This is Duine, all one one page so it is easy to read.
Chapter 1: Escape
Entrapped, that is the one word that explained what I felt right now. It was all I could do to keep myself sitting still. I clenched my pencil tighter, writing notes furiously, trying to take my mind off of my location. The room feels like an oven to me, its heat and humidity making it hard for me to breathe. I try to block out the conversations going on around me as I concentrate on keeping my skin from crawling away.
I hated this, civilization; it always had the same effect on me. Unfortunately I had no real choice in the matter, it was either become integrated into this civilization or leave her. I couldn’t leave her, not after what I had done, not after what she had given to me.
The professor begins to wind down his spiel, his dusty voice getting louder as people shift their belongings into their bags. As soon as gives his permission for us to leave I sprint towards the door, swinging my ratty messenger bag over my shoulder as I go. I dodge through the rest of the students whose goal was similar to mine, escape. Their need is not as urgent as mine though as I bump pass a group of frat boys chatting in the hall. My fingers twitch as one of them makes a rude comment. It takes all I have to urge myself onwards and out of the building. Before her I would have never have tolerated such insolence, I would have never been trapped in this form, I would have ripped his heart from his chest. She had made me weak, she had made me human.
My muscles strain as they push me forward, farther away from the organized clean world she has always loved. Within minutes I am within the forested area that borders the campus. The stress melts from me the deeper I go and the more wild and tangled the branches become. Soon I am deep enough that I stop hearing the sounds of the city I left behind. The noise was replaced by the quite creaking of the forest that surrounds me. I stop, letting my breathing calm down as my surroundings take their effect on me. I toss my messenger into a bush, I could easily find it later, and began to pull off my clothes. Once I stand naked, with my toes digging into the dirt, I begin to shed the human skin that always makes me sick. The first to change, always, is my hands, the fingers shortening and the nails forming into claws. Then I can feel my spine begin to pop as my ribs stretch out. My fur begins to fill itself back out, sprouting up my arms and up my legs. It isn’t long till the transformation causes me to bend over allowing all four of my reformed paws to be in the dirt. My face changes last, forming into a snout completing the transformation.
This was my favorite form, the one I was born into, the form that enslaved me to my most base desires. I resembled a wolf, my fur a glossy black and my eyes amber yellow. I was considerably larger than a typical wolf in these modern times, in the past I could have easily blended into a typical pack. I could no longer claim the title of wolf; it had been so long since I had truly been one, too long since I had lived the life of a wolf under the laws of the Great Mother. With one final stretch I dug my claws into the dirt and began to run.
Chapter 2: Remembering
My first memories are of the smell of earth, moist, dark and rich. It is where I was born; the den my brothers and sisters stayed in while mother hunted elk with the rest of the pack. I was bigger than the rest of my sisters and almost as big as my two brothers, though their size never kept me from bossing them around. I was Accalia and I was born to be an alpha, the leader of the pack. I grew up learning everything that did not come naturally from my mother. Our territory was large and fertile, encompassing a large area of the evergreen forest that once encompassed the entire northern part of the continent. Many herds of animals migrated though our lands, elk, caribou, bison, though our pack was always partial to elk.
When I had seen two summers my mother died, succumbing to a wound she had received bringing down a large bull elk. As was natural, I took over the pack. It was only a few months after I took over that they began to show up.
It was a cool fall day when I first caught their scent. I was patrolling our boundary with the other pack, they had begun to encroach in our territory lately and I was taking the time to remark the boundary as a gentle reminder of our superiority. A slight breeze ruffled through my coat bringing the scent of burning wood and something else, something unknown. Forgetting about my task I followed the scent, calling three more of my pack to go with me just in case of any danger. As we drew closer to the source of the scent the more wary I became, I perked my ears forward to catch the sounds that were coming from the clearing up ahead. Strange unknown sounds.
These creatures were strange, they walked on two legs, they lacked fur and they smelled like burning wood, animal blood and something else disturbing. They didn’t look harmful but something told me that they were dangerous. It was rare for predators to pass our boundaries without being wary; they acted as if they owned the place. I wanted them out. Calling the rest of the pack to me we set up a perimeter around their camp, watching silently looking for any weaknesses where we could attack.
I would later learn more about these creatures, humans as they called themselves. In a lot of ways they are like the animals they try so hard to differentiate themselves from. Their main goals in life are to survive and propagate the species. They make their own rules though, ignoring the ones that the Great Mother laid down. They are governed by greed, forever seeking and taking more than their need. I did not know this when I first encountered them though. All I knew was that they did not belong.
I had the pack watch the two-leggers for a few days, working in shifts. It was a full mooned night, with a bite of frost in the air that we made our move. From our observance we had discovered that they did not see well at night, they bedded down soon after the sun left the sky. They slept in animal hides, most likely to make up for their lack of any real fur. We stole into the clearing they had claimed as their own, the moonlight glinting off of our glossy coats. The one closest to me was a male, without him even waking I ripped out his throat. They others proceeded to dispatch the rest in a similar way. A small one awoke screaming setting the whole group into a frenzy, some fought back and others tried to run. In the end they were powerless against us, and eight bodies lay lifeless and bloody around the clearing.
They continued to come, in larger packs. They killed our elk, and fearlessly crossed our boundaries. We continued to attack them at first, but they got smarter, putting up watches at night, keeping their fires continuously going. They began to fight back with sharpened sticks and heavy stones. It was after they killed one of my litter sisters that I called off the attacks. Her death was the loss of a skilled hunter to our pack and I feared for the safety of my pack. So we began to live in a sort of truce with them. They could stay, but we would watch them, taking any chance we could to eliminate them. We moved in circles around each other, each aware of the other but avoiding each other for the sake of peace.
Chapter 3: The Gods of Men
It was my sixth summer, after I had whelped my second litter of pups, when I came across him. The elk were plentiful and the pack was flourishing. I had not lost any pups like I had the year before, when a mild drought had kept the elk numbers low. The humans were back in ever increasing numbers but the elk and buffalo populations were so high that I felt that we could share space with them. My pups were a beautiful and lively bunch, six in all. I spent my days providing for them and letting them jump and dance over my body during down times. Remembering them now brings tears to my eyes, losing them was the worst thing that happened to me.
I had tucked my pups into their den and taken half of the pack with me to bring in an elk for dinner. Half by memory and half by scent we went to where the herd gathered. I split my pack up, telling them to circle around the herd, looking for any unguarded young, or any weak adults. Patiently I crept along the ground scanning the herd diligently. I spotted one, a young adult, limping on her back leg, she would be perfect. I zeroed in on her, calling the pack into their positions. Out of the corner of my eye though, I saw a flash of golden light.
I turned to see a human hunter, at least that is what I thought at first, but I quickly changed my mind. There was no way he was human, an aura of golden light emanated from him, he was beautiful. Unlike humans he did not make my hackles rise, I felt as if I would do anything he asked me. I later learned that he was a god, created by the imaginations of humans, greater than anything the Great Mother had formed. He turned then to see me watching him. Our eyes met, and my existence as a true wolf was lost.
He turned from me and hoisting his long spear up he aimed for the large bull that led the herd. Arching his arm back he sent the spear soaring through the air. I followed it with my eyes, watching it pierce through the chest of the proud creature. I watched as bright red blood sprayed from the wound, the elk’s knees buckling as it fell to the ground. The hunter smiled triumphantly and began to walk towards his kill. The herd was frantic now moving around the meadow, trying to move away from the kill. My pack was lost among the temporary chaos. He had almost reached the spot where the elk had fallen when he turned back beckoning for me to come to him. I went. I became Ayame.
From that day on I became a companion to the hunter. My pack was forgotten. I followed him wherever he chose to lead me, like a faithful dog follows its owner. I met other gods but they were not as beautiful as my hunter, they did not bewitch me as thoroughly as he had.
Years and years passed, the world began to change, yet the hunter and I remained constant, in figure if not in spirit. Together we had hunted the earth, taking things as large as the mammoth in the north and the bears to the south. Together we taught the humans the power of the hunt, respect for the creatures that sustained them and respect for the creatures that taught them. Humans are always shifting though, unlike animals they forget their traditions and what they have learned, they fail to pass things on to their young. As a consequence their gods change.
I watched over the years as my hunter changed. At first he hunted to sustain himself and to teach the humans better techniques, but then he began to hunt for the glory of it. He brought down animals for nothing else but their elusiveness and their hides. Slowly my enchantment over him began to lessen. My wolf instincts came back and I became disgusted with my habits. The tipping point was when I watched him bring down a large grizzly. It was a female with two cubs. I listened to her cubs cried as they watch their mother fall lifeless to the ground. I watched in disgust as the hunter strangled the life out of them relishing in their final breaths. I remembered the laws of the Great Mother; I knew I could no longer follow the hunter.
As he knelt to cut the hide from the mother, I made my move. I leapt at him, taking him by surprise. He moved trying to push me off him, his knife slashing wildly into my side. With a growl I found his throat. I tasted his blood, sweet and full of life. I watched as his golden light faded and he became nothing more than a filthy human to me. I left him sprawled across the carcass of the grizzly turning my back on everything I had been with him. As is the law among these gods I inherited the reign over the hunt. I became Abnobe.
Chapter 4: Killing Peace
My reign as hunt goddess was not a peaceful one, it was a vengeful one. I did not hunt elk and buffalo as I once had, but humans. Mercilessly I went after them, sometimes killing whole villages at a time. My killing sprees went unchecked by the rest of the gods who, like the humans that worshipped them, had become greedy and forgetful. They did not care what I did as long it did not affect their own merriment and pleasure.
It was a cool spring morning when I came upon her. She was tall and elegant clothed completely in white. She stood waist deep in the peaceful waters at the edge of the large river that separated me from her, her hair long and floating in the water. She was washing linens and singing a melody that caused me to prick my ears forward and listen to its sweet sound. I moved quietly along the edge of the forest that came down to the river’s edge. I watched her waiting for the right time to strike. She turned to return back to the opposite shore, I made my move.
I pushed off the bank using my powerful hind legs leaping across most of the river. I splashed in the river a few feet from her. She turned fear transforming her features. She tried to run but I was faster. In a matter of minutes her sweet salty blood stained the water I stood in red. A scream sounded in my ears and I looked up to see Daonnachta. With accusing eyes she screamed at me.
“What have you done to Síocháin, why have you killed my iníon.”
I backed away from Síocháin’s lifeless form as Daonnachta came and lifted her into her arms. Crystal tears flowed from her eyes as she rocked her child in her arms. She looked at me again.
“Why, Abnobe, why?”
Athair appeared then, responding to the anguished cries of his mate. It took very little time to appraise the situation. With anger clouding his features he addressed me with a booming voice.
“Abnobe, you will pay for this.”
In the next instant I found myself in front of a council of the gods. Beside me was Daonnachta, still clutching her child to her chest. All around me sat gods with accusing eyes. They spoke in loud tones, most calling for my death. With a wave of his hand Athair quieted them.
“Do you understand the charges against you, Abnobe?” he boomed.
I had no way to answer him, I could understand the words of the gods but I could not speak in their tongue. Instead I stood with my head up and strong and defiant. I understood that they were charging me with the death of Síocháin, and that I would soon die. With a hard face Athair pointed to me.
“Then you must die” he declared, motioning towards a god clothed completely in black.
This god had no name but is known to everybody, he was faceless but everyone knew him when they looked upon him. He carried with him a large axe whose edge gleamed with sharpness. At Athair’s motioning he made his way towards me. I closed my eyes anticipating the blow.
“Wait” a voice beside me rang out. “She doesn’t understand what she has done, she is but an animal”
I opened my eyes and saw that the faceless one had stopped. I turned my head to see Daonnachta standing beside me with her daughter at her feet. Her face was stained with tears and her dress with the blood of Síocháin, but she wore a determined look on her face. Glancing briefly my way she addressed Athair.
“Let me show her what she has done, let me teach her to regret, let me teach her to love let me teach her to be human.”
For a few seconds Athair seemed to ponder her proposal.
“Do as you wish, punish her as you want” he conceded.
With a wave of her hand Daonnachta both saved and cursed me. I felt as if fire was coursing through my veins as pain radiated throughout my body. I collapsed to the ground as the pain overtook me. I watched in silent horror as I began to change. My limbs lengthened and changed, my fur fell off in chunks. I watched as hands formed on the end of my forelimbs and tried to breathe as my snout sank into my face. In a few moments that seemed to take eternity I lay on the cool marble floor of the council chamber, human. I had become Faoiltiama.
Chapter 5: Humanity
I have come to the other edge of the forest. My breath comes in shallow quick turns after my run. I feel better, less pent up. Digging my claws into the ground I brace myself for the pain that always comes with the change back into human form. As soon as I am done I stand, brushing my hair back from my face. I head towards the building that is only a few yards from me. It is a high rise, lit up from top to bottom. The architect made it full of swooping lines. I think it fits her completely.
I walk into the front lobby receiving fearful stares from the doorman and the man who works at the front desk. I know I look like something feral. My eyes still retain the amber color that I was born with; my hair is most likely in tangles and hangs down to my waist in a sheet of black. There are scars on my legs and arms from various things and a long one down my abdomen from the hunter. The thing that probably catches their attention is my lack of clothing, which currently lies in a bush somewhere far off. It is easy to ignore these men though. They are use to me showing up like this.
I head straight to the bank of elevators that line the side wall and stab the up button with my finger. The elevator in front of me opens and I step inside, punching the button for the top floor as the door closes. I impatiently tap my foot as I wait for the elevator to complete its ascent. When the elevator comes to a stop I step out into a room done in soft colors. In fact the whole place is rather soft and welcoming. This is her home.
“Fao, is that you?” Daonna calls from the other room.
“Good, I was wondering when you would get he…” she starts as she rounds the corner and sees me.
“Have you been out running” she asks
“You are a mess, come put some clothes on” she orders as she leads the way into a room full of clothes.
Soft blue, white and pink line the walls of the room, colors of which she is fond. I glance at her. She is wearing a long flowing dress of a soft turquoise color and, her stone gray hair is pulled into an elegant knot with long tendrils left out to frame her face. Unlike most gods she has let herself age slightly, soft lines crease her features making her appear softer and more like a grandmother. Not that she has any grandchildren; I robbed her of that, years ago. All she has now is me, and I am a troublesome companion. She and I are only ones left of the gods of old times, other than the faceless one who remains always constant. I opt for a short black sundress, something she has specifically for me.
Once she deems that I am presentable she nods and motions me towards the kitchen. Pouring me tea, she begins to question me on my day. I answer with my typical single word answers. She finally gives up shaking her head. Moving to pat me on my head she says something I have heard a million times.
“One of these days, you will learn”
She doesn’t know how much she has already taught me. I have learned to regret my past, and long for things I will never have. I have learned to show some mercy and blend with humanity. I have learned to hate and I have learned to love. I just have not done it the way she thought I would. I still cannot relinquish the part of me that still remains an animal.
“I suppose you will have to do though, even humans have a sense of wildness in them” She amends, patting my head again. “I believe you are ready for a new name”
I lean my head against my shoulder as she continues to stroke my head, calming all the wild urges that go through me. She begins to sing softly, a song I heard years ago, a song that reminds me of how far I have come, a song that brings hard tears to my eyes. I know I am no longer Faoiltiama, I have become Duine.