Chapter 27

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The arduous morning had come to an end, and in the wake of the Walker's terror came hours of scouring the town and its outskirts for any creatures that may have still roamed. Bedelia had sent Ellie and Janus on their way shortly after the Walker's death, confident that she and the Crows had the town under control.

Standing in the courtyard with her hands folded neatly on her lap was Ellie, gazing into the tunnel entrance with Gerald mimicking her stance beside her. They glanced at one another, then back into the tunnel when they heard varied grumbles grow increasingly louder. Hapi emerged from the darkness with dirt-stained clothes that he almost frantically attempted to dust clean.

"How did it look?" Gerald asked.

"Ahh, well we certainly have our work cut out for us. The town is mostly intact, but the entrance was caved in. Found a few landslides after I dug in, though."

Both Gerald and Ellie released sighs as their tension eased away.

"Just so long as it wasn't completely destroyed," Gerald said. "I'm sure the other rats will be happy for the news."

"Well, I'll still need to round up a few of the others to help me check the cavern's integrity." Hapi stepped onto the stone path with a stretch. "Don't want any of the little ones moving back in just for it all to come crashing down."

"Anything I can do to help? Maybe I should fetch the burrowers?"

"Not a bad idea. It'll go faster with more help, though I still anticipate it'll take a few days."

As the conversation continued on, Ellie idly scanned the courtyard for anything misaligned as a result of the near-constant tremors from the Walker's journey. She held her gaze on the library windows and winced at the thought of how many books might have toppled over.

The distant click of a closing door drew here attention further to the west. Across the long courtyard, Janus stepped out of the greenhouse and started toward the entrance to the Great Hall. With a grin, Ellie took great steps to keep up with his pace as she made her way to meet him. Janus chuckled when he noticed her and slowed down to perfect his stride so that they met perfectly in front of the door.

"Judging by your expression, I take it your family was safe and sound in the tunnels."

"Yes, thankfully. Nothing was out of sorts and I will soon return them to the dark room. I would do it now, but I simply lack the strength."

"I bet."

Janus motioned his head upward toward Gerald and Hapi, still chatting by the tunnel.

"And how is Rat Town?"

"A few landslides, a caved in entrance, but the town itself is fine. Just need to make sure it's safe for the rats to return to."

"Well, all things considered, I'd say that the castle came out better than expected."

"At least from what we've seen so far. I haven't heard from Elise yet, so she's probably still checking the rooms."

"She didn't invite you along?"

"You think she'd do that?" Ellie scoffed. "No, she was most insistent that she take care of it."

"Unsurprising," Janus chuckled. "Sometimes I wonder if she acts that way out of fear of inconveniencing us, or if she's simply asserting her dominance."

"Probably a bit of both."

Soft laughter parted their lips as they strained to blink away exhaustion. Ellie staggered to one side and caught herself from falling, which in turn drew Janus's attention.

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