Tyger Tyger burning bright
In the forest of the night
What imimortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fateful symmentry.
"Once, it is said that before the War, before the times of even the oldest of the old still living, there were no clans."
The boy looked up at the old man, entranced. He treasured his grandfather; his own parents had been almost strangers since the birth of his twin brother and sister two years before. He never complained about that, never showed any outward signs of jealousy, and he did not know his grandfather worried about that. He wished the boy would show some emotions at times, instead of keeping it all inside of himself. He adored the boy as much as the child loved him.
"No clans? Just pure bloods?" He asked, curious. Such a concept had never occured to him.
"Just pure bloods." The grandfather confirmed. "But then the War came, and the world that had been so nuturing turned cold and harsh, and many were unable to survive. But a few men and women possessed a powerful magic called genetics." he sounded out the word for the boy to understand. "Using this magic, they took the best of the beasts, and gave their essence to man. And so, the clans were born."
He took a sip of water and passed the skin to his grandson, who drank deeply, his dark eyes never leaving his grandfather."But why.."
"Patience, I am reaching that part of the story. There were many more clans in those days than there are today. In some cases, the magic was too powerful and the clan was unable to survive. In some cases, the clan lived but could not bring forth young. And in others.." he sighed. "In others, when they gave us the essence of the beasts, they gave us the heart of the beasts as well. The animal was too powerful to control, too strong. It was so in our clan; so much that the other clans declared us a meance and hunted us. Many died in the journey here."
The child frowned, biting his lip in thought. "I don't see anyone acting like an animal" he said at last.
"Nay, and hope in your lifetime you do not. No fear of that; a werechild has not been born to our clan in well over 300 years."
The boy stared at the campfire for another long minute. "What would happen to it, if a werechild were born here?"
"The rules are clear on it. Such a child is a danger not only to itself but the rest of the clan as well. It would be sent to hunt the Higher Ground.
"You'd kill it? It would have to die?"
"At eight summers, I know the idea burns you, my grandson. At your age, I chafed at it myself. But sometimes, one must put aside one's heart and do what is right. You would not allow a boru boru to live in your home, it would destroy all you loved. A werechild would kill us all, feast on our bones, and feel no remorse at all. "
The old man rose. "Come, the hour grows late and I will see you home. Do not worry about werechildren. There are none left."
They had removed the chains from his wrists, or rather allowed him to removed them once he was safe in the cell. Tomorrow when they came for him, he'd have to wear them again before they'd unlock the door of the cage. Huddled in the corner, he rubbed at a chafed spot on his skin.
Moonlight spilled into the cell, and he drank it in. His last moonlight. How wrong that sounded. He was ten years old, how could this be his last night? He didn't want to die! A choked sob welled up in his throat and he fought it back, fought back his tears.
He hadn't meant to hurt Aylan, It was a game, they were just playing and suddenly..suddenly he felt so strong and powerful and then...nothing. When he came back to himself he was chained and Aylan was...
A werechild. A demon in their mist, one of those responsible for the banishment of their clan so many years ago. His mother's shamed cries, his father hard stare.Only his brother and sister were unafraid of him, but his parents held them back. would not allow them contact with him.
His grandfather had gone to the Higher Hunting Ground last year. The boy wondered if he would be waiting for him, or if he too would turn away in anger and fear. That would hurt the worst of all.
He jumped to his feet, pacing the cage. He felt the beast within him growling to be released, but now that he knew it was there, he could fight it, keep in in check. His boot kicked up a cloud of dusts the shimmered in the moonlight. A dirt floor...
He knelt back near the wall. Crimes in the clan were few, the cages were usually only meant to hold those who had too much ceremony wine. As a result, they were not big. The walls were little more than stone and board.
The boy scraped at the bottom of the wall. It didn't go all the way down into the ground and the earth was still soft. His heart pounding, expecting to hear shouts any minute, his sharp nails tore through the loam, wideing the hole. It seemd to take hours, but the moon wasn't much more into the sky when the hole was big enough for the child to wiggle through.
His first instinct was to run, to flee as fast as he could. But the logical part of him argued, what good to run and die? You can stay and do the same. If you go, you must find a way to live.
He moved through the shadows of the village, jumping at every sound, until he reached his own house. He stared at it for a minute, engraving it into his memory, before he slipped inside.
He did not go to his parents chamber. They were betrayers, he had no wish to see them. Instead he made his way into his own room. His old room, he reminded himself.
Grabbing a leather sack, he knew he couldn't take much. A few pieces of clothing, his grandfather's daggers, what he really came for. Double edged and sharper than any razor, they were the boy's pride and joy.
It was time to go, he could not linger any longer, not if he wanted to live, and he wanted that very badly. Even if he had to live alone, far from here, he was not ready to go to the High Ground and risk seeing his grandfather's shame in him.
The moonlight fell across his little brother's face, and the werechild stopped for a moment. He'd never see his brother again, never teach him their grandfather's stories. Nor would he pluck his little sister from trees or dry her tears when her twin was picking at her. Never again...
It was just after midnight when he left the village, barely ten years old, carrying in him a power he did not understand, would not understand for many years to come. Too young to comprehend the crime had committed, that he had taken the life of a playmate and friend because of that power. It sicked him; he hated it, but he had too much spirit within him to die for it.
He paused for a moment at the large tree making the entrance to the village. The Sacred Tree, the Life Tree. Pulling out a dagger, he carved deep gouges into it, forming letters. He would go, but they'd remember he had been there. When he was done, he vanished into the shadows, leaving behind only the scared tree, which now bore the name Rei
He prefered to hunt at night. During the day the woods were too full, too much competition. He was an excellant hunter but no match for grown man. Not unless he used the weretigter, which he only did in desperation.
He bore small rememblence to his former self. The baby fat he had worn at the village had vanished, and his hair was long past his eyes, tied back with what he could get his hands on at any given time. Tall for his age, he had the lithe, lean body of a hunter, a body that knew little comfort and did not seek it.
He supposed he owed his life to the house. When he had reached these woods a year ago, he had been far more dead than alive. Although logically he knew he had come too far to be tracked and found fear made him press on, running until he dropped, night after night.
Whoever had lived in the house first hadn't been gone long, but long enough for it to be in dire need of repair. Still, to the boy, it was the most marvelous thing he had ever seen, and he claimed it for his own at once. When he wasn't hunting, he was busy making repairs, which with his limited skill were more enthusiam than anything else. But it kept him busy, kept him occupied. If he missed compansionship. he tried not to think about it overly much. His solitude was a small price to pay for being able to live in peace.
The night hadn't started off well at all. There wasn't much of a hunting moon, and even with his cat eyes it was hard to see where he was going. To make matters much worse, he had almost run smack into the one thorn in his side, Bunyan.
The old man lived not far from him, and never passed up on oppurtunty to lay advise on the boy, whether or not he wished to hear it, The problem was the the man was incredibly asute; he could almost read your mind. Rei would have turned and ignored him, but Bunyan had seen him and montioned him over.
"Hunting again, I see?"
Rei shrugged. How could such an obviious statement deserve a response.
"As long as your dinner is all you're hunting this time." Bunyan continued.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that the last four times I've seen you out hunting the villagers have been robbed. Nothing big, nothing major, but enough to be missed. I'd hate to think you had anything to do with that."
Rei bristled. It was hard to feel indignant because he HAD broken into the villagers home and helped himself more than once. It wasn't stealing, it was surviving. But good luck trying to convince Buyan that.
"I didn't steal nothing!"
"Didn't steal anything" The man corrected. "And I can't prove anything. I do know that before you showed up, this never happend." His voice turned kind, and Rei hated that even more than the suspicion. "Why don't you let me help you? Do you have a home? Family?"
"You're Woren, right?"
Bunyan rubbed his chin. "I've heard things about the Woren. Yes, that would fit.." He studied Rei for a minute. "Off with ya now. Go hunting."
Rei turned to leave.
Bunyan almost smiled. "Be careful."
He had been tracking the creature most of the night. It wasn't very big, not from the damage to the folliage, but it was fast and intelligent, and had a scent he was unfamilar with. Two rabbits were slung across his back, he didn't need any more meet, but the chance to hunt something different intrigued him.
He got the shock of his life when suddenly his prey doubled back around to face him.
It was... a child?
The boy was about the age of Rei's little brother. Or rather, the age Tuppin was when Rei last saw him. Four summers, there abouts. He could tell it was of a clan, but which one eluded him. The child's eyes were too large, his face too narrow, to be a pure blood. He stared at Rei and Rei stared back.
Suddenly, hands on his small hips, the boy began yammering at Rei in a language the Woren boy had never heard before. It was quick, and sharp, and he spoke so fast Rei couldn't make out when one word ended and another began.
The Woren looked around, trying to see if any large eyed parents were going to come out to claim the child. God, when was the last time it ate? It was a toothpick. It's clothing was dirty and torn. And to be honest, it stank.
Well, it wasn't HIS problem. Someone else would find it and take care of it. Maybe Bunyan. No, he would be nice and take it to Bunyan. Let the lumberjack figure out what to do with it.
The child smiled suddenly, and to Rei's shock reached out and took his hand.
"Of all the.." Rei muttered. "I can't turn you over to Bunyan, can I? When was the last time you bathed? You SMELL" He held his nose and the little boy giggled and held his own.
"Well, I guess I have to take you home with me. Can't just leave you here. What's your name, anyway?"
The little boy stared at him with big, solemn eyes. "I'm Rei. Rei" The Woren tapped his chest.
The child smiled "Terepolonironino Poleninattinang"
"Ter..Oh, no way am I saying all that whenver I want your attention. Teepo. How about that? You like that name? TEEPO." He tapped the boy.
"Teepo." The child agreed with a shrug. He'd never liked saying it either.
"I don't suppose you know how to hunt. Or fix a roof." Rei muttered. "Guess I just have to teach you. Come on. Let's go home."
"When feasible, I prefer to eat the rude"