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Howl by alyse [Reviews - 64]
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Category: Legend of the Seeker
Characters: Cara Mason, Kahlan Amnell, Richard Cypher (Rahl), Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Alternate Universe, Character Study, Friendship, Horror/Suspense, Vignette
Warnings: None

Summary: Some spells are seductive.

Characters: Cara, Kahlan, Richard. Undercurrents of Cara/Kahlan/Richard



Story Notes:
Written for Legendland's alt big bang for the prompt 'lost' and the theme of 'longing'. Title and quotes from 'Howl' by Florence and the Machine, which came on iTunes as I was trying to write one of the other three stories I started for this challenge.

Thanks go to Aithine for the beta. More notes at the end.


I hunt for you with bloodied feet across the hallowed ground

-o-

The ground flashes beneath Cara's feet as she runs, sleek and sure-footed through the trees. Her pace eats up the miles and this, this is glorious. More than glorious; she bares her teeth in a grin as she picks up her speed, startling Kahlan as she appears out of the darkness by Kahlan's side. She moves faster, twisting and turning as her feet hit the ground one after another, and Kahlan falls behind for a moment.

Cara's grin widens, becomes something dark and dangerous. Dangerous enough to put a light in Kahlan's eyes when Cara glances over and sees that she's no longer alone; Kahlan is there, keeping pace. The light in her eye, the grin on her face both match Cara's for ferocity. The sight makes Cara's blood race; it flows through her veins, thick and heady, making her strong, powerful as the pair of them race through the forest, always together.

Up ahead, Richard flits through the trees, a shadow in the darkness. Cara slows her steps, matching her pace now with his, not needing to look over at Kahlan to know that she is doing the same. Richard slows further, muscles bunching and flexing under his skin as he moves, staring ahead at things she can't see. Not yet.

She eases closer, barely making a sound as she picks her way through the bracken that carpets the forest floor. She's silent as the night but Richard hears her anyway, turning his head to stare at her levelly. There is a note of challenge in his gaze, although there is no need for it, not with her. She knows her place, feels it deep down in her bones. She has earned it, and it is by his side. Even so, she ducks her head instinctively, lowering her body as she creeps towards him on all fours. He is her leader, her Lord. He is her alpha, for all that she'd deny it if she was in her right mind.

Or maybe this was her right mind, and it was the other - all clamouring instincts warring with each other, confused and torn - that was not.

Kahlan comes up alongside her, silver and grey in the dim light, and nips at her flank. The action is less vicious than it could have been; when Cara dances out of reach, her lips curling back on a snarl, Kahlan's teeth stay covered but the light now in her blue eyes is as challenging as Richard's steady gaze. She stares Cara down for a long moment before she turns to Richard, nuzzling at his neck, breathing in his scent. Her haunch bumps against Cara; Cara resists the overture but when Kahlan glances back, peering at her over one tall, silver shoulder, Kahlan's deep blue eyes are warmer, forgiving her for things that Cara can't even begin to understand. She didn't understand Kahlan when Kahlan was a two-legs; Kahlan's mind is even more opaque in this, her true form.

Cara shakes her head, smothering the sneeze that rises up as the breeze brings the evening pollen. It brings other things as well, scents on the night air that make her mouth water, prickle through her blood, raising her hackles.

She creeps closer to Richard but there is no subservience in the move this time. She simply wants to see what has caught his attention, made him slow his steps and wait for the rest of his pack.

Beside her Richard raises his muzzle, scenting the night air the way she had, and his eye gleams amber in the darkness. His head tilts as he listens, and she echoes him, finally picking up the sounds of men ahead the way that she'd already picked up their scent.

Their voices are harsh, guttural growls, senseless in this form; she can't find it in her to care if they'd make sense to her when she was in her other (normal) body. All she cares about is the need that is thrumming in her blood, running through her veins and pumping in steady rhythm with the beating of her heart. The need to run, to chase. To hunt and to kill. To howl at the moonlight and drive her prey from cover so that she can give chase. When they run, she will follow, fast and furious until they can't run anymore, until exhaustion nips at their heels, slowing their steps, and their hearts beat rabbit fast in their chests. That will be when it is best, when it is right; she knows that as deep in her bones as anything else. It will be right when their fear flavours the air, tingling on her tongue and down the back of her throat. Fear of her.

What are the concerns of the two-legs compared to the thrill of the chase?

Richard grins at her, slow and hungry, and she feels a wild, fierce joy rise up in her to match it. This is her alpha, and where he runs she will follow gladly. This is her pack, and they hunt together.

Kahlan slips through the trees ahead, body close to the ground as she eases forward and Richard's ears flick back, close to his head. He watches her go but doesn't call her back the way he would have Cara. Instead he darts forward before she slips out of sight completely, following her closely but letting her lead him ahead.

Cara follows them both a beat behind, watching their flanks and pausing frequently to scent the air. She can hear their prey more clearly now; the herd flounders through the forest, all noise and thrashing limbs, oblivious to the danger that lurks closely by. In her other (real) body, she would have snarked and snarled, contempt for their ineptitude filling her; in this body, she watches and waits, creeping closer in the dim twilight, her tawny form blending into the undergrowth.

Richard strikes first, teeth flashing white in the darkness. He is silent and deadly, and the metallic taste-scent of blood drifted high on the breeze. Cara laughs just as silently, her tongue lolling from her mouth as the man falls and is silenced before he can scream and scatter the other (D'Harans) rabbits.

She tilts her head, listening, and Kahlan pauses beside her, her silver fur gleaming softly in the light from the early rising stars. Cara itches with the need to nuzzle into that softness, to breathe in Kahlan's scent, but the prey is moving closer now.

Richard lowers his head, the darkness of blood staining his muzzle and his eyes, once again, gleaming amber in the darkness as he waits. But he is patient, trusting in the rest of his pack. This time the man (prey) barely has time to stumble into the clearing, staggering to a stop as he (it) takes in Richard standing over its (his) fallen comrade before Kahlan is on it (him), tearing out its hamstrings.

The prey falls with a scream, sharp and hard on the night air, the sound echoing on and on until Cara rips out its throat and stops it. The blood runs thickly down into her mouth, dripping from her chin, sweetly cloying, and she shivers with the taste of it, the way the scent of it is rich in her nostrils, coating her tongue.

She swallows and laughs again, silent and deadly, as the third of the herd charges into the clearing, its (sword) false tooth flashing in its hand as though it could ever hope to be quick enough to catch them. Kahlan flanks it on one side and Richard moves slowly to the other, the pair of them circling it as it flails in a panic, stabbing wildly into the darkness. But Richard and Kahlan melt away and its false tooth only lands where they had been but are no longer.

It is Richard, this time, who darts in quick and sure, tearing out the hamstring and half of the prey's calf with it. It falls to the ground with a muffled cry, tries and fails to push itself to its feet again. Cara can smell it, the fear that it sweats; it is as harsh and as metallic in the air as the blood that seeps into the earth from its wounds. But it is not beaten yet and she stalks around it warily as it still tries to defend itself, its false tooth sweeping around it wildly. She moves closer, bolder now as its flailing limbs slow and it grows weaker, watching it carefully, conscious, always conscious, of Kahlan and Richard doing likewise, the three of them travelling in perfect symmetry.

They are Pack, and as Pack they fall on it together.

The prey is not good prey. It tastes bitter on her tongue once the blood thickens and pools in flesh that is cooling, but she swallows down a gobbet of meat anyway before giving up and moving away to join the rest of her Pack as they stare up at the moon. Their hunger will not be sated by such as this, not when there are rabbits in the forest. Real rabbits, not these poor excuses for prey in red and in silver. She can hear those rabbits scrabbling through the undergrowth, darting for their burrows, fat and frightened. Hear them and smell them, and her stomach rumbles. Richard butts against her, tongue lolling in a laugh of his own as he pads beside her. She takes a couple of sideways steps, forcing him to dance away from her while Kahlan watches them, licking at the blood staining her chops. Then Kahlan freezes, her head raised as she listens.

There were four. Four prey in the herd and the last of them runs still. The idea trickles to the surface from some dim part of Cara's mind, the part that is no longer important because nothing is more important than the hunt and RichardKahlanCara. There are four, always four (in a quad. D'Haran quad).

Richard growls low in his throat and she tenses, powerful muscles already pushing her forward so that she flows across the forest floor, running smoothly and perfectly, bounding over fallen trees and surefooted even on uneven ground.

And there, ahead, is the prey. Dim in the darkness that hides them from its eyes but the night cannot - cannot ever - hide the prey from them. Not when the world is a map of brilliant scents, each overlaid on another until the shape of the trees, the day past springs up before her: there a rabbit scent, hours old; here where a boar passed with its young. And now, fresher than all, more brilliant than all, the sharp scent of the prey, a tang that she follows, Richard and Kahlan flashing beside her, the world reduced to this.

This is all the Pack could ever need.

-o-

drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart

-o-

"Oh, thank the Spirits." Zedd is shrill in the darkness and Cara pauses in her careful placement of one foot in front of another, feeling Richard and Kahlan move to flank her. "I was starting to get worried."

The meaning of the words finally rises, sluggishly, to the surface of Cara's mind and she wrinkles her nose as she considers them.

"Worried?" Richard's voice is slow, hesitant as though the word hasn't quite filtered through to his conscious mind. He licks at his lips and Cara switches from watching Zedd to watching that instead: the way that Richard's pink tongue slides across the cracked flesh, small and perfect. The shape of it is wrong, somehow, like the shape of Richard's mouth. His tongue should be longer, and his teeth sharper.

"Yes, worried." Zedd snaps out and Cara looks for the shape of his teeth, but they are hidden from her eyes, even though Zedd is a clear shape, not shrouded in darkness. Not to her. "You're been gone all night. I was starting to think... Did you pick up the Quad's scent?"

Richard meets her eyes; the skin around the corner of his eyes wrinkles in a wolfish smile that doesn't reach his lips and she shivers with the joy of it.

"We did," Richard says, and his words seem to fall from his lips, one after the other, like pebbles dropped into a pond. "We..."

"We took care of them." Kahlan's voice is calm, remote, but her fingers have settled on the sleeve of her Confessor's robe, smoothing over the fabric as though Kahlan can't quite reconcile the feel of it under her fingers with what she knows is real. The fur that is real. "It... took a while."

There is no blood on her gown, not when Cara and Richard cleaned her so thoroughly before they changed back.

hot, wet, harsh, fierce

Cara shakes her head, the memories already dimming and leaving a fierce, empty ache behind.

"Good." Zedd's eyes catch her attention more than his words. They glitter in the firelight, watching her closely - watching them all closely - and Zedd's brow is furrowed above them in a soft frown. He smells worried and Cara smiles at him, only remembering at the last minute not to show her teeth.

"We took care of them," Cara repeats, unconsciously echoing her (pack's) companions' words. "You don't need to worry, wizard." But Zedd's smell doesn't change, and she resists the urge to tilt her head, let the scent of him roll over her tongue so that she can tell what he is thinking, what thoughts are brewing in that (two-legs) brain of his. He should run. He should run with them, leave these unimportant concerns behind. Everything would be clearer once he ran with the Pack.

She shakes her head and the world comes back into focus, more (less) clear.

Zedd blinks at her for a moment, his frown deepening.

"I'm glad to see that you changed back at least," he says slowly, his eyes drifting from one to another of them in turn. "The spell I used to help you catch them... I warned you that it can pull the beast into a man, and leave it there if you let it linger too long. Sometimes, the beast never leaves entirely. It's... seductive, that way."

He looks at Richard but Richard meets his look calmly, his (amber) brown eyes steady in the darkness. The scent of Zedd's worry, his fear, eases, dying down into something familiar. But Zedd's heart is beating faster than usual, the pulse of it fluttering in his throat. Her eyes drift down to it and she watches as he swallows, his blood rushing past just beneath the surface of his skin. The words that Zedd taught them - had them repeat until the world became clear and she changed - press against her teeth, begging to be howled into the night sky.

She bites them back and listens instead to Richard breathing harshly beside her. The tilt of his head is familiar as his gaze slides from Zedd, first to Cara and then to Kahlan. His eyes gleam for a moment in the firelight, turning golden, and Cara grins at him, fierce and free. When she turns her head and meets Kahlan's eyes, she sees that same savage joy in them as she feels thrumming through her.

But that joy is not in Zedd's eyes when she looks, and now she swallows the words down completely, holding them deep inside her just as Richard and Kahlan must. Zedd is not ready, has not felt the chase surging through his blood, the rightness of it, the clear certainty of it. He does not see. He cannot know.

But he will. Because underneath the scent of Zedd's concern, his worry that taints the air, there is another scent. It is the scent of the Pack and of Zedd's place in it.

The moon twitches beneath her skin, the night singing in her blood. But Cara can be patient.

The Pack will run.

-o-

And howl

-o-

The End




Chapter End Notes:
I do realise that wolves generally get a bad press and are nowhere near as vicious as the characters may be portrayed in this story, but it was never my intention to portray them as real wolves but rather supernatural wolf-like beings, like hexen wolf or loup garou. I see the savagery as coming from the human parts of their nature. We may not, contrary to popular belief, be the only species that kills for pleasure, but we certainly seem to be the best at it.




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