We arrived at Thames at around 6:00pm. It took us roughly three hours to get here from Pukekohe. My dad was careful in choosing a spot to change back to his human form. I found it a little weird seeing my dad change between the two forms.
"Right, time to get some dinner." He looked around. "Where do you want dinner? Looks like there isn't much of a choice."
I looked around a little too. "Is there Subway?"
My dad nodded. "There is. Subway it is."
We headed a little further down the street before arriving at Subway. We both ordered similar subs. There was little conversation while we ate.
"Are we going to stay here for the night before we carry on to the village?"
My dad thought about it for a bit. "I think we might have to. It'll be at least another couple of hours or so worth of travelling before we'll arrive at the village and being in my wolf form tires me a little more than it should these days. I'll have to contact Alistair."
"He's my father, your grandfather, and the chief of our tribe."
I stared at him in disbelief. "I'm the grandson of a chief?" My dad nodded.
"You are the last in line for the title too. Though seeing that you're…gay, it'll be hard for you to produce a proper heir. You might decide to change things around a bit when you become chief. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time before you make the decision."
I tried to take it all in. The whole shape shifting thing and now me being the grandson of a chief.
"With you and my grandfather being shape shifters, I take it that I am too?"
My dad nodded. "Only thing is, you won't change for the first time until your sixteenth birthday. It's like that for every shape shifter. There have been the rare cases where someone doesn't change on their sixteenth. But anyway, we should head somewhere where we can sleep. Then you can ask more questions and I'll be able to contact Alistair."
"Do you know of any places? I didn't see any hotels or anything as we came through."
"Hotel? Huh, I've got something better than a hotel. Follow me."
We headed off and arrived ten minutes later at what looked like an abandoned house. The paint was peeling a little though it wasn't too noticeable with all the dirt. The garden was overgrown and I was surprised to see flowers struggling to show themselves amongst all the weeds.
"I'm not sleeping in there…doesn't look exactly safe."
"Then you can sleep out here then."
I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Fine, I'll sleep in there."
My dad chuckled a little before heading in with me close behind. As we entered I realised that the house wasn't as abandoned as I thought it would be. It may have looked as if it needed a few repairs from the exterior but the interior was just…incredible. The lounge was furnished with comfortable leather chairs and couch, flat screen TV and a nice oak coffee table. The kitchen was fully furnished with the best appliances you could find with an oak table in the centre.
"How could this place look so nice inside but look completely abandoned from outside?"
My dad looked at me a smiled. "It's how we want it to look like. We thought that if we made the exterior of the place look like it was abandoned but kept the interior fully furnished and in good shape then we would hope that no one would actually try coming in and stealing stuff. So far it has worked so we've kept it like this for quite a while. But sit down and make yourself comfortable while I go and contact Alistair."
As my dad headed out of the lounge I sat down, turned the TV on and started flicking through the channels. There wasn't much on so I kept it on channel three to watch the rest of the 6 o'clock news. Some story about a car crash that happened early this morning finished and so the presenters started on the next. It was about some guy who had gone missing and I wasn't really paying much attention to it. After a minute or so they started an interview with someone and I was looking at book that I had found on the coffee table. I started to recognise the voice of the guy being interviewed. It sounded like my good friend Jack. I looked at the screen and my jaw dropped as I saw him on TV. He was going on about how he had tried to ring me without getting an answer or being told to leave my uncle alone and how he then went round to my uncle's place to see if I was there to find out that I wasn't. He knew that if I didn't answer his calls and wasn't at home that something was wrong which caused him to frantically call the police. News reporters had also gotten onto this quite quickly. I couldn't watch it any longer so I turned the TV off, threw the book back onto the coffee table and leaned forward. My dad came back into the lounge and looked at me.
"Is everything alright?"
"Yea, except for the fact that I have been reported missing. Thanks to my friend Jack."
"Well that really can't be helped now can it? Anyway, I was able to contact your grandfather and told him that I was able to collect you, that we're both safe and will be staying here for the night. I also told him that Alex was sent ahead with your bags and to keep your stuff safe once he arrived at the village. Now, any questions you would like to ask?"
I thought about it for a bit and I started to think about my mum so I decided to start asking about her. "What can you tell me about my mum?"
Sorrow suddenly showed in my dad's expression. "Your mother wasn't born as one of us but we have certain ways, certain rituals to make a human one of us if we chose to honour them with our gift. I was in Papakura and I had just been injured by someone who was in some sort of alliance with our enemy. He was fast, accurate and a quick thinker, almost inhuman. He only had time before your mother saw him just after he dealt some serious injuries and he ran for it and left me to die. Your mother ran over to me, made sure I was alright and asked if she could help in some way. I told her to contact your grandfather although I had to quickly explain how with some difficulty. Once Alistair was contacted, someone came within ten maybe fifteen minutes as they had been in the area. They had some skill in healing and were able to reduce the pain and speed the healing just enough so that it wasn't fatal and would allow me to change and head for the village. The one who came and healed me was a good friend of mine, Bruce was his name and he takes on the form of a bear. Once we both had shifted, Bruce allowed your mother to ride on his back and take her to our village. He did it because he knew that she had tried to help me and without her I probably wouldn't have survived. After that I began to heal properly without any problem and the tribe agreed to make your mum one of us and so we did. I won't explain how things go when it comes to that sort of thing. It can wait until you're ready. Your mother and I fell in love and got married though our marriage ceremonies are a little different and also includes same-sex couples into the ceremony. We lived life happily and then we had you but it wasn't until just before your first birthday where things went wrong. Your mother was doing a job for Alistair and while she was on the job she got killed by a supposed hunter who missed his target and got her instead but we knew he was one of our ancient enemies. That day everyone from our tribe felt the loss of a life. I knew deep down inside me that it was definitely your mother that had been killed. Ever since then we have been a lot more careful and we have done everything to try and get you back. You are more important than you think. That's about as much about your mother that I can tell you."
I could tell that my father was trying not to cry though he couldn't keep one tear from rolling down his cheek. Another question popped into my head, one that wasn't completely related to my mum.
"Can we only change into one animal or multiple?"
"Only one. We don't usually know what our animal form will be until our first change on our 16th birthday. Though sometimes there have been couple who have been easy to figure out…though that could possibly change due to…"
"Due to what?"
My dad sighed. "It's nothing. You'll find out soon enough."
We were both silent for a while, I didn't know what to ask next.
"Is my grandmother still alive?"
My dad looked at me and shook his head. "She died during an attack on our village long ago. Your grandfather had been caught and your grandmother freed him but was killed in the process. After she was killed, our opponents decided to leave Alistair rather than take him captive. I don't know why though, it was weird. Anyway, we should get some sleep. We have an early start tomorrow."
"Wait…I have one more question…something Aunty Jane hasn't been able to explain and she told me not to say anything about it to Bartholomew. What can you tell me about this?"
I conjured a ball of white light which hovered in mid-air between me and my dad. I made sure it wasn't too bright and started moving the ball of light around the room. My father watched it for a bit before he spoke.
"Extinguish it Toby. We don't want to raise any suspicions. Anyone could be watching through the windows." I quickly extinguished the light. "What you just did, conjuring a ball of light like that, is what every shape shifter can do after they've turned ten with some cases being earlier. Now, sleep."
Without speaking another word, my dad led me to one of the bedrooms and left me to get settled. I ended up lying in bed awake for at least an hour or so due to having so much on my mind with everything that I had been told. My father and grandfather still alive, my mother and grandmother dead and a tribe of shape shifters that I was a part of. Not to mention being last in line for the title of chief. I was finally able to get to sleep though my dreams were filled with people changing into different animals, white lights, people dying…my dreams made no sense.