Vuskall Roguebone has never been confident in himself. He has never trusted his mind. He always felt like everything he did was because everybody else was doing it. Maybe he wasn’t alone, maybe every young adult Vixinate in the Republic felt the same, but they were just very good at hiding it.
‘Do I have any other option?’ he has always thought, while trying to suppress that ‘what if’ scenario that was always creeping through his mind. After all, the military service trials were obligatory, and it was either that or absolute banishment from the community. He sighed. He has heard what beings from other societies, or even from other Kingdoms, think about that strict and stupid rule of ‘serve or perish’.
He could never truly comment it with anybody, because that would be followed by suspicious looks or even being accused of treason to the Republic. That made him feel trapped, even for a loner like him. He wasn’t the most social creature, and he was pretty pessimistic about life, but certainly, he had some feelings, emotions, and dreams inside him. Or that’s what he thought. He looked up in front of him. Noise. He heard the movement of a running river and decided to walk towards it.
While all this was happening, he started to remember the voices of his fellow companions. They were the fox he grew up with. They were the ones that were supposed to understand him better than anyone. One of their voices sounded very clear in his mind: the voice of his friend Voneo Shadowblade.
He once mentioned that foreigners think that these practices are outdated and cruel, aloud, as a side comment. And then Vuskall never heard from him again. It would not have been wise to risk having the same fate. He put his white hood on and kept on walking through the wildlands.
‘Wildlands’ was the name the Vixinate gave to any place that was out of their jurisdiction. They could all be described with the same repetitive pattern: dark and dirt marshes, wet and hot forests, an occasional river, and giant insects. No signs of civilization.
He found the river. He stopped and knelt to wash his face. His eyes and muzzle were already very dirty and sweaty. It was disgusting. He also took his leather cloak to wash it as well, to avoid feeling so incredibly uncomfortable as he was at that moment.
The typical uniform the Vixinate military proudly made use of consisted on a white hooded long cloak of common cotton, a leather cloak over it, three sets of leather belts, brown riding boots, and simple loose shirts and trousers (usually grey or black) to have underneath. They couldn’t have much over them, as it reduced their mobility. Also, the whole attire was made to hide daggers everywhere, even inside their boots. Their red tails were usually covered behind the cloaks, to avoid being recognized easily by their enemies.
Vuskall never truly understood why their community felt so proud of that uniform. It was well done, and aesthetically pleasing, he didn’t doubt that. The seamstresses of the community certainly showed great skill while making it. The only aspect about it that always bothered him was that he was never fulfilled by the idea of wearing this uniform as his leaders tell him he should do. Doing something with it on gave him no joy. This was no more than doing any other compulsory errand.
He didn’t doubt about his physical capabilities, he thought he was strong enough. He looked at his paws, covered by orange fur and a few scars. There was really no point in this. But he couldn’t look away. Not now. This one was only one of his first tasks. They usually start being very easy, and then they start getting more complex, rougher and even more disturbing.
One of the missions that he had to accomplish in the past, he remembered, consisted of a one versus one combat back at the community with his fellow acquaintances. It wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that good either. They were trying to teach him that no feelings should be developed between the fox of the military. No signs of comradery, no signs of friendship. Only those who were able to adapt themselves to the heartless side of life were the ones that could serve the Republic. You could not run to help a friend, nor someone you considered on the brink of death, even if it seemed unfair to you.
They had weapons; they should be able to defend themselves. Why would you help them? They didn’t deserve it. They were in training, and any sort of help was unacceptable. That was the way nature worked. That was the way the universe worked. Empathy was just an imperfection sign that had to be erased from their minds.
Vuskall heard a noise. He swiftly moved his paw inside one of his pockets and held a golden circular piece in his paw, which had intricate tribal patterns over it. He has found it. He won it. And he has killed for it already. Nobody was going to steal it from him. He needed to just give it back to his leaders and wait for the next task, as if he was just a mere messenger. Another work was complete. He analysed his surroundings carefully. Nothing showed up. The upcoming evening seemed peaceful enough to feel relatively safe.
Then, he heard the noise again. He saw a toad of a very saturated yellow colour, and he recognized it: a Saddleback toad. It jumped over the tip of his boot as soon as he stood up, just minding its own business. These are poisonous, he thought. He shook it off. The frog left him, scared of what just happened, and went back to the river. The assassins’ expression was non-existent. It was cold. Dark. His black opal eyes looked at the sun, trying to find it. It was hidden already. Another day was gone.
This was him, after all. All this was just what he was supposed to be. He was just a pawn. A disposable pawn that could be thrown away at any time. A killing machine, an assassin that serves the leader of his community. No voice. No personality. No spirit. No soul. Only the dripping blood dagger that was hidden under his wrist. That was him.