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7. The Cave

7. The Cave

A Chapter by Lynaelee

A tall man ducks into my tent and I back up towards the other side, holding the reading material tightly. His face is hidden by the hood he wears. "You are infuriating, kitten. Come with me now," he demands harshly. I shake my head and lean off my twisted ankle. "Time is precious. Let's go." I refuse to move. In two long strides he is in front of me, swatting the bugs away so I cannot see his face. Before I can cry out in shock, fear, or desperation, he covers my mouth with his hand and presses my back into his body. His other hand wraps around my chest, holding both arms in place. "I am not your enemy, kitten. It'll do you good to remember that. You're right to fear me and tremble in my presence though, but I won't hurt you. You're leaving whether you like it or not. Scream or protest and so help me, I'll break your neck." All I can do is nod. He grunts his approval, turns me around, throws me over his shoulder like I'm a sack of flour, and runs out of the tent. My body guards are laying motionless on the ground, but I can't tell if they are just unconscious or truly dead.

The stranger takes off; straight up the mountain side, silently yet quickly and easily. Unable to maneuver to see up the path, I can only watch where we've been. My eyes widen as I take in the huge fire on the other side of the camp. When it is out of sight, I look around again but have no idea where we are. The golden rays of the sun are starting to peek through the trees, but the air around us is still kinda dark, I note as he slings me off his shoulder and ducks into a cave. Which means based on everything I learned last night, the hellhounds wouldn't be able to track us right now. The stranger sets me on the ground gently and looks at my ankle, pulling my leg away from my skirt. Embarassed for having my leg revealed to this stranger, I try to cover it again, but the slit down the side that Kern gave me makes that impossible and this stranger is holding onto it firmly so pulling it away is out of the question 

"It's worse," he remarks as he rips my dress more along the bottom. What's worse? My leg showing? My shredded dress? Worse than what? "Next time I give you shredded clothes, wrap them around your injuries instead of just tucking them into your shoes. There will be no more honey breaks, even if it is a delicious snack. You will let me get you to safety. My way. You can't walk fast enough and time is precious. If I leave, you stay put. That blackberry bush hid your scent and kept you safe. There's no need to throw rocks or run away; you do more harm than good for yourself. Not to mention, you can barely hold onto your weapons. It honestly stings but isn't enough to fully deter an attacker; especially if they really want to hurt you. I only stopped because you would have fallen. Now stay off your foot. These is no need to put any weight on it at all. Not even the water would help you now. Don't argue," he orders as he wraps my ankle up.

"Buck?!" I gasp. Who else could it be? Who else would know those things? He stops what he's doing and looks up. Even in the semi-darkness of the cave, his distinct honey-brown colored eyes peer back at me; they are slightly darker though than when he's in his feline form. "You're not a mountain lion! How?" I shove his shoulders as my voice raises. "I felt like a fool! Even when you confirmed you understood me. Why didn't you just make it simple in the beginning?! 'Hey, Clara, your life is in danger. Come with me if you want to live. Yes. I have magic, but don't you worry about that. Oh! Twisted ankle. No problem. Just wrap it.' I didn't know that! Instead of you telling me what to do or expect, I had to guess at everything. I couldn't interpret your actions very well and you should have shifted and spoke to me! Yet all you did was scare me and-"

"-kept you safe. Not now, kitten," he interrupts softly as he puts his hand over my mouth. "We have to keep going and need to leave within the next ten minutes tops. Sooner is better. You'll have time for questions and getting mad at me later when I get you away from that camp for good. I just gotta figure out the best way." He stands up and begins pacing back and forth. After several quiet seconds, he snaps his fingers and points at me briefly. "I got it! I need you to listen carefully to me now. Yes, you are in grave danger and there is a plan to keep you alive. You did understand me enough when I needed you to do something in my animal form. There was no real reason I had to reveal myself to you. The goal was to keep magic out of it so you could go home like nothing happened. I loved your assumption that mountain lions can heal wounds. Even if you told people, its like you said, no one would be willing to test that theory. Yet, then again people would question why you lived through a mountain lion attack in the first place and probably accuse you of some pretty outlandish things. I didn't want to scare you more or put you in any unnecessary danger. Unfortunately, magic is very dangerous, kitten. For both those who have it and those who know about it. So I gestured and did what needed to be done. Talking wasn't necessary by any means. However, that being said I will speak plainly right now so you can clearly understand me. I'm going to take these clothes off; you will put them on. You said it yourself, your dress is ruined; I don't know what your capabilities are but I think that trying to save it would be a waste of time. Let's face the truth, in the past couple of days, your dress has gotten in your way on more than one occasion. Just get dressed in these clothes and get on my back," he orders harshly as he takes off his shirt and looks outside the cave. My mouth drops as I gaze at his bulging muscles and perfectly sculpted chest and stomach. He is in great shape and I know I shouldn't be ogling him, but I can't look away. The little bit of sunlight coming in bounces off his abs as he turns back towards me. "One more day, one more night. Then I'll take you back to your village. You won't die if you just trust me. You have to get on my back while I'm in my other form. No protesting. We don't have time or your anonymity on our side anymore. I have to get you to safety now. I want to keep any head start we have, which isn't much." He kneels in front of me, puts his hand under my chin, and closes my mouth as he hands me the shirt. His fingers brush gently above my eyebrow up to my temple as he groans. "You are a danger to yourself, kitten. Your eyes have been tracking me. So that's good. Do you feel like throwing up or overly tired?"
"I've been up all night and have felt nothing but queasy since I set foot in that camp. That bump happened after sundown," I reply softly. He sighs and lowers his head briefly.
"Okay, kitten. Once we get moving, I want minimal stops. Understood?" Buck asks softly as he meets my eye again. I nod and he offers a small smile. "Good. I will only stop so you can use the bathroom or if you have to throw up again, but we have to run. Well, I do. You are too slow unfortunately and really need to keep any and all weight off that ankle. I'll get you some food later. Now, if you have anything to say at all, say it softly. I don't want to risk them hearing you. Hearing us. We are about one to one and a half miles away from the camp already, but voices carry on the mountain. If they can follow us, it won't be long before we hear voices. In theory of course. Unfortunately, they will hear us before we hear them. Sound travels better going down hill for some reason. Anything that you saw may be helpful in protecting you. Aside from your ankle and head, was anything else hurt?" I shake my head and hug his shirt. He removes his hand off my face with a grunt and a nod. Then he fingers my shredded skirt with a hiss of air. "Did you get even one little scratch from the hellhounds?"

"I. Uh. I don't think so. You can look I guess. Without candle light, I can't tell; the sun isn't bright enough in here for me. I can't see much. The sun had already gone down, I wasn't given much for light, and honestly, I had other things on my mind. So I didn't even look," I murmur. He groans.
"I can see just fine. However, if you want me to look I'll have to move your skirt aside and touch your legs. It won't help either of us if you try to cover it or try to pull away again," he warns. I nod in understanding.
"Okay. Look, but you'll have to look at my back too. You have a good assumption in thinking the hellhounds bettered my wardrobe, as Kern put it. My back side was opened too because those dogs carried me. I heard the fabric ripping but I don't know if they used their claws or teeth," I whisper as he inspects my legs up to my knees where the shredding stops. Then Buck looks up my leg where Kern's blade ruined my dress. As his gaze climbs and his fingers trace the slit, I shift uncomfortably and pull away from him some. 
"Clara," Buck warns.
"Sorry," I whisper and stop moving. He pulls my dress over so my leg is covered, then pushes me forward so he can inspect my back too. I feel him finger the holes in my clothes and my breathing hitches.
"You are scratch free, kitten. Just breathe. And you'll be happy to know, you don't even smell like a hellhound," he remarks as he sits me up again.
"Buck, no! Smell! They have my scent. Five of them specifically sniffed me up and down, but now all of the hellhounds have my scent. I don't know what they do during the day, but I was told no amount of earth will separate me from them. They will find me again and their lord has ordered to bring me back in pieces if necessary. They killed those two men you were protecting me from. I watched one. His blood glowed-"
"Clara, that's your sign. If you were scratched, you would feel like your veins were on fire and your blood would glow. Don't test it. Like I said, I couldn't find a single scratch mark and you're not starting to burn with a fever; it would be noticeable already," he remarks. I nod again. 
"I don't fully understand what's going on, but they gave me a prophesy. I read it over a few times. I know that they want to kill me. I meet most the guidelines for the prophesy. I'm who they're after," I whisper, starting to shake and tremble again. He places his hands on my shoulders and squeezes them gently. 

"I figured as much that first night we met. I was afraid that that piece of knowledge would be confirmed, but hopeful they wouldn't ever find you. Then again, I wanted them to follow you because that meant they weren't trying to hurt someone else. Being with me and wearing these clothes will mask your scent long enough to distract them, but eventually they will figure it out. They will become more desperate too. Correct me if I'm wrong. Based on everything I know about hellhounds, you have become their new obsession. They think you are the key to their freedom. They think you are the answer that will let them roam the earth without being confined to the darkness. If that's true, than no living thing is safe. Night or day. More than just your village will burn." He pulls me to a standing position and strokes my jaw as he wraps one arm around my shoulders. I am unable to look away from his mesmerizing eyes; I don't want to look away because there's something about them. Peering into them, I know I can trust him and that I feel safe with him. "I will protect you, Clara. Just like I have been. All I need you to do is continue to trust me, but I understand if you don't. If that's the case, let me know, but I'll still have to get you away from here my way. It's easier if you agree though. Get ready," he whispers as he stops touching me all together. I blink and when I open my eyes again, the massive lion is in front of me again. He licks my face three times before laying at my feet. I look at him dumbfoundedly. He tugs on my skirt and nuzzles my hands still tightly clutching his shirt. I snap out of my stupor and begin moving. 

"Right. Wear your clothes. You are still the best bet; I still trust you. Pretty sure your clothes will swallow me though. You're just built very well: tall and muscular; you put all the men back in my village to shame with your muscles. Your one arm is like twice the size of both of mine. Now that I know you're a man too, can you give me some privacy? Also, does licking me count as kissing? Cause if so, we are going to have some words about that later, kitty," I mumble as I turn around. He moves toward the opening of the cave and looks out with a snort. I scowl; of course the thought of kissing me would be repulsive to him. I gaze at him as I unbutton my dress, lower my head, and take a deep breath. "Thanks. Not considered kissing. Good. That would be weird and immoral. Sorry for my rambling thoughts. There's some things you definitely should know about that camp, Buck," I state quietly as I look at him. His ears twitch, but otherwise, he doesn't move. I begin telling him about the humans and how they'll turn into hellhounds at the end of the blood moon as I wiggle out of the dress and thread the shirt on. I continue to tell him about the reading material and push it over to him with my injured foot. He doesn't move. I look down at my chest and let a strangled sob out. That causes Buck to turn his head and walk in front of me. I can read the concern in his face, and swear he's asking what hurts. "He burned me!" I exclaim as I look down the loose fitting shirt again. Buck nuzzles my shoulder. I look up at him with tears in my eyes. His paw rests on my hand, brings it to his mouth, and licks my palm again. I nod and pull the shirt down so he can see. I don't know if his healing tongue can help the scorch mark or not, but this is the best way to show him I trust him. "Go ahead. You have my permission to heal any wound that I get around you. Thanks for checking. I'll only consider it immoral if you put your lips on me in your human form. I can trust you to look out for me and protect me. You've been working on taking away my pain in some way or another ever since I met you. I won't stop you. It doesn't hurt, but you can still look at it," I whisper, holding his gaze while tears fall silently down my face. He ducks his head once, leans in, nuzzles my cheek, and lowers his head to my chest. I hold my breasts apart as he begins to caress the burn with his tongue. My fingers run across the edge of the raised and wrinkled skin, causing me to choke on a sob. Buck rubs his head against my neck before continuing to work on my burn, licking around my fingers. I bring them down to my side and just let him work. "All he did was touch me with his hand. My dress wasn't scorched. I didn't feel the burn linger; it was over as soon as it started. The pain from burns always linger; I have several covering my hands and arms to know the truth about that. I'm in the presence of a shapeshifter. I thought magic was banned and all those found to have it completely wiped off the face of the earth!" I weep and lower my head and close my eyes. Buck repeatedly licks my burn as I cry. He nuzzles my cheek after several moments and I lean into him and stroke his shoulder. "Forgive me for being clingy and weepy right now. I don't know what to think, say, or feel. I just don't want to be alone. When I had an emotional day, I would just hold onto my pillow; I've had several emotional days in a row now with little prospect of things looking up. Forgive me, but all I have is you right now to hold onto. Oh! There was three guards. Were you the third?" I hear a low rumbling growl before I feel him shift beside me and suddenly I'm wrapped in his arms. I return the gesture and cry on his shoulder and look out the cave entrance. He puts the hood on my head and holds me tightly, pressing his head against mine. I sob again. Feeling vulnerable is new for me. However, I don't mind this new sensation as he rubs my shoulder and neck while simultaneously pulling me tighter to him. He just let's me cry for a minute while still offering me physical comfort. 

"Ever have a pillow hug you back, kitten?" Buck teases. I chuckle softly and try to push him back. He holds on tighter and doesn't let me go. I turn my head, relax into him, and sob again. This time, into his neck. He rests his cheek on mine so I can hear him speak better. "Shhh. It's okay. Pull yourself together just for a moment. I know the past few days have been a whirlwind for you. I'm not surprised you feel overwhelmed and worked up," he murmurs tenderly. He rubs my arm around his neck before going back to holding me tightly. I rest on his shoulder and breathe deeply. "Good job. Kitten, I can protect you better in my other form, but you're right; I should have shifted to talk to you long ago. You would have been less frightened and we could have worked through some of your confusion. In all honesty, I thought about it while climbing that tree the first night after you. However, if you fell, I wouldn't have been able to save you then. It all worked out, Clara. If I have to be in my animal form again when we're talking, I'll act more like a human and less like a cat. I can actually nod or shake my head if the situation calls for it now. Just keep in mind, me growling means no and when I stretch or rub your shoulder or cheek, I'm agreeing with you. You're not alone; I'll be here for you. Keep talking to me; I really am listening. Finish getting dressed. I'll tie your arms and legs around me so you can just cry and sleep if you want. I'll keep you safe. We have to move, Clara. I understand you're emotional right now. Cry it out, but only after you get on my back. I won't let you fall, but we need to go now. They're going to figure out you're missing sooner than later; especially if there was a third guard because it wasn't me. I suspect those two will wake up soon. I'll explain everything later," he promises rapidly. I nod, but I can't move. He senses this and pushes me against the wall. He grabs the pants off the floor and puts them on me as he braces against my stomach with his shoulder. I close my eyes and sob into my hands. Buck lowers me to the ground in a sitting position and makes me look at him as he crouches beside me with my discarded dress over his lap. My heart stops as I meet his eye.
"Buck, I'm terrified," I whisper. He pulls both my hands into my lap and strokes my jaw.
"I know, kitten. All that's left for you to do is to just trust me and get on my back. It'll be over soon. You won't die if I have anything to say about it," he replies.
"But I am going to die. I won't be able to escape this fate. You didn't read the prophesy. Your death wasn't foretold. Buck, the information I was given won't help me! I don't know what I'm supposed to do with a map, a prophesy, and information about hellhounds. All I know is I never should have seen them in the first place and that I'm really going to die. And the worst part is, you're the only one who might care but that's only because you have been sent to protect! If I wasn't in danger, you wouldn't care. I know that I'm just a nobody, but I don't want to die. Especially alone." 
"Clara, that's enough! Do you trust me?" I nod. "Can you trust I have a plan to keep you alive?" Again, I nod. Hesitantly, but I nod. "Good. Then it's settled. We're leaving. Now. The information you were given, I will look over. There may be something there to help me keep you alive. Even if my job wasn't to protect you, I have this annoying habit of caring for everyone. So don't worry about that." Then he grabs my dress and rips off a long piece. He ties it around my waist to hold up the pants, tucks the papers into it, then loosely ties another strand around my wrist and yet one more on my ankle. He turns around, presses his back against me as he sits down, and secures the ties around him and to the opposite appendage. I bury my head in his neck and continue to softly cry, unable to do anything else. He rubs my arm in a reassuring manner as he looks over his shoulder. "It's okay, Clara. I will make sure you live through this and get to go home to your bakery. You have my word. I got you and I will protect you. I'm right here. You're not alone. The demon lord and his army will fail. Now to answer some of your earlier questions, you are still sane even though you are talking to an animal. You won't hurt me and I don't mind the petting if you're afraid; it soothes you and that's okay. I didn't mind the hair pulling either; it surprised me but didn't hurt too bad. It let me know you were trying to do what I needed you to do and that you hadn't passed out. Relax. Breathe. You'll be okay. I got you. Get some rest, kitten." I nod as he shifts back into his animal form and stands up. The ties around my ankles pull my legs forward, like his front legs are a barrier to keep me from sliding off. I pull myself forward so I won't cause him any strain or slow him down. He looks down and licks my hand then shifts his shoulders slightly, centering me on his back. I reach my hand up and stroke his chin.

"I'm ready, Buck. They killed three men in front of me. I don't do well with blood. I never have. It always makes me throw up. I don't think I have anything else left to expel. Don't limit yourself to keep me happy. I just want to get out of here," I sob into his fur. He nods and leaves the cave. I shiver slightly as the brisk air surrounds me. The hood keeps the cooler air of the morning off my face and I realize that even though I can feel the cooler air, I finally feel warm for the first time since the berry bush. I snuggle into his neck more and beg, "can you go faster? It's okay. Really." He bobs his head and takes off straight up the mountain. I close my eyes and find myself being lured to sleep. "Thank you, Buck. The pants are a good idea. I don't feel like I'm limited in movement or that I have to constantly adjust them like I would have to do with a dress. They're warmer too," I whisper as he continues to pick up speed. "I wish you would have told me about your shapeshifting from the beginning; I might have been less difficult or less annoying for you. You just had to tell me what the plan was." He huffs, and I think it's his way of scoffing at me. "Yeah. You're probably right. I still would have demanded to have it my way. You aren't a bad kitty at all. You're just Buck; probably the only friend I'll ever have. Thanks for sticking around for me. Thanks for being my pillow, protector, and friend. You should know, I'm nothing but trouble, yet I appreciate you for not giving up on me," I remark around several yawns. He nuzzles my arm and I grin. "Okay. Night, Buck." I rub his chest and let the exhaustion win, pulling me into a deep slumber.

© 2017 Lynaelee

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Added on August 4, 2017
Last Updated on October 4, 2017



Sometimes I feel like I need an outlet to express myself. I have never been good with verbal communication, but I have always found an out in writing. I hurt. I bleed. I make mistakes. I cry. Yes,.. more..

If only If only

A Book by Lynaelee

1. *Prologue* 1. *Prologue*

A Chapter by Lynaelee