Cora's warm garnet eyes were like ice shards peering into Talis' soul. The scales that were barely visible at the edge of her hairline seemed to materialize lower down like tendrils of snake skin covering her human skin like a sheath. These features coupled with a scowl were more than a little unsettling and perhaps even frightening to the boy if he cared to admit it.
"Harmless? Did you just call a Hot Trap Harmlesssss?" her last s slurred as her tongue reformed to a fork. Her body beginning to blur and reform into the snake that was her second form.
Kyera set her pot down and raised her hand in a silencing motion. "Cora, the boy doesn't know." she reminded, setting her palm on Cora's barely formed shoulder. The serpent's eyes never left the boy, but her form returned to normal, pale ivory skin replacing scales.
"Forgive me Kyera. Please. Teach him before he meets someone more determined to give him a sharp lesson." Cora replied picking up the pot she had dropped as she shifted forms.
"For future reference, ever call hot Traps Harmless." Kyera said with a shake of her head trying to break the three inch thick Ice that just formed on their conversation. "So, Hot Traps can't kill you, but they are nearly impossible to escape. The trapper gathers the poor soul and takes them away. Never has someone who was trapped returned."
"Never returned?" Talis asked seeming concerned. Verone nodded, leaning back against the tree and saying nothing. His family had been fortunate enough to avoid this fate for many generations so they did not speak of it often. Perhaps that was a mistake?
While Verone pondered this, Cora nodded opening her mouth to speak, but stopping. Kyera waits, giving the girl a chance to say her piece. "The law of the Jungle that you have been taught is what keeps them from returning. It's ironic but still so very true."
"Talis, the law of the Jungle forbids us to endanger our clans. The people and animals taken are bound by magic contract." Kyera continued with a heavy sigh. The two women shared sad looks, garnet ice softening and the hints of pain that had frozen her gaze now more apparent.
"The contracts are not fair. Unless you are very talented, like our Kyera here and able to communicate when in tiger form you can't debate the terms. All you can do is allow the mark to be placed or fight it and die." Verone added, taking pity on both women, knowing they had not been so lucky. Cora's elder sister had fell to the Trappers as had Kyera's dearest friend. So many had been lost both beast and Kin. It was hard not to hate the humans for what they have done.
"But.. why don't we go free them? Why do we let them take our people? Isn't it the guard's job to defend them?" Talis asked, his ignorance a treasure that none of the older three had the luxury of. They had been forced to grow up quicker than most. Cora looked away, the memory of saying something similar to Kyera when her sister was taken still a wound in her heart.
"We have tried. We can only free them up until the Mark is placed. However, we must also be weary. Sometimes the mark placed will let them leave but will trace them till the day they die. To free them without having that mark removed is to damn them to living alone for the rest of their lives." Kyera replied looking out at the trees behind them, watching as children had begun to gather and play their games in the square. "That's why jungle law can be a double edged sword. It protects us, but it can also limit us as to what we can do for our taken children." The words fell from her lips, heavy on her heart as it was on the hearts of every leader here.
Protecting the people fell upon the shoulders of the Family Heads and the shoulders of the guard. Nothing was more painful than knowing that their duty was to protect, and that was the one thing they could not do.
For the USA viewers, Happy 4th a day early.
Everyone else please enjoy your day!
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