In a daze, Lynx left Sacre's hut, just as the rest of the world was waking up. Antelope and Kalikka passed by Lynx, whispering to themselves. Antelope then entered Sacre's hut. Before entering however, she announced loudly to Kalikka "Sacre doesn't really need to test me; he already told me he is going to select me as his apprentice." Kalikka just smirked and Lynx tried her best to ignore them.
She entered her hut, where Eilen and Eldon were sitting by each other. Elizen was still asleep in the corner.
"Lynx." Eilen called her name. Lynx walked in all the way and knelt by her foster parents. Several years ago Lynx had wandered into the camp, knowing nothing except her own name. "I saw you leave this morning." Eilen's voice was gentle and non -accusing.
Eldon cleared his throat before speaking. "I know Sacre spoke with you. I told him the dreams you were having."
Lynx turned her head away, ashamed and suddenly angry. Her hand involuntarily gripped her wrist and she mumbled "He didn't mention it." Abruptly she stood and started to exit. Eilen reached out a hand and placed it upon Lynx's back.
"No!" Lynx wrenched herself away. Eilen remained calm, though a hint of hurt passed across her face. Lynx instantly felt sorry and turned away, ashamed. "I have to go." she murmured and quickly exited the tent before Eldon or Eilen could stop her.
Lynx wandered through the camp, avoiding meeting anyone's eyes. She glanced down and let go of her wrist. The markings had faded slightly, and matched her brown skin tone more closely. In fact, unless you were looking for them, they were very difficult to see. She saw Antelope exit Sacre's hut and quickly made her way into the thick woods surrounding the camp, but not before Antelope saw her.
"Hello Lynx!" Antelope called out in a falsely sweet tone, before laughing. Lynx ignored her and made her way through the thick underbrush. She selected an abandoned deer path and followed it through the woods. The afternoon sun shone bright through the leaves, casting green shadows across Lynx's path. Lynx stopped when she came to a small stream. The sun shone down upon the gently flowing water, causing it to glitter like a gem. Lynx sat down upon a rock and sighed, knowing she could not stay hidden here forever.
She wasn't ready to go back yet. Her burst of anger had left her, and all that was left in her was a feeling of shame and overcoming sadness. She knew she couldn't be mad at her foster family, it wasn't their fault she was different.
Lynx stared at the bubbling brook and realized how very lucky she was to have Eldon and Eilen, who were so accepting. But they couldn't shield her from the other tribe members, nor from the fact that Lynx was just different.
Suddenly all the tears Lynx had been holding back since the tournament came pouring out in a torrent of emotion. She bent over the small stream, sobbing quietly, afraid to disturb the quiet of the forest, yet bursting from the inside. Her breath caught in her throat when she heard a snapping twig and abruptly she looked up.
Brushing away her tears, she was greeted by three young female stags. Lynx turned away as the three deer transformed into three lovely young women. Antelope, Kalikka and Messa.
Antelope stepped forward and brushed a piece of blonde hair out of her cold blue eyes, and stared down at Lynx with scorn.
"So now the poor baby is crying. Is it because I beat you last night? Or is it because you know you can never be one of us." Antelope's voice was sharp and her words cutting. Kalikka and Messa both stepped forward, grinning at Lynx's obvious inner anguish. Antelope let out a short laughed and made a quick flick of her head.
"See you tonight Lynx, "Antelope spat out her name, "When I get chosen as Sacre's new apprentice." With that, the three of them changed into deer and bounded away gracefully.
Lynx dipped her hand in the stream and wiped her face off. As she walked back she tried to keep her mind busy, and not think about Antelope's cruel words. She wondered about the markings on her wrist. Who was the Cat Tribe? She was one of them. Her mind suddenly remembered her vision. She recognized some of the figures as those that haunted her dreams. Her train of thought was interrupted as she entered the camp. She made her way to Eilen's tent to prepare for the ceremony that was occur later that night.
Everyone gathered around the fire, speaking in hushed voices about who Sacre would select as his apprentice. Ceremoniously, Sacre entered the circle. Everyone quieted and Sacre cleared his throat and began to speak.
"As you know, I have called this to order so I may select an apprentice. Several of you have been tested in order for me to gauge your psychic abilities and tendencies. Those who were tested please come up here and stand besides me." Sacre waited while Lynx, Antelope and several other young men and women joined him in front of the crowd. "These youths you see before you have the honor of being considered for this position. My selection of one of these youths will be based on their demonstration of their courage, acceptance, excellence, clarity and respect. And now I reveal to you my future student." Sacre glanced at Lynx and smiled. "May I present to you my new apprentice, Lynx."
Antelope glared angrily at Lynx and stalked away to join Kalikka and Messa. Lynx joined Eldon and Eilen, who squeezed her shoulder affectionately, and smiled down at Lynx with pride.
The next morning Lynx woke up late. The tent was empty and the sun shone through the opening. Yawning and shielding her eyes from the bright light, Lynx rose and exited the tent. Eldon, Eilen and Elizen greeted her as she stepped out into the sun.
"Morning!" Eldon welcomed Lynx cheerfully and with a smile. Lynx nodded as another yawn left her unable to speak. Eilzen ran towards her and hugged Lynx, excitement twinkling in her small blue eyes.
"Congratulations!" she whispered with pride. She stepped back and smiled at Lynx. "And look what I learned to do!" In an instant, seven year old Elizen was transformed into small deer, with a pair of velvety antlers between her two ears. Then just as quickly she changed back.
Lynx pretended to be excited for her foster sister, and really she was. It was just that Elizen's new found ability to shift reminded Lynx of Antelope's harsh comments. You can never be one of us. Eldon sensed Lynx's reservations and called Elizen to his side.
Inner pain could be seen in Lynx's eyes as she thought about how she would give anything to be able to shift into a stag, to truly be part of the Stag tribe. Eldon stepped forward as though to comfort Lynx, but Lynx shied away, avoiding the look of pity she knew she would see in his eyes. She was tired of feeling sorry for herself, and tired of always receiving pity. She didn't want any one's pity.
Suddenly a sharp pain shot through her wrist. Gasping quietly, Lynx looked down to where her new mark was beginning to glow and pulsate. Elizen and Eilen stepped back as Lynx collapsed to the ground, gripping her wrist.
A strange prickling sensation made its way along her back and Lynx felt almost frozen. Soon the prickling sensation covered her entire body, like something was clawing out of her from the inside. Her whole body convulsed and then as quickly as it had begun, every sensation stopped and Lynx was left standing on four paws.
Sacre approached Eldon from the back, and when he saw Lynx a peculiar expression washed over his face. He mumbled something to Eldon, who nodded, looking thoughtful.
Antelope, Kalikka and Messa walked by, chatting among themselves. Antelope glanced over and opened her mouth to make a rude retort to Lynx when she stopped dead in her tracks. Kalikka and Messa stopped too and stared at Lynx in amazement and fear. Suddenly Lynx felt very awkward, and felt herself shrink back before growing taller, furry paws shrinking back into hands and she vision changing and become less sharp.
Soon Lynx was back to normal and Eldon shooed away the awe and fear struck Antelope, Kalikka and Messa. Sacre chuckled to himself and wandered off mumbling.
"Cat ears…the tattoo… it all makes sense, how could I miss it!" he muttered while Lynx's foster family just stared at her in amazement and shock.