Story for the day: The Tuar Forest
The Tuar Forest
While Alasdair traveled by carriage, the commander and Rautu made their trek by foot. They did not stop the first evening of their journey as neither one of them had required much rest. Each took with them their training and what little provisions were required. They traveled light to remain unencumbered and expected to find most of their food along the journey, as the Den Asaan would not have his superior hunting skill squandered. They anticipated Alasdair would be pressed to stop for rest in the evenings if not for Carrigh’s sake than for the sake of his attendant and would therefore be subject to take refuge at inns along the Western Road. Although this limitation would slow Alasdair’s crossing, Rautu was indomitable in his stride from the instant he and his mate left the keep.
The giant charted their path, relentless and determined to remain away from impassable roads and take the shortest route to Hallanys. Any threat that may be impending in the arid cold of the Western Expanse meant little to the enormity and conviction of the Den Asaan. He stopped once to mark their path when they came to the border of Diras Greater to inform his mate of the projected route. “You will remain close with me until we reach Tuar Forest. I will lead us and scout from the trees,” the Den Asaan said with a certain pride. “We will not rest until we reach Varralla.” The giant looked up to the skies to check the position of the stars but the night was clouded over. “There is rain approaching, Traala. You will follow my position and take shelter beneath the trees I mark for you. We will camp once we reach the edge of the forest and I will secure our meal.”
The commander observed her mate’s calculating look with a smile of ingenuous admiration. “You’re such a productive planner, Iimon Ghaala. How handsome of you.”
The giant looked down at his mate and responded by looming over her and tendering a hungry look. Her pleased expression told him that she could not wait to begin their venture. She had always enjoyed being alone with him ever since their first joining during the Galleisian War. Though they were ever surrounded by regiments, she had made certain to give time to him. He wondered how much of the equal and loving sentiment she then had harboured, if she had acknowledged it in silence has he had, and if such sentiments were the motivation behind her want for solitude with him during camp. He regarded the keen glint in her eyes and observed the same look of fond interest had always been there since the day she freed him from his discreditable sentence. All the pleasurable moments of the last few years spent at her side in the throes of battle and in ardent adulation rushed on him and he was required to smile at her with every sincerest affection his merciless manner would allow.
He wrapped his arm about his mate and gripped her chin, forcing her to crane her neck to meet his persuasive kiss. “Iimon Anaalon Antaa, woman,” he purred at her. “Follow my instruction and I will reward you when we make our encampment.”
The commander bit her lower lip. “I adore camping with you,” she murmured. “A cold night in a warm fur with a giant man is all my ambition.”
He hummed in appreciation and marked his mate’s large and delectable chest. “Come, Traala. We will show your king how traveling through your lands is done.”
With a knowing and cunning look exchange between them, they were off. The giant prowled the southern reaches of the Western Expanse and the woman pursued his steps. When they reached the edge of the Tuar Forest, the giant leapt into the trees and vanished from sight. The commander kept to the underbrush of the wood and followed the moving branches above her to mark her mate’s path. They continue southwest through the dense forest until the rain the giant had foreseen began to fall. Only once did the Den Asaan come down from his high place to inform the woman that there were a few wolves about in the area but be instructed her to wait for the rain to dissipate their presence. He remained with her, standing beneath the large boughs for shelter while keeping his mate under his trapping for equal protection. After a few moments of warmth and dryness, the giant suggested they move on and the woman nodded in agreement.
The Den Asaan prowled along the thick branches above while keeping his mate in view below. It would have been easier to keep his mate beneath his cloak as he lurked through the trees but the added weight would have slowed their pace and would have caused him to be more discriminating when choosing which branch to travel along next.
The commander ran beneath the boughs marked out for her by the Den Asaan, and in doing so remain reasonably dry, but when they came to the western edge of the forest after a few hours of traveling in the same manner, the commander was pleased to find that the rain had ceased. They seemed to have left the unfavorable weather behind them and in doing so made the end of their long trek through the woods a fortuitous one. The commander studied the ground, looking for any dampness and unpleasantness the rains may have left behind. There was little to be found, and when the giant emerged from his place in the trees the commander made the suggestion of waiting for the ground to fully dry before making camp.
They traveled further west for a time until they reached the small town of Varralla. As one of the smaller cities in Frewyn, Varralla had little in the way of attraction but the commander and Den Asaan harboured much fondness for the town. During the Galleisian War, they had saved it from an invading horde and in doing so merited a banquet of large consequence. A feast in their honour was an immense achievement but the significance of such a feast had caused an alteration to occur in the Den Asaan. In Varralla was the first time he had been given chocolate and though he did not known how momentous an outcome the event would have on him, Rautu felt a sense of swelling gratitude overcome him.
The town with its inns and warm lights in the coming evening could not attract them enough to make them enter and the commander and Den Asaan resolved to make their encampment as two mere travelers on the borders of Varralla. The commander thought of visiting to see if those they had met during the war were still in fine health but she decided to make her rounds on the return journey after she had stripped Alasdair of his gold coins.
The commander set their camp, making a fire and setting their hangaara blankets along the ground, and Rautu hunted for game for their first meal. While listening to the hissing sounds of the fires as they began to stir, the commander reminisced the time on the road spent with Rautu. Fresh meat every evening, furs to warm them, and his quiet conversation mad made the business of war tolerable and even pleasant. Her mate soon returned with a young deer for their meal. It was skinned, cleaned and placed over the fire for her to salt and roast.
The giant cleaned his hands and feet and bid his mate to do the same while he sat at their tender encampment. When she returned, she cut the choicest and darkest meat for him and he bid her to sit closely to him to take their evening meal together. Rautu hummed in serene delight through his meal, cleaning every bone to perfection.
Once he had devoured the entirety of what he had brought to them, he renewed his promise of reward and buried himself between his mate’s thighs for the remainder of the evening. He made certain that everyone in Varralla knew how much he enjoyed his mate and though her cries of elation had been a disturbance for some of the residences nearby it was not an unpleasant one. He claimed is mate numerous times now that they were away from the aegis of the keep, encouraging her to be as strident as she would. He made certain she would be compelled to such moans, taking her in every way possible before the sun’s rise.
His mate was exhausted from his rough exertion and Rautu was immensely gratified. He allowed her a few hours of rest and informed her they would be traveling north through the Dehir Wood once she had been refreshed. He reclined between the large furs along the ground and bid his mate to rest upon him to gain the warmth each other conveyed. The pleasing scent of the forest melded with her hair and the healthy glow in her cheeks warmed his chest as she lay upon it.
The trees at the boundary of the Tuar Forest had caught the commander’s consideration. Although the trees were a large variety, she wondered how the giant had managed to travel along their boughs with little effort. “It always astounds me how someone so large can be so silent and invisible,” she said with a look of marvel toward the unbroken trees.
“I have spent much time in training in Dhovhola with Otenohi and in Dhannasta with Unghaahi,” he said in explanation.
“I know of your numerous hours hunting and tracking your more licentious brother but what is Dhannasta? Is that some sort of shadow practice?” she asked, attempting to make a translation of the foreign word.
“It is the art of using the tree canopies to hide our presence. Our warriors use Mhaalhanka to learn how to climb effectively and we use Dhannasta to conceal ourselves while walking on branches.”
“Your men are rather a heavy sort,” she said, marking her mate’s impeccable form. “I should be astonished that you don’t break any branches along your ardent path.”
“I take great care in selecting branches that are suitable for my weight, woman,” the giant declared.
The commander knew that such pride in a practice had come with a price if his histories of his other and more notable achievements were any indication. “Was there a certain instance with a brother of dark-grey persuasion that forced you to become so cautious in your selection?” she smirked.
The giant’s proud expression faded and he sighed for the remembrance of his beginnings in the art. “Otenohi and I were often partners for hunts and we were meant to be an example for those learning to be Endari,” he began in a distressed tone. “The winner of ours hunt is always determined by the pairing and not by only one of the Endari but Otenohi would always attempt to kill a hangaara before I would.”
“No one is a quicker hunter than you are.” The commander’s expression shaped into a clever grin to think of the vicious inquisitor’s schemes with often painful consequences. “How did he cheat?”
“We were hiding in the trees above a hangaara nest. There were two hangaara in the den below us and I was preparing to strike one of them. I instructed him to attack the other but instead he broke the end of the branch and I fell into the center of their territory. I was not injured from the high fall but the two hangaara attacked me immediately for my intrusion. Otenohi’s plan was to use me as a lure and strike them from behind while they were distracted. He leaped down from the tree and killed the first hangaara. I killed the second,” the Den Asaan said with indignation. “He was pleased with his clever tactics and declared himself the victor of the hunt even though our kills were equal.”
“Well, his plan did work, and it isn’t as though you haven’t killed enormous creatures with your bare hands before.”
Rautu’s contemptuous feelings dissipated. He humphed at the realization of his mate’s claims and treated her with a small smile. “Unghaahi forced him to ask for Khostaas. I gave it when he returned the pelt of the hangaara that should have been mine.”
“He was only envious, if such a notion is any consolation. He only cheats to make the game more interesting for him. He knows he cannot defeat you in hunting.”
“No one could defeat me in Dhannasta either,” Rautu said, his sense of pride returning. “I am the champion of this practice on Sanhedhran. Jhiaanta, one of the three Amhadhri of Mharvholan, is also a champion of Dhannasta. He challenged me to a match but I was sent to the mainland for duty and our competition never occurred.”
There was a sadness for the recollection of the opportunity missed. The Den Asaan always enjoyed a test of skill and proving his might and superiority was ever a pleasure. Such events rarely occurred for him since his settling in Frewyn. He was a commander of an army but this accomplishment only paled in comparison to the honours he would have incurred on the islands. To be master in one of the many Haanta Amghari arts was a means of reverence that could not be given on the mainland. His chances to test his abilities came when Unghaahi was given refuge in the keep and Rautu could not have been more pleased when his brother accepted the offer of becoming Frewyn’s third commander. He had hunted and trained with his brother nearly every day since his arrival and though he divided his time between Unghaahi and his mate, the commander had never chided him for being away from the commons in the evenings and he was filled with approbation for her lenience toward him in such a regard.
Rautu crushed his mate in his fervent embrace and asked for her consent to please her once last time before the dawn.