Theodore held his hands up as the furies surrounded him. There were more blades pointed at him than he could keep track of. He was outnumbered with nowhere to run.
“I’m unarmed,” He said. “My name is Theodore Grayweather. I don’t mean to cause any trouble. I’m the Ranger Deputy, and I’m looking for someone. Maybe you can help me?”
Several of the furies faltered, their blades lowering, eyes darting between one another.
“He’s one of the King’s men,” one said. “What do we do?”
The guards looked toward what appeared to be their lead officer. She was grim faced, with eyes as sharp and narrow as her beak. Red-tipped head feathers fanned off her brow like spikes.
“The last human official who came unannounced was an assassin,” she said. “No risks. Cage this interloper until the Court decides what to do with him!”
The furies moved in to seize Theodore. “Wait!” he said, but they did not. He was wrestled to the ground. His wrists were yanked behind him and bound with rope.
“You can’t do this” Theodore said, spitting dirt out of his mouth. “I’m the appointed authority over the Whirlwood! I have the right to come here!”
“Clamp your beak, human.” The commander forced him onto his feet. “That’s for our Lady to decide. Now walk!”
The civilians gawked through their windows as the furies marched Theodore through the street, strutting like cranes. His appearance seemed to spark curiosity, but the civilians kept their distance. He marched across blocks of the fairy settlement. There were burrows and Earthenware homes. The city space was alive with trees and ripe with zoo smells. They came to a halt at a looming wall of knotted briar thorns that barred any further advance.
“Return to your patrol,” the commander ordered. “I will take it from here.”
The rest of the guard took flight. Theodore was pulled by his bindings down a cobblestone staircase down and into the mass of thorns. The growth was a fortress the fairies shaped from the vines.
“Rupert!!” The commander shouted.
A fat pooka, curled up cozy and snoring in a chair, woke with a fright.
“Buh-wha?!” Rupert hopped into a salute, rubbing gunk from his eye with his free hand. He was a little rabbit fairy with charcoal black fur and one lopped ear. He wore the same armor as the furies. “Commander Épée! Sir! How can I help you?”
“Open a cell for this one! And be quick about it! I need to report to the Fair Lady!”
Scampering across the stony floor, Rupert ran up to a patch of briar wall and spread his arms. The brambles opened to reveal a small room. Épée, the commander, hurled Theodore inside. Vines curled back over the opening to seal him in. Épée then scooped Rupert up by the scruff of his neck.
“Cadet, if I catch you napping again, I’ll have you torn apart and fed to my young.”
Rupert wriggled, helpless in her grip. “Just resting my eyes! It won’t happen again!”
With a grunt, she dropped him. He bounced and rolled into a corner. Theodore, still sore from his own rough treatment, approached the ‘bars’ of his cell.
“What happens now?” He said. “I’m an officer in service of your king! You’re just going to lock me up?!”
She folded her wings. “I bow only to the Fair Lady. She will decide what is done with you. Pray that she doesn’t give you to me.”