Two moons over, p.7
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       Two Moons Over, p.7

           Levi Shipley
 
him by the neck. She shoved him against a wall, his feet dangling. "Won't you be polite to a lady?"

  He coughed again. Her hand moved to his shirt collar, allowing him to answer. "Ya know, I always thought yer breed were weak, but that boy was like ‘is too." He spit up tobacco, which ran down his cheek and stained his skin. "He was black and had a fancy blue dye job. I thought he was some city faggot, but that Dalmatian back there could tell ya otherwise. Heh, he got worked over good by that boy for touchin' 'em."

  She lessened her grip and set him to the floor. Cecil hadn’t told them where he was going, but at least he was here. Salina doubled back, passing more sobered pigs than before. That didn't stop a few from commenting on her using that grip for them who thought themselves capable. No use bothering with them, as she'd drawn enough attention to herself.

  Reaching the swinging doors, the tender attempted to regain his self-respect by brandishing a rifle far too large for him. "If I ever catch ya or that boy in here agin', I'll blow off yer head." Even as he bellowed this, his hands shook from fear of the attack. Were he to take a shot now, he'd only miss.

  Salina didn't turn back. He wasn't worth it. Instead she inquired of other pedestrians of Cecil's direction. After receiving a few consistent responses, she headed east for Hurlinge.

  Cecil and Hodge arrived at the west end of Hurlinge. The crumbled remains of a hospital lay before them. Still standing was a memorial of the patron. This remnant reminded the world that it once was a peaceful land, but now it represented the decay of good spirits. Magnificent obelisks must have stood here, gazing up at the heavens and inspiring the mortals as they recovered. Desolation was all to behold now. The down trodden would fall hapless at its sight.

  By some odd luck, Hodge pointed to its decrepit structure to reveal their lost companions. They'd been waiting, his wife (Nelrene), Arthur and his wife Marianna. Hodge sprinted to his pack, while Cecil helped the abandoned child through what wreckage remained of the facility. By the time Cecil reached the Order, they'd finished their reunion glee. Hodge had apparently warned Arthur of the boy, as he did not rant about his presence. Hodge and Nelrene were separated from the group and exchanged nose-rubs and other little signs of affection.

  Cecil inquired if Salina was with them, to which Arthur replied that he was about to ask the same. It would only be a matter of time before she caught up, as five scents would be far easier to track and travel would be faster for her. That was the next topic of discussion: would they wait for her, or should they continue on? Cecil was in favor of waiting, whereas Arthur vied for continuing. Arthur made a point that the little orc would slow them down to a point of great ease on Salina's part. Cecil combatted with a statement of how pungent the city was and could mask their trail. In the end, Hodge broke the tie and decided to move on. Marianna and Nelrene stayed out of the decision.

  The West End was no mirror image of the East. The streets were cleaner and paints primed. Buildings towered in gold and glass colossi form, an art in themselves. A bronze clock was embedded into a burlesque stone and mortar courthouse in Baust Square. Stained glass separated the party from the office rooms and gave Cecil the notion of holy paper pushers, behind those windows filing reports in robes and blessed garb. Pedestrians did not coat themselves in dirt and stolen footwear, instead fur coats and leather wrapped their fortunate bodies. Suits marched up and down the streets, chatting on cell phones and announcing their importance with heads held high.

  The roadways and sidewalks here were paved, a smooth black and solid tan. Gunfire was heard but distant and unalarming. Streetlights stood upright and unmarred, retaining original color and bulbs. The smell was less fowl as bakeries and sewage plants did not coincide, and the bellies of the passerby validated this truth. No starvation here, maybe a starving artist but a fat one at the least. None attempted to take the orc boy, though the number of werewolves more than doubled, Cecil didn't believe that was a factor. It would seem that this well-to-do neighborhood was one of many wolf societies. These, however, were more finely attired than the werewolves. With silk tunics and gem encrusted pendants (not to mention well groomed and gleaming coats), the difference was palpable.

  Law enforcement patrolled the walkways. Unlike the scattered patrolmen of the East, these guards were more lax and less heavily armed. Their faces were softer with less grit and scars, though a few appeared to have worked their way into the East; as gnarling wounds engraved their kind faces.

  The city limit dawned. Unlike its devilish twin, a huge pearl gate stood where only air flowed in the East. Two armored guards at the hinges and a watchtower above protected the wealthy from foreign trespassers. The guards were entombed in red crystal plates and links, bordered by jet black crystal in menacing swirls. The hosts of this grand armor were hidden by impenetrable helms of same design, and the Order passed through to the forest trail.

  Five

  The walkway was pristine. Perfectly set red brick upheld their feet and silver hand rails gilded the edges. Lamp posts on either side craned in the center forming illuminating archways. Branches were neatly trimmed but hung just above the lights, providing cool shade and gentle forest breezes. The path lied straight and seemed endless like some mystic tunnel, as fireflies dotted the darkness beyond like fallen stars suspended by magic.

  It was night at this point. An orange moon and a green sibling loomed overhead through breaks in the canopy. The orc had begun to hobble and was now shouldered by Nelrene, but he needed sleep. The Order veered from the brick road and into a pasture overgrown in high grass. Arthur beat down the grass while Cecil gathered firewood. Soon the child nestled himself in Nelrene's denim jacket and anchored down by the soft flames.

  The travelers discussed the boy in hushed voices. Cecil's heart had been in the right, but they could continue with the orc only so long before situations complicated. Children needed homes and reliable food supplies; long journeys were not an option. The boy would grow sick, and he was fragile enough. A wild beast or bandits were no threat to werewolves, but he was susceptible.

  The decision again came from Hodge: put him up for adoption in a nice area in the next city. And if not the next, then the one after. But as soon as possible. The boy slept peacefully this night and for many to come, as Cecil departed from his companions in search of food for the young orc. Upon finding an apple tree, he harvested an armful and stowed them away in a pack sack Arthur had acquired in Hurlinge. Knotting it shut he set course for the field, but froze at a rustle.

  Before he could react, Cecil laid on the ground. Someone had dropped on him from a pine. His mind flew to him being attacked by Hodge, but his thoughts were displaced by calm whispering. "Miss me?" Salina muttered as she rose pulling him up as well.

  "I did. A bit anyway." I didn't even feel her presence. Am I that unaware, or is she that talented? He brushed his shirt off and swiped the fur on his arm, cleansing himself of the larger debris. He snatched his pack and checked for tearing. Seeing that there was no mentionable damage he gripped it firmly in his left hand. With his right Cecil waved toward the camp. "Come on. We're bunkered down in a clearing." She doesn't know about the boy. I'm sure the notion of camping confuses her.

  "I already knew that. I stopped there first." She walked in pace with him, though her eyes darted to and fro, never settling on Cecil for more than a few seconds. She would stop occasionally as if to listen more intently. He would also halt only to see her start up again. He gave up trying to hear what she heard. Paranoia had to be the real culprit behind the pauses, he concluded.

  Even so, Cecil found himself hypnotized by Salina's beauty. He would resist only to catch his eyes resting on her. Cathrine plagued his mind, which now attempted to make the silver werewolf a substitute. He could no more hurt her than he could scratch the inside of his skull. But where was she? Where was he? Things had been rocky when he left. How he wished he could have a few more days
back on Earth to soothe the pain, to mend the strain between them. No chance for that. Would there ever be? If not, it was only reasonable to move on, but not yet. She could be a stone throw away for all he knew. Maybe this was a dream. Didn't matter. He would let those eyes and thoughts wander farther once he was positive he could not return.

  Morning seeped in from night's dark blanket. The red sun cast ruby droplets on the leaves' dew. The child awoke and ate two of the wild apples, spitting out the skin and twisting the stem until it snapped. Once he had finished, they embarked again on that red brick road. Now slick with dew it produced a mist which hovered lightly about their ankles. The winds twirled this fog in whirlpools and rolls, tapering at the ends to be lost and replaced by new vapors.

  The wood grew thicker and clearings vanished completely. The trim, now only high enough to be off a walker's head, became uneven and nonexistent. The creatures stirred more vigorously now, not being acquainted with people. Birds sang their warning calls as did the squirrels chirp in fear. It was midday, but for what they saw it might have been dusk. Cecil had never been in such an overgrown environment.

  Then
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