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The Talon House
DarkShadow

The Lycan

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The following is a complete work of fiction. Any resemblance between the characters and any real life person is completely coincidental. Please do not copy or distribute the story without the author's permission. Author reserves all copyrights of this story.

Disclaimer: The following story contains erotic homosexual situations and content. If it is illegal for you to read this please leave now. If after reading this disclaimer you find yourself surprised by the homosexual content, you should be slapped.

The Lycan Prologue

His words held a regal kindness but I knew their meaning instantly.

“Show no mercy. Tear them limb from limb. This is not the time for gentle hearts.” Jason leaned in and pressed his lips against my neck. I felt his fingers crawl up the curve of my neck.

“You don’t know what you ask.” I wanted to rest in the curve of his body as his fingertips trailed the flesh along my neck.

It was one thing to change into my animal form. It was yet another to completely give myself to my nature. I had ignored the primal call for too long.

A surge of energy pulsed through me as my fur erupted along my skin. My roar blended into the mix.

Dark creatures spilled out from the broken seal and I leapt into the fray. It was going to be a bloodbath, and my tongue was ready to savor each moment.

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The Lycan Chapter 1 Prey

"You will never be pack!" My father's words echoed in my memory.

I up-shifted again and raced down the interstate feeling the wind press against my body and my hair whipped the back of my neck. I felt free, if only for a moment. My 2007 Victory took me away from my troubles, and my family. I had saved for this bike for almost two years, and now it was my means of escape.

It was the year of changing for me and I took the shape of a white tiger. It was the ultimate embarrassment for my father. Only females and those of the same sex persuasion took the form of a feline. I had completely disgraced him. I didn't mean to, but I couldn't stop my heart.

They would have liked to tear me to shreds, but I was too strong. In a fight between Wolf and Tiger, the Tiger always wins. It was a small consolation.

I've always known I was Agrik, the head of the pack, or in my case, pride. It's a status of strength among my kind, the alpha male. I, however, had no pack, no pride, and now I had no family.

I had been riding my motorcycle for hours, letting the vibration between my legs keep my mind busy when I spied a stranded motorist in the night amongst the painted sands of Arizona. Normally, I would have passed him and allowed him to become a distant specks in my side mirror, but he was handsome and I liked his scent. He was also in a very desolate part of the desert. This was not a safe place to be.

I skidded my bike to a stop and pulled onto the shoulder in a cloud of dust and sand.

"Need a lift?"

I could feel the cold of the desert against my neck as I balanced the bike between my legs. It may be hot during the day, but at night the desert was a cold, quiet, and lonely place.

"I would greatly appreciate it." He climbed on the back of my bike and sat intimately close.

"If you ride with me, I'd like to know your name. I'm Taylor." My words echoed against my ears inside the plastic helmet.

"My name is,” he stammered a moment and then continued, “Jason."

He smelled of frustration and cold sweat. It contrasted the earthy aroma that pushed across the desert winds. His scent was intoxicating.

"Well then, Jason, hold tight." I blushed beneath my helmet and was thankful that it hid my face. I gunned the engine and took off again down the highway.

I felt his arms fold around me and then dig deeper. He clung to my chest like a newborn. It was comforting and a little more exciting than I should have allowed. I wasn't used to intimate contact and I could feel the Lycan blood stir in my veins. We had been traveling down the road for about an hour when the change began.

Jason clung to me tightly and I felt my heart flutter. It was the new moon, the recent stresses of my life, and the erotic feel of another male pressing against my back that started it. I was changing again. I slammed on the brakes of my motorcycle and nearly sent us to the pavement.

"GO! RUN!" My voice was no longer my own. It was too late.

I hopped from my bike and frantically pulled my clothes off. I knew what was happening and I didn’t want to ruin another set of clothing.

I fell to my knees as the skin split at my shoulders. I watched Jason stumble up a nearby dune. He wouldn’t get far enough to make it a challenge. I could smell the blood beneath his skin and hear the frantic beat of his heart. He was weak prey. Slow, fragile, not at all a challenge, and I was thankful for it.

Long claws sprouted where fingernails had been as my hands reshaped into paws. The transformation rippled from my hands and feet toward the center of my body while white and black fur pushed through my flesh. I felt my ears grow pointed as my nose, jaw and cheek bones writhed and stretched to create my catlike visage. The bones in my upper and lower arms grew to match the length of my legs as my palms and arch of my feet elongated. Finally, my tail erupted outward.

‘The transition is always painful.’ The words echoed through my mind as I completed the transformation into that which is feline. I kept my human memories but now it was the hunt that guided me. There was always the hunt. Whether we’re in our animal or human form, it lingers in our minds.

A look of terror painted Jason’s face. It caused a small revelry in my soul as I ran past him. I paused atop the dune and turned to see him staring at me, frozen. I let out a guttural roar and continued into the desert.

I ran, relishing the silk-like touch of the wind brushing my face. Yellow moonlit eyes dipped into the sand as I scaled the dunes. The fear felt by the nocturnal creatures I passed was real and instinctive. I stopped only to stalk the occasional rabbit, or make a meal of a local coyote. My desire for blood was sated and I padded back to where I had transformed into what I am now.

It was a pathetic sight. Jason was huddled into a ball at the base of my bike. He would have been smarter to bury himself in the sand for warmth than to lay exposed to the elements. It was obvious he was unfamiliar with the ways of the desert.

I was nearing the end of my transformation period. The sun wouldn’t rise for several hours, but I had satisfied the blood lust. I tread up next to him, not making a sound, and ran my tongue against his cheek. It tasted of dried tears.

Jason hollered and jumped back, scrambling away from me. I was still changed and a monster to his eyes. I stood looking at him as he lay cowering in the sand, staring back at me.

I swallowed, again tasting the salt of his tears, and curbed my animal desires. This one is not prey. I moved slowly forward closing the distance between us. Jason sat frozen, eyes wide, watching what he thought was his death advance upon him.

I approached him cautiously. He was human after all. I circled him and watched his flesh shudder from fright and cold. I met his eyes and hoped he could see into the soul behind the beast I had become. I nuzzled my chin against his and offered my neck to him. It was the ultimate act of trust in pack or pride though I doubted he knew the significance. His body was cold and I lay down, partially wrapping around him and against him.

I could feel the tension in his muscles and smell the fear crawling down his back in little droplets. At least 20 minutes passed before his body relaxed and I felt him lean cautiously into the crook of my body. My head rested on his thighs and his head lay just above my hip. My fur, as long as it lasted, would help him stay warm through the night. His body would warm me come morning, as I’d be laying there nude. That was a problem I wouldn’t be able to contemplate long. Sleep overtook my thoughts and left that worry for morning.

The sun had barely risen over the horizon, stretching its brown and gold claws across the sand when my eyes opened. As expected, I was nude and hard and entangled within Jason’s arms and legs. The morning sun was warming the earth and I wanted so badly to stay in his embrace. It was a comfort I had not felt since my memory began, and now I found myself plotting my escape.

My mother died giving birth to me. I never knew Kaitlyn, but I have heard she was a remarkable woman of great beauty and poise. Her form was that of a swan and my father defended her with a ferocity few had ever seen. He had remarked on how I resembled her many times over the years and I knew he resented it. I caught him on more than one occasions gazing at me, lost in thought, only to turn his head and feign attention to anything else.

My father’s new mate, Loren, was one of the more ruthless and conniving creatures that ever walked the earth. I hated her, and she hated me. On more than one occasion I heard their pillow talk.

“He’s weak, and a danger to the pack Gregory, and you know it” I heard her protests grow in frequency as my day of changing raged closer.

She could sense what he denied until my first changing. She was elated until I took the form of a white tiger. She had hoped for a lesser feline instead, I’m sure. A fight against me would have been foolish while I was in Tiger form. Instead, I was cast out. ‘You will never be pack!’ I think the words will be forever burned into my memory.

Now I lay here in the arms of a stranger, naked and not wanting to move but knowing I must. His scent was of air and light, and his body was so warm. I closed my eyes and reveled in the touch of his soft warm flesh. It was a sweet tangled embrace only sleep and unconscious movement brings.

In pack or pride, physical contact is a primal need. It is an exquisite comfort, and not a sexual thing. To lie and sleep protected, buried amongst your own kind, is a bliss that is difficult to describe. You are surrounded by a small army of those that would fight to the death to protect you. There are no stresses of life as you lay there in the heap of mixed flesh. It is only peace.

I reluctantly tried to pull away from Jason as he spooned me from behind. I felt his arm pull me back against him with an inhuman strength. His fingers trailed with feather light contact down my chest to my abdomen and then back again. His lips grazed the back of my neck and I leaned back into the touch. His hot breath fluttered against my long auburn hair as I felt him enter me.

Jason was mating me and my body reacted instinctively. My back arch and I fought against the animal side of myself. His movements were like the slow leisurely flap of wing you see as a bird drifts on currents of air through the sky.

I knew my body had partially changed back to tiger form. My heated breath and passionate groans were more of a tiger’s growl while Jason only made whispered sounds behind me. His hushed breath and silk-like touch cascaded along my body like a lazy breeze.

Moments later I was wrapped in angel wings and exploded. My roar against the dawn was matched by a pure shrill cry behind me as I spilled out my joy. I lay panting and trying to catch my breath as the last waves of bliss left me. I opened my eyes to see my cat like claws buried into his plumed arms as I clutched them against my chest. Blood dotted the feathered wings like red fingerprints where I held him. I felt a low rhythmic purr vibrate my chest as I watched my claws pull from his flesh and recede into my hands. The long feathers seemed to merge back into Jason’s arms as I watched the wounds heal from my tight embrace. We had both changed partially to our animal state during the encounter, but not enough to make the act impossible.

It was then that my mind came back to me completely and the realization of what had happened ignited a new fire. I flung him off of me and leapt into the air, becoming my full tiger form before landing again on the warming sand. I turned quickly, ready to strike when he went aloft into the sky and rose above me. He was a blazing white giant swan circling and swooping at me. He toyed with me for at least an hour, leading me further into the desert, before I finally turned in defeat. You cannot kill what you cannot reach.

I ran across the sand toward where I had left my bike. I slowed and walked the last few hundred feet before changing back into my human form. I couldn’t see Jason but I could smell him. He was near. I pulled fresh clothing from the saddle bag on my bike and dressed myself. I shook out the sand and any visitors from my shirt and pants from the night before. A scorpion or snake in your jeans is not a pleasant thing.

“I know you’re there, Jason.” I stuffed the last of yesterday’s clothing into the saddle bag of my bike. I closed the silver studded black leather lid of the bag and cinched the heavy leather strap.

I heard the small push of sand and spun around to see a naked Jason staring back at me. Considering my sensitive hearing, he had gotten much closer than any normal creature should have been able. Even though he is Lycan, I should have caught his scent, but he was down wind.

“Please accept my apologies.” He stood there with his shoulders hunched as his hands covered his manhood. His head was tilted downward, but I could see his green z peering through his white-blond bangs.

“I need your help to get to the next city.” Jason’s voice was almost shrill and haunted with sorrow.

The desert sun blazed against his delicate ivory skin and accented the curves of his lithe frame. I hadn’t seen his human form in the light of day until now, and he was beautiful. He had, however, mated me. If it wasn’t bad enough I was feline, I had been mated by a bird! I suppose my personal lows were never ending. Had my father been witness to such a thing, I am sure he would have taken every measure to see to my execution. An Agric can suffer only so much indignity. This, I knew, was well over the line. This Tiger’s perverse virginity had been taken by a Swan. What was worse was that I never felt anything so wonderful in my life.

His speech had a strange regal tone. He spoke stilted sentences, and his words had an odd accent and elaborate enunciation on nearly every syllable. It was good English but, strangely, too perfect, and the origin of the odd lilt in his words eluded me.

I turned to him and let my eyes ride the curves of his body. “Who are you, Jason?”

He paused and took an unsteady step backward and answered. “I was my father’s son.”

“And who was your father?” I shifted my weight in the sand. That he had said ‘was’ did not escape me.

A moment passed before he answered. “The Eagle King, Jordan.”

We Lycan have a Monarchy system in place. There are those of the air, like the Eagle, Hawk, and Vulture. There are those of the land, Lion, Tiger, and Wolf, and also those of the water, Whale, Dolphin, and Seal. Of course there are subsets to each group and lesser animals, but these were the dominating houses.

Jason was the son of the highest ranking house of Air, son and Prince to King Jordan. I had been taken by the second in line to the House of Air, but it was little consolation as I watched an eagle descending behind him.

“Why didn’t you take my neck when I offered it last night?” I continued to watch the eagle advance from behind Jason.

“I was frightened.” Jason spoke the words, but his lips barely moved.

“Trust me now.” I began walking toward him.

I felt my body transform, again, shredding the cloth covering it. As the Eagle’s hook-like talons were about to tear into Jason, I leapt over him, now in tiger form, and took the Eagle to the ground. My jaws clamped against the great bird’s neck and took the life from him. My claws dug through its chest as I made the killing move. It was over. I didn’t make a meal of the bird. I turned and padded back to the bike and then morphed back to human form.

“Friends of yours, ‘Prince’?” I reopened the saddlebag on my bike and fished out fresh jeans and a t-shirt.

“That was my younger brother, Jopal. He was next in line after me.” Jason was now crouched to the ground as he peered through his bangs at me.

The words made me pause. I turned to look at him and saw a brief flash of light wink at me from a tear as it dropped from his cheek to the sand.

The pieces of the puzzle were now coming together. Jason’s father was Lycan, and the Eagle King of Air. He wasn’t just Jason, but Prince Jason. I suppose he was not comfortable without the title attached to his name. He looked to be about my age, and I wondered if the reaction to the ‘form’ he took had been more severe than my own. Our situations were similar but different. I had become, thankfully, a stronger creature, but at the same time a disgrace. Jason had become third class, dropping from Eagle to Swan. Our sexual inclinations did neither of us a favor, but I was thankful my father had only cast me out, and not ordered my execution.

By this time the sun had fully risen and I was becoming uncomfortable with the temperature. Racing along the blacktop, the winds cooled you, but standing still was quickly becoming uncomfortable.

I rounded the bike, opened the saddle bag, and pulled out the clothes I wore yesterday and threw them at his feet. “Put these on.”

There wasn’t room for much more than five sets of clothing in the saddle bags. There was my wallet, and a couple bottles of water, a map, but that was it. I was glad I had the chance to pack even that much. I would have to do laundry soon as I had few clothes remaining to change into. Regretfully, one set of clothing lay scattered between us, split at the seams

“I’m sorry about your brother. I didn’t know.” I glanced back at the carnage I had made of Jopal and slipped on my shades. The desert sun was hard on the eyes.

I watched as he pulled the denim up his legs finally covering his more private parts. I could see by his reaction, that he was uncomfortable with the remaining grains of sand that grazed his skin. Quite honestly, I didn’t care. I had ruined a set of clothes saving his life and, in my mind, he owed me jeans and a shirt at the very least.

I climbed onto my bike and steadied the weight between my legs as I shifted forward and off the kick stand. I took the helmet that rested between my legs and offered it to Jason.

“You coming?”

Jason slipped my shirt on and I noticed he had no shoes. We’d have to worry about that later. I noticed a large bird circling behind us and didn’t want to chance another encounter. He walked forward quickly and took the helmet from me and pulled it over his head. His sudden urgency didn’t set my mind at ease. It was now late morning and getting hotter by the second.

“Another friend of yours?” I indicated the circling bird in the distance with my head.

“Worse… Family.” Jason climbed on behind me. “It would be best to go now. I don’t know how much Luke saw.”

I had heard a Lycan bird’s vision is beyond that of any other Lycan and now suspected the rumor to be true. That he could discern not only that it was Lycan, but also recognize who it was when I only saw a small brown floating dot confirmed it.

I turned the key and felt the vibration of the engine between my thighs as I tore out onto the highway. We traveled southeast on route 72 and rode through Lake Havasu City. I stopped in the city of Hope to fill up with gas and we made a quick pit stop in the restroom. There was one gas station, one antique store, and one RV park. What bothered me most was that there was no restaurant and I was starting to get hungry. For a city with the name of ‘Hope,’ it didn’t offer much.

From here we turned and traveled north east on route 60 until we finally arrived at Wickenburg an hour later. I pulled into the first mom and pop restaurant I found. Thankfully, Wickenburg was a larger town and had some semblance of modern civilization. A large dilapidated sign reading ‘Jake’s Bar & Grill’ was the only indicator that this was a business.

Jason climbed off the bike and I pushed the kickstand down and backed my bike into place. My thighs ached as I stretched to get off the bike. At first I wasn’t sure my legs would hold me, and I staggered, placing my hand on Jason’s shoulder to keep from falling. I jerked my hand away and stretched my arms to the sky.

Jason pulled off his helmet. His movements were always graceful. He didn’t seem to have suffered much at all from the four hour ride. I lead the way and we pushed past the first heavy wooden door. We went through a second door and were assaulted by what could only be described as an ‘attempt’ at music. Four members of a small, and obviously local, band banged away at their guitars, drums, and keyboard so loudly it vibrated my skull. Judging by their stops and starts, they were getting in some badly needed practice.

‘Country music… Yay… My favorite. NOT!’ There is, of course, some country 0I do enjoy, but what they were spouting was way off the bad end of the chart.

We gravitated toward a raised table and perched ourselves on top of two of the four tall stools that surrounded it. I ordered a pitcher of beer as the young blond slut placed menu’s in front of us. Her nametag told me her name was ‘Michelle’. I knew she was a slut because of the many lingering scents of men that drifted across my nose. I chuckled as the odor wafted passed Jason and he pinched his eyes shut, snapped his head back, and turned away from her. Michelle didn’t seem to notice.

“Looks like we got us a couple of city girls here!”

An overweight freak of a man draped his heavy hairy arms around our shoulders as the scent of used beer oozed from his sweaty flesh. I almost gagged. The music had ended, thankfully, and I heard several chuckles erupt from behind the idiot who rested his weight against us. It was barely four in the afternoon, and this one had obviously started his Saturday celebration early this morning.

“Nice hair, pretty boy.” He slurred and nearly spat the words at me. He spoke as though his tongue were too lazy to finish his words.

I pulled away from him and pushed his arm off my shoulder. “If you want to live another day, you’ll find someone else to f**k with.” My voice had already deepened as I let just a small fraction of my feline entity emerge.

“f****** fags.” His face twisted with anger as liquid courage coursed through his veins.

Jason’s hand shot out, clutched his grimy dark brown hair at the nape of the neck and bashed our visitor’s face into the tabletop. Our impromptu guest slid to the floor, unconscious. Unfortunately, our guest’s companions didn’t seem to find the humor in the latest turn of events.

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Chapter 2

Hotel Hell

“Let me take care of this Taylor.” Jason’s green eyes met mine as he slid from his stool.

I’d be damned if I let this scrawny bird prince be my savior. I was as much a man as he was, and I was more than ready to vent my frustrations. Gay or not, I am far from helpless. I suppose the recent events left me a bit emotionally raw, and I was itching for a fight. Then again, I was tempted to see exactly how able he was. I stood beside the stool and gave the fallen drunk a swift kick.

“Friend of yours?” My muscles tensed and readied to spring into action. Jason met my grin with a frown. His eyebrows pushed together as though I had done something wrong.

The four friends led by a brown haired man came toward us. All were clad in jeans and t-shirts. None of them were exceptional in appearance. Too much alcohol had reshaped their bodies into softer things.

The only one of any merit or mention was well into ruin by alcohol. He stood behind the Neanderthal brunette oaf of a man that wore dingy cotton and jeans. By their stench they had been worn many more times than washed.

The young blond still had a small hint of muscle beneath the flab that was sure to consume his body in the near future. I suspected he was only a few years out of high school, and a complete failure in life. He was the ‘jock’ now ‘failure’. He just didn’t accept it yet. The poor fool still had some misplaced pride.

The slut who had laid our menus on the table was back at the bar wide eyed and watching. She didn’t seem so much surprised as she was intent on the upcoming show. I could smell the damp culminate between her thighs and nearly gagged.

The oldest and leader of the group swung a pool cue. Jason caught it in his hand as though it was nothing and twisted his wrist. The wood splintered with a wooden crack. The sound was followed by a squeal as Jason’s foot planted firmly in the groin of the young blond beside him. He spun and lashed the pool stick end against the leader’s face sending him to the floor. Two down, two to go.

Jason threw the pool stick end to the ground as he stepped over the bodies moving toward the two that remained.

“Enough!” My voice bounced back from the cheap wood paneled walls. My words were loud and angry as the tiger threatened to emerge.

I heard the intake of breath from the slut. She ran along the bar and out of the door into the daylight as though it might protect her. Well… so much for a kind and quiet meal. I was still hungry and the hollow ate at my chest.

I walked passed Jason and backhanded the young redhead that was poised for attack. His body spun and fell to the floor. I didn’t do any permanent damage. I only wanted my f****** dinner!

My legs launched me into the air and I landed in front of the small window where the fat grill cook stood staring. It wasn’t a normal hop by any means. My body flew nearly eight foot up and crossed the twenty feet it took to pass the bar.

“Two cheeseburgers and fries.” I knew my tiger eyes were showing. I felt powerful and alive and let my energy spill out through my voice. “Now!”

The last of the four ran for the door. There was nothing left of his concern for his friends. He ran with self preservation guiding him, and never looked back. I heard an engine roar to life outside. Wheels kick gravel against the side of the building as he made his escape.

A slow growling chuckle climbed up my throat as the smell of urine wafted past my nose. The poor man had pissed himself and I wondered how long it would be before he realized it.

The sound of a drum stick clattering to the floor drew my attention to the stage and the wide eyed band members.

“Don’t even move.” The smell of more piss flooded the air as I looked back to the cook scrambling to put together our meal. “You about done?!”

“I’ll be outside.” Jason’s voice sounded angry as he let out a short huff. I turned and saw his angry eyes as he shook his head. He stepped over our ‘friends’ and continued out the door.

A crunch of paper landed on the window sill and I heard the frantic stumble of feet. The cook ran to the store room and presumably the back door. I snatched at the sound and grabbed the bag of lunch without breaking eye contact with the frozen, and somewhat soiled, band members. I walked toward them and paused. I could hear their hearts beat faster and their lungs struggling to keep pace.

“By the way, you SUCK!” I turned, walked a few steps, and kicked the door off its hinges splitting it in two.

I climbed on my bike barely noticing Jason jump on quickly after. Key in the ignition, I kicked it to start and spun the tires as I hopped out onto the highway. Jason clung tightly behind me, but it seemed only enough to keep him from falling to the pavement. There wasn’t any stolen intimacy and it bothered me.

It reminded me of my father and of a conversation not too long ago.

My uncle David and my father were having a heated discussion regarding my ascension as heir to the Pack. Even though they were talking in hushed voices I still heard their words. My hearing has always been better than most. I pushed my ear firmly against the cold wall and listened to them as they stood outside in the backyard.

“He has far too much of his mother in him. How could he ever have the strength to lead us?” My father’s voice was angry. He was talking about me.

“He’s his father’s son. You couldn’t possibly have a feline son.” The words were spoken and I heard bone meet flesh and a body fall to the ground.

“Don’t you EVER say that again. I will have no son that is feline, even if I have to kill him myself.” My father’s voice seethed with rage.

I was a happy child until I turned the age of 12. At first I dismissed the urges I felt as something silly and forgettable. Then, as the months pushed on, and my growing desire for the same sex intensified, I became afraid.

His words bored into my heart like a knife and turned my fear into terror. It also became my greatest sadness. My father would no longer love me. We had grown distant during my teen years, but I told myself it might somehow pass. I hoped that maybe in the upcoming months, something would change. I would be the son my father wanted.

The full moon of my seventeenth birthday barreled down upon me like a speeding bullet bringing about my doom. The moon rose and the entire pack gathered round and stood naked in the moon light as I circled with the raging fire. It was the first full moon after my seventeenth birthday and my day of changing.

I felt the fire warm my skin and my blood boil as the light of the flames danced in the corners of my eyes. Tears flooded down my face when I saw the color and stripes erupt along my arms as they stretched and pulled into paws. It was the second saddest moment of my life. My biggest sorrow lay in my father’s eyes as I roared mournfully into the darkness.

“You are not my son. You will never be pack.” His steal blue eyes glowed back at me through the night. His heart slammed shut and he turned. “You are exiled.”

The pack roared to life as I watched them changing form. The shadows stretched along their bodies as they fell forward and snouts stretched and snapped at me dripping saliva. Fur erupted and bones stretched as the writhing brown mass of wolves grew thicker and angrier.

“Let the freak pass.” My father’s words were angry and garbled as his wolf entity rolled through him.

The words struck me like a punch to the stomach.

“NO! He is not pack. He has come into our territory without permission. He is not your son, he is not pack, and therefore must die according to law!” I could tell by the nasal voice it was Dean Robinson.

His grey eyes and sneer landed on my father’s new mate Loren. A small grin stretched across her face as she turned to my father. “He’s right you know.”

My father’s claw like hand swung, blasted into Loren’s face, and sent her soaring backward. “Silence whore! Do you challenge me Dean?”

Dean was more half man and half wolf as he roared back at my father. “I do, Gregory.” Not only was it a challenge, it was an insult to address him as anything but Agrik during ceremony.

They leapt into the air and clashed. Those aligned with my father began fighting against those with Dean, and I ran between the chaos.

“You missed your turn.” Jason’s yells finally penetrated my thoughts as he tapped my shoulder.

Somehow in the last few of travel we found ourselves in grassier plains. We were on a desolate highway that had just intersected behind us. I pulled over and parked at a sign reading “Amber 12 miles”. My stomach gurgled and reminded me of the lunch I had shoved into the saddlebag before tearing away from the Bar & Grill. I turned the key and the low rumble gave way to the hissing sound of wind through the tall fields of grass.

I steadied the bike between my legs and felt the weight shift as Jason climbed off. The drumming sound of water hitting earth filled my ears. I was reminded of my own plight as a twinge of pain rolled through my bladder. I kicked down the metal brace and pulled the bike backwards to set it on the kickstand. Safely in place I lifted my leg slowly over the bike. The ache from the atrophied muscles of my thigh made me groan.

Unsteady on my feet, I wobbled slightly as I made my way to the other side of the street to relieve myself. A snap, a quick zip, and paradise was mine. It still makes me grin to think of the absolute pleasure of a really good pee.

Flicking away the last bits of my torment I finally tucked away and fastened my pants. I turned to see Jason glaring back at me.

I threw my arms in the air in frustration. “What!” I didn’t owe him a damn thing, and the last thing I wanted was his judgment.

“Can we eat now?” His voice was low and he enunciated every syllable as though he detested each word that passed his lips.

Yep… something had definitely climbed up his a** in the last couple of hours.

“Help yourself.” I matched his tone and added a little of my own disgust at our predicament.

His anger seemed to slip away as he took a deep breath and his shoulders fell in defeat. He opened the sack of our now questionably fresh lunch and rifled through its contents.

“You know you can’t eat that. I can smell that it’s spoiled from here. God you’re stupid!” I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

The bag of burgers and fries fell from Jason’s hand and he hung his head. I watched as he dropped to his knees. His chest heaved and shook his entire body. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with him until I heard his sobs. They burst from him as if his will to contain them had been shattered.

‘Damnit!’ I may not be the most compassionate person in the world, but tears are one thing I cannot bear. I walked around the bike to where he knelt.

“We can get something to eat in the next town. It’s only a few miles away.” Leaning down I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t f****** touch me!”

He swung his fist outward in an arc with perfect aim. A flash of white filled my vision as the back of his clenched hand met my cheek and knocked me to the ground. The breath was pushed from my lungs and I struggled for air.

The world wavered as I lay in the tall grass. I’m not sure what surprised me more, his words, or the fact that he hit me. My breath finally returned and I cradled my eye with my hand as my fingers felt along the ridge of my bruised cheek. “

“Yep… that’s going to leave a mark.” The sun light peaking over his shoulder nearly blinded me.

“I’m sorry Taylor! I didn’t mean to.” Jason cowered over me and flinched back as I sat up.

“You are a royal pain.” I couldn’t fight the smile on my face as I looked into his blood shot green eyes.

Even though the turn of my lips and the pressure against my bruised cheek caused me pain, I couldn’t hide my grin. Like so many times in my life recently, the tides of emotion surged through my chest and waned as a new feeling took hold. He looked so lost and defeated I felt almost ashamed.

Normally my mind would have screamed ‘Suck it up you big pussy!’, but we had a lot in common. If the situation was different and I didn’t have him with me, I might be the one sitting alone sobbing on some deserted highway. For every person in the world that needs to be taken care of, there is someone that has the desire to protect them. It keeps the protector busy enough to forget their own pain.

I’ve heard there are people that are just happy, but I knew of only one. Well, to be honest, I didn’t even know her. She was my mother, Kaitlyn. I’ve memorized her photo but I still carry it with me. It is the one and only tangible memory of my past life I brought with me. It’s a simple picture.

They must have been camping or hiking. Her long red hair was aloft as if having been lifted by a gust of wind and her head was tilted back. She had turned from the camera and held up her hand up as if trying to hide from the impending flash. She looked wild, free, and happy. The sparse woods behind her were lit by either the rising or setting sun as flashes of light peaked through the foliage along the horizon. I don’t know why, but I have always imagined it was early morning, and that she had just begun a perfect day.

The odd gurgling sound that rumbled from my stomach reminded me of my hunger. I had all but ignored my celebration dinner two days ago. I was too nervous to eat. We were celebrating my impending ascension to the position of Agrik. I would take the form of a wolf and eventually take control of the pack. I’m my father’s first and only son with my mother, Kaitlyn.

I glanced back to the rusted worn sign ‘Amber 12 miles’. I got up and walked over to my bike. Loosening the strap I flipped open the cover and pulled out the atlas. I searched for the city of ‘Amber’ in the index, but it wasn’t listed. I wasn’t too concerned. There aren’t many places in the United States where you could drive for more than a couple of hours without finally find a larger city.

Even with my small meal of the coyote from the night before, I was near starving. Changing form takes a lot of energy and I’m a teenager. We’re always hungry.

“Well Prince, what do you think about getting something to eat in the next town?” I climbed on my bike and gave it a push forward and off the kickstand.

“The name is Jason, and I’d really like that. I’m famished.” His words held more strength as though he had regained some control of himself. “Try to use a little control in the next place ‘eh? Please, no more bars.”

The last of his words were spoken against my back as he climbed onto the bike and nestled in against me. It would be a lie if I said I didn’t relish the weight of him against me. A Lycan without a pack is a sorrowful and desperate creature. We thrive on contact and the company of our own. I couldn’t help but chuckle at my own thoughts. ‘What a strange pack we had become.’ With that I started the bike and we crept back out onto the highway.

For the first time since my escape, I drove at a leisurely pace and without the rage of speed that usually carried me down the highway. Fifteen minutes later we were entering the lovely town of ‘Amber Population 28’.

It was dingy and looked abandoned. Rows of dilapidated homes lined both sides of the road. Many were boarded up or caving in on themselves. Yards were not mowed and the chain link fences that bordered them had long since fell into disrepair. The sidewalks had lost the battle against nature. The grass and weeds that pushed through the many cracks threatened to consume the concrete forever.

I worried we had entered some strange suburban ghost town. I had enough gas to get us several miles further down the road, but right now I was hungry. My heart sunk as I glanced along the skeletal remains of this withering relic of society until I spotted a pig of a man in a rocking chair on his porch. I say ‘pig’ because he was well past overweight. His belly protruded obscenely beneath his overalls and his round snubbed face reminded of just that. A pig. I slowed my bike to a stop and cut off the engine.

He waved, “Hello there strangers. Lost your way?”

I pulled off my helmet and ran my fingers along the itchy sweat soaked hair of my neck. It had grown a lot in the last few days and I wished I had more money and time to visit a barber.

“A little sir, but right now we’d really like to find a place to sit and eat. I don’t suppose your fine city has such a place?” Even if he was a disgusting looking thing, I hoped he might help.

The man rocked backward and laughed as he held his hands against his ample gut. “Young man, you must need your eyes checked, but I do think I can help you.” His fat face curled into a cherub like smile as he leaned forward.

He stretched out his arm pointing further into the town. “At the stop sign, take a left and look for Leon’s on the corner. At least I think that stop sign is still there. Damn kids! You tell Leon that Boris sent ya.” With that said he leaned back and gave us another wave.

“Thank’s Boris. Much appreciated.” I started the engine and his final words were garbled by the rumble of the motor.

I pulled on my helmet for lack of a better place to put it and proceeded further into town. The houses as we entered the center of town were only slightly better maintained than the ones we had already passed. As Boris had said, there was a stop sign, and the sign on the corner declared this intersection ‘Main Street’. True to his word on the adjacent corner was a two story red brick building with a large white sign jutting out dangling atop a glass door with faded blue lettering. “Leon’s”

The first floor walls were made up of a mass of unkempt ground to ceiling glass that let you peak in, but hid the details of whatever was inside. The distortion in the glass and the waver within them told me they were the original panes. The glass was imperfect and of a style long since forgotten.

Again I pulled my helmet off as I killed the engine and wait for Jason to climb off the bike behind me. He hung his helmet on the handle bars as he passed and waited on the sidewalk in front of our parking space. I hung my helmet on the other handle and dismounted.

“It’s food. We won’t stay long.” I tried to reassure Jason as he stared back at me with disapproving eyes.

I stepped up onto the curb and passed him moving toward the glass door that led to our next meal. ‘Our next meal’ the thought worried me. I had only enough money for me. If I continued to feed both of us, and considering the extra weight, between gas, food, and lodging, I’d be broke before we got to our destination. It was decided… I would take a job in the next city to earn a little more money so we could make the trip. I didn’t know where I was going, but for some reason… I knew that it was still far away and that I wouldn’t have the means to get there with the current state of my wallet. I wasn’t totally broke, but I wasn’t overflowing with cash either.

We went through the door and found the grease stained interior much like the rest of the town. Old. The once white tile was stained a muted amber, and the ancient yellow flowered wallpaper had taken on a sickly brown. I slid into the first available booth that sat against the window. We were right near the door and if it became a necessity I could burst through the glass. The room was confining and stuffy. The weight of eyes from several patrons rested upon us.

There was a line of worn blue padded stools along the counter and a grill window that gave glimpses of a sweating young woman working diligently on someone’s order.

“I don’t like this place Taylor, we should go.” Jason’s eyes were filled with dread and his forehead furrowed with worry.

“It’s just one meal. We’re both hungry…” My words were interrupted as the waiter approached.

“Hello. My name’s Will. The special is Meatloaf, but unless you have the desire to s**t yourself to death, I’d recommend the cheeseburger platter.” His eyes crawled along my skin and then moved to Jason.

It was almost as though he were taking stock of us. His smile was forced and he resembled a puppy that had been kicked too many times. He was too thin and his shoulders were rounded as though he had carried too large a burden for too long a time. His fingers raced along his order pad nervously and his silver blue eyes seemed to search for escape. The boy had a lot of nervous energy.

“Nice hair. He placed the menus in front of us. “I’ll be back in a moment for your order.” His voice seemed strained as he stared at me. It was almost as though the withering death of this town had somehow crept its way into his veins.

“Where’s the restroom?” I needed to know. This was the second time someone had made a comment about my hair, and the last I remembered… it was just a muddy brown color. Had my helmet made it all stick up? It wouldn’t have been the first time.

Wil pointed out the dusty door in the corner marked ‘Men’ and turned. I slid from the confines of the booth and walked to the bathroom. I didn’t have a comb handy, but I could at least try to mash it down if it was too scary looking. Surely they had a sink in there with running water.

“Order whatever you like, but I want a chocolate shake.” I looked over my shoulder and found Jason’s worried eyes.

I twisted the old metal doorknob. It was one of those oval doorknobs you find in the oldest of houses with too many layers of pain hiding the once delicate design on the oval metal surface. The door gave way and I flipped the switch along the wall as I entered. Closing the door behind me I turned and stared into the mirror.

“What the f**k!” I was shocked and the words escaped my lips in a lingering hiss.

I looked at my reflection in the dirty cracked mirror. My hair was white with black stripes. It was the same pattern of my true form, but had somehow pushed through to my more human nature. I had changed too many times after gaining my form, and a piece of my humanity was now forever lost. I knew why it happened, but I can’t say I liked it. I looked like a freak!

The longer I stared the more my heart and mind settled. It was kind of cool. There wasn’t much I could do about it, and I knew from my teachings that hair dye wouldn’t cover it. I had no choice but to accept it. Heaving a sigh I went to the urinal and relieved myself. I washed my hands at the sink and again took stock of my new hair style. It hadn’t just grown, it had flourished! The white and black stripes were swept back from my forehead and cascaded beyond my shoulders. I suppose I would have noticed sooner if I had spied it in my rear view mirror as I sped down the highway, but the helmet I wore had hidden it from me.

I ran my fingers through my long black and white striped hair and then breathed a heavy sigh. It is what it is. There’s no changing it now and I might as well accept it. This would however make it harder to get a job, and right now I knew we needed more money. There wasn’t much I could do about it at the moment, and hopefully, the lax standards of employees of a larger city would give me an opportunity.

I washed my hands in the spluttering spray of water beneath the rusted faucet and searched for something to dry myself. The paper towel holder was empty and I wiped my hands against my jeans. Why are there never any paper towels in these dives?

I opened the door and made my way back to our booth against the window. I slid in across from Jason.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I couldn’t help my anger. He could have warned me!

“Tell you what?” Jason eyed me suspiciously as though I had lost my mind.

“MY HAIR!” I spoke in an angry whisper. “You could have told me.”

“It’s always been that way.” Jason looked at me as though I were crazy.

The realization hit me. As I thought back, I remembered he hadn’t really seen much of me in my human form. I didn’t know how long my hair had been this way. I had always worn my helmet. Even our coupling had been after I had spent too much energy changing from one form to another. I suppose this was the price I paid. It could have been worse though. At least my eyes hadn’t changed to the feline slits emerged in amber.

Wil placed our food before us with a careless clank of glass against countertop. I hadn’t taken notice of my chocolate shake until now. A large tulip glass was filled with the frozen brown sweetness and beside it stood the metal container it had been prepared in. I took a quick sip from my chocolate shake to avoid any attempts at conversation.

“If you need anything let me know.” Will paused and stared at me. He looked to Jason turned, and walked back to the patrons at the bar.

The food was good and I drank the shake so quickly I had momentary migraines as the cold froze my brain. It was worth it though. It was soooo good. Finally sated, I leaned back and wished I had a place to sleep. Good food and a full belly often made me seek a place to rest but suddenly I was exhausted. My arms felt like dead weights pulling me to the floor.

Wil approached and placed the small green ticket on our table. No sooner had he let loose of the paper than a deep rich voice interrupted.

“Welcome, I’m Leon. We have rooms upstairs if you need to rest. You look tired.” His voice was a baritone wash of sound against my ears.

He snatched up the bill and gave it a quick glance. His eyes turned to Wil and then back to us. “The meal is on the house. If you’d like to rest I have rooms on the second floor.”

“We’d like that very much.” My words were slurred and I looked to Jason. Fear filled his droopy eyes, but sleep stole me away.

I remember the feel of strong arms laying me to bed as my head rested against a soft pillow. The rest was a blur.

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Chapter 3

Leon’s Torment

“That’s a very nice bike you have my sleeping beauty.” A heavily timbered bass voice filled my ears as I struggled to wake.

It didn’t take me long before I remembered Leon and jerked awake. The white fluorescent lights burned my eyes as I struggled to sit upright. The fluorescent tubes seemed impossibly high above me. The ceiling must have been twenty feet high. As my eyes adjusted and the dull ache faded inside my skull I noticed the exposed wiring that ran along its length. The building was old and I suspected we were on the second floor of the restaurant. Smells of blood and body fluids of every kind assaulted my nose. I fought against the ropes that tethered my arms and legs to the metal table and lifted my head for a better view of the room.

The walls were a shiny white texture that made them look almost plastic. A plush leather chair toward which Leon was walking was the only furniture that I could see. My mind shifted instantly to Jason and I turned to my left to find him staring back at me with fear filled eyes.

“What the hell is going on?” I was instantly pissed off, and frightened out of my mind.

The smells in the large open room terrified me more than anything else, and a familiar scent caught my attention. They were Lycan, of which type, I didn’t know. You can’t detect the odor as easily as one might think. They are so diverse and, while in human form, nearly non-existent.

I was tempted to change form, but my instincts told me to hold. Something other than the obvious was very wrong, and even in my Tiger form I had the feeling that I wouldn’t survive the day if I fought our captors.

“Relax boy… I won’t hurt you much…. if you cooperate.” Leon’s voice changed from the familiar bass tone to a more gravely sound.

I looked over to find him in the midst of changing form. His was a more violent transformation than I was used to seeing. Golden hair burst from his arms and claws erupted from his now paw-like hands. The bones in his body snapped and reformed in a crunch that most resembled someone cracking their knuckles but on a much louder and larger scale. His white silken robe was soaked from the shoulder down in the wash of fluid that occurs from transformation into animal form. Leon hadn’t changed completely; his face was more angular and his eyes were those of a feline, but that is where it ended. Somehow he had managed to halt the progression somewhere between Lion and Human, and now sat lazily in the chair across the room.

At his feet sat Wil our waiter, and several other nude teenagers. I recognized one as the cook, but the others I suspected were workers in the kitchen. There was no easy way to be sure, but they were obviously part of the group.

“You may belong to Boris, but you’re mine for now.” Leon stood, pulled a small blade from the pocket of his robe and plunged it into Wil’s shoulder.

Our waiter screamed in agony as the impact knocked him to the floor. “Get up you useless hair bag. Don’t think that I didn’t notice your little note.”

Wil struggled to rise up on his hands and knees but the blade in his shoulder slowed his progress. Just as he had both knees and one hand planted on the floor Leon kicked him in the chest and sent him flying through the air. The sickening crunch as Leon’s foot met Wil’s mid-rift filled the room and was followed by the hollow thump as his body landed on the floor and against the wall.

The chuckle that followed chilled me to the bone. It was as if he had forgotten to finish chewing his last meal and his latest victim was still lodged in his throat. At this point I began to wonder if that might have been the last visitors to this town.

For a moment I felt sorry for the young blond, but as I strained against the ropes the pain in my wrists reminded me who was worse off, and right now… that was us.

“GET UP!” A lion’s roar was mixed with words so loud than the hammering in my skull began to gain strength.

Wil whimpered as he lay on the floor. Blood spilled out from around the blade and pooled on the tile. A loud roar buffeted the walls and I watched Leon leap across the room and land beside his most recent play thing. Gripping Wil by the hair he lifted him off the ground and ripped the blade from his shoulder.

“If you hesitate again, I will make you into the biggest three legged raccoon the world has ever seen. Now… change!” Leon released his hold and Wil fell to the floor.

Even as he landed I could see the color of his skin change to a darker grey. I watched as the fur emerged from his skin. The bones of his hands seemed to compress in upon themselves. His spine pulsed from top to bottom as if something were traveling along it’s length and a thick black ringed tail burst out above the cleft of his a**. In comparison to Leon’s transformation this was a much more subtle emergence of the animal within.

Until now, I hadn’t thought much of raccoons other than their cute appearance or bandit like eyes. That all changed when Wil reared back and stood on back legs as if perched for a treat. He was one big raccoon. His hands were darker and appeared more delicate until I saw the light glinting off the sharp razor-like black claws that tipped each finger.

“So… this is your savior.” Again Leon’s half choked laugh filled the room. “We’ll see about that.”

Leon lifted the dagger and ran it across his tongue. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes as he savored the blood. A grin crept across his puffed out lips as he handed the blade to Wil and his elongated canines were tinged pink from the taste. I had already known that they were there by the bulge beneath his lips and the awkward shape of his mouth, but seeing them now made them all the more real. If they were this long now and his mouth could barely contain them, I could only imagine what they might look like when he was fully transformed.

Earlier the metal table had felt cold against my skin, but now it was wet and only felt hard against my skin. My fear was leaking out of me like a fountain as my sweat trailed down my skin and pooled on the table.

Leon reared his head back and roared. The muscles in my neck burned from straining to see my fate for too long, and I watched as the others cowered into the corners behind the leather chair across the room. I looked to my left and again saw Jason staring back at me wide eyed.

“Cut him ‘Fur-bag’, and make it deep.” Leon handed Wil the blade and shoved him toward us.

Wil loped toward us trying to catch his balance. I hadn’t seen a raccoon run before, but if it was anything like I was seeing now it was more than odd. He seemed to trudge toward us as if running on diagonal almost in a gallop. Unfortunately he wasn’t far away and within a couple of breaths he loomed above me, knife in hand.

I could see the sadness even in the black eyes that stared down at me. There were tears lining the ridges of his nose as he brought the blade to the skin of my chest. He pushed slowly until the edge entered my flesh nearly a half inch and slowly slid it downward toward my naval. I fought against the pain but it was too much and I couldn’t stop the moans that escaped my throat.

The cut along my chest healed almost as fast as he carved it. It could have been so much deeper and I was thankful for this little bit of mercy. Just because we Lycan heal fast does not mean that it doesn’t hurt like hell. We still feel it with every sensation and sometimes more than a normal person.

“I said DEEP!” Leon roared and appeared behind Wil.

He grasped the raccoon’s hand so viciously I heard the bones of his wrist scrape together. The blade fell from his hand and I felt the weight of it land upon my chest. Leon snatched up the blade, spun, and plunged it into Jason’s thigh.

“You…Will…Learn… To… Do… As… You… Are… Told!” Leon emphasized each word as he slashed each side of Wil’s face on every syllable with his free clawed hand.

Our lion captor then grinned and shoved Wil’s claws deep into my abdomen below my naval. At first there was only the strange sensation of intrusion, and then he quickly yanked the hand toward my ribs. The pain was beyond anything I had ever felt and I screamed. My head reeled and my vision blurred. I had never felt such horrible pain in my life and I feared I would vomit. Somewhere along the path of clawed destruction, too many deep wounds were made and I felt the awkward tug against intestines and organs that aren’t meant to see the light.

“Now…” A gruff chuckle pushed past his lips and his spittle rained down on my face. “Clean him up Fur Bag”

Leon grasped a fistful of flesh and fur behind Wil’s neck and I watched blood roll down his golden furred arm. He shoved the waiter’s face toward my crotch and I felt his fur tickle and sting the gaping wounds.

There was no more fighting it. I had to change to my Tiger form. If Wil lapped at my wounds they would scar and never heal properly. If I was going to die, I would die fighting.

I watched Leon’s eyes widen with surprise as a low growl sounded from behind him. “I told you NOT to touch my THINGS!”

A large brown form towered over Leon and I watched as something struck him from behind. It seemed to lift him off his feet as he roared and struggled. A mighty furred arm swung from the side and knocked him through the air and into a sidewall. What remained was a half Human half Kodiak bear creature.

It was the pig of a man named Boris we met when we first entered town. He was a massive sight. His muddy brown hair was thick and coarse and his pig-like face chuckled with glee as he watched me change to tiger form. His features had morphed enough that ears peaked the top of his massive head and his nose had become more of a snout, but he still gave me the impression of a grotesque cherub. His eyes were nearly black and cold and I didn’t spend too much time staring into them. I was changing, and the healing along my abdomen stole my attention.

Glancing to my side I saw that Jason was well on his way to his swan form and I felt the ropes slip from around my hands and feet as they reformed into the black and white striped paws of a tiger.

“Help us if you want your freedom!” Jason’s voice changed from his usual amber tones to a shrill cry as he leapt into the air and circled the high confines of the ceiling.

“Oh my... and a swan too, you’ve outdone yourself this time Leon.” Boris’ brusque laugh sent a strange tingle up my spine as I now stood on all fours on the metal examination table.

I launched myself toward the Kodiak and clamped my jaws around his massive neck. I didn’t get a good hold. There was just too much meat between my clutching teeth and more vital areas. Boris roared and I felt his massive claws ripping at my back before he finally threw me from him. My mouth was still full of his flesh and I realized as I flew through the air that the portion of flesh that I clamped onto was still there. He had ripped me, and the flesh of his neck, away as though it were nothing.

I hit the far wall and slumped against the tile floor in a daze. The impact did little to stop the horrible pain along my mangled sides and back. He had done some serious damage in a very short time. I’ve never encountered such brute strength in my entire life.

“I think I’ll keep them this time, old man.” No sooner were the words spoken than a deafening roar echoed through the room.

Through blurry eyes I watched as Leon leapt through the air and struck the same patch of raw bleeding flesh on Boris’ neck. They twisted about in a strange loveless embrace, shredding each other’s hides with their massive claws. Blood soaked talons were a blur of movement as they thrashed against each other. Even with being brought up in a pack of wolves, I have never witnessed anything so completely carnal.

The behemoth bear finally slumped to the ground with Leon chewing and ripping at its’ neck mindlessly. He was in the throws of the kill and had forgotten the rest of us in the room. That split second was all we needed. A shrill call filled the air and Jason swept down and plunged his clawed toes into the eyes of the Lion. The fleshy webbing between his digits tore and Leon’s blood was mixed with that of my travel companion.

Leon was blinded, though I didn’t know for how long. His roar reverberated against the blood splattered walls, which reminded me of some life speckled mosaic. Leon thrashed wildly releasing his kill and his massive paw struck Jason’s chest knocking him to the floor.

My wounds had healed enough, and my mind cleared, to the point that I was finally able to stand. A new wash of blood and Lycan drifted passed my nose and I paused and turned to find the source. At the leather chair in the room stood two black panthers, two white wolves, a ferret, and one very pissed off raccoon.

A high chattered scream echoed against the walls as I watched Wil advance and leap onto Leon’s back. He did a strange dance ducking and climbing about the wounded lion thrusting his clawed hands and teeth into the lion. The rest approached and circled, taking only the briefest moments to bite and tear at Leon’s arms and legs.

“Don’t let them become the monster that held them here. Finish it Taylor.” Jason’s shrill weak voice pierced the fray and I roared.

With as much strength as I could manage I made myself known and padded leisurely toward Leon. He was losing his form and bleeding profusely. His arms and legs were in ruin and the metallic taint of blood filled the room.

The others scattered away from Leon as I launched into the air and landed on his back. Even now he struggled against his death, and we tumbled to our sides. He was blinded, prone, and unable to walk, so with that, I made the killing move. I clamped my teeth around his throat and clenched with every fiber of my being. Once sure I was dug in deep enough to finish him, I wrenched my neck to the left and right and heard the bones of his neck snap.

At the same time I felt something crash through my ribs and into places that aren’t meant to be touched. Leon was dead; Boris was dead; and I felt the darkness of the end closing in on me as well. My time was at an end. Leon’s clawed hand stole away my victory, but… they would be free. My body was heavy and I felt it fall to the floor. My black and white fur was replaced by ravaged delicate flesh and I lay gasping my last breaths.

“They’re free now…” I hissed the words as darkness flooded my eyes and I slipped into the abyss.

My eyes fluttered open and I found myself atop a tall grassy hill. Wind swept across my skin like a velvet blanket and I lifted my head to get my bearings. I was surely dead but my surroundings were less than what I would have called paradise. It was an open field of grasses that swayed in the breeze like an ocean of green. The sun bore down and warmed my body like an invisible blanket and I stretched and reveled in the lack of pain that brought me to this place.

“He’s not ready.” I craned my neck and sat up to see who was speaking.

Two figures stood on a hilltop in the distance. Their words traveled along the wind like whispers and I was tempted to ignore their presence.

“He is one of many… we can’t lose him now. The Druids tend to him as we speak.” The words were more in my mind than my ears and it confused me.

“He is without love. He won’t survive, Galen.” A feminine voice filled the air.

“Are you so sure, Doriana?” a young man’s voice asked. “Jason might lead him there. Shouldn’t we give him this one chance?”

“So be it.” As soon as the words were spoken a white flash tore me from my sleep. It was as if someone had invaded my dreams and ripped me away from them.

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