The towers were all burning, their thick walls of stone. Burning and crumbling. Strong and proud battlements, subtle and delicate spires, they were all perishing. Below them the city of Maurur was dying as well in smoke and fire. The dwellings of the people those towers had been erected to protect.
I admit there were tears in my eyes as everything I had thought so powerful, so eternal, so beyond the reach of others, was reduced to nothing more than a huge bonfire obscuring the morning sun with its smoke of destruction. My tears fell, and I mouthed words of rage and defiance that were utterly impotent. The great city of Maurur was no more. My parents, my brothers, and sisters were no more. My friends, my lover Monah, all gone.
The Knights of the Wolf were no more. We had all been obliterated as the soldiers of the Iron Hammer had overwhelmed us. All of us, that is, except me. I had been stationed at the Crooked Bridge, which separated the great Keep from the city proper. The Crooked Bridge, with its old wooden, creaky planks, and the finely wrought cast-iron railings. On the city side there had been a park where beautiful girls had used to go walking or they would sit in the grass eat, and we had smiled at them and straightened our backs and put out our chests.
That was all history now. When the fire had begun to rain from the sky, and the mighty Gate had been blown open by sorcery, I had unsheathed my sword. Together we had waited, me and my five Brother Knights. Six tall men, clad in the colors of the Wolf: Black cloaks, gray pants, and white shirts, partly hidden by our leather armor. The guardians of the last Bridge of the last Keep of the last stronghold of the Knights of the Wolf.
After some dreadful minutes of waiting, while we had listened to and watched the slaughter of the city, anxiously praying that the call to arms in the Keep would be heeded in time. Six pairs of hands that, despite years of training, had been shaking with fear as they had tried to hold their long pikes steady. Now and then a hand would go to the hilt of their long sword, as if to check that it was still there. Waiting.
Then they had come howling out of the ruin of the city, the hideous creatures I had only heard of in tales. First and foremost the massive frames of filthy, mindless giants of different shapes and hues, but all huge and all had wielded clubs or enormous war axes. There had been blood-crazed men, there had been the ominous, hateful Gray Champions, there had been small, vicious hellcats, the terror of the deep forests, and many more.
Something had seemed to happen to time as they had rushed at us. First the enemy had seemed to run so slowly as if they were wading through deep water. Then they had moved faster, past normal speed, and then like lightning they had been upon us!
I had barely been able to register what happened. I had seen three giants, more than ten feet tall, thunder onto the Bridge, their dark, hairy feet cracking the wooden planks. Then my pike had been wrenched from my hands. How, I do not know. I had failed to pull my sword from its scabbard, and then a blow had caught me on my right shoulder, a blow with a force beyond that of any mortal man.
And now I was here, fallen into the river. Watching the city and Order of the Wolf die, clinging onto a piece of wood as the stream took me. Out of danger maybe, but into shame and disgrace.
Later, not much later in terms of time, but an age of effort, I reached the river bank. It consisted of mud, was filled with sharp branches, and hid slippery patches, but reaching it meant I was saved. Gasping I crawled out of the water, deduced that I had arrived somewhere where there was thick grass growing, and let my body go limp with relief.
I had all but forgotten about the rapids south of the River Gate, but all the blows to my head, arms, body, and legs made sure I would remember the experience for the rest of my life. My entire body ached more than after the most intense sparring session I had ever taken part in. Correction, it ached worse that it would have after first taking part in the most intense sparring session ever, and then being disciplined for having a dreadful hangover from some drinking binge the night before. Not that that had ever happened to me. Not often, at least.
For what must have been an hour I lay and tried to regain strength while thinking over my situation. I was on the east bank of the river, alone outside a city that had been taken by an enemy sworn to eradicate the Knights of the Wolf. The tales of the trouble they went through to kill every last one of us because of the words of the Prophecy were gruesome and probably true. It was death to remain here. I had to flee, fast and far.
Down the river was the great metropolis of Andomin, also under the rule of the Iron Hammer. The Merron Pass upriver was guarded by the Merron Fort, that too under enemy control. To the West I would reach the desert before I left the domination of the Iron Hammer.
But to the East ... The forest of Ligues. Two weeks hard walking straight east, or a month if I should flag or lose my way, and I would be in Carosia. The Merchant Cities of Carosia. Their people scoffed at and ridiculed in Maurur as weak, mean, dishonest gold-hoarders. But we had still bought their goods and spices. And we had listened, and laughed, when they had informed us that a man skilled with arms could become a citizen, and a rich one at that, if he traveled East. I remembered how we had waited in excitement, counting the coins in our purses when their barges were reported as being unloaded south of the rapids...
I opened my eyes and stumbled to my feet. The harbor! Of course! If I could get on a barge before the conquerors had started searching for any survivors, maybe I could get down to Andomin and get on a ship bound East...
But my hope fell as I looked about me. To the north was the city walls in the distance, smoke still welling up and clouding my heart. But as I turned to face the south I saw smoke there as well, not five hundred yards away behind a bend of the river. It was the smoke of barges and piers and storehouses burning. The Iron Hammer had smitten the harbor as well.
There was forest all around me, the fields of Maurur were to the north. Only huntsmen, trappers, and loggers went into the forest. And now, who knew? Maybe the Iron Hammer would let a warlord of theirs settle in the city? Or a tribe of giants? Or maybe the hellcats could frolic in the ancient streets as they let the forest in?
I looked at the mighty trees: Firs, pines, oaks, birches, and the all the lesser bushes, and I sighed. I had some woodcraft, but a trek through a forest this thick might very well be my first, and last, adventure. As my hand went to my sword I wished I had a bow, for hunting. Then I swore as I realized I did not have a sword either. Somehow, during my struggles in the rapids, I had lost it to the river.
I had a knife, I had wet clothes, and I had sloshing boots. I had no food, no map, no flint, and no arms. With an oath I stepped into the forest.
The next morning I was sure of quite a few things. Walking for ten hours in wet boots rewards you with blisters. Berries, especially in springtime, are not enough to fill your belly. Sleeping outside during spring under a slightly damp cloak is not warm, and neither are tree-roots good pillows. And most importantly: Forests are not parks, they are dark places with thick undergrowth, wide brooks, mires, steep cliffs, and hills upon hills upon hills that all hamper your progress. The only thing I felt unsure of was where I was. I knew I moved eastwards in a fashion, but how far I had come, or whether I was veering north or south I had not idea.
As such I was in no state of being happy about not being eaten by some predator, and not being caught by the pursuer I had to be prepared to meet. I navigated after the sun, chasing it from hill to hill, even climbing trees now and then when I got lost. Thankfully I had not become sick despite my wet clothes, and I was able to walk fast this second day as well.
It was not until in the early afternoon when I reached a hill so tall that I was able to have a proper look out over the forest. I left the dense, dark forest behind, and in ten minutes had reached the open top of the hill, where only a few gnarled, old pines and low shrubs grew. The wind was fresh and fragrant, and I ignored the hunger I felt as I climbed a huge, mossy rock to get the clearest view of my surroundings.
I had to be at least five hundred feet above the level of the Armon River and the city of Maurur, as I could see the smoking towers far away in the distance. There, somewhere, was the room I had lived in for the last two years, and the barracks that had been my home for five more. There were the corpses of the last Knights of the Wolf, the last but for me. There was my family, and I might never know if they lived or died. I turned east.
The forest of Ligues stretched out for leagues upon leagues, and I could see nothing but hills in the far distance. Here and there there were valleys, and even a small lake or two. I noticed that if, when I climbed down, I followed a certain ditch in the terrain, I would end up a valley that slowly wound itself eastwards and a little south until it ran into a larger, elliptical lake. I decided to try that path, as I might save time if I didn't have to check my position so often as I did now.
I had walked all day, and was tired and hungry, but despite that I felt fine. My legs were free from cramps and my head was clear. I was so grateful that I had paid attention to the instructor who had taught me how to survive in the wild. I had eaten lots of berries, and also found some other edible plants, without which I would surely have starved. Even so I had looked at all the squirrel and birds I had seen today with murderous intent. I had even seen a deer of some sort, but without a bow I would never be able to hunt its kin.
It so happens that it is chance that will decide if you live or die. It was chance that put on the edge of the fighting formation on the Crooked Bridge when the monsters of the Iron Hammer had charged us, so that I fell into the River and was saved. It was also chance that made me take my knife out of its sheath before I pulled my boots off. I was going to open up my blisters, and I could have left the knife until my feet were bared. But I didn't, and it saved my life.
The hellcat must have tracked me to the foot of the hill, and sneaked around it to avoid being seen. As native of the forest, they are expert trackers and hunters, and their skills in blending into the scenery are unprecedented.
Because of that I was completely unprepared when the attack came, even though I had anticipated that the Iron Hammer had sent their agents after me. I was pulling at the last boot to get my foot out when I heard a wild shriek of triumph. My training kicked in and made me move at the last moment, so that while the hellcat's claws found their marks on my back the vicious fangs missed my throat and bit my shoulder instead.
The pain made my cry out, but I could consider myself lucky that I was able to: Hellcats are, despite their small stature, considered very dangerous opponents. The Knights of the Wolf were explicitly warned not to underestimate them.
I fumbled for a split second, got hold of my knife, bent my head (and throat!) forward, and struck as hard as I could at my spine with an over-the-shoulder stab. As I heard a shriek, one of pain this time, and could not feel anything myself, I knew I had wounded my assailant.
But despite its hurt the hellcat was not beaten and I got bitten twice on my left arm and hand as I protected my throat from the deadly jaws. Unlike the attack on the bridge I was clearly aware of what was happening, guessing the nature of my unseen assailant, feeling pain, and I was scared out of my mind. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this. Nothing!
In the end was the pure chance, again!, that I had sat down on a rock that ultimately saved me. I lost balance, and tumbled off the rock with my enemy still clinging on to my back with its claws. I somehow managed to turn in the air and landed on my back, my foe beneath me.
This stunned the creature, and I managed to wrench it off me. My knife was in my hand, but my killer-instinct was not yet fully developed. Instead of stabbing the hellcat dead, I punched it in the face. Once, twice, thrice, and then it lay still.
I have heard horror stories of what hellcats looked like, what vile monsters they were with their fangs and claw-sharp nails and vicious tempers. I had seen the remarkable hellcat-eyes that hunters would bring to the city, the eyes that would change colors, and wondered what kind of beasts they were.
I had not been prepared for this: Beneath me, bleeding and unconscious, lay the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
She was not human, of course. The color of her skin alone gave her away: An olive skin that possessed an inner glow, smooth as silk and tough as hide. Her straight hair, jet black, was cut irregularly short, and looked thick and healthy. It had a dull shine to it beyond what any human woman could hope to achieve even with the most delicate care and finest oils.
The small, pointed nose, full lips, expressive eyebrows, and rosy cheeks all gave the impression of a person capable of a myriad of moods, all intense.
Her mouth, of course, was full of pointed, sharp teeth. No the rapid dog snarl that I had hitherto believed her race to possess, but smaller, yet deadly-looking, incisors. But it was her fangs that caught my attention: White, long, and vicious, like giant, slender thorns with a sting that was truly deadly.
I rubbed my neck where she had bitten it. Truly deadly they were. But now there were only three fangs left in her mouth. I had punched out the upper left one and the incisor beside it, during our fight. Her upper lip was large and blue, and her nose had bled.
Somehow now, the morning after, I felt less inclined to hate her for the attack and the pain she had caused me. She had remained unconscious during the night, and I had sat beside her with my back to the rock we had fought on, not sleeping much due to fear and hunger. In her comatose state she looked strangely peaceful, lovely, like a sleeping princess awaiting a kiss from her prince. Except for all the blood, that is.
She was a tiny thing, if she was five foot then I was seven, and looked not older than a young woman of twenty or so. Her body was slender but, despite the gray, woolen shirt and pants, I could see she had been blessed with truly female curves: Large, firm breasts and a backside that could summon the eyes of every man in the vicinity, if a hellcat should ever take it into her head to think of men other than as enemies, or food. She wore no boots, her feet looked tough and well used to running in the wild.
Was this innocent, young maiden truly a vicious monster? I had to feel my wounds again and again to reassure myself that tying her up had been sensible and not merely brutish. Her arms, which hands had tough, tough nails but no claws, were tied behind her back, and her ankles a foot and a half apart from each other so that she could walk. True, I had ruined my leather armor to make bindings, but I felt safer now.
I cast my mind back to the time when I, eighteen years old, had just been made a full Knight. The maid Monah had been assigned to me, to clean my room and my equipment, perks the Knights of the Wolf enjoyed in their decadent, late autumn.
Monah had been at least ten years older than me, and with female curves to overflowing: Breasts and buttocks as huge as anyone could wish for in their wildest dream. And when she had been introduced to me she had smiled at me, and I at her.
Two week later Monah's legs had been tied a foot and a half apart, and she had walked clumsily around my room, trying to clean it with her hands tied together and attached to a rope around her neck. I had been sitting naked, on the window sill, looking bored out at the city, and casting stolen glances at her as she struggled, stroking my stiff member all the while.
I had let Monah beg for a week before she was allowed to touch my manhood after she had finished with my room. On her knees, wrists tied to ankles, her lips had drawn low moans of pleasure from me.
The hook in the ceiling had been her idea, and I had enjoyed the sight of her naked body as the short rope leading from her hands to the hook forced her to almost stand on tip toes. Just cupping those big, juicy breasts in my hand while she had ground her ass against my rod had made me come.
I had told her I loved her big body, and she had said she worshiped my big member, and our early morning ritual had brought us both so much pleasure for the three brief months it had lasted. Then, somehow, we had been found out. She had been let go in disgrace, and I had been whipped in public. I had stolen away to meet her as she was packing her things, offering her some money to help her in the dire times ahead. She had refused with a smile, and settled for a final, lingering kiss.
I had not seen Monah since then, and now she might very well lie dead somewhere in Maurur. I was left with nothing but memories, memories and the skill of how to tie up a woman.
The hellcat was far smaller, lighter, more agile than her, and with teeth and claws that could cut through leather like my nails through a leaf. And the price to pay if she should break free was more severe than the love-making I used to offer Monah as a reward when we played that game.
I sat still and pondered my situation: I could not leave her tied up to die, and I could not leave her free. She would probably follow me, if the stories of the hellcats' thirst for revenge was anything to go by. I just sat and watched her perfect body, until when the sun rose and touched her face, she woke from her slumber.
She went from sleeping beauty to furious feline in an instant. I jumped as the still form suddenly began thrashing and fighting, growling and hissing. I must admit I even held my knife out in front of me in case she should break free and leap at me.
But she didn't. I had spent hours upon hours learning how to tie the proper knots, and the leather was just tight enough to keep her from loosening it by wriggling and struggling. In the end she calmed down, lying on her side, breathing hard, and glaring at me with her hellcat eyes.
They burned. The eyes were nothing but pools of fiery hot flames glowing with pure, malevolent dark blood red. The eyes of a hellcat were said to be able to light up a room for years after they had been cut from the sockets of it owner. By submerging them into different potions one could make them change shape: irritating the eye with an acidic liquid made it red with fury, pleasing it with sugar water turned it blue, and so on.
I had seen a hellcat eye once before, in my Captain's office. I had been fascinated with the red, glowing orb in its glass jar. The light of that one was nothing to the clear-burning flames of the pair now before me: So dark red with hate, so intense in their fury that I was reminded of a smith's forge more than any puny candle or oil-lamp.
"Filth!" she suddenly snarled at me. She had a high-pitched voice and spoke with a raw, hard accent. I had never known whether hellcats could talk, but she spoke precisely like I would have imagined them to: Full of emotion, and without any of the restraint that civilization and tradition will put on you.
"Filth! What will it be? Cut me up and then kill me? Rape me first? Let the beasts have me?"
I had jumped when she had first growled, and now I tried to regain my composure. Yes, she could speak, and she truly hated me. What would it be? Kill her? Leave her like this?
"What will it be? Get on with it!"
"Do think death is too harsh for you, hellcat?" I said in my best official voice. "After your attempt on my life?"
"A quick, clean death is all I ask for and deserve, Wolf Knight" Some of the fire in her eyes died away as we began talking, thought her voice was almost bursting with constrained fury.
"I am indeed a Knight of the Wolf," I was aware my speech was a bit stilted, but that is how one copes with a difficult situation, I guess, "and we do not slay captures enemies."
"You just cut," she spat the word out, "their eyes and leave them to it."
"We do not!"
"I have seen them," she hissed. "Those of my people you catch. Eyeless, dying."
"I will not kill you," I murmured. I had never thought of how hellcat eyes were procured, and she might just be telling the truth. "Even though you tried to kill me."
"Why did you do that? Hungry?" One of the tales concerning hellcats was that they would eat the humans they caught deep in their forests.
"Oh no," she smiled sarcastically, and there was a flicker of blue in the pools of fire. "Eating you would imply I respected you. I am ready to respect ducks and rats, but not you. Oh no, for you it would have been the crows, or even your dear wolves."
"The hunters that took our people tended to come from your city did they not? If not satisfied with their eyes, then took the men to fight wild beasts, or the women to boast about their prowess in bed. Oh, I have lost so many from my tribe that when asked to search for any survivors..." She grinned while dirty brown and blue specks danced in her blood red eyes. Then she gasped with pain. "I failed, but I managed to bite you good! Almost as good as you got me."
"Are you hurting?" I asked then, suddenly a bit worried.
"What's that to you, Wolf Knight?"
"Nothing you would understand," I said and moved closer to her. When I touched her right shoulder she snapped at me with her jaws like a frightened dog would.
"Nothing I would..." She growled and the light shone stronger again. "Filth! You think I know nothing of compassion? Or concern?"
"Show me," I replied. The wound was deep, but not infected. I had tried to bandage it with leather and some cloth from her shirt, but having her hands tied to her back did not help her.
"Let me see your little scratch-marks so I can feel sorry for you."
Scratch-marks? They sure hurt as hell, and she had bitten me. I pulled off my shirt awkwardly.
"Wipe that grimace off your face! I can hardly see them. By the Lords of the Wild, I must have failed in everything yesterday!"
She was right. The wounds she had given me were almost gone. Yesterday there had been large gashes almost everywhere the leather armor had not protected me. Even the bite on the side of my neck had healed as if I had laid in a sickbed for many days.
"No," I said, taken aback. "They have ... healed?"
Her eyes narrowed as she peered more intently at me, and more colors seemed to appear in the pools, no longer blazing. "I thought you humans were utterly fragile?"
"This is, I don't know..." My voice faltered.
"Lucky you," she snorted. "I will have to wait about a month for my teeth to grow back, if I live that long. Did you cut them out? Or did you punch me in the face? I seem to remember..."
"Well," I felt a bit embarrassed, "I did."
"You throw a good punch, human. What is your name, Wolf Knight?"
I hesitated. If she should escape, and I had given her my name, then the Iron Hammer would better know how to search me out. Because they would, if they knew I lived. The Prophecy would ensure that. "My name is ... Wolf."
She laughed, then her face contracted in pain. "Good! Now, Wolf. Cut me, rape me, kill me. But in what order?"
"I think," I mused after a while, not knowing what to say, "I shall call you Rainbow."
"What!?" Her eyes burned bright red.
"Because I like how your eyes change color," I smiled. "I will not kill you."
"Fine. Then what? Let me go?"
"I assume you try to kill me again if I did? Or tell the Iron Hammer where I am?"
Blue flecks flew across the pools as she grinned evilly. I figured lying might be very hard for a hellcat. "Naturally."
"Then you come with me. Now."
When I had said this she started fighting against the leather that bound her legs. I guessed her right shoulder hurt to much for her to try anything with her arms.
"What's the matter?" I asked as I gingerly lifted her to her legs, keeping well away from her snapping fangs. "Thought you could keep me here until more agents of the Iron Hammer could find me?"
The blaze of light that followed this almost certainly meant that I was right. She called me vile things and tried to kick out at me. I was glad I had practiced the foot-and-a-half binding with Monah, as she was unable to do anything more damaging than prod at my feet.
Slowly we made our way down the hill. She was extremely agile, and her wounds and bound extremities hampered her far less than they would have me. Still, she could not move very fast.
I cut myself a study walking-stick of birch, which I used both to steady myself, and to let her grab with her left hand when she needed to hold onto something. She stumbled as she climbed up and down slopes, over tree roots, over brooks, and now and again she would fall.
I kept her marching, urged on now and again by a prod in the back from the birch rod. Eating the berries I found on the way I was somehow able to still a little of my hunger, but she refused.
"I eat nothing but meat," she snarled.
Why did I make her walk as fast and hard as I did? One reason was that I was anxious to escape any more attempts and pursuit. Another ... Well, I remembered my time with Monah. She had loathed for me to see her big body, and getting her to undress in front of me had been a battle of our wills. For days I had done nothing to her but talking, refusing to play with her until I got what I wanted.
This had to be the same thing. I found myself curiously attracted to Rainbow's, as I kept calling her, spirit of defiance, as well as burning to break it. To master her. To make her beg.
It took two days. All the while she snarled at me that she was hungry, that she should be allowed to go free. She insisted she be released to go hunting, and made false promises of returning afterward. Her words describing fat birds and juicy deer meat tempted me, but I knew better.
I kept her walking, using the birch rod whenever I caught her slacking off. We followed the ditch I had singled out as the route to the lake I wanted to head for, and it soon turned into a valley. Slowly, slowly, on the second day, Rainbow began stumbling more and more. It must be incredibly hard walking with her feet and hands tied like that, and she had been really brave. Now and then she even shrieked something unintelligible, probably a call to her tribe or any other allies that might be nearby. Since she only did this now out of desperation, I guessed there was not much danger in the plea being answered. They were all in Maurur, I guessed, finishing sacking the city.
It was afternoon when she finally gave up. We had to cross a brook, and she lost her footing climbing down from the bank. Falling, she plunged head-first into the mud on the far side, burying one flaming white eye, the other looking in my direction.
"Get up!" I commanded, giving her a push with the rod in her back.
"No!" She yelled desperately.
"Filth! I am dying of hunger, I am dying of pain! I cannot go on!"
I reached down and took hold of her short, shining black hair. "You will get up and keeping walking. When it gets dark, we will rest like last night. If you are polite then, and ask me nicely, I might ease your pain."
"Might!?" She spat and spluttered. "Killing me would ease my pain!"
"Up!" I pulled at her hair, drawing a gasp of pain from her lovely face as she followed me. It was strange. Two days ago her beauty had made me want to go easier on her, despite her trying to murder me. Now I had somehow got a, well, rush of power, of wanting to rule. Now her beauty made my determination even stronger.
She yelled and threatened me for the next half hour or so, as my rod kept her walking. Twice she slumped to the ground, and twice I had to pull her up by her hair. She was so small and slender that I could easily do this. All my scars had somehow mysteriously healed in the short time since she gave them to me. Also, my hunger had strangely enough not made me weaker, even though my insides cried out for food.
In the end she walked until nightfall in silence, and tears were running down her face. Going was slow, and she fell often over, but then pulled herself to her feet with her amazing athletic abilities.
We made our camp under a large fir tree with thick branches that provided us with shelter. The brook in valley we were in was now large enough to be a proper river, and I was convinced that we were not far from the lake that was my first goal.
I sat down with my folded up cloak between me and the rough tree trunk, while Rainbow collapsed on the dry floor of pine needles. She sobbed and sobbed, and I felt horrible. More horrible so because I was unable to stop thinking of this as a kind of game. I no longer cared to recall the reason I was dragging her alone, to avoid killing her and yet keep myself safe. I no longer used the pursuit of another agent of the Iron Hammer as an argument for keeping such a terrible pace. No, it was just a game: My will against hers.
Rainbow opened her eyes and looked at me. The fire in her eyes was white with a touch of red. White, I assumed, was associated with passivity, submission, like the color of the flag used for surrendering. If that was true, then I appreciated that. But more importantly, the fire was low, barely illuminating her face as we lay under our tent of branches. She was tired, the fight had for the moment gone out of her.
I am ashamed to said that made me feel very manly, very much the conqueror. My chest puffed, and my member filled up with blood.
"Wolf?" she said.
"Why do you do this to me?"
"You don't need to know," I heard a voice high on power, my own!, reply to her. "You only need to find your place."
"And what place is that?" The red glow now filling her pools lit the camp as she got angry again. What a spirit this woman had!
"That we will find out. We have a long way to go together."
Red gave way to the white of fear. I sat down beside her and checked the wound in her side. It was healing, hellcats were amazing creatures. But it made me wonder why I had suddenly achieved the ability to get well so quickly as I had.
Then I pulled out a further leather rope, and tied it around her neck. Last night she had tried to bite my hands while I did this, but not now. I fastened the rope to the one around her hands at her back, then to the one binding her feet, forcing them backwards. She was completely helpless in this position, which had been a favorite of Monah's.
"Wolf..." she whispered.
"Yes?" I replied, not unkindly.
"Please, Wolf, be good to me. I cannot take another day like today. I need food. My body hurts from being bound. Please." White eyes, with strong red flashes. It had to hurt her pride to beg like this.
I moved to lie down beside her. For a while I did not speak, but my hand went to her hair, softly brushing it. Her plea had made me feel all tender and mushy inside. Why did I have to punish this beautiful creature? Her eyes were closed, and her face contorted in a grimace as I caressed her.
"Please be gentle," she whispered as tears feel down her cheeks.
"You are going to rape me now, are you not?"
"No. No! No, I am not."
She opened her eyes. "Why do you touch me, then?"
"You are beautiful."
"Me? A human finds me beautiful? With these?" She opened her mouth and bared her teeth.
"Yes, even with those."
Then she smiled, and blue light came into her eyes. But along with the blue came another color, and I found the specks of green to be the most appealing part of the rainbow yet.
"I wish we didn't have to be enemies," she said then.
"We don't," I said quickly. Then our eyes met, and there was more of the lovely green color in them now. Slowly, slowly I moved my head towards her hers, our lips closing in on each other...
"If you kiss me I will bite your tongue and lips off!" she snarled, and red light filled the tree-tent.
I jerked my head back, rolled over, and sat up. She was staring angrily at me. I felt fooled and rejected. Monah had never been like this! But, she had warned me before she bit. That was something at least. She had to be afraid of what I would have done to her had she bitten me. Even now there were flickers of white in the fire.
"I hate you, Wolf, I really, really do," she said then with constrained fury. "You are very handsome, but I know humans and your Knights in particular. You must be exterminated, and the Lords of the Iron Hammer will do just that. When you are dead, Wolf, by my own fangs, then my tribe will get this forest for their own. The Lord Axar has promised us this, just like he promised to bring an end to Maurur."
"Promised?" I snorted. I was furious! "The treacherous bastards of the Iron Hammer believe in one law, and one law only: Might is right! And, right now, so do I. Whether you get to eat, get to sleep, get to speak gibberish, get to walk until you drop, get to be raped, get to live, or get to be kissed, it is all up to me!"
"Spoken like a true Wolf Knight," she spat.
"Good night," I said as icily as I could, and sat down with my back against the tree trunk again, closing my eyes. This conversation was, to me, over, and now I intended to sleep.
"Wolf?" her voice came to me after a few minutes.
"Wolf," she repeated after a moment's pause when I did not reply. "I asked nicely. I even begged. Please, Wolf?"
Without replying I fell asleep. Tomorrow I might be in a better mood, tomorrow I might treat her right.
Tomorrow came, and I woke to find the hellcat that I had named Rainbow lying tied up at my feet. The leather encircled her throat, it bound her hands behind her back, and it forced her to bend her legs. She stared dully at me, a dim light, red glow in her eyes. Angry, yet for the moment defeated. I liked what I saw, liked how powerful it made me feel.
"Good morning, Rainbow," I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
"I am hungry. I have cramps."
"Yes, by my choice. For your insolence last night."
"You are cruel, hard man, truly a human." It stated as a cold fact, not as an angry accusation.
"You tried to kill me. This is your reward. Ready to start walking again? We have far to go."
I grabbed my birch rod. It felt rough and heavy in my hand. She stared at it in fear.
"No," she whispered.
"No? Then I have to make you walk."
"No, Wolf. I cannot. Not with my hands bound behind my back and this damned rope between my ankles. Not after a night in this position. Not without having eaten for more than two days."
"Then you know what to do."
She fell silent, sighed, and closed her eyes. "Please, Wolf. Be good to me. I beg you."
"Will you be good, Rainbow? Will you be polite and do as you are told?"
No reaction. I repeated the question. Slowly, she nodded.
"Say it!" I felt elated. I owned this hellcat! I would make her crawl for me!
"I will be good. I will be polite. I will do as I am told." The words came slowly, but clearly. Then: "As long as you can enforce those rules, human."
"Did you hate it? Having to say what you just did?"
"Don't worry. It will get easier every time." I went over to her, and untied the leather rope that bound her throat to her feet, fastening it to her bound hands instead.
With a great sigh of relief she stretched her legs. Grabbing them with my hands, I began rubbing them. She tried to pull them out of my grasp, but I would not let her.
"I know it hurts, but this will help you walk more easily," I said gently.
"It doesn't hurt, I just don't want your hands on me," she replied harshly.
"Again, it is up to me. Now the hands." I untied her right arm, the left one now only fastened to her throat. "If you try to bite the rope off, you will regret it," I said simply.
As she glared at me, I looked at her wound. It had almost healed, something I was happy for. Then I rubbed her arm. Her eyes glared red, but there was not enough true revulsion in her voice to make me believe she loathed it. I, on the other hand, found that her skin was soft and sleek. Many a high-born Lady with kill to get skin like that. Many men would kill to get their hands on such skin.
"You shoulder will be fine," I told her as I retied the right arm and freed the left one.
"No thanks to you."
"I apologize for defending myself," I smiled as I started rubbing the last arm.
"You should apologize for dragging me along like this!" she hissed. "Kill me, Wolf! Put me out of my misery!"
"Oh no," I grinned at her. I loved her fiery temper! In fact, I was beginning to love everything about this hellcat. She was like ... like an irresistible challenge and a legendary price all in one. If I could tame her. If I could! "This is not misery, this is mercy."
"Do you want to eat, or walk?"
"I want to eat, Wolf! You bloody well know that!"
"Then, you should apologize for calling me a bastard."
"Are you serious?" Burning eyes widened.
"I," she gritted her teeth, "apologize."
"Was it any easier this time?"
"Up y ... No, human, it wasn't."
"Be patient," I smiled. "What do you want for breakfast?"
"Meat, of any kind. What are you able to hunt?" Blue specks came into her eyes now. She had to be really hungry.
"Nothing..." I admitted.
"Nothing? Nothing?" She seemed almost desperate. "But..."
"I don't have a bow," I explained.
"I can hunt! Release me, and I promise to return to you!"
I shook my head.
"Damn you! I need food!"
"Well, it will have to be me."
She groaned, and her lips moved, probably cursing me silently. Her body was shaking from hunger. Then she looked at me again. "Have you ever used a sling?"
I shook my head. Now I actually felt stupid.
"Then," she groaned, "what are you doing out here in the forest!? Can you climb then, Wolf-who-cannot-hunt?"