Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Five
Mareian glowered at the empty cell. Empty, as in, no Werelupe;
sleeping or otherwise. "Jeran," she sighed, "can't you stay put for even one night?"
No, of course not, that would make this easy.
Danner shook his head in disbelief. "You do realize,
those bars were solid steel, welded to a steel frame and set into the stonework
itself. No one should have been able to pull them out."
Mareian gave him a disgusted look. "It's Jeran."
Illusen didn't take the news much better. "Even
as a Werelupe," she muttered darkly, "he can't stay still." The earth Faerie
proceeded to rant for a few minutes about every other time Jeran had managed
to get himself in trouble as a cub. Mareian was slightly amused by how many
times Danner blushed during her rant. Most likely because the Wocky had also
been involved in said mischief.
"So what are we going to do?" Danner asked, cutting
off the Faerie as she took a deep breath. "It's not like I can send a group
of knights out to search for him." Mareian shuddered at the thought of what
Jeran would do to a group of knights if he thought they were a threat to him.
There was a reason no one had replaced him as Champion when Skarl had made the
blue Lupe crown prince; he was closer to a natural disaster in a fight than
"You're not going to do anything, Danner," Illusen
said. "Jeran's already got your scent, and probably associates you with his
being locked up in the first place. You'll stay here, since we don't know where
he is." Danner opened his mouth to object, but the earth Faerie's glare silenced
Motioning to a cauldron over the fire, Illusen
continued, "Once the cure is finished, Mareian can carry it out deep into the
woods near here. He'll follow her, and that will get him away from other Lupes
he could infect. Jeran won't attack her, despite what he fears, and she can
give the cure to him."
Danner looked skeptical. "Are you sure?"
"As long as she walks and takes her time there's
no way he'll miss her." With a pointed look she gestured out the glass window
of the room to a dense thicket of trees. "He's already followed you here."
Mareian suppressed a laugh as Danner jumped up
and peered though the window anxiously. Illusen had more tact, covering her
mouth with her hand to hide her smile. "You won't be able to see him, Danner;
even my Faerie eyes can't see that well in the dark. I can sense him, though,
and the trees tell me he's sitting on the knoll by the creek. We'll let the
cure brew the rest of the night and see how it looks. We can't do anything for
him right now."
Long after Illusen and Danner gone to bed Mareian
sat by the window, staring out into the dark where Jeran was, somewhere. The
light from the fire cast eerie shadows and reflections across the glass, her
dark tipped pirate coloring reflection melding with the dark shadows of the
forest outside. She should go to bed; tomorrow was going to be a busy day for
everyone. Still, she sat by the window, searching for a flash of fur or the
gleam of red eyes. "Good night, Jeran," she whispered, finally retreating to
her own bed.
Despite the late hour Illusen had turned in,
and the even later hour Mareian had finally fallen asleep, both the small pirate
Lupess and the slender earth Faerie were awake with the dawn. Danner still slept
soundly in the makeshift bed Illusen had made for him the night before.
"I sort of 'encouraged' him to sleep," Illusen
explained while she stirred the cure-filled cauldron. "We don't really need
Danner for any of this, and he'd only get in the way. Besides, he needs the
sleep." Holding up a spoonful from the bubbling pot, Illusen looked critically
at its color. Finally, she turned to Mareian with a beaming smile. "It's done."
Mareian looked at the dark brown mix curiously.
"How am I going to give it to him?"
"You've seen how they give the Neezles shot,
right?" At Mareian's nod, Illusen continued, "You'll give it to Jeran the same
way. I recommend waiting until he falls asleep, though; I don't think he'd let
even you just jab this into him. I'll pack some food, and marinade that sleeping
potion I gave you earlier into some of the meat."
In what seemed like no time at all, Illusen had
carefully filled a syringe with Jeran's cure and filled a basket with enough
food for a couple meals, the drugged food wrapped in a bright red cloth so Mareian
wouldn't eat it by mistake. "Better to pack too much food than too little,"
Illusen said, handing Mareian the basket. "It might take until late this evening
until he gets comfortable enough to come up to you. I put a change of clothes
for him at the bottom; he's going to need it after running around the woods
Jeran tensed his muscles, slowly creeping up
on his unwary prey. Keeping his head low and his eyes leveled on his target,
he slowly worked his way closer and closer. When his target was finally within
range, he leapt, grabbing at the apparently oblivious bright eyed and bushy
tailed treat. At the last second, the Albat squeaked in alarm and scurried into
a deep earthen hole much too small for Jeran to reach into. Jeran snorted in
Raising his head, he sniffed to find the scent
of a more promising, and hopefully slower, breakfast. A familiar scent caught
his attention, sending a shudder of happy recognition though him. It was her.
And she was alone. Breakfast forgotten, Jeran turned his attention to following
It didn't take him long to find her; her small
size meant she didn't travel very fast. Jeran would almost mistake her for a
cub that had fallen behind her pack, except there was nothing cub-like in her
scent or in the way she'd handled the Wocky male the night before.
Something was holding her attention; she was
watching a small leafy brush intently. Perhaps she was also hunting for breakfast,
Jeran hoped she was having better success than him. If not, he'd bring her a
portion of anything he might catch later that day to share. He deliberately
pushed out of his mind the fact that he hadn't managed to catch even a single
thing so far.
The bush's branches trembled slightly, and a
small Ganuthor kitten tumbled out. So that's what she had been watching. It
was tiny, with delicate little paws, and minuscule wings, probably barely weaned.
Perhaps it had become separated from its mother.
Jeran's nose twitched as the smell of meat floated
up towards him. Creeping closer, he saw his Lupess pull a small piece of meat
out of a container she carried. She was tearing off small pieces and giving
them to the ravenously hungry kitten. She must have had a successful hunt last
night after he'd lost track of her.
She was talking to the kitten too; Jeran could
catch a couple of softly crooned words as she encouraged the kitten to come
closer to her. Jeran liked the sound of her voice; it was comforting and soothing,
and oddly familiar. He slowly worked his way closer to hear her better, and
then froze as a misplaced step broke a dry twig.
The charcoal colored Ganuthor kitten stiffened,
then bolted back under its bush. The Lupess did little more than twitch a black
tipped ear in his direction, then brush herself off and continued on her journey.
Jeran stared after her as she traveled, thinking
hard. She apparently was packless, just like him. She could hunt, and wasn't
easily startled. Her scent said she was close to the same age as he was, and
she was kind; he could tell that by how she'd treated the kitten. Hunting was
easier with two, and no one should be without a pack. He certainly couldn't
just show up on her without a gift though, and his idea of bring her a meal
didn't work now that he knew she was capable of fending for herself. Jeran stared
at the bush the Ganuthor had escaped under, the seed of an idea sprouting in
Mareian stopped, inspecting the small clearing
in the trees she was in. The sun was starting to set, and she didn't want to
wander the woods alone in the dark. Knowing her luck, she'd trip over a log
and fall into a pit of Drackonacks. She'd had a couple reminders today that
she was a city girl traipsing about in the woods, luckily none that wounded
her dignity too much. Illusen had said that Jeran would probably wait until
he was sure it wasn't a trap, and after the sun had set when it was light he
was more comfortable with, before he'd come to her. At least a bright full moon
tonight would keep it from getting too dark for her to see.
She still hadn't managed to see Jeran. Although
she had heard a pretty steady rhythm of cracking twigs and the sound of branches
being swept aside for most of the day, that she suspected was him following
her just out of sight. The highlight of the day had been a tiny Ganuthor kitten
she'd found. She'd lured it out just like Jeran had taught her and almost got
to pet it. Then a twig snapping had scared it off. Mareian hoped it wouldn't
get too hungry out on its own; it looked like it was lost and had skipped a
A pitiful mewling caught her attention. Turning
slightly towards the sound, Mareian saw Jeran standing cautiously at the edge
of the clearing, his red eyes gleaming as he watched her. The mewling sound
came again, from his hands. He was holding the dark furred kitten she'd fed
earlier. He must have caught it and carried it for most of the day for him to
have it all the way here.
Carefully walking closer, Jeran held out the
kitten to her. He looked like he was ready to bolt away at any second. Mareian
wondered briefly if the Werelupe --who was twice her size-- was actually afraid
of her. Pricking her ears into a friendly position, Mareian accepted the trembling
kitten. The poor thing was dwarfed in his hands; it was a much larger squirming
bundle for her to hold. She made a show of admiring it, while making sure Jeran
hadn't accidentally hurt it. Other than a little hungry and thirsty, it thankfully
seemed no worse for wear.
Jeran stood still, watching her intently. He'd
relaxed a bit; he seemed more uncertain than scared now. On sudden inspiration,
Mareian reached into the basket and offered him a large piece of jerky. He sniffed
it curiously for a moment, then settled down onto the ground to eat it. Mareian
couldn't help but smile when Jeran tore off a large chunk and gave it to the
With food offered, all sins from being carried
halfway though the forest were instantly forgotten. The Ganuthor gorged herself
on the meat, and then fell asleep, her small stomach bloated from the large
meal. Jeran watched her for a few minutes, then was up exploring the clearing
Mareian had chosen for a camp.
Since he was distracted, Mareian used the chance
to make sure he was alright. Sometime between his escape from the castle and
now he'd lost his shirt, she'd noticed. A long white scar ran from his left
shoulder to his chest, and several smaller ones peppered his sides, but those
were obviously old injuries. The only recent injury she could see was the bite
that had infected him in the first place; he'd lost the bandage to it, but it
seemed to be healing just fine.
Mareian had once wondered if Jeran's obsessive
habit of checking every detail was something that had been ground into him during
his training for being a knight. She didn't wonder anymore. He was into everything,
inspecting every hole, rock, and tuft of grass. About every five minutes he'd
come and make sure she was okay, before heading off to explore the next pile
of rocks. Remembering Jeran's concern that she'd be in danger with him as a
Werelupe, Mareian almost laughed.
"You know, Jeran," she said to him the umpteenth
time he came back to check on her, "this would be a lot easier if you'd just
go to sleep." He cocked his head at her, his ruby eyes uncomprehending.
Mareian reached into the basket Illusen had given
her and offered Jeran a piece of the sleeping potion saturated meat. Jeran looked
at it curiously for a few seconds then looked away, uninterested. Mareian sighed
and wrapped the meat back in its red cloth. "You're not going to make this easy,
are you?" Deciding to lead by example, Mareian exaggerated a huge yawn, and
curled up like she was going to sleep. "Good night, Jeran."
The blue Werelupe sat down beside her, watching
her, his glowing eyes unreadable. Mareian decided to take his sitting still
as an improvement. It was chilly tonight, she noted, autumn was starting to
turn the leaves and a soft wind blew causing her to shiver. Illusen had been
afraid a fire would have scared Jeran off, so Mareian hadn't brought anything
to light one with. You're getting soft, she scolded herself, living
in that castle with thick stone walls.
Another gust blew, causing her to shiver again.
Jeran must have noticed her discomfort, because he got up and circled around
her, lying between her and the wind as he settled in to sleep. Tears stung Mareian's
eyes. Werelupe or no, he was still Jeran, doing the same things Jeran would
Hours later, Mareian woke with a sharp jolt.
She hadn't meant to actually fall asleep. The bright full moon was directly
over the clearing; with the cloudless sky she could see nearly as well as if
it were daytime. Beside her Jeran sneezed softly in his sleep. Rolling over,
the pirate Lupess looked at him carefully to make sure he wasn't about to wake
up. Judging from the way his ears were twitching, he was dreaming.
As quietly as she could, Mareian reached into
the basket she'd carried for the syringe of medicine. Kneeling beside Jeran,
she felt a stab of doubt. Illusen had said that Jeran wasn't in much danger,
as healthy and young as he was but there was still a risk. And he was still
Jeran, unlike Roebea's dramatic change. She knew perfectly well Jeran
sometimes felt trapped in his life a court.
He'd never been overly ambitious. As King's Champion
he'd gotten more attention than he'd wanted, as the hero of the last war he'd
gotten more attention than he was comfortable with, and as Crown Prince he'd
never be able to get away from it. And he'd never asked for any of it. Here,
he was free.
To be continued...