Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
I woke slowly, just lying there, not really realizing I was awake until my aching muscles intruded on the moment. Cracking my eyelid’s, I found myself lying on a simple bed wrapped in a plain green blanket. Memories of the day before came back to me and I was suddenly wide awake.
Sitting up took far more effort than it should have, but I ignored it and immediately glanced down at my wrists. No chains! The creaking of the bed must have alerted Bast, since barely a moment passed before the door opened.
“How are you feeling?” he asked while glancing over me. He kept his distance, but his concern was evident upon his face.
“I’m fine. I think I’m just a bit sore and weak.” I pushed myself backward on the bed so I could prop myself up against the wall further away from him.
“Were you just waiting at the door?”
“No. I was sitting outside in the sun, but I was waiting for you to wake up”, he said with a tight smile. “I was worried after last night, and I can’t risk you running away as you are.”
“You think you could stop me?” I asked evenly, looking him up and down. Part of me was very confident I could overpower him, probably without breaking a sweat.
“I don't know and I’d rather not find out if you don’t mind. Why leave though? I’m trying to help and where would you go?” He gestured questioningly with his hands. “Here is the best place for you right now.”
As much as it hurt, he had a point. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Uncomfortable silence filled air between us as before Bast spoke again.
“What exactly happened last night? You mumbled a few things, then passed out.”
“You were right. I found the- the split inside myself. Each half felt like jagged stone grinding against the other, stabbing and scraping”, I shuddered realizing the sensation wasn’t just a memory. “I can still feel it.”
Now that I was aware of it, I wasn’t sure how I’d missed it before. I felt a... splintering. Like I was slowly fraying into tiny slivers of who I was. It didn’t hurt exactly, but I felt sick knowing what was happening. I was losing pieces of myself and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“I have to fix it!” I exclaimed desperately.
“Alison you need to calm down, your eyes are glowing again.”
At some point I’d drawn my knees up to my chest and I was panting heavily. The enormity of what was happening inside of me threaten to overwhelm me. The tingling heat suffused every muscle and the pressure against my skin, inside my bones, was almost unbearable.
“Think of the glade outside, the peaceful moment’s we’ve worked on drawing in. Focus on them and remember how you felt.”
Slamming my eyes shut, I did as he said, trying to bring the moment’s I’d been mediating on to the forefront of my mind. I managed it, holding it in the center of my mind and pushing everything else to the side. It was an oasis of peace in the middle of the storm inside me and the changes began to reverse, at least until I noticed me sitting under the silver tree, manacles imprisoning my limbs. Once they caught my focus, I lost sight of everything else until the chains were all I could see.
A fury filled roar rumbled up my throat as my skin began to stretch.
“Alison, you just told me you needed to fix this! Control yourself!"
I barely heard his words over the blood pounding in my ears. Even then I didn’t care to listen. He was the one who put me in those chains! There was no stopping it now. Rage boiled inside me and it was taking everything I had just to remember why I was resisting, and to slow the transformation as much as I was.
Panic and desperation clashed with relief inside me as the powerful scent of Bast’s wolfsbane dust reached my nose. I had to stop him!...but did I want to? My indecision gave him all the time he needed. In moments the scent smothered everything, bringing my transformation to a seizing halt.
When I regained my senses, I was lying in a damp mess of torn blanket on the bed.
“Are you alright?”
Glancing up at Bast from behind a few tresses of sweat soaked hair I shrugged weakly. I’d already been feeling tired and sore after yesterday, now I wasn’t even sure I could stand if I tried.
“It looked like you almost had it that time. What went wrong?”
“I did as you said, focusing on the moments under the silver tree. It seemed to help until I noticed that I was still in chains.”
“Ah”, he exclaimed. “Still, if it hadn’t been for that I think you might have managed it.”
I was doubtful. For a moment I might have almost had it, but then I’d almost forgotten why I was resisting entirely.
“Are you going to put the manacles back on?” I said with a sigh, defeated.
“No. I don’t think so. They’re clearly just making things worse.”
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll attack you?”
If I was him, I certainly would be.
That was enough for me to lift my head and look at him in disbelief for a moment before dropping it back to the bed.
“Well I am”, I replied.
“Let me take care of myself. You just worry about you alright?”
When I didn’t respond he continued.
“We can fix this, but at the risk of beating a dead horse, you have to accept what you are. I wish there was a cure, but without one this is the only way. You may not be entirely human, but at least you’ll still be yourself.”
He was right. I nodded, determined to be whole again. Against what I’d felt last night...what I still felt vaguely, being half wolf didn’t seem like such a big obstacle. The feeling I’d be less human if I accepted it still bothered me, but as Bast had said, there was no other way. I had to fix this, quickly. With that in mind I met his gaze.
Bast and I spent a several days simply living and working on strengthening my focus. It turned out the cottage only had three rooms, two small bedrooms and a main dining room slash kitchen leading directly to the outside.
Now that I was free of the chains and I’d had some time to get used to Bast’s presence, even my wolf half didn’t feel overly hostile towards Bast. I still kept my distance, never any closer than just beyond arms reach.
Eventually I felt I could hold an entire moment in my mind without any of the details fading away and Bast agreed. As peaceful as it was in the glade, I found myself growing more restless as time went on. Dad and the others were still out there. The longer it took for me to try save them, the worse off they’d be. The splintering I felt in myself was happening to them too, and like me before, they didn’t even realize it. The thing was...how would I save them? The only plan I’d come up with is challenging Jaron. I had a feeling he’d accept, but I had another equally strong feeling I’d lose. He was a lot bigger than I was and had been a werewolf longer and was used to his body. All I had was Bast and there was no real way he could help me beyond what he was already doing, or was there?
“Don’t think too hard, you might break something.”
I glanced up to find Bast smiling at me across the long wooden table that took up the center of the main room.
“Yeah something like your neck”, I replied flippantly.
“Well then, I suppose I have a vested interest in getting you to stop thinking and talk to me instead. What’s on your mind?”
“I don't know how to save my Dad and the others”, his usual smile turned grim at the subject but I continued. “They’ve been out there almost two weeks now and I can’t think of a way to save them and stop Jaron.”
"Perhaps if they were separated from Jaron somehow, and still haven’t done too many things their former selves would have found unforgivable...and we had them confined with enough time to work them through everything...” he trailed off into silence a moment. “I’m sorry. Everything I was taught was more about stopping werewolves than saving any. If it’s been done before we weren’t told of it. That’s probably so we would never be tempted to try and end up getting ourselves killed.”
I felt defeated and we hadn’t even tried. There had to be a way. Otherwise... no. I couldn’t bear thinking about that.
“Come now, you’re doing better than ever. The last few days have been great. I’d say we’re about ready to force your two natures to confront each other once again. There’s just one more thing I want to do first.”
“And what’s that?” Bast’s offered change of subject felt like a lifeline and I took it gladly.
“Now that we’ve engrained some tranquil moments in your mind and you understand how important it is that you accept what you’ve become”, he paused, looking at me like it was a question and I nodded firmly, “we’re going to talk about you.”
“What?” I looked at him like he was stupid which got his smile to reappear.
“It’s important. What do you want out of life?”
“I don’t know. What do you want out of life?” I threw back at him. I didn’t really want to talk about myself. Almost everything I had and was felt like a distant memory now.
“I want to help you not die or kill anyone”, he said with a pointed look.
Well if he was going to put it that way...
“Fine”, I replied sullenly. “I’ve always wanted to do the things Old Joe talked about. He had stories from all over the world, or it seemed that way at the time. He travelled and saw things I can barely imagine. When he talked about them, he had this shine to his eyes and I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out, missing something crucial from my own life.” I paused and looked up at him.
“Good. That’s exactly what I wanted to know”, Bast leaned back in his chair looking at me strangely, head tilted to one side.
“Nothing. It’s something to talk about later. For now, I want to run a little test.”
“What kind of test?” I asked mildly anxious.
“A test to see if those stick-like arms of yours are stronger than they look. Werewolves are supposed keep a small amount of the strength and senses even in human form”, he shrugged. “I’m curious.”
"I'm just some fancy pet to you, aren't I?"
He gave me a wide grin, eyes manic and as wide as he could get them while sweeping his arms up.
I shook my head side to side.
"Even Finn isn't as strange as you."
"This Finn sounds like a fine, upstanding gentleman."
Ignoring him, I tried to remember how things were before I changed. It was strangely difficult and the memories felt almost like they were someone else's.
“My hearing and sense of smell is definitely better than I remember it, but I don’t feel any stronger”, I said.
I recalled how loud and vivid everything seemed waking up the day after that first shift.
“Good to know my teachers got something right. It seems odd that you’d have one and not the other. Are you sure you haven't lifted any horses lately?” he raised his eyebrows quizzically.
“Yes”, I just looked at him.
Leaping to his feet, which so far seemed to be the only way he knew how to get out of a chair, he went outside with a brisk walk.
“Coming?” he yelled back.
Following him outside I found him standing next to a pile of rocks all the way from fist size up to bigger than my torso.
“You planned this. Really?”
“Why wouldn’t I have? Now, grab a rock.”
Taking a smaller one that I could grasp in one hand I lifted it easily. It didn’t seem any lighter than it should be.
“Well?” asked Bast impatiently.
“Feels normal to me.”
“Try a bigger one.”
Putting the rock back on the pile I wrapped both hands a larger one, lifting it with a moderate amount of effort.
“Seems like you lifted that one easily.”
“Doesn’t feel any lighter”, I replied.
“Seriously? That rock is as big as your head. That should be pretty heavy.”
My brow furrowed. Should I really find this difficult?
“Pick up that one”, Bast pointed to the one of the largest in the pile.
Dropping the rock in my hands I knelt down next the one he’d indicated, placing a hand under either end.
This time I grunted as I stood up. It took some serious effort to lift.
Bast smiled at me like a kid who’d just got a new toy.
“Now there is no way you should be able to lift that. ”
He was right. Staring at the large rock in my arms, almost a small boulder really, I felt a strange disconnect. Lifting this much didn’t seem out of the ordinary at all, except that it was something I’d never have been able to do before. Still it felt normal, expected even.
“But it feels like the right weight for a rock this size”, I shook my head side to side before raising my head to look at Bast.
“I could barely lift that!” he exclaimed before his expression suddenly turned to wariness.
“Your eyes are glowing.”
I started. When had that happened? I’d been so focused I hadn’t even noticed the heat pooling behind my eyes.
Dropping the rock, I took a quick step away from him.
“Hold on a minute. Don’t bolt on me now. How do you feel?” He must have seen the panic in my expression.
I felt mostly fine. Besides my eyes there was a tight feeling as the pressure flowed into my muscles keeping them tense, wound like coiled rope.
"Hot and a bit like my skin in too tight, but I’m in control.”
His smile returned.
“Well I’d say that’s a good thing. You’re definitely stronger, but when you draw heavily on that strength it brings out your second nature. Interesting, and if that’s happening I’d say your two halves might be close enough to try bringing them together again.”
I looked at him sharply.
“You really think so?” I asked as the heat slowly faded away.
I needed to be done with this. I had people to save.
“I just said it didn’t I?” Bast turned around and began making his way to the silver tree.
Walking closely behind him, I followed suit when he sat at the base of the trunk, feeling the sense of weight and peace exuding from the bark.
“We’ll start the same way as usual. Start when you’re ready.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as Bast had taught me in the last week. Once I felt relaxed and had pushed all everything else from my mind I began building the moment in my mind. I’d found that taking in each detail my senses could make out one by one and locking them in place before moving on was the best method. When I had a clear picture in my head of Bast and I sitting meditating while life continued around us I gave a tiny nod.
“Good. Now I want you to do the same as that first time, focus on who and what you, but this time remember why you’re doing this and hold the moment as an anchor against everything else.”
I did as he said. Adding details to the moment in my mind as they I thought them, even if they didn’t show visually.
“One last thing. I want you to focus on your instincts and the other half of yourself, much like you did that third day, but slowly, gently”, Bast’s voice came quiet but firm.
Delving into myself and submerging my mind in the heat and pressure softly, the split in my soul came to the fore. This time however it didn’t seem so wide and the edges while not exactly smooth, weren’t the sharpened spikes they had been the last time. The version of myself in my mind changed. Overlaid on top of me was my werewolf form. It appeared vaguely transparent and off center, but it was clear that there were two separate yet connect pieces in the same space.
“I’m going repeat the same statements as last time. Focus purely on the moment and each half of yourself and answer immediately as the response comes to mind.”
"You are a human."
"You are a predator."
"You are a wolf."
My fingers twitched. This time instead of two responses only one returned, but it was rough like uncut stone where the others had been smooth as the surface of the pond around us.
I felt something change and in the moment I held in my mind, the human verson of me spasmed and grew to match the werewolf that overlaid her before shrinking back to human form. The werewolf was me. I felt it now. We were one and the same. I, was one and the same. The tingling heat felt like a light fizz in my veins and the pressure had spread into my muscles. Still, since they were truly a part of me they seemed much easier to manage.
Exhaling, I opened my eyes and turned to Bast.
“We did it!” Joy and a sense of being whole flooded through me and I went to throw myself at him for a hug when I noticed the caution on his face.
His looked back at me a moment before tilting his head to one side quizzically. Leaning in close, he stared directly into my eyes.
"What?" I said while moving away awkwardly, trying to maintain a normal distance between us.
"Your eyes are no longer glowing."
I raised an eyebrow.
He stopped leaning toward me.
"They were glowing even through your eyelids for a moment there, and they’ve changed. Look for yourself", he gestured at the water.
Rolling forward onto my hands, I found my reflection staring back at me from the water's surface. Eyes like shards of dark amber stared back at me, wide with shock. There wasn’t a speck of their previous emerald green to be found.
"What does this mean?"
Bast remained silent a moment before speaking, a pensive note in his voice.
"I can only assume that in your case, 'the eyes are the windows to the soul' is more than just an expression. Now that you've begun to accept your other half properly, it's clearly had some physical effect", he paused. "It makes sense, the curse acts upon your physical form based on the state of your mind and soul. There's bound to be some outward sign."
A scraping sound announced him standing and a lightly tanned hand entered my vision.
"This is a good thing."
"How so?" I asked as I took his offered hand and he pulled me to my feet.
"It's proof that you are accepting what you are. If some of your other forms' characteristics bleed through to your human form, then perhaps you'll retain more humanity while in your other form as well. Not just that, but those tests we did this morning are probably out of date now. With a closer connection to your more toothy self, I’d be willing to bet more of its strengths bleed over as well."
The same broad smile I'd first seen him with spread across his face.
"I think you're gonna be just fine. Good thing too, I wasn’t entire sure this would work. I've always been a rather poor student of meditation myself."
I stared at him in disbelief.
“What! I thought you were supposed to be a druid or whatever!”
“I am. I just didn’t say I was the best druid now did I?”
“You weren’t even sure this would work! What if I’d lost it and ripped you to shreds?”
“Aw. You do care”, he said in a cutesy voice. “Don’t worry, I’m tougher than I look.”
“Are all druids like you?” I asked. The exasperation in my voice just made him grin all the wider.
“Nope. I’m one of a kind. Most of the others are as old as dirt and twice as dry. Or that’s how my mentor put it anyway. Let’s go inside. This calls for a celebration!”, Bast exclaimed throwing his arms into the air.