Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter Five
© 2009 by Lootah Akecheta
Warning! This story contains physical violence, strong language, and bloodshed. It is not intended for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.
Note: While this story will have interment moments in it, it is not intended to be an erotic tail. There will be no more of the graphically explicit sex sense as is found in chapter 4 of this story. I’ve chosen to do this because I wish to try and publish this story with a mainstream publishing company for a general audience when I get it complete.
Disclaimer: This is a story of adult sexual content
between consenting adults. 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 do
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After our shower I decided it was best to take a catnap. I knew what awaited my lunar-son tonight and I wanted him to be rested. The shower took care of more than just cooling us down and making us clean. The sex was great. It became common knowledge over the centuries that one hunger will feed others and we took care of our appetite for food at the dinner this afternoon and the sexual cravings in the shower. Next in store is the hunt and we will all enjoy that.
I woke about an hour after we lay down. At first I wasn’t sure what disturbed me and then I heard it again. Alex moaned tossing around and grabbed the sheets in his fist, pulling hard, body flexing with every muscle pulled tight like a stretched rubber band. I took his face in my hands and he opened his eyes, which rolled around not focusing on anything. Crying out again he pitched his head back and forth between my hands arching his back. Fangs glistened wetly in his mouth. Fangs; where the hell did they come from? He shouldn’t have them, not yet – not until tonight when the moon rises. No wereanimal I’ve ever known or heard about changed before their first full moon. “Alex. Alex, honey please wake up.” No good, he couldn’t hear me. I slapped his face – not very hard but enough to get his attention. A deep growl escaped his lips as his eyes focused on me.
“Galin, what… what’s wrong?” His voice was deep and gravelly; that tale, tale sign of the change.
“The shift started early but I don’t know why. How do you feel?”
“I don’t know… I feel strange: not myself.”
“Do you feel hot?”
“Are you hurting?”
“Not really but I’m sore, really sore, like I over did a work out.”
“Do you think you’ll be OK long enough for me to get Mina and the others?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“OK, I’ll be right back.” I kissed his forehead, which burned with the fever. I brushed his sweat soaked hair back with my hand and held it on top of his burning head. “I swear I’ll be right back.”
He nodded his head and then grabbed my arm with both his hands: “NO! Please don’t leave me please, I’m scared.”
Damn! I thought. “OK, OK, I’ll stay with you. I’m not going anywhere Alex; I’ll stay here with you.” He relaxed his grip and seemed to breathe easier. I looked at him for a little bit longer and realized I needed help bad. People who knew what the hell they were doing needed to be here. I couldn’t help my lunar-son because I’ve never dealt with this before. I paced back and forth trying to decide how to handle this but found myself at a loss. How do I get the help I need and not leave Alex alone? Finally it hit me: Shit! I can take him with me. I reached down and gently lifted Alex into my arms.
“I can’t leave you but I need help Alex, so I’m taking you with me.” He looked at me a moment before his eyes rolled back into his head lost to unconsciousness again.
I left the cabin with Alex in my arms not bothering to close the door. Looking around for anyone who may offer help I saw a couple of panthers walking away towards the garden. I ran their direction and soon overtook them. “Please we need help. Alex started his first change. Do you know where Mina is?” They looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Mina, my queen, do you know where she is?” About that time they took a good look at Alex hanging limp in my arms. Both of them paled. His transformation progressed slowly but had gone far enough to be obvious.
The woman stammered but managed to tell me what I needed to know. “Yes… I… I believe she’s still talking with Shanita in the garden. They’re sitting by the spring.”
“Thanks.” I said and began running for the garden. The two panthers followed close behind but I wasn’t sure if it was so they could help if needed or just curiosity. When I got to the garden I saw Mina and Shanita sitting almost exactly where I’d left them earlier. There were several panthers hanging around and Klaus was under the ancient oak talking with Shea. I flew onto the lawn area around the spring but stopped a respectable distance from the matrons. “Mina: help us – please.”
“What’s happened Galin?”
“It’s Alex, he’s turning.”
Mina blanched. “But that’s impossible.” Both she and Shanita hopped up and came to us. Mina looked over at Klaus who paused in his conversation with Shea to see what was happening. “Klaus please go and gather all of our people and bring them back here. Please, go now!” Klaus bowed his head and obeyed.
I lay Alex in the grass near the spring and under the oak where the tables previously stood. His fangs were quite a bit larger than they were and his fingers had already changed to talon like claws. Consciousness was the only difference because he came too again while I carried him. I looked at him and realized the change was slowly forcing itself upon him like a time bomb counting down the minutes to disaster. If it kept up he’d be slowly pulled apart like someone overstretching Stretch Armstrong. His eyes were feral and his jaws elongated into a short muzzle. Mina looked at me. It was obvious she’d never seen this before. “None of this should be happening until the moon rises Galin. How is this possible?”
“I don’t know.” I admitted as I reached to take one of my lunar-son’s arms. Mina took the other as we attempted to hold him down as another fit raked his body. Right then Klaus returned with Rōk, Rakish, Szilárd, and András in tow while Shanita called some of her panthers around in case we needed them.
The panther’s matron looked at the young woman standing just behind Klaus and the others. “Shea please find Sapokni Poloma and tell her we need her.” Shea nodded and disappeared. I swear I didn’t even see her move – one moment there and the next gone into thin air.
The men of my clan each took a limb to hold Alex down as one spasm after another racked his body causing him to thrash on the ground kicking his feet out like he was trying to pull himself free of some gelatinous goo or something. It didn’t take long for the old shaman to come. I assume she must have been pretty close considering how slowly she walks. She sat by Alex’s head and placed her hands on his forehead. He almost immediately calmed some. It was odd watching her work. “Galin you must change now. Take your tiger form and stay up close where he can see you. Hurry because I’m not sure how long I can hold him like this.” I gasped as my lungs burned for oxygen; I’d been holding my breath and hadn’t realized it. I tried to relax and concentrated on the change but it was no good. I couldn’t focus. All I could see was Alex in the clutches of this horrible transition in slow motion and how it was hurting him. A moan escaped his lips again as his eyes lost all focus.
Mina grabbed my arm. “Center Galin, you must call your beast now or I will force him.” I nodded my head and concentrated harder this time. It worked. I felt the familiar shifts in my body as I glided from human to cat: one moment a man and the next a tiger. I padded over near my lunar-son’s head and lay down in the grass next to him. I expected him to be frightened when he saw me, but my scent seemed to calm him and make him focus again. The connection between us was much stronger in this form. This surprised me, not that I’ve never heard of it, but because I’ve never experienced it. Rakish never connected with me and I’ve never connected with any of my lunar-children before either. This interested and tried to distract me, but a loud moan from Alex jolted my attention back on him and the moment at hand. My tiger was like a beacon for him. It was as the old woman foretold. I could show him the way for his beast or give strength to his human but something was still wrong. While he calmed he was not changing fast enough nor reverting back into his human form. It was like a car stuck in mud; he seemed mired between human and beast, which also shouldn’t happen. Shanita joined Mina and touched Alex’s chest and shoulder while the other tigers held down his arms and legs. His claws dug ruts in the grass and earth beneath as his back bent almost double with a new spasm of pain.
Sapokni Poloma stayed at his head holding both her hands on either side of his face. She began to chant softly over him in Choctaw and his entire being quieted listening to the rhythmic cadences of her voice; his breathing eased; the frantic look in his eyes calmed more, and his back flattened out of its arch, but it was only temporary – his body had not stopped what had started only slowed down further. I stood up and leaned in so I hovered over him until our noses touched. I breathed in his scent and let him breath in mine. The closeness and familiarity drew our eyes to lock onto each other. He was in there; I could see him like a small, timid, and frightened child holding a stupid stick up against his beast. Both of them looked out at me. Alex was scared but he trusted me to take care of him. His beast however was not scared at all but angry. He was furious that the change had stopped. He wanted out and he wasn’t too concerned about the human body that imprisoned him. The enormous black cat stood and paced back and forth in front of the child holding the stick and he looked at me accusingly. I realized what the problem was immediately. The tiger wanted out so badly that it initiated the change hours early, but the frightened child held it back – they were in a struggle of wills.
One of the gifts of being in our animal form is the ability to communicate in totally different ways than humans do. Granted we have the body language all animals seem to know and share, but many shapeshifters develop a form of mental telepathy with certain clan members who are close to them. Most of the time both persons have to be in animal form for it to work, but in fairly rare instances it only requires one and Mina was the only person I’ve ever been able to do this with. I focused my thoughts toward her. He and his beast are causing this.
“What, why?” Mina couldn’t understand what I was trying to say.
His beast wants out and so it initiated the change but Alex is afraid to let go. I thought to her again. This time she got what I meant and relayed it to the others.
“Yes, I don’t know why but he wants out badly. We must calm him if we can.” Sapokni Poloma said. She looked at Shanita and Mina. “I need the two of you to touch me and him at the same time.” She looked at me. “You need to keep staring into his eyes, do not break eye contact.” I nodded my cats head in a most human fashion. Mina and Shanita each reached a hand to hold the old woman’s shoulders making sure to make skin contact while keeping a hand on Alex’s bare chest. “First we’re going to try and calm his beast, if this doesn’t work then we will have no choice but to force his tiger to complete the transformation. I’d much rather the first option.” The matrons indicated they both understood what she was talking about. I knew at times Mina had to force clan member’s beast either to save them from a mortal wound or to prove her dominance to an insubordinate member of our clan but never before the first full moon. Sapokni Poloma began her chants again and a faint glow formed between her hands and Alex’s forehead and temples. So faint I wasn’t sure anyone else could see it, but as a tiger my eyes saw things most humans cannot and that include shapeshifters in their human forms. She continued to chant and the light spread over his face and traced down his figure until it undulated like eddies of a breeze flowing over his body creating a similar pattern to that made by sunlight shining through water to dapple the bottom of a pool.
As soon as his body seemed to relax he began thrashing around again. Shea scratched behind my ears. “His eyes Galin look into his eyes.” I’d forgotten all about it. I leaned down and focused on the frightened child I’d seen within him and as soon as he sensed my presence he reached out to me with his mind. It wasn’t a slap but more like a steamroller running over me. He was so frightened he seized the only thing he saw as solid and stable – me. As soon as our eyes made contact he calmed down again and gained strength. I could see and feel his beast raging around agitated by the calming affect we all had on Alex’s human side. I focused on the aggravated tiger trying to think calming, soothing thoughts to him and sensed danger but from what or where I couldn’t discern so I brushed it off. The combination of strengthening Alex’s psyche and calming the tiger’s seemed to work at least enough for him to stopped pacing and look at me. After a long time the big beast sat down relaxing. He lowered his big head and then looked up as a sleepy child will do when he doesn’t want to pass into dreamland. I realized he was indeed growing sleepy as he flopped down onto his side and began cleaning his paw to wipe his face. He stretched out and yawned showing enormous fangs. And just like that the tiger was asleep and Alex had almost returned to normal. His eyes lost that feral fever and his claws returned to fingers, but his fangs were still long and sharp in his mouth.
Sapokni Poloma’s chanting eased to an end and she looked up at me smiling. “His beast is asleep for now. Hopefully it will continue to dream until the moon calls him. I’ve served the werepanthers of the Swampbane Tribe for nearly eighty-five years and I’ve never seen anyone’s beast this strong or so determined to escape his human’s bonds. Most are not able to force this sort of change even after the first full moon and some not ever. It is backwards because the beast never initiates the change. It is the human and the moon who call to the beast.” The woman seemed to think about something – you could see the proverbial light bulb flash on above her head. “Each of you has special talents which you gain from your animal. In Shanita and Mina’s cases they are superb leaders, and Shea is gifted with Sight not much unlike my own ability only hers requires touch. There may be something special about Alex’s cat too.”
Shanita asked her shaman a question and her voice sounded tired: “What does this mean though? It took all four of us to clam his tiger, what sort of creature will he be once he changes?”
“A very powerful one I’m sure, but he is still a cub and as such he will still need Galin to train and teach him.” She looked at me. “You may well be the only one who will be strong enough to do the job. He will listen to you in part because he trusts you and because you are his lunar-father. The connection you share will give you an advantage no one else will have, but it will be a double edged sward.”
What does she mean? I asked Mina who voiced my question.
“While you will be able to use this connection to teach and control Alex, he will also be able to use it to try and control you. You must stay on your guard or you will have one very spoiled cub on your hands.”
Alex came around as the old woman said the last of this, but he missed most of it. He looked at me and his eyes widened not out of fear but surprise. I thought: How are you feeling. “I’m OK. What happened?” He felt his fangs with his tongue as he talked prompting him to reached up to touch them with his fingers. A look of panic flashed across his face. It’s OK Alex, it happened when your beast tried to force the change but he is asleep now. You don’t need to worry. His trust in me eased his mounting fear. After a moment he realized I was talking with him. “How can I hear your voice, you aren’t speaking?” I’m communicating with your mind. Apparently it’s part of the link between us, who’d have guessed? This seemed to mollify him for a moment or two. He looked at the others who, all but Mina, had loosened their grips but had not let go entirely. “Was it that bad?” It was bad Alex, but we stopped it for now. It will return when the moon rises, but it will be different, easier, and a lot calmer.
“You might have hurt yourself if we didn’t hold you down.” Rōk said. Alex nodded his head.
“What will happen next?” Hopefully your tiger will sleep or at least rest until moonrise. We will see then. “OK, thank you, all of you.” We nodded and everyone visibly relaxed. Some of us sat down beside him but most returned to what they were doing before, only now they kept close enough to help should it all start up again. I stayed in my tiger form because it was too close to the full moon for me to easily change back. Once the moon rises I’ll be able to change back to my half human/beast shape but until then it takes too much energy. Except by the light of a full moon the change takes a lot of energy. This is especially so when you force a change against the lunar cycle or force a person’s beast to surface.
“Where are my clothes?” Alex asked looking down at his body. We were sleeping in the room when all of this started. I didn’t have time to dress you. He seemed content with this. All shapeshifters are relaxed about nudity. It has something to do with our animal persona. After the gift begins to affect us from the time we’re turned, our beast almost immediately begins to influence our human psyche and vice versa. Things that used to bother us such as public nudity or killing someone just don’t seem as disturbing as before and the desire to hunt and kill is slackened except in our full animal form. After all tigers are animals and no natural creature other than humans make and wear clothes. Even humans don’t need clothes unless we’re in the Earth’s colder climates. It’s more social, political, and religious bullshit that makes nudity taboo.
I lay on the grass next to Alex and watched him breath. It was neat looking at him through my tiger’s eyes. I could see all the different shades of temperature throughout his body blazing against the cooler colors of the earth under him and yet I could see the minutest detail of his features. When they try and show how predators see on TV it shows the temperature colors but it leaves out so much; like depth and detail and I mean all the little intricacies such as how an eyelash fastens to the lid and sweat oozing out of a pore and all the three-D qualities binocular vision supplies. We lay like that for a couple of hours until darkness wasn’t very far off. The setting sun sunk behind the cypress trees casting golden rays to silhouette the trees with their Spanish moss hanging from the boughs. It looked like a Tim Burton style antebellum ballroom dance with shawls draped over delicate bony arms. All we needed was the mellifluousness of a Franz Schubert’s Waltz to complete the ensemble. The scene was breath taking if a bit macabre.
I looked at Alex again. He drifted off to sleep sometime ago and looked rather peaceful lying in the grass. Soon night would fall and we’d all prepare to move to Swampbane’s council grounds. It was very nice of Shanita and the other panther’s to share their private sanctum with outsiders. We may all be shapeshifters, but it is extremely rare for a lycanthrope species to share such personal space and times as the full moon rites with strangers. The hike would take about an hour and we were expecting to arrive at the clearing about an hour before the moon was scheduled to rise. We all felt the change approaching. No one has to tell a lycanthrope when a full moon is rising. It always announces itself as a slight tingle in our chest around the solar plexus and from there it spreads to our joints. Later when the moon actually does rise and its light spreads across us the tingle reaches throughout our bodies and then the magic starts. Again TV has it all wrong. Hollywood always likes to dramatize it as a horrible and painful event. But unlike any other time we may choose to turn, a full moon change flows like water and is smooth as fine silk. While our bodies heat up before the event the transformation is actually cool and invigorating. Conversely when we initiate a change between full moons it’s always more difficult and uses a lot of personal energy but never as bad as movies depict it – except for Alex this afternoon I’ve never seen a difficult transformation.
We started out in a procession with Mina and Rōk accompanying Shanita, Shea and the other council members at the head. Behind them followed a general procession made up of the rest of us with no special order. Total there were about sixty panthers and the eight of us tigers on this march. Sapokni Poloma was not among us because the council was just a tad bit nervous with eight tigers among them and the old shaman was way too valuable to risk. We didn’t take offense to it. If we had a mortal of that value to us in our clan we wouldn’t even let her near any other wereanimals if we could avoid it. I guess tigers are just a little less trusting of others than our panther cousins. Alex walked beside me but I noticed he was very quiet. How are you feeling son? He looked at me. “I’m OK.” You’re awfully quiet. “Just thinking about tonight and I can’t shake the feeling something is wrong.” It’ll be fine Alex, honestly. A lunar change is easy. It’s a little disorienting but easy. “It’s not that. I just feel like… I don’t know, something doesn’t feel right.” He didn’t say anything more and I didn’t press him. Maybe if I had we could have avoided what came next.
While making our way down the path Alex stumbled. We were near a bend in the river where the trail skirted the Escambia’s banks. Currents swirled dark and foreboding in the evening’s light. At first I thought he’d tripped on a root, but he hit the ground thrashing in convulsions like in the grips of a Grand mall seizure. Those who were nearby jumped in to hold him down, but this proved to be a lot more difficult than one would think. This time it was much more violent. He cried out in agony as metaphysical claws ripped through his body. I could see the paws of his tiger raking against the inside of his skin in an almost frantic attempt to escape. I thought it’d rip him apart at any moment and then Shanita and Mina were there with us trying to help. “We have to calm him down now!” Mina cried. I didn’t know what to do. I looked into his eyes like I did before but his tiger would have nothing of it. He refused to return my gaze and kept Alex from focusing on me. Mina took Alex’s head in her hands as Sapokni Poloma had done trying to calm his beast, but it was doing nothing for him this time. Damn, I’ve never wished so much for a mere human to be with us before. Even with the enhanced physical strength all shapeshifters enjoy, it was difficult holding my lunar-son down. The force inside trying to escape him was far too strong, surpassing what it should even for a seasoned weretiger.
Mina shouted for me to make him look into my eyes and I was trying it when I heard a noise no one else seemed to hear. I looked up in time to see a small black form slip out of the water and waddle over to us. My tiger’s interest was instantly peaked because if this wasn’t a tasty morsel then it might prove to be dangerous. The surprise clearly shown on everyone’s face as a river otter slipped between us and sat a foot or so away from Alex. I was dumbfounded and seeing the creature made me more than a little hungry. Alex was still thrashing around but aside from panthers and tigers holding his arms and legs all of our attention was on this little creature that sat there looking at us all as though it were the most normal of things to do. We watched as his body began trembling and shaking like it was cold. Then it shifted and blurred like looking at something cross-eyed. The next thing I knew I was looking at a very small nude man. He was only about four feet tall if he were standing and he had a long tassel of red hair hanging down his back and a thin red van dike beard and pencil thin mustache. His build was nice and it matched his height well – that is to say he was well proportioned. “Stop, please.” His voice was not high pitched like I thought it’d be, but more like a man of much larger statue.
Mina started to say something to the little man but it was Shanita who spoke. “Master Frisk, why are you here?”
“I’ve just come from Five Bends up river and I saw a pack of wolves heading this way. I cannot believe they have malicious intentions considering your treaty but being this far into Panther Territory breaks your truce.” Five Bends is the place about ten miles upriver that the otters call home. It is their name for it and holds no meaning except to the otters. There are not five river bends there but only one lazy jag in the river. He looked at Alex. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s started his first turn early. His beast is trying to get out.”
“His first turn, but the moon’s not up yet. Are you sure?”
“Look at him, what do you think?”
Alton Frisk studied Alex briefly and nodded his head. “It would appear this is so. How strange! If I were you I’d help him turn before he’s torn apart.”
The words of Sapokni Poloma rang in my head: Each of you has a special gift that your beast gives you. In Shanita and Mina’s cases it is superb leadership, and Shea is gifted with Sight not much unlike my own ability only hers requires touch. There may be something special about Alex’s cat too. I recited the words to Mina’s mind. What if his tiger is sensing danger and trying to turn before it’s too late? “You have a point Galin.” She relayed what I said to Shanita. “Do you think we ought to force his beast?”
“I hate to do it, but if the wolves are breaking our pact after nearly three-hundred years it would be in his best interest. This cannot be good.” The women knelt on either side of Alex’s shoulders laying a hand on his head and another on his stomach. Both closed their eyes and began concentrating on Pumar’s beast. Mina’s power rolled over and through his body melding with his tiger pulling him towards the surface. Alex’s psyche refused to let go but Mina reassured him and pushed harder. The resistance of his will surprised her but she pushed a little more at a time until she felt him give. His tiger raged forward running full out until he hit the surface of Alex’s body exploding out of him. Where Alex lay a moment before a very large, black, and wet tiger was now. He panted with exhaustion and looked around at us all. His anger was palatable, but controlled.
When he spied Alton licking his muzzle as though he might make a nice tasty treat the little man backed up quickly until Shanita stood between the large beast and him. “Lady Shanita please…”
“We will not let him harm you Alton but it really is dangerous for you to be here right now”
“I know that but I thought you needed to know what we saw.”
“Yes it is important and we do thank you, but you must think about your safety.” He nodded his head but stayed where he stood.
I stepped over and began grooming my lunar-son cleaning his wet fur. Usually when we turn it’s smooth and dry, but when it’s forced it’s like we’ve bled all over ourselves. Most cats don’t like it and we avoid forcing anyone’s beast as much as possible. It may be blood but somehow it seems tainted. Pumar purred and returned the attention I was giving him. If there’s one thing all cats enjoy, it’s being groomed, species doesn’t matter. While I groomed Pumar, Alton and Shanita continued their conversation. I was only partially listening until I heard one small detail. “There’s a woman with them. She’s no shapeshifter but she scared me.” I looked at the redheaded man all attention focused on his words. He must have thought I was thinking about eating him because he stepped a little further behind Shanita.
Mina voiced my thoughts: “Angela.” I realized my mistake much too late. Shit! Mina, I’m sorry but I think I brought this down on us. “How do you mean?” She asked. I forgot to call her. She’s not a very patient person at the best of times and I forgot to call with my report. “Shit Galin! This is not good.” She turned to look at Pumar. “It would be best if you take a swim Pumar and wash off the blood from the change.” She looked at herself and all the tigers and panthers who were close to him when his beast surfaced. “Maybe we all should take a swim.” She wore a look of disgust at the blood that splattered her. “Galin, when he comes back from his swim take him hunting and make it quick. The faster he eats the better things will go for him. We cannot let them take him.” She turned to Alton. “How many wolves did you see?”
“At least thirty of them, but there could be more. Needless to say we kept our distance.” He was still using Shanita as a shield peeking out from around her legs.
“How many panthers are there here?” She asked Shanita.
“We have sixty-eight here with us, and another seventy-six will be coming right before the rites begin.”
Mina nodded and stared at the woman deep in thought. “That’s 144; I hate to ask this, but…”
Shanita cut her off. “Mina, you are our guest and I like to think of you as my friend even though we’ve only known you a day. Also Isaac’s mission is far too important. We will stand and fight with you. Are you sure they’re after Pumar?”
“Pretty sure of it:” Mina told her of my dream of
the werewolves attacking making off with Alex. “I don’t know about you, but I
take dreams very seriously.”
“As do I. I’m 347 years old Mina including my life as a mortal and I’m Choctaw, I’ve learned dreams are at the very least our subconscious trying to communicate with us, but many times it’s far more. They are bound to be planning an attack on the council grounds. As that may be it is still the easiest place to defend.” She turned to a man standing beside her. I’d seen him earlier but was never introduced. “Burton, take two thirds of our people and defend our sacred grounds. The rest of us will be there shortly as soon as Galin and Pumar return. She turned to Shea, “Go back to the village and warn them of what’s going on and then meet us back here if you can. Make sure Isaac and Jacob are secure and safe.” Shea nodded and disappeared as she had earlier, one moment there and the next empty air.
Pumar was still sitting beside me. He seemed unwilling to leave my side. Why do I have to get in the water?
Because you stink, I leaned over and rubbed my muzzle against his affectionately to show I was teasing. We have to get you as clean as possible. Right now you smell like a newborn kitten. He gave me a look that suggested what I could do with that comment. I had to meow at him. If it could be said a cat can smile I was grinning ear to ear. Come on, let’s go swimming. I padded over to the bank of the river and looked at the swift currents. Mina, I’m not sure this is a good place to get in. Pumar’s never swam in this form before.
Mina checked out the water. “It’s swift but not bad. Pumar, you’ve dog paddled as a kid, right?” He nodded his big cat’s head in accord. “Swimming in this form is just like that. Keep your paws moving and you’ll be alright.” He growled deep in his throat clearly not at all happy about any of this.
Pussy cat: I teased. He growled again batting at me playfully with is big paw but then joined me at the river’s edge. I slipped into the water swimming around so I faced the shore. Come on in son, it’s not as bad as I thought.
Yea sure and you think this is a good idea why? He snarled as his paws splashed in the river’s edge.
The river will wash most of the scent away. While hunting we can find something real nasty for you to rub in to mask the rest of it. He seemed to like this idea even less but he splashed on in joining me in the deeper currents. We had to swim pretty hard to keep near the bank but I dipped my head under to show him how and he followed suit coming back up sputtering and breathing really hard.
May I get out now?
One more dip. He gave me a ‘fuck you’ look and I chuckled as I watched him obey. This time he almost chocked when water went up his nose and immediately swam for shore shaking like a big shaggy dog once he got close enough to Mina to make sure she got wet. This didn’t amuse her at all. She was giving Master Frisk the shortened version of why it was so important to protect Pumar and about Isaac’s mission when it started raining all over her, Master Frisk, Shanita and about ten other tigers and panthers. All of them looked mutinous and about ready to murder my lunar-son who purred as he sauntered away swinging his tail back and forth lazily. I crept out of the water and dashed after Pumar tying to get as far away from my queen as I could get. If Pumar wanted to risk pissing her off like that it was his prerogative, but I had no intention of hanging around to receive the brunt of it. I heard Mina swear: “I’ll get him for that.” Master Frisk was chuckling; water didn’t bother him.
Pumar and I went hunting concentrating on finding what we needed rather than instructing him on the more delicate aspects of the hunt. Stay a little behind me and watch what I do Pumar. We don’t have the luxury of taking our time with this.
You got it boss. He playfully nipped my flank as I passed by. It would be a miracle to find any kind of prey with all the predators in the woods this evening, but after about a mile heading upwind, which happened to be east, I caught the scent of something that would work. I moved with ease through the brush with Pumar following behind not quite as adept at keeping quiet as I would like. He wasn’t making a lot of noise, but sometimes it doesn’t take much. What really annoyed me was the tune he had running through his head: A Hunting We Will Go, a hunting we will go, high ho the dairy oh… Elmer Fudd ring any bells? That waskily wabbit. If he starts bouncing on his tail I’m nicknaming him Tigger?
Pumar, you need to be a little bit quieter or we’re likely to never catch anything, and would you please stop singing that? I swear I heard him chuckle.
Sorry but I’ve never been in a swamp before or hunting for that matter. So far he’d fallen twice, once in a mud hole so deep and thick I thought he’d drown before he paddled his way out of it. There was little I could do but watch and wait. It stunk so badly there was no need to find something nasty for him to roll in now. The second time he tripped over a tree root while looking off to the right at something I’m still not sure what. Whatever it was caught his attention and distracted him from watching his path. I never thought I’d see a cat of any kind this clumsy. Almost any other time I’d have laughed.
We crawled over logs, squeezed under and through branches, twisted around trees, and skirted sinkholes and bogs as we made our way for another quarter mile. Finally we came across a large pond or lake that looked rather deep with canals leading off from it snaking their way deeper into the woods. This is where I’d detected our first attempt at a kill. A beaver built this little paradise in the middle of a swamp and it was beavers I smelled and heard them off to our left. They hadn’t detected us yet and I changed course creeping up along one of the water channels they’d made to gain access to more food trees. Two of the fat furry creatures were busy gnawing at a couple of trees about 75 yards or so from their nearest escape route. Good, I thought to Pumar who’d eased further back so he wouldn’t alert our quarry. I crept along still downwind crouching to reduce my profile as much as possible until I got close enough to feel comfortable charging. I leapt out of my hiding place rushing the two animals. It was over before it began actually. They never really had much of a chance. I was out to kill, not play, so I did what I had to do and finished it quickly. Tigers are fast creatures as it is, but they don’t hold a candle to the speed and agility of a weretiger. I crashed into one beaver rolling him over breaking his neck in the fall and then sprang at the female catching her hide by only three claws before she could dash out of my reach. She put up a bit more fight then the male had because I didn’t surprised her as badly. She rewarded my efforts with a nasty bite on my foreleg with her lethally sharp teeth, obviously not going to even try and make this easy for me. I batted her down with one swift lash of my paw and then pounced on her before she could get up breaking her neck like one powerful bite. The human side of me hoped I wasn’t leaving a litter of orphans in their hutch, and my tiger wanted to swim out there and see – such tasty morsels. Anyway it couldn’t be helped. We had to feed and there were two very fat beavers ready for us to rip into. Pumar, come on in and eat your fill.
He eased up beside me looking at the two dead rodents. That was seriously wicked Galin. I would have rubbed against him to show my appreciation of his adoration, but his fall in the mud hole covered him with too much stink.
You know you’re going to have to swim again to get rid of that mud, but at least it mask your new born kitten scent. He gave me a most scathing look.
How do I do this?
Just rip them open and dig in, but I’d avoid their scent glands near their tail and I would advise not ripping into their stomach or intestines. They won’t smell good. He tentatively bit the male beaver and looked at me again. I shook my head and proceeded to demonstrate it by tearing into the female. Digging my claws into her hide while biting the skin just under the neck I pulled up ripping it away from her body. Under the layers of fat was some very tender meat but it’s been so long since I’ve eaten beaver I’d forgotten how pungent they smell. It didn’t bother me as much in this form as it might have my human side, but it still made me pull back for a moment. Pumar watched what I did and repeated the process with his beaver. It wasn’t long before he’d ripped most of the meat from the upper portion of the body eating with zeal. Once he started his beast’s instincts took over and that was it.
When he got his fill and there was little left of the poor beast on the ground in front of him he padded his way over to me and playfully wrapped his paw over my shoulders trying to roll me over. I jumped up preventing him from succeeding in his ploy and looked at him like he lost his mind. What? He asked.
You really do need to wash some of that mud off you bud. He snarled at me raising his cheek to show fang. Oh come on you really can’t mean you like that smell? Besides thanks to our dinner’s hard work there’s a perfect beaver pond here and handy. The glint in my eyes would have translated as a shit eating grin in my human form. How ya feeling?
A lot better. He said as he sauntered over to the pond and sniffed its surface. You really want me to swim in this? Again he gave me a nice snarl to go with the words. What about snakes?
They can’t hurt you. It might sting a bit if they bite, but the poison will have no effect. Anyway it this pond or the river when we get back, which we need to do sooner rather than later so if you’re going to wash up it’d better be quick. I joined him by the pond’s edge looking out at the hutch in its near center and again a twinge of guilt padded its way through my mind. I shook it off and bent my head down to the water lapping it up.
You’re not serious. Please tell me you didn’t just drink that water.
It’s nasty. Pumar looked at me disgustedly if a cat can be said to make such a face – personally I know we can.
It’s water Pumar and my body rids itself of toxins, parasites, and anything else that would harm it. It taste a little wired but other than that it’s fine. He still couldn’t believe I drank it as he eased himself into the placid pond to rinse off some mud. I lay down at the water’s edge waiting and watching as he swam around in the dark tarn.
I don’t remember dog paddling being this easy before. He said more to himself then me I think. At any rate I didn’t answer. He soon pulled himself out and shook next to me like he had Mina. There, you satisfied?
Can the sarcasm dude. You know you needed to wash it off. You ready to run?
Yep. We took off at a dead run through the brush until we neared the bog where he’d taken a spill and slowed down a bit to keep from a repeat of that smelly disaster before taking off again. I estimated about fifteen or twenty minutes before the moon rose and I really wanted to be back with the others before it did and certainly before the wolves attacked. Pumar was much more coordinated now that he’d eaten and he surprised me at how well he managed the maze of trees, bogs, briers, and sinkholes. Before we knew it we slid into the trail at the river bend where we started the hunt to find no one around. Where is everyone?
I have no idea, let’s head this way – it’s where we were going when you had your attack. I padded at a nice trot with Pumar right at my flank. We’d gone maybe another tenth of a mile and around another bend in the trail before we saw Red Haired Otter Man Alton Frisk sitting on the bank watching our direction. I skidded to a stop in front of him looking around for the others, but didn’t see anyone.
“It’s about time you two returned. I said I’d show you the way, but the moon is upon us. We’ve got to hurry.” He got up and started down the trail at a pretty good clip for him which proved to be a more leisurely pace for us allowing us to easily keep up as he jumped over roots and scrambled over logs as the trail became less visible. Before long it looked like there had never been a trail at all. We kept dodging around in the swamp heading in the same general direction. “They take different routes through here to keep the way a secret, keeps from cutting a visible path in the muskeg.” He didn’t say anything more as we followed his lead in the night. It wasn’t long before we entered a clearing in a forested area of the river basin that was plenty large and dry enough to hold a couple of hundred people if they needed it. The ground was covered by a thick carpet of wild grasses and to the east stood a decent size pavilion with a crude wooden chair in its center. Master Frisk didn’t stop in this overgrown meadow but made his way to the other side just north of the pavilion. When we reentered the woods he stopped sending up a loud whippoorwill whistle. Mina and Shanita stepped out from behind a very large water oak and only then did I notice about fifty plus people in the boughs of the enormous tree. Rōk and Klaus appeared behind my queen and the Swampbane’s matron. Shea stood with them.
“Galin, I’m glad you made it back in time. I was getting worried about you.” Mina came up and scratched behind my ears kneeling down in front of me. I leaned my head into her hand enjoying the attention. Yes, and we found two beavers that made rather tasty meals. Pumar found an interesting way to mask the rest of his scent too. I hope he doesn’t stink too much for everyone.
I heard that. My lunar-son said as he stepped up and rubbed his cheek against my shoulder cat scenting me. If Mina heard him she ignored it.
“Our scouts have spotted the wolves about two miles from here and they are moving a bit slower than we expected, but I guess they’re being cautious.” Shanita said. “It has been confirmed they are coming here and Angela is with them. She may be the reason for their delay.”
The sky was growing brighter as the moon neared the horizon and I saw the familiar glow begin to lighten all the shapeshifters in the area. Pumar pay attention and see what happens when the moon’s light hits us. It’s about to happen.
He looked at me and then back at Mina and the rest who came out to greet us. What will it look like? Oh! WOW! At that moment the moon cleared the horizon and began glowing through the trees like so many spears of silver light. It wasn’t enough to spark the change, but it was beautiful and the silver glow in those of us still human in form intensified. Even the blood in their veins glowed silvery-blue showing through the skin making a network of veins all over the body. Since we all left our clothes back at the Panther’s community everyone stood naked and every detail was noticeably highlighted. Even the smallest capillaries tracing just under the skin all over the body showed bright and distinct. It looked like an artist rendition of the body’s vascular system you might see in an anatomy textbook.
“I have no doubt they will come quickly once the change has completed. The last thing any of us want is to be in a full run when the moon strikes us.” Shanita said for Pumar’s benefit since the information was already known by everyone else present, but I nodded my heat to her in letting her know I understood.
Watch and learn Pumar. It’s about to happen. You need to understand the change is nothing to fear. It doesn’t hurt like yours did tonight. We had to force your change because your tiger was coming out regardless and your human psyche refused to let go.
He leaned heavily against my side. It hurt a lot Galin. I was so scared.
Yes I know it, but it’s not supposed to hurt. Now watch, here it comes. The top edge of the moon rose above the trees on the far side of the glade striking us full on. Every shapeshifter it hit glowed with soft silver light and delicate tendrils of lightning ran through the whole throng dancing over all our skin, even Pumar’s and mine. At once the bodies of those who still maintained their human shapes became liquid mercury. As fluid as quicksilver each of them flowed into their tiger, panther, or otter forms like water filling a vessel of that particular shape. Once their animals formed, the movement stopped and their bodies solidified into their beast. Mina stretched her almost perfect black body with paws reaching out in front of her arching her back luxuriantly down with her hind legs extended up as far as she could push them. Then she pulled forward until her hind legs reached as far out behind her as they could while she pushed up with her forelegs stretching her neck as far back as it would go. Klaus’s white fur shown brightly in the moonlight and he flopped down on his side next to Shea’s tawny panther. She bent down and sniffed his neck right behind the head. It showed how well the two got to know each other in the very short time they shared today. I was almost envious.
WOW! That looks like a lot of fun. Pumar was mesmerized by the transformation of his fellow shapeshifters.
It is fun and you would have turned just as easily if we hadn’t needed to force your beast. I’m sorry that happened, but it may have saved your life though.
You mean your dream?
Yes. For a new person to this life, the first change, while easy, is nevertheless very disorienting to the human and animal sides of your psyche and it takes a couple of hours to adjust to it. The way you changed may have hurt but you recovered much quicker. The flowing liquid sensations of a lunar change fuck with you causing a sense of vertigo. If the wolves are smart they will attack very soon because they’ll expect you to be far too out of control of yourself to be much of a problem for them. The more mature shapeshifters can return to half human form after about ten minutes or so and they would not have a problem carrying you off. As if on cue a very large gray wolf trotted into the ceremonial clearing and stood looking in our direction. As I watched about a score more of them emerged flanking his sides in formation. They slowly advanced toward us until they reached the center of the glade.
Shanita moved into the clearing on our side and slowly approached the advancing wolves. Flanking her were an equal number of panthers matching the invaders. Behind them Mina and Rōk stepped into the clearing but didn’t venture any closer than its edge. Mina looked back at me and I heard her thoughts in my head: Galin, take Pumar and go deeper into the forest but stay within the ring of panthers we have surrounding the area. Do not let Pumar out of your sight. Since he and you look so much alike it might be wise to retain your full tiger form to confuse them. They will expect you to turn.
Yes mam we’ll do. I looked at Pumar and spoke to him. We must retreat further into the forest and await further instructions.
Retreat, what are you talking about? I want a fight. He growled excitedly and danced around looking so much like Tigger that I began to think my idea earlier was about to come true and the thought made me snicker. What’s so funny?
Oh nothing… Tigger.
Whinny the Pooh: you reminded me of Tigger the way you were hopping around just then.
Oh plaleeeeze… He shook his head as he followed me deeper into cover.
Mina kept the link between us open so I’d be able to follow what was going on. Through her I would be able to hear and see everything happening. Shanita slowly approached the wolf king until they were nearly nose to nose. They looked each other over and then backed up about ten paces each. All transformations tonight flow like water as long as the moon is visible and soon both the Lady Panther and Lord Wolf flowed into their humanoid forms. He was a robust thirties something, it’s hard to tell unless they’re human. His fur was the same silver of his full wolf with white fur running down his chest and stomach. His eyes were amber and they reflected the moon’s light casting it gold. He stood about seven feet tall in this form which matched very closely Shanita’s height. “Why have you broken our pact Lucian? It is forbidden for you to enter our territory as it is for us to enter yours. Why have you come?”
Lucian studied the woman in front of him and then turned to look at another woman who advanced from behind. She was dressed all in black leather with thigh high boots supported by two inch wide heels. I swear she had on a leather bustier laced up the middle exposing more than an ample rack. It was not what I’d expect anyone to wear into a swamp, but then Angela never struck me as very practical. Some communication must have passed between them because he turned back to Shanita and answered her question. “I’m afraid I had no choice in the matter Lady Swampbane, she has my son and grandson and if I ever want to see them alive again I have to do as she says.”
Shanita stood quietly for a while clearly deep in thought. “I understand your predicament Lucian but I cannot abide this invasion. It is written between us that the invader will forfeit his life should he not achieve his objectives. So I ask again, why have you broken a treaty that has stood between our peoples for nearly 300 years?”
“We require a certain individual you have with you. It would be wise to hand him over Shanita. We have seen your numbers here and we have you at a disadvantage two to one.”
“Who is it you require from me?”
“His name is Alex Babineaux and we know he is a shapeshifter with a visiting tiger clan.”
“And if we refuse to hand him over?” She didn’t bother denying our presence here.
“Shanita please, don’t do this. You cannot possibly win…”
“Just answer the question!” A deep growl escaped the panther’s matron’s throat.
Lucian straightened up to his full height. “Then we will take him by force.”
“You may try, but I am not inclined to give him up without a fight. We are prepared to do what is necessary to protect this innocent.”
“Are you prepared to die?” Lucian asked dryly.
“Then so be it.” He turned and walked back to his waiting wolves and the woman clad in black. He stopped and said something to Angela who draped her hand over his arm and turned to accompany him out of the clearing. As soon as they disappeared into the swamp the clash began. We heard wolves and panthers engaging each other in the near distance punctuated by growls, yelps, and cat screams. Like an ill wind the fighting blazed forward until we were all engulfed with wolves of all sizes and varying degrees of power. It was turning vicious very quickly. Pumar and I flanked each other circling slowly so we could see everything around us. Everyone fought and it seemed the wolf king Lucian had been right because there were at least two to one, but as strong as wolves can be, cats tend to be stronger mostly because we’re the nastier fighters. We don’t play fair and our claws are sharper. All of our tigers came in to circle around Pumar and me and we were grateful for their presence because while the panthers fought well, they were about as inexperienced as the wolves. Most of the fighters had already changed back into their humanoid form and so Rōk, Mina, Klaus, Szilárd, András, and Rakish toward over us each facing outward to guard against an attack and possible kidnapping.
After about thirty minutes or so a number of wolves broke through the line of panthers defending our position and charged Mina and the rest with horrible speed and ferocity. “Here they come boys get ready.” Mina had time to yell before she engaged in battle. They plowed into our last line of defense like a hurricane meeting a flexible but impermeable barrier. Two wolves engaged Rōk and he ripped one of them apart before the other one gained the leverage to pull my king off his comrade. They ensued in a most fearsome battle each taking a dreadful toll on the other. My father had many lacerations across his chest and abdomen and his left arm was rent open from elbow to wrist. Blood poured out of his wounds running off his clawed hand like rain water streaming red in the moon’s light. His combatant was fairing a bit worse though for Rōk kidney punched him holding his talon like fingers straight and ridged ripping a hole through the wolf’s lower abs at an angle from one side to the other. Blood and guts streamed out of the wound where Rōk pulled his arm free. The wolf looked down at his eviscerated bowls hanging out the hole. He looked dazed like he couldn’t believe it was possible for anyone to do such damage to his body. “You need help Rōk?” Mina called from where she fought.
“No, I’ve got em.” He executed a perfect roundhouse kick sending his foot through the wolf’s face. There wasn’t much left of it to recognize when Rōk landed and prepared himself for the next round of blows. There was no need. The wolf was not dead, but he was out of the fight. He whimpered as he crawled away from the tiger towering over him. An eye hung from its ruined socket and he was sniffling from a blood choked mutilated muzzle. His lower jaw hung broken and limp against his throat. “How about you Mina, I’m finished here.”
“I got it.” Mina’s fight was going a little better in that she only had one attacker, but he was a huge black wolf. It was difficult to distinguish between them as they slashed and danced to the battle cacophony. Mina fought like a whirlwind as she sprang over and down on her assailant slashing at him with extended claws ripping deep grooves in his flesh. He let out a piercing howl of frustration as he tried in vain to grab a hold on the she devil my queen became. She was a blur of fur, claws, and fangs as she struck time and again cutting so many lacerations in her attacker it was probable he’d bleed to death before anything else could kill him. He swung his massive arm grabbing at my queen’s back but fortunately his claws didn’t catch a hold but glanced off her pelt. She spun around delivering a devastating cross blow to his throat claws digging in deep ripping laceration across his jugular. Arterial spray soaked Mina and Rōk who stood behind her. The beast dropped to his knees and almost immediately began turning back to his human form – yea, he was dead.
“Good fighting.” Rōk praised his wife.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him just happy they were both still alive. “How’s the arm?”
“It will heal.” The flow of blood had already stopped and the wound looked days old instead of freshly delivered.
I looked over at Rakish who fought a wolf similar to the one that’d attacked Mina and like my queen my lunar-father fought like a tornado out of which claws and fur occasionally appeared to rip flesh from the offender. He landed on the wolf’s chest digging in and holding on while he bit at the wolf’s face. For a moment both beast were a blur of snapping jaws and flashing fangs but a blood curdling howl rent the air as my lunar-father jumped off his combatant. The wolf grabbed at his ruined face and half blinded tried in vain to capture Rakish who spun around behind the disoriented wolf gripping his head in both hands. Giving one swift twist he broke the dog’s neck.
Klaus grinned showing plenty of fangs as he faced three of the mongrels all by his little self. He struck a killing blow to one of the wolf’s heads dropping him in his tracks and the other two backed off a bit rethinking their plans before rushed him once more trying to give him two fronts to fight at once. With precision skill from a mix of martial arts and nearly 200 years of military training and combat experience over a myriad of cultures he lashed out with one hand dropping the second wolf. He wasn’t dead but he was out of the fight for a time. The third wolf came in from the other direction and caught the white tiger with a left hook that missed his head but caught Klaus on the shoulder spinning him around. The wolf jumped on his back before he could come up but this didn’t detour the Hessian. He immediately dropped to his back rolling sidewise throwing his assailant off balance allowing him to twist out of his clutches. Klaus scrambled to his feet springing on the dazed wolf driving a clawed hand into his chest ripping out his heart from the ruined cavity. The dazed wolf he’d dropped earlier stumbled to his feet and staggered in for another attack but it was no good. Klaus was ready for him. He turned stepping close into the wolf before the canine knew what was happening. With great speed and strength he ripped the wolf’s chest open before crushing his windpipe dropping him choking to the ground. Klaus stomped his neck breaking his spine. I wasn’t sure the wolf was dead, but he wouldn’t be doing much of anything for a while. “Good show Klaus.” Rakish called before engaging in battle with another wolf that’d slipped past the panther’s line. Mina and Rōk joined my lunar-father with this one since they had nothing better to do at that moment.
On my other side András and Szilárd fought two wolves each but they had the advantage of fighting well as a team working off each other’s strengths like a well oiled machine. They made short work of two of their enemies by using the less experienced wolves against themselves. It was over quickly as they picked the wolves up swinging them in a wide arch bashing the mongrels into each other spilling one’s brains out onto the ground. The other one lay dazed on his back and never saw the killing blows come as Szilárd slammed his palms against the beast temples smashing his skull in. András grabbed one of the two remaining wolves by the throat digging his claws deep into the sinew and bones. I heard his neck snap and he dropped to the ground. Meanwhile the last remaining wolf got in a lucky blow raking his claws across Szilárd’s back flaying open the muscles down to his white spine and exposing several ribs. Szilárd dropped to the ground in agony trying to regain his feet. The wolf jumped him and was trying to twist his head off when András saw what was happening. “Szilárd!” He cried out and the next thing I saw was a blur of white as Klaus tackled the huge gray and white spotted wolf bowling him over as they splashed into a bog. Klaus grappled the mutt holding him down while András delivered a series of blows that would make most people bleed to death from internal injuries. He then pulled the wolf apart limb by limb until there was nothing left but his torso and head. He was not dead as he struggled to move there at their feet. “Kill me!” He demanded his voice thick with agony and blood. “Finish it god damn it!” He looked into András eyes and saw no mercy. The Bulgarian ignored him and moved on to fresher prey leaving him to thrash about like a landed fish.
In the meantime a small wolf slipped past the fray attacking Pumar directly. He was still in his full wolf form and so I figured he was too new to this life to transform back into half human shape. Pumar circled him twice before the wolf charged head on. My lunar-son easily dodged him; leaped up and over behind the inexperienced wolf on his next charge. Pumar delivered one quick blow to the wolf’s back and I heard the spine snap. The poor beast fell to the ground yelping in pain trying to move but his hind quarters were useless being pulled like so much dead weight. Using my paw I swatted past snapping jaws full of razor sharp teeth landing a non-killing blow to his head knocking him out. Pumar was about to deliver a kill bite to the wolf’s neck but I stopped him. We may need to interrogate him Pumar. Let’s leave him alive for now. My son seemed to accept this reason for not killing him but the truth was I had a feeling about this one. At first I thought he was faking it because he didn’t change back to human, but as I examined him closer there was no mistaking he was out cold. Only then did I notice he was indeed changing but very slowly. I’ve heard of this before with some young ones. It’s rare but there are those who cannot change back to human quickly. Sometimes it can take hours for them to complete the process. Not only was he young and inexperienced but I figured he truly didn’t want to be here. The fighting instinct wasn’t in him and killing him would almost be a cowardly thing to do. Of course with the wolves’ inter-pack politics it may have been a mercy killing to go ahead and put him out of his misery. Any member of the pack who allows themselves to be taken prisoner is dealt with most harshly. However this one’s injuries would heal once he became human again – the change mends almost all wounds, our bodies have remarkable healing abilities. Even the poor sod who lost his arms and legs would survive if someone put the severed limbs back in the proper places, otherwise he would die from blood loss.
Within a matter of an hour or two from when it started it was all over. Our reinforcements came as planned and then the wolves were outnumbered and we had the upper hand. There were casualties on both sides but fortunately for us none of the tigers died. The wolves were driven back and Angela fled into the night. Maybe the gators will get her: Pumar mused.
We can only hope. I said. But she’d probably give the poor beast indigestion. I was certain I’d not heard the last of her. All in all twenty-four panthers lost their lives and when the bodies were gathered we’d killed thirty-two wolves and seriously injured forty more. I saw András helping his brother over to a tree stump to sit down while he tended to his wounds. To be so ruthless with others these two were more than tender with each other.
We made arraignments to send the wounded wolves home, or at least those who would heal in a few hours. The young wolf that’d attacked Pumar didn’t get to go home. We hid him from the retreating wolves. I wanted to talk to this one when he came too. He finally transformed back to human and the spinal wound minded without any visible trace. He was but a child, seventeen maybe or eighteen. His hair was a silvery gray and he had one blue eye and an amber one – more like a Siberian husky instead of a wolf. Greg! Pumar thought loud enough for me to hear.
You know him? I asked.
Yes, he disappeared a few months ago. We thought he’d been killed by some crack or meth freak or something. He and I used to turn tricks with each other sometimes.
It’s a small world eh, you a tiger and him a wolf?
Yea… I’m glad he’s alive. I slipped into my humanoid form so I could pick ‘Greg’ up and carry him to the clearing where Shanita was organizing the panthers and tigers to return home.
We chose the ceremonial clearing to regroup and calculate the damage because it simply made logistical sense. The dead would be mourned in due time but later. Right now we had more important things to do. My wolf was beginning to regain consciousness but it would be some time before he’d be well enough to walk. Pumar sat in front of me while I held him close to my furred body keeping him still. We didn’t want him sneaking off and I didn’t want what wolves remaining in the area to see him. Besides he may not be well enough to walk, but he could certainly crawl away. “Hello Greg?” I said to him when I saw he was able to focus on me. He said nothing but cast a most sorrowful and self depreciating expression before the moonlight caught him again transforming him back to wolf. He’d been captured and this would most certainly gain him much ridicule among the pack and may even cost his life depending on their specific politics. It didn’t bother me before I knew who he was but now with him being one of Pumar’s friends a twinge of guilt tugged at my soul. I no longer knew what to do.
Shanita walked around the clearing trying to see who was wounded enough to need carrying out when she stumbled over something almost falling flat on her face. Looking down she gasped. “Oh my god no!” She bent down and gently picked up Alton Frisk. He’d received a mortal wound but he was not dead yet. I could see the life still pulsing in the colors shining through his aura. He was woefully wounded though and would die soon if he didn’t receive the help he needed. Shanita and Mina knelt beside the small man placing their hands on his tiny chest. “Call his beast Shanita. I have a feeling he will listen to you.” Mina said.
Apparently the little fellow had been knocked unconscious in the fray and while he lay helpless in his human form one of the wolves sliced him open leaving him to die with his intestines spilled all over the ground. “Alright, I’ll try it but he is not my species. I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to call him.” Shanita said as she concentrated on what she needed to do. She poured her power over and into the little man. At first his resistance was astounding and she was about to give up when she felt his mind unlock allowing her in. She pulled at his beast coaxing his otter forward until he exploded into his otter form. By the time he opened his eyes the wounds were healed but the process left him more than a bit cranky. As it turned out Alton Frisk is an ancient wereanimal, over a thousand years old and as such a very powerful being. Had he not recognized Shanita’s spirit he would never have listened and would have certainly died. Like earlier with Pumar his fur was drenched in blood. He bowed his head to the Lady of the Swampbane Tribe and scampered off towards the water. It would seem he’d had enough of Panthers and Wolves.
We all gathered our dead and wounded and set out for the journey back to the panther’s community and allowed the healed and healing wolves to gather their dead and leave without further protest. We understood Angela held the wolves’ hostage threatening to kill their king’s son and grandson. Unlike most wereanimals Lucian married a human with whom he’d sired a real son through whom he also had a grandson. Both were human but they carried the shapeshifters genes. It may skip several generations but eventually they would father a child who would change. I only hoped she would not consider their defeat a failure and kill her hostages out of spite. If I knew Angela that is exactly what she would do. Lucian was among the wounded that’d healed enough to make the journey home, but Shanita held him back allowing two of his wolves to stay with him. “I understand why you did this Lucian, but how should I proceed now? The treaty between us clearly calls for your life, but I do not wish to kill you.”
“Lady Shanita it is your right to take my life and I ask that you do it. My son and grandson are dead. They may still be alive as we speak, but Ms. Stonedeath will never let them live or release them. She is ruthless and will most certainly consider this a failure.” The naked man knelt before the panther’s queen with his head bowed in defeat.
She squatted down in front of him and spoke in a quiet voice. “I really do feel for your loss, but I cannot in good consciousness kill you. We share too much of a past and I cannot bring myself to follow through with the rules of the truce.” She cupped his chin lifting his face so he looked into her eyes. “I still love you and wish things had been different between us. Take your wounded and go home. If you are lucky you will find a way to rescue your son and grandson but you will have to hurry.” She kissed his cheek and stood looking down at the man. “I’m sorry it came to this Lucian, but I cannot hand Alex or Jacob over to Angela: too much rest on their survival. Come and visit me after she leaves and I’ll tell you what I can. Maybe it will offer some solace for your losses.”
He bowed his head before rising to his feet: “As you wish my Lady.” He turned and disappeared into the swamp followed by the wolves that waited here with him. As I watched them leave a shiver ran up my spine accompanying the feeling of someone watching me as it has twice before now. I looked around to see if I could see who it was this time, but again nothing out of the ordinary appeared to me. Maybe it’s something not so out of the ordinary? I thought as I looked around again. This time I saw him. Standing on a limb bar above and near the river stood a lone figure leaning next to the tree trunk. I think he saw me looking at him because in the blink of an eye he vanished. I began to wonder if I’d imagined it all but as soon as the figure disappeared so did the feeling of being watched.
I may have transformed into my half human form but it was still too early in the night for me to change completely back to human but the new shape allowed me to handle our captive wolf better. Hi growled at me. “Hush before I change my mind and kill you now.” Fortunately for him and me alike, he listened. I’d not told anyone that we had him and Mina stalked over to me when she saw the gray wolf in my arms. “Why do you have a captive wolf with you Galin? You should have sent him back with the others.”
“I don’t know how to explain it Mina, but I feel the need to keep him – at least for a time. He’s different and I want to talk with him when he’s up to it.”
“How is he different? He’s a wolf.”
“I’m not so sure.” Mina gave me a hard look that clearly suggested she thought I’d gone off my rocker. “Mina, look at his eyes. They’re not wolf eyes.”
She looked into his eyes noticing the difference immediately. “Oh!”
She nodded. “OK bring him with us. Hopefully we’ll have some answers once he’s rested. We gathered all we needed to take with us and made our way back to our host’s community. Those who noticed my captive didn’t say anything about it and we made it back without further incident.
Alex and I were exhausted when we stepped back into our cabin with the wolf still cradled in my arms. He seemed happy to be let down, but slunk over to one of the shallow corners with his tail between his legs. Looking at us once more he turned twice and lay down resting his head on his forepaws, took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. His eyes were closed but like most any animal: cat, dog, wolf… I doubted he was asleep. I took a shower while Pumar lay next to his friend promptly eliciting a soft growl from Greg. When I came out of the shower a smile spread across my face. Pumar had eased over resting his huge cat’s head on the floor next to Greg’s side making sure they touched. This didn’t seem to upset the large gray wolf that seemed to be lost to sleep. I knew they were both awake because they were still in their animal forms. Sleep like unconsciousness changes us back to human.
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This concludes Chapter Eight. 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 or complements are welcome, but if you just want to flame the story, then I respectfully ask you to keep your opinions to yourself. I may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org