Eye of the Tigress: Discussions
Traveler dozed lightly as he sat cross-legged on a mat in the small hut where he had been treated. His shoulder was still tender, but he could tell the wound was well stitched and bandaged. He rested against the outer wall, with the tip of his sheathed sword planted between his folded legs and the hilt resting gently on his unwounded right shoulder. Traveler found it easy to sleep this way while out on the road, and it had saved his life once or twice – as even in sleep he was very aware of his surroundings, and he was ready for a quick defense in this position.
It was also very meditative to sit this way, and the soft sounds of the night – the chirp of a cricket, the rustle of leaves in the wind, the distant hoot of an owl – all filled his mind with a kind of melody as he tried to focus inward. Even in meditation, however, two women now filled his mind, and stirred his soul.
Fandora. He wanted to see her. Traveler longed to be with her again. His very blood seemed to sizzle in his veins when he was in her presence. Sadly, Traveler knew he was still very much under guard and not quite trusted in this place. After all, he was a man among women who were at war with a man's world.
Traveler slowly peaked through one eye. Sure enough, through the gloom he could see his healer and man-sitter lying down by the door not far away. A shifting in the shadows and a sigh also told him there was still a guard stationed on the outside of the tiny hut. It was an effective strategy, with one woman on the inside with him that could alert the guard outside if he started getting rowdy. It seemed they trusted him enough now that he would do them no harm, but they still didn't want him wandering off – perhaps especially to see Fanny. Traveler might have been comfortable waiting till morning to see her again, even if only under cordial circumstances, except . . .
Roselyn. Something about the stubborn and foolhardy new recruit was gnawing at him, completely destroying his focus. The woman was beautiful to be sure. She was voluptuous, a tad more curvy and not as lean as the polished Fandora, but with a grace and dignity that made her quite appealing. Yet it was the way Roselyn had gotten under his skin, more than her beauty, that was destroying his focus.
Traveler never let anything upset him. He especially was never the type to be drawn into petty squabbles. Roselyn had done both. She was maddening in the way she caused him to behave like a spoiled and bratty child. There was something in her that constantly dared his inner beast to come out, and it was almost scary for a man who was used to being focused to be so distracted from himself.
Traveler took a deep breath and opened both of his eyes. In a few more nights, the moon would be completely full. On the night of a full moon, he found he could change even if distant from his sword. He found his power as a wolf to be magnified, but he also on occasion had no memory of what happened those nights – or they were like the distant shadows of a dream. On a night like that Traveler feared he could completely lose himself if he was not careful – which was why he always ended up moving on.
Something about Roselyn in particular was calling him out. Sitting here this night alone with his desires and with the moon nearly fully was too much, even for him. It was time to sneak out. Traveler hoped he could do it without upsetting anyone or even letting them know he was gone.
Slowly, keeping his eyes on the tall and muscular woman lying in the room with him, Traveler stood. The disturbance of him standing did not make the woman stir. There were no windows in the tiny hut, and he could not cut his way out noiselessly. The woman in the hut with him, Doralia if Traveler remembered correctly, lay close enough to the door that he could not get out without disturbing her – which meant he could not hope to slip past the guard on the outside even if she were distracted for a moment. These were very shrewd women indeed.
Traveler secured his sword to his hip and nimbly sprang upward. He caught hold of a sturdy tree branch that formed part of the support for the ceiling and wrapped his legs around it. The roof of the hut was made of thatched straw and leaves, and quietly, and with patience, Traveler created a small opening in the roof as he pawed the softer material aside. He checked below to make sure Doralia was still nicely asleep, and then leapt noiselessly through the opening he created to catch hold of an even higher branch. Before climbing higher into the tree, Traveler smoothly covered his opening by brushing the thatch-work back into place with his foot.
Once outside, he was guided through the trees by the light of several still burning lanterns on the walkways of the tree village. Traveler stayed in the branches above the village for a time, and then climbed below it on the main trunk of the tree he knew would take him to Fandora's hut. He was about to swing himself up onto the walkway and rap lightly on Fandora's door when he heard voices approaching. It was Fandora and Tess. Slowly, Traveler maneuvered himself into position beneath Fandora's hut as he heard both women go inside. They were arguing about something, and Traveler wanted to know what it was.
"You know as well as I we can't keep her here now!" Tess was saying in a whispering yell. "It's a trap! An obvious lure from one of the king's concubines to find us!"
Concubine, Traveler thought in surprise and sudden interest. What was going on? Traveler found a forked branch he could rest his knees on and a good sized crack between floor panels that gave him a lovely upward view between the two women. Fandora had her arms folded and had turned away from Tess.
"I'm not sure 'bout that, Tess," Fandora replied with a calm sigh. "I mean, why'd she be goin' through all the dog and pony show, getten her arse chased halfway cross the country, then tellen me who she is just to set a trap? She could have just stayed poor little Roselyn an' we'd never have known the difference. And she doesn't like much being called concubine by the way. T'was like I insulted her when I used the word. Best call her 'Queen' if you don't want no trouble from her."
"I won't recognize any royalty connected to that filth Phane!" Tess spat. "She'll be lucky if she doesn't get called her royal whoreness to her face by me. I'd only be nice because you tell me to, but I don't understand you at all. Phane, that – that woman's husband, it was his men burned down your bar! Or don't you remember?"
Now things are making more sense, thought Traveler as he continued to enjoy a pleasant view of the underside of Fandora's rump. So Roselyn was royalty. It was no wonder she was such a stubborn, stuck-up, shrew. Or was her name even Roselyn? Traveler listened closely as Fandora turned and looked at Tess sadly.
"Course I remember dearest!" the fiery red-head said as she stroked Tess' cheek affectionately. "But she is a woman - and a woman who came to us for help at that. Even queens can be used and abused by men. You and I both know that all men are the same deep down."
"Is that why you fucked the first one you took home with you!" Tess snapped.
Fandora seem to shrug the comment off, but Traveler could feel the energy inside the tiny hut begin to change dramatically. The women were drawing much closer together now, so close the tips of their breasts touched. From his view, Traveler could see Fandora's nostrils begin to flare a little, and Tess was breathing sharp, shallow breaths as the two women held hands – interlacing their fingers.
"Never mind him Tess," Fandora whispered, her voice oozing with some electric anticipation. "And my feelings tell me we need to help Queen Eva. She doesn't even want to stay long – just has some quest to complete before she can go back home. She wouldn't say what it was yet, but we need to earn her trust a little too. It sounds to me like she has something to prove and wants to not go home until she does."
"Ugh, what does she need to prove to a man exactly?"
"I'm not going to worry about it right now, Dearest."
Traveler realized after a moment that he was no longer breathing as he watched the two women kiss. Their lips smacked greedily but beautifully as Tess hummed a high toned musical sigh. Fandora's hands slid around Tess' waist and searched down the back of the smaller woman's pants, and Tess countered by cupping each of Fandora's heavy breasts and lifted them free of her bodice with heavy caressing and squeezing. Traveler resisted the urge to stick his hand down his own pants and stroke the hardness now swelling there.
The two women kept kissing, and Fandora took charge by assaulting Tess' neck and upper chest with her mouth, then lifting the petite blond and carrying her out of Traveler's view – presumable over to the bed that Traveler knew just the night before. It was difficult not to try to get a new viewpoint and follow the moans and purrs so he could watch the rest of the show. Traveler lingered a few more moments as he considered the best way to take his leave, and nearly choked as Fandora gave a low snarl and cried, "Oh, yes! Bite my nipples harder you little wench!" and Tess giggled with the reply, "Oooh Fanny you're already sooo wet!"
Slowly, he was able to pull himself away and climb back up, because something more than the sights and sounds of two women making love was calling him. There was something about this 'Queen Eva' that was beckoning him. He knew where she was even without looking the pull was so strong, and vaguely Traveler wondered if Fandora felt it too. He prepared himself to visit a queen.
The leader of this band of bandits was a curious but pleasant person, Eva decided. She only would call herself the Lady Red, and she had not said much about her own origins, or how she had come to build this vengeful band of women. Eva found she was strangely drawn to the woman – with primal and very unnatural desires that could only be an effect of the Eye of the Tiger. Even if the eye was causing these strange emotions, Eva still greatly respected Red Riding Hood. Phane would no doubt destroy this village and execute every last woman here if he were to find this place, and despite their lawless ways, Eva did not want to be the cause of that.
Eva did not know what to do. She only had days left before it would be time for Scion's bonding, and she was no closer to finding any stone or a bond mate for the bear stone than she had been when she first snuck away on her own. She did not want to return to Phane empty handed – even if Scion was bonded successfully, she was not sure how Phane would treat her when she returned. There was a chance that the mysterious Fandora was somewhere among these women, but Eva was afraid to reveal what she was searching for. If the woman was here and possessed the Foxtail Ruby everyone in the gang would most certainly know about it by now – and they were likely to protect and want to keep that power for themselves. And even if the stone was not among the women they might want to help search for it – only to keep it for themselves. Or try. Eva did not want that either. Still, Eva also hoped there might be a chance to persuade Fandora, if she was here, to return with her and be a Queen – that is if Phane would have her. Something made Eva's blood boil at the thought of a second stone-bonded queen.
Eva sighed, fighting back tears as she lay down and prepared to sleep. Perhaps this had been a fool's errand after all. She should have never have run out. She should have just accepted this terrible burden for Scion. He was a strong boy. He could take it. Right?
The tears were really starting to flow when there came a soft knock at her door.
Swiftly, she wiped her tears and composed herself. Since she had taken off her pants to sleep, she wrapped a blanket around herself before opening the door. As soon as she glimpsed who stood there, she reflexively tried to slam it shut again – but he caught it with a quick stiff arm.
"I said I never wanted to lay eyes on you again!" Eva hissed at the intruder. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be licking your wounds?"
"Eva, please," Traveler said in a soft voice. "We must talk. I have something important to tell you."
"I don't want to talk to you no matter how…" Eva stopped, and she coughed as it registered with her mind what he had just called her. "H-How the hell did you know my name!"
"Like I was saying," said Traveler, with a sly crooked smile as he stepped inside and closed the door. "We have a lot to talk about."
"So talk already," Eva grumbled. "I suppose I was wrong to trust that Lady Red. She blabbed everything to you did she?"
"It wasn't like that at all."
Traveler reached for Eva's shoulder in a gesture meant to calm, but Eva slapped him away.
"Don't you dare come any closer to me!" she snarled. "Stay back."
"I just am really good at eavesdropping." Traveler explained with a sigh as he walked to the other side of the tiny hut. "All I know is that you're a queen on a quest, and that you can't return home until it's complete. I think I can help you. I have a hunch you were looking for the same thing I was."
"And what exactly are you looking for, Traveler?"
She spat the name. A name so obviously not his real one. How was it fair that he knew hers? She made a mental note to make that point when she threw him out in a few seconds.
"I highly doubt you have any idea what I am after. And I'll find it on my own, thank you very much."
He smiled at her then. It was a smile that gave her chills. She tried to continue being angry but felt strangely hypnotized. Her legs felt tingly and she felt herself flush. Eva folded her arms in front of her defensively. How could she just make this pigheaded man go away? His gaze flowed down her body to her wrist – and suddenly she felt very naked, despite being wrapped in a blanket.
"Do you always wear jewelry to bed?" He asked, casually interrupting the awkward silence.
Eva covered the bracelet with the Eye with her other hand as she glared at him.
"I'll thank you not to change the subject. What do you think I'm looking for? Tell me or be on your way. I'm very tired and should very much like to get to sleep."
"I'm not changing the subject," Traveler said stepping forward again. This time she caught a gleam in his eyes, in the soft candlelight and they faded from dark green to gray. "You're looking for something – or someone – to lift the curse. So you can go back to your husband. Am I right? Does he know?"
Eva flushed and she desperately tried to calm herself. He was way off, of course. But how could he know about her? How did he read her so easily? Or did he sense it. If he knew about the stones, maybe he really could help her. Eva swallowed. She had to be careful. She had to…
His hand was on hers. It slowly pried it loose from her bracelet – and he held her hand gently in his own with a gentleman's touch.
"I- I don't know what you mean," she stammered. "I'm…I'm not cursed."
"You're trembling. It's alright you can trust me. Look, but please prepare yourself some think I look pretty scary in my other form.'
Traveler transformed so quickly before her that she nearly dropped the blanket folded around herself when she gave a little gasp and brought both hands to her lips. This Traveler was a bond mate! Where Phane was fierce and frightening, however, the wolf man before her was somehow kind, and keen. The eyes were a soft grey and bore deep into her soul. His fur was a light grey fur was thin and soft around his pectorals and abdomen, but grew longer down his back and sides in a grey so deep it was almost black. The garments of silk he was wearing expanded easily as his body expanded and as he grew almost a full two feet.
Timidly, Eva reached up with a trembling hand to touch his snout, feeling the warmth of his breath on the back of her hand, it sent tingles down her spine and her knees became week. Here before her was the chance she had been hoping for!
"Y-You are the master of the Moon Pearl I see," Eva said as she composed herself and drew her hand back.
"The what?" asked the creature in a soft purr.
Eva was a little taken aback.
"The Moon Pearl, the source of your power," Eva sighed. She hated having to explain things. "It would be on a piece of jewelry or trinket. Ugh, surely even someone as thick as you would have noticed your bond stone call to you!"
Eva thought it comical to see such a strong looking creature look puzzled before her. Traveler scratched behind one of his pointy ears and curled his snout down in a frown as he unhooked his sword and regarded it.
"This is the source of my power," he said, turning the sword sideways and offering it to her. "The hilt is made of pearl, but it's the entire hilt, not any one jewel."
Eva regarded the weapon curiously. The scabbard was nothing special, with some kind of lizard creature painted on the side. The hilt was also simple, but beautiful to behold. A pearl handle with grooves cut in and a sturdy black cloth woven tightly into the groves to improve the grip. The hilt was protected by a round and guard of dark, obsidian metal.
"It must be embedded in your hilt." Eva said. "These stones cannot be belted or melded. They are meant to keep their shape for when they are returned to the Chalice."
Traveler looked even more quizzical. "The Chalice."
Eva waved him off. "Never mind that. Tell me, is a woman named Fandora here?"
Traveler seemed to regard Eva carefully now, his fangs showing slightly and gleaming just as white as the pearl hilt of his sword. It was a long moment before he spoke.
"I might know someone by that name. Why do you ask?"
"I must speak with her immediately, and I need you to come too." Eva kept talking, before he could ask another question - her speech matching the excited rhythm in her heart.
"I knew she was here. I could feel it. But not as much as you I can imagine. The wolf's senses of the others are the strongest, especially on a night like this. Where is she?"
"I will take you to her," Traveler said calmly. "But you have already met her. But first tell me what this is about."
"I will when we get there, please, we must hurry…"
Eva was cut off by the shrill low howl of a large horn being blown, and then seconds later another. In moments she could here shouting outside, voices raised in a rally cry, a cry of warning. She ran to the door to open it and see what the commotion was, but Traveler had beaten her there – reverted back to a human again once more.
"What is it?" Eva asked worriedly.
"That's their alarm horn," he explained. "We're under attack."