Chapter 4 - Taking Stock
Chapter 4- Taking Stock
“....What do I do with you now?” Ezekiel 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. Feeling somewhat unbalanced by the slight tingles dancing from where the man had stolen the kiss Ezekiel wiped at his mouth and shook his head.
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 soft moves 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 injuries. 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.
Ugh! That’s not a cut.....a piece of his fucking body is just gone!
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.
Ezekiel felt something cold brush his heart....as if he had just been thrust into the underworld. And he didn’t know why. His mind shifted into stark dread he couldn’t overcome initially.
And then there was a tiny thump. And then a few seconds later....a second thump. A weak heartbeat.
Releasing a harsh breath, Ezekiel pulled back. The cold dread ripping deep into his soul dissipated.
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 possibly 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?”
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.