Kri woke up to the sound of the gate slamming shut.  She slit her eyes open, it was dark now and took her eyes a while to focus.  Cursing filtered to her ears, or at least she thought they were curses.  They weren't Common Tongue or anything else she could easily recognize.  It was the vehemence with which the words were spoken that hinted the words' meaning.

"Welcome to first class," Kri muttered, grinning slightly, the numbing power of the drug was still in effect.  The other's form started at her voice.  It was Human, definitely.  "Never hear a Shamien talk?"  She questioned, oddly amused.

The other appeared to stare blankly at her; it was hard to tell in the dark, especially since Kri's vision was still attempting to come back to its full capacity.  The long blonde hair that brushed the floor covered most of the girl's face.  She was bound rather tightly, though not bolted to the floor like Kri was.  How'd they manage that while she was still awake?

"I have," the other replied firmly, and attempted to flick the hair from her face for a better look, "it's just I didn't expected to see another Shabenay."

"So you're the one they've been talking about all day."  Kri stated as she readjusted herself to a more comfortable position than the one she'd been put in.  Her mind cleared more and the pain began to reassert itself.  In addition to that, there was a second, more peculiar sensation that tickled the back of her mind; she'd only felt something like it a few times before.  "Didn't take them very long to get you."

The other snorted.  "They've only been snooping around the North Sha for the past year and a half," she replied and grunted slightly as she maneuvered to her back to stare at the ceiling.  "What's your name?"

"Kri, and yours?"

"It's Shinkir.  I'm of Ker's line, you?"

"Whose line?"  Kri asked dumbly.

"Ker, you should know, he's rather well-known."  Shinkir stated matter-of-factly.

"I'm sorry, I'm not quite following you on that."

"You don't know Ker?  Surely you've at least heard of Kirashtyn's guards, even if you don't know their names."  Shinkir went on, "or just Kirashtyn; everyone knows of Kirashtyn."

"Uh . . . I think you're wrong on that part, who's he?"  Kri queried, not in the least perturbed by her own lack of knowledge.

Shinkir blinked dumbly for a moment.  Kri watched her, waiting for an answer.  Shinkir stared back.  Several minutes of silence passed between the two before Shinkir finally picked up the conversation again.  "You've never heard of Kirashtyn?"

"Never," Kri confirmed.

"And you're a Shabenay?"  Shinkir probed.

"Is there another reason I'd be here?"  Kri replied.

"Stupid question, sorry, the sense of another is unmistakable," that's what that feeling is, Kri noted as Shinkir continued, "that and Shamien hardly ever speak Common Tongue.  But . . . you're a Shabenay, and you've never heard of the most prominent figure in our past?"  It was apparent Kri's new travel companion was having a hard time wrapping her mind around such a concept.

"Quite plainly, Shinkir, you're the first Shabenay I've ever met." Kri replied as she moved to her side. At least to my knowledge, she thought to herself as she pondered other times she'd felt something similar to what she did now.

"Not even your own parents?"

Kri laughed, it sounded more bitter than amused.  "Hardly."

Once again Shinkir gaped back at Kri.  Shocked that such a thing could be.  "You're a first-generation Shabenay?"  Shinkir's wide eyes stared at Kri in the dark, "there haven't been any of those since . . . since, well, since Beneur chose us as far as I can remember."

"Who?"

"Beneur . . . she's, well, she's our god, or goddess, really."  Shinkir replied.

"Some goddess," Kri snorted, "what has she done apart from giving us this curse that turns the world against us?"

"We didn't use to be hunted you know."  Shinkir defended.  "For the longest time we were a great people.  We had knowledge from all over and were great peacemakers among the other species, being as we could see nearly all sides of most any argument."  She shook her head as best as she could in her position.  "Since the other races turned against us we've lost a lot of our history, I don't know very much."

"And why do you think they turned against the Shabenay, Shinkir?"

They were afraid, jealous of what we are capable of, that is how I was told."

"The Shabenay killed people, Shinkir." Shinkir opened her mouth to protest.  "They burned towns and slaughtered whole families. My mother told me of her family during the dark times when demons ran loose and wild through Mehm." Kri shrugged slightly and closed her eyes, ignoring Shinkir's shocked stare.  "I'd like to believe it was just jealous fear, but either way you look at it, Shinkir," Kri looked at her companion again, "we're both cursed and blessed.  We're hunted by these men that hold us captive, but we have advantages that they can't foresee, power that they don't understand and are afraid of."

Silence again pervaded between the two of them.  Kri was exhausted, despite having been knocked out twice in the same day she was tired both mentally and physically.  She was almost asleep when Shinkir's voice brought her back.

"Kri."

A low, slightly irritated rumble replied.

"I'm just curious, but," Shinkir paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully, "how old were you?  What was your original form?  I know it's not Shamien; you don't have the accent.  You don't have to answer," then softer, "I'm just curious."

Kri looked groggily at Shinkir.  "Born Human, I was only eleven when I 'shifted.  Killed a man, self-defense.  That didn't stop the whole town from trying to kill me.  Granted, they think they actually succeeded, but I'm not the one to correct them on that."

"And is that-"

"Yeah, the scars are from that."  She motioned to the right side of her face.  "Almost like these accursed Marks, 'cept I can't hide them, even if I try."  Kri snorted, there was a soft clinking as she shifted her position.  "I'm going to sleep now."

Shinkir didn't try to continue the conversation.  Kri slept less than soundly the rest of the night.



"Hey, Shinkir."

Shinkir peaked out from behind her eyelids.  The sun was still blocked by the Sha's towering trees, but it was light enough to be annoying to unadjusted eyes.

"You were raised by other Shabenay, right?"  She questioned, eagerness etched in her voice.

"Yes, well, until I was five that is."  Shinkir replied.

"What happened then?"  Kri questioned, rested now she was more curious than irritated with her newfound companion and ally.

"We were discovered.  I don't remember much of what happened, but they came at night with torches.  There was a lot of confusion and everyone tried to fight them off.  Mother told me to run to the forest that the Shamien would help me and, if she could, she'd come and get me when it was over."  Shinkir shook her head; her voice didn't quite carry the emotion Kri expected it should, sounding completely detached and distant.  "She never made it back.  Neither did any of the others.  The mob was just too big for them to handle.  I was the only one to survive."

"I-"

"No need to apologize, Kri, it happened a long time ago.  Quanae is the one who raised me.  She told me pretty much all I know of the Shabenay among other things, of course.  She's the one who taught me both Common Tongue and the Shamien's language."

"The Shamien can speak?"

Shinkir looked at her curiously.  "You're surprised?  Need I remind you what form you're in?"

"Well, I mean, I didn't know they had their own language or anything.  I was told they were like other animals, well, along with other things."

Shinkir chuckled.  "I suppose that's the way they want it.  They were, and are, more advanced than you'd be willing to believe, but we're getting off track, what did you want?"

There was a slight hesitation on Kri's part as she reconsidered asking her question.  However, curiosity won out in the end.  "What was it like?  Being with other Shabenay?"

"From what I remember, happy.  There was always tension though, I remember more than once we had to hide for days or weeks for fear of being caught."  Her lips twitched slightly as if to smile, but then flattened into a line and her eyes darkened.  "I guess we weren't as cautious as we should have been.

"I mostly remember living with the Shamien, being with my family and the other Shabenay seems more like a dream than a memory to me."

Kri yawned and attempted to stretch.  Her muscles ached and protested from what they'd been put through the previous day.  She caught movement out of the corner of her eye.  She growled, Shinkir looked.  Symihr was walking beside the wagon.  "What do you want?"

"The offer still stands, ah, Kri.  Return to your original form and you'll get something to eat and drink."  He was holding a loaf of bread and flask of water.

"Not if it helps you any, Symihr," Kri growled back.

"Alright, but just because you're being stubborn doesn't mean the other will be denied."  He turned his attention to Shinkir.  "We're watching, don't give her any."

Kri watched intently as he reached up and fiddle with a rather complex latch.  It clicked and he pulled away a small piece of bar and some mesh.  He tossed the water and food inside and closed the small opening.  The section of bar fell flush against the rest and the mesh fit snuggly in place.  No wonder she hadn't noticed it the day before.  There appeared to be no way to get at the device from the inside.  Forcing it open was out of the question while she was still in chains that and the noise she'd generate attempting to pry it open would draw attention.

"What're you thinking?"

Shinkir's voice brought Kri out of her thoughts.  "What?"

"You're thinking of something, what?"  She questioned again.

"Nothing that would work."  Kri replied and flopped down with a rattle of chains.

The day crept along without much incident, as did those following.  On the fourth day after her capture, Shinkir started to grow nervous.  She cast glances towards the thick woods on either side before her eyes would jump over the faces of the men present.

"Shinkir."

She jumped and glanced back at Kri.

"What are you looking for?" Kri's voice was low and started to take on a raspy undertone from the dryness in her throat.  The lack of food and water were starting to show.  She wouldn't be able to hold her stubborn protest much longer.

"I, well, it's rather silly."  She picked at the ropes around her wrists.  "I'd been hoping that my pack would appear.  Get us out of here, y'know?  But," she snorted, "I should know better.  Quanae said it was time for me to find others.  Besides, even with their strength they wouldn't risk so much just for one member, especially with that potion they have."

"You mean the darts?"

Shinkir nodded.  The conversation died at that and there was silence between the two for several hours.

As the afternoon faded Kri realized if she didn't change now she wouldn't have the energy to later.  If she was going to get out of this she needed her strength.  The transformation took longer than she liked, but with her energy so low she was grateful to even be able to take another form.

Kri slipped out of the chains and fell upon her back, exhausted by the effort.  Suddenly, she winced and grit her teeth.  "Figures," she muttered and passed out, a dart in her side.