Authors: J. Lilley
“Dad, he was just nice to me—friendly. Yeah he’s way cool; and he’s got a great bod—well, what I could see of it; and all the girls fancy him; but as for me … I need friends here, and both he and Leira could be that.” She listened to see if there were any smart comments in her mind this time; there weren’t.
Is it the water; or the fact the fairies are supposed to live up a nearby hill? I’d better check what I eat and drink a lot more carefully from now on.
“Hmm,” her dad didn’t sound convinced. “Okay, if you say so. I trust you chicken, but I don’t know him; therefore, what I said still stands; no contact—great
or not.” He half smiled at her as he said it, but she knew he was serious.
Now she did feel bad. “Argh, not chicken dad—I’m fifteen; next year I’ll be sixteen.”
“And your point is?” His voice sounded strange; sort of scratchy and worried.
She didn’t really have a point, but she wanted to tease him. “I’ll be old enough to get married; have sex.” She watched his face go white. “Just kidding,” she added hastily, “I’m not interested—not for years and years. D’you know there’s a girl in the year above me who’s engaged?”
change the subject before he faints or something; so not a good topic; better do damage limitation or whatever it’s called.
“Stupid or what? Leira was telling me. I mean okay, if you meet someone and think they’re the one, fine. But hey, see life first, I’m going to; Gap year, uni; there’s so much to do and see.”
“And loads of time,” he added. “Talking of time, I’d better get dinner on; ready in half an hour.”
Rach nodded, glad to have the subject of Brios dropped. “I’ll go and get changed.”
As she climbed the stairs she wondered what Brios was doing. She really liked him; he’d been great to talk to, and she couldn’t help but notice how fit he was. He had a great butt; and judging by the way he walked she’d bet anything he was a good dancer. To be honest, she’d seen how the other girls had eyed him up, and it had given her a kick when he’d spoken to her.
As well as that spooky zappy feeling when he touched me. Static electricity, he said. I must ask dad about it… er, maybe not, especially after the—I don’t fancy him—bit.
She wondered if this was how you felt when you fancied someone; because if it was, she had a sneaking suspicion she might just feel like it a lot when Brios was around.
He’d said something strange when he’d greeted his sister.
What was it? Oh yeah, ‘Our Gods and Us.’ How cool is that? Much nicer than bye, or see you.
She thought it would give her a warm, safe feeling if Brios said it to her.
She wondered what he was doing.
He was doing press-ups on his bedroom floor. He was also doing his best not to search for Rach, or look into her thoughts; but he felt that she was thinking of him. How or why she was getting through to him he didn’t know; and he was too responsible and conscious of his position in the Shalean hierarchy to probe. Apart from that, there was also that niggle of a togetherness that he didn’t dare explore.
Be honest Bri
, he told himself as he puffed and controlled his breathing,
you know you want her as a friend—for now—and more later
He thought she felt the same way; it was a pity her dad didn’t. Something had upset him when they met, and Brios didn’t think it was the fact he’d been late and they’d waited with Rach. Because surely, if anything, her dad should have been relieved to know that she wasn’t alone in a strange place; that she had friends who looked out for her.
Mr. Connor had really jumped when he’d introduced himself to him.
‘Why is dad being so weird?’
The thought jumped into his head.
It was Rach; he was sure of it, and he was certain she didn’t know what she was doing. He knew he had to talk to her and find out what was going on. Why didn’t she know she was Shalean? She definitely had Shalean blood in her, and it was strong.
‘He’s worried about you.’
He waited, but nothing came back. So she definitely didn’t know she was projecting to him. That might cause a few problems unless he did the responsible thing and blocked her. But, he wanted to feel close to her; know what she felt about him—about them. She might be underage now, but that wouldn’t be true forever.
“Brios? Shall we run?” He’d been so deep in thought he hadn’t heard Leira come up to him. She walked like a cat naturally, but he usually had keen enough senses to know when anyone was close—usually. It wasn’t like him to close them off. Ever since he’d been little his senses had been getting better and better. Rach was really messing with his head.
He stretched slowly, enjoying the ripple in his muscles, and the power that ran through him. He looked out of the window. It was still light and easy for people to see and freak out at what they saw; but, it was their own land they would run across so there shouldn’t be any problems.
“Mum says dinner in an hour, so we have time to ‘lose the grumpiness’ according to her. Dad should be home by then as well. So?” Leira stood in the doorway. Already her eyes were changing shape and he saw the hope there. She needed this as much as he did.
“Let’s go.” He shivered and the air around him swirled silver mist and rainbows as his skin shimmied and shook. His dad called it the ‘shimmer-zone’; it was sort of like a curtain around you. It was said Shaleans were unique in this. His body stretched, elongated and changed. Instead of bronzed skin, there was glossy fur; the spots proud and bold.
An older, more highly placed Shalean always helped and guided a less experienced Shalean through sensing and shifting until they were comfortable with their gifts. Usually, the shifting didn’t happen until the person was mature. In some cases, such as with Leira and him, things had started at a much younger age. This was a sign of their status; their position in the Sept.
There were several Chapters of Shaleans living in the Scottish countryside and even one in Australia. All held different levels of power, and all were directly responsible to the Great One. His Chapter was the Great One, and their power was absolute. When he became Patriarch he would guide and watch over many Chapters.
He knew if he ever did take a partner she’d need to be Shalean; for she’d become Matriarch and almost as powerful as he; another thing to worry about. Not the power—Shaleans have always believed in equality. The head of the Sept was as likely to be a Matriarch as a Patriarch. In fact, Asheleya, a friend of his grandmothers had been Matriarch before his dad—but, he had no idea how other Shaleans would accept a Matriarch who was only half Shalean; to say nothing of how her dad would feel. If he had never mentioned it to Rach, he must have very strong views about the Sept—negative views.
He looked towards Leira. She was also altered, albeit her spots were not so pronounced. The saying ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’ didn’t refer to Shalean shifters. His would be brighter and more assertive the nearer he came to being Patriarch.
Leira’s would also change, and when she mated her spots would become identical to those of her mate. Although knowing Leira, he thought as they left the house, if and when she did choose to be part of a couple she would demand that her partner’s spots change, not hers. Feminist was an understatement.
Female Shaleans were very assertive in some areas; like whether they accepted their mate or not. The choice was always theirs, and they could not be swayed or persuaded.
He led the way across the wide expanse of grass behind the house and into the woods beyond. Shala, their mum, waved as they loped passed her studio at an easy pace. He slowed to let Leira catch up. She was still new to shifting and could become over eager and hurt herself if he didn’t watch out for her.
The leopard in him reveled in the freedom of feeling the air rushing past and feathering his fur into whorls. This was when he came alive. As he lengthened his stride, but still kept an easy pace for his sister, he read her thoughts to him.
‘I love it, Bri. I used to watch you and be so envious. I was so pleased to become a woman and experience this.’
‘This is our heritage. Why do you think Rach chooses not to embrace it?’ Brios wondered what Leira would say.
‘Perhaps she doesn’t know?’
Since Brios was determined not to probe into Rach’s mind, he had no idea how much Rach knew about her heritage or her gifts. As he ran along the well-known tracks between the trees, the sunshine dappled the leaves and warmed his fur. He wondered if perhaps she
know anything about her Shalean blood. Presumably her dad knew something? He’d been jolted by the name Parde, and then became distinctly less friendly; so, why not tell Rach? It was something to think about—later; for now, the thrill of his freedom needed addressing.
‘Let’s stretch and see how much we can do.’
He heard Leira’s assent and leaped forward. Now they were really moving. The trees blurred, and seemed to melt together. This was part of them; part of their heritage and their lives. That feeling of speed, exhilaration and freedom was guaranteed to bring his Shalean senses to the fore and expand his knowledge of everything to do with his Sept even more. He had no idea why, but after a shift and stretch—as his dad called it—he always felt much more in tune with his Shalean self. His dad had told him it was a way of helping him accept his future. When he first started shifting he hadn’t understood what he’d been told, but now he did. When he became Patriarch life would change, but he knew he would have all the help and guidance he needed from past Patriarchs and Matriarchs within him. He would just need to look inside and trust those long dead guides. These runs helped him do that.
Brios began to slow down as the river came into view. He was pleased to see Leira had obeyed his unspoken command and followed suit, gradually reducing her pace.
He heard her frustrated, annoyed growl and laughed. Donny sat along the river’s edge. The sun reflected him into the water—all leopard.
‘Did you tell him?’ she asked fiercely.
‘No need, he can read you.’
She veered suddenly and jumped around him; her fur standing on end as she stood with all four legs rigid, and faced Donny.
‘Why? Why? I’m
‘Not yet.’ Was the snarled reply from the leopard on the rock. He stretched, unconcerned and rearranged his body to absorb more sun.
Her shriek was pure Shalean. ‘Not now, not ever. Get used to it. I am never going to be subservient, or anyone’s mate.’
be partners.’ Donny was definite. Brios thought his tone was so sure that he knew Leira would fly off into a temper; and she did.
‘In your dreams. There’s too much for me to see and do without being stuck with someone.’
‘Not only in my dreams, Leira, in my reality—in our reality. You can go and follow your dreams, but eventually you’ll come back to me; and if you leave too long…’ Brios saw the gleam in his friend’s eyes. ‘Then, I’ll come for you.’
Brios smirked. Donny was so positive it would happen, and Leira was equally as positive it wouldn’t.
His growl of humor was cut short as his mind received a message.
‘What the heck is up with dad? Why isn’t he telling me what’s worrying him?’
Rach—Trying to get her dad to talk, and coming through to him without him asking. The link between the two of them must be really strong. He opened up his mind to absorb better. If she had broken through to reach him, unwittingly or not, he knew it must be important.
Does she know I can hear her? Duh Brios
, he shook his body with a feline shrug that made his fur dance wildly
, of course she doesn’t
Something was definitely bothering her.
‘Please Dad, I know something’s wrong. You’ve been weird ever since you met Brios and Leira. They seem nice, so what’s the problem?’
That’s what he wanted to know. Brios waited, but sensed nothing more. He growled in frustration.
He looked across to the river where Leira and Donny were now happily splashing water over each other’s pelts, Leira having forgotten her earlier snit. He suspected if they did get together as Donny prophesied it wouldn’t be easy going for him. Leira was strong-willed and had very definite ideas about what she wanted; Donny was the same. The fact his friend came across as easy going, and seemed not to bother to assert himself sometimes was just a front for the real Donny; the determined, hard-working, tough, kick-ass-when-necessary Donny. The side of him that he didn’t show to many people, but whom Brios suspected Leira was going to have to get used to.
They weren’t paying any attention to him, just to each other.
And Leira reckons she isn’t interested in Donny. Huh, and I’m not Shalean!
Suddenly he’d had enough. So much was happening. Rach turning up at school; exams; and only yesterday his dad hinting it was time for his training in the Sept to move up a level. He needed to have space to himself to think about it all.