As the moon festival continued and the night grew long both the younger kids and the elders grew tired, so a space was made to one side of the clearing for them to lay down for the night.
After the last of the children were sent to bed the truly wild part of the festival began. Most of the food was put away and glasses of pinkish-red liquid were set up on the table. They were poured from the barrel of water mixed with dream berry juice Nightshade had seen earlier. Nightshade tried a glass, which was only a sip to her, and it tasted great. She still preferred the berries themselves though, so she had a couple of those as well.
It seemed like everyone was smiling and dancing together. A few of the villagers were whooping, howling, and yipping. Nightshade felt a small urge to roar as well but suppressed it. She was actually quite self conscious around groups of unfamiliar people (when they weren’t under her spell at least).
Even so, it seemed like the atmosphere of the festival was making her feel warm, happy and quite a bit more conversational than usual. At least, she thought it was the atmosphere.
“Hey Nightshade!” Lupita called above the noise of the dancers and music, walking up to her. “We’re playing a game over here and I'd love it if you would join us. Would you like to play?”
“Ok. Lead the way.”
Nightshade was a bit curious what kind of game she would be able to play with them. (she was much to big and strong to play any physical games). Lupita lead Nightshade to a small group of fox, wolf and panther girls who were all giggling about something.
“Hi girls. I would like you all to meet my friend Nightshade. She probably hasn’t played this game before so please go easy on her.” The other girls turned to greet Nightshade with excited giggles.
“Hi, I’m Kate.”
“My name’s Lauren.”
“Nice to meet you my name is Maretta.”
They each introduced themselves happily, going around the circle.
The people of this village were far more welcoming than Nightshade would have ever thought possible. These girls were greeting her with such warmth and openness, she felt as if they had been friends for a long time. It felt really strange, and she wasn’t sure how to react to the warm, bubbly feelings stirring in her chest.
“Hello, I am Nightshade. Nice to meet you.” She replied with a nervous smile. “So, what game are we playing?”
“It’s a game called two revelations and a deception.” Lauren explained. “How it works is that we go around the circle, and when it’s your turn you have to say two things about yourself that you think are interesting, and a lie. Your job is to create a lie that is as convincing as possible. Everyone else must attempt to guess what the lie is. If they get it wrong they must drink one mouthful of sweet dream juice.” She said pointing to a smaller barrel in the middle of the circle.
“If they get it right then they don’t have to drink, and it moves to the next person. How about we play the first round while you watch and then we’ll let you have a turn?”
“Alright.” Nightshade replied.
She was pretty sure she understood how the game worked but she didn’t really think her life was all that interesting. She spent most of her time hunting, laying around her home or playing with whoever came to see her. The one named Lauren was going first.
“Alright. My three revelations are… First, I went to a neighboring village this moon cycle and one of the males there proposed to me. Second, I have watched two wolf packs fighting each other. And lastly, the bra I’m wearing was made for me by the male I intent to mate one day.” She finished with a sly, and prideful smile.
“Oh, no way!” Lupita replied jealously.
“Two of those can’t be true.” Kate growled enviously.
“Ha!” Lauren said as she flicked her tail, raising her nose with a prideful smirk. A few of the girls growled in annoyance.
Nightshade had never really had any competition for Ceiba (not that she would have ever allowed another shiny female to steal him from her), but she could understand how jealous these other girls must be feeling when they heard their friend was getting attention from the males around her. (She had no idea what jealousy felt like, so of course she’d obviously never experienced it before. She simply drove away all the other females who showed interest in her Ceiba)
“Well?” Lauren asked. The other girls growled slightly once more before answering.
“You didn’t get proposed too.” Kate said.
“Yeah, same.” Lupita agreed.
“Well, I think she couldn’t get a male to make her that bra.” Maretta replied.
“Hm, hm, hm.” Lauren laughed evilly.
“And the winner is… Maretta! One of the villages we visited last week was having a festival and the male who proposed to me had eaten half a sweet dream berry with his friends as a dare. He did say that my fur was as beautiful as the petals of the sweetest flowers, which was nice. If he hadn’t fallen on his face and thrown up right after I might have felt some affection for him.” She giggled.
“And I saw two wolf packs fighting while I was hunting a little while ago.” Lauren finished dismissively.
“Alright Nightshade, your turn.” Lupita said.
“Hmm.” Nightshade rubbed her chin thoughtfully.
“My three revelations are… ok. First, I can use my powers on any jungle creature but not myself. Second, my house was built for me by the dragon I love. And lastly, the jungle gives me my powers.”
“Ohhh. There’s a dragon you like? What’s he like?” Kate asked eagerly.
“Let’s answer the question first. Then we’ll ask Nightshade about her boyfriend.” Lauren chided. Though she also looked interested in the answer.
“Well, I think you can’t use your powers on any jungle creature.” Maretta said.
“I think you’re lying about your powers coming from the jungle.” Kate said.
“I don’t think your boyfriend would build this entire tree house for you.” Lauren said.
“I think you have your own power. The jungle doesn’t give it to you.” Lupita said.
“The winner is Lupita and Kate!” Nightshade congratulated with toothy grin.
“As for my powers it’s true that they work on every jungle creature I’ve tried them on except me, however they don’t come from the jungle. The male tree wings get their powers from the jungle but us females get our power from the moon (I think). Lastly, this tree house was built by the one dragon I love.” Nightshade explained.
“So, who is this dragon? What’s he like?” Kate asked.
“His name is Ceiba and he’s the most kind, cute and brave tree wing in the whole jungle.” Nightshade blushed a little as she thought of Ceiba. Normally she wouldn’t share such a personal fact about her but for some reason she was feeling warm and fuzzy and very open right now.
“Oooooh!” All the girls exclaimed excitedly.
“How did you meet?” Lauren asked.
“I’ll never forget it. He saved me from gulper pads that were drowning me. Ok listen to this. So, one day I was walking in the forest with some other female tree wings…”
Nightshade told them the story of how she was rescued by Ceiba and fell for him. Their game practically forgotten the girls all started talking about their own love interests and drinking sweet berry juice. Nightshade was given an entire barrel so she could drink as much as she wanted as well.
“Alright everybody! I hope you’ve been having a wonderful night.” A loud voice called out above the crowd. Nightshade and the other beast girls quieted as they turned to the main stage. On the stage was a wolf beast man that Nightshade hadn’t met before.
“Now that we’ve all had some time to have fun and relax it’s time for the moon howling. For those of you who just came of age to participate and our guest who is joining us tonight, this is a time to let your wild side loose and howl as long and as loud as you want at the moon. Release all your tensions. Let your emotions and instincts take over as you howl into the sky with all your might. Every howl is unique but when our voices rise together into the night sky we create a single sound that carries all of us in it. Now join us without fear, for every voice no matter its sound contributes to the beautiful moon howl! Ahwoooooo!” The wolf beast man howled.
“Wooooooo!” All the beast men howled.
“Rrrrrawooooooo!” Nightshade howled. She could feel the howl sweeping through everyone in the crowd and before she knew it she had been caught up in it as well.
Howling into the night sky with wild abandon. She felt warm and tingly all over her scales. Each breath of fresh night air sucked in just to howl, felt crisp and refreshing. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was truly a part of something larger. In this moment she was a part of the single howl that filled the jungle night.
As she continued to howl she realised that she felt free, and not in the same way being without the village rules had made her feel. Normally she would have been far too embarrassed to howl like this or to talk openly with anyone, but now there was a warmth inside her that seemed to dull all the worries that kept this insecure dragon inside of her shell. The warmth inside her carried into the howling roar escaping her lungs and as she listened to the howls around her she found a rhythm. A musical harmony that swayed and moved her. Her body felt like it was moving on its own. Swaying to this secret rhythm in time with the music of voices without words. And as she did, she realised that everyone around her was also swaying in the same way. Their tails swaying slowly in the opposite rhythm like fluffy trees in the wind.
Nightshade closed her eyes and simply enjoyed the feeling as she howled and swayed. Their voices rising and falling like the winds in the sky. So strong and full of passion. So perfect and harmonious. It was beautiful.
Then, before she knew it, the howl became quieter and quieter as everyone slowly fell into a peaceful silence. All the sounds of the jungle had quieted and nothing but the slight breeze through the leaves could be heard as everyone basked in the warm afterglow. Nightshade felt a fresh sense of release and peace in that moment as everyone sat in silence. Then, quietly, the wolf beast man from before spoke.
“Thank you everyone for a most wonderful howl tonight.” He said respectfully. Then there was some shuffling from the stage.
“Now feel free to play, drink and dance until the sun hides the moons!” He cheered. The rest of the crowd whooped and cheered back as the music started up again.
Suddenly it felt like everyone had drinks in their hands and even Nightshade had been given a small barrel of sweet dream juice. She took a gulp of sweet dream juice and started to dance to the music. Before she knew it she had drank the entire barrel and was really enjoying herself. Her earlier nervousness seemed to have disappeared.
A few of the other beast men were on one side of the clearing hanging from the trees and doing impressions of different jungle creatures. Nightshade found their monkey impressions particularly hilarious. Then one of the spectators called out for her to do an impression and soon they were chanting her name. Normally this would have been far too embarrassing but now she hardly even considered how she would look as she laughed and wrapped her tail around a sturdy branch. Then she swung upside down and squeaked like a monkey which left almost everyone rolling on the ground in laughter. Nightshade laughed as well and did a few more impressions before letting the next beast man take their turn.
All the dancing and impressions had left her parched and she drank another entire barrel before she went back to the dance area. On her way there she was stopped by a few different beast men of varying type and gender who wanted to talk to her. It seemed much easier to talk to them now even though they were still basically strangers. It felt like an hour had passed just talking before she got back to the dance floor.
As she danced she noticed that her movements were all over the place and she had bumped into a few other dancers, but she didn’t care in the slightest. Everyone was fine and they were all having a good time so who cared if she knocked over a beast man or two? She still felt restricted in the main crowd, so she made her way back to the beach. She felt like she was positively glowing, and it looked like everyone had the party was staring at her as she danced her way to the beach. She could feel all their eyes on her but for some reason this only emboldened her. She danced and danced. Her scales glowing and rippling with color as she danced. She couldn’t control her own scales anymore and she didn’t even care. She was having so much fun!
The other dancers were enjoying her show and she was loving the attention. She moved faster and faster as the music reached its climax. Her colors raced over her body in mesmerising waves as she danced, spun and jumped. Then the music hit its final note and Nightshade leapt into the air, striking a pose as all the scales on her body light up. She felt absolutely amazing! The rush! The crowd! The adoration! It was all hers for that one moment.
Then she began to sway as that rush went straight to her head.
“Ohhh…” She muttered as all the energy left her body and the exhaustion from all her dancing caught up with her all at once. Her head nodded once… twice… then she collapsed. Asleep before her head hit the sand.
“Mmmm… Ohhh… Huh?” Nightshade groaned as she woke. She was laying on the beach with Lupita sitting by her head.
“Oh, you’re awake. How do you feel?”
“Ugh. Feel? What?” Nightshade mumbled; her head felt fuzzy. Then all of a sudden it felt like her skull was splitting open, her stomach was upset, her body hurt, and her legs were cramping and… What the hack was going on!
“Ahhh! What ha-blaaargh!” She cried as she was interrupted by her stomach emptying its contents all over the sand.
“Ewww. Gross. But I guess it’s no surprise. You drank quite a lot of sweet dream juice last night.” Lupita said thoughtfully.
“Here.” She said offering a small barrel of white liquid to Nightshade who looked at her suspiciously. “It’s coconut milk. We use it to get over the dream berry sickness.”
“Why eat them if they make you sick?” Nightshade asked, taking the barrel. She hadn’t realised it, but her mouth was dry, and her throat felt raw. The cold and smooth coconut milk was soothing, and she quickly drank the entire thing.
“Sweet dream berries taste great, they make parties even more fun, and if you don’t drink too much the sickness isn’t that bad.” Lupita replied with a pleasant smile.
“Hmph. I can barely even remember anything from last night. How do I know how fun it was?” Nightshade asked dismally.
“Oh, I know you had a lot of fun. You were smiling and laughing with everyone and danced almost all night. You did end up letting your scales glow but don’t worry. The light show just made it even more fun and if anyone did get entranced they were probably already drunk anyway. Everyone else is already back at the village. Nara had a bit too much to drink as well so they took her back while I stayed behind to wait until you woke up.” Lupita said getting up and dusting the sand off her fur.
“And now that you’re awake and obviously ok I’ll be heading back. I bet you just can’t wait for the next festival. Right? Ha, ha! See you later Nightshade.” She called as she ran across the clearing and into the jungle.
Nightshade groaned. She’d never felt this terrible before.
If you’re going to feel like this after getting drunk you should at least remember how much fun you had while you were drinking. She thought sourly.
Then she placed a talon on her head with another groan. Perhaps next time she would try to go easier on the dream berries. Nightshade smiled to herself. Nara was right though. She really had enjoyed the festival.
Before she met Nara, Ceiba had been the only person she’d ever felt had accepted her, but now she felt like the whole beast man village had treated her like one of their own. Even after being freed from the constrictions of her village, she had never felt truly free before. That didn’t mean she wanted to be with the beast men all the time, but she now had a place where she was accepted. And that was more than enough for her.
Work I commissioned from FrostieGreen for this story depicting Nightshade dancing at the ending of the moon festival. Her powers went a bit wild while she was drunk but everyone enjoyed such a beautiful sight. Don't you?