Author Topic: Epilogue II - There and Back Again  (Read 955 times)

Opal

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Epilogue II - There and Back Again
« on: February 07, 2014, 07:08:19 PM »
It had been five years since Flax had left Carrigul, five years since he and Zander had led a team of Carrigulean builders to construct a bridge across the collapsed section of the pass, the spot where their long and complicated journey had really begun. As the vole began to stride down the winding mountain road into Carrigul once more with a contingent of Yew Guards and merchants in his wake, he felt a definite sense of unease. He always would. Carrigul was no longer a major threat to Yew, and he was free to walk the streets without risking capture, but he would always feel on edge and alert because of what had taken place here. This was a sad place. He didn't know how Dewhurst could stand it.

“Guardsbeast Gaelin, see to it that the guards have accommodations for the night,” he said to the mouse immediately behind him.

“Aye, Captain!”

The young mouse brushed by the vole and bounded on ahead. Flax watched him, his whiskers twitching with the faintest of smiles. Gaelin was a good lad, and would be a fine guardsbeast in time, like his brother, Kephart, had been.

Flax paused and turned to address the merchants. “This is where we leave you, sirs and madams. On behalf of Yew, we wish you good fortune in your travels.”

As they continued on into the belly of Carrigul, beasts parted on their own ways until soon, only the other guards remained with Flax. The vole was tired and hungry, but there was one stop he needed to make first.

~

Flax sought out a large building near the city's center that had once been a block of apartments, but had in recent years been renovated and repainted (somewhat sloppily, but in cheerful colors). A wooden sign hung over the door which stated in curly golden script: “Our Maiden Poko's Home for Orphans.” A newer, smaller sign had been nailed to the bottom of it, and it read: “& Dewhurst Academy.”

Flax walked inside, a small contingent of guards following him, and found himself amidst chaos. Kits of all species with scrubbed fur and simple, plain smocks scampered about up and down the stairs leading to their dormitories and all around the narrow entrance hall, giggling and squealing as a pawful of rather harassed-looking grownups chased after them. A few of them paused momentarily, mid-chase, to give Flax a welcoming smile or nod. Flax and company edged their way through the crowd and made their way to a room at the end of the hallway. What had once been a sitting room had had its cozy, overstuffed armchairs and sofas pushed back against the walls.

“Project, Tully! Don't be afraid, now. We're all here to learn from each other.”

Pyracantha Dewhurst sat on one of the sofas, surrounded by roughly half a dozen orphaned kits, including Ruta, who waved enthusiastically at Flax when he entered. In the center of the room, a young rat stood, paws fidgeting behind her back and tail swishing. She started at Flax's appearance, then looked uncertainly in Dewhurst's direction. The vixen nodded in encouragement.

Tully cleared her throat. “Snow Queen, you—you cannot harm us,” she squeaked. “Er, I mean, you will never harm us...again, because, um, er, because of a thing...?”

“For we have...” Pyracantha prompted.

“For...um...” Tully gathered herself, squared her small shoulders, and plowed on in a louder squeak. “Snow Queen, you will never harm us again, for we have your silver bow!”

A pair of young monitor lizards hissed with laughter, but Pyracantha applauded. “Very good, Tully! You're getting it! Now, kits, I think your supper is nearly ready. Why don't you go find a seat, and we'll finish our lesson afterward.”

The kits filed out of the room, leaving Pyracantha and Ruta alone with Flax and his guards. The pair rose and wandered over to Flax. Ruta was much taller now, and not nearly as gawky as she had been, and her lazy eye only wandered when she wasn't paying much mind to it. The mole was growing into a pretty young maid, Flax noted, smiling at her with the same sort of pride he had when he looked upon his own daughter, Netta.

“Well, look who it is,” Pyracantha said, paws folded across her chest.

Flax nodded. “Miss Dewhurst.”

“Captain.”

The vixen's feigned curtness broke in a massive grin, and she seized the vole in a great hug that nearly knocked the wind from him. Flax let her hug him as long as she wished, regardless of his reputation with the guards behind him.

Finally she broke away. “Sorry, it's just great to see you, Captain.”

“That's Field Marshal, Miss Dewhurst,” the vole corrected.

“Oh, right, I keep forgetting. So, how is the new bossyboots?”

“Lady Mavalian, I think you mean. She's fine.”

Flax found the words hard to articulate (as that had never been his strong suit), but Mavalian Whiteheart had been exactly what Yew had needed following Aster's disgraceful death. When word had spread south to Salamandastron, the lord and lady had dispatched their eldest daughter to Yew to join the Guard. Mavalian was an expert with a quarterstaff, preferring to subdue an enemy rather than slash them to ribbons. It hadn't taken long at all for the town to rally around the badger as a strong, level-headed, and compassionate leader, and she was crowned the ruler of Yew. Her first act had been to promote Flax to Field Marshal, due to his leadership in the mountains and the way he had taken up the mantle of interim ruler after Aster's death. Flax had been a bit relieved when she took the reins. He was never cut out to be a lord.

And somehow, he knew that as long as Lady Mavalian Whiteheart ruled over Yew—and that his replacement, Vanessa Fern, was good friends with Zevka Blackbriar—war with Carrigul would never be a threat.

“And how is your bossyboots?”

“Mekad is a fine enough leader, I suppose, and Miss Blackbriar seems to be aiding him well,” Pyracantha said with a shrug. “Then again, I can't be bothered to pay much attention to politics these days. My paws are much too full with other things.” She ruffled Ruta's headfur. The mole squirmed away, giggling.

“I see that,” said Flax. “Still, I wonder where Zander disappeared to. I heard he just disappeared one night and left everything to Mekad.”

“I often wonder the same thing.”

Flax decided to change the subject. “So, you've started an academy, I see? Any chance of the Dewhurst Players going on tour again?”

“Maybe someday,” Pyracantha said with a sigh. “For now, the Dewhurst Academy is a bit of a pet project. The kits love it. Though, I would love to see Yew again someday. It always had such a fabulous market. I pinched some nice things from there.” She winked.

They shared a chuckle. Suddenly, Flax remembered the primary reason for his visit.

“Oh, yes, I can't believe my manners. I need to introduce you to my newest recruit.”

Pyracantha and Ruta both gave him quizzical looks. Flax gestured for his guards to move aside, and a young mole emerged from their ranks. Instantly, Ruta shrieked and flung herself upon him.

“Baga! Boi moi claws!”

The reunited twins rolled about the floor, laughing, crying, and hugging. Pyracantha raised a paw to her muzzle in surprise.

“Flax! You found him!”

“Aye,” the vole said, taking a step back to avoid Ruta and Baga's flailing limbs. “It wasn't easy, either. The moles aren't working for Carrigul or the traitor Aster anymore, but they still don't exactly care for us.”

Flax knew Baga wanted to stay in Carrigul with his sister. It was a shame. He seemed a capable young lad. He'd have made a great guardsbeast.

“Will you stay for supper?” Pyracantha asked him. “I know there are a lot of kits looking forward to meeting you.”

Flax smiled. “Miss Dewhurst, I'd love to.”

~

Three seasons later, for Flax's nameday, he and his family took a trip to the south to Flax's favorite place: the Hopfit's distillery. They were given a tour by the weasel family, and of course, Flax was given plenty of free samples. On the last day of their stay, Flax and his family took one last stroll around the fields.

Flax watched the weasels working in the field across the way, tending the crops in their garden. One of the weasels looked up at him, and Flax's breath caught in his throat. Even at a great distance, there was no mistaking the size and build, the disfigured face.

The weasel nodded at him. Flax's jaw tightened, and he nodded back.

The vole watched as a smaller, nymphlike weasel approached the other and handed him a flagon. He took it from her, wrapping an arm around her and planting a kiss on her forehead. She waited for him to drink his fill, then retrieved the flagon and went on her way.

“Do you know that weasel, Dad?” Netta asked.

“Aye.” Flax continued to watch the weasels work, but said nothing more to his daughter.

“Happy nameday, Flax,” Kela said, drawing his mind away from the weasels. She put her arm around him as they surveyed the fields of the Hopfit estate. Netta put her arm around him as well, and Flax placed a paw on Kela's rounded middle, the youngest member of their family stirring at his touch. Surely nobeast had been blessed more than he.

“I love you all so dearly,” Flax said. “Let's go home.”
"I've got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel." - Blackadder the Third