"Ghenyus are a race of highly evolved humans that are too often believed to be demons cast out of the underworld. This misconception stems from their ability to run faster, lift inhuman weights, and transform into monstrous creatures that were dubbed their "True Form." Like humans, they too have magical talents, though theirs is dictated—and limited—by the element they were born under. Yet, due to so much gift and power, they must endure rigorous training to control it in order to avoid the inevitable deterioration of their mind. Since normal humans wouldn't understand the power they hold, the training is left with the sorcerers.
Due to the danger Ghenyus could be to society left untrained, they are thrown into the lowest class, doomed to die on their twenty-first birthday until they complete the training and get a Citizen's Amulet to become a trusted citizen. Even then, prejudice is plentiful in most of the world."
~ Quoted from journal of the Highest Elder of the Academy of the Silver Sciathán
It was a good decision.
Within the bustling town of Sendra, a woman of twenty years had paused in the streets with a bag of food in hand. Having walked by a mirror and noticed her reflection, it became apparent to her that she'd chosen a good outfit since it actually followed her curves, which most clothes didn't do.
As she examined the white tank-top and green capris, she smirked. Women were supposed to wear dresses unless it interfered with their job, and in those cases they were exempt from the dress code... or at least, that rule applied in this particular place.
She had long forgotten which towns applied it, partly because it wouldn't ever effect her since her job required being prepared for anything at anytime, and anytime meant even when off work. Short hair was suggested for her profession as well since it could get in the way, so she got past that by tying her brown hair into a bun and hiding it under a backwards cap. She hated short hair and didn't like dresses all that much either. If she were able, she'd repeal the need for short hair and buy men's clothes.
"Master!" someone shouted.
Upon turning to the voice, she spotted a white-haired and silver-eyed man running towards her in white sweatpants and a loose sleeveless top. Buckle sandals covered his feet, wristbands hugging his arms, and a strange metal choker clasped around his neck. As soon as he caught up to her his panting became audible, a sign that he had been running around for at least a half an hour to find her.
"So, Teague," she started with a chuckle. "What's wrong now?"
He laughed, "Nothing. I wanted you to know I found a person who'll lend you a boat."
At that, her smile faded to surprise, so his smile faltered as well.
"You… did want to go there tonight, right?" he half-asked, glancing off to the side. "Did you change your mind?"
Seeing the faint trace of pink in his face, she smiled again and patted his head, "Nah. I'm just surprised you went out of your way to do that. If you pass like I know you will, trainers will be throwing themselves at you to get you as their assistant."
His grin returned too, but now his cheeks tinted red, and his eyes closed like a puppy getting his desired attention.
"Now that's just flattery," he claimed.
The scaled creature looked down at the tiger hare with pity filling his red-brown eyes. He hadn't eaten in awhile and hunger burned in his stomach, but its squirming within the snare nullified his appetite the more he watched, so once a dissatisfied growl rumbled free, he exited his cover in the brush to free the creature. The hare turned its head towards the four-legged beast that emerged, its fur on end and body moving with its rapid breathing.
All it took was one brisk movement with a sharp claw to slice the string holding the toothed trap together, but once the jaws fell apart, he found the results less than satisfying. The hare limped to the point of dragging its bleeding leg, and if left as is, its destiny would be to feed the carnivores. To amend this, he laid his big body down and caressed the creature as he grabbed some herbs from nearby to wrap around the wound. Once treated, he placed the creature down and guided it home.
Upon returning to his usual walk around the forest, a small pond came into sight between the trees where he stopped to take a drink, paying no heed his monstrous reflection despite it would alarm or intimidate most. However, it wasn't so much ignoring as it was ignorance. He didn't know or realize how terrifying he looked or that it was strange for most of the planet's inhabitants. A black lizard the size of a brown bear, he hardly ever walked on two legs, but since he had fox-like ears and no wings, he couldn't be a dragon or an oversized lizard, especially since a regular lizard didn't have ears or opposable thumbs.
In the wild, however, he fit in… or at least, he felt at home. A large scar on his back hinted at the life he lived, although a couple straw-woven pouches tied to his back leg hinted a higher intelligence than first apparent.
After numbing his hunger with water, he trotted towards another trap he recalled going off. This time to his delight, as he prowled into another thick brush he spotted a meaner beast instead of a smaller, guilt-provoking one. It was something he identified quite easily from its nimble fox shape, goat horns, and cloven hooves. He knew it to be an Atox, a territorial and selfish beast. It had blundered over his three-mouthed snare, so three of its legs were snagged, rendering it defenseless.
It snarled at him when noticing his scent, then began thrashing about on the ground despite the movement only deepened its injuries, so the moment it slowed its struggles to rest, he leapt on top of the beast and bit down hard on its neck. Now with a strong hold behind its ears, he jerked the vertebrae to the side, a loud snap preceding the Atox going limp.
Jaws releasing the body, he freed the corpse from the snares with two quick swipes at the trap hinges, and took the catch in his mouth again to drag it back through trees. Pulling it over grassy forest floors left a disturbance in the soil and fallen leaves, but even if a tracker were to follow his trail, they'd only see that black lizard's tail and his kill disappearing into the massive heights of yellowish long grass. His goal was his eating spot, which he situated in the middle of a Stypher field, a place filled with the grass's natural stench, both sweet and spicy to the nose.
A fire burned bright in a clearing within the grassy field, one he had built before going to retrieve the food. There, he used his large claws to slice open the stomach and remove the organs, then skinned the dead animal. After extricating the poisonous gland from the heart, he cooked the organs as he divided up the flesh, then threw that on too.
A bowl-shaped rock rested near the flames, and in it, the organs from the beast sizzled while its juices were drained through a fireweed straw into a wooden bowl. He cut the dried parts into strips, then stored them in the sorted pouch on his leg. As for the juices, he took out a bottle full of the same liquid and poured it in there, only to tuck it away in the same Stypher-grass pouch. Stypher grass was long, flexible, yet sturdy, so it had a lot of uses out here, plus its powerful odor was perfect for covering up the smell of blood or cooking meat. Sure, the nose-numbing scent of the field stifled the appetite a tad, but it was better than other predators sniffing his food out.
After a few minutes, the meat was cooked, so he cooled the fire and started to feast, his teeth ripping the meat off the bone as his claws pinned it to the ground. Between bites while chewing, he'd lift his reddish brown irises to scan while his ears turned in every direction methodically, all to ensure his surroundings were clear. Normally animals avoided the Stypher Grass to spare their sensitive noses, but he'd learned the desperate or wounded ones would wander anywhere if it meant survival.
Soon the food was finished and there was nothing but the bones and the skin. He yawned, scaled lips stretching back over the long fangs, and shook off the desire for a nap to clean off the remains, though once he had done that, he carried the skin and bones to his sleeping spot to add it to his personal things.
Walking through some more Stypher grass, he came to a place surrounded by organized bones and skin padding. He had managed to build himself a little bedroom out of the things he could find. Using the bones he had collected over the years and Stypher grass around him, he framed a bed-like contraption, a hammock, and a few mini storage boxes, then used the skins and furs he had gathered as cushioning for his bed and pillow. When rain or a storm was predicted, he'd set up his serpent tarp like a tent. Since all his belongings were over one big rock, he didn't have to worry about his "floor" getting wet.
To add on, he could always smell if rain or a storm approached, so every night before going to sleep and every morning when waking up, he took a walk to escape the smell and see if he'd catch the scent of rain in the air.
Now settled in to his personal area, he got to work on a table he started awhile ago to use up the bones and skin he'd acquired from the hunt. It seemed like a short moment before he ran out of material and finished the final touches, though in reality it had taken until sundown, leaving nothing but stars in the sky. With that done and out of the way, he went for his nightly walk.
He was out of the field in moments, yet he waited a while longer before sniffing around to allow the Stypher odors to filter out of his system. Upon reaching the shoreline, a ten-minute stroll from his sleeping spot, his nostrils flared as he sniffed the salty air, glad when realizing tonight would be dry, but as he turned to head back, he spotted a lopsided contraption beached on the sand. The ocean waves that rolled upon the shore parted around it, and the glossy sheen on its surface reflected the moon's light.
Now curious, he prowled closer with caution, wondering what it was, and examined this elongated bowl-shaped object. He sniffed it briefly. A foreign scent trailed away from it inland, and the actual wood-like substance was from a foreign smelling tree.
Following the creature's scent, he took notice of its path. Instinctual fear spiked and his ears drew back, but all at once he launched into sprint. It was headed towards his sleeping spot. If some animal figured out where he slept, he'd be in danger.
Only a second after diving into the tree line, another scent hit his nose, but this one smelled of blood. An animal was approaching from the right side, but the weight of the footsteps was heavier than anything he'd encountered, so he stopped where he was and stared into the darkened forest, his heart pounding and natural instincts screaming in terror that he needed to run… However, his curiosity—and his pride—held him back. A feeling of insecurity overwhelmed him, so he shot his ears forwards and unleashed a snarl, bearing the fangs that had easily broken the neck of another predator.
Silence followed, his auburn irises focused on the darkness before him as he awaited whatever enemy approached. But nothing happened.
Just as he was lowering his guard, a giant beast dashed out, a ferocious roar ripping from its throat as it rammed into him and smashed him against a tree. Dazed by the blow and landing roughly on his side, it took a moment to get over the shellshock of the attack, but once he started pushing himself up, the beast with cat-eyes smirked, bearing its blood drenched fangs. Through pained eyes, he took in the form of this monster, its shaggy dark blue fur wet with the same liquid dripping from its jaws and its overall body mass three times his own. A chuckle rumbled from deep inside its chest.
"I thought I smelled another Ghenyu. You're pretty brave for a pipsqueak, I'll admit, but foolish to think that you'd be able to stand up to one who stands taller than you do!"
It bellowed monstrously, but then realizing the "pipsqueak" was back at his feet and staring without so much as a word, the grin shrunk.
"You aren't scared of me?"
He didn't respond.
"Can you even talk?"
Still he made no response but instead lowered his head and narrowed his eyes, starting to growl again. The grin of the beast returned twice as wide.
"You don't understand a thing I'm saying, do you?" It cackled and coiled to spring, ready to attack again. "You're no fun then. Goodbye, pip—!"
He sprinted at the larger creature with a snarl ripping from his chest and jumped at the back of the head, clamping his fangs down, but the beast immediately thrashed about its head, attempting to remove him and smashing him into several tree trunks in the process. The black lizard just bit down harder from the pain, so it took its large clawed hands and tried to rip him off. Despite the pulling, he just locked his jaw in place, refusing to let go.
It roared one last time, now engulfed in rage, and gave one final tug, but its hands slipped, and the talons ripped into his scales. Blood spattered, bleeding fresh from his back, chest, arm, and leg. He felt himself giving in to the pain, so he mustered up the strength he had left, kicked away from the beast, then charged at its neck. Head throbbing, eyes focused on the beast's soft throat tissue, his clawed feet moved swift enough to speed by a swipe at his side, though the adrenaline pumping through his veins gave a one-track focus. The adrenaline and speed triggered something within, so as his tensing muscles released to throw him at the beast one final time, jaws open to bite into the jugular, a shielding encircled his body. At just the right moment, he clamped his teeth shut to sink fangs into flesh but instead ripped a gaping hole through the beast's throat.
As soon as he touched ground from the leap, he stumbled all the way to the stopping point. The creature fell to the ground with a weight that made the soil tremble, dead before it even knew what happened, yet this went ignored when remembering the other strange creature in his forest. He somehow got to his feet and limped on.
He went stumbling along for a few minutes until the odor of Stypher grass hit his nose. This made him woozy, yet he dragged on towards his sleeping spot, ignoring the blood gushing out of him and how it left a thick trail for any to follow. Only one thought ran through his head, to get rid of the intruder and secure his survival in the world of predators.
His vision was hazy by the time he emerged from the Stypher grass and arrived at his sleeping spot… only… what animal stood before him? His blood ran a degree colder knowing his sleeping quarters had been found, but for it to be another unknown beast? It was a woman wearing a backwards cap, hiding most of the light brown hair and dressed in a fitting tank top. Why was this strange… yet… familiar creature going through the delicate drawers and bags? Why did she not sniff around for him, the occupant of this territory?
Remembering she was trespassing and that this creature was new to his eyes, he felt angry and threatened at the same time. He growled as callously as he could, snarling and lowering his head like a hunting wolf, but when the female creature looked over at him, her light green eyes held no fear and remained calm. He tried growling louder.
"Poor thing," she cooed. "You won't last an hour with wounds like that."
His growl lessened and his anger and fear contorted to sorrow at the simple statement, but he didn't let it go; with one last bout he reignited the anger and leapt at her, fangs drawn and ready to tear her apart… only for her to brace her legs and, with a blade of light consuming her arm, knock him out of the air and flat on his back. He only managed a painful yelp.
She left the stance when seeing he had lost the strength to snarl, so she walked up and stood at his head, now looking down with pity.
"I'm sorry this happened to you. You Ghenyus have the worst of luck," she whispered. With a palm aimed down at his head, she gazed into his dying eyes, which glistened in the moon's glow and tugged at her heart. Memories stirred at the back of her mind. "I know you must be suffering, but it'll be over soon. Sighing Grim, I ca—"
"Please…" he breathed, causing her to flinch out of her stance. "… Step to… the side… I… don't…" He took a deep breath, trying to get rid of the blood filling his throat. "… want to die… just yet…"
At first she only stared, but then she moved aside wordlessly. After a few minutes of him staring up in his growing weakness and her watching the way his muscles gradually limped, he managed a weak lizard grin and rolled onto his stomach. Slowly he crawled to his bed, the blood trailing his every movement, and laid on his back again. Once more, he watched the sky.
Quietly, his heavy eyelids began to slide closed, but it became apparent that he struggled against his blood loss to keep them open, to keep stargazing like he had wanted to do before he left for that walk. In the midst of admiring the glow of the stars, he wondered why he had such an abrupt and bloody end.
Then he fell still.
Silence bore down on her, scrutinizing the black lizard as if to determine whether to bother him any further. The noises of the forest were muted by the rustling of the long grass in the wind, emphasizing the faint motion of his chest.
She walked over to his bedside and pointed her palm at him again, "Sighing Grim, I call upon your…"
Oddly, her voice refused to continue…
Once more rendered motionless, it took a moment more to break free of the forest's gentle hush, and when she could move again, her fingers trailed along the soft scales of his throat to find a pulse. Realizing he still clung to his life, she broke off some strands of Stypher grass and muttered a few words under her breath to form what looked like a curved needle from the same energies that she'd used to knock him down. She threaded the grass through and cleansed everything with a sanitation spell, then started stitching his wounds shut.
It took a good ten minutes, but seeing he still breathed, she murmured "Phoenix of Holy Fire, cry your tears on these wounds." The fresh yet disgusting wounds began to heal over, a magic energy slowing the bleeding to the point it almost stopped. Putting her palm to his forehead, she muttered one last spell to prevent the boat master from fainting when seeing the new passenger.
"Ghenyu of untamed spirit, conceal the monster and release the man."
A warm pulse brushed over his scales. Just as strangely, the large lizard started to shrink and his body change shape, until he no longer resembled what he'd been. Now having a man instead of a lizard, she smiled at his sleeping face and hauled him onto her back.
In preparation for the boat ride she grabbed the pillow and a blanket from his sleeping spot before heading towards the beach where the boat waited. There she got in and shoved off the beach, carefully placing him down on the pillows. Before draping the blanket over his body, she gave the stitches one more look over to ensure they still held his wounds closed.
As the waves pushed them back to Sendra, she thought over what she was doing. This was not the regular means of meeting a Ghenyu, being alone on a small island like that, then thinking on when she went to put him to rest, she had felt potential resonating from within.
"This one doesn't have to die or lose his mind," she told herself out loud, almost to reassure herself.
Looking down at the man whom slept with more peace than at first, a smile curled her lips. She ruffled his short black hair and chuckled.
"You and Teague, huh? This should be interesting."