Featuring Rhonwen | Doe | Commoner and Lord Prendergast II | Stag | Royal Hippie, with Zatar (NPC)
Autumn, Year 765 of the New Age
Glenmore, the Glenwood
Don’t let him catch you.
You know what will happen if he catches you.
These words raced through Rhonwen’s head as she darted through the Glenwood. The red and golden leaves around her were but a blur as she darted from tree to tree, looking for the exit path which she had memorized years ago. Down the hill, over the stream, leap over the fallen pine tree, and the second path will take you home.
Home could not come sooner. Rut had been upon the herd for a week now, and the fighting for does had gone fully into swing. Lords and commoner stags alike were clashing for the right to mate, while does looked on, waiting to see who would be their next captor. Rhonwen had avoided being fought over, either finding a way to escape to her father’s side, or simply not attracting interest.
However, this evening, on her delivery route, her time came. Two Lords, both lowly in status in comparison to others but still with Earrann’s blood in their veins, caught sight of her. She had just gone to deliver mead to a Lord who was confined to his glade, unable to fight. The two challenged each other. One lost easily to the other, sustaining a puncture wound to his side before retreating. He sputtered that he had better does to fight over, paler, gentler.
But the victor wished to claim his prize.
He started upon her slowly, telling her to come along to his glade. There were other does there, he whispered, they would take care of her. He would be a gentleman… he would let her rest before he covered her.
She refused, and he was to use his force and brutish might to overcome her will.
She ran from him, and there she noticed the time of day. The sky around her way darkening, everything in the corners of her vision going black. She had never been able to see very well during the night time, avoiding going out alone then at all costs. The red doe, after a few minutes of running, realized that she could no longer see in front of her. Trusting her memory, she continued to run from him, she still being able to hear his hoofsteps behind her. He called out to her:
“Get back here, wench! You are mine now, do as you are told!”
Someone must have heard, probably dozens of fawns by now. But no one intervened. This was the law here.
Memory could only do her so much. As a turn, she had forgotten a lump of a root sticking out from the earth. The slippery ground, wet from the cool and the leaves underfoot, caused her to slip and crash to the ground. She felt her back ankle twist, something pop. Shooting pain up her back leg to her spine. Tumbling through the leaf litter, through the complete darkness, she knew she was doomed.
Against her own best interest, she began to scream, crying out for anyone to help her up and away from that stinking dark monster who had pursued her, who caused her to become injured for his own sake.
“Please! Someone help me!” she yelled, flattening her body against the ground. Her belly and legs were now covered him mud, her head felt funny, her leg shooting in pain. The doe no longer hear the hoofsteps that had been doggedly behind her this whole time, but now the silence was dreadful. She wished someone could find her, take her, heal her up, keep her away from those vile stags. She felt crippled, in both body and pride. Certainly she was faster enough to get away from him, but why did her vision fail her in this way?
“... somebody… please…” her voice broke, tears streaming down her eyes. She could not move on her own, and someone would be bound to find her soon enough…
A dark doe walked along easily, her movements languid and relaxed. Though she kept a wary eye out for strange stags -- one could never be too careful during rut, after all -- she was not too worried, as she knew that this part of the woods was fairly out of the way of the usual areas the stags would fight in. The ones who did come through knew her and knew her to be one of the Lord Prendergast’s harem -- and there weren’t many who would chance the wrath of the Ghost of Glenmore, even at his age.
Thus reassured, Zatar felt no obligation to speed her steps or otherwise resist pausing to sniff at and gather some of the more cheerful blooms along her way home. She was nearly at her master’s den, when…
Zatar snapped up and frowned.
Somebody was… calling for help.
Pinning her ears, the dark doe rushed over and, upon finding a terrified red doe laying sprawled across the ground, quickly gathered her up and hurried her away to her Lord’s den.
He would not turn away one in need of sanctuary, she knew.
The red doe could not see, but she could sense in other ways what was going on around her. She heard delicate footsteps, crunching in the leaves with a softness that the stags did not have. She felt a nudge, a bump, from a doe-like nose. The red doe rose, pain shooting up from her ankle but not having the time to think about that before being edged along by an unknown and unseen presence.
She felt, however, that this was to safety. Where ever it was, it was away from HIM. That stag who thought he could so easily take her… if she hadn’t injured herself while running, he would have her horn in his side and regret taking ‘the darker’ doe.
After a while, which seemed to be no time at all, they stopped. The moonlight streamed through here better than in the forest thicket she had fallen in, and she could make out the shapes of a circle of trees standing tall around them. Whoever had moved her from where she fell to here continued to urge her forward, while also looking at her leg. Not a word was spoken, and Rhonwen certainly did not feel like talking while trying to stifle her response to the pain in her leg.
This looked like a glade, but a rather large one. She could hear the shuffling about of other fawns, some heavy and other light. They must be very far off from the Oldegrove… either this was the glade of a hermit, or of a Royal who claimed property for miles around.
Then, a feeling of cold, sinking dread hit her. What if this was the glade of the Lord she was pursued by? Maybe he instructed one of his does, loyal to her Lord, to fetch her and bring her some to ‘rest’. Oh no, she was not going to be fooled like this.
“Get away from me!” she barked as she thrashed her head and upper body about, shaking herself loose from the gentle holding up of the doe. Without her support, however, she collapsed to the ground, again unable to get up. The doe in the shadows paused, confused. The doe had fallen within a few feet of the entrance of another glade, much smaller in size. But Rhonwen could not see this. All she saw were the shapes of fawns and monsters dancing around her in the darkness, and she was waiting for the reveal of the Lord who claimed her, now allowed to take his prize…
Another mild, lazy day in the home of Lord Prendergast, second of the name. Most days were, now, with his retirement and subsequent seclusion from the bulk of main society. Praxis didn’t mind though -- he enjoyed knowing that his days required no greater exertion than minding the interpersonal relations of those who shared his home and perhaps taking the occasional meander out towards the Oldegrove when the weather was good and he felt up to it.
Today he had taken a little longer to rise than usual, knowing he had no pressing needs to attend to. As such, his inner den was void of anyone but himself, despite the fact that he had settled down with at least two others at his side and usually had more visitors trickling in after he himself passed into slumber, each seeking the comforting warmth of the smaller den.
It was a bit strange to find Zatar missing from his side -- Vira had bedded down with them but she often woke with the dawn, and the dark Nezzar usually came in late and left early to rejoin the other guards, but Zatar usually stayed till he woke and followed him in his daily activities. Nonetheless, Praxis wasn’t overly concerned; he knew she was a strong hind and that his guards would know where she had wandered off to.
The pale lord spent the day puttering about his den, fondly nosing at the various trinkets that were arranged into the foliage of his den walls and half-heartedly rearranging things. He did venture outside to spend some time getting reports from the guards and debriefing them for the night watch, however he soon returned to his den to have a short doze.
His impromptu nap was cut short as he heard a loud shout from outside. Snapping to attention, Praxis furrowed his brow and carefully got to his feet, tamping down the urge to simply dash out of his den. When he finally got to the door of his den, it was only his watchful eyes that alerted him to the sprawled body just beyond the entrance and stopped him from tripping and likely breaking a number of bones.
Slowing, Praxis spared a moment to meet the wide, shocked eyes of the dark Zatar and some of his guards before his gaze alighted upon the creature at his feet. Praxis backed up cautiously as he saw she was thrashing wildly, not wanting to risk a stray leg catching one of his own, however he did lean down to gently shush the doe, pitching his voice warm and comforting.
“Ho’, hey there little lady. Bit late in the day for such a frenzy.” He said softly, hovering worriedly, though he was careful not to touch her lest he set off another panic attack. “Gently does it, what happened to you, hmm?” His eyes flicked over her ruined coat and narrowed his eyes, looking up meaningfully at Zatar to send her off in search of healing poultices and water.
The red doe felt everything and everyone quiet around her, shuffling back and turning their heads to face in the direction opposite of that she was facing. She quieted her body and steeled her nerve; so this must be the stag in question. He could have taken another route around, to rest peacefully in his luxurious den to allow his minions to do the work of catching her. Her body stiffened, and she was preparing to feel someone catch the scruff of her neck, or to pull on her mane and tail…
But instead, nothing of that sort. She felt a massive presence looking her over, but there was something gentle about the way it felt. Not threatening, not drilling into her soul… but calm. Then the voice… that was not the voice of her potential captor. His voice was gruff, growling, attempting to intimidate her into complying to his demands. But this voice was gentle, soft, and worried.
“Time to face it,” she said to herself, turning her neck and head to meet the eyes looking over her.
The moon did not catch the forms of the other fawns in the glade, but they certainly caught his. Pale, glittering under the moonlight. His antlers twisted up to the sky, with small shiny bits attached catching the light from above. This was not the stag that had tried to capture her, he being dark like the shadows. At this realization, her heart sank, her guard let down and shattered. She let out a wailing sob, her pride now gone, and pressed her head against the ground.
“I was just trying to make a delivery!” she wailed, curling the three healthy limbs up underneath her to show that she was no threat to the other fawns, “Then HE saw me. They both did, and fought for the right to claim me. I didn’t want to go with either, so I ran. I know I’m not supposed to… but I did. I fell, my leg hurts…” So much running through her head, all she could do was sputter out what had happened to her as quickly as possible, unsure of whether the stag would take pity on her, or send her back to the stag who rightfully won her.
Rhonwen felt her confidence leave her. How could she be so foolish, to let herself be seen by the two stags like that? She had been taught to avoid them at all costs, to use the backroads and to be quiet while stepping through the leaf litter. But it wasn’t enough.
“He was going to take me injured or not, and I knew I couldn’t fight back,” she said weakly, “I am sorry, I know it is my fault… but how was I supposed to…”
She could not finish her sentence; the red doe cried through the rest, feeling ashamed and terrified all at the same time. What must he think of her, this mess of a commoner doe who got herself in trouble?
The pale stag’s eyes widened in dismayed surprise as the doe took one look at him before bursting into tears. His ears splayed back nervously and he swayed backwards as if buoyed by the force of the strange doe’s anguish. But as she began to speak through her tears, his blue eyes narrowed in contempt and sorrow, a frown marring his face. Unfortunately, the poor doe’s story was one he had heard all too often during rut season. He always opened his home to any that needed a safe harbour and he had met many does with similar stories… One of his ‘harem’ does, Sinra, had been so brutally traumatised by a forceful encounter that she still shied away from any thought of finding a mate and barely left their home unless accompanied by himself or a number of trusted guards.
Jaw tightening at the thought, Praxis tried to tamp down his anger, knowing that the poor doe would likely see it as aggression towards her. A gentle touch from Zatar’s dark nose against his neck helped to calm him, and it was with a renewed sense of patience that he took a small step closer to the doe, leaning down. After a moment, he rethought his action and carefully lowered himself to lay down facing the sprawled doe, ears pricked forwards and expression calm. He made a few quiet hushing noises, trying to calm the doe out of her hysteria as he watched Zatar and one of the hoofmaidens step forward to gently tend to the doe’s wounds.
“There, there, calm down now. You have been through a horrible experience… I am just glad that Zatar came across you in time.” Praxis said softly, watching the red doe with worried eyes. He wanted nothing more than to coddle the poor doe much like he did his own denmates, however he knew that such an action would likely send the poor thing into hysterics again. So, he resigned himself to letting the two other does do the comforting on his behalf, doing the best he could to calm the doe with a quiet tone and gentle words.
“That is Zatar, by the way. You met her earlier. And beside her, Annabelle. You are safe for now, worry not. They will have you fixed up in no time, and you are welcome to stay as long as you need to, or to leave when you feel fit.”
The red doe quieted her crying as she heard his voice. Shushes, like her mother and father would do when she was frightened in the middle of the night as a young fawn for whatever reason. Opening her brown eyes, swollen from crying, she saw that he was laying in front of her, ears pricked towards her and calm. She felt the noses and worried mutterings of does around her… she felt safe here. Certainly safer than she did when she was running away from the stag, or left alone after her leg had betrayed her. After a few moments of catching her breath from sobbing, she swallowed. Her throat hurt, and the cold and damp of autumn air made her quite cold. She began to shiver, her shoulders and flanks shaking with each night breeze.
“... thank you…” she whimpered to the does beside her, who were examining her leg. Nothing a willow bark wrap and some time laying down would not improve, but she was lucky it was not a bone break. Their nosing and touching of her leg did sting, but they put something on it, goodness knows what, and all she could feel was numbness there. Relief, but there was still the issue of this stag. Coming and going as she pleased? Most of his kind were not so friendly, and expected more out of their interactions. This for that, and right now all she could give was her broken body.
“And who are you?” she continued, her voice wavering.
The cold distracted her, and she flattened her head so that her ears would not feel nearly so chilly. Her head spun, body feeling some of the pain from the fall now that she had come down from the thrill of the whole experience. All she wanted was comfort, warmth… and not to be on the ground anymore. A doe should not be so demanding, but Rhonwen was still herself, despite her injuries. This was not shock, but her body reacting to the stress of the experience. She knew not where she was, nor who this stag was in front of her.
But now, what she wanted was warmth.
“I am so cold,” she said weakly, “I need to sleep…” Her brown eyes looked at his blue, knowing that there was only so much he could do about the weather, and for all she knew he was not a stag to trust or take lightly. He could stand up and leave her in the cold, or worse. But, base instincts rule all.
The pale stag smiled as he saw the doe beginning to calm down -- and the smile turned amused as she fairly demanded to know who he was before she began fussing about the temperature. In more proper company, she would likely have been chastised for her forwardness, however it appealed to Praxis’ need to protect and fuss, and so he chose to take it as an encouraging sign of her improving health.
“I am Lord Prendergast, second of the name. This, as you might have guessed, is my home.” He said, sounding mildly amused under his easy cadence. Seeing the exhaustion on her face, Praxis hummed and carefully got to his face, smiling to Zatar as the doe hovered by him anxiously. “I am quite alright, my dear, do not worry. Come, lady. I will take you to a place you can rest, warmer than here.” He said gently, reaching down to nudge the doe lightly.
As the doe struggled to get to her feet, Praxis tried to help as best he could by steadying her from the front, but his condition made it impossible for him to do more than hover anxiously as Zatar and Annabelle promptly propped the stranger between them, well-used to the role of playing support thanks to their time with him.
Smiling gratefully, Praxis checked to make sure the red doe was mostly stable before he led the procession into his inner den. As promised, it was much warmer within, the cold winds and nighttime chill blocked by the profuse growth of the den walls and the myriad of trinkets and furs he had arrayed around it. Praxis turned and watched as Zatar gently cajoled the doe over to where the leaves were thickest, nodding approvingly as the dark doe gently laid her companion down before, with a curious glance at the pale stag, settling in next to her.
Praxis flicked an ear as he watched the two settle in. There was room for more in the den, and there likely would be more of his companions filing in to fill any empty spaces later, but for now Praxis thought it best not to overwhelm the shocked red stranger with unfamiliar faces. His and Zatar’s were likely confusing enough. Instead, he touched his forehead to Zatar’s in quiet appreciation before smiling slightly at the red doe. “Rest well, little fighter. Tomorrow is another day, fret not.” He hesitated a moment before turning and pulling his white fur drape off his back, draping it over the two does.
That done, he inclined his head and made his slow way out of the den, intent on seeking out the curiously absent Nezzar. No doubt the shy guard was somewhat intimidated by the drama and had chosen to patrol longer than usual.
“The second of the name?” Rhonwen responded weakly as she was lifted up from ground by the two does, both whose scents were quite familiar by this point. “Where’s the first?” She chuckled a little, in her exhausted delirium she assumed this was some sort of a joke. All the same, this had to have been a Lord if all of this land was his home. All these does must be part of his harem, his Guards to keep watch over them all. Some harems were better than others, but she knew that many were taken by force and kept there by the Guards sworn to protect them. These ladies seemed quite happy and content with him, however… still, good to be cautious.
She felt herself flop onto the pile of leaves, feeling her eyes shut and her unable to fight them open anymore. The red doe rested her head on the dark doe’s shoulder, and began to snooze like a fawn would with their mother. The older doe did not seem to mind this much, keeping watch over the red doe with cautious eyes. Rhonwen’s ear flicked as Praxis spoke, calling her a little fighter. Damn straight he was right, she was a fighter. Had that stag actually caught up with her before she fell, he would have had a horn in his side. She muttered something about jousting with her horn in her defense before fully falling asleep, the experience taking too much out of her to stay awake. The furs and leaves were warm, this doe smelled like calm, and her leg no longer hurt. That was all that mattered… for now.
WC Rhonwen: 2,283