Krostovikraven1 – Then you guys should like, wear signs or something.
QuxxnofThrones – I'm glad you're liking it. I'm trying to ground the story in reality as much as I can without getting too mundane. I mean, I can trip over trash cans in real life.
Guest – Yeah, there's something muscular beyond the door. I don't think I'm giving anything away to say that. Or that Rokoff and Paulvitch are going to do something greedy, self-centered, and kind of stupid.
Shadico – Glad you're enjoying it.
Necro-wulf – Pretty much. I'll correct it the next time I'm uploading files. Yeah – Nobody who lives in Jump City is surprised by anything. It's like living in Sunnydale, before the big cave-in.
I don't do the New-52 thing either. At least, not yet. No time for that sort of thing anymore. (Beware becoming an adult. It's a TRAP!) That tends to be how I view both Clayton and Changeling: as avatars or archetypes.
Doomsday? Isn't he a little out of Garfield's weight class?
JOHNXgambit – You guys are making me nervous. When they open that door, and yeah, I don't think I'm giving anything away when I saw that they're going to, I hope ya'll aren't disappointed. It looks like expectations of awesome are pretty high.
ChakorReulle – Yeah. I'll fix it when I upload this.
G The Nephilim – Thanks. And I'm not that smart; I've just been around the block. Around the block, down the road, and put up wet.
BartWLewis – Thanks; good to hear from you. And Raven isn't "technically" sterile. She just flatly refuses to reproduce.
CJ – (Chapter 21) That's a good idea; I may use it later. Can't you just hear him growl, "I'm NOT a vegetarian anymore."
V is for the 5th - Yeah. I'll fix it when I upload this. Thanks, though.
YumeTakato – Thanks; Always good to hear from you.
CJ (Chapter 30) – I know. That's just life when you're a teen.
TheForceisStrongWithThisOne – Now, now. That would be telling.
Attempting2Write – Yeah. Will fix it soon-ish. Thanks for the head's up.
Smilingjack65 – I concur.
AshenAuthor - (Chapter 8) Welcome aboard. In my head, the seasons had advanced to the point that we were post "The End," and Trigon had come and gone. And IIRC, Slade vanishes at the end of that one, after coming back from the dead at the end of Terra's story-arc.
AshenAuthor - (Chapter 28) Our boy NEVER knows which way she's going to react. It's what makes her so fascinating.
AshenAuthor - (Chapter 59) Thanks. Not everybody sees her my way, but in the early Marv Wolfman work, it was pretty clear where all of her resentment came from. Or at least, I thought so.
Writerzero – (Chapter 20) Thank you. Good to hear from you.
AshenAuthor – (Chapter 67) Because I'm the all-powerful god of the plot-twist?
Funnysocks – (Chapter 13) It gives me warm fuzzies when I make my readers cry. (I'm evil that way.)
Funnysocks – (Chapter 16) Most women and a few guys don't get Guyspeak. It's rather primal and can be interpreted in many ways. For example, the second confrontation between Garth and Garfield COULD just as easily has been interpreted as: "Mine's bigger." "Oh yeah?" "Yeah?" "Oh yeah?" "YEAH!" "OH YEAH?" "YEAH!"
Funnysocks – (Chapter 19) Thanks – you're very gracious. The story is coming to a close Real Soon Now, I hope you continue to enjoy it.
Micah – Good to hear from you.
Aleja08 – Okay. PM headed your way.
Writerzero – (Chapter 48) A good point, and one he makes later on when taking about the incident.
Writerzero – True, but the other difference was that when Changeling and Starfire mated, they were supposed to be "with," other people. When Robin and Raven experimented together, they were both technically single. Different rules apply.
Writerzero – (Chapter 64) Thank you. It was a lot of fun to write.
Megageek21 – (Chatper 28) Thanks! That was one of my favorite scenes.
Yep, still not dead. Sorry these updates are coming out so far apart. I've had some personal travel and some business travel get in the way. I'm almost through with the concepts I had in mind when I started, so just a few chapters left. As many people have noted, both characters, but Raven in particular only vaguely resemble the characters from the show. That's on purpose. Part of the original goal was to see how the kids turned out as they grew up. We met them in mid-adolescence, and now they're headed into mid-adulthood. I like to think that I have grown them organically in a believable way. But no, they're not the characters we know from the good old days. I hope to carve out some time to write over the holidays (nothing seasonal this year for the story) so the next update shouldn't take quite as long, and will resolve the African plot and wrap up the honeymoon. I'd hope do to it in this chapter, but you guys have waited long enough.
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"
"I do." – Lamont Cranston
Changeling awoke shortly after dawn and immediately turned to check Raven. She still drifted, motionless above her pallet. He stayed with her until Jane came, bringing his breakfast.
"How is she?" Jane asked.
"I dunno," he said. "I mean, the trance is always a good sign," he continued. "Her record is three days. I won't start getting worried until she's been under longer than that."
Jane smiled. "I'd say that you're already worried, since you haven't been out of this tent for more than ten minutes since she fell."
Changeling looked out of the side of the tent, which had been opened to admit a cooling breeze, turned his eyes to the blue sky and said, "There's nowhere else I'd ever be."
Jane turned her head away so the he wouldn't see her smiling.
"Young love," she thought. "Oh well, it keeps the planet populated, if nothing else."
Jane walked quietly away as Changeling continued his vigil. He read quietly at Raven's side, occasionally playing a pocket video game for a change of pace while the excavation proceeded about them, unheeded. His world narrowed until it contained nothing but the tiny tent and Raven's drifting form. On the second day, Jane approached him again.
"It's very hot and humid here," she said. "I would like to check something if I may?"
"Sure," said Changeling, uncertainly.
As he watched carefully, Jane leaned over Raven's drifting form and carefully reached to her hand. Garfield was a little startled at the contrast between Raven's battleship gray skin and Jane's almost milk-white complexion. With great gentleness, Jane pinched the flesh of the back of Raven's hand between her thumb and forefinger, forming a little tent. She held if for a moment, and then released it. The little grey tent of Raven's skin remained upright for a good twenty seconds before subsiding to its normal, smooth, featureless state. Jane frowned.
"What's that all about?" asked Garfield.
"Well," said Jane, "It's called a turgidity test. Raven's skin should have popped back to normal in less than five seconds or so. It tells me that she's getting dehydrated. It's not really bad yet, but I don't think those drops you've been dribbling between her lips are getting her enough fluid in this heat and humidity. I want you to consider letting me start an IV. It will get dangerous soon."
"Are you a doctor or something?"
"Or something," she replied. "Back during the War I trained as a nurse. My certification is so far out of date it doesn't bear talking about, but dehydration hasn't changed."
"I'm very reluctant to start poking her with needles," he replied, "Let's wait a little while longer."
"It's not dangerous yet," she said, "but keep a close eye on it."
He watched her through the day and into the night. He was about to shift his form into a giant jungle cat to sleep in when he heard a soft sigh. His head jerked up, eyes wide. Raven's form slowly lowered onto the cot she had been hovering over.
Her lips parted. "How long?" she asked, so softly only the Changeling could have heard her.
"Almost fifty hours," he replied. "Are you okay?"
Her eyes opened, then immediately squinted shut.
"Ow," she said, slightly louder.
"I'm okay," she continued, "for certain values of okay. What happened to me?"
He described what he had seen.
"That tallies with what I perceived. Azar! My head hurts."
"Want some drugs now? Aspirin? Ibu? I think Jane can come up with something stronger if it would help."
"Just aspirin. And sunglasses."
Changeling looked at the fading light and shrugged. "I'll find some. Can you tell me what happened?"
She struggled to sit up, eventually accepting his help.
"Go fetch Jane and Clayton. I only want to do this once."
Clayton, Jane, and Changeling, plus Bukawai completely filled the space in the tiny tent. When everyone had settled, Raven spoke.
"I've never had an experience quite like that before. When I took my soul out of myself, I perceived nothing but a wall. When I tried to pass through the seal, it was like running into a wall. Hard. Really hard. The next thing I remember was pain. Eventually it subsided enough for me to go into my healing trance. I still don't feel right. Every time I reach for my power it . . . hurts."
Bukawai spoke. "Young miss; the spirits tell me that you are hurt in your soul. You must not touch the Darkness that Stretches to Forever until you have completely recovered."
Raven was startled. "What do you know about the Darkness that Stretches to Forever? I've not discussed that with anyone in this dimension."
"I?" said Bukawai. "I know nothing. But the spirits know all. I simply tell you what the spirits say."
"Couldn't you have, you know, gone 'around' the seal, or something?" Garfield asked.
Raven shook her head.
"The seal is mystic. I could have taken my soul-self for miles in any direction, including "up" or "down" and the seal would have stayed between me and whatever is in there."
"So," Jane asked, "your pain was for nothing?"
"Well," Raven winced, "not exactly 'nothing.' Now we know that the crypt or vault, or whatever is in there is heavily warded, and that's why I can't sense anything but that . . . less than nothing. The ward is keeping anything from leaking out, anything at all. I'm still young yet, but I've not seen a ward quite like that in my entire life."
The short equatorial evening was drawing to a close, and the tent had grown quite dim inside. After only a brief argument, Raven reclined on the cot. Changeling and Clayton, using it as a stretcher, carried Raven from the ad hoc infirmary back to the tent she shared with Garfield. With many complaints she was made to recline.
"I'll bring you some food. You haven't eaten for over thirty hours."
"I'm fine, really."
"Uh huh. And that's why you can barely walk. I'm going to bring you some dinner; you're going to eat; and then you're going to sleep. I don't know a lot about mystic-y stuff, but I do know that an Azarathean healing trance isn't restful sleep."
"Ok, ok," she said as she fell back on the bed.
It was mid-morning when Raven woke again. As always, she began her day with meditation before addressing the immediate needs of the morning. With great care she reached for her power, but a sharp pain in her temple persuaded her that she was not ready to touch the Darkness yet.
"Still," she mused, "it's better than yesterday."
After breakfast Garfield accompanied her to her office, rather than back to the sleeping tent. All through the meal he'd been making the case for her to nap the day away and relax and heal. With infinite patience she'd made her counter argument.
"Look, I'm just going to sit at the table and try to interpret the glyphs on the ward. No lifting, no carrying, and no magic."
Reluctantly, he'd consented to "allow" her to work, but then made it clear he intended to hover over her all day long. Raven sat on the stool at her worktable and blew out a puff of air, sending a lock of fine purple hair up and to one side.
"I realize," she said carefully, "that we are married now. And I realize that you are worried about me after what happened. I understand that you have a strong urge to take care of me. But right now, today, is one of those times that I need my space."
"But . . ." he started.
Raven stood, and then extended a pointing finger toward the tent flap: "OUT!"
Then she went around to his other side, put her shoulder against him and leaned her almost irrelevant mass against him and began shoving.
"Out! Out! Out! Out!"
Changeling looked down at the straining woman, holding in a smirk. He had about one hundred and fifty pounds on her at this point in their lives. Without her powers, she wasn't moving him anywhere. And it would be very rude to rub that in.
"Ok, ok," he said, raising his hands in defeat. "Just promise me you won't work too hard."
"Yes, yes," she said as he stepped out of the tent flap.
"I'll bring lunch," he finished.
"Uh-huh," she said, already turning back to the table and her notes.
A week passed without incident. Each time that Raven reached for her powers, she was punished with stabbing pain. But each day the pain grew less, and she was confident that she was recovering. She continued to work with her Atlantean colleague, and they made great progress at interpreting the glyphs around the city, but the seal on the tomb or whatever was under the main temple continued to elude them.
"I'm sure I'm close to a breakthrough," Raven told the Changeling as they prepared for bed one night. "The problem is, of course, that very few of the glyphs are on the 'Rosetta' stone. I have to infer a bunch of it from context. We've been cross referencing other carvings around the compound and that's helping, but its slow going. I think that Clayton is losing patience, but I'm unwilling to break the seal until I know what it says."
"Better hurry, Rae," he replied. "Clayton's always had an inquisitive nature, and he's supremely confident. He may just decide that he can handle whatever he finds on the other side of that seal, and open it blind."
"That," she said as she snuggled close, "would be a poor plan."
It was late that night, long after all of the honest people in camp were asleep that there was a soft thumping sound, an eldritch chime, and a ring of mystic force exited the main temple, expanding outward in all directions. Raven's sleeping face contorted in discomfort as the magic wave passed over, around, and through her, then smoothed out as the force swept outward and away. Changeling slumbered on unaware and Raven shuddered in her sleep, then relaxed and fell into deeper sleep. But for the rest of the night, her dreams were . . . uncomfortable.
When the morning came, the Changeling immediately noticed that something was wrong. His wife was still in his bed. That never happened. She was always up before him.
"Raven?" he said as she frowned, shaking her head as if to clear it. "What happened to your morning meditation?"
"I slept through it," she said, forehead still furrowed.
"You never do that,"
"I know," she said. "I didn't sleep well last night. I dreamed . . . oddly."
"No," she said softly, "Trigon never comes when you're with me. Ever. This was different. I don't remember many details, but it was like I was continually waking from a long, dark sleep, and coming into the sun. And I was hungry."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"I was hungry for . . . lives."
"Okay . . .?" he said, feeling more than a little creeped out.
"Yeah, I know."
It was two days later that Raven made her breakthrough.
"Of course, we were expecting warnings and a curse," she began. "There's no inscription, per se, it's just a ward and a curse-marker. The ward turned out to be pretty straightforward: The Void, The Fortress, and the Prison. Combined in this way by an expert professional, they block the passage of any energy at all. I mean any. In both directions. Not only is whatever is in there unable to get out, absolutely no energy has gotten in since that chamber was sealed."
Jane spoke, her voice laden with concern.
"John," she said, turning to Clayton, "I'm no longer sure that we should be opening that chamber after all."
He looked at her, grinning. "Could you really walk away, not knowing? I'm not a fool, Jane. We'll take precautions. That's one reason Raven's here."
"Raven's hurt," said Garfield. "We have to wait until she's completely recovered."
Raven cocked her head at the work table and a pair of dividers was wreathed in darkness and lifted into the air.
"Not a problem," she said.
But Garfield had been Raven-watching for over a decade. And he saw the strain at the corners of her eyes. That had hurt. Not a lot, but she was not all the way back on her game. His eyes narrowed. Raven noticed him noticing her.
"I'm fine," she said.
"Uh huh," he answered.
Ignoring him, Raven continued. "In addition to the ward, there's the curse marker. The wizard/priest who crafted it knew he couldn't destroy whatever is inside and prevent it from getting out, so what he did was re-direct the energy. Whoever breaks that seal will have the . . . occupant turn around on him."
"If we are to break the seal," she went on, "it needs to be at dawn. It's a time of natural transition, of the yielding of darkness to the light. The middle of the night would be the worst time to do it. It will weaken the curse and make it easier for me to contain it. I want to set up a series of reflectors. The ward and marker need to be covered in natural sunlight to weaken them further."
"Any heavy tools?" asked Clayton.
"No, the actual substance of the seal is just plaster."
And so as Raven made her more specific, detailed preparation for breaking the seal, Clayton, Changeling, and the Waziri worked to set up the reflectors. And then, for the first time in thousands of years, or perhaps for the first time ever, the seal would be bathed in natural daylight, just as the dawn broke. Changeling was the last to arrive. An outdoorsy kind of guy, underground was not generally his favorite place to be, and he'd found useful things to do to contribute that had not involved spending a lot of time in the dank, close confines of the lower part of the dig. He sniffed the air.
"Something," he thought, "isn't right. It's damper down here than usual. I smell . . . mud?"
Raven was just about to enter into her meditative state when he spoke.
"Hey," he said. "That seal thingie? It's been in place for a couple of thousand years?"
Muviro spoke, "Yes young Bwana. We estimate over two thousand years."
Changeling popped his claws and grabbed hold of the seal.
"Then why," he asked, "is it still wet?"
He flexed his hand raked at the wall, scooping out a large, moist hunk of freshly laid plaster. He turned his hand up and the cake-like substance began to break apart with the consistency of day-old pumpkin pie.
"What?" Clayton gaped for an instant, then his face twisted into a snarl of anger. He scooped at the plaster with both hands, raking away swaths of plaster. The false seal had been laid into a matrix of chicken wire over plywood, all clearly brand new. The taller man snarled and ripped the plywood and chicken wire matrix free from the wall and dashed it to the floor.
Raven's eyes flashed open with surprise as her preparations were derailed. She opened her eyes just in time to see Clayton stalk into the inner chamber with Changeling on his heels.
"Wait," cried Jane, "we don't know what's happened!"
She might was well have been talking to the jungle. The two men entered the room, lanterns held high.
It looked like nothing more or less than a storeroom. It was perhaps fifteen feet wide and twenty feet long, with the single door in the middle of the long side. The ceiling was low, perhaps a little more than six feet. Clayton had to stoop ever so slightly to stand inside. The others could stand comfortably, but the low ceiling was oppressive.
The first thing that Raven noticed was the dust.
"Odd, that," she thought. "With the door so tightly sealed, no dust should have had the opportunity to gather in here. It must have come from somewhere."
Raven was right to be surprised, because the dust was thick on the floor, the shelves, and the tabletops. Many we'll worn trails of footprints led form the door to each shelf and table. Someone, or several someones had clearly worn the paths by quickly moving through the room multiple times. Clayton knelt, lantern in hand.
"Modern boots," he said, then turned to the door.
"Muviro," he barked angrily. "Roll call! Account for every man and boy in camp! Now!"
"Yes, Bwana," said Muviro as he turned away from the door.
Clayton sniffed the air, leaning over one of the tables. "Men," he said. "I can smell them."
Changeling glanced at Clayton's tiny, human nose and turned away to conceal a small smirk. He carefully put down his lantern and turned into a bluetick hound. Propping his feet up on the same table his sniffled and snorted, then reared back, his nose and face wrinkling up. With a small pop, the hound vanished and Changeling's human form stood there once again.
"Oh ew," he said.
"What?" Raven asked.
"Um, you'll want a bath. It's not dust. Its ashes. At least four different humans were incinerated in this room. We're, um, breathing them," he said, trying to inhale shallowly while holding his hand over his mouth.
He continued, "Two men survived whatever happened here. One was Nicolas Rokoff," he finished.
Clayton's head whipped around, "Rokoff," he said with a snarl?
"It can't be," said Jane. "He's been gone for a lifetime or two."
"You're sure?" asked Clayton.
Changeling looked at him, raising an eyebrow and tapping his nose. "That was the name he was using on the Kinkaid when I got a sniff of him. And the eyes can be deceived . . . "
Clayton merely nodded.
"Jane," he began, speaking more calmly now. "Bring my traveling kit to the clearing at the southern end of the dig. Changeling, you go to the motor pool. Check the inventory of vehicles and their condition. Raven, look at those glyphs and see what they say."
They scattered, gathering at the clearing at the southern end of the dig in forty minutes. Changeling was the last to arrive.
"Sorry I took so long; everything seemed okay at first, and I had to hunt to find the problem."
"Problem?" asked Clayton?
"The oil drain plugs had been removed from all of the vehicles. If we try to run any of them, we'll get about a half-hour down the road before they seized up. And they poisoned the land where the oil was drained besides."
Muviro spoke. "Four diggers are missing, and two Waziri, including the boy Bulva. With four incinerated in the sealed chamber, that leaves two unaccounted for."
Clayton grunted and began unbuttoning his trousers.
"What are you doing?" asked Raven, flushing.
Jane answered for him, dropping several items to the ground. "He's going after them."
The rest of Clayton's "civilized" clothes joined his pants on the ground as he wrapped his leopard-skin breechclout around his pelvis.
"No way," said Changeling. "They're in vehicles and they have a two day head start!"
"The ground route out of here was laid out like the one to the sea," Clayton replied. It meanders about to avoid certain landscape features and animal habitats and territories that I did not want disturbed. I won't be following the road. I can cut directly across country. Plus, it's likely that Rokoff will stop to sleep. I'll catch them."
"Then we're coming, too," said Changeling.
"You won't be able to keep up, and if I'm to catch them, I can't wait on you."
Changeling spread his feet shoulder width apart, straightened his back, and looked Clayton dead in the eye. "Try us, monkey-boy."
Clayton raised an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth twitched in an amused smirk.
"Come then, if you can keep up the pace."
He turned and faced the jungle. Raising his face to the skies, Clayton opened his mouth, inhaled, and to Raven's shock, screamed. It wasn't a scream of fear, rage, or anger, but a bizarre, ululating bellow that rang out above the trees. Nearby a flock of birds fluttered upward, startled, and then an unnatural silence fell over the jungle. One heartbeat, then two passed by. Then, in the distance, came what could only be an answering call, another ululating scream that Raven now recognized as a mangani. From farther away came the call of a bull elephant. Clayton strapped on the quiver of arrows and slung his bow, his grass rope draped over his shoulder. He bent to pick up his heavy war spear and found Jane's hand holding fast to it.
"John," she said urgently, "please don't."
The older couple looked into each other's eyes, Jane's face imploring, Clayton's as impassive as the veldt at sunrise.
"When the time comes, I'll do what I must."
He leapt into the thick overgrowth and vanished. A single leaf fluttered to the ground to mark his passing.
Changeling and Raven looked over at Muviro for an explanation while Jane stared after Clayton, her face stricken.
"You have heard the phrase, 'the Law of the Jungle,' have you not?" he asked.
Both of the young people nodded.
"Well you are looking at the living, breathing personification of it."
Changeling's lips pressed into a thin, narrow line. "I see."
"What?" asked Raven.
"The Law of the Jungle, young Miss," said Muviro seriously, "is 'kill, or be killed.'"
"Not exactly," said Changeling, and his eyes got very far away.
"NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the beast that shall keep it may prosper, but the beast that shall break it must die.
Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill man.
Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the law leaveth open, the word of the head beast is law."
He refocused and looked Raven in the eye. "That's just an excerpt. Clayton is the pack leader in this range, and Rokoff has broken the law. There is only one penalty."
"That's murder," she said.
"The Bwana is the only law here at all, young Miss," said Muviro.
"I'm not helping him murder anyone," she insisted.
"Neither am I," said the Changeling.
Distressed, Jane twisted her hands together and closed her eyes.
"It's not murder to him; it's just a part of life."
"That doesn't make it right," said Changeling.
Jane's eyes opened. "I know," she replied. "He will not harm them if they are helpless or surrendering themselves. But if they try to flee, or worse, defy him and fight, he will slay them out of hand."
"How can he just . . . do that?" asked Raven.
"There's no time to explain it right now," Jane said, and handed each of them a very light backpack. "This has got some food in it; just some protein to keep you going so that you don't have to stop to hunt. Catch them. The dead deserve justice, and . . ."
Jane looked each of them in the eye, her face pleading, "Don't hurt him. But save them if you can."
Raven rose from the clearing, looking at Changeling. He grunted, and then turned toward the tree line, his form quickly changing to the green mangani Raven had come to associate with their weekends off. Wasting no time, he launched himself into a ground-eating pace, the trees flashing past him. Raven followed. As soon as they entered the verdant canopy Raven paused. It all looked the same. If they flew above the upper terrace they'd never see Clayton, and finding the truck on the road would be a crapshoot.
"How on earth . . ." Raven began.
But Changeling hadn't paused. Without hesitation he brachiated from branch to branch, flashing unerringly through the overgrowth. Occasionally a leaf would flutter to the ground, but other than that, he left no visible sign of his passing, nor could Raven discern any sign that Clayton had come this way. Raven focused her will and levitated after him, faster and faster until she was keeping pace with him, flickering among the tree boles like a speeder bike on Endor.
The two flashed through the jungle at a rapid pace. After about thirty minutes with no sign of Clayton, Raven had just about had enough. She flew closer, preparing to grab her husband by the shoulder and make him explain when he grunted in satisfaction. Raven glanced up ahead. There, in the branches of the middle terrace ran Clayton. His back to them, he ran along one thick, heavy branch, and then jumped up a level to grab a branch with his arms. Then he swung forward and threw himself onto yet another branch on another tree.
Raven started to speak when she saw Clayton glance back. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly in approval even as his eyes widened in surprise. He didn't speak, but merely increased his pace. As they raced through the jungle they periodically leapt across the narrow road as it wound and meandered through the trees. Twice Clayton and Garfield dropped to the ground and stared intently at the beaten down grass and dirt of the jungle road. Once, they made eye contact for an instant and exchanged a grunt, then bounded back into the trees.
When the sun reached its zenith the oddly assorted trio halted at a stream. There was a brief pause to hydrate. Raven filled a large water bottle she had been sipping from, and Clayton did the same with a leather bladder that hung from his shoulder on a lanyard. Garfield morphed into his human form and pulled a water bottle from his small pack. Neither man spoke. To Raven the silence seemed to stretch out. She broke out an energy bar and began to eat. It was very odd. Raven normally didn't have any problem with long stretches of silence, but the silence of the two beasts was beginning to get on her nerves.
"So," she began, "we're making good time . . ."
Clayton's head swiveled on his shoulders to face her for a moment, then he dropped his head in a very shallow nod, grunting. He pulled a strip of dried meat out and began to chew.
She turned to Garfield. "I think that we'll catch them . . ."
He grunted affirmatively as well, swallowing an energy bar in two bites, and chasing it with a pint of water. Clayton then rose, stretched, glanced at his companions and jumped into the branches. There was barely a rustle as Garfield followed him into the trees. Raven blinked and looked at the rest of the energy bar she had been chewing on. Bolting the rest of it down, she rose from the ground and followed after.
The three traveled into the night, stopping only when the moon was high. There would be no shelter pitched. The two beast men guided Raven to a tree with to massive branches pitched so that she could recline at an angle. The two men simply slumped in the joint between two branches. If she didn't roll too much in her sleep she would be safe. It had been a long day and they had covered a lot of miles. Raven's eyes got heavy.
"Garfield," she said, pushing sleep away for a moment.
"Hmmm?" he said.
"What's with the creepy silence? Neither of you has spoken all day."
He didn't answer for a long while. She opened her eyes and looked over towards his darkened form, little more than a silhouette in the moonlight. His head turned to face her. His eyes were invisible in the darkness, save for the glint of moonlight. Two silver sparks showed in the black night. His lips moved, and the moonlight glittered on his fangs.
"Ah," he said. "We hunt."
Raven shivered despite the heat, and slowly faded off to sleep.
 I know. If the original seal was broken two nights ago, why isn't the plaster of the fake seal dry? Think damp basement. It's cold and wet down there, and drying is a thermal process.
 The Law for the Wolves (Paraphrased), from The Second Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling.