Birds were chirping not too far off. He’d known that morning had a smell to it. It varied slightly season to season, but it was a general freshness. Capin opened his eyes slowly with a yawn. The thin light of a late autumn dawn barely filtered through Wolf’s curtains. The young man’s brow furrowed in a rest filled yawn as he left the comforts of Aaron Matthew’s couch.
He opened the screen door and stepped out onto a short balcony that looked over the lawn of Mr. Matthew’s brownstone. The early November breeze was a bit chilly, but he didn’t mind. Cold was mostly mind over matter, and growing up it had always been cold. At least Capin still had his mind. Wolf’s body, with all its attributes, also seemed more resistant to the bite in the air. Instead, the only thing Ryu found physically uncomfortable was the Gray shirt he’d spent the night in. He hooked it with his finger, pulling it’s collar away from his neck.
It was still early. Only the unlucky few were up and about in the city. Bakers heading in. Second shift factory workers heading home. In all the years since he’d left the Ashram, wandering from city to city in an almost roninesque fashion, he’d never found a city that felt quite like home. Not until he’d come to Garrison. There was something that held him to this place. Of course in all his adventures, nothing quite like this had happened either.
The city wasn’t the only thing that was quiet. The Matthews household was still. Capin kept his body in peak condition and his relationship with Enry helped push those peaks some, but Bluewolf had been tossed into a body that worked hard and probably couldn’t quite match what he took for granted. And to top it off, Capin thoughtlessly went and let that body get a little tenderized last night. Not that i was planning on this.
Ryu found the kitchen right where he expected it. Same with the coffee. The all too real awareness into Bluewolf’s life was unsettling. He loaded the coffee maker and found himself staring at a candid photo of Aaron and Kaye. They were cheek to cheek with a smile across his face and her thin bright lips framing her white teeth. Ryu fired up the Mr. Coffee, shaking off that feeling that he knew wasn’t his. Not entirely. Loneliness wasn’t something he was accustomed to, but you get used to having that person there… supporting you. For him it had been Enry. He’d lost everything else and had learned to deal with that. This was different.
The coffeemaker gurgled complacently as he settled himself in the next room on the floor, legs tucked beneath him. He closed his eyes. For the first time in his life, Capin thought of Thanksgiving, a holiday that never existed when he was a child. It was something that he’d learned later but apparently never fully appreciated. He worked it every year, glad to let somebody else to take the day off with their family. He never had that family to celebrate with. Aaron’s family had been gone for years, possibly longer than Capin’s adopted family at the Ashram. And yet, there was something there for him. A special moment aside for his family and Kaye.
He breathed through his nose and out his mouth, finding his center. It was there, somewhere beneath the soothing sounds of the kitchen and the chaotic sounds of the waking city. He took another breath. The fresh air filled his lungs, and was held there. Among all the noises that filled his ears was a the soft ticking of a clock. A tall Grandfather clock, hand carved and stained. Ryu remembered it from the night before. Tic. Tic. Tic. He focused, anchoring himself to the constant steady sound. His chest fell as the air slowly left and taking the din with it, leaving Capin in quiet darkness.
You feel out of place. The voice was faint and familiar, like he’d heard it all his life. It had a warm welcoming feeling as it resonated. The old man folded his hands into the sleeves of his robe. And yet, you are so at home. His image was solid and bright against the empty blackness that surrounded him.
Master… he said, though somehow he knew it wasn’t entirely true. I’ve lost my path.
No, you haven’t. His hands came back out and he held them out in front of his body. As he did so, the movement seemed to change his image entirely. The skinned fur of a wolf took the place of his bald head. Capin wasn’t sure that it hadn’t been there the whole time. Perhaps it had. The man’s hands clapped together. It made no sound but somehow, he could feel it. He clapped again and held his hands out once more.
Your path has always taken both where you were needed. The glow from the orb that appeared bathed the man’s smooth robes in a soft clear light. At its center a large blue pearl. Look closely. Capin noticed that the glowing light had an almost liquid consistency, surrounding the center. What do you find?
A similar scene was playing out in Aaron’s mind as he lay on the floor of his bedroom. He’d chosen to sleep on the floor simply because it felt odd to crawl into his bed in another man’s body. He had made use of the pillows, however, and Enry had flowed over and about him like a blanket. So similar was the vision, in fact, that the only marked difference was that instead of a blue pearl with a liquid crystalline aura, Aaron beheld a clear crystal orb, tinted blue by the surrounding azure aura.
Capin reached inside. As he broke the liquid surface the blackness was washed away and the image of the Shaman with it. Cut stone walls connected by a gate shot around him. Capin was home. The Ashram. Two boys were playing in the snow, throwing kicks and trying to knock each other off his feet. All doubt and question had left him as he watched Ryu and Kokezaru. He turned and the Ashram was gone. Kokezaru stared across the kitchen counter at a beautiful young woman loading plates onto her tray. Catherine Blend. The first girl he’d ever loved. The only girl he’d ever loved.
The moments sped by at a quickening pace, becoming shorter and fainter, as Capin reached the surface of the pearl. Entering the solid center was deceivingly easy. The blur of images stopped.
The KenTech building stood high in the city skyline. Aaron Matthews leaned against the back of his massive wooden desk, looking out the tall picture window. Capin barely felt a trace of himself in the room. As quickly as Matthews’ office had appeared, it was flooded with the city outside. Books on shelves bleed into brick walls of low rent apartments on one side, the other side a storefront held up at gunpoint. A young Bluewolf, his costume more cloth and Kevlar than metal, smashed through the window knocking the first man to the ground. The shotgun sounded faint as it went off in the man’s hands. The clerk hitting the floor echoed in everybody’s ears.
Capin felt Bluewolf’s sickness. He felt the rage as he kicked the thug across the floor into a magazine rack. Its contents slowly fell to the ground, blanketing the scene in shadows. That rage was still there, looking down on the bloodied bodies of five men in an alley. The flickering streetlight at the mouth of the alley went dead and they were left in total blackness. It took several minutes for the grey outlines of the cave to take shape. The cave at the center of the pearl.
Now you see. A wolf paced a circle at the cave’s center. A soft ticking echoed off the damp stone walls. He pulled at the sound, letting the darkness fade back into the light behind his eyelids. The smell of coffee wafted through from the kitchen.
Ryu Kokezaru let out a small sigh. “Nothing’s easy anymore,” he said softly getting to his feet and heading into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.