Updates will continue every Saturday, will keep to one chapter each week or two chapters. Enjoy :3
The jungle was lively.
Vazeem allows the noises to wash over him as he sits in the jungle and meditates, legs crossed, hands on his knees, eyes closed without tightening his lids. It was what he did mostly, listening to the soft bird’s whispers and tweets, the rainwater from last night dripping from one large leaf to another. Subtle chirps. As deadly as this place can be, it also was just as calming. When he wanted to rest his mind and the strain of power, he allowed nature to relax him. Being a hybrid of two creatures who embraced nature, he knew the Xutashi side instinctively enjoys the natural sounds.
The problem with sharing a mind with another entity however, they can sometimes get bored and ruin their concentration.
Shade stirs within his head, at first subtle, like a small child wanting attention yet not wanting to be yelled at for it. Until the boredom settles much worse, and he stirs more, kicking his head like a child in the back seat, over and over. Wanting him to move, walk around, something…
He could sit in the same spot for a week and not move, it would drive Shade mad.
“Hmmm…” Vaz hums at the slight headache he was starting to receive. “Stop it."
The irritation continues. Shade was not pleased. An extrovert within an introvert, and he knew what the shadow within him wanted.
A piercing pressure beyond his forehead made him fade out of his trance and lean forward with his hands on his face and head. He snarls, startling the grazing jungle fawn nearby. “Stop that. We are not going.”
Sometimes he wonders what Shade would say if he could speak, but then again, no he wouldn’t. It was for the best the shadow did not utter a word when he could be just as much as a bully without them.
He projected to Vaz what he wanted. He knew that this was around the time again for the Celebration to begin again, where all tribes came together. Everyone was in one spot, everyone that they had known for a time now. Shade wanted to see… he did not want to remain here while Vaz meditated again, or buried himself under the ground, just to be gone for months or weeks again. The shadow could roam if he wanted to, but he felt Shade’s protective and possessive nature over him. The shadow did not want to go alone.
Vaz did not want to go at all.
Shade was determined, even offering a bargain. Anything to get his stupid host of a body off his tail to do something other than pretend he didn’t exist or train his strength. Being always prepared for Dannica, searching for her again was futile. She truly indeed vanish.
That wasn’t a good sign and always had Vazeem worried.
Allow them to live their lives, Shade. Why worry so much about them, there is no point.
The Shadow disagreed. His frustration was now more immense than before. His partner was stupid.
Go annoy Caji in his mind.
It wasn’t Caji that was annoying Shade the most right now…
Then the shadow struck his planned bargain. He would allow Vaz to slumber the next while, and he would not interfere. If he wished to bury himself like a mole and sleep for a year, then so be it. Just allow himself to join the mortal world for some time. It was a deal too enticing to throw away, considering it was Shade that was the reason he gets up anyway before he wants to. The power that the shadow was building up inside him again was driving him mad, and he couldn’t keep pushing it off on others. Caji was enough, and his anger could make storms happen. Many could not have power simply because they could not hold it. He needed to sleep, to suppress, or it could drive him mad.
He didn’t want to end up like Dannica.
The Celebration was happening however, perhaps already started. He might have missed the beginning, but it didn’t matter when it lasted for a while. They chose to host it at the Xutashi’s again since it was the easiest for everyone to travel, they had room and unlike last year there wasn’t anything shaking. He thought that it would be held in the Plains, but it seems all the Chiefs decided once again, the Xutashi will have to host.
Which made Shade even more eager to go. They were deep in the jungle but it still wouldn’t take too long for him to go back to the village. Vazeem did not want to go, nor was he pleased. His expression is always a pout.
The hybrid's clothes didn’t change much. He never really had to dress; his power could allow him to conjure clothes with simply a thought if he wished. It was nothing grand and similar themed to the Xutashi, but the color as expected was bland. There was none at all because he didn’t dare try. Simple dark tunic and even darker trousers, his feet covered in boots similar to the Kikera. Something about the mixture of the culture felt right since he didn’t know how to choose one.
His hair was pitch black, his ears long but also round at the tip, another proof of his hybrid genes, as well as his tail. It was the most distinct features, mostly slender like the Xutashi, the subtly bushy, and his spots black yet faded. Even upon his skin, his spots look as if they could easily be washed away. His spots may be black but he did not have the traditional Chief marks down his back, as the black-spotted Kikera’s do, and like Caji and his mate’s father.
His eyes were more abnormal than the rest of his features. One eye was black as a starless night with hints of ember, the other molten red with its fair share of black specks, his gaze eerier with his slitted pupils. His eyes alone show his inner turmoil with his power. It is always building…
Shade wouldn’t let his mind dwell on his struggles for too long. He wanted them on their way to the village to see the others. He couldn’t wait, he was happy. He would see others without it being a tree. It truly was a shame the shadow did not have his own body, he would be a good being that enjoyed the company of others or perhaps would talk a million miles per minute if he could. Although he did have a sick sense of humor and did like dark jokes, Shade’s personality would be great for a body of his own.
Vaz could feel the shadows snicker, and the hybrid could sense Shade hinting that perhaps it was him that needed a personality like his shadow.
Why would you even try to spend time with anyone when you will live beyond them, and be happy about it? I do not understand you.
He should, he has been with him for an eternity.
Shade didn’t care to even try to respond to Vazeem’s thought, he was just happy to see the others after… years. It had been so long; it annoyed the shadow so. Vaz was content in letting time pass since he did not care for it.
Shade knew his deeper reason, however.
He walks through the jungle by using the large branches high above that tangled and twisted with each other, and it made it easier to walk on than the thick mud below. He remembers things that remained the same so long ago, and the things that have changed. He was still impressed the village remained in the same place.
Xutashi’s didn’t like moving around so much, however. That much never changed. They always were traditional and still held on to that so long after. He was finally close enough to see the smoke from the Great Fire standing on the cliff’s edge walking down the steep path beside it. Shade within stirs.
Just go ahead yourself if you are so excited.
Shade didn’t trust that; he wanted the introverted fool to come and if he had to drag him, he would.
He wasn’t even sure the Celebration even started. It could be too soon or could be already finished. He still wasn’t sure how long he had been gone.
The last bit of distance was easy to close, and then he was back in the familiar area that was the village. He could see there had been improvements already since he was gone, only making him recalculate the time of his disappearance this time.
In the fishing area where the river flowed, there were better-crafted nets for easier catching, as always, this area was decorated in bland colorless flowers, which he would assume was that way for everywhere. Warriors were guarding the surrounding area more than he remembered, perhaps some new ones have grown up, or the tribe expanded. Moving in the trees without being seen was a skill he knew well above all the scouts, but the way next to Kai’s hut was a path he still knew too well. He hid in branches leaves and flowers.
Shade was already off to where he wanted to be, now knowing that Vazeem was nearby. He could take what he could get, but the shadow would always know his location.
Looking over the village, he could tell that things have changed, but nothing too much. What had changed was subtle, but overall things at first glance remain fairly the same.
Until he heard the familiar male voice of Na’Kito.
“Where is he? I have been looking for him all sunrise, are you sure he isn’t with you?”
“I am sure Shi will come back around,” Mia’s voice then, she was standing in front of her home placing large hand-made baskets around. She had been awake all night making them for all the cubs, she was making gifts for all of them on this festive occasion. Especially the ones that were coming from their travels. It would be sweet for them to come with gifts, to make the trip seem more worthwhile.
“Hmmm… think he could be off with Koda again?”
“Kito, I love you. But you seem to be worrying too much,” Mia was in a happy mood and was smiling, even at the golden Xutashi standing nearby and waiting for her to finish. Right now everyone else, including Kai, was waiting in the village knowing that the Kikera would be coming soon. It was why she was getting the basket ready for them when they arrive. “They are possibly playing Taiteev or practicing their training, is there somewhere they need to be?”
“I think I’ve noticed Shi becoming friendly with this young Maurea of Skaal’s,” Kito was looking over the village landscape. “Well, I haven’t seen myself, but Clara mentioned to me something about it.”
“He’s eleven now. It is perhaps a crush. Humans usually get them.”
“Clara has told me, but this female is six summers older.”
It made Mia laugh more than she felt was necessary even herself. Who was she to judge? She first was with Kai when he was twenty-two and she was eighteen. There were definitely different circumstances however. “If Clara is not worried about then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s just how it is with young human boys, especially over a pretty Maurea woman.”
“It is not him I don’t trust.”
“Oh, she is sixteen,” She gathers the last of her baskets and shoved three of them in his arms to get his attention off the matter. She could understand his point of view, but she trusted Clara’s judgment. If she wasn’t worried about Shi’s little crush, then she wasn’t going to be. Poor Kito was not starting to understand the complications of raising a human boy though, especially when he begins to have crushes. “Help me get these to the marketplace before they come. I heard Pippie and Ara are coming back, I bet Koda’s excited. He hadn’t seen them in so long.”
“Since last summer. They left to go out of the Lands for a bit, the last letter I got from him was long ago, however. I hope he and Ara make it today. I wonder what took them so long?”
Vaz can see that Kito, although he should’ve been cheerful, couldn’t find it in himself to do so. So many things going on in his head that worry them if he would dare think, the fool was sounding like his brother. It was obvious on Mia’s face as well, him discussing things and worrying. She sighs, “It was agreed before they left that Koda will live here while they went to the Lands over to help out Skaal, remember? Trading as well, they could just be having fun. I don’t know why it took a year but it’s not exactly easy moving through the trails, hmm?”
“No, but this is Pippie. He would know how to be here sooner, it has been a while, although I do get letters. Koda has been missing them and he hasn’t been able to go see them without Delorian, who is perhaps with them as well. The kit could feel left out from their adventure.”
“I might go find Clara to bring back the Kito I met this morning. Why the sudden worry for… everything?”
Vazeem watches the two walking down the steps casually together as Kito admits, “I’m not sure.”
“I think you are missing them as much as Koda is. Or is it something else, what was the last message Pippie sent?”
“Something unexpected happening and it would be his last letter before coming here for the Celebration. That was many moons ago, with no word since. I am worried something happened during the travel, or if he will come today. I do not want Koda disappointed or sad.”
“It’s a good day to have some faith, don’t you think?”
He smiles at Mia’s uplifting nature, especially on this occasion. He could see the baskets filled with all kinds of goodies and toys that she planned to give to the children, it even had him eager to see what was inside. “Do I get one of these myself?”
“You don’t play with toys, do you?”
“This thing right here looks interesting; I could play with this.”
“Yeah... wait, did you make these yourself?”
Mia smiles more, “I’ve been working on them for a while. I was watching Rika play with my old bunny and how she was the only one with it. I want to give all the little ones something to keep, you’d be amazed at how long they will keep it.”
“Does Jax get one?”
“That’s the one you’re holding. Would you like to give the basket to him yourself?”
“And take your credit?” Kito chuckles. “You made this pretty well, I know he will enjoy it. Thank you.”
Vaz continues to linger in the jungle, following them while also not being seen, but it was obvious that their personalities haven’t changed. And it has been three summers….
They were finally at the entrance of the village, which was busy and currently expanded to accommodate the visitors that were coming in. The Maurea had planned early, and they were here to already be settled and be less trouble for the others to come, they were like that every year. The Chayenne and Rhuzeche were also here, all that was left was the Kikera.
Kito and Mia both greet their love together. Na’Kito spots Clara sitting amongst her friends as well as holding Jax on her lap and lightly bouncing her knee, hearing his laughing as her friends fawned over his cute face. At four years old it was like Na’Kito had produced another copy of himself, but his golden hair was getting hints of black at the tips, which Kito only adored more. He knew it was because of Clara that his hair was like so. He loves his son's unique combination.
Clara senses him behind her from the shiver in her spine, and Jax turns his head when he notices his mom do it. He squeals happily at the sight of his dad, sliding off her lap to run to him.
“Daddy, daddy. Look, daddy. Mommy paints my arm. I have paint like you, daddy.”
Na’Kito bursts into laughter gazing up at Clara and seeing the dried paint on his arm he showed proudly. It was supposed to mimic his tattoo although it was too low on his arm, the happy look on the cub was too much for him to feel bad for. He scoops his cub in his arms and hugs him tightly, “I’m so lucky to have you, you little mimic,” he then gives Clara a side glace. “It will wash off, right?”
“No, I actually tattooed our cub,” She rolls her eyes and stood, but couldn’t walk away before he grabs her by her fake makeshift tail for Jax to pull her towards him with Jax in his other arm. She spins to face him, “you doofus, it will wash off in three days.”
Mia and Kai had already finished their greeting but had to watch the scene with Kito and Clara. Even now their interaction was always an interesting sight, especially with Jax involved, being as cute as he was becoming.
“I see that our little ones aren’t around. Where are they?” Mia could see the baskets that Kai was now holding after Kito pushed them on him. There weren’t all the ones she had, but all that she had to give for now. She wanted to make sure that the children of her family had their gifts, and seeing Kai holding the baskets was more amusing than seeing his brother with them.
“Who did you think swept them away while I was busy?” He chuckles.
Zeta. She didn’t need to say the name. They weren’t too far away then by now.
“Our scouts have seen the Kikera coming through the Jungle right now. If fact it seems that Pippie and Ara are with them, they must have been with them these last few moons.”
“Hmmmm… And Caji didn’t tell me about it? He would have sent me a letter if so,” She pout with a look that to him looked cute, but he knew she was upset that he had kept the information from her. Especially after realizing how much Kito has been worried about them.
“You know he would have a good reason for keeping it from us,” He slid a table over by hooking his foot around the leg just to have a place to put the baskets of goodies. “We can ask about it soon.”
He grabs her face to kiss the pout from her, it was just a soft kiss and nothing near sloppy as they could get. It was a loud “ewwww” that had Kai lift his head and lift his brow in a direction, but it was just the sight of his son Mai that was nearly six summers trying to wedge himself between him. “Stop doing that.”
“I could say the same to you.”
He huffs at his father’s response, “But I told you first.”
He looks down in between then, “But you listen to me.”
“I could say the same to you.”
Kai puts his hands on his cub’s head over his ears and begins to shake it back and forth, not too fast but enough to make Mai unexpectedly laugh and try to pry his father’s incredibly large hands. “What are you doing, da!”
“Driving you crazy as you do to me, but I don’t think this works as effectively.”
He was still trying to pull his head from his father’s grasp but was reminded he didn’t have the strength to, even though he wasn’t being hurt. He knew what his father was doing, he was letting his mouth get the best of him… again. “No, no it works just fine. Okay, okay, da… you win! Lick ma’s face all you want… Can I have my head back now?”
He annoys Mai a little more by ruffling his hair and ears for good measure. “Your words are getting better, son. I like that you are learning fast.”
“What’s the point if you are just gonna shake it out of me?”
Mia only needs to speak to grab Mai’s attention, her voice was always soft and calm. Mai doesn’t even think she had it in her to yell because he couldn’t remember when he was yelled at by her. If ever. He loves his mom so much. “Where is Rika, my Mai?”
“She is having her hair done by Gran’ma. I left; I don’t need mine done.”
“You could have had your face painted for tonight, it would be interesting. It will glow when it's night.”
“The colors look boring so I don’t want any.”
Mai was already occupied with something else, he didn’t see the smile that had faded from Mia’s face. It was the few moments that she remembers that her son was color blind, and it was all a young cub's disability. She always knew this was the case, but when she heard him speak of things like that, disregarding color as bland as boring… She wanted to give him color so he could see it all. She always wished that the young didn’t have such hard times with that.
“It is natural to feel this way,” Kai assures her when he could finally move close to her again with his son occupied. “It will not be that way forever.”
“But for a cub… If there was just one thing I could change...”
“I know, love.”
Koda was heard shouting in glee using his spyglass on top of a stall for a good vantage point, “They’re here!! Pippie is on a Treader, they’re with them!”
Vaz has already made himself a spot to relax in and watch, he didn’t want to join when the crowd was only getting larger. There were too many to keep up with now.
The first to enter the village was the one Koda had mentioned, it was Pippie just ahead of the rest traveling. Although not the only one riding the large beast horse, he was making sure the horse’s stride was slow and easy without too much shaking. It was obvious that he was getting better at riding one. Arabell wasn’t riding her horse that Koda last remembered her having, but she was in front of Pippie sharing the same saddle.
Koda was approaching where the horse was steadied, and it was Pippie who slides off the mount to be greeted by a hard, angry shove. “How could you two leave me for almost four seasons! You said you were going to go off and do a simple trade for more Treaders, but you leave me for too long!”
Ara, visibly looking tired upon her horse, sighs softly, “Koda…”
“You of all! Why did you guys not write back? You could’ve been dead.”
“We didn’t make it out of the lands, Koda,” Pippie rubs his chest where he was just violently shoved. This kit is starting to gain some strength. “We had to fall back to the Kikera’s and stay for a while, things got out of plan. We couldn’t just run back, we knew it was better to just wait for this celebration when it was safer to travel.”
“You two could’ve traveled. Why made you two so scared all of a sudden?”
Na’Kito was approaching, seeing that Koda’s outburst caused a slight scene while the Kikera was coming in. He saw Pippie, seeing that he looks the same since the last he saw him with minor changes. At least he didn’t come battered and bruised. “I would like to know as well. Why did you stay with the Kikera until now?”
“Caji practically made us, if you want to go shove someone around-” he gives Koda a side glance before stepping back to Ara who remains on the Treader with her hands on her loose clothing. “-it should be him. We didn’t want anything to happen to her, and for once, I agreed with him.”
“What do you mean?” Says Koda watching how Pippie holds his hand up for her to slide hers into it, watching how cautious the Maurea was being with getting her down from the large animal who was busy eating the grass placed down for it by a Kikera Warrior keeping it steady for them.
Koda did wonder why she was wearing loose clothing, Kito seemed to have found out before he did but was the speed of being by Pippie’s side to also help the massively pregnant human on her feet, that was a little wobbly from the trip. It was for the small second of seeing the roundness of her stomach that made Koda’s reaction almost the perfect payback to Pippie for being shoved the way he did. He was so shocked he seemed to have become a statue with bulging eyes.
“Holy shit are you pregnant?”
That came from Clara who had approached when she could finally see the proof, especially when the rubs her small hands over the round belly, smoothing her clothes. “I’m… eight months…”
“Eight?” It now had Mia’s attention, and soon all the men were forgotten and all the women came together to see the surprise and the reason for their sudden disappearance. “I was only that large with twins at six months.”
Pippie had already slid a box over, seeing how visibly tired she was from standing, and how her ankles hurt so much. She deeply appreciated it. “Birdie was using some of the stuff she has to help me out. She says that although she doesn’t have an ultrasound and couldn’t tell us the gender, she is sure that she is human.”
“Or he,” Pippie says.
“She,” Ara softly smiles and massages over the bump again. “It's been our slight disagreement more than her being Maurea or a human, but I know that it’s a she. I feel it.”
“Nine months gestation…” Mia looks at her belly again, the sight alone was obvious. “Could be human, but it’s always a little fun to bicker about gender. Oh my… Zeta might pass out from the excitement of this.”
“Can I feel?” Koda was now by her side and kneels on the ground on both knees, he wanted so terribly to hug her after not seeing her for so long. He missed them both so much, and the fact that it was just this reason that they were gone, he didn’t mind. It would mean that he must have gotten her pregnant at the beginning of their journey and took a few moons to get to the border of the other land before finding out that she was pregnant, which made Pippie decide to back out from the idea. He went straight to the Kikera’s, where he knew it was the safest before making sure that she was carrying his kit for a fact.
When time amongst them passed and she began showing, Pippie realizes that it was real. Ara was carrying his kit. He didn’t want to be roaming the trails because it was too dangerous. Too much of a chance, and if she was thrown around, she could lose what he didn’t want to depart with. Human or not, it was still his first.
Caji didn’t even want her to leave their home, especially when Birdie was putting in her ideas of his kit being human. Still a Maurea, a kit in his eyes and tribe, but a human all the same.
Skaal nor the rest of the tribes knew, but he knew they would feel that way regardless.
Koda was feeling her stomach, at first feeling nothing and just a large, soft stern tummy, but then he felt it. A kick, or maybe a punch, he didn’t know. There was an actual infant inside her right now, and he couldn’t help but look up at her with soft eyes. He was still in his silent happiness, but soon he was speaking again.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you, Ara. Would you want to rest?”
“Actually, yeah… I’ve been looking forward to that when coming here. Is there anywhere I can sleep for now? My ankles are killing me.”
“We can have you stay in a hut that is on the ground, so you don’t have to deal with any stairs,” Mia offers instantly, she knew the perfect hut to offer nearby them as well, knowing that she is going to need to have Zeta around since she seems like she would be needing it soon. Ara truly looks like she could burst.
Vaz decides to leave the shadow behind to return to the deep jungle. Uncaring for where Shade was, perhaps with Caji, but it didn’t matter. He came for no reason except for Shade, all to be reminded of the same thing when seeing everyone live their lives.
He would never really have one of his own.
Series in order:
~1~ Animal Kingdom
~2~ Savage Kingdom
~3~ Broken Kingdom
~4~ Reckless Kingdom
~5~ Fallen Kingdom
Unfortunately not a standalone. You are going to want to read the other ones in order before tackling this to understand the past of the characters.