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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Morningstar: The Malaise - 6. Chapter 6 Shifters Are Dying


The Malaise



Chapter 6



“So, how old are you?”

“Nineteen… I’ll be twenty in December.”

Tobyn choked, and sprayed tea all over himself. “No fucking way!”

Kellar smiled and handed him a dish towel. “I get that reaction a lot. How old are you?”

“I turned twenty last December. How can you only be nineteen? You look twenty-three, twenty-four, easy.”

“It’s all my muscles,” Kellar joked, flexing his bicep as they sat at the table finishing up the previous night’s stew.

“Well, your body does look mature.”

“Thanks… I think.”

“Yeah, that was a compliment. It’s the heaviness of your beard too, not to mention you’re so fucking big. You could be a lumberjack.”

Kellar burst out laughing. “Very perceptive, dude. I am a lumberjack, or I was. When I first left home, my foster-parents’ home… I snagged a job with a big logging company. They hired me on a trial basis because of my size, but they didn’t think I would last because of how young I was. They were desperate for help, but I still had to do some fast talking.” He grinned at Tobyn. “They didn’t know I had wolf strength. Needless to say, they kept me on and I got real good with a chain saw, which came in handy when I was putting this place back together… it was in terrible shape when I bought it. Anyway, I made great money because I worked long hours, and I didn’t tire like the other guys.”

“So, what you’re saying is you were a regular Paul Bunyan.”

Kellar’s face shone with amusement. “That was my nickname, funny enough.”

“I’m not surprised. How tall are you, anyway?”

“Last I checked, I was 6’5”. I might be a little more than that now.”

“Holy shit. You’ve got six inches on me.”

Kellar smirked. “That’s not what I saw when we were pissing… one or two at the most.”

“Ha ha. Very funny. And I’d say two easily.”

“So that would put you at around eight then?” Kellar was obviously enjoying this.

Tobyn cursed his tendency to blush. “Can we talk about something other than our dicks, please?”

More smirking from the big man. “Sorry, but you’re cute when you go all red like that. Okay, let me ask you this. What’s the deal with your wolf senses screwing up?”

Tobyn was thankful for the change in topic, but he hesitated because he didn’t know where to start. Finally, he just dove in. “It’s not just me… it’s the whole pack. We’re losing people all the time now; we’re down to thirty-eight members, and a lot of them are older. Sixty years ago we had about seventy.”

Kellar had leaned forward, and those hypnotic eyes beneath expressive eyebrows were burning with curiosity. “What do you think is happening?”

“The malaise.” Even Tobyn heard the distress in his own voice.

Kellar reached over and gave his shoulder a squeeze before continuing. “What is that?”

“We’re not sure. It’s something that has happened to packs in the past, it’s been mentioned in the old stories, but no one knows why, or at least, we don’t know of anyone who knows. God, it’s so damn frustrating. We haven’t had a keeper in forever.” Tobyn blew out a long sigh, trying to stay calm.

“Keeper? What the hell is a keeper?”

“Everything we know about our history comes down through the ages by word of mouth. We have ‘keepers,’ who are born with many of the memories of our past, and the ability to retain, word for word, what other keepers tell them. Long ago, they would meet and tell our stories to each other. They pass knowledge from generation to generation because it’s not considered safe to record anything about our kind.

“Shifters are dying, Kellar, and that means the keepers are too. The only one we had has been gone a long, long time, and there hasn’t been another one born to replace her.” Tobyn dropped his head and stared at the floor. “Our pack is dying.”

Saying it out loud hurt badly, and Tobyn started to break. “I’m sorry; I’ll be back. I’m just going to sit in the sun for a few minutes,” he said as he rose from his chair and hurried out the open door.

He’d just gotten himself back under control, when Kellar joined him on the steps. “Mind if I sit with you?”

“No, please do. It’s going to be a beautiful day. Sorry about that.”

Kellar said nothing about the apology. “Yes it will be. A perfect spring day.”

They sat quietly side by side as minutes ticked by, enjoying the warmth of the newly-risen sun. “What are the symptoms, Tobyn?” The concerned man’s gaze caught his, and held it.

“Oh God, there are so many, I don’t know where to begin. You likely wouldn’t know this, but a shifter’s lifespan could often top one-hundred-and-fifty years.”

“Holy shit! Really? Wow, I had no freaking idea. My God… that’s two whole lifetimes.”

“Yes it is. We should be very long-lived, but it doesn’t happen anymore… not to any shifter we know of. Fendral is over a hundred, and Miss Sybil is in her nineties, but they’re the exception… at least in this day and age. Our life span is more in the fifty to seventy-five range, and we get sick. Shifters never used to get sick… injured yeah, but we healed way quicker than we do now. Now we don’t even heal properly. I mean, we do heal, but not as much when we get older. What happened to my head yesterday? That probably would have healed on its own in the old days, especially if I stayed in wolf form… but I can’t even do that. None of us can.”

Agitated, he stood up and walked down the steps, needing to move. “Now, we can barely shift at all. Nighttime is easier, but you saw what happened yesterday. I couldn’t hold my wolf. I didn’t shift back on purpose… it’s like I didn’t have enough energy to hold it.” He shook his head in dismay, and walked a little further away.

“I was so happy my wolf wanted to come out in the first place. It hadn’t happened in weeks, and all of a sudden, I could see, and smell and hear better than I had in a month. And I’m young. My nose was a little iffy, but it worked enough that I caught Fendral’s scent. My pack sent me out to find some answers; it was more me volunteering… needing to do it… to be honest… but I don’t know if there are any. There’s a girl. Her name is Adelin, and she’s sick. She’s shifted already, so we can’t take her to a hospital… do you think…?”

Kellar was at his side in a heartbeat, pulling him into a hug. It startled Tobyn, but he melted into it. “I don’t know if I can do any good, but if you want me to, I’ll try. I’d like to try. How old is she?”

Tobyn pulled back, and Kellar let him go. He was having trouble concentrating as the man’s scent overwhelmed him. He smelled amazing… and Tobyn found it intoxicating. He noticed it earlier... it had been so calming when he was being healed, but now it was having a different effect. Apparently, his nose was back to working as well as his other senses. “Ah, Adelin… yeah, she’s only seventeen… almost eighteen, and she’s the sister of my… friend.”

“Your girlfriend?”

Tobyn didn’t know why the question was difficult to answer, but he found himself stammering. “Yeah, I, we started dating a little while ago; we grew up together and, well, she’s counting on me to find some help for her little sister. If we only knew what caused the malaise, if that’s even what it is, but no one has been able to figure it out. It’s as if the life is slowly getting sucked out of all of us.” He found himself wishing he was still in that hug.

“Okay, so first things first. Where is Adelin now?”

“At the compound. That’s what we call our community, although there’s a lot of empty houses there now, so it’s not much of one anymore. Before long it’ll be a ghost town,” he said fatalistically, knowing it wasn’t doing him any good to think that way. Barriers were dropping with Kellar, and his fears were coming out unfiltered.

“Then that’s where we’re going. I won’t promise anything, but I do have this weird-ass ability to heal, and I just proved it works on a shifter, that being you,” he said with a tentative grin.

Tobyn found it touching that he was trying to make him feel better. “No expectations. We’re out of options at this point, so the fact you’re willing to try is more than I could’ve hoped for.”

“Glad to do it. Can I ask you, though? What about other packs?”

“That’s another big question we don’t have an answer for. We haven’t had contact with any others in forty years or so. I’ve never been to a gathering, and I doubt they exist anymore.

“Fendral was the last one to have any dealings with them, and that was long before he wolfed out, which was over twenty years ago. Some of our members found their phone numbers in Fendral’s papers, but none were in service anymore.

“The funny thing was, he’d play with us kids over the years, but he wouldn’t interact with adults at all. That left us with no access to any information he might have had. Then he stopped altogether when I was about fourteen. No one has seen him in human form since then.”

“Why did he ‘wolf out’ in the first place?”

“His is a tragic story, and it’s why I try not to be mad at him for deserting us. The man lost everything. Esther, his earth mate, was shot and killed by a hunter when they were out for a run, and all three of his children disappeared when they left in search of their mates. After that, he started spending more and more time shifted, until eventually….”

“Earth mate? What’s an earth mate?”

Tobyn looked away from the intensity in those eyes. It was a hard subject for him, but he did his best to explain. “It’s something all shifters dream about, but that’s all it is now. A stupid dream.” Tobyn couldn’t disguise his own bitterness… he didn’t even try with this man.

“An earth mate is what some people call a true mate, or a soul mate. Every shifter is supposed to have one person out there who’s their other half. Someone they’re destined to be with. A gift from the earth mother, supposedly. The only reason I believe it at all is because of Fendral and Esther. They were earth mates for sure.

"The older pack members still talk about how special their connection was. They couldn’t stand to be apart from one another, and together they were really strong. They even felt what the other felt. Anyway, they were the only earth mates we’ve had in our pack over the last hundred years, which tells me it’s too rare to put any stock in. Fendral went off the rails when he lost his mate, and so did we.”

“What do you suppose happened to his kids? Don’t you think it’s possible they might have found their mates and are with other packs?” He sounded so optimistic, but Tobyn couldn’t let himself have that kind of hope.

“It would be nice to think that, but no, they would have returned, or at least called or sent word. It can be a dangerous world out there for a shifter… a wolf. There are guns and traps and poison, not to mention if someone finds out what we are.

"The stories told, say that over the centuries there have always been hunters of our kind. They also say shifters from all over would show up regularly at pack compounds, looking for their true mate. That hasn’t happened at ours in anyone’s memory. And Fendral, for the last few years he was still our leader, refused to let anyone go on a mate search. After his first kid disappeared, he tried to stop the other two, but they wouldn’t listen, and slipped away. They wanted what their parents had. A few others have gone out over the years, but we’ve never learned their fates.”

“Can’t say as I blame them. If I do have a mate out there, I want to find that person.”

He looked wistful, and Tobyn experienced a wave of loneliness from the handsome man; he was tempted to ask about his childhood, but refrained. It didn’t seem like the right time. Looking at him, it was still hard to believe he wasn’t yet twenty. “I’m afraid I don’t hold out much hope for mates. I believe it’s a thing of the past now, and that seems like a good thing to me. I’m not saying there aren’t any at all, but I believe it isn’t like it was. All species evolve, so maybe we have too. No, my focus is on saving our pack, not some pipe dream, no matter how romantic it might sound. In the end, look what it did to Fendral.”

Both men were quiet for a few minutes.

“I can hardly believe it, but my wolf wants to run. Two days in a row. There must be something in the air around here,” he joked, but he truly was surprised. Did Kellar help curb the effects of the malaise when he'd worked on him? He was a healer after all, and had proved to be a damn good one. “So, is it all right, doc?”

Grabbing his shoulders and slowly turning him around, Kellar did his scalp tingling touch, and pronounced his patient fit as a fiddle. Tobyn chuckled, eager to escape the heaviness of their conversation for a little while. “Can I leave my clothes here or should I go into the woods?”

“Oh, yeah. Of course you want to go alone. Sure, you can just leave them here.”

Tobyn caught the undertone instantly. “Who says I want to go alone? Wolves love company. You’re coming too, aren’t you?” That dazzling smile in sunlight was an amazing sight to behold, and he felt the power of it once again.

“I’d love to. I never get to run with another wolf, except for a few minutes one time with the old grey.” He was stripping as he talked, and Tobyn turned quickly around, shedding his clothes in a pile on the steps.

Searching the landscape to ensure they were alone, he shifted and took off before Kellar was ready. He made it to the closest treeline before he was caught. He'd always known he was a good-sized wolf, but the big guy dwarfed him. Kellar had blazing speed and he used it as he leapt over his playmate.

Tobyn hadn’t had this much fun in a long time, and the best part was watching the sheer joy in each and every move his companion made. They were two pups with only fun on their minds. They ran, jumped, spun, and tussled with one another until they finally ran out of breath, panting in a comforting unison.

Not once in the whole time they cavorted did he experience anything but care and tenderness in their games. Those huge canine teeth were no rougher than fingertips during their spirited play. The majestic wolf proved to be a gentle giant.

Laying side by side on a flat-topped rock in the sun, he rested his sandy head on Kellar’s uniquely different front paws, feeling content. The weight of the world he’d been carrying on his shoulders, lifted in this moment of peace. He sighed when his new friend began giving his face a tongue bath, closing his eyes and allowing his wolf to turn over onto his back with his feet in the air, displaying total trust in Kellar Haylan.

Thanks to my editor, Timothy M., and to all those who take the time to read and support this story... join us in the COTT thread of the promising author forum if you wish to discuss Morningstar, or to just say hello.



Copyright © 2017 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Chapter Comments

Kellar better hurry and go with Tobyn. The pack is dying. No other packs they know of... Sounds very bad indeed. Also, it would be great for Kellar to learn more about his background. With any luck, he can de-wolf Fendral and perhaps get realclues...?

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On 05/25/2016 05:53 AM, spikey582 said:

Oh man Gary I'm liking this story more and more. There's more questions as always, and the first and foremost in my mind: is Kellar Tobyn's earth mate? They do seem to have an instant bond. I think my favorite scene this chapter was them running through the woods together in wolf form. Kellar certainly seemed to need that, he's such a lonely kid. You just want to hug him.


Ok, so it seems that Kellar has a positive affect on Tobyn's malaise issues, just being near him and Tobyn has his senses back and has no trouble holding his form. Of course this begs the question, did Kellar already heal him from the problem by "fixing his colors"? Though I'd think if that were the case, Kellar would have noticed something out of the ordinary and remarked on it. We do get a lot of shifter info this chapter, and I like that, keep it coming :)


Kellar is going to heal Tilly's younger sister huh? Perhaps that'll soften the blow when Kellar sweeps Tobyn off his feet and childhood friend Tilly is left searching for another guy? :D No seriously I'm wondering how this'll all play out. There's plenty more intriguing things to discover and explore. What's causing the malaise? Why is Fendral only stay in wolf form? What happene to his kids? Why can't anyone else find an earth mate? Where's the other shifter packs? Why isn't there anymore keepers? Plus shifter hunters?


Anyway, you've got me hooked buddy. I can't wait for the next chapter!

Thanks, spikey. I'm glad to hear you're liking this one. I'm also glad you are connecting with Kellar's vulnerability. That was important for me in portraying him. Sorry, but I can't answer any of your questions. :) . And being hooked is a good thing. Thanks for the kind words and the support... cheers... Gary...

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On 05/25/2016 06:44 AM, Puppilull said:

Kellar better hurry and go with Tobyn. The pack is dying. No other packs they know of... Sounds very bad indeed. Also, it would be great for Kellar to learn more about his background. With any luck, he can de-wolf Fendral and perhaps get realclues...?

Shifters appear to be in dire straits for sure. There is much more to come. Thanks for sticking with it, Puppilull. Your support means a lot... cheers... Gary...

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On 05/25/2016 09:58 PM, Bucket1 said:

Certainly no Teenwolf here :P

This has turned into a deep and complex world... Kellar seems to be special in a numbers of ways and although you have given us a lot of info, there are still so many questions. You have me intrigued :)

Bring on the next chapter

LOL... no. I'm glad you are intrigued, B. We are really only at the beginning. Thanks for sticking around and giving me your support... cheers... Gary...

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On 05/25/2016 10:30 PM, LitLover said:

This chapter makes me happy, but sad at the same time. It's great that Kellar finally has a friend in Tobyn, but it seems like he may gain a community soon, only to have to watch some of them die. I hope he can help the girl, but if he can there is going to be a lot of pressure on him to save the entire pack (mostly from himself). I too hope that Fendral's children are still alive, and maybe just can't communicate for some reason.

I really like the running and playing to two men did in this chapter. Wolves are pack animals and play is a big part of their bonding. Both of these men will be better for it, regardless of where their relationship leads.

Another great chapter, Gary! Next one please. ;)

I get that. It's a complicated situation, and each man has been having their trials. It was a pretty heavy conversation, and they needed that run. You're right. Kellar seems to be following into a role that comes with a lot of pressure... and Tobyn is already under a lot of pressure. Much more to come... thanks for the great review, my friend... cheers... Gary...

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Fendral, the Malaise, the effects of the malaise, no other known packs, the shifters dying...all so disheartening. I can't imagine how Tobyn and his pack feel.
I really do hope that Kellar will be able to help. Tilly's sister? I see tension ahead. Tobyn's connection to Kelkar will be almost impossible to miss. I also hope the pack accepts Kelkar and they gat a lead on why all of this is happening.
Tons more Q's Gary, but I suspect the answers will make for some interesting chapters. For now I will hold on to my assumptions about just how special Kellar might be..


Another great chapter..

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On 09/07/2016 06:17 AM, Parker Owens said:

So now the malaise is described, and the hunt for its source must begin. What could it be? Dozens of possibilities occur to mind. But for the moment, there is a sweetness and rightness to Tobyn and Kellar's interaction, and your final scene underlines this. Thanks also for the useful background information, conveyed easily and without lecturing.

Thanks, Parker. I like getting these reviews because they encourage me to reread the chapters... anyway, the part that mattered most to me with this story was not weighing down the reader with too much narrative. There is a need to impart a fair bit of information but I hope I strike a decent balance, so I appreciate your comment about not lecturing. And as for that final scene, it was a real joy for me to give Kellar that... thank you so much for the encouraging review, my friend... cheers... Gary....

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Good morning Gary! :)
I am totally hooked up! They both are so sweet characters. I like how easily they talk to each other and interact.
The background-story of the pack is very interesting. Maybe Kellar gets some information about his roots. I have some assumptions...
hugs Lyssa

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On 01/31/2017 06:47 PM, Lyssa said:

Good morning Gary! :)

I am totally hooked up! They both are so sweet characters. I like how easily they talk to each other and interact.

The background-story of the pack is very interesting. Maybe Kellar gets some information about his roots. I have some assumptions...

hugs Lyssa

Hey, Lyssa. It's so nice to wake up to these :) . We begin to see how connected they are here. I'm pleased you liked the back story of the pack... there is so much more to learn, so assumptions are good. I love that you are totally hooked, my friend... cheers and hugs... Gary....

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Wow, great story so far! At first, I was not going to read ti because I hate it when they do not know what or who they are; however, you did a great job with the learning process. I believe that Kellar is old gray wolf grandson and it was his kids who died..

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