The moon shone red on that night. A cursed pact had been made and the result of this pact was brought to the surface for all to see.
"There she is! She's here!"
"She's beautiful. Look at that hair."
" It's as red as a Jati's fox fur boots. "
The screams of the newborn filled the night until the child was cleaned and fed from her mother's bosom. The father of this newborn, Luri, watched Penna and the child until they slept that night. He stepped out into the frigid night air. The forest beckoned him.
Under the cover of night, he ventured into the haven of trees. Eyes glared back at him, glowing a threatening yellow.
"Now you return."
"Taumu. I have a daughter."
A fox, as big as a hunting dog and fur as red as blood approached him. He glared into Luri's eyes. "That's wonderful news!" Taumu began to pace aggitatedly. "Is that what you were expecting? You have stolen your way into a human's bed. She knows nothing about you other than the lies you have told her. I cannot be happy for a child conceived in lies and deceit."
"I couldn't help who I fell in love with-"
"But you made a choice to act on it!"
"The same choice you would have made if you were starving and burrowed into a house for food! It-it was torture to see her everyday knowing that I could never be with her because of what I was."
Taumu sneered as he paced. "Knowing what you are obviously wasn't enough to stop you. Once it's discovered that she's a Shiera the child will be ostracized, maybe even killed. The woman will also suffer. You didn't think of that did you?"
"I won't leave her."
"Of course not. You will see this through to the end." His large paws stopped in their tracks. "If you come here again I will kill you."
"There's no longer place for you here. Go back to the humans. Where you belong." Taumu returned to the darkness.
Luri returned home to where his wife and newborn slept. Warmth swelled in his chest at the sight of the baby's tiny lips as she slept. She was perfect. She had a head full of hair and the most peaceful expression on her face. He dressed down and joined them in bed. Luri kissed the soft skin of her forehead. A child born from deceit was still a child.
The weeks passed slowly as the new family grew into their roles. The child was named Kiima. If Penna had seen any sign of changes in the baby then she had not shown it. Luri was growing more paranoid by the day. His focus was less and less on his work. Everyday he spent time with her just hoping he could catch some strange feature or behavior before her mother. As if he could hide it if anything was out of the ordinary.
Penna noticed his change towards the baby and it started to worry her. Was she sick in some way and she hadn't noticed?
One night the baby woke crying and she quickly scooped her up.
"Wait, I'll take her tonight," he said, half asleep as he sat up.
"No, it's fine," she said as she put Kiima to her shoulder. "You've been in the sun all day. Go ahead and rest. I can take her."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, go back to sleep." She rushed from the bedroom into the living room. Kiima screamed as Penna bounced her and pet her back, trying to lull her back to sleep. Her eyes were heavy with sleep but Kiima's screams wouldn't let her dose off for even a second.
"What's wrong, my baby?" she cooed.
Kiima was silenced with a feeding. She watched her mother's face as she suckled. A sharp pang startled Penna and she pulled Kiima from her breast. She looked in her mouth where the end of a single fang grew from the pink flesh of her gums. Penna gasped and ran back to the room where she shook Luri awake.
He sat up as if he hadn't been sleeping at all. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Kiima! Kiima's- She has her first tooth," she said, sobbing.
Luri lit the bedside candle and they inspected her mouth. His heart sank when he saw the tiny white point. "She's..." He held her close. Kiima didn't scream anymore. Her expression was almost comprehending the situation- as if she could understand what they were saying.
Penna wiped away her tears. "What do we do? If anyone found out we could be killed."
Taumu's words echoed in Luri's mind. Once it's discovered that she's a Shiera the child will be ostracized, maybe even killed. The woman will also suffer. You didn't think about that did you? "How do you think this happened?"
"I-I don't know! Everyone in my family is human. Shiera aren't even allowed in this village!"
"Am I the only man you've ever been with?"
Penna looked from Kiima to Luri. "What are you asking me?"
He looked at Penna. "I won't...raise a half-breed." The words caught in his throat.
"She's only three months old, Luri. What are we supposed to do?"
"What kind of life will she have here if we keep her?"
"If we don't keep her, who would take her? I don't want her to die."
Luri looked into Kiima's face and she smiled. He offered his finger to her tiny fist. She squeezed it as she looked into his eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was be rid of such a precious gift but he couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth. She would have thrown him and the baby out. It was her or him. If they kept her there was no telling when she would start to develop her animal instincts or what might happen because of them. If they didn't keep her...
"I know someone who will take care of her," he said. "Someone who won't care if she's a half-breed."
"Who are they?" Penna asked. "Do they live in this village?"
"No. There's a cabin in the forest. It's old and crude but it is a shelter for the old man who lives there."
"What about the foxes and the owls?"
"The old man will make sure that she is safe and no harm will come to her. He will likely be sitting up by the fire tonight. The smoke can be seen from here."
Penna took Kiima from him and held her against her bosom. "Will you take her there?" she whispered.
Luri sighed heavily. "No. You have to take her."
Penna's eyebrows knit sternly and her eyes locked on his. "What do you mean I have to take her? First you accuse me of being unfaithful to you and now you tell me I must abandon my only child to some strange man in the forest?"
"I will choose the difficult paths," he replied coldly. "You just have to follow them."
Penna left the bed and went into the living room. She wrapped Kiima in a cloth and put on her coat. The door slammed behind her.
In the silence, Luri succumbed to the guilt. He knew it was wrong. What he had done was inexcusable. But he was thinking of her- of Kiima. This is what was best for her. If they kept her she would have to hide the fact that she was a Shiera and that would only breed hate for humans. It was better she didn't remember the loss than to live in a place where she would be hated without the chance to redeem herself.
Penna walked quickly and quietly through the forest with Kiima pressed against her body under her coat. It had begun to snow. She had been able to see the smoke from their house and knew the cabin was well into the forest. The light could be seen through the trees. A torch was lit outside their home before she left so that she could find her way back in the darkness.
Kiima was sound asleep against her as she tried to move steadily through the darkness with her small lamp. The forest was a place she tried not to visit often. Luri always ventured in when they needed firewood or meat.
She came upon the crudely built cabin covered in snow and light from the fire glowing in the window. She snuck around to the front door. There was so much snow Penna dreaded putting her baby on the ground.
"My baby...I'm so sorry." She sniffled. "I'm sorry you were born this way." Penna kissed her supple cheeks and wrapped Kiima in her coat before placing her in front of the door. "I pray that Amiera will keep you strong." She beat heavily on the door before running to hide behind a tree a few feet off.
An old man with a silver beard grown down to his feet opened the door. His eyebrows were thick and resembled the feathers of an owl fanned across his face. He picked up Kiima and took her inside. Hot tears warmed Penna's cheeks until the cold wind chilled her. She hugged herself and returned the way she had come, following the smoke from the torch back home.