Santena’s eyes snapped open and looked around frantically. He’d heard a scream. “Where am I? Mc’Seron! Gethnoel! Vire!” he yelled, not even pausing to contemplate the dull walls and cots that surrounded him, struggling to rise against the bandages and restraints that stopped him from doing so.
Two aides rushed to his side, trying to hold him down. “Sir! Sir! Stop!” one ordered. “You’re injured!” Santena slowly stopped thrashing, breathing heavily, his paws still clenched. “Now, let us get out this shard of metal . . .”
Santena interrupted angrily. “Where in Deathgates am I, and where’s the king? And where in the damned country is my sword?” the big wolf thundered, the fiery pain in his back increasing his rage. The aides ignored him as they went on with their work. “Doranfather help me,” Santena muttered, and felt his fury melting away. He waited for it all to leave, then spoke calmly. “Where am I?”
“The secondary Karenian infirmary. We had to close the main complex because . . .” The ermine speaking paused. “Er . . . because the lord Jennter commanded it, right, Altic?” The other aide, a mouse, just nodded.
“Where is the lord Mc’Kallen at the moment?” the general asked.
“Go fetch the lord advisor, Altic! Hop to it!” the ermine ordered, and the mouse raced off. Santena noticed that both seemed nervous. They were hiding something, and that something had to do with Jennter and the infirmary. Never mind that now, though, he’d have to ask Jennter himself.
Santena snapped back to the real world with a gasp of pain as the aide finally ripped away the shard of metal left from the first arrowhead. “Is it out now?” he screamed angrily. The ermine nodded, and wrapped something in cloth, setting it aside with some distaste obvious in his eyes. Santena grunted in pain and moved up on his cot for a more comfortable position, just as Jennter came through the door.
“Lieutenant! You’re awake!” the advisor exclaimed. Santena huffed. Why did Mc’Kallen insist on calling everybeast by their preliminary titles in the rebellion?
“Jennter, I’ve already told you, it’s General. No more of this ‘Lieutenant’ business. Now, what’s going on? And where’s my sword and Gethnoel?” Santena demanded.
“The king has left to negotiate further with Tiren Letren, and your sword . . .” Jennter flicked his paw, and another servant rushed in with a bundle, placing it on the bed and scurrying back out. Santena tore open the cloth. Inside laid his sword, snapped in two pieces, clean through the middle.
This brought back a rush of memories, blasting through his head all at once: huge armor, battle-axes, and thundering war-cries. “Did you say that the king went back to West Region?” Jennter nodded calmly. Santena strained and pushed himself to a sitting position. “When did they leave?” The general felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“This morning. They should be at the border now . . .”
“Stop them! He can’t go!” Santena said, panicked. “It’s a trap!”
“What do you mean?” the advisor asked. Santena shook his head furiously.
“The Mountainous Lands . . . I saw their warriors wearing Old Clandon gear, with curved weapons!” Santena pounded the covers in rage. “Tiren Letren, that backstabber! Two years, and he can’t see that all Gethnoel wants is peace! Mc’Kallen, get your tail on this . . . now!”
Ithiniel was just as wary as his master by the king’s side. “Lord, I don’t think that it’s safe to be coming back into Letren’s territory, especially after what happened to Masters Mc’Seron and Ironpaw,” he whispered. The entire company was silent. The atmosphere was heavy, and prompted a creature to shut their mouths.
“Nonsense,” Gethnoel replied confidently. “He wouldn’t dare do anything as rash as what you’re obviously thinking he will.” The silvery FoxWolf marched on without hesitation. In the distance, his bodyguard could see Highlord Rock, and beyond that, the now-menacing peaks of the Mountainous Lands loomed on the horizon. “Oh, I don’t think . . . I know,” Ithiniel muttered. “That pompous power-hungry fool. He’ll do something, all right.” This brought another matter to mind, of much more interest to the young fox. “Your Highness? Where is the Spokesbeast’s daughter?”
“At the castle, in the second infirmary. Why?” Gethnoel looked at Ithiniel with a mischievous glint in his eyes, which surprised the fox. The young king was usually far more solemn.
“Er . . . uh . . . no reason,” the apprentice stammered. “Just curious, that’s all.” The uneasiness returned. “Did you send a message ahead, sire, to meet at Highlord Rock once more?”
“I did,” Gethnoel replied, the serious look back in his face. Suddenly, the easy-going attitude was dropped altogether. “Okay, maybe he will try something cranat. Rake, send three Swiftness Guild soldiers forward to clear the perimeter. Ithiniel, take an Instinct Guild with you and follow behind by forty meters. Earl Fent, that means you.” The ermine nodded and pulled his spear from his pack. “Move! Quickly!” Gethnoel ordered, no longer whispering.
Ithiniel watched and waited for the Swiftness soldiers to start moving. When they’d dashed far enough ahead, the fox and the earl dove into the grass and sparse snow, making themselves relatively unseen and still managing to keep pace with the runners. After another four hundred meters or so, Ithiniel and Fent popped their heads up to check on the runners.
They were gone. Ithiniel heard a scream of pain from his left, and dove back into the snow. Earl Fent had frozen where he stood. “What was that?” Ithiniel demanded. No answer. He stood up to pull the ermine back down, and Fent fell over . . . probably because of the long bolt in his neck. “Oh, no . . . the king!” Ithiniel stood up and recklessly charged back towards the group, where soldiers were falling all over the place, pierced by the poisonous missiles.
A thought entered his head, and the fox skidded to a stop. He spun around. There! Just as he’d turned, he caught sight of three black-cloaked figures peeking out from behind Highlord Rock itself. Quickly, the apprentice bodyguard switched directions and disappeared again. Quietly, trying not to step on any ice or dry grass, he stalked towards the tall pillar.
Soon, he lay less than ten feet from the front of the pillar, breathing hard. Bolts were still firing, but thankfully, the king and Rake had gotten behind a pile of bodies and were firing back with Gethnoel’s longbow. The assassins were hard put to avoid the long, silver and red arrows, but they obviously had more ammunition than the king.
Ithiniel flattened himself against the stone and drew his rapier. “Wait ‘til they shoot again,” he muttered. He heard the click-swish! of three crossbows firing from his left and right. The lithe white fox spun around the rock and crashed right into a retreating assassin. Before the Old Clandoner could react, his neck was separated from the rest of his body. The other two assassins raised their half loaded crossbows, but Ithiniel dashed forward and cut their strings, met by loud whines of resistance from the wood.
The pair drew their curved swords just in time to block two rapid-fire strokes from the apprentice’s sword, and suddenly three more creatures in dark cloaks appeared from the surrounding snow. Now both sides paused. “Surrender, by Doranfather,” Ithiniel ordered.
“Excuse me if I’m wrong, but you are the one outnumbered here,” the otter on his left rasped.
“No, you are wrong. I have two on my side, as well,” Ithiniel laughed. “One.” He pointed to himself. “Two.” He pointed to his sword, then up. In the time they took to figure out what he meant, he whispered three words to the pommel of his sword, his paw, and his necklace. “Ithiniel, Doran’s xenot.”
“What did you say . . . woah!” a rabbit gasped, and pulled out his knife and crossing it with his sword. The other four also assumed this defensive position, fear in their eyes. Ithiniel’s sword was glowing, as was his flame pendant. They were both glowing a fierce white. Unlike the light of the king’s power from Doran, this glow was all white, not silver, but somehow Ithiniel’s seemed more furious. Gethnoel’s words produced blunt power; Ithiniel’s had the look of strategic and sharp flames, flowing symmetrically around his sword and necklace. “Witch magic!” the rabbit yelled, then looked to his companions. “Cleanse Clandon!”
All five assassins attacked with ten blades. Ithiniel ducked the first blow, then brought his rapier up and sheared straight through -- yes, through -- the S-shaped blade. It fell apart in two halves, and so did the otter’s knife a few seconds later . . . joined by the otter’s cloaked head. Two more strokes, and the rabbit laid dead as well. Now Ithiniel only face three opponents, and the fire was more intense than ever. His eyes had turned silver like Gethnoel’s.
The fight had moved outward, now far away from Highlord Rock. Ithiniel froze, then turned and dashed towards the stone column. Confused, the assassins hesitated. Finally, an ermine started chasing after the fox, followed by the remaining lemming and wolf.
The young apprentice warrior ran in a way that let the assassins catch up, but not catch him. When he reached the rock, he ran up the side, flipped backwards, and landed behind the lemming and ermine with a double strike that dispatched both. The wolf dropped his sword and backed up against the rock. The fire was gone now, but Ithiniel was terrifying enough that the larger, stronger wolf cowered against the pillar with panic in his eyes. “Please . . . don’t kill me! I haven’t fulfilled arka!” he whimpered. Ithiniel frowned at the strange word.
“Arka? What does that mean?” The menacing tone was less, and the wolf relaxed a bit, but the panic didn’t disappear.
“It . . . it is a set of guidelines that Old Clandon must follow. If its objectives aren’t completed, my essence will vanish into the universe, never to be retrieved! Please, anything! Take me captive, take my sword away! I’m only doing as told, I swear! I . . .”
Ithiniel cut off the rambling creature with his sword point to its neck. “Fine. I’ll take you with me, if you throw away your sword and behave. I’ll have to tie you.” The wolf nodded gratefully, stepped to his sword, and threw it up in the air. Somehow, it landed tip first in the top of Highlord Rock. “Paws behind.” The Old Clandoner turned around, and Ithiniel secured his paws with a strip of leather. “Now, come with me. In front.” The wolf marched out in front of the apprentice, and in this way they made it back to the two remaining survivors.
Gethnoel nodded in approval. “Always practice mercy. Rake, take this one, and we’ll try to get back to Karenian alive soon . . .” He was interrupted by a huge roar and clash of steel. The king spun around. His eyes widened. “No!” he yelled. “Doran, help us!”
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.