The Lupine Saga 97

Lines of guards were on each side of the walkway, which led up to the two steps that were before the magistrate’s desk. The swine magistrate sat alone, scribbling away at some papers in front of him.

Va’il approached the length of carpet that started the walkway. He walked halfway to the magistrate before the swine looked up.

“Stop there,” the swine said. “Kneel and state your business.”

“Sir, I’ve come looking for my associate,” Va’il said.

“Kneel, then state your business,” the magistrate said.

“I’m stating my business. The person I’m traveling with, the bearan, he came here before,” Va’il said.

“I said kneel first, then speak. Why aren’t you kneeling?” the magistrate, his voice full of indignation, asked.

“I don’t understand what you’re asking,” Va’il said. He shrugged.

“I said you should kneel, then speak to me. So kneel, fool!”

“What does kneeling have to do with anything?” Va’il asked, confused. He was completely ignorant of the whims of those in power.

“Brash fool. Guards, take him, show him to his associate.”

Va’il couldn’t struggle much against the group of guards that surrounded and restrained him. He screamed at the magistrate, unable to understand what was going on, but to no avail. After a moment his struggling lessened, and another sound started to form, but it was not heard due to the next large voice.

“Stop right there!” Derlik shouted, his deep voice rumbling the halls.

“You’re still here?” the magistrate asked.

“Only by need. Release the boy, he is with me,” Derlik said.

“You should watch your partners better, then,” the magistrate said. He snorted lightly, his version of a sneer.

“I would have, if it weren’t for your incessant time-wasting. Let us go now. I apologize for my rudeness, but touching that child isn’t allowed. As you stated, we will be gone soon,” Derlik said.

“And if I disagree? He is a rude, uncultured child who needs to be disciplined,” the magistrate said.

“You try my patience. I’m devoted to his safety. And you sneer, thinking that, as fearsome as I am, your numbers and a hostage will keep you safe from me. Alone I was a threat, you thought, but not when I have that boy for a companion. You greedy fool. There is nothing we can give you. There is no pride of yours we need to obey. And that boy, a lupus, wasn’t going to just let you take him hostage. Isn’t that right?”

Va’il saw Derlik wink at him, and then he realized what was going on. He finally let out a low, menacing growl for the room to feel. The guards that held him loosened their hold just enough for Va’il to twist out of their grip and jump to Derlik’s side, his hands and face showing claws and fangs. He would not let himself be grabbed again.

“Fine fine,” the magistrate said, though there was trepidation in his voice. “It was a misunderstanding. We shouldn’t have to resort to real threats. You can leave our city. You have permission to travel quickly and leave Sounderthound as fast as possible.”

“Thank you, sir. Again, my apologies,” Derlik said while giving a short bow.

“Just leave. I hate both your kinds. Travelling fools. Lupus and their journey, we wouldn’t have had to waste this day if you’d mentioned it earlier. But, just don’t return, we won’t allow passage and risk her wrath next time,” the magistrate said.

“Out, Va’il.”

The two of them rushed out of the room and were quickly in the cart.

“What happened?” Ruby asked.

“Ask later,” Derlik said. He took the reins and had the horses go to the eastern gates as quickly as he could. He briefly showed some papers to the guards there, and then they were off on the open road again.

“So what was that?” Va’il asked.

“That’s what I want to ask! Don’t leave the cart if I say to stay put! We’re lucky that greedy swine didn’t want to test us further!” Derlik said, his voice brimming with anger.


“Oh, no use explaining it to you. Look, I had to go through their procedures, as boring and tedious as they were. This is a foreign land, and they aren’t happy to just let us pass. You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again, I’m sure. But in truth, that magistrate was likely corrupt and abusing his power elsewhere. Took a few coins just to get passage. If I weren’t a bearan, he’d likely try working us for a cost of passage. He might still have, if a lupus hadn’t shown up.”

“That’s terrible,” Va’il said. “So we had to just threaten our way out?”

“Yeah. Don’t rely on that too much, though. That swine may have been fearful of us. But he could have changed his mind, taken the risk, and just overcome us with numbers. And I wouldn’t want to use force anyways. It could harm relations, or lead to something far worse. And it doesn’t usually work on honest people. Well, the rest of the ride should be easy enough. Hare country for a while, and maybe bovine depending on the roads. Neither should have any delays. As long as the rest of the journey remains peaceful.”

Va’il and Ruby agreed to obey Derlik’s directions to stay put for the next areas they went through, though they agreed that if Derlik went missing for a full day they could investigate. That wouldn’t be necessary, but it was a precaution that gave the children a small relief.

The experience reminded them of their distance from Rising. In its sobering way, it told them there was no longer an opportunity to return to Rising. They couldn’t jump out of the cart and run away from Derlik and expect to return to Rising easily. The territory was unfamiliar and hostile. No longer did they live in the country where species intermingled freely, even if hesitatingly. Outside Rising, the various species had formed their own regions and borders. Though a few species internally divided themselves into different clans, tribes, or races, most of the species all lived within countries that identified them. Sounderthound was almost exclusively swine. Any swine outside Rising was almost always from Sounderthound. Any bearan outside Rising was from Grizz. The same applied to the rest, regardless of whether they called it a nation, a country, an occupied territory, an area abiding by a code of conduct, or one of many other names.

Facing those challenges of difference, a world previously unknown to them, Va’il and Ruby wouldn’t be able to move as they had hoped. This problem weighed on them, but they looked at it as something to be solved, not to be discouraged by.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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