So, I missed a week. I could not for the life of me figure out how to incorporate the word “sacrilege” into this story… But I’m back! Unlike last time I participated, I wrote this very early on in the week.
Also, fairly soon I’ll have a post which isn’t #BlogBattle, but for now, here’s another Menagerie installment. ^-^ Enjoy!
Netra’s first impulse was to go on the defensive. This eagle person was invading her mind and somehow talking to her where only she could hear.
Then disbelief. The Eagle had built this burning wall?
And distrust. Is he working for the Keeper?
The Eagle broke gaze and looked away, toward the forest. He hadn’t actually looked at the wall the entire time they were by it.
“I’m not working for the Keeper.” His voice said, in her mind, “But… I did, once,” he said, “I’m sorry.”
Netra was not entirely sure what he was apologizing for: working for the Keeper, or not working for him. Or talking in her head?
Altogether, Netra wasn’t sure what to think of the Eagle, but looking at the scar twisting up his arm, and her own throbbing palm, it made sense. And if he could speak in her mind, it was possible he had other strange abilities, too. Netra had read stories about this sort of person.
Slowly, she focused, and thought a question toward him as hard as she could. What does the Keeper want with us?
The Eagle flinched. Flinched. What had she said? Maybe it was the intensity of her thought.
Netra growled. Does that mean you won’t tell me?
“Guys.” Hazel said, bringing Netra’s attention to her, “We’ve got company.”
The Eagle’s head snapped up, and Netra had a brief fear that the Keeper was approaching.
Instead, it was a reddish-brown haired young man, probably a few years older than the Eagle, maybe nineteen or twenty.
Netra squinted, watching him duck out of the trees, but the wind was wrong for her to be able to smell much about him.
“Hey, you guys.” He said, flicking his hair from his eyes. “Trying to escape, are we?”
The Eagle was visibly more tense than he had been a few moments ago, and Hazel was rolling her eyes.
Netra raised her eyebrows.
He looked at her. “Oh, you’re new, aren’t you?”
As he stepped closer, Netra finally caught his scent, and honestly, it didn’t surprise her.
“My name is Martin,” he said, dropping to one knee in front of her with a weird half-smile, “At your service, beautiful. And you are?”
Netra was beginning to understand The Eagle’s hostility. Mute and not interested in talking with you anyway, cat.
The Eagle smiled wryly, obviously having heard her thought.
Netra frowned at him. Get out of my head.
He averted his gaze, a frown inching back in.
“She can’t talk.” Hazel broke in, “But her name is Netra.”
“Ah, Netra.” Martin said, as if savoring the name for a moment. Then his tone changed to conversational, and he stood. “Nice. I’m in the next room over from you, and might I say I’m impressed with your level of fight. Won’t take long to get rid of it, but it’s valiant while it lasts, eh?”
Martin took a step back, grinning and raising his hands. “Hey, hey, back off, wolf. I didn’t mean any harm.”
He glanced over toward the Eagle and his expression shifted, just the tiniest bit. It was hard to tell with a cat, but Netra was fairly certain he didn’t particularly like the Eagle.
“How’s it going, man?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “Still learning to fly again, eh?”
Netra was beginning to dislike this cat more and more every time he spoke. The Eagle’s wings being clipped was a terrible thing, and making fun of it was probably one of the worst things the cat could say.
Netra suddenly felt very protective of the Eagle, though she couldn’t say why. If what he said was true, he was the one keeping them in here. Why should she even care?
The Eagle’s expression was dark. “I’m doing just fine, thank you.” He said tersely. “Don’t you have someone else to bother?”
Martin made an expression of mock pain. “You wound me, Eagle. What have I ever done to you?”
Instead of answering, the Eagle turned away.
Martin tsked. “Sorry about that, ladies. The bird and I have our disagreements. Sort of a wall between us, you know?”
Netra’s gaze darted toward the wall beside her. Martin knew that the Eagle had built it. Probably knew more than Netra did, but there was no way she could get more information out of him.
First of all, he was a cat, and so he wouldn’t volunteer information. Secondly, Netra had no way to ask him, because there was no way that he would know her sign language, any more than Hazel or the Eagle would.
Martin cocked his head at her, raising his eyebrows. “You’re pretty high in the rankings, aren’t you?”
Netra frowned at him. What did he know of pack rankings?
“I’m going to guess Gamma.” He paused. “Too high? Delta, then.”
Apparently he knew at least some. Netra nodded a little bit, slowly.
He inclined his head in a half-bow, raising his hands, and rapidly signed a phrase. “You outrank me, Delta.”
Netra’s eyes widened. How could a cat know the hand language of a wolf clan?
“How do you know sign?” She signed back, her brow furrowing.
He grinned, mildly triumphant. “We cats have our ways.”
Hazel was staring at them with a weird expression. “What are you doing…?”
Martin turned toward Hazel. “Talking, sweet lady. What are you doing?”
Hazel blushed a little bit. “Uh. Watching you.”
So apparently she fell for his fake charm. Lovely.
Netra frowned at Martin. “Can you tell me why the Keeper is keeping us here?”
He smirked. “Because he’s a Keeper. It’s his job.”
Martin shrugged off his joke with another wry smile. “He’s sucking out your energy. Like a vampire or something. We shifters have more energy than most, so he gets it from us.” He glanced toward the Eagle. “With a little help.”
So the Eagle was still helping the Keeper.
Martin must have seen her expression darken, because his expression shifted a little, though he never dropped his smile. “Aye. You know, don’t you?” He said aloud.
Netra hesitated. She knew part of it, but if there was more, it would be a good thing to know.
She started to answer, but the Eagle turned back. “Get lost, cat. You’ve made your point.”
Martin gave him a mildly condescending smile. “I was just leaving anyway.”
He turned to Netra. “I’m sorry.” He signed, raising his eyebrows.
“Sorry for what?”
He walked backward toward the woods. “Sorry you have to share a room with the mini-Keeper.”
Then he turned, shifting into a sleek reddish panther, and darted away. Netra barely had enough time to wonder if he was afraid of the Eagle before Hazel stepped in front of her, talking.
“You can talk with your hands? That’s so cool!”
Netra turned her gaze on the Eagle instead. Take it down. She thought, fiercely.
He pursed his lips, obviously knowing what she was referring to, and glanced after Martin. “I can’t.”
You made it, take it down!
He looked at her, and she drew back. There was something… something in his eyes that reminded her of the Keeper. Something she couldn’t place, but it scared her.
Netra, forth from the top in her pack, was scared of a bird.
That wouldn’t do.
She couldn’t stay here, as a prisoner. It would drive her mad. And the Eagle, whether he was currently working with the Keeper or not, could let her get out. Why wouldn’t he? Was he scared of the Keeper stopping them?
Netra growled. She had to get out. Let me out, she thought, or I’ll make you.
The Eagle met her gaze, and there was a flicker of anger. “Try.”
Netra shifted to wolf form, crouching. Was he challenging her?
“Netra, what are you doing?” Hazel asked, her voice nervous.
Would you like to reconsider that? Netra asked, glaring at the Eagle.
He turned away. “I’m not letting you out, Netra.”
Netra sprang. The Eagle pivoted, his wings flaring behind him, and sharp pain shot through Netra’s mind.
She fell hard against the ground where the Eagle had been before he stepped back. Her muscles were weak, and her head was pounding with dark, hot pain. She struggled to draw in a breath.
Someone was pulling her up. “What were you thinking, Derek?” Martin’s voice shouted, a bit distant.
Netra curled into a ball, squeezing her eyes shut as every fiber of her body hummed with pain.
“Netra?” Hazel called. “Netra!”
Netra took a deep breath and remembered the Keeper.
“This,” he had said, “Is what will happen if you disobey. Do you understand me, wolf?”
Unconsciousness was closing in, and Netra realized she was being carried.
“You’re an idiot, Derek.” Martin said from somewhere above her.
Netra had just enough time to wonder who this Derek was, and then blackness took over.