They met in the darkness. Brandon a mortal. Ezekiel a Shifter. Their meeting will be the first dominoes in an epic saga that branches through not only time, but blood as well. Broken bonds will come too light. The shadows of this world will be forced into the light. And trapped beneath the cogs of fate will be Brandon and Ezekiel. Two beings that were never supposed to meet. PART ONE- THE MEETING
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TALES OF A SHIFTER
BOOK 1- The MEETING
WRITTEN BY; CRIMSONPETALS
(The gossamer moon was the only sentinel to witness or tenuous beginnings.)-Unknown
Brandon burst past a clup of trees, racing deep into the woods.
A fine mist of droplets fell from the pine needles over head, down into his dirty blond hair. The water saturated him. Plastering the few dry strands left down onto his scalp, forehead, and temples. His wet clothes clung to him and made his thin cheeks and dark rimmed eyes seem all the more devastating.
Brandon whipped away a cool droplet from his skin, fighting not to shiver and failing miserably. “Damn forest! It’s freezing!!.” He panted shallowly as he moved forward and asked himself. “Where the hell am I anyway!?”
Brandon pushed through another water soaked pine branch and gritted his teeth as the cold dew, drenched him once more. His soggy ashy blue jeans and thin black t-shirt gripped his flesh with a sharp bite.
Clingy and cold like ice. While his shoes were soggy and two days from falling off his feet completely.
Shaking away the cold he tried to motivate himself.
“Keep going Brandon….Don’t think, just move your feet.” Brandon whispered to himself. Egging himself on. He knew that he had to keep moving.
The crunch of the pine needles beneath his rapid, stumbling steps, were muffled by the trees all around him. They blotted out the expanse of the sky, only allowing Brandon disconcerting hints of stars, clouds, and some small silvery shafts of moonlight; that far from illuminated his way deeper into the darkness.
Unluckily more often than not Brandon found himself running full on into one tree after another. But if someone had asked him, he would have been hard pressed to choose between the lack of light or the giant hole in his side that was causing him to traverse the darkness in a drunken, painful slump.
Brandon slipped, his heavy feet knocking each other turning his stumble into a full on face pant into the soil, but at the last moment Brandon raised his hands from his stomach and snatched at the tree beside him. His nails scratched into the bark. Chips and splinters, shoved themselves underneath his nails, releasing the heavy scent of pine and sap.....and blood.
Biting his lip as the pain subsided, Brandon tried to catch his breath. He slowly came around to looking at his throbbing fingertips.
In the sad light of the moon Brandon looked at his hands for the first time in hours.
Ignoring the stiff sting of wood under his nails, he stared grimly at his blood soaked fingers and forearms and then sighed. Brandon knew without looking at the rest of himself that his entire lower shirt, and right pants leg were drenched in coppery fresh blood. His blood. And he also knew that there was enough blood in the soil behind him that it should have killed him by now.
Surely he was already dying.
Fresh blood painted his hand, his stomach, it dripped steadily from the cuff of his right pants legs down into the scrub beneath him. Gleaming like bright red paint there was even a thin trickle of blood running from his cheek and lips where distinct gashes and a large painful bruise were just beginning to take purplish black definition.
Brandon stared at his blood covered appendages a moment or two longer trying to gather the strength, no. The Will to move.
“Oh come on!” He whispered fiercely to himself. “Pick up your feet! Don’t stop!”
Brandon leaned awkwardly on that tree. Which was honestly the only thing keeping him on his bone tired feet and tried to ignore the blood that gushed out of the wound in his side every single time that he took a breath.
With every little wave of watery warmth that flowed down his hips, to further drench his pants, Brandon grew groggier, weaker.
But with every scrap of power still left in his body he refused to pass out. Even as the fatigue of his journey slammed into his lungs and made his knees shake.
I won’t stop….I can’t…He told himself.
But deeper than that he was afraid to stop.
Brandon’s raised his head and slammed his fist into the trunk savagely. And welcomed the pain that came with that. Determination and sorrow warred there in his groggy green eyes.
"No." he whispered angrily to himself, barley having the strength to move his lips. "You are not going to make this easy for them! If this is the night that they finally catch up to you Brandon....By god you’re going to make the bastards work for it!" He lectured himself raising his head, to glare into the darkness before him; as though his enemies’ were there in the shadows, not somewhere behind him, chasing him.
Like rabid dogs after a new born fawn.
Pick up your feet and MOVE!!!!
He shouted inwardly. And somehow he did move.
Brandon groaned as he dropped his bloody arms back to his sides and forced his tired legs to bend.
He couldn’t help but shiver as more blood gushed out of the gaping hole in his side to splash across his hip. That terrible feeling made him want to throw up. A continuous sickly warm flow on his legs as the blood fled his veins.
Somehow feeling cold and numb all at once Brandon took one step, then another. The time fell away as he kept moving forward. Soon he was melding with the darkness even as his skin paled more and more in the skant moonlight.
Sadly Brandon realizsed he wasnt going to get very far get far before they came upon him.
It began with the rustle in the trees then along the pine needled path he had at his back. Then the sound of a hunter, deep and vicious, a growl that rose every hair on his neck. This growl was strange to his ears, but in his state of anemia and exhaustion, Brandon couldn’t be bothered to wonder exactly why that was.
Of course at this sound Brandon tried to flee, further into the trees. But Brandon stumbled into three more tress before he finally had to still his footsteps or risk falling to the ground for good. His head swam with pain, and confusion. But even with his mind befuddled he knew a few select things. A few important things.
He knew he was lost. He knew he was dying. And he knew that it was there with him now, only awaiting its chance to pounce. Well and truly unsurprised that this was going to be his final night of living, Brandon chuckled weakly, coughed, and got ready to make his only pathetic stand.
Gritting his teeth against the new gush of blood and pain that flowed out of his body following his movement. Brandon reached around to the center of his back and gripped the handle of a dagger.
It was a simple weapon, with a jet black handle and a blade as long as his palm and as sharp as any good blade could be.
it sat sheathed just beneath his shirt and thrust through his leather belt so he could pull it when he needed it. Grabbing for it, but he refrains from brandishing it, he turnrd slowly. Using the pine tree at his shoulder as a crutch he took a patetic stance more leaning then standing and glanced out into the now erily silent forest.
With his back up against the tree Brandon scanned the night with green eyes too dulled by pain to reflect anything but exhaustion and...Acceptance. He held his place there at the tree, panting, bleeding out, praying that this would be it and waiting for the monster to descend and devour him.
Somehow taking a deep breath he screamed. "Come on!! Show yourself! You hear me! IM NEVER GOING BACK!!!!"
Brandon gripped the dagger tighter as another growl cascaded on the night, bouncing off the tree trunks, encasing him, and pounding on his ears. And waited for his end.
Ezekiel didn tknow what it was that had called him off the beaten path that night....but on instinct he had followed the soft breeze of the night. Now he stood and watched the mortal below him from the tree branches high above the intruders oblivious head.
So close that he could smell nothing but thick coppery blood.
It drenched the air, it bleed across Ezekiels senses, tickling the beast inside. It was a curious scent, blood....and something else, laced along with it. It overpowered the smell of pine that had always been a part of his Clans forests.
The smell of a mortal was alien to him in and of it self.
Ezekiel had never actually met one in person before. Of course he had been told all kinds of things, much of which he had quickly tossed right back out of his brain before it could take root.
Many Shifter’s not only wanted to stay away from mortals, but a lot of them feared their sapien partners. His people seemed to mistrust their weapons, and their influence, but many Shifter just disliked their massive numbers.
Unlike any of the seven Shifter Clans around the world, it was well know that mortals rarely suffered from things like infertility. In fact Ezekiel had even heard it told that the mortals had so many children that many of them were discarded by their parents or sold into slavery or wiped out of the womb completely.
But...this blood, it almost smarted as Ezekiel inhaled it. It was strange…..it was new.
He took another inhale. A deep rumble bubble up into the darkness. The beast within him was disturbed by the smell.
It was like pepper on the air was being drug deep into his nose, but beneath the strange pinch, there was something, warm? Something...intriguing. Ezekiel knew that he needed to run this stranger off for good.
That he needed to chase the Mortal off Clan Lands and go back to patrolling the woods the same as he had every night, but instead Ezekiel found himself stuck in the trees, clocking the unwitting mortal with his senses.
In the back of his mind, he heard the anxious growls of his companion, his Shifter.
The beast inside, the big cat was more than disturbed by the mortals presence and sharp scent.
The claws of its consciousness dug at Ezekiel mind, his soul. Begging, asking and nsistent to be released. It wanted to investigate, to hunt, to get closer, and Ezekiel wanted it too.
He soothed the companion inside of his chest, calming its energy, but still, the air filled with the warm pop of the Shift. Small aspect of his inner beast blead through, merging with his mortal form, mixing them.
Ezekiel soft blue eyes, and black pupils, contracted sharply, slitting into the eyes of a beast....a cat.
And Ezekiel knew that his irises would be shinning now, an iridescent bright blue light would now be lent to his gaze by the Shifter inside, that turned his soft blue gaze into twin globes of light.
The blue in them was far to pail to be called sky blue. To him it was more like the hot flash of lightning in a storm. While his nails began to lengthen. Growing by inches. Which was an unpleasant tug, following the energy he released until his nails were sharp claws, more than capable of ripping a man limb from limb.
His teeth also grew and, much like his nails, this was accompanied by an unpleasant tugging sensation as his mortal canines, extended into fangs worthy of any hunter.
With the Shifter sense pouring into him, energizing him, sharpening his reflexes, eye sight, smell and taste all at once; Ezekiel once more took a deep inhale of the air. With a soft inhuman growl he started testing it for information. Smell could tell him so many things.
Smell could reveal how his prey was feeling. If they were sick. Where they had been. Even what items they were possibly carrying on them.
So Ezekiel opened his mouth and pulled in the air; parting his lisp slightly so that the scents could saturate his tongue and throat. And instantly wished that he hadn’t!
Ezekiel gagged hard as the smell of sour puss and sickly pungent rot coated the back of his throat.
Infection….a terrible infection….Ezekiel thought to himself as he took another breath.
This mortal….is very sick. How did he manage to get here in that state?
Ezekiel shook his head.
He’ll be dead soon… Ezekiel realized as he looked down on the muttering mortal.
Not only could Ezekiel smell the blood, but his feral eyes saw the way the intruders bloody clothing stuck to the strangers’ shivering body.
He could smell blood coating the air like a mountain of pepper and copper.
The tastes of it on his palate was so warm, that it burned Ezekiel’s nose.
But…..oddly he didn’t turn and leave. He couldn’t…he couldn’t turn away.
He…..wanted to speak to the mortal all of a sudden. He wanted to investigate…..he wanted to smell more of this strange, yet somehow good smell.
He wanted to meet this being that he knew nothing about. He….wanted to help it.
But….mortals aren’t supposed to be here….Ezekiel had to remind himself. Then he looked down at the intruder again. The mortal was screaming something, his voice so dry and broken that it made Ezekiel cringe.Still... it’s sick. If I leave now…..?
There was so much blood. And now Ezekiel was torn. Did one run an injured and dying mortal away? Or did he help it?
Unexpectedly the choice was made for him as the mortal suddenly broke off from his mad rants and slumped over in a huddle against the pine tree.
Liquid coughs, and sounds that Ezekiel had never known before began to come out of the intruder below him. Sounds that…..hurt him to hear. Like sobs…..like soft screams. Like agony.
And before he knew it Ezekiel was going down.
But remaing cautious, Ezekiel hissed down at the intruder to get his attention first.
Possilbly startled by the sound, the Mortal screamed and jerked up his head and Ezekiel couldn’t help chuckling darkly as the stranger jumped nearly out of his skin.
Ezekiel could sense the mortal fighting to find the voice that taunted him in the darkness. But knowing that he was hidden from view, Ezekiel looked over the mortal form above. He couldn’t see much from his angle. Just the top of the mortals head. Its hair was a light golden and brown and soaking wet.
Simple pants and a shirt also soaking wet. And bright, giant blood stains…all over. But more important than all of that Ezekiel couldn’t see anything on the intruder that he could use as a weapon.
No sheathes. No bulges in his pockets. But Ezekiel knew that that didn’t exactly mean that the intruder didn’t have any hidden blades on him.
I’ve got to take this slow….just incase... He told himself, then he moved in.
Ezekiel stalked along the branches over the mortals oblivious head; toeing the wood beneath his feet. His movements were graceful, smooth, and confident. Because of the beast inside, Ezekiel never feared falling. He trusted the beast, his inner cat to lead him safely; to navigate the darkness for its mortal counterpart. Quckly Ezekiel leap from the tree without any hesitation.
Like fluid he fell to the forest floor ten feet below, until he felt the shock of spongey needles underneath his feet. Ezekiel then let gravity pull him down into a crouch, as he came to a stop, and then he listened for the mortal’s response.
Ezekiel had landed only few feet away from him, but the mortal didn’t seem to notice him yet. Ezekiel had herd that mortals couldn’t see well in dim light. Nor did it seem like they could smell the way his people did.
Any Shifter would have smelled him by now….but this stranger remained slumped over by the tree. Making that horrible noise…..smelling so….different from anything Ezekiel had ever known.
Suddenly the mortal spoke. “Please…..please just stop….” The intruder sobbed into the shoulder of the pine tree holding him up. His face was still a mystery to Ezekiel as the mortal had it turned into the dark shadows of the night, and his dirty, wet hair was obscuring his face. But his voice was shaky, breathless….and scared.
Ezekiel straitened to his feet, silently watching the intruder for any signs of agitation as he took one cautious step and then another step forward and as he moved Ezekiel tried to speak to the strange person.
“Hello?” Ezekiel said softly to the mortal and was rewarded with a terrified shout as the mortal jerked his head up.
Ezekiel paused for a moment as the mortal seemed to finally notice him there in the darkness.
Still Ezekiel couldn’t really see his face….but their eyes did meet. Mint green. And Shadows. That’s what he saw. Eyes so green that they should have been glowing. Eyes so lost that they took one look at Ezekiel and darkened with….deep distress.
They looked at each other for only a few seconds before the mortal made a soft broken sound and scrambled back into the tree even more.
He was holding his side….Ezekiel could see. He could also see the blood rushing Instantly Ezekiel got hit with another sharp jab of his scent. Puss, dirt and blood…a lot of strange blood. “Hey what happened to you?” he asked as he took another step closer. "Whats wrong?"
“No!” the intruder abruptly moaned. “I won’t!!!”
“You won’t?” Ezekiel asked him. Confused by this mortals erratic behavior. “You won’t what?”
“I wont go….” The intruder simply whispered.
Ezekiel shook his head.
Did all mortals behave this way? Ezekiel asked himself as he moved closer.Or is he acting this way because of the pain he’s in?
But somewhere along the way Ezekiel had made a terrible mistake....
He had dropped his guard and entered the mortals personal space.
Purely on instinct Ezekiel suddently shifted his weight to the side just as the blow hit.
The intruders shin cracked into his right thigh with more force and power then Ezekiel would have thought was possible. Ezekiel stumbled back, as he blocked the groin shot. But he didn’t get the chance to be happy about it, before he looked up and saw a blade coming down.
With a snarl, more beast then man, Ezekiel charged into the mortal.
He clamped his hands around the mortal’s smaller right wrist that was holding the blade, and slammed him back into the tree.
The mortal screamed in agony, and Ezekiel smelled more blood rush into the air, but the mortal wasn’t done in by Ezekiels attack.
A fist, small, and hard cracked into the side of his head. Once, then twice.
Ezekiel tottered to the side as blood blossomed inside his cheek and his hold on the mortal slipped. And then the mortal started rush him.
Ezekiel quickly retreated. With his hands out to his sides, and his knees bent he stepped back as the mortal ran at him.
The intruder slashed the blade back and forth. He knew what he was doing with the blade Ezekiel soon realized as he looked for an opening and failed to find one for the first few second.
Close and centered to the body. The mortal held himself in a tight ball of rage and perscision. And Ezekiel didn’t want to risk tackling him and getting cut. But there was something. The blood. The more that the mortal moved, the more that the blood on his side ad pants began to deepen. Fresh blood soaking his body and still he kept going.
Ezekiel found himself getting increasingly upset as they continued to move around each other.
The mortal was going to make himself bleed to death.
Abruptly between a strait thrust of his blade,that had Ezekiel jumping back too keep from getting disemboweled, the mortal stumbled over his own feet.
Ezekiel saw the hiccup and shot back in.
He slugged the mortal in the jaw and even though Ezekiel pulled the blow, the intruder promptly crumpled onto the pine needles in front of Ezekiel and didn’t move again.
Slightly guilt stricken. Ezekiel stared down at the mortal.
Shit…..did I kill him so easily!? He asked himself as he dropped his fists and stood up strait.
Panting Ezekiel didn’t waste one moment, he crouched down next to the mortal and tried to feel his pulse and that’s when the mortal hit him with the blade. With a broken scream the mortal sat up startling Ezekiel with the sudden move.
Flashing in the moon, the mortal turned and slammed the blade deep into his chest. So close and so deep by his heart that Ezekiel swore that he felt the cold metal brush against it. And then, before Ezekiel could recover his wits ,the blade was ripped back out and the mortal cocked back to drive it into him once more....
No. The beast inside of him roared out in rage.
Energy flooded his body, pushing the pain back for a moment, allowing Ezekiel to snap his body back. He dropped out of the blades way, back onto his hands, and then he raised his leg and slammed it down into the mortal’s stomach and ribs. And this time he didn’t hold anything back.
The mortal screamed in true agony.
A sound that made Ezekiel hate himself a little bit coming out of his bruised mouth, as the mortal dropped the blade into the soil. Then the mortal rolled over onto his stomach and tried to crawl away, coughing and hacking for air.
“Jesus Christ, just stop it already!!” Ezekiel found himself snarling as he scrambled across the earth and struggled with the mortal once more. “Calm down.” The Shifter in him growled as the mortal elbowed him in the cheek.
Finally fed up, Ezekiel grabbed the mans wet clothes and flipped the man over and turned him onto his back. Then he had to straddle the intruder to keep him still and to negate any kicks he tried to deliver. But the mortal kept right on fighting him.
The mortal screamed some more, his green eyes wide, but unseeing. His panic and pain and blood all like a blanket around them. It was suffocating. The mortal kept kicking and punching. Fighting for his life. Tears running down his cheeks.
“Dammit! Stop! Clam down.” Ezekiel’s hand closed around the man’s throat like iron.
The mortal went still beneath him for a second. Then the intruder clawed at his hand, gasping for air, then choking on a wordless sob as he found that he couldn’t pull Ezekiel’s fingers away.
It was horrible sound. His fear was impossible to ignore. His struggles so weak now compared to his earlier more aggressive movements that Ezekiel wanted to lessen the strength of his hold. “Just clam down. I dont want to hurt you…. ” he said softly looking away from the intruder and over to his shoulder.
Sharp pain shot out of his chest and shoulder feeling like fire from the knife wound , but even though the wound enraged Ezekiel and caused him considerable agony, something kept Ezekiel from actually breaking the intruder’s throat right then in retaliation.
Something about his eyes. His smell.
Ezekiel didn’t want to give the mortal the chance to attack him again, but the mortal made another wet gurgle, and somehow Ezekiel found himself releasing the mortal abruptly.
Then Ezekiel put a hand to his chin and held his face steady so he could get his first clear look. The darkness still kept him from really putting a face to this strange man ,but his eyes stood out in that mask of dirt, made of blood and pain.
Mint green eyes opened and closed as the mortal hacked, his voice was light but hoarse. And for the moment the mortal was docile beneath him. Ezekiel tried to let him catch his breath before he began interrogating him, but the mortal had other plans.
“Who are you? Why’d you attack me!?” Ezekiel soon hissed at the mortal staring him in the eyes.
Ezkeiel could see that his skin, beneath the dirt, was pale and his body was shaking. Ezekiel felt it, against his legs. He felt the warmth too. Blood, flowing out of the mortal’s side, coating his inner right pants leg. Soaking in a big crimson circle that worried Ezekiel.
The smell of it pinched his nose still. So strange to him. He’d never smelled such a smell before. The mortal didn’t respond to him, but Ezekiel could feel his strength flowing away as the mortal kept blinking and watching him.
“Who are you?” he asked the mortal again. The mortal’s eyes moved along Ezekiel’s face, then his jaw and then back to his eyes. His eyes lids fluttered closed then opened again slowly.
Is he going to pass out?
The mortal gazed up at him for a few long moments not speaking, or moving and Ezekiel let him. Then suddenly Ezekiel had his wet bloody hands on his face. Staining his cheeks. Ezekiel would have jerked back, but the strange man’s hands were gentle as they slide past his cheeks and ears and up into his scalp and stopped there.
Then he was pulling on the back Ezekiel’s head. Forcing him down.
Until they were nearly nose to nose. The mortal looked him right in the eyes and said two simple sentences. “You’re beautiful.” He whispered. “I thought Death was supposed to be ugly.”
And then the mortal leaned in even more. His gaze dropping from Ezekiel’s eyes to his mouth and shockingly Ezekiel felt something soft and warm brush against his lips.
Ezekiel jerked back in surprise and the mortal’s hands fell off of him. They landed in the earth next to the mortal, who had in fact just passed out.
“What do I do now?” Ezkeiel asked himself.
In the deathly silent moments that passed after the mortal fell unconscious, this was the only question, out of the other hundred buzzing around in his head; which Ezekiel most desperately wanted to find an answer to.
Still leaned over the mortal on the ground, Ezekiel felt harsh twinges of pain lance down his arm and across his collar. Reminding him that he had just in fact survived a deadly blow. Ezekiel took a moment to reassure himself that the stranger wasn’t going to jump up and stab him again.
Calling on the beast inside him, he felt warm energy flowing out of his core and into his eyes. With a slight sting, Ezekiel then felt his eyes slit, taking on the shape of a cats gaze.
With glowing blue eyes, he swept his hands across the stranger’s hips and ankles, searching for more blades. With the beast inside lending him its sight, the darkness melted away and for the most part Ezekiel could see as though the sun was sitting overhead. But even with his sight improved he quickly came up empty.
He didn’t discover any other hidden blades, but he did find a pair of gloves stuffed into the mortals back pocket. As dark as the night sky and made from a supple leather, Ezekiel took a moment inspect the gloves, but like the rest of the mortal, they were empty. Ezekiel slipped the gloves into his back pocket and sighed.
Who are you?
Ezekiel said to himself shaking his head. Even though his search had been brief, Ezekiel hadn’t been able to find one scrap of information on the intruder that would have pointed to the man’s identity.
Yet his search had given Ezekiel somethings to think about.
Like the fact that every inch of the mortals stomach and legs were covered in his odd smelling blood. His clothes were also sickly warm to Ezekiel’s touch, and Ezekiel could feel more of the warm fluid staining his own pants as he continued to look over the mortal; which told him that the mortal had been bleeding for a long time. Heavily.
As Ezekiel searched the mortal over for signs of injurys. He soon realized that the blood was coming out of his side.Without hesitation Ezekiel shimmed back on his knees and slowly peeled the mortals blood soaked shirt up so that he could see the wound.
A milky, pussy, glob of flesh and stench was all he could make out though. The hole in the man’s side was a fevered red shade of irritation and it stunk of sour rot.
With a gag Ezekiel closed his eyes and let the mans shirt fall back over the disturbing sight.
That’s not a cut…..a piece of his fucking body is just gone.Ezekiel thought.Something must have eviscerated him……How the hell is he still alive….!?
Ezekiel gagged on the smell once more as he opened his eyes and tilted his head trying to listen for a sign that the mortal was actually still alive. His breathing was nearly nonexistent….but his heart. Ezekiel strained his ears for some sign of life.
“HOHOHO!!” With a robust hoot of victory an owl tore across the canopy overhead. Breaking the silence abruptly.
Ezekiel shook off the needles that fell from the trees. And with his concentration haven been destroyed, Ezekiel tried again. Putting a hand to the mortal’s mud stained throat, as he leaned down to his chest, Ezekiel slowly let the beast inside fill him up and alter his hearing. He tuned its senses into the silence. Cutting out the shifting winds and pines above, as well as the harsh, excited chirp of the crickets below. And still….he didn’t hear anything.
Normally the beast inside would have picked up the mortals heart beat from across the clearing, but…..his breathing and his heart beat had vanished.
Long second’s passed and still….there was nothing. Ezekiel found himself with his ear pressed right over the stranger’s heart.
Confused as to why it mattered to him at all that the mortal didn’t die, Ezekiel just listened harder. As though that would make the mortal take a breath.
Ezekiel found himself urging the stranger to breath even as he held his own breath to escape the smell of the rot on the mortals clothes, but even with his ear on the mortals chest….there was nothing there.
No shallow breaths….no heartbeat. The mortal was gone....
And then there was a tiny thump. And then a few seconds later….a second thump. A weak heartbeat.
Releasing a breath, Ezekiel pulled back.
He’s alive…just barely…but seriously what do I do with him, now?
Coming to a decision that the mortal wasn’t capable of moving, much less attacking in his current sorry state Ezekiel decided to move off a ways and inspect the wounds that he had sustained earlier.And to think.
With a painful hiss Ezekiel lowered himself into the pine needles beside the mortal and inspected his shoulder.
Ezekiel quickly lifted up his shirt, biting back another painful hiss as he watched the blood flowing down his right peck from a giant, bloody gash two spaces to the left of his heart. The wound in his shoulder was clean and at least a few inches deep.
As Ezekiel inspected it with his slit eyes in the darkness a small chill raced down his spine as he realized something.
Just a few more centimeters to the right….and with a little bit more strength….he would have killed me.
Ezekiel told himself.
As a Shifter….Ezekiel and anyone like him benefited from the power of the beast within. It was very hard to kill one of his people or imprison them. Most cuts would heal over a long period of time…and silver was actually the only metal that weakened a Shifters strength enough to hold them.
Even as Ezekiel watched the blood, he began to see signs of his body working to heal.
A soft trickle of warm energy was seeping into the area. The beast inside lending him its energy, speeding up the process. All Shifters healed in this way and Ezekiel was assured as he watched the knife wound knitting up; that the pain would soon be gone.
Slowly dropping his shirt back down Ezekiel climbed to his feet and began to pace beside the stranger.
Ezekiel tried to keep his wits about him in the next few second but he was so terribly out of his depts. And he knew it. The stranger was dying. Every second that passed, every thought that passed his mind, was another waste……or was it a blessing?
Did this strange smelling, green eyed, violent stranger deserve to just slip away into the darkness? He could be a murder, or a thief for all Ezekiel knew. He was obviously dangerous and quite possibly insane.
Or was he just an unfortunate stranger who could die if Ezekiel didn’t make up his mind?
Ezekiel knew what he needed to do to save the stranger…..but was it the right thing to do?
He knew he could take the stranger to the healer in his village, but by doing that Ezekiel would be sticking his neck out….and for what?
Ezekiel didn’t have to help the stranger. He could choose to walk away right now and save himself a headache….. Or he could also chose to save a life.
The answer seemed so simple to him….but he hesitated.
For a very long time Ezekiel had been taught not to hate mortals and outsiders, but to distrust them fiercely. To be weary of them if one of them ever came into their Lands. And he had been taught that the Clan Lands were a Statuary. A place for his kind, where Mortals choose seldom to venture and Shifters seldom offered them an invitation.
It wasn’t a hatred for outsiders that Ezekiel knew. And it was also not a deep rooted dislike.
It seemed to be a tradition of separation, that for all Ezekiel could see was amicable for both races. And Ezekiel believed that all of the other Seven Shifter Clans operated under this same tradition of separation from each other and from Mortals as well.
Who was Ezekiel to break this unspoken rule?
Then again…..Ezekiel was hardly know for his traditional…..or normal behavior as it applied to Shifters.
He was often the one to do what was in his mind and heart to do. No matter how risky, or dangerous….or embarrassing. IT wasn’t a conscious choice on his part either. He just did as he willed himself to do. Not as a tradition dictated.
He liked going down the rocky, dangerous paths Life was for the livivng after all. But the path that he was on now….the choice that he needed to make……..wouldn’t just affect him.
Suddenly a beastly song broke the silence of the night. A three part chorus of Cat like snarls, and one forlorn howl beckoned to him. Instantly Ezekiel recognized that chorus and somewhere deep inside his gut cramped.
“Dammit…..I missed the check point!”Ezekiel groaned to himself as he realized that his brothers would now be searching for him.
And from the sound of it….they had already been looking for him and were extremely anxious to find him.
Ezekiel hissed in expiration as he walked over to the mortal and went to pick him up, then he stopped and steeped back again. Impatient with himself he put a hand in his hair and bit the inside of his cheek.
This path…..was possiblly going to end in disaster. He knew that.
But really did he have a choice now?
He was the one who had went to investigate the noises. He was the one who had found the stranger. He was the one who had talked to him. He was the one who had wanted to help……he was the one who had just gotten kissed.
A three part chorus of Cat like snarls, and a forlorn howl of a wolf beckoned to him once more. Searching for him, demanding his response and promising retribution to anyone that was not supposed to be there. With a groan Ezekiel slapped his head down into his hands. Then giving up on fighting the inevitable, he raised his head, and let out a harsh roar. The air vibrated with his voice alerting his siblings to his exact whereabouts.
Silence came after his call and then one solitary howl danced on the wind, and Ezekiel knew that they were coming his way.
Ezekiel went to the mortal, bent down and scooped him up from the ground. The mortal was even lighter then he thought, causing Ezekiel a moment of shock as he settled the stranger in front of him. Ezekiel tried to ignore the sharp tang of his blood as the mortal’s wet clothing squished between them.
A bloody bag of bones…..you won’t last the night if I don’t do something huh?Ezekiel said to himself.
“Did you have to wander into this forest and kiss me?”Ezekiel asked the stranger who of course didn’t respond.
Realizing that he was stalling, Ezekiel, pulled the mortal tighter to his chest and started walking towards the village. And towards his brothers.
Ezekiel could sense the eyes within the darkness as he neared the path that would take him out of the pine forest and into the permiter of his home.
Glaring, calculating and questioning, they burned into him, but more than him Ezekiel felt these eyes focused on his arms.
Looking at the stranger that he bore like a broken, bloody, sack nestled against his chest.
Ezekiel let the power of his beast take over and felt the power bleed into his eyes. He felt his pupils shrink sharply, until, darkness became more like light. Shadows gave way to him and there, not ten feet from him, Ezekiel could make out the shadows of three, very large, very animalistic outlines.
Ezekiel blinked slowly, then looked down at the stranger in his hands. “So….” He began talking to the new arrivals. But he didn’t use words to speak. No. He growled, hissed and roared out his sentences. Speaking the language of the Shifter inside of him. “So I guess I need to explain this?”
A soft growl rolled off of all three of the shadows. And too Ezekiel, the growls and hisses that followed were as easy for him to understand as spoken word.
“We came when we herd you call.” A voice snarled out of the darkness. The shadows of his brothers moved towards him from the pine woods. "We were concerned when you didn’t meet up for the Check point, but now I know why. What have you done Ezekiel?”
At this question, Ezekiel felt a chill of worry nip him in the stomach. As his brothers snarled and howled and barked at him he knew that they were angry. But even though Ezekiel couldn’t see their forms clearly he didn’t feel the need to retreat. These animals were his brothers after all, he had no reason to fear them.
“What is THAT mortal doing here!?” The middle shadow snarled again. It was a deep familiar growl. His eldest brother Walter was speaking. “I thought that you understood the rules!” he said.
“I do understand the rules!” Ezekiel hissed back. “I know that we aren’t supposed to let outsiders in. But I swear! I ran into this mortal out there in the woods. He’s sickly Walter.” Ezekiel shook his head, to shake away the guilt of lying, but he didn’t dare tell his brothers the whole truth about his run in with the stranger. “I thought that we could take him into the village…?”
“No!” A new voice growled, cutting Ezekiel off. This voice was just a familiar to him as the others, but this voice belonged to none other than his second eldest brother Lander. “Outsiders don’t belong here Ezekiel!!! You know that! What exactly are you trying to do!? “Lander roared at him from across the clearing.
“I’m trying to help! He’s hurt!!” Ezekiel snarled back at them all. His throat shifting into an octave that no mortal could ever reach. “I had to…..”
“You had to disobey the rules!?” Lander roared over him. “You had to go against the norm? You had to find some way to upset everyone. Once again!?” LAnder growled again once more cutting him short. “Is that it? Is it so hard for you to stay out of trouble!?”
Ezekiel snarled back in frustration.
“This is different!!” He barked at his Brothers. And somewhere deep inside he realized that he was telling the truth. This was different than the normal stunts that he pulled. Somehow….it just seemed important that he help the stranger. But Ezekiel shook that feeling off. He remained himself that he was just trying to do the right thing.
“You can’t be serious Ezekiel. We can’t take a mortal into the village. It would cause an uproar!” The third shadow said. This snarling voice belonged to his third eldest brother Nate and it was a much calmer growl compared to the others.
“Come on guys.” Ezekiel found himself begging slightly. The weight and smell of the bloody mortal in his arm, helped to dull some of the sting to his pride. The blood wouldent stop....It was soaking into his shirt….making him anxious. “It’s one little mortal. What harm can it be for us to take him into the village?” Ezekiel challeneged his siblings.
“We don’t know.” The Nate snarled softly. “We haven’t had a mortal on these lands for over three hundred seasons. I don’t think we’ve ever really know one to get this far inside of the Clan Lands.”
“Well this one is here….and I want to help it.” Ezekiel told them with a clipped growl.
Silence followed and Ezekiel tried not to shift from foot to foot in open impatience. He had to move. But Ezekiel knew that his brothers weren’t going to just let him stroll by. He had to break their guard a little….or make them see reason somehow.
"So?” He rumbled into the darkness as the silence seemed to streatch. Three pair of glowing eyes glared back at him. At the mortal. Full of hostility.
But Ezekiel just kept his tone light. "Are you three just going to sit there in the shadows like a bunch of scardy cats? Or will you come out here and talk to me." Ezekiel hissed. “I promise you the mortal isout cold….”
A snarl of hesitation rolled out of his brothers and Ezekiel rolled his eyes to the heavens. “Oh grow a damn pair and come here!” he hissed at them once again.
Almost again their will, the shapes of his brother’s moved closer.
Until in the moonlight two large spotted Leopards and one grey wolf stood slightly apart in the night.
The two large leopards, each varying in size only slightly, and one alarmingly large grey wolf approached Ezekiel in darkness.The slight shuffle of dead pineneedles beneath their feet, did nothing to convey the real size and weight of the three Shifters.
The three animals gazed on Ezekiel and his burden with eyes that were unnervingly intelligent and full of unspoken words. The two leopards’ and the wolf also had drastically different eyes from Ezekiel's own. The Leopards were his elder brothers Walter and Lander. While the Wolf was his other brother Nate.
Ezekiel knew that his own eyes glowed a florescent light blue, not too different from the burning blue of a dying flame or an arc of lightening in the sky.
The leopards’ that approached him had eyes ranging from a shocking florescent green, to a glaring sunset yellow, not unlike the eyes of an owl.
While the wolf had two tone eyes. The wolfs’ right eye was a blinding white almost as clear as the snow and his right eye was as dark as tar.
And as they neared Ezkeiel it wasn’t hard to see how the animals moved in synch, a march of solidarity, and a march that on any other night Ezekiel would have been a part of.But even though the moment was tense and Ezekiel could sense their displeasure with him, he was glad to see his siblings. Shifters like him. Men who he trusted more than any other.
“Have you seriously thought this one through Ezekiel…?” Growled the larger Leopard with eyes burning bright yellow. This was Ezekiel’s older brother Walter.
Ezekiel sighed and said back to the beast. "Just listen to me Walter. I’m taking the mortal to mother. She’s the only Healer skilled snough and she will help him. She will know how to help him."
This brought on a thoughtful sounding hiss from his eldest brother.
"But do you understand how Dad will react to this?" The leopard with the yellow eyes, looked behind its self, back toward their home. "There will be hell to pay when he finds out!" Walter growled glaring back at him from behind the animals face.
Ezekiel translated the hisses and growls internally and then responded just as fiercely if solemnly.
"I don’t care Walter. Let him burn the house down with his fury, but I’m not going to sleep in my bed tonight while a complete stranger bleeds to death right outside our door!" Ezekiel inserted.
A moment of silence followed as all three animals shared a glace, before Walter looked back at Ezekiel with a snort, and a head shake.
"Fine." Ezekiel translated from the animals familiar movements. Then the three animals finally began to close the gap between themselves and him.
As the two Lapboards and the wolf neared him, padding on silent paws in the spongey forest needles a chorus of hisses, whimpers, barks and growls peppered the night.
Each one full of apprehension, worry, anger and curiosity. Ezekiel watched each of the Shifters as they stopped not three feet away from him, obviously not prepared to get too close to the mortal.
Ezekiel hissed back at them, summoning the sound from deep within where his own inner beast laid in wait for his call.He encouraged his siblings to come closer. He bore the mortals pitiful weight all while he did this until with a swift growl all three of his brothers began to near him once more.
His brothers circled Ezekiel then, sniffing, the air, him and the mortal. Before he finally was forced to sit the stranger down for their examination. Ignoring the wolfs harmless bark, he sat the burden into the soil. Ezekiel did this gingerly, wounded as the stranger was, Ezekiel didn’t want to risk killing him with hurried, jerky moves.And once he had backed away, not two seconds after he had laid the mortal to the ground, three very curious black noses were roaming across the intruder from head to toe.
Ezekiel knew that his older sibling wanted to investigate the mortal thoroughly using some of a Shifters greatest endowments. Scent and taste.
But strangely, when the green eyed leopard, drug a scratchy tongue across the mortals cheek, Ezekiel instantly felt his lips tighten in a frown, and when the wolf lapped at the mortal’s bloody pants legs, Ezekiel nearly snarled.Suddenly he felt...crowded. His brothers were far too close to the stranger and he didn’t like it. They didn’t have too smell him. They didn’t have to touch him. They definitely didn’t have to taste him. "That’s enough!" Bright blue eyes flashing, then burning, he hissed at his brother’s aggressively, and with varying degrees of flinching the trees Shifters took a healthy step back from the stranger to stare at Ezekiel. But just as fast as the absurdly protective sound escaped from between his teeth Ezekiel squashed it.
A little embarrassed by his strange reaction, Ezekiel hunkered down beside the mortal and pretended to take his pulse. Pretended because Ezekiel already knew that the mortal was barely alive, but he needed something to center his eyes on other than his brother’s.
Ezekiel placed a hand over the mortals heart and looked up. "This guy’s not gonna last much longer." He sighed, dropping his fingers from the mortal’s cold, bloody shirt, and weak pulse.
"We need to make a decision.....Mom might not get to him in time if we don’t hurry up..." Ezekiel told the three of brothers. He glanced up at the animals that still sttod before him and glared at them in impatinently.
"I’m gonna need you guys to De-Shift and talk to me like normal dammit!” He implored softly. “If he’s gonna make it I could use your help getting him home, before he bleeds out!"
A moment of hesitation was all Ezekiel got this time, before his brothers all moved back into the shadows and De-Shifted.
The change from Shifter to man, or as his people called it De-Shifting; was always accompanied by an intense blast of energy all along a Shifters skin.
Most felt it like a hot wave across the skin and face, which is exactly what Ezekiel felt cascaded across the still night air, times three. Sharp heat prickled across his skin, as he watched his three brothers meld from one shape into another.Ears laid down, bones reallocated and cracked, spines lengthened, and clothing took the place of fur, until three shirtless men of differing heights, builds and eyes stood staring back at him. But the eyes. The eyes remained the same."Ezekiel...Don’t you care about what Father will do once he catches you?" The newly formed man in the middle of his brothers asked him. Steeping closer, so that the moonlight from above began to lighten the shadows around his features...Ezkeiel was finally looking at his eldest brother.
The yellow eyed man spoke with a voice devoid of emotion.Walter was the largest of the four, his chest was wide as were his hips, which hugged his jeans to his body, where the faint outlines of his muscular definition could be made out.His hands forearms and back were corded with muscle that also easy to see since his brother traveled shirtless that night. Hair cut short to the scalp by his ears, but grown at the top was brown in the soft moonlight, just like the slight dusting of a beard that covered his squared jaws, slim cheeks and beneath his nose.
"Now....you will make us accomplices to your madness? Give me one reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart for such a blatant show of disrespect?" Walter softly questioned Ezekiel in a deep rumble that was almost as animalistic as it was calm.
There was no emotion in his question, just simple strait forwardness. If nothing else Ezekiel knew his eldest brother to be the coolest in stressful times, if the most distant of his siblings emotionally.
And as Ezekiel went to respond to his words, he was brought up short by a power beyond himself. "I..."
"Silence." Walter barked at him in a sterner voice and turned Leopard eyes on him.
A pain. A wave of power hit him, as thier eyes linked and suddenlty Ezekiel didnt utter a word. It wasnt because Ezekiel didnt want to speak or wouldent speak back againt his eldest siblig, but because he physically couldn’t. With that one look Ezekiels entire cognitive functions shut down, words weren’t just unutterable they became an impossibility.
They vanished, along with his thoughts. Completely silenced. And even more disturbing then this was the fact that Ezekiel didn’t even try to fight it after about two seconds. Walter power just settled across his mind, his soul. Ensnared. He listened for that was all he was permitted to do.
"Ezekiel like all of your other brilliant ideas, this too will end badly.” Walter hissed, pointing down at the mortal. “Father has been lenient in the past, but this!?" Walter hissed, shifting his piercing yellow eyes down to the unconscious mortal before him. “By bringing this stranger here, in this act of willfully disobeying him you are saying that you don’t care about the rules he has set forth! Rules that not only protect him, but the rest of our Clan!" Walter huffed, still with no real inflection to his words other than stating simple facts and consequences.
Then Walter waved his hand across the front of his chest, palm out facing Ezekiel. "Now explain yourself. Speak."
A new wave of power slammed into Ezekiel’s entire being, but unlike feeling his brothers will locking down on him, Ezekiel gasped as the cage was popped off. His mouth and mind suddenly free.
"Damn." Ezekiel hissed suddenly as the funny feeling of being freed of his brothers power faded away. He put a hand to his throat and cleared it.
"Did you really have to do that Walter? You just had to put the mojo on me?" Ezekiel quipped at him, but Walter didn’t respond. He calmly waited for Ezekiel to give him an explanation.
So put on the spot Ezekiel tried to explain. But what did he have to say in his defense?All of his actions so far had been based on simple instinct and absolutely zero forethought. He was reactionary. His own personal curse.So naturally he had nothing to say.
Sighing Ezekiel dropped his hand from his throat and shrugged. "Ok Ok…. So...so I don’t exactly do what I’m supposed to do ALL THE TIME, but do you really think I’m doing this...!" Ezekiel said pointing down at the unconscious stranger like Walter had before him. "To get back at Dad!?"Ezekiel rolled his eyes at his older siblings.
"Sure we have our disagreements sometimes. But I would never do anything to jeopardize our people! This time it’s not some fire I started or me destroying some vase in the house. I’m trying to do a good deed." Ezekiel told them all. Then he sighed realizing something.
“Just forget it!" Ezekiel said with a shake of his head.
"You three can just go back to patrolling the perimeter like good little cubs and forget that you saw any of this. I’ll take care of the rest. I’ll get him up to the house and ask mom to look at him. Case closed.” He finished with a confident air. “Now move out of the way!”
Ezekile wasnt sure what to expect after his harsh words....but he should have known that there would be some serious backlash. "I think someone’s forgotten who the hell he’s talking to!" sneered Ezekiel's green eyed brother, Lander.With a brisk step he brushed past Walter and approached Ezekiel with eyes full of open aggression. Lander was Ezekiel’s second eldest brother.
He much like Walter had wide shoulders, but his hips were more narrow and defined by muscle and sinew. Defined but slimmer he was built for the Shift, the streamlined body made for hunt and kill, like the leopard that slept inside of him. His hair was a stark mix of golden and light golden that was long enough to brush the tips of his ear in the front, but long enough to dust his neck at the middle and back of his head.
And unlike Walter Landers face was free of all facial hair, though his upper chest was also dusted with shot golden hair. While his left eye brow was triple pierced, with three simple green amethysts that shimmered in the sun, but barely sparked in the moonlight. And with his hair swiped back with the morning dew that had soaked him through to his jeans.
"You’ll take care of it? And let’s all just forget that you’re playing with fire!? You are so freaking ignorant sometimes Ezekiel. ” Lander pointed out marching across the clearing. Pine needles crunching as he walked.
“You touched it remember!? The bloods all over you! Now your scent is on the mortals skin, not to mentions his blood being all over your shirt. So...Even if we did leave it with you and you took it into the village…. Dads gonna smell the blood on you tonight when he comes home. Then Dads gonna find the mortal and that will be it! And you can’t not come home ‘cause then he’ll be looking for you. Either way you’re caught. So we can’t just “Let you take care of it.” Because you’re already in deep shit!!” Lander shook his head. “But I don’t really came about what happens to you or this intruder, but now you’ve drug us into this mess with you!”
“I said I didn’t want your help!! Now back off!?” Ezekiel snarled. Lander took one bold step after another towards him and the mortal.
“But you want Mom to get involved!?” Lander hissed in outrage, still coming at him.
“I know what I’m doing!!” Ezekiel hissed, taking a steep over the mortal to stand in his more emotional brother’s way.
"No you don’t!!” Lander said. “Every Shifter in this Clan knows not to go anywhere near a mortal, but you just had to didn’t you!"
His brother hissed as Ezekiel came abreast of him, but Lander dominated him, with his slightly taller body.Ezekiel tried to respond in an even tone instead of a growl but he failed. "I know the damn rules. He’s my DAD too you know!"" Ezekiel replied to Landers harsh words. "And of course I don’t want to get MOM mixed up in this!"Lander smirked, but Ezekiel ignored him and kept talking. "But, I definitly can’t risk taking the stranger half way across the Clan Lands to the other Healers house either."
"Why not?" Lander hissed in irritation. "Anyone but mom would be better!"
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