Chapter 2Mature

            The wilds beyond the wall were a different world.  With the broken wall left behind and falling out of view, Everley charged his way forward through the trees, leaving in his wake a heavy path of destruction.  Desperate and enraged, adrenaline fueling his movements, he smashed and shattered and pushed down any tree in his path.  He tromped through the soil, leaving large hoof-falls.  Once he had a taste of destruction by pounding down the outer wall, Everley wanted more.  Here, beyond the city, he had the power to smash and destroy everything in his path.  Gone were the guards with their heavy swords and lightning prods.  Missing were the musty soil and walls of heavy stone and steel bars.  Here, the very land itself was at his mercy to maim and disfigure as he pleased, and did it please him.  He felt such an indescribable rush of pleasure from coming up to a tall, proud tree growing quietly in the forest before him and pushing it over to the ground and smashing its branches under his hooves with a satisfyingly loud report.

            His moment of glutinous destruction was soon ended, as the sounds of trees falling and the wide path of destruction were leading a path of horse-riding Slavers directly to his position.  Another tree, not much taller than he, was toppling in his paws as he at last heard the noise of the approaching army bearing down on him.  They were filing through the break in the wall he had created and were now bearing down on the path he had so recklessly plowed.  Cursing himself and his stupidity, Everley began to run once more, this time feeling guilty for his actions.  He could have made much more progress and been further ahead of the army had he not lost himself to the sudden rush of being outside those walls, free to do as he wished.

            It seemed that even out here, the world was not without consequences.  He would have to pay for his moment of weakness.

            He ran quick as he could, but his large figure and the smashing of debris under his heavy hooves could not be masked, leading the pursuing horsemen directly after him.  He broke from running a moment to push a tree down across the path he was leading them, but his pursuers were able to quickly navigate around in the lightly-populated forest.  When he realized that his plan had failed and that they were continuing to gain on him, he leapt with all his weight against yet another tree, eventually forcing it to the ground before lifting it clear up off the ground and swinging it before him much like an even larger war axe.  He faced his pursuers, wielding his tree as a weapon, as they approached and encircled him.  There were twelve in the first party, with more on foot arriving further behind.

            “Submit, fiend, and suffer a more mild beating!”

            “Choke on a rotting manmeat, you gutless bastards!” Everley roared back in challenge.

            The first of the horsemen approached.  Everley swung his tree-sized club wide, deterring their progress, all the while backing up slowly.  The men behind rushed forward on their horses, lunging at him with swords drawn.  Everley swung wildly around him, deflecting their thrusts into a battering of leaves and twigs.  Two of the riders were pushed from their mounts as the others backtracked safely out of reach.  The horseless riders scurried backward as their mounts, spooked at the sight of a nine-foot-tall bullkin swinging an entire tree at them, ran off into the distance.

            Seeing the weakness of their mounts, Everley charged forward with renewed vigor.  He shoved the upper-most branches of his enormous club directly into the faces of the horses, causing them to buck wildly and protest under their riders.  The bullkin sent every remaining horse into a frenzy then charged the line, breaking through whilst the Slavers attempted to regain control of their crazed steeds.

            “After him!” They cried, turning their mounts around to pursue.  Everley took only a few large strides through the forest before spinning around and tossing the entire tree back at his pursuers.  The branches rubbed harmless off the steel armor of the riders, but it scrapped and bit into their unprotected mounts.  The horses, panicked and injured, fled back the other direction ejecting their riders as they ran.

            Everley made good time on them before his remaining pursuers on horseback were able to navigate around the fallen tree.  The men on foot behind him would never catch up to someone so much taller and stronger if he were to constantly keep on the move.

            Down a steep embankment, wading through a natural stream and skirting around farmlands, Everley kept on the run, staying always ahead of his assailants.  He ran and ran, his legs fit and muscular from his years fighting within the coliseum.  He covered miles that stretched without end before him.  The sun sank slowly on the horizon and the day around him turned to dusk.  He had broken their skittish mounts and outran his pursuers, at least for now.  He allowed himself a moment to relish in his immediate victory.  The sounds of the guards had fallen away behind him miles and hours ago.  He stood now on a low hill in what was now an abandoned farm.  Waist-high weeds and the occasional twisted growth of tree dotted his view.  Beyond, in the very distance to the east he thought he saw the glint of sea reflecting the very last vestiges of sunlight.  Mountains rose like shadows to the north and south.  And beyond his vision, hidden somewhere in the gloom of twilight behind him, slept the puss boil of a town called Stonetide.

            Ghoulbine had been wrong.  Tonight at least he proved that old bear wrong, and would sleep well knowing that he had succeeded in his plight.  He had escaped.

            He was free.

The End

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