In the meantime; Sir Joopi, Sir Kendrew and Sir Matyes were exploring this land that they had come in to. They found no sign of inhabitants. There were virtually no buildings. They found forests full of game and apparently, no one living there who hunted them. They could find no fields, no farms, nothing to mark out borders. Just vast areas where no improvements at all had been made. “This is a wonderful land,” Sir Joopi said as he pulled up his horse. “I think we are finally safe here. We can split up and build our own places. King Jehan would never find us here.” So that is what they decided to do. Joopi determined to move further south, where the weather would be warmer and more to his liking. Sir Joopi decided to see what the north had to offer. “I will go east,” Sir Matyes said. “I’ll see how far it is to the sea and what that has to offer.”
The first chimera that Sir Joopi saw was a female. She was smaller than the males. She had pale green scales all over her body. She has a pink feather crest that started at the center of her brow between her eyes. It went down the middle of her back to approximately her waist. There is stopped. She also had what looked like a small, pink feathered, goatee on her face. She was riding a green scaled beasty. It moved with rather sudden movements, seeming to through its whole body from side to side. Its head was on a level with its shoulders. Horses heads might be, but almost never were.
He found a cave to stay in that night. A fire near the entrance of the cave kept him from freezing. But it was not quite warm enough to suit him. His horse was picketed near by and managed to get grazing and water.
Sir Kendrew went to the south. Although he did not know it yet, that was a mistake. He slept the first night in a cave like his compatriot did. Again he picketed his horse where it could find food and water. But he did not know about the male chimerans in a camp that was already moving north. The sources they were using for food were nearly exhausted. But they knew they would find good sources of food here in the north soon. They also knew that the females would be waking from their sleep and would be ready to mate. It had happened from time immemorial and it would happen again this year.
The next morning he arose and began to move further south. He found the hunting in this area pretty good. He managed to bring down deer by him-self and cook the meat. He stayed in that spot for a few days. He built a frame and smoked some of the meat that he could not eat himself. He buried the rest of it as deeply as he could. He did not want it to attract predators too soon. Even so, it did, and he had to kill some wolves to protect himself. So he had some dear hide that he experimented with tanning and some fine wolf hides too. He soon learned why the tanners were forced outside the city gates at home. The process stank. And he was not entirely successful with it.
Before he was finished, and ready to move further south, one of the bands of males moving north caught up with him. He saw them first and went to hide in a thicket. But their sense of smell was better than his. They smelled that there was something out of place here. They almost reacted violently when they smelled that tanning had been tried here. “Phaa,” one of them said to the other in their language. “Get a load of that scent. Someone has been trying to tan hides here.” “And not doing a very good job of it,” the other one complained.
They moved back to the camp then. But they were soon back. “I can’t believe,” the one said, still speaking their language, “That the king wants us to track down who is doing this.” “Maybe he wants to punish him for making such a mess of it,” the other replied. They backtracked towards where the smell was the strongest, which caused both of them some pain. There they found some tracks and it wasn’t long before they found Sir Kendrew.
He was watching for them coming in a different direction. They came up behind them and poked him in the shoulder with their swords. He turned fast and jumped up with his sword at the ready. They jumped back, their swords also at the ready. The fight was rather short. Sir Kendrew’s blade, which he thought he had done such a good job of forging for himself back in the cave they wintered in, was broken by the second slash. He surrendered immediately.
They marched him back to their camp where their leader wanted to see him. It was a male by the name of Dalb. “What’s this,” Dalb asked when his men got back and brought Sir Kendrew into the tent. “We found this at the place where someone was trying to tan leather,” his man said to him. “We do not know what it is, except that it is not female.”
Dalb walked around and around Sir Kendrew. “Did he have anything on him?” Dalb asked. “Only this poorly forged sword,” the man said, handing Dalb the handle of the sword. The broken blade was proof of the poor workmanship. “I’ll bet he tried to make this himself,” Dalb said, laughing. They did not mine or forge metal themselves, but used the blacksmith in the village. He turned out better work than that.
In another part of the forest, another female chimera awoke. This one had bred during the last breeding cycle. When she went into hibernation, she laid her eggs. Then she slept over them the whole winter, occasionally shivering to keep the eggs warm. During the winter, she occasionally shifted her weight around to turn them. And all of this without really waking. Now, as she woke in the spring, they were hatching, one male and one female. She got them fully out of the egg and ready. She had no food for them and
they would need that soon.
Moving to the outer part of the cave, her salamander was also waking up. This one was a female. Unlike her mistress, she could freeze during the winter. When the warmer weather came, her body would begin producing a natural defrosting agent. She too, had laid eggs when she began to fall asleep. But unlike her mistress, her eggs could also freeze. They would defrost as the weather continued to warm. In due time they would hatch without their mother or anyone around. They would begin to hunt for them- selves almost immediately. Unlike the other races, the chimera took all of their mounts from the wild.
The female got her salamander up and into the straps that it was now thoroughly used to wearing. She mounted it and got her children up behind her. In that way they learned to ride salamanders. They were born knowing how to walk. Then she began to look for the camps of the returning males. They would have the meat that all now needed to eat.
In another part of the forest, a female that had not bred the year before approached the camp of the males. She was stopped by the guardsman and dismounted. Her salamander was taken to an area where the others were being kept and fed. She was taken by the guard before the king. The guard scratched at the tents entrance. “Enter, “ the king said. The guard stepped in, the female remained outside. “What do you have for me?” the king asked in their own language. “The first female of the season,” the guard said, bowing as he stepped aside. “Good,” said the King, in a voluptuous manner. “Come in my dear,” he said. She stepped into his presence.
“Do you know who you are?” the King asked her. He did not want to know her name. In fact all chimerans had names that their mother’s had given them. But an exchange of names between mates was not considered essential. They would likely not be mates the next time. This was more form then anything. He proceeded to tell her. “You are the first female of this year’s season to approach our camp,” he said. “That means I will be your mate when the time comes,” she said. “Yes,” said the king. “So for now, come and eat.” As his mate, she was allowed to eat from his table. When she had gained sufficient weight, the mating would take place. She ate, but as yet the males did not have a lot of meat to offer. Yet their hunting parties were out. There would be more meat soon for both her and her salamander.
While Jehan and his entourage were on their way there, Jehan continued his language lessons. Storus had him repeating words for hello, good bye, want, need. Storus taught him how to speak his name, and some good manners. He also explained how to tell a male from a female. “The males have darker scaled and feathers,” Storus said. “They are the warriors and carry the weapons. The females are the mates and the mothers.” King Jehan learned as fast as he could. This was important to him. There was one last thing that Storus had to teach Jehan, “The king of the chimerans in this area is Kirillo.
Back in the other part of the forest the mother with her young approached a camp of the males. The guards challenged her. But as a female with young she was entitled to a share of their meat, and they knew it. She would not mate this year. But she would raise her young here and work tanning the leather and preparing the furs that would be traded to the humans. Then, when she returned to hibernation, her daughter would go with her. Her son would stay with these men and become a part of their group. He would learn to hunt, and, if he was lucky, be given a weapon to hunt with. So they gave her a piece of the meat they had. She tore smaller chunks off and gave it to her children. She tore the chunks small enough to that they could handle them. She ate the largest piece of meat herself. Soon enough the work would begin, and she would be happy to do it.
King Jehan approached the chimera camp. He was challenged by the guards. “Halt! Who goes there,” they hollered in their own language. King Jehan pulled his horse up. He did not understand what they said. But that was not necessary. It was clearly a challenge. The lead chimera was clearly a male. He had dark green scales, with a bright red feather crest started between his eyes and going down his back to his waist. He had a fed feather goatee. His mount was the lizerdoid that Sibelius had told Jehan to expect. He moved in the way all lizardoids moved.
“What is this?” the chimeran said. The king used what he knew of their language to try to explain himself to the man. “Well whatever you are,” the man said, “The King has given strict orders that you be brought to him. So come, he grabbed at the King’s charger’s bridle. His animal moved around, and the charger did not like it. That beast’s tail barley missed breaking the horses leg. Jehan gave him the command to be quiet and the animal behaved.
The king was led into the camp. There he was brought before the King of the Chimerans. This was an older male. His scales were a deeper darker green then the guards. The feather ridge that he had was darker too and so was the goatee on his chin. As King Jehan looked around, he saw what he thought might be females. They were smaller with lighter shaded scales, pink feather ridges and pink feather goatees. One of the things that he noticed was that the darkening of these colors seemed to indicate age. That chimera with very dark colors had difficulty rising and walking, as though they had gotten stiff with age.
As he got into one of the tents, he was roughly pointed toward one of the males sitting on a chair that made his head the highest one in the tent. He bowed to the man, recognizing his authority. The king spoke for a moment to his people. Then he spoke to King Jehan in a language so closely approximating human speech that the king dared to translate for himself. “You are who?” the King asked. “I am King Jehan of Shinna,” he said. “Humm,” the King said. It obviously took him a moment to translate what Jehan had said in his own mind. The king of the Chimera paced for a moment and then said, “You are here. Why?”
“I am looking for some men who raped my wife,” King Jehan said, too fast. “You are looking,” the Chimeran king asked after he had attempted to translate Jehan’s answer to himself. “For what?” the king continued. “For men,” Jehan indicated himself as a help to the other king. “For men?” the king asked, getting the right idea, but not quite sure. Jehan nodded his head. This seemed to please the Chimeran king. “No men,” the king made a swift downward cutting movement with his hand. That usually meant not here. But it was unclear whether it meant not here now, or that they had never been here. Jehan responded, somewhat dejected by that news, by slumping his shoulders.
“You come back, other man,” the King said. “Him from town. He talk. He tell me what you are, what you want.” He gave a dismissing gesture. King Jehan bowed and backed from the tent. It was seldom a good idea to turn your back on a king. He then went to get his horse and left the camp.
It wasn’t long before he was back at his own camp. “How did it go?” Sir Fridolf could hardly wait to ask. Sibelius was right behind him and Storus right behind him. “About as we expected,” King Jehan said. “I am to return to them soon, bringing you with me,” he indicated Storus. They entered the King’s tent. They were there for the rest of the night, planning what they would do.
“There is one thing that you should know,” Sibelius said. “The mounts of the chimerans are salamanders. They are very strong and they can kill horses, shee, and pegasi. Like most animals, they frighten easily of what they do not know. If they have gone to the town they do know horses. But I believe that they do not know pegasi or my people.” “Then in the morning you’d better take your camp away,” King Jehan said. “We found an area,” Sibelius said while he drew a crude map. “It seems to be here, just over the ridge we saw. It looks like a good place to camp. We will plan to go there at first light. Also, I will be sending some of my men back to the capitol for more supplies for us. We grow low. We do not eat the meat that the chimerans supply. It makes us too heavy to fly.”
“We will look for you camped there,” Jehan indicated the place on the map, “and you may send for whatever supplies you need.” He patted the shee on the back carefully as the man left.
In the meantime, in the other part of the forest, Sir Kendrew was getting used to the idea that he was now a slave. The process was a long and difficult one. First a slave had to be beaten. The chimera had whips of their own making. For they could make fine leather goods when they wanted to. They tied Kendrew to a tree and began the process. Soon his back dripped red blood. This was not like their blood, but some of the chimerans knew that humans did not bleed the same way they did. “Keep going,” one of their warriors, who seemed to be in charge said, “until he loses consciousness. Then take him down.” They did, and in a few minutes he did.
“Put him in one of the tents,” the person in charge said, “and rub the bear fat on his back. When it is time to move, we’ll put him in a wagon until he is more recovered.” “Do you think he understands he is a slave yet,” one of the warriors said. “With a little luck he understood that the moment he was captured.”
Kendrew slept very fitfully in the tent. When they came to get him in the morning he was running a raging fever. They rubbed some more bear fat on his wounds. It hurt for a while, but then began to soothe. For a full day he was delirious and running a fever. He was every bit as sick as the Queen had been and as Shishak had been. The female with the young was brought to keep an eye on him. If he recovered, maybe he would be her slave.
That day another female approached this camp. She had not mated the previous year and she was the first one without children to approach this camp of males. So, as was customary, she was brought to their leader. Dalb said to her, “Do you know who you are?” She did not answer him. “You are the first female going to breed this year who has approached our camp. Do you know who that makes you, my mate.” She too knew what that meant. She was the mate of the leader, and would receive preferential treatment. She would probably put on weight the soonest and be ready to breed the soonest.