Part 2: Chapter 6
I was the one who purposely let her see me walk away this time. I was planning on watching her from the stables but as I walked towards the Academy, Hasten appeared looking rather frustrated and concerned. “You need to come with me now,” he commanded.
I sighed and ran with him towards the main hall. Some of the Night students were around. They stopped what they were doing and curiously watched us, me in particular, as we ran up the stairs. I didn’t care what they were thinking seeing as how it looked I was in trouble. I reached the top of the stairs and opened the door that led into Branella’s office.
Mirabella was present, along with Panter. She stood up from her chair and turned around to greet me with bloodlust in her eyes. What had happened?
She moved towards me quickly. Hasten shut the door as I held up my hands in defense.
“What did you do?” she screamed at me.
I glanced at her. “What are you talking about?” I hadn’t a clue as to what was going on.
“What is that supposed to mean? Surely you know that you severed our link!” she yelled at me again, but it was in a quieter tone than from before.
“What?” I asked her, completely shocked by her words. I probed around to get into her mind again but, like I noticed before, the link was quieter than usual.
“I can’t hear you anymore! It’s an effort just to get into the link! I thought that you had died!” she cried at me. “What did you do?” She was fully crying now.
Branella handed her a tissue. She guided her to sit down in the chair again.
Hasten and Panter both relaxed a bit, but they weren’t moving.
“What is going on?” I asked. They all stared at me with mixed emotions.
“What were you doing just now?” Branella asked me.
I thought about Aralisa, and how I was protecting her from Trayen’s outbursts. Some part of me was hoping that Branella would pick up on it and understand what I was thinking about but she didn’t say anything.
Hasten came closer to me. “Are you thinking about it right now?”
I nodded to him.
He stared into my eyes and then he blinked suddenly. “Branella, come look at this.”
What? What was he talking about?
Branella came over to stare into my eyes. Panter stood behind them, staring as well; he gasped at me. Mir hadn’t moved an inch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief.
Clearly, Branella, Panter and Hasten were conversing among the Shaper link, or some link. But it was odd that I couldn’t hear them. I stared at Mir. I couldn’t hear her either. She had stated that I severed our link. Did I? How?
“Caiden,” Branella’s voice pierced my thoughts. She was staring at me with a smile on her face. “Were you with Aralisa a moment ago?”
“Yes.” She hadn’t been able to read my thoughts as well. What happened to the Shaper link?
She nodded at Hasten. He smiled and began to laugh. Mir glanced up at them. “What happened?” she asked through sniffles.
“Caiden’s been Marked.”
I took a step back. What? Since when?
Mir’s jaw, of course, dropped open. “How?” she exclaimed.
I wanted to know that as well.
Hasten smiled at me, practically beaming. “Welcome to the fold!” he boomed at me. “We need to reestablish your links. And you’re not going to like it seeing as how you’ll have to be in animal form for several hours. You’ll also need to be away from all the students.”
He was right. I wasn’t liking this plan. I didn’t want to be away from Aralisa that long. But what concerned me more than Aralisa’s safety, was the fact that I had become Marked, and I didn’t even realize when that happened, much less why my telepathic links had been severed. “Okay, explain how I’ve been Marked and I don’t know it?”
“Your circumstance is different from the normal.” Branella leaned against her desk as she handed Mir another tissue. “You could’ve been Marked a long time ago, when you were ready to graduate, but you never stepped up to the challenge. You’ve made a critical decision in regards to something and it’s severed your links.”
Change? But I glanced down at my arms. I didn’t see any marks on them. I unbuttoned my shirt to glance at my chest, but I knew there wasn’t anything there as well. Then I remembered them staring at my face. Did I have marks on it? And what did they look like?
I ran over to the mirror that was on the wall facing me. There weren’t any markings on my face, at least nothing visible. So how did they know? “How can you tell I’ve been Marked? I don’t see anything.”
Hasten appeared next to me in the mirror. “Look into your eyes. Or at them, I should say.”
I glanced where he was glancing. I looked closer into the mirror. My brown eyes stared back at me, but in the middle of the brown, pieces of amber gold were flecked across them. “But aren’t Marks supposed to resemble the animal you shift into?” I asked. This had nothing to do with the panther I became.
“Most of the time, but not always.” Hasten chuckled. He turned away from me and went back to stand near Panter.
“Then why are the Marks on my eyes? There’s nothing visible, unless you look deeper.”
“Exactly,” Branella stated in awe. “My guess is that you have decided something important. A change so drastic to what you originally had planned for yourself. I’m thinking that it has something to do with Aralisa as well. Seeing as how you were adamant to protect your relationship with each other and Hasten’s remarks to me about your activities as well as the present current events, I think it is safe to say that you’ve tied your life to hers. Regardless.”
I turned away from the mirror and stared at her. “Are you saying I bonded with her?”
Branella smiled at me. She didn’t deny it, but she didn’t clarify it either.
“But even if that were true, shouldn’t I have a link to her?” I was shocked by the fact that I had bonded with her, a Shaper. We should share a link to each other’s minds, technically.
“You would if she were a true Shaper. As we all know, she’s never had the telepathic abilities that we were born with. That’s why your link with your sister is gone.”
I glanced at Mir. She didn’t look happy.
“Now, if Aralisa were to ignore you and not choose you, I would help you to sever the bond between you two. However, I feel that she is not doing well in the Night class, and soon she’ll need to know about her true self. I personally witnessed Trayen’s outbursts earlier in the Aurora Grove. I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand at that time our link was broken. Otherwise, you would’ve not jumped out in front of him.
“Even still, you took a chance, and I might add that she didn’t turn away from you. I think you two might have a chance after all. She will listen to what you have to say. You need to start clueing her in as to who she really is.”
Branella sighed and smiled at me. “This is working out differently than I expected, but I can still work with it.”
I didn’t understand what she meant about that. I didn’t have much time to think for she was talking again.
“Now, first things first. Caiden, we need to restore the Shaper link to you. We also need to set up a link to the private channel, the one that runs between the circle, and we need to set up a link to Mirabella. In order to do that, you’re going to need to be in your Shaper form.
“The Shapers are going to attack the Lake Shrine today, so that will give you a really good chance to establish a connection with them. Mir’s should be easy as well since you already know her head. It’s the one with the guardian circle that will be difficult.”
“Guardian circle?” I asked, intrigued. We conversed with Guardians?
Hasten sighed and tapped me on the shoulder. “Come with me, I’ll explain it all to you. We need to set up your links as quickly as possible before anyone notices the change.”
“Wait,” Branella called. She came over to stare at me. “You’re going to be in animal form for a while. Whatever happens make sure you don’t attack the Guardians. You can’t sever the links again.”
I nodded, understanding that I needed to reopen the channels of communication. Right now, I felt blind. I soon followed Hasten out of the office and into the hallway. I wished the channel was open now. I wanted to know what was going on in their heads. We made our way across the courtyards and into the forest. Once present within the trees, away from most of the ears in the school, we stopped.
My senses picked up several people incoming to our location. I turned around as five of my classmates appeared. Darson, Asper, Nola, Silet, and Prie were standing around us. I glanced at Hasten, curious as to why they were here. They looked curious as well.
“You all know Caiden,” he stated. “He’s been Marked.”
Darson slapped me on the back. “’Grats, man. I take it he’s joining the circle?” he asked Hasten.
I stared at him.
Darson grinned back at me.
“What circle?” I asked again, frustrated that they still had yet to describe it to me.
“The Guardian Circle. We’re the ones who protect Aralisa,” he explained.
I blinked. What in the world was this? And how was it that five students protected Aralisa? “You’re just students. You haven’t even been Marked,” I stated, staring at each of them in turn.
Darson grinned and reached up to rub his neck. Make-up came off and soon I saw that he had black spots along the back of his neck. I inspected them. His form was a Jaguar. “You’ve been Marked?” I asked him. “Does Mir know?”
He grinned. “Oh, yeah.”
I turned around and stared at the rest of my classmates. They were all smiling at me.
“So where’s your mark?” Darson asked me. “I don’t see it.”
“He’s been Marked in his eyes,” Hasten explained.
“Oh, they do look a little different,” Asper exclaimed as he inspected my eyes.
“Alright guys, give me your clothes, I’ll take them to the spot. You need to shift,” Nola stated from behind us. She held a basket.
Immediately, they started stripping off their clothes, flinging them into the basket. Even Prie, the other girl, heaved them off. Nudity never much bothered me, but it was weird how it didn’t bother them either as the majority of the students on the Day side still minded. I really didn’t want Prie or Nola seeing my body before I shifted, but they didn’t pay any attention to me at all.
Prie was already in her lioness form. Darson shifted into his jaguar. Hasten was in bear form. Asper had become a hawk, and Silet was an opossum. I stared at him. He winked and scurried off into the forest, following the others.
I was alone with Nola and the basket. I turned around.
“Would it help if I closed my eyes?” she asked.
I sighed. “I’m not used to this.” I wasn’t, as I was being honest with myself lately. The boys and girls in the academy had separate locker rooms for changing and shifting. I always met up with the others on my own time, and I shifted when no one else was around, unless it was Aralisa or Mirabella.
“I know.” She smiled. “Don’t worry, I love Panter. I only have eyes for him.”
I nodded my head and smirked at the thought of him being bonded. Panter was quiet, but strict as far as instructors went. I slowly undressed, and placed my clothes into the basket. I shifted into my black panther form.
Nola came around to face me. “Go to the waterfall. You’ll start to hear them eventually. Just meditate on their thoughts.” She began to wander away, but stopped. She paused and turned towards me again. “By the way, Aralisa is very lucky to have you.”
I growled at her. What did she mean by that? Lucky?
“Don’t misunderstand me. You have changed yourself. She changed too. But the lengths of dedication that you have taken just for her, even if she were to reject you, are amazing.” She placed the basket on the ground and stared into my amber eyes. “You two will be fine. She’ll be alright.” She leaned away from me and picked up the basket again. “Now go on. You have much to accomplish.” She was trotting away towards the east.
I wondered where she was taking my clothes.