Yaiy you managed to read some more!!! Good stuff...
Well since you're recuperating the near future should be right up your street!!!
“Fousty fins, I need some kelp-wine!” That statement announced the arrival of Whitecrest to the channel in the back room of the Hound & Hare. Do found she actually enjoyed the ale, & was now sharing Anvil’s trough of the stuff in between bites of delicious honey cake & slurps of dandelion & mushroom soup. Drumfoot saw to it the kelp wine he kept for aquatic guests either in celebratory or dour mood was served into some rather unusual shaped dishes Do commented on. “They’re actually made of whelk shells,” the leporid bartender explained. “Our marine mammal guests find them easier to drink from than troughs & mugs, so that’s what we serve their drinks in. Mostly they just drink plankton cocktails, but there are times...” “Like when you’ve just finished a rather trying voyage & lost a friend on the way?” Do suggested. “Quite,” Drumfoot nodded. “Times like that, even the strictest of the SBS need a stronger drink. Why who’s the friend?” Anvil added his piece here: “An orca called Hookfin. Her son Obsidian, no wait he was renamed, that’s it, Harpooner, is now leader of that particular pod. They were good enough to escort us most of the way through the eastern part of our voyage, just like Ternguard’s pod did west of the Ridge.” An older dolphin with too many scars & more fondness for kelp wine than was recommended for any cetacean mumbled something about how in his day the Ridge was barely noticed, before the trouble started coming. Drumfoot acknowledged him before turning to stare at a more land-based party trying to enter the door. “Special guests only I’m afraid; that’s the rules round here, sorry,” he informed the newcomer. “Surely you recognise an old Horn when you see one?” the new arrival asked in a mild Geordie twang. Anvil raised his head from the ale trough & whirled round. “Cress? That you?” “Anvil me old mucker!” the newly entered Bull grinned. “And please tell me that’s Daring Do sharing your trough. Mind if I join?” “Might be an idea to rinse your mouth out first mate,” Anvil chided good-naturedly. “These Pony types are a tad more... sensitive to certain things.” “Brisket, I keep forgetting that! Where are me manners? Give us a rinse-out barkeep so I can share in the bevy!” “I am Daring Do,” the Pony replied now she could get a word in. “And you must be Cress Rodeo. But why the boots?” “Well you know how I managed to escape the desert dogs, aye?” Cress explained. “And how bad the terrain was? It really wore me hooves down till they were nearly gone! They’ve not been the same since, & I can tell you, with the Milk crisis, they’ve been getting far worse! Anvil here’s the same with his scars I’ll bet!” “We found another two broken as the staff here helped us change our bandages,” Do sighed. “On top of that, without resolving this crisis I’ll never fly again!” “It is indeed dire! And now the fourth calf has died from malnutrition. We’re doing what we can, getting milk from other cows, but it’s not the same! I came to find out if you’d landed yet so I could join you on the journey inland. It can be quite dangerous round here without escort...” “We met some of Scarlet Force on the voyage,” Anvil added. “We should find one of their land-troops ready to escort us in the morning, but for now we need to feed up, drink up & rest up. You rinsed your mouth out yet?” “You two didn’t talk to each other for years after the Carniwars,” Do observed, “yet here you are, thick as thieves!” Anvil went a bit quieter & sadder than usual before explaining: “I didn’t talk to anybody associated with the incident for years. I just couldn’t. It was too raw, what happened; under my watch too! Talking to Cress again was one of the scariest things I ever did, but I’m so glad I have! You note the open window? That’s because I hate enclosed spaces. I REALLY hated that storm we had! Cress here can’t sleep without every door & window latched. Both fears are a direct result of what we went through. We Bulls have a saying: some scars run deeper than flesh, & with the Carniwars, ours definitely do! Now Cress, let me introduce you to Whitecrest & Rippleback, two of our excellent Tow Troop! Where’s Waverider by the way?” “You know the drill surely!” Rippleback explained. “UC’s are always debriefed last. He’ll be here soon enough, don’t you worry. And Cress, you’ll want to hear of our voyage won’t you?” “Especially about Hookfin!” Do pointed out. And the voyagers shared their story with Cress, as much as they felt they were able, while eating until they were full to bursting & drinking until they could barely manage the stairs. The dolphins didn’t drink too much, as their homes were nearby, but they drank enough to salute Hookfin once more, while dining on poached fish fillets. (Note: marine mammals don’t fry, grill or otherwise cook their fish, but sometimes it gets heated by undersea springs, which is why the fish served to them is gently poached. It’s filleted because cooked fish bones break more easily, & can damage the gullet & stomach of those not used to it, as well as getting stuck in blowholes. Wild marine mammals of course only eat their fish raw.)
The branches, woven together by creepers, were from local trees & very tough, making them hard for Cabailleron to break & harder still for his fox comrades to gnaw through, also leaking a very unpleasant-tasting sap the latter tried vainly to spit out. “It’s useless,” Cabailleron pointed out to foxes trying desperately not to retch, due to their food still digesting in their stomachs. “We’re better off waiting until we face whatever happens tomorrow.” A lioness guard heard the fuss & came to check on the prisoners, noting many of the foxes with traces of the sap on their muzzles. “The tree is poisonous,” she cautioned them. “I will have to dose you with antidote now. It will make you drowsy, but that’s good news for all of us, as you will rest, & we won’t have to worry about any more escape attempts.” She left them then, letting the fear of poison descend on the foxes, before eventually returning with the antidote, which she force-fed to every fox with a trace of sap on his or her muzzle. The antidote took a few minutes to work, but work it did, relaxing the foxes considerably before sending them into slumber. Cabailleron & the unaffected foxes used their drugged colleagues as a makeshift bed to sleep on, knowing from past experience their colleagues wouldn’t mind this at all.
Wheezer & Lapper are Staffies, like this one. The dogs were specifically trained to be friendly to any creature who isn't another dog. To look after one with other pets, get them taught early on which animals & humans are family.
The police who catch Cabailleron & his foxes are lionesses, while the judge they're due to face soon is a lion.
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:27:18 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut
I didn't know you had a blowhole!!! Be nice & quiet here or you'll deafen Do!!!
The sheets & pillow Do woke on, apart from the latter being damp with her tears again, smelt of roses, clover & lavender; which was the only good thing about the morning. The tears weren’t even the worst thing about it. That glaring sun came straight into her bunk room, & there proceeded to attack her retinas with what felt like brute force. Do also made a mental note to inform Drumfoot her head was an entirely inappropriate substitute for a drum for his litter to play marching band on. In fact it still felt like they were pounding their surprisingly strong feet on it now, in spite of the fact her overly dazzled eyes detected no presence of hare in the room. Then before she could even drag her unusually heavy body out of the bed, Anvil opened her door & bellowed very loudly! “HUNGOVER, ARE WE??? OH DEARIE ME!!! YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE OVERDONE THAT ALE LAST NIGHT ROSE-FLANK!!!” “Hasbro, can you please pipe down?” Do moaned, unsure of what ailed her. She was sure she’d never felt like this before, but then, she’d usually sipped her drinks, whereas this ale had seemed like it was meant to be gulped down in big swallows. She’d heard of cider-soak of course, happening to Ponies after particularly raucous parties, but this couldn’t be it. This felt far worse! And now Anvil was laughing! And the sound of it went straight through her head! Fortunately a hare interrupted him to get past then, seeing the state of Do, instantly sprung to action. “Cure-all juice, now if you please. Well, cure-almost all as a key ingredient’s missing obviously. And a good dose of it. This Pony’s had more ale than she can handle by the looks of her! Well go on, snap to it! Don’t be a doorframe all your days.” She sent Anvil out down the stairs to the back room, before gently closing the door to Do’s room in the Roe suite, which her kin had deemed the correct size for Do, & following the old Horn she knew so well, whom she herself had nursed out of hangovers on cure-all juice more than a few times. For this hare was Lugga, Drumfoot’s wife; so-called because her ears were longer than any other hare’s ears in the whole area she knew of, & that was a big area! Like most hares, Lugga was swift on her feet, & by the time Anvil reached the bottom of the stairs, she was right behind him, squeezing past his bulk to get the ingredients for her inn’s famous hangover cure. In a trice she flung assorted herbs into a pot filled with water, then added the tiniest drop of her extremely scant supply of Heiferford Milk to the pot, before setting it to simmer. “It’s best Anvil if you stay down here & give your Pony friend her rest before this is ready,” she explained to the Bull, “oh & get a bucket from the store please; she’ll need that too, I shouldn’t wonder! Them of Scarlet Force will be along in a jiffy, & we want her ready now do we? Speaking of which, you had a good trough-full yourself, so you can have a taste of the brew before I serve it to our casualty.” “No thanks,” Anvil declined emphatically. “That stuff is disgusting, even to cattle! Brisket, I almost feel sorry for her; with her sensitive tastes & that goop!” “It is disgusting, but stamp my foot the stuff works!” Lugga sympathised. Dropsy entered the back room at this time, sweeping away & nearly knocking Anvil over with her efforts. “Oops, sorry!” the hound apologised. “But I do want the inn shipshape for tonight! What is that smell? Howl to the moon, hangover juice? But then, that poor Pony losing her friend like that!” “Mine too,” Anvil pointed out, “& the experience never gets easier to live with, unless you harden yourself, & I won’t go down that road!” “That may be so,” Lugga put in, “but I know you’re used to a lot of ale, & bigger than the Pony, so most of this is for her. In fact, I think it’s about ready. Did you get that bucket yet?” She poured a good amount of the brew into a large mug, leaving the rest in the pot for later. “Two paws ahead of you!” Dropsy replied, producing the bucket & passing it to Lugga. “Stamp my foot, give it to Anvil!” Lugga pointed out. “I have to carry the cure-all!” “Would you mind if I came up too?” the hound inquired. “Course not, just keep quiet & don’t drool too much.” “Me? Drool? I’m an inn-dog I’ll have you know...” “Move!” Anvil interrupted, & they all proceeded up the stairs to the Roe suite & Do’s room, where Dropsy, having hung the bucket on one of Anvil’s horns, opened the door & whispered: “Do? It’s me, Dropsy, come to check on you this lovely morning. I’ve brought Lugga with the cure-all, & Anvil with a bucket in case of mess. We’re coming in now.” “You didn’t tell her...” Anvil started quietly. “And we don’t intend to!” cautioned Lugga, also quietly as the three entered the room, where Do had just managed to remove herself from the bed in a complete mess, yep both bed & her. Dropsy made a fuss over straightening Do’s shirt & grooming her mane & tail, while Anvil lowered the bucket to the ground before her & Lugga offered the steaming mug of brew. Do noted it was wet & didn’t stink of ale or cider, so proceeded to gulp a large quantity down her gullet... & instantly regretted it! Grabbing the bucket, she placed her head over it before a fountain of goop mixed with other unmentionables jettisoned from her mouth. When she was finished vomiting, she raised her head & asked for water. “Not till you finish this!” Lugga ordered. Do reluctantly took another mouthful, before spitting it straight into the bucket with a “YEUCH!” “Drink. The. Lot,” Lugga insisted firmly. “It. Is. DISGUSTING!” Do retorted. “Afraid so, but stamp my foot it works! You need a clear head today of all days, so get it down you!” Do gulped, squeezed her nose, & swallowed another large load, rapidly followed by another vomiting session. “Again!” Lugga instructed. Same procedure, minus vomiting this time, then with a “what the Changeling,” she downed the lot, her face screwed up the whole time at the foul taste of the concoction, before once again demanding water. This time Lugga nodded to Dropsy who bounded off to get a mugful.
Hasbro, that stuff DID work, Do thought half an hour later, feeling like herself again, although it had also taken a good trough-full of water to sort out her sheer thirst. After she’d been seen to & deemed fit to show herself in public, Anvil had been sipping at some of the remaining brew with a screwed-up face & a few cattle-curses coming out. Cress & more than a few others had joined him, & that was just the back room!!! Now a new lot of guests were arriving for a quick berry cocktail (non-alcoholic) & a pick-up of their charges. To a one the new arrivals wore green scarves round their necks, & Do could smell the distinct aroma of smoked fish coming from their packs. She approached one & asked her: “Are you Scarlet Force?” The bandanna’ed fox grinned at Do. “I be Nuzzle, & this here be my husband, Prick-Ears, & we be part of Scarlet Two, trekking division of Scarlet Force. I be taking it you be Daring Do? We don’t be getting many small Ponies round these parts since the Great Migrations!” The Great Migrations happened a couple of thousand years before our story began, when a large amount of small herbivores, particularly Ponies, emigrated westwards in search of homes not so heavily plagued by predators. The Ponies settled in a rather cold land to the north at first, until one of the winters became so cold it was hard for them to survive unless they worked together with the other tribes of Ponies. Do knew about the Ponies trying to set up their home & the other facts about the Hearth’s Warming Festival, but not about the Great Migrations. A large number of Spanish donkeys had also emigrated at a similar time, establishing their home in Mexiburro to the south of Equestria. A few donkeys had drifted northwards & settled among the Ponies, Cranky & Matilda being two of Ponyville’s own examples. Do asked Nuzzle about the Migrations & these facts were patiently explained to her. She wished for them to be noted down, & was told “Not right now, but we be resting this e’en at the Horse & Cart, where we be having plenty time to be eating, drinking (but no ale!), chatting & resting up. We be all too happy to be giving you notes then! Honestly, this be basic history!” Nuzzle shook her head. “I don’t think our peoples noted down much in the early days: we were too busy trying to survive the cold & fighting amongst each other!” Do explained. “Anyway, Anvil & Cress are also with me. I hope you have plenty of bandages; we’ll need them!” “We be seeing Cress & Anvil plainly enough lovie,” Prick-Ears assured Do. “And we be well stocked with provisions for both ourselves & you herbies. So don’t be getting your tail all twisted!” “Right,” Anvil stated, “that’s my head all cleared up of last night’s ale. Now shall we go get our packs?” “My dears, I took the liberty of bringing them down myself,” Dropsy grinned, said packs hanging from her jaws with surprisingly little drool on them. “Lugga & the hare-maids are up there cleaning the rooms, & I tell you we end up sore-nosed if we try interfering in that work! Howl to the moon! Those hares can be stubborn!” Do allowed herself a little chuckle at this, knowing the hounds & hares of this inn were great friends & just teasing each other. “Thanks for everything Dropsy,” she smiled at the hound after her chuckle. “And tell Drumfoot, Lugga & Gumsy the same. It sounds like we’ll be leaving very soon, so I’d better say my farewells now...” “Howl to the moon, don’t be like that! You’re coming back & you know you are! You’re Daring Do, & you have Scarlet Force, Anvil McSteer & Cress Rodeo with you! Call this a see-you-later, not a farewell!” Dropsy hugged Do as encouragingly as she told her this. Do returned the hug gratefully. Strange places always made her nervous, & if Ponies had seen fit to leave this place behind, there must have been a very good reason. On top of this her gut told her Ahuizotl was involved in this mission in a big way! So the yellow pegasus Pony was glad of all the help & support she could get. “Ok, it’s a see-you later,” Do smiled at the hound, retrieving her pack from her jaws as Anvil & Cress did the same. Anvil hugged Drumfoot goodbye, while Cress & Gumsy touched forehoof to forepaw. Both Bulls expressed their gratitude to their hosts, then Nuzzle & Prick-Ears & their team of foxes yipped delightedly at the journey ahead, before becoming the team escorting the herbivores on the landward part of their journey. Outside the navy dogs Do had met the previous night howled a see-you-later of their own, alerting the dolphins swimming busily around the harbour. More than a few dolphins recognised the companions of the escort team & performed loops & back-flips to wish them the best. Do swore she could hear Whitecrest’s voice among the hailers. Grinning & feeling more confident once more, she turned head & hoof towards the new landscape ahead of her, ready to go.
“Up, up, up!!!” A lioness guard bashed the bars of the cells with a long stick as she yelled this order. Cabailleron, dozing on a bed of sleeping foxes, moaned in protest, but knew his complaints would fall on deaf ears. He preferred to get up in his own sweet time. Unfortunately his bed was rapidly startled into wakefulness by the din around them, giving Cabailleron no choice but to rouse himself & get on his hooves. His tail was a mess! Fortunately he kept his mane nice & short which saved him that problem. He searched his pockets for a comb, only to realise his ponial effects had been removed from him when he’d arrived here, comb included. He hated looking scruffy! The foxes he shared his cell with also woke with scruffy tails, but a quick going-over with their paws saw to that within seconds. Cabailleron coughed to get the attention of the nearest. “What be the problem, apart from being trapped in here obviously?” said fox asked him. “My tail needs groomed if you please,” Cabailleron indicated. The fox set to, forepaws working their way through the mess & tangles of his tail. “Ouch! Carefully, & start from the bottom end!” Cabailleron moaned sorely. The fox tried to groom the Pony’s tail more slowly. He HAD started from the bottom end, just as he did with his own tail. No point telling him how to suck eggs! But by his whiskers this tail was knotted! Must have been the two battles, two raft-journeys & then this place. That lot was enough to mess any fur! And this fur was unusually long & easily tangled if you didn’t take the time to look after it. But as usual, Cabailleron took offence at the slightest pain caused to him, & cursed the poor fox, moaning as his tail was put to rights.
Newly-shorn sheep were weeding tansies out of grassy moorlands, teams of deer tended to forests & trimmed roadside hedges, the latter wearing neon yellow vests; goats mowed lawns & tended crops, horses four & five times the size of Do pulled carts of assorted supplies up & down the roads; rabbits & hares dug foundations & built barns & houses of all descriptions, & there were assorted breeds of cattle everywhere, going about all kinds of business. Above them birds sang, chatted & pirouetted in the sky, while squirrels checked on nuts & fruit in various orchards. All around life was beautiful & pastoral. Do marvelled at the whole scene in fascination & wonder as she & her companions travelled north-eastwards at a brisk pace. “What a beautiful country!” she breathed delightedly. “Beautiful, but deadly to the unwary,” Nuzzle cautioned her. “This scene be lulling you into a false sense of security; but you can’t be letting that happen! You never be sure where a predator be coming from, or when one be striking, as there be so little warning. Be noting how certain of the animal teams be stopping & sniffing the air now & then. As to them birds, them be our aerial warning system. They be seeing more than us land-based through their beady eyes, but you, being winged yourself, be knowing that most likely!” “One thing I’ve learned in my travels,” Do responded, “is to enjoy the good parts while you can, as you never know anywhere when trouble will come, or what form it will take. I’ve lived the best part of my life on full alert, so don’t think I’m not used to having all my senses at full focus. What I’m NOT used to is being stuck on the ground like this, & hopefully once this Milk situation is resolved I won’t have to be...” Do sighed heavily, hoping & praying by Hasbro she’d solve this thing, then went back to quietly enjoying the surroundings, noticing every delightful detail, from the patterns of the flowerbeds to the red breasts of some of the birds. (Yep sheep really CAN eat tansies!!! They’re the only animal who can. Deer love nibbling on twigs & branches, so add some sentience & knowledge of which ones to trim & they’d be excellent at this. Goats eat anything vegetarian, & have been known to get into scrapes about this, but in this world they have higher intelligence too, & know what is poisonous & what is edible. Rabbits & hares are both excellent diggers, & also possess natural forepaws, which they use here to build. In this world they’re also excellent at assorted crafts. Do has already sampled some of their amazing cooking, while resting on cloth woven by angora rabbits, who even use their own shed fur to make cushions & pillows that much softer.)
Cabailleron bowed his head periodically to nibble at some of the sweeter grasses growing alongside the trail the lionesses led him & the foxes along, strung together like so many slave-zebras from his history books. He recalled it was a Pony called Whipper who’d put an end to this, as he’d realised the whips he used would be better directed at the oppressors than at the slaves, whose lives had been utterly miserable. Nowadays many had settled into their own niches of life, including more than a few herbalists like Zecora & Shaman; a talent zebras seemed to excel in. Now what Cabailleron thought of slavery wasn’t the issue here so much as his sheer abhorrence of those who had any idea he should be treated like one. So while he stopped to graze & appease his hunger, he dug his hooves into the ground, rendering him hard to move; whereupon a lioness would bop him on the flank hard enough to hurt, but not quite hard enough to leave bruises or scars, & he’d be forced to move again. The foxes however did not have the advantage of being able to eat grass, so those who’d been dosed on the antidote were once again feeling hunger pangs, & just wanted this to be over with so they could find meat, even scraps & semi-carrion would do them. As a result, they began to resent Cabailleron’s repetitive stops holding up the line & delaying them, especially the fox who’d groomed his tail earlier, who’d not received so much as a thankyou from Cabailleron. None of the sad procession, Cabailleron included, knew where the lionesses were taking them, so even the Pony had ceased bothering to ask (not answered & abruptly silenced) or look (unfamiliar territory); & once his hindquarters had been bopped ten or so times, & the edge of his hunger removed sufficiently, even he decided to no longer delay what was coming at the end of the trail. And so on they all trudged, not even bothering to look at the scenery around them, which is a shame, as the West African plains are beautiful in their own way.
“Welcome to Cloverfields!” a female roe deer (unaccented) greeted Do & her companions as they approached the picnic site for lunch. “And you would be Scarlet Force, correct?” “Nuzzle & Prick-Ears & Scarlet Two be at your service, lovie!” Nuzzle replied for the foxes. “And we be stowing plenty of fish for ourselves, so don’t be worrying about that! But our herbie colleagues be needing some good grazing grounds, & yours be seeming to be perfect for em!” “I’m so glad!” the deer relaxed as she replied. “We at Cloverfields take our security very seriously, so our customers are able to eat & drink in peace. I’m Tenderhoof, & if you need anything or notice anything suspicious, call out & the larks will send our staff word of your troubles.” And the security was indeed tight! Do & her companions were addressing Tenderhoof at the only gate into the compound, which was surrounded by a high fence stretching further than the eye could see. Yellow-scarfed foxes patrolled the fence round its perimeter, & Nuzzle was pleased to note the fish-holes spaced periodically round the inner part of the fence. Inside it was a truly delightful scene. Lush fields of grass, for both grazing & play, were dotted with tables, fire-pits, barbecues & flower beds, with even a maze & a few board games lined up. Trees towered over them, filled to the brim with larks & birdseed-holders, where other small birds came to feast. Squirrel-sized obstacle courses wound round more than a few trunks, with a bounty of nuts waiting for those who completed them successfully. In short, Cloverfields was geared specifically for every herbivore & small bird to relax, dine & play in peace, without the need to worry about predator attacks. As Tenderhoof allowed them all in, the foxes headed straight for a fish-hole to greet their mates. Do followed, able to move more quickly on grass than she had been on the stone road. “These be part of Scarlet Three, the police & security division of Scarlet Force,” Nuzzle explained to Do. “They be having the best noses in the business, able to sniff out any trouble, or our fish!” She grinned as a fox loped in her direction, tongue hanging out of his mouth in anticipation of the tasty fish Nuzzle had in her pack. Do dug into the pack & pulled one of the smoked fish out, placing it in the fish-hole, where the fox found it, sniffed it, took a bite, licked his muzzle happily & grinned back. “Why thankee fine ladies!” he acknowledged them. “Ah, & one of you be Scarlet Two if I be right!” “I be indeed!” Nuzzle grinned again. “I be Nuzzle, UC of this here escort troop, & the other be one of our charges...” “Daring Do! I be a huge fan! Especially as you be so polite! I be Snuffler.” The yellow-scarfed fox bowed. Now it was Do’s turn to grin: “It’s no problem! I love meeting new friends, & back home few would believe I’d spoken to even one fox, never mind three lots of them!” “Three lots?” Snuffler wondered. “Oh, you probably be meaning Scarlet Four! How silly of me! You be Equestrian! Of course you be needing to sail a boat here! Besides, on behalf of my Scarlet Three colleagues & myself, I be assuring you it be safe hereabouts; we be making sure of that!” “Scarlet Four sail, Scarlet Three maintain boundaries, & Scarlet Two escort & patrol,” Do summed up. “And what do Scarlet One do?” “Them be the fighters,” Nuzzle explained. “The ones Anvil be serving alongside back in his younger days...” “Anvil? The old Horn?” Snuffler asked. “I be preferring Cress myself out of the two of em, but either will do...” “How about both of us?” Cress himself had reached the fence where the conversation was happening, with Anvil not too far away, wanting to show Do the delightful herbs & flowers growing naturally here; but Cress was the one who’d spoken. “Ah it’s you Snuffler! I was hoping to see you or Brushie around here! I still remember making the documentary about your lot!” “Yeah, yeah, just because you can show your face in public!” Anvil teased his colleague. “Well some Bull has to represent!” Cress teased back. “Brushie be on duty at another part of the fence,” Snuffler informed the Bulls, “but I be passing on your greetings to her if you be wanting it. Speaking of, thankee for the fish, I best be going now. Duty be calling!” “Please do,” Cress grinned, & after they parted Anvil finally managed to show Do round, taking delight in pointing out the sweetest clovers, the tastiest daisies, & other herbal delights of the English countryside. All in all the whole troop had a pleasant & relaxing lunch, then the Bulls played draughts while Do joined the foxes in games of leapfrog, before the larks started going crazy.
The roe deer is very common in the UK countryside. Tenderhoof's kin can often be seen running around forest areas.
Larks like this one also staff Cloverfields. They're only in the UK in the summer though...
Last Edit: Sept 30, 2019 14:29:17 GMT by singlesadact: Tinypic shut
Yep Tansies, also known as ragwort, are deadly to most animals, especially horses...
Time for some weighty decisions, & we get to see a Long Walk...
Six jackals surrounded a natural rock platform, on top of which the judge lounged leisurely in the mid-morning sun. The platform itself sat atop a plateau, up whose slopes the prisoners had been forced to climb, still roped together. Their escorts found the climb a good bit easier than their errant charges, being used to it & free to lope on all four paws, whereas the foxes had been made to march on two, while Cabailleron, near the front, felt like he was literally towing them up. What was he, poor? He didn’t need to tow anything, pull anything, drag anything or otherwise be attached to anything by rope, harness or collar. Still, he held as much dignity as he could in the increasing heat, pacing himself at a nice steady pace he knew he could manage without sweating too much. Sweating at all was inevitable in this climate, but even then there was a respectable limit. Then at last they’d reached the top, & the jackals had barked their warning to the judge, whose mighty figure raised itself slightly, the impressive head towering over the rest of his still-sprawled body. He was bigger than the guards, Cabailleron noted, but that wasn’t the main difference between them. The judge needed no wig to show his authority here; his head had a massive mane encircling it like a golden halo, which served the same purpose as the wig of one of our judges. For this particular judge was the head lion of this pride, & the jackals were his secretaries & errand runners. One bounded off to a side alcove in the rock, where some paper was stashed, then on withdrawing some returned just as quickly to her post. All prides are the same: one prominent male, leading a bunch of adult females, & as usual the females do all the work. The judge opened his huge maw widely, exposing his teeth, tongue & powerful jaws, then yawned; & finally he spoke: “For what purpose do you disturb my mid-morning nap?” he officially wanted to know. The leading lioness replied to this query: “If it pleases Your Honour, my colleagues & I caught these miscreants in breach of the PBRA 9071 (Lions count their years differently from us, having been established as a culture in West Africa for a long time, & the figure is an actual lion year fourteen years previous to this one) in the late pre-sunset hours of yesterday. They have been detained overnight, & now as the law clearly states, they are here for their initial trial hearing. If it pleases Your Honour we shall begin the hearing now.” “Fine,” the judge, still very officious in tone, stated, “lay out the evidence.” (Don’t worry; no spoiled bodies are actually laid in front of the Judge. That would be bad form, especially in the heat, where they would smell horrible.) “We took video footage,” the spokes-lioness continued, “of these unusual rust-coloured creatures not only killing large numbers of innocent herbivores, but also soiling some of the carcasses with their own urine & defecation. As Your Honour knows the PBRA states emphatically that herbivores should only ever be killed for consumption, with every part of their carcass utilised meaningfully & purposefully, & that wastage of carcass by-products, or fouling of the same, is deemed illegal. Above & beyond this, every carnivorous visitor is to sign a visa on arrival; whereupon a herbivorous kill quota is issued to the applicant. Any excess of said quota is also deemed illegal...” “Be saying that again, in Foxish if it be pleasing His Honour,” Slynose, who’d managed to survive this whole time, even with his injuries, begged, finding the complex jargon incomprehensible to his plain-spoken attitude. His fellow foxes nodded in agreement with their leader; they were less intelligent than he was, & had hardly understood why all this terminology was needed. “Silence in court,” barked a male jackal. Cabailleron saw his chance to stand up for his colleagues & get out of his own rut at the same time, & took it: “If it pleases Your Honour, I am the foxes’ legal representative, & as such, have the right to confer in plain terms what it is they are to be charged with; also to state plainly my clients were misled, & not made aware of the facts by our previous hosts. Even I knew of no such thing as PBRA, or its fourteen-year-old update, which I assume to be in place because of recent migrations from the Rhino’s Horn?” (The Rhino’s Horn, strictly, the Rhinoceros’s Horn, is what the animal world calls the Horn of Africa, an area plagued for a good number of recent years by droughts, famines & civil wars. As Drooler had thought earlier, no living creature with two working brain cells went anywhere near that place; moreover, many had fled westwards in hope of peace & more food, both predator & prey-beast alike. Cabailleron knew this, so assumed measures had been taken by the west to accommodate the influx.) “Does it please Your Honour for this... zebra... to represent the... foxes... in legalistic matters?” the spokes-lioness asked. “Pony!” Cabailleron corrected her. Zebra indeed! “It is the law that the defendant should have legal representation, & seeing as this fine... PONY... volunteered himself for the task, I see no reason he is unable to represent them,” was the judge’s response. “Pardon Your Honour, but he has openly admitted lack of knowledge of our laws,” the spokes-lioness noted. “Naiveté can be forgiven,” the judge stated, “though ignorance cannot. Allow the representative to speak & narrate his tale. It is imperative we hear both sides.” “My thanks, Your Honour,” Cabailleron bowed his head gratefully. “It is a sad tale indeed. There were we, stranded at sea, our boat in ruins & headed for the bottom of the ocean, when these hyenas, with intact boats, came into our sights, though at this time it seemed to me from my position on the life-raft with my colleagues here, the hyenas were in some sort of trouble. Being the good fellow I am, I decided my colleagues & I should help our kinfolk out of their trouble in any way we could, standing up for them &, when it all came to ruin a second time, ensuring as many were saved as we could to make it home on the currents. Then, Your Honour, our friends proved themselves to be scoundrels of the lowest order. For when we reached land, every one of us starving, the hyenas told us simply to make ourselves at home & eat our fill. They told us nothing of rations, quotas, or rules of the kill. By the time your esteemed colleagues arrived, the hyenas were long gone, leaving us confused as to why we were being taken prisoner. Even I was held, & I only eat plants. Is there a ration on those too?” “I hear your sad plight, fine fellow,” the judge stated, “& will decide to be lenient on the ration laws as you yourself inform us your colleagues were starving. However: the waste law & the fouling law still stand, & were still broken. My lionesses have gathered what they can of skin, bones & other inedible parts of the eaten carcasses, so that appeases another law. But there is still the issue of the fouled carcasses; those which were killed, but not eaten. On this I can grant no leniency, as what damage has not been done by the fouling, is being done by the heat & the bugs as we speak, & those poor beasts won’t get their lives back. Henceforth I deem this trial to be on the foulage clause of the Prey Beast Rationing Act. Now, show me the footage, if you please spokes-lady.” Two of the jackals set up a screen, upon which the video footage the lionesses had captured could be projected for all to see. There the foxes were shown, preying on a large group of ground squirrels; eating more than three-quarters of the kill. But it was what they did with the remainder which horrified the jackals & big cats. There were images of them flinging the carcasses around, of them tearing limbs off just for the fun of it, of them taking turns to urinate & defecate on a pile of six carcasses; all the while laughing & singing like it was a big game. Cabailleron thought only: real foxes, letting off steam. But you’d have to be blind & stupid to not know what was going through the heads of the natives, & Cabailleron was neither. They were positively appalled by the wanton destruction; the perversion of turning the death of subjects with as much right to live as they themselves had, into a macabre party, as if celebrating death. Cabailleron would have called it a simple misunderstanding, but the locals here had spent so long respecting every life as sacred & valued, to waste death like this was unheard of! You kill because you must eat meat to survive, or you must defend yourself & your pack/ pride, end of. You do not kill for competition, you do not kill for revenge, you do not kill for prejudice, you do not kill for sport, & you do NOT kill for the sake of killing! And when you do kill, you use what you can of the carcass by-products, & trade the rest for things you need. This was the West African way, & these were by no means the first foxes to discover this the hard way. In fact Scarlet Force were descended from the first foxes; or joined up because they didn’t want to be seen as vermin & pests, & wished to learn a new way of conducting themselves. Hence even parts of their friends’ bodies are utilised by Scarlet Force. The judge spoke again, sombrely this time: “It is clear to me the defendants of the rusty coats & puffy tails have no respect for life which is not their own. Understandably they were hungry, so what they ate is forgivable. They knew nothing of our wastage law, so what had to be gathered later is forgivable, & said gathered material pays whatever fines would have been incurred by the crime. On the last count, however, the breach of the foulage law: there can be no leniency. Hence I judge the full punishment for the breach of this law to be deemed necessary: five years in the mines for each & every one of these... foxes (he practically spat the word out), along with education in our laws & culture by the supervisors. The... Pony... can go free. He has done no wrong, & should suffer nothing further. My judgement is final.” Was that a tiny bit of compassion in Cabailleron’s eye as he was un-roped from the chain & watched as the foxes were lead away to slave labour? Nobody could tell; even Cabailleron himself wasn’t sure. He just knew the foxes didn’t deserve this – he wouldn’t have liked it – & should he EVER encounter those hyenas again, West African way be damned; he’d have their guts for braces & their fur for his coat collection! Hasbro, he might even make a picture frame out of their limb-bones! Nobody betrayed Cabailleron & lived to tell the tale: NOBODY! (It is a great misfortune & one of the worst evils of the human species that many of us humans still don’t value the lives of our fellow creatures as much as we do our own; or for that matter, the lives of humans different from us. If we could only learn to respect all life in the “West African way”, as well as reducing our waste footprint considerably, I believe the whole planet would benefit, as would we all. I, the author, am a vegetarian, & where I can I get Fairtrade goods & organic egg products. As humans don’t have the pronounced “fangs” common to most predators, I don’t honestly believe we were made to consume half as much meat as many Westerners do. If you do still choose to eat meat, do what you can to ensure the animal has lived a good life & been given a quick, clean death with minimal suffering.)
“Shalom brother,” Jacob greeted Ahab as he reached the centre of the Cloverfields maze. The old rams had chosen it for their meeting place as it was quiet & what they said could be spoken out of earshot of others, their own families included. Eli raised his equally aged head at Ahab’s arrival. “Did you make the call?” Eli asked of the recent arrival. “They will be at the arranged rendezvous within the half-hour,” Ahab confirmed, with a slight shiver. Who “they” were made them all nervous; but then it was either them volunteering or a younger member of their flock taken by force. It was simply the sheep’s way, as it had been since the beginning of time. The only exception to this was the Festival of the Ramling, although nowadays the volunteering ramling only undertook a ceremonial role, before being called into religious service. All were made aware of the original festival, when the camels had enslaved the sheep & treated them abysmally, so the sheep had prayed, & their God had responded with a hungry pack of jackals after every lamb & calf of them. In order to keep the pack away from their own kin, the head rams had discussed which lambs to sacrifice to spare the remainder of their flock, when a young ramling had heard this & volunteered, as he had so many brothers anyway, plus the whole flock would be spared. They had paraded this ramling round all the streets where the sheep lived, cheering him & showering him with flowers; then the religious leaders had anointed the ramling with oil, before sacrificing him with a ritual blade, draining his blood into a huge urn. His body had been carried by his family to the river, where the crocodiles awaited the flesh of the ramling. The crocodile leader had stated he would be sure to inform the jackals no house adorned with the blood of this ramling was to be raided for food. The family had returned with this message to the religious leaders, who had gone round every house sheep lived in, painting the doors with the collected blood. The next morning the houses of the camels were in uproar, grieving the loss of every male camel calf in the area. But apart from the family of the ramling, not a single sheep shared that grief. Ever since, they have celebrated this festival in gratitude to their God & the ramling volunteer, painting their doors with red paint, holding picnics by the local rivers & parading a volunteer ramling round the streets. (A ramling is a male sheep too old to be a lamb, but not old enough to be a tup or a ram.) To a one, all three rams nodded solemnly. Their families were out in the open, playing & relaxing. Their sons & daughters had all been given the talking to, their wives would join them presently after they consoled the families & cautioned them to stay within Cloverfields for the next hour. Jacob’s own wife was requesting the lockdown of Cloverfields for the same amount of time, to prevent any innocents from being caught up in what was to happen. “They” were lynxes, among the main predators in the area, & the three rams & three ewes were about to take the long walk to spare their flock. A bit like some human’s last day of life in a hospice, where the family gathers round & the one about to die has a pleasant time & imparts important advice to the next generation, while sorting out the legal stuff. Then with great solemnity, the life-support is switched off & the person dies. It’s still a sad time, but at least there’s no regret or loose ends; just a lot of people missing the departed & hugging each other tearfully at the funeral. The old sheep wanted the same dignity & peace of mind, so this is what they’d arranged. (Lynxes used to live in the UK, but because of human activity, the animal became extinct. Re-introduction programs for lynxes are planned in our few protected forest areas. The world Daring Do lives in has no humans, so lynxes still live in the Byredom. The same can be said of a lot of the UK’s old native predators.)
Meet Tabatha. Her kind used to live in the UK a long time ago. She's a lynx, & becomes an unlikely ally in Do's quest, due to her sensible attitude to "prey-maintenance".
That's how real foxes behave, which is why most farmers hate them. One of the reasons for the re-introduction of lynxes is to control the fox population. More on what foxes do below, along wi the Long Walk...
Do heard the frantic flapping of wings as the larks circled, spreading the news there was to be a long walk undertaken, & as such Cloverfields would be on lockdown until it was deemed safe. Three brave swallows volunteered to watch the event & give the vital all-clear on its conclusion; & apart from the old sheep taking the walk, they were the only ones allowed to leave. Nuzzle found Snuffler again, & asked him to pass word to the Horse & Cart they would be a bit late, to which he agreed. Foxes didn’t like lynxes very much (due to their small size lynxes can eat them!), but still knew what to do around one; plus lynxes can’t dig half as well as foxes. Scarlet Force are also freely permitted within the burrows of rabbits, hares & badgers, through which they can travel undetected from the surface, sometimes for long periods. As Nuzzle explained this to Do, she shuddered. She wasn’t claustrophobic by any means, but underground caves, however well maintained, have no appeal for pegasi; & if those lynxes fed on foxes, who were all about her size... well, enough said!
Tabatha the lynx was not happy. Her kittens, along with those of the others selected to gain from the sheep’s long walk, were back home, mewling for regurgitated meat; meat which was promised by the three old rams & their wives. And now these wolves insisted on getting in her way? By her whiskers she would not stand for this! “Move!” she roared & hissed at them angrily. Her friends agreed, adding hisses of their own, each with her own batch of mewling kittens to feed. “You are headed for the Cloverfields’ rendezvous point?” a male wolf asked her. Before Tabatha could reply, another wolf spoke: “The hawks tell us a certain Equestrian rests at Cloverfields now. We have orders to terminate this Equestrian on sight. If you aid us you will be well rewarded...” But the wolves had made a big mistake. For only six of them stood there, while the female lynxes numbered thrice that. So in a trice Tabatha & her kin pounced on the wolves; not to kill, that was only for food, but to teach a lesson. NEVER get in the way of recipients of a Long Walk feast! ESPECIALLY when they happen to be mothers! Tabatha’s parting words said as much, hissed from between her teeth at the chastised wolves, before she & her colleagues moved on to the rendezvous the old sheep had agreed upon.
Fauns, lambs, calves, kittens & leverets were all gathered in the middle of the compound, their mothers surrounding them in a protective ring. The Bulls & Do were making a ring outside that one with the singletons & the males, while Scarlet Two added their number to Scarlet Three in maintaining the outer perimeter. Lockdowns were serious business here. Do herself had her catapult & a few stones to hoof ready in case of intrusion. The small birds & squirrels were buried in the thickest parts of the trees, all warned against coming out. Only the larks were allowed to fly; & they did so in distinct patterns & formations Do recognised as reconnaissance flying, all with their eyes looking outward, circling & spiralling & wheeling through the altitudes as neatly as a stack of planes at a very busy airport, & just as co-ordinated. To a one every animal there was tense & on full alert, Do noticed. Nostrils flared on herbivore & fox alike as their owners sniffed the air. Every eye was as keen & focussed as Do’s own always were. Muscles twitched with the tension they were under, all braced to attack, defend or flee. Many of the roe deer who ran Cloverfields formed the outer ring, while the youngest of their recruits were further in with the mothers, telling stories to calm the young. Even as she herself braced for action, Do admired the practical efficiency of the place & all its staff.
Jacob, Eli, Ahab, their wives, & their swallow escorts reached the rendezvous point & waited, the birds perching in a nearby tree. The avians were more nervous than the sheep, truth be told, as they’d had to fly covered by branches & leaves due to the hawks soaring through the air above. Their intelligence was high as the stupid & foolish of them ended up hawk-food. The sheep however were calm & settled, knowing the peace of seeing their final decision through to fruition. Their own young would be spared due to their imminent sacrifice, & their contact had said the lynxes were weaning young of their own. The sheep knew everybody won this way. So when after a few minutes a lynx with prominent nipples slinked out to greet them, the sheep greeted her like an old friend. “Shalom, sister,” Jacob welcomed the feline. “Peace to you also,” the lynx, Tabatha, replied in kind. “I must ask you something before the deed is done. Was there an Equestrian at Cloverfields when you left it?” “Indeed there was: an Equestrian pegasus with an injured wing. I believe she’s still there now; Cloverfields take lockdowns very seriously.” “They are right to on this occasion,” Tabatha cautioned the ram, whereupon one of the swallows perched himself bravely on his head to hear Tabatha’s words. “I encountered a small band of wolves on my way here, who claimed to have orders to kill this Equestrian on sight. They say the hawks are spying for them too.” The swallow shivered at this. Tabatha saw the bird. “You have no reason to fear me this day little one, or my kin. But if you are a Cloverfields bird, fly quickly, safely & truly back there with this warning for the Equestrian & her party: wolves will try to ambush you on the road ahead, wherever it may take you...” The brave swallow intervened here: “I heard the Equestrian heads for Heiferford, to help resolve their Milk crisis!” Tabatha stared at the bird in horror. “Are you sure? Why those foul beasts! That is not prey maintenance; that is prey extinction! To leave the Milk crisis unresolved is to wipe Heiferford cattle out of existence completely! And I for one would sorely miss the taste of that particular beef! Surely those wolves know the order of things as much as we do: if there is no prey, there can be no predators! Tell me you had the good sense to fly accompanied!” “I’m one of three,” the swallow replied nervously, as the lynx’s anger was obvious to all around her. “Good lad,” Tabatha relaxed slightly. “Share this message with your colleagues & fly for Cloverfields with all care & speed. That message must reach the Equestrian if the Heiferford cattle are to have any chance of survival! Now go! Fly as the wind guides you! And may providence favour you!” The swallow flew back to the tree where his colleagues were perched, sharing the message. If a predator recognised how serious the situation in Heiferford was, it must be dire indeed! Then, hopping from tree to tree, the three birds few as swiftly & silently as caution would allow back for Cloverfields, while Tabatha called five other lynxes to help her rapidly break the necks of the volunteer sheep, granting them a quick death.
What the Changeling was the hyena leader’s name again? Cabailleron pondered this question as, having re-acquired his ponial effects, he followed the foxes at a discreet distance as they were led to the mines. When they arrived Cabailleron couldn’t help but chuckle. The mines were a vast network of tunnels going this way & that, bored into the slopes of a tall hill towering above them all. Hasbro, the place looked so much like a huge fox den! Even from here he could see the foxes visibly relax as they reached the mines & were provided with food & allocated tunnels & tools. Some foxes even turned down the tools, displaying paws which were far better at the majority of digging jobs than any tool. Only the picks, for breaking up rock, & the torches, for lighting the way, were kept by the rusty creatures as they set to. About the only thing making Cabailleron or his colleagues at all nervous was the use of some kind of explosive. You may think foxes, living underground a good lot of the time, have no claustrophobia, but you’d be sorely wrong. The worst nightmare of any subterranean is a cave-in, & there are plenty enough natural causes of that hazard without the use of explosives, believe me! Good old Slynose, Cabailleron noticed, was having a word with the supervisor about cave-in procedures. Cabailleron was too distant to hear the quiet response of said supervisor, but whatever it had been made Slynose react in such a way it took all who saw it, Cabailleron included, aback! Forepaws still bound, he’d raised himself up on his hind legs, despite the injuries to them, & bopped the supervisor so hard on the nose he’d dropped in a heap, blood gushing from what remained of his nose. None, must have been the response, or as good as, Cabailleron thought. No burrowing creature underestimated the importance of underground safety! So for Slynose to get this livid, meant the staff’s underground safety knowledge was negligible at best, & non-existent at worst! Another member of staff took Slynose away somewhere, while two more placed their leader on a stretcher, from whom a puddle of drool was mixing with the blood. Drool. Drooler! THAT was the hyena’s name! Slynose, meanwhile, was in a detention room explaining to the now acting supervisor the importance of taking adequate precautions while underground, as foxes lived in underground dens themselves, so knew this as soon as they began to dig their sleeping holes bigger to fit their growing bodies. This jackal recognised intelligence & experience more readily than his badly-wounded colleague, so unbound Slynose’s forepaws & assigned him as safety chief. Slynose, once told this, immediately got to work; digging air channels from each main tunnel to the surface. As the days progressed, he had his colleagues map out the whole mine network, of which he made multiple copies, which, with a safety torch to light each, he stuck at every fork in the tunnels, showing both location of map & quickest route to the surface. For the other foxes life at first was pretty miserable, but after several weeks their lot, & the lot of every other prison-labourer, was improved considerably. Mine accidents fell to the point they became a rarity, fatalities, which had previously been a problem, were now non-existent, & apart from Muzzle, the wounded supervisor, every injury was as fully healed as it could be without the Elixir. Cabailleron didn’t learn this until much later though, as he was already headed for the homes of the hyenas to search for Drooler & make him pay for what he & the foxes had been through...
The ground squirrel, common to most parts of Africa. I had to choose a prey-beast of the right size for foxes to hunt.
And the brave swallows, of whom Forktail is one. They are great fliers & work as local messengers.
Nor do I, anybody wi sense would have done the same!!! Watch out, there's an ambush!!!
“Well then, Forktail, you’d better tell her!” Tenderhoof instructed a swallow as other roe deer & larks gave the all-clear. Do overheard this line & needed to know, due to her natural curiosity: “Tell who what?” The swallow, Forktail, saw Do & nearly went into a feathered flurry of panic, before calming himself down & explaining to Do all the events of the Long Walk, not to mention the risky journey himself & two of his colleagues had taken to return with the news. One of those colleagues was being treated by some medical larks for injuries sustained defending Forktail from a hawk attack. “Wait a minute,” Do noted. “You’re saying the lynxes are on our side?” “The lynxes,” Forktail explained, “believe in something called “prey maintenance”. This particular one told me were there to be no prey, there would be no predators as they’d starve. She said it’s in the interests of all decent predators to do their utmost to prevent the extinction of any prey-beast. Her baby-feeders were pretty prominent, meaning she was intending to regurgitate a good portion of the sheep’s meat for her young...” “Re-what?” “Regurgitate, a bit like your kind chewing cud. The food is partially digested, then brought back up so the weaker stomachs of the young find it easier to digest. Predators have only one per creature you see, & their food is more often the older kind, rather than the fresh summer grasses & leaves used for weaning herbivores; so partial digestion by the mothers makes sense for weaning predators.” “Yeuch!” Do observed. “I’m so glad I’m not a predator! And I thought having to kill for your food was bad!” “Us birds find cud-chewing a rather disgusting habit too,” Forktail added. “That’s why we Ponies consider it a private activity,” Do replied. “I suppose every creature has habits others find disgusting... Anyway, thanks for the warning! And I do hope I get to thank this lynx myself. I’ll spread the word among my party. I’m so glad now we have Scarlet Two with us! Looks like we’ll need them!” “Good luck to you!” Forktail wished Do, as he flew off to check how his injured colleague was doing. True to her word, Do located Anvil, Cress, Nuzzle & Prick-Ears, explaining all the information the swallow had delivered to her. “We be having to take great care on the road ahead then,” Nuzzle noted, nostrils flaring & ears fully pricked. “Sure as my whiskers, that be where they be planning the ambush, as they be knowing we be here now! Come along now, let’s be moving.” With rushed farewells to those the party had met at Cloverfields, including a quick check on the injured swallow, Do, the Bulls & the Scarlet Two foxes set off back onto the road. Soon after they left they encountered a badger who knew the Horse & Cart well, & asked him to send word their party might be injured on arrival. Said badger agreed to get the message across using his network of underground tunnels. All senses were on alert for any sign there was danger nearby as the party trekked on in silence. Do’s catapult was in an easily accessible pocket & whenever the foxes paused to sniff the air, Do would pick stones from the ground & pocket them, even as she nibbled on some of the grasses which grew on the roadside. Cress’s hoofboots, along with the fencing, made off-road travel impossible for the party; otherwise they would have done just that. But the wolves were crafty, as the foolish ones starved to death, so had found ways to hide themselves, camouflaged by the thick summer undergrowth of their native forest home, so even as cautiously as the party travelled, the ambush still came as a bit of a shock! At least, thanks to the swallow’s warning, the shock was one they were ready for...
The bulldogs were turning a grinding wheel, installed inside the Lynx’s Yawn for the sole purpose of grinding & mixing the stones, salts & crystals needed to make the special solute. Ahuizotl supervised the whole procedure, adding a little of this or that to get the balance just right. He flicked back & forth through pages of what looked like an ancient tome sat in front of him on the ground, looking far too big for even his kind of dog to carry or even lift; but that was what slaves were for, Ahuizotl thought. One bulldog was swapping buckets collecting the ground mixture, lining them up beside Ahuizotl, who periodically poured the contents of one into a pool, after which another bulldog would take this bucket to the empties pile for refilling with more mixture. Runoff was inevitable, as the solution had to be kept from stagnating. Hence more solute always had to be made. Brimstone, for fire. Lime, for absorbency. Mythril crystals, for magic. Carbonates & Nitrates for life & growth. Iron & Aluminium for strength & durability, while the water provided lightweight efficiency. One part precisely mixed solute to ten parts water. “Hurry with that solute!” Ahuizotl barked. “What’s solute?” one of the bulldogs wondered. Bulldogs are wonderful creatures, but high intelligence is not one of their strong points. (Bulldogs all sound Cockney.) “Stuff you dissolve in water to make a solution; in short, that stuff your colleagues are grinding now!” Ahuizotl replied, trying not to snap. “Move with the next full bucket!” “You’re using rather a lot...” said bulldog noted. “A lot is needed!” Ahuizotl explained through gritted teeth. He had far more important things to do than chastise this silly creature. He grabbed the bucket of solute off the dog, then tipped the contents carefully into the pool, inside which a large, black, ovoid object was submerged. Ten weeks on average, the tome said, ranging from six to fifteen, depending on rarity. Every minute of that time counted until the desired result was obtained. If one detail was off, you’d get nothing & have to start all over again. The bulldogs, along with the wolf-pack assigned to guard the entrance to the cave, had no clue what the object was, as none had been seen in the Byredom for centuries. It had been thought for the longest time they no longer existed here. But right here in this cave Ahuizotl had found one &, not being a Byredom native, knew it for exactly what it was: a dragon egg. What kind of dragon was always a mystery until the desired result, the egg’s hatching, occurred. But this was week twelve already, & there was still not so much as a wobble. This egg had to be a rare dragon. A very rare dragon indeed! And Ahuizotl knew whoever hatched a dragon controlled a dragon. As the weeks progressed beyond ten his inner grin had grown. That was why the tome was so big: it had been made for dragons.
Even though all of them had been prepared for an assault, the speed at which the wolves, who numbered far more than the six Tabatha’s kin had taught a lesson to, attacked them was still very frightening. But none of them were taken down so easily. Do & Anvil’s hooves, the horns of both bulls, & the teeth & claws of every member of Scarlet Two gave the wolves at least as much as the wolves gave them. When Do kicked herself free of the ones who’d leapt on her, she also began firing her catapult once more, hitting more than a few wolves sharply on the nose. Then the scariest noise all of them, friend & foe alike, had ever heard seared through the air. It was a vicious-sounding hiss which basically said to stop it right now! Every creature froze at the sound, then all saw three young lynxes emerge from the woods, before one bowed to Do gracefully (lynxes, like all felines, are very graceful indeed!). “Tabatha told us to remain here to seek you out,” the lynx explained. “We have heard about what you’re doing & support your mission. All prey-beast populations must be maintained if us predators hope to live comfortably, & the Heiferford crisis threatens the extinction of one & the endangerment of too many more. When we heard the wolves planned to ambush you we were appalled, & we three volunteered to assist, while others mind our kittens. So all these wolves better get gone, or my kittens will taste regurgitated wolf meat!” “Now that be the most sensible thing I ever be hearing a predator say!” Nuzzle sighed with relief. “I agree with my escort,” Do stated, “& hope you’ll spare the foxes too, as I doubt this is the last threat we’ll be facing!” “We recognise Scarlet Two’s livery well enough. Lynx eyes are sharp!” the lynx assured Do & her party. “Now, about these wolves...” The wolves had taken the time of the conversation to patch themselves up a bit, planning to resume battle; but those plans were short-lived indeed! Lynx, fox, bull & Pony alike took them down. Do hated killing, but the lynxes had promised the meat would go to good use feeding their young, so at least the kill wouldn’t be wasted. The bulls, being veterans, didn’t like killing either, but knew in certain cases it was necessary. Even the foxes understood killing was sometimes needed, especially in defence. So only five wolves actually lived to tell the tale of what happened, to warn their kin to support the Equestrian & her mission; & every one of them was wounded severely enough to need the Milk themselves to ever have a chance of healing fully. Still, four more of Anvil’s scars had broken, while Do’s bad wing was now even worse than before! In fact, not one of the party escaped the battle unscathed...
The grey wolf, like the lynx, used to live in the UK until humans hunted them to extinction. These wolves learn a hard lesson about prey maintenance...
Yep, I couldn't NOT put some wee shout to the dragon breeding app in there heehee!!!
A much-needed hot chocolate now (unless you're a dog)
“LYNX!!!” Brushie warned her fox colleague as they surfaced within an easy lope of the Horse & Cart Inn, hissing the word through her teeth as both foxes flattened themselves on the ground close to the badger hole they’d emerged from. Here they watched, terrified, as two lynxes herded a huge Shire horse towards a large wagon, whereupon they set to. “That be weird,” Brushie whispered. It was the deftness with which the lynxes strapped the horse to the cart which Brushie had thought was weird. The horse was obviously shaking with terror as he was strapped in. Then a lynx hissed at him, bopping his flank. Although said lynx drew no blood, the horse needed no further telling. He fled, wagon in tow, in the direction the lynx had indicated. The lynxes then gave chase, ensuring the horse didn’t stray from the path they’d set him galloping on. One even leapt onto the wagon itself, just before the peculiar party departed from Brushie’s view. “That be VERY weird!” Brushie stated more normally as she & her colleague dusted themselves down, before going to deliver their message to the inn.
Seven hyenas were laughing raucously in a group as Cabailleron approached their village. He crept a little more closely to the mirthful group so he could overhear what they found so hilarious. It soon turned out they were considerably amused & delighted by the apparent destruction of their rival’s fleet, at which point he felt safe enough to intervene: “Excuse me fine fellows. I couldn’t help but notice your delight at these rivals of yours being taken out of the equation. I can’t help but wonder if said rivals would have a leader by the name of Drooler?” The head of this group whirled furiously round at the mention of Drooler’s name: “How DARE you mention that double-crossing carrion anywhere in my vicinity!” “Calm down, my good sir, please!” Cabailleron requested (he’d NEVER beg...). “I only bring him up as I myself experienced some of his double-crossing, along with a group of colleagues who are obviously otherwise detained. I simply wish to find him & make him pay the price for his treacherous ways. Now if you all would be so good as to assist me in this matter I’d be much obliged.” “I see,” the hyena leader, Eyepatch, noted while the gears in his mind churned away like clockwork. The others were clued in rapidly themselves & to a one they grinned widely. Revenge was in sight! These hyenas could finally tear Drooler’s dwindling empire down once & for all! And this weird creature was willing to help! And they’d be able to buy stronger wood for their own fleet! Maybe even new harpoons, if this creature was feeling generous enough... Cabailleron’s own mind whirred like a stopwatch. These were hyenas, & their needs were simple: boats, harpoon launchers & the weapons themselves. It wouldn’t be hard for him to secure the right materials for that. On top of this, if he gave them a little further incentive, this group would be valuable allies in future schemes & plots; able to use their strengthened fleet whenever one of Cabailleron’s foes was in the water. After all, Do, whether she succeeded in her mission or not, would still need to find her way back home. Ooh, this was going to work out fantastically! And so it was Cabailleron had his new assistants.
With two of the three lynxes added to their number, the wounded party limped & hobbled their way further along the road, Do hoping to Hasbro they’d reach the Horse & Cart before nightfall, when the most unusual sight came to them. A huge Shire horse, panicked out of his wits, was galloping towards them, towing a large wagon behind him, inside which a lynx sat calmly. Another was running after the wagon, but now she whirled round, overtaking the wagon & scaring the horse into a terrified halt. “This is far enough,” the lynx stated. “The party have almost reached us. They’ve been ambushed & will need the lift to your inn. Their mission is of the highest priority to all creatures – both prey-beast & predator. I only hope my colleagues made short work of the wolves, so we can eat & feed our kittens.” “We did!” one of the escort duo replied. “But even we suffered scarring, so spare paws to load the worst injured on would be a great help.” With that, between them all, the party loaded the most badly-wounded of their number onto the wagon; the lynxes lifting the smaller ones in as tenderly as they transported their own kittens, before the wagon set off, this time at a gentler pace as the horse, a teenage colt called Furhoof, relaxed considerably now he knew the whole story. Do was glad to be in the wagon, & had been pleasantly surprised at just how gentle the lynx who’d loaded her on board had been. The lynxes, meanwhile, returned to the kill site to make a good meal of the wolves whose bodies lay there, guarded by the most badly injured lynx; taking their two colleagues with them. In all they considered it a relatively good day: they were all alive, had food & could nourish their kittens; a very good day for a lynx.
Two foxes & a badger constituted the only non-herbivores in the Horse & Cart when Furhoof’s wagon finally arrived, & all three rushed out to meet the injured occupants. Cress grinned with delight on seeing Brushie was one of the yellow-scarfed foxes. All the occupants & escorts, while being fussed over by their uninjured colleagues, were explaining how the lynxes had helped them. Furhoof added about their pursuit of him. “They’re almost the only creature I’m scared of,” he explained, “& I daren’t name the other, in case it brings said back to the Byredom. Horses are very good at keeping history, even the smaller ones like your good self!” Furhoof nodded at Do here (his accent is generic south-east England, could be Essex, & so is that of his family) with a little smile. “Well, we Ponies apparently missed out on a good bit, like our migration from here...” Do stated, before noticing Furhoof shaking more violently than he had been before the lynxes had explained their need of him. Nuzzle noticed too, as her foreleg was bandaged up: “I be thinking we best be keeping that story away from horse-ears...” “I think so too,” Do agreed, “especially as they won’t even name “it”, whatever creature it is.” “And with very good reason!” another voice stated, a lot less nervously than Furhoof. “My name is Hilltrotter, & this is my inn. Furhoof, my son, you’ll want a calming beverage, like a hot chocolate? I’d certainly need one; after an encounter with lynxes!” “I be thinking hot chocolates be needed by all of us!” Prick-Ears stated with feeling (some of this feeling was from the scars bandaged up on various parts of the fox). “Not to mention a good night’s rest!” “We’d better make that two,” Cress noted. “Look at the state of us all! If I learned one thing: it’s that even the toughest of us have limits, & if you push too far beyond those limits, even our Elixir will be no good to you!” “I be agreeing totally!” Nuzzle added. “If of course it be not too much trouble for you, fine sir!” “Oh don’t you worry on my account!” Hilltrotter, a Shire horse like his son, assured the party. “Tunneller there,” he indicated the badger, “has ample room in his sett for any of our regulars to sleep off their drinks, for just such emergencies as this one. And even if you hadn’t asked me, I’d have made you stay the extra night, simply as you need it to recover! So make yourselves at home here, & let Shagmane, my good mare, show you your sleeping rooms. Do, would you mind terribly being placed in a fox-sized room? Don’t worry; I assure you the fox-rooms are very comfortable. They have to be; Scarlet Force use them all the time! And I’ve seen them coming in after scrapes even worse than yours, I can tell you!” The rabbit staff got to serving everybody there hot chocolates; some with marshmallows, some with whipped cream, some so frothed up the foam tickled your nose, & some so thick they were like drinking syrup. But all were delectable, warm, sweet & a true tonic for the nerves. The party partook of the beverages & settled in for the evening. And Do had no objections to using a fox-room at all, especially when it made things easier for Nuzzle to tell Do her story. (There is a reason the Horse & Cart serves hot chocolate, while the Hound & Hare doesn’t. This is simply the fact that chocolate is poisonous to dogs, a creature not only in the Hound & Hare’s staff, but also among their clientele. The Horse & Cart, meanwhile, caters to herbivores almost exclusively; the only exceptions being badgers & Scarlet Force foxes, neither of whom finds a little chocolate a bad thing, at least in this world!!! Regarding the real world it’s not a good idea to feed a non-human on chocolate. It’s always best to check with a vet if one of your pets accidentally eats some of yours.)
Hilltrotter & his son Furhoof are Shire horses like this gorgeous fellow.
One of my previous cats used to find and open the Christmas presents that had chocolate in! You couldn’t put gifts under the tree! He’d trash them and eat the chocolate. The same with any chocolate Christmas decorations.