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Friday, March 10, 2017

Band of Thieves

The stench of the burnt-out town, clung to the enclosed room in what once had been a bustling tavern. Stray beams of sunlight streaked across spots on the trash strewn floor. The cracked, and charred door opened to allow a slight, bedraggled figure to enter. The small rodents that had taken refuge within scurried for the darker corners. The figure paused to glance back outside before pulling the door shut behind them. As it headed for a blanketed portal, glimpses of burnt orange fur could be seen in the torn rags that clothed them.

Nilla mumbled under her breath, as she pulled the hood away from her face. She scanned the room, taking note of the lumps that lay in different poses of sleep. Her blue eyes turned to slits, and her tail swished furiously as she made her way to the closest one. “Get up, ya lazy fool. The time to sleep is past. We need to get our hands on the little apprentice. He must not be allowed to find the group he seeks. We also need to find the ones who dared take our brothers from us. They will pay the blood price for our fallen.”

A loud snore was answer to her; swearing under her breath, Nilla kicked him again. This time the sleeping rotund ball of fur let out a moan. He rolled over, one eye slit, as a ray of sun shone on his face. His fur was a light gold, with the area around his eyes, nose, and mouth were in the shape of a white club. Dark red stripes, streaked across his body in a swirling pattern. The white fur continued down onto his chest. Instead of being a slick fur, his was as fluffy as his figure. “Why do you always come back from seeing that crazed wizard so angry? If you hate him so why do you serve him? Brambles sat up, adjusting his tunic as he did so. “We will find the apprentice. As for the people who attacked us, I would much rather not face the dark one again.”

Nilla had moved on rousting the others who still slept. “I serve my master because I have no choice. If not for him, I as well as the rest of you would have perished in the great calamity. He asks little of us, the least we can do is find this kit, and take him to our master.” She glanced over the other members of her ragtag band of thieves. “The master says soon we will be rewarded greatly for this task. For that reason alone, I do as he asks.”

A small delicate female made her way over to the table under which Brambles had been sleeping. She opened a pack, and pulled out the fixing for a quick breakfast. Her multi-colored fur was colored in spots of black, rust, gold, and white. She had a black patch over her left eye, while the right was orange. “I say we forget the little one. I think we should hunt down those that killed my mate. Quillen deserves to be avenged. We also may yet lose Rauwyn.” Paevia looked over to where one of their group still lay. In the quiet, you could hear how raspy she was breathing. Sitting beside her was her mate Zirede. “What say you Zi, get the kit now or avenge our people?”

Nilla didn’t wait for her second in command’s answer. “It is imperative we find the apprentice. If her joins with Queen Lilith’s private quest team, it won’t matter if we avenge our fallen. They will gain control of that which my master covets. Do you really want to be the one to deliver the news to Amerak of our failure? He is insane; and if we tell him we have failed, how long do you think the rest of us will be breathing?” She gave the room a scowl, “you may not care whether you live or die. I do, we search for the apprentice first.”

Nilla moved to stand next to Zirede. She put her hand on his shoulder, and glanced to where her sister lay. She had not approved of Rauwyn mating so young, but she never doubted Zi’s love for her lookalike sister. The only difference was in their striping. Hers was a darker red, whereas Rau’s was a dull orange. “We will find her assailant, but for now we need to find the little mystic. Once he is dealt with, then we hunt.” She felt Zirede’s tension at the hold up in his flexing muscles under her hand. “You stay here and care for my sister. We will search for the apprentice. I think I have a lead on him, if we are lucky he may still be with his champions. Then we will have both our salvation, and our retribution.”

Zirede shifted from under the touch of his leader. His black face held wisdom, gained from many battles. His golden eyes moved over his beloved body, if he could have taken her place he would have. He rubbed at the white blaze that ran in between his eyes. A nervous habit, that the others speculated he wasn’t even aware of doing. He was a muscular fella that looked like he was always dressed to be presented at court. His fur jet black except for the pure white that swept down his chest ending at his waist. He also had the same white fur on his feet which looked like boots. His hands had white gloves of fur too.  He glanced over to the silent shadow in the corner. “Tell her what you saw during the fight. She needs to know all of what we witnessed to be able to inform our master. Tell her your thoughts, Diewen.”

Nilla looked in the direction that Zirede gazed. She had forgotten Diewen was even there. He never spoke, except for the rare moments. His sable colored coat blended with his well-worn leathers. The most remarkable wavy fur, made Nilla long to reach out a nuzzle against it. That and his crinkled whiskers. His most noticeable traits though were his big owl eyes, and his large rounded ears. They were like wings on his head. In his gravelly, misused voice he spoke after a moment. It was if he relished in her observing him. “I think our attacker was Pantheri. As he fought us, he glowed. I have only heard of their kind glowing when in battle rage. I fear for our group, if there are more like him in his company. If the Pantheri are awakening, this Triad must be important.”

Nilla couldn’t help herself, she began to laugh. “The Pantheri? Are you insane? They are nothing more than a myth, a tale told to kits at bedtime. Whoever this fighter was, must have some magical ability. That is all. We all know magic can be defeated. You just go in prepared. We also have magic on our side, my master will give us any assistance we might need. Diewen, I can’t believe you believe in the old tales.”

Diewen watched Nilla laugh at him. He loved to watch her face light up when she was happy. He knew she thought he was crazy. He was of the Devon tribe, and he indeed knew that the Pantheri were real. Their raiders had often come down into the camps to capture females to add new blood to their lines. As for magic, he didn’t have to worry about that. He had his own. “Think what you will mistress, but I for one will go well prepared to face what I believe him to be.” As he spoke his eyes took on a glowing effect. “No Pantheri shall ever be my master.”

Nilla pulled up short when she noticed how serious Diewen was. “Very well, I shall go and report to Amerak what you have seen. Sadly, I also must tell him that we had the apprentice; only to lose him. Bumbles, I need you to come with me. As soon as we return, we begin our search again.” She began to gather together her belongings. Bumbles gave her a disgusted look, but began gathering his stuff too. He knew not to refuse Nilla. Not when she was going to meet with the master. Amerak would indeed be very angry at their loss.

Back at the cabin, Spooks snapped out of his trance. He knew that the band of thieves that had attacked him had been sent by someone powerful. He just hadn’t expected it to be Amerak. Now he knew why his master, ShĂ©nmei had sent him to guide the Cat’s Eye gang. An old nemesis had come out of hiding. And he was after the Triad. This did not bode well, if he found the Triad, or for that matter the group on the other side of the cabin door; the whole of Cameria would be in his power. Spooks pushed open the door, and began to get them moving. They needed to get as far from the thieves as soon as they could. 

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