“I’m so hungry!” Arve outbursts.
The boat had gone quiet for a long while. Finn was still unconscious, and Emma was tending to his many, many wounds.
“Well, maybe if you would choose a destination-”
“He has chosen a destination, can’t you tell?” Finn’s eyes snapped open just in time to butt in to the ongoing argument. Arve wasn’t letting Emma know that the moment they received that disgraceful letter from her father, he had chosen a destination.
“No. How can you tell?”
Finn sat up and rubbed his forehead. “That monster has all the bloody answers,” he sneered toward Arve. Finn was still understandably sore about Arve using his curse to get out of the trouble they were in.
“Monster?” Emma was incredulous. Arve had saved their lives, and gotten her dragons safely on board too. In her eyes, Arve hadn’t done anything wrong. He even got shot in the head! Emma felt at the puncture holes in her dress. Finn was the monster, not Arve.
“He knew. And he pulled the sword anyway.”
“I am right here, you know.” Arve cleared his throat. “And you’re right. I knew the outcome. It was all fine.”
“If you ever do that again-” Finn was cut off by a coughing fit. Arve checked his sundial and the sextant. Four minutes to noon, and on course to hit Meolin within five hours. Arve stood up and made his way to the cabin. He didn’t want to change in front of his new crew, as shameless as he was.
“I mean it, Arve. Never touch my sword-”
“I’ll do what I like. Until you stop being afraid of it, I’ll pick up the slack.” The eleven year old slammed the door behind him. Finn was suddenly reminded that Arve wasn’t a child. Arve was twenty three and wasn’t about to be bossed around like a child. Finn stood up with a growl.
Emma faced the ocean. She was trying to hide the puncture marks on her dress. She had nothing else to change into unless she borrowed some of Arve’s clothes. Emma decided she would do that until they hit the next town.
“What a prick.” Finn cursed.
“I’m not so sure. The monster was a little scary, but he didn’t hurt me, or Arve…” Emma offered as she crossed the deck to the cabin door. If Finn had a response, he didn’t speak up.
Emma walked into the lower decks just as Arven made his appearance.
Dressed in the same clothes, but somehow bigger, Arven crossed the room for a pair of shoes. He knew he would have to eventually hang more hammocks below if Emma and Finn decided to stay. He expected, though, that they would leave him as soon as the boat landed in Meolin port. And why not? Everyone else did.
“Could I borrow some of you clothes? I would fit in anything, I am sure.” Emma’s voice was quiet and unsure.
“The princess would wear a boy’s clothes?” Arven mocked as he tied up his boots.
“Does it matter that I am a princess?” Her voice raised an octave when he made fun of her. Men’s clothes? As easy to wear as anything else. She could do it fine. It would be much easier to fly the dragons up the mountains with pants anyway.
“I suppose not. Here,” Arven through her a plain pair of trousers, shirt, and boots. Emma smiled and thanked him.
Emma waited for Arven to go back up to the helm, and then changed into the clothes. She finally felt at ease. The dress discarded, she could move on and forget about what those claws seemed to tell her about Finn’s monster.
“We are headed to Meolin. It is safest for juvenile dragons in the southern hemisphere. And besides, I can get a job there, since I didn’t get paid for the last one.” Arven snidely added like the small child within him. All of their stomachs growled simultaneously.
“I might really starve to death this time.” Arven banged his head against the wheel helm.
The voice kept on coming. And Aijun did his damned best to ignore it.
“Am I dead? Can you hear me? What is happening?” The voice screamed in his head. The warlock kept him chained to the chair and his butt and back were starting to hurt from sitting so long. His eyes drifted shut, but would snap open every time he heard the voice.
“How is my immortal assassin? Does it feel any different?” The warlock returned to the room. From his observations, Aijun could tell that the warlock disappeared during the day, and came back at night. It must have been the third or fourth time he has done this which made it the third or fourth day being trapped.
Aijun stayed silent. If only he could break these stupid chains. The warlock pricked him and took a dose of blood. The warlock then pulled out one of Aijun’s glossy black hairs. Aijun steeled himself. He wouldn’t move, talk, or show pain.
“It won’t help the experiments along if you don’t share how you feel. But oh well. I have an appointment tonight, so I will be out.”
The warlock exited without another word.
“I know you can hear me. I know it. Your eyes open wide every time. Please say something to me.” The voice begged. He was losing his damned mind from being alone so long.
“No. You’re not crazy, I swear.”
“Isn’t that what a crazy person’s voices would say?” Aijun grumbled back. It was then that he realized he had acknowledged the voice. Aijun could never go back to ignoring its existence now.
“Well- yeah. But you aren’t crazy. My name is Jonathan. I’m nineteen. I live in Yehun, Meolin.”
That caught Aijun’s attention. He has never been to Meolin, and didn’t know a place called Yehun. A crazy voice generated by his own subconscious couldn’t make up a name of a place he had never heard of, right? With that faulty logic, he continued.
“Alright, I’ll bite. What are you?”
There was a pause. Aijun felt the fear wash over him. But he wasn’t scared. The voice within him was though.
Now Aijun felt fear.
He remembered the boy lying dead with his throat split. The pale skin and the foul scent. He knew the boy was a werewolf- and had died at magic’s hands. Putting two and two together, that boy wasn’t really dead. His body was- but not his consciousness. His consciousness now lived within Aijun.
“You’re the boy the warlock killed…” Aijun started panicking. He ripped at the chains again. His hands were clenched into painfully tight fists and the iron bands around his wrists started to burn.
He released his hands to find blood and puncture wounds into the palm of his hand. His nails were long and pointed like werewolves. No. That can’t happen. The chains burned every time Aijun moved his wrists. He was turning into a werewolf!
“No, I don’t think you are. You would have to be bitten to be a werewolf. You’ve just- you’ve just got a werewolf inside you. I think,” Jonathan responded directly to Aijun’s thoughts. Jonathan imitated what he felt would be a deep breath, and realized that he was controlling Aijun’s body. He was now in the front, and had accidentally shoved Aijun to the back of his own mind.
“Don’t do that!” Aijun gained enough control to fight against Jonathan. His head thrashed back and forth as Jonathan and Aijun fought.
“I can get us out of here, just give me a minute!”
“This is my body! Stop it,” Aijun yelled out of the same mouth that Jonathan had a few moments earlier.
Jonathan growled and using his inner-wolf he took control. Aijun’s eyes glowed yellow, and fangs grew from his mouth. Jonathan felt the strength of both the wolf and Aijun, the assassin. With that new power, he broke through the metal chains that held his wrists captive.
“There. Run.” Jonathan receded back into the shallows of Aijun’s mind.
Aijun did just that. After a quick check that he again appeared human, he tried to stand up. His left arm dangled uselessly with the gems still hammered into it. With an unsteady stance, he hobbled his way toward the exit.
“What do you mean, ‘wait’? I’m getting out of here!” Aijun yelled at his new inhabitant. He continued to wobble his way toward the exit.
“If you would just hold on. For werewolves, lavender allows us to heal quickly. I know the warlock has some over there.” Jonathan directed Aijun’s eyes over to the vials of plants and medicines.
Despite his normally stubborn attitude, Aijun listened. He felt dizzy and weak from blood loss, and he could no longer move his left hand at all. His fingers wouldn’t even twitch. If lavender ingested by the werewolf in him would help, then that was what he would do.
Aijun started going through vials. Cactus thorns, bird claws, werewolf blood. Aijun turned to look in the other boxes thrown about. Rose petals. Vanilla extract. Vampire fangs. His balance failed and he grasped the sterile metal table in pain. Aijun’s eyes turned yellow again, and he felt that werewolf strength. But Jonathan managed to stay back in his mind.
“What is happening? I was just around for some good Meolin Host houses, not a mad scientist convention.” Aijun whined. Aijun’s entire trip to Meolin had been on recommendation, and was a vacation. He wasn’t there to kill anyone, but the Warlock caught him anyway. One too many drinks and he found himself being dragged here, to this dark, sandy cave in the middle of nowhere.
“Ew. And also, stop whining. The lavender has to be somewhere around here.” Jonathan made the equivalent of a grossed out expression in Aijun’s mind, and went back to just observing. The werewolf strength allowed Aijun to keep upright. This wasn’t going well.
In the last wooden crate, Aijun finally sniffed out the small vial of lavender extract.
“Happily.” Aijun did as Jonathan said, and drank the entire bottle.
He felt the strange magic stirring within him. Aijun pulled each nail shaped diamond out of his arm with a yelp of pain. One. The blood was everywhere. Two. Jonathan growled through Aijun’s mouth. Three. Both of them screamed simultaneously.
Aijun and Jonathan both watched as the holes in their arm shrunk slowly. Aijun attempted to walk straight and strong, but found he was still weak and dizzy.
“What? I thought you said the lavender would help-”
“You would need a gallon of that stuff to fix everything wrong with you. If we can move our left hand then that’s good enough.” Jonathan didn’t realize what he had said until it came out of Aijun’s mouth.
“This is my hand. This is my body.” Aijun growled at Jonathan. There was a line he drew in the sand there. This was his body, and Jonathan was an unwanted intruder who was simply butting in where he didn’t belong. The werewolf shrunk down and stayed quiet.
He stumbled toward the exit with new determination to see this cave on the horizon forever. The cave entrance was sand dusted and the stars shone down on him. Aijun took a deep breath of the sweet desert air. It was mid-summer, but the night was cold anyway. Aijun watched the stars in the sky, and thanked them for his safe escape.
It wasn’t the most delightful situation, but at least he was still alive. It was more than Jonathan could say at the moment.
Aijun knew better than to think he could go very far. He expected to get out of harm's way and not much further than that. If he could find a safe place to spend the night, he would feel better in the morning to travel the rest of the way down the mountain.
The sand covered mountain was far from the village, and even further from the ocean port. Meolin was vast and mostly just desert. There were no plants or trees he could hide underneath to wait out the warlock’s return. He made his way down a path and hoped to find a place for the night.
Aijun stumbled and failed to catch himself before landing face first in a pile of sand. He lifted his head up and scowled.
“A little werewolf strength wouldn’t hurt.”
“It’s not my body. Wouldn’t want to make you a monster.” Jonathan shot back. Aijun pushed himself back onto his unsturdy feet. He felt Jonathan recede until the boy was barely even there. It felt as if Jonathan had curled himself into another tight ball of stunned fear and wasn’t going to respond to anything.
Aijun regretted his words even more now.