Current Track: Blabb

Mastering Both Swords

Chapter 1: Punishment

By: Ash Cinder

Featuring: Vrika

            My stomach growled as I watched the old wolf practice his sword combat on the dummy in front of his house. I was waiting for him to finish up so I could sneak over and take some food.

            I was a homeless young coywolf, who’d been living on his own since he was 11. I’d gotten by through swiping food from unsuspecting people, and had been using my method on this old black wolf for the past week or so. This would probably be my last night and then I’d move on to find someone else.

            It had been interesting observing the wolf, he seemed to be a skilled swordsman of some sort. He’d come out twice a day and practice his combat with the various dummies he kept on his ranch. He often didn’t wear anything aside from a kilt, but sometimes he’d come out with some chest armor on.

            I looked and saw the sun starting to go down, meaning I’d be able to sneak over for more food soon. I could see the wolf put away his sword and walk back into his house. I took a few minutes to make sure he didn’t come back out before emerging from the woods and carefully creeping over to the hen house. I began grabbing some eggs, careful not disturb the chickens. I tiptoed over to his meat locker and started to gather some of the smaller cuts when I heard someone say,

            “A bit late for dinner isn’t it?”

            I froze and turned to where I heard the voice, seeing two yellow eyes staring back at me in the dark. The black wolf had perfectly blended into the darkness that I didn’t see him at all when I entered.

            We just stood there for a few seconds, me not knowing how to respond, paralyzed by his gaze. Then I quickly threw everything I was carrying up in the air and ran out.

            “Hey!” He called back.

            I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I tried to stay ahead of him.

            “Get back here,” he called back, sounding more annoyed than angry, “I’m not going to hurt you.”

            I couldn’t believe I’d gotten caught, I really had gotten careless back there. If I could just make it to the woods, I could probably lose him in there. Unfortunately, as I tried to stay ahead of him, my foot caught a rock and I stumbled.

            I scrambled to try and get up, but he quickly pulled me up by the scruff of my neck.

            “No! Let me go!” I cried out, swinging my arms around.

            “What have we here?” The old wolf asked.

I could barely see him in the dark, even up close. I could only really see his eyes and teeth as he spoke.

He turned me around, inspecting me.

“So, you’ve been the cause of the missing food I’ve been noticing?”

“I-I’m sorry,” I stammered, worried what he’d do to me. “Please, just let me go and I won’t bother you again!”

He continued to look me over before starting to walk back to his farmhouse, still holding me.

“You sound young?” He pointed out. “You’re also very easy to pick up. How old are you, boy?”

“I-I’m 16,” I lied.

“Come now, pup,” he said in an annoyed tone as we got closer to his house, “tell me the truth.”

“Okay, fine, I’m 13,” I confessed.

“Hm, so you’re a pup living alone out here?” He asked.

He started to become more visible from the light coming from the windows, and I was able to really see how big he was. I let out a nervous gulp, he had to be well over six feet!

I nodded nervously.

“Where’s your family?” He asked, sounding concerned.

“I-I don’t have one…” I said spitefully.

“Hm, why don’t you join me inside, I’ll get you some water.”

“Do I have a choice?” I asked.

“No,” he answered bluntly, opening the door and taking me inside.

“I can walk, you know!” I said, annoyed.

He ignored me and maintained his hold on the back of my neck as he proceeded into the kitchen. He held me up and inspected me, turning me around and looking me over. I got a look at him too in the light. He wasn’t wearing anything but his green, plaid kilt. His fur looked a nice solid black for his age, with a bit of some grey around his chest and muzzle.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“A bit of a scrawny pup, aren’t you?”

“Well, I don’t get much food these days…”

“Still, you’ve made it this far.”

“Can you put me down now?” I asked impatiently.

“Oh, alright.”

He sat me down and true to his word, gave me a cup of water. This wasn’t the treatment I was expecting from someone I’d been stealing food from.

“Thank you…”

“Don’t mention it,” he responded. “But there’s still the matter of the food you stole.”

I gulped.

“A-Are you going to have me arrested?” I asked.

“I could do that, or maybe I don’t have to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I propose an alternative solution. I’ve been in need of some help around the ranch, as well as been preparing to look for an apprentice to take under my wing, so how about that?” he explained. “Becoming my apprentice and living here seems like a nice alternative to a cold jail cell.”

“Live here?”

“It won’t be a cakewalk, you’ll be expected to pull your own weight, listen to me during training, and clean up after yourself. But as long as you abide by my rules, you’ll always have enough to eat and a roof over your head.”

I thought about his proposal, I didn’t exactly like the sound of having to do a lot of work, especially since it’d likely be strenuous, being on a ranch and all. But I did like the idea of finally not having to spend my nights sleeping outside in the woods and having to scavenge for food like a common feral. I looked back up at him.

“Sure, I’ll give it a try.”

“Wonderful! We can begin training tomorrow.”

“Um, thank you mister…”

“You can call me Master Obsidian while you’re living with me,” he said, taking a drink from a glass bottle on the table. “Now, what do I call you?”

“My parents used to call me Ash…”

“Well Ash, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to turn in for the night,” he replied, finishing up the bottle.

I was feeling pretty tired right then, now that he’d mentioned it, yawning in response.

“Seems like you’re ready to as well,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “How about I show you where you’ll be sleeping?”

I was expecting him to lead me to a guest room or something, but he ended up leading me into his room instead.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to building a guest room, with a separate bed yet,” he admitted, “so, you’ll have to share mine.”

“No way!” I protested.

“There’s plenty of room for two people,” he pointed out, undoing his belt and letting his kilt fall to the floor, “we’d be easily a foot apart.”

“I’ll sleep on the floor, if I can’t get my own bed!” I said bitterly.

He sighed and began drawing the covers.

“Alright, suit yourself.”

He opened a drawer and pulled out a pillow and blanket, giving it to me.

“We’ll see about building a new bed for you tomorrow,” he said before blowing out his bedside candle. “Goodnight, my new apprentice.”

I attempted to find a comfortable position on the hardwood floor, but it was difficult. At least when I slept outside I could soften the ground up a bit with some leaves and stuff. My back was already starting to hurt from the uncomfortable hardness of the floor. I shifted positions, but nothing helped.

I looked up at Obsidian’s bed, hearing the old wolf starting to snore softly. I let out a defeated sigh before pushing myself up off the floor and approached the free space on the bed. I carefully lifted the sheets and crawled into bed next to him. I relaxed at the softness of the mattress compared to the floor I’d previously tried to sleep on.

“More comfortable?” I heard the wolf next to me ask.

“Just stay on your side of the bed…” I muttered.

It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep, I hadn’t slept in a bed in I didn’t know how many years. My final thoughts were wondering what tomorrow would bring.

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