The sun hung high in the sky as Corbus and his companions trudged along in the summer heat. They had not eaten for nearly three days, having decided to take a brief trip to the sea. They had not foreseen that the land ahead was stripped clean by some voracious creature. Corbus was losing his strength quickly, even Durb, one who was usually well fed, was beginning to thin. Yet the worst of all was Jak, he was normally quite petit and was a picky eater for a hare, so the lack of food had taken a great toll upon his body. He seemed to be slowly limping along, slightly behind his friends, his ribs clearly showing.
“Who would eat so much that the land would be stripped for miles around?” whined Durb
“I don’t know, maybe the land has just had a poor spring.” Assumed Corbus
Jak stumbled, nearly falling upon a rock “No, the trees are as green as they can be, they must have bore fruit at some point, somebeast has picked them.”
Before Corbus could try and rationalize it he heard a sigh and a light thud behind him. He turned to see that Jak had passed out in the scorching heat. He and Durb rushed to his side and were relieved to find him still breathing.
“We need to get to the sea soon; it will at least have some fish. Come on, help me lift Jak.”
With great effort and strain they lifted their exhausted friend between them and continued their near-hopeless trudging. They marched for nearly three hours before they heard the sounds of the waves hitting the beach, and sped up their pace with the promise of food and water it gave them. Yet as they neared they heard yet another sound, the creaking of a boat and the cheers of its crew.
“Wot the devil is that?” Questioned Durb
They slowed their pace slightly and laid their friend gently in the shade of a tree as Corbus investigated the noise. He ventured through a small thicket to see three houses, crafted with astounding skill, yet occupied by vermin. Through one of the windows of the larger two-story home he could see a group sitting at a table enjoying themselves. As he inspected the scene further he saw their ship, a very shoddy and creaking mess attached to an equally lean dock. Confused by such a contrasting sight he returned to his companions with the news.
“It seems to be some kind of corsair haven, they’ll have food, but I think we’ll have to keep Jak here, to keep him safe.”
Durb checked on him one last time before putting a shade over him. “Least we’ll be able t’ make it in, an’ get some food fer Jak.”
They ventured slowly and cautiously towards the home, hoping for either a warm welcome, or at the least, to not be noticed. As they entered they discovered that it was being used as a tavern, and a popular one at that. The corsairs within were too busy, or enjoying themselves too much to notice the pair enter. Most were merely sitting at tables gorging themselves with food, others were singing, dancing, one rat was even playing a small fiddle. Corbus and Durb maneuvered their way through the crowd until they reached the innkeeper at the other side. He appeared to be some ragged old rat in his later seasons. Corbus walked up to him and rapped his paw on the table, the keeper turned to them with a grizzly smile.
"'Ow can I help you two."
Corbus' eyes wandered around the room, searching for anybeast who might be watching them. "We're looking for a place to stay. D'ye have any rooms?"
"Aye, that we do. But it'll take a little out of your pocket if ye know what I mean." The old rat pointed to a chest behind him.
Corbus felt around in his pockets for anything to yield no results, he looked at Durb to be answered with a shrug. With a sigh of hopelessness they turned away from the innkeeper and left the tavern.
"What'll we do now? We'll die if we don't have any money to get that room." Said Durb
"I don't know! We'll have to keep going on until we can find a stream, there will be fish there too." exclaimed Corbus as they neared where they left Jak. When they arrived at the tree they found Jak conscious and rubbing his head.
"Jak. Are you ok? You passed out from the heat."
"non, I'm starving and this heat isn't helping me. Have you found any food or shelter?" Said Jak as he looked around them for any food.
"We have. It's some pirate haven, but we wont be able to have any of it without something in return."
With a sigh Jak rummaged through his sack and pulled out a small bag, it jingled with the sound of metal. He handed it over to Corbus and began to explain "This is from Gaul, my homeland, everybeast used it there. It saved lives, and ended many more, some would say it ruined us. A creature would kill for a single coin." Corbus opened the bag to reveal many small gold coins with an ornate picture stamped upon it. Pulling out five coins he handed them to Jak.
"We'll use as much as we need, but you should keep some for yourself. It is all you have of your past after all."
"Merci Corbus, now let's get to that haven before I die pf hunger or heat."
They traveled to the tavern once again, with Jak hidden under a large cloak that concealed his species. They quickly payed the innkeeper and went off to the room he gave them. It was a slightly barren place with a couple beds and a chest in the corner. Upon one wall was a window that seemed to be made with great skill. In fact upon further inspection most of the room was well crafted yet rather beaten overall. After putting all of their items in the chest Corbus traveled down to the main room to get themselves food. As he walked down the hall he noticed a room with a large lock on it and a small slit at near eye level. It was a heavy oak and appeared to have been beaten and almost burnt down. As he neared the door he peered into the eye slot to see a gargantuan squirrel sleeping in a near dead state in the corner. He appeared to be near starved and rather gaunt. Upon seeing a good creature in such horrid conditions Corbus felt his heart sink. He looked down the hall to see a Dark female ferret walking down it. As she neared he beckoned to her
"Excuse me, who's the big squirrel in there?"
"Oh him..." The female smirks and runs a paw through her hair, "He came to the inn like that, dunno how he got here... just kinda appeared."
Corbus nods and looks back into the room and puts a paw on his knife. He looks back to make sure nobeast is around and knocks on the door. As the squirrel rouses Corbus slips the knife between the bars of the eye slot. "Don't go yet, wait for the night."
The squirrel grabs the knife and nods as he hides it under his shirt. Before leaving Corbus asks one last question.
"Who are you?"
The squirrel goes meekly up to the door and answers him "I am Orion the giant. Thank you for your kindness."
Corbus gives one last nod and goes into the main hall of the tavern. Grabbing food for Jak Durb and himself he heads back to the room. As they dine on the well made corsair food Corbus brings the squirrel to attention.
"Have you two noticed all the well made things around here?"
They both nod for a moment then instantly return to their food as Corbus continues on. "Well ye see I've seen creature, woodlanders, around here. I think this used to be a village until those corsairs took the place over."
Durb finishes off a bottle of grog before talking "I've seen it happen many times before Corbus. Too lazy, or unskilled to build their own home so they steal another's."
Corbus rubs his temples "Well I think we should show them what for. I've just discovered a large squirrel locked up in the hall. He'll be out by tonight I say while he is dealing with the crew we get out of here"
"We'll talk about it later. I want to get a little shuteye until then."
Hours later the only sounds coming from their room are the snores of a rat in deep slumber, Corbus had laid out his hammock between two beams in front of the door, and from many seasons spent in it he did not sense as the hammock was quietly taken from its hooks and lifted from the room. Nor did he hear as his friends were roughly gagged and taken prisoner in the black of night from their peaceful visit to an old haven, out into the forest and thrown onto the ground in front of a young oak. Corbus was shaken from his sleep as he was tossed to the ground and quickly tied up. He looked up to a see a weasel pointing a menacing cutlass at his throat.
"Though we wouldn't find ye eh? Felt safe in there? Ha! Your rovin' days are over Corbus me ole matey."
Corbus looked around at his captors to see three weasels, two males and a female, standing over him with a male rat watching over the unconscious forms of Jak and Durb nearby. As he looked into the weasels face he recognized Akila markings on his arm, yet strangely enough there were different markings on the others, a strange sight for Akila tradition.
"So Zann hasn't forgotten me then?" Corbus said, keeping his cool and making sure not to appear afraid.
"Oh he wouldn't forget 'is little bruther. Though 'e did think ye dead for a bit there. Had ye not killed that band a season back we never would 'ave noticed ye."
Corbus swore inwardly as he recalled the event, not thinking in a million years that it would lead it this. But his mind soon turned back to the problem at hand. "So, what are ye gonna do to me? Bring me back to Zann so he can behead me personally?"
"Oh deary no. Ye see, the reward is dead or alive, an' I'd rather not deal wid yer mouth the entire time. So I figure I'd find nice way to kill ye."
"And what is that?"
"Well first we're gonna wake yer mates o'er there, then we'll tie rocks to yer legs an' throw ye to the sea. Simple as that. Seeing 'ow much ye like riverdogs an' all." As he finished his sentence Corbus spat at his footpaw, only angering him more so.
"Bah, you'll be gettin your own taste soon enough."
Corbus was then quickly taken by his arms as they dragged him to the Durb and Jak where they were all strung to one line and dragged through the woods to the shore a bit south of the port.
As they were laid but feet from their eventual grave Corbus's friend began to waken.
"Ugh, 'ow much grog did I have yesterday?" Said Durb, attempting to move his paws. "what th' devil? What happened?!"
"We've been captured mate, the Akila 'ave found us."
"What but how?"
"They saw us at the inn, they're going to throw us to the sea. Now stop your yammering and try and think of a way out of this." As Corbus said this a cash came from the north, distracting their captors.
"What was that?" The rat asked as the shattering of glass was heard.