Chapter: Innocent Fox
The hunt is on. I leap from tree to tree as my first prey scampers unawares in the foliage.
The scent of her is divine.
Father would approve. He has collected thousands of souls and I will exceed him. I must. Just like Lucius.
My first kill will be my emblem.
A worthy creature, she is a beautiful, lonely and dangerous creature.
My Father has given me only a hundred souls while my brothers reek of so much more.
Just because I am a woman meant for procreation and multiplication. Denied the thrill of the hunt but served with the cold carcass from the hunts leftovers.
I descend slowly from branch to branch. The fox is distracted with something underneath the foliage. It smells of earth and decay. I jump across and land upon the branch above her.
She perks up and looks around, listening. I keep my body still, stop my breathing and slow my heart.
The trees rustle and in the distance, the wind howls as it goes up the mountain.
The fox senses nothing and continues digging. I take my chance and lunge. She sees me too late. My canines pierce through her skin. She howls in pain. I taste her life entering me. She struggles valiantly but I dig my canines deeper and tear her muscles.
Thrill bolts through my blood, the fox’s life force flowing fast through me. I’m a soul eater. A nightmare to humans and all living things.
At the corner of my eyes, I see what she was digging for. It’s a body of another fox mouldy and decaying.
I panic and withdraw immediately; apprehensive I’d poisoned myself.
The fox could be diseased. She had smelled healthy. No scent of death perhaps it was an old mate killed by the cold and hunger.
The fox bares her teeth at me. I sit back astounded. She is alive. She should be limp and dying. Only a physical shell.
At that moment I could not help but admire her. Her fierceness. The fox is a perfect mark.
Lost in a daze I did not hear the arrival of my Father until too late.
I’m lifted into the air and thrown towards the trees. Destroying them as I slam from one tree bark to another bringing them down and sending the animals into a scurry.
“You foolish child. You have no idea what you have done!” My Father roars.
He picks me up by my hair and slams me against the ground like an angry child with a broken toy.
“Father, we should at least keep Cateline alive to rectify her mistake.” Says my brother Lucius smugly, his lips curling into a half grin.
I, feeling barely in pieces look up. Blood oozing down my face blocking my vision.
Strands of my hair clumps together with the blood on my head but I could already feel the ripped skin healing instantly.
My father looks down at me disdainfully; the wrinkles on his face deepening as he scowls down at me.
“ A disgrace to our kind.”
He shoves me to the ground and my head slams hard against it knocking me out.
I wake up to a presence beside me.
“You should have stayed in your room and kept your fantasies in your head.”
I groan as I feel all the aches of newly grown muscles and the ghost remnants of the pain.
“Be forced to bear children like a pig? Is that how you want me to be like Lucius?”
“You got yourself into this trouble by doing something you have no understanding of.”
“I freed myself and claimed my first kill. Just like you and our brothers did once.”
I stand to stretch my aching muscles slamming my head against a branch. I had not realised we were still in the forest. My body was still healing and my energy diluted. My senses were weakened.
I would have thought I’d be locked up in my room by now with the cage spells placed around my doors and windows.
“Have I been exiled, Lucius?” I knew the answer but I wanted to hear what my loving father has asked of me now.
“Yes and no little sister. Here have a drink.” He hands me his personal flask with the engraving of his name. It was a gift from our mother, who I killed at birth.
Lucius was fathers favourite and the third oldest. He was a mighty warrior and well loved by our people for his ruthlessness. However, I knew Lucius well, under all that cold marble like exterior he was soft.
He sets the young animals free from the traps. Heals them and drops them in the forest.
If he killed, he killed with finesse.
At precise points and punctures that killed the target instantly or painlessly. They see it as expert precision but Lucius sees it as mercy.
“I’m fine. What is my punishment now?”
He remains quiet, still with the flask held out to me.
I take the flask from his hand and drink.
“Well?” I gurgle impatiently.
“Kill the fox. Without trying to eat her soul. That is only for sacred hunts. What you did today is blasphemy. You have given what is not yours to give.”
“What are you speaking of, I consumed that Fox’s soul. She is mine.” I throw his flask back to him hard. He catches it easily with ease.
“That is the difference between a male and female soul eater. Men take while the women give. Father did not give you a hundred souls to spite you. He gave it as your dowry. What you have is a gift.”
Fire blazes through my blood. My skin begins to blister and flames soon erupt on the tips of my fingers.
“A gift? I must lay on a bed willingly with a man who will only want me for the souls inside of me? How flattering brother, It is no wonder you have yet to find a mate yourself.”
“You will see it your way no matter how I explain it you Cateline. Just know the fox you bit this morning is wandering this forest with a wounded leg. An easy target for any lone soul eater, hunter or ghoul.”
I clench my fist in frustration. He was not wrong.
“So I must kill her and ease her pain. Is that the best solution?”
“You will understand when you find her and it better be you who finds her first for she will be weak and innocent of this world.”
“What?” I grab my brother and look into his eyes. There is genuine worry wrinkling his forehead looking more and more like our father. A kinder variation.
“Go, find her scent again and do what you must or you will never be welcome at home again.”
He cups my face and in a blink he’s gone, his scent a mile away. He was getting faster each day soon reaching his prime. He could fight to claim father’s rule one day.
Perhaps being a lone soul eater could not hurt. It would save him from my troubles.
Although I am curious, he spoke as if the fox had evolved into something else.
We were a clan amongst many of soul eaters with the ability to harbour specific elements since birth.
I had the element fire burning inside me, always roiling and eager to rise up and burn.
It has taken me years to master it without fully going ablaze. While on the other hand, Lucius had the steady earth element and father as clan leader; the only exception had control of all elements.
One could become the leader through battle or through divine intervention. This is when a soul eater is given the gift of all the elements by the will of the gods not creature. This has not happened for centuries.
I shut off my other senses but olfaction. I could sniff a living being from miles away. It was a lesson we all had to harness.
I could smell the cold wet earth under my feet, the stench of defecation by a ghoul a mile away and her. Her scent was different, more familiar and huskier but she was not alone.
A hunter has discovered her hiding under a tree an acre away. I bound towards her instantly. In a few breaths, I have the hunter slammed against the ground my hand an inch deep in his chest.
“Disgusting creature only able to hunt what is weak.” I lick the blood leaking out of his chest. His heart is fighting against my hand ready to take flight.
“I thought she was dead!” he begs. I take a glance towards the scent of the fox but I don’t see it. I see a woman lying nearby but she looks dead.
I feel a sudden sharp pain in my chest. The idiot had stabbed me with his metallic jewellery.
I take a deep breath and press down harder on his chest. He screams in agony.
His skin starts to melt off turning into liquid sinking into the earth. His bones start to crack as I rise. Turning into black dust and blown away with the wind.
Nothing is left behind but a mark, a swirl of a fox’s tail blazing; like it was drawn with fire. My mark! I have a mark but what does that mean if I am not meant to be a huntress?
A moan escapes from the woman. I go to her to find she is naked on top of a large fox fur blanket.
Uncomfortable I avoid looking too closely. “Are you alright human lady?”
“You bit me, creature. Now I have become a monster and dying.”
“You’re a naked human on a fur blanket. I think a powerful man has left you for dead. He was kind enough to let you die in fox fur.”
“That is not a blanket, that is my tail!” growls the woman fighting some kind of pain. Her body shakes but she finally sits up and looks at me. It was then I see her eyes. She was the fox.
Is this what my brother meant? I had shifted a fox into a human shifter?
“I’m sorry, I had no idea. Let me heal you, I just need to touch-“ The human fox bites my hand while transforming into a fox. She was no longer an average size red fox but much larger and slimmer and she had more than just one tail. She had nine.
I had instinctively turned off my senses when she bit me. Dumbstruck by her transformation I had forgotten my hand.
It was just bone, with barely any flesh hanging on. The human fox moves back ready to pounce but she too becomes astounded and starts to whimper as my hand slowly regrows.
The human fox faints.
Due to my hands healing or because of her death minutes away. I don’t know.
“Stubborn aren’t you.” I lift her up using the last few bursts of my energy.
“Well, so am I.”
I streak into a nearby cave. A secret haunt I go to when my father and brothers go far for a hunt.
I lay her on an old worn mattress covered with blankets.
I light a candle with my fingers and sense that my energy is depleting so I light only a few more and return to the human fox.
Her wound from my bite was deep. From her waist and down her left leg. I had bitten deep and moved away to fast slashing her.
I could have healed her instantly but I had used too much of my energy to burn the hunter down to embers.
I had barely any energy left.
I lick my forefinger and trail the cut from her leg to her waist. I could have used my blood but that would have been messy.
As long as any part of me willingly touched her or anyone that needed healing; my Essence was capable of healing anything it comes in contact with. That was why we were hunted.
The world grows foggy and I too fall exhausted beside her.