“Every adventure requires a first step.”

2nd of Autumn YSTR 115

Anika sprinted through the burning town, her lungs burning with not only the thick smoke but the exertion. She was pushing herself as hard as she could but only had a marginal lead over her pursuers. The sound of heavy boot falls, clanking armour was underscored by the pop of fire and cracking of burnt wood. The breath wheezed from her lungs causing sharp pains in her side as she ran, the burn and drumming pulse of ache in her legs. Now and then over all the other sounds she could swear above her she could hear the sound of breaking clay roof tiles, but the fleeting moments she left herself cast her eyes upward yield nothing but flickering flames and inky smoke on a twilight sky.

Anika made her path the obscure she could. Cutting down alleys, left, right, right, left, left again. Trying her best to make it as unintelligible as possible hoping that if she could eke out some distance between herself and the men chasing her she could continue the seemingly random path and they’d have no way of finding her. But she knew she was lost and just as likely to have gotten turned around at some point and would with bad luck such as it is, run into them again.

Running down a cramped alleyway she heard the sound above her again, but needed to remain focused. She could see the woods on the horizon, maybe if she could get there she could hide, at least until they gave up. Anika broke from the alley onto a street making for another alley on a diagonal with the last, a slight rumble came from overhead, but she dared not try to look and slow down. But above her she saw a shadow cast, it looked like a man but it jumped from a roof behind her easily clearing a forty foot gap onto the next building, startling her she tripped falling to the cobblestones hard. Cutting her hands, and banging a knee hard against the ground she rolled to a stop lying on the stone work as the voices grew near, and the men stepped from the alley to the street. “Well, Well, Well, girly. You gave us quite a chase.” said the leader slightly winded. “But looks like we finally caught ya.” he said, strolling slowly over to her. Getting close enough he could easily stab her with his sword if he wanted to reach out a bit but far enough to torture her with fear.

Before the man could draw his sword on Anika the sound came from above them again. Shattering tiles, causing the man to step backwards to see the cause of the noise, a figure slammed between the group and Anika, with a ground-breaking three point landing. Leaving the newcomer crouched in a small divot. Anika’s head was turned away when she saw the shadow cast by the person who’d just intervened. The shadow grew long as he stood to his full height. Nearly seven feet tall and seemed to be wearing a strange helmet with large protrusions on top that made his shadow look almost eight maybe nine feet tall.

Anika turned to see just who would be brave or crazy enough to get between her and the men chasing her, and was shocked to see a tall lean muscled man, wearing almost nothing in the way of protective armour, she followed up his body to his head, shocked to see it wasn’t a helmet at all. The man had large rabbit ears sticking from the top of his head.

“And just who in The Nine Hells are you supposed to be?” The man questioned.

The leporid man simply ignored this leader of this band of thugs and turned to Anika. “Are you alright?” He asked. Then Anika got a decent look at the man in the flickering fire light, noticed he was covered in scars, suddenly not sure if that meant he could fight or he was more on the losing side of most encounters. “I-I think…” but she was cut off by the leader yelling again.

“This ain’t a social freak. You gonna move aside or are we gonna have to make ya?” the man asked as his band came up behind him. All brandishing weapons.

The rabbit man rolled his eyes. “Okay then, sit tight, this’ll only take a minute.” he said, patting Anika on the head and standing back up. “Well, go on.” he said, as he started to bounce on his feet a bit. “Make me.” he said, spreading his arms, daring them to come for him.

The leader cocked his head and motioned for one of his men to get to it. A wicked smile drew its way along the rabbit man’s lips, causing the approaching man to step back but only for a moment before regaining his composure, and pulling a hand axe free from his belt.

The axe wielding man swung it in the air a few times to show the rabbit-eared man he was serious.

“Watch closely, girly.” the leader shouted to the young woman on the ground. “When we’re done with him, we’re gonna do the same to you.”

The axe man charged forward, but in a flash, and elegant movement the rabbit man dropped low and swept his foot out, catching the man ankle, dropping his momentum backwards, but before he even had the chance to enter freefall the rabbit man was back upright delivering a downward axe-kick sending the man with the hand axe to the ground in double time with a crunch, clearly something had been broken.

Not giving a moment for anyone to access the situation the rabbit man launched off the body with enough force to roll him over onto his stomach, he’d cleared the distance between them before anyone could even understand what had just transpired. Just before reaching the group the man flipped, his ears barely clearing the stone street, his heel planting solidly in a man wielding a mace’s back, using the man and a springboard, sending him sprawling to the ground with another sickening crunch. The next two were equally as unlucky, the one directly behind the man used as a springboard caught a flying roundhouse to the temple, the next caught a mule kick between the shoulderblades upon the rabbit man's landing, who staggered a moment before falling in a heap on the ground. Leaving only the leader.

The man was faster than his goons but still not fast enough. The girl watched it all in slow motion, she’d have missed it all if she’d have blinked. The leader was drawing his sword, the tip just clearing the leather sling as the rabbit man lept again, his knee making a connection squarely against the bottom of the man’s jaw, a wet meaty slap accompanied by the unmistakable sound of cracking teeth.

It was over in a flash, those few seconds felt like hours to Anika. “Come on.” the rabbit man said, holding out a hand to her…when did he walk back over. “We need to get you away from here before the ones that survived get back on their feet.”

“You killed them?” she stammered as he pulled Anika to her feet.

“Probably some of them…” he said, “They planned to do the same to you, you shouldn’t spare them a single tear.” he commented, “Climb on.” he said, indicating to get on his back. “And hold on.”

Anika held tightly as she could, and when the man sprung into the air she closed her eyes. And in a handful of crashing leaps she heard the rustle of trees. “You can open your eyes,” he told her.

“Since you saved me, can I ask you your name?” Anika asked.

“Kanin.” he said, leaning against a tree and inspecting his feet for injuries.

"Why were they after you?” Kanin asked, looking at her now.

Anika paused, tears forming in her eyes. Now that the adrenaline had fully drained from her body she collapsed to her knees sobbing so hard that it only came out in choked body spasms. “I don’t know why but they killed me parents.” she managed to cough out one word at a time.

“I should have stayed and finished the job.” Kanin thought. “Well, we’ll get you somewhere safe, and if they try it again…” he paused, unsure if he should say it to the young woman. “They’ll be lucky if I just break bones.”

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