Today’s excerpt comes from the recently completed chapter six. In this chapter, Karina has awoken from a long healing sleep that bordered on a coma. She had no idea she was moved from where she was hiding in their old camp until she opened her eyes to see Marcus holding her and the voice of Hathor nudging her mind gently back into wakefulness.
Where we pick up, the grim reality of the much larger group she has to lead and the fact there are non-predator therians among them has added to her growing worries. But, the deity that has taken up residence in her mind to teach her how to use the magic she must carry doesn’t quite see things the way she does.
Since I had just woke up, I went over to claim part of the deer that was brought in. The scent of fresh blood was strong in our camp. I could only imagine how it affected our new deer friends. We would have to accommodate them somehow during the storms until spring returned.
Wondering about the few deer, I suddenly felt a pang of dread. Their normal food source was gone. They couldn’t eat meat. We’d have to find something for them. Right then and there, I sent a silent plea to the gods to help them and our growing group so we could all survive the winter’s harshest times. We needed our numbers strong for the coming spring when we’d have to face the humans again.
Just thinking about the rising problems made me lose my appetite. The chunk of meat I had carved off with my claw was given to the youngest of the wolves then I took a walk to get away from the thick scents of blood, fear, and bodies. I needed to get away from the press of so many people and try to sort things out in my mind. Clearly, we were not prepared for even the most basic of problems such as finding food for everyone.
As soon as I was out of sight of the camp, I broke into a run. There was no direction or purpose, I just felt the strong need to run and feel the earth beneath my feet as I took each strode. The trace I followed twisted and turned, leading in a dizzying circuit under low branches and through the skeletons of bushes and tall dry grasses. Rabbits and the last of the squirrels and birds living in the area dashed away at my sudden approach and never paused to see if I was following them.
Without realizing it, I had taken an uphill path and found myself well above the camp among craggy rocks and stunted evergreen trees. The sun’s thin light fell on the coarse ground, highlighting in stark relief the rocks and shadows I passed before finally slowing down to catch my breath and gaze out over the valley far below. At the precise moment, whether by coincidence or fate, the sun broke through the clouds long enough to brighten the forest and showed me a vista no poet could describe.
There were still a few trees clinging to the very last leaves further down the sides of the mountain. Pines and other evergreens clothed the naked forest in a chemise of dark green tinged with dusty hues of blue and yellow. A thin trail of smoke rose slowly from the hidden camp; the only clue that someone was still living out in this cold and quiet landscape. Just barely, over the rustling of limbs from the breeze, I could hear the voices of my people and felt their apprehension of their new situation.
For how long I stood there in silence and looked out over that serene landscape, I don’t know, but Hathor allowed me the time to myself and let my senses return to their former keenness and feel the spirit of the earth in the air around me. It had been years since I had the chance to be truly alone, though I still didn’t quite have that luxury, yet. But, what I found was close enough to what I so dearly wanted and enjoyed the time I had.
Finally, as the clouds blocked the sun again, I felt the goddess’ presence within my mind again. My time for peace and quiet had come to an end and we both knew it. While I felt like rebelling, I knew there was no other recourse. If we were to survive, I was needed to resume my training and lead the new therians into the life we were promised.
~There is much on your mind, Karina,~ the soft, motherly voice of Hathor spoke in my mind.
“More than you could understand, Hathor,” I replied aloud, uncaring if anyone or anything was able to hear me.
~That much I can see, dear child,” she replied softly, sounding as if she understood everything I was feeling. ~But, does running away help? Your problems and responsibilities will still be there when you stop.~
I snorted, a short bark of a sound, and flung my arms outward and looked skyward before I bothered to reply to her. “She thinks I was running away!” Then becoming serious once again, I turned my gaze back to the valley below. “I wasn’t running away. I needed to get away so I could contemplate these responsibilities you’ve given piled on me in so short a time and figure out how to handle the most immediate problems we have.”
For a minute, she was quiet, pondering what I had said then she spoke again. ~From what I witnessed, you were running away. No one knows you have left nor where you’ve gone.~
While I rolled my eyes, I said sarcastically, “Oh, make it sound like I’m never going back.”
~I can see your intent just as clearly as I can see the world through your eyes,~ Hathor replied sternly. In all the time she had been inhabiting my mind, she still did not know or understand me.
“You may see my intent, but you don’t understand it,” I stated firmly as if she were standing face to face with me. “I’m not a sociable feline. I never was and will never be sociable. Having a large amount of people, even if they are therians, around me is more than I can take. If you’d look, you’d see that. I don’t hide that from anyone.”
Once again, she fell quiet and I could sense her sifting through the parts of my memory I leave public. Some things should be readily seen for those who can peer inside the mind.
~You are very much the spirit of your animal, Karina,” she finally said, ~I had forgotten that your type of great cat doesn’t abide company like the lions or your smaller cousins. But, I have seen you entertain a sociable aspect while at First Home. Those who have come to you, today, are nowhere near the crowds you had in the Temple.~
Slowly, I shook my head and let a slow, almost exasperated sigh. She truly did not understand. “Hathor, listen to me. I had no choice in being around all those other mothers, but we were all in the same boat. We needed each other to bring our young into the world.” In that moment, I almost choked as I recalled the cubs I had help raise and watch die at the hands of the demon and the sorcerer’s attacks. “Even then, I endured, and have only now felt the peace I had before beginning this strange path Bast had placed me on.”