POV: Kari (the daughter of Alva; granddaughter of Fenrir; Wolf 3rd Gen Founder)
Recap: Kari trails after the new cult Fen’s create and has discovered some iffy things about them. Something’s wrong with how easily they believe people, and Fen’s already thought about anyone trying to interfere and put in safeguards. She’s now following this cult as they start to gather.
Kari weaved through the grove; she received strange looks for the humans and Vulpes as she went, but paid them little mind. Her nose and mind were centered on the group she was tracking. By the hormones released from the group’s bodies, still lingering around the area, she could determine much about their state of mind.
This is so odd … it was just Galian and two other men’s scents at the start, but more are joining them. There are at least a dozen, and there are two women with three Vulpes joining, now.
Wouldn’t people become suspicious if they aren’t at their posts? Well, probably not if people have such high levels of trust here. The supervisors must think that they’ve been given other tasks. I’m sure they think it’s strange, but why doubt their motives?
Kari paused as the trail split; tongue picking between her teeth, she released a low rumble in her throat, eyes darting right and left.
The Vulpes went right, while the humans went left. There’s no possible way they’d realize I was tailing them, and the scent is only thirty minutes old. No … this is a part of some bigger plan.
Folding her arms, Kari breathed out a puff of air through her teeth before pursing her lips. To her right were another few rows of trees before heading back onto the trail into town, while the path to her left circled to the backside of the town, an area she hadn’t been to yet.
Galian went left while the Vulpes went right … what are they up to? Something big must be going down tonight, and they’re splitting up to get the materials ready, or they could be finalizing plans. Either way, I need to figure out what they’re doing.
She decided to go after the ranking member she knew had answers. Heading left, she picked up her pace but paused after only twenty meters; the group had split-up again.
Kari’s brow furrowed as she pulled her hair back bangs out of the way, nibbling on the left inside of her lower lip. It doesn’t even smell like they lingered since the scent is the same as it was. Their direction must have been planned, but why send off some of his men back into the fields? Are they recruiting for the cause or trying to ease suspicion or questions?
Sucking in her lips for a second, she released a frustrated moan while pulling her hair back. This is crazy … I’m literally in a brainwashed population movie … the kind of movie Lori liked.
Pushing further left, she walked up to a single-tailed Vulpes inspecting the trees for fruit that had been missed. “Hey, you got a minute?”
The woman jumped before turning to face her. “Oh, sure! Umm … I don’t think I’ve seen you around, and you don’t smell familiar…”
She trailed off for a moment, features creasing with confusion as she looked her up and down, breathing in deeply. “You smell funny, and I’ve never seen clothes like that before. Are you a Transplanter that’s been sent to help us with the harvest?”
“No,” Kari said with a forced smile. “I’m one of the new monsters in the area; you might have heard about us talking with Mimi.”
The woman’s expression said she didn’t, and she shook her head, biting her lower lip while glancing around. “New monsters … hmm, should I call someone else that knows what you’re talking about?”
Kari held up her hands, shaking her head. “No, no, I’m just looking for a group that passed by here recently. You know Galian?”
Her face brightened. “Yes! So you do know some of the humans here; Galian has been in the town for many years, and he’s a very hard worker.”
“Good to know … so, umm, he passed by here recently. Did he tell you anything, or how did he look?”
“Tell me anything … umm,” she folded her arms under her chest, long gray tail flicking to the left as she glanced that way.
“I didn’t recall him being in this area, which was odd, but he said he had a meeting to go to. He asked me how the harvest was coming along, and I told him everything was on schedule because of everyone’s hard work.”
Her yellow-tinted eyes moved back to her and she shrugged. “That’s all I can say.”
“Alright, thanks for … wait,” Kari’s eyes narrowed as she studied the woman’s unassuming face. “What do you mean that’s all you can say?”
The woman pressed her tongue against the left corner of her mouth while humming. “I … I don’t get what you’re asking. It’s all that I can say. Umm … I can’t think of another way to express it.”
“Okay…” Kari said with a slow nod. “Do you know about the Night’s End Festival?”
The Vulpes shook her head. “What’s that? Was Head Supervisor Mimi given a new festival for us to prepare for?”
“No … nevermind,” Kari waved as she returned to the trail, laughing apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to pull you away for too long. Have a good time … doing whatever you’re doing.”
She waved back with a bright smile. “Thank you, the Council provides!”
These people are so … different.
Kari slowed as she noticed the tops of buildings poking over a few of the lower hanging branches; Galian had passed through this way. Maneuvering between the trees, she arrived back in town.
The houses in this area appeared older than the ones she’d passed before; the old stone tile had more erosion marks, and the brick base and wooden siding of the houses didn’t match the rest of the town she’d been through, yet it still seemed well maintained.
She glanced around at the stacked barrels lining the alley she passed through; from the lingering smell on the wood, it was clearly fruit juice and dried goods.
Reaching the main street, she paused as one unique sound caused a shiver to run down her spine; there were crying babies in several of the surrounding buildings, and she caught two human women walking down the road, one black-haired and one brown.
However, one thing immediately caught Kari’s eye; they were both accompanied by a Vulpes child in fox form, no more than a year old, talking by their sides. A lump dropped down her throat as the group caught sight of her, brows creasing as their conversation died.
Holonie talked about human women taking care of their children … I guess they would need a place in town to keep them before they’re sent to the Capital. These are some of the pup handlers she talked about.
“Hello,” the brown-haired woman said as they moved to join her, and the brown-furred kid ran up to sniff her. “I haven’t seen you around town. Are you a Transplanter?”
“She smells funny!” The brown-furred fox child giggled; it was clear that these Vulpes were much younger than Rayla and Luna.
“That’s rare this time of year,” the black-haired woman chuckled while bending down to stroke the pinkish-furred Vulpes by her legs. The other kit was staring at Kari with wide eyes and refused to speak.
Kari’s focus didn’t leave the Vulpes circling her, causing her a bit of unease; she hadn’t dealt with children since Tiri. “Umm … yeah, I’m kind of busy.”
The black-haired woman’s brow creased as she watched her back away before hastily retreating. “Oh, okay…”
She picked up her pace, ducking around a side alley and out of sight. Eyes squeezed shut, and a shuddering breath left her dry lips as she leaned back against the wall, left fist pressed against her breast; her heart felt like it would leap right out of her chest.
No … stop it! Don’t think about it…
Tiri’s bright face popped up in her mind, and Kari pressed her knees together as the memory of her sister’s cold legs pressed up against her.
“Yes, Kari,” Her mother responded in a melancholy tone.
“It’s complicated … your uncles changed after your grandfather died. I hate them … like you hate Eric.”
Kari fought back the tears threatening to leave her eyes, and after a few minutes, she managed to get her breathing under control.
I always managed to hide this side of me from the others…
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but I understand; you’d need to let someone in. You should open up to Sora about it. When you’re ready, of course.”
A lump dropped down Kari’s throat, and she took a deep breath before returning to the trail; the two women with the Kitsune pups had already moved on.
I don’t know what good it’ll do, but … maybe I will. We’ll see.
Her eyes wandered, easily able to follow Galian’s natural musk without looking at the floor. It seemed like a few of the roofs needed repair soon, and a new coat of whatever they used to color the side of the buildings required reapplying.
This area must be one of the oldest in town.
Her focus locked on a three-story building as it appeared like a group of women were teaching Vulpes what different things were and having them repeat it back to them. After listening for a few minutes, she discovered that the area was devoted to children born in the town from the previous Harvest Festival, and the human and Vulpes comprehension and development stages were vastly different.
They taught them stories about the Vulpes Council, how to distinguish between different colors with fruits and vegetables, sang songs about the realm, played games that taught them each of the different hierarchy positions in the cultural structure, and helped them realize how to express their needs and wants.
A few more women noticed her as they went on walks with the children; she had to explain herself every time since it seemed everyone knew each other, and a new face was rare. She’d been mistaken for a new pup handler several times, and had another panic attack, but pushed on.
It took her twenty minutes before she finally discovered Galian’s whereabouts, and he was not alone. She distinguished between voices and scents, identifying forty-two people inside a massive three-story building.
Kari ducked inside the alleyway, and hopped up on a crate of dried food, settling in to eavesdrop. The spaces between the houses in the town were shockingly clean to what she recalled from her time in Miami.
By the scent, Kari was sure that most of the people inside were male, but there were a few of the pup handlers with two human children; it made her skin crawl a little, and the whole situation gave her flashbacks of different movies she’d seen at some of her gang member’s houses.
She could hear the occasional passerby in the street, all human women with kids of both species, and the occasional cart. Traffic was beginning to slow down as more people left for the fields, leaving the area to the pup handlers.
Her vision moved around the alleyway, noting a bridge between the two houses on the second floor, and now that she was waiting, she found that the town appeared to be built on a slight slope to allow water to flow in specific directions; the buildings were built into the ground by a margin.
A soft hum left Kari’s throat as she scooted back to the wall, leaning back while listening to the conversation through the wall; Galian was already speaking.
“… about the sixth field?”
“I already have people spreading the word,” a man replied in a bright tone.
“Good, we’re growing, just like the herald said we would!”
“She’s a seer, after all,” one of the women chuckled, shifting her attention to the child as it began moaning. “There, there, back to sleep,” she cooed.
“Right, well, I’m grateful that each of you has heeded the summon! To begin, Rayin, could you lead us in the introductory trial that Fen showed us?”
A feminine voice responded, clearly excited to be called upon. “I’d be happy to!”
“Our Vulpes representative should arrive within that time. No need to rush.”
“Of course,” she cleared her throat. “So, this is the first meeting of the Inner Brotherhood! Oh … you have a question, Malory?”
“Yes, umm, what is a Brotherhood?
“That’s a good question … eh, Galian, what’s a Brotherhood?”
“Hmm … let’s see,” he mumbled. “How the Herald described it, it’s like a powerful bond that links us.”
“Oh,” Raylin didn’t sound enlightened. “Okay, I guess it’s like tying a bunch of string together, right?”
“I think that’s a good example,” Galian nodded.
“Alright, then! Welcome to the first meeting of the Inner Brotherhood. Each of you has received a sign that relates to a phrase that was given to you by your recruiter! You’ll be going into the back room where you’ll give that to Galian, and then he’ll assign you to a place in the room to meet your other brothers.”
Fen was pretty secretive and intricate in what she designed; Galian is one of the big-wigs, though. I just need to get him to talk.
“The Herald of our goddess, Sora, has delivered the divine message to us. We are to diligently prepare ourselves for each of our tasks, and we must be vigilant and unwavering! No three-tailed or above must learn of our mission other than what individuals have been told to let Mimi know. We must be exact to receive our reward!”
A lump dropped down Kari’s throat. Fen’s created a cult … Sora will be horrified. Would it be best to just go get her and bust this whole thing from the start?
“Our great goddess, and the link she holds to the bright one, goddess Inari, has been beset upon by the vile Council and has lost all memories of the plan, but we are her might!”
You’re kidding me … of course, Fen planned for that. This is getting out of control; I’m sure Sora could force them to obey her, but I doubt she’d like that option.
“Now, each of you is to prepare yourselves, and we need … what did the Herald call them?”
“Guards,” a man replied.
“Right! We need guards outside to redirect anyone, not of the Inner Brotherhood, away from the building. Caylin and Varnel, would you two make sure we’re not bothered?”
“It would be my honor.”
Kari puffed out a tired groan before hopping off the crate, looking up, and jumping to the roof; she easily measured the correct distance, kicking off the opposite edge to flip around on top of the tiles. Landing with perfect balance, she sat back, pulling her hair out of the way.
This is such a pain. Fen was this butthurt? It seems like a ton of work to just get back at Sora for throwing her out.
The man stood in front of the door while the woman walked around the building, making sure no one was listening before reporting they were in the clear. She heard each person go into another room in turn, giving Galian whatever sign their recruiter had told them, and he directed them to specific corners of the room, creating eight groups.
Not a word was spoken about the tasks, and halfway through the proceedings, the Vulpes they’d been waiting for arrived. She had a bubbly voice that ground against Kari’s nerves, and her swishing tail made Kari roll her eyes; the woman was far too excited for such a boring meeting.
Galian rushed out to meet her, and Kari’s eyebrow lifted as she heard them embrace. “Lumia! It’s so good to meet you; the Herald spoke of you.”
“Yes, and I heard about you!” She returned. “So … these are the humans that heeded the call?”
“Some, we’re gathering more by the minute!”
“Excellent; we’re making similar progress with single-tailed Vulpes! Oh, what about the message?”
“Sent, without a hitch, and I hear that Mimi’s response was just as anticipated; she seems to be ill.”
Lumia sounded awed. “The Herald knows everything!”
“I know, right! I can’t wait to see our goddess in her full glory!”
“We must first do our part,” Lumia noted. “Please, don’t let my interruption halt the progress.”
“Of course, of course. Please, take a seat; it shouldn’t be too much longer.”
Kari stared up at the sky, rubbing her teeth together as she listened. They’re building an army, but for what? It seems like they’ve done something to Mimi, but what? I don’t get how Fen could have planned all this out unless she had help … well, there’s Jian, and he does know a lot more about how magic functions than I do. Maybe he discovered a few things to give her a head start?
She felt more and more annoyed as they continued with the meeting, discussing all the quite average and normal things of the Human Realm that she took for granted, and Inari’s gathering, showing the bloodshed involved. It was like these people had never seen someone hit a person before with how they reacted.
They spoke about the power of humans and how strong the Vulpes could become with Sora’s aid; everything was about giving them the ability to do whatever they wanted, and none of them even had a clue what it was they desired, but the fantasy Fen spun had enthralled them.
The Vulpes Council were like weeds, and were old, corrupt, and harmful; they needed to be rooted. Sora was the savior, linking them to Inari, and they would all receive something beyond their imagination by helping to free Sora. As the discussion went on, Kari’s blood ran cold.
The way they’re talking … are they going to try and kill Sora to release her from the spell the Vulpes Council cast on her? It’s lunacy! They aren’t saying it, but just the way they talk about setting her free … I have a bad feeling about this. Just what are they planning tonight for this Night’s End Festival?
If they even have a hint of killing intent, then Eyia will … but it’s not killing intent. They’d want to free her … save her. They’re after an everlasting world under Sora, and she needs to be set free with them to accomplish that. Why else would they bring up that Sora can bring back the dead and destroy the universe? They’re crazy…
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