Two moons over, p.9
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       Two Moons Over, p.9

           Levi Shipley
 
attention. Either way, they had been spooked.

  Then came the Star in the day. It shone in coexistence with the sun, but flickered often creating red nebulae around it. Maybe it was lower, producing cloud. Didn't matter. It didn't belong and set the flocks in panic when it twinkled.

  It came to be enough. Siegfried explained to Hodge what he'd become and spread lycanthropy to him at Hodge's request. The night came, but the star stayed in place, stronger now. Tree branches swayed upward, but wind was not to blame. Siegfried climbed a tree, reaching the top he leapt. He fell, but not down. Instead he spun uncontrollably for the red light. Then he vanished and so did the star. Hodge knew it was not gravity that pulled Siegfried up, but his will. What the Star had to do with them and why the wolves were able to pass such a power on to people, were things not even Siegfried would ever learn the truth of.

  Hodge did not reveal what happened to Nelrene until Siegfried's wife bore children. The two helped to raise her twins until they came of age. After the flocks were in their hands, Hodge and Nelrene moved to London as the flocks would not stand either of them. Siegfried's wife and children went on to believe he'd been taken by a feral beast while watching the sheep, which was close enough.

  Siegfried regularly appeared to Hodge in visions, providing insight and explaining what had happened. It was a power imbalance that required a soul to hold. How the wolf ever had that power to give was left a mystery to him. And life went on. Hodge gradually received information on Destursha and of Siegfried's belief in what would cause a second rupture, his lycanthrope, by blood, heir.

  Good for them that Siegfried's influence seeped into Destursha as well. He explained to Hodge how it had been far more evil before he became a mass conscience. Spreading earth languages also helped, English being the primary since Hodge and Nelrene spent most of their lives after the farm in English speaking countries, or perhaps he knew Cecil would come from an English speaking America. It was all very possible, for reality in the void between was stretched thin and time twisted.

  Nine

  The cell walls had been polished to a reflective quality, giving Hodge only himself to observe. The room had been soundproofed, as even he no longer heard the jet whine. Still occasional turbulence, though subtle. Confinement was its own torture, making him victim to his own thoughts. In fact, it was very possible that he was being recorded now to see if he was breaking. Better to appear concrete, smug even.

  Just when Hodge began to grin the general entered his room. "Hmm, so you're not a wolf dogman?" The rattling rose and ceased abruptly. "A shape shifting novian then. Not that it makes a difference. See since you killed some of my incompetent dumbasses with great ease, you get to be a very special test subject in my latest project!" He sounded hysterical with joy. Hodge jested in his mind that the general must have won the lottery, but this experiment could be bad. Even for him. An elf in a red lab coat wheeled in a steel tray with one object on it: a black crystal resonating with a violet aura. "Give us some privacy." The general said with a grin almost sickening.

  The assistant closed the heavy door behind him while the general laughed. "Even for my kind, I am old. Quite old. My magicks have kept me longer than most, but soon that will fade." Hodge already didn't like where he was going. "But magic is a science and is always expanding. Who can say immortality cannot be attained? Not I. Oh no, not I. Especially with charged crystal. Why, I could go on for days about how charged crystal can be used to make impossible possible." That rattling again. "Guess I won't be doing that for a while." He placed both hands on the crystal orb. The aura grew stronger until the light could not be gazed at.

  The aging officer’s body fell backward, his armor causing a horrendous clang. The life in it was no more.

  Chrissenia

  One

  They'd found the fortress city of Chrissenia, a hidden place in the Dark Forest. An elf named Partheus was the city's mayor and explained his plight to the werewolves. Their city was protected by fear. Not even air forces would attack the woods, since it was said to harbor great magic. His problem was their limited territory. He needed a vanguard to assault the capitol, Fraushein.

  "We're good people unlike the others out there," Partheus explained, "but that's precisely the reason we hide here. I know we're small, extremely small, but Fraushein holds ALL the power. If we can topple it, we might be able to leave this forest and see true light again."

  Arthur broke in, "And you not only think we'd be able, but you also think we'd be willing to do this for you?" He sighed. "I think you've eaten a few too many mushrooms."

  "It's our only chance as of now." A mild wind tussled his long golden hair. Pale orange light pierced through from the first moon, lighting Partheus's face and exposing his gaunt features more prominently. "We saw what the black shape shifter did to those Guardians before he was captured. You all have—”

  "What?" Nelrene's eyes swelled, "How could he be captured?"

  "That explains why he hasn't caught up. He'll be fine though. Not like anything could really happen to him." From Arthur.

  "Well, execution trials take no less than two weeks," Partheus, interjected, "and I'm positive his will be in Fraushein." That was it, their incentive. "While you're there for him, you can help us also.”

  It was a solid deal. As a bonus, Partheus even offered to take the orc, whose name turned out to be Folas, and put him in a good home. Chrissenia had schools and no narcotics in the reach of children, so they accepted. As for Hodge, they didn't raise concern. Taking Folas on the other hand was a real bargain, nonetheless, they couldn't let Hodge rot in a cell. Given a map of the region with Fraushein highlighted in purple ink, they set for the north exit. To add assurance of a fair trade (or to fortify their chances), Partheus had new raiments brought to the werewolves at the gate. Cecil and Salina were both given crystal armor, Cecil's blue and patterned with clear crystal and shoulder spikes. Salina's likewise patterned but green. Arthur received a black and white hooded leather jacket, chainmail greaves, and thick rawhide boots. Marianna was given a steel plate cuirass and studded leather leggings. To Nelrene a leather chestplate and green hunting pants was given. Partheus apologized that more crystal could not be spared, but reminded them (though they didn't know to begin with) that it was a rare commodity that would be unlikely for them to encounter again.

  The city was a humble glow on the horizon now. The twin moons now hidden from view by the dense branches, gave no light.

  And again they set off, with hardly enough time to breathe. Soon the blackness swallowed up Chrissenia and all that remained was a faint orange corona. The moons provided all the light their unnatural eyes required. But only that and no more. The new armor was uncomfortable at first and designed for more slender wearers. Before long, however, it would all give in and become their clothes. Time would do that for them.

  Two

  The forest was even darker than before, but it was also less dangerous. It felt almost unreal to Cecil that he should feel so calm here, so laid back . . . so bored. But adventure called to them, lured them deeper in. Where it would take them next, they did not know. Their only clue was the first map marker, a grand and magnificent oak labeled Frander.

  But based on the legend the map bore, this tree was quite a few miles away. In fact, Frander lie on the edge between the Dark Forest and the Scarab Desert. A fine walk. Not that distance mattered very much to them, but time did. They needed to find Hodge and make a plan.

  The shape shifters came to a rivulet marked Ruby Run. It was about twenty yards abreast and stretched as far as they could see to either side. The current was turbulent and made harsh rushing swishes against the stones which protruded from it. From what Arthur could judge, it was too deep to tread without being swept away and too wide to be leapt over.

  The only solution was to find a bridge, but none were shown on the map within the woods. “He could’ve warn
ed us about this, scrawny bastard,” Arthur kicked a rock toward the flowing water. It sailed all the way to the other side and planted itself firmly into a tree trunk, “if only we were that light.”

  They weren’t so light as that stone, but they weren’t altogether obese either. “Maybe we can make a bridge.” Cecil mumbled without realizing.

  “How so?” Echoed Salina.

  Now he was on the spot again. It was only an escaping thought, but they heard well, and now he needed to back his statement up. Cecil stood for some time (longer for him than for the rest) pondering how to defend himself. At some length he grasped what he believed to be a valid enough idea. “Perhaps we could make a bridge out of one of these trees.” He paused and waited for objections, but after hearing none he continued “Well, surely it wouldn’t be hard to topple one. I would also think any one of these could support us. We are no heavier than the rest of this world.”

  After his explanation came a nice calm. A serene and tranquil silence. Then Arthur broke in. “Whoop-dee-doo, you came up with the most obvious solution imaginable. Let’s all applaud you for your fathomless brilliance!” He topped this with dramatic hand motions and an obnoxious round of clapping. But as soon as he started, he
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