Bonds Unbroken Ch. 03byCia81©
Every day that week I threw myself into my training. But no matter how hard I worked the nightmares continued to grow. I couldn't see or hear anything in the dreams but now all they were was pain. Constantly punishing, never-ending pain was pierced by moments of agony so intense that it stopped my breath.
Worse, the emotions were consuming me, terror, resignation, and hatred surged inside me. I felt those emotions after my father's death of course but these were so intense, so vividly real they felt more acute than what I experienced awake.
Every night I woke up writhing on my bed, gasping and crying. I longed for my father, for the comfort of his arms and his wings. I tried desperately to remember what he taught me, that the dreams were not real but they were so vivid that I had trouble getting them out of my mind.
It was getting to the point that I couldn't sleep more than an hour at a time. The lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll on my mind and my body.
I couldn't figure out why I had these dreams and why they kept getting worse as I got older, instead of better. I desperately needed a good night's sleep but that wasn't possible. In the end I did what I had to do, I went on with my life and endured.
My best friend in the clan, Alseliol, brought my work from school. I was so close to graduating that I couldn't afford to fall behind. Alseliol was a few years older, but still a fledgling. He hadn't met his mate yet. He stayed to let me borrow his notes from class while I studied and I kept catching him staring at my wings.
"What?" I asked.
"Did... Did that hurt?" he asked, nodding at my wings.
I didn't like to talk about them. I pretended not to notice but I saw the glances and heard the whispers every time I left the house. The fledglings I understood; it was pure curiosity and wonder on their part. I knew how fascinating it was to see someone who had newly got their wings while they still waited. The youths tended to be very welcoming, including me in their training though I had no partner to share it with.
It was the adults that I minded the most. The whispers about my strangeness and the coloring of my wings coupled with the sidelong looks inflamed my already volatile temper.
I'd be glad when my body leveled out and finished changing.
I met his eyes, looking at the innocent look in his eyes with a bit of fear. He had heard the stories everyone was whispering. Alseliol was my closest friend and I owed him so I put down my pencil and told him what I could. I left out the dreams though, I had never told anyone about what actually happened in them. I could see the description of the pain I felt and the sudden sensation of my wings busting from my back scared him a bit.
"I don't know what it is really like when it comes down to it though, Alseliol. My wings didn't come after I found my mate like they normally do. No one knows why this happened." I looked down. I didn't want to remind him that I was a freak but I also didn't like the look of fear I saw in his eyes.
"You know what they say; the high of finding your mate is so overwhelming that you don't even notice. I don't know, maybe it feels good. The youths and the adults won't talk about it; they say it's just too private."
The fear on Alseliol's face turned to sadness. "I'm sorry this happened to you Velaku. Do you think you will have a mate someday?"
"I don't know." I had always sort of secretly hoped not, though it was my duty to the clan to have an heir to take over guardianship of the Carthera clans in our territory. I never wanted to mate with a female of our clan. They were too fragile, too small, too, well... female. Not even Alseliol knew of the crush I had on Natham. I hid it from everyone.
He had been a student at our school for all too short a time. By the energy he exuded, a sleek sinuous predatory sense I had every time I saw him, I could tell he was Carthera.
One day I was trying to pull my overfull backpack out of my locker where it was wedged. I misjudged the last big tug and when it came free with a jerk I fell backward into the strong arms of someone I could not see. I felt a deep shiver in the chest of the person holding me and I tilted my head back, strangely unwilling to pull away like I would normally have done if anyone grabbed hold of me like that.
It was Natham and his face was strangely slack but his eyes burned into mine with intensity. His were a deep dark brown that looked almost black. His pupils were dilated as wide as they would go and his nose quivered as his mouth fell open. He took in a deep breath and exhaled sharply.
"You're a bird!" He looked shocked. I could smell him this close and finally figured out what he was.
"And you're a cat, what of it?" I suddenly realized we were in a crowded hallway and pulled away. For an instant I felt the arms around me tighten before they let me go and Natham took a step back. I turned and looked up at him, his tawny skin and dark eyes were complimented by the brown hair with russet highlights he had pulled into a long braid that fell down his back.
"What is your name? Your clan?" Natham demanded to know, leaning toward me with his big hands flexing as if he wanted to grab me again.
"I don't see why I should tell you that since you are being so rude. I mean, thanks for catching me but what is your problem?" I was acting indignant, trying to cover up how much I liked it when he had his arms around me.
"I..." he paused with a frown, "I'm sorry. I need to know your name, your clan, please."
I relented when he spoke in a quieter, backing away from the demanding tone he had used before. I saw how his hands were twisted and tugging at the hem of his t-shirt and that prompted me to speak before he tore it in his odd anxiety.
"My name is Velaku and I am of the Falcon Clan. My father is Keserem, the leader of all the Carthera in this territory."
"My name is Natham." He didn't offer his clan and I didn't ask. I was too busy inching closer to him to see his downturned eyes. It was my turn to catch my breath when he looked up, the heat in his eyes piercing me. He licked his lips and my breath caught.
"Will you meet me at lunch down by the spruce tree? The little one by the shop building?"
I considered for a moment. If he was into dominance games he would find me no easy prey. I was anything but weak though I had little doubt he would win in the end. Like all of the bird Carthera, I was small and slight, barely coming to the top of his shoulder. He carried within him all the grace and power of whatever cat he was, full of sleek strength and deadly capability.
I cocked my head to the side, considering him for a long moment until the bell rang, startling us from our frozen positions.
I made a snap decision, prompted by a feeling I couldn't really name.
"I'll meet you. Lunch at the spruce tree." I picked up my backpack and walked away, barely resisting the urge to look back at him.
I had met him that day for lunch and we talked the entire hour, each topic flowing smoothly into the next; at least after the first few awkward minutes while we both assessed the other. Thankfully right then neither of us was more than fledgling or young in our clans, the aggression level we carried toward outsiders and Carthera not of our clan was relatively low. We had been so engrossed in each other we completely missed the bell signaling return to class and spent two more hours getting to know each other.
We had been sitting on the grass part in the sun and part in the shade of the spruce tree. I had my back to the tree, trying to stay out of the sun with my fair skin and he was facing me. Our non-stop talking ahd fallen into a bit of an awkward silence after I asked him about his family. He had told me his clan but other than the fact he was a lynx I knew nothing.
I had told him all about my father and mother but the second I asked about his he shut down. His face went blank and his slanted eyes shuttered. The abrupt change from the open and happy youth to the quiet, almost frightened kid had the skin on my back tightening as I reacted instinctively to whatever had scared him.
I reached out and touched his cheek, pushing some of his hair that had escaped his braid back behind his ear. He nuzzled my wrist, a deep rumble in his chest sounding an awful lot like a purr. He looked up, his dark eyes capturing me
and holding me motionless with my hand still against his face. I forgot how to breathe out when he leaned forward and his lips touched mine gently. I had let out the breath I was holding in a quiet keening noise, suddenly moving into his space and onto his lap, bring my other hand up and holding his face still as I sucked and licked at his lips and he tried to devour my tongue.
A distant bell brought students in school t-shirts and shorts onto the field for Phys Ed and broke us apart. One boy in particular was staring at us, a heavyset older student that glared balefully. When Natham saw him he blanched and then jumped up, knocking me to the ground. He rushed off, ignoring my calls for him to wait.
That had been the last time I had seen him. He hadn't come back to school and all the questions I had asked at the office were answered with 'he moved and we can't release his information to another student'. I had felt oddly bereft.
But I never forgot him.
Often his eyes and his voice starred in my dreams, at least the ones that were not nightmares. The last few months since that fateful day had passed oddly slow as if I waited for something important to happen. It was like I was not quite all there, always one part of me looking or listening for something only I could sense coming.
Since the day I heard of my father's death and my wings had burst forth so suddenly, the days hadn't been nearly long enough though. Spending hours each day on the practice field, doing my schoolwork, meeting with my father's advisors and comforting my mother had me up from dawn until I passed out at night unable to stay awake any longer.
I usually managed to stay awake until I heard from the daily messenger from Mishtar before falling face down on my bed only to wake up from nightmares over and over each night.
Then, on the eigth day since news of my father's death reached us Mishtar himself returned, dragging with him a pair of surly humans and an unconscious Carthera.
The humans were guarded by a single Falcon in a corner of the office. The Carthera had been dumped on the floor in front of my father's desk where I sat with an awful pit of some emotion I couldn't name burning in my stomach. Roused by a sharp kick to his ribs, he opened swollen eyes that darted around the room before he drew himself up into a ball to protect his vulnerable midsection. He writhed and hissed his anger when the two Falcon lieutenants grabbed him from the ground and suspended him between them before he slumped weakly with his head down. He seemed to hover on the edge of consciousness.
Mishtar stood behind them and grabbed him by his long filthy hair to pull his head up. The Carthera snarled and ripped his head and body away so violently that Sameer, one of the lieutenants, lost his grip. The lynx's greater size and weight overbalanced Leiiu, the other lieutenant, and they fell in a heap. Twisting his body, the lynx landed on top of them. His claws came out and slashed with such blinding speed before even Mishtar could react.
With a leap so fast all I saw was a blur, he was suddenly on top of me. Both of his hands tipped by those gleaming white claws gripped my neck while his body covered mine. I heard him snarl and felt him jerk before he went limp. I was shocked beyond words and movement as I stared at his battered face lying next to mine. I barely registered on the floor where we had fallen behind the desk.
"Velaku! Velaku! Are you okay? Subdue those men!" Mishtar was shouting but I ignored him. My hands had come up instinctively as I had always been taught. I had grabbed at the attacking lynx's back as I fell under his weight, feeling my talons puncture deep into the muscles near his spine. I had flared my wings for balance but tripped over the chair behind me, focusing more on going for a spine severing hold when he attacked me.
I was suddenly aware that I was piercing his skin and in danger of damaging his spine. I gasped and yanked my talons out of his back, hoping I hadn't severely damaged him. I felt a large patch of wetness growing under my palms and I could smell the blood. When I moved my hands where I could see them over his shoulders I was shocked to see bright red blood covering my palms and beginning to run in rivulets down my arms.
"Get the doctor!" I screamed.
I heard one Falcon rush away as he flew directly out one of the large windows to find Dr. Pannar. I shrieked at Mishtar and slashed one taloned hand at him when he came to drag the lynx off me and he backed away when he caught a glimpse of the naked fury on my face. I wrapped my wings possessively around his lower back, trying to avoid his bleeding wounds.
I closed my eyes and drew in a breath, trying to calm the protective anger that surged in me.
"Velaku, are you hurt?" Mishtar moved into my line of sight when I opened my eyes.
"No. Tell me what just happened," I ordered.
"When the lynx started to break from his guards Tartel was distracted. He tried to help us and one of the humans drew a hidden knife. He moved almost as fast as we do! I barely had a chance to glimpse the knife before he threw it. I would never have reached him or you in time.
"This... lynx," the word was said with a curled lip of disgust, "saved your life."
"I am not surprised," I murmured, "it won't be the first time he has protected me from getting hurt."
Mishtar looked at me with his mouth open in shock, "You know him?"
"I do. I met him months ago at school. His father was some sort of traveling business man or something. I..." I stopped paused, not sure of what to say. "I talked to him for hours one day and then he just disappeared."
I stared in wonder at Natham's face, his beautiful strong face, all sharp lines and tilted eyes. He was skinny, too skinny. His long arms ended in bony wrists and he didn't feel nearly as heavy as he should feel. There was an ashy pale undertone to his naturally tawny skin, as if he had been kept indoors for too long and denied the freedom to roam that all Carthera needed to thrive.
I could feel his heartbeat slowing and his breaths becoming shallower. I barely held in the panic that I felt swamping me.
"Where in the hell is that doctor?" I swore.
Not a moment too soon he entered the office from the doorway, folding his wings behind him. "You sent for me, Velaku? Are you injured?"Dr. Pannar watched me carefully as he approached.
"He needs..." I gestured cautiously toward the knife I had so gingerly explored with my hands while we waited. I was still under him, too scared to move him without the doctor telling me it was alright. Even covered in injuries, reeking of blood and sweat I was getting some sort of weird vibe that urged me to keep him close to me.
The doctor moved swiftly when I spoke coherently. He'd probably been attacked by more than his fair share of our injured kind. "He is a Carthera?"
"A lynx," I answered.
The doctor was moving his hands along the body on top of me. He looked at me and I waited desperately to hear the prognosis.My stomach was clenching in fear.
"I need to call an ambulance. We must take him to the hospital. This is beyond my skills to treat here but he should survive."
I didn't even have to consider the choice. I'd rather humans came to the eyrie than lose Natham.
"Fine, but you go and handle his care personally, whatever it takes. I will not have pure humans using him as a guinea pig for any reason." One still heard stories of humans trapping Carthera and doing things to them. I would not allow anymore harm to come to Natham, no matter what.
"And I'm going with you."
Mishtar insisted on sending two of his men with us to the hospital when he protested my going. Being my father's son, I refused to listen and stay at home where it was safer. Besides, I had to stay with Natham and I wasn't going to question that feeling.
Apparently deciding that I wouldn't be budged from my decision, Mishtar stayed with the rest of the Falcon guards to question the humans that had survived the raid on the hiding place where they had gone to ground. The guards and I had flown above the ambulance as it made its way to the closest hospital.
It was a struggle to hold myself back so that I didn't overtake the vehicle as I willed them to drive faster. If another bird Carthera had been able to fit in the ambulance I would have been by his side but with the human paramedics and Dr. Pannar there simply wasn't room for my wings.
Just another reason for me to curse them.
I caught a glimpse of bloody stained sheets and Natham's pale face as the paramedics raced him through the hall and into the ER trauma bay where I couldn't follow. Unable to sit still as we waited, I paced the small family room that was crowded with chairs and benches while the two bodyguards simply stood silently vigilant.
One stood by the door watching and the other leaned against the wall in a corner under the TV and watched me. The hard molded plastic chairs laid out in rows gave me a serpentine shaped pattern to walk as I waited impatiently for news of Natham's condition. I was close to shrieking in frustration when Dr. Pannar opened the door.
"How is he? Is he okay?" I rushed over to the doctor who sat down wearily.
"He is stable for the moment but we are having a really hard time keeping him unconscious. It is taking dangerous levels of medication just to keep him mostly unaware. We removed the knife from his back and sewed the wound shut.
"Fortunately there were no internal injuries to his organs or spine, the angle was just right so that knife lodged in one of his ribs instead. The punctures wounds in his back were deep but also avoided anything major. We were able to close each of those with just a stitch or two."
I felt really bad that I had hurt him at all, especially since it was clear that he had thrown himself at my body to protect me from the knife that the human had wielded. About forty five minutes before Dr. Pannar came out, Mishtar had called me, sharing the entire horrific tale of what Natham had been subjected to for the last few months since I saw him last. The worst outrage was who had done it to him.
I burned inside, desperately wanting to seek retribution.
"I'm much more concerned about the starvation and dehydration that we found. He's been badly beaten, multiple attacks over at least a few months and some signs of a very brutal beating recently but he will heal if we can just get him properly nourished so that he has the energy to heal. The problem is that he keeps waking up enough to rip out the tubes we have in him and make attempts to get out of bed."
Dr. Pannar sighed in exhaustion, stretching his wings out and then folded them back behind him. "I don't want to keep him sedated, it's not safe for long periods of time for Carthera but I don't know what else to do."
"Can I see him? I might..." I paused, I wasn't sure if I wanted to tell the doctor my suspicions yet. "Maybe a friendly voice from someone he knows will make him feel more secure."
"You can try, but the visit must be brief. I don't want him agitated more than he already is. Your guards will have to stay outside as well as the sight of anyone with wings makes him struggle more."
I readily agreed though I could see that made them angry. I didn't care. I was nearly bouncing with each step, my wings flapping a little in my nervous energy as we walked down the hall toward Natham's room. When we got there I walked in behind the doctor. The medical equipment was the same for a human as for a Carthera, the I.V., monitor leads, and catheter tube coming from under the sheet were all exactly what I expected from watching all those medical shows.