Chapter 5 -Brothers
Chapter 5 - Brothers
Ezekiel could sense the eyes within the darkness as he neared the path that would take him out of the pine forest and into the perimeter of his home.
Glaring, calculating and questioning, they burned into him, but more than him Ezekiel felt these eyes focused on his arms.
Looking at the stranger that he bore like a broken, bloody, sack nestled against his chest.
Ezekiel let the power of his beast take over and felt the power bleed into his eyes. He felt his pupils shrink sharply, until, darkness became more like light. Shadows gave way to him and there, not ten feet from him, Ezekiel could make out the shadows of three, very large, very animalistic outlines.
Ezekiel blinked slowly, then looked down at the stranger in his hands. “So....” He began talking to the new arrivals. But he didn’t use words to speak. No. He growled, hissed and roared out his sentences. Speaking the language of the Shifter inside of him. “So I guess I need to explain this?”
A soft growl rolled off of all three of the shadows. And too Ezekiel, the growls and hisses that followed were as easy for him to understand as spoken word.
“We came when we herd you call.” A voice snarled out of the darkness. The shadows of his brothers moved towards him from the pine woods. “We were concerned when you didn’t meet up for the Check point, but now I know why. What have you done Ezekiel?”
At this question, Ezekiel felt a chill of worry nip him in the stomach. As his brothers snarled and howled and barked at him he knew that they were angry. But even though Ezekiel couldn’t see their forms clearly he didn’t feel the need to retreat. These animals were his brothers after all, he had no reason to fear them.
“What is THAT mortal doing here!?” The middle shadow snarled again. It was a deep familiar growl. His eldest brother Walter was speaking. “I thought that you understood the rules!” he said.
“I do understand the rules!” Ezekiel hissed back. “I know that we aren’t supposed to let outsiders in. But I swear! I ran into this mortal out there in the woods. He’s sickly Walter.” Ezekiel shook his head, to shake away the guilt of lying, but he didn’t dare tell his brothers the whole truth about his run in with the stranger. “I thought that we could take him into the village...?”
“No!” A new voice growled, cutting Ezekiel off. This voice was just a familiar to him as the others, but this voice belonged to none other than his second eldest brother Lander. “Outsiders don’t belong here Ezekiel!!! You know that! What exactly are you trying to do!? Why cant you listen to the rules like everyone else!?” Lander roared at him from across the clearing.
“I’m trying to help! He’s hurt!!” Ezekiel snarled back at them all. His throat shifting into an octave that no mortal could ever reach. “I had to.....”
“You had to disobey the rules!?” Lander roared over him. “You had to go against the norm? You had to find some way to upset everyone. Once again!?” Lander growled again once more cutting him short. “Is that it? Is it so hard for you to stay out of trouble!? Lord knows you and your hot head have made things hard enough!”
Ezekiel snarled back in frustration.
“This is different!!” He barked at his Brothers. And somewhere deep inside he realized that he was telling the truth. This was different than the normal stunts that he pulled. Somehow....it just seemed important that he help the stranger. But Ezekiel shook that feeling off. He remained himself that he was just trying to do the right thing. This had nothing to do with him, his temper... his sickness!
“You can’t be serious with this Ezekiel. We can’t take a mortal into the village. It would cause an uproar!” The third shadow said. This snarling voice belonged to his third eldest brother Nate and it was a much calmer growl compared to the others.
“Come on guys.” Ezekiel found himself begging slightly. The weight and smell of the bloody mortal in his arm, helped to dull some of the sting to his pride. The blood wouldn’t stop....It was soaking into his shirt....making him anxious. “It’s one little mortal. What harm can it be for us to take him into the village?” Ezekiel challenged his siblings.
“We don’t know.” The Nate snarled softly. “We haven’t had a mortal on these lands for over three hundred seasons. I don’t think we’ve ever really know one to get this far inside of the Clan Lands.”
“Well this one is here....and I want to help it.” Ezekiel told them with a clipped growl.
Silence followed and Ezekiel tried not to shift from foot to foot in open impatience. He had to move. But Ezekiel knew that his brothers weren’t going to just let him stroll by. He had to break their guard a little....or make them see reason somehow.
“So?” He rumbled into the darkness as the silence seemed to stretch. Three pair of glowing eyes glared back at him. At the mortal. Full of hostility.
But Ezekiel just kept his tone light. “Are you three just going to sit there in the shadows like a bunch of scaredy cats? Or will you come out here and talk to me.” Ezekiel hissed. “I promise you the mortal is out cold....”
A snarl of hesitation rolled out of his brothers and Ezekiel rolled his eyes to the heavens. “Oh grow a damn pair and come here!” he hissed at them once again.
Almost again their will, the shapes of his brother’s moved closer.
Until in the moonlight two large spotted Leopards and one grey wolf stood slightly apart in the night.
The two large leopards, each varying in size only slightly, and one alarmingly large grey wolf approached Ezekiel in darkness.
The slight shuffle of dead pine needles beneath their feet, did nothing to convey the real size and weight of the three Shifters.
The three animals gazed on Ezekiel and his burden with eyes that were unnervingly intelligent and full of unspoken words. The two leopards’ and the wolf also had drastically different eyes from Ezekiel’s own. The Leopards were his elder brothers Walter and Lander. While the Wolf was his other brother Nate.
Ezekiel knew that his own eyes glowed a florescent light blue, not too different from the burning blue of a dying flame or an arc of lightening in the sky.
The leopards’ that approached him had eyes ranging from a shocking florescent green, to a glaring sunset yellow, not unlike the eyes of an owl.
While the wolf had two tone eyes. The wolfs’ right eye was a blinding white almost as clear as the snow and his right eye was as dark as tar.
And as they neared Ezekiel it wasn’t hard to see how the animals moved in synch, a march of solidarity, and a march that on any other night Ezekiel would have been a part of.
But even though the moment was tense and Ezekiel could sense their displeasure with him, he was glad to see his siblings. Shifters like him. Men who he trusted more than any other.
“Have you seriously thought this one through Ezekiel...?” Growled the larger Leopard with eyes burning bright yellow. This was Ezekiel’s older brother Walter.
Ezekiel sighed and said back to the beast. “Just listen to me Walter. I’m taking the mortal to mother. She’s the only Healer skilled enough and she will help him. She will know how to help him.”
This brought on a thoughtful sounding hiss from his eldest brother.
“But do you understand how Dad will react to this?” The leopard with the yellow eyes, looked behind its self, back toward their home. “There will be hell to pay when he finds out!” Walter growled glaring back at him from behind the animals face.
Ezekiel translated the hisses and growls internally and then responded just as fiercely if solemnly.
“I don’t care Walter. Let him burn the house down with his fury, but I’m not going to sleep in my bed tonight while a complete stranger bleeds to death right outside our door!” Ezekiel inserted.
A moment of silence followed as all three animals shared a glace, before Walter looked back at Ezekiel with a snort, and a head shake.
“Fine.” Ezekiel translated from the animals familiar movements. Then the three animals finally began to close the gap between themselves and him.
As the two Lapboards and the wolf neared him, padding on silent paws in the spongy forest needles a chorus of hisses, whimpers, barks and growls peppered the night.
Each one full of apprehension, worry, anger and curiosity. Ezekiel watched each of the Shifters as they stopped not three feet away from him, obviously not prepared to get too close to the mortal.
Ezekiel hissed back at them, summoning the sound from deep within where his own inner beast laid in wait for his call.
He encouraged his siblings to come closer. He bore the mortals pitiful weight all while he did this until with a swift growl all three of his brothers began to near him once more.
His brothers circled Ezekiel then, sniffing, the air, him and the mortal. Before he finally was forced to sit the stranger down for their examination. Ignoring the wolfs harmless bark, he sat the burden into the soil. Ezekiel did this gingerly, wounded as the stranger was, Ezekiel didn’t want to risk killing him with hurried, jerky moves.
And once he had backed away, not two seconds after he had laid the mortal to the ground, three very curious black noses were roaming across the intruder from head to toe.
Ezekiel knew that his older sibling wanted to investigate the mortal thoroughly using some of a Shifters greatest endowments. Scent and taste.
But strangely, when the green eyed leopard, drug a scratchy tongue across the mortals cheek, Ezekiel instantly felt his lips tighten in a frown, and when the wolf lapped at the mortal’s bloody pants legs, Ezekiel nearly snarled.
Suddenly he felt...crowded. His brothers were far too close to the stranger and he didn’t like it. They didn’t have too smell him. They didn’t have to touch him. They definitely didn’t have to taste him.
“That’s enough!” Bright blue eyes flashing, then burning, he hissed at his brother’s aggressively, and with varying degrees of flinching the trees Shifters took a healthy step back from the stranger to stare at Ezekiel. But just as fast as the absurdly protective sound escaped from between his teeth Ezekiel squashed it.
A little embarrassed by his strange reaction, Ezekiel hunkered down beside the mortal and pretended to take his pulse. Pretended because Ezekiel already knew that the mortal was barely alive, but he needed something to center his eyes on other than his brother’s.
Ezekiel placed a hand over the mortals heart and looked up. “This guy’s not gonna last much longer.” He sighed, dropping his fingers from the mortal’s cold, bloody shirt, and weak pulse.
“We need to make a decision.....Mom might not get to him in time if we don’t hurry up...” Ezekiel told the three of brothers. He glanced up at the animals that still stood before him and glared at them in impatiently.
“I’m gonna need you guys to De-Shift and talk to me like normal dammit!” He implored softly. “If he’s gonna make it I could use your help getting him home, before he bleeds out!”
A moment of hesitation was all Ezekiel got this time, before his brothers all moved back into the shadows and De-Shifted.
The change from Shifter to man, or as his people called it De-Shifting; was always accompanied by an intense blast of energy all along a Shifters skin.
Most felt it like a hot wave across the skin and face, which is exactly what Ezekiel felt cascaded across the still night air, times three. Sharp heat prickled across his skin, as he watched his three brothers meld from one shape into another.
Ears laid down, bones reallocated and cracked, spines lengthened, and clothing took the place of fur, until three shirtless men of differing heights, builds and eyes stood staring back at him. But the eyes. The eyes remained the same.
“Ezekiel...Don’t you care about what Father will do once he catches you?” The newly formed man in the middle of his brothers asked him. Steeping closer, so that the moonlight from above began to lighten the shadows around his features...Ezkeiel was finally looking at his eldest brother.
The yellow eyed man spoke with a voice devoid of emotion.
Walter was the largest of the four, his chest was wide as were his hips, which hugged his jeans to his body, where the faint outlines of his muscular definition could be made out.
His hands forearms and back were corded with muscle that also easy to see since his brother traveled shirtless that night. Hair cut short to the scalp by his ears, but grown at the top was brown in the soft moonlight, just like the slight dusting of a beard that covered his squared jaws, slim cheeks and beneath his nose.
“Now....you will make us accomplices to your madness? Give me one reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart for such a blatant show of disrespect?” Walter softly questioned Ezekiel in a deep rumble that was almost as animalistic as it was calm.
There was no emotion in his question, just simple strait forwardness. If nothing else Ezekiel knew his eldest brother to be the coolest in stressful times, if the most distant of his siblings emotionally.
And as Ezekiel went to respond to his words, he was brought up short by a power beyond himself. “I...”
“Silence.” Walter barked at him in a sterner voice and turned Leopard eyes on him.
A pain. A wave of power hit him, as thier eyes linked and suddenly Ezekiel didnt utter a word. It wasn’t because Ezekiel didn’t want to speak or wouldn’t speak back against his eldest sibling, but because he physically couldn’t.
With that one look Ezekiels entire cognitive functions shut down, words weren’t just unutterable they became an impossibility.
They vanished, along with his thoughts. Completely silenced. And even more disturbing then this was the fact that Ezekiel didn’t even try to fight it after about two seconds. Walter power just settled across his mind, his soul. Ensnared. He listened for that was all he was permitted to do.
“Ezekiel like all of your other brilliant ideas, this too will end badly.” Walter hissed, pointing down at the mortal. “Father has been lenient in the past, but this!?” Walter hissed, shifting his piercing yellow eyes down to the unconscious mortal before him. “By bringing this stranger here, in this act of willfully disobeying him you are saying that you don’t care about the rules he has set forth! Rules that not only protect him, but the rest of our Clan!” Walter huffed, still with no real inflection to his words other than stating simple facts and consequences.
Then Walter waved his hand across the front of his chest, palm out facing Ezekiel. “Now explain yourself. Speak.”
A new wave of power slammed into Ezekiel’s entire being, but unlike feeling his brothers will locking down on him, Ezekiel gasped as the cage was popped off. His mouth and mind suddenly free.
“Damn.” Ezekiel hissed suddenly as the funny feeling of being freed of his brothers power faded away. He put a hand to his throat and cleared it.
“Did you really have to do that Walter? You just had to put the mojo on me?” Ezekiel quipped at him, but Walter didn’t respond. He calmly waited for Ezekiel to give him an explanation.
Put on the spot Ezekiel tried to explain. But what did he have to say in his defense?
All of his actions so far had been based on simple instinct and absolutely zero forethought. He was reactionary. His own personal curse. So naturally he had nothing to say.
Sighing Ezekiel dropped his hand from his throat and shrugged. “Ok Ok.... So...so I don’t exactly do what I’m supposed to do ALL THE TIME, but do you really think I’m doing this...!” Ezekiel said pointing down at the unconscious stranger like Walter had before him. “To get back at Dad!?”
Ezekiel rolled his eyes at his older siblings.
“Sure we have our disagreements sometimes. But I would never do anything to jeopardize our people! This time it’s not some fire I started or me destroying some vase in the house cause I went a little crazy. I’m trying to do a good deed here.” Ezekiel told them all. Then he sighed realizing something.
“Just forget it!” Ezekiel said with a shake of his head.
“I cant waste time on this. You three can go back to patrolling the perimeter like good little cubs and forget that you saw any of this. I’ll take care of the rest. I’ll get him up to the house and ask Mom to look at him. Case closed.” He finished with a confident air. “Now move out of the way!”