Fur vs Skin

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16.

❝Howl. For the moon awaits your journey home.❞


Images of my prior dream slowly fade as I'm brought to reality by the tugging of my bladder, the flickering images whisking from the throes of my dream to the holy grail. With sleep weighing heavy on my mind, I groggily open my eyes, my blurred vision slowly acknowledging the silhouette structure of the door as I blink away the haze.

A shudder runs through me, the hint of coolness lingering in the air sliding over my skin, snapping me further awake.

Swiping a hand down my face, I slowly adjust to the rays of light that slip past the curtains in a stream, illuminating a golden hue to the room. Blowing out a breath, I sit up, shifting my gaze to the corner of the room.

Arsen's larger frame rises and falls with his breathing as he rests his back against the wall with a blanket lying on top of him, all while his head lolled to the side, using the opposite side of the wall to rest along. A wave of warmth rushes through me at the sight of his soft features, the way his lashes brushed the tops of his cheekbone and how his lips slightly part with his breathing.

I still wonder about the reason behind huddling himself in that spot, the stranded thought of his unspoken promise swaddling forth in the shape of a spear in my mind.

I shake away the thoughts, making it a goal to be silent as I can, pushing the covers, I rise to my feet. Rubbing at my arms, I cross the short distance to the door and ease it open: praying that it wouldn't creak. Once out into the narrow hallway, my bladder makes its appearance again, yanking at my control to keep myself from peeing. With each step toward the bathroom the urge becomes stronger, padding quickly, I push through the door of the bathroom and hastily close and lock it before almost sprinting toward the toilet.

Relief sprinkles through my veins as I finally release myself, sitting for a few moments before rising to my feet and finishing.

I continue the routine of washing my face and brushing my teeth – the act of showering the night before saved me the slight time of showering this morning. Exiting the bathroom, I creep back the short path back to the bedroom, catching a glimpse of Arsen's sleeping frame through the parted door. Slight chatter drifts into the air gathering the attention of my subconscious.

"Are you certain?" Santha's voice echoes, coming from the kitchen.

"I'm not for sure right now," Marcus rumbles afterward.

Stepping toward the top of the stairs, I stare down at the bottom, debating whether to descend down them; the probing sensation of curiosity of knowing what they spoke about clouding my head.

"This is an issue the elders should be alerted about but. . ." his trails off, the rustling of his clothes indicating movement, "I feel like this will be a better reason for some of them to cease her stay here."

My heartbeat thumps loudly in my ears, vibrating erratically in my veins by the sudden rush of motion from my blood. I force myself to swallow, anxiety clogging my throat, and sending my mind running wild. They're talking about me. Taking a step forward, I stride cautiously among the wooden flooring not to make a sound.

"Try negotiating with them," the clatter of a pot resonates, stopping the end of Santha's sentence for a moment – startling me as they sit in silence.

I freeze in my position on the step, waiting along with them.

"She's a good kid, Marcus," she sighs.

"I know she is. There's only so much that they're going to allow before the safety of the pack is heeded first."

The organ within my chest constricts regretfully, the act of me sharing my story bringing forth a brew of trouble. With pinched lips, I bound down the rest of the steps regularly, no longer sneaking as I make my presence known. My bare feet slap against the bottom level, Marcus and Santha simultaneously turning around.

"I can leave," I declare openly, stepping closer to them despite the tremble in my limbs.

The fact that I've ease dropped was far from either of their minds as I look them in their eyes, accessing their emotions.

"Oh no," Santha mumbles, staring regretfully in my direction, "I hope we didn't wake you. ."

I raise my hand in no offense, stepping a little closer. "It's all right, I was already awake and couldn't help but overhear you both."

They share a look, Marcus creasing the space between his brows together, his features turning downward. He makes the motion of opening his mouth, the regretful expression that shifted on his face sends my heart into hyperawareness.

"It's fine actually," I start, my heart thudding with the growing fear that I have tried to suppress. "I feel as if I've overstayed my welcome anyway."

"No, Amelia, don't think like that."

Santha sets aside a container filled with dried oats before moving her frame around the island countertop as her face changes to one of gentle intentions. The kindness that she projects only makes me feel guiltier for revealing the story to them, the stress that etched beneath their conversation easily detected.

In a more sensible way, Marcus was right, I was nothing more than a girl that was saved from freezing to death, my appearance already causing a slight hinder to their peaceful community.

Slowly, I could feel my chest reverting to its barrier encasing my heart, shielding it away from the warmth and hospitality this couple has shown me. Santha's grip on my shoulder ceases its act of blocking off my emotions.

"I know that look," she tells me, looking me intensely into my eyes that shine brilliantly, "Don't shut yourself off. Marcus and I were just talking; besides, we aren't sure if that male is still out there waiting for you to pop up again."

Shifting my gaze, I inhale, brushing at her obvious dig of myself and pinpointing my feelings. "It would be better if I removed myself before he got too close then," I challenged, squeezing my eyes shut at the thought of tragedy falling over this place. "I don't wish for anyone to be hurt because of me."

Santha grips my shoulders a little more, resulting in me opening my eyes. "No, you aren't going anywhere, and that's final."

My teeth gnash the inside of my cheek, keeping myself from speaking as she steps back and stands in between the distance of Marcus and me with a determined look.

"We're going to talk to the elders about this, it's going to be all right."

Gazing at the side of her face, her own locking with Marcus, I let myself basket in the genuine that flowed from her words, her motherly aura striking at my heartstrings. My throat clamps with the appearance of tears, my emotions within a haywire of currents while blinking wildly.

"Okay," I whisper.

In truth, I was scared of being alone. The weight of this world that I have suddenly found myself falling into will consume me whole the very moment I let my guard down.



It was close to twelve in the afternoon when the door to the bedroom upstairs creaked open, Santha, Marcus and I all paused in what we were doing, our gazes flickering to the steps.

Santha chuckles lightly under her breath, "Seems like the dead has risen."

Marcus shakes his head and returns back to the news paper that laid out in front of him on the island counter. I let my stare linger as the thud of footsteps descending down the steps echoed. Slowly, his scent traveled the length of our distance as his frame came into view, his woodsy aroma enticing my senses.

Arsen's disheveled hair was the first to catch my attention before sliding down to his drowsy state; his eyes holding an intensity at the surrounding area before they landed on me. And like all the times before, the air sizzled with unreleased energy, his nostrils flaring at the connection.

I look away, returning my gaze back to the open book on the table with a slight blush among my cheeks. Playing with the edge of the page, I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear.

"How'd you sleep?" Santha asks him, her arms whisking a bowl of eggs.

He nods his head as if saying 'good' before raising his arm up to scratch his nape followed by a big stretch, reaching his arms above him. I soon found myself staring at the hem of his shorts as his dark shirt rises, unveiling his stomach. The rush of blood shots through my veins and boils beneath my cheeks, my core twitching with the alliance of my thoughts on the par they decided to take.

"How about you go wash up, breakfast is almost ready."

With a grunt, he moves toward the small hallway that lead underneath the stairs to occupy the snug bathroom fitted within the base of the stairs.

I turn my attention back to the page I was reading inside the book, shaking away earlier thoughts. Breathing out, I lean forward to find the spot I stopped on. The image of a photo-taken paper was presented on the page, the title of its name labeled on the page.

Treaty of 'Fur and Skin'
The signed agreement between man and beast.

The words printed on the page were in another language, uncomprehendable to my mind as I flipped the page over to look for possibly translations.

"Is there an english version for this?" I ask aloud, turning my attention to Santha and Marcus.

"What are you trying to read?" Marcus retorts over his back.

"The treaty of fur and skin."

Santha peers around his frame with a look as she analyzes the book that laid out before me on the coffee table. She shook her head, flicking her eyes up to meet mine.

"That's the only one I have for now, it's hard to find books that has the treaty within it, more or less, translated," she tells me.

I blow a breath, suddenly intrigued by the facts behind this. "Is it rare or something?"

"You could say that."

I sigh, shutting the book and optioning to pick up the book that describes the customs of their village from the pile stacked.

"Were you really interested in knowing about the treaty?" Marcus chimes in just as Arsen exited the bathroom.

He pops into view before walking toward the couch, the floorboards creaking slightly under his weight. The cushion makes a soft whoosh sound as he settles in the seat, slouching, the sight of his body spread out comfortably as he leans his neck in the crook of the couch sends a jolt throughout my body.

I return myself back to the question asked, nodding. "I am."

Marcus takes in a breath, flicking his eyes back to the newspaper to hide the dark turmoil that brewed in the depths of his eyes.

"This particular treaty is rather old," he starts off, "created before Santha and I were bornβ€” hell, even before the elders truly became the elders."

I slowly nod my head, the undertone of seriousness behind his words setting the mood that circulated the room.

"This signed agreement was commenced to stop the war that raged on over the roots of this earth; a battle between man and beast over the revelation of our existence."

A battle between man and beast? The thought runs aimlessly with no destination across the valley of my mind with the trail of confusion in its wake.

"What was the reason behind the fight?"

Santha's expression changes, turning solemn, a hint of anger accumulating in the depths of it: completely different from her usual self. She turns around to face the stove, her back to us as she releases a small chuckle, stepping into the discussion.

"To put it in simple words," she says, shaking seasoning onto a pan of steaks, "most people couldn't comprehend the unknown of our existence and chose violence rather than reason."

My gaze flickers to Arsen, his gaze lingering heavily on the thudding pulse of my neck, though, he seemed to be in a daze. Staring for a moment longer when the silence after Santha's words spread, I notice the topic of the issue slowly showing its affects on the individuals before me, leading me to believe something darker lies beneath this treaty.
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