Chapter 5A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe
In which Shylock makes another new friend, and Murdoch has some doubts.
Tobias hated baby sitting duty, but he loved Milo. At first, the boy had given him the creeps, with his not-all-there mentality and the way he just…went somewhere else, sometimes. But the longer he knew Milo, the more he knew him as a sweet, affectionate creature who wanted more badly then anything to be Tobais’s friend. He’d tried so hard when they’d first met, all low-wagging tail and whining whimpers.
Milo was quiet. Really quiet- in fact, he almost never actually spoke with words. He spent most of his time in Wolf form, anyway. Now, though, he was human, laying on his back at the cave mouth and watching for Amerok to return. Murdoch was out there, somewhere, too, doing whatever it was Murdoch did when he wasn’t with them. He could actually see the twins, just a few feet away, sparring between the trees.
“Hey. My.” He whistled lightly, and the younger boy’s head turned to him after a moment.
“Amerok’ll be back whether you lay there and stare or not.” He pointed out with a chuckle. “Come on in here.”
Another head shake.
Tobias chuckled. Milo was surprisingly stubborn, and had an intense loyalty and concern for their two eldest members. The pair had quickly come to be good friends, being the two youngest members of the Pack- but Milo was about as far removed from Tobias as he could be. They understood each other without words, they were close as brothers, but if it came right down to it Tobias knew Milo would run to Amerok or Murdoch far before he ever came to Tobias. That didn’t bother him; he understood why, and in a way, he was glad for it. He wasn’t sure he could handle the responsibility of being the person Milo looked to.
That still made him Milo’s friend, though.
“C’mon, My. I’ve got lunch , I bet you’re hungry. And then maybe we can ask Murdoch if we can go swimming in the deep part of the river. I know you want to go swimming with me.”
Milo finally turned, pushed to his feet and made his way over. He dropped to his knees beside Tobias, looking up with a shy, impish little smile. His eyes spoke loud and clear, and Tobias laughed.
“Shut up. How was I s’posed to know that was a water sprite and not a fish? I didn’t even know they were real ‘till I came to this Forest!”
A soundless laugh, smile curving up his lips and eyes dancing with light. Tobias loved seeing Milo light up like that- it was so rare.
“You want to, though, don’t you? C’mon, it’s better then moping around here waiting. I bet Amerok’ll be back before we are.”
Milo still seemed unsure, and so Tobias reached out, grabbed his hand lightly. Milo startled, but didn’t pull away, which was something- Milo didn’t care for unexpected touch. “Please? It’s no fun without you.”
He lit up again, and nodded, once. Tobias grinned.
“Great! I’ll go tell Mur we’re going- eat, if you’re hungry!” He pushed to his feet and sprinted to the mouth of the cave, then paused, lifted his head, and breathed in, deep, eyes closed.
Wolves had an incredible sense of smell.
Were had a better one. And when it came to Pack…they could find each other across vast distances. He picked up Murdoch’s scent after a moment of searching, almost pin-pointing him. Not far. He didn’t have any qualms about leaving- he might have been on ‘baby sitting duty’, but if Alex and Nate saw him race off after Murdoch they’d make sure Milo was alright. He ran past them deliberately, ignoring Alex’s indignant yip and Alex’s teeth snapping inches from his flank in punishment. He raced onward, tongue hanging out in sheer joy of racing through the woods, paws tearing up dirt and grass. He followed Murdoch’s scent easily, trying not to be distracted by the other interesting scents and sounds he raced by. He’d never even been in wooded or forested areas before now- on the island he’d grown up, the trees were sparse and didn’t go deep in any one direction- and that by itself was enough to grab his attention. Then throw in the creatures that were supposed to be pure myth and legend, and he sometimes felt as though he could explore the woods for hours.
He wasn’t allowed to, of course. Most of the Forest’s dwellers were receptive to or at the least indifferent towards Wolves, seeing them as just another branch of themselves…but that didn’t mean all, and he’d seen several already that didn’t approve of anything not born and breed in the Forest being there.
And Tobias was not a fully-grown Were.
Luckily, Murdoch was as close as he’d thought, and he found the man bathing in a stream within minutes.
“You’re supposed to be with Milo.”
“Alex and Nate know I left. Can we go for a swim in the deeper stretches of river?”
“Milo and I, you know who I mean.” He huffed. Murdoch chuckled, warm and low, pulling himself out of the river.
“Didn’t you piss off a water sprite last time I let you two do anything together? And the dryads, the other day, with Nathanial-”
“This is Milo, not Nate. And that was an accident! I’ll be careful, Murdoch-”
“You are always careful and yet you somehow manage to always get yourself in something.” But he was being teased; Murdoch was trying to not smile, and Tobias could see it in every line of the older man’s face.
“C’mon, Murdoch, it’s good for him.”
“Oh no, don’t you dare try that tactic-”
“But it’s true, you know it is! He’s been moping all day waiting for ‘Rock to come back, just laying there, all lost and forlorn-”
The water splash took him full in the face. Spluttering, he stumbled back.
“You’re lucky I’m a lazy old man and don’t just haul you in.” Murdoch announced. “Go get him, Tobias- no further then the West pool. Do you understand?”
His mouth was open the second time. Coughing, he wiped hair out of his eyes.
“I mean it. If I find out you two went on a little adventure-”
“West pool, I got it.” He grinned.
“Alright. Go get Milo, then, and tell the twins I’ll be back in just a while.”
Tobias nodded, and turned, sprinting off in the direction he’d just come from. He could keep Milo’s mind off Amerok, hopefully stave off any hours-long spans of staring silence that his young friend would come out of skittish and cold. He hated Milo like that; like he was after a vision or when he was just scared.
When he returned, the twins were human in shape again and talking quietly outside the mouth of the cave. Alex looked up, cocking his head slightly. “He’s waiting for you. Where are you two off to?”
“Go for a swim. He alright?”
“A little spacey.” Alex sighed softly. “I think he’s just worried for Amerok.”
Nathanial, picking up easily where his brother had left off- “He’s been having dreams. Murdoch style-dreams, where he sees things that’re gonna happen-”
“He won’t talk about them. Not even to Murdoch.”
“So that, of course, has Murdoch upset.”
Tobias nodded, pushing a hand through his hair. “I’ve heard him, sometimes.” It was better not to wake him up from them. He’d given Tobias a black eye that way, and bitten the hell out of Amerok once. Murdoch said until he learned to control his abilities, the danger would persist. Tobias still woke him up, sometimes, but he was cautious when he did.
Alex reached out, ruffled his hair fondly. He batted at the hand.
“Keep his mind off it as much as you can. Tobias.” He said, with a fond smile. “He needs you for that.”
He cast his mind back, to his ealier thought- how he didn’t want the responsibility of being Milo’s steadying presence.
Too late, he thought, biting his lip, you already are. Maybe not in the same way Murdoch is, but you are.
He looked down at the ground, then was startled into looking back up when Milo’s hand landed, gently, on his arm.
“We should go now.” He said, in his breathy, soft voice, dreamy and drugged. But his smile was affectionate and his eyes were focused. “I don’t want to think about the dreams, okay?”
“Okay.” Tobias murmured, glancing over to where the twins watched in concern. “Alright, Milo. You don’t have to. C’mon. Let’s go for a swim.”
Murdoch watched the pair vanish from camp just as he returned; they streaked towards the river, leaping all over each other like the pups they were. He smiled slightly, fondly, to see them behaving like Wolves their age should instead of miniature adults. Milo had been sleeping worse and worse as of late, and Murdoch had his fair share of vision-dreams, too; even for someone of his age, who knew how to control them to a degree, the things were hardly pleasant. And if Milo was seeing anything like what Murdoch was, it was no wonder the boy was retreating into his shell.
He’d honestly breathed a sigh of relief when Tobias had come to him. The boy had a way about him, an innocence and enthusiasm that was contagious. He was good for everyone, it seemed- if he came in contact with them, something in their step lightened, shoulders straightened, people smiled, laughed.
Tobias, he thought, smiling fondly, was their heart. He’d been right in the title, when he’d given it to the boy in his own mind.
He stepped into the cave, dragging one hand gently along the cool side, sighed, slumped there for a moment. He’d gone to the river to try and gather his increasingly erratic thoughts, but it hadn’t done as much good as he’d hopped it would have. He could feel something getting closer, and every night- every single damn night- he had dreams of walking along a huge, yawning chasm, balanced precariously on the edge. He started off walking confidently, but as the dream went on the edge under his feet crumbled and crumbled bits at a time until he was struggling to keep his balance and at the end-
At the end, he fell. Every time.
But before he could be lost to the darkness and death below, some thing would grab his hand, and he’d wake up before he could see who or what it was. Still, the dreams had him on edge at best, and he was skilled enough in interpret them to know what they meant.
You didn’t need to be brilliant to get the general idea.
The first dream- the one had lead to all this- had actually come to him in bits.
For Amerok, he’d dreamed about a girl falling from the sky, with her beautiful pale hair streaming out as she tumbled head-long to earth and burst into a million flower petals before she ever touched land.
And when the petals had cleared, there had been a man with golden glowing Wolf’s eyes in chains, standing in a pool of red petals up to his knees and sinking quickly deeper into them.
That had been Amerok’s dream. He worried that his friend still sank, daily…and he didn’t know how to help.
Alexander and Nathanial had actually been rather odd- he’d dreamed about two sharks for weeks, the big kind that lurked near the base of the Islands out in the West Sea and pretended to be bit of floating land or dead something until you got close.
Ranging from six to twelve feet, the sharks were fast and smart, and he’d kept having dreams where he’d been trapped in the water with them but they hadn’t attacked him. They’d attacked anything that got near him, but not him, and it wasn’t until one brushed against him and he felt Wolf’s fur that he’d finally clicked over and felt like a moron for not realizing.
Milo- he didn’t like remembering Milo’s dream. Milo’s dream had hurt, like spines shoved in his midsection, had been a twisted, horrible mash of colors and sounds, too bright and too vivid and too much, and more then once he’d woken panting and shaking with his hands over his ears and vomit in the base of his throat.
Milo’s had made no logical sense- he’d just known he needed to find someone in pain, someone in such pain, broken and hurt and close to being ruined.
And as he’d found each one, the other dreams had started; and the- oh, how he hated them- day visions, the ones that would slam into him and leave him with a migraine for hours or days after depending on how bad they were.
And the picture had come together.
He’d never told them, any of them, not once. About the visions of Wolves, running in droves, in hundreds, like swarms of ants or bees, overtaking Bylyn. About seeing them- all of them- leading the wave, racing in a charge and crashing over and through the gates, trees and buildings and walls and people dropping in their wake.
A rather straight-forward vision, all things considered. They usually liked to be metaphorical and cryptic, a la the boy’s separate ‘introductions’.
Which lead into Shylock’s.
It was the fact that now, the visions had changed so that Shylock was the Alpha, the catalyst, the necessary addition that worried him. His visions never changed. Ever. It had been enough, with them. And then he’d started having visions of Shylock and the Wolf Dream had changed and now he was having visions of himself nearly plummeting to his death and you’d excuse him for being a bit on edge.
He slid down to sit on a rock, head back and eyes closed. Shylock, and his visions and dreams of the man glowing golden and a full, brilliant harvest moon behind him, and all Wolves in the world howling at it, at him, singing songs of victory and freedom and loss.
And he wondered what it was Milo saw.
Amerok hadn’t been back in the city since her death.
He knew, in the back of his mind, that if he was seen by someone he knew, there would be no disaster; no one blamed him for her death, and in fact his exile had been self-imposed. But the memories were strong enough to have him slumping and dodging around as if he were some sort of outlaw rather then the member of a surprisingly respected group of guardians.
But he saw himself as nothing more then an exile and a failure. He’d been sworn to protect her. He’d loved her. And in the end…
In the end, he’d just killed her.
He knew, really, that she would protest that. You didn’t kill me, she’d have said, stop pouting, for goodness sake, I know how you loved me. I know.
But her imaginary voice was not enough to break through. Nothing would ever be enough.
The Arena was not something he had ever seen before. He’d never had a reason to be inside it- she had certainly never wanted to go anywhere near it. It was overcrowded, dark, and the smells and sights were nearly enough to overwhelm him. It stank, and so many people were slamming and pressing up against him that he had to resist the urdge to turn and bolt. But this was where Shylock could be approached, and so this is where he had to be.
He could see the boy, a few feet away. He wasn’t right; he was moving stiffly, and he’d gotten his a*s kicked in the last couple rounds; there was pain on his face, and he kept stetching, as if trying to relive something. There was a pretty girl near him; she was small and slender, with dark hair, and she smelled flowery and it hurt to look at her, especially when she came to Shylock and placed a hand on his shoulder in a familiar gesture of support and comfort.
He was a tall, well built creature- eye catching, with that flaming hair and dark skin. Hard to miss. Despite that, he seemed able and willing to be unseen…to shrink away as if trying to hide from the crowds and the people. Typical Wolf behavior- he was hurting and unnerved, and he probably wanted nothing more then to isolate himself until he felt steady and strong again.
He wasn’t going to be receptive.
Amerok moved forward, letting the crowd part naturally before him- his size tended to do that for him. The boy didn’t need to notice him- it was the crowd’s parting that did that. Shylock glanced up as the girl behind him shrank back. The sound that left Shylock’s throat was a low, dangerous growl.
“More of you? F**k off. I’d like to reach old age still able to walk, thanks.”
The girl beside him glanced over. “More of?…you’re with that man? The one-”
Stupid- He reached out to grab her, to cover her mouth, but found his wrist caught and captured by a slim, dark hand.
“Do not,” Was snarled, “touch. Aziin, go tell Master Tousakk that I’ll be ready again in another round.”
“Go and tell him.”
She backed off a step, licked her lips, looked from him to Amerok and back again. She wasn’t looking at him with hate or distrust, but with something that was almost wonder or admiration, and she gave a quick, short nod before darting off into the crowd.
“Gotta warn you, thanks to your friend I’m not exactly up for round two.” The red-head growled, “But if you’re gonna make this that, then a few marks on my back ain’t gonna save you.”
“I’m not here to fight you. ‘S the only way he thought he could get your attention.”
“Yeah, well, he got everyone’s attention, before he ran away and left me to deal with the silver-stripes. Thanks for that.”
Amerok’s brow furrowed. He knew about using silver as restraint and punishment, though he’d never felt the taste of it himself. Guardians weren’t treated as slaves. The only time anything of that nature was done to them was if they severely pushed the limits of what they were allowed; and even then, it wasn’t an extreme usage. Silver wounds took days to heal, and usually- as shown by Alexander’s throat- they never did quite right.
“Tore my back to hell, yes.” The redhead glanced up at him, sharply.
“And your Master has you fighting, wounded?”
“I’m healed enough. Been winning, haven’t I?”
“Did you want something, or are you furbags just gonna pop in and out of my life for the rest of it like a bunch of really irritating ghosts?”
Amerok took a deep breath and forced himself not to snap back. He couldn’t blame the younger man for being snappish.
“Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“No. And I’m not just saying that because I don’t like you. Unless you want to creep through a window into my quarters, I don’t get privacy.”
“Aw, damn, are you actually thinking about it?”
“This isn’t a conversation I would like to have here.”
“Who says I want to have a conversation at all?” The boy rolled his shoulders again, wincing. “I don’t want any part of this. You want to recruit someone, take Aziin. She’s all gung-ho and hot to trot.”
Amerok looked over at him, watch the other man trying to stretch out his soreness. Shylock wouldn’t look at him, was staring with a blank, stubbornly dead expression into the arena. He’s lying, he thought, seeing the redhead’s lip compress, watching the way he refused to acknowledge that Amerok was staring. If he really didn’t want this, he’d have walked away from me by now, or sounded an alarm.
“My name is Amerok.” He said, softly, simply. “I’ve been Murdoch’s close friend for years. I assure you he never meant to hurt you. He would never.”
The boy’s eyes darted to him, and he lowered his hand from his own shoulder, slowly turning to full on face Amerok. There was something dead and cold in his eyes, and Amerok couldn’t help but wonder in a terrified sort of way just what had happened to this man, this boy, to produce such a look. Such a perfect, blank, empty stare, tired and broken.
Murdoch had said the boy had fire in him. Amerok couldn’t find it, and that worried him. Maybe it was because it was a different situation. Maybe because he was injured. But there was something so tired in Shylock’s eyes that it hurt to look at.
“Sounds to me, then, that your Murdoch doesn’t much think things through.”
“Maybe not.” And that was true. Murdoch tended to act before he’d fully considered the effects of his actions on others; he got so caught up in his thoughts and emotions that he just forgot, sometimes, that there were consequences. “And sometimes he does. Are you really so against us?”
“I don’t even know what you want.” He made a low, exasperated noise. “Your boss shows up, tries to kick my a*s, runs away- two days later, here you are. Far as I know, at least one of you’ve been watchin’ me. Constantly. You expect me to be thrilled about all this?”
Amerok sighed, pushed a hand through his hair.
“We want-” He closed his eyes briefly, let out a slow sigh. “We want to give you a chance. To be what you were-”
“No.” The word was sharp, startlingly so, and Shylock’s voice was so tight that it made Amerok look up again. The boy was glaring fire at him- and there it was, whatever Murdoch had seen. Heat and passion, born of anger and fear but there none the less and it was, good or bad, something to build on. “No. Just stop. I don’t have one reason to- to put up with this any longer, or to want to just fall in with you like some horrible little story-hero looking for freedom.’
“I understand this is what you know. It’s what’s safe. But you can’t tell me you’re happy here.”
That fire, Amerok thought, in the wrong hands- that spirit- could be dangerous. Not that he was seeing it, Amerok realized just how much sheer force was behind it, and it almost frightened him.
“I’m not.” The words were cold, hard. “But I’m alright. I’m bored at worst and fine at best and I don’t- want-” He suddenly stopped, throat working, and looked away as if unable to hold Amerok’s gaze. Wolf had seen Wolf, and it called out to Amerok as loudly as a child crying out for a parent. Shylock could crush his Wolf down as much as he wanted, but in the end, he would long for Pack, for companionship, for freedom. And it hurt, Amerok knew, hurt worse then the burn of silver, worse then any wound taken.
“Why did you have to come?” The boy rasped. “Why did you ever have to bother me?”
They’d woken something in him that had been sleeping. Something that had been nearly dead, nearly gone, and if they’d left him alone-
“You would be dead inside of another year if we had.” The words made the redhead look at him again in surprise and offense, but Amerok kept talking. “Maybe not physically, but you would have been. I doubt your body would have lasted much longer.”
The boy didn’t reply, just kept staring.
“To be honest? Murdoch has his own motivations. Of course he does. Everyone does. But you tell me you want to stay here, being used for no other reason then you won’t stop them using you, then I’ll call you a liar to your face.” Their voices were low, low- even so, Shylock sent a subtle glance around. “And he’s good. A good person.”
“I need to get into the arena. Aziin’s coming back.”
“We’ll be around.” Amerok stepped back, slowly. “And if you decide that you truly want us gone- truly, not just because it’s easier- we’ll leave you to it.” He, on a whim, reached out. Shylock flinched then stiffened, but didn’t yank his chin out of Amerok’s hold. His eyes were steady on the guardian's, burning with anger and defiance and caught so visibly on the raw that they nearly cut.
“Not just because it’s easier.” He said, again, and now Shylock did yank away.
“What the hell do you know about it?”
“Nothing.” Mildly. “But I do know about wanting to just take the simple way. How hard it can be, start fightin’ the really tough battles again.” He pulled his hood up, hiding his face once more. As he moved back into the throng of people, a small, delicate hand settled around his wrist. He startled, spun-
-and found himself face to face with the dark eyed creature. Aziin.
“Yes?” He rumbled, and got a thick whiff of her scent; it sent pangs of old aching through him. The touch of her tiny hand combined with her feminine scent sent his mind reeling back to other times, better times.
“I want to go with you.” Soft, urgent, low and quick, like she was frightened of the words. Less as if she was frightened of being caught, and more as if she couldn’t trust herself to get them out before she changed her mind.
“Please.” She tightened her hold on his sleeve. “I can’t- I don’t want to be here. I hate being here. Tousakk is a good master, as they go, but I don’t want to say I have a good master, I want to say I am my master. Please. Take me.”
And Gods help him, he nearly did.
She was so earnest, so intense, so bent on coming…and her eyes, big and dark like hers, begging up at him, set in a soft, round face and determinedly set, soft lips…he forced himself to pull away.
If he brought her, the backlash would be too much for them to deal with, at the moment. Between Shylock’s inevitable rage at them ‘kidnapping’ her- and he felt that was how the boy would see it- and the fact that she would not go unmissed, it would bring too much attention to the group. Especially considering that Murdoch had already attracted attention.
“I can’t.” He said, far more softly. “I’m sorry.” He hopped she wouldn’t go off on a tangent; he’d kept low voices with Shylock, but if she got angry- or hysterical- keeping the reasons for his presence here would be hard, and getting out even harder.
“Aren’t you here for that reason?” To her credit, she kept her voice low and soft, though her eyes blazed. “Or is Shylock just something special to you?”
“Isn’t he to you?” He asked, softly, and her eyes widened. He smiled, now knowing not only which path to take but just how right he really was. “If I were to let you follow me, he would be alone here. Stay with him. Be for him. And perhaps if he answers our call, you will still desire to do so, as well?” Softly, gently, coaxing. He knew well what he reply would be- he didn’t even have to consider that she would reply with anything but the immediate nod she did.
“Good love.” He said, softly, something he had often said to her, words that came up from old memories before he could stop it. He flinched- no one else had earned that pet name, not since and not before, and it hurt that someone else could so subconsciously pull the endearment from him. She blinked in surprise, but then smiled at him and touched his cheek under the cloak hood.
“Can I at least know your name? If we’re drawing endearments.” Aziin giggled, but the sound was almost forced. Not light and easy, the way she had always giggled, without effort.
“Amerok.” He said, softly, “I’m Amerok.”
“A strong name for a strong man.” She tucked hair behind her ear with a shy smile. “Hopefully we’ll see you very soon, Amerok.”
He started to reply, but the scream of a wounded wolf interrupted him. She spun with a gasp of Shylock’s name, and he was proven right in his voice not to let her come when she bolted from his side like a spooked deer, racing to the arena side. He followed her, just a few steps- just enough to see. Shylock was pulling himself out of the arena, splattered with blood, but it wasn’t his own. He was limping but waved off Aziin’s concern.
Amerok could see him trembling from where he stood. He closed his eyes, pushed a hand through his hair and looked away.
But he had done what he had been sent here to do, and the longer he remained, the more risk he took. He pushed his way back through the crowd, fully aware of Shylock’s stare on his back until he was out of sight.
© 2011 MildmayFoxxe
Added on June 24, 2011
Last Updated on June 24, 2011
The Wolves of Caylemora Book One- Sulfer Skies
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