Of Fox and Wolf Chapter 6: Knautia
“Fairlight huh?” summarized Alex. “Well that’s all well and good, but you do know that those soldiers are still coming for us right? Honestly, I thought you would have more sense than suddenly deciding to stop when the enemy is near; just to shake hands.”
Victoria realized that the fox was correct on that point. “Right! Sorry; I’m not quite sure what came over me. I just felt like I needed to pause for … dramatic effect, I guess?”
The stomping of boots and clanging of harsh metal grew louder. The soldiers were indeed drawing near. Grabbing the fox’s paw, Victoria ducked behind a low slung wall which acted as a guard rail for the overlook. Seconds later, a squad of troops emerged, their weapons ready and awaiting a fight.
“Fan out,” ordered one of the soldiers who had a red painted shoulder. “Find those two and show no mercy. I want those rebels dead. We can’t afford to let them sneak around here.”
“But Sergeant, what about Tanllets?” questioned one of the subordinates.
“Hoffox’s orders are to execute on sight. That traitor made her choice, now we have to remind her of the consequences.” The soldiers followed their orders and began to search the surrounding area.
“That damn bastard!” whispered Alex to Victoria. “I recognize the leader’s voice. It’s Sergeant Kloss, him and his soldiers are all part of Hoffox’s personal death squad, the Vulmors. Victoria, these guys are the epitome of bad.” Alex looked at the wolf, then back to the soldiers, as if weighing her options. “Look, I still don’t trust you, and I certainly don’t trust mages in general. I don’t like your kind using your powers haphazardly, but these guys justify an exception. Blast these fools with some fire and let’s get out of here.”
“Alex, I can’t! I don’t even know how I used fire magic earlier, much less how to control it.”
“Are you kidding me? You have to be one of the strongest mages that I’ve ever seen! And now you’re saying you can’t make a little fire? Just my luck, I decide to ally myself with the only mage who is lousy at magic! Fine, then just stay here and gawk. I’m going to do a service for this kingdom and kill these assholes.”
“Wait, Alex-!” started the wolf but stopped when Alex got out of whisper distance. ‘Oh this is bad, this is so bad.’
Alex stealthy slid along the wall and got to a nearby soldier. She then slipped her foot paws out her boots and left them behind the wall, knowing from experience paws would muffle sound much better. As she was removing her boots, she also produced two small blades from their sides and held them akimbo. Finding a stone on the ground, Alex tossed it to the opposite wall, causing the 4 soldiers to immediately turn to investigate. Swift as a fox, Alex popped up from behind the wall and sliced her blade across the back of the soldier’s knee. His leg quickly buckled and when he craned his head to see the damage, Alex struck the right blade into the soldier’s exposed neck, making sure to slice his vocal cords. This all happened in what seemed like less than a second to Victoria.
Wishing to remain hidden, Alex grabbed the top of the soldier and pivoted the lifeless body over the wall. Since there was little room to stand on the other side of the guard-wall, the body fell from the outlook and crashed down below onto the lower courtyard’s cobble floor. The noise drew the soldier’s attention to the opposite side, where they saw nothing but the guard-wall.
Seizing the opportunity, Alex dashed across the floor and closed the distance with another soldier, lining herself behind him exactly. Putting her head on the right side of the soldier, she let out a high pitched whistle. The soldier in front of Alex looked to his right, and saw nothing. The two soldiers by the wall also turned to look at the originator of the whistle. Alex popped up on her body-shield’s other side and sent her left dagger sailing through the air. It connected with the head of the one adjacent to the Sergeant, killing and dropping him instantly.
“On your left!” warned Kloss, and as the body-shield turned toward that side, Alex’s right dagger found its mark in his neck. This time not caring about noise, she quickly pulled it out and allowed the body-shield to simply bleed out. Alex took a moment to wipe the blade on her forearm, then she sized up her final opponent.
“You damn traitor!” shouted the Sergeant. Wearing plate armor usually brought him confidence whenever he went into battle. But when you’re up against someone who is intimately familiar with that same armor, it was more like a wearable coffin. The Sergeant readied his sword and brought his shield to the forefront in an attempt to offer him slightly more protection.
“Haha, don’t make me laugh, Kloss,” snarkily responded Alex. “The Vulmors, who have probably killed more foxes than the Kathracs all in the name of Hoffox, calling me a traitor. You better shut your damn throat before I silence it for you.”
“As if you ever could, Tanllets; you’re weak. And your days are numbered. The General knows all about your family and who you really are. Most importantly, he knows that you’re a-“ Alex had somehow appeared to close the gap between them and plunged her dagger deep into the sergeant’s jugular.
“I told you to shut up, Kloss. Oh well, at least you won’t make that mistake again.” The short fox removed her blade from the sergeant’s throat, once again cleaning it but opting to use the fabric of the sergeant’s handkerchief instead.
“I knew I shouldn’t have cleaned the stupid knife the first time. I just ended up getting it dirty again. Sigh, now I’m going to have blood on my damn clothes. That’s what you get trying to be dramatic, Alex,” lamented the fox. “Though, I will admit, I certainly did put on a show.” Alex walked over to the other body to recover the dagger’s twin and proceeded to clean it as well. “You can come out now, “Puppy”. They’re all more than dead at this point.”
“Okay, 2 things, Alex. First, don’t call me “Puppy”. It’s demeaning and honestly doesn’t make sense since I’m pretty sure we’re about the same age. Second, what the hell was that?! How could you kill all those people without the slightest bit of hesitation?” Victoria still couldn’t believe her eyes. The amount of carnage that this tiny fox just inflicted could not be matched.
“Ugh! Wake up, Victoria! Those people knew pretty much nothing about you, and yet they were more than willing to kill you, along with me, on sight. The Vulmors are cold blooded killers who follow any orders that demonic General Hoffox gives to them. They’re loyalty blinds them to an extreme fault.”
“That still doesn’t mean you had to kill all of them! How do you know that they couldn’t be reasoned with?”
“Trust me, that wouldn’t have happened. All members of the Vulmors are nothing more than trash.”
“You don’t know that. What gives you the right to be judge, jury, and executioner to these people?”
“Because I was one of them! I know first hand how horrible they can be because I’ve done the same things.” The fox stopped and bowed her head. “You wanna know why I hate mages so much? It’s all thanks to the Vulmors. Within them, there exists a dedicated mage killing squad and I was apart of it. But our’s wasn’t a team who fought on the front lines. No, our task was to find and kill any mages who were found among our own here in Viri! Foxes killing foxes, all because Hoffox ordered it.”
“That’s horrible! You executed furs based on what? A fear that maybe one of them would lose control and be a threat? They had hopes and dreams and you took it all away from them!”
“You think I don’t realize that? I was a monster, but so are the rest of the Vulmors. Just like me, they were led by Hoffox’s sword and committed countless crimes. Right now, I am fighting with myself because I know that I have just as much blood on my paws. Maybe even more.” For a moment, it appeared that the fox was on the verge of tears. Then, Alex raised her head and fire was shown in her eyes. “But unlike them I wasn’t there by choice! I did what I had to because I wanted to survive. No, because I needed to survive.”
“You always have a choice, Alex! You just made yours to save yourself instead of others, because it was the easier option. No one has the right to decide who lives or dies.”
“What do you want me to say Victoria? I was weak and gave into fear. I’m trying to do better. But I will not budge on this point. The Vulmors need to all be destroyed. I don’t care who they are or what they stand for, if they follow Hoffox, I will kill them.”
Victoria opened her maw to reply, but decided against. It wasn’t worth trying to change someone’s entire mindset in an hour but she would definitely keep a better eye on Alex from now on.
“Look, I know you’re not happy,” spoke Alex, “but it is who I am. I have been given this chance to maybe right my wrongs and I will take it no matter what I have to do. Anyways, let’s get going. We’re close to the water now.”
After some time walking through the walls of the castle the pair finally arrived to the gate of the city proper. “Alright, listen up, Puppy. Just beyond that gate is Xi’Ven, capital of the Viri Empire and our way out of here.” The hustle and bustle of the city could be heard from the pair’s hiding spot. It was alive with the sounds of thousands and people speaking, moving, and interacting with each other. The phrase which jumped out at Victoria was ‘organized confusion’. “Once we’re in the city,” continued Alex, “we can get to the docks and take a boat to anywhere.”
“We are gonna have a conversation about that nickname later,” replied Victoria. “Anyways, how do we get past those guards? There’s at least 10 of them watching the gate alone. And I’m sure their buddies are nearby.”
“That’s the easy part. You see those barrels against the wall? They’re filled with gun powder for the anti-ship cannons. All you gotta do is what you did before; add a little fire and kaboom! That should give us more than enough cover to get into Xi’Ven.”
“Alex, do you just tune out things you don’t like? I. Can’t. Do. Fire. Magic.”
“Give me some credit, Puppy. I know that. That’s why you’re going to take this flint and steel and blow them up.” Alex produced a metal rod that had a black rod attached to it by a small rope. “Courtesy of our good friend Kloss.”
“Are you insane?! If I do that then I’ll be caught in the explosion too!”
“Not necessarily. I’ve seen before that certain mages aren’t affected by their own elements. You weren’t burned by your own fire were you? The same concept should work for outside fire.”
“Um, I think you’re forgetting about the force expelled from an explosion, along with the shrapnel that flies when those barrels explode.”
“Well fine, what do you want to do? Because those guards aren’t leaving that gate anytime soon.”
“Well, I-,” Victoria’s response was cut short by the sound of an explosion coming the docks.
“Intruders!” shouted one of the guards on the wall. “One of our ships just went up in flames!” Immediately an alarm bell was sounded, it’s clanging could be heard for at least a mile out. “Guards! Man your battle stations!” The gate guards quickly changed their focus to the docks and rushed over to investigate, while reinforcements manned and loaded the cannons.
“Quick, Victoria! Nows our chance!” Alex grabbed the wolf’s paw and suddenly they were outside the castle walls and in the city. Victoria was unable to process how fast they moved but convinced herself it was the adrenaline from the nearby battle and their daring escape. That had to be it.
Once outside, the pair ducked into the nearest stall to avoid any guards who were still streaming towards the docks. Luck must have smiled upon them as not too long after, a squad of soldiers met up with a guard directly in front of them.
“Status report, private,” spoke the lead soldier.
“Sergeant Tuff!” The private acknowledged with a quick salute. “One of our ships was compromised by an explosion. Our forward force is engaging now but there doesn’t appear to be any enemy ships in the vicinity.” Another burst of sound was heard and more smoke could be seen from the docks.
“Then how do you explain the chaos going on over there private?” demanded Tuff.
“I’m not sure Sergeant, we haven’t received any intelligence hawks from the forward group-“ Just then one of the soldiers in the back who had his magnifying glass out alerted Tuff to a shape which seemed to be levitating over the smoke.
“Give me that glass, Mullians,” ordered Tuff. The soldier did as told and the Sergeant peered through the looking glass. As he stared through, he zoomed in on the shape and identified it as a fox who’s back was turned and was adorned in a black cape. The symbol of a flower was strewn across the back. It bore the color of dark magenta and had the form of a pincushion.
Then, Tuff saw it. The hooded figure raised their arms and aimed at a ship. A brilliant flash of light erupted from the figure’s paws and it appeared as if a lightning bolt had fallen from the sky, striking the ship. It fragmented instantly and sent out a ear rattling boom.
“I should have guessed,” announced Tuff, “It’s a damn mage. Send an intelligence hawk to the Vulmors, we will likely need their anti-magic troops.” Tuff drew his sword, discarding the spyglass in the process. “The rest of you, follow me! We’ll defend this kingdom to our last breaths!”
“Raw!” shouted the soldiers in unison and charged off to the docks.
“What luck,” spoke Alex. “This is the best distraction we could have asked for! All the guards will be distracted with this and we can slip away further into the city. Come on, Victoria.”
Victoria motioned to follow Alex, but then stopped after spotting the spyglass on the ground. Picking it up, she brought it to her face and took her own gaze at the figure. She recognized the cloak as that of an OFF member. “A Knautia,” mumbled Victoria. ‘Fitting,’ she thought, ‘thunder and lightning.’
Victoria had planned to stare longer but could not stop herself from dropping the spyglass from her paws. Her maw was agape as her brain struggled to comprehend the sight in front of her. Just before the spyglass fell, the wolf saw the figure turn around and knew his face.
“James?!” howled the wolf into the air.
*End of Chapter 6*