Savage Ep. 5
Freedom was an odd notion, slow to realize and identify. The idea penetrated them like a morning fog, slow and gradual but thick and obscuring at its peak before being burnt away by the morning sun. For Fayre and Portia, it was both a blessing they didn't realize and a curse they didn't believe.
The dawn broke over the land gradually. The youngest felinekin watched as the reach of the sun extended inch by slow inch over the meadow, creeping ever closer both across the long wind-blown grasses and down the reaching boughs of the trees above.
The night prior, the sisters had followed the setting sun, eventually making camp before reaching a meadow just beyond the furthest reach of the city of Stonetide. They had rested in the shade of a mighty oak, taking comfort in the cool shade cast under its ancient limbs.
Portia, bitter and groggy by the night's expedition, dozed off quickly, falling into a deep slumber where she occasionally grumbled about the substandard living conditions in her manor. Fayre, however, tiny little Fayre, a dazed but beautiful little felinekin with silky, multi-tonal fur and soft, uncalloused pads, remained awake, leaning up against the tree with her bigger sister and letting her mind drift with the stars above. Under mythical moon and starlight, she wept silently for poor Felhaan, who was, other than her sister, her only friend in the world. Strong, silent Felhaan, a mousekin of few words and undeterred will, who had stayed stubbornly by his master's side until the very end. His last scream as they fled assailed her mind every time her eyes would slip shut.
She chased the bitter memory away by concentrating on the scene around her; the tall weeds turned silver under the moon, the crickets buzzing noisily, the rhythmic sound of the gentle wind easing through the grass and bushes. Fayre also fought to capture in her mind her best memories of Felhaan, to seal those away and preserve his memory through time. She realized only now, forced to think back on him as he was, his presence so suddenly jerked away, that she may have been in love with him. But she couldn't be sure, which was the most frustrating thing of all. And now she would never know, and she would have to bear with that uncertainty for the rest of her life.
The changes were so sudden she could almost believe that on the morrow she would awake back in the manor, in their shared bedchamber, just as she had done throughout her life. Felhaan would be there, tending to Master Narghast in his favorite chair, who would be drawing from his long pipe of smokeleaf and discussing the politics of the city with any who would listen. It was through him that Fayre acquired all her news of the goings-on of the inner city.
King Haefen, Fayre recalled, was quite upset that his eldest son, Sir Meldrik, should spend quite so much time with the swordsmith and not enough time observing the politics of the court. And then there was Princess Kaidena, and what an awful mess she had stirred up by blatantly and publicly refusing to marry Councilman Olaf, who was, naturally, twice her senior. But age isn't so important, Master Narghast explained late one night, compared to maintaining the prosperity of the royal family and ensuring the continued success of the kingdom as a whole. None of which, of course, made sense to someone like Fayre, who was, she was told, too young and naive to understand the delicacies of court and the pressures of the crown.
This was all, of course, details now made pointless by the abrupt end of her previous life, she recalled dreadfully.
Stretched out before her was the sum of all her morrows rolled into one. It was an empty field, overrun by wild grasses and kissed by moonlight. Each blade teased by the nearly inexistent wind, their movements random and ever-changing, but also uniform, each blade turning and twisting in time with its neighbors. Gone now were the comforts and familiarity of city life. Her life now would be spent in the wilds such as this, on the run, perhaps not welcome anywhere she went. Never again would there be a Master Narghast or someone like him to take pity on them and accept them into his fold.
It was as she dwelled upon the curse of isolation that had likely befallen them both that the sun began its slow ascent behind her, in the eastern sky. Birds, in a great chorus, began to greet the sunlight with echoing song. The creatures of the night died away to retreat into hiding as new life stirred to take its place.
Dawn had arrived, and with it another day on the run.
Fayre, whose thoughts had not let her sleep a wink during the night, reached over to rouse her sister, who refused to stir. She stubbornly resisted, clinging to sleep and the blessed escape it comes with.. At length, only when Fayre toppled her onto the ground from where she leaned on the tree, did she finally stir.
Her voice laden with sleep, her eyes blinking heavily, she complained loudly. “What the hell are you doing, uncouth wench?” she cursed, scowling.
“The dawn has arrived,” insisted Fayre in a hushed voice. She gently shook her older sister as she spoke. “We must away, before we are discovered.”
“Who are you to order me around?” demanded Portia, hands on her hips as she lay upon the dirt. There was a stern look burrowed onto her feline face that she, in her drowsiness, couldn't quite maintain. Her voice was decidedly not hushed, but loud and full of mock accusations. “I am your older sister!”
“We must depart,” Fayre insisted, casting a nervous glance back toward the rising sun, the direction of the city. “Before they find us.”
Portia, finally realizing the truth of her younger sister's words, took a long look around the meadow and heaved a great sigh. It was apparent that she, too, had expected to awake on her linen cot, expecting a bright new day full of ordering around her fellow servants. This, clearly, was not what she prefered.
“Very well,” Portia submitted, rising slowly to her feet. Then she caught Fayre with a pointed stare. “But not because you told me to.”
“Of course,” Fayre agreed instantly, who rose to her feet, brushed off her simple, dark breeches and tunic, and started out over the meadow. Portia, grumbling about the tall weeds, followed more slowly.
After only twenty minutes of travel, long enough to put distance between them and last night's makeshift meadow-of-a-bedchamber, the two felinekins came upon a road, and on it a stranger. They hid at first, uncertain of who it might be or what reactions they might incur as Savages walking about freely. But they saw, from their place of hiding, that the stranger dressed in a simple brown robe, the garb of a vagabond or holy man, was also a Savage like they were. This was apparent from the telltale feet, which were bare and fur-covered, large like that of a harekin. So, too, were the ears, hanging low past the reach of the stranger's hood, which obscured his face as he strode.
Fayre, despite Portia's urgent warnings, stood and revealed herself at his passing, hoping that, as a fellow Savage, he might be a friend and aid them.
Fayre approached, stepping onto the road, hailing the stranger excitedly, while Portia could only watch from the obscuring foliage. The stranger, in turn, halted his stride and looked up, lowering his hood and favoring Fayre with a genuine smile. Fayre, feeling instantly relieved and trusting of the man, returned the smile.
“Good morrow, stranger,” she called, her voice friendly and welcoming. She approached as she spoke. “I am Fayre, servant to my Master Nar-.”
Her words abruptly halted.
So used to the customary introduction was Fayre that she had let it slip even here, to a fellow Savage, in the midst of a wilderness in which she had no master but herself. She blushed and shied away in embarrassment at her error, the color of her cheeks luckily not penetrating her light fur.
“I suppose I have no master now,” Fayre admitted, twisting the pads of her paws together before her, digging into the dirt with a single hind paw as she did so.
“Don't reveal such to him!” called out Portia, angrily, giving her position away from the side of the road. The stranger looked her direction briefly, then turned back towards Fayre bearing a wide grin. Fayre awaited his response, some spoken acknowledgment or perhaps even the man's name, but instead received something else entirely. The man, the harekin, placed one paw lightly around his neck before shaking his head. Fayre, baffled momentarily by the man's gesture, stared openly before it dawned on her.
“Oh, my,” she said, apologetically. “Can you not speak?”
Again, a shake of his head. By this time, Portia had emerged from the bush and walked up beside her younger sister, her distrustful gaze never once leaving the man in the plain robes.
Fayre turned to Portia with her discovery. “He can not speak!” she exclaimed.
“Must be an inept,” Portia reasoned, her tone harsh and accusing.
“Mute,” Portia explained, her voice without compassion. “It's a sign of ineptitude, a mind not fully developed, you see. He is a mental degenerate.”
“Portia, that is not at all polite!”
“But it's true!” exclaimed Portia, unapologetically. She turned to spear the stranger with a stern look. His eyes were diverted downward. “You are, are you not? A degenerate? You must be, unable to meet my gaze as you are.”
“That is enough, Portia!” Fayre intervened, grasping Portia's arm. She turned back towards the stranger. “It's alright, we're all friends here. We can help each other!”
Portia scoffed loudly, but her possible retort was cut short when the stranger produced, from a pack slung over his shoulder, a loaf of bread, and after it a block of cheese. Only then did Fayre realize how famished she was, having not eaten since their plight yesterday.
Portia's tune quickly changing in the presence of nourishment, they sat in a clearing just off the road and broke bread. While they broke their fast, the stranger procured a roll of parchment and set of ink and quills. Through written words, he shared with Fayre his name, Velius, and also the fact that he was a wandering monk, cast out of his monastery. To this, Fayre could instantly relate and pitied the harekin for being extracted from his home. He also wrote that he was journeying the road to Stonetide to help escaped slaves like themselves. He would travel the rest of the way there to help anyone he could, then turn back. Fayre, who was quick to not want to be alone and grateful to the man for sharing with them his offerings, pledged her instant support. Portia, however, spat and sputtered, ranting against a mindless mission from an inept to return from the very city they had only just recently escaped.
“He is not inept,” Fayre cried, to no avail. “Also, Velius is doing some good, helping others like us. There's going to be others like us who would've escaped during the turmoil and are lost and frightened in the woods. They need our help.”
“You mean Savages,” Portia amended. “Savages, escaped slaves who would be caught and killed if the Slavers had their say. It's only a matter of time before they organize squads for searches. Come that time, we'll be as likely to get caught as the lot of those unfortunates.”
“We will just have to be careful,” Fayre decided, affirmably finishing the argument with arms crossed over her chest and a defiant look on her face that she had seen from her older sister a hundred times before. And despite Portia's continuing arguments, no matter how sound they may have been, Fayre did not budge. Portia ranted and raved, her voice raising and her manner becoming violent, but still Fayre did not move. She simply looked away, eyes closed and chin high, waiting for Portia to cave.
And cave she did, when she at length realized that it was either follow her younger sister or leave her to the fate of an unknown inept. Her sister was headstrong and impulsive, unable to consider the ramifications of her actions, and on her own she would surely fail. Fayre needed her older sister there as the voice of reason.
And thus, within the hour, the three of them set out following the road back towards the city, to search out and aid any others of their kind.
And it wasn't long before the walls of the city came into view on the horizon.