Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter Nine
© 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 not read this. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next morning came too early for me but apparently not for everyone. Alex was beside himself. He was so excited that he practically bounced off the walls. Last night thrilled him but it didn’t explain his jubilation this morning. I dragged my ass out of bed when Alex literally came bouncing out of the bathroom. Seriously, Tigger’s an ideal nickname for him. “What is it Alex?”
He smiled displaying a row of perfectly white teeth. Our muscles, hair, and eyes are not the only thing affected by lycanthrope because Alex’s teeth were the least becoming part of his anatomy before we met. They used to be crooked, tobacco stained and a few rotted out, but now after his first change every part of his body reworked itself into healthy excellence. “Please Galin call me Pumar. I’m no longer Alex at least not where I’m concerned.” His grin widened as he bent forward holding both arms out with his fingers curled up claw like. “It’s real!”
“Everything you told me: My new life!” When I looked a little perplexed he gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t you see?” He waited for me to understand what he was getting on about but I drew a loss. “It means I’m NOT going to die!” He practically shouted it out. “I was so afraid to believe, so afraid to get my hopes up. I kept telling myself that it was all a lie, some sort of sickness driven illusion or a dream. But it’s really real!” He grabbed me in a hug swinging us both around laughing a deep throated chortle. Over in the corner the ‘wolf’ we captured huddled watching us through very suspicious eyes.
I laughed with my lunar-son but finely asked him to set me down. He acquiesced as I looked up into his beaming face. “I thought you accepted a while back that you were cured?”
“I pretended to but it frightened me. I thought I’d wake up and find myself in a hospital or that I’d realize I died and this was just a ghost’s hallucination or something. But it’s real. It was so exciting being a tiger last night even with the fighting – I wasn’t frightened at all, instead I wanted to jump in and whip some wolf butt.”
“You did whip a wolf’s butt, you fucking cat;” this from the peanut gallery in the corner. We looked at our ‘guest’. “My back’s still sore from where you crushed my spine. I’ll have to change again before its right. You really walloped me. Three turns and it’s still fucked up.” He had a low tenor voice. His gray hair framed his mixed colored eyes giving an odd sensation of vertigo when you first see him. The look made you think he wasn’t authentic – a sixteen year old’s face framed with gray hair and those eyes – surreal, very surreal. I bet going out anywhere proved a challenge for him. His build is nice and from what I saw last night he’s rather well endowed too. Right now Greg sat on the floor with a sheet wrapped around him like he wasn’t sure about being nude around us. The gray hair wasn’t just on his head either.
“Are you talking to us now?” I asked trying to be cheerful.
“Why not? You’re not going to let me leave here until I tell you what I know, but I really don’t know anything.” He looked sullen. “I really didn’t want to be there last night you know, but I wasn’t given a choice. I don’t fit in with them and now I’m a fucking prisoner. Shredder’s going to just love it. He’ll get to rip another fucking slave to shreds.”
“Greg, you’re not a prisoner.” Pumar said. He looked at me: “He’s not, is he?”
“Not for long, no. Who's Shredder and what do you mean rip another slave to shreds?”
The young man slid his eyes to look at my lunar-son without moving his head. “Alex, Alex Babineaux, well I’ll be fucked. Did anyone miss me when I disappeared?”
“Yea, I did. I looked for you everywhere I could think of man, but you were nowhere to be found. What happened?”
Greg laughed, “A wolf, that’s what fucking happened. I’ve not been a wolf long, but I guess you figured that out already. This guy came down the strip in a real nice shiny black Hummer and picked me up. I liked the way he looked and his car so I got in and he got a hotel for us. While we were fucking around he changed and bit me. I freaked. Man I’ve never been so scared in my life, but he smacked me across the head and the next thing I knew I woke up in a fucking swamp surrounded by a bunch of people I didn’t know. Like some fucking Branch Dividian Compound or some shit like that. Man it was horrible. He’s Shredder the fucker who ripped me up to see if I’d live or die.” He said looking at me. Looking back at my son he continued. “You seem to be enjoying being a cat.” The depression and scorn were clear in Greg’s voice.
“It’s nice to meet you Greg. I’m Galin and I’m Alex’s lunar-father. Tiger society’s a lot different than the wolves. For the most part it really depends on the clan’s leader, but we tend to be a bit less authoritarian.”
“Lucky fucking you.” Greg got up. “May I use the bathroom?”
“You don’t need to ask.”
“I do at home.” He said as he passed by us for the bathroom. There are no windows in there, so I wasn’t worried about him sneaking off.
Pumar walked to the bathroom door speaking through it not used to his enhanced hearing yet. Unlike humans wereanimals have such good hearing no one needed to move at all to hear everything. “Is Shredder your lunar-father?” He asked raising his voice like a human.
Greg harrumphed: “If you want to call him that. He turned me and makes me call him master. I can’t do anything without asking him first and that includes eating, using the bathroom, masturbating, and fucking anything else I want to do. It all has to be approved by him first. If I try anything without his OK, he beats the shit out of me. He's the reason I came last night and why I attacked you guys. I didn't want to do it, but he probably would’ve killed me outright if I'd refused. I’d bet he wanted you to kill me. I've been nothing but a fucking disappointment to him ever since he turned me.”
“What will they do to you when they find out you're a captive?” I asked from the bed.
Greg walked out of the bathroom holding the wadded sheet in his hand. “Matthew used to be a wolf. He and I were friends until last week. We got in a scrimmage with those fucking warthogs and they took him hostage. When they released him back to us he'd been beaten up a bit but nothing that wouldn't heal. Lucian declared him a disgrace to the pack and later that night Shredder tore him to pieces. There wasn't any part of him bigger than my hand and none of it was recognizable when that bastard got finished. I can only guess that’s what's waiting for me when I get back.” He glanced at us and I realized where he got that look in his eyes and what it meant. He truly expected this Shredder guy to kill him. The look wasn’t just self depreciation and depression, but flat out terror. “It's what Shredder does.” He looked down at his feet and continued without looking up again. “He chooses the weakest, prettiest boys he can find, turns them, uses us as his boy-toys, and then waits for us to embarrass him. Once we give him a reason, he tortures and kills us. Everyone in the pack heard Matthew screaming and begging for mercy, begging for someone to save him, but did that bastard let up even a little, did anyone stop him? No, he...” It was clear Greg didn't want to continue so neither of us pushed him. A single tear truckled down his cheek and dripped off his chin. He didn’t bother wiping it away. “I can still hear his screams as that bastard slowly pulled him apart. When we cleaned up the mess it became clear that parts had been eaten.” He trailed off again and this time he didn’t speak further.
I swallowed hard before speaking. “Greg, I offer you my protection or you can ask Mina for it. Tell her what you told us and I have no doubt she will grant it. It's her prerogative. I've seen her grant it to others before in similar situations.”
“You’d risk the wolves’ anger for me?”
“Oooh I'm really scared. In case you didn't notice they really didn't pose much of a problem for us last night. We're tigers Greg; I've yet to see any wolf that can stand up to us in battle. Even our weakest can take some of the strongest wolves out there. I'm not bragging or belittling the wolves, but it's the simple truth of the matter.”
“We're not wimps!” Greg showed a tinge of anger at my last comment.
“To accuse a wolf of being a wimp Greg is like saying Genghis Khan was a coward, I’d never say it or even think it. However, you guys are not tigers. Granted I may be partial, but we're just bad-asses.” At that moment a knock sounded on the door. From the scent on the air it was Mina and several others. “Come in Mina, its open.” Greg didn't try and cover up and we didn't ask him to.
Mina opened the door walking in followed by Rōk, Klaus, Shanita, and Shea with Isaac tagging up the rear. “Who’re just bad-asses?”
I felt my face ting with a bit of color. I'd not expected to her to hear that. “Uh, tigers.”
“Well we are, but make no mistake Galin; I've seen my share of wolves who could take most any tiger in one on one combat.” I nodded my head while she looked at Greg. “So, who have we here?”
Pumar answered. “This is Greg Spencer a friend of mine.”
“It's good to meet you Greg. How are you feeling this morning?” Mina asked.
“I'm alright.” Greg’s face clearly expressed his desire to ask Mina a question and I guessed for her protection but obviously too afraid to do so.
“Ah Mina, may I speak with you in private please?” I asked.
She looked at me and nodded her head: “Sure what about?”
“It’s a bit private.”
“Alright,” with this she turned and walked out the door. I followed. When we were some distance from the cabin I passed on what Greg told me and that I told him either I or she could offer him protection. “You what? Galin, I can appreciate your concern for his safety, but do you have any idea what you may have just done?”
“I cannot in good consciousness send him back to most certain death Mina. If you aren't willing to grant him protection then I will. After all, none of us will be here much longer and he can go with me if need be.”
“Oh I assure you it will ‘need be.’ I give you a lot of leeway Galin and I look the other way many times when I shouldn't, but we are Shanita's guest and in her territory. You never do something this controversial in someone else's territory without talking it over with them first. After a few days we will never see these wolves again and most likely the panthers either, but Shanita will have to live with them as her neighbors after we're gone. Last night was a battle, only a battle, but you may well cause flat out war between them with this.”
I looked down. “I'm sorry.”
“No you're not. You’re never sorry about what you want to do. The only thing you're sorry about is possibly causing trouble for a group of people who have done nothing but show us kindness and fought with us in order to protect one of our own – your son. You're not sorry in the least that you told Greg I’d protect him before speaking with anyone. How dare you Galin? Sometimes I swear you don't think things through!” Mina was fuming. I’ve never seen her quite this mad.
“You're right Mina, It doesn’t change my decision to protect Greg but I am sorry that it may cause Shanita and her people trouble.”
“Well at least there's that.” Mina gave me a hard look. “Galin, one of these days…” she cut off the sentence before saying something she’d regret. Shaking her head she turned on her heals and stormed back to my cabin without saying another word not waiting for me. I followed a little distance back. I knew I was in serious doo-doo this time, but I couldn’t allow Greg to be sent back to the pack and his execution. When we reentered the structure I saw Pumar sitting on the bed holding Greg. Apparently being around so many cats at once was setting him on edge and my lunar-son was doing his best to comfort him. “Klaus, would you and Pumar take our guest out for a walk.” Thinking about what she'd said she looked at Greg. “No offense Greg, I didn't mean it to sound like they...”
“No offense taken mam. You may not have meant anything by it, but Shredder does it that way.” Mina gave him a quizzical look but let it slide for now.
“You want us to stay away for a while?” This from Klaus who’d stepped near the door.
“Not too long, but take him out of earshot. We need to speak with Shanita and Shea about something.”
Klaus nodded opening the door. “Come on Pumar; let's take your puppy for a walk.”
Mina rounded on the white tiger. “You may not like him being here, but I will not have you or anyone else disrespecting him like that. Do I make myself clear?”
“Ja Frau Chue, I only meant to make a joke, that's all.” He apologized to Greg for the comment as the three of them stepped out the door. The use of Mina’s birth surname was about as much of an insult he could give her without instigating a fight for ascendancy or begging for punishment. Mina would not forget or forgive it.
Once they were gone Shanita looked at us. “What's happened?”
“I'm afraid Galin may have made things difficult on you and your people.” she went on and told her what I'd said.
“Galin, Mina is right.” Shanita said. “You should never have told Greg that either of us would be willing to protect him even if we can. Not without asking us first.”
“So we just turn him over to be tortured and killed?” My voice started to take a growling quality to it, which was an indication my anger was about to get the best of me. Not a good sign.
“Galin calm down please.” Mina's own ire was rising quickly.
“I'm sorry but I cannot stand by and watch him delivered to most certain death. He's Pumar's friend from before either of them were turned and I cannot allow it. If I have to leave with him this very instant in order to protect him, I will.”
“Of course we will not let the wolves kill him.” Shanita shook her head not clear how to go from here. “I'll call Lucian and let him know what's going on. I need to speak with him anyway and try to get his support for what you and Isaac need to do. Maybe if nothing else we can get him to grant permission for Greg to accompany you on this quest. Believe it or not Lucian is a reasonable person but wolf politics sometimes ties his hands.”
I nodded my head. “What do you mean it sometimes ties his hands, is he their ruler or not? What happens if he refuses?” I really didn't know much about inter-pack power struggles or how they take care of their personal business.
“It’s much more complicated with the wolves than it is with us. According to Pack Politics it is Shredder's right as lunar-sire to do as he pleases with his pups. Unfortunately I am well aware of Shredder; he is a nasty piece of work to be sure. Where most pack members calls them cubs or pups, he calls them his slaves and he always hordes his dominance over them. What Greg meant before he left about the walk is perfectly clear to me. Shredder makes him hold his bowls until he cannot possibly stand it any longer and then puts him on a leash and 'walks' him in front of everyone making him use the bathroom for all to see.” Mina swallowed hard when she heard this and I could see the anger boiling in her. “I knew Matthew. I knew him before he was turned and after. He was a good person and a good wolf. It pisses me off that he is dead and especially at that sadistic bastards hands. Lucian was powerless to interfere. Shredder is a very dominant and powerful wolf. If Lucian challenged him over his right to do as he pleased with Matthew, it would have given Shredder the right to fight for the leadership of the pack. Lucian will do anything to prevent that from happening including allowing an innocent to be tortured and killed. But I will say this: if he refuses to allow Greg to go, then we will take the choice from him by granting our protection to the young one.”
“Why doesn’t he just kill Shredder and be done with it?” Rōk asked.
“Because Lucian isn’t sure he can beat Shredder in a legal battle for leadership. Lucian is strong, but Shredder is one of the most powerful wolves I’ve ever met. He knows it galls Lucian for him to treats his pups the way he does and it undermines his authority. It makes Lucian look weak in front of the other wolves each time he does it while Lucian does nothing to stop it.”
“And if he insists Shredder go with us?” Shea asked and her anger trembled in her voice bringing out more of her native accent, which I still couldn’t place.
“Then at least you have my permission to kill Shredder at the earliest possible opportunity.”
“And mine.” Mina said. She looked at me. “I mean that Galin. In fact I might give it to you as an assignment.” There was a dangerous glint in Mina's eyes. “Even if he doesn't go.”
“I wouldn't doubt it one bit if Shredder is how Angela got her claws on Lucian's progeny.” Shea said. “He's been waiting a very long time to weaken Lucian to the point of breaking him. The loss of his son and grandson would certainly weaken his will.”
“For Lucian it would be a mortal blow.” Shanita added.
“Then it is decided.” Mina said.
“Yes.” Shanita responded. About ten minutes after this Klaus and Pumar returned with Greg in tow. During the interim we discussed how to get around the pack's policies without endangering the panthers and some of the lesser logistics of getting out of this country without Angela's spies seeing us. Shanita turned to see the three walk in. “Greg I want to welcome you to our home and it has come to my attention that you may wish for protection from your lunar-father, is this correct?”
“Yes mam. I'd like that very much, but I don't want to create trouble between you and the pack. We can get really territorial over what we see as ours.”
“Let us worry about that. Right now it is our pleasure to grant our protection to you and we may have come up with a plan to focus the pack's indignation against the tigers instead of us. Mina has agreed to this and it seems the best path to take.” She walked over to Greg and tousled his hair. “I swear to you Greg, I will not allow Shredder to harm you. It's the least I can do after what he did to Matthew. He was a good young man and he did nothing to deserve what happened.” With this she left the cabin for us to make our own plans. Before closing the door she looked back and added. “Mina, I’ll call Lucian and make the arraignments. I'll get back with you as soon as we figure something out.” Mina nodded and we all watched her and Shea slip outside closing the door behind them.
“Jesus Galin! I swear you cause me more trouble.” Mina sat heavily on the bed looking up at all of us. “Does Shredder really make you shit in front of the pack?”
“Yes mam.” Greg looked embarrassed and he didn’t offer any more and Mina didn’t ask, not yet.
Taking her husband’s hand in hers she rubbed her face against it sniffing his scent. “Rōk would you please contact the rest of the clan and let them know we will be a couple of more days here. Also tell them what’s happened and that we now have an adopted wolf in the family. Ask them to look around to see what the local packs back home are like. Greg may grow to enjoy cat companionship, but he will miss other wolves eventually. We need to know our options.” Rōk nodded and reached for Mina’s cell phone which he kept. The action reminded me that he lost his phone but hadn’t told me why. He slipped out the door so he could speak in private and give us time to talk with Greg. “Greg, I’m only going to ask this once so think before you give your answer.” She waited and Greg nodded. “We will all be leaving here within just a very few days. Galin, Pumar, Rakish, Shea, Isaac and Jacob will be leaving on a journey that may well prove to be all of our salvation. The rest of us will be going back to Colorado. What I need to know from you is with whom you want to go. You don’t have to answer me now but I will need to know your answer before the council with Lucian which will probably be this evening. Do you understand what I’m asking you?”
“Good, think about it throughout the day and let me know this evening before Lucian arrives.”
A look of alarm shot through Greg’s eyes. “He’s coming here?” Panic thickened his voice.
“Yes, I suppose that’s what Shanita meant when she left. You don’t have to worry Greg. I’ve already given you my protection; we will not allow him to harm you in any way. At best only a very small contingent will accompany him when he comes and all the panthers will be with us and on our side.”
“Yes mam.” Greg looked down. It was clear he didn’t want to ruin what chances he had for escape.
“The rest of you stay with Greg today. I’m not asking them to stay with you to keep you out of trouble or to keep you from running away, but to protect you. Once Shanita calls Lucian Shredder will know you didn’t die last night. From what little I’ve heard I don’t trust him to play by the rules. He may make an attempt to get to you or take you by force. Greg please respect my wishes and let them stay with you without giving them trouble. Galin can fill you in on what their mission is so you can make an informed decision.”
“Yes mam.” He looked at her like he wanted to say something and then made his mind up. “Ms. Mina, thank you.”
“You are welcome Greg but please just call me Mina.” She smiled at him before slipping out the door to join her husband.
The day was a pleasant one. It was hot, but pleasant. Pumar and Greg enjoyed each other’s company. It was clear they’d missed each other since the latter disappeared. They took several dips in the spring and by the end of the day I’d informed him what our trip was about, introduced him to Isaac, Jacob, and Rakish and even described what living in Colorado is like. He actually began to loosen up by late afternoon. It was only as the sun sank low in the sky, maybe three or four hours before sunset, that he became quiet and his former sullen self surfaced. We sat in the garden under the old oak tree watching Pumar swim trying to see how deep he could dive in the spring. I was surprised to find out it was over sixty feet to the mouth. It didn’t look that deep. He came back up on the bank next to us and sat between Greg and me. “Galin, I want to go with you and the rest, but I don’t want to cause trouble. I’m not worth it.”
“Greg you may go with Pumar and me on this trip or you may go with Mina and the others to Colorado, but please don’t ever say you aren’t worth it again. I don’t know if anyone other than Shredder who tried brainwashing you into believing that throughout your life, but it’s not true.” He didn’t say anything, but at least he didn’t argue either. I looked around to see Mina approaching down the garden path. Where we sat was downwind from her direction of approach so I smelled her coming for quite a while before I turned to look. Shea walked beside her and they seemed deep in conversation. When she looked up a very grave expression was etched on her face for all to see. “Hi Mina, what’s up?”
She looked at me and then at Greg. “Have you made up your mind Greg?”
“Yes mam, I’d like to go with Pumar and Galin please.”
“That is what you truly want?”
“Very well, you may accompany them then. As for tonight Lucian will be here one hour after sunset with five of his guards. I’ll say that he is most unpleased by the fact that you are here and didn’t return with the other wolves, but he also understands our position and has promised to listen to your complaints before rendering a decision. Understand Greg that it does not matter what he says, our minds are made up and you will have a home with us for as long as it is needed or wanted.” He nodded but said nothing. “Also, he insists Shredder is one of the guards who accompany him. We didn’t want to allow it, but he said there would be no negotiations if Shredder isn’t allowed to defend his honor.” A look of outraged panic passed through Greg’s eyes, but Mina held up her hand for silence. “I don’t think the beast has any honor at all, but it is Lucian’s right to insist on his attendance. You have no reason to fear Greg. As I’ve said, we will not allow Shredder to get a hold on you. We’ll kill him outright before it comes to that. Shanita and I have talked a long time about this and we came up with a solution that will keep the two of you apart and focus any blame the wolves have on Galin.” Turning to me she continued: “I want you and your party to take Greg to the boat this afternoon and prepare to set sail just before sunset. Go first and Shea and the crew will follow a little behind. Secrete Greg below decks and keep him out of sight until you are well off shore. We will tell the wolves you kidnapped Greg of your own accord and took him with you. Hopefully this will turn aside their anger from the panthers and focus it on us. Once you're too far out for them to peruse, call us and tell us what you've done as though you did it on your own. Do it while we're at the meeting tonight. Shanita will act outraged and banish the rest of us from the tribe. If all goes well Lucian and Shredder will buy it.” Turning her attention back to Greg she took a deep breath and then set herself to tell him one last thing. “There is one more thing you need to know Greg; Lucian told Shanita he will extend his protection to you should you decide to return to the pack. He plans on making a bid to convince you to stay Greg.”
“Yes mam. Our Wolfkönig doesn't mean what he's offering or at least I don't believe him.” He looked down at his feet and then back up at my queen. “Again, thank you Mina. I appreciate everything you’re doing for me.”
“You’re welcome. Galin was right; I’ve extended my protection to other species than tigers before but never to a non cat.” He nodded his head again and stood a little closer to Pumar as though my lunar-son’s aura alone could spread a shield of protection over him. Pumar for his part slipped a very wet arm over his friends shoulder reeling him into a much tighter hug. Greg didn’t seem to mind the water and appreciated the intimacy. “The rest of our council at home was not too happy about it until Rōk explained to them what you’re facing if we don’t intervene. Ultimately the decision is mine and I’ve made it, but it’s good to have their support. It will make things easier on us all. Also you will be interested to know there are three wolf packs within a 200 mile radius of our territory and one of these boarders us. This one I already knew about and I do like their Wolfkönig. He’s a cousin of one of our tigers and he is good people. I didn’t tell you about him earlier because I wanted to contact him to see if he’d be interested in adopting you.”
As Mina talked Greg clung more and more to Pumar. It was clear he wasn’t interested in trusting any wolves right now and maybe not ever. “Mina, may I speak with you again please?”
Mina’s expression made clear she wasn’t very inclined to give me an ear. “If you need to say something Galin, then speak. Otherwise shut up.” She’s never spoken to me like this before, so I guessed I really had overstepped my bounds this time.
“I think it’s pretty clear looking at Greg that he is not ready to trust any wolf pack right now.”
Greg finally spoke up. “No, Galin’s right, I’m not ready to trust any wolf and I’m not sure I’ll ever trust them again.”
“Very well; Greg we are not going to force you to join a pack, not now, not ever, but I simply want you to understand there are options for you. You don’t have to stay with this pack.”
Mina nodded and then sat down pulling Rōk with her. “It’ll soon be dark and Lucian will be arriving about an hour after sunset. We need to get ready.”
About that time three river otters climbed over the dam slipping effortlessly through the spring to waddle up on the grass at Mina’s feet. They looked us up and down and then the larger one looked at the two smaller one’s sidling up next to it. I recognized the larger one as Master Frisk, but since I’ve only seen him, I had no idea who the others were. Mina seemed to be thinking along the same lines because she turned to Rakish sending him to inform Shanita and Shea of the otters’ arrival. As Rakish slipped out of the garden to report this new development Master Frisk shifted and before us stood a very naked redheaded man. Beside him one of the smaller otters likewise shifted into a young man in his late teens or early twenties – it was hard to tell. He came about to Alton’s shoulders, maybe a little higher but not as tall as him, which meant he stood about three and a half feet tall. The other otter that’d not turned eased back towards the spring looking at the fish. “Tobin, get away from those fish. I’ve already told you no.” The arrant otter scampered back over to the two men and transformed immediately to a man identical to the other one. They both had blond hair with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. They weren’t the light blue one normally sees but a much deeper blue like really deep water.
“Sorry Master, but they look so good. Surely you cannot blame me for thinking about it?” His voice was a tenor and it had a slight Scottish accent to it.
“Be that as it may, they are not yours to do with as you please, so leave them alone.”
“Yes sir.” The two young men stood a little behind Master Frisk and the one chastised made a face at the older man that just about cracked me up. He was promptly rewarded by a resounding slap from his brother who scolded him in a most peculiar language. It was full of all sorts of chatters, clicks, chirps, and whistles and I guessed it may well be the otter’s language. I found this interesting because while I can understand the noises a tiger makes, I can hardly make them properly with my human anatomy.
“Ignore them please Lady Mina. They truly can be a real pain in the neck sometimes.” Mina smiled at the three of them and started to say something but Master Frisk cut her off. “I’m sorry to cut you off, but I’ve got some news and a proposition. I take it you’ve sent for Lady Shanita?”
“Yes, I sent Rakish to tell her of your arrival.”
“Good, I’m afraid the wolves are up to something again. They tried to kill me last night for warning you of their impending attack, but I could not, in good faith, have done anything else. Shanita has always treated my people and me with respect and never failed to come to our aid when we needed their help. I cannot say the same for Lucian and his wolves.”
“Well, speaking of Lucian, he and five of his guards are scheduled to arrive here about an hour after dark Master Frisk. I’m not sure I’d let them catch you here again since they’re probably still angry about last night.”
“Be that as it may, I’ve got to warn Lady Shanita about this new development and give you my proposition. But I’ll say no more until the Lady arrives.”
“Very well: She should be here shortly.” They were not far off. About that time Shanita, Shea, and about two thirds of the council members arrived in the garden.
“Master Frisk it is good of you to come. Welcome to our home. I see you’ve brought your two most mischievous otters with you.” Shanita said this last with a bit of exasperated irony lacing her voice.
“Now Lady Shanita, the reason I’ve brought these two rascals with me will become obvious here shortly, but first I need to warn you that the wolves have gathered again in your territory. They aren’t moving this way, but there is a contingent of them just north of our bend in the river on your side.”
“This is certainly news I need to know considering Lucian is supposed to arrive here in a few hours time. Would you know how many there are?”
“Not many, they are on the river’s edge where Pine Barren Creek enters the Escambia. I’d say maybe ten or fifteen. Lucian is with them. Since you are expecting him, you may already know about their presence but I came to warn you anyway.”
“Yes it is good to know what the enemy is doing and I do thank you for making the trip down here to warn us. As it is though I’ve got a number of my own people on the border between the pack’s territory and ours and our scouts have already informed me of their movements in our lands. So, please tell me why you brought your two nephews with you? You know how much I just love them.” Sarcasm was thick and Alton Frisk flinched at the words.
“Well, I propose to Lady Mina and to Isaac and his group that they add these two to their quest. Tobin and Torquil I believe would come in handy for them. They’re small and I think you will agree they’re able to get into things most people cannot.”
Shanita laughed outright at that last part. “To say the least; if they should have occasion to need to drive anyone crazy they would come in handy there too.” The mirth in her voice was only tempered by the sarcasm.
“There is a reason I offer them to you Isaac and Galin.” Master Frisk turned his attention to us hoping to find a much more tolerant ear. “Aside from finding a wereferret, you cannot hope to find a better pair of thieves than Tobin and Torquil. And as Lady Shanita has so politely pointed out, if you should find the need to drive someone absolutely crazy you can find no one better. At any rate I think the adventure would be just the thing these two need to open their eyes to the world. They’re getting to the age where I will soon no longer be able to prevent them from leaving home and if they are so determined to go on an adventure, I’d rather them go with friends. Please consider taking them with you.”
I was about to say I didn’t think it would be the best idea, but Isaac spoke before I could say anything. “We’d be glad to have them along Master Frisk. I think we may find ourselves in need of their peculiar skills.” I looked at Isaac like he lost his mind but the tall elf smiled at me. “Now Galin, I’ve been on this sort of adventure before and believe me their skills will be invaluable. Besides, it will give you something to do keeping up with them.” The humor in his voice was unmistakable and I figured he agreed more to torment me than for the use of whatever skills these two fur coats could possibly provide.
It took about an hour for us to get everything together and ready to head out. Fortunately for us there was more than one way out of the swamp so getting back to civilization wasn't as difficult as the trek coming in had been. A small canal stretched from the river into the compound. The mouth of which was obscured from view by a series of trees planted in such a way to look natural but at the same time shield the entrance. As we loaded our belonging and supplies into one of a Boston Whaler docked on a lower level of the boardwalks I asked Shea how they managed to keep people from seeing their village, for that's what this place was, a small village. “We've gone out of our way to camouflage it. The roofs of the buildings are painted to look natural from the air and the boardwalks kind of blend in on their own. Also the trees are large enough to spread their branches over almost everything. The only time we have problems is during the winter but most of the trees here keep their leaves year round. None of the structures go closer to the river's edge than a quarter of a mile which keeps the fishermen from spotting us. We keep the hunters out well enough mainly because over the years most local people have grown suspicious of the entire area. Years ago we killed anyone who ventured in and it didn’t take long for the place to gain a reputation that is long to forget. Plus having tribal members on the various police forces helps keep other officials away.”
“So people view it as haunted or cursed?”
“Pretty much, yes.”
“How long have you been with the panthers?”
“The Swampbane Tribe has been here for more than six-thousand years, but Shanita turned me 237 years ago. I'm her lunar-daughter. I came back here with her from my homeland.”
“You're 237? WOW! You look good for an old broad.” Pumar said grinning.
Shea smiled at him. “And you look absolutely delicious for such a young kitten.” When she smiled again she showed fangs and the threat was perfectly clear.
I hit Pumar's side. “Don't ever call a woman old Pumar. It might get you hurt; especially among us.”
Pumar leaned in against me. “I think I see the points – all four of them.” Shea gave a deep throated laugh exposing her fangs. The light glinted just right off the tips revealing exactly how sharp they really were and just as quickly they vanished before she closed her mouth.
She untied the bow of boat throwing the block to me leaving only the stern block secured. “Shanita wants you to hide Greg until you get to the Twilight Obsession and then get him below decks as soon as possible.” She looked at Greg, “Don't worry about it Greg, we'll get you to safety. Also, you may like to know that the Twilight Obsession has an air-conditioner you may use when at the dock. We don't use it unless someone is on board because of the condensation it produces, but it helps with the heat and after sitting all day in the sun it will need to be cooled down.”
Greg looked a little relieved. “That’s good. Thanks again for what you all are doing for me. It's just... I like boats and all, but being below decks always makes me sick.”
“Now don't you worry yourself about that son. We got all kinds of things to help with seasickness.” Toby said as he clapped Greg on the back. He was one of the crew members Shea chose for the trip and I wasn't sure I liked the idea or not. Toby is an alright guy, it's just… I don't know… I guess I don't trust myself around him. He's got an air about him that is both alluring and dangerous all at the same time. Kind of creeps me out and turns me on all at once.
Shanita came down to see us off along with Mina and the rest of the tigers who were not going, that is all but Rakish who stood in the boat next to Toby. I really hoped Klaus would be going but Mina said she needed him back home. He is her second in command after Rōk and I guess it was a bit much to expect him to come along on an adventure that may kill us all. “I guess this is goodbye. I'm truly glad to have met you all.” Shanita said. “Shea and Trent will meet you tonight after dark at the designated rendezvous.” I wondered what she was talking about because it was my understanding they would meet us at the docks where the Twilight Obsession was harbored. “I really do wish you all a safe journey and may the gods be with you.” She said something to Toby in Choctaw who nodded his head to whatever it was and then turned and walked back the way she'd come. It was odd, I would have expected her to stand and watch us depart – most would.
Mina stepped down onto the dock next to the sturdy craft. “It was good to see you again Galin, even if I'm still a bit pissed with you. I do wish you the best of luck on this adventure.” Pumar and I got out of the Boston Whaler to give Mina a hug goodbye when all of a sudden a fur-ball flew past us rolling down the dock and crashed into one of the pylons. It was the only thing that kept them from plunging off into the dark canal water below. At first I couldn't figure out what it was. When it stopped roiling around, I realized much to my dismay that Tobin and Torquil had joined us. The two otters had been occupying themselves playing in the spring promising not to eat any of the ornamental fish. One of them stood up on his hind legs using his tail to maintain balance bobbing his head up and down trying to see what was going on, or so I expected. “Ah, Tobin and Torquil, so nice of you to join us.” Mina was about as exasperated with the two furry devils as Shanita seemed to be earlier. Pumar, Greg and I made it a point to stay as far away from the two rascals as possible for most of the afternoon. Since we had to pack it was not a difficult task to accomplish until now and it finally struck me I was going to have to share the confines of a very small boat with them. The Twilight Obsession may be fifty feet long, but it will be a VERY small boat with these two aboard. One of the otters scampered aboard our escort and bounced all over our belongings. Right after Master Frisk's visit Shanita dispatched two of her panthers to motor upstream to the Otters' Five Bends home to retrieve the twins’ luggage
Finding their suitcases the otter lay down contentedly on top of the one marked Tobin. I guessed therefore it must be Tobin. Looking at the otter still on the dock I said. “Are you coming Torquil?” He nodded his oval shaped head and promptly dove into the water. A second later he was joined by his brother. “I swear those two are going to be the death of us all.”
“Let's hope your dire prophecy will not come to pass, shall we?” Isaac said. “I swear to you... Galin, before you know it you will love those two. It's part of their charm.” Isaac was finding it difficult to get used to my real name.
“Goodbye mother.” I said reaching out to give her a hug once more.
She wrapped me in her arms and held me tight. “Goodbye son. God, I'm missing you already.” She kissed me on the cheek and pulling back I saw tears welling in the corner of her eyes.
I climbed aboard the boat as Pumar hugged the other’s goodbye. “It was really great meeting all of you. I hope your journey home will be a good one.”
“We’ve enjoyed meeting you too Pumar and again, welcome to the family. I may have been miffed at Galin for turning you, but I think he made a good choice.” Mina told him. She kissed his cheek and gave him a bone cracking hug. Rōk and the other men hugged him or shook his hand as he passed by them on his way back to the boat. He hopped in beside me and I watched as Mina approached Greg. She had to get in the boat to get to him. “Greg, I’m truly sorry about the experience you’ve had with wereanimals. The experience can be a lot of fun if it’s done right. We’ll take care of Shredder and Lucian; you won’t have to worry about them again.” He looked nervous as she hugged him and kissed his cheek like he wasn’t used to anyone being nice to him.
“Yes: Lucian we’ll deal with diplomatically but we have special plans for Shredder. After we’re through he will never terrorize anyone ever again.” Klaus said with András and Szilárd displaying very evil grins behind him.
With this Mina climbed out of the boat and Greg settled on the floor where we pulled a tarp over for him to hide under. “Again, thank you all. I won’t forget this.” We untied the stern block and Bryan, one of the werepanther’s who volunteered to pilot us to the Twilight Obsession, motored the boat carefully down the canal to the river. The branches of the camouflage trees made us all duck to get to open water but before long we set off downstream for Pensacola Bay. Even at full speed it would take a long time to get there. The Obsession’s mast were too tall to get under several of the inter bay bridges so it had to be docked near to the Gulf.
At first the river offered enough obstacles that our trip went slow and the otters enjoyed themselves immensely as they swam circles around us trying to splash water over us. However their fun had to end because soon the river opened up into a much wider and smooth body of water. Bryan stopped the boat and helped the otters inside. While we were stopped I made up my mind. “Bryan, hold on here a moment please. Looking at Toby and the others I added: “I’m going back.”
“What?” Toby asked and the look on his face would have been comical if my reasons weren’t so grave.
“I’m going back.” He nodded.
Rakish and Pumar who heard everything gave me a very worried look. “What are you doing Galin?” My lunar-father asked. “Please don’t do anything else to piss Mina off. She’s already upset enough with you.”
“I’m not, but I’ve got to make sure that bastard is taken care of once and for all. I’ll come tonight with Shea. Rakish, please take care of them. You and I may have our differences, but after what you did to me, you owe me this.”
He nodded his head understanding both my request and my need to return to stop Shredder. “I’ll see no harm comes to either of them. Just make sure you do the same with yourself.” I nodded once and turned for the side of the boat.
Pumar gripped my arm. “Galin please…”
I leaned in and whispered into my son’s ear low enough so any wereanimal who may be on the river banks would not hear. “I gotta do this Pumar. I’ll be OK, but I have to make sure Shredder is destroyed. Take care of your friend and please don’t do anything stupid.” I smiled at my lunar-son. He nodded his head yes with a solemn look on his face. “I’ll see you tonight.” I promised. With this I sat on the side and rolled backward into the dark swirling water coming up just as the boat slipped past. With powerful strokes of my arms I reached shore and clambered on bank. Turning around I looked back towards my friends and family in the boat as it roared back to life speeding on around a bend and out of sight. I swear sometimes I should just mind my own business and leave some things to others, but I had to do this. I still wasn’t exactly sure what ‘this’ was, but whatever it is I had to do it.
I slipped into the brush that lined the river for about fifteen feet or so thick and emerged into open forest. Heading north and back upstream I set out at a steady run, which I hoped would bring me back to the Panther’s compound a little after sunset with only a little time before Lucian was scheduled to arrive. As it turned out I was slightly late getting to the large pavilion in the center of the community because the breeze was a little against me on my way back and while I didn’t get lost, not really… OK, I got lost. It took me a little longer than I thought to find the trail we hiked in on the day we came here – in fact, I never found it. Finally I managed to come up behind one of the hutches but could not figure out for the life of me how to get up on the boardwalk. Eventually I decided to just climb the damn pylon and over the railing onto the boardwalk. I was a mess by the time I got to the council and Lucian was already addressing Lady’s Shanita and Mina in a much more formal lecture than I thought he would. He was downright diplomatic. Just behind him stood four men and one woman all of whom but one had the same amber eyes. One had black hair, another reddish brown, another’s was spotted black and white, and the woman had white hair. The one whose eyes didn’t match was a huge hulk of a man with large strong arms, thick thighs, flat stomach with washboard abs, a thick neck and gray hair. His eyes were identical to Greg’s and so I knew this was Shredder. His human form almost made two of mine and I almost dreaded finding out how large his beast is, but that was almost certain to happen once I revealed myself.
I slipped behind a row of panthers in a trajectory that would bring me closer to my people. There were a few muffled gasp when some of the people saw me who knew I was supposed to be gone. Mina caught a whiff of me before I got around to where I could speak to her and she glanced in my direction only briefly before returning her attention to the greetings Lucian was giving them. “My Ladies, may I introduce you to my guard? This is Richard Burdock” – black hair – “”and next to him is Judy Burdock, Richard’s wife – white hair – “and next to her is Calvin Ingersoll” – spot – “then there’s Jeff Sanders” – red hair – “and last but not least and only because I have no doubt you’ve already guessed who he is because of Greg is Shredder.” Shredder grinned flashing a pair of fangs that I could only assume were there because he couldn’t fully transform back to human. Sometimes this happens when a shapeshifter maintains their animal form too long without shifting back to human – not always, but sometimes. He was covered in tattoos of the most gruesome depictions of macabre things such as skulls, severed limbs, wolves tearing into flesh and the one on his back caught my attention more than any of them. It was a wolf breaking out of his human bonds as though emerging out of Shredder’s back ripping and clawing its way free. It covered his whole naked back. Unlike the others he only wore a pair of cutoff jean shorts, barefoot, and nothing else to detract from his ink covered body. “Lady Mina, it is my understanding that you are holding one of my own captive. Where is Greg?”
“He’s in a safe place and we are not holding him captive but he is with us of his own free will. He’s asked for my protection against you and your man here Shredder and I’ve granted it to him.” Mina said, but she made another quick glance at me as though to ask what the hell I was doing here – I guess she had a right. This time Lucian looked where she glanced but since he’s never seen my human form before he only saw a black tiger standing here in as a human.
“Is it not customary for the prisoner… excuse me, the person in question who has asked for your protection, to be present at a hearing such as this?” Lucian asked.
“Where is my son?” Growled Shredder: “I demand to see him at once.”
“Patience Shredder, we’ll get to the bottom of this soon enough.” Lucian said to the huge man standing a few feet from him. “However Shredder does have a point so I ask again, where is Greg?”
Shanita spoke: “Since you would not listen to reason and leave Shredder behind, we thought it best for Greg not to be present.”
“This is most unusual and not at all in accordance to protocol.”
“Fuck protocol, I want my son now!” Shredder howled. “Greg!” I was beginning to dislike Shredder even more if that were possible. Ripping this man apart would be nice.
“I must insist on seeing my pack member Shanita. It is my right and I demand it.”
“Very well, but none of you may be left alone with him at any time.” Shanita called over two of her guards and gave them instruction to bring Greg to the hearing. They bowed once and started to move off but I preempted their departure by stepping into the open, covered in drying mud, leaves, and wet with river water.
“No need to look for the boy gentlemen, you will not find him.” The guards looked at me and then back at a rather startled Shanita. Storm clouds rolled through Mina’s eyes. They’d had this all planned out and now I’ve done what I do best – tossed in a wild card.
“Galin, would you please explain yourself?” Mina said through clenched teeth.
“I’ll be glad too. I took him away from here and placed him where he cannot be found. I then returned to debate on his behalf.”
“Why would you do such a thing Galin, he was perfectly safe here surrounded by more than a hundred panthers and ten tigers.” Shanita asked.
“I’m sorry my Lady, but it doesn’t matter if we had five hundred people watching him, I simply do not trust Lucian or Shredder. Greg’s ‘master’ would most assuredly try to bully him into submitting into returning and Lucian would have snake talked to the boy until mesmerizing him into believing whatever lies he told him.”
“This is an outrage!” Lucian spat the words towards me like so much bile. Shredder didn’t say anything, but the look in his eyes was pure murder.
“Oh?” I asked. “Is it not so that you allowed Shredder to torture and kill another of his ‘slaves,’ named Matthew, all because he ‘allowed’ himself to be captured by the were-warthogs?”
Lucian was about to say something but Shredder cut him off. “It was my right to kill that insolent brat! And I’d do it again if I had the chance. He disgraced me and the whole of the pack.”
“Shut up Shredder!” Lucian hissed. “All of that is inter-pack business. There is no need to air it out before god and everyone here.”
“So, you condone Shredder’s actions?” I asked.
“It is Shredder’s right to do as he pleases with his own progeny. It is pack policy.” Lucian straightened himself up to his full height stubbornly defending his position.
“And who is it that makes pack policy?”
“The council and I do.”
“But it boils down to you does it not? You can change policy as you will with or without the council’s agreement if you choose?”
“Yes. What is this?”
“So if you can change the policy at will, than Matthew’s cries for mercy and help fell on deaf ears and a cold heart. From what I was told the entire pack heard the torture being carried out and the pleas for help to save him from what Shredder was doing to him.”
“It was Shredder’s rightful place to punish him as he saw fit.”
“And is it not your position as leader of your pack, as Wolfkönig, to protect your pack from harm and from any enemy both domestic and foreign?”
“Was it not your responsibility to protect Matthew from Shredder as he tortured and slowly ripped him apart for being an inexperienced wolf whose only real crime was to embarrass his ‘master’?”
“You’re his leader, right? His king, and his protector; yet you failed him. You failed to protect him from the most dangerous person the lad ever met. You did nothing at all to help or save him!”
“I am not on trial here and I don’t have to listen to this, not from you. I’m leaving now.” Lucian pointed his finger at Mina and me. “You will return my wolf to me.” He turned to leave, but Shanita signaled her people and they blocked his path.
I smiled at the startled look on Lucian’s face but sobered as I began talking again. “You allowed an innocent person under your protection and care to be executed in such heinous ways that even the worst of criminals should not have to suffer it yet you stood by and did nothing as Matthew screamed out for your help, begged for your mercy.”
“I…” Lucian began but closed his mouth.
“You what, liked hearing his screams, his torment, his murder?” I sneered at him as I spoke the last word.
Lucian rounded on me with a fire in his eyes. “NO, I did NOT like listening to his screams or his please for mercy. My hands were tied. I could do nothing.”
“That’s right cat! It is entirely my right to do as I please with my own and it is none of your business or of any of you for that matter. And I’ll enjoy a repeat performance with Greg. He is mine!”
“Shut up Shredder!” Lucian’s voice took on a growling quality and Shredder closed his mouth but replaced the words with a most leering smirk.
“Your hands weren’t tied Lucian, you will was. You are too afraid to do your own duty. There is no wonder Greg doesn’t trust you. He cannot. You failed his friend Matthew just like you will fail him.” I said. Lucian started to argue, but I cut him off. “Since you are either unwilling or incapable of doing what is necessary, then I will. Shredder, I challenge you to a fight to the death.”
“Oh yea!” Shredder gave me a grin that reminded me more of a snarl.
“What?” This came from several people including Lucian, Mina, and Shanita.
“A fight to the death, I challenge Shredder to a fight to the death. Since Lucian is too weak to do it, then I will.”
“And I accept.” Shedder said in a husky voice. I couldn’t tell if it was naturally gravelly or if the anticipation of possibly kicking tiger ass had him all giddy inside.
“This is ludicrist!” Mina said and I have no doubt she would have said more, but other’s cut her off: “When?”; “Where?”
“Right here, right now, no need in delaying this.” I said.
Lucian looked positively pale. “I… I… I cannot allow this.”
“You have no say in the matter. I challenged and he accepted. By the rules of conduct by both pack and clan once a challenge has been made and accepted there is no turning back.”
Everyone including the four wolves who’d accompanied Lucian and Shredder backed up creating a large circle. On my side Mina and Rōk still stood beside me. Lucian still stood where he was. Mina took my arm and pulled me to look at her. “Why have you done this Galin?” Tears welled up in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks.
“Because Lucian is unwilling to clean his own house, I’m the only one who can.”
She grabbed me in a tight hug. “I cannot stop what you’ve put into motion here. I wish I could, but all I can do now is stand and watch. I hope you know what you’re doing, because I don’t want to watch you die.” She kissed me on the cheek again and stepped back to the edge of the circle grasping Rōk’s hand in hers while benches were moved aside to make room.
“Galin, you should not have done this.” Lucian said.
“You left me no choice. If I just leave here with Greg, Shredder will stop at nothing to hunt us down and you know this. Therefore it’s up to someone else to clean up your mess.” I stripped my shirt off and tossed it to the side. “What form do you choose Shredder? As the challenged you get the choice.”
“I choose half beast form and I’m going to have fun ripping you apart like I did Matthew; like I will Greg: nice and slow eating all the good pieces.” Malice, contempt, and pure joyful anticipation dripped off every word.
I had no idea if I’d be able to take Shredder or not, but I had to do this, had to beat him. Not only did my life depended on it now but truth be known so did Greg and Pumar’s. In both wolf packs and tiger clans the winner of a challenge gains everything that belongs to the looser and that includes custody rights to their lunar-children until they come of age. Greg didn’t stand a chance against Shredder and Pumar, as strong as he is, didn’t either. I had to win this. As Shredder and I squared off like two men getting ready to have a friendly boxing match, Lucian stumbled back to the edge of the circle like a man struck dumb. It looked as if he didn’t know what to do or what to say.
I faced Shredder and began to realize I might have bitten off more than I could chew. He was huge even in human form and I had no doubt his half animal form was just as intimidating. I concentrated on the change and felt the familiar shifts in my body as I slid shapes. It started as a tingling sensation that morphed into a flowing of bones, sinews, muscles, and fur until a half tiger stood there. Across from me Shredder did the same thing and now I knew I was in trouble. I’m sorry Pumar and Greg: I thought. There was no way I was going to win this. The power that poured off him, full of malice and hate, was also incredibly strong. I pushed back with my power and I felt his give just a tad, not enough, but maybe if I use it right… He grinned at me like he was about to eat a tasty treat and that may not be too far from the truth with this one. Our shifting only took a few seconds each and now we stood face to face, wolf to tiger, fingers turned into claws and teeth elongated into fangs. I could smell his stink like someone that’d not bathed in a while mixed with the feted rotting smell of raw flesh stuck between uncleaned teeth. Just the stench alone was enough to make me gag and distract me from the problem at hand – staying alive.
“Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” he taunted. I was not about to be the one to throw the first punch so to speak. I may be dumb sometimes – this time not excluded, but I wasn’t so stupid as to charge into certain death without thinking it through. He charged me as I mulled this over and I barely had time to dodge out of his way. A faintest slice from his claw caught in my fur and I felt rather than saw the hair falling around me where his claw severed it from my back. I turned into him so we faced off and came around to my left just in time to see his hand swipe out for my head. I ducked just in time to keep him ripping it off my shoulders and slashed out with my right arm at his abdomen. My claws caught him slashing deep furrows into his flesh, but not deep enough to incapacitate him: much to my chagrin. He let out a blood curdling howl and as fast as lightning swung around catching me across my right shoulder almost severing my arm – or at least it felt like it. He’d cut me to the bone, but my arm was still intact and would work again soon, but not soon enough. I dodged another blow to my head as I ducked before trying to kick his legs out from under him. It would have worked but he saw it coming and leaped into the air at the last moment preventing contact. He came down on top of me grabbing me around the neck and would probably have ripped my head off except for one saving grace. I’d kicked backwards between his legs and caught him squarely between them squishing his jewels. He staggered pulling me with him but I’d had just enough time to catch my footing so that I launched into him pushing us over knocking him to the ground with me on top. This might sound good, but believe me; it’s not – not with him. He grabbed a hold on my arms and delivered a series of kicks aimed at disemboweling me, but the angle was not quite right. He did manage to dig deep cuts into my abs with his feet, but not like he wanted to, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t hurt like hell. I let out a scream and bit deep into his forearm just above the wrist. I just about took his hand off, but he pulled free just in time to save it but what used to be his hand was now a bloody mass of chewed flesh and bone. I’d felt several of his bones crack when I bit down as he pulled free.
Again he howled in pain cradling his hand for a moment before he saw me jump toward him with my arms extended in an attempt to catch hold on him and dig in like I’d seen Rakish do to the wolf last night. It didn’t work. He caught hold of one of my arms and twisted it spinning me to the ground. In a flash he sat on top of me delivering blows that would break a mortal’s jaw, but only bruised mine but it still hurt like hell. His claws and teeth flashed and snapped at me cutting me all over the head and shoulders. Finally he twisted me into a headlock and was about to twist my head off when we heard Lucian shouting at him. “Don’t kill him Shredder! I swear I’ll execute you if you do!”
“Shut up old man. This is not your fight.”
“It is now. I challenge you Shredder but this challenge only stands if you let him go, or don’t you want to fight me for ascendancy?” This caught the huge wolf’s attention. He let go of me and stood so fast I thought I’d broken several of the wooden planks under us. I know I heard one crack at any rate, or was it a rib?
“You’re offering me the crown if I beat you?”
“If you beat me, no one will be able to stand in your way. I’ll be dead and you’ll be the strongest wolf in the pack.”
“I accept your challenge.” He stepped away from me but not without delivering a nicely placed kick to my gut. Rōk and Klaus stooped by my side to help me up and pull me away from the fighting area, but I waved them off preferring to do it on my own. They acquiesced and stood nearby should I need assistance. I didn’t, and I manage to walk over to Mina before I collapsed at her feet.
She stooped beside me and helped me up into a seated position so I could watch the impending battle between wolf king and subject. Lucian already made the switch between human and half wolf and the two circled each other. “That was a very brave and stupid thing you did Galin.” Mina said to me as she held me.
I could have stood, but I really didn’t want to give anything away. I’d thrown the fight even though I wasn’t sure I needed too. Shredder was every bit the bad-ass he presented himself to be. But I’d bet on Lucian and I was right. I’d won the gambit. I’d hurt his pride just enough with the truth of his cowardice to make him stand up to Shredder at long last. Now the truth of it would come out. Either Lucian was every bit the king he claimed to be, or he was not. If he won this fight, Shredder would be dead and Lucian would have the chance to put his house in order once again. If he lost, then I pitied everyone in the neighborhood. “Lucian, did you ever figure out who it was that turned your son and grandson over to Angela?” I called out. Lucian looked at me a moment, but not enough to take his attention off his foe. “Have you asked Shredder why he would want to kill them so badly that he’d betray you?” This caught Lucian’s attention enough to almost distract him, but he managed to keep Shredder in his sights.
“What are you talking about?” He gave me a quick glance that clearly showed his annoyance.
“Ask him.” I called out.
After a moment or two to think about it, the dawn of understanding came over him. He understood and a cold steal look stole over his face. “What of it Shredder, did you turn my son and grandson over to that bitch?”
Shredder was just spiked with enough adrenalin and over confidence that he smirked his answer. “Yea, so what if I did? Something needed to kick your ass in gear.”
“You sorry son of a bitch!” Lucian flew into Shredder so fast that even in my half beast form my eyes couldn’t keep up with him. He bowled the large man over and the fight was on. Both men were a blur with claws and fangs lashing out ripping deep furrows into each other. Lucian got the advantage long enough to rake his claws down Shredder’s back ripping great swaths of flesh off as he went. He then rounded around so fast that it was all the big man could do to deflect a killing blow with his arm which hung useless after the move was completed. It was vicious and didn’t last as long as I thought it would. Lucian swung his arm upward catching Shredder in the stomach just under the sternum lifting the big man off his feet throwing him a good fifteen or twenty feet. I thought it was over right then and there. His heart should have been so much ground wolf but Shredder staggered to his feet preparing to take another round. Lucian didn’t give him a chance to get a blow in. “I’ve been wondering who betrayed me, you son of a bitch.” He threw a punch that caught Shredder under the chin snapping his head back. The blow would have broken most lycanthrope’s neck, but not Shredder’s. Instead he shook his head and tried again to get a swing in, but Lucian was on top of him. He brought both his hands down on either side of his opponents head smashing his palms over his ears and blood trailed down on both sides of Shredder’s neck. It didn’t kill him, but it did daze the big brute and dropped him to his knees. “This is for my son.” He kicked Shredder in the back and I heard his spine break in about three places. “Angela killed him before I got to her hideout.” He slammed his foot down on the back of Shredder’s knee and I heard the bones crack and pop under the pressure. “And this is for my grandson.” He gripped the big man’s head in both his hands. “She killed him while I watched helpless to stop her.” And he twisted pulling Shredder’s head off his shoulders in one great heave. Lucian’s arms bulged with the effort, but I heard the tendons ripping apart, the sucking sound as the spine separated, and the flesh renting as his head came free and the decapitated body hit the ground at Lucian’s feet. He held the head up high for everyone to see before slamming it down so hard the skull cracked. Lucian collapsed to his knees sitting on his feet and arms limply hung by his sides. Tears streamed down his face as he let go of all the frustration and anger that’d been building over a long time and came to a head just now. Everyone stood in stunned silence. Eventually the remaining wolves came and knelt beside their leader. The woman, I cannot remember her name, looked up at me and mouthed the words thank you before cradling her king’s head against her shoulder. It was a long time before the sobs stopped and Lucian hung loosely in the arms of those of his pack supporting him.
Later Mina walked up to me as I looked out over the dark swallowed swamp. “That was one very brave and VERY stupid thing you did tonight, but I think the wolves here will have a chance to heal now that sadist is gone. Thank you Galin, you’ve given them hope again.” I turned my head to look at my queen and saw the wolf woman standing behind her. I’d not smelled them because I was the one upwind. I looked at the woman for a moment. “This is Judy; she’d like a word with you if you don’t mind.” I nodded my head in acquiescence.
“Hello Galin. I’m glad to meet you on far better terms than last night and earlier tonight. I want to thank you for what you did for us. Shredder’s been a growing cancer in our pack for a long time.”
“You’re welcome, but I only did what had to be done. Why did Lucian put up with him for so long?”
“Because he felt responsible for him: Lucian rescued Shredder when he was but a pup from a pack of dogs that treated him much the way he treated his own pups. The only thing is the way Shredder took to it. He’s not a wolf, or not a full wolf. When he was changed he was bitten at the same time by a wolf and a Siberian husky. Since our strains of lycanthropy are so close they both took hold on him. Shredder’s been a part of our pack for nearly seventy-five years and he’s been a malignant influence ever since he joined us. It’s only gotten unbearably worse these last two decades or so, but Lucian at first pitied him and then grew to fear him.”
“She’s right.” A deep voice sounded from behind. I looked up to see Lucian walking toward us. “I’m not going to ask you to bring Greg back to us Galin. In fact I think getting away from us would be the best thing that could happen to him. I tolerated Shredder out of remorse and pity at first, but as he grew stronger I started fearing him, not sure what would happen if we fought. Then I became afraid of what would happen to the pack should I fail to defeat him. He was so like a son to me and now both my real son and grandson are dead because of him, not to mention the countless other’s he’s tortured and killed over the years.” He fell silent for a moment. “Galin, take care of Greg and try and teach him to trust again. I failed with his lunar-father please try not to fail Greg. I’d help if I could, but…” He started to turn but paused. “How did you know he’d betrayed me to Stonedeath?”
“I didn’t, but it was a good guess after what everyone told me about him. He pretty much confirmed it after I brought it up though. Thank you, Lucian, for not failing me. It was a gamble I took challenging Shredder but I hoped I read you right and fortunately I did.”
“It was a bigger gamble than you thought; I almost didn’t step up to it.” With this he left.
“I’d like to ride with you and Shea to the rendezvous site if you don’t mind.” Judy asked. I swear I have no ulterior motives, I just want to see Greg and tell him goodbye. He and I are friends.”
I looked at Shea and she confirmed her willingness. “I have no problem with it Galin.”
“Sure, you may come with us.” We walked down to the low part of the boardwalk that served as docks for the escort boats. Bryan had returned with the larger Boston Whaler, but we loaded into the smaller boat. It too was a Boston Whaler but an older one than what we’d taken earlier. This time when we motored out of the access canal all seemed right with the world at least for a time. I hoped it would stay that way for a while. I was really getting tired of all the drama my life had become. It took about two hours to get to the Twilight Obsession which was not at a dock but anchored just south of the Pensacola Bay pass past the jetties. It was not an easy location of approach but Bryan was an excellent boats-man and soon we were tethered alongside the large sailboat. Climbing aboard proved to be a bit tricky for those of us not used to boats but soon we all stood on the decks of the large ketch. I looked around at everyone on board and noticed Pumar and Greg were nowhere in sight and my lunar-father was a bloody mess up near the bow lying on his side. “What happened?”
“We were attacked. Apparently someone knew of our meeting place and told those sorry dogs.” Toby said. “There were four of them and all were large and mean.” I dear say we’d have lost if it weren’t for Isaac.” The man mentioned sat in the cockpit holding my gun. “I’d say he filled them full of led, but I’d wager my life it is silver.” I nodded.
“What’s wrong with Rakish?”
“He stood his grounds at the hatchway to below decks preventing the mongrels from going below. They tore him up pretty badly. I’ve tried to get him to turn and heal himself, but he refuses and I’m not strong enough to force him.”
“OK, I’ll talk with him. Please bring Greg and Pumar up. Someone’s here to see Greg off.”
“OK, will do, you’re the boss.” Toby turned to get the boys, while I made my way up the tossing deck to my lunar-father.
“Hello.” Rakish breathed out. His voice wheezed and I heard gurgling in his lungs.
“Hello, why haven’t you healed?”
“I don’t know. I cannot change. I’ve tried but it’s not working.” Clearly it was difficult for him to talk and each word was punctuated with wheezing breaths.
I knelt down next to Rakish and laid my hands on his wounded stomach. He’d already lost a lot of blood and I figured he was too weak to turn. “Rakish, I’m going to try and call your beast. I cannot let you die, not like this.” He nodded and even that much movement seemed to task his strength. I concentrated on Rakish’s beast. I felt it in there but like the man he was very weak. I called my own energy and felt my beast rise to my call and the energy flowed from me to my lunar-father. I’ve heard of a father calling his child’s beast before, but I’ve never heard of it the other way around. Usually a son is weaker than his father and therefore does not have the strength. I demonstrated just a couple of days ago that I’d surpassed my father in primal strength so I hoped this would work. My power continued rolling down my arms and into my father. At first nothing happened and I was about to give up when finally I felt his beast pulling on my power, drinking it in like a draft of life. As his draft grew stronger I really believed I’d grow weaker, but I didn’t. In fact it seemed to have the opposite effect on me because we both grew stronger. My tiger called to his and his listened. Slowly at first he rose up and padded towards the surface of Rakish’s psyche. I called again and his tiger picked up speed until he ran flat out to my call. I’d never called anyone’s beast before so I didn’t know what to expect. Just about then his tiger hit the surface and my lunar-father exploded in a shower of blood and a large black tiger lay in front of me bloody and panting but healed.
I wasn’t ready for the flow of emotions that passed between us and I wasn’t sure what surprised me more, his joyous relief at being healed and surprise that I’d done it or the remorse he felt for causing me the pain he had all those years ago. I’d never shared a lunar link with him and in that one instance I saw more than I ever thought to know about my sire. How he feared never being able to see his brother again so much he changed him, to the many children he brought over to the gift before this one woman who he loved as a father would love any child, the anguish when a rivaling tiger clan murdered her, his vow never to connect to a lunar-child again, to his joy at killing anyone he viewed as being murderous bastards such as my hunting team, his hatred of me at first and the way he grew to admire me over the years, his regrets for never allowing a connection to form between us, to his absolute horror when he found out just a couple of days ago that he’d killed my real brothers and my best friend, and most surprising of all a deep love I’d never thought to find in his pool of emotions that seemed focused on me alone. The sharing wasn’t just one way either. I could feel his remorse deepen as he felt my hatred of him and the longing inside him to make it up to me. He literally would do anything to make it all up to me if he could and at that moment I felt a crack in my chest. A heart frozen solid so long ago began to break apart. Not much, but a little and I knew I’d eventually grow to love this man provided nothing killed us first.
I heard Pumar and Greg arguing below decks and realized Greg didn’t want to come topside at all. “I’ll be right back Rakish.” He nodded his huge tiger head and I got up heading for the companionway down below.
“Greg, she’s alone and no one else is with her. We’re all here with you, but she says she needs to tell you something important.” Pumar pleaded.
“No, I don’t want to go. She is my friend, or at least I always counted her as one, but I don’t want to see any of them.”
I climbed down the steps and looked at the two. They were both nude which was not surprising. “Hi Greg.”
“Galin!” Greg’s eyes lit up. “I was so worried about you. Shredder would rip you apart if he thought you helped me escape him.”
“You don’t need to worry about Shredder again. He’s dead.” A look of disbelief surprise passed over his eyes. “Honest, Lucian killed him to prevent him from killing me. I can tell you all about it, but I really think you need to see Judy. All she wants to do is say goodbye and I think tell you something else. Please come topside and at least hear her out.”
“Shredder’s dead?” The look of disbelief began to morph into suspicion.
“Yes. I challenged him and we fought for your freedom, but before he could kill me Lucian stepped in and challenged Shredder to the death. Since this is what he wanted to begin with, he jumped on the opportunity and lost.” Greg nodded his head still not sure what to believe but he came towards the ladder to topside.
Slowly we all emerged and when Greg saw Judy he went to her and they hugged like brother and sister will do. “What Galin told you is right Greg. Shredder is dead. It’s about time too. Galin shamed Lucian before challenging Shredder. By the time that bastard won the battle and was about to kill Galin, Lucian stepped in and stopped it challenging Shredder to a fight to the death. Galin then told him Shredder betrayed him to Stonedeath turning over his son and grandson over to her. He admitted to it and that was all she wrote. Lucian ripped Shredder to pieces.” Greg started crying as he held onto Judy. Apparently she’d been his pillar of strength all this time under Shredder’s tyranny. “Lucian wanted me to convey a message to you. He said that for what it is worth, he’s sorry he let you and Matthew down and all the others over the years. He’s not asking your forgiveness, but he said that if you should ever decide to return you will always be welcome.”
“I’ll never return to that den you all call a pack.” Contempt thickened Greg’s voice. “I hate him almost as much as I do Shredder. Anyone who could just stand by and not stop what he did to Matthew…”
“None of us stepped in to stop it Greg. We are all at fault for what happened to Matthew. Granted Lucian should have put a stop to it long ago, but he really was afraid Shredder would beat him in a battle for ascension. I think you would agree that would have been a catastrophe. At any rate, Lucian gives you his blessings for this trip and thinks it would do you good to get away from all of us; at least for a time. I for one: hope to see you again. Will you keep in touch?”
“With you, yes. I don’t want Lucian’s blessing though. One of these days maybe, but right now I want nothing to do with him.” She nodded and let him go. I need to get back Greg. I’ll miss you. Take care of yourself and return in one piece please.” She smiled at him and he returned a facsimile of it back to her.
I backed up until I bumped into sticky wet fur. Looking down I saw Rakish leaning against me looking up into my eyes. He panted as cats are prone to do when it’s hot and since he was used to Colorado, it was hot here in Florida. Bryan stood close to the side rail at the point where the boats were tethered and Toby told him what happened while they waited for us. Apparently the wolves approached in a Boston Whaler like the one we rode out here in. they were already in half animal form when the boat pulled alongside and jumped aboard. The fight would have been a decisive loss if it hadn’t been for Isaac who climbed topside brandishing a gun. When he fired several shots into the first wolf he collapsed to the decks writhing in pain transforming back to human and died shortly after. The bullets apparently were filled with some sort of liquid silver that only took three or four shots to make a lethal doss. “It would suggest we have a spy among us.” Toby finished.
“I’ll tell Shanita and see what she and the council has to say.” Bryan said.
“I’m not sure it’s a spy among the panthers or tigers.” I said.
“What do you mean?” Both men asked.
“Last night I saw someone up in a tree watching the fighting between the wolves and us. His presence accompanied a chill I had twice before along with the feeling of someone watching me. When he noticed I’d seen him he vanished just like that, in thin air. I have a feeling we may have a vampire in our midst.”
“Why didn’t you say something before?” Toby asked.
“Because he seemed interested in me alone and it didn’t seem important at the time.” I answered. “Apparently it must have been.”
“I’ll tell Shanita this also, but Toby’s right Galin, you should have mentioned it. We do have a local vampire and he is a nasty bit of work. The bastard used to be a pirate captain of all things and he still thinks like one. If he can gain a profit by sharing information he will and his profit doesn’t always entail money either.”
“A pirate, who was he?” Isaac’s interest seemed to come alive all of a sudden.
“The Captain ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy?”
“The same.” Toby said. “It’s said he lost his life in a ship wreck during a storm, but the truth is he came afoul of a vampire who turned him. Now he haunts these swamps. Since daytime is only a very small deterrent for vampires, it is very possible he’s our enemy’s informant.”
“So that’s what happened to him. I knew he never died in that cursed storm.”
“You knew this Captain Black?” I asked.
“Yes, how do you think I came to live on Dominica? The bastard marooned me there after I refused to give him my medallion. Since he could not take it by force, he left me to the mercies of the natives islanders.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. It’s a small world after all.” I said looking at this ever changing and increasingly mysterious elf.
* * *
This concludes Chapter Nine. 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: email@example.com