Backstory: Kyra (Memories Left Behind)

Palerock had been a landmark for travelers since before the great wars, a beacon for those seeking the crossing between the woodlands constantly raided by the vermin and the more peaceful highlands that were occupied by highland squirrels. Palerock, once an immovable mark of crossing to safety now the site of something that was probably worse for travelers than the border wars.
“Yaghhh, move your shriveled excuse for a body afore I whip you in two streamdog!”
The fox cracked his whip against the otter’s back and snorted in disgust “I said move!”
The slave groaned and fell forwards against the ground leaving the fox to scowl as he lifted the whip again “Gettup you filth before I give you a good reason to join the ground down there!”
“I don’t think that’s working.”
The fox looked to its older brother then to the otter as he put the whip away and drew his sword “Maybe you’re right Markas, something a little blunter or rather something sharper might get the point across… Move your rump afore I cut your spine from your back!”
Markas barked at his younger brother “Frakas if you kill a slave father’s going to be more than a little peeved. Do something a little more mental, they still have minds to torment even if their bodies are broken.”
Frakas nodded slightly then took note of the ottermaid watching them from her work with the other slaves who were moving carts loaded with wood up higher into the castle “You, I bet you’re the tadpole’s wife! Come ‘ere!”
By the time he gave his order to the ottermaid he was already pouncing, knocking her to the ground and bringing his blade to point at her right eye “All of you get to work or you’ll hear what it’s like to see things from one point of view!”
The other otter got shakily to his footpaws and began shuffling towards the carts “N, no, please don’t.”
Frakas was going to stab anyways but he could feel Markas watching him impatiently leaving him to back off the ottermaid and look at his brother “What is it, you came down here for a reason?”
Markas nodded over his shoulder and at the guard steps behind him “Kierrana brought in a stripedog, Drakas could use some help.”
Frakas scowled as if ready to spit “You mean my twin can’t handle a little stripedog when that overgrown pile of fur can drag it in here? Gagh, he’d make a better slave than an overseer!”
Markas looked back to the slaves as Frakas passed him “Just go help your twin; I’ve got this lot…. Heh, heh, don’t I?”
The ottermaid gave Markas a startled look as she scrambled to her footpaws, he had been known to mess more with the minds of the slaves rather than their bodies.

Frakas threw open the double oak doors and stepped into the Conversion Hall where prisoners were ‘converted’ into slaves through either a simple talking to or brute force. It was evident that the badger had chosen brute force rather than just giving up and submitting to the words of the foxes. Frakas’s eyes went so wide they almost jumped out of his skull when he saw the stripedog “He’s a big one!”
Indeed the badger was being regular height for his kind unlike the other that had been brought in before who were either young or stunted and even those were a challenge for Frakas. This one most certainly would be a pawful to deal with.  Drakas cracked his whip as the great stripedog stepped towards him again though he was already bleeding from multiple slashes inflicted by the fox’s whip. Frakas unwound his own whip and came barreling towards the two of them as he inspected the badger’s eyes. They didn’t appear to show any signs of bloodwrath at the moment, a small advantage for the two twins. Frakas cracked his whip around the badger’s left paw as he drew it back to swing at Drakas. Upon feeling the tension upon his wrist the badger growled and looked at Frakas. With a quick jerk the badger swung all of his weight around throwing the bewildered fox off his footpaws and throwing him into his brother. The badger roared as the whip cut into his flesh and unraveled freeing his paw and giving him full freedom of movement. Frakas and Drakas rolled to the floor in the heap as the badger turned to face them again “I will be no slave to vermin, you or any other! And like any other vermin, you will die by my paws!”
Frakas grabbed for his sword as the great beast ran at them with head tilted forwards slightly like a great bull charging an ill prepared hunter. Frakas felt the wind leave him as a great fist made contact with his stomach sending him backwards to slam against the wall. He gave a weak groan as he slid down the wall to come to a slumped sitting position almost knocked unconscious by the impact. Drakas got up while running at the bump on his skull “Ughhh, huh, I’ll get you for that you hideous excuse for a beast!”
Drakas grinned as he flicked his whip and wrapped it around the badger’s throat “Let’s see how you fight with no breath… AGH!”
The great stripedog got his paws under the whip and snapped it apart cutting his paws and back of his neck in the process “Overconfident words from a coward! Let’s see how you fight paw to paw!”
Drakas yelped as he dropped the broken whip and reached for his sword. His paw swiped through the air at his side, it wasn’t there all he had brought was his whip. Drakas jumped back and fell on his behind as the great behemoth took a swing “H, HE, HELP!”
The badger brought his fist back again “There is no help for cowards like you and your kind.”

The badger’s fist started its downward motion, gaining momentum then just as suddenly as the swing had started it stopped. The badger gave a grunt a sphere of steel cracked into his ribs knocking him back as the wind left him. The sphere went into an orbiting motion around an oak handle that was connected to it by a chain as the paw that held it made a moderate rotating motion. The vixen stood practically as tall as the badger only appearing a tad shorter because of her slightly hunched stance with the flail tilted slightly forward towards the uncooperative beast. The vixen gave a growl and waved the flail forwards striking the badger in the shoulder with a dull thud “Down, down before I start breaking your bones one at a time stripedog! I’ll start with your legs so you can still swing a pickaxe even if you have to be sitting!”
Her threat was answered with a roar as the badger lunged at her causing a quick reaction that was almost missed by Drakas as he went to run out of the hall. ‘Crack, whump’ the great stripedog fell to the floor with a large bump springing out from his skull. The vixen let her arms drop to her sides as she sneered “Lucky this wasn’t my spiked one… Lucky father wants slaves alive.”
She spat on the badger’s head and glared over her shoulder at Drakas who was pulling the double oak doors that led back out into the main hold and away from the holding cells “Get over here ‘now’.”
Drakas sneered at his younger sister “Why should I listen to you great big whelp. You brought him; if you’re so great you deal wid hi… Ehhh!”
The flail started spinning again as Kierrana turned and stepped towards him “Father wants us to keep the slaves alive so they can work; he didn’t say anything about keeping each other alive. Get over here ‘now’.”
Shivering slightly Drakas turned himself towards Kierrana more than a tad nervous and shocked about his sister’s comment “Wha… err, you wouldn…”
Her head tilted forward with a menacing stare breaking Drakas who came skittering over nervously. He opened his mouth to ask what it was she needed for however before he could do so Kierrana’s flail came down in a blur. Drakas squeezed his eyes shut until he heard a dull thud but felt no pain, ‘had she missed?’ The fox brother opened his eyes and saw the metal sphere resting on the badger’s stomach as the awkwardly tall vixen snarled at him “Get this big pile of rubbish down to the pens. When his tiny brain wakes up he can start chipping away with the others.”
Drakas looked at the large unconscious form of the badger and seemed hesitant “You expect me to move that? He’s got to weigh twice as much as me!”
With a momentary glance at the badger before looking back to Drakas Kierrana answered him with a small twinkle in her eyes “Then drag him along the halls and down the stairs. Maybe the extra bruises will get into his mind compliance brings less pain than resistance.”
Drakas took hold of the badger, wrapping his arms under the badger’s shoulders and pulling. It was an obvious strain as the unconscious beast began to drag across the floor slowly moving out from under the flail which was left hanging in the air. Groaning and panting Drakas pulled the badger through the double doors with more than a little trouble yet Kierrana stood silently watching as if waiting for him to give up or perhaps rather for the badger to wake.

Once the great form of the badger had been dragged out by Drakas Kierrana turned to Frakas who was still slumped against the wall. After taking a few steps towards him she stared down at his slightly opened eyes with an expression comparable to contempt “Fool, can’t you do ‘anything’ right?”
Frakas looked up at his sister and gave a low groan; he was still dazed by the strike. Kierrana let out an annoyed sigh and picked Frakas up none too slowly “I should leave you here so the rats have something to laugh at but at least you didn’t run.”
Tossing him onto her shoulder Kieranna carried her dazed brother through the double doors and up a set of stairs. Upon reaching the third floor up she took Frakas into the sanatorium and practically tossed him into one of the newly made beds. The rat on shift came hobbling over and paused as Kierrana turned her head to face him at a slow speed that made him rather uneasy. The rat felt the spittle misting over his face as the vixen rasped at him “Get this buffoon back awake by whatever means necessary. Father wouldn’t want one of his sons sleeping on the job and I most certainly intend to see to it that none of them do. If he isn’t awake when I return… I’ll wake both of you up.”
She flicked her flail through the air causing the rat to jump backwards a little “And my methods are much more… forcefull.”
The rat stuttered to give a reply as he began taking steps backwards to where he knew the potions and ingredients were stored “Ye, ye, ye, yes by your word overseer.”
Kierrana’s eyes half closed unimpressed by the rat’s answer leaving him stunned for the moments before she responded without care “Whatever, just get to it.”

Kierrana left the sanatorium and descended the castle and its outer perimeter which were still part of the castle but built into the cliffs beneath the central structure. These parts carved into the cliffs that bordered two sides of the castle were also where the quarries were along with the docks at the very bottom where the cliff plunged into the sea. Midway down the cliff fortifications the unnaturally tall vixen stopped and entered a tunnel that had been cut out into the Cliffside long before her father’s predecessors had ever arrived and taken Palerock. The tunnel led to the under hold of the castle which had been connected to the cliff to provide quicker reinforcements since outside help would have been exposed and slow zigzagging down the cliff’s cobblestone pathways. In the under hold was the barracks for the rats as well as an armory and forge for making and storing arms for the guards. Kierrana wound her way through three of the four long sleeping chambers and came to an aged heavy oak door. Pulling a key from a ring on the shoulder of her bronze and iron cuirass she unlocked the door and swung it open revealing a dimly lit stairwell the descended deep, deeper than any of the quarry tunnels beneath the under hold. Closing and locking the door behind her Kierrana walked down the stairs for what seemed like forever until she came to another door that she unlocked with a different key from the same ring. After passing though she locked the door behind her and began walking across a wide, almost cavernous chamber and towards a door at the far end of the room. She glanced at the sections of the wall that were illuminated by the torches where carvings into the wall were visible. Though faded most of the inscriptions and images were still seeable even if it was written in a language nobeast of this age could read. She looked at the distant door as she remembered what they had learned of Palerock’s past, this area had been uncovered during excavations and was apparently older than the castle above. Kierrana stopped at the massive willow and cedar door, it was old enough to have rot damage around the edges but nothing severe however the two lumps of stone on either side that had once been the stands for two statues were a different matter. She took a bronze key and opened the final door letting the light of two fire basins wash over her. Despite all the light in the much smaller chamber the mouse sitting on the floor in the center of the chamber still couldn’t tell who she was “Who visits the forbidden this time? The tormenter Markas, the torturous Frakas, maybe the scornful Drakas, perhaps the contemptuous Kierrana, the merciless Wayren, could it be Tarkis the depriver, Arkan the soul reaper, or is it the insidious Lord Maldicar?”
The iron chainmail that made up the lower half of Kierrana’s cuirass clattered as she jumped forwards and snarled “I see you’ve taken your time in seclusion to come up with insults for those that control you’re existence. Most unwise of you to say them to one of those you insult when you can’t even see what punishment they desire to place upon you.”
The mouse laughed mockingly “You do not control my existence you control the variables that prolong it. No matter where you put me or what you do to me I am always free with my own will, my own desires. Sneer and snarl, whip and slash all you want you can never hold power over me.”
Kierana had a twisted scowl showing her left teeth however she remained silent as she approached the blind creature who continued “Kierrana the contemptuous if anything I am glad to be blind for I cannot see just how your looks compare to your soul, dark one.”
Kierrana was about six steps away and appeared as if poised to pounce on the unsuspecting mouse “Keep talking and I’ll deprive you of your tongue to accompany your lack of sight! You insult and you insult, you don’t even know what beast you speak to. For all you know I could be an otter or maybe even a hare!”
The mouse pursed his lips for a moment then chuckled “Hah, hah, so you think, so you think… fox! I may be blind but I can still smell and hear but most of all I can still feel, feel the symbols of the world speak to me.”
Kierrana furrowed her eyebrows in disgust “Seers, you think you know everything. You are pathetic, I’m surprised father even bothered to spare you since you can’t even swing a pick without hitting your own face. Maybe that’s why you lack the intelligence to respect your masters!”
The mouse rotated his head upwards and brought his sightless eyes to gaze directly into KIerrana’s making her a tad uneasy “If you thought me a fool, if you thought me pathetic then what reason do you have for visiting me? Hmmm, one must wonder why such a great and powerful beast would visit one so insignificant like me.”
Kierana clenched her jaw and stood silent even as the mouse spoke again with confidence “Ahhh, you speak falsely don’t you? You have come seeing the words of the world have you not?”
Kierrana winced and looked over her shoulder as if expecting one of her fellow offspring to be watching “You said the one with the double would fall into a darkened slumber from which the dark one strikes at all. Frakas has been knocked out by a stripedog and he has a double, a twin. What is to come of him, I dema… Hmph, I need to know ‘NOW’ Ueldeon!”
The middle aged mouse known as Ueldeon gave a small nod “Demand yes you do but demanding doesn’t mean you receive. Need you do not but you desire however the one known as Arkan has deprived me of the world’s voice! I need the symbols to listen to her words!”
Kierrana took note of the uniquely cut shards of marble strewn across the floor and grunted “If you weren’t blind I’d tell you to do it yourself. How many are there?”
Ueldeon twitched his whiskers and slapped at where he thought Kieranna’s foot was, his paw hit the top of one of her iron boots “Insults produce only hatred and resistance and hatred silences the world! There are ten words of the world; I need them all to listen to her!”
Kierrana felt the fur on her neck stand up in rage but she concentrated on gathering the small shards, ten in all. She picked up the last one from the dim light at the far end of the room and dropped them into Ueldeon’s lap before snarling “Well, what’s your precious world have to say… mouse!”
Ueldeon held out his paws and dropped five shards from each paw then felt each of the left to right as he muttered to himself. Kierrana stood impatiently watching until she could stand his muttering no longer. Even with her anger built up she managed to keep it at a hissing whisper “Well, what does the world tell you seer?”

Ueldeon bowed his head for a brief moment then looked at the ceiling “The motions of night reflect the actions of the day. As with all things the cycle goes on until only night remains, the night where the dark one resides.”
KIerrana puzzled it together drawing multiple conclusions however none of them seemed to make sense when she played them in her mind. After a few tries she snarled and stomped at the ground “Your words make no sense! What do you mean?”
Ueldeon looked at Kierrana even though he couldn’t see “You cannot read the story to a deaf person. In order to understand they must read it on their own.”
Kierrana went to kick the shards but instead went into a stomping spree, ranting as she left the small chamber and locked the door behind her. Ueldeon sat alone in the room that seemed as dark as death itself and picked up the shards then cast them again. He felt over the symbols and frowned as he muttered to himself. Once he finished feeling over the last symbol he folded his arms over his knees and rested his chin on his arms “Time appears to end yet it does not end… Appear from an individual’s perspective. That can only mean that the perspective has stopped…” The mouse broke out with a somewhat crazed smile “And I will be truly free at last!”

Kierrana wound her way up and out of the under hold then made her way up and into the outer perimeter of the main castle where the slaves were held. Not too far from the cliffs for tossing slaves or moving them to the quarries while also far below the wall tops where archers could rain arrows down on them in case of rebellion. It had all happened once and that was why they were so short on slaves now. Over eight score slain within a matter of minutes and now they had less than five score and some of those slain not so long ago were still being dug up in the quarry tunnels from the sections that were force collapsed.  Kierrana stood at the iron bars of the slave pen gate and looked at the ragged beasts with disgust, not only because she despised them but because they were blocking her vision. She stood waiting with a twisted snarl on her face until a group had crossed by allowing her to see her target. She pointed at him and gave a loud growl “Drakas get your rump over here ‘NOW’!”
Drakas looked left then right before darting over in a rather needlessly hunched small paced run as if trying to be stealthy even though he was out in the open. He stood straight directly on the other side of the bars from Kierrana and his confidence seemed increased by the fact he was standing out of her arms reach “What is it now you overgrown kit.”
Kierrana squinted at Drakas causing his confidence to vaporize “Frakas is out cold because of that stripedog, and you. Didn’t I tell you two to keep to overseeing and away from conversion tasks?”
Drakas gave Kierrana a look of confusion and insult “Hmph, you took that crazy mouse seriously didn’t you?”
Kierrana growled and gripped the gate bars “You translated his words for me you fool so it was your prediction not his!”
Drakas froze for a moment then shook his head “Wha, look I said the one with a double would imply the one with a twin that’s me and Frakas and fall into a darkened slumber was sleep. I never said I knew how it was going to happen! For all I knew it could have meant a cave in knocked one of us unconscious not a stripedog!”
Kierrana poked her muzzle between the bars “Dark one strikes at all. You said that was Vulpuz coming to take beasts, death.”
Drakas went googly eyed in shock “Wha, you think he’s going to die?”
KIerrana repeated Ueldeon’s words “The motions of night reflect the actions of the day. As with all things the cycle goes on until only night remains, the night where the dark one resides.”
Drakas whispered the words to himself then snorted “Well if darkened slumber was sleep then night is probably sleep so day must be awake. I don’t see how sleep reflects awake unless it means when we dream about the past. As with all things the cycle goes on, well we do live for quite a few more than one day. Until only night remains, long sleep is d… curses I hate this! We need to gut that beast before he drives one of us nuts! Could you imagine how father would react if he got wind of this… if he got wind that we were ‘listening’?”
The gate rattled as Kierrana growled “Mention it and you will go nuts… from pain!”
Drakas jumped backwards then snarled at his sister “Hey I’m not brainless you fool! Why else would you ask me to make sense of that buffoon’s words?”
A wrinkled snout of annoyance was what Drakas received in reply “You are the only one that’s even willing to try and decipher his puzzles of words. And you’re the only one willing to even listen to what he has to say. You’re not brainless you’re a coward.”
There was a snort as Drakas pointed at his sister “Coward no I just know when I’m in over my head like I am now. From this though, from this there is no retreat other than to kill him and be done with his poison whether what he says is true or not! Cryptic messages of what may happen only drive those that is dooms crazy.”
The words were answered with a sharp glare from the tall vixen “Kill a seer, don’t you know what happens when you do that?”
Drakas furrowed his eyebrows and spat at the ground “Mother was a seer, did anybeast suffer when she died, no. The line between truth and illusion is thin with them; such ideas are only to protect them.”
Kierrana pondered his words for a moment then stepped back from the gate “I must inform father of Frakas’s condition. Perhaps you are right and his words were only to protect them. If that is the case he’ll be missing more than just his sight… Drakas.”
The last word in her response had been with a dangerous growl grabbing Drakas’s attention “What is it, another line you want me to recite for your vastly overtaxed brain?”
Paws gripped the gate as Kierrana stepped forwards retaking the ground she had put between them “Make the stripedog’s life miserable until I get back. I have a little example to make of him but I want something the slaves can compare it to.”
Looking at his new whip Drakas grinned as he replied “Crisscross pattern to make the skin peel off in block sound good?”
The tooth exposing grin Kierrana answered him with made him stiffen “No, something a little more to match the heat of his temper. The line iron perhaps… on the shoulder so every time he lifts something he sings a song for the guards to dance their whips to.”
Drakas blinked and nodded, last time Kierrana had used it she scorched the beast down to the bone and then made the pack salt in the wound before stitching it shut. The flashback made even him cringe when he remembered how bad the infection had gotten a while after that. In that poor beast’s case the execution had latterly been a mercy kill after even the guards had started complaining of the stench. His reaction made Kierrana chuckle darkly as she strode off “Harm a fox of this hold and you’ll rot away like a log in the swamp.”

Kierrana made her way back up to the sanatorium and waltzed in to find the original rat and three others crowded around Frakas. Even as she strode over towards them they chattered to eachother unaware of her presence “Have you ever seen this before?”
“Never, most puzzling indeed.”
“He bleeds but there are no sword cuts or claw scratches.”
“What do we tell them?”
Kierrana turned her head slightly and growled “Better yet what do you tell ‘me’?”
The rats looked at each other then slowly turned and looked upwards to face the vixen. The rat she had encountered when she first brought Frakas up raised one paw in a halting signal to the other rats “He hasn’t waken. I have done all that can be done but now his slumber appears to be the least of his problems.”
Kierrana pointed at him and snarled “Meaning?”
The lead healer stepped aside allowing Kierrana full view of Frakas’s head. Crimson had soaked into the fur at the nostrils and to the left of the mouth as well as between the bed and his ears. Kierrana blinked in sudden uncertainty as the rat answered “I cannot find why he bleeds but one of my assistants’ suspects his mind has swollen while his head has not.”
Kierrana felt her gut twist and in an instant she was shouting out the window “Drakas get your behind up here before I can start this sentence!”

Down in the slave pen Drakas already had the handle of the red hot iron in his paws. It was similar to a branding iron however instead of a complex symbol all that was on the end was a simple stick of iron as wide as the handle and about paw fox paw’s length. This stick would create the mark of a simple line and as such it was given the name the line iron. Drakas looked at the half score of rats holding the new badger down with a rope net and spat “Let ‘im go, I have to see what is needed of me and I won’t let this… thing waste my time!”
The rats looked at each other as Drakas stomped off allowing the senior most of the guards to look at his assistants “Moment we let this ‘un go he’s gonna strike us… ARCHERS READY YOUR BOWS ON THIS FOUL THING!”
Two score of rats armed with bows on the wall tops turned to face inwards as they strung their bows and pointed at the great beast in the slave pen. The guard leader looked up at them then nodded to his assistants “Alright, ready…. Run for it!”
Bolting off with net still in paws the squad ran for the gate left open by Drakas fearing the imaginary sounds of paw crashing to ground behind them. To them it appeared as if the ground was shaking but in actuality it was all their own fear which the found out once they passed through the gate. The guard leader turned as he shouted “Close it, CLOSE… huh?”
The two rats at the gate rapidly turned the chain crank closing the iron gate in confusion as to the guard leaders panic. The guard leader himself was stumped as well seeing the badger in a kneeling stance where they had left him. The badger was glaring up at the guard on the wall tops not making a move completely catching the guard leader by surprise having expected to have been pursued until the great beast crashed into the gates. He shook his head and glared at his assistants “Agh you fools scarred me! Made me think that great coward of a beast was chasing us! Keep your jaws shut next time or I’ll feed ‘em to the pike!”
The other rats who only now dropped the net looked at each other in confusion, they hadn’t said anything yet to question their superiors word would not go well for them. The guard leader’s threat was answered with a satisfyingly nervous series of yeses and understoods leaving him to give a snort of triumph even if he was embarrassed on the inside.

Drakas burst into the sanatorium with a gnarly scowl strewn across his face as he waved the line iron that was still in his paw “So what is it then, first you tell me to torture the cursed stripedog then you call me…”
Kierrana cut him off with a sharp point of the paw toward Frakas “I suppose the night is coming for your twin, brother. His condition requires father be informed and that a kin be present in case he fades before father arrives. I will tell father considering your easily lost nerves.”
Drakas blinked as his jaw fell wide in disbelief “But there wasn’t a drop of blood from him in the hall. How?”
Kierrana shrugged and looked at the healer rats “I know not how their explanation is possible but they believe his mind has grown while his skull remains the same… I must go to father, delaying informing him of this news would be most… problematic”
Drakas nodded as he stepped to the side letting his sister pass by and out of the sanatorium. He heard a growl echo down the hall as she headed for the throne room but his main focus was on the still form in front of him. He shook his head, slowly at first but quickly gaining speed before he stopped and gave a coarse bark “I’ll turn you inside out and force the pike to eat you alive for this. YOUR SOULD IS MINE STRIPEDOG!”
The rats edged away from Drakas and the line iron as he practically jumped towards the bed and stood beside it. His breath became audibly hoarse and rapid as he fought the urge to start randomly striking out at anything and everything with the hot piece of metal “KILL, KILLLL, I KEEL YOU STRIPEDOG! YOU’LL BURN FOR A THOUSAND SEASONS IN THE FIRE OF THE GREAT VULPUZ!”
The sounds echoed through the castle including the slave pen stopping many woodland beasts in their tracks as well as a good number of the wall top guards.

The upper levels of the castle were decorated with the plunder from the various raids that had brought in the slaves. As to be expected the plunder reflected the type of beasts they took captive. Several stone stands had marble statues taken from sculptors while the tapestries of varying designs indicated merchants. Perhaps the most remarkable works on the upper levels were the colored crystal windows crimson on the east wing for a blood morning and sky blue in the west to resemble the crying of the slaves. Both of these brought satisfaction to the rather plump beast that sat upon a reworked marble throne with an aged gold and jet stone crown on his head. The crimson cloak around him obstructed the view of his armor, a hodgepodge of sections composed of worn black steel armor that looked a shade too small for a fox and parts of rather crudely forged steel.
The wide double iron plated oak doors gave a dull clacking as a beast on the other side knocked bringing the crowned fox’s attention up from his paw toe twirling circles against the arm of the chair to the odd looking rat standing beside the doors.  The crowned fox Maldicar gave an almost unreadable nod to the rat who removed a long rectangular bronze bar from its brackets allowing the doors to swing open. Kierrana took one step through the doorway and took a knee “Father King, one of thy sons has been injured by an aggressor.”
Maldicar held a paw up without moving his arm “Where is this injured son of mine and just what is his injury?”
A gulp was necessary before Kierrana answered her father “He is in the sanatorium, his injuries are unknown to us but he will not wake and his mind bleeds Father King, Lord of Wrath.”
Maldicar gripped the arms of the throne and pushed himself up into a standing position taller than most foxes but still a vast degree shorter than Kierrana “Bleeding mind… rise and show me! Who was this aggressor that dared to attack one of my blood?”
Kierrana stood up as she answered the approaching form of her father “A stripedog taken from the southwest Father King. He has proven most resistant since woke during the journey here.”
Maldicar sneered as he spun Kierrana around to face the open doors “Take me to the sanatorium! The construction of the additional fortifications is nearly complete. Soon we will have no need for so many slaves and my wrath will at last be unleashed upon them!”
Kierrana smirked as she led Maldicar back towards the sanatorium “So you will grant their freedom as you said Father King… through death? Heheheh fitting for rotting filth that have no place in your world.”
Only minutes later the two foxes entered the sanatorium where Drakas stood glaring out a window and down at into the slave pen. He turned his head to look at the arrivals and almost jumped out of his skin when he saw his father. In an instant he went down slamming one knee to the floor which caused him to cringe as he spoke “Father King!”
Maldicar almost completely ignored Drakas and the rats as they also took a knee upon realizing his entrance. Instead the crowned fox walked straight over to where Frakas was laying as he snorted “Rise…. Hmph, what have you done to help him?”
The lead healer slowly rose and trembled as he replied nervously “We have given him something to ease the pain my king however there is nothing we know of that can reverse or even stop whatever is happening to his mind. I fe…”
Maldicar’s turned his head to look at the lead healer with cold eyes “Nothing you know of? Hmph, can you wake him then?”
The lead healer rat shook his head as he clasped his paws together “We’ve tried my king but to no result. It is as if he is a breathing corpse!”
Maldicar touched one paw to Frakas’s bloody nose and sighed, the sigh was a rather dangerous sign “I’d kill the world to reverse this… But even if it can’t be reversed I STILL WILL!”
The sudden shout echoed through all of Palerock and all activity instantly ceased for a moment until archers readied their bows and arrows for a bloody rampage. One of the bowrat’s looked up towards the sanatorium as he mumbled to his fellow archers “I haven’t heard him that angry since Markas took that chisel to the shoulder. You think they’ll do it again?”
The rat to his right gave an amused sigh “Heh, maybe. I’ve been itchin to kill sumthin since that lot panicked when they had to let the stripedog go!”
Maldicar wrinkled his snout in disgust “Both of you go and get on those slaves! Work their hides to death and once the construction is complete kill all of them but the farmers! Ggrrr.”
The brother and sister were out of the room before Maldicar could finish the growl at the end of his sentence. The King of Palerock leaned forward and whispered into Frakas’s ear “I will see you again when the time comes my son. Rest from this world of fools and cowards and be assured your death will be avenged a thousand fold.”
Maldicar reached under his cloak and produced a small pale green flask which he held away from him as he uncorked it. Putting the cork down he reached back under his cloak with his free paw and pulled out a thin three edged dagger which he dipped into the flask and cautiously withdrew. He sat the flask down and took hold of the dagger grip with both paws “Pain is not for my blood, it is for slaves!”
The dagger pierced into a fading heart abruptly stopping its weak pulse for good and ending the life of the crippled Frakas. Maldicar listened to the death sigh gurgle from his son’s mouth then turned to the rats leaving the dagger impaled where it was “Burn his body and free his mind… AND DON’T remove the dagger unless you want to end up being torched alive, all of you!”

Urthgar Strongaxe snorted as he swung the comparatively small pickaxe that had been given to him again. To him the death of one of his captors was a victory though it wasn’t enough; he wanted all of them dead. He swung again and watched as two rats carried another lifeless hulk from the quarry tunnel; it would mean more work for everyone else. The badger listened to the other slaves as they complained to each other about the change in situation. For them things had been brutal before, then their lives had some value to their masters but now it was different, now their lives meant nothing. Strongaxe listened in on a particular slave nearby, a young mouse named Stiedly who was grumbling none to silently as he chipped away at a stone sticking from the tunnel wall “I tell you somethin’s up, they wouldn just work us to death like this unless they didn need us. I bet they’re close to finishin this place an once they’re done… well they won’t have a need for us will they?”
Strongaxe flinched at the crack of a whip even though it wasn’t his back it struck but rather Stiedly’s. Drakas growled as he cracked the whip again across the mouse’s back “If ye can talk then your holding back on your swingin. Less talk more rock!”
Urthgar swung again and glared over his shoulder and at the fox with maddened eyes, if only he could coax the bloodwrath this would be over in a heartbeat. Drakas looked at the badger just as the great beast turned his head back around causing the fox to sneer “Whut you lookin at?”
Drakas wisely took a step back before cracking the badger in the back of his shoulder with the whip “I asked you a question? What’s so important for you to take your eyes off breaking stone?”
Urthgar still holding pick in one paw took hold of the stone he had been breaking at with the other paw as he replied “You, you need others to do your work for you because you’re too weak to do it yourselves.”
Drakas trembled and leapt forwards “You pile of rot, I’ll git you for slayin ‘im!”
Urthgar hurled the rock with neat aim as the fox closed on him. He thought the loud crack was the reward of a direct strike but instead rather it as the stone shattering against a metal sphere sending sparks and shard backwards to shower him. Urthgar blinked to get tiny fragments out of his eyes and looked at the two overseers in front of him, both didn’t look too happy with him. Strongaxe looked at the tall one, a vixen and also the one that had dragged him from his home and wife to be a slave at this place. It was only by luck or curse that his wife hadn’t been there as either they would’ve defeated the vermin or both been taken if not worse. Kierrana growled at him then stopped as if something else had grabbed her attention. The tall vixen furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at the pick in the badger’s paw “Where’s your pick?”
Kierrana waltzed up to Strongaxe and looked from his face to the pick in his paw “I asked you a question… beast.”
Urthgar growled and brought his face closer to the vixen’s, he could almost feel the cold glare in her eyes stabbing at him as he replied “This is the one ‘you things’ provided me or are you too thick headed to remember that?”
Kierrana was about to give her flail a sideway’s swing until something caught her ear causing her to look over Urthgar’s shoulder “Hmmm?”
Pushing Strongaxe out of the way she walked slowly deeper into the tunnel until her eyes came upon one of the guard rats whipping at one of the slaves “Eh I said work not rest you buffoon! Get back ta work afore I make you carve away with your teeth!”
The squirrel cowering against the tunnel wall in the darkness made a feeble attempt to get up “Too heavy.”
The rat hissed in anger “I don’t care if that pick’s bigger than you ar…”
The sudden increase in light as Kierrana took a torch out of its wall sconce and held it in front of her caused the rat to stop suddenly “Overseer?”
Kierrana stepped towards the squirrel and scowled “Is this a joke?”
The rat gave a small chuckle as he answered “Yes overseer, ee was slakin so I decided to give him something a little bigger to compensate for da speed.”
A single blink was Kierrana’s only physical response however her voice was along the lines of a volcano ready to let loose its rage “Slowing two beasts down isn’t compensating that pick is for the stripedog and you gave it to a beast ‘less than half his size’!”
The rat’s attitude flipped as he held up his paws “We were told ta work em ta deth! ERG umph!”
Kierrana grabbed the rat by hissnout locking it shut as she lifted him to eye level “Work them fast not just painfully otherwise you’ll be the one carving the tunnel out with your teeth. And when your teeth fall out I’ll hammer them back into your skull. Cl…”
Her eyes turned to the slaves who had stopped working and now stood staring at them. Kierrana gave a plain toned yet dangerous word of command “Swing.”
The slaves did as they were bid leaving the vixen to turn her attention back to the rat held in her grasp “Clear? Ohh wait.”
She let go of the rat’s snout allowing him to fall to the ground in a heap at which point she repeated her single worded question “Clear?”
The rat sprung up and stood stiff as he replied “Ye, ye, yes overseer!”
Kierrana turned her head to the squirrel and scowled as she gave a mysterious sigh “Great you’ve already worked ‘im to the point he can’t even lift himself let alone a pick… any pick, a shrews pick for crying out loud! What a waste!”
She looked at the smooth sphere of her flail and snorted as she unhooked it and replaced it with a spiked sphere from her belt “I do hate the hassle of changing these.”
The mouse working next to the squirrel looked over his shoulder and went wide eyed “Eh, no please! I’ll work for both of us just don’t kill ‘im!”
Kierrana’s eyes bolted up on the mouse like lightning and she growled “So what you’re saying is you’ve been holding back for this? How about I kill the squirrel and you double your output or I kill you too?”
Urthgar tensed up as he watched, then his tensing switched reasons as the sharp point of a blade touched the back of his neck “I recommend you keep swinging the pick you have now or that big one for you will end up as useless as your corpse.”
Urthgar went back to swinging though he managed to pick out the mouse’s panicked response “No, I won’t if you kill him! Kill him and you kill us both!”
Strongaxe started to turn back towards the commotion until Drakas’s blade realigned him with his task. The vixen’s hideous chuckling echoed down the tunnel along with the sounds of a whirring spiked sphere of death “If that’s how you want it to be I’ll be more than happy to fulfill your wish. Hehehe!”
Urthgar became restless even while the other slaves seemed to have the will drain from them as two gruesome cracks echoed along the tunnel’s length. Urthgar growled at Drakas as a shaking otter approached him with the large crimson speckled pickaxe “You’ll pay for your treachery, all of you will in time. Whether by my paw of another’s it doesn’t matter, you will all suffer.”
The blade at his back cut into the skin and worked its way down beside his spine, not deep but just enough to draw blood and inflict pain “Keep it up and you’ll have no backbone to hold up your words stripedog.”

It had been a week since Frakas’s remains had been burned. It had been only a week since overworking the slaves had begun yet already nearly a score of them were lifeless and drifting on the waves of the sea having been tossed off the docks at the bottom of Palerock.
Kierrana wiped the crimson from her paws and onto a cloth as she descended the stairs beneath the under hold. She wondered what the strange seer would have to say now that one of her brother’s was dead but more importantly wondering if he already knew the death had occurred. The willow and cedar door opened with a push of her paw and she stepped in, this time not even bothering to close the door behind her.
The mouse known as Ueldeon turned slightly to look in Kierrana’s general direction with a slight frown “The torturous Frakas is dead yes? And yet you still wipe the blood from your paws like any other villan. You are still deaf to the words of the world.”
The tall vixen scowled as she approached the blind mouse “You think knowing one of my brothers was going to die would change me? Hah, you’re a fool! Those slaves killed him, your kind killed him and they will pay!”
Ueldeon shook his head as it lowered “I pity you, deaf to the world, deaf to that which screams out the truth for you to hear.”
Kierrana growled and pointed spiked flail at him “Pity me, what reason would I need a blind fool like you to pity me for!”
Ueldeon recited his words from the last meeting with absolute recollection “The motions of night reflect the actions of the day. As with all things the cycle goes on until only night remains, the night where the dark one resides.”
Kierrana blew a disappointed sigh “Nothing new then, you’re useless even for a…”
The sudden change in Ueldeon’s tone caught Kierrana off guard, he sounded almost angry with her “If I must translate for you I will but I know still you will not listen! Hmph… The experience in death will reflect your actions in life. And to put it simply what goes around comes around, what you deal is what you receive until your death, death where the dark one awaits you!”
Kierrana twitched her whiskers rather unimpressed “Deal death and get dealt death? Hah, I’m breathing and they aren’t you buffoon! My very presence is proof your ‘words of the world’ are lies, false truths, fallacies!”
Ueldeon’s sightless eyes bored into Kierrana’s “Frakas was the warning and though you may breath now keep in mind the world has all the time to wait!”
Inside her mind Kierrana could feel something along the lines of an emotional stalemate, fear and hate, belief and ignorance, all conflicting with each other to the point she wasn’t sure what she felt. Kierrana’s jaw dropped open dumbfounded by the effect the words had on her. Ueldeon couldn’t see the response but he could feel her surprise in the silence “You still try to dismiss what I say yet you cannot think of how. You have heard but you do not want to acknowledge. You fail at even the obvious.”
Kierrana shook her head and snorted “Fool how can something harm us when we control it?”
The reply was rather aggressively defensive as it came from Ueldeon’s mouth “Nothing controls the world, only obeys. As I must obey when the time comes whether the world’s will is passed on by you or another it does not matter.”
Kierrana growled as she turned back towards the door having no clue of how to respond “Rot for all eternity for all I care. Your words are meant only to instill fear and I will not fear the words of an inferior!”
Ueldeon stood up on his footpaws, something of a rarity for the mouse as was obvious by the frailty of his legs which caused him to wobble slightly. He took one step after the vixen and pointed at her “You are beyond saving by the living. Only death will free you of your ignorance!”
Kierrana looked over her shoulder with a scowl as she gripped the door “I don’t need saving except from your foolish bickering!”
The vixen slammed the door closed and locked it with a sigh of relief. The mouse was unusually aggressive and blunt with his words ‘was something afoot?’ Taking a moment to think on what Ueldeon had said she eventually decided to inquire with Drakas about the mouse’s change in attitude.

Kierrana wound her way back up to the under hold and out to the cliff fortifications where the remaining slaves worked at placing cut stones into their positions on the ramparts, everything was almost finished. The tall vixen moved at a quick walk up the cliff pathways towards the main castle, passing two of her brothers as she went. Tarkis three seasons older than her and a little shorter than any of Maldicar’s other offspring stood dangling an otter’s water flask just out of the slave’s reach “Come on you can get it… once you’ve finished workin! Put that stone in place before I do the opposite with you and give you to the drink!”
The otter peered over the ramparts and at the water far below. It was only the work of a moment and the otter shivered before darting to the stone Tarkis was pointing at. Further up the cliff fortifications was Arkan who was Tarkis’s age but a little more muscular. Kierrana slowed her pace slightly as she watched Arkan twisting the knot in a rope he had wrapped around a squirrel’s arm. He kept twisting at the knot with a wicked grin causing the thin rope to start cutting into the slave’s arm as his eyes kept focused on the squirrel maid watching him “Well you aren’t using your arms to move the stones like I asked so you must not need them. If you don’t need them then I figure your husband doesn’t either.”
The squirrel maid shook her head as she saw the rope sinking into her partner’s skin “Stop, please! I’ll do anything just stop!”
Arkan halted mid twist and chuckled “Yes you will do anything… heh, heh, heh. If you can move that block into place before ‘is arm falls off he can keep it, if not well I’ll start on his other arm then.”
The squirrel maid pushed all her weight against the parapet stone as Arkan went back to twisting causing the stone to budge an inch but not much more. Kierrana turned her head back to face forward and sped up certain the two squirrels would lose all four of their arms as well as both their lives. As Kierrana came up to the castle gate she spotted Drakas coming towards the gate from the castle grounds.  Kierrana folded her arms as the iron grating lifted in response to the rats that turned the gate cogs that wound the chains up. Drakas walked through the open gate stone faced as his sister wrinkled her snout at him “Our little tale teller’s gone off the edge.”
Drakas halted and slowly turned his head to look to Kierrana “What’d he say?”
Kierrana gave a slight shrug of simplicity “Basically that we’re all going to die for what we’ve done and that we’re all a bunch of deaf fools.”
Drakas turned his body to line up with his head as he growled “Don’t be smart with me give me exact words!”
Kierrana scowled as she let her arms drop to her sides “The experience in death will reflect your actions in life. And to put it simply what goes around comes around, what you deal is what you receive until your death, death where the dark one awaits you! And, Frakas was the warning and though you may breath now keep in mind the world has all the time to wait! As well as, you are beyond saving by the living. Only death will free you of your ignorance!”
Drakas gripped the hilt of his sword with one paw “Hmph, that’s a tad concerning. I suppose it’s a good thing father’s finally decided to silence his forsaken tongue.”
Kierrana gave her brother a questioning look in surprise “Really?”
Drakas gave a small nod of confirmation “Yes, fool isn’t swinging a pick or pressing a stone so he’s just a waste rotting down there. As fun as it is to listen to him cry at night it’s not worth keeping his hide breathing.”
Kierrana turned her head to the right slightly to look at Drakas from one eye “Wait he also said something about him… Nothing controls the world, only obeys. As I must obey when the time comes whether the world’s will is passed on by you or another it does not matter.”
Drakas’s eyes widened at the last line of words that came from his sister’s mouth “What? Father wanted you to kill him since you’ve spoken to him the most… How the world could he have known it was going to be you?”
Kierrana snorted as she wrinkled her snout “Does it matter? Let’s kill him before he throws out another of his obvious foresights. He was trying to mess with us that’s all.”
Drakas hesitated before nodding “Right. Father want’s it done right away, and his eyes taken up to him as proof.”
Kierrana shook her head as she turned around and began descending the cliff pathway “Why’s he want proof of that miserable thing’s death?”
Drakas squinted his eyes as he followed his sister “He doesn’t think you’re up to it.”
Kierrana gripped her flail and growled “WHAT?”
Drakas wrinkled his snout in disgust “He think’s you’ve been listening to the mouse’s babble and that it’s gotten to your brain. It has hasn’t it?”
Drakas jumped backwards as a spiked sphere whirled through the air where he had been standing “WHA!!!”
Kierrana growled and stepped towards him with flail directed at his face “How dare you! Keep that up and there won’t be anything bigger than a tooth to take up to father of you or the mouse to prove either of your deaths!”
Drakas’s jaw dropped open for a moment before he shook his head “Ahh, I meant to say the rotten lowlife’s words haven’t affected either of us so I don’t know why father would say that.”
A snort was accompanied by a questioning look from Kierrana as she started to turn “Replacing four words with a sentence isn’t a simple mistake, its thoughtlessness.”
Scowling and clawing at the air behind Kierrana’s back Drakas cursed at her without uttering a sound as they began to walk down the cliff pathway and towards the under hold.

Ueldeon sat glaring at one of the two fire basins in the room as he felt at the marble shards in front of him. His face relaxed as he reached the last shard allowing him to blow a sight of slight relief “So many voices to be silenced yet the end is so near. Some may have a future away from here after all.”
Head turned to door as it was thrown open leaving Ueldeon to actually smile at the two final visitors “Ahh at last you’ve decided to silence the one who speaks for the world contemptuous Kierrana and scornful Drakas.”
Kierrana stepped into the room and instantly began whirling her flail around in the air “I am surprised you are so pleased with the knowledge of your own death filth!”
Ueldeon gave an amused sigh as he focused his blind eyes on Kierrana “Death is only a step further towards total freedom for me. I can do as I will now but once I am relieved of body my mind is free to roam unhindered by flesh.”
Kierrana started rushing towards the sitting mouse with a snarl “Well let’s not keep you waiting!”
A sharp bark halted her in her steps ad Drakas stepped inside the room “WAIT!”
Iron boot scraped against stone floor as Kierrana turned around to growl at her brother “What is it you fool! Am I not to kill him?”
With a slight nod Drakas confirmed she was to slay him but his raised paw indicated for her to wait a moment as he addressed the mouse “Do you have any final words before you’re tongue is silenced for all eternity? I may not address what you say but I will listen to your voice.”
Kierrana’s eyes burned at Drakas in hatred “What! And ‘you’ question whether or not his words have gotten to me?”
Burning glare answered burning glare as Drakas approached “Well?”
Ueldeon bowed his head for a moment “You know you will be ignorant yet you still wish to hear, why?”
Scowling at the mouse Drakas answered the question “So I have a reason to slap my foolish brothers in the face when your words come true.”
Lifting his head Ueldeon looked Drakas in the eyes by homing in on the fox’s voice “You twist your tongue to make it sound as if your ignorance is driven from those of your siblings.”
Drakas snarled but not at Ueldeon but rather his own sister “Perhaps I am but that is none of your concern. What are your words? Your symbols are spread across the floor so you had to have been reading something from the world!”
Kierrana stopped her flail and lowered it to her side as she stepped towards Drakas “Why?”
With a growl Drakas answered his sister in hatred “Mother was a seer and nobeast listened, except me! She knew her own death and none of you listened! I may not be able to act on the words but knowing the future will give me a reason to sneer you on the other side! You are all ignorant I am only unable to act!”
Ueldeon spoke his words before Kierrana could edge in a response or interruption “A hundred living suns rise on the sea never to leave the ground only to bring the night to those who spread darkness to those around them! Crimson will flow like the rivers of the land and like a pond in a desert it will last only a moment. Darkness will be purged by light to bring a new night leaving the next day to never end for those that survive from dusk to dawn.”
Drakas furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and frustration “Argh, I do not understand but nevertheless I thank you for your words. Now as you have foreseen the night has come for you.”
He looked to Kierrana and gave a nod only to be answered with a shake from his sister’s head, she refused to act at the command of a lost sibling. Drakas snorted and in one movement brought his blade out and plunged it into the mouse’s heart “I know that will kill you because you have that which I do not!”
Ironically with a smile the mouse uttered one last sentence as the life left him “Do not be so sure. You will know all in the end.”
Kierrana brought her flail back as the mouse fell to the floor lifelessly “I should bring you to the end ‘now’.”
Drakas slowly turned his head to face Kierrana with cold eyes “I could have just as easily stabbed you in the throat and say you refused to commit the task… which you have. Now you can either take his eyes to father or I can.”
Trembling with rage Kierrana lowered her flail and knelt down at the corpse’s side “I should take your eyes too.”
Her words were answered with a chuckle of a sigh “Goodluck, I can actually see through them… He wants the eyes because this mouse was blind to his power.”
Kierrana stopped with claws at the dead beast’s eyesockets “You told him?”
A snort of confirmation was Drakas’s only answer.

As the blade was piercing Ueldeon’s heart the world’s will was in motion across the sea. The ambassador of the Imperials stood a little shorter than an otter, average for his species, and wore the armor of the Regulars however the pauldrons stuck out a paws length more on each side for his red cape that was attached to them making him obvious as he stood at the stone slab table that many officers had gathered around inside the fortress’s central keep “Hmmm I see. You’re sure this is where the raids have been coming from?”
A over muscular stoat that went by the name Colonel Graves snorted as he kept his paw pointed at the crude drawing of a castle on the map that had been unraveled on the table “Every border kingdom’s sure of it, I’m sure of it, your own scouts sure of it, that ‘is’ where the raids have been coming from!”
The ambassador rubbed his chin and blinked his shadowed eyes “We only have a hundred troops to spare, what assistance can we rely on?”
Graves stood straight up and looked at the captains gathered around, none of them were in the Royal Guard and most were from the woodland area “There’s a score of our Athairian warriors and a score of Nayan troops…. Lunderhedge, Firanda, and Ohmridge sent about a score altogether. As for the woodlanders I am not sure what support they bring for this effort.”
Graves brought his odd eyes to the otter that stood glaring at the indicated point on the map. It took a moment before the otter realized everyone was looking at him but when he did realize it his voice sounded ready to crack into a rampage “Those foul beasts have raided Summerdale every season since I was a pup, since most of us were little, we aren’t being conservative on this attack! I bring six score of our border guard for this assault!”
Graves snorted dangerously only to have the Nayan ferret captain put a relaxing paw on his shoulder “Easy sir… Watch your tongue streamdog, a lot of the beasts around you aren’t used to letting woodlanders talk to them like that. I for one am sympathetic with your position however you must realize that even a joint operation like this will put strain on the relations between the border kingdoms. We are much more distrusting of our neighbors than you.”
The otter looked at his ferret counterpart and grunted in reluctance “I can’t imagine…. Hmph never mind, at least you lot are sending ‘something’ even if it is a fraction of what we need.”
The Imperial Ambassador looked at the otter with a light glare both annoyed and yet understanding “Can’t imagine why? Bah whatever…. We appreciate the assistance though I wouldn’t say we need it to wipe out the enemy more like we need them for a speedy take over to save those taken by the foxes. Speaking of which aren’t Nayan officers usually Marlfoxes?”
The ferret’s eyes widened slightly as he looked at the Imperial Ambassador “Yes but the marlfoxes themselves didn’t wish to risk the mission by participating. They believed the similarities could… impede operations.”
The Ambassador gave a nod of understanding “I can understand why considering the reports we’ve gotten. The fleet is ready even now and it will take time to get there so there is plenty of time for the assault party to change the plans made here. I believe now is time for them to depart.”
Colonel Graves nodded in agreement as did the captains, war was about to visit Palerock from half a dozen different lands.

A searing how chain attached to two handles wrapped around Urthgar’s neck causing him to growl and roar in pain leaving the tall vixen to laugh sadistically “How’s it feel stripedog, how’s it feel to have you’re the chains of slavery ‘burn’ at you? Heheheheh.”
Strongaxe tried to reach up with his paws but found the effort useless as the vixen Wayren and her brother Tarkis pulled on his shackles. With a great strain of effort Urthgar managed to utter a few words of pained anger despite the chain choking him “You… will… pay.”
Kierrana broke into a giggle as she pulled tighter so she could bring her snout closer to Strongaxe’s ear “If laughter was a currency I’d be richer than the world!”
The tall vixen looked at her older yet shorter sister as just about all ther rest of her siblings watched in laughter “Where’s Drakas, I thought he’d want to see this after what happened to his brother?”
Wayren jerked on the chain in her paws causing Urthgar to buckle and fall face down into the stone pathway “He’s down at the docks on watch, who knows why!”
Kierrana’s income suddenly stopped as her face went to a scowl and she unwrapped the chain from around Strongaxe’s neck “What!!! That brainless fool, hmph… Markas, you go ahead and take your turn I’m going to talk to the imbecile!”
Markas took the chain from his younger sister with a broad smile “My pleasure sis. I’m telling you though; you don’t know what you’re going to miss!”
He was answered with an annoyed snort as Kierrana walked off leaving him to wrap the chain around Urthgar just below his armpits resulting in a loud scream from the badger. Descending the cliff pathways none too slowly Kierrana rushed down to the docks finding that the guard had been doubled as she worked her way downwards. Scrambling out onto the pier she rushed up until she was about ten paces from her brother before growling at him “What are you doing you… you… ah the stripedog’s smarter than you! He knows when it’s time for us to have fun at least! Get your rump up to the caslte efore I carry you up!”
Drakas turned slowly to face Kierrana as he answered her with a drained voice “I will not leave this post until the hundred suns rise and I know our time is at an end. I have no more desire to listen to pain and death when I know I myself will be experiencing it in short time.”
His reply received a heavy glare from Kierrana but only for a moment. Her blue eyes quickly locked in on Drakas’s and suddenly a cold shiver went down her spine “Drakas, how long have you been down here!”
The answer came as Drakas blinked tiredly, his eyes almost seeming to droop on his face “Long enough to feel mother’s touch on the winds. Kierrana…”
The way he uttered her name sent a bolt of fear through the tall vixen “Wha, what?”
With a slow blink Drakas sighed tiredly before continuing “Don’t kill… don’t hurt anymore of them, I beg you. You’re the youngest of us and… I don’t care if I join my brother or not but you… we mustn’t die out not like our ancestors did as they fought each other.”
Kierrana folded her arms in an attempt to regain her stature “Don’t be a fool that mouse was ju…”
Drakas growled tiredly in frustration “No, you don’t be a fool! You heard him, Frakas was a warning!”
Her voice went quiet as she responded to Drakas’s words “We aren’t losing Palerock… Not like they lost…”
Her words were cut off by a simple snort of annoyance from Drakas ending the conversation as they both looked out into the sea.

Kierrana stayed down at the docks with Drakas until the sun began to set along with her brother’s eyelids; finally he was going to get some rest. She watched him until his head drooped into a slumber allowing her to climb the cliff pathways towards the castle. She watched the rats working the remaining two score of slaves that worked at the quarries, one score was dedicated to farming on the other side of the castle, and for the first time she noted the full change of attitude in both the slaves and the guards. Tired and starved the slaves appeared to have lost both their hope and their determination to survive while the guards looked to be enjoying their new found cruelty of beating slaves until they faded from life. With a grunt of annoyance Kierrana looked away, what she didn’t like noticing was that taking notice of the difference bothered her. Passing through the open castle gate she walked back to where her other siblings were still enjoying themselves with Strongaxe though by this time it was Wayren pulling at the chain. Looking to see the others still laughing and enjoying the howling of the multi burned badger Kierrana slumped her shoulders as she kept back a distance to avoid being noticed. Strongaxe grunted as the chain unwrapped from around his left elbow leaving a heavy burn mark to go with the other three that scarred his body. Expecting the cycle to continue Urthgar closed his eyes and took in a deep breath to take advantage of the brief reprieve not certain of when the pain would start again. Opening his eyes he saw the chain being passed to the one called Arkan however passed him he saw the one that had started the event causing him to give a low growl that grabbed the attention of all the foxes. Markas kicked at Urthgar and laughed “What still got some fight in you? Good, I would enjoy keeping this up all night!”
Hearing the growl shame turned to hatred in an instant giving Kierrana the nerve to walk up to her siblings with a scowl however the hatred wasn’t at the badger but rather everything else. Taking hold of the chain and yanking it from Arkan’s paws Kierrana took it over to the fire to be reheated “Let me do that, you’ll burn yourself you great fool.”
The action resulted in a series of laughs and giggles from Wayren as she pointed at her muscular brother “Hah hah, she got you right there, can’t even tell a mace from an axe!”
Arkan growled at his taller and younger sister as he clenched his paws “Look who’s talking, the kit that grabs the hot part of the chain rather than the handles!”
A small grin grew on Kierrana’s face; she was having the desired effect “Well maybe if your fumbling paws could grip a handle properly I wouldn’t have been able to take it from you like a sweet from a youngling.”
Arkan howled and leapt towards Kierrana and the fire “What, you think you can just sit there casually and insult me like there’s nothing to it?”
Markas took a step towards the two of them having experienced just how it feels to be hit by an oversized flail “Arkan, calm that temper of yours. Kierrana quit your brainless insults afore I boot you into next season.”
Taking the chain out of the fire Kierrana looked at the glowing hot metal as she answered her elder brother “Well I need to make them so he can understand them don’t I? Otherwise he might think I’m joking.”
Squinting his eyes Markas snorted at his youngest sister with annoyance “Don’t push it.”
That was a definite signal for Kierrana causing her to look up at Markas and give a small nod as Arkan huffed in a rage “As you wish brother, perhaps we should part for the night so this does not dwell in the minds of those angered.”
The suggestion threw Markas into confusion “Ehh, what? Err…” he glanced at Arkan for a moment then turned his eyes back to Kierrana “Yeah, tis late anyways. We can always continue listening to the screams tomorrow anyways.”
Kierrana gave a scheming and crooked closed lip smile as all of her siblings except Wayren departed from the area. The two vixens glanced at each other then Strongaxe resulting in Wayren motioning towards the badger “What we do with ‘im? I doubt he can walk on ‘is own right now…. Kill ‘im?”
Kierrana dropped the chain as she stood up and shook her head “Nah that would take too much effort, just leave him there. It’s not like he can escape to anywhere with the guards on the wall tops.”
A shrug of laziness was the reply Wayren gave “Alright, that’s fine by me. If I wake up and hear that he’s killed all of you except me that’s fine by me too.”
Kierrana gave an amused snort finding it funny even though she knew her sister was being serious, she was a selfish prick after all.

Two more days passed and the final series of stone were now being shaped and prepared for their placement by the remaining slaves. Strongaxe finished sliding one of the large stones into place and took a moment to glance down at the docks to look at the two foxes below.
Drakas leaned again a stack of crates containing fishing nets as he gazed out at the horizon “How goes the final work on the fortifications?”
Kierrana stood with folded arms as she glanced out into the sea with her brother “Last twelve blocks are being readied… You know if those suns were going to rise they probably would have already. I mean it wouldn't make much sense if they waited to rise until after all the slaves were dead.”
Drakas kept his eyes riveted to where blue sky met blue sea as he replied plainly “Perhaps your right but I’m not going to just turn my back while there’s still a possibility. Meet death head on; don’t let it stab you in the back.”
His words were answered with an annoyed snort from the tall vixen “Will you stop with the death talk! We’re still breathing aren’t we?”
Giving a sigh of tiredness Drakas turned his head to look Kierrana in the face “Do you think just breathing qualifies as living… look at my twin. Was he living after that stripedog hit him?”
Kierrana looked away in disgust about her brother’s response “You can use him as an example like that? What kind of brother are you?”
Drakas gave an annoyed snort and nodded at her “You didn’t answer me sis.”
Closing her eyes as she replied Kierrana’s voice was hesitant “No he wasn’t… Hmph, I think I’ll go take a look at the progress on the stones; nothing seems to be happening down here.”
Drakas looked back towards the sea as Kierrana climbed back up the cliff pathways while she mumbled about her brother’s attitude. She had spared the badger the pain of further torture two days ago and now she was wondering just why she did that. Drakas had told ‘her’ not to kill or hurt beasts that didn’t mean not to watch but somehow it did to and that confused her. Strongaxe’s eyes followed the vixen as she wound up the pathways below until he had to turn to watch her coming up the section he was at. He tensed slightly but it was odd, she didn’t seem to notice him. That was she didn’t notice him until he gave a low growl as she walked by causing Kierrana to jump and spin on a dime. Though startled by the sudden realization of the badger’s presence the tall vixen snorted as she glared into the badger’s eyes “If I were you I’d show more respect to your masters… that is unless you want to lose more than just your freedom.”
Strongaxe fisted his paws and rested them against the sides of his ribcage taking a stance of defiance “Those words might have actually convinced me if it wasn’t already obvious you’re going to kill me and all the rest of us once we’ve finished ‘your’ work. Killing me then would be the same as killing me now only difference is if I wait I won’t have as much strength. You are sapping strength so you don’t even need to try as hard to slay the helpless. Well I’ll make sure of it that you know I’m not helpless. Go ahead carry through with your words.”
Kierrana gripped the handle of her flail with a growl as she took a step forwards wanting to send the great badger over the edge and down the cliff. Something clicked in her mind and her brother’s request snipped at her conscience causing her to stop. Narrowing her eyes in thought Kierrana tried to think of another way to deal with Urthgar and it soon came causing a grin to spread over her face “Heh, giving you what you want would make it too convenient for you stripedog. You need to be around to hear the others around you as they suffer so that you ‘know’ the end is coming…. Heh heh heh.”
The tall vixen stepped back and shouted generally for any beast to hear “Overwatch!”
Drakas’s paranoia in doubling the guard had deprived the castle of beasts to watch the slaves specifically. This had caused the number of deaths and work output had dropped significantly however it wasn’t really noticed by the others. Work was so close to completion it didn’t matter and of course the work rate was expected to drop after the death of so many slaves. A single rat came running down the cliff pathway towards her “Yes overseer?”
Kierrana’s grin twisted into a gnarled smile “Get a few of the guard from their posts and have this ‘thing’ taken up to the slave pen. See to it that he is kept there until the time comes.”
The rat stopped and nodded to her nervously “Yes overseer, right away!”
The guard whistled and a few moments later seven more came rushing up from the cliff pathway below to take the badger to the slave pen. Oddly, at least in her mind, Kierrana blew a sigh of relief rather than laugh with amusement as Strongaxe growled and was forced up the cliff pathway. Her eyes refocused on the horizon and she took a long moment to gaze out, she wasn’t sure how she felt.

It was a little after noon at the hottest part of day the part of the day Drakas didn’t take a particular liking to. He didn’t look up at the bright shining orb but he could feel it’s annoying glare burning down at him causing him a degree of discomfort in his iron cuirass. His attitude took a turn and he began to chuckle lightly, ‘the sun was burning him with its glare as if punishment for his past doings, how fitting eh’.
Drakas sighed and leaned against a stack of crates with his elbow as he commented about his thoughts to himself “Guess nature has its own way of punishing us, hah! Just have to take the time to realize i…. hmmm?”
Drakas focused painfully on the shimmering far out on the horizon. At first it had seemed like the sun’s reflection on the water like the surrounding horizon but now he was sure he saw something separating the shimmering and the water. Walking to the end of the docks he kept his eyes on the anomaly, now he could see what looked like a sail and mast… make that two…. no thr… Drakas counted the masts one by one eventually coming up with the number twenty. His eyes widened from their squinted state, either there were a lot of small ships coming or a few ‘really’ big ones. He turned and looked at the nearest of the guards who he yelled at as he jumped into the air “Raise the alarm, we’ve got ships on the ‘orizon!”
The rat scrambled across the top of the lowest cliff wall and blew into a massive horn that served as the dock’s alarm. The Cliffside came alive as slaves were rushed to the pen and guards took their arms from the barracks.
-x-
A patrol normally consisted of fifty regular troops accompanied by a commander, medic, and scout however they also had a minimal number of ten regulars on standby at their outpost. In this instance Commander Feirwinn Fallstrider had been ordered to take his patrol and his forty seven reserve beasts with him on the combined assault against Palerock. He pulled his amulet out from under his smooth steel cuirass and gazed into it. The amulet had a sapphire that was centered in the pommel of a miniature sword the blade of which pointed upwards. The amulet was made so that two more swords crossed underneath the top sword and beneath them there was a kite shield which had the rays of the morning sun shining from behind it. The single sapphire marked the rank of a basic commander, higher ranks had more sapphires much like the number of stars represented the rank of a general in the long patrol. Fallstrider tucked the amulet back into his cuirass and uniform then looked at his ninety nine subordinates all fully clad in their shining steel armor something just the sight of made his heart pump ready for battle. He looked back at the rising smudge of stone in the distance “Let them see us, for they will see we are ready to do battle! Shorebreaker are your beasts ready?”
The captain of the otters nodded as he stood with javelin in paw though at the moment it could have been confused as a walking pole with the way he was holding it “Aye, we’re ready. Just give us the word and we’ll have those docks secure before you can say ‘I’ve been mobbed’.”
Fallstrider took a deep breath before answering the otter captain “Not yet, I just want to know if the slaves are out working because if they aren’t… if they aren’t we’re going to pulverize their hides with wood and stone.”
Shorebreaker glanced at Palerock and squinted “You want me to send my scout to find out now or should we wait until we’re closer?”
Fallstrider took a moment to consider the otter’s stated options “Can they make it over there, perform a quick recon, and still make it back with energy to spare for the fight?”
Shorebreaker chuckled and stamped his javelin on the deck as he answered the Imperial “Har, har, they don’t call us seadogs for nuthin, of course they can!”
Fallstrider tilted his head forward a tad “Then do it… SIGNAL ALL SHIPS HALF SPEED!”
As the sea otters dove overboard a meerkat at the back of the large ship equipped with four masts ran to a set of polished silver shields. Looking at the other five ships he adjusted the two shields so they reflected a light that all the other vessels could see. Once he had finished making adjustments he began moving the shield up and down causing pulsations of light to be reflected at the other ships. As the group of six vessels slowed a  half score of otters darted through the water and towards the steadily growing mountain.

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