Chapter Four

Three figures staggered out of the cave entrance, coughing and blinking rapidly. Billows of smoke and ash surrounded them as they worked towards a clearing outside the cave. One large figure had a bundle slung over his shoulder which he tossed to the ground before slumping down to his knees. Coughing and gagging, he thumped his chest to help breathe better. The other two figures collapsed on the ground next to him.

"Now..." Chesterton coughed. "Exactly what part of 'leave her alone' did you NOT..." He coughed more, "understand?!" Breathing deeply, he turned and grabbed the fox by the collar. Shaking Tellon until the fox's head wobbled back and forth, Chesterton accented his words with even rougher shakes. Tellon just gurgled than coughed in Chesterton's face. With disgust, the bearling tossed the fox aside and bent over the still form of Acorn.

Putting his hand to his throat, Tellon coughed a couple more times and proceeded to rummage through his waist pouch. He pulled out a small item and looked at it thoughtfully. It sparkled in the sun and caught Allora's eye. Looking up at Tellon, she arched her eyebrow.

"I don't think that little bauble of yours will be appreciated." She said dryly.

Tellon just cocked his head. "Really? I would have thought you of all people could appreciate the necessity of it." He reached his hand towards Acorn.

"Chesterton!" Allora snapped a warning at the bearling.

Chesterton shot out his huge paw and stopped Tellon from placing the glittering item onto Acorn's chest. Then, still holding Tellon's paw in his, Chesterton stood up to his full height and raised his arm over his head. Tellon was now dangling two feet off the ground and was eye to eye with a very big, very angry, bearling. Tellon swallowed nervously. He had forgotten that easy going Chesterton could be rather, ah, big when made angry. Tellon made a mental note to never ever forget this again...if he lived through this current dilemma that is.

"Right now," Chesterton said softly "I would NOT further antagonize the squirrel with your foxie tricks." Swinging the fox closer, he added, "or the bear either. Do you agree?" He shook the fox slightly. Tellon just gulped slightly and nodded. Bringing the fox even closer, Chesterton stared into the fox's eyes. "Do not make me repeat this again...." And he dropped the fox back on the ground.

Tellon sat on the ground for a moment, very happy to have come out of this alive, rubbing his arm. He opened his mouth to say something only to feel Allora's foot kick him on his leg. She shook her head warningly. Shrugging, Tellon rolled up to his feet and stalked off some distance to cool down. Nodding to herself, Allora settled down next to the unconcious squirrel and checked Acorn's pulse. "Steady and strong", she thought. "Good..."

Standing up she looked over at Chesterton. "I don't know what is worse," she sighed. "The excitable squirrel or the irrepressable fox."

Chesterton scratched his muzzle thoughtfully. "I have to agree with you there." He looked between the retreating figure of the fox and the now sleeping squirrel. "I think it's about a dead heat."

Allora just shook her head. "Well, either way, we have a decision to make." Chesterton looked at her thoughtfully. "Do we keep the excitable one or leave her. I say we take her." She paused a moment. "Tellon will have an absolute fit if we take her, but a trained squirrel is too valuable a commodity to leave behind." Chesterton nodded in agreement.

"We can always work on her tempermant, jus' like we did with Tellon." Chesterton reached up to rub his forehead. "Remember when he first joined up with us and told off that wolf noblesman? I thought for sure it was going to be a very short and painful partnership." He looked up at Allora. " The partnership has lasted longer than I belived it would, but it is still painful." He sighed again and bundled up Acorn in a traveling blanket. As he slung her back over his shoulder, he heard a soft "ping" of something hitting the ground. He looked down and around until he found it. When he did, his eyes widened.

He reached down to pick it up. Allora shot her hand out to stop him from touching it.

"Don't!" she hissed. She walked around the item carefully. "Most of these are spelled for protection." Reaching out her hand toward the item she closed her eyes and concentrated. After a few minutes she opened her eyes again and picked up the object. Chesterton did not realize he was holding his breath until he let it out. He looked over Allora's shoulder at what she was holding. It was a gold ring set with a large cut emerald. Chesterton whistled softly.

"Better not let Tellon see this."

"I agree."

"But what do we do with it?"

"It's not spelled yet, so it's incomplete. That doesn't mean it's not dangerous..."

"I didn't ask that!" Chesterton began to pace. "What do we DO with it?"

Allora just shook her head. "My guess is this was to be her final year of Journeyman training and her final project was to spell this ring." She tucked the ring into one of her hidden pockets. "I'll hold on to this for the time being. Tellon knows better than to rummage through my pockets."

Both bearling and owling looked at each other. They knew better than to involve Tellon in this new development. It was bad enough he was a gentleman rogue, it would be worse if he decided to swipe a still unknown magick item. Not that he hadn't in the past. Both sighed and headed out after Tellon. This was looking to be a long day.

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