The party had traveled on lower paw for over seven days, the relatively short journey to the nearby Raestall made longer by off-road travels and lack of necessity. The group was in no hurry; Raestall herself, however, would wait for them no longer.
Happiness was found in the lonely wilderness over the next few days. Off the beaten track, the traveling Savages (Portia and Fayre, sister felinekin, and Velius, a harekin and former monk) progressed slowly, hampered by rough terrain and undergrowth. Their moods, however, were light and exuberant, not angered but gladdened by the obstacles of the wilds. On their own for the first time, the two felinekin had never before been inside a forest, and neither had the silent monk traveled so far from home.
Before any of them knew it, Hazel lunged onto Velius, knocking the wind from him, throttling him with her claws. The vicious foxkin had her paws clamped down around the monk's neck, strangling the life from him. It took both Fayre and Portia's combined strength to pry the mad foxkin off.
The dawn had broke over the land once more, marking the beginning of her second day of freedom. Fayre greeted the sun with eyes open, same as the night prior, after awaking from a sound slumber. Their trek through unpaved wilderness alone was an exercise on her legs so used to comfort and convenience. But to also help burden the body of a young foxkin was nearly more than her frame could bear. At the day's end, she had fallen into slumber as soon as she had put head to dirt.
Velius worked in a frenzy, dumping out all his possessions from his pack as the nearby crowd, drunk with blood lust, screamed for slaughter. The lunatic chanting of 'Death to the Savages' pounded rhythmically through his head like the beating of a dull, rusty nail. Forcing himself to concentrate as best he could, he prepped his mind with instructions for the task ahead, taking inventory of all he had brought. Never did he think he would have to be using these ingredients so soon, or in this manner.
For Hazel, the unfortunate foxkin caught in bondage at the city's center, the dawn brought despair. Her head and fore paws were locked in a stockade, captured between two heavy wooden planks and a thick iron padlock. She was being held in the cobblestone marketplace at the heart of town, where the townsfolk had only just begun to trickle in with the rising sun. They conducted their business, heedless of her suffering, gathering their needed wares, affording the Savage as wide a berth as possible. They either looked down at her with cold disdain, or purposefully avoided her gaze.
Freedom was an odd notion, slow to realize and identify. The idea penetrated them like a morning fog, slow and gradual but thick and obscuring at its peak before being burnt away by the morning sun. For Fayre and Portia, it was both a blessing they didn't realize and a curse they didn't believe.
The dawn broke over the land gradually. The youngest felinekin watched as the reach of the sun extended inch by slow inch over the meadow, creeping ever closer both across the long wind-blown grasses and down the reaching boughs of the trees above.
I've never grasped religion as an art quite as well as my station would have commanded. Take, for instance, those followers of Rygecroft, sentinels of the White Hand; self-proclaimed purists, ridding the known world of imperfection and deviance. Their goal is nothing less noble than preserving the world for the best and brightest, the strongest, the noblest, and the most righteous. Their humble intent was to do nothing more than encourage natural selection, weeding out the lesser so that the strong may thrive.
The walking tin cans escorting him created a cacophony of clanking metal with every footfall, but even over top of their merciless clatter, the enormous bullkin heard coming trouble. Everley swung his massive head from side to side, ears twitching busily, muzzle snorting, sampling the air. He stopped in his tracks, the heavy iron shackles tightening above his large paws and hooves. The thick collar constrained his neck, pulling fur and biting flesh.
Delya sat in her room for several hours trying to figure out how she would get out to see her father again. She had tried to leave a short while after Drivet had left, but the guards refused to let her out. "Drivet doesn't want you at the fridona," was all they would tell her. What did 'fridona' mean? She had never heard the word. Was she a prisoner after all? The windows wouldn't open and the only door was guarded. She checked the door several times over the next hour and never found it unguarded.
After awhile the guards feed her, though it still wasn't enough to fill her up. Moping about the room she came upon her box of frena and ate two of the remaining pieces. Feeling her spirits lift she looked about the room and tried to figure out how to get free. Spotting the wand on the floor she walked over and picked it up. Stupid thing did nothing but sparkle, glow or make a small flame. Drivet had claimed that it could do much more, but he hadn't shown her how.