Red Ryder - Chapter 7 by Rtesian ()
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Night had settled into its nocturnal rhythms. Insects chirped for mates. Furred creatures scurried through the underbrush. Overhead, the flap-flap of a bat's wings whisked by. Lukas sat still, the sounds converging into a brain that could apprehend but without understanding. His gaze turned toward scent-long-neck. The horse grazed and munched with its ears trained on Lukas. Theirs remained an uneasy relationship but each had settled into spaces defined by growls and snorts when the other got too close.
Lukas shifted toward scent-white-hair. A gentle heartbeat and soft breathing raised no alarms. He looked back at scent-long-neck then back to scent-white-hair. Eyes turned to his hand. He rolled and twisted it, watching the fire's light glint off its claws. He looked back at her then again at his hand before once more facing scent-long-neck.
A voice rose in his head of scent-white-hair making a familiar sound. Over and over he heard, "Lukas. Lukas. Lukas." A tingling sensation washed over his body. Every nerve pinged and hummed. He became faint, dizzy. "Lukas. Lukas. Lukas." Eyes darted toward scent-white-hair's hand then snapped back to his. Hers. His. Hers. His. A thought smashed through the fog. "Not scent-white-hair!"
He stood up ramrod straight, muscles stiff, unbending. Her voice shouted in his head, "Lukas." He turned and sped off into the woods. Lungs breathed deep and hard. Oxygen-fueled legs became pistons powering a freight train. Arms pumped in synchronized rhythm. Sharp, clear signals from a newly awakened mind ignited precision reflexes. He dodged trees, vaulted fallen ones, leapt over bushes. On and on he ran. His passage silenced chittering insects, routed roosting birds, scattered drowsing deer.
He burst onto a clearing just as the clouds parted for a glittering moon. He stopped, slowly rotating in place, a heaving chest rose and fell. Everything his eyes lay on produced a single thought. "Not Lukas!" Legs spread, arms thrown back, his head rose to the heavens. A just awakened Lycanthrope's long dormant voice lifted. A howl, long and mournful emerged. Lukas howled and howled again. All who heard cowered in fear. All who heard bowed to the wolf.
Lukas stopped. Sudden silence blanketed the night. He looked up to stare at the stars and moon then strode back into the woods. Ears twitched to the sound of a tunneling earthworm. Eyes parted the shadows to individual leaves. His snout crinkled to the scent of anything that moved. But now an aware, sentient mind sifted and processed into categories created by the one thing he had not possessed: context. He walked through a world re-identified with every step.
After a while, a small fire flickered through the trees. He sniffed. Nothing disturbed the night or scent-white-hair's sleep. A hoof stomp and a snort identified scent-long-neck. He radiated out toward the horse. "Lukas not hunt."
He stepped into the flame's glow and checked once more for danger or threat, squatting down to gaze at scent-white-hair, reacquiring and refamiliarizing himself anew. Something akin to affection coursed through his veins. Lukas extended a finger to just touch her nose. Red opened an eye to take him in. She smiled.
to be continued...