If things were so easy, they wouldn't take practice or skill...


Jill closed her eyes and focused on a path to the clearing and suddenly they were there.

"I didn't want to walk into a trap; we have to go on foot from here on," Jill explained before setting off in the direction of the small clearing. Her stomach clenched as they moved and the anxiety over MacBeth and this kid tied to her rolled over her, tearing at her attention and cautiousness.

Jack didn't speak the rest of the way to the campsite. Jill was keeping an eye on the boy in sliding glances that also roamed to the foliage around her. His face had the mild contentedness that many of the children she had lived around possessed when they found something different.

"So how did you end up in the camp," Jill asked, unsure of his possible answers.

"I walked in, I think," Jack responded with a chuckle, "Or did you mean the situation directly before that?" Jill blinked at him, the unexpected response shocking her into stillness. Her senses had been removed when she was brought to the camp and were returned only when she was in the cage. Jill shook her head and began walking again. "There's a royal family off to the east and the Crown Prince is a friend of mine. I had been captured by the soldiers and he saved me, giving me his armor to escape in," Jack explained softly.

"That's," Jill paused, searching for the right word. As she opened her mouth to finish the sentence, the wind changed. She hadn't noticed the wind spirits spiraling in irritation around the clearing. Jill gasped and ran up to them, the smaller Jack jogging behind her. He looked around in confusion.

"What's going," He got out before Jill cut him off, whirling around to place her hands on his shoulders and her face directly across from his.

"I need you to not talk for a moment please, otherwise they won't answer me," Jill said before releasing him and going back to the swirling wall of wind spirits. She reached out and one of the spirits floated to her, the impression of fear strong in its mind. Jill whispered to the small one that wrapped itself around her hands, careful to get the words right, "What happened to you?"

The images that were shown to her were pale and scrawny, as if they had no life without fire. Soldiers dressed in black armor with golden inlays stormed into the camp. MacBeth's troops fought bravely, many of them taking down a knight before being cut down themselves. Then the view changed to show MacBeth standing by the cage. She was being surrounded by the enemy warriors, ten at least. MacBeth raised her sword in a salute to one, who seemed to have the most gold in his armor, before promptly vanishing.

"So what is it," Jack asked innocently, breaking her concentration and scaring the wind back into the wall. Jill growled under her breath angrily and turned on him.

"When I am doing that, please do not talk until I speak to you," she said venomously. Jack flinched and stepped back, an arm coming up as if to defend incoming blows. "I'm not going to hit you, I just need to find my teacher and the wind said she wasn't here," Jill snapped. Jack didn't change position except for maybe taking a half step back. Jill scoffed at his pathetic actions and held her staff tightly. She focused on the entrance to the cave they had left not so long ago. Jill chuckled with mirth and closed her eyes, feeling the ground shift. When she opened her eyes, she was outside the cave and Jack was missing. She looked around worriedly, spotting him dangling from a tree by the ankle. She burst out laughing, almost doubling over as he spun from the branch. Jill took a deep breath and straightened, a wide grin covering her face as she watched him.

"Did you try to run," she asked, jokingly. Jack tried to reach up to grab the rope, missing and causing him to spin more. Jill chuckled and walked to a spot just to the side of him. "You did try to run," she sighed, watching him spin. His clothes were starting to fall, his chest and back were revealed first. They were covered in black markings and swirls. Jill examined them, stepping closer to stop his spinning and get a better look. He was slowly getting lower to the ground, the rope having no anchor except the knot and the branches were low to begin with. Jill turned him to study his back.

"Hey, would you let me down please," Jack asked weakly, "My head feels funny." Jill, finished with examining the markings on Jack's torso, tried holding him up with one arm and using her staff to pull the rope out of the limbs. The first time the two collided, the staff bounced off and Jack yelped in pain. The second try was more successful and the rope was freed. Jack fell onto Jill before rolling away as if burned to see to his ankle. Jill rose slowly, making sure everything worked still.

"Now don't run away, otherwise those soldiers might find you before we can get to safety," Jill said, lifting him by his arm. He got up jerkily, keeping as much weight as he could off his ankle. He turned his huge blue eyes on her, mentally pleading. Jill couldn't hear him at all, but she felt a strange prodding in her head that she blocked out. "We'll just go one step at a time," she said, taking a step forward. Jack followed her example slowly. Something flashed across his face and her shoved Jill away.

"I don't need help from a girl, Fae," he said stubbornly. Jill kept her mouth shut and turned to continue towards the cave.

"Then hurry up, I need to find my teacher and even if she's not here, it should be safe." Jill approached the cave entrance, a renewed sense of urgency speeding her steps. She dropped her bag in the entrance and tried to go through, another wall of air in her way. This one was solid, though. No swirling angry winds this time. Jill saw a fire in the cave, already blazing happily. The images looked strange and then she realized that it was the wind, it was distorting the air so nothing looked exactly right. Jill watched closely, trying to figure out what was happening. She saw a feminine form go between her and the fire and guess that it was MacBeth. Jill let out a happy sigh but her attention was dragged back when something weird started happening. MacBeth reached into the fire and started tossing flaming sticks into the air behind her, this wouldn't have bothered Jill normally as she also enjoyed setting things on fire, except that the fire didn't fall. At the top of the throw, the fire would be caught and kept burning in the air. Pretty soon there were small balls of fire all around the cave that were slowly expanding to become spheres. Jill tried to get closer, but the air wall wouldn't let her.

Something touched her shoulder. Jill sprang, whirling around to attack the offending creature. Her brain started working just before she punched her assailant in the face. It was Jack and he was cowering with his hands in front of him again. Jill got off him, shaking. She stumbled over to where her staff had been dropped and picked it up. She held it close and backed against the entryway to the cave. Jack uncurled slowly, gingerly opening his eyes. Jill had completely forgotten that he had been there when she saw MacBeth in front of the fire. Jill toppled backwards, the wall of air gone.

"What are you doing here so soon," MacBeth demanded, looking from Jack to Jill. MacBeth was livid.

~o~

Hunter followed Gabriel until his legs started her to hurt and then somehow they were at a spring. The water was clear and glittering. Gabriel bent her head to drink, motioning for Hunter to follow suit. He sank to his knees and scooped up some water, tasting it first. It was sweet and cool. Hunter drained his hands and then another handful. He could hear Gabriel murmuring something and then nothing. He looked over to her and saw a girl covered in fur with shining green eyes. Hunter fell back with a yelp, pointing at the girl in shock and failing to form a coherent sentence.

"Oh get up," the girl said in Gabriel's voice. She had cat ears on her head and her face was shaped oddly. Hunter swooned where he sat. The girl rose from her position by the spring and stood over Hunter, her hands on her hips with impatience. When it was clear that Hunter wasn't going to be moving very quickly, she reached down and yanked him up by the arm. "Why are you so scared, I'm not even attacking you this time," the girl said, her face twisted strangely.

"Who are you," Hunter finally managed, glancing down at the cat girl in front of him. She made a sound of irritation and bonked him on the head.

"It's me, Gabriel, the cat assigned to watch the clumsy Human for the big Boss Man," Gabriel stated in exasperation. She cut off anything he was about to say and made him look into the pool, his appearance had changed also. He now looked like a panther in human form, black fur flowing across his face and revealed torso. Hunter almost passed out, but focused on the fact that this was not the Fold.

"What's happened to us," Hunter asked shakily. Gabriel started dragging him away from the water, pulling him along like he weighed nothing.

"I'm back to normal and you can now fit in, even though you'll be the only black cat in the area," Gabriel said, yanking his arm harder to get him to match pace with her. "You might feel a bit weird when you move, which is normal. You'll get used to it, especially if you don't touch your tail."

"I have a what," Hunter screamed, turning his head to catch a glimpse of this tail Gabriel had mentioned. There it was, moving as if agitated all by itself. He reached out and grabbed it, squeezing it to be sure it was real; however that small action sent shooting pain through his body. Hunter let go quickly and tried to move away, but tripped, his balance suddenly gone.

"I told you, stupid boy, don't touch that," Gabriel said, her voice stern but a smirk adorned her face, "We're almost to my home so you better behave, Mr. Unlucky." Gabriel sauntered off, her hips swaying. Hunter shook his head before giving standing a shot. He did it! Now for walking. His feet hurt, so he pulled off his shoes and tried walking again. He sighed in relief and tried jogging after Gabriel.

"This is pretty neat when I don't think about it," Hunter said happily. Then, as if just noticing, "How are you wearing clothes?" Gabriel laughed heartily, the sound sweet.

"It figures, even stupid human boys are boys," She turned to him, stopping his progress. "Before you go in and embarrass me, know there are a few rules to my home. One, do not, ever, grab another's tail unless you want to start a fight. Two, be kind whenever possible, our main rulers like to visit as homeless or wandering cats and they'll take note of how you treat them. And finally, three, if you ever touch a female when it's not her season and if she doesn't want you, be prepared to be shredded into bone meal for our gardens." Gabriel finished with a curt nod, then a smile spread across her face, "And our clothes stay with us when we change shape because of the way that we change." Hunter nodded, the blood drained from his face. He was sure that his face would be white if not for the fur on it. They walked silently for a few more minutes. Hunter took note that for once, he really was completely silent as he walked. His breathing was even and his footfalls were sure.

"I think I like being like this, it's so simple," he said with a grin. Gabriel grunted, then turned a corner. Hunter followed quickly, not wanting to lose sight of her, bumping into her instead.

"Welcome to my home," she said with a sweeping bow. She was gesturing to the trees around her though. Hunter looked around quickly and then up. The treetops were thick and the branches were tightly packed together.

"I don't see anything," he said quietly. Gabriel laughed and climbed a tree, quick as, well, as a cat. Hunter laughed and followed her, rushing the tree like she had and preparing to climb. He ran straight into a hundred year old tree and they both groaned.

"You need to use your claws, stupid boy," he heard Gabriel call down, then there was a clicking sound above him. "Or you can just use the ladder like all newly changed," Gabriel hopped off and waited by the rope ladder. Hunter laughed, climbing the ladder two rungs at a time. When it ended, they were on a platform with two other cat men. These two were dressed in a shining green vests and brown pants. They saluted Gabriel and moved aside to let her pass. She sauntered down the bridge and towards another platform. "We will be going to see my parents so be good and don't talk unless they ask you something," Gabriel commanded. Hunter followed behind, gazing around him in wonder. There were many others with different colored fur and some had clothes with colors he had never seen except on wildflowers. They all made way for Gabriel. They all glared at him with disgust, as if he brought the plague and would ruin something important. Hunter shivered and kept on Gabriel's heels.


Thank you very much for reading, things should be heating up shortly as secrets that were not meant to be spread are revealed.