Chapter 1: A modest meal
Admittedly going to hunt bears in the forest hadn’t been Vil’s greatest idea for obtaining supper that day. Bears, despite being quite an easy thing to track for his abilities were no longer a common appearance in the wilderness of the forest, at least not since the cats had been able to begin their expansion into the woodland with their treadmills. And unfortunately, Vil’s last job had lead him right into the heart of this sawmill operation the cats were running. So instead he had to conform with buying food into one of the local taverns in a town nearby, that had become flooded with, some would say infested even, by cats.
Vil really disliked cats, and to make matters worse, this was a bunny town. Vil could tolerate mice towns, sometimes he might even like being in fox towns, but bunnies, bunnies with their big wide eyes staring at him were something Vil could not under any circumstance find even remotely acceptable. Yes he knew that being feared was an important aspect of his trade as a hunter, but the bunnies were so pathetic in their staring at him, that they made Vil wish he could just bite them in the middle of those eyes and swallow them whole sometimes. And he knew that that was indeed very bad for business. Yet, despite knowing that that was fairly bad for business, he sometimes longed to eat one of those bunnies, gulping him in one fell swoop and then munching it, while the blood flowed outside of its body, Vil was a fang born after all, and the fang born tribes had feasted on bunnies before Erys the First had come to expel them into the wildlands, as fang born legends said. Vil was a fang born, and sometimes he longed for their time to return, nowadays all the meet he could feast upon was bear meat and sometimes other type of meat obtained through means that would never be acceptable by the law of root.
In any case, his hunger was such that he was forced to enter into one of the bunnies taverns. As soon as he walked into the room all the bunnies present cut their chatting and stared at him, four dozens of those white eyes staring at him. He let one off a smile, a smirk even, and he could see some bunnies start to sweat, at least in this tavern it didn’t look like the bunnies remember the tales of Erys. Vil decided to go and sit by himself in a table close to the back of the establishment as possible, lest he sit next to the door and some bunny gather the courage to try to send him through the door, something that in Vil’s rather diminished state might a healthy group of bunnies be able to do. As he sat on a chair rather small for his proportions, and asked for a waitress, a rather nervous bunny went to take his order. Vil could see that said bunny was not staring at him with the same fearful idiotic eyes all of the other bunnies stared at him, she seemed nervous, but for once it was not Vil who could claim to be causing said nerves.
Vil ordered the only thing that bunnies ate that he could find even remotely tasteful, acorn and carrot paste, and a cup of wine. The waitress took his order and went back into the kitchen. Which left Vil with some time to think about what his next job should be. Definitely in this town, with the amount of sawmills present living of ranging for food was not going to help him go through the season, despite that he could be able to find employment with the cats, their sawmills seemed to be attracting quite an amount of attention by the local population, unrest even, and perhaps the cats would find a wolf of Vil’s stature very useful to quench said unrest, He needed only show the cats how the bunnies stared at him to make them understand that they were in the presence of a premier bunny pacifier. But in all honestly perhaps he didn’t wanted to spend an entire season being a glorified brute for the people that had driven the bears away, and asking cats for a job was a level of low he wasn’t really ready to take just yet. Maybe he could returned to Sune, the fox town he had come from, and take more escorting missions. The road was indeed very peaceful thanks to the new “Pax Marquesian”, but there was no need for his employers to know that, he could always see that his scars were resent scars and that he had obtained them thanks to the dangers found on the roads, all types of bears, and perhaps even a lost flock of birds who had turned into highwaymen after the establishment of the Marque. Luckily his life among the fang born had given him an array of scars that could help him back up any sort of story.
The waitress came back with his paste and wine, and Vil started to eat it with the passion of a wolf that hadn’t eaten in indeed a very long time. Bunnies in the hall were a little unnerved by the way he salivated over the food and how some spills of red wine gave the image of him being a wolf eating a rather bloody feast.
Suddenly the door was taken down by a bunch of cats, many brown skinned felines equipped with quality body Armor and halberds. Those cats were indeed masters when it came to crafting items.
Then a Black cat with blistering inquisitive green eyes entered the tavern. This cat was looking for something, Vil hoped it wasn’t for him.
The cat prepared to speak: “people of Afrefe, I’ve come here representing the will of the Marquise de Cat, by the grace of the All father lord of the forest, because I have heard that this town has unfortunately become a den of scum and villainy. For your own safety it is necessary to decree martial law. As such I order you to disperse from this tavern.” Said the cat, in a commanding voice that didn’t really befit a cat of his size, admittedly, when you have a dozen cats as bodyguard it is possible to not sound commanding thought Vil.
Vil was obviously not interested in obeying the cats, after having eaten he felt strong enough to test his chances against the cats. Cat meat might not be as good as bear meat, but it would taste better than the paste. Cats were approaching his table, and Vil was getting ready, when suddenly a plate flew from the kitchen straight to the head of the black cat.
“Be dammed you awful furballs.” Somebody yelled from inside the kitchen, Vil was amazed to notice that the voice belonged to the waitress that had tended him.
Suddenly more plates started flying out of the kitchen and into the cats. Vil was amazed by how ridiculous this type of offensive looked like, but it was obvious that it was a stalling move, the bunny was waiting for somebody to stand up. Maybe it was him, but he didn’t really take part in the fights of the other animals of the realm. Yet maybe he could intervene. He did wanted some meat and it was impossible from him to get said meat by helping the cats, they didn’t need his help and they weren’t going to allow him to take this criminals as a meal. The criminals though, were desperate enough to require his help and allow him to get his share of the rewards.
Vil prepared his crossbow, ready to shot, the cats didn’t notice, they were too busy trying to hold the barrage of projectiles coming from the kitchens, plates had been replaced by knives, now it was obvious that the criminals meant business ,and the two cats bloodied on the floor showed that, so did Vil. A straight accurate shot, right to the neck of one of the cats, was enough to incapacitate the poor furball, suddenly the cats noticed him, Vil grinned menacingly as he unsheathed his sword ready to take down a couple of cats coming his way. Vil had seen how menacing the cats could be in numbers they had taken down the eagles after all, but two of them were not menacing enough.
Suddenly another couple of cats were yelling in pain, as two foxes in green hoods stabbed them in the back. Maybe those were the animals the criminals were looking for and not him. In any case, Vil now had to fight two cats, the first cat tried to stab him, Vil just parried and then proceeded to cut the bastards hand before cutting the furballs pain by severing off his head with the second blow. The other cat started looking at Vil like every bunny looked at him, with fear, Vil felt the primal hunger of the fang born, and decided that it was time for him to indulge in his desire to imitate his ancestors. No Sword was needed, he just leaped forward, tooth and claw at the ready, immediately biting the cats ear, taking a good chunk of it, as the cat yelled in pain, he was about to get another bite, the fear making the flesh specially delicious, when suddenly three more cats tried to stall him. By this time the black cat, who had lost half of his bodyguard started yelling “retreat, retreat” now in a much less commanding fashion.
The cats stormed out of the tavern, including the one whose ear now rested in his belly. Vil now looked at his unlikely companions for said bar skirmish. There was a mouse, the bunny waitress and a couple of foxes. A collection of the people from the forest posing as a sort of organized militia, Vil found the idea amazing.
The waitress, who seemed to be the commander spoke to Vil: “Thank you for your services…”
“Vil, then the woodland alliance thanks you for your services and we hope you could consider joining our cause”
“There is no way I’m going to do that, I did help you because of the bountiful reward it would give me”
“We have no reward for you, wolf” said one of the foxes.
“Not you, but them?” said Vil as he pointed at the cats.
“You are not thinking about…” the bunny’s eyes were started to widen.
“Yes I mean sacking their armour and other valuables, it is my right after all” said Vil as he grimed.
“All right then, loot the corpses, we will be going, and this tavern will be filled with cats in no time at any minute now.” Said the bunny.
“Well I might have to leave with you, after all helping you has made me enter into trouble with the marquise de cat, were will you go?”
“To Fauxbureau, I want to see my family.” Said one of the foxes.
“Yeah right” answered Vil “well you might need me, the forest roads are not safe, lots of outlaws and bears, and I will help you for a small fee.”
“I’m sorry but we cannot afford your services” said the bunny.
“All right then I will just have to serve me some extra payment from the cats. I can sustain myself just with acorn paste you know.” now he did let the other animals look at his teeth all sharpened and dangerous.
“But the law of root forbids it.”
“As far as I see it, I have the might, and said might give me the right”
Chapter 2: Entering the nest
The second chapter of the might and right saga involves the Eyrie dinasties factiom and their obsession with reclaiming their old glories.
Also introduces our deuteragonist, Aserys the woodpecker
Aserys had just arrived to the Eyrie, arriving to it felt like arriving into a death trap. The feathers hanged outside of it served as a stern warning of how tremendous the price of failure would be to any bird of the Eyrie. And in a way Aserys understood it, life wasn’t easy for birds nowadays, the proud dynasty of Erys was in shambles. Those dammed cats had taken advantage of the inner struggles of the dynasty to snap control of the forest from it and now only the Eyrie, with its sacred white groove, remained as the bastion of the house of Erys right to rule.
But Aserys had heard that soon their right to rule was about to get reinstated. Calderous, the standing regent, had issued a decree. The “Decree of Reclamation”, which demanded that every able-bodied bird should come to the Eyrie to prepare for a crusade against the cats and their awful sawmills, that threatened the trees very existence and with that the livelihood of the birds and their right to stand above every other creature in the forest.
The sight of the Eyrie, the mother roost, was awe inspiring. It almost made Aserys forget about the bloody feathers surrounding it. Its white body looked as pure as a snowflake, and the ensorcelled branches above it formed a labyrinth in the skies that was impossible for him to understand completely. Aserys knew that it housed thousands of birds, and he had also heard that inside of it laid another tree, created with the mother root, that was provided to Erys by the All Father himself.
Aserys left his hen along with the other hens that were stationed in a special section surrounding the eyrie and ready to ascend towards one of the many gates surrounding the ensorcelled branches of the eyrie. A bird standing in one of the branches that Aserys assumed was working as a lookout signalled to him to approach him. Aserys complied.
“Who are you?” asked the bird, a rather robust eagle.
“My name is Aserys, I’m from the Hemlock Groove, and I’ve come here to obey the decree”
“The decree was for able-bodied birds, you whelp…”
“I’m a woodpecker sir, my kind is the one that builds the marvels of the dynasty… You know what they say, Eagles fly, Owls see and Woodpeckers build”
“Alright, you seem to be a smart one, go to gate number 3, we have special accommodations for all woodpeckers that approach the Eyrie” said the eagle, in a way that Aserys found so automatic that it caused him to understand that this eagle had already pronounced this speech many times before.
Aserys was somewhat bitter about the way this eagle was treathing him, but he complied. Circling the eyrie was no easy feat, and much less when Aserys wanted to asses every single construction he found inside of it. Still he decided to try to focus and keep his eyes on the prize. After half an hour of navigating the Eyrie he finally found gate 3, a gate that looked rather unpolished when compared to other gated he had found such as the main gate or even gates 4 or 5, Aserys could distinguish a small woodpecker painted at its front and soon the gate was opened.
Aserys was received by a couple of eagles in gleaming silver armour, who looked cut above the eagle in the lookout, so Aserys could only expect an even worst treatment from them than the one he had received from the first eagle.
“Identify yourself!” said one of the eagles with a commanding voice.
“My name is Aserys, I’m a woodpecker from the Hemlock Groove, and I’ve come here because I want to help our glorious crusade”
“It is good that you have come Aserys of the hemlock.” Said the second eagle in a more welcoming tone “now tell me young bird, when the rest of your roost is coming to help?”
“Unfortunately the rest of my groove is too afraid to get out of the roost. The cats have made our village elder cower in fear.”
“Birds fearing cats? Do you understand how ridiculous this sounds?” said the first bird, whose disappointment was notable.
“Most of my roost is inhabited by woodpeckers we are builders not fighters” said Aserys trying to justify the perceived cowardice about his roost.
“It is no excuse, no bird should ever fear a cat. Your roost will be rightly admonished once we have kicked the cats back to the basement of the wood chain. At least you were courageous enough to come here eh, woodpecker. What made you heed the call?” said the commanding eagle looking particularly annoyed.
“Fear” answered Aserys with sincerity.
“Fear? That is an unusual answer, would you care to elaborate? Many have come out of greed, others out of hatred for the cats, and the best of us have come out of obligation to help restore the natural order of things. But fear, no bird has come here out of fear.” replied the guard puzzled.
“I fear for what the cats are doing to the wood with their sawmills. We woodpeckers work the wood, what the cats are doing to the woods is an abomination, they do not respect the lodge, the branch and the root, not like we do, and I fear for how their disrespect may lead to provoking the wrath of the All Father.” Said Aserys with conviction, understand that he needed to make the guards understand how dangerous the impact of the cats was for the woods.
“Enough of your religious banter, the root wardens give me too much of it already. Tell me can you offer this crusade anything besides religious talk, woodpecker?” said the guard clearly annoyed by Aserys exposition.
“I’m also a builder, I could build the weapons that can help us expel the cats from the woods”
“Ha, I had then woodpeckers say the same thing this week already. Woodpeckers, you fancy yourselves inventors, you are just birds that find ways to do what we eagles can do naturally only with extra steps” said the guard, barely holding his laughter at Aserys. “What have you built boy?”
“An engine, a weapon of sorts that could help us drive the cats into a stupor long enough so that our arrows can finish them.”
“Aha” answered the guard barely impressed
“Well at least it sound like a better idea than the one the crow who said he could conjure lightning had” said the more welcoming guard” I think that he might deserve an opportunity to prove himself.”
“True, at least his idea sounds sensible. Perhaps we should give him an audience,”
“Annoying the old bird is the most entertaining thing we can do nowadays, along with scaring the hens” said the second guard, now sounding less welcoming and much more amused
“In the worst case scenario, the old bird is hungry” said the first guard maliciously “Alright then, hey woodpecker, remember that you came here out of fear? Prepare to get really scared”.
The guards opened the door they were guarding slowly, Aserys went inside.