It was dark. The moon was a sliver. The fall night chill had settled in. Jeptha Berengar was awake. He heard, sensed, and smelled every part of the forest. He was the forest. Emotion governed Jeptha in many ways.
He knew this and listened to Brother.
Jeptha was restless and paced back and forth. The Heron had shaved off his hair and sold it to a trade caravan. He was a little cold without it. It was growing back, but Jeptha resolved in himself to bathe and check for Ahu.
When his hair was cut, he was embarrassed, but he was happy to find out from Shepherd’s Crook Man that little creatures called Ahu were burrowing into his skin and making him sick.
Jeptha felt healthier overall after removing them.
He could think a little clearer.
Jeptha had learned the alphabet over the past few days. The Shepherd’s wife had no patience for an idle beast and imposed a schedule upon him. He did not expect this to be the result of speaking with Shepherd’s Crook Man.
Jeptha was proud of himself. So much energy had been consumed surviving that he did not consider education to be an option. He knew the school in La Longi had no place for him. The citizens did not know if he was human or not. Jeptha was not really sure either. At one point he believed that he once was. The past was a blur and difficult to process most of the time.
Jeptha’s pace became a purposed trot deeper into the forest. He thought of the alphabet and what it could mean. She was harsher than Brother in her strictness.
He smelled them well before he saw them. His trot became a dead run.
The pequin were huddled over an animal they had cornered and terrified. They were feeding off of the animal’s fear. The animal would try to dart away, only to be burned by the pequin skin.
This angered Jeptha. Ahusaka told him that they did not belong in this forest and they fell from the sky, bringing torment.
The pequin screeched upon Jeptha’s arrival. Far away Jeptha could hear someone from Northwich say, “there go the sounds again” in a nervous voice. The man’s fear from a distance distracted the pequin.
Jeptha sprang in a fury upon the pequin. Jeptha roared,
” I AM BEAST, I AM RAGE, I EAT PREDATORS. I AM YOUR FEAR!”
Jeptha reached for a pequin and his hand burned. “I AM PAIN!” The pequin scurried away.
The Beast broke the neck of the captured pequin and carried it deeper into the forest.
The burns would recover before daylight. Part of Jeptha enjoyed the rush the pain gave him.
Jeptha built a fire with embers the Heron had given him in a container. The Heron were quite creative and provided simple instructions to assist the Beast in daily living.
He dressed out the Pequin and parted out the creature on sticks. The Beast would eat well tonight.