Author Topic: This Great Solemnity  (Read 37 times)

Kentrith Hapley

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This Great Solemnity
« on: December 18, 2017, 10:39:14 PM »
Kentrith’s efforts to sew up the pine marten’s gash were not helped by the shuddering stones beneath them.

By the last stitch, there was a definite tilt to the pitch of the floor. Kentrith wiped his paws on his dirty breeches, snarling as the cuts on them made themselves known.

Their self-proclaimed guard glanced nervously at the cracking ceiling. “Can we leave now?” he begged, gripping his spear tight.

“What is happening?” Kentrith barked, throwing his tools into his bag, slinging it over his shoulder, then reaching to pull Marik to his paws.

“It’s Blasio,” Marik muttered, voice quavering as he tried to stand as upright as he could. One paw still would not reach the floor, and the single paw he stood on shook. Worried, Kentrith slithered to Marik’s other side, slinging the marten’s arm around him and taking most of the weight.

“If I find him,” he growled.

“You’ll help him, like the healer you are,” Marik interrupted.

“…right.” Kentrith sighed. “I’ll need to remind myself of that.”

“We’ll help you,” Marik rejoined.

“Enough chat, let’s go, before we die,” the otter growled, propelling them before him with a shove.

It was slow going, with Marik weak from pain and blood loss. The otter’s frustration was nearly palpable, but Kentrith refused to be pushed beyond Marik’s strength. The marten nearly collapsed as they came upon complete carnage in the hall.

They stood in the hall, staring at the bodies strewn around them. The most shocking was that of Nix, which slumped against the wall. The throat and chest were bloody, and she still clutched the sword and spear to her.

“Mom,” Marik whimpered, his working footpaw buckling. Kentrith nearly went down with him, as the young pine marten clung to his dead mother.

They all jumped when she gasped and choked. The otter scrabbled backward with a garbled shriek, and Kentrith swallowed a yell, which went down the wrong way. After a few minutes of marten and fox gasping and coughing, Kentrith inched toward her.

Marik had been unaffected by the return of the dead, instead examining Nix to gauge her wounds. “Mom,” he breathed, hugging her tighter.

“No, don’t,” Kentrith cautioned. “You’ll hurt her…”

“Too late for that,” she rasped. “Not much that… can hurt me now.”

“No!” Marik wailed.

“Hush!” Nix snarled. “It’s,” she paused, to struggle for breath, then continued, “No use bewailing what can’t be changed.” She looked at him with shadowed eyes, then whispered, “Not like you’ll be losing much. Happy raised you more than I did.”

“You,” Marik gulped, voice thick with tears, “you had no choice. Once Dad died…”

“I left you. Avoided you.”

“And saved my life.”

Nix huffed, then turned her eyes to Kentrith. “You’ll watch out for him?”

Kentrith nodded absently, scanning over the bloody gashes in her stomach. “What happened?” he asked, gingerly pulling out a shredded bit of cloth from one of the slashes.

She snorted softly. “Leftover guard. Nire…,” gasp, “ordered to… huh… kill everyone left… in the arena.” A coughing fit brought blood to her lips, followed by another chuckle. “Fewer of them now.”

Looking at the seven bodies surrounding her, Kentrith could only agree.

“Can we go now?” the otter muttered, shuffling up behind Kentrith.

Marik gave on final sob, then released Nix. Kentrith repositioned the young marten, then nodded once at his oldest friend. Marik used his free paw to wipe his face, mumbled something, then allowed Kentrith to turn him away.

They shuffled down the hall, followed by hollow, labored breathing. Tears trickled down both their faces. Rumbling behind them caused them to freeze, both horrified at what they had left behind.

“Oh, for the love of hotroot!” The otter closed on them, dropped his spear, then yanked Marik’s other arm around his neck. Ignoring the marten’s cries of pain, he lifted, until Marik was suspended between the two beasts. “Y’ can blubber to each other and discuss feelings after we are out of here!

Kentrith grunted in disgust at the rough treatment of his patient, but as they scurried down the quaking hallway, he couldn’t deny that they made better time.

They made their way to the kitchens, with the cracking stones and shuddering almost on top of them. They reached the kitchen to find chaos. Crockery lay broken everywhere, the hearth gone out from neglect. A noise drew their attention to several slaves huddled under the table.

“Oy!” the otter bellowed. “If you don’t want to die, get out of there!”

There was a stuttered reply that was unintelligible. An extended crash behind them spurred their guide, and he dropped Marik to dash to the kitchen door. He yanked it open. “Right through here!” he shouted, just before the spear took him under the ribs.

The slaves all shrieked as Kentrith stared in shock at the rat-held weapon that reached up into the otter’s heart. Shaking off his lassitude, he dashed forward. “What are you doing!” he yipped, interposing himself between the rat and the beasts in the room.

“Iss all thayer fault, ainit?” he hissed, yanking his weapon out. Dread washed through the fox’s veins as he realized his scalpel was not on his wrist like it usually was, but tucked away in the satchel that was slung over his shoulder. “These beasts tore it all down. Down, down!” The crazed light in the rat’s eyes as he jabbed at Kentrith for emphasis. “No more Crater, no more monsters, just rocks and water, and dead, dead, dead!” He fixed his manic gaze on the panicking fox. “Ye’re dead, too!”

Kentrith barely dodged the first erratic jab. I can’t die! he shrieked in his head. Marik just lost his mother, he can’t lose me too!

He raised his scored paws, which had just stopped bleeding, to fend off the waggling spear, hoping that he could take a little more damage without losing the use of his paws. Though, if he never healed again, he would count it in good trade if he could keep them all safe.

Cackling, the rat swept the spear up, neatly slashing just between his paws. The sharp blade swiped up Kentrith’s muzzle, scoring it. Kentrith ducked back desperately, tasting the blood that dribbled over his jaw. Clapping his paw to the wound, he watched the long weapon rear back for another thrust.

The rat choked as an arrow appeared through his throat.

Kentrith couldn’t move as the crazy beast toppled over, then was replaced by a very familiar figure.

“When being rescued, it is good sense to remain in one place,” Lady Eve said primly, as she nocked another arrow to the bow she held so gracefully. Her expensive clothes were sopping wet, with red staining it in several places. She flicked her ears, shedding drops of water, then turned and gestured behind her. “We’d best move on. I believe all your other friends made it out.”

“You came for me?” Kentrith blurted, as shivering slaves squeezed past him and out the door.

“Well, of course I did,” she huffed, turning to aim the bow out the courtyard. “I knew you wouldn’t take care of yourself. Just look at the state of your paws! I do believe young Frey is right, you need a permanent keeper.”

She glanced at him quickly, the snapped, “You’d better staunch your muzzle, or something. It’s not as though you need another scar.”

Kentrith felt a jab in his ribs as he helped a now-grinning Marik out the door. Her clothes were ruined, whatever powders or colors she had used for her fur was running horribly, and her bare footpaws slapped wetly as the building behind them finally gave one last groan and collapsed. Water gushed from the rubble as they all turned to see the death of the Crater.

A plume of billowing dust spread through Northvale, rising toward the sun and isolating their small group. A slight noise whispered from the cloud, swishing water in a rhythmic pattern. The sound of some beast walking through waist high water.

A forlorn figure emerged from the dust, walking through waters that once she would have flown over. Her leathery wings were riddled with holes, and the plump stomach bore a slash stretching from chest to hip.

“Kent,” Kali managed as she staggered, collapsing in a pool of shallow water.

Kentrith eased Marik to the ground, then rushed for the crumpled bat. Pulling her out of the dirty deluge, he carried her to the small area of ground where his companions waited. Laying her down, he quickly reached in his bag for bandages, then snarled as he came up empty. Bothan forgot to give me bandages! he grumped as he pawed for his tunic to make strips. He only felt bare chest. He swore.

“Wondered when you’d notice,” Eve said dryly, handing him her scarf. A former slave donated his ragged tunic, and a headwrap soon joined the pile. With these in paw, he quickly wrapped the bedraggled bard in a tight bandage. He then lifted her into his arms, where she snuggled closer to him, shivering.

“No more adventures,” she moaned. “I wanna go home now.”

The swirling water made him shudder, but he squared his shoulders, and turned to his ragtag group. Most of the slaves had drifted away, but two mice supported Marik between them. Lady Eve once again held her bow in two paws, and was watching him expectantly.

“Let’s join the others,” he announced, then strode off through the water.

*******

The size of the crowd waiting at the square surprised Kentrith. “We were supposed to meet at the shop!” he barked.

A bloody figure peeled away, rushing toward them as the crowd parted hastily for the intimidating stoat. “Too many for that tiny building,” Komi replied, then seeing his burden, she snapped, “Is she alright?”

Kentrith looked down at the sleeping bat in his arms, then back to the warrior. “She’ll be fine. I might even be able to fix her wings, though it will be some time before she can fly again.”

“That’s something,” Tavin piped up, having followed his mother. Kentrith frowned at the tiny, sniffling otter Tavin held.

“Fable?” He questioned. “But where’s…” As he caught the look on Komi’s face, he snapped his muzzle shut, then looked at the small group around him. Slave and freedom fighter alike stared at the ruin that had been their bane for so many years. Slowly, the number of watchers swelled as the Northvalers joined them.

“What I want to know is,” Komi snarled, putting a paw to the knife at her hip, "Where did Nire run off to?”