I saw this image and I just have to write a story relating to it. I mean, come on, Puggernaut. Artwork by the incredibly talented AlRadeck.
The Chief gave the order, and the rebellion would be crushed. The large warband marched through the forest toward the last known location of the rebellious hares. The hares were pray, born to serve the stronger, like the wolves. When the wolves demanded food and tribute from the hares they expected carts to return. Instead the chief received a simple letter declining their demands.
So great was the chief’s fury that he ordered his own son, Greymane, to take his warriors to the hare settlement and not to force them into submission, but to make an example of them. So that all the other tribes and races of the forest knew that nobody turned down the wolves.
And so the wolves marched, axes and swords in hand. Their armor clanking with every step. Some howled, others growled. They wanted all to hear them, to strike fear in friend and foe alike. Never to turn tail and run, that was not the wolf way.
Greymane, that largest of the band, wearing a fur cloak of a bear he himself hunted down, stood at the head of the band, as a leader should. His brown eyes scanned the trees and beyond, ears perked high. There would be no surprises, not even the smallest chance of failure. The hares would pay for their insolence in blood.
Then one of the warriors growled out, “I smell them.” and others lifted their noses up in the air. Indeed, the scent of rabbits gathering ahead could be felt. That, and the smell of smoke, burning wood. It might be that the hares hoped for a battle, but in their tardiness made camp. The wolves would descend upon them when they were least prepared. A few survivors would let the others know what has occurred. A beautiful prelude to what would follow next. The settlement of the hares would most likely be empty, most of its inhabitants fleeing in panic. And then, all of it would be burned to the ground.
Greymane licked his chops in anticipation.
Beyond the trees was a clearing, with a few small hills. Trails of smoke could be seen further back, and much to Greymane’s surprise the hares were preparing for battle. He could see them forming small bands, their pikes and glaives held high, almost as high as their ears. Their relative competence surprised Greymane but it would not matter. There was roughly a wolf to each hare. If there would be a battle it would be one-sided.
The wolves growled even louder, they left the trees and entered the vast clearing, approaching the hares in a single large mob. Some of them moved further ahead, the others soon joined them. Their walking turned into running as the wolves’ thirsted for battle reached its peak. They howled, and roared, charging at the gathering Hares when suddenly the advance stopped. A loud rumble came from behind the hares. And two plumes of black smoke began to move from behind one of the hills. Slowly the thing came into sight, large, made of wood, banded with metal. It had one of the strangest ornaments upon its front. It looked like a wolf’s head that met a wall a few too many times, but the spikes that covered it looked threatening. The massive spiked barrel rolled into position in the centre of the hare force and waited.
The leader of the hares soon appeared before his army and shouted to the wolves,
“Turn back where you came from, and you will be spared the humiliation of defeat!”
This particular hare seemed much like his brethren, but a red cape on his back and blade in his hand made him look at least somewhat more lordly. Though the wolves could not tell at first there was also a circlet around his head, a crown.
Unbeknownst to the wolves, or the hares, the sons of both the rabbit and wolf chief were to meet each other in battle soon.
The wolves laughed, and Greymane answered.
“No wolf ever turned tail to a hare! We are not afraid of anything, we are the masters of this forest!”
The wolf warband cheered. They would not back down, and the hares with their bravery, foolish as it seemed, stood strong as well.
The young rabbit lord hammered with the pummel of his sword upon the side of the machine three times, and after a brief commotion within the engine of war roared to life.
At first the machine rolled slowly forward, but it quickly gained momentum, great plumes of black smoke coming from its chimneys. The hares followed suite, the small warriors aiming their weapons forward. The machine soon drove faster than the rabbits could catch up to it.
The wolves on the other hand laughed at the contraption, at first. But as it came faster and faster toward them, something within it roaring and growling louder than they could the wolves looked uneasily upon each other.
Suddenly some of the wolves yelled, “Out of the way!” as they tried to move out of the reach of the machine’s spiky front and wheels. Some of them managed to get out in time, but others were suddenly and brutally knocked out of the way or rolled over. Some of the more cunning wolves waited for the machine to drive by them to try and strike at its wheels, but though some splinters were removed the axes could not leave a visible mark!
As it drove through the middle of the wolf warband the machine attempted a sharp turn. The wolves seemed disoriented and some panicked, pushing their brothers aside, or right under the machine. With the spiked barrel ploughing right into the warband the wolves soon dispersed. The noise deafening them, the machine causing a panic. It was complete chaos and disarray. So much so that the wolves paid more attention to the machine than the hares, who were within striking distance.
“Pick them off one at a time!” shouted the rabbit lord, and the small packs of hare spears and glaives encroached upon the panicked and confused wolves.
Unable to get his men back in order, and with the threat of the machine still present Greymane thought the unthinkable. He had to flee. It seemed better to run with most of his men alive than to actually lose to a bunch of rabbits. The machine had already left the ranks of the wolves, driving away to try and turn around for another strike. Now was the perfect time. Before the hares surrounded them and the machine returned. The trees would be their salvation.
He let out a simple command, “Follow me!” and those closest to him ran after their leader. The rest of the wolves, still disoriented, after seeing their comrades flee toward the trees also followed in their steps. To the wolves it was not a retreat, if nobody called it that. Merely running in another direction.
The rabbits, though smaller and nimbler, could not, or chose not to, chase down the fleeing wolves. However their cheers left a clear scar in the memories of the dissolving warband. A handful of lupine warriors were cut down, but most managed to disengage.
However, as the wolves ran, regaining some composure, the roar of the machine grew louder once again. The warriors looked to the side to see the monstrosity trying to ram into their flank. This was the breaking point for most. They cast away their weapons, and on their fours they ran even faster, yipping and yelping, terrified of the wooden monster.
Greymane chose not to hear the cowardly yips of his warband, as he was already safely among the trees.
With the warband mostly intact, but their pride shattered, the wolves fled back to their chieftain to tell him the news of their defeat.
The hares on the other hand, rejoiced. Cheering and hailing their beautiful machine. Their savior and ultimate weapon of war.