Rumors about the expansive property and it’s endless hunting grounds is what finally drove me from my den. Having gone from a nearly full time job in both career and parenthood to having nothing on my hands was nearly driving me up a wall by the two week period, so I’d finally gathered up the energy and began stretching my legs and wandering this new place with far more curiosity than I had before.
I ran across a few interesting people, but they never stopped me and I wasn’t really looking for company so I never asked where they were going. Since no one had ever told me anywhere was off limits, I simply wandered corridors and poked my head in wherever I chose until I somehow ended up outside.
I must have somehow wandered into the back part of the castle, since one door that was locked from the inside that I’d undone opened up into the edges of the surrounding forest. This must mean that the mote promoted out front didn’t travel all the way around, which lead me to question why it was even there in the first place.
Having mostly lived off of midnight sandwiches when I knew the public kitchen was most likely closed, I decided some hunting would do my body good, so I folded up my clothes and left them in the lower branches of a tree and began to transform. As always, it was hardly pleasant.
I could feel every bone in my body breaking and repositioning itself. The stretching of skin like a thousand needles pulling you apart to make room for new fur, and the oddity of having a tail sticking out of your ass never really went away. Of course since I’d been doing this since I was fifteen, I could thankfully change form fast enough that I only had a few seconds of hot flashing pain, then a few more seconds of timeless space where my everything readjusted.
The forest around me was suddenly alive with a whole new smell, the prey and predator’s standing out far more in this body then they ever could in my other one. The sounds which would have been defining before felt natural to me, the soft twittering of birds, running water, and my own breaths escaping both magnified but perfectly natural.
My coloring allowed me to blend naturally as I sought out a few easy meals, without Shara around anything to big wasn’t very doable. After three squirrels and a raccoon I felt sated enough and happier then I had yet been while living here. I was now wishing I had been more persistent in dragging Shara out as well, and had just decided I’d go back in and do that when I heard a crash. My first instinct was to begin running in the opposite direction at once, but I refused and made my higher reasoning win out and instead turned towards the noise curiously even as these ears tried to discern what it was I’d even heard.
The noise didn’t repeat, but a new swell was taking its place that was easy to follow, the sound of a crowd. Many voices were talking at once, some over each other, and the strong pulse of my own kind drew me in far more than anything else. Having grown up in such an isolated lifestyle from my own kind, any congregation would have had me itching to watch. Sadly it did not swing through the area I’d left my clothes, so I was going in on all fours, but upon arriving on the outskirts this clearly wasn’t much of a problem. Most of the occupants were changed and simply watching from the background, the main focus obviously on the youths.
There were three of them, two boys and a girl. Since the girl had her back to me, I couldn’t really make anything out except the choppy dark golden hair, but the two boys had an obvious look of shame in place. The elder one with bright red hair had a lankier build, with so many freckles scattered across his face it made his actual skin look sickly pale, though that could have just been because of the situation I found them in. The one who may have been the youngest, though not by much, had light bronze skin and by far looked the most ashamed rather than guilty for being caught. It was clear why, as the scattered remains of a tree they must have blown up lay around them.
The real spectacle was the guy obviously yelling at them for it. He was thick shouldered, with a round seemingly kinder face, which contrasted with a military styled white blond hair, and currently red in the face as he continued shouting “-could have blown up a lot worse than just a tree! What were you thinking?”
The girl was fidgeting, her shoulders shaking, and I felt pity well up in me as I realized she may be about to cry. The oldest boy, the one with dark red hair, was quick to butt in and say “it was an accident sir, really, we didn’t know it would actually go off. Give us some credit, it’s not like anyone got hurt.”
“Maybe not this time,” their elder retorted, giving each one of them such an outraged look, it may as well have been painted on the side of the castle it was so easy to read, even from all the way back where I was “but while you are here cleaning this mess up, I will go and find your parents and see to it you are properly punished for this.”
“Wha- oh come on Mr. Kristen” the spokesperson for the group spluttered, and I thought I heard some anger beginning to replace the shock in his tone.
“No, Dowling” he snapped right back, giving all three of them harsh glares, though I wondered if his eyes weren’t focused a little more on the red head that he’d named, before snapping “no more arguments, now you lot had better get this mess cleaned up before I get back” and with that, he turned on his heel and literally marched back towards the entrance.
The talker for the group slouched now, grumbling something I couldn’t quite make out and kicking viciously at a bit of bark. The other two exchanged a look I couldn’t quite read, but then to my surprise the girl turned away and I could fully see why her shoulders had been shaking this whole time. She was biting down on her lip, hard, and at her friends reaction she no longer seemed able to control her laughter.
“So glad you two think this is funny” Dowling snapped at her, crossing his arms and glaring at the scatterings of splinters “hope you keep that sense of humor while we pick this crap up, and you know if he even finds one piece we missed he’s going to double up on us.”
“Relax R.J.” the girl snickered “you have to admit that was funny. I thought he was going to have an aneurysm or something.”
Their chatter was clearly far less interesting, I wasn’t the only one who was starting to edge back into the woods now in disinterest, when my eyes caught on Shara and Ben. They were in the fringes on the opposite side, one of the few besides the teenagers in their human form.
Distracted at once, and more than happy to see she’d agreed with me and had decided to come out after all, I quickly padded my way over to them and couldn’t help the slight wag of my tail when her eyes caught mine and she grinned in response. She quickly turned to Ben and gestured in my direction, and I saw him quite obviously nod and wave towards me before heading back towards the castle himself.
While Shara began jogging over to me, the last thing I took note of was one more person arriving on the scene, a college aged guy with chestnut hair that he was trying to pull a shirt over as he scrambled towards them, his voice managing to sound sharp and amused all at the same time as he said “Evan? Dang squirt, can’t leave you alone for five minutes without you blowing something up? You couldn’t have waited for me?”
I didn’t stick around to listen, Shara had reached me and was beginning to loosen her pants.
Clothes were a necessary part of our life, obviously, as when we were in our other form we did have the same modesty as most humans, but it was wholly inconvenient for the more important parts of our life, like hunting. I sometimes envied those that turned into smaller creatures, as all they had to do was transform and simply slide out of their clothing. If we tried that, our limbs usually got tangled in the material, and it was more cumbersome then it was worth to pull out.
Once my wife had joined me on all fours, with her own outfit tucked securely in one of the lower branches, the two of us went out on a hunt for something big, though since I’d already eaten my fill I’d probably give the whole thing to her and just bury the rest.