The first time I changed was the worst, not just the actual shifting of every muscle and bone in my body falling agonizingly into the shape of another form, almost unbearable, and it doesn't get any better after that, just faster, but the reason as to why I changed.
Just before the change I had thought it was the emotional pain that hurt so bad it was physical, but the physical pain just kept getting worse as I stared at their bodies, swaying slightly in the autumn breeze. The back of my throat started to burn, like I was about to scream, or was screaming, the burning sensation crept down my throat to my stomach, and then started to inflame my insides, spreading like wildfire throughout my body. My fingers toes and nose was the last to be reached by the fire, burning hotter every moment I stood, almost paralyzed by the inferno consuming me. I managed to clench my fists and threw my head back letting out a howl of pain, both emotional and physical. I fell to my knees, clutching my stomach I doubled over, my bones began to groan and pop, growing and shrinking and moving into my next form.
With a grand snap in my foot began the rest of my body’s metamorphosis. With every pop I flinched, every crack of my bones earned a grunt, but when it began to tear away my face, realigning my cheek bones, my features, my ears, it was more unbearable than anything I had endured before.
Digging my claws, what would have been my fingers, into the ground I threw my head to the sky, screaming, or rather howling, trying to form only one word, my one thought at the moment, ‘why?’ With the reminisce of the pain still aching in my bones I ran, four thuds pounded the ground underneath me, a tail whipping my hind legs, making me run ever faster to the woods. I wanted to hide, run; I just wanted get away from the pain.
No matter how fast I padded through the forest that started sparse, but becoming ever dense, I couldn’t get away from it all, the images, the feelings that lingered at the edge of my soul, they clung on, a grip that held fast.
I wasn’t watching where I was going, and before I knew it, I had run to a small pond within the forests depths. The sight of the slightly rippling water distorting the reflection it held of the reddening sky and green pine trees surrounding it, made me stop. It could have been just an ordinary water hole created by the small stream that flowed through the forest, but this was a man made escape, dug by hand, bordered by large river rocks the size of a human head at least.
I closed my eyes, raised my head slightly and took in a deep breath, the scent of the forest flooding my nostrils, and for a moment, that was the only thing I was in touch with, flowers the bloomed around the pond, the pines crispness mixed with various scents I couldn’t identify, though a tugging feeling allowed me to think that it was of the different creatures that inhabit the forest.
Within a moment, I was free, only smelling the clear air of the forest, within a moment I couldn’t feel anything else, but that moment passed left just as quickly as it had come.
I opened my eyes to a snap of a twig just barely audible over the trickle of the stream draining the pond in front of me. On the other side of the pond stood a skinny, lanky figure, mud streaked the boy’s face, blue eyes bright behind the camouflage, pine needles and leaves stuck to him like a needy child to its mother.
He looked at me, curious, fearful, watchful, he moved slowly, stooping down to the water to fill his water skin. The picture of him getting water jogged a forgotten memory, me kneeling here, smiling at my brothers bickering as I refilled my water skin, “Atrum, tell him that it’s my turn to shoot the bow!” Carduin’s voice rang out to me, I looked to him, his blue eyes looked into mine, as mine did his, the memory faded away, I was back to the present, a body I didn’t know, thoughts that couldn’t crowd my mind hovered just out of reach, waiting for me to change back to human.
I sat down suddenly, startling the boy with blue eyes, his scent was masked within the mud, I didn’t move a muscle, just sat and watched. This boy was more familiar than the pond and stream, I felt I knew him. The boy slowly got up to a crouching stance, then moved slowly back into the underbrush of the forest, still facing me, still watching.
Before the boy fully vanished within rustling leaves, a crashing sound behind me drew my attention. I snapped my head to my right side, cocking my ear up to catch the faintest sounds of men barking at one another furiously, words to distant to hear quite right, but tugged at something in the back of my mind.
My instincts were telling me to run, get out of there, but I fought it, holding myself still, trying to understand this feeling within, a feeling that told me I was something else, not just animal, not just wolf. There were sounds of which I could not quite comprehend. Someone barked orders to the men crashing through the forest.
Every part of my body wanted to run, hide, get out of the clearing, but I stayed, something tugging inside me, some knowledge of what they might look like held me fast, I didn’t move, just stared in the direction of the billowing and complaining men to my right. A pale faced man stepped past a tree, an arched like branch with something strung between each end in his hand, a strait branch with feathers at one end and pointed stone on the other in his other hand, holding it to the string on the curved wood. He raised his hand with holding the bow up, aiming, drew back with the other hand, and released. I didn’t move.
The sound of something piercing the very air hit my ears before the pain did. Red flamed in the corners of my vision, pain radiating from a spot on my right shoulder. Now my instincts won over this other presence inside of me, I turned and dashed, limping on my right front paw, trying my best to ignore the pulsating inferno coursing through my shoulder.
Around the man made pond, over the creek, through the bushes the boy had disappeared within, and into the woods I ran, nothing could stop me, not with adrenalin now pumping in my veins, the pain but a slight throb, reduced to the feeling of a flea bite. The sound of more arrows racing to stick me kept me running in zigzags, never staying in a straight line for long, I dodged my way through the thickening foliage of the darkening forest. Too close to a tree, the arrow sticking in my shoulder snapped on contact with the trunk of the massive tree, the arrow dug slightly deeper, the yelp escaped me, I crashed to the ground on my left side.
I skidded a little ways on the dampened leaves that lay upon the ground. As soon as I stopped moving, I calmed down, now I couldn’t move, for even just breathing brought a shudder of pain through me. I lay there, whimpering slightly, the scent of the earth and leaves and iron, deathly smell filled my nostrils with each intake of breath. I closed my eyes, not quite giving up, just resting, accumulating energy I was losing faster than could be gained.
A twig snapped nearby, to which direction I couldn’t guess. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but breathing slowly, keeping myself as calm as possible, though all of me was terrified with the knowledge I was going to die here, nose in the earth, arrow in a bloody, inflamed shoulder, eyes closed, just bleeding out, giving up.
A rustle caught my attention, it was just audible over the roaring of blood in my ears, though it wasn’t enough to get me to open my eyes. Another noise, soft, close, made me open my eyes slightly, though it was dark out, I could see things almost better than in the light, but I saw nothing but trees and bushes, I didn’t think anything was really there until I felt something touch my neck, a touch that sent a thought through my head, ‘Sleep, dear Atrum.’ And Sleep I gave into.