Eye of the Tigress

Prologue

Lost in the sands of time are five great stones of nature. Designed by the ancients to bring into balance the long disharmony wrought by man and himself to nature, these stones promise great power to those upon whose souls can connect with the essence of their inner beast. Only a true master of nature can combine the five stones into their proper place, and so make himself an immortal defender of the natural world. But woe to the world as the Chalice of the Divine Star waits to be filled for light and darkness alike. It is advised the powers of nature always be at rest.

The stones themselves each have a unique property and…

~Encyclopedia of the Treasure Hunter's Guild

"Eva!" called the bone-chilling baritone in a tone that she dreaded to hear echoing down the castle hallway toward her room. "Eva! You had better be in there!"

She heard the heavy boot falls coming closer. Her five year old son, looked up from where he played with his toy animals on the floor, and as she went to him to scoop him up, he whispered, "Is daddy mad again, mommy?"

She only had time to force a warm motherly smile before the door swung open and slammed against the inside of the stone wall. Her husband, King Phane the Fearless, ruler of the great lake nation of Littoria strode into the room with a scowl. His favorite attendant, Reginald, was on his heels. Phane wore a pristine white turban with a single giant ruby in the middle. He was in his royal attire, a platinum breastplate and chain mail over silk robes of navy and a cape of the same color. The armor and clothing made him look a bit broader than he was, but Eva knew from experience that his thin sinewy frame extended from his narrow face through his whole body. He was not a handsome man, but he did have a gaze that was fierce and intimidating, and those eyes bore into her now with a heaving rage.

"Eva," he began venomously. "Why have you disobeyed me?"

"Phane my love," Eva pleaded. "He's only five. He's not ready for…"

"He is my son, and I will decide when he is ready to attempt the bonding!" Phane thundered.

At this, the boy cowered slightly and Eva felt him cling to her more tightly. She was a little glad when Phane saw this, took a deep breath, and ruffled the boy's hair.

"Don't worry my lad," the King said sweetly. "You do want to have your animal spirit don't you? Just like daddy?"

Eva felt the boy nod slowly in her arms, and then placed his thumb in his mouth nervously.

"Oh for the love of the Lake Lady stop that!" Phane growled at his son mock playfully, as he took his boy's hand a little too harshly in Eva's liking. "Come on now lad, Mommy has almost made you late for the right alignment of the moon and the stars of the bear."

Eva reluctantly let the boy slide from her arms, and felt much better when he was passed to Reginald, a tall man with dark skin who did not wear armor, but a long violet vest that fell to his hips, white undershirt, and pristine white pants. He haled originally from the war ravaged desert kingdom of Suntania to the north. Eva knew he was an orphan, and would have liked to talk to him more, if her husband would only allow it. Her son, Scion, loved him at least, and Reginald received the boy warmly as the child greeted him with, "Hi Reggie!"

Eva tried one more time.

"Phane, darling, be reasonable," she begged, tears welling in her eyes. "The transition and the changes during the bonding were harsh even on me six years ago, even if the stone accepts him how can you put him through that now?"

Phane waved Reginald to take his son out the door with a small gesture, and then he let his scowl return under his slightly pointy nose.

"I don't remember asking you're opinion on the matter," he spat. "Remember you were the only one of the wives who was even able to form a bond with a stone, and our son will do the same! Time is short! He is ready!"

Eva placed her hands on his breast plate and slid her body in close. She bent her knees and rolled her chest so he could view her supple curves as she looked slightly up at him with pleading eyes.

"But dear you only have three of the stones anyway and…"

"All the more reason to do this now!" Phane bellowed, pushing her off of him enough so she had to catch herself on the bed as she stumbled backward. "I can't be searching for both the other two stones and a proper match for the Heart of the Bear!"

He took two steps forward and grabbed her by a clump of hair from the back of her head, pulling her up slightly so she stood on her own. She bit her lip and grimaced, fearful what he was going to do to her. But he was looking at her lustfully now, a cold smirk she knew well creasing his lips.

"When I get back," he cooed. "I will have something to celebrate with my favorite wife. I expect you to be more presentable than your current haggard state. Don't worry Eva, I will make you feel good then."

As he turned and left Eva muttered after him, "Somehow I doubt it."

She looked down at her simple gown and bodice, and turned to the mirror. Her makeup was already running a little with her tears from underneath pale blue eyes, and her long dark hair was now a mess. She hated her fair pale skin, her thin eyebrows, and she had never felt thin enough in the middle since giving birth to Scion. She wondered how she could possibly ever make herself "presentable" as he put it. She felt much more presentable in that other form, but there was little chance of him letting her actually use her stone. She wondered vaguely how his other wives must feel, none of them having been able to bond with the Heart of the Bear, or the Eye of the Tiger like her. She felt miserable for and jealous of them at the same time. Miserable because he was always saying they were second rate to him, and jealous because for all his faults she did love her king. But how dare he put their son through such a traumatic experience so soon! The more she thought about it, the more she began to shake, and she felt an uncontrollable eruption of rage flow from within. She screamed a primal scream and tore at her sheets, tore off her gown, bit furiously at the fabric of her skirts and beat the mattress repeatedly with her hands until she felt exhausted. Then she buried her head in her pillow and let her tears flow.