Jeptha Berengar felt the mountains drawing;
A voice as it were, pulled him ever closer and higher into the foothills. Jeptha felt more primal than he ever had before. Hair raised on the back of his spine at the unknown, and every muscle fiber was ready for an altercation.
No emotion was attached to this pull, it was more of a calculated drive or compass that put one foot in front of the next. His mind and thoughts were dialed in and attune to every sound and smell that permeated from the forest.
There was a distinct smell that Jeptha could not place that was familiar, and somehow dangerous. There was no connected fear or wariness, just an innate knowledge to follow his course.
He considered what was causing this feeling. The moon was not at its strength, and he had been working hard to discipline his thoughts.
Brother had spoken of a call to the wild, a book written by a man named Jack. The thought of this story felt familiar, but oh so different.
There were no words or vocalizations, only silence. His steady pace was effortless. It was what he was meant to do.
Jeptha began recounting the events of his life. The kidnapping by the creatures, the bite that left him in his state, and his rescue.
Distinctly, he thought of his mother and father rejecting him. They continued to live their life in La Longi. Did he have any siblings? It was very likely.
He was not without family. The Berengar’s helped him at an early age, but Emery Berengar, Brother’s father, kept him at arm’s reach. This initially made Jeptha upset. As he grew it was clear why. His blood was contaminated. One scratch or bite could produce an abomination like himself. Jeptha would never want that to happen.
The capture and torture by the Rainports to find a portal he knew nothing about left him broken and dead inside. The accusation that he had eaten a child brought him even darker as stones were thrown by the men of the city.
Northwich had given him a new start. Adopted by the Heron, He had a place among them, albeit shaky. Ahusaka had taught him to cook of all things.
The Shepherd Crook Man helped him read and imparted wisdom to him.
James Rainport taught him to use the Montante Sword, a skill that served him will. He fought with distinction in the Battle for La Longi and slew Lord Rainport’s son with his own helmet.
And here he was now. Running headlong into the foothills like a man possessed following….
What was that smell? Why did it bother him so? What drove him to it?
The smell emanated from a large hole dug in the side of a hill.
The emotion and that was missing surged through Jeptha and he became choked with fear.
Standing before him were a large group of the very creatures that had kidnapped and bitten him as a child.
His large montante sword spoke as his scabbard fell from the blade.
Jeptha Roared. “I AM BEAST, I EAT THE FLESH OF PREDATORS!”
The creatures fell at Jeptha’s well practiced hand. His fury was unparalleled. One reached to attack only to find his forearm detached from his elbow. The creature screamed in pain, falling from a second blow. Another, cut cleanly in half still stood, unaware he was dead.
None escaped Jeptha’s attack and they lay scattered on the ground.
He remembered then.
That is what his captors smelled like.
He heard a footstep and whipped around. The spearpoint struck him right below the sternum. Turning, the creature pushed the shaft through the back, narrowly missing his spine.
Jeptha gasped, holding his sword tightly in his right hand, grasping the spear with his left. As strong as he was, the shaft would not break.
The creature turned the spear, twisting at Jeptha’s insides. He screamed. Cruel eyes showed their delight at his torment.
This one was much larger than any such as he had slain. He lifted the spear causing him to stand on his toes in agony.
The creature was toying with him. Jeptha had to make a choice. In Jeptha’s mind, to drop his weapon would be to give up. To stand there would be to die.
Terrified, Jeptha gathered himself and screamed, ” I … AM.. BEAST! ”
Pushing through the pain, Jeptha twisted his body hard against the shaft, breaking it.
His first swing went wild, the second hit the creature’s thigh. Savagely, the creature struck Jeptha in the chest, causing him to drop the montante. Brute strength and power collided as both tore and bit in a struggle for existence. The creature caught Jeptha’s fingers and crushed his hand like a vise. Jeptha’s free hand gouged the creature in the eyes, blinding him. Scrambling for his sword, he ended the creature.
Jeptha stood, bewildered. Shock had set in and he was not completely aware of what was happening. Looking down, he noticed the impaled spear shaft, then the blood. His thoughts were sluggish and he saw spots, then grey.
His last thought was not spoken. ” I NOT BITTER, I FORGIVE.”
Jeptha fell forward to the ground.