Prologue: In the Beginning

Out of the night, the sounds of music could be heard. The music originated in a forestall clearing in the woods where five robed figures danced before a grand bonfire. Each wore a hood to hide their faces from sight. Between the five figures and the fire were five caged animals. The animals seemed unnaturally frightened by the ritual the figures seemed to be involved in and their cries mingled with that of the music the figures were creating.

Then all at once the music ceased and the five figures each stood in front of one of the caged animals. Slowly they pulled back their hoods. Each had their face painted to resemble the corresponding animal that they stood in front of. In unison, they began a slow chanting that seemed to soothe the wails and cries of the frightened animals. After a few minutes, their chanting went silent and they stared into the fire. "Nathos, our lord and master," they prayed in unison. "Grant us your gift and remake us in your image so that we may become your full servants and disciples."

As they spoke, the height of the flame rose until it was high above their heads. They all went silent and stretched their arms out to their sides, waiting patiently. In an instant, streams of fire coursed out from the main body of the flame, engulfed the animals, and struck each of the figures. The silence of the night was shattered as the death screams of the animals echoed out into the night. The figures collapsed to the ground and, though thoroughly ablaze, remained unnaturally silent. In their very souls, they felt the death of the corresponding animal that had stood before them. Suddenly, they all let out a piercing wail as their flesh burned off of them and their bones cracked open their bodies to reveal their new forms. Each had become the animal that had been in front of them. With their pain gone and their minds awash in new thoughts, they went off into the night to explore their new existence.

The first of them raised his head upon high and let out a long loud howl of praise. A smaller creature tore off through the woods away from him and he pursued. Soon the sounds of him dining on the small creature could be heard.

The second felt lighter than air as she soared across the moon and over the world looking with her new eyes. She then spotted her night's feast and swooped down for the kill.

The third one stalked off slowly through the woods. He felt power in his limbs as he walked. A scent filled his nostrils and hunger overcame him. He followed the scent to a still-young tree and, with a single swipe of his massive forepaw, splintered its trunk and dug out the animal that nested within.

The fourth stretched and let out a low growl of pleasure. Then his eyes pierced the darkness and he spotted something dash away into the night at a high rate of speed. In an instant, he pursued and made his first kill.

The last scurried off through the underbrush. She presently encountered a creature twice her size, intent on making her its meal for the evening. With graceful agility and lightning fast speed, she made the predator her prey and it was her who had a meal.

At dawn, just before the bonfire died out, they all returned. Slowly each moved to their previous position in front of the fire and their human appearance began to return. Once they were human again, they stood up, looked at one another, and noticed that they had all changed. Somehow they had become seemingly joined with their animal. The Wolf had grown longer hair and his face showed a menacing tone that it had not had before. The Hawk was leaner and more statuesque than she had been. The Bear had grown in height and in mass. The Tiger looked more intelligent, more agile, and his eyes were fiercer than before. The Mink was slimmer and sexier than before and her skin now looked like fresh milk. The fire found new life and rose up again. They all looked on as it spoke, "My children, you have been remade in my image. Learn all about your new lives. Learn all about your new powers. Use all that I have given you. But beware. Guard your secret well. Do not be careless or reckless. Farewell, my children." With that the flames died out in a great gust of wind and all was silent and still.

To be continued…