She peered through a small hole in the den she awoke in to see if she knew where she was. Nothing but trees, dead leaves, and your occasional animal passing through could be seen. The sunlight streamed in, making it difficult to see without being blinded. What was she doing in that hole? Everything in her mind was blank and she couldn’t remember anything after looking at the beauty of the full moon the previous night. Nothing like this ever happened before. She placed her hand on her forehead and felt something unexpected. She removed her hand and looked at her fingertips.
Wha… Why am I bleeding? She took a few minutes to think and sat in the dry leaves. Maybe that’s why she can’t remember anything- she was knocked out by something. But, what was she doing in that den and why couldn’t she get out easily? Her expression changed from confusion to realization. I’ve been kidnapped. Maybe if I yell loud enough someone will hear. That she did. Unfortunately for her, her screams could not be heard and she came close to losing her voice. All thoughts of hope were gone; she leaned against the side of the den and shrank into her imagination as tears streamed down her face.
Her thoughts were racing like mad trying to remember what happened the previous night. The possibilities were endless- drugged, kidnapped, knocked out and left for dead. Who knows? All she knew was that she wanted out of that hole immediately. Of course, minutes became hours and hours… Well, actually, the time passed pretty quickly considering how she fell asleep after about ten minutes of daydreaming.
A brunette girl in a long black cloak was running as fast as inhumanly possible, dodging minuscule obstacles that you would find in your typical forest. Running closely behind were some even stranger characters baring their fangs. It was almost like some kind of high-speed chase, with the two odd-looking men as the cops.
She turned around and continued running—only backwards. “You know, boys, if you keep your mouths open like that you’re bound to be eating some fairly large bugs.” She cast a spell causing a shadow to push a beehive in front of them and turned back around. In a split-second, as soon as she saw a huge fallen tree smothered in moss and leaves she smiled and leaped over it- falling into the den. Sadly, her usual balance after landing disappeared and she collided with sleeping girl, who abruptly woke up.
”WATCH IT! What do you think you’re doing?”
”Shut it!” The brunette snapped quietly. She cautiously peeked through the den’s entrance to see if they were still following. She heard leaves and twigs crunching, but saw nothing.
”Excuse me? Who are you to tell a complete stranger to ‘Shut it’!” She was really getting aggravated from the day’s events. She huffed and pushed her reverse-bobbed hair out of her face and brushed the leaves and dirt off of her oversized pink sweater. “It’s bad enough to say it like that, but to someone you don’t know—that’s just rude!”
The brunette heard the men move abruptly and grabbed the blonde by the shoulders enough to hurt her. “Look, if you don’t at least quiet down, we’re both dead. Got it?” She shook her a little.
”Yeah... What’s going on?” She asked, being a little quieter.
”I’ll tell you when they’re gone...” She listened as closely as possible and heard them walk away. “Finally, I can breathe without smelling their stench.” She faked a sneeze and started to climb out of the den.
The blonde grabbed the brunette’s cloak and refused to let go. “HEY! Where do you think you’re going?? You can’t just leave me here! Plus, you said you would explain what was going on! Who are you? Who were you hiding from?”
She sighed deeply shaking her head. What have I gotten myself into? “Fine. Here, place a foot on my hands and I’ll lift you up.” She linked her fingers and held her hands down at stepping-height. The blonde looked at her uneasily. “C’mon- I don’t bite,” she laughed.
”But… How will you get out?” She seemed uneasy.
”Oh, don’t worry about that. I can take care of myself.” She grinned as though she had some sort of secret.
”Alright...” She cautiously placed one foot firmly in her hands and almost instantly found herself soaring out of the hole and flat on her butt on the surface. “Ouch! ... Who has that kind of strength?” She wobbly stood up and looked around trying to gather her bearings, but still had no clue as to where she was. Suddenly, she saw a black blur jumping out of the den, high into the air where it lingered for about two seconds, and land. She stood completely befuddled. “WOW! How’d you do THAT?” Her facial expression immediately changed from confusion to excitement. “That was so cool! I’ve never seen anything like that before! You must’ve been the best in your Phys Ed class... Wow. I can’t find anything else to say but ‘Wow’!”
”Alright, alright! I get the picture. I jump ‘cool’. Okay.” She shook her head again and muttered something to herself in what sounded like gibberish. “Alright, how about I answer those questions of yours. I’ll start with the ones about me: My name is Luna Ravenclau. I come from the forest east of here- the Forest of Bachei, where humans are not permitted...”
”Wait- so how do you live there??”
”I was just getting to that. The thing of it is, I’m not fully human- only during the day and any night that is deprived of a full moon’s glow. You see I’m a lycan.”
”A werewolf, to put it simply.”
“Man, this day just keeps getting weirder and weirder. So, why aren’t we allowed to visit this ‘Bah-shay’ place? I don’t get it…” she sat down with an eager expression like a child being told a children’s story.
She shook her head, attempting to ignore the blonde’s astute butchering of her home’s name. “Well, your ‘leaders,’ per se, decided that they wanted you all to be ignorant to the mythical creatures that live here. Naturally, they spoke to our ancestors and we all agreed that it was best to remain hidden from you humans. However, against the laws set by those leaders, some of your kind told hideous stories of us, exaggerating our appearances and actions. They accused lycans of being no better than blood-sucking vampires. When we become accustom to the changes, we’re aware of what we do and are more cautious to the rules while vampires couldn’t care either way. They’ll kill their own kind and laugh about it. Oh, and pixies! People get pixies and fairies confused all the time! They think pixies are the sweet and innocent ones and fairies are the bad ones. NO! Pixies are deceptive- they’re so rotten to the core no one can stand them, which is why they remain hidden. They’ve been neglecting the rules and playing all sorts of pranks on you humans- they’re as bad as gremlins! The fairies that are falsely accused are actually graceful and kind as though they were royalty. You will never meet one that is not regal in some way.
“Anyway, I went off subject. That’s the tidbit on yours truly. Now, those boneheads who were chasing me are none other than vampires. Let me tell you, they hate lycans and humans with a passion and to intrude on their territory means death. Well, of course stupid me wanted to show off and spy. I found out a small amount of information before I clumsily fell through the gate and got caught. The rest, you should be aware of.”
She sat there befuddled. “Wait… So what we thought was fake was really real?” Her eyes began glistening with interest. “Are there, like, any gods and stuff?”
“Whoa. Hold on there. The ‘gods’—multiple, little ‘g’—are false. Same as those ridiculous superheroes in comic book stores—not real. Sorry. Really, a lot of us have different views on the forces around us. I, personally, believe that God—singular, big ‘G’—is behind everything. However, no one seems to believe it’s logical for a ‘demonic’ creature such as me to have this faith…”
“Yeah, and you don’t even look like those crazy nuns from history.”
“Yup. They’ve banned all religions because ‘they don’t agree with science.’”
“When did this happen?” Luna was getting a little tense.
“Umm… About eighteen years ago, I think.”
Luna’s shoulders fell into a slouch. “That doesn’t make sense… Everything seemed fine…” She straightened her back into her usual posture and turned to face the eastern part of the woods. “I better go… Those idiots are probably still out there looking for me.”
She jumped to her feet eagerly. “Let me go with you! I know about you guys now, so what does it matter?” Her anticipation was annoyingly increasing.
Luna sighed heavily and pondered her choices for a minute. She would just follow her back not matter what she said, so it wouldn’t make much of a difference. “Whatever. Just keep your mouth shut as long as we’re in vampire territory. I don’t want you to start fighting when you’re still so inexperienced.”
“’Inexperienced?’ Tch. Yeah, right.” She smiled confidently. “I’ve fought all sorts of people back home. I can hold my own.”
“Have you fought a vampire before? A real one?”
“Well… Not exactly…”
“Exactly my point. Now, c’mon.”
“Oh, I almost forgot! My name’s Cayla. It’s nice to meet you, Luna,” she smiled.
“Yeah, sure.” Luna led Cayla deeper and deeper in to the forest until they finally reached an enormous stonewall with a pair of large medieval doors. The brunette approached them and pounded her fist until a slot opened and a pair of eyes peeped through.
“C’mon, Gene, you know darn well it’s me.”
“Yeah, I know. But just ‘cause I know it’s you don’t mean nothing.”
“Fine. Luna Ravenclau of the Royal Guard, First Knight of Lady Charlotte accompanying a new ‘friend’…” She sounded extremely bored, which made Cayla snicker a bit.
“Friend? Who would you be bringing here?”
“A human. Strangely enough, I ran into her while escaping death from vampires and I had no real choice but to tell her everything... If we’re supposed to keep them safe from the vampires, then I couldn’t just leave her there…”
“Lady Charlotte will have your hide for dinner when she hears about this… But, hey, it’s your funeral.” He closed the slot and opened the doors so that the two could enter. Cayla nearly flipped at the sight of centaurs standing guard beside the gates. “Welcome to the Forrest Kingdom of Bachei, miss.” The way he said it sounded more cold than welcoming.
Cayla followed Luna inside a little ways when she stopped in amazement. The forests outside the walls made it seem lonely and gloomy, but inside there was life. Fairies and nymphs gathered water from the cleanest spring glistening from the sunlight forcing its way through the evergreens; vibrant dragonflies skipped along it gleefully. Young changelings showed off their gifts by transforming into different creatures and giggled sweetly when one made a humorous mistake. The centaurs stood royally at each gate, spears or bows in hand, making sure their home was well protected. The willow trees moaned when the breeze blew, causing the poor gnomes to jump with surprise each time. People walked along, conversing with one another—most likely lycans—and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Fallen angels flew across the forest—their wings so radiant and graceful.
Cayla stood there taking all this in for a few minutes until she realized that her mouth was hanging open in awe. “… It’s so beautiful! And you actually live here!”
“Yes, I do. Although, you have yet to see the best place of all… Follow me.” Again, Luna led her further into the forest and forced open a large, rusted set of iron gates, leading her into the manor’s garden. Glowing yellows, reds, and pinks illuminated blindingly as the sunlight gazed on the multitude of flowers. Rose buds began to show their faces on the bushes, ready to bloom in the noon light.
Cayla couldn’t help but stand there breathless. After blinking a few times to break free of her daydreams, she turned to face her unenthused hostess and realized something… “Hey, don’t you ever smile?”
She shifted her gaze towards the ground. “What does it matter to you?” Luna snapped defensively.
“Well, you haven’t even smirked once since we met… It’s like you’re never happy or something…” Cayla’s face grew very solemn.
“My feelings are of no concern to you,” she said, turning around sharply. “Let’s go.” She began walking away rather briskly.
“Ugh!” she huffed. “Why are you so rude to me?” She trudged along behind her, letting her imagination fly again; so many things could have made the brunette this way, but what was the true reason?
Luna walked into a little cabin and slammed the door in Cayla’s face.
“Hey! What? What was that for?” She stomped her foot hard in frustration.
Luna ripped the door open. “I’m talking to an elder! Have some respect—stay there and shut-up! I’ll be back in a second…” She closed the door and the sound of her boots thunked away.
“Sheesh… You need to work on your communication skills… I hope I didn’t hit a nerve earlier,” she mumbled. “Oh well. So, how should I pass the time?” She looked around curiously for anything she could do until a figure caught her eye. “Is that...” she paused for a moment then ran over to a guy reclined under a tree. He looked up at her with shock.
“Cayla! What… What are you doing here?” He stood up abruptly and stared down at her, being a few inches taller than she.
“Some rude girl led me here; although, I could ask you the same question, Jet!” She scowled at him.
“It’s a long story, actually. You… probably wouldn’t understand, now that I think of it.” He hung his head and his shaggy, black hair fell in his face.
“Try me,” she shrugged. “With the day I’ve had, I’ll believe anything.”
“Ok, then… Follow me,” he sighed and led her through the forest to a cabin. “So, um… How have you been, anyway?” he asked cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood
“How do you think you’d feel if your fiancée disappeared and was declared dead?”
He slowly opened the door. “I’m sorry… They forced me to leave after I discovered that I was bitten… I had no other choice.” He walked inside and grabbed some letters from his table, fumbling with them for a second as if he was putting them in order.
“’Bitten?’ By what?” She drew back for a second.
“Apparently it was a lycan, considering that’s what I’ve become.” He walked outside and stood in front of Cayla.
“Oh... Hey, what are those?” she pointed to the papers.
“Yours. I never could deliver them. I had been hoping to find someone who could, but since you’re here I can hand them to you myself.” He handed her the letters and closed the cabin’s door skillfully behind him without turning around. When she reached for them, he noticed a strange scar on her arm where her sleeve pulled back a ways. “Where did you get that…?” His face went pale.
She looked curiously at it. “Hu… I think some stray animal bit me about a month ago, but I don’t remember much... It doesn’t hurt or anything…” She shrugged and opened her letters, completely oblivious.
He continued to stare at the scar. That was an animal, all right. Just not the kind she thought it was. Where was Luna when he needed to talk to her, considering she was the one to talk to about new lycans?
Luna walked out of the elder’s cabin and glanced around. “Great… Where did she go? She couldn’t stand here for five minutes!” She sighed. “Now I have to look for her… Stupid, impatient human.” She continued ranting as she ran through the village until she saw a stressing Jet walking with a familiar blonde. “Finally! Jet, where’d you find her?”
Jet looked at Luna solemnly. “Can I talk to you alone for a minute?”
Luna drew back for a second. “You’re kidding me… She couldn’t…” She paused. “Alright, let’s go over here. Cayla, wait there and do NOT move.” She and Jet walked behind a cabin, leaving Cayla to read her letters.
“She has a bite on her arm… It couldn’t have been one of our lycans- this one was too reckless,” he said, restraining his anger.
“So, she’s become a lycan and we have a renegade rampaging in the humans’ world…? Calm down, Jet.” She put her hands on his shoulders—he looked like he was ready to kill. “We’ll find him, don’t worry. He’ll face the elders and will receive justice. Your revenge won’t be necessary.”
He looked around the cabin at Cayla. “I never wanted her to receive my fate… And she doesn’t even know what’s happened. She thinks it was some random animal and doesn’t remember anything.” He clenched his fist tightly. “One of us just randomly attacking… This wasn’t an accident!”
“Hey, now, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. So we’ve missed one lycan. It’s not the end of the world; we just have to find him. We’ll leave when most everyone’s asleep, ok?” She looked around to make sure no one was in listening range. “In the meantime, you know who to summon for. He’ll help us track this vagrant down.”
“It may take some time. What should I do after I send a messenger to him?”
“You and Cayla seem to be close. Keep her company so she doesn’t get too suspicious. Let me know as soon as your messenger returns.” She turned and began walking towards Cayla. “It seems I have a little more business with the elders. If Lady Charlotte arrives, steer clear of her; you’ll know who she is once you see her. I can’t afford for her to find out we have a human in Bachei.” She patted Cayla on the head like as if she were a little kid, which kind of irritated her. She walked back to the elder’s cabin and disappeared through the door.
Cayla looked around for Jet. “Wait, where’d he go?” She saw him walk out from behind the cabin and waved at him.
Jet saw her out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t turn to notice her. “Sorry, Cayla… I’ll be back for you in just a minute.” He whispered. “Now, where’s Cody?” He walked along looking for the messenger.
Cayla’s heart sunk as she watched him walk away. “Hey! Where are you…? Jet…” She sighed. “Who am I kidding? It was four years ago… He probably has a wolf-girl to go to…” She crumpled up the letters and sat down against a tree. “Stupid guy…” A tear streamed down her face as she stared at the ground.
A young girl with green streaks in her wavy, black hair walked up, curious about the new face, and sat next to her. “Hello! I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed a little sad. Are you ok?” She inquired with a smile on her face.
Cayla looked over at the strange-haired girl curiously. “I’ll be fine. Thanks, though.” A small smile brightened up her face and she wiped away her tears. “I’m Cayla.”
The girl’s smile grew bigger. Much better. “Nice to meet you! I’m Nidena,” she giggled. “So, why are you so down, hu? I saw you watch that stupid Jet walk away—was it his fault?” She held up her fists as if to say she’d kick his butt if he caused the tears.
Cayla stared blankly at the girl. “Oh… No, it’s nothing. I’m probably overreacting,” she said with a smile. “So, how long have you lived here, out of curiosity?”
Nidena tilted her head back to think. “Hmm… I guess it’s been about two years as of tomorrow. I take it Luna just found you recently?” She smiled and nodded. “Yeah, she’s cool like that… She found me unconscious early one morning on the edge of the woods and brought me here to live. I’m glad she found me—Lady Charlotte says that the humans will kill any of us that they find at once… It’s kinda sad, how cruel they are just because we’re a little different… You know what I mean?”
Cayla drew back for a second. “I’m not… Uh, I mean… Yeah, it’s very sad. I guess it’s natural instinct to fear what you don’t understand, though,” she shrugged.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “I can’t imagine how much some of the people here stood out before they were sent here because of their bites. We’re not exactly a normal bunch,” she laughed. She stopped when she noticed that the blonde was smiling a little uncomfortably. “Don’t worry! You’ll fit in perfectly!” She stood up and smiled. “Just be glad you’re here and not in a worse place. This is as close to heaven as immortals like us can get. God must smile on us if Bachei was designed just for us. I feel kinda bad for the ones who have turned down the wondrous place He formed… They just don’t know what they’re missing, do they?” She giggled gleefully.
Cayla had this bewildered expression on her face. So, Luna wasn’t the only one who spoke of this “God” … Her mood lifted and a small grin crept on her face. “No, they don’t…”
Nidena continued to smile at the blonde. “Well, I’ve got some stuff to finish back at home. I’ll see you tonight at the gathering!” She waved good-bye to her new friend and began walking away.
Well, there’s one option ruled out. Cayla had thought that maybe, after seeing how down Jet and Luna seemed to be, it was a lycan thing to not feel happy. This girl—Nidena—proved that wrong in an instant, with her smiling optimism. If one lycan could be that cheerful, then surely there were more like her. “So, why is Luna so down?” she wondered to herself… “Wait a minute… What ‘gathering?’” She stood up abruptly. “Luna never said anything about a ‘gathering!’” She looked around frantically. “Oh, where’d she go? Ugh… This can’t be good…”