Love, Be-Were! Ch. 02byMistress_of_Shadows©
Greetings all! I can't thank you enough for the outpouring of support you've given me on the first chapter of this new series. Please remember that your feedback is always taken seriously and shapes the future of each storyline. There was such a flood of interest and inquiry about the young child, Rye, that my Muse decided his story needed to be shared. Will he be the center of the bond that draws our two main characters together? Will Nyrra's love and Rhochlan's sense of duty allow them to unite?
For hours, without ceasing or slowing down, the noise continued. The sound of metal clashing against metal—wires squealing in protest and steel bars slamming against each other—was relentless; it echoed across the empty vastness surrounding its source.
The wrenching notes never wavered in their rhythm. Although sometimes louder, sometimes softer, the cadence remained uninterrupted. In the darkened gloom, surrounded on all sides by an empty waste land, was a small steel cage; the sound appeared to be coming from the box, issuing forth every time the structure shuddered from the actions of its solitary occupant.
The metal bars, although unfazed and untouched on the outside surface, looked a bit different on the interior. Long deep gouges had been furrowed down their length, dried blood in the grooves attesting to the number of times the creature had dug its claws into them. Sharp niches marked the spaces where it had desperately chewed against the metal wires between the bars until its gums, too, were raw.
The noise began to slow, becoming weaker, until it finally came to a complete stop. The weary creature came to rest in the middle of the cage, its sides heaving as it drew desperate breaths into lungs too tired to function properly. Its head drooping low in front of its shoulders as it hunched miserably in the middle of the floor, the beast shuddered as its mind reached out to a human child; it reached out to the only other living being with whom it shared a connection. It scoured his young psyche, searching for the strength to continue.
Water leaked from the creature's eyes as it sensed the pain the boy tried so hard to ignore. Its heart ached more deeply than a broken body ever could as it shared in the boy's despair, wishing it could burst forth from the unbreakable cage and offer the child sanctuary as no other could do. For two long years, it had fought with a fierce determination to escape the restraints; guilt over the mental anguish the boy endured as it did so forced the beast to stop, to rest, so the boy didn't go insane.
A couple of months ago, it had all but given up hope. The boy didn't think about the creature anymore; time, new faces, and new places had allowed the child to bury all memories of the day his life changed. He'd slowly begun to forget his parents, his heritage, and all the dark, evil thoughts that were tied to them. He stopped thinking about the creature in the box, and it curled up and dozed in fitful despair. It didn't like causing the boy pain, so it had made the decision to hibernate, and leave him be.
The creature raised its head, staring at the stark interior of the cage. Through the bars, it could just make out the shape of the large lock on the door. Concentrating hard, the beast forced the long ears that drooped to the ground to once again stand tall and proud. Testing the tenuous bond it held with the boy, and feeling his turmoil again, the beast felt a new infusion of determination strengthen its weary limbs.
Flexing its paws, feeling the dewclaws that had finally regenerated after being ripped out by the wire mesh, the creature stood. Tucking its long, powerful hind legs underneath it and wiggling its fluffy tail, the beast's heart rate steadied as it remembered its purpose. Calming its mind, bringing itself under control, it remembered what had awoken it from the deep slumber.
The Keeper of the Key had finally come.
The creature didn't know how, or why, or by what stroke of fate; all it knew was that the Keeper had finally come to set it free. It could feel the truth in the serenity that had flooded the boy's mind, the temporary peace that had invaded the darkness with a soft, white glow. The beast had stirred back to life then, its coma disturbed by the sheer power radiating from the being the boy had come in contact with.
Pure instinct guided the young creature's movements as it stretched lethargic limbs and clambered to its feet. It felt the need to renew its struggle to break free; it needed to make sure the Keeper was aware of its existence and the freedom that it craved. The beast knew that in order for the Keeper to use the key to unlock the cage, the child had to be ready.
To be ready, the boy was going to have to be reminded of what, and who, he was supposed to be. The beast's soft, golden fur shone softly as it paused to look in the reflection it could just barely see on the dull metal bars. Its pale blue eyes narrowed in determination as it realized it was not just a mindless creature, a feral beast. Taking a deep breath, the young rabbit gazed deeply into its own eyes as it felt strength flowing back through its veins.
As before, it lunged at the wall of steel, hurling the full weight of its body against the bars. The metal sound echoed again in the darkness, and the rabbit winced as it felt the child flinch, his agony racing back to the creature through their bond. Back and forth it went; first one side of the cage then the other. The force from the rabbit's body caused the boy's mind to lash out, caused the dark memories to awaken, and begin to chase each other in the gloom once again.
It was time for the boy, his boy, to remember.
Lulled by the silence that had draped over the children's home as the last child finally drifted off to sleep, the psychiatrist assigned to the facility sank into his office chair. To say it had been a rough day would be a bit of an understatement; one of his charges had been especially difficult, and that had only gotten worse as the evening progressed. Dr. Stanley Rosch shook his head in exasperation. The boy, Rye, was normally so soft spoken, respectful, considerate...he just couldn't understand what caused the child to lash out with such hostility, and with so little warning.
Clicking the keys on his laptop, he called up the boy's file. There was very little information available on the circumstances leading up to his admission to the orphanage. Even after working with Rye on a daily basis for the last six months, Stanley had made very little progress on evaluating the small child. Although he exhibited a friendly disposition when engaged, the boy remained introverted and refused to revisit (even in therapy) the night of his parent's death.
The only person that the doctor had witnessed Rye interacting with on a regular basis was the worker assigned to his case, Ryanyrra Ambresh. Although she worked with several of the children in the center, she seemed almost drawn to the little waif; when he had his manic episodes, she appeared to be the only one that could bring him back from them. Rye called her Nyrra, being unable to pronounce her full name when he'd first met her, and the name had stuck.
Stanley fished a pen out of his desk drawer and a sticky note pad. He jotted down a few sentences so that he'd remember to give Nyrra a call first thing in the morning and fill her in on the difficulties of the day. He finished the note and laid the pen down beside his computer, closed his tired eyes and placed his head in his hands. His reprieve was cut short the moment a blood-curdling scream echoed down the corridor near his office.
His head jerked upright and his eyes opened as he pushed his chair away from his desk and stood. Moving without conscious thought, he closed the distance to his office door in time to see the night-shift nurse, Lynn, running down the hallway. He matched the woman's swift pace as he followed her to the room she had just entered, and a frown creased his brow as he identified the terrified youth tossing on the bed.
Stanley watched the young woman press her hands against Rye's forehead, checking for a temperature. She looked up at him and shook her head, her expression clearly puzzled. Although his small frame was broken out in a cold sweat, the doctor presumed it was from whatever mental trauma the boy was fighting and not a result of any type of fever. He moved closer to the bed, reaching out with his own hands to smooth the hair from the child's face as he shook him gently, trying to ease him awake.
He pulled his hand back, thankful for his quick reflexes, when the boy's body arched in sudden pain. Rye's eyes jerked open, but it was obvious to both the doctor and the nurse that whatever he was seeing wasn't visible to them. His hands and arms began churning as he violently pushed himself backwards with his feet, scrambling to get to the corner and put his back against it. Sobs wracked his young frame, broken by a harsh cry as he threw his arms up over his head, as though shielding himself.
Observing his behavior for a brief moment, it didn't take the doctor long to realize that all his murmured attempts to soothe the child were having no affect. It was obvious that the boy was convinced he was being attacked by something, and Stanley was afraid he was going to go into shock if they couldn't do something to get him calmed down. He did the first thing that came to mind; he pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and hit the speed-dial for Nyrra's home phone.
He shared a look of dismay with the caretaker as the child jerked again, tucking his knees tightly to his chest as he huddled in the corner. Every time Lynn would reach for him, he'd cry out like he'd been hurt. Stanley was getting frustrated, the incessant ringing of the phone in his hand not offering him the solution he'd been hoping for. Finally, on the fifth or sixth ring, a young woman's drowsy voice came on the line as she answered his call.
"I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, Ms. Ambresh. You requested that we contact you if there were any developments with Rye that required your immediate attention. I'm afraid if that has ever been true, it is now."
Struggling out of the sleep induced stupor in which she'd answered the phone, Ryanyrra scrambled to match the voice with a face from her memory. An image of friendly green eyes framed by thin, wire-rimmed glasses and an easy smile sprang to mind. She tried to focus on his words for the few seconds it took her addled brain to catch up to speed.
"Dr. Rosch? What's wrong? Has something happened?"
It only took a moment of his urgent explanation before she was throwing the quilt off of her, and swinging her legs off of the bed. She moved swiftly to her closet, the phone cradled to her ear as she grabbed the nearest shirt and pair of pants she could find. Dressing with haste and grabbing her keys off of the kitchen table, she hung up with the doctor just to call him back immediately on her cell phone.
She cringed as she heard Rye's terrified voice in the background. Forcing herself to find her purse, her heart pounded as she tried listening to the doctor's words, but all she could focus on was the sound of the boy's distress. In less than ten minutes from the time the phone rang, she was in her car and pulling out of the driveway.
Fear pulsed through his veins, hurried footsteps matching the speed of his heartbeat as they ran. He was so tired; his little legs aching as he was drug along by the hand clamped to his own. He ran until he just couldn't run anymore. A woman's soft hands cupped his face, her large pale blue eyes brimming with tears as she looked behind them. She was so small, so petite, and so very exhausted...but still, she scooped him up in her arms and pressed forward.
She weaved among the enormous trees, her excellent night vision taking over as the sun's rays continued to wane. As the darkness began to creep in, she could still see the large figures leaping and bounding at the edges of her sight. Their long tails whipped behind them as they jumped through the trees, claws scraping against the bark. Fierce growls emanated from them as they gnashed their cruel jaws together, promising death if she should falter.
He buried his head into her shoulder and clung to her as she ran. She stumbled, she fell, but she never let him go. Her arms held him securely even as her legs began to give way, the cuts and bruises on her feet making the pain unbearable...but still she forced herself to keep moving. Tears flowed down her face as she cradled the little body close to her, trying to protect him as best she could from the terror she knew was bearing down on them.
The child tried so hard to be brave. He could hear the snarling sounds behind them, could hear the angry hiss of the beasts they were trying so hard to elude. His mother's legs finally gave out underneath her and they both tumbled to the ground hard. She instantly scrambled to cover him with her body, unable to go on, unwilling to let anything happen to her only son. She cradled his little face in her hands and met the blue eyes that mirrored her own.
She could feel her inner beast rising up within her, clawing to the surface with the need to defend her baby. Instinctively, she knew she was outmatched; even in her fully feral form, the Were-rabbit doe would never be able to outfight the great felines that were hunting them. The young woman could sense the malevolence of the creatures closing in; hair rose on her arms and the back of her neck as she felt the evil presence wash over her.
Knowing she didn't have time to complete the transformation to her beast, she prayed that her human form would be able to withstand punishment long enough for a miracle to save her child. Begging her rabbit to forgive her and lend her the strength she needed, she shoved the animal down with ruthless determination. She vowed to shield her son as long as she was able, and steeled herself for what was to come.
She curled her body around him, holding his stare as the pain flashed across her face. He could hear her whispered words of love and apology as her body jerked; he could see the blood start trickling from her nose and the corner of her mouth as she leaned her lips to kiss his forehead. Her soft voice was strained as she told him not to be afraid, to have faith that help was on the way. He couldn't see what was happening, all he could see was his mother's love shining from her eyes as one of the creatures that had been chasing them began tearing her apart.
Suddenly, he heard a roar—a familiar voice that was infused with rage and louder than anything he'd ever heard before—as the monster was ripped away, forcing his mother's body to jerk hard. Her luminous eyes, though filled with tears and dazed with pain, blinked rapidly as she cradled him even closer. Her arms, though so very weak, still held him close as she leaned her forehead against his.
He could hear the sounds of fighting; feel the earth thudding underneath his back as bodies were hurled against it in the heat of combat. His mother flooded him with love through their bond, trying to drown out the shrill screams that were accompanied by the sound of ripping flesh. He felt her body shudder against him as she held him tightly, keeping his head buried so that he couldn't witness the carnage that surrounded them.
He heard a piteous sound that could only be the death wail of a dying creature. His mother cried out as gentle hands closed around her shoulders, softly prying her away from him. Sobs shook her then, her small frame heaving as her emotions took over. The boy's father gathered her up in his large arms, rocking her with care as she cried. The boy could see her back, the bloody evidence of what she'd given to protect him running down his father's body as he cradled her.
The boy stood up, and looked around. There was blood everywhere; it covered the trees, the grass, and the earth. Even the beautiful white daisies that nodded by the nearby stream were stained with red. Four large bodies seemed to be the cause of most of it; parts of them were strewn all over the area, even bits of fur and claws and teeth.
He reached his little hand up to touch the weeping woman, and his hand passed through where her back should have been. His fingers pushed through her body cavity, and he jerked his hand back as he felt the pulse of her heart against the back of his hand. He stood in shock as he looked at his fingers. Bright red blood stained his small palms, bits of torn flesh sticking to his fingers as he held them out. Tears welled up in his eyes as he wished, with all his heart, to wake up from this terrible dream.
The boy's tiny form started shaking. He looked up, and all he could see was his mother's broken body and his father's large hands. He backed away until he could stare up at his father's face...and he saw the truth in the older man's defeated gaze. As his little ears concentrated, he could hear his mother's heart beat getting weaker, and he heard the instant that it stopped. He watched his father close his eyes, and lay his head against the silent chest of the woman in his arms as soul wrenching sobs shook his large frame.
Deep gashes scored the man's heavily muscled shoulders, his right bicep slashed to the bone. His right eye was already swelling shut from the beating he'd received while trying to keep his family safe. His heart ached as the evidence of his failure lay limp and lifeless in his arms. After gently laying the body of his wife on the shredded forest floor, the large Were looked back up at the face of his son and his eyes blazed with rage and denial. His roar of loss shook the forest as he poured out his grief in one long, primal scream...
The feral roar that ripped from his own throat shook the room's walls as the giant of a man fought out from under the blankets on his bed. Sweat streamed down his chest in rivulets, snaking between the taut muscles of his abdomen as he jumped to his feet. Long black waves were plastered to his brow, the white tips of his long hair laying wet against his heaving chest. He bellowed again as the images flew through his mind, the terror and the pain and the aching sense of loss...
His eyes opened, a bright yellow gleam raking around the room as he felt the shift begin. Long silver claws erupted from the ends of his fingertips as his hands began to lengthen. Soft downy fur sprouted across his wide shoulders and chest, flowing like water across his tightly muscled form. His feet and legs began to change; his feet elongated as silver claws erupted from the ends of his toes, thick bands of muscle adding to the breadth of his already well defined thighs.
Long, mobile ears sprang from beneath his hair, his face lengthening until it was no longer recognizable as human. Fragile whiskers sprang from his face, his nose twitching as his front teeth grew. Silver, as were the claws on his hands and feet, the teeth extended past his bottom lip. Rolling his shoulders and flexing his heavily muscled chest, he stretched to his full height; including the length of his ears, the enormous creature was just over eight feet tall. His golden eyes pierced the gloom as his transformation to his hybrid form—half man, half rabbit—was completed.
Rhochlan shook his head and took a deep breath as he fought to control the surge of rage inside of him. He struggled with his inner rabbit, the Were portion of his heart and soul that demanded an Alpha's justice. Thinking rapidly, he tried to place the faces in his dream, tried to reconcile the scenery as it had flown past his mind's eye. In a moment of clarity, the eyes of the woman that had been murdered stared directly at him...and he remembered looking into the eyes of a small boy the day before that were identical to them.