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The sun was shining warmly upon the small fortification of Kelbura. While its militaristic uses could not be denied it was in actuality a rather peaceful little village, far from the cold winters of the north, the cruel storms of the sea, or the blistering summers of the south. Not many knew of it and as such it was not visited much, by friend or foe. But its residents did not care, because they were self-sufficient and did not need the help of outsiders. Some would say they were naïve; they of course would be mistaken, for it was not called a fort without reason. Nay every creature within its wooden walls had been prepared in the ways of war so expertly that they were worthy of comparison to the great mountain of Salamandastron.
On this day one such creature, a ferret to be exact, was heading down the paths of the town to his friend’s home. His name was Damair, son of Corbus Quick-Blade, father of Tabun, and leader of the village. He was heading to the home of Orion Ironpaw, a badger smith and a close friend of Damair.
He entered the home to find Orion at the forge creating a scythe for farming.
“Why hello my old friend, how are you doing? Asked the Orion
“Fine as always, have you seen Tabun? He left this morning without a single word to us.”
Orion pulled the tool from the forge and cooled it in water before answering “I believe he went off with my son and their two friends, Roland, and Renar. From the sounds of it, it seems that they are heading to the river.”
“I’ll wager they’re trying to catch that big trout I was talking about yesterday. I’ll go get them.”
As Damair was about to leave for the river Orion called to him “Wait for me, I’m coming with you.”
At the river Tabun, Roland, Noctra, and Renar were fishing in the stream, hoping to catch something for dinner. Renar and Noctra were sitting on the side of the stream. Noctra being the strongest and Renar being an otter with a small bit of natural skill in fishing he attributed to being an otter they both sat holding a rod and otherwise relaxing as they awaited a fish to bite on. Roland, a small mouse that was a rather timid friend of them all, sat in a shady spot beneath a large oak tree. Next to him sat Tabun, a short ferret that seemed offset being friends with woodlanders such as his current company. He and Roland were dozing off in the fall sun with a few leaves falling on them every once and a while. As the time they spent there went on Tabun’s stomach growled, looking to his two friends at the riverside he called to them.
“Any luck yet? I don’t think my stomach can take much more.”
Noctra merely laughed at his friend and continued to fish “Ye won’t help it at all by yelling at us, it’ll scare the fish away.”
Feeling slightly insulted, and still a bit hungry, Tabun marched over to his friend “Well if ye are not getting any luck then hand it to me.”
Feeling too tired to argue with him Noctra gladly handed him the fishing pole and took Tabun’s spot below the tree.
After a few minutes of sitting there Tabun’s pole began to bend a little. Seeing his friend had not noticed Renar shook him on the shoulder. “Look, mate, I think ye got somethin’” Looking at his rod he pulled sharply on it, to have the rod quickly jerk back, nearly pulling him into the water.
“Help! Help! I think it’s gonna pull me in!” He screamed as he dug his paws into the sand.
His friends rushed over to his side, grabbing his shoulders and pulling hard, to no avail. They slowly began to lurch forward, to the point that Tabun decided to grab unto the line itself.
“I think we’re gonna have t’ let this one go, Tabun!” Shouted Roland, not wanting to be pulled into the depths of the river
“Let go yerself. I want this fish to show off to ye later now!”
At this the line jerked at a breakneck speed and pulled Tabun into the water, snapping him from his friend’s grips.
“He fell in! Roland, Noctra, get some help. I’ll try and get after him!” As Roland and Noctra ran into the woods Renar leaped into the water, swimming with the speed that comes with the natural ability of an otter his size. As he went under he spotted Tabun, his paw entangled in the line and being pulled along by the largest pike he had ever seen. Swimming along as fast as he could he tried to catch up with Tabun, pulling out his knife. But swim as hard as he could Tabun remained just out of his reach, and growing further away by the moment.
Up ahead on the river Orion and Damair were walking along the side, looking for their young.
“Tabun! Noctra! Come out and we can fish at the ford!” Shouted Orion in a deep rumbling yell
As they walked on they began to hear the yelling of a creature, accompanied by a much shriller cry of another. They looked ahead to see Noctra and Roland running towards them at top speed, a wave in the centre of the river following shortly behind.
Realizing what had happened Damair pointed towards the center of the river and shouted at Orion “Get to the centre of the river!”
Without question Orion began a slow walk into the river as Damair pulled out his knife and plunged into the waters ahead. As he went under he spotted what he had predicted would be there, a large pike towing his son shortly behind him. Pulling his knife in front of him he began to swim into the pike, preparing to strike. As the pike neared where he was he swam slightly to the left and plunged his knife down the pike’s side, ripping a nasty hole in its side and slowing it down considerably.
Still swimming behind it Renar used this speed difference to match up with Tabun and slice through the line that held them together. As Tabun was cut free from the line Renar grabbed him by his arm and swam to the shore. As they reached the side of the river Tabun sputtered out the water he had swallowed and Renar seemed to collapse on the ground, completely exhausted. Damair exited the river and rubbed his knife blade against the side of his shirt, cleaning it of the pike blood. He then looked down the stream to see the trail of blood it had left, and a stunned Orion who was fortunate enough to have missed it.
Rubbing the life back into his paws Tabun looked up at his father “Sorry about that, dad. I didn’t know that was what they meant when they said they saw “big fish” down on this part of the river.”
Damair patted his son on the back “It’s fine, Tabun, I’m just glad you are still alive.” Damair helped pull Tabun up as Noctra did likewise with Renar. As they began to walk home Orion looked to Damair.
“If you were going to stab the pike then why’d you have me stand in the middle of the river?”
Damair smiled a little then answered “I was hoping if I couldn’t slow it down smacking into you would.”
As they continued along the path back to Kelbura laughing amongst themselves over the situation they were at the highlight of the day.
But little did they know that not far away lurked something that would threaten their very lives.
For many seasons in the south creatures of all kinds lived in fear of a name Lord Pyranus He was a tall, strong fox, who had an odd sophisticated personality. He had conjured the name himself, abandoning his former title, feeling that it fit him better as his weapon of destruction was fire, in his mind it was the perfect weapon, it could keep you alive one moment and burn you alive the next, he preferred the latter.
It was said that a corsair ship had found him as a babe on some rock in the middle of the sea. He was merciless, evil He enjoyed the pain he brought upon others, and his reasoning? Nobeast knew, some say it was in search of riches, others say he wanted to rule the land, in fact most thought this but where dumbstruck the day he ventured north, abandoning his kingdom, in search of who knows what.
It was as such that he arrived just south of the great south stream, searching the land. At the moment his second in command, Ackrill, was venturing to his tent with a report from their scouts.
She entered the tent and marveled at its contents.
It was lit by lanterns of many shapes and sizes, which lit the room in many shades and hues. In the center of the Tent was a large hearth and next to it stood the Lord of the southern coast himself. He wore a red cape giving the façade of fire. He also wore a suit of armor, which he himself covered daily in the “ashes of his victims”.
“What news do you bring me?”
“Lord, our scouts have found a settlement north of here; it is not very large but is protected by a wall.” She reported
“A stone wall?” he asked hopefully
“No sire, it appears to be made of oak”
The lord of flames smiled evilly “Ha fools, the walls that surround them shall be the noose I strangle them with”
“What shall we do lord?”
Pyranus thought for a moment “But if they have a wall then they may know of the ways of war”
“The scouts reported seeing guards on the walls and sounds of training from within”
“It seems we may need to imply the ways of stealth in our attack Ackrill”
Pyranus approached Fort Kelbura with a small group of his stealthiest hordebeasts. Quietly maneuvering through the trees they came up to the wall, pulling out grappling hooks as they drew close to it. Throwing them as silently as they could they scaled the walls, entering the Fort, slaying the nearby guards as they did so.
Tabun awoke to the sound of somebeast screaming at him.
“Get up Tabun!”
Tabun opened his eyes to see his grandfather standing over him with his sword in his paw. He got out of bed and questioned his elder. “What’s wrong grandad?”
Corbus looked out the window fearfully “Raiders have gotten in, the fort is under attack. Now come with me, we have a battle to fight”
Tabun could hardly picture his grandfather fighting, but did not question him. He put on his belt and sheath and pulled out his sword. He ran outside to see what had occurred
The fort was burning and its residents were fighting against a sizable army of assorted vermin. Not far away he spotted Renar fighting a pair of rats; he ran to his side and slew one of them while Renar killed the second one while it was distracted.
“Are you ok?” asked Tabun
“Fine mate, now let’s show these vermin why nobeast attacks Fort Kelbura”
They ran off into the fray where they found Noctra’s father, Orion, beating back half a score with his war hammer “Come on you scourge, I’ve seen butterflies show a better fight than this!”
Tabun and Renar picked off a few near him, but then kept their distance when they saw his eyes; they were turning a dark red.
They ventured towards the river and found Tabun’s grandfather, Corbus, fighting against another ferret.
Tabun was amazed that even with his grandfather’s age that he was still able to fight so well and soon had slain the raider.
“Come on you two Damair needs help” he commanded
They ran to the other side of the river to find that Noctra, Roland, and his father were fighting a score of hordebeasts.
Tabun was about to run in, but Corbus stopped him before he could do so. “Come with me, I know where we can get a vantage point” Thrusting a pole into Tabun’s paws
Damair, Roland and Noctra were fighting off the hordebeasts but were slowly being pushed back towards the wall. They believed all was lost until somebeast shouted from above “Muirear!”
The vermin looked up just in time to see a load of rocks fall upon them. Any that were not killed by the rocks were then finished off by arrows.
Damair looked up to see his kin and Renar standing atop the wall “Where did you get those?” he asked
“Chief and you still don’t know what ye have son. This is used to keep invaders off the wall, works just as well getting rid of the ones already in though.” Said Corbus, picking the basket back up as he did so.
Pyranus looked out upon the battle and realized that his prediction had proved to be more accurate than he would have liked. His army was losing, not in many seasons had he met a force so well prepared than this small fortification. At this point he understood that if he were to continue his onslaught he would be abolished.
He turned to Ackrill and gave his orders “Get my troops out of here, we have shown our might, as have they. If we continue on our path we shall be eradicated, retreat”
Ackrill yelled to the horde “Retreat!”
They arrived back at their house to find his mother lying on the floor and the house in slight ruin. Damair rushed to his wife’s side “She’s fine, just got knocked on the head. Search the house and see what damage they did” They walked through the house returning things to normal until he found his grandfather searching hurriedly around his room.
“What are you looking for?” he asked
“They took it; I had a chest that contained my most prized possessions, memories of my younger days. And they stole it.”
Damair walked in after tending to his wife’s wounds “I’m sorry father but we have more urgent matters. We have to find out what they are planning. So I and Orion are going to spy on them”
Corbus nodded “Aye, you’re right, here take my dagger.”
Orion and Damair put on their cloaks and sheathed their weapons as they neared Pyranus’ camp. They looked over a hill to see what they were up against. They discovered that they had only been attacked by a small raiding force and that Pyranus’ force appeared to be about 700 strong even after their loss. Orion pointed out a tent, set atop a hill and a bit away from the rest of the camp, which seemed to be the warlord’s tent.
“That’ll be where their leader is. Look see there are several of them heading to it now.”
“Let’s get going they’re probably planning their next attack now” They slid up to the back of the tent, watching for any guards.
“Watch to see if anybeast comes by. I’ll listen in on their plans” ordered Damair Inside the tent Pyranus and his captains were discussing the attack.
“We were decimated we lost threescore and barely scratched them, I say we attack them again this time with the entire horde”
“Did we at least gain anything from the battle, what did we plunder?” At this question two hordebeasts brought in a chest “The only thing we got was this chest, and we can’t get it open.”
Pyranus looked over the chest, looking through its keyhole, feeling its sides and otherwise inspecting it thoroughly. When he had seen all of it he quickly stole a sword from one of his captains and swung down hard on the chest, cracking it open. “Clearly you did not try hard enough you nitwit”
The chest was filled with an odd assortment of objects, old maps and letters, a lone bow with no arrows, a small drawing of two ferrets, and an old ornate scimitar.
Pyranus did not care for most of the contents until he looked at one of the maps. He looked closely at it and noticed a small point on the map marked “Port Sabord” he then went back to the chest and found a letter that happened to come from the location. It read:
- To my old friend Corbus,
- We finally finished rebuilding Sabord, you have no idea how hard it was, and we will begin building ships again soon. Don’t worry the Revanche is still here, in fact my son Graten has decided to make sure it is maintained until the day you or your family needs it. Also I’m sorry to hear about your own son, but I’m sure he will be fine on his own. I really hope that Fort Kelbura will be what we designed it to be. Hope to see you again someday, and as you always say: may the wind be at your back, matey
Pyranus looked over the letter and the maps several more times before making a verdict.
“It seems the settlement we just attacked is a place called Fort Kelbura, but this map tells of a greater settlement known as Sabord, if we can get to this Port then we can get twice the treasure we will find here. Think of it, they have ships come in all the time whereas this small Fort is filled with creatures who are prepared for a fight and will not care much for treasure.”
One of his captains roared in defiance “Are ye daft, we were just defeated by a bunch of woodlanders and ye decide to just ignore it. I say we attack them again, they cannot be allowed to…” he was lifted off the ground by Pyranus until their faces met.
“You dare question me! I will make sure that you burn for this defiance. Ackrill bring the guards and have him taken away, I will deal with him later” He looked the other way as the former captain was dragged off screaming, begging for mercy.
“Now we will set off at dawn, any other questions.” The rest of the captains answered with a smart salute and were dismissed.
Outside the tent Damair and Orion had heard it all.
“They’re going to attack Sabord, we have to warn them.”
“Well at least we have time on our hands, I’ve seen the maps he has, it would take a beast with enormous skill to understand them and even more so to read them, so they will take some time in getting there” answered Damair calmly
They went in silence back to Kelbura to tell the residents their plans.
They all stood in Damair’s house to hear his plan.
“Alright now I, Orion, Barnum, and a few others of us shall take a shortcut I know of to Sabord and warn them of the attack, but as I know Sabord is not militarily trained so I will need somebeast to get to Salamandastron and ask for help from them.”
When he said this Tabun and his trio of friends stood forward “Father we wish to help and get the aid from Salamandastron”
“I had a feeling you would; I did the same thing when I was young. Just keep to the path, it’s the fastest way to Salamandastron without those maps.
Before setting off the next day Corbus approached Tabun as he was preparing to leave.
“Tabun come here”
He stood up from packing and came to his grandfather “What?”
He pulled from around his neck a small necklace and motioned for Tabun to put it on “That belonged to your grandmother, she wore it almost her entire life, said it gave her good luck or something. I didn’t really believe in it, but there are many creatures out there that remember her from this and may help you along the way.”
“He put on the necklace and noticed a small coin on it “What’s this?”
He looked closer at it and remembered where it had come from “That was a small gift from my old friend Jak Ceader, said it came from Gaul, and that it was part of the reason he left. Never said anything else about Gaul though, and his family won’t speak of it either. Oh well, I put it on there as a gift to your grandmother. Didn’t tell her about its past though”
“Thank you, I hope it brings me luck”
“Me too, and when you get to Salamandastron, if Jak is still there just tell him you’re my grandson.”
“I promise, goodbye.”
Tabun and his friends were gone by noon, off to seek help from the great mountain fortress of Salamandastron.
They were making good progress on their way to Salamandastron and by midday had made it almost halfway to the great south stream.
“How far away is Salamandastron exactly?” asked Roland
Tabun, who was looking at a crude map given to them, answered him “I can’t tell exactly, but it seems to be right on the coast, north of a mountain range” pointing to the aforementioned mountains as he did so.
Noctra looked hard at the mountains, trying to guess how far away they were
“Seems like we have quite a ways to go. How do we know that those vermin won’t get to Sabord before we do?”
“My dad said that they were using some old map made by a friend of my grandad’s, and that only somebeast as experienced in map reading as he could figure it out. So all they have to help them is the direction Sabord is in, not the path they have to take”
“Well let’s hope your right Tabun” said Renar
The day progressed as they did, steady and without stop. Until at one point they decided to go off the path a bit and refill their water supply. They approached the river with dry lips in hope of some fresh water. But as they neared the water a horrid odour came to their nostrils.
“Ugh! What is that terrible smell?” exclaimed Roland
“I don’t know, smells like a searat that hasn’t bathed in a dozen seasons” They reached the stream to find that the odour came from a dead pike that lie floating in the middle of the stream.
“So that’s what ‘appened to the pike that attacked me”
“I’m gonna prod it downstream, maybe the stench will follow it” Said Renar, pulling out his javelin.
As Renar was about to push the pike downstream Noctra noticed something that the smell had made him ignore before. There was no sound. Earlier they had heard much birdsong and insects. But here there was not a single chirrup or tweet to be heard. It was silent.
It was as Renar finally pushed on the pike that he saw the reasoning.
“Stop!” he yelled
Renar froze in place, to afraid to move as Noctra explained in a hushed tone.
“There are over a score of crows in the trees, I think they’ve claimed the pike as their own, so just back away.”
They came back together in a group, slowly moving away from the stream. Tabun was so frightened of the crows that he did not looks where he was walking and stumbled into a tree, scaring the crows atop it.
The other crows, seeing their brethren fleeing the tree, saw it as reason to attack and swooped down at the unsuspecting group with all their might.
Tabun and his friends, seeing the crows flying at them, burst into a sprint in an attempt to flee the terrifying fowls. They ran through the brush with the crows in hot pursuit of them. Soon enough the crows were beginning to catch up with them, but with a bit of luck, they came across a small cave, just large enough to fit them in but not so to let the crows do likewise. They slid into the cave, with Noctra barely making it in, and lying in wait until the sounds of the crows diminished.
After a few minutes of silence Roland finally spoke
“Are they gone, did they head back to the stream?”
Renar poked his head out to find out and was answered by a large amount of cawing and claws at the mouth of the cave.
“No they’re still there, and don’t show any signs of leaving either, we’re stuck for the moment being” he answered sadly
They thought on their current predicament for several minutes until Tabun came up with an idea
“Alright, I have a plan. Now they seem to only want to defend their food, so I say we throw out some of ours and run while they’re going at it.”
“But who will give up their food?” asked Noctra
Roland spoke up “I’ll give up mine, my mum packed too much anyway, and the rest of our food should be good enough for at least a week or two, more than enough time to find more” he said hopefully.
He handed Tabun his bag and emptied it of food, there was quite a lot, more than enough to distract the crows. Tabun pulled out a small sack and put the food inside it.
“Now, when I say go I’ll throw the food to my left and we’ll run the other way. Try and avoid the crows and they won’t be bothering us anytime soon, but just to be safe have your weapons ready”
As soon as they had taken a position near the mouth of the cave Tabun threw the food out and yelled to his companions “Go!”
The crows quickly descended upon the food, trying furiously to open the bag. While they were distracted Tabun and his friends ran in the opposite direction, avoiding the crows as they came upon the bag of food.
They reached the path with the sounds of the crows far behind them and began to recollect themselves.
“Next time we come across somethin’ dead in the water just leave it there and go somewhere else” said Noctra, attempting to catch his breath and was met with a weary “aye”
Tabun was the first to recover and began to assess the situation “Let’s get back onto the path, the map says that we meet up with the stream a bit ahead, we can set up camp there”
Once again they all agreed and went on their way, sore but a little bit wiser.