Chapter 25 - No Cooperation
Brandon fought to ignore this new, painful world that he had woken up into.
He felt out of place here with its hulking men, glowing eyes and sharp teeth. He stumbled into the room because there was nowhere else for him to go yet. The room he inched into was dark, except for the light that was bleeding into it from the hallway, he was so nauseous now that everything was pitching from side to side. But no matter how much he tried to no vomit would come up. There was just the dull ache of sickness in his stomach. He couldn’t analyze the room, search for an escape route. He also couldn’t keep his feet.
With an agonized gasp he fell to his knees on the carpet and stayed there. He clutched at his body, trying to hold the pain at bay, but all he managed to do was dissolve into pointless tears of pain and fold in over himself, sitting on his knees in this strange, dark room.
A small shadow moved past him and he heard cloth swishing, before there was suddenly a blossom of new light. The smell of burning wax hit him a moment later.
“On no!” A soft sweet voice called over him. He felt the shadow move past him again. “Get out of here. I can’t work with you brutes taking up all the space.” The feminine voice said and Brandon heard the wood behind him start to swing closed.
Something hard and flat slammed against the wood, behind him, but Brandon was too sick to move, he just continued to listen as the pain began to steal his breath.
“Glen!” A deep male voice barked, sounding like he was being forced to speak through the wood. “Stop trying to close the door on me dammit” “The deep voice barked. “I need to keep my eye on that Mortal. So let us in there!
“Oh please. The man is two seconds from passing out!” The feminine voice grunted. She seemed to be trying to move something heavy out of her way. “There’s nothing to see! Now go away, until he’s stabilized.” The female grunted and with a sharp thunk of wood shutting, the voice of the man faded away.
Brandon still couldn’t move, but suddenly there were small, but steel hands pulling him from the ground to his feet.
“Come on stranger...” the wielder of the strong hands said beside him. “Let’s get the grim reaper off our door step.”
Brandon bit back a shout as the small woman forced him across the room, then down on to the bed so that he was laying on his side. Methodically removing the soaking wet cloth over his chest she began buzzing around his side like a nut. He wanted to move her. Push her hands away. Cover up.....the things that he always covered up.
But....the pain paralyzed him....or was it the endless cold and chills. The waves of the sensations chasing themselves from his forehead to his toes and back again kept him in a useless pile, totally at the woman’s mercy.
IT hurts....god every part of me hurts.
Brandon thought to himself. It hurt so much so that the strange woman’s touches melded into the agony. He lost his eyes somewhere in the back of his head. And there along with the pain, he oddly found blue eyes watching him. Glowing blue eyes.
“This will help with pain and numb you.....but after this.....I’ll be out of syringes.” The strange woman said to him. Her voice was the only soft, and kind thing about the situation for Brandon, so he tried to focus on it. “I hope it makes the pain manageable for you. Or at least knocks you to kingdom come for the next few hours.”
Brandon just barely managed to follow her, but suddenly something warm pinched him in his arm and he fell into the darkness. The warmth spread. Like honey in his veins it numbed him. And in that haze the blue eyes stayed no matter how hard he tried to ignore them. And when he woke up an untold amount of time later he was shocked to come face to face with eyes as yellow as the sun....and ten times harsher
Brandon struggled up from the darkness. There was a weight all over him, he felt like a doll made of stone.
Where was he? What was going on?
In the end it didn’t matter to him. Where ever he was...he couldn’t stay there. He never could stay in one place for too long.
His mind told him to move, to stand, but his body was too slow to respond. He tried to shift off his back and into a sitting position, but everything on him felt sluggish and heavy. His tongue felt swollen and dry and his stomach and side.....was all numb. He couldn’t feel the bed beneath his hips, but he knew it was there. The unbearable pain...wasn’t gone either. Brandon could still fell the hollow ach at the base of his spine and all the way down his left leg.
He still felt a chill on his entire body, and the slosh of vomit trying to rise. There was something draped over him, and something thick and soft stuffed behind his head, holding him up against something hard and sturdy like a head board. He still couldn’t move his limbs yet, but he managed to open his eyes relatively fast. He only had a few seconds to glance down, before familiar voices made him aware that he wasn’t alone.
The first thing he saw was the outline of his own feet beneath a thin white sheet. And he had a few seconds to feel sunlight pouring into the room from his right. All of his thoughts focused in on the light.
Light meant an escape route to him.
Then Brandon heard a door opening far across from him.
“It’s been hours Glen.” A deep, but slightly familiar voice growled. “Is the intruder stabilized yet?”
“Yes....it’s been almost six hours.” said the soft feminine voice from before. “Come in.....he’s all stitched up and medicated. He seems to be coming out of the shock right now. Come in.”
Brandon tried to shift on the bed and with a mighty grunt he managed to balance himself into a sitting slump on the pillows. His spine and hips were so weak that he barely managed to hold it. But he refused to be taken laying down. He knew that escape was impossible the way that he was, as weak as he felt, but he still wanted to be ready for anything.
The four men and the small woman walked over to the bed. The largest of the men stuck close to the small woman, but the other three men went to the base of the bed and just.....waited. Brandon felt like he was still dreaming as he glanced around the room and all the eyes looking back at him were feral eyes of beasts. And their steps and moves seemed to glide sleepily from one to another. Grace...power. That was what he felt. Glowing slit eyes watched him. Brandon’s nerves felt frayed as he sensed all of those strangers attentions settle on him.
Brandon tried to analyze each of them. His eyes fell on the large man beside him who looked like a mountain of stone. His hard face and grim mouth looked like they could cut diamonds and his eyes....were yellow and filled with a deep well of power and confidence. The small woman compared to him looked like a small angle. She had eyes big and beautiful and green, a beautiful face, small bones, and a head full of sandy brown curls that danced around her delicate throat and shoulders. The other men in the room he glanced at quickly.
One of the men was almost as big as the man standing with the woman, but his face was younger by comparison and almost expressionless. He stood with his heavy arms crossed over his chest and he regarded Brandon coldly. But his eyes....they glowed a slight yellow as well, marking him as something more, something not human.
The other two men weren’t large but like the other two these men had an uncommon grace about them, and an energy in their presence that made him.....anxious. Like something was watching him. The last two men had glowing eyes as well. One man had two toned eyes. Black and white pupils that interchanged from right to left and piercings in his left eye accompanied by a faded over scar. While the other man had eyes that were crystal green and bright blood hair and a nasty smile on his face. The last two men were of two varying sizes, one lean and long, the other lean and thick, though neither of them were tiny or short men.
And none of the men were by any means shorter than five feet eleven inches tall.
Brandon openly checked each of them out, not caring if it disturbed them, but for the most part the strangers just watched him back until the large man beside the pretty woman began asking him questions.
“What is your name mortal?” the large man asked him softly. He stared down at Brandon, but Brandon refused to raise his eyes to meet him. This man wasn’t like the blue eyed man that Brandon had almost given the slip, there was a graveness about him, an iron in his voice that commanded obedience. But Brandon wouldn’t yield. He remained silent, and locked his lips firmly together. “How did you get here?”
“Do you know where you are?” the man tried again. Silence was all that he received again. The man stepped closer, obviously starting to get piqued. He snapped his fingers together twice and spoke at Brandon a little louder. As if he thought he was a simpleton.
“I know that you understand what I’m saying to you, boy. Here I’ll go first. My name is Mantilo and this is my home.” the man, Mantilo, told him. His voice colored with growing ambivalence. “This is Shifter territory, Were Shifters and this is no place for Mortals like you. My youngest son came across you about four days ago in the forest. He says you spoke to him and then you attacked him with a knife.” As the man spoke to him Brandon drifted away to his own thoughts. He soaked up as much information as he could.
Four days? Shifter Territory? I should have known! The eyes were a dead giveaway!!
Brandon thought to himself as the man continued to talk.
Oh god I’m so stupid. The last thing I needed was to stumble into Shifter Territory. I was so dazed from that hit that I must have gotten turned around in the woodlands.
Brandon was dismayed and more than a little unbalanced that he had managed to lose so much time. He tried to retrace his steps from what the man before him had said. He remembered climbing the hill, falling and hitting his head, then hazily he remembered...... he had stabbed....something. Something that had grabbed him from the darkness.
So that was the blue eyed man? He must be this guy’s son?
Brandon shivered involuntarily as the felling of pointed teeth pressing into his neck ghosted into him. Brandon blinked as he saw the Shifter holding him against the wall again. Felt his mouth glide across his collar. Brandon remembered the anticipation that had come over him, the shivers that had touched him, and tightened his chest when the stranger had nuzzled his skin. For one insane moment Brandon had wanted....
He put a hand to his throat and ex-hailed shakily.
It must have been insanity...
He told himself and it was at that exact moment that he keyed back into what was being said.
“You almost fatally wounded him! Luckily you missed his heart.” The large man, Mantilo by his own introduction ex-hailed deeply. “Now why did you attack him in the first place? Who are you? Do you have a name!?”
Brandon glared at the man. He didn’t attack anyone who didn’t deserve it. And Brandon didn’t like what the man was implying, but he still refused to speak. He wasn’t sure where he was, or who these people were or even what he should say to them. He had a sinking feeling in his gut that he had done something really bad and now he couldn’t remember it.
“He is not being very forthcoming.” Mantilo said breaking eye contact with Brandon to look at the beautiful woman standing beside him. “This could be so much easier...if I could beat the answers out of the boy.” The female Shifter who had tended to his wounds cast her husband a sympathetic, if slightly mocking, pat to his cheek.
The woman openly studied Brandon herself as he and Mantilo spoke. She was a small Shifter which only served to outline her vulnerability amongst all the larger and menacing males in the room. Even Brandon would have out stood her....and he was only about 5 feet nine inches tall.
But she held herself confidently.
There was a steel to this woman as well, Brandon could sense it in her, just as Brandon could sense it radiating from the different men around him. Her bright green eyes smiled up at Mantilo as she stepped closer to him. And instantly Brandon realized that they were a couple. Possibly even married. Brandon’s eyes quickly spotted the identical golden wedding bands the two were sporting on their right hands and came to the conclusion that Mantilo and the small woman, Glen as Mantilo had called her; were in fact married.
“Maybe he is one of the Hunters from the East? But still I don’t know why he would come here? So maybe he’s is just lost?” she said to her husband. Brandon registered her words and frowned up his face. He may not have known much, but he knew about the Hunters. Thieves, murders for sport or for hire who often invaded Shifter settlements then shot and skinned any Shifters that they managed to catch. Suddenly the reproductions of staying silent grew by a thousand fold. If they suspected him to be a Hunter they could kill him.
And Brandon knew that he was not in any position to defend himself. He was out numbered and with only his words to fight with in his current state. Brandon finally gave up on being silent and answered the man’s question.
“A Hunter? No, I’m not anything like those people.” he scoffed out loud at her and instantly he sensed every man in the room tense and pay him more attention. If that was even possible. As if Brandon opening his mouth had reminded them that he really was alive and a threat.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I just got lost out there, stumbled into the trees and then.....and then.....” Brandon put a hand to his temple then dropped it. “I...I don’t remember much else after that.” Brandon shrugged. “I certainly don’t remember hurting anyone...and I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
The menacing man, “Mantilo” Brandon reminded himself; let the broken silence ride for a moment. Then he said. “So you’re not a Hunter? Then who are you? You say that you’re lost but there aren’t any mortal establishments for miles and miles. Besides, there is a giant dense forest surrounding this entire place? You were miles inside of it, only steps from stumbling into our village, most mortals wouldn’t be able to navigate it, much less go into a strange forest if they are trying to find their way home.”
Mantilo looked him over, his yellow eyes filled with dislike. “I saw you when you first arrived. No personal possessions, no money, no food.....Filthy and sick. Were you trying to steal from us? Mortals have come here, and broken into our lands before and tried to steal. Some of them have even attempted to rob us for money. And they were certainly dealt with.” Mantilo glanced at the other large men in the room, then glared at Brandon as if to say that he was something that needed to be dealt with. “So why did you come here?”
Brandon debated adopting a stony silence once more, but what good would it do him now? “I’m not a killer, a thief, or a child.” he told Mantilo instead. “You have no reason to accuse me and I don’t have any reason to answer to you! You can’t interrogate me!”
“No reason?” Mantilo growled and Brandon was slightly frightened when the man’s eyes quickly changed between one word and the next. Feral cat eyes glared down at him and Brandon was struck silent when Mantilo’s brown irises, glowing yellow like two suns. “It’s awfully fucking convenient that you don’t know anything about t anything~” Mantilo pointed out. “Not only do you refuse to answer any of my questions. You’ve now attacked my son TWICE in two days! What else are we to believe!?” Mantilo nearly shouted at him.
Brandon slammed his hands into the bed, disgusted with the man’s tone. “I don’t know what happened in the wood! But when I woke up I didn’t attack him until he came after me! He chased me! I was just trying to get away from him!”
“Get away?” Glen, Mantilo’s wife asked him suddenly. Pulling Brandon’s attention from Mantilo to her. “You have no reason to be afraid of us. We haven’t harmed you in any way. In fact if my son hadn’t carried you here, you may well have died from that wound in your side.”
Brandon blinked as her words hit him.
So the blue eyed man saved him? But why?
He wondered to himself then he said to her. “I didn’t mean to attack him, but no one asked him for his help....” Brandon told them all, specifically he spoke to Glen. He figured she was the best one to speak to right then. Calmer. Less glowing eyes about her.
“But you did receive our aid...” Glen told him softly, if firmly. She was obviously trying to keep the situation from escalating too far. “One kindness deserves another, stranger. We saved your life. Now explain to me why you were trespassing here in the first place?”
Brandon’s gut cramped as guilt tried to overcome him. And instantly hating that he felt even a little bit bad about any of this; Brandon couldn’t help but clam up once more. What did these....things understand about him? What right did they have to treat him like a prisoner or a threat? What could they possibly even begin to understand about him?
Nothing!! That’s what!
Brandon didn’t want to talk anymore. He didn’t owe these people anything. Correction....he didn’t owe these Shifters anything. And he would not be bullied, no matter what they did him. Pain he could handle if it came down to it.
“I command you to SPEAK!!” Mantilo bellowed his glowing eyes burning with impatience and anger now as the silence went on for a minute.
“Kiss my ass! First of all, you can’t command me to do anything.” Brandon yelled back at him and his wife sighed and shot the big man a hiss. “And Secondly I told you that I got lost. What more do you want from me! You can fucking choose believe me....or not. I don’t care!” Brandon exclaimed. Then he found himself flashing his middle finger at Mantilo, just to piss the man off more. And even though Brandon couldn’t have known how much of a mistake that was, something in him quailed at the anger he could feel focused on him only a few seconds later.
Mantilo steeped closer to the bed with a hiss that sounded all too beastly. Brandon looked down and away and closed his eyes. He knew that the man was going to strike him now but no hands fell on him. A second after he flinched away from Mantilo the Shifter growled and said four words to Brandon.
“I want you gone.” He breathed heavily.
Brandon paused still waiting to be struck, then he looked up at the Shifter and was chilled by the yellow eyes that pinned him down. Violence simmered in Mantilo’s gaze.
“I don’t tolerate intruders. Especially intruders with no respect for my home! I should have let you bleed to death, but for my wife’s kindness you still live. So whatever you were doing here....you have worn out your welcome!” Mantilo told him. Once again his voice dipped, sounding more like the growling rasp of an animal then a man. “I want you out of my house and off my lands by first light tomorrow or I will kill you.”
Brandon glared back at the Shifter as he turned away without another word and began to usher his wife out of the room with him.
Unable to stay quiet Brandon spoke at his rigid back.
“Fine.” he said to the man as he walked out. “You don’t have to yell at me asshole!! I’m gone!”
Everything got way too quite after he said that. Mantilo’s steps faltered for a moment, he turned back. Eyes still glowing, even brighter now his face contorted grotesquely almost shifting into the visage of something with fur and large canines, and slit cat eyes. Brandon was once more caught off guard when a snarl; the snarl of a large unnatural monster as real as anything he had ever heard before poured over the small room yet somehow holding on to his clam Brandon withstood it. Refusing to be cowed Brandon glared back. He stared the Shifter in the eyes until he turned away once more and marched toward the bedroom exit.
Mantilo’s wife shook her head at her husband’s back and with a huff she neared the bed and spoke to Brandon softly. He was surprised to see a bemused smile on her face as she put a hand beside her mouth and bent down beside the bed as through she was going to whisper a secret to him. “Don’t worry. He’s just trying to scare you.” She told him softly as she let an even bigger smile come over her enchanting features. Then purposefully raising her voice until she was nearly shouting she continued to say, “I PROMISE NO ONE IS PUTTING MY PATIENT OUT UNTIL I SAY SO!!”
Brandon blinked at her as she winked her right eye and turned to follow her husband. The curls bouncing as she went.
Mantilo hissed again, this time sounding more frustrated then angry and like a towering wind he flung open the bedroom door, and disappeared from sight.
Glen followed him a moment later as did the other large men who had sat quietly all the way through the interrogation. For the first time looking at all of the tall and.....handsome men. Brandon began to suspect that these men were family members of the blue eyed man as well.
Were they his brothers? Brandon wondered to himself.
The last man to leave the room was a green eyed Shifter with blonde hair who flashed Brandon a dirty sneer. Brandon glared back and since he was already making friends he flipped him off as well. The man laughed, shook his head and closed the bedroom door as he swept into the hallway. And Brandon was suddenly left alone.