The rat is a cunning thief and spy, sneaking between the spaces others walk.
This struck many around him as odd, since rats were the source of nearly all the meat he and others of his state were ever afforded. And although this beggar did indeed eat rat meat as often as he could come by it, this particular rat was special.
The beggar’s rat, as it grew, learned to bring him trinkets, sometimes even small coins, and ferret them away in the beggar’s beard. He would delightedly comb his fingers through the thick, scraggly grey chin hairs, remarking upon the treasures he found. And although the beggar’s head was not entirely right, in moments of increased clarity he used the trinkets and small monies to purchase favor from some of those around him.
Over time the beggar managed to become quite popular, although much of the time he wouldn’t know exactly why. But no matter the state of his mind, he loved and cared for his rat with a fierce devotion. And the rat also become known among the urchins, beggars, and street vendors of the quarter.
The rat had proven itself smarter than one of the local rat-catchers on more than one occasion, and he developed a grudge against both beggar and rodent because of it. Or perhaps the small-minded fellow was simply jealous of the beggar’s popularity. This rat-catcher filled a skin with cheap wine and crushed thestor root, and he placed it in an alley where the beggar often slept, gathered his traps, and waited. His timing proved fortuitous.
The beggar was in a particularly distant state of mind that evening, and thought nothing of the happy discovery of a wineskin as he settled. The thestor root, aided by the wine, soon sent the man into a deep slumber. Gleefully, the rat-catcher set all of his traps around him, sure that he would not awake for at least a day, if indeed he ever woke at all. Certain of his eventual success, the rat-catcher left his traps, baited both with food and bauble, and went to sleep himself nearby.
Carefully, the rat emerged from his master’s coat, immediately recognizing the traps for what they were. Cautiously wending his way among them, he discovered the rat-catcher snoring further into the alley, and carefully, painstakingly, began to pull the man’s knife from his belt. Although the knife was a small one, the rat could but barely pull it forth. Bit by bit, the rat bravely heaved, finally leaving the knife lay in shadow and covered with rubbish, out of both sight and reach.
The rat then promptly bit the beggar in his arse.
Regaining consciousness, but still trapped in dark hallucinatory visions brought on by the thestor root, the addled beggar cast about, searching for the cause of his pain. The rat, of course, had quickly retreated to a dark corner, but the beggar, in his frantic groping, placed his hand in one of the nearby traps, which immediately snapped closed upon his fingers.
The beggar howled in pain and drug-induced confusion.
The rat-catcher started from his sleep with a cry loud enough to draw the attention of the mad beggar, who immediately charged at the man in disoriented rage, frantically beating him about the head and shoulders with the trap stuck around his hand.
The rat-catcher scrabbled at his belt, desperate for the means to defend himself, but his knife was gone, and the drug-driven beggar quickly proved his end.
In streets such as these men walked, a dead rat-catcher in an alley is of little note to authorities, and the beggar wandered away soon after the deed was done. He remembered nothing of the encounter, but was pleased to discover a copper ring in his beard the next day, dingy but heavy, and he wore it on his thumb ever after. To those who shared the streets it was clear, once they noted the rat-catcher’s ring on the beggar’s thumb: their popular eccentric was not a man to trifle with.
His reputation set, the beggar safely, though meagerly, lived out the remainder of his days, passing only after he discovered to his ultimate grief that his beloved rat had died, old and grey, one autumn morning.
Levyse is fickle, but often honors those who court her by creating luck of their own. So did she for the humble rat, who ensured his own benefit by serving well his friend, and gave him a place of honor among the stars.