White swirls of clouds danced before him. Edges of bone white lace filtered through his mind and settled along his peripheral vision. A cat like purr followed by a yowl brushed his ear. Light, diffused by the cloudy smoke rings surrounding him, pierced the perimeter of his magic circle.
Only one who knew him dared to come this close and seek entrance.
Tongson shivered as two blast of icy bone chilling air enveloped him. Raising his hands, he waved and chanted. "Be gone any who seek to harm. All within this circle are mine and protected. If you be friend, show yourself now!"
Calling on his spiritual half, Tongson inhaled deeply and blew out his mouth. As he cupped his hand to his eyes, an image began to take shape in front of him. Two blues eyes followed by a cat like snarl shaped as the torso shimmered and glowed. Human in stature and feline in markings and physicality, his visitor formed near the center of his circle.
"Serge," Tongson whispered. Spirit Bear willed his breathing to slow and calm to exude through out him. Turning, he faced the white tiger shifter encroaching on his space.
They mimicked each other pacing around the circle until both had traced the outer circumference twice. Tongson stepped inward and waited. Would Serge follow?
Serge eyed the tall longhaired grizzly watching him patiently through dark human eyes. Human features fooled those who did not know the strength and wiliness of the one who watched and remained silent. Neither had forgotten their lessons. Nothing was ever taken for granted. Illusion could be its own weapon. Each had chosen their life's path. Vastly different and yet so alike. Serge moved forward. Tongson stayed where he stood, waiting.
Serge tossed back his head and roared. Human laughter followed. Regaining his composure, he offered Tongson his hand as he telepathically spoke. "Good to see you my old friend. I hoped the pathway we created as teens still worked."
Tongson grasped Serge's hand. Two paws of different species formed and brushed together. The two shifters briefly embraced. "It has been many moons and seasons since we last spoke via this medium. Why now?"
Serge stepped back, creating a small space between them. He raised his paw in the air and circled it over his head. "Keep what is said within this space and place. Let none know what passes here."
Tongson raised his paw and copied Serge's motions, repeating the magic words that bound the air surrounding them.
Serge squatted on his haunches and drew squiggles in the dirt near him. "My employer seeks more than he can handle or understand. My blood vow to him is running out. He saved members of my family two eons ago. My soul vow to the Gods and Goddesses over powers whatever else he thinks he's done to bind me permanently to him."
Tongson nodded. Sitting cross-legged, he picked up a hand of dirt and blew on it. "As the dust settles so does the corruption of his limited soul. Darkness eats at him taking away more and more of his humanity. Soon all that will be left is a caged animal pacing and looking for a way out."
Serge drew more images and spat on them. "I am bound to protect the innocent and those unaware of what is happening. Know you and yours are safe for now. I will not fight you unless I have to to keep mine safe. I know you understand."
Serge looked up. His eyes met Tongson's.
Tongson rose. "And I the same, my friend. I must preserve what matters most. The power he seeks is not his to own or possess. Only the Gods and Goddesses decide who it is bestowed upon.
But many do not understand this."
Serge stood. Dusting off his hands, he turned ready to leave the circle. His tail switched as a familiar scent filled his nostrils. Gypsy was returning.
"Be safe my friend. Do not destroy the books. Hide them well. Do not tell me where or how. Then I cannot lie when asked what do I know." Serge reached the edge of the circle when Tongson's voice reached him.
"Be well my friend. Know your soul is not red from taking lives when you had to in self-defense. Do not kill without reason. And to your heart's question. . ." Tongson watched as Serge glanced over his shoulder as the clouds of smoke began to engulf him. "Elana and the kitts are well. My grandmother cares for them."
Tongson watched as Serge disappeared. Was that a smile however brief he flashed before he vanished? Serge's last heartbeat echoed "Thank you. Kiss my sister and nephews for me. Your cousin has done well by her."