II - The Woman & the FoxA Chapter by Niki Badger
Fiona is dragged into a journey that will influence her life in great ways.
II - The Woman & the Fox
It felt amazing to be able to feel her skin without a thick layer of grime on top. Though her gash from the fight still stung badly; she made a mental note to find some herbs to help heal it faster. Fiona slipped out of the wash room and back into the main room. Sloan had yet to return so she went to one of the beds and crawled in.
She had never slept in a bed before, that was a Hind thing, but it was heavenly. She relished in the soft cotton filled bedding and the feather filled pillow. Her body relaxed all over as the remaining adrenaline drained from her. It did not take long for sleep to take her.
she woke Fiona had forgotten where she was for a long panicked second. The room
was still dark but the lantern on the table was still lit. The room was small,
it’s only furniture was a table with a few chairs, a pair of small beds, and on
the other bed sat a large creature. She leapt from her bed, holding the blanket
to her naked body, and stared at the creature with scared eyes.
It was a fox; a wolf sized fox. Its fur was a deep burnt red and it had six long bushy tails that curled around it as it watched her. The eyes were a deep golden brown. The fox’s overall feeling was calm; at least it didn’t seem like it was going to eat her.
Fiona allowed her eyes to explore the rest of the room. There was what looked like clothes hanging on one of the chairs by the table. Her gaze landed back on the great fox. Its eyes were shut, attention no longer on her. Slowly she began to make her way to the table, all the while keeping her eyes on the fox as it kept its ears pointed her way.
The clothes were mostly made of pale leather with sheep skin inner lining. She picked up the pair of pants and slid them on under the blanket; they ended barely above her knees. There was a small vest; the lining was made of think wool with dark leather laces to tie it up. She dropped the blanket to the floor, and the fox lowered its head, placing a paw over its eyes. Fiona guessed it was tired. She pulled on the vest and tied it as tight as it could go. Next was the dark shoes made of a harder, tougher leather and a long pale leather coat with sheep skin lining.
The fox’s head jerked up, its ears twitched back and forth, and its eyes landed on the door. Fiona dashed back to the bed and yanked her slingshot from her bag. One of the fox’s ears aimed her way while it continued to watch the doorway. She managed to grab a chili egg and load it into the sling when the door creaked open. She pulled the sling back but then let it go slack when Sloan appeared in the doorway.
“Might want to put the toy away, bird girl.” She walked to the fox and stroked his grand head.
Fiona put the egg and slingshot back into her bag.
“This is Aidan. I’ve already told him about you but for sake of formality; Aidan this is… sorry, I guess I never did get your name.” Sloan’s voice was high in pitch like any woman’s but low in tone.
“It’s Bevin.” She said quietly.
“Bevin,” she turned her attention back to the fox, “She’ll be joining us on our trip.”
“Trip?” Fiona frowned. She didn’t remember agreeing to being dragged anywhere.
Sloan grabbed the scraps of Fiona’s makeshift clothes and tossed them out the open door. “We’re going to find a friend.”
“I don’t remember signing up for anything last night! I’m not going anywhere unless it’s to find my…” she trailed off. Maybe it wasn’t smart to tell everyone about her gem, especially to these creepy people she kept finding. Or kept finding her rather.
“I told you, you stay with me until I figure out why Kiran wants you. Unless of course you’d rather me kill you now and save myself the trouble.” One hand slid into the pocket of her long coat.
Fiona panicked throwing her hands up in front of herself. “No! No, I’m… I’m fine. We can go see your friend.” Her eyes were on Sloan’s pocket. Who knows what this crazy woman had in there.
“Alright, get your things and let’s go. Come on Aidan.” The large fox jumped to the floor. Fiona gasped as the fox caught fire and then vanished.
“I’ll explain later.” Sloan said simply and left the room.
Fiona slung her bag over her shoulder and hurried after her new captor. Sloan was careful to check around every corner before they turned it. She led them to the outskirts of the town. Tied to the surrounding fence was a pair of cavallo waiting. Horses used to be the favored method of land travel until the cavallo were discovered in the Emerald nation lands. They were large creatures with the body of a horse and the head of a land dragon. They had scales going down their back in a thin strip while the rest of their body was covered in short coarse hair like a normal horse. Their hooves were larger and their legs thicker and stronger. They were ideal for pulling large loads or carriages through mud. Fiona scoffed.
The cavallo Sloan untied was a pale tan with nearly black colored mane and tail. Pale yellow scales covered its head and back. Its long think tongue flicked out at her, tasting the air around her. This made Fiona’s nape feathers stand; cavallo had sharp teeth, their mouths contained so much bacteria it was almost like poison, and to top it off they were meat eaters.
“They won’t bite, just show them respect instead of fear and you’ll be fine.” Sloan adjusted the leather saddle and placed a small package into the saddle bag then mounted the beast.
Fiona slowly approached the second cavallo. It was a darker caramel color with white mane and dark brown scales. She slid her hand gently down its rough scaled neck before lifting herself into the saddle. She’d never ridden anything before, it almost felt wrong to ride another creature in this way. She whispered it a thank you before urging it to catch up to Sloan, who was already almost out of sight.
This was going to be a long trip. Something told Fiona that she wouldn’t be returning home for many months. Originally she’d expected to find her gem thief in the first town she came across, but as that was not the case she really had no idea where to look. “Where did Aidan go?” Fiona had been itching to ask her so many questions.
“He’s still here with us.” She said.
Fiona looked around them but all she saw was shallow water fields. No sign of a giant fox, which wasn’t exactly easy to miss anyways.
Sloan smirked slightly. “Aidan is a fox demon. They’re very rare and powerfully magical beings. A fox demon grows one tail every year since its creation and once it hits nine years of age its fur turns a light cream color and they reach their full magical potential.”
“What other things can they do besides turn invisible?”
Sloan shrugged. “Many think their powers are limitless, but no one’s ever been around one long enough to see all their abilities. Aidan is six so he’s got some growing to do still but he can turn invisible which helps avoid detection by Kiran’s troops.” A subtle snarl contorted her face when the prince’s name crossed her lips.
“Why is Kiran looking for you?” They had been riding for what felt, at least felt to her backside, like hours. Most of Sapphire’s land was water; deep ocean on the far west end of the nation lands and shallow rice fields and fishing ground along the edge of the small towns and castle.
“It’s a long story but he’s not hunting me, he’s hunting Aidan. Kiran likes to hunt powerful creatures. He hunted the Pursa into extinction.” Her eyes had become glazed over and her expression lost.
“I’ve never heard of such a creature by that name.” The hooves of the Cavallo splashed loudly through the shallow waters. Colorful fish scattered with every step making it seem like rainbows were rippling from the Cavallo’s hooves.
“Pursa were winged cats with black horns. They were the size of oxen and probably the most physically powerful creatures to exist. Hinds would use them to deliver large packages over long distances quickly. Kiran hunted them for their heart gems; large beautiful stones that sat in their chest and were their life force. He hunted them into extinction.” Sloan’s eyes came back from the place in her head and raised an eyebrow at Fiona. The piercing of those blue eyes still made her want to flinch away. “Why did you not tell me you were Lebute?”
Fiona’s eyes widened. “How…”
“When you were cleaned and asleep I noticed the feathers on your hands and feet. I wonder what Kiran wants with a Lebut.” Her expression softened into curiosity.
“Either as a pet or for Lebut poisons. That’s all I could think of.” Fiona shrugged.
Sloan watched her for a moment; Fiona’s face began to burn with rushing blood, before nodding. “That makes sense; another prize for his collection.” She grimaced.
They road in silence for a long while after that, both heavy in thought.
As the sun began to fall they set up camp for the night in the scarcely spread trees to the east of the water fields. Sloan had pulled out the package from her saddle bad, it had turned out to be bread. She’d also caught a couple of fish from the field and was now cooking them on a small fire. Fiona had gathered as many of the herbs she’d needed and was grinding them into a fine powder.
“Is Aidan going to eat with us?” Fiona asked.
Sloan shook her head, the fire light danced along her wild hair. “He’ll find his own dinner. He stays hidden to keep me safe while we’re out in the open.”
Fiona nodded slowly. Aidan could be with them right now and she’d have no idea. The thought struck her as creepy. The fire cracked and popped. The fish were a deep roasted brown; Sloan spun them slowly over the fire. Her heart started to ache for her home. The Lebute ate their food raw, straight out of the water. She’d never had a fish cooked before and the horror from watching Sloan cut off the beautiful long flowing fins from the fish had nearly turned her off to the idea completely.
Sloan pulled the crisped fish from the fire and onto the parchment that had been wrapped around the bread. She let the stick cool before breaking it to separate the fish from each other. Now she held two sticks with a fish on each one. Fiona put her small mortar and pestle off to the side.She hesitated but her stomach protested loudly so she took the skewered fish and a piece of the bread.
After dinner Sloan pulled out a pair of thick wool blankets and tossed one to her. “Better get to sleep now. We still have a whole day of riding ahead of us.” She took off her long coat, laid the blanket on the ground, and laid down on it. She pulled her coat over her and her icy eyes closed.
Fiona removed her jacket and untied her vest. Her gash had bled slightly onto the wool lining. She pulled her mortar to her and took a handful of the green powder. First she sprinkled it onto the wound, wincing greatly as the pain shot through her like a bolt of lightning. Then she began to rub it gently into the gash. She had to bite her lip to keep herself from screaming. Eventually the herbs began to take effect and the wound numbed. Cold sweat was beaded along her forehead and she was panting heavily. Sloan was watching her with one eye open, her expression a shadow of curiosity. “What’s so special about the person we’re going to see?” Fiona wheezed.
Sloan shut her eye but her brows furrowed. “It’s the Heron Eaglon, the watcher of the present.”
Fiona frowned and put a few large leaves that she’d cleaned earlier on her cut. She still had no idea what that was.
sighed as if she’d heard her frown and turned to face her. “Do
you know who Cahal is?”
Fiona nodded slightly. “The father of the Lebute,” she started to retie her vest up.
“Yes but he was a lot more than just that. This is a long story so you’d better stay awake or I’ll never answer another question again.” Her look was stern.
Fiona nodded. She pulled her jacket over herself and tried to relax now that her wound was numbed.
“Cahal was a great witch who lived many, many years ago. I say witch because that’s what men and women of the magical path are called. He was the ruler of Teravieta and he ruled it as a whole nation.
“One day he became lonely and decided to create a few new creatures with his magic. So he transfigured the Cavallo, the Aurora birds, Stifersh, Lebute, and the Eaglon. The Stifersh generally keep to themselves. They’re animal shifters like you but they never fully transform into a Hind form or an animal form. They’re stuck as half Hind half their animal form and the only special thing about the Aurora birds is that they change color when they finish a song.
“Now the Eaglon were very close to Cahal. He had a thing for birds. Out of all the creatures he’d created they were his favorite. Three larger than normal birds with Cahal’s talents infused in them. Cahal’s ability to see into the past went to the grave Vulture; a bird that looks like the fading and crumbling past. His ability to see all that goes on in the present and contains all his knowledge went to the graceful Heron; a bird that is rooted to the ever changing waters of the present. Finally, his ability to foresee the future and all it’s coming events went to the mysterious Raven; a bird that’s as dark and unknown as the future is to many.
“Cahal loved his birds but even they could not keep him happy enough to want to rule Teravieta any longer. So one day he cast a great spell and shattered his soul into eight jewels. Each shard appeared in the hand of seven Hinds and one Lebute that were deemed worthy enough to rule the planet together. The eight Princes and Princesses split the world into nation lands and their families have ruled these nation lands for many generations since.
“As for Cahal’s creatures, they spread into the nation lands that best suited them. His three Eaglon split up across the world and have never been together since Cahal’s death. We are on our way to see the Heron Eaglon.” Sloan finally fell quiet. She laid back and closed her eyes.
Fiona’s brain was alive like a sparkler with the vast overload of knowledge. “Why are we going to find the Heron?”
Sloan sighed deeply. “I have already talked far too much today. That shall be another story for a time when I’m not so tired.” Sloan turned her back to her and didn’t say anything for the rest of the night.
Fiona lay awake for hours. A fire ball startled her, since their fire had been dead for quite some time. Aidan appeared and curled himself against Sloan’s back. His gold eyes fell on Fiona and she felt a sudden wave of exhaustion wash over her. As her eyes began to close, Aidan took his gaze off her and began to sleep too.
© 2010 Niki Badger
AboutMy name is Niki and I'm 21 years old. I'm from a small town in northern California and I'm not really sure if writing is my thing but I've done a lot of writing in the past. I first posted on this s.. more..