Shifter – Chapter one

 

Chapter 1

 France, August, 1793

The flickering moonlight trickled down through the trees and formed shadows on the fur of the black and silver wolf as he nuzzled and licked his companion’s head and face. Suddenly his head raised, his ears alert and listening.

The voice of Marrok Del Sol’s mother sounded inside his head. “Run, Marrok. Do not come home. Hide.”

Fast on the heels of that came his father’s voice. “Go. Get Jacques and the others.”

The wolf sat up on his haunches. Marrok knew he could traverse the distance home faster in the air than on land. The form of the wolf blurred. His front legs became wings and his back paws turned into talons. An owl lifted itself from the forest floor and flew north toward the Del Sol estate. It landed on a branch of an oak tree and watched as the family was herded into a cart by a group of roughly-clad men. Marrok recognized the leader as Yves Dupre whom his sister brought home a few months ago. Both he and his father distrusted Dupre as soon as they met him. He was rough talking and wore cheaply-made clothing, not all the type Nicolette usually fell for.

Marrok again heard the telepathic voice of his father. “I know you’re close, Marrok. Get out of here. You can’t do anything alone. Get Jacques.”

He knew his father was right. He didn’t stand a chance against so many. He watched as his sister pleaded with Dupre.

“Yves, why are you doing this? I thought you loved me. You proposed marriage.”

“Marry you?” he sneered. “You’re a monster. Your whole family is nothing but monsters. I only got close to you to prove the stories my cousin told me about your family when you came here five years ago were true, tales about people who do not age and who turn into animals at the full moon. Your grandfather and father look no older than your brother, and when I saw the old lady transform herself into a cat, I had my proof. Now tell me where your disgusting brother is?”

“I do not know.”

Yves backhanded her and she fell to the ground. “You do know. Tell me and I might let you go.”

“I do not know where he is. He likes to roam at night, especially during the full moon.”

Dupre barked orders. “Watch them closely. They can turn into animals without warning. Claude, Pierre, you stay here and watch for the brother.”

He and the others mounted their horses and headed for Paris with the cart. The owl flew north toward Amiens. As dawn broke, a dozen hawks flew back toward Paris. One by one, they landed in an alley, shifted into rats and blended into the shadows. Before they could plan a rescue attempt, the cart carrying the Del Sol family approached. The rats watched as they were led to the guillotine. Anyone who looked closely would have been startled to see tears in the eyes of rats.

Marrok heard his father’s voice as his head was placed on the block.

“Marrok, I know you’re here. Get out of France. Go to my brother, Henri, in Boston, Ahmeerka.”

“Not until Dupre pays for what he’s done.”

“Be careful my son.”

* * *

Marrok watched Dupre move into the Del Sol home and proceed to remove everything of value. He watched every move Dupre made. Sometimes he was a robin that followed Dupre as he rode between the Del Sol estate and Paris. Often, he was an extra chicken in the yard as Dupre walked around the grounds. As  mouse, he peeked out of a hole in a wall in the dining room.

Even though Marrok’s father and grandfather always stressed they were not to use their powers against humans, his need for revenge burned in his heart. His chance came four months later.

A pack of wolves lead by a large black and silver male appeared in the middle of the road in front of Yves Dupre and two friends. Their horses spooked.  One of the riders shot and hit the small black wolf before his horse bolted. Dupre’s horse reared, and he fell from its back. Dupre sat up and raised his pistol. The leader of the wolves crouched and sprang. His weight knocked Dupre back to the ground. He screamed in pain as powerful jaws snapped the bone in his wrist and sharp fangs dug deep into the flesh. He tried to push the wolf away as it released his arm and lunged for his throat. The wolf was careful not to sever the jugular vein. As Dupre lay moaning in pain, the wolf stood over him snarling. It raised itself on its haunches. Front legs became arms, back legs lengthened, paws became feet and its face became human.

“Del Sol!” Dupre exclaimed.

“Yes, Dupre,” Marrok said caustically. “You caused the death of my family of monsters. Now you will become one of us. You will have no choice. When the moon shines full each month, you will transform into a wolf. You will have no one to guide you through your transformation or teach you how to control it.

“You will remember and regret what you did. As one of us, you will have many years to reflect on your error. There will be only two ways you can die. One is the way you killed my family, by cutting off your head. The other is if I kill you. I have that power since I made you. My grandfather was over 500 years old when you took his life. Enjoy eternity as a monster.”

Marrok turned and knelt by the body of the black wolf. Tears fell as he stroked its head. “Au revoir, mon amour. Mayhap someday we will meet again.” The man again became wolf, and the pack ran.

* * *

September 21, 1794

Marrok paced the deck of the ship as it approached the Boston harbor. Although he would be forty-nine in two days, he looked no more than twenty. The only sign of his age was the silver streaks in his black hair. However, they had been there since he was born. Tomorrow would be third full moon since the ship left France and the Autumnal Equinox. He was restless. He was born under a Super Harvest Moon and the combination strengthened the moon’s pull on him. Although he knew how to ignore the moon, he yearned to shift and run as the animal inside him clawed at the restraints of his human body. He had the capability to shift into almost any animal, but the wolf was his favorite.

He looked forward to leaving the ship. For the last three months, he shared a cabin with the three other single men aboard. Two young Mademoiselles intent on pursuing their goal of becoming Madame Del Sol also tried his patience in the ship’s confines.

Thoughts of the new land made him anxious. Ahmereeka is a big place. How will I find Oncle Henri? All I know is Oncle Henri lives in Boston. I haven’t seen him for over twenty years. I don’t even know if he received my letter?

As the sailors lowered the gangplank, Marrok’s eyes filled with tears. The man on the dock looked so much like his father it could only be Uncle Henri. A young boy danced with excitement beside him, and the child’s voice carried to Marrok.

“Do you see him, Papa? Do you see cousin Marrok? Which one is he?”

Marrok stepped onto the dock and was immediately engulfed in the arms of his uncle. “Welcome to Ahmereeka, nephew. I hope your trip was not unpleasant.”

“Only the length of it, Oncle. I am sure it will take a while to become used to solid ground after the rolling of the deck.”

“We expected you to come sooner. I have met every ship from France since your letter came.”

“There was unfinished business to be taken care of before I could leave France.”

The boy pulled his father’s coattails. Henri smiled and said, “Forgive me. I forgot to introduce your cousin, Rudolph.”

The child bowed. “Welcome, cousin Marrok.”

Marrok bowed back then looked into eyes so much like his own. The scent of the animal within the child overpowered the human smells. Marrok raised an eyebrow and asked, “He’s half human, but shifts?”

“Please,” Henri looked around as he replied. “We will discuss it later. Do you have luggage?”

“Not much.” Marrok picked up a small bag. “It was dangerous for me to try to remove things from the house. I had to leave most behind.”

Rudolph led the way to a carriage waiting by the dock. A young man in his mid-twenties held the bridals of the horses.

Henri introduced him. “Marrok, this is Potreek Donavan. He was indentured to me for five years, but has stayed past his time. He is very good with the horses. As you know, it takes a lot of training for horses to trust us.”

“Oui. They do not like our scent. It makes it difficult to go places.”

Patrick held out his hand. “Tis glad I am to be meeting you, milord. The missus has been worried about you ever since himself got your letter.”

Marrok looked into Patrick’s twinkling green eyes. He felt an immediate sexual attraction as their hands touched. “Merci, Potreek. I am glad to meet you.” He chuckled. “But I’m not a lord, at least not in this country.”

“Good luck with that, Marrok,” Henri said. “I’ve been trying for eight years to convince him we don’t have lords here.”

Patrick helped Rudolph step up into the carriage.

Marrok lowered his voice. “Does Potreek know of us?”

“Oui. He discovered it about a year into his service. He is very loyal.”

On the way out of town, Henri explained a bit to Marrok. “You asked about Rudolph’s shifting. Even in this country we have to be careful about being overheard. It is not far to Salem where so many were executed as witches. But, yes, he and his younger sister shift even though their mother is human. You will not find many of our kind in this new world. It will not be easy for you to find a wife here.”

“No problem there, Oncle. I have no interest in marrying any time soon.”

Henri nodded and said, “Your letter did not have many details. Tell me what happened.”

Marrok explained about Dupre courting Nicolette just to discover their secret and how they were sent to their deaths without trial. “Jacques, his sons and I had no chance to rescue them.”

“You took care of Dupre?”

Marrok’s smile did not reach his eyes as he answered. “Oui. He will live to regret his actions.”

As they pulled into the drive of the house, the door opened and a small girl ran out. “Papa. Papa.”

Henri picked her up and held her close. He put her down and turned her toward Marrok. “Ariane, say bonjour to your cousin Marrok.”

The child curtsied. “Bonjour, cousin. Welcome.”

Marrok smiled. “Merci, cousin. I thank you for your welcome.” He looked at Henri questioningly. “You have my maman’s name.”

“Oui, she is named for your mother. You may not know your father and I were both in love with Ariane. She chose him.” He turned to the plump woman descending the steps of the house. “But, I have been lucky. I have my Prudence.”

As she got nearer, Marrok realized part of her plumpness was caused by the child in her womb. She held her arms open for Marrok. “Welcome, nephew.”

Marrok stepped into her arms and she drew him to her. “We were so saddened to hear of your loss.  Please consider this your home as long as you need it.”

“Merci, Tante.”

Marrok stepped back and Prudence instructed Rudolph. “Take your cousin’s things and show him where he is to sleep.”

“Oui, Maman.”

She turned back to Marrok. “I am sorry we cannot offer you your own room. You will share with Rudolph.”

“Tante Prudence, I am just happy to be with family. A stall in the barn would be an improvement over the ship. Before that, my room was a cave in the woods.”

* * *

At dinner, Marrok was slightly surprised to see Patrick join them. He was not used to servants dining with the family. Conversation centered on Henri’s plan to move west in the Spring.

“I have been here nearly thirty years. People are already commenting on the fact I look as young now as I did when I came here.”

“Oui. Papa and Grandpere were the same. They never liked to stay in one area too long. Where do you plan to go?”

“There is land to be homesteaded in the northern Pennsylvania up around Lake Erie.”

“That sounds good. Mountains around?”

“Yes, the Allegheny Mountains and the Allegheny River. We could each start a homestead. What I would like to do is find several places we could rotate around every few years. Maybe you and I each stake out a claim there for about twenty years then move further west.”

Marrok looked at Patrick. “Oncle Henri said you know what we are? Do you plan to go with him?”

“I discovered shortly after I became indentured to your uncle. He assured me I was safe, that he is not a werewolf, but he is immortal and will outlive all of us.” Patrick answered. “I have nothing to hold me here and your uncle has been good to me.”

“So, how did you come to be indentured to my uncle?”

“When I arrived in America, I owed the ship’s captain for my passage. Your uncle paid him and I agreed to work until I paid him back. When the time was up, I stayed on. It is a good job and a good place to live.”

“Why did you leave Ireland?”

“Well now, and that is a story not for young ears.” Patrick’s voice had a lilting quality to it that Marrok found thrilling.

“Maybe you will tell it later.” Marrok looked into Patrick’s eyes and again felt drawn to him. He turned to his uncle. “Oncle, is it safe to shift and run around here? I would like to get some exercise after the ship.”

Rudolph asked excitedly, “May I go with you, cousin Marrok?”

Marrok looked at Henri. “That would be up to your father.”

“Why do we all three not go?” Henri asked. After all, we would not want cousin Marrok to get lost so soon after he arrived, would we?”

“Me go too?” asked Ariane excitedly.

“Not this time, ma petite.” Henri tasseled the child’s hair.

The young girl looked chestfallen.

“You stay with Maman and keep her company,” her father continued.

* * *

The three men and the boy entered the barn. Several horses snorted at the scent of the shifters. The three removed their clothing. Marrok and Rudolph both shifted into wolves while Henri shifted into an owl. Rudolph ran out of the barn and Marrok followed. Henri flew overhead. Small animals scurried out of their path. Marrok scented deer in the forest along with other wild game.

They ran about a mile to a small stream. Marrok stepped into the stream and rolled in the cool water. It felt so good after three months of bathing from a bowl. Soon the three tired and returned to the barn.

When they shifted back to human form, Marrok said, “If you do not mind, Oncle, I think I will stay outside for a while.”

“That will be fine. Just be quiet when you come in. Do not wake your Tante, she tires easily with the child.”

Henri and Rudolph left. Marrok shifted back into wolf form. He walked around outside the barn to a haystack where he lay down with his muzzle on his paws. He saw Patrick come out of the barn.

* * *

Patrick watched from his room in the barn as the men and boy came back from their run. He saw Marrok shift into human form and marveled at his well-formed body. When Marrok shifted back into wolf form, he followed him. Patrick walked over and sat by the wolf. He heard Marrok’s voice in his head.

So, Potreek, you are not afraid of me?”

Patrick frowned. “How can I hear you,” he asked.

“It is a trait of our kind. Humans cannot usually hear us unless we want them to. Has not Oncle Henri ever spoken to you this way?”

“No. He normally does not stay in animal form. He just changes back to human.

“Well, we are alone now. Tell me why you left Ireland.”

“I am the only son of ten children.” Patrick said. “When my father discovered I prefer men to women, he was very upset. He told me to leave and never come back. I traveled to Dublin and caught a ship for America. I told your uncle soon after I came here. I wanted him to understand Rudolph is safe around me. I like men, but not little boys.”

“I know what you mean. My papa was not too happy with me either, but he understood some men are born different whether they be human or shifter.”

Marrok stood and shifted back to human. Patrick stood. Marrok reached out, placed his hand on Patrick’s shoulderand kissed him. He had been alone since Dupre’s man killed the black wolf who was his lover.

When the kiss ended, Patrick took Marrok’s hand. Golden eyes looked deep into green ones. Neither man spoke as Patrick turned toward the barn and led Marrok to his room in a converted stall.

* * *

Marrok lay holding the smaller man. Patrick’s head rested on Marrok’s shoulder.

“Marrok, will you answer questions for me?”

“Oui. What do you want to know?”

“I have seen himself shift wearing his clothes, yet tonight the three of you got naked first.”

“I do not know about Rudolph because he is half human, but Henri and I know how to transform our clothing to fit our animal form. But, it is easier to not have to bother with clothes. If I am traveling and plan to not come back, I will shift with my clothes so as not to arrive somewhere naked.”

“So your clothes change with you?”

“Somewhat. They shrink or grow with us as needed. It is hard to deal with clothes in animal form, especially if one has to relieve oneself.”

Patrick laughed. “It would be funny to see a wolf try to unbutton trousers. Earlier I said himself told me he was immortal. If that is true, how did your parents die?”

“The only way one of our kind can die is by losing our head. My parents were captured and sent to the guillotine.”

Patrick “Why did they not just shift and escape?”

“It happened too fast. They were restrained in human form and unable to shift. The next morning, they were executed before my Oncle Jacques and I had time to even formulate a plan.”

Patrick snuggled closer and lightly kissed Marrok’s chest. “Tha mi duilich.”

Marrok returned the kiss on the top of Patrick’s head. “What did you say?”

“I said ‘I’m sorry.’”

Marrok chuckled. “With your Gaelic and my French, it is good we both know some English.”

“So, just how old are you?” Patrick questioned.

“I am forty-nine years tomorrow. How old are you?”

“Twenty-six.”

Marrok kissed him again. “So I rob the cradle, non?”

Patrick turned in Marrok’s arms. Marrok drew him closer. “Potreek, it is good to be with you. Much more comfortable than my last lover.”

“Why? What makes it different?”

“My last lover was not human.”

“What was he?”

“He was wolf.”

Patrick sat up shocked. “You, a human, made love with a wolf!”

“I was not human when I was with him. He did not know me as anything but wolf.”

“Wolves have feelings for the same sex?”

“A lot of animals do. Most people just do not know it.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was killed at the time I extracted my revenge on Dupre.”

Patrick snuggled back down against Marrok. “Are you glad you came to this country?”

“I am now. I did not know what I would find here. I found safety, family and a green-eyed Irishman who prefers men.”

They kissed again.

* * *

“Marrok, cover yourself!” Henri’s angry voice yelled.

Marrok opened his eyes. Henri stood at the door of the room. Marrok pulled a blanket over his and Patrick’s naked bodies.

“What are you thinking?” Henri continued. “What if Tante Prudence or Rudolph saw you pleasuring yourself with Potreek?”

Marrok sat up. “You would rather Rudolph awake to find me pleasuring myself? You knew what I am before I came here.”

“Yes. Your father told me before I left France. Potreek, get up and tend the horses.”

Patrick reached for his trousers. “Yes, Your Lordship. Right away.”

Henri turned to leave the barn. “We will discuss this, Marrok. Tante will have breakfast in thirty minutes.”

Marrok got dressed and helped Patrick with the horses.

* * *

After breakfast, the three men and Rudolph worked to harvest corn. During a rest break, Marrok said, “Oncle, there is an empty stall in the barn. I would like to convert it into a room like Potreek’s.”

“What would my friends think if I put my brother’s son in the barn to sleep?”

Marrok shrugged. “Just tell them I am uncomfortable sleeping with a six-year-old boy, or that Rudolph’s bed is too short for me. It really is not their business where I sleep.”

“You have my permission. Please just be discreet with your Tante Prudence and the children.”

“Merci, Oncle.”

* * *

November 15, 1794

“Marrok, Potreek, wake up.” Henri burst into the barn. “Quickly, Potreek, ride for the doctor. The babe comes and there are problems.”

Patrick and Marrok quickly dressed while Henri saddled one of the horses.

“What can I do, Oncle?”

“Bring Rudolph and Arianne out here and keep them busy. They do not need to be in the house.”

Patrick rode off. He returned with the doctor two hours later, but it was too late. Both Prudence and the new baby were dead.

* * *

Northwestern Pennsylvania, April 15, 1813

 

Marrok, Patrick, Henri, Rudolph and Arianne sat at the breakfast table in a four-room cabin. “Papa, can Marrok and I go rabbit hunting today?” Rudolph asked. At twenty-four, he was a handsome young man who greatly resembled Marrok.

“I think that would be a good idea,” his father said. “We could use some fresh meat. I, for one, am tired of dried venison.”

Marrok got up, walked around the table and kissed Patrick. “We will not be gone long, mon amour.”

Marrok and Rudolph went out of the cabin and shifted into hawks. “Rudolph, we must be careful not to catch females with litters.”

They rose into the air and flew off. They went about ten miles before they saw signs of rabbits. They landed in a tree and waited. It was about an hour later when three rabbits came out of a burrow. The two hawks swooped and caught two of them and flew slowly back toward the cabin. They were about a mile from home when Marrok spotted smoke rising. “Rudolph, there is trouble.”

Both birds dropped their burdens and flew as fast as possible. The scene that greeted them was heartbreaking. The cabin was in flames and two bodies lay on the ground. Marrok landed, shifted and hurried to Patrick’s side. It was useless, Patrick was dead.

He turned to see Rudolph holding Henri. “Papa, where is Arianne?”

“They took her,” Henri whispered. Already his injuries were starting to heal.

“Who was it?” Marrok asked.

“Indians.”

Marrok closed his eyes and sent a telepathic message. “Arianne, can you hear me?”

After trying several times, he gave up and turned to Rudolph. “I cannot reach her. Let us hope she is just out of range. I will follow their scent. You get some of the men from town and follow me.”

He shifted into wolf form and took off running.

Rudolph knelt beside his father who said, “Go, Rudolph. Do as Marrok says. I will be alright. I am already healing.”

* * *

Marrok followed the trail for several miles. As he ran, he kept trying to reach Arianne telepathically. Finally he received an answer. “Marrok?”

“Oui, ma petite. I am coming. How many are there?”

“I see only five. There is another girl with us, Cindy Williams.”

“Are you bound?”

“Yes. Our hands are tied. We are on horses with the men.”

“Just remain calm. I am on my way.”

Just then, he heard the voice of Rudolph. “Marrok, I am on your trail. The Indians also hit the Williams farm. The parents and son are dead and Cindy is missing.”

“She is with Arianne. They are about five miles ahead of me. How many are with you?”

“Ten men.”

Marrok heard Rudolph say to the men with him, “My cousin tells me he is about five miles behind the Indians and both girls are with them.”

A gruff voice penetrated Marrok’s thoughts. “How do you know? You cannot hear your cousin from here.”

Rudolph explained, “It’s a family trait. We can converse via telepathy. Marrok will keep us informed.”

Another voice said angrily, “I do not believe this. This is some type of witchcraft.”

“Witchcraft or not,” Rudolph said, “trust me. You have nothing else to go on.”

As night fell, the Indians stopped. Arianne reported to Marrok. “We have stopped. They took us off the horses and tied us together.”

“Are your feet bound as well as your hands?”

“Yes.”

“When I tell you, shift into a rat. That will make your hands and feet small enough to slip out of the bindings. Try to shift your clothes but not the ropes. Be ready to run.”

“What about Cindy?”

“I will take care of her. Tell her to trust the bear.”

He heard Arianne whisper. “Cindy, you have to trust me. You are going to see something you will not believe. Do not be afraid of the bear.”

“What bear?”

“When the time comes, you will know. Just trust the bear.”

Marrok’s wolf form crept closer to the Indian camp. “Rudolph, you are only about half a mile from them. Leave your horses and come forward on foot. When I give the signal attack.”

* * *

The moon rose over the hill and Marrok sensed Rudolph and the townsmen’s presence. He watched from the brush as an Indian checked the girls’ restraints then walked back to the fire with his companions. He shifted from wolf to bear. “Now, Arianne! Rudolph attack!”

Cindy’s eyes grew wide as Arianne turned into a rat and a black bear stood up on its hind legs and walked toward her. The bear picked her up and carried her into the brush. Behind them the sound of gunfire erupted as the townsmen opened fire.

The rat became an owl and flew away. The bear placed Cindy on the ground and became a man who untied her hands and feet. “Cindy, get on the horse.”

“What horse?”

“This one.” Marrok shifted into horse form and knelt down. Cindy climbed on his back and they took off. When they reached where the townsmen’s horses were tethered, Arianne was already there. She helped Cindy from Marrok’s back. He shifted back to human form.

“Cindy, you must never tell anyone what you just saw. It must remain a secret.”

“I am not sure what I saw.” She threw her arms around Marrok. “All I know is you rescued us.”

“I must leave. Arianne, you and Rudolph will have to explain.”

He shifted into an owl and flew back to the homestead. He found Patrick’s grave and knelt beside it. Again I say goodbye to a mortal. “Potreek, we will meet again someday. Until then, know I love you. You will always remain in my heart.”

* * *

Three days later, Marrok noticed the townsmen going into the church. He slipped behind a building, shifted into a mouse and slipped in through a space between the logs. It was difficult to tell who was speaking; all he heard were voices.

“I say we string them up. They must be Devils.” “They’re French. We’re fighting the French. It’s a wonder they haven’t murdered us all.”

“They did save the Williams girl.”

“You heard what she said. The girl turned into a rat and escaped while a bear carried her out of the camp and then turned into that one called Marrok.”

“And the older one. He should have been dead. Instead, he healed faster than any normal person.”

“I’ve never seen any of them in church. They must be from Satan.”

“They must be witches. I say burn them at the stake.”

Marrok quickly scampered out of the church. He shifted back to human form and hurried to the cabin where Henri, Rudolph and Arianne were.

“We must leave here tonight. The townspeople are coming for us. Arianne, you stay with your papa. We will go in three different directions. We will meet in St. Louis. Whoever gets there first, wait for the others for one year. Place an ad in the newspaper.”

Henri grasp Rudolph and Marrok in a three-way hug. “Aller avec Dieu, jusqu’à ce que nous nous réunissons à nouveau.”

Marrok and Rudolph kissed Arianne, shifted into owls and flew away. Marrok headed east and Rudolph south. Henri and Arianne became wolves and headed west.

None of them realized it would be close to two hundred years before they found each other again.

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2 responses to “Shifter – Chapter one

  1. I’m hooked! Can’t wait to see what they do next or why it takes two hundred years to meet up again.

    I was surprised to see you use Marrok as a name. I’d never run across it before reading Patricia Briggs’s books, where the Marrok is the leader of all the packs of werewolves. Is this some bit of history or mythology I’ve just been ignorant of, or is it a coincidence?

    • I looked up French names on the internet. Marrok seemed to fit.

      When they lose track of each other in 1813, there is no way to contact each other. In 2000 or so, Marrock is going to post a notice on the internet for descendants of Henri Del Sol.

      I have the first chapter and the last two chapters written. Now I just have to write from 1813-1979.

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