Featuring Lunemyr, Aarushi, Aedan, and Aillia
Autumn, Year 762 of the New Age
Cameo of Kerras
It was a fine day, and despite their lack of luck in finding the Oakfern tunnel outlet that had been a thorn in their side for the past season no one was particularly soured by the failure. With a good partner like Lune by his side, Aedan knew it was only a matter of time before they found the offending site and blocked it off.
Their search had brought them into the Glenwood, a luxury Aedan didn’t get often. Whether by luck or design he usually drew patrols in the remote reaches of the kingdom. Typically it didn’t bother him, but it meant he didn’t get to spend as much time with his friends and family as he might have liked. If he was lucky, Sunny might be in one of her hidden thickets nearby. He never knew which of her strictly stocked glades she might be occupying at any time and running into her always felt like winning a game of chance.
Unable to tamp down his lofty mood Aedan hummed a jaunty yet inappropriate tune about a princess and a king’s advisor, assuming a swagger in his step as they walked along the trail in search of signs of recent cave rat encroachment.
Ears flicking as she heard a familiar sound, the doe lifted her head from grazing. It was Autumn, the leaves had begun to fall. The soft rustle of her daughter pouncing on the leaves and chasing after the prettiest ones falling echoed across her glade as well. Suspecting that a patrol was nearby, the doe glanced behind her, before nosing through the thicket, ears pinned, ready to scold whomever was singing such inappropriate songs in range of her daughter’s hearing. “Watch your tongue, there are little ears that can hear you- Aedan? Lune?” the doe tilted her head, shouldering through the brush. The scarred female’s tail lashed, as she opened her mouth to speak, the bundle of creamy fur sailed past her, launching at the pair of guards in excitement. “Aedan! Lune!” The high pitched, bell like voice of the fawn trinkled. Bouncing around their legs with endless energy and excitement, smiling widely, bright blue eyes peaking up at them. “Mommmmmaa! They patrol?” She questioned, little tail swishing like a cat’s, already beyond thrilled by the sighting of her friends. Aarushi managed a nod, “Yes- they’re on a patrol, Aillia.” The mother murmured gently.
Scanning them, the healer assured herself neither stag was hurt. “Perhaps if they have a moment, they could come play, little one.” She murmured softly, “But if they are busy, you must understand that too.” Aarushi murmured, watching the pair easily while her daughter came to a halt, looking up at the pair of pale stags. Aillia pricked her ears, “Play?” She questioned hopefully, “Momma, can I patrol?” She asked hopefully, while her mother shook her head. “No, darling. You’re too young, we don’t want you to get hurt. Aedan and Lune have to be very brave to patrol.” She murmured softly, looking to the two stags for back up.
The pale stag trotted quietly along his fellow Officer, his tufted ears perked forwards and a small smile upon his muzzle. It was a beautiful day, one that even the most negative of fawnlings couldn’t damper. Lunemyr was in an especially good mood today, despite their mission having failed so far. They’d checked several Oakfern tunnels and all of them hadn’t shown a single sign of activity.. But, there was one out here that was actively being used and causing not just a little, but a LOT of trouble for Glenmore. Many fawns had been lost to the fawntakers using this particular tunnel. But, Lunemyr wasn’t going to let the darkness of this situation damper his mood. They were going to find the tunnel… it might just take them a while. It was a good thing that he enjoyed Aedan’s company.
His ears flicked back and then forwards now as a familiar voice called out. Sunny! He glanced at Aedan briefly. “Reckon we could stay and chat just for a moment?” he questioned the Officer, but soon found out that he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Little Aillia was bounding up to them now, squealing their names with excitement. As Sunny ambled up the filly promptly asked if Lune and Aedan were patrolling. He chuckled slightly as the sweet little filly continued on, asking if she could go patrolling with them. “I’m afraid not, sweetie.” he said, nipping at the filly’s curly mane playfully. “That’s a job for us- you gotta keep your Momma safe! We’re counting on you to protect her from those big, bad Blackwoods.”
The spotted stag couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched Aillia leap into existence and pelt Lune with questions as Lune responded with cheerful enthusiasm. Just as every time he saw Aillia he grew to like the little filly more and more, he found that every patrol he had the luck to take with Lune he grew in respect for the stag. His skinny frame and pale coat might prevent him from ever reaching the highest rungs of the Guard’s hierarchy, but Aedan couldn’t think of another young officer he’d served with who was more deserving of a promotion. And now, to his surprise, he also seemed to be one of the few on the Guard who weren’t completely comfortable around fawns.
“Blackwoods are horribly stinky creatures,” he added. “If you got near one you’d need to have a bath right away. You’d better let us handle it; us stags are already naturally stinky.”
He glanced around, sure that Aillia’s presence meant ever-protective Sunny was nearby. Sure enough the smokey doe joined them immediately. Aedan shot Sunny a charming smile.
“Fine day we’re having, isn’t it? Things just seem to brighten up in the Sun, don’t they?” he crooned at her, winking to make sure she caught the terrible joke. “What are you lovely ladies up to today?” he asked still-bounding Aillia.
Aillia paused as Lune lipped at her mane to blink up at the pair of them, before looking away, frowning at the ground, stilled as her tail drooped on the ground. “Berry picking.” The fawn admitted, though Aarushi gently nuzzled her daughter, snorting at Aedan’s awful joke, ears flicking back, pricking as she gazed at the stags while Aillia pouted. “Mommy needs you to keep her safe, okay little flower? Let Aedan and Lune get all stinky- you’re too pretty to be stinky. And worse, what if you did their jobs for them? Why they would be terribly upset and certainly embarrassed. We don’t wanna embarrass them, now do we? Even if they are stags.” Aarushi teased gently, hoping to brighten her daughter’s mood. Unfortunately for the mother- the cremello fawn had inherited her hard headedness. Tail swishing, the doe frowned, realizing she had forgotten the bags for the berries. “I forgot the pouches for the berries to bring back to Grandpa- Aillia, go back to the thicket, I’ll be right along once I grab them.. Musta left em near the foxglove we found..” She muttered, the silver cream nudging her daughter along, “Hurry along.” Licking her forehead and bumping her muzzle against her daughter’s, the healer waited until she watched her daughter hesitantly following along the path towards the thicket. “Buh-bye Aedan.. Lune..” the fawn mumbled, turning towards the thicket. Good- Aillia was a good girl, and she would go straight home, the silver cream was certain.
Nodding to the stags, the heavy female murmured, “Safe patrolling.” Before turning to trot back the way she had come.
The pale stag let out a bark of laughter, shaking his head slightly. “The stinkiest.” he said with a sly grin in Aedan’s directions, as if he was trying his best to refrain from making a witty remark that Sunny most likely would not approve of being said in her daughter’s presence. He let out another little chuckle at Sunny’s words. “Yes, that’d be quite embarrassing for us boys. It’d really hurt our egos.” he turned, starting forwards to continue their patrol. “We’ll come visit you later, Miss Aillia.” he smiled widely at the filly before going on his way. He dipped his head towards Sunny. “Thank you, see ya later Sunny.”
Aedan nodded farewell to Aillia, who bounded off with her expected enthusiasm. He offered a flowery and completely unnecessary bow to Sunny before she departed. “May our paths cross again soon, Sunny, running into beautiful does on patrol always lightens my spirits.”
He followed along with Lune, staying half a step behind so he could watch their backs as well as the ground ahead of them. Crafty little Oakferns liked to sneak in and pounce from behind and it never hurt to keep an eye out. Sometimes they liked to hide in the shadows, figuring once a Guard passed their position and were focused ahead they would no longer be as wary about rustling bushes in their wake.
They walked more or less in silence, but it was a comfortable one. He trusted Lune to keep an eye out and concentrated on watching their flank.
She had nearly kicked Aedan at his remark about beautiful does- but decided to let it slide as the healer knew haste was of the utmost importance. Fawns got ideas rather quickly, and Aarushi didn’t want her youngster to be off on an adventure alone. Aillia was so frail.. it worried her endlessly. Rushing along the trail, the silver cream was grateful her thickets weren’t far from the patrol in case Lune or Aedan needed any help- or in the off chance she herself did. Slowing down as the scent of foxglove floated to her nose, sides swaying as she ambled along, eyes scanning the bushes and sides of the well worn and trampled dirt for the purple flowers.
Snorting, the doe lowered her head as she spotted the plant patch in question, ambling over carefully so as not to harm any of the delicate flowers, a small smile touching her maw as she lipped up Aillia’s much smaller berry bag, and then slid her own over her muzzle and down the thick crest of her neck. Turning away from the foxglove grudgingly, the grouchy silver cream moved into a trot, cutting through the brambles and other tangles of plantlife to reach the cremello fawn’s path faster. Perhaps they could get some raspberries and blackberries- or even better strawberries. Yummy and good for healing, it already had the doe’s ears pricked up in anticipation of being able to spend the day with her little one. Perhaps they could even go leave the gods an offering if they got enough berries.
The delicately built cremello had gone down the path for awhile, looking around at the rays of sun that filtered through the delicate leaves overhead before pausing to think on something Lune had said. She needed to protect Momma from Blackwoods.. but Momma was big and strong! What if.. What if a big stinky meany from Blackwood came and got Lune and Aedan! Gasping at the sudden realization that they were at risk and that she could help keep them safe on their patrol, Aillia whipped about, pausing a half step. Momma wouldn’t like it if she didn’t get to grandpa.. but maybe if the little filly was real quick and just made sure no Blackwoods were close by to get her pale friends, then Momma would never know and she wouldn’t be mad!
Frowning with worry, the cremello raced along the worn path, little ears flicked back against her neck as she rushed to catch up with her much bigger friends. What if they got hurt? Aillia wouldn’t be able to bear it- or to see Momma sad over their friends being un-okay! Dodging down the path as fast her her tiny legs would let, nerves humming. Hoping to be able to catch up with them, the fawn continued down the path- the way she had just come from, hoping to follow the patrol and keep them safe.
"She's gonna kick your tail to Oganach's domain some day, Aedan." The pale Lieutenant teased his comrade, long tail flicking about with humor. He'd noticed the look that the heavy silvery doe had shot the pale stag. "I bet she was secretly pleased and wooed though." He snickered teasingly before falling silent. Now wasn't really the time for him to be chatting away and picking on Aedan. They were growing closer to the outer edge of the Glenwood and soon danger would be showing its face...if there was any.
The pale stag fell completely silent, ears swiveling outwards, catching all of the forest's sounds. His nostrils were flared slightly, taking in the scents the wind provided. His bright, vibrant blue eyes flitted around, not focusing on anything for too long. Something rustled behind him and Lunemyr came to an abrupt halt, ears flicking back. He didn't hear the foraging critter any more so...perhaps it wasn't a foraging critter. He turned in the direction of the noise now, lowering his head. "Reveal yourself." He growled.
He was met by silence... at first. Then slowly but surely a dark stag revealed himself, a familiar face. "Kerras." Lunemyr growled darkly, stepping closer to Aedan and preparing for the battle that was to come. He was certain he and his brethren could handle the beast, Kerras was out-numbered after all.
The stag could only chuckle at that. “It’s so much fun to test the waters, I don’t mind occasionally getting bit. That’s half the fun of it. And I’m sure, deep down, she really enjoys it, despite all evidence to the contrary.”
Lune fell silent and Aedan followed suit. The other stag seemed locked in concentration, as if he’d picked up a familiar scent, growled a name as a scruffy, scarred stag stepped forth. His height and his coloring made him an obvious Blackwood- the animosity in Lune’s voice made him a known adversary.
Aedan flung his head down by instinct, aiming his sharpest tines towards the towering stag, and saw Lune do the same. He barked the familiar challenge, “Begone, trespasser, or prepare to defend yourself,” and waited tensely for the stag’s reaction. Aedan kept a close eye on Lune; if he’d encountered the stag before, he’d have a better idea how he might react or how he might best be dealt with.
Oh how fast she was running! Faster and faster the filly went, following the patrol's trail. Gods be sure they were safe. Her little chest heaved as she rushed as fast as she could go, like a little pale blur through the brush. Bright blue eyes saw the familiar rumps of the guards a distance away- but also a vaguely familiar face.. Didn't she know him? The big dark stag? Why did he look so familiar but smell so different? Ears flicking back with fear as the guards lowered their tines towards the scarred intruder. No! They could get hurt!
Hurry! Her mind screamed at her desperately, almost there! Pushing forward faster and faster and the next thing she knew she was ducking between Lune and Aedan's lowered racks, bleating, "No!" As she leaped, wondering how mad mommy was going to be at her. But Aillia couldn't just let them fight! No no no! They had to stop before they got hurt! She leapt forward as Kerras reared back, but it was too late as the blue eyed fawn had leapt blindly forwards into the stag's way.
The doe didn't think. Fear lurched in the pit of her stomach. Aillia's scent hadn't been on the trail to her father but leading away from him, after the pair of guards. The healer had dropped the berry bags and turned and ran. Galloping, leaping over roots and trees alike, calling out desperately, blue eyes wild. "Aillia!" Her voice sounded so different even to her own ears- panic laced it. It was in that split second as she rounded the bend of the trail that the heavyset female heard the distinct, soft blest of her cremello daughter's. "No!" It echoed, followed by a sickening noise that a healer knew only too well. As the two guards came into sight, Aarushi watched as her daughter's body fell to the earth gracefully.
The fawn made a muted whimper, her eyes opened wide with surprise. A mother couldn't ever forget that look. Her hooves seemed rooted to the ground for a long moment before an instinctive rage and fear filled her like nothing she had felt before. The logical healer in her knew. But the mother, the being in her refused. Charging forward, the doe saw the surprise, the guilt flashing across the face. Kerras, a stag she had saved the life of once, who had let Aillia snuggle into his mane. The moments didn't seem to pass but suddenly her body connected with the much larger stag's. There was no fear of the Blackwood- only the fear for her daughter. Rearing tall, ears pinned as she slammed into him with the force of a hurricane. Hooves flashing through the air, connecting with his eye and cheek, the other beating into his shoulder across his chest, driving him away from the frail body. "Get away from her!" The snarl ripped from her chest, ears pinning as the silver doe lashed out with her teeth at the intruder- the one who had hurt her baby! Slamming her forehead into his chest, the anger and pain blinding as the doe didn't dare look at the fragile fawn lying in the grass- only at the one who had caused this! He did this! This was his fault! He hurt her baby! He would hurt her again! But Aillia would be okay- momma was here now, Aarushi would fix it and make it all better. The little laugh would trickle effortlessly from her daughter again, and light would fill the baby blue eyes with merriment and excitement, not this horrible sightless look! If she could get this.. This.. Filth away from her daughter- if she could keep her safe-! Angry and fear made a terrible energy surge through the healer as she slammed into the Blackwood again, angrier as Kerras stammered, trying to peer around her at her daughter- not bothering to fight back. No! Pushing off with her hind legs again, this time battering him with a series of brutal slams from her forelegs again, kicking as though it might change the fawn's fate. Biting at his neck and face, ignoring the blood that dribbled on her from his ruined cheek and eye. "Get away!" The doe growled angrily again, a sound rippling from her chest. But something more grew in her chest. A choking feeling, the overwhelming burn of tears stinging at her eyes. Her baby! Her little flower- Aillia! Rage filled her like a fire, tossing her head as her hooves touched the ground once more, launching into him, pushing him back. The Blackwood looked pained, as he stumbled away from the silvery doe, blood dripping down from his cheek, ears flattened as he stammered, trying to get to the fawn- how dare he try to apologize and offer to try and help! This was his fault! He had done this!
It was then that Sunny felt, rather than saw Lune's form trying to pull her away, smelled his scent. Why was he stopping her from protecting her baby? Lunging against the pale, smaller guard, trying to get to the stag she regretted saving now.
For once… There was malice glinting in the dark stag’s golden-brown eyes. Usually Kerras tried to avoid fights… But, today, he looked as if he was keen for one.. and a fight he was going to get. The dark stag let out a bark of laughter at Aedan’s words. “What are you going to do, scrawny little paleface?” he didn’t have time to insult and taunt the Glenmorian Officer any more, for Lune was charging forwards. The Lieutenant let out a long, loud bellow of a battle cry as he charged forwards….
It all happened so fast.
Kerras shifted his weight onto his hindquarters, rising into a rear. He lashed out at the pale stag with his forelegs, backing all of his strength behind it… But, it wasn’t the body of the pale Lieutenant that he hit. A small, pale streak darted in between them. Lunemyr had seen the filly out of the corner of his eye, but she’d been moving so fast that he didn’t have time to stop her… The strong hooves of the Blackwood hit the filly in the head. Time seemed to stand still as she crashed to the ground.
Everything became silent.
Kerras backed away, a look of shock upon his face. Lune stared down at the filly who had fallen directly, mouth agape. “Aillia?” the words didn’t come from Lune, but instead from the beast who had struck her down. “Aillia..” the words came from Lune’s mouth now, a faint croak of fear. She wasn’t moving.. He couldn’t see her sides rising and falling. She stared blankly ahead, unblinking.. She was…
Then, a loud cry came and Sunny was rushing to the scene, terror in her voice and in her eyes. She slammed into the Blackwood stag hard, sending him reeling. She beat and battered him relentlessly, screaming at him all the while. He backed away from her, not lifting a hoof against her. He desperately tried to see around her- to see if the filly was moving, but Sunny blocked him each time.
Lune moved forwards, stopping beside the filly. He lowered his head, pink nose pressing into the soft baby fur of the filly’s side… He felt no movement. She wasn’t breathing. Tears began to sting the stag’s eyes and a lump formed at the back of his throat. “Oh Aillia…” he whispered quietly, but did not allow himself the time to mourn. He had to intervene- Kerras had just proven himself a murderer, even if by accident. They needed to get Sunny away from him.. They needed to end him.
The stag was stuttering greatly, trying to apologize- trying to do SOMETHING. Then, a loud cry of agony slipped from his muzzle as the silvery doe tore at his eye, marring and bloodying it beyond belief. Even in his years as a Guardsmen, the sight made Lune’s stomach reel. “I’m sorry!” the brute cried and the agony in his voice sent shivers down Lune’s spine. “I’m so sorry!”
The pale Lieutenant slipped in between the silver doe and the murderous Blackwood, blocking her from pursuing him any more. She lunged against him, battering at him and taking her pain out on him as well in her desperation to follow up on her attack. “Sunny!” he exclaimed, wincing in pain as she threw herself against him. “Sunny, you can’t go after him, you need to be with your daughter..” He glanced back over his shoulder only to see that the Blackwood brute was gone anyways… He had fled.
It all happened so quickly, Aedan hardly had time to see. He barely registered the sound of Aillia’s voice and the blur of her entrance before she hit the ground and was still.
His heart screamed to go to her, to protect her, to get between her tiny fallen form and the monster who’d put her there but Sunny was there first. He’d never heard a doe howl in rage before, seen one lunge into action. The does whose fawns were stolen always by fawntakers seemed so lost, so broken. Perhaps it was the immediacy of the thing that made this different, or perhaps it was simply that Sunny was too much a force of nature to give in to despair.
He stood frozen, still, as the Blackwood blubbered half-formed apologies and Sunny descended on him as a falcon descends upon a mouse paralyzed with horror. Lune stepped forward, trying to diffuse the situation, or perhaps just trying to help Sunny. His words didn’t quite reach Aedan’s ears.
Aillia. Tiny Aillia, full of joy. So unbelievably delicate and beautiful. Crumpled and unmoving. Never to leap about with joy and energy again.
It wasn’t until the Blackwood fled that Aedan got control of himself. The stag was bloodied, Sunny had seen to that. Aedan would chase him down and make him pay for what he’d done. There might be nothing else he could do, but he could do this.
Tense muscles burned as he tore after the stag, galloping recklessly in pursuit. He couldn’t help the fawn, but he could catch this monster. A rational part of his mind reminded him that a fully grown Blackwood stag was a far cry from the tiny Oakferns he usually brought to justice, but that part of his mind was not controlling his actions. One tiny rational part of his mind said that bringing down the stag wouldn’t bring Aillia back, that Sunny needed her friend by her side more than she needed the Blackwood brought to justice.
Aedan pushed that thought aside and kept running. His legs churned, burning with the effort of sprinting so much further and faster than his usual patrol. It wasn’t until his lungs began to burn and heave that he finally slowed.
He’d been running too fast. He hadn’t even been tracking the stag’s trail, reckless with the need to run fast, to outrun the memory of what had just happened. The Blackwood must have peeled off the main path and Aedan had missed it in his desperate flight.
Snorting his anger at his own failings, he turned back and began the long trot back to the clearing where Aillia lay. The burning in his throat and lungs was nothing next to the anguish building in his chest as he thought of returning to Sunny and her broken daughter.
The anger and rapidness with which everything unfolded left the doe struggling against the pale guard while the Blackwood fled. The damned coward! Giving Lune one last slam, before pushing him aside and rushing to her daughter. She didn’t feel herself slide to her knees, didn’t remember pulling the little broken body against her side, brushing her muzzle over the fawn’s mane and neck. Droplets rolled down the healer’s checks as she brokenly nuzzled and licked at her fawn, desperation echoed across wild blue eyes. “Shhh.. Baby? Mommy needs you.. please be okay.. please.. We’ll fix up that cut.. and you can come back and Momma won’t ever leave you again- we can go berry picking. Momma won’t ever leave okay? Please little one.. please!” The last word broke into a sob as the heavy doe curled her neck across her daughter’s body. The cremello’s body was still warm, still smelled so sweet like the crumpled flowers in her mane. Aarushi waited.. and she waited, hoping to feel the delicate chest rise with a breath, or a soft bleat for her. It never came.
The heavy healer didn’t want to believe what she knew to be true. As she trembled, delicately licking away the blood from the wound, trying so hard to still the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. What if Aillia saw those tears? Already the singsong scolding Aarushi knew her daughter would give echoed in her ears. Another sob shock the muscular, scarred doe as she cradled the fragile fawn’s body tightly against her own, guarding her against- what? The anguish that wracked her body as she buried her muzzle in her daughter’s beautiful curls, breathing in the scent but feeling the small, frail body limp beside her. No! No no no! Whispering, curling tighter around the little one, tears leaving little wet speckles across her daughter’s pelt. “P-please little flower.. Mommy needs you.. Please..” The sobs that shock her as the doe tried so hard to fix the wound on her daughter’s temple. The blood had already began to crust, to stop flowing. Why? Why?! Aarushi didn’t feel herself crying, didn’t feel the trembles that wracked her solid body, or feel how tightly she was clinging to her fawn. All that the silver cream could think about was Aillia. The future her daughter would have had, the way her voice sounded and how she would have been ashamed that her mother had brought someone else pain over this whole scene. But the sound of crunching bone, the sound of the last noise Aillia had made as that tainted creature took her life from her kept ringing in the mother’s ears as she pressed her muzzle over her daughter desperately.
The world around her didn’t exist right now. Only the pain and the misery- the utter whirlwind of pain. Desperation replaced logic as she guarded her little one’s lifeless body from the patrol, from the world. Gods please.. they couldn’t have wanted this, couldn’t have taken her beautiful, sweet daughter.. Aillia was the sunlight. She was what made Aarushi’s world spin, brought the warmth into it. And the sun was gone.