Mace Black, Page 406-411 by Wolfenshire ()
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Mace Black, Page 406-411
“Don’t eat that,” warned Tarabeth. “You’ll get sick.”
Gaevin spit out a dandelion and rolled over to let the sun warm his back. The grass was still damp from the night and soaked through his shirt. “Okay, okay, I got another one. Where does a tiger sleep?”
Tarabeth rolled her eyes. Gaevin had been firing off bad jokes all morning. “I give, where does a tiger sleep?”
“Anywhere it wants,” said Gaevin.
Tarabeth groaned and Maseth chuckled. “That’s funny.”
“I got one,” said Rieka, the large dire wolf and newest member of their little gang.
“Okay, let’s hear it,” said Tarabeth.
“What kind of wolf is made out of wood?” said Rieka.
“Hmm…that’s a hard one…I don’t know,” said Maseth.
“A timber wolf,” said Rieka with a toothy grin.
Gaevin burst out laughing, a bit too hard thought Tarabeth. Gaevin was falling all over himself at pretty much anything Rieka said. Tarabeth rolled her eyes again. “That’s actually pretty good.”
“I want to go swimming,” said Gaevin.
“I’m too comfortable to move,” said Maseth. “Let’s wait until later when it gets hot, then the water will feel good to cool off in.”
Tarabeth scratched at an itch. “We should catch some fish to take back also, that way they won’t be so mad we ditched chores again.”
Rieka’s ears perked up and swiveled – her hearing was better than the tigers. “Someone’s coming, sounds like a tiger cub and a hatchling, make that two cubs and two hatchlings.”
Maseth sniffed the air. “It’s Lilaena and Liaem, and their two pests Grath and Casath.”
“I think you got that backwards, Lilaena and Liaem are the pests, I can put up with the cubs,” said Gaevin. “Get down, maybe they won’t see us.”
Tarabeth shook her head as Gaevin tried to find a hole to hide in. “You might be able to hide from Lilaena, but you aren’t going to get away from the cubs, they can smell you a mile away.”
That’s the truth,” said Maseth.
Gaevin threw his dandelion at Maseth. “Oh ha ha, very funny, I took a bath last week.”
“That’s my point,” said Maseth with a bored nod.
Grath tumbled through the high grass with Casath, his sister. Grath had a deep tan, almost brown fur, while Casath was a lighter tan. “I found them,” shouted Grath.
Lilaena and Liaem burst through the grass next. Lilaena had a stock of the purple fireweed in her hair.
“You guys are in trouble, you didn’t clean the outhouse.”
Gaevin shrugged. “We don’t use it, why should we clean it?”
Lilaena scrunch her face up. “Eww, you’re gross.”
Gaevin noticed Grath pulling at his training saddle with a back paw. “Darn it, Lilaena, you should spend your time worrying more about Grath then whether I cleaned the outhouse.” Gaevin rolled onto his knees and knelt next to the cub. “I showed you a hundred times how to put his training saddle on correctly, now look what you’ve done.”
Lilaena put her hands on her hips and glared at Gaevin. “He’s fine, he just doesn’t like the saddle and scratches at it.”
Gaevin ran his hands down the straps that held the saddle in place. “Of course he’s been scratching, you’ve got the straps crossed under his back leg, all the fur is rubbed off and he has an open sore now.”
“He’s my tiger, get your hands off him.”
Tarabeth let out a low growl. “He’s not your pet.”
“I don’t have to do what Gaevin says, he’s not my boss.”
Gaevin narrowed his eyes at Lilaena as he unbuckled Grath’s saddle. “Yes you do. I’m the Senior Rider and you will do what I say when it comes to anything related to these tigers.” Gaevin let the straps hang loose while he inspected the sore. He reached into the saddlebag where Grath’s salve for this type of thing should be stored, instead he pulled out a fistful of flowers. Gaevin threw the flowers on the ground. “Where is his gear?”
Lilaena held her head up in defiance. “In our cabin, I needed room to collect flowers.”
Tarabeth rose and came to stand next to Gaevin. “Use mine.”
Gaevin took the can of salve from Tarabeth’s saddlebag and applied a generous dose to the cub’s leg. He sealed the can and put it back, then lifted the training saddle from Grath. Gaevin stood, turned to Lilaena and shoved the saddle into her arms. “You will carry his saddle with you everywhere you go until his wound is healed and the fur is grown back.”
Lilaena threw the saddle on the ground. “I will not,” Lilaena pointed at Rieka, “Ever since she got here you’ve been mean to me. I’m telling Batheba.”
Lilaena left the saddle on the ground and ran back towards the ranch. Grath bolted after her. Liaem picked the saddle up. Casath, his tiger partner pushed against Liaem. Liaem shook his head. Casath signed to her partner, ‘if you don’t tell them, I will.’
Tarabeth saw the exchange. “Tell us what?”
Gaevin went to Casath and opened two of her saddlebags, all of her equipment was stored where it was supposed to be. Gaevin checked her saddle next and did a quick health check – she flinched when Gaevin ran his hand over her ribs.
“There’s a bruise,” said Gaevin.
“Liaem doesn’t want to tattle,” said Casath.
“Where did you get the bruise, did Liaem do it?” asked Tarabeth.
Casath shook her head. “Lilaena gets mad when she doesn’t get her way.”
Maseth rose from the ground and growled. “Did she hit you?”
“She kicked me,” said Casath. “Grath told her something was wrong with the saddle, but she said it was fine, then he told her she shouldn’t remove his gear from his saddlebags. She hit him on the nose, and when I went to defend Grath, she kicked me, but Batheba told us not to punish the Darai like we would our Riders back home. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Father didn’t mean you should let yourself be abused,” said Tarabeth.
“You’ll both be getting new Riders,” growled Maseth.
Liaem started crying.
“Please, don’t take Liaem away from me, he’s only seven and he’s sweet and kind, but he can’t stand up to Lilaena, she’s three years older than him.”
Tarabeth looked at Maseth, his face was contorted with anger, Gaevin’s wasn’t much better, both boys were furious. “Brother, let’s talk with father and he will decide.”
“We go now,” said Maseth, walking past his sister.
Liaem struggled to carry the saddle. Gaevin took it from him and carried it himself. Rieka came up next to Gaevin as they walked back towards the ranch. “You can put that on my back, I’ll carry it.”
Gaevin shook his head. “No, Uncle Batheba would double my punishment if I’m not the one carrying it when we get there.”
Rieka twitched her ears in confusion. “Why? This isn’t your fault.”
“Yes it is, I’m the Senior Rider and everything that happens to the tigers is my fault. I should have seen that something was wrong with Lilaena. She throws temper tantrums anytime I refuse to play with her.”
“She seemed like she was mad at me,” said Rieka.
“That’s because she needs someone to blame for me not wanting to hang out with her.”
“Is it always this hard to be in a pack?”
Gaevin shifted the saddle on his shoulder, it wasn’t heavy, but was awkward to carry. “Yeah, sometimes. It was easier when it was just me and Batheba, but I wouldn’t trade Tarabeth and Maseth for anything, they’re the best brother and sister anyone could have.”
Lilaena was already talking with Batheba and Miss Talia, the school teacher, when they got back to the ranch. Lilaena was sobbing, and her hair disheveled, her shirt torn, and a cut grazed her cheek. Gaevin and his group stopped and waited for Batheba to give them permission to speak.
“Why are you carrying Grath’s saddle?” asked Batheba.
Gaevin held the saddle out in front of him and reached into one of the saddle bags. He started pulling handfuls of flowers out and dropping them on the ground. “Lilaena also put the saddle on wrong and despite being told something was wrong, left it on Grath and he has an injury now.”
“Let me see the injury,” said Batheba.
Grath turned to the side. Batheba lowered his head and sniffed the wound.
“Casath says Lilaena hit Grath when he complained and then kicked her when she tried to defend Grath,” added Gaevin. “There’s a bruise on Casath’s ribs.”
Lilaena’s face turned purple. “That’s a lie!”
Batheba turned to Casath. “Show me the bruise.”
Casath stepped forward and turned to the side. Moeth walked up to the group just then. “You sent for me?” asked Moeth.
Batheba, his expression still neutral, turned to Moeth. “There is a bruise on Casath’s side, please inspect the bruise and give me your expert advice as a Master Temple Raven as to how the bruise may have occurred.”
Gaevin could see Moeth’s eyes quickly scan the entire situation. He had no doubt she already knew everything. Moeth frowned and knelt next to Casath. She ran her hands across Casath’s ribs until she found the spot, Casath flinched.
“She fell when they were beating me up because I was going to tell on them for skipping their chores,” screamed Lilaena.
Moeth shook her head. “That is not true. A bruise from a fall would be spread out over several ribs, this bruise is localized to one rib, as would occur from a blunt force strike, such as a kick.”
“Look at my face, that filthy wolf tried to scratch my eyes out,” shouted Lilaena.
Moeth didn’t even bother looking at Lilaena. “That is also untrue,” said Moeth. “A wound from a claw tears at the skin leaving a larger ragged cut. The cut on Lilaena’s face is a sharp narrow cut, but not the clean cut of a blade. I would say it was self-inflicted using a thistle thorn, which accounts for the sap on her fingers.”
Lilaena lifted her hands to look for the sap. “I don’t see any sap.”
Moeth ignored the girl and continued. “Also, the torn shirt has two crumple marks to each side, as would happen if you were to grab your own shirt and pull to cause it to tear. Clothing damage from a fight usually only has crumple marking from one fist, as the attacker’s other fist is either blocking, or punching.”
Rieka blurred and shifted to the form a Darai. She smiled and walked up to Lilaena. Lilaena smirked at her. “Filthy wolf,” said Lilaena.
“Lying is wrong,” said Rieka, and before anyone could stop her, Rieka pulled back a fist and punched Lilaena in the nose. Lilaena staggered back and fell on her backside, holding her nose and trying to staunch the flow of blood. “There, now your lie is a truth, much better.” Rieka turned and went back to stand next to Gaevin.
Miss Talia knelt next Lilaena and tipped the girl’s head back. “That wolf is dangerous, there’s no telling who it will attack next?”
“I did not see a wolf attack anyone,” said Batheba. “I saw a little girl of equal size and strength as Lilaena reply to an obvious false accusation. There is, however, still the issue of Lilaena abusing the cubs under her care. Lilaena, you are no longer a Rider of the Sherata. You are to be banished to the rock quarry until a time that I feel you are ready to live as a civilized person among the Sherata and Darai, but you will never again have charge of any Sherata cub.”
Miss Talia did not look at Batheba, but instead at Moeth. “That is a cruel punishment, Lilaena has done nothing but discipline two misbehaving animals.”
Moeth tipped her head in surprise. “I did not expect this, but there is the answer to where this behavior has come from.”
“Teaching these beasts to mimic speech was a clever trick, but nothing more,” said Miss Talia. “I will no longer tolerate these abominations sitting in my classroom.”
Moeth smiled, the smile of a spider about to eat its prey. “You will not have to tolerate them, you are relieved of your duties as a teacher. You have ten minutes to pack, then you are leaving this ranch forever.”
“If I leave, I’m taking the hatchlings with me.”
Later that night in the glow of the fireplace when Gaevin, Tarabeth, Maseth, and Rieka whispered to each other about what had occurred, they would all swear they saw a massive black widow descend on the hapless school teacher before the sky turned to midnight. When the light returned, Miss Talia was gone.
“What have you done with her?” asked Batheba.
“I pushed her out of this Crystal World, by the time she wakes, thousands of years will have passed in here,” said Moeth.
“Perhaps that was for the best,” said Batheba.
Moeth looked down at Lilaena. “I will be going with Lilaena to the rock quarry and remain there until I can purge this sickness from her mind. If I fail, I will take care of what must come next.”
Lilaena dropped her head and sobbed.