For complete disclaimers, see part 1.
Author's note: Please feel free to leave feedback by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Was that the watch signalling for Father?” asked Anna as she was flat on her back in bed. Her white eyes were staring at the ceiling in her shared bedroom with Izana. She was very comfortable where she was in the soft bedding with a nice warm quilt covering her from the neck down. She was safe and warm, but sleep eluded her. She was tired, but her mind was racing over various things. She hadn't even noticed that Izana had already left the room. “It sounded as though they spotted something out there being chased. Why would they be running here for help?”
White eyes swept the room after a few minutes of waiting for a reply. She was slightly puzzled as to where and when Izana had left. However, she placed her head back onto her flowery pillow and continued to watch the ceiling. She sure was something to look at… She was gorgeous and looked so confident. Her name was Thomas… very unusual… it almost doesn't fit her…
She felt the stir of emotions that wanted to erupt from her being as she thought about her encounter with that woman. She had seen the looks of respect and fear that circled around the clan members and knew without a doubt that Thomas was a leader. She had never heard of the woman before and wondered who she really was to have already gained her father's trust. I felt like I could trust her with my own life… She felt her heart flutter at the unexpected thought towards the mysterious woman.
She's not like the rest… She's not human or beast… not even half. She is something else entirely. I could almost see it in her eyes… She licked dry lips as she remembered those piercing blue eyes that captured hers for a brief moment. It felt very seductive and was almost as if she was shown the soul of the fierce woman. She's not just a warrior…
Anna finally let out a long breath and sat up. There was no way that her mind wanted to shut off and it was pointless just lying there. She felt restless as she stared around at her bare bedroom. She only had her clothes in the top draw and that was it. The rest belonged to Izana with various collectables such as pieces of glittering rocks. She was a little envious that her sister was able to explore the land if she wished without having a second pair of eyes watching her. It was a cruel world and she had to live with it for her own protection.
Her little experience with the wide world only came from the village a few days away from her home. She had interacted with various beasts and humans as well as some half beasts. She had always been with one of the members of the clan, but her sister was her main bodyguard. She had been attacked, but was never hurt. She knew that there must be lots of people in the world who were less fortunate than her.
Lifting her legs out of the bed, she felt around for her slippers and smiled at the snug fit. It was warm and comfortable. She had always wondered why Izana had never tried a pair even though she had explained all of the positive things about having one. She stood up with grace and carefully settled the quilt out over her bed for later use. She smiled at the cleanliness of her side of the room and glanced over towards Izana's side to see the ruffled bedding and blanket on the floor. She had never made a move to clean up after her sister since there really was no point to it and she guessed that if she did, it would become another chore to the list of things that she already had to do. Her white eyes fell to the door and wondered where Izana had gone or what was taking her so long to come back.
Suddenly, Anna fell to her knees as a deep feeling of dread overtook her body. Her heart was racing and she could clearly hear it pounding in her ears. Her hands were shaking and her white eyes were darting around the room. She got up on trembling legs and opened the door to see if anyone was out there. A rush of adrenaline raced through her body as fear drove her out of her room and into the empty hallway. It was dark and the soft long mat could barely be seen. She inched forward and had to run her hand along the wall to keep her balance. She could feel that there was something very wrong and all she could do at the moment was try to find her sister. Izana, where are you?
White eyes penetrated the dark as her heart raced and was pulling her forward. Carefully she placed one foot in front of the other and slowly made her way down the hallway. She glanced back the way she came and could see shadows dancing. It was eerily quiet and this made her fear jump up another notch. Her shuffling feet moved faster as she reached the stairs and barrelled down them. Her heart was wrenching her to go outside, but arms grabbed her around the shoulders.
“What's wrong? Where are you going?” asked Izana worriedly as she held onto her sister. She could see that Anna was upset and wondered what had happened for her to be this way. She hadn't even left her alone for that long either. Her ears were cocked as she heard movement outside, but she knew that they were other clan members. She didn't have to worry about the warning alert since her father had raced out to sort it out. The other clan members were only raised from their beds just in case they were needed and she had only spoken to one of them a few minutes ago to see if any word had gotten back yet. She stared intently at Anna and held her still. “Tell me.”
Anna knew that Izana was worried about her, but her heart was begging for her to go outside. Her legs were trembling uncontrollably and she was sure that she was as pale as anything. However, she held Izana's gaze and forced her determination to the fore through her eyes. “I need to go outside. There is something wrong. I can feel it.” said Anna in a strong voice that indicated any refusal of her request would not be tolerated.
“I'll go with you. However, Uncle Sam might want to tag us as well.” replied Izana swiftly. She knew that this was the only way for her father not to be angry with her. Uncle Sam was younger than her father, but he was a fierce warrior and would be happy to escort them anywhere. She got the brief nod from Anna and smiled reassuringly before hanging onto Anna's arm to support her.
Jacob sat on the ground near the blazing fire to gather some warmth to his chilled body. His friends were milling around fixing up their gear as well as eyeing him peculiarly. He really couldn't blame them since he pretty much flipped out on them once they entered this strange place.
Snow was falling liberally around the three of them. They had found a small covered clearing that would shelter them from the worst of the weather. Although, Mike was still huddled in his thick cloak that made him look like a kid in his parents clothes. It was cold and the fire was small since they didn't want to announce themselves to anyone that might be in the vicinity.
Jacob inched a little bit closer to the fire as his green eyes stared at the blazing flames licking the damp ground but shying away instantly. He was glad that Langley had been able to quickly get one going in this weather since most of the wood was damp. He was proud that he had friends who he could trust and rely on. They were really the only family that he had since he had no memory of his childhood. Slowly he looked up from the fire to see Langley staring at him.
“Are you feeling alright?” asked Langley as she sat down on the other side of the fire. She had finished checking her gear and was now able to sit and rest. Her brown eyes stared across from the fire as she took note of every little detail about Jacob. “You look a little pale.”
“Anyone would be that pale in this weather wearing only that.” spouted Mike who was still sharpening his sword. He gestured to Jacob's outfit which was breaches and a vest. They were patchy as if he had sown it together on numerous occasions. “I wouldn't be caught dead in that in this weather.”
“I'm not cold.” replied Jacob in a sigh as he reclined back onto his sleeping furs. He looked up to the dark sky and wondered how long it would be until light brightened it. He couldn't see any stars because of the thick canopy and didn't think he would see any anyway since it was still snowing heavily. His eyes widened as a flake of snow landed on his nose. “You don't think we should build some shelter, do you?”
Suddenly, a pile of snow fell through the canopy and dumped itself over the entire camp. Two voices could be heard grumbling as they stared over towards the troublemaker who was fully buried under the snow. Langley and Mike shoved as much snow away from them and started to dig for their gear.
Jacob sat up and dusted off the snow on his short light brown hair. He could clearly hear his friends cursing silently about him and his big mouth. He would have laughed, but didn't want to face the dire of his friends. So he picked himself up and started to dig for his own gear. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything… He found his sword and pack before he could get to his now drenched sleeping furs.
He looked around to his friends who had almost finished collecting their things. They had been in this small clearing for some time now and he wondered when the sun would rise so that they could be on their way. He wondered if this valley actually got any sun. He lifted his hand to his forehead and noticed that he had a slight fever. He was lucky that it was only minor and knew that it had something to do with the drastic change in weather. He had actually never seen snow in this much quantity before. However, he was glad that he didn't feel too cold and knew it was due to his transformation. He was a bear after all and no one could deny that bears did better than humans in the cold. However, as he thought about his shifting state, he wondered why he didn't think to do it before. He shook his head firmly to mentally clear away those thoughts. There was enough time later on for him to think about it after the mission.
Jacob shook his sleeping furs vigorously before folding it up. There was no place to put it for it to dry. So he stowed it in his pack and glanced up at the sky once more. It was slightly visible now since the snow had fallen through. He could feel the gentle breeze that swept the area and stirred the snow flakes. We should probably move on… I don't know what other beasts are out there around this area. He quickly shouldered his bag as his friends picked up on his cue. “We should try to get to that town as fast as we can. I don't like the feeling I'm getting out here even though we are in a covered clearing.” commented Jacob as he checked the straps on his bag.
“Well according to Oldie's maps, we should head in this direction.” said Langley as she pointed east of their position. Her memory was sharp as she recalled that they would be well covered until they hit the outskirts of the mostly human village. “We can get there by tomorrow night if we are lucky and move fast.”
“You could carry us and get us there by tomorrow afternoon instead.” piped up Mike hopefully. However, he could see Langley 's glare and knew that it was a definite no. He just sighed and followed the others as they trudged along in the snow. He was only barely warm with the thick coat that he wore. His black eyes looked from Langley to Jacob and knew that talking was probably not a good idea at the moment.
Suddenly, Jacob stopped in his tracks. He stared ahead, through the trees and falling snow. He felt Langley and Mike stop behind him. Dread filled every part of his being and weighed heavily on his shoulders. He scanned the area and wondered what had set his senses off. His heart was pounding and adrenaline was pumping through his body. His arms and legs were twitching to act, but his mind reigned in the urge so he could sort out what he was feeling. He briefly closed his eyes and listened to the slight wind. There were no sounds coming from the woods. That's a bad sign… He breathed in through his nostrils and only smelt damp vegetation along with clean air. He focused his mind to analyse what these feelings meant. Why do I feel terrified… worried? Something is pulling me east… What is it?
“Do you sense something?” asked Mike in a whisper, not wanting to disturb Jacob. He could see that Jacob was trying to figure out something. His black eyes scanned the trees and didn't notice a thing. Then he saw Jacob look ahead determinedly as if he had made up his mind on something.
“Let's go.” replied Jacob as he headed in the general direction which Langley had pointed out. However, he was really following where his heart was taking him. He could feel something pulling him and knew that he had to follow his guts. We might find trouble before we even find our target… I wish the mission was simpler like the last one. Keeping one boot in front of the other, he led the way for his two friends.
“Hey, Uncle Sam!” called Izana loudly.
A muscular man who was six foot tall, the same height as Allan, jogged over to the porch. He smiled upon seeing his two nieces and bowed to them curtly. “What can I do for you ladies?” asked Sam seductively as his blue eyes sparkled with mischief. He received a punch from Izana in the upper arm for his fun.
“Don't do that act around us, ‘the perfect looking man to grace the planet' act. It's creepy not to mention what the ladies will think of you trying to hit on your nieces.” replied Izana with a twinkle in her eye. She hadn't hit him very hard, but that was all right since it was all in fun and games. They both just ended up laughing for a bit before she turned serious eyes onto him. “Anna wants to go somewhere. She'll lead the way.”
“If you wish, but you know how angry your dad will be when he finds out. You know we did get a warning signal from the watch and we are all meant to be on alert. He will take it out on my hide.” said Sam in a serious tone. However, a twitch of the corners of his mouth appeared and turned into a full fledged smile. “But then, it might be a little fun to go on a walk.”
“Let's go, Uncle.” replied Izana as she linked arms with Anna and moved off the porch. She grinned happily as Sam walked on Anna's other side. It had been quite some time since they had done this sort of thing. She could still remember the last time that they went with Anna's instincts and found out more than they were bargaining for. Her thoughts drifted to that time seeming so long ago…
Year 5013 AD or 2998 AI…
The savage wind blew the colourful leaves across the ground while the trees whipped forth and back as if they were about to be uprooted. Thick clouds darkened the sky and thunder rolled but not a drop of rain or sleet fell. White eyes had looked out the window and wondered how long the storm would last. It was strange weather considering only a few hours prior the sun was blazing down and the air was still.
Anna stood at the windowsill and surveyed the swaying grass that surrounded the house. Her ears were listening to the whistling of the wind while her nose detected the faint damp air. Rain will come soon… She stilled her breathing for an instant as a feeling overtook her entire body. Something was tugging her out of the house and into the fierce weather. She doubted that anyone would be out there, but her heart was urging her to go and explore. She turned her head and glanced toward Izana who was lying in bed with a book propped open. She caught Izana's eyes and held them.
“What's wrong?” asked Izana.
“Someone is out there and needs help.” replied Anna even before she thought about what she was saying. It just sort of slipped out of her mouth without a conscious thought. Her hand gently rested on the windowsill as she felt the smooth wood under her fingers. She felt another pull and managed to stop herself from moving noticeably. “We should send someone out there to check.”
“I'll go and tell father.” replied Izana as she slipped from the bed and out the door.
Anna had waited for over an hour as she saw a group of the clan members leave the house. She had shown them the general direction and asked to come along, but was denied the request. So she stood there waiting with Izana who was ordered by their father to stay as well. She suspected that Izana was a little upset at being left behind once more. However, their father and leader of the clan had opted to go with the group.
Anna was relieved that everyone had returned. She was even surprised that her father had not lectured her about going on a wild goose chase when it was obvious that they had come back empty handed. He had stared at her quizzically instead. She lifted her white eyes to him and waited.
“No one was there.” Allan stated calmly. “There were signs of some sort of struggle and a little blood. The scouts couldn't find a trail and the air was heavy as if something big was there. There is no need to worry. There was no indication that whatever it was will be heading in our direction even though they were barely on our land.” He continued to stare at Anna's white eyes. He had left with the group and expected to find nothing. He just wanted to amuse his daughters, but now he wasn't sure if it were a fluke or something else. She knew exactly which way it was. She somehow knew even though the area was so far away and can't be seen from the house. How did she know?
“So we're safe?” asked Izana from the foot of the stairs.
“Yes, now off to bed for the both of you.” said Allan. His blue eyes never left Anna and he knew that he should contact Thomas about his findings. It was best to leave these matters in her hands since she was a miracle worker. He called to his friends and family to not inform his daughters about the rest of his findings since it was frightening.
Allan had seen the blood and gore that marked the area in red. His blue eyes had stilled on a body that hung from a tree. He didn't get close enough to identify who it was and before he could take a step closer, the body disappeared in a blink of an eye. The group that had gone with him were shocked by the scene and the disappearance. There was nothing that they could do except mark the area and head back home. Allan could still feel the breath leave his chest as he watched that body dangling there without a twitch. He knew that whoever it had been was alive and wondered how it was all possible. The night was getting away from him, leaving only questions piled upon other questions.
Izana had cornered Uncle Sam and made him spill all of the details regarding that incident. She had been shocked by the information and had never looked at Anna in quite the same way as she did before. She had always thought that Anna was just a child who needed protection around the clock. However, she slowly figured out more after confronting her father.
Izana continued to walk casually by Anna's side and only glanced up at Sam. She could see him steeling himself in case they ran into something that they might regret later. She, on the other hand, kept her focus on Anna's wellbeing. She could see that Anna was shaking from fear… no, from worry… What is she so worried about that she is forcing herself to come out here in the early hours of the morning before sunrise?
My hearts pounding… thought Anna as she willed her legs forward. She knew she was shaking and could feel Izana's supporting arm. She knew that Izana would have felt her and wished that she could become calm. A strong thread was pulling her forward in the direction that Allan had run off. Her white eyes focused on the trees that were getting closer and closer until they were in the thick of it. Her nose flared as she smelt the damp earth. The flakes of snow were still falling but she ignored the cold. Her body only wanted to concentrate on whatever was pulling her further and further away from her home.
Her white eyes surveyed the path that they were taking. Her senses were on overload as her hearing detected only the crunch of their boots on the soft snow. Her entire body was tingling from whatever held her in a tight grasp. She could smell the dampness around them which was refreshing, but she knew that there was something missing. She hadn't heard any sounds of wildlife. It was eerily quiet. She could tell that Sam and Izana had noticed it too. She would have dismissed it if it had been earlier when her father had passed this very same spot to head to the lookout.
She felt the shaking in her legs ease and began to walk with more confidence. Whatever had her gripped was calming her down with every step she took. Her hair swayed negligently with the gentle breeze that stirred some of the flakes of snow that had yet to settle. She felt assured that this small walk was the right thing to do. Emotions began to pummel her body and mind. She was picking up somebody else's feelings. They were very strong as if they had been her own. She felt anger surround her in a tight clasp.
Suddenly, a growl could be heard faintly up ahead. Anna felt Izana and Sam slow their steps forward. However, she kept on walking and slipped from Izana's grasp. She headed towards the growling. It was a smooth rumbling sound meant for a warning. She turned off the trail to the left and parted the branches that were in her path. Her white eyes widened upon seeing a blue furred beast with golden eyes baring its white sharp canines. She had seen this beast before… Furry.
Anna walked into the tiny clearing and stood there without looking confronting. She kept her hands out by her sides to show that she wasn't armed. Her white eyes surveyed the small clearing. Snow covered the area in a thin layer since the canopy caught most of the flakes. It was quite a sheltered area from the elements. However, her attention was fixed onto Furry. What are you doing here? Where is your master? Her white eyes looked around to see if she could find her answers. She felt Izana and Sam come up behind her.
“Isn't that Thomas's beast friend that we saw last night?” asked Sam perplexed.
Izana got a good look at Furry and nodded her head. She had only seen the brief fight that the beast had with Thomas, but knew that they were at least companions. She could see the intelligent golden eyes looking at her and see the defensive ruff of its neck. “Is this, what brought you out here?” asked Izana, as she directed her question at Anna.
Anna searched her heart desperately. Was it Furry that brought me out here? Her entire body was tingling with a sensation that urged her to move on. She slowly shook her head from side to side. It's not Furry. Her mental reassurance made her head shake more firm as she once again searched the area. She could feel that Furry was tired and injured. He was growling defensively. She hesitantly took a step forward and Furry didn't do anything. However, as she saw Izana step forward, Furry was growling even louder and more aggressively. She quickly held her arm up and motioned for Izana to step back. Relieved that Furry's growling had abated, she took a step forward in the direction that her body was being pulled. The growling didn't get louder and so she took another step. Her mind was put at ease that Furry was not going to attack her. However, she was a little confused as to why Furry was being so aggressive towards Izana and Sam.
Anna stepped behind Furry. Her white eyes stared at the beast and were relieved that no harm would come to her. She looked up at Izana and Sam to address them. “Wait here for me. I won't go too far,” she informed them. She turned and faced the area that Furry had been blocking and could see a narrow path that was lined with thick bushes. She felt another strong pull and slowly left the sight of Izana and Sam. She was a little nervous and scared without having an escort. Her eyes never ceased to roam the area. She looked at the flora suspiciously as if someone were about to jump out at her and she had to be ready to defend herself. However, it didn't come to that as she stepped into another small clearing that was also sheltered from the elements.
A white clearing filled the small area. Only a few sticks and leaves scattered the ground here and there, but there was no sign that anyone had come or gone. A scan of the surrounding trees indicated no damage to them from a person passing through. It was a nice enclosed space with one obvious entry point that she had come through.
My heart's screaming at me that this is the right place to be. Even Furry's presence earlier was a relief. Why am I here? Anna puzzled over the strings that pulled her here to this specific area. She could feel the tug as if someone had physically wrapped some rope around her. She sighed in disappointment. There was nothing here but snow and trees. She still had to get back to the house to see if she could prevent or divert her father's wrath.
Anna turned on her heel, but stopped as her hearing caught someone breathing. She closed her eyes as she had been taught to locate the source of the disturbance. She could hear the slight stir of wind and the rustle of trees. Then she heard the person breathing, but there were two sets. She could hear the capacity difference in the two people and knew instinctively that one person was significantly smaller than the other or more afraid.
Anna slowly walked to the entrance of the small clearing and stopped. She turned as if she was taking one look at the place before going, but her white eyes swam to the trees. She could hear them. Fear filled her body from head to toe as she felt predator eyes on her. However, she stood still and watched carefully. She had pinpointed the general area in which the two people were, but didn't make a move to show that she was looking in that area. She turned fully around and walked casually to the centre of the clearing once more. She knelt on the snow floor and gathered snow in her hands to make fist sized snow balls. Packing the snow balls tightly she gathered them to one side before standing up with two of them in her hands. She turned back to the entrance and headed in that direction. As she reached the entrance, she swiftly spun around and launched the two snow balls into the air. She ran to her mound of snowballs before the first two hit anything and started to throw the rest in the same direction.
Allen cupped his mouth and whistled long and hard to create his message. His blue eyes darted between the three half beasts that were securely trussed up. He watched them snarling and arguing with one another while his comrades, still in ape form, stood nearby.
Suddenly, a small yellow ape jumped down from the trees with a little bounce on the soft snow. The little ape shifted easily back into its human form to reveal a small naked boy. He ran towards Allan and jumped onto his chest while he wrapped his small arms around him to cling on.
“What's the matter, Little Pete?” asked Allen.
“The beasties scared me. I saw them chasing and hid in the trees. Bad beasties, very bad beasties… they were shooting things. Almost got an owie…” explained Little Pete who was only four years old. His blond little curls covered the top of his head which explained why he was yellow when he transformed.
“It's okay now. Why are you out here in the first place?” asked Allen.
“Ma and Da were mad. They were yelling. So I left.”
Allen hugged the small naked boy to his chest. He understood this small child better than the two comrades he was with. It also helped that he was the leader of the clan. He had known for some time that Little Pete's parents always got into heated arguments which some times escalated. He had been meaning to look for the boy before the alarm was raised and now he had knocked off two tasks with the one stone.
Allen turned to face his two comrades and spoke to them. “Take those three back and lock them up. We'll deal with them tomorrow. I'll go to the lookout and debrief our watchman. Maybe he will have some answers as to what these three were chasing.”
SPLAT… SPLAT… SPLAT…
Startled blue eyes watched as three more snowballs hit the tree trunk next to where she was perched on a branch. She held Hattie's limp form in her arms, relieved that the girl was unharmed and asleep. She looked down at the small clearing and could see only snow coming up. She narrowed her eyes and almost fell off her perch at seeing Anna clad in a white dress in this cold. Anna had been well camouflaged by the snow floor and now that she could see her, she knew that Anna hadn't been doing it on purpose.
“You can come down or I'll keep throwing.” compromised Anna in a loud voice as she hefted another two snowballs which were ready for flight. Her white eyes could not see anything but leaves. However, she knew that the two people were hiding just to the left of where she was aiming.
Thomas stared at Anna for some time. She could see the snowballs in her fists and wondered what she was thinking. She also wondered how Anna was able to find her so easily when she was sure that others would not be able to even if she were to dangle directly in front of their eyes. Her eyes drooped wearily. Her body was tired and she was holding onto consciousness through will power alone. She couldn't let Hattie drop and she still needed to get to Allen's place, although her target was standing on the ground before her.
Anna closed her eyes and counted to twenty before she lifted her arm in a throwing position. She opened her eyes and watched the tree that she was aiming at. This time she would hit the spot in which the two people were at instead of throwing another warning. She let both snowballs fly and gathered another two as she heard the splat above.
Thomas closed her eyes just in time and was able to shift a little bit so that only she was hit by the snowballs instead of them hitting Hattie. She sighed as her body wanted to switch off. However, she pushed those feelings away and concentrated on her aching body to keep her conscious. Carefully looking around she spotted another branch that was lower than her on the same tree. She casually stepped off the branch that she was perched on and then felt her foot lightly touch another branch, but she didn't linger long. She was heading down the tree in a circle before she made it to a low enough branch to jump to the ground. The soft snow cushioned and muffled her descent.
Thomas was amused to see two more snowballs fly passed the trunk of the tree that she was standing behind. It was strange that someone could follow her movements so acutely. She leaned her tall frame against the tree and rested her eyes for a moment. Her legs were beyond sore and her body wanted to crumble. The rough bark that she was leaning against became softer and enticing to rest on until her body was fully healed. She could still feel the undercurrents of ancient magic just under her skin. She was walking a fine line and knew that Furry was already very upset by her lack of common sense.
Blue eyes opened and looked down at the peacefully sleeping Hattie. She wondered how much of the ordeal she would remember. She would be kidding herself if she believed that the child would not remember anything at all. She held Hattie closer to her body and shakily tried to keep her warm. Her arms had already grown numb from the flight away from the three half beast wolves. She wondered how long she could last.
“I know you're there.” called Anna as she reeled her arm back. She wondered what had come over her to use this sort of tactic to lure out the person who was somehow bonded to her. She could feel weariness in the individual and knew who this person was. However, she was still unsure of whom the other person that she was with. “Come out, Thomas.”
A smooth rumble of sound that was slick with seduction and humour echoed within the small snow filled clearing. “My, my… you sure have grown bold. You're going to rain snowballs on me if I don't come out? I highly doubt that you would be willing to once I do.”
Anna plastered a smile on her face at hearing that confident voice. She knew without a doubt that she was talking to Thomas. Her heart grew lighter and she felt a little relieved. However, she was still puzzled as to why Thomas was hiding. “Are you going to come out or do I have to make you?”
“Alright, I will come out as long as you keep those snowballs from hitting me,” said Thomas humorously as she stepped out from behind the tree. She cradled Hattie close to her body and made sure not to make a fool of herself. However, her efforts were for naught as the shocked expression was plastered onto Anna's lovely features and she could do nothing to change it. Her legs felt heavy and she could barely hold up the little girl that should weigh nothing within her arms. Slowly she dropped to her knees and gently eased Hattie onto her lap in case she accidentally dropped her. “Well, you kept your promise. I'm snow free.” whispered Thomas with a slight laugh.
Anna bolted over towards Thomas and skidded to a halt on her knees. Her white eyes were filled with worry as she looked at Thomas's exhausted form. She lifted her arm and gently caressed Thomas's face. “What happened?”
Thomas unconsciously closed her eyes and leaned into Anna's touch. Her body craved the contact and she was too worn out to notice it. Her mind just wanted to rest along with her body. It would be so simple just to relax that little bit more and let her mind wander into nothingness.
Anna felt the chilled skin and knew that Thomas must have been out all night. She quickly saw to Hattie who was perfectly fine before attending to Thomas once more. Her white eyes noted the few scratches before she turned her head around in the direction that she had come from. She heaved in a huge breath and let it out in a loud voice. “FURRY!!! COME HERE AND LET THEM THROUGH!!!” Anna turned back around to meet tired but amused blue eyes. It wasn't long before she heard the soft crunch of snow and knew that Furry had led Izana and Sam to where she was. She didn't even need to turn around before she felt her sister's hand on her shoulder.
“We should take them all back to the house. Father might be back already.” suggested Izana. She was shocked that Thomas looked so raggedly tired. She hadn't even thought that Thomas would be in this condition or have a child with her. “Let me take her off your hands.” said Izana concernedly as she reached for Hattie.
Suddenly, a ferocious growling noise filled the air around them and Furry's hackles rose in response. The blue furred beast quickly scanned the area. I knew I should have scouted the area. However, leaving Thomas alone in her condition was too much of a risk. Its golden eyes flared brightly as it walked in a tight circle around everyone, making sure that it would stand against whatever was out there.
“HAHAHA…” Laughter filled the air as the leaves bristled softly as if the voice was coming from every direction. “What do we have here? Four shifters with only two that are mobile, a beast and one human… The three half beasties have done a great job in distracting the others. Maybe we'll hire them again if they survive this ordeal.”
“HEHEHE…” laughed a screeching voice which followed the first voice. “An easy meal… enough for all…” The creature, that this voice belonged to, walked forward out of the trees. A green scaly face with grey dull eyes, a small snout like a trumpet moving of its own accord, modestly covered with rags. It had a femininely shaped body, but her razor sharp white teeth revealed her to be more dangerous than her partner who was masculine. “Edgar, which will you choose?”
“Melina, dear, I haven't had a chance to choose yet.” said Edgar whose voice matched the first round of laughter that filled the air. Its masculine shaped body was similar to its female partner; however it did not bare any teeth. A strange disfigured smile graced his face. Black eyes void of any light surveyed the five specimens curiously. “We definitely have an interesting catch indeed. Some fine specimen and meaty delights from the looks of some of them. I wonder which I should choose.”
“Take your time Edgar, we have plenty.” replied Melina as she skirted around the edges. Her grey eyes were watching Furry intently in case it made up its mind to attack. Her body was rigid to respond to anything that her prey was going to do if they did something unexpected. “The young one should have tender meat.”
Suddenly, a warning hiss came from the shadows. A male creature much like Melina and Edgar appeared from between the trees. This one looked like the leader with his impeccable posture for a monstrously looking creature. “Edgar, Melina, the young one is for keeping and not eating. We have a contract to fulfil. You can choose any of the others.”
“Wardrick, why are you here?” asked Thomas sternly, even from her tiresome state of being. The soft snow was dampening her clothes by the second. She knew that she was chilled to the bone, but was grateful that she still had some warmth to give to Hattie. “I heard that you wouldn't venture into this valley.”
Wardrick looked at Thomas as if she had grown a second head. He scrutinised her features for a while trying to figure out who she was and how she knew of him. After all, his clan was very secretive and only those that they wanted contact with would know about them. It was very unlikely that he had met this woman before. However, it was true that he wouldn't have stepped foot into this valley had it not been for one of his not so smart subordinates getting himself captured. “You have heard true, but one can change their mind if he so chooses to. Where did you hear this?” he asked in a slick voice.
Thomas smiled up at the creature which was a male Lizandrous. They were supposedly not nocturnal and it was still way too early for even the sun to come out yet. Then she saw the truth in his eyes. She could see that he was struggling to stay awake. His concentration on things made him look very abrupt. His eyes would dance around as if he had heard a noise or seen some movement out of the corner of his eyes. His two companions also looked tired, but they showed it through their seemingly endless energy. She had seen these creatures sunbake in the day just outside of the valley. They would not willingly venture into her valley since there was limited sunlight as well as the continuous snow that never ceased year through.
“You didn't choose.” stated Thomas as she stared into his shocked eyes.
All of a sudden, Furry began to growl viciously in warning towards Wardrick. Its deep vibrating voice stopped everyone from moving a muscle. “Don't you even dare, Wardrick. Quare have vos adveho? Is est haud locus vobis. ” growled Furry. Its blue ruff was standing on end with its teeth bared and claws extended.
Thomas translated automatically in her head. Why have you come? This is no place for you… She could see that Wardrick had been caught off guard by Furry's iteration of her main questions. There was no reason that he wouldn't understand what Furry had asked. He was an old kind after all. It was a dead human language that had been reborn to be used by beasts and other shifters of the old kind since it was most likely that the others would not understand. It was also considered a noble language. She wondered if Wardrick would answer.
“ They have captus unus nostri own. Nos errant iens ut professio. ” whispered Wardrick. His silver eyes stared at Furry for a while as silence descended upon them. He had also been shocked that he had answered truthfully without even questioning himself.
They have taken one of our own. We were going to trade… Thomas stared at Wardrick. She knew that he was a proud creature that sometimes did prey upon humans for food, but at least he was wise enough to contain his needs for human flesh. She could understand his noble act to try and get one of his kindred back, but it was clear that this way was not the right way.
Thomas slowly passed Hattie over to Izana's still outstretched arms. She stood up carefully and turned blue blazing eyes onto Wardrick. She knew that his problem was none of her concern, but she had to be sure that this was just some random targeting. There was no way that it could all be a coincidence that they happened to be here when there was a village not that far away with plenty of human children to take.
“Did they specifically ask for her?” asked Thomas in a deep angry purr. Menace was radiating from her form as she stood there. Her blue eyes penetrated him as if they were lasers burning holes into his silver eyes. She took a step forward and was even with Furry. “Were you told to come looking for her?”
“ Etiam… ” replied Wardrick.
Yes… Thomas let the word cascade into her consciousness. Someone out there was targeting Hattie for a reason. Her only source of information was going to be a creature that she didn't fully trust. He had answered truthfully in the dead language, but he was also capable of leaving out important pieces of information. “Who sent you?” demanded Thomas.
“I'm not inclined to tell you.”
Thomas stared at Wardrick for a few heartbeats before her heart started to pound furiously. This Lizandrous was not going to get away with his disrespect or ignorance any longer. She felt her face warm and the tingling sensation that fluttered to every part of her skin. She was going to shift in front of him. She was going to show him who he was really dealing with.
“Stoph it!” growled Furry warningly with its teeth firmly clamped around Thomas's wrist. Drool dripped from its teeth and slid down her hand. Golden eyes peered up at her to make sure that it held her attention. It could see those ice crystals clearly as Thomas struggled to contain her anger. “He isth not worth it.”
Thomas was conflicted. She really needed to know who was targeting Hattie. She needed to protect everyone. It was her duty since she was responsible for all those that lived in her valley. She had claimed it and yet somebody from the outside was disrupting the balance within her world. Who could it be?
Abruptly Thomas was made aware that Anna was by her side. She had felt her hesitant touch on her upper arm. Ice crystals of anger looked towards Anna, but swiftly melted away along with her need to show this Lizandrous her will. She slowly closed her eyes and reopened them to look over at Wardrick. It had really been a long night and she was exhausted. Another shift from her dormant state to her beast state could be the last straw into unleashing the already unstable links of ancient magic within her. She couldn't risk that.
Thomas looked around at her small party. She was sure that Izana and Sam were ready to shift at a flicker of movement if she signalled them to. However, her first priority was to ensure Hattie's safety. She couldn't let these Lizandrous to take her away. Also she couldn't let anything happen to Anna either. If something were to happen to her, she didn't know what she would be capable of doing besides unleashing all of her wrath against everyone in the world.
Thomas took a deep breath and blew it out to calm her emotions and mind. “Izana, take Hattie and return to your father as soon as possible. He will understand. Furry, you take Anna back to Allen's home. Now go!” commanded Thomas with such force that Izana immediately shifted and disappeared with Hattie. Furry was a little hesitant, but eventually obeyed and tossed Anna onto its back before running away. She was left with only Sam and the Lizandrous. “You have a choice Sam, you can stay or go.”
Sam stood at his tallest and raised a fist to his chest in honour. His sandy blonde hair was already plastered to his head from the continuous drizzle of snow. He smiled broadly at the challenge that he was offered and instantly shifted to his beast form. His muscles bulged out and hair erupted out of every pore besides his palms, face, chest and the bottom of his feet. His coat was shiny and looked as though he had only just hopped out of a shower with the glistening droplets of snow on his muscular chest. He had discarded his upper clothing and was only left wearing pants. His smile became wider as he showed the Lizandrous that he was a full fledged Ape beast.
“Wow, you make everything you do look pretty.” remarked Thomas in light humour as her mind became sharper in preparation for the battle. She loosened up her stance and made sure that she was ready for the inevitable. She was going to fight as she was. There was no shifting for her. She was ready for the torment that she was going to put her body in. Hmm, maybe I should have listened to Furry in the first place and gone to sleep. So much for getting to Allen's place before sunrise, thought I could make it.
Thomas felt the air shift and a gust of wind combined with snow swirled within the small clearing. It was a little strange since the trees had not stirred. Her curiosity was hastily dampened as Wardrick sent Melina and Edgar to fight them while he stood by to watch. She wondered how ignorant he could get. She noted that her wrist was still bleeding from where Furry had bitten her and the fact that her legs felt like jelly. She watched as Melina ran towards her with a fist cocked and ready to swing. She saw the fist coming and fell onto her bottom in the soft snow when her legs refused to budge. The fist went over her head, but then she raised her leg off the ground and hit Melina below the belt. She watched amusedly as Melina's eyes almost bulged out of her head and her hands clutched her crotch.
Thomas almost laughed at Melina's predicament. She would have watched her fall to the ground in agony; however, pain blazed along the side of her head as she was kicked by Wardrick. She rolled with the force and ended up on her hands and feet. She glanced up to see the smug look that was on Wardrick's face. Slowly she stood up and stood defensively. It was given that her brains had been rattled, but she didn't have time to think about it as Wardrick pressed his advantage. She barely dodged his clawed hand which would have slashed right through the front of her jumper if she hadn't stepped back. However, pain erupted across her chest. She could have sworn that he hadn't been able to touch her. Even her jumper was fully intact. What's going on? She jumped back to put some distance between them as she tried to figure out how she was hurt.
“You look confused.” smiled Wardrick slyly as he licked his fingers which had a red wet substance on it. “You're very sweet and tasty. I want some more.” He lunged at her again with another swipe of his claws and she barely dodged that as well. However, his hand was slick with her blood. He smiled as she grabbed her shoulder this time. He licked his hand dry with a toothy smile as if he were a child and had been offered candy. “Yes, you are very sweet indeed.”
Thomas stood stock still as a blistering burning sensation was felt at where she grabbed her shoulder. Her blue iced eyes were shocked at the ability that he negligently used. She felt blood rush to his hand and her eyes confirmed it. It was not magic at all and this unknown fact of a predator almost made her regret her solitude within the valley. If she had travelled the world and studied all of the creatures that had existed, she wouldn't be in this situation. She knew that Wardrick had no idea as to who he was dealing with since she had never publicised who she was. The world moved without her.
Thomas bore with the pain and hid it well from Wardrick. She was already weakened from the night before and had not rested as she was supposed to. Her mind was also wandering away from what was happening to her. She wanted assurance that Anna and Hattie were alright. She even wanted to know if Furry was okay since it had crossed paths with Hattie on a few occasions. She had seen it in those golden eyes and knew that Furry was as tired as she was.
Ice blue eyes began to clear as the pain started to overwhelm her. She still kept a neutral expression, but her shoulder was sagged as if it had lost all energy to naturally hold her posture. She flicked her left hand out and jabbed Wardrick in the throat with a quick thrust, effectively subduing him temporary but giving her enough time to get away from him. She jumped back and picked up a thick stick that was lying on the fringe of the clearing. She launched the pointed end towards Wardrick's chest to hit dead centre and pierce him. Her strike was successful as she heard him yowl in pain and fall onto his back.
Thomas smiled briefly before looking up at Sam and finding him subduing his own opponent, Edgar. Her blue eyes then turned swiftly to where Melina was slowly getting up and trying not to be conspicuous. However, she didn't want her to escape and took three long strides to intercept her. She reeled her left arm back and slogged Melina across the chin which effectively knocked her out. She could still hear Wardrick's moaning which was a good thing since she had aimed an inch away from his heart so that she didn't kill him. It was dangerous to kill Lizandrous since they had their own purpose in the world. She dragged Melina by her scaly arm and deposited her next to Wardrick.
“Who sent you?” demanded Thomas as she applied pressure onto the stick and began to twist it slowly to cause more pain. It was an inhumane act to torture her victim like she did, but she knew that he would not answer her otherwise. “Who sent you?”
“OLD…MAN…Preacher…” gasped Wardrick as he tried to deal with the immense pain running through his body. The gentle quivering of her hand on the stick was also causing more pain besides the twisting. He could already see stars in his vision and knew that he couldn't put up with much more. So there was only one solution to stop the pain. He would answer her. “He sent us to find the female Black Panther. He would give us back Teagan in exchange. We saw her in the woods with the blue furred beastie. We knew that it was her that Preacher wanted.” said Wardrick pantingly.
A preacher , thought Thomas as she tried to figure out who this person could be. She had never met a true follower of religion before who boasted about their beliefs. She was even confused by the fact that Wardrick had been sent with a specific target in mind. She carefully removed her hand from the stick and watched as Wardrick's pain eased slightly.
“What do you want to do with them now?” asked Sam breathily as he dragged over Edgar by his left leg. He wasn't even being careful and knew full well that if Edgar hadn't been modestly clothed that he would have gotten a burn from the cold snow. “Do you want me to call Allen?”
Thomas focused her eyes on the three Lizandrous. I can't leave them out here since Wardrick is wounded. I can't have them running around causing havoc either. Hmm… She quickly looked around the clearing and noticed that they had more company. She smiled as she recognised who they were. Her blue eyes gentled as she spotted Hattie running out of the trees and straight into her arms. She had only just crouched and hoisted the little burden up when she spotted Allen and Izana.
“Thomas.” greeted Allen swiftly as he approached her. His blue eyes widened at seeing the three strange scaly creatures. He wasn't even sure what to make of them besides the fact that two were knocked out cold and the third was severely injured. He was even more shocked to see Thomas as she was. “We should head back to the house. I'll get a few of my people to get these three into a holding cell and treat them as well.”
“Please do. It will be much appreciated.” said Thomas coolly.
To be continued…
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