Timeline: December 5, 2007
The mountain lion sat perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the snow covered landscape. Every muscle in his body was taut ready to leap and every fiber of his senses were focused on the deer that was moving through the brush along the deer trail down below.
The scene was a classic one, one that had been played out over and over again over the millennia. An onlooker would have found the dance between predator and prey mesmerizing and even though the end was sure to be gruesome nary an eye would blink so as to not miss the fantastic conclusion.
Even as the lion unleashed the springs he had in his muscles the scene was eerily “natural” in its violence. The lion landed on the back of the deer knocking it off balance. Simultaneously the lion’s claws and teeth sought the flesh of the deer to keep a hold of it while it positioned itself. In no time the lion had the struggling deer by the throat cutting off its blood supply to its head and a few swift rakes of the hind claws had all but gutted the deer. The struggle was short. The deer had landed a few hoof blows to the cat but nothing that would linger beyond the andrenaline rush now pulsing through the cat.
The scene could not have been more natural yet it was anything but. A knowing eye would have first noticed the size of the cat as unusual but its location was even more unusual. A mountain lion roaming anywhere east of the Mississippi River was unusual but a mountain lion this far east was unheard of. Yet this lion was at home in its environment. It feasted on the deer with all of the contentment of a house cat who has killed his first mouse.
Eventually the lion had its fill and after a time of resting and napping began its trip back to town.
Chaska removed the lion skin from his back and placed it back into his bag quietly thanking the lion spirit who gave up the skin for his aid. Chaska did not require the skin to make such transformations into the natural “beasts” but he always felt that they connected him better to the spirit of the animal when he had something of theirs to connect to.
Today he had chosen the mountain lion specifically for a reason. It was normal for Chaska to use his wolf form to hunt and feed as he reconnected with nature. However, lately he had not felt like he was part of a pack of wolves. He had chosen the naturally solitary mountain lion as a reflection of his own feelings and state of being.
Chaska was conflicted. The recent events did little to calm his fears. He had what he thought were two “packs”. There was his family pack and then there was this pack of friends that were bound in such a strange way. He believed Lyla had conveniently categorized everyone into the same pack of her life but he saw that as a mistake. There might come a time when she would have to make a decision about her loyalties and he wasn’t sure how she would choose. This bothered him deeply considering her relationships with Ironclaw and Ramiel. She seemed to treat it as a sport but it worried Chaska that both relationships were in fact counterproductive to the pack. On top of that Ramiel had acted high-handed at times with his dealings with Lyla and had even had some form of dominance over Lyla in the pack sense which again made no sense to Chaska. Lyla appeared to have the need to be in charge as evidenced by her early challenge to Rose but needed to be dominated as well as apparent by her relationships to both Ironclaw and Ramiel.
In addition to all of this Daniel had seemed to be out of control. Chaska himself had been on the verge killing Daniel. He had figured that others like Ramiel and Lyla had more reason to kill him and was a bit surprised by their restraint but before Chaska could kill him himself fate took its strange turn. Daniel had seemed to find religion so to speak. The accident on the fire lane seemed to change many things and was at least happy that relationships hadn’t been so strained.
But wasn’t that what was bothering him? Relationships? It was what was bothering him. The others, including those of his pack, treated relationships as if they were teenage humans and they were neither teenagers nor human. To be a werewolf was a curse in a way that Lyla and Ironclaw didn’t seem to understand fully with regards to relationships. Ironclaw gave lip service to it but did not put it into practice himself. Chaska couldn’t really speak for the mages but that was because he didn’t know their limits but suspected that it was similar to being a werewolf. They were both man and beast but neither of them at the same time. They were by all accounts abominations. This was especially driven home to Chaska upon learning that werewolves could not mate among themselves. Of all things this alone reinforced the unnaturalness of his situation. Nature had basically said “you can’t breed because you are not natural”. Oh he knew that you could find someone who wasn’t a werewolf to breed but this went against everything that was meant by being a “pack”.
Chaska had accepted this. He understood this. He was afraid that others didn’t. Not only where they playing with fire but all of this fighting and fucking with each other had made many of them lose sight of what was happening in Chaska’s opinion. The pack had all but dropped any pretense of secrecy with the mages and the rest had seemed to forget about the dark man except for Daniel who didn’t because he had constant reminders.
Chaska continued to walk through the snow back to town thinking about these things. He was a bit annoyed that these thoughts took him away from the joy of his kill that morning. He was going to do something uncharacteristic because he thought he needed it… he was going to go have a beer. Maybe more than one.
Chaska sat in the back of the bar by himself. He thanked Rose for the second round of beer she had brought to the table. He smiled at Rose. In another time and in a different lifetime he would have liked to have known Rose a lot better.
“Thanks Rose.” That’s all he said as he begin taking large sips of his new beer.
“No problem love. ” Rose’s voice was rich and pleasant as she spoke. “You look like you will need a few more. Anything you want to talk about you let me know. I can always take some time for you. No worries, I will keep the beers coming for you.” She smiled and waited to see if he would invite her to stay or simply ask for privacy.
Chaska looked up from his beer and after a long draft put it back down. He gestured to the seat in front of him. “Please, join me. Misery loves company. But tonight is about kicking misery out of the house.”
Rose took her apron off and sat down next to Chaska. “Misery you say? What has you so troubled?”
Chaska contemplated his beer again deciding whether to take a drink again or not but decided to put down his glass and look at Rose. “Oh, it’s nothing specific. It is just a feeling. It feels like I and maybe “we” are losing our way. Here we are trying to live a normal life and it feels wrong to me. We go from encounter to encounter with the supernatural as if we are feeling our way around in a dark room. It has almost got us killed a few times. I’m willing to die but not ready to if you take my meaning. But as I said, I’m here to try and put those thoughts away. We have all dealt with our “gifts” in different ways. I just hope it doesn’t lead to our destruction.”
Rose nodded her head as if understanding the subtext. “In my experience the best way to put thoughts away is to work through them, understand them, and accept them. Not to idly toss them aside and pack them away.
“Why do you feel that we are losing our way Chaska? And what is wrong with having a normal life? We are human too. Just as it is important to nurture our animal, we must do the same for the human in us. It is a balance; for we are not one or the other but both.
“So what feels out of balance for you to say we are loosing our way?”
Chaska new this would be the reaction simply because it was a reaction that made sense but it still didn’t satisfy Chaska’s growing emotions regarding the subject.
“I don’t know, Rose. I think there is a difference between being normal and fitting in. We try to fit in so that we are not hunted and ostracized as abominations but that is exactly what we are. It is a trick of illusion that we play. Are we human? Are we animal? Maybe parts of us are but not the significant parts or even the biggest parts. We are the antithesis of nature and humanity, Rose. We follow natural law but only as physical constraints and they constrain us far more than any human or animal that I am aware of. What animal or human is prohibited by nature from reproducing with its own kind?
“It just seems to me that we use this guise of normalcy to fool others but are additionally fooling ourselves. We are not drawn together as a pack or as “friends” because of our love and affection for each other. It is because we have a common problem and a common affliction. We form a pack because without it we are exposed to an even greater danger if we remain alone. I am with these mages because of some common bond to a common enemy… the dark man. These emotions of love and lust among us distract us from our reality. Maybe this is a good thing but I’m not convinced of it.
“Let’s put it this way. I understand now why the purebloods hate us and seek to destroy us. We are stuck between our worlds of the present and our past. At one time all of us that are not purebloods led human lives and we have brought all of that baggage with us through the gauntlet so to speak. We only experience being a werewolf through the eyes of a human mind and not through that of one who has always been a werewolf. We are bastard children in their eyes who should never have been born. I find a certain logic in it all.”
Chaska realized he was talking too much and stopped. He sighed heavily as he took another long draw on his beer. “I’m sorry Rose. This isn’t about you in particular or anyone else in particular for that matter. I want to be normal and I want to love and be loved but I just can’t see that happening in any normal sense of the word. It is even more dangerous to me than the current danger we face.”
Rose thought about it for a moment then replied. “Mules can’t breed with other mules.” She smiled knowing that was not the answer he was looking for.
Then she sighed. “It all depends on how you look at it Chaska. You have chosen a bad way. Yes, I can see the anger in not being able to have a mate that is the same. But think of it more like breeding with your sister; bad things happen to the child when that happens. We are not cursed by nature, if that were the case we would be sterile, like female mules.”
“As far as friends and packs, sure it is a common bond that brought us together, but that is not what keeps us together. We have become a family Chaska. Even the mages and others have become part of that in a way. Like an extended family. I personally think it is nice to have some around who accept us as we are.”
She paused again. “You know ,don’t take this wrong but is this about Lyla? I have seen how you looked at her in the begining. Are you upset that you can’t be with her?”
Dr. John Beckett walk into the Blood and Brew for his daily drink. Glancing around the room he made his way over to the bar, “BC Cocktail barkeep, shaken not stirred.”
Chaska thought for a moment. “Well I agree that it is nice to have people around that understand the situation and I also agree that it is friendship that keeps us together but I am still having problems accepting it.”
“And no, this isn’t about Lyla. It was probably started by my initial feelings for Lyla but that was before I understood the role that Ramiel and now Ironclaw played in her life. Unlike her and some of the others I cannot jump from bed to bed in sport. It is not in my nature. I gave up loving Lyla long ago and now simply accept her as part of my ‘family’. It is, instead, more of a general feeling of loss. I feel as if I cannot pursue relationships with those that are closest to me other than friendship. Although, I have to admit that there are times when I am grateful for that.”
“But even so… with regards to friendship. Daniel has strained relationships among the group to breaking points at times. I mean I was prepared to kill Daniel outright and I’m not just saying that. That bothers me. The friendship apparently did not mean that much to me because he wasn’t a part of the pack. Or perhaps it was simply that he was so annoying that even had he been a werewolf I would have still carried out the deed. So I wonder inwardly how attached to the others I am.”
“I know that given a choice that I would choose the pack over the others but I worry more that eventually I will actually have to make that choice. Maybe that is at the heart of all of this. The pack has entwined itself in a way that is not normal for other packs as far as I can tell.”
Feeling more stressed now rather than relaxed Chaska took a big gulp downing the last of his second beer.
Rose excused herself from the table. “I’ll be right back.” She waved at John as she passed by to get a pitcher and two glasses. Returning to the table she sat down and filled the glasses.
“So it is the change that has you so concerned. Yes it is true that values and morals change when we do. For most anyway, some of us have such low morals as humans there is no difference.
“Truthfully, when you look at it though it is no different than what you would do for family as a human. If you were on a trip with your sister and her friend, and there was an attack, your instinct would say save your sister first worry, about her friend later if you can. So now it is pack that has taken top priority. Because the pack is your family now.
“Personally if I had to choose between saving Lyla or Ramiel, fuck Ramiel he can take care of himself.”
She took a drink. “I learned a lot of lessons the hard way and as such I would like to spare others that if I can. So tell me, what about Ironclaw and Lyla? This Daniel, what has he done?”
“Ironclaw and Lyla definitely have a relationship although it is, in my opinion, one of power for Lyla. I don’t care about their relationship but Lyla definitely has a way of using her body to get what she wants which is usually power. I, myself, had to realize that in order to pull away from Lyla. I’m not sure Ironclaw realizes the tail he has ahold of. I suspect he thinks it is a wolf’s tail but it is more than that.”
“As for Daniel… well for starters he is a lawyer. That actually explains a lot right there and I’m not even trying to be stereotypical. Daniel has a warped sense of right and wrong. What he thinks is right automatically makes it right for him and what he thinks is wrong makes it wrong for everyone else. He has made no attempt to become part of ‘the family’ and has only offered judgement for our actions. In addition he gets dreams that actually lead us to the dark man that we seek but he turns it around and gets a Jesus complex about it. The suffering and persecution is a badge for him. You can probably see why I really care not if he lives or dies. The only thing that has kept him alive so far is that he is marginally useful. But who knows, maybe the knock to the head he took in the crash will give him a wakeup call.”
Rose sat there and listened to what he was saying though she was not certain he was really saying it. ” Did you just say that Lyla and IronClaw have an intimate relationship?? You really think they would risk that?”
She was quiet for a moment, realizing that in all their time together it was her beliefs that kept them from sharing a bed. “I don’t know what to say to that. But as for Daniel. You don’t have to worry about not caring if he lives or not. Just don’t take his life yourself. Not without good reason anyway. Ours is a thin line, as it is for many. I see it sometimes in others. We are both human and not. If we listen to either side too much, lead our lives to far to one side, we slip and things get bad.”
She smiled and adjusted in her chair. “You had me pretty worried seeing you like this. You have accomplished a lot Chaska. I have always seen you at peace with yourself and to see so much turmoil inside. Well it made me worry. So tell me what else has you so troubled?”
Chaska stared off into space for a moment contemplating what to say. With a heavy sigh he continued. “Well I guess all of these things have me worried but are only a symptom and not a cause. When I am in my true form I feel free and it feels natural if that word can be applied here. I feel complete. But the last few times I have used my true form to protect my pack and my friends I have almost been killed and have been forced to run from the danger. It comes down to a feeling that has been growing that I can’t protect those that I love and care about. I feel unworthy to my true nature. I am like Grey in that I focus much on the spiritual side of our existence but unlike him I feel as comfortable when I am wrapped in the rage of my true form while defending our pack. I find the spiritual path to be easier to me than the war path but it is for this reason that I have embraced it. But my failures make me question my path. It isn’t enough. I can’t defend my pack or my friends in the way that I feel called to do.”
Chaska took a drink but as he brought up the mug to his mouth he muttered almost inaudibly, “I can’t protect you, Rose.”
Her eyes widened in suprise. Did he just.. does he mean? Huh. “I have not seen you in battle Chaska. But Lyla has told me things. You give everything to protect the pack and your friends. There is no shame in choosing to leave battle rather than loose your soul. In our Gauru forms we are closest to loosing control. The urges to rend human flesh is almost too great. Those who follow the warriors path know this rage well, and how tempting it is. For you to turn from that takes a great deal of strength. You have also set a strong example for the pack as well. That we are better than our beasts. That we don’t have to give in.
“I think all our our forms are natural. I was not born in wolf form, but it soothes me just as much as this one does. I had a lot of confusion when I first changed. Thought there were strict lines between them. Then one day I accepted that just as in my life before, those lines were blurry.
“The best comfort that I can give you is a shoulder to lean on. To be someone who will listen.” She took a drink. Looking at the table as she did to hide it if she blushed. “You want to protect me? That would be nice.”