Chapter 28 - Try Again
Ezekiel walked back through the front door to their mansion with determination.
Almost two days had passed since he had gotten caught up with the mortal.
Ezekiel had spent that time on thin ice and mostly far away from the house and out in the villages. Which was not something completely new.
As Guardians Ezekiel, and his brothers sometimes spent days...to a week, out of the home fixing one Clan issue or another.
Ezekiel had spent a lot of his time patrolling in the hours since being kicked out of the house by his father. To keep his mind off of what was transpiring with the mortal Ezekiel kept busy cleaning and running errands to burn away the curiosity about what was happening with the stranger. But he still wondered what was going on at home.
Unfortunately their Clan Lands were so big that Ezekiel didn’t catch a glimpse of any of his brothers and he didn’t exactly think he should go home yet.
Still sleeping in grassy fields beneath the sky for the last day and a half, had left Ezekiel on the outer loop of things and all of a sudden.... Ezekiel decided that he needed to scout out the situation himself. So there he was in the Mansion...secretly sure that his father was going to rip him a new one.
Walking back into the house Ezekiel instantly realized that he was absolutely dying for a meal, but even though he should have been feeling good to be home after a long few nights of patrols he didn’t. In fact, the same home that Ezekiel had known all his life and had always found comfort in, gave him very little peace.
When he came in through the heavy wooden front door and let the dimming sunlight play across the bright red diamond shaped stain glass widows etched into the middle of the door as he softly shut it behind him. Instantly Ezekiel couldn’t help but notice the change in the air. A change that had tickled his subconscious for almost a week now. Ezekiel couldn’t believe that in only half a week his entire home had gotten turned upside down. But it had.
It was a subtle change that he only picked up because of his inner beast. The big cat within never failed to bring the details of his environment to his attention and many times his Leopard had protected him. By alerting him to the unnatural crack of a branch, the smell of decay from a weakened pine tree or even the change in air pressure that signaled rains or thunder storms approaching.
His Leopard’s senses had always kept him fully aware of every change that could harm him, but he honestly wished it would let this one slip by. There was a scent in the air now, the mortal had put it there. It was a soft scent that twined down the familiar hallways of his home changing his surroundings in an almost imperceptible way. And because the scent was new his Leopard reacted to it, the energy of the Shift pouring out his core, changing his eyes and teeth so that his pupils contracted to thin slits and his canines lengthened behind his lips. It was a protective gesture, something that always happened around new things. At least....that’s what Ezekiel told himself.
He ignored the fact that he found the scent in the air mildly....attractive? He ignored the fact that every time he came in to the house he sought out the scent of the mortal, insuring himself that his father hadn’t made good on his threats yet. He also ignored the fact that every time he caught the mortal’s scent he breathed easier than before. Somehow marking his continued proximity to the mortal calmed him. But Ezekiel shook the bizarre feeling away every time. He told himself each time that his eyes and teeth didn’t grow because the mortals scent excited him, but because it was something new in his environment he was forced to react to. That’s what Ezekiel told himself.
Ezekiel closed his eyes and quickly forced the energy that his Leopard was putting out back down inside of himself. His eyes quickly changed back to normal and just as he felt his fangs shrink away he sensed the presence of another coming toward him.
Ezekiel scented the air and quickly realized that his mother was coming toward him. Ezekiel waited patiently for her to come into the room and once again he couldn’t help but notice that even her scent had changed since the mortal had arrived. When she came around the corner a few feet in front of him he instantly caught the look in her eyes and the smell of her. His mother’s emotions which had always been bubbly and positive now tinged the air with nervous energy. She smelled...almost scared of something.
He had never scented such troubled emotions from her before, and it was not only her. He could sense it in the air now something had horribly disturbed his entire family since last he had seen them.
Instantly his mind jumped to the only possible conclusion. Something had happened with the mortal.
“What happened?” Ezekiel asked her. But she only shook her head at him. Once she got close enough to reach out and grab his hand she tugged on it softly and pulling him along with her down the hallway to the left of the door that lead into the living room.
Ezekiel let her pull him along and he soon got an answer to his question when his mother turned to him and said. “Your father won’t listen to me.” She took her hand out of his grasp and wrung it with her other. Her bright green eyes were clouded with misgiving. “I tried to tell him that that boy is terribly sick.”
" What’s going on mom?” Ezekiel tried to soothe her by speaking slower and softer.
“The mortal Ezkeiel, he’s not well at all. He’s all skin and bones, mostly starved. And his wounds. It ...it was like someone pulled his guts out, and he stuffed them back inside. That’s how it looked to me when I operated on him. I don’t know how he’s even still alive. He should have bleed to death by now. And I know I stitched his wounds up, but it would be a miracle if he manages to gain his feet in the next three days. I’d be even more surprised if he makes it another day before he falls over dead in front of us. He can’t move yet.”
“Mom....that just not possible.” Ezekiel told her. He couldn’t believe that a mortal that was wrestling with him so fiercely only a few days ago was still in such bad shape. “You didn’t see him, but I did. When he woke up he was like a firecracker. He was everywhere. He was fast and alert and strong!”
Glen shook her head. “Well I don’t know what you saw or what he did in those moments after he woke up, but that mortal was still dying. When he woke up he was nearly dead and he is currently still on deaths door step.”
“Man, so he really must have had a number done on him.” Ezekiel breathed. “So what happened to him out there? Did he tell you who he is or where he came from?” He asked her.
His mother shook her head. “No.” she told him dropping her hands and walking further into the room.
It was only once Ezekiel got further into the room that he realized that he and his mother were not alone. He quickly caught sight of his brothers Walter, Lander and Nate. Nate and Lander were sitting down in two couches situated across from one another with a coffee table between them. Speaking in hushed voices and at first ignoring everyone else in the room. Ezekiel spotted his eldest brother, Walter a moment later, standing to the side. He was in the far corner, gazing out of the window into the moonlight night, but his gaze quickly and suddenly connected with Ezekiels as he came further into the room. He nodded.
Then he looked away. Glen walked over to Nate and Lander and after a moment Ezekiel went to join her. And got a first hand glimpse of the chaos that the mortal had stirred up.
“Don’t you think he’s over reacting? The mortal seems harmless to me.” Nate was saying to Lander and Ezekiel realized that he was talking about thier father. His two toned eyes peering at Lander from across the table were filled with incredulous humor.
“Harmless? Whatever that mortal is...I can’t read him Nate.”
“SO.” Nate said casting Ezekiel a frustrated smile. As Lander rolled his angry green eyes.
“SO....he’s hiding something! I’m telling you he aint normal!” Lander barked at him. “And did you see him give dad the finger!? That little bastard has no respect. Dad was right to get angry with him.”
Nate sighed his smirk turning slightly serious. “Lander dad didn’t just get angry with the mortal, he basically sentenced the mortal to death.” Lander rolled his eyes and looked away, but Nate kept talking. He leant forward in his seat as he said. “Dads gonna toss him out there into the woods and he’ll die out there in hours from his wounds! I could smell the rot and the fever on him. HE shouldent be moved yet or that infection will spread.”
Lander shrugged. “Well maybe the mortal shouldn’t have been such a hard ass!?”
Lander and Nate both made sounds of disgust in their throats as they looked away from each other and stopped talking for a moment to wave Ezekiel further into the room. Ezekiel smiled at Lander patted Nate on the shoulder and eased his way into the conversation.
“So it sounds like I missed something exciting huh?” He said in a light manner. Even though what he had heard so far disturbed him. Suddenly the tension in the air he’d been feeling the last few days made sense.
It seemed to him like the mortal had made a fatal error.
He had somehow angered Ezekiels father. Of course Ezekiel knew that it wouldn’t have been hard to make his father unhappy, especially since Ezekiel had already made him blow a gasket twice that week.
A side of Ezekiel worried that his father’s displeasure with him and his mistrust of the mortal had made everything far far worse.
Sighing Ezekiel said “Im confused. What are you guys doing down here? Your patrols must have ended hours ago?” Ezekiel said, standing beside his mother and looking down at his brothers in the couches.
“Well, I aint here by choice trust me.” Lander grumbled at Ezekiel, turning from his conversation with Nate to shoot him a look of dissatisfaction. “You crazy people won’t stop dragging me into this crap. Mom practically drug me down here.”
Nate rolled his eyes at him and said to Ezekiel. “NONE of us had anything better to do. And...we were all a little restless. So we figured we’d come to a decision before everything hit the fan tomorrow.”
“We are all anxious.” Walter stated in his normal simple manger, not even bothering to turn from the window to address his brothers. “Dad refuses to talk about this rationally, but someone needs to.”
“Well what do you wanna do?” Ezekiel said to all of them. “Mom said dads gonna toss him out. But....It’s not like Dads gonna change his mind if we continue to argue with him. And it’s kind of hard to go around him on this one.”
“Well maybe we don’t have to just throw the stranger out into the wilds to die, maybe if he talks to us we can figure out where his family is? If possible we can get him somewhere safe and clean. That would be best” Glen said to them. Her green eyes big with optimism
“Or if he talks to us it could convince dad that he is not a threat. Then your will calm down and the mortal can continue to receive treatment for his wounds here.” Nate said. His characteristic calm smile still plastered on his face.
“Yeah sure....good luck with all that.” Lander laughed at him from across the coffee table. “Come on Fido think about it. The mortal is not talking to anyone. He clammed up the second dad started interrogating him.” Lander shifted until he was partially facing Ezekiel from his seat. “Dad and the mortal got into a yelling match seconds after they met and before you knew it Dad got so frustrated that he threatened to kill him! And you know dad never changes his mind once he’s made a decision. Ezekiel, even if you do get the mortal talking to you....”
“Wait...” Ezekiel said cutting him off. He glanced from Lander back to Nate and shook his head. “I get it. I’m supposed to go and talk to him? You want me to interrogate the mortal don’t you? ”
“What....you scared?” Lander hissed at him.
“You know what? Im ignoring you.” Ezekiel said and turned to his mother. “Why do you want me to talk to the mortal? You’re his healer mom, wont he trust you more?”
Glen twisted her lips and shrugged. “There was no special reason why. You’re the one who brought him here. You were there first when he woke up and you seem to have a rapport with him. I figured you could build on that.”
“I dont have anything with this guy except for matching bruises!” Ezekiel said casting her a soft frown. Secretly he knew he was just being hesitant, because he actually wanted to see the mortal , far more then he knew he should have.
“Oh...Sweetie.” His mother suddenly frowned back at him, then smiled and took his hand. “I forgot. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to! I know the mortal hurt you. He jumped on you and stabbed you and now your father is furious with you. Are you regretting helping him now? Its understandable....”
Ezekiel sighed. “No it’s not that. I don’t hate him or anything....”
If anything I like the mortal, and we haven’t even said more than a few words to each other.
Ezekiel thought to himself. For a moment the mortals scent hit him hard, then the sting of it faded again. He saw the mortal fighting him, his skin warm like an oven locked against Ezekiels chest.
The smell of him...
“So you don’t wanna do it? Just say so Ezekiel.” Nate asked him suddenly, pulling Ezekiel out of his thoughts.
Ezekiel rubbed the back of his neck and laughed hopelessly at himself. “Well it’s not like I don’t want to help, but every time I get involved I just seem to make matters worse. The mortal has attacked me multiple times. I don’t think he even wants me near him anymore....and if Dad finds out that I went against his orders again.....he would slaughter me!”
“Oh don’t worry about your father. Just leave him to me.” His mother said. And for the first time he got the feeling that she really did have some personal stake in the mortal, but why or what it was that was making Glen so anxious, he didn’t understand.
Then again how can I understand her? When I don’t even understand my own needs to get involved.
Ezekiel told himself.
He smiled at her as he dropped his arm and said. “Ok....If I can get him talking and if he doesn’t go ape shit on me again.....” Ezekiel shrugged. “We....can go from there.”
Ezekiel made his way to the second floor landing with his family in-toe.
In the late hours of the night candle light warmed the walls and cast shadows in their wake. Ezekiel, his mother Glen, and his brothers walked in companionable silence. Ezekiel had never really came to understand or like his parent’s preference for using candles and flame in place of the normal lighting techniques that many of the other Shifters in their Clan choose to use. But Glen and Mantilo were old souls. Shifters born in vastly different times then the current and chaotic year of 2015. Ezekiels parents had walked the earth for almost a century and in a lot of ways their mind set towards technology hadn’t changed.
And as if to make the situation even more impossible most power lines and electricity would have to come from outside of Clans forests. From the mortal cities nearby. It had taken Ezekiel and his brother developing a unified front against their parents just to get a few lamps put in, central AC, and basic kitchen appliances. Ezekiel and Nate had managed to sneak in two laptops and set of washing machines before their father had finally put his foot down and banned them from putting up anything else in the main house.
Unfortunately...Ezekiel still struggled to explain to them the concept of phones and Wi-Fi to his parents and so they made due with the candles, no cell phones and if any of them wanted to watch a game on TV they had to visit a neighbor. Yet the calm lighting far from hindered Ezekiel and his family from making their way to the second floor and down the hall to the mortal’s bedroom. When he came to the door, he turned to his family and put up his hand to stall them.
“Hold on....” He said softly to them. He stepped away from them as he put his hand on the door knob and went to crack the door open. “Let me go in first...”
“Wait sweetheart....he’s a little high strung right now....” Glen began to explain. Her hair bouncing around her face as she shook her head. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to approach him alone.”
“But you said that he was still sick right?” Ezekiel pointed out taking a step away from the door and back towards her and his brothers. “He’s sick....and weak. What’s the worst he can do?” Ezekiel remember the mortal’s fancy foot work in the hall, but he ignored that.
He wasn’t worried about the mortal attacking him again. The mortal wasn’t terribly strong...or vicious. His movements and attacks had been clumsy, slow and soft. Ezekiel sensed that the mortal may have been skilled in combat if he were in a better, healthier state...but even then....no mortal could hope to best a Shifter. “And he doesn’t have any weapons that he can use on me this time around either. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine going in alone for now.”
But....” Glen bit her lip.
“Mom...” Ezekiel sighed and went to comfort her, but Walters’s voice cut him off. He was standing beside Lander and Nate and directly behind his mother. He put a giant hand on her small shoulder and squeezed it softly. She looked back at him and Ezekiel saw his brothers cold brown eyes soften just for a second.
“It’s the best plan Mom. The mortal is in a strange place....and surrounded by Shifters one of whom just threated to kill him. So maybe he will be less defensive with only one of us in the room this time.” Walter said form behind his mother. His mother hesitated, glanced at Ezekiel then nodded.
“OK” She said swayed by Walters calm words. “Just be careful.”
Walter dropped his hand from Glens shoulder.
His brown eyes shifted to Ezekiel suddenly filled with cold indifference once more, as he regarded his younger brother. “Can we please hurry it up....I’m tired.” He hissed softly, turned and walked to the wall opposite the mortal’s door and leaned back on it without another word.
Before Ezekiel could do as he asked, Lander patted Ezekiels shoulder. “Just don’t let him stab you anymore Ezekiel.” Lander hissed his tone light, but the aggressive look in his eyes put Ezekiel on edge. Ezekiel smiled at the beast in his dark green eyes, trying to reassure him.
“Put away the claws Lander.” Ezekiel forced himself to chuckle. “Were just gonna talk. I’ll be fine.”
Then to cut the conversation short, before Lander could get any more upset, Ezekiel steeped back and opened the mortal’s door and disappeared inside. The moment he closed the door he realized that....there was no heartbeat behind him.
He instantly spread out his Shifters senses and was assaulted by the smell of the mortal all over again. Blood and the slight smell of rot, sterilizer and morphine stuck in the air. It all took him over and blended so that new and old scents became one, but the smell that stood out the most was the mortals. A warm spike shot down his throat before he even had a chance to turn away from the door and release the door knob. It clung to him for a moment, before he shook his head, which unfortunately didn’t do anything to stop the thirst that tried to overtake him. A sharp sting....almost as though sand were being poured down his tongue...and something in him knew what would make the sting soften. Ezekiel clutched at his chest as the beast inside clawed at him.
Shit! Stop it!
He growled to it...and to himself. He didn’t know what this was....but it was getting stronger each and every time. Ezekiel pushed his beast down and tried unsuccessfully to clear his throat and swallow, but he found that his mouth was bone dry.
What the hell?
Ezekiel sighed, thumped his head on the door, and tuned away from it releasing the door knob that he didn’t realize he was still clutching.
And not two seconds after he turned to regard the mortals’ room....he froze. He had expected to see the mortal in the bed in the middle of the room, sleeping or resting. Instead....there was no one there.
The bed was a mess of sheets and pillows and discarded bloody bandages......
And the mortal was gone.