We had scarcely been out of the Scarlet Chorus’ camp for ten hours, most of which had been spent climbing back down the steep crags which lined the Stone Sea, when we heard the feral howling of Beastmen around us. My companions drew their respective weapons and prepared for a fierce battle; wild hunting packs were not known for their diplomacy or mercy.
Stepping onto the path, flanked by members of her pack, the tall Beastwoman had onyx fur, pocked with scars from her undoubtedly many battles. She was fierce, unyielding, and cast an imposing silhouette against the rising moon. “Fatebinder,” she growled, settling back on her haunches.
“I have hunted for you, through lands hot and cold, wet and dry. I am Kills-in-Shadow, Daughter of Mystic. Broodmother. Relict. Alpha to pack of stone whelps.” She eyed me as if I were to know who she were, or what several of those titles meant.
I opted to remain silent, staring her down with a confidence I surely did not feel. “Tribes of Kyros fear the Fatebinder. Human claimed Spire-rock and Archons did not kill Fatebinder. Archons rolled over and whined, covetous.”
Most of the intelligent, or at least knowledgeable, Beastmen had thrown in their lot with the Scarlet Chorus, I thought. This one, instead, had spent the past weeks hunting for me, and me specifically. “Kyros kills Tribes of men, slaughters Beastmen. Will join Fatebinder and survive Kyros’ war.”
My face would show no greater incredulity of she had begun pulling monkeys out of thin air – she wanted to join me, all for the sake of saving her own skin? I did not think the Beast tribes so flighty, or so weak-willed. “Stubborn” was one of the adjectives used to describe them in my training.
Kills-in-Shadow would not deign to be my “pack Beta,” or whatever the equivalent would be in this loose grouping, but she offered me the title of Primas instead; she explained, with some frustration at my ignorance, that an Alpha lead a pack, but a Primas lead a tribe, a collection of packs. She believed that I was stronger than the Archons and the warbands who followed them. Thus I must be, she reasoned, the strongest human. As much as it bristled her fur to admit it, she believed that the future of her Tribe, and perhaps her species, lay in siding with me against both the Scarlet Chorus and the Disfavored.
With her pack looking on, and my companions staying silent on the matter, I accepted her offer and sent her to the Spire to wait with Eb, so I knew where she would be if I needed her. I couldn’t risk having her travel with us and deciding that by sleeping I was showing weakness. She growled, managed some manner of salute, and stomped off.
The Scarlet Chorus wanted me to betray Tunon and Kyros, the Disfavored hated me for pointing out their flaws, and now Beastmen wanted to follow me. I had the distinct impression my journey was only going to get more complicated from that night out.