The Weretiger Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 23
 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

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

 

Author’s Apologies: I feel I must apologize for the length of time this chapter has taken to write and I also feel I owe you an explanation. I’m not saying this to elicit sympathy from my readers but am presenting it simply as what it is, an explanation. My mother died on January 13, 2012. While I expected to grieve, I didn’t expect it to throw me for the loop that it did. My mother’s been sick for a very long time and this is actually a blessing, but I’m just now (February 23, 2012) pulling out of the depression funk that I’ve been in since that Friday morning when mom passed. I hope you enjoy this chapter and I hope to continue writing without the long delays of some of the past chapters. Lootah

 

Special Notice about this chapter: In this chapter I will be introducing a character created by a friend of mine: David Spencer. The Character’s name is Deveeda and is a member of the Vulpan Race. I’ll let you read the story to find out more about him, but I will say this, he is a Dispenser of Justice. Thank you David for letting me use your character in my story. David told me to have fun with Deveeda, so I’ll grant him some powers in this realm that he may or may not have in his native lands. It will be up to David if he chooses to use the powers I chose to bestow upon him once he returns home. J

 

Chapter 23

 

Cat and Mouse

 

It was only about ten minutes, but it seemed an eternity. Emu and Martha bid us goodbye and the older Mau promised she’d return in a few moments. In the interposing minutes between her departure and return we argued about what we could do to protect Iago from this threat until Isaac threatened to curse us to shut the fuck up. It worked… some… and I put a stop to the rest of the bickering when I noticed Iago’s reaction to it all. “Silence!” I growled in a voice that drowned out everyone else’s. They all shut up and looked at me. “Come on guys, this isn’t helping anything and certainly not the person in question.” I said nodding to Iago. “Emu will return soon. I’m sure of it. So, until then, let’s not discuss it.”

This seemed to mollify everyone because the arguing stopped. Iago didn’t want to stay quiet though. “If you change me now, maybe this guy won’t want me anymore.” He said.

“I wish we could change you now son, but it’s not possible.” I told him. “When you’re older, around seventeen or so, then the change will take effect without harming you. Until then we need to protect you and make sure this, whatever it is, doesn’t get his paws on you.”

“Why will it hurt me if you changed me now?”

“To be honest son, I’m not sure it would hurt you. It’s never been attempted on someone so young.” I admitted. “Or at least I’ve never heard of it before.”

“Then why not try it?” He asked. His innocence moved me.

Klaus caressed his cheek and said. “We’d love to Iago, but think about something for me would you? Imagine spending the rest of eternity as a twelve year old. Just the other day when we left Colorado you talked about wanting to be older, to be able to do things you cannot do now. Would you really want to spend hundreds, maybe thousands of years as a twelve year old?”

Iago scrunched up his nose with distaste. “No, that would suck.”

“Yea, that would suck. Never being able to get into R and X rated movies, never being able to join in on older boys conversations because they believe you are too little to trust, having to have an adult go with you wherever you went because everyone would think you were a little kid. That would suck.” Klaus added. This seemed to calm down Iago for the time being. I thanked Klaus silently with my eyes.

“Not to mention never experiencing the full joys of sex.” Pumar harrumphed. I glared at him.

“Don not be angry with Pumar for saying that Galin.” Marqita said walking over to Iago and dropped to her knees in front of him. “In our clan sex is not such a taboo subject. I think it would drive you mad as the years passed and you never grew older, realizing you would never develop into a man. It is better to wait my friend and come into your own as a human before you take the gift.”

 

I opened my mouth to protest but at that moment the air in the middle of the room shimmered. In the blink of an eye a large hole opened up and the scent of dry dust mixed with exotic incenses wafted into the room followed by Emu. The portal closed behind her. “Well, it’s about time.” Exclaimed Killian impatiently and I gave him the warning look this time. Ten minutes is hardly long enough to complain about but I couldn’t begrudge him his feelings because I harbored the same state of mind. He slumped back down into the couch where he sat and looked expectantly at Emu. We all did.

“You are not going to like what I’ve got to tell you, but it is not all bad.” She said as she took us into her gaze. “Been arguing?” She asked but continued before we had a chance to say anything. “I’m not sure if Iago should hear this, but it does explicitly involve him.”

“You’re right, it does involve him and I see no reason to keep him from listening.” I said.

She nodded her head. “You are his legal guardian. I will leave it up to you.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly before continuing. “I don’t have much time so listen carefully. This creature is a symbiont of sorts. He is immortal so long as he can maintain a symbiotic relationship with a host. He is not of this world though and when he came here he realized humans are too weak to support his biological demands. He doesn’t mean to kill his host, but has little choice since his needs from the host are more than a human can sustain. Bast does not believe he’s ever come in contact with a wereanimal before and this may give you an edge. She doesn’t like the idea of you killing him but she doesn’t like what he’s done to his human hosts over the years either. After all at what point does accumulated human suffering legitimize a decisively aggressive action? The catch that complicates things is that his hosts must be young for him to take control of him. He cannot take over older organisms but the host he holds at any one time can live in harmony with him indefinitely if it can survive the symbiotic relationship.”

“So, how do we keep Iago safe from him if he’s already set his sights on him?” Pumar asked.

“That is unclear. He is called Denogoth and he has an ability to control mortal human minds – especially the mind of his next intended host. He’s shown problems controlling immortals and some humans alike. I would be willing to believe that he may even be able to control some of us to some extent if the situation is desperate enough. What is clear is that he will be able to fully control Iago’s mind if he gets close enough to latch onto it. Also, it may be impossible for him to gain enough control over a wereanimal’s mind to allow him to merge with one of us. I’m not certain what would happen if his present host were to be infected by the lycan’s gift.”

Trent walked over to stand beside Iago and me. “We’ll just have to ask him if he’s willing to try it when we catch him.”

“That entirely depends on rather you can catch him.” Emu said. “Lady Bast says he’s extremely apprehensive of beings whose minds he cannot read and an immortal’s mind and most semi-immortal’s minds are difficult for him to see into. He may be able to make out what one or two of you are thinking if he concentrates hard enough, but Isaac’s mind would be closed to him completely. Bast said one thing is certain, if he has chosen Iago as his next host, then his present host is almost beyond hope. She bids you not to terry in your actions.”

“Thank you Emu,” I said.

She took my hands in hers and squeezed them affectionately. “I must go back. The timeline here is not in sync with the temple and whatever time I spend here will magnify there. That is all the information Lady Bast was willing to give me.

“Willing to give you?” Pumar asked, aggravation lacing his voice.

“My friend,” Emu smiled at my lunar-son, “sometimes it is better not to have all the available information. There are times when not knowing all the pieces generates unique solutions to a given problem. Please take care of yourselves. I have no idea when I will be able to visit again.” With this she waved her hand muttering a few words in a strange and ancient language. The portal shimmered back into life. “Farewell, my friends. I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to get to know you.” She stepped through. We watched her go and the most beautiful being I’ve ever seen in my life stepped into view. Her splendor staggered us. There was no mistaking this was the Lady Bast. She smiled at us while she received Emu into her arms as the portal close. The image of three perfectly formed pyramids blazed upon my retinas and I had to wonder if the ancient pyramids at Giza were this splendid when they were new.

“WOW!” Estephan finally spoke what we were all thinking and it broke the silence. “OK, now what? How do we protect little Iago from the big bad wolf?” A soft growl rolled out of Killian and Estephan shivered. “Sorry, I meant no offense amigo.”

“None taken,” Killian lied as he glared at Estephan. Sometimes he can be sensitive about the way a lot of cats feel about his species. I cannot say I blame him either.

“Now, now guys. Estephan is right, how do we protect my son from this Denogoth thing?” I asked. “It is good he cannot read all our thoughts, but the fact that he can read Iago’s makes the boy an ideal venue for him to become privy to any strategy we may come up with.”

Isaac stood up and walked over to the frightened twelve year old boy. “Iago, will you allow me to try something on you?” He asked.

“OK,” Iago gave his permission but his voice trembled.

Isaac spoke a word and reached into the air in front of him. His hand disappeared but when he pulled it back from the abyss he held a small piece of gold in his hand. He spoke another word and the gold stretched, elongating into his father’s staff. Pointing the staff at my son, Isaac asked him to stand straight and tall. “This will not be as strong as it would be if the artifact was complete, but it should serve our purposes for now. Be still Iago and don’t be afraid. I will not harm you.” He assured.

“Exactly what is it you are trying to do?” I asked on my son’s behalf. Isaac’s magic frightened me somewhat and I had little doubt the rod would make his magic much stronger.

“I won’t harm him, but it is better no one here knows exactly what I’m doing. I’m afraid that ignorance is bliss this time.” I nodded choosing to trust him. After all, he’s never let us down. He looked at the boy and spoke several words in his native tongue. The rod glowed as his chant increased in volume and I felt the energy rolling through the little room. At about the exact moment I thought I could stand no more a blinding light flashed from the tip of the rod and struck my son square in the forehead spreading over his body like a warm blanket before dissolving into him except for the emblem of a stag wreathed with holly shone brightly, emblazoned upon his brow. It reared up and loped around my son’s head before settling where it originally appeared. Then it too faded and eventually disappeared. I became aware of a subtle change in Iago. I couldn’t place my finger on it but something about him was altered. Isaac studied the boy for a moment and then looked at me smiling. “As I said, it is a temporary fix, but it should protect him for a while. At least it should give us the time we need to figure out how to get close enough to speak with Denogoth without worrying about him taking Iago’s mind over or worrying about him learning of our plans from the boy.”

“What Emu said about having to leave so quickly, was it true?” Pumar asked. “We could use her knowledge of this creature right now.”

Isaac looked at my lunar-son as he answered. “Every person deals with trials in accordance with their strengths and weaknesses Pumar. This is not her tribulation, not any more at any rate. Emu’s brother was killed by this entity. She watched him die in her arms after the creature released him. The boy was a wasted wraith he after his abduction. She simply doesn’t want to encounter him again.”

“How do you know this?” I asked.

“She told me before she left to inquire of Bast on our behalf.” He answered. “It’s been over eight thousand years and she came to terms with what happened to her brother long, long ago. However, she wishes to have nothing to do with Denogoth and I do not blame her.” He stood there silent for a few moments and then continued softly in a whisper so quiet we had difficulty hearing him. “I saw him die in her memories, and it is nothing I would wish for anyone.”

“Why should we continue on as though nothing is wrong? Shouldn’t we fight, hunt this creature down and take him out? I don’t like waiting?” Trent asked. “I for one would like to track him down and confront or fight him outright.” I noticed most of those present preferred this line of thought, me included.

“To do this would accomplish nothing.” Isaac said. “I say we should carry on like normal, but he will know we know something by the increased security around the boy.” He stood silently for a while. “I simply do not know.”

“What if we leave him a note?” Iago said.

“A note, what sort of note son?” I asked. I’d picked Iago up after Isaac cast his spell and was subtly sniffing him trying to figure out what it was the elf had done to him.

“You know, write him a letter. We can tell him what we know and ask him to meet with us to try and find a way out of this.”

“That is pure genius.” I said smiling at him. “Would it work?” I asked the others.

“I don’t see why not.” Isaac said scratching his chin. “I wouldn’t tell him everything we know, but make sure he knows we have enough information about him to make it worth his while. Does anybody know what the lycans gift would do to his host if one of you were to bite him?”

“If he’s as weak as we believe, it could kill him.” Rakish said.

“And it could change him without a problem. I’ve seen it cure others much weaker than the man I saw on the beach.” I added. “It really depends upon his host.”

“Look, we have no idea he can inhabit a lycan.” Jacob said. “What if he cannot take control of one of you, or maintain his control if you turn his host?” I looked at Jacob appreciatively because I was thinking the same thing but was reluctant to voice it.

Isaac nodded his head at Jacob as if to say it was a good point. “I have a feeling he can maintain control if he is in control of his host before the boy is bitten. However there really is no way of knowing for certain.”

“There is another possibility, and one I’m not unwilling to entertain.” I said. Everyone looked at me to continue. “The ‘Lycan’s Gift,’ as you call it, rids the body of parasites, all parasites. There is a possibility it will have the same effect on Denogoth. The ‘gift’ cures all illnesses which plague humans and it cleanses the body of all parasites, killing and expelling them.”

Marqita stood up and strolled over to the window, moved the gauze curtains, and gazed outside. “That is certainly an idea, but it is one we have to keep him ignorant of. If there is so much as the slightest suspicion it could kill him, or force him away from the protection of his host, he will not allow us to get close enough to bite the human he rides.” She turned to look at us. “I would keep any correspondence with him to a minimum, only adding enough information to entice him to accept our request.

“Who wants the pleasure of biting him?” Pumar asked with a sly smile.

“I take it you want the honors?” I asked.

“Not necessarily, but someone has to do it.”  True, but I’m not sure I want you anywhere near him if he does come to call. What if he takes you as his host instead?

I thought it was already decided he cannot take an older person or an immortal as a host. He thought back to me.

“There they go doing it again. Speak where we all can hear you please.” Jacob griped.

“Sorry, I guess it is a bit rude.” I apologized.

“A bit,” the surly man grumbled sourly.

“I volunteer to turn him if it comes to it.” Killian piped up. We all looked at him rather astonished. I’m not sure why it surprised me, but it did. “Look, I don’t have to bite him. All I have to do is get close enough to rake him with my claws. Werewolf is the oldest strain of lycanthropy. As such it is also the most viral. I don’t have to bite him to infect him.”

I nodded my head to him with a slight smile on my face. “That’s right and I totally forgot that about werewolves. So, all we have to do is wait until we can get you close enough to scratch him.”

“What about Iago if he accepts our invitation? I’m not willing to risk him taking control of his mind.” Pumar said as he pulled the boy from me into his lap. “I don’t know about any of you, but I hate having someone else in my mind. I was miserable when Loretta invaded mine and I never want to experience anything like it again.”

“No, I’m not either. We’ll have to find a place to keep him safe until we find out more about him.” I said looking at my son. I feared Jacob was right even if I wasn’t willing to listen to him at the time. It may not have been a good idea to bring him here. Because in all that’s going on in our midst including the dangers Angela poses, this new threat was about to worry me sick.
It frightened me mostly because Denogoth is a wild card, an unknown element.

“That may not be possible.”

“What do you mean Isaac? I’m not letting this thing take control of Iago’s mind. That is out of the question.” I argued.

“No, of course not and that is why I cast the spell upon him. I do not believe Denogoth will be able to take him over, at least not right away but I doubt he’ll agree to come anywhere around any of us if Iago is not present. As much as I hate to say it, the lad is the bait. He’s who Denogoth wants. Without him there is no way we can lure him into anything – conversation or otherwise.”

I hated it but Isaac was right. This is not good dad. I don’t want to lose my little brother to anything, but especially not this monster. Pumar expressed to me privately. 

I don’t want to lose him either Pumar. And I have no intention of losing him. I will fight to my death to protect him. I reassured him, but Isaac is right. There is no way we can lure Denogoth into anything without Iago. I’m sorry. I felt sick to my stomach and I know everyone in the room could sense it. Guys, I need to speak with Isaac privately. Watch Iago and protect him with your lives if you must. I said adding please as an afterthought.

We’ll watch him and you don’t need to worry about him son. None of us will allow this creature to take him. Rakish reassured me. He and Killian moved to stand next to Pumar who nodded to me emphasizing what Rakish said.

Thanks. I looked at Isaac. “We need to talk, but can you sense this creature? Can you tell if he’s close enough to overhear us?”

“I can hear better than you can and I can smell odors more keenly too. I can also see in complete darkness such as in a cave. Since I know what he smells like, I think I can sense it if he comes anywhere close to us.”

I nodded. “Then let’s take a walk.” I said and moved for the door. Looking back at the room I addressed everyone present. “Please protect my son.” Before I walked out the door I noticed Iago’s expression. A palatable fear seized him when he realized I was about to leave. I smiled and walked over to him, crouched down, and took him into my arms. “We won’t allow anything to happen to you son. I promise we’ll keep you safe, somehow.”

He clung tightly to my neck and I felt his body trembling. “Please, please do not leave me.” He pleaded. “Please.”

“Iago… son, listen to me. I said leaning back from him so I could look into those beautiful brown soulful eyes. There are ten wereanimals here with you. None of them will leave you alone and unprotected. Your safety is foremost on their minds and in their hearts. I love you and I’m not going to leave you, but I need to speak with Isaac privately. We shouldn’t be away for more than a few minutes – honestly.” I hugged him again when I saw he was about to start crying. “You will be alright son. We won’t let anything happen to you. Please, be the man I know you are and help these valiant people keep watch for you. Can you do that for me?” He nodded his head. “Good, good son.” I said stroking his hair and kissing his brow. “I won’t be long. I promise.” He nodded again and I eased him back into Pumar’s lap.

Pumar wrapped his arms protectively around the boy and kissed him on the cheek. “We’ll keep you safe Iago.” The boy nodded his head and leaned back against his brother’s chest taking reassurance in his warmth and strength. Thanks son. I thought to Pumar.

Denogoth would have to be one really formidable being to get through the lot of us dad. But for Iago’s sake, please don’t stay too long. He smiled at me and snuggled Iago closer to him.

I nodded. We won’t take long. And with that I rose back to my feet and followed Isaac out the front door.

At the foot of the steps the elf turned and studied me for a long moment. “What is it that you’re thinking?”

“I’ll tell you what’s on my mind in a moment Isaac. Right now we are still too close to my brethren to talk.” I said in my softest whisper. He nodded and strode with me towards the beach. “When did you gain the gift of using your senses better than we can? You didn’t have that ability when we last met twenty-nine years ago.”

“I told you each time I come back from that brink I’m more powerful, have more gifts. Even what I can do right now is nothing compared to what I can do in my natural state, but I’m stronger, faster, can see better, smell better, and can feel things through my skin better than you can as a direct result of you killing me the last time I walked this plain. I don’t presume that is why you wanted to talk with me though.”

I shook my head no and when we got a sufficient distance from the lodge to avoid being overheard I glanced at Isaac and continued in a whisper. “I get the feeling you are not telling us everything you know about Denogoth. Please, what are you holding back Isaac?”

The elf didn’t say anything for quite a long time before answering. “I do know a bit more about this creature but I didn’t want to alarm everyone, least of all Iago. He is already too frightened and I saw no need to make it worse.” He sighed and gripped my forearm in a gentle comradery hold like a soldier from another time. “Denogoth is very ancient and powerful. Once he takes command of one of his intended host’s mind, there is nothing I know of that will break that link and he can follow the boy anywhere on this planet until his current host burns out completely. Desperation in an emergency gives him even more strength – so much so he can take almost any being as a host but older persons or persons who are not compatible do not make good host.” Isaac stopped walking and pulled me up short with him. “Galin, I do not wish to alarm you, but if he gets close enough to take Iago’s mind, then we’ve already lost the boy.”

“How do we protect my son then? I’ve come to hate bringing him here. If Iago were safe in Colorado then he wouldn’t be in this danger.”

“Do not second guess yourself Galin. You did what you thought was the right thing in accordance with what you knew at the time. You were also encouraged to bring him here and let him join our quest by those whose council you trust the most. It is not your fault. We will find a way to prevent this from happening. I will say this though, I do not want Iago out of my sight for very long periods at any time and speaking of which, we need to get back.”

“OK,” I nodded in agreement. “Isaac, when are you going after this medallion you need?”

“Tomorrow, I plan on leaving early in the morning and we should be back near sunset.”

“I take it you want Iago and me to accompany you?” I stumbled over something and looked down into the sand. At my feet was a long oblong shaped black rock. Even in the soft moonlight I could tell it was nothing like the common rocks found on this island and so I reached for it and picked it up. “What’s this?” I asked. A gentle tingling sensation pulsed in the palms of my hands where the cool black glassy stone touched me. After pulling it out of the sand I noticed it was not oblong but round like a discus and about a foot across and maybe two inches thick.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” Isaac reached out and touched the smooth side of the stone and immediately a soft blue light glinted from within the object. The longer he touched it the stronger it became and I felt drawn into it like looking off a cliff or looking into a fire for too long. In a matter of minutes I felt my balance falter and I began falling forward as my consciousness plunged down, down, and further down into the blue glowing stone. Isaac ripped the stone from me breaking my contact with it. “This is not of this Earth. I would suggest we leave it out here or take it further away and dispose of it.” He paused glancing into the stone’s smooth translucent surface and the pulsing, spiking blue light changed into a gentle swirling glow that reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of galaxies. Without warning the elf reared back and threw the object as hard as he could. I watched amazed while it disappeared into the distance before striking the ocean.

“Why did you do that?”

“If my suspicions are correct Denogoth planted it here for us to find, or more likely for Iago to find. I do not trust it.” He said.

“Do you think he was using it to eavesdrop on us?”

“I don’t know, but I think I will postpone my trip for the Valgeld until day after tomorrow. I have a very bad feeling about that object. It had an unfamiliar power about it.” He looked deep into my eyes and then back up the hill towards the lodge. Without saying another word he took off at a dead run moving so fast I had difficulty keeping up with him. Within seconds we burst through the door looking around wildly.

 

“What’s happened?” About four or five voices cried out at our abrupt entry.

 

“Where’s Iago?” Isaac asked almost panicked.

 

“In the bathroom. Klaus, Pumar, and Killian took him in there a moment ago.” Trent said.

 

“How long is a moment ago?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know, five, maybe ten minutes.”

 

I headed straight over to the bathroom door and opened it. To my relief Iago sat on the toilet arguing with the others to turn their heads so he could go. “What’s wrong?” Klaus asked when he got a look at my wild-eyed expression.

 

I shook my head no and then nodded for him to follow me leaving the door open. Klaus followed and I heard Iago’s plaintive voice from inside the bathroom. “Please close the door and look the other way. I need to go and I cannot with you watching.”

 

I leaned back into the door. Sons, look the other way and close the door. Keep the link between us open and I’ll be right here in the hall if anything happens. They both nodded and did as I bid. I closed the door and told Klaus what we found in the sand outside. “I almost wish Isaac hadn’t thrown it away because it may prove to be a clue that may help us beat this.”

 

“If Isaac decided to get rid of the thing then I’d trust his judgment.” Klaus said sagely. “He’s older than anyone here and he’s forgotten more than any of us ever knew to begin with, combined.”

 

“From what I’ve learned he’s never forgotten anything.” I mused. “But you’re right. If he thought we needed to get it away from us then I trust his judgment.”

 

You get used to people overhearing your conversations when everyone around you can hear a pin drop from nearly a thousand yards away on a windy day, so it was no surprise to me when Isaac came into the hallway. “I decided to throw it away on a whim. I don’t know why I did it and even now I’m beginning to have second thoughts about it. For one it will alert Denogoth that we found it. Of course, that’s assuming he’s the one who left it in the first place.” He paused. “I don’t know why, but I felt I needed to get rid of it. It felt… wrong somehow.”

 

“If it belongs to Denogoth, why would he leave it on the beach? Anyone could stumble upon it there.” Klaus asked rubbing his temples with his thumb and middle finger.

 

“I have no doubt he would have cast some spell upon it, or programmed it, to present itself only to the person, or persons he wished to find it. Galin and I were both there and it was he who stumbled over it. It did not react at all to him but remained an inert, dark, polished piece of black glass. For all intense and purposes it was simply sculpted obsidian. It reacted to the magic within me and I have no doubt it would have reacted similarly to the person it was specifically intended for – in this case, Iago.” A forlorn expression crossed Isaac’s face. “I’m not sure what the object was, but I’ve heard of similar things: items designed to entrap those foolish enough to dwell upon them. If Galin remembers what the stone looked like when I touched it, he can explain how it would have caught the fascination of a twelve year old boy.”

 

I shuddered at the thought because Isaac was right. “Yes, even for the short period of time we held it I was almost drawn into it after Isaac touched it. It was almost like looking into one of those spinning spiral tops that makes you dizzy as you watch the spiral design spin round and round.”

 

“Like it was hypnotizing you?” Klaus asked.

 

“Exactly, that’s exactly how it felt. It was almost like I was being pulled into it, down into a dark tunnel following the pretty spinning lights.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” Isaac asked alarmed.

 

“You didn’t give me time.” I leveled the elf a well deserved scowl. “You took the thing, threw it about three miles into the Atlantic and then took off running for the lodge like a bat from hell.” The bathroom door opened and two wereanimals wearing sour expressions and one satisfied twelve year old boy stepped out interrupting my train of thought. Of course both my older boys heard the conversation between the three of us in the hall. “Where are we sleeping?” I asked.

 

“In the living room, we’re going to set up a sleeping mat on the floor and form a nice kitten pile and put Iago smack dab in the middle.” Pumar said.

 

“Only if he’s no longer stinking. I wouldn’t go into the bathroom anytime soon if I were you.” Killian quipped.

 

I snickered at the young werewolf patting him on the shoulder. “You cannot tell me you haven’t smelled worse.”

 

“No, I’ve smelled worse, but I’ve never been locked in a room with it.” He lied and gave Iago a wry smile. This caused the boy to giggle so hard he held his stomach.

 

“You should have seen their faces pop.” He said between fits of giggles. “They were so funny.”

 

Killian bent down until his face was right in front of the boy’s and growled playfully. “You would think it’s funny. You have no idea how sensitive our noses are even in human form.” With that he licked Iago’s face from chin all the way up over his brow.

 

Iago wiped his face giving his own sour expression. “Pew, Dog’s breath!” He complained with mock exasperation.

 

“Maybe, but it’s better than that gawd awful smell that came out of your butt.” Killian said with a huge smile causing the boy to howl with laughter again. It did my heart good to see my boys getting along so well.

 

We slept that night exactly as Pumar said forming a huge huddle of bodies, mostly kitties, and placed Iago right in the middle. The people on the outer edges of the pile changed into their animal or were-forms to add extra protection to our group. No one used any of the bedrooms, not even Jacob or Isaac. Morning came before we knew it and the sun peaking through the blinds woke me, or was it a sound? I looked around confused, trying to make out where we were when memory flooded back and I winced. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so I pulled free of the huddle of bodies and made my way into the kitchenette to start the coffee brewing, yawned, and scratched my butt. “Finally, someone else is awake now and I don’t have to be nearly as quiet.” I looked around to find Jacob smiling at me.

 

“You’re sure up early, couldn’t sleep?”

 

“Na, when I don’t drink I wake up early. I may not like what that damned elf did to me, but I’m also grateful for it. I was quickly moving down a path of destruction like a car out of control.” Jacob briefly glanced at the coffee pot as I turned it on. “He says when this is all over, that I will need to live with him in England until I get used to my new duties. I hope they have coffee there because I hate tea.”

 

“Are you getting more accustomed to the idea of being a liaison for the entire human species?”

 

“I suppose I don’t have much choice in the matter. I still don’t know what to think of it, but I’m facing the idea of it better now than I was.” He leaned against the kitchen counter and crossed his arms. “I gotta question for you if you don’t mind me prying too much.”

 

“Shoot.”

 

“How is it that you are an assassin? You don’t act like a cold blooded killer. I’ve seen the way you dote on those you count as your family, the way you love them and protect them. It just doesn’t fit the profile of an assassin.”

 

It was my turn to lean against the counter top as I thought about my answer for a moment before speaking again. “The short answer is that assassination is my job. Assassin not who I am but what I am. But I am a weretiger and anyway you slice and dice it I am a killer – cold blooded or otherwise. I’ve killed humans many times before I became an assassin. I’ve killed them and eaten them and enjoyed it, but I came to realize that I didn’t have to be like that. I guess eternity is a very long time and I’ve had time to come to terms with it over the years.” The coffee maker quit dripping and I pulled the urn to pour a cup of Jo. “Want some?”

 

“You bet.” He took two cups out of the cupboard and sat them down on the counter where I filled them. “Doesn’t killing people for a living affect the other parts of your life?”

 

“I cannot say it doesn’t, but I’ve never had a problem separating the two for the most part.”

 

He sipped his coffee black, my kind of man. “Now that you have Iago to raise and Pumar and Greg, uh Killian, to train, will you continue with your present employment?”

 

I sipped my coffee to grant time to think about his question. “No, I cannot see me continuing in that line of work with Iago to raise. I don’t want it to affect him in a bad way.”

 

He smiled and slapped my back in a friendly gesture. “I’m glad to hear it. The world sees enough death without adding to it.” With this he turned and walked over into the living area and sat down near to Isaac who, to my astonishment, was still slumbering, snoring lightly. The smell of coffee soon roused most of the throng of wereanimals and slowly everyone started moving around and getting up, stumbling off to the bathroom or into the kitchenette to grab some brew. I stayed where I was and watched Jacob sip his coffee. He didn’t meet my eyes, but I had to wonder if my judgment of him was so off the mark. He may be a good “King” one of these days after all.

 

Isaac finally woke and sauntered into the kitchenette. I gave him a cup of breakfast tea I made especially for him and was greeted with a very warm smile when I handed it over. “Hmmm, wonderful. Where did you find the tea?”

 

“There’s a box of it in the cabinet – yea I know, shocked me too. So, what’s on the agenda today?”

 

“I need to go to the market and collect several ingredients, then I plan to spend most of the day preparing the draught we’ll need for the hike tomorrow.” He sipped his tea. “I want all of us to go together with Iago in the middle. I don’t wish to take any chances.”

 

I nodded my head in agreement. “OK, I’ll round everyone up and let them know. By the way my old friend, I think I’m beginning to see what it is you see in Jacob.” I walked off leaving it at that.

 

*          *          *

 

The market was small, but crowded. Isaac picked out a number of fruits and other plants including seasonings and spices. Iago looked board, but content to stay inside our little group. “When are we going back, this is getting heavy?” He complained.

 

“Soon,” Isaac answered.

 

I had pity on my boy and took the bags the elf piled in his hands and transferred them to Killian who walked beside me. “Here, you can carry these, can’t you?” My adopted son grumped but took the bags. Meanwhile I picked up Iago and carried him on my shoulders. The boy laughed as he held onto my neck and swayed this way and that to miss the canopies when I’d venture too closely to them on purpose just to hear him squeal and giggle. After a while I felt a presence off to my right and glanced in that direction. What I saw was a study in contrast. On the one hand he was a young man of about seventeen standing some twenty paces away holding Iago’s letter in his hands. After a moment I saw the physical toll Denogoth took on his host. Where a strapping young man should have stood was a washed up parody of that. This was the first time I got a really good look at Denogoth. A shiver ran through my body. The man looked nervously around him and then up gazing at something behind me. He then turned and walked briskly away like he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I turned and looked up. On top of a nearby building stood a man in a purple shirt, dark tan shorts held by a strange looking belt upon which a lot of small bags hung. I looked further down his legs and saw he sported a pair of sandals the same color as his shorts. To my surprise he held a long wooden staff in his left hand. His face was full of sharp angles and he wore a Van Dike mustache and beard. His hair was short, reaching just to the edge of his shirt color. He was a strong, healthy, and robust looking young man although it looked like he had a bit of silver streaking his hair just above his brows. He was downwind of me so I wasn’t able to sample his scent, but he looked like a friend rather than foe. 

 

I caught Isaac’s attention and nudged my chin up towards the stranger. “I don’t know who he is, but he’s not Denogoth.” The elf looked at me and then back at the stranger who nodded slightly in acknowledgement and watched as our group moved off leaving him where he stood.

 

I know he’s not Denogoth. I saw him only seconds before he saw this character. Who do you think he is?

 

Isaac thought for a moment on that. “You saw Denogoth? Are you sure?”

 

I nodded my head. “Yes he was standing just over there and he held Iago’s letter in his hand.” I looked up where the stranger still stood. “He got nervous and looked around before glancing up at him. He couldn’t get out of here fast enough.”

 

“This may complicate things. If he’s afraid of our new friend and the man insist on hanging around, our plan may not work.”

 

“Who do you think he is?” I asked. I’d thought of what Isaac said and it bothered me, but maybe if Denogoth is afraid of this stranger then we may be able to employ his help in protecting my son.

 

“Look closer Galin, he’s not even human. I suspect he’s another wereanimal like you, but I cannot place the species.”

 

I took a closer look and Isaac was right. “Do you think I should introduce myself to him?”

 

“No, if he wants to meet you, he will introduce himself.” I nodded in consent and moved on so I could stay in the center of our friends. “I’ve got what I came for, if you are ready to go back now we may.” Isaac informed us after about thirty more minutes. I was relieved to be done in the market and heading back to the relative safety of the lodge. It pleased me that Iago’s plan seemed to be working. At least Denogoth took the letter we left for him. Iago wrote it and addressed it to the creature, “For Denogoth” written in bold letters on the front of the white envelope.

 

I glanced back toward the top of the building and the man was gone. I guess Isaac is right. I thought to no one in particular.

 

I have a feeling son, that we’ve not seen the last of that one. Maybe it’s for the good that he’s around. Rakish thought back to me.

 

I certainly hope so dad. I glanced over at Rakish and smiled. I certainly hope so.

 

Iago’s letter to Denogoth was the only thing at the lodge that was disturbed, but his scent was all over the place – inside and out. It concerned me that he could so easily break into the lodge without leaving any trace but his scent. “I think we should leave right now for this trinket you need Isaac. I don’t like this and the sooner we can leave the island, the better.” I said looking at the elf trying to will him into agreeing with me.

 

“I agree that we need to leave sooner rather than later Galin, but this cannot be rushed. It is not so simple a thing to retrieve. When I hid it here, I took certain precautions to make sure it stayed here until I came for it. We may leave this afternoon for the Boiling Lake, but it will be well after dark before we get the medallion and return with it successfully.” Isaac patted my back as he finished his small speech. “Honest Galin, this afternoon or in the morning will make no difference. I think it would be best for us to relax this afternoon, get a good night’s sleep tonight, and then get up and leave early in the morning for the top of the mountain.” I nodded my head and resolved to trust the elf’s judgment. The only people in our group who will not fair well with this little trip will be Iago and Jacob since they are both human. Iago probably will have little or no problems, but Jacob, I wasn’t sure he should go.

 

The afternoon went without any problems and we all went to the beach several times to entertain Iago with a good swim or to play in the surf and sand. We also wanted it to look like business as usual with nothing out of the ordinary. About sunset I saw Denogoth again. He stood up the beach from us watching. I’ll be right back guys. I thought to my family. Keep Iago safe. I strode off towards the young man standing about one fifth of a mile from us. He saw me coming and started to leave but something changed his mind. I slowly approached. I didn’t want to frighten him off and I didn’t want to give him reason to attack me either. I thought I could take him, but who knows. My feet came to a stop about fifteen feet from him and we stood there studying each other closely. “Greetings.” He said.

 

I nodded my head to him. “Hello. Why are you doing this?”

 

“I need a new host.” He said simply.

 

“You may not have my son.” I said in a little more threatening voice then I intended.

 

“Over the millenniums many parents have made that same threat but to no avail. I always get what I want in the end.” As he looked at me a funny expression crossed his face. “You are not human, yet your son as you call him is. Why is this?”

 

“I adopted him when his real parents were killed but I love him as though he were my own. I will not let you have him.”

 

“We’ll see. But you’ve only answered one part of my inquiry. What are you?”

 

“I’m… complicated.” I said and in a way of explanation I allowed my hands to shift into their most dangerous shape. I watched his eyes closely as he witnessed my fingers transforming into lethal talons in front of his eyes. He swallowed hard but held his ground.

 

“Do you not find it strange that I’ve never encountered your kind after living on this miserable planet for nearly nine-thousand years?” He looked me in my eyes. “I didn’t choose to be here you know. I would love to get away from your planet and back to my own people. Unfortunately I had no choice. My ship crashing here. Your species, or rather humans, are not a good choice of host for me, but I’ve had to make do with what I have available to me. Your son, as you call him, is the most compatible host I have seen in over two and a half thousand years. The last time I occupied a host like him I could cure him of his wounds including those I caused him. We would have been able to live for hundreds of years with each other had he not been killed by one of my foes.” He shook his head like he was truly sorry. “I’m sorry, but I have no choice yet again. I must have the boy.”

 

“You come for him and you and I will fight to the death.” I warned him.

 

“Then so be it.” He bowed to me and backed away slowly. When he felt he was a safe distance from me he turned and walked away maintaining a rather casual pace. I glared at his receding form fighting the urge to rush him to rip his body to pieces. Do not do it. There are other ways to fight this one. I heard in my mind. It wasn’t Rakish, Pumar, or Killian, so who’d spoken. I was used to their mental voices and this fit none of them. I looked around for who may have spoken to me. Standing in the shadows of some trees half hidden by the branches and leaves stood the stranger from the market.

 

Who are you? I thought to him but he didn’t answer. “Who are you?” I asked again in spoken English.

 

He looked startled. You can hear my thoughts? He asked.

 

Yes. I assured him.

 

He thought for a moment before answering my original question. I can be a friend or a formidable foe depending on who you are and what you’ve done. I see friend here. He said. I’ve not met your kind before. Who are you?

 

I’m Galin, a weretiger. I answered him. I figured he overheard my conversation with Denogoth anyway, so why try and hide who I am. He stepped from the cover of his tree and I saw his clothes of earlier had changed into a purple tunic held together by a leather belt. Like before all sorts of pouches hung from it. His feet had the sandals but this time I noticed the leather straps holding the sandals in place and laced all the way up his legs to his knees. Only then did I notice his face was not human at all, but looked more like a fox’s.

 

I am Deveeda of the Order of Netric. I am a Vulpan. He said and cocked his head when he realized I didn’t understand any of it. I understood his language, but not the meaning of what he just said. Who are the Vulpans and what is the Order of Netric? He seemed to understand my confusion. I’m not from your world, but a parallel reality. I was looking for person’s to help my people and me when a vortex caught me up and deposited me here, wherever here is. He said looking around with a touch of unease in his eyes.

 

I nodded in understanding at last. “Forgive me for being rude.” I said out loud. “Welcome to Earth.” I said with a little nervous laugh and held out my hand to him. It had already reshaped into my human hand.

 

He nodded and took my proffered hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Would you like to come back with me and meet the others?” I offered the invitation.

 

“I would like that. I’ve felt out of sorts since the vortex deposited me here. Today, for the first time, I felt as though I was in the company of others more like me.”

 

“Come then and I’ll introduce you to the others.” I said offering my hand in a welcoming gesture to steer him in the direction of where my friends waited for me.

 

He took the gesture and we started walking towards the others. “What exactly is a weretiger?”

 

“It’s a long story, but to put it into simple terms I’m a shapeshifter and tiger is the shape I’m able to shift into.”

 

“Ah,” He said, “I think I understand now. I’m similar, but I don’t shift the way you do. All of my people look like me and we were born this way. I can hide my true identity when I’m around people who do not understand me, but I never really reshape the way I saw you do with your hands.” I smiled and we continued with small talk as we continued on towards the other members of my fellowship. I think I’m going to like this guy. I thought to myself and hoped he couldn’t pick up on my quieter, inner, more guarded thoughts.