• Published 24th Sep 2016
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Ogres and Oubliettes: Roll The Dice - Bucking Nonsense

In a world where evil reigns supreme, a small band of warriors stands tall against the darkness. This is... Ogres & Oubliettes. For realsies

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Favored Enemy

Once upon the time, there was a little filly.

She was a nice, kindhearted, adorable unicorn filly, whose grandfather was the master of the local adventurer's guild, and whose parents were the top two adventurers active in the city of Trottingham. She was loved, both by parents and grandparents, as well as all of the heroes of the mighty guild. That guild was hailed as the best in the realm, greater even than that of their sister city, Spiketopia.

But then, one day, everything changed: An oracle foretold of a terrible force that had come into existence within the Oubliette that had formed beneath the city fifteen years prior. This prediction had taken place just six moons after the city's ruler had announced that there would no longer be a bounty on giant rats or their various relatives, due to budgetary concerns. Had anypony thought to connect the two events together, perhaps everypony might have had some idea of what would soon transpire. Instead, the guild was blind to what they ventured into the depths to face.

More than five hundred adventurers ventured into the depths beneath the city, thinking some massive and dreadful beast had made its lair within the deeps. Instead, when they came to the entrance of the Oubliette, what emerged was not a single, massive beast, but a seemingly endless swarm of giant rats, ranging from the standard version to the larger dire rats, and even the rare Lords of the Rats. The flower of an age of adventurers fought valiantly, but were overwhelmed, and devoured by the ravenous horde that had already devoured every monster in the Oubliette, including its master. The rats were starving, having eaten everything edible in the depths, and they now had a trail that they could follow straight up to the city, where more food awaited them. Led by the fabled King of Rats, the army of teeth and claws pounced on a city woefully unprepared.

Thousands of ponies died, devoured by the black, brown, and grey ocean of rats that erupted from the sewers. The rats cared naught if their prey was male or female, old or young, innocent or guilty, rich or poor. Meat was meat. Hundreds of escapees died from infections caused by rat bites and scratches, or from varying diseases carried by the parasites that lived on even normal sized rats. Hundreds more died from starvation, or were devoured by the monsters that roamed the wilds between Trottingham and Spiketopia. Only a handful survived to make the trip and relate what they saw...

...And were met with disbelief, if not outright derision. After all, everypony knew that giant rats were cowardly creatures, among the weakest monsters in existence. The idea that an entire city could wiped out by the weakest of all monsters, something that even complete novices could handle, was ridiculous. While nopony could say what "really" wiped out the city, they were certain that the dozen survivors of the city were wrong.

And the little filly who had been loved by all? The daughter and granddaughter of heroes? She died somewhere in Trottingham. Nothing that innocent could survive such wholesale slaughter. But something managed to escape from the city, a few moments before the entire acropolis suddenly vanished in a pillar of incandescent fire, sufficient to melt even the very stones to slag. Something walked away from that city, smoking a cigarette while the city burned, in spite of her obvious youth. Something scarred, bloody, damaged, but still, miraculously, unbroken. Although, perhaps, something inside of her had broken. The part of her that had once been that lovely little filly.

Something walked out of the city that looked like a filly, but was dead inside, save for a hate that burned brighter than a thousand suns.

That was fifteen years ago. That was the beginning of the story of The Ratter.

Ratter. Noun. A person, animal, or thing that catches rats.

This was a term of derision used by more than a few adventurers, but The Ratter didn't mind. In truth, it was a perfectly good description of who and what she was. She wouldn't save the world, she killed rats. Other adventurers could deal with the various monsters outside of the city, or in the depths. The Ratter hunted down the monsters that, she knew from experience, would destroy the city if left unchecked. She killed rodents of unusual size, vermin that other adventurers considered beneath contempt, but if not eradicated, would devour the city, hooves first. The Ratter hunted the wiliest of creatures through the sewers, the ruins underneath, and even further down.

But this morning's prey wasn't hiding in the depths. No, tonight, it was on the first floor of the sewers, which was a definite cause for concern. After all, a pack of giant and dire rats of this size just wouldn't haunt the sewers this close to the entrance of the city proper. Not unless something was guiding them.

The Ratter checked her gear as she perched upon a pipe that spanned the ceiling of a cross-section, a four way junction where two major tunnels intersected, the corpse of a recently slain monster sitting at the center as bait. Her scale mail and face covering helmet were stifling in the heat, the sewers unusually warm here, but she was used to discomfort. Her crossbows were ready, and with a quick cantrip, she could have both loaded, strung, and readied in the time it took for her to breathe. She didn't plan to use them, but experience had taught her that, where rats were concerned, it was better to be prepared. She had several dozen fire bombs in a box beside her, ready to release, a favorite weapon against the creatures. Few things could upset a swarm of rats quite like fire. She also had a dozen grenades of her own design, a type that, rather than bursting into flames, exploded with a thunderous sound and blinding light. She'd taken to calling them "Flashbangs". Somehow, the name felt right. She carried half a dozen "Nosekillers" as well, bombs that released a powerful compound that drew the noses of any animal that ate meat, but would kill the ability to smell anything for hours on end once it entered the nose.

And then there was Boscoe at her side, a massive warhound, and the only other creature on the planet that she could rely on these days. The massive black and orange dog was on full alert, a sure sign that their prey was approaching.

And here it came now.

It started with a single giant rat. About half the size of a pony, the creature slowly entered the cross section, scenting the air. Good luck with that, given that The Ratter had taken great pains to cover her scent and that of Boscoe with a foul smelling compound that would make their scent impossible to distinguish from that of the rest of the sewer.

The rat was a scout, clearly. Not very rat-like behavior, a sure sign that her prey was approaching. After the scout finished checking for anything amiss, more rats began to appear. A dozen of them were about the same size as the scout, but eight of them were twice as large, and much more sinister in appearance: Dire Rats.

When an ordinary rat eats the flesh of a monster, the magic within that flesh mutates the rat, causing it to grow in size. However, the mutation will continue as long as the rat is able to find more flesh to eat, and if it is able to consume enough monster flesh, its body will change in various ways, mutating into a more monstrous dire rat. And if a dire rat continues to feast on the flesh of monsters...

The Ratter's train of thought was broken when the rats suddenly stopped, and then formed up into a square, leaving a section open large enough for a more massive beast to approach. It was thrice the size of a dire rat, and even more monstrous in appearance its smaller servants, but what truly set it apart was a circlet of metal atop its head, copper, or maybe just tin, fashioned as a crude imitation of a crown.

And here he comes now, the Lord of the Rats. Her prey.

The Lord of the Rats approached the corpse of the monster that the Ratter had slain, and then positioned here, to draw her true prey to this place. She needed visual confirmation of the creature's existence, and termination, or she wouldn't be able to sleep tonight. She didn't sleep well most nights, but after a good hunt, she could slumber soundly for a night or two, the ghosts of the past put to rest for a time...

The massive rat nosed the meat for a moment, seeming to check the stuff over, rather than wolfing it down as many would expect. Rats were social creatures, though: If they encounter a rat in trouble near a food source, they'll more often than not aid their compatriot and share, rather than just eating the food alone. The Ratter had considered poisoning the meat, but the fact that the Lord of the Rats was more likely to share with its compatriots than to devour the meal itself would risk ruining ambush. Besides, for a beast that size, it would take a lot of poison to do anything more than inconvenience it.

The Ratter's thoughts were interrupted for the second time today as the Lord of the Rats did something surprising: It stepped aside, and another rat, larger than a Dire Rat, but smaller than the Lord, approached.

'Dung', The Ratter thought to herself, 'he's raising himself a mate.'

Giant rats didn't get any larger than the Lord of the Rats stage of growth, but once they did reach that state, they gained intelligence, sentience, and sapience, along with the ability to control other rats to a limited degree. If two or more Lords of the Rats encountered each other, they could bind their tails together, and link their minds, intellects, and powers, boosting their abilities exponentially. This was the King of Rats, the Doom of Trottingham. And when giant rats mated, they produced more of whatever state they were in at the time. Giant rats made more giant rats, dire rats made more dire rats, and Lords of the Rats made more Lords of the Rats...

And this Lord of Rats was getting ready to produce a mate, so it could begin spawning more Lords of the Rats. Within a few moons, there would be enough to create a terrifyingly powerful King of Rats, and then...

...The Doom of Trottingham would devour Spiketopia.

'Not while there's a rutting drop of blood in my body, you bastards,' The Ratter thought to herself, rage turning her face into a rictus grin fit to frighten any who saw it, as she readied her weapons and placed a set of smoked glass lenses over her eyes.

First, down came the flashbangs: All of them at once around the perimeter, deafening and blinding the rats below. The Ratter and Boscoe were saved, as both wore earplugs, and while The Ratter wore dark lenses over her eyes, she simply covered Boscoe's until the light faded.

The cross section became a sight of pure chaos as the rats began running about blindly and crashing into walls. Terror was the fastest way to break the hold that a Lord of the Rats held on its minions, but the other rats wouldn't desert their master, they simply would fail to obey its commands for a few brief minutes. Plenty of time.

Rather than dropping the firebombs as she had originally planned, The Ratter readied both crossbows, and with the ease of long practice, fired two bolts. Two very special bolts, also of her own design.

Fine steel arrowheads bit deep into the skulls of both the Lord of the Rats and its prospective mate. While the mate died instantly, the Lord's skull was thick enough to prevent instantaneous death. That was fine. The shaft of the bolt contained a special chamber that held two glass beads, each holding a small amount of a chemical compound that would only break and mix once they were properly primed and fired. Alone, the two chemicals were inert. Together...

As the chemicals mixed, and anarchy continued to reign down below, The Ratter lit the firebombs and dropped them all, her face beneath her helmet a mix of rage, hatred, and ecstasy. The cross section became a fiery holocaust. The rats below ignited, burning and screaming, and as the payload within the special bolts finished mixing and reacted, the two bolts exploded spectacularly, killing all but perhaps two or three of the vile creatures, and taking the Lord of the Rat's head clean off in a shower of gore.

As she and Boscoe jumped down from the heights above, and the pair went to work on the few survivors, The Ratter said, half to Boscoe and half to herself, "I love the smell of burning rat in the morning. It smells like... victory."

A few minutes of messy work to remove the tails of the slain monsters, and then The Ratter went to work burning everything: Both the dead rats and the monster's corpse that she'd used as bait. Leave a dead monster behind, even a rat, and more rats would come to devour it, and then there'd be more giant rats to take their place.

If adventurers would burn the remains of their prey after killing it, then The Ratter would not have been quite so busy, but today's prey made for a good haul. Ten bits apiece for the standard giant rats. Fifty for each dire rat. And while the guild would never "officially" recognize the Lord of the Rats or its consort to be for what they were, they'd qualify as Abnormal dire rats, sufficient for double the standard bounty, for a solid one hundred bits apiece. Better than she made most days, a solid seven hundred thirty bits.

More than enough to resupply after today's expenditure of resources, pay rent, and buy food for the month. The Ratter's war chest was fat with bits already, given that she hunted daily, and came back with something nearly every time she went out, but today was better than average. Still, as she walked down the street towards the guild hall, Boscoe at her side, she pondered something... worrying.

'I've been killing giant rats by the dozens,' she thought to herself. 'But they're still coming. Worse, there were that many dire rats, plus a Lord of the Rats, along with one well on her way to that level. That shouldn't be possible, unless there's a nest somewhere I've yet to discover. It can't be in the sewers, I've got those completely mapped out, and I've gotten most of the ruins beneath scouted as well. So where...'

She had let herself get so lost in thought that she accidentally collided with a large, armor clad warrior who'd happened to turn the corner ahead of her. Due to his size and heavy armor, all that happened was that she walked face first into him with a clang, her helmet colliding with his armored calves. Still, the collision rattled her slightly, and she dropped her parcel of rat tails.

"Oh, my apologies," the warrior said, seeming to have trouble controlling the volume of his voice, he carefully helped pick up the bundle and placed it on her back. "I should be more careful where I walk. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," The Ratter replied in a flat voice. Somewhere in Trottingham, she'd lost the ability to emote, her voice usually devoid of emotion, save for when rats were concerned, and even then, she only expressed anger. Ponies tended to find it disconcerting.

However, this fellow was some sort of bipedal saurian in full plate, and if her voice bothered him, it didn't show. "That is good," he said, then took a moment to study her bounty. "A fine day's work, but... where's the rest of your party? Shouldn't they be helping you carry the spoils."

Gesturing to her canine partner, The Ratter said, "This was all Boscoe and me."

Clapping his hands together in appreciation (Which resulted in a loud clang, given his steel gauntlets), the warrior exclaimed, "Then that is a fantastic day's work! I've seen what those dreadful creatures can do when they get into a hatchery back home, and they can be quite dangerous if left to breed unchecked. You've done a great service, exterminating them."

The Ratter was ready for many things, most of them related to sudden appearances of giant rats or other monsters. An honest, heartfelt compliment, however, was completely unexpected, and it took her a second to say, "Thank you."

"Ah, I forget myself," the armored saurian said, slapping himself on the forehead with a clang. "I have not introduced myself. I am Gorethyndryllos, previously of Draconiapolis. I understand that is a mouthful, so please, call me Gore. Who might you be?"

"They call me The Ratter," she replied bluntly. There were times when she did miss the ability to emote even a little. It didn't sit well with her, being unable to be nice to someone who had praised her. After all, it was such a rare event...

"Well, Ratter," Gore said with a polite bow, "I was on my way to register with the adventurer's guild. Might you be on your way there with your bounty?"

The Ratter nodded, and said, "I am. It's this way. I'll walk you there."

Author's Note:

Fun fact: During World War 2, ship captains who smuggled refugees out of Nazi occupied territory would use a concoction that was a mix of rabbit blood and cocaine to throw dogs off of the scent of their passengers. The rabbit blood drew the dogs to the mix, and the cocaine left them unable to smell anything. Something similar is in The Ratter's Nosekiller bombs, but for the sake of decency, I'll say it isn't cocaine.

Favored enemy is a term used in D&D, a ranger skill that grants a ranger bonuses against certain enemy types. As you may have guessed, The Ratter is a ranger, and her level one favored enemy is Rats.