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C Withey's picture

I have heard some speak of retribution, of the gods and their fiery wrath cast down upon the fates of overbearing men. These lot are forsaken and spineless to be sure, hiding behind empty threats of their tiny imaginative deities and idols, casting down empty curses upon his brother for their sins. Their words are to be discarded like the cold iron shackles that once bound me to this land.

There are gods in this land to be sure, but not the ones these cowards prattle on about. No holy figure sitting upon his pristine temple in the clouds would have cast a blind eye to our suffering for so long; none of the Almighties would have let our souls bleed as they have been since time forgot. No, these gods do not exist as they would have us believe. That, or they are not nearly as just and merciful as is claimed. At least, not to the supposed Savages of the land.

But I do believe that there are in fact gods of this land, the gods that we create. I am not nearly enough hypocrite to claim otherwise. These gods are that of wood and stone and iron... and blood. They are the gods we forge for ourselves, through passion. Through battle. Through desire and desperation.

In moment of need, the sword at one's side and the shield before him become thine gods. The axe which defends a man in battle. The sheer willpower and determination brought only by bloodletting.

These are the things I have witnessed with my own eyes. These are the things that, while I did not believe only a few Turnings ago, are now embedded into my very being. They would likely fashion my head upon a pike atop the city walls if they were to discover these facts in my hand, but life is not life at all without risk. Without defense of one's beliefs and inner-most opinions and desires, than one does not truly live. This, I've also been taught.

And my greatest teacher was Everley, the most unlikely sage of them all. Through sword and bow and axe he has taught me to cast off the cloak of the world's, too see the land with new eyes as he has always seen.

Everley is a Savage, and whether or not the title is fitting is up to the men and women who come after me, his story told and his deeds revealed.

They are foreign. We do not understand their origins, though there are those in power who claim to know the truth. The only truths they know are the convenient truths that fit nicely into their manufactured history. No man or woman within Stonetide can with honesty claim to know the truth of these creatures. They have been around since the dawn of man, that much seems certain. And since that time they have been belittled for their differences. Ridiculed openly at first, eventually drawn into chains for slavery, torture, and even death. They understand hardship, and the bitterness many of them hold in their hearts for mankind is not without reason. Grave injustices have been dealt to us all.

If only more of their kind had known before. Many men and women to come after me will look back upon this fledgling revolution and they will begin to understand just what has happened. They will understand that the balance of power was toppled by only a few, something most humans themselves can not claim.

But I get ahead of myself. It is not the present that I claim interest in but the past. And this story opens up, as all good stories should, at the beginning. And this long, sad tale starts with an ominous sign of things to come: the massive explosion that rocked the foundations of Stonetide, the devastation of which is still visible in some parts of the city. That blast let loose the trickle which would turn as a great swell upon the unsuspecting people of Stonetide.

Prominent in this history is my mentor and guide from afar, Everley the Savage. It is he whom I should begin with. And his story went as follows:

The bullkin stood at the center of the fighting ring; massive, blood-stained and battered battle-axe hefted over one muscular shoulder, as he looked out over the jeering crowd. He wiped his sweat-dripping forehead with the back of his paw, gripping tighter the axe which dripped fresh blood back upon the dusty earth. He looked up at the crowd with contempt, seeing their pale faces and frail bodies as little more then fleshy targets. Very few of those in this city, the supposed Slavers as they were called, were fit to do little more than lift hoe to soil and farm their little farms. None of these humans had neither the stature nor the strength to face him in combat.

Everley snorted at them, his blood still fiery with rage from his recent kill, and turned once more toward the center of the ring. There, yards from where he stood the victor, lay the fiendish hellspawn, slain upon the dusty soil. The creature had stood upon four legs, as tall as a fierce hound and as ravenous as one to boot. Its snout was filled with overly long fangs that protruded from his maw even when shut. Complicating matters, the bastards had thought it funny to throw at him a Construct: the fiend had a second head protruding from the rear half, or what was possibly the front half, of the creature, with a second gaping maw just as deadly. As if one jaw full of razor-sharp fangs hadn't been trouble enough, they had stuck a second pair on its ass, just for kicks.

The portcullis opened, and out of it filed a procession of Slavers, each armed and armored. There were five of him, all to take in only one Savage. That was how Everley knew that they feared him. He also knew because these Slavers had been outfitted with full body mail, dressed like so many walking tin cans, and each had been given spark-sticks and pellet hand cannons. They intended to claim him, and return him to his holding chamber with the other Savages. The humans had had their fun, time to clear the board for the next match.

Snarling viciously, Everley approached the column, hoisting his massive battle-axe off the fur of his blood-stained shoulder. The advance slowed, then halted, separating and surrounding Everley as he approached. He knew the inevitable outcome. They would, as they had each and every time before, overpower and overcome him, at length binding and shackling him in heavy chains for transport. But to come quietly and submissively would deny him his one good chance at entertainment, not to mention deny his 'loving' crowd one last show.

Everley hefted the axe in both paws, swinging it in a great arc with enough momentum to bash the Slaver before him to the ground, the blade of the axe unfortunately not penetrating the man's mithril helmet. He swung round once more, swinging the massive iron axe in a great circle, preventing the Slaver behind him from jolting him with his spark-stick. The others hefted their pellet hand cannons, taking aim, giving Everley moment enough to hurl the massive weapon through the air to bash one Slaver directly in his chest, striking him down. He hoped the blow would kill the frail human underneath, doubted he would get that satisfaction.

And then with two great blasts that rattled his eardrums, two large pellets of iron four inches in diameter were fired into his bare chest. The air exploded from Everley's lungs, doubling him over onto the ground wheezing heavily as the iron spheres fell heavily to the soil at his hooves. The Slavers launched themselves upon him, only four of them Everley noted with some satisfaction. They clamped the shackle upon his left paw while his right, unsecured, reached low and scooped up the iron sphere so recently fired upon him. He brought it up and bashed one of the Slaver's upon the head with it, the impact leaving a large dent in his helmet as he, too, fell to the dusty soil alongside his other fallen brethren.

Then the spark-sticks were bared, jabbing sharply into his flesh, each time delivering a massive bolt of electricity into his system that sent his muscles into convulsions. His massive form toppled heavily to the ground, stirring up a small storm of risen dust in its wake. The heavy shackles were secured around his paws and hooves, the iron collar placed around his neck. All five pieces were then attached by chains, with six large iron balls left to trail noisily behind him on the ground.

His entertainment had ended for the day, Everley thought grimly with jaw clenched and horns digging into the earth. He had downed two of the Slavers, possibly killing him. He kept this fact in his head as the others forced him to his hooves and marched him out, him standing almost two heads higher than the tallest human Slaver.

Everley was a bullkin. A Savage. And for this vilest of crimes, being born with only half the characteristics of a man and half that of a wild bull, he was sentenced to a lifelong punishment of slavery and abuse, with only the occasional satisfaction coming from slaying one of his oppressors. He would suffer harshly for this, and two would come to replace every one fallen, but it was a small victory nonetheless, one that these barbarians could not take from him.

The great explosion that changed the course of history in Stonetide would come during his transport back to his prison chamber. But there are other, more woeful tales to be told, for Everley's fate is not only his own but is shared by many.

There is a young woman, Hazel, whose fate is arguably the worst of all the Savages, for she had tasted freedom before being forced into her fate as a slave. She had been born free, in the wilds, be captured in only half a decade's time. Her origins are a mystery to all but a few, but their impact is evident throughout the course of her entire life.
Her woeful tale must also, unfortunately, be told.

Hazel was likely a beautiful foxkin child growing up, and may still be to some foolish enough to pursue her. It is suspected that her name was given to her to reflect her soft, light fur and tail, all fair to the touch. Nowadays, what there is instead is a creature of wrath and hatred, a heart full of malice and eyes full of vengeance and murder. Such a shame, it is.

Hazel was a captive to none other than King Haefen himself, a man well known to be vile and ruthless toward the Savages. Him and the most high-ranking officials in his cabinet were known to subject their prisoners to the worst forms of torture, an expression to serve as public example of man's dominance over Savages. To him, they were naught but fodder, little more than overgrown flies to tear off their wings and watch their life drain out.

Hazel was chained to a wall in the dungeon of the castle, a wall dank and slick with moss and mildew. The dirty soil beneath her was perpetually moist, as were all rooms and corridors underneath the castle. This left her lower paws in constant discomfort and pain. The fur of her feet was dirtied and wet, black with soot and scarred from abuse.

Her arms were chained to a metal ring protruding from the stone above her head, leaving her to stand in the dark and the cold for hours on end, without even a shred of clothing for warmth. She was always cold and wet, her fur constantly wet and drooping from the moisture in the air of the dungeon. She would shiver in the cold if not for her body being so depleted of strength. They had not given her her rations yet this day, had likely forgotten to as they sometimes do.

Yet all of this, perpetually starved and cold and damp, standing in the dark with the cold steel biting into the wrists hanging above her head, all of this was better than what her captives regularly subjected her to. The men would come, for they were always men, filthy, stinking, disgusting men with their vile breath and ugly bodies, they would come and they would loose her from the wall only to have their way with her. Always there were guards standing nearby, always with their spark-sticks crackling evilly in the humid air, always were their eyes upon her nakedness. The men with their fat, hairy bellies and bald heads and missing teeth and ugly, short growths of manhood; their touch would be cruel, their manner unkind, their intentions of the worst and most primitive sort. They would take her, with her wrists and ankles still bound together so she could not retaliate, and she could do little more than cry out and shout at them in hatred whilst tears coursed from her once-pretty eyes to further smudge the fur of her cheeks. Her only consolation was that men did not last long, and in only a few moments she would find herself upon the wall once more, awaiting her next 'guest.'

Telltale footsteps drifting in from afar pulling Hazel from her thoughts, and she looked up suddenly with dread sinking her heart. There was a rattling of keys, then the heavy chamber door was opened, and the face of the king himself was revealed in the harsh firelight beyond. He entered with gaited step into the room, a pair of perverted guards entering from behind, probably eager to view the impending show just to whittle their whistles behind closed doors later on.

“Ah, my sweet,” called out the king in a deceptively cheery tone. He was likely pleased about the events to come, though Hazel couldn't imagine why. If he was down here with her in this dungeon, that obviously meant that he hadn't found any lively cherries of his own kind to pluck from the tree. Such a pity.

He had already begun to undress. “I trust my counselors have been good company?”

Hazel longed for her ankles to be unshackled in this moment, longed for a shot, one good hard kick, to rob the king of his intentions from ever visiting her again. She had a clear shot now, unobstructed by anything, if only she were free.

Instead, she spat upon him. Which was instantly met sharply by the back of the king's hand to her face, further bruising her already injured jaw and cheek.

“She still has some fight in her, doesn't she?” jeered the king with a snide grin as he turned back toward his guards. He wiped the saliva from his face onto his arm before reaching up and loosing Hazel's chains from the metal ring above her. Then he roughly shoved her towards the center of the room where she stumbled upon the braces around her ankles. Falling to her back, the king leapt upon her before she could attempt to right herself. She struggled against him, and the guards stepped forward, one of them securing her lower paws and the other her upper.

The king was, visibly, enjoying this spirited resistance.

“Now, my sweet,” breathed the king, whose breath was sour and laden with alcohol. He positioned himself above her. “Time to pay homage to your king.”

That was when the explosion rocked through the city, bringing Stonetide to its knees.

I have the feeling some hard

I have the feeling some hard justice will be coming for the king and a few others. =)

A solid start, I thought. The use of language is very good, and helps to set a savage tone to match the world.

The transition to the scene of Everley in the ring felt a little rough, though. I wonder if a different approach to that might work better? However, once we're into that next scene, Everley is a vivid presence.

Hope we'll get to see part two (and what that explosion was about) before long!