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This is a collab between Sayna and Illusion. It will be about what happened to one of the most mysterious heroes of The Warrior's Beginning and Four Warriors Cometh, Groddil! Ever wondered what really happened to him when he disappeared near the end of TWB? And why he came back?
Well now .. we will tell you.
And you just might meet some brand new friends .. and enemies .. along the way!
I guess I'll be writing the Prologue, Illusion the first chapter, me the next .. and so on. You get the idea ;P
They didn't see. They didn't understand what he was doing, and they didn't need to. It didn't concern them.
And yet it did.
He had watched them so long .. saw them grow, saw their worries, felt their pain. They may have been his charges, but they honestly felt like his children. And he didn't want to see them get hurt.
For more reasons then just his mission.
His name was Groddil .. and this is his story. Although it's not just his .. no, there were other beasts involved, as there always are.
For when you embark into the mostly invisible world he lived in .. you discover many things you never realized existed. But that doesn't make them any less real. Although you might think the inhabitants of this world don't have too much effect on the lives of the normal beast, they do.
That's why Groddil was there, fighting for his life instead of watching Martin and Sally like he should have been.
He was doing it for them .. them and Lord Ignasa. Perhaps he could have done things differently .. but nobeast can go back in time.
They can only face the future.
After all .. he couldn't be surprised. He knew they were after him .. he was honestly surprised they didn't catch up with him sooner. But they had caught him now, an important fighter and spy for the side opposite theirs.
How long could he really expect to live?
But even now, as they dragged him along .. to wherever they were taking him .. he had hope.
Miracles could still happen, and if one did not, He was not afraid of death.
Whatever was to happen, would happen.
But he did worry about his charges .. who would watch them now?
Chapter 1 (Illusion)
Lilly wasn't sure what was going on. In fact - she had no clue.
The young rabbit wasn't in any way a miracle, but she desperately needed one.
One moment, her life had been normal, and then the next, her reality had been pulled out from under her and she had sunk into a silent world of painful darkness.
Now the setting had changed dramatically from warmth and sunshine. Really, it had not been that sudden. She'd been here a while, but had lost track of time.
Her world had gone dimmer, her fur felt clammy, covered with grime.
She was a young rabbit, frightened but also enraged. Unlike some of her kind, she had an unyielding determination that gave her bravery. Well actually, she wasn't quite sure. Being young, a small rabbit still, she no idea what was normal and what was not.
Her paws ached, the pink pads raw and tender as if worn away, maybe she had been dragged ... All the same, it didn't change the state she was in, and that was enough pondering around. And really, she was young, very young.
Lilly was afraid, her eyes glittered with fear in the darkness of the prison. Moisture gathered in her deep brown gaze, threatening to spill. She missed her family, especially her sister, her twin, her only friend in the world. Still, putting on a brave face, she wiped away reluctant tears. It was something she didn't fully understand, something a much older creature would have thought of. She wouldn't give her captors the satisfaction of seeing her weep.
Normally the little maid would be kind, sweet, but that didn't mean she wasn't fierce. Just like a lot of creatures out there, she had a side of fierceness when she needed it. That didn't change her feelings about her situation though. She didn't understand a lot of things.
Why would someone take her prisoner anyway? She didn't exactly do anything wrong, or anything back to whoever her captors were. Cautiously, she raised her muzzle, only speaking in a quiet voice, trying her best not to let her words quaver.
Almost immediately after her words, the situation got worse. She thought she heard the faint rustle of sound, but it was so quiet ... in fact she wasn't even sure if she had heard it at all. Her heart sped up, brown eyes widening. Who was there ...?
Then, a cloaked figure stepped inside the prison, shrouded in a thin cloak that swept across the floor, guided by a swift paw. The hood only added an air of mystery. The temperature seemed to drop suddenly, Lilly felt a lot more worried now. After that, the figure raises his lantern and let his hood fall back. The young rabbit was lost for words at the creature's appearance.
He was a stoat, but larger then the average vermin, and certainly more dangerous looking. His shape was sinewy, and what fur was visible was well cared for. Even his cold eyes had a glint of sharp cunning. Though she was young, she knew this beast meant trouble. As for a weapon, what he carried she did not recognize. It appeared to be a type of club, hewn from stone. Yet it had the slight shape of a sword, only a little shorter.
The creature himself had a viscous face, patterned with a dark chocolate gradient mask, almost like a ferret, with rich caramel and cream for his other colors. Lilly didn't quite have time to note his eye color before he spoke. His voice was smooth, persuasive yet grating, warning.
"Ahha .. only a young rabbit I presume. You are one of our - let's say newer prisoners I guess? Most don't stay long .. No problem anyhow. I'll warn you not to worry about your dear family .. I took care of them personally. They're in good hands, so don't fear." His voice was laced with poisoned sarcasm.
Lilly could feel her face growing warm, eyes dampening from a gathering hot moisture. She could see her sister's dark face in her mind's eye, shining sadly, an echo of memories. Her mother, her father .. and her grandfather. How she and her siblings had done everything together .. How could that all be gone? The stoat could tell he'd hit a nerve, and smiled a little.
"You poor dear thing, I didn't hurt your feelings did I?" He asked, making her only more mentally agonized. It was obvious he was a bully who liked to make other's lives miserable. Lilly, not exactly grasping the danger of the situation, spoke out in a trembling voice.
"What did you do to them? I .." She stopped herself, shaking a little.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing m'dear. You did put the words into my mouth."
You foul creature! She thought, expression laced with venom. She didn't know what to say, where to go, what to do. She was lost, and the dark presence all around her reeked of desolate loneliness. There was someone else there. It was sinister, and cast a hopeless feeling into her heart. Someone please help me .. anyone.
Lilly didn't say anything more, by the time she looked up, the stoat was gone, but the evil presence was not. The tri-toned rabbit tried to recall the nursery stories and rhymes her grandfather had told her and her sister, of the great Lords who ruled the land beyond physics. Her sister had known so much more, even being her twin, and a bit unruly for obedience, she had still always been so ... Connected. Okay, she got easily startled, more then Lilly, and had a tendency to be a bit sharp tongued, but had always been sensitive to the mental world. The one Lilly could not yet understand.
She knew of hope, justice, and truth. Honesty was always on her mind, integrity; all the skills of a goodbeast, but she could not understand the darkness. Lilly felt a strong heartache, if only her sister could be in her place. I bet you'd know what to do .. I wish you were by my side sis. What happened? But I didn't listen when I had the chance .. why?
The darkness made her feel lonely, solemn, and the forlorn silence restricted her from speaking out loud. She thought she heard a small sound, off in the distance, but the young maid wasn't sure. What was there left to do? She needed help, and could only hope this was help, not for the purpose to hurt.
Chapter 2 (Sayna)
Groddil didn't really fight as his two captors pulled him along; sometimes roughly .. sometimes not even bothering since they knew the would get no reaction. He didn't have to wonder who the one was .. there was no other fox like him, with his black fur, weapons, and apparel, as well as his glowing orange eyes.
It was Ferran. Ferran who had tried to kill his charge .. Ferran whom he had driven away. Ferran .. his brother.
As wicked as the fox was now, Groddil knew he'd not always been like this. It saddened him to think of Ferran's downfall .. it would not have had have happened.
But I was blind then .. so blind! I myself was dabbling in Malimore's wickedness .. so I could not see to help him. And now .. now it's too late.
Ferran smacked him hard on the muzzle, sneering, "Ha, you're right brother. It is too late .. too late for you. I'm sure Malimore will have a lovely way of conveniently getting rid of you .. oh servant of the one whose name shall not be spoken."
Groddil neither spoke nor winced, just stared back with level yellow eyes. Ferran snarled in anger, but his hooded companion spoke in it's cracked monotone. "Lord Malimore will want his prize undamaged Ferran."
The black fox avoided looking at where the creature's eyes would have been .. even if she was wearing a hood. "Fine. Where shall we put him for the time being?"
The hooded beast pointed to a shadowy, rather large grotto with a rusty metal grate over it's mouth. "I'm sure our old acquaintance wouldn't mind us throwing him in there .. at least not for the time being."
Groddil didn't struggle as Ferran dragged him cruelly towards the prison, shoving him in with vicious strength. Paws still bound, Groddil stumbled down the slight incline and fell to the muddy, swampy floor of his new prison. The metal grate ground shut with a slam, and the silver fox slowly sat up.
Only he wasn't really silver anymore .. he was more of a muddy, bleeding mess. The ropes around his paws were terribly painful, especially the one cutting into his damaged right wrist. Groddil clenched his teeth in an effort to keep from screaming, but a slight whimper escaped him anyhow.
He couldn't undo his bonds, for every movement pained his wrist, which Ungatt Trunn had broken long ago. It had never healed properly, and it never would, so naturally it was very sensitive.
A slight movement in one corner caught his eye, and he braced himself. But the creature that crawled into the light was not a vermin as he had thought, but a very young tri-colored rabbit maiden. She stared at him with nervous brown eyes, as if unsure of his purposes.
Groddil smiled softly, although he imagined it came out as more of a pained grimace. "Hello lass .. I'm not going to hurt you."
Compassion flitted across her face, and Groddil could feel her sorrow .. sorrow for him. He realized he must look dreadful, so he winced, "It's ok lass, I'll live. Can you untie me?"
The rabbit stared at him in confusion for a moment, with a little suspicion. But then she seemed to realize something, and crept over to him. Groddil bit his lip as her little paws worked on the knot, unintentionally jostling his bad wrist. It took a few minutes, and those minutes felt like hours. But suddenly the ropes fell away, and Groddil caressed his mangled paw tightly as he turned to face his rescuer.
She blinked up at him, finally asking, "W .. who are you? Why did they throw you down here .. when you're a fox?"
Groddil smiled ever so slightly. The rabbit's voice trembled a little, but she was brave despite her fear. "I'm not one of them .. I'm on the opposite side lass. They captured me."
The rabbit sat down on a halfway dry rock in front of him. "Oh. What's your name then?"
Groddil settled himself a little better, ignoring the mud he was sitting in. "I am Groddil."
The rabbit said his strange name once, as if memorizing how to pronounce it. "Groddil. My name is Lilly."
She reminded him of someone .. Sally. Maybe not as sharp tongued, fierce, and pessimistic, but she reminded him of her all the same. For they both shared something.
A warrior's spirit.
Lilly cocked her head slightly, asking haltingly, "If .. you're really one .. of you know .. the good side .. why are you here?"
Groddil massaged his right wrist, sighing, "I am a prophet Lilly .. of Lord Ignasa. They are servants of Malimore, the direct enemy of Ignasa. My kind do many things in the world around you, things you do not see, or at least do not understand. But one of these things is protect Lord Ignasa's chosen ones, against Malimore's Shadow Fighters. So I did, and in my duties, I was captured."
Lilly's gaze was confused, and Groddil closed his eyes. "Never mind lass .. never mind. It is too much for such a young beast as you."
The fox looked his youthful companion over, asking, "Lass, why are you here? You are too young to be a prophetess, and you couldn't be one of their slaves .. once again, you are too young. Do you have a family nearby? How did they capture you?"
Groddil felt bad instantly, as tears sprang into Lilly's eyes. He held up a paw, "It's ok lass, I shouldn't have asked. You don't have to tell me .."
But Lilly didn't really seem to hear him. "I .. I really don't know .. I can't .. remember what happened! But that .. that .. stoat .. he told me .."
Groddil looked up quickly. "Stoat? What did he look like?"
Lilly seemed to find a way to control herself. "H .. he looked like a ferret really .. but he was too small to be one .."
Groddil felt his gaze darken as he said on word, a name. "Adkar."
Lilly sniffed. "Who?"
Groddil could feel a cold trickle of fear sliding down his back, and he fought to show nothing for this young maid's benefit. "Adkar. I .. I know of him."
Lilly blinked, asking, "You .. know of him? But how?"
Groddil sighed, stating, "As I said before, it is to hard for a creature your age to comprehend. But I will say this. The world of Ignasa's prophets and Malimore's Shadow Fighters is intertwined .. we know much about the other side. Although not everything, which is why .."
He paused, before adding, "Which is why I will tell them nothing .. no matter what it costs me."
Lilly seemed to ponder this for a few seconds, before speaking up. "Groddil .. sir .. do you know a way out of here?"
Groddil thought on what he knew of the Shadow Fighters and their encampments, and he understood escape was near impossible. But he felt sorry for this young maid with so much potential, captured by the cruel, hardened beasts. They only kept a prisoner like Lilly alive for one real reason, and Groddil could feel this was the case with his newfound friend.
Even though she did not realize it, Lilly had a strong connection with the spirit world. It was underdeveloped and she was young .. but she had great understanding for her age. She was confused, naturally so; being imprisoned in a pit of such evil was extremely disorienting.
Groddil knew, without a doubt, Lilly's captors wished to make her into a seer .. and seer for Malimore.
The silver fox looked up, meeting Lilly's expectant brown gaze. His voice was a sigh. "I don't know lass .. I just don't know.
Chapter 3 (Illusion)
Somehow, Lilly felt vaguely disappointed; not in him, just in hope. Groddil, such an unexpected ally and friend, as well as being the only light in this place, had a grim reaction. That worried her. Was there not any chance? There must be, there had to be, and with his help she would do her best to find it.
Lilly never had felt extremely intelligent, not enough to escape perhaps the most difficult area ever, but as far as rabbits went... Well it was all she had.
Groddil seemed uncertain, rueful, and not telling her the full truth. In most cases, Lilly wouldn't want the full truth; for one thing, she liked finding out what was real for herself— this was not one of those times. Now, she wasn't sure if she was too afraid to figure that out, so she stayed silent.
It didn't take her too long to realize she was sitting deathly still, not speaking or moving and that was a little strange. Yet she was so confused... And this thick smog-cloud, which was more of some evil presence, blocked her senses and confused her terribly . Groddil hadn't said anything either yet, maybe she should ask...
The chance was ripped away when she saw a familiar shadow cast across the dark bone ridden ground.
He was back. Perhaps to torment them? She wasn't sure.
As he walked quietly in, the stoat stood in foreboding silence. There was a hidden smugness on his face she wished to destroy, but of course she was bound by shackles. Without a care at her presence he turned to the silver fox, speaking in a cool tone.
"So, you are prophet, yes?" He asked, the question simple, no anger burned in his gaze. Groddil seemingly stayed emotionless, inside and out. It was clear he wasn't planning to speak anytime soon. Adkar as he was called, didn't seem to care, he already knew the question's answer.
Another volley of questions rang out, each more fevered and powerful than the last.
"Are you or are you not the protector of the Marked Ones?," "Do you know of their where-abouts?" And then the most surprising, "Why where you, you a fox chosen as a prophet of the Lord of Light?"
The silver fox didn't seem shocked, but not totally expectant of this either. It was almost as though Adkar was trying to play on his emotions, to get him to feel guilty or unworthy of some sort. It made Lilly wonder if there was more there than what she saw. Was it actually a battle of the mind? Was the conniving stoat really attacking with more than words, prying and searching for one little weakness?
It made her feel unnerved, uneasy, she felt off balance and strange. This other world of mental instead of physics was so different to her.
Adkar seemed to be quickly loosing temper, his eyes narrowed and eyebrows furrowed in frustration. It wasn't his words that gave away what he was feeling, only his eyes. Vibes of anger radiated off of his sharply, gathering power.
Groddil sat, seemingly still calm, but even his expression had turned troubled. She didn't blame him, certainly not, and she definitely didn't understand. Quaking slightly with rage, the stoat sustained his anger. He breathed out, vibes of radiated anger still within his aura of emotion. Lilly knew he was far from calm, and seemed to be thinking hard all the same. Then, as if talking to two Dibbun, he folded his hands and spoke in a sickeningly sweet voice.
"Well then, if you won't talk I suppose life will continue. I'm sure Lord Malimore has something very special planned for you anyway. As for the rabbit, that's another's problem."
Lilly could remember what Groddil had warned about saying nothing, with a firm unreadable expression, she knew he would surely stick to his word, she just wished she could do the same. The rabbit maiden tried not to shiver at Adkar's dark words, foretelling of a doom that was either real or a ruse. Even the silver fox seemed to know much more about her would be fate than her.
Though she dared not say anything, she was feeling almost sick. Not physically, but cramped as well. Here she was, sitting in this disgusting pit where emotions spoke louder than words. The heavy cloud of evil set a clammy gloom, she needed no chains nor manacles to feel trapped. That was for certain.
And yet she wondered, how did this Groddil stay so... Calm? It was as though he had some unseen force guiding him, one she knew of a little, but didn't understand. She didn't feel jealously, only curiosity, and wonder. Truly, sitting in this darkness she didn't care if he was a fox, he was a goodbeast and that was enough for him to be a friend. After all, as far as she knew she didn't have anyone left.
Adkar didn't say anything more, only threw the silver fox one last death glare before stalking off. It was fairly obvious he was not really done questioning, yet he seemed to realize Groddil wasn't speaking unless there was a real reason to. And that wicked grin on the stoat's face caused her to realize he may already have a plan. If he did, it certainly wasn't going to be for the benefit of her or Groddil.
No farther than she had been only moments ago, Lilly sat in silence, feeling a little less hopeful. The dark was disorienting, scrambling her senses, when would it end? She realized by now they were not in any normal place, but it was all to confusing. All of her young life she had been on the outskirts of the mental word, and now she was at loss her.
As for Groddil, she new he was brave, about that there was no doubt, but how long could he last against this pressure, how long would it be before one of them snapped from the strength of the shadows. Faces of the memories she was pained to think about constantly haunted her, what had happened, why hadn't she been more observant, listened better? Such a young maid, and it was a difficult situation for any beast to happen.
Beneath it all she could feel a small voice crying out, something that told her to fight back, not to bend to the darkness. Was that good? Or was it another trick? She wasn't sure, and she couldn't exactly talk with the silver fox. What was he thinking anyway? Her curiosity was hard to satisfy, she wanted to know more about her new friend, how had be, a fox of all creatures, have so much more faith than her. It truly was amazing, and as she realized, something she shouldn't really be worrying about.
How long would it be before something change, or was she to wait in a world that required patience she didn't have? Once again, she felt startled to think Groddil knew more about it than she did. Why couldn't he tell her what the plans of these creature's were. Could it be that someone else was ruling her world, even her own thoughts...
Chapter 4 (Sayna)
Groddil watched Adkar walk off, yellow eyes smoldering with anger. He had sensed exactly what the stoat was thinking, and knew he was in deeper trouble then he had thought.
Would they actually bring him before Malimore? The silver fox suppressed a shudder. No .. anything but that. He would far rather they simply kill him then and there, then ever bring him directly into the presence of the Dark Wolf .. his old master.
He had served him once, long ago. But when Lord Ignasa had found him and forgiven him, he had left the evil he had once lived in.
His plea was silent, an echoing thought of desperation in his heart.
Oh Milord Ignasa .. please. Do not let me see Malimore again .. I .. it is too much. If this really is your plan .. give me your strength, I beg you.
Even more then that, he had seen the glance Adkar had cast at Lilly, and had felt the stoat's thoughts. He and his cronies planned to turn her into a Shadow Fighter. Perhaps Groddil had not met the little rabbit until today, but he felt great pity for her, and her terrible fate.
It didn't matter which way she turned. If she refused their lies and training too long, they would kill her, and in the cruelest way their twisted minds could think up.
However, if she fell to their poisoning, mind twisting teachings, her fate would be all the worse.
And if she could resist them, it would still effect her. They would twist the way she saw herself, and the way she saw the world. They would make it so she had no way of knowing what was right or wrong.
They would destroy her.
Beyond the fact Groddil was a compassionate beast, and would not desire to see such a young creature manipulated in the ways Lilly was destined to be, he could sense something more about her.
But what was it? Even he did not know everything. But he was determined of one thing.
Adkar and his crew would not twist Lilly into something evil. He would not let them.
One of Groddil's greatest fallings was in that he often kept his worries to himself, and didn't express them to others, especially children. That is why he had not told his charges about their past .. not even the one who was like a daughter to him, Sally. And her past was so complicated .. even he did not know how to break it to her.
This was also the reason he had hidden the complete truth from Lilly. He hated to tell children of the cruelty and dangers of the world, but he realized Lilly would soon be faced with it. And it would be far worse if she did not know, or know how to act.
The silver fox cast a glance at her, sitting over in one corner with her arms wrapped about her knees and her eyes fixated on him. He closed his eyes momentarily, mentally pleading Lord Ignasa show him a way to explain this situation properly.
Groddil took a deep breath, asking, "Lass .. come here please. You asked me to tell you if there was a way out of here. Look .. I didn't like to tell you the hard facts .. but maybe it's best you should know."
The little rabbit scooted over to him, her eyes worried, but very serious. The silver fox looked down. "Alright lass .. now the chances of getting out .. they're almost nil. There might be a way, perhaps, if I knew the lay of the land properly. But as I do not, we're going to have to play this .. well, as it were, very cautiously. Not that we wouldn't have to have the outmost caution anyway, but we have no real plan. You see?"
Lilly nodded understandingly, waiting for him to continue. Groddil winced, stating, "Not to put a bleak outlook on things, but I read Adkar's thoughts when he questioned me. They plan on turning you into one of their seers."
Lilly recoiled. "No! No, I don't want to be like them! I don't want to be a seer!"
Groddil held up a paw. "I know lass, I know. And I don't want you to either. But they are going to try and train you .. this is certain."
Lilly was frightened, but she tried to keep it together. "But .. what do I do?"
Groddil looked down. "There's only one thing you can do. Trust Lord Ignasa."
The little rabbit looked up at him, asking, "Who? I that .. the great Lord of the world ..that .. I've heard stories about?"
Groddil sat down, rubbing his right wrist due to a lance of pain that had began to run through it again. "Yes lass, he is. My great king; and the one I will serve forever. He is the only one who can save us .. for we cannot save ourselves. So we must trust in him. If you will cry out to him Lilly .. he is always there. The Shadow Fighters will use manipulation and fear against you; you must resist it. And that is too great a thing to ask of you .. it is of any. All you can do is ask Lord Ignasa for his protection .. it is all I can do."
To Groddil's great surprise, Lilly sat down beside him, just like Sally once did. She took a shaking breath, asking, "When will they come for me .. or will they even? It seems like it's been so long .. I don't even know if I can remember what sunlight looks like."
Groddil sighed. He hadn't talked this much in a good long while, but he was doing it now. "They will come for you .. I saw the calculating glance Adkar cast in your direction. When .. well .. I'm not sure. But it won't be long."
He looked about as a sudden thought came to him. "And when they are here .. try to act as though you fear me. If they realize we are .. friends .. they will separate us."
Lilly's eyes widened with worry; and Groddil assumed she did not want to be alone again.
Groddil laid an awkward paw on her shoulder, stating, "And I think it's time I treated you as a fellow warrior. You may be young .. but right now, you're going to have to be as brave as a badger .. braver even."
He opened his mouth to say more, but shut again as he felt a blast of icy darkness. The silver fox nodded to her. "Quick, away from me! One of them is coming!"
Lilly didn't ask questions, just scuttled off into a corner of the grotto opposite Groddil. And just in time too.
There was a near demonic grating as the rusted metal and wood door swung inward, and two beasts walked into the cavern.
Adkar .. and another.
Lilly crouched even farther back in her corner, but it was no use. Fragorl walked strait to her, seizing her arm and pulling her to her feet; not bothering with gentleness.
The young rabbit trembled a bit as her ferret captor's claws pricked through her fur fractionally, forcing her to follow. She wanted to cast a glance back at Groddil, but couldn't .. not unless she wanted them caught.
Fragorl pulled her roughly along, up the stairs and out of the prison pit. Lilly heard Adkar slam the rusty metal grate behind them, but didn't have the opportunity to look back.
Lilly had hoped to see the sun once out of her prison, but she was doomed to disappointment. There was no sun here, just dripping, swampy forest that was depressingly dark. Adkar walked off in another direction, and Lilly just managed to hear what might have been the jingle of keys from the stoat's belt.
However she had far more important things to worry over, namely Fragorl dragging her along. Groddil had warned her the ferret would most likely be her mentor.
The creature suddenly stopped, letting go of her wrist and turning around. The ferret pushed her hood off, leaning crookedly on her cane and giving the young rabbit a hypnotic brown glare.
Lilly shuddered .. Fragorl was the most demonic looking thing she'd ever laid eyes on. The ferret was old and twisted up, with stringy brown, blue-tipped hair and odd blue patterns dyeing her face and paws. She held a small, gold plaited lantern on a chain; one that emitted weird green light.
The ferret spoke, her voice entirely flat and stoic. "You are to be my apprentice, I am your mentor. My name is Fragorl, yours is Lilly. I will teach you all you need to know."
Lilly tried to keep from cowering before this dreadful visage, but her voice still trembled. "I .. I will not .. learn your ways .. I will not!"
Fragorl's eyes held something .. was it .. twisted admiration? "You are brave, as Adkar says. You must be the one."
Lilly was completely confused .. what was this ferret talking about? You must be the one. .. What did that mean?
Fragorl's voice never changed, just continued as monotone as before. "Let us say prophecy speaks of a rabbit .. one who holds the fates of many. I am here to prepare you for your destiny."
Lilly swallowed hard, legs almost shaking. What was Fragorl talking about? She was part of .. a prophecy?
The rabbit dared to stare back, stating in a shaking, yet defiant voice, "I .. don't believe you. You're .. lying .. I don't want to be a Shadow Fighter!"
Fragorl didn't miss a beat. "Ah, but you will. You will learn to lust for our power, and love it."
Lilly's hackles raised as she gulped, trembling, "I .. will not! Even if you kill me .. I will not!"
Fragorl seemed to almost smirk .. or perhaps it was a trick of the light. "Impressive .. most impressive. But it shall gain you nothing child .. you are to valuable to kill."
Her eyes darkened. "But you're family isn't. Imagine it .. all your lovely little relations, sitting in a prison somewhere just like you have been. You can save them darling, you and you alone. If you work with me, they might be set free. If you do not .."
The ferret suddenly turned her back to Lilly, making a sweeping motion with her paw. The rabbit stared in horrified wonder as glowing green shot from Fragorl's paw, slamming into a sizable rock and shattering it into pieces.
Fragorl turned around, brown eyes dead and completely emotionless. "If I can do that to a rock, can you imagine what I could do to the sweet little twin you happen to have?"
Lilly froze in total horror, unable to say a word .. or even move. She tried to choke out an answer, but it wouldn't come.
Fragorl's features, for once, twisted into a small sneer. "You needn't say a word darling, I can sense you thoughts. You're completely terrified, as you should be; you want to save your sister and family, as I knew you would. But more then that, deep within you, there is hate. And that is what I want .. hatred."
The ferret gave her a thoughtful look. "I think the best thing for you is to think over this for a while .. just remember .. I'll be back. And your family's live depend on your cooperation."
Groddil looked up as the rusty gate of the prison pit opened, accompanied by the sound of grinding old hinges. Lilly halfway fell into their place of capture, but she didn't get up. Just sat where she'd fallen in stunned silence.
Groddil bit his lip angrily as he saw how terrified she was .. he could only imagine what they'd threatened her with. He didn't move toward her .. lest some of them were watching.
A few moments of silence passed, before Lilly looked up. She blinked sorrowfully at Groddil, before whispering, "She .. she said .."
The rabbit looked away. Groddil scooted over to her, laying a paw on her shoulder. "Who was it?"
Lilly swallowed hard. "Fragorl."
The fox nodded, sighing, "I see."
Lilly trembled a little, whispering, "She said if I didn't obey .. she'd kill my family. And .. she used this .. power .. it was so cold!"
Groddil's voice was grim. "It was Malimore's."
Lilly nodded, before looking up. "She said something .. about me. That .. I was .. the one, and she was going to .. train me for me destiny. Groddil .. sir .. is it my destiny to be .. evil?"
Groddil spat on the ground, stating with more vehemence then he'd felt in a long time, "Nay lass, don't listen to her. I know her from old times, she is a foul devil if I've ever seen one .. her heart reflects her master's."
Lilly blinked, relief on her face. "Then Groddil .. sir .. she was lying? I'm not prophesied for .. anything .. right?"
Groddil took a deep breath as he stared at his hopeful young companion. How could he explain what he suspicioned was true? "Well lass .. I don't know, honestly."
The young rabbit almost got paler beneath her fur, like hearing this from Groddil was almost worse then hearing it from Fragorl. The fox sighed. "In all truth lass, you may be prophesied. There is a prophecy that speaks of the Three colored kin of a hare. It is more in depth then that, but .. right now .. I don't know."
Lilly looked upset. "But .. I just want to get my family back .. that's all! I don't want to be prophesied!"
Groddil shrugged. "I understand lass, I know one who would say much the same. She is .. very like you in some ways .. and I hope .. I hope she's safe."
Lilly blinked, asking, "Sir .. when Fragorl talked to me, she said I had hate .. she said that is what she wanted from me! But .. how can I help but hate this evil, and what they are doing to me .. I don't know! Is it .. bad to do that?"
Groddil pulled at his scruffy gray beard, surprised at this sort of thinking in one so young.
All the more proof, that she is the one.
But he didn't say it, just stated, "Ah lass, what a question. One many have asked, many, many times. How can I explain it complexity to you?"
Groddil shook his head, sighing, "Some think all anger is evil .. they think we should have none. But tell me lass, does not Lord Ignasa himself have anger toward Malimore and the wickedness he does? We should have anger toward evil, and hate it. But there is line .. one so fine it is hard to discern when one has crossed it. Too much hate .. cruel, unforgiving hate that will not bend whatsoever, is just what Malimore wants. But a complete lack of hatred .. in other words, total submission .. is what he wants too. For with no anger toward his evil, how could we fight him? It is mostly not anger toward the beast that does the deed .. but the darker power behind them. Malimore is the one all those who follow Lord Ignasa should hate .. just as our Lord does. Am I .. making any sense lass .. or have I made this harder to understand?"
Lilly shook her head, then nodded .. then stated, "I .. don't know .. Groddil sir. It .. sort of makes sense .. but then .. doesn't at the same time. Is that .. ok?"
Groddil dared to pat her gently on the head. "It is fine lass. The very fact you do not scorn it but are open, is proof to me you understand more then you realize. So many older beasts would deem my words those of a liar, and a fool .. but you will listen. And you are willing to open your heart .. and try to understand."
Lilly shivered, shoving herself closer to Groddil and whispering, "What .. about my family?"
Groddil paused, finally stating, "I'm not sure lass .. I'm not sure. But one thing I am sure .. is I've got to get you out."
The little rabbit lapsed into silence as Groddil set his jaw. If she was the chosen one .. he had to free her. Hopefully her family as well.
A ways from where Groddil and Lilly were imprisoned, a guttural fire flickered weirdly in the darkness of the dripping swamp. Sitting around it were none other then Ferran and Fragorl, the later sprinkling greenish powder in her flickering emerald-burning lantern.
Ferran was blackening the blade of his cutlass in the fire, then whipping it carefully down with a cloth to make the tarnished finish even. His voice was flat as he asked, "What of her?"
Fragorl shrugged, shaking her lantern slightly. "She's the one we search for."
Ferran drew one of his double bladed knives, beginning to blacken those blades as well. "Then she should not be in with Groddil. Isolation and threats will break her quicker then anything else."
Fragorl shrugged. "Stop with your impatiens .. over sixty seasons of training and you still haven't put it behind you? You are young compared to me, my apprentice. Think on it Ferran. I know how Groddil thinks; he was my apprentice as you before he defected. He may tell Lilly things .. things we need to know. She'll keep them to herself .. or try to. But she cannot, I can read her thoughts."
Ferran raised an eyebrow. "So in a way .. she is a sort of twisted spy?"
Fragorl smiled ever so slightly. "Ahh my apprentice, how little you know of me. You think of killing, and once you kill a beast, what fun can you have with them? No, it is best to torture, and not as you would. Physical pain is one thing, dreadful and exceedingly useful in it's own ways. But the anguish of the spirit, when we turn friends against each other without their knowing; make them harm each other rather then help. When we play with their thoughts and twist their views until they know not what to believe .. that is so much more satisfying. You should know by now, I adore .. games."
Ferran shrugged, stating, "As that may be, we should not leave them together for long .. he will give her hope."
Fragorl's voice was back to it's usual flatness as she yawned, "Should things get out of paw, I will put an end to it. But for now .. she's so useful to me right where she is."
Chapter 5 (Illusion)
My world is being turned upside down, it's all so confusing. Is that what they want, how do I stop it? How can I follow a light that is false or know what is true when lies are everywhere. I'm starting to not know the ground on which I stand anymore, what way to run, where to hide, what to do.
Lilly shook her head stubbornly, leaning against the cool dirt wall. Groddil knew so much more than her. And this prophecy he spoke of, as well as Fragorl. She didn't want to be part of many other's destinies! What if she caused unimaginable destruction by mere accident. The small rabbit tried her best to fight back inevitable tears, eyes glittering when she looked up. For once, Lilly was almost thankful for it being dark.
Still, in the enclosed space she began to imagine things, horrifying things. Of her beloved family's fate... Her sister... Her parents. These creatures could read her thoughts, and as far as she knew, the best way to keep her thoughts from them was to not think about what they wanted. To Lilly that was nearly impossible. Even in the gloom, Lilly could see Groddil besides her. The fox had quickly become her friend, and she was grateful. however, she couldn't stop her thoughts from returning to her sister.
Thalia had always been more paranoid than her, and the thought of her sister and best friend sitting all alone, hurt and scared in a dark prison was unbearable. Thalia was darker in color, two toned in a way instead of three, but every bit as intelligent, Lilly thought so anyway.
Brushing away a tear with a paw, she spoke. "Groddil... Sir, can't you tell me more about he prophecy?" When he hesitated, she fell silent in wait.
"Lass... I can't say, for one I don't know enough to explain... If I say too much, well it could put you in more danger than you already are."
It wasn't the answer she hoped for, but she had little choice. She needed to escape, it was, literally, a matter of life or death. There was chilling in his words that scared her, all she wanted now was to be free. Completely free. Free from the weight of the prophecy that hung over her head, free from these chains, free from the guilt of the fate that was in store for who was left of her family. She was afraid, afraid one when she would next be dragged off to Fragorl to be trained or tricked in the ways of evil.
Then it occurred to her, Adkar had the keys. She knew the pit was locked with a metal gate, rusted and old, but on his belt the stoat carried keys. The trouble was, she hardly expected him to actually enter the prison pit again, and even if he did, how could too weak creatures manage to take the keys? She knew it was impossible, or was it? The silver fox was watching her intently with a slightly questioning look, as if guessing she was thinking of a way to escape.
"Sir, Adkar had keys... As you might have seen, but couldn't we escape if we had the keys for the locks? Or..." She trailed off, but Groddil answered all the same.
"The door is hinged with the lock on the outside, it would be difficult to open it, and probably hard because of the age of it as well... Then they have guards posted throughout the camp. In this gloom, we risk being heard as well as running into swamps throughout the forest. Malimore has eyes everywhere... Lass I'm afraid to say it... but there may be another way, we just need to find it."
Lilly adopted an expression of downcast, ears drooping a little. She hadn't been too hopeful to start with, but she couldn't help but notice Groddil did not dare say it was impossible. There was little need to.
Of course, there was always hope, but it was growing thinner for Lilly by each passing hour.
"There must be a way... If only we had help." She suggested, looking up— it was the very thing she had been thinking for the past while.
The problem was , she was supposed to be the help, the help for her family, if they were still imprisoned. All she knew was that Fragorl threatened to kill them, but what proof did she have that they were even captive?
Almost in an agonized irony, that answer would soon land, she just hadn't found that out quite yet...
Sitting in the silence, it was easy to pick up spare sounds, now, Lilly could feel the sudden approaching of pawsteps. Fragorl...
The young maid could now sense an approaching figure with the telltale aura of evil, but it was hard to distinguish the vibes from her surroundings. Was it a bad thing that she was becoming more familiar with the mental world? Could the horrific training actually be penetrating what she knew to be right an wrong. No. She had to stop it. This was probably what they wanted her to think.
Sure enough, the face she least wanted to see appeared through the rusted grate enclosing the two in the prison. There was a slight creak as the door swung open on ancient hinges. Lilly shuddered, hating how the air seemed suddenly grow colder, her heart seemed to stop beating. She didn't want to be dragged out again, it just made everything worse.
That didn't stop Fragorl at all, or course, she could probably read Lilly's thoughts anyway... Just great.
Lilly pressed herself against the corner, trying to take up as little space as possible but the rabbit felt a withered paw grab her wrist, tugging her onto her paws. Without mercy, she was half dragged across the small space. There was the rattling of chains being undone, and the maid somehow was led out of the prison. Was there any point to fight back? The lantern the ferret carried emitted a sickening green glow into the gloom, reflecting off of Lilly's frightened eyes. The poor maid almost wanted the silence and security of the prison, at least she wasn't totally alone. With Fragorl... She felt alone, helpless, and utterly confused. Lord Ignasa please help me... Please... She thought desperately. It was the first time she had ever spoken the words in her head.
Maybe Fragorl had made a complete flaw in her thinking after all. Though Lilly did not know it, she would come very close to mentally breaking, very close. But the words and power through them she had thought only a moment before may be the things to save her. Something flitted across Fragorl's face, but it was gone in an instant. Could that be... Worry? No. That was silly, the ferret never worried about what Lilly thought. Right? The sneer returned to the ferret's expression a moment later. Lilly regretted her thoughts.
"There is no need to have hope darling... I think you will find very soon that all hopes of yours are purely empty. How do you not know your fox friend is not lying to you? The power of darkness... It can be very deceiving after all... Very deceiving. My apprentice; you must trust yourself and yourself alone in this twisted world where what you see may only be an illusion. You dear family is depending on you... And you alone may save them."
It was agony to Lilly, the twisted monotone in which the ferret spoke. Up ahead in the shadowed forest she could make out the familiar clearing which. Something darker was silhouetted by the sky... A figure only a bit taller than her... Could it be...?
Only a little ways off, another creature stood. Unmistakably Adkar. Lilly's brown eyes glittered with a hate that did not belong to her. How she held a poison for that stoat who treated her so terribly... Was he here, of all places? Shouldn't he be busy tormenting some innocent creature? Only, she didn't realize she was that poor innocent creature.
A demonic smile played across Fragorl's lips, the corner of Adkar's mouth twisted up slightly in a foreboding echo. The stoat stepped forward, sweeping his cloak in a gesture to a shape on the ground. His voice was mockingly pitying.
"You see Lilly, you must abide by Fragorl's wishes... Your hold the fate of your dear sister in jeopardy."
The little rabbit's jaw dropped when she recognized the battered and bound figure. Thalia!
Tears rushed to her eyes almost in an instant, she dug her paws into the ground, biting her tongue in effort from shouting a retort. It was a mixed feeling of pure anguish, confusion, rage, and fear. Lilly wished to rush forward, to untie her sister and run away. It was a never ending nightmare... Only, she couldn't wake up; this was real. Then Fragorl spoke.
"My apprentice, you can save your sibling, only choose the right choice... Let me teach you. You'll see how smart your were later... And learn to love the darkness, then your sister will be free. Otherwise—" The ferret gestured lightly to Adkar; Lilly watched in horrific silence as the stoat unsheathed his sword, pressing the swordpoint lightly to Thalia's unprotected neck. Her dark eyes flashed with alarm, her expression pleading to Lilly.
The little maid only hung her head, nearly as frantic as her sister. Yet, even in the gloom... A pair of eyes watched on silent wings...
Lilly shuddered, knees drawn up to her chest. A few tears streamed down her face, falling onto her sleeves. Mentally she was a wreck. There was little choice of what to do. She wished she could fins the strength to be brave, to fight back with words and her own paws, but here she was; chained, scared and so guilty.
Fragorl had told her she had the choice, the power to save her sister— but could she really turn to evil just for that? No. She couldn't, but she didn't want Thalia to be hurt! She would rather herself die than that happen!
There was nothing she could do but pray, Groddil had taught her that much. Besides, it wouldn't do her any good to loose her head. For the first time in a while, the poor little maid spoke, glancing over beside her. Yet, what of physical actions— she couldn't really just walk out with keys in paw.
"Groddil sir, what should I do?"
The silver fox never got the chance to answer, for a rebellious whinny rang out into the quiet, loud, and only half frightened. Though Lilly had rarely met the creatures, she knew that sound belonged to a horse. Groddil also noticed the sound's owner, he became more attentive, peering out the barred opening into the camp. Only a moment later the quick rhythm of hoof-beats echoed through the solitude, closer, unhalted.
Then— Lilly heard a thud, one of some beast falling. The horse had stumbled over the prison pit gate. She heard an angry shout, then another. One from a hordebeast, the other from a foxmaid— as she had guessed.
The young rabbit maid thought she had heard, "Get 'im!" And perhaps a disgusted laugh from the one to the other. Meanwhile, Groddil had already put the pieces together.
The silver fox got up, and leaned as close to the opening as his chains would allow him, beckoning Lilly to stay nearby. She was confused, but didn't question her friend. With confidence born from wisdom, he stretched out a crippled paw, and untangled overgrown vines, freeing the hoof that must have belonged to the horse. He said something that Lilly didn't catch, and the fallen creature above them shifted, rising to his hooves. Just when a vermin's spear-end was about to strike, the horse was off, causing a melee of pandemonium along his way.
All the while, Lilly tried to listen and catch glimpses of what was going on.
Once again, she had no idea the entire situation was a perfect opportunity for someone else to gather helpful clues, and a perfect opportunity to plan the next more.
Lilly's heart sped up, beating rapidly when the horse's hoof-beats slowed, there was an uproar of noise from the vermin outside. Had they captured the horse? She didn't know, but the grim signs were pointing her to the dreadful conclusion. Groddil seemed to be busy thinking, calculating.
Lilly didn't have anything to say, nor did he. She scooted to the corner, rolling over with her eyes facing the little light there was, rested her head on her paws, and drifted off to sleep...
Only, living in a nightmare, even her dreams weren't free.
It was night when Lilly woke. With a start, she sat up suddenly, chest heaving for air. Her brown eyes were wide and frightened, cheeks stained with tears.
Only when she realized all was silent did she calm slightly. Until she heard a soft rustle, the scrape of something sharp against the ground, and the gentle brush of feathers. Only, if some beast was there, were they friend or foe?
She held her breath as large rounded eyes peered into the prison, then— the figure was gone. Presumably having slipped off into the night, leaving Lilly alone in the dark.
Groddil was still asleep, leaving the little rabbit with no one to talk to. That wasn't a major problem, in fact, it seemed to answer itself.
Only a little while after the previous creature had left did somebeast else pass by. Only this time, it was no creature of feathers, but instead it was one of the figures she had caught a glimpse of earlier- a fox. From what Lilly could see, which wasn't much, this fox was smaller and had a slender build in comparison to Groddil. Probably a foxmaid. That alone didn't answer half of the questions Lilly had.
For one, why was she here? Even most Shadow Fighters didn't just traipse around the camp in the dead of night. And if she was supposed to be here than why was she taking such care to make little noise.
Curiosity got the better of Lilly; she half-dragged herself closer to the prison gate, looking out as she strained against the chains.
Just like the horse before her, the foxmaid snagged her paw on the hidden bars. Lilly held her breath, waiting to see what the cloaked fox did in response. To Lilly's surprise, the fox either couldn't- or didn't, free herself.
At least she now had someone to talk to.
The rabbit called out in a whisper, "Who are you?"
The shock on the creature's narrow face was bewildering. It wasn't often that a Shadow Fighter be so surprised, after all. Adkar had not warned many of the lowly beasts that the ancient prison was once again occupied. Regaining her composure, the foxmaid straightened, hiding a wince with a challenging response.
"Why should I tell you?"
Before Lilly could stop herself, words leaped to her tongue. "It doesn't look like you're going anywhere anytime soon. What is there to loose?"
The fox considered the phrase for a moment, before adjusting her hood.
"Maybe, maybe not. Yet there's less trouble when you do not know of my name."
Lilly was a little offended, but she knew not all foxes were as kind as Groddil, even if they looked less friendly than Ferran. The maid had little left to say.
"So... why are you here?"
The question caught the fox off guard, though she still managed stammer out a reply in an almost smooth manner; "I was sleepwalking... That happens to Shadow Fighters at times, we are led in the waking world and while asleep."
Lilly didn't believe her. She didn't answer, that fox had to be lying.
It was dark, darker than a normal forest. In fact, she could't even see the shimmering stars above. The very air cast a lost sense of hopelessness. The other maid didn't seem to share her misgivings. The fox, who still sat painfully caught, was now adjusting her long headfur, and pulled her cloak farther over her face. Clearly she didn't want Lilly to fully see her, and it wasn't as if Lilly could, the lighting was too poor.
Still, when silence fell once more upon the three in the area, Lilly couldn't help but have so many questions, worries, and hopes...
Was Thalia alright?
Even with so much going on, a constant image of her sister lying on the boggy ground, blood pouring slowly from wounds kept threatening her hope. She knew that picture was not yet reality, but it was far too close to real... And having a Shadow Fighter fox nearby certainly didn't help. It only added to the forlorn feeling.
Lord Ignasa... please help... please, she thought desperately.
Maybe that help had already come...
Chapter 6 (Sayna)
Groddil awoke to the chill of morning, a deathly cold chill without a bird to herald it. The fox sat up slowly with the clink of chains, looking about to see Lilly fast asleep in her corner of the prison.
The dull gray light that fell through the ivy covered gate had a feel of earliness to it, as did the damp swampy air. Groddil rubbed life back into his clammy limbs, inadvertently brushing dried mud from them.
It was filthy here, and Groddil's long fur held the dirt well. The fox was about to shake himself, when a soft clang came from above.
Groddil looked up, to see a tawny colored foot hanging through the covering vines. The silver fox raised an eyebrow. Just like that poor horse earlier.
However this paw was farther away, and from his vantage point, Groddil couldn't tell what it belonged to.
He was about to find out.
There was the chilling feel of evil, and Groddil closed his eyes again, knowing better than to look suspicious. However he heard the voices.
First off was an exclamation, one that sounded like Adkar. "Wha ... hey! What are you doing around here? Aren't you somebody's apprentice?"
The voice that answered was feminine. "Yes sir .. I am. I was only lookin' for some herbs an' I stepped in a hole sir .. I'm very sorry."
Groddil was surprised .. the voice did not have as broad an accent as he would have suspected. Adkar grumbled. "Oh are you? Well that's fine, but don't you know this part of the camp is forbidden to apprentices? And why? Cause of what just happened to you. Who is your incompetent mentor?"
The female answered quickly. "Sixclaw sir."
There was an immediate hush, and Groddil could feel Adkar's nervousness. "Oh. Why didn't you say so wench?"
There was a rustling of the vines and a yelp as the foot was forcibly wrenched from the grate. Adkar growled. "Alright, you're out fox. Get back where you belong .. and don't come back here again, understood? Ever!"
The answer was agreeing. "Yes sir .. I won't sir."
The foxmaid's pawsteps retreated into the distance, and Adkar's key clicked in the lock. The rusty grate creaked open gratingly, and Lilly looked up with bleary worry.
But it soon became apparent she was not the object of Adkar's visit .. Groddil was.
The stoat unlocked the fox's manacles the held him to the rock wall, but he remained shackled by a separate chain. Adkar practically wrenched him onto his paws by yanking on the chain fastened to his bad wrist. "Get up fox, we've got some things to .. discuss. Move!"
Groddil didn't dare look back at Lilly lest he cast suspicion upon her, and Adkar dragged him from the prison .. and into the world of the Shadow Fighters.
Adkar kept a steady and painful pull on Groddil's chains, and the fox had all he could do to keep from crying out. He turned his attention to the swampy forest around him, and felt his heart sink. Being locked up in the old prison the few days he had been here, he had no idea how big this encampment was.
It wasn't small.
Not the largest by far, but good sized. Groddil's yellow eyes surveyed the scene, from tents and campfires to more permanent structures of logs and thatched swamp grass, Shadow Fighters, their apprentices, and their slaves populated this place.
A network of evil.
Adkar was leading Groddil down the main street in this hidden, dark city, and the silver fox was getting plenty cold and hateful stares. Along with them came jeers and taunts from less tactful apprentices .. and just a few looks of dull sympathy.
Everybeast knew he was the famed Prophet of Ignasa .. the one the Shadow Fighters had been after for seasons on end.
Why have they not killed me yet .. what is stopping them?
Groddil found this thought confusing .. and disturbing. What were the Shadow Fighters preoccupied with that was distracting them from killing their long hunted quarry .. or were they saving him for something?
Adkar pulled him roughly up the steps of a dwelling more regal than the others .. like a king's hunting lodge. It was made of logs with a thatched roof, a few furs serving as window coverings. Groddil didn't like thinking about where they had come from.
The fox caught the sad brown gaze of a scrawny pinto stallion as he was dragged past where the horse was tied, both sets of legs painfully hobbled. Groddil didn't have much time to feel pity for the bedraggled creature who was tied by both a halter and a rope around his neck .. so tight he was almost choking.
It was the horse who'd become trapped in the old prison grate, and apparently had been recaptured.
Adkar knocked on the door once, before shoving it open and hauling Groddil inside. The interior of this place was dark and gloomy, lit by some lanterns and a rock fireplace, but little else.
A brawny golden ferret in his later seasons sat on an ornate chair draped with furs, and a younger, lighter gold male stood beside him.
Groddil knew who it was .. at least the older beast. "Sixclaw."
The ferret grinned. "At last Groddil, we meet again!"
He looked quite pleased as he addressed the younger beast. "See Swartt my son? This is the beast you have heard stories of .. the Prophet who defeated Ungatt Trunn .."
His gaze grew murderous as his paw lashed out, slashing six red marks down Groddil's muzzle. "And took Salamandastron away from me."
Groddil staggered back at the force of the blow, but couldn't fall due to Adkar's grip on his chain. The stoat wrenched him back upright, and he couldn't help the whimper that escaped him .. Adkar may as well have been sawing his paw off.
Sixclaw stood, cruel smile dancing in his eyes. "My friend, you don't know how long I've wanted to meet you again .. I purposely left your dear brother out of this .. simply because I knew things would get physical .. and if you receive any scars, they shall be from me. Now, answer me. Who are all the marks, and where are they?"
Groddil stared levelly back. "I will not tell you."
His questioner's eyes glittered. "Oh I know you would not willingly tell me ..."
The ferret's sixclawed paw shot out, grabbing Groddil's mangled wrist and twisting brutally, rewarded by a cry as the fox fell to the ground, watched by cool, unremorseful brown eyes. "So I'm afraid I will have to encourage you."
Groddil clutched the injury to him, groaning, "I will tell you nothing!"
Sixclaw smiled. "Is that so? How uncooperative of you."
He snatched the chain from Adkar, pulling on it a yanking Groddil's paw out of his grasp. "Speak!"
The fox did nothing but groan with pain, and he knew his days were over as the ferret kicked him, frustrated. The acute pain in his ribs dimmed reality, but he thought he could hear Adkar speaking.
"He'll die before he tells you."
Sixclaw's voice was furious. "I will get it out of him, one way or another .."
Adkar spoke again. "Physical torture will only kill him .. you need another weakness."
Groddil whimpered ever so softly as he slipped into blackness .. never dreaming he would awake.
Groddil fell into an abyss of darkness, vaguely thinking he was getting old. He wouldn't have passed out so quickly if he wasn't. Or maybe it was because he hadn't experienced a lot of pain in the seasons he'd watched over Sally.
He thoughts swam, finally drawing him to a place of screeching gulls, lapping waves, and sifting sand .. Salamandastron.
They think I stole the mountain from them .. did some marvelous deed. But I didn't .. it wasn't me.
He felt guilty, thinking he got the credit .. when he had murdered the badger lord and done nothing more than push his dying master out to sea. Who had really saved the day .. was Stargazer. Stargazer was the reason Salamandastron was free. Stargazer was the reason he was free.
Groddil wished his old friend were with him now .. but he wasn't alive, was he? He seemed caught in a still place .. a black, empty place.
A place of shadowed memories.
And those memories came back .. from before the moment he had met Stargazer .. long, long ago.
The mountain is ours.
Perhaps those words should have brought joy to Groddil's heart, but they did not. Perhaps he should have felt loyalty to Ungatt Trunn, but he did not. And what beast could blame him?
Once, he'd had a family. Not the nicest family, perhaps, and it wasn't like he'd been the eldest child. But it was still a family. Until Trunn had conquered their village, killing his parents and shy little sister .. but leaving he and his brother Ferran alive.
Alive in a sense. Trunn had crippled him in fury when he'd tried to defend his sister, not five seasons old. But that was futile .. he couldn't have been over nine. However when the cat learned he was a sensitive child, with connections to the spirit world, he'd kept him alive and trained him with his brother.
At that second, Groddil stood stiffly with Trunn as the cat strode through the mountain's oaken gates, staring remorselessly about the scene of carnage before them. Groddil stared too, and perhaps for the first time in his life, he felt a little pity for somebeast besides himself.
The creatures of this place had been elderly .. they hadn't stood a chance.
Was he actually considering the fact that he wished they could have?
About that second several hordebeasts dragged a haltered, hobbled, and still fighting young stallion forward, bloody and filthy, but sorrel pinto and striking because of it. The horse reared, screaming a furious challenge at the warlord .. in the strange language of equines.
Trunn smirked. "What is this?"