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Nyna'a crept slowly towards the bushes. The rustling of leaves indicated she was close to her quarry. She had stayed downwind just as her father had taught her and was confident she was about to reap the rewards of all her training. Just as she started to pry open the branches of the bush something hit her from behind and emitted a violent growl. The bushes shook violently as a hind came out of hiding and immediately pounced on Nyna'a, smothering her with deer kisses. From behind her the menacing growl turned into a sound that is probably as close to laughing as a bear cub is capable. Nyna'a had lost again.

"Get off of me! " Nyna'a said, pushing the deer away. "And you!" she said, glowering at the cub, "It's not funny!" Tri-tag was their favorite game, and it served as good training for Nyna'a to learn her way in the wild. Nyna'a was happy to play this game; it was a good distraction from her fathers' regimen of taking breaks from training only to do her chores for most of every day.

Nyna'a was content with her isolated life despite the hard work. She had lived solely in the woods with her parents, who were brave and well-respected warriors. They often bragged over dinner of their exploits during the great Minotaur wars, and how they had helped save the city of Silvermere. Though the busy city was but a few days walk away, Nyna'a had never visited. Never even wanted to.

Nyna'a smiled as she recalled the stories. The hind lay in her lap and she pet her cub as it stood beside her. She laid back and started daydreaming. Often her parents also told her the reason for the intense training was to prepare her for her destiny. But they always fell short of saying what this meant. She could only sit and dream of taking on an army of evil creatures, being trained well enough to destroy them all without even breaking a sweat.

Her serenity was broken as the hind and cub suddenly bolted back into the bushes. Startled, she pulled her dagger from its sheath and leapt into a combat stance. Nyna'a tried to get her bearings. She studied the woods around her, listening to the wind for signs of an intruder.

Suddenly she was on her back again, her dagger flying out of her hand into a tree.
"You'll have to do better than that young lady," her father started his usual lecture, "Even when playing with your vassals. They also are too young to defend you should something horrible come upon you."
"Yea," Nyna'a answered smartly, "I could tell by the way they ran from you something horrible was here."
"This is no joking matter, young lady! You will soon be of age. And you must be prepared! And your vassal choices -- the bear is good, but a deer? That will never help you."
"But I LIKE Hoochie!" she interrupted, as she retrieved her dagger.
Her father gave her a stern look.
"You would be well advised to choose better for your final vassal. And I hope that when your little Hoochie dies you will replace her more wisely."

Nyna'a looked sad. She had been told to pick stronger animals for her vassals, but they never told her why. It all had something to do with this big destiny secret -- but how could she pick without knowing what this destiny was? So Nyna'a had picked a creature that pleased her. It was cute and loving and really did have a good sense of danger. Nyna'a had felt it was a good choice despite her fathers' protests.

Their conversation was pierced by a loud shriek.
"Nyta!" he father whispered and bolted towards their home.
Nyna'a followed as best she could but her father was much quicker running through the forest. It seemed as though he knew where every step should be placed. He never tripped, never had to slow down. He had always told her one day she would "feel" the woods as well, she had but to try.

As she broke through the final clearing she was horrified to see her home in flames. Her father was engaged in battle with a trio of Ogres, her mother lie unmoving at his feet. Ogre corpses littered the ground. To the side of the house were the bodies of her parents' vassals; the beasts had fought bravely, and took many Ogres with them.

Her father was fighting valiantly. He struck down the first Ogre easily, but the second clubbed him from behind. He turned to that one and slit its throat with a wide swing. The Ogre's head toppled to the ground just as the third Ogre pierced her father's heart with his swords.

Nyna'a screamed in horror which served only to draw the Ogre's attention. She was frozen in place as the Ogre approached her. Her dagger was no match for the smallest predators in the forest, let alone a full-grown Ogre.

The Ogre chuckled as he prepared his sword.
Panicked, Nyna'a did the only thing she could think of.
She spoke the Words of Binding to the Ogre.
It wasn't supposed to work.
It had never worked for another warrior.
But it worked for Nyna'a.

The Ogre stopped and Nyna'a felt their souls mingle. It sickened her slightly to feel the impulses the Ogre felt, and quickly concentrated to remove those from his conscience. It was much more difficult with a semi-intelligent beast. The bear and hind were quite easy to train. Their minds opened to her influence. But the Ogre was fighting her. He fought her attempts to quell his desire to kill, but she could feel that he was hers. He would serve her as long as he lived, but he still felt the need to kill everything else.
Her bear came through the woods and the Ogre immediately turned on it. "STOP!" she thought, forcing the thought into the Ogre's head. He stopped, looked at her funny, and then said, "Log-lar sorry."

A mix of emotions poured through her. She had always loved her vassals, but this one had killed her own father! And now that she was merged with this hideous monster she'd have to care for him and live by his side until he died. She felt ill and tried to find some charity in her heart for this wretched beast.

As she delved further into his simple mind, images of his childhood and upbringing appeared with perfect clarity. What a horrible, abused life he had led. Apparently, his own mother and father had died in this same battle, and she felt his confusion and pain as he tenderly tried to wake them up. They buried their dead together and picked through the remains of her home for any remnants of food.

She wept for hours over her parents as well as the brave vassals that she had come to think of as siblings.

As morning came, Barlo, the bear, brought back some mongbat meat to cook on their fire and Hoochie nibbled on the nearby grasses. Now Nyna'a was beginning to understand why she had been able to bind with Log-lar -- it was because he too was now alone in the world. He needed someone to guide him in order for him to survive. So when she spoke the soothing words, he barely tried to stop her.

But she also knew that now she had her three vassals and that her quest must begin. She had always imagined that her parents would accompany her, at least part of the way, and that she'd have a much better idea of what to do. Whenever she had pressed her father for details of this journey, the destiny she was to fulfill, he simply assured her she needn't worry until she had her third vassal.

Maybe someone in Silvermere could help her. But how would they react to her Ogre vassal?
No, she would have to find help elsewhere.

Though she still felt some bitterness towards Log-Lar, she couldn't intentionally lead him into danger. He was her responsibility now, whether she liked it or not. She tried to imagine where else they could go. Log-lar was no help as all he knew were Ogre habitats. And just as she wasn't going to take him to Silvermere, there was no way she was going there. Silvermere was the only choice, but without her vassels.

Finally, deciding they could stay and mourn no longer, she ceremoniously donned her mother's finest armor, which was not in the best of condition after the fire, her fathers' strongest sword and filled a backpack with breads and cheeses. She released the farm animals into the wild with tears in her eyes and set out upon the dusty road heading towards Silvermere.

She traveled for less than a few hours when the error of traveling on the road was revealed to her. A carriage approached and Log-lar immediately cried "HUMIES" and bounded towards it. She never had known Ogres could move with such speed! Before She could stop him Log-Lar had punched the horses, knocking them unconscious, had thrown the driver into the woods and ripped the door off the carriage. He was reaching for the occupants when her mental yell paralyzed him "STOP!!!!!!"
Log-lar looked confused. "Umm." He started.

The driver pulled a sword as he hurtled himself from the bushes only to be backhanded back into them by Log-lar. Inside the carriage a fat merchant and his two boys cowered in fear, the boys buried under each of his massive arms.

"We'd better get off the road." Nyna'a thought, leading Log-lar and her other vassals past the fallen driver. Though it would add days to her journey it was best to be safe.

They traveled a few more hours then found a good spot to camp. Log-lar was immediately asleep. Nyna'a had expected him to be loud and obnoxious, snoring and drooling, but it was almost as though he wasn't there. His body didn't move, even his normally loud breathing was but the faintest of whispers. Hoochie and Barlo both vanished into the woods, they didn't want to sleep to closely to the Ogre in case he awoke hungry for a midnight snack.

Nyna'a started her nightly disciplines. She sat cross-legged and closed her eyes. Remembering the trees around her she tried to visualize them, to feel which way they swayed in the winds. Keeping her eyes closed she stood and walked forward.

"Feel the woods" she thought. Those words of her fathers haunted her. "Feel the woods" She stopped. "Should be a tree right here," she thought as she opened her eyes to find herself gazing into an open starry night. No tree. Try again.

She closed her eyes and turned around. Walked forward three steps and turned left, two more steps into what she had thought would be five steps to a tree she ran headfirst into a tree. "I felt the woods THAT time!" she laughed to herself. She continued trying for an hour as prescribed by her father then went to sleep. She decided her traveling would work well in lieu of her normal nightly exercises.

What would have been 3 days travel by the road turned into ten by woods. Log-lar was easily distracted and many times had to be gathered back up from chasing rabbits. Hoochie was not a good traveler and had to stop often for rest. But the young hind proved most excellent at sensing danger before it sensed them. Not that Nyna'a had to worry about much in the woods with Log-lar to protect her, but it was best to leave as few dead animals in their path as possible. And Log-lar did tend to kill anything that got into his way, even trees sometimes. At last they came to a crest overlooking Silvermere. They had at last arrived.



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by Blank Knight





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