Everyone was eager to stand near to listen to what the stranger had to say.
Some stood and most sat, and some were in the trees semi-hidden. Caji was one of them, keeping a stern glare on the shadow that was against a far tree and away from everyone.
The stranger stood and looks at everyone, curiosity went through his mind when he inspects the mixture of Kikera, Maurea, Chayeene, Rhuzeche, and Xutashi species. He did not remember it ever being like this before, with everyone so kind to each other. Mingled within each other in a crowd. It would have never happened in the world he knew before.
He didn’t show it on his emotionless face but he was frightened. He had one question that beat in his head the most like a drum, and he looks at Kito with dark eyes that hid his worry. The Xutashi was standing and, just like he figured, had the human Clara by his side. There was a couple of humans here. He had never seen any before.
He decides it was only right to explain himself first. “My questions may seem rhetorical but I must ask. I have been stuck in the ground... I do not know how long. But I must know,” he became serious. “Where is Syrik? If he is even still alive.”
Everyone blinks, especially the Xutashi’s Chief and mate. From how he stared at Kito was obvious who he wanted to answer that question. Right after he took the brief time to think he finally answered, “I am sorry to say that Syrik has been gone for many, many summers. If I could think of a number I would say seven hundred.”
“No,” Kai shakes his head. “I remember it to be a thousand. It was a very long time ago.”
That alone was enough to make everyone stare at the stranger in a new much older position. Then they saw a streak of emotion that snuck its way from beneath the surface and upon his face before it was wiped again. His throat moved as he swallowed. That straight face didn’t stay long when he covered his face with his large hand and sighed. Heavily. “He was a good soul.”
Everyone was shocked that he had known the first Chief. The one that was rumored to never speak to anyone after he met his mate Xeya, the first mated couple to exist. Now this man claimed that he knew him. The emotion that radiated from him was obvious that he wasn’t lying.
“You knew Syrik?” Ruro couldn’t keep silent. “How?”
He had to take a moment to recollect himself. “Xeya and him saved me when I was an infant cub. It is a long story, but in the world, I was from none of the tribe’s gathered like this,” he signals his hand around. “We were all separate. I owed them everything, ” his ears lower and he crouches low. “And now it is all gone. It seems that is the sacrifice I needed to make.”
Nobody didn’t know if they should ask another question and ruin the small mournful moment he seemed to need. He didn’t make any noise, no growl or whine, he looked simply shocked.
They were respectful and waited for him to speak again. “I do not know much but I will explain myself. To save precious time and answer any questions each of you has and greet myself. My name is Vazeem, a name given to me by Xeya herself. I know that you all see that I am different from any of you. The reason for that is because my mother was a Xutashi and my father is a Kikera, and in a world before the first mated pair it was... Savage. Dannica had filled my father’s head with darkness and forced himself upon my mother in the Plains. There was no order. Only power.”
Good thing there were no children outside to listen to this story. Only those that were grown were allowed to stay near and listen. “She had me when she ran to her kind’s closest tribe, this one. She did not want me and intended to put a dagger in my heart the night I was born, and Xeya stopped her. Syrik and her both. They took me in, and later my mother was too broken to too her life from depression. I grew up in a Xutashi tribe and was much hated for what I was. How I came to be, the way I looked. It was Xeya and her cubs that I grew up with that I learned to care for. They had two sons, Ran and Numi. They were good to me when none of the other cubs were, they did not beat me, but that is a more personal story.”
Behind him was where the shadow on the tree to show himself. He didn’t want anyone else to forget he was there.
“As I grew older I realized that every cub that was born after Syrik and Xeya had mated could not see in color, even me. All the parents were noticing when the males questioned many things around them involving color. The older Xutashi’s were hateful towards them because they would get frustrated that the younger males could not perform simple tasks. The change that had come over everyone was not accepted. The older Xutashi’s hit their cubs, hurt them, and Syrik knew that he had to step up as Chief and stop this from happening. Then that wave came. When I turned twelve summers each male in the entire village, no matter who they were mated to, woke up without color and detested the women they lay next to that day. Hated them. Some got sick, vomiting, it was brutal seeing how each body reacted to it. All because they did not feel the animalistic attraction of mating they always felt before-”
“The women grew jealous of each other because who they thought were once their mate they had that night in their bed had a strong affection for another female. When one woman would start a fight with the other the males would step in and defend them, it would always end in bloody matches between them. I stood and watched it all unfold. I remember Syrik standing by my side with his cubs on the other letting it all happen without interfering, letting the world tear itself apart. He watched as this change moved through the village like a fire that burned everything, I stood next to him and asked him why he was not stopping it. He told me something I knew I would remember for a long time.”
A slight pause. “This will all be a different world.”
He remembered the smile as well when watching the two make Xutashi’s fight viciously due to their women’s confrontation. It was a look that made the young Vaz curious.
“I grew older and became a young adult. My brothers had fallen into the arms of other females and their cubs grew up to be like them. The next generation that I have grown up with was also going in the path that Syrik had known they would.” He remembered how he watched without any color of his own, how he had even hoped for a small second then that it would happen to him. It was soon obvious it never will, not with what he was. He didn’t mention how angry it made him. How much Xeya tried to calm him with her kind words and purrs.
He stood straight and did a slow pace, “Then there was more trouble. A creature that one night just appeared and was killing anyone. Agana. A dangerous animal that only the Goddess of deceit herself could create to destroy anything precious. Anything good. It terrorized each of the villages to never stray too far, this creature even whispered into the minds of many to lure them out to their deaths, more so the cubs. The easiest targets. One day she became bold and came into this village and began to slaughter everyone, perhaps because she was ordered to-”
“She even killed Numi and his mate and cubs, tore them apart, and ate them. She can only survive on fresh meat and blood just as she was created. I became blinded by rage and attacked her, a foolish thing to do with a strong creature like her, created by something bigger than me. Her fangs were poisonous and her bite could kill anyone within a day.”
He was staring into the Great Fire and watched the flames crackle slowly. He still remembered everything like it was yesterday. To him it felt like that, a memory that happened not too long ago yet it was many, many summers ago.
“She vanished when her bloodlust was sated. It left nothing behind but a tattered village and broken hearts, and cries that Keranni seemed to hear that night,” he looked up at the largest moon. “And once I was healed moons later I went to find Agana and attempt to kill her myself or sacrifice myself trying. Xeya begged me not to go but I wanted to prove that there had to be a reason for my birth in some way. I wanted to protect the village and its people, no matter how cruel they were to me. I wanted my death to mean something, to avenge a friend of mine I lost. So I left while they were sleeping in their beds. I didn’t think it would be the last time that I would see them...”
His tail slowly swayed. “I went after her the next night. I went deep into the dangerous Jungle to hunt for her. Only the largest moon was out that night, the others were hiding behind the clouds. Like it was watching me. It was, and in my mind, many suns passed and I thought I was going crazy because it was whispering to me. Soft and quiet, the clouds every night hiding the two moons, her voice said that she has been watching me since birth. I couldn’t move off the ground in the wilderness like something was holding me down, a lot of things were whispered into my mind. Like it was forced down by her. Keranni. She said she had a blessing for me.”
The shadow jumped to attention with his ears perked and it was obvious to see his joy when his dark tail moved rapidly from side to side.
“She told me that Shade was her creation and with him, I could kill Agana. I was unsure, I saw him without shape against a tree, and he attacked me, and it was a battle I thought would kill me. He did not take no as an answer and the pain I felt when he bonded himself in me goes beyond words. She didn’t give me any choice if I wanted it or not, she didn’t speak to me again after each part of me was in pain. She assumed it was a blessing so quickly when it felt like my body was feeding on itself on the inside.”
He looked at the moon angrily. “Shade is pure power, and it made it possible for me to find Agana and fight her, our battles usually went on though many sunrises until she would find a way to run off. She didn’t have the time to attack any of the villages because she was running from me and hiding. I found her each time, and with Shade, I had my venom to wound her, and her bite does not harm me-”
“I tracked her around all across the Lands. Plains, snow, the forest, further, I did not care. I was going to kill her and none would stop me. She led me back to the Jungle where we originally began our fight and I tracked her underground, apparently she was returning to her owner. The trapped Goddess, who then she caused a great shake to trap me only to trap her disgusting animal as well. I did not realize that having Shade stops me from growing older, ” he looked at his hands. “Before I was trapped I knew I can’t die. Time went by when I did leave that village, and before I did follow the animal into the grounds and temples I found Xeya and Syrik one last time as elders, but I did not come to the village. I wanted to finish my promise to them before I would speak to them. It seems I misjudged how long that would take.”
He looked at everyone around him finally, “That is my story. Now you know where I come from.”
It left everyone speechless. Nobody knew what to say to his final words.
It did answer a lot of questions that everyone had.
Vaz’s eyes went to Clara, the first human that he saw. He was looking at all humans. Mia, Tina, the ones that were close enough for him to observe while the others weren’t allowed to get too close.
He did notice the way each of them was being handled by either a Xutashi, Chayeene, and even a Rhuzeche. Each different. Each holding a human with affection. The one that caught his attention the most was the Xutashi’s near him, each had them sitting in their lap. One had an arm around her waist and the other one, the human he had seen before, was very content to have both of his arms around her. New bonds.
“I have another question,” Kito didn’t like how he was looking at Clara more than any other around them. He allowed Vaz to ask what was on his mind. “I have never seen humans before and only in the stories that I was told, how are they here now? They did not exist before.”
Kito was too busy growling to answer when Vaz reached out a hand towards Clara. He didn’t seem to be in the mood to answer.
Kai was the right one to do so, “This actually has been a recent change. A summer ago humans have begun to come into this world from their own. Females mostly but there are some males here, Ser’avi brings them,” and he even demonstrated when he planted a small kiss of Mia’s jowl which made her blush. She always did that when he did affectionate things to her in front of anyone. “She brings them to us. We have fewer females of our own than we once did and humans are balancing it.”
He was very observant. Even Shade was curious about the change that the world went through while they were trapped deep in the ground and unable to free themselves. The first time he had stepped in this village for a thousand summers. He did not recognize his world anymore. His eyes returned to Clara.
Kito called it out.
“And why does mine interest you so much?” A snarl. “Stop looking at her.”
“Did I not mention that I can see everything that Shade can when invading one’s mind?” He didn’t smile nor smirk, he only stared at each of them. “Shade is the one with interest. I can sense him in my mind. Although he didn’t find you as intriguing as he did the one named Caji he still likes to look through one's thoughts. And memories. I am one with my shadow as you are yours.”
Clara blushed, something she wished she knew how to hide the redness of her face when she thought about his words. If his shadow can creepily read other's minds and memories, then it saw the dirty details. Oh, jeez... Did this man know about it now too?
Kito didn’t have shame. It was hard for a Xutashi to have shame for something such as mating. Females were always very secretive about it. Especially humans. He smirked and let out a soft chuckle, “Did you like what you saw? Be lucky you have a shadow to give those memories to you because she’s mine.”
Clara gasped and turned to hit his chest hard enough that he felt a sting, “Shut up, Kito.”
Kai and Ruro were chuckling. Many males found that amusing when the females either crossed their arms or was shocked he said that. Especially his mother.
Vaz didn’t smile even if he did find it humorous himself. He shook his head, “No. It was not that. I was surprised that you are from Syrik’s bloodline. You and your brother,” he glimpsed at Kai. “You two look like Syrik’s sons.”
He didn’t say anything more than that. He looked at the Xutashi Chief and his mate, he knew that this was their parents. It was confirmed from this Caji’s thought as well. He was using speech he learned from minds because all he knew fluently was the old language from each tribe. Many things had changed since.
“That didn’t answer my question,” Kito reminded.
He remembered his question, “She only reminds me of Numi’s mate. Just memories.”
He stepped away from the crowd, “I can not stay and talk, I humored myself long enough. I need to go find Agana before she heals and comes back to kill, no doubt she will be hungry. If you all truly cherish your mates as much as you claim you do then I would advise you all you hide them. Safely. She will kill them if given the chance.”
His voice returned to a cold, emotionless tone that he knew how to use to cover the heartbreak he was feeling. He needed to finish the mission he started, the only thing that he knew to do now that the world was unfamiliar to him. It was not the world of the strongest surviving nor separated kinds. Everything was different from him. Too different. It was no longer his.
Mia made Kai whine when she bolted from off his lap and into her feet so fast it almost made her head light. “Wait! How about you stay and we all talk about fighting her with all of us?”
“No,” Kai stood with his ears low and his face seemed like he was about to growl. He would never growl at Mia. “This creature was made from Dannica herself and I can imagine that she has a very sick way of thinking.”
“But it’s all of us against her,” she looked back at him. “I will take all the women to the bathing area where the is nothing but stone and even then there will be enough to fight against her.”
Ruro stood soon after and approached, “This thing that he speaks about is dangerous and could kill many. Zeta has that creature written within the scrolls. I worry for the ones we would lose if we go against something that already has someone able to kill her alone, Keranni made another to go after her.”
“But think of the ones she could take off without us knowing?” Mia sighed. “You guys are right. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt... Or worse.”
Shade’s tail flicked to one side and he looked at Vaz as humor filled him. Vaz stared at his shadow, a silent conversation between each of them was happening without them making a sound. He looked at everyone else, “I can do it alone. She fears me because I can be able to wound and kill her, or Shade. I have come very close many times before. That was why she ran back to her creator. I am meant to protect everyone even if everything has changed, but my goal hasn’t.”
Shade’s head turned to Caji who was hiding in a branch, hissing like an angry feline when he felt the shadow’s gaze. It was clear that he didn’t want anything to do with the shadow and was even hiding, tail moving rapidly and a long, stretched out growl that vibrated through his closed mouth. His pupils were even in slits.
One of Vaz’s ears perked. A silent sign that nobody knew yet that meant Shade was speaking through emotion. Shade couldn’t speak in his mind but he could catch his thoughts and his empathic emotions like it was his own. A part of him.
“Shade is very interested in the young Kikera. He knows that he is from the pure Kikera bloodline, few tribes had them has chief’s, and those who did had many more followers,” his own eyes looked at Caji, seeing him move his head further behind the branch to hide. “He does not talk?”
Kito blinked from the sudden change of subject and looked up at Caji, now standing next to Kai with Clara still near him, still touching. They didn’t last more than ten seconds without making any kind of contact. It was a sign of newlymates. “He has had a tough life. He does not speak at all. But you’re right, he is the last bloodline of the Chief of Kikera’s but since he is unmated and does not have his mind fully fixed he is more like a small speechless cub rather than a Chief. His uncle took the name of Chief until he finds his mate,” his brow arched. “I thought you could see that on your own?”
“Shade is keeping that from me,” which he found strange. His shadow never found anyone else this intriguing before during his whole time of having him. There was something about Caji he needed to know. “Could you bring him down from the tree? I would like to try something.”
Kito looked at Mia, “He listens to you more than anyone, if anyone could try to get him down it is you.”
“Caji does what he wants to do, but I’ll try,” she sighed and saw his two ears from around the thick branch he was hiding. ” Caji? Can you hear me? ”
He peeked over the edge halfway and made a small frightened grunt. She was happy she caught his attention, “Could you come down here for me? He wants to talk to you.”
His ears flattened and he made a small whine, his eyes looking at Shade who was still a shadow on the tree. He didn’t like the violation and the visions that filled his head. He didn’t like hurting anyone he cares for. The thing made him hurt others, he could still taste Shinto’s blood.
“You can tell him that Shade will not touch him,” he knew how powerful he can be. It would make anyone react the way he did if Shade liked them enough to probe as deep into his mind, and when power fills the mind one's feral nature takes over. It had done the same to him when he first obtained him. “I only want to see him. I am really curious.”
“Did you hear that?” Mia called out to him. “Come on, Caji. You’re okay. Nobody is mad at you.”
Caji adored Mia enough that he trusted her enough to climb down the tree. He wasn’t as skilled as Xutashi’s since his kind didn’t tend to need to climb trees. When he was on the ground he stepped forward and ducked his head behind Mia, peeking around her arm to see Vaz and Shade. Mia reached behind her and grabbed his arm and help him to her side. Her grip was never rough or tight.
When Vaz caught sight of him he knew that he had a strong bloodline. Lower Kikera’s spots were brown when those from the Chief bloodline were black. His were, and his dark brown hair was darker than other Kikera’s brown or golden brown features. Rarer occasions yellow, although colorblind. He could remember colors through Shade’s journeys through other minds. He could make them out although he couldn’t see them. His eyes were normal. He could see why Shade was intrigued by him. He had potential.
“He does not talk?” He walked closer to examine him further, circling him like a curious predator. If Mia wasn’t beside him then he would have scurried away. “He is supposed to be what Chief’s of his kind are. Aggressive,” Caji didn’t do anything when he grabbed his tail, only looking at him and blinking. Many wouldn’t appreciate the act. “Insanely aggressive. They naturally take control and dominate everything. I have seen many Chiefs fight each other until death for land and control of the other tribe... This is the last?”
“That isn’t Caji’s way of doing things, ” she explained. “And there is nothing we can do until Ser’avi think it’s time for his mate to come if he would even change then. We have a feeling that he would even learn to talk the same way another one of his kind has. I am sure he won’t be like this forever. ”
He walked around them until he stood in front of him again, his eyes scanning him from his head to his feet. “So much potential for a strong Kikera. Shade senses it. He is never wrong about anybody... But he is rather soft tempered.”
Caji smiles and his tail quickly moved to one side excitedly. He likes the praise very much and it was a gateway to his trust, moving forward and observing the male back. He was quicker to walk around him and make a small laughing noise before stopping next to him. Vaz was taller than Caji but he didn’t go without his height. The man only raised his black brow at him and cross his arms. Clara noticed that he never smiled once during his time here. Not even a small crook of his lip.
The Kikera saw him cross his arms and did the same, his back straightened and his tail attempted to stay still like this. This only confused Vaz further when he tried to read his expressions from his ears, eyes, and tail.
Clara turns to Kito, “What is he doing?”
“Caji does not hold grudges long, ” he chuckled. “He is playing with him the same he would do Kai and me. Mocking his every move to confuse him. We rely on our tails, ears, and eyes rather than our faces as humans do. Although it helps,” he smiled at her. “It was how the Kikera’s communicated when they couldn’t speak before. Caji is one that relies on it.”
She could see that. She found it fascinating herself and lowered her eyes to see his moving around a little annoyed and his ears positioned midway down. “Why are you upset?”
He looked down and partially growled, “he keeps staring at you. I don’t like it.”
“He never saw humans before, of course he would stare,” she said. “And why are you even worried about it? I’m not even that worried about it.”
“It is how we are,” while everyone else was busy speaking with Vaz he purposely grabbed her attention so it would mostly be on him. “I always thought it was silly before myself when seeing my brother and others but now I understand. I just don’t like him looking at you so deeply. Now that we are just newly mated.”
“If you expect me to start walking around with a box with two holes over my head then I guess you’re just going to have to get over it.”
She saw his pupils large slightly, his mood suddenly changes from annoyed to eager. “Not if we are back in the hut, my mate. We have a little problem with us that must be fixed. Why can’t we go back and start repairing it?”
She gasps because of how loud he said his suggestive question, her voice lowered halfway into a whisper. “We have bigger problems than that, Kito. And shh! Don’t let everyone know about it.”
His boyish grin made him look like a teenager rather than his actual age. He moved closer and dared to purr. It shocked Kai who was listening from where he stood and amused with the sight of Kito turning into a love dazed male. Shoulders slump, tail swayed, grinning, and always smiling.
Clara was blushing like humans did when they were flushed and secretly just as eager as he was. She looked like she was about to fall into his gaze and arms until she shook her head, crossed her arms, and kept a strong composure. She looked at Vaz who was speaking with Zeta and Ruro but could zone in when Kito whispered warmly near her ear. “The sun is nearly rising, little Clara,” he slid his hand inside her arm and stood close behind her. “Should we leave them to this?”
He was very persistent. She didn’t know if that was a good trait for him or a bad one, but she couldn’t resist when his hand slowly caressed her arm and she could feel his vibrating chest that somehow knew how to calm every nerve in her body. She sighed, relaxed her spine against his chest, and moved her head under his. “Goodness,” her breaths were slow. “You’re persistent.”
Caji came into the scene when he saw the two. It had been a while since he saw them and wanted to see if they were fine. He stopped and tilted his head when he saw the two close to each other like he had seen Mia and Kai do. He knew what was happening. He blinked. Then smiled.
Clara felt the polite urge to put space between her and Kito but his arm kept her in place. It wasn’t forceful, just unbreakable.
“Hello, Caji,” Kito smiles. It made Caji’s face light up when he saw him smile. He never did gave one so easily before. “How is your head? ”
He rubbed the place of his head that the totem had hit him before. He was now healed but the memory of it never left.
The sun was rising. Vaz looked up at the sky and saw it. He knew he couldn’t stay here any longer, he only had until nightfall to find her before she comes after the village. As hungry she must be there was no doubt she would come after this village with nearly everyone from every tribe gathered in one place. There was no doubt in his mind that she was watching them from a high place now.
“I need to leave,” he was certain this time. “I need to get rid of her if you all wish to have another safe night again.”
“What if she comes to the village in the middle of the day?” Mia was the one that didn’t want him to leave and have to do anything alone. She knew that everyone together could get rid of her. She had seen the tribe come together before to get rid of an enemy... But death was involved. “Wouldn’t you like to stay?”
“I can scare her away and we will fight somewhere that any of you will not know. Or my luck turns and I find her still wounded and end her there,” he said this like one would say their plans for the day. “Maybe I will return to the village again one day. We can ask many more questions then.”
He turned and started walking the way he came from the Jungle before. Shade watched Vaz walk by the tree he was on and his head moved in the direction of where everyone else stood, shrugging once before its tail flicked before following him.
They were gone as quickly as they came. Into the Jungle and into what was left of the darkness the rising sunlight couldn’t touch. Nobody followed him.
Happy Halloween 🎃 🍭 👻