For long minutes the two small groups of demons were just staring at each other's stripped members without a word through the power shield. The art style seemed creepily similar and both tattoos seemed to be alive and resonate to the thick magic-filled air.
"And... what does this mean?" Jay asked on a nervous voice, starting to panic from all the quiet attention.
Jim reached out to put a reassuring hand on Jay's shoulder for which he got a grateful look, but stayed silent since he had no idea either what this meant. Probably the other demons had more information about this too. It was a bit irritating that the three of them had to feel so out of their depth. It was something they weren't used to feeling. But it was also understandable in an unknown dimension about which they had no idea it existed until they got "teleported" here by that spell.
"It means..." the long-haired Corey started standing next to Matt "that you are probably from this dimension. You said you are all kidnapped demons. You... Jay... was probably born here. Did you have dreams or memories about this place?" the demon asked, his brown eyes attentive and calm as they rested on the nearly panicking young one.
"Uhm... yeah, dreams I think. I kept dreaming about the two moons," he pointed towards the sky then pulled up his pants. It was clear on his face that he was kinda shocked from this new information about a past he could never remember. "How do I stop the itching? It's kinda annoying..." he mumbled, hoping he didn't somehow offend these demons with his question.
"Your power is awakening. It happens to us here when we are around five years old. Yours didn't fully develop due to not being here among these spirits. We cannot stop the itching. It will pass when you fully use your skills," Matt said pulling up his clothes too. "We can take you back to our camp. Our trio keeps traveling to keep this forest safe, but we have our tricks to sleep safely." There, it was a wide great smile to the new comers. The small Corey nodded and quickly looked at his friends to see if they were also agreeing with following these demons.
Jay added a 'sounds good'. It showed he was calming down and thinking over what he had learned. And he was curious about what else there was to know about his lost past. At least his birthplace was no mystery anymore. Not like with most of the ex-slave kids who never got to know nothing about their origin.
Jim nodded also as agreement, so Corey walked around to gather the rune stones and dismiss the shield. After packing their small stuff together, they stood ready before the locals, waiting for their directions.
"By the way… Jay… You don't happen to be a drummer, do you?" Matt asked.
Making sure the small fire was put out properly, Jim looked up to that question, his eyes meeting with his mate's for a second. "He happens to be the drummer in our band back on Earth," Jim answered the strange question while they started following the other demons through the forest.
"That's true. Why?" Jay frowned looking at Matt curiously. It seemed his fear was completely replaced by that.
"We are a band too. There should be four of us, completed with a drummer who got kidnapped as a child," Matt added on a matter of fact tone as they were walking between the tall trees.
"No fucking way..." Jim grumbled under his moustache, tensing up somewhat maybe in fear that the demons were leading them into a trap and would force Jay to stay. Or whatever... After that magic circle he was kinda mistrustful and on edge.
"Oh come on, that's not possible. How would you know that kid was supposed to become a drummer?" Jay shook his head, laughing a bit in disbelief. "Besides, what are the odds that I'm that kid?"
"It was a prophecy. We are the guardians of Jukai, the sea of trees. And there should be four of us with a drummer. And… the spirits are trapped in your tattoo, Jay. That's pretty much a big clue," the long-haired shaman added.
"And what you gonna do about it then? He is our drummer and guard now," Corey added, feeling and sharing the mistrusting vibes with his mate.
"You can't keep him here against his will," Jim stopped, his hand resting on the handle of a knife behind his back, ready to attack and protect their long-haired guard. "He's also part of our family, clan."
Paolo kept silent until now, but noticing Jim's move, he stepped in front of his mated pair and looked at the "intruders". "No one's forcing no one. It's gonna be his choice. The spirits can't be forced, but they already know that they are at home."
"He's right," Matt nodded. "Maybe later when we find a way to open a gate to your dimension, we could work out a deal with Jay..."
"Yeah, maybe…" the beast added as they walked along. They won't let them keep Jay just like that. This fucking dimension. And what about that 'later'? They have to get back… The clan is in danger. These guys said there was a way back. Then they better find one fast.
With that Jim pulled his empty hand back, but kept his hazel eyes – that were slightly glowing since they got there – on Paolo and the other two. They were far from trusting these guys, but they knew that they were the only chance for them to survive and find a way back home. Grunting his agreement to Corey's thoughts they continued their way through the dark forest.
It took them a while until their "hosts" led them to their camp. For a while Jim had his doubts about them heading that way in the first place, but when he felt some protective spells and spirit-like sentinels on the trees and the light of some fire illuminated the path ahead, he actually felt grateful. This was a fucking long night and they needed their rest and start to work on a way to get back home to their own clan. As he thought about them, the worry grew in his heart, because they didn't know what was happening to them back at home.
The other two shared Jim's thoughts too. Well, mainly Corey who could hear them, but the way Jay looked at everyone suspiciously was telltale.
The camp seemed nice and well-secured. The demons from Earth were led to one of the corners to make their resting place, and suddenly they couldn't think about anything else just a good sleep. All the happenings drained them to their core without noticing it. But if they would count it, they were up and on alert for over a day now. Everything could wait until the morning.
"What do you think?" Matt later on asked sitting down next to his guarding mate, greeting him with a peck on his lips. "They are kinda strange and annoyed, but telling the truth. There must be a reason the people on the other side wanted to get rid of them…"
"Animals," his Corey added with a chuckle. "Look at them… The shaman beasts are always like that, but he is more... reckless and not really like his kind," he looked over to the three intruders cuddling together under the blankets and sleeping all over each other like snuggling cats.
"True," Matt said sitting there with a straight back, looking over to their sleeping guests. "He's not in his full powers either. I believe mating the tall one helped on that somewhat. Did you feel how both their powers were feeding those protective runes?" he asked a bit lost in thoughts as he was trying to figure out the strangers.
"Yes. Their bond basically works as ours," the long-haired Corey rubbed his mate's thigh. "We should ask them in the morning what they think what was the reason that made them end up here. And what do you want to do about Jay?" he asked, feeling Paolo leaning against a tree trunk to their left, close enough to protect them if necessary, but still giving them their privacy.
"Yes but they are still not using their powers as much as we do. Like… all those weapons for example…" Matt turned to his mate and leaned against him a bit. "I don't know for now. Jay is surly the one. But he belongs to them and that world now. Let's rest too. It's Paolo's turn now to guard."
"It's strange, yes. There's so much more potential in them," Corey agreed to what his mate was saying then sighed. "Things will surely form. In the morning we'll see clearer," he hummed sliding a bit backwards on the bunk he had made for them earlier. He laid back down onto it to put his head on his folded jacket then pulled his mate down to rest against him. After exchanging a kiss with Matt, they both fell asleep relatively quickly under the guarding eyes of Paolo.
Jim jerked awake at dawn from the loud croaking of some unknown animal. First he didn't know where he was, he only saw and felt Corey plastered against his front with that firm butt, sleeping soundly and well... drooling a bit onto Jay's shoulder on his other side. That made Jim smile under his moustache but then as it dawned on him that they were outside in a forest, he remembered how they got there. That made him lift his head, also feeling that someone was watching them.
He was right. That strange dude, Matt was sitting not far from the still crackling fire. Damn, he could still give the creeps to Jim with that intense look. "Morning," he murmured and untangled himself from around his mate to sit up. Damn, he could've killed for coffee. So the previous day wasn't a dream. Fuck.
"Morning," Matt nodded to Jim and almost like he would feel what he needed offered a flask to him. "It's a brew of a plant around here. It helps to wake up and get your chi flowing," he placed the dark liquid containing bottle at his side for Jim as an offer to join him by the fire. He wanted to talk to the tall one before everyone else woke up.
"It sounds close enough to coffee so..." Jim nodded and after tucking his mate back in, he got up to walk over to the fire and sit down next to the other demon. He picked up the flask and took an experimental sip from it. It tasted much better than he expected so he took a few more sips before handing the flask back to Matt.
"So... what do you want to talk about? I can see it on your face, man," he added seeing the little surprise on Matt's face.
"About that too," Matt gave him a small chuckle after the first surprise. "And about how and why you all ended up here. You said you were tricked by witches…" Matt looked the tall guy deeply in the eyes. Before they do anything he had to know about these things. And he already had a list of questions about them all ready.
"Yes, we were," Jim said carefully as he returned the guy's deep look. He had nothing to hide, but still he had to be careful about what and how much he shared. But he also felt the importance to answer this leader's questions if they wanted to find a way back home. Alone it was probably impossible, but with some luck and the help of these demons they would be able to do so.
"Alright. I'll answer your questions if you answer mine afterwards," he said stroking down on his beard. "Deal?"
Matt narrowed his eyes for a moment then nodded. "Deal."
"You see, back at home around ten years ago after I mated with Corey and joined his clan, we managed to wipe out the witches from our territories and we also signed a peace treaty with other demon clans. We managed to keep the peace there and eliminate quite a number of slave markets both around our home and in other places while touring with our band. Recently we felt that something was cooking against us in the background, but we don't know this enemy yet. It has to be witches since they used magic circles and one of those circles got us here. So I guess it's about territory and power once again," he sighed running a hand through his hair too. "Might have to do something with Corey and me. They fear our power, I guess."
"I see," Matt mused thinking. "That’s another question. You two are not using your powers fully. And you are much calmer than your mate, Corey. It's kinda funny, admit it," he sipped from the drink, giggling about their mates having the same name and both being shamans. "I know his kind, not long ago that exact color type still lived up in the mountains. They were the most powerful of that kind of beast shamans. But now only the other types remained, no real reds with fair skin anymore. He is more like a warrior, like you are, and for us it's strange. You have any idea why he is like that?"
"Yeah... it's kinda funny," Jim snorted then turned more serious. "We... don't know much about the limits of our powers, I admit..." Jim grimaced. "We couldn't learn about our powers from anyone. But we figured it out that we can tap into them when we're mating. You know, he's the last of his kind back on Earth – as far as we know. I was hoping that there'd be more like him at least here..." he murmured, looking at his sleeping mate with love and some sadness in his eyes. "He often feels alone. Even if he has me. But I'm just a half-blooded beast. Not fully like him. I'm sure you could sense that already."
"Yes," Matt nodded, following Jim's gaze to the short shaman while monitoring the feelings coming from the tall bearded guy.
There Jim paused, thinking about how much to share about Corey's past. "You know what happens to the kids they kidnap from here and other places? On Earth some gets sold as slaves. Others... especially beasts like Corey and some of our clan members had a worse fate. Corey had to kill and fight to survive. He can tell you the rest if he wants. But it's not pretty. Took me quite some time to 'tame' and balance him. And he's not too balanced now, let me tell you."
"Those circles you mean? We met some of those people taking the kids and they told that they run some kind of circus with gladiator fights and they need beasts for that. I see… That's why he doesn't use his shaman powers, or has much of a shaman feature in him. There are some of his kind here still, just different tribes, not sharing these colors. His type was the most connected to the spirits and not that wild as the rest of the beasts. But I see why his wilder side is in charge," Matt nodded, sadness appearing on his face as well thinking about what the small demon had to face as a child in such a place growing up. Because he was deeply changed from his kind's calm and wise ways. "You do balance him out. It's always like that with mates. So far this much, I guess... Now you can ask, Jim."
"He was fucked up in every possible way since he was a child, yes. Until the former leaders of our clan had saved him and one of our other leaders," Jim nodded then stared into the fire for a moment, thinking that maybe during their journey here they might actually meet some of those other tribes. "What's the story of you guardians and Jukai? And how are you with those other tribes?" he asked then paused for a second to look Matt in the eyes. "But most importantly, are you really able to help us? And if yes then how?"
"Jukai is the edge of the spirit world. Like a last frontier. That's why the magic is more alive and soaks in everything here. And those strong shaman demon breeds have developed. In every generation guardians are born and they make a group of two guardians, one shaman and one warrior. Two of them mated pairs for their greater powers. As we’ve been saying. We are only three, because this cannot be changed. We guard this land. This... planet, so to say, is mostly water and fog. In each bigger island there is one territory to protect. We keep the locals safe, care for the forest and especially the whales in the sky," Matt spoke with much love for his land with a bright smile. "The ghouls are also trying to steal young ones to lure humans to this place. They are not that dumb as they look, sadly… And yes, I think we can help. But the key to open a portal is in you two. And that means that you two have to develop your powers more."
While Jim was trying to wrap his mind around all the new information, he fished out a cigarette from his pack and lit it, inhaling the smoke deeply before puffing it towards the fire. Sensing Matt's eyes on him, he offered the pack but when it was refused, he put it away. "It's quite the party you have here..." he snorted a bit amused. "And what about the whales? They are amazing. Never saw flying whales before. It's sick," he chuckled, taking another drag.
"And okay, I'm all up for developing our powers, but how are we supposed to do that? Are you going to train us or something?" Jim frowned. "I also noticed that you don't carry weapons. Do you always rely on your powers?" he asked then exhaled some smoke.
"The whales fly everywhere. Connecting land and sea and sky. Even with the spirit world. I actually know that it’s unusual for most, because everyone who came here said the same thing about them," the warrior chuckled. "They help us too and we protect the tall trees they feed from," he added sipping on his morning drink then offered it to Jim.
"Yes. We can use our powers in combat too and I and Corey can unite and use ours anytime it’s needed. I am not surprised that the ones who sent you here fear your merged powers, it's a massive force, more as your mate releases his true powers, and if you learn to control that, it would blast anything into shreds."
Taking the strange drink again, Jim sipped on it processing what he learned about the whales then his thoughts turned towards the power merging. If what Matt said was true – and why would he lie about something like that? – then it became a bit clearer why they have ended up here. But if they manage to develop their powers with Corey then the asshats made a grave mistake with sending them into this dimension...
"How long have you been mated?" he asked, his eyes jumping to the lightly snoring other shaman. "If my Corey manages to release all his powers, I have the feeling that I'll have to do more controlling. I mean... I already do that with more or less success, but that would be on a much bigger scale. That's kind of a scary thought at first..." he mused, his eyes turning back to his stirring mate. Jim could feel him starting to wake up. From not so nice dreams, so he sent him some love and a soothing wave of his power.
"We’ve been mated for about twelve years. And yes, I can feel that. But your powers would grow too. You have much more of a beast than a half-breed in you. Probably your parents were a half-beast and a beast. You are stronger than other half-bloods with one human parent. Or it could be a demon from Jukai. Our kind can breed and even mate with other breeds," Matt said looking behind his back as his mate was waking up too.
The red beast had dark dreams. Messed up scenes from running in the maze as a small child and feeling the hunger for the blood of the victim. Also scenes where Pauly wandered lost and alone in a dark forest. There in Jukai, climbing up the mountains followed by a strange dark force swirling like a black cloud of ball in the sky. But after all that he felt Jim, making his mind calm and him feeling loved. When he opened his blue eyes, he was filled with the feeling of what ever may come, he was not facing it alone.
"Yes, as far as I know my dad was a half-beast and my mom a full one. But I don't have many memories of them. I was maybe four when the village Corey's parents and clan protected for all kinds of demons was overrun by some witches and Earth demons. That's when I got to my previous clan and Corey to the arena. I was brainwashed and grew up with that clan not knowing anything about my past until Corey came along and turned my world upside down," Jim smiled from the memories, his love for his man seeping through their bond some more.
But his reverie was stopped by the other Corey who plopped down next to Matt on his other side. He didn't have to ask for the flask, his mate was already offering it to him. Once he drank, he pecked Matt's cheek and suppressed a yawn. "Do we have something to eat?"
"It depends on what Paolo brings back," Matt smiled at his mate, they let their otherwise hidden powers linger by each other and merge. Like some kind of a greeting ritual of their bond.
"Oh… Morning, Jim. I know what you’ve been discussing. And I agree. When your mate wakes up, we do our morning ritual. We join our powers with Matty. You two can try to join us. Then we eat," the long-haired shaman smiled calmly at Jim.
It was kinda fascinating to watch those two's powers interact. Of course it reminded Jim of how their own energies react when they are close with Corey, even if their colors were different.
"Morning, Corey..." Jim tried. Damn, it felt strange to call someone else like that. 'Corey' to Jim meant his mate. "Sounds interesting. Maybe we'll give it a try..." he started then his attention was drawn to his own Corey who was already getting up.
The small beast was waking up, alright. First he peeled himself from the death grip of their guardian since Jay was clinging to him like a koala in his sleep. "Morning, babe!" he pressed a kiss to Jim's lips and greeted the others too plopping down next to his man. He nuzzled against his side a bit like a big cat while their powers reacted to each other's too. His reddish blond hair was all messed up and hanging in loose curls by one side of his otherwise shaved around skull. "What are we trying?" he asked taking the offered drink from Matt.
"Morning ... Corey," the warrior smiled at him, he couldn't help it but kept thinking that the same names were funny. Quickly he summed up the convo between him and Jim before, as the red shaman stated that he could recall bits about what Jim shared with him through their bond. He was just sipping on the drink and nodded and hummed at what Matt was telling him. The beast saved it all to his brain to process it later once he feels more awake and functions better. "Okay, let's try it. We'll see how it goes," he shrugged. More controlled and bigger power can only be good, right?
Yes, Jim's heart skipped a beat from the sight of his mate like this. Like always. He couldn't help it, but he just smiled on it, welcoming the peck then putting an arm around his Corey. He loved the way he could nuzzle to his bigger body. It felt awesome every damn time.
Jim knew by then that his mate needed a few minutes (and lots of coffee) to fully wake up in the morning, but he could feel it how he was quite attentive about the new information pouring into his mind so early. That made him smile a bit as he rubbed the small of his beast's back. "I'm in too. Tell us what to do," Jim nodded and snorted from Corey's last thought. Yeah, sure.
"We start it like a basic meditation. You familiar with that?" Matt started moving a bit so he and his mate could sit facing the other pair.
"Yeah I was trained… or more like they tried to train me into a shaman," Corey snorted and got into position with his mate.
"Good," Matt added starting to already like the sarcastic beast. He closed his eyes and joined into the low chanting of his own mate.
"You start to open up the gates inside. Let the power flow through your every cell and find Jim's. Focus on the time when it does become one. Try to feel that fusion to make your powers one," the long-haired Corey told them low.
Thing is... When their powers can fully merge it is usually when they are having an awesome mating... And for Jim's Corey to think only just about their forces was a bit frustrating. Also Paolo coming back and Jay coming to the fire to 'watch the show' was like that too.
Okay, it wasn't so hard so far, Jim thought as he tried to follow the instructions too, waiting on his mate to find his power while the blue one started flooding the tall man's body as requested. He caught his mate's thought about their matings and well... that was a road they didn't want to go down in front of these guys and Jay. Besides it wasn't about that and it should be simple enough to separate the two, right?
Well, feeling Corey's irritation it wasn’t going to be. As Jim mentioned to Matt previously, the red beast was on edge from this place and everything that'd happened. Of course Jim could feel that clearly and even if he couldn't, the visible beastly features and Corey's expression were good enough tips. Reaching out for his mate's hand on instinct, Jim rubbed the back of it in a calming manner and maybe to give him something to focus on through the touch. You can do this, baby, he sent it through their bond, letting the beast feel his support.
The way the other Corey talked about it making it seem so easy and staying so calm, for the beast Corey it got more and more irritating and he started to growl and flinch around in his position.
"Just focus on the breathing. Make it in sync with Jim's," Matt's mate said.
"Okay I'm done," the beast pulled back, growling low. "We try it later too."
"It's not that hard. You just have to relax. You're the shaman."
"Well maybe I was taught and my family consisted of shamans, but this place fucks with my powers."
"All this magic should help you to free all that power inside you," the Jukai shaman calmly said.
"Well we are not the same, are we? Maybe one day is not enough for my 'weakened' earthly body and force to cope and let in all this 'marvelous great magic' so easily," the red beast hissed to Jay’s giggling amusement. Visibly pissing off the calm guy now staring back at him.
"I’m just trying to help and would have better things to do than bother. You should take this seriously if you want to go back."
"Oh wow… What else would you do? Water the plants? Or hum wise slogans?" Corey got lost in his rage, it felt like the better way than to rip off Jim's clothes. In no time they were arguing back and forth and beside them everyone thought it was the funniest thing around in this forest world.
For a minute or two Jim wanted to say something or send more of his calming power to Corey, but then he – like the other three – started to find the debate kinda amusing too and he found himself smiling under his moustache. Truth be told, he sometimes loved to watch his Corey get into it with someone. He found it hot, but who could blame him? He nearly always found his mate hot. It's just how he was wired.
Corey on the other hand was far from amused. That guy with his name was so annoying… Why the hell did they think the long-haired Corey was a good shaman? Just ‘cause he talks on that fucking irritating forced calm voice trying to sound smart?
Soon the long-haired shaman was spitting curses and names on the beast and they got so into it that not even Jay's loud laugh and Matt's giggle could bother them. It seemed only Paolo had enough after a while stepping between them and keeping the two worked up men apart.
"Okay… Coreys… crack it up," and that was when everyone started laughing...