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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Five


by nimras23

--------

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 a knight.

     "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 him.

     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 all night."     

*****

     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 disgust.

     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 her trail.

     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 his mind.      

*****

     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 couple meals.

     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 small kitten.

     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 have done.

     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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part One
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Two
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Three
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Four
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Six



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