The crews worked tirelessly to clear the branches and trunks. The blizzard the past week hit hard and the main road linking a small hamlet to the rest of the valley had been severed by toppled trees. Fortunately the damage was right on the bank of the Metamor river and it meant the logs only need be eased down the slope and the river would send them away, down to the flume.
The local noble was on hand to ‘supervise’ or rather hover. He was a nice guy and all but several of the workers were mildly irritated by his presence and felt he’d be better off waiting on reports back at his hamlet, not waiting to see for himself, in the snow and with his form at that.
Lord Telfour had been cursed with the form of a beetle. He boasted having fantastic power in his six limbs, enough to rip apart a forest! Whether that was even true or not didn’t make any difference given he was liable to freeze to death in the current conditions.
“There goes another.” Lance commented as yet another trunk snapped free of it’s frozen limbs and began it’s journey down the bank with the rest.
“We should get this cleared up by lunch, well, a late lunch.” Olaf panted. The cougar adjusted his plaid shirt, whishing he still had sweat glands.
It was always the ‘furries’ on the crew who struggled with their exertion. Several female humans sporting the all-but-uniform plaid shirt didn’t show the strain. Albeit lacking in strength they made up for in both stamina and better heat management. Word had spread of a snow tiger who’d had a rude shock regarding his ample pelt. Not much was known about him, went by the name of Oberon or O’bert or Obi-wan or something but he had a bad heat stroke while sparing with the Longs.
At one point Michael suggested the crew disrobe to handle their temperatures better. They would have been much like one of those ancient sporting teams but the Chief outright refused and insisted on precaution of armour, pointing out the ever present threat of an ambush.
“Get that pulley back up, secure the next one.” Their bovine boss ordered while the shiny, green beetle watched on anxiously from near by.
As a group of lumberjacks heaved on the ropes, the pulley buckled and flailed under the pressure but otherwise held firm. Under the force of the labourers the next log began to pull free of its stubborn, icy prison but the ropes and pulley also shifted under the pressure and gradually slid on the frozen surface of the bark.
Inevitably one of the ropes snapped but the log didn’t fall back in place... guided by other ropes still attached to the pulley, the log swung dangerously outward.
“GET BACK!!!” The chief ordered the insect noble and threw him to the ground right before thrusting his arms out to take the brunt of the log. He succeeded with little effort and his men helped by attempting to reign in the stray log by pulling on the other ropes.
Together they began to move it forward and lift it up but at that moment another dilemma occurred and yet another rope gave way. They couldn’t stop it this time. The massive tree trunk dropped several feet and slammed into the bridge railing. It smashed a chunk of the century old structure clear before spinning slightly and crashing into the water below, breaking the ice around the river bank.
“Telfour, anything broken?” The chief asked in a slight daze.
“N, no but I... Help!!!” He screamed as he slid down with the wreckage.
The bull leaped and grasped for an appendage but it was too late. Lord Telfour opened out his back plate and his wings – just in time to fall head first into the water.
“Get him out of there NOW!!!” The chief bellowed.
Some of the lumberjacks waded into the icy river while others just gawked. No one knew where the lord went and even if they did, they couldn’t move the logs on the ice.
Suddenly an axe went flying through the air and slammed into the ice, breaking a gap free to the water underneath. A moment later, Michael clad only in his plaid fur jumped from one of the logs, shrunk in size and dived in the hole in the form of a full beaver.
It was an obviously anxious wait. They knew Michael could stay down there for as long as he wanted but the insect noble had probably long since drowned and frozen solid. Whoever could began to listen intently – perking their ears at the dull sounds under the ice, they could hear what sounded like knocking from underneath the logs.
“Lift those up! Get in there!” The chief ordered.
Everyone began frantically trying to lift and heave, even Telfour’s entourage joined in but it was no good and in the frustration everyone began yelling and arguing. None of them noticed one of the logs shift. The log creaked and groaned and then the ice all around snapped as it began to rise, hefted up by two muscular, plaid arms.
Everyone stopped yelling, quickly falling into a uniform silence as the beaver forced the log up higher and higher... problem is even Michael isn’t that strong and he defiantly wasn’t that tall! He rose higher and higher and then when his waist rose above the waterline everyone was shocked to see his didn’t look right. He was huge and there was more coming up behind.
While his arms still propped up the log, FOUR legs on a massive beaver body climbed out of the water, a beetle lying prostrate on his back.
“Michael...” Lance whispered.
“Aye, it looks like the secret’s out then.” The beaver taur said with a slight chuckle and threw the log away where it crashed into a small pile of others that wobbled and turned a bit in the water.
Telfour’s aides quickly rushed to their lord’s side and carried him away a short distance.
“Is he even alive?” Chief Tathom asked.
“He should be. I felt him breathing just now so he held his breath. And that amulet kept him warm... he turned it up to full power.” Michael mumbled, “I think I burnt my hands.” He said and looked at them. His palms were... brown.
Everyone gave the beaver taur a very good looking over. He was still plaid... for the most part. His red, black and yellow colourings looked slightly faded and as they ran down his arms and four legs they seemed to fade even more. It almost looked like they actually attempted to pull and stretch fully over the rest of his form, branching down in stripes, trying hard to reach.
Michael the beaver taur had yellowish but mostly brown feet and paws. His tail tip and even parts of his face had given way to his natural brown colouring!
“Well look at you! And here I was thinking I just imagined it when the colours looked brighter on you as a full beaver.” Lance laughed, “Pascal’s concoction can’t cover all of you.”
“I guess not, no. But a dab of brown and some stripes go nice with the rest.”
His fellow lumberjacks laughed and began formulating new jokes on the spot.
“All right! That’s enough, everyone back to work.” Chief Tathom bellowed.
Everyone quickly complied though still chuckled and gossiped while Telfour was whisked away to be tended by his personal healers.
“Why did you keep this a secret?” Lance asked as he hefted his axe.
The chief nodded, “A beaver taur can get a lot done around here.”
Michael groaned and sat on his haunches...