Darkness, that’s my world. The sky I no longer see, only the spitted wood of this crate. My motion is one that is unsteady and uneven. Although I have no idea where I’m being taken I have a guess. This has happen before, shall I say it’s common. Not the being trapped in a crate and being haled off to who knows where, but the task is the same. I can only predict this has something to do with the shifters.
Years ago people lived in harmony with witches across the land, we were welcomed and loved even wanted. Many high esteemed diplomats craved the words of ancient and their power over the world. We lived in happiness but with happiness bring those who wish to only use it for personal gain.
Black magic users corrupted the language of the ancient for horrible and unspeakable actions. Stealing souls from the innocent and forcing others into slavery. Those who refused were the first of the plagued. Man turned into beast loosing all memory of their past lives and then later all remains of their humanity. The world of peace was gone, leaving only the remains covered by shadows.
Although few magicians were the cause, all were blamed. Our ancestors tried so hard to release the men and woman from there beastly formed but in all failed. Society soon reformed around the newly formed creatures. Witches and wizards were hated for their mistake and were shunned. Shifters as we learned to call the beast soon became favorable sores of free labor and status to those wealthy enough to own them.
The day King Roran banned these shifters from entering his kingdom claiming the beast to be unclean and unfit to even walk the same ground as him only increased the value of such pets. As well for the need of those who could create more.
I figured that’s why I’m here. I know from experience that a thief does not get the attention of noble man Asphen, the king’s royal adviser who loves to point that fact out to street rats such as my self. I guess this is somewhat my fault after all I didn’t escape in one night like I normally did. They moved me to a different cell, I guess they found the broken bars on the window.
My wooden prison stopped quite rashly if I do say. I watched as the board tore apart from their metal hooks. I could easily burn this entire box to shame if it weren’t for my gag. I guess that’s one way to stop a witch. My eyes adjusted to the incoming light as I was released from one prison to another. The walls of the room proved to be that of a library. The ceiling was high and a marble looking texture. I looked across the great hall, a roundish room with smooth caramel flooring with several desks and tables. But oddly enough the room held no windows yet it was not dark or cold. I figured magic had been used to keep the room at a coverable weather along with a bright lighting.
Two men carried me to one of the near by desk setting me in the wooden chair. If I could speak I would have told them I could have walked. But then again, if I could speak I wouldn’t be here. I stared at the two men, they looked fairly similar strong features with pale skin and strong muscles, brutes. I recognized one of the men as the guard who captured me; I could still see the burns and scratches on his skin. I locked eyes with him giving him a smile through my gags.
I turned back facing the empty chair across the table. A heavy sigh muffled through my gag. I slumped dramatically in my chair and released another fake sigh.
Scratches huffed annoyed, “Ah grow up.”
I looked at him again crossing my eyes in a childish banter.
I so wish I could laugh, I know how much he hates my laugh. Says it’s much like a nymph’s, high pitch and young.
I looked at the boiling man; he raised his hand as if to strike at me. I smiled and waited, for if he did I would merely destroy him when I could once again speak. I feel that he got my message across from scratches lowered his assault. But then again, I don’t think it was my threat that did so. The sound of footsteps soon filled the massive haul. I turned my gaze from the brutes and looked across the wooden barrier.
Fantastic, and as if on cue the flamboyant lord has arrived. He was a tall man, well dressed and well kept, most likely from all the taxes and pet sales. Like the brutes his skin was pale but his face had less of a dim look on to it, his was more of purpose. Not mindlessly taking orders. His hair perfectly matched his grey robes. Oh his robes, although I hated him he had his taste. Jewels upon Jewels sewed into the outlining of the mid section with gold like fabric under. How I wished to be dressed in such grace, but a pig had already claimed my robes.
He sat down into the opposite chair and stared at me with a wonder. I returned his gaze with mine of disgust and annoyance. I followed by bring my ringing chained wrist to my mouth pointing with my dirt filled nails. A small laugh escaped his lips as he leaned back into his chair from my movement, it was worth a shot.
“Let you go before you’ve heard my offer?” His voice was sweet with a laugh.
I rolled my eyes. I’ve heard this offer before and my answer has always been the same, though this is the first time he’s forcibly dragged me here.
“Such a child, are you not to old to be playing these games?” Asphen asked as if I could answer.
“Let me cut to it, you know why you’re here. I need more pets and that means more suppliers. Think about it Serena, I can give you anything you could want. A home, wealth, power, you name it and it’s yours.”
I muffled through my gags my annoyance was evident. He snapped his fingers and the sound rang through the hall. Two figures walked from their shadowy hold one looked human. His eyes squinted walking in from the light, I wonder when the last time he had even seen light was. His hair was a musky blond coloring that seemed misplaced on his ghostly skin. His hands and neck also held by chain. The chain master was a shifter. I would say a bird like creäture. Brown and tan feathers took place of his hair and came of his arms much like wings that lay across his tan skin. Talons replaced his hands and feet and a beak his nose. Everything else seemed to remain human. This boy could not have been more than seventeen and he couldn’t have been a shifter for long. His clothes much like the humans were worn and torn. The human wore no shirt but the shifter wore a light tan, almost white tunic with dark brown trousers that cut off at his ankles revealing his bird like feet.
“Men please remove her gags,” Asphen said slyly.
The moment I get these gags off I would burn this whole place to the grown. Scratches was the bravest of the two for he began removing the gag. Knots began to loosen and I could feel the rag falling from my mouth.
“Ashshhha!” I yelled as the dancing flame shoot into the air, barely missing scratches face.
The second man pulled his sword placing the tip on my neck. I froze, one flick of the wrist I’d be dead.
“Ah ah ah girl, I thought I could trust you more,” Asphen’s voice beat like much like a metronome.
I merely looked at the man, I had fallen into his trap.
“Now will you do what I require?” He knew I was stuck.
“No,” I hissed. I would not change the fate of a man for his own desire. I hade once fallen victim to the temptation and I learned the hard way.
“Pay close attention to your predicament girl. You’re not in a position to disobey.” His tone took a sharp turn to a threaten voice.
“No you’re not. I’m the one who has the power but I refuse. Look at my face look at my black and white hair; See my pointed ears and animal like sharp teeth. Everyday I live with what happens when you miss pronounce the ancient language. I tried going down that road once and I paid the price.” I snapped causing the brute to place the tip deeper into my skin.
“You can’t let one miss pronounced word control you fate dear girl,” his words hissed off each other in a deadly way.
“No it was fate that did this, all powerful fool, it was fate that I messed up because I should have never been messing with fate to begin with. Look at these two.” I gestured towards the shifter and human. “You think he wants to be turned into a beast. Or how about him!” I pointed to the shifter, “How do you think he feels?”
“He’s merely a dumb animal,” The noble laughed.
“No he’s a human you turned into an animal. Boy are you happy this way?” I asked the shifter.
“I don’t know,” his voice was confused and scared. I believed he feared what his master would do to him if he answered truly.
“Do you remember anything, anything about who you were?”
“Who I was?” He seemed confused; this was probably all he knew.
“You’re taking their humanity, can’t you see their people not animals.” I begged him to see what I did.
“Enough!” Asphen stood from the table quickly, “Take her to her cell and let her think about my offer.”
In an instant I was once again gagged and pulled from the chair. I fought against the guards cursing into my towel. I thrashed and kicked with no leave way from the brutes. I soon gave on my escape attempt. Still I felt eyes upon me, watching my movements as if I was their soul purpose. I looked again at the two boys, the shifter eyes stared at me with curiosity, I was his source; but for what? I could make out his lips mouthing
Who I was.
Two months, for two months I’ve had the same task. For two months I’ve done the same thing. Everyday I wait for the sun to rise, wait for the peak of light to come upon the shadowy grey world. I wait for the day to begin. The moment the sun rises I wake the others. Others who look like me, birds, cats, dogs, lizards, the list is endless. Shifters, that’s what were called. I don’t really know what it means but I expect it so. But then again, I really don’t know anything. My memory only feeds to those two months. Two months of walking and chirping, of chores and duty. I follow what I’ve been told and like everyone I do it to the master’s will. I don’t know his name for I only call him master, only when he tells me to talk. I don’t know why I follow him, I don’t know what exactly I am or how I came or who I am but then again I don’t know a lot. I stand from my stall and brush the hay off my feathers and talons.
“Gale!” I head the growl like call.
I twitched my neck slightly turning towards the voice, my eyes meet with Aron’s. They call him Aron and he answers but he doesn’t know his true name, but I guess none of us do. Aron is bigger than most of the other shifters, he acquires no more food than the rest of us if you could call it food at all. I think it’s mainly his station in the kitchen or perhaps it’s his habit to frighten newly formed shifters until they give up their food. I remember seeing him for the first time, the grey fur that covered his legs and arms with massive claws that extended from his paw like fingers. Not to mention the sharpness of his teeth. But Aron wouldn’t hurt a fly, maybe a fish but no shifter. He’s always watching over us, I guess that’s why we call him papa bear.
“What is it Aron?” I asked trying to prevent squawking; lately it has become harder to speak. Many of the other shifters have already lost the ability, I guess if you go long enough without doing something you forget how to.
“Master wishes to see you in the library. He wants you to take the Skinly to him.”
I shivered; skinlys are what we call humans. Those free of scale or fur, but when ever master wishes to see one we always end up with a new shifter and that means one of us disappear. Master always says no need for another mouth to feed.
“Why raaaak, why me!” I could hold in my squawk, “I, I , haven’t done anything! Don’t let them take me!”
“He only wants someone to take the skinly to the library nothing more. I’m sure you’ll be fine, now you don’t want to keep him waiting,” Aron’s words did little to calm me. I can feel my feathers ruffling.
“You’re…you’re, sure right?” my lip quivered at the sounds of my voice.
“I promise little one, now go.” Aron motioned me to the skinly’s keep.
I slowly walked to the cell, it remained in the darkest part of the stalls, no light shinned here, only darkness. I grabbed the keys from the hook on the wall. The chill of stone rubbed slightly against my talons. The cold sent a chill up my skin.
Slowly I unlocked the skinly’s door and peered inside. The skinly sat in the far left end, chains around his neck and wrists. I looked at his shaggy blond hair that ended at his shoulders. He laid across the stone floor, the bones of his back showing across his bare skin. It was strange to me, no feathers, no scales, or fur, yet he was treated like us. Like a slave, what was the difference?
The man turned towards the light, his eyes widened and he sharply closed them. He placed his hands together. I don’t understand this meaning. He looks so scared, of me? No one is scared of me, normally I’m scared of them. Yet, here was a skinly begging at my talons to go free. How I wish I could but I can’t not if I want to keep around. I looked again into the fearful eyes of the skinly; Is this what I looked like before I was, was changed?
I brushed the thought from my mind. I seem to think a lot. Master says thinking is bad and is a crime worth punishment that we should just do as we are told; nothing more, nothing less. But why? I find myself asking that question a lot.
I pull the chain of the skinly from the floor and then out from the cell. I know he couldn’t see it, but I was just as afraid as he was.
The stair case from the pens was cold and wet. The steady sound of skin and claws tapping against the ground echoed as we walked. The skinly remained behind me as we walked, now and then I had to pull the chain for him to move farther. A strange feeling of guilt filled me, he seemed so afraid, so scared.
I had figured I should try to calm him down, try to convert him, I’m sure if this was opposite he would do the same for me. I cleared my throat and looked at his shaking eyes.
“Um, It’s not that, to bad. Being a shifter in all,” my voice remained low and soft, I wasn’t even sure if he heard me.
“I’m begging you beast, let me go free. I have a family, they need me!” I could hear the desperation in his tone.
“I, I can’t,” I kept my words short. I wanted to help, but I wanted to keep my head.
“I should have expected as much from a monster!” He spit at my beak.
That doesn’t seem fair. I was once a skinly, or at least I think I was. He has no right to call me a monster, I’m not the one turning men into beast. I am simply a victim of the same plague.
We reached the wooden door, I knew to wait. Master told us to wait at the top of the pens for him to call, so that’s what I did. I listened to the voice of the library. I could hear the master’s over the others. A calm tone, almost playful but I knew all to well that he was not a playful person.
He indeed was harsh, never letting any leave on our duties. It frightens me, I remember one girl I believe she was a fox shifter. Abin, was her name. She use to bring the master’s dinner but one day a piece of bead was missing from his tray. She never returned to the pens. I pretend not to know what happen to her but the evidence was clear. My dear friend Abin would never again see the light of day. I miss her, everyone does. We all knew she would steal food from the kitchen but never for herself. The slices of apple or crust of bread always found itself into the children’s hands. From that day no one steals food, no one speaks without being spoke to and no one speaks of what happen to her.
A snap echoed through my ears, I looked at the skinly.
“Stay quite; it will be a lot less painful if you do, Trust me.”
The skinly nodded and we walked into the library. The floor echoed with the sounds of my claws touching the caramel flooring. The room was warm, so warm that I never wanted to leave, I had both an odd sense of safety and danger between these walls.
My eyes looked at my master and then to his company. A girl sat in the opposite wooden chair gagged and handcuffed. I knew what she was or at least I think I did. She looked about sixteen. Her skin was like mine, a tanning color. Her clothes gave me the impression of her being poor. Her top was puffed grey coloring with see through sleeves. Her top ending at where I would guess her rib cage ended with two tight bands. The grey top had a diamond shape cut in its upper center revealing partial cleavage. Her trousers where tight and torn with a coffee like color meeting her knee high light brown boots with what once were white strings that wrapped the cloth to her legs. Her hair was short about jaw level where half was black and the other half white. I have never seen one with such an odd coloring before. She didn’t look like a skinly but she wasn’t a shifter like me. Her eyes glowed a yellow coloring and her ears pointed. What was she?
“Men please remove her gags.” The master called to the guards.
Why was she gagged?
The girl screamed, “Ashshhha!” Flames flew from her mouth, she’s a witch.
I flinched slightly at the flame and then again as the guard moved the metal’s blade to her throat. Now I understand why she was gagged and why the master wants her. I’ve never seen a witch so close before, not that I can remember that is. She fascinated me, she looked like a shifter but also a skinly. Was she both?
I listened to her words in a way I’ve never listen to anything. I found myself mesmerized by her voice and how she refused master. No one has ever refused master. Yet here was a child doing just that.
“No you’re not. I’m the one who has the power but I refuse. Look at my face look at my black and white hair; See my pointed ears and animal like sharp teeth. Everyday I live with what happens when you miss pronounce the ancient language. I tried going down that road once and I paid the price.” Her voice showed no sign of fear even with a sword to her throat she remained strong.
“You can’t let one miss pronounced word control you fate dear girl,” Master’s words hissed off each other in a deadly way.
“No it was fate that did this, all powerful fool, it was fate that I messed up because I should have never been messing with fate to begin with. Look at these two.” she gestured towards us. “You think he wants to be turned into a beast. Or how about him!” She pointed to me. “How do you think he feels?”
She spoke to me?
“He’s merely a dumb animal,” Master laughed.
“No he’s a human you turned into an animal. Boy are you happy this way?”
I was unsure if I were to answer, I felt trapped.
“I don’t know,” My voice shook as I spoke.
“Do you remember anything, anything about who you were?” Her voice was soft and inviting.
I’ve wondered who I was if I was anyone at all. Maybe she knows who I was or she could break the spell. My mind raced with fantasy that I almost forgot to answer.
“Who I was?”
I’m still unsure of who I was or am or anything. I couldn’t reply with anything else only who I was? I am only hoping she knows.
“You’re taking their humanity, can’t you see their people not animals.” Her voice filled with the same tone as the blond skinly.
“Enough!” Master stood from the table quickly, “Take her to her cell and let her think about my offer.”
The girl was once again gagged and grabbed by the two guards. I felt a sense of sorrow for the girl. I wished to help her, in one way or another. Perhaps she indeed held the key to who I was. I needed to talk to her but yet I couldn’t. I couldn’t go against everything I knew for a chance of figuring out who I was. And yet, I felt as if I didn’t have a choice.
One way or another I was indeed going to help her, if only to know.
Who I was