Fen, Captain of the North Sands Territory
Captain Fen listened to the sound of life ending. Judging by the volume, the right lives were being taken. His soldiers had been atop the great walls surrounding the outpost, Old Fang, and were raining down arrows at enemy invaders. They held the advantage at the moment. The wall was facing the North, where the force was coming from. That direction was filled with a great many slopes and dunes, which provided cover for the enemy. Unfortunately for them, the horde didn't know how to use it properly, and were occasionally hiding behind insufficient cover.
The horde, which called itself the Death Reapers, was supposedly led by a large, pitch black fox who fancied himself the title Lord Redpaw, "Harvester of All Life". Fen and some of the other captains had gotten a kick out of that.
"Why 'Harvester'? If the horde itself is called the Reapers, why not just call himself 'Lord Reaper'?" the rat captain named Chie questioned. "Do harvesters really sound more intimidating than reapers?"
"I'm just wondering what in Hellsgates this fool is doing down here. The desert isn't exactly an ideal place for farm lords," quipped Fen.
The others got a chuckle out of it. It was right of them to think so little of this would be conqueror, as they were the greatest captains in the North Sands.
Captain Chie had been stationed in a nearby fort when the horde first arrived, and had been the one to send messengers requesting reinforcements. She was somewhat stout, and a bit on the short side, her large ears coming to Fen's chest when they stood side by side. Her ax was nearly as tall as she was, yet when she wielded it, she had the speed and strength of a badger. The beasts under her command were personally trained by her, and could be expected to bring near the same brute force in melee attacks. A majority of them had been sent out the south entrance on the first night, and had been slowly wreaking havoc whenever they could. Fen personally knew Chie well, and he knew she wasn't the brightest star in the night sky. She and Fen were life long friends, from all the way when they were both stealing goods from bakers and shoving around the other little scamps in alley ways.
Captain Snow was said to be the bastard brother of Lady Iceknife, and when he had been promoted to captain, Fen remembered the talk of how the white ferret hadn't earned his position, besides from coming out of the same ermine the Lady had. When an bandit army from the east had tried to attack, Iceknife had merely sent Snow and a small band of scouts. The matter was dealt with in 6 days time, with a quarter of the army dead and the rest fleeing, while none of those under Snow's command had even sustained an injury. His specialty was camouflage and guerrilla tactics, hit and run, ambush style of fighting. Like his sister, he used knives, though more for throwing than stabbing. He and Fen got along thick as thieves, especially when drunk.
Captain Jun was a stoat captain, born and raised in the North Sands, and had not once ventured out of the land. She was mute, so she never received work as an envoy to other territories in the Empire, and her inability not to get drunk made her a poor choice for accompaniment for trips to the capitol. However, she knew her homeland better than any other could hope to, and often assisted Snow in his ambushes by pointing out areas on a wine-stain map where he could use shortcuts and make traps for enemies. She was also known for assisting Fen, though not exactly in combat.
Fen sat with his paw meeting Chie's on top of the table as they tried to get the other's down, all while a collection of soldiers were shouting words of encouragement, discouragement, and bets. Even past all of that, he could still hear the sounds of arrows being loosed outside, and the screams that followed immediately after. He grinned as he slowly pulled Chie's paw down, almost laughing at the strain on her face. He had her on the ropes, he could see it. Just a little bit further...
And then Chie's face went calm, and then a grin appeared as she effortlessly smashed Fen's paw onto the table with a distinguishable thud!
"Winner!" Snow shouted, raising Chie's paw. Fen rubbed his, though still kept his grin as he replied to Chie's smug look with a raised middle claw. The group around them disbanded, half with fuller pockets and smiles adorning their faces, half with lesser pockets and scowls. Captain Jun walked up and gave the fox a consolatory hug. He noted, however, a large bag of coins in her paw.
"You bet against me, didn't you." He accused, with an expression of mock offense. Jun merely gave him her best puppy dog eyes and rattled the coins in front of him. He took the meaning. "Smart bet. Let's go to the pub and put those winnings to good use."
Before the four of them could make it out the door, the door was opened by a weasel. Said weasel was donned in black armor, covering most of his body save for the tail and head. He was a rather ugly looking creature, and it was evident from the way he squinted and coughed that he was a northerner. Those who didn't grow up to sand being everywhere all the time had a hard time being anywhere at any time.
He peered around the room, before stopping with his ugly mug facing the quartet. He stomped over to them, the scowl doing nothing to compliment his face.
"I am the messenger for the Great Harvester, Lord of the Reapers. Are you in command of this base?"
"No, but we run this outpost." Chie replied.
The frown deepened, and Fen could see that this amused his rat friend.
"Which one of you has the highest authority."
"Well, we have that over everybeast else... though the barkeep has that over us, so I'd suppose him. Why, you need a drink?"
The frown managed to find depths Fen had not thought possible on this weasel's scrunched little face, and even he was getting a kick out of how flustered and angry he was getting.
"Tell whoever is in charge around here that the Harvester of All Life wishes to challenge them to a duel. Whichever beast wins keeps the outpost."
A beat later, and the four were laughing at the weasel's ever reddening face. Fen composed himself the quickest, and spoke what they were all most likely thinking.
"Mate, you've got it wrong. When you're winning a fight, then you can issue changes to it, make demands, offer deals, that sort of thing. When you're losing, you have about as much authority to offer something as a drunken beggar does to a high-end whore."
"The Harvester always has authority-"
"Of course he does, mate. It's alright. I get it. You have to give respect to the one supplying you your silly overweight armor and your pompous attitude. Good for you, you're doing a grand job. How about this. We'll send you back with a few terms, and if your little tiller agrees to em, I'll gladly fight him."
The other three ceased laughing at that. Fen hadn't needed to even say that, he could've just told the weasel to sod off and keep having their soldiers kill the others. Fen smiled though, as he gave his terms and sent the iron-clad vermin out with a drink. He went back to his chair and reclined, putting his foot-paws up on the table. Snow sent Chie and Jun to collect the alcohol.
"So, you're in the mood to fight."
The statement was never a question when aimed at Fen.
"Nah, I just remembered I hadn't gotten a gift for Lady Iceknife for a while, and this might just make a dandy one for her return."
"Why are you so driven to give a gift to my sister?"
"I like that funny little word our weasel friend used. Command. Got me to thinkin, maybe I don't want to be just a captain, but maybe a commander. Has a nice ring to it, eh? Commander Fen."
Snow smiled, the same smile he always gave whenever he was about to indulge Fen's sense of grandeur. "So you think a few little new vermin to add will give her so much joy that she'll promote you to a rank that's never been an actual position before?"
"Why not?" Fen laughed. "I've proven myself many a time. I'm as loyal as a dog, or whatever you North dwellers say." He paused as their cohorts came back with beverages. He took a flask of oasis-wine and drank heavily. "Plus, I'd have the perfect design for a commander's armor."
"What's that?" Snow asked, thoroughly enjoying where this scheme was likely to go. That or he smiled at the two other captains returning with the booze. Either or.
"A reaper's cloak, and a harvester's skull for a cap." Captain Fen said as he swiped a bottle.
'He's a twig.' The first thought Fen had about the dark colored fox carrying a small scythe in each paw, standing with a score of vermin at his back in the middle of a dune. He was standing straight, his flashy armor casting an annoying reflection to the captain's eyes. His boots were made of a sort of leather, and his helmet was oddly enough made of wood, with some fine carvings of axes and scythes on it. Fen couldn't keep a grin off of his face, hard enough it was to resist laughing. 'It's one thing to be pretentious, and quite another to just make a fool of yourself.'
"I ask for the one that's in charge around here, and instead they send me you?" The dark fox spat in Fen's direction. Fen realized he must look equally silly to this northern mongrel in this situation. In contrast to this Lord, Fen had barely armored himself, no boots, no helmet, no protective gear around his chest or mid section. The only thing he wore was a pair of rough-fabric trousers and jewel encrusted gloves. He carried no weapon. 'Am I making a fool of myself in his eyes, I wonder... meh, a fool's fool is more like than not in the right.'
"So, Ol' Lord Redpaw, where exactly do you hail from?"
"I am from the lower plains of Mossflower Wood, born unto the most deadly assassin groups of all, the Juskarage!"
"Do all bandit gangs have that silly of a name?"
The black beast seemed a bit irritated at being interrupted, but continued. "After seasons of honing my skill at dealing death, I took over, and dubbed them 'Reapers'. Would you like to know why?"
"I'm sure a pup could guess why, but by all means, keep talking."
"It is because any under my command decide the fate of my enemies. I took the moniker of the Harvester of All Life, as I can collect any I want at any time!"
"Do you ever actually use those for a harvest season, or did you just find them on a farm and thought they looked funny, so you kept them?"
"SILENCE!" The Reaper Lord finally allowed himself a break from his monologue to snap at the southern fox, who only smiled cheekily. "You know not what you face, you insolent fool!"
"Oh, on the contrary, you've quite impressed me, your Lordship. I got to be a well spoken captain due to the right parents, the right home, and the right actions. You were born, most likely an accident, to a rag tag bunch of daft, woods-dwelling mongrels, and yet you boast in a forced fine tongue that you're above me. Well, before you entice us with more of your life story, let me tell you the ending to it. You walked into enemy territory and died by the hands of Captain Fen, the fox in charge at an old, crumbling outpost that you failed to take."
"I will plant seeds in your carcass, common whelp!"
'Might have to ask Snow if that's a northern thing.' Fen thought as he thought of just how he wanted to kill his opponent. "You're neck."
"Talk is over, let's begin."
The figures ran at each other at the last word, Redpaw swinging his scythes together to pierce the sides of this mouthy captain, only to sail through the air smoothly. He looked about until his eyes found the foe, hopping from paw to paw. He gave the northerner a wink, and made to run at him again. He swung a single scythe to meet him, only to have it sail through the air again. This time, he saw Fen dodge it, and swung to where he was now, only to miss again.
"The weapons suit you, milord. Slow and ineffective."
Redpaw grunted, and charged the captain, swinging his weapons this way and that with a fury that could be akin to bloodwrath. And it only grew as he continued missing, the smug smile always in his line of sight but always just out of reach of his grasp. He kept at it, sure the other fox would stumble at some point, and finally, he saw his chance. Fen tripped, and landed softly. Redpaw rushed forward, swinging down the scythes in what was sure to be a killing blow.
Only for the red fox to dart forward with astonishing speed and trip the somewhat weary Redpaw instead. He landed face first into the sand.
Fen took this time to look over to the twenty Reaper vermin. "My soon to be soldiers, remember the lessons from this fight. Lesson 1, a weary opponent is a preferred opponent."
Redpaw soon went back to his feet, his grip hardening on his weapons. "You think the battle is over, fool?"
Fen turned his head back, the smirk still plastered to his face. "This is hardly a battle, my dear farmer."
"Then put up a fight, and make it one!"
Fen was upon Redpaw before the latter could even blink. Three strikes landed, one to the mouth, one to the nose, and one to the eye. By the time the scythes were in motion, the captain had already gotten out of range. Lord Redpaw stumbled forward, determined to keep him on the run. It was so, until he felt one of his paws slip on the sand, his boots having less traction here than on the type of ground they were made for. He fell, and before he could pick himself up, he felt one of his scythes wrenched from his paw.
"Lessons 2 and 3: Suit yourself to your environment, and your enemy's weapons can easily be your weapons."
Redpaw got up, spit out some blood, and with both paws clasping the single scythe still in his possession, he attacked Fen once again. He panted heavily as he swiped this way and that. Meanwhile, Fen was amusing himself by occasionally making a clumsy swing at the Lord, missing by large increments at first, but coming closer each time. Soon, Redpaw felt a flick of pain on one of his ears, and felt blood run from the hacked off bit. The next swipe made a shallow cut in right leg, causing him to stumble more.
Fen could see that Redpaw knew that he was being toyed with, and decided it was about time to end things. As Redpaw stumbled and fell to the sands again, he shouted."Kill him!" His voice was high and hoarse. After hearing the sound of loosed arrows and the slap of them hitting their target, the farm lord looked up in hopes of seeing a collapsed captain. Instead, he saw the beast uninjured, save for a scowl replacing the smile.
"I owe Snow's beasts a round, because of that. You just had to go and hurry the coward technique. I had hoped you'd last another few blows."
Redpaw turned his head in confusion, and saw thirteen of his guards laying on the ground, looking llike pincushions. The other seven were on their knees, their bows and swords being confiscated by southern army beasts.
"No, this isn't possible!" He got up with difficulty, and made to swing again, only for the red fox to tear his scythe away with the other. Now weaponless, Redpaw knew he was finished. He fell to his knees, sobbing. "How could this happen!"
"You're a shit fighter." The answer was simple, blunt, and truthful.
"I yield." Redpaw said, his tone as pitiful and his appearance.
"No, you don't."
Redpaw's good eye widened as he asked in a frightened voice. "What?"
Fen's smile returned, even longer than before. "You heard me, Harvester. You agreed to my demands. Winner keeps both armies and the outpost. Winner has free access to all the North Sand lands. And finally, winner gets the privilege of taking the loser's life. Yielding was not an arranged action."
"No, no no please, have mercy, the fight is yours, please!" The black fox fell on his bottom and tried crawling away, but was easily caught by the red fox. He took hold of the fox's chest-mail and started pounding the black-furred face in. Blow after blow and blow, until the face was a mangles, misshapen, heavily cut masterpiece. He then placed both paws around the beast's neck and squeezed.
"Final lesson, new recruits. Always know what you're getting into before a fight." The snap helped punctuate the statement. "Now go join the remnants of your horde within our walls. Snow and Chie should be rounding them up as we speak."
The seven trudged past their former lord's carcass as they were overseen by some of Jun's guard. The stoat in question popped up from behind a dune, waltzing over to Fen and hugging the fox. He did his best to not get bloodstains on her armor as he returned the hug, though his paws were rather red. 'Got red paws from Redpaw, that'll get a laugh out of Chie.'
His thought was interrupted as Jun locked lips with him, and it wasn't long before the two were lying in the dunes, in each other's arms.
'Got some fresh meat, killed a cocky little mongrel, about to finish the day off right. All in all, it'd be hard for this day to be ruined.'
"Urgent news si- oh... uh..."
'Didn't realize fate could read thoughts, otherwise I wouldn't have tempted it.' Fen sighed as he rolled to get a good view of the messenger. A blushing ferret covering her eyes.
"Jun, could you fetch my clothes, she looks uncomfortable."
A brief minute later, and Fen properly received a note from the messenger, who quickly departed. Fen could sense Jun trying to look over his shoulder at the scroll, so he decided to give her the gist of it. "Looks like I'll be departing for Yolatt in a few days."
Jun gave her puppy dog eyes, though they both knew they'd have little effect when matters of the royal court were involved. As always Fen said she could travel along if she promised to not inhale too much alcohol, to which she rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Didn't think so. Well, the mood has already been killed, let's go back to the bar and see if we can't revive it a bit." She frowned, shook her head, and stretched her arms up.
"Aye, I suppose it is a bit late for that. Still, bar is a good idea, right?" An eager nod of the head was all he needed to get his mind off the news as they both headed towards the outpost.
'Nice try fate, but you're going to have to do more than kill a king before you ruin my day.' he thought as he walked with his bloody paw around his lover's hip away from the corpse that already started to accumulate flies.