Fox Warlord tracks down a Deserter with the help of an mysterious ally
|Silver Vixen POV|
Gear the Fox was, in fact, nevertheless, gone. He walked out of my life the second I gave him the opportunity to have his own freedom. And honestly, I didn’t know what to view first as a reaction towards his dear departure. He must’ve, no had to have had a plan long before I knew his tricks. He betrayed me. Normally, if a Pack member deserts, we don’t kill them. At least, not immediately. Instead, we let them roam as they please, until the next day, whereupon we hunt. The bloodlust for the traitor rises and we might recruit a few members to join our war party. Allowing them food and drink for valuable information on our prey was a common procedure.
However, losing Gear was a major blow to our Pack and I knew he was perfectly aware of that. But his next location would be a challenge, since his scent was very faint in the area we had last located him. He had us off his tail for now. Stoneclaw, my old partner who was a wolf hybrid of some sort with origins unbeknownst, and I were forced to guess for now on Gear’s current residence. Gear was smarter than most would think and that was my mistake. He was given too much power too soon and I think he knew exactly what he was doing in terms of planning this desertion. While I was thinking about all of this, a voice interrupted my process and I growled in annoyance.
“M-my Lord. It’s J-Jagger, sir. We’ve located Jagger, your spy. And he’s not looking too good. He’s requested you to see him.”
I narrowed my eyes. Normally, I wouldn’t allow the common soldier to do something, but right now, Jagger was an important part of this because he was the last creature to have seen and/or spoken to Gear. If he was injured or had new information, we needed to know. I followed the person who addressed me and said, “Where is he?”
The speaker, a younger folf, fox wolf hybrid, with big ears and a tough face hardened by battle scars, was a dark grey and about my height. The wolf motioned for me to follow, and I did so, but my curiosity got the better of me and I inquired stiffly, “Wolf, I don’t remember you in our ranks. Who are you?”
The folf replied, ”My name is Shadowshard. I am not part of your army, but I am a close friend of Jagger’s. Knew him before he joined you Pack. I was out hunting this morning and I heard him yell out for help. I ran towards him and broke into a small copse about a mile ahead. Three rats had ambushed him and whilst he was busy defending himself, a fox came up behind him and stabbed him in the lower back with a dagger of some sort and he fell and the fox and rats fled before I could do anything. That’s when I ran all the way to your encampment to warn you. That fox was no ordinary assassin. Normally, Jagger had exquisite hearing. But to not sense this assailant like him worries me. Who might it be?”
My immediate thought was ‘Gear’ but I shoved it away and said, “No, but I will figure out who hurt my friend. Are we here?” We stopped in a wood clearing. I spotted him quickly. Next to a pile of chopped wood, lay Jagger, sitting leaning on a tree. I ran up next to him and knelt, checking for injuries. Indeed, he had a deep puncture wound in his lower back, near his kidneys.
He had already suffered major blood loss and it wasn’t stopping either. I heard him rattle out,
“My Lord… it is not going to help if you try to heal me. Leave me with the birds and the insects and allow them to do the work for you. You were always a good leader. I- I’m sorry I failed you. I promise if I were given a second chance, I wouldn’t do it again. But you must leave me, Lord.”
I was almost choking back tears. “I must heal you! You didn’t fail me, Jagger. I failed you because i couldn’t protect you. It’s my fault!”
Jagger smiled softly and said, “No, Lord. You did all you could. I appreciate being recruited and serving in your ranks. There was no better honor. Tell my cohorts goodbye, will you?”
I said desperately, “Jagger, no! Don’t you dare! Please, stay with me! You’re needed. What about Gear? Did you find him?” Jagger gasped in pain and swallowed with difficulty as he managed to rasp,”It-- It wasn’t worth it sir. Not…worth… it..” I felt more tears well up in my eyes as Jagger’s eyes misted over and stared lifelessly, never having the oppportunity to say more.
Shadowshard whispered quietly,”He’s gone, mate. He’s gone.”
A tear slipped silently out and dropped on Jagger’s nosetip.
“I want to bury him.” I said ever so softly.
Shadowshard nodded. “We will, my Lord. Preparing for a new life and age, Jagger will be remembered for his bravery and sacrifice for the Pack.”
I began to weep silently, my grief for two losses in one day overwhelming.
“Sir, it’s okay. He’s in no more pain or suffering. Rounding up the ranks to honor him sounds respectful, if you want to commemorate him.”
I just sat there and cried until I couldn’t anymore. The entire time, Shadowshard watched me silently, I guess wanting to help, unsure how to though.
“Shadow--Shadowshard?” I asked shakily. Shadowshard looked over. “Aye, my Lord?”
I stammered, “W-would you be willing to be an official p-p-pack member for you h-help?”
Shadowshard twitched his ears. “I’m sorry, Lord?” I repeated the question more calmly, my nerves still high as was my urge to cry again. I took a deep breath and sighed out, nit sure how to formulate the appropriate response for this particular situation. I sniffed and tried again in a still somewhat broken voice,”Shadowshard, can you do me a favor?” The folf nodded, “Yes, my Lord. Anything for you.” I clenched my paw in grief and another tear dripped from my eye and I growled in anguish,”Would you be able to… join my Pack in the place of our fallen spy?”
Shadowshard looked uncertain. I studied him. He certainly met the requirements for an official Pack member and we really needed him to hunt down and possibly re-recruit Gear, which in all honesty, wasn't going to happen anytime soon, especially after a desertion and murder of our own. This practically put him at the top of our WANTED list. He would remain wanted until he was either caught or he turned himself in, or in a last resort, killed. I turned back to Shadowshard. “He must be found, Shadowshard. There is no question in that. I’m giving you an opportunity to be an open Hunter in our Pack, starting off as a spy. That’s a pretty high rank from our Common soldiers. I would trust you enough to assign you as my Personal Aid and if you do find and capture Gear, alive, possibly a High Captain if you manage to recruit him back into our ranks for good. Do this for me, Shadowshard, and I will forever be in your debt. Please, I’m begging you to find him.” Shadowshard thought for a moment, then he spoke.
“Of course, my Lord. I’ll help in any way possible. Promotion not necessary sir. My services are yours.”
I nodded to myself. Shadowshard then spoke up tentatively,” I would like to ask one favor before I begin an actual Knighthood into your Pack. If you don’t mind Lord.” He bowed to emphasize his respect. I wiped my eyes one final time, before I rose up to pick up Jagger’s limp body, and I heaved it over my shoulder.
“Yes, Shadowshard?” I said coarsely.
“Well, my Lord, if I do find Gear alone, do I have permission to wound him before capturing him? I have a slight score to settle with him that goes beyond the duties of your Pack. If I swear allegiance, I must get my revenge first.”
Seeing as how he forced me into a bind, I sighed, unable to deny his help.
“Very well, Shadowshard. But you must only wound him to where he is unable to fight. If you mortally wound him or disable him in any way that cripples him, you will pay with your life. Do you understand?”
Shadowshard nodded. “Aye, Lord. And trust me, he’ll be able to walk, run, do whatever. But he needs to know pain first. And I will do that exactly how I always do it. With stealth. Then I’ll bring him back to you unharmed (for the most part) and you can do with him as you wish. Agreed Lord?”
I snarled quietly, not liking how he was forcing me into submission.
“Aye, Shadowshard. But heed my warning and heed it well. Before you go, make sure Jagger’s rites as a former spy are secret, but hold the utmost respect and honor. He’d like that very much. Understand?”
Shadowshard nodded, knowing he had his way. For now at least. And I would make him see the error of his ways should he ever double cross me in any way. I didn’t want that for him but it would be for his own good and for the Pack’s. I would personally see to it that he was under watch at all times, should the little devil try to outplay his power and kill me whilst I slept. The point was, he wouldn’t dare. I wished to give him his reward for his loyalty up to this point. But was trusting him and offering such high promotions the right thing to do? I sighed. He was a friend of Jagger’s and I hoped that he wouldn’t take that in vain. Unfortunately he was a folf, a rare species that of course consisted of half fox and half wolf. So genetically, loyalty wasn’t completely out of the question but to some unsettling logic, neither was betraying me. I had to look out just in case. One fox Warlord down in the middle of the night wouldn’t look good in my favor even if I was a fully fledged god at this point in time. It would take me eons to return, much like my treacherous ex partner, Slender Bonnie the Rabbit, who happened to be the Lord of the Multiverse after his father died. Oh, yes, Bonnie paid in blood for his actions almost 35 year ago.
I remember that lava bank abandoned me on, leaving me to burn and to die, absolutely powerless. I got my revenge soon enough with Stoneclaw and Bonnie was vanquished. But soon after Bonnie’s defeat, Stoneclaw had been summoned to another realm and our communication was silent since, due to the amount of secret quests he had been called upon for. My next quest was simple. Find Gear and put him in his place by my side permanently.
It was time, and Gear knew it. It was time to hunt again for the Deserter.