Authors: Marcus LaGrone
Tags: #Furry, #Fiction
Marcus J. La Grone
© 2011 by Marcus J. LaGrone.
All rights reserved.
Front and rear color cover artwork as well as interior line artwork were all done by Minna Sundberg.
© 2011 held by Marcus J. LaGrone. All rights reserved.
A print version is available at fine bookstores everywhere:
Dawn (softbound): ISBN 978-1-105-06075-5
The resemblance of any character in this book to any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book may not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the author’s explicit permission in writing except for brief excerpts which may be used for the purposes of writing reviews for publication.
For more information on this title or other titles by the author, please visit: www.HighlandsOfAfon.com
For everyone who ever felt a little different,
A brief introduction to the races and cultures may be found at the end of the book.
The two girls giggled as they scampered into bed. One still showed signs of their recent bath as her fur stuck to her nightgown; her fight with the towel had been none too thorough. Their elegant cat-like features did little to hide their giddiness as they squirmed under their covers. The elder peered down over the top of their sturdy bunk bed at her sister below and both launched into a laughing fit again until their room light overhead winked out. Suddenly the only light was from the lamp carried by their Second Mother as she started to close the door.
With green eyes flashing in the waning light, the eldest propped her head up in bed and, with her most practiced mournful pout, begged, “Oh, Second Mother, please tell us a bed time story.”
Not missing a beat her sibling peered over the side of the bed, bright-eyed as always, “Yes, a story! Please!”
Their Second Mother paused in the doorway, and her lean frame all but glowed as the lamp light danced across her fur. She shifted an infant in her arms as she surveyed her charges and smiled, “A story? It’s already so late. Surely you two are too tired for a story tonight!”
Almost in unison came their musical response, “Oh, please!” “The one about the orphan girl,” suggested the younger girl as she sat up in bed.
Ah, the one about your grandmother then is it?”
Oh, yes, please,” she begged as she fidgeted with her tail mindlessly, all but nibbling on it.
Yes! The one about Grandmother Dawn,” agreed the elder as she gazed down to the door and giggled, “It’s not
late and you do tell the best stories!”
Their Second Mother laughed to herself as she reentered the room and situated herself in a plump armchair. “Okay, Grandmother Dawn it is. But if either of you nod off, the other will just have to wait for the rest of it tomorrow. Deal?” The girls nodded enthusiastically as their Second Mother adjusted the lamp and shifted the infant once again, carefully tucking its tail under her arm as she held her snug to her chest.
Many years ago,” the story began…
As Dawn cracked open her eyes, she realized one thing immediately: she hurt. From the tip of her pointy ears to the end of her fuzzy tail she hurt. Even her
How does fur hurt?
she wondered. Well she wasn’t sure, but it certainly did. She sat up only to find that it was possible to hurt even more! Her ears rang and her head throbbed as she straightened up her spine. Looking down she noticed her jet black fur was horribly tousled and her dress, a gift for her fourteenth birthday all of a week ago, was now in tatters. Shredded and charred, it still stank of smoke.
she thought to herself. She wracked her brain, trying to fight through the pain to remember.
The marketplace. They had been walking through an open air market place with the entire family. Her First Mother and the others were well ahead, while she and her Second Mother were looking at some jewelry at a stall. There was an explosion!
She remembered now. An explosion ripped through the marketplace followed by a second one just half a breath later.
Tears welled up in her eyes as the truth hit her. Most of her family was probably killed in the blast. Dawn collapsed back to the floor again, tears flowing freely as the pain on the inside was now worse than that on the outside. She lay on the floor and bawled until at last, the river of tears ran dry.
After what seemed like an eternity, Dawn sat up again and looked around. The room was dank and dark. The dim light came from an underpowered bulb by the doorway. The door itself was steel with no handle on the inside. The room may have been for storage originally, for it had the smell of stale food. Whatever its designed purpose, it was a prison cell now.
Dawn gathered her wits and set about inspecting the room. Concrete walls, air vent in the floor and the door, and ceiling tiles. With the air vents easy to reach she inspected them first. The vent in the wall was set with lag bolts and wasn’t very high. Even if she could get it open, which she doubted, it was too narrow. She noticed the return vent in the base of the door. It was bolted and narrow like the other, but maybe it would provide an escape. Dawn inspected the louvers; the metal was simply spot welded in place. While she couldn’t fit through the vent even if the louvers were gone, she might be able to reach the door handle. However, she didn’t have any tools to work with at the moment, so she turned to the ceiling tiles. Easily eight feet up, they were quite a leap! Fortunately for Dawn, she was quite acrobatic. She used the corner of the room to help her spring up higher than her normal leap would permit and tested the tiles.
there is no way I’ll be able to get out that way.
That left the vent in the door, but she needed tools. In time, her captors would probably feed her, and forks and spoons could go a long way to help pry open the vent. She had a plan, but for now, she just had to wait.
With nothing else to do, Dawn tried her best to clean herself up. She wiped what tears she could from the fur around her eyes and tried to straighten the rest by hand or tongue. The taste was awful! The smoky residue in her dress was present in her fur and hair alike, but with nothing much else to do, she continued anyway.
Finished with her grooming, Dawn closed her eyes. The moments before the explosion replayed in her mind over and over. She saw her sisters giggling about some stupid secret they were sharing. She remembered how her First Mother smiled so warmly at the various merchants at the marketplace. She felt her Second Mother push her to the ground and cradle her just as the shock wave from the explosion hit. Dawn gulped back new tears,
Crying won’t help anything,
she told herself furiously.
Quit being a baby and think! Where am I? Who brought me here? What’s going to happen to me?
Questions whirled around Dawn’s head in a never-ending circle. Down the hall she could hear people talking and laughing. She pressed her ear against the vent in the door and strained to listen. If she could learn anything about her situation, it might help her know what to do. Suddenly, the talking down the hall stopped and Dawn could hear a televised news broadcast clearly.
Officials have confirmed earlier reports regarding a massive explosion today in New Claireport marketplace. At least two separate devices were detonated in rapid sequence killing 12 and injuring 43 others, 23 of whom required hospitalization. A third device, apparently designed to detonate when first responders arrived, failed to activate and was successfully defused by bomb technicians on scene. It has been confirmed that the Highland Taik Ambassador and the majority of her family were among those killed in the blast. The terrorists associated with the outgoing Viceroy have claimed responsibility for the blast. There are unconfirmed reports that they are holding the youngest member of the Ambassador’s family, fourteen-year-old Dawn, as a hostage. This claim has not been verified, however, and no proof of life has been offered. Once again the violent acts of terrorists associated with the former Viceroy have shocked our colony. There are reports that the Governor has requested outside assistance in dealing with this increasingly violent threat.”
The broadcast continued with more questions and no answers. Finally, Dawn quit listening. Her worst fears had been confirmed, and she could feel the tears welling up again. Father, her four Mothers, and her three older sisters and brother all gone! And she was being held hostage by known terrorists.
The sound of the door being unlocked suddenly caught her attention. The door opened to reveal a disheveled guard with his fur all out of place. And oh! had he been drinking! What a smell! He produced a small camera and took a quick picture of Dawn.
They want proof of life, well there we go. You ought to be worth a good and fair trade. Maybe ten or twenty of our guys out of prison for your pretty hide!” the guard snarled. “We thought it was dumb when that Eric guy paid us to whack your mother, but it has turned out to be a boon for us as well as his silly gang.”
He exited the room and the door locked again with an ominous clank and Dawn’s mind started racing.
Why would anyone want my mother dead? Who was this Eric?
Suddenly a different noise outside her door caught her attention. Then there was a low thud followed by something scraping on the door. She froze in place, petrified.
A low growl from outside the door greeted her while inside her head a low voice rumbled and echoed. The growl rattled around in her ears, but her brain made sense of the sounds as if it was talking to her from within. “Stand clear of the door,” the internal voice said. The voice was friendly and somehow familiar, but it was incredibly strange nonetheless.
Dawn slid to the far corner of her small room just as a silver blue flash of light traced the edge of where she imagined the door handle would be. A split second later, the tell-tale sound of steel bouncing on concrete below chimed spritely, even defiantly. And then the door opened slowly.
A man stood there, dressed like a Highland Taik. His fur was a gorgeous silver and white with black rosettes and a long, long tail. He stood there, looking very much like a snow leopard walking erect and just as graceful in his movements. He entered and then knelt by Dawn and looked her over in a very fatherly kind of way. Dawn suddenly had a glimmer of recognition.
Uncle Llewellyn?” she asked sheepishly.
The man smiled and nodded. “It’s been five years; your memory serves you well. Grown a bit have you?” His tone was humorous, almost musical. “Let’s say we get you out of here.” He offered his hand to help her up and she gladly took it.
What of the others? Is it true?” she asked nervously.
Her uncle shook his head sadly and then tried on a forced smile, “Come on. Let’s deal with the here and now.”
He led them out of the room and Dawn quickly saw the source of the earlier noise. A guard lay unconscious on the floor. Now handcuffed with his own tools, his weapon was neatly disassembled beside him. They started around the corner just as another guard came from the opposite direction. The guard swung his rifle up to bear and just as evenly, but far more quickly, Llewellyn stepped forward. He pushed the weapon to the side and then struck with an open paw to the side of the head with such force that the unsuspecting guard immediately crumpled to the floor.