Chapter 57 - New Day
It was on once Brandon had walked outside into the air that he realized how early in the morning it really was.
He quickly guess that it was no later than 6 am by the position of the sun in the sky and the soft dewy chill that glossed the grassy fields that stretch endlessly all before him. Far, far in the distance Brandon could make out the giant canopy of the pines that encircled the Leopards Land’s and the mountains to the far north that boarded the other side of the land.
He took it all in for a few seconds, then he stepped off the porch, ignoring the cool droplets that drenched the soles of his feet as he moved towards a wide gap in the far left of the mansion, where dim light poured out and the shadows of multiple people could be seen moving about.
Slowly Brandon marched over to the opening and put his head into the light and glanced around.
The space beyond the door was filled with various items for field work. Far too the left was a shelf filled with boots, and old clothing, and far too the back Brandon could see a pile of shovels, folded chairs, and other appliances that were mostly obscured from view, and set into the middle of the wide space were five wooden benches, while across the room, seeming completely out of place was a giant flat screen television and a mini fridge humming its life away. And then he spotted the bodies responsible for making the shadows.
Ezekiel sat on one side of the tv. He looked freshly risen, with hair combed back, and a long sleeved plaid shirt left open and a pair of simple jeans and a black belt. His eyes were turned down at his feet, where he was lacing up a pair of boots on each as he had a smile on his face as he listened to what his brother Lander was saying to him.
Lander stood beside him, in a white t-shirt and faded jeans, with his own boots already laced on and the customary cocky smile plastered on his face as he said something to Ezekiels that seemed to make him laugh. And it was at that moment that Lander seemed to sense Brandon’s eyes because Lander looked over and the smile turned to a sneer as his dark green gaze took Brandon in.
“We’ll look who’s here.” Landers familiar and unwelcome voice called out. “It’s Candy Pants....”
Wanting desperately to ignore him, Brandon steeped further into the room and simply replied “That’s not my name.” Then looking at Ezekiel directly he said “Ezekiel can I talk to you?”
“Oh come on Candy Pants is perfect for a little shit like you...” Lander quipped sounding like he wanted to say more, but Ezekiels quickly cut him off.
“Lander leave it alone.” Ezekiel hissed and after a moment Lander shrugged and didn’t say another word. Then Ezekiels stood up, completely uncaring of the shirt that remained open as he walked over to Brandon.
“Good morning...What’s wrong...Brandon?” he asked and like his mother Ezekiel’s blue eyes glanced around Brandon as though searching for injuries as Lander stepped up beside them to listen.
“Nothing’s wrong...” Brandon sighed surprised to be answering the same question once more. “Your father said that I had to have you escort me if I wanted to walk around.”
“Right. I’m sorry.” Ezekiels said, then shook his head and then shrugged in apology. “But I’m not actually goona be able to escort you around right now....I have to get on my rounds and patrols.”
“I know....Can I come....? You dad said I could go.” Brandon asked and told him. Ezekiel hesitated, but seemed both surprised and happy about the idea. He reached up and began buttoning his shirt as he spoke.
“I don’t mind it you tag along for a few hours but...“He stopped and bit his lip in uncertainty. “Are you sure? It’s nothing special. It might get boring out there.”
“It will be fine.” Brandon replied then glanced at Lander only to realize that Lander was watching him already. “What?” Brandon asked Ezekiel brother and the Shifter just shrugged.
“Oh nothing....I was just wondering when you were going to be getting the hell out here.” Lander barked. And Brandon rolled his eyes.
“No Lander.....not today....can’t we just have one peaceful day....” Ezekiel began, but Brandon spoke past him.
“Hey....just so were clear....I didn’t fucking ask to be here!” Brandon told him. “And as soon as that Lock down is removed...I’ll be gone.” Brandon shrugged and said “If you want me gone so bad....How about you do your fucking job and leave me the hell alone.”
Lander snarled and Ezekiel hissed at them both in a clear warning to stop but a heavy rumbling voice shut everyone down. Brandon and the brothers glanced about and spotted a large Shifter, with brown eyes and black hair short and cropped about his head.
“Hey now......” said the large, black haired shifter, who had a look of utter uninterested plastered across his face. ” I was sure that we all had a lot of work to do today. So why are you two standing in here acting like assholes?”
Brandon watched the new arrival stroll towards them and he was surprised and humbled to feel.....disturbed by the Shifter. The brown eyed Shifter was a large man with more than a few inches on Brandon, but it wasn’t his size that intimidated Brandon at all....it was in his eyes, and the energy that he carried with him.
This Shifter moved with the same grace and power as the rest of them, but beneath that he felt....empty to Brandon. Hollow. In his gaze Brandon saw recognition, and understanding, but nothing else. It was like looking into a still body of water. No ripples. No current or reflection. Just an overbearing calm.
Brandon assumed that he wasn’t the only one who felt this as both Ezekiel and Lander affected looks of guilt. “Sorry Walter.” Ezekiel mumbled turned and finished off buttoning his shirt, while Lander also turned and walked towards the doorway.
“Whatever.” Lander offered as his only response as he brushed past and posted up by the wall.
“Um....Who are you again?” Brandon asked the large Shifter, using Landers silence to inquire into the newest Shifter identity.
“My names is Walter and we’ve met only in passing a few days ago.” The Shifter answered without hesitation. “And you’re the mortal who would have died without our help. Even Landers.” The eldest brother said to him....and they way that he spoke. Possibly because his voice held absolutely no life that Brandon couldn’t turn his words away. They sounded like nothing but cold had statements. No accusation, or guilt. Just a cold had fact....
“I’m....Sorry.” Brandon mumbled, feeling like he had no other recourse at that moment, but to submit to the large brother as Lander and Ezekiel already had.
In response Walter only shrugged slightly. “It’s okay...Lander was also not considerate of the fact that you are a guest and that we have to be kind to our guests.” Walter once more said, his voice devoid of all inflection, just words that were, Brandon assumed, cold hard statements.
Lander hissed savagely at his brother apparently not liking the rebuke, but aside from that Lander didn’t comment.
So Walter rolled his wide shoulders and glanced at Ezekiel, before taking his foot off the porch step and unsheathing, then sheathing the blade strapped to his hip.
“All right, were off.....Ezekiel don’t get off task today. The Pigs need fresh gruel. And the Erikson Clan wanted me to tell you that you’ve been neglecting Crystal for far too long. You’ll need to visit the farm because the band needs fresh water and hay before the day is out.” The larger Brother shot Brandon a completely blank look, turned and walked away.
Lander took advantage of his elder brothers back being turned to hiss violently at Brandon then he too was gone, walking away as well.
Ezekiel turned to Brandon then, in the silence that followed his brother’s departure and said. “Well now that we’ve avoided that situation.....let’s get going. “Then his blue eyes looked down at Brandon’s feet and he frowned. Pivoting, Ezekiel walked over to the wall, where the clothes and boots were stashed. “But first, try these on.” He said, taking out some boots at random.
It took a few tries, but Brandon and Ezekiel soon found a pair of boots that he could fit and once more Brandon found himself outside in the dawning sun and wet grass. Ezekiels took it slow, and Brandon suspected that he did this because he knew that Brandon wasn’t anywhere near healthy or fully healed. Brandon traveled along behind the Shifter, through what felt like three miles of nothing but grass and open blue skies.
He and Ezekiels walked in a mutual silence, and Brandon spent his time taking in the cool fresh air, and the strain that walking put on his mostly healed body. But even though his lungs felt weak, and his side began to ache Brandon reveled in the feeling of his body getting stronger.
And then Brandon began to catch a whiff of something distinctly animal.
He glanced up, panting shallowly and in the distance, another few dozen feet ahead of them, he spotted the first stop on Ezekiel’s agenda. A Pig Farm.