Friday, March 13, 2015

"Yaltzee, Shift!" - Chapter 3

Yaltzee perched on Nadia’s shoulder in his owl form as she rode her hippogriff beside the Chimera’s wagon. His head rotated trying to take in all the action around him. He and Nadia had an agreement. He promised to sit quietly if she would let him remain uncaged. He hated being in a cage. It brought back too many memories from when he was young, because though he looked like a child to the others around him, he was the equivalent of a teenager in human years. Turlows aged very slowly even though in their base forms they looked like humans, their age was deceptive.

He nuzzled his head against her neck and then pecked gently on her cheek. She had spent all night with him in his cage. She was the first person in his life to just sit with him. She didn’t use the power of the collar even once and never demanded that he ‘shift’ at her command. When he didn’t speak to her, she talked to him softly and told him all about the circus he was to take part in. He knew the names of all the animals and trainers now. He had a very good memory. When she got tired last night she didn’t leave, instead she trusted him enough to fall asleep with her back against the bars in his cage.

She was still mistrustful and had slipped the key in the pouch at her waist. She even showed him where she put it, but she warned him she was a light sleeper and if he tried to get it she would know she couldn’t trust him. So, when she fell asleep he shifted into a puppy and curled up beside her. She felt his warmth in her sleep. She slid down and curled around him laying a comforting hand on his side. It was the most peaceful sleep he had in years.

Nadia felt his head bump and the soft touch of his bill on her cheek. She reached up and scratched the feathers on the top of his head with her free hand as she guided the hippogriff with leg signals. Her other hand held the black ball that controlled his collar. Even though he had not spoken to her, she trusted him enough to stay with her provided she had control of his collar. Nadia had mixed feeling about him. He behaved himself last night, but he was locked in a warded cage and killing her wouldn't have gotten him anywhere. She couldn’t afford to fully trust him just yet. If what they said about Turlows were true, he could turn into anything and there were a lot of things in The Realms that would rather eat you then look at you.

“What is he doing out?” Warren demanded with a growl. The werewolf was so pissed his hackles were standing up and his hippogriff mount shied beneath him at his tone.

The hippogriff was not the only one startled by the werewolf’s growl. Yaltzee launched off of Nadia’s shoulder and into the air. It was his owl form acting on instinct. The wolf was a predator and not to be trusted.

All Warren saw when the shifter took flight was the hard earned cash he had paid leaving. He caught sight of the black ball in Nadia’s open palm. He reached over to grab it, but Nadia closed her small hand over it protectively. It didn’t keep Warren from grabbing her fist and squeezing it hard enough to affect the ball.

Mid-air Yaltzee shifted from his owl form to human. He was at least ten feet off the ground. He fell like a stone.

“No!” Nadia shouted. She twisted her hand out of Warren’s grip. “You idiot!” she hissed.
She slipped off her mount and ran for Yaltzee lying motionless on the ground.

“Yaltzee,” she said softly. She fell to her knees and began to examine him for injuries. “What did you think you were doing?” she snarled at Warren as he rode up to her.

“I didn’t want him getting away,” Warren growled back. “I spent a lot of money for him. I intend to get return on my investment.”

“He wasn’t running away,” Nadia said with an exasperated huff. “You scared the hell out of both of us. He was startled. He would have come back.”

She placed the ball in the pouch at her waist to free both hands. She stroked the chestnut hair back from Yaltzee’s forehead.

“Yaltzee?” she cooed softly. “Give me your water bag,” she ordered Warren and held her hand up. When he didn’t respond fast enough she snapped her fingers at him impatiently.

Warren handed down his bag. One night and she was already attached to the Turlow. This was exactly as he suspected it would be. Nadia had a kind heart or the dragons would never have worked with her. They chose their companions. And they were companions rather than trainers. It would be the same with the Turlow. Let the shifter hate him as much as he liked, as long as he trusted and loved Nadia.

Nadia removed the scarf from her head and moistened the end with water so she could wipe Yaltzee’s brow. There was a cut on his forehead, but Warren could not see any other injury. Most likely he just got the wind knocked out of him.

Yaltzee sucked air into his lungs at the touch of the wet cloth on his brow. His eyes fluttered open. They were huge, round, golden orbs with black rings around the outer edge instead of white like a human’s. His pupils were another shade darker amber.

He pushed at Nadia and slid back away from her. In the blink of an eye he shifted into a massive lion with wings. A deep snarl broke into a roar that upset all the other animals in the circus train behind them. They all voiced their fear or challenge to the new beast in their midst.

Warren had to give the elfin half breed credit. Nadia didn’t even flinch, though his hippogriff mount took flight immediately in order to escape the beast that had appeared before them.

Warren watched from above as Nadia showed her empty hands to the beast Yaltzee had become.

“I didn’t do it,” she said. “It was Warren. He thought you were going to fly away.”

The huge lion roared again and shook his heavily maned head at her.

She stood and slowly approached him, talking the whole time. “We had an agreement. I don’t want to put you back in that cage, but if you keep acting like this Warren will make me.”

When she got within arm’s length of Yaltzee she reached out tentatively and stroked his nose. His eyes squinted shut and Warren could swear he saw a tear run down the lion’s cheek.

Nadia moved a little closer, all the time running her fingers through his mane and speaking so softly Warren could not hear from above what she was saying. When she got within reach of the lion’s neck she sunk her fingers deep in his mane and then gently looped her arms around him. He leaned in to her and Warren could hear a rumbling purr. The massive lion disappeared and Nadia was left holding a small golden stripped kitten in her arms.

“That’s it,” Warren said with satisfaction to himself. “Beauty and the Beast.”

Want to read about another Shape Shifter?
Check out Cody's stories - Shifting in The Realms and Shifting Agony & Ecstasy
Also available on Google play, Smashwords and their affiliates

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