Chapter 1: The Rape of Mynar
Copyright© 2011 by Celtic Bard
Jonar Telansson had been following the buzzards since first light that morning when Gnusyl awoke him by licking his rumpled black hair with his great tongue. The great Gnath knew the young man was running low on food and the cold season had already begun up in the mountains. This worried the beast, as he also knew that if things got much worse his friend might be forced to seek a town or city in which to buy food now that many of the slower animals were sleeping. Young Gnathar with their own Gnaths tended to be rounded up by military recruiters in this part of Titia-Lohr. The buzzards circling the skies not far ahead did not bode well for whatever it was that attracted them. It was time to be on the road.
It was mid-morning and Jonar was just about to stop for a nibble at the remaining leg of thornjump when he heard it. The sound of another person. It had been many months since the young man heard the sounds of another man and even longer since he had the pleasure of seeing a woman. Whoever the person was, it was some distance away. Jonar nudged Gnusyl with his heel and the massive animal continued trudging through the dense mountain forest.
Myka was at her limit. She had been running since her village was attacked days ago by great ugly brutes. The monsters had killed her father right before her eyes and it was only the fact that her brother leapt on the sword of the man trying to grab her that allowed her to get away at all. She heard her sister scream and Myka had looked back to see one of the evil men rip her sister's beautiful dress to shreds before throwing her to the ground with a leer. The Ce'al girl did not stay to watch. Her mother and father told her such things happened out in the world and that she was always to be careful when tending her flock of sheep and argyrs. Never in her most horrible nightmares did she ever think she would see such things happening to her friends and family. So Myka fled the doomed Mynar, running into the forest to the west of the village.
Somehow, during that awful night, she had gotten turned around. Myka first found herself to the south, then the west again, and finally, after several days of wandering lands she should know like her own home, she was back in Mynar. All of the houses had been torched and either the raiders had taken everyone with them, or they pushed the bodies into the houses before razing them because there were no twisted, tortured corpses littering the village square or the single paved street running east-west. Only slaughtered animals gave proof to the violence of the attack, their scavenger-covered bodies scattered around the smoking village. Myka stumbled through Mynar sobbing, finally collapsing with fatigue beneath a willow oak in the forest to the east. Nestled beneath the drooping branches in the vines which covered the giant tree, Myka finally succumbed to her exhaustion.
Myka awoke with a start, the sun well into the sky, kicking out at the thornjump which had been nipping her toe. The young Ce'al heard the calls of the carrion birds she vaguely remembered seeing on her way through the ruins of Mynar the night before and began weeping again. She had no idea what to do now that her home was destroyed and her family killed or taken away.
Huddled under the tree, shivering as a gust of wind brought the chill winter air into the sheltering branches of her nest, Myka suddenly stopped crying with a gasp of fear. She heard a creak of leather and a jingle like that made by the marauders. Scrambling to her feet and grabbing for her belt knife, the Ce'al girl peered through the thick wall of branches, trying to see into the gloom of the forest.
"Whoever's there had better stop!" she screamed hysterically, terrified. "I have a knife and I will kill myself before I let you take me!"
Jonar heard this and swore. The buzzards were not after some dead animal after all. He clambered down off of Gnusyl's back and walked towards the sound of the voice. "I have not come here to harm you, my lady," he said in his lightest voice, trying not to frighten the female with his deep, menacing bass. "I would like to help you if you will let me."
"Let you what? Let you do what you and your friends did to my mother and sister? I will die first," the woman said.
He could see the drooping willow oak in which the girl was obviously hiding so he stepped out in front of the tree, his arms spread unthreateningly. "I take it you were attacked by Gnathar," he said, not really asking.
"You know we were!" she shrieked back. "You brutes and those monsters of yours!"
That surprised Jonar. "You were attacked by Gnaths?" he demanded, not being able to believe her.
There was a strained silence. Then the branches parted just enough for an almond shaped eye to appear. "Aren't you a Gnath?" she asked, mistrust coloring her voice.
Jonar shook his head, wondering what kind of ignorant peasant he was dealing with. "Gnusyl is a Gnath. I am a Gnathar," he said before turning and whistling for his friend.
Myka heard something massive thundering back in the trees behind the tall man standing before her. He was well over six feet tall and though she thought his muscles massive, he still had the lean, undeveloped musculature of an immature Gnathar. He had long, black hair which fell straight down his back and a very pale complexion. He wore a crudely sewn coat made of the furs of half a dozen different animals and worn out trousers of some type of thick cloth. His large feet were wrapped in what looked like wool, apparently holding together the ruins of his boots. Around his waist was a wide belt of finely tooled leather upon which was hung a large sword with a sapphire pommel stone and a small, shiny axe with a glossy black haft. Something about the man and the surprise in his voice made her want to trust him.
And then Gnusyl the Daggerfang crashed through a foot thick tree to emerge into the tiny clearing. Myka screamed and fled, dropping her knife. Jonar cursed vociferously and chased after her, leaving the surprised Gnath standing half in the clearing and half under the trees through which he had just bulled.
Gnusyl, like his friend Jonar, was immature for a Gnath. He still had several seasons left to grow and would only get larger than his already massive shoulder height of seven and a half feet. He had four tree trunk-thick legs which rippled with muscle. At the end of each foot were three curved claws which the Gnath used both to hunt large prey like the barca or the elph-tor and as weapons in battle. The long, muscular neck of the Gnath was topped by a large head with a single twisted horn that curved back between its large, erect ears like a sabre. Strapped around the broad chest and torso of the huge beast were leather straps that allowed Gnusyl's friend to stay mounted during battle or hard riding.
Gnusyl cocked his large ears to listen for Jonar and the silly female. He snorted and clamped his jaws down on his most salient feature, the two flat tusks that jutted out from his lower jaw. On most Gnaths, these teeth were up to three feet long, six inches wide, razor sharp, and could cut through even mail armor. On Gnusyl, one was sharp like a razor while the other was sharp like a dagger, hence his nickname. The tooth chipped on the shield of a Domani Pagan shortly after Jonar's parents died and the boy and the young Gnath were forced out of their village in the southern reaches of the Empire of the Gnath. Now the fang looked like an ivory dagger next to the intact tusk.
Myka took one look at the monster, which had just demolished a rather large tree with its head, and all reason fled, quickly followed by her body. She fled blindly, just wanting to survive and not be eaten by the brute's huge, tooth-filled mouth. She was dodging through the forest with the lithe grace of her people. Jonar was not having the same luck. His boots worn down to nothing and his clothes merely the skins of the animals he had eaten that summer and fall, Jonar was being lashed to death as he chased over rock-littered ground after the nimble woman fleeing before him. When he finally began catching glimpses of her, he began to think twice as to whether or not he wanted to catch her. Flashes of grass green hair and olive green skin made him wonder what she was. The ease and grace with which she ran made him think of the tales his mother used to tell him of demonesses the Dei-Xhan used to lure young Gnathar into their clutches. His village had been very isolated near the southern foothills of the central Empire. The only other races besides Gnathar he ever saw were Dei-Xhan raiders and Gnome merchants. Even since his orphaning, those were the only races he knew.
And here was this tiny creature easily keeping ahead of him. Wait! She was slowing down, her sobs reaching him through the thudding of his overworked heart. He was only ten feet behind her when she suddenly careened right into a blue-leaf tree, knocking herself unconscious. Jonar stumbled to a stop, gasping for breath and trying to keep conscious himself. Though they had not run more than a half-mile or so, he was quite winded.
"You're out of shape, Jonar," Gnusyl mumbled in a placid voice, breaking through the brush behind him. He dropped the girl's knife from his mouth on the ground before him. "You need to start walking more and sleeping on my back less."
Jonar scowled and nodded. "I know, I know," he moaned, finally able to breathe standing up. "What is she? The way she ran me into the ground, you would think she were a thornjump in man form."
Gnusyl lumbered over to the collapsed female and snorted. "I don't know. She is not a Gnathar, she is certainly not a Dei-Xhan, and she is definitely not a Gnome."
Jonar walked over to his quarry. Her green hair covered her face and she wore a white shearling. Sprouting from the bottom of the sheepskin was the bottom half of a knee length tunic of green argyr wool. The strange woman was also wearing brown leggings and over-the-knee leather boots. Coming from a society in which women were only allowed to wear long skirts or very baggy pants, Jonar was mesmerized by the smooth line of her legs as he stooped down.
"I think we should bring her with us until we find out what happened to her and her people," he said to his friend. He reached down and brushed the glossy green hair out of her face, revealing strangely beautiful olive green skin and slanted eyes rimmed in darker green, probably from crying. There were no wrinkles marring the sleeping face, so Jonar had to recant his use of woman when he thought of her. If she were a Gnathar, he would guess her age to be roughly the same as his, despite the fact that she was rather diminutive compared to his memories of his female cousins and his aunts. "Would you carry her while we go see what is left of whatever attracted the carrion birds, Gnusyl? I don't think she really knows what to do now or she would not still be in the area."
Gnusyl the Daggerfang snorted and hung his head before nodding, eyeing the unconscious girl with his large black orbs. "I don't think we should bring her to the village, though. I doubt she would want to go back there if it was her home."
Jonar picked up the slight body as his Gnath bent to his knees to accept the girl on his broad back. Before Jonar could pull himself up behind her, Gnusyl rose with a grunting laugh. "I meant what I said about you being out of shape, my friend. Besides, it is not far." The young Gnathar stood staring at the swaying rump of his companion as the beast bore the girl away, not truly believing his eyes and ears. Jonar blinked blankly. He grabbed the girl's blade and loped after his friend.