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    astone2292
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Rising in the Shadows - 2. Chapter 2: Slippery Shadows

The plane touched down and jolted the sleeping passengers. Nodding his head against his pillow, Kaplan stirred. Oh...must have slept through the landing announcements. When...when did this pillow get here? It's pretty warm.

"Wake up, my little pup." Blinking his eyes, the wolf slowly raised his head and stretched his back and arms, letting them tremble as they struggled to relax themselves. He looked to his right and found Cyrus staring with his tan eyes. Where did the pillow go? Sleepily observing the large panda, he mentally realized there was no actual pillow. I...rested against him. “Oh...sorry.”

A mumbled laugh was trapped behind Cyrus’ closed lips. “It is quite alright, Kaplan. I very much enjoyed watching you sleep.”

“You...watched me sleep?”

“Yes. Well, I did play a little game on my phone, as well as eavesdropped on several conversations on the plane.” Another hushed giggle vibrated through his chest as he recollected some of the arguments between an elderly couple a few rows ahead. “They were quite entertaining. But they weren’t as interesting as you.” With his hands, Cyrus pawed through Kaplan’s coarse black hair. “I would have been happy to stay like that for several more hours.”

Kaplan let his brown eyes settle on the Alpha’s sincere face and wandered his hand to join Cyrus’. “I think I could have too. Don’t know why I was so tired, but I slept great.”

The panda gazed into the little wolf’s stare and grinned. “Good. We should be deplaning any moment now. But until then…” Cyrus gave a firm twitch to his grasp of Kaplan’s hand. “...I believe I’m satisfied to just sit here with you.” He saw the blushed smile on the Beta as the black head of hair laid down on his bicep. He is certainly becoming attracted to me.

Yes. I like. Like hold wolf.

I know you do, my bear. He certainly is a special little man.

Yes...special.

Oh? Are you hiding something from me?

No...yes.

Well, out with it! Share your feelings.

...He not mate. But…

But?

...Want him to be.

Floored by his bear’s internal feelings towards Kaplan, Cyrus felt it necessary to press on. But the message for the passengers to begin deplaning sounded. The head on his arm was lifted and his hand was pulled. “Let me get your bag, Cyrus.” The panda smiled and nodded at the gesture. We aren’t done with these thoughts of yours, my bear.

It simple...not simple. Want wolf. But...don’t want him see.

You must make a decision, though. I know we both want Kaplan, and I know we are...ashamed of what we carry both on and within us. If we are to court the wolf, then he must find out from us eventually.

...I know.

We can discuss this at another time. But for now, think upon it, my bear. Cyrus could tell his bear wanted to keep conversing, but as the crowd of passengers were nearly nudging each other to get off the plane, he began having a difficult time concentrating. Once through the tunnel, Kaplan and Cyrus waited for Tierney and Dirk to come. A few minutes later, Dirk was carrying both his and Tierney’s backpacks, and the Alpha wolf had a displeased look on his face. “Tierney? Is something wrong?”

Both Cyrus and Kaplan noticed Tierney’s facial muscle between his cheek and nose twitched. The middle-aged lycan began whispering so only his fellow shifters could hear, “We would have gotten off sooner, but Dirk just had to keep letting people go in front of us.”

Dirk felt the accusation was a little unfair, and did his best to remain respectful to his Alpha. “Sorry, but…”

Shooting a glare, the wolf just couldn’t wait for the next words out of the bear’s mouth. “But what?”

Closing his eyes and exhaling through his nose, Dirk’s eyebrows crinkled and he folded his arms. “I was just...trying to be nicer.” An eyebrow raised from Tierney, and Dirk snorted once again. “Nicer...to the humans.”

I’m sorry? Come again? Tierney began to cross his arms, but took the back of his hand and gently placed it against his Enforcer’s forehead. “Well, you don’t have a fever. Care to explain?”

Scratching the side of his head in irritation, Dirk had the chance to think about his time in Kentucky while Tierney took a nap during the flight. The bear never cared for humans, and deep down, he thought of them as an inferior species, but upon his first trip to Owensville, he made a mistake that later turned into a lesson. A lesson that continued to blossom, meeting Mason and his human mate at the Kentucky airport, he found himself despising Vincent. He knew there was a chance Vincent would become a Mated Alpha, and the little runt carrying a higher title than him angered Dirk.

But after getting his ass handed to him in a staredown, Dirk became accustomed to the human. There were some mornings when the runt cooked breakfast for him, along with the other New Yorkers. Over the short time knowing him, Dirk came to like the little guy as a friend. Revisiting these memories caused the bear to come to terms with the fact that humanity isn’t all bad. Although he still viewed them as a wasteful and weaker species, he learned that not all of them should be dismissed and ignored. Dirk made the decision to let several elderly couples go in front of him, as they struggled to assert whatever dominance they still possessed. He was given bright smiles and words of thanks, and it made the bear appreciate humans just a little bit more.

“Give me a break, Alpha. I’m trying to be nice to the poor humans.” Dirk rolled his eyes, trying to feign that he was still egotistical.

Tierney raised his eyebrow even higher and smirked, “Is Vincent the one deserving of thanks for this sudden change of heart?”

“Yeah. Big deal. He’s an alright guy, and he’s a tough cookie.”

Kaplan chuckled at his friend’s mental conundrum. “C’mon, Dirk. Give Vin some credit. He cooked for us several times, and he was smart enough to let you get your twelve hours of sleep in.”

Yeah, that too. He knew not to wake me. More brownie points for him, then. “Alright, alright. Vincent’s a good guy. He makes bacon real juicy, and lets me sleep in peace. I’ll send him a medal.” Even though he wanted to be ticked off, the bear couldn’t help but smile as he learned to give a former human some appreciation. “Don’t we have a meeting to get ready for?”

Tierney nodded and shoved his hands in his pocket. “Yeah, and it’s a big one.” The three shifters gazed at him, expecting some sort of explanation. “I’m announcing my retirement this evening.”

Dirk and Kaplan’s eyes grew two-fold while Cyrus merely stifled a giggle and crossed his arms. “So soon? I figured I would have at least a month before the pack was told. Am I to be introduced this evening as well?”

“No, not yet. But I’d recommend it for next month’s meeting. Nah, I’m going to go ahead and let the pack know. No use in letting them get shocked with all the changes at once.”

Cyrus cocked his head and pursed his lips. “Smart thinking. But to have a month before announcing your replacement will surely cause strife within the ranks. Challenges will be declared, potential concerns for pack well being, and I wouldn’t put it past a few certain Betas to try to make their districts either segregated or form their own type of mini-pack.”

Damn, he’s good. I knew he was one Hell of a pack fixer, but damn! He quickly thinks of every possible outcome. Tierney nodded. “You think I should hold out?”

Shoving his hands into his dress pants, Cyrus closed his eyes in aloud thought. “I would recommend waiting until next month. This gives both you and I ample time to prepare for such concepts, and how to properly approach them. I possess experience in handling all of the proposed issues, but not to the scale of NYSP. My suggestion is to wait a month, allow myself to get caught up with your other Betas and Deltas, and once I feel competent to take the reins, then we can make that announcement. During the following month or two, slowly let me handle day-to-day pack business until I’m swimming on my own.”

Tierney exhaled and gave the panda a sly grin. He’s damn good! I almost underestimated him. He seems like a jolly giant, but his mind moves like a well-oiled machine! “Sounds like a decent plan. Alright, then. I’ll hold off on my announcement.” The Alpha wolf crossed his arms and soured his face. He felt as if he was being an inadequate leader for his followers. If I was going to make a rash decision like that...what else have I done to the pack?

Cyrus noticed the scowl on his fellow Alpha and almost sensed the internal conflict. “Alpha Scott? What seems to be the issue?”

“Just...thinking about what other actions I’ve made that could have been done with a little more thinking.”

“You are thinking this because of my suggestions?” After the wolf nodded, Cyrus couldn’t help but laugh. “Tierney, my new friend. You mustn’t dwell on past decisions. Look where your pack is. Despite what you may believe, NYSP is actually one of the most efficiently-ran packs I’ve overseen and critiqued. You don’t run it with a commanding fist, nor a limp one. Your leadership is second to none, and I feel I must remind you of that. There are very few shifters, let alone human politicians who could handle such a group.” Earning a thin smile from Tierney, the panda couldn’t help but smack the wolf on the shoulder. “I’m merely offering advice. Until I am officially sworn in, I am nothing but an advisor to you. Whether you take my words, or toss them aside, that is your decision as Alpha.”

With a gleeful smile, Tierney outstretched his hand to the bear. “You are not an advisor, Cyrus. You are to be the new Alpha to the strongest pack of North America. I doubt I, or anyone should be calling you an advisor.”

Grasping the offered hand with his own, Cyrus offered a grin. “Thank you, fellow Alpha.” Looking to Kaplan and Dirk, his smile grew in size. “Let us head out, I believe I could use some food. Kaplan, care to join me?”

Kaplan nodded and began following the bear, but stopped short when Cyrus halted, and held out his hand. Without saying a word, the wolf eagerly latched onto the large hand and was led out of the airport.

***

Out of breath and sweating profusely, Vincent collapsed on the grass. His body filled with desperation for more oxygen and he rolled over to his back. This...this is crazy! Hours had passed, and the mage was shocked to learn how weak his shadow magic was in comparison to Yakob’s. I mean...it...makes sense, he’s been at this for a lot...longer than I have, and...I’ve never had anyone to teach me.

“Get up, Vincent. We must keep going.” Darting his gaze to the monk, Vincent wanted to ignore his teacher. But he recalled the earlier statements from when Yakob described the intensity of the training. Not even a water break? “No. Not even for that, young mage.” Damned mental magic. “Sticks and stones. Now, up! Bring up your wall again and block my attacks.”

Vincent rolled over onto his stomach and raised himself up, preparing for another onslaught of defensive training. Jeez, his attacks pack a serious punch. Standing up, he focused his anger once more on his body and got himself ready to bring up his wall. “Now instead of maintaining a wall, I want you to bring one up as my whip begins to fly.”

Got it. I see why now. Keeping my wall up is a bigger use of my energy. As he attacks, I can just focus on the smaller radius of his weapon. “Very good, Vincent. Excellent deduction. But now you must focus on where the attack will land.”

Yakob stood several yards from his pupil, and as the younger mage gave a nod, the monk whipped up his arm and flung it towards Vincent. A tendril from his shadow formed at a rapid pace and shot towards the shifter. Seeing the black tentacle coming at him, Vincent quickly raised his fist. From his own shadow, a thick wall was lifted and blocked the whip, causing a recoil that scooted the mage’s feet back an inch. He hasn’t pulled any punches with this training. “And I won’t be anytime soon, young Vincent. The real world doesn’t ‘pull punches.’ You need to be ready for a real attack and not some play pretend spar.” Grunting, Vincent nodded his head in agreement.

The barrage of whip attacks kept coming and they were met with small shadow walls from Vincent. “Thinner, Vincent! There is no need to make the walls so thick. Even a paper thin shadow can block this whip.” As the attacks kept coming, Vincent concentrated on making his walls thinner and thinner. When they decreased in size, the mage found that he was using less and less magical energy. Woah! This is getting easier!

Seeing how his pupil began making progress, Yakob ceased his movement and gave a smile. “Very well done. I think your defenses are strong, but we shall practice those another time. Now, it is your turn to go on the offensive. You may use any shadow weapons at your disposal and I shall block them.”

Getting his breath together, Vincent hesitated on letting a laugh out. Keeping his thoughts to himself, he knew the monk would keep to his word. I’ll do my best. Reigniting his emotions, Vincent flung a singular whip at the monk, who easily sidestepped. Okay, so he won’t always use his walls. He walked to his left and kept the whip attacks flying. Yakob responded with a few dodges, but a wall would quickly flash up every now and again. The shifter quickly understood the point of the exercise and stayed on the offensive. He kept his left arm moving to send tendril after tendril, while with his right, he lifted a long black chain. Sending both his arms towards the teacher, Vincent launched both a tendril and the chain.

Very interesting. A distraction. Yakob effortlessly summoned a wall, but lost his focus when only one thud came from his wall. The chain? Darting his head to the left, he saw that the chain had made its way beside the defense, and was about to loop around. An active imagination. That will serve him well. Yakob quickly ducked down to the ground as the chain wrapped around his constructed wall. Seeing the futile attack’s result, he stood and felt a familiar incoming projectile. I am more experienced than he is, and that is clear. But I shall give him a small victory for his efforts. Another chain came from the other side of the wall and wrapped itself onto the monk. I’ll give him this: a chain is a remarkable tool that doesn’t even exist in my arsenal. I’ll be stealing that, Vincent.

The shifter felt a pull on his new chain. Did...I get him? He watched as the black wall fell and Yakob was wrapped tight in Vincent’s extended grasp as he held the chain’s other end. But the victory seemed flawed. “You let yourself get caught...didn’t you?”

A light giggle came from the monk, along with a nod. “Yes. But I do not mean to offer pity or a sense of false hope. There is much for you to learn about shadow mages.” Yakob’s face grew stern. “Vincent, I will tell you this once and only once. Never...trap a shadow mage with your own shadows. In a duel with an experienced mage, what you just did...was sign your own death certificate.”

Vincent’s heart nearly stopped beating as it fell to a dark place. “H...How so? I need to know.”

“Many things can happen, and with them all, you can not predict which outcome your opponent could choose. Look between ourselves, and tell me what you see.”

Staring at the chain, the answer slapped Vincent in the face. A shadow from the chain. Wow...can...a shadow mage really do such a thing? “Yes, they can, and a smart mage would. You’ve connected my shadow with yours. I don’t mean to belittle your efforts, as they were very intelligent. But…” Against Vincent’s will, his own shadow grew pitch-black and latched onto his ankles with a slight force. “...I now have control of your shadow. I can hold you where you stand. I can reach up and bind your arms. And...I can strangle you with your own shadows.”

Vincent gasped as he truly did sign his own death papers. “Fortunately, you are also a shadow mage. Which means you can fight back. It all depends on whose emotions are stronger. Unfortunately, that means I would win. But let’s try, anyway.” Vincent snapped out of his new depression and nodded. He felt an invading sensation in his own shadow. ‘Kay, I’ll push it out! Shoving his own shadow against the clutches of his teacher, he felt it budge. Harder!

Yes! Hard! I push too! His wolf understood that the magic was powered off of anger, so he let his emotions run wild and offered them to Vincent’s human mind.

Woah! Holy shit! You...You’ve been holding out on me, bud! Vincent graciously accepted the anger and pushed on the invading force. In a flood of emotion, his shadow was easily brought back under his control.

Yakob was floored at the amount of anger the boy carried. What? How...is that possible? He pushed back, almost feeling as if he was cheated. I need to discover how this happened! Anger has never won against me. With the two mages pushing each other’s shadows, grunts and pants were being made on both sides. But Vincent was prevailing. He offered one more final push and made a motion to cut the chain, severing the shadow hovering on the ground.

Vincent fell backwards and landed on his back, breathing in heavily. Wiped...out…

Yes...hard...breath. Take from...bracelet. The mage almost forgot about his bracelet, the artifact given to him by Elaine during his frost training. Taking his wolf’s advice, he took in half a bead of energy, and let himself rest for a moment. He breathing normalized, and Vincent almost felt like he was ready for another hour of practice.

The monk’s eyes flew open. How did...how did he just...get more energy? Still standing, but bent over in exhaustion, Yakob’s eyes flew to his pupil. His wolf said something about...a bracelet. He looked on the mage’s wrist and saw a multi-colored bracelet, filled with white and black beads. “Vincent. We’re taking a break, but come here for a moment.”

Eager to take a break for a moment, he walked over to his new teacher. “What...is that on your wrist? And no lies.”

Vincent lifted his bracelet and smiled. “It was a gift from my frost teacher, Miss Elaine. She said it was passed down from her teacher, so she handed it to me to use during my mage’s dance a couple weeks ago.”

“And what does it do?”

“It stores magical energy. As I meditate, it pulls any energy that I would have gained and takes it from me. I can pull from it if I’m ever in a pinch, or if I’m drained.” Yakob gently took Vincent’s hand to get a closer and detailed look at the bracelet. “But I swear to you, Yakob, I haven’t used it until now during our training.”

A chuff left the monk’s lips and grinned. “I’ve never seen such a thing. And I could tell you haven’t used it. Remarkable! I am merely surprised that I couldn’t sense it’s magical aura. It truly stores it in a way that I can’t tell the power is there, at least until you pull from it.”

Watching his mentor in a baffled state made Vincent laugh. “Would you like to try it on?” Yakob quickly nodded and Vincent took off the bracelet. The monk slipped the jewelry on and was disturbed by how he couldn’t feel the power. “When the bead is black, it means there’s no energy in it. And the white beads are full. There is a gray one, so it’s in the process of being filled.”

“I see. And you just...mentally take from the bracelet?”

“Kind of. I don’t really know how it works. I just know there’s energy in it and-” Yakob squealed in delight, interrupting the shifter. “Looks like you found the button.”

Oh, yes. I found the proverbial button! There is a massive amount of energy in there. I just pulled with my mind, and the floodgates opened! I could easily fill my body five times over with this much energy. “An impressive piece of jewelry, Vincent." The monk slipped off the bracelet and handed it back to the owner, who put it back on. “Keep that on wherever you go. It will come in handy, of that, I’m sure. But for now, I believe it is time for a break. Despite taking from your bracelet, I could use a small reprieve from sparing.”

The two mages wandered over to the porch and Yakob sat down while Vincent went inside to grab some bottles of water. As he returned, he used his frost magic to make the water bottles a nice cool temperature. They drank slowly and the monk began verbally teaching his pupil of the other dangers of battling other shadow mages.

***

Mason could hear the two mages sparring in the backyard, as he continued getting caught up on pack matters. It had been a while since he took the time to sift through emails and other documents. He found several emails from various Alphas in regards to the conference call he had several weeks ago, and started there. Several documents involving information on Stefan. Vinnie’s gonna need to see these. He created a new folder on his hard drive and after reading them, they went to the folder. It’s not a lot of information that we don’t know. There’s a couple listings of potential hideouts and shell companies that he owns, but...nothing new. But he opened the newest email, and knew it should be juicy.

Richard Drego, that is one information-hungry wolf! As soon as he opened it, he knew it was going to be a long one. Yikes, thirty-seven pages! Mason began reading diligently in order to learn more about his foe. Does Drego have eyes everywhere? He has down the bastard’s favorite tea! But once again, after spending nearly half an hour staring at the text, there was nothing of vital knowledge. Maybe Vinnie will see something that I’m not. What’s next on the list? He sent the email to the folder and saw which mail was next, causing him to rub his eyes.

Frank Reardon, he was over Elkridge when Vinnie’s parents were murdered, and he kept to his word. In the email was two attachments: a file with everything he had on Stefan, and a police report. Gods...I still need Vinnie to write up a statement for what he saw that night. Hate to drag him out of his training, but it needs to be done.

Sounds like they’re taking a break. Mason slid his chair back and took a moment to peek out of the window. Yeah, can’t see them in the yard. They’ve been at it for almost an hour straight! He rose from his plush leather chair and journeyed to the porch. “Hey, hot stuff. How’s training?”

Watching his mate’s face light up, he was quickly met with a hug and a kiss, causing his nose to scrunch up. Yep...he needs another shower! Both shifters looked at a chuckling Yakob, causing Vincent to flatline his brow towards the larger Alpha. “You thought about how I need another shower, didn’t you?”

Mason couldn’t help but find his little man adorable. “Yep. C’mon...smell yourself. It’s bad.” After a moment of hesitation, Vincent inhaled and gave a face of instant regret. “Told ya. But that’s alright. I still love you.”

“Uh-huh. Love you too, big guy. So, what’s up? Get some Alpha stuff done?”

“Yeah. Read a lot of emails. There’s one in particular that needs your attention, though. I was wondering if you could look at it when you’re done training today.”

Vincent turned to Yakob. “We will be done in another couple of hours. I’ll have to make my way back to the monastery. Many things to take care of there, I’m afraid.” The monk gave a curious look between the shifters. “By chance, have you two sparred with one another?”

The taller wolf laughed and nodded while Vincent blushed in embarrassment. “We did, but it was before Vincent turned. I’m sure if we went at it again, the fight would be different.”

That’s true! And I’ve been working on my shadow magic. Maybe… “Don’t even think about it, my pupil.” Vincent turned to Yakob once more, confused as to why he shouldn’t take another crack at his mate. “Why do it now? You aren’t at your best. Wouldn’t you want to play your cards when you have the best hand?”

“He’s right, Vinnie, my wolf wants you at your best. Besides, I’ll be watching your spar with Tierney soon enough.”

Making another one of his signature pouty faces, Vincent crossed his arms. “Some boyfriend you are. I could use some more practice against a hybrid in case Tierney pulls that on me.”

The monk chuckled once more. “What better way to practice evaluating new scenarios? I think it would be best to leave that door closed until it bursts open. You can’t ready yourself for every possible situation. If you learn to expect something, a different something will come at you harder.”

Vincent blinked at the wisdom. “I think I get it. That makes sense. I’m looking at what could happen instead of what is happening. Thank you, Yakob. That helps me a lot.”

“Just let that thought work its way into your everyday routine. It certainly helped me throughout my years.”

Scratching his head, Mason had the question on his mind for a long time. “Hate to be impolite, Yakob, but...how old are you?”

“I don’t believe that is an impolite question. It’s an inquisitive one. The answer provided brings knowledge in many forms. One’s age can let someone know how much one has experienced. For example, how old are you?”

“I’m twenty-eight.”

The monk hummed in thought for a short few seconds. “An interesting age. For most, it is a time of mental change. You grow from your adolescent mindset, realizing life is short and there are memories you thought were just that: memories. But those memories have power, and you are now grasping for them, sucking the life from them in an effort to gain more knowledge of how life truly works. At this age, you’re taking time to slow down. There are loved ones around you that have grown old, and won’t be for this world much longer. Thus, you yourself, are appreciating what life has to offer you.” Yakob looked upon the two shifters, seeing how his words had profoundly hit them. “But to answer your question.” Vincent and Mason gazed up at the middle-aged monk.

“I will be turning ninety-six next month.”

Both of the shifters gawked at the monk in disbelief for several months. Vincent was the first to make a statement. “Uh...Mace? You sure he isn’t a shifter or something? He looks like Lei’s age.”

Mason nodded. “Unless he’s a vampire or something, nope. He’s not a shifter.”

Yakob covered his mouth in a hearty but subtle laugh. “No, no. I’m a human. I just do a lot of mediation with my magic. Doing so has slowed down my aging. But I am now curious. What is the normal lifespan of a shapeshifter, Mason?”

The Alpha crossed his arms and smirked. “Typically, a shifter can grow to be an average of about two hundred years, but I’ve heard of them lasting as long as two-fifty.”

Fuckin’ what? Shifters can last that lo- Vincent was overwhelmed by all of the new information that was thrown at him. Am...I going to grow that old? That’s crazy! “Oh, young Vincent. There’s much to learn about the supernatural world. Something to remember is that I meditate about three hours a day. And shapeshifters are supernatural beings. They have genetics that allow their bodies to age naturally, while I have had to make an effort to be this old. By all means, I should be wrinkly and decrepit by now. But focusing on my magical energy throughout my body and organs, I’ve prolonged the aging process.”

Mason chuckled and pulled his sweaty mate to his chest. “Sorry to tell ya this, pup, but we’re going to have a long lifetime together.”

Wait...you mean...right...I’m a shifter now. I’ll be around a lot longer, too! Gazing up at the tall brown-haired hunk, Vincent could only smile. Yeah, I’m going to be with him for a long time.

Yakob looked at his analog watch and gave a lengthy hum. “On second thought. I believe I should give you some time to meditate yourself, Vincent. I will be back in two days to resume your teaching. Spend plenty of time thinking on how to utilize your shadows in combat, and when we meet again, I will show you how to manipulate your energy.”

Excited to hear he would be learning how to cover his aura and detect others around him, Vincent hopped for joy. “Sounds good! You don’t have a phone number, do you, Yakob?”

“Oh, no. Some of our younger monks have such things, but I’ve never been one to be a part of such advancements. But, I’ll only be in one of two locations for the next several months: here and the monastery. Would you mind accompanying me there? It would be wise for you to learn where I’ll be staying.” Earning a joyful nod from his pupil, Yakob smiled lightly. “Okay. One thing to remember is that we live in a higher altitude, so your breathing will need to be acclimated. If you need to catch your breath, you can shadow run to the middle of the mountain range to help yourself get accustomed.”

Seeing how he could be gone for at least half an hour, the younger mage gave Mason a light peck on the lips. “I’ll be back before you know it, big guy.”

“Alright, hot stuff. Take it easy, and try not to get yourself into trouble. Bring back a souvenir from the gift shop.” The monk gave a light laugh at the joke and waved to the taller Alpha. Before Mason’s eyes, both of the shadow mages fell to the ground in wisps of black smoke.

Vincent watched Yakob take off to the east and followed him. He had to rapidly change his footing from traversing shadows and daylight. It was slightly difficult, but he compared it to his defensive training. Just pay attention to what’s coming at me.

That is an acceptable way, but rather than expending energy, I recommend moving as if you are running in the daylight.

Ya-Yakob!

Ah, yes. I forgot to mention with my telepathy affinity, we can talk through a mental channel. I hope that doesn’t disturb you.

I...uh...no. Not really. It just surprised me. An echoed giggle was cast into Vincent’s mind as he followed the advice his teacher gave him. With his feet turned into a shadowy ethereal form, he smoothly crossed between shadows and daylight. This is much easier! He trailed Yakob as they passed swiftly through forests and state borders at a breakneck pace. A few minutes later, and Yakob slowed to a stop halfway up the mountain. He landed on a small foothold, large enough for both mages to appear into the daylight.

“Welcome to the Appalachian Mountains, Vincent. Have you been here before?”

“No. No I haven’t, and I think I need to do some more traveling. This is beautiful!” Vincent turned away from the mountain to see the vast landscape of forests and plains across the states of Vermont and New York.

“It really is beautiful, isn’t it? I stop here quite frequently before I go on an occasional run. I’ll even meditate here sometimes. But let’s keep going. We’re almost there.” They dipped back into the shadows and trekked onward. Thirty seconds passed, and Yakob slowed his pace once more. We’re here. The mages left the shadows and Vincent realized what the monk meant when he mentioned breathing issues. There’s half the amount of oxygen up here! We’re nowhere near the peaks, but my Gods! This is rough! The mage focused on his breathing in an effort to get used to the atmosphere. “Slow breaths, young Vincent. It will take some time to become acclimated, but we’ve arrived. Come. Let me show you around.”

Vincent took his breathing slow and deeply as his eyes wandered the ornately carved stone architecture. Passing under a large cobblestone archway, his feet landed on smoothed and flattened rock. This...isn’t what I was expecting. “What were...oh! It might be better for you to have this conversation mentally.” Yakob withheld a light laugh.

What were you expecting, young mage?

Well...something more modern, I guess. I’ve seen some monasteries online, and this looks like it came from old textbooks.

Ah. You might be thinking of Catholicism monasteries. Yes, those are much nicer, but we like things...let us say ‘the old fashioned way.’ We devote ourselves to a quiet life to find inner peace.

I see. Vincent appreciated the mental conversation as he huffed to maintain a proper amount of air in his lungs. Made entirely of large stone slabs and blocks, the monastery seemed incredibly archaic with it’s look, as well as the lanterns that lit the walkway leading up to it. Vincent assumed that the building would be cold as they entered, but was surprised by the amount of torches and small waves of comforting heat. Good thing I’m a frost mage. I can tell it’s cold in here.

That was another factor to get used to. I’m quite jealous with the fact you don’t need warmer apparel here.

Vincent shrugged. I could use a jacket, but it’s not too bad here. I think Mason would be wearing several layers of clothing right now. The mage looked around and noticed that he hadn’t seen a single other person yet. Uh, Yakob? How many monks are here?

There are about twenty of us. Three of us are shadow mages, but they are still getting accustomed to their powers. Right now, most of the monks are in the rear yard, meditating.

Okay...and where are you taking me?

A small tour. There isn’t much here, but that is our point. This is the main hall. Down the corridor to the right are the barracks where almost all of the monks sleep. To the left is the kitchen and dining area. Here… Yakob led Vincent to a wooden door with a large and ornate handle. ...are my chambers.

Vincent let loose a ragged breath as he blinked wildly. Your...chambers?

Yes. My private chambers. You see, Vincent. I’m the head monk of this monastery.

Copyright © 2021 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Loved it!!!  But you know I love anything with Kaplan :heart:!  I don't know why I latched on to him but I do love anything with him in it.  His gentle nature is so calming and the interactions with Cyrus are always so tender yet mysterious!  🐼🐺  The glimpse into Dirk's character was great to!  Seems Vincent made a big impact on him...letting humans out before him and his alpha....  And then we have the shadow training with Yakob.  Intense!!  And we get to take a trip to the monastery and find that Yakob is the head honcho!  Intriguing...  As always, another epic chapter!!!!!!!!!!!!  Your reign continues....👑:joe:

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I've been so looking forward to this.  They are wonderfully entertaining.  Can't wait for more

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So, Yakob is the main monk, the man. No wonder that he would be so critical of his trust in Stefan; his student gone awry. Yet the aged Yakob is still learning, even as a teacher, he has learned we are always learning; only through humbleness do we truly rise to our highest awareness and achievements.

Now, the urge to bring Vinnie to the ancient temple...a temple that has attracted several Shadow Mages already, where the high monk has previously taught a promising young mage, does this hold some mysterious significance to Vinsy and his teacher? It could be more than mere desire, but rather a pull of historical significance to the shadow world.

But what’s with all this anger Vinsy has? And just what heights will this booster pack bracelet propel Vinsy? But should there be a binding spell, perhaps lost in transition and history, that keeps the pairing true until released to the newly gifted? The acceptance by the bracelet to allow other than the Mage that stored the energy to use it is a bit concerning; Vinsy, make it yours, and only yours, until properly gifted or claimed by other than force or persuasion. 

Vinsy continues to reach more people and have everlasting impacts. Dirks a believer, and probably forever a disciple of respect to others until measured as undeserving. Ironic that grumpy bear has marshmallow filling buried within the tough outer facade. The next month will surely bring some exciting new dynamics to the rural Wolf Pack.

Hmmm, what will Vinsy learn from the emails, as the big ole Alpa realizes it is not his knowledge that will reveal the secrets of the shadow world villain.

The wise but giggling Panda is giddy with love for the reserved Wolf. Hold on as this Panda seems to have a need for speed; or at least his Kaplan. Kaplan doesn’t need to sleep on it, but he prefers to. 😝

@astone2292, dig deep within your magical soul...and give us another update soon! 😆 

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8 hours ago, Patch1 said:

Loved it!!!  But you know I love anything with Kaplan :heart:!  I don't know why I latched on to him but I do love anything with him in it.  His gentle nature is so calming and the interactions with Cyrus are always so tender yet mysterious!  🐼🐺  The glimpse into Dirk's character was great to!  Seems Vincent made a big impact on him...letting humans out before him and his alpha....  And then we have the shadow training with Yakob.  Intense!!  And we get to take a trip to the monastery and find that Yakob is the head honcho!  Intriguing...  As always, another epic chapter!!!!!!!!!!!!  Your reign continues....👑:joe:

Patch, I know you and Cyrus are gonna have a showdown over Kaplan at some point. Glad you enjoyed the chapter!

6 hours ago, Timejun said:

I've been so looking forward to this.  They are wonderfully entertaining.  Can't wait for more

I've been looking forward to posting it! 

 

5 hours ago, Philippe said:

So, Yakob is the main monk, the man. No wonder that he would be so critical of his trust in Stefan; his student gone awry. Yet the aged Yakob is still learning, even as a teacher, he has learned we are always learning; only through humbleness do we truly rise to our highest awareness and achievements.

Now, the urge to bring Vinnie to the ancient temple...a temple that has attracted several Shadow Mages already, where the high monk has previously taught a promising young mage, does this hold some mysterious significance to Vinsy and his teacher? It could be more than mere desire, but rather a pull of historical significance to the shadow world.

But what’s with all this anger Vinsy has? And just what heights will this booster pack bracelet propel Vinsy? But should there be a binding spell, perhaps lost in transition and history, that keeps the pairing true until released to the newly gifted? The acceptance by the bracelet to allow other than the Mage that stored the energy to use it is a bit concerning; Vinsy, make it yours, and only yours, until properly gifted or claimed by other than force or persuasion. 

Vinsy continues to reach more people and have everlasting impacts. Dirks a believer, and probably forever a disciple of respect to others until measured as undeserving. Ironic that grumpy bear has marshmallow filling buried within the tough outer facade. The next month will surely bring some exciting new dynamics to the rural Wolf Pack.

Hmmm, what will Vinsy learn from the emails, as the big ole Alpa realizes it is not his knowledge that will reveal the secrets of the shadow world villain.

The wise but giggling Panda is giddy with love for the reserved Wolf. Hold on as this Panda seems to have a need for speed; or at least his Kaplan. Kaplan doesn’t need to sleep on it, but he prefers to. 😝

@astone2292, dig deep within your magical soul...and give us another update soon! 😆 

Uh-oh. Big comment. This is a Buz-sized comment...

Yakob's a big influence, but he's only been around for a few chapters. Let him grow, and we shall see. The anger came from VincentW, and it is curious to see how the new wolf is conjuring such emotion. 

Marshmallow filling. I'm dyin'. That was too funny!

I'm loving the budding romance between the Electric Panda and Attorney-at-Paw. As much as I love Mace and Vincent's relationship, it came in hot and heavy! I want this one to be nice and slow. 

Next chapter is written, just needs to be edited.

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Great chapter and really informative about his training, I love that Vincent and his wolf talk to each other and assist each with helpful hints and advice, a new adventure in the monastery awaits I am sure

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On 2/9/2021 at 4:14 PM, astone2292 said:

Uh-oh. Big comment. This is a Buz-sized comment...

Hey, I resemble that remark! :gikkle:

I am to busy trying to catch up on my Comments so have not read others, but the above honestly seemed to jump out at me as I was going passed.

I previously said that I loved VinW with one of the reasons being his sentence structure/the way he talks. That now encompasses all Were's Animal sides as CyrusB talks like that too. So cute. 

Also love how CyrusB seems to be moving quickly (well, quickly for CyrusB anyway) in regards to his relationship with Kap.

Will we eventually get the background as to why Dirk dislikes Humans so much, or used to? It surely can't be just the 'wasteful and weaker' thing, can it?

OMG. Having Yakob actually squeal was way cute. It seems so out of character for how I see him as the wise, powerful, well-balanced, knowledgeable Mentor.

Neat trick Vin has re cooling water. Would be more impressive when used on beer, wine, etc.

And, of course Yakob is the Head Monk.

nb: just over half the number of words of that the previous l-o-n-g comment :rofl: Just sayin'...

 

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37 minutes ago, Buz said:

Hey, I resemble that remark! :gikkle:

I am to busy trying to catch up on my Comments so have not read others, but the above honestly seemed to jump out at me as I was going passed.

I previously said that I loved VinW with one of the reasons being his sentence structure/the way he talks. That now encompasses all Were's Animal sides as CyrusB talks like that too. So cute. 

Also love how CyrusB seems to be moving quickly (well, quickly for CyrusB anyway) in regards to his relationship with Kap.

Will we eventually get the background as to why Dirk dislikes Humans so much, or used to? It surely can't be just the 'wasteful and weaker' thing, can it?

OMG. Having Yakob actually squeal was way cute. It seems so out of character for how I see him as the wise, powerful, well-balanced, knowledgeable Mentor.

Neat trick Vin has re cooling water. Would be more impressive when used on beer, wine, etc.

And, of course Yakob is the Head Monk.

nb: just over half the number of words of that the previous l-o-n-g comment :rofl: Just sayin'...

 

I can't help it! I was missing your comments and I needed a way to lure you out of the proverbial woods! 

I love writing for the animal minds! Vincent is eager easy to irriare, Mason is knowledgeable and also easily irritated, and Cyrus' is playful and bashful. The concept of them playing tag and conversing with their human minds is so much fun to write. 

Buz...we got this book, and one more. There's time for a flashback about Dirk. We all know you want to be in the big lug's arms and whisked away... (I don't blame ya)

I can't wait to see your next comment...

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38 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

Buz...we got this book, and one more. There's time for a flashback about Dirk. We all know you want to be in the big lug's arms and whisked away... (I don't blame ya)

I love Were Bears, I really do...but a Were Lion is just magical to me. So if anyone is to do any whisking, then it is Caleb's more built, taller and bigger Twin Brother.

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I just love how a change of perspective or a different person's ideas can truly jolt someone into thinking about their ideas and how they do things.  We all need that to make sure that we look at all of the points in any argument or decision.  

Can't wait for Vincent and Yakob to get more into the training and just what it truly means to be a shadow mage.

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There were significant surprises on both sides during the sparring. Vinnie had no idea another shadow mage could use his own shadow against him. My question is why was Yakob so surprised at Vinnie's level of power in repelling his attack? Didn't he hear Vinnie talking to his wolf?

The monastery was what I had imagined someone like Yakob would occupy and I had guessed he was the big boss. But finding out his true age blew me away.

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