[OOC: All dialog, except for the encounter with Red, are from Magic Bleeds, I have simply changed the POV to Andrea's.]
I was settling in with Julie to wait in the Vault when Kate came by to say good bye. She had changed to fresher clothing and was all decked out for a night on the town, if taking on a pack of vamps was your idea of a night on the town. A leather vest protected her torse, some loose brown pants that none the less looked to be at least denim weight, jungle combat boots, a utility belt, knives, vambraces with silver needles and her sword on her back, the whole ensamble said more than badass, it said competent badass. I had to admit, even I would think twice before throwing down with her.
"Getting settled?" Kate asked us but I was pretty sure she was really asking Julie.
"Andrea has jerky and there is pizza," the kid replied in a wilted voice.
"I'm sorry you're mad at me. I brought you a book to read." Kate put the book on the table and Julie continued to ignore her. I carefully loaded my guns so as to give them what privacy I could. After a moment or two more, Kate crossed the room and hugged Julie, which surprised me. She didn't seem the touching type, but then kids bring out the weird in us all. "I'll be back soon, okay? Stay here. Andrea is very cool. You'll be safe with her. Who knows, I might come back with your mom."
"You think so?" Julie said, her frozen anger finally cracking.
"I hope so. I've got my sabre and I've got my belt."
"That's right, Barbara. Protect the cave while I'm gone." Kate said, not missing a beat. I couldn't help but crack a smile.
"Here. I'm not giving it to you," Julie said suddenly sober as she handed over a necklace with what looked like a bunch of coins strung on it. "I'm just letting you borrow it for a little while. You'll bring it back, right?"
"Right," Kate said, putting the necklace into a pocket under her leather. She looked at me and we nodded before she turned and left.
A few hours later and Julie was again beating my ass in Street Fighter when we heard a soft bang. We froze and looked at each other for a second before I turned and picked up a gun. I gestured for Julie to get over by the panic button and headed to the Vault's single door. A knock sounded, weak and barely audible but definitely something hitting the door. I reached for the sliding panel that covered the small window set in the door but looked over at Julie before opening it.
"Remember, if I act the slightest bit weird or something pushes through, you hit the panic button. Got it?" She nodded and held her hand over the button. I slide the window guard back and looked through to see a kid, a boy maybe Julie's age, covered in blood and laying on the floor with his back to me.
Julie couldn't see much but she must have seen enough cause she yelled, "Red! That's Red! We gotta help him, let him in!"
"Now hold on, calm down. Who's Red?" I said. As I spoke I got that feeling I get sometimes, right before a magic wave. If I was going to do anything with a gun, it had to be soon.
"He's my boyfriend! You gotta help him, you're a knight!" The kid was really losing it so I made my choice and opened the door. I held my P226 at the ready and looked first one way down the corridor, then the other before approaching the kid.
"Hey, Red. You awake?" I asked just as he rolled over and blew some sort of power into my face. I fired by instinct though my aim was off by whatever the hell the kid had just thrown in my face. Then the magic hit and I felt my bones wake up and stretch. I had just enough time to scream before the pain dragged me under.
I lay there I don't know how long, barely able to breath as my body fought with itself, when I realized someone was there. I turned my head but could only see out of my left eye as the other was blocked by a flap of skin. Still I recognized Kate. Thank whom ever will listen it was Kate and not one of the other knights returned. A spasm hit and I lost myself again for a few seconds before I was able to say, "Heeeeelp." With the word came other sensations; the wetness I was laying in, a breeze across my small intestines, the snap, crackle pop of my vertebrae as they grew and shrank.
"I'm going to take you to the hyena pack," Kate said and I panicked.
"No. Can't." I wanted to scream but forming those simple words was the best I could manage. As fucked up as my life was, I still wanted to live.
"Don't argue. We have no choice." Kate said as she set herself to lift me. She carried me through the Chapter's offices and out to a horse buggy. I could smell wolfsbane and not much else; wolfsbane was really good at masking scents which was why it was so popular. Setting me down carefully, Kate asked, "Julie?"
"Boy," I said fighting through another spasm as my neck tried to decide how long it needed to be. "Shaman boy. Took Julie."
I could see Kate's scowl of murder but all she said was, "Hang on for me. Stay alive," and turned to run back into the office. While she was gone, I reached up to the buggy's wall and managed to pull myself up maybe an inch before the spasms decided they were being too nice and called in the convulsions.
Over and over I tried to escape the wagon, only to have my own body betray me. Hours it seemed as Kate drove us from the heart of the city to the wooded lands belonging to the Pack.
I was floating, buoyed by the pain, when Kate's snarl, "She's dying!" broke through and I saw the face of an angle thrust inches from my own..
The angel looked frozen for a second before disappearing from my field of view. "Open the way!" A male voice called out.
"You forget yourself..." a female, not Kate, replied.
"She needs Mother now!" The male voice yelled back. "Drive!"
Strong arms picked me up and brought me back to the world. I cracked open an eye and saw my angel was back. He carried me to a house and I caught a brief glimpse of a nice, friendly old lady who took one look at me and jerked her head. "Inside," she said, her voice baked cookies and surgical steel. "You, too!"
I had no idea who she was talking to but I hoped it was Kate. It would be good to have one friendly face with me when I was torn to pieces.
My angel carried me to a huge marble tub, spilling sex toys and fruit, to lay me down in the warm water. He even stepped into the water with me and kept me afloat so I wouldn't drown. Which was good, as another seizure hit and I lost track of things.
"Who else knows?" I heard the cookies and steel voice say.
"She had a wolf with her," the female from outside said.
"Derek," a new voice said and it took me a moment to recognize Kate.
"Good. The boy will go straight to Curran. I can reason with Curran. It's our luck that the Bear is away. As long as none of the older guard find out, we'll be fine," Cookies and steel mused. The nice old lady, Aunt B my mind reminded me, came into my field of vision. "Stupid, stupid child," she said not unkindly. "You know what you are?"
I nodded and my body tried again to become what it knew, what I had prevented it from becoming for months now.
"It will go easier then. Strip her." Another female, the one who we met on the road if her scent was anything to go by, jumped into the tub and removed what bits of clothing still remained on me.
"You're going to gag, go outside," Aunt B told Kate before turning the weight of her full attention on me. "I will guide you into the beast form. Your face is turning gray. You know what that means, so concentrate if you want to live. Chest first. Picture two wings growing from your back. Large wings. Spread them, child. Spread them wide."
I heard the door slam as Kate ran.
My delirium was fading and I found myself resigned to my fate. I was a shapeshifter, a beastkin, and Kate had brought me to my doom though she thought she was saving me. I lay in the male bouda's arms as he carefully searched my skull while Aunt B and the other female talked me through to my beast form.
The bathroom door opened and I heard Kate's voice. "I have to go..." she said and Aunt B turned to look at her, revealing my beast self to Kate for the first time. Her voice trailed off as she looked me over.
"Found it," the male said and Aunt B held my head and said, "Do it." He pulled the shaman's charm from my skull; the charm that had inhibited my beast for for all these months and allowed me to serve the Order without fear of discovery. My senses immediately sharped to their true potential and I was surprised to smell little fear coming from Kate. The male leaned forward and lightly licked my neck, sending a shiver through me.
"I do believe Raphael's in love." The younger female bouda said. Figures, my angel had the name of a Renaissance artist.
"Kate? Where are you going?" I asked, my voice a little deeper and rougher in my beastform.
"Curran wants to talk to me. He sent Jim, and it's best I go."
I took a deep breath. I had to explain to her, she had to know what she was walking into. "I'm beastkin." Kate looked unimpressed and confused.
Aunt B spoke up. "Do you remember Corwin?"
"The catwere. He died protecting Derek," Kate replied.
"Corwin was a good person. He came here a lot."
"He liked to play," the female bouda added.
"Yes, he did. He was shooting blanks. No harm done," Aunt B said continuing to look at Kate.
"That's to be expected, the beastweres are sterile."
Aunt B's face stretched a bit. "Not always."
"Occasionally, very, very occasionally, they make babies."
I sighed as Kate was now getting it. "Sometimes babies survive."
"You're the child of a hyenawere?" Kate blurted and everybody winced.
"Yes," I said oddly relieved that someone knew. "I'm beastkin. My father was born a hyena."
"Does Ted know?"
"He might suspect, but he has no proof."
Kate shrugged. "I won't tell him if you don't. What happened to Julie?"
"Just like that?" the female bouda interrupted. "It doesn't bother you that she is a child of an animal?"
"No," Kate said simply. "Why should it? Anyway, what happened to Julie?"
Aunt B must have decided Kate still didn't understand so she added, "The Code says we're human first. We're born human; we die human. That is the natural form, the dominant form. We must assert it and set it above the beast, because that is the natural way."
"The beastkin are born beast," I said softly. "It follows that beast is our natural form, but as we grow, we lose the ability to become beast, because we're hybrid. Therefore I am an animal that's crippled at birth. Unnatural."
Kate rolled her eyes at all of us. "Andrea, you're my friend. I don't have many of those. How you were born, what you look like, what anybody else thinks, makes no difference to me. When I needed help, you helped me and that's all that matters. Now, can you please, please tell me what happened to my kid?"
In shock I twitched my nose and a nervous cackle slipped out before I choked it off. "A homeless boy came to the vault."
"Yes. Julie told me he was her boyfriend. He was covered in blood and he collapsed by the door. Julie went hysterical. I opened the door and he threw something at me, a powder. I carried a shaman charm in my skull to keep from turning. Usually I have no trouble, but the magic ran too high. Whatever he did..." I said and threw up my hands. "It interfered with the charm. I started turning but I couldn't finish. He grabbed Julie and dragged her out." I could tell Kate was seriously pissed, likely more pissed than I had ever seen her.
"Your sword's smoking," the female bouda said helpfully.
"It does that occasionally," Kate said, her voice flat.
Aunt B wasn't done yet though. She leaned forward. "By tradition, all beastkin are killed at birth. If any of the shapeshifters find out she's here, I'll have a mob at my doorstep."
Raphael licked his lips and said, "It might be fun."
Aunt B reached out and casually smacked him on the back of the head.
"Is that Curran's cat outside my door?"
"Yes," Kate replied.
"He's caught Andrea's scent by now and he'll report. You'll have to tell Curran something. It's better not to lie."
"I'll take that under advisement," Kate said and walked out.