Gift: The Rebellion

Rory Stone has a Gift, and the whole world wants to see.

Rory Stone felt that his life was perfectly normal, the days spent with his best friend Towlen even managed to make it vaguely bearable, even interesting, but once he finds he's got a Gift, his world starts tumbling around his shoulders. Tea with the Queen, Shapeshifters missing, children sleeping and never waking up... and Rory is in the middle.

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3. Chapter Two- Discovery

Chapter Two- Discovery

    Towlen and Rory arrived at his house shivering with cold. Rory was soaked through and Gregory had somehow managed to get a sizable mass of snow and ice down Towlen’s collar. Sylvan had again taken the form of a shaggy black dog to fit through the door, Leonora into a cat. Almost at once, his mother started to fuss over them.

    Mrs Stone was a slight woman, with shoulder length chestnut hair, fading freckles and deep brown eyes. Her cheeks glowed a rosy pink that stayed with her even when winter was passed. She always had touch of make-up here and there to thicken her lashes or colour her lips and had laughter lines that creased the skin next to her eyes ever so slightly, making her countenance all the more genial and warm.

   “Oh, you two! You look terrible, what have you been doing? Rory dear, your lips are blue, and has the snow soaked through all of those jumpers? Right, take them off. Now. And put them on the rack to dry. Towlen, my poor darling you are positively covered in snow. No wonder you’re shivering-”

    She paused for a second as Rory made his way to the utility room and saw Towlen’s unnaturally wide grin, which seemed to worry her even more-so “Honey, are you OK?” Rory heard her ask, and listened to the footsteps moving through to the living room. Towlen’s teeth seemed to be chattering too persistently to talk.

    “Have you got a fever? Shall I ring your father?” Mrs Stone asked, and Towlen’s reply was merely a jumble of N’s as she struggled to utter the single word.

    “R-r-r-ror-rr-ry,” stuttered Towlen,“h-h-h-h-he d-d-d-d-d-“
    “Here hon, take this,” Mrs Stone said, and there was silence as they sound of clacking teeth subsided, Towlen sighed.

    “Mrs Stone-”

    “Angela,” she said sternly.

    “Um, Angela, you’ll never guess what Rory did-” At that moment, Rory burst forth into the room, bearing a renewed grin to best Towlen’s.

    “Hey, mum! You’ll never guess what-“

    “Rory! Don’t interrupt, Towlen is speaking.” Towlen, who was swathed from head to toe in a thick quilt, simply shook her head and gestured for Rory to continue speaking. She sank deeper into the comfort of the sofa as Leonora leapt into her lap.

    Rory told his mother about producing magic for the first time as she gasped and jumped to her feet, pulling Rory into a tight hug the way Towlen had done, her eyes alight with delighted tears.

    “Oh, I’m so proud, so proud of you honey! I didn’t think it would happen quite so soon!” she took his face in her hands and kissed his forehead, then his cheek, then his other cheek. In fact, she smothered every inch of his faces in kisses before he managed to squirm out of her grasp. Towlen was giggling quietly into her blanket.

    “Phillip! Phil, come downstairs! Rory can do magic now!” she squealed in the direction of the staircase. Mrs Stone was so incredibly happy that she had flushed red.

   “Son!” a booming voice carried from the hallway before its owner bounded into the room, arms spread wide. Rory’s dad was a short, plump man, mismatched with his deep baritone voice.  The exposed beneath slowly growing bald patch shone in the lamplight, and pale green eyes gleamed as he smiled.  

    Rory hugged him quickly before patting him on the back and gently easing out of it. It seemed that he’d had enough hugs to last a lifetime.

    “So, whad’you do?” Mr Stone asked.

    “A light sphere,”

    “A light sphere!” cried Mr Stone, “how brilliant! And that’s not the best of it my boy, soon that tiny sphere will be the size of a football and you’ll be able to warm up more than just your hands with it.” He wrapped his arm around Rory’s shoulder, swelling with pride. Towlen stared at Rory for a second, with a meaning that he pretended not to notice, then smiled along with everyone else.

    “You know Mr St-”

    “Phillip. Towlen I know you like my own daughter, call me Phillip,” he said, with pseudo severity, Towlen sighed.

    “You know… Phillip, that really isn’t the best of it, is it Rory?” Rory gulped. Sure, he was ecstatic at his abilities, but he didn’t fancy anymore of a fuss being made over him.

    “Um…” said Rory, both of his parents were looking more than a little puzzled now, “Towlen? Would you, ah, like to, you know… carry on?”

    “With pleasure!” she said, straightening up, she looked directly into Mr and Mrs Stone’s eyes in turn. “Rory produced a light the size of a basketball,” she turned to Mrs Stone, “bigger than a football. Bigger than any light I’ve ever seen.” She paused for effect, turning now to Mr Stone.

“It melted the snow on the ground.”

    The Stone’s looked dumbstruck, mouths gaping open at Rory, opening and closing like fish out of water. Rory shuffled his feet.

    “Are- are you sure?” asked Mrs Stone hesitantly.

    “I’m absolutely positive.”

    “I think I’ve heard of this,” murmured Mr Stone, as his blank face broke into a smile. “Son, no… it can’t be…” He leaned towards his wife and whispered something in her ear, all Rory and Towlen heard were the hisses of his S’s. Mrs Stone gasped, then nodded fanatically, bursting in to a fresh wave of tears. Rory wasn’t sure what to think.

    “I think-” began Mr Stone, with painful slowness, “I think you might have a gift.”

    “A what?” chorused Towlen and Rory, Mrs Stone hushed them both and wiped her eyes.

    “Do you really think so?” she asked, her voice barely more than a whisper, “are you absolutely sure, I- do you know what this means?” Mr Stone nodded and Mrs Stone looked set to break down again.

    “First in over seven-hundred years,” he murmured.

    “Sir Louis the Powerful, I think, he was the last one…” Mrs Stone said, her tone rising in to a high pitched hysteria. “Sir Rory… the Great,” she mused, she and Mr Stone locked themselves in a bear tight hug. It took a while for them to untangle themselves and notice Rory and Towlen’s inquisitive stares.

    “Oh no, carry on,” Rory said, dripping sarcasm, “don’t stop on our account.” Towlen punched him, but smirked.

    Wordlessly, Mr Stone walked over to the bookshelf, running his index finger along the rows of old books. Before long, he pulled out a volume the colour of polished mahogany; he blew away the dust dramatically and sneezed, twice.

    He handed the book to Rory, rubbing his nose. It was entitled;

                     A Gift for magic,
                                         the myth from the legend. 109th edition

   
    Rory turned it over in his hands, feeling the indentations of the silver print. Towlen peered over his shoulder.

   “You want me to-?”

    “Read it, yes,” said Rory’s father, “I can assure you that this book can explain it further and in much more detail than I ever could.”

    “I suppose I’ll just… yeah” Rory made his way upstairs feeling slightly overwhelmed. He’d read in his room, the watchful gaze of Towlen was one thing, but his parents? He wanted a little more privacy than that.

    “Um, can I?” Towlen’s voice reached Rory from the foot of the stairs.

    “Sure, I guess you probably want to know what this is all about just as much I do,” he muttered, she emitted a tiny squeak of delight before dashing up the stairs and scooting past Rory. She had already perched herself on the end of his bed when he came through the door, in the very back of his mind, Rory observed that her weight barely made an indentation on the fabric.

    “Come on!” she said, patting the mattress beside her eagerly. Rory merely smiled and sat beside her, opening the book to the first pages. Starting with chapter one, Rory began to read aloud.

Chapter One- Sir Louis the Powerful and his gift for Paton magic.

Introduction-

    Sir Louis the Powerful (Louis le Puissant) was found to have a natural gift for Paton magic at an early age, after discovering his magical abilities for the first time, he was soon there-after able to produce a jet of water that is rumoured to have flooded several long-standing dwellings in his home in the city of Cambrai, France. It is quite probable that on the first day of discovering his powers, the magic that Sir Louis could produce between his palms was greater than any Masters’ who could have been practising the art many a decade.

    Differences of Sir Louis’s abilities compared to any others include that his marks will have pulsated momentarily before altering their hue, also, the hue of the marks had progressed far more rapidly. For example, Sir Louis’s marks where a deep navy by the age of eighteen when he famously flew over the English Channel using powerful jets of air to propel himself. It is rumoured that by the time he had turned twenty-three, the year that he brought new life to the ravaged town of Mirenden (see pg. 639) his marks where nearer to black than blue.

    Of course, Sir Louis the Powerful perished well over two-hundred years ago. However, he lived an extraordinarily extended life, dying soon after his two-hundred and third birthday. It is widely believed that as he died of old age, Sir Louis created a light larger than any other known in history and, strangely, his marks sunk into his skin.

    This man is the only known report of a Gifted person, meaning that great people such as him could be one in several dozen billion, if not, then he is a much revered exception to the laws of nature.

    “Several- dozen- billion,” breathed Towlen.

    “So it seems,” Rory nodded, a knot clenched in his throat and restricted his speaking a little, “but wait, see here, it says that he died two hundred years ago, so they couldn’t have known much about the guy and- and this book is ancient, it could be wrong?” he found himself denying the possibility that he was a Great person, but Towlen shook her head in disagreement.

    “Look, on the cover, one hundred and ninth edition. So it gets updated about every other year. Even the fact that it gets updated so often probably just means that the original was probably kind of accurate as well. I guess they just modernise the language and add in any new information.”

    “I can’t believe it,” she whispered, “I really can’t believe it.” She shook her head in stunned disbelief, and for a few more moments, the silence was like a solid mass, pressing against them

    Suddenly, Towlen’s eyes bulged and she grabbed his wrists, twisting them so that his palms faced upwards. He cringed at her strong hold.

    “Have your-?” she broke off mid-sentence and seemed to shatter the constricting quiet. His marks were clearly darker than they had been in the morning.

    “Yeah, they even pulsed after I produced that… thing. I thought I imagined it but, like it says in the book.”

    Towlen leaned back so that she as lying on the bed with just her feet hanging off the end. Rory lay beside her, and for a few minutes, they stared at the glow-in-the-dark stars tacked to the ceiling, Rory’s mind crowded with unanswerable questions. He pondered his future, and wondered what Towlen was thinking beside him, would it affect her future, too? That was her decision.

    The door opened with a light creak, and his dad came through.

    “Read the book?” he asked tentatively.

    “Just a page,” said Rory, not moving.

    “I suppose that’s just about enough, eh?”

    “Just about.”

    “So, what do you think?”

    “About what?” he already knew.

    Mr Stone hesitated thoughtfully, “well, everything,” he concluded. Rory sat up straight and looked up at his dad.

    “Mental,” he said, after some consideration.

    “Mental,” echoed Towlen, sitting up after Rory.

    “Rory, son. Your mother and I were thinking. Of course, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but if you did… Want to maybe, show us?” Surprisingly, he looked a little sheepish.

    “Sure,” Rory shrugged, “In the back garden though, not in the street or anything.”
   
    “Of course of course, come now, we can’t wait to see it,” he said, grabbing Rory’s arm –far looser a grip than Towlen’s- and tugging him from the bed.

    “You’ll need sunglasses,” mumbled Towlen as she dragged herself up to her feet. It was still early morning and she stretched doggedly, rubbing her eyes a little before following Rory and Mr Stone down the stairs.

    Mrs Stone was waiting in the garden, wringing her hands together to fight the cold. She wore a video camera around her neck that Rory eyed suspiciously.

    “For private use only,” she winked and turned on the camcorder, “smile!”

    “You’ll want to keep your eyes open this time, it’s pretty cool,” said Towlen to Rory, “but… squint, otherwise you might just go blind,” she smirked, clapping Rory on the back in what he reckoned she must have thought was a reassuring gesture, before standing way back against the wall with his parents. He saw his mother give thumbs up before closing his eyes and concentrating. Adjusting his fingers wordlessly, he thought.

    Practical to Practical.

    Practical to light.

    Light… A faint glow of warmth between his palms, not enough.

    Light… Growing ever stronger, hotter.

    LIGHT! A burst of boiling heat. His palms, face and neck prickled with sweat that seemed to evaporate instantaneously. He knew that this was further than he had come before, but he was willing to go further. He raised his hands skywards, he could feel the straining, the pulsating of the tattoos imbued within his skin, deepening, changing. Rory took this as a sign that he was doing the right thing.

    LIGHT! His mind screamed and his body felt as though it had been plunged into a furnace. He risked squinting at his light, but all he could see was white and his lids slammed shut upon reflex. His arms wobbled dangerously and he began to flag, he’d had enough. Exhausted and weakened, he lowered his arms slowly and felt the heat recede into a dull shine before letting it out completely. The sound of it bursting like a soap bubble was lost on him.

    Opening his eyes, he blinked against the blue-white stains that followed everywhere he looked. He sat down, unaware of the sloshing and splashing noises as his body thudded to the ground, due mostly to his exhaustion and the fact that he felt burnt to a cinder. He rolled around a little, burying his face in the cool marsh that the garden had become and not caring about prying eyes or how ridiculous he might look. The back of his mind asked a quiet question that Rory barely registered, how big had it been?

   
Having to look through his peripheral vision (as the burns in his retinas refused to dim) he spotted Towlen and his parents, pressed against the brick wall and rubbing their eyes, bearing fixed expressions of surprise and bewilderment.

    Pawprints littered the muddier half of the garden and it was evident that both Leonora and Sylvan had strolled out during the commotion before making a sharp U-turn and scuttling back the way they had come.

    “Did you catch that on tape?” he heard himself asking.

    “Every last bit of it,” murmured Mrs Stone.

    Towlen’s back slid down the wall until she was sitting in the water, “was that real? ‘Cause I am really tired,” she mumbled disconcertedly. There was no reply for a moment, not that it seemed to bother her.

    “Oh, that was real,” Mr Stone breathed.

    The phone rang abruptly, making everyone jump bar Towlen, who seemed to be too sleepy to care. Mr Stone looked around hopelessly before dragging his feet back inside and answering it himself.

    “…Hello… Hi Richard.”

    Towlen’s eyes- which had begun to droop- fluttered open at the mention of her dad.

    “Yes… Of course… actually-” he poked his head through the door to look at Towlen, who had begun snoring softly, “she’s had a very long morning, perhaps she could sleep here for a while? ...No! Don’t worry, everything’s fine, but… Well, I can’t explain over the phone. You’ll have to come over… No, it’s really not a bad thing… OK, see you in a few… Bye now.”

    He hung up the phone and made his way out. He looked around, from the garden that had recently become a swamp, to his son who was rolling in the middle of it, to his wife who was glued against the wall with the startled expression of a deer caught in the headlights, and to Towlen, leaning back on the wall, dozing in the sludge.

    “Right,” he said to himself, “best get on with it, I think.” He dashed back inside and grabbed all of the waterproof clothing he could find and arranged them neatly on the sofa. Next, he came back outside and with all his strength, he carried Towlen to the living room where he laid her on the sofa. All the while, Rory stared, thinking vaguely of how kind his father was being, who would probably have an aching back the next day.

    Next, he gently guided his wife through to the dining room and sat her down. He took the memory card out of the camcorder and slotted it in to the family laptop.

    Finally, he went and knelt next to Rory.

    “Are you all right, son?” he asked, smoothing back Rory’s lazy brown hair to reveal a brilliantly red face.

    “Yes.” Rory sighed as he struggled to haul himself to his knees. His dad grasped him under the arms to help him to his feet.

    “We’d better get you inside, Richard will be here soon,” he said as he helped Rory inside, “and anyone else who saw that,” he uttered beneath his breath, glancing behind him to where the stupendously impossible sphere of light had been hovering.

    “Everyone then,” groaned Rory as he took a seat beside his mother, who’s eyes had a slightly glazed look about them as she stared at the wall in front of her. Rory folded his arms and leaned his head on them, resting his eyes. Not sleeping, just… Resting.
 

                                                                    *     *     *

    Thud thud thud.

   
Rory stirred, refusing to open his eyes, slipping comfortably back into dreams of impossible magic.

    Thud thud thud.
 

    “You’ve got to let me in, the whole village is out here!” A muffled voice, not important. Go away.

    Evidently, the door had been opened as a roar of voices stampeded into Rory’s consciousness, effectively slapping him awake. Forcing his aching eyes open, he squinted and peered around him, feeling a little too comfortable to be sitting in a hard wooden chair. Oh. He was on the bed, his dad must have hauled him up the stairs after he fell asleep.

    You have to applaud the man, Rory thought, he’s not very strong.

    The clamour of voices died down as the front door was closed and Rory, rubbing his eyes, climbed out of bed and went downstairs. Towlen was still asleep, although how she could sleep through that racket was beyond Rory. Both his mum, dad and a confused looking Richard were huddled around the laptop.

    Richard was a tall figure with russet hair that stuck up in a little cowlick above his forehead, how Towlen had such pale blonde hair Rory would never know. Mr Hurst’s eyes a were a deep ocean blue that looked as if they held more secrets than all the knowledge Rory knew, rounded off with a small one-sided smile, he was quite a handsome man.

    Curious, Rory walked over, squeezing himself between his parents.

    It took a while for his eyes to adjust to what was on the screen; him. A very red young boy, nearly unrecognisable behind his beetroot complexion and a thick veil of sweat that made him look as if he had been watered down with a hose. Rory watched as the snow at his feet melted into a puddle that grew so until his surroundings resembled monsoon season rather than an English winter, but not without good cause. The camera moved upwards slowly, the image vibrated in shaking hands and a light appeared, so bright and huge that the screen was a mere slab of white pixels.

    An audible gasp escaped from Mr Hurst’s lips as Mr Stone fiddled with the settings of the video. Some of the block colour disappeared to be replaced with the familiar houses of Vine Street. Even so, the majority of the screen was taken up by a spherical ball that looked less like light, but like liquid, consisting of pure white and silver whirls. The metallic swirls were unlike any other Paton light. It was magic as none of them had ever seen before.

    His mother was patting a stunned Mr Hurst soothingly and Rory wondered how long it had taken for her to come out of her stupor. Mr Stone was gazing at Rory as if he was seeing him for the first time, with a brightness in his eyes that Rory didn’t recognise, and that made him feel slightly on edge.

    Towlen yawned peacefully and Richard rushed to her as if she had just come out of a coma. Ignoring the continual thuds on the door, he knelt down beside his daughter.


    “Are you okay, honey?” he asked

    “Fine, thanks,” Replied Towlen, she rolled over and arched her back, stretching out her arms and legs, “just a bit tired.” Her voice picked up suddenly. “Look!” she held up her palms to her father, the marks a tad bluer than they had been in the morning.

    “Well deserved,” he replied, before training his eye on Mr Stone, “so, what are you going to do about that?” he asked seriously.

    “About what?” Rory’s father was still preoccupied with the video.

    “The mob outside your door, maybe?” he said sarcastically. Mr Stone appeared startled, as if he had only just realised that there were people outside. Although there were bricks and wood separating them, it was rather loud.

    “I don’t know,” said Mr Stone, shrugging as if they were the least of his problems. “What do you think they want?” he asked.

    “Answers,” Mrs Stone said matter-of-factly, stepping forward to join the conversation and looking more in control than ever, “they want answers, and rightly so.” She drew herself up to her full height -which wasn’t at all very tall, perhaps an inch shorter than Rory’s nose- and tucked a stray strand of chestnut hair behind her ear. Rory took this to mean she meant business. As Rory thought about this, he nearly smirked, his mother rarely ‘meant business’. Luckily though, he composed himself, although he did notice Towlen in the corner of his eye, the blanket pulled up over her face to hide her chuckling mouth, she must have thought the same thing.

    “I’d want answers too if I were them,” continued Mrs Stone, “though I don’t think I’d go about it so rudely.” She took a single step towards the door before looking around, daring anyone to challenge her, then turned back on her heels and marched forwards.

    Grasping the handle, she flung the door open, leaning out slightly whilst keeping her hand firmly on the handle.

    “Be quiet!” she shouted, but it didn’t carry the authority she had hoped for. Her chest swelled in defiance, she filled her lungs. “Be quiet!” Her voice resonated through the crowd. Largely, the voices petered out but for a smattering of whispers that were glared into silence.

    “What,” she started, frightfully calm, “is it that you want?” she asked, immediately the voices picked up again, deafening, roaring voices, fighting to be heard.

    “What was it?”

    “In the sky!”

    “Above your lawn!”

    “Burned my eyes!”

    “We want answers!”

    “An explanation!”

    “Quiet!” Mrs Stone screamed once more, her voice rasped, even so, the crowd quietened again.

    “Well, yes, an explanation,” said Mrs Stone. “Of course you want one, who doesn’t?”

    “What was it?” A voice, detached from its owner. Mrs Stone sighed.

    “It was a light, simple. Magic, you all know it.” She gestured to the crowd at large. “You know, Practical to Practical, Practical to Light.” She raised her arms so that everyone could see the light between her palms. The size of a netball, perhaps. There was a murmur of agreement. Yes, they did all know magic, but this was different.

    “But… Who produced it?”

    “It was massive!

    “Huge!”

    “Amazing!”

    “Impossible!”


    “The person who produced it,” said Mrs Stone, her voice carrying easily over the maelstrom even though she had long given up shouting, “was my son.” The crowd stood in awed silence.

    “Your… son?”


    “But he’s just a boy!” Roger Martin roared with laughter that died once he realised that no one was about to join him.

    “Honey, come out here please. Bring the laptop,” she said to her husband behind her. Mr Stone made sure that the video was on full screen before standing beside his wife at the door.

    “Hold it up high,” she whispered in his ear, “and play the video.” He did exactly as he was told and watched as the bewildered crowd saw magic as never before.

 

    They saw Rory Andrew Stone, the lanky fourteen year old boy with chestnut hair that stuck out in irregular tufts and flopped over his eyes incessantly. They saw a boy with pale blue ordinary eyes and thin, pink ordinary lips, and they realised that this perfectly ordinary boy, or so they thought, had a gift.

    For a reason that even Rory himself couldn’t fathom, he went and stood beside his parents. It was a while, an everlasting, never ending infinity of a while, before the cheers erupted. Men thrust their fists into the air and women bounced and clapped and screamed. Old men bowed low and old ladies curtsied politely. Children were hoisted on to shoulders as they wooped and cheered even if they didn’t know the cause of the celebration and somewhere in that crowd, the music started. Without realising, everyone had been waiting for this, waiting for the next gifted child.

    The only people who weren’t smiling, but were looking irate and stony faced, where Roger and Gregory Martin. Father and son who had come to torment, and were looking for a fight that they weren’t going to get. Roger turned and stormed away into the crowd. Pushing and shoving others out of his way. Rory saw a delightful opportunity.

    Rory Stone looked Gregory Martin in the eyes and waved at him, showing off his brand new marks. Gregory Martin glared back, but did not wave. Rory smirked and winked, and that was when Gregory -givemeallyourmoney- Martin, with a look of both loathing and terror, turned and ran away for the second time in one day. It was a record to be proud of.

    People queued to shake the gifted boy’s hand and either hug, boy, curtsy or even kiss his cheeks when they were face to face. Towlen watched as Rory’s face grew pinker and pinker in both happiness and embarrassment. Shaking her head in disbelief once more, she got herself up and went the kitchen to get both she and Rory a glass of water.

    When the door was finally closed on the people left lurking outside in the dark for another handshake, kiss, curtsy or bow, Rory came to sit by Towlen and her dad, accepting the water graciously.

 

    He sighed and leaned back in his chair, allowing his head to loll to the side as Sylvan the Scottish Wildcat jumped onto his lap, purring gently. Straightening up, Rory drained the last of his water in one long gulp. Feeling refreshed, he decided that it was about time to retire to bed.

    “Right, I’m off,” he yawned as he stood up and Sylvan pounced towards the ground in surprise. His chair toppled behind him but Mr Hurst caught it neatly and set it upright. Rory barely noticed.

    “Rory? It’s barely afternoon, and you’ve been sleeping for ages already,” said Towlen, thoroughly bemused.

    “Sleeping just makes me tired, plus it’s been a long day.” Towlen, thinking back to her midday nap, had to agree.

    “That it has,” she leaned to the side, resting on her father’s shoulder. The excitement of the day was taking its toll on both of them. Her eyes closed softly, and soon after her deep breathing was the only sound in the room. Her father wrapped his arms around her and gazed at her pretty face adoringly for a while, before looking to Rory.

    “Well done,” he said sincerely.

    “For what?”

    “Nothing, I suppose… Good fortune,” he said warmly as Rory’s yawn stifled his reply. “You’d better get to bed, you must be exhausted.” Mr Hurst said.

 

    Rory nodded mutely in the vague direction of his voice. His vision was blurring and he was straining to keep his eyes open even though he was still on his feet. He swayed a little, before dragging himself up the stairs to his bedroom. Sylvan trailed behind, jumping each step as if merely walking wasn’t entertaining enough.

    One more look downstairs showed Towlen sleeping on her dads’ shoulder, who was casually flicking through yesterday’s paper. Mr Stone was lying on the sofa, with the coats now arranged in a neat pile beside him. The laptop was on his chest and he was most likely fiddling with the settings of the video again to see if he could find anything else unusual about the magical sphere of silvery white light. Mrs Stone was searching along the lines of old books, pulling one out every now and again to peruse a few pages before setting it back where it belonged. Leonora the tabby cat was curled up close to the fire in such evident bliss that her purr was almost audible from where Rory was standing with Sylvan sat quietly at his feet, playing with a stray thread on the carpet.

    Rory couldn’t help but smile, for him this was the perfect scene. It radiated warmth and homeliness. Reluctantly and only because he had to due to immense exhaustion, Rory went into his room, switched out the light and climbed into bed without changing into his pyjamas.

    The only glow in the room came from Sylvan’s piercing eyes, but even they, after some time, went out as he fell fast asleep. Curled at the end of his bed on a rather soft cushion, Sylvan wondered if he should sharpen his claws, before drifting off to sleep.
 

                                                                    *     *     *

    It was almost midnight, when everyone was too deep in their dreams to notice, Sylvan was startled awake by the absurdly uncomfortable feeling of another Shapeshifter tapping into his consciousness. This had never happened so strongly before, but he knew the time would come. Orpheus had a short temper.

    Quietly, softly, he padded out of the room, sparing one last looked for his owner, his companion, his friend. He dragged open the door and went out into the hallway to find Leonora waiting.

    We must leave now, friend. She spoke kind words to him, but they irritated the recesses of his mind. He did not reply. Come now.

    Sylvan twitched in annoyance. They descended the stairs and Leonora wandered over to Towlen, who had been laid on the sofa. She transformed gracefully into a primate that Sylvan couldn’t name. Gently, so as not to wake her up, she stroked Towlen’s hair lovingly. Sylvan felt a pang of guilt, but shoved it in a dark drawer at the back of his mind where he hoped he would be unable to access it again. Mustering his spirit, he said-

    You said yourself, we must leave, or have the consequences brought upon our heads for our actions.

   
Leonora nodded silently, before turning back into a tabby cat. Looking around, they found an open window. Leonora leapt on to the ledge and prised it open further in a manner that no normal cat could accomplish. Together, they leapt out into the cold night. As the two walked down the drive they barely glanced back at the house that they both knew and loved dearly. Coming on to the street, they were joined by Shapeshifters leaving from every house on the road, of all shapes and sizes, walking into the moonlight. Leonora and Sylvan were two of a few sparse individuals who felt remorse. The others felt… Free. The road began to glimmer blue.

    Forgive me, for you have shown me love I had not known.

    In his sleep, Rory rolled restlessly, as the lost message scratched against his subconscious and faded in to oblivion.

    Shapeshifters were not meant to be tamed.
 

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