Call of DutybyVelius Ironhorn©
Author's Note: This takes place in the same 'anthro world' as Of Foxes & Dragons, but the characters and events are unrelated. This story contains elements of violence and domination.
Komiere's every footfall resounded with a litany of metallic clinks and clanks. For the pilgrims, adventurers, and merchants that frequented the continent's major thoroughfares every day, it was quite the ominous soundtrack to precede her. To see Komiere would have done little to assuage the apprehension that most felt at her approach.
A fine specimen of a wolftaur, she cut an imposing figure. Her long frame was layered with corded muscles that flexed easily in the manner of one trained intensively in the art of combat. Komiere's coat was a luxurious silver hue that bore much the same sheen as the polished armor she wore. A plate cuirass and rounded pauldrons adorned her torso, covering a modest bust, while her arms and four legs were equipped with matching vambraces and greaves. Woven skirts of ringmail hung around those areas that needed to remain flexible and was draped over her hindquarters as well.
Her helmet, custom fit and intricately wrought with the story of her noble lineage, was the badge of her station. It was also the only piece of equipment that she could afford to remove in the summer heat. The fluffy mane of Komiere's hair seemed impervious to dishevelment, no matter how much she sweated. A thick lock of it hung in front, artfully complimenting the angular planes of her lupine face.
The Knights of Aukanna were the esteemed police force of the Lenoan continent. As one of their number, Komiere was sworn by duty to remain in armor while traveling as a measure of her vigilance. Among the lesser families whose tongues were less discreet, it was sometimes considered a burden. The wolftaur silently agreed; she was roasting alive under the noon sun.
It would have been even worse had she chosen to take the most direct route to her goal. The Great Central Road that ran northwesterly through the continent was almost a straight line, passing through both the Aukanna castle town and the market-city of Vafoso. Ultimately, it became the only trustworthy path through the vast Moriac Desert. Komiere's destination lay beyond even that, well into the Unclaimed Northlands.
She decided early on that the direct route was unthinkable. So now the wolftaur suffered only marginally less. It didn't help that, while most Aukanna knights rode a war-mount, she as a furkin of the four-legged variety had none. Those beasts which could bear her kind were dark creatures, considered unclean and ignoble. Her surly mood, combined with the reputation of the knighthood for being strict and swift with the hand of justice, provided more than enough incentive for any traveler to get out of her way.
By dusk, she had entered Unclaimed Northlands. It was a sparsely populated region ribbed with rocky cliffs. What little traffic there was between settlements usually comprised of the unsavory sorts that needed no additional reason to hide from the law.
Night brought with it a cool and refreshing breeze off the nearby gulf. Komiere settled down in the lee of a steep hill. Her provisions were eaten cold. The smoke and light of a campfire was like a signpost for brigands that said "here I am, rob me." As unappetizing as her meal was, it was a long day of hard travel and the knight ate her fill. So much so that she was running low and hoped her destination would be soon coming.
Before going to sleep, Komiere commenced the ritual that had been pounded into her during her years as a squire: tending to her equipment. She oiled her armor, as well as she could while wearing it, then secured the cap on her arrow quiver and unstrung her longbow. If she were attacked in the night, it would be all but useless in the pitch blackness of northern nights anyway. More importantly, the wolftaur polished her shield and sharpened her sword.
Aukanna Knights were an eclectic sect of peacekeepers and they had few restrictions on what types of arms they may bear. Most nobles favored the traditional long sword or the elegant rapier. Komiere found those didn't take advantage of her upper body strength and chose for herself a gladius, the single-handed short sword made famous by Inkatti gladiators. Its broad blade was perfect for destroying an opponent's weapons as much as the opponent himself.
As she felt the onset of slumber, the wolftaur's mind turned to the memories of her youth. She wasn't quite old enough to remember them with the rose-colored glasses of distance. The years of harsh squirehood, the political wrangling of the nobility, the sting of lost love, all came back to her in the night.
Standing out amongst the pain was the kind face of her lifemate, who died in the Burning of North Ychisso. He too was a wolf--but of the two-legged variety--and as brave a furkin as you would ever meet. Alas, his prowess as a knight was not equal; he fell defending the innocent against desperate odds. Komiere's beloved was honored appropriately with a stained glass likeness in the Hall of Heroes, mausoleum of dignitaries in the Aukanna Temple atop Mount Eajolle.
Whenever the knight attended services on this most holy of ground, she would find time to gaze up at her beloved, now backlit by the sun with the glow of an angel.
Komiere missed more than his presence. What lovers she had in her prime never compared favorably against his vigor. Since his passing, the wolftaur had steadfastly denied herself the pleasures of the flesh in respect for his memory. The loss of her for the gene pool of nobility was considered a great tragedy, but she could not be swayed.
Laying sore and alone in the distant Northlands with just a memory to warm her, Komiere felt truly empty.
The next day was mostly uneventful. Other than her equipment and some provisions, Komiere traveled light and she made good time that morning.
As the terrain turned mountainous and the elevation rose, the air became thinner and cooler. It was certainly more pleasant than the previous weeks of traveling. But a distant rumbling could be heard coming in from the mountains. Rather than a volcano, of which there were many in the northern range, it appeared to be a brewing storm. She expected to reach her destination before nightfall, if the weather held.
Only one matter of note occurred that day. Shortly after noon, Komiere stopped by a sparkling stream for a much-needed drink. Her lupine snout dipped into the cool water gratefully, but a sudden commotion around a bend in the road caused her head to snap up at attention.
The knight donned her helmet and rose from the bank of the stream, then carefully picked her way along the road, hoping not to make so much noise that she alerted whoever was causing such a ruckus. Upon rounding a particularly robust pine, Komiere had her answer.
A pair of ruffians were accosting some poor cow-woman who had the look of a farmer's wife, though she traveled alone. One of the brigands was a human. He was crouched, laughing and rifling through a heavy pack that likely belonged to the cow. That one wouldn't be a problem, as his hairless breed were easily intimidated by the natural superiority of furkin warriors.
The other was another matter; he was an elephant and bore all the earmarks of his kind: Almost as wide as he was tall, the pachyderm had leathery grey hide that hung in loose folds over a strong body. Komiere wondered in the back of her mind why one didn't see more herbivore villains. He was holding down the cow-woman as she kicked and screamed, his long nose sniffing her lecherously. A misshapen appendage hung between his legs and it took the knight a moment to recognize it as his semi-erect manhood.
Komiere sighed. This was bound to slow her down. She knocked an arrow in her long bow, then reconsidered letting it fly into the elephant's broad grey buttocks. Her fluffy tail swished, a habit of hers when she had a clean shot. She aimed a bit higher and loosed the missile.
The elephant-man looked up in surprise. He saw the arrow first, where it stuck out of a tree ahead of him, still vibrating from the impact. A few leaves floated to the ground, knocked loose by the disturbance. Then the pain registered. With a great trumpeting cry, he clutched the bloody hole punched through his plate-sized ear.
"HALT!" Komiere barked, stepping out where she could be seen. "In the name of the Knights of Aukanna, I command you to surrender!"
The grey-skinned brigand whirled on her, murder in his tiny eyes. His human toady fumbled in the effort to find his knives. They both froze as the wolftaur notched another arrow and drew it back to a point by her ear.
"This is a two-hundred pound bow. At close range, it'll go right through you," she warned, menace in her voice. Komiere caught the eye of the cow-woman. "You there, are you unharmed?"
"Aye! Jes' get this putrid beast offa me, if yeh please," the victim replied. Her voice rolled with the brogue of the Northlanders. She appeared flustered, but none the worse for wear.
Komiere motioned with the deadly point of her arrow. "You heard the lady. Get up and get moving. I don't have the time to waste killing you like I should and sending the proper report back to Aukanna Keep." The pachyderm quivered with rage as he glared at her, but grudging obeyed.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed the human finally unsheathe a rusty dirk. Komiere spun and wasted her second arrow by shooting him through the wrist. Blood gushed from the neat wound and he clutched it, strangling on his panic, his weapon lying forgotten in the grass.
It should have ended there, but the elephant-man didn't know what was good for him. He stampeded towards her, swinging his hamfists in blind rage. Komiere reacted in a heartbeat, drawing her gladius with a reverse grip. A sharp punch drove the heavy pommel into the ruffian's gut. That wouldn't have been enough to hurt him, but he stopped short all the same. The razor edge lay against the base of his now flaccid member. No threat was needed.
"Leave from my sight!" Komiere growled, her fangs bared. She clanked forward, forcing the pachyderm to back up off the road. "I will be returning back this way. If I hear even a whisper of you causing more trouble, I will hunt you down and claim that disgusting lump between your legs as my trophy. Now go and tend to your friend before he bleeds to death."
As the pair of shaken ruffians disappeared into the hills, the cow-woman rose and gathered her things. "Yeh have my thanks, dearie. I dare say we need more upstanding folks such as yerself up here in tha boonies."
"It's all part of my duty, ma'am," Komiere replied with the standard amount of modesty. "But you should be more careful yourself. It is unwise to travel these back roads alone."
"Can'a be helped, I'm afraid. All me friends and family are right fools, they are. Those tha're left, anyhow. Won' see tha sense in gettin' while tha gettin's good. But I won' be caught sticking around, waitin' to be taken by tha Mountain Beast, no dearie!"
Komiere had been itching to get back on her way, but at mention of this, her ears pricked up. "Mountain Beast, you say? Might you be from the village of Toma?"
The cow-woman laughed; a rich, matronly sound. "All tha villages up here are called 'Toma', dearie. It means nothin' more than 'my home' in the old tongue. But only mine is tha one what suffers this unholy curse, so I might'n be after all," she finished, an amused note in her voice.
"Have no fear," the knight replied. "I have been sent by the Knights of Aukanna to investigate and rectify the situation. To those ends, I would appreciate it if you could guide me to you village, or point me in the direction of your village if you still choose to flee."
Those brown eyes now regarded Komiere warily. "There be no roads, but if'n yeh follow tha wagon tracks until tha mud turns to rock, then head towards tha settin' sun, yeh'll find it rightly enough." The cow-woman craned her neck as if looking for someone behind the wolftaur. "Tell me, dearie. Be you the vanguard? Yer company not far behind?"
"I travel alone, but have faith, ma'am. Only one knight is needed for this task."
The cow-woman hefted the pack that held all her belongings and slung it over her should, shaking her head gravely. "Then may luck be with yeh, dearie. An' yeh best be watchin' yer arse, I think." She hurried away before Komiere could reply, leaving a confused and irritated wolftaur alone on the road.
A light mist began to fall, eliciting a muttered oath as reply. The wispy leading edge of the storm swept in, ushering with it night a few hours early. Komiere would ordinarily have found cover from the rain, but she could see the flickering of many torches in the distance and hear the revelry of the villagers. She had to be close. The wolftaur wondered if it was a harvest festival; the climate was different this far north and perhaps the growing season had already ended.
Komiere crested the last ridge between her and Toma. She looked down into the valley, a humble village sprawled out before her. It was pitch black, save for the many torches set up on and around a makeshift pavilion at the foot of the mountain.
Something was amiss. There were no decorations. What music that was playing had a slow, regular beat and no other accompaniment. It was not the sort of tune one could dance to, of which there was none, accordingly. As Komiere watched, she became aware that the sounds of the villages were not cheers and laughter, but the wails of a people in mourning.
Wiping away the mist that coated the fur of her face, Komiere shielded her eyes. She focused sharply on the pavilion and could now distinguish the activity on it. Someone in an elaborate headdress was leading a ceremony, but definitely not one for the harvest. At the highest point of the crudely constructed platform, with her hands outstretched to the poles beside her, a young furgirl fought against the ropes that bound her.
The knight gritted her teeth and swore again. Holding aloft her shield that bore the herald of the Aukanna Knights, Komiere charged down the slick, rocky hill.
The howl of war that echoed down into the valley struck to the heart of every villager. To a one, they fell upon their knees, as if fearing the might of an angry god. In the next moments, the crash of Komiere's armor sounded like thunder as she ran full tilt towards the pavilion. When she came into view, appearing quite alien in her steel vestments, man and woman broke before her as the earth parts for a plow.
Komiere bound up the steps of the pavilion and drew her gladius. A beaver-man cowered before her, age and elaborate dress marking him as the village chief, his gnarled staff held up in meager defense. Her blade came down in a flash, chopping it in half. What courage the chief still held fled from him like his villages fled from the wrathful knight and he scrambled away on all fours, tumbling off the end of the pavilion, into the mud.
With a flick of her wrist, Komiere cut the binding ropes. She caught the girl, a vixen with gray/brown fur, and scooped her up. Choosing a darkened hut at random, the wolftaur forced the door open with her shoulder and carried the she-fox in, setting down her shivering form on a bed of straw and wrapping her in tattered blankets.
The girl's eyes opened weakly and they shone a brilliant green in the dark. Her cheeks were flush with fever. As the knight tried to make her comfortable, a few of the villagers crowded around the ramshackle domicile.
The village chief approached cautiously, the robes of his modest office caked with mud. "Who be yeh, stranger? Yeh bring upon us ill fortune, more than we need!" he said, managing to sound authoritative around his buck teeth.
Komiere rose to her full height, nearly twice that of the chieftain, who was hunched with age. She presented her shield and rapped it with the flat of her short sword. "Are you so isolated that you do not recognize the mark of the Knights of Aukanna?" she demanded, barely containing the frustration that had been culminating over the course of her travels. "A fortnight ago, our sect received your distant plea for aid. So, I have come and what did I find? A pagan sacrifice! Are you all daft?!"
Even before her explosive litany ended, a hushed murmur rippled through the gathering crowd. Whispers of 'a knight?' and 'our savior!' came back to the wolftaur's ears.
The beaver-man bowed shakily. "Forgive us, madam knight. We didn' know yeh'd come. We're right desperate to rid ourselves o' this Mountain Beast." Tears began to flow down the elder's furry cheeks. "It comes wit no warnin' or reason. First took tha livestock and now us..."
A younger woodchuck, though not by much, took the chief's elbow to support him. "My wife was tha first," he said gravely. "But she weren' tha last, no ma'am. It takes our mothers an' daughters, at any time of day. We ain't even safe in our own homes." He guided the chief to a roughly hewn stool. After taking a moment to organize his thoughts, he resumed. "Tha bravest of us have tried ta fight back. Some went up tha mountain. None came down. Yeh don't know what it's like, hearin' the cries of our young'uns in tha night, bein' eaten by tha Beast! We'd do anythin' to end it. Anythin' at all."
The wolftaur looked into the faces of the villages that peered at her, seeing the horror there and knowing their words to be true. She removed her helmet, hoping the simple gesture of showing her face would be seen as one of sympathy. "Go back to your homes. Rest. Leave this to me."
Rain pounded the walls of the hut, coming down in a vicious gale. The village was cast into total darkness now that the torches had been doused. Had she not already made it inside, Komiere was certain she would not have been able to see the village from the ridge now. She was doubly glad to be protected from the elements.
The wolftaur was in the process of removing her armor for the night when the she-fox opened her eyes again. The young vixen's green orbs scanned the room, recognizing it as another's home, but not caring what arrangements had been made. She looked to her savior, amazed by the seemingly unnatural vision of strength and beauty that was undressing before her. The wolftaur's muscular form moved slowly, methodically, removing bits of steel and revealing her naked elegance. Her silver fur reflected what little light there was, making her appear ghostly.
Komiere pulled the heavy skirt of mail from her hindquarters, relieved to be rid of its weight. She stretched, working the kinks out of her back. Finding a fluffy rag in a cabinet, the knight toweled herself off, then dried her armor so it didn't rust. She removed the padded tunic that she wore under the chafing metal and shook her hair out, casting a sprinkle of water droplets into the air.
The rustle of straw as the young fox-girl rose could barely be heard over the staccato of rain on the hut's thatch roof. She shed the tattered blankets and approached Komiere from behind, her hands outstretched in a longing manner. Her hands trembling, the vixen was nearly able to touch Komiere's supple hindquarters when the chiseled muscles of her back tensed.
Sensing that someone had come up behind her, the wolftaur smoothly turned and stepped aside, out of reach. She blinked, surprised that the vixen had gotten up, if not by the strange expression on her delicate features.
"You should get back to bed. You've been exposed to some harsh weather and you don't wa–what are you doing?"
The she-fox's hands snuck up, lightly tracing over Komiere's svelt abdomen. The knight slapped her away. But the young girl wouldn't be dissuaded and stepped in for an embrace, wrapping her thin arms around the older furkin. Growing annoyed, Komiere grabbed the vixen by the wrists and shook her roughly.