Tobias collapses nearly five miles outside of the city after he places Minerva on the soft sand. A great dust rises as his hulking form crashes into the sand. As he begins the slow transformation back to a man, he focuses on the waves that lap against the shore in order to push himself beyond the pain. Minerva sits by him, stroking the fur as it slowly draws back into his skin. A flattened bullet tumbles from his shrinking body, leaving behind a tiny, circular scar. In the soft morning light, he looks pale; Minerva worries that he has pushed himself too far, and his dignified silence does nothing to dissuade her fears.
After a few minutes pass, he assures her that he is fine. His eyes, still the eyes of a wolf, hide his pain expertly, but his labored breathing bothers Minerva.
“I said I’ll be fine. A few bullets are not gonna do anything worse than Sebottendorff did. I’ll bounce back. I always do.” he says, his voice still guttural and animalistic.
“You didn’t need to do this by yourself. You really should have…” Minerva pauses, not wanting to feel like a nagging wife. “We’ve been working diligently on this case, and it should have been handled as lawfully as possible.”
“It was taking too long. Min, I could feel the pain of those kids. All they wanted was to be something special, and Lana took advantage; she didn’t think, and she got them killed. No law is worth keeping if she got to do it again and again as we hoped to find the invisible threads that connected her to the murders.” fully changed into the form of a man, Tobias looks fragile and small in contrast to his other, less human form.
“We have to abide by the laws; it’s not like Lana is an unregistered vampire with no rights. Even if she is guilty, you are going to have to be held accountable for what you’ve done.” says Minerva, trying not to chastise her husband too harshly.
“But it wasn’t me.” says Tobias defensively. He tightens the belt on his baggy pants; a life time of shape shifting taught him to dress in loose fitting clothes. His other self was much larger. Tobias stands and walks to the shoreline and pensively watches the water recede. “I got there around dawn, when they were closing. It took some convincing for the bouncer to let me in; they were all ready flipping chairs and clearing the place out. I saw Lana talking to a girl about Bodon. She referred to him as a great surgeon, someone able to change an Otherkin into a true Anthropo. I interrupted her pitch, and Lana got snippy.
“She told me ‘I just wanted to help her get the life she wants.’ and I did my best not to lose it then and there.” Tobias pauses and sighs softly. “Trying to keep my composure, I turned my back for a second. I heard a thud and turned to see Lana was no longer standing. Someone blindsided her; the attacker wasn’t much more than a blur. They rolled across the floor, a streak of blood trailing them. I went to pull the two apart and saw that the attacker was a cat girl.”
“Did she have white and orange fur, with short black hair?” asks Minerva, concluding that it must have been Emma.
“Yeah, she did.” responds Tobias, “Do you know her?”
“We only met briefly. She helped get Malcolm into The Haven on the night that Zeeb was murdered. I wonder if she saw something?” ponders Minerva as she half-heartedly tosses a rock into the surf.
“She must have, because she was furious. I got a hold of her, but she squirmed free easily. She was right back on top of Lana, her sharp claws tearing through Lana, leaving her looking like she went through a thresher. It stopped as swiftly as it started. I didn’t know that the police were outside; I had picked up Lana with the intent of getting her to the hospital as quickly as possible. The rest you’ve seen.”
“What happened to the girl that Lana was talking to?” asks Minerva.
“I lost her during the cat-girl’s attack. I got her scent though.” says Tobias proudly.
“Do you think you can track her? She might know something that’ll help.”
“I can. The only thing that’ll make it really tough is keeping away from the police. I’m sure they’re looking for me all ready. My guess it that they have me pegged for the assault on Lana; I should be able to clear my name, but that will take time we don’t have right now.” Tobias cups his hands and lets the sea water fill them. He wets his face, hair and chest. He hopes that the police dogs can’t track as well as he can. He also hopes that the police don’t contact a werewolf hunter.
Her classmates called her Fattie, but her parents called her Bettie. Through Middle School and High School, she followed the winds of fashion. In tenth grade, she dressed like a pin-up model, and in her Senior year she shaved half of her hair and dyed the rest green after getting her tongue pierced. It was all part of her path to finding who she truly was. In college, she fell for an Otherkin and embraced the lifestyle. Now, five years later, she is called Kristabel, and she is wandering through the streets on the far end of the city.
As she wound her way through the urban maze, she was astounded that she had never seen this part of the city: tall, official looking buildings tower above her, and men dressed in business suits pass her by. She feels out of place wearing a skirt that falls above her knee and a shirt cut to expose her cleavage.
She doesn’t know that she’s in an illusion, and that the urban sprawl about her is actually a small strip of protected wilderness. River watches her from afar, his eyes squinting and his mouth bent into a scowl. He presumes that she was sent by Lana, and that she is to be altered by King Bodon’s power. Lana had delivered several clay jugs to River since their last meeting, each filled with blood for drawing the circle to summon King Bodon.
River watches Kristabel wander for an hour before he assumes his role in the illusion: he will pose as a kind stranger, then a nurse, and then a surgeon. The illusion will be enough to disguise him for all three roles. By nightfall, she is at the entry to River’s cave, which seems to be an elegant downtown hospital to her glamoured eyes.