Leythan's History

Copyright Jeff Anderstedt 1999

Prologue

Patiently Koragch watched the graying old man pace the floor in front of his desk. His aging, nondescript cloak twirled up slightly every time he turned about. Five strides and turn, five more and turn again. On and on, five steps and turn, five steps and turn.

Koragch hated it when the old man did that. Just once, he wished, just once couldn't he come into my office and get to the point. The old man's mouth curled up into a smirk as the thought fleetingly crossed the crime lord's mind. Every piece of intelligence he had been able to gather about this ancient wizard told him that he wasn't psychic, but still sometimes Koragch wondered about that fact. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that he had received faulty intelligence.

At least the wizened old man seemed to be in a good mood. While he had never done anything untoward against either Koragch or any of his underlings, and had, in fact, been positively indispensable in aiding him in his own personal causes, it was never a smart idea to put oneself too close to an irritated wizard.

"Can we finally get to point?" Koragch blurted, unable to contain himself any longer. "It may not have occurred to you but others might have pressing business to tend to."

The smirk slid from the old man's face and Koragch felt himself blanch. Not knowing wholly what to expect and realizing that he might have just stepped over the line, the portly man waited in mortified silence. Despite the cool breeze from the open window, a trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face to hang precariously from the whiskers on his cheeks as the wizard leaned his haggard face closer.

"Not that I've been keeping track of you, or anything, you realize. But trust me when I tell you that there is nothing on your schedule that is more pressing to you than the message I bring you today." the scraggy man fairly whispered, his face close.

Swallowing back the lump in his throat that had suddenly appeared, Koragch returned the old man's stare.

Without any warning the wizard broke into a chuckle.

"Ah, but if I only had a dozen men like you." he laughed softly, "You know, Koragch, the fact that you don't even back down to your own fears is probably one of your best characteristics. It's the thing I like about you the most. Hopefully your courage will never fail us, because I fear that it will be sorely needed in the years to come."

"Is it worse than you feared then?"

"Alas, it is never worse than I fear. That's the only thing that's kept me alive to this ripe old age my friend. However, I do have a favor to ask of you. A favor of the utmost importance."

"Finally we get to meat of the matter." The fleshy crime lord smiled as he leaned back in chair. "What would you have of me then, and more importantly, what's in it for me to do this?"

"In a show of good faith, I will give to you before I ask of you." The wizard paused, as the conductor before the show. "It might interest you to know that a certain competitor of yours has a shipment of spirits, fine Long Coasts brandy none the less, in storage in a warehouse in the northern section of town. It is slated to leave for Seng in a mere four days. If it was, shall we say, intercepted by the right man, I might know of a certain noble in Gods Lands whom might be willing to pay a great deal of gold for it. What with it being in short supply since the invasion and all."

Koragch could almost feel his eyes bulge at the prospect. He had several personal projects that could benefit greatly from the financial boost such an endeavor would bring.

"And how large of a shipment would this be?" the heavyset man almost rasped.

"Let us just say that it is a very healthy shipment, and were it to go missing I doubt that it could happen unless the persons performing such a task had no less than three large carts."

Stunned, Koragch grabbed the arms of his chair to hold himself up. Why, only one cart alone would have been all he had hoped for. Stealing such a shipment would mean war between himself and Taygar, but that wasn't worrying him much. That second rate thought that the older man's syndicate was maybe a third of the size that it really was, and even that would have been twice that of the smaller man's. Maybe it was time to have a long talk with Taygar, and make him a part of his operation. After all, if he could get his hands on three whole carts of Long Coasts brandy maybe the man wasn't as beyond hope as first intelligence had indicated.

"And what favor would you ask of me for this information. Would I have to sign a contract in blood, or will my word do?" Koragch cajoled the older man.

"Do not even make such suggestions!" yelled the angered wizard. "Do not make light of blood deals or mention them to a Wizard of The Wall. I have seen far too many of my brethren struck down by their own pride and brought to doom by such things!"

Looking suddenly weary and tired, he let his head hang slightly and whispered, "And far too many I have had to hunt down myself, lest they bring about the doom of us all."

Taken aback at this information, the younger man stammered an apology.

"I... I'm sorry. I did not know. I only meant to lighten the mood created by your generous offer. My friend, I would never enter into such an agreement. It is not only the costs to myself that would keep me from doing that, as you well know."

"Yes, yes, you are right. Excuse my outburst. Perhaps it is that these old eyes have just seen to many tragedies in their time."

Straightening, the slender old man looked the crime lord in the eyes.

"But now I must ask my favor of you. I have someone I would like you to train for me. You will find him not without talents himself, and will be a great help to your organization during the time that he is with you. You may trust the lad with a great many things, but do not tell him about me or the true scope of your organization. If he does not learn these lessons on his own, we can tell him when the time is right. Do not be gentle with the boy, but treat him fairly. The skills he must be taught will be obvious to you."

Koragch waited to hear more, but nothing else was forthcoming.

"Is that it then? Train a new apprentice in my business?"

"Yes."

"Just treat him like any other new boy, and see to it that he learns the ropes?"

"Yes."

Again he paused.

"What are you not telling me?"

"Just that it is important to all of us that he learn."

He rubbed the lowest of his chins, making his flabby jowls jiggle around like they were trying to escape the prison of his beard. Sighing in resignation, knowing that the older man was somehow going to get the best of this seemingly magnanimous offer, the paunchy man lifted his head.

"Done."

"Thank you my friend. Have you figured out which warehouse yet?"

"Yes, yes. Taygar only has two warehouses in the city capable of hiding such a load, and one of them is loaded down with very low quality silk. Even though up till two nights ago it was loaded up with very high quality silk. Come to think of it, I think the silk was from Seng too. Poor lad seems to be having nothing but trouble when it comes to dealing with those people."

"A word of advice, Koragch, if I may." requested the older man.

"Advice from you is always welcome."

"Don't trust Taygar into your organization if you happen to be thinking of it. Business sense alone would not have acquired such a large load of brandy out of the Long Coasts. You might find some of his... business associates not to your liking, but we are not in a position to do anything about them yet."

Taygar was working with the Invaders! Koragch nearly started to quake with anger. Taygar would get the war he deserved.

"Advice taken." he hissed through clenched teeth.

"Good. Now I fear that I must be off. I have pressing business that must be tended to."

The angered man rose to his feet and held out his hand to the old man. Gripping each other's wrists, they both broke into grins. As their hands fell away the graying wizard walked towards the door.

"When will you be sending me the boy?" Koragch asked as the other man opened the door.

"I won't." he replied.

"Then how will I know him?"

"Well, that will be easy. He'll be the one with your coin purse." were his last words as the door swung closed.

Without hesitation he felt at his belt for the pouch that held his money. Finding it still there, he removed it and checked its contents before replacing it.

"Damn wizards. Always talking in riddles." he grumbled, and glared at the now closed door.

Sitting down to his desk once again, he thought perhaps he had been too hasty in his acceptance of the offer, then he banished the thought. He had pressing business to tend to. He had a war to plan. One that would be over before this night was through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leythan's History

Sad beginnings - 1

Leythan sat back and pondered his situation. He would have to spend a few days in this city to help replenish his dwindling funds. He hadn't wanted to take too much money with him when he had left Deslin, but he had thought that the money he had brought would have lasted him longer. Thinking too much about the twins, and the fact that they too might be let out of the orphanage before his return, he had left the majority of his endowment in trust lest they be more unfortunate than he and left destitute. Sadly, this had caused him to underestimate his own needs for his journey and had forced him into a rather awkward position.

He had been hoping not to have to ply his chosen profession before he had made it to Kordar, but now if he was to even make it there he would have to appropriate funds from some unwitting target. Maybe he would get lucky and land himself a nice rich merchant with a bulging coin purse and little common sense. The main danger lay not in the law or getting caught by his prey in the act. No, it lay in the danger of the local thieves guild spotting him and punishing him for plying his trade without guild sponsorship.

For such a small city this area seemed to have a thriving community of thieves. Why, since arriving just this morning he had seen at least a dozen cutpurses, none of who could have possibly been over 10 summers. The strange thing was that after watching them closely he had seen them all report back to the same man. But instead of the man taking his percentage of the coins he had sat down with the boys and talked with them at length. Afterwards he would take the proffered purse and return it to its original owner. Neither the boy nor the man would take any of the money. The man would then return to the boy and point out another person in the street, and the cycle would begin again. This made no sense what so ever to young Leythan. If the older man had been a Fagan he could understand it but instead he seemed almost to be running classes for the young boys. If that was the case, this city had one of the most organized thieves guilds Leythan had ever heard of. He would have to watch not only his mark closely, but also the people on the streets lest someone with experience spot him in the act and report him to the guild. There was not a single city in all of Muhan where freelancing was not frowned upon, and a few where it was even punishable by death if the guilty party couldn't bribe his way out of it. Being short on funds, the young man did not have the money to pay any such bribe.

However something had to be done. Over the last few months Leythan had become accustomed to living a more comfortable life than he had at the orphanage, and his lack of funds had put him in some very shabby inns of late. His residence for the night had all the charms of a midden heap on a sweltering summer day. The ale was flat and watered down, and the menu had consisted of pork of such a low grade they wouldn't even have served it in the orphanage where he had spent the first 17 years of his life. Most of his fellow patrons were covered in red welts that bespoke of bed bugs and fleas, and were furtively eyeing over his cloak, though it in itself was not much to speak of having been traveled and slept in for these past 15 days.

He removed his third from last copper piece from his coin purse, and slid it over into the filthy hands of the innkeeper pushing himself away from the bar. He should get to his room early, and if he left now he could set up a couple of surprises for unwanted visitors in the night. He wasn't really expecting any trouble from this sorry lot, they had seen his coin purse and knew its sad condition, but right now he couldn't afford a new cloak. Or, for that matter, a dagger in his belly.

Sighing, he trod up the rickety stairs to his room on the second floor. Remembering once again the red welts and sickly appearance of the other residents he quietly reminded himself not to use the vermin ridden pallet set up in his room.

 

 

First acquaintance - 2

He had risen early, just prior to the sun coming up. He hoped that by finding a mark early in the morning he might be better able to avoid detection by the other thieves, who by nature seem to be slightly more nocturnal than most. He hated the morning, and could not understand how any self-respecting person could possibly be up before the sun, unless it was just to be on ones way home from a successful caper, of course. By a lucky twist of fate he hadn't traveled more than four blocks from the inn that had been his home last night before he spotted his mark.

He was a large man, probably working his way home from a drunken night spent with some whore that had mostly likely charged him too much and given him a lifelong legacy that would cause him much discomfort. His tired steps dragged through the streets, and his rich clothes were covered with dirt, and what looked like soot. His hair was disheveled and, with mud on his face, he didn't really look like much to the average eye. But the cut of his boots and the quality of the clothes he wore under that dirt bespoke of money. Leythan just hoped that he hadn't been robbed earlier in the night, but that was doubtful. From the looks of him if he had been robbed he wouldn't be walking home right now. His body would have turned up later in the day down some alley, and there would be someone else walking around right now in those pretty boots of his.

Thinking quickly, Leythan drew a pen and paper from his pouch and hastily scribbled a note. Ducking back into the alley, he ran down to the next parallel street and rushed down two blocks. Hopefully his mark wouldn't leave the main street before he could get back to it. Looking down at himself, he removed his cloak and stuffed it into his pack, and grabbed a handful of dirt and flung it onto his face and into his hair. Thankful that he had slept in his clothes the night before and hadn't tried to clean himself up, he picked up his backpack and slung it over one shoulder as he stepped out onto the street.

Adjusting his gait to one of a weary farm hand, he let his feet shuffle as he started to close the distance between himself and his approaching quarry. Looking up from his feet he gave the man a quick once over and located his money pouch hanging off the side of his belt. That would explain why he hadn't been able to spot it before, the fat man's prodigious belly had been between him and it.

"Excuse me, good sir." Leythan said in his best humble farm boy voice. "But could I ask you for directions?"

Almost faster than his eye could travel, the seemingly lethargic bulky man produced a large dagger in his right hand. Leythan stopped dead in his tracks. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea in the first place.

"Hold it right there, boy." the heavyset man growled. "I've had an exceptionally busy night and I'm not in the mood for any trouble from the likes of you. Just you ease that pack of yours to the ground and hold your hands out where I can see em. Maybe then I'll see if I can help you or not." He dexterously flipped the dagger to a throwing grip, "And don't you be thinking of running off on me neither."

Leythan recognized a skilled blade handler when he saw one, and knew almost instantly that his only hope of getting out of this alive was to play the role that he had cast himself in perfectly and not to do anything suspicious. He slowly lowered his pack to the ground and spread his hands out wide, still holding his hastily scrawled note in his right.

The fat man approached him, flipping the dagger back to a solid fighting grip when he got close enough. "Now what do we have here?" he said grabbing the note out the young thieves hand. "You wouldn't happen to be one of Taygar's boys come to see me now would you?"

"N..n..no sir....me name be Thilan, and me father's name be Gildon Yurn. I was sent by me ma to find out why da's been two days overdue in the city. He be staying there, ma told me."

"And why did you need me?"

"Are you goina kill me sir, and rob my corpse? Ma told me there were people does things like that in the city."

"Answer the question boy!"

The old man was not going to give up any control of the situation by answering questions. Damn! There had to be some way to get out of this, even if it meant not getting that fat purse at his belt. Leythan would settle for his life at this point.

"Well sir, I.... I um, ah, well I can't read sir. Ya see young Becky Gaster was supposed to be teaching me the ways and hows of readings, but well, um... well she fancies me quite a bit, sir, and our lessons have been kinda in other areas if ya know my meanins. Well ma woulda tanned me hide bloody if I had told her I can't be readin nothing, and would darned wella demanded to know why I can't. I was a-hopin you could tell me what the name be of the inn da's been keepin his self at."

The fat man looked down at the crumpled note in his hand and started to chuckle under his breath.

"He's at the Burnt Branch. Four blocks north and one west. And if you're smart you'll get his arse out of there and off home to your Ma and back on the farm before she decides to tan his hide bloody." He handed back the note. "You might want to get young Becky to start teaching you to read boy. Not knowing how damn near cost you your life today."

Leythan smiled and started to back up. "Yes sir, thank you sir, I'll make sure to set our lessons to the right subject sir." Without thinking he backed up into his pack and went down flat on his bottom. Instinctively he immediately started to scramble to get back on his feet. The other man still had a knife out and while he seemed to be forgiving enough for the interruption, a smart thief knew to get while the getting was good. Before he could get to his feet the portly man had closed the distance and picked him up off the ground.

"Best you get your pack and move along now, son." he growled at Leythan.

As his feet hit the ground he was picking up his pack and running away towards the inn he had stayed at the night before. He could hear laughter following him up the street. The older man had not only bought his story, but couldn't contain his mirth at the humor of the situation Leythan had dreamed up to get close to him.

Rounding a corner, Leythan smiled. Despite having pulled a knife on the young man, the large stranger had even helped him up. "It's so nice to see manners aren't dead." the young thief said to himself as he continued to run down the street. Feeling the weight of the fat man's coin pouch his smile grew wider "Real polite of him to help me up like that."

 

 

 

Hidden eyes - 3

He moved silently, making less noise than the breeze through the rotting leaves that sat in the gutter runoffs. This was no small feat even though the talent had become second nature to Birq. He was, after all, an assassin of the first degree.

Cursing himself for taking so long in dispatching the last threat to his master, he followed the boy who was down in the streets from the rooftops above. At least he now knew that his master was safe and he was free to pursue this curiosity that he had found. Creffit would follow his master back to his headquarters and ensure his security. Besides, Taygar's last man had breathed his last stinking breath out on Birq's hands just 5 minutes earlier when his dagger had found the man's throat.

This boy however, this was something new and interesting. He wasn't one of Taygar's men, of that he was certain. Birq had not considered him a threat even when his leader had been pointing his dagger at the boy. If he had not been busy elsewhere, and if Creffit had been able to catch up to them sooner, the boy would not have even encountered his leader, as the assassin would have encouraged him to take a different route. Koragch was capable of handling himself and had shown uncommon sense in having his dagger out covering the boy. The older of the two men had apparently thought the lad not much of a threat as well and had settled with scaring him off. Neither the assassin nor his patron had seen the boy steal the older man's coin purse, and had Birq not been looking back at just the right time and from his rooftop vantage, he would not have seen the lad pocket it either. He showed talent and potential, but should have known better than to have been that obvious when he thought he had been out of sight. Now Birq would have to see if this boy would lead him to a nest of vipers or not.

He didn't have to follow him long. Every few blocks the boy would change his tack along the street sometimes skulking through alleys, sometimes sauntering down the side of a street, but all the time making his way steadily eastward. Before too long, as most amateurs were wont to do, he stopped in an alley to consider his prize. Not wanting to go too far away from his own destination, as it had been a long and busy night for the assassin, he decided that maybe it would better if he just captured the boy and let his boss question the lad. Anything of use would better serve him first hand anyway.

Stalking to the side of the roof in the morning sun he still attracted less attention than a black cat in the darkest alley. He eased himself into position and drew his dagger. Part of him hoped he wouldn't have to kill the boy, he had killed enough people this night. A darker and hidden part of him hoped he would.

 

 

 

Lessons - 4

Leythan couldn't believe his good fortune. He had judged by the weight of the purse that it held a fair amount of coin, but he hadn't thought so much of it would be gold. That was not his only surprise though. Amongst the gold and copper he had caught a tiny glimmer, the smallest hint of a glint. Stopping himself from dumping the coins in his hands, he dumped them on the ground instead. There it was again. Carefully he lifted the copper piece up by the edges and saw it sitting on the ground. A silver piece! Between it and the gold he had enough here to take him not only to Kordar, but back as well in relative comfort, not to mention having money to use in his search once he got there. The fates had more than smiled upon him, they had laughed at the world along with him.

Quickly he gathered up the coins. He used two copper pieces wedged against his fingers to pick up the silver, one could never be too careful with a background like his. Once all the coins were again in the pouch he tossed it once in the air so he could hear it jingle the way he liked when he had done a good job. That was when he sensed something was wrong.

He turned just in time to see his way out blocked by a figure that had just jumped down off the roof. Dust quietly swirled around his feet and knees as he straightened after landing with more grace and balance than Leythan thought humanly possible. He didn't need to see the dagger to know that he was in trouble.

The man approached to a distance just far enough out of arms grasp for safety and stopped. He hadn't made a noise the entire time. How by the gods did someone walk on gravel and dust in the still of the dawn and not make even the slightest noise? He didn't even appear to breathe.

Birq eyed the young thief over from top to bottom, all the time giving the impression that he was wound tighter than a tailors best spindle. Leythan knew instinctively that he did not want to know what would happen if this spindle became unwound.

"Come with me lad." he said.

"I'm sorry sir, but I'm here to find..." Leythan tried to get out.

"No games. No options. No talk. Last time. Come with me."

With the passionless way the words came out he knew that he was beat. His only chance, for the moment, was to go with this man and hope to find a way out later. The only hope now was that this man was part of the local guild and was bringing him to the guild den to justify his unannounced presence and unsanctioned actions. Thanks to his most beneficent mark of not more than 15 minutes ago, he actually thought he might be able to come up with enough of a bribe to save his skin. There went his travelling money... The fates weren't laughing with him, they were definitely laughing at him.

"Let me grab my pack." Leythan said, giving up on his farmhand act.

"Quickly, and then keep your hands visible." was the cold blunt reply.

Nerves started to catch up to him as he slung his backpack over his shoulder. By the time he started to move his hands out slowly for full view they were shaking like they belonged to a three day sober drunk.

"I frighten you, or the dagger?" the man asked, still without betraying any hint of emotion on his face.

"Neither." was the honest reply. "It's the blood that's already on your hands and knife that's bothering me, if you really must know."

There was no response, but Leythan thought he caught the barest beginnings of a grin as he passed by him out onto the street.

 

 

Conspiring Fates - 5

Koragch settled his massive body down into the chair behind his desk. He grimaced as he heard his back pop twice during the maneuver.

"I guess I'm getting to old for field work." he grumbled to himself as he stretched out sore muscles and rubbed his arms in a vain attempt to work out the weariness. Once his lieutenants returned with the news that the task was finished, and with a full report of prisoners captured for questioning, he would be able to get some much needed sleep. He had been up for near to 36 hours now, and his flabby body was heartily letting him know that it didn't appreciate the mistreatment. He was glad that he would be able to get some sleep before having to interrogate the prisoners. It was always better to let them stew for a day or two before questioning them. It let them worry about their future enough that they were ever so eager to pass on whatever information they had in order to save their worthless hides.

Taygar and his people had fought like zealots to protect themselves. The losses to Koragch's operation were considerable, but not insurmountable considering that he now had no competition left in the city. He just wished that he'd had more manpower available for last night's foray, but waiting till more manpower arrived had been out of the question. Who knew what damage that bastard could have wrought if he had been allowed to live for even a day more. The information he had gained tonight would be invaluable, and must be passed on to the wizard immediately. He would know what to do with it. Hopefully he would pass on the name of the customer he had for that brandy as well. The thickset crime lord would need the funds from that sale now more than ever since the wizard would probably require his services in the near future and replacements would be needed for those lost tonight.

He was so lost in thought that he didn't hear the first knock on the door. His head came up as the knock sounded a second time.

"Enter!" he yelled towards the door offhandedly, still lost in thought. He hoped that it was his second come to tell him that the nights work was accomplished and he could finally tally his gains and losses so he could get some sleep.

It wasn't his second that came through the door. His dagger jumped to his hand behind the desk when he didn't immediately recognize the boy coming into his office. When he did recognize him, his grip on the dagger tightened. It was the seemingly innocuous farm boy he had threatened and helped not an hour previous.

What the hell was he doing here? Had he followed Koragch to his headquarters to kill him? Was he part of a larger plot to end his operation this night as well? Was that why his second hadn't reported yet, because he was dead in some gutter? Why were his hands held out like that?

He relaxed and slumped down into his chair as he saw his second follow the boy through with his dagger at the boys back. He hadn't realized exactly how strung out he was following last nights events, or how happy he would be to see his second still alive at the end of them. Birq had been with him for more years than he cared to count, and had saved his life more times over than he had people under his command. Birq knew that even though he was second in command he wouldn't be taking over the operation after Koragch was gone, as his unique talents lay in action instead of administration, but he was quite content with that. Whatever this lad had done to earn his attention didn't bode well for him.

"Yes?" he said looking back down at his desk to conceal his surprise.

"I followed the boy like you ordered sir." Birq stated in his best flat voice, concealing the fact that no such order had been given, "However he didn't lead me back to any compatriots after he had robbed you sir."

Koragch almost dropped the papers he was scanning. He placed them on his desk and grabbed another to cover his amazement. The boy had stolen something from him this morning? It was all he could do not to search his person in an effort to find what was missing. When had the lad had the chance? What had he stolen? How had he gotten away with it? Koragch had been stealing things since before he could remember and had thus honed his knowledge of the ability. This lad must have rare ability indeed to steal from him and not get caught.

He looked up at the boy. The young man was ashen, and appeared as if he was looking at the harvester of souls himself. Standing at about 5'10" he looked like any normal farm hand, covered in dirt as he was. His dirty blond hair reached just past his shoulders and had an unkempt traveled in look that bespoke of several weeks without having any attention paid to it. He wasn't overly muscled, but had a certain wiry strength that spoke well for his future after he was through the gangly, adolescent stage of his life. It was his eyes that caught the crime lords attention though. There was something to them, a certain unknown that couldn't be hidden even by the sheer panic that filled them now. This boy had danger wrapped about him like a blanket on a cold winter's night. It seemed so obvious to Koragch now and he wondered how he had not seen it earlier. Best to be rid of this one as soon as possible.

"Were you working alone lad?" Koragch's tone brooked no tolerance for evasiveness.

"Yes sir, I was only hoping to gather enough cash to see me out of town."

"You know the rules for actions not sanctioned by the guild?"

The lad's voice was barely audible "Yes sir."

"Birq, after he has returned what is mine, carry out the sentence." Koragch stated. He did not relish more blood on his hands after last night.

"You heard him boy. Give it back." Birq's cold voice carried the meaning of the sentence better than an executioner's black hood.

A quivering hand reached into his pocket and drew something out. The lad's eyes hardened with purpose, and his jaw drew up tight. With a casual flick of his wrist he launched his prize in the air, and let it land on the desk. It could not have made a bigger impact if it was a bolt of lightening from the gods that had struck the desk. Koragch's head spun as he looked down at one of his most prized possessions. His coin pouch.

Realization of what he was supposed to do with this boy had barely crossed the rotund man's mind when the boy clutched at his head and fell to the ground screaming.

 

A wolf in sheep's clothing - 6

There was no way out. Because of his own foolish impulse he had robbed the leader of the local thieves guild and was now going to be put to death. He had no gold to use to bribe his way to freedom, the man couldn't be bribed with his own money. His hired thug, Birq he believed the man had called him, was going to put him to death. His life would be cut short. His own questions of his beginnings would go unanswered. His youngest siblings, the twins, would grow up without a protector. All his dreams would be shattered.

He wouldn't resign himself to this fate. He would live. As he had tossed the coin pouch on the desk images crossed his mind. Images of himself laying in a gutter, blood spreading in a warm pool beneath his lifeless, inert body. Rich, warm blood, spreading in a thick gooey mass beneath him. His heart pumping it out in torrents. The pool just kept spreading and spreading. More and more blood, until there was more blood than a body could hold and still it kept spreading. It oozed everywhere, out onto the streets, up the walls of the buildings to the sides, it covered the garbage strewn morass of the alley till everything was dripping blood. Fresh, warm, salty blood. He could smell it.

As the images pervaded his thoughts he felt it. It was the string, the bond, the thing he had always tried to keep hidden; his beast. In the past he had fought it, strove to keep it deep within. He couldn't control this thing he was becoming; before, it had come when he had least wanted it and had been least able to contain it. It consumed him, the burning need, the desire, and the pain.

He could hear snapping and tearing as a distant thing, it was within him, it was behind him, it was everywhere. His flesh crawled with the need to become this new form, its need to have him embrace it.

For the first time he did. He had always fought it, fought it with everything he had, but in his need he embraced it with all that he was, and all that he would be. The pain subsided and gave in to his need. It wasn't like before. He could feel his need, but by embracing all that he was he could feel his control consolidating. The realization struck him like a sharp blow. He was in control. He would be all that he would be and still be all that he was. He urged the change on, spurred it to greater speed. He would live.

His mouth filled in with rows of sharp vicious teeth, and his jaw grew out as if to welcome them in his new found form. His joints snapped and realigned themselves of their own accord, as if they knew what was best for him, what he should be like. His back hunched over and his hearing grew sharper. He could hear his own breathing, he could hear the breathing of the fat man in front of him, and he could hear the sharp intake of breath behind him. The flunky must be on the verge of panic.

His vision blurred, and grew distant. He could see more of the world around him, detail grew in sharper clarity. As he looked up the shock in the rotund man's face was all he saw. A shock that he hadn't seen before, hadn't known about. But even under that there was confidence, the confidence he had been able to see before, limited though he was.

The transformation was ending. He could see more, hear more, feel more, he was strong.

He felt the amazing strength of his new muscles as he stood and faced the now nauseatingly fat, weak man. He embraced who he was and raised his muzzle in a howl to the heavens, a howl that bespoke of his zest and zeal for life, and life's blood. He reveled in who he was.

He stared down at the smug little man with one simple thought. I am Were.

 

 

 

Life's lessons - 7

"Is that supposed to surprise us, you little whelp?" he heard in a slightly more guttural but recognizably emotionless voice behind him.

He turned slowly. Waiting to see the weak little man's hand shaking with nerves as he held the dagger towards the were. The dagger was gone. Instead he found himself staring at claws. Above them were an unbelievably large set of jaws, which dripped saliva as lips pulled away from the rows and rows of sharp teeth. As Leythan looked up and their eyes met, it dawned on him. The man behind him had been a were too. The sounds he had heard behind him hadn't come from him at all, but from this man instead as he had changed to meet the new threat. The sharp intake of breath had been in pain, not in panic. While he himself had lain on the floor writhing, this man had done nothing more than breathe sharply. It got worse. As he looked deeper in the eyes across from him he realized that this one was bigger, stronger, and far more experienced than he was. The thoughts came in new found instinct, he would not last a single lunge with this one, before he could move this one would tear out his throat in one savage bite.

Without even realizing what he was doing, Leythan's hackles fell and his ears drooped down. Crouching down at the larger were's paws he leaned forward, exposing his jugular. He sat there in obeisance, waiting for the end.

He felt the jaws close around his neck, the teeth not quite breaking the skin. He could feel the stronger were's hot breath on his pulse, it's moistness damping the fur at his neck, it's hot swell and depth alone speaking of the strength and power of this were.

The jaws opened, and were pulled away. The older were stood and walked away.

"I give you the protection of my pack youngster." came the voice, and for the first time Leythan heard emotion in the voice, distant and vaguely undefinable but emotion none the less.

Leythan rose and looked after him. "Why would you do this?"

"You have deferred to my authority, I could do no less. Count yourself doubly lucky, had you done any other you would be a corpse on the floor as we speak. Yet were you any less than you are, I would also have marked you as part of my pack. As things are today, we have too many young Alphas and I fear adding another would cause disharmony." He turned to the man at the desk. "Sir I cannot carry out sentence on this lad, and by behaving as he has I must defend him should you consider to have another do it."

The confident man didn't even waver.

"Do not threaten either me or any of my people Birq. I will not suffer it. However, you do have point. You have been faithful to me for too long for me to allow any turmoil to come between us. A new punishment must be found."

"Understood. What do you purpose?"

The fat man dropped into thought. Leythan couldn't believe it. These two men were standing here deciding his future for him and he would have no say in it. What had Birq meant about young Alphas? This was the first time he had been able to control his change. Birq was Alpha and more than Leythan could ever be. He spoke before he could think.

"What do mean young Alpha? I normally can't even control my change!" he blurted and immediately regretted it. Blast! He had just given away a valuable bargaining chip that might mean the difference between his leaving alive or meeting an untimely death at Birq's jaws.

The Alpha's head swiveled towards him like a shot.

"What do you mean? Did your parents not teach you how to control it? You are not first generation, that much I can tell. Not passing on the teachings is an insult to the blood of the ancestors and punishable only by death. What is your pack name that they would do such a thing?"

Leythan was taken aback by the vehemence in his voice. He stammered while he tried to think of what he needed to say.

"Um, Nighthunt, my pack name is Nighthunt. I was raised in an orphanage, I don't know who my parents were. I only know my packname by what I was told."

The discord in Birq's eyes was instantly replaced by sympathy. "Easy pup, I too know what it is like for a Were to be raised in an orphanage." his voice dulled to emotionless again "at least you were given your packname. It is one to be proud of. The blood of the Nighthunt has given you some of the instincts of the pack. It has saved your life today."

"Now be silent while Koragch and I decide what is to be done with you. You have raised more concerns. I will not have an untrained Were wondering the city."

The fat man at the desk tilted his purse over on the desk and began to count the coins. When he saw that it was all still there he returned it to its pouch and hung it once again at his belt, giving the tie a double knot to make sure it would not come off easy.

"You stole a great deal of cash from me, my boy," started the man, "and have caused me to lose face in front of my most important man. It will take a lot to make up for that alone. However I have a proposal. In exchange for your life, you will work for me till a sum of money has been paid back. I would think that one hundred times what you stole from me would be fair."

Leythan's head jerked up. It would take him at least fifty years to see that much money. It was an incredibly large sum of money, and he was beginning to think that there had to be some option other than placing him in this kind of slavery. As he opened his mouth to say just this, the fat man held up a hand.

"Before you object, remember that the only other option is your death."

That brought Leythan up short. At least as a slave there was always the opportunity for escape. He was just starting to plan a short stay with these people when the fat man continued.

"It is not as bad as you think boy. As an employee of mine you will be taught certain skills that will increase your value to me and to yourself. You will find that as your skills increase the amount of time you think it will take you to present me with this money will drop significantly. As well, I think Birq here might have something to offer you."

The young man's eye's shifted over to the large Alpha's and he tilted his head in a questioning manner.

"As I have already stated," he began," I will not have any untrained weres wandering about this city. It can make things difficult for those of us who live here. You will live with us and you will learn from us. You will truly become Were. I will teach you of your gift during your time when you are not working or training for Koragch. I will tell you of your past, and what I know of the Nighthunt pack, which is not much but enough to start out with. In return for your life with us and the knowledge I give you, you will work with the pack, you will fight with the pack, you will act as the young males do, but you may never challenge for dominance within the pack. You are not of the pack and never will be. You are allowed to return challenges for dominance against any male on an individual basis. And just to make one thing clear to you, the bitches in the pack are off limits. For one of them to be with you they will have to disavow the pack. No one has ever survived disavowing my pack. Those are my terms."

Leythan stood there with his jaws hanging agape. He could not believe this. Just a few moments ago he was to be killed. He was to die never knowing how to be what he was. Had he escaped he would have been sentenced to a life of petty larceny with a death sentence hanging over his head should any fellow thief ever recognize him. Now he had the chance to learn and improve on his skills, learn who and what he was, what his family had been, and even to escape the executioner's hands. He stopped himself. There had to be something wrong with this deal. What was he missing? He could think of nothing before both men turned to him with demanding looks in their eyes. He knew that if he did not answer soon, he would not be given another chance.

"Done." was all he said.

Notes to ponder - 8

The door closed behind his second and he let his attention wane. Damn it all! Now he would have to prepare yet another report for the wizard. This could not be treated as a footnote to the happenings of last night. That blasted, wizened old man had sent him an untrained, undisciplined, unpredictable were in the guise of a young thief. He had caused him to lose face in front of one of his own men. At least it had only been Birq, who could be counted on for his discretion, and he would explain to that blasted boy that he would under no circumstances discuss how they first met. Damn that old man! How was he supposed to be of any use when he left out information like "Oh, by the way the lad might be a young Alpha werewolf, who can't really control his changes yet and might rip your throat out if handled incorrectly." If it hadn't been Birq who had captured him, who knows what would have happened. For that matter if Birq hadn't seen his signal not to kill the boy who just sat there with his throat in the older Were's jaws, the wizard wouldn't have gotten anything more than a corpse to show for his troubles. Damn him, he wouldn't keep working like this unless the man saw fit to explain himself and promise to inform him better in the future.

The young were had left with the assassin shortly after the bargain had been struck. He would thieve for them and they would teach him to thieve better. Not that he seemed to be off to a bad start. Koragch had never before had a mere boy with no formal training walk away with something of his and not be caught.

He had been surprised to see Birq break down into one of his rare shows of emotion. Perhaps he should put Birq in charge of some of the lads training, he was one of the best after all and the wizard had told him not to be gentle with the boy. From prior experience he knew that the assassin was a demanding taskmaster to his apprentices. More than one had actually not even survived the experience, but he did not feel that Birq had been too demanding. His chosen profession brooked no room for anything other than the best. Inept assassins died, that was the bottom line, and normally gave over the knowledge of their masters in the process.

No. The lad was not meant to be an assassin. What was it the old man had said? "The skills he must be taught will be obvious to you." Well the lad was obviously a thief, but still even a thief must know when he should slit a throat to save his own hide. Birq wouldn't get the boy exclusively as his but he would get him for some lessons.

With the decision made he bent his head to the desk and scanned the reports in front of him. If he started now he would be able to get the messages on their way by noon, and then relax to a glorious afternoon's sleep. He had best get back by evening, not everyone from Taygar's operation had needed to be killed, and he had to sort through who was left, deciding who was still within the realms of saving, and who would be sent to join Taygar in his new place of residence. He might get the chance to shower and rest this evening, but he would have blood on his hands again before the day was out.

 

Ways of the Wolf - 9

The cuff to the back of his head was not unexpected, however it came with such force that it briefly stunned him and broke his concentration. He lost the thread to his inner beast and the transformation stopped. There was the tiniest moment of realization and fear before the pain took him and he fell to the rough, stone strewn ground writhing in agony. The sharp rocks beneath him cut into his skin, gouging rough, shallow furrows that oozed blood in slow trickles. His half- formed limbs wrenched back and forth between the two forms that they knew, the bones snapping and rejoining in strange alien configurations. Fiery waves of consciousness swept back and forth through his mind as two manners of thought converged and split again, warring for control of his body. Rolling over face down, Leythan's stomach spasmed and vainly tried to empty it's contents to the ground, but it had drained itself over half an hour earlier and could now only convulse in a tight ball against his ribs.

The young were would stay like this till he regained his control, becoming either Leythan the thief or young Nighthunt the Were. Birq had told him that this lesson was a painful one, but he would do it until, even after his concentration had been broken, he could complete the transition to were and embrace who he was. Again and again, Leythan began the transformation, but before he could complete it the older were would disrupt him in some manner, breaking his concentration and forcing him into the throws of torment.

Leythan wasn't confident anymore. After three weeks of this he was at least starting handle the pain of the aborted transformation enough to keep from passing out. When that happened he would revert to human form and come to, only to have Birq standing over him looking disappointed telling him to try again. Once when the moon had been close to full he had awakened as a were to find Birq ready to attack him. The alpha had insisted that he change back and had called an immediate halt to the sessions until the moon was three days past phase, mumbling something about not wanting to kill him if he had a psychotic transformation.

Pain wracked Leythan's body as he thought of the nights leading up to the full moon. Birq had talked with him and told him of history of the weres. Most of what it was to be a were was actually instinctive with the biggest distinction being the were's ability to override instinctive reaction with conscious thought. It was this that the older Alpha encouraged in the boy.

Leythan had been acting on pure instinct when he had bowed to Birq's dominance and that in itself had probably saved his life. In any other circumstance, with any other Alpha, his throat would have been torn out and his body left for the maggots. The logic behind this was complex and the young were was just starting to understand it. Being submissive to prevent a fight was seen as proper recognition of another were's dominance inside the pack, but coming from another outside the pack it was a sign of weakness which showed one as unworthy of the pack. Outsiders who did such a thing were not only killed but then not even accepted as food lest their weakness become part of the pack.

According to this logic alone the young thief should have been killed where he knelt in the crime lord's office without a second thought, and had raised this point to Birq while they were discussing the subject.

"But we did do battle boy." was his reply. "Are you so untrained as a were that you do not even know what strutting is?"

He hadn't and had urged the older were to explain.

"When our eyes met did you not think much less of yourself than you had just the moment before? Did you not see your death in my eyes? Did not the thought of it shatter your nerve so much that the instincts took over and you offered me up your throat?" his face had remained in it's usual flat expression through the exchange, but a distant feral presence had flashed in his eyes as he had continued. "As you grow accepting of your were self, you become more powerful as your were self. When you master your beast, you understand your beast and can control it. With this understanding comes power. In each it manifests itself differently. It feeds you what you most need and want. For some it is the desire to fight and kill, thus they grow more fearsome and deadly. For others it is the desire to grasp the essence of the transformation, and they grow more powerful in the magic that binds us to the blood of were. For others still it is the fear of silver, and they manage to become slightly more inured to its vile sting. For the rest it is the desire to control the destiny of others and their own. These weres manifest their ability in being able to control other weres, as I do, and rarely stay Omega long before moving on to Beta. The strongest of these like myself move on to Alpha and soon have their own pack. It is this strength I see in you, but it is you who can bring it about and no other. You choose your needs and no other."

When he had finished his uncharacteristically long and almost reverent speech, the presence had fled from his eyes, as if to seek solace and protection behind his cold and seemingly emotionless soul. His head had turned towards his pupil and he had said "What you saw behind my eyes that day was my mastery of my beast. How much power I have over it. How I accept the blood. It is the acceptance that gives you power, and you saw that you have not even a shadow of what I do. That is the battle that we fought, and never forget that I won."

 

 

The beginnings of knowledge - 10

For the briefest of moments the pain waned. Why had the pain subsided? wondered the young were. There was an idea just at the top of his subconscious, something insubstantial and fleeting. Before he could grasp the idea it fled beneath his thought and the pain returned causing him to cry out in suffering. He vaguely thought he heard Birq speaking to him, but through the veil of excruciating hurt he could not make him out. Maybe he was giving him another incomplete history lesson while he writhed on the ground, like the one he had given him about his family and pack. He would learn as much not being able to hear him as he had learnt by listening to the older were with all of his heart.

"I cannot tell you much of the Nighthunt Pack, but I have sent out the call to the other packs in the area. Those that know of them will contact me. Based on what I do know of your pack, I hold little hope of hearing anything significant. Try not to be too hopeful, lad."

Leythan braced himself for yet another disappointment in his search for his family and pack history. Birq had told him from the beginning that he had known little of the Nighthunt Pack but facing the reality of it was something that he had been hoping to avoid.

"Your pack was of the old blood. They came from the before time. Long before the Mammalian Proclamation brought the Weres from the forests and the ghettos back to mankind. Even before the last invasion of the reptilians. You're surprised? Yes, this isn't the first time that intelligent reptiles have landed on Muhan looking to sack the cities of the warm blooded. The Long Coast is only the beginning."

"But we were speaking of your pack name. Nighthunt is an old name taken by those who hunted under the shadows of darkness and the light of the moon, before men could accept what we are. It speaks of glory in the hunt and reveling in being a were. To be associated with the black of night is to embrace the darkness and the beast that dwells in the murky corners of our souls."

Sensing that the younger were took this as of thing of ill meaning, the older were grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him to see his eyes and the thoughts they tried to hide. Birq's voice was intense. "Of this be proud! Not all that comes at night is evil. Is the moon that lights the night sky evil? Surely not, for it brings us the light we need to hunt so we do not go hungry. Are the shadows that fall off the trees evil? Surely not, for in them we find succor and shelter for our young from our enemies. Can those who hunt from the shadows be anything but evil? Indeed! For we are those that hunt from these shadows." The grip on his shoulders had tightened till it hurt, and Leythan had not been able to tear his eyes from Birq's when he delivered the final words of his statement. "We are not evil unless we choose to be so. And Leathan...I would advise against that path most strongly."

With that the older man had loosened his grip and looked away. The younger was given the briefest of moments to marvel at Birq's ability to convey so much feeling without using any normal human emotion. Then Birq continued on where he had left off.

"To have the word Hunt in your name is also an honor. As I said before, it means to revel in being a were and find glory in the hunt. Being one with the forest so that it might help you find your prey. Feeling the pounding of your heart when you chase your prey down. Feeling the warm rush of blood as your jaws clamp tight on a throat. Only the true hunter can know these joys, and having hunt in your name means your ancestors were considered hunters of great stature."

Leythan had felt a brief wave of pride come over him that his forebearers had been weres of note. But this was not what he had really been looking for from his history. He wanted to know who his parents were.

"The next is not perhaps the best news but something you should know. This I have learned from other packs since your arrival. The Nighthunts were from the Kordar area so I have had to rely on information that could be gleaned from the elders in other packs nearer to that region. When the Mammalian Proclamation was first put to paper, there were those that did not take to it very well...those who refused to stop hunting humans, as humans themselves had hunted our kind since the beginning times. Several amongst them were Nighthunts. Enough so that a bounty was placed on the pack. They were hunted down with silver blades to end the threat that they posed. Apparently not all were found, as your presence here so tells."

The wave of pride that had warmed Leythan was swept away by the vicious reality of words bluntly spoken. Cold washed down his skin as the blood drained from it, leaving him ashen and faded. The words came from his lips of their own accord.

"So I am the stock of murdering criminal monsters?"

Leythan paused and waited for some brief words of wisdom to contradict him. When there was no reply the younger man had turned to his mentor to dare him to deny his summation, but the older were was no longer beside him. He had moved a good 15 feet out into the clearing and stood facing away. Leythan hung his head in shame and hurt.

"Look at me." Birq's voice sounded wrong somehow.

Leythan's head came up. Birq's tone had given him no other option.

The older man had slowly released the tie that held his cloak about his shoulders and let it fall to the stony ground, turning towards Leythan to reveal the bandoleers of knives he had strapped to his chest. One bandoleer held steel knives, the other held silver ones. The silver knives were not made of pure silver but held a high enough concentration of the substance to be more lethal to a were. Both sets were of plain design but of uncommon craftsmanship, being almost perfectly balanced. The edges of the throwing weapons were ground and polished to razor keenness to cut through flesh, bone, or sinew like it wasn't even there.

The cold of shock had been replaced by the icy chill of fear. For not the first time the younger were had not been able to decipher what his mentor was going to do. He began to breathe heavily as Birq reached to his chest and drew out a steel knife.

"If you move from that log where you're sitting, you will die. For every wrong answer, you will experience pain. You will not become were till the correct time or you will die. Tonight you learn a lesson that those bastards at the orphanage have beaten out of you. If you do not, you will die. Do you doubt this?"

The icy detachment of the older alpha had been more threat than any weapon of steel or silver could ever be. Leythan knew that at that moment his life had hung in precarious balance.

"No." It was the only answer he could possibly say.

"Correct!" Birq had yelled as the knife had sailed through the air. Neatly it had pierced the left leg of his pants pulling them tight against his skin and pinning his leg to the log beneath him.

The lesson had begun.

 

 

Of silver and steel - 11

"Am I right now in human form?" the older were had asked while he drew forth a knife of silver.

"Yes."

"Correct!"

The second dagger had also sailed through the air and with practiced ease Birq had pinned his right leg to the log again not even grazing his flesh.

"Am I acting like a monster?" was the third question as a dagger of steel was drawn forth.

"No."

The dagger had been in the air before the answer had fully left his lips. Leythan felt a warmth on his left thigh and had briefly thought that he had lost control of his bladder when the last knife had been thrown. It was then that he had heard Birq's dispassionate voice.

"Incorrect!" he had already begun drawing another steel dagger.

Leythan looked down, not quite registering what had been said, and was horror-struck to see a dagger protruding from his thigh not more than a few inches from his manhood. Blood oozed slowly out of the neat entry wound to seep out onto the hand grip of the knife. The younger were reached down to pull out the knife, but just before he could reach it he felt a searing pain in his right hand.

Before the stupor of the moment could even clear, Leythan had seen that his right hand was now neatly pinned to the log he was sitting on. Blood welled out the fresh wound and ran down his fingers to trickle to the ground. He hadn't bled much but the pain in his hand told him that the last dagger had done some major damage.

"Do not remove the daggers or you die. Am I acting like a monster?"

Rage seethed through Leythan and he felt his beast stir. He had to hold it back because he did not doubt Birq's threat to kill him where he sat.

"Yes!" he had screamed throwing back his head and shutting tight his eyes as if to shut out the pain as well.

"Correct!" and a silver dagger hit the log beside his pinned hand.

"Can humans be monsters?"

"Yes!"

The sight of the blood had aroused his beast, and as distracted by the pain in his hand as he was, it was starting to gain control. Desperately he had fought it back and denied it. When he had looked up again Birq stood before him, no longer a man but as a were.

The alpha had approached him and grasped his wrist just above his wounded hand.

"Am I now were?"

"Yes."

"Correct." Birq voice had softened with his closeness.

Gut-wrenching pain shot through Leythan's hand as the were had grabbed the hilt of the knife in his taloned claw and wrenched the knife from his wounded hand and the fallen tree beneath. Slowly Birq had brought the boys hand to his muzzle and started to tenderly lick the now free flowing blood from the boys injury. The younger were had felt his unique legacy kick in and start to slowly close the wound.

A taloned claw grasped him by the throat while the other held his hand to the tender ministrations of were nature. Tentatively the alpha stopped licking the now only oozing cut, and looked up at Leythan from intimately close quarters.

"The last question. Think and answer when you are ready. Am I now acting like a monster?" Birq's voice was the softest breeze in the wind. It spoke of companionship and warmth, protection and the love of the pack.

Leythan's mind recoiled. This beast that was sitting here ready to tear out his throat was offering him more than he had ever had, but being were had always represented all that was wrong with his life. He and his siblings would not have rotted away their youths in some moldering old orphanage. Some humans would have adopted them and cared for them. But the young were had known this wasn't true. Human orphans had it worse than were orphans. Were younglings were unpredictable at best, while human orphans were the next best thing to slave labor. But not all humans were cruel. The orphanage head had cared for the children under his care in his own way. He had even given Leythan a prophecy about himself when he had been very young. Not that he trusted it's validity but it had been a gift given freely and out of care for a child. But if not all humans were cruel, how could all weres be monsters? The answer was obvious.

Once more he had felt the rough and steady rhythm of Birq's tongue on his hand. Tenderly he had reached up with his unwounded hand and nudged the claw away from his neck. "No." he had whispered slowly. Rising from the log had pulled his injured hand from near the muzzle of the older alpha. Using his good hand he had pulled the first steel knife from his thigh and pausing to lick the blood from the blade first, handed it back to Birq. The wound to his thigh had been minor and would heal quickly of it's own accord, but there were probably broken bones in his hand from the hard blow the knife had delivered.

Stepping away from the log he had started to remove his clothing. When it was all off, reaching inside himself he had summoned his beast. He had fallen to the ground in pain but not cried out, somehow crying out in anything other than joy seemed wrong now. Standing again he had met the larger were's stare with an open heart and an honest smirk.

"Were's are not monsters." he had growled. "The pack are not monsters. You are not a monster. Most importantly, I am not a monster."

"Correct. Now lets go back to the den and let Talia look at that hand of yours. My aim must be off... I think I hit a bone."

 

 

Growing pains - 12

Once again the pain subsided and Leythan's mind came to front of his consciousness. Why was the pain stopping? Twice now it had given way when he had thought of the lessons he had learnt prior. But following those lessons had not brought him to the end that he needed. He had embraced his were time and time again through the fog of pain surrounding him, but to no avail. It would not come to his call.

Sometimes he had to fight it back, to keep it from coming out and taking control but now it refused his summons. Maybe if he could pull hard enough on the thread that connected him to his inner beast he could draw it out of him. The pain returned.

Twice now he had thought of not just embracing his beast but how he had embraced it at the moments that most mattered, and the pain had gone away. Maybe that was the key. Summoning his will against the agony that shook his body he thought of the time in Koragch's office when he had first controlled his other self. The pain lessened. The transformation would not come but the pain dulled enough to think. He knew he was onto something. He could think clearly now, despite the way his body thrashed about against his will.

He had tried thinking of transforming before and it had not even altered the pain one bit, but when he thought of the now three times that he knew that he had controlled his beast the pain diminished. It must be controlling his other self that was the answer. He thought of ordering his beast out and the pain returned. Not allowing the pain time to rob him of thought he superimposed the image of becoming were in Koragch's office over all other images in his mind and again the pain weakened.

He could hear Birq now through the haze of pain encouraging him telling him he was on the right train of thought. "You are close now young Nighthunt. Think it out and let Leythan Nighthunt run with the wolves."

He must be hearing it wrong through his pain. Leythan Nighthunt would not run with the wolves, his were self would. As answer came to him it stunned him more than any blow from any other being ever could.

The pain vanished and he transformed to were. Standing he slowly licked the minor scratches on his arms till they stopped seeping blood and closed. Then and only then did he look up at Birq and talk.

"I am not a monster." he stated.

"I am not Leythan the Thief." he continued stopping Birq from answering.

"I am not were." he concluded.

"What are you then?" came the older were's question.

"I am Leythan Nighthunt." he punctuated this with a stare that defied Birq to contradict him.

Birq paused and tilted his head, examining the young were.

"You have learned your last starting lesson then. Perhaps now we can make some headway in your training." The assassin put one arm around the furry were's shoulders and started to lead him from the clearing.

Leythan stopped him just before they reached the forest and looked at the older man.

"You could have just told me you know." he grumped like a spoiled child.

The alpha were stared hard at him for second as if in thought. Then in an unheard of fit of humanity, he burst out into a fit of laughter. It was so contagious that after just a few moments Leythan could not help but join in. The two of them were still laughing as they disappeared into the forest.

 

 

 

Author's notes

I hope you have enjoyed this first instalment of the history and story of Leythan Nighthunt. Coming up next issue, Leythan attempts to save his friend from certain death!

I welcome any feedback you might care to offer. Please send them to the series editor at rjcampbell@home.com and carbon the Senior Editor at nhmc1@eng.cam.ac.uk quoting the title of the story.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and may the bright moon always shine on your hunt.