“Hold him! Hold him I said!” Yelled OFG.
They were on the ground, all of them trying to hold steady Shine. He was writhing and kicking furiously, the handle of the blade owned by the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk was sticking out of his neck. A sickening gurgle came from Shine and then a desperate, wheezing breath.
“You must keep him still!”
Even Itty Bitty was wrestling Shine, she had one leg but struggled to keep it still. Three strong warriors held him as well.
OFG grabbed Shine by the coat, “Look at me! Look at me, Shine!”
His eyes, wild with fear, finally focused on her and Shine stopped flailing.
“I've got you, Shine. I've got you, yes?”
He nodded weakly.
OFG plunged the dagger into his throat.
Earlier in the day a party of goodly number went out of the East Gate following the rising sun. They were going to meet the Assassin Shine and foray out into the wilds. OFG also had another agenda.
Finding a place in the ranks for their newest foundling, Itty Bitty, was more troublesome for OFG than it originally sounded. Bitty, in fact, entirely lacked the grace for the court, was completely without discipline for the troops, and even the Hunters were annoyed at her lack of cooperative spirit.
Bitty had spent too much time alone living in the middens. She never thought about anyone else. Not out of insubordination or self absorption – just the opposite. She never expected anyone to care where she was or what she was doing. So Bitty forgot to tell others when she would leave the Great Hall and would not report back when she returned.
She also had the annoying habit of taking food and hiding it. There was no lack of food for anyone in The Good Land. OFG had even assigned to Bitty a personal chef and server to provide her food anytime she wanted it. But it did not change anything – Bitty continued to squirrel away little stores of food here and there. It was just a sign of her not being brought up to live properly among a community.
OFG thought if Bitty visited with Shine, the very one who found her, then she might become interested in learning the assassin craft. Assassins worked entirely alone and were beholden to none...save their liege, of course.
But Shine had the most dangerous of professions. He had seen more time in the Healer's Hall then all of them. He was targeted by The Good Land's enemies repeatedly. His very work placed him in harms way at every moment. But he knew his job and he preformed it admirably. He was one of the most decorated warriors to have ever lived.
The company made their way to out meet Shine in the deep brambled woods beyond the Gate. OFG and the Princess Kai chatted about the upcoming battle season while the Commander Zander trotted happily alongside. High on his shoulder he wore a new harness that held a small pouch and in that pouch rode Itty Bitty.
OFG had forbade Bitty to ride on Commander Zander ever since she was pulled from his shoulders and ended up in the great tree. But of course this made both Zander and Bitty unhappy. They had a very merry friendship and spent a lot of time together. Bitty was so small - there was no way for her to keep up with Zander when they went afield. Finally a solution came to light.
The tacksmith and the leathermakers worked together to create harness with a sort of pouch for her to ride in – instead of her just holding onto Zander's thick mane. Bitty could easily peep out and see the world and the leatherworks shielded her safely. It was comfortable for Zander and because of his great size he barely noticed the additional weight. It was a solution that made everyone very happy.
Except for Princess Kai, of course, who still bristled at anyone else having her dear brother's attention. OFG had ordered Kai to get along with Bitty “or else.” Kai begrudgingly agreed and had learned to tolerate Bitty. Most of the time. Today Kai focused on her mother and their planning for the battle season. There was talk of hogs moving into The Good Land.
Little Mo rode his small but sturdy mount just behind them and then Col Ti followed with a contingent of the guard and an assortment of able warriors. As always he kept the careful watch over OFG.
Bitty happily rode along in her saddle-pouch laughing with Zander and asking him how Shine had become such a great assassin? Did Zander think that she could be that deadly? Zander teased her that she was much to small and....
Shouts from one of the scouts turned their attention.
“Quickly! You must come quickly! We need a surgeon! A surgeon!” Urged the scout.
“Col Ti! Defensive formations!” Ordered OFG as she, Kai, and Zander raced in the direction of the scout. OFG could hear Ti barking orders to the men as they crashed thru the underbrush.
The fighting men spread out in a perimeter - all at arms and ready to defend their liege.
As they approached a huddle of other scouts in a small clearing OFG could hear movement in the forest. This was not lost on Princess Kai either who's keen ears pricked and focused in the direction of those who retreated into the shadows. Zander's huge head also turned toward the brambles. He huffed angrily.
Bitty gasped as the scouts gave way and they found Shine the mighty assassin on the ground struggling. OFG took in a sharp breath when she saw the handle of a costly blade sticking out of his neck. She knew to whom it belonged
“So the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk wants to make a name for himself,” OFG thought as she threw herself from her mount and ran to Shine, “We will just see about that.”
She quickly pulled off her gloves, knelt beside him and began assessing the injuries... trying to see how badly Shine was hurt. The situation was grim. There was not a lot of blood so the jugular vein was not cut - as the enemy had intended - but the blade was lodged in Shine's windpipe and was starting to obstruct his breathing. They had to move quickly or he was lost.
“We need a surgeon!” Someone yelled.
“There is no time.” Said OFG, “Little Mo, your dagger, now!”
OFG had seen plenty of battlefield wounds. She had some skill for dressing them but this was beyond her capabilities. There was a technique that the surgeons used, a way to continue breath... but it was difficult and risky. She had only seen it once or twice and only under the best conditions. But here they were – in the deep bramble some distance for The Great Hall without aid. Shine's breathing became more labored and he coughed and choked. She had to do this. Now.
Little Mo ran up and held out his dagger. It was largely ceremonial but the blade was very sharp and very fine. Without a word OFG took it from him and then reached up and cut off a section near the end of the boiled leather scabbard in which it was held. She then cut off the very tip forming a kind of funnel-tube.
“Hold him!” Said OFG.
Strong men rushed to hold Shine – some of the scouts and some of the warriors from the day's party. Kai and Zander were back with Col Ti assessing the threat and stood ready to fight. Little Mo was at OFG's side ready to assist. Bitty grabbed one of Shine's legs. But Shine was panicked. He was starting to suffocate.
OFG's heart pounded. She steadied her breath. The risk was grave. One wrong move and she would kill him. “He will die anyway... I must do this.” She thought.
“Hold him! Hold him I said!” Yelled OFG.
The company struggled to hold the frenzied Shine. He had to be absolutely still, there was no second chance for this to work. She grabbed Shine by the coat and put her face very close to his.
“Look at me! Look at me, Shine!” His frantic eyes met hers.
“I've got you, Shine. I've got you, yes?” She said.
It was over in a moment. Little Mo was completely numb with shock. He watched as OFG cut open Shine's throat, cut into his windpipe below the injury, and then insert the leather funnel-tube into the cut...and then... breath.
Shine had passed out. They all watched in silence and saw his chest rise and fall. He was breathing. No one spoke. OFG, still on her knees, whispered a prayer, her head low and Little Mo's bloodied dagger in her hand. She snapped her head up.
“Quickly!” Said OFG, her eyes hard, “We must get Shine back to the Healer's Hall. This will not hold for long. We must keep the tube in place – it will keep him breathing.”
She took a kerchief from her neck and began to wrap it around Shine's wound, careful not to move the funnel-tube or the enemy's blade. It must all remain very steady. The Healers would be able to remove the blade and restore his breathing. If they could get him back in time.
There was also the risk of a fever sickness. They must hurry. Her horse would do not good in these thick woods.
“Zander!” She commanded and at once he was by her side.
“No mount can make fast time thru this bramble. You must speed Shine back to the Healer's Hall. You are his only hope.” Said OFG.
Bitty had already scrambled up into her saddle-pouch. “Here,” She said clapping her hands together, “Lay him here on my lap and I will hold his neck steady.”
“You can do this, Bitty?” Asked OFG wondering if Bitty could handle it. The wound was gruesome and there was no time for hesitation or fear.
“Yes, yes!” Said Bitty, “I am not afraid. I can do this.” She positioned herself to allow Shine to be laid across her lap. “Quick! Quick!” She held out her hands for him. Very gently they laid him over her knees and she held his head in place.
Bitty was very sure of herself. “She has good courage.” Thought OFG. She nodded.
“Do not stop for anything.” Said OFG. Zander saluted and was off.
Overhead swallows darted through the air, a kaleidoscope of movement. “Brother Birds!” Commanded OFG, “Tell them of our coming!”
Together as one the birds wheeled toward the Great Hall. She did not even look up to see if they obeyed for she knew they would.
“Kai!” Ordered OFG.
The Princess stepped forward. OFG took her hands, still wet with Shine's blood, and wiped them across Princess Kai's face.
“Kill them, Kai. Kill them all.” Growled OFG.
Without a word the blood streaked Kai turned and raced into the brambles.
The Rabbit Folk.
They were largely a nuisance. They did not serve The Good Land. The Rabbit Folk had neither the inclination nor the stomach for war. They were too skittish to serve the warriors. Secretly OFG could not stand the scared way they looked at everyone. You could be anything in The Good Land – except a coward. Fear defined the Rabbit Folk - they were nothing to OFG. She had no regard for them.
So the Rabbit Folk went their own way. They hid in the shadows tending to their own business and living in relative safety along the outskirts of OFG's lands. OFG had no use for them as they were Prey - not Predators as most of her warriors. But neither did she have any quarrel with them.
Their crown prince was some arrogant upstart. She had heard reports of him leading raiding parties into her fields. But it was of no consequence. Normally a few warning shots were all that were needed to send them running. They were usually long gone before the arrows hit the ground. But now this. An assault on one of her own. If one of their royalty intended to make a name for himself then he was badly mistaken. He would pay. Dearly.
In the distance OFG could already hear her Princess daughter's success.
Little Mo stood completely still. The screams... the horrible screams were...hard to hear. He could hear the Rabbit Folk being obliterated. Kai was a killing machine. She had no mercy, she would show no quarter. None would be spared. She thrived in the hunt, she lived for the kill, she reveled in it. War. Fighting. Death. It was who she was.
The night may fear Commander Zander but Kai, the Shining Light of the
Realm, drove the darkness from it's bitter corners. Some thought her
title of Shining Light referred to her effervescent good nature, her
zeal for life, and the gladness in which Kai always seemed to live. But
it was more than that. Kai scattered the darkness of the world. She
fought on the side of goodness and in that way destroyed the darkness
and evil. She wielded the sword of good in protection of the Land, but
it was a weapon as deadly as the dark. She stood on the knife's edge of
good and evil. But she remained grounded in the love for her mother, her
brother, and this Land. She was the Light.
“I will not fear.” Thought Little Mo, “Fear is the little death... Fear is the mind-killer... I will face my fear.” He set his jaw, as he had seen OFG do many times, he would show no fear. He would allow the fear to pass over him. An ancient writer from far away had written those words. Little Mo clung to them as the awful screams and the cries filled the sky.
Kai destroyed the Rabbit Folk one and all.
At last she emerged from the bramble. She was covered in blood, not her own. In her right hand she was dragging the ruined body that was at one time the Rabbit Folk's celebrated crown prince. Now it was just a rubble of fur and bone and meat. She dropped it at her mother's feet.
“Kai! Kneel before me!” Said OFG loudly so all could hear. She drew her sword.
Kai scrambled to prostrate herself before her mother.
“Battlefield honors?” Thought Kai...she never received such recognition. Yes, she had earned names for her valor, rightly. Recently they had an elaborate ceremony and she received the name “She Hunts What We Cannot See” for her work to remove the mole threat from one of the fields. But she assumed it was just an occasion to rally the troops and have a celebration.
She had well earned her BearKiller name but that was not the same as this spontaneous honor. This was completely unexpected. Zander was the one who received so many names that she could barely keep them straight. Kai held her breath.
“Princess Kai! You have brought my vengeance to the Rabbit Folk. You have avenged their attack on one of our own, you are now, VengeanceBringer.”
From then on and through all the long years of Kai's great life - and many many years afterward - mothers would tell naughty children that if they did not eat their supper, do their chores, or go to bed then the VengeanceBringer would come for them. The name also became used by many as a curse. Some used the name in prayer to be saved from foes. But all knew the name VengeanceBringer. Kai wore the burden of it well. She was wrath and vengeance. She lived her name.
Kai felt the weight of her mother's sword across her shoulders. She heard the men cheer her. She looked up and saw the pride in her mother's eyes. “Just wait until my father hears about this,” she thought, “I cannot wait to tell him. He will be so pleased.”
Kai stood and looked around. The men were still cheering her and even Col Ti gave her an approving nod.
“Little Mo,” Announced OFG, “Take note also that the blade, once removed from Shine, shall be made into a new battle tiara for Princess Kai to commemorate this victory. But first.... I have a use for it. And now let's away, back to the Great Hall. Col Ti, form up the men and let's move out.”
Little Mo stood silently in the commotion around him wondering what on earth OFG would do with the enemy's knife...but he quickly scratched out the order, re-rolled the scroll, and tucked it into the sleeve of his cloak. Col Ti was giving orders and the men were moving out. Kai walked slowly behind them thinking of everything that had happened. As the company pulled ahead of her she suddenly broke into a run, a huge wolfish grin across her still blood streaked face.
There, all through the long summer in the hot sun, the blade of the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk was lodged into its former owner's skull. It pinned the rotting corpse to the wall near the East Gate for all to see and to serve as a warning.
Shine's recovery was long and slow. Every morning OFG stood over his bed in the Healer's Hall. She personally administered his medicine which as very costly and hard to find. But no expense was spared. Every morning the Healers provided their report on his progress as OFG listened intently, expressionless. Every morning OFG summoned the Princess Kai to look upon Shine and remember why they were exterminating the Rabbit Folk. Every morning OFG commissioned Kai to bring her vengeance. Every morning Kai set out to do just so.
A bounty had been set on the entire population of the Rabbit Folk. They were completely destroyed. Their carcasses were piled high outside the Gate and were burned each night in front of the unseeing eyes of their former would-be-prince. And no one ever said his name again.
You may find all the Not Entirely Fiction Adventure Tails here.
* For the backstory on how Bitty came to The Good Land - and how she ended up in the great tree - click here.
* For more on how Princess Kai earned her BearKiller name you may start here.
* Click here for why Col Ti keeps such a careful watch on OFG and why cows hate her.