For complete disclaimers, see part 1.
Author's note: Please feel free to leave feedback by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“A black panther, power and grace, is not a beast or human. It is a creature from the dark depths of evil. Those who come into contact with it shall perish in a painful bloody attack. It is currently hiding in the deep depths of Cartian Valley , where rumours of a human village exist. We must find it and kill it for the survival of our world.” preached an old man as he coughed violently before the crowd before him. His black eyes looked at the roomful of beasts and humans alike, all were able bodied warriors. They would be able to flush out and hopefully kill that vile creature. “Now let us prepare, for this will be our final hunt.”
Jacob sat in the back row of the gathered people. He was a beast like some of them. He was a handsome green eyed man most of the time or a green eyed bear the rest. He was only twenty years old which for his kind only saw him as a boy, still a young one although others in the room were younger. He smiled at the preacher who had spent most of his life sending out groups to hunt down various creatures who caused chaos to those that wanted nothing more than to live.
“What are you smiling about?” asked Langley , a female beast that could turn into a ferocious horse. Her brown eyes glanced over at her other friend who was also snickering at Jacob. She sighed since Jacob was not one to smile unless there was a reason for it. “Come on, spill.”
“He's planning something of course so that he can claim the glory all to himself.” said Mike who was just a normal human and a savage warrior. He was the only human that Langley allowed to ride on her back since he was skilled enough not to stab her while fighting and to ride her gently so that she could be as swift as the wind. “The preacher of course won't allow it since this will be a difficult hunt. However, I don't remember the last time that Jacob has ever listened to him.”
Jacob continued to pretend to listen to what the preacher had to say. He smiled at his friend's banter and couldn't really deny any of it since they were all true. He had a hard time trying to follow orders when he had his own way of doing things that resulted in the same goal being accomplished. It was just a shame that his methods were frowned upon since they weren't as flashy or news worthy. He had performed everything that he had accomplished so far with pride and dignity without having to lower himself to the others. He was his own person and knew what was right and wrong.
“We will split up into groups of three,” continued the preacher as he displayed his plans on a large piece of paper that was nailed to a board. He quickly scribbled down several marks which indicated the number of groups and where they would enter the valley. “We will search everywhere within the valley until we can destroy it for good.”
Jacob rolled his eyes. It looked like this assignment would take weeks or months to accomplish with the plan and limited information that they had. He glanced at his two companions who were still bantering with each other now and smiled. He might be a beast bear but at least he still had brains and that was what really counted if he wanted this assignment done within weeks instead of months.
Jacob sighed and stood up stretching after the preacher had released them all to prepare. He had a feeling that there would be some groups leaving right away since they had further to travel than other groups. He smiled at his two companions who were always teamed up with him. They didn't mind and he didn't either. They worked so well together and they had similar ideals.
“Should we be leaving too?” asked Mike.
“It would be best if we did, but first we need to pack. I'm sure you still need to pack. I guess we should meet at the town entrance in an hour. I'll grab some supplies for the road.” commented Langley as she too stretched and made her way to the door. She knew for certain that Mike probably hadn't even started packing yet.
Furry growled darkly at Thomas for what seemed like forever. Its claws were retracted slightly so that it didn't cause Thomas any visible damage, but it had Thomas pinned down good. “You are foolish!” growled Furry as it pressed Thomas back deeper into the snow.
Thomas didn't know what had gotten into Furry. She had never seen it look at her in this way. Her memory was clouded as she tried to figure out why Furry would be behaving this way towards her. She had always treated it with respect and never did anything demeaning to it. Her blue eyes stared into glowing golden eyes that held a hint of anger directed towards her.
Furry remained where it was while still keeping an eye on the audience around them. It didn't want anyone to interfere with it. It didn't even understand why Thomas had done what she did. All it knew was that something was not right and there was something wrong with Thomas. It could already see the minor changes taking place in front of its eyes.
Thomas stared up into golden eyes. She was confused as to why Furry had pinned her down. She had noted that it did not bare its claws at her and that it was merely applying enough pressure so that she couldn't move or get up. She could always resort to magic but that would probably make the situation worse if she didn't know what was wrong in the first place. “Where is Hattie?” asked Thomas as she noticed how Hattie was not there.
“She is waiting inside the house with the other.” replied Furry deeply while it continued to growl at her. Its blue coat shone brilliantly in the twilight but it knew that elsewhere, time was different to what it was like in this valley. “Do you realise what you have done?”
Suddenly, Thomas's blue eyes sparked into life as blue light shot out and penetrated the dark sky above. Her body was rigid for a few moments before aggressively trying to get free. Her body rolled side to side while trying to lash out with her arms and legs. Her body was also slowly changing as she thrashed about. Her skin melted away as black hair grew over every inch of skin. Her nose grew slightly outward to form a small snout while her cheeks were split open to allow her sharp feline teeth to glisten. Her borrowed clothes were torn to shreds as her muscles grew and her hands became paws with sharp claws.
Furry struggled to keep Thomas in place. It had seen the signs. It had felt the ripple of warning that coursed through its being. It knew that it had to be here for this so that it could stop Thomas.
A long pink tongue extended out and licked her own nose before Thomas narrowed her eyes at Furry. A slow rumble in her chest gave way to a menacing growl that warned Furry to get off or be thrown off. Her insides were churning with a fire so bright and heated that she feared she would be cooked from the inside out. She had stopped her tossing and remained on her back in a tensed form of a black panther.
Hot air erupted from Thomas's mouth and soon a ball of fire spewed forth. Her blue eyes were satisfied that Furry had jumped back in the nick of time to not get caught by the heat. She rolled over onto her feet and stared around. She could see the many beasts standing around, unsure of what to do. She smiled as she felt how confused they were. It was her ticket to feed the burning in her gut. She leapt to her closest target which was Allen with her fangs bared and aimed for his neck. It would be an instant kill that would lessen the pain her target would receive. However, blue claws pushed her away when she was an inch from the beast's throat.
Thomas was pushed aside and fell onto her back. She instantly went with the motion and rolled back onto her feet while growling at whoever had interfered with her hunting. She could already feel the fear that had risen inside all of the potential targets around her except for the beast who had laid paws on her. She looked deep into golden eyes and roared like a mighty lion.
Furry narrowed its golden eyes and stared at the icy blue in front of it. Slowly, it released a growl of its own and stared down its opponent. Claws were extended and teeth were bared but it knew that this was not the way to resolve the current situation. Carefully it kept its eyes on Thomas before standing up on hind legs. Its body started to shift and change as if it were also a half beast. However, its front legs turned into arms which were still clawed but more humanlike in form and dangled harmlessly by its sides. Its legs grew longer and musclier to be more humanlike as well but its paws retained their shape and only grew larger. Its short blue mane became longer and its snout was slightly smaller. A blue beard had grown around its chin and golden eyes flared brilliantly as if it were fuelled by the sun. A small loin cloth had appeared out of thin air which was a shade darker than its fur to be a little more modest.
Thomas stared at the transformation before she too assumed Furry's form. Her blue eyes penetrated through its golden eyes as if she were reading everything that was on its mind. However she could not read this beast in front of her. She couldn't recognise the beasts that were standing around with frightened looks in their eyes. Her body once more shifted but this time her hair melted away to be replaced by reptilian dark grey scales. Her nostrils flared as her snout grew longer and her body grew ten times the size of Furry.
Thomas roared in pain as flames followed out of her mouth. Bones penetrated out of her back and soon grew into large wings that flapped a few times before folding neatly on her back. She remained on her hind legs but soon fell forward onto her front claws because of her size. She could see and feel the fear that emanated around her as if she were a demon from the dark depths of the world. Her blue eyes caught golden ones in front of her which still held no fear.
Suddenly, blue and white eyes were staring from the front door of the house. Anna was standing next to Hattie who had dropped into the lounge room, in a blink of an eye, unannounced. There was no fear in their eyes, only confusion as they stared at the huge beast that was facing Furry. Anna quickly stepped out onto the porch to get a better look as Hattie nervously followed.
Blue eyes captured the two sets of eyes staring at her and realisation dawned at what she was doing. Her entire body was on fire and she could feel the ancient magic bubbling beneath her skin. She suddenly felt tired and didn't know what was happening. Why am I bigger than the house? Her insides churned with immense pain as she registered Allen and his people staring at her in fear. What happened?
Furry watched as Thomas saw Anna and Hattie. It was relieved that she had recognition shining brightly from her eyes. A small sigh escaped its lips before it saw the drooping of large blue eyes. It quickly changed back to the blue lion-like form before hurriedly running towards the side as well as scooping Allen on the way. It was fast and strong on its paws that Allen's extra weight didn't hinder its speed in the least.
Thomas was falling forward. Her body had been tortured enough and her mind had gone numb. She landed on the soft snow and was rapidly shifting back into her human form. Her tanned naked body was wasted. She didn't even have the energy to move her arms or legs. Slow breaths were issuing out of her mouth as her body was cooling down from the raging heat that had coursed through it. Her blue eyes remained slightly open as she stared at the green grass that she was now lying on instead of snow.
Anna planted her hand onto Hattie's shoulder as Thomas had been falling. She didn't want the small girl to go anywhere and was glad that her sister, Izana, had come out to assist. “Watch her for me please. Don't let her come.” instructed Anna as she leapt off the porch at a dead run towards Thomas. She didn't know why she was approaching her when all of the others within her family were continuing to inch further away. She slid to a stop just as Thomas resumed her human form and knelt onto her knees. Why do I feel compelled to help her? She gently lifted Thomas up a bit and rolled her over onto her back. Her white eyes had watched as the blue eyes finally closed and the body now in front of her was totally limp. Only the soft rise and fall of her chest calmed her down.
Anna slowly stroked the dark long hair just like Thomas had performed on her earlier. She didn't know why she was doing it but knew that it was natural. Her body just wanted to act the way it was in front of the person who she had only met a few minutes ago. “What hold do you have over me?” asked Anna in a soft whisper that was more her thoughts than anything else.
Furry hurriedly dumped Allen unceremoniously off its back before rushing back over to Thomas. Its golden eyes widened as it saw Anna kneeling with Thomas's upper body in her lap. It watched as Anna stroked Thomas's hair affectionately as if they were in love. However, it kept the thought in its head since it also saw the confusion that was written over her expression. It slowly approached Anna without startling her.
“Will she be alright?” asked Anna.
“I will take her home.” said Furry in a growl. It slowly padded over to Thomas's side and shifted into its more human like form to easily lift Thomas off the ground. It did not miss the brief look of sadness that crossed Anna's features before being hidden. It could have sworn that Anna knew what she was doing but now it was clear that she was totally confused. It wondered where and when Thomas and the girl had met for the girl to be so touchy with Thomas. “I believe that Thomas came here for a reason. She will most likely come back.”
Anna smiled briefly up at the beast. It didn't exactly answer her question but she knew that the beast would most likely care for her. She slowly stood up before Furry vanished from her side. She looked around quickly and was amazed that it had reached the front porch already. She continued to watch with fascinated white eyes as Hattie gently grabbed the fur on the beast's leg before the trio disappeared as though the heavens had erased them from the spot.
Anna was still standing there in a daze as Allen, her father, approached her. He looked a bit rattled but no harm had befallen him. She smiled at him as he placed his hand on her shoulder. She felt safe again like she did when her sister was near her… and also when that stranger had been there.
Jacob stood overlooking the vast deep Cartian Valley which lay before them in a splendour of different shades of green. His green eyes could feel the energy that oozed from every single leaf around him and was amazed that he had felt so invigorated. He glanced at his two friends, Langley and Mike, who were standing on either side of him. A small smile graced his lips as he saw the look that was in both of their eyes as if this place was their home and they were returning to it.
“Do you get the feeling of déjà vu?” asked Mike as he looked at all of the trees, where some had a little dusting of snow on top. He assumed that the valley was well protected from the weather and it differed down there compared to where they stood. The area around them was green and cool but it looked like the snow had melted away. He was grateful that Langley had advised them to bring warmer clothes. He wondered how the other groups were fairing with the drastic change of weather from their home town.
“There is something different from up here to down there. If you look a little more closely to those lines of trees about a hundred feet from us,” Langley pointed at what she was explaining, “the change is more noticeable there.” Her observation skills were always top notch and she was proud of them as a scout.
“Do you think it's because of the mountains that towers over this place?” asked Mike as he scratched his chin in thought. He could see the difference but he doubted what it meant. It was so out of depth from what he knew of what the climate change should be. They had travelled from a hot place to a cold one with only a couple of trees buffer. “Somehow this doesn't feel right.”
“Well the sun is still high, I think that will leave us a few hours of sun before we need to find a place to camp. We should be able to scout out the place and if our luck holds, we might find that human village that the preacher had mentioned.” suggested Jacob as he pulled on the straps to his bag to tighten it once more. With the nods of agreement from both of his friends, he walked forward determinedly. He was the leader and nothing would faze him. His friends trusted him and he would make sure that they all finished the mission to have a drink at a bar.
Jacob came to the line of trees that were noticeably different to those that he had passed. He looked up and around before seeing his friend's faces. They were confident in him. He slowly took a few steps forward while continuing to look around, however the sight around him made him stop mid stride. His two friends were by his side and they too had stopped. All three were stunned to see that night prevailed on this side of the unusual trees. He looked back to where they had come from and could see that the sun was shining brightly out there.
Jacob carefully ventured forward while his two friends followed. He noticed that Mike had drawn out his sword in caution and Langley was a second from shifting into her beast form. He scanned the trees and saw the snow that was dumped on the ground. He almost tripped as his foot was slightly stuck but managed to keep his balance.
“Is it just me or did we go from hot summer to freezing winter in a step?” asked Mike, as a puff of breath blew visibly from his lips because of the cold. He quickly dumped his pack onto the ground after scanning the area and grabbed out his extra coat.
Langley watched Mike fumble around with his coat before he successfully put it on. Uncontrollable laughter almost broke the silence around them as she tried to think of something not funny. She glanced at Mike one more time before having to slap her hand over her mouth to muffle the laugh that was dying to get out. After a few moments she was able to control herself. “Nice outfit, Mr. Eskimo.” taunted Langley before her laughter rang true around the area.
Jacob was still scanning the area while his two friends were having a go at each other. He felt like there was something wrong and knew that the drastic change in weather was not the only clue. His green eyes could see through the foliage to witness only a handful of stars and then a majestic moon. He wondered how it was possible to be dark here and light back where they had come from.
Suddenly Jacob fell to his knees. He frantically clutched his chest as his two friends ran to see what was wrong. His chest felt like it was on fire from the inside. His innards were burning and his blood was boiling. His complexion turned ghastly white as he continued to clutch at his chest. His friends were by his side but he was abruptly thrown onto his back by an invisible force. His entire body was pinned down and his friends were frantically trying to help him.
“Come on, Jacob, tell us what is wrong?” demanded Mike as he shook Jacob.
Jacob tried to talk but it was muffled as if an invisible hand had been placed over his lips. He tried desperately to lift his arms up but it felt like someone was holding both of his wrists. Even his legs felt like someone was holding them down. Fear filled his eyes as a cold touch slowly descended down his muscled chest.
Langley had hastily searched the area but could not see anyone or anything that could cause them any harm. She couldn't even feel any danger around them at all like she usually did when they were about to be ambushed or something. Her brown eyes looked back over at Jacob and Mike. She could see the telltale signs that Jacob felt like he was pinned down and someone had clasped a hand over his mouth. She hastily approached him and raised her hand out wide before delivering a vicious slap to Jacob's face.
Jacob went limp and his green eyes widened. He slowly sat up and looked at both of his friends. He was a little stunned but he gradually stood up and looked around. He was glad that Langley and Mike did not say anything since he didn't know how to answer them. He had felt helpless. He had been stripped away from his pride, strength and courage. He had been separated from himself.
“Let's make camp.” suggested Langley as she also stood up with Mike. They were both confused and were beginning to think that Jacob had a moment of the crazy's. She could see that it was not since Jacob had returned to his normal self. It was almost as if somebody had possessed him and made him physically feel what had happened to them. She had only heard a few stories of that happening when she was a child but this was the first time that she had witnessed it. She walked ahead and led them all to a nice small clearing that would provide protection and cover. “We will continue our assignment in the morning.”
“Hattie saw you.” growled Furry as it sat proudly on the carpeted floor next to the bed. It was watching Thomas carefully since another episode had passed and now she was as weak as a newborn kitten. Its golden eyes were fixed onto her blue barely opened eyes. “I don't think she knows yet.”
“Did she look scared?” asked Thomas in a raspy voice.
“No, she was confused.” replied Furry.
“That is good then.” said Thomas as she slowly turned her head to look at the familiar ceiling of her room. The king sized bed was soft and spacious, but she was only lying on one side like she always did. Her spacious room was warm since there was a small fireplace on one side while the other wall was filled with windows. She had been stripped of all of her clothing from whatever had happened and couldn't be bothered to fetch some from the walk in wardrobe. Her two human helpers, Kayla and Katsi, had bathed her unconscious body before Furry got its paws on her and put her in bed. “Where is Anna?” asked Thomas in an almost whisper that sounded more like defeat than anything else.
“Who are you talking about?” asked Furry.
Thomas continued to stare at the ceiling and wondered how long it had been since she was over at Allen's clan. Her blue eyes were slowly closing as she tried to remember the woman who had been attacked by the bunch of Valil. “White eyes, silky white hair, female, pale smooth skin…” She had slowly drifted off as she tried to describe who Anna was.
Furry sighed. So it was that woman. It rose from its hind legs and carefully tucked in the blanket for Thomas. It was very protective over her and knew that she would do this for it if it had been in the same situation. It slowly exited the room and went in search of Hattie who it had left in the human's care.
Thomas opened her eyes abruptly after Furry had left. Her blue eyes scoured every nook and cranny of the room before she slowly sat up. Her entire body was still quite sore and lethargic. She walked carefully over to the walk in wardrobe and swiftly picked some clothes. She smiled as she viewed herself in the mirror. She had gone with a simple black wool jumper and cotton pants since they were easier to put on.
Exiting the house via her bedroom window, Thomas carefully treaded across the soft cold snow barefoot. She could instantly get to her destination but she had already exhausted too much magic. Shifting into her panther form was also another idea that was immediately squished since she didn't have the energy to do it. So she was left with walking the six hour hike without rest and food.
Her blue eyes could clearly see into the darkness and spotted several small creatures scurrying around. She would have chased after one for a quick meal but the effort would cost her and so would the time wasted. She needed to get a move on if she wanted to get there before the sun rose for morning. She had a feeling that there would be a problem if she were late.
Hattie playfully petted Furry as soon as she saw her friend. Her small arms wrapped around the blue soft furred neck for a reassuring hug as her blue eyes gently closed in satisfaction. She had stayed with Katsi and Kayla for the short amount of time that Furry had left her and knew that Thomas would not be able to play with her. She had seen for the first time how her friend, and only parent, was not actually human like the two servants or similar to any other beast. She had never seen such a thing before but a familiar chord was strumming gently within her. Somehow, she felt safe and well loved even though Thomas had kept it a secret.
Hattie slowly released Furry and smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled as she stared into vibrant golden eyes. She loved those eyes and wondered on many occasions how Furry had been gifted with them but had never asked since Furry never spoke to her. “Why didn't Thomas tell me about her being different?”
Furry smiled and licked Hattie's face so that she didn't look so upset. It had never ever spoken to the child since Thomas had warned the beast that to do so would most likely shock her to silence. So Furry had obeyed since the child only knew of the human world and what they did. Eyeing Hattie with its golden eyes, Furry raised its paw and watched as Hattie shook it gently. Furry was happy that the child was not afraid of it since so many others who were human or beasts ran away as if it were a demon from the darkest depths of the world.
“Do you think she will tell me if I asked her?” asked Hattie.
Katsi watched the interaction between Furry and Hattie with interest. She had never seen the child so curious before and now she wondered what Hattie had seen to be so. Her brown eyes scanned the room for anything else that she needed to attend to since her sister, Kayla, had already left to rest. After what had happened the night before last, she didn't really blame her. However, the majority of the workload around the house was automatically palmed off to her to do. She sighed heavily as she had managed to finish everything required by the master.
Katsi smiled as Hattie and Furry were playfully rolling on the floor trying to mimic each other. She had grown to love the beast since Furry had been there ever since she had been given a second chance at life by the master's generous gift and offer. Hattie was also no different but the child had only been in the house for two years and it was as if the child never grew up. Her suspicions that Hattie was not normal grew each day while Kayla just repeated that it was her imagination.
Suddenly, Hattie yawned widely in a sleepy manner which broke Katsi from her reverie. She yawned a second time which did not go unnoticed by Furry. Her blue eyes were slowly drooping closed as she hugged the warm furred body. However she knew that Katsi would come over and take her to bed. I want to stay here…
Furry sat mightily still for a moment before slowly letting out a warning growl towards Katsi. Its golden eyes had picked up the slight stirrings of energy in the air which made its blue fur stand on end. It's too early… It was trying to carefully move away from Hattie. It had spotted Hattie's hands where her nails were elongated and fur had replaced skin. Golden eyes flared as it slipped away and stood protectively in front of Katsi who was shocked to say the least.
Hattie yawned again and stretched out along the carpeted floor. Her blue eyes were only slightly open but a blue light was emanating from them. Fur, as black as night, was slowly covering every part of her skin except for her face and palms. A light growl of tiredness escaped from her small lips which were also changing. Her face became slightly more elongated and formed a small snout much like a cat. Her clothes were shredded apart as her small body grew musclier and she now looked like a panther cub.
Furry stood in anticipation as Hattie transformed. It had dreaded this moment for as long as Hattie had been in its care. Something must have triggered this for her to shift at such a young age. This is not normal at all. Thomas will surely see to this when she comes down and sees for herself… It was still under the impression that Thomas was in the house and didn't realise that she had already left. So it was waiting for Thomas to come down and sort the situation out. She was the only one that would be able to solve the situation since she was the master of the house.
What is taking her so long to come down? Furry could see that Hattie had finished transforming and was looking around curiously. Bright golden eyes could see the glint in the new shining blue eyes that were pinned on it. It could easily grab the human behind it and make a run in case Hattie had no conscious thought as a beast. It was a little fear that grounded Furry where it stood, poised to take action if it were necessary.
“Furry, I think it is time for me to go and get Thomas.” whispered Katsi apprehensively as she slowly started to back out of the room. Her brown eyes could see that Furry had acknowledged her retreat to find the master and was slowly retreating with her in case Hattie had other ideas. “I also think it would be wise if I got my sister as well.”
Katsi backed out of the room slowly as to not provoke Hattie in doing anything harmful towards them. Her suspicions that Hattie was not normal were all true and all that really mattered at the moment was to get to Thomas before anything really did happen. Once she was out of Hattie's sights, she dashed up the stairs and straight into the master bedroom without knocking. One look at the rumpled but empty bed had her staring at the open window where the light snow was falling inside. She would have cursed under her breath if it had not been for the loud crash that was heard coming from the bottom of the stairs. Fear glued her where she was as she heard snaps of jaws and vicious growling.
Katsi almost had her heart leap out of her chest when the master bedroom door was swiftly opened. Her brown eyes met brown eyes that were the same as hers. She smiled lightly before holding her sister half an arms length from her body. “Did you see anything when you rushed in here?” asked Katsi frantically as dread started to colour her words since Thomas's presence was missing.
Kayla shook her head in the negative so fiercely that Katsi thought she would unhinge her head from her shoulders. She stared back at the door that she had slammed shut upon her entering. “Who is Furry fighting with downstairs?” asked Kayla frightfully. Her memories of the last major incident were still fresh in her mind and she had run to her sister trying to find protection. Her body was already trembling in fear as the noises downstairs became louder and the growling was fiercer than she had ever heard it before. “Where is Thomas?”
“She left through her window by the looks of it. I don't know where or when she will be back. I just hope that Furry will be able to deal with what is downstairs or we might have to break some of the master's rules and make a run for it. The closest residence would be Allen's clan which is a six hour walk. We could probably get there in three if we run. I'm sure that Allen will help us since he is a close friend of Thomas, not to mention that she does ultimately own the land that he lives on.” explained Katsi efficiently so that if worse came to worse, they knew what they were going to do.
Thomas had been walking for some time as her body trembled from the exertion she was putting herself through. She had tempted to shift in her panther form to try and eat up as much distance as possible, but now her body was reminding her why it was not a good idea in the first place. Her blue eyes scanned the area, knowing that she was still three hours walk away from her destination. She hoped that her body didn't give out soon and someone finding the fool she was in the snow in the morning.
Her long legs ate up the distance in long strides and she had already started to clutch her side. A stitch was painful but she was bearing with the pain so that she didn't have to stop. Her mind was focused and she was glad that she was still clear headed. She wondered what Furry and the others might be thinking when they found out she had slipped out for the night. However, her thinking was halted when she felt a pull in her chest that was leading her towards her destination and another pull that was tugging her to go back home immediately.
Her legs took her a couple of steps closer towards her destination while her mind tried to sort out the threads that were pulling her in two separate directions. Why do I have an urge to turn back? I didn't leave anything behind. Did I forget something by mistake? Her blue eyes looked ahead of her before looking back behind her. She was undecided as to which direction she should go since she was practically halfway along the trip. She tried to search her feelings to see what was pulling her back home and pushed everything external away for a minute. Her body was frozen in place and not even a flake of snow disturbed her. She was in a deep trance, searching within herself for the answer. Only a whisper of a name escaped her lips… “Hattie.”
Thomas's head snapped up and looked homeward. She could feel that there was something very different with Hattie. The faint connection that they had shared before was a small comfort to her. Now it was like a blazing flame that wanted to consume her as if Hattie was burning from emotional turmoil. Her blue eyes were ablaze as she searched for what Hattie really wanted from all of the emotions that were radiating from the connection they shared.
Thomas raised her hand and looked at it. She elongated one nail on her other hand and slowly cut a clean slice in her palm. Blood swam to the surface and painted her hand red as she slowly wiped her hand on a nearby tree. I'm calling for you Hattie. Smell my blood and come for me. I will be waiting…
Thomas didn't bother to stop the bleeding. She headed towards her original destination at the pace that she had set herself earlier. Her long legs eating up the distance while every few feet there was a drop of blood that trailed behind. She could smell the warm copper but she was too tired to respond to it. She would usually become quite frenzied by blood and loved the taste of it as long as it was not an undesirable monster or her own blood. In this case, she would have been irritated enough to force her body to heal the cut, but she didn't. She was exhausted and starting to feel cold. Her clothing options hadn't been the best since she only had her destination in mind and easy dressing.
Swaying slightly on her feet after two hours of walking and not hearing anything but the driving snow, Thomas stopped. She was beyond exhausted and her mind had berated herself for her wisdom in calling for Hattie instead of going home to sort everything out. She was sure that Furry would follow along and make sure that Hattie didn't harm anyone else. It was quite risky for her to call since there was the possibility that someone might witness what was to come.
However, her thoughts were a mute point once she heard the soft stirrings of snow and her feelings matched those of its owner. Her blue eyes raked the area and smiled as she spotted something that didn't belong in the natural surroundings. However, her eyes widened once she got a good look at the thing that seemed total parts natural as well as unnatural. Her jaw dropped open in shock at seeing her mirror when she shifted into beast form. Her blue eyes widened further at the Black Panther that was only slightly smaller than her own shifted form.
Furry appeared out of the trees with a few scrapes and what not. Blue fur was matted with sweat, dirt and blood which Thomas knew had mostly been from keeping Hattie from harming anyone else. It was crucial that no one saw her with the stories and rumours that were flying around outside of her land.
Thomas closed her mouth with an audible click of teeth. She hid her reaction quickly as Hattie finally noticed her. Her blue eyes narrowed as Hattie's blue round eyes stared back with a brilliant glow to them. It was hard not to notice the abundance of magic within those young eyes. Her acute hearing could already hear the rumbling of a growl that had yet to escape Hattie's lips. “Hattie, you need to calm down.” said Thomas in a deep smooth voice like the calm of the sea as the sun greets the new day. The soft growling came to an abrupt end and a pathetic whine replaced it. She carefully bent down on one knee and opened her arms wide. “Come here Hattie. I will keep you safe.”
The small Black Panther, which was Hattie, whined again and shook her black furred head thoroughly as if trying to shake all the hair on her body off. Round shiny blue eyes stared out of that beastly body in fright as she was close to tearing up. She had urges to attack her friend Furry and she couldn't resist. She couldn't even resist the pull that had led her to Thomas. Everything was too much. Why am I covered in black hair? Why am I so low to the ground? Did I shrink? Why can't I talk? A small rumbling growl left her lips again as she tried to talk. Her frustration was let out by the whine that followed.
Thomas winced at the high pitched sound since her ears were extremely sensitive. She had been carefully scanning the surrounding area to make sure that they were alone as possible. She didn't want to frighten Hattie any more or to allow anyone to push her back into her shell just because she was a unique beast much like herself. Her blue eyes could see right to Hattie's soul which was shivering with fear. She felt the familiar resemblance of feeling that she had felt when she had been smaller. It had also been frightening but her case was different to Hattie's. Back then she only had herself to rely on, but Hattie had Furry and her. So she waited for Hattie to decide. She could see the internal struggle to understand what was happening.
Thomas smiled brightly and watched as Hattie slowly walked forward. She waited as Hattie moved into the embrace and surrendered to the tears that flowed freely down her face. She could feel the shivers running through the now human form of Hattie. She held on tightly as Hattie let out all of her insecurities. It was understandable since Hattie was so little and in a way this was not meant to happen in the first place. However, now was not a time to regret, what had happened in the past. So she gently soothed Hattie's small mind and body. Her gaze wandered over to Furry who gave a ghost of a smile.
“Where are you headed?” growled Furry deeply. The beast was still a little miffed that Thomas had left in the middle of the night using her bedroom window, no less. It had seen how exhausted Thomas was even though its golden eyes were more focused on Hattie than anything else. It sighed audibly as if it had given up.
“I'm heading back over to Allen's place. There are still a few things that need my attention and I can't leave it for the morning. Don't even think of persuading otherwise since you know as well as I do that I just can't leave things as they are. It will do more harm than good in the long run.” explained Thomas in a slightly deep voice that rumbled near Hattie's ear. She smiled as Hattie continued to hold onto her. Carefully keeping balance, she managed to stand up still hanging onto her. “Let's go. We are only an hour away from the house. Although I am surprised that I haven't seen any of Allen's people roaming around patrolling the area.”
Furry smiled since Hattie had actually fallen asleep on Thomas's shoulder. It was cute, but Furry knew Thomas was still exhausted. It scurried over to Thomas's side and shifted to a more humanoid form before extending muscled arms. However, the beast was gently turned down since it was not doing any better than Thomas was. Furry was tired from having to try and restrain Hattie without hurting her as well as making sure that she didn't do anything to anyone.
Suddenly a voice filled the cold night air. “HAHAHA…! What do we have here? A mother and daughter with a small pet out for a night stroll.” The wind whipped up and carried the voice around, turning it into an eerie tone that sent chills up and down Thomas's spine. “HAHAHA…! Where are you trying to look? I'm over here.” taunted the unknown person.
Thomas stood rigid and tried to sound out where the hiding voice was coming from. She could feel the wind against her body that carried the voice with it. Slowly she turned and faced the right direction in which the hiding taunter was. Her blue piercing eyes stared at the stunned hazel eyed male who was standing between two trees and would have been perfectly camouflaged except for his eyes.
Furry bounded forward and bared its muzzle with sharp canines. It really did look like a dog at the moment as it stood there but knew that Thomas and Hattie knew better. It wondered if the stranger was any smarter. Obviously he wasn't that smart if he thought that he wouldn't be found out by Thomas. It inched forward making sure that it could see the stranger clearly. There was no need to be careless and regret it later.
“Whoa… you better get your dog to calm down and keep his teeth to himself or he will wish that he were home gnawing on a bone.” said the stranger as he moved away from the trees, but made sure that he was still a certain distance away from Furry. His hazel eyes never left Thomas and he had carefully brought out a small crossbow.
Thomas eyed the weapon wearily. She wasn't dandy about being shot at by a crossbow and this one in particular looked as though it could fire multiple without needing to reload. Her blue eyes raked his body and had also identified a revolver hanging on his belt. It was obvious that this encounter had been planned. She spread her senses out and detected two others that were lying in wait but had rifles. Why would they need to go to the extremes for just a woman and a child like he had said earlier? She continued to hold Hattie against her body and tried to provide the most protection from the two who had rifles. The crossbow on the other hand was going to be a challenge and her only option would be to dodge them or risk Hattie getting hit. She wasn't even sure if the arrows had been cured or not either.
“Come on little pup, you are going to get your friends killed if you keep growling at me?” said the stranger. His hazel eyes seemed to dance with glee as he watched Furry back down onto its hind legs in a sitting position. Even its growling had stopped without any obvious indication from Thomas. However, the stranger kept up his act and dismissed the oddity. He was more interested in getting what they had planned for. “Now, lady, please put down the little girl and hand her over to me. The same goes for all of your possessions on you.”
Thomas stared at the stranger for a while longer. It is pretty dark. I guess he doesn't have good night vision. It means that I will have a better chance if I am proactive. However, is it just my valuables and Hattie that he is after? Her blue shining eyes scanned him from top to bottom. She could see that he was competent and knew what he was doing. However, she had a gut feeling that he was still hiding his motives. So she carefully moved forward without seeming to. Her blue eyes were staring at the man for the slightest hint that he was about to do something. Her senses had already pinpointed the exact location of the man's two buddies with rifles.
“So lady, what are you going to do? Are you going to listen to me or face the consequences?” demanded the hazel eyed man in a joyful manner as if he were merely playing a game. The grip that he had on his weapon was firm but not too tight. He was relaxed as he watched the lady looking at him. He was amazed to see those blue eyes, but now was not the time to be thinking those thoughts. “What will it be?”
Thomas felt the two riflemen, one on either side of her, hiding. She could feel the nervous tension that they were emanating and knew that they were not as confident as the man before her. Hattie was securely in her arms, sleeping peacefully from the transformation. Her soft warm breaths came out as small white clouds from her mouth as she tried to stall the man with the crossbow. She let fear colour her eyes and make her body slightly shake as if she were a weak young woman who had been caught unaware by this man.
“Come on lady and give us the girl and your valuables. We won't harm a hair on your head if you give in to our demands.” compromised the hazel eyed man. He felt eager to move closer and seal his trophy by planting his cured arrows into the woman's body. He could then cash in his reward and be out of this cold strange weather for good.
Suddenly, a loud squealing noise permeated the air and the men all turned to see what had disrupted their mission. Thomas didn't waste this opportunity. She held Hattie securely and ran as swift as the wind while zigzagging between the trees. Her forethought of not going in a straight line paid off as she felt the whizzing of arrows fly passed her. She had heard the two rifles go off, but none had hit their mark. She was glad that Furry had also read her thoughts and was running just ahead of her. She could hear that the three men were giving chase. So they are after something else rather than a child and valuables. I wonder what else they want… Her thoughts were left hanging as she spotted a sentry post up ahead that marked one of the boundaries of Allen's home.
She felt the sting in her legs. Her body was tired beyond anything and the little dose of adrenaline did little to aid her. She knew that she was beyond her limits. Her breathing was heavy and she had the strong urge to wield the ancient magic that was at the tip of her tongue. However, a low growl from Furry stopped her from doing so. She heard it for what it was; a warning. She didn't understand, but she heeded it nonetheless.
She could see the sentry post clearly now and saw the flicker of movement. A smile spread across her lips as she knew that the sentry posted there must have seen her. She was still zigzagging between trees and keeping up her pace. She was faster than a human running and was a little surprised that the three assailants were keeping up. She would have stood still and waited for the fight that they wanted, but Hattie's welfare was in her hands and she couldn't risk it. There was no way for her to rely on Furry either since it was tired and injured. So her only option was to hope that the sentry sent word back to the house and Allen would come to her aid.
Furry felt the sting of the few scratches that flittered over its muscular body. It was well aware of its own energy levels that were slowly depleting from the run and knew that Thomas had a plan. It had also spotted the sentry post and seen the sentry signal back towards Allen's home. It was relieved that the sentry had also recognised them from the signals that were passed back. It only hoped that this encounter so soon after disappearing a few hours before would not mar their welcome.
Furry had growled a few times while it ran. It was well aware of Thomas's intentions, but knew after the previous episode that it was an extremely bad idea. It knew for a fact that the possibility of Thomas having another episode was more possible now than ever since she had refused to rest. It was also aware that Thomas's body was about to fall apart. It could feel the tension in the air and the slight stirrings of ancient magical energy that were the telltale signs of trouble. However, it kept a lid on its thoughts as it raced along to head towards the post in a zigzagging path.
Thomas could hear her assailants and assumed that they were some kind of half beasts that were not from her lands. She had not recognised any of them and was even puzzled as to what sort of beasts they were. It was just her luck that they were most likely not Valils. She had already had enough of those encounters in the past three days. However, she wondered what they were really after since they were so persistent. She could barely feel the cold winter air around her as snow started to fall. She did register that her breathing was heavy and white clouds of smoke were issuing from her mouth. Every step that she took made the post seem too far away since her assailants were catching up.
She kept one leg in front of the other as she continued to run as fast as she could with the way she was feeling. She would have been long gone if she had not been so tired or sore. She was starting to regret leaving her room in the middle of the night and wondered what would have happened if she had just waited for morning. Her blue eyes darted around at the trees and she could feel more than three sets of eyes on her. Her senses filled her with a little joy that she was about to receive help. She could already hear small thumps high above in the trees and the odd creaking of vine.
A smile swam across her face as she ran passed the sentry post and finally entered Allen's small patch of land that was in fact truly hers. She turned her head to look back and could see the faces of the three assailants. She was surprised to see three humanoid wolves chasing her. Blue eyes could see their elongated snouts and yellow teeth. She saw their bright hazel eyes and felt them singling her out. It was clear that they knew there were others about but they were one track minded.
Thomas quickly looked ahead of her and could see that there was a vine dangling in front of her path. She quickly made a choice and grabbed it as she used her momentum to swing her into the thick foliage of the trees. She felt the brush of leaves and twigs and let her momentum take her higher before she released the vine. She twisted in midair and landed gently on a branch. She crouched low and made herself as small as possible before becoming deathly quiet and still. Her heart was hammering away as she watched Furry disappear from the path as well with the help of another vine. She was slightly amused that Furry had used its teeth rather than transform its paw into a hand.
The three humanoid wolves slowed to a jog before looking up at the trees and raising their snouts. Their noses were filtering the air above to locate their target. Their hazel eyes caught the slightest movement to check what it was before dismissing it as nothing. The leader of the pack, who had confronted Thomas, painfully transformed back into a more humanoid form. He unclipped his crossbow from its secured belt strap and aimed it up.
Furry watched from a high branch as it carefully made its way over to the other side of the three half beasts. It was well aware that the three men were not normal and had put it down to being mostly human. It only suspected that the men were a quarter wolf beasts which would have explained the half change and the painful looking transformation. It wondered what the three were trying to sniff for. It mentally laughed since it knew that there were various winter flowering plants around this area and they had a quite distinctive smell that camouflaged other smells.
Suddenly three apelike full beasts jumped down from the canopy and landed on the ground with a dull thud. Their blue, brown and black eyes were staring at the three assailants in a non-friendly way. A grunt from one of the ape beasts was heard and he carefully watched the three as the two others slowly approached the half beasts. A loud hooting within the canopy distracted the half beasts long enough for the ape beasts to pounce on a target each. They hastily disarmed the half beast and had them securely tied up before looking up at the canopy themselves.
The ape beast who had grunted at his companions reverted back instantly into his human form as his blue eyes searched the canopy. His blonde short hair could clearly be seen from the moonlight that peeked between the clouds. His breath came out as small puffs as he cupped his hand near his face and let out a high pitched whistle.
To be continued…
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