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Monday, November 21, 2016

Discovery


Daylight was peeking through the cracks in the shuttered windows, causing sunbeams to streak across the room. One seemed aimed straight into Dominic’s face. It was a broad expanse of light, that no matter which way he turned he could not escape. Growling, he finally threw his covers back and stretched. “I guess I’ll check the fire, and start some coffee brewing.” He mumbled to himself as he got up from the floor. He glanced around the room to check on the others before going to tend the fire.

He had stirred the slumbering embers, before checking the water supply. They needed fresh water, so he grabbed the bucket and headed for the door. He quietly closed the door on the still cabin. The weather was turning colder, no matter how bright the sun might be shining. Dominic checked his weapons before disappearing down a faint trail leading to a sluggishly running stream.

Dominic took his time filling the bucket. He couldn’t help thinking back to the last couple of days. It was nice to get away and clear his mind. He finished with his chore and looked around. He sat the bucket in a safe spot, and climbed a nearby Oyroro tree. As he sat back against the thick trunk he thought about what he had witnessed the day before. What had happened to his friend? Neko was more than his friend, they had grown up together. Neko was as much his brother as Donny.

He felt conflicted. On one hand, he marveled at Neko’s improved fighting skills. On the other hand, he worried at the lack of remorse over killing those men. Neko had just moved on, not even looking back at the destruction he had wrought. Also, what was with that glowing stuff. It kinda freaked him out. When they had left home he had been so excited, but now he worried that they might never finish this quest the Queen had sent them on.

He was drawn out of his thoughts by hearing his name called, he waited to make sure he hadn’t mistaken the call. A few seconds later he heard Donny call his name. He was just getting ready to answer when Donny passed under the tree he was lounging in. “Damnation, you take the water bucket and we sit there waiting for water to make our coffee. But no, my dear little brother is off somewhere, and failing to bring back the damn bucket. And he’s not answering when I call. When I find him…” before he could finish Dom dropped down in front of him.

“What are you going to do, brother? And might I add I’m the elder twin. I was born first. I have the water, I just needed a bit to myself. A lot has happened in a short time and I just wanted some time to process it. Are the others awake then?” Dominic asked his now silent brother.

Donny watched as Dominic gathered up the water bucket. “They are slowly waking up. The young one has not unfortunately. I am really curious about what he meant about our journey.” Donny said as he began following Dom back to the cabin. “Have you noticed anything different about Neko? He just doesn’t seem himself the last few days. I know he found out who he is, and all, but this just feels like…well I can’t quite put it into words.” Here Donny just stopped talking as if he was trying to formulate his thoughts.

Dominic wanted to agree with his brother, but he was afraid to mention what he had witnessed without discussing it further with Bo. “He has had a lot laid in his lap, what with finding out he’s a prince of an ancient race. Then that thing appearing on his back. Just give him some time. He’ll be the same old Neko soon.” Dominic told his brother this, but really did he believe what he said.

Donny stopped not far from the cabin. His head cocked to the side, as if he was listening for something. Dominic had continued to walk, but when he noticed Donny wasn’t with him, turned to see what had made him stop. “What is it, bro?” He asked as he came back to Donny’s side. “Did you hear something?”

Donny seemed to snap out of a trance. “Whoa! I suddenly feel more alive than I think I have ever done. For some reason, I suddenly had this thought or picture in my mind of a lone fortress deep in the mountains. It sat on the edge of a cliff. It was as if I was there standing outside its walls. I have never had such a vision. What the hell is happening to me?” Dominic took note of the wild look in his twin’s eyes.

“Let’s return quickly. We need to tell the others what is happening.” He turned back towards the cabin, and as he did his vision sharpened. As he drew in a breath, he felt a rush of energy pulse through his veins. “I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re not alone. I just got a burst of something, and I also just had something happen to my eyes. We need to figure this out quick.” Donny nodded in agreement, and the two broke into a trot to get back to the cabin quickly.

As they ran into the clearing where the cabin sat, they found Bo and Azereus sparring. The twins drew up short to watch the swordsmen practice their fighting skills. Even though Bo was their brother, he had rarely sparred with anyone in the village. They now knew it was because he was a former Queen’s guard. There was no one in the village that shared his skill or knowledge.

It was like watching art brought to life, as the two men faced off against each other. As the twins watched it seemed like the longer the battle went, the more concise each opponent’s skill became. Some moves made with such subtlety that it was amazing that there was no blood being shed.  Neko had come to stand beside Dominic, and whispered “have you ever seen anything so beautiful, they work so perfectly in unison, yet against each other?” Dominic could only shake his head no to the question.

The fighting skills seemed not to phase CeCe in the slightest as she exited the cabin in search of her water bearers. “Really, I never saw such slow pokes. I would like to get breakfast on the table, and coffee brewing. I also need to brew some healing tea for the boy, his fever has increased.” She took the bucket from Dominic’s unresistant hands and made her way back inside.

Bo had never felt like this before. His mind was so clear, his sword strokes so precise. He felt like he could perceive Azereus’s moves before he made them. He and Az had always been well matched in skill, after all Az had taught him, but usually by now they would be tiring, and that is when the slight mistakes would happen and blood would be spilled in the tiny nicks as the blade touched too close. He felt as fresh now as when they had begun to spar.

Finally, he called for a break. As he lowered his sword, an insane urge to continue the battle tried to take hold, he was barely able to fight it down. Before he could say anything Azereus was shaking his hand as he spoke. “Good match. I have never felt so refreshed after such a long sparring session. Did you feel it? This energy? I felt like I could go on forever. I cannot believe we are so still well matched after so many years. I felt like I could anticipate your moves before you made them, it was very strange indeed.” As he finished speaking he noticed that they had gained an audience while fighting.

Bo followed Az’s gaze to where the three young men stood. “It seems we drew a crowd.” He heard Az say he headed toward his errant brother. He wanted to be angry at Dom for his disappearance, but for some reason he held his tongue. He understood too well the need to get away from time to time. He was about to tell Dom this when CeCe called from the doorway of the cabin that breakfast was ready.

Once everyone was seated around the table, and had their bowl of porridge in front of them. They made light conversation until the meal was done. Afterward they sat with their coffee and the discussion turned to the events of the day before as well as to the child on the bed. “I worry about his fever, if I cannot get it to break, we may lose him.” CeCe said looking over to the sleeping kit. “I don’t know about the rest of you but I want to know what he meant about our journey being almost over, I’m curious as hell to find out.”

Donny had been trying to keep the vision out of his mind but it just kept flashing back. Finally, he could wait no more. “I am not sure what is going on, but for some reason I keep having this vision or something of a fortress. As much I try, I just can’t shake it. It is really starting to bother me.” He was literally shaking with the feelings he was fighting. “And on top of it, I have never felt so good before. I woke up this morning and my head was clear…well except for that stupid vision. I didn’t hurt anywhere, I keep waiting for all the aches and pains to return, but so far nothing.” He just let the last words hang in the air, waiting for a response.

Everybody was just staring at him. Donny rarely spoke and when he did, it was slow and steady. He was the voice of reason amid Dominic and Neko’s craziness.  Now here he sat more animated than any of his friends or family had ever seen him. “He’s not the only one feeling some kind of energy. And I kid you not, my eyes are acting weird. On our way, here, I could see the cabin from a distance that I could never have seen so clearly before. I swear I could have shot my bow and been able to hit either one of you guys.” Dominic added into his brother conversation.

“Okay it would appear we all have been affected by what I can only think must’ve been the jewel coming to life.” Bo declared. “I too feel this energy racing through my veins, I feel like I can conquer any foe. And my fighting skills seem to have been affected in some way too.” He further added. He looked over to see Azereus nodding his head in agreement.

CeCe had gotten up and gone to check on her patient. She stood with her hand on his brow, when she spoke. “I feel no different than I did the day we started this journey, if anything I feel more tired than I have ever felt. It is taking all I have in me to care for my patient here.” She looked down at the child with a worried look upon her face. “I am offering up so many prayers to the Goddess, yet I fear they are in vain.”

As she had been speaking the guys had watched CeCe’s hand begin to glow where she touched the boy. As she had spoken, she had been stroking his forehead. The glow had gotten stronger, but she had seemed to wilt from it at the same time. Bo stood and rushed towards her when the glow engulfed the small figure on the bed. CeCe seem to fade, becoming nothing more than an outline of the person she really was. Bo caught her has she passed out.

The glow faded from the kit when the contact with CeCe had been broken as she was caught in Bo’s arms. The kit seemed stronger, and was breathing deeper. Azereus went over to check the boy’s fevered brow, only to find the fever gone. His eyes met Bo’s across the bed. “What the…” Az started.

“Hell?” Bo finished for him.




Monday, November 14, 2016

The Rescue


Neko had walked, deep in thought until he found himself outside of Caspian. The village was preternaturally quiet reminding him of Cat’s Eye on that night not so long ago. So many things had changed since he had wandered through the silent village. So many secrets learned. He wondered if there were more secrets lurking amongst those he traveled with.

He stopped to rest, and leaned back against a low crumbling wall on the outskirt. He searched the darkness for any signs of life within the burned ruins. A crack of a twig to his left made him smile. “You might as well join me, you are terrible at sneaking. I have known you were following me since I left the hut.” Dominic came out of the shadows, and came to stand beside him. “I don’t need a babysitter. Did she send you to watch after me?”

Dominic cast Neko a sideways look before turning his attention towards the village. “No, she didn’t send me. She would never do that. I came because you are my best friend, and I was worried. That was a hell of a thing to learn about yourself. Also I figured you knew I was there, I was just keeping my distance to give you some time. Do you want to talk about it?” Once again he turned his gaze towards his companion.

Neko began to shake his head no, but then he changed his mind. “Why, didn’t she tell me sooner. She has had my whole life to tell me something like this. She knew I wondered about my parents. Where I came from. Yet day after day, she kept it all to herself. Did she think I would go blabbing it all over who I was? Endanger myself in some way by her simply telling me the damned truth! I deserved to know, Goddess help me , what if something had happened to her. I would never have known any of it.” The more Neko talked about it, the louder he became, his anger sparking. His whole body transmitting a sort of electrical current as his emotions raced.

Dominic watched in fascination, as his friend began to glow with a blue nimbus around him. Just as he was about to tell him about it, a sound from the village caught both their attentions. Neko stopped in the middle of his rant. Turning towards what sounded like a skirmish. He looked at Dom and held his finger up to his lips for silence. The two began a slow advance towards the sound, the blue glow fading but still visible around Neko’s form.

The two crept as quietly as they could while walking over the charred remains of what had once been a prosperous village. The sound of their boots as they stepped on the charcoaled remains of furniture, and other things best not thought to closely about, was loud. Neko looked down in disgust at the alley they now found themselves in. Soot coated  them both, and the stench that arose with each step got harder to bear. The sounds of fighting had grown louder, as they had moved closer. They heard a loud plaintive cry of pain, that made them hurry down the narrow pathway.

Neko held his hand up to halt Dominic’s forward momentum as they rounded a corner to find a courtyard of sorts. In the center stood four men standing over a fifth one who lay curled in a ball on the ground in the center of their circle. They were taking turns kicking, and hitting the little one. They were laughing at his cries of pain. Dominic pulled his bow around, and reached for an arrow. Just as he drew back to send the arrow flying into one of the men. He heard a growl, and watch as the blue nimbus that had encircled his friend before grew bright once again. Neko launched himself at the nearest ruffian. Dominic forgot the arrow he had cocked, as he watched his friend become a blur. The sounds of hissing, and cries of pain were all that was heard. Well that, and Neko’s deep threatening growl.

Different colored balls of fur were flying, as Neko moved from one assailant to the next. His teeth and claws were dripping blood. He had never felt such raw power. Or such primal anger. He felt none of their blows as they fought for their lives. He showed them no mercy, they deserved none in his mind. You never attacked those weaker than yourself. And you didn’t laugh at their pain. He didn’t realize that the attackers that were still able to had gathered their fallen and retreated into the maze of the city alleyways. The last one he still held in his claws.

Dom had finally broke out of his trance of watching the beauty of his friend fight, to notice the small heap lying motionless in the ashes. He ran over, and turned the body over. He feared what he might find as he uncovered the shrouded face. He drew back at the dark visage he beheld. It was like he had stepped back in time, and was looking at a younger version of Neko. The same velvety black fur covered his features. Only this version had a nasty gash running up and across his forehead. The boy was unconscious, finally giving in to the pain of his wounds. Dom wrapped him up, thinking it would be best to further check him away from the village.

Neko had dropped the lifeless form of his final opponent, and came to stand next to Dominic. “Is he alive? Did those bastards succeed in their purpose?” He asked before squatting down to look at the face of the young kit. “We need to get out of here. The ones who got away, may bring reinforcements. Here let me carry him. You keep guard with your bow.” As he spoke Neko lifted the boy into his arms and stood. "Let’s get out of the goddess forsaken place.”

The two retreated back the way they had come. Soon they had reached the cool fresh air outside the city. Dominic led the way to a small copse of trees in which they could rest, and check further on the youth. Neko lay the small bundle down. He pulled the cloak away from the boy's body, and swore as he saw the filth encrusted clothing. “This poor child has nothing, and yet those idiots would beat him to death. Sometimes I really hate our world.” Dom came to sit across from him, and nodded.

Slowly the two examined the kit looking for broken bones, and other injuries. They found evidence of past beatings, and this one would leave him bruised and sore, but they could find no broken bones. He was almost identical to Neko, except where Neko only had one spot on his stomach that had a couple white hairs. The boy had several places where white peeked through the blackness of his fur. They both also noted that somewhere in his past, the boy had lost the tip of his right ear in what appeared to  have been fight.

Dominic looked at Neko, and then down at the boy. “Do you think we ought to make camp here, or take him to the cabin where CeCe can take a look at him? If we stay here, we are going to need to start a fire, and that may draw attention we don’t want.” Dom stood up. He waited for Neko to make a decision. He got his answer when Neko wrapped the boy back up in his cloak, and picked him up once more. “Okay, the cabin it is.” He said as he followed Neko.

“I’m worried about him. He hasn’t regained consciousness, and the longer he is out, the more I fear the head wound. We need to get him to my sister. Maybe she can get him to wake up.” Neko told Dom on their way back to Azereus’s cabin. “He also needs to be warmed and fed once he wakes up, that would be best done there.”

CeCe stood at the door watching for the return of her brother, her worry increasing as darkness began to fall. Had she totally driven him away, or would he be able to forgive her. All these questions chased around her mind, making her jump when Bo came to stand beside her. He looked over to see her hugging herself, and reached to take hold of her hand. “He’ll back. He loves you. It may take him a bit to get over his hurt feelings, but he will. Have faith in the man you raised.” He squeezed her hand as he spoke these words, and then pulled her close to wrap his arm around her shoulders. She turned into his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. She snuggled into his embrace, as she continued to stare at the tree-line waiting to see her brother walk through.

Bo felt CeCe snuggle in, and his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t been sure if she would take his comfort, but now she was in his arms. He leaned down a smelled the sweet fragrance that was CeCe. She smelled of the flowers and herbs she used in her healing, and for some reason it always calmed him. He turned his gaze towards where she looked, and sent a silent prayer to the Goddess that Neko would return soon. His brother as well.

He was about to suggest that they go inside and get a cup of tea when a movement caught his eye. CeCe must have noticed it too. She broke from his embrace, and started heading toward it. Bo followed, but pulled his sword, just in case it wasn’t the boys. He heard CeCe’s exclamation, just as the boys broke through the bushes. Neko carrying a dark bundle. One that looked strangely like a child.

“We need to get him inside, he has been beaten. I worry that he may not make it.” Neko was saying to CeCe as they kept walking towards the cabin. Dom ran ahead and opened the door, so that Neko could carry his burden inside. “He has a head wound, but as far as I can tell no other serious injuries. He’s just a kit. Help him” Neko begged his sister as he lay the child on the bed. Donny and Az came close to see what was causing all the ruckus.

“Get back, I need better light to see.” CeCe told the assembled crowd as she set to work unwrapping the silent figure. She told Neko to bring her a basin of water so that she could cleanse the wound, and sent Dom to get her med kit out of her pack. “You said he was beaten? Beaten by whom? Where did you find him?” She interrogated Neko as she cleansed the nasty gash on the boy’s head.

Neko answered her questions, and helped with all that she did to figure out why the boy was still unconscious. While they did that, Dom grabbed Bo by the arm, and pulled him out of the cabin. Azereus followed not far behind. Curious to know what was going on. Donny had curled up in front of the fire, his ailment causing him to seek the warmth.

“What is so blasted important, Dominic? Why did you have to drag me out here? Why couldn’t what you have to say been said where it’s warm?” Bo asked as he rubbed his hands over his biceps and stomped around, trying to stay warm in the cold mountain air. HE turned and looked balefully at Dom, waiting to hear what his brother had to say.

Dom looked at Bo and then noticed Az had joined them. “Look, I just wanted to tell you what I saw when we found the kit. What happened to Neko. It was weird, and I wanted your advice. I just didn’t want to say anything in front of Neko at the moment. I think something happened to him, when the stone marked him. He was really upset earlier, and his body actually started to glow. Then we heard the fight, and when he saw the boy, I don’t know, something came over him.” Dominic took a breath and studied the two men before him.

“I have always marveled at Neko’s fighting skill, but today it was different. He moved so swiftly, it was like a blur; a blue glowing blur. It was like he was someone else, Neko has never killed before today. Today he killed without mercy. The worst part, he acts as if it didn’t matter; the life he took.” Dominic stopped finally, and waited to hear what his brother would have to say to this development.

Bo looked at Dom, and was at a loss on what to tell him. He honestly had no idea what to think. He was getting ready to speak his thoughts when Neko came to the door of the cabin. He saw them and headed their way. “Just thought I’d let you know it looks like the kit may be waking up. Oh, and CeCe said to get inside before you all catch your death out here in this weather.” He trotted back to the cabin, and disappeared back inside.

“We’ll talk about this later, for now let’s go meet our guest.” Bo told Dom as he headed for the cabin, and the warmth that awaited him there. Dominic and Az followed in his tracks. The boy was just stirring when they came in. His eyes moving wildly around, fear lighting his eyes. He sat up quickly, and reached for his head.

CeCe reached out and spoke softly, “You’re safe. We will not harm you. You have a nasty cut on your forehead, that is what your probably feeling. My name is CeCe, and these are my friends. Well, all except that one.” Here she stopped and pointed at Neko. “He’s my brother. He is the one who brought you here. He was worried about you, after your attack. What is your name? Where did you come from?” All eyes were on the boy, waiting to hear what his answers would be.

The boy who looked so much like Neko, watched the people around him. Where Neko’s eyes were a yellow-green, his were pure gold. What they didn’t realize, it wasn’t fear, he was feeling but destiny. As his gaze touched on each person in the room, he saw a flash of their future. He eyes finally came to rest on Neko. Here more than a simple flash enveloped his mind, and he reached up to hold his already aching head. “Thank you for your kindness, mistress. I was born in a place, I have little memory of. My name, the one I have always been called by anyways, is Spooks. I was searching for you when I was attacked.” He stopped speaking, and CeCe handed him a cup of her herbal tea. The rest waited for him to continue, their curiosity peaked.

Dominic as usual had no patience, and asked what he knew everybody else was wanting to know. “Why were you searching for us? How do you even now about us? What do you know about us?” he quizzed the youngster.


Spooks looked at him and smiled. “I know quite a bit about you, Master. I was sent to guide you on the final steps of your journey.” He said those simple words, handed CeCe the cup, and passed out.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Neko



In the silence of the crypt, Neko’s exclamations of pain slowed. He looked first at his sister, and then each of the men standing in a semi-circle around him. He studied the faces, and apparently whatever he saw, had him trying to see for himself what had everyone looking shocked. He was twisting and turning trying to get a look at the area that had went from burning like molten lava had been dropped in the middle of his back; to it just feeling strangely numb. “What is it? Come on, someone tell me something.”

He had finally gave up trying to see it for himself, and instead sat waiting for someone to fill him in. Come on , cat can’t have all of your tongues. What has you all so wide eyed and alarmed? You’re starting to freak me out.” He jumped off the bench and went to where Dom was standing. “Dude, tell me!” He practically growled as he shook his best friend.

It was enough to break Dom out of whatever kind of spell he had been under. “Bro, why you got to shake me like that? Do you mind. You’re messing with my pretty.” As he said that he began wiping himself off. One thing you could always count on with Dominic was that his white fur was always pristine. He absolutely hated it to be dirty. “Is it still burning?”

Neko stopped shaking Dom, and just stood looking at him for a moment like he must have lost his mind. “No, it doesn’t burn anymore. Am I yelling that it’s burning? It just feels kinda weird. You know like it’s there, but not there. Now tell me what it looks like.”

CeCe finally spoke as she came over to her brother. She ran her hand over the spot, he face lit with awe. “It’s in the exact place where your birthmark was. Only now, instead of a bare white patch of skin mixed in your fur. The spot has a design. A very vivid design.”

Neko stood waiting for her to go on, when she didn’t, he prompted her. “What is the design? Don’t just say a vivid design and not tell me what it is. Come on, Sis. That’s just mean.”

CeCe had just opened her mouth to speak when Dominic beat her. “It looks just like the jewel. The one that just came to life. Dude you have an exact duplicate on your back.” CeCe gave Dominic a look that showed her exasperation with the energetic young man.

“Yes, it looks just like the jewel. I don’t know why it happened to you, but the more I think about it, the more I think it may have to do with who you are.” Now she had everyone’s attention, well almost everyone's. Azereus didn’t seem interested. He had walked over closer to the stairwell. His attention focused on some point above. “I think it all may be linked somehow.” She had sat on a nearby bench, and pulled the stone back out of its pouch.

Neko came over to sit beside her, and held out his hand, she placed the stone in his palm. Not sure what to expect after the recent activity. The stone remained quiet. “You always said you would tell me more about myself, when I was older. I got older, and we never had that talk. I think now is as good a time as any other time. What do you think?” He gave his sister a questioning look.

CeCe was about to speak when Azereus came over, “I think we should find a new place to have this discussion. I am picking up movements coming from the stairs. We may have unwanted visitors soon. I would rather not chance it be someone after the jewel or better yet, if they recognized you Princess. Someone coming for you. We have no idea how the survivors feel about your family, so I would rather not risk you.” Azereus stood awaiting her decision.

CeCe looked toward the stairwell, and then to Neko. “Can we have this discussion once we are away from the city. Azereus is right. I do not feel safe here suddenly. We can’t let the jewel fall into the wrong hands.” She reached over and took the stone from Neko and put it back in it bag before securing it inside her vest. “Come there is a servants passage way further in the back. We can make our escape from the castle using it as well.”

In silence the group gathered their gear and followed CeCe to the far end of the hall, where a simple wooden door stood. Bo came forward and opened it. The others rushed through it, into the darkness beyond. With the meager light from the re-lit braziers to guide them , they made their way out of the castle. When they reached an old rusted gated which was padlocked, Dominic  used his knife to break it, and they filed out into a moonlit glen.

Azereus took the lead from this point, and led them through the valley. They arrived close to dawn at an old cottage that had seen better days. “We can rest here. It is my old hunting place. It needs repairs, but it should shelter us for a couple days.” He pushed open the hide that covered the door and held it while the others entered. “We’ll need to gather some wood for a fire. After which maybe we can hear what the Princess has to say to Neko.”

CeCe had went in and on seeing a bed in the back of the room , she made her way there. "Fine, go gather wood. I am going to rest while you do what needs be done.” She removed her cloak and lay it on the bed before lying down. “The sooner you stop staring at me and get to moving, the sooner my brother learns his story. Go! Get out of here.”

Dominic grabbed Neko’s arm. “Come on, dude. Let’s go find some wood, and maybe we can scrounge something up to eat as well.” Neko let him pull him out of the cabin. Bo went to have a seat at the table that sat in the middle of the room. Donny had gone over and snuggled up with CeCe. It appeared that both were already fast asleep. Azereus went over to the fireplace to see if there might be enough wood to at least start a small fire. What he found brought a smile to his face.

“We’re in luck I can get a small fire started, let’s hope the boys return soon.” He opened a small tin on top of the mantle and took out some dry kindling, placing it in the grate before laying a couple sticks on top of it. He used his flint to create a spark, as the kindling lit, he gently blew on it. When he had a flame going he fed it more sticks, and then added a log. “There, that should start to warm the dampness from the room.” He said as he joined Bo at the table.

A short time later the gang were all gathered around the table, replete from eating the nice meal CeCe had prepared with the quails Neko and Dominic had managed to scrounge up. Neko took a drink from his cup. He sat it down and asked the question that had played in his mind while hunting. “Okay, Sis. Time is up. Tell me who I am. Why would the stone mark me? Why didn’t it mark you? It belongs to you after all.” Here he stopped, and tried to reach where his birthmark had been. “It’s not like I’m anything special. I’m just me.”

Bo noticed a look pass between CeCe and Azereus. He was really getting tired of their secret looks and communication. He fought down the green monster of his jealousy with an effort. CeCe had already began speaking by the time, he had controlled himself. He tuned into the conversation in time to hear her say “You are the last of your kind.” He looked at Neko and saw the look of confusion on his face. Well at least he wasn’t the only one perplexed.

CeCe had begun her explanation after taking her own drink. “Neko, you were brought to my mother as a newborn. One of the mystics brought you. He told my mother, and those closest to her, that you were the last of your kind.” She stopped here to take another drink. “Have you ever heard of the Pantheri? Of who they were? The mystic told my mother that you were the last prince of the Pantheri. That you must survive at all cost. And the stone is actually yours. It was the only thing that was brought with you. My mother gave it to me, telling me to always keep it safe. She then adopted you as her son.”

Dominic was the one to break the awkward silence. “Dude, you’re a freakin’ prince. And I remember learning about the Pantheri from the storytellers. They say the Pantheri were legendary warriors. They were the strongest, fastest, with amazing agility. They were also said to be the most clever of warriors. My best friend is a Pantheri warrior! Dude! Can you believe it?” Here Dom punched Neko in the arm. Neko swayed a bit, a shell-shocked look upon his face.

CeCe reached across the table and patted his hand. “Are you alright? I know it’s a lot to take in.” Neko looked down at her hand, he slowly pulled his out from under hers. Without speaking he stood and walked over to the fireplace. He stared into the flames, he looked so alone at that moment. It began to sink in that even among all of them, he would always be alone. He was the last one. Never in his life had he ever felt that more than at this very moment.

“Is it true they were the original inhabitants of Cameria?” Donny asked in the silence. “I remember hearing that somewhere. That the Pantheri were here, when our ancestors arrived.” Bo looked deep in thought as he ran what Donny had asked through his memory of history. Azereus stood up and began clearing the dishes from the table. Dom had gone to stand next to the silent prince.

Bo finally spoke to no one in particular. “I think Donny may be right. The Pantheri were here first. They are the ones who introduced magic into our lives. Before coming to Cameria, our people didn’t know anything of the mystical arts, or of magic. It matters not. That was a long time ago. We need to concentrate more on the now.” He was making a bed in the corner of the cabin as he spoke the last sentence.

CeCe watched him for a moment, before yawning. “I do believe Bo has a good idea. Let’s get some sleep, and we can think about what next to do in the morning.” She walked over to Neko, but for the first time that she could remember he turned away from her. “What? Why do you turn away?” was her hurt response.

Neko didn’t give her an answer, he gathered his gear and headed for the door. “I’m going to go stand watch, we still have no idea who was in the castle. They may have followed us here.” He stated as he made his escape.


Dom gave CeCe a small hug, before whispering in her ear. “Don’t worry, he’ll come around. I’ll go keep an eye on him.” He then gathered his stuff, and then followed after Neko. As everyone settled in for the night, each lost in their own thoughts of what the revelation about Neko would mean down the line. None more so than that of the dark Pantheri prince.