Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
Note: I left it a little longer than usual between posts because I have two different versions of the next several chapters and I was torn on which to post. In the end I've decided but split one chapter that was far longer than my usual into two, slightly shorter than average chapters.
If you catch any mistakes, have any criticism's or anything, let me know!
I awoke lying on what felt like a mound of large vines, a cool, light breeze caressing my face. Cracking my eyelids, I saw smooth, silver roots extending into a crystal-clear pool in front of me. Feeling weak and like I could still sleep a while longer I sat up groggily, blinking traces of sleep from my eyes. Something metal clinked as I moved. Looking down I found myself clothed in simple dark breeches and a too large shirt under a grey, rough-spun woolen robe of some kind. Thick metal manacles tightly imprisoned my slender wrists. Adrenaline shot through me and suddenly I was wide awake. Why was I in chains?! I spun around, groaning as the motion pulled at the wound in my back. Although no longer the sharp, burning pain it had been it still ached fiercely, spreading like a spider web across my torso. Behind me a great ridged silver wall rose into the sky. Looking up, it split into branches at the top, each sprouting equally silver leaves dancing like tiny mirrors far above.
A tree...the largest tree I'd ever seen. Disappearing around the sides were two lengths of chain placed at shoulder and ankle height connected by a small section of links directly the manacles on my wrists, and those I hadn't yet noticed settled around my ankles.
Using the tree as a crutch I forced myself to my feet. Desperately attempting to slip my hands through the cuffs I found they were far too tight, digging slightly into my skin. The fear I'd been holding down since realizing I was chained up bubbled beyond my control. I was chained to some giant freak of a tree and only the gods knew who did it or what they wanted with me.
Hyperventilating, I tried pulling at the chains but it was futile. Anger flashed through me, consuming the fear like so much kindling. Rage flushed my skin as the new part of me that had appeared when I'd first changed took control. How dare someone chain me up like nothing more than a mongrel hound! I was far more and I'd kill whoever did this!
The hair on the back of my neck prickled and my eyes began to burn. I was beginning to change. Throwing my head back I released a furious scream, giving away to a roar as it ended. My skin began to stretch and my arms and legs bulged against my chains. Pain flowed up from my wrists and ankles as bone began to crack against metal. I yelped in agony, falling to my knees on the bright silver roots. The pain just fanned the anger further.
Wrapping my fingers around the chains and ignoring everything else I roared again, throwing myself backward away from the tree. The chains snapped taut and stopped me midair throwing the robe from my shoulders, shattering my wrists and gouging my hands with the force. Falling back to lie on the roots below me I cried from the pain. The change finished as I lay stunned, whimpering at the base of the tree.
"That was quite the performance. I don't suppose you'd care to repeat it? I'll wait." The voice brought back last night, next to the river, the blonde-haired man.
Swiveling my head, I glared at him, instinctively baring my fangs, growls rumbling up my throat as I simmered with impotent rage.
"Come now, you didn't really think I was just going to sit you down for a chat over a nice cup of tea did you?" He snorted, looking vaguely insulted. "I'd prefer to keep my skin intact and getting mauled by a werewolf might ruin my boyish good looks." He looked up at the tree trunk above me. "Then again, chicks dig scars, or so I hear anyway." He shrugged.
Great. Chained up by some lunatic living in the middle of the woods with his fucked up giant tree. The world seemed to have gone completely crazy. Now that I knew I couldn’t escape, or both parts of me knew, my rage faded into embers leaving fear and suspicion.
"Would you mind changing back into the half-drowned young woman I carried back here last night? Much easier to talk if you can, you know, " He gestured, waving his hand back and forth a little, "actually talk."
I continued to stare at him suspiciously. What could have possessed him to keep me alive? Only one thought came to mind and my eyes widened in fear. He wanted to sell me. I'm sure some people would pay good money for a caged werewolf.
A sigh filled the silence.
"You do know how to shift back right? And stop staring at me like that, I don't want to hurt you unless I have no other choice alright? You need to prove to me you're in control of yourself and not out to do harm."
Another moment of tense silence followed.
"Look, I'm going to cook some lunch. If you're looking a bit less furry by the time I come back there'll be enough for you too okay?"
With that he stood from his crouched position and turned around, walking over to a small stone cottage with a wooden roof sitting on edge of the glade backed against dense forest. Disappearing inside, my ears twitched picking up faint sounds of clanging pots.
Rumbling rose from my stomach. I hadn't eaten anything since hunting what must be two nights ago now and the thought of food filled me with hunger. With the man out of sight I looked back at my chains. I couldn't break them so being in this form was causing nothing but pain. Sitting up I tried to relax and will myself to change back. Ignoring the pain from my ankles and wrists and being chained up really didn't help I tried to force myself to shift back and failed. How had Jaron done it? He made it look so easy and could make the rest of us shift with nothing but a word. Eventually I gave up and simply lay where I was, the cool light breeze ruffling my fur. I was at a loss, where did I go from here? He said he didn’t want to hurt me but how could that be true? The people on the road attacked me on sight, the scent of their fear lingered in my mind. Why would he be any different than them? The wound in my back still hurt but the one in my ankle had disappeared. I needed to find that archer and make him pay for hurting me. I’d break the fingers he’d used the bow with before tearing him apart! The urge to hunt rose within me but looking down at the chains imprisoning my limbs I felt nothing but raw anger and frustration. Realizing where my thoughts had gone I shook myself, filled with shocked horror and self-loathing. Finding my jaw clenched and my claws digging in the palms of my hands I took deep breaths, forcing myself relax.
That wasn’t me! I wouldn’t have thought that before... would I? Doubt and confusion plagued my thoughts. Was I remembering things right? He had hurt me; didn’t that mean I deserved vengeance? No, we’d have done the same thing the moment some monstrous wolf creature entered Glimmerdale. With that sorted out the doubt and confusion left me, leaving a hollow fear in its place. If I couldn’t trust my own thoughts and emotions, sooner or later I was going to do something I’d regret and could never take back.
Finally, I felt myself beginning to shift. Once back in human form I looked down at myself and grimaced. I'd almost completely torn what I assumed to be his clothes. Tingling suffused my wrists and ankles as they began to heal.
Scooping up the robe from where it had fallen, I wrapped it around myself and stood. Now that I was fully awake and the panic had passed I glanced around. I stood on a small rise is the center of a perfectly still, crystal clear pool of water in the very center of a large glade. The water wasn't deep and I could see silver roots running out from the great tree at my back in every direction, covering the entire bottom of the pool in a flawless circle of shining silver threads. For a moment I forgot my precarious situation and stared in awe, turning to look up at the tree from which they all emerged.
"Magnificent, isn't it?
Startled I spun around in a jangle of chains. The same man stood on the bank above the pools edge, a steaming pot hanging from one hand. Wariness in his eyes belied the broad smile on his face and I hadn't heard him approach.
"This is the center of the forest. It", he nodded toward the great tree behind me, "is the embodiment of the forests spirit and this," raising his arms, he spread them to encompass the clearing, "is its grove. I am Bast, keeper of these woods." He gave a theatrical bow, one arm out straight with the other clasped to his chest, but always with his bright, jade green eyes on me. It looked kind of silly in his long grey robe, identical to the one I currently wore. In the light, he was younger than I'd thought, perhaps only halfway through his third decade and tattoo’s, broad lines the colour of new leaves marked his cheeks, wrapping around until they disappeared behind his neck.
"Bast?" I asked, incredulous.
"She speaks!" He exclaimed, chuckling. "Short for Bastion. And you are?"
I felt rather uncertain about this, but I didn't really have a choice now did I?
Talking to strange men in the woods. This is exactly the kind of thing dad warned me against.
He ran his eyes over me, catching on something below the neck.
"I see you've torn my clothes. How inconsiderate of you."
"I didn't mean to!" I responded automatically. Shaking myself I tried to focus. "Let me go! I haven't done anything to you!"
He shook his head.
"I'm afraid I can't do that."
Visions of rape, torture and everything he might want to keep me fore danced before my eyes. My rage returned along with a feral desire to rend him limb from limb and I found myself speaking through clenched teeth, half healed hands and wrist outstretched in claws toward him.
"If you so much as touch me I'll kill you!"
Looking pained he held up a placating hand, palm forward.
"Calm down. I want nothing of the sort, I swear."
"Then why won't you release me?" A little fear slipped through my anger, causing my voice to quiver a little more than I'd like. Hopefully he took it as fury.
Being careful to keep the pot out of the water he stepped off the bank, ripples emanating from him as he began wading toward me.
"No stay back!"
Fear and the change bubbled up inside me once again, rising higher the closer he got. The moment he got to the edge of the thread-like roots rising from the water I couldn't hold back my instincts any longer. I screamed as I changed once more, rebreaking the barely healed bones in my wrists and ankles. He simply watched, a pitying look on his face.
I lay half propped up against the trunk of the great tree, a low growl rumbling up my throat. I didn't know anything except that I couldn't let him get any closer. One more step, maybe two and I'd have him.
"That's why I can't let you go, because you're dangerous. You seemed very lucid at the river despite your injuries, otherwise I might have killed you on the spot. Unless I missed my guess, you haven't been a werewolf very long have you?" He took another step and I threw myself at him, ignoring the spikes of agony from my ankles. Once again, the chains snapped taut, catching me a fangs-length from his throat, just beyond reach of my chains. Falling to the roots at his feet I dragged myself backwards toward the trunk as fast as I could.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. I was the predator here! He should be the one cowering and alone.
Damn. Her instincts and emotions were all over the place, bouncing from anger to fear and back again at the slightest provocation. He was a threat and getting close while she was so vulnerable had proven too much for her instincts to handle, wiping out any trace lucidity. She was definitely deteriorating. Still, the mere fact that she had the degree of control she did was a minor miracle as I understood it. I'd been hoping for too much. Glancing up at her where she huddled against the great tree it was hard not to feel pity. She was young, barely passed her second majority unless I missed my guess. Anyone being afflicted by the curse like this was terrible, but one so young...
I felt bad about her manacles, now smeared with blood and nearly invisible amongst her auburn pelt. From the way she cradled her hands it was clear they were so tight they'd broken her wrists, but what else could I do? I knew what the others of The Circle would expect. I was supposed to kill her, kill any were-creature I came in contact with. They were our responsibility, the direct representation of our faults and failures and the perversion of all our ideals. Killing her wasn’t something I could bring myself to do, at least not yet, not until I’d tried to save her and proven that it was impossible. Still, I couldn't risk her getting away, she was dangerous and I needed information. How many were there? There had to be at least a few more judging by the fact she hadn't been a werewolf very long, that much was obvious just from how together she still was, and the tracks I’d found at the edge of the forest indicated at least four or five. Best not to tell The Circle about her until I was sure or they’d kill her out of hand. Refocusing my gaze where she cowered against the trunk I decided it would be best to leave her to calm down and let the situation sink in before asking her any more questions. I doubt she'd be able to shift back in her state anyway.
"I'll talk to you again tomorrow. Good night."
I walked back to my cottage deep in thought. Beyond the information, I wanted to help her. I shouldn't really. I was supposed to kill her immediately to stem the curse, but...she wasn't too far gone yet and to be honest, it was more our fault than hers. She didn't deserve this- not that anyone ever did. I don't think she'd even killed anybody which made helping her a lot easier or perhaps even possible in the first place and was likely why she was still mostly sane. Reaching my cottage, I looked back one last time. Glowing amber eyes stared back at me from the glades center. Stepping inside, I closed the door softly.