Under the moon of a hot summer night they lurched in the shadows of trees large enough to grasp the stars. Ready for a fight and begging for the kill, their sharp teeth gleamed and growls erupted through the air as one after another shed their human flesh. Charging forward, they only left four behind in case any of their prey decided to make a run for it.
Out of the few individuals still sitting in the darkness of the ancient forest only one was a female. Held to higher standards, looked up to by the youngest females of their clan, she was one of the strongest changelings in the pack. Still, she didn’t want to fight, to kill people she barely knew. She couldn’t defy a direct order from the Alpha though, so here she sat waiting to drench her claws in blood once more.
Her clan, creatures hiding within the skin of humans, are known in legends and myths as changelings. Every group holds a different gene, an animal spirit that controls their base instincts. See, a rational human can experience an issue and stop to think all of their choices through before they act on a solution. Changelings, not so much. For some when anger arises the need to fight grows too strong to extinguish and for others sadness takes hold of them and becomes almost suffocating, causing them to shut down completely. Happiness, lust, love, simple things seem to garner a heightened reaction from changelings compared to mere mortals.
This clan learned to control their bodies early on, but again if the emotion arises a simple flip of the switch can have their bones twisting and human skin shedding to reveal a more ferocious form. Every pack holds the image of one beast within all of their members. Wolves seem to be the most popular in myths, but every creature claims a spot within one clan or another. Lions, elephants, bears, hippos, alligators, you name it and there is a group for it.
The woman within the dark, trying to remain unemotional, sat against the trunk of a tree old enough to know her eldest ancestors. She couldn’t help but think back to when she was a small child.
At the time she had been clueless as to how truly immense the world beyond her small village was. Within her childish mind she was safe wrapped in a blanket of ignorance, until one moment crushed everything she had known into dust. One grain of sand to drown her in misery.
Their village housed a few dozen individuals that held their privacy to the highest of standards. It was like a cage that, at such a curious age, she wanted to escape. She bored of seeing the same faces every day, so she decided to find something better to do then sit beside her mother as she hung laundry outside to dry. She ignored warnings regarding the surrounding woods and ran off to find adventure in the shade of the ancient elms.
It only took a moment for her to realize she was in too deep to climb out. One minute the sun was shining through the branches and the next darkness consumed the sky like a black hole sucking the world above her into its depths. As a changeling she could naturally sense danger, sniffing out another of her kind like it was her sixth sense, but by the time she caught wind of him it was far too late. Even now she could still feel the shiver that had run down her back as a hawk’s screech nearly shattered her ear drums.
She stopped in her tracks, covering little ears as she instinctually cried out for her mother. Suddenly, as if the animal was one with the air around her, claws caught her up in a death grip. This was no normal hawk, of course to be able to pick up a small child it would have to be something more. It held the size of three vultures smashed into one, his beak marred with a jagged scar that shot up the left side of his face. He might have looked majestic if he wasn’t trying to carry her off to god knows where.
Those deadly claws had dug deep into her flesh, causing screams of agony to jump from her tongue as her body twitched in an attempt to move away from the inevitable pain. She thought she was a goner, birdseed to put it lightly. She was only five years old at the time, but she soon understood the meaning of death. She may have even wished for it in that moment.
Blood had soaked her shirt from the back to the front, his humongous wings spread through the air like a net she was now caught in. Squeezing her eyes closed, she could remember begging whatever existential being that existed for a second chance. She would never disobey her mother again. She would never break the rules or go outside the village. She would be a good girl. She swore it.
Then the hawk screeched and suddenly they were falling. She opened her eyes in time to see a form below them, within the trees, holding a bow and arrow. It had shot the hawk down, and as she looked up she could see an arrow sticking straight through its head. The metal tip was covered in brains and blood. The image would forever be seared into her mind.