Chapter Two: Salamandastron
Two days after jumping from the deck of the Wavelash, Kurva's unconscious form washed up on the shores of Salamandastron, the home of badgers and hares. The otter slowly returned to the land of the living, blinking sand from his eyes. Groaning, he sat up, his gaze landing upon the two hares that were making their way towards him. He stood up shakily, seawater dripping from his fur.
"I saw, old lad, where did you come from, wot wot?" The shorter of the two hares, a wiry female, asked.
Kurva ignored her question, uttering a single word. "Water!"
The taller hare nodded. "Say no more, otter me lad. Benna, help me get this chap up t'the mountain. We'll question him after he's had some bally ol' tucker, wot." He said, nodding at the female.
Benna obeyed, slinging her paw about Kurva's shoulders. She and the male hare, Argen, assisted in walking Kurva to the mountain fortress of Salamandastron.
Willing paws opened the entrance of the mountain fortress, and helped get Kurva to the mess hall. Argen seated Kurva at an empty leverets table, saying to Benna, "Better go an' get Her Ladyship."
"Right, sah." Benna said shortly, and padded off down one of the many passageways of Salamandastron.
Kurva was slowly coming to his full senses, looking about the large mess room. "Where am I, hare?" He asked, looking at Argen.
"Firstly, m'name is Argen Hillpaw, not 'hare'. Secon'ly, you're sittin' in th'mess hall of Salamandastron, the mountain fortress of the coast, wot." Argen said, then turned his attention to a large badger and a number of other hares that were approaching. He saluted smartly at the badger lady. "Afternoon m'lady Marcella marm." He greeted her.
The badger lady cut an impressive figure. She was clad in a chain-mail apron, with a pale green tunic underneath. She was tall and lean, with a scar running across her muzzle from some by-gone battle. The badger lady was in her middle seasons, not young, but not old. She nodded at Argen, and addressed Kurva. "You are wounded, otter. Tell me, where did you come from?" She asked, while the hares that had come with her set about to placing beakers of water in front of the otter.
"I was… A slave aboard the Wavelash." He croaked, taking one of the beakers in his paw and gulping down half of it in one swallow.
"That accursed ship?" Lady Marcella growled. "Is she still captained by Ragar Hookfang?"
Kurva nodded, sucking down water from a second beaker, before placing it back on the table and licking his lips. "Aye, she's still being sailed by that scum o' the seas." He sighed, shaking his head. "My name is Kurva, an' I have sworn to slay that fox."
"So have the rest of his slaves, I'll wager." Marcella said, not unkindly. "You may stay here as long as you like, and leave when you please. I suggest you head into Mossflower Wood when you go." She looked at the assembled hares. "Torry, can you help Sorrel patch up Kurva's wounds? Thank you." With that, the large badger ambled out of the room, leaving Kurva in the care of her hares.
The next morning, Kurva sat in the mess hall, a hare on either side of him. He had never seen a hare eat, and he was amazed at the amount of food they could pack in. He himself had barely made a dent in his bowl of maple oatmeal, and the two scones that sat beside it.
"Come on, ol' lad, aren't ye hungry at all?" Asked Hollis, a pretty young female hare.
"Err… Well…" He began, when another hare interrupted him, a tubby male.
"He's nev'r seen scoffers like th'likes of us!" He chortled, all the while piling scones and salad on his plate. "C'mon, eat up, sah, before the rest o' these blighters steal yore tucker, wot!"
Kurva needed no second bidding. Without another glance at the beasts around him, he tucked into his oatmeal with a will. He finished his food swiftly, quaffing half a beaker of cordial in the process. When he set down his beaker, he found the tubby hare was chuckling again.
"I say, if he keeps scoffin' like that, he might turn into a hare, wot!" He chuckled so hard his chin wobbled, only proving to make the others around him shake with mirth.
"I wouldn't want t'be a hare, mate. I might look like you, wobbly chops!" Kurva countered, grinning and flicking a scone crumb at the ever-chortling hare.
"I could say the same thing about turnin' into a water-walloper, sah!" He replied, smiling back the otter.
Hollis chuckled. "Rather a water-walloper than turnin' into a feedbag like you, Branwill."
"Well, I've seen you pack in vittles faster'n young Branwill, m'dear." Piped in an older female.
"Hmph! Have a heart, marm! That was right cruel of you, wot!" Hollis said with mock hurt.
Branwill stifled his laughter by taking a large bite of a carrot and mushroom pasty. "Heh heh mmf hrmph. Hollis is right, Winbell. Have a heart hee hee hee. Erm, ahem." He grinned sheepishly at Hollis, who was glaring haughtily at him.
Kurva placed a paw over his mouth to hide his own chuckles, his eyes lighting up. It had been many, many seasons since he had smiled and been treated as warmly as the hares had. It was a shame that he would be leaving the pleasant mountain and its hares behind as soon as his wound healed, but he was content with soaking up the laughter and the smiles of the moment.