Where did the week go? I swear I had just written last Sunday’s post a couple of days ago. Here it is, Sunday, yet again, and I never made a Wednesday post, let alone any other posts through the week. Between workouts and work, time got away from me.
Well, onward to today’s excerpt. Today, you are seeing the opening of chapter ten to Way of the Comet. Larana has just awakened and found herself not only imprisoned, but force shifted to her feral cat form. She’s been bound and muzzled to prevent her from escaping or trying to make any attempts at calling for help. Who ever captured her knew they needed to put some powerful binding magic on her or they would find themselves in a load of trouble. But, she isn’t without friends, as she quickly finds out.
When I awoke again, the pain in my head was gone and I couldn’t open my eyes without cringing, but I noticed something else terribly wrong. At first, I noticed the cramp in my back, just between the shoulder blades and something jabbing me in the ribs. When I went to move, I discovered why I the cramp was there and the jab in my side. How it happened, I didn’t know.
What I found was that I had been made to shift into a full cat then all four of my feet were bound together, even my tail, with thick leather thongs. The way I was tied up was what was giving me the cramp between my shoulders. When I tried to speak, I couldn’t move my jaws enough to get more than a few muffled grunts because of a muzzle. To add insult to injury, I felt the cold sting of metal around my neck, as well as a band on my tail near the base. Needless to say, I was very uncomfortable with my current situation.
The pain in my side was coming from the very sharp end of a long spear held by a creature that looked oddly like a hyena but far more ugly. He was cackling while he jabbed my side with that spear, a sound that resonated behind my eyes in pain. “Such a pretty little kitty you are. Yes. Yes! Very pretty you are. Ha, ha, HA!”
There was no way I could answer. Every try was only a grunt or a growl. No amount of speech could come through. Whatever it was they did to me, made it so I was an actual cat. In my mind, I screamed in frustration because I could not break free of whatever it was that was holding me in this form. Adding to that frustration was the pain of the spear poking at my ribs and the insane cackle of my torturer.
As my vision began to clear, I saw more and more of my new surroundings. The hyena that was prodding me had on old worn armor that looked like it saw better days without him touching it. Even his fur was matted and dingy where it showed. Only his teeth looked viciously sharp when he’d curl his lips back with his maniacal laughter. He looked as bad as he smelled.
Beyond him, I saw cages. Lots of cages; each with an occupant that was lying down, sitting, or pacing the inner dimensions of their prison. None of them, as far as I could tell, resembled my torturer. They were animals, chained and muzzled like I was, which made me begin to wonder, between the pain of being jabbed and the grind of the hyena’s voice, if they were like me, or were they simply what they looked like. Unable to do anything, I could only take the abuse ad wish that help would arrive.
“Kisu! Leave our new prize alone. We need her healthy for the auction.” The voice was strong, deep, and harsh. It carried the authority that made the hyena stop his prodding and turn to face the tall, lean figure that approached him.
That voice belonged to canine dressed in rich robes. His grizzled fur was mostly gray with shadings of black and brown where I could see it. The robes he wore were deep red with golden trimming and draped over his lean body. Deep brown eyes remained hard though the smile that stretched across his muzzle looked genuine enough. He looked handsome, but to me, he was another to have to deal with. Little did I know then that he was just the first of many I was going to have to fight before I could reach the castle and my friends.
The hyena turned as soon as his name was called then cowered down before the clear leader and cackled at him. “The pretty one has awakened, Master.” He heaved as though he had been running instead of laughing. Watching the crazed minion made me feel sick inside.
“So I have noticed, Kisu. Leave her alone and go tend to the horses,” the wolf gestured abruptly to Kisu as he stepped close to my cage then looked down at me with a sneer on his face. “She will bring us plenty of gold at the auction and every other one after that.” The low laugh that followed made me cringe inwardly and outwardly with the greed and evil that I could feel resonating in his voice. Right then, I wished that Kirin and the rest were there to take me away from there.
I could hear more laughter after I closed my eyes and whimpered. The Master found something amusing about my reaction. When I opened my eyes again, he was walking away and Kisu was already gone after the order he was given. The feeling of hopelessness began to well up inside me so strongly, I wanted to cry but the panther body I was in would not allow that action to happen.
*Be calm my child. All is not lost.* Came a voice in my head; ancient, wise, gentle, they sounded so close and yet so far away at the same time. *You must be strong or they will quickly break your spirit.*
Out of habit, I looked around, darting my eyes everywhere at once before I started moving my head. All I could see were the other cages surrounding the cart I was chained up in, some straw, and a few trees that were scattered throughout the camp. Only vaguely could I make out the peaks of the tents that were being used and what I assumed was the flag belonging to the Master. Nothing else stood out that could send me those thoughts. Yet, they felt different as well as unfamiliar.
Movement in the cage closest to my wagon drew my attention. It was a large bird looking creature from what I could see. The head was that of a hawk with tufts of feathers laying back like ears and great yellow beak. Gold-yellow eyes were peering at me from amid a sea of tawny black tipped feathers. Somehow, it looked strange with how it was standing; not like a bird, but more like a cat or dog. Because I was laying down, I could not see anything but the bird’s front and the harness of leather and a chain secured to a halter that was keeping its head from pulling up and the wings tied in place.
*Who? What? Where?* I projected the thought back though it seemed loud even to my own ears. Others in the area looked my way and made noises that begged for my attention. The noise was gradually growing, threatening to draw attention to me, or us, once again. *Where are you? What are you? Who are you?* The questions were forced from my thoughts as I tried to find the one who was speaking to me.
The bird creature across from me dipped its head, but made no sound. His gaze never wavered from me for a moment as he dipped his head. *I called to you, white one. Do not fear. We are all on the same side as you are. We have all felt the sting of Kisu’s spear and the lash of the Captain’s whip when we were first captured.*
Whip? I saw no whip on the wolf, but then he was dressed in a robe. That could hide anything as loose as what it looked. *But, who are you? Are you the bird I’m looking at?* My mental voice was frantic and filled with frustration of not knowing. I didn’t want to believe what my own senses were telling me and hoped that this was some sort of cruel nightmare.
*I am the one you are looking at. Yes.* The bird’s mental voice gained a tired note as it looked at me. I could almost feel the years of abuse he had endured. Yes, I felt that this old bird was definitely male as well as old despite the plumage of a younger bird. *My name has long since been forgotten, but you may call me Hawk.* He stood while still looking at me then lowered his head to push his beak through the bars and call to me in a softer warbled screech belonging to a hawk.