Savage Ep. 11
The party had traveled on lower paw for over seven days, the relatively short journey to the nearby Raestall made longer by off-road travels and lack of necessity. The group was in no hurry; Raestall herself, however, would wait for them no longer.
The three walked in tandem: Velius took the front, watching with a furrowed brow at the land ahead, waiting for the tattered walls of Raestall to emerge from behind the trees. Portia followed directly behind with chin lifted and ears perked, listening. As close to this strange, foreign town as they were, she was already made uneasy without yet even glimpsing it.
Young Fayre, at the rear, did not share the same concern as the others. Her mind drifted with the clouds above, childishly content to slowly absorb the scene presented around her. She looked from the lazy drifts of clouds above to the slow droning of a large fly and the gentle nodding of the wind-touched boughs.
And it was her, Fayre, last in line and lost in thought, that should have been the one paying attention all along.
Suddenly and without warning, there sprang from concealing bushes a man, knife bared and shoved against Fayre's tender throat.
“Seems we have ourselves a party!” cackled a voice, menacing and high-pitched, into the ear of the felinekin. Warm breath, rank with odor, teased the soft fur inside her ear, as sensual as the lips of a dead man.
The others stopped cold, whipping about to see the sudden invader and his recent captive. Shocked at his instantaneous and silent approach, Portia's surprise soon gave way to boiling anger.
“Let her go, you bastard!” Portia screamed, raving, paws curled into tight fists. Her mind skipped completely over all unnecessary details as to who he might be, or why he had come. Seeing her younger sister in danger, she did nothing but react instinctively.
Portia approached, fists held aloft menacingly, but the man pulled the knife closer to Fayre's exposed throat, breaking skin.
“Come closer!” jeered the captor. “Make me spill Pretty's life juice all over my dirty little hands. I dare you!”
The threat was punctuated with a crazed laughter, loud and high-pitched, head thrown back and howling; he appeared exactly the image of a man stark-raving mad.
It sounded exactly as the menacing guffaw of the insane, harsh and grating to the ears.
Portia was taken aback, her advance halted not by the spoken threat, but by the unspoken. The man appeared clearly mad, judging from his stark raving howl, full of witless emotion and desire. Unstable as he may have been, direct assault would have been folly. Tempting the unbalanced was never wise.
Instead of rushing him and prying her sister from his cold, dead hands as she so dearly wanted, Portia for the first time considered their new opponent. He was an apekin, young and wild, with fur grown long down his angular arms and face. What bare skin of his face did show between fur was unkempt; his flesh dirty and battered. His open tunic revealed a chest bare and beaten, and his breeches, rent apart at the knees, were as soiled and tattered as the rest of him.
He was, by looks and voice, more animal than anything, even for a Savage. He was as a feral, living in the wilds like a beast.
Velius approached while Portia sized up their newest aggressor. He placed a gentle paw on her shoulder, both to comfort and restrain her from endangering her sister further.
“Portia!” Fayre cried out, tears wetting her face in desperation. She struggled in vain against her oppressor; her limbs flailing uselessly against his steadfast grip. “Portia!”
The apekin bound her more tightly with his hairy, limber arms; his large ape-like hands holding her fast where she stood.
“Fayre!” Portia returned, her voice carrying the rage beginning to well within.
“So cute, so cute!” mocked the apekin, his voice even higher-pitch than normal, taunting and sarcastic. He sounded so much like a pre-adolescent, sniding and jeering. He hopped from one paw to the other, dancing about like a fool. “Look at that, see? See, Pretty? They must like you bunches! Oh, boy!”
“Let her go, you hell-spat bastard!” Portia screamed in malice, the normally attractive features of her face twisted into ugly rage.
“Oh, my, my, my! What a tongue. Did she teach you that?”
This last question was directed toward his hostage, who merely trembled in fear in his arms, tightly constricted by his surprising strength.
“We want my Pretty to be sweet, with none of this harshness of tongue. No... no, no, no. Sweeter the fruit, sweeter the juice!”
Portia shot forward in rage. Velius grabbed her arms, trying to hold her back while she cursed at the man in every way she knew. She was uncontrollable and crazed, pushed into a blind rage and lost to herself.
The apekin, while Velius desperately kept the raving felinekin at bay, did nothing but throw his head back and howl his ludicrous, ear-splitting laughter.
Portia fought Velius' grip, unyielding, her adrenaline-charged strength and total lack of restrain giving her the edge. Velius was out-muscled, and eventually the older sister pried away from his grip and charged, running fast and reckless straight towards her sister and the sick bastard behind her.
The man, his laughter never ceasing, leapt up in a great bound; Portia missed his lower paws and tail by just inches. Jumping gracefully up to seize an overhanging branch, he secured Fayre tightly with one wiry arm, the knife vanished into his sleeve. Using only his one free arm, the apekin swung himself up and over to land squarely on top of the branch, stirring the leaves into a great commotion. After landing nimbly on his lower paws, he leapt once more to a nearby branch, higher this time, landing with precision grace, despite the extra weight.
Portia found herself staring straight up at her sister and her captor, as high as twenty feet above.
“How well can you climb, dear Pretty?” The apekin's sinister grin challenged Portia, knowing he had the upper hand in this fight. “Not as well as me, I think!”
“I'll kill you!” screamed Portia with all her might. She at the moment acted more stark raving than the supposed madman in the trees above. “I'll rend you to pieces if you even touch her!”
“Oh, my!” The apekin was suddenly taken back, pulling his head back dramatically, as if suffering from a blow. He looked about himself, suddenly abashed as if only just realizing his error. “Oh, my, my.”
He looked down at his captive with a bizarre look, one that seemed partially confused and partially apologetic, but fully alight with insanity.
“If I should touch you?” repeated the apekin, seemingly confused. He addressed Fayre as if talking to an old friend. “Well, well, what does Miss Pretty mean by that?”
The apekin looked down once more at the older felinekin at the base of the tree. “Touch her?” he called, questioningly. He placed the palm of his hand down on her head; his large hand and fingers wrapped around, nearly swallowed her entire head. “You mean like this?”
“Release her, gods damn you!”
“Well, that wasn't much of a reaction,” analyzed the apekin aloud. “Surely, that couldn't be it.”
Addressing Portia once more, “what do you suppose about this?”
The apekin's wide hands passed down in front of Fayre's chest, brushing against her small, budding breasts behind her blouse. This latest display sent Portia into a fuming rage. She screamed up at him, furious, her lungs straining from the effort, and began attacking the tree itself as if it held her sister captive.
“I think we figured it out!” cried the apekin, sounding thrilled by his discovery. Fayre could not reply, as fearful as she was; she simply cowered in his grip, trembling and disbelieving.
Instead of waiting for a reply from his captive, the apekin cackled high his maddening peals of laughter and sprang off. He leapt, swinging gracefully from one branch to another, propelling himself along with his nimble legs, his free arm, and even his long, agile tail. While being lurched around in his stranglehold, Fayre's head jostled painfully at every twist and leap, and she couldn't help but wonder how much strength he possessed in even his single arm to allow him such fluid movements so high above.
Portia, cursed by gravity to forever roam the grounds below, sprinted away after the two, running without abandon, heedless of Velius, who labored to try to keep up. The older sister, in her heightened state of emotion, was blind to all else and maintained such a reckless pace that Velius simply couldn't keep up.
And the apekin's ringing laughter mocked her every footfall and he lead a reckless pursuit through the bountiful limbs and boughs, ascending ever closer to the upper canopy.
The tiny streets of Raestall were choked with a throng of people moving in slow, steady progression. It was a sign of a trading town too small attempting to funnel an outside crowd too large. It would be easy to lose someone in here, or to be lost yourself.
Such is exactly what Everley was counting on as the massive bullkin labored through the streets of the marketplace, his head turning to and fro, ever-vigilant. His hoof-falls were heavy, smacking the cobbles loudly with each plodding step.
He hefted the pack slung across the shoulder, made heavy with plunder pulled from Stonetide during the confusion following the great explosions. Who, or whatever caused them, Everley paid no mind. He cared only that he was rid of the Slaver's influence, and that he had made himself wealthy in so doing.
His only regret remained that he had to continue to do business with these wrecked beings in order to obtain what he could not steal.
Slipping into a shoddy tavern with a sloping roof, Everley ducked to squeeze his form through the skinny frame before approaching the counter, his presence marked by all eyes within the room. They regarded him coldly, housing dirty accusations and hostilities. A few fingered concealed weaponry at his approach.
Everley cared not for the lot of them. They were naught but Slavers, fit to crushed to dust under his massive hooves.
Everley knelt before the counter near the far wall, being too big for the shaky barstools. Beckoning the bartender, he gestured for a tall mug of brew.
“Got any coin to fund this order with, Savage?” The Slaver spat the title out of his rotten mouth as if it were an insult.
In reply, Everley swung down his large rugged sack, causing it to crash weightily against the splintered wooden floor. Reaching low, he pulled forth a handful of mixed Piece; copper, silver, and even gold.
“Stolen coin!” accused the bartender defiantly.
“Same as what you take from your fellow Slavers here,” Everley shot back, his patience dissolving.
The bartender leaned in closer, his head not even half the size of the massive bullkin's. A sinister look was stuck on his ugly mug.
“We don't take your,”
The man's thought was interrupted by Everley's tightly balled fist smashing into his jaw, catapulting the man backward onto his own shelving. He fell limply to the floor, taking with him dozens of glass bottles and dirty mugs knocked from their holding places.
Reaching over the counter, Everley grabbed for himself the nearest bottle of spirits and rose from the floor. The other Slavers of the room, customers and drunkards, rose to greet him with exposed knives and crude shivs.
They looked up at him with open hostility as they filed to block the doorway. Their hatred for his kind was not held back.
The bullkin merely eyed them all like so many pests, blocking his exit.
“I came for a drink,” explained the bullkin, his voice low and deep, cutting across the sudden silence that had befallen the tavern. “But I won't refuse a chance to bruise up the lot of you.”
Everley twisted sharply the top of the bottle, snapping free the cork and part of the neck along with it. From the perforated edge, the bullkin took a long swallow. Deliberately wiping his chops with a large, muscular arm afterward, he exclaimed, “come at me!”
Moments later, Everley emerged from the tavern, the large cloth sack slung across his shoulder further weighed down by several sloshing bottles. He joined the crowd outside, which bore him as wide a berth as possible whilst at the same time attempting to mentally disprove his existence.
No others of their kind followed him out of that tavern.
Everley followed the road out of town at an easy gait, where upon reaching the tree line took a detour off the road and sat in blessed silence, enjoying his recently lifted acquisitions.