if it was half of one and half the other.
The sound of metal scraping interrupted the darkness.
“Food is here.” Another voice said.
Poople felt her handcuffs come off. She heard a bowl being set at her feet. She scrambled and found a spoon. She smelled something. Chicken? She dipped the spoon in the bowl. It was chicken soup. Something odd in it. Bugs? Flies, maybe? She didn’t care. She was too hungry. She ate, then collapsed and fell asleep.
She woke up, chained to the wall again. She tried to move her feet but the chains held.
“Awake again?” Stylus’ voice rang out through the room.
“You again. Hey. I have an idea. Don’t talk to me and I won’t talk to you, how does that sound?” Poople asked.
“Sounds like you want to be trapped here.” The voice said.
“Like you really want to help me? Right. You’ve never said a true thing in your entire life, probably.” Poople said.
“Suit yourself.” The voice said.
The silence and darkness enveloped her again. Then there was the metal grating noise. Her hands were unchained again. Another bowl appeared.
“Food is here.”
Poople searched and found a fork. She grabbed it and ate the strange, flavorless meat chunks. She laid down and fell asleep, clutching the fork.
When she woke, she was chained to the wall again. She pulled at the chains.
“Awake again?” Stylus’ voice appeared.
Poople noticed she still had the fork in her hand. She smiled and set to picking the locks around her wrists.
“What are you doing?” The voice asked.
It took her an eternity, but she finally opened one of her handcuffs. There was a satisfying popping noise as her wrist flung free from the metal.
“What was that?” The voice asked.
It was a short time to pick the other handcuff. Once again, the satisfying pop echoed through the room.
“What is that sound? Poople? Is that you?” The voice asked.
With both her hands free, it was short work to pick her first anklecuff. Once again, the metal gave a clack as it released.
“What is happening? Is that the door?” The voice asked.
The final cuff sprang open.
“What is it? What is going on? Is it food time?” The voice asked.
Poople walked over toward the voice. She searched with her hand and found the face. She felt the six horns on the top of the head. She wound back a punch and delivered it straight to the nose. There was a loud snap, of the nose breaking, and then a shout. Poople punched again, knocking Stylus unconscious.
“What was that?” A voice shouted. Poople recognized it as the guard who delivered the food.
Poople ran over to his shackles and made it look like he was chained up again. There was a bright, blinding light. Poople squeezed her eyes shut. The scraping metal noise came and went.
“What happened to Stylus?” The guard said.
Poople leapt from her pretend bonds and punched the guard in the back of the head. There was a thump as the body hit the ground. Poople grabbed the guard’s torch and ran out the door.
She found herself in a hallway full of prison cells. She blinked and then saw Noople, holding a torch, come running out of a cell.
“What the heck?” Poople asked.
“What the heck?” Noople asked.
They heard voices approaching.
“Must be more guards.” Noople said. She pointed down the hallway. “Let’s go!”
They ran down the hallway and opened a door. That led them to another corridor that turned left, then right, then dead ended in a door. Noople opened it and ran through. They heard voices.
Noople slowed to a walk, and Poople followed. The voices became clearer and they could start to make out the words.
“...villains? Nay, they are pure evil! They burned my home, killed my sister, and chased me to the ends of Clefton!” It was Stylus’ voice.
Poople turned bright red and ran towards the voice. She found herself face to face with a six horned demon, who looked and sounded just like Stylus. She punched him right in the ear and he fell to the ground like a brick.
There were screams. Hundred of screams. Poople turned and saw she was standing on a stage, in front of a crowd of hundreds of lizardmen and frogmen. They were shouting, pointing, and moving toward her.
Noople grabbed her hand. “Run!”
They ran to the exit of the theater, which led outside into a cold, moonlit night. Shouts followed them. Noople steered them to the left down an empty street, then right through a busy marketplace. Shouts followed their every step.
“There!” Noople shouted. “The town gate!”
Two guards stood in their way. Poople looked at Noople. Noople nodded. They jumped over the guards heads and landed on the other side of the gate. Poople slammed the gate closed. Noople jammed a fork in the lock, ruining the mechanism and leaving the lizardmen unable to open the heavy iron structure.
The two friends fled into the night.
The crowd dashed into the sealed gate, then slushed about, shouting and wandering about.. Some of them banged at the closed gate. Some of them yelled at the guards. Others just stood, waiting and gawking at the scene.
Inside another theater the mayor was watching a play at the festival. None of the actors in that play had been punched by a cat person. One of the guards passed him a note: “There's a riot outside. A couple of plays got disrupted by two escaped prisoners and now the people of the city are demanding vengeance.”
The mayor excused himself from the theater as quietly as he could and walked outside. He spotted the noisy crowd immediately. He climbed on top of a one story building and stood up on the roof. “People of Lizardtown! We must have calm!” But no one heard him over all the shouting.
The mayor leaned down and spoke to two nearby guards. “Hey. I need you to make a bunch of noise and draw everyone’s attention over here.”
The guards nodded and ran inside the house, looking for something to make noise with. They came outside with a metal table and threw it on the ground. A few people looked. Then one of the guards started hitting the table with the flat part of her sword. It was crazy loud. Everyone stopped shouting and looked over.
“People of Lizardtown. Let us have calm so that we can solve this problem together.” The mayor raised his hands up high. “Let us sort this out so that we can return to our annual theater festival and enjoy all the fabulous acting our wonderful city has to offer.”
“Those dirty cats punched our people!” Someone from the crowd shouted.
The mayor nodded. “I understand that two criminals escaped from prison and caused some problems but we are not going to make things better by running amok. I will have a contingent of heavily armed guards leave the city, find these criminals, and return them to justice.”
The crowd began to settle down, and most of the people began nodding their heads in agreement with their mayor.
The mayor smiled. “Thank you for your patience, people of Lizardtown. Now let us…”
“Who is that up on the roof with you?” Someone from the crowd interrupted.
Before the mayor could turn and look, there was a hand upon his shoulder and a voice in his ear. “Tell them your good friend Stylus is here to say more about the criminals.”
The mayor’s face went neutral. “My good friend Stylus is here to say more about the criminals.”
“Now get out of my way.” Stylus said.
“Now I will get out of your way.” The mayor said, stepping back as Stylus stepped forward.
“A small group of guards is not enough, people of Lizardtown! We must raise an army and crush these criminals!” Stylus shouted to the crowd.