Wordcount: 1,194 words
Summary: Please note, this is currently a very rough draft. There will be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, flat out contradictions, and uneven characterization and pacing. (Content is also subject to constant change as I take an editing chainsaw to the story.)
Oaths of No Consequence
The rain picked up as they neared town and all six of them were damp and miserable by the time they made it to where the dirt road turned to sand and shells.
Baron came circling down to land behind Winter and Dog.
“Nothing?” Tom asked.
Telepathy worked the same distance as speech and May and Baron had no way to communicate to those below.
“Nothing,” confirmed May as she slipped out of the harness. “There is no storm warning markers out, there’s no damage we can see, but no one’s outside either.”
“Something’s wrong.” Erwin looked down the road into the town. “There should be people out here, even in the rain.”
May nodded while unharnessing baron and tucking the straps back into her backpack.
“So do we go in?”
“I don’t see any other choice.” May pointed out. “Plus I am cold and I am hungry and I could see my house from up there.”
With that the three headed into town, cautious but too tired to really be on their guard. After a bit they picked up a rear guard of soldiers in an odd blue uniform that motioned for them to keep moving.
They eventually ended up outside the command tent, at which point Tom sat down and took off his boots without so much as a greeting.
The commander raised an eyebrow, but did not say anything.
“Who are you?” May asked, trying to match the uniform against her history lessons. “Where’s your heraldry?”
“I am hungry.” Winter objected. “Can we surrender now and ask questions later?”
“Yeah,” Erwin shrugged when she looked at him annoyed, “we’re not dead, so they must give quarter, and if they give quarter I am too tired to do anything other than eat or sleep. Can you just get to the important bits?”
“Fine,” May sighed and turned back to the invaders who were all rather amused at the whole thing. Which annoyed her because she was wet and tired and hungry and grumpy and there were strange people in her town. “We need to surrender, can we do that? There was a storm and we’ve got a lot of people out there who need help and if it’s a fight, we’ll fight, and if it’s not we just want to come home.”
She tried to look firm and brave, but she doubted it was helping much.
“And they sent you to negotiate?” he was smiling now and May got pissed off.
May got pissed off, which pissed off Baron who growled angrily and was much more effective at looking dangerous than May was.
There was some nervous conversation within the tent, but a large white foxhawk that May had not noticed stood up from behind the commander.
“Quiet, little one.” It was mild, but decisive and Baron quieted, but not without a mutter.
“No, we sent ourselves.” May said. “It’s cold, it’s wet, we’ve only got enough food to get us here and we’ve already buried more people that I ever knew.” She was not crying, not quite, but she was mad and frustrated. “And I am not burying any more. Do we get to surrender or do we have to fight?”
Baron, for all that he had quieted, stood defensively at her side and Winter and Dog, while not thrilled, were also in wary stances. Tom was still sitting in the mud, resting his feet, but Erwin was at least looking ready to give it a go if they had to.
“I think you would, would not you.” The commander was still smiling, but it was more rueful than entertained. “I don’t think that will be necessary. Elder?”
The white foxhawk looked down at the three fledglings carefully for a moment. “They’re fine, not a single worker among them. They’re more a danger to you than us.”
“So can we tell them?” Erwin asked, cautiously?
“Tell who?” The commander asked confused.
“The rest of the refugees,” Tom pointed out, “They’ve been arguing over what to do all day—they need someone else to make the decision, so we came down. If you tell them it’s safe, They will come.”
“Mostly.” Pointed out Erwin.
“Yeah, hmm.” Tom thought for a moment. “Hah, there we go, just send him to talk to Flame.” He gestured at the white foxhawk. “If Flame comes, the foxhawks come, and if they come there’s no one left to go back to Pine Reach anyway.”
The commander blinked. “That is a little more helpful than I was expecting you to be, in all honesty.”
“We don’t want any more deaths,” May snapped, “They know that, they just don’t want to admit it. The kingdom will either pay the blood debt or They will take the town back. That is a given. Neither Wolf or Lion has ever held a city long— everyone knows it’s about the money in the end.”
“Actually,” Tom pointed out mildly, “Lion did come in after the farmland and managed to keep them.”
“That was Lion’s land to start with,” Erwin countered.
“You only say that because your mother’s mother’s side is Lion, everyone knows that.” May rolled her eyes.
“But they are not Lion.” Baron was frowning at the white foxhawk. “What are they?”
“As interesting as the history lesson is,” the commander interrupted politely, “why don’t you give your oaths and we can sort this out after dinner.”
“Where are the townsfolk.” Asked Dog, who had been quite until now. He was not asking the humans, he was asking the foxhawk, who cocked its head and looked down at him. “What did you do with all the people?”
“They’re safe in the caves.”
“So they don’t get hurt.” The foxhawk said mildly. “Where are the foxhawks?”
“What foxhawks?” May asked, confused.
It turned to look down at her. “Where are the foxhawks who dug those caves? Where are the foxhawks who keep watch and keep you safe from storms?”
“There have not ever been foxhawks here,” May said, looking over at Baron for support. “Foxhawks never live along the coast; salt air is bad for their wings.” Baron nodded and looked over at the elder in confusion.
“Bad for our wings, hah, I shall remember that.” The elder grinned and the moment of tenseness was over. “Well come then, best get out of the rain. Who we are and why we are here can wait another hour or so. I’ll send out a flock to talk to Flame and we’ll see what comes of it. Come with me then, he nodded at the fledglings.”
“We stay together.” Objected May, and the foxhawk gave her an odd look. “We stay together.” She added more firmly.
The elder looked at the commander, who shrugged. “They stay together then I guess. Put them up in the stables, it’s warm enough and They will all fit. Ah yes, Michael, take their oaths would you? I’ve got some planning to do.”
One of the other commanders nodded and let them, along with the elder over to the stables. They gave their oaths along the way and May and Baron gave each other glances as they did.