23: A Different AnimalMature

Dechar was roused from his state of shock by the woman’s sharp tongue.

“Stop gawking and get me out of here!  We need to leave!  Now!”

He bent down painfully to grab the keys from the guard’s corpse and unlocked the door to the woman’s cell.  The glowing chains were still  tangled around her body.

“Just pull on the end, and the rest will unravel,” she ordered.  The chains fell with a loud clank to the floor and she was finally free.  “You might as well grab those clothes, though I imagine they’ll be ill-fitting.”  She looked Dechar’s tall, muscluar build up and down and then gestured to the pudgy guard on the ground.  

No sooner had Dechar nervously stripped the corpse and gathered the clothes than the woman took him by his broad shoulders, telling him to close his eyes.  He had wanted to grab the food before he left, but when he opened his lids, he found himself  and the mysterious woman at the edge of the woods outside the city.  

“It will take some rest before I’m able to teleport any further,” the woman said, taking a knee and belaboured breaths, exhausted from the jump.  “We’ll need to find some sort of shelter, maybe some food and water.  Try not to agitate that wound of yours, and you’ll be fine.”

This woman is full of surprises, Dechar thought as he figured out how to dress himself, ignoring his bloody wound.  “What’s your name?”

“Ylva, of the Rinnek Tribe.  I take it you have no tribe.  You’re not even Dechi.”

“What?  How could I not be Dechi?  Are there other shapeshifters?”

“We are the only shapeshifters, but… look at that scraggly thing on your face.  Dechi men have no beards.  You could be some sort of half-breed I suppose, though I shudder to think how that might’ve happened.  It makes a bit of sense, though.  A lack of magic in your blood could explain the fact that you’ve never known your true nature.”

Dechar laughed bitterly.  “I woke up this morning believing I was a greywolf, and probably the only one of my kind, and now I’m supposed to believe I’m half human?”  He sighed.  “Who am I to doubt it?  You teleported us here….  Can I teleport?”  He nearly lost his balance walking on two shoed feet.

Ylva rolled her eyes as she led Dechar through the woods. “Only trained mages can teleport, and there are fewer every day.  Once upon a time, it was forbidden of Dechi women to become mages.  When the men got desperate enough, though, they finally realized our worth.  Had they come to their senses sooner, we might not have ever been in this mess.” She looked over to her new companion.  “I never caught your name.”

“It’s--this is probably going to sound strange-- it’s Dechar.”

Ylva’s striking blue eyes narrowed beneath the silver tangle of hair.  “So when the humans named you, they decided they’d mock the fact that you would likely never discover what you were.  Sounds about right.”

“Hey, stop talking about them like that!  You may never have met a kind human, but they’re out there.  They’re the ones who raised me, not monsters like the king!”

“Oh, then I’m sure they didn’t treat you like a pet,” she said, sarcasm dripping off her tongue.  “Probably made you sleep in the stables and rode you like a horse.”

Dechar’s face reddened as he had no rebuttal, but Ylva’s statement brought his mission to reunite with Oliana to the forefront of his mind.  “Where are you taking us, exactly?  I need to find my mast-- friend.  She escaped from the soldiers who captured us on the way here.”

“As of right now, I’m trying to find us a tall tree.  Weak as I am, I’ll climb it, and then I’ll have a better idea of our options for the night.  Once I regain my strength, I’ll be returning to my tribe.  You can find your ‘master’ on your own.”

Dechar grimaced at the realization that she had seen through his slip.  He wished she would stay with him longer.  He wanted to learn more about these Dechi people.  His people.  “How do I shift back to a wolf?”

“Don’t even think about it right now.  It’s the same as before, though, only picture yourself in wulfen form.  If you shifted now, you’d rip your clothes up like mine.”  Dechar noticed her shivering, but when he offered her his shirt, she recoiled.

Upon finding a tree that suited her needs, Ylva began her ascent.  Dechar was tempted to follow her.  He had always wanted to climb a tree, and if it were not for his injury, he would have been glad for the new experience.  Instead, he waited patiently for a verdict.

Ylva struggled her way up the tree.  Not only were its branches spread far apart, but she had been starved of food and drink for many days in the dungeon, and she could feel it with every grasp.  When she finally reached the top, her line of vision was extended greatly.  She had not searched long before her eyes caught something with a bluish-green tint.  Water, she thought.  Her body ached for it such that she quickly decided that that was where she and Dechar would make camp.

She made her way down the tree much more swiftly than she had scaled it, and with her strength somewhat recovered by sheer motivation, she set off straight away, yelling “Follow me!  We’ll have to walk a ways yet, but I know exactly where we’ll stay the night.”

The End

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