The Shifting World Part 5
A dark silhouette cut an imposing shadow in the threads of the full moon. A canid form padded through the thicket, steps softer than the breeze only a whisper against the thistles. The shadows parted to welcome the jackal as she leapt atop the stone, ears pricked, and muzzle raised. The stars glittered behind her, a flock of fireflies flitting just out of reach. The jackal cocked her head and then lowered her snout to snuffle at the listless shape sprawled at her paws.
“Bringer.” The jackal barked. When the snake didn’t respond she prodded him sharply with a paw. Her claws came back soaked with blood, ebony in the moonlight. The jackal’s russet pelt twitched. “If you’re dead, Bringer, then I’m going to eat you.”
A rasping laugh rose from the cobra’s lips. “I’m afraid that you wouldn’t well like the taste, Mistress.”
Mistress nuzzled him again, not at all gentle, causing him to groan. “Seems like someone rather hates you.” She observed. “Was it a greatwing, or maybe a rainbird? You’ve made many enemies lately.”
“No, it wasn’t a greatwing.” Bringer’s voice grew strong as it filled with poison to match his bite. “It was a meer.”
Now, it was Mistress’s turn to laugh. She laughed so hard that she almost lost her footing. “A meer? A little mongoose will be the end of you? How fitting! The mighty Bringer toppled by a tiny pup!”
“I never said he was a pup!” Bring hissed and tried to lift his head. He tensed and let his scales rest. Mistress scented another heavy wave of blood flow out of the punctures in his throat. It was a wonder that he could even speak.
“Well, either way,” Mistress stated as she sat and wrapped her tail over her paws, “you’ll be dead soon.”
“Ahh, yes,” the cobra muttered. “Then you can pick me off like the scavenger you are.”
A growl rose in her throat and her teeth snapped. “Or I could end your misery now.” She offered, an excited glint in her eye.
She heard Bringer try to swallow and his body shuddered with the pain of it. A flash of triumph lit her gaze. “Wait, Mistress, why don’t you help me? I’ll give you anything you want!” Bringer begged, his tone dripping with desperation.
The jackal snorted, but her pointed ears pricked forward with interest. “And what is it that you think that I want?”
Bringer rolled his head, sending another gush of blood, so that he could look at her with one dark eye. “Power.” He rasped. “I will give you the power to overthrow your mate, the male who keeps you under his paw, who won’t allow you an equal partnership. I can give you the power to take back what always belonged to you, your pack.”
Mistress narrowed her eyes even as her heartbeat picked up. Could this pathetic excuse for a cobra really give her what her heart most desired? “How?”
She thought she saw the beginnings of a slick smile twisting his features. “There’s a cave near here. Take me to the end of it and burry me in the soil there. Then go to the top of the rocks and howl, as loud as you can. After that, your mate’s greatest weakness will be revealed to you. You can use that to overthrow him.”
“Burry you?” Mistress scoffed and her pelt prickled along her spine. Discomfort spread through her fur. “But you’re still breathing!”
“Don’t worry about me!” The cobra snapped. “There isn’t much time. Do as I tell you before the sun rises!”
Mistress snarled but dipped her head to pick up his long body in her jaws. She held him softly and mumbled around his sweat sheened scales. “All I have to do is howl?” He gave a weak nod. Mistress set off for the cave.
Just as the first rays of dawn touched downy wings to the horizon Mistress planted her feet on the stone atop the pile of rocks and howled as loud as she could. Her paws were stained with dirt, but she didn’t care, if she learned how to defeat her mate then it’d all be worth it.
To her it seemed as if the sound echoed through the whole desert. She greeted the sun with her voice until her throat was raw. After that she just stood there, watching the sand lighten under the dawn’s milky pink feathers. She remembered with a shiver what Bringer had told her just before she covered him, still alive, in soil. “Remember,” he hissed. “This is our small secret. No one else can know.” And his beady eyes were harsh as they bore into her. Mistress’s resolve flagged under that stare and she gave him a hasty dip of the head before burying him deep in the ground of the floor, right beside the hard-stone wall.
As foolish as it was, she felt like his laughter had followed her out of the cave and up into the daylight. She stood and gave her pelt a shake. She scratched her claws over the rock in anger. Nothing had been revealed to her!
That lying hyena-breath -, She thought as her mood turned fowl. She twisted to jump off the rock and just as her paws left the surface an image popped into her mind. By the time she landed a smirk played on her faced, stretching her lips to reveal her fags.
By the time I’m finished with him they’ll call me the Mistress of Blood, Mistress cackled as she bounded over the rocks, in the direction of her oblivious pack.
After that day, jackals never were able to howl again, or so the legend goes. Mistress took her pack and she never told a soul where she buried Bringer that night. The cobra was right, it was their secret.