NOTE: This is a story that I sent out with a newsletter, but I never posted it here. I just love these characters, I can't stop writing about them. XD
(This story takes place in the years between “Shantali” and “The White King”. It explains something that I mentioned in “Sacrifice” -- the ordeal with Kallenian Snapclaw during the first year of Gethnoel Swiftblade’s reign.)
Hunter Freelance dove for cover behind a small, grassy knoll. Not much, but hopefully it would be enough to protect him from the storm of black arrows raining down around him and his spear division. The jackal shrank down as far as possible to avoid the deadly missiles.
Hunter was a sergeant in Kallenian Snapclaw’s military. He and his troop had been instructed to move some distance inside East Region and set up an intelligence/military post there . . . but had been interrupted when a watch tower on the border had spotted them and sent a sparrow for help. Only half an hour later, the regiment had been overtaken by a score of archer-hares and birds. Now they were pinned down, presumably with only minutes to live until they were all struck down on the grassy plain.
He knew that in attacking East Region, Snapclaw had forfeited his alliance with the country and had invited the wrath of the entire Set Laws alliance. This was -- to say the least -- not good. If East Region called for war, it would be West Region, Therennia, East Region, and the powerful army of Clandoran all against the small Plainsterritories. If it were only Therrenia or one of the two lesser Regions, then it would have been more managable, but because of Clandoran . . .
Hunter’s thoughts were put to a halt as a black shafted arrow arced down from out of the sky and struck him through the eye. He was the last of his division there that day . . . but Kallenian still had many, many more creatures.
King Gethnoel, Tiren Letren, and a few military-trained East Council members surveyed the bodies of Snapclaws beasts. The council members watched Letren hesitantly, as the two countries were still at war. The king ignored this and spoke. “Most likely, Snapclaw wanted an outpost where he could watch your doings, Councilmember Garret. This is viewed as an attack, is it not?”
The mouse in question nodded, face hardened. “Check the fine print of your own Laws, sir. I found a clause that declares this to be an offence against the alliance.” Garret handed Gethnoel a piece of parchment. The king cast his eyes over it, then nodded.
“Yes, I remember this now. So, what shall we do? Tiren?”
The pompous fox put his nose deliberately higher than the face of the king. “Well, East Region started it, they should be able to take care of it themselves!” he huffed.
Gethnoel placed his paw on Letren’s nose and pressed it down, bringing it level to his eyes. “You are obligated, my good sir, to assist others in the alliance, but if you would rather not . . . we can easily exclude you from the Set Laws,” he murmured.
“Fine! Do that! We don’t require your help to be great.”
Garret caught on to what Gethnoel was saying, and jumped in. “Do you know what that would mean for you, Spokesbeast? The moment that you leave, Clandoran and Therrenia have instant rights to interfere in the war between our countries. West Region will be no more,” he added with a sly grin. “So, which will it be: you help us, or we kill you?”
Tiren’s brow creased into a deep frown, fury evident in his eyes. Finally, he bowed his head in submission. “Thank you,” Gethnoel said, and turned back to the Councilmembers. “Lord Quiron, what do you suggest?”
“Why don’t we talk to the warlord himself? Diplomacy is always a good first course of action. In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t mention it yourself,” the rabbit added with a smile. “As you are always the one organizing treaties.”
Gethnoel laughed, then shook his head in amusement. “Right you are, Quiron. Alright, we’ll talk to him. I’ll send a few eagles with a message.”
As it usually was, the sky was clear and hot on the Plainsterritories. Captain Ironpaw stood by his king, having been one of those chosen to accompany him with the regular delegate. Gethnoel had chosen one Force Guild, one Swiftness Guild, and one Swordmaster (Santena), in case of emergency. Of course, something shifty was bound to occur. Santena would bet his life on it.
The king, as usual, seemed completely unfazed, even by the troop of jackals and plainsfoxes that followed behind who was obviously the warlord. Kallenian wore a long, badger-skin cloak, along with a necklace of teeth and a dark copper helmet. His standardbearer walked beside him. The flag waving in the air was gold with a blue ellipse in the center.
Gethnoel and his soldiers walked forward to meet the jackal, but Snapclaw raised a paw and shouted, “Freeze where you are! Take another step, and the king dies!” Santena’s eyes searched the troop of soldiers. Not one of them carried a bow. He widened the area his eyes covered. Nothing . . . wait, there!
In the grass, there was an area that shook slightly back and forth. This would have been nomal, if there was wind. However, there wasn’t even the smallest puff of air that could have made the grass move like that. Santena moved to speak in his king’s ear. “Your Highness, have somebeast ready their bow. There are two hidden archers in the grass,” he murmured. Gethnoel nodded, and made a signal behind his back to the Swiftness Guild soldier.
“Now, come with us, and . . .” Snapclaw stopped as he saw Santena whisper in Gethnoel’s ear. “I said no more! For defying us, you must die!” He raised his paw, then dropped it quickly.
Two plainsfoxes rose suddenly out of the grass, exactly where Santena had seen them. They raised their crossbows, saimed, and fired two bolts at the king’s chest. All the black wolf had time to think before he acted was, not on my watch. He drew his sword and leapt in front of the FoxWolf at lightning speed, managing to knock one arrow out of the air in an amazing feat of coordination before the other bolt slammed into his shoulder.
Kallenian cursed silently as both of his bowbeasts were shot by the archer on Gethnoel’s side.
As he didn’t want to get into another war, he had a badger raise the flag of surrender, then called out, “Retreat!”
Gethnoel nodded and looked on in satisfaction as the enemy left.
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.