“This was not how I expected to spend the evening.” Morgan shook his head, dumbfounded by the sight of the large, strangely colored beast pacing the boundary of the wards Meghan had barely gotten finished before Black finished his first change.
“He is a magnificent specimen, though,” the healer said approvingly.
That he was, Morgan silently agreed. Black was now a tiger. He was at least ten feet long and weighting around 600 pounds. Whereas tigers usually have an orange base coat, white ventral areas, and vertical black stripes, Black had sort of swirling thick black and dark gray stripes that almost completely obscured the classic tiger base coat.
“His markings look like they match the heavy patterns of scars and tattoos on his human body,” Morgan said a long moment later.
“Yes, black for the scarring and gray for the tattoos,” Meg agreed. “Not entirely unexpected for a Knight of Nicodemus, really. Every mark on them, including healing battle wounds are a religious experience for them.”
“Where did his piercings go?” Morgan asked suddenly. He glanced away from the prowling cat to see a befuddled look on Meg’s face.
“No idea,” she said as she got on her hands and knees, obviously trying to peer at the beast’s underside. The tiger spun and crouched, staring back at her, and oddly intense look on his face. Morgan froze, but Meg didn’t seem to notice the tiger’s heavy regard. She shuffled to one side and then the other, trying to get a better look while the beast watched her, not moving anything but his head. “I wonder if the steel used was magically significant somehow,” she murmured.
“Perhaps you should move away from the wards,” Morgan murmured softly, allowing none of his anxiety to show in his voice.
Meg looked up and froze, her nose inches away from the tiger’s with nothing separating them but a slight shiver of wavering light from wards hastily scribble on the floor.
Mistress, a voice said in the back of his mind. He wanted to ignore it, sensing that the female would be tasty. His stomach clenched in hunger and he could smell blood. The food I didn’t finish earlier, the voice said. Master and mistress are not food. They provide food. He sniffed disdainfully. He could provide his own food. Might as well go eat what is already available, the voice urged. The voice had a point. He spun away from the female and pounced on the small pile of cool, bloody meat. The female squeaked when he moved. He chuffed, amused. The male hadn’t squeaked, though. Master is made of sterner stuff, the voice agreed.
“What happens when he finishes with the food?” He looked back at the two hiding behind the wall of magic. It had been the female that spoke. Making my Mistress nervous. He didn’t like that he was making her nervous, though he wasn’t sure why. That wall of magic annoyed him. It was good that it was there. Would have attacked the master and mistress while the pain of the change was upun me.
That voice. It was his voice, he realized. He paused his eating for a long moment. He didn’t look like the two behind the magic. I did before the change, the voice said. Yes, that felt right. The voice was his when he looked like them. It was… another mind, one foreign to how he looked now. Maybe it would be a good idea to listen to that voice. It probably had information that made more sense to his—their—other form. He eyed the hateful light as he finished his meal. It was rising from wiggly lines on the floor, merging with more wiggly lines on the walls around the nest—bed, his bed. Not theirs. Yes, his bed. He could smell were he’d lain on it. He’d lain on the other nest, the big one not behind the magic light, but his was not the only scent there. The mistress had warded our bed to keep us safe but they got trapped behind it when the change started too soon.
He got up and began pacing along the light again, calm this time since he wasn’t trying to get to food. If this was his master and mistress, then they should be hiding behind him for protection, not behind this hateful wall. He needed to figure out how to get them out. There, the voice prodded. See how the light dims a little in the corner where the runes on the wall meet the runes on the floor? He slinked closer to the dim spot the voice pointed out. The man and woman shuffled around, growing agitated, but he ignored them. He poked a claw at the point where the wiggly lines didn’t quite meet. It stung a bit, but nowhere near as badly as it had hurt when he had slammed his body into the light the one and only time he’d tried pouncing on the man. He nudged his claw into the dim corner again.
“He’s got metal claws,” the master said, sounding both stricken and awed.
“Answers the question of where his piercing went and if the steel they were made of was magically significant,” the mistress said back.
“Can he break the wards doing that?”