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2. Chapter 2 →

1. Chapter 1

Matthew Jacob%s's Photo   Matthew Jacob, 07 Aug 2012

November 20, 2119

There’s so much chaos going on everywhere right now. Ever since the Thunder,  since then the world has only sank lower and lower into this abyss, it’s so weird to think that 100 years ago our world was reaching Eutopian levels, technology was growing uninhibited, and man had begun to back-track on his assault on nature. Now nature has begun to fling itself at man…we all knew it would happen, but not like this.

 

Nov 25, 2120

I saw the most horrible things today on the news, human genomes are mutating and not into good things…people are beginning to acquire animalistic features and abilities, and society’s downfall has taken a nose dive that seems utterly incredible, and unstoppable, and all this in only a year since my last entry, can you believe it?

 

Sinath 20, 0005

It’s been a little over 30 years since last I used this form of documentation. The world entered utter chaos in 2021; the Thunder (a vaccine which cured HIV/AIDS) mutated the human genomes. At first only those who had come into direct contact with the vaccine had been affected, but as time passed the Lycans, Vampyrs, and Feliris genes (among other, weaker, strands) became airborne. Now the entire world is populated by half-breeds, humans mixed with animal genomes.

The Lycans, I imagine are almost self-explanatory; Men and Women whose genomes bonded with canine genes, and created a race that fits wolves, dogs, foxes, coyotes, and other canines. All of the major mutations fit into a hierarchy. The Wolves rule the Lycans, the Coyotes are the hunter and gatherers, the Foxes are the scientists, and the Dogs are the administrators, guards, and advisers to the Wolves.

There are other branches of this mutation, but these are the most important ones, and the ones that are most often heard of in the media, or what is left of the media.

Then come the Vampyrs, it was almost harrowing to think that the human genome and the bat genomes would unite, and for a while it seemed we had the population of bats under control, and away from the human population, but as these things are wont to do, a human was infected and after that, it was a matter of days before it had spread out to Europe and Africa, and then the world. We all expected these creatures to become blood-thirsty animals, like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and a million other Vampires that had been famed in the earlier centuries. But it didn’t happen that way. These people simply developed hyper-senses, some lost the ability to see, and some even gained the ability for short flight. None (not even the ones exposed to the vampire-bats) became blood-thirsty. The heightened senses usually include speed, hearing, and for those who don’t lose it sight (although the sonar bats always possessed was handed to their human counter parts). Their hierarchy is unknown, all that is known is that the races of Terra are protected by the Vampyrs while they sleep, and the Vampyrs are protected by the other races while they are forced into their dwellings while the sun is out.

The Feliris are the third strongest and populated race. The genomes of the great cats were the ones that spread fastest, the housecats also had its share of mutates, but the wild breeds ran stronger and truest, and spread fastest. That is where I belong, I am a Tiger mutate, we are the rulers of the Feliris, after us the Lions are  the arm of the law, the Cheetahs are the messengers, the Panthers are our stealth group, the Leopards are our hunters and gatherers, and the Jaguars are our guards. There are many other mutate species in our race as there are cats in the world, but again, these primary species are the ones that are most heard of, and the ones that we, the Feliris, chose as our superiors.

The mutations for us were simple and non-deforming, like some of the other species (mostly mammal genomes bonded with human genomes, there are reported cases of amphibian, avian, and reptilic mutates, but as of yet these reports are just rumors spread by the few aquarian mutates that have survived), we gained razor-sharp, retractable claws, sharper eye-sight, heightened reflexes, speed, agility and flexibility, and in some (mostly in Panthers and Tigers) a heightened thinking capacity.

6 years ago the Council of Terra changed the way we measured time, the months became Anthar, Darthar, Myrthar, Calthar, Mofthar, Ulthar, Sulthar, Golthar, Bolthar, Olthar, Sinthar, and Dinthar respectively. The days are now Lukan, Sukan, Hikan, Mikan, Shaikan, Gaikan, and Jukan respectively. Numbers and hours were not changed, but since the world of Earth renamed itself the world of Terra, the entire world is a country, ruled by a supreme council in which every single species and sub-species is represented. This has brought a level of peace never before achieved by Homo-Sapiens. The council decided to reset the count of years to 0, and the time of the Homo-Sapiens is now referred to as time P.H-M. (Prior to homo-mutate) this is the world we have now; these are the rules we live by. We are the Shi-ait; we are the Homo-mutate.

************************************************************************************

I put down the diary of my ancestors; I had read it so often I almost felt like I had been there, at the beginning. It’s now the year 1905 and the Shi-ait have reached their middle ages, although technologically speaking, we are hundreds of years ahead, we are now repeating the mistakes and the glories of the Homo-sapiens. Somewhere along the way things began to change and the peace that had been so prosperous and generous to our people suddenly vanished and the war began; all races against all races. It’s been 200 years since the war ended and the monarchies have flourished and established some type of order. Each nation is an individual race now, all of us guarding against the rest. So much has changed, and through it all only one Tiger has been there, has seen it all. My Great-Great-Grandfather Ygoren Schael, the writer of our first history, and the elected King of our people. I am the Prince of the Feliris, I am Samaiehl or Sammy.

I walked out of the library trying to shake the fog and spider webs outta my head. I always feel like the world is on my shoulders whenever I read our histories. It’s depressing to think that if Grams dies I’ll be one step closer to becoming a King, a chosen monarch.

You’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself “How is Ygoren alive?” well I can’t answer that question. There is no other Feliri as old as Grams, nor has there ever been, our scientists and geneticists have studied every bit of him that they can get their hands, microscopes, probes and everything else on. I personally believe that he just refuses to let Death take him. He’s approaching his 1947th birthday soon, and still he walks with the soldiers, argues with everyone and has the bearing of a pup. My father passed away when I was 14, four and a half years ago, and it’s been Grams who’s been there for me, and it is by his hand that I am the Crowned Prince, next to rule in his stead, next to sit on the throne of the Feliris…how I wish it wasn’t so.

“Sammy!!!! Hey Sammy!!!”  Came Li'ana's voice, my best friend and a Panther mutate.

“Hey Li what’s up?”

“Not much just finished training with Lt. Alza, apparently there’s a foray into the lines of the Reptilius and they want new cadets to go instead of the ones who they pick up the scent on. I think he may send me!!!!”

“Li, I know this means a lot to you, but could you think about this in a logical fashion? New Cadets…being sent into the war-zone…to retrieve valuable information…do you see where I’m going with this?” I let the implications hang in the air, her green eyes flashed yellow and her posture changed from relaxed and care-free to tense and thoughtful, I could smell her fear and frustration in the air.

“Sam, you have to help me out of this. I haven’t agreed to anything yet, I don’t wanna be an expendable asset, please you have to help me!!!”

“Li, have I EVER let you down? What about Josiah, is he training with Alza as well? Find out, I have a trip into the neutral zone and it’s a 2 month excursion, I get to pick my own guard…GO!!”

She planted a quick kiss on my cheek and before I could react she was gone into the shadows ‘She’s good at what she does, now I just gotta get Grams to give me the permission to go into Neutral territory AND pick my own guard…what I do for friends’

I walked around the city marveling at the difference of architecture, and décor. Feligraria was a wonder, filled with the magic of science and technology. Life was good here, we were prosperous and peaceful.  I kept walking and thinking, not noticing where I was walking to or what roads I was taking, my mind was in the diaries of our ancestors, in our histories and the histories of other races that we had available, and it snuck into Shakespeare, and Voltaire, and Austen, Dickens. For all that the council had deemed our race better and the homo-sapiens lesser, they had cranked out the best tomes of literature ever published, not to deny that Watson and Li’icher and Jameal all created great works, but after the Thunder it has all been scientific, all fueled by curiosity and the need to discover and understand. There is no romance, no epic love story.

“Your Majesty?” I turned around at the sound of the voice, it was small and nervous; a child was calling me somewhere in the real world. I snapped out of my trance and took in my surroundings, somehow I had managed to walk into the Silver district (a place in town reserved for the elite and the famous, but filled with scoundrels ready to steal, murder, rape, and mutilate anyone who didn’t give them what they asked for).

“Hello? Who’s there?” A man came out of the shadows, his mutation was almost complete, he had paws and elongated ears, whiskers, and what looked like fur, his feet resembled those of a cat’s hind legs, and his facial structure resembled an Angora.

“Oh, it’s just poor little ol’ me…your Majesty” His voice changed in pitch from tremulous and nervous to assertive and angry…of course I would walk myself right into the hands of some malcontent psychopath. I brought my muscles to attention, making sure that my body would recoil and expand once I needed it to.  

“How great of the crowned prince to walk among his subjects…tell me ‘your highness’ exactly what was it you thought you’d find in the back alleys of the Onyx district?”

“This is not the Onyx district…it’s the Silver district.” I knew I was wrong the second the words were out my mouth, the Silver district was exactly that, SILVER, the walls that surrounded me were dark and glossy. I was walking in a place were few entered and even fewer left.

“The question is…do you actually believe that, or are you just trying to convince me of it?”

He sprang towards me, his claws out, fangs bared. The intent to kill was clear in his eyes; I would not survive our meeting. All I could think about was how glad I was, how relieved I felt that death had come, I would never have to tell grams I was gay, I would never have to disappoint him, would never have to marry for appearances...death’s mercy was welcome, I wanted it to come.

When his body should’ve collided with mine it collapsed with a bone-crushing thud to the floor, I could hear the snap and tear as his ribs broke and the bone pierced the lungs. He would die, the lucky bastard.

“Samaiehl, what in Terra’s name are you doing?”

“Josia, I do not need a lecture right now!! Escort me home, and let that be that please...”

“As you wish your majesty”

Josia’s tone cut through me like a thousand knives, the coolness and formality of his words were like blunt sword being driven through me. It was beyond unbearable, but sometimes it was necessary. Josia had a tendency to forget who I was, and who he was. I could never allow that to happen in public, not while I was still Crown Price of Feligraria, it simply could not happen.

“Jo, don’t be like that, you know...you know the situation, I mean...oh I’m not gonna bother, you’re such a typical Liger!!! Sheesh!!!”

“There’s always an excuse with you Sam, always something, always a situation, or some other bullshit!! I’m tired of it, either I’m your friend, or your boyfriend, or your bodyguard, or your subject, or your personal slave, but I cannot be everything at once!!! It kills me....”

“Jo...I know...I try to not put you into those situations, but I’m not exactly in the easiest of situations myself now am I? For Terra’s sake Jo, we live a life that simply isn’t easy...this isn’t a walk in the park for either of us...I can so understand Mr. Darcy right now...let’s just get to the palace please...”

I stopped talking because this conversation could not be had here, where walls could hear and repeat the words, where someone could come by and take our privacy into the public eye, where a low-life could try to gain the upper hand. This conversation needed the cloaking in my room; I could not risk it being had outside that setting.

“Ya, ya, ya Sammy...there’s always some weird excuse with you, always some...you know what, no I will act as your bodyguard,  you will act as the Crowned Prince, and sometime when I’m Jo, and you’re Sam we’ll talk this over.”

: Thank You Jo. :

I knew he’d heard me...that was one thing that had become common-place in the Feliris kingdom, a form of the telepathy that wasn’t true telepathy, our thoughts were simply loud enough for our ultra-sensitive ears to pick up the sound...well that was how the scientists explained it anyway.

The way back to the castle was very silent; Jo continued to be stoic and efficient, while my heart pounded a mile a second, wondering and dreading that perhaps, our tenuous, fragile relationship would soon revert back to what it had always been meant to be; a friendship.

The thought of not having Jo as I had him now was terrifying, the thought that this cold, retreated version of him would be the only thing I could have simply wouldn’t do, I had never been taught how to be denied anything, I had never been told ‘no’ and Jo, the person who owned my heart like non-other ever had would NOT be the first to do so, I would try my best to fix this situation.

 

As I approached the castle’s gates, I could see Li’ana nervously pacing back and forth, her tense posture radiated preoccupation and doubt, she was so wound up she might spin out of control...something quite unseemly for a panther.

“Li, what’s going on?”

“Sammy, you won’t believe it, your grams...he’s ill...the doctor said he...he was poisoned...”

I broke into a sprint; I could feel the Tiger inside me roar with anger and pain. I could feel that primal part of me begin to overshadow reason and logic, cracking the mask of humanity that we worked so hard to cultivate. Our primal instincts were undeniable, and in times of great stress, they were more powerful than anything else we might feel. I felt my claws wish out, I felt my hair stand on end, I knew my eyes would be slits of molten gold, I knew my teeth would look fearsome. The Tiger would take over, and Samaiehl would recede into the background, nothing more than white noise.

It felt revitalizing, it felt good!! To be free of the shackles of humankind and their overtures of politeness and decency, to shed the skin and grow the fur, to walk on all my legs, not strain my body to fit into their version of acceptable. I could feel every part of me with a white-hot passion, everything from my tail to my ears, I was Tiger. Samaiehl was no more, at least not right now.  I could smell the stench of death, it stung my nose, and underneath the scent, hidden beneath herbs and spices, I could smell Oleander, Samaiehl’s education came in handy then, I could pick out every herb that was used in ruining the venison that had made my mouth water the night before, and Oleander had not been prominent in any plate, but there it was, clear as the full moon on a cloudless night.

“Samaiehl!! These displays of utter savagery are unbecoming of the Crowned Prince; return yourself to human shape this instant! What would your—“

I let my roar rip through me like a knife, gathering strength and feeling as it scoured my insides and found my pain and anger. The old steward’s mouth simply snapped shut and his eyes rolled in his head, I knew there would be no further words on the subject, after all even if he summoned enough anger to turn, he may be too proper a Lion to fight me.

: There’s Oleander in something grams ate Licqui, I don’t’ know who put it there, I don’t know why, and I don’t know how it got past the guards, but I know the Oleander is there, in HUMONGOUS quantities. I will stay in his chambers until he gets better or...:

“I understand your Majesty; no one will disturb either of you. I will make sure of that. And please take my deepest apologies for the situation, I believe we may have gotten far too comfortable inside Feligraria and perhaps time has come to wake the sleeping savage, as you have.”

: Yes Licqui, I believe that time has indeed come:

I padded into my grandfather’s room, and the stench of rot and death hit me like thunderbolt. Grams would not survive this, he simply wasn’t strong enough anymore.

: Licqui, go and get Josiah and Li’ana here immediately, and bring me some clothes...I might phase out sooner than I thought:

“As you wish your majesty”

He swept out of the room and I felt the Tiger’s anger recede, and my own emotions began to heal the rift that separated Human and Tiger, I knew that something was changing in me, and I knew that soon, things in Terra would become steadily worse than they were at the moment. War was coming, I could feel it in the very air around me, like the electricity before a thunderstorm, war was coming, and it would claim more than just lives. Terra was on the brink, grams’ death might tip it.

“Sammy, my dear boy, come here”

: I can’t come to you right now grams, I am Tiger:

“Oh these ridiculous things, every one has forgotten how to Phase Out, it was never too complicated for us, we used to shift in and out of Tiger as easily as we could open and close a door, simply push the Tiger back and make yourself present, you will Phase Out quickly.”

I thought about what grams said and tried to push the Tiger back to its place, back to the half of me that it knew it shared. It was easier than I expected it to be, but I knew the Tiger was willing, perhaps by learning to control this it would get its way, and so could I. Perhaps it and I could become a “we,” perhaps we could protect this realm...perhaps the time for propriety and decorum had passed, and now the time to return to the primal instincts of the Clans had once again come to pass.

The Tiger left, and I returned. I ran to grams’ side and knelt by his bed, grabbing his strong hand in mine. This man was the last person that I could call family, and possibly the last person who could bear our genes beyond me. If he died, so would all of the Schael family.

“Grams, there’s something you oughta know...”

“I already do Sammy, but I also trust that you will have sense enough to procreate with Li’ana if ever you feel the need to be a father, the girl will do anything for you and Jo, and what’s more she will be glad to be more than the third wheel to the wheelbarrow, perhaps you should look at her for a queen, if my time is at an end...we must plan you succession (cough, cough, cough)...oh my dear child I fear all my long years are finally coming to a close...”

“Grams...how...I mean...”

“my child, there are few things that go unnoticed here, and even fewer that I have no knowledge of...Larkin, come forth good man.”

From the wall [and I mean that literally] appeared the most beautiful man I had yet to see, his body was svelte, and defined, the wiry built of his muscles gave him a long, lean look. His eyes were pure cobalt, embedded into their perfectly shaped sockets, his skin was a light tan, it seemed almost like gold, and his raven black hair hung down to his buttocks and was lightly dusted all over his skin.

“Samaiehl, meet Larkin, my personal bodyguard, my personal spy, and my personal mage.”

I could not help but be in utter awe of Larkin, his movements as he advanced towards me were somehow too fluid to be feline, too quiet and graceful. There was none of that obvious power that our race so unconsciously generated none of the demanding posture. Larkin was clearly not a Feliris...but what he exactly was, I could not tell.

“I am a Chamellion young Prince, your grandfather was the first person to ever ‘see’ me, and then again perhaps the fates brought us together. I have been by his side since I was no more than 6 years old.”

“I’m pleased to meet you Larkin, but I must admit, I had no idea that chameleon genes had mixed with human genomes, although if there are Serpentiria, why not other correct? I must ask however; what did my grandfather mean by ‘mage’ I have a vague idea of what the term means...”

“It means that I have studied the lost arts of Wicca, and have learned to manipulate the energies around me, once upon a time it was called magic, but now I believe it should be called molecular manipulation, after all that is all it is, the manipulation of molecules at their basic level to achieve the goal that you have set before yourself.”

I stared at Larkin in awe; here stood in front of me a Mage, someone who could control the elements to follow his whim, and yet all he thought of it was science, go figure, in the years after the Thunder, everything had become just that; science.

“Do you have any idea who did this Larkin?”

“No, sire. I have not seen anything, nor heard anything that might guide us to the one who did this”

“Grams, you know what will be said...there’s only one person that has anything to gain from your death; me. We need to get you better, at least to get you as well as we can, and keep it that way for as long as we can. Larkin do you have anything that could help us?”

“Your Majesty, can you assure me 3 days of uninterrupted time with his Excellency?”

“Yes, I can. I may not want to be the Crowned Prince, but I am. I will seal those doors by royal mandate, only three people will be allowed in here, Josiah Lirna, Li’ana Rçeal, and I. I trust them implicitly and so does my grandfather.”

“I will need things, very weird things. I need someone who can travel long distances in short time, without asking too many questions.”

“Trust that to your cousin Luca, he’s the fastest Cheetah born in more than 4 generations of that line. Ask him here Sammy; I will deal with his questions.”

“Grams, I don’t know that Luca will simply take an order...he is after all third in line to  the throne, do you think it wise to let uncle Liam so close to this?”

I could feel the tension building in the room, there was my grandfather, lying on his bed, slowly dying and all that I could do was plan the next move, all Larkin could do was make the requests he needed, and all grams could do was act like the King he was. I needed to cry, to rant and rave like the crazy person that I needed to become, this whole planning thing was eating away at the few nerves I had left.

“Grams, I’m going to send for cousin Luca, I will pass a Mandate of treason should he speak to anyone about the current situation, I will announce that I am going to be acting King while you get better, and I will send uncle Liam as ambassador to the Polaris Feliris, after all they are part of us, and he would not even think of denying a royal mandate.”

I heard grams’ dry chuckle from his bed, and even in this sad situation it brought a strange sort of hope to my heart. The hope that maybe, just maybe grams had a chance of getting through this.

“you send your uncle Liam that far North, and the Polaris Feliris will be knocking down our walls before the first frost has a chance to settle on the ground...no your best bet with Liam is to send him to the neutral zone, the remnants of the Council are there, give him the false honor of being the ambassador of the Feliris for a month or two. I’ll send a coded note of distrust to the Leader, no matter who he is, with the note of distrust, if Liam was to do anything, the copy would prove invaluable to us, and it might even call some of the Races of Terra to our cause.”

“That’s all for today, I need time to process, I’ll be back in a while grams, Licqui will draw up the papers, and I’ll sign and seal them. You work on that note thingy, I’m going to need at least a couple hours...I love you grams.”

I strode off before grams could say anything; I needed to get away from it all. I needed to process everything, to mourn, to be anguished. I had to shed the Crown and let my heart and mind fall to pieces, even if it was just for a second.

“Sammy!!” Jo’s voice rang from the opposite direction; my knees gave way and all I could see was flying spots, blurring colors and the imminent darkness coming to take me.

 

It was two days later that I awoke, my head felt like there was a thousand troops running through it. It was hard to open my eyes, I felt sluggish, heavy. A part of me was very aware that time had passed as I lay in bed, that grams could be even sicker now than he was when last I saw him. I knew that none of the mandates had been drafted, that Larkin had not been able to spend any time in private with grandfather, and I knew that the threat of his death and my innocence were higher than before.

“Everything’s fine cousin, Josiah seems to know your hand as well as his own, and Li’ana has no match in deception...as per your grandfather, he is better, not fully healthy yet but better...although I must wonder at his decision to send my father to the neutral zone, it seems a fool’s move to allow Liam that sort of audience...”-

“Luca? How...where am I?”

“Well you’re in your chambers of course; Josiah created a mandate that sealed your doors as tightly as Ygoren’s, only Li’ana, Josiah, and I are allowed to enter this chamber, we have kept careful watch over you.”

“What happened?”

“An assassination attempt cousin...someone tried to kill you with a poisoned dart...Josiah heard the dart before it hit you, had he not called your name it would have found its mark on your jugular and not merely your shoulder”

I fully opened my eyes for the first time, and could see that my chambers were dark, it was night. If I was correct it was the 22nd day of Ulthar, the Summer Solstice was upon us, and so was Time of Kings.  Whoever had done this had a plan. Liam Scheele would leave the city by night’s end, and with him hopefully the danger would go as well.

“Luca, is the mandate for Uncle Liam ready? And has grams written a letter yet?”

“The mandate to name him ambassador has been made but has neither been signed nor sealed, father knows your state and that of Ygoren, he would not accept any mandate right now, it’d be best not to risk him questioning your authority, or Ygoren’s while you’re both in such weakened states.”

“I need to take a bath, and I need food Luca...have Josiah smell the food, his olfactory sense should be able to pick out anything that’s in the food...”

“I’ll check on Ygoren and then I will retire to my chambers cousin, the night was long indeed.”

Luca bowed and left my room, I could almost feel my hunger rip through my stomach, it was the weirdest feeling I had experienced in a while. This NEED for food wasn’t something I’d ever been privy to, even though I knew there were people who starved to death out in the world, even here within our city’s walls there was starvation (even though the Royal House  maintained a network of shelters and soup kitchens, some people simply did not want to be helped).

I dozed back to sleep and woke to the smell of jasmine and winter rose heavy in the air, Li’ana’s voice floated slowly to me, she was giving the maids directions. There was a third smell hanging in the air, something richer and darker, less delicate and pleasing, but I knew it to be familiar, comforting. Josiah was somewhere in the room, but he was hiding and doing it quite well.

: I’m above you:

Immediately my senses focused and there he was, a bump in the shadows of my roof, a small distortion...even Tigers would never notice it, after all shadows were nothing, why notice them?

Li’ana got rid of all the maids and then Josiah was at my side, his arms encompassing every inch of me he could get, he pressed me to his muscular frame and my whole body reacted. My skin felt electric, my hands flew to his back and pressed him to me, I needed to feel all of him pressed against me, Jo was the only thing that mattered in that second.

“I’m never leaving your side, even if I have to go rogue to do it, I’ll be your shadow from now on...no one will ever get that close again, not while I have any type of breath in my body.”

His words hit me over and over, like they were on re-play. I could feel the truth in them, I could feel the sincerity of them in his embrace, hear it in his breathing, Josiah would defy entire armies to protect me, and I would fight entire kingdoms to keep him safe.

“Your gram has been asking for you, we need to go see him, Jo I’ll guard you walk with him.”

Li disappeared into the shadows and Jo took my hand, his grip was loose but protective, he spun me toward him and kissed me with a passion that could not be rivaled by anything I had ever felt from him or for him. His hand roamed my back, tangled in my hair, and pressed me to him.

His laughter suddenly tore through the room, filling me with an intense euphoria. I laughed too because there was something contagious in his laughter, I looked into his eyes and saw a sparkling humor there that made me laugh harder, soon I could hear Li’s laughter joining our irrational one, and then we were all laughing, half doubled over, I could only hold my sides to keep myself from falling over.

“Why. Are. We. Laughing?!?!?!”

“You. Stink. Omigod. You stink SOOOOO bad!!!!!!!!!”

He guffawed and within seconds we were all in hysterics again, and the knowledge that I did in fact stink, made it all the more hilarious.

I walked into the tub and began to wash myself, I loved that we had running water, but still nothing soothed the soul better than a bath.

I lay in the water letting the stress work itself out of my body, letting the jasmine and winter rose work the kinks out of my back, and soothe the ones in my spirit. Josiah was right outside my door, I could feel his presence there, could almost feel his steps on the rock, could almost see his face concentrated and calculating every possible entrance point, straining to hear every sound.

I felt safe, I felt utterly contempt in that moment, after all I had two of the best trainees protecting me, and I had a whole palace full of guards, not to mention that Larkin could be anywhere watching over us. I began to doze off, to let the soothing water and the calming scents take over me. There was something so calm and pleasant about tonight. I could not quite put my finger on it, but there was a strange sort of peace that hung heavy in the air.

I lay there as I felt the water grow colder, still it simply could not lure me out, and it was far too luxurious. Then my stomach rumbled like a thousand horses running wild and I knew the time to leave the comfort of the tub and gain the comfort of food was upon me at last, after all one could only go without nourishment for so long, and it had been almost three days since I had my last meal. My body craved the calories, the enzymes, and a dozen more things that had not been delivered to it in such a long time. 

I rose from the tub, begrudgingly, and began to dry myself. I did it slowly, after all the longer I kept away from everyone the less time that Uncle Liam was around, and the less chance I had of possibly running into him. I mistrusted Liam Scheele more than I could let on, after all showing my distrust in him meant showing some sort of distrust in my family and that could be lethal to grams’ reign, and to his well-being.

“Sam, something’s wrong...”

Jo’s voice ran through me like thunder, three words, in a whispered tone, and yet they held so much meaning, so much worry, and caused in me so many different types of terror. Could something be wrong with Grams? With Jo? With Li? With Luca? Was it something more than that? Was there war knocking at our door even as I bathed? What was wrong?

I rushed from the tub, using my senses to steady myself across the slippery floor. I could sense the Tiger wake inside me, could feel his instincts take over, and almost instantly I could sense the change in our connection. The Tiger was there, alive and roaring, but I was there too, sharing the same exact consciousness. I felt his readiness sweep through me, felt his regality touch my frayed nerves and steady, felt his confidence soothe my doubts, felt his claws sharpen, but I was still very much me, very much Samaiehl through and through.

: Something has changed young one...I understand it not, but something has changed, do you sense it as I do?: The Tiger’s voice was lilting, filled with age and knowledge and a majestic knowledge that it was superior to the beings around it, filled with confidence and mirth, and yet so controlled and polished.

: I feel it too, though I do not understand what exactly is happening...perhaps Grams could shine some light on the subject:

: Do not place your hopes in his knowledge, his spirit and his flesh never have been as close as this, when he is Tiger he is Tiger, and when he’s –human, that is all that he is. We are different Samaiehl; very different...I wonder what has brought about this shocking change...:

“...mmy!!! SAMAIEHL!!!!”

It was then that I realized that I was running down the Southern hallway in the palace, Li and Jo just ahead of me, and Luca ran right behind me. Whatever was wrong had been important enough for Jo and Li to wake Luca, and for us to run wholeheartedly in the hallways of the palace (something deeply frowned upon by Licqui and his staff).  I kept on running, even though I didn’t know where we were going or why, even though I had no idea what Jo had said, I still forced my legs to pound mercilessly against the smooth marble, forced my lungs to push the stoic, smoke scented air in and out of my straining lungs. It was with horror and dismay that I realized what was wrong, the Southern Dome was burning, and we all ran to save its inhabitants: the youngest of our people.

The Southern Dome was a school, one were all the children of the Feliris attended till they were 12, and where their parents were bound to place from their first birthday. It was ablaze, lighting the night sky in a deep orange and red. I discovered new strength, new purpose. I ran harder and faster than I had ever known I could, I activated my bracelet and the hologram of Licqui popped up in front of me.

“Master Samaiehl I’m glad to see you feeling better. Is there something you need?”

“The Southern Dome is burning!! Get every able-bodied BEING to it ASAP!!!”

I cut the connection and ran, still harder and faster than before, I could feel the Tiger’s anger, his instinct to protect its offspring (a trait that came over everyone where the children were concerned), to keep the Pride alive and well. I felt the explosion as my body ripped to shreds and Tiger’s stronger and steadier legs took over.

“HOW!!!” and then I felt as Jo, Li, and Luca all discovered their true form.

The Cheetah, the Liger and the Panther all ran with the Tiger, all frantic but full of purpose and the steady concentration that only the Feliris are privy to. We ran, and as we ran I could hear Samaiehl’s astonishment, could feel Josiah’s wonder, Li’ana’s doubts, and Luca’s excitement. They would soon know how to access the Wild Ones as easily as they breathed, of that I could be sure, why it was happening I did not know, but the fact that it was happening lay bare the needs of Terra, the Mother was at odds and the Wild Ones would emerge to right the balance and protect Her, our instincts were to protect our home, our instincts were to make Terra as amazing and safe as we could, and the time to stretch our limbs, and let our cries of outrage ring through the land was finally at hand.

We ran as fast as our paws would take us, thumping against the stone. We ran to save the Cubs, and with them the future, and Terra’s well-being.

Slowly the consciousness of the Tiger fell away and I was back in control, sliding to a stop in front of the Inner doors of the Southern Dome, the flames were back toward the outer entrance, but  smoke roiled around the inside of the building and snaked its way out every crevice and gap.

“Ok, Li you take the first floor, Luca second, Jo third, and I’ll take fourth. Licqui should be here soon along with every person he can muster.” I took my bracelet and snapped it into four pieces “This will keep us all in contact, also it has the ability to transport people from place to place, use it to get the children out, and if things get too dangerous then use it to get yourself out...and no matter what, no one goes in for anyone, if its not to save a child, then stay OUT.”

I looked around the little group, their faces tight in concentration and resolve. Why were we the only ones to have smelled the smoke? My room was clear across the palace, yet we had been the first to smell it and the first to get here...something wasn’t right...

“Jo, how did you know there was a fire?”

“I felt a sudden increase in the temperature, almost like someone had lit a fire right beside me...you?”

“I smelled it...Li?”

“Don’t look at me; I simply followed you out when I saw you running for everything your worth, I figured you knew something I didn’t”

“Same here, I was headed back to my quarters when I saw you, Li’ana and Josiah barreling down the hallway...I thought we were headed to Ygoren’s chambers...”

I looked at Jo and his eyes clicked as mine sent the obvious message...it may be a trap, but I still had to go in there. I was Crowned Prince; I had to do everything in my power to make sure that every citizen of Feligraria was safe and sound, no matter what the cost may be to my personal comfort. I squeezed his hand in mine, and before he could object I was in the Southern Dome, headed straight for the fourth floor.


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Copyright © 2012 Matthew Halliwell

2. Chapter 2 →