I think my muse needs some prozac or something. I sat down tow write a sequal to last week's post. This is what came out instead. It's quite a bit longer than my usual posts. I hope you like it!
“I know druidry requires a familiarity with nature, Uncle, but I really don’t know. Taking Shainnon and Ayden for a human style camping trip seems less about nature and more about insanity,” grumped Kincaid. “Surely there are other ways to teach that pair of hellions how to fit in to the human culture than a camping trip. The last time Shainnon went amongst them, it took two black lords to get him out of trouble.”
“Pshaw! The pups will be fine! I keep up with them and I’m more than three hundred years old. You can’t tell me a lad of only one thirty-five can’t do it,” Auld Domhnal harrumphed. Auld Domhnal, as everyone called him, was actually Kincaid’s many times great uncle. He’d live on a little island off the coast of Scotland for much longer than a normal human should have been alive, but then, they weren’t human.
They were true druids, a race of human-like creatures created by the Morrigan as mortal servants. They were more closely related to shifters than humans, though they physically looked like humans. Most of their kind lived in Annwn, a realm humans thought was the Celtic Underworld. It was a realm of existence that was used as a place to live where the Unseely would leave the inhabitants alone. The Cu of Annwn were the reason the Unseely left the realm alone.
Kincaid and Domhnal were of the scholar sect. The pups, Shainnon and Ayden, were of the guardian sect, though only Ayden could shift easily into the Cu form their kind were renowned for, giant pure white wolfhounds the size and Irish wolfhounds with blood red skin around the eyes and inner ears. True hounds of Annwn look much the same but were the size of Scottish deerhounds without the gruesome ears and eyes.
“Come now, Caid,” his uncle cajoled, using his childhood nickname. “It was not Shainnon’s fault an hunting party became obsessed with him. The Lon Chaney National Forest a good place for the pups to learn how to act around humans and the humans in that area are somewhat comfortable with our kind so as not to panic at the sight of druid pups acting odd. I’m getting too old to take them into high mountains. That thin, cold air in hard on my old lungs and wings.”
He shook his head in resignation.
“I’ll take them, Uncle, but I won’t promise to enjoy it.”
“Shainnon, I believe you are supposed to blow the fire out before eating charred marshmallows,” Kincaid commented dryly. The scamp grinned up at him, whitish black goo squishing out from between his teeth. Caid just got his eyes closed before Ayden blinded them all with the disposable camera he just had to have taking by taking a picture of the spectacle. Why had he agreed to take these two camping again?
The day had started out well enough. Caid picked the boys up from his uncle’s house in Gairloch that morning. Uncle had moved from that wind scoured island in the bay after taking the duo from hell as apprentices so they could have human children to socialize with. They realm jumped to Great Falls International Airport so they could rent an SUV, then headed toward the mountains. It didn’t start getting complicated till they stopped for lunch and supplies outside Talbot‘s Peak.
Bless the proprietor’s heart, the moment the Ayden mentioned they were going camping, she began talking fondly of her own childhood camping trips. Toasting marshmallows, making s’mores, fishing--everything she talked about, the boys wanted to do, too. Druid Cu pups fishing with poles had not turned out to be a good idea, at least not with these two. The humans had reacted to seeing the boys trying eat the bait better than he‘d expected them to. At least Shainnon hadn’t found worms tasty. Caid wasn’t sure Ayden had been all that disgusted by the wiggly snack, though.
“But Caid!” Ayden cried. “The fish eat the worms. We eat the fish. So we are eating worms anyway!”
“We don’t eat the fish while they are still alive,” Caid drawled.
“We just wanted to see why the fish like them,” Shainnon stated mater-of-factly. “But then again, fish eat other fish while they are still alive. Maybe we should try cooking the worms first.”
“Or maybe try eating the fish still alive!” Ayden had declared. “Caid, didn’t you buy some minnows at the bait shop?”
Caid shook his head at the memory. That was about the time the men started laughing and the women started gagging. The rest of the afternoon had passed with amused old men teaching Caid and the boys the right way to fish for lake trout and filling the boys’ heads with how they’d gotten into mischief as children. The women had all left to go shopping for gods only knew what; he’d heard them mention some shop over called Fur and Feather Finery.
“Caid! Tell us a ghost story! Those men said you are supposed to tell us ghost stories around the camp fire while we roast marshmallows!” Ayden half screamed.
“No,” Caid muttered. “You’re already over stimulated. How about a romp in the woods to burn off some of that sugar?”
“That one old man said that cougars eat little children that wonder away from camp at night,” Shainnon commented.
“I think you will be fine,” Caid reassured. “We are here to teach you hellions about high mountain ecology and there’s quite a bit of the ecology that is nocturnal only.”
“Like cougars,” Shainnon added on, stubbornly. “Can we explore as hounds?”
“How would you ask me any questions or comment on what you see in hound form?” Caid answered in the monotone he’d slowly developed since picking them up that morning.
“Can we shift into hound form if something tries to eat us?” Ayden shrilled. Caid rubbed his forehead with thumb and fore finger, trying to stave off the headache he could feel building.
“Aye, if something tries to eat you, you can shift. Let’s get the fire banked.”
Like fishing, trying to teach Shainnon and Ayden about the nocturnal life of the American Rocky Mountains turned out to easier planned than executed. They’d managed to scare off every fox, mouse, and raccoon for fifty miles. Apparently Ayden couldn’t tell a bat hunting bugs from “something trying to eat him.” It was interesting to know that a Cu pup could jump high enough to almost catch one, though.
Oh, wow, Jen thought as she watched the trio from the ledge high above them. She didn’t have a clue what they were- she’d never heard of dog shifters- but that rambunctious youngling had a jump worthy of an Olympic athlete! Good thing Band was faster!
Jen had been enjoying a solitary meal of freshly caught rabbit when she’d heard them coming from some distance. The adult had been trying in vain to school the younglings in native animals and failing miserably. They were simply too excited to pay attention to learning. Not that she blamed them; there was something deeply invigorating about a nocturnal romp in these mountains.
Her meal forgotten, Jen had been following the odd group for the last hour or so and was becoming rather impressed by the big male’s knowledge of the forest and it’s inhabitants. Once he’d given up on a formal lesson, he began making headway in teaching the young ones about identifying animals using old scent trails and droppings. I wonder how they’ll do with a fresh trail? she thought to herself. She was vaguely uneasy about it, but figured her beast form- a cougar- should be more than up to the task of out smarting a pair of pups.
Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea! Crap, they’re fast!