The Forest through the Trees
Katie looked out the window as they drove through the snow covered, winding mountain road. They had spent the last two days on the road non-stop after her dad got the go ahead to take vacation to look for her brother. She glanced over at her younger sister sleeping in the five-point harness car seat across from her. For the past hour since she had woken up, her parents had been talking about how they never got a straight answer from the local police about the missing persons report he had filed nearly a month ago. They had not heard from him for nearly two months and it was now late September and the region was experiencing higher than normal snowfall already.
It wasn’t long before she saw the beginnings of the town. The furs in the town were out shoveling the sidewalks of the quaint , eclectic mountain town. It almost looked like a scene out of Mayberry. The lines of small storefronts ran down both sides of the main street. Her father pulled into an angled parking space in front of a set of windows with the word ‘Police’ stenciled in white letters. On either side of them was a squad car, one looked as if it had not been moved for the day, a blanket of recently fallen snow covering the entire vehicle, obscuring everything. It’s outline with the light bar above the top was all that Identified it as belonging to authorities.
“Okay girls,” her mother said turning around, “We’re here. Your dad is going to go in and talk to the police about your brother. We’re going to go on to the hotel and get checked in. Then we can play in the snow.”
Katie wasn’t really interested in playing in the snow, even though she had never done it before, it was just frozen water, and cold to boot. She glanced over at her sister who was still asleep, then back to her mother and asked, “Can we get something to eat first?”
“When your dad is done, yes,” the older lynx woman replied as the lynx man stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him.
Emmett Hunter walked into the small town police station. The things he had heard about the place didn’t seem too farfetched as he saw the relaxed environment within. He walked up to the reception desk and rang the small counter bell that sat in the nearest corner.
“Be right with you,” a voice called out from somewhere further in the building, though he couldn't quite tell exactly where it came from. A few moments later a tall, lean Doberman walked through a doorway near the back of the squad room, steaming coffee cup in one paw, a glazed donut in the other as he strode towards the front of the room. “Good evening sir, how can I help you?” the Doberman said as he set his cup and snack on the desk, wiping his paws with a napkin.
“Yes,” the lynx started of crossing his arms, “I filed a missing persons report for my son nearly a month ago, Donovan Hunter. We’re starting to get worried and this was the last place he mentioned before he went missing. I was wondering if anything has been found.”
“Missing persons report you say…” the Doby said flatly, “that would be Arnold Kielder’s department, he’s the one that handle things like that. Hold on and I’ll go roust him up for you sir,” the black furred dog man said as he picked up his coffee cup and turned away from the lynx. “Shouldn’t be but just a minute sir,” he added as he walked towards a door at the rear of the squad room. He rapped on the door, opening it when he heard a response from within, “hey Arny got a man out here…” he began, the rest of his words cut off as he entered the other room and closed the door behind himself. A few moments passed before the door opened again, this time a broad shouldered German shepherd walking calmly across the mostly deserted squad room, extending a paw towards the lynx. “Arnold Kielder, I understand you’re here about a missing persons report concerning your son?” the taller man asked as he walked around the desk.
“Yes, sir,” the lynx said, extending his paw to the canine. “I am Emmett Hunter and I filed a report looking for my son Donovan. He was last heard from at a cabin outside of town. Or that is what we were brought to believe.”
“Donovan Hunter… that names not ringing any bells,” the Shepherd said scratching his cheek with a paw. “Not like there are a lot of stray lynx running around town though. Let me just take a look real quick and see if I can find the report that was filed and we can go from there. It’ll just take a minute or two,” the officer said as he turned and walked back to the door he had come through only moments ago. As he opened it Emmett heard him speak to someone inside the other room, “hey Joe, I need the missing persons report on a Donovan Hunter, I’ll see if i can find it over there while you…” the rest of the conversation lost as the door closed again.
As Emmett waited for the officer to return he looked around the office. After several moments of looking at the wanted posters and motivational pictures that covered the few walls he took a seat in one of the wooden chairs that lined one wall. The sound of the front door opening drew Emmett’s attention to the Irish Setter that walked in dressed and a sharply pressed tailored suit.
“Are you being helped sir?” the canine man asked rather unexpectedly.
He stood up and faced the setter as he spoke, “I certainly hope so. I believe there are at least two officers looking for a missing persons report in the back. Or playing checkers, I’m not sure which at this point.”
“Missing persons report? Involving a young lynx boy by the name of Donovan Hunter I would assume,” the canine man said as he pulled a small black notebook from the breast pocket of his suit flipping the cover open and thumbing through a few pages. “Reported as missing near here some time ago, by his father Emmett Hunter, I take it that is you sir?”
“It’s about time someone has a clue what’s going on,” he said with a smile as the other man seemed to have the answers before he even formed the questions. “Is there any news? Signs that he has moved on or taken shelter locally?”
“As far as definite news I’m sorry to say there is not. There have been unconfirmed reports of him being sighted in the area by several local residents. Reported sightings of a lynx boy that I believe may be your son showing up at more than one local gathering or festival. But as of yet nothing truly concrete to pinpoint his whereabouts,” the setter said as the door at the back of the squad room opened again.
“I’m sorry sir but…” the German Shepherd started to say as he entered the room, his words trailing off as he saw the setter speaking with the lynx man. “Oh Detective O’Leary, I see you made it back from Denver after all.”
“Yes sergeant Kielder, I have, and I was just filling Mr. Hunter in on what little we have been able to ascertain about his son's whereabouts as of yet.” Turning back to the lynx the older setter continued, “Your son was also reported to have been in contact with a local youth, a young man well known in town. Supposedly your son spent some amount of time at or near the cabin owned by the boy. But I have been unable to verify that information as of yet.”
“Cabins, Festivals, two months of sightings and nothing to confirm whether he is even still here? What the hell is going on here?” the Lynx asked raising his voice, “Are you all just incompetent or are you trying to hide something?” He turned to the shepherd and continued, “And what were you going to tell me? Some other line of crap to keep me busy while your buddy in the back makes a few calls? Having to jump through some hoops now aren't you? Didn’t expect us to come looking for him so soon. I know how these things work. Just have to keep me busy while you figure out how to fix things don’t you?”
Raising an eyebrow at the lynx man’s outburst the detective replied, “Quite the contrary Mr. Hunter. I for one am surprised that you haven’t come looking for your son that is supposedly missing or lost in this area. I also find it interesting that in the past two months you have only called seeking information twice, and that was only after at least a full month without contact with your son. It has been my experience that a parent of a child has gone missing, regardless of the child’s age, reacts far sooner than that. While trying to locate the young Mr. Hunter it has more than once occurred to me that the lack of contact seems very much to be at his discretion. After that outburst I wonder if he might have a valid reason to not wish to speak to you.”
The lynx snapped his gaze to the setter as he said, “Don’t you dare try to turn this around on me. Whether or not he was intentionally out of contact, any competent person in a Podunk town like this should be able to locate one young lynx and be able to tell whether they are in good health or not. I’ve heard about this town and something isn’t right here. You’re hiding something from me and I’m going to find out what it is, and I’m going to get my son out of it and take him home where he’ll be safe from your satanic rituals.”
“I see,” the setter said calmly, “then I wish you the best of luck in locating your son Mr. Hunter. Assuming he wishes to be found at all, you are of course well within your rights to search for him. But I would caution you against disparaging the people of Winter Creek so vehemently. You are sadly misinformed or blinded by many things if you think so lowly of us.” Turning to walk away he stopped after but a few steps turning his head as he added, “you may also want to bear in mind that according to my investigation, your son is an emancipated minor. He is free to leave with you, if he is in fact here at all. But parent or not, forcing him to leave against his will is against the laws of the state of Colorado. You may want to keep that in mind if or when you do find him, teenagers do not respond well to overbearing demands when they have the right to ignore them.” The two officers turned and walked away leaving the angered lynx standing. As soon as he felt they were out of earshot the setter turned his head slightly and in a very low voice said, “We need to get word to the boy that they’re here.”
Hearing the whispered words, only confirming his suspicions of the activities going on with his son, Emmett turned and stormed out of the office. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before you tell me what I can’t do with my son,” he muttered as the door swung closed behind him.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Cabin in the Woods_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Donovan pulled the hood of the oversized fur cloak off his head as he looked at the abandoned cabin. It had been almost two months since they had been there, but it looking like the place had been empty for at least half that time. He glanced over at Sonnet as she tended to the small cart with the feral wolf cubs. She seemed so at peace with the younglings, not even paying attention to the fact they were in the clearing with Mark’s cabin that had sent her into the rain last time she had been near it.
“Sonnet,” he said loud enough to get an ear twitch of acknowledgement. “It looks like Mark might have moved back to town for the winter or something, so I will need to head into town to get some supplies for the night at least, and see if I can make a phone call. You want to come?”
Without turning her attention away from the small wolves she replied, “No, they need me.”
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll be back in a few hours, sooner if I can catch a ride.” She seemed nearly oblivious to him ever since the wolves had started to whine earlier that morning. But even with her attention on them he knew she would be Okay as long as she didn’t head toward Winter Creek without him, her display at the last meet still fresh in his mind. “No matter what I am coming back, so just wait for me, okay?”
With a quick nod of her head Donovan pulled the hood back up to fend off the cold winter wind as he started his way down the dirt road. The thought about the few extra things he might pick up while in town. Maybe some batteries and simple fireworks if they had any, he wasn’t sure about the laws.
“Still haven’t taught him to sense what’s around him yet Sonnet?” a slightly familiar, deep gravelly voice seemingly coming from nowhere said. “Surely this old bear is easier to feel than that this close,” it continued as what had appeared to be a large snow pile began to shift and move. “You’re early young ones; I thought I had a few more days of solitude before you would be showing up for Mabon.”
“We didn’t know how long it would take with the pups,” the young doe-husky said as she pinched off small pieces of meat to feed to the bundle of wolves surrounded by a makeshift fur pile den in the small cart. “What brings you out to the cleansing snow, Brother Star Dreamer?”
“Several things Sister Sonnet, some of quite a bit of importance. Keeping an eye on things for a friend, while he looks for guidance and answers. Taking a little time for myself in preparation for the festival. And to bring news that Dawn needs to know of… before he heads into Winter Creek,” the old polar bear said as he turned to face the lynx, his dark eyes and black nose tip nearly the only thing visible against the stark white snow that his fur blended with.
Donovan turned to look at the white face framed by the white snow as he asked, “What kind of news?”
“They have come looking for you Dawn, as you knew they eventually would. Your family is in Winter Creek searching for you,” the old druid said, his breath forming a steam cloud around his muzzle. “Quite an… interesting man your father, he’s made quite an impression on everyone he has spoken with.”
“Figures,” the young lynx said. “He’s not one to see anything any way but his own. But it doesn’t really matter much, I still need to go get us stuff to make it through the next few days. Kinda used up our supplies faster than I thought we would. Was my mom with him?”
“Indeed she did, as well as two young ladies, your sisters I would hazard a guess from their similarity in looks to you. Very beautiful girls, just as striking as your mother is. Not hard to see where the better parts of you came from Dawn. But you need not trek all the way into town just yet if you don’t wish to. When neither you nor Sonnet returned for additional supplies before the early snow began we assumed you may head this way earlier than usual. If you wish the tepee is already prepared for you at the edge of the meeting grove. Supplies for several days and a supply of dry deadwood for a fire to keep you warm as well,” Star Dreamer said as he slowly stood up.
“We are not going to be able to make it back through the pass,” Sonnet said calmly. “We will need to make camp for the winter down here.”
“Wait,” Donovan started to question. “What do you mean we won’t be able to make it back through the pass? What about the grove?”
“A heavy snow is coming,” the Doe said as she continued to feed the small wolves. “It will be better to stay closer. The mother will take care of the grove until we return.”
“Okay then,” Donovan said as he sat in the snow by the cart. He looked at his calloused paws for a moment before he asked, “Star Dreamer, What did my Dad do in town?”
“Attempt to pry information about you and your whereabouts out of everyone he could find that would speak to him. He seems convinced you’ve been… indoctrinated shall we say, by a satanic cult and are being held against your will here,” the old bear said glancing to the doe/husky for a moment before looking the lynx in the eyes.
“Sounds about right,” Donovan said. “So what are they telling him? Not much I take it.”
“Little more than rumors and unconfirmed reports of you being seen in the area. We generally do not interfere in the matters of others, especially not with others and their families. But these are not normal circumstances now are they? We’ve been less than subtle about keeping him in the dark, and I’m sure it’s not helping his impression of our little town any. But there are larger things to be taken into consideration than the ire of one man that is unhappy about the decisions of one young man doing what he knows to be right,” the polar bear said with a bit i\of a sigh. “It’s up to you if you wish to deal with him or not Dawn, just know that the people of Winter creek are with you in this matter. You are a grown man in our eyes, and shall be treated as such.”
The lynx snickered for a moment at the bear’s words, “Yeah, that’s not going to help his impression of our satanic cult either.” He paused for a long moment then looked over at the bear again. “So Mom and my Sisters are here also. I guess I need to go see them, at least let them know I’m okay. Maybe she can talk him into leaving.”
“Proceed however you see fit, we can keep him at bay a bit longer if need be, or if you wish it so to give you more time to consider your options or seek the mothers guidance. Your father isn’t the first to darken our door with a closed mind, nor is he likely to be the last.” Turning to the doe he added, “as for you little one, whatever you have need of you need only ask and it will be made so. Your grandfather, and my friend may be with the mother, but that does not end the love we have for the family, or for my favorite little sister.”
Sonnet turned and lunged at the bear wrapping her arms as far around him as she could. “Grandfather always spoke well of you, Brother Star Dancer. I have nothing I need, the Mother gives me everything,” the doe husky said before she sat up and looked at him. “But you could send some of that rock sugar candy back with Dawn after he see his mother.”
Donovan stood up and looked at Sonnet as he said, “One day you’re going to need to teach me how you know things like what furs are going to do without them telling you.”
The doe husky jumped to her hooves and wrapped her arms around the lynx as she said, “The same way I know your sister Loves and misses you. May the Mother be with you both and bring my Dawn back to me.”
Donovan kissed Sonnet on the lips softly as he said, “I better get headed that way, before Dad takes to preaching in the town square. I might still have some time to see mom before he gets back.” He looked at the polar bear as he let Sonnet slip from his paws. “Do you know where they are staying?”
“I do. It is on my way and I will take you to them, if you are ready we can start out now,” the old bear said reaching down and flipping an old cotton trap back to reveal his backpack, already packed and ready for travel.
“No time like the present,” Donovan said with a mock confidence before adding, “That’s what my dad would say.” He smiled at the bear for a moment before he asked, “So, are we going to walk, or do you have a flying carpet or something?”
As they walked along leaving the doe far enough behind them she couldn’t hear his reply the old bear said, “I may be crazy but I’m no fool. Nor am I that young any more. There’s a snowmobile about half a mile down the road. What, you think I walked all the way from town out here?”
“To be completely honest sir,” Donovan said with a shy grin, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you walked, actually flew on a carpet or even just magically appeared out of thin air. I’ve seen some strange things these past two months, most of which I’m not even going to try to explain. But, if I’ve learned anything it’s that you don’t take anything for face value.”
Lydia Hunter sat in the hotel room chair reading the bible as her youngest daughter slept off the exhaustion of playing in the snow covered park for hours. She glanced up to check on her other daughter who had been sitting up on the far bed playing the small handheld game that she had gotten just for the trip. The older lynx sat the book on the table beside her as she started to speak, only to be interrupted by a knock at the room door.
“I wonder who that could be,” she pondered aloud as she stood up and crossed the room. “Your dad has a key. I hope he didn’t lose it.” As she opened the door she gasped at the figure that stood on the deck. Covered in a thick fur cloak with an oversized hood covering its face, the imposing figure stood quietly for a moment. Whoever it was just slightly taller than she was and the furs gave the appearance of being twice as wide, its chest at least as broad as her husband’s. Her mind raced with the horror movies she had gone and seen as a teen. The secluded mountain lodge and the fur clad stranger only served to heighten her fear response as she nearly screamed before he pulled down the hood.
Suddenly the frightening, murdering psychopath was transformed into her son, his thick white and gray winter coat framed his ice blue eye as he looked down at his mother. Her heart leaped in her chest as her lost child returned to her. “Donovan,” she said throwing her arms around the slightly snow covered boy.
He returned the hug as he said, “Hi mom, Is Katie and Grace here?” Before he could even get the question out his sister appeared, nearly sprinting around the corner and slamming into him, joining her mother in the hug. He chuckled a little at his sister’s enthusiasm. “Hi Kat, its good to see you too. So I’m guessing dad’s not here.”
“Oh god no,” she said as she turned and trotted into the room, “I’ll call him and let him know you’re here.”
Donovan pushed his sister away slightly as he started to walk forward saying, “No, please don’t. I really don’t want to have to deal with him right now.”
“Why not? He’s really worried about you.”
“I’m sure he is,” Donovan replied as he started to take off the winter cloak. “The thing is, it’s just going to end like it always does. He’ll be telling me I need to go home with you and get my life together.”
She sat her cellphone back on the table as she turned to look at him, “He does that because he cares about you.”
“I know he does, but he doesn’t listen,” Donovan sad as the furrs swung away revealing him in only a pair of shorts before he dropped into a chair.
“Oh god, Donovan, you're not even dressed,” Lydia said as she looked at her son, “What happened to your clothes? Did you lose them?” She gasped before adding, “Did they take them away?”
Donovan rolled his eyes as he said, “No, THEY did not take them. We left most of it behind to save room for the supplies.”
“We?” Katie finally said after snapping her mouth shut and looking away from her half-dressed brother blushing through her white fur.
“They made you leave your clothes behind? In this weather?” her concern for her son was evident in her voice. “Don, we’ve heard things about some of the people in this town. Some of the things…”
Donovan cut his mother off before she could continue, “Mom, it’s nothing like that. The place isn’t going to end up on some Sixty Minutes special. It’s not a cult or anything. And I am not joining any group of brainwashed followers that are going to kill ourselves to get on the spaceship either. It’s just Sonnet and I, no one else.” Donovan’s eyes went wide when they both turned to look at Katie as she gasped.
“Katie?” the older lynx asked, “Are you okay? Is something wrong?”
The suddenly silent room echoed with the sound of the younger lynx’s teeth clicking together as she shut her mouth. Still wide eyed as if she had seen a ghost she shook her head, locking her eyes on her brother as she indicated that nothing was wrong.
Lydia’s head snapped back and forth between her two oldest children as she noted the unmistakable look in their eyes. “What’s going on? What aren’t you telling me Don… Kat?”
“You can’t tell dad,” Donovan said without looking away from his sister. “I… I met a girl out here and… and I am staying with her. But dad can’t know.” He looked at his mother, deep into her blue eyes as he continued, “It’s hard to explain, but things would be bad if he met her. I know how he is, the people around here care about her and protecting her way of life.”
“Her way of life?” Lydia asked as she dropped to her knees on the floor, uncertain of exactly what was happening with her son and eldest daughter. “What... way of life is that?”
Donovan sighed as he looked down at the floor. “She… She’s a Druid.” her son’s words hit Lydia like a hammer as she fell back onto her bottom, stopping the complete fall with her arms. He continued, “She was raised in the forest by her grandfather, but he passed away and she is now all alone out there.”
“How… how old is she?” the lynx mother asked as she thought about her son being taken advantage of by an older woman living out in the forest.
“She’s fourteen summers old,” he replied.
“What?” she gasped, “The people of the town knew about this and they just left her out there all alone? Why… why didn’t you bring her into town and get help. This… this is wrong.”
“No!” he exclaimed, “That would be so much worse than you think. She.. “ he paused as his own words from when he first met her ran through his mind. “Fuck, I don’t know how to explain this and it’s only going to get worse.”
Lydia sat quietly as the explicative rolled so smoothly off her child’s tongue, her heart racing as the situation he was in only deepened. “How… how can it get worse?”
“Shit,” the teen lynx uttered as his mother looked on, the fear evident in her eyes. “It’s not bad, it’s… its actually really good, I’m happy and it’s not like you think. I’m staying because I want to, because I love her. I… I want to keep her safe, and the best way to do that right now is to keep people like Dad away from her.”
Lydia saw the sincerity and determination in her son’s eyes as he talked about this girl she had never meet. She saw something she had been looking for in her son when she first signed the emancipation paperwork to let him get out on his own, even defying her husband for the first time since their marriage. He had found something… someone he was willing to fight for. She sat up and tossed her arms around her son, his thick furred bear chest pressed against her long dress.
As she held him she felt his arms wrap around her. She let go and looked into his eyes as she said, “I understand. I’ll try and get your father to leave you alone, for now. But you need to call. I can keep him at bay as long as I know you are Okay.”
“It’s kind of hard to do that mom,” Donovan said as he looked at her. “We are out in the forest, almost two day’s walk for the nearest reception area. And the weather is getting bad.”
“What about the dreams?” Katie blurted out making them all freeze as her younger sister groaned and rolled over, still asleep.
“What dreams?” Lydia asked as she saw the sudden look of fear well up in her son’s face. “What is she talking about?” Her mind started to race with the implications of her daughters comment and the look they had given each other just a moment ago.
“Look mom, it’s… it’s not something I know how to explain,” Donovan said as he stood up grabbing his cloak. “We’ll be camping closer to town for a while. Maybe I can get into town and make some calls more often; maybe even let you talk to Sonnet. She is wonderful, a little hard to get used to, but once you get to know her…” he tossed the cloak over his shoulders and tied it at the neck as he added, “But I need to get out of here before Dad gets back. I don’t think I could even start to explain this all to him.”
“Call me,” Lydia said as she hugged her son again, “Call me tonight, give me any excuse to get him to stop looking for you. He is determined that they have you hidden away somewhere. Brother Barton told him that this town is run by a cult.”
Donovan snickered at the thought as his mother talked, “If they are a cult they are one really unorganized one. They are just wiccans trying to live out their lives in peace. Just… I’ll try to call, Mark has my cellphone so I’ll see if I can find him and get it back, just try and keep him in town until you can get him to give up.”
“I’ll do what I can,” she said as she watched her son walk toward the door. “Don,” she called out. “We love you, even if your Dad isn’t good at showing it.”
“I know you do,” he said as the door started to swing closed behind him. “I love you too.”
Katie had managed to escape to the bathroom and hide in the large garden tub as her mother was preoccupied with everything her brother had told them. She lay in the warm water and the jets messaged her back and legs. She had spent nearly a half hour in the Jacuzzi tub and her mind wandered through the revelations that had come with her brother’s visit. She kept going back to the dream she had nearly a month ago where she had met the girl, and seen him, just as he was when he showed up at the door. It all seemed so disconnected until he had said her name... Sonet… It couldn’t have been a coincidence.
Was the dream real? Did she actually meet the girl her brother was talking about? Was she really his mate? The final question made her heart sink as she lowered herself into the water, leaving only her nose and closed eyes above the surface. She knew the feelings she had for her brother were wrong, but she couldn’t help feeling let down by the fact that he was with someone else.
Her mind drifted to the kiss she had shared with the doe, the soft, tender lips pressed against hers. The look in the other girl’s eyes. She had tasted sweet and spicy at the same time, like the scent of cinnamon that had filled her dream. Was that as real as the rest of it? Was that really the girl that Donovan was staying with? Were they really mates?
She felt her nethers get warmer than the water around her as she imagined her brother with the older girl. He had said she was only fourteen, two years older than her at the most. She was beautiful, more than any other girl she had seen. She thought about the implications as her paws roamed over her body, trying to avoid the sensitive spots that longed for her touch.
She was in love with her brother, and longing after another girl as well. Things she knew were wrong, preached against by the church and her father. She felt her heart race at the taboos that caused her body to lust after things she knew she could never have. Was it really a sin to think and imagine such things, even if it would never really happen?
She jerked her paw away from her nethers as she heard the door to the room slam open outside her sanctuary of solitude. She could tell her father was angrier now than he was when he had returned from the police department. She could hear him shouting about the entire town stonewalling him at every turn. They wouldn’t tell him anything, nothing about the cabin in the woods, the commune where they must be holding their son, or even the whereabouts of this ‘Coven Leader’ he was told about by the other deacons at the church.
“But I know where they will have him,” her father shouted in the other room. “There is a festival in the woods this week. If they bring out their INITIATES, that will be the place.”
“Honey,” her mother said not nearly as loud as her father, “Don called, he’s fine. He said he’s not even in Winter Creek, he’s just been out of range for the past two months. He found a safe place to stay out the winter.”
“Hell no,” the older lynx shouted again, “he’s here alright. I’m sure of it. That detective said they needed to get word to him, that’s probably why he called, they are trying to get rid of us. We’re going to go to this… celebration thing, and get our son.”
Katie slid deeper into the water as her father's anger grew and her mother’s blatant lie failed. But even with the anger and rage in her father’s attitude, the thought of seeing her brother again is what quickened the pace of her heart. And the chance to see if Sonnet was real, and if the dream was more than she had thought.
The sun peeked through the forest canopy as Donovan felt the doe husky move in his arms. Together the pair had dozed off by the fire, wrapped in the two fur cloaks that they had worn for the trip out from the grove. He reached over to the small package he had gotten from Star Dreamer that contained the few things he had needed to get from Mark, his Cell phone, fully charged and his solar trickle charger as well as a few extra batteries for his other electronics that had died over the past two months.
He picked up the phone for what felt like the millionth time. He wasn’t sure what to say when he called, he just knew that his father would take the phone from his mother and get off on one of his tyrannical rampages, and he didn't want to be part of it, or subject his sisters to that if he could avoid it. So he dropped the phone into the backpack once again and just held Sonnet tightly as he fed off the warmth of her body.
Emmett followed the slowly progressing stream of cars into the outskirts of town toward the ‘Mabon’ festival. From the fliers he had found around town it seemed like nothing more than an arts and crafts gathering, but he knew better than to let that cloud his judgment. He was aware that it was a satanic pagan right to celebrate the passing of the year. He didn't know what kind of rituals or sacrifices might be made, but he could not bring himself to leave his family in the town alone.
Their car was approached by a large black bear in his mid-teens. The boy bent down and smiled as he signaled for Emmett to roll down the window. “Sir, are you a vendor?”
“Excuse me?” the lynx asked confused by the question.
“Are you bringing goods up to the meet to trade? We have a situation where we need to check the goods being brought in this year, after an incident at the last meet,” the bear said, still courteous and with a smile. “And we are going to have to ask everyone to park a little farther out than normal. A half mile instead of a quarter. But I still need to check your goods if you are bringing anything to trade.”
Emmett heard a voice from one of the surrounding cars, “What do you mean You have to check my goods? I’ve been up here at this meet for the past five years without a problem.” Another voice said, “I don’t know if it’s natural, it smells like peaches and wax.” followed by another asking, “What does it taste like?”
“What’s going on here?” Emmett asked as he started to look around at the cars being directed to park in small clearing under the trees as other teens went through containers and packages looking at items that were obviously being brought to be sold at the event.
“Boy, I don’t care if you’ve brought your DS with you every other time, you’re thirteen now and I am sure you can live without it for a few hours. You’ll be looking at other things at your age anyway,” a badger man told his son as the boy whined. “Besides I’m sure you’ll find other things to occupy your mind with here anyway.”
“Sir,” the bear teen said into the car, “it’s just something we are doing this festival to be sure that everything runs without an incident.”
“We’re not going to be here long enough to be a bother,” Emmett said with a weak smile trying to maintain his cool. “I’m just looking for my son and we will be on our way.”
He watched as the bears expression changed dramatically. He pointed to the clearing where another family was parked and said, “You can park over there. We just ask that you leave all electronics and non-natural goods behind for this meet.” The teen stood and walked toward an older polar bear and started taking to him.
“A half mile?” Emmett asked as he pulled next to the other cars. “Why are they having us park a half mile from this place? It doesn’t make sense. There is something going on here.” He looked at his wife and added, “Keep a hold of the girls, we don’t want them disappearing on us here.”
Donovan sat outside the teepee waiting to trade for goods. He was rather confident that he had many of the fresh and dried herbs memorized by look and smell. and had even taken the time to write small descriptions of the trinkets and charms that Sonnet had made. He was often still surprised by the value of some of the items furs would trade for what he thought was an insignificant amount of an herb or a small trinket.
He watched Sonnet in the distance dancing to a small group of pan flute players, several small carved wooden sticks covered in colorful sugar crystals in her paws as she trailed to the music. The clearing was filled with furs in many stages of undress, most of which still wore clothing to fend off the cold. The equinox itself was still a few days away, but the gathering was well established as a time to trade wares with each other and many non-local crafters before the bad weather limited the ability to get out to the grove meet.
He glanced at his flip phone again as he thought about how he would deal with his father when he did call. He leaned back against one of the supporting poles of the tent as he popped one of the sugar rock candy sticks into his muzzle.
Just as he began to relax once again, he felt the soft touch of his mate on his paws as she pulled at him. “Come dance with me.” the Doe said, a big smile on her face. “Let the sorrow and tension go, we are here to celebrate.” He smiled as he allowed himself to be pulled away from their camp and into the celebration.
Katie watched as her mother nearly dragged her and her sister along trying to keep up with their father. They had rushed past many small families and other furs as they rushed into the pagan meeting. Her eyes darted around as she realized how many of the furs around her were not wearing clothing. Her mind raced as she remembered how Donovan was dressed when he came to the hotel room.
“Jesus Save us,” her father exclaimed as they stopped in their tracks. “Cover the girls eyes, this is some kind of orgy.”
“It’s nudity, not an orgy,” her mother expressed as the older lynx woman looked at the man. “And it’s foolish to even try such a thing, this is a forest. To blindfold children is unsafe.”
“Then take them back to the car,” he retorted. “I shouldn’t be long.”
“We are already here,” Katie noted the twinge of anger in her mother’s voice. “And I want to see my son. So if you want to save the girls from nature and nudity, you’ll have to take them yourself.”
“I’m not going to argue with you, woman,” her father said venom in his voice. “Do as I say. I’ll get Donovan and be back to the car in a moment.”
Katie felt her mother let go of her paw as the older woman walked after her husband. “You are not going to do this to me, You drove him away once already.” Her mother’s words suddenly confirming what she had thought. Her brother was running away from what their father was trying to make him do.
Katie grabbed Grace's paw and followed the two adults into the gathering. She ran faster as she heard her father say, “There he is, I told you they’d bring him here.”
“Leave him alone,” her mother shouted, getting the attention of many of the others. Katie blushed as she realized they were now the center of attention. She only blushed harder when her brother come into view, and the doe that was at his side. Katie stopped dead in her tracks as the month old dream played vividly in her mind. She sniffed the air, only to be greeted by the smell of pine and incense, lacking the cinnamon she remembered from the sleeping vision.
Donovan froze as the sound of his father’s angry voice reached his ear. He watched as Sonnet shivered and stepped away from the sound. He turned and looked at the older lynx nearly pushing his way through the crowd toward the small dance circle.
“Donovan,” the lynx shouted over the new silence,” Get your stuff, we’re going home.”
Emboldened by Stare Dreamers words, Donovan faced his father and said, “I am home, You can’t tell me to do anything anymore.”
“You dare disrespect me?” the older lynx raised his arms as he continued, “Have they brainwashed you so much that you forgot how you were raised?”
Donovan watched out of the corner of his eye as some of the adults herded the smaller cubs toward the central circle. The remainder started to form a circle around them, almost as if separating the lynx family from everything else in the meeting grove.
“It doesn’t matter what I say, you’re not going to listen,” Donovan said in a calmer tone as he walked closer to his father. He felt Sonnet close behind him. “These people have done nothing but help us. I am here because I want to be here.”
“That’s what they want you to think,” the older lynx retorted. “How much of your trust fund have they drained out of you?”
“Not a dime,” Donovan replied. “Until just now no one knew anything about it. If you still had any control you could have seen it hasn’t even been touched for two months. You’re the one who’s been brainwashed. Ever since you started going to church everything suddenly became a sin.”
“Don’t talk back to me,” Emmett said as he grabbed the boy by the arm. “You were raised better than this. Now listen to me and go back to the car with your mother.”
A murmur rose in the crowd as the breeze picked up. Donovan’s mind went back to the last time he was in the meeting grove and the reaction the doe had to the candle salesmen. He reached back and put his paw on his mates arm as he said, “I’m not going anywhere, not without my wife.” He watched as the look of shock washed over his family, including his sister.
Donovan watched as his father’s face shifted from shock, to disbelief, then to anger as the older lynx said, “You’re too young to get married.”
“I am married,” he retorted to the angry lynx, “And this is my wife Sonnet. And there is nothing you can do to make me go anywhere.”
“We’ll fix this mistake when we get home.”
“You can go home, Dad, I’m staying right here,” Donovan said as he jerked his arm out of his father’s grasp.
“You will honor and obey me,” Emmett said as he grabbed Donovan again and raised his paw in the air. “I am your…”
As he started to bring his paw down on the boy Emmett’s arm was jerked to the side by the slightly shorter female lynx as she yelled, “He’s not your son,” then clapped her paw over her muzzle.
Donovan watched the look of horror on his mother’s face suddenly mirrored on Emmett's as the older lynx man let go of him and dropped to the ground in sudden defeat.
She took her paw away from her mouth as she muttered, “he never was.” Then she turned and ran, pushing her way through the gathered crowd.
“Lydia,” the older lynx shouted as he scrambled to his footpaws and chased the woman away from the scene, leaving behind his two daughters and the boy he thought was his son.
Donovan looked at his sisters; the older of the two dumbfounded while the younger began to cry. “Oh dear god,” he muttered as he let go of Sonnet and knelt down with outstretched arms. “Come here Grace,” he said, “Everything’s going to be okay.” He smiled as the toddler ran from her older sister into his arms. “We’ll be fine.” He picked her up and asked, ”How would you like some candy, Sonnet knows where all the best stuff is.”
The small lynx wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded as he glanced over at Katie who wordlessly did the same.