My birthday…the one day that I have been dreading for the past few days. At least Remus had tried to keep my mind off things yesterday by hanging out with me and having me help out Sarah who looked after some of the kids whose parents had things to do and needed someone to look after them. He had also shown me the historian's large library of which was huge with shelves, floor to ceiling, filled with old scrolls and books with our history and also poems of renown that past members of the tribe had written. But today people seemed a little too preoccupied with their own thing and Remus had gone off with the hunting party to get what they could for the feast tonight. Not knowing what to do I headed to the large gazebo that Remus had shown me on the day I arrived at the village. I lay on the two-seater chair, which was surprisingly comfortable to lie on, and I closed my eyes. Roughly an hour later I heard footsteps though they were that of a four-footed animal. I opened my eyes and looked over to the pathway that led to the rest of the village and standing there was a black and grey wolf with green eyes. I instinctively knew that it was my dad. With a soft white glow he changed back to his human form.
"How are you?"
I sighed. "I guess I could be better. Kind of feel a little lonely not knowing many people. I only know Remus and Sarah. Everybody else seems to either too busy doing their own thing or staying away from me because I'm new and I've lived in a town for most of my life."
My dad nodded. "Those who seem to be staying away from you are probably doing so not because you're new here but because you still reek of the all the pollution from the town. It'll take a few more days before you'll stop smelling like it."
We grew silent for a while until my dad started speaking again.
"Are you nervous about your first change tonight?"
I looked over at my dad as if he was mad. "Are you kidding me? Of course I'm nervous. I don't know if it'll hurt or if anything will go wrong or what. No one has told me what it's going to be like."
My dad walked up to one of the railings of the gazebo and leaned up against it. "I understand it can be scary at first. Especially when you don't know what animal or mythical creature you'll turn into and the fact that you won't be familiar with it. It doesn't hurt, or at least not much but…it does feel slightly weird, though you get used to it."
Once more there was silence and I moved my gaze to the surrounding trees. I then asked what had been on my mind since yesterday. "What do you think I'll turn into?"
My dad looked at me and shrugged. "I don't know. I really don't know. You're one of the harder people to guess when it comes to animal forms. But anyway, you should come back to mine and have a snack or something. Your grandfather also wants to have a bit of a chat with you."
Wondering what my grandfather had to say, I followed my dad back to his house. As we entered my dad's house my grandfather turned to look at us from the couch. He smiled.
"There you are. I had wondered where you had gotten off to. Now come and have a seat." He waited until I had sat myself down before he continued. "I just thought that I would let you know what would be happening for your 16th birthday and the ceremony for your first change. If you have any questions then don't be afraid to ask. So, first off we'll be having a feast which will be a mixture of meat and vegetables. It's not compulsory to eat the meat as there are some members of the tribe that are vegetarians, that's their choice and everybody respects that, but I do suggest trying it as the meat isn't like any of the meat you get from supermarkets. You get the best cuts and the juiciest, mouth-watering bits of meat when freshly caught. Desserts will then be served once everybody has had their fill of the main meal. This will be mainly our own grown fruits and a variety of homemade pastry, tarts and cakes. Once everyone has had time for their food to settle and if there is any time before 10pm we have a few of our musicians play some music and we just enjoy each other's company. Some even get up and dance, while some of the teenagers might tell the younger kids stories. But once 10pm gets close we start to get ready and we wait. Some have changed not long after 10pm while some have changed not long before midnight. No one knows when the first change occurs. Not even the person themself knows when their first change will occur in that timeframe. So we all wait and see. Most of us have the patience to wait."
He paused long enough to have a drink.
"Once you have changed for the first time you may feel like running or flying etc. depending on your form. You may do so as long as you don't get too close to the nearest town, which should be Thames. There will be others who may decide to change and may join you in whatever way they can. I will definitely change so I can keep an eye on things from above and make sure we don't get too close to Thames or other towns."
Just the mention of the food made me hungry though talking about the ceremony in general just made me even more nervous.
"Do you have any questions?"
I thought for a bit. "Is there the possibility of something going wrong?"
My dad answered the question. "The only time something could go wrong is if you weren't here when you first changed. It's not particularly great for one of us to change for the first time away from the tribe and in an area where a normal human could come across them."
"I'm glad I got here in time then."
Once everything was done I was able to continue doing what I wanted of which was just walking around the place and seeing any part of the village that I hadn't seen before while being overcome by the peace and tranquillity that seemed to come with being in a forest. I eventually came upon a very small clearing during my walk which was far enough from the main village to have some small amount of privacy. So I decided to lie down in the middle of the small clearing and just watch the leaves move around in the slight breeze and listen to them whispering. After a while my mind started to wander. Things I had been told about shape shifters and the very little that I had learnt while I had been here crossed my mind. Then I started thinking about Remus. I really did like him. He seemed to be a little shy though but that just added to how cute he is. His beautiful icy blue eyes always caught my attention and I liked how the sun gave his light blonde hair a golden tinge to it. I then started wishing for Remus to be lying beside me with an arm over my chest while I had an arm around his shoulders. I thought about what it would be like to kiss him and how he would react if I did just out of the blue. And so I spent hours lying in the clearing thinking about Remus. I hadn't noticed how much time had passed until I heard someone or something walk into the clearing. I looked up and saw a wolf with light grey, almost white fur and icy blue eyes. I knew that it was Remus before he had even changed back to his human form. He walked over and sat down next to me as I sat up.
"The feast is going to be starting soon. I was sent to come and get you."
"I'm guessing the feast will be over where the gazebo is?"
Remus nodded. I kept looking into his eyes as I've seemed to be doing quite a bit unconsciously. I looked away before he noticed and said anything about it.
"Are you nervous?"
"Yeah, I'm more nervous than I was two days ago. I don't know what I'll change into."
Remus looked at me for a bit. "I reckon you would either be a unicorn or a lion. But I could be wrong. I usually am when I guess other people's animal forms."
I chuckled a little. "I don't think I would be a unicorn or a lion. They just don't seem right to me."
We were both silent for a while until Remus stood up. "We better head over to the gazebo. Don't really want to keep everyone waiting."
As we neared the gazebo I could smell the food before it came into sight. There were at least four long tables of which the whole tribe surrounded. A fifth one, smaller than the rest, stood between the four longer tables and the gazebo. My father and grandfather were seated there with a third chair for which I guessed was for me. I went to turn to Remus but noticed that he was already heading towards a seat at one of the larger tables. I had hoped that I could get him to sit with my father, grandfather and I. I shrugged it off a little not really thinking on it much and not questioning why he hadn't said anything before joining everyone else. I headed over to the smaller table and sat on my grandfather's right hand side while my father sat on his left hand side. My grandfather looked out over at approximately 400 shape shifters before standing up to speak.
"As you all know we are here to celebrate my grandsons 16th birthday and to aid him in any way we can with his first change. Most of us have done what we can to create a wonderful feast not just for his birthday but also to show our acceptance back into the tribe and that he is still one of us despite being in the care of his aunt and uncle for roughly 15 years. I hope you all enjoy the feast."
And my grandfather sat back down and the whole clearing was suddenly filled with the talk and laughter of 400 people as they filled their plates with different meats and vegetables and salads. I helped myself to what was available on the table though there wasn't as much variety, but that didn't stop my dad as I heard him calling out to other tribe members to pass him some other food from their table like turkey, venison, lamb, beef, beetroot salad and the list just went on and on. That was the night I found out how much my dad could really eat, it was if he had three stomachs. During the feast I kept looking over at Remus. He wasn't talking much and seemed as if he was lost in his own thoughts though I did catch him glancing over at me when he thought I wouldn't notice.
After the main meal was over and we all had a bit more room for more food the desserts arrived. I was a little surprised when a few carriages led by Pterippi came into the clearing with the desserts. As soon as they were free of the carriages the Pterippi started softly glowing and where they had stood were now a few members of the tribe that I hadn't met but had seen around the village. They started unloading the desserts off the carriages and placing them onto each table before going off and getting more. People started helping themselves to what was already available and I looked around at what there was. There were a variety of berries covered in honey, different types of tarts, apple crumble, sponge cakes, chocolate cakes and more. The tribe members that had gone to get more desserts to place on the tables had come back and one of them placed a large plate of chocolate fudge on the table in front of me and I immediately grabbed a couple of pieces as well as a few strawberries coated in honey, a couple of slices of sponge cake and also a slice of chocolate cake with lemon icing. All of it was divine. I helped myself to more servings of just about everything. I felt like a total pig as I stuffed my face with blueberry crumble, lamingtons and more chocolate fudge. I eventually stopped when I was at the point of being so full that no more could fit into my stomach. I sat back into my chair and just looked out over the tribe and once again my eyes drifted over to where Remus was sitting. He started looking a little troubled and I wanted to know what was on his mind but I decided it could wait until tomorrow. I then noticed a few tribe members get up and get some instruments. One had a violin, another had a cello, while two went off and shortly came back with a piano and while one of the pair sat at the piano the other also obtained a violin. And so the music began. At first they started playing "Happy Birthday", a song that I should have expected but it soon flawlessly went into a completely different song that I didn't recognise. It was a song that made you want to get up and dance with someone. Some of the tribe members had already gotten up and paired up with someone and had started dancing. I glanced over at Remus and he was looking over at me as if he wanted to come over and ask me to dance with him. So I decided to make a move. I got out of my chair and I made my way over to Remus and he kept his eye on me as if he was curious to see what I was going to do. Once I got over to where he was sitting, I stood beside him and held out my hand.
"Care for a dance?"
He looked up at me blushed a little and smiled. He took my hand and stood. "Of course I would."
And so we both danced. We danced under the stars not caring what everyone else would think. Remus and I looked into each other's eyes and I knew then and there that I loved Remus. I wanted to be his partner. My heart started to race with excitement. Suddenly I was taken out of the trance-like state when I heard my grandfather call out to everyone and tell them to take their seats. Remus and I pulled away from each other as he went back to his seat and I head back towards the gazebo where my grandfather had motioned to me to stand beside him.
"It's almost 10pm. We must now get ready to see how things go for my grandson's first change. I do not know how long we'll have to wait but we must have patience. For those of you who would like to change, you may change whenever you like." My grandfather turned to me. "Now, a couple of minutes before you change you'll probably suddenly feel cold. When you do, tell me so I know when to keep people back in case you may accidentally hurt someone." My grandfather turned back to everyone else. "Time to get the tables out of the way so we have more room."
I sat down on the one of the gazebo's steps as everybody else moved the tables aside to clear some space. The time seemed to pass slowly as we all waited. Some of the tribe had already changed but other's decided to wait a little longer. After a while I stood up and started to pace in front of the gazebo. I kept asking my dad or grandfather what the time was. The more time that passed by the more nervous I got. I also kept glancing over at Remus who hadn't changed into his wolf form yet and he was starting to look worried. I eventually stopped pacing and sat down on the gazebo's steps again. I asked my dad what the time was again and just as he told me that it was 11:30pm I suddenly felt cold. I was filled with a weird sensation as if my bones wanted to change and rearrange themselves. It didn't hurt at all; it just felt weird and intense. I started sweating a little despite feeling cold. I stood up and took a couple of steps forward before I suddenly doubled over as my stomach decided to do a backflip. I completely forgot about telling my grandfather about suddenly feeling cold as things were happening quickly. I felt and saw my body start to glow. At that point time seemed to stop. I opened my eyes and the clearing and the gazebo was replaced with a large platform made from intertwined branches. I looked over the edge and saw nothing but clouds below. I then heard the rhythmic sound of wings. I turned back around in time to see a griffin land right in the centre of the platform. I was in awe and I felt honoured to be in the presence of an animal of such grace and beauty.
"Tobias, I have waited a long time to finally meet you. Knowing how you've been raised I do not expect you to know who I am."
Even though I heard the deep voice in my mind it still vibrated through my body.
"My name is Xavier and I am one of two deities, one of two halves. I created your kind with good intentions though my brother created a kind similar to yours with intentions of physical harm and destruction. I cannot harm his kind that he made, I may be a deity but we still have our limits. I cannot be everywhere and neither can I do everything. Not on my own at least. I do not even know about everything that may have happened. I have waited for you Tobias because I know that you are capable to do what is necessary when everything seems to be going wrong. In order for you to succeed I will allow you to take on the form of a griffin. No one has ever taken on the form of a griffin from the first day your kind was made. There is also a sword of which you will need in order to aid you in the future. Your grandfather, Alistair, has it but do not question him about it. Let him give it to you in his own time. He'll know when the time is right. I will also grant you one wish. It can be whatever you may desire."
I was shocked a little. I thought hard about what I wanted. I started thinking about Remus and wanting him to be a part of my life but that seemed a little selfish. I then started thinking about what the tribe would benefit from the most. I started pacing as I thought about it. We could do with more food but I figured that they had been able to live with what they have for a while now and weren't desperate for supplies. I then thought about allowing people to choose what animal they would like to change into but then I thought that some might get selfish and start choosing animals that they think would be cool but wouldn't be any help for the rest of the tribe. I suddenly thought of an easier way to communicate with others. Rather than using visions, like my grandfather had done when he contacted me, wouldn't it be easier to use telepathy? I turned to Xavier.
"Xavier, I have chosen something of which I would like you to give, not just to me, but to the rest of my people. I thought about it and I tried not to choose something that would make me or others selfish. I would like you to grant us the ability of telepathy in order to communicate with one another in both human and animal form. I believe it would make things easier, especially if it's an urgent matter. Do you think this is a good choice?"
I could tell Xavier was thinking about it. As he finally came to a decision he looked at me.
"Your wish is to be granted but know that there are consequences to having this ability whether they are big or small."
"Thank you, Xavier."
With a flash of white light I was back in the clearing and I was still glowing with a soft white light. Time seemed to continue and I felt my body change shape. Within seconds I was a griffin and everybody seemed to be pushed back by a blast of air. When they recovered they all looked at me in awe. I saw how people's eyes widened and their mouths dropped open. I looked at Remus and he just stared at me not just in awe but in shock as well. I then turned to my grandfather who was standing right in front of me.
"Do you feel alright?"
I nodded and I spoke to him using telepathy for the first time. "I couldn't feel any better." My grandfather stepped back with shock.
"What….?! What has happened?" He turned to the tribe. "My grandson has used telepathy. The first time this has ever happened! No one has had this ability since our kind was created. I do not know how this came to be."
Everybody looked at me with confusion and shock. "I'm not the only one who can do it. Everybody else now has the same ability as I do. Everyone can use telepathy." I looked out at everyone and decided to speak to them all. "I spoke to Xavier, our deity, and he allowed me to take on the form of a griffin. But that isn't the only thing he granted. He said that I could choose one thing that I desired. And what I chose was an easier way for everyone to communicate in both human and animal form. No more visions during sleep anymore. I did not think that we needed food as it seems we are getting on fine with what we have. We have shelter and we have family. Now change and run or fly through the night. I know you are all bursting with energy, I can feel it. Use it to run free and wild until you can run no more."
With that I lifted my wings and leapt into the air. I circled the clearing a couple of times to wait for the others to change. The whole clearing filled with glowing white light as everyone changed to their respective animal forms. My grandfather flew up to my side in his phoenix form. I started seeing owls, eagles, sparrows, tui's, finches and other types of birds fly into the sky along with Pterippi. Those who were earthbound waited to see what I would do, where I would go. I then flew in a random direction and let out a cry of joy. I was finally free. I was the master of the earth and sky. No one could stop me but myself.