Vol 4: Chapter 3, Part 1: And The Walls Come Tumbling Down

Wincing, Beddigan huddled against the side of the makeshift medical tent, cradling his left forearm and paw. The bandage wrapped around his arm was wet through from a mix of rain and blood, and he could tell the wound had reopened in the day’s fighting. He stared at the reddened strip of linen.

The tent was bustling, Felines rushing around him as he sat quietly, waiting for his turn with one of the three Healing Mages that had come along with the army of the Empire of the Lions. While they could use their magics to heal most wounds, their power was far from limitless, so they mostly used their first aid training on the soldiers, coupled with a bit of power to numb the wounds, unless a life was truly threatened.

The fighting had been going on for several days, and he’d had very little sleep. And on top of being exhausted physically, he was emotionally drained from seeing the capital city of his homeland decimated by the giant mechs that the Wolves had received from the Bears of Sinerrah. That moment, on the top of the gentle rise, looking down at Yroebrage and seeing its walls fall under the mechanical beast’s paws, was burned into his mind. He could think of little else in his meagre downtime, even now when they had regained control of much of the city.

They had been fortunate to learn that despite their enormity and power, the mechs had a limited power source — one they had yet to determine. As their army had swarmed down the rise towards the burning city, Beddigan had felt a sense of hopelessness that was new to him. How could they ever win against such machines? But once the fighting began, that feeling had ebbed. Seeing how few of the mechs there truly were, as well as how quickly the Wolves pulled them back from the city to avoid damage and conserve energy, now that they had a large attack force to battle against, had changed is mood entirely.

Beddigan had been shocked by the scattered Illensdar army, and even more put off by the lack of Sapphire Brigade members on site in the capital. He realized shortly after arriving in the city that it was mostly evacuated, and he suspected Queen Elendie had tasked the Brigade with getting her safely out of the city.

“Let’s have a look then.” A young Tigress approached him and he held up his arm. She gently unwrapped the bandage and tutted softly at the sticky, reddened fur beneath. “You’ll need a few more stitches.” She murmured, pulling out a small suture kit. Beddigan felt the peculiar sensation of her power as she drug her paw gently over the long, jagged wound he had earned from a Wolf’s short-sword. The area was now numb and he watched with interest as she stitched him up and wiped away as much of the dried blood as she could, before wrapping his arm up with a fresh piece of linen.

“Thank you.” He murmured. She nodded curtly and hurried off to help another soldier in need. Before her could even stand and exit the medical tent, a young Lion soldier he recognized as one of the Lord Regent’s personal guards dashed inside, eyes darting around the room. Seeing that he was the intended target of this soldier’s attention, Beddigan climbed to his feet with a sharp groan, suddenly aware of how tired and sore he was.

The Lion rushed over,

“Sir! We’ve done it.” the youth exclaimed, “The second wave has driven the last of them out towards the border. The Lord Regent would like to see you straight away!”

Beddigan felt relief wash over him, not just at the news that the city was free of Wolves and secured, but that he wouldn’t need to fight any more that day. He nodded to the Lion solider and ushered him out of the medical tent, heeding the annoyed looks of the Healing Mages and nurses.

“That’s wonderful news.” He told the youth as they wound their way through the camp, sidestepping tents, tables, and piles of supplies. He listened as the solider recounted the last push as he’d seen it, from the Lord Regent’s side a short distance away from the actual fighting. Not only did it appear that the Lions and Rams were equal, if not better trained fighters than the Wolves, they also greatly outnumbered the amount of forces the Wolves had allotted from their Army for this particular task. Though many had been injured, they had lost very few soldiers so far, and none had been captured that they knew of. Though, Beddigan suspected that was likely to change once the news got back to Strille that a couple new species of fighters had joined the Mice’s cause.

Beddigan eyed the solider curiously as the youth lead him away from the camps, towards the northern wall of the city. He was surprised he wasn’t being lead to the eastern wall, where the battle would have ended, or to the Lord Regent’s lodgings. He half-listened as the young soldier babbled on about the battle, but his eyes were sharply watching the horizon for the reason the Lord Regent was so far away from the front.

He didn’t have to wait long before he saw the twisted, hulking metal, broken over half the city wall, to know why they were headed that direction. The Wolves had abandoned — or more likely been driven away from one of their mechs.

“Ahh, there you are Beddigan!” the Lord Regent boomed as they approached a cluster of soldiers near the base of the wall. Beddigan bowed hastily to the leader of the Lions.

“My thanks to you for your assistance here, in driving the Wolves from my city. I can’t thank you enough.”

The Lion thumped a paw heavily on his back and chuckled,

“You can thank me later when we’ve put an end to these Wolves for good.” The Lion said jovially, though the light tone did not match the intensity of his eyes. “Well, that and with the magics you’ve promised me.” He added with a wink.

Beddigan felt the same peculiar squish in his belly that always accompanied one of the Lord Regent’s hints at their bargain — a bargain he wasn’t sure he would be able to hold up. He quickly looked to the mech to change the subject.

“I can’t believe they left one behind.” He said, looking up in wonder at the thick, steel leg, hinged over the crumbled stone wall. The Lord Regent chuckled again,

“They didn’t leave it so much as my elite team overwhelmed their forces so much so that the operator had to make the choice to abandon the machine or die.” Beddigan looked at the Lord Regent sharply.

“You sent a team to secure one of the mechs?” without telling me, he finished silently. The Lion thumped his back heavily again.

“Well, of course I did, my dear Mouse!” Beddigan swallowed his anger and let the Lion continue. “We needed to get a good look at one, and it was worth the price of a couple of lives to procure that.” Did we lose more soldiers that I’ve been told? Beddigan thought, his gut twisting with a combination of guilt and anger. He loathed the Lord Regent’s flippant way of discussing loss of life. It reminded him far too much of Queen Elendie, who had sent his father to his death.

“Pity that Wolf had enough time to pull the power source in his escape though.” The Lion grumbled, bringing Beddigan’s attention back to the motionless machine on the city wall.

Bracing himself against the wall and using the metal leg of the beast as support, Beddigan shimmied and climbed until he reached the top of the crumbling section of wall. Ensuring his footing was sound, he crept towards the cage-like centre of the mech. From this angle, he could see that a steel framework in the shape of a bear had been soldered and bolted together, leaving a thin conduit which was no more than the depth of a piece of rope, running along each leg, linking to the central compartment. Attached via steel cable suspension, right in the heart of the mech, was an operators cage, with a small seat, several levers, and two conspicuously empty hollows that connected to the web of conduits reaching down each extremity, and encircling the head.

The door to the cage hung open from when the operator had fled to safety. Beddigan slipped inside, sitting on the small, hard seat. He ran his paws over the levers and around the hollow spots, imaging what it would be like to run one of these machines. His eyes lingered at the place where the power-sources obviously went, that would provide power to the empty conduits, and bring the mech to life.

“Crystals.” He murmured, remembering seeing an odd silvery light on that first mech as it tore down Yroebrage’s western wall.

Climbing out of the cage he took his time scaling down the wall to the Lord Regent and his soldiers that waited below. There’s no way to get around telling him that it was powered by crystals, he thought as he made the final hop down to solid ground.

“Well then, find out anything?” the Lord Regent asked as he turned to face the Lion.

“It’s about what I expected,” he hedged, scrubbing the grime from the wall climb off his paws and onto his already filthy breeches. “The Bears are master crafters, so I’m not surprised they could build such a machine.” The Lord Regent nodded and gestured for him to continue.

Sighing, Beddigan scrubbed is paws over his face.

“It looks like it is powered by crystals, though I have never known a crystal that could do something like this. It’s entirely new.” He said, turning back to look at the mech. Could this be how the Bears have powered their building? And why they keep their borders so closed to outsiders? He thought, not wanting to share those details with the Lord Regent.

“Interesting.” Mused the leader of the Lions, as he mounted his horse. “I guess we’ll be paying these Bears a visit before we leave.” He said with a wicked grin, before urging his horse towards the camps. His soldiers followed, leaving Beddigan to stand near the crumbled wall of the city, staring at the back of what could be his biggest mistake.

To be continued…

© Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved.


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Where it All Began…

In lieu of an update this week, I thought I would give you all a chance to take a look back at (or revisit!) where this story began. Chapter 1 of Volume 1 lies below. If you’re new here, and like the story, you can visit this page to get a FREE pdf ebook copy of Volume 1. And if you prefer to have a physical book in your hands, you can purchase Volume 1 here.

Chapter 1: Beddigan T. Mouze

The wind ruffled Beddigan’s fur as he crouched against the smooth rock-face, his eyes never leaving the inky dark mouth of the cave. Moments before, the lumbering bulk of the red Dragon, dubbed Galantus by the residents of the nearby village of Windermere, had landed on the bluff and stalked into its home. Little did the Dragon know that Beddigan T. Mouze had already been inside and set a trap to finally rid Windermere of the winged beast. One paw on the hilt of his sword, Beddigan crouched, frozen like a statue, waiting for the boom of the triggered explosion and the howl of the Dragon.

Time passed. Too much time. Straightening, he stepped cautiously towards the cave, brow furrowed. By now, he should have been well on his way down the mountain to collect his fee from the thankful villagers. Creeping towards the cave, he kept his ears perked for any sound of movement. Silence. Stifling a growl, he pulled out his illumination crystal from his pocket and affixed it to the leather gauntlet that wrapped around his paw and covered the bulk of his forearm. Tapping it, he waited until the soft glow of green light penetrated the edge of the darkness of the cave. Moving slowly, he approached the darkness and peered inside, wincing when the leather of his boots creaked softly. He scolded himself inwardly for not having oiled them properly after his last adventure.

Soon, the hulking form of the slumbering Dragon appeared in the faint glow of his light crystal. The iridescent scales of the beast shimmered and glowed as if lit from within. Beddigan froze, extinguishing his light crystal and plunging them both into darkness, for fear of waking Galantus. He stood stiffly, paw firmly on his sword and waited for any sign that the Dragon would wake. After a long stretch in the darkness he tapped his light crystal back on and crept behind a spire of rock, feeling confident that he had not woken the beast.

From this angle, he couldn’t see the Dragon’s face. When Galantus had lain down must have narrowly missed the triggers for the carefully packed and placed explosive crystals that Beddigan had set. Stepping around the spire, he squinted, searching until he saw the tiny pink telltale marks of the explosives near the Dragon’s tail, foot, and neck. Beddigan’s lip curled in a silent snarl of frustration. It should have been an easy end to this adventure. It had taken him time and coin of his own to put together the plan that would earn him enough gold to take a nice, long vacation. An explosion, a Dragon buried in rubble, and him with his feet up and a few tankards of ale, counting out his fee gleefully.

Extinguishing the light again, he moved quickly out of the cave, blinking in the bright sunlight as his eyes adjusted.

“Okay Beddigan… what in this Warbler’s Cursed world do you do now?!” He snarled, pacing around on the bluffs. He angrily kicked a rock off the edge of the ledge and listened while it tinked and thunked down the mountain slope. His eyes settled on a much larger rock, this one about the size of his fist, and an idea was born. He picked up the small boulder and tested its weight. It would be risky. He would have only one shot. It was dangerous. Even if it worked, the chances of being caught in the explosion were much higher this way. It either worked, or he ended up on the business end of a very angry Dragon, who undoubtedly would enjoy eating Mouse-flesh.

Beddigan turned towards the cave, gripping the rock tightly. “May Annilose watch over me.” he muttered the prayer, stepping into the mouth of the cave. He closed his eyes, listening to the Dragon’s heavy breathing. He visualized where he was in relation to the undetonated explosive crystals. Tucking the rock into the crook of his arm, he carefully loosened his light crystal from his gauntlet. Taking a deep breath, he activated the crystal to its brightest setting and tossed it into the cave, praying it would provide enough light for him to see his target. Eyes locking on a pink flicker, Beddigan heaved the rock into the cave, just as Galantus began to stir from the light, its massive head whipping around; golden eyes locked on him.

Beddigan leapt to the side, trying to escape the mouth of the cave as the explosion shook the mountain, and the Dragon roared. Rock exploded off of the cliff face as the other explosive crystals triggered. Beddigan tucked himself into a ball and covered his head and neck with his arms, waiting for the explosions to stop. He waited several minutes after silence descended on the mountain before lifting his head. Standing and shaking the rubble from his body, he crept towards the mouth of the cave. Huge slabs of sandstone, broken and jagged, filled the entryway into the cave completely. He leaned forward and listened carefully for any sounds of life within.

After a few moments he stepped away, looking out over the thick, evergreen forest below, towards the little village of Windermere, with its brightly coloured roofs. With a satisfying grin he thought, I can officially add Dragon slayer to my resume, as he started to make his way down the mountain.


Later that evening, after being greeted by the thankful villagers of Windermere and meeting with the town elders to claim his fee, Beddigan sat at a small table in the corner of the lively Three-Headed Rabbit Inn. He would always have a free room and a full glass and plate in Windermere, now.

The Dragon had slaughtered half of the town’s population over the past turning, since it had taken up residence in the bluffs of Mount Lileen. Dragons were rare in this part of the world, and few were skilled or crazy enough to try and slay one. The villagers thought it a thing of fate that Beddigan had shown up and taken on the task of ridding them of Galantus. But Beddigan had heard word of the Dragon while adventuring to the north. With the confidence that he could outsmart the Dragon, and the desire for the coin he would get for such a deed, he was immediately interested. But most of all, the challenge of such an adventure lifted his soul and set his blood afire.

So, he had made his way south, stopping in the bustling metropolis of San Vincent’s Port to procure the crystals he would need for his plan. It had cost him a considerable amount of coin, but the fee for slaying the Dragon would more than make up for it. He had enough now to take a nice, long vacation, which he was desperately in need of. He had been on a steady streak of adventures for the past five turnings. Constantly, one job after another, creating quite the name for himself in this part of the world; and racking up quite the list of enemies as well. He was starting to slip up with little things, like oiling his boots properly, or having a solid Plan B, simply due to exhaustion. But at the same time, he didn’t have much desire for down time. He wasn’t the type to lay on a beach or stay in the city for theatre and parties. He was happiest when he was adventuring; solving problems, battling beasts, saving fair maidens. He felt most alive when he had his sword in paw, battling for his life.

A pang of grief struck his chest at the thought of battles, and the memories of war, almost enough to make him set his tankard of ale down. He quickly chugged the remains of his ale, trying to drown the feelings of unease; the thoughts of his time in Her Majesty’s Royal Sapphire Brigade.

From a child, he had wanted to be a soldier. Just like his papa and his uncles and nearly every man in the Mouze family. He had paid attention in school just enough to pass until he was old enough to join Her Majesty’s Royal Cadets. The fighting between his home country of Illensdar and the neighbouring kingdom of Mormant had been alive for ages. He had lost papa to the very same war he would grow to fight in, turnings later. Mama had begged him not to go to war, never having been the same once papa died. But more than anything in the world, he knew he must.

Thinking about mama always brought a tear to his eye, which he quickly blinked away. He had left mama, his little sister Clottie, and old uncle Thomas at their family homestead in Shillingdell, and had made his way to the capital city of Yroebrage. The next six turnings of his life were spent training and battling in the name of Her Majesty, Queen Elendie. He had worked his way up through the ranks of the army until he had been chosen to be a part of an elite group of warriors known as the Royal Sapphire Brigade. His time amongst those fine Mice were some of the best in his memory; and also some of the worst. He had made some great friends during that time, including Sir Charrin, who had been his most trusted friend and ally.

Beddigan signaled the barmaid for another tankard of ale, while his mind flew unbidden into memories he had tried so very hard to bury. The shame of them caused him to hunch down in his seat, and to keep his eyes averted from the barmaid’s as she delivered his drink. He shook his head, trying to lose the image of betrayal that had been stamped upon Sir Charrin’s face as he took his last breath. Beddigan’s paw shook at the memory of sneaking away from the castle in the dead of night, knowing he could never return. Slugging down more ale, he forced his mind to turn away from such thoughts, as he had trained himself to do over the turnings since he left his homeland. He was good at burying things. And running. And never letting anyone get too close. Pulling his coin pouch loose from his belt he started methodically counting the pieces, his ritual to bring himself back to the present.

Soon, having finished his last tankard of ale for the evening, he pushed back from the table and stretched, the room spinning a bit from his impairment. He started to move towards the stairs that would lead him to his room when he felt it: that feeling that someone was watching him. His paw instinctively moved to the hilt of his sword, as he sharpened his gaze and peered around the busy, raucous room. Nothing stood out as odd behavior among the many inebriated patrons. Chalking it up to the ale and haunting memories, he continued to make his way upstairs. Fumbling with the key at his door he almost didn’t hear the small voice behind him,

“Excuse me, Sir. Are you Beddigan? The Adventurer?” his back stiffened a bit, listening carefully before turning. A child’s voice. He turned slowly and saw a little Mouse, no more than eight or nine turnings old, in a tattered pink dress. Her soft gray fur tufted along her cheeks. She stood a few steps away, tugging shyly on the hem of her skirt. Beddigan tried to smile, though he was sure it came off weak, and crouched down, holding out his paw,

“Indeed I am, little one. How can I help you?” he asked. The little Mouse stepped forward, reaching out to gingerly touch his paw.

“It’s.. I-It’s my papa. And my village.” she said with a sniffle. Her mouth quivered, “This a-awful beast came and took papa away. He has taken lots of papa’s and they say.. they say he may come for the children next.” A door in the hallway opened before Beddigan could answer, and a tall, striking Mouse came out, startled to find them together in the hall. Her amber eyes softened when they settled on the child’s distraught face.

“Beatrice.” the Mouse scolded softly, crouching down and pulling the little girl away from Beddigan, “I told you not to bother him. Go in, go to bed.” she pushed the little girl towards the room she had come from. Standing, she smoothed her dress, looking at Beddigan as he rose,

“I am so sorry. I was going to approach you about helping our village in the morning. She must have been spying on you.” Beddigan smiled, genuinely this time,

“It’s alright. I take it you are her mother? And your husband was taken by some beast?” he asked. Tears filled her eyes but she blinked them away furiously.

“Yes, we need help in the worst way, which is why Beatrice and I came to see if you could help. You rescued my sister’s village a few turnings ago. And we heard you were to take on the Dragon here.” Beddigan nodded along, but before he could answer, Beatrice burst from the room and wrapped her arms around his legs.

“P-please mister Beddigan. I need my papa.” she sobbed, while her mother tried to tug her away. Beddigan crouched down, hugging the little girl close for a moment and then pushing her back into her mother’s arms.

“Don’t worry, we will find your papa. Now do as mother says and go to sleep.” Beatrice sniffled and rubbed her eyes and headed back into the bedroom. He heard her mother assure her that she would be right in before she pulled the door closed with a soft click. Turning back to Beddigan, fresh tears in her eyes she asked,

“Do you mean it? You’ll help us?” Beddigan nodded and reached to take her paw,

“How could I say no?” he murmured. They made plans to meet in the morning over breakfast downstairs, and Beddigan finally made it into his room, and shut the door. “So much for a vacation,” he muttered before collapsing on the bed.


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Vol 4: Chapter 2, Part 2: Freedom & Binding

Shianne felt the tension in the room thicken as father and son met eyes for the first time in many turnings. Hoping to diffuse the moment of tension, she held up her arm and made a face at the Commander.

“If it’s not too much trouble, Commander, I’ve had just about enough of this gaudy thing.” The lamplight flickered on the gold and jeweled cuff, catching both Wolves attention. Mission accomplished, Shianne thought as she felt the tension in the room break.

Commander Rollstad beckoned her forward,

“Yes, yes, you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain.” He said, roughly jerking her arm forward, studying the cuff. “Part of me wants to deny you this freedom, for all you’ve done.” His eyes met hers and she saw the naked malice in them. “I could do that, you know.” The Wolf said, releasing her arm.

A feral grin transformed Shianne’s face, and she leaned in close,

“And I could fill you with daggers before you could even cry out for help.” She hissed.

Regaining her composure, she stepped back, “But let’s just keep the unpleasantness to a minimum, hmm?” she said with a cackle of laughter.

Rollstad gave her a flat look before unceremoniously placing his paw on the jeweled cuff just long enough for a soft click to break the silence in the room, causing the cuff to fall to the floor with a heavy thunk.

Shianne blinked at the bright orange fur of her now bare wrist for a moment before she rubbed it greedily, relishing the feeling of her fur.

“Annalose and Ardra, that feels good!” she murmured with glee. Turning away from the desk and the Commander.

After a moment of bliss, she looked up to see Ragnon, his eyes cast down to the cold, stone floor, and she remembered the consequences of that bracelet falling away. Her mind raced; two guards outside the office door, then two more by the entrance. There has got to be more guards than that, she thought moving to stand with Ragnon.

“You’re well then?” the Commander said, breaking her concentration and the silence. Shianne grinned at him,

“Quite well, thank you so much for asking.” She replied sarcastically.

Commander Rollstad’s face twisted into a snarl,

“I didn’t mean you, you insolent kit! Your work is done here. Be gone.” The Wolf growled.

Shianne turned to look at Ragnon, wishing they had taken the time for a last-minute discussion on how to get them both out of this room — this building, before they’d come inside. She knew she could get out alone, even if Rollstad’s letting her leave was ruse, but getting them both out of this fortress, that she was certain was well-guarded despite the few Wolves they had seen on their way in, was an entirely different and more difficult matter.

After meeting Ragnon’s eyes, she felt her gut twist, and knew from his resigned look that he was going to be staying, and she needn’t bother trying to make any last-minute plans to free him.

“Ragnon…” she said softly, reaching out to touch his forearm. The Wolf tried for one of his trademark toothy smiles, but it came across forced, and faded far too quickly.

“I’ll be fine, Shianne. Get out of here before that bastard changes his mind.” He said with a sideways look at the Commander.

She hated leaving him there. But it wasn’t her choice anymore. Pulling him into a gentle hug and expertly turning him out of earshot of his father, she whispered,

“We’ll break you out. Count on it.” Ragnon gave her a grim nod before gently breaking the hug and taking a couple of steps away from her, towards his father.

Shianne flashed the Commander a grin,

“Until we meet again.” She said with a bit more edge in her voice than she’d intended, and then she left the room. A guard escorted her out of the building. As she walked past the two Wolves guarding the entrance pathway to the fortress, she pulled up her hood.

“Can’t believe he’s letting her leave.” She heard one of the guard’s snarl, as she walked away, crossing the wet cobblestone street. As she slipped into an alley she thought to herself, me either.

To be continued…

© Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Vol 4: Chapter 1, Part 1: Through Smoke & Haze

The voyage home had been a long one for William. It wasn’t that the distance was so great — it took about the same length of time sailing to San Vincent’s Port from Mormant as it did from Mormant to Sinerrah. Getting through the thick forest of the Losley Deadwoods though, even with the help of Lady Lisanne and her creatures, had taken some time. And then picking his way through the wild parts of Mormant to rendezvous with Captain Linley at the Royal Port near Strille had been a tedious task. Ordinarily he would have arranged to meet Linley at one of the smaller Port towns along Mormant’s coast, but upon stepping through the portal back to Lady Lisanne’s cottage, he had been informed that the Wolves had tightened up their grip on their own people as the war effort raged on, and all other Port’s had been closed.

That wasn’t the only thing that had changed in his absence. To his horror, and incidentally his luck, he had entered the Wolves’ country to find a great deal more Bears than normal. This allowed him to blend in and find his way to the Royal Port more easily, but the shock and disappointment that his people had joined the Wolves in their quest for dominance over the lands settled over him like a black cloud. He had been tempted to ask around so that he may suss out more information about how this had come to be, but had in the end kept his curiosities to himself in an effort to avoid any confrontation. He needed to get home to Elenya and his kids. That had to be his priority, despite the state of world around him. Continue reading

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