Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter Ten
© 2009 by Lootah Akecheta
Warning! This story contains physical violence, strong language, and bloodshed. It is not intended for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.
Note: While this story will have interment moments in it, it is not intended to be an erotic tail. There will be no more of the graphically explicit sex sense as is found in chapter 4 of this story. I’ve chosen to do this because I wish to try and publish this story with a mainstream publishing company for a general audience when I get it complete.
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We decided to give Cuba a wide berth because Castro’s Navy tends to commandeer boats and arrest the crew if one arrantly crosses into their national waterways. Shea said she would rather carry the boat across land before getting within a hundred miles of that cursed island. Since she has no dislike for Cubans, I can only assume her problem is with the Castro’s personally. She decided to slip downstairs to take a nap too leaving the twins, Toby, and the three of us topside. Cuba dictated the reason for a course to Dominica via Cancun.
I began to think we made a mistake taking the Twilight Obsession for this trip because at best she averages only about ten knots an hour which is pretty slow for a 2,059 nautical mile trip. The time traveling to Dominica will afford an opportunity to get to know each other better and try understanding the myriad backgrounds we all come from. Yes, I’m a nosy son of a bitch. Galin, would you please stop thinking so hard? You’re distracting me. At first I thought Pumar communicated this to me since we can read each other’s minds, but much to my dismay I realized the ‘thinker’ was Rakish who sat grooming the blood out of his fur. You don’t have to seem so disappointed about our link forming after all this time. It can happen with lunar-relatives during times of stress shared.
“Is that why you refused to change before I got here?” I said dryly.
No, believe it or not I really could not change. You saved my life and I will forever be in your debt.
“Well, isn’t that just a tub of happy horse shit?”
Rakish ignored the last comment. In line with what you were just thinking, do you know why I turned Rōk?
“Yea, you couldn’t bear living forever without your brother.”
That’s not the whole story. Believe it or not I’m not that selfish or uncaring to make that decision for anyone – most of the time at any rate. I asked Rōk and Mina not to tell you about our turning. At first I didn’t want you to know it, but later I wanted to be the one who told you. I guess now is as good a time as any.“You didn’t give me a choice when you turned me.”
I didn’t give you a choice at all because I was trying to kill you and would have succeeded if not for the pesky elephant. Of course I can’t help but thank him now.
“Oh, that makes me feel so much better. So, what happened, why did you decide to turn your brother? From what I understand you didn’t give him a choice either.”
You’re right; I didn’t give him a choice. I turned him because I could never bear to live and watch him grow old and die. I would have been prepared to move on and let him think I’d died, or gotten lost, or whatever. You see, we come from a large family. We had twenty-three brothers and ten sisters. My family was royalty and my father had several concubines but only one wife. Rōk and I were his legitimate children and there was only the two of us. He would have been Raja but for an uprising in our province. Raja means king or monarch in Sanskrit. My father was not a kind man and he was an unforgiving ruler. My brother and I would most certainly have been killed if we’d been home.
As it was we were hunting, not much unlike your expedition to India except we weren’t hunting tigers but a myriad of pray animals including monkeys and a few bear. Tigers were off limits because the beasts were sacred to our father. However one night I slipped off in the bush to relieve myself and a black tiger attacked me. I thought I was dead but my brother heard the commotion and frightened the cat off. How he did it I don’t know even to this day, I guess his force of will or some sort of internal power he has did the trick. Rakish sat silent for a moment before continuing. Considering the tiger was a wereanimal, it doesn’t make sense he’d just leave. Rōk was so brave, so different from me. He said in a lower, softer voice. I felt the emotions accompanying he memories. They made him so sad that I could not begrudge him his grief. I’m no coward, but I am not Rōk’s equal either.
I survived the attack and it surprised us all when I completely healed in just a couple of days without even a scar. The extent of damage was so great that if a normal tiger attacked me, I would have died. We thought it was a blessing: that the gods looked down on me with favor until next full moon when I realized why this miracle happened.
I turned, yes. We were still on our hunting trip when word came that our entire family was slaughtered in the uprising. Rōk and I fled into hiding for fear we’d be next. Nearly two weeks after this the full moon came and I turned. No one could claim more surprise than me but all of our men and guides fled us. Rōk stayed with me and why I didn’t kill him while in my animal form I do not know. We both survived that first change and the next morning when I woke Rōk sat suspiciously beside me exhausted from a sleepless night.
When I didn’t turn the next night we breathed a sigh of relief thinking it’d passed or at the worst must follow some sort of phase. We knew nothing about wereanimals or the cycles that make us tick. Within a few days my hair and eyes turned as they are now and we knew what transformed me into a black tiger, whatever that animal did to me, proved far more permanent than we first hoped. Before the next full moon we came upon a village of people who looked remarkably like me. These people had two different colors of hair, black like mine and orange with black stripes like a Bingil Tiger’s, but their eyes were identical to mine. They immediately accepted me into their village, but shunned Rōk since he wasn’t one of us. My brother found a village not far from the one who took me in and went into hiding there. Of course I knew where he went and we kept in touch. I pleaded time and again with Rōk to take the gift, but he refused every time I brought it up.
About a year later I found out my villagers were going to move far away and I would have to leave Rōk behind. They held this information back from me until the last minute because they feared I’d sneak my brother along. By then I knew what I was and I had little choice but to go with them. However I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my Rōk. He was all the family I had left. The night before we left was a full moon and I released my tiger. Slipping away from the others, I found my brother and passed the gift on to him. He didn’t want it, and he fought me, but I didn’t give him a choice. I wanted him with me, and it only took one bite.
It hurt a lot watching him fight the gift; after all I’m why he tortured himself so. He considered it a curse refusing to accept it. However once he did, it grew easier for him. Eventually he forgave me but like with you our link didn’t form until years later. Rakish lay silently beside me for a while apparently having cleaned as much of his fur as he intended. I thought he’d finished his story but I couldn’t think of anything to say so I sat in silence also. When he decided to forgive me the link between us slowly formed over many decades. It took nearly a century for us to hear each other’s thoughts like this and even still it only happens when we’re both in full animal form.
“Why can we hear each other then?”
Because you called me; when you called my beast the link formed. You and Rōk are my only children who are stronger than me. Rōk was always stronger even before the change took him. He was always dominant to me. I’m not sure when you became my dominant, but it happened some time ago. I could tell the last time you were home.
“I wish we all could hear what this tiger is saying, one sided conversations are so annoying.” Tobin grumped with his brother emphatically nodding his head beside him. About that time something on the mainsail caught Torquil’s attention and he started climbing his brothers back trying to reach the boom to hoist himself up. “Torq, would you please… ugh!” Tobin twisted his shoulders sending his brother sprawling across the deck. The fallen otter sat up rubbing the back of his head and sprang at Tobin sending them both rolling across the deck. Pumar, retching over the side, proved the otter’s only salvation as they slammed into his back, almost knocking him overboard. After catching his balance my son looked up at me as though he’d give anything just to feel well again. I wondered if slaughtering a couple of otters would help. At least the exercise would distract him.
“Pumar, why don’t you ask Toby for medicine to make you feel better? He said there was plenty of it onboard.”
“I don’t think I could go below long enough to find it.”
“I’ll get it for you Alex… Pumar, sorry.” Greg volunteered and made his way for the cabin.
When the mayhem caused by the twins’ tussle stopped I answered Tobin somewhat sourly. “Sorry, but I’m learning for the first time how my lunar-father became a tiger and why he turned his brother. It’s most interesting, but I guess if you can’t hear his side of the conversation, then it could prove to be as annoying as you two are.”
“Annoying, this? Na this isn’t annoying.” Torquil said.
“Not yet.” Tobin added with a bit too much glee in his voice. “We’re too tired to be much of a nuisance tonight. By tomorrow we should be back in true form. Then the fun will begin.”
“Oh that sounds like a lot of fucking fun. Just remember otters make a fine snack for tigers.” Pumar chimed in.
“And panthers,” Toby added from the cockpit.
“You wouldn’t!” Both twins said in unison. Neither of them looked like they really wanted to test it when Pumar produced one of the most sinister chuckles I’ve ever heard from anyone and both otters swallowed hard looking round eyed at us.
I really don’t care if dinner thinks our conversation is interesting or not. I couldn’t help but snicker at Rakish finding their presence as annoying as I do.
“Now what’s he said?” Torquil asked.
“Nothing you want to hear I can assure you.” I looked at the blond headed man and couldn’t help but see him trusted up like a stuffed pig ready for a luau. The thought made me smile and I heard Pumar’s and Rakish’s mental snickers at the image. Can both of your hear my thoughts? I asked.
“Yes, when I concentrate on it.” Pumar said.
Of course, Rakish sighed, at least in this form. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to do when human or half-beast.
Can you hear Rakish’s thoughts? I asked Pumar.
Yes. He responded: Although not quite as well as I can yours.
And you can read Pumar’s mind Rakish?
Yes. My lunar-father admitted.
Wow, this could come in handy, especially if we can do this when we are all in human form. I mused.
That would be most interesting, yes. Rakish answered.
I agree but right now I’d give anything if this boat would quit spinning. As my lunar-son said this, Greg returned with a packet of Dramamine and bottled water. “Oh bless you.”
Greg smiled at his friend and squeezed his shoulder. “You’ll be alright man. It takes time to get your sea legs.” He sat down beside Pumar on the raised deck that covers the cabin slowly massaging his neck and shoulders.
I leaned back against the mainmast to relax when I realized we were not alone. A solitary figure stood on the Twilight Obsession’s bowsprit. We have company. I said to my lunar-father and son. Both saw the image in my mind and looked forward. The bowsprit is a long beam that extends from the front of some sailboats and sailing ships to extending the reach of the forward stay for the mainmast. It provides support for additional sails called jibs too. On smaller craft a bowsprit is often called a pulpit because of a set of railings that extend around it producing a safe place to sit or stand. The Obsession’s bowsprit had no pulpit; however there was netting under the spar to catch an arrant sailor who lost his balance, or at least that is the idea. On our bowsprit stood a man dressed in black. His knee high boots had the tops folded back down on them about four inches. His black breaches were made of a fabric I couldn’t tell the material. He wore a black silk shirt which glistened wetly in the moon’s light but clearly dry by the way it ruffled in the wind. Upon his head rested a rather foppish hat with an ostrich plume sticking out of it looking as though it’d gone out of style centuries ago. I’d seen him before but this time he didn’t vanish in the wind like so much dust. “Ah, May I have ye permissions to come aboard?”
“No,” I said, but the brats said yes at the same time and the vampire decided to accept their invitation as being permission enough. He strode effortlessly down the pitching deck like he’d done it a thousand times before – in a way I guess he had since he used to be a pirate. Aboard ship would be right at home for him.
“I’ve come to offer me services to ye.” He removed his hat swinging it down in front of him and bowed so low his curly black hair swept the deck. Upon rising he continued. “As far as seamanship goes ye can find no better and I make a very fine captain too me thinks.”
“Thanks but we already have a captain. However, I’m curious, why should we accept assistance from an enemy who’s already betrayed us?” This from Toby who’d finally noticed the vampire standing on our foredecks.
“Now Master Toby, ye impede me honor.” Black looked aghast. “I’ll admit letting Shredder know of his slave’s whereabouts may have worked in me favor, but I swear on me reputation that I never told bloody Longtooth anything. If ye ask me, I’d say there be a mole in your midst.”
“And why should we believe you? You’ve done nothing but cause our tribe all sorts of trouble for nearly 400 years.”
“Ye grieves me heart Master Toby. I cannot help it if me thinks cats are a gift of the gods and your panthers are so much fun to be around, but surely a ship of monsters is out of sorts without the largest monster of all? Me skills and talents would come in handy says I – certainly ye cannot disagree.”
“Oh I could.” Isaac said as he emerged from the berths below.
“Aha, Master Lórien I do believe. It’s been such a long time since ye graced me with an audience. The years have been holding well for ye I see. Still got me medallion?”
“It is not and never has been your medallion. The article in question belongs to my fifth great grandfather. Even if you managed to lift it from me, it would never have stayed with you but return to its rightful owner.”
“Ah yes the fables of old elf magic. However since I exist and so do these delightful cats, otters and wolf, it makes me believe your story all the more. Of course seeing ye here before me very own eyes over 400 years later… well,” he chuckled, “let’s just say it lends truth to your tale. So, who be the leader of this expedition?”
“That would be me.” Isaac said. “And I do not
welcome you aboard this vessel.”
“Ah, but ye be not the captain here now are you? Only the captain can banish me from a ship once a crewmember has granted me stay.”
“That can be arraigned.” Isaac said dryly.
“Would ye not even hear an old sea dog out before booting him off? I offer me services to the master of this voyage and I give me word of honor not to harm a single member of the crew.”
“Yes and that’s all well and good, but since there are only three crew members on this voyage, where does that leave the passengers?”
“Just say the word and they shall not be harmed, leastwise not by me.”
“Present your arguments then. I may not guarantee you permission to join, but I’ll at least hear you out.”
“Well that is certainly more than me expected from ye considering our last adventure together. But I not be captain on this voyage so it is not up to me who be left behind on a wee island.”
“No but you are a vampire, which automatically makes you suspect and far more dangerous than a mere mortal pirate captain.”
“True, but as me spoke to Galin here, it was not I who told Shredder of Greg’s presence aboard this vessel or where to find the Twilight Obsession although I’m sure the real perpetrator be very thankful to Galin for deflecting the blame to me. I give you me word of honor that I caused no trouble for ye or yours. However ye need look a little closer to home if ye wish to find the bloke responsible for betraying Greg to Shredder. He brought ye out here after all.” Isaac looked at Toby who looked about as confused as anybody could. “I’m not referring to Master Toby, Lórien, but the skipper of the wee transport craft.”
“Why would Bryan even want to do such a thing, much less risk the anger and punishment of our matron?” Toby asked.
“Ah, why indeed: I’m afraid ye will need to ask Master Bryan that question, but it be him I can assure ye who betrayed ye all to Shredder. I had nothing to gain from it.” He said with mirth chortling his voice again. “As for me wanting to go on your little adventure is quite simple. I be board and find me self in need of something to distract me attentions from a long life of haunting a swamp.”
“What will you do during the day and for food?” Greg asked. I must admit I was thinking something along the same lines.
“But me lad, sunlight will not destroy me as the
legends suggest. Bram Stoker had it right, sunlight only slows me down but I can
enter into its rays like any mortal. As for food, well, there be the ticker ye
may say – kind of like a bomb awaiting to go off. However, if one or two of ye
offered up a blood offering once in a while, that would solve the problem
rather nicely. While I may kill a mortal in one feeding, I would not even come
close to killing a wereanimal. What say ye?”
“I say you still have not convinced me. First of all I doubt any aboard this vessel would offer anything to you. Second, I still don’t trust you.”
“Very well me old friend, ye leave me no choice. I wish to join your little crew to move to new lands far from this accursed swamp. Dominica has no vampires from what me hears and me thinks living in the isles again would do me good. I do miss them so.”
“Has it not occurred to you why there are no vampires on Dominica? After all, the locals are not your average run of the mill disbelieving folk like one finds in America or Europe. Islanders are people who believe the monsters are real. Voodoo has spells to protect against the likes of you.” Isaac said.
“Be that as it may, I’d rather take me chances with superstitious islanders than to continue in a world where increasing technology makes it difficult to do much of anything anymore. America is little of what she used to be.”
“I’m afraid I cannot disagree with him there. Even Shanita has considered moving the tribe to other parts of the world. Surveillance cameras make it more and more difficult to keep ourselves secret.” Toby said.
“Indeed they have me lad. Indeed they have. I find me self watching everywhere me goes to make sure me deeds are not spied upon by those pesky devices.” Captain Black added with so much scorn in his voice I had to wonder how many times his hunts has been foiled by the cameras.
“I see. Well, regardless of your reasons, I cannot grant you stay without discussing it with the others first. Leave us now and I’ll talk it over with Shea when she wakes. Come back before sunrise and we should have an answer for you.” Isaac said. It was clear he didn’t like this idea. In fact I don’t think anyone aboard thought it was a good idea. I hope this is just a ruse to get rid of blood sucker. Rakish said to me directly.
“I am afraid me needs an answer before then. By dawn the Twilight Obsession will be out of range for me to return.”
“Then the answer will have to be no.” Isaac replied.
“Now I could just tag along until it is too late for me to leave, then you’d have to take me with ye.”
“Or I can get rid of you right now.” The elf began
chanting in his native tongue and I watched as a pained expression crossed over
the vampires face.
“No do not do this Master Lórien, all ye need to do is ask.” Isaac didn’t even pause but continued his chants. Before long a bright glow enveloped the vampire as screams tormented around him and echoed in our ears. The screams were not his but more the songs of sirens calling him home. I felt my body leaning in towards it like something pulled deep inside at my core. Gale winds picked up swirling around the vampire slowly pulling him apart like feathers ripped from a molting crow to be whisked off towards shore. In the end only so much black sand swiftly tracing across the decks to disappear in the darkness. The last thing I heard was a faint “Noooooo!” whispering from the ebon stillness. All was quiet and tranquil on board except for the normal breezes ruffling the canvas because Toby stood mesmerized just like the rest of us allowing the boat to list downwind taking much of the steam out of her sails.
“WOW!” About summed up all of our thoughts, but Greg expressed it. “Can anyone learn to do that?”
Isaac collapsed to his hands and knees on the decking. His face looked ashen. “You don’t want to learn to do that. The cost to your soul is too severe when you cause another that sort of pain – even a vampire. However if you wish to learn elf magic, it can be taught to other species than elves. The only prerequisite is not being mortal, which I believe you qualify.”
“Yea, I’d like to learn it. Can you teach me?” Greg sounded almost giddy.
“My dear wolf, elf magic is nothing to play around with. It takes considerable determination and dedication to learn to wield it correctly. Misusing it can kill you and anyone around you if not a true immortals, which you are not. I will not teach it to you, however while on this journey think long and heard about why you wish to learn it. When we get to my homeland we’ll present your request to the Elven Council. If they agree your intentions are pure, they will designate an instructor for you.” Isaac stopped speaking and seemed to draw on the energies around him. At first I thought it was my imagination but little tendrils of light, so faint to barely be seen, drifted to the elf infusing him with power. As I marveled at this, the tentacles of power intensified revealing the energy came from the ocean like he siphoned it off the surface. Breathing a little easier, Isaac sat down relaxing against the mizzen mast. “If they agree, it may be a very long time before you can return to this earth.”
“How long?” Greg’s earlier enthusiasm seemed to wane somewhat but not enough to keep him from seriously thinking about it.
“Centuries: The last person who took up studying the Art of Elven Magic has never returned to this earth. She still lives among us although she is now a master of the art.” He took several deep breaths. “I really wish Black had not pushed me to use that against him.”
“I take it you didn’t believe him either?” I said. The arms of energy faded and I realized no one else seemed to notice them except Rakish in his cat’s form.
“About his reasons for wanting to join us, of
course not.” He rolled his eyes towards me a haunted look masked his face. “I
learned a long time ago not to trust him and that was before he became a
vampire. No vampire can be trusted no matter how sincere their intentions. Eventually
they all give into their hunger no matter what appetite that may be and Captain
Black was never good at resisting temptation. He’s over 400 years old. No
vampire lives that long without amassing immense sums of wealth. He doesn’t
need the Twilight Obsession or this expedition to get to Dominica or any of the
Caribbean Islands. He obviously has other, more hidden, agendas up his sleeves
and I bet that he’s never gotten over his desire to use my medallion to cross
over into the blessed lands. It’s the only way a human may go without dying
first. I’m not sure a vampire can enter, but if there is anyway something that
evil can achieve it, the medallion would be the only way to try.” He sighed.
“It’s how I intend to bring all of you over when we get there. That’s why I
must retrieve it.”
“Is that because we’re evil?” Greg asked. I glanced at the young wolf. Was that a touch of self loathing in his expression?
“No, wereanimals are not evil Greg. All of you are the same as you were as humans. If you were evil before you became a lycanthrope, then you will be evil afterward and vice versa. The lycanthropy gene is like an aggressive retrovirus but instead of killing its hosts it transforms them. It doesn’t matter where the strain comes from. It may not be a natural phenomenon, but it is no more evil than a sunflower or a hummingbird.”
“What makes you so sure?” I asked. “Why isn’t it inherently evil or a natural phenomenon?”
“I’m old enough Galin to have lived before lycanthropes existed. By the accounts of our records all of you became possible because of a spell gone seriously awry. Elf magic used in a way never intended and the end results was a werewolf. They were the first of your kind. The strain jumps species, much the same way as Influenza, creating all sorts of wereanimals. Only through the tenacity of your varying species prevents humans from becoming aware of your existence. No one knows why the gene has not completely engulfed the world. Any human exposed to it, who is not killed outright, changes. I think most of your kind choosing not to hunt humans is the only reason. The gene passes only through direct exchange of body fluids and it must accompany a traumatic experience. Simply injecting someone with your blood will not turn them.” Isaac said looking directly at me. I swallowed hard because I’d never told him how I intended to turn Jacob. I may no longer be on that particular job and I may have told Isaac what the job was, but I’d never told him the means by which I’d decided to accomplish it. “For some reason heightened emotions such as intense fear or extreme lust, and I mean a tremendous amount of lust, must accompany the infection. None of us know why.” He sat silently for a long moment. “I’m going back to sleep, if the vampire returns awake me immediately. Do not wait to see why he’s come. It’s unlikely we’ll see him again tonight, but I can assure you we’ve not seen the last of the good Captain ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy.” With this Isaac dismissed himself and climbed back down into the boat’s hold leaving us with much to consider.
“Do you think he’s right?” Greg asked. “I mean are we here because of an elf spell gone wrong?”
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” I said. “Isaac is far
older than any of us thought, including me. Hell, I didn’t even know he was an
elf until just a few days ago. I killed him in 1981 and you can guess my
surprise when he came to visit the day before I turned Pumar.”
“You killed him?” Toby asked. “Why?”
“It was a job. I never knew who paid for the contract, but whoever it was wanted him killed in a way that none of him would ever be found.” I told them how I did it. Everyone remained silent for a while and Greg almost looked sick to his stomach. “I’m not an evil person guys, or at least I don’t see myself that way. It was a job and that’s all.”
“You know, it’s probably not a good idea to tell me this. I’m an officer of the law after all.” Toby said.
“No, you were an officer, and you may be again if or when you return to Pensacola, but for the time being you’re one of us. We will never succeed in this if we’re divided Toby.” I looked at the policeman. I need say no more. We both knew he was not an officer while on this expedition. He left that life behind when he volunteered for this mission. Even then he may never be able to resume his old life. This trip will most likely change all of us – some in more profound ways than others.
“I’m not sure I’d have volunteered if I knew what you were beforehand, but you’re right, we cannot be divided.” He smiled. “I’m just glad I got to know you first, otherwise I may not like you so much.” He went back to paying attention to his task steering the boat and setting the autopilot. Before long a discordant whistled tune rang out across the deck. Glancing back at the helm I saw Toby happily making the rest of us cringe with his tone deaf whistling.
We settled down after the evening’s excitement. I for one was ready for rest and relaxation, so maybe this trip could server this purpose as well as giving me time to ferret out how we all came to be the various animals we are. Do you really think Isaac is right about how we came to be lycanthropes? Pumar asked me. I mean is it really like a virus? After his experience with HIV/AIDS I couldn’t really fault his apprehension of the whole idea.
It’s like a virus only in that it “infects” its host the same way a virus does. Otherwise it is a gene; a kind of mutation of a human gene is what I gathered from what he said. It genetically changes its host; this is something I’ve always known. None of us look like we did before the change. I said.
Yes, like you Galin, I’ve come to understand it as a kind of infection, but I’ve always chosen to call it a gift. Rakish said. It is more like magic than a virus, so what he said about it being elf magic gone wrong makes sense to me. Elf magic is the most powerful force in the universe second only to the gods and many argue it’s the same thing, the power of creation. Some mystics call it Angelic Magic. There are many different names for it and it is practiced by humans, but only in abridged versions such as what the Golden Dawn’s Magick, Enochian Magick, etc. What the elves do with it is nothing less than miraculous.
My lunar-father’s knowledge of the topic
surprised me. You are full of surprises
tonight Rakish. How did you gain such knowledge about elves and their magic?
I’m 538 years old Galin, I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve known elves including our very own Isaac in bygone years. He went by Lance when I knew him. Taking care of this realm is his primary task, to make sure the ethers between his world and ours stay in balance. Human form diminishes his powers a great deal, but it is necessary because none of us would survive his Elf Lord visage. What he revealed to us yesterday by the spring was but a little less veiled display of his true form and it nearly wiped him out containing it. The spell he just cast would have killed a mortal. He continued.
Wow, I never knew you were this knowledgeable about it. I settled down on the deck using Rakish’s flank as a pillow. I’ve never been this close to him before on a physical or emotional level and it felt a bit weird at first, but I chose to ignore it. A sort of peace settled between us that I didn’t understand and wasn’t sure I liked, but it sure as hell beat fighting right now. Rakish didn’t say anything more but settled his large cat’s head on top of his paws seeming to go to sleep.
I looked over at the twins who also settled down curling up with each other and I felt Pumar curl in behind me spooning in close. Greg flopped down in the cockpit taking up a conversation with Toby quietly enough so we could all ignore their conversation. He shared the watch with the latter and several hours would pass before he could sleep. “I’m glad things seem to be settling between you and Rakish.” Pumar said.
“You are, why?”
“Because I like him, and I don’t think the fight between you would be a very pleasant way to spend our time together.” He didn’t say anything else but wrapped his arms around me and soon I felt his breathing ease into the peaceful rhythm of sleep. Admittedly his point is valid and one I should take to heart. Sleeping on deck may not necessary but it seemed like a nice place to relax and let the boat rock us to Never-never Land. Many things passed through my dreams including a very angry vampire in pieces, but none of it seemed as surreal as the bond forming between Rakish and me. Though it feels like it this is not a dream. The link allows us to share more than thoughts and feelings; it allows us to walk each other’s dreamscapes. I could see and feel his dreams and he could do the same with mine. I never knew it was possible. The link extended through me to Pumar too and in a strange way bound us all three together: unsettling, yes, but not in a bad way so to speak. More like a breeze unsettles your hair making you want to brush it out of your eyes. The last thought to sketch my mind before sleep stole over me was the adventures awaiting us in the islands. Isaac keeps hinting it will not be easy retrieving his medallion, how could it be so difficult? Velvet darkness blanketed over my senses and then nothing.
Sunshine peaking over the horizon woke me.
Sometime last night Rakish returned to human form and I found my head resting
on his groin. It shouldn’t have surprised me considering I’d used his cat’s
flank as my pillow when I went to sleep, but it did. His nudity didn’t disturb
me: after all he is a beautiful man in his late teens, well proportioned, and
in good shape. Like Shea his eyes look exotic in his dark skinned face framed
by black and oxblood hair. I guess hating him for so long made it difficult to
fully relax in his presence. I didn’t move my head though, so I guess you could
give me a medal for that at least.
The sunrise played a beautiful opus of color and harmony this morning. Feathery pastel clouds in pinks and oranges rose and fell across the sky like a painter’s rendition of Bernstein’s baton arching wildly before the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I lay there taking it all in. A stiff breeze blew through the rigging making it sing in time with the swells caressing the hull in a gentle sway. I’d forgotten how much noise a wooden boat makes but it wasn’t an unpleasant resonance. It reminded me of Count Basie’s Jumpin’ At The Woodside and echoed distant sailors from ages past going on about a tide and rigging refrain.
Looking up I saw the visage of sky and sail from a most peculiar observation. Immensely large sails stretched eternally into an every expanding sky reminding me of an ethereal Tower of Babble like a white pyramid extending forever into God’s domain. For the first time in a very long while peace reigned supreme overshadowing the chaos in my life. Maybe there’s something to the belief Hindus’ have of Karma? Maybe I’d paid enough of my debts over these last few days to afford some serenity in my life? There is. Rakish thought. Interesting, our mental telepathy does extend to his human form. The irony was not lost on me. He sighed. Still so repulsed by me: will you ever accept my apology?
I do forgive you Rakish. But please give me time because a hundred years of hating you is difficult to get over. I thought to him. He said nothing but seemed to relax. Only then did I realize he’d tensed at my reaction to our ability to hear each other’s thoughts in human form. To be honest it was a good development for many reasons and I felt it would come in handy, but it was still Rakish. In your views of Karma I guess I have a lot to pay for. I thought.
Don’t we all? He thought back. A seagull flying overhead looked beautiful silhouetted against the sky; framed by sail and rigging. I looked down the deck to see Isaac and Shea in the cockpit. She stood at the wheel looking forward while discussing something very quietly with the elf. Just enough wind interference rang in my ears to prevent me from hearing them. Pumar slept beside us but he no longer spooned against me. His head rested on Rakish’s thigh and he looked angelic in the morning light. I’d give anything to take back what I did to you Galin. I really would.
The emotions accompanying his thoughts were too
much for me. They made me want to forgive him and at the same time I didn’t
want to give in. I needed to hang on to that hate because it anchored me, offered
something solid to focus all of my own emotions on. However how he truly felt
about me and how what he did to me cut him deeply, so deep that his soul bled
at the mere memory of it, could not be ignored. How do I deal with this? If
only his thoughts came through like words spoken, without a flood of emotions,
it would be easy. I could ignore it, but feeling his emotions threatened to
drown me and wash me away as in the swollen torrents. Walt Whitman’s words
floated across the landscape of my mind like storm cloud washing away sins long
(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you
O sane and sacred death
can I say? I don’t know why those words spoke to my mind at that moment, but
they did. It comes from his poem in Leaves of Grass that commemorated President
Abe Lincoln’s funeral procession. Maybe my psyche pushed the thought over me to
try and nudge me into thinking of it from a different perspective like the
sight of sail and sky above spoke of mere mortals trying to reach the realms of
gods. You don’t bestow flowers on those you hate. And just like the first lines
from that poem:
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you O death.)
When lilacs last in the dooryard
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
…I would forever meet those memories, again and again, each spring with my heart ripping apart at the anniversary of my brothers’ deaths, and fill my soul with bittersweet because out of it I gained a father I never knew or understood before now.
That’s beautiful. Who is Walt Whitman? Rakish thought.
One of the great American Poets who wrote a book of poems he named Leaves of Grass. I answered. He was one of the very few gay men of renown from the late 1800’s. Most people could deny his sexuality and hence allow him to pass into immortality through his penmanship.
I’d like to read this book sometime.
It’s a large one, but worth reading. I sighed and looked up my father’s body at his face. He returned my gaze and I saw a shadow of a tear forming in his eye. For the first time I was glad to know him and I rubbed his stomach affectionately.
Seeing this morning through your thoughts reveals a side of you I’ve never expected to exist: at least not this well developed. I’ve always admired your strength and tenacity, but I’ve never seen the sensitive and reflective sides. He said.
Gratitude comes with age
When I was young
I went after what I wanted
with little regard to
How precious a mother is
Oh I was polite
so very polite
honey attracts more bees
But as silver coursed my hair
what little hair I had left
I began to understand
the Beauty life is
That’s beautiful too, is that another Walt Whitman? Rakish asked.
That one is mine. I wrote it. Granted my hair is not gray or falling out, but I was thinking of my family and how I missed them, missed being human. I guess that’s what this moment means for us too. Gratitude does need age, it needs time. I said.
Rakish looked towards me. He seemed to see me as though through a brand new looking glass. The expression on his face almost made me laugh. It was a mix of surprise and dawning understanding. You are a very talented and insightful young man Galin. I never knew… He looked away for a moment and I felt rather than heard his thoughts. I love you echoed around in his head almost like he was trying to prevent me from hearing it as though he feared it would ruin the moment. It didn’t.
I guess I love you too. I’m not sure how to say it because… You know. I said.
Yes I know. He didn’t think anything else. I guess centuries of controlling your thoughts in tiger form teach you how to do it. I hoped I’d learn too someday because it could prove embarrassing otherwise.
Rakish laughed at that. I can teach you how to do it Galin. It’s really not that difficult,
just takes practice and discipline.
“Sure, what is it?” I asked.
“Would you guys really eat us?”
“No,” I laughed, “you are our allies and we’re supposed to be nice. However if I were you, I’d not press my luck with Rakish. He’s well known among us tigers as having an extremely short fuse.” OK, it was only a small lie. Rakish did have a short fuse, but he wouldn’t eat them anymore than I would, or at least I didn’t think so.
Tobin visibly paled. “OK.”
“See, I told you.” Torquil said punching his
brother’s arm. “I told him if we keep it up we’d become otter shish kabobs.” I
chuckled, I couldn’t help myself. I decided to let them think Rakish may eat
them because if they pestered him enough he may well do it and I’d hate to see
the little guys actually become
“Thanks Master Galin.” Tobin said looking up at me deep in thought
I sat down beside them. “Rakish scares you, doesn’t he?”
“Yes.” Torquil said.
“Well, he’s a pretty good guy, but he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor: at least not for your brand of entertainment. May I ask you a question or two?”
“Sure.” Torquil said.
“How is it that you can change at will with little or no ill effects? I mean, if I were to transform as often as you do without eating I’d pass out.”
“That’s because you’re a lycanthrope.” Tobin said as if that explained everything.
“Aren’t you lycanthropes?” I asked revealing my
ignorance apparently because Tobin rolled his eyes.
“We’re shapeshifters, but we’re not lycanthropes.” Torquil added. My confusion must have shown because he went on. “Lycanthropes such as you and werewolves have to eat after changing or you grow weak. Torquil and I were born, not turned. Master Frisk’s brother, Warren is literally our father. He sired us with our mother Naffill about 150 years ago. We’re not human: never have been.”
“Then what are you?” I asked my curiosity peaked.
“Were Wereotters,” Tobin piped in. “Actually there are many different types of us and we’ve been called by a lot of different names over the years.”
“You shouldn’t be telling him this Tobin. Master Frisk would not like it.” Torquil chided his brother.
“How do you know Master Frisk wouldn’t tell him himself?” Tobin returned agitated.
“Well go ahead then.”
“As I was saying before so rudely interrupted, we’ve…”
“It’s your funeral.” Torquil slipped in.
Tobin gave his brother a glare and continued slowly, articulating every word, while looking at him instead of me. “We’ve been called many things, but the most common is dwarves.
“Dwarves, I’ve never before heard of dwarves being shapeshifters.” I said. In fact I’d never even considered the otters could be anything other than what we all are and the idea they are the fabled dwarves blew my mind.
“Nope, were not lycanthropes, but dwarves are shapeshifters. The moon affects us the same as it does you, we’re very long lived but not immortal, we heal the same as you, but we have some perks you don’t share. For one we can transform endlessly, effortlessly, and at will without getting tired or having to eat, and another we can shape shift into any animal we wish.” Torquil added now that Tobin spilled the beans.
“Why has no one ever heard of shape shifting dwarves before?” I asked.
“We keep it a very guarded secret, or at least we used too.” Torquil answered shooting a heated glare at his twin. “My brother should never have told you. He’ll find himself up shit creek without enough water to swim in once Master Frisk finds out.”
“There’s no need for him to find out.” Tobin said. “You won’t tell, will you Master Galin?”
“No, you’re secret’s safe with me. However, you
know how good lycanthrope hearing is. I’d say everyone onboard knows your
secret now.” I mused.
Tobin and Torquil fidgeted nervously. “Gee whiz Tobin, now you’ve gone and done it.” Torquil chided his brother again.
As if on cue, Greg, Pumar, and Rakish eased up beside me. They all heard the conversation. “Shit, I’m learning all sorts of new things on this voyage.” Pumar said.
I thought for a moment looking at Pumar and the other two. “I want all of you to promise you’ll keep their secret. Everyone onboard may know it, but it need go no further.” I said to my small family. Pumar and Rakish both readily agreed and Greg added his consent a moment later.
“I thought Dwarves liked living in dark, dank caves and shit like that.” Greg said.
“Most of us do live underground, but not all and none of us live anywhere that is dank. We are a varied species and while some of us are the stuff of legends, others, like our clan, prefer a simple life of fun and peace. We’re known as River Dwarves. The cave dwellers, or Mountain Dwarves, are the craftsmen and they’re often called Forge Dwarves. Then you have the ocean dwellers, they’re the Sea Dwarves, not many of them around anymore. I’m afraid they most unwisely chose the seal as their animal, many became food for sharks before they figured it out.” Tobin answered.
“Wasn’t many of them to begin with.” Torquil added. “There are several other clans but sadly most have passed beyond this realm.” All of us were quiet for awhile, lost in thought, and trying to absorb all of the information we’ve gained over the last few days. Pumar especially seemed reluctant to accept it all. In just a few days he found out wereanimals, vampires, elves, and now dwarves were all real. It’s a lot to take in. Did I somehow pass over into the Twilight Zone or something? He thought to Rakish and me.
I’m beginning to think the same thing Pumar. I said back. This is almost too much to take in.
I knew dwarves existed, but I never knew they were shape shifters like us. Rakish added. I never thought I would meet one though. They really are rare these days.
“I hope to meet some of our cousins while in the islands. Rumor says there are Sea Dwarves living in the Caribbean.” Tobin’s eyes misted over at the thought of meeting distant relatives. I cannot say I blamed him.
“The dwarves are not much unlike my people.” Isaac said as he joined us. “There are many different types of dwarves, but with elves you have but four: Wood Elves; the Merpeople, or Sea Elves, are those of us who chose to live in the sea; like the dwarves, we have the craftsmen; these are often called Hearth Elves or Fire Elves; and then there are the Storm Elves. High Elves, also known as The Council, are the Lords of my people and their members come from all four kingdoms.”
Pumar seemed confused. “The four kingdoms of
elves seem to be similar to the four elements.”
“You’re very astute Pumar. Our kingdoms are the elements from which we come: earth, water, fire, and air.”
“So would that make you elementals?” Jacob asked.
“No, elementals are Sprites. They are Gnomes, Water Nymphs, Salamanders, and Fairies. We are related but it is more like very distant cousins.” He answered.
“God I wish I had a beer. This is too much to swallow sober.” Jacob said. “How are you related to the elementals if you’re not the same thing?”
“Elementals are us before we became us. When an elemental reaches his fullest potential, he transforms into an elf. For each of us that are born, an elemental has to die.” Isaac explained.
“So you were a Gnome before becoming a Wood Elf?” I asked?
“Yes,” he answered.
“Why don’t you have pointed ears?” Greg asked.
Isaac laughed. “Our people do have pointed ears, but how well would I fit in with the human population if my ears looked like Mr. Spock?” We all joined in Isaac’s mirth and no one had to answer that question.
“What do you look like as an elf?” Rakish asked. “I’ve known you years ago, but I never saw your real form.”
“I look like I did by the spring day before yesterday. My hair is blond; all elves hair is blond, almost like silken gold. Wood and Hearth Elves’ hair is more gold while Sea and Storm Elves’ hair is such a pale yellow it appears white. My eyes are the same green they are now. Wood Elves eyes are green or brown, Sea Elves eyes are blue or black, Hearth Elves eyes are burnt sienna or red, and Storm Elves eyes are yellow or gray. Our eyes change color with our mood. We’re tall and slender; you will never see an overweight elf and it has nothing to do with how much we eat. If we have one fault, it is our enjoyment of good food. Our skin has a very slight grayish look to it making it appear almost white. Silver goes well with our complexion but gold tends to wash us out and the colors of our element tend to look best for clothing. When we arrive in the lands of my people, you will see us as we are except we will still be veiled; none of you would survive otherwise.” He sat quietly a yearning look masking his face. “I miss my home. Returning, even only for a short while, will be glorious.”
Rakish recounted how we became weretigers and all
of us already knew Greg’s story, or at least the part he’s willing to share.
Evening rolled around and the sky sparkled yellow accentuated by a very large
fire orange globe as the sun sank under the horizon. The color burned so red it
looked like a dying ember. Settling down with Rakish, Pumar, Greg, on the
foredeck, felt peaceful. The wave’s sprayed us; not enough to get us wet, but
enough to cool us down a little more. Sunset ushered in a much more pleasant
temperature which all of us enjoyed. What Rakish said proved true, with evening
everyone who’d been up all day became very sleepy. It felt nice to lie there
with the men in my life and it surprised me how close Rakish and I grew. If
someone told me even yesterday I’d enjoy his company like this, I wouldn’t
believe it. I don’t know what to think about it, nope far too soon for that,
but Pumar has a point: it’s a lot nicer to get along than it is to fight. One
day down and about eight more to go before Cancun, what will we do?
* * *This concludes Chapter Ten. Please feel free to write to me to share what you think about this story so far. I'm not sure how long I'll make it, but I will continue as people express interest in the story. Again constructive criticism, comments or complements are welcome, but if you just want to flame the story, then I respectfully ask you to keep your opinions to yourself. I may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org