Story inspired by Brother Bear, set in Unveiled Legends universe by Reel123
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Chapter 3: In Search of Safe Haven
Daniel opened his eyes slowly the next morning, hearing the sound of birds singing in the trees around him. He felt no compulsion to join them, not surprisingly; Gryphons were predators, after all, not songbirds. He looked around, then gave himself a quick examination to confirm what the hooked beak sticking out of his face already told him, that it wasn’t a dream. A look under his wing confirmed the presence of the still-sleeping Claire.
~Shit...~ he swore silently, suddenly undecided on what to do next. He had promised Claire he’d get her out of this forest and that was as good a place to start as any, but what then? He had nowhere to go and without this little girl he’d have no way to communicate. He still remembered that promise Ethan made to him, that it would wear off in 4 days, but some deep instinctual intuition told him this wouldn’t end happily for him - and he wasn’t entirely sure he WANTED to go back to his old life. He wanted to be human again, obviously, but after seeing the Hunters from the opposite perspective, the huntED, he wanted nothing more to do with them. ~Just take it one step at a time,~ he thought to himself, shaking his head. ~That’s really all you can do now, go through the motions and actually make it to that fifth day before worrying over what you’ll do afterwards.~
Carefully lifting himself from the ground, pulling his wing away from Claire without waking her, he looked around the area. He suddenly realized, as he looked down at himself, that he was absolutely FILTHY, covered in leaves and mulch, not to mention mud, and knew he’d have to do one of 2 things: find a body of water and clean off...or preen. Preening wasn’t meant for cleaning - it was an activity birds did where they used their beaks to comb out dirt and burrs from their feathers, to keep them in ideal flight condition (this was especially important for their wings), but it definitely wouldn’t clean out the mud and he didn’t know how to fly yet. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but it’d at least make him somewhat more tidy. The Gryphon mind, sensing his uncertainty, reached down with his beak and in a moment he had the concept down. He used the beak to remove fox-tails and comb out most of the filth, but he wasn’t sure what to do about his fur on his hindquarters. He’d need a bath.
Looking slightly more presentable, he looked around the area once more, spotting a toppled tree about 8 feet away. It had obviously been chopped down and left there, but if rainwater had collected in the stump he could probably at least sate his thirst, though there wouldn’t be enough to bathe. There WAS rainwater collected within but it was old and filled with bugs. He’d have to find another source of drinking water. As he pulled his head back he stopped, suddenly seeing his new face for the first time in his reflection.
He expected it to look very bird-like, somewhere between a falcon and a hawk, but those golden eyes were so fierce and intense he almost scared himself. It was no surprise he terrified Claire when he lunged at her last night; he probably would’ve dropped dead from fright on the spot. His ears, long and feathery, were pressed back against his head, not at attention but could be in an instant. And, of course, last but sure as Hell not least, there was his beak. It was jet-black and came to sharp, hooked point, made for grabbing on to prey. It looked nothing like the mass of bone that grew from his mouth during the transformation, melding perfectly with the rest of his face and ending at points on either side of his head, all that was left of the corners of his mouth.
"Danny...?" Claire suddenly called out, looking around desperately. "Danny, where are you?!"
He chirped at her reassuringly. It wasn't a word or a series of words, simply a sign to reassure her he was nearby. She looked over in his direction, relaxing as she spotted him. "I...I thought..." she began, but he shook his head.
"Ready to head out?"
She nodded and bounded after him as he set out. He wasn't certain, but he thought he heard civilization nearby. There WAS a town in this direction, but had he really travelled so far in just under 2 hours? He certainly hadn't heard it last night - but he was also drop-dead tired. Now he felt invigorated, like a wound coil set to spring. It would probably be safe to be seen there - it had been only a few hours since the attack, if anywhere the Hunters would be in a larger town rather than a hole in the wall - but they shouldn't stay there long.
After about 20 minutes, he felt a pressure on his back as Claire leapt onto his hindquarters and ran up his spine. She settled between his wings, snuggling into his thick feathers. He didn't mind; she didn't have the kind of stamina he did. The next hour was uneventful for the most part, but he could feel himself tense when he saw a flash of gray fur ahead. It was fleeting but he’d know that coloration anywhere: it was a gray wolf. They’d never attack a Gryphon individually, but if there was a pack nearby...
He suddenly felt Claire freeze, digging into his feathers painfully with her claws as she saw it too. “Relax, Claire,” he said reassuringly, looking back at her. “They’d never attack you with me so close.”
She shook her head. “That’s not just one wolf...” she whispered.
He was about to reassure her again when he suddenly saw a second wolf, this one behind them - then a third off his left flank. He tensed, eyes scanning the area. He couldn’t see all of them, but the wolves had them surrounded...but why? Food wasn’t scarce in the area even with the more animalistic Mystics taking up residence. As he proceeded, it occurred to him their behavior had nothing to do with food: he had probably accidentally stumbled into their territory. Wolves were EXTREMELY territorial and though unlikely to attack a Gryphon, they would be unlikely to just drive him out if they decided to attack. If they hadn’t attacked yet, they were most likely...
A large male - most likely a Beta - suddenly stepped out into his path, snarling, and Daniel skidded to a halt. He just barely heard Claire scream a warning before he felt another wolf leap onto his back, forcing him to the ground. Claire had jumped off just in time, running straight for the bushes. A third grabbed his left hind-leg and with a hiss he snapped at it, cutting a deep gash in its muzzle. It yelped and backed off, but the wolf on top tore into his back, drawing a screech from his beak, but he couldn’t throw it from his back and it managed to tear off a chunk of feathers. It hurt like a mofo, but he had no time to worry as the wolf in front grabbed his left fore-leg and the one who had retreated jumped at him again, forcing him all the way to the ground under the weight of 2 wolves. He didn’t see the alpha yet, but it was obvious they meant to disable him. He tried to stand but couldn’t. He had no idea how to fight in this body. Maybe he...
As another wolf tore into his side, he felt a tiny voice cry out in fear. His gaze immediately went to the final beast, the biggest of them all. It wasn’t going for him, instead heading straight for a group of bushes...the bushes Claire fled into...
Something finally clicked in his mind and anger suddenly filled him; he didn’t know which half of him the fury came from, the human or the Gryphon, but seeing the Kitsune in danger gave him a burst of strength and he leapt straight at the Alpha. The others disengaged and ran after him...then slid to a halt as he grabbed the wolf by the head in his right talon, slamming it into the forest floor. It yelped and struggled, but he only tightened his grip, talons digging into its skull. Its yelp quickly became a whine, clearly fearful and its struggle more desperate as he moved his beak closer. He hissed, low and threatening, the message perfectly clear and universal without the use of words: don’t touch her. He slowly lifted the canine up as high as he could and with a screech drove it downward with all of his might. He didn’t know where the strength came from, but Claire being in danger awakened something in him, something primal and VERY pissed off. Silence reigned as he withdrew his foot covered in blood. The animal didn’t even twitch; it was very much dead and blood pooled from what was left of its head. One look at the others sent the rest of the pack running in the opposite direction.
The anger slowly faded and his attention immediately went to Claire. All it took was a glance at her and the fury and hate evaporated: she was absolutely terrified, but she wasn’t looking at him or the fleeing wolves; she was looking at the ground at his feet. He didn’t need to look down to know what she was staring at. He took a step towards her over the corpse and nearly slipped on the blood. “Claire, wait!” he called out. “I...you have to understand, they would’ve killed both of us if I didn’t stop them!”
She shook her head, still in shock. That fear in her eyes...he knew what he did was necessary, but it tore at his conscience that he did it in front of her. It didn’t matter if she was human or a Mystic; at that moment, he only saw her as a scared kid. “Couldn’t...couldn’t you hear him screaming?” she asked, finally looking at him with tears in her eyes. “You didn’t have to kill him; he would’ve run away if you had released him!”
He knew she was right, but part of him knew it was better to not take that chance. He didn’t know how to put it in words, but a moment later he lost the chance as the adrenaline finally wore off and he staggered, nearly falling to the ground as his body registered the numerous wounds he had sustained. He was shaking violently and Claire, noticing these things, slowly approached him. “Danny...?” she asked hesitantly.
He knew he needed help, but he’d be lucky to make it halfway to the nearest hospital...
He finally slammed into the ground, beak hitting dirt as he lost his footing. “Claire...” he said, looking at her. “I...I need help.”
“We can get you to a hospital!” she responded, her fear (for the moment) redirected.
“I won’t make it to a hospital.” He shook his head. “You need to find someone in that town. You can use glamour; the Hunters won’t be there, it’ll be safe.”
She hesitated again, but only for a moment, then she nodded. “There’s a veterinarian in that town,” she recalled. “They know more about Mystics’ bodies than really anyone else, most even have special buildings set aside just for big Mystics like you,”. She nodded more confidently now, still scared but certain it would work.
He nodded back. “Please, be safe,” he said firmly. “I can’t protect you, but you’ll be safer without me turning heads. I’m big, it’ll be hours before I bleed out.”
Without another word, she turned around and ran straight towards the town full-speed. He watched her for a moment as she vanished, then lay his head down in the dirt. For the first time, he had outright lied to her: he had no idea how long it’d be before he bled out, but the logic was sound. The only truly severe wound he had was to his side. It needed professional treatment or it would become infected.
He knew he had lost control, but it wasn’t entirely instinct that led him to do it; he felt the anger emerge from HIS mind, like the sight of her in mortal danger drove out all reason and logic. Why...why was he so driven to protect her? What made her so different from other Mystics he’d met? Was it because she was just a little kid? It definitely wasn’t out of necessity, even though he undeniably needed her to communicate. His vision blurred for a moment and he violently shook his head; he had to stay awake or he wouldn’t make it to her return, much less the end of this veiled nightmare...
Claire hesitated in an alleyway, fully glamoured but hesitant as she gazed out into the street. She could see the vet clinic across the way and hadn’t seen a single Hunter, but that fight in the woods was hardly quiet. And Daniel! She knew he was protecting her, but...ironically, it wasn’t really what he did that truly scared her; it was the look in his eyes as he did it. She had seen the adults do far worse things to the Hunters last night. There was a terrifying glint in gaze, like for a split second all sentience and reason was gone. The softness in his voice, the softening at the edge of his eyes whenever he looked at her...it was gone for a brief moment and she saw the fury of an animal. It was terrifying to behold.
She shook her head, trying to shake away the thoughts. He needed help, that’s all that mattered right then. As she scanned the buildings for the thousandth time, she suddenly spotted something strange: there was a vulture perched on the veterinary clinic roof. It was horribly thin but simultaneously looked powerful, dozing peacefully in the sunlight...she stopped dead, nearly falling over as it suddenly hit her: that was an Augurey! She’d never seen one before, but they were loners by nature and resembled very thin vultures - they weren’t malnuroushed, that’s just how they looked. There was a distinct greenish edge to its black feathers, one of the reasons they were called ‘Irish Phoenixes.’ They were extremely rare outside Europe, but it was mainly because they rarely traveled to the US.
She needed to grab its attention without drawing too much to herself. “Hey, bird-brain!” she hissed, quietly but loud enough for it to hear her in the silence of the early morning. The bird didn’t even look up, readjusting its position on its perch before drifting off again. In hindsight, it probably had every insult in the book hurled at it on a daily basis and learned to just ignore them. She picked a pebble up off the ground, took careful aim, and hurled it at the Mystic. This time, it jolted awake and looked furiously at the little girl that assaulted it...and almost fell off the building as said girl shifted back into a fox right before its eyes. It quickly glided down into the alley, alighting on a trash-can behind her. It squawked at her, the annoyance and demanding tone obvious without need of a translation.
“I’m sorry for waking you up,” she said apologetically, “but it’s an emergency. My friend and I...we were attacked by wolves and he got badly hurt protecting me.”
The Augurey looked past her to the clinic. “He’s a Gryphon and...well, the Hunters...”. It - or rather he, now that she examined it more closely - chirped quietly. Her eyes widened. “No Hunters around here? But they...” she paused, realizing it hadn’t really been all that long; they probably were still combing the woods. That was a huge relief, but how long would it be? Hours? Days? A week? It didn’t matter: these doctors needed to know there was a hurt Mystic nearby. “Could you help me? You said your name’s Phillip, right?”
He took off immediately and flew to the clinic door, tapping on it with his beak. After a moment, a young woman opened it and kneeled in front of him. “Hey, Phillip. Something wrong?” He glanced back at Claire and she looked to see the Kitsune standing across the street, clearly scared. She smiled. “You’re awfully young...my name’s Jessica. Come inside and you can tell me everything.” Claire immediately ran inside, feeling ecstatic to get out of the open.
Claire sat in the waiting room 40 minutes later, crying loudly. Everything came flooding out, the fear, everything she saw, the Hunters...and Daniel. It didn’t take long, and they immediately informed the police to be on lookout for any Hunters. Daniel, however, was another issue. It wasn’t hard to get him to a truck and into town, he only weighed 230 (Gryphons didn’t use magic to fly, they had to be light), but he was severely injured and lost consciousness shortly after climbing into the truck. He...she knew virtually nothing about him, but he saved her life. They reassured her he’d make it, but it could be days before he woke up.
She shook her head, her mind inevitably drifting to who he was. There was something...familiar about him, she knew him from SOMEWHERE, but she only knew one other Gryphon - Karen Thomson - and one other Daniel. Daniel Avery (or was it Avery Daniels?), that bully that terrorized Karen. He absolutely HATED Mystics, though - he was probably right out there WITH the Hunters! - and they had planned a prank on him, a little revenge for Karen involving an enhanced veil. To the best of her knowledge, Ethan still had the potion, but there was no way in hell this Daniel was that racist bastard.
She shook her head again. She’d confront him about his identity when he woke up, but for now, she could only wait. She had been using him at first, a deterrent against predators, but then he did THIS...she had to know who he was. She glanced at the door leading to the back as Jessica emerged, slowly approaching her. The woman kneeled in front of her, looking away for a moment. “The wounds are fixable...” she said, finally looking back at Claire, “...but it could be a week or more before he’s on his feet. Those Hunters can’t hurt you now, now that law enforcement is aware of what they’re doing. Law is law, human or non-human, Mystic or otherwise.”
“Can I talk to him?” Claire asked, leaning forward.
Jessica shook her head. “He’s asleep, he’ll probably be conscious a day or so from now.” She held Claire’s hand. “There’s nothing you can do right now for him, it’d be best if you find a place to stay for a few days.”
Claire looked away. “My parents are dead...I don’t have anywhere to go except with him.”
“I’ll find you some blankets.” Jessica rose to her feet. “There shouldn’t be any problem with you staying here.”
The young Kitsune knew, deep down, that things were only going to get worse from there...
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