>> Monday, June 28, 2010
Tiria found herself seated at a corner guest table with her two subalterns. She ducked as a stale crust flew overhead. "Are they always like this?" Quartle denied the accusation strenuosly. "Good grief no, miz! They're pretty quiet tonight. I expect it's 'cos we have guests, manners y'know."
The captain blinked several times, and his voice shook. "I was out walkin' with him. It was me who found her. Rollin' in the surf, dead, with four arrow shafts in her back." Tiria shuddered. "It must have been a terrible thing for him, seeing his daughter like that." The stone-faced captain never took his eyes from the long rapier blade as he continued. "He picked her up and held her close, then his eyes sort of filmed over. He gave her to me and said, 'Take my daughter back to the mountain.' Then he screamed."
The captives went back to their enforced chores, despair stamped on their faces, some openly shedding tears. The Wildcat foe had finally won. Their leader, Leatho Shellhound, was a prisoner, strung up in a high cage to die. Now their last sweet dreams of freedom had truly dserted them.
Leaning out, he rattled the cage with his axehaft, taunting the captive. "Well, I'm glad to see you still alive, my friend."
As Leatho looked up, he could see the disfigured face beneath the chain mail half-mask. He growled scornfuly at the wildcat. "That's more'n I can say for you, ripface!"
Scaut thrust the whip between the bars, managing to tickle his victim's ears with it. He whispered scornfully, "Ain't so bold an' sprightly now, are you? Well, you just stat there like a goodbeast 'til yore rebel friends surrender. Aye, then we'll take ye down, an' I'll give ye a proper taste o' this lash."
"I call upon you to surrender. Your lives will be spared!"
Big Kolun roared back a cheery reply. "By me rudder, that's very nice o' ye, half-gob! Bot wot if'n we don't feel like surrenderin'? Wot then, eh?" The wildcat had been expecting this reaction. He leaned on the windowsill, his face set in a ghastly smile. "My fortress is secure, it won't fall to your puny attempts. If you continue to defy me, I will have Shellhound dragged from the room where he is hiding, up there at the top of the tower. Then I will return him to you, bound in a sack and flung from the window. I am not unreasonable-you have until dawn tomorrow to give me your answer." Before Riggu Felis could speak further, Leatho was bellowing from the high chamber window, "Pay no heed to boneface, mates. His cats have already tried that once an' failed. I'll be happy to give 'em a second try! Kolun! Banya! You carry on fightin', mates. The High Rhulain's on her way!"
The tough Streamdog maid nodded. "Aye, we can steal the fishin' coracles an' lay a platform of logs on 'em. Shouldn't be too much trouble, Major." Cuthbert gazed at her admiringly. "If ye ever decide to become a hare, I'll have ye in my regiment, gel."
All those otterclans with so much faith in her, and she, a single ottermaid, with the task of freeing them from the tyranny of a foebeast who revelled in cruelty and brutality. What would Martin the Warrior have done in her place? Tiria lay down to sleep, staring up at the starstrewn skies. She remembered Sergeant O'Cragg telling her that they were spirits of brave warriors. Through the mists of descending sleep, Martin's voice drifted into her dreams. "You ask what I would have done in your place, Tiria. I would do the same thing you are about to do. It is called the right thing!"
"Wildloughs, Wavedogs, Streambattles, too,/Riverdogs, Streamdivers, Galedeeps true./Death rides the wind, tell the enemy,/the clans have risen, ee aye eeeeeeeeeh!"
She shook her head regrettfully. "It would have made a fine castle for the Clans and me." Leatho took her to one side, speaking low. "No otter would willingly live there, marm. The place stunk of cats. There's too many generations o' bad memories within its walls. It's better off as a heap of ole ashes, to stay as a warnin' to foebeasts."