Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 16
© 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.
Second Note: Please remember Galin is bisexual in this story although he leans more towards men. Please bear this in mind when you read this chapter. I don’t go into detail, so don’t worry. J
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.
Mina’s phone rang while I fidgeted with a small pebble my fingers found on the ledge of the stone wall that stood between me and a very nasty fall. I was just about to give up when she answered: “Hello?”
“Hi mom,” I said.
“Well, the prodigal son calling home at last. Where in the hell have you been? We’ve been worried. Why haven’t you called?”
“I was not in a position to call.” I said.
“Oh great, that means people were trying to kill you. Are you alright?” She wasn’t angry, just concerned.
“Yes, but it’s a very long story. I’ll tell you all about it when I’m on a more secure line, but suffice it to say I’ve been shanghaied underground, literally. But everything has been taken care of and all is well in the world now,” code for: ‘I’ve killed the target and waiting for my next job,’ that is if my life were as simple as it used to be. Nowadays it meant: ‘My enemies have been killed and the veil of normalcy has dropped into place once more’.
“Well that’s good honey, I couldn’t figure out what happened to all of you. I thought I’d have received a call from one of you before now. I even tried calling Rakish but he wasn’t answering his phone and if Pumar has a phone I don’t know the number. Were they with you?”
“How are they?”
“Oh they’re doing very well.” I said a little bit sarcastically. I’ve not quite forgiven Rakish for falling to Loretta’s mind games and betraying me even though I knew he couldn’t help it.
“How is Greg doing?” She asked a little quieter undoubtedly remembering what the Pensacola’s wolf pack put him through.
“We’re all alright mom but speaking of Greg, he’s the primary reason I called.”
“What’s wrong son?” She never used my real name over an unsecured line and since she didn’t know what alias I’d chosen to go by at any given moment she always reverted to calling me ‘son’.
“Honestly mom, nothing is wrong with him. I’d like to give him a clan name but I wanted to ask you first? I think it may make him feel like he belongs if you know what I mean.”
She was quiet for a while. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that. I kicked myself all the way home for not asking him before you left. Has he come to terms with what that bastard wolf did to him?”
“You mean Shredder? Yes, I think he’s dealing with it rather well considering, but I’m afraid some things happened here that compounded things. He still has a long way to go but I think giving him a clan name will do a lot to help him down that road. It will make him feel like he’s one of us, you know?”
“That’s why I kicked myself all the way home for not asking him before we left Florida. Just remember son that he may choose to keep his real name. Quite a number of our clan chose that option. Anyway I don’t mind at all so long as you include Rakish and Pumar in the decision. How are you and your lunar-father getting along?”
“Better than I ever thought we would.” I answered. “I’m actually beginning to like him.” I didn’t say my ‘like’ was turning to ‘love’ because I was still having a hard time believing it.
“Well it’s about time. I’ve tried to tell you for years that he’s a good person but you wouldn’t listen.”
“Mina you know why I wouldn’t listen.” I retorted.
“Yes, I guess I’d have a hard time forgiving him too if he killed my whole family, but he would not have acted as arrogant about it nor avoided you all these years if you’d only told someone, anyone of us. It would have been settled a long time ago.”
“Yea, I know… Mom?”
“I need to go for now. I love you. Please tell everyone hi from me.” I said. I really wanted to get off the phone. I love Mina but she really knows how to pry sometimes.
“Alright, but you be careful and call us every chance you get. We worry about you.”
“Yea, OK, Love ya mom.” I said and closed my phone. Mina never calls me but always waits for me to call her because she doesn’t want to cause a problem by ringing my phone at a most inopportune moment. More than one member of our clan is an assassin and we have an unspoken rule you don’t call one of us while we’re on a job. Looking out over Chichen Itza I breathed deeply relishing the fragrant scent of the Orchid Tree an ornamental import from Asia which has spread across the Yucatan becoming wild and invasive. Few people mind this though since its flowers are so beautiful and smell so good.
The sun beat hot on the temple. I’ve been up here for most of the day and was about to return to the dark depths below to cool down and get a much needed drink of water. After Robby and Martha left no one paid me any mind. This surprised me but I was grateful for it. I really didn’t want to have to deal with anyone. No sooner had this thought floated to the surface of my consciousness when I heard stone scraping against stone behind me. I looked around to see Eva climbing out of the doorway I came though hours ago. Well, I guess Estefan de Angulis has been found out if she’s coming up here to scold me for breaking the rules. I smiled at her.
“Hi.” She said stepping up next to me.
“Hi.” I returned my gaze out over the jungle ensconced ruins.
“It’s beautiful up here.” She commented making small talk.
“Yes it is.” I agreed still not saying much.
“You know you’re not supposed to be up here?” She made it a question.
“Yes. I take it Estefan is in trouble.” I said as a matter of fact.
“He would be except he said you threatened him.”
I looked at her and saw the hint of a smile tugging at the edges of her mouth. I shrugged: “Only a little.”
She gave a good hearty laugh. “Thank you for what you did for Philippe and me last night.”
I thought she meant taking Stephano out. “That bastard deserved to die for many reasons Eva.” I said.
She looked puzzled before understanding bloomed in her eyes eliciting another throaty laugh. “I mean what you did to Philippe after I offered you the right to mate with me.”
“Oh,” my turn to laugh. “I think I astounded him somewhat.”
“Astounded him?” She laughed again and scratched my back between my shoulders. “That’s a good way of putting it. You took him completely by surprise. He didn’t know if he wanted to be flattered or enraged by your gesture. After grumbling about it most of the night he chose to be flattered.” She moved her hand from my back to the stone wall beside me also staring out over the jungle. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The Arbol de las Orquídeas is so beautiful this time of year.”
“The view from up here is one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen. What is the…” I stumbled over the name, “Arbol de las Orquídeas?”
“A lot of people call it the Orchid Tree. You should see the ruins at sunset. They truly are magnificent.” She looked at me. “When you killed my father I wanted nothing more than to kill you for taking him from me. Now…” She trailed off. I waited. “I love Philippe. I love him with my entire being. He’s my mate, my best friend, and my legal husband.” She said. I said nothing and after a moment she went on. “If things were different Galin, if Philippe weren’t the love of my life and if you weren’t…” She stumbled over her thoughts. “…homosexual…, I think I could love you.” I really didn’t know what to say to this because Eva is a very beautiful and exotic woman and I do feel attractions for her. Not trusting what I might say I chose to keep quiet. “A lot of if’s, I know.” She finally said.
“Yes…” I paused. “You know, ‘if’ is the largest word in the English Language.”
“How so?” She asked.
“With ‘if’ you can infer anything.” She nodded. “Will Estefan be cleaning scum off the river bottom for letting me up here?” I asked.
The sound of her laughter was beautiful. “Oh he should, he really should. No one is allowed up here during the day. It’s our law.”
“Am I in trouble for breaking your law?”
“Because I say so, besides if anyone complains about it I’ll say you didn’t know any better. No one will question it.” I knew she was right but said nothing. “Isaac told me what you all are doing, why it’s important that you leave so soon.” She said.
“He did?” I asked. I swear her mind changed directions faster than a horsefly. I found her thought processes difficult to keep up with.
“Yes, about the quest you are on, that your next stop is Dominica, but he didn’t elaborate on where you will go from there. I’m sure he omitted a lot, but he told me enough. I’d like to send someone with you if I may.” She said. I looked at her wondering why she even brought this up with me. It wasn’t my decision to make. “Is there anyone here that you would like to accompany you?”
“Eva, why are you asking me? It’s not my choice who goes or who stays.”
“I’ll admit I asked Isaac if he’d like anyone in particular and he told me to ask you.”
Now that’s odd I thought. “Why would he tell you that?”
She shrugged. “I do not know Galin, but he told me to ask you, so I’m asking.”
A mental image of all the people I met since I got here danced across my mind’s eyes and the one that kept resurfacing was the one I only met a few hours ago. “I wouldn’t mind it if the young guard who let me up here went, how about him?” I said watching her face to see her reaction.
“Done.” She said.
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Just like that, but I would like to know why him.”
“I like him.” I said.
“Galin, he’s not gay.”
“I didn’t say I liked him in that way. I just like him. He’s… dedicated.” I replied.
She laughed. “And the fact that he’s easy to look at has nothing to do with, yea right.” She placed her hand on my arm affectionately. “Very well, would you mind if I send him with you as his punishment for letting you up here?” She asked.
“Why would you do that?”
“I have to punish him one way or another to keep up appearances. If I let him off the hook entirely, then I’ll have trouble with my other guards.” I nodded because I understood her dilemma.
“Why would it be considered punishment for him to come with us?” I asked.
“I can use it as punishment because he’s afraid of you.”
“Afraid of me, why would he be afraid of me?”
“Galin, most of my people are afraid of you. No cat has ever beaten Loretta’s mind games and after you singlehandedly killed Stephano…” She trailed off.
“What?” I asked.
“No one can stop talking about how you stood up to them. At the same time no one is brave enough to approach you. As I said, they fear you.” This blew me away. I’ve never drawn that affect from people before. “Has anyone seen you up here?”
“Yes.” I said and she became very still. “Only about a thousand tourists, but a young boy about twelve and his grandmother saw me and said ‘hi’. The boy asked how I got up here.” I admitted.
“Did you get their names?” She asked.
“Yes, but you don’t need to worry about them.”
“Let me be the judge of that.”
“They were down there.” I pointed to the steps below. “Martha asked me why I was up here and I told her I’m an archeologist studying the layout of the ruins. She believed me and invited me to dinner.” I clarified.
“An archeologist, you?” She laughed good naturedly.
“Yes, I did study it. In fact I have my degree in the field.” I said rather defensively.
“Do you now?”
“And you really don’t think they will be a problem?”
“She’s a Southern Belle from Savannah, GA, Eva. Real genteel Southern Belles may have tones of questions but they don’t make a habit of prying into the affairs of other people of class. At least not out in the open. I told her my name is Blake Lanoux from the Garden District of New Orleans. It is one of my aliases and if she looks into the matter it will check out. These particular credentials state my occupation as archeology with an emphasis in anthropology and my address is on Prytania Street. I maintain a house there to complete the alias.”
“Well, aren’t you thorough?” She said.
“I have to be. My real occupation requires it.” I said studying her eyes.
“You mean your assassin’s occupation.” She defined.
She nodded and stepped away from the wall. “Don’t stay up here much longer. Most of the guards here at the park are our people but not all of them. If one of the non-jaguar guard sees you they will have questions and I can assure you they will pry very deeply.” She warned and turned to go. I followed her back to the darkness below. After spending the day on top of the temple my throat felt like sandpaper. “So, you’re having dinner with this woman and her grandchild?”
She laughed again. “Well, don’t eat them. At least not unless you decide they will be a problem after all.” I stood next to Estefan and watched the jaguar matron stride off down the torch lit stairwell.
“Was she serious?” I asked the young man standing next to me.
“She nearly never jokes.” He said.
I looked at him horrified. “I don’t eat people.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t either but some of us do.”
“Why is it tolerated?” I asked.
“It may not be for much longer since those bloodsucking leaches are gone, but in the past nothing much was thought about it so long as we didn’t make it obvious.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but after seeing the way Loretta and Stephano ran things around here I really couldn’t claim to be too surprised.
I started down the steps for the lower levels. I still had a few hours before my dinner date and I needed to bathe and freshen up a bit. Looking back at the young guard I added. “Don’t wonder off Estefan. We’ll be leaving in two days.” I left him to wonder what I meant by it.
* * *
Below I made my way to the Dwarf’s Hall and found Rakish standing on the far side of the common room next to the oversized dining hall. In front of him sat a blender on the counter at the dry bar. I wasn’t sure of the concoction the blender housed but it looked like a fruit smoothie. “Where have you been?”
“On top of the temple. Where is everyone?”
“Pumar and Greg are in the baths, who knows where the twins are unless they are with you. I guess one of them let you in?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Isaac is talking with Eva and Philippe – about what I have no idea.”
“What are you making?”
“A fruit smoothie. The local fruit is terrific for making them.” He grinned at me. “Want one? They are so refreshing.” He poured the frozen fruit cocktail into a tall glass and handed it to me.
“Mmmm, this is delicious.” I said after taking a small experimental sip.
“We have plenty of fruit if you want more.” He returned to the blender to make another one.
“I didn’t know they had electricity down here?” I said.
“They don’t. Eva lent us a generator, it’s in the kitchen. Between it and this extension cord, viola, modern accommodations. Isn’t the Twenty-first Century spectacular?” I had to smile. The smoothie really was delicious and he was right. It hit the spot.
“We all need to get together, you, Pumar, Greg, and me at some point today. I want to give Greg a clan name.”
Rakish gave me a quizzical look. “Have you run this by Mina?” I nodded. “Very well, after I make this we can head to the baths were the boys are. I want a hot soak anyway and you need one.” I must have given him an odd look because he went on with a mused expression on his face. “You smell like stale sweat. Isn’t it against the law to go out into the ruins during the day from down here?”
“Yes it is but Eva knows I was up there and forgave me so long as I don’t do it again. I thought you like the way sweat smells.”
He nodded. “Yes, I do but only human sweat. It smells like prey. Weretiger’s sweat is more acrid and smells like a rival trespassing into my territory.”
“Yea, I guess you’re right.”
This elicited a laugh from him. “How’s your smoothie?”
“Delicious.” I repeated. “Thank you.”
He slapped my back good naturedly. “Excellent, shall we go see the boys?” I nodded and followed him out of the room. In a moment we entered the baths and I saw Pumar and Greg deep in whispered conversation. They shut up when they saw us enter and of course it made me think they were talking about me. Why people do that I have no idea but it seems like the most common knee-jerk reaction is to automatically assume they are whispering all sorts of gossip about you. “Well, what were you whispering so intently about?” Rakish asked rather harshly. Pumar blushed and Greg smiled noncommittally. “Well, we have a VERY grave discussion to have so please wipe the smirk off your face Greg and both of you get over here ASAP.” Rakish barked as he stood next to the pool of hot water.
“What’s up?” Pumar asked.
“I said we have a very grave issue to discuss and I’ll say it may well be the most important thing we talk about all day.” My lunar-father said with a scowl etched deeply into his features.
The boys swam over and looked at us. I swear both looked as guilty as the cat that ate the cannery but I couldn’t for the life of me guess why. “Yes, very well: Greg you are a member of the Moondeath Clan of Weretigers. How do you like being a part of us?” I asked.
“I really like it, why? What did I do?” He asked cautiously growing more and more nervous by the second.
“Oh, I’m afraid you messed big time!” I said trying my best to keep the grin off my face and out of my eyes. I have a decent poker face, but sometimes I can’t keep a straight face to save my ass.
“What’s this about?” Pumar asked defensively slipping an arm around his brother’s shoulder.
“Watch your tone kit!” Rakish growled. “Or we may decide to punish both of you instead of just Greg.” Power rolled off my lunar-father causing the hair on all our arms to rise. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing at the frightened expression furrowing the boy’s faces.
“In light of new evidence recently brought to our attention, it would seem we made a grave mistake letting you join our clan.” I said. He didn’t say anything but swallowed hard. “You see, we forgot something, something very important and it may well affect the rest of your life with us.”
“I’m sorry Galin, but I don’t know what I did. How can I make it up to you, whatever it is? He asked quietly.
“Oh I don’t know if you can do
anything at all.” I said shaking my head. “You see, the mistake was ours
because we forgot to give you a clan name.” I couldn’t hold onto the solemn
expression and broke out in a shit eating grin.
“What,” he stammered not quite sure what to say, “you want to give me a clan name?” My adopted lunar-son asked. The shocked expression washing over his face brought a good hearted laugh from Rakish. Then a brilliant smile took the young man’s face. He became so excited he reminded me of a puppy chasing its tail.
“Well, have you thought about what you’d like to be called?” I asked.
“Well, I thought about it, but I really didn’t think it would be possible since I’m not a tiger. Plus, I don’t think I can think up something like Pumar or any other name you guys usually use.”
“It doesn’t have to be the names we normally use. It does need to be something you like and that fits your personality.” Rakish clarified. “You can even keep the name Greg if you like.” He added.
“I don’t want to keep my given name. It holds too many bad memories, but I really can’t think of anything.” Greg said.
“How does Ulrich sound? It’s derived from Wulfric which means Wolf Power.” Rakish suggested.
“I don’t know about that one. It sounds too Middle English.” Pumar said.
“That’s because it is Middle English Pumar.” Rakish said giving my son an exasperated look.
“I kind of like it.” Greg said.
“I like Beowulf from the Old English epic poem. It means bear or bee wolf, but it’s a cool name.” I said.
“Yea, that’s kind of cool too. I liked the movie.” Greg said. I had to chuckle. If not for Hollywood most classic literature would have faded into obscurity a long time ago.
“There is Fáelán, it’s Irish and its Gaelic form is Faolán meaning little wolf.” Rakish said.
“How do you know all these names?” Pumar asked.
“I’ve had five hundred plus years to learn all sorts of useless information young kit, now be quiet or make a contribution.” He was smiling so I knew Pumar hadn’t offended him, which is a good thing because Rakish can become pretty nasty rather quickly.
Pumar got a silly look on his face but looked away before anyone other than me caught it. “What is it Pumar, you were just thinking of something. Got a suggestion?” I asked.
He looked at me as if to whine shut up but a silly grin took his face. “I think I have the perfect name for him. Let’s call him Chew Toy.” My face was half submerged when he said it and I almost choked to death on the sudden intake of water the wrong way. Rakish laughed so hard he almost doubled over.
“NO, no way. I am not going to be known to everyone as Chew Toy, forget it.” Greg exclaimed. His voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Oh come on man, you’re my chew toy.” Pumar teased. Greg said nothing as a deep blush washed over his face. “Chew toy.”
“Shut up.” Greg whined.
Rakish and I finally recovered from nearly drowning. I’ll admit I needed a good laugh. It’s been a long time. “I like it.” I said. “Chew toy, that’s a good one Pumar.”
“Shut up.” Greg whined again.
“There’s Adolfus, its German form is Adolf which means Nobel Wolf.” Rakish suggested after he’d caught his breath from Pumar’s ‘Chew Toy’ suggestion.
“Na, that’s really not me.” Greg said.
“How about Lovell, it’s English for Little Wolf.” I suggested.
“Na,” Greg said.
“I kind of like Scruffs.” This came from the peanut gallery.
“Oh come on, Scruffs? Pumar he’s not a pet. We may as well call him Scruffy or Fido.” I said.
“Scruffs, that sounds pretty awesome.” Greg said. He looked between us. “What?”
“You really want to be called Scruffs?” I said shaking my head.
“I don’t know. I like it though, it kind of fits you know?” Greg defending this suggestion made Pumar beam.
“It’s ultimately up to you Greg. As Rakish told you, you can even keep Greg as your name if you like.” I said, still not believing Pumar suggested Scruffs and even more surprised Greg seemed to like it.
“I like it.” Greg said, “But I also like Beowulf.”
Pumar punched his brother’s arm. “We can call you Scruffy Beowulf.”
“Can I think about it a while?” Greg asked grabbing Pumar in a headlock.
“Sure.” I said. “It’s up to you.”
He nodded. “OK, I’ll let you know later.” Pumar twisted out of his grip and next thing I knew Greg flew through the air landing with a huge splash in another part of the bathing pool. Thank the gods you landed in water. I thought. Greg retaliated by slamming into Pumar rolling a wave of water over Rakish and me. I couldn’t help but laugh at the boy’s antics. I may look like I’m only twenty-four or so, but being over a hundred has a way of making one feel very old sometimes. More often than not I find myself standing on the sidelines watching the action rather than joining in.
* * *
Six o’clock that afternoon found me in the lobby of the Hotel Chichen Itza waiting for Ms. Tobler to come down from her rooms. She was late but that surprised me little. True Southern Belles always makes a gentleman wait. Robby joined me as soon as the desk clerk telephoned her room to announce my arrival. He informed me his grandmother couldn’t decide which dress to wear. Again, typical and it made me laugh because women her age rarely make men wait unless they have an interest that is more than just simple friendship. “Why do girls do that?” Robby grumbled.
“Make us wait all the time.”
“Because they can, and it’s simply something you’re going to have to get used to young man. They all do it but one of these days you won’t mind so much.”
“Yea right, it sucks and you know it…” I tuned him out because I couldn’t believe the vision confronting me.
Earlier today at the temple Martha Tobler looked pretty in an almost homely way, but the woman slowly descending the hotel’s central stairs looked absolutely radiant in a white linen sundress accented with a matching large wide brimmed hat adorned with a light blue ribbon and sandals on her otherwise bare feet. She carried a baby blue 1920’s style coin purse in front of her held loosely in her hands. There is but one word to describe her: breathtaking. Her auburn hair looked like dark flames licking close behind her ears where she’d pulled it tight against her head causing it to trail down her back. I stepped forward leaving the boy rambling to blank space. Martha offered me her hand and I received it bowing low kissing it gently. “I do apologize for making you wait Mr. Blake. I really couldn’t decide if I wanted to wear this dress or the green one.” She said.
Seeing her dressed so gave me an odd mixture of emotions from wanting to consume her with my eyes and envying her grace and beauty. “It is an honor to wait on one as lovely as you madam.” I said not paying attention to how dated my words sounded. I tucked her arm into mine escorting her from the hotel with Robby in tow.
“Why Mr. Lanoux, I do believe you are going to make me blush if you keep saying such nice things. Are you hungry? I’m famished.”
“Hungry? Why, seeing you just now pushed it completely from my mind.” I said. “But yes mam, I guess I am hungry. The last time I ate was this morning before climbing up on top of the temple.”
“You said a helicopter dropped you off up there.” Robby complained.
“Yes I did say that, but you didn’t believe me if I remember correctly. I just didn’t want you trying to climb up too because I feared you’d get hurt Robby.” I said to the boy who walked on my left opposite from his grandmother with his hands stuffed into his pants pockets.
“It’s a good thing you did tell him that or he would have tried climbing it of that I’m absolutely sure.” The woman said good-naturedly as she squeezed my arm. “Here we are Mr. Blake. I know it doesn’t look like much, but they do have wonderful food.”
I’ll admit I was rather surprised when I realized where she’d lead me. I hadn’t even noticed that we made a complete circuit around the building and wound up at the hotel’s restaurant. It was a beautiful establishment with an outside dining garden complete with a formally dressed wait staff.
“It is absolutely charming Martha however it really doesn’t matter what it looks like. With you around, any place dims by comparison.” Keep this up and you’ll back yourself into a corner. I silently chided myself.
“Oh please Mr. Blake, you do know how to say the most flattering things. I’m afraid flattery will get you most anything you want.” She flirted suggestively. “Would you like to sit out here or go inside?”
“I leave it up to you my lady. Where would you like to sit?” I asked.
“Let’s sit out here then. The evening is so beautiful.” A mesero showed us to a table and I pulled Martha’s chair for her tucking it into her legs as she sat.
Robby apparently had not yet learned that good southern gentlemen never sit before all women present were seated because he pulled a chair and plopped into it with all the enthusiasm of any bored preteen. “Mr. Lanoux, are you really an archeologist?” At least he remembered some of his manners.
“I most certainly am, Robby. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene and Springfield, and then finished my masters and doctorate degrees at Cambridge. I’ve been working in the field now for nearly ten years. Mostly I go on expeditions for museums and universities but I occasionally I’ll fund some of my own such as the one I’m currently on.”
“What are you looking for? Surely these ruins have been fully examined by all sorts of scientist by now.” Martha asked.
“Indeed they have, over and over again. The Mayan language, that is the written language, is still only about ninety percent understood. It’s enough to give us an understanding of the language, but there is still plenty of work to be done with it. However I’m not here studying the language so much but rather their religion, how the Mayan people interacted with their surroundings such as the subterranean rivers that flow throughout this region and the wildlife. I’m mostly interested in how they lived.”
“I see, hasn’t all of that already been researched too?” She asked.
“Yes mam it has, but not by me.” I looked at her a long time pretending to make up my mind about something and then deciding to go on and tell her. “To be honest Martha, I’m researching a book I plan on writing. It is a piece of fiction, a novel, but it’s set in Mesoamerica, that is during the time predating the Conquistadors.”
“Oh really:” her interest all of a sudden piqued. “What sort of book, I mean, what is it about?”
“The genre is a mix of horror and fantasy. It’s a story about shapeshifters such as werewolves, and other such creatures of myth.” She grew silent staring at me rather intently. “I take it you do not approve of such work?” I asked.
“Oh no, I do like horror books. I prefer them actually. They are so much more exciting than most other genres.” She smiled.
“Then pray tell, what have I said to make you regard me so intently?”
She blushed looking down at the spread of flatware before us. “I do apologize. I forgot my manners. It’s just I have a tendency to believe in such creatures. I’m not so sure they are ‘of myth’ as you say.”
I smiled trying not to look too shocked. “Surely you don’t really believe in such beast? I mean, vampires, werewolves, and Cyclops’s can’t really exist.” I said.
She laughed. “Well, I don’t know about Cyclops’s or vampires, but I do believe werewolves exist.”
“Really now: why them and not the others? If one type of monster exists surely others do as well?” I said trying not to sound too incredulous.
“Mr. Blake I’m not a crazy old bat so please don’t speak to me as though I am. I’m just saying that of all the creatures of horror, werewolves are the most likely to really exist.”
“Do forgive me Ms. Martha. I really didn’t mean to suggest by tone or word that you are any sort of bat, old or otherwise. But please satisfy my curiosity, why werewolves, what makes them so special?”
“Well, I really don’t think they are capable of existing on their own accord – that is – I don’t think they came to be by natural selection. I do believe however that with the advances in medical science, especially in the field of genetics, that a hybrid could be made. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if The Island of Doctor Moreau really exists.”
I know of this H. G. Wells novel and I vaguely recalled hearing about a movie released about a decade ago based on this classic novel where a mad scientist combined the genes of human and animals to create hideous hybrid monsters. I never saw the movie, or read the book for that matter, but I remember it got quite a review. “Ah, I see. So you believe werewolves and other such half human, half beast could exists because of scientific experiments?” I asked to make sure.
“Of course.” She clarified. “However…” She trailed off.
“However?” I prompted smiling at her.
“Well, it’s silly really. I mean what are the chances? However I heard a werewolf hunts the fringes of the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, North Carolina.” I looked at her rather dumbfounded because I really didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to insult her again, but I actually was getting curious about how much this woman really did believe in us. “According to the National Enquirer several mutilated livestock corpses have turned up over near Black Mountain. The officials say it’s a bear doing it, but according to the Enquirer several people in the area swear they saw a wolf, walking on two legs like a human, prowling in the woods. It said all the locals were terrified to go out into the very mountains most of them grew up in.”
“Do you always believe what the National Enquirer writes?” I asked trying not to affront her.
“Of course I do not believe everything they write, but I saw the headlines of a werewolf in North Carolina and I had to see what the author had to say. I have friends who live just northeast of Asheville and it piqued my curiosity.” She said rather defensively.
“What did the article say?” I asked. I couldn’t help it.
“It said the mutilated bodies of several cows were found torn to shreds and half eaten. The police say a rogue bear is responsible but the neighborhood residents claim it’s the work of a werewolf. They interviewed two people who swear they saw the beast feeding on a kill. When it saw them it charged but they were able to get in their car and get to safety before it could attack. Another person said he saw it in the light of a full moon lurking around his barn but he frightened it away by shooting at it with his shotgun.” She looked almost spooked. “I really don’t know what to think about it, but you never really know, do you?” She looked at me like she wanted confirmation she wasn’t going mad. Apparently she didn’t see what she hoped to find. I guess since I admitted to writing a novel about werewolves she expected me to understand. “Oh I know it is nonsense, but I find it really interesting.” Her voice carried a hint of defiance. “If you will excuse me, I need to visit the powder room and freshen up a bit before our food arrives.” She got up and headed for the bathroom without looking back.
“Sorry about that.” Robby said.
“About what?” I asked.
“Nanna,” he looked at his grandmother’s retreating back. “She really is harmless but she’s kind of batty when it comes to things like this.”
“How do you mean?” I asked trying to suppress the aggravation trying to creep into my voice.
“Nanna grew up in the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp near Homeland, Georgia. She took me to see the plantation where she lived with her parents. It’s a really pretty place but even I got spook-flesh on my arms. It really is creepy. Anyway, Nanna swears Bigfoot lives in the swamp. She also believes she’s seen were-cats there too.” My interest piqued at the mention of my particular flavor of shapeshifter but I didn’t interrupt him. “This one story she told me gave me nightmares for weeks and prompted dad to forbid her from telling me anymore of her stories.” I looked at him willing him to continue. “Well, it seems her grandparents lived about a mile from the plantation where Nanna grew up. She walked a path between the two houses a lot but this one afternoon it was getting late and Nanna didn’t want to walk home. Her grandparents were busy getting ready for a social event and couldn’t drive her in the car so she had to walk. On the way she heard a panther scream off to one side and it really frightened her. Great grand daddy always warned her not to run so she walked on keeping her attention on the path. Once in a while the panther screamed again and when she was about a hundred yards from her back yard another cat answered the first one from the other side. It was too much for Nanna and she ran for it. When she reached the safety of her back door she risked looking back and saw two black men watching her. As she backed through the screen door into the kitchen one of them licked its lips and she realized they were not black men at all but some sort of monster with human like bodies covered in black fur and panther heads. She calls them ‘her were-black-panthers’.” He used his fingers to create quotation marks in the air around the phrase and rolled his eyes. “As I said, she’s kind of batty about things like this.” He shut up because his grandmother emerged from the restaurant doors into the garden and strode toward us.
I smiled at her. “Why Ms. Martha, you look positively radiant.” I said to distract her from the serious expressions on our faces when she stepped through the doors. I stood waiting for her to sit.
“From the look on your faces I take it Robby was regaling you with stories I told him when he was little.” She said looking at the boy.
“He told me about his visit to your parent’s home in Homeland, Georgia.”
“And I’d bet he also told you about the two were-cats I saw there.” She added still looking at the boy who began to squirm. I had a strange feeling he couldn’t keep anything from this woman.
“Yes mam.” He said.
“I really wish he hadn’t told you that. Now I’m sure you think I’m about as loony as a toon, especially after what I already told you about North Carolina.”
“The experience from your childhood is why you believe in shapeshifters, am I correct?” I asked.
“You are. That one event changed my life forever. I’ve never looked at reality the same way since.”
“Did you seen them any other time?” I asked.
She sat there quietly for a moment before answering. It told me that she has indeed seen them again. “Yes…” she said slowly, “I saw them once more.” She looked me in the eyes. “Why do you ask Mr. Blake?”
“I would like to know.” I admitted.
She nodded and then said, “I saw them once more, only one more time.” She emphasized a bit too strongly. “My grandfather and I were fishing from a boat in the Okefenokee Swamp. I saw a tree move, not a large one, but too large for a man to pull down. It sprang up quickly like something heavy or very strong held it in place and then released it. I searched the shadows under the tree trying to see what caused it to spring up like that. I saw the faint outline of a large black human like animal with large yellow green eyes staring back at me from the shadows. I said nothing to grandpa but I didn’t look away either. Most girls probably would have screamed or at the very least told their granddaddy but I didn’t. I don’t know why really.” How very interesting I thought.
The food came and we ate. It was good but the company was better even if tainted by my new knowledge about this woman. She’d seen our kind. I regarded Martha with a new light. This woman was either very strong of character or she was afraid of being taken off to a padded cell because all of these years she told her story but to only a few people as it turned out. I asked to how many she’s told this story and she admitted since she told it to me the count was now only a handful of close friends and relatives. She only told Robby to frighten him when they spent the weekend at the old manor to keep him out of the woods. In a way her logic made sense to me, except that most boys would find it an irresistible lure.
Robby became a lot more talkative with his belly full and I couldn’t help but wonder what would come of him if Mina insisted I kill Martha. More than likely she’d tell me to leave it alone so long as the woman didn’t suspect it of me. “Nanna, may I go up to my room? I want to take a bath.” Translation: ‘I want to watch TV’.
“Very well honey. I’ll be up in a little while.” He smiled and dashed off in the direction of the hotel. “He really is a good boy, but he can be tasking.” She said.
“Where are his parents?” I asked holding her hand in my arm as we walked.
“They’re back home. My son Mark and Tonya, Robby’s momma, are divorced. She has custody of the boy but he spends more time with us than with her. I really don’t think she likes having him around much. He gets in her way if you know what I mean. Mark is a very busy man since he took over the family business and has little time for his son. As such Robby spends most of his time with me. I’ve taken him to a number of places around the world. I believe his favorite was when I took him to Egypt when he was eight. He fell in love with all the old and wonderful things to see there.” She looked at me. “Mr. Blake, how in the world do you see with those sunglasses on?” I wondered when she was going to ask.
“I wear them all the time.” I said.
“But why? There’s no need for them now that the sun has set.”
“I have odd eyes. They frighten most people. I was born with them but they aren’t like what most people have.” I said. This of course piqued her curiosity. I kicked myself the moment I said it and hoped she didn’t ask to see them. It would be so like a woman if she did. We sat on a bench on a path not far from the hotel’s pool. Water light undulated against the wall. “I wear them all the time.” I repeated.
“Even when you shower?” She asked smiling. It sort of surprised me because most women of gentry wouldn’t even think of asking a near stranger, especially a man, such a question.
“No mam, I shower without them on.” I grinned. “What a question to ask.”
She blushed. “Oh my, I really shouldn’t have asked that. Please accept my apology.”
“No reason to apologize for simple curiosity Ms. Martha.” She smiled. We talked for a little longer and then I made up an excuse to slip away so I could call Mina. “I had a wonderful evening Martha, but I really do need to get back to my lodgings. My associates were not around when I left to come here and so I was not able to tell them where I went. I’m afraid they will worry about me if I don’t return soon.”
She looked disappointed but didn’t argue. “Very well Mr. Blake. I hate you have to run off so soon. Will you be around for a while?”
“I have to leave for Dominica in two days.” I said pronouncing it Dō-min-i-ca on purpose like The Dominican Republic. I stood holding my hand out to her. “May I escort you back inside?”
She took the offered hand and let me take her back. “Would you like to come up for a nightcap?” She asked. I didn’t need an explanation for her boldness. I could smell her desire and hear her pulse raced. “Robby has his own rooms separate from mine. You can call your companions to tell them you are alright if you like.” She offered.
I wanted to decline, I really did, but her desire fed mine and the tiger in me urged me on growling excitedly. The trouble with lust of any kind prods my beast to want to either mate or kill. Since we just ate my desires leaned more towards sex. It would be a disaster to kill her in the suite after everyone saw me with her tonight. I smiled and nodded. “Yes, I believe I would like that very much.”
Her room was spacious for a hotel suite and I’ll admit it was one of the nicer hotels in the area. She turned on the bathroom light leaving the door cracked to shed light in the room but left the overhead lights off. We kissed gently at first and then much more passionately. I felt her lift my sunglasses off but I didn’t argue because the light was dim enough she’d have trouble seeing my eyes. She pulled back and studied my face. “Are you sure you’re alright with this?” She asked. “You’re so tense. I wouldn’t expect a man like you would be this nervous.”
“It’s been a while.” I said and moved in to kiss her again. Apparently the light from the bathroom caught my eyes just right because she pulled back further with a gasp.
“I guess you were telling the truth about your eyes being odd.” I swallowed hard but said nothing. “They catch the light like an animal.”
“As I said, it’s a birth defect I inherited from my father.” I answered looking down as though ashamed of them.
She pulled my face up with her finger curled under my chin so I had to look at her. Without a word she moved in and kissed first one eyelid and then the other before moving back to my lips. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of Blake. I think they are beautiful.” She breathed against my lips.
We kissed again and then I pulled back. “Would you please excuse me for a moment Martha, I need to use the bathroom.” I said. She nodded and I slipped into the small lit room. Looking in the mirror I chided myself for getting into this position in the first place but my beast growled at me. The woman’s desire was thick on the air and he wanted it. I swallowed hard and unzipped my pants taking a good long piss before flushing the toilet and returning to the room. The first thing I saw was a trail of white clothes on the floor: dress, hat, one shoe, and the other one. Looking up I saw Martha sitting on the bed dressed in nothing but the bed sheet. Her hair hung loose around her face trailing down her shoulders over her sheet covered breast. I pulled off my shirt and stepped close to her looking down into her steel blue eyes – eyes that looked almost like stainless steel instead of normal human blue.
She wrapped her arms around my waist and hugged me close breathing in my scent. “Oh god you smell good Blake. Is that your natural scent?”
“How do you mean?” I asked cautiously.
“You smell like a man, but more, so much more. I don’t know how to explain it.” I know what she meant. The scent is weretiger. Since we are a hybrid between human and animal our scent is human and more, but not truly human nor beast. It is a very primal scent tempered with the familiar. It’s a dangerous scent that nearly always drives women wild. She rubbed her face in my stomach as I caressed her head running my fingers through her long red hair. Her nimble fingers found my belt buckle and soon I stood as naked as the woman sitting in front of me. We had sex, long and passionate. Afterword we lay there for a while talking and snuggling. “I guess you need to go.” She finally said sighing deeply.
“Yes, especially since I forgot to call Greg and Rakish.”
“Rakish,” she asked. “That’s an odd name.”
“He’s Indian from Bihar.” I clarified for her.
“Oh how interesting.” I got up to pull on my clothes. “Are Greg and Rakish archeologist too?”
“Rakish is but Greg is the local farmer we are staying with.”
She got up and came to me as I slipped my sunglasses back on. She pulled them off and kissed me again replacing my glasses when she finished. “I really enjoyed this evening Blake. Thank you.”
“It is I who is grateful my lady.” I said.
“You are an odd one.” She mused. “I like that about you. I have not heard anyone speak the way you do since my grandfather died.” She walked me to the door. “Will I see you again before you leave? I’d very much like to.”
“I would be honored to see you again Martha.” I said kissing her lips gently before stepping out into the lit hallway.
“Wonderful,” she said not really believing I’d do it, “call on me anytime you like while you’re here. Maybe you can show Robby and me around the ruins. It’d be nice to have a personal tour with you as our guide.” She said smiling. I nodded and she closed the door as I turned to go.
It was late, but I had Mina on the phone before I reached the stairs. I told her what I learned tonight and waited for her to advise me. “I wouldn’t be too worried about it Galin. A lot of people have seen us over the years. Most don’t trust what they saw and the few who do either cause enough trouble to force us to kill them or they keep quiet about it like this woman has. If she’s not caused trouble in all these years it’s unlikely she will now.”
“You’re right unless she sees something here to cause more suspicion.” I said.
“Like my eyes in full light.”
Silence: “Did she see your eyes?”
“Only in really dim light, but she did ask why I wore sunglasses at night. I told her I had a birth defect that made my eyes odd. Later in her suite my eyes reflected light from the bathroom and she noticed it. It reinforced what I told her, but I can’t help but wonder if she will put two and two together. After all, I did say I was writing a book about shapeshifters.”
“I really don’t think it will come to anything Galin. But if you are this concerned don’t see her again. No one says you have to.”
“Alright, but what if she does cause a problem?” I asked.
“If it comes to that we’ll deal with it like we always do. Maybe we won’t even need to pay her a personal visit. I’d much prefer not to.”
“Yea, me too. I like them, her grandson and her. She really is all he has.”
“Well, try and avoid her if you can and if she starts to suspect call me. If we need to we’ll send someone down there. Where did you say she lives?”
“Very well, I need to go to bed Galin. Call me when you can. Love you.”
“Yea, I love you too mom. Have a good night sleep. Sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t wake me but I was just about to head to bed.” She didn’t explain why she was still awake at three in the morning Mountain Standard Time.
“Good night son.”
* * *
The early morning hours were quiet around the old Cenote. I decided a good swim would help wash away the smell of the evening’s adventures before going below. Isaac mentioned Torquil enjoys a late night swim but I’d forgotten about it and nearly jumped out of my skin when he swam up behind me. “Pew, you stink.”
“Oh fucking shit man, you startled me.” I said as he snickered. “What do you mean I stink?”
“You have to ask? You smell like sex.” He said with a silly little grin creasing his mouth.
“How can you tell? I’m underwater.”
“Are you kidding? It floats around you like a thick cloud as though a swimmer kicked up silt?” He laughed. “You really need to wash up before you see the others.” I knew he spoke of Pumar, Greg, and Rakish, but especially my lunar-sons.
“It’s that bad eh?” I asked.
“Oh yes, but you can wash up in our hall. We even have soap there now. Greg and Pumar are down there anyway.” He swam away towards the far edge of the old natural sinkhole. “Come on, I’ll show a secret way in.” I followed him up the river until we came to a small stream that separated from the main flow twisting off in a different direction. Before long we came to another landing but this one was even more disguised then the other one. It was little more than a gravel strewn beach butting against a rocky crag. Even though I’d seen him and his brother control the rock before it still amazed me to see solid rock flow like water. Soon a hole opened up making a passage directly into the bath chamber of the Dwarven Hall. Within moments I swam around in near scalding water relishing the heat after the cold river swim. “I take it you were with that woman and her grandchild?” He asked from his perch on the edge of the bath watching me intently.
“Yes, why?” I paused for a moment. “What a minute, how do you know about Martha and Robby?”
“Is that their names?” He asked. “I overheard Eva discussing it with Philippe during dinner tonight. They didn’t know I was anywhere around.” Hmm, I mused, the little rascal is eavesdropping on the jaguars again. I couldn’t help but wonder why.
“What were they saying?” I asked halfway not wanting to know the answer.
“They’re just concerned the woman and her grandson might cause trouble. I cannot say I blame them but I doubt a woman and child will do anything.” I nodded agreeing with him without saying it. “The smell is gone.” He grinned. “You’re all tiger clean.”
“Do you think Greg and Pumar would be mad at me?”
“What for fucking a woman?” He laughed. “Na, she’s no threat to them.”
“She may be.” I said and he raised an eyebrow. I explained about her seeing the werecats in the swamps near her childhood home and what Mina said about it.
“She may pose a problem if she figures out what you are, but Mina’s right, if you stay away from her she has no reason to put two and two together.” I nodded hoping they are both right.
A few moments later I crawled into a pile of blankets trying to keep a little distance from the sleeping tigers snuggled in a kitten pile in the center of the bed. “Galin?” Pumar asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Where have you been?”
“On a date.”
“A date?” His voice held a slight tinge of jealousy.
“I met a woman and her grandchild today topside in the ruins. She invited me to dinner and I accepted.” I said in way of explaining without going into detail.
“You’ve been gone all night. Either you ate her or you fucked her.” He was not a happy cat at the moment.
“The latter,” I said. “She was ready and it caught me off guard.” I paused. “I really intended on coming back right after eating.”
“Why are you way over there? Are we no longer good enough for you?” Oh boy, he really was not happy with me at the moment.
“Of course you’re good enough for me. I just didn’t want to wake you.”
“Well, we’re awake now.” Greg said. His voice didn’t sound offended like Pumar’s. I scooted over and joined them.
“Pew you stink.” Pumar said.
“I do not.” I argued.
“Yea, you do.” He said.
“No he doesn’t Pumar, you’re just being a jealous git.” Pumar smacked Greg on the shoulder but said nothing before pulling me in close and promptly falling back to sleep.
“You were with the woman and her grandson?” Greg asked.
“Does everybody know?”
“Torquil said you were having dinner with them. I think Pumar’s more upset you stayed the whole night than he is about you having sex.” He explained. “He griped about it all night.”
“I hope you’re right. I really don’t feel like dealing with a resentful tiger right now.” I admitted.
“Well, if you do you only have yourself to blame Galin. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter. If he’s upset about the sex he’ll get over it, especially after he experiences the pull for himself. ” I nodded as I slipped into sleepy oblivion. I really was too tired to worry about it this morning.
* * *
Later that day I snuck out the compound and walked among the tourist visiting the ruins. I really wasn’t expecting to run into anyone I knew but I was hoping to see Martha again. I don’t know why but I couldn’t get her out of my mind. She was nowhere to be seen until later in the day. Robby wasn’t with her. “Hello,” I said.
She turned around and smiled. “Well, hello, imagine seeing you here. Were you looking for me?” She asked.
“Yes, well, I couldn’t stop thinking about you today. I hoped you’d show up. Where’s Robby?”
“Oh, he made a friend last week and they invited him over for the day. Robby knows Spanish a lot better than I do.” I met the boy’s parents and they seem like really nice people so I said OK.”
“Well since you’re here, may I give you that personal tour you said you’d like?” I suggested.
“I thought you would never ask.” She said. I smiled and held my arm out for her. She took it and we walked toward the large pyramid Temple in the center of the ruins. It took most of the afternoon and into the evening to tour the whole place. I did most of the talking since I explained everything we saw.
She wanted me to read some of the Maya glyphs, but I had to admit that I couldn’t read it very well. “I’m an archeologist Martha, but Maya is not my expertise. If we were in Egypt I could read the hieroglyphs there, but these are mostly a mystery to me.”
“You speak Egyptian?” She asked.
“Well, I can read it but no one speaks it. It hasn’t been spoken by living people in thousands of years. The speech of the Pharos is a lost language.”
“That never made any sense to me.” She said prompting me to ask what. “How can you read a language but not be able to speak it?”
“We don’t read it. We translate it. No one has heard it spoken in thousands of years so we translate it into English or whatever language the translator speaks. In a way it’s reading it but not really.”
“I see.” She smiled and squeezed my arm. “I really do thank you for showing me around.”
“It’s my pleasure madam.” I said.
“Galin,” I heard from behind me. I froze before turning to look at Rakish. He wore Bermuda shorts and a flowery shirt that screamed tourist. I froze as I felt Martha tense up.
“I’m sorry sir but I think you must have me mixed up with someone else.” I said. Rakish, this is Martha and she already knows we exist. I really wish you had on sunglasses. Now we may really have a problem. I thought to him over the link.
“Sorry sir, I did think you were someone else.” He said and bowed slightly before turning to leave. We watched him walk away. Sorry, I really didn’t mean to cause trouble. He thought to me.
Martha said nothing. I tried unsuccessfully to steer her away in the other direction but she resisted me still watching Rakish’s retreating back. “Those eyes,” She breathed so quietly I hoped I’d imagined it.
“I’m sorry.” I said.
She looked at me and then up at my hair. “His eyes, Blake take the sunglasses off and let me see your eyes.”
“I’m sorry but I cannot.” I said but she cut me off.
“Your hair is identical to his Blake. You’ve hidden your eyes ever since I met you. I have to believe that your hair is not the only trait you share with him. You do know him don’t you?”
How in the hell do I get out of this? I thought. “I’ve never seen him before.” I lied.
“Please do not lie to me Mr. Lanoux, or Galin, or whoever you are.” I swallowed hard and removed my glasses watching for her reaction as she looked deep into my chartreuse eyes. “Your eyes, they…” She broke off, swallowing hard before continuing. “I’ve seen those eyes before.” She whispered.
“Yes,” I said.
“You…” She didn’t finish.
“May we speak about this in private?” I asked.
“Am I in danger?”
“Not if I can help it, but if you are, refusing to speak with me in private will not protect you.” I admitted.
She nodded. “Very well, where do you want to go?”
“It’s late enough, I can take you someplace that will show you exactly what I am but you will have to promise upon any oath that will hold you true not to tell anything you see or hear. Will you trust me? May I have your assurances that you will speak of this to no one, not even Robby or your son?” I asked.
“I promise upon my mother’s grave Blake that you do not have to worry about me. But… I don’t want to die.” She added lowering her voice and looking into my eyes.
“Will promising on your mother’s grave assure your silence?” I asked.
“I have nothing more I can make an oath on. I’m an Atheist, so I cannot swear on the Bible or on God’s name.” She admitted.
“Very well, I’ll have to accept it but understand this Martha; your life is not the only one that depends upon your silence. Think of Robby, his mother, your son and everyone you’ve told about us so far. If you break your oath, every one of them will die.”
She swallowed hard and looked at me intently. “You’d kill us all for a batty old woman telling a tale no one believes anyway?”
“It’s not my decision. You may already be dead, but I promise I’ll do everything I can to prevent it. But I can assure you that if we let you live and you tell anyone, they will die, as will everyone you’ve told about your experience in Homeland.” I looked out over the ruins that until moments ago seemed so beautiful. The possibility that I may have to kill this wonderful woman tainted everything I saw. “Secrecy about us is most important Martha. Normally anyone who sees us must be neutralized and that usually means killing them.”
She sighed deeply. “Then I promise on the lives of my family and friends that I will say nothing about any of this to a living soul. I promise to protect them, not me. You have my word.” She said.
“My clan and I, we don’t make a habit of killing people. None of us eat humans and therefore there really is no reason to kill a person except for protection. The general public must never be made aware of our presence. We are hard to kill but if the whole human species went to war against us we’d all die.” I had to admire her fortitude because she didn’t even seem afraid of the prospect of possible impending death. She even continued to hold my arm like we were having a nice evening stroll among the ruins of Chichen Itza at sunset.
“I’m not afraid to die Blake, I just don’t want to. I enjoy life a lot and I love watching Robby grow up. I want to see him grow into a good, strong young man. I’m forty-two and I’ve lived a long full life in those forty-two years. If you promise me you will not kill Robby or my son, I promise upon their lives I will tell no one anything else about what I saw in my childhood or what I’m likely to see here this evening.”
I nodded. “Then come with me and I’ll make it all clear to you. However understand that the decision is not mine to make. I will advocate on your behalf, but the decision ultimately belongs to Mina, my matron, and Eva, the matron of the local clan.”
She sighed again. “Understood, lead me to this place you speak of.” She said. As we walked a group of straggling tourist passed close by, so we continued on in silence until we were out of hearing range of passerby. “So are you a werepanther?” She asked.
“No, I’m different.” I said.
“And the gentleman who approached us a moment ago?”
“He’s like me.”
“Are the people in the ‘local clan’ as you call it different too?”
“Yes, but what they are is up to them to show you if they will.” I admitted. She nodded and said nothing more as we approached the ground level entrance of the Jaguar Temple where Estefan leaned against the temple wall looking for the entire world like any ordinary tourist. “Estefan, we need to see Eva, Philippe, Isaac, Rakish, and Shea immediately. I don’t know how you can get word to them, but they need to come here as soon as possible.”
“Galin, you know full and well you cannot bring a stranger into this place.” Estefan said eyeing Martha.
“I’m afraid it’s gone beyond normal protocol Estefan.” He nodded and turned to another young man squatting a little distance away making a rubbing of one of the more interesting glyphs in the temple wall.
The man didn’t wait to ask what but turned and left. We stayed there in the entrance alcove waiting for his return. “Jaguars, they are jaguars aren’t they?” Martha said. I looked at her and shook my head, not to deny her assumption, but to signal her to stay silent about it. It was too late though because Estefan heard her.
I breathed heavily. “I believe you are just too smart for your own good Martha. Now keep silent about it until we meet the others.”
We didn’t have to wait long before Eva, Philippe, and Isaac returned with the man. “What is this Galin? Why have you brought a stranger into our midst?” The jaguar matron asked.
“We have a problem Eva. All will be explained at the proper time, but it cannot be ignored. This is Martha. I introduced my new friend to the others.
“I guessed as much. I take it she’s figured it all out?” Eva asked.
“She has, but please bear in mind that she came to us willingly fully understanding that she may lose her life.”
Rakish, I called mentally to my lunar-father. We need you here now. We’re at the main entrance.
I’m here. He answered as he sprinted up behind us. I saw you leading the woman here and guessed we’d been made. He stepped up beside us. “Hello Martha, I’m Rakish.” He introduced himself to the woman.
She nodded. I smelled fear on her but she stood stoically calm. “It is a pleasure to meet you Rakish.” She held her hand out to my lunar-father and he received it in proper fashion bending at the waist to kissing it lightly.
“What has happened?” Eva asked. I instructed Martha to repeat to those present what she told me the night before and how she came to her present conclusions. It took a little while to tell the story because Eva kept interrupting her to ask me questions. When Martha finished Eva looked at her mate.
“We do need to call the council Eva, you know we do.” He said. I swallowed hard because I knew I could probably sway Eva and Philippe alone, but the council would be a different matter.
“We need to convene out here if we can Eva. This concerns my clan and Mina must be included in any decision made.” Rakish said. I was glad he brought it up instead of me. I had a feeling Eva wouldn’t listen to me at the moment.
“Very well, the council will have to be called later tonight because there are still too many tourist around. We have no telephones below and mobile phones receive no signal down there.”
Rakish nodded. “It cannot be helped.” He said, and then turned his attention to Martha. “What about the boy, is he safe tonight?”
“Yes, he’s spending the evening with a friend.” She said. I hoped she really could trust these people since she said she’d only known them for a week or so.
We sat around for the next four hours waiting for the tourists to leave. Once everyone but the guards left Eva announced the council had been notified and would convene shortly. I swear Martha sat beside me cool as a cucumber. I smelled her fear, faint on the air, but she sat still and calm, chatting easily with all of us.
“You really are not easily frightened, are you?” Eva asked her.
“No, I don’t know why, but things that frighten other people really don’t scare me.” She said. I couldn’t help but admire this woman even more. It would be a shame to kill her. Soon people began filing around us from all directions. I looked around at them and noticed Pumar and Greg were with them along with the twins Tobin and Torquil.
Shea stepped up beside me and I looked at her quizzically. “We were told what was happening and I asked if we could join the council since this concerns all of us.” She clarified. Toby and Trent stood at her side.
I nodded. I’m glad you’re here. We need a woman’s voice, other than Mina, on our side. You are on our side aren’t you?” I asked.
“Of course I’m on your side. I’ve learned to trust your judgment Galin. If you believe this woman can be trusted, then I trust you.”
After a while a throng of at least fifty strong surrounded us at which time Eva raised her voice over the murmuring people. “Please let me have your attention.” Everything quieted down. “We have a matter to discuss and a decision to make before dawn. If you will, we need to move to our council grounds in the jungle.” She turned to Martha. “Will you object to Galin carrying you? You will not be able to keep up with us otherwise. We have eight kilometers to travel and no human can keep our pace.”
“Blake, well Galin,” she paused looking at me before continuing, “and I made love to each other last night. After that I don’t think I have a problem with him carrying me.”
Eva nodded. “Very well, we need to go now.” She strode off in the direction of the large central temple pyramid.
Martha walked beside me until we cleared the last of Chichen Itza’s out buildings and stepped into the surrounding jungle. I stooped down to let her climb onto my back. “It will be easier to carry you on my back than in my arms.” She didn’t argue but scrambled up and held on tight. At a signal I hadn’t seen everyone took off at our fastest pace in human form. We are not as fast like this as we are as full beast, but we still move quicker than most people can see unless they are viewing us from a great distance. Martha had a little difficulty staying on me at first but I grabbed her arms holding her while I accelerated. Because she rode my back I had to take off slower than the others and soon they were out of earshot. I also followed at a little slower pace on purpose because I wanted to talk with Martha while we traveled. I followed the other’s scent to find our way. “Martha,” I whispered loud enough for her to hear me but quiet enough for none of the others to overhear what I said. “Whatever happens tonight, I will not let them kill you. If that is their decision, then I need you to be ready to go in a split second. I won’t wait for you to climb on my back but I’ll catch you up in my arms and off we’ll go. Understand?” I said.
“Yes, but why would you risk it? We hardly know each other.”
“Because I like you and I don’t want to see you killed: at least not without a fair trial. In truth I don’t want to see it then either. We’ll fetch Robby and I’ll get you both to safety.” I trained my thoughts to my lunar-family then. Rakish, Pumar and Greg, listen up. I will not let these people harm Martha and her grandson. Be prepared for anything.
What do you plan on doing? Rakish asked me.
I’m not sure yet, just be prepared.
OK, we’re with you. Pumar and Greg answered me at the same time.
I am too son. Rakish said.
Good, I said and kept silent for a while listening to the jungle around us and to the others through my link with my family.
“Martha, my real name is Galin Moondeath. Are you sure you told me everything about the werepanthers from your hometown? It’s extremely important so please don’t lie to me about it.” I asked.
“I…” she paused, “cannot say. I promised.”
“Now is not the time for loyalties to an old oath. We are all shapeshifters here except for you. If you know the werepanther clan from your hometown, we may need to contact them on your behalf. Do you know them, is there someone we can contact to speak for you?”
After a long pause she admitted there was. “Yes, his name is Orrin. I have his cell phone number if you need it.” A little more time passed before she added. “Please do not call him unless it’s evident they plan on killing my family.”
“Will he stand up for you, bear witness for you?” I asked ignoring her request that I not call him except for the direst emergency. In my mind, this was the worst emergency she could possibly face.
After nearly thirty minutes we came to a stop at the edge of a large clearing deep in the jungle. It reminded me of Swampbane’s Council Grounds with a large throne on one side. The only real difference except for the size of the circle, this cathedra was made from living vines patently twisted and intertwined to make a seat for the reining matron to sit. Eva approached the living char and sat waiting as the rest of the council formed a large circle herding Martha and me to its center. Eva sat at its head with her mate standing slightly behind her. I watched with a sinking feeling as at least a hundred more jaguars entered the clearing. Apparently the news got out.
This does not look good Galin. Rakish said to me. If any more show up escape will be damn near impossible.
We’ll still find a way. We have to. I cannot let them kill her. I said.
We’ll find a way Galin. Greg said. One way or another we’ll find a way.
If diplomacy does not work we’ll have little choice but to fight our way out. Rakish added. Are you sure she’s worth it? This would not be the first time we killed humans to protect our secret.
I know. I said looking at them all in turn. A lump formed in my throat. What have I gotten us into this time? Yes, she is worth it. I said.
* * *
This concludes Chapter Sixteen. 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.