MATED TO THE WARRIOR BEAST - Chapter 250 - 250 Victorious
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~ GAR ~
“Here in Anima, until a year ago, there was a portion of our population we called the disformed—because they were unable to shift. They seemed… different. But when we fought the humans and closed the portals to their world, the voices who’d inhabited those evil spaces, the forces that had infected our people without our knowing, were killed. Eradicated.
“In the wake of their destruction, suddenly our disformed were revealed—not disformed at all. Protectors. Anima that God had given the gift of selfless protection. With the right will, and discipline, they could aid others in crossing between worlds safely, without risking infection by the voices.
“That was truly incredible. And I have been humbled and… blessed to lead the Protectors as a tribe ever since. Protectors, I stand here as your Alpha and ask you to stand with me. Because this day we receive new tribe members.”
Confused murmurs and gasps rippled around the market. Gar raised his hands again. “Our friends—our brothers—the Chimera… they too have a people among them… those who were unable to shift. Who appeared different. But we have learned… we have learned that they are also Protectors. Like our Anima friends, they are not… tainted. They are simply different. And since they came into our land we know they are protectors… because now they can shift.”
The collective inhalation might have rippled his hair. But at least their faces were shocked rather than angry. He’d worried.
“They were formerly called The Creatures. And it was believed they were human experiments gone wrong. But we learned… when we defeated the bears who have taken such a pathological dislike to anyone or anything to do with the portals or voices or humans… this group of bears were targeting the Creatures, because they’d discovered their unique power, and feared them. Those bears are now dead. Their hideous legacy will go no further than this day. But something else does. Some good has come from this.
“Protectors… please… I ask you to stand and welcome your new brothers. The Creatures will be sworn into our tribe one week from today. Because they have proven their hearts and strength, they have proven their discipline, and they have proven that the Creator gifted them uniquely. It’s with great pride that I welcome any one who wishes to join us, into the tribe of the Protectors.”
And then, as the applause, and the cries and calls of the Protectors rose to buffet the air of the Market, Gar threw his head back and roared. Rika was laughing-crying, and the Protectors rushed from their seats all over the market to find their new brothers—for they were all brothers.
“Eat my friends. Enjoy each other. Welcome our new brothers and our Chimeran brothers and sisters. This day will go down in history!”
A great cheer rose again, the relief of everyone who’d been waiting for the bear-hunters to return, cascading into an outpouring of joy.
~ TARKYN ~
Tarkyn might have thought that was the end of it—but after both Elreth and Zev had given speeches, recognizing the unification of their peoples, and the peace that would now reign—permanently—between them, Gar continued to whisper with Rika and get strange looks—some impossible mix of disbelief, laugher, and shock—from his sister.
Finally, when things had settled down somewhat and the people were beginning to move the tables for dancing, and the musicians were warming up, Gar and Elreth huddled at the back of the stage again, Aaryn standing at El’s shoulder.
He caught Tarkyn watching and beckoned him over.
Leaving Harth, urging her to stay seated since she was tiring, Tarkyn pushed out his chair and trotted over to join the others.
“…impossible! But… you saw it?”
“There’s no other explanation. Aaryn will tell you—he did it.”
Elreth looked at her mate, but then saw Tarkyn join them and shook her head. “You aren’t going to believe this,” she said quietly, looking over his shoulder as if she was afraid someone would be eavesdropping. “They really are Protectors. In the truest sense.”
“Because they can shift since they got here?” he asked, still confused.
“That too,” Gar said with a shrug. “But that’s not the only thing. That’s not the reason the bears were freaking out.”
“Well… what is it?”
Gar and Elreth glanced at each other, then Gar turned to him. “They can still cross. They can get through the portals to the human world—and to Thana. That’s where the second portal leads. Did you know that? The Chimera… they were always only one portal away. We just didn’t even know they were there.”
Tarkyn’s jaw dropped. Rika had proposed this—or something like it. She’d suggested that the Chimera who were here were… descendants of anyone or anything the human scientists had been experimenting on when she’d come from their world. He’d assumed she was probably right. But this?
“How can you be sure?”
“Pegg… he’s from Thana. No one had talked about the world in front of him, but he met some of the Creatures out there and one of them let it drop. Then on this trip… the bears had caught a handful of Creatures returning to the WildWood. They’d sensed the portal and gone to it—known its scent from Thana. A place the humans had barred off for decades—so they said.
“The bears caught the scent of the portal on them—it doesn’t even have voices anymore, stupid fuckers—and they went crazy. This one Alpha leading the others—they were on a murder spree, trying to find any creature and remove them. Thinking they’d brought the voices back.”
Tarkyn shook his head. Was it really possible?
But Gar just stood there, emphatic.
“Now they’ll be one of us—any of them that want it,” he said, an edge of warning in his voice. But he would get no argument from Tarkyn. Tarkyn was surprised, but pleased. If the Creatures all showed the strength and loyalty of Pegg, they would be a welcome addition to the Anima… or the Chimera. Whoever they chose, he supposed.
“Wait, wait…” he said, head spinning. “This… all of this… You’re saying they can still use the portals? Still get through to the human world?”
Gar’s face went serious. “Yes. And now that they can shift into human form, they aren’t even noticeable over there.”
“There’s no voices anymore,” Aaryn said quietly from beside El. Tarkyn looked at him. He’d known that Aaryn had made the trip since the portals were closed. But he’d said they weren’t going to be used again.
Tarkyn looked at El. “How do you feel about this?”
“I don’t know how to feel about this?”
“The humans can’t come through,” Gar said with a small growl. “No one can even see or scent the portals except Protectors. And I’ve been letting everyone assume they were closed to us now.”
“Everyone? Or everyone but the Protectors?” Elreth asked suspiciously.
Gar scratched the back of his neck. “Well… speaking as a male who’d heard rumors and might have gotten adventurous as a young male… I thought it was important for the Protectors to know the truth so they weren’t experimenting. But they all understand the importance,” he rushed on when Elreth looked livid. “And no one has been going to them. So…”
They all stood there, gaping at him.
“So? What are we going to do?” Tarkyn asked, his head spinning.
They all looked at each other. Then finally, Elreth grabbed Aaryn’s arm and smiled at her mate, holding him tightly, then took her brother’s hand too. “Tonight we’re going to celebrate,” she said. “And for the next little while we’re going to be learning our new neighbors and friends and… tribemates. And if or when it ever becomes necessary… then we’ll talk about the Portals again. But for now… for now, I’m just thanking the Creator that we all got through this. So… put it aside. We’re here. We’re safe. And the enemy is dead. That’s enough.”
“Creator’s Mane, yes,” Gar sighed. “That is plenty. Can we please just live our lives now and forget about all this crap? Can we just be happy?”
Tarkyn chuckled and clapped his hand on Gar’s back. But when he turned back to look at his mate, to find her eyes on him, concerned, but happy, he sighed.
Yes… Freedom. That’s what they’d been seeking. And now it looked as if it was within their grasp.
Yes… they could just be happy.
He would do everything in his power to make certain that’s all any of them ever were.
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE! I can’t believe we made it! There’s some fun epilogues to come, starting tomorrow. But If you’re here, you must be in love with Anima as much as I am. So I want to invite you to a very special LIVE Author Q & A on this Sunday, 12 March at 1pm Pacific / 4pm Eastern! (That’s USA date and time!) Come enjoy a ton of giveaways, behind the scenes extras, and a good laugh! We’re talking about ALL THINGS ANIMA! I can’t wait to see you there!
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