Bartholomew and the Raven Catacombs

Bartholomew’s orange and striped fur laid limp and damp over his thin Abyssinian cat body. His top hat was left in the care of Ricky the raven after learning what his current mission was. The smell of mold and decay overwhelmed his sensitive nostrils and he cringed in disgust at the state of the catacombs he was sent to explore.

Ravens were often nomadic, which led to complications with their death rituals for passed comrades. Their catacombs were located far to the north of Ravenhome beneath the Featherstone taiga, which made for some interesting complications traveling via airship.

Thankfully Ravens had created routes to make it easier to transport their passed thaumaturges and high-ranking nobility to rest in their most sacred of places.

The darkness only added to the cold, with nothing but a small lantern to guide his way through to find his target. The walls were carved into the side of a mountain where they inlaid precious stones in the rock at every casket. After passing numerous ornately gemmed caskets and winding through multiple hallways, he wasn’t entirely sure if he had traveled the correct way.

Grunting under his breath, he seemed annoyed at the surroundings of his current task.

“Ricky has been sending me on less and less pleasant missions as of late. I can’t quite tell if he’s punishing me or tasking me with things he can’t trust anyone else with.”

His paw brushed up against a small bone that somehow made its way out of an open casket nearby. Peering into the casket he saw not just bones, but decaying feathers and muscle. The smell was atrocious.

“Hmm? A bone out of place? That seems… Very unlike ravens.“

Taking note of the disturbance, he realized that grave robbers were likely a problem for a place laden with precious stones. Switching the lantern to his left hand, he readied himself to draw his rapier at any time. His heart beat steadied as he took a deep breath. Bartholomew never liked the prospect of fighting, but it was always a possibility in his line of work.

Turning right, he saw the marker that let him know he was going the right way. A stone lectern sat with a tablet adorned atop it in front of a massive steel door. This was the way to the Patriarchal catacombs. Somewhere inside was the Stone of Shangri-Paw that Ricky’s ancestor Rocky had used to rally Ravens around one banner.

Bartholomew loosely knew the story behind how Raven society came to be, but his hope was to find out the truth. Something had itched at his brain since he had stumbled upon Kvasir’s Gardens. Supposedly Kvasir was a giant honey bee whose royal jelly allowed Rocky to gain sentience himself. That theory was wholly thrown out the window when he found an amusement park and retreat for Furth’s social elite at the center of Kvasir’s Hive.

He even tried the royal jelly after befriending Kvasir’s last-living ancestor Donny. Here was an opportunity to verify that the Stone of Shangri-Paw really existed.

Small steam-powered lights flickered on and off beside the steel door that was five times Bartholomew’s height. The smell of decay lessened and he began to smell something sweet. It had a faint hint of juniper and pine-needles. Making his way to the door slowly, he brushed his hand against the crease in the middle to feel air pushing through.

The air smelled far more pleasant than the decay and mold he had been trudging through for nearly an hour. A grin grew wide on his whiskered face and glint appeared in his eye.

“Ah, so I’ve found you at last. Let’s see what secrets you hold, shall we?”

He hovered his lantern above the stone lectern to read the inscription placed there.

Rocky roads and poisoned toads

Adventure leading to a life indentured

Here lie the old masters of Furth

To enter prove your worth

“Prove my worth? How do I prove my worth to stone and steel?”

He had to think for a moment what the puzzle could mean. A memory of his debriefing with Ricky pulled into his mind and provided a clue.

“Come, friend. I have an important task for you.”

Hopping forward, Ricky grabbed a small cable with his wing inside the royal airship “The Wild Reaper”. A whistle rang as steam passed through a device that signaled across the entire ship. A door to his private quarters opened to reveal a surprisingly simple room with a writing desk and a few pictures of his ancestors hanging and rattling on the walls.

Bartholomew noticed a small jar of pebbles sealed and fastened with a steel plate to the desk. A large black feather quill sat in an ink-well on the desk with a small ruby embedded in the jar.

“Come, sit down Bartholomew.”

Taking a small stool and placing it in front of the desk, Ricky made his way behind the desk and sat on his own small stool. Bartholomew sat down and couldn’t help but wonder why Ricky’s quarters weren’t more… extravagant.

“I daresay you must be thankful to have your own space here. It starts to feel quite cramped amid the pipes and steam.”

Ricky nodded in agreement and opened the jar of pebbles slowly.

“Aye, it is quite luxurious. Now, for business my friend.”

Grabbing a pebble out of the jar, he placed it on the desk and watched it roll around.

“Tell me Bartholomew, what does the word Worth mean to you?”

Thinking for a moment, Bartholomew realized he’d never really thought about it.

“I suppose it means how much you could trade any given item or service for? That’s generally how I use it anyways.”

Ricky’s beak widened with a smile, and he picked up the pebble on his desk.

“Ah, so I suppose this pebble has worth then eh? I purchased it from a small store in Bullcago for fifteen bits.”

Bartholomew’s mouth opened at the price of a small pebble like that. He realized his reaction was all too apparent to Ricky who laughed at the look on Bartholomew’s face.

“Yes, yes, it’s quite a lot of money for something so small. Yet what the shop keep didn’t realize is this is a smoky quartz. In my culture, smoky quartz is a sign of fantastic luck and prosperity. Does it truly amount to such? No one can say for sure. But do you think this stone is worth something?”

Cocking an eyebrow and pursing his lips, Bartholomew tried to think of a polite way to say how he felt.

“I’ll take that as a no. That’s a perfectly acceptable answer as well my friend, do not be ashamed of it. My perceived worth does not mean you have to see it as worth anything. That’s simply a difference in culture.”

Picking up the stone with his beak, he walked over to a small viewing window nearby a picture of Rocky the Raven. Opening the port hole, he tossed the pebble out.

Bartholomew couldn’t help but be confused. Why would he throw away something he paid so much for?

“That pebble’s worth is in the eyes of the beholder. Yet there’s another word we use to describe how much a person’s worth may be. And that word would be…?”

Ricky looked at Bartholomew and waited for him to finish the sentence.

“Value?”

Ricky nodded and hopped back to his desk to sit down.

“Ravens use those words with great care. They are not interchangeable and I cannot stress this enough, improper use is highly frowned upon. Yet it wasn’t always like this. There was one specific event which taught us the difference between Value and Worth.”

Pointing his wing at the picture of his ancestor Rocky, Ricky’s tone grew serious.

“When my ancestor Rocky retrieved the Stone of Shangri-Paw and used it’s magic to rally Ravens around one central society. The war that nearly followed was diverted only due to Rocky’s ability to remind others the difference between those two things.”

The rattling of a lantern startled Bartholomew and pulled him from his reverie. While he couldn’t finish the full memory, he realized what the riddle could mean.

“Oh, terribly sorry messir. I was unaware anyone had ventured in. I will leave immediately.”

Bartholomew shook his head and beckoned to the haggard old raven that had wandered in.

“Now good sir, if you have business here as well don’t let me keep you from it. My name is Bartholomew. May I ask yours?”

Moving slowly, the Raven stopped in his tracks and began to waddle painfully over to Bartholomew.

“My name? Oh, messir. My name is not important to the likes of you. I know my place.”

Cocking an eyebrow, Bartholomew laughed heartily and walked over to the Raven to extend his hand.

“I am not of nobility nor do I wish to be, kind sir. Your presence is just as welcome here as mine. If you do not wish to share your name, I will not make you. But know that I do not see you as any lesser than I.”

The raven smiled and his lantern slipped out of his wing and crashed to the ground. It cracked and flickered out as it hit rock. Bending over, Bartholomew picked up the lantern and looked it over. Realizing it was wholly broken, he handed his lantern to the old Raven in exchange.

“Here, you won’t make it around here nearly as well as I will without some light.”

A quick smirk appeared and a glint shone in the raven’s eye.

“You are too kind, young one. Thank you for making me feel worth your time.”

Steel creaked and moaned behind Bartholomew as the steel door began to open. Turning to view it, he quickly looked back towards the raven to find the working lantern floating gingerly in mid-air where the raven once stood.

Grabbing the lantern, he felt feathered wings place themselves upon his paw.

Your kindness shows true value

I know what you seek and know you

Will find a use for it to spread the truth.

Something whispered in his ear as he felt feathers move off his hands. Could he have passed the test?

“Thank you old soul. May your rest be peaceful.”

Laughing echoed through the chamber behind the door and the smell of juniper filled his nostrils. It also blasted him with cold and drifts of snow that now raged through strong winds. Making his way to the door, he peered in to find a massive golden statue.

Depicting not just a Raven, it was carved to show the many different animal tribes that became part of the sentient animal world. A cat adorned in leaves stood tall near the raven, while a Bison and wolf stood over them looking towards the skies. Near the rock ceiling a golden statue of an eagle hung over with wings spread longer than all of the animals combined.

“Wait, wait, wait a moment. An eagle? I thought Ravens had always been at war with predator raptors?”

He marveled at the statues a moment and the sheer craftsmanship. It appeared to have been carved from the stone of the mountain then coated in gold. A small inscription lay at the bottom of the statue with a gold plate. Reading it, Bartholomew was stunned.

Raptors soar to protect the new races under the light of Rocky The Raven. May our alliance last throughout Furth’s long and prosperous history.

“Alliance?! Raptors?! Does this statue mean to say that Raptors ushered in the alliance of animals?!”

A different laugh could be heard echoing throughout the catacombs behind him, and the steel doors slammed shut.

Now you know part of the truth

Go forward and learn more to carry through your youth

It is time to toss out what you previously believed,

Only then are you allowed to leave.

Bartholomew’s damp fur began to feel frosty as cold bit at him and the wind picked up. The sound of howling gales and trees shaking confused him. Weren’t they deep under the mountain?

Walking slowly towards the hallway to his left, he realized it wasn’t a hallway at all. It was an exit to a vast open valley tucked between the mountains. He had been told it was dangerous to fly directly over the Catacombs. Could this have been why?

Peering out into the lightly wooded valley before him, it stretched out to the size of two Ravenhomes. It was massive, and he could barely make out a stone brick structure built into the side of the mountain opposite him past the large valley. A pack of bison roamed quietly while chewing on the grass, and the howl of wolves came through the coniferous treeline to his left. To the right the valley stretched out to a lightly wooded area.

The wind blew his direction and he caught a faint whiff of something he definitely didn’t expect. Other cats, with a faint hint of hawk.

“What on Furth is this place?”

Bartholomew Finds A Sparring Partner

Standing awkwardly with his hand resting on his rapier, Bartholomew stared at his feet for a moment. Countess Reyna was steps away pacing back and forth behind a large mahogany desk. Papers were scattered across the desk with a fountain pen broken and ink spattered across the desk. A small phone in the shape of a fish was off the hook, the receiver hanging from the cord off the desk.

“You know Bart, I've been having a hell of a day. First you appear claiming to be investigating our export logs. Which in and of itself is incredibly stupid because you're accusing us of shipping catnip to Hawks and Falcons. Do I need to explain why that's stupid?”

Bartholomew looked up and met her frustrated gaze as she paced. Of course now it all seemed a bit... silly. Why did Ricky send me here if not for a genuine investigation?

“I assure you I understand how ludicrous it all sounds. However I am under orders. Whether you choose work with me to this end is a different issue entirely.”

Fluffing her black and brown fur, her tail flicked back and forth erratically. Patting herself in the face a couple times she took a deep breath and calmed herself. Grabbing the phone cord, she pulled it up and pressed the receiver down onto the phone. Picking it back up, she pulled the circle on it six times and waited.

“Lydia, fetch me my fencing gear. Bring an extra set for Sir Bart please. Thank you dear.”

Bartholomew cocked an eyebrow and laughed inside his head. Countess Reyna no doubt could take care of herself in combat. Whether she could keep up with Bartholomew is another story entirely.

“You wish to spar with me m'lady?”

Slamming her paw on the desk, she displaced a dozen papers in the process.

“You bet your ass I do. It's nothing personal. It's just not every day I have an opportunity to spar with someone properly skilled. Judging by the craftsmanship of your sword there, you must have some level of skill. Am I wrong?”

Clever girl.

“Not at all. There is a reason I was sent here m'lady. It should prove for an interesting match.”

Cocking her head back and smiling, she eyed Bartholomew's sword.

“Care to make a wager to make it more interesting?”

That didn't sit right with Bartholomew. The way she was looking at his weapon made him believe she wanted it. Bartholomew wasn't giving it up.

“I am one to partake in a gentleman's bet from time to time, but my blade is not on the table. Perhaps there is something else worth your while I could wager?”

Pursing her lips and flicking her whiskers, Reyna thought for a moment. The sun shone through the window with the view of the catnip fields. Rows and rows of green and purple, cats and dogs sifting carefully to prune each plant.

“If I win, you leave and tell your superiors they get nothing from me.”

Wager the success of his mission? Bartholomew wasn't entirely comfortable with that. Obviously if he were to make this wager he needs something equal in turn.

“Very well. If I win, you make fresh copies of all shipping records within the last two years and send your own courier to Ravenhome.”

A sly smirk pasted to her face.

“Done. I hope you know what you're getting into Sir Bart.”

Smiling lightly he looked her in the eyes.

“Also, stop calling me Bart.”

Reyna let out a guffaw and a chuckle. Pointing her paw at him she looked past him as the door opened.

“If you win, I'll stop calling you Bart. Deal.”

Rubbing his chin he debated arguing the details. He would much rather prefer she didn't call him Bart regardless of the outcome of the match. Something told him it wasn't worth the time. Tipping his hat to her, he turned around and walked out the mahogany door.

#####

 

Adjusting his padded outfit, Bartholomew felt like it was a size too small. Though tight, he could still move with relative ease. Pulling the sparring mask over his face, he prepared himself for a more controlled fight. He had gotten so used to fighting with the real thing. Fighting by rules will be much more difficult.

Pacing a few steps around the marble floor, he tried to get used to moving fully in the sparring suit.

“You look uncomfortable Sir Bart. Having second thoughts?”

He let out an audible laugh, though stopped it as soon as it came. He didn't wish to disrespect his host.

“No second thoughts m'lady. Simply being reminded of how different sparring is from real fighting with a sword. I assure you I aim to give you a match worth remembering.”

Pulling her mask down over her face, she signaled to a calico who tossed her a sparring sword. Bartholomew watched as another calico brought him his own sparring sword. Feeling the weight in his hands, Bartholomew wheeled his arm around once. It felt lighter than he was used to. That was an advantage.

She bounced on her feet lightly and warmed up her own arm. Bartholomew took a deep breath and readied himself for the ready. They both walked slowly towards each other until they were within steps of each other. Extending their arms, they crossed sparring swords and waited for the signal. Focusing everything he had, he watched her face intently.

“En Garde!”

A calico shouted and spurred a fury Bartholomew had never seen before. Within a moment she had pulled herself back to lunge. Thankfully Bartholomew had fought enough to be able to read it before it happened. Even with knowing it was coming, he nearly lost a point right off the bat. Swiping his own sword left and right, he parried her every move. She continued to grunt and thrust, lunge and swipe. For a moment, he thought she had caught an advantage in putting him on the defensive.

Her stamina betrayed her as she began to slow and become frenzied. Swipes turned into lunges. Calicos were talking to each other and placing their own bets on who would win. Loud cracks of steel echoed through the gymnasium. Grunts turned into shouting. Clearly she was getting frustrated. That was all he needed. A lunge turned sluggish, and he seized his opportunity.

Swiping her sword away, he lunged in turn and paced the bead tip of his sword directly in her sternum.

“Point!”

She stood up and stared into space a moment. The Calico's whispers turned to silence. Pulling her mask up, she had a grin from ear to ear.

“You Sir Bartholomew, have won yourself a duel. Not one of these sad saps have ever beaten me in a duel. You managed to beat me without even breaking a sweat. I can see when I am out matched.”

Pulling his mask up, Bartholomew smiled at her.

“Well, my dear, more often than not when I fight a single strike could mean the end of me. 'Tis a skill honed out of necessity.”

Throwing the sword down, she snapped at one of the Calicos in the corner of the gym.

“Go get the word to records, we're going to need double copies of all outgoing shipments for the last two years. Oh, and tell Darrel he is definitely getting extra paid time off for the extra work load. Have him come to me directly with any issues. We'll procure a courier when copies are complete.”

#####

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Bartholomew Takes the Stage

Drawing his rapier, Bartholomew flicked his whiskers in confidence. Rays of sun radiated from his orange fur. An image drew within his mind of how valiant he must look to the common eye. Building conviction, he swung his sword fiercely at the air. Demonstrating his martial prowess for others was always a favorite pass time for him. It was good to know people believed in his ability to defend them.

“And then, my good people, I made quick work of the bulldog that was determined to stand in my way! With a distracting slash and a strike from the flat of the blade-”

A quick flick of the wrist was all it took to show exactly what he had done. Though it was true the tale is exaggerated, the truth is often times much less glorious than the stories we base them on.

“... and my foe was out cold on the floor! I didn't even need to draw blood in order to triumph over this obstacle!”

The bustling crowd that had gathered into the small wooden amphitheater cheered in jubilation. Praises were exclaimed over the bustling noise of the passionate gathering.

“That my friends, is why we must strive to think of others as if they have just as much right to live as we. I found in my training that it is not terribly difficult to kill your opponent. It is vastly more difficult to effectively render them incapacitated so that-”

A squeaky young voice of a girl shouted above the now silent crowd.

“What's inka-pass-ee-tatered mean?”

Looking towards the crown in front of him, he saw the young one asking. Bartholomew also noticed that everyone gathered around him was a young one. Kittens, all of them. In the back was two male cats chatting and laughing. A Siamese and a black tabby.

Bartholomew didn't know what to do. His enamored crowd was nothing more than a group of youngsters who liked to hear stories. Was he simply babysitting for the local couples?

“What happened to the bulldog after? C'mon mister the bulldog was cool! We want more of the Bulldog!”

One youngster shouted above the group, inspiring the entire group of them to begin shouting and asking themselves the same thing. Bartholomew sheathed his sword, took a deep breath, and wondered how he got here. Perhaps this would be the last time he agreed to put on a show for his friend's catnip festival. Sitting on the edge of the stage, he put his paw under his chin, frowned, and muttered under his breath.
    
“Don't know... Don't care...”

Bartholomew Meets Sir Jerome

Bartholomew knew it best to trust his instincts. Perhaps his good friend Sir Thomas had known the contact he had given Bartholomew would be a perturbing experience. Regardless of his fellow's trust in those which cannot be trusted is misguided. Perhaps it is not. Something about his instincts bothered him.

Twitching his whiskers and fidgeting with the hilt of his sword, he tried to appear nonchalant to his new companion. Though deep down in his gut, he knew he could never truly trust a mouse. Sir Jerome stood not four inches tall on his hind legs. Dressed in traditional rapier and feathered cap, he truly was a strange sight for a cat to behold.

“Sir Thomas has spoken highly of you, good Sir. I trust he has filled you in on our dealings here?”

It was all Bartholomew could do to keep from lashing out. It felt wrong to even address a mouse. Sitting at a simple wood table, Jerome stood on the table across from Bartholomew. The smell of cheese and fish lingered in the air among the musty stench of dust and mold. A light warm breeze tickled their whiskers as it escorted the scent of food.

“In fact, good Sir he has not.”

Sir Jerome gave Bartholomew a neutral glance as he spoke. It would appear he also did not want to seem disturbed. Bartholomew thought a moment. Placing his paw face down on the table, he looked at Sir Thomas intently.

“It appears we are both in a... strange position? Might I make a personal inquiry good Sir Jerome?”

Jerome gave a troubled glance at Bartholomew's paw. It was nearly bigger than the mouse himself. After a moment of searching for intent, Jerome gave a simple sigh and a nod.

“You may indeed.”

A twinkle formed in Bartholomew's eye. His gut felt better. His instincts subsided and he was able to think clearly even if for a moment. It was always best to take advantage of such clarity of mind.

“Thank you. You do not trust cats, do you?”

Jerome looked oddly surprised and instantly looked down at the table.

“It's ok, Sir Jerome. I do not trust mice either. However, it does not mean we cannot trust each other. Sir Thomas is a dear friend. I trust his judgment. If he believes you are worthy of a cat's trust, then I will trust you. Will you trust me?”

Bartholomew gingerly turned his palm face up.

Bartholomew and the Bulldog

Adjusting his tabard, Bartholomew pulled his short sword from it's scabbard. It gleaned in the sunlight like a beacon of hope in these trying times. A breeze brushed his face, carrying with it the sweet scent of dandelions and honeysuckle. An eery quiet fell over the valley as he stood there among the soft grass swaying in the wind.

Before him stood a formidable bulldog, his arms crossed and staring intently at Bartholomew. His brown and white splotched fur blended well with his black cabby hat. Behind the guard was a door Bartholomew must get into. It was a dire situation that called for dire actions, and now was the time for action.

“I say good sir, I must enter the door behind you to save my dear friend Ricky! Might you find it in your heart to allow a kind soul entry in his time of need?”

The dog grunted and pointed at Bartholomew with ferocity.

“Ain't lettin' a pup like you in 'ere. Dunno 'oo dis Ricky is but I ain't ever 'eard of 'im. Dun matter to me wut 'appens. Just doin' my job here, you understand.”

Bartholomew's heart sank. Now he must fight to save his dearest of raven friends!

“Very well sir, have at you then!”

Charging with all his orange fluffy might, Bartholomew swung at the bulldog with a quickness only a cat could muster. Slash after slash, the dog stood there looking at the wiry cat like he was insane. None of these attacks were even getting close to hurting the dog, as the blade never even so much as blew a breeze in his direction.

“Ha ho! What say you now dog? You only get one warning!”

The dog crossed his arms again, and began to pick his nose slightly with his nail. Without missing a beat, Bartholomew began swinging wildly again. Again the blade danced in a fearsome display. Fearsome if the blade had actually ever met it's mark. Bartholomew began to pick up his showmanship of swordplay. Jumping more, and slashing faster, the dog stopped picking his nose and let out a big yawn.

“See, yer still a pup. Can't even go frough with 'urtin' yer enemy. Ain't nottin' 'ere fer the likes of you kitten.”

With a swift backhand, the dog stuck Bartholomew and sent him flying a few feet. His sword flew out of his hands, and flew upwards. It spun in the air until coming down and skewering the ground right next to Bartholomew. With a shake of his head, Bartholomew stood up and clutched his sword. Putting his sword back in it's scabbard, he walked up to the dog with a very unhappy look on his face.

“'Atcha gonna do pup? Scratch me?”

The bulldog laughed heartily, staring down at the poor cat in front of him. Cocking an eyebrow, Bartholomew jumped up and slammed his paw into the dog's nose as hard as he could. As the dog reeled in pain, Bartholomew opened the door and slipped inside.

 

Bartholomew and the Tower of the Squid Lord

It's not every day that a cat got to see underneath the ocean. Bartholomew greatly appreciated his raven friends' technology. Somehow, they had come up with the most clever ways among animals to build structures that could move them to extreme places in search of treasure. This day, Bartholomew held his hand over his sword scabbard with pride on his face. For outside the submarine window, was a coral reef that his kind had never seen before.

Supposedly the oceans were vast, terrifying places. Fish of all sizes occupied them and gave them life. Plant life even grew under water, simply under different rules. Scratching his chin with other hand and flicking his whiskers, Bartholomew pondered what it was the ravens might be after underneath the water. Besides shiny stones that is.

His tail swung back and forth behind him, flicking every once in a while as a reminder he had a tail. Ricky, his dapper raven friend had approached him from behind without his notice.

“Well my friend, what do you think of the deep blue sea? Is it not a wonderful sight to behold? Such vastness of life in many forms! Will we ever truly know everything about such a diverse ecosystem?”

Pulling from a hickory pipe, Ricky hopped up behind Bartholomew with clicking of claws on the steel floor. While Bartholomew was a formidable orange tabby, Ricky was still greater in size as he was in intellect.

“It's amazing Ricky! You ravens will go great lengths to obtain your stones won't you? What exactly are we looking for today old bean?”

Adjusting his raven lord's tabard, Bartholomew looked around at all of the bells and whistles of the machine he rode inside that kept him safe among the waves. Gears turned, steam vented, valves turned on their own. Ravens perched atop copper pipes with the all too familiar black coating that no doubt kept their feet safe from the immensely hot steam traveling through the pipes.

“Today we are looking for the Tower of the Squid Lord sir Bartholomew. Lord Cool Thool will be pleased to meet a new species from the surface. Much as I am sure you would be pleased to meet the ruler of the entire Blahdee Ocean. Are you ready for this?”

There was weight in his words. Something just felt wonderful in my heart of hearts about meeting such a distinguished ruler. Supposedly he had fountains, temples, and even scratching posts made of gold. Perhaps that last part was just wishful thinking.

The submarine shifted and jutted, coming to a stop. Bartholomew had to hold on to a nearby pipe to keep from falling over. A chime came through the loudspeaker and ravens began cawing in approval.

“Well my friend, would you like to meet Lord Cool Thool? He is waiting for us on the other side of this magical breathing barrier.”

Bartholomew flicked a whisker, got a twinkle in his eye and took a deep breath. The hatch opened, and water floated just outside of it. On the other side of that barrier was Lord Cool Thool.

Bartholomew and the Raven's Undying Search

Bartholomew had never ridden a raven airship before. His feathered Raven friends were gracious enough to show him technology and magic. The design was flawless, with shiny stones and feathers attached to scaffolding and lift engines alike. Surely there had never been a finer piece of engineering yet known to Raven kind.

“You see my fine furry friend, we Ravens value one thing over everything else. That is why these airships were built using our magic.”

Walking him through the copper planks and steam valves through the airship's engine room, Ravens were perched on pipes that had protective coatings to keep the temperature of the steam from burning their feet. Wearing everything from top hats, bow ties, and even monocles, the ravens talked amongst themselves.

“This way leads to our observation deck. Won't you join me?”

Pointing with his massive black wing, he summoned Bartholomew through a collection of pipes that led into a room. Bowing as politely as he could, Bartholomew ruffled his whiskers and flicked his tail in pleasure.

“I would be delighted dear friend!”

Ricky had been his friend for many moons, but it was not until this day that he decided Bartholomew was worthy of sharing the secrets of the Ravens. Today was a red letter day! Not even most ravens have seen what Bartholomew was about to. A technology so secret and powerful, it has been hidden from all but the select few of Raven inner society.

Turning and walking through the pipes, Bartholomew's little heart fluttered and pulsed sharply. Excitement gripped him as the light from the room evened out to reveal in plain sight what had been hidden for so long. A room full of computers hooked up to telescopes outside of the airship. Hundreds of them all scanning and calculating every inch of the ground.

“By golly chap! This is incredible! What exactly is it doing?”

Walking over to one of the big screens in the middle, Ricky pointed his wing at the display. Pebbles large and small appeared on it's screen. In a matter of seconds, several were revealed and detailed. Small numbers shown near each and every rock, though many were the same.

“It is doing the work that Ravens have been doing for a near infinite number of moons. Searching for shiny pebbles! It is what we Ravens do! It's quite brilliant really! See it sends the co-ordinates to a central database so that we can send teams-”

Ricky droned on for hours, while Bartholomew was left to ponder what exactly this meant. This meant that this big secret power that Ravens had been toting over every other species was a supercomputer designed to find polished stones.