Laresa's World Ch. 10: James


"So it's a bit like when I'm talking to somebody speaking French. I know more or less what they're saying, but I don't understand it all."

Laresa nodded her head and said, "Yes, that is quite close to their understanding of you."

Turning back to Addie, James asked, "Are you alright, girl? Are you sick — hurt?"

This One is fit, Pack Leader. It is of no moment, Addie replied in her own language.

Stroking her fur, James said, "Now, girl, I know something is wrong. Don't you hide it from me."

Addie still tried to conceal her disapproval, but slight changes in her posture and an aborted glance toward Laresa revealed her feelings, much as the body language of a person might. James glanced at Laresa, still not comprehending completely. He turned back to Addie then and asked, "Are you afraid of Laresa, girl? You don't need to be afraid of her. She's helping us."

This One finds the Pack Leader's treatment of his mate disturbing, but This One is content to follow, as is proper. This One is hungry, Pack Leader. This One would eat, that she might keep her strength.

The disappointment Addie felt came through in the subtle flicks of her ears and tail just as clearly as the words Laresa's spell translated those movements into for James. She revered James as pack leader, and obviously felt he treated Laresa in a manner not becoming a good leader. Wolves were reputed to mate for life, devoted to each other, and it was obvious that some instincts held true in all canines. Addie obviously could tell that Laresa was a slave to his wishes, even though James hadn't really thought of it that way. The reaction was much like that any human woman might have expressed, exactly like it, actually.

"Oh, Addie-girl, I had no idea," James muttered.

Addie opened her mouth slightly in the canine equivalent of a smile and said, This One is content to follow, Pack Leader. The ways of Men are not the ways of the pack. This One has noted that the Hes and Shes of Men often do not remain with their mate.

James muttered, "I thought I understood you dogs, but it looks like I didn't know half as much as I thought I did."

Laresa could sense a confusing rush of thoughts running through James' head. He patted Addie one last time and said, "Go on and eat, girl. I'm going to go outside and think for a while." Turning to Laresa, he asked, "Can you make it so I don't freeze out there?"

Laresa replied, "It is done, James."

Nodding his head, James pulled on his coat and hat, walking out of the cave.

* * * * *

The team was excited when James walked back in the cave several hours later. James smiled, now able to understand their excitement fully.

Will we run soon, Pack Leader? This place is warm, but This One wishes to run.

This One is rested, and his belly full. This One wishes to run, as well, Pack Leader.

Apogee trotted up, his manner full of strength and confidence, but also carrying deference to James, The pack is ready to run, Pack Leader. The snows are of no moment to the pack, we will pull the tree thing to the place of Men when the Pack Leader is prepared.

James nodded to Apogee, and the dog bowed his head before walking back over to the rest of the gathered team. James pursed his lips in sympathy when he summoned Laresa from the ring, and saw Addie wince.

Laresa asked, "How may I be of service, James?"

"I want to know what it is like to run with them. I want you to make me a dog, like them. I want to speak their language and know what it is like to run with them. I think I'll still need to be a man sometimes, because they don't have the instincts to hunt yet, but I want to run with my team. Is it okay to wish for that?"

"If this is your wish, James, it can be done. You can be a dog, or a man, as you will."

James turned and looked at Addie for a moment, then turned back to Laresa and said, "That's my wish."

Laresa smiled, nodding her head and said, "It is done. You need only desire to change your form, and it shall be, from this day forth."

Taking a deep breath, James closed his eyes and wished to be a dog. His senses suddenly came alive. Faint smells, previously undetectable, tantalized his nostrils. Sounds he had never heard before greeted his ears. Opening his eyes, he found his vision sharp and clear, even in the dim light of the cave. His tongue lolled out in an expression of canine laughter, and he turned to his team — his pack.

Apogee tilted his head sideways in curiosity, observing James in his new form. He was a massive Huskie, jet-black in color, with an obvious noble bearing. This is most unusual, Pack Leader, but pleasing.

James padded over to his lead dog and said, This One will run with the pack. The pack shall run free; we will not pull the tree thing this day.

The excitement from the rest of the pack mixed with a profound respect, revealing hints that they respected him even more in his powerful canine form. Turning to Addie, James said, This One understands, now. This One is ashamed of his behavior toward his mate.

With a nod of acceptance, Addie responded, Wise is the Revered Pack Leader to admit such a mistake, and it is most proper. This One would think that such apology should be made to One's mate, however.

One speaks wisely. This One shall ask for forgiveness of One's mate.

Laresa changed into a silver-furred Huskie, so that she could properly communicate with the pack. She padded over to Addie and said, It is not needful, Sister. This One must serve because of a custom of Men. That One is a kinder Pack Leader and mate than many This One has known.

Far beyond the words spoken between them, the deeper levels of communication that only two females could share revealed Laresa's thoughts to Addie. Addie understood that Laresa was content in her service to James, and she could already sense that her Pack Leader would treat his mate with more respect now, regardless.

Nuzzling up against Laresa in a sign of friendship, Addie said, This One is content, Sister. Turning to James then, she said, This One would run, Revered Pack Leader.

James' muzzle parted in a smile. He noticed that in this form, Laresa was no less comely than when they had both shared human form. Crossing the distance between them, James said, This One would apologize, and This One gives his word as Pack Leader that This One's mate will be treated with respect and affection.

Laresa nuzzled up against James, saying in the manner of canines, This One is content, but pleased by the Revered Pack Leader's words.

James' powerful canine body shuddered from the soft touch of her silvery fur and scent, causing Laresa to let her tongue hang out in wolfish laughter.

Walking over to James, Apogee nodded toward Laresa and asked, Will That One run with the pack?

James smiled, his teeth showing bright white against his black coat, This One would be pleased for his mate to run with the pack.

Feeling her blood stir, finding James just as attractive to her in her current form as he found her, Laresa bowed her head to James and said, This One will run with the pack.

She once again nuzzled up against his neck for a moment before James announced, We run!

The nine dogs bounded happily out of the cave, reveling in the chance to run fast and free.

* * * * *

Returning to the cave from their romp, James was happier than he'd ever been in his life. The sensation of running — he could run so fast, and so long — was like nothing he'd ever experienced. Beyond that, the sense of belonging to the pack brought a closeness he had never experienced with people he had encountered during his life.

Then, there was Laresa. Several times, she had nipped at his heels playfully as they ran, and each time they stopped, she nuzzled up against him. Defining her as his mate had started out as a simple way to establish her status with the pack, but James certainly felt like there was a great deal more between him and the beautiful djinn now.

Turning to the pack, James announced, This One would take the shape of Man again. This One has taken great pride in running with the pack.

This One hopes the Revered Pack Leader will choose to run with us again soon, Apogee said and then bowed his head in respect.

This One has observed that the paws of Men are useful for many things. This One believes it is good that the Revered Pack Leader can take the shape of Man, though This One prefers his natural shape, Addie noted, her tongue hanging out in laughter.

Turning to Laresa, James said, This One desires to change back, and yet does not.

Laresa blurred back into her petite human form, and said to James, "When you change shape, you take on all the characteristics of the animal. It feels natural, and thus feels unnatural to change back."

The black furred Huskie that was James closed its eyes for a moment and became human again. Opening his eyes, he looked at Laresa and smiled. "Seeing you gave me a good reason to want to be a man again."

Laresa cast her violet eyes downward demurely for a moment before replying, "I hoped perhaps it might be so." When she looked back up, James could see a slightly mischievous smile on her face. "Perhaps your team might need some rest, after running so far."

Stepping forward and wrapping his arms around her, James said, "I don't think that's necessary. I understand them now." He then kissed her soundly on her soft, full lips.

* * * * *

The next day, James awoke next to Laresa — having wished for her to remain at his side through the night. She had explained that she needed to rest in the ring on occasion, but that she still had the strength to remain in his embrace through the night.

The sight of her smiling at him when he awakened sent chills through his body, even as a flush of heat filled his cheeks. He laughed and said, "Good morning."

Laresa let out a little purr and snuggled up against him, "Good morning, James."

"You know, it ain't right, but I'd like to see the looks on men's faces when you ride into town with me. I know ain't none of them ever seen a woman so beautiful."

Blushing, Laresa responded, "Thank you. I would be proud to walk at your side, James. You must wish for others to see me, however, as only you can see me now."

James' brow furrowed, and he said, "The dogs can see you."

"Animals, especially those of great intelligence, can see many things beyond the eyes of men," Laresa explained with a smile, "It may be that the empathy they share with you enhanced their ability to see me as well."

"I think people might look at us a little odd what with the way you are dressed. If I think about some clothes that are more like people are used to, you could find something you like?"

James was already considering several things as he spoke, and Laresa immediately found something in his thoughts that she enjoyed very much, a soft, warm parka trimmed in white fur. "Yes, James, do you wish others to see me, and for me to choose what I will wear — so long as it does not appear odd to those around us?"

He nodded his head, "You make better wishes than I do. That sounds about right."

Laresa summoned up her power and immediately she was dressed in the garments from his vision.

"You look better in that than any woman I've ever seen," James muttered, finding her curves concealed almost more enticing than when they were bare.

"I have never seen a town in this place and time; it would please me to do so and learn more about this land."

Turning to his team, James asked, "You all ready to run?"

James laughed, perfectly understanding their excited answers because of the wish Laresa had granted for him. "Well then, let's get you all strapped up and show Laresa what we call home."

* * * * *

From that day on, James found that the people didn't annoy him quite so much any longer. With Laresa and his team as the core of his life, the petty irritations of those around him no longer seemed important. He actually started to enjoy life when he was in town as much as when he was out in the wild with his dogs. His bitterness drained away, allowing him to see the good in other folk, and for the first time, he was a part of the community.

He and Laresa regularly ran with the pack — wild and free out in the snows. Though they were never formally married, they were mates in the eyes of the pack, and that was good enough for both of them. The townsfolk whispered sometimes, but James just laughed it off now.

Laresa rested in her ring — reluctantly — eagerly awaiting the call to return to James' side. After three years of sharing his life, she was as happy as she had been at any point in her long centuries of servitude. James had offered her much free will, allowing her to do as she pleased in almost any situation. They even fought sometimes like any other couple, usually making up and falling into bed shortly thereafter.

Laresa gasped, her heart turning to lead in her chest. She knew the lurch that had just rocked her all too well. James had somehow lost the ring, severing the bonds between them. Her eyes misting with tears, she whispered, "I am so sorry I was not there to prevent this. I will miss you, James."

* * * * *

James stared at the pale band around his finger, once graced by Laresa's ring. Cold air blew in through the open door, indistinct footprints in the snow leading to and from his home, rapidly vanishing nearby and already invisible out in the teeth of the wind.

James had felt the first symptoms only an hour after Laresa returned to her ring for a necessary rest. Of all the times to come down with a bad case of the flu, this had been the worst possible time. Someone had come in and taken the ring — as well as a few other things, if the ransacked nature of his room was any indication — while he fitfully slept, burning with fever and half-delirious.

Barely able to find the strength to close the open door, he knew there was no way he could pursue whoever had stolen his love from him. The old bitterness he had once felt threatened to return, but then memories of what he had learned at Laresa's side evaporated the dark thoughts.

Tears streaming down his face, and his heart aching, James stumbled back to his bed before his strength left him. Lying in bed, he realized that he could still smell her scent in the room, and that her clothing was still lying about where it had fallen the last time they had made love.

A thought occurred to him, and James willed his form to change. Against all hope, he flowed into the shape of a jet-black Huskie. He had wished to have this ability forever, and Laresa's magic still held, despite his loss of the ring.

Changing back, James smiled. He had detected another scent in the room when he changed, that of the man — he knew it was a man now — who had broken into his home. Once he was well, he would be able to find that man and get his Laresa back. He knew his team would be ready and willing to help.

"If you can hear me, I'll never stop looking for you until you're at my side again. I love you, Laresa, and you've given me a reason to live again."

* * * * *

I hope you've enjoyed this story, and will take a moment to vote and send me some feedback. I'm really enjoying participating in this chain, getting my feet wet in the world outside my fantasy world. Red's idea is fantastic, and everyone in the chain is wonderful to work with.

Big thanks to Red and Danielle for first reading this story, several times, until I finally got it right. Following up my last chapter was a little daunting, considering how strong the response to it was. Major kudos to Techsan and my regular editor RoustWriter for cleaning up the rough spots. I have no idea how I survived without an editor, and this one had two sets of keen eyes going over it!

Be sure to read the rest of the chain, and Danielle's independant story "Miranda and the Prince" that stars Laresa, as well.

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