Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 17
© 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.
I stepped forward holding my hand out to Martha signaling her to remain silent. “Lady El Diente de la Muerte,” I addressed Eva by her official title. “We must include our matron Mina before these proceeding may continue.”
Eva glared at me. Her eyes spoke very clearly: ‘how dare you interrupt these proceedings,’ but she only nodded her head. “Very well, call your matron.” Her face slipped into a pleasant smile. Pulling my cell phone out I slid it open only to find it had no signal. I closed and opened it once more before looking at the jaguar matron sitting on her living throne. Anger burned hot in my soul when I saw the gloat on her face.
“Is there a problem?” She asked coyly.
“Oh no, there is no problem at all. I just don’t have a signal but you already knew that.” I said dryly.
“Well, that is not my problem.” She leaned forward. “Now Martha Tobler would you please do as I asked of you.”
Martha started to speak but I cut her off. “We cannot proceed without Mina being a part of this meeting.” Eva gave me a scathing glare for my trouble.
“As I said, it is not my problem that you do not have a signal in our Círculo Sagrado.”
“You knew all along I would not receive a signal out here.” I accused.
“I would be very careful how you talk to me Galin of the Moondeath Weretiger Clan of Colorado, be very careful.”
I glared at the woman sitting in front of me and was about to say something dreadfully unpleasant when Isaac rescued the moment. “Excuse me but I think I may help.” We all watched as he fished out a normal looking cell phone with a larger than normal antenna sticking out the top. I smiled – now let’s see her reaction, I thought. “I’m sure you are all familiar with a satellite phone? Modern technology is spectacular, wouldn’t you agree?” Eva’s frown deepened so darkly my suspicions were confirmed: she had no intention of making this a fair trial. What problem she had with Martha I could only guess, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s because of last night. Sometimes women can be so difficult to read where jealousy is concerned.
I gave Isaac the number and watched Eva as he punched it into his telephone. The tones rang clear to my hearing and Mina answered on the fifth. “Hello.” Eva huffed impatiently and sat back in her thrown.
“Hello Mina Moondeath, do you remember me?” Isaac asked in his British accent.
“Of course I remember you Isaac, how are you doing?”
“Oh I’m doing very well thank you. How about you, how are things in Colorado?”
“We’re doing fine. How may I help you?” Mina must be busy because she’s normally a bit chattier than this. Getting right to the point is not like her.
“I’m afraid we have a situation where we need your help. It’s come to the point where Galin’s friend Martha Tobler is standing trial before the El Diente de la Muerte’s Council for her knowledge of your kind’s existence. Since this involves members of your clan we made the decision to ask you to sit in on the proceedings. Do you have time to join us?” Such the diplomat, I swear. At the moment I could have kissed the pointed eared bastard.
“Yes, I had a feeling you called about this. When does the council meet?”
“I’m afraid it is already convened. If you need to bring your council in on this you may need to call them.”
“We were just gathering for a council of our own so most of us are already here. There are a few still on the way. Can you wait?” She asked.
“No we cannot wait, ‘tempus fugit’.” Eva retorted sourly.
“Time only flies when you have something more pressing to tend to. I presume this is Eva El Diente de la Muerte? If you are in too big of a hurry to wait a mere ten minutes we can still listen in and contribute as we are until the rest of our council is present.” Mina said keeping most of the sarcasm out of her voice. A tinge of anger laced her tone telling me she was a lot more irritated than she let on. However I doubted anyone other than Rakish and me caught it. After spending so many years with her, we’ve learned to pick up on her moods.
“Very well,” Eva said. “However you may not interrupt the trial until your full council is present. How long will it take for them to arrive?”
“It will only take a few minutes, maybe ten or so.” She answered with a bit more irritation in her voice. No doubt Mina was thinking, ‘what, are you deaf?’
“Very well, Martha would you please tell us your story now, provided there will be no more interruptions.” She said as her eyes dared me to say a word more.
Martha took one step forward and met the gaze of every council members standing to either side of the clan’s matron before starting her testimony. “When I was six I encountered two werecats in the swamps bordering my parent’s plantation in Homeland, Georgia. From the sounds they made, I thought they were regular panthers until I saw them enter my yard. They stood as humans but they were covered in black fur with panther heads upon their shoulders.” She said.
“Have you seen them since?” Eva asked.
Martha looked at me and I nodded to her. “Once,” she said. The pulse in her neck said she told the truth. It didn’t speed up at all and she produced no scent suggesting a lie. “I was fishing in the swamp with my grandfather and saw one of them in the shadows of some trees on the bank. I assumed it was one of the two that entered my yard but I could not be certain. My grandfather did not see him and I told him nothing of what I saw.” She added.
“And you have not seen these werecats at all after this?” Eva asked.
“That is correct. I have not seen them since.”
“Have you told any person about them?” Eva looked smug because she knew Martha had indeed told her son, grandson, and former daughter-in-law. I feared this would be enough to condemn her in the eyes of the jaguar council.
“I’ve told my son, my grandson, and his mother, and Mr. Blake, er Galin.” Martha admitted.
“I see. You told Galin before you knew he is a weretiger?
“Yes, I mentioned it because he told me he was writing a novel about werewolves in Chichen Itza during ancient times. I was merely making conversation.” I found it interesting she omitted it was Robby who told me the story, but I wasn’t about to point this out. No doubt she wanted to protect her grandson.
“Ms. Tobler, do you understand that it is our law that all outsiders who find us out must be neutralized?” Eva asked.
“Yes,” Martha answered.
“Very well, I think we’ve heard enough. It is time to vote on this and put it behind us.” She said to the jaguars surrounding us.
“I do not think all evidence has been heard.” I said.
Eva’s eyes narrowed as she bore holes into me. “You do not have a voice in this council.” She hissed.
“No but I do.” Mina said. “I wish to hear my son’s testimony and advice.”
Eva fumed as she glared at the phone resting in Isaac’s palm – he’d turned it to speaker phone once the meeting started. “Alright then, Galin what say you?”
“I think it should be taken into account how long Martha Tobler held her tongue concerning the werepanther clan of the Okefenokee Swamp. I also think it should be taken into account that she has known members of this clan most of her life and is on good standing with them.” Martha stared hard at me. I mouthed ‘trust me.’
“By her own testimony she said she had no other contact with the werepanthers she saw as a child. If she has lied to this council then the judgment will be swift and harsh.” Eva said. The gloat was back in her voice and it sat smugly on her face.
“She has not lied to the council.” I said. “She spoke the truth. She has not seen those two panthers ever again.”
“Now you’re splitting hairs Galin. If she’s presently in contact with the panther clan from her hometown, then she lied to us.”
“No she did not. If you wanted to know if she’s still in contact with the clan, then you should have asked that. Instead you asked if she’s ever seen those two panthers again and she has not. Mina, if you would please call a number for us and conference it into this meeting.” I looked at Martha who shook her head no. “Trust me Martha.”
After a moment’s hesitation she gave the number and Mina dialed it. It rang a few times before a deep man’s voice answered in an aristocratic Southern accent. “Hello.”
“Orrin,” I looked at Martha and she mouthed Kuccv to me pronouncing the name K-ū-k-ŭ. “Kuccv?” I finished.
“Yes, who is this?”
I motioned to Martha. “Orrin, please forgive me but I’m in a serious bind here.” She said to her friend.
“Martha, is that you? What may I do for you?”
“Mr. Kuccv, this is Galin Moondeath of the Colorado Clan of Weretigers. I am a friend of Martha’s and she is in very serious trouble. We need your help.” I said.
“Galin Moondeath did you say?” He asked.
“What seems to be the trouble? I thought Martha and her grandson were in Mexico.”
“We are,” I replied. “Martha became aware that I’m a shapeshifter and the local clan of jaguars got involved. She is presently standing before their council who are deciding her fate. So I say again, we need your help.”
“Martha, what on earth is going on?” He asked.
“Mr. Kuccv,” I started to say.
“I did not address you Mr. Moondeath, I addressed Martha. I expect her to answer me.” I signaled Martha to do as he asked.
“Orrin, it is as Galin said. I’m currently in the custody of the El Diente de la Muerte Clan of Jaguars pending judgment for having found them out. It’s a long story even thought it all started just yesterday.”
“Enough of this.” Eva said standing up. I noticed her hands shifted into claws and I readied myself to defend Martha provided I couldn’t escape with her. “This Orrin has no say in this council any more than you do Galin.”
“Who is this?” Orrin asked.
“It is Eva the matron of the local clan.” I said.
“Eva El Diente de la Muerte, I am not there to present testimony in person, but I can assure you that your clan’s secret is safe with Ms. Tobler. She’s held our secret for a very long time and she’s never broken her word.”
“She told Galin.”
“He is a shapeshifter, is he not?”
“Yes, but she did not know this when she told him.” Eva pointed out. It shocked me how far she was willing to go to procure a judgment of guilty – even to the point of misconstruing the evidence. Martha confirmed what Robby told me of the child hood incident, but she only told me of Orrin after she found out what I am.
“If Martha felt the need to tell of us, then I trust her judgment. Martha, exactly what did you tell Galin?”
“I only told him of seeing the Ellis and Otto from when I was a child. He told me he was writing a book about werewolves and I thought he might find it interesting to hear of a tale from a little girl’s delirium.”
“And when did you tell Galin about me?” He asked.
“I told him of you when it became clear I was in mortal danger. I would not have told him otherwise and by then I already knew of his particular brand of uniqueness.”
“This does not change the fact that she spoke of our kind to a total stranger.” Eva said edging closer. “It is our law that a human who finds out about us must be neutralized and therefore I insist we end this debate and vote.”
“Eva El Diente de le Muerte I will not allow harm to come to my friend and sister.” Orrin said. “She did no harm by telling Galin about a vision from her childhood and certainly no harm by disclosing information about me once she found out for sure he’s one of us.”
“She is an unknown variable and we will handle this perceived threat the way we always have.”
“You must not harm her Eva.”
“If that is the council’s vote then so be it.”
“I can promise you this: if any harm, any harm at all comes to Martha Tobler and her grandchild we will consider it an act of war. Do I make myself clear?” Orrin’s voice waxed cold in his threat.
“Who are you to speak to me like this?” Eva hissed.
“I am Orrin Kuccv of the Kuccv Clan of Black Panthers and I have all the authority I need to declare war against you and all of your people if you do not heed my warning. If you need a woman’s voice to make my threat real, my mate who is the matron of my clan, is standing here beside me. Martha may be human but she is a member of our family and we will defend her or avenge her as we would any our own.”
“What is your matron’s name?” Eva asked reining in her anger.
A woman’s voice came over the line. “I am Michelle Kuccv, matron of the Kuccv Clan of Black Panthers of the Okefenokee Swamp and I support everything my mate has said. Martha is our friend, my sister, and a member of our family. We have known her since her childhood and she has never betrayed our confidence. I forbid you to bring harm to her in any way.”
Eva stepped forward but she stopped when she saw my claws extend. “How dare you. I am matron here, not you.” She spat at the phone in Isaac’s hand. “We will do as we please to make sure our clan remains safe.”
“Eva El Diente de la Muerte, I can assure you that your clan will suffer immensely if any harm comes to my friend and sister. It does not matter how strong the number of your clan is, it does not matter to us how many people die. We will protect one of our own, or avenge her should you take action against our council.” Michelle’s voice thrummed with so much power even over the satellite link it caused Eva to flinch. “I am sending an emissary tonight to retrieve Martha and her grandson. I insist no action be taken against them until after we arrive to advocate on their behalf. Galin, where do I need to send our people?” I told her where we were and that Chichen Itza has an airport. “Thank you. We will be there first thing tomorrow morning. This meeting is adjourned until further notice.”
The line went dead. “Well, I guess that was pretty clear cut and to the point.” Mina said. “If I were you Eva, I would take Michelle Kuccv at her word. I’ve heard of the Kuccv Clan. Nearly all of them were Special Forces operatives when they were human. Galin, call me as soon as you can.” She didn’t wait for me to answer and her line went dead. Isaac pressed a button on his phone and looked at Eva who said nothing but stood fuming. I began leading Martha away.
“Where do you think you are going?” She hissed dangerously.
“As Michelle Kuccv said, this meeting is adjourned.” I said.
“It is over when I say it is over.” She started toward us but Philippe took his wife’s arm and pulled her back.
“Eva please, we need to wait. Nothing will be accomplished by rushing into things but a lot may be lost if we do. Think of our people.” He said. Eva jerked her arm trying to pull free but Philippe held her fast. “No, we must wait. We have not had time enough to recover from what Stephano and Loretta did to us. We are not strong.” He insisted. She snarled at him but didn’t resist as he pulled her back toward the vine throne.
I led Martha away towards the edge of the surrounding line of jaguars who stepped back making a break for us in the line. “Galin, do not take her where we cannot find you.” Eva called after us.
I looked back at the jaguar matron. “I’ll take her where I need to in order to secure her safety. We will be available once the Kuccv emissary arrives.” I turned and led Martha from the gathering of shapeshifters followed by all of our people except Isaac.
He stood facing the jaguar matron for a moment before speaking. “My Lady, I hope you have a peaceful evening.” And then he followed us.
As we entered the forest surrounding the ceremonial circle, my family and friends surrounded Martha and me in a protective shell of tigers and panthers. “Thank you.” Martha leaned into me and I slipped an arm around her shoulders. “I really thought I was dead there for a moment.”
“For a moment there you nearly were. For the life of me I cannot understand why Eva turned on you so vehemently. She let nearly three hundred humans go after they saw me in half tiger form. It makes no sense.”
“Maybe she’s jealous.” Martha said. “We did make love last night.”
“But she’s mated.” I said. Galin, Martha has a point. Eva did offer you the right to mate with her. Rakish spoke to my mind. And for all intense and purpose you turned her down because of your sexuality. Then you had sex with this woman the very next day. Most women would take serious offense to that.
You have a very valid point Rak. I’ll have to speak with her and see if I can get to the bottom of it. His comment reminded me of the conversation Eva and I had on top of the temple yesterday and now I understood. Eva is interested and making excuses for not pursuing it. Me sleeping with Martha smacked rejection right in Eva’s face and she is reacting to it. Damn! What a fucking mess. I thought.
As we entered Chichen Itza’s grounds I asked Martha where Robby’s friend lives. “We need to get him and take the two of you to safety before the jaguars find out where he is. I wouldn’t put it past Eva to use him to get at you if she finds him first.”
“They live…” She started to say but Rakish interrupted her.
“Ms. Tobler, I would not say where he is just yet. Wait until we are in a secure place and we’ll take it from there.”
A worried expression creased her face. “The stones have ears?”
“I’ve known it to be true in the past.”
“I have a better idea.” Tobin said. “We can take her to our hall where it will be safe for her to tell us where he is. We can keep her and the boy out of harm's way until tomorrow.”
I liked the idea and grinned at the otter. “Like to swim?” I asked Martha.
“Swim, I don’t understand.”
“I’m serious, the river is cold but you can warm up in the baths after we get in the hall.” She looked at me like I lost my mind.
The big pyramid, the Temple of Kukulcan, loomed over us as we edged around its base. When we started over the grounds towards the Jaguar Temple I saw Estefan and two other guards step from behind an out building to our left. On the right two more entered the court yard triangulating upon us in an attempt to cut us off. “I’m afraid we’re out of time guys.” I said.
“Yes, I think Eva changed her mind son.” He must have seen them at the same time I did. Take Martha and get her to the Cenote. We’ll do what we can to distract them. He thought it to me so there would be no chance the jaguars would overhear.
I picked Martha up just as the jaguars began their charge. “Hold on tightly because I’m going to have to transform in order to beat them.” I said exhaling from a deep breath and took off at full run shifting to half tiger in mid flight. Martha yelped when she felt my arms transform beneath her which made me wonder if she’s ever seen us change before. “I promise not to drop you.”
“Wow, I’ve never seen the shift this close before.” She breathed against my chest. “It’s like your whole body turns to liquid as it reshapes itself.”
“Yea, it’s pretty amazing. The odd thing is we stay solid but flow like liquid. I don’t know how to explain it. Now let me concentrate on getting us out of here. I may have to twist around and dodge them as they close in.” I felt her face nuzzle into my chest. I wondered if she closed her eyes or watched everything unfold as I ran.
We cleared the closing jaguars only moments before they clashed into each other in the exact spot we were only seconds earlier. As I ran down the sacred path leading to the Cenote, five more enemy cats stepped out of the jungle. I gave a burst of speed and leapt high over their heads. Two of them jumped for us and I felt the breeze of one’s clawed hands on my foot but he missed me. “We’re almost there, get ready…” I didn’t have time to say more because about fifty jaguars scramble to cut off our escape lining the edge of the sacred well and readied for battle.
At the last moment I tossed Martha over their heads. I don’t know who I surprised more, her or the jaguars, because no one tried to catch her as she sailed over them and plunged down into the darkness below. I heard the splash as my claws cut into the belly of the closest cat. He screamed grabbing to keep intestines in as my claws slashed another rival’s arm off at the elbow clearing a hole so I could dive over the edge into the river. When I found Martha I understood why I hadn’t heard her scream. She lay in the water face down. Dark red hair spread out in a fan around her bobbing head. I felt her pulse and found it strong and sure but she was out cold. Had I been delayed even a little the chances are she’d have drowned. Thank the gods I reach her in time. As I pulled her to safety I saw two small figures dash over the edge and down into the cold dark water. Two otters surfaced beside me and the three of us made our way to safety pulling Martha with us.
Once inside the Dwarven Hall I carried Martha to the bath chamber and gently lowered her into the steaming water. Tobin sat on the edge of the wading pool sized bath watching as I lightly kissed her lips before slapped her softly with the back of my hand on her cheek. “Martha, wake up. Come on girl wake up.” I said. Her eyelids fluttered open but she had trouble focusing on me for a moment. When she did fear flooded her eyes. “It’s alright. You’ve seen our kind before remember?”
She nodded. “Yes, but I’ve never been this close to any of you in this shape before. Orrin doesn’t trust me around the clan when they hunt.” That I could fully understand. Humans are almost irresistible when in our beast form. She looked at the otter sitting next to us and smiled. “You have a pet otter?” She asked and then gasped as Tobin shifted back to human slipping into the water. I guess he figured it improper to sit nude in front of a strange woman. “Oh,” she said. “I guessed you were a shapeshifter too but I thought you were a cat of some type.”
“No my lady, I’m an otter.” He said with a hint of a silly grin taking his face.
“How do you feel?” I asked her.
“Oh I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Tobin answered and the grin blossomed over his face.
“Smart ass,” I accused feigning mad.
“I’m OK, I guess.” Martha said with a small laugh rubbing her head.
“Did you hit something when I threw you?”
“Yes, the water. I landed on my head. Do you know how far a fall that is?” She asked almost accusingly.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt or frighten you.” I studied her wet red hair trying to see if the fall caused any damage but saw nothing.
“I’m OK, really. Where are we?” She asked looking around.
“You, my lady, are in my home.” The dwarf said proudly. “I admit it could use cleaning up a bit and some décor would help since no one’s lived here in nearly a century.”
She gazed into the cathedral style ceiling taking a deep breath. “It’s beautiful.”
I followed her gaze to see what she looked at. The dwarves are master stone crafters and I guess with their magical abilities with stone that should not be surprising, but the exquisite detail that covered nearly every inch of surface is breathtaking. I was about to comment on it when I heard the rest of our group trouping up the hallway leading from the river landing. Is everyone alright? I asked no one in particular.
Yes, for the most part, but Rakish took a nasty hit to the head and we had to carry him to safety. He’s alright now though. Pumar answered.
“The others are coming.” Tobin said and slipped out of the water heading for the chamber’s doors. Soon everyone tumbled in one after another painting Martha’s face red and a bit overwhelmed because all of them were nude and half beast. Apparently they had to transform to make their escape.
“That bitch is going to pay for this.” Trent said as he gripped his arm tight in one hand with blood oozing between his furry fingers to drip off long sharp claws.
“Her guards already have.” Greg gloated. I looked at him and saw he suffered no visible wounds.
“I wish you saw Greg.” Pumar said to me. “He was spectacular!”
“How do you mean, what happened?”
“He plowed through ten of them like they were tissue paper. I’ve never seen anything like it.” My lunar-son said proudly. I had to suppress a snicker because Pumar was too young to have seen too much of anything but it was good to hear the pride in his voice as he told us what Greg did. “Ten of them tried to pile up on Greg but he tossed them around like they were rag dolls. Did you kill that one?” He asked his brother.
“No I don’t think so. I took half his face off thought.”
I studied each of them in turn. “Where’s Toby?” I asked growled concern edging my voice.
“He’ll be here shortly.” Shea sat beside me as she answered the question. “He was the last one to jump into the river and five jaguars followed him in. We had to take them out in the river and he’s pulling them to safety so they won’t drown.”
Isn’t that a bit much for one person to handle?”
“Oh no, we tied them together using roots. They are so tightly wound it’ll take a while for them to break free. Trent wanted to leave them to bob the river, but Toby said it wouldn’t be right and took them to their river access tunnel.”
“He’s ever the police officer eh?” I said with a laugh.
“Thank god or we may have some explaining to do once all is settled and Eva comes to her senses.” Shea settled down in the hot water next to Martha. “We need to get your grandson and bring him back here. Where is he?”
“Is it safe to say? I mean there are still walls?”
“There is none safer Martha.” I took her hand and tickled it lightly with my whiskers making her laugh.
“Oh alright, he’s north of Rout 180 and to the left of Rout 13 just behind the Catholic Church. She gave me the street address.” Their name is Llamas, Francisco and Belicia Llamas.”
“Thank you. We’ll be right back with him safe and sound.” I said and stood to leave. “Pumar, Greg, and Rakish I need you to come with me. We have a boy to fetch. Torquil, are there any passages that leads into Pisté from here?” I asked.
“I’m afraid not, but there are several that lead clear of the ruins and one of these goes nearly half way to Pisté. I can show it to you and I’ll wait at the entrance to let you back in when you return.”
“Why are you four going and not the rest of us?” Trent looked aggravated that I’d not asked him to join.
“You may come along, any of you may.” I said as I strode toward the door. We’ll need to change back to human and get dressed or it may be impossible to navigate the town’s streets.” I said. All in all, Trent, Toby, Shea, Rakish, Greg, Pumar, Torquil and I prepared ourselves for the operation at hand: the rescuing of what would most likely prove to be a somewhat frightened twelve year old boy.
Finding the residence was no problem because Robby’s scent was all over it. We separated into four groups: Rakish with Trent, Pumar with Shea, Greg with Toby, and me alone. Torquil stayed at the tunnel’s entrance to wait as he said he would. We scouted around to make sure the area was clear and then I approached the door. As soon as I neared the entrance I knew something was wrong. Jaguar scent hung thick on the air. I knocked. I waited. I knocked again and waited some more before I tried the handle. The door opened without complaint and I eased into the shadows of the darkened house. Yep, the scent of jaguar laced with fear, human fear, permeated the premises. Fuck! I thought.
What? Rakish, Greg, and Pumar asked in unison.
They’re gone. Search the area and see if you can find their trail. Robby smells a lot like a male version of Martha. Fuck! I said again and made a quick circuit around the downstairs of Francisco Llamas’ home but found nothing. The place was saturated with Robby’s scent which made it difficult to tell if he hid someplace in the jumble that confronted me or was long at the mercy of the jaguars who invaded the residence. Every room had been turned upside down.
I climbed the stairs to the rooms on the second floor where I found the master bedroom, a small family bathroom and a smaller bedroom that clearly belonged to a boy. Just before I stepped out of the boy’s bedroom I heard the faint intake of breath. I stopped. Turning slowly I studied the room again and stepped over to the mattress which had been shredded and scanned the room, sniffing the air. The door to the closet hung on one hinge as though someone tried ripping it off. Fear, thick and strong, clung to the room like a dense fog and it led straight to the closet. Someone, or maybe two someone’s by the smell of it, hid inside. But how could the jaguars miss them? Their sense of smell is every bit as strong as mine.
The boys were too frightened to scream and I smelled fresh, hot, piss as one wet himself. “It’s OK, Robby. It’s OK. I’ve come to help you.” I squatted down and pulled the door out of the way to reveal Robby and another boy huddled together in the far corner of the small room. “I’ve come to help Robby. It’s OK.” I said quietly.
“Mr. Blake?” He edged forward but the other boy pulled him back shaking his head no. I found Robby and another boy but the place has been tossed and the parents are nowhere to be found. Does anyone speak Spanish? I sent the message to the others so they’d know Robby was alright and that we needed to get him the hell out of here ASAP.
Shea says she speaks it somewhat. Pumar informed me.
Then please send her in here, maybe she’ll be able to calm Robby’s friend down enough for us to get them out of here without hurting them.
Within a few moments Shea squatted down beside me. She spoke to the boys in Spanish and soon had his confidence. They eased forward letting her pull them out and into the safety of our arms. It was Robby who’d wet his pants. “It’s alright Robby. We’re here to get you to safety. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I saw them.” Robby said in a quiet timid voice. “I mean, we saw them.”
I picked him up and made my way for the door. “Come on Shea, we have to get out of here before they come back.” She nodded and picked up the other boy following me out of the ruined home.
“You saw who did this?” I asked, but he only answered with a nod of his head. The others joined us and like they had with Martha and me they formed a protective shell keeping the four of us at its center. We moved through the streets quickly, far too quickly to be noticed by most and soon found our way back to the forest.
To my surprise we encountered no resistance on the way to the tunnel where Torquil waited. I half expected to be ambushed on the way like what happened on the way back from the council meeting. “I see you found him. Is he hurt?” The dwarf asked.
“I don’t think he’s been harmed physically but he’s been traumatized.” I said as we descended into the torch lit tunnel heading back to the Dwarven Hall. If Robby noticed where we were or how fast we got here he didn’t give any indication of it and I found it oddly comforting when I looked down and saw he’d fallen asleep in my arms. I guess fear and stress can serve some good after all. I thought.
We were nearly to the end of the tunnel when Robby regained consciousness. “Mr. Blake?” He asked.
“Yes Robby, it’s me.” I comforted. “We’re almost there.”
“Where, why aren’t we at the hotel?”
“Because it’s not safe, I had to get you and Martha to a safe place. You’re Nanna is waiting for you.” I said.
“Yes,” I looked down at his face as he rode in my arms. “I need to know what happened back there. How did you escape?”
“We weren’t there.” He said.
“Me and Iago were playing over near the church when we heard a scream. We went back to see what was going on and was nearly to the door when it opened. Five of the largest men I ever saw carried Mr. and Mrs. Llamas away. We hid as soon as we heard the door latch open and I saw them.” He said again.
“The men, only they weren’t men at all. Nanna was right, wasn’t she? All this time I thought she lied to me to keep me out of the swamp, but she told the truth, didn’t she?”
Fuck! I thought. “I guess the men you saw weren’t normal men.”
“No, they were like Nanna described only spotted like a leopard or jaguar.”
“Well, you’re safe now. We’ll be with Martha soon.” I assured him.
Someone must have told her of our arrival because Martha entered the hallway at a dead run. She pulled Robby to her arms hugging him tightly. “Oh my god, Robby, are you alright?”
“Yea, I’m OK Nanna.” He said looking altogether too embarrassed.
“Oh thank god, I was so worried.” She said holding him tight and kissing the top of his head. “I was so worried.”
“Martha, why don’t you go to the kitchen and see if Tobin and Torquil have something the boys can eat. I’ll take them on to the baths to wash up a bit.” I suggested. Martha didn’t want to leave, but she took one look at her grandson and realized why I asked her to do this.
Rather than saying anything about the boy pissing his pants. “Alright, I’ll fix something for you boys that will make you feel like all is right with the world. She nodded to me and left for the kitchen. Torquil followed her to show her the pantry.
“Come on Robby; let’s get you boys washed up a bit, what do you say?” I tugged lightly on his head with the palm of my hand herding him in the direction of the bath chamber.
“Thanks, I’m glad to see Nanna, but it’s really embarrassing, you know?”
“Yes I do know, but you really don’t have a reason to be embarrassed. What you saw would be enough to frighten the piss out of anyone.”
“Even you?” He asked.
“At your age, even me.” I confirmed.
“You wouldn’t have been scared now?”
“Yea a little, but I’ve had to deal with them before. I know what to expect.”
“So you believed Nanna’s story?”
“Yes.” I said but I didn’t say anymore about it because we were at the bath chamber and Robby couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the pool of hot steaming water in the center of a room that looked more like a church than a bath house. “The pool is fed by thermal springs and it has a gentle flow, which means you can rinse out your clothes. We’ll find something for you to put on.” I looked at the other boy. “Iago?” I asked and he nodded his head. “Do you speak English?”
He nodded his head again. “I speak it a little.” He said with a little difficulty.
I gave him a smile. “You can wash up too if you like. The water is great.”
He nodded but didn’t move. “What about momma and papa? What happened to them?” He said and I saw tears fighting in his eyes to get out.
“I don’t know, but I plan on finding out.” Eva went too far with this, I thought. All of this was uncalled for and she didn’t have a damned good reason for it. If she’s harmed those people, I will make her pay. I tossed the boy’s hair with my fingers. “Go on and take a bath Iago. Pumar and Greg will keep you company until you’re ready to get out. I need to talk with your grandmother Robby about something but I’ll be right back and if you need me just tell one of these two here. They can get me for you.”
I started to leave the room when my lunar-son sprinted over to me and followed me from the chamber. Galin, where are you going? He asked through the link obviously not wanting anyone overhearing us. Apparently he saw the look in my eyes and knew I was NOT headed for the kitchen.
I’m going to see Eva and Philippe. I want to get to the bottom of this.
Don’t go. I don’t trust her. He said putting a hand on my shoulder.
I don’t either, but I’ve got to find out what’s going on. I can’t help but feel I’m responsible after what Martha and Rakish said. If I can, I need to put a stop to it.
At least take someone with you. Don’t go alone. He said.
Who can I ask? I don’t want to risk anyone of us. Maybe if I go alone she’ll listen to me.
And she may try and kill you. We’re seriously outnumbered Galin. He stopped and took my arm to make me stop too. I looked at his hand and then at him. I wasn’t smiling and neither was he. We need to think this through, come up with a plan before you go up there. Maybe if we work together like we did when we fought Loretta and Stephano we’ll get more accomplished.
He had a point so I nodded and let him lead me back to the bath chamber where I found the boys soaking in the hot water deep in conversation. Rakish and Greg sat on the side with their feet in the pool watching the boys while they too talked. One of the things I became aware of early on is that while Greg can speak me over the link, he cannot do this with Pumar or Rakish. “I like Scruffs.” I heard Greg say. I had to smile.
“Still trying to decide on a name?” I sat beside him slipping my arm over his shoulders.
“Yea, Rak is pretty insistent I choose a real name, but I like Scruffs.”
Pumar squatted down behind his brother, “How about Scruffy Chew Toy?” He snickered. “You’ve been looking pretty scruffy here lately and you’re still my chow toy.” Greg nudged back pushing Pumar off balance and over on his ass. This of course could not be tolerated so my lunar-son kicked Greg throwing him face first into the steaming water.
“Oh you’re going to pay for that one.” Greg threatened when he came up wiping water out of his eyes.
“Oh, I’m so scared.” Pumar teased. He made the classic mistake of lending a hand to his friend and Greg took full advantage of it pulling Pumar into the pool. The boys who were huddled over near the side broke out laughing at my sons’ antics.
“Yes, they are always like this.” I said looking at Robby. By the way, we’re trying to come up with a nickname for Greg. He likes Scruffy, I suggested Beowulf, and Rakish wants to name him Adolfus, which do you like?”
“Adolfus?” Robby asked wrinkling his nose, yuck. “I guess he is kind of scruffy, but I like Beowulf. It’s a great movie.”
I looked at Iago. “What about you?”
“I like Scruffs.” He had trouble pronouncing the name and I wondered if he knew what it meant.
“Well Greg, you have two votes from the boys here. Iago agrees with you and thinks you should be named Scruffs. Robby likes Beowulf.” I said.
“I want Scruffs.” Greg said. “I like it and it fits more than the others.”
“Then Scruffs it is.” I smiled at my adopted son. “I’ll admit it does fit, but so does Chew Toy.” He splashed me for the comment – I cannot say I blame him much.
“I thought you had someplace to go.” He said a bit exaggerated.
“I was but Pumar talked reason into me. Figure that, would you.” I laughed at the expression on Pumar’s face – that ‘well, fuck you too’ look. “I’m going to get the others so we can discuss things properly. Something I should have done to begin with.” I got up and walked to the door where I turned and looked back. Greg watched me. Pumar watched Greg. And Rakish watched the boys who in turned looked from one of us to another wondering what in the hell we were going on about. I smiled and stepped into the hallway making my way to the kitchen.
I guessed Martha and Torquil would still be there making snacks for the boys and sure enough there they were. I was a bit surprised by the spread they’d loaded a serving platter with – mangoes, strawberries, watermelon, and bananas on one side with finger sandwiches loaded with meats and cheeses on the other. There was enough for three weretigers to eat after a transformation. “Hmm, that looks good.” I eyed the plate hungrily.
“There is enough for you all. I’ll make another tray and bring it to the dining hall for the rest of you. This is for the boys and whoever you have watching them.” Torquil said smiling. Martha picked up another, smaller tray with a pitcher full of an orange juice looking drink, but it didn’t smell like oranges but more like mangoes. Four tall glasses sat around the pitcher.
I watched as they headed for the door. “You take that into the bath chamber and you’ll do so at your own risk. Rakish, Pumar and Greg are in there.” I warned.
“Well, if I need to I’ll bring more.” Torquil said as a matter of fact but his eyes smiled. I watched them slip into the hall heading for the baths.
Looking around I noticed plenty of food left on the counters and grabbed a nice succulent wedge of mango before heading to the apartment area of the hall to find the others. Shea, Trent, Toby, and Isaac were sitting in Shea’s bed chamber discussing the council and what they thought the events meant. “Hello,” I said. “I need to get all of us together to discuss what you are now discussing. I need your advice and help.”
“Well, we think we have some good ideas why the trial went as sour as it did, but my boy I’m afraid you are not going to like what we’ve decided the problem is.” Isaac said as he stood up and stretched. “I do not know about the rest of you, but I’m famished.”
“Good,” I said. “Torquil is preparing dinner as we speak. He’s decided to use the dining hall tonight. It’s a good place to discuss recent events while we eat.”
“What are we having?” Trent asked looking for the entire world like a starved cat. If he were in panther form, I swear he’d be rubbing against our legs meowing incessantly.
“It is light, you know, finger food, fruit, sandwiches, and the like.” I said and almost laughed at his disappointment. “Come on Trent, we’re hardly back and you expect Torquil to have a full spread ready for us? How is he supposed to whip up something juicy and succulent in such short notice?”
“Yea I guess you’re right. I really need to go hunting. I miss it.” He said and I had to agree. It’s been far too long since any of us had the opportunity to get out and hunt down wild game. The smell of fear, the rush of the kill, it called to me like a Siren from Greek mythology. The thought made my mouth water.
Dinner was good even if a bit dissatisfying after the reminder of the kill. The after dinner conversation was anything but satisfying but it produced a plan of action. We decided to kidnap Eva. Yea I know – a stupid plan but it was the only way I could think of that would get her and me alone together without risking my capture and standing trial before the Jaguar Council. “Maybe I ought to discuss this with Mina before we do it.” I suggested.
“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all night.” Rakish said. He’d been against the plan all along and I cannot say I blame him. I pretty much thought it was a hair brained scheme too. Tobin led me back down the tunnel Torquil took us to get to Pisté. Soon I was out in the open and blessed with a signal, albeit a weak one. “Hello Galin.” Mina said.
“How’d you know it was me?”
“You are the only one who calls this late.” OK, this was only partly true. I know for a fact that Szilárd calls at any hour it suits him when he’s on a job. I told Mina what we decided to do and before I could ask her advice she gave it. “You’ve gone mad! Galin, all that will gain you is a sentence of execution. They will hunt you down no matter where you go.”
“Mina, how in the hell do I go about getting her alone to talk with me? I cannot let this go on since it’s my fault she has this vendetta against Martha to begin with.”
“I suggest you either leave it well enough alone until tomorrow to see what happens when the Kuccv emissary arrives or at the very least wait until Eva’s council convenes and ask her to speak with you in private. I cannot believe you would even think about kidnapping a clan’s matron. What did Shea have to say about it?”
“She was adamantly against it as was Rakish.” I said.
“Well, at least two of you have some sense about you. God I cannot believe this. How would you feel if someone kidnapped me?”
“I’d hunt them down and kill them no matter what it took.” I said.
“Exactly! That is precisely what the jaguars will do if you go through with this. I cannot and will not grant you my blessing to do this. If you go ahead and do it, you do so alone. You do not have my support.” She paused. “I spoke with Orrin Kuccv after I last talked with you and he gave me a message to pass on.” I waited. “They will arrive at Chichen Itza’s Airport at six in the morning. There will be twenty in their party and Michelle and Orrin will be among them. They want you to meet them at the field to transport them immediately to Martha. They also asked that you secure Robby’s protection.”
“We already retrieved Robby and his friend Iago but I’m afraid the jaguars have kidnapped Iago’s parents. The boys escaped capture because they weren’t home when it happened. I have a feeling they still would have gotten them if we hadn’t arrived when we did.” I told her.
“Is he alright? I don’t think you want to anger the Kuccv party when they get there by telling them he’s been harmed.”
“Robby is fine, but I’m afraid both he and Iago saw the jaguar’s half beast.”
‘Damn! This is not good. Is there any way you can talk them into keeping silent about it if questioned?”
“I doubt they’re that good of liars.” I didn’t need to remind her how good we are at sensing a falsehood.
“For what’s it is worth Galin, I’m sorry the boy’s parents got involved. Most likely they are already dead if the El Diente de la Muerte Clan is as brutal and exacting as they seem to be.”
“I’ll give him your condolences when the time is appropriate.” I said.
“No need to do that. I’m on my way down there now. Can’t you hear the engines?”
“You’re on your way now?” I asked.
“Yes, we are coming with a group as large as the one from Georgia. That will give you forty more allies to stand beside you.”
“When will you be here?”
“We should arrive at the same time Orrin and Michelle get there. I know the El Diente de la Muerte Clan is about three hundred strong, but they will think twice about breaking protocol with so many of us there.”
“It will be good to see you again. Is Rōk with you?”
“Of course, you really didn’t think he’d let me come down there on my own did you?”
I laughed, “Give him a message for me please.”
“OK, what would you like to say? You know he’s right here, you can tell him yourself if you like.”
“No, that’s OK. Just tell him that his brother is a good and honorable man.”
She was silent for a moment. “He will be glad to hear it, but you really should be the one to tell him.”
“Just tell him please and I’ll tell him again when you get here. I love you Mina.”
“You too son: we’ll see you in a few hours.”
“OK,” I said and the line went dead. I didn’t know if she hung up or if the connection was lost, but it didn’t matter since everything that needed to be said had been.
* * *
Five o’clock the next morning came early. I really didn’t want to get up but I had forty ambassadors coming and I wanted to keep them waiting far less than I wanted to sleep. I rolled out of bed pulling Pumar with me. He grumbled and continued snoozing on the floor. The little shit didn’t even wake up when he hit the cool stone ground. “Pumar, you need to wake up. We have to get ready for Mina and the others arrival.” I said shaking him.
“Leave me alone.” He grumbled.
“Greg, wake up and help me get this kitty awake.”
Greg rolled over and looked at me. “You mean he slept through falling off the bed?”
I snickered. “Yes he did. I can’t believe it either.”
“Shut up!” Pumar whined.
“Come on Pumar. A nice hot bath will wake you.” He stumbled to his feet and staggered toward the bathroom adjacent to the baths. I followed him in because I needed to go too. I stood and pissed through a hole in the stone bench relieving myself directly into the flow of channeled river water. The toilet room reminded me of the public toilets ancient Rome used in the bathhouses: a row of holes about two feet apart cut through stone slabs aligned against a wall in a large room. A trench of flowing water carried the waste away. Yep, not much privacy and not very ecologically healthy either. I’d have to talk about this with Torquil and Tobin before we leave. They really need to do something about it.
Mina’s jet arrived at five-thirty. When it taxied to a stop at the edge of the airfield a vanguard of about half of my matron’s group exited followed by Mina and Rōk and then the rest of the guards flanking to keep them surrounded and protected. They reached me and parted so I could greet her. “Damn it is good to see you mom.” I said as I rubbed her cheek with mine in a more casual gesture than normal.
“It is good to see you too. I take it Kuccv has not arrived yet?”
“No, we are still waiting for them.” I said and was about to ask where their luggage was when a MH-6 Night Stalk Helicopter approached and landed. A few moments later a black jet landed followed by another Night Stalk. “Good lord almighty! Now that’s overkill if you ask me.” The two helicopter pilots did not exit but waited with their propellers turning in idle mode. As soon as the black jet’s passengers disembarked and received their luggage the two Night Stalks lifted off disappearing into the predawn skies.
Soon we were joined by eighteen of the most brutal looking mercenaries I’ve ever seen surrounding a distinguished looking business man and a strikingly beautiful woman. The man wore a charcoal chalk stripe Samuelsohn suit. He stood about five feet – eight inches, had short black hair and a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard. His eyes were like Shea’s – a rich almost emerald green. The woman wore her hair long and straight. At first I tensed because Michelle looked an awful lot like Angela. Her hair was straight and long reaching nearly to her hips. Dark sunglasses adorned her face even though it was still dark and her black business suit was nicely tailored to fit so it exploited the fairer sex’s features beautifully. That is where the resemblance to Angela ended. Since I don’t purchase women’s clothing I had no idea what type her suit was but it looked great. She wore dark stockings and black high-heeled shoes. She had high cheekbones like American Indian, but her skin was porcelain white and blemish free. Both looked to be in their mid twenties.
I approached but stopped a respectable distance away letting them come to me. With tensions this high, I didn’t want to provoke anyone. These men were professionals and each one looked like they could eat me for breakfast. I didn’t wish to give them a reason. “Galin I presume?” The man said as he held a hand out to me.
I received him in a firm handshake as I would any male I didn’t know. “Orrin, it is good to meet you. I hope you had a pleasant trip?”
“It was alright for such short notice. May I introduce you to my mate and matron, Michelle?” He indicated the woman at his side.
I took her proffered hand and brushed it lightly with my lips. “It is an honor to meet you my lady.” I rose and looked at them both. “I would very much like to get back to the safety of the Dwarven Hall because I have to believe Eva and her clan is already aware of your arrival. So if you don’t mind, we’ll hold the formal greetings until we are safely below.” I looked down at Michelle’s feet. “I’m afraid your shoes will pose a problem where we need to go.”
“I’ll remove them when the time is appropriate. It is good to meet you at last Galin. I’ve heard so much about you.” I couldn’t help but wonder how she knew me. My job goes a lot smoother when people don’t know who I am. She clarified: “We make it a priority to keep tabs on everyone in the business. More than once I considered approaching you to join our clan, but I knew you would never leave Mina Moondeath.
I nodded, “I am honored. If you will please follow me, I’ll show you the way. I promise all the appropriate introductions will be made as soon as we are safe inside.” I said turning to leave.
“Are Martha and her grandchild safe?” Orrin asked and the concern in his voice was unmistakable.
“Yes, they are safe for now. Martha is looking forward to seeing you. Now if you please we really do need to go.”
I led the way and soon the forty-eight of slipped silently though the darkened forest heading northwest for the forest passage to the Dwarven Hall. The moon was not up and everything was soft with dew. No birds sang. Even the crickets were quiet. I guessed they sensed the danger of so many predators in the forest. I had little doubt after this morning the north entrance to the Dwarf Hall would no longer be a secret. It’s hard enough for even one shapeshifter to hide his trail from others of our kind but it is near impossible to hide the scent of so many.
We moved quickly through the trees letting our night vision and sense of smell guide us, but it still seemed an eternity before we entered the safety of the tunnel. Finally we all made our way into the Hall where Martha, her grandson, and his friend Iago waited. Michelle rushed to Martha embracing her affectionately and holding her tight. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between them. Martha saw me looking and explained. “Michelle is an ancestor of mine.” She didn’t go into detail about who exactly Michelle was, but hundreds of questions take root in the fertile soil of my mind.
“That’s correct Galin, you see, I’m Martha’s great-great-grandmother.” Michelle informed me as she stepped back to let Orrin greet the woman. She affectionately kissed her great-great-great-great-grandson on the top of his head. “It is good that I don’t have to hide who I am from you anymore Robby.”
Orrin hugged her. “Martha, how do you get into such sticky situations? I really wish you would let us change you so you can protect yourself better.”
“Depending on how things go here today, I may not have a choice any longer.” She said. “I will choose becoming a wereanimal over death…”
“If I have anything to say about it, you will leave here with your choices intact.” Orrin said cutting her off, “But, if things to turn ugly I will personally turn you if I must to secure your survival. Together we may be forty plus strong, but against three hundred… not odds I like.”
The council was set for ten that morning and we were informed it would be held in the great room of the jaguar compound where the vampires expired. Eva wanted Robby and Iago to attend but we all flat refused and told Eva that if she insisted we’d call in the rest of our people and wipe the forest floor with them. Apparently our threat was taken seriously enough because she relented allowing they boys to stay in the hall with Tobin and Torquil to watch over them. We entered the great cavern through the double doors Pumar and I crashed through on that fateful night that freed all the cats present. Yep, shows a ton of gratitude if you ask me.
Martha and I walked in the middle of the throng following the dignitaries, that being Mina and Michelle, who were flanked by Rōk, and Orrin on either side of the matrons. Pumar, Rakish, and Greg walked around us with Rakish to my right, Pumar to Martha’s left and Greg following behind us. Around us trouped the rest of both clans with Klaus, András, and his brother Szilárd beside Mina and some of the most experienced looking panthers flanked Michelle’s side. To say we posed a formidable assembly would be an understatement. As we approached the main hall’s vestibule several jaguars greeted and escort us in. As I figured, Eva had assembled her entire force, over three hundred jaguars sat or stood around the room waiting our arrival. “I’m afraid we’re seriously outnumbered.” Martha breathed to no one in particular.
“I’d say the odds are even.” A large burly man standing right behind her said. His comment reminded me of the one Mina made last night: ‘most of them were special forces operatives when they were human’. He may be right. I thought more or less to myself but not bothering to shield my mind from my family.
I hope so. Rakish thought back to me. Otherwise we may find a world of hurt.
Once we entered and everyone settled down a woman I’d never seen before approached us. She seemed tall and regal at first but actually was rather petite. She had Egyptian features instead of Latin American. When she spoke her accent was most certainly Middle Eastern but her voice carried the authority of a goddess. “Galin Moondeath of the Moondeath Clan of Weretigers, would you please bring the accused forward.” How interesting that Martha has officially gone from an informal accusation to a formal one. Martha and I walked through our group to emerge on the fringe of our protectors and stood facing her.
She stood nearly a head shorter than the rest of us with an elongated neck which gave her unnatural grace even for a shapeshifter. Her hair was medium gray with dark gray spots not much unlike a leopard. But it was her eyes that caught and held my attention. All of the large cats like tigers, panthers, cougars, and jaguars have amber or chartreuse eyes with round pupils. This woman’s eyes were chartreuse, which was nothing out of the ordinary, but her pupils were the vertical slits of a domestic cat. She wore a light linen pleated kalasiris which covered her right shoulder and arm but left her left arm bare in the fashion of women of royalty from ancient Egypt. The dress clung to her form narrowing down her legs but did nothing to impede her movements. Striking is the only way to describe her. “My name is Emu Eshe and I have been appointed to advocate on behalf of Ms. Tobler, however if you do not wish for me to perform this duty you may decline.” She said looking at Martha. “We still have nearly an hour before the council officially convenes, so if you would like to have a meeting there is still time.”
I looked at Mina who nodded to me and when I turned my head to look back at this new woman I saw Martha seeking Michelle’s guidance who also nodded. I knew it was protocol to accept offered representation and Mina and Michelle were holding to that procedure. “Would you like to have her litigate for you?” I asked and she nodded yes. “We would be honored. May we call you Emu?” I enquired, “ or Ms. Eshe.
“Yes, Emu is fine.” She said bowing slightly to us. “If you would follow me we can hold our conference in one of the rooms provided specifically for this purpose.” She held her arm out in the direction she wished for us to go. As Martha and I moved in the direction she indicated Mina, Michelle, Rōk, and Orrin to also accompany us. No one objected and soon we found a small doorway which led to a small room furnished with a board table and chairs enough to seat at least ten people.
“To answer your questions, I live a short distance from here in the jungle south of Chichen Itza and for obvious reasons I do not venture out much. I am an Egyptian Mau. My beast form is close to the size of a lynx but a little larger. I tell you this because until I do it will be a distraction and the charges my matron has brought against you Ms. Tobler is far too grave to be dealing with distractions. Here is the list of charges that have been levied against you.” She said handing Martha a sheet of paper with a short list:
Charges Levied Against Ms. Martha L. Tobler
by the Council of the
El Diente de la Muerte Clan of Jaguars
1. Ms. Martha L. Tobler is hereby charged with being aware of the El Diente de la Muerte Clan of Jaguars and as such must be judged according to our laws.
2. Ms. Martha L. Tobler is also charged with telling other people of the existence of the shapeshifters who live around her ancestral home and thereby viewed by this council as a serious threat to our security.
3. Ms. Martha Tobler did knowingly disclose the existence of the Kuccv Clan of Black Panthers of the Okefenokee Swamp to Galin Moondeath while believing him to be an ordinary human by the name of Blake Lanoux of New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Eva wanted to bring charges for evading the judgment of the council but Philippe talked her out of it because he knows, as do we all, that the charge would not stick. However these are very serious allegations, enough to convict and execute you.” She sighed. “I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer me truthfully regardless of how you plead in the proceedings but, are you guilty of these charges?”
“What I told the council last night is true. I did see two werepanthers when I was about six years old and I only saw one of them only once after that. They were visiting panthers who hunted humans and they didn’t care who they killed. The Kuccv Clan took them down and so what I said was true, I have not seen those two ever again. However as the council and Lady Eva found out during that meeting, I have been in contact with the Kuccv Clan most all of my life although I did not tell Galin this until after I figured out he was a shapeshifter.” She looked at Michelle.
“Martha told her grandson, son, and daughter-in-law about the panthers she saw in her childhood to keep them from venturing into the swamp and she did so with my approval. No one in my clan would have harmed any of them, but there are plenty of other dangers in the Okefenokee Swamp that are just as deadly as any lycanthrope and not nearly as discerning.” Michelle leaned forward and crossed her arms over the table staring deep into Emu’s eyes. “Ms. Emu, understand one thing: We will not tolerate a sentence of death. If that is the council’s decision then I will consider it a declaration of war.”
“I’m afraid the council does not decide what the sentence will be but only determines guilt or innocence. The sentence is entirely up to Eva and no one else. I can tell you something about my matron, once she makes up her mind on something like this, nothing will change it. Unfortunately the evidence is enough to convict Ms. Tobler of the charges and Eva has already made up her mind to give a sentence of death.” She sighed again. “God I hate it when I’m asked to cover a case like this.” She looked at each of us in turn but paused studying me for a moment before saying: “I’m afraid Eva will insist on Ms. Tobler’s execution unless something, or someone,” she emphasized, “changes her mind.”
“You just said her mind was made up and nothing can change it once she decides what she plans on doing.” I said.
“Galin, I was not present on the night when you killed Stephano. I was not present to see Eva offer you the right to mate, but I can assure you I heard about it. Everyone has talked of nothing else since it happened. Eva has never made that offer to anyone but Philippe, ever, and I’ve known her since she took over my position as matron. Only you can change her mind. You must find a way to speak with her alone, away from Philippe otherwise she will order Martha’s execution and by doing so condemn our people to a war we cannot possibly win.” She looked at Mina and Michelle, and then at Rōk and Orrin in turn. “My people seem formidable, but the stresses from Loretta’s mind games and the experiments we suffered at her hands left us wounded, insecure, and fragile. It will take years, if not decades, for us to recover even close to what we were before the leaches came. I do not want to see our people brought to further harm or possible annihilation.” She turned those hypnotic eyes on me and I found it difficult not to fall through that doorway. “Galin, do whatever it takes to convince Eva to meet with you in private. You must convince her to pull the death sentence.”
“Ask her.” She said. “I know for a fact that she will not budge on passing sentence of either death or transformation, please convince her to choose transforming Martha instead of killing her.”
“Martha has always declined being changed in the past and I insist that choice still be her to make when she leaves here with us alive.” Orrin said and his tone of voice made it clear he would not accept anything less.
“She will not accept letting Martha go without one or the other.” Emu said.
Michelle leaned forward addressing the exotic werecat. “At her age, it is very likely infecting her with lycanthropy will be a death sentence. I cannot allow it.”
Emu sat silently in thought. After a moment she tapped her nails on the hardwood desk top and looked Michelle dead in the eyes. “May I have a word with you, Lady Mina, and Martha alone?”
“This is alright with me,” Michelle said rising and looking at Mina, “if it is alright with Mina.”
I have no problem with it.” Mina said.
“I do,” Rōk said placing his hand on his wife’s forearm.
“It’s alright honey. I think Michelle and I can protect ourselves from one shapeshifter.”
He nodded slowly and removed his arm. “Very well, but we’ll be right outside the door if you need us.”
“Thank you.” Mina rose too and waited for the rest of us to exit the room. I don’t know what happened in the room after we left but it didn’t take too long before the four of them joined us and we all made our way back to the assembled jaguars.
“Have you satisfied your duties as councilor?” Eva asked as soon as we resumed our positions.
“I have my Lady.” Emu said and I couldn’t help but notice she didn’t bow her head to Eva, which was proper.
“Very well, it is time this council commences.” Another jaguar approached the stone chair upon which Eva sat and turned to address the assembled throng. He read off the short list of charges levied against Martha and asked how she pleads.
“I plead no contest.” Martha said. A small gasp ran through the gathered crowed including all of us who were not privy to the private meeting with Emu. The plea did not seem to surprise her or our matrons.
Emu stepped close and leaned in to whisper in my ear. “You need to do it now Galin, before she passes judgment and sentence.”
“Do you realize what you are saying Martha Tobler?” Eva asked.
“Yes mam I do.”
“Very well, I find you…”
“My Lady Eva?” I addressed the presiding matron.
“Galin, what is it now?” Eva asked clearly irritated by the interruption.
“May I have a word with you in private?”
“No you may not.”
She leaned back into her stone throne studying me closely. “Why should I grant you a private meeting?”
“Would you agree that a lot is at stake here?” I asked.
“Yes,” she narrowed her eyes.
“Then what will a few more minutes hurt? All I ask is a few moments of your time.”
“I do not think it wise for me to be alone with an enemy of our clan.” She said in an almost board tone.
“Then by all means choose one or two people whom you trust to accompany us, but we need to talk.” Eva calling me an enemy stung, but I understood now exactly from where her anger stemmed.
Eva continued studying me and after a while shrugged her shoulders. “Very well, you may have five minutes.” She stood and walked toward the very conference room Emu used to meet with us before the proceedings. Once the door closed behind us she turned and glanced at a watch on her arm. “You now have four and a half minutes.”
“Eva, why are you doing this?”
“I have to protect my people and Martha Tobler is a threat.”
“More of a threat than three hundred humans you let go after they witnessed Pumar and me in our half tiger forms?” She didn’t look at me. “Eva please, Martha is not a threat to you or your people. You and I both know what this is all about and I’m sorry.” She glared at me before checking at her watch again.
“You now have two minutes and forty seconds.”
“The other night you offered me the right to mate with you which I accepted but then offered it to your mate in turn to neutralize any threat he may see. You took this as a rejection of your offer and you played it off because you know I’m gay.”
“Are you? If you’re gay, then why did you have sex with a human woman?” Her voice was thick with contempt.
“Come on, you know what it’s like for us, for our males, when we are around a woman who is aroused. With werecats the female has to be in season like any natural cat, but human women come in and out of it with their moods and what’s going on around them. Martha’s desire peaked after dinner and my tiger wouldn’t let me say no. Besides, I am attracted to women which made it even more difficult to refuse. It’s just that you took it as an injury and that is not what it was at all.”
“You now have forty-five seconds.”
“Eva, I find you to be most beautiful, exotic, intriguing, and yes arousing. I am very attracted to you.”
“You’re what? Do you really expect me to believe this?” She screamed.
“How dare you!” Anger burned in her eyes.
“What?” I asked quietly.
“You really expect me to believe that you find me beautiful and arousing?”
“I find you incredibly arousing but you are not available. You are mated to Philippe and publicly married to him. If that were not the case I wouldn’t hesitate to mate with you.”
“Yeargh!” She screamed and flew into me pounding her fist against my chest knocking us both against the wall. Over and over again she slammed my chest with her fist until she collapsed into my arms crying. Yes, my chest hurt – female shapeshifters are about as strong as males. If she’d wanted to she could have picked me up and thrown me through a brick wall. I held her tight and leaned my head against her head.
“You are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met Eva. You’re intelligent. Your features are some of the most exotic and any male that has any attraction at all for women would be a fool not to accept an invitation to mate with you, but I feared it would cause too much trouble with Philippe to act upon your gesture.”
She continued sobbing not saying a word and then pulled back from me wiping her eyes. “Galin do you realize how much it hurt to find out you mated with a human female after refusing me? I thought…” She backed up until she sat against the table. “I thought…” She couldn’t finish it.
“That I didn’t find you attractive; that I was thumbing my nose at you; that I…”
“Yes, to all of the above, but I also couldn’t believe you chose a human woman over me. They are so frail, so easily damaged, so weak.”
“Yes, but their arousal is irresistible to a male lycan. Unfortunately it has been a long time since I’ve had sex of any kind with anyone and her scent caught me off guard. Even if I’d been expecting it I’m not sure I’d have been able to avoid it. But Eva, sense your anger is at me than take your vengeance out on me if you must, but Martha does not deserve this. At least she doesn’t deserve death.”
The jaguar matron chewed on her thumb while studying the floor. Softly she spoke. “You’re right, my anger is at you, but I cannot take my vengeance out on you. I am not willing to kill you and there is little else I can do that will harm you.” She turned to go.
“Eva, please.” I said.
“You’ve convinced me Galin. I am not going to kill her.” She gave me a faint smile and left the room. I stood there looking at the closing door dumbfounded. I really didn’t think I’d be able to change her mind. After only a moment I left the chamber in time to see Eva sit in her throne. “Martha Tobler in light of your plea of no contest I find you guilty. However Galin has convinced me not to have you killed, but I still must pass judgment on you and therefore I sentence you to the transformation. You may choose what species of lycanthrope presently available that you want to spend the rest of eternity as. If you survive it then you will live forever or until something kills you. Either way the threat you currently pose to our people will be neutralized. The sentence is to be carried out immediately.”
“My Lady Eva,” Martha said bowing her head, “I accept your sentence, but may I make a request of you and your council?”
“Since Egyptian Maus, or rather were-maus are nearly extinct I request that Emu change me.” I looked at Mina, Michelle, and Emu to see this did not surprise them and I knew what their meeting was about. However Eva did not notice this and I had to wonder what these four women had up their sleeves.
“I know Emu has always refused to make other weremau, but I have no problem with it if she is willing.” She looked at her predecessor. “Emu, would you be willing to transform Martha Tobler?”
“Will you sentence her to death if I do not?”
“No, I’ve already said I would not.”
“But because of her age if a tiger, panther, jaguar, or wolf bites her there is a heightened chance she will not survive. Because of this I will accept her request sense my species is not as lethal to older people.”
“Very well, you may proceed.” Eva sat back in her throne and watched as Emu approached my friend.
“Martha Tobler, do you accept the gift I am willing to bestow upon you?”
“Then relax and I will try to make this as painless as possible.” Emu said. She closed her eyes and slipped into her half mau form. She was absolutely beautiful with her light gray coat marked with darker gray spots and stripes. Her light green eyes fit perfectly with her narrow, delicate, elven like features. She slowly approached the other woman with her tail switching back and forth and when she embraced the Martha it wrapped around both their legs curling tightly. Before Martha flinched away Emu struck sinking her fangs deep into the other woman’s shoulder chewing slightly to make sure her saliva penetrated the wound. Martha winced but other than that didn’t seem to be in much distress. Emu growled possessively and for a moment I feared she’d try feeding on my friend, but as quickly as she attacked she released her hold stepping back and mumbling in the ancient language of the Pharos. When her eyes cleared she looked at the woman she just transferred her particular strain of lycanthrope to. “Martha Tobler, you are of me and I am of you. Bast looks upon our kind with favor. She protects us and guides us. Do not be afraid when she visits you to grant you council or to help you heal faster than you normally would. Be glad and embrace our goddess’s favors.” Emu turned to face Eva. “My Lady, my task here is done. May I take my leave?”
“Thank you my lady.” She said and turned without saying another word to anyone and left.
“Michelle and Orrin Kuccv, my grievances with Martha Tobler have been satisfied. You may take your friend and go but head my warning, never return here.”
“Thank you Lady El Diente de la Muerte. It is not my intention to enter your territory again, but should we meet again, may it be on pleasant terms.” Michelle replied. She went to her second great-granddaughter and wrapped her arm around her looking at the wound Emu inflicted. “Wow,” but she said nothing more before ushering her from the chamber followed by her mate and their escort.
Mina and I turned to follow. “Galin,” Eva called to me.
I looked back at her. “Yes my lady?”
“You leave tomorrow. I would like to see you again before you go.”
“Yes mam, I would be honored.” With this I smiled at her and left accompanied by Mina, Rōk, Rakish, Pumar, Greg, and the rest of my family. I was very happy Martha was not killed, but I still worried about her safety since the change is so harsh on people over forty. Hopefully what Emu said about her people’s particular variety of lycanthrope being easier on older people was true. I really didn’t want to hear about Martha having to be put down because the change drove her mad.
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This concludes Chapter Seventeen. 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.