9 Lives

“…for it’s within these animals that we find our salvation. Upon the crimson gaze as spoken by the raven, through ghastly times of lore, one will emerge as valiant. Witness the Eve of…”

Stopping his words, mid-sentence, the wiry, gray-haired old man held the stone against the dwindling evening daylight, trying to make out what the rest of the symbols meant. Finally, giving up and reluctantly passing the stone back to me, I realized I was left with more questions than answers about this mysteriously carved slab of granite placed back into my hands.

I raised my head and looked into my teacher’s wise gaze. “Thank you, Elder Nuit Thohm,” I responded. “Do you know what this means?”

The old man reached his knobby-fingered hand up to his chin and began stroking his wild-looking pepper gray beard. Taking a moment to reflect on the words he recited to me, I could see his mind working through many decisions as his eyes danced back and forth. After pausing for a few moments, his raspy, low voice bellowed the only answer he could think of.

“The Guardians are a superstitious people, ma`boy. Maybe you should find the the remaining pieces of that tablet. It would definitely help.” Having finished his thought with a whimsical tone at the end of his statement, he seemed amused. “Folk heard tale of others with them rocks, ma’boy. Seek the Tahn-dar clan by forest edge”, he continued.

Standing in front of the campfire, the darkness highlighted the margins of his wrinkled expression, giving him a creepy presence. The discontented growl of his Arati furred jaguar, aroused from its sleep as the old man turned to walk to his hut, seemed to add to the haunted aura surrounding the campfire once the Elder left.

I stood there a moment, next to the campfire with my tiger companion sitting, stoic and watchful, next to me. After examining the stone a bit longer, I looked at the firekeeper who was stoking the embers of the campfire and asked her what she thought of the the Elder’s words. Her toothless smile seemed to brighten against her soot-covered face as she shrugged blankly.

Calling to Trixis, my darkness furred tiger companion, I left the campfire and walked to my hut. Once I stepped into my adobe brick dwelling, I placed the tablet on the table next to my sleeping sack and nestled into bed. The thoughts of how I found this mysterious stone by Migrawl Creek, how it seemed to call to me until I found it, how I seemed to instinctively locate it through the weeds and the water, how it seemed to energize once I touched it, all seemed to flood my head in a flurry of chaotic visions. My mind was on fire, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep much that night. I almost had to force myself to sleep.

The darkness of the hut seemed to smother the campfire light as it pierced the windows of my small hut. I was awakened by the sound of Trixis growling. I hopped to my feet and quickly lit the candle next to my bed, calling out, “Who’s there!” before the candlelight filled the room. Once my eyes adjusted to the low lit room, I didn’t see a thing. I looked down and saw Trixis clawing at the air in her sleep. She was growling fiercely at something in her dreams and clawing ferociously. It wasn’t like her. I’ve never seen her do that before. Her sleepy ferocity caused a creepy feeling to course through my veins.

Unable to control the mounting fright that was crawling through my body, I reached down and tried to wake my tiger companion. “Trixis!,” I shouted. “Wake up!” Unresponsive to my commands and to my touch, I was beside myself trying to figure out what was wrong with her. I pulled my hand way from her and sidestepped to the opposite wall of the hut, trying to avoid her splayed claws as she viciously clawed at the air in her sleep.

A few moments passed, and Trixis kept clawing and biting at the air. All of a sudden, she stopped, stood up, and stared straight into my eyes while walking toward me as I stood by the opposite wall of the hut. Looking at her with fright building in my mind, my eyes witnessed her gaze change as she examined every move I made. Her once bright blue Azuren eyes became muted with a darker black hue, and the image of a Raven on a branch reflected back at me as I looked on in shock.

She stopped advancing toward me the second I witnessed her eyes change. I timidly reached toward her dark fur and scratched behind her ears, hoping to reassure the bond we shared between us. She responded by stretching her neck toward me, giving me access to her favorite scratching spot, indicating that I had my “old” Trixis back.

As soon as I reasserted the bond between myself and my companion, the tiny village seemed to erupt in noises. The clamoring of people rushing everywhere with torches lit only added more confusion to an already chaotic night. Calling for Trixis to follow me, I rushed to the door of my small hut and flung it open.

Knocked back in fright, I was shocked to see my friend, Quistis, already standing in front of my hut. Her extra large, Butte furred, Eastern Timber Wolf stood in the doorway blocking my exit. With a bright purple, ghostly-looking house reflected in it’s stony eyes, the large wolf glared back at me. “Down, Fenris!,” Quistis shouted as I advanced toward the door.

“What’s going on?,” I asked.

“Our companions,” she started. “Something’s changing them. Elder Thohm’s been injured!”

We rushed to the campfire where everyone else was gathering, our companions in tow. Once I sorted through the mass of bodies surrounding the circle, I witnessed Elder Thohm gasping for breath as he clutched the top of his shoulder, blood slowly oozing from between his tightened fingers. His dark, Arati furred jaguar was being restrained by other clan members, as it violently thrashed and gnarled at anyone within reach.

“Leave him!,” the Elder muttered. “Nuit De Sang!” As quickly as the Elder’s words escaped his lips, the jaguar stopped thrashing and calmed down. I watched as the men subduing the Jaguar lessened their grip, and a blood red scene washed over the reflection in his jaguar’s eyes, changing instantly.

Something eerie was happening.

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