Warrior "Faolan" is sent to rescue captives & finds something unexpected...
This world is not the place it was once meant to be. It’s a dying and desperate land, inhabited by dying and desperate creatures. This world is filled with a darkness that infects the hearts and souls of those lost in its shadows. But here in this place of hopelessness, of fear, and even torment, the wayward and the captives can see the chance for freedom… in the Great Dio.
That is exactly why I wandered through the dark world, far away from my rightful home in Promeso. The Great Dio, who is my Leader, sent me out many years ago as a messenger and a warrior in His pack, the Firma Kero. I am honored to be His servant and His captive. By my own choice, I live my life not as I please, but as it pleases Him.
My work seemed simpler back when I had just begun, when I had no companions at my side. I had all too quickly built a reputation as a hero, freeing any dog held captive by our many enemies. I traveled wherever I wanted in those days, living the careless (though not truly care-free) life of a drifter between my missions. It seemed like a wonderful life at the time, but, I don’t think I would ever want it back. No, I much prefer my life as it is now.
I remember very clearly how things changed, but then it’s hard to forget something like that… I had been staying in the FidoTerro. The Roko Kero pack had been more than welcoming and let me stay on the land as long as I needed. Their leader, Peadar, was known for being both fearless and wise, and I considered it a great privilege to stay with him as long as I did.
I enjoyed my time in the FidoTerro. Not just because of the pack living there at that time, but, because I knew whose land it had been first. Tor… the dog who found his way to Promeso without the aid of a guide… the warrior who fought Malvirto’s dark creatures and won… The land I was on was where he had founded his pack, the Daŭra Kero. And it was where the legend of “Ardon”, a warrior who lived through battle and was brought back from death, was born as well. That place was rich in our history, and being there made me feel somehow connected to the past.
Eventually, the time came when the Great Dio sent a messenger to me, saying, “Go, free those held captive, and free the souls who are bound in the darkness.” I asked the messenger where I was to go and he told me, “Walk east, until you find them.”
At his words I left. I didn’t take the time to tell Peadar and the Roko Kero that I was leaving. I didn’t thank them for their kindness or share one last hunt with them.
I was thinking only of getting to my mission, of reaching the horrid enemy camp and freeing the other Kero dogs. I honestly believed I was being noble, the way I lived. The Great Dio didn’t see it that way however. Oh, I wish I could’ve seen then, what kind of trouble that mission would bring me… For, if I could have seen what was coming, I might have at least slowed my pace.
Chapter One: Set me Free
Against the lush green meadows, my tawny sable coat did anything but blend in. The vibrant land I trotted through was not my home and that was easy to see. By birth, I belonged to the mountains, as a former member of the Bestia pack. By choice, and by calling however, I belonged to Promeso and the Great Leader. I am a warrior of the Firma Kero.
My focus was on one thing, and one thing only; finding the prisoners I’d been sent to free. The Great Dio had told me to go east, and keep moving until I found them. Nothing would keep me from doing exactly that. All through the night, I pushed on at a steady pace, though my muscles ached and begged me to pause. My dark eyes were fixed, my ears were perfectly erect and my nose was searching for the familiar stench of the Morta Sango dogs. My concentration was unshakable.
As the sun began to rise, over the hills that were always ahead of me, the meadows shimmered in the daunting light. The sky turned golden. Slowly, the sun started to warm my muscles (which were growing weary and ached worse than ever) from the chill of night. I continued to walk all through the day, but only after stopping briefly to hunt and eat.
Thankfully, the tall grass was thick with field mice... a dozen of which was nearly enough to fill my stomach. I would never eat until I was full however. The life I lived was a life on the run, and it’s hard to run when you’re weighed down by a heavy meal.
On and on I went, until the sun had just started sinking into the landscape behind me. That was when I heard the sound of enemy howls. I breathed in deeply, catching the foul scent of death on the air. Only the Morta Sango would dare to be so obvious, especially when camping so close to a Kero pack. I dropped down until I was thoroughly hidden by the grass. Then, slowly, I started to inch my way closer to the enemy camp. My steps and my breath were so soft, they made no sound at all.
Just inside the forest is where their camp began. You could tell by the half rotted carcasses that littered the border. They didn’t mark their territory as a decent pack does, since they never stay in one place for too long. These dogs were little more than assassins. They collected prisoners until their prison pits could hold no more. Then one by one they would murder them. When their task was done, they would move on to a new territory, and start all over again.
Unfortunately I had come across the aftermath before. There prisons that I didn’t get to in time. It was a horrible thing, to see my fellow Kero dogs slain and left for the buzzards. I always wished I could bury every victim or better still, revive them somehow. But one warrior is capable of only so much.
I was relieved to find that such was not the scene in front of me. I could not see or smell any signs of murder. The captives were still alive and ready to be rescued. But, I had to be patient, I couldn’t stroll into their rescue with the Morta Sango dogs still there. I had to wait for the enemy to leave. If the Great Leader was kind, then the dogs would go off hunting before the night was over. So I positioned myself downwind and hid in the grass and brush, waiting for my opportunity.
I had nearly dozed off, when I heard the sound of heavy paws crashing through the forest. I flinched, but stayed quiet as the enemy paraded by, no more than three feet from me. They continued out into the open meadows, growling and arguing as they went. I don’t know how those dogs ever managed to catch anything, with all the racket that they made. But they must have been good hunters, or there wouldn’t have been so much rotting meat in their camp.
Once they were out of view, I crept cautiously toward the only pit I could see. It was covered by fallen tree branches and must have been eight feet deep. I leaned over the opening, peering through the branches, and called out to them.
“My name is Faolan, a warrior with the Firma Kero. I’m here to set you free. How do the Sango dogs get you into the pits?”
“The branches,” one of the captives replied, “they’re weaved together so that they can be climbed on. They pull them back to one side and let the other end drop in.”
I didn’t need to hear anymore. I jumped off to one side, and pulled at the branches with all my might, until they were far enough to drop into the pit.
“Quickly and quietly,” I instructed, “come out one at a time. No wandering and no darting off on your own. We’ll leave together as a group.
“Are there any other pits or captives here?”
“We’re the only dogs here.” Was the one reply I received.
Once all of the dogs were out, we started moving. We would be going deeper into the woods, to a meeting place. From there, a guide would take them home to Promeso, to rest and recover from their ordeal. But, just as my paws reached the edge of the camp, I heard the faintest of voices.
“Warrior, please don’t leave without freeing me too. They’ll kill me when they come back and find the others gone. I won’t live through the night if you don’t help me!”
I gestured for the others to move on ahead. I had to go back for the last prisoner. I followed the cries to an uncovered pit, only half as wide and half as deep as the first. The overwhelming scent of carcasses drown out all else, but, this was where the voice was coming from. I dropped cautiously inside, my eyes searching the darkness for any signs of life.
I took a single step forward and instantly heard an unexpected hiss. I jumped back and looked down to see two, wide, glowing green eyes. It was a cat, entangled in vines. The vines wrapped around his neck and his legs, so that he couldn’t chew or scratch his way free. It was a cruel, but clever way to keep the animal hostage. I snorted in frustration and let a hushed growl escape from my throat.
“I know I’m not who you were expecting, but please say you’ll free me. I’m not a member of your pack, I’m not even a dog, but I belong to the Great Dio too.” I heard his words, but didn’t move.
“Then you kill me,” the cat pleaded. “I would much rather die by your mercy, than be murdered by the evil mongrels that put me here!”
Another growl forced its way out and I bounded forward. The cat closed his eyes and braced himself for an onslaught, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I tore apart the vines, until he was freed, and I leapt back out of the pit.
“I trust you can make your way out of camp on your own.” I growled and quickly turned to leave.
“I can, and I thank you for your kindness.”
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