Funny things, stories. You listen to bards or troubadours, and they'll fill your head with stories of green trees, sunny skies, and beautiful people. Heroes even. Well, I've never met a hero, and it seems to me the world's just as much dirt as it is marble or anything else. Most folk, they forget the filth. They walk the streets of the cities and pretend they can't smell it. They dump out their chamber pots and throw out their rubbish and they forget about it entirely. Good riddance, right?
Well, all that rubbish and filth, it goes someplace, don't it? There's whole highways under every cobbled street, miles and miles of sewer that folk forget, but which touch just about everything. The folk who can brave those hidden highways, well, your high bred folk may not want to stand downwind of them, but even they have to admit that the filthy have their uses, when it's dirty deeds that need doing.
You see, this is our kingdom. Down here we are the kings of the sewers, masters of the inky black. Oh sure, every town has its Thieves, and in the big cities the Thieves even have their Guilds, as if they were honest tradesmen! Oh yes, the criminals have built a world of their own, with dukes, kings, taxes and wars. But in every successful guild or gang, you're bound to find one of us. We're the keenest ears, the sharpest eyes, the best slinkers, trackers, burglars, and spies. We are the Rat Men, and in rat's shape we crawl under doors, up narrow drains, and into the most impregnable houses. None can keep us out, and once we're in, there are few that can keep us from our errand, be it burglary, spying, murder, or mayhem. And when our work is done, we scamper away, one rat among thousands. And not a man the wiser.
You've likely heard the tales, that Wererats are cursed by the gods, or that skin-changing is passed on through rat bites. Some say it runs in bloodlines like madness. Well, want to hear a secret? It ain't like that at all. It turns out that there's a Rat in the heart of every man, from the noblest Knight to the Haughtiest Prelate. Wererats are the ones who stop ignoring that Rat and start to listen to it. He's wily, the Rat is, but he'll come out if you're clever enough to coax him.
Don't listen to stories. You've heard of Finn ap Cummil, the Bear Man? Surly you have - I'm sure you know he could switch his skin with a bear or fly in the form of an eagle. Nice tricks, those. But nobody ever tells the tale of when the Elves caught him, and kept him chained in a sewer, bound in chains of magic iron. Who was it that you think saved him then? It weren't Bear! No, it was Rat! Lowly Rat, prince of the dark, who chewed through his bonds and taught old Finn to crawl. Yeah, even some Heroes' deeds get thrown out with the rubbish when they ain't pretty. Well, we haven't forgotten. Let the world turn their back on us. That's why they never see us coming.
So, would you be a prince of thieves? Imagine it: running through the underworld faster than a cat, able to see in the dark, and then gnawing and crawling your way into any treasury, with every rat that scampers your eyes, ears, and confidante. The journey won't be pleasant, to be sure, but one gets used to filth, after a whileâ€¦ And you'll trade your muck for a mountain of gold.
I can teach you our ways, never fear. Do mind that it WILL cost you, thoughâ€¦