She laid quiet on her side. I knew the fall must have hurt–should have–but I didn’t know if she had any broken bones. She was conscious, I knew that. Knew it, because she just kept humming. Elmiryn was smiling…and humming.
When I looked down at her in that pool of shadow, I could hear her voice. It was a swirl of surrealism, and perhaps, to a human, it would’ve been inaudible, but I could hear her. Elmiryn’s knees were curled to her chest, and she hugged them to her curled lips. Her eyes were closed, and the blood that stained her skin had been washed away by the water she lay in…no, rolled in. I’m certain she had been rolling in it. I became afraid that she had drank some of it, but her behavior was more reminiscent of a child drained from hours of play then a person close to death.
I jumped down to a small spot where the rocks that littered the floor didn’t seem so menacing, but water pooled in large amounts. I only suffered a sharp poke for my trouble, and the startled water splashed my muzzle, leaving it to drip as I hovered over Elmiryn’s prone form.
I recognized the song she was humming. The one she had forbade me from even thinking of. Just as before, no adverse effects came from hearing the melody from her. This confusion only lasted a moment though, as I found myself confronted by another problem.
The wall that I had jumped down from was approximately five feet high. Elmiryn was taller than that, and when I stood on my hind legs, so was I, but there was that bothersome detail of how to get an unconscious woman over such an obstacle without opposable thumbs. I sat on my haunch, furry face scrunched in anxiety as I looked from my companion to the wall and back. I then tried to paw at her, to see if that would rouse her out of her stupor. I shook her a bit, but she didn’t respond other than smiling a little wider. I then tried to nuzzle her arm, but she only hugged herself tighter. For a brief second, and without a hint of malice or irony I might add, I thought about biting her ear–but I was pretty sure I nicked her last time doing that, so I decided against it.
She had lost a lot of blood. Despite the water I could still smell it. So I wondered…Why wasn’t she completely unconscious? She was out of it, yes…but still lucid.
…But even going beyond that, why wasn’t Elmiryn dead?
These mysteries aside, my thoughts turned to an unsavory idea. My heartbeat quickened just to think it, but I was at a loss as to what to do. How much time had been wasted in this space? How much longer before the river guardian cut off our escape? How much longer before Elmiryn…before she…
I clenched my jaw.
“There’s no way around it,” I thought.
Ailurans and Lycans were the only two therian races to have five shifting forms. On the spiritual spectrum, it ranged from the two forms closest to anthroporthic thought to bestial instinct. Then there was the full form–the one in perfect harmony both with the man and beast in all of us. In my native tongue, we call it, “Ekilluos” and it is reserved for special ceremonies and times of war, due to the great strength and heightened sense of passion one feels.
I tried to access this part of me, to actively shift the shape of my body to become that which I had become only once in my life before. In my schooling, I was taught to recognize and respect that part of my soul. It writhed, like a tangle of snakes in a burlap sack–and it was coarse on my mind. On my thoughts.
…But just as I was about to submerge myself completely in this energy…
She blocked me.
My back bunched and I felt my lip curl back to show my fangs. “I need to! It’s the only way!”
“NO.” I could already feel her intent. My paws itched with her desire to run. If I gave her control, she would abandon Elmiryn, I was certain of it. “This isn’t a discussion. Fade back into the darkness and sleep, cretin.”
[She feels the beast pull on her body. She pulls back and a dangerous growl rumbles from her throat. The tug of war continues as they talk.]
“Shut up. You may have access to my Expression, but the words are still mine! Do you hear me!?”
“Stop it, just stop it! I have to save Elmiryn before–”
“YOU SELFISH MISCREANT, GIVE ME WHAT’S MINE! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT, YOU HAVE NONE AT ALL!”
[The beast laughs, but it is a bitter sound that is devoid of any true satisfaction.]
[She roars, and sediment is startled from the ceiling. Elmiryn stirs, and her eyes creak open. Nyx, the girl trapped in the animal’s body, curls in on herself. Her muscles shake and she snarls and pants. No more words, no more dressed up thoughts. Just the present obstacle–the one inside her, that denies what she wants. It makes her infuriated. She backs up until she finds herself against cold damp rock, then falls to the side as something gives out. Nyx’s eyes slip shut. She is no longer aware of what’s around her. She has retreated inside, to better deal with the usurper. This coup of the body will stop, she swears it, even if it means losing a part of herself forever.
In her head, it is a ghostly cold place that stretches and warps with abstract reasoning and sensations. They pierce and part her as she delves down deep to where She is hiding. The animal, upright but still as a cat even on the inside, looks at Nyx startled.
She is shocked to see The Other has risked all just to gain control–and for what? Here, Nyx–a name they quibble over, but by right belongs to the two-legged half–looks as a human does, but scuttles on the ground like an animal. Her teeth gnash and she leaps with hands tensed like claws. The two personas collide.
Disorientation rules as they tumble through a cascade of memories that leaves them without breath. Cold winters. Mourning. Stumbling fear. Unable to deal with the complexity that comes with these gray pictures, the animal faints, her lack of control over her newfound faculties proving to be Her downfall. As a creature of nature, she knew pain, but it was never so vast and overwhelming as the concerns of a two-legger. The Other, though, braces against these images and feelings. She understands this pain already. For many nights, it had been the only thing to put her to sleep.
No longer blocked, Nyx lopes to the place in her soul that is warmest.
Her hopes rest there. In her eyes, she can perceive worse fates with inaction, than in the risk she takes. In a sense it has all become relative.
To prove herself worthy of her Mark by fleeing, or to remain at the risk of horrible failure. Those were her choices.
Her decision leads her to burn herself with her own passion.
Her muscles pull and expand first in the chest. Because of her rash haste, her body is confused. The skin stretches and tears from the flesh that pulls it apart, and the bones strain against her heart and lungs, which in turn become larger as well. This pain is excruciating, and she can’t even manage breath to scream. But the skin and the bones begin to shift with the rest of the body, as if pushed into action by an obnoxious parent. Her clothes shift easily with the form that grows and changes beneath it. Several minutes later, Nyx opens her eyes to find Elmiryn has rolled to her back and is gazing dreamily up at her.]
“…So turnip’s can grow after you pluck ’em? What a thought!“
Lip pulled back. I snarled.
I hated her for this trouble. But she tried. I owed her.
So now I would try.