Humoresque of a Foreign Soldier ((Belisarius, open to others))

The dusk, predawn sky hung heavy with a thick carpet of fog that rolled in from the west at a sluggish pace, akin to the legendary lethargy of the ancient salamander lizards renowned for their fire bellies and glittering opal eyes. Sounds of a wind roiled sea carried from many miles and yet the crashing of waves against great stones eternally fixed in the icy prison of sand and sediment managed to trick even the most seasoned of sea beasts into assuming that the ocean was right at their heels. This amazing ability to echo has caused many a beast who sought the pleasures of the sea to instead find long arid plains or chilled tundra, both increasingly disagreeable with the woefully unprepared who entered and subsequently died in these vast spaces. It was in one of these veritable killing fields that a complete foreigner to these lands had found himself in.

A chorus of irritable song birds chirruping rent the still air, and created a jarring transition from the soothing melodies of the nigh unreachable expanse of brine that would for this beast spell freedom and unparalleled bliss. A pair of bleary pale green eyes peeled open with painstaking difficulty, stuck firm by layers of rheum formed during his restless slumber. None of the feeble light penetrated the thick material of his little tent, leaving him in absolute darkness. As his mind rushed back to him like a cascade of lukewarm bathing water over a dirt-soaked dog’s head, the quarrelling birds shrill debate seemed to become more insistent, making his ears instinctively fold in a futile attempt to blot their ceaseless racket from his besieged mind.

Two white mottled paws flew up to his eyes, deftly sweeping the grimy secretions away and discarding them with a lazy flick of the wrist. Having the peace of further rest successfully stolen from him by the petty argument of some avian fools of indeterminable origin, he forcefully propped himself up onto his forepaws, the fleece blanket that was haphazardly strewn over him slid down to reveal his bare underbelly. A quivering yawn parted his lips wide in an uncharacteristically crude display of his naturally barbaric array of teeth; his body heat gradually seeped away from him thanks to the lack of insulation.

He resisted the urge to simply flop back carelessly into his bedding and return to his dreams, and being unable to take solace in the comfort of his temporary dwellings forever, he made the decision instead to begin the search for his next meal. His belly groaned in protest as he carelessly shook out his sleep-matted headfur and carelessly tossed on his heavy woolen tunic before cracking open the flaps of his petite shelter. The land was still bathed in the steely grey light that heralded the coming of the sun, but even these weakened beams made Aníbal squint and recoil. Crawling out with a wistful sigh, he cracked his sore back and stretched his cramped extremities.

The light scent of body odor clung to his body and made his nose twitch in mild revulsion. He had gone days without a bath. Soon he would begin the arduous task of donning his armor. His guard was down in his current state, and while he was not as aware as he should be, there is the distinct possibility that he is being watched…

“Hmph, dratted fog; I can barely see ten paces in front of me! How are we supposed to find Floret through this stuff?”
The unusually tall blue furred fox looked over her shoulder at the one thing that stuck out from the fog even as thick as it was. The black shape stopped at the same time Kyra did and replied in a calmed tone despite Kyra’s annoyed statement about the weather “We are not looking for Floret now; we’re looking for a place to rest. Like Floret it doesn’t matter how tall you are, you aren’t going to see any farther than you can now.”
Kyra looked into the dark orbs of her companion as the black fox strolled up beside her “Size… If I was a bird I could get above this and see forever!”
Avalon blinked and held her paws up and forward with palms upwards “And what would you see forever beneath you, this. You are quite the companion as is not to mention I have yet to see a bird that could use a bow let alone a long bow like yours.”
Kyra looked over her shoulder at the long bow on her back and smiled slightly “Thanks, I don’t know where I’d be without you or the others. What kind of spot did you have in mind to rest at?”
Avalon shrugged slightly and motioned at the fox all around them as she spun around on one paw “Someplace that obviously isn’t in the open, preferably wooded.”
Kyra looked around and listened to the complete silence, well almost complete. Her ears twitched and she grinned to the sound of birdsong “Well, I may not be a bird but I think our feathery friends are giving us a hint on the right direction.”
Avalon smiled as Kyra once again began to lead the way “Glad to know you still use more than just your eyes. I was wondering when you’re other senses would kick in.”
Kyra looked over her shoulder with a playful grin “Heh, couldn’t hear them yourself, a little too close to the ground perhaps?”
Avalon’s cheeks reddened in embarrassment as she gave a laugh of equal feeling “Heh, heh, try not to hit your head on the sun when it comes up.”
Kyra shook her head and chuckled lightly “At least I don’t have to worry about beasts walking into me when I’m sleeping at night”

With decorum rivaling that of the pure strain steels his sharply honed blade had been forged, Aníbal effortlessly slid into his surprisingly feminine leggings. The gaudy array of fabric strips that served more as a fashion statement than anything else, and as they billowed in the light breeze, the castaway warrior could not help but ponder on the practicality of such embellishments.  A sudden though rushed to mind, that perhaps they were intentionally made with such garish cloth in order to distract his foes, only to be out clouted by another. At what this other meandering inkling had suggested he found himself blushing deeply beneath his greyish furred cheeks, though he swiftly banished such a heinous thought from his headspace. Despite its claim that it was meant to accent his legs and display the masculinity of his calves, that appeal seemed to dissipate at the borders of his homeland, and is regarded here as simple clown’s attire.

Next came his grieves, which he daintily slid on over his shins and affixed them with three neat tugs on their straps. A pair of ankle-high boots later, and his lower façade was complete. His inquisitive tail, which possessed a coloration that could easily be classified as an abolishment to the strict laws set by the animal kingdom, stirred up the still air as it lazily swished back and forth. In this time where he was most vulnerable he saw fit to lose himself in the ritualistic pleasure he derived from dressing himself. Though he assumed the avian chittering still persisting would cover the sound of his armament, in reality it served as a magnet for other activity. He slid into the sweet hollow that his chestplate, tassets and backplate created, gingerly tying his frilled ruff to the base of his neck shortly after.

“If only I had a mirror, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that devilish face.”

His inner voice chimed with more than a spoonful of sarcasm, causing Anibal’s narrow face to contort into that of unbridled amusement. His pale green eyes twinkled with merriment as he fought to stifle any bout of throaty laughter, which he estimated would echo for many meters. With gusto did he attach his spaulders. Lastly donning his helmet, but not before straightening its aging eagle’s feather. He would wait before throwing on his gauntlets or belt, that which bore his prized sword and battered buckler. He was content with foraging for some grubs, berries perhaps. Yes, berries would be marvelous. His stomach gurgled its approval, and since both gut and genet shared the same sentiments, berries it would be. He could have sworn there was a bush not but a crossbow throw away, but in this lighting he would never be able to find it.

With a shake of his helmeted head, he made way towards the trail he assumed bore the long-sought treats for his tum, unknowingly heading in the same direction that the two vixens were making their approach.

Avalon half closed her eyes as she listened to Kyra’s last statement but her expression turned to an awkwardly offended appearance “Come on now, its not entirely my fault. That old abbey grouch’s half blind!”
Kyra grinned as she thought of the abbey they had passed through on their journey “You think we’ll ever go back?”
Avalon’s eyes seemed to brighten like a dibbun trying to give an innocent look as she thought of Mossflower “Well our mission is to keep an eye on the locals and interfere with any offenses that occur. I think tis more of a question of when rather than if. Honestly I would have preferred staying rather than checking the surrounding lands.”
Kyra stopped and gazed at a berry bush in front of her as she listened to Avalon’s mysteriously longing voice. Once the black vixen ceased speaking Kyra looked over her shoulder at her leader “Why didn’t you say something, I wouldn’t have pressed the issue if you had told me.”
Avalon approached the bush and crouched down as she replied in her usual light tone “Well once we’re done here we can head straight back. It’s not like anything of importance is about to happen.”
Kyra’s paw strayed towards the hilt of her broadsword as she watched a form begin to melt from the fog “Who goes there.”
Avalon’s eyes darted around with one paw on a throwing dagger and the other on the ground as she stayed crouched forward on three of her four paws.

The genet traipsed across the inhospitable terrain with little regard for the scrabbly underbrush that seemed to sprout from either side of the narrow trail, their sharp, yet withered and malnourished branches extended in the same manner as if they were of the same fearsome quality as the scimitars that Moorish rebels brandished during the split second raids. Like these unruly soldiers did Anibal trample the array of gaunt bushes that rose up to challenge him under his boots, with the same sort of apathetic demeanor he always wore about him when dealing with such beings. Though his grieves spared him from most of the thorned branches that seemed so eager to jab at his largely unprotected legs, they found many points of purchase a bit higher up, and easily perforated the thin stockings and reached his vulnerable, supple(lol) thighs. A sharp intake of breath heralded the entrance of one particularly aggressive specimen that had lodged itself deep into his sensitive skin and broken off as he pressed deeper into the thicket, the thorns had to be at least an inch in total length, and there must have been two thirds of that buried into his tender thigh.

He shot a glare down at the affected area, which seemed to radiate with pangs of the typical dull ache associated with such a minute and easily mitigatable injury. A white paw mottled black steadily strayed southward to pluck the offending vegetation from its point of access, when suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. His large, swooping ears stood at attention, perking beside the elegant curves of his helmet’s lateral edges in a way that they seemed to blend into the folds of steel perched atop his head. What these cavernous canals caught from the wind was only a mild source of perturbation. Faint voices on the air. While he could scarcely make out the medley of muffled words as they were sifted out of the rest of the ambience and filtered through, he knew for certain there were at least two, and no more than three. What made this revelation even more shocking was the source; they were female.

In his travels across this land, the only creatures he had come in contact with were part of the innumerous wandering bands of vemin, and any female he encountered withheld the standard of barbarism and cruelty their kind were so renowned for. Unable to discern their species by merely listening, Anibal threw caution to the wind and decided to persist. He mistakenly assumed that whoever or whatever lay ahead would most likely be too distant to pose a threat. Thus was the subtle deception of fog and mist, distorting sound and light in such eloquent and graceful ways, enough so to make any rational beast insane. In his heightened state he had nearly forgotten about the literal thorn in his side, and without delay he purged it and flicked it away. With his tail pointed skyward and fluttering about like a flag, he marched down the trail.

Ahead was his quarry, the unassuming little shrub that bore the succulently tart treats he so desired. He could already smell them, and an unprovoked stream of drool sought to dribble forth from his frothing maw. Before he could fully register the sight, and even take another step, a question was posed to him that gave him pause.

“Who goes there.”

It was the same voice as before, though this time it was not steeped in merriment or touched with mirth. It sounded threatening. His eyes combed through the layers of fog, eagerly seeking the source as his throbbing heart began to pick up its pace. Was it an ambush? Unable to determine who it was, or how many they may have been, he decided to respond without aggression. He knew all too well that he was unarmed. His bass voice broke the silence, and he spoke deliberately with a thick accent denoting his foreign origin.

“I ahm ey mirror trabellerr, sinking noorishhment. Oo arrr you?”

“I ahm ey mirror trabellerr, sinking noorishhment. Oo arrr you?”
Kyra blinked in complete bewilderment towards the beast’s reply “Ehhh…”
The blue vixen looked at her crouched companion for guidance who took her free paw of the throwing dagger and pointed for Kyra to remain where she was before fisting her paw and moving her opposable toe in a talking signal. Kyra gave Avalon a slight nod and kept her eyes centered on what appeared to be the shadowy for of a beast obscured by the fog “I’m an explorer, foreign to these parts. Mayhap you could help me find the way to Floret traveler?”
Kyra wondered if the beast could see her blue fur through the fog. On a normal day such coloring would stick out like a sore thumb; and that wasn’t including being a fox as tall as your everyday badger. She pondered the thought for another moment before the thought brought up a question of its own about the beast “May I ask what manner of beast ye are?”
Behind the bush Avalon’s eyes darted around keeping watch behind her companion should this stranger have partners, at times silence was the key to survival.

It seemed his jumbled words had successfully reached her ears, but they may have served more as a source of confusion rather than actual enlightenment. He mentally cursed his lack of lingual knowledge for this region, reduced to a sort of awkward shuffling dance to rid his body of the slow chill that rose from his ankles and crept up his legs at a snail’s pace.  His brow furrowed as he stared intently at the distorted vision of the bush, taking note of a strange anomaly behind it; a large, monolithic blue pillar from the looks of it, although to his eyes it cut the figure a gout of vicious azure flame nigh boulder height would. He was mystified by the bizarre sight, wondering if perhaps it was an omen, or maybe a mirage.

He had been treated to many such cryptic hallucinogenic images in his time spent in the barrens of Moorish territory, where the unforgiving heated rays of the sun twinkled off of the glittering sands like an array of refracting mirrors or diamonds, causing the light to dance like the mistresses in fine silks purchased by the sultans of the east. The most vivid of these occurred when he was lost in the desert for less than a week, and in his unquenchable need to wet his raw, cracked throat, he partook of the nectar that poured forth from the garrulous frame of a barrel-shaped cactus. Cactus water tends to have psychotropic affects on mammals, much to his unending chagrin.

His pupils dilated as his eyes remained fixated on that beauteous bloom of flame that seemed to dance and sway in the blurred air of the early morn’, that is, the voice addressed him once more. Twice more, actually, and the thought occurred to him that there may only be one beast someone enveloped in the great, shielding wall of copious condensation. She was probably one very mentally unstable beast, who merely sought to fill her own aching belly as he did. It was then that he was able to discern the origin of the voice, and like a wave crashes onto the shore with little regard for the scuttling crabs upon its shifting sands, so too did a shudder rend his chilling frame, and he felt his hackles raise. The voice was coming from that blue construct!

Goose pimples unearthed themselves from his skin, and his tail frizzed in response to this horrific realization. She was enormous! A nephilim, so far from the basin of life? He was speechless, so much so that he nearly forgot her question, and had the sudden urge to drift back into the swirling mist and make a break for his weaponry. However, rather than raise the ire of this devil, he swallowed the fear that manifested itself as an incorrigible lump in his quaking throat, and spoke.

“I gno knott of thith Fleur-ethhh, explorador, I ahm ey pruoude genet. Arr you a giant?”

(“I gno knott of thith Fleur-ethhh, explorador, I ahm ey pruoude genet. Arr you a giant?”)
Avalon clamped a paw around her snout feeling a potential giggle rising up her throat as Kyra tilted her head in her confusion surrounding the beast’s answer “Eh, I’ll take knot as a no…”
She went to continue on with a question when she realized what the beast had just called her. Perhaps in her earlier seasons the term would have been offending but now it was more of an embarrassment especially with her size difference when compared to Avalon her leader. She gave a fake laugh of embarrassment and replied “Heh, heh, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a giant of the sorts, maybe a tad on the tall side. Errr, what’s a genet?”
Kyra frowned concluding the beast must have been able to see her to some extent and knew her reply was a bit of an understatement for a fox “You wouldn’t happen to know what a fox is would you?”

Aníbal, despite having a dreadful fear of anything resembling biblical proportions, and having no knowledge of the non-existent bible whatsoever, realized that he may have inadvertently offended the blue-tinged lady with his thoughtless question. A pang of regret struck him square in the chest like an arrow let fly from taut bow, the emotion’s cold grip burned akin to an iron-cast blade shearing through the many layers of armor to tickle his thrumming heart. So vivid was this sensation, that he in fact swore upon his queen that he heard the tell-tale twang of a flaxen bowstring flexing. Not but a buzzing bee, he assumed, but he digressed.

His cheeks flushed at the thought that he had managed such a tactless blunder, a captain and knight in service of the crown stooping to mock the peasantry and barbarians of an untamed land. What a notion!  He gazed down his nose at the female of great physical stature, whom he assumed was a fox from her statement. With the knowledge that further talk would be detrimental to his goal of food, which was by now forgotten by both beast and belly, he decided upon a course of action that would to some seem rash.

The sun’s light began to intensify ever so slightly as he mustered up the gumption to approach, with caution of course, whatever this kindly creature sought was not his concern, however it was his obligation to make amends. His words marred this language, but a little display of chivalry may earn him breakfast, and an indigenous guide. Either that or his journey would end abruptly, as he would be crushed like a sheet of tin fresh for the furnace. Holding his arms up with his paws level to his helmeted head, palms outstretched to inform the maiden that he was unarmed, he nonchalantly made his way to her position.

Kyra tilted her head as the beast came closer the genets pale green eyes now showing clearly through the fog along with its unique uniform as well as its light grey and black fur “Are you alone? It isn’t exactly wise to roam anyplace alone let alone unarmed.”
She let her paw drift away from the hilt of her broadsword and gave a light sigh “Do you know these parts much? As I said we’re foreign to this land and we’d appreciate it if you could help me in locating this place called Floret. Since you don’t know of its location as you said it would be a discovery for the both of us.”
Kyra furrowed her eyebrows in thought for a moment repeating the sentence in her head. After a moment she focused on Avalon out of the corner of her eyes and noted the blank look on her face. The black vixen never seemed to be angry but rather informative when others made errors and she had obviously noticed Kyra’s. Avalon shrugged slightly to her companion then nodded figuring now was as good a time as ever since she had goofed her inspection of the genet. The blue furred vixen gave an embarrassed smile “Err pardon me I was trying to make sure you weren’t an aggressive beast.”
Avalon stood up from behind the bush and folded her arms wanting to speak but waiting first to see the genet’s reaction.

As the fog parted before Anibal’s series of slow, deliberate footsteps, he found with an incorrigibly growing sense of wonder that his picture of that strikingly blue beast was sharpening. The clarity increased, to the point that he had to stifle the immediate urge to gawk, or fall to his knees in utter shock and alarm. His aforementioned appendages felt as though they were not but jellified structures of questionable integrity, held firm by brittle, osteoporotic bones which kept a slackening grip on the now viscous muscles. An involuntary shudder shot down his back, the hot sweat that ran down the small of his back prior turned cold in an instant, but his bodily functions had not been recruited by fear’s icy grip; that power of apprehension had fled from him the moment he had gazed up into her deep blue eyes, a pair of limpid pools that rivaled the great Indian ocean in their clarity and color, with enough beauty to put Aphrodite to shame. He was fixed in place, his open paws slowly dipped below his head until they were limply at his sides once more. His previously flagged tail fell to half-mast.

He swallowed hard at the sight of such a harmonic combination of barbarism and elegance, woven and meshed with almost the same deftness as the seamstress who saw fit to string together the uniform that clothed her. She was a gargantuan thing, in that he had no doubt. Nigh twice his height from his current position, and for the briefest of moments the thought that she may be one of the great wolfkin half-breeds from legend; the bastardized offspring of wolf and fox, two canidae joined as one to create a monstrosity of fell powers and immense strength. In her case, this menacing shroud of foreboding, coupled with her physical beauty made whatever hesitation in him dissipate like the fog about them that weakened in its grasp with every passing moment. At her question, he merely nodded, shaking away this bizarre sense of light-headed idiocy that seemed to strike him dumb at her full appearance.

Her second statement made him bristle. We? His stomach turned in on itself in an uncharacteristically acrobatic fashion. He had been duped! His eyes darted towards the sudden movement by the berry bush, laden with ripe blueberries that glittered with dew in the dawn’s new light. Another fox inexplicably appeared, arms crossed in a seemingly impatient manner. He turned from one to the next, unsure exactly of his next course of action. If he were to flee, to turn his back upon either of these clever vulpine, he would be opening himself up to a swift death. Mentally stuffing his rising sense of woe back down into the depths of his bowls, he corrected his posture, and with three stiff, clunking steps forward, he bowed with theatric flair and gentlemanly gusto.

“Mai nambe ish Aníbal Sebastián Heliodoro Delvalle, Lieutenant ove ze 1st Frontier Espadachines Brigade, und it ish mai pleasure to assist you.”

With that, he gently took Kya’s massive paw into both of his, and planted a kiss upon the back.

The fur on Kyra’s cheeks turned a purple as she blushed from the embarrassment the genet had cast upon her causing her to grin “Please, there’s no need for that I’m just the assistant.”
Avalon let out smile and almost giggled at the sight of Anibal kissing Kyra’s paw “Glad to meet you Anibal. I am Avalon and that is my companion and scout Kyra. As you can see she has a higher vantage point than me.”
Kyra gave a silent giggle as Avalon began speaking with her voice and motions of her paws which came unfolded “I apologize for the deception but a beast is a beast you can never tell nature by type. As such I wanted to listen to your words and let my companion Kyra judge your actions to determine what your nature was. We’ve travelled far from a distant land to investigate the situation in these parts regarding vermin activity. Vermin in nature not in type of beast as some may interpret it.”
She raised an eyebrow and looked quizzically at Anibal “What exactly are you doing in these parts anyways? I never knew beasts such as yourself came around here.”

His conspicuous and perhaps overzealous act of chivalry had the desired effect on his newfound allies of convenience; the first seemed flattered and demure, whilst the second appeared disarmed but did not stray from determining a suitable route to achieve her far-flung goal of finding this ‘Floret’ region.  Aníbal would do everything within his power to aid these maidens in their quest to find this place. Provided that they help the ailing genet in kind, a reminiscent of that old back scratching parable of old. Maybe they could even find it in their hearts to guide him to the sweet-smelling coastal beach that has successfully eluded him thus far; whose sands may very well hold some clues on the current whereabouts of his caravel and crew.

For the few moments he had spent lost in thought and out of touch, he had neglected to release Kyra’s large, blued paw. Attempting to repress the own radiant warmth that threatened to bloom at his own thickly-furred countenance, he returned her bulky appendage to her with a sheepish grin, although he did not fail to note the silken quality of her padded palm as it slipped from his grasp. Aníbal’s ears crooked in Avalon’s direction before his eyes did; it nearly pained him to have to turn his gaze from this vulpine goddess, but his place was not with mongrels of another world. He was already betrothed to a pure-blooded genet touched by the silver spoon of wealth and the golden scepter of nobility. He had no time to spare mingling with chaff, however easy on the eyes it may be. She may be, she’s female.

The surprise he felt at the appearance of the second oozed away from him like the saliva that had dribbled from his muzzle prior. As the tension that had filled the air was replaced by a sort of playful atmosphere, the genet warrior felt his stomach stir once more, but with pangs of hunger more than anything else. Unceremoniously the genet plucked his helmet from his head, flipped it upon its domed peak to reveal the basin meant to accommodate his skull, and began to sift through the bush.

“Da pleasurre ish oll mien, thell mei, arrr joo hungrey? Kamp ish knott farrr.”

The term vermin floated to his ears, and though he had heard it quite frequently, his understanding of the concept was shoddy and amateurish at best. He understood that highwaymen and outlaws were given this label, but they never called each other this. It seemed counter-intuitive. When she mentioned the deception, he shrugged his shoulders; no worries, so long as his life was preserved and he had done no harm to the honor of these womenfolk, he was sure to recover. He picked with relish, the sun now visible through the still dissipating fog, now but a light haze. He noted out of the corner of his eye that the other fox was black as pitch, and the sight was rather unnerving. Of the myriad of thoughts that raced through his mind, the first was whether or not this creature was born of evil.

He waved this thought away; there was no room for unfounded superstition so early in the morning. His thoughts shifted, and as he pondered over the ripeness of one shriveled, and particularly unhappy looking berry, Avalon spoke once more.

“What exactly are you doing in these parts anyways? I never knew beasts such as yourself came around here.”

He pursed his lips, and for the briefest of moments a dark shadow traveled over his visage, only to quickly flee and be replaced by an odd grin. He would answer that question when he felt that they would never see each other again. For now, they were travel companions, nothing more.

Avalon’s eyes focused for a moment as she noted a change in Anibal’s face before he broke out into a grin, she expected an answer whether it was truthful or not she was unsure of after having spotted the genet’s physical response. Her anticipation was interrupted by Kyra who was still flattered by Anibal’s embarrassment as he had released her paw. Kyra smiled about the genet’s demeanor and took a knee to lower herself so she wasn’t towering over Anibal and Avalon. She adjusted the long bow on her back so it wasn’t in such an awkward position having turned as it touched the ground because of her kneeling stance “Hungry, well not ‘hungry’ but that doesn’t mean I’d refuse the opportunity to eat.”
Kyra looked at Avalon who knelt down and pulled out a small pouch that had a hardened bark cloth interior so as not to let the contents get crushed “Indeed, waiting until you feel your hunger tends to cause you to eat more. It is better to eat smaller portions throughout a day… Unless you’re a hare then it doesn’t matter they’ll eat a full sized feast a many times a day as you provide them.”
She began plucking berries from the bush as part of her mind drifted to speculation on why he hadn’t answered her question; Kyra had and has a similar reaction when questioned about her past. Why, she could only wonder.

Every one of the rotund little morsels that fell into the domed confines of Anibal’s helmet was another that would be masticated and transferred through a series of fleshy conveyances to his stomach, from there whatever nutrients such small bites had to offer would be distributed across his body and alchemized into much-needed energy. This was a surprisingly healthy specimen of blueberry bush, and its bounty was pilfered from its winding branches with relish by the nigh starving genet and the two travellers. There must have been at least a hundred of the little orbs in bushels of five or so, though Aníbal had long since given up counting as he stealthily slid one or two into his mouth when he assumed the other two were too occupied in their own search.

They had a delicate pop to them that heralded the flood of their succulent juices in his dried mouth, a welcome spray of the sweet nectar shot down his gullet, bring lovely new sensations that almost rivaled ecstasy. However, he nearly choked in his rush to achieve subterfuge.  Once his headwear was about two thirds full, he gave a satisfied nod, and got to his booted feet, naturally rocking back on his heels to prevent his armor’s weight from bowling him over.  Tucking the stuffed steel headpiece in the crook of his arm, he gave the two a soft grin of mild amusement at their efforts, revealing spots in his teeth where the rinds of these little fruit betrayed his sneaking.

His gaze turned from one maiden to the other, but despite his best efforts it tended to linger on Kyra the longest.  They two spoke a different dialect than those of this barren place, and made reference to strange creatures he had hardly heard off. His left hand strayed for the helmet-cum-bucket, scooping out a handful of berries and dumping them into his eagerly waiting mouth with a hint of voraciousness. He had never heard of hairs eating, but perhaps in these lands they were anthropomorphic? His tail banked this way and that as he proffered his helmet to the two, “Moarr rruom hearr,” He stated simply, but politely.

Once their forage was complete, he would take them to his camp where he would slay the two of them and feast upon their still beating hearts and wriggling fingers. The thought of such comedic cannibalism nearly made him burst out laughing. The absurdity of it all would be more that he could bear; it had been a long time since he had been forced to eat another sentient being, and with Kyra he would be fed for weeks. He didn’t even give that vile thought a moment’s notice. To get his mind off of these delirious voices in his head, he voiced one of the many questions steadily queuing up , “Vut ith Fleurr-eth?”

Kyra shook her head with a grin when the genet smiled to reveal his scheming act almost like a dibbun in some ways “Ha ha ha, my that hungry re you?”
“Vut ith Fleurr-eth?”
Avalon stopped and looked at Anibal blankly “Floret is a castle and from what I’ve been told of the place it is situated at the top of a cliff that surrounds it on three sides Apparently it is the location where the beast the cast the first bell of Redwall Abbey spent his later seasons after having helped repair the fortress’s damage from a repelled occupation by a fox and his horde.”
The black vixen looked into the pouch and at the berries inside which stopped just below the outside clasp “It has been some time since I’ve seen fresh ‘edible’ berries, very good source of nutrients though small in quantity, and their tasteful.”
Avalon turned her attention back to Anibal and raised an eyebrow as she took a brief moment to think on Kyra’s words before questioning the genet out of curiosity and concern “How long has it been since you last ate anyways?”

He cocked his head at Kyra’s seemingly unprovoked laughter, beautiful as the day was long to his untrained ears. But after reexamining her question is his head, it was then apparent.  The realization that there must have been some tell dawned upon him with all of the grace and angellicness of a sledge felling a butterfly on the wing. His tongue darted out and ran its probing tip against the smooth surface of his fangs’ confederacy, wrenching the defiant rinds from their purchase and consuming them with a hard, noticeable swallow. His Adam’s apple bobbed in response to this assimilation of these ignoble elements, nodding its approval.  Anibal shook his head fervently. No, I’m not hungry, his expression stated, the picture of innocence.  His stomach, like the spoilt brat it had formerly been, rattled and raged within its home turned tomb.  How dare he silence_me_ in such a brisk, rude manner?

It was then that Avalon answered his question with an anecdotal recount of a sea-side fortress’s defences, a place of great military importance and key to the destruction of the peasant infrastructure. However, rather than quell some of the growing worries that he carefully catalogued as he awaiting their completion, it raised a multitude more. He nearly dropped his helmet as his mind sallied forth to wade through the deepening pool of concerns. However, it seemed that these beasts had some of their own.

The second, Avalon, commented on the nutritional wealth and good taste these capsules of love harbored. He smirked in response; he understood the scarcity of such rare indulgences. He would have said so, but she prompted to him a question that really struck him dumb.

“How long has it been since you last ate anyways?”

Now, that was the golden question, wasn’t it? He responded, perhaps too quickly for any sane beast’s taste, “Jesshturday,” he blurted tactlessly. To be precise, it had to have been at least two days since his last legitimate meal. A few roots and berries here and there could not possibly account for much at all. It seemed the deprivation of food had stolen from him his normal poise. He scrambled to change the subject, and to his luck his eyes caught Kyra’s bow; a piece worthy of praise, with two jewels as green as the leaves of this shrub embedded within the wood. His eyes narrowed until they were half-lidded, his lips curling into an expression of coy admiration. “Mai, sooche bootyfool crraftmaenship, beefittingeh ove ey bootyfool maiden.” He uttered, indicating her bow with a curt tilt of his muzzle.

“Jesshturday,” Avalon blinked blankly at the suddenness of the answer and cupped her chin with one paw as Anibal went to change the subject “Mai, sooche bootyfool crraftmaenship, beefittingeh ove ey bootyfool maiden.”
Kyra smiled again to the genet’s good nature while her leader the black vixen nodded slightly in agreement “As beautiful as it is deadly, much like its master.”
Avalon put the pouch back in its place on the outside of one of her belt sheaths as she thought on their own supply issue “I think it would be wise to find Floret so we aren’t scavenging for every meal like this. This area does seem rather barren.”
Kyra shrugged and spread her arms “Yeah, it’d be nice to be able to taste running water again, not stuff that’s been bottled up for four days!”
Avalon gave a slight nod then turned her head back to the genet “Why’d you journey out to these parts? We were trying to keep clear until that fog set in.”

His mouth tightened at the mention of the remote chance that cool, running water may grace his throat once again. It must have been days since the spring he chanced upon with his fellows was ransacked and drained of it's life-fluid. His means of obtaining any other liquid was via a remedial survival technique learned to him by a seasoned captain not but a score ago, when he was a lad of 19 seasons. He still remembered the words of this grizzled veteran as if they were reverberating from the thickets and dunes that spread far beyond the power of his mortal eye's longevity. "Simply take from the plants, pluck a stalk of one, and then suck the moisture out!" This method had been an effective one, although the taste left something to be desired; muddy, and brackish that made pins and needles waltz across his neck and pirouette down to the caps of his broad shoulders as it coated the parched interior of his mouth.

The same sort of revulsion nearly resurfaced at Avalon's thinly veiled threat. It was becoming apparent that this fox, whom Anibal assumed was born of an evil lineage, an assumption that grew in momentum and influence with every passing moment he shared conference with her, was averse to his pseudo-polite niceties and offly-timed compliments. rightfully so, he was an utter stranger to them and suspicion, to a point, was warranted. However, her questioning hinted at a possession of a deliberately unfettered  urge to acquire intelligence; either that, or she was making the attempt to delve into his recent past in order to discern his true intentions. Another, more probable and likely possible counter-theory, was that his off-kilter behavior had roused her to action. Any fallacies in his story, the slightest loose seam in the hastily knitted  fabric of his fabricated tale would end with him as a pincushion for the  beast he had only just earlier flirted with. He wished to share no further discourse with Avalon. It deeply disturbed him how strong a primal urge can be, that drive to murder another; he had felt it countless times, and with the adept grasp on tranquility a friar sworn to vows of silence, celibacy and struck with the eternal curse of impotence had, He clenched his jaw, gritted his teeth, and forced a rather convincing smile of false mirth. His pale green eyes glittered with dry amusement. She sought to extrapolate information from him, and he would provide. All in due time, of course.

He did, however, revel in her eagerness to achieve the goal of finding this citadel. This spry, determined soldier that he valued with no more than a grain a salt had the spunk of a newblood. He could respect that. In that sentiment he could share agreement with.

Casually flicking his tail from left to right, his gaze switched from Kyra to Avalon as quickly as his helmet exchanged hands from right to left. He spoke plainly, in his same slow, deliberate pace as he  hobbled and subsequently butchered the language with his response, "Too finth mai sheep, ahnd rreturne hombrrr," As he spoke he nonchalantly pivoted on one booted foot, and sashayed off into the brush from whence he came, but not before signaling for them to follow. His eyes instinctively squinted in a futile attempt to stave off the sun's probing rays. It's warmth bled through the morning chill
That had accumulated in the joints of his armor.

"Too finth mai sheep, ahnd rreturne hombrrr," Kyra titled her head as she repeated the words and paused for a moment in confusion “You have sheep?”
Avalon nearly burst out laughing and tapped her apprentice on the shoulder “Haha, he’s speaking metaphorically! He needs to find his subordinates, he said he’s a lieutenant!”
Kyra smiled as she stood up “How was I supposed to know, it’s not like I talk to genets daily on their lifestyle!”
Avalon shook her head still grinning and motioned for Kyra to lead the way with following Anibal “You lead the way, he takes more liking to you. Heh if he was a fox I’d says he’s flirting!”
The genet’s answers were a bit puzzling to her but Avalon figured that there was more background into the subject though she concluded too many questions to fast would be rather strenuous on their trust not knowing each other. She followed behind her towering companion occasionally glancing back for any signs that others were around. She mumbled silently so that not even Kyra could hear her further puzzlement “No toad, no lizards… Nothing since we got out onto the wastelands, nothing but a foreigner to this land; probably to this continent.”

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