Savage Ep. 7
Velius worked in a frenzy, dumping out all his possessions from his pack as the nearby crowd, drunk with blood lust, screamed for slaughter. The lunatic chanting of 'Death to the Savages' pounded rhythmically through his head like the beating of a dull, rusty nail. Forcing himself to concentrate as best he could, he prepped his mind with instructions for the task ahead, taking inventory of all he had brought. Never did he think he would have to be using these ingredients so soon, or in this manner.
His new friends, Fayre and her older, cynical sister Portia, demanded from him details of his plan, Fayre especially frantic seeing the coming advent of the foxkin's death. They only served to frustrate him further, as he could not deliver the words to explain himself even if he wanted.
Taking a long, deep breath, Velius stopped to refresh his mind, refocusing his thoughts. The sisters would simply have to wait, he had no time or means to explain himself now.
Velius looked again at his belongings, now strewn about the cobblestones. Two rolls of parchment and three black quills. A small, corked bottle of ink. They were no good. A smaller leather knapsack filled with food supplies. Nothing of use there, either. A scattering of short, squat candles. A length of rope. A glass lantern. A handful of small, wooden matches. A small knife, used to divide and serve his rations as smaller portions. Nothing outside the ordinary of what any traveler might take on the road.
But no ordinary traveler would understand their significance like Velius did, only thanks to the teachings of his former master Rygecroft. He was the very man who now opposed his kind, the very same man who stood now on the stage before them, his newest adversary if Velius were to try to save the life of that foxkin.
But was it worth it? Was Portia right in thinking that it might all be in vain, and would serve nothing more than to have four hangmen instead of just the one?
Velius paused to consider the matter for but the briefest of moments before shaking his head violently, dislodging the oppressive thoughts from his skull. Ludicrous idea or not, he hadn't the time to doubt himself. He would have plenty of time to reconsider his plan either when they were safely away in the forest or at rest for eternity.
Acting on impulse alone, Velius worked, recalling the teachings of Rygecroft as he did so. The glass lantern. Velius took it in his paw, considered it, weighing its uses in his head. Lanterns, oil-fed lamps in general, had always been considered the most useful of tools when combating the dark.
Velius quickly pulled at the top of the small glass box, jerking the lid from the device. He reached a nimble paw down inside, grabbed the wick and yanked it away, tearing apart the opening of the oil tin beneath. The liquid splashed up onto his paw as he worked, yet he pressed on heedless of it, tearing a larger opening into the top of the tin jar.
Meanwhile, Fayre, and even the older Portia, had fallen mercifully quiet, watching in silence as the monk transformed a perfectly functional oil lantern into a mockery of its former self.
His alterations to his liking, Velius in his haste slammed the diminished lantern down upon the cobblestones, oil from the jar splashing up at the rough handling. His left paw was covered in a slick film of oil as he pulled it away.
Taking in his right paw the length of rope, he unraveled a portion of it and hacked it off with his knife, being careful to keep the rope away from his soaked paw. Dipping one end of the rope down into the lantern, forcing it into the enlarged opening in the oil tin, the other end stuck out just long enough to light.
Holding the lantern strings suspended with one hand, Velius thrust the tiny matches into the paws of Fayre, who looked down at them confused and bewildered; the same look she had been giving him this entire time.
Gesturing violently with his oil-slick paw, Velius pointed first at the matches she held and then to the hunk of rope sticking out from the inside of the lantern. He needed repeat the gesture only once more before the gears of her mind caught, and she did as bid.
Carefully flicking one of the matches to life upon the stones underfoot, Fayre did the service of lighting Velius' homemade fuse. He stood full upright, looking out over the supplies in front of him, twirling the flaming lantern suspended in his paws.
Beside him, Velius held a small bomb, similar to the ones used to attack this very village under orders of the man whom he now stared at, targeting.
Velius squinted against the sunlight, considering his target carefully, and the distance between them, all the while twirling the lit explosive in one paw. His aim had to be perfect; he did not have a second lantern in case he missed, nor would he be afforded the time to make another explosive. No, it would be either this one, or not at all.
A simple distraction would not be good enough, Velius knew. Creating a fiery uproar over a few crates of supplies would not serve the purpose. No. His only chance was, using fire, to dowse the very flames that had fueled the rage within the crowd. The instigator of this madness had to removed, his voice purged from the crowd, and they would lose their focus, their one voice becoming many, indeterminate and lost amongst the others of the crowd.
His throw had to be just right; his trajectory absolute. Focusing his concentration, Velius twirled the dilapidated lantern once more, before pulling it back once more and lobbing it end over end into the air.
The lantern twirled in mid-air, the rope's end staying lit and burning ever closer down to the oil inside. Round and round it twirled, rising up, cresting at the peak of it's arc, and coming into a descent slowed as if time stood still. Velius watched it fall ever so slowly as it approached its target, who had only just now discovered the projectile, too late to move in time. It flew ever closer, falling steadily, approaching Rygecroft all the while, flipping end over end.
Now, out of his paws, Velius could only hope that his aim would be true. He could only wonder, just for a fleeting moment, if his plan might bring them all to ruin. He could only pray that he did not miss.
In a burst of light and roaring flames, time rushed suddenly forward, faster now than it had ever been. The flaming lantern had met its target, and around the cloaked figure of Rygecroft there appeared a great burst of fire, enveloping his entire form. The crowd, all at once, halted their ear-pounding ranting, to drop into an instantaneous silence of complete shock. Than, just as quickly a moment later, it exploded into an chaotic barrage of terror and shock.
The crowd dispersed as quickly as it could, screaming and fleeing in horror, running into each other in panicked attempts to get away as quickly as possible. Rygecroft, his form completely covered in flames along with the front half of the stage, fled as quickly as he could manage, shedding the cloak as he did so. Velius could hear his inhuman shouts of pain as he burned even over the shrieks of the departing audience.
Rygecroft's escort of four stared around blankly, as if either trying to figure out where the attack had originated from or if it had even happened at all. A moment later, they were on Rygecroft, forcing him to the ground and dumping arm loads of loose soil on him as he rolled around frantically, his flesh still scorching. And it was then, after Rygecroft had shed his fiery cloak and leapt from the stage, that Velius noticed something that caused him to stop in his tracks and stare. But it lasted only a moment as Fayre and Portia, in grips with the situation, shoved him ahead.
The sisters rushed up the stairs of the stage, Velius in tow right behind. They ran to the foxkin, cutting her bonds quickly while the others were distracted. The other members of the White Hand helping their leader, and the crowd completely lost in a panicked disarray, the three of them were able to help the foxkin down and carry her off the stage. And while Velius helped support her, he looked with dread and growing shame at the foxkin's body, noticing that she, being so close to the blast around Rygecroft, had not been immune to its flame. At a glance, he noticed that sections of her fur had been scorched away. However, a closer inspection as to the extent of her injuries would have to wait until they were safely away.
They helped the foxkin down the stairs and lead her to their hiding place behind the crates of supplies. Once there, much to Velius' surprise, Fayre called a stop, and she ran over to the crates to gather an armload of cloth. Rejoining them, she hefted the clothes over one shoulder and the foxkin's arm over the other. Together, the four of them stole away into the city, Fayre explaining as they went that, while Velius had been busy with the lantern, she had discovered that they were hiding behind a stack of supplies from a clothing vendor. She simply acquired what she thought they would need.
Feeling guilty for her eight-pawed acquisition, Velius decided it best that now, during their escape, was perhaps not the best time to share his ethical views on the matter. That, and it would undoubtedly prove difficult to accurately convey his feelings on paper whilst also supporting the legs of an unconscious foxkin.
Well outside the tattered and unoccupied gates of the city of Stonetide, as the sun looked down from directly above, Velius and the two sisters stopped after a long and arduous flight from the city. None had followed, so caught up in the spontaneous combustion of their newest leader they were, as well as avoiding the explosion themselves. The blessed chaos of the mess was exactly what they had needed to escape.
They stopped to rest in a shallow ravine, beside a small but flowing stream. They refreshed themselves, drinking from the cold, clear water and dividing rations from Velius' pack once more. The foxkin was deposited under the shade of a gnarled oak growing above the ravine, where she rested. Velius brought water, carried in the cup of his paws, to the poor girl, wetting her lips and trying to get her to drink. He would moisten her forehead constantly, which was burning up. Her fur, the areas of it not singed away by the flames of the explosion, was coarse and stiff, not unlike the fur of a corpse. This made Velius uneasy.
What sufferings must have befallen this girl, he thought. The effects of her torturing from the dungeons of the castle were apparent as old and new scars lining her back and chest, with recent swelling and bruising around her feminine areas. On top of that, she had recently suffered overnight in a stockade without food or water, and been beaten, battered, and nearly hung to death, and then burned by a nearby explosion. Velius certainly thought her deserving of a rest, but pondered how long they could stay in the shadow of the ravine before being forced to move on. Once Stonetide licks its wounds and collects itself, they would come seeking them in greater numbers than ever before. Though their latest stunt would slow their preparations for retaliation, and with their king recently executed, they would take longer still. But still, best to be safe and distance themselves as much as possible.
Velius turned to consider his newest traveling companions: a young felinekin who had proved to be both brave and resourceful during their most dangerous hour, and her older sister, stubborn as an oxkin, but who also proves to be the source of Fayre's bravery.
A fine pair they made, Velius thought with a grin as he, too, rested back against the face of the cool rock beside the water. It would most certainly prove an interesting adventure if he were to stay in the company of such siblings.
And there they remained for some hours, each of them dozing off for at least a little while, before rising up and moving onward once more, away from the city. They would continue back west for the remainder of the day, cutting across wooded terrain near the monastery. Velius was familiar with the terrain there.
And then from there, the next day, they were not certain of their destination, but were content knowing that they would travel wherever the fates would freely guide them.