Icefurr Swiftblade stood proudly before his commander as the big ermine pinned a captain’s badge to his silver cloak. “Thank you, General Iceclaw, I won’t let this badge down,” he stated immediately.
“Of course you won’t. If you do, you die,” Iceclaw responded matter-of-factly. Icefurr laughed.
He was standing in front of Gulrag Northwind’s horde. The big wolverine had accumulated many vermin to his service in the land of Clandon. He and his captains had trained them until they were far more disciplined than any others before them. Icefurr was a prime example of this, Iceclaw thought. The white fox was strong, with perfect posture and a well sharpened blade. Not for the first time, the ermine general wished that the sword was his. It was curved, slightly blued, with a black leather-bound grip. Icefurr had gotten it off of a fallen rat. It was certainly not of vermin make.
Never mind that. The fox was now bowing with his paw clenched at his chest. Icefurr stood, did a smart about-face, then walked off towards his tent through the small crowd of observers.
Icefurr reached his tent. All of his equipment and personal belongings were still there, but his regular grey tent had been replaced with a red and black captain’s dwelling. Gulrag’s flag flew from the top, a claw stripe surrounded by blood. Inside, everything was as it normally was. One thing was different, though. During his promotion, some attendants had come in and placed a captain’s map table in the center. On it was a small plan to attack a nearby settlement of warrior rabbits. Pinned to the map was a commission:
Captain Icefurr Swiftblade,
These rabbits pose a threat to me and my empire. We have control of all of the northern lands, but I’m entrusting this place to you. Capture it, and you may be lord in power there. State Lord Icefurr, has a nice ring to it. Don’t fail me. Although, the records that my other commanders give me say that you won’t.
This is what made Gulrag Northwind such a powerful warlord: he commanded real, authentic loyalty from his troops, and actually fulfilled promises. However, his vermin understood the consequences for disobedience. Icefurr was elated with this commissioning.
He immediately stood up a studied the map. He would be given command of the IceStrikers division. It had been out of action since its previous commander, Captain Flenrider, had been slayed in battle. Icefurr himself had never seen real battle, but had studied strategy since he was a child, and had quelled slight rebellions in the farther north.
Little did he know what the dark side of his overlord looked like.
Leo Gundar stood in the front line of his division. They were to meet their new commander. For two weeks, they’d been bored to death with cleaning service, not to mention being kicked around by the more nasty captains like dirt.
Icefurr strode out, sporting a black tunic, leather boots, his silvery cloak, and his commander’s badge. “Atten . . . tion!” the sergeant called. Forty pairs of boots snapped together.
“I’m assuming that Sergeant Killtarn briefed you all on the commission from Lord Gulrag?” Icefurr asked confidently.
“Yes, sir!” they chorused.
“Good. Will my group leaders step forward?” Four ermine marched out from their lines and stopped in front of him. “Lead your groups as you were told. No mercy. Flush them out,” he ordered. “Not even the babes.”
“Yes, captain!” All of the IceStrikers saluted and moved out of the campsite. Icefurr followed at the back.
Leo was proud to be with one of the groups that struck first. They headed off into the growing darkness with two torches at the lead. The warrior settlement was very close, and they soon saw it on the horizon. “Draw!” called both group sergeants. All of the ermine and foxes drew out an identical sword and equipped themselves with a kite-shaped shield.
Icefurr was at the head of the other two groups. They were armed lightly, and were coming around to the rear of the settlement. The blinding white fox flicked his paw. Both groups moved forward, splitting up into a pincer movement.
The settlement was a large cluster of houses, with ramshackle fortifications of timber and some furniture. However, the rabbit warriors were obviously experienced. Sentries lined the walls. A small tower had been constructed in the center of the camp. Icefurr suspected that there would be listening tunnels.
Shouts came from the settlement on the other side of the walls as, presumably, the first strikers hit them hard. Even from his current position, as his paws pounded the ground in time with his soldiers’, he could hear the clash of steel on steel growing in volume. “Now!” he whispered.
Immediately, both groups burst into a flat-out run. The fortifications were taller than they looked. Because of this, they lost precious time. One sentry who’d stayed behind noticed an ermine on top and yelled, “More over here!” An archer quickly shot him down.
Nobody had heard him.
Icefurr leaped over the barricade. “Attack!” he shouted. His troops charged through the huts and straight into the back and right flanks of the rabbits. The warriors in the settlement all carried shields with a strange design on it: a paw clasped with a talon over a straight sword. It was painted in green on all of their weapons and armor.
Leo Gundar laughed in vermin cruelty as he defeated yet another foe. That one had been strong. He saw Captain Icefurr charging into a building, and he ran after the white fox to help.
Leo and Icefurr both came to an abrupt stop at the same time. By an open hearth stood an old arctic hare and a smaller one, presumably her grandson. “Don’t hurt my granny!” the younger hare squeaked, lifting an iron poker.
Suddenly, Leo was hit with a feeling of pity. He didn’t want to kill them. “Captain, I suggest that we don’t kill them, but maybe take them as prisoners? They’re not warriors,” he mumbled to Icefurr.
Icefurr’s emotions were in turmoil. They were defenseless, but his orders . . . “I agree,” he eventually responded.
Another fox was standing in the doorway. “Don’t worry, captain! I’ll take this one,” he exclaimed. A bloodthirsty creature, wanting a promotion, thought Icefurr quickly.
“No, wait!” he started, but it was too late. The arctic fox had rushed forward and slain the babe and his granny.
“What . . . why did you do that?” Icefurr stuttered, horrified. “He was an innocent creature . . .” He collapsed by the young babe, blood pooling around the hares' necks and heads.
The other fox was confused . . . right up until he was cleanly knocked unconscious by Leo. “Foul creature . . . I never imagined this,” he said. “Captain Icefurr . . . we should leave. I don’t want to stay here. You feel the same way?” the ermine continued. “This is not what I thought it was . . .”
“It’s not right,” Icefurr said, half sobbing over the dead bodies. “I thought that we were doing the right thing . . . but we’re different from the others,” he continued, now facing Leo. “You know we are. I am glad we met.”
Leo nodded, and began out the doorway. “We have to leave. Now,” he said, disregarding Icefurr’s title as captain.
Icefurr stood and screamed, “This was murder, not a rebellion!” He flung his sword at the wall. It stuck.
Leo slapped a paw over his captain’s mouth. “Maybe I’m just weak, but I think that this was a horrible idea, and so was your screaming. Let’s go!” he whispered fiercely. The other fox began to stir, and Leo slammed his footpaw in its face. The arctic fox sank back to the floor with a slight moan.
Icefurr retrieved his sword and swept out of the house.
He left his captain’s badge on the floor.
Icefurr and Leo both flattened themselves against the wall as a troop of vermin marched past, presumably looking for them. Leo had heard a minor captain issue an order to find “Captain Swiftblade’s dead body” as soon as possible. So, they didn’t know that the pair was trying to find a way out.
Leo looked around the corner. They’d almost made it to the gate. He drew his sword and settled his shield in his paw. When he got out, he just didn’t want any more of this mess. He’d been fine with it for months, even enjoying it, ruthlessly slaying creatures in battle. However, when he’d seen two completely defenseless creatures slayed for no reason, something had snapped. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t have killed them under orders. It was that he was worried that if he did, he’d become as bloodthirsty as the fox who had.
The ermine returned to the present.
Beside him, Icefurr had drawn his sword as well. On second thought, he decided to switch it out for his bow. The pair waited for a few more tense minutes. The gates were soon empty, more or less, except for dead bodies and two guards: one fox, and a formidable-looking wolf.
“I’ll shoot the wolf. You see if you can take out the fox before he warns the others,” Icefurr ordered. Leo nodded, brought his shield up, and stepped out into the open just as a black feathered arrow transfixed the wolf. The huge silver creature fell to the ground. He was clutching his neck.
Leo ran at the fox. The white fox was so stunned, he didn’t even have a chance to cry out in pain as he was run through by the point of Leo’s sword. Icefurr joined him. He was carrying a shield like that of the rabbits. He’d picked it up, since he had no shield. The moonlight glinted off of the talon and paw symbol. Wait . . . something clicked in the fox’s mind. A talon . . .
“Hey . . .” he whispered uncertainly. He didn’t know the ermine’s name.
“Leo. Leo Gundar,” Leo replied. He took off at a jog through the gate and towards the open plain.
Icefurr quickly overtook him. “A talon. A talon’s on their shields. They had birds.” They both came to a stop. “Where were they?”
They both heard a screech of pain coming from the village, and a bird’s call of, “More over there!”
“Run!” Icefurr howled.
Leo’s lungs were burning. He could hear flapping wings, and battle calls of huge birds, most likely kites and eagles. Icefurr pounded the earth beside him. All that they could see was flat tundra in all directions.
Icefurr smelled water. After running for fifteen minutes, he assumed that they were near some kind of body of water. “Keep going! Can you . . . swim?!” he gasped out between breaths.
Leo grunted in reply. He could see moonlight glinting off of a stream. He sped up a bit, and Icefurr did as well. The birds were getting closer. “Vermin!” one screeched. There were three of them, Icefurr now knew. He’d slightly turned his head and seen them out of the corner of his eye.
Finally, they were at the stream, almost into the forest beyond it. Both dove into the flowing liquid.
The quiet underwater was a sudden change from the sound of screeching eagles and two pairs of thundering footpaws. Icefurr looked up, and saw a ledge blocking the moonlight. He signaled Leo. The ermine also glanced up. He nodded. They both kicked their paws, and emerged away from the prying eyes of the birds.
Icefurr took a deep, quiet breath. The pair waited until they were sure that their pursuers had flown off, then swam out into the center of the creek. “That was close,” Icefurr noted, still breathing deeply. Leo still didn’t speak and just nodded.
They both climbed out onto the bank. Leo, being older than his former captain, was an experienced soldier. He had a small bag with a lightweight tent, and carried flint and tinder. They had a camp set up in no time.
As they sat by the fire thinking, Icefurr posed a question. “What now, Leo?”
His ermine friend shrugged. “I actually want to move down south and try to find an uncomplicated life there. I’ve been thinking about deserting for months. Maybe just avoid all creatures, in hopes of also not having to deal with the distinctions, ‘good and bad’. I’m neither.”
Icefurr thought about that for a long time. Was he a kind creature, an evil animal, or neither?
The next morning, the two woke up at the same time. Leo packed up the gear, and he stood before his new friend. “Icefurr, I’m sorry that we cannot stay together much longer. However, I believe that this is where we must part ways. I salute you, Captain Icefurr Swiftblade, my last commander.” He raised a paw to his brow. Icefurr returned the gesture, then clasped paws with the ermine.
“Goodbye, Leo Gundar, my final soldier.” They both turned in opposite directions: Icefurr to the north, and Leo to the south.
Never to see each other again, but one last time: at the Gates to Afterlife.
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.