The Weretiger Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 22
© 2011 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 lascivious 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: akecheta@live.com. I may also be found on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/lootahakecheta1964

 

Chapter 22

Martha’s Decision

 
I slipped my arms around Pumar and Killian and pulled them close to me. At the same time I felt Rakish place his hands on my shoulders and began massaging me gently. I’m proud of you both. I told them.

And I’m proud of you son. Rakish said to me.

Why are you proud of me? I asked glancing over my shoulder at him.

Because you are proving to be a much better father than I ever was to you. You’ve done me proud the way you’ve taught your boys and I have no doubt you will do just as good a job with Iago too. He answered. I could have kissed him just then because as our departure from Poseidon’s Island drew at hand thoughts of Iago flooded my mind and my apprehension built along with them.

Thanks dad. The closer we get to Dominica the more I think about him and I’m both excited to see him again and frightened to the core of my being. I admitted. What if he doesn’t like me anymore?

You’ll do fine son. Just follow your heart and you will do fine. Rakish reassured. As for him liking you, well, I doubt you have anything to worry about there. He worships the ground you walk on.

Yea, but why does he worship the ground I walk on. He lost his parents because of me and his entire life has been uprooted because of me. I don’t deserve his friendship let alone his love. I complained.

That’s quite enough, dad. Pumar scolded. You saved his life when he was certain he was going to get killed just like his folks. You do deserve his love and his appreciation.

Pumar is right Galin. You saved his life and that counts for a lot more than you can begin to guess. Rakish added. You gave him reassurance when he had no hope, you gave him protection when he needed it most, and most importantly, you gave him friendship when he’d lost everything dear to him. You’ve done a lot for Iago and he knows it.

I couldn’t help the tears that streamed down my cheeks. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I do that boy. I guess my family sees things a bit more clearly than I do at the moment. Thanks guys. I needed that. They all hugged me tighter.

It’s true Galin. Killian added. You have no idea how much your ability to care for others have affected those around you. I would be long dead if it weren’t for you. I love you more than I can begin to express and I can’t thank you enough. You risked everything to help me out of a deadly situation with Shredder. I think you will make an excellent father for Iago just like you’ve been an excellent father for Pumar and me.

Thanks. I said again.

You know what I don’t understand though? Pumar chimed in.

What? I asked.

Well, you’re an assassin. Doesn’t it strike anyone funny that you can be a cold blooded killer and still have such a well of feelings for your fellow men? He pointed out.

Being a killer is just a job son. It does not define who I am. Besides, I’m a weretiger. All wereanimals are killers. Humans are our natural prey. It doesn’t strike me odd at all that I would excel at killing. I said.

He’s right. Rakish said. Many of our people are assassins. Killing comes natural to us and quite often being an assassin is the only real job open to us. He explained.

Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that. Pumar thought to us. Does this mean I have to be an assassin?

Not at all, there are other jobs you can do, but assassin pays the best. Rakish answered. After all, a lot of the Escambia Panthers are cops.

We didn’t say anything more but stood there holding one another as the Obsession slice her way into the small harbor of Roseau, Dominica and come to a halt some place down the shoreline from the massive cruise ship tied to the commercial docks. Roseau is a quaint looking town to most outsiders, but it is a haven for just about anything you can think of both good and bad from human greed and adverse poverty to love and community spirit. I glanced over at Shea. “Do you know where our cell phones are?”

“They’re in the hold below, just forward of the head’s forward bulkhead. There’s a little strongbox on the shelf over the bunk. I put them in there. It’s not locked.” She answered.

“Thanks.” I said and headed below but Isaac caught my arm and shook his head.

“Be patient my friend. We’ll be ashore soon and you may call them from a land line. It’s safer that way.”  

It angered me. I’ll admit it, it angered me to no end and I shot him a nasty warning look that said I’d had enough. “No! I don’t care Isaac. I need to hear from them and find out what’s going on. If my cell gives away our position then so be it.”

“Galen, please trust me. Within thirty minutes we’ll be ashore were we can find a secure line that will give you what you want without compromising our safety. Please.” He pleaded. I knew he could have forced me if he’d chosen, but it was obvious he wouldn’t stop me if I decided to be stubborn about it.

I swallowed my anger and nodded. “OK, but I’m sick of this bullshit Isaac. At some point we are going to have to make a stand against Angela. I’d rather it be sooner than later.” I said through gritted teeth.

“I understand your frustration my friend but this is not the time or place to confront her. Also consider Iago. Would it be prudent to make a decision that would alert Angela to our presence at the very moment you and Iago are reunited? There is always a time and place for everything. Once we recover the Valgeld, the medallion I’ve come here to retrieve, then we’ll have the power base from which to defend ourselves against her. Until then I fear we have little chance if we meet her in her strength.”

His argument made sense and I nodded my head again, this time with a little less anger. He was right of course – as usual. In little less than thirty minutes we all disembarked the Obsession and made our way to shore where we found the port’s customs office. Since Shea is our captain it fell to her to present our passports to the officials on our behalf. To my surprise she’d found the time while we were in Cancun, Mexico to have yet another set of forged passports made for each of us. Sometimes the panther’s efficiency surprises me. Once we cleared customs I found the nearest pay phone to place my call to Mina, but again Isaac stopped me.

“What?” I growled. “It’s a land line.”

“Even payphones are not secure enough. I let you use a payphone in the Cayman Islands because we were only passing through. Unfortunately we are going to be here far too long to risk her finding us this quickly. I have contacts here from whom I can get you a secure line. Practice just a little more patience my friend. I promise you, it won’t take long.” He dismissed the two of us from the others and led me out the Port Authority Office’s front door and down several streets before we turned up an alleyway. He didn’t say a word but continued to lead me further and further into the back streets of Roseau. After a short while we came to a door painted a bright blue in yet another alleyway. I could have sworn we traveled it before and wondered why he went such a long way around to get here. I understand covert operations and trying to remain surreptitious, but this was ridiculous. “Here we are,” and he knocked three times on the door.

“Three knocks, really? And where did you learn how to be furtive, the Sears Catalog, an online course maybe?”

“Nothing covert about it Galin, it’s simply a knock.”

About that time a small eye hatch pulled open in the door and someone looked out. He must have decided we were tourist because he inquired of us in French. “Ce qui est cela vous voulez?”

Isaac surprised me when he responded in his own language. “Nephel la’sillicrin.” Apparently it surprised the man behind the door even more because his eyes got really wide and eye-whites shown bright against his dark skin.

“Nephel ispaingard.” The man quickly replied and opened the door at once greeting us with a very warm smile. “Entré, entre… entre s'il vous plaît.” He implored.

“Bonjour Monsieur.” Isaac responded. “Est Francois à la maison?”

“Oui, oui, je le recevrai pour vous.” He showed us to a sofa and left through a dark open doorway covered by a cascade of hanging beads – the kind you see in cliché movie sense of a fortuneteller’s shop. Soon a much smaller man appeared in the doorway and greeted Isaac with a kiss to each cheek. He couldn’t have been more than four feet tall. The man eyed me suspiciously as Isaac introduced us.

“Francois, this is Galin, Galin Francois. We need to acquire a secure telephone to place a call to the United States and time is of the essence I’m afraid.”

“Oui, oui, monsieur. It is nice to meet you Galin.” He offered his hand to shake and I took the proffered gesture. “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared behind the beaded door screen and soon returned holding what looked like a cell phone which he connected to a computer and then surfed the net for a bit.

A few moments later he asked what number I wished to dial. I gave it to him and presto I heard Mina’s voice over a speaker. “Hello?”

“Oui mademoiselle. Hold a moment please.” He picked up a headset and handed it to me.

“Hello Mina?” I said.

“Galin, thank god. Where have you been? We’ve been worried sick about you. Iago, Martha, and Emu have been in Dominica for nearly a week now and are about to go crazy wondering where you are and what happened to you.” My matron informed me.

“I’m sorry, what? I knew we were gone for a couple of weeks, but how is that possible?” I asked looking at Isaac remembering him telling us that when we returned to our demission it would be as though no time at all had passed.

“I’m sorry Galin, but it was Shea. She thought of Dominica but forgot to compensate for the time we spent on the other island.” Isaac explained.

“Oh,” I said giving him an aggravated look. “It’s a long story Mina and one I think will have to wait for another time. Where are they staying?” I asked.

“They flew into the Melville Hall Airport in Marigot and found a lodge at the Bay View Bed and Breakfast in Calibishie. I think they said it is just north of Marigot. I only talked with them about an hour ago and they’re fine. They’ll be glad to hear you’re OK.” She added. Isaac shook his head no.

“Mina, please don’t tell them we’re here. Instead give me their number and well call them. It’s safer that way.” I said. I knew it would make her worry, but it couldn’t be helped. She gave me the number. “Thank you. We are all alright and everything is going to plan, but we cannot let our location be known.” Then a thought hit me like a sac of bricks in the pit of my stomach. What if Mina’s line is tapped? Anyone listening would have just heard everything we said. “Mina, are you sure your line is clean?” I asked.

“Oh yes, it’s clean son. We make sure of it.” She assured me.

Thank the gods. I thought. “Fantastic!” I said with a sigh of relief. “Please tell everyone hi from us and let them know we love them. I’ve gotta go Mina. Oh, and please let Shea’s people know everything is fine. I’m sure their worried about their people too.” I added before getting ready to sign off.

“Wait son. You should know Klaus accompanied Iago to the island, so he does have more protection than just Martha and Emu. Also, we’ve been keeping all homeland parties up to date on your condition. We don’t mention anything about where you are, but most of them knew you were going to Dominica anyway.”

A well of relief bubbled up in me upon hearing that. “That is great news mom. I’m glad to hear it. I’ll call Klaus right away.” I listened to her for a moment. “Yea, I love you too,” and hung up. I then told Isaac what she said. He seemed a bit relieved to hear Klaus was here as well. “I need to call them and I’m pretty sure their line is not secure.” I said.

“It shouldn’t be a problem.” Isaac said. “No one knows we’re here yet, so maybe they don’t know they’re here either. But just in case…” He looked at Francois. “Will this equipment prevent people from knowing where we are if it connects to an unsecure line?”

The little man nodded his head yes but frowned. “It will keep them from tracing the call yes, but not from overhearing the conversation. You will need to be judicious about the words you use.” He said looking between the two of us. “I would ask them if their line is secure before you talk freely. You took a horrible risk with that last call.”

I nodded my head. “You’re right. I’ll be more careful this time.”

I gave him the number and he dialed it. Within moments I heard a familiar male voice answer the line. “Hello?”

“Hello,” I said.

“Ah, the pirate has come to port, eh?” Klaus said.

I laughed. “Yes, but he is rather tired of bush beating. May we talk freely?” I asked.

“Yes Galin, this line is secure. I brought my equipment with me. It is good to hear from you. Iago is worrying my ears off asking if I’ve heard from you yet.”

“May I speak with him?” I asked and my voice surprised me because it came out as a mere whisper. My throat felt as though it was closing up, choking me.

“I’d love to but he’s not here right now. Emu and Martha took him to a little dive to grab lunch. I stayed here in the event you or Mina called.” He answered.

“All things considered, why didn’t you go with him and let one of the others stay behind?” I asked a bit miffed. I knew and trusted Klaus’ ability to handle any situation.

“Don’t worry about it Galin. I’ve seen Emu fight and no one is more formidable than she. Emu and Martha are more than capable of protecting the little guy. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t have let them leave.”

This made me feel better. Klaus never gave praise where it is not due and if he trust Emu and Martha with Iago’s safety, then so will I. “OK, thanks Klaus. I’m going to make arraignments to come up there. Mina told me where you are, but she failed to tell me which suite you’re in.”

“We’re in the last lodge. It will be good to see you again. About what time may we expect you?” He asked.

“Thanks Klaus, it will be good to see you too. We should be there…” I looked at Isaac.

“Within one or two hours,” he said.

“…within a couple of hours. Tell Iago I love him and that I’m on my way.” I added.

“I’ll do it. See you soon.” He said and the line went dead.

“Bye,” I said to no one and handed the phone’s headset back to Francois. “Thank you.” I said to him and Isaac. “Thank you both.”  I turned and stepped outside to wait in the alleyway for Isaac because I didn’t want them to see the tears welling in my eyes. It took him about ten minutes before he exited the little house. “How do I get to the north side of the island?” I asked.

“There are busses that go up there, we can catch one of them or we can hail a taxi. A buss would allow us to stay together.” I nodded as I followed him down the alleyway and out onto a busy street. There were no cars but the pedestrian traffic felt like a living breathing entity unto itself. When we returned to the others, who waited for us in front of the Port Authority Office, Isaac hailed a bus that would take us all the way to Calibishie.

Shea and Toby decided to stay with the Obsession and sail her around the island to a north port if they could find one. If they couldn’t they’d leave it moored where she is and catch a bus up the following day. “Besides, the Obsession needs cleaning and tending too after such a long journey with the size crew we have. If we complete the work by tomorrow we’ll join you, otherwise I think I’ll stay and work on her. Anyway, we need some time alone I think.” She said giving Toby a small smile that was lost on no one.

“That sounds like a wonderful plan Shea.” Isaac assured her. “Do us all a favor though and watch your backs. The Twilight Obsession is probably fairly well known by now, at least to our enemies. I know you love that boat, but don’t take chances with your life should you find yourself under attack.” He added. She nodded and took Toby’s hand as they made their way back towards the dinghy beached not far away. The rest of us boarded the bus and tried to make ourselves comfortable as it took off at breakneck speeds over the bumpy roads. Soon we were climbing step grades and quickly gaining altitude as the buss swayed precariously over the abyss several times as the diver charged around hairpin turns.

After a few moments I felt someone watching me and turned around to find Jacob staring daggers at the back of my head. “What?” I asked rather perturbed.

“Why did you do it?” He asked not bothering to mention what it is I was supposed to have done.

“Do what?” I asked giving him my most sour look because, let’s face it, I really don’t like the guy.

“Why did you let that little Mexican shit Iago come here? He’ll be nothing but trouble and the weakest link in our defenses.”

“Since when have you ever given a good god damn about anything or anyone other than yourself Jacob?”

“I don’t care about him or about you for that matter. I just don’t want your wimpy fagot feelings getting me killed.” The comment shocked me and I stared at the stupid oaf dumbfounded until I heard a nasty guttural growl emanating from just over my shoulder. Looking back I saw Pumar glaring at Jacob showing the tips of his fangs.

“Easy son,” I soothed. “I can handle this.” I got up and walked over so that my nose was maybe four inches from Jacob’s face and allowed my features to mold themselves into my weretiger’s face making sure all four of my fangs extended to their full three deadly inches. I made sure the bus driver couldn’t see anything. “You so much as breathe his name again and you will not have to worry about being a Halfelven or taking up the banner of lordship over all humanity because I will rip you to shreds.” I slipped my hand under his chin so quickly he flinched, extending my claws as I did it so the points bit into the flesh around his windpipe without actually breaking the skin. “Be very careful about how you address my sons and me from now on. I don’t care who Isaac is, or what he is capable of, because he will not be able to stop me from killing you.”

About that time I felt a firm grip take my arm and looked over to see Rakish holding me still. Isaac stood behind him with a very worried look on his face. He knew I could kill Jacob in a split second and long before he could do anything to stop me. Easy son, he is not worth it. He’s simply trying to bait you. Rakish thoughts reached through my anger fogged brain. I glared at him and then sighed before letting Jacob’s throat go. Before I retreated back to my seat I gave the fucker a well deserved sneer and bared my fangs just to make my point. He swallowed hard and sweat popped out on his forehead. Until now, he’d never seen the transformation that close up and never with my anger pointed directly at him. I hoped he got the point. Looking around I noticed everyone sat very still and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. They all glared at Jacob. I’ll have to give it to him though: for once he knew when to shut up and sit still. He said nothing to anyone the rest of the ride to Calibishie.

The trip went quickly enough as everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts. Jacob sat still and sullen, more so than usual, and stared out his window. I enjoyed the scenery and I couldn’t care less if Jacob enjoyed anything ever again. I used to feel sorry for the bloke but that was before I got to know him. I cannot believe he is the best candidate out of the three available Halfelvens to be king. The roads wound around so much I lost track of where we were heading but the occasional views were breath taking: indefinite stretches of ocean blue framed by banana plants, palms, and other trees I couldn’t identify. A faint horizon separated blue sky from water.  We rode along at elevation for a while and then my stomach lurched as we began our first decent back towards sea level. I couldn’t even guess at what percent grades these roads dropped, but in no time we bounced along the Atlantic side with jungles stretching on one side and rocky black beaches on the other, if you can call them beaches. The Atlantic was rough, very rough and I doubted Shea would find any kind of harbor on this side of the island that would present a calm birth for the Obsession.

After an indeterminable amount of time the bus dropped us off at the Bed and Breakfast and I began my way towards the last lodge as Isaac paid the driver. The closer I got the faster I went until I was sprinting up the steps to the front door. Klaus opened it before I could knock and wrapped me up in a tight bear hug spinning us around and dropped me inside the door. He looked out towards the road. “Where are the others?”

“Their coming,” I answered.

“Good,” he said and closed the door. “I need to talk with you for a bit before everyone comes in. Gods it is good to see you.” He smiled briefly before a more sober look took his face. “You should know that Martha has changed a lot since you last saw her. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks for you, but from what I understand it’s been about three years for her.” I didn’t understand what he was getting at and he must have guessed from the puzzled look on my face. “Emu took Martha away for about thirty minutes, but when they came back Martha was completely different. She’ll have to explain the details to you, but she is not the same woman, she’s more somehow.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, she’s… it’s almost like she grew mentally and emotionally in that thirty minutes that does not match the time. Emu said while it was thirty minutes for us, it was three years for them. Anyway, I’m trying to tell you that she is no longer in a frame of mind for any kind of a romantic relationship with anyone. I thought you should know before you saw her so you could mentally prepare yourself for the letdown.” He finished.

About that time we heard talking outside and Iago’s voice called out my name. “Galin, Galin, where’s Galin?”

I opened the door and smiled real big as I called: “Iago.”

“Galin!” He ran and jumped into my arms. “I missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too little buddy.” I smiled at Martha and Emu before turning and headed back inside leaving the door open for everyone. “How ya been doing?”

“Really good. I got to see Colorado, and the United States, and I got to fly in this big jet airplane. It was fun, but I wished I was with you.”

“I wish you could have come with me too son.” I said. I was reluctant to call him son because I wasn’t sure how he would take it being that his real papa died so recently. It didn’t seem to faze him though.

“Hi Galin,” Martha said quietly patting Iago on the back. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. How have you been?”

I pretended Klaus hadn’t told me anything and smiled making sure it went all the way up into my eyes. “A long time, it’s been what, two whole weeks at the most?

“Her smile seemed a bit brittle. “We need to talk… soon.” She added.

“Very well, we can walk down to the water and talk in private if you like.”

“Can I come?” Iago asked excitedly.

“Well, I don’t know,” I said to Iago. Looking at Martha I asked, “Can he come?” She tilted her head for a moment, thinking, and then nodded in agreement. “I guess that’s a yes young man.” I said grinning and tickling him. He squirmed in my arm and nearly wiggled out of my grasp. I started to put him down but he clung tighter to my neck as though fearing I’d leave him again so I cinched him tighter in my grip. “Shall we?” I asked Martha.

“Alright,” she said and turned for the door. I followed giving Klaus a puzzled look again and he shrugged and smiled sympathetically.

Martha said nothing on the way down the hill to the water’s edge. The beach was nothing like the ones I was used to since it was made of black volcanic sand and edged with a lot of large basalt boulders along the line where beach met ground. I let Iago down and he took off towards the water chasing seagulls and laughing wildly. He acted more like a six year old than a boy of twelve. Martha laughed and slipped her arm in mine. “He’s so full of energy. I’m going to miss him.” She sighed pensively and remained quiet for a few minutes while we walked down the beach with Iago running circles around us imploring us to join him in his play. We laughed at his antics. “We’ll watch honey. Galin and I need to talk.” Martha said to him when he tried to pull me towards a flock of seagulls.

“Oh come on Galin. I bet you can catch them.” He exclaimed excitedly.

“Probably, but wheat would we do with em once I caught em?”

“Eat them!” He declared with devilish glee and growled like a tiger making claws out of his fingers. I had to laugh. I only thought I missed him – damn, the joy of watching his laughing face nearly brought me to tears.

“How did he like Colorado?” I asked.

“Oh he loved it. He’s never seen mountains before and he stayed in a state of awe. Of course he nearly froze to death too being used to tropical climates.” She answered. “I can empathize with him on that since I’m from southern Georgia.”

“Speaking of which, do you think you could get used to living in Colorado?” I asked knowing her answer because of what Klaus told me. She looked at me through the corner of her eyes but said nothing. “Klaus told me you’ve changed. I can tell, but I’m not sure how you changed this much in just two and a half or three weeks.” I said.

Martha sighed. “That’s what we need to talk about Galin. It’s an odd story and a long one if I told you all of it.” She fell silent for a few moments collecting her thoughts. “After we got to Colorado Emu decided she needed to introduce me to Bast. I couldn’t imagine what she meant, but that evening she opened a portal of sorts and led me into a temple courtyard in a desert. In the background were pyramids but these were not the ones at Giza. They were pristine and shiny as though new.  At first I couldn’t believe my eyes but when we entered the temple and approached the throne I saw the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Her head was a cat’s, not much unlike ours when we change, and she wore a form fitting green and gold striped Haik over her body adorned with a gold belt and bracelets. Braziers blazed on either side of the platform upon which sat her throne and I instinctively knew this was the Goddess Bast.

“At first I was apprehensive because the longer we stayed it became clear the others would miss us and I didn’t want to miss our rendezvous here in Dominica. Every time I mentioned this to Emu she shrugged it off until I got aggravated with her. Only then did she explain the time in the temple runs differently than back on Earth. I found that a strange way of putting it because I thought we were still on Earth, but Emu told me we were in a totally different dimension.

“To make a very long story short we spent three years in her temple and I found Bast to be a very interesting and benevolent goddess – regardless of what the legends sometime say about her. I learned what was expected of me and how to be a servant of the goddess. Through most of my time there I intended to return here, marry you, and raise Iago as our own. But the more I studied and learned the more I realized I wanted to become a priestess.” Martha looked out to sea for a few moments before looking me in the eyes. “I love you Galin, really I do, but I love Bast more and I cannot divide my heart between her and anyone else. She doesn’t care who I bed with, but she demands my heart belongs entirely to her and no one else. My feelings for you would be a conflict of interest with my feelings for her.”

“I had a feeling that’s what Klaus meant when he told me you had changed a lot. So, what are you going to do now?”

“What, no anger, no demands, rants or raves?” She sighed. “You are not like any man I’ve ever met. I cannot even have a decent argument with you.”

“Is that what you want, an argument? Would it change a thing? I cannot compete with a goddess Martha.” I said and my voice showed the first signs of aggravation.

“No, it would not change anything, but I expected something more than acquiescence.” She said.

I shrugged and breathed hard, but said nothing. I could tell she really wanted this and though I really wanted to argue, plead my case, I knew it would do no good. She’d already made up her mind. “When will you be leaving?” I said through a clinched jaw.

“Now that you’re here to take care of Iago we’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

“That soon,” I complained, “Why so soon?”

Emu is anxious to return to the temple with me. I think she’s afraid you might change my mind and that would not be good since I’ve already started the induction process. I’ll see you in the morning to say goodbye and I will miss you, a lot. I will never forget you Galin.”

“You make it sound as though you won’t ever see me again.” I laughed to cover my emotions.

“I’m not sure I ever will see you again. That’s why this is so hard.”

“What do you mean by that? Does this mean you can’t even visit?” I asked. My voice cracked with emotions this time and I fought to keep the tears back.

“Galin, after my induction into the order is complete and I become a priestess, I’m required to spend no less than one-hundred years of continuous service within the temple. I could come back and visit after the hundred years is over, but I will be a completely different person. If you think I’m different now, it is nothing compared to what the changes will be after a century as a priestess in Bast’s temple. Spending time in the very presence of a deity has a profound effect on a person’s character.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “Besides, over the last three years I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Even if I stayed and married you, I could never share you with the men in your life and I don’t feel right asking you to give them up either.”

“I would give them up for you.” I said in a thick voice but I didn’t really believe it, and I don’t think she bought it either, because she smiled and laid her hand on my chest rubbing my peck with her fingertips.

“It’s a pretty thought isn’t it?” She finally said and looked at me. “You love Pumar and Greg too much to set aside your feelings for them and that is something I cannot ask of you. It’s too much. Galin, I really want this. I want it more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.” I pulled her too me and kissed her once, gently on the lips, and waited for her to kiss me back if she dared but she didn’t. She pulled back and smiled softly.

“I love you Martha.” I tried to say but my voice caught in my throat.

“No Galin, you just think you do. You may love the idea of what we could be, but you have not known me long enough to know for sure if you really love me. I really enjoyed our time in Cancun, a lot, and it’s something I will hold dear to my heart for all eternity. But, you have to remember that I’ve had three years to think this through and come to terms with it.”

“Lucky you,” I said through tears which flowed freely now. “I’ve had about three minutes.”

She tiptoed and kissed my forehead. “I need to get back. Are you coming?”

“No, I need time to think. I’ll stay out here and watch Iago play. I said. “We’ll be up later.” I added.

She nodded her head and stepped away pulling her hands from mine. “I’ll see you later when you come back?” She asked.

“Of course,” I said and tried to rein in my feelings. I watched her walk away until I heard Iago laughing behind me. I looked and forced a smile. “What’s so funny?”

“I was just thinking about you crouching trying to catch a seagull.” He laughed and then he noticed my expression and his face sobered up. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing son, nothing that time won’t fix. So, what do you want to do over the next few days? I could teach you to SCUBA dive. Would you like that?”

“SCUBA dive, I don’t know. I want to spend time with you.” He said with a timid smile. “If you want to, that is. What’s SCUBA dive?”

I chuckled in spite of myself. “I cannot think of anything I’d rather do than spend time with you. That will make me very happy. SCUBA means Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and it allows you to dive underwater for extended periods of time without needing to surface. It’s a lot of fun.” I explained.

“Oh, OK. That might be fun.” He said. “Will you dive with me?”

“Of course I will. I’ll be your teacher.” With that I picked him up and hugged him too me. “I love you son.”

He wrapped his arms around me and said: “I love you too.” I noticed he hadn’t started calling me pop, or dad, but I figured that would come with time.

We played around chasing the seagulls and laughing for several hours before I heard his stomach grumble. “Are you getting hungry?” I asked.

“Sí, but I can wait. We do not have to go back right now do we?”

“No son, we don’t have to go back right now.” I sat down in the sand and dug my fingers into the soft black granules.  Iago climbed onto my shoulders and sat there laughing as I pretended to fall off balance several times but recovered just in time to keep him from plunging us into the sand.

“Can you change like Klaus?” He asked out of the blue.

“You mean into a cat?” I asked.

“Sí, but not just any cat – a tigre, uh tiger.”

“I sure can, want to see?” I asked.

“Sí!” He said with such enthusiasm I had to reach up and tickle him as I fell over backwards spilling him into the sand.

We got up and I crouched down in front of him looking straight at his face and growled from deep in my throat but smiled the whole time. “Now watch closely.” I thought about my beast and allowed him to slowly come to the surface shifting just my face into my tiger’s.

His eyes got really big and then he burst out laughing. “That is SO cool!” He shouted. “Come on pop, do it, show me your whole tiger.”

I slipped my face back to human and gave him a big smile at the fact he called me ‘pop’. “I can’t out here in the daytime son. For one, I’d shred all my clothes and have to walk back naked.” He giggled at that. “But also people will see if I change out here in the light.”

He nodded his head understanding the need to keep it a secret. “Will you show me tonight or when we get back to the casa, uh house?”

“You bet.” I looked up towards the lodge where the others were resting on the porch and talking about god knows what. “You ready to head back?” I asked.

“OK,” and he took my hand as we strode up the beach towards the last lodge.

I felt an odd feeling and looked a little further up the beach where I saw a young man watching us intently. He was downwind so I couldn’t catch his scent. I stared at him for a moment before he nodded his head to me and slipped off the rock upon which he sat. Before my eyes he disappeared, just like that. I blinked and looked but he was no place to be found.  “Come on son, we need to get back.” I saw the puzzled look on Iago’s face. “It’s nothing son, want to race back?” I asked.

“Sí, uh yes.” He said enthusiastically. “But you have to give me a head start. You’re bigger than me.”

“You got it. I’ll count to ten and then I’ll start running. How does that sound?”

“OK,” and he took off running as fast as his legs could carry him. I chuckled but the crawling feeling slipped over me again so I looked back where the young man disappeared and he was there again. I started to go over and ask him what he thought he was doing but then I heard Iago calling to me. “Pop, are you coming?”

I stared at the stranger a little longer before responding. “Yes, I’m on my way.” I looked over at Iago and smiled and then glanced towards the stranger but he was gone again. I shrugged my shoulders and took off at a soft lope after my son. He giggled and took off again. I let him win but kept close to his heels to make him think he was about to lose. Just hearing his laughter as he pushed himself harder to beat me to the steps, made my heart swell. “You won! Oh my gods, I must be out of shape.”

Iago laughed collapsing on the step next to Klaus. “You let me win.” He giggled.

“No I didn’t either, you won fair and square.” I teased. Glimpsing over at Klaus I gave him a look that said I needed to talk with him privately.

“Hay buddy, why don’t you go inside and ask Emu if she’s got supper ready.” He said to Iago.

“OK,” and the boy jumped up to run inside. “You want something to drink?”

“No, not just now,” he said smiling at the boy. Iago nodded and looked at me before trotted on into the lodge.

“A Coke Cola for be son.” I said. Iago smiled and turned to go inside.

“What’s up?” Klaus asked.

“There was a stranger watching us on the beach and when I looked at him he acknowledged me and then disappeared.”

“Disappeared as in he slipped behind the rocks or something?”

“No he disappeared as in vanishing into thin air kind of disappeared.” I corrected him. “He gave me the creeps and just before I took off running after Iago I looked back one more time and there he was standing right where I last saw him.”

Klaus thought for a moment and we heard the door open and Iago emerged carrying two bottles of Coca Cola®. “A little later we can go investigate.” I understood he meant in our tiger forms so the scent would be stronger. “Maybe Isaac will go too and give us his thoughts.” I nodded my head accepting the bottle of Coke from Iago. I love Coke in the islands because they use real sugar instead of corn syrup. It taste better.

“Go where?” Iago asked.

“Back to the beach,” I said.

“Can I go too?”

“I don’t know son, we’ll see about it. It may be too dangerous.”

“Oh please, it is just the beach.” He rolled his eyes as though he thought grownups lost our minds after we got so old.

I smiled. “We’ll see.”

“OK, Emu has supper ready.” He said and so we got up and went inside to eat. 

Klaus asked me several more questions about the stranger and Emu overheard us. “I saw him earlier today. He was in the market. At first I thought he was following us but then I looked and he was gone.”

“I think we better take this stranger a bit more seriously then.” Klaus said. “Isaac, later Galin and I are going down to the beach to investigate a stranger’s scent. I’d like you to come along and give us whatever opinion you have.”

Emu stood silently watching and listening to us. When it seemed we’d said what we were going to she finally spoke: “I’d like to come too. I am 8,000 years old and I may have come across this one before. Besides, I have an infallible memory.” I nodded to her and picked up my plate of nachos. It was a simple supper but an effective one. “Besides, if he proves to be more than human, I can memorize his scent and confer with Lady Bast to find out what she knows about him.”

I looked at her quizzically causing her to laugh softly. “You can do that?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m Bast’s high priestess, the first in this form who served by her side for millennia. I can talk with her about most anything.”

I nodded to her. “That could prove useful.”

It was dark by the time we finished eating and Isaac, Klaus, Rakish, Trent, Emu, and I went investigating whatever scents we could find where the mysterious man appeared today. I hoped the scent was still fresh enough to do something with. Pumar and Killian were angry with me because I wouldn’t let them go with us. Iago sided with his brothers. “No and that’s final. Once we scent it out and only if we decide there’s little or no danger will I let you go out there son.” I said to Iago.

 

“But I want to go.” He wined.

 

“I’m sorry son, but there are some very dangerous elements that follow us around and I don’t want you hurt, OK? Please stay here with your brothers and keep them safe.” He nodded his head and of all things pouted. However he sat down in Pumar’s lap and snuggled in refusing to look at me. Martha wanted to come too, but I asked her to stay also.

 

“Why?” She asked.

 

“Because we don’t know what we’re dealing with. Not only is it safer for you, but it’s a lot safer for Iago with the six of you here with him. It won’t take us long. I promise.” She nodded her head.  It was obvious none of them liked the idea of being left behind – except for Jacob who looked as though he couldn’t care less. Isaac slipped out the front door and into the darkness outside. “Where is he going?” I asked.

 

“He wants to check it out before any of us go down. He’s the one who’s in the least amount of danger and he wants a look before our scents obscure anything that may be subtle.” Klaus explained. “He said to give him ten minutes and then come down.”

 

I nodded my head. “OK, we can do that.”

 

“If there’s one thing I know about that damned elf, he’s good at what he does.” Jacob spoke up at last. “His sense of smell is stronger than any of you and his knowledge of things is outstanding.”

 

“Hmmm, we’re getting information from the peanut gallery?” I asked. Jacob glared at me but said nothing right away. Then he stood up and walked over to me.

 

“Galin, I’m… I’m sorry about what I said on the bus. I don’t know what that damned elf did to me on that island, but I can’t even smell alcohol without feeling like I’m going to throw up and I’m not used to dealing with any of this shit without it.” He studied me for a moment. “I was out of line.” I nodded my acceptance of his apology but said nothing. “You scared the shit out of me.” He added almost in a whisper.

 

“You deserved it.” I said dryly.

 

“Yes, I did. Now…” He stammered. “I’m not a bad person Galin and I’m not homophobic either.” He swallowed. “I was living my life and minding my own business when Isaac came up my driveway. He introduced himself. He said he’d been looking for me for a very long time and he finally found me. I didn’t know what to think and I thought he was a nut job when he told me who he really is and what I am. When he proved it… I’ve not been the same since.” He looked over at Iago. “The little tike’s been pestering me all through supper and I have to say that he’s a very good young man. I still don’t agree with him being here in the midst of everything that surrounds us.” He looked me in the eye. “But I will do what I can to protect him while he’s in my presence even if it’s just staying out of your way.”

 

“I appreciate it Jacob. I’m afraid that after what I’ve seen of you, only time will prove me wrong, but that was a start, a very good one.” I said. “Klaus, you and the others ready to head out?” I asked.

 

“You bet, let’s go.” He said and we all followed him out the door. The wind blew from the area where the stranger stood earlier and there was still a faint scent on the breeze. “It smells funny out here.” Klaus quipped as we stepped on the porch.

 

“I think that’s our quarry. If his scent is this strong from up here, we may have an easy time of finding him if we need to.” I said as we headed down toward the beach where we found Isaac kneeling in the sand near the boulder where the stranger stood earlier. “Isaac?” I asked. He held up his hand for silence and looked off into the night.

 

“Slip form.” He said to us in just a whisper. I could barely hear him but we all took his order seriously and stripped before changing into our beast. Once in my tiger form the scent was overbearing. Emu hissed and growled arching her back like housecats will do when frightened. She kept growling as she slowly approached Isaac until she rubbed against his knee growling and hissing constantly. “What is it Emu?” He asked and then seemed to listen. I don’t know how they communicated with each other, but all of a sudden Isaac tensed up and looked around sharply. “Are you sure?” He asked. Emu bit him lightly on the hand, hissed, and then scampered back to the lodge growling the whole way. “Come on, let’s get back.” And with that he strode off like a man with a purpose and not a good one at that.

 

Back in the lodge we all slipped back into our human shapes and proceeded to get dressed in new clothes. “We’ll get our clothes later.” Klaus argued with Trent. “They aren’t going anyplace and we can get them after we discuss what Emu and Isaac found out.”

 

“Speaking of which…” Isaac said. “It is disturbing indeed. Emu, please tell them what you told me.”

 

“But what does it want with us?” I asked. “Unless he’s working for Angela, I cannot imagine what he’d want with a group of wereanimals.”

 

“He is not after you or any of us Galin. He’s after Iago.” Emu clarified and my stomach went sour. “I don’t know much about him, but I have encountered his scent before. It’s been so long ago I almost didn’t place it. In my youth a plague struck Egypt. Not the plagues of the Bible, this was different. Once every five years a child would go missing. That in and of itself was not so unusual, had it been every year it would have been different. But children go missing all the time and it was the same in ancient times as it is today. Things happen. Children will do what they are not supposed to do, go where they shouldn’t and get into things that can hurt if not kill them. This was different. Once every five years, give or take a few months, a male child who’d just gone through puberty would disappear. A day or so later, the child who disappeared five years before would show up, still alive, but on the brink of death. He’d die within hours of being found. His body looked as though it’d been used up. It was almost like looking into the face of a mummy but you could still see who he was. This went on for about fifty years and then it stopped. No one understood why it happened or why it stopped. One thing is clear though. This creature is after Iago. He’s the only one of us that holds any interest whatsoever for this thing.” She looked at Martha. “Are you ready to go back and began your training?”

 

“Yes, my lady.” Martha said.

 

“Good, we’re going to leave now and I’ll discuss this with Bast. If she has any information that will help defend Iago, I’ll come back and tell you what I find out.”  

 

We all sat silently thinking about what Emu told us. “Come back even if you don’t find anything useful out. That way we won’t be looking for answers that aren’t forthcoming.” Isaac said. Emu nodded and got up to get her things. Martha followed her to the bedroom they called home during their stay. Isaac looked at the rest of us. “I don’t want Iago left unattended at any time. I insist at least two, if not three, of you stay with him always – even when he bathes, uses the bathroom, and when he’s sleeping. None watching him is to sleep while on duty. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this and figure out a way to protect him better when Emu returns.”

 

I nodded and picked my newest son up holding him close. “Will that man come and take me away?” He asked.

 

“Not if I have anything to say about it son. I’ll rip him to shreds if he so much as looks at you again.” I told him.

 

“I don’t want to be used up like some mummy.” He said softly.

 

“It’s not going to come to that Iago that much I can promise you.” I said and I hoped beyond hope that I could keep that promise.

 

*          *          *

 

This concludes Chapter Twenty-two. 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:  akecheta@live.com, and also at: http://www.facebook.com/lootahakecheta1964.