Tullia made good on her words. We were seeing no trouble from the Nightmare Court. I was relieved, even if Angel let it known that she was not. More than once she spoke of threatening them to get their attention. The rest of us weren’t so keen on battle, it seemed. Ventari’s Refugees was more focused on making friends than quickly burning bridges. Even the Nightmare Court wasn’t too evil for the guild to seek help from… at least most of them.
The cart rocked as we made our way through the valley and across a bridge that crossed a small stream. Grawl eyed us from inside dark caves that the water snaked through. I kept to myself and tried not to stare.
We were silent for the time being. The majority of us didn’t want to notify the threats in the area of our presence anymore than we already were with the sounds of our carts. Ragnvaldr stroked my hair as I leaned against his side. While I had been dozing before, I wasn’t able to since Tullia had visited our cart.
A booming laugh came from the cart in front of ours, which startled me. Tobih, who had been stoic, cracked a smile and proceeded to laugh out loud as well.
“What are you doing?” I whispered at him.
He spoke, however, in a normal voice, “It’s a tactic we use in tense situations like this. If Tullia gives the signal, we have to make our voices loud, to make ourselves known. It means that she’s spotted potential trouble from the Nightmare Court. They’re plotting an attack. Chances are, if we show them that we’re a big rowdy group, they’ll decide the struggle isn’t worth it and move on instead of attacking us”
Angel roared with laughter.
“Didn’t you want to fight them?” I turned and asked her.
“I’d prefer to have a real dinner, not a salad.” She shouted a little louder than her usual speech.
“You’ve got that right,” Came a voice from beside Tobih and he jumped a little before laughing. Cinder appeared from thin air, “You lot ought to get a bit more rowdy. I’m here to make sure you do.”
Ragnvaldr suddenly laughed out loud as well. “It’s a good plan for a group this big,” He added after.
“When should we stop?” I asked.
“When Tullia comes back to tell us.” She kneeled down and started going through Tobih’s weapon stash, making sure to clink metal across more metal, blade against blade.
“How long have you been here exactly?” I continued and watched as Tobih got up to help the charr make more noise with his weapons.
“That first laugh was me.” She stopped and sat down again. Tobih worked on putting his weapons away. Our charr friend decided to display her proof by laughing once more.
The cart in front of us was full of chatter as well. “We’re a diverse group. Usually the Nightmare Court tends to their own kind. A scout likely spotted Tullia, but anyways, they’ll see we have many different qualities as well as quantity and leave us alone. That’s why ol’ Kau up there is slamming his hoofs on the ground like there’s a war going on.”
After a few seconds of silence, Ragnvaldr spoke up to keep up the noise, “Cinder, how did you find Ventari’s Refugees?”
“Oh, you know, being a slave to the gold legion gets old pretty fast.” She shrugged as if it were nothing.
“So you were part of the Flame Legion?” He questioned, picking up his water and drinking some while awaiting her answer.
“Gold Legion,” She corrected firmly, “And yes. I was kidnapped as a cub. They thought I was male.”
“Embarrassingly enough, I thought you were male when I first met you,” I butted in and quickly hung my head, “I’m really sorry.”
She patted my upper arm and I could feel the claws land gracefully on my skin without harming me, “That’s a bit of a compliment, mouse. These monsters, though, have no forgiveness. Not because of that but because of who they were.
I was kidnapped, meant to up their numbers. I was too young at the time to know that it wasn’t right. Years later, I fought beside them on the battlefield, fighting my own kin. At least until they found out my gender. By that time, I thought I was just one of the guys. I didn’t understand the difference in genders. It was then that I discovered the females in the Gold Legion. They don’t trust females so they either kill them or enslave them… at least the group I worked for. It was then that I became a slave. Cooking their food, taking care of their animals, washing and polishing armor and clothing. Gave them more time to fight other legions and anything else that moved. We lived in chains and shackles. Fell in love with a girl. Confessed to her. She was dead the next day because she had forgotten to clean one of their swords. Not a good life.
You should all say something to make sure they know there’s more than two of us in here.”
“Do you wish that you were male then?” I asked, unsure of how I should phrase the question in case it was offensive.
“I don’t know… sometimes? I’m not sure, maybe both? I don’t think I could choose between them.” She seemed really unsure of herself. I opened my mouth for the next question and she had already answered it before the words escaped, “I don’t care if you call me a he or a she, I’m me either way.”
“Please continue,” Ragnvaldr replied, “I still need to hear the best part.” It was unusual for him to be so forward and talk this much. Was he really taking this strategy seriously or perhaps was he actually that interested to be so verbally curious?
She clasped her paws together and leaned forward, “Since my partner in chains died, I had those chains to myself for the day. I was picking up scrap metal from the training yard when some dumb human stumbled in looking really lost.” Cinder tossed a glance to Tobih who smiled sheepishly, of course. “I’m not sure that dumb, lost mice normally carry swords sharp enough to break through chain that thick. Even those on the battlefield normally carried duller swords than this one. He was going to get himself killed, though.
I heard some goons coming out of one of the tents and turned to them. Apparently I didn’t greet them soon enough or maybe they just wanted to beat on me. And they did. I came out of it with a black eye and a broken rib. I always thought ‘If I could just live one more day, I’ll find a way out.’ I never fought them back, it would mean certain death. I wanted to live, more than anything.
They left me alone and went to eat or something. I don’t know. I was laying on the ground, holding my ribs. The next thing I know, dumb mouse had severed my chains. He’s helping me up and telling me to come with him…”
“Everything’s clear. We’ve passed.” Tullia said as she jumped into the cart as she had the first time.
“Understood.” Cinder gave a thumbs up and then used that to point to the small opening on the bench beside her. “Take a rest. The others can play lookout for a while.” The last part she shouted loud enough for the cart in front of us to hear.
Tullia silently stepped towards the seat before sitting down.
“Anyways, we escaped but he still had no idea where he was going. Said something about getting lost from his guild after straying off from camp. We found them after a few hours. Tullia here bandaged me up and we’ve been traveling together since.”
Ragnvaldr grinned and straightened up, “That’s quite an adventure. Glad to be here with you.”