Author Topic: Short Story: Revolution  (Read 522 times)

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Biologist

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Short Story: Revolution
« on: June 13, 2017, 04:57:06 PM »
Hello, and welcome! I've been wanting to do a story featuring the members of the Bandit Clan since they became publicly available. This story ties in to my previous one, so you may want to read that first in order for all the details to make sense. As always, thanks for reading and I hope anyone reading this enjoys it.




Revolution
Part One

     The moon was high in the cloudy sky over the Wolf Clan capital. Near the waterfront district, hard-working creatures of all descriptions kept to their beds, carousers to their alehouses, and guards to their patrols, while various unsavory characters stalked the back alleys. A short, dark-furred otter, wearing clothing designed more for ease of movement than for protection from the elements, entered the Lone Wolf Inn. None of the patrons gave her more than a cursory glance, as she was a familiar sight. She crossed the common room where a few off-duty Militia wolves sat playing dice, climbed the stairs, and strode to the door of the room she called home. She stood before the door, swaying slightly from exhaustion. She tapped on the door with her paw and, hearing no response, tried the handle. The door swung open on groaning hinges. She entered just in time to hear another sound: the clinking of a bottle against a glass. The bottle was held in the left paw of Archibald Hassenburg. The brown-furred rabbit was standing as though rooted unsteadily to the floor, staring into space with bleary blue eyes, spilling liquor onto a small, round wooden table as much as into his glass. Despite his condition, his fur was neatly groomed and his clothing, though much-repaired, was recently laundered.

     Violet entered the room. The space was intended for a single occupant, but had a curtain installed which could be drawn across the room to provide separate sleeping quarters for both occupants. They took turns between sleeping on the room’s single bed and on a straw mattress on the floor, but paying for two beds in one room was more affordable.

     “Drunk again?” asked Violet. She sighed. “You need to ease up on that stuff. This is the fourth time this week. The druids might have given you a longer life than most creatures, but you’re not immune to poisoning.”

     “It’s been three years,” the rabbit replied, with a slight slur in his voice, “Three Rot-blasted years of living in this squalid inn, playing at being a harbormaster’s clerk, writing receipts and filling ledgers and drawing up contracts. Three years in which my life has had no meaning and I’ve failed to live up to my promises or my potential. Three years. Three!” He set the bottle down, or tried to: it fell onto its side and spilled its remaining contents onto the tabletop and floor. Tallow candles flickered in their sockets on the walls. Not for the first time, Violet wondered where the fat to make the tallow came from, before deciding she’d rather not know.

     “If you’re still so anxious to keep your promise to Sylvia, or Sage, or whatever her name was – is – will be, why don’t you get off your fluffy tail and do something about it? If you tried something other than spending your wages on cheap gin, you might have better luck.”

     Archibald glared at the otter. “First of all, I’ve thought it through. I really have. There’s nothing. We. Can. Do. I am trapped here in this Wyld-forsaken century with no way to alter the future or change the facts. The world is going to end someday, and trying to prevent that was pointless. We gave it a good go, but in the end, the future refused to change.” He paused to draw breath before renewing his tirade. “Second, you worry about my drinking, but at least you know where I am each night! I barely even know what you’re doing after your shift at the docks. ‘Finding things’ indeed. One of these days you’ll ‘find’ an early grave, and then I’ll be completely alone! How do you even know the things you find belong to the creatures who pay you to find them?”

     Violet raised her paws in a placating gesture. “What I do is assist people with problems too small for the Guards or the Militia to handle. What that involves is typically finding missing items or persons and returning them, no questions asked. If I don’t like the sound of a job, I walk away. Everyone knows this up front. And I do this, I might add, to make up for the money that you fritter away trying to drown your sorrows in a bottle!” The otter was trying unsuccessfully to reign in her temper. “If it wasn’t for me ‘finding things’, you’d be out on the streets instead of in a cozy room at the Lone Wolf Inn. Maybe I have kept you up at night worrying, but I’m not sorry about it.” And with that, she turned and stalked out of the room, being careful not to slam the door behind her. She had no ill will toward the inn’s proprietor, whom she passed as she finished descending the stairs. “Pardon me, Greymuzzle. Just going out for some fresh air.”

     The portly wolf innkeeper watched her go, then shook his head, adjusted his green, ale-stained vest, and walked upstairs. He trod as quietly as he could down the hallway until he reached the room that Violet had just vacated. He knocked politely at the door, then let himself in. It was his inn, after all.

     “Fight with the missus?” Greymuzzle asked, only half-joking. “Some of the boys and I could hear you from the common room. Didn’t unnerstan’ all of it, but I know a row when I hear one. You didn’t ask, but I’ll give you some advice, since that’s what most beasts think I’m good for. Decide what’s more important to you: the bottle or the female. You can’t keep both for long. Trust me, I seen it too many times. Now, before you get all shouty at me for poking my snout where it don’ belong, I’ve business to discuss. You can soak all the gin you want into my floorboards, but rent’s got to be paid, and that includes the furn’ture you broke las’ month. I’ve let that slide too long on ‘count of my gracious nature.”

     Wordlessly, Archibald dug into his coin purse and proffered the required sum, which the innkeeper collected, counted, and stashed in a pocket of his vest. “Thanks awfully, friend,” Greymuzzle said as he left the room, closing the door behind him. He shook his head sadly. Unlike many wolves, Greymuzzle had a soft spot for strangers, and this pair were stranger than most, but at this rate he’d be forced to ask them to move on. Business was business, after all, and drunken rabbits rarely made good tenants. Odd, too, that in all this time he’d never heard new instructions from the King’s agents about them, despite sending several reports over the years. Perhaps his words had simply fallen through the cracks, or there were other priorities. So long as they kept paying, he’d keep sending reports. The old wolf returned to work with a shrug.

     Earlier that day, the morning sun’s rays had washed the Wolf Clan capital in a rosy light. In the wealthiest district of the city were inns catering to the upper crust of Armellian society. Diplomats, nobles, merchant princes, and their assorted entourages of bards, wizards, bodyguards, aides, and functionaries all found a luxuriant home away from home there. In one such inn, the Wolf and Crown, a vixen stirred from her canopied bed in a luxury suite on the third floor. She padded across the oak floorboards, enjoying the feeling of finely woven rugs from the eastern desert against the pads of her feet. She paused before a window and drew back the curtains, letting the sunlight warm her copper-colored fur. Her white markings shone in the morning light. Scarlet, the Bandit King, ruler of the unified bandit tribes, closed her eyes and savored the moment. It was too rare that she had time to enjoy such simple pleasures. A heavy knocking at her door interrupted her reverie; each knock had precisely the same volume and cadence as the last.

     Scarlet grinned mischievously and, knowing who waited on the other side of the door, called out “Enter!” before moving unhurriedly toward an ornately decorated paneled screen in the corner of the room furthest from the door. The visitor did exactly as he was bidden. As always.

     The door swung open, and an enormous badger in full armor filled the doorway. Sir Horace, the Iron Poet, formerly a Knight of the Order of the Rose, stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. He strode forward several paces with surprising grace. “You should be careful not to stand so near the window. You have enemies, and they have hired killers. Also, you may want to dress more warmly. The Wolf Clan lands are often quite cold even in spring.”

     Scarlet suppressed a laugh, impressed at the knight’s discipline. If he experienced the slightest bit of embarrassment, Horace kept it from showing on his features. She stepped behind the screen, only the tip of her tail and the tops of her ears still visible. “Relax, noble badger. Life isn’t worth much without taking some risks now and again, and I highly doubt that any of my enemies know I’m here. You will also note that I’ve chosen this particular room of this particular inn because it offers few good vantage points for a potential sharpshooter to strike from. Slantfang taught me a lot of things in my time with his tribe, one of which was how to be cautious. Soon, very soon, I shall repay him the favor.” Scarlet stepped out from behind the screen, now clad in her favorite attire: a simple black-and-white dress with the sleeves left short for ease of movement, and a belt at the waist to hold it snugly in place. A second belt could be slung across her shoulder, holding a scabbard for a dueling saber, but this would have given her too piratical of an air to be mistaken for a wealthy merchant’s daughter on holiday.

     “I think you know I intend to do more than just unite the bandit tribes into a single Bandit Clan,” she continued. “To truly ignite revolution across Armello requires more than torches and pitchforks: it requires hearts and minds. We must make ourselves heard in every city, town, and hamlet, and we must do so in a way that our enemies cannot silence. There is a new invention that can help us do just that. I’ve had agents working to acquire the plans from a Rabbit Clan inventor for some time. I hear he has recently met an unfortunate end, but not before those plans made their way to my agents’ paws.”

     “One might question the convenience of that event, if one was so inclined,” Horace remarked, with a slight edge to his voice.

     Scarlet shrugged. “Freedom requires sacrifices. In any case, the invention in question is a new machine for creating printed leaflets. No more copying page after page by paw! We can flood the cities and towns of Armello with our words, provided we can build and use this device successfully.”

     Horace cleared his throat tactfully. “I think you may have forgotten something. You are a highborn vixen, and I am a poet warrior, but the average downtrodden Armellian can barely read well enough to find the local pub, if at all. Your words won’t do much good if your audience cannot comprehend them.”

     Scarlet smiled. “My faithful champion, always guarding me from my mistakes. I have, of course, considered the possibility that the masses will need these words read to them. My job in this venture will be to oversee the construction of the printing device; your task, Sir Horace, will be to gather together those who will put my plan into motion. I’ll need literate, sympathetic creatures to carry my message to the far corners of Armello, and, most importantly of all, I’ll need someone who can write a convincing manifesto. I can provide directions in that regard, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll always be there to dictate exactly what to say. You need to find someone who can put our call to revolution in simple, powerful terms; someone who can write words that will ignite a spark of passion in the hearts of Armellians everywhere!”

     “Finding a creature who equals you in that regard will prove most formidable,” Horace said in a neutral tone. Scarlet blinked, unsure whether the knight had just made a joke.

     “Ever the charmer, Sir Knight. Now, that business is for later.” The vixen opened a small safe hidden in the wall of the room behind an ornate portrait of some forgotten Wolf Clan dignitary. She withdrew three gold coins, and offered them to the badger. “Here. An advance on your salary. No, a bonus. You take life too seriously, Sir Horace. You need to relax, enjoy yourself. Take the day off. Go out and spend your money on fine ale and fine company, and don’t return until you’ve done so. That’s an order.”

     Horace took the money without changing his expression. “It is early in the day for drinking. As for company, wolves are not known for their great hospitality to strangers, paying or otherwise. Still, I shall obey your commands to the best of my abilities. My lady.” He bowed once, then turned and exited from the room, still somehow managing a quiet grace despite wearing all that armor. Scarlet smiled. That had definitely been what passed for a joke from him. So the stiff-necked knight was slowly acquiring a sense of humor. Perhaps she could teach him a few things after all.
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Biologist

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Re: Short Story: Revolution
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2017, 04:58:46 PM »
Part Two

     That evening found Horace making his way back to his quarters at the Wolf and Crown Inn. He had done his best to follow Scarlet’s instructions, spending a fair portion of his bonus on food and drink, and trying to forget his troubles for the time being. He had wandered down to the waterfront district, wishing to be away from nobles and merchants and their constant machinations. He wore his armor, but had left his axe and tabard behind; he did not wish to draw attention from any veterans or bards who still remembered the Hero of Herald’s Pass. His breastplate gleamed dully as it caught the reflected light of lamps and torches.

     Even when relatively relaxed, the badger constantly kept his senses on the alert. Eyes, ears, and nose were all employed to make certain no creature could sneak up on him. Thus, as he rounded a corner and reached the riverfront itself, he was aware of the two creatures on the nearest pier before they caught on to his presence. One was a short female otter, wearing clothes that left her arms bare to the shoulder and her legs bare almost to the thighs, sprawled on her back and brandishing a small knife. The other, a grey wolf in black clothing with a notch torn from her left ear, was glaring down at the otter and holding a cudgel with decidedly unfriendly intent.  Despite not having seen the start of the confrontation, Horace had a feeling the otter was not the aggressor. She was already injured, and clearly about to receive a beating, or worse. The badger knew this fight was not his. He knew the wisest thing to do would be to continue on his way, or better yet, turn back and try a different path.

     Horace had always valued honor over wisdom.

     Violet had been standing on the pier, lost in thought. In hindsight, that was a remarkably stupid thing to do, and had she been thinking clearly she would have chosen a different place for contemplation. During the day, she worked for the harbormaster, inspecting the hulls of ships and barges that docked there for both damage and cleverly concealed contraband. Once or twice she had discovered small caches concealed on a ship’s hull below the waterline, most likely to be retrieved at night by a skilled diver. She assisted in more mundane tasks as well, helping to move cargo between warehouses and ships.

     On her own time, she had taken up a second vocation as a finder of missing creatures and procurer of lost objects. This was in part due to her ability to find things presumed lost after being dropped in the harbor, and partly because she longed to put the tracking skills she had learned in her village to some use. Over the past three years she had recovered lost keepsakes, reunited cubs with parents, and, despite her assurances to Archibald, participated in some transfers of property that were probably less than legitimate. It was one such recent transfer that had landed her in her present difficulty, just as the rabbit had predicted.

     She had stood there, worrying about Archibald’s deteriorating behavior and angry at her own failure to help him, when she was jarred violently from her reverie by a paw grasping her from behind and throwing her unceremoniously into a mooring post at the corner of the pier. She saw stars and tasted blood, and realized she’d bit the inside of her mouth. She turned around just in time to receive a kick to the stomach. Losing her balance completely, she slid down the pole until she was lying on her back, looking up at her assailant: a wolf clad in black, with a notch missing from her ear. Violet somehow managed to get her small belt knife into her right paw, but she knew it wouldn’t be much use.

     “You took something that didn’t belong to you, otter,” the wolf snarled. “Tell me where it is, and I finish you quick. Try anything else, and, well…” Her smile sent a shiver down Violet’s spine. “I’ve got all night, and you’re not going anywhere.”

     A faint clanking noise interrupted the monologue. The sound grew louder, and then a huge shape blurred into Violet’s field of view and rammed into the wolf, knocking her off-balance. The wolf was sent stumbling off the pier and into the chilly waters of the harbor. Her outraged cries and frantic splashing sounded muffled to Violet, as though coming from far away.

     The shape that had charged onto the pier turned and looked down at Violet, and she found herself staring up at an enormous male badger in plate armor. I must’ve hit my head harder than I thought, she mused, if I’m imagining a knight coming to rescue me.

     “Can you stand?” Horace asked. “It will be easier escorting you to safety if you can walk.”

     Violet began to form a reply, when an angry howl tore through the night air. A second wolf, this one a grey-furred male armed with a mace, was charging toward the unarmed badger with murderous intent. Horace whirled, took a step toward the attacker, and sidestepped the wolf’s clumsy strike with astonishing ease for a creature wearing armor. He then lashed out with his left paw, caught the attacker by the throat, and hoisted him into the air. The wolf dropped his weapon in a panic, then tried desperately to claw and pull at the massive paw holding him in the air.

     Without changing expression, Horace tightened his grip. There was a sickening crunching sound. The badger dropped the wolf, who collapsed limply to the ground, dying as he tried to breathe through a crushed windpipe. By this time Violet had managed to work her way to a standing position and, thoroughly unnerved, she attempted to run. She managed several strides before collapsing a few feet away from the corpse of the second ruffian.

     Horace shook his head. “Foolish. At least your spine isn’t broken.” Without any apparent effort, he tossed the dead wolf’s body into the river, then bent down and gently picked up the otter, carrying her as he headed away from the water, back into the streets. “Where is your home?”

     Violet decided that there was no point in arguing with her rescuer. “The Lone Wolf Inn. It’s not far from here, if you can get me there I’ll be fine, I’ve got friends who can care for me and – ”

     The badger cut her off with a shake of his head. “Too many Militia there. I have my reasons for avoiding them. I will bring you to my quarters, and you can leave to find your friends in the morning.” Noticing her alarmed expression, the badger added, “I swear, on my honor as a knight, that I will bring no harm to you. In truth, I would prefer if you could make your own way home now, but I cannot in good conscience let you wander alone with such injuries. Pray tell, lady otter, what is your name?”

     “Violet,” she replied, seeing no reason to lie.

     The badger nodded. “I have earned names from friend and foe alike, but you may call me Sir Horace.” He paused, as a thought seemed to occur to him. “Tell me, Violet, do you have an interest in poetry?”

     “Poetry?” Violet asked, bemused by the sudden change of subject. Her head felt as if it were packed with cotton. “I – I suppose. There weren’t many bards or poets around my holt, just the elders and the songs they would sing. Do you know any songs?”

     In place of a reply, Horace began softly singing a ballad. The words recounted the story of an epic battle, and were part of the saga of a legendary warrior from long ago. The knight had a deep yet surprisingly rich and melodic voice, and Violet found herself carried away by the tale of honor and tragedy, loss and triumph, before sinking down into sleep.

     When he reached his room on the second floor of the Wolf and Crown Inn, Horace was only slightly surprised to find Scarlet waiting for him. “Well, hello, Sir Horace,” the vixen said brightly, “I see you followed my instructions. An otter, though? Ah well, who am I to judge?” Scarlet did a double take as she saw Violet’s injuries. “What did you do, club her on the head?”

     “No,” Horace said flatly. “She was attacked, and injured. Honor compelled me to intervene, but she cannot return home in her present condition. She needs rest, and probably some Wyldsap salve.”

     Scarlet nodded. “Who was the attacker, and what did you do with them?”

   Horace laid Violet’s sleeping form down on his bed. “It was a female wolf, clad in black with a notch in one ear. She was standing on a pier at the waterfront, so I shoved her into the river. Her accomplice attempted to attack me with a mace. He wasn’t very skilled.”

     “Did you dispose of his body?”

     “Yes.” Horace frowned. “Now, my lady, perhaps you would be so kind as to tell me why you are waiting for me in my quarters?”

     “I have just received several urgent reports that may alter our plans somewhat. I shall need to consult with you. But not here.” Scarlet nodded toward the slumbering otter. “I’d rather not discuss our business in front of guests, even ones in her condition. The sleeping mind has a curious way of remembering things, at times.” Exiting the room, Scarlet led the way to her private suite. Horace paused long enough to lock the door to his room from the outside before following the vixen upstairs.

     “We’ll discuss details in due time,” Scarlet began, “but for now, the important news. First, the King’s Guard have progressed from studied indifference to outright violence against the citizens of Armello. They’ve burned numerous buildings, and in some cases entire towns, believed to be ‘harboring seditious creatures’. We will need to move ahead with our current project as quickly as possible, to rally the oppressed townsfolk to our cause. Secondly, there have been several reports of members of the King’s Guard being found murdered.”

     Horace grunted. “Dishonorable, but I don’t see how that affects us.”

     Scarlet held up a paw. “Patience, Sir Knight. Sometimes the victims are alone, sometimes entire groups of four or five Guards are killed. In each case, the bodies are impaled as if with a harpoon or spear, or gutted with a knife, the way a cook would clean a fish. The Fisher of Souls is at work once more.”

     “That mad killer has nothing to do with us, if it is indeed a single creature and not a group of fanatics,” Horace objected. “This news is interesting, but I don’t see how it affects our plans.”

     “The King has declared an increased bounty on the heads of all wanted criminals as a result of his actions, and that certainly includes you and me. We must be more careful not to draw attention to ourselves – which makes your actions this night, while very noble, somewhat ill-timed.” The vixen yawned. “The hour grows late. I suggest you tend to your guest now, and we can discuss these matters further in the morning.”

     Horace bowed his head in acknowledgement of the dismissal, and exited the room. As he walked to his own quarters, he pondered this latest news. Horace doubted this “Fisher of Souls” was more than just a tall tale meant to satisfy a need for vengeance among those the King’s Guard had wronged. If not, however… Horace had little love for the members of the Guard who had betrayed him, and cast him out like a common criminal. That did not mean he desired to see them butchered like so much meat. If he ever crossed paths with the Fisher, he would act as honor demanded.
Pet peeves: Apes are not monkeys, jellyfish are not fish, and tomatoes are not vegetables!

dragoncrescent

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Re: Short Story: Revolution
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2017, 09:03:27 AM »
Oooh! Discord among thieves! Great stuff, Bio! :D

Biologist

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Re: Short Story: Revolution
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2017, 03:12:53 PM »
Thanks! I definitely intend to continue the tale, but I will mostly likely write it as a series of shorter 2-3 part stories rather than one long story to help keep the writing manageable. Also to make it a proper short story series rather than a novella.

I hope I did a good job with Horace. The fact that he's the bandit I see the least sort of made me want to write about him the most.
Pet peeves: Apes are not monkeys, jellyfish are not fish, and tomatoes are not vegetables!