The Dwellers: From Boy to Man
From Boy to Man
“Do not fidget so much, Ramon.” Chase Moondancer supplied. “It’s the middle of winter, and you have to dress for it.”
“I feel nothing, Chase, honest.” Five year old Ramon Martiya insisted. “I am not cold.”
Chase stopped buttoning the coat to look at the boy. “Fine. Freeze. No one will hear your cries for help should you need it, remember that.”
“I know.” Ramon said. “My kin are below, resting for the Hunt.” The boy thought for a moment, and his face showed it.
“What is on your mind?”
Ramon looked at his mentor. “Why do I not rest like they do?”
Chase found that question a hard one to answer. “Emerald would know best.”
“I want you to tell me.”
“You are not like your kin, Ramon.” Chase said. “You are both a Watcher and a Dweller. Your Watcher-kin mother was bitten by your Dweller-kin father.”
“Do they still live?”
Chase shook his head. “Your mother died giving birth to you. Your father has since been Exiled for his crimes.” He cleared his throat, not wanting to be the one to tell the boy his father killed his mother. “Now, are you going to play with the other children or not?”
Ramon bounded off, running out the door with Chase staring after him.
Three years ago, he took on the boy as a charge. During the daytime, when Ramon needed an adult, Chase would be there for him. At night, he would return to his world, the Dream Realm, and help Lord Guardian. There was something amiss in this almost-perfect underground life. Chase had yet to see the moon in the Outer-Realm, and that had been his dream since he was a young pup. To shift into his full Wolf Companion form and howl at the full moon would be wonderful. Even in the middle of winter, when the hunt for food was scarce Chase wished to see the moon, just one time.
He sighed. Alas, that is never to be. He was here on a mission, to watch over the young Ramon and raise him to adulthood. Thirteen more years and Ramon would be old enough to fulfill his destiny as the Leader of the Dwellers. Those before him, Shem and Shiva were gone, powerful and dangerous people the Dwellers called Drifters.
Chase watched as Ramon played with the children outside. He seemed happy, and even laughed with them. That was not an easy task for a quiet child like Ramon.
Chase went his day watching Ramon play, laughing and having fun. The sun was going down quickly, but no one noticed.
The laughter turned from happy to sinister and Chase immediately sensed danger. He sprung out of the house, shifting to a wolf. Bounding over to the children, he knocked Ramon down to the ground, seeing the boy’s eyes bright red, fangs out and ready.
“Now is not the time, Ramon.” Chase growled under his breath, just loud enough for the boy to hear. “You will not feed on them.”
“Who are you to tell me what to do?” Ramon hissed, picking himself up and looking around. “Look, you have scared them away. Now who will I play with?”
“By yourself or with me until we can get the hunger in control.” Chase shifted back to a human male when he was sure no one was watching. “Come along, time to eat.”
“What is the difference between eat and feed?”
“I am told the difference is easy. To eat is to eat normal, healthy foods like nuts, berries, fruits, grains, that sort of thing.” Chase explained, escorting the boy back to the house. He cleared his throat before going on. “To feed is to drink someone’s blood, preferably one of your own kin. That is what the hunger does to you.”
“Is the hunger bad?”
“I do not know. I hunger in different ways because I am a wolf.”
“A wolf that can change his form.” Ramon replied. “Can I do that?”
“Perhaps in time, but now is definitely not it.” Chase supplied. He wrapped an arm around the boy.
At the door, Chase sensed something else.
“Something’s out there, isn’t it, Chase?” Ramon asked.
“Go in the house and be safe, boy.” Chase demanded. “I will check it out.”
He shifted once again to a wolf, where his instincts for danger were peaked. It was the early evening and Ramon’s Watcher powers were at their highest. That made him a pawn to any psychic vampires out there, for he didn’t know how to control them yet.
His instincts led him to an alley, where four cats hid in the shadows. He sniffed the air. Whatever it was he sensed was close by, but he couldn’t get a fix on it.
Why are they hiding? What scared them?
He padded along, following where his nose led him. It led him to the back of the alley, where he heard voices.
“The child needs to be stopped.” A male voice complained. “He is a menace to our kind.”
“He needs to be destroyed before he can do any more damage.” Came a female voice.
“What would Shiva think of the way you speak, Dram?” Came a second female voice.
“What, am I mistaken when I say this?” The male complained.
“Besides, Shem and Shiva are Drifters, no longer leading our kin.” The first female voice supplied.
“Francesca, how dare you?”
“You cannot speak of them that way!” Dram announced.
“Listen to your selfish dribble.” A second male voice announced almost quietly. The voice was calm. “My children, the boy is my problem. Let Ramon learn what he has to and use it to kill me.”
“You would let him, Crucis?”
“I am a fair man in war, if not in heart.” Crucis announced. He paused, stepping closer to where Chase was hiding. “Silence, all of you. I believe we have a visitor.”
Chase wanted to disappear, but the man found him first.
“What do we have here?” Crucis reached his hand out for Chase to sniff.
Chase growled, snapping his jaws.
“Feisty hound, aren’t you?” Crucis supplied. “Come, children. Lunch.”
Chase decided enough was enough. Before the Stalkers could advance, he shifted form.
“What in the hell?” Dram asked, awed.
“I will not let you hurt the boy.” Chase declared.
Crucis laughed. “And who are you to stop me, wolf-man?”
“Chase Moondancer, Provincian Warrior for my Lord Guardian and the Mystics in the Dream Realm.” Chase announced. “I am also Ramon’s caretaker in the daylight hours. If you want him, you will have to get through me.”
Dram and Francesca laughed. The second woman watched from the shadows. Chase could sense she meant no harm.
“Anytime, wolf-man.” Crucis licked his lips, his fangs growing.
“No, Crucis.” The second woman stopped him. “There will be time later. The hunt is among us, and we must feed.”
Crucis growled, turning away from Chase, who was shaking in his form. “Perhaps soon, wolf-man.”
“Perhaps.” Chase growled back.
He watched Crucis, Dram and Francesca leave. The second woman stayed behind.
“Ignore them, Chase Moondancer.” She said. “They are just bullies.”
“Out to kill Ramon.” Chase supplied. “I will not have it, and neither will the Elders.”
“The Jewels are still around? Imagine that.”
“Who are you to save me like that?”
“They call me Celeste. My blood brother Daniel is Ramon’s teacher in the arts of the night.” She said. “I’m not one of them, you know.”
“A Stalker.” Celeste replied. She came down from her wall and walked up to him. “That is what they are. Daniel sent me here to spy on them, and find out what makes a Dweller turn.”
“Have you found the answers you seek?”
Celeste sadly nodded. “Greed. Lust. Power. The high they get when they kill a mortal for their blood alone.”
“Indeed.” Celeste said. “Shall we tell the Elders what we have learned?”
Chase didn’t want to tell her he had to leave, and go back to the Dream Realm. He just nodded, following behind her. He could feel the darkness rising around him and the Locket pulsed with energy only he could see. He grasped it, closing his eyes.
“Where did you say you were from again, Chase?” Celeste asked, turning.
She saw only the darkness of the night, for Chase Moondancer was already gone.