What Lies Beyond the Walls, Book II: Chapter 9

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9 of What Lies Beyond the Walls: Book II As the Long Patrol rests in the swamps, Lillen talks with the prisoner in an attempt to uncover information. And upon doing so, she realizes that everybeast is in grave danger.


XXXIII

Strong and Independent

She was trying not to antagonize the other beast. She couldn't flick her eyes at him suspiciously or chew with her mouth open. Part of her didn't want to chew at all; she knew the food in her mouth could fly right out with a quick jab to her face. So she sat still and ate her dinner as she listened to the hare across from her grumble. He suddenly slammed a fist on the table and swore. The hare lowered her bread and cheese and huffed.

"Wot's wrong now?"

The other hare rubbed his chin for a moment. Then he glared at the female hare and blinked. "Saw the Dougleys' garden t'day. They showed me 'round all the vegetables an' some fruit they got growin'. Those otters got enough vittles o'er there to feed a camp, yet here we are, eatin' the same fuckin' cheese an' the same fuckin' bread every night."

The female hare closed her eyes. "Don't start with me. I'm not in the mood..."

"Don't start wot, Lill?"

"This. Every night you gotta complain about somethin'. You whine and you bitch, yet you don't ever try to get shit done."

The male hare flared his nostrils. "Don't get shit done? I'm the one who-who busts his arse--"

"Oh sure, yeah. You leave home and yer gone all day, then you and your pals come back empty-pawed and stinkin' of wine or grog. Meanwhile, I'm the beast tryin' to make a decent home. I'm the beast who has t'go out and hunt and fish. The fuck do you do all day?"

The hare scoffed. "I don't gotta answer to you, female. You're not--"

"Wot, yer slave?" The female hare laughed. "You're right. I'm not your slave. I'm not s-some beast you wrap a collar around. I'm not some servant who bows in your presence and-and does all the shit you tell me to do. I'm your fiancée, Cholly!"

Cholly looked at the hare across from him and blinked. "That's right, Lillen. You are my fiancée."

Cholly grabbed an empty glass from the table and tossed it at the wall. Lillen flicked her eyes at the broken glass just when Cholly stood up. Before the hare had time to ask Cholly what he was doing, he grabbed the underside of the table and tipped it sideways. Lillen shouted and scooted backwards as the table was flipped upside-down, sending all the dishware and food onto the floor. As the din started to cease, Cholly stomped over to Lillen and pointed at her face.

"You're my fiancée, Lillen! That means you do wotever the fuck I tell you! My fiancée cleans the house! My fiancée doesn't serve me the same bullshit every fuckin' night! My fiancée lies still when I fuck her; she doesn't try to fight me off or crawl away when I'm on top of her!"

Lillen couldn't say anything. She was shaking as she sat in the chair, flicking her eyes between her hot-headed fiancé and the shattered plates and bowls on the floor. Cholly sniffled and rubbed his nose with his arm.

"We fell in love fer a reason, Lillen. You love me. You need me. Without me, yer just some stupid cunt with a pretty face. You do know that, right?"

"...Yes."

Cholly nodded. "Course you do. Now...apologize for upsetting me."

Lillen blinked twice and looked up at Cholly. "Sorry," she mumbled.

"I didn't hear you."

"...I'm sorry, Cholly."

The male hare grinned very slowly. "I know you are."

Cholly turned around and started to walk towards the bedroom. He kicked one of the fallen glasses aside and snorted.

"Clean this shit up."

Lillen didn't answer. She kept staring at her fiancé as he headed into the bedroom and slammed the door shut. Once she was finally by herself, she let out a tiny sob and covered her mouth as her eyes started to water.


They knew how to make the best of their situation, despite where they were at. The swamps still hadn't changed since the last time they wandered through here. All the trees were leaning and covered in moss and fungi. The branches hung low, with thin, slimy weeds dangling from them. The earth was soggy and greenish-brown; it was impossible for any of them to traverse the area without getting the muck on their footpaws. Incongruent purple and blue flowers grew around the trees and near smooth rocks. Nearly every tree in the swamp was riddled with polypores, and the beech stumps had hornworts or liverworts growing on them. A bitter-scented bog was located several yards north of where the Long Patrol had set up camp. Every now and then, small units of hares would scope out the bog to see if intruders were hiding in the trees, or they'd use the bog as their personal latrine.

But Lillen didn't let the dark and dreary swamp bring her spirits down. She and a few other hares had a fire going with a few lit lanterns lying beside them. The sound of the fire crackling and the swamp bubbling in the distance comforted her. She picked up a stick and poked at the fire a few times while the hare sitting across from her moved his paws above the flames.

"Least it's quiet tonight," said Watson.

Lillen blinked. "Not fond of crickets an' chirping birds?"

"No. It's just...silent. I actually like to hear m'self think."

"You mean you prefer not hearin' a giant badger roaring and screamin' orders at you?" asked a chubby sergeant.

Watson smirked. "That too."

The sergeant shrugged. "It must be hard for him, after wot happened in Tearmann. That was the one time we had a chance to relax and it all went to Hellgates."

"Yeah, well, that ain't no excuse for Urthquake to act the way he's acting now."

"He's got a point, Chigra," Lillen added. "We've all been through hell lately, and we're not goin' around snapping at everybeast."

"As I said, it's hard for him. He doesn't seem t'know how to...y'know, deal with shit."

"Course he does," Lillen responded. "Few bifurcated vermin and blood splashed on his paws perks him right up, wot!"

Lillen laughed to herself and smiled. But when she noticed Sergeant Chigra and Major Watson scowling at her, she blinked and started to frown. The hare cleared her throat and scratched one of her ears.

"D'you think he's going to get better?" Watson suddenly asked.

"Hmm?"

"Our Badger Lord. D'you think he'll get better?"

Chigra and Lillen flicked their eyes at each other. Chigra shifted around on the log she was sitting on while Lillen rubbed her arms and stuck her paws above the flames to warm them. Her ears moved a few times as she heard some of the ooze in the bog bubbling and the fire crackling. The corporal was hoping the sergeant would answer first, but Chigra was just as silent as she was. Lillen looked up at the major, surprised to see that he was still staring at her.

"It's hard to say. Beasts say they'll change, but you know how that story goes."

"Wot Urthquake needs is to stop being a Badger Lord fer a while," Chigra added.

Lillen blinked. "Wot?"

"Yeah! Y'know, jus' take a break from it all. And I'm not talkin' about a one-night romp in some village. We all go on relief after a few seasons--sometimes we're gone from the patrol for a whole season, maybe two."

"And then we get dragged right back in."

"After we've had our break. How would you feel if you had to walk 'round these woods nonstop without ever takin' a break? Eventually you'd just shut down--"

"Or lose yer fuckin' mind," Watson butted in.

Sergeant Chigra snorted. "Okay, Watson, we get it. Urthquake is havin' issues with his sanity. We saw him in Tearmann, all naked an' covered in blood; we saw him nearly kill Corporal Bonson. We fuckin' know, okay? Maybe instead of sittin' here snidely whinin' about it, you could go over and try to calm the beast's mind, wot!"

"There is no 'calming' a beast like him. All he cares about is violence an' doin' things the hard way."

"And yet you still follow him and carry out his orders. I didn't see you hesitating back in Blackheart's fortress when we were gutting those vermin left an' right. I didn't see you cryin' yer eyes out after Urthquake chopped that pregnant vermin in half."

"That's 'cos I'm desensitized to it now. I've seen him do so much heinous stuff like that ever since I joined that it's normal to me now. I'd be worried if he didn't do something like that."

"Aaaaaaaaand you are still here. You're still supporting Urthquake. You're still killing under his commands. If you hate wot he does so much, you woulda left the patrol seasons ago. Yer jus' lookin' for somethin' t'whine about to validate your own hypocrisy. So either leave the patrol or shut your fuckin' mouth, wot!"

Lillen glared at Watson and Chigra as the two beasts kept scowling at each other. She moved her paws backward as the fire crackled and a spark nearly landed on her right paw. Lillen sniffed and chuckled as she looked at the two creatures.

"I think this swamp gas is startin' to get to you two!"

"Don't change the subject," Watson growled.

"I'm not. Look around you, Major. We're in the middle of a pitch-black swamp at night. It stinks, it's murky an' humid, and the ground is covered in wet, sticky sludge that's getting caught 'tween our toes. We haven't bathed in days, and several of us got food poisoning or some sort of rash on our bodies. Everybeast is on edge since the Tearmann massacre; I sure as shit know I am. But we're still a team here...we're still a family. Now is not the time to start turnin' on each other due to our current situation."

Watson turned and faced Lillen. "D'you trust our Badger Lord?"

Lillen smacked a paw against her forehead. "You didn't hear a word I said, did you?"

Watson shrugged. "S'a simple question. D'you trust Urthquake or not?"

Chigra folded her arms and butted in. "Yes. So wot if he's committed some 'immoral' acts in the past? We all have. Fuckin' deal with it."

Watson turned and looked at Lillen next, waiting for an answer. But Lillen didn't respond. She stared at the major's dark brown eyes and blinked. Then she started to ponder, and her ears lowered as she looked at the ground. Maybe he was right, or maybe he was a hypocrite. But Lillen knew from what she saw that something was wrong with Urthquake, that the Badger Lord was losing control. She couldn't say "yes," not without sounding reluctant. She was starting to open her mouth when she heard muttering and a few wet squelches a few feet away from her.

"Fuckin' shrooms...confounded..."

The three hares looked into the darkness and saw a plump hare in blue materialize from the shadows. Becker stomped towards the campfire gritting his teeth and scratching his arms and back. The hare blinked twice as he looked at the other soldiers.

"Augh, can't wait 'til we get outta this bloody swamp, wot! Think those shrooms I ate gave me a rash!"

Lillen smirked. "Least you ain't got the trots."

Becker snickered as he started to scratch his rump. "Yeah, thank goodness for that. ...So wotcha talkin' 'bout?"

"Oh, y'know, jus' wonderin' wot we're gonna do with that prisoner we got," Chigra lied.

"Yes. That's wot we were talking about," Watson snidely remarked.

Captain Becker sat down beside Lillen and grumbled as he scratched around his thighs noisily. "No point in guessin' 'bout that! We're gonna find out all she knows an' then we're gonna kill her."

"You don't think she'll be valuable as an ally?" Watson asked.

"As an asset, maybe. But there's no way we're workin' with vermin again--not after wot happened last time. We got enough trouble as it is havin' the Shadows on our side."

"So Urthquake's gonna rape her until she either bleeds out and dies or until she finally cracks an' tells us wot she knows," Watson concluded.

Becker shrugged. "S'long as we figure out where this bloody tribe is."

"Right. We'll jus' look the other way when it comes to torture."

"Are you intentionally trying to find somethin' to complain about?" Chigra asked. "You gonna start complaining about piss bein' yellow, or why rain gets yer fur wet?"

Lillen kept glancing at all of the hares as they continued to bicker at one another. She kept her mouth shut and listened to all of their arguments as opposed to abruptly cutting any of them off.

"You said it was a mistake lettin' Lakler join the patrol 'cos of where he came from. You said it was a mistake hirin' the Shadows to begin with. An' now yer sayin' that Urthquake is makin' the wrong choices with how he's treating the weasel we caught," said Becker.

"Fine, fuck it. Ignore me an' all my logical suggestions. We'll just keep blindly following a thick-skulled tyrant who nearly killed one of us in a fit of anger."

Chigra rubbed her forehead. "Fer fuck's sake--d'you seriously jus' call Urthquake a tyrant? Is that wot you think he is?"

"He goes 'round committing reckless decisions that usually involve brute force and death. If none of us like wot he does, he usually screams at us to either leave the patrol or to shut up and deal with it."

"That don't make him a tyrant!" Becker shouted.

"Course not. Jus' makes him an arsehole who wants you to play by his rules, or else."

"Like I said earlier," Chigra started, "if Urthquake is so horrible, then either leave or do somethin' about it. But don't sit 'ere and keep sulking like a li'l bitch, wot!"

Lillen huffed and grabbed one of the lanterns on the ground. Then she stood up and started to walk in the opposite direction. Becker raised an eyebrow and turned around.

"Where you goin'?"

"To speak with the prisoner m'self."

"You really think she'll open up to ya?"

"It's better than sittin' here with our thumbs up our arses, innit?"

Becker suddenly stopped scratching his bottom and gradually moved his paw away from his tailhole. He sniffed and rubbed his nose. "All right then. Just be careful, yeah?"

"I will."

Lillen turned away from the campfire and descended into the darkness, with only the lantern and a few fireflies to brighten up the path.


Lillen stopped for a moment so she could rub her blackened eye. The hare winced and closed it, still wondering how long it would be before the bruise went away. She didn't try to touch her chest or feel around her tailhole again; it was better if she didn't grope either of those sore areas. The hare turned to her right and glared at Cholly as he finished washing his face in the river. Lillen huffed as she started to walk towards the bank and bent over so she could grab one of the backpacks. As she bent, the hare's fiancé turned and looked at her with a smirk on his face.

"No, honey. Turn 'round so I can see."

Lillen shut her eyes and huffed. But she obeyed, unless she wanted to get another black eye. As she turned and bent over, she wagged her short tail, presenting herself to the male hare. She thought Cholly was going to pounce on her again, but then she heard soft footsteps and felt Cholly's presence behind her. Lillen stood straight up, and then she grunted when Cholly wrapped his arms around her. She closed her eyes and sniffed as Cholly rumbled and moved his paws around her body. The male hare rubbed her stomach and chest with one paw before using the other to grope Lillen's orifices.

"You're beautiful. You know that, yeah?"

"Yes, I know..."

"Mm. Shame you still won't give me babes though."

Lillen didn't respond. She gritted her teeth and swore in her mind, hoping Cholly couldn't see the fist she was making. Cholly kissed her on the back of her neck and growled in her ears.

"Let's try again. Maybe it'll happen this time."

Lillen started to shake when Cholly squeezed her rump with one paw and moved the other dangerously close to her vulva.

"Hmm? C'mon, let's have another go at it!"

Lillen couldn't take it. She threw her arms up and broke out of Cholly's grasp. Then she stepped forward and started to breathe heavily. Cholly raised an eyebrow.

"Wot's wrong? Don't you wanna fuck again?"

"No," Lillen blurted out.

"No?"

"I'm not doin' this again, Cholly. I'm not in the mood and I don't have the fuckin' time right now."

"We've all the time in the world, darling! Why would you--"

"I DON'T--" Lillen turned around and huffed. "Not now, Cholly."

Lillen looked at the hare's face and frowned. His smirk quickly turned into a disappointed scowl, and then he started squinting. Cholly nodded very slowly.

"You think I'm not good enough. You think I don't deserve that cunt of yours. You-you think I don't deserve to raise children, is that it?!"

"NO! I-I didn't say--"

Cholly huffed. "Now you fuckin' ruined it. How am I s'posed to fuck you when I'm this upset?! You happy now you ungrateful bitch?!"

"I wasn't--pu-please, Cholly! I didn't mean--I didn't...I was--"

"Shut yer mouth you stupid cunt!"

Lillen whimpered and backed away. "I'm..."

"Is this how it's gonna be?! You gonna keep fuckin' everything up and messing up my future, my dreams of becoming a father?"

"I..."

Cholly scoffed. "Why do I even bother? I have a better chance of impregnating a searat than I do with you!"

Lillen shut her eyes and whimpered. "Cholly..."

"Wot good are you anyway? You don't cook the food I wanna eat; you don't wanna fuck when I'm hard; you can't bear babes--why the fuck are we even mated with each other?!"

"Cholly..."

"You may as well throw yourself over to a band of pirates an' let 'em use yer arse for entertainment, wot! You're better off being some greasy weasel's slave than my mate."

"SHUT THE FUCK UP, CHOLLY!" Lillen bellowed.

Cholly stared at his fiancée with wide eyes just as Lillen started to approach him. "Wot good are you?! You think you should be proud of wot you do to me?! You think constantly talking down to me or beating me is something to take pride in?! Wot the fuck are you, Cholly? Oh, that's right: some cocksucker who doesn't know how to cook or clean or how to fight properly. I bet all your friends would love to see you hit me in front of them!"

"You watch your fuckin' mouth," Cholly snarled.

"Why, Cholly? You gonna hit me again?"

Lillen shouted and fell to the ground after Cholly punched her in the jaw. She whimpered and lied still as she tasted blood in her mouth. The hare groaned and rubbed her mandible as Cholly towered over her, his right paw clenched into a fist.

"Get up."

Lillen panted as she gradually got to her footpaws. She stood in front of her fiancé and stared at the scowling hare.

"Now apologize."

Lillen nodded. "Okay."

The female hare opened her mouth to say "I'm sorry." But before the words could come out, Lillen made a fist of her own and punched Cholly in the left eye. Cholly shouted after he was caught off-guard and stumbled backwards. He looked at Lillen with shock and barely had time to react when she ran towards him and punched him in the stomach. Cholly groaned and bent over while Lillen snarled and punched him in the temple. Cholly quickly recovered and ducked when Lillen tried to punch him in the face again. While crouched, Cholly hit Lillen in the groin, causing her to shout and back away. Cholly stood straight up and grab Lillen's ears. He growled and tightened his grip on her, moments before he held her steady and punched her in the nose once, twice, thrice. Lillen moaned and coughed as blood started to run down her nose. She wheezed as Cholly planted his fist into her throat next, nearly damaging her vocal cords in the process. Cholly shoved the hare into the muddy water, and Lillen found herself face-down in the cold river.

The abusive hare got on his knees and shoved his paw on the back of Lillen's head, forcing her to swallow and breathe in the water. Lillen thrashed her head around and mumbled as the water crept into her maw. She jerked her arms backwards and moved her head around, desperately trying to fight off Cholly. She moved her right paw beneath the murky water and dug her fingers into the earth, gathering up a clod of mud. Then she aimlessly threw the clod to her left in hopes of hitting Cholly in the face. She missed, but Cholly had to veer his head away; he moved so quickly that he slipped and toppled backwards. Lillen lifted her head and gasped after the hare's paw slipped off her head. Then she turned and went straight for Cholly; the beast jumped on top of him and pinned him down. She punched him in the throat once before jabbing him in the nose three times. Cholly smacked her across the face, sending the hare back into the river. Cholly rolled over and was about to attack his fiancée again when Lillen reacted and instinctively reached for the hilt of Cholly's sword. Cholly didn't know what was happening until it was too late.

Lillen removed the sabre as swiftly as possible and swiped it sideways. Cholly fell down screaming while Lillen stood up and started to pant. She backed away from Cholly as the hare sat on the ground grasping his knee. Cholly swore twice as he tried to stand up. Blood was already running down his left leg; Lillen cut him so deep that the bone was almost showing.

"Y-you...you fuckin' bitch. You fucking BITCH! GIVE IT BACK!"

Lillen backed away as Cholly hobbled towards her.

"I SAID GIVE IT BACK!"

Cholly reached out and tried to snatch the sword away with his right paw. There was a single swift, vertical stroke of the sabre. And then Cholly went down, minus three of the fingers on his paw. Cholly screamed horrifically as the blood squirted from his severed fingers. He grabbed his paw and tried to stop the bleeding, but clutching his wounded paw only worsened the injury. He tried to stand back up, but the cut felt like it was already festering, unleashing a colossal amount of pain he couldn't tolerate. Cholly fell down to his side and started whimpering and shaking. Lillen slowly walked up to her fiancé and pointed the sabre at him. Cholly looked up at the hare with tears in his eyes. He held up his other paw and stuttered.

"W-wait...wait..."

Lillen kept staring at him, ready to finish him off.

"Please don't..."


Maybe this wasn't the best idea, but it was better than sitting around acting querulous like Watson. At least this way, there was a chance of the battalion finding some crucial information that would lead them forward. Lillen walked through the dark swamp meticulously, stepping as softly as possible and looking down at the ground. The last thing she wanted was to fall into one of the bottomless bogs. The corporal continued along the soggy path in front of her until she came across a lieutenant pacing in front of the weasel. The lieutenant saw the lit lantern in Lillen's paw and snorted.

"Hey, Blitzfur," Lillen said.

"Damn. Thought you were Honward."

Lillen blinked. "Wot about him?"

"He and Jadden were s'posed to take watch over the prisoner tonight. I've been walkin' in the same footsteps fer over an hour, wot!"

"They prob'ly fell asleep."

"I wouldn't be surprised. Everybeast is either sick or exhausted--including me. Think I got this rash on my back."

Lillen smiled as she observed Blitzfur scratching himself. "I'll take over. You go find Jadden and Hon, and get that rash looked at too."

"You sure you'll be okay on your own?"

"She's tied up, Blitz. An' even if she weren't, her leg's broken and it's the middle of the night. She wouldn't get far even if she did escape."

Blitzfur nodded. "Awright. Jus' holler if you need me."

Blitzfur picked up his own lantern and walked away from the weasel, grumbling as he resumed rubbing his back. Lillen walked in front of the weasel scout and blinked, taking note of how she looked. Her clothing wasn't ripped, but she appeared to have a few bruises and scratches on her face--some of the hares must've roughed her up. Her leg was still broken, although it looked like Lieutenant Hollis put some kind of poultice or herb on it to keep the wound from getting infected. Her footpaws were bound tightly with rope, and her paws were tied in front of her chest. She also seemed tired; her eyes were half-closed, and her head was lolling to the right. It wasn't until Lillen held the lantern in front of her eyes that the weasel inhaled loudly and sat straight up. The corporal smirked as she looked at the prisoner. She set the lantern down and stared at her. This is gonna be easy, she thought. Lillen smacked her paws together and rubbed them slowly.

"So, uh...how you want this to play out? Should I give the whole 'tell me wot I wanna know or I'll hurt you' speech? Maybe I should reassure you, tell you we'll release you if you talk. Eh, I could also just kill you, save us all the trouble. Hmm...so many options..."

The weasel blinked and flared her nostrils. Lillen could tell that the beast didn't care about her plans and that she wanted her to get it over with. Lillen sniffed and started to pace in Blitzfur's footsteps.

"I'm sure they gave you all those speeches, didn't they? The giant badger, Urthquake? All these other hares?"

The vermin still stayed silent. Lillen nodded. "Course they did. I could blow more words at you too, but frankly, I'm tired of that bullshit. So how's about I tell you how this will work out for you?"

The weasel raised her eyebrow. Lillen stopped walking and smirked. "We're both females here. We're both surrounded by all these masculine beasts who think they rule the forest. But you and I both know that their decisions are wot's screwin' up the world. 'Hey, let's ram down a gate an' hope nobeast on the other side will kill us!'"

Lillen pointed behind her shoulder with her thumb. "My Badger Lord's strategy for takin' down a fortress. He only cares about one thing: killin' you vermin. It don't matter how many of us hares end up gettin' sent to the Dark Forest so long as he can fuel his fuckin' bloodlust every day. ...Lost a very good friend of mine that day. I had to sit there an' watch him bleed out after his stomach was sliced open. Shame...he was really funny, too. Always liked to...ah, but yer not concerned about that."

Lillen sat across from the weasel as opposed to next to her. She wanted to have a clear view of the weasel so she would know if she was trying to escape.

"Some males out there see us and think we're a walking cunt. Some males see us as fragile, tiny creatures. They beat us, they tell us we're worthless, that we'll never amount to anything in life. And I...if we just sit there and do nothing, then eventually, that is wot we'll be: walking, worthless cunts who let others take advantage of us."

The weasel blinked and lowered her eyes. Lillen picked up on the way she shuffled around uncomfortably. Maybe she was tired and sore and wanted the ropes cut off. But the corporal had a feeling that she just hit a nerve.

"Yer leader, it's a female, ain't it?"

The weasel looked back up at Lillen and nodded.

"Thought so. See, we actually think about our decisions, 'bout wot actions to take. Only somebeast like your leader would be smart enough to attack a place like Tearmann at night, on the same day when they're havin' a massive romp and are naked and unprepared. And when you all saw our Badger Lord sufferin' from the Bloodwrath, you swallowed yer pride an' ran."

The weasel snorted. "Ye still haven't told me 'ow to help me."

Lillen grinned. "Simple. Make yourself valuable. They're not the boss; you are. Let my Badger Lord an' anybeast else know that you set the rules 'round here. You're surrounded by very, very hungry hares. Dangle a carrot in front of their mouths. Tell 'em that if they hurt you, then they'll never get said carrot. Get wot I'm sayin'?"

The weasel grinned. Now Lillen was starting to worry. She was hoping the vermin wouldn't throw reverse psychology in her direction. She was starting to regret this decision; she wasn't a specialist or somebeast who went around reading other beasts' minds. Was the weasel playing her? Was she pretending to act nice as a way to lower her guard? Lillen stuck her tongue in her cheeks and rubbed her paws again. Keep staring, she told herself. Let's see wot she says.

"Aye. I unnerstand."

Lillen nodded. "Good. So, mind showin' us this carrot?"

The weasel chuckled. "Angus Renhym. That's yer carrot."

Fuck, thought Lillen. The hare blinked and started to frown for a brief second. But she forced herself to stay calm, despite the unnerving revelation the weasel dropped in her lap.

"Angus, huh? Heard that name a few times. He's workin' with yer leader?"

"No. He's here, right now. He came with me t'spy on alla ye."

Fuck! Fucking, fucking--you have to be shitting me right now, thought Lillen. Lillen lowered her head and released an awkward cough to prevent herself from swearing out loud. The hare nodded slowly and smiled. Then she grabbed her lantern and began to stand.

"Yeah, see, there ya go! Now jus'...just keep doin' that when my Badger Lord questions you. I guarantee you, after a while, he'll let you go an' we both get to go home happy."

"Where's my carrot?"

Lillen blinked. "Wot?"

"Ye said we both go home happy. But none a' ye held a carrot in front of me face yet."

The weasel grinned again. "So where is it?"

Lillen chuckled softly. "In due time...you'll see it in due time."

The hare couldn't continue. Talking to that weasel didn't do her any favors. All she knew now was that a target was painted on her back, and she didn't know where or when Angus would try to hit it. Lillen broke out into a jog as she hurried to find Urthquake and the others before Angus attacked.


"Please..."

Lillen stared at the pathetic hare lying on the bank of the river. The sword was beginning to feel heavy in her paws. She started shaking even though she wasn't panting or exerting as much energy as before. All she had to do was shove the sabre into the beast's chest, and it'd be over. She wouldn't have to deal with who used to be her fiancé any longer. Lillen didn't see any reason to leave the beast alive. And yet, as she moved the sabre closer to his body, she felt uneasy. Lillen closed her eyes and turned her head away. Then she lowered the sword and huffed. Cholly lowered his paw and exhaled with relief.

"...Now give it back," Cholly mumbled.

Lillen lifted her eyebrow as she looked at the hare. "Wot?"

"G-give...give it back...gimme my sword."

Lillen looked at the shivering hare still resting on the ground and sucked on her teeth. She shook her head.

"I think I'll keep it."

"You...you fuckin' bitch. Wot...wot d'you think yer doin'?"

Lillen turned around and looked at the sunny, clear forest behind her. Then she looked back at Cholly as he scowled at her and simmered in the mud.

"Leaving."

"No...we-we've been through this before. You can't--"

Cholly shouted when he tried to stand back up. He fell to the ground again and groaned as the muddy water seeped into his knee.

"You can't fuckin' leave me!"

Lillen shrugged. "D'you have my paws tied? Am I chained to a wall? Heh, I don't think so."

"Where you gonna go? Huh?! Wot the fuck you gonna do with your life without me?! You won't last a fuckin' week out there! You need me, you stupid cunt! Wit-without me, yer gonna be all alone. There's nobeast-nobeast out there who loves you like I do! You wanna be alone? You wanna die alone? That it?!"

"Yes," Lillen said bluntly.

"YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME!"

"Why do you even care? After all, I'm just a stupid cunt with a pretty face. 'Member? And evidently, I'm not capable of managing myself in a fight. I mean, I still have all my fingers, and I can still walk, but wot do I know, right?"

Lillen turned around and scoffed. "Truth is, I don't know wot'll happen t'me. But I'm sure you'll find another beast out there you 'truly' love. No need to worry 'bout me. I'll be fine. And so will you. Even though you can't walk and have three less fingers."

Lillen started to walk away. She didn't hesitate or have second thoughts. She was better off this way, whether Cholly liked it or not.

"Lillen...Lillen, come back here! Get your fuckin' arse back here, Lillen!"

Lillen kept walking. She didn't even shout "goodbye" to him. He didn't deserve to have that luxury.

"YOU STUPID FUCKING CUNT! LILLEN! GET THE FUCK BACK HERE! LILLEN!"


Lillen stopped running as soon as she found the badger sitting alongside a few other hares over a campfire. Colonel Clannin glanced at the panting corporal and blinked.

"Somethin' wrong, Lill?"

"Angus...Angus Renhym," she said, still out of breath.

"Wot about him?"

"He's here, in the swamp! I think he's been watching us this whole time!"

Some of the hares immediately stood up and grabbed the hilt of their swords. A few others started to look around the swamp and up into the trees. Colonel Clannin swore and rose from the beech stump he was sitting on.

"Shit."

"You can't be serious."

"Angus fuckin' Renhym is here?! I-I thought that weasel was stuck in the Northlands somewhere?!"

Lillen shook her head. "No. He-he's here. He has to be."

Urthquake turned and stared at Lillen. "And just how do you know this?"

"I talked to the prisoner."

"And why were you talking to her when I told everybeast not to interact with her until morning? How do you know she's not lying?"

"Is that really important right now?!"

"It is. That weasel could've lied to you to upset you, to get you anxious. Because of that, you're not going to focus; you're going to wander around this swamp thinking there's a mysterious ghost watching you ready to shout 'boo' at any moment. Which means you won't be focused on the real threats out here."

"M'lord, that weasel hasn't said a word to us since we captured her. I think we should take her word for it," said Major Fenson.

"Yeah. I think we should be on alert if a maniac like Angus Renhym is out here," said Sanjoy.

The badger was about to open his mouth when everybeast heard squishy footsteps in the distance. A few hares gasped and turned in the direction of the sound, while Urthquake flicked his eyes behind him and flared his nostrils. But instead of seeing another weasel, they only saw Blitzfur holding his lantern. Colonel Clannin stared at the hare and huffed.

"Fuck's sake. You almost gave us a heart attack, wot!"

"Sorry. I just thought they were over here."

"Thought who was over here?" asked Fenson.

"Hon and Jadden. I can't seem to find 'em anywhere."

Now the beasts were starting to get worried. Lillen flicked her eyes at Urthquake as if she wanted to say "See?" in a sneering tone. But she kept her mouth closed. Blitzfur looked at everybeast's apprehensive faces and blinked.

"Wot's wrong?"

Urthquake snorted and stood up. "Wake everybeast up. Travel in groups--do not venture off alone. You see something or hear something wrong, you come find me or you go get help. Don't try to take on this beast by yourselves, got it?"

"Yes, sir," said all the hares, except Blitzfur.

"Wot the hell's goin' on?!" Blitzfur demanded.

"Angus Renhym might be tracking us. I want you and Lillen to go find Hon and Jadden. Check around the bog; they could be over there."

Blitzfur's ears drooped. "An-Angus Renhym? The Angus Renhym?"

"We can shit ourselves later, Blitz," said Lillen. "We gotta find the others!"

The duo wasted no time with their search. As soon as they split from the main group, the two hares started to jog around the swamp desperately looking for the other soldiers. They didn't call out their names though; they tried to draw little attention to themselves. Whenever either hare heard a strange gurgling noise, a branch creaking, or the wind whistling in their ears, the duo stopped and turned down the flame within their lanterns. Lillen looked up into the sky, hoping the moon or the stars would brighten up the swamp. But all the drooping trees blocked out any form of light. The hare swore and pressed her back against a tree laden with polypores whilst Blitzfur crouched down and started to huff noisily. Lillen flicked her eyes at the lieutenant and exhaled softly.

"Calm down, Lieutenant. Take slow breaths--keep yourself steady," Lillen whispered.

"I-I can't. I can't fu-fuckin' calm down, Corporal!"

"You'll be fine, sah."

"Fine? Hehe, 'fine' she says. I've been here this whole fuckin' time and I haven't done anything memorable up until now! D'you have any idea how vulnerable I am? I may as well wear a red coat fer fuck's sake!"

"You're being ridiculous, Lieutenant. Everybeast in this battalion knows you look ugly in red."

Blitz snorted and shook his head. Lillen waited until the noises in the background settled down before she turned the flame back up on her lantern. After brightening up the area, the hares resumed their search and started to sniff the air, hoping to catch wind of either hares' scents. Blitzfur quickly walked beside Lillen, constantly jerking his head left and right to make sure nobeast snuck up on him.

"So, uh, um...how you an' Becker doin'?"

Lillen blinked. "Oh, I'm fine. He's doin' well too. Why?"

"I mean...you-you know. You two, um...getting close or--"

Lillen sighed. "Are you askin' if we fucked already?"

"NO! ...Why, did you?"

"No, Lieutenant. Wot makes you think we did?"

"I saw you kissin' him in Tearmann. He wasted no time, did he?"

"We weren't kissin'! He was upset and I calmed him down. I rubbed my nose against his."

Blitzfur paused. "You rubbed your nose against his? Are you serious?"

Lillen scoffed. "Yes! Why we even talkin' about this right now?"

"I'm sorry--just-just, y'know, nervous. I talk a lot when-when I'm, uh, when I might die soon."

"Again, you pick now to bring up a conversation like this?"

"Wot else are we gonna chat about, wot?"

"I dunno. Um, wot are yer plans when you retire from the Long Patrol?"

"Uh, nooooooooo, I am not doing that, mkay? Retirement, family, wearing red--those are the three things a soldier should never bring up or do, wot! I say I'm gonna retire tomorrow, BAM! Dead. I say I gotta a gorgeous wife at home, BOOM! Dead. I wear red--"

"Yeah, yeah, you die."

"Exactly. ...So you and Beck. That goin' anywhere?"

Lillen rolled her eyes. "I like him, all right? He's nice and funny, and I think his belly and his fat butt looks cute. There. Now can you please shut the fuck up 'fore I rip yer ears off?"

"Oh, okay. So yer definitely not his mate then."

Lillen ignored him. "Just keep moving. Maybe...hold up."

Lillen looked up ahead near the bog and saw a faint glimmer of light near a set of moss-covered trees. She reached down with one paw and removed her sabre. She turned around and lowered a paw, signaling the lieutenant to crouch down. Blitzfur nodded and followed Lillen around the bog. The two hares moved from tree to tree, scanning the environment and listening to the sludge gurgling. Blitzfur jogged past Lillen and crouched down near a rotten log before he gestured Lillen to move up. The corporal jogged towards the log and stopped once she saw a shadow near the trees.

"I think I found 'em," Lillen murmured.

Blitzfur nodded and exhaled. The two hares gripped their weapons tightly as they advanced to the shadow. And then the beasts froze. Lillen gasped and nearly dropped her sabre when she found Hon.

"Fuck...we're too late," Lillen whimpered.

Blitzfur started to breathe heavily as he stepped towards Hon. He looked around at all the blood and exposed organs lying on the ground and groaned.

"He's...we-we can't...there's nothin' we can do, Lill. Just...fuck..."

Blitzfur turned away from Lillen and lowered his head. He swore again and sniffled while Lillen crouched down beside Honward and whimpered, knowing there was no way she could help him now.