Sven struggled against the ropes holding him to the stake once again, his efforts inducing a nausea which elicited a dry heave that turned into a wet one.
Due to his bonds, he unleashed a wave of last night’s menu all over the front of his already grubby tunic, the remainder of which dripped down to his legs and footpaws, sullying his greyish fur. Not for the first time that day, he cursed at his whole situation.
He glanced once more around the clearing. Not much had changed since he first looked around. The grass was littered with the remains of previous tributes, livestock and Bockda alike. Fortunately, they were all too long dead to smell too much. Tied to a pole almost identical to Sven’s was another Bockda, this one’s coat more golden in color, either unconscious or dead. Leashed to a much smaller post was a sheep, chewing its cud sheepishly. Surrounding the clearing was nothing but thick woods- too dense to see far into.
Yesterday morning really was pretty good, as far as days on the road went. It didn’t rain during the night, no beetles in his boots, Horace, his old packmule, was in one of his rare cooperative moods. Yessir, things were looking up for the aspiring scribe.
Then he met the “beggar”. Of to the side of the rode Sven spotted one of his fellow Bockdas, bipedial short-furred canine-like creatures that occupied most of the continent. The poorly-dressed fellow introduced himself as Andrei. Sven, having been raised that way, offered to share his lunch...
A low moaning came from the other pole, which evolved into a series of curses, most of which Sven was unfamiliar with. The other Bockda immediately began struggling with the bonds that held it fast to the pole.
“Hello, sir” he intoned morosely, “my name is Sven, what’s yours?”
Blearily, the other Bockda turned its head to face him.
“Sir yourself, Sven. You can call me, uhh, Vlad. Say,” Vlad kept trying to wiggle out of the bonds, “You don’t happen to be acquaintances with the local Wyborn in these parts, do you? Maybe drinking buddies?”
“There are stranger things than friendships between Wyborn and Bockda, bucko.”
Vlad paused his struggles a moment.
“Ah, my head!”
Sven nodded sympathetically.
“Were you struck with a plank of wood?”
“Nope, booze,” replied Vlad, “Those hicks probably spiked it with something. Goddamn mountain rats.
“Sir, there’s no need to generalize. I’m from Pine Needle, and we don’t do this sort of thing.”
Vlad rolled his eyes.
“Sure you don’t.”
Vlad tried to look over his shoulder and peer at the bindings holding his hands together.
“I understand, I guess. You live in a small town, you’re not gonna wanna give up your neighbors, so you nab the first foreign idiot dumb enough to let his guard down.”
He cast a meaningful glance over at Sven.
“Or the first two. I’ve been around the world, bucko, and if a Bockda can unload his problems onto someone else’s shoulders and get away with it, he will.”
The first wellings of civic pride Sven had felt in quite some time bubbled up.
“Look here, sir, but some of us are not honorless cads who are willing to give up all sense of propriety, simply out of convenience. We strictly follow the Code-”
“Let me tell you something, bucko, people only follow the parts of the Code that the Wyborn care about, and those overgrown lizards only care about the Code as far as it allows them to steal-”
Vlad shut his mouth and cocked an ear at the far-off sound of wings beating the air. Large wings. He started trying to escape again.
Overcome with fear, Sven joined in the struggle, writhing frantically against the chafing hemp rope that held him in place. The flapping of wings only grew louder.
Sven managed to get a claw loose from the bonds that held his forepaws together and started to work it against the bonds.
He could physically feel the beat of wings, now. Then he could see their owner.
The huge, draconic beast circled the clearing a few times, long tail tilling against the wings, before landing with an earth-shattering thump in the middle of the field.
Sven paused in his struggles, looking in awe at the creature standing before him. This was the closest he had ever been to a Wyborn- the bipedal reptilian winged giants who were the de facto rulers of the world. The creature, Wyborn Sven had seen at a distance, was clad only in a two smallish piece of leather, one covering its groin and another piece wrapped around her chest. They were small for her, but many head of cattle likely gave their hides for such garments. Over her shoulder was thrown the strap of a bag, which hung by her hip, this one made of some other material.
In what seemed like slow motion, green scales reflecting the sunlight, she reached down one of her clawed hand towards the ewe still obliviously chewing her cud in the middle of the field. With a single swipe of her claw, the Wyborn neatly sliced through the rope holding the sheep to its tether then grabbed the sheep, and lifted it towards her maw. Bleating piteously, the animal was tossed whole into the great cavern of the Wyborn’s mouth, where it disappeared behind enormous teeth, never to see the light of day again..
Sven watched the whole process in horrified fascination. Once finished, the beast cast her large, yellow gaze upon him.
Again her claw reached down, and down, and down, and Sven closed his eyes and shook, waiting for the inevitable end. It wasn’t fair! He had finally gotten his life going in a positive direction, he beat back adversity, and this is where he ends up? He felt the ropes he had struggle so hard against get sliced in one pass of her claw. And he continued to wait. And wait. Something large and blunt slammed into his side, toppling him onto all fours. He opened one eye hesitantly. The Wyborn was crouched down, looking directly at him. It looked like she had just poked him with her knuckle.
“Do you not know it is rude to ignore someone when they wish to talk to you?”
Sven, blinked, and slowly rose to his footpaws.
“Hello? Yes? Do you hear me?”
Severely bamboozled by the whole situation, Sven nodded his head.
“Excellent. Terrific. I’ve found a mute. Good thing there are two of them.”
She reached out once more.
“Wait! Wait wait wait wait! I can talk!”
“I see that.”
She lowered herself into a cross-legged position, her rump causing a boom as it impacted the ground. Sven glanced over at Vlad, who was looking over with interest.
“Do you know where Parcimonia is from here?”
“Uh, I think that-”
“I do!” shouted Vlad.
The Wyborn’s eyes flicked over to the other Bockda.