Chapter 22

• Healing •

Gwyl woke wrapped in soft furs, unable to identify his surroundings. He tried to move, but his body refused, as if his mind had become detached from the rest. He could feel, but nothing else. The furs were comfortable, they were soft and warm, but they were magic, and Gwyl hated magic.

It was what woke him the first time, the feeling of unknown magic surrounding him. He wasn't able to open his eyes, or even think clearly about what was happening. His thoughts were spatters, bits of images with no real connection. There was no feeling of warmth or sound of the forest, no breeze to help him determine if it was night or day.

Something, or someone, flitted at the edge of Gwyl's senses. He wasn't sure of exactly what it was, but it made him wonder if he was doing to die, and that thought began to scare him. He was sure of one thing above all, that he was alive, and at the moment he didn't care very much to die.

There was a strange picture that kept protruding in his thoughts, and a word that went with it. Dragon. The word continued to return, and the image, the great beast of a lizard, where he'd seen it he wasn't sure, but it was dangerous.

Sounds came and went, but it was nothing distinguishable. The language was unlike any Gwyl had heard in his life, a soft mantra, that entered his very bones. Magic followed the words, flowing around him, through him. It felt very much like the magic of Albus, the old wizard from the castle, but it was stronger and more distinct. It also was like the werewolf magic sometimes, at least the part of them that were magic. Sometimes it was unlike any magic he had encountered, so pungent that he couldn't breathe, and yet he continued to live as he was exposed to it.

Time passed like it always does. Gwyl couldn't be sure of how long it was. His internal clock, which he had relied on for so long, no longer functioned properly. His waking moments were irregular, the presence was not consistent, and the room provided no means to track the passage of time.

When Gwyl finally managed to open his eyes, nothing changed. The darkness was so absolute that even his adept eyes could make out nothing. His arms twitched, and with a painful move, he pushed away the furs that had covered him, no longer able to manage with the taste of magic.

Growling, he tried to move further. His body complained and sharp, searing pains shot through his body with even the most minor movements. Hot, boiling pain filled his body as his blood began to circulate normally. His even breath had turned ragged by the time he sat up.

"This idea, foolish it is," a chalky voice said, and Gwyl twisted towards it, barely fighting the urge to cry out because of the pain. He recognized the voice, the same voice that had been surrounding him with magic. He growled, his eyes trying to focus on the place where the sound had come from.

A jet of magic shot towards him and Gwyl dodged it painfully, then leapt towards his attacker. Because of the darkness he couldn't see the attacker, but he could feel as the man brushed against him, dodging. As much pain as he was in, Gwyl's power filled him and, for a moment, he was quicker than the attacker, latching onto his arm.

Ever magical person that Gwyl had ever observed using magic had done it with their hands. Many times it was with wand-sticks, but it had always, always involved their hands. He didn't know why, because magic was in all parts of them, but their hands seemed to conduct it. That was why, as Gwyl held the arms behind the attacks back, he was surprised when a burst of magic came from the man. The pain he was feeling quadrupled and the bit of power he had briefly attained had all but disappeared. He collapsed on top of the man, conscious, but unable to move no matter how hard he willed it.

There was a long pause of movement, and then the man beneath him pushed Gwyl away. He didn't do it hard either, just enough that he could slither out from beneath Gwyl. He spoke words, but they were not in a language Gwyl understood. Even if he didn't know what was said, he could hear the burst of anger in the voice. The man finally stood, Gwyl could hear him scraping his feet. He moved, this time further away, shuffling.

Gwyl could hear the leg dragging slightly as the man walked. Knowing that this might be the only time he'd have, Gwyl drew all the power he had to kill the man. Pain beyond his imagination shot through him as he forced himself to a kneeling position. Then, with a grunt of pain so extreme he could not stay silent, he continued to his feet.

The man stopped moving, but Gwyl could still hear him breathing heavily, matching Gwyl's own short breath. He spoke, three quick words, sounding oddly concerned. Gwyl ignored him, not giving him any way to determine where he was. He was ready to step forward when the man disappeared completely. His presence, his magic, the sound of his heart and breathing, they all disappeared. It was as if the man had opened an invisible door, and stepped through, closing it behind him. But Gwyl could not sense a door, or anything that might be attributed to the man vanishing.

Taking a single step, Gwyl collapsed in pain, no longer able to bear it. He curled into a ball and whimpered, without his pack he was alone, so very alone.

When he was still, the pain ebbed for the most part, coming back at odd times, but staying relatively quiet. The occasional sharp pain felt like a pup who'd forgotten the sharpness of his teeth as they wrestled, it reminded Gwyl of home, and of his pack, and he wondered if he was ever going to see them again. The time in the darkness made him think strange things like that, even though he knew he should be thinking of the inevitable battle between the man and himself.

It was at least a full day when there was a whisper of magic again. It entered like a breeze, and lifted Gwyl from the ground, then pulled him from the darkness.

Gwyl closed his eyes, blinded by the light, but his other senses took over while his eyes adjusted. The man was nearby, standing as still as a human could stand. Gwyl wasn't sure if this was the preceding of an attack, or if the man was just trying to hide. Still, Gwyl could feel the tiny movement of the air near him, hear his heart beating in a slow, rhythmic pattern. He focused on it, ready to do everything that was possible to kill the first instant he had a chance. He could smell the fire the man had been near recently. The magic was there too, a great deal more than what he'd originally had. The man seemed revived somehow, and walked walking without pain again, none that Gwyl could sense at least.

It took several minutes for Gwyl to adjust to the environment. His eyes, in the dark for quite a long while, didn't seem to like the light any longer. When they finally did adjust enough for Gwyl to see objects clearly, he glimpsed the man watching him. He was stock still, and Gwyl's impression of him changed immediately. He was watching, not angrily, or hungrily, nor was he concerned, he just watched. He was short, not much taller than the yearlings, or even Gwyl at full height. The skin was dark, like most of the people in the pack. His features where sharper though, more battle worn. It was obvious, even though he wasn't as powerful as most of the werewolves, he had been through more.

Scars adorned his body, as very little of it was covered. Much of it had been painted too. It was his face that had the most intricate designs though. On his right side where swirls of white, difficult to make out because of the intricacy. His left was much more jagged, like broken rocks, and not nearly as finely designed. The rest of his body was filled with symbols, none of them that Gwyl understood, but they seemed powerful. His eyes were mild-brown, and deceiving, because Gwyl knew he was a lot more deadly than his eyes led to believe.

"Motion is cause pain," the man said, speaking his strange, twisted magical words. There was no trace of an accent, as the werewolves had, so it sounded as if the man spoke it frequently, and yet he did not speak it right at all. The voice carried magic with it, they weren't causing magic, rather they were magic, and Gwyl shrank away just slightly, still ready to strike as quickly as possible.

"Leave alone," Gwyl insisted when the man took a step forward. He didn't like humans, and he didn't like magic. He'd had enough of human help when he'd been at the castle, and he was disgusted by all of them. They had tried to turn him into one of them, and he wasn't going to go through that again.

"Healing is needed," the man said, speaking magic again, "difficult it is. Poison spreads again. This is effect of fight again. Difficult to survive a dragon's poison. Strange, that you live. The magic within is strong, violent strong."

"Want to leave," Gwyl said, carefully watching for an exit, but unable to turn his head without loosing track of the man. He knew it was impossible to outrun the man, and probably impossible to win a fight with him, but he wouldn't let himself be forced into bondage again. He refused to be turned into a human.

The painted man growled, making it obvious that he was upset because of the request that was made. He didn't seem angry, just upset, he was warning, telling Gwyl he was in control. "Choice you have. You stay awake during healing. You do not stay awake. Keep moving, you no choice but to not be awake. More you fight, longer to heal. If stop, we finish heal, then we speak."

Again, his words were laced with magic, thought Gwyl couldn't figure out why. He closed his eyes, thinking silently. "I not like magic," he said simply, but didn't move. He wasn't going to be put into an unconscious state, and he wouldn't move until he knew he could have the upper hand against the man.

There was a frown that made the white paintings change size and shape. It looked for a moment as if they were alive. Gwyl wondered if they were some sort of magic. "Does not matter," he said. "Only way to live. Takes pain away. Want feel pain?"

Gwyl growled yes.

"Fine," the man snapped angrily. Even if he couldn't speak English quite right, it was obvious it angered him. Then, with a wave of his hand Gwyl was screaming at the sudden onslaught of pain. It felt as if he'd been bitten in half and his whole body seared like hot fire.

"Can make go away again," the man said and raise his hand.

Angrily, Gwyl clenched his jaw, struggling to overcome the pain. He wouldn't scream again, it showed weakness. As the man's hand started to move Gwyl growled in anger. "No," he hissed once he'd taken another breath. "No magic."

"Persistent you are." the man said, and then lowered his hand. Some magic was used, but it was barely perceivable. Gwyl could tell that whatever it was that the man was doing, he was using as little magic as he could. The man was unlike any wizard Gwyl knew, and Gwyl wondered if he was a shaman instead of a wizard.

Hours later the pain had partially subsided, but it still ached across his whole body, sharp pains coming and going as time passed. The painted man was the same way. He drifted in and out, but never made any more noise than a few grunts. At one point, after a good deal of time had passed, he waved his hand over Gwyl's face. There was a burst of magic that tasted stronger than most magic's, and then Gwyl opened his eyes again to a different room.

Instantly Gwyl struggled and found himself tied down, which made him struggle even harder. It took several minutes of sharp pain before he stopped, but he did feel a great deal better than before.

"You do not move," the shaman said, appearing from nowhere. Gwyl hissed at him, he hated it when he was caught unprepared and this shaman seemed to be able to do that. "I heal you as best I know, will take time. If can do magic to finish, make faster heal." Gwyl only shook his head and the man left again.

It was several days before Gwyl was even able to move. Fever gripped him once more and took him to the edge of death several times. He would often become semi-conscious when the shaman was around, because of the taste of the magic nearby. However, the man seemed to use very little of it on Gwyl, and Gwyl very much appreciated it even if he couldn't think clearly.

As far as he could sense, no one else came. Gwyl could smell the scent of others near, but it was old, and so faint that, other than knowing it was not the shamans, he had no idea how many or who it was. If he concentrated hard enough, which was quite difficult in his state, he could smell blood. It was old blood though, as old as the human smell, and he came to the conclusion that whatever had caused the blood had also left a long time ago.

When Gwyl first realized he was healed enough to move, he thought of what had happened the last time and decided to stay put. He longed for his pack, wishing that Dog or Silver was there to lick his wounds and curl up next to him. There was no one though, no one except the shaman. The old man brought food three times daily, and few it to Gwyl slowly, and, after checking Gwyl's wounds, would disappear again without saying any words at all.

It was almost another full week after breaking his fever that the shaman spoke again. "You move now. Do nothing difficult, but you need moving," he said in English, his words still laced with magic. The English was getting better, it seemed to the more he used it, but it was still twisted and strange even if it was understandable. He disappeared through the doorway, leaving Gwyl alone.

Gwyl almost slumped to the floor the first time he tried to stand. His legs were weak, and slightly numb from lack of use. He forced himself to stand though, and he examined himself for the first time since the attack. His stomach bore thin scars, though they did not look as bad as they should have. His arms and legs also bore the same scars, as if someone had sliced him in pieces. But, he was whole still, and not particularly disfigured, other than being weak, he was sure that he wouldn't be affected by the wounds he'd taken.

Twenty minutes later, after limping through the rooms surrounding him, Gwyl made it back to the bed which he'd been laying on. The sheets he'd been using were clean, and he could taste lingering magic on them, though there was none now, they had been magicked in some way while he was gone. Gwyl was frustrated that the man had been able to come into the room without him sensing it, he hadn't been far away at all.

"You sense magic?" The shaman asked from a doorway into the room. Gwyl turned as quickly as possible, which was not very quickly, to look at him.

"You have magic voice." Gwyl said, watching the shaman.

"This is truth. Magic gives me words. Not speak English with no magic," the shaman said. "Have not learned enough to speak right. My language different, you not understand. I use magic to make understand."

"Not like magic," Gwyl said.

"You say much. I not sure why. Curious why. You very magic, much more than most things, so not understand why hate magic."

"I not magic," Gwyl said defiantly.

The shaman laughed. It was a deep, barking tone that made Gwyl's eyes narrow even more. He refused to relax around this man, not when he could easily loose a fight. He could not afford to lose, he was the leader of a pack, he needed to return to them.

"You extreme magical. Maybe why sense magic. Reason live after dragon attack. It make strong and make able to move. Give power to continue when other would hurt... when other would fall of pain. It is to make you strong, not fear it."

Gwyl liked that idea, he needed to be strong. But, he still did not like magic.

"You are Gwyl?" the shaman asked, changing the topic of the conversation.

Gwyl was a little surprised that the shaman knew his name. Still, he allowed himself to nod. The man had healed him, and even if he didn't trust him, he needed to show some consideration and, perhaps, respect.

"Gwyl, Wolf-Demon."


"You are Demon then?" the shaman asked, looking interested. "You once just wizard," he pointed out as an afterthought.

"Not Wizard!" Gwyl almost screamed, and his body shivered with pain. He groaned, but stayed standing.

"Not anymore, much more now. Have read things in the old writings, but not see a demon that was before a human. Strange demon you are, have not found one like you."

"Not human either," Gwyl said, "am animal."

"Yes animal," the shaman said after a long period of thought. "Rest, I cleaned sheets, not fear magic used to do. You explored area, know where the restroom."

With that, the man disappeared into the blackness that he had come from. I crawled into the bed and slept again.

"I think, perhaps, it is time that we have some rules," the shaman said a few days later, his English almost perfected now. It seemed as if the more he used the magical words the easier they seemed to flow. His reason for speaking, was because he had caught I trying to move through a black door, ignoring that magic around it. "There are only a few."

I growled.

"Good. First rule, you not to harm anything in forest, unless it attacks you first. I will provide food."

The thought of I not providing for himself was irritating, but then, if I didn't have to hunt, he could search for ways of escaping instead, so he let it slide.

"Second, you will not travel through any magical doors such as this one. There are very few of them, and I had suspected you would leave them alone because they are magical, but you have proved more persistent than I thought."

I growled again, trying to look through the door. "There is nothing through there that you will see," the shaman said. "It is my personal quarters. I have been watching you carefully to insure you heal properly. You are not healed yet, not completely. This brings me to the third rule. You are to be careful until I say you are fully healed. Even now the poison runs through your veins, and it always will, but until you are able to fight it off fully, you will not be healed. In fact, you will be quite weak until then."

"Fourth," the shaman said. "You will not be able to leave this place until I say so, so do not try."

The rule was stupid, and I knew there was no way he would follow it. He growled and stared at the shaman, still wondering if it might be better to kill the man and find a way without him. "Not keep prisoner," he said finally, remembering that his life had been saved because of the shaman, and he would not allow himself to kill someone he was indebted to unless it was absolutely necessary.

"I will keep you for however long I think it will take to properly heal you. It is not my choice either. I am repaying one life for another, a life debt, you may not understand what that is, but sufficient to say, I cannot let you go until I know you will not be killed without me."

"I strong enough," I said defiantly.

The shaman laughed deeply. "If you were strong enough you would have left. I'll tell you what, if you can find a way out of this place, you will be allowed to go."

I nodded, happy that the rule had been changed.

"My rule," I said. "No magic."

"I'm afraid I cannot do that. Magic is required to sustain my life, nearly everything I do here, I do with magic. However, I will try and keep from using it when I am near you."

For days, Gwyl never saw the shaman, he found food on his bed, and clean sheets whenever he returned from exploring, but the shaman was never nearby.

Mostly he explored, trying to find the place where he could leave. The temple exit was easy enough to find, there were dozens of them, but no matter how far into the forest he went, it always seemed to lead to cliffs that he could not climb or trees and bushes that were so dense he doubted even a gnome could fit through them. His knife, which had been with his belongings when he started exploring, would cut through the trees, but they would grow back just as fast and Gwyl would never get anywhere.

He also wore a robe of some sort, as healed as he was, his wounds were raw still, and when he moved through the forest it was quite painful to have anything slide against them. The robe was soft, against his skin, and while slightly irritating, was much easier to wear than the pain he felt when he was struck by branches in the forest. It had been one of the many things that the shaman had given him, simply leaving them at the end of the bed.

It was in the evening when Gwyl came into the temple again and found the shaman waiting for him. He seemed more alive than when Gwyl had last seen him, and he was smiling. "You and I are going to have to come to a truce," he said as Gwyl slowed at the doorway. "You have much inside in conflict, and strong potential. Would not be good to let it go to waste. I wish to teach you of many things."

Gwyl narrowed his eyes. "What is potential?" he asked, still refusing to come across the room and be near the shaman, he'd been ambushed once too many time by magic to trust it.

"It is... greatness. Inside you there is something that could make you stronger than ever, greater than any other."

The word stronger affected Gwyl. Now that he was alive, and nearly back to full strength he wasn't sure he was strong enough, even if he had never been hurt. The dragon and the other demon had defeated him, and he wouldn't allow that to happen again.

"How make strong?" Gwyl asked, his eyes still narrowed with suspicion. However, he was intent to find out the answer. Perhaps, if he was stronger, Kangon would not have the power to hold him inside the cave.

"Before I tell you, you must get used to magic."

"Not like magic."

"Yes, I know. I asked you last time why you did not, and you did not answer me."

"Magic trap me many times. Trap me in air, trap me in castle, keep me from going to home, make things happen I not want."

"Someone trapped you with magic?" the shaman asked. "Did they have a reason?"

Gwyl almost yelled at the shaman for asking, but it suddenly occurred to him that they did sort of have a reason for it, something that was caused by him. However, it hadn't been the only reason."

"They want me be human again," Gwyl said. "They want take to Dursley."


"Mean humans. Hurt Gwyl."

"So they trapped you to turn you to a human and make you go back to people who hurt you?"

"Rela... teev?" The shaman did not seem to understand the word, so Gwyl explained it the best he could. "Dursley uncle. Dursley aunt."

"Relatives," the shaman said, nodding. "I see. I am assuming they were being abused."

"Abuse, yes. Uncle kill Gwyl."

This seemed to startle the shaman. "Your uncle tried to kill you?"

"Yes, everything disappear and Gwyl find forest. Live there, but have to come to this forest now."

"How old are you?" the shaman asked.

Gwyl tilted his head and thought, hard, it was difficult for him to remember back that far, but not completely impossible. He held up his hands and counted to himself. "Eight," he said finally.

"And how old where you when you started living in the forest?"

"Five," Gwyl said immediately. He was beginning to remember things he didn't want to and he looked down, trying to push back the memories. It was successful, the darkness that had seemed to start to envelope him disappeared.

"I wonder if that, perhaps, is the reason you became a demon."

As much as Gwyl called himself a Demon and wanted others to call him that, he still did not know what a demon was. If this shaman knew, he might answer, and so Gwyl asked.

The shaman looked happy to answer. "There are many demons," he said thoughtfully. He opened his mouth to speak again and the words came out in harsh guttural words. He paused, said something very clearly, and then spoke once more. "There are many demons in the world," he repeated once more in English. "They take all different forms. Most of them are a part of the magical society that exists in the world, and are accepted for what they are. They are much like humans for the most part, or wizards, with more latent power beneath the surface. Some have less magical abilities in certain areas, some have more."

Gwyl shook his head, "not understand," he said.

"Alright. You know what a human is?"

Gwyl nodded.

"You know what a wizard is?"

Again, Gwyl nodded.

"The difference between a human and wizard is what?"

"The wizard has magic," Gwyl said.

"Yes, that is the predominant difference. Wizards have all sorts of magic they use. Some makes people heal, some makes things clean, some hurts people, some cleans, some controls. Many forms of magic do many different things."

"Different magic?" Gwyl said slowly, digesting all the information with a good bit of difficulty. There had been a lot said, and Gwyl had a difficult time making it all fit inside his head. However, now that he thought about it, there was all sorts of magic in the world, some of it must be different than others. But, did that mean there was good and bad magic? Perhaps not all magic was bad then.

Gwyl shook away the thought quickly, wondering if he was perhaps being tricked.

"Yes. Now, there is a wizard and a demon. Demons are usually less magical, but they have magic that wizards cannot use. Some control fire. Some control happiness."

"But wizard magic do fire and happiness." Gwyl had seen fire magic with his own eyes, and the shaman had said some magic did happiness.

"It is different. Demons truly have control of them. Wizards can make it, but to a demon it is a part of them. Like, a wizard can cast a spell that will create fire, while some demons can simply think and they create fire in their hands."

"Not same?" Gwyl asked, still a little unsure about the explanation.

"No. It is very different. Take you for example, you heal extraordinarily fast, which is not a wizard power, rather I believe it to be a wizard power. I wizard could do it, but he would have to use a wand, he would not do it without having to create it. Your body controls that magic and changes it to fit your needs. You are strong, yes?"

Gwyl nodded. This had been proven many times. He knew he was not as strong as he needed to be, but he was strong.

"...and fast?"

Once more Gwyl responded with a nod.

"You are much more than any wizard is."

"Strong and fast like Kangon. We fight, not win, but not lose."

The shaman examined Gwyl again and nodded. "We'll make you stronger," he said resolutely, "but first comes the hard part."

The magic that burst from his hand made Gwyl stumble backwards, but not quick enough to avoid it. The magic struck him full on. Gwyl froze, the magic leaving a nasty taste in his mouth. After it had passed, Gwyl looked to the shaman, unsure what had happened. He felt no different than before, and he always assumed magic would harm him.

"What magic?" Gwyl asked, choosing not to attack yet.

"It is a simple strength charm. You will find that, for a few minutes, you are quite a bit stronger than normal."

Gwyl jumped up and down, still feeling no different. He did notice he was jumping higher than normal. He reached to the nearest protruding section of wall above him and pulled on it. When he was nearly thrown to the roof he seemed surprised. Once he was standing again he looked at the shaman and thought long and hard. "Why you do that?" he asked.

"It is because I am trying to prove to you that magic can be used for good as well as evil. The things the wizards did to you was wrong, but not all magic is used in that way. You need to understand that using magic can be good before you can get stronger."

"Still not like magic," Gwyl said rather resolutely, a little angry magic had been used on him without his authorization.

"You can sense all magic, am I correct?"

Gwyl nodded.

Rather slowly, the shaman moved forward. Gwyl stood stock still, waiting for his hand to wave in some way so that he could avoid whatever magic was going to be done. However, when the shaman was close enough to touch Gwyl he reached out, still slowly, and then, with a speed that Gwyl had yet to see from the old man, grabbed hold of Gwyl's knife and pulled it from the sheath. He was to the other side of the room before Gwyl even got over the surprise.

"You refuse to use magic, and yet you have this wonderful tool."

Gwyl growled and squatted, ready to throw himself across the room and retrieve his weapon.

"I will return it in a moment," the shaman said, trying to fend off the impending attack. "I merely want to demonstrate something to you." Looking around for a moment, the shaman waved his hand at the wall and a large chunk of stone broke free and came to his hand. Another movement and it broke in half.

"These are the same pieces of rock, they are enchanted for strength, but I will remove it from one of them, and create a third piece, from magic."

With a flick of his hands there was a burst of magic, then another. The two rocks suddenly became three.

"Now, come and examine them," the shaman said. "Chose the rock without magic."

Gwyl moved forward, sniffed the rocks and then stared at them for several seconds. When he had made up his mind that one of them was completely lifeless, he chose it by pointing it out.

The shaman stepped forward, Gwyl took a step back. Then, with a heavy sweep, the shaman brought the knife down on to the rock. Sparks flew everywhere and tiny bits of fragments of the rock sprayed Gwyl's face. Still, very little damage had been done, a gouge in the surface.

"Now chose the rock not made of magic."

Knowing what it was, Gwyl immediately pointed it out.

The shaman swung the blade down again, and once more, after the tiny rock fragments had sprayed everywhere, the rock stood, with a much deeper gouge, nearly halfway through the rock.

"And last," the shaman said, raising the knife. He swung and Gwyl shied away, but nothing happened. He blinked and looked at the rock, which had been cleanly broken in two.

"Go ahead and feel the rocks, there is no difference in hardness."

Gwyl reached out tentatively and pulled the halved rocks from the table. He weighed it in his hand and tried to crush it, but it was strong, quite strong. He picked up the second rock and tested it. There was no different in weight or strength. Testing the third he found the same results. There was no difference between them other than magic.

"Not understand," Gwyl said finally.

"Your knife is endowed with strong magic," the shaman explained. "It is specifically for use against magic. It is a strong knife when used against normal things, but when used against magic, it is much, much stronger. It is simply a different form of magic. However, you keep it at your side all the time, do you not?"

Gwyl didn't like where this was leading. The man was winning the battle of words and his mind was making things more difficult. How could he hate magic? He used it. Was that not wrong? Gwyl knew right and wrong, his morals were perhaps not as most are, but he understood the difference of things. He knew it was wrong to kill if he was not protecting something or fighting for food. He knew it had been wrong, in some way, to take Stray from the humans. However, she had wanted to come, and he felt the good outweighed the bad. However, he was using magic all the time, so it was not correct for him to say magic was bad.

Magic was everywhere, in the trees, in the ground, in his pack members, everything had magic. Still, magic wasn't always good and he knew he must be careful of it.

"Do you understand yet?"

"Not like some magic," Gwyl said, changing his statement slightly.

"Good, we're getting somewhere. Now, let me help you see that you are magic."

The shaman turned and disappeared into the black hole that was the doorway to his room. Gwyl wasn't sure if he should follow, but the shaman reappeared quite quickly holding something in his hands. Gwyl couldn't see what it was, but it was giving off a strong sense of magic, like torrential rain beating down upon him.

Gwyl stepped back, his body suddenly becoming quite weak. He stepped again and almost stumbled to a stop on the ground. Something inside him started to ache, nothing like any pain he'd ever felt before. It pushed at him, choked him from the inside, and he began to have trouble breathing, it almost felt as if half of him was being ripped from his body. The third time he stepped back, he finally did stumble. "Hurt," Gwyl said, clutching his body as if it might help the pain go away.

The shaman stepped back and disappeared through the door once more. Gwyl felt his whole body relax and he began to feel his senses return.

From the inky blackness the shaman came again, once more holding something within his hands. Gwyl readied himself to flee, so whatever it was would not affect him, but when he connected with it he began to feel strong again. Crawling to his feet, Gwyl stooped and growled, ready to fight the shaman for whatever it was the man held. However, it was the shaman who seemed less powerful this time, and he did not stray far from his black door. When Gwyl was ready to jump forward and take this wonderful feeling, the shaman stepped back and disappeared for the third time.

When he finally returned, he had nothing in his hands.

"What you have felt was a focused compendium of memories," he said calmly, staying as close to the door as was possible without walking back through it. "The first memories were joyous ones, each something special collected from the members of the village before it was destroyed. It is designed to keep off terrible things, and works for the most part. Most things I do not wish to disturb this place do not come because of it.

"The second was memories of sorrow, misery, pain, they are like a shadow in light, the darker things of our mind. They too serve a purpose and where from the villagers. Tell me, how did you respond to them?"

"First hurt," Gwyl said trying to decide what that meant. "Feel like inside coming out."

"And the second?"

"Make hungry," Gwyl said. "want to take and eat. Feel good inside."

"That is what I thought. Generally demons respond well to darkness. All feed on a variety of different things, but all respond well to darkness of some sort."

This was very little proof to Gwyl that he was magical, but it was beginning to make sense. This was how Gwyl first began to realize that magic was not so bad, and perhaps it might be good to know how to use it. This was also how Gwyl first began to form a very tentative friendship with the elderly shaman.

When he was not being shown magic, Gwyl often sat on the edge of the forest and listened to the creatures beyond. At night he would howl into the wind, waiting for his song to be heard, waiting for his pack to come to him.

Even being that he had a companion, Gwyl felt alone. He tried to focus, to learn the things that the painted-man wanted to show him, but it was difficult, and he could rarely hold his attention for long. It wasn't until the shaman mentioned a form of magic that turned animals into humans, that he became truly interested. Yes, he knew magic was powerful, and he knew it could make him stronger, but it hadn't been enough to make him forget his pack.

However, the thought of turning to a wolf drove him to learn of how powerful magic was. The shaman couldn't demonstrate, saying he was unable to turn to an animal, though some wizards could. When Gwyl stated, quite clearly, that he wasn't a wizard, the shaman continued to explain that some demons could become animals as well. The explanation itself was complicated, and Gwyl lost track of it even though he tried not to. In the end he knew that it was possible he was one of the demons that could transform.

When he'd showed interest, the shaman had been excited, and showed Gwyl everything he knew about it. Once that was done, they went to work, trying to figure out if Gwyl could do it. There were questions, may questions, most of them Gwyl didn't answer, but when there was something the shaman could convince Gwyl was relevant, he answered them.

The knowledge was there, and the drive was there. For hours on end, Gwyl sat and focused, trying to find his 'beast' as the shaman said (in English) or his katan in the shaman's language. Weeks came and went. Gwyl's only focus was to learn this magic of transforming, and he pushed and pushed, forgoing as many lessons as the shaman would allow.

Still, he learned, a little at a time, watching quietly for his chance to escape.

• Updated 2005.08.07 •