Savage Ep. 3
The walking tin cans escorting him created a cacophony of clanking metal with every footfall, but even over top of their merciless clatter, the enormous bullkin heard coming trouble. Everley swung his massive head from side to side, ears twitching busily, muzzle snorting, sampling the air. He stopped in his tracks, the heavy iron shackles tightening above his large paws and hooves. The thick collar constrained his neck, pulling fur and biting flesh.
The iron-clad pinkskins around him tugged his many leashes, attempting to pull him forward, oblivious to the scent of change laden upon the air.
Then a second blast resounded, this one close enough for even the incompetent humans with their symphonious armor to hear. They stopped, staring like so many deer into the lanterns of their hunters.
Movement. Currently, Everley and his courteous escort were located in a tight corridor, traveling between the stone walls located just outside the arena. The two walls were piled high with large, rust-colored stone. From behind one of the sandy walls came the hurried footfalls of several peoples. They approached from the direction of the nearby blast.
The footsteps passed, moving just beyond the outer wall, headed for the arena.
The subterranean dungeon with his awaiting prison cell was only a block further, built conveniently beside the arena dome, so as to minimize transport. The heavy wooden door greeted them openly twenty yards ahead.
But Everley and his guards would never arrive.
From behind them, where Everley had stood and fought his oppressors briefly, came a horrific bursting of flame and stone. A massive explosion centered within the arena let loose soil and stone, catapulting the entire structure into the air.
Everley crouched low quickly, ducking behind his unwitting shield of flesh and metal. The surrounding walls received the brunt of the blast, toppling their stone blocks into the corridor below. Fragments of the arena rained upon them as lumbering projectiles.
Boulder-sized chunks of stone landed everywhere, hitting several of the Slavers, crushing them under their weight and momentum. One of the Slavers, impaled by large chunk of steel, was blown back onto his charge, knocking both him and Everley to the ground. Shielded by the man's metal frame, Everley remained still, listening to the lethal rain around him, watching as his former captives fell like flour sacks crushed to death by their very own structures.
Killed by the very thing they constructed to serve as a killing ground for the Savages. Everley grinned at the sadistic irony of it.
A moment later, after the heavy thuds of boulders and little tinkling of metal shards stopped dropping from the heavens, Everley pushed off his human shield and righted himself. His wounds were minor, cuts and scraps from the falling debris, and would cause him no grief. His Slavers, however, had suffered greatly. Of the five that had apprehended him, only two were not crushed to death under the collapsed structure. Bruised and disoriented, they looked about wildly, attempting to collect themselves and assess the situation.
Everley did not give them that opportunity. Moving quickly, he smote the nearest one under his hefty hoof, bashing in the armor of his breastplate. The other he scooped up, wrapping a massive paw around the tiny human's head, snapping his neck with a quick flick of the wrist.
With five dead Slavers around him, Everley knew that his life was now forfeit. Upon discovering this, they would attempt to kill him on sight. The Slavers themselves, however, should be busy assessing the damage of the arena and pursuing the responsible party. This afforded Everley the chance to escape these humans for good.
Everley leapt forward, headed back toward the direction of the shattered arena, away from the musty dungeon that was his home. The weights of his chains encumbered him, and the six balls of iron dragged behind like an anchor. They would present themselves to be a problem in his escape.
Hefting the chains in his paws, Everley lifted the iron balls up off the ground and, carrying his weights, resumed his flight down the corridor.
Taking flight down the litter-strewn hallway, Everley took a corner and came face to face with the remains of the arena. The sandy pit at the construct's center was naught more than a bowl-shaped depression, the wooden stands and benches around it warped and shattered. Bodies lined the ruins, most of them spectators helplessly blown aside by the initial blast of the explosion. A few corpses of armor-clad guards were strewn about, broken and lifeless.
Everley grunted in satisfaction at the carnage around him, seeing the deaths of those who had jeered at him and the men who had imprisoned and tortured him. The only stab of remorse he felt was that he was not behind this attack, nor was he given the opportunity to take their lives with his bare paws.
On the far side of the arena, a large hole had been blown into the arena's thick wall. Beyond was a refreshing view of the trees and foliage beyond; a direct path to the wilderness beyond the city.
Everley started for the newly fashioned exit when he saw a survivor, rising from the depths under the arena. From under the shade of the dilapidated cover, Everley recognized the man as a fellow Savage, but he was no more a welcome sight than that of a Slaver.
Gholbine the Revered was a Savage as large and gruff as bearkin come. Everley had no difficulty distinguishing him even from this distance; Gholbine, covered in a tough hide with thick brown fur, was a walking wall.
Gholbine was a mockery of a Savage; he was hated and resented by his Savage peers, but feared and awed by the crowds. Unlike all the other captive Savages, Gholbine played the game of theatrics to his advantage, making every attempt to woo the crowd and impress his captors. He had been handed the promise of freedom if he could only win over the crowd and out rank his fellow competitors.
Drunk with illusions of impending freedom, Gholbine isolated himself from his fellow cohorts, instead attempting to befriend the Slavers and captors to help ensure his success.
That a Savage such as this should survive the chaos seemed like an insult to their kind.
“What have you and your kind done to this arena?” roared Gholbine, sounding more like a beast than Savage. His voice dripped with accusations.
“You are our kind, Gholbine!” Everley retorted, closing the distance between them. He had crossed the pit and was following the crippled remains of the outer wall, approaching the opening to the outside world.
Gholbine approached more slowly, leaving the shade of the splintered lumber doorway and entering the dusts of the open pit.
“I was near the top!” Gholbine exclaimed viciously. “I had nearly beaten all of you and claimed my freedom!”
“The Slavers fed you lies, Gholbine!” Everley responded boldly, speaking reason. “Us Savages have never before tasted freedom.”
“I had nearly lived as one of them! What have you done here?”
“I tell you the truth, this was the work of your beloved humans, always squabbling and at each other's throats.”
Everley was at the opening now. Beyond the makeshift exit he could see the gentle sway of the boughs and the rustle of the leaves and bushes. He turned once more to Gholbine, hearing in the distance another report of explosives.
“Your only chance at freedom is through here!”
“If I escape now, they will never allow me my freedom,” replied Gholbine, stubborn in his diluted beliefs.
“If you do not escape, they will kill you anyway! Mark my words!”
With that, Everley ducked down and slipped through the hole blasted open in the wall. Hooves striding upon the soft grasses of the world behind, he ran forward, iron weights swinging at his side, never looking back.
Gholbine approached the opening more slowly, considering the view beyond and the remains of the arena around him. He was so close to his promised freedom, this recent explosion was as much a blow to the structure as it was to his hopes and plans. Resigning to the harsh blow dealt him by the fates, he appeared to be left without alternative. Now, instead of a free man living amongst the people of the city, he would now be a fugitive, forever on the run and hated by man.
Gritting his teeth, brewing his hatred for the gods and the other Savages for incurring this attack, Gholbine stepped forward, forever leaving behind the world he once thought he knew.
King Haefen paused a moment, a look of naked confusion gradually transforming his face. He looked up at his guards from where he was still perched atop the Savage held in bondage below.
They all four paused for a brief moment, with nothing being heard except for their own breathing and the rhythmic dripping of water in the distance. Then they heard it again, only this time closer.
“They're not due until nightfall,” reported the king in a tone of confusion to match his expression. “What the hell are they doing?”
A third blast resounded through the dank dungeon, muffled through the ground. This one was close enough to rattle the chains hanging on the walls. They felt the ground shake softly under them.
“Sounds like they are attacking the city!” cried one of the guards, his voice urgent.
“Damn them to the nine hells, I told them to only bomb those traitorous bastards under me, not the whole damned city!”
Shooting to his feet, King Haefen clothed himself as quickly as he could, muttering all the while about the incompetence of hired help. Marching directly for the exit, the king shouted back the order to 'string the bitch back up' before ascending up the stairwell and out of sight.
The guards, as ordered, gripped the chains between Hazel's ankles and wrists, pulled her upright, and walked her back towards her rusty hook upon the wall. Once there, she would wait in the damp and dark for the return of King Haefen.
Suddenly the ceiling above them burst open in a great explosion, timbers ripped from their place, blocks blasted from their mortar. The roar of the blast was deafening as it launched the three of them across the dungeon. Crashing unceremoniously against each other, the structure of the dungeon became unstable and began to topple. The stones of the walls leapt from their mortar-encased homes with rubble collecting everywhere on the damp floor. One side of the room cracked open, turning what was once a small trickle into a gushing stream of icy water to spill upon the dungeon floor.
The guards, encumbered and clumsy in their heavy suits of armor, had difficulty righting themselves under the weight of the stones falling from above. Hazel, however, nimble and thin from her years of imprisonment and meager rations, shot to her feet quickly and bolted for the stairwell, seeing her one chance for escape.
At the top of the stairs, outside of the dungeons for the first time in over half her life, she found herself in a musty storehouse. The rooms had finally settled after the tremors and trembling of the blast.
Emerging from the storehouse, running blindly away from her imprisonment, Hazel emerged into a carpeted corridor, lit by chandeliers still swaying lightly. She chose a direction at random and proceeded as quickly as she could manage. Taking turns at will, blowing through door after door, navigating without direction, she dashed as quickly as she possibly could in her constraining shackles, hoping that each doorway she passed through would eventually lead her to the blessed outdoors.
Her luck failed her, however, as the last door she abruptly spilled through held King Haefen, dressed in a floor-length cape of purple, standing in council with a man in dark robes. She stood there in the open doorway, naked and bewildered, wide-eyed and trembling, certain of her coming doom.
She stood in the doorway, shaking with fear, as she witnessed something that scared her even more than accidentally running across her captor. The man in black robes held in his hand a long, wicked knife.
The blade of the knife was struck through the chest of King Haefen.
Shocked beyond belief, unable to run or think or even breath, the stranger pulled the knife free, the lifeless body of the king falling to the floor .
Then he turned toward Hazel, knife held abroad, and approached.