The Founding of Tiranis, Part 1 (an Excerpt)
A story of the past
She didn't stop running as he called to him. "Please, sir! We need your help!"
He set his face into a stern mask and readied himself to tell her to go back to her wagon an move on. She couldn't say anything that would make him agree to helping them. He even had his mouth open, but then he saw what her bundle was. She was holding a baby.
Ah hell, he thought, they just had to bring a babe. And not just one. Small heads poked over the cart's sides to look at him, large eyes filled with sadness. They had kids too.
The lynx sighed. He couldn't turn away a baby or kids. He'd taken on an entire walled city, back during his youth, because the self proclaimed king there was hording the food and leaving the children to die hungry. Then he'd gone and killed the tyrants of Umberhill because he was sacrificing babies to the gods who gave him his powers.
Ellarkay had never been able to leave a babe to suffer.
He looked at his rifle for a moment, then lowered it. There went his peace. There went his promise not to hurt anyone. Maybe he could deal with this problem and send them on their way, keep other troubles from landing at his feet.
The woman looked at him, but he watched the distance behind her. The wind had brought him the sound of more hooves on hard dirt. He could just make out another cloud of dust on the horizon.
"You being chased?" His voice was like dry sand, raw from disuse.
She half turned to look at the approaching cloud and clutched her baby to her breast.
"Get the wagons and cart to the side of my shack. Unhook the horses and tie them down behind. After that turn the carts on their side for coverage. Put anyone who has guns behind them, the rest go behind the house. The shooters are to shoot only on my command.
They quickly moved the wagons and made a wall of them, even the children helped, and the lynx almost smiled, only remembering at the last moment he didn't want them here. Ellarkay saw flesh, fur, feathers and scales among the group. It had been a long time since he'd seen such a diverse group.
Of the entire group, only two had weapons. One of the humans had an old revolver, and a bird with colorful feathers and hooked beak had a rifle. Neither looked comfortable holding them. Ellarkay almost took the weapons out of their hands. These two would only hurt themselves if they tried to fire them. But they needed the moral support holding guns gave them. He'd just have to make sure to handle their pursuers himself.
He cradled his bulletless rifle back in his arm and took position in front of his shack again.
This time it was only riders on horse back, twelve of them. Seven Furkind and five humans. The leader was Furkind, a rat with a scarred face and angry eyes. The human riding at his flank had a contraption on his right forearm.
Ellarkay gritted his teeth. He didn't know what that one was, but he'd seen devices like it before. Things, created before the dark times, that should have remained lost.
Nothing from back then was good news.
The horses came to a stop. The rat looked at the lynx, then at the overturned wagons.
"Well howdy there, old man," he greeted in a cheerful tone.
Ellarkay eyed him. "You're going to want to keep on moving." The lynx's tone was somber.
The rat leaned forward in his saddle. "'Fraid I can't do that. See, those there, they belong to my boss. And I've got orders to bring them back. Been chasing them for over a week now, so I'm not going back without them."
Ellarkay considered it. A week, maybe a little more. Yeah, if he remembered his distances, and they'd pushed the horses as hard as they could take, they'd come from the middle of the cotton lands. Was one of them Special? That would explain the kind of luck needed to avoid all the land barons and their enforcers between there and here. Not to say how they hadn't killed their horses.
The lynx sighed. "That's going to be a problem. They went and asked for my protection." He glanced over his shoulder. "Normally I'd have sent them off for you to chase, but they had babes and kids." He gave the rat a sad smile. "I just can't stomach the thought of young ones coming to harm. So I'm going to tell you again, move on."
Distant thunder sounded, and some of the men looked up. Clouds were gathering, but none of them looked threatening.
"Look around, old man. There's twelve of us and only one of you. I'm not counting the two cowering over there. The way their iron's shaking, they'll never hit anything. You can't stop us from taking them back."
The lynx shrugged. "Don't change anything. They're on my land and I gave them my protection, so I'm going to have to stop you."
"You daft old timer? Living alone's been making you want company so bad you willing to die for it?"
Ellarkay snorted. "This ain't about me wanting company. Once I'm down with you I'm sending them on their way. I'm not fit to be company."
They rat raised his hands in exasperation. "Then just give them to us. You'll be alone in no time."
"Can't be doing that. Said I'd protect them. Gave my word. That's sacred to me."
Thunder came again, and clouds covered part of the sun. Some of the horses whinnied and skittered around until their riders brought them back under control.
Ellarkay looked up, the sky still didn't look like anything more than a partially cloudy one. "Gonna tell you one last time. Move on. Be on your way. I don't want to be responsible for what's coming."
"The only thing coming is your death," the rat snapped. "Leroy!"
The human raised his arm and the device attached to it began to spin, sparks jumping off it, as it moved. Ellarkay felt the lightning gather inside it, and he was surprised for a moment. He'd forgotten that lightning could form elsewhere than the sky. The bolt of lightning jumped from the device to the lynx's chest.
Ellarkay flew back, his rifle clattering to the ground. He hit the closed door to his shack, then slid down against it, his chest smoking.
"You poor old fool," the rat sighed. "You didn't have to die."