Taken in the Night
Stars sparkled the sky like little lanterns among the hazy clouds. Different sounds penetrated the night – crickets chirping, loon calls, the occasional wolf howl. The moon, which had poked out from the clouds a moment before, was covered and a dark glaze spread across the forest. The only light other than the stars were little poking fires.
“Mommy, Mommy,” a little boy called out in the darkness. His features were thin, thinner than most young boys and his fur was riddled with spots. His features looked like if a wild cat had crossed with a human. Maybe it was true, none of the tabaxis knew exactly how they came to be.
“I’m here my kit. What do you need?” An exhausted, yet familiar and gentle voice came from above. The moon poked out from the clouds once again, so he could see his mother even clearer in the dark. Instead of a grey silhouette that his darkvision offered him, he could see her pale yellow spotted fur in which her brilliant green eyes stood out.
“I’m scared Mommy, I don’t like the darkness. I can’t fall asleep.” the boy said quietly, also whimpering. The mother sighed before gingerly picking him up. “I know just what you need.” she said tapping her finger against his nose, “Let’s go to a fire, you know the guards tell terribly boring stories. I’m sure you’ll fall asleep soon enough.” He giggled and hugged his mother, his tail swishing eagerly as they head to one of the fires.
“What are you doing up this late Lark?” a guard asked as he and his mother approached. The little boy giggled, “Me and Mommy were coming so you could tell us a story!” The guard purred in amusement.
“Wait here a moment I’ll be right back.” The guard said as he turned around to talk for a moment with two other guards nearby.
“Is Daddy here too?” Lark asked his mother to which his mother gave a nod.
“Daddy needs sleep tonight baby, he’s going on a big hunt tomorrow. Let’s make sure we don’t wake him up.” She said making a shh signal with her fingers. Harper nodded and gave his own shhh sign in response. She set him down and sat on a log near the fire. Harper instead was practicing his best mock hunting. “Look” he said whispering,”I’m hunting a deer! Like a real wild cat!” He stalked imaginary prey around the camp fire and made a mad dash and leap, claws extended. He hit the ground, but held his head high like he had caught a real deer. His mother laughed quietly to herself, not mentioning that a regular wild cat wouldn’t be stalking deer in a forest.
“Honey, remeber what dad does when he makes a big catch. Don’t forget.” she called out to him. He nodded and lay down and stared into nothingness. She however new that he was looking at a dying deer watching the life fade out of its eyes in a silent agreement. I thank you for providing food for me and wish you the best of luck.
The three guards came back, their faces etched with worry. They sat down near his mother and began to speak quietly. Lark stopped and tried to listen to their conversation.
“Group…. possibly bandits…. five miles… close…”
“Should we move?”
“It’s safe for now, but better safe than sorry.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Lark asked. All heads turned towards him.
“We and your mother we just talking about a possible wolf coming through. Nothing to worry about.” a guard said. They eyed each other as if making an unsaid agreement.
“Yes honey, you never know when a lone wolf will come through.” his mother added her tail slightly twitching to the left. She was lying.
“But I thought you guys were talking about bandits.” He said matter of factly. The fur of the guards and his mother’s necks stood on end. A strange scent was in the air. It smelled unnatural. Like grime with a metallic tang. Blood? The guards reached for their spears and his mother snarled.
Lark felt a presence behind him. Before he could turn he felt the cold metal of a blade on his neck. He looked up. A small man stood above him. He looked strange. He had no fur, instead he had white, bald skin except for his head. He wore dirty clothing that reeked of the horrible smell.
“Nobody move and nobody gets hurt.” the voice came out somewhat higher pitched though grizzly. He saw that the guards forced their fur down, but his mother still stood, fur raised, fangs bared, and claws out.
“Even you.” the man said pointing at his mother, “Back down or the kid gets it.” The blade pushed harder against his neck and he whimpered. His mother backed down slightly.
“Now. The way its going to work like this.” his arm wrapped around Lark’s neck as the sword moved away. The man pointed at the woods behind him. “My men are back there and they are ready to attack your whole camp.” His icy eyes glared at them. “Or…I’ll just take this little scamp here.” Te sword grazed Lark’s neck again.”And we’ll forget about this.”
His mother’s eyes widened in horror. “Over my dead body!” his mother snarled. Lark was stunned. How could a night of fun turn to this so fast?
“That can be arranged.” the man snarled back.
“Storm…. we have no choice.” His mother turned staring at one of the guards, the one who had spoken. “You know the deal, it’s the clan over one.”
“He IS one of the clan.” His mother snarled.
“It’s your choice,” the man said, his voice toned in a way as though he had won.
Later that night, Lark was being pulled through the woods his wrists and neck tied by a rope. He couldn’t get rid of the image of his mother running at his attacker before a guard knocked her out. The man had smiled and pulled Lark away into the woods. Now though he could feel a hole growing in his heart. A moment later a wail arose above the trees. A wail that made clear of its despair. A wail that would forever stay in Lark’s very soul.