Of Mortals: Chapter Two

Sirian stretched longingly towards the sun, the warming golden rays cascading down and soaking into her fur, reawakening more than just her dormant mind. It wasn’t quite so easy to feel nurtured and nourished by the heat with pale, ashen clouds slowly swamping the sky, but little else could be expected in early Winter. In the Summer, Sirian felt tenfold the strength she did now as the sun pressed down on Verillia. She found it funny, ironic, that as the heat of the Summer sun would weigh down on others, making them exhausted, she felt even more energy pulse through her. The pretty young fox could only mark it up to all the other differences between herself and the other foxes back home. She was no longer the same as they were. Any chance of doing anything but standing out from them had been scoured away cycles ago.

As she regarded her transformation Sirian also had to consider one who was not so fortunate as to change entirely in their physical form. At the end of the security chain lay the deformed behemoth that she had slowly come to think of as an ally. Mishonrayel was an unfortunate soul, trapped inside the body of one that enough folk would mistake for a demon. In truth, what the matter was with the coyote who was closer to the size of two full-grown wolves, was that he had been part of an unfortunate birth. The sole survivor of triplets should be regarded as more than fortunate; however, he was marked infinitely unlucky as he carried the ruined muzzles of his kin around his neck. He effectively was a three-head monster with a body that would not diminish such remarks as he had clearly grown to compensate for the excess on his shoulders. Mishonrayel’s physique looked almost appropriate, considering the two dead heads hanging from around his own. If only he had the extra arms and legs to go with.

Giving the chain a stiff jerk, Sirian forced the coyote to wake, despite how little he really wanted to get moving for the day. It wasn’t as though the bulky man had an issue with their charge; however, he wasn’t accustomed to working beneath another, especially one so dainty. He sat up, trying carefully to not shred the far too small clothes given to him by the foxes and only barely succeeded. With dissatisfaction, he regarded his companion. Her vibrant, sunny eyes were more intense than their name’s sake hidden away in clouds, yet despite the lack of adequate sunlight, the girl’s coat still had a warm glow to it. She bristled a bit as he looked her over but had caught Mishonrayel staring at her tails enough times to know he admired them like so many others did.

Again, gently tugging the chain, Sirian remarked, “We’ve got to get a move on, Mishon. I know that savage is still on the run somewhere north of here, and I’m sure you’re aching for something to eat.”

“Something? Unless you’ve got a whole shren to serve up to me, fill all three stomachs, I rather take a slow start,” Mishonrayel half-joked, not only because he was still sleepy but because he wasn’t sure if he didn’t have extra stomachs.

Sirian sighed, not so much annoyed as she was equally hungry to the coyote, “As much as I’d like to disagree with you, you’re not wrong for once. Even with the sun up and warmer than it’s been in days, I still feel that pit in my stomach. I just don’t get it. North of Seras used to always be filled full with wild shren of all sorts. Myter birds and those big slinking things that always have such lean meat were ever-present in the winter even when the herds would move. I can’t help but think that our ‘friend’ may have scared the lot of them away.”

“Where are the wolves? They finally decided to stay loyal to their chief and run back to Roya?” Mishonrayel asked, dismissing the fretting over food.

Sirian glared, “You best keep that kind of talk to yourself, Mishon. Jaium and Sothoh went off when I woke up to look for something for all of us to eat. Even if they come back with a dancing lizard’s eggs, you’d better say a great thank you if wish to eat.”

The coyote fell silent then, realizing any further bickering and whining was only going to dig himself deeper into it. The couple stayed hushed for several moments after, both doing their part to clear out the four’s makeshift camp. There wasn’t much to worry about overall, the most significant article being a thick canvas that could be turned into a sort of tent provided the terrain offered a sturdy tree or rock wall. It had been given to the travelers for Sirian’s needs more explicitly; however, she was not content with being so greedy. Even if it were meant for the ‘holy daughter’ Sirian meant for any of her traveling companions to use it if they saw a need for it. 

Regarding that name, that dreaded title of sorts for even a second had made Sirian wince and wish she could have been born anyone else other than herself. She had vague memories of her life a few cycles prior when she had woken naked and alone high in the mountains of the Amethyst Peaks. However, something lingered, reminding her that she wasn’t always this beloved creature of light that the other foxes thought they saw upon looking at her. Her memories screamed of a more mundane and ordinary life that was only mildly exciting when the clan had been slowly migrating about the area looking for a new home. Whatever else there was of that life was nothing but hints and guesses, yet there were the two graying foxes back in Seras who insisted that she could only be their daughter, Sirian. Even so, Sirian had never reclaimed the last name Delsama and felt hardly more than a vague association with the thin, short woman who claimed to be her mother. The father, Aral, was one Sirian had related to much more but still, standing a head or so over him defeated much of the possibility that he was her true father. Yet she would gladly take up that old life and name if only it meant the title of holy daughter fell away.

It was an impossible battle to win, but none of the foxes would believe Sirian was anything but some divine child sent to liberate the land from those demons forever stalking it. Sure, she had come to the aid of Seras and scorched several demonic entities out of existence with her newfound power, but that didn’t make her any divine being. It was that same gift that had gotten Mishonrayel imprisoned, bent his path back towards sanity, and why he was with Sirian on this journey. Mishonrayel himself had a touch of these otherworldly powers, but they were not quite as miraculous as the fox’s. He had, however, embraced his might and tried to conquest across the lands, quashing enemies and taking territories. To have it all brought to an end was not a dream denied for the coyote but perhaps a reawakening of his true self. Mishonrayel had no urge to rule over others, that much he was sure. However, what he truly wanted was just as beyond him as taking the whole of the land over single-handedly. 

Mishonrayel dismissed any concerns he had for what his heart’s desire actually was just as Sirian was forcing away the anxiety and annoyance of being known as some form of gifted priestess. They had almost entirely muted these issues as they came over a ridge not ten minutes walk from where they had bedded down for the evening. Jaium and Sothoh would have been hunting further north more than likely and would meet up with them eventually, is what Sirian thought. However, she wasn’t expecting eventually to be minutes after they crested the hill and began towards the greenery some ways into this next plain. The two wolves, both almost identical with snowy white coats despite not being anywhere close to brothers, jogged out from the treeline. Both of their muzzles were fixed in a vexed state, and Mishonrayel could only imagine they were about to say neither had any luck in catching or tracking anything. However, as the two reached them and began to talk, the coyote felt less of an aching in his stomach out of hunger and more out of stress.

“Mistress, our apologies on returning empty-pawed. It’s not as though the forest does not offer bounty, but we’ve a bigger issue than our breakfasts,” Jaium announced, his tongue always more loose than his companion’s.

Sirian sighed before twisting at the torque around her wrist, nervously, “Boys, at this point, I would really hope that the problem is the land being barren. What is the problem exactly?”

“Northern folk, a whole lot of ’em. On the other side of this copse, there is what look to be armies of foreigners,” Sothoh answered, beating out Jaium as the wolf took in a breath.

Mishonrayel shrugged, “Maybe our job here is already done then. I know that wild one was quick and crafty, but he’s not getting through an army barehanded, and certainly not alone.”

“We don’t think it’s an army. If it is, then it’s the most the ragtag, half there set of soldiers we’ve ever seen. And there were children milling about, not in small numbers either. We wanted to differ to you, mistress, whether or not we should carry on our way or try to reach out to these northerners,” Jaium remarked, almost totally oblivious to the cringe Sirian exhibited upon being referred to as ‘mistress.’

“We’ll have to do something about them. We can’t let foreigners, hostile or otherwise, wander freely about the countryside, and they might just be able to point us in the right direction,” Sirian commented, allowing the others to consider her thoughts on the matter.

There were no objections. Neither of the wolves wanted unwelcomed guests hanging about near their homelands without knowing why. Sirian was content, thinking she may figure out where to go after finding extremely little trace of their target for the past day and a half. And Mishonrayel was just happy to sniff a meaty smell blowing on the wind with the distinct odor of cook fires. They moved through the copse with ease, coming out on the other side to see the temporary village of tents and wagons. All of them, not just the shelters but the people, looked ragged and worn to the point of break. Everything made of cloth or hide looked to have been patched numerous times over, the wagons were showing ware in ways they shouldn’t if they were meant to keep going, and even the pack animals, heavyset bull-shren, looked half-starved and twice exhausted. Sirian recognized refugees when she saw them, a hint of memory stirred, but again, it wasn’t really her own thoughts. She could see the band of foxes that had tried so desperately to evade the curse that followed them for all of two seasons before they came to the edge of sanity. What had saved them then was not about to be the solution for this far more massive collection of mortals, that were no doubt cursed or chased by some for of wretched demon. Yet, Sirian was there now, and if there were such vile things about them, she’d have to try to do something to help.

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