Daecon looked over at Evander and let another roar out, a roar of mourning and pain. He jumped off the wolf and ran over to Evander, who was lying in a pool of his own blood. By the time he got there he had turned into a man again. He knelt down next to Evander and started screaming at Leander.
“Help him! Come on! You’re a healer, aren’t you? Do something! Help your son!”
Leander glanced at the wolf, which was not moving, and ran over to Daecon’s side. He knelt down and started checking Evander over. There were cuts everywhere, including a deep gash across his throat. His normally dark skin was very pale, both of his arms were broken, the bones crushed by the wolf’s teeth, and he was covered in blood. To Leander’s dismay there was no more blood leaking from any of the wounds.
“No”, Leander exclaimed as he started checking for vital signs. Evander was not breathing, and Leander could find no pulse. “No”, he repeated as he frantically started pushing on Evander’s chest. As he did so, some air and blood bubbled from the gash in his neck. Leander realized that the damage was simply too great. The reason no blood had been coming from Evander’s wounds was that his heart was no longer beating. It had held out long enough to pump all of his blood out onto the ground.
Evander was dead.
“NOOOOOOOOOO!”, Leander cried as he threw himself on top of Evander’s body, crying.
Daecon was in shock. He did not know what to do. He had only known Evander for a day, and yet he had already felt a strong bond with him. He stood up and walked away, leaving Leander to grieve for his son. He glanced over at the wolf, who was stirring as though it was trying to get up. All of his anger returned and then some. He started walking toward the wolf, and without even thinking he took his lion form again.
“You”, he said as he approached the wretched creature. “You
did this. You killed Evander. He was my friend.”
The wolf raised its head and looked at him, then lowered it
"He was not your friend. He is beneath you."
"I will decide who is my friend and who is beneath me", Daecon said with a low growl. "Now look at me”, he demanded. “Why did you attack him? He was defenseless and he was doing you no harm.”
The wolf said nothing.
“LOOK AT ME!!!”, Daecon commanded with a deafening roar.
The wolf struggled at first, then almost robotically lifted its head and looked directly at Daecon. It had a look of abject terror on its face.
“I asked you why you attacked my friends”, Daecon said with a low rumble, his nose mere centimeters from the Wolf’s. “I am rapidly running out of patience waiting for your answer.”
The wolf continued to stare into his eyes. It was obviously struggling to break the glare, but it did not seem to be able to. Although it could not look away it still remained silent.
“Very well”, the Lion said. “I may not be able to make you answer my questions, but I can make you answer for your crime.”
He lowered his head and seized the wolf’s neck in his jaws. The wolf did not struggle.
He was about to shake the remaining life out of it when he heard a deep female voice.
“Killing him will not bring your friend back”, the voice
Daecon did not weaken his grip on the wolf, but looked around in the clearing to find the source of the voice. He noticed a tree stump nearby, one that he was certain hadn’t been there before. He stared at it, and after a short time the stump took the shape of an elderly woman, dressed from head to toe in green. Even her hair and skin had green tints to them. She looked old, but by no means did she look frail. Daecon walked over to this woman, dragging the wolf along with him. He dropped the wolf before the woman.
“Oh!” the woman exclaimed. “You can see through my illusion! I had not expected that, though I suppose I should have.”
“And just who the hell are you?” he demanded, his huge lion’s face mere inches from hers. She stared into his eyes and did not even blink. He could have swallowed her whole, though there was something about her that warned him he had better not try.
“I am a friend and an ally, though there are few who would believe it”, the woman said. “Now, young Daecon, I will say this again. Killing your father will not bring your friend back. Darion is no longer any danger to you.”
Daecon looked down at the wolf. “My… Darion… You mean that this is… my father?”
The woman continued gazing at him. “Yes, this wretched ‘Prince’ is your father, though he deserves neither title of ‘prince’ nor ‘father’.”
Daecon sat down, looking sadly at the badly injured wolf. “Oh my God. He’s my father and I almost killed him.”
“And I stopped you before you did, thus saving you from the same doom that he will face. That is a matter for the future and is unimportant right now. Before you do anything else you must help your friend.”
Leander’s sobbing caught Daecon’s attention and he turned toward the sad sight of a father mourning the loss of his son.
“Help him? I cannot help him. I am no healer, and I am barely even a shape shifter. I’ve only just today done any successful shifts. If Leander can’t save him, surely I won’t be able to either.”
“The power to help him is within you. His heart is no longer beating but his spirit is still there, getting ready to move on. You must convince it not to do so while repairing the damage to his mortal shell. Come, the spirit is anxious. There is little time.”
She stepped over the wolf, walked past Daecon, and approached Leander, who was sprawled across Evander’s body. Daecon took one last look at the wolf, then turned away and joined her at Evander’s side.
Leander stopped sobbing long enough to look up. “You”, he said. “You’re the Hecate.”
“Hecate? Yes... yes, that is familiar. I have heard the shapeshifter Dionysius use that term to describe me. I am also known as a Magi, or Woods Witch, if you prefer. Personally, I’d rather you call me by my name, Lucinda.”
Daecon was confused. “Witch? You’re a witch? Can’t you use your magic to help Evander?”
“No, young Daecon, I have no such power. We witches are not all-powerful as human mythology describes us. My magic can certainly end a life, but it cannot restore one. It is you and you alone who possesses the magic necessary to bring this young man back from death’s doorstep. You must act quickly before his spirit moves on.”
“But I’ve already told you, I am not a healer. I can barely manage my own transformations. This is actually the first time I’ve taken this Lion form”, Daecon said.
“And how did you come about discovering this new form?”, Lucinda asked.
“I don’t know. I was cloaked while sitting in that tree. I was surprised that Leander and Evander hadn’t seen me, and was about to call to them when that wolf attacked Evander and then Leander. I shifted into my Eagle form and swooped down from the tree, but I immediately knew the Eagle would be no match for that wolf. As soon as I hit the ground I became the lion. I don’t know how I did that.”
“You were able to do it because the need for such strength was there, much the same as you were able to grow your wings when you were falling from that cliff yesterday. Your abilities have been long repressed, but they are finding their way now. You are growing by the minute”.
“How did you know about that? Owen and those humans were the only ones there”, Daecon said. “Come to think of it, how do you even know my name?”
“I have been watching over you since your birth. Your two fathers and I have a long history together. I have been waiting a long time for your powers to emerge, and they finally did during that fall. Once you fully grasp them they will be formidable; you are no ordinary shape-shifter.”
“I already know that. Leander and Owen told me that I am royalty, and that he is my father”, Daecon said as he gestured toward the wolf.
“You are no mere royalty. You are a Dunamis, a rare and extremely powerful form of royalty. The magic that you possess is unimaginable to ordinary royalty. Now come, we are wasting time. Assume your human form and kneel next to your friend.”
Daecon was doubtful, and wanted to ask a million questions, but he knew that Evander’s need was too great. He did as he was told.
“Now, place your hands on his flesh and close your eyes. You must be grasping bare flesh, not clothing. Next you must summon the magic required to cure him.”
“I’ve told you, can’t do that. I don’t know any magic”, Daecon said.
“The magic will come from within you in this time of need, just your other abilities have shown up when their need was urgent. Quickly now, do as I say.”
Daecon placed his hands on Evander’s body. It was still warm but was already growing stiff with rigor mortis, and the blood was sticky. If he was going to be saved it needed to be right now. He closed his eyes.
“Wait”, he heard Leander say. He opened his eyes again.
“Hecates do not normally do favours for mortals unless there is something to be had in return. What is your payment?”, Leander demanded.
Lucinda smiled at Leander. “You know your lore well. Daecon is no mere mortal, but yes, I shall require payment for my services. We do not have time to negotiate terms right now, though I do have one desire in mind. After Evander is cured we will discuss this desire.”
“No”, Leander said, looking at Daecon. “Don’t do it. Hecates are tricksters. You can’t take the risk of being in her debt,”
“Your son will die without my help.”, Lucinda said. “I am the only one that can guide Daecon through this, as I am the only one who understands the powers that he has. We are now counting the seconds until Evander is gone forever. Do you really wish to waste those precious seconds negotiating terms right now?”
Leander looked at his son, then back at the Hecate. “I love my son more than anything in the world, but I would not have Daecon in your debt without knowing the nature of that debt.”
Lucinda studied Leander carefully before speaking. “Your mistrust of Hecates is not misplaced. Right now I can only assure you of this: I will ask of nothing of Daecon that he does not have the power to give.”
He turned his stare to Daecon. “Don’t do it, Daecon. I can’t ask this of you.”
Daecon looked at the witch and considered, then he spoke. “I will accept your help and I will accept your price, if it’s in my power to do so. But I will also ask to reserve a favour from you, also to be disclosed after Evander is cured. And also remember this: you are not personally performing any magic here, you’re merely instructing me on how to use mine. That entitles you to my gratitude; it is hardly worth any great debt.”
Lucinda regarded Daecon with a sly smile. “You are already starting to show a wisdom that belies your age and experience. You will make a good Dunamis. I accept your terms.”
“Right, then. Let’s get on with this”, Daecon said as he turned his attention back to Evander and closed his eyes. “What do I do?”
“You must keep your eyes closed and your mind open. Focus all of your energy through your hands. Visualize your task. The magic inside you will awaken and you will know what to do with it. I must warn you that this may be exhausting, especially as this is a very complicated magic and it will be your first time performing it.”
Daecon tried to focus his mind on Daecon. He heard Lucinda’s voice again, only this time it sounded faint.
“Your mind already knows what must be done. You only need to awaken your mind. Concentrate on sending life force through your fingertips.”
Daecon knelt there at Evander’s side, trying to summon this unknown magic. He could feel nothing different and did not think this was going to work at all. Evander was going to be lost forever.
“Focus”, he heard Lucinda chant. “Focus. Think of nothing but the task at hand. Deep within you is the wisdom required to complete it.”
Daecon searched his mind for answers. Nothing was coming up, no ideas were coming to him. Suddenly he did have one thought:
‘I must close these wounds.’
As soon as this thought entered his mind he felt a tingling at his fingertips. He opened his eyes and saw that they were surrounded by blue-white sparks where they touched Evander’s skin. Something was working. He kept his eyes open and focused all of his energy toward Evander now. He gazed over his body at the many smaller wounds and understood that they would need to be repaired first. The tingling grew stronger and now Daecon's hands were emitting pure white and blue energy. Evander’s entire body had a violet glow around it as well. The smaller wounds were starting to close up now.
Daecon intensified his effort. The light coming from his hands was now almost blinding to Leander, but even through its brilliance he could see the work that was being done. One by one the gashes and cuts were closing up and healing, each one leaving a faint scar.
‘That’s good. Now for the more serious injuries’, a voice
inside Daecon’s head said. Suddenly Evander’s arms moved.
“It’s working! He’s back!”, Leander cried.
Lucinda held her hand up to silence him. “Not yet. That is merely his broken arms mending. Evander’s body is being healed but it is not yet ready for his spirit to return to it.”
Daecon continued his healing. The larger cuts were now closing up, and even the torn clothes were being repaired. As Evander's shredded shorts were mending a bloodied piece of paper fell out of one of the pockets. Daecon paid it no attention.
Finally it was only the largest and deepest cut across Evander’s throat that remained. Daecon sent still more energy through his fingertips and even the torn throat was soon a mere faint scar. Evander’s body was now whole again and the sand beneath him was clean of any traces of blood.
But something was wrong. The body was whole again, but to Daecon it felt empty. The healing glow was starting to fade as its work completed, and yet the body was still lifeless. Daecon tried reaching into the body, trying to awaken something within.
Lucinda picked up on this. “I fear we wasted too much time. We’re too late. His spirit has already moved on.”
“No!”, Leander cried. “Evander!”
Upon hearing this, without removing his hands, Daecon said
“I’m going in after him."
The words seemed to echo through the woods.