Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 13
© 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 complete it.
Disclaimer: This is a story of adult nonsexual content. If you are offended by this type of material then please do not read further. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), then read with parental permissions only. It is strictly intended for mature audiences who enjoy reading material of this content. This is a purely fictional story and any resemblance to any persons is strictly coincidental. It is not my intention in the writing of this material to shed an unsavory light on any person by the use of any names in this material. This material is copyrighted by me and may not be used in part or in whole for group entertainment or education, including class rooms, without first obtaining written permission from me. I would appreciate any constructive criticism, complements, or suggestions my readers may have to share with me, however I will flatly ignore flaming out at my material. You may write to me via: email@example.com.
A Night for Revenge
I’ve never seen a vampire more shaken than Stephano. Pedro said he possessed the ability to levitate small objects. He failed to mention the vampire could levitate himself. When Stephano sprang from his prison he didn’t land but roared like a wounded animal soaring higher and higher until he hovered near the dungeon’s ceiling. Energy flickered over his body while smoldering deep in his eyes like blue flames. He stared down at us then shifted his gaze with a pained expression to the retreating dwarves. Mere moments passed as he hung near the ceiling among the stalactites but it seemed like the entire universe held its breath waiting for the devil to wake and destroy the world. I looked into those eyes as they glared back emptied of every emotion but rage. At that moment he wore Death’s cloak just as sure as if the Grim Reaper loomed above in the high shadows and in an instant Stephano appeared in front of me. I hadn’t seen him move. One moment he hovered near the ceiling and the next he floated before my eyes inches from my face. He never touched the ground but grabbed my biceps in fist of steel ripping me from the shackle rings in the wall. We soared thirty feet or more in the air with me dangling more or less helplessly in his grip. I could struggle, try and put up a fight, but to what end? As I’ve said before, silver reduces us to almost human weakens and it bound my arms and legs so I could hardly move. No, fighting would accomplish nothing but speeding up my death leaving my friends to the mercy of an enemy eager to torment them forever. If at all possible I had to try and stay alive for their sake. With Isaac missing I was our best hope of escaping this.
Stephano’s blue fire eyes burned into mine. The stench of his breath was nauseating as he spit words in my face: “I will kill you all for this outrage! No one treats me like a common slave.” The viper struck. I’ve felt pain, all kinds of it, but I’ve never been so crippled by it. His fangs ripped through the sinew of my neck cutting cleanly through my jugular. Arterial spray washed us red. I’ve never experienced a vampire’s bite but if this is what it’s like, I never want to feel it again. Excruciating pain stabbed throughout me but as he drank I grew numb in a matter of moments. Warm sensations spread through me numbing my arms and legs with sleep’s itchy tingle. I grew weak, weak as a newborn preemie. Finally chills settled in my bones as he drained me. I barely hung onto consciousness when dropping me. Just let me fall like a sack of potatoes crashing into the dungeon’s stone floor. Strangely I felt nothing, not even my legs as they broke. I have no idea as to the extent of the damage but I heard them snap like twigs. If I’d had the use of my legs it wouldn’t have happened.
Blood, cold and wet, covered me but it felt odd almost alive. Looking up I saw the room reflected in his coal black eyes. They’d returned to normal. How strange the way details stand out in moments like this. Everything seemed so surreal. Time as snail’s slow creeping allowed me to notice everything. Stephano, still hovering feet off the ground, fumed like a thousand hissing snakes as energy undulated angrily over his body growing stronger, morphing into a rich vibrant purple. My people like sheep before the slaughter, not moving, not complaining, just standing there without any emotion except complete complacency showing in their eyes. The guards who failed to capture the dwarves lay decapitated at Loretta’s feet. Her tongue, frozen in the moment of licking their blood off her fingers looked wrong, defiled, like a white statue vandalized by a punk’s red spray paint. How very fascinating. No one stirred, no one moved, and no one said a word as everything stopped. Like the moments prior to the carnival ride’s collapse hovering in mid air before crashing ground-ward, but I doubted this ride would swoop back up like a rollercoaster. I lay on the floor exhausted and weak, unable to move. A beetle paused in mid step only inches from my face looked for the entire world like an enormous sculpture in exquisite obsidian splendor with two legs raised mid motion.
Then everything happened all at once swirling into fast
motion. Jaguars scrambled away stumbling over each other in their desperation
to escape the infuriated vampires. No one wanted to draw Loretta’s or
Stephano’s attention. My friends still stood motionless like so many
mannequins. I ached. Every muscle screamed with a burning devouring fire and I watched
in horror as Stephano grabbed Pumar bending his neck back. Try as I may I could
not scream, I could do nothing. Believe me I tried, oh god how I tried, as he
sank his fangs into my lunar-son’s neck but my thoughts could not escape the
black hole of my lips. Why can’t I speak?
Pumar grew weak in his arms hanging from them like a wet rag doll. Pumar! I screamed mentally for him. Fuck no! This is NOT happening! My mind
screamed. Pumar! He did not answer.
Stephano dropped my son on the floor before moving on to his next victim
jerking Shea into his lethal embrace sinking his fangs home. The chamber faded
into a moonless, dreamless, midnight. So
this is what death is like. I thought. Excruciating
pain frozen in a paralysis of helplessness.
* * *
I don’t know when I woke or where I was. If Hell is pain, then I’ve arrived. Every muscle in my body ached, a constant throbbing pulsing with every heartbeat. A cave darkness so black it gauzed my eyes enveloped me. Oh God what happened? I thought. I tried to speak but my voice cracked, choking off before any sound emerged. Shit it’s hot in here… I wrinkled my nose, and it stinks. It really did. The place, wherever it was, smelled of death, old and rotting with the tang of fresh blood tingeing at the edges. Recent events slowly crept back into my mind like a timid child approaching an abusive parent. Fuck! The desire to reach for the wound in my neck pulled at my arm, but my rebellious limbs formed a picket line refusing to work. God I hate unions! They always choose the most inopportune time to strike. I’d fire them if I could. Sticks of some kind, uncomfortably poking into me, formed my bed. To make matters worse a large stone dug into my shoulder blade. Where the fuck am I? I thought again.
At some point I heard a sound, or thought I did. It skittered across my eardrums like the scratching of tiny claws on stone. I wasn’t sure until I heard it squeak. Oh fucking great, rats. That’s all I need. I rolled over away from the stone in my back reaching for the ground. I guess survival convinced my protesting muscles to end their strike. Good, something needed too. I didn’t find stone and earth however and a wave of confusion washed over me as my fingers struck branches passing between them. If I were outside I’d be able to see something, anything other than all this enveloping darkness. I reached further straining for stones or earth that I knew had to be there someplace. I cringed as my fingers wrapped around a limb which had small stubby limbs sticking out from it. It felt smooth and cold. The fog I my brain began lifting… Not branches. I jerked my hand back cradling it to my bare chest. I sucked in a deep breath instantly wishing I hadn’t. Moving around stirred up the litter upon which I lay and a fresh wave of stench filled my nostrils. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! Adrenalin surged through me making my dissent limbs do what they adamantly complained about as I jumped to my feet. Humans! Corpses at all levels of decay surrounded me. I couldn’t see them, but I sure as hell felt and sensed the carnage of this particular pit in hell. Maybe the Greeks had it right and Hades lorded over the underworld. This most certainly is not the Elysian Fields though. Maybe it’s some obscure crevice wedged between Pits of Torment and the Spanish Inquisition where diseased dogs squirm in eternal unrest.
I had to do something, but what? Death’s cloying stench clung to my nostrils pulling and tugging at me like pine tar smeared across my hand the way it sticks to everything no matter how much washing. Everything touched becomes sticky and mucky. Try as I may I could see nothing, nothing at all. I was about to panic when a faint moan echoed off the chamber’s walls. I couldn’t tell from which direction the sound came but it was certainly human and sounded faintly familiar. “Who are you?” I asked. My voice worked this time but little more than a whisper escaped my lips. It’s not often I find a situation that truly frightens me but right now in this place I was scared. Frightened like a little boy by monsters under the bed certain something green and slimy would grab my ankle pulling me into oblivion.
“Help!” The voice said. I still couldn’t make out who called. It was little more than a whisper. “Help me. Please help me.”
Pumar! Oh my god! “Pumar?”
“Galin?” I didn’t care that my eyes were filled with swamp water so black and blinding I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. I didn’t care what I may stumble through or into on my way to find him. Pumar consumed my thoughts. My Pumar, my beloved son so precious to me that all the death surrounding us couldn’t weigh down on me any longer. I sprang forward towards the sound of Pumar’s voice, towards redemption. If I can save him, maybe I can save us all. “I can’t move Galin, where are you?”
“I’m right here Pumar.” I slowed as I drew close to where I perceived he lay. My senses were waking up allowing me to smell him lying about fifteen feet in front and a little to my left. I guess because the cavern didn’t stink quite as badly here as where I woke may contribute to his scent being so fresh, less disguised. Apparently my sight decided to work again too, albeit feebly, but I could see faint shadows in the all consuming darkness like wisp of ethereal vapors rising ghostlike from several areas deeper in the cavern. I could have sworn some of them echoed some living being reaching from hell with cloying fingers desperately searching, groping. A shiver ran through me as I thought what they may be groping for, or for whom. Under other circumstances I’d have pondered this but right now Pumar demanded my undivided attention.
I know my speed. Add another 20% for the adrenalin rush and I figured I’d traveled maybe a thousand feet. I couldn’t help but wonder if life ever resided here but I do know the dead reign supreme in this dark jewel. At the moment I wasn’t so concerned about that though either so I second seated it in favor of finding my son. I followed his scent rising over that of old bones as ancient as the ruins someplace above. I had no doubt the old stone city lay far up there somewhere, but exactly where I had no idea. “Pumar, are you OK?” Yea I know it, stupid question. Neither of us was OK, but at least we were alive. There is comfort in that. Stephano hadn’t killed us.
“I don’t know. I’m sore, really, really sore.”
“Can you sit up?” I asked.
“I think so.”
I reached out for him but flinched when my fingers encountered cold dead flesh. Why hadn’t I smelt it? Reaching over the decaying corpse lying between us I finally felt Pumar’s warm arm. He gripped my hand pulling me to him as a frightened child will take the protective embrace of someone loved, someone trusted, and someone who can fight the dark and win. I hopped over the carcass lying between us pulling Pumar tighter into the embrace. “Oh my gods it’s good to see you.” I hugged him close. “Come on, we need to try and get out of here.” I said lifting him up beside me as I stood.
It took him a moment to gain his feet but he finally straightened up taking in a deep breath which brought on a barrage of coughs. “Shit it stinks in here.”
I laughed. “Now that’s an understatement. I don’t know where we are, but if they brought us here then there has to be an exit.” He nodded leaning into me clinging tighter than ever. I wrapped my arm around his waist pulling him along in the opposite direction from where I’d come. Reason may or may not suggests the fresher, less corrupted, the air pointed the way to the door but it sure beat heading back into the pile of stinking corpses I woke up in, so we went in a direction I hoped would lead out. “The dead live here, this place is their home, their refuge, and it needs to be left to them. It is not a place I want to be.” I said. I needed to get out of this place – badly.
One good thing about being in a cavern, mine, city sewer, or anyplace underground is that they all have walls which may be round and grimy, slick and smooth, or sandy and dry, but they do have boundaries and except in a tunnel any direction will find one. The problem is what pitfalls lay between them? With one arm stretched out in front and shuffling my feet I led us in the direction stretching before us. Thankfully we didn’t have to go far because I hate feeling the floor with feet in order to discern if a found expanse is a three inch drop in an uneven floor or the lip of a gaping mouth ready to gobble me up. Thank the gods I felt warm stone grate against my fingertips not long after we set out. “We need to change Pumar. Maybe our full tiger eyes will be able to see something. Anything will be an improvement over this blackness.”
He grunted. “I’m not sure I can. I’ve never done it on my own before. Why is it so hot in here?”
“Your guess is as good as mine bub it doesn’t really make sense, it shouldn’t be this hot. Caves usually stay around fifty-eight degrees or so.” I answered. “Come on, let’s let the boys out.” Concentrating on my tiger I felt him pacing back and forth, seriously agitated, and longing for freedom. As soon as he sensed me focusing on him he took it as an invitation, springing forward, liberated at last. A shiver ran through me and one moment I stood leaning against the cavern’s wall and in the next I stood beside it on all fours rubbing my large feline head against Pumar’s naked hip. Come on son, try it. Let him free. He’s probably as anxious to be out as mine was.
Pumar grew still and calm. I felt his body shiver, flowing, transforming into his beast. Wow, this feels great! His mental voice sounded elated by his new found ability to change without help.
You thought it’d be difficult like back in Pensacola. I said.
I nodded my head rubbing against my son purring loudly causing him to scent mark my cheek affectionately. We gotta to find a way out of here.
Wow, I can see. What’s that red over there? Pumar sounded more like he wanted to go exploring rather than search for a retreat from this heated place in hell.
It interested me how well my tiger could see in the same darkness that blinded my human ones so completely. Even as human my eyes are more tiger really than human and I can see in situations that blinds most people. Looking around though, I almost wished I couldn’t see the carnage. Before me stretched an enormous cavern pilled with mountains of bones. Most were old, ancient, and brittle but a fresher line of corpses covered its surface from the cavernous center to a large opening in the right wall. Bodies varying in levels of decay and I figured I’d been dumped somewhere near the center. The far side of the cave glowed red hot in the infrared spectrum and humidity boiled through the place. It’s a heat plum. I answered him absently mindedly. I’d say it’s a geothermal spring. I think we found the source of the hot water in the Dwarf Halls. I had no intention of finding out for sure, but padded my way for the only opening that presented itself. I guess because Pumar trotted right behind me I felt as though nothing could harm us, but an uneasy sensation crept up raising my hackles as we went. I came to an abrupt halt when yellowish white wisp of smoke swirled overhead. This was not random like fogs of steam buffed by breezes but moved with an almost hypnotic rhythm like conscious thought.
Shit, did you see that? Pumar asked.
Good, I thought I was going mad. What do you think it is? My lunar-son looked mesmerized by the spectrals. I became concerned when his body swayed in time with the undulating mist.
Ghost, yep, one word spoke it all. I was afraid he’d say that. I hate ghost. Or rather I hate the thought of ghost. I’m really not sure I believe in them, but after all the people I’ve killed, I’m not sure I want to find out if they really exist.
I chose to change the subject just in case Pumar decided he wanted to discuss beliefs in the afterworld so I moved on toward the edge of the gaping tunnel. Come on Pumar, we need to get going. I heard him padding softly behind following my lead. I feared if we stayed any longer I’d have to force him to leave. As we moved the mist accompanied us following to the side about twenty or thirty feet away just inside our peripheral vision. They didn’t do anything but float along maintaining pace and distance. I kept glancing over at them because if I ignored them for too long they’d billow a bit in front of us as though to draw our attention back. It was a scary sensation seeing them like this because they were making it much more difficult to deny their existence. In the infrared spectrum hints of green and blue intermingled with their yellowish white color.
Much to my dismay the passage I hoped was the way out proved to be an extension of hell with another brightly burning furnace at the far end. Since there was nowhere else to search we continued on. This place is disgusting. Pumar said. Does Loretta think we’re dead?
I can’t imagine any other reason they’d just dump us here as though we were. Can you feel her presence? I asked.
No. I’ve not felt anything from her in a while.
How long have you been awake?
I’m not sure. He said. I think I may have awakened before you, but I was afraid to say anything or move around. I thought if I stayed still and quiet I’d wake up and find it all to be a bad dream.
Humph, a bad dream eh? Maybe we’ll both wake up if we pinch each other. I joked. This was certainly a nightmare but one from which we could not wake.
Pumar got the joke and chuckled quietly making an awkward purring sound. I don’t think there’s any chance we’ll just wake up and find everything is fine. I knew he was right so there was no need to comment further. Another two or three thousand feet passed and finally the line of corpses sloped to an end leaving bare damp earth and stone but a trail of the more ordinary kind stretched before us now. At least we don’t have to stumble over bodies anymore. Pumar added. How long do you suppose they’ve been dumping their victims down here?
Their victims… I mused. From the looks of this place, I’d say centuries. Either the El Diente de la Muerte Clan’s been doing it for generations before the vampires came or Loretta and Stephano have been here far longer than we’ve been led to believe. Let’s see where this path leads, shall we? I said glancing back at my lunar-son as I padded forward at a little faster pace with Pumar still flanking me. I wanted to change the subject because I really didn’t want to think about the dead. The ghostlike mists kept pace but swirled a little more agitated as though they sensed we searched for a way out and didn’t want the living to abandon them again. It really didn’t matter to me what they wanted.
About half an hour passed and the pillar of red and yellow steam at the far end of the cavern was much closer to us when we came to a bend in the trail leading away from Dante’s Inferno. The walls here were natural and wet with water deposited minerals lending a surreal organic feel to it as though we walked around in the expanded stomach of an enormous beast. Stalactites hung from the ceiling and in places some met their stalagmite mates in a ritual mating joining their slow union into monolithic columns. If it weren’t for all those bodies this may be an interesting place to explore. I commented. Yes, stay, explore, ecplore, no don’t go! I shook my head not sure where the sound came from. It was not spoken either to my physical ears or through my mental dialog.
After a time, not sure how long, the trail led to a small passageway hewn in the living rock human made tool. The fact people made this opening did more to spark hope for a way out than anything else could have. I’d not realized how much I doubted this until just now. We passed through the hole in the wall, for that really is all it was – just wide enough to squeeze through and so short I my human form would have to stoop pretty low to enter. It didn’t expand wider after we entered it either. As I entered the passage I glanced back at the swirling mists. They moved with such violent agitation it startled me. Come back. No not that way. Come back: Sung in my mind. I turned quickly picking up the pace just bit.
The further we went the more I decided we’d made a mistake because it felt like the tunnel descended deeper and to my reckoning it should be taking us up. The only good thing I saw about it were bioluminescence glowing from the ceiling and walls shedding just enough light for us to see. I’m not sure this is right. I said but even as I thought the words the tunnel leveled out and began to climb – not steep enough for steps but a steady upgrade. It still twisted this way and that and grew much steeper as we went switching to steps carved from the living rock. Finally it opened into a plateau of sorts. I wasn’t exactly sure how large the place was because I saw no boundaries except for the low ceiling which I could touch if I’d been in human form. Our sounds echoing off distant walls told me the room was rather large. Air, cool and moist, filled my lungs. Thank the gods it tasted sweet, void of the stench of death. Running water resounded from some dark place and I looked around for its source but saw nothing. Above us the bioluminescence created hieroglyphic patterns swirling out in every direction. I stopped to take a longer look at it wondering this was possible when I saw the words were carved into the rock and the algae or whatever glowed filled the crevices.
Wow! This is so cool. Pumar said as he trotted out in front not watching where he went – never a good idea in a cave.
Pumar NO! I shouted but watched in horror as he vanish into the darkness. I raced over to where he disappeared skidding to a stop only seconds before plunging into gaping pitch blackness. Nothing greeted me from the precipice but the gurgling rush of water. Pumar! I shouted. Pumar! No answer. Before I could think better of it I leapt into the abyss hoping beyond hope this did not lead to our deaths. I fell for quite a while before splashing into freezing cold water which whisked me away as though being grabbed by a giant fist yanking me along. God what have we gotten ourselves into. Pumar!
I’m alright Galin. I didn’t see the hole, sorry.
Where are you?
In the water, he answered.
Smart ass! I accused.
Well, you asked where I was, what else am I going to say? I’m in the river. I can’t see a thing. The current’s too strong to fight. His mental voice sounded miles away. Did you fall too?
No I jumped. I watched you fall and I couldn’t lose you again. Not to something like this. I said.
You jumped? Are you crazy? What if I’d landed on spears or some other nasty surface like rocks? You’d have died right along with me.
Then I would have died, so what? I don’t care.
He was silent for a long time after that. Thank you… I love you too.
We didn’t say anything else for a long time because keeping our heads above water took all our concentration. The river whisked us along and minutes seemed like hours to me caught in the clutches of the river’s torrent. Cold water soaked my fur all the way down to the skin which sapped even more strength from me making it feel like I’ve been fighting the currents for a lot longer than I really had. Tigers have a thick under coat which stays dry most of the time even when it’s pouring down rain or when we swim. It takes some doing to get it this saturated. I was tired and hungry, oh so hungry. It is an odd thing really because the transformation is as smooth as silk when it happens that it doesn’t seem like it takes anything out of us but it actually uses so much energy that we really do need to eat fairly soon afterward. It’s not that we’ll die if we don’t eat, or anything like that, but a shapeshifter who doesn’t eat soon once the change has occurred is horribly unpredictable. Since neither of us had anything to eat in who knows how long the drain of energy took its toll. What’s that sound? Pumar asked.
I don’t know, what sound? I snapped before hearing it through his ears over the link. Oh shit!
I’ve only heard a sound like that once before Pumar. Does Niagara ring a bell?
Awe fuck Galin, what are we going to do? I can’t fight the current, it’s too strong.
I don’t think we have much of a choice Pumar. Let’s hope it’s not as bad as it sounds. It didn’t take long before I heard Pumar whimper over the link and then a yowl whispered in the distance before the rush of water drowned out his scream. Pumar? Pumar! Nothing, not a whimper, echoed back to me but a god awful thunderous roar swiftly growing closer. The flow surge forward: then… free fall. I guess I fell at least a hundred feet or more before I plunged into an enormous pool where god’s hand pulled me down, down, and down, further and further into oblivion, and then the waterfall’s teeth released me. One moment a great weight pushed me down deeper and deeper and then I floated still slowly ascended towards a surface I could not see. My lungs burned, starved for air, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold my breath so I started swimming frantic to reach air. Every moment that passed tortured. I longed to gulp air, longed for it so much my mind played me for a fool trying to trick me into thinking I’d already surfaced and I almost believed except I still felt water pressing in around my face. I dragged my paws through the water clawing my way to the surface not knowing how much further it was or if I even swam in the right direction. All of a sudden my body broke free rocketing halfway out the water. I gulped a huge lungful of blessed cold air before sinking back down into the inky blackness. Currents buffed me, pulling me this way and that until a series of eddies finally pushed me close enough to the bank that sand brushed my paws. Soon I was in the shallows and allowing me to pull towards the cold wet beach or sand bar. Slowly my shaking limbs pulled me further up onto the sand and then I collapsed panting. I heard calmer breathes a few feet away and guessed Pumar made it out too.
Galin? He asked. Galin, are you alright?
Yes, I think so. How about you?
I’m OK. Paws dance lightly over the wet sand towards me and then I felt his muzzle brush against the side of my face. He sniffed me, growled, and then a large warm tongue licked across my cheek raking water from my fur. How are we going to get out of this? I can’t see a thing.
Beats me, but following the river is our best bet. At least there’s not likely to be any more holes to fall into and if there is the river will warn us. I said with a bit of ire in my voice as I stumbled up and fell before I moved two feet.
I am sorry Galin. Really I am, but the light in the ceiling… I’ve never seen anything like it. His voice really sounded sorry and I had no choice but to believe his sincerity because I felt it radiating off his mind like heat waves shimmering from a Mississippi road in August.
It’s OK Pumar, I just don’t like being wet, hungry or this tired. It makes me cranky. How do you suppose we ended up on the bank instead of being carried along with the river?
Didn’t you pull me out?
No. You were already up here when I surfaced.
But who, I mean… I was drowning. I couldn’t break free from the undertow and then I felt teeth grab the scruff of my neck pulling me out. I thought it was you. He said quietly as though fearing his thoughts disturb something unpleasant.
No, you were already lying on the beach when I crawled out of the water. I couldn’t see you, but I heard you breath.
Shit, that’s just too weird. His voice sounded awestruck and a bit frightened.
I sat up to lick my chest and forelegs free of the water. That it is. Gods, I’ve never been this tired, sore, and beat up before. We can rest here a while if you like. I really don’t think anything else will happen to us for the time being. I suggested. Pumar curled up at my side in answer and I’m almost certain he fell asleep before he’d settled down well. The kid had a great idea. I listened to him breathe while I licked more water from my coat. Then I yawned, stretched and curled my body around his laying my head on his flank. A shiver ran over me as I fell into a fitful sleep. I couldn’t tell if the cold water saturating my coat or if something else gave me the willies but I shrugged it off and soon fell into dream land.
Something woke me. I don’t know what. For some reason the temperature dropped making me shiver violently. When I opened my eyes dragging my mind back to the conscious I noticed first off a faint light undulating on the ceiling of the chamber over where the fall roared. Light dancing like it will when reflecting off water’s surface. I looked around for its source and froze. Hovering over the sandy beach, further up and away from the water, a swirling cloud of light shimmered. There really is no other way to describe it. It wasn’t bright and didn’t move around much but stayed there swirling as though a gentle breeze nudged it from time to time. As I watched it slowly easing closer to us making me start and jump to my feet ready for just about anything. Only then did I realize Pumar and I were still in tiger form. Either we didn’t have the energy to transform back to human while we slept, or not enough time passed for it to happen. I nudged Pumar with my muzzle to wake him easing back away from the approaching cloud. What? He asked sleepily looking at me.
I think we need to leave. I said.
Pumar swiveled his head around to see what held my attention. What the fuck…? Yep, it frightened him too. He sprang to his feet landing half crouched by my side in a fighting stance. We eased back down toward the river. The cloud didn’t follow but drifted off to our right, downstream, where it revealed the tunnel through which the river rushed along its dark course. It hovered by the entrance only a moment before ducking into the opening. When we didn’t follow it swirled back into view, pulsing wildly, urging us to follow. If I said how I knew it wanted us to follow I’d be accused of having a Lassie moment but it really did happen like that. It bobbed around with its light keeping rhythm, ducked into the tunnel, and then popped back out several times. I almost laughed. Apparently Pumar thought the same thing because we both started in that direction at the same time. Pumar stopped and growled deep in his throat. What do we do? He asked.
I say we follow it. At least with it around we have light.
Is it safe? He queried.
How the fuck should I know. I guess if it could harm us it would have while we slept. Besides, what other choice do we have? I can’t see without it, can you? I snapped a bit too aggravated.
He lowered his large black head. Sorry, and trotted towards the light taking the lead. I chose not to argue with him about taking the position of dominance because it proved a very interesting show of bravery on Pumar’s part. After all he’s new to this life. Or maybe he just wanted to prove himself after the attitude I’d given. Yea, I felt bad.
The spectral guided us down one tunnel and into another for at least a good two hours. At some point it started feeling familiar but I wasn’t sure until I realized I recognized the passage we walked down as the one leading into the residential apartment sector. We turned a few more corners and just like that the long hallway that ended in the reception hall’s vestibule stretched out before ending in the pair of large wooden double doors through which the stadium sized reception hall stood. The phantom didn’t stop but glided into the doors as though to pass through but it simply dissolved the way smoke will when blown against an impervious surface. Pumar and I looked at each other wondering what to do next when a commotion sounded through the doors as if a lot of people gathered around clapping, cheering, and laughing. I eased over to the door leaning in close to listen when Loretta’s voice rang out clear over the hubbub. She sounded so close I thought for a moment she stood on our side of the door causing me to look around nervously. “Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you all here this night for a spectacular event that will change all of our live, and for the better I hope.” She added with a soft throaty laugh. Good natured murmurs answered her. I eased in even closer to the wooden surface of the door and watched as Pumar did the same. Well Cinderella, it would appear we got here just in time for the ball. I said. Are you ready to crash this party?
He gave me his best sneer nodding his head. Let’s do it. I smiled concentrating on my beast easing him back into half tiger form so I could manage the doors. It took longer than normal because of how exhausted I was but my flowing tissues finally solidified. Taking this in point of queue Pumar followed suit. I’ll have to admit I am very impressed with his half tiger. He’s a handsome cat who stands a good head taller than me sporting a much defined body covered in black fur highlighted with blood red stripes. Arm muscles bunched and flexed under the striped fur as he curled his hands into fist. If he could enter the Mr. Universe Competition in this form he’d win hands down. His tiger’s eyes glared at the door clearly spoiling for a fight. “Galin, let’s kill that bitch!” He growled.
“Let’s kill them both.” I agreed. A large timber blockaded the door preventing anyone from escaping the room on the other side but did nothing to prevent entry, so I lifted the beam out of its brackets quietly laying it down on the floor out of the way so I wouldn’t rouse the alarm. The last time I passed through these doors they opened out towards the hallway and vestibule but I was about to test their strength for I had little doubt the barricading timber’s brother secured the other side. To test my theory I pulled on the old bronze handles and the only response I got was a squeak of metal and a timber groan but the doors refused to budge. I looked back at Pumar. “Want to help me push these in?”
He smiled and stepped into place. “Awe, I thought you’d never ask. Thanks for sharing.” He positioned to my right placing his palms flat on the door mirroring my own stance on to the left. Ready, one, two, three… We heaved putting as much energy into it as we could spare. After a moment’s hesitation the doors splintered like so much kindling showering the startled vampires, jaguars, and their guest alike. Pumar and I fell through the opening rolling into a flat out charge among the throng of people. I couldn’t imagine whom Loretta had invited to this party since everyone was dressed in evening attire: ballroom dresses and dinner jackets, about as formal an occasion as one could guess. Victims are usually people who won’t be missed, not the elite of society. Screams ricocheted around the room as the non-shapeshifters saw us in half tiger form but my focus was on Stephano. I knew I only had a very short time before Loretta would sick her cats on me and I wanted to get one of them out of the way as soon as possible. If Loretta had been closer I’d have gone after her, but her consort would have to do. The vampires stood relatively close to the doors which I counted as a blessing because as soon as she saw us I felt her mind fall like a steal trap over every cat present. As I expected Isaac’s enchantments protected me deflecting her mental barrage like wadded up tissue paper. I slammed into Stephano sending us both sprawling sinking my teeth deep into his shoulder before he could do anything about it except hiss at me in disbelieved frustration. “How is this possible? I killed you.”
“No you only thought you did.” He kicked me with his feet sending me flying over his head but I landed ready for my next attack.
He swung to his feet ready for just about anything. “That is one mistake I will not repeat.” Pumar charged me clearly intent on ripping my head off but Stephano knocked him aside. “Loretta NO, this one is mine. I will deal with him.” My lunar son eased away pacing back and forth glaring at me. It was clear Loretta fully controlled him and it sickened me to see him caught between wills: his own to help me and that bitch’s to destroy me. Stephano launched himself into me but I expected it, waited until the last moment before pivoting out of the way slamming the flat of my hand into his back throwing him to the ground. I followed him down trying to gain leverage for a kill bite but he squirmed twisting out of my grip like a snake.
He moved so fast I had a hard time seeing him as he grabbed for my arms like he had when he fed on me. Fangs glistened with torchlight in his mouth ready to rip into my flesh once again but I dropped down into a squat and launched upward butting my head into his gut knocking the wind out of him. It is true vampires don’t need to breath but they do, something that can be taken advantage of if you catch them by surprise. Stephano was certainly surprised doubled over coughing, clearly dazed by the assault. I took played against this momentary weakness to pounce on his back finally finding the position I wanted and was about to deliver the kill bite when I heard Loretta scream “NO!” At once all the wereanimals in the room rushed us. I knew this was it. I would die this day but by god I would take this one bastard out of the picture before they ripped me apart. My teeth sank deep into the back of Stephano’s neck breaking his spine just as I felt the first claws sink into my back but for Stephano it was too late. In a jaw snapping moment the vampire’s head sprang severed from his body, rolled a few yards before coming to a rest in front of Loretta.
She stood frozen staring down at it. I’m not sure she recognized it at first as the viper’s jaws snapped open and closed – the mind refusing to accept the body’s demise. In one swift move she stooped down scooping the severed head into her hands drenching her blue elbow length silk gloves black with his blood. As she watched the light faded from his eyes. Rage filled her as she glanced at me. Here it comes, I thought. In the same moment at least ten jaguars piled on top of me with around fifty or so pacing back and forth waiting for their turn. I felt my shoulder pop out of joint in the tussle that followed and nearly lost that limb when the loudest voice I’ve ever heard reverberate over the turmoil: “STOP!” Its echo was loud enough to shake the walls of the cavern setting lose debris from the darkness above. Everyone did as bidden stopping in the middle of whatever they were doing. Loretta turned slowly in total disbelief. Immediately the jaguars abandoned their attempt at dismantling me tripping over each other in their rush to guard their mistress. “Enough! You will not harm him or any of my companions again.” A caped and hooded figure stepped clear of the throng on the far side of the cavern. He walked at a leisurely pace until he covered half the distance of the hall before lowering his hood revealing a much less disguised elf then normal.
“Laas Lórien, it cannot be.” Loretta stammered clearly shocked by the elf’s presence. He bowed but never removed his eyes from the vampire as he moved closer. “No, it cannot be you.” She said in flat defiance. “I watched you die eons ago.” Her voice grew stronger. I couldn’t help but wonder exactly how many times Isaac has died during his sojourn here.
“You cannot kill an elf Loretta. Surly you know that by now.” He said standing still with all the royalty of a prince in a rival kingdoms court. Tobin, Torquil, and Greg flanked him.
“What are you doing here, what do you want?” Loretta stamped her foot in agitation not much unlike a spoiled child will do when she doesn’t get her way.
“I came to free my friends. You have wronged them and I will not stand for it.”
“How dare you! You have no right meddling in the affairs of vampires. What I do is of no concern to you.” Her words were brave, but a slight quiver in her voice clearly exposed the bravado.
“Ah, but I have every right. You wrongly kidnapped those which do not belong to you: people of which I have an invested interest. Since you have captured my attention thus, I cannot in good faith leave without seeing to it that all here are free of your enchantments.” The vampire’s eyes narrowed smoldering blood red. At once dozens of jaguars closed in around Isaac choking off his progress, but a beautiful, melodious, and terrible chant filled the air. Moments later a throat scratching scream cried out in defiance as Loretta fell to the floor slowly relinquishing her hold over the cats. It began in the far reaches of the chamber where men and women fell comatose to the ground. Some shook and quivered while others lay still as death. The last to fall like so many dead soldiers were her personal guard and the panthers and tigers from my group because they stood the closest to her.
When Isaac ended his spell the room fell quite as death except for Loretta who knelt trembling with rage hissing incoherently. I thought the fight was over. Isaac subdued Loretta and I sighed a breath of relief but much to my dismay she stood facing her foe ready to fight. He’d broken her control over the cats, but clearly not her ability to defend herself. What happened next dredged up horrible memories of a few nights ago when Stephano drank me dry. Loretta grew very still and quiet but energy crackled over her body like a lightning dancing from one part of her body to the next. Her energy was not like Stephano’s which wafted around undulating in and out of him. It arched across her body crackling with power. The werecats nearest her who were waking from the severance moved back in astonishment and fear clearly not wanting to be too close but even so the electricity arched bridging the gap between her and several of the cats. I knew the elf had limitations in this realm and I feared he wouldn’t have enough strength to fight this new and terrible Loretta. He’d freed the shapeshifters but how do you fight something like this? I moved to get free of the jaguars sprawled around me where they’d fallen, some just now regaining consciousness, some still passed out when I saw him waver. His eyes fluttered and grew dim as if in a faint. He staggered back a little but it was enough for Loretta to notice. “Hmmm, if I remember correctly, you used to be stronger that this?” She sneered. “I guess some do grow weak with age.” Her voice took on a taunting quality as all the werecats regained consciousness one by one stumbling back to their feet looking around dazed, but for only a moment before their eyes focused on Isaac reflecting Loretta’s rage.
At first the cats ignored me since her attention was focused on Isaac but as I tried slipping unnoticed from the fifty or so jaguars surrounding Loretta five of them close by grabbed for me. I slashed them with my claws ripping deep furrows into their flesh eliciting yowls of pain and anger and then the fur began to fly. The five that I wounded, along with three more including Pumar and Rakish moved as one body, pouncing on me but I managed to hold them off by twisting and swiveling this way and that. I wasn’t certain for how long I could hold this up especially if more joined in but I managed to avoid direct contact with my father and son by keeping jaguars between us. It was not easy with the handicap I suffered with my arm but I managed. Through glimpses punctuated by furry arms, claws and teeth, I saw jaguars surrounding Isaac, the twins and Greg who backed up against each other readying for battle.
Isaac’s voice rang clear in another chant attempting to break her hold on the cats once more but Loretta shouted for him to be silenced. In one motion they all surged forward in a single rush with my friends at the epicenter when the temperature plummeted so cold I shivered violently as gooseflesh flowed over my skin. Winds howled from high above. I looked up where thousands of wisps of smoke swirled around in a cyclone near the ceiling. A haunting cry emanated from the spectral as though souls of many slain moaned at once. Human’s dying screams laced with feline yowls echoed around the chamber. Isaac stopped chanting gazing at the spectacle with about as much astonishment as the rest of us. Everyone went quiet, so quiet the voices from above deafened my ears. The cyclone grew until it nearly covered the reception hall’s ceiling growing louder and louder until we all clasped hands to our heads trying to shut it out. Without warning the furor collapsed swirling down upon us with the vengeance of wronged souls. I thought for sure we were done for. So much energy, so much anguish, so much pain unleashed all at once would hurt and kill the unfortunates who stood in the way, but nothing. Nothing at all happened, not so much as a breeze brushed my hair as the spectral vanished seconds before smashing into us.
A collective gasp rang through the crowd and then a few whispers skittered around: “Did you see that?”; “What was it?”; “Why…” Loretta stood stunned, her cats forgotten. She mouthed: ‘what?’ and stammered before opening her mouth to say something but never got the chance. At once jaguars surged backwards away from the center of the cavern where I saw light emanating from just in front of Isaac. At first I thought he’d cast another spell of some sorts but he looked as perplexed as the rest of us. The cats in front of me shifted and I got a better look. Floating in front of Isaac swirling in on itself was the cloud that led Pumar and me back to civilization. A bright light pulsed steadily from its center. It swelled, growing nearly twice its size taking the shape of a very large cat sitting with its tail curled around its front paws. It shown brighter and brighter until it went nova, shining so bright we had to lower my eyes or go blind. “What, what is this sorcery?” Loretta accused backing away shielding her eyes. I guess if the sun cannot destroy a vampire then a ghost, even one shining stellar bright, would not do the job either: Pity.
Isaac held his silence a moment before answering her. “I believe this is an old friend of yours Loretta.” He said quietly standing straight and tall facing the frightened vampire. The spectral’s radiance died back into wisp of smoke swirling in and out of focus as he padded around to stand beside Isaac. Smoky threads swirled around interweaving building the fabric of the furry spaces between spots which remained as black holes in the ethereal fur making the entire apparition translucent but in constant motion, undulating so much I found it difficult to focus on him. When I thought I had him in my sights his entire visage shifted making me blink. In place of his eyes hovered two glowing orbs of the brightest green. He looked up at the elf nodding his head in acknowledgment before focused back on Loretta. He crouched down stalking his prey, tail twitching back and forth as he circled around the vampire.
Loretta stepped back hissed a command at the ghost cat. “No, you will come no closer.” He paused, dipped his head and then straightened up squaring his shoulder before resuming his hunt. At first Loretta thought it worked. She gloated at Isaac certain that even a cat’s ghost had to obeyed her will but her smile froze in place when she noticed his continued advance. She quickly stepped back trying to keep distance between her and the phantom but fifty or so jaguars crowded in pulled her up short. She looked around at her subjects, glancing from one to the next, slowly becoming aware she no longer held them. Once again they’d been stripped from her grip only this time none of them passed out from the severance. She searched their faces franticly trying to regain control but to no avail. “No, no this cannot be… I… NO!” She wailed. I shook my head almost feeling pity for her as I saw the stricken fearful look filling her eyes, but then I remembered everything she was guilty of and spat on the floor.
Loretta went into a blur of motion trying to kill and maim her way through the wall of jaguars. Unlike her consort she didn’t possess the ability to levitate or she’d have done it. In her fear she didn’t even try to use the powers she’d displayed only moments ago. She stopped and turned to face the apparition, hissing, showing fangs and claw like fingers held in defense. Apparently she remembered she was not helpless even without her jaguars because a vibrant blue energy crackled over her as she focused on the specter who stopped advancing but crouched down still as a statue except for an occasional twitch of his tail. “You cannot have them.” She hissed as electricity danced between her fingers. It reminded me of dark-side energy as her power surged out of her hands towards the crouching jaguar. It passed through him harmlessly. Realizing it had no effect on him she focused her anger at the closest unfortunates who shrieked in pain as she lashed out at them striking them down with such force they crumbled to the floor smoldering. She inhaled as though to draw energy to strike again when the ghost leaped. “No!” Loretta screamed trying once again to escape but the cats she’d once commanded gripped her tight holding on firm. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t afraid of her after seeing what terrible power she could exercise. She raised her hands to strike out at the cat flying through the air right at her chest. We all expected him to crash into her sending them sprawling but instead the spectral burst into a cloud of smoke dissolving around the vampire.
A startled bewildered expression filled her eyes. Holding her arms and hands up before her, she gazed at them in wonder and giggled; small like a hiccup at first but grew into peals of laughter. “Is that all you can manage to summon Laas Lórien? Supposedly the greatest sorcerer of all time and this is all you called forth? Parlor tricks, all of it!” She strode forward gliding across the chamber like a queen in her court intent on personally dealing with this unwelcomed intruder. “I always thought you were a fraud pretending to be this great wizard. I will rip you to shreds Laas Lórien and order my cats feed on you.” Only feet from her intended victim she abruptly stopped looking around as though struck blind. The smug look melted as fear replaced it creeping into her eyes filling her face. “What have you done?” A spasm threw her backward arching her back almost doubled forcing a choked scream from her as smoke smoldered from mouth, ears, nose, and even from around the edges of her eyes. “NO! No… what?” She fell to the cavern floor writhing in pain as smoke seethed over her body passing in and out freely like pine straw smoldering. Then it disappeared, absorbed back into her leaving her panting and exhausted. Sitting dazed she rolled to her knees trying to get up but another spasm struck bending her backward as every muscle pulled tight like a rubber band stretched too far. An ear splitting screech rent the stunned silence as a blinding flash of energy erupted from her with the force of a many hurricanes blowing us all off our feet. I hope to never see anything like it again. I’ve witnessed many deaths and for most of time I was the reaper’s scythe, but the vast majority of those I killed deserved it many times over. No I’ve never seen death like this. She literally exploded, blowing out, up and around the chamber and then rained down upon us all.
I covered my face as best I could with my good arm while Loretta washed over me. When I looked again a beautiful man stood in the spot where the vampire expired. He stood tall and straight with nobility. A feathered plume adorned his head and gold snaked up his forearms and biceps. He wore a gold and turquoise chest plate covered with ancient Mayan hieroglyphs draped over his shoulders and around his neck. Gold sandals lined with the finest white buckskin and adorned with plumes of green and purple feathers shod his feet; similar white buckskin festooned with abalone shells, gold, and silver clothed his loins. His eyes shown like green stars and his skin radiated with the luster of amber alabaster. Every jaguar in the place fell as one to their faces prostrate beseeching their long lost king. He smiled at them before turning his attention to Isaac. “Thank you for freeing us.”
Isaac bowed his head. “It was the least I could do Lord Quetzalcoatl.” I wasn’t sure what the king meant because to me it appeared that he’d freed his people, not Isaac.
Quetzalcoatl looked around at his subjects for a long time before speaking. “A long time ago two strangers came to us asking for a place to live. I did not know what they were but I knew they were neither human nor shapeshifter and I did not trust them. However they persuaded me they meant us no harm. At first they lived off alone deep in the jungle and bothered no one. Occasionally villagers came up missing but I paid little mind to it since we took our fair share of humans as well. By the time the carnage grew undeniably apparent it was too late. By then she controlled us all. She made several of you kill me while I knelt powerless to stop it. Now I have taken my revenge and she will no longer torment our people.” He walked over to his son. “My son, my beloved Pedro, it is good to see you again. I have watched over you all these many years powerless to stop her as she forced you into one abomination after another. I am sorry I was not strong enough to put an end to it before now.” He took Pedro into his arms holding him tight for quite a while. When he released him the young jaguar wept freely not caring who saw or what anyone thought about it. He turned to the rest of us. “Long before Loretta and Stephano came it was foretold a great tragedy would befall our people but no one knew what form this tragedy would take. The prophecy also foretold that one unlike any other would come and free us. When Laas Lórien broke Loretta’s hold on us all at once it freed me from the bonds that held me prisoner to her will all these years. I was finally free after all this time to take my revenge and destroy her once and for all.” He stood silent for a long while before continuing. “I will always be with you in spirit and be a part of you so long as you remember me, but I cannot maintain this form for long because this world is not where I belong. I will always be in your hearts and minds. You are my people and I your king.” As he spoke his visage dissolved into the glowing cloud. As it had when it first appeared the cloud went nova only this time tendrils of light shot out touching everyone in the room, jaguar, panther, wolf, otter, elf, and tiger alike. Slowly the light faded back into a softly glowing orb ascending into the ceiling of the massive chamber disappearing into the rock.
I looked around at the others. Not a dry eye in the place. For what they wept, freedom from a tyrannical monster, the blessing of a beloved king thought long lost, who knows, but everyone cried. I watched through tears streaming down my cheeks as even Isaac, the twins, and Greg held onto each other weeping. I cannot describe exactly how it felt when his energy struck me. It was exhilarating, filling me with wonder like when life was new and exciting. I found everything fascinating and it reminded me of a picnic in a meadow full of butterflies I visited when I was three years of age with mother and father. There must have been hundreds of the fluttering insects with large black and orange wings dancing from one flower to another. Mother called them Monarchs. They entertained me for hours as I tried catching them but each time I got close one wafted up or another glided over just in time to escape my chubby little hands. Eventually I tired of chasing them so I sat down and watched their dance. To my surprise one landed on my nose. Quetzalcoatl’s power was like that, a delightful joy which you chase but can never quite catch but if you sit patient and still it will fill you to overflowing.
I stumbled to my feet favoring my damaged arm only to realize there was no injury at all. WOW, that was quick. I thought walking over to where Isaac and the others stood. My back felt good too even though jaguar claws sliced it open pretty badly. I wondered if Quetzalcoatl’s power healed me because these kinds of wounds take hours to heal and my arm was out of socket. It would need setting before it could heal properly but there was nothing wrong with it. At the moment I didn’t really care as I flung my arms around my friend when I finally reached him through the throng of jaguars crowding around. It seemed everyone wanted to touch Isaac or thank him for freeing them. “Oh fucking shit old man where the hell have you been?”
“Trying to find you. They prevented me from following when they took you away. I also had Jacob to think about. I could not leave him to their mercies – he’s far too important. I had to stow him away safely. After securing his wellbeing I returned to hunt down where you went. Your trail cooled on the highway here, but a bit of thought made it clear Chichen Itza had to be it. After I got here I couldn’t show myself so I hid waiting until I figured out how to get in. Fortunately Tobin likes taking a midnight swim in the Cenote when he can so I jumped in and followed him up river to the landing in front of their hall.” Isaac looked past me at someone approaching. Immediately I tensed ready for just about anything.
“How can we ever thank you?” Eva’s voice enveloped me like a blanket. It didn’t help my attitude one bit, but I guess I couldn’t hold the recent events against her.
“No thanks are required madam. I had to rescue my friends and so freeing you and your people was the only right thing to do. I just didn’t quite know how I was going to do it.” Isaac bowed low brushing his lips just over her proffered hand.
“Well, we do thank you very much. Loretta wanted to have a feast here tonight. That is she wanted us to transform the human guest into jaguars, panthers, and tigers. She purposefully invited people of high positions in society so she could control national policies. I fear most of them escaped during the fight but are probably lost in the catacombs because all exits are guarded. Since they’ve seen us as we are I’m not sure how it should be handled.” She paused. “Please forgive me. I am carrying on like a distracted school girl but there is a lot that still has to be done. We need to assess the real damage she did to us and work on getting our lives back. It will take a while, but now that she is gone life will return to normal someday. I want to ask you all to stay with us a while longer if you please. Give us a chance to show you real hospitality.”
I was inclined to say ‘fuck no’, turn and hightail it out of there right then and there, but Isaac had other plans. “We would be honored my lady.” I gave him a ‘what the fuck are you thinking’ look and scowled but he smiled at me and shrugged.
Greg stepped over wrapping his arms around Pumar and me. “That was pretty cool what that king said.”
“You understood him?” Eva asked. “I did not know you spoke the ancient language of our people.”
“What are you talking about lady, he spoke English.”
“No he spoke Mayan.” Eva said patiently as thought addressing a small child. I half expected Greg to say something really off handed but he didn’t.
“Greg…” Isaac interrupted. “He spoke Mayan but you heard English. I have heard it was one of his gifts.”
Eva thought for a moment and nodded. “Indeed it was a gift he possessed.” Philippe said as he stepped up beside his wife.
Eva looked at my wolf-son and smiled. “See, neither of us are going mad.” Greg didn’t say anything more, but looked skeptical. I can’t say I blamed him because I thought he spoke English too. “You may have your old rooms back if you like, or we can provide other rooms if you’d rather your own space or someplace with fewer memories.”
I looked at Greg and Pumar before answering rather flatly. “Our old room will be fine.”
“Galin, I really do apologize for what Loretta made us do to you and the rest of your friends. I cursed her every moment for what she put us through all these years. When I came to join Philippe here she was more in the background. I didn’t even know she existed until after a year or so. I tried to make things more civilized among our people but Loretta pulled the strings and I didn’t even realize it. I know Jose told you that I nearly ruined the El Diente de la Muerte Clan and that Loretta’s arrival was the best thing that ever happened to us. She liked making people think they were new to the area and forbade any of us from telling how long she’s really been here. Please accept our apologies.” Eva held her hands out to me and I reluctantly embraced her. “I really mean it Galin.” She whispered in my ear before presenting the nape of her neck to me.
This surprised me and did more to convince me of her sincerity than anything else she could have chosen to do. No matron in my understanding has ever presented any male but her intended mate this particular gesture of submission. I gently kissed her neck and whispered back. “Thank you Eva. I accept you apology. Besides, you had no choice so there really isn’t anything to apologize for.” I glanced at Philippe who glared at me. After all I just completed a right of mating ritual with his wife. Oh great, how the fuck do I fix this? I thought. I pondered this new problem for a bit before an idea occurred to me. I walked over to him, sniffed his cheek, and bent my head to present him with the nape of my neck.
“What is this?” He growled.
“Philippe, I am gay. I meant no challenge to you by accepting you wife’s chosen gesture of sincerity.”
He hesitated before briefly brushing my neck with his lips. “Do not think I intend to mate you.”
“Awe man. Damn! I was so hoping… ” I chuckled. He pushed me away but a slight smile crept across his face.
“You!” Greg growled from behind us. I looked around wondering to whom he spoke but only caught a fleeting glimpse of Jose before the jaguar ducked out of sight though a side passage in the back of the chamber. In a flash Greg leaped forward in a full charge after the fleeing man. Before he reached the passage Jose disappeared into he’d already halfway transformed.
“Greg, NO! Wait!” I shouted as I took off after my adopted lunar-son. It was easy to find them. Even if there’d not been a scent trail the growls, yowls, hisses, yelps and over all noise of their fight was easy enough to follow.
When I entered the torture chamber Greg and Jose paced around opposite sides of the central pit both showing signs of recent battle. “Not so tough now that I’m free to challenge you?” Greg growled.
Much to my surprise Jose laughed. “You don’t’ have what it takes to challenge me pup so why don’t you go back to your Maricón papa before I wipe the floor with your dead body.” He licked his lips. “Maybe I should fuck you real good before taking that pretty doggy head off. By the way you never answered me: what kind of mutt are you? I’ve never seen a wolf with a blue eye before.”
“If you’re so brave Jose…” Greg pronounced the name Joe-sēē drawing the word out long and taunting, stressing the last syllable and I have no doubt he meant to antagonize. “Quit matching my pace around this pit and fight me like a real man if you have the guts.”
Jose paced, matching my son step for step, and I have to admit he looked pretty imposing in his half jaguar form. He grinned at my son’s taunt. “You got it.” In one mighty leap he sailed over the central pit landing on top of Greg sending them both into a roll of slashing claws and biting teeth. Pumar entered the room at that moment and started to rush to Greg’s aid, but I stopped him. Leave them alone Pumar, this is Greg’s fight. No one else can do this for him. If he loses then we’ll step in to keep him from getting killed. Pumar halted with a look of pain in his eyes so intense it almost persuaded me let him go in but I shook my head no. My first son reluctantly obeyed and stepped over to my side. I place my arm over his shoulder giving him a tight reassuring squeeze. We won’t let him get killed Pumar, but he earned this fight.
Pumar nodded his head. I don’t want him hurt either though.
Me either, but he has to do this or at least try. It’s important. Pumar sighed and settled in next to me to watch the fight.
By now Greg and Jose were in a full scrabble and neither played very nice. Not that there is much etiquette at all in fights between shapeshifters, pretty much anything goes. Jose wound up under Greg by one of the alters, but before my son could do much to increase his leverage and end it the jaguar managed to get his feet under the wolf heaving him over his head. Greg landed at the edge of the stone wall surrounding the pit. Deep gouges blossomed in his abdomen from Jose’s hind-claws. Before he could get to his feet the jaguar was on top of him picked him up and pinned him backwards over the edge of the retaining wall with his neck held firm in one clawed hand and one of my son’s wrist pinned to the stone with the other. He pressed against Greg’s neck pushing him painfully back over the wall’s ledge but this only infuriated our wolf further. Greg slammed the flat of his free palm into the back of Jose’s shoulder digging claws in deep and then twisted kicking up with both legs throwing the jaguar off balance and into the pit. I couldn’t help but chuckle after my son managed to pivot his body back so he fell outside the wall instead of following the cat in.
We heard a splash as Jose plunged in the cold water followed by a long string of Spanish that I had little doubt was curses full of expletives. Greg leaned over the wall looking down into the darkness below. “Besa mi culo, puto.” He shouted down into the pit. I looked at Pumar quizzically and he answered me mentally. It means ‘Kiss my ass, bitch’. I couldn’t help it as I coughed a laugh.
The chain that once held me just barely above the water several days ago jerked and I knew we’d see Jose again soon. Sure enough in a matter of seconds he climbed out swinging over the edge. “You fucking concha.” Greg was ready for him grabbing the chain from his tormentors hands wrapping it tightly around the jaguar’s neck pulling his head back so far I thought I heard it crack, but at the last moment Jose kicked Greg’s foot knocking my son off balance just enough to win his escape. He didn’t flee but repositioned for the next attack regardless of who delivered it. By now a small crowd had entered the room all standing around watching. Since he was Loretta’s laky, I was pretty certain no one like Jose.
They faced off again pacing around each other willing the other to make the first move. Jose grew impatient and charged which was exactly what Greg wanted. The wolf spun out of the way just in time to grab Jose’s arm and shoulder slamming his face into the pit’s retaining wall. This time there was no mistaking it. Jose’s face crumbled under the force and I most certainly heard bones crack. The cat howled in pain trying to twist free of Greg’s grip but my son moved too quickly for the injured man to counter. He pushed Jose down onto his stomach against the wall with his foot while pulling up sharp on his left arm which cracked painfully both at elbow and shoulder. “This is for what you did to me and Galin the other day.” Greg said as he twisted the arm breaking it in several places. A ragged scream echoed through the room as Greg raised his foot slamming it down hard on the back of Jose’s neck crushing the vertebra and his head into the wall. If anyone had doubts rather or not Jose was dead they were quelled by the smear of brains on the stone floor and wall. Greg dropped the arm and began a barrage against the dead man’s body kicking and stomping him over and over again screaming with pent up rage. I’ll admit I was afraid to approach him but someone had to put a stop to this because he was only causing himself harm now. Greg? I called mentally. Greg, please stop. He’s dead. My son either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me through the link we’d developed.
I stepped forward to go to him but Pumar stopped me. “Let me.” I nodded and stepped back albeit reluctantly. He cautiously edged closer to the enraged wolf easing around to where he’d be in Greg’s line of view. “Greg, come on man. He’s dead.” Greg stopped with his foot raised for another kick and looked at his brother not quite seeing him. “He’s dead. You killed him. It’s over.”
“Oh FUCK!” Greg screamed dropping to his knees clutching his closed fist to his eyes. Pumar slowly approached his brother slipping an arm over his shoulder pulling him into a hug. “GOD, FUCK, FUCK, FUCKING GOD!” Greg wailed clinging for dear life to his brother making both their bodies shake. “Why! WHY…” he couldn’t finish the statement for a long moment as sobs rent his body. “Why do I always attract the fucking psychopaths?” His fist clutched tightly into Pumar’s fur as his body heaved with the sobs.
Pumar pulled him tighter into the hug scent marking the side of his head affectionately. “I don’t know Greg, but it’s over. Jose and Shredder can’t hurt you anymore.”
I walked over to my sons and pulled them both up and into a hug. “Come on guys. It’s over now. Let’s get out of here.” They both started to follow but Greg collapsed and he’d have fallen if not for Pumar and me supporting him. I picked him up in my arms and walked from the room. When I passed through the door I looked into Eva’s eyes. She stared at Jose’s corpse and I saw no compassion there, no remorse for the loss of one of her own, only an unadulterated, unabashed hate. She glanced at me and nodded briefly before turning into her husband’s arms.
I carried Greg to the rooms we originally occupied when we arrived here. On the way back he shifted back to human and so he was a lot easier to manage as I laid him down on the bed. I really didn’t want to be here but right now this was the best we had available to us. I’d like to have returned to the Dwarven Hall, but I wasn’t sure exactly where the twins were. After I laid Greg on the bed I began undressing him. There wasn’t much to take off since the shift took care of most of his clothes and the fight pretty much the rest, but what little there was I removed it. “Pumar, would you please bring a basin of water and several washcloths? I’d like to clean him up.”
“Yea sure, I’ll be right back.” He disappeared but soon returned with the requested water and cloths. To my surprise the water was hot. Pumar noticed my puzzled look and explained. “We found out where the hot water was after you two left. The people who built this place weren’t thinking of convenience when they designed it. I’d bet the hot water was an afterthought. It doesn’t really fit, you know what I mean?” I thought about what the twins told me about the Dwarves not telling the jaguars about the geothermal springs when they built this place and nodded my head. I took the basin very grateful the water was hot. I didn’t figure Greg would appreciate a cold sponge bath when he woke.
Shapeshifters are not this weak and it worried me that my son passed out after the fight. I hoped he didn’t have a concussion or some other trauma I couldn’t see since Greg heals slower than most of us including other wolves. I carefully wiped the blood and grim from his body and face, which pretty much covered him. Loretta’s demise stained us all but the barrage Greg gave Jose’s body after the fight made it worse. By the time I finished Pumar emptied and refilled the basin eight times. “Greg can you hear me?” I asked. “Come on Greg. I need you to hear me, can you hear me?” Nothing. Greg, please listen to me. You need to wake up. I thought to him.
Daddy please, let me sleep. I don’t want to go to school today.
Come on Greg. I think we’ve been through this one before. You need to wake up.
Awe dad! But it worked. He stirred and opened his eyes. They were only slits at first and soon they focused on Pumar and me expressing how in the hell he got here. “I brought you back after you passed out. What do you remember?”
“Jose and I were fighting and then…” He grew still and quiet, looking at the wall. “I killed him.”
“Yes you killed him but he deserved it. How do you feel?”
“I killed him. I’ve never killed anyone before. I couldn’t help it. I saw him lying there against the wall and I just couldn’t stop. I… Oh my god, I…” The rest of what he was going to say choked off.
“How do you feel?” I repeated. He looked at me as if to ask how the fuck do you think I feel, I just killed a guy but Pumar amended my question.
“I think he’s asking how you feel physically Greg. How do you feel?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I hurt but other than that I feel OK.”
“How do you hurt?” I asked.
“Just minor stuff, sore muscles, cuts, scrapes, you know.” He answered quietly but wouldn’t look at us.
I nodded my head because I did know. “Does your head or anything inside you hurt?”
“No I feel fine, why?”
“Greg you passed out after the fight. We usually don’t do that, not from a fight like this one.” I tossed his hair with my paw since I was still half tiger. “Maybe it’s the emotions. You’ve been through a LOT for a very long time. I cleaned you up but I think you need some rest. We’ll be around if you need anything.” I stood up. “I’m going to take a bath. Cleaning you may have gotten you nice and rosy but I’m still covered with that bitch’s muck.” I really wanted to clean up.
Pumar nodded and motioned for me to go ahead. “I’ll watch him. If anything happens I’ll call for you.” He licked over his fangs and muzzle grimacing. “God, do all vampires taste that bad?”
I nodded and stepped through the bathroom door looking back at them. “Thanks, yea I guess they do. They are dead after all. I’ve never figured out what animates them, but they are corpses.”
He nodded. “Hurry it up would you. I need a bath too.” I grinned as I sauntered into the bathroom. Yes, I’d hurry it up. I don’t blame him for wanting to clean. I’d ask him to join me but I knew he wanted to stay with his brother. I couldn’t begrudge him that though since I was worried about my Greg too. We need to give Greg a clan name. I’ll call Mina tomorrow and ask what she thinks about it. I thought.
The bath was wonderful and Pumar was right, the hot water had been found because the wading pool sized bathtub steamed with nearly scalding water but I didn’t care. It felt good and I needed a LONG hot bath. Pretty soon we were all going to have to eat but right now I wanted to get clean. I found it odd that I hadn’t been hungry at all since we encountered the ghost by the river that I now know was Quetzalcoatl, but now that the fights were all over hunger clawed at my stomach. Slipping under the water and letting my senses drift free of distraction for a few moments felt awesome. Ah, the beauty of a bathtub large enough to swim in. I chuckled at the thought and decided I’d have to build one like this back home.
After my bath I slipped back into the bedchamber and saw Pumar’s human body curled around Greg. Both slept soundly. Apparently Pumar washed up a bit with the cloth and water we used to bathe Greg because most of the blood was gone but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how he changed back to human without eating first. I tried to in the tub and couldn’t do it. I quietly watched them until I became aware of someone in the apartment. Slowly I opened the door separating the bedchamber from the living area and much to my relief found Isaac and the twins sitting on the sofa. Set in front of them were five platters piled with food. Fruits filled one, most of which I didn’t recognize, breads filled another, and meats, blessed meats were piled on three of them. “We figured you’d be hungry once all the fighting was done, so we took the liberty to prepare you three a meal.” One of the twins said; Tobin I think.
“Oh gods that looks great!” I didn’t know when I’d last eaten and I transformed several times since then. “Thank you.” I sat down digging in.
“Where are the others?” Isaac asked.
“Asleep.” I looked up at them and stuffed one morsel after another into my mouth hardly taking the time to chew.
After several bites I felt guilty and I decided I should wake the boys up so they could eat too and just as I shifted my weight to get up they both stumbled into the room. “God, is that food I smell?” Pumar asked. He eyed the patters pilled with delicacies and pounced. Like me he stuffed food into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in days. In point of fact I’d say that’s exactly how long it’s been since either of us ate. Greg laughed as he sat beside us picking at the food – eating but not shoveling it in. “How long have we been missing?”
“Nearly three days.” Greg answered. I’d almost given up hope of ever finding you alive.
“What about Shea? The last thing I remember Stephano made a snack out of her too.”
“She’s alright. She’s in our hall recuperating, but she’ll be fine. Apparently someone dumped her in the river. She washed up on a sandbar not far from our landing. Tobin found her and brought her to the hall.” Torquil answered.
“Yes, and it’s a good thing Stephano has never tried to kill a weretiger by feeding on you before. Pedro said if you’d been jaguars he’d have killed you. By the time he took Shea he already glutted himself on you two. If he’d had any experience at all killing tigers by draining you dry he’d have known you can’t be killed that way. If there is any blood left at all in your body you’ll heal.” Tobin added.
“How do you know this?” I asked.
“Because I told him,” Rakish said as he entered the room. “We are not like other wereanimals. It is much more difficult to kill us. You should know that after a hundred years.” He was right. I knew it was difficult for us to die but I’ve not had much dealings with vampires and I’ve never had one eat me before.
“And how do you know that?” I added.
“I know because a vampire tried to kill me that way once. It hurt like hell and made me sore for days, but it didn’t work on me either. Son, I am so sorry I was not able to resist Loretta any better than I did. I tried, but she…”
“I know Rak.” I’ll admit I kind of like Greg and Pumar’s nickname for my lunar-father. “After seeing how she controlled the whole lot of you there at the end, I have no doubt resisting her would prove a mute point when she focused all of her will on just one or a few.”
“You have no idea. How did you resister her?” He asked and I caught a slight hint of envy lacing his voice.
I looked at Isaac not knowing how to answer. “I helped him.” The elf admitted but said nothing further. Rakish either wasn’t feeling quarrelsome right then or he was simply too wiped out to care because he didn’t press the issue – so much not like him.
I directed my next statement at Rakish to change the subject. “You can’t tell me he’s never fed on wereanimals before. He’s lived here with hundreds of us all around him. He’s bound to have bled us and probably many times.” I said skeptically. “Weretiger’s can’t be that much different from other shapeshifters.”
“We are.” Rakish sat down beside me and nibbled on a slice of mango. “I don’t understand it Galin, but tigers are much more resilient than other shapeshifters. We’re stronger, we heal faster, and you just about have to damn near rip us apart in order to kill us. Serious injuries take a long time to heal of course but if there is any blood left in our bodies, if there is still a spark left in our nervous system and our bodies are mostly intact, we will heal. My brother nearly had his head cut off in a fight with another tiger. I straightened it up back in place before going to prepare his funeral. When I came back the wound was healed. He stayed unconscious for about a week, but the wound healed within a few hours after I aligned his head back on his body. He lost nearly all of his blood and the only thing not severed was his spine. Everything else was torn clean through. As I said, I don’t know why it is, but we are stronger than other shapeshifters.”
“Besides Tobin did not say he has never fed on your kind before but only that he has never tried to kill tigers that way. If he had he would not have been surprised by your survival.” Isaac clarified. “It also supports my hypothesis why Kesx wants Jacob turned by a tiger. I knew you were strong but I would not have guessed so much so. While I’ve met your kind before Galin, I’ve never fought in battle with weretigers. I’ve never seen the kind of things your kind are capable of.
“Well, that makes sense I guess.” After a moment’s though, I looked at the elf lounging on the sofa. “Where did you hide Jacob? That can’t have been easy.”
“I’d rather not say. Not here or any other place that may have unwanted eavesdroppers but you will find out soon enough because we have to fetch him after we leave for Dominica, which by my calculations we’ll need to leave here in three days time if we are to reach the Boiling Lake at the right moment.”
The name caught my attention because I’ve only heard of Dominica’s Boiling Lake. I’ve never been there. It’s a thing of legend for those of us who have visited the island but haven’t hiked up to it and a favorite point of discussion for those who have. “What’s at the Boiling Lake?” I asked.
“Again, I’d rather not say. Some parts of our trip are going to be rather delicate and walls sometimes have ears.” I didn’t press the issue more because I knew Isaac would divulge nothing until he was good and ready to do so. Besides, the food was great but the company was better. It made me feel normal again to be in the company of friends and family.
* * *
The next day I found Shea sitting alone on the landing outside the Dwarven Hall above the rivers dark currents. “Hay gorgeous, I’ll give a penny for your thought.” She looked up at me and smiled weakly before turning her attention back to the obsidian water.
“You wouldn’t understand.” She mumbled.
“Try me. I might.”
She shrugged her shoulders wrapping her arms tightly around her folded knees holding them close to her chest. “There are some things that require a shared experience to understand Galin. Without a common frame of reference the discussion is purely academic.”
“You mean how it felt to have Loretta in your mind.” She nodded her head. “How it felt to have no way of stopping her from forcing you to do something you hated.” I went on.
“I don’t want to talk about Galin.”
“Very well.” I sat beside her. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about anything at all.”
“Will it help if I say I’m sorry I didn’t suffer the same as you?”
She looked at me deep in thought wondering how to answer, then nodded slowly: “Yes.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t suffer the same as you.”
“Liar.” She smiled before returning her attention to the black water. “You’re glad you didn’t have her in your head.”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right about that, but I am sorry I can’t understand what you’re going through. If you need to talk, even with someone who’s not in the know, I’m here for you girl.” She nodded still staring at the water swirling a foot or so away. I rose and started to make my way up into the tunnel leaving her to her thoughts.
“Galin,” I stopped and looked back. “Thanks.” I nodded my head and left her in peace.
Moments later I headed up the corridor that led to the steps for the surface. One very strict rule the jaguars kept is never to go out of the temple door during the day when tourist are around. The reason is obvious but I didn’t care. I needed light and fresh air no matter how hot and humid it was. I needed to feel the sun shine on my face and the breezes shifting my hair. When I reached the top a guard stood watch. Apparently they really take this rule seriously. I had to chuckle at the thought because I knew how seriously they took it. Anybody who saw one of us exit would have to be dealt with which usually meant in such a way their body would never be found. “Senior, you know you cannot go out this way.”
“How do I get out then? I need to get out. I’m suffocating down here.” I said not even trying to hide the aggravation in my voice.
“Until night there is no real way to leave the compound. I cannot let you out.”
“How about I break your neck and go anyway?” I asked. He swallowed hard because he was in the chamber last night and saw what I did to Stephano.
“Then you will have to break it, but I cannot let you out.” I got up real close and growled in his face, a deep resonating sound that echoed off the walls and down the stairs. He swallowed again but didn’t back down. You goddamn little piece of shit. I thought, but I gave him a toothy grin and turned to go back downstairs. There are more ways out of this pit than here but this is the fastest. I guess I’d have to swim into the Cenote and climb out by a vine or root or something. “Senior…” I turned and looked back up at the young man. “If Eva finds out I’ll be scraping scum off the river bottom for days, but there is a way out that we use in the day if we don’t need to really go anyplace. It’s not as easy to get through but it will take you out where few people even know about. I waited while he told me where this secret passage was.
“What’s your name son?” I asked.
“I am Estefan de Angulis amigo. Please don’t tell Eva or Philippe.” He said.
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
On the left of the main entrance I was trying to escape through was a very narrow stairway that wound its way steeply up, and up until it exited at the top of the temple. The door hinged similarly to the one at the main entrance but there was no way humans could easily get up there so the door was most likely unobserved. I followed his instruction and found the door. It was small, so small I could hardly crawl through it but once I did the blazing tropical son burned down on me blinding my eyes. I stood up and shoved the door shut with one foot. Looking out over the jungle I imagined what this place must have looked like in Quetzalcoatl’s time. The view was spectacular and tourist swarmed over the place like ants far below. They were everywhere and I saw why the young guard wouldn’t let me out the main entrance. There was no way I’d exit there without being seen. I’d have to apologize to him if we met again. “Hay mister,” I looked down. A young lad, no older than twelve, met my gaze.
“Yes.” I said.
“How’d you get up there?”
“A helicopter dropped me off before sunrise so I can watch all you visitors and make sure you’re not going places you aren’t supposed to.” I lied using a thick slow Southern drawl matching the boy’s accent.
“Really?” He asked clearly skeptical.
“Really.” I said.
“How long have you got to stay up there?” He asked.
“All day, they’ll come get me after you leave.”
“Nu-uh! How’d you really get up there?”
“A giant snake bore me up here in his mouth and spit me out to punish me for asking too many stupid questions.”
He drew a pouty look and shook his head. “If you don’t want to tell me just say so.”
“I don’t want to tell you.” I said and after a pause I added: “Because you might get hurt but didn’t the giant snake tale stir up feelings of mystery in you?”
He thought for a minute. “Yea I guess but snakes like that don’t really exist.”
“The ancients would disagree with you.”
“The ones who used to live here. They carved him all over this place. His name was Quetzalcoatl the giant serpent god who these people worshiped. It’s said the snakes that inspired their belief in him still hunt this jungle looking for wayward boys who don’t listen.”
He laughed then. “Who are you mister?”
“I’m known as Blake, Blake Lanoux. And who are you?” I asked.
“Robby Tobler, I’m here with my grandmother.” He said the last bit like it was the biggest drag in his young life to be toed around by his grandmother.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked.
“Yea I guess.”
“Then it’s not so much a drag to have been toed here by your grandmother, is it?” I added.
He smiled. “Yea, I guess you’re right.”
“Robby!” I saw a nice looking woman about fortyish or so climbing the steps to where the boy stood. The familial resemblance between them was unmistakable. Both had dark auburn hair and freckles on their noses. Robby looked like he’d swallowed an egg. “Robby what are you doing up here young man. I told you not to wonder off, now come along.” Then she noticed me. “Oh…” She smiled pulling an errant hair back into place.
“I take it your Robby’s mom.” I said eliciting a puzzled look from the boy who’d clearly said he was here with his grandmother.
She blushed. “No actually I’m his grandmother.”
“He said he was here with his grandmother but I thought he had to be lying because you’re way too young to have a grandson his age.”
She blushed again but smiled. “No he’s my grandson and a most disobedient one at that.” She glared at the boy who ignored her as only a twelve year old can.
“I’m Blake Lanoux mam from the Garden District in New Orleans. Your grandson,” I emphasized the word, “wanted to know why I’m up here.” I bated.
She looked at me and then at the plinth I looked down at them from. “Why are you up there Blake Lanoux?”
“I’m an archeologist working this site mam. I’m up here surveying the ruins. I was about to radio the guards to take Robby down before he gets hurt but since you’re here I guess you can both make your way down OK?” I made it a question.
“Yes sir, we’ll head down straight away. We really didn’t mean any harm Lanoux.” She said not questioning my authority and taking advantage of that moment to give the boy a scolding look. American’s, you gotta love em – it is true American tourist can be belligerent, spiteful, and demanding to the point of being downright ugly, but they can also be very charming. This woman was most certainly charming and Robby well; he’s a twelve year old.
“You see too it mam and enjoy your stay. There’s a lot to see and learn around here.” I said.
She nodded and headed back the way she came with Robby in tow but then stopped looking back at me. I smiled at her. “Mr. Lanoux …”
“I normally don’t do this but would you like to have dinner with Robby and me this evening? We’re staying at the Hotel Chichen Itza in Pisté just down the road. Do you know the place? There’s a really good restaurant just a few blocks away. Robby and I had supper there last evening. It would be really nice to visit with a genteel Southerner for a change.” she invited.
I smiled. “Yes, I do know the place mam. I’d like that very much, thank you.”
She grinned again and actually blushed. “My name is Martha Tobler from Savannah, Georgia. We’ll meet you in the lobby this evening around six, if that is alright?”
That would be just fine Mrs. Tobler.” I said “I look forward to it.”
“That’s Ms. Tobler, widowed.” She corrected me. “But you may call me Martha.”
“Very well Martha and I would be honored if you would call me Blake. I’ll meet you at six in the lobby.” She smiled again and I waved. “Ya’ll have a nice day now and do be careful climbing down from up here. I would hate to have to visit you in the hospital.”
“We’ll be very careful… Blake.” She said faltering over my name and grinned so big I thought I could see her molars. She turned to climb down the steep steps still looking at me and actually stumbled and would have fallen if not for Robby who pulled her back just in time. “Whoa,” she hollered laughing nervously.
“Shish,” the boy said rolling his eyes. “I swear grownups are so weird.” I had to smile at the little imp and watched them make their way down. It was obvious she scolded him the whole way and I felt sorry for the lad. I looked out over the jungle again as a stiff breeze tossed my hair. It felt good and smelled of Jasmine. What in the fuck have I just gotten myself into?
* * *
This concludes Chapter Fifteen. 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, complements, or even courteous complaints 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.