Chapter 41 - Report
And so his fourth night of sleeplessness and now empty sheets passed him by.
Figuring that he wasn’t doing anything worthwhile in the bed alone anyway Mantilo forced himself to his feet and made his way out of the bed room and into the dim hallways, colored by warm candle light.
He followed in his wife’s wake only until they both reached the stair case. He watched her brown curls and slight frame disappear up the steps toward the room where the mortal would be resting. He could scent his son Lander up there as well. Mantilo quickly guessed that his son was keeping watch. He had probably been put there by Glen herself to keep tabs on the mortals continued well-being. Knowing that no harm would come to his wife as long as Lander was with her, Mantilo turned from the steps and walked a few feet to his left until he came to the heavy front door.
He found his way easily in the darkness the Leopard inside lending him its senses. And as he got closer he instantly caught the scents of his other sons. Articles of their clothing sat strewn about the door stop. Shirts socks and shoes. Most Shifters didn’t have to remove clothing to Shift from flesh to beast, but Mantilo knew that it was often a faster change if the Shifter had less clothing to meld into their fur.
As he moved the items out of the door way as he and Mantilo realized that they had already returned from patrol. He could smell their inner Shifts and sense the pop of their energy they had left floating around but he would have sense them in the house. Just as he had sensed Lander upstairs.
This whole business must be making them restless. They are probably still running the Clan grounds
Mantilo told himself.
And suddenly he was itching to shed his own mortal skin and run in the moon light with them. He quickly began slipping off his shoes. He walked out the door letting it swing shut behind him as he inhaled the cool night air. It was tinged with scent that had become more familiar over the years.
A small light overhead just barely beat back the darkness of the coming night, but it was more than enough light for him to see by. He took a moment to let the beast inside come alive, he felt its spirit unfurl inside of him slowly, like a wooden log, bursting into flames. Warm and vicious but contained within. As Mantilo began to feel it scratching at his mind, shoving against his control. He let it stew as he monitored the land before him.
His home. His land. As Clan Head there was a deep significance to him for the earth that he stood on. A tittle ran in his veins and an invisible crown adorned his head. The smell of the pine forest’s to the far left and right, the rotting mulch and pine needles settled deep in him. He knew the smell better than any other. The smell of sweet grass and cool water also came over him floating up from the cliffs behind their home.
A home that he and his sons had guarded and protected for decades and would continue to protect no matter what. As he exhaled Mantilo realized that he wasn’t alone anymore.
Something was watching him.
Mantilo let the Shift take him without hesitation; energy unbound within him as he gave over his body to his inner beast. Flesh slid away and reformed tightening and loosening as bones cracked and moved.
Until a moment later there stood a very large male Leopard glaring out into the tall grass. Its heavy limbs and jaws were far larger than any one leopards should have been, as were its giant paws and long tail that lashed back and forth like a rapier. Its giant eyes were dilated and they glowed a bright warm yellow as the Leopard peering into the dark woods and surrounding grass searching for any hit of movement. Finally with a deep throated hiss the Leopard hunched down, its head snapped to the left and bunching thick leg muscles the Leopard sailed off into the darkness.
Vicious growls and chilling hisses filled the night air and then the long anguished howl of a Wolf filled the front yard until suddenly all sound died away. There was the scuffle of feet, a wave of energies moving and contracting and the shifting of bodies.
Then Mantilo walked out of the shadows, the Leopard had been put away, and in his arms he had his three sons locked in his embrace.
“I surrender!” Nate grumbled at him as he pulled and struggled to be free. His dual colored gaze glowing with a white light similar to the glow of the moon.
“Shit, the old man’s still got it.” Walter sighed as Mantilo released his sons.
Ezekiel rubbed a hand across his throat and bent over while he panted. “Next time don’t give up so easily Nate...” he snarled softly.
“Shut up!” Nate growled back at him. Silver eyes as wild and mysterious as the moon burned with unfulfilled retribution.
“No.” Mantilo said over Nate’s rising voice. He smiled at each of his sons as they looked at him. “You’re all just too obvious! I could almost taste your excitement, your animal instinct. Next time just don’t be so noticeable. I could feel you out there. You got to learn to conceal your presence if you want to take down your enemy.”
All three of his sons accepted his words in silence, but Mantilo was certain that like everything else had had taught them they would take his words seriously.
“Do you have anything to report?” Mantilo asked them steeping closer so that he now stood in a tight circle with them. He waited patiently for one of them to speak
“No. “Walter said first being the first one to recover from the tussle in the grass.” There was nothing going on in the Western village tonight. Over the week, I broke up a fight or two between a few hormonal female cubs.” Walter shrugged his wide shoulders, then he snapped his fingers.” Oh and a tree fell down on top of old Mc’Rileys cabin.”
“Was anybody hurt?” Mantilo questioned him, his glowing eyes beginning to cool back to their black mortal pupils.
Walter shook his head solemnly and said. “No and the Rileys are moving in with the Fir’s until the damage can be repaired. No strangers or intruders sighted. Really nothing interesting seems to be happening. The buzz about the beast hasn’t spread yet, so everyone is just preparing for the upcoming Clan gathering.”
“Well once they find out about the Beast and the Lock down, I know many of the Clans Men will have a lot to say. So be ready to be bombarded with questions.” Mantilo sighed.
Nate shrugged. “Well deal with it later. For now the beast is more important than the Celebration.
“Still we’ve done this Celebration for the last fifteen years in a row and it’s always ran smoothly.” Ezekiel pointed out to them all. “This lock down may throw off the timing slightly.”
“Well that may not be an entirely bad thing. Ill speak with Glen about possibly moving the Celebration up or back by a week just in case.” Mantilo nodded as each of his sons shrugged or cast him looks of approval. Then he looked to Ezekiel next. “Now what about the Eastern village?” He asked him looking to the small cluster of lights far out in the night.
Ezekiels glowing blue eyes slowly cooled as he spoke next. “Nothing to report on my side. No one in the west has been disturbed by the beast or noticed anything strange. Over the last few days, I knocked down a rotted pine tree and found a missing cat for the Durmen Clan. Then helped some Leopardesses gather herbs and shoot down some quails. That’s about it. Like Walter said nothing interesting until last night.”
“Good.” Mantilo breathed as he looked to his next son. “What of the Southern Village?” he asked Nate softly.
Nate rolled his shoulders as he walked past his father and flopped down onto the wooden steps of the front porch. His silvery gaze looking out to the south at the darkness there, a sleeping village.
“I helped the women in the Southern village plant seed for the coming spring last week. Then I settled a dispute between the males of the Gabil Clan three days ago.”
Nate told them with a slight shoulder shrug. But from the sadness in his eyes Mantilo knew that his son had more to say on this matter.
Mantilo walked to the railing beside Nate and draped his arms across it and leaned into it so he could listen to his tale.
“What was the dispute about?” Ezekiel asked suddenly when Nate held his silence. Ezekiels bright blue eyes started glowing as he walked forward and sat down beside his brother perhaps sensing his unease.
Ezekiel was always the most compassionate of his sons. He disliked seeing any of his family distressed, and Mantilo knew that this often caused him and his leopard to be a little bit too close. Emotions caused their inner beasts to arise, to try to take control, to try to protect. And Ezekiels more earnest nature tended to align with his leopards protective instincts more often than not. And then there was the part about Ezekiel being a natural Reaver. His supernatural powers and his strength could be overwhelming for one as young as him.
The change, the beast was always there for Reavers, tied into them more than into other Shifters. A fuse that was always lit. Some Reavers were wild from birth and this partly explained Ezekiels incredible potential for reckless behavior and his piercing thought process. The Reavers energy drove him to probe into everything around him. But Mantilo knew that it was a combination of Glens loving nature and Ezekiel’s own inner strength that kept him on a short leash and out of substantial trouble.....some of the time.
Mantilo wanted to tell his son to pull in his Shift, but he was just as anxious to know what it was that had disturbed his normally care free son so badly.
“Tell us ...“Mantilo rumbled softly net to them as Nate shifted on the steps and continued to stare into the dark.
“Well, this is just going to make you blow your top.....” Nate took a deep breath. “Mr. Gabil has been brutalizing his sons and his wife.” Nate hissed sharing a hot glace with his father and brothers. “I discovered it only yesterday and just now got the chance to report since we were dealing with....so many other things.”
“Gabil!” Mantilo snarled in outrage. There were few things that he suffered to live on his Clan Lands; murders, Hunters, and brutalizers of children were not among them. “That lazy drunk! I always knew Emily was a fool to marry a bastered like him, but she was in love.” Mantilo sniffed. “I couldn’t talk her out of marrying him though I feared he was a bad match for her all along.”
“Yeah.” Nate snarled softly. “Well, Gabil was a violent drunk or so I was told. He would slap his wife, Emily, around then attack his sons whenever they tried to intervene.” Nate continued looking away from his brothers into the darkness once again appearing severely agitated. “But last week his two boys turned sixteen and Shifted for the first time. To hear them tell it thy both wanted to stop him from hurting their mom again. Gabil was sopping drunk, furious and after their mom. Their inner Leopards awakened and when their father went to hit them, they just reacted on pure protective instinct.”
“Did they kill the man?” Walter suddenly chimed in, his voice as cold as his eyes, where little to no emotion ever really showed, but Mantilo thought he caught the stirrings of rage there. His eldest was a lot like him his cool control and mind often made Mantilo proud. But his distance, even from those that loved him, often saddened his father. Nate smiled a wolf smile at Walter all teeth and no humor.
“No.” Nate. “Unfortunately I showed up in time to save the pricks life. His sons had him by the throat and belly, ready to tear him to shreds. Gibil’s injuries were extensive so I had a local, healer Kim, look him over. He’s been in her care ever since the attack this morning.” Nate sounded disgusted as he commented on Gabil’s current state of being alive.
“So the fool still lives..?” Mantilo rumbled, his inner leopard sharing and giving outrage. “Maybe I will go and visit Gabil tomorrow.”
Ezekiel who was in the middle of squeezing Nate’s shoulder in brotherly affection, dropped his hand and looked at his father. His interests obviously piqued at his father choice of words.
“Tomorrow?” he asked Mantilo cautiously. “But aren’t you going to escort the Mortal off Clan Lands tomorrow?”
“Was I?” Mantilo growled at his son. He could hear the hope in his voice that he tried to mask. Mantilo sighed and pushed back from the railing dropping his arms to his sides. “I hope you proud of yourselves, son. You and your mother’s sneaky ways have tired me out. I haven’t the stomach to fight with Glen any longer on the matter of tossing the sorry intruder off the Clans Lands. So I’m letting you keep your little pet for a short while longer. At least until I can figure out what this moose killing business is all about.”
Ezekiel stifled his initial instinct to growl at his father’s words. But Ezekiel wisely held his inner leopard’s voice down and instead he stood up and walked to the front door. “So how long is a “little while?” he asked his father softly. Turning at the door to look at him, his son’s eyes still glowing like lightening.
Mantilo’s eyes flashed bright yellow for a second. He could sense his son’s emotions, his rebellion was clear to the Leopard within him, but the mortal in him...The father in him choose to let it slide. For once.
“A week is all he gets. And during that time he’s your responsibility Ezekiel.” Mantilo stated to them all. “Don’t let that mortal out of your sight understand?” Mantilo told him sternly. “A week. And moose killer or no in my claws...I still want him gone.”
Not waiting for a response and pretending not to see the thankful smile that spread across Ezekiels face, a smile that mirrored his mother Glens far too much, Mantilo turned and began to walk away.
“Nate!? Walter!? I’m going to pay Mr. Gabil a visit....” He called as he walked out into the grasses and darkness. “Are you coming with me?”
“Coming.” Walter called out to him.
“I wouldn’t miss it.” Nate said with a toothy grin that was just a little on the blood thirsty side, his inner wolf shinning in his two colored gaze
Mantilo didn’t wait for them though, he Shifted and bound away into the darkness. Leaving his sons to follow as they may.
“Well he’s not very happy.” Walter sighed a rare smile gracing his solemn face as he walked out into the grass. “I’d better make sure that he ONLY beats the crap out of Mr. Gabil and doesn’t cut him apart. Say hi to the mortal for me Ezekiel.”
Then like Mantilo, Walter Shifted, and energy popping warmly in the air as mortal limbs broke and reformed. A smaller, but no less daunting Leopard with burning yellow eyes, turned on silent paws and bounded away after Mantilo a few seconds later.
Nate, hung back for a moment as he looked back at Ezekiel as he stood, brushed his pants of nonexistent dust, and stepped down from the porch steps. “So is he?” he asked his brother his teeth growing sharp and long right before Ezekiels eyes.
“Is who what?” he said confused by his bothers quick question. Ezekiel scrunched his forehead in confusion as he watched the Shift take his brothers shape and transform it.
Nate shrugged, juggling a small tooth necklace lying on his chest. The necklace glinted in the light as he gestured with claws beginning to protrude from his fingertips. “Is the stranger your new pet mister soft heart?”
Ezekiel rolled his eyes and laughed. “Of course not! Dads just being Dad Nate. He thinks I have a bad habit of adopting strays.”
“You do have a bad habit of adopting strays.” Nate said right back to him, his eyes beginning to glow like the moon above. The pop of Shift energy filling the air. “Just think of it like this. You’ve never adopted a mortal before!”
Ezekiel glared at him, his blue eyes glowing. On one had he was happy to see that his brother was back to his childish teasing ways. On another he kind of wanted him to shut up. But he couldn’t quite say anything back.
Not because he took his brothers teasing serious but because he couldn’t deny that he was extremely intrigued by their new house guest. His curiosity hadn’t nearly been quenched yet. This was still the first mortal that he had ever met. And he was nothing like Ezekiel had thought they would be. The intruder came off as combative, sarcastic....and terribly sad for some odd reason. He was rude, skittish and uncivilized almost like he didn’t know how to function in a peaceful manner. Not to mention his weird scent and the black leather gloves that he carried around. All and all he was a puzzle.
Something inside told Ezekiel that normal mortals behaved...differently. So that lead Ezekiel to wonder what was so different about this particular one.
Still, he found his brothers teasing annoying.
“Look, Im not soft. And I’m definitely not interested in adopting any mortals!” Ezekiel hissed steeping toward him. “I’m just helping the stranger because it’s the right thing to do! So you and Dad can shove it with the jokes!” Ezekiel growled. “Besides Nate, why are you giving me a hard time?”
“Yeah...I should leave you alone! I should just shut my mouth. ” Nate said as he walked away. And the further his steps carried him the more his clothes and skin melted together forming something soft and thick and gray. “It’s not like your attracted to the mortal or anything.....right little brother?”
“Look you flea bitten excuse for a dog...” Ezekiel began with a snarl. Nate’s strange wolfish eyes laughing at him silently in the darkness. His teasing got under Ezekiels skin more then he wanted to admit. “Don’t you have anything better to do!? Get out of here!”
But he needn’t have tried to run Nate away.
A shadow of Nate’s beastly tail was already bounding away after Walter and Mantilo without another word to him. The Wolf flew into the darkness, the playful howl it gave off echoing across the fields, chasing away the bad vibes in the air and praising the moon hanging in the skies, until the wolf had totally become one with the grass and disappeared into the night.
Sighing Ezekiel turned back to the door and opened it and even though he hated himself he couldn’t stop form inhaling the air. Ever searching for the Mortals scent even when he didn’t know why he did it. Ezekiel cursed as his eyes contracted and his teeth itched to lengthen behind his lips. Cursing again Ezekiel shook his head and walked further into the house.
“I’m not attracted to him...” Ezekiel said again as he slammed the door shut as though to make his denial real.