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Montis’ new Skipper stood at the edge of the holt, marveled at the vast silver and verdant portrait the luminescent moon painted on her canvas. To think that such beauty could exist. Though the landscape was captivating, his eyes were soon taken at the sight of another thing of beauty.
Coming towards him from behind, the water beads still clinging to her fur after an evening swim, a young female otter stood beside him, nestling her paw into his. If any of the tribe were to pass by and think, “Oh! Such a pretty site they make together,” they would have been right. Haeclim had known the one standing with him since they were both just knee-high to a hare. Her name was Narcissa, and quite happy she was with where she was right then. But that was soon to change, though neither of them knew it.
“These past few days have been a little stressful on my young head. I think I’ll hike down to the shore for a while,” the otter sighed. Looking up to him, Narsissa gave him a slightly sarcastic look.
“Oh, come on. It hasn’t been that hard, badger-bonce. I should think ye’d be relived to have the ceremony over and done with. You’re Skipper now, and I know you’ll do as fine a job as your father did.” And saying so, she stroked his cheek gently, though she had to stand nearly on tip-paw to do it.
Hearing such words from his “little flower”, simple as they were, was enough to soothe his spirit. Sweeping her up in his huge arms, he turned about, carrying her back to her hut for the night. At that moment, the pair were only aware of the night, and their deep passion for the other. It had grown over the seasons, and now that they were nearly grown, it had come nearly to full bloom. They need only wait a while longer, and they could be together… forever.
The horde of Nisac Bloodfur stood to attention, ready to see slaughter. Pacing the columns, an albino fox named Bluntclaw inspected the troops. His cynical eyes stared down his nose at the soldiers. Though they were perfectly armed and dressed, he could not forego the pleasure of berating them in his own fashion.
“Now, ya slovenly scraps o’ fur an’ flesh! Are ye well rested? Maybe ya need yer mammy’s to bring a good hearty brekist ta getcha goin’. Well yer mammy ain’t here! So there’ll be no sniv’lin’ from any o’ ya! If Ah heer any,” and this he emphasized by patting his sword hilt, “the cur’s gonna have mah blade stuffed down his miserable throat for brekist. Am I understood?!”
The horde barked back the only phrase they knew collectively,” Aye, sir!” As the echo died, Nisac emerged from his tent. He stood in front of the horde, decked out in full battle gear. His helmet, crested with squirrel fur, rested in the crook of his arm. His armour, which had been blackened over a fire long ago, gave no light back to the sun.
Extending his free paw, Nisac pointed to the new member of the horde: Largut. Recovering the night before from his faint, the rat had been fitted, and given the needed uniform. Though even the tunic, oversized as it was, was not enough to keep even the tiniest fraction of Largut’s stomach from bulging out from beneath. Dragged forward, the rat fell once again at the wolf’s footpaws. And again, Agrim came from behind, addressing the creature for his master.
“Rat, if you wish to live, you will tell my master about the events before your enlistment. Do not bother asking how I know, since you are merely a beast in my master’s service, and not allowed to have the knowledge I possess. Now speak before my lord grows impatient!”
“Impatient”, of course, meant that if Largut spoke falsely or too slowly, there would be rat blood on the sand.
“Well, sir,” he began hastily, “Me an’ my group was runnin’ away from this mad otter, yer honor. Cor! Ye’ve ne’er seen such a thing before, sir. Huge beast ‘e was, ‘bout the height of a stout oak sapling. Though he had to be a badger masquerading as an otter, cause no otter I knows of ‘as a stripe on his block. See…”
All the horde gasped, their eyes locked on Nisac, who had spoken that one word. Advancing on Largut, the wolf leaned down, seeming like some bloodied mountain to the rat. Largut shivered as Nisac whispered in his ear.
“An otter with a badger’s stripe? This true? Play me false and you’ll wish to die swiftly before I’m done. Understand?”
All the rat could do was nod dumbly to every question. “Where did you last see him?”, “In which direction?”, and so on. Before long, Lord Bloodfur knew all he wanted to know about his unknown enemy. Looking into the frightened eyes which lay in Largut’s bulbous head, Nisac smiled. ‘Twas an ugly, sinister smile which would make newborn babies cry to the heavens, flowers die just as the bloomed.
“Ye have pleased meh, rat. And ye shall not go unrewarded. When th’ otter lies dead, him an’ the rest o’ his tribe, ye will see the fortune that comes te those that please me.” Resuming his silent presence, Nisac took his place in front of the vast army. Donning his helmet, Nisac signaled Agrim to ready the horde. Standing on a rock above them, Agrim lead them in the chant of allegiance, renewing the vows they took when they first joined.
I live to fight, and fight to live. For Lord Nisac Bloodfur commands this gift. My life, he holds, My destiny, he molds. Without his mercy, my blood he would let flow.
With the final line dying into nothingness, the air was violently occupied with the sound of marching footpaws, banging drums, clanking armour and weapons, and many growls and curses, a delight to the dread lord’s ears. Nisac smiled his smile again. It would not be long now!