Next instalment introduces some new characters, as well as the way it can sometimes be hard to tell friend from foe... And we have two more piccies!!!
The kelps harvested by the flankers & the orcas varied in taste according to Do. Some were too salty, some were far too dry, & some were so slimy they were only good for soups. However Do did find three or four varieties were just right in texture & utterly delicious in aroma. Anvil of course wolfed down all but the toughest of them, the one the dolphins themselves used for outer safety lines. They explained they harvested this kind whenever they could to bring it back to Southhornton & other such places in the Byredom where boats & ships were built. Do had already spotted a rather salt-stained cupboard in her earlier check of the craft, & went inside after eating her fill of the good kelps to stash the raw material there. It was when she came out again she felt a wet drop on her nose, followed by several more, as the sky began to darken more quickly than it should. “Another storm?” she groaned, still recalling the severity of the western one. “No, just rain,” Rippleback assured her. “We get this all the time in the east Aquastrian. It’s nothing to worry about really, just wet. In fact, can you go up top & open the vat intake? That rain is very fresh & delicious, so I’m told by my other passengers, & keeps the water vat filled.” “You get the vat water from there?” Do asked, pointing upward with a forehoof. “Well I agree fully with your other passengers; that water’s delicious & pure!” She then proceeded up to the top deck to find the vat intake, which was clearly marked with a raincloud on it, & directions to open & close. She pushed it to open using a lot of her strength to do so, hoping Anvil would help when it came time to close it again. After all, the water was for their benefit, as dolphins just filtered & drank the water in the sea. Same with the orca escorts, who’d piled a huge mound of the tough kelp on the stern for Do to store when she got back down. So it all had to be stashed away again, & this time when she came out she said: “That kelp-cupboard’s full to bursting now. I couldn’t get another strand in if I tried... wait, what’s that?” For at about four-o-clock directionally was another shape in the water, going at quite a pace. Rippleback dove & used her sonar to try & discover what it was, then when she resurfaced, she informed everybody: “It’s another boat, though what it’s propelled by I can’t quite discern. I’d need a closer look...” “I’ll go,” volunteered an orca named Obsidian. “I’m pretty fast & the healthiest of my whole pod.” “Be very careful!” the others cautioned him, to which he reassured them he would & would keep out of sight whenever he could. He took a very deep breath & dove down, before going to learn what he could of the other boat. The others continued on, signalling surreptitiously beneath the surface to tell Obsidian of their progress. Hookfin’s fin drooped a little further in worry for her pod-mate, who was in fact her firstborn & destined to be the next pod chief after her demise. But she knew the risks. Too loud a sound in the waves, especially the sort detectable from the surface, or any craft on the surface, & the harpoon boats would be on them in a trice, especially if that one turned out to be a harpoon boat. Eventually though Obsidian returned, looking a little worn out & desperate for breath. Once he’d recovered from holding his breath for as long as he had, he told the rest: “Not so huge a worry for us: it’s just a net-fisher. So long as we keep out of the way we’ll be alright; in fact that’s what took me so long to get back to you: I had to avoid the net. Huge thing it was too, catching any creature larger than a sole. Might even be an idea to keep an eye on what they throw back, in case we can eat it. After all, we don’t want any more shark encounters do we?” “The propulsion?” Rippleback wanted to know. “Some kind of belt-drive, operated on the surface, maybe aboard the craft itself. Not sure how though...” “Perhaps the crew are swift runners,” Do suggested. “After all, Ponies use belt-drives all the time. We even have belt-driven generators to power our heating & give us a workout in the winter! And everybody knows Ponies are swift on our hooves.” It wasn’t long before they found out what manner of crew were aboard, as they too had sighted Bottle Five & its aquatic escorts, & soon enough called out a greeting (in a west-country English accent): “Ho there! Do we espy an SBS tow-team?” “Ho there yourselves, fine fellows!” Hookfin, with her booming voice, called in return. “You do indeed see Bottle Five & its capable crew & valued passengers, along with us: the orca escorts. But we ourselves do wonder who you are.” “Begging your pardon, milady. We be Scarlet Four, seafaring division of Scarlet Force. In order to be achieving peace with the herbivorous types, we instead be satisfying our appetites with various fish we be catching in our nets. After all, we be needing the protein.” “But what manner...” Hookfin began to ask, when Anvil, now in a poncho, heard the conversation & grinned: “Scarlet Force! What an honour & a pleasure to have you with us! I assume you know of the Heiferford Bulls?” “We be knowing of those toughest of Byredom herbivores for many a year, fine sir! I be taking it you be of their number?” “Formerly,” Anvil confessed. “My prime years are long passed I fear, which is why they could spare me. Sometimes they call on us older ones for assistance, you know the drill.” “We do indeed fine sir! I be Pufftail, cap’n of this here boat: the Vixen’s Paws.” “Foxes?” Do asked, excited to learn at least some predators were on side. She’d heard of foxes obviously, & in one of Cress’s books the agile rust-coloured members of Scarlet Force were highly commended in their effort to abstain from land-hunting. Not all foxes were members though: many had such a taste for land-meats there was no reconciling that appetite with herbivorous co-operation. Scarlet Force were those who found alternate sources of food, like these jolly fisher-foxes. “Indeed we be!” Pufftail confirmed. “The goodly sort as well, in case you be liking to know. Hold up a mo... Pull ‘er in lads & lasses, steady as she goes! There be mateys in the drink we don’t be wanting entangled!” Do & the others then witnessed a fantastic sight, as the Vixen’s Paws was close enough to make out in detail, right down to the motherly fox-head on the prow. A bunch of thick lines, made of multiple strands of the kind of tough kelp the dolphins & orcas had recently harvested, began to move, as fox teams circled large round cogs to wind them in. A rushing of water astern of the boat announced the imminent arrival of something massive from the deep; & then it surfaced! A stout net, also made of woven kelp, arose steadily from the water, laden with a veritable banquet of fish. The dolphins sighed with delight at the sight of the haul, while the orcas noticed more than a few sharks caught in there too. “If sea creatures could drool,” Do grinned to herself as she watched the net coming in. Three of the orcas swam to assist, gently nudging the net so it went on board the vessel, to enable it to be checked for brethren more quickly. The foxes, once the haul was aboard, began digging into the net with their paws, sorting the fish into piles, with a couple of bright-eyed observers shouting warnings to “go easy on that porpoise! We be wanting him unharmed & ready to swim again,” or to “watch that jellyfish! Those tentacles sting, you know,” or other cautions which were part of the hazards of sorting a haul. Finally it was sorted, & the three to four porpoises caught in the net were freed & returned to the waters, where they greeted the dolphins & orcas with enthusiasm, before one fox got on a horn meant to sound below the water; a sound which disoriented the cetaceans, forcing them to surface, whereupon Pufftail bellowed: “Clear the stern!” & the cetaceans got the hint. The jellyfish & other dangerous creatures were being tossed off; all, the orcas were pleased to note, except the sharks. Electric eels, stinging molluscs, jellyfish of assorted kinds & anything else not fit for fox, orca or dolphin, was thrown back into the water unceremoniously, like so much rubbish. The bottom feeders could have it, like they ate all dead sea creatures, before being fed on themselves, & so on. Even many of the sharks the dolphins & orcas knew of didn’t like the fare descending into the east Aquastrian. “Eels, yeuch!” Whitecrest stated emphatically, a look of disgust on her face as she saw some in the detritus. Then two foxes got on pumps, while others grabbed hoses attached to them, drawing saltwater from the sea to rinse & decontaminate some rather divine looking fish (to the dolphins) & a pile of assorted sharks, so rendering them fit for consumption by those with taste. Once the foxes were satisfied all non-fish & shark parts had been washed away, Pufftail bellowed again: “Dolphins to port, orcas to starboard. There be no point in not sharing our bounty with you fine creatures; besides, we be having no taste for shark!” Bottle Five manoeuvred into position on the port flank, while the happy orcas swam across the stern to the starboard side, ready to catch the falling food. With care this time, teams of foxes lifted each fish & shark, carrying it to the stern, before throwing it in the water so it didn’t snag in the timbers of the boat. The orcas & flankers leapt in the air, catching some of the bounty before it even hit the water, while the main tow crew caught all the fish the flankers either missed, or tossed in their direction with deft flicks of their tails. The crew were used to eating in harness, but not on such a delightful feast; so of course they made the most of it, eating their fill of the freshly-caught fish. It wasn’t much later the whole lot of them caught the smell of a brazier heating up some more, as the foxes themselves celebrated their haul with some of the finest pickings. The brazier was sheltered from the rain of course, as it was still falling at a steady, more than drizzle, less than solid downpour, rate from the clouds above them; but the foxes didn’t mind the wet. In fact they were frolicking & dancing & laughing & telling tales & singing songs well into the night, & everybody’s spirits were high when Rippleback asked Do to close the vat intake, as said vat must be full by now. And that is probably why they didn’t notice what came next for a while...
Piccie 1: Haddock Blower is a porpoise, like this cheery looking creature.
Piccie 2: I think it's obvious why Pufftail & his mates refer to themselves as SCARLET Force!!!
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:03:21 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut
One of my faves!!! Here comes the first battle!!! Brace yourself!!! WARNING!!! Distressful events occur here...
“Pull!” Dr Cabailleron yelled, ordering the sharks towing his boat. He had has sights set on those mangy traitor foxes. How dare they form an alliance with the herbivorous creatures? (Except him of course, but he didn’t count himself as herbivorous; he’d killed too many times for that.) It was high time the proper foxes made them pay. These foxes were real foxes. They ate meat, they hunted, they tore their prey limb from limb, they were ruthless & mean & cruel, they loved to hurt & spoil; & they killed sometimes for the fun of killing. Like foxes were meant to do. These foxes had their leaders on the boat with Cabailleron, & the head of them all was playing the role of Cabailleron’s first mate. He HAD to be the captain obviously, that went without saying. He could see the fishing boat & almost smell its barbecue cooking up choice cuts of the catch. He pricked his ears & was sure he heard raucous singing too. “PULL!” he yelled to the sharks below him, so sorely needing to ruin the party of the treacherous bunch ahead. But barked orders weren’t enough for these fellows. They needed some other bribery. “Slynose,” he summoned the first mate, “have two more prisoners escorted on deck.” “Aye, aye, sir!” Slynose, the only fox aboard wearing a cap, responded & began barking at the others to do the work. It took a lot of foxes to carry the bulky forms up the ramp onto the deck, but they managed. “Please,” begged one (sounding Kentish), “let us go. We mean no harm!” The plea fell on deaf ears though. Cabailleron himself ordered the fox teams to cut each of the sea lions across one side, carefully, before they were both flung overboard. The boat, as expected, wheeled round as the sharks detected the fresh blood, before finding the sea lions struggling in the water, the pain & fear driving them into a frenzy of panic. Cool as anything, the sharks circled the unfortunate creatures, before moving in for the messy kill. Cabailleron allowed them this time to feast, before tugging violently on the reins by which the sharks pulled the boat, setting them back on course, then yelled at full volume: “PULL!!!” And by heaven, did those sharks pull!
It was Obsidian who noticed first, Hookfin was proud to note. He made a very loud sound, just like that of the fox horn, sending vibrations through the water & the two craft sailing side by side, as they were now. That sound was enough to wake the dead, Do thought, coming out & wondering what idiot blew the fox horn again. She noticed though, the second to do so, as pegasi have very keen sight, & Do had trained hers to extra keenness, & called out immediately: “Boat! Three-o-clock! Repeat, boat, directly to starboard. All hooves & paws on deck & all fins on alert! I doubt this one is a friendly.” Obsidian, & Hookfin, who’d now noticed, carried the warning both above & below the surface, while Rippleback was the first to identify the propulsion: “Hammerheads, repeat, hammerheads, towing the boat. Definitely NOT a friendly.” Waverider gave the order: “Orcas, flankers, battle stations! Passengers, brace & prepare! Pullers, be ready for evasive manoeuvres! This is it everybody. This is what we’ve trained for. Let’s get this done!” Among her other supplies, Do had packed a catapult, & had been collecting the bones of the fish the dolphins had consumed. She hurried inside to retrieve the former, along with a good few safety lines, as Bottle Five would be expected to turn sharply to protect the pullers from the hammerhead sharks pulling the enemy vessel, & she knew she & Anvil would stand more of a chance connected to lines, as they had done in the storm. She nearly bumped into Rippleback on her way back to the deck to begin the installation, then the two agreed to do it together. Anvil also had weapons: some rather peculiar rocks he was setting out ready, but how he planned to aim them Do had no idea, until she recalled a game popular in the Byredom, around which a huge lot of the culture was built. What the cattle called football was almost sacred, & required precise kicking to send a ball through a net with only your hooves allowed to touch it. Chestball was a foul in that game, though it was a perfectly legitimate move in Equish football, as was heading & the protective gear the Ponies wore. Earth Ponies also loved Buckball, which was a more international sport than Equish football, & so when Anvil positioned himself with his back to the threat, peering over his massive shoulder, Do couldn’t help but grin: “You’re going to Buckball them aren’t you?” Anvil nodded, grinning back over his clip as he fastened himself to the lines, while Obsidian had another idea. He dove for a good few minutes, before resurfacing with a mouthful of shark spines he proceeded to snap into their separate bones, before lining them up along with Anvil’s military-grade Buckballs. Do figured the spines must have come from some great whites or similar-sized sharks as they were pretty sizeable. She was busily sharpening the points of some rib bones to turn them into daggers. Her weaponry would disable the crew of the enemy boat, but Anvil’s Buckballs might, were it made from a lesser timber than this one, have a chance of scuppering or foundering it.
As Bottle Five made ready, so did the Vixen’s Paws. All braziers were doused, all lights were off, all lines were attached, spears & bolts were placed into crossbows, secondary steering was engaged & manned, or foxed, belt team was doubled & sober up juice was being drank by all, while the sleepers were roused rudely & warned to prepare for attack.
“They must have sighted our craft,” Cabailleron grinned, hearing the singing gone & replaced by creaks & yells & the dancing & feasting replaced by running this way & that. His crew too were preparing for war. Spears, crossbows & grappling hooks were prepared in earnest. The hammerheads pulling the vessel needed no yelled orders now: they too could scent the upcoming battle, & headed like lightning towards the traitors. A fox tapped Cabailleron on the shoulder: “Do you think we be needing the harpoons?” Cabailleron was about to turn & admonish the fox for speaking out of turn, when he caught sight of a tell-tale shape emerging from the water. Only one creature had a dorsal fin like THAT! Instead he now asked the fox how many harpoon launchers were aboard, & was told there were two, as any more risked crippling the boat. “Arm them both,” he ordered. “We have killer whale sign.” The fox seemed delighted at this & ran off with a gleeful expression for the harpoon launchers to arm them in readiness.
“HARPOONS!” Hookfin had risked a quick surface glimpse at the enemy vessel, betraying her presence with her dorsal fin, but was glad she did, as now she could warn her pod of the danger aboard. It wasn’t hard to spot the huge harpoon launchers towards the stern of the boat. Now she yelled that one word so loudly everybody on the enemy craft heard it as much as the two friendlies & the cetaceans. One cunning fox aboard the Vixen’s Paws was using tongs to load a certain catapult with charcoals still hot from the barbecue, ready to fire &, hearing Hookfin’s yell, searched the deck of the enemy boat to find their launchers & target them with his hot ammunition. If he could put those launchers out of action, then all the cetaceans would be a lot safer. He soon found them & aimed his catapult accordingly. Everybody else aboard both craft was also aiming ready, with Anvil on Bottle Five seeking out the centre of the boat to hit with his heavy Buckballs, so when they hit, they’d make holes in it & cause it to leak. “Hold!” ordered Pufftail, cautioning the occupants of both craft. “Let them be firing the first shot.” Aboard the enemy vessel Cabailleron himself had hold of a crossbow aiming metal bolts below the waterline of the Vixen’s Paws, with the same intent as Anvil had for his boat: making holes & causing leaks. “Steady,” he cautioned his crew. “Wait for my signal.” Cabailleron wanted the first shot to himself of course. He readied his weapon, waited for the right moment, then fired & yelled “NOW!” whereupon all hell broke loose from the other weapons as he reloaded. “NOW!” Pufftail yelled simultaneously to Cabailleron’s shout, as he shot an arrow from his own portable crossbow. The air was quickly full of missiles propelled back & fore between the craft, as foxes on each ran & ducked to resupply each other. The cunning one aimed his hot charcoals well, & caused a large amount of damage to the harpoon launchers & their fox teams, before he was taken out by a metal bolt, hitting him in the foreleg. His wife leapt in to take his place as he ran, cradling his injury, below decks for the medical kit, & there discovered another problem. Cabailleron had hit well, & water was gushing into the Vixen’s Paws from a good few holes. The fox yelled up for help down here, & soon had two other disabled foxes with him. The three set to with every part not hurt, patching up the boat as well as they could, while grabbing the bolts Cabailleron had fired to take up on deck so they could be returned to their shooters. Meanwhile in the water the orcas & hammerheads clashed hard, each group attempting to tear chunks out of the other. Hammerheads are natural battering rams, & had tried to hit the sides of the Vixen’s Paws, but the orcas had stopped them not only from doing this, but from alerting their vessel they had another enemy boat in the water. Then Cabailleron was hit. A heavy round ball knocked him off his hooves, bruising & stunning him, before he got up & wondered if the fisher foxes had cannons, before another ball came flying & hit true. It went straight through part of the boat one of the harpoon launchers, whose wooden parts were blackening & threatening to catch fire, was anchored to, before descending through the hold below & even then kept going, until it hit the bottom of the sea. Cabailleron searched for where the balls were coming from, then he saw it. As Slynose ran past, busy restocking his crew, Cabailleron grabbed him & said weakly: “There’s another boat.” “What happened to you cap’n?” Slynose asked him, hearing his strained voice. “There’s – another – boat,” Cabailleron seethed. “It hit me, so mind out & hit the devil back!” “Aye, aye, sir!” Slynose panicked. He certainly didn’t want to anger this character. So he got right to it, yelling to his crew: “Another boat! They have another boat!” before a bolt hit him in the rear leg, & he fell, still yelling orders. “Find the devil & destroy it!” For the first part of the battle Do & Anvil had been relatively safe, aiming their missiles from the cover of the Vixen’s Paws. But both knew the lull would soon be over, & sure enough, some enemy bolts flew over their friends & dug their way into Bottle Five. Do ducked & dodged each one as it fell, before retrieving them carefully & sending them right back where they’d come from. That was the good thing about her catapult: it could shoot anything! Anvil had his flank-plates on, & had huge hip muscles, so all he got from the bolts were a few bruises, so long as none of them hit an already existing scar. Then Bottle Five moved suddenly, & both herbivores’ lines grew taut, while Anvil steadied his collection of Buckballs & shark vertebrae. The dolphins had noticed their vessel under attack too, & knew for a fact metal bolts can damage even the toughest wood. A couple had even hit them: one in her tail & another through his dorsal fin. So it was they manoeuvred, taking their craft this way & that; the flankers guiding them as they did. All dolphin eyes were on the enemy boat, while their sonar told them of their larger kin’s battle with the hammerheads. The flankers also found a way to launch the missiles which had hurt their unit & hit the outside of Bottle Five, which fortunately was designed to ride on the water like a raft, so couldn’t be sunk as easily as the other two boats. They flung the missiles with their pectoral fins while leaping out of the water, before submerging & looping back to collect more. All SBS dolphins were trained how to do so with quite remarkable precision, distance & accuracy; & Tow Troop were no exception. Just like the Heiferford Bulls trained with world class Buckball teams from around the globe to make their kicks just as deadly, long-range & accurate. And Anvil hadn’t lost that skill, despite his scars. Sure, it would hurt more afterwards, but that would hopefully be short-term now. After all, he had Daring Do with him & she could hopefully help him solve the Milk mystery. All they had to do was survive this with a relatively intact craft.
Six sea lions were still below decks aboard the enemy boat, held prisoner to feed the hammerheads when they were hungry. They were kept in a small pool of sea water, which was changed daily. After all, the hammerheads wanted clean food. They were the first to notice the pool growing larger, after they moved out of the way of the heavy ball descending from above. It did so quite rapidly, & one of the sea lions had the idea of making the hole it entered through bigger. It would mean sacrificing himself, as his head would be full of splinters & there were sounds like orca as well as the dreaded sharks out there, but he felt it was worth it to save his friends. So he dove repeatedly for the hole, smashing it with his head with every effort he had in him. Sea lions are heavy creatures, & when they want to break something, they will break it! He knew it was either he died quickly, like this, or the whole lot of them die more slowly, trapped here below decks, drowning. Sea lions can hold their breath for a lot longer than we can, but they still need air to live. Butt, butt, butt, went the sea lion’s head, as the wood round the hole began to crack & splinter under the strain, until at last the hole was big enough for all to pass through, into open water, & for the others, freedom. They tried to take him with them, but he insisted they leave him for the sharks, whom all of the sea lions could see gathering round the battle, drawn in by the scent of fresh blood. The sea lion’s friends bid their farewells & thankyous before swimming off, not daring to look back to see the sharks move in for the injured party who’d saved them all. And so it was even Cabailleron didn’t notice his boat was sinking under him until it was too late. Too late to save the boat, but not too late to leave a parting gift. Slynose noticed the hot harpoon launchers, loose now among the wood ash surrounding them. Both had been armed with the huge spears they were meant to fire. Unlike Cabailleron, he knew his boat was sinking, just by the feel of it & its lie in the water. So bracing himself, he sought an orca dorsal fin in the waves around him, then found one, aimed, & fired. Whoosh, went the harpoon as it flew out of the launcher, sending Slynose falling backwards despite his brace. But even from there as he righted himself, he watched the spear fly, its aim true.
Next up, something horrible, something wonderful & some piccies...
“HOOKFIN!” The orca’s voice was loud enough to be heard by all, friend & foe, as the harpoon hit Hookfin square in the wide side. “Mother!” Obsidian cried desperately, seeing the blood enter the water from her wound. Hookfin herself strained to pull the harpoon from herself, as she knew she was a goner now anyway, & maybe this weapon could be turned against those who’d fired it. As Obsidian swam closer, Hookfin had managed to prise the spear free, & gave it to her son. “Lead... the... pod,” she stammered, struggling to get the words out. “Make... them... pay...” “Mother, what about you?” Obsidian asked, wanting to help, to save her. “Leave... me,” Hookfin told him, weakening with every word. “No,” begged Obsidian. “Leave... now,” insisted Hookfin. “No!” Obsidian pleaded even as two other orcas pulled him away, as the sharks circling Hookfin were becoming too numerous to fight. “No, no, no!” he cried in despair as they dragged him, until he caught sight of the enemy craft which had fired the harpoon he now carried. With a surge of rage he freed himself from the others &, leaping high out of the water, flung the harpoon at the boat, yelling: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” as he did so. The spear flew so quickly it tore the boat in half when it hit, sending all aboard scurrying for the life rafts. Three or four of those foxes found Cabailleron & dragged him to a raft, even as Hookfin’s, now Obsidian’s, pod gathered round their new leader, dragging him to a safe distance, before they all let out the grieving call, tears flowing from huge eyes in black & white faces. Do saw & heard all this, even amid her own chaos, & when Bottle Five came to rest a safe distance away from the battle zone, she too cried for Hookfin. Anvil hugged her close, his own tears falling, as he recited some lines saluting a fallen warrior. Do was too tearful to make them out, but she was sure they were heartfelt.
“The one who stood so tall in life, has now fallen. The one who was so strong in life, has now weakened. The one who acted so bravely in life, now quivers with fear. But only in body, for the soul soars like an eagle. On its last & greatest adventure of all. Headed for the great beyond, where death lies behind you. And pain is no more. While we who remain must now be as strong. Must now be as brave, must now be as tall. In memory of our friend, now gone beyond our reach. Who lives on in our hearts, for whom our souls yearn. Who is on the last & greatest adventure of all. Headed for the great beyond, where death lies behind you. And pain is no more.” Bottle Five’s whole unit recited the words, their dorsal fins drooped, their heads hung, their bodies almost still in the water. Dolphins feel a strong kinship to all cetaceans, & they’d grown close to Hookfin & her pod, whose grief call still echoed above & below the surface of the sea; so they too were grieving in their own way. The words were sombre, hollow & without animation, as devoid of life as Hookfin herself doubtless was; her body now nothing more than shark food.
The fisher foxes cast their net, only looking for one particular catch this time. The sharks had made short work of the flesh of the deceased orca & sea lion, & were now snapping the latter’s bones to eat the tender marrow inside. Orca bones are a lot bigger though, & a lot harder to break; & though killing these magnificent creatures was by no means their aim, the fisher foxes still knew the usefulness & value of said bones. Once they’d caught the skeleton, they slowly & carefully hauled it aboard, then stripped off the last of the flesh, tossing it as they refused to eat any of it. The ribs were detached first, to refurbish their damaged hull. The carvers bugsied the huge shoulder plates, upon which they would engrave scenes from the battle they’d just fought. Unlike their enemy, Scarlet Force wasted nothing. More than a few wore the fangs of dead relatives as jewellery. Pufftail himself detached the tailbone, affixing it to the stern of the Vixen’s Paws & engraving it with the words: Hookfin, forever with us. When all the bones were assigned their new uses & the boat repaired, the fisher foxes took a few minutes to recite the same salute the dolphins had, as each placed a furry nuzzle on the tailbone, then it was time to patch themselves up as well as they could, which wasn’t perfectly as they too relied on the Milk to help heal & be strong.
All in all the mood of every traveller was as dark as the sky, still raining on all of them in a steady flow, though it was only now they actually noticed it. Before they’d been too happy, too busy, too scared, too worried & then too full of grief to care what the weather did. The Vixen’s Paws stayed close to Bottle Five, & when the orcas rejoined the group, the most sombre of all, they all resumed their journey east. Do re-opened the vat intake for a while as she & Anvil cleaned up & redressed their wounds, applying salve where it was most needed. Anvil had mentioned a similar salve existed in the Byredom, but they still had a lot of sea to cover. One orca noticed the new stern plate on the Vixen’s Paws, complete with its engravings. Rippleback saw it too, & added to it using a sharpened shark bone Do hadn’t managed to launch. She carefully carved a sketch of Hookfin in the centre of the plate; so Hookfin appeared to be leaping out of the water. It was when she’d finished the tribute art she heard it. It was a call, unlike any her kind, even orcas, ever made. Soon after she heard another, then more, identifying four or five different callers. Then the cetaceans spotted them. Five dim shapes in the water were cruising by, slowly & sedately. Do & Anvil were drawn from their shelter by the strange sounds, so when after a few minutes the shapes became clearer, all mammals, land & sea, could see what they were. The foxes not on the belt rushed for the prow to see the creatures, drifting elegantly & majestically by, breathing easily in the rainy night. Closer & closer they approached the creatures’ sedate path through the waters, & larger & larger the creatures became. As they neared close enough to see definite colour & shape, one of the creatures dove, before raising a good part of his gigantic body out of the sea, then splashing down, sending waves which rocked both boats around his massive form. Nobody spoke, except Whitecrest who informed the others: “Now those are sea gods!” After she’d broken the silence, Obsidian, now renamed Harpooner, spoke a verse he’d learned from babyhood at his mother’s fins: “Gods of the sea, take the soul of our departed kin. Carry her up into the Great Beyond. Where her soul will float in warm clear waters. Where her heart will sing the song of all cetaceans. Where her troubles will be left behind her forever. To drift away as surely as the currents guide us home.” He’d heard Hookfin say it after his father’s demise, his father say it after the passing on of each of his grandparents, & his grandfather say it for other dead pod-mates. He never imagined he’d say it so soon for his own mother, but Harpooner had known his day would come, when he’d get his chief name & take over the leadership of his pod. His pod. His responsibility now. The grief call time was over. The Sea Gods were passing, complete with salute, & now he had to buck up & prepare for what was still to come in the waters. Now was his time.
The same sight of the blue whales which motivated Harpooner cheered the fisher foxes out of their low mood, as they felt the spirit of Hookfin was with them, guiding their boat through the waters, calling the blues to pass by & salute her comrades in arms. They hugged each other as they watched, cheering the whales on.
Do never said a word, just stared awestruck at the sight of the blue whales in the sea ahead of them, even acknowledging them with the jump. Some moments in life were ruined by words, she knew, & this was one such moment. She was silently grateful to the motions of the world which sent them such a vision to lift their spirits when they were at their lowest. Anvil, beside her, was of a similar mind. The two herbivores stood side by side, just marvelling at the spectacle, & felt closer in that one moment than all their other shared experiences could ever make them. Such a moment was beyond words.
Only Whitecrest, out of all Bottle Five’s unit, had spoken. Waverider was using fin-signals to ensure the craft didn’t collide with the blue whales ahead, but even he was marvelling at the sight, as were they all. Whitecrest even felt sorry for speaking, as if she’d offended some deity by doing so.
As one all marvelled at the final parting shot. The rearmost blue shot a massive jet of water out of his blowhole before the family passed by, slipping slowly out of view, then earshot, their calls fading into nothing & their forms disappearing in the rainy sea.
Hammerheads tow Cabailleron's boat, like this fellow here.
When I think of sea lions I think of fellows like this one...
The blue whale is the biggest living creature in the world. I have the other cetaceans call them sea gods due to their size, grace & majesty
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:20:12 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut
Cheers for the appreciation of the verses. I shed a tear writing this!!! The characters also have wet pillows the next day...
Do’s pillow was wet when she woke. Roused by this misfortune, she checked the bunk for holes & signs of not having dried herself properly or other leaks, then sunk sadly down as she realised the moisture was the result of crying in her sleep. No real surprise there: the previous night had been too full of a million emotions for anybody to be able to keep it all in. But she made her way out of her bunk, taking the needed precautions, due to the fact that other than damp, what she felt most now was hungry. Very hungry, like she could eat a whole field of vegetables in one sitting. She took care to sort herself out first, before digging into her food stash. Anvil had added some of the spare kelp from the previous two evenings in there too, so she had to sort through the ones she didn’t like due to taste, before trying a few she hadn’t liked fresh due to sliminess. Sure enough, drier these were delicious! She ate her fill of these, also tucking into the ones she already knew she liked, as well as her own dwindling food supply, before moving onto the silage, just as Anvil clambered out of his own bunk, carrying his bedding with him. “It’s a bit wet,” he explained, “& not from you don’t like saying where either, so don’t worry your steak. I just need fresh bedding & to find a way to dry this lot off.” Do sighed with relief. Anvil had cried in his sleep too! “I need a dry pillow myself!” she confessed. “But now I need silage. I could strip a field!” “Spare some for me rose-flank!” Anvil teased her, but kindly, about the food, not about wet bedding. Hasbro, what a relief that was, not being called cry-baby. She dug into the silage; glad Anvil understood it wasn’t weakness to cry. Even now a few stray tears fell as she recalled the events of the previous night. “Me too,” Anvil snivelled, nuzzling a couple off her cheeks. “Back in the day we were taught to expect death; of course now those things are taught to others. But nothing can prepare you for the death of a mate, except going through it. Crying is actually the best way; well, that & taking it out on the actual killers! But after, when it’s not yet faded, something has to let it out. Tears happen: just part of the process really. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, & anybody who says differently hasn’t experienced real pain.” “Wise words indeed,” came a voice from outside. “Brisket! Did we oversleep?” Anvil asked the speaker. “No, don’t worry! We let you lie in this morning,” Whitecrest replied as she opened the outer latch. “I just thought I’d tell you the rain’s gone so if your bedding was your tissue last night you can dry it outside. We cry too; it’s just not so noticeable on sea creatures, & of course we don’t fully sleep, so we know when it comes to us & can submerge our faces.” Whitecrest then left the land mammals to it, so they finished off their breakfasts, Anvil adding hay & more of the kelp to his own, before venturing outside to greet the sun in a clear blue sky, ready to use some of the lines to dry their bedding.
Pufftail’s crew aboard the Vixen’s Paws were salving themselves again, as many had been wounded. Even Pufftail himself had an injured back paw, but pain wasn’t the only thing slowing him down as he walked the ship, seeing the new features aboard & remembering their deceased donor. That brave orca had given her life for them in the self-same battle, & although their own suffering had meant it took longer for the grief to take hold, it still did now. For many, both human & animal, emotions are put on the back burner in moments of danger, only returning when the danger is well behind them; & after a marvellous sight & a peaceful rest, the fisher foxes felt safe enough for their own emotions to be given vent. “Ahead easy,” Pufftail ordered his crew. “I doubt I be the only one with... blurred vision today... So... let’s not be pushing ourselves... harder than our physical &... emotional selves be able to handle, alright?” Even he was fighting the tears as he spoke, while some others didn’t even bother fighting it; just tended to their duties with extra tissues as well as bandages. Cabin cubs were bringing fresh tissues wherever needed, & gathering the used up ones so as not to litter the boat, or worse, the sea. Apart from letting their grief out, all the Vixen’s Paws was keen on doing that day was keeping Bottle Five in sight.
The orcas had a lot more in mind though. First, their grief period was over, but they knew land-creatures take longer to let out such heavy emotion; so they considered it their responsibility to herd the two craft in the proper direction, speeding one up or slowing one down should they get too far apart in the water. Second: there were still threats out there. Harpooner remembered Hookfin’s warning about the dogs & octopi. So they kept their sonar on full alert, ready to detect anything; a shape in the water, an unusual movement, a shift in the currents, anything... A shift in the currents? Yes, there it was: sign the currents they’d been tracing were growing more intense & more focussed, as if ready to drive through a narrow opening up ahead. BOOM! Harpooner sent a great wave of sound, speeding along the course of the accelerating currents, to bounce back & give him a reading of what lay ahead. It told him there were a large lot of shallows coming up in the distance, with two deeper channels open, through which the water had to move very quickly & very turbulently. The southward channel separated the biggest lot of shallows from the middle-sized one, & seemed to be much narrower than the northward one; which in its turn separated the middle shallows from the smaller lot. This seemed familiar in a dangerous way to Harpooner, as if there was land beyond those shallows. So just to be sure he emitted his boom again. It simply repeated the information he’d already received. Another orca questioned his actions. “I think we’re approaching the badlands,” Harpooner replied cautiously. His pod-mate sent a boom of her own &, when it bounced back to her, she knew. “Definitely the badlands! North, north as quickly as you can! They would have detected those booms!” Harpooner gave the order above the surface of the water for both land & sea mammals to hear: “We head north-east! Now!” But it was too late to avoid detection from the badlands...
Around seven rafts full of foxes, tied together with sinews & kelp-ropes, drifted slowly with the current of the East Aquastrian. Every fox aboard was curled into balls round each other to keep warm, & to rest, due to having very little food. A couple were awake, stationed on the outer rafts on lookout for sympathetic craft to take them aboard. The hammerhead sharks who’d pulled their boat, now long gone beneath the waves, had long since disappeared to hunt other prey elsewhere, having managed to co-operate in gnawing each other’s ropes to free themselves from the doomed craft. Dr Cabailleron woke sore & cold, in spite of two or three foxes draped over him, their fur tickling his nose, making him sneeze: “Ahhhhh – CHOO!” The sneeze had the advantage of clearing his nose & also his vision, so he could see their precarious situation. Shifting his nose so as to prevent another sneeze, he rested himself among the foxes. No point in wasting energy, he thought, as their rafts drifted slowly eastwards.
No such luck I'm afraid, there's more danger looming!!! On the bright side though, there are more piccies!!!
A foe. Drooler & his fleet are hyenas like this fellow
And a friend, or amigo to put it more accurately. We all know of the famous Spanish bulls, well they have a role here too. Juantoro & his fleet are like this.
“Move, move, move!” Drooler, the head hyena, gave his order to the fleet of harpoon-boats anchored on the hot western shores of his home, even as he himself leapt on the flagship, a craft named Zulu. The fisher foxes may recycle the bones of their dead comrades; but every single boat of this fleet had a whale or orca head, preserved intact, sat on the prow as a boast of their achievements. Whale meat was delicious to the hyenas, & far better than the scrawny pickings they were left with once the lions ate the literal lions’ share of the prey beast rota. Whale oil also powered their lamps & motors, healed their wounds & waterproofed their protective gear. These were the so-called “civilised” parts of the continent, unlike the areas further east, where both predator & prey found very slim pickings indeed due to a literal overkill, combined with heavy droughts. Hardly civilised, thought Drooler, aiming his telescope. Just not as dog-eat-dog, again literally, as the east, declared a no-go zone by any creature with more than two working brain cells. He ordered the move because of the three sonar booms his sensors had detected in the seas beyond. One was as good as none, two was a maybe, but three was an all-out go! Whales used sonar all the time to detect their surroundings; & these particular booms had the ring of orca to them. Orca meat was Drooler’s hyenal favourite. Maybe it was the extra thrill of eating a sea predator; but then he hated the taste of shark meat, & was always sure to strip out the guts of any orca the crews caught. There was a whole pod out there, booming its presence at them, as if to tease them all. So motors growling, the fleet set off for the waters, harpoon teams & spotters at the ready for any sign of a dorsal fin or blowhole clearance.
Further north, but still in the sun, another fleet of boats headed out, but these, like that of the fisher foxes, were belt-driven. Its flagship was known as La Vaca Sancta, & the wooden prow was carved into the head of a sleek bovine with a halo. Their admiral, Juantoro, had also detected the booms of orca sonar, & if he could detect them, so could the hyenas; & the hyenas were number one on Los Toros Angelicos’s hit list. As the Heiferford Bulls were elite members of IHHA in the Byredom, so LTA were the same in Spain, & Admiral Juantoro was in command of the on-duty boat troop of this elite force. Due to their sleek forms, LTA were the only cattle capable of swimming, & due to their black colouring, they were also fantastic on night ops, able to hide in the shadows. They had many close connections with the cetaceans off their coasts, & would do their utmost, even give their own lives if necessary, to protect these powerful water allies. Orcas weren’t known as sea police for nothing, Juantoro knew. Most of his fleet had been saved on more than a few occasions by the gallant acts of orca, whale, dolphin & porpoise alike; which is why all of the craft raced out to repay their life debts.
Still further north, only covered with clouds not quite thick enough to rain (yet), a sixteen-strong patrol of ASC floated alert in the water, awaiting any sign their Tow Troop unit was nearby. To them, the three orca sonar booms in the water were the first sign they had of any cetacean nearby other than themselves & a few porpoises monitoring the harbour nearby. As one, needing no orders, they swam swiftly towards the sounds’ origin, which their own sonar had tracked, borrowing the bounce back of the third boom. Moonscar, their leader, began in pole position, the reason for his name prominent on his right side, just in front of the dorsal fin. The rest of the patrol flanked him in a V shape, much like the Royal Canada Goose Force in flight. For if any sea creature knew these waters, it was the Anti Shark Crew; the toughest, hardiest & most highly trained of all the SBS; & they knew these waters to be very troublesome indeed! This is why they’d been on aquatic standby: to escort Bottle Five & its highly valuable passengers home as safely as they could.
Waverider sent a boom of his own into the water, & detected all three approaches, from all three directions. He knew the shape of any boat by heart; all of Tow Troop did, & knowing Rippleback always wanted to know propulsions, got hold of that information too. And he was rather alarmed to discover one fleet wasn’t belt-driven; though the distinct V of his colleagues was decidedly reassuring. He summed up the situation they were headed for in distinct orders, given to both land & sea mammals: “Brace yourselves everybody! Looks like we’re in for another battle.” Sighs of frustration came from both Bottle Five & the Vixen’s Paws. They’d already HAD a battle! The last thing they needed was yet another. So it was with reluctance weapons were rechecked, ammunition was restocked & protective armour was refixed. “Spirit of Hookfin protect us!” Pufftail prayed. Do just rolled her eyes & thought, here we go again, while assisting Anvil on checking his scars once more, of which three were now broken, leaking blood & pus, before padding & bandaging them up again so he could put his flank plates back on.
Ebony was sick to her stomach. What was that horrible smell? These days she’d been more sensitive than usual to tastes & smells in the air & water around her, which the previous night had reminded her of how she’d lost her first pod as a calf. Her calls had been so loud & so long & so desolate it had taken another orca to calm her down so she didn’t draw attention to herself. She & her life-mate had taken Ebony under their fins, while their son, of a similar age to herself, thought her a playmate & wondered why she never wanted to play. It had taken years of long trans-ocean conversations for the two to come to an understanding, but even then something was missing, until the father was lost to that harpoon. That event had bridged the final gap between them, as both mother & son now knew what grief was. The latter in particular had expressed pleasure at this, demonstrating it in many ways. Now the mother was gone too, leaving only the boy. No, not a boy any longer: a full grown orca pod chief. The stench was becoming much worse, until she could no longer stand it: “Harpooner, what is that HORRID smell?” “Above or below?” Harpooner asked her gently. He so wanted to make Ebony his life-mate, but hadn’t the faintest idea how. Did an orca have to say something? Undergo a ceremony? He was clueless regarding orca mating rituals, but if he had any idea at all, he’d go for Ebony first out of all of them. “In the air, & it’s disgusting!” Ebony replied. Harpooner sniffed the air, taking in huge lungfuls of it, then rapidly got a catch in the back of his throat. He gargled with seawater to get rid of it, before identifying something burning. Quite what he couldn’t identify at first, but a few moments later he sourced it. He’d scented it in the air more than a few times before near the badlands, & every time the stench had filled him with dread. “Harpoon boat fuel!” he confirmed to his pod. “Be on guard everybody!” Aboard the Vixen’s Paws, the injured cunning fox & his wife hauled charcoals up & relit the brazier on hearing this warning. The tactic had worked so well last night it was worth another try...
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:21:50 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut
The first part of the second battle begun as LTA’s fleet met the hyenas. Both lots of creatures glared at each other as the despised enemies they were. The hyenas had lost many crewmates & boats to the efforts of these gallant bulls. All knew what to do on such an encounter; so it was a very swift entanglement, little more than a few minutes, as each fleet attempted to decimate the other. The hyenas even fired harpoons from their own craft as they were scuppered to attempt to scupper the craft of the Spanish force. Some hit, but more missed, & only a third of the hyenas’ boats survived long enough to see wave two of the battle, as opposed to more than half those of the Spanish bulls. Wave two was announced by the presence of a seemingly easier target for the hyenas: dolphins. They just had to skewer them with harpoons. But these dolphins knew better. They ducked, dove & dodged every launched harpoon, even gathering a few to launch back with their pectoral fins. A couple of these dolphins acknowledged their Spanish allies, who were grateful for the backup; for of course, these dolphins were the ASC patrol. A few of the ASC ended up with souvenirs of the battle, but none were fatally injured, & the hyena fleet was now down to a fifth of its original size.
Back up for the hyenas drifted in unexpectedly, as nobody had detected the life rafts full of foxes & Dr Cabailleron who, on arrival & analysis of the scene, sent the foxes to the aid of the hyenas. He hated IHHA with a vengeance, feeling in his heart & soul they’d betrayed him on more than a few occasions; & he was not the type to let a grudge go. Hence he abhorred the Spanish bulls, knowing them immediately for what they were. Taking command, which was not only the only place he wanted to be, but also one of his actual skills; Cabailleron marshalled the lot together, both fox & hyena, & his orders made them more difficult to defeat, until a hot charcoal hit him squarely in the face, burning his cheek.
Phase four of the battle begun with that hot charcoal, which was followed by every other missile both Bottle Five & the Vixen’s Paws could aim at the enemy fleet. Anvil grinned at the sight of his Spanish kin; they were equally tough, equally trained & equally brave. Although Heiferford Bulls are more about strength & being able to toss twice their own weight with ease, LTA are more about agility; their sleeker forms aiding in this. Meanwhile the ASC took a few scant seconds to greet their Tow Troop mates, before the two lots of dolphins merged into one fighting SBS force. Only one thing confused the hyenas: where were the orcas?
Phase five announced the orcas’ presence: right underneath the enemy craft, which were easy for the orcas to spot from underwater, due to their lack of belt drives. It was Harpooner’s idea to dive below the water just out of sight of the rest, & all the others followed suit, plunging down into the depths before creeping under the battle, breaths held, ready to bite into the hulls of every boat not driven by a belt or pulled by dolphins. Cabailleron felt a sudden shuddering, then upheaval, as the boat below him broke into two parts; a massive pair of jaws lined with sharp teeth the main evidence of the cause. Neither he, nor any hyena or enemy fox, had been expecting this undersea assault. But then every orca below hated the harpoon boats more than anything in the world, as they had lost so many of their kin to the huge harpoons. Not again, Cabailleron thought, as he once more rushed for a life raft, onto which a few foxes & some desperate hyenas tried to clamber. It was then the main difference between foxes & hyenas became apparent. Foxes work on everything as a team: always sharing, always helping, always there for a brother or sister fox. They even tried to help the hyenas, but got little reward for it. Hyenas, when in peril, are more along the attitude of every hyena for him or herself. They were trying to push each other off to make more room for themselves. Cabailleron, his burnt cheek aching, focussed his pain into a rage at the squabbling hyenas: “AVAST your nonsense! There’s plenty room aboard the raft if you’re willing to make it so. Besides, the cluster of our bodies will help dry us all & keep us warm!” No way was Cabailleron going to lose his life to the stupidity, selfishness & stubborn attitudes of these dumb badlands dogs. The foxes, agreeing fully with his words, backed him up on this, bopping the noses of every hyena who tried to shove & jostle. Sore-nosed, among foxes, hyenas & other dog-like creatures, means chastised or scolded; as many parents will bop their cubs & pups on the nose for stepping out of line. And the hyenas were getting a thorough education on the meaning of the term as they all eventually settled into positions on the rafts, surrounded on all sides by their brethren & their rust-red colleagues. And like that, the battle was over, & the friendly craft escorted Bottle Five the rest of the way to the coast of the Byredom, along with the ASC, while the orcas fared them well & departed once more for deeper waters. By this time all but six of LTA had been rescued from the water by their own, helped there by the dolphins. LTA called the missing six “the shark-price”, their term for casualties lost in sea battles. (Well if somebody could give me the Spanish translation of that phrase it would be more accurate.) There would be time to grieve those six when the force was safely back in Spain though. For now, they continued their work escorting the others & salving themselves, as Anvil told them of Bottle Five’s, & Daring Do’s, mission, for which they were all highly grateful. Heiferford gave LTA a discount rate on their milk, to assist the Spaniards in their work. And so it was the final stretch of the journey to the Byredom was without further incident, save for Anvil discovering another two broken scars.
PS: a wee note. The Anti Shark crew is based on the real acts of dolphins who, as schools, are among the few sea creatures willing & able to stand up to sharks. Their human equivalent often fight modern-day pirates, who cause a real problem in some of the waters round Africa, so much so that former navy & army personnel often find themselves employed as security aboard ships.
Post by singlesadact on Sept 10, 2017 14:03:09 GMT
Aye Captain Phillips, the boy who was captured by pirates. Not sure if I've actually seen the film (if so I saw it on Netflix as I don't have the DVD) but have deffo heard of it, & think that captain was very brave...
Two rather different welcomes await our characters...
“Gracias senors,” Moonscar addressed LTA as a parting shot. “We’ll take it from here.” LTA bowed their sleek black heads in unison to fare well the dolphins before turning their craft round & heading home. Then the remaining two craft sailed under the ASC escort into the Trough (as the cattle referred to the channel separating the Byredom from the rest of Europe-ring). All were based in the same harbour, in a town called Washpoole, which had natural sea-caves the dolphins had made into resting places, as well as great beach & harbour areas. A heavily-scarred dolphin greeted them all upon arrival with a deep, commanding voice well-used to leadership. Being too injured to go on ops now, he instead took care of base command, assigning missions, awarding medals & collaborating with the heads of other Byredom organisations. His name was Shadow, & he had a considerable amount to say: “Good afternoon everybody. I’m glad to say I’m not just addressing dolphins, but also the fine fellows & ladies of Scarlet Force, & hopefully also my old colleague from Heiferford? Good, & I also see you found the pegasus, Daring Do, isn’t it?” Do & Anvil were both on deck regarding the old Fin, as Tow Troop had informed them was code for SBS, like Horn for Heiferford Bulls. Do nodded & would have spoken if she’d been given the chance, but Shadow continued: “Fantastic, so our part of the mission is over the second these two hit land, but before you do, allow me to introduce myself & assure you of our hospitality. My name is Shadow, commanding officer of the Special Bottlenose Squadron, though I doubt Anvil will need told of that eh?” Anvil grinned but, knowing his old mate could talk your hooves off, kept silent as he continued: “Meanwhile I notice the voyage was not without skirmish. I fear our supply of Heiferford Milk is as low as everybody’s at this time, but we & our furrier colleagues will do our best to patch you all up. TAWNY!!!” A streak headed from land for the harbour at Shadow’s shout, which, like all dolphins when they choose to be, was very loud!!! When it slowed, it became the form of an old vixen, with as many scars as her aquatic equivalent, who came to a halt on a pier. “Tawny is commanding officer of Scarlet Force, & her people will look after all the land-based to give you food, rest & a patch-up before you continue your journey. Tawny, I also need your carvers to look over these two craft if you will. Let me know if you need any of IHHA’s stash of Everfree timber to fix them up would you? I’ll need all craft & crew as shipshape as possible as soon as can be done, so make this a priority thankyou. Land-based may alight their craft now so I can debrief my crews.” Finally Shadow finished his spiel, prompting Anvil to get his word in first: “Good to see you too old chum. Wish it were under sunnier skies though...” (Just like the human equivalent, residents of the Byredom have to put up with weather which tends to change like your mother changes your bed sheets, if not more frequently. So they often, when having interspecies conversations, describe their moods & situations in weather terms. Warm & sunny means happy or safe, while anything else means trouble. Thunderstorm is of course code for war, while gale is code for disaster.) Next to speak, once he & Do alighted Bottle Five, packs in tow, lifejackets returned to their storage cupboard, was Tawny herself, showing great concern for the two guests: “Oh lovies, the state of you both. I be wagering you be facing a few storms out there on sea! Come along now: I be knowing of a good inn hereabouts who be doing Scarlet Force & IHHA goodly favours. You be both getting fed & rested there this e’en, afore I be sending an escort team to be guiding you two to Heiferford...” “Would that be the Hare & Hound?” Anvil asked the kindly vixen. “It would indeed be you old Horn! I be wagering you & that there inn be going back longways! And it be still run by old Gumsy & Drumfoot and their motley crew, catering to carnies & herbies alike, with multiple sizes of bunks & hay-beds for kipping in, not to mention plenty good ale!” Tawny laughed heartily at this, indicating she too had drunk more than her fair share of this “ale”. Do of course was mostly used to cider, with a little wine sometimes, & occasionally something stronger. She’d experienced a lot in her travels, but never ale. However, one thing she did know: she liked this old war-torn vixen instantly, & was more than happy to follow her & Anvil as they led the way, chatting so much together about various entanglements & encounters with the inn & too much ale that Do, even if she’d wanted to, never had the chance to get a word in! All she could do was wonder if she’d get the chance to say a proper thankyou to the dolphins who’d towed her all the way here.
That chance materialised in the form of a canal running right along one side of the Hound & Hare’s interior, where more than a few relaxing dolphins dined on gently-poached fish fillets, drank plankton cocktails & socialised with land-lubbing & sea-faring land animals alike. Do regarded some of the dogs a little nervously, until one of them came up to her, gently sniffing her before proceeding to lick her face! “Yeuch, drool!” Do complained. “You might want to go easy there, Lapper,” a similar dog cautioned the first. He then addressed Do herself. “It’s a pleasure to have a newcomer round these parts. I’m Wheezer, you can probably hear why. Lapper here’s had a bit too much ale in him to restrain his over-friendliness. We’re navy dogs from Steerfordshire, hence our accents & our looks. Some of our friends are hired as security due to the way we appear, but in truth there are far more vicious dogs out there than us. Them Pinschers, for example, really blood-thirsty critters. We, however, adore fish, like our feline colleagues over there.” (Wheezer & Lapper are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, & speak like they’re from the actual Staffordshire in England.) “Daring Do, & I see the canal with the dolphins. I was looking for my friends...” Both dogs, & all the other creatures in the room, fell silent at the mention of Do’s name. It seemed even here they’d heard of her adventures & escapades, & marvelled to see her in the (lick-able) flesh. After a few seconds of silence, a bloodhound with a droopy face & droopy ears presented himself: “My dear, I believe you & your party would be much safer in back. Allow me to escort you.” Do sought out Anvil, who had noticed the fuss around her even while enjoying his trough of ale, & was now walking towards her, a bunch of agile hares carrying his trough behind him. “We came with Scarlet Force & some dolphins too,” she told the bloodhound, whose accent was less thick than that of the foxes, though still with a similar twang. “They’ll be in back too, once they’re debriefed of course. I assume you mean SBS dolphins. I’m Gumsy, & me & Drumfoot the hare run this little nook, & we know all sorts like to come in & sample our fine fish & our delightful ale, including some spies for the meat-eaters, if you’re with me.” Gumsy then opened a door which led into a small back room, complete with its own canal for the marine mammals to eat & drink. The stairs to the bunks were here too, she noted, as was a channel leading to some sleeping quarters for the aquatic guests. A group of young bloodhounds was seated on the floor playing Hungry Hippos with loud cries & barks of delight. Gumsy eyed the brood fondly. “My latest litter,” he explained. “The wife, Tuggle, is in the kitchen with Lugga, Drumfoot’s missus. They’re busy cooking up some herby delight for you & your mate here. You’ll find you’re freer to talk in here without too many ears listening. You can trust my family & any creature I deign to let in this part of the inn. Oh, Dropsy, there you are! Do your utmost to make our special guests as comfy as possible alright? Dropsy’s my daughter from my first litter. Isn’t she gorgeous?” “Right you are,” a female bloodhound who almost looked like a younger Gumsy began saying, before her jaw dropped to the floor. “Howl to the moon! If it isn’t Daring Do!” “Everybody seems to have heard of me here!” Do noted, a little bewildered. Sometimes, too much attention had its drawbacks. “Of course! A lot of Equestrian books make their way to these shores, yours included!” Dropsy told her. “Now, let me see if I can find a nice comfy cushion for you to sit on, & for the bull... oh, an old Horn, I know what to do with this one! And judging by your bandages you’re needing salve, & fresh dressings too I shouldn’t wonder! I’m afraid we’re very low on Milk, but...” “That’s why I’m here,” Do told her. “Anvil tells me there’s an issue at source, & I intend to find out why. Everybody’s low on it, & is it true a calf has already died?” “Oh, my dear, it’s three of the poor mites now! And a fourth soon to join them if it’s not resolved! Working in an inn lets you hear everything, & you soon catch on to what’s the truth & what’s mere rump wind! And I hear you just landed off a sea voyage too... wait a minute, Anvil MCSTEER? The author of Barnyard Two?” “Well bless my steak!” the bull put in. “Sounds like the truth isn’t the only thing you’re good at sniffing out!” “I love a good read me! My favourites are detective stories, like by that Agatha Collie or about that Sherlock Harrier Hound; but I love all sorts of books! I wish they came with scents so you could smell the environments as you read!” “Well trust you lot to say that!” a male voice came from behind them. “Me, I just need to hear the sounds, so I know exactly what this sounds like. Well stamp my foot! Daring Do & an old Horn! I’m Drumfoot, & may I say it’s a total pleasure to meet you... Anvil, that isn’t you, is it? Well stamp...” “Your foot, I know! It is me you old longlugs!” Anvil grinned widely, & if you’ve seen a bull’s face, you’d understand how very wide that grin can be! Drumfoot was large, even among hares, who are generally larger than the rabbits the uneducated confuse them with. He approached Anvil & hugged him warmly, the pair of them laughing like the two old friends they were. Anvil raised a forehoof to hug the hare back. Then Drumfoot noted the total lack of any sustenance for Do to partake of. “You quite finished settling them in Dropsy?” he asked the hound. “If so I’ll see to serving them. I take it that trough’s your usual Anvil? And Do, an Equestrian adventurer. Fancy trying some ale yourself, or finding out how we here in the Byredom make cider? I warn you though: both can be pretty strong!” “I think I’ll sample this ale everybody finds so funny,” Do decided. After all, she’d experienced plenty of the bad parts of adventure already. So why shouldn’t she enjoy some of the good parts too?
In the meantime, the hyenas, enemy foxes & Cabailleron drifted to lands strange to the latter but which the former recognised in delight. It was home! The hot continent, as the hyenas called Africa, & it was here they pulled their own double bluff, simply by omitting certain laws from their speech. The foxes were starving when they hit dry land, so of course went hunting on the smaller prey beasts of the area, killing a few extra for fun & to relieve the stress of the two battles they’d recently fought. They did not expect (though the hyenas, grinning, did) to be surrounded on all sides afterwards by some large yellow cat-like creatures, roaring at them angrily. Cabailleron demanded to know what was going on, but the hyenas were long-gone by this time, leaving the golden beasts to explain it. “These foreigners are under arrest for violation of the Prey Beast Rationing Act,” a beast who turned out to be female stated coldly. “On top of this, they have killed wastefully & spoiled the kill so not even the carrion wish to dine on it. We have no choice but to detain them for their wicked acts. Ladies, cuff them!” The beasts cuffed the foxes by their front paws, grabbing each by the scruff of the neck, while one did the same to Cabailleron himself, who tried desperately to make excuses for his release, but found no sympathy from the strange creatures who roared loudly at any signs of protest from their captives. The beasts, as he was later to discover, were lionesses: the true law-enforcers of the badlands, & he was now their prisoner. Boy was he going to make those hyenas pay dearly for their betrayal!
The Hound & Hare is actually run by a Hound, called Gumsy, who's a bloodhound like this fella, as are all his family...
...& a hare, called Drumfoot, who along wi his family look like this
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:23:43 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut