“My soul is in no jeopardy, but thank you.”
Micah grabbed his arm in an iron, unshakable grip. He turned Raven so they met eye to eye. “Hear me well, Boy. This is not a good thing. Nor is it a small, inconsequential one. You are a human, turned werewolf, who has now had vampire blood. I don’t know of another man who’s had the same—and lived.”
“What?” Raven shook off Micah’s hand. “Explain.”
“Our kind,” he pointed to himself and Payter. “We age eventually, though much more slowly than humans. You’d not know to look at me that I’m over a hundred, and Payter’s in his eighties. Some of the more vain decided to approach a vampire of their acquaintance. Asked for a blood exchange—some vamps fancy our blood, though many disdain it.”
“They like pure were blood more than shifter,” Payter said. “But the results are similar for them. They like to be able to shift, and not all of them have that power.”
Raven nodded, completely out of his depth. His knowledge, heretofore, of werewolves and vampires had been myths and legends—horror stories told to frighten children into behaving. Never, in his wildest dreams, had he thought such creatures were real. He said as much to his friends.
“This is hard for me to credit,” Raven muttered. “Though I stand here, a man who has changed with the moon’s pull. And now, you think me vampire, too?”
“Hard to say,” Micah sniffed him. “But you don’t smell pure blooded were-kind anymore. There’s another scent, earthy…. And death, though not dead. Can’t explain it. But the proof is in the pudding. If you don’t change tomorrow night, we’ll know there’s something amiss.”
“Why wouldn’t I change?”
“As a vampire, you are able to control how you change, and when. Handy, if you live in town. But the success of such a transformation can be—risky.”
“What do vampires get from werewolves?”
“The ability to shift their shape. They are limited to things like wolves or bats, but some can even transform into birds—like vultures. Things that hunt and kill. It makes them more adaptable. For us, we have more freedom, not subject entirely to the moon’s call—though that might not all go away. Can’t say for certain. Everything I know is rumor. But we become ageless. That of itself is enough to make people take the risk. If she succeeded, you are immortal. If she didn’t….”
“I’ll die horribly tomorrow night?”
“Probably. We never know for certain, until you make the change.”
“And if I am both were and vampire?”
“Then we’ll take action from there.”
“Action?” That sounded ominous.
“You’ll have no home with us,” Payter said. “You are our friend, but the vampire kind have always subjugated our kind. Though you might not want to, you would do so, after a time.”
“You’d always be welcome to visit,” Micah added kindly. “But you’d have to find another home.”
Sudden, deep sorrow filled Raven. He had, for the first time in his life, found a place he’d belonged. It wasn’t something that he’d ever had before. He’d been part of things, like the ship’s crew or the army, but had always been set apart. Finding Micah and Payter had been a great joy. Even finding that he was a werewolf had, strangely, pleased him. He’d felt at home the short time he’d been with these men. Now, because of something beyond his control, he was on the outside again. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried. Sometime in his youth? But he wanted to now.
The day passed with each man lost in his own thoughts. The following day was much the same, though all men could feel the moon’s tug. Raven’s stomach curled in knots as dusk approached. He and his friends took their refuge in the cave, making a simple meal as they waited for the moon to rise.
Raven could sense when Luna made her upward voyage. His skin tingled, not unpleasantly, and things looked and smelled different. His friends doffed their clothing, folding it neatly before going outside. He did the same, following them to a grove. The sky above was clear, allowing the light of the moon to touch them for the first time. The silver blue bathed their skin, illuminating each hair.
Payter grunted, falling on all fours. Micah leaned over, placing his hands on the ground as his body shivered. Hair sprouted on both men, covering them, as their limbs changed shape and configuration. All Raven felt was a wild elation, a trembling of joy, that filled him to the brim, spilling over into the night. The moonlight still tugged at him, but he didn’t feel the compulsion to change. Instead, he felt refreshed by its silky rays.
Their transformation complete, his friends moved away from him, distancing themselves. Ashamed and disappointed, Raven lowered his head, walking back to the cave. He dressed, returning to the hut, gathering his belongings. He left a note, thanking them for their generosity, and set off—once more alone.
The salt laden wind whipped in off the water, blowing his black locks around his head. His coat billowed around him like a storm cloud. He walked far into the night, before deciding to stop. Though he wasn’t tired, or particularly hungry, he found a pretty cove along the coast, and wanted to enjoy it for a time. Building a fire, he cooked a simple meal, ending with an herbal tea his friends had given him. Settling in for the night, he lay with his head on his pack, his great coat wrapped around him. Lulled by the wind and waves, he fell into a dreamless sleep.
©2021 Dellani Oakes