Hi everyone! Sorry for the lack of a page this week — but don’t worry, because I’ve got Part 2 of the short story I started back in March all ready to go for ya :) If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 right here.

As I mentioned in that post, this was a story that I originally wrote way back in 2012. I’ve gone through and made a number of minor edits to grammar, tone, and structure so I’m not quite as reticent about sharing it with all of you.

All that said, please enjoy!


After what seemed like an eternity of wandering through the progressively darker and more menacing sections of the Western Deep, they finally reached the end of the trail; a seemingly nondescript boulder with a single bloody mark smudged onto the stone. This wasn’t accidental, however — Quin knew exactly what the mark signified.

“Bandit territory.” The tamian grit his teeth as he peered around the boulder, which sat just near a ledge overlooking a small encampment below. Three large canvas tents were strung up around a clearing in the wood, with at least five bandits clearly in view.

Samson was nowhere to be seen, but Quinlan could make out a pair of bandits (one tamian, one vulpin) sitting together on the ground in front of one of the tents, seemingly guarding it. On closer examination, the scout noticed they were playing a game of Mearog – an old Ermehn game that involved dice, colored stones, and exorbitant minimum bets.

“What’re we looking at?” Dakkan asked as his friend slid back down behind the rock.

“Two tamian, two vulpin, and a polcan.” Quinlan considered this for a moment, then added: “Could be an Ermehn, too. Saw some of them playing Mearog.”

Dakkan shrugged. “It’s a pretty popular game, doesn’t mean they’ve got an Ermehn in their group. You see Samson?”

Quinlan shook his head. “No, but the pair playing the game is guarding one of the tents. Think Samson’s in there.”

“Why do you think they brought ‘im here?” The lutren dared a peek over the boulder. “Ransom?”

“If I had to guess.” Quin shrugged.

Dakkan sighed and the tamian could see the gears turning in his head.

“All right… all right… Two of us, five, maybe more of them, but we’ve got surprise on our side.”

Quinlan’s eyes shot open in terror. “Are you-!” He quickly lowered his voice to a harsh whisper, “Are you crazy?” He pointed to the camp below. “We’ll get ourselves killed!”

“What, you wanna go ask ‘em to let Samson go?” Dakkan hissed. “These are bandits. We don’t have a choice.”

“I’m not…” Quinlan’s breaths were coming in quicker now – he was clearly agitated. “I’m not going to kill anyone, Dakkan! I’m not my grandfather!”

The lutren looked shocked for a moment, the word kill seeming to refocus his motives. “I… You’re right. I’m sorry, I…” He put a paw to his forehead. “I don’t know what, ah… What do we…?”

“Watch and wait.” Quinlan clapped a paw on his friend’s shoulder as he went to climb up the boulder — no doubt it would be easier to scout the camp from there. “We’ll figure something out.”

The camp was indeed small, but it wasn’t mobile. Based on the number of random (most likely stolen) items littering the area, the bandits had been there for at least a season or two. Still, they couldn’t leave for help because Samson’s fate wasn’t yet known. If he was alive, the bandits would either try to ransom him back to Terria or sell him into slavery, most likely to polcan pirates. If that happened, his life would be forfeit.

Another thing Quinlan noticed was that there was a definite hierarchy. The polcan seemed to be the most-powerful in the group, and the others called him “Kell”. The second-in-command was one of the vulpin, “Fray”, with all other bandits below them. Quin observed with a hint of optimism that none of the bandits seemed to like or trust each other very much.

It wasn’t long, however, before another bandit emerged from one of the tents – the tent that Quinlan had guessed held Samson. This bandit, a kilted and heavily-scarred ermehn, looked rather upset. Based on how Kell and Fray winced when he strode out into the camp, Quinlan figured he was the one in charge.

“Bloody fool’s not sayin’ anything.” The ermehn sneered at Kell, who stood at fearful attention. “I need him to tell me about those tamian caravans, but all he does it keep going on about the other one. The one YOU killed!”

The polcan looked agitated. “I said I was sorry, a’right? She was tryin’ to get her sword! Was about to skewer me! I had to kill her, Locke! I had to!”


Both Quinlan and Dakkan cringed at the name – Locke was wanted dead or alive (preferably the former) all throughout Sunsgrove and Aisling. He had killed at least a dozen combined lutren and tamian scouts, and Aisling always had an open bounty on ermehn within the Four Kingdoms.

The ermehn hissed in rage and pushed Kell into a tree near the edge of the camp, kicking him sharply in the chest as he folded over from the fall. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Their trackers will find us! They’ll follow your idiot footsteps right into our bloody camp!”

“It wasn’t just me!” Kell’s voice sounded hoarse, with a twinge that suggested a broken rib or two. He was crawling miserably back toward the ermehn.

“You’re right,” Locke said with a slow nod. “There was you and… who else?”

The polcan staggered to his knees, arms wrapped around his chest in pain. “It was… me… Jin, and Trev…”

The bandit leader considered this. “Three altogether then. Acceptable losses.”

“Losses…?” Kell whimpered. He already knew what was going on, but his body was too broken to do anything about it.

Dakkan whispered under his breath. “By the… He’s gonna kill ‘em.” He looked over to Quinlan for some kind of response, but the tamian simply shook his head.

“Nothing we can do. Nothing I want to do.” He was so tense that his claws were scraping into the boulder. “They killed Kera. That ermehn’s doing us a favor.”

Dakkan seemed on the verge of saying something, but stopped. Quinlan was right. This kind of justice was unbefitting of civilized Sunsgrove, but out here, in a bandit camp, in the wilds of the Western Deep, it seemed a fitting end for the murderous brigands.

Locke had by this time summoned the other two bandits – the two that had been playing Mearog outside the tent. Fray was there as well, and the other bandits had dropped what they were doing – all eyes on the group near the edge of the camp. Then Quinlan realized something.

“They’re not watching the tent anymore.”

The two slid down off the boulder and peered around the far side. “What do we do?” Dakkan asked. “Not much time before Locke finishes with those three.”

Quinlan could see the tent – maybe fifty paces away, down a small hill and not a lot of cover between. “You go free him, I’ll keep watch. If they get too close, I’ve got my bow.”

Dakkan barely considered the salient details before nodding sharply, hefting his staff. “Right.” Without a second word, the lutren slipped around the boulder and into the bandit camp.

Sliding an arrow from the quiver on his back, Quinlan could barely believe how quickly he had offered to cover Dakkan from afar… and how quickly Dakkan had accepted it as their plan. He felt doubt creep in.

You and Dakkan could both die here today, in the middle of nowhere. Nobody would ever know what happened to you. They’d never find you.

Quinlan tested the bowstring and put his back against the boulder, peering out from the side just enough to see Dakkan crouching behind a shrub on the perimeter of the bandit camp. On the opposite side, Locke was still berating Jin, a tamian, and Trev, a vulpin. The bandit leader had unsheathed a rather nasty-looking sword. No telling how many lives had fallen to it.

Dakkan was inside the camp proper now, hiding behind one of the tents. He couldn’t see the commotion from here without risking giving his position away, so he looked desperately at Quinlan for guidance.

The tamian shook his head quickly – an argument had broken out now on the other side of the camp, obviously Trev and Jin, along with Kell, had figured out that Locke was planning to dispose of them. Threats were being exchanged, and their attention was focused on the tent containing Samson. If Dakkan moved to get closer, he would be seen. Quinlan signaled for his friend to stay put for the moment.

“Been with ya for almost two years!” Jin was crying out. “Don’t that mean anythin’?”

“Kell’s been with me for five,” Locke said with a cold, emotionless droll. “Doesn’t mean he’s free to get us all killed.” He shot a menacing look at the crippled polcan. “Your stupidity’s threatened everything I’ve worked for. Can’t have that.”

The sword shot out – Trev was the first to fall. He had tried to unsheathe a dagger to defend himself, but hadn’t even wrapped more than a single claw around the hilt before he was gone. All hell broke loose.


Quinlan mouthed it to Dakkan, who nodded and slid around the edge of the tent, lowering himself as much as he could and doing his best to quickly clear the distance to Samson’s tent. Across the camp, Locke had already dealt a fatal blow to Jin, who didn’t even have time to unsheathe his own sword.

Damn, he’s fast…

There was only Kell now, and the polcan could do nothing to defend himself. Fray and the remaining tamian bandit looked on, not entirely sure of what to do. Locke was advancing, and Kell could do nothing but lie there and watch.

“I always knew you’d kill me one ‘a these days.”

Locke shook his head. “My friend-“

“Yer no friend ‘a mine! Aaah-!” The polcan interrupted him with a shout, but then quickly deflated, shrinking back against the tree trunk. “Gaaah… no friend ‘a mine…”

Quinlan was looking at Samson’s tent. He could only imagine what was going on in there.

Locke was kneeling down next to the Kell. “You’re right. No friend of mine would threaten my livelihood. No friend of mine would set me up. Of all those in this camp, the only ones left that I trust are Fray, Ayden…” He gestured to the vixen and the tamian, but then he gestured to Samson’s tent, much to Quinlan’s surprise. “And of course, Bragg.”

Oh… Oh no…

“Bragg!” The Ermehn shouted over. “Come out here. I want you to see this.”

But Bragg did not come out — at least not out the front. Quinlan could see an ermehn slump out the back of the tent for a moment before getting pulled back inside, then a visibly beaten Dakkan emerged with Samson leaning hard on him, hidden from Locke’s view.

“Bragg!?” Locke made as if to stand up, but Kell did something then – it looked like a quick jut with his arm.

Locke jerked back, staring down at his stomach where Kell’s dagger had pierced him. “You…!”

The polcan laughed weakly as Locke stumbled away in shock. The ermehn looked like he was trying to say something, but his gaze quickly rolled skyward, and he fell to the ground in a heap. Whether Locke was truly dead or not, Quin didn’t care.

Dakkan and Samson had almost cleared the camp by this point, but their luck had run out. “Hey you! STOP!” It was Ayden, the remaining tamian brigand. He quickly produced a crossbow and aimed it squarely at Dakkan’s back. “Don’t you DARE move another step, lutren!”

“Ayden.” It was Fray, the vulpin. She was kneeling beside Kell — the polcan had passed on moments after slaying his own killer. “Let them go.”

“But-!” Ayden looked flabbergasted, spinning around. “Everyone DIED today because of that tamian! I’m going to finish this!”

“It’s not his fault.” Fray lowered her gaze. “It’s Locke’s. And Locke’s alone.”

Ayden shook his head in defiance. “Lost your taste for blood, have you? Well, just because you’ve gone soft doesn’t mean I have!” He leveled the crossbow at Dakkan, who had turned just in time to see the tamian’s mad gaze.


That was his grandfather’s voice – now eerily beginning to sound like his own. Quinlan didn’t even think about it. He raised the bow and pulled back the drawstring, then released the arrow in a fluid motion. The arrow disappeared from view, but he knew exactly where it would land.

It struck a wooden tent post not a hair from Ayden’s head. The tamian bandit doubled back in shock, looking around in a panic. When he saw no more arrows were coming, he smirked malevolently and leveled the crossbow again at Dakkan. “Ha! Yer friend missed!”

“No, he didn’t.” Dakkan’s voice, uncharacteristically cold and flat, told the bandit all he needed to know. He turned his back to Ayden, content the point had been made.

It had.