Life was rather stressful back on Earth. Because they didn't have any better idea, the two leader remaining, Mick and Shawn went over the same patrol routes to keep an eye on the farther surrounding of the clan's territory. Sid and a few other warriors kept close to them, trying to spot anything unusual. At times like these, with the witches and probably the Bloodstones doing minor attacks on the East River clan, and even on the Grays, they had to be extra careful. Not to mention that they needed to find a way to bring back the two other leaders and those noisy kids. Shawn was over the madly angry state. Pauly and Gaby took the old Paul's spell books with them. Literally not leaving any trace behind for them to follow.
Mick was sticking close to Sid, because the poor red-haired guy had enough traumas lately. He tried to persuade him to go with Chris and the kids to the East River clan's hidden safe house, but he insisted that he wanted to help with the patrols and probably to prove his usefulness. Not that he had to do something like that, but oh well. So there they were, the buff guy keeping an eye on him just in case.
Mick was also a bit calmer knowing that his wife stayed behind to guard the clan's building with some other warriors. Not that he liked the idea of not being around her, but she was one of their fiercest fighters and if someone could defend the base then she was definitely the one.
For most of the patrol there was nothing out of order. They didn't see any unusual circles on the ground or markings on trees. They were about to head back home when they sensed them.
It was a small group. At other times they wouldn't even pay attention to them. Even if they were some highly skilled rangers. Those were no match to the beasts trained in the arena to kill for survival. But now all of them got tense and alerted.
They attacked from the trees. Like beasts would do. But their moves and smell showed the Earthly human race. The group of fast moving beasts stood up good against the long swords and messy raid.
Mick and Sid turned back to back at once and the other warriors of the Grays proved to be fierce fighters, too. It was still strange that the attackers seemed to try to lure them further away from their base and usual route. Not really fighting back. More like teasing them to a chase. And it smelled like a trap to Shawn more than anything
"I don't like this," Mick grunted as he dodged an attack with his double edged battle axe.
"Smells like a trap," Sid said voicing Shawn's thought as Chris got closer to them too.
"I have a bad feeling about this. We should pull back. They seem to try and take us farther from home," Mick suggested to Shawn and the others too as his beast side recognized the pattern fast. In the past often that skill meant survival while fighting against all kinds of creatures and fighters.
Shawn nodded and signaled to retreat. He has to keep the others back at base safe too. Maybe it is a way to trick them to leave the base unprotected. Maybe they are planning something else. But either way going back to the base was a must.
Soon all the Grays circled around the attackers and slowly moved back to the old storage building in the bay. Not knowing what happened inside.
Meanwhile at their base the fight was already a full blown one between another group of rangers and the warriors left behind to protect their home. Stacey was leading the attack against them and she was fighting with her short sword as fierce as a full-blooded beast, although she was an Earth demon. Still, definitely a fitting pair for someone like Mick.
The short black-haired woman just drove her sword into a man twice her size when she felt the other's return. "Head inside! We got this. Some got past us!" she yelled at Mick and Shawn then got engaged in another fight with two new opponents.
"I'll go in," Mick said to Shawn after cutting the man attacking them almost in half. The shaman nodded and kept up the others with Sid and Stacey while Mick and Chris ran up the stairs following the scent of the intruders. "They are searching for something," Chris said on their way sneaking across the corridors. The doors of the rooms were opened and some rooms seemed to be messed up as if someone looked for something in them. "Over there. Can you feel it? Paul's room," Mick groaned and started to run in that direction.
"Yes," Chris gritted through his teeth. Although he didn't know the late shaman personally since he became one of the Nine just a few years ago, he'd heard the stories and what a vital part Paul had in their clan's past. Feeling the intruders from that sacred room was outrageous and only pissed them off more.
As they got to that corridor, they immediately saw that the usually locked door was now wide open. Chris and Mick practically burst into the room to face the assholes who dared to enter their home during the chaos of the fight.
"Stop, you bastards!" Mick's booming voice filled the room, but instead of fear, the two witches (clearly twins) only grinned at them.
The two tall ladies in long coats just looked at each other. The one at the bookcase threw a spell book to his sister and they laughed.
Mick just got closer to attack the latter one when they threw some kind of white powder into the air, turning the beasts blind and making them cough. When it slowly settled down, the witch twins were gone. Also they could hear and sense Shawn, Sid and Stacey coming with the rest of the warriors.
"They are all gone. Just suddenly turned and ran away," Sid said fast and looked around in the messed up room shocked.
Shawn was red from anger seeing what the intruders left behind only mumbling a "Motherfuckers" as he threw his weapons onto the ground.
The cave into which the foxes took Gabrielle and Pauly proved to be safe indeed. In the morning after eating some energy bars from their small backpacks, the teens followed the foxes among the trees and rocks and smaller waterfalls.
"Where are they taking us? Did they tell you?" Pauly asked Gaby as they climbed up on a smaller rocky hill. The shaman trainee boy could still feel just the foxes’ emotions and intentions while as a female Gaby understood them more.
"They only tell me that… 'to more like us'. Maybe other demons like us," the girl said skipping after the foxes leading them deeper into the thick forest downward from the hill.
Pauly pondered that in him for a while, simply following the spirit animals and Gaby. He was getting more and more curious, he had to admit that. He just hoped those 'more like them' demons would be friendly. They really needed some help not just to find the dads and Jay, but to get more food and water on which they were already running low. Once again the teen wished that those charms that made bags bottomless in the Harry Potter movies were real. That would have made things easier for them now.
At least the forest with the waterfalls and fog were breathtakingly beautiful around them. Even if not the easiest terrain to move on. It took them another hour and a small break to get to the top of the hill they have been climbing. It was more like a highland with trees and bushes and more grassy parts. Looking around, Pauly wiped the sweat off his forehead.
"Look! Is that a... cabin?" he pointed further ahead where just behind the treeline, he saw a run-down hut.
"Yeah… Yeah it looks like that. The foxes are taking us there. Saying that 'one from us' is there. I'm so curious," the girl laughed and started to run with the magical creatures.
Soon they were standing in front of the very bad and very abandoned-looking wooden shack. Gabrielle felt Pauly's doubting gaze on her back as she gently opened the door.
Peeking over Gaby's head, the dark-haired boy's frown deepened. "Quite messy and looks abandoned. You think someone actually lives here? Or maybe they just want us to think that it's abandoned..." he hummed trying to quickly look at all possibilities as they took a step closer to the door to take a better look.
"Maybe someone uses it as a hideout. But then, what is it that this person is hiding from this much?" Gaby thought out loud too as she entered.
Inside it was the same mess. It was small, with a sleeping place on the ground from leaves and grass. There were some raggedy clothes and some hard shells of a bigger fruit, like coconut at home but blue-ish colored used as cups as it seemed.
"It's almost more like a home of an animal… or a beast..? You think 'our kind' lives like this here?" the girl frowned thinking back how the Earthly demons treated the beasts like animals and as lower beings than they are. Maybe it was somewhat true after all? "No one is here. Let's look around," she cleared her throat. Not wanting to think any more of that possibility as she turned to get out and search the surrounding area.
"Yes, you're right..." Pauly agreed with her as his eyes skimmed through the very few furniture and objects in the hut. He also saw some kind of herbs drying in a corner and a leather sack for probably water, but it was lying empty in the same corner.
He followed the blond girl, but they barely got through the threshold when they suddenly felt a presence that was cloaked before and in the next moment a man – or more like a beast? – jumped off a nearby tree landing a couple of steps from them. He was around the same height as Pauly and his tanned skin was covered in a dry layer of mud here and there. The messy and curly brown hair that was full of dry leaves reached down to his shoulders. He was wearing only some ragged and dirty brown pants reaching to his knees.
The barefooted man's dark-brown, nearly black eyes reflected the wildness of a beast as he took a defensive stance, pointing a self-made spear at them. Frankly, he reminded Pauly of a prehistoric man he'd seen in books and on TV.
Gaby took a step back with widened eyes and raised her hands in defense. "The... the foxes brought us here… They said you are like us…" she said uncertain.
The wild man looked down at the foxes and narrowed his eyes sizing up the kids again.
The magical creatures looked pretty much at ease, one curling around Gaby's leg and looking contended at the "wild man", as if he was satisfied with getting the kids there. At least that's what Pauly could feel as he took a half-step ahead to get Gaby more or less behind him.
His raised hands were empty too, although his fingers were itching to grab his Sai daggers in case he had to defend themselves, hating to feel Gaby's uncertainty. "Look, we mean no harm to you. We are looking for help. This is Gaby and I'm Paul. We're demons from Earth stranded here. You understand what I'm saying?"
The man lowered the spear and grumbled at the foxes – and they yelped back. Clearly they were communicating and Gaby – even to her own surprise – understood it.
After the foxes told the person about how they found the teens, the man looked at them again.
"You came through the portal the kidnappers use? From Earth only the other kind of demons come to steal our young ones. But you are like we are here in Jukai," the man spoke fluently and rather intelligent. Which was a total contrast with his look. But who was she to judge anything in this foreign world.
"Yeah. Well some people tricked our leaders to end up trapped here. Two leaders who are his fathers, and a guard. We tried to find them to help and ended up here too," she said only hoping that they were in the same place as Corey and the others.
The guy was telling the truth. Now that he wasn't pointing his weapon in their direction, Pauly relaxed a bit too, but kept his guards up. Still he could now sense that the vibes the man was giving off were similar to theirs. So the foxes were right and it was a relief that the guy wasn't like how he looked.
"We were kidnapped and sold as kids too back on Earth and my fathers freed and raised us. Is there a chance that you or someone you know might have seen them? We have to find them then figure out how to get back. Our clan at home is in danger from our enemies..." Pauly continued to quickly explain their situation. "Could you help us, Mr...?" he added, not knowing how to call the guy yet.
"Joe. I'm Joe. And you're the first demons I'd seen around in months. I live in this area alone as I like it on my own. Sorry."
"I see," the boy murmured then frowned lightly. "Are there others around whom we could ask? Please, it's important. My dads..." he swallowed hard, his black eyes filling with emotion "they are the closest to me and Gaby's adoptive father is back on Earth, probably going nuts about us sneaking off to come here..."
"So you ran away to solve things on your own as adults seemed useless? Rebels, huh? I like that," Joe grinned. "I had it with putting up with others and be a shaman. That's why I live here by my own rules," he explained. "But I can take you to my brother and the others. They… I mean we are the north Jukai shaman beasts. Follow me. I'll take you to a clean stream first where fish is. You two look like some water and food would do good for you."
The teens mumbled a thank you and hurried to keep up with the wild man who already moved fast and familiar between the thick bushes.
Gaby was thinking and connecting her thoughts with Pauly. The man said they were a shaman beast clan. Those could be related to Corey.
Pauly could only agree with Gaby on that. Maybe later they could ask Joe about the red beasts and if they know more about them. But first that fresh water and more sustaining food sounded too good to pass up.
Since they didn't have as much experience or knowledge of the terrain, running through the unknown forest was a bit of a challenge, but they could keep up quite well, two of the foxes yipping as they ran along happily. It looked like they were rather gliding in the air than actually running on the ground.
Joe was already standing up to his knees in the stream, eyes glued to the water and spear at the ready to catch some fishes for lunch while the teens caught their breath and drank the last of their water from their flasks, not wanting to break the demon's concentration.
"So... can I ask why you didn't want to be a shaman? We're shaman trainees, by the way," Pauly finally asked what was on his mind while he held his fish on a skewer over the fire to roast it the way Joe showed them.
"Because I don't like pressure coming with it from all the other kinds of demons coming and asking for help. I like this land and like to live in it with my own rules. Not many shaman beast clans remained here. Only us and a clan in the middle lands. The demons and witches from earth took away more of our kind's children. And a whole clan went over to help those, just like you and your fathers do. But people say they were killed over there too. I was born a shaman with those powers. And I use it to protect the forest and be one with it," Joe said roasting his own fish too.
"You are from here," he pointed at the girl. "But you are more like the ones living in that other world. Prophecy says that the red ones will return again and that power will revive again the paths to the other worlds too," the man shrugged. Like someone not really believing such returning could happen. And Gaby felt just like she solved that mystery. Biting her lip looking at Pauly meaningfully.
The demons both from Jukai and Earth were sitting in a circle around a put out fire, the sun shining on them and making the air glimmer a bit from the strong spiritual energies.
Jim was still baffled about the way Maynard greeted his mate and as he could feel, his Corey felt pretty much the same. The great shaman and his trainee were sitting opposite them, the other Jukai demons on both their sides. Everyone got some kind of a herb tea as refreshment and Maynard seemed very satisfied with them – especially the red beast – being there. Which only made Jim kinda suspicious about this all.
"What prophecy?" he blurted out before Corey.
Maynard sipped on his tea and smiled from that, turning to Corey. "He really is a perfect match for you, young master," he noted with a half-smile then put down his cup, taking a long breath. "Once, they say, there was connection to all the worlds. As you would say 'other dimensions'. The red beast shaman clans kept up the portals for the longest. Gave the knowledge and skills from generation to generation. As they were the most skilled with that, the other clans lost that power and knowledge. Then the last of the red shamans opened a portal to Earth. And left there to keep the innocent safe. And all of us here stayed cut off from those other worlds. The prophecy says that one day a red beast shaman returns and as the powers awake in him, the magic that now flows around here uncontrolled gets its owners back and the dimensions will connect again. That first return will bring the whole clan's rebirth," the old man explained on a calm tone and with an all-knowing smile.
Staring at the great shaman hard but with respect, Jim narrowed his eyes hearing about the prophecy. There were some things that made sense to him, like the "return" of the red beast (that could be only Corey, right? since as far as they knew he was the last living one of his kind), but the rest was way too cryptic to Jim.
Still he couldn't stop himself from asking the question that was on his mind. "What makes you think we're a perfect match?" It always intrigued him how others saw them since his perspective was obviously different from those on the outside.
From the corner of his eye, Jim saw Jay finally close his mouth and sip from his tea while Corey seemed to be lost in thoughts.
"Also, we're not staying. We're searching for a way to get back home where we belong. But first we have to go get... something," Jim added to give some more time for his mate to pull himself together and to clear things with the shaman. Great or not, Jim didn't want this Maynard guy to get the wrong idea. They had beloved ones and duties back at home.
"Of course. You once all belonged here and to other worlds. People from Earth started to take away our kind to show as proof of some 'gods' or what the humans call it. It was eons ago and many were born over there too. You too, Jim. And you are the other half that master Corey's power needs. In personality you complete him too," Maynard said with that mysterious smile again. "To save the young ones ended up here too and go back you two have to learn to use your powers more. And Corey can open the portal with his mate and their lilac force. Like his ancestors could."
Corey still frowned. Somehow deep inside him things started to make sense. All the half-lines he overheard as a slave kid. And all his realistic vivid dreams of other worlds. "As far as we know, my family was from those who had left to Earth to keep up a safe place for fugitives. I am the last. That also fits. And I returned. And as it looks like I… we will open a portal, because we will have to. But the return of my kind... I'm not sure of," Corey thought out loud still processing the new information.
"My trainee and the protectors here will help you. But first. You two, mates have to come with me inside the cave and let the magic flow through you to awake your powers," Maynard added standing up and waiting for the said two.
Pauly returned that gaze of the blond girl after listening to Joe explaining that frankly interesting prophecy. The boy knew what his sister was thinking and his agreement manifested itself in a nod of his head.
Tucking his long hair behind an ear he looked at the doubting Jukai demon. "One of my dads is a red shaman..."
To that Joe glimpsed up from his fish that he was checking if it was done yet. Surprise was written all over his face. "That can't be true. You're joking."
"No. I'm deadly serious. He's the last of his clan. He was transported here with his warrior mate and their guard because the witches at home were afraid of their awakening power. That's another reason why we have to find them in this world. This has to be the explanation why they got stranded here without knowing a way back home..."
"And your father doesn’t know a way back home? Interesting..." Joe mused putting his fish down.
"You see…" Gaby started "he was kidnapped from his parents early and has the red power and skills of a shaman but don't know what those... those of his kind should know, I guess."
"I see. I'm not surprised the witches are afraid. He has a mate, you said that, right? What power does his mate have?" Joe asked visibly more and more interested.
"His color is blue. Originally he comes from the same safe village the red demons were protecting. Then he was taken by an Earth demon clan and brainwashed. He realized what he is after mating with Corey," Pauly explained, turning his fish over the fire. "He was trained as a warrior. Otherwise I'm not sure what kind of power you mean. He's skilled with throwing knives and balancing my other dad's more beastly nature."
"Hmm... It may sound inappropriate... but when they are mating their powers become lilac and blast out...? ‘Cause if that's the case then he’d found his match to use the ancient force. And that is a very powerful weapon," Joe said on a matter of fact kind of tone, finishing up his fish and standing to fill the water bags.
Seeing that his own food was finally done, Pauly put it aside to cool it a bit before trying to eat it. He was getting really hungry by then, but looked up at Joe to answer him after exchanging a look with Gaby. "Yes. As a matter of fact that blast can be felt by everyone every time they... successfully mate," he said clearing his throat at the end. "But as far as we know, they have no clue how to use that power. I mean... no wonder since there was no one to teach them."
"If your fathers are lucky, kid, here they are going run into some demons who will take them to a high shaman. Here at Jukai everyone knows the prophecy. And growing up on Earth like you did means they also cannot hide their powers here from the flowing untamed magic. So..." Joe said sitting back down and facing them "if all goes well, your enemies back home may get double of what they were afraid of in the first place when you all get back. Now eat up. We have to reach my siblings before the sun lowers."
The kids had more to digest than the roasted fishes they ate after that. Both of them were thinking about what Joe has told them and were wondering if the trio had already met such a high shaman who could help them.
That would be so epic, Pauly thought as they gathered their stuff and started following Joe on a barely there path that led through the highland then descended into a valley. Because if that was the case then the witches made a grave mistake by sending his dads here. Once they find a way back – because now he strongly believed in that – the enemy won't have a chance against their clan.
After many valleys and hills and a few short rests, this trio – joined by new foxes time after time – was finally getting closer to the camp or village of the yellow shamans. It was getting dark, but the sounds of some tribal drums were leading them closer and closer.
Just as they got through a thick wall of bushes, three males jumped before them with spears.
"Hey! Keith, Max, Liam!!! It's me, Joe Duplantier! Let us through. I brought some lost kids seeking help," Joe said loudly as the three warriors took a closer look of them.
Gaby and Pauly froze behind Joe, their hands already on their weapons in case they would need them, but they visibly relaxed when the spears' sharp tips were moved towards the sky.
The three males couldn't look more different aside from the warrior paintings and tattoos on their faces. Keith was short, lean but muscular. He had several piercings in his ears and nose. His painted green hair was shaved in the middle but the remaining on the sides was formed into horns. His blue eyes were curious as he sized up the kids.
Liam was somewhat leaner and taller with a messy short Mohawk, his blond hair already growing back on the sides. His dark brown eyes narrowed more suspiciously as his hand tightened on his spear, glimpsing from Joe to the kids then back.
The third man was the tallest and widest, packing the most muscle too. His skin was a shade of darker brown, some dried white paint around his eyes enhancing the nearly black irises as some long dread locks fell into his face.
The three warriors looked at each other. Nodding with their head and humming for a while. It was like they were talking between each other on their own language. Soon all three of them hummed in sync and released their powers. What started to swirl around them in a light yellow fog.
Liam, who seemed the most 'normal' on the outside but had the presence of the wildest one, stepped ahead. "We are the warriors of the yellow shaman clan. We protect the ancients and the tribe. You," he pointed at Gaby "feel just like us. Now follow," and with that all turned around and on their hands and knees crawled through a hidden passage into a valley.
Feeling Pauly's gaze on her, Gaby followed the strange warriors. She felt it too. As they were getting closer and closer to this place, she somehow felt the magic and vibes familiar. And the somewhat lighter yellow powers the males have shown to her felt like a greeting from their own kind. Joe could be right, and that meant that they just stepped into Gaby’s village.
Indeed, the teenage boy couldn't take his eyes off his sister. What she might have not noticed about herself was that her yellow aura reacted to the warriors' "greeting" like back in the forest when they'd met Joe for the first time.
It made him both happy for Gaby that it seemed they had found her origins, and a bit jealous too for the same reason. Though the latter emotion died down in him the moment they got through that passage and they looked down into the valley. Among the trees there were fires lit here and there by huts and there was a bigger clearing in the center where there were several demons sitting, drumming, dancing or eating around a big fire.
It was more of a tribe than a clan like what the kids knew. But nonetheless it was a fitting home for such wild beast demons.
They all headed towards the main fire. From where a male stood up from the painted drums and smiling hurried to hug Joe.
"At last. I thought I will have to go after you and drag you back by your messy hair, brother," the slightly taller and lighter colored (or maybe that was just cleaner skin and hair…) man couldn't stop hugging Joe.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm here. Be happy. I found these kids at my hideout. They are looking for their fathers and their guard. Those were tricked to end up here and the kids followed to search for them. And it seems the dads are a pair of the ancients' reincarnations. A red shaman and a blue powered half-blood," Joe explained. Then turned to the kids "’Cause I guess the other is a half-blood, half-beast. Because only those produce that merged lilac power. And by the way. This is my brother. Mario. He is the main shaman here. Or leader."
Mario stepped closer too and sized up the teens before looking back at his brother. Then at the teens again who felt a bit awkward in the big silence and with everyone's eyes on them.
"Very well. Welcome back," he smiled at Gaby and let his own, exact same type of yellow power be visible. His aura reached for the girl's as a greeting too.
The night finally found the two stray kids in a soft bed and under blankets. And they were very grateful for that. Everyone in the tribe came to greet their lost member after the more mutual introduction. And the blond girl melted away inside from the way they were treated. Even Pauly. She wouldn't let her brother go and feel left out. But these beasts gave the same warm welcome to the foreign kind of teenager as if he was their own. And after the big dinner and dancing to the tribal drums, Gaby closed her eyes smiling in the hug of Pauly. They will be okay. She dreamed of this place and the big adventure for a reason. She knew. It all will be okay. They found another home and family who can help them go back.