Gethnoel Swiftblade paced back and forth, back and forth in his throne room. “Where are they? They’ve been missing for five days!” he exploded. “I specifically told Santena not to launch an attack yet. The company should be back now!” The nobles near the king came nearer, trying to reassure him. They all knew that Santena was his best friend and advisor, and if the wolf was lost, it would be devastating to him.
The king was not easily reassured. “Leave me, all of you. I need to think -- and pray.” The nobles and lords hesitated. “Go!” he commanded. Hesitantly, they finally made an exit out the nearest door. Gethnoel fell the the floor on his knees, tears that he’d held back in front of his men finally pouring out of his silvery eyes.
“Father,” he whispered. “Bring back my brother.”
Well, at the moment, his “brother” was running for his life . . . again.
Just half a mile from Highlord Rock, Santena and Lieutenant Mc’Seron were dashing through the snow on an open plain. Sergeant Vire had already been caught by the sparrows and eagles they were on the run from.
Santena was trying to yank his horn from his belt. “Lieutenant! Split, crosspiece!” he commanded. This was a common order given among the Swiftness Guild: what it meant, when two, three, or four runners were pacing together, was a simple but effective straight split. If two, they instantly made a full 90° turn. If three, one kept up the forward dash, while the others split off. If four, the extra runner fell back at a full halt, then joined the second on the right side.
As ordered, Mc’Seron skidded to a stop, then took off at full speed towards the south. Santena quickly mirrored his action. Overhead, he heard the whistle of wings as the larger, heavier eagles spun over head, trying to check their speeding recklessness. The sparrows were able to turn, but without their backup, didn’t continue after their enemies.
The eagles had crashed into a cluster of trees. “Haha!” Santena gasped triumphantly. He’d been running as fast as he possibly could for over half an hour, and nothing had worked. Quickly, though, before the eagle troops recovered, he dove into a nearby cave, rolling over on his . . . “Aah!” . . . right onto his back wound, tearing it back open and ripping off the bandage he’d remade that morning. “Damn it!” he screamed, then slapped a paw over his mouth. Silence answered his outburst.
He held his breath. Still nothing. Five more seconds, and he was going to move. Nothing. He burst from the snowbank and cave, taking off back to the east and Kerenian. He’d have to trust Mc’Seron to find his own way back.
His fur was matted to his body, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. Kerenian was just there, right on the horizon! To gain speed, Mc’Seron ripped off his sword, belt, and chain mail hood. “Doran . . . help me!”
Thundering paws and loud roars were bearing down on him.
Gethnoel was still on his knees, after two hours of prayer, when a loud, urgent knock sounded at his door. “Come in!” he commanded, standing and wiping the tears away. The oak door flew open and crashed into the wall -- followed closely by Santena. The black wolf stumbled to the floor, his face plastered with terror. “Santena!” the king exclaimed, rushing to his friend and catching him before he fell. “What happened? Where’s the company I sent you with?”
A group of medics rushed past the open door, followed by Earl Fent, Lord Rake, and Ithiniel. The latter group dashed into the throne room. The medics were carrying a body wrapped in white cloth.
“He’s unconscious,” Fent determined quickly. “Call those medics back: we have another one.”
“Another one?” Gethnoel asked worriedly. Rake nodded sternly.
“A certain Lieutenant Mc’Seron, Swiftness Guild, was severely injured. We found him right outside the center point of the kingdom. Broken back, crushed leg, but no blood. It looked as if he’d taken one, and only one, strong blow. Just one bruise.” Rake shivered. “What creature would be powerful enough to do that?” he wondered quietly.
“Only a few, Rake.” A new face entered the room. “Captain Icefurr, in that part of the country where they’d been coming from . . . I can guarantee that Mc’Seron was attacked by a bear warrior,” Jennter Mc’Kallen stated matter-of-factly. “And a powerful one, at that.”
“Lord Jennter!” the two other lords chorused, and came to one knee with a fist on their hearts in an ancient sign of respect. He nodded, and the pair rose again.
Jennter was Gethnoel’s primary advisor, and the only creature who still called him “Captain Icefurr Swiftblade”. Whenever he walked into a room, he instantly commanded respect from the lesser lords. His powerful frame and myriad of scars across his face spoke of his older role, only a few years ago. His arms and sword didn’t compare to that of Santena’s, but right now, he looked to be the most powerful creature in the room next to the unconscious wolf. “Didn’t you hear the lords, Captain? Call those medics back.”
Earl Fent yelled down the hall in a voice that was deceiving in relation to his considerable age. “Get back here, doc!” Even in the traumatic situation he was in, Gethnoel couldn’t help letting a grin flit across his face at the sound, and the speed at which two medics charged down the hall and into the throne chamber. They took Santena by his arms and legs, straining to lift him, but managed to move him out of the room with looks of determination plastered on their faces.
“Damned heavy wolf,” one muttered.
“Watch your language in the presence of the king!” Lord Rake commanded. He turned back to Lord Jennter and Gethnoel. “A bear? Polar? Why would they be so close? And why did this one attack one of our soldiers? Under the Set Laws, this is a declaration of war between the Mountainous Lands and Clandoran . . .”
Earl Fent immediately interrupted. “No, it isn’t. The Mountainous Lands and the Plainsterritories were excluded from the Set Laws three years ago, due to their refusal to cooperate with the main Clandon landmass and Terrenia. The Lands’ emperor believed that his empire was just fine without us when King Swiftblade sent his request for the old rules to be restored, and Kallenian Snapclaw almost attempted an attack. After Gulrag Northwind destroyed the ancient ways, put into effect centuries ago, he also got rid of the Set Laws. Therefore, we have no right to attack them back unless they actually encroach upon our territory. Which they didn’t,” he added.
“But they did! At least, the Mountainous Lands were on West Clandon land, which is protected under the Set Laws,” Lord Rake argued.
“Which places the issue under Western rule. Therefore, we can’t do anything, my good lord,” Fent said resignedly. “Only Tiren Letren, and I have a menacing feeling that he isn’t going to.”
“But he might!” Gethnoel exclaimed, a vague idea forming in his mind. “If we perhaps . . . . convince him with a mutual outcome of letting this continue any further than it already has. We’re going back to West Clandon. Call Ithiniel.”
Ithiniel was soon collected, and the king, a troop of one-score soldiers, and the lords Fent and Rake set off towards Highlord Rock once more. Meanwhile, back at the castle, something terrible was about to happen.
Lieutenant Mc’Seron woke to the most horrifying sensation: he couldn’t feel anything but his shoulders and face. No matter how hard he strained, all that greeted his feverish efforts but a tingling feeling and a growing pain in his upper back. He was in the Karenian palace infirmary, surrounded by empty cots. The fox pulled his head forwards with a tremendous amount of effort.
“Oh, Doran . . .” he muttered woozily. What had happened?
Then it all rushed back to him in one wave: he’d been running towards the city, to warn the king about . . . the Mountainous Lands! They were coming! He had to . . . “Who’s there?” Nothing greeted this question. Then he heard it again: a slight swishing sound, like a moving cloak. Next, a small rasp of steel on steel, like a dagger being drawn. “Who’s there? In the name of the High One, come out!” Still, nothing.
He laid back down shakily. “Stupid brain, playing tricks on one creature,” he murmured, but didn’t quite believe it himself.
He was wrong. A bright knife descended from over his head, flying towards his skull. The last thing he got to think was, Oh, no. Old Clandon!
A Note from the Author: I am soon going to do an explanatory post about a few things: The Old Clandon cult, the Set Laws, and the government systems of each individual country in Clandon, including Therrenia. If all you Clandonians out there have any other questions, be sure to ask in the comments!
I love fiction, fantasy, roleplaying, and reading. Nice to meet you too. All of my tales are little kid-friendly, except perhaps a few stories in the Rogue Captain universe. Those are more geared towards teens. Check with your parents, just in case.