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A Rare Friend - Part 3

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As the other students walked towards the buses, Claudia stood at the main entrance of the high school.  Anthony briefly told her while switching classes to meet him there after school instead of going on the bus.  He didn't say why but she caught a glimmer in his eye that he found something.

She also wanted to get home and be with Citrus, her orange furdrake companion.  Four days ago she transformed into a furdrake taur and was esthetic that her little friend was magical.  She became human when she had to leave the house, then back again, at any possible way to experience the alien body.  Back then she just had the black tube top and shorts as clothing, transformed too, but wanted to see if she can get them changed to fit her style.

A tap on the shoulder woke her from her daze.  Her brother stood next to her with his backpack on.  "Hey there," she said then noticed a huge bruise on the side of his jaw.  "What happened to your face?"

Anthony rubbed the spot, wincing from the still present pain.  His teachers asked about and earned the same answer.  He was proud her found a fellow furdrake owner, but it later caught up to him that a girl, obsessed with cowboys, punched him in the face.

"Don't ask," he said to her, coming out defeated.

Claudia felt uneasy.  "Okay," she said, "why do we have to skip the bus?"

"We have someone to drive us home.  She's a furdrake owner too."  His voice came down to a whisper.

"What?"  Claudia gasped.  "Are you serious?  That's what you found?"

Anthony nodded.  "Come on.  She's out at the parking lot."

They left the building together acting normal to not raise suspicion.  When Anthony said he found an owner, Claudia became astounded.  She had questions, many questions, and she had to keep them to herself until she met this other girl.  The student parking lot was near the bus stop with juniors and seniors already getting into their cars and leaving.

She noticed a junior student leaning on the back of her truck.  She had to blink twice from her choice of clothes, from the cowboy boots to the turn of the century Sheriff vest.  The single thick strand of red hair tucked behind her ear threw off the look, but in a weird way it worked for her.

Anthony waved at Jasmine and she saw them approach.  She waved back.

Claudia's questions had to come out and had to answer one.  "So you have a furdrake too?"

Jasmine's eyes went wide and brought a finger to her mouth, shushing her.  "Please, not in public," she said.  "In the car."

Anthony got the front seat while Claudia got the back.  Jasmine closed her door hard and sent her backpack in the back seat.  "I'm really gonna have a bad day about this.  Lesson one about the furdrakes: don't you ever speak about them when outside.  Most of the people in town are tourists."  Her voice was stern, angry almost.

"Sorry about that," Anthony said.  "Claudia doesn't know better."  Claudia felt bad and punched him in the arm.

"Anyway, I need to drive to the house to pick up some stuff."  She turned on the engine and pulled onto the driveway.  "By the way, name's Jasmine."  She reached behind her seat.

Claudia said her name and shook hands.  A thought came about that put two and two together.  That caused her to spontaneously burst while squeezing her stomach.  "Oh my God," she gasped, "Anthony, you had your butt whooped by a girl."

Jasmine snickered, feeling proud and already liking Claudia.

Anthony pinched the bridge of his nose from the embarrassment.  "Just keep driving."

It took them a few minutes to arrive at Jasmine's house, or a well kept cabin on the edge of town, far away from neighbors.  The flowers that lined the base of the porch were recently planted, bright and colorful.  From the shine of the individual logs and how clean the roof was, it appeared that it was recently built--yesterday.

"Is it just me or is this house fit for a king?"  Anthony wondered, which Claudia concurred.

Jasmine went inside while the sibling stayed.  A few minutes later Jasmine came out carrying a few bags.  One carried fruit and meat, reserved for the kid's furdrakes back home.  Another was a belt pouch of unknown contents.  The third was a plain gym duffle bag as she had trouble holding onto the straps.  She opened Anthony's door.

"Here, hold this for me," she said and placed it on his lap.  Anthony yelped when he felt the bag move, and talked in a male voice.

"This bag deal is getting old, Jasmine," the bag said.

"I know, Duke, I know."  Jasmine closed the door, sat in her seat, and drove off to the sibling's house.  "Man, I can't believe Citrus and Rogan are alive."

Claudia shot from the moving bag to Jasmine.  "You know their names?"  She asked.  "Did Anthony tell you?"

"No I knew them before they went missing.  You know their brother and sister too.  Inseparable."

"How long were they missing?"

"Since Thanksgiving, after that freak storm.  Spent a week looking through the field for them then the rest just on foot in the forest.  The more time I spent searching, the quicker I thought I lost them and feared the worst, their mother too."  Jasmine turned on their street.  "Now since you two are now bonded with them, that makes you their official owners."

"What's this field you're talking about?" Anthony asked.

"I'll tell you once were inside."

She parked the truck and all three went in, Anthony holding the bag gingerly.  Brandon wasn't home, just what he promised.  Claudia closed the door behind while Jasmine took a seat the couch.  She took the talking bag and set it next to her.

"Citrus, Rogan, were home," Claudia called out.  Footsteps thundered down the upstairs hallway and down the steps as two brightly colored creatures came.

"Yay you're home," Citrus cheered and jumped at her.  She caught the furdrake.  Rogan ran down and rubbed against his leg because he wouldn't jump at him, not like yesterday.

Jasmine's eyes lit up once she saw them and smiled.  "Looks like I need to stop the search party."

Both furdrakes saw her and gasped.  "JASMINE!" They said in unison and ran to her.  Before Claudia realized Citrus was out of her arms Jasmine was being invaded by the creatures, kissing and licking her face furiously with love.

"Oh it is so good to see you two again," she said laughing from their fur tickling her skin.

Rogan looked up.  "Sorry we couldn't get back to the ranch, we didn't know the way back home or your house.  You can thank them and their hospitality."  He tilted his head at the kids.

"I already did."

Claudia started to cry.  "The coyotes kept looking for us after we got lost," she said.  "We had to mark our territory to keep them away."

Jasmine cupped Citrus' muzzle and wiped her tears with her shirt.  "It doesn't matter now.  Were together again."  She hugged them both and buried her face in their fur.  Claudia couldn't help but feel how touching the reunion was.

The duffle bag let out an annoying, flem-filled cough and Jasmine caught Duke's frustration.  "Hey, guess who else wants to say hi."  The furdrakes sat on her lap while she undid the duffle's zipper.  It moved and out popped a furdrakes head with black fur on top and red hair below, topped with white horns and a black patch of fur under it's muzzle, appearing like a goatee.

"Wasuup me homies," it said, letting its tongue hang out.

"DUKE!!!"  Citrus and Rogan cheered.  All three jumped to the floor and played like cats fighting over a bundle of catnip.

"Wow," Anthony said.  "A third."  He squinted when he saw a white symbol on Duke's right shoulder.

"Yep, and plenty more where that came from," Jasmine added.  "This one's been with me for three years, after I took over my mother's position."

The furdrakes were laughing like little children and Claudia was mesmerized how cute it all looked.  Citrus broke from the huddle and said, "Hey, Duke, wanna see where we hide and sleep?"

Duke nodded and they ran up the stairs.  The kids still heard the voices.

"Anyway," Anthony said to break the tender moment, "since I'm the only boy here who is more curious about them, wanna explain what the furdrakes really are?"

With a display of eye rolling, Jasmine leaned back in the couch.  "Okay, I get it.  You have a lot of questions.  I can answer most of them by the way, but a little about me.  In simplest terms, the furdrakes live in here, in this very forest, and have been since my great grandfather founded the town.  My family has been watching, protecting, and caring for these cute little magical fur balls since the Gold Rush.

"Wow, that's more than I needed to know," Anthony commented.

"My grandfather was the first to find them after falling through a cavern just north of Baker's pond.  Nobody else besides my commune knows it, and a select few individuals in high places.  We try to keep it a secret and it worked out well.  The ones who found out get a choice: help protect them or be send to a mental hospital."  Jasmine laughed.

"That seems kind of cruel," Claudia said as she was shocked by Jasmine's last sentence.

"True, but you gotta do what you gotta do."

"But here's what I don't get," Anthony said.  "How come we haven seen Citrus and Rogan until two weeks ago and why did they stay out there watching us?"

"I assumed you knew.  Furdrakes have trouble trusting us, meaning humans.  If they do it takes a long time to trust one and be its friend.  Back when I first me Duke, he hissed at me for a year until he realized I wasn't those type of people.  Which reminds me, I need to do a checkup on the two."  She looked at Claudia while unbuckling her pouch.  "Can you call them down?"

She nodded and called for the furdrakes again.  Disappointed voices followed at they came down.  Jasmine told Citrus and Rogan to sit on the coffee table.  She talked to them to gain their trust as she examined the condition of their fur, the state of their paws and claws, dental check, and how well they hear by snapping fingers over their horns.  The furdrakes enjoyed the company.

Duke sat between the siblings.  "I gotta hand it to you two," Duke said scratching his neck with his back foot, "of your place compared to mine, it makes it seems that I'm the spoiled one."

"You are," Jasmine said.

Anthony glanced at the white symbol he saw before.  "What's with this tattoo on Duke's arm," he said.  "Is this part of the 'bonding deal?'"

"Nope, just a normal, permanent spray paint trinity tattoo.  It was his idea."  Jasmine told Citrus to open wide as she looked down her throat with a tongue depressor and mini flashlight.

Duke smiled at Anthony.  "I'm a bad boy."  Anthony snickered under his breath.

Jasmine was satisfied.  "Okay looked like everything is in order.  You two deserve a treat for being good patients."  She reached for the food bag and retrieved two small strips of dark meat.  "Hope you missed Uncle Rudy's smoked salmon."

The furdrakes displayed sheer joy in their faces.  They took the pieces in their mouths and ran off to eat in peace.

Anthony folded his arms.  "So judging from your clothes, you're like a…furdrake rancher?"

"Uh, a furdrake Watcher?"  Jasmine put away her tools and zipped the pouch closed.  "As of taking care of them, yeah you might call me a rancher."

"Yeah, there goes that name again.  Watchers.  Like when we transformed, they called us that.  What does it mean?"  Anthony sat in Brandon's leather recliner.

"It's simple, Mr. Holmes.  Watchers are a combination of furdrake protectors and transformed humans, just like what you two went thorough.  By their magic and tradition, you are bound to your furdrake partner for a year until you eat a gem again."

"Like a parent thing?" Claudia asked with high interest in the subject.

"A guardian thing," Jasmine corrected.

"Cool.  So how many are there besides the three?"

Jasmine leaned forward.  "Come closer."  The siblings obeyed as she whispered, "Thousands."

Claudia gasped, instantly seeing a mental picture of a collective colony of furdrakes.  Anthony chocked on his breath.

"Unbelievable," he said.  "And to think they're all in this part of the country."

The furdrakes came back rubbing against their Watcher's legs.  Citrus hummed.  "I miss mother," she said.

"Seems fair to do that," Jasmine added.  "How about we go today?"

Rogan jumped on the coffee table.  "But what about Claudia and Anthony?  Can they come?"

"Eh, I don't know," she answered.

"Oh, come on, Jasmine," Citrus said now on the table.  "Surely you can do it.  Mom will know why we have the gems sooner or later and you know how she is."

Duke was the last one to join in.  "If I were you, I would do it."

Then their eyes went big, whimpering as they begged.  "Please," they pleaded at the same time; paws almost ready to be brought towards their chests.

Jasmine looked and felt that keeping the secret of the ranch was no more.  She rolled her eyes, creaked her neck, made a sound of a horse call, and said, "Can't say no to those faces.  Like they said…," she looked at the kids, "…wanna see where they live?"

Claudia and Anthony nodded.  When Citrus mention their home, they had no choice but to go.  If the town was as dull as it was before they knew their friends ever existed, then seeing it with a secret would make it more special.  Maybe of they are ready, and Jasmine is okay with it, they might share it with their father.

Jasmine got up.  "Okay, but not today, I have work to do.  I'll call you when to be picked up tomorrow morning to go to my house.  It's closer to the site."  She grabbed her stuff and "packed" Duke in his duffle.  "Mom and dad are gonna have a heyday when they hear this."  She said goodbye, exchanged phone numbers and emails, and drove off.  Still in the living room as Citrus dreamed of seeing her mother again, Claudia could only imagine what's in stored.

*****

Saturday came and the kids were in Jasmine's truck on their way to the cabin.  Keeping Citrus and Rogan quiet wasn't easy, even whey they had to be stuffed in their backpacks.  Their father was on his break and had the time for himself to clean the house and do some errands in town.

Once in the driveway, Jasmine told them to let their furdrakes loose since it was impossible to look on the property from far away.  As they did, the furdrakes instantly remembered the house yelling in happiness.  But as they went inside, Anthony had a bad thought of the creatures fully exposed like any normal fashion with a pet, but as he saw her parents and their furdrakes by their sides, he bonked his head that he forgot Jasmine's lineage.

The father was the barber shop owner he had suspicions of before, and as a Watcher, a teal colored furdrake with black stripes named Sky, sat on his lap reading the paper before he left.  The mother, who used to have Jasmine's rancher job, had Jynx, a green and red furdrake with green spots on its thighs, helped out in the kitchen and the bookkeeping.  Jasmine told them to follow her in the backyard.

"Guess we should prepare before we tell dad," Claudia said as they walked the spacious yard.  "Being open about having a fantasy pet is a long way away."

"Don't forget, he might not react the same as me," Anthony added.

"It depends, guys," Jasmine said.  "Other Watchers keep their furdrakes in the field for safety reasons."  She was carrying a large camping pack on one shoulder, a smaller bag of fruits and jerky on the other, a full display of cowgirl attire, and her light brown cowboy hat.  Claudia noticed two slits in the brim.

"How far is the field?" Anthony asked.

"Half an hour through rough terrain.  Don't worry, as long as you stay with me you won't get lost."  Jasmine sat her bags on a bench between the forest and the backyard's storage unit.  "And it's a lot better to travel in taur form."

Claudia said, "Huh?  You mean right now?"  Citrus and Rogan, after saying hi to their friends in the house, perked from Jasmine's statement.

"It's my thing.  Like to stroll through on four legs, plus it helps calm them down to see me approach their home.  Duke, saddle up!!"

"I'm a comin'" Duke yelled and ran.  Jasmine had her boots and socks off by the time Duke jumped on the bench, reached up, and kissed her neck.  The siblings saw a glow travel from the contact to the rest of her body.  She shivered and Duke backed off.  The white and black horns were already growing as she stood up.  Her pants changed to light brown khaki shorts, but her mid section disappeared to reveal white spandex shorts underneath.  The belt was the only thing holding the loose khakis.  The vest and buttoned shirt stayed the same.

Anthony had to look away out of courtesy.

"Now a little info on the place," Jasmine started as the fur and muzzle grew.  "Years ago my great grandfather was the first Watcher as he discovered them in a underground, hollowed out cavern as big as a football stadium, and in the center of their home was a huge rock of unknown compound.  As the years went by, it became clear that the cavern became unstable."

The kids didn't like where it was going.  Jasmine's voice then filled with emotion.

"He had little time to evacuate a thousand furdrakes out of there.  But sure enough it imploded, taking well over a hundred innocent."  The fur kept growing down her arms, reshaping them, and into her shirt.  She unbuttoned her shirt a little to expose her cleavage and the tuff of red fur.  "If it wasn't for my great grandfather saving them, they would be under hundreds of feet of rock and soil."  The red strand fell over her eye and the rest of her hair gained a little lift and bounce.

Claudia sniffed.

Without warning Jasmine yelped as the fur reached her inner most private parts, but settled down after biting her lip.  Her legs reformed in the pants and the feet molded to paws.  She then got up and placed both hands on the storage shed to let the final changes take effect.

"My God," Claudia said.  "That's horrible and heroic.  He must've been a great man."

"He was," Jasmine sniffled, "among twenty others who help keep the secret."  Two protrusions came out of her stomach, lifting the shirt.  The second pelvis formed and the spine lengthened, growing the tail from a convenient hole in the back.

"Okay, does anybody see this uncomfortable?  Anthony blared.  "I mean she's transforming right before us."

The girls looked at him, Jasmine looking confused.  "What?  You don't see me as appealing?"

"No, ah, it's just…"  His face was turning red and mumbled to find the right words.  "I'm shutting up."

Jasmine's transformation was complete by then, taking on the same fur pattern as Duke, with the absence of the Celtic tattoo.  She grabbed her cowboy hat and slid her horns through the holes, then tucked the red strand in her hair with a bobby pin.  She stretched a little to shake out any unwanted kinks in her new legs.  "Okay, looks like I'm ready.  What about you two?"

"Huh?" Claudia said.

"Are you gonna go taur?"

She looked at Anthony.  He appeared the same as his sister.

Jasmine sighed before reaching behind to adjust and brush her tail.  "Guys if you want to see where they live, might as well do it if you want to be their friends.  I'm serious, most of them don't trust humans at all, but trust Watchers."

It sounded right.  Jasmine came out stern to the kids, even that jarred Claudia's nerves.  They spent the whole time in taur form in the backyard, not even daring themselves to go into the forest.  They were about to walk into unknown territory.  An adventure worth being part of.

"I say let's do it," Anthony said.  "I really don't want to get into a fight again."

Jasmine made a wicked smile.

Citrus and Rogan made their move and the kids transformed in under a minute.  The day before leaving on their field trip, the kids spent time changing their clothes.  Anthony settled with a t-shirt with his favorite video game's logo, grey shorts, and his favorite denim jacket.  Claudia came out wearing a red long sleeve tank top, denim shorts, and red loosed leg warmers made of cotton on her furdrake legs, looking like boots.  She couldn't help it but show off her bigger chest.

Once they grabbed the bags and said goodbye to Jasmine's parents, they set off into the woods.

Claudia did like walking as a taur, but still felt weary of the land.  The huge trees daunted her, expecting Bigfoot to pop out and scare her.  She stayed close to Anthony, which he was skeptic too as he looked for danger, ready to punch and kick the first monster he sees.  Birds chirped and animals scurried and they would when approached by a human, but a rare few ignored them and went on with life.  Looking like an animal made it so.

The furdrakes either rode on their Watcher's shoulders, their backs, or on foot.  Duke just slept on Jasmine's back, nestled in the packs.  Citrus and Rogan were into taking into the surrounding to find clues as how close they were.

They arrived at a river, it's rapids cascaded down the cliffs and sharp banks.

"The site is just up this river," Jasmine yelled over the pounding water.  They went on.

Claudia still was wondering about her story of her grandfather and need to know more.  She galloped up beside Jasmine.  "So how do you keep a secret after all these years? She asked.

Jasmine talked after drinking out of a canteen.  "You can be amazed who I meet to become Watchers.  I've had college professors, college students, hippies, senior citizens, entrepreneurs, forest rangers, tree huggers, environmentalists, and very forgiving government agents from the CIA."

Anthony said, "What?  The government knows of them?"

"Just the CIA.  Agent Dawson is the one that keeps the satellites and planes from flying over the site.  Then there's the media.  Day to day she has a team scrolling through emails, texts, and tweets to make sure the furdrakes stay nonexistent."

Impressive, Claudia thought, then said, "But what will happen if they are discovered?"

Jasmine went low in tone.  "Then prey to God they are not misused.  If they do, it means war.  Just a few more minutes, guys."

They jumped over fallen trees, sliced through thick ferns, and avoid the cliff into the rapids.  They climbed a hill and the river was now calm, the waterfall they passed was dissipating in sound behind them.

"So for the next ten years after the cave collapsed," Jasmine continued, "he spent day and night setting up a private reserve/ranch just for them. One hundred acres of smooth grasslands, tree sections, and a working farm, enough space for them to wand without constraints, but we still have control over the population.  The forest and river surrounding it is our natural fence.  When he died my family were the only ones taking care of it, with compensation from the government.  It's been a way of life ever since."

"Wow," Anthony said.  "Can you imagine doing that, sis?"

Claudia nodded.

A hill was the last obstacle to master.  Both the siblings' paws were sore and longed for a chance to sit.  Their furdrakes didn't seem to be tired at all.  Once at the top, the kids didn't help but freeze in their tracks, gazing over the field.

"Welcome to Kenneth Ranch," Jasmine said.  "Home of the furdrakes."

It was a sight to behold.  The grassland was filled with well-trimmed shrubbery, flowers so big they would make a wedding more special, and the simplest form of any farm modeled after the corn farms of northern Michigan.  Out in one corner was a group of building that house Watchers and special equipment.  But that wasn't what made the kids stop.  They saw furdrakes, thousands upon thousands of them roaming through the field, playing, pouncing, and eating.  The colors were all from the human spectrum, from the bright to the dark.  When they went quiet, they could hear little voices from them.

"Home," Citrus gasped.  Claudia saw her shaking at her side.  Rogan was too.  "HOME!!!!" She yelled and both went off running, calling out at other furdrakes and asking where their mother was.

Anthony wanted to say something, but he didn't.

Jasmine nudged them both with her paw.  "Come on now, I'll give you a little tour.  A few Watchers are out tending the farm.  I'll introduce you."

The furdrakes in the field saw who was approaching their home.  They never seen the two new Watchers, but after catching sight of Jasmine and her cowboy hat, fifty of them bounded for the group.  They said hi to the rancher and said their welcomes to the newcomers.  To the kids it was a sea of bright colors.  All of them didn't have the gems in their horns.  After the meeting they went to the buildings to meet a total of five Watchers, some were adults and kids from school.  They were stunned that it was the Sheppard kids in taur form and welcomed them into their little secret.

Claudia kept looking over the place and wondering if Citrus found her mother.  She was itching to see the rest.  "Hey, Jasmine," she said, "mind if I go explore?"

"No, go right ahead," she answered setting the bags on a picnic bench.  "Take your time.  You have all day to enjoy."

With that in mind she turned and galloped away.

Anthony didn't mind either; he was too busy how the place operated.  He met the Watchers, shook hands, see how they brought the feed out, and where they relax after a hard days work, Playstation included.  One of them, an all grey furred Watcher named Joseph, wondered if he was gonna stay for dinner and catch up on things.

Jasmine showed him the farm.  It was an acre of nothing but vegetable, fruit, and grain plots for both the Watchers and furdrake diets.  Over at the flower patch was a lone Watcher with black and blue fur topped with white stripes running along his back and tail.  He held a clipboard while examining some edible roses.

"Hey there," Jasmine called out.

He looked up.  "Hey there, Jasmine," he said.  "Who's that?"

"New guy.  He and his sister found Citrus and Rogan at their house."

"Wait, you mean the two that went missing?"  She nodded fast.  "Holy crap.  I thought you would never find them."

Anthony was feeling something weird about him and not just from his attitude; it was his voice and haircut.  He couldn't put his finger on it when he shook his hand and look in his eyes.  "What's your name?"

"Anthony," he answered.

"Anthony? Wow, that's the same name as…" He paused and looked into his eyes.  "Hold the phone."  He looked closely at Anthony.

Once they figured it out, they went on a cursing rampage.

*****

Claudia felt more than a kid, she felt like an entire different being.

By her estimation, it would take her forever to explore every detail of the ranch, not to mention the various names the furdrakes chose.  Within the little groups, she noticed different type of furdrakes besides Citrus, Rogan, and Duke.

One were the babies.  Small and fairly new to the world, looked like little balls of fur with little paws, a head, and a tiny tail.  They got around by jumping while running.  She laughed as she picked a school of babies in a wheat field popping in and out like birds not ready to fly.  The next up were the size she was familiar with and they took up most of the population.  She dodged three as they played.

"I'm it, I'm it," said a young female yellow furdrake bounding from a bush.  She then sprinted down a grass path as two more furdrakes chased after.

The third level up was the parents and this caught her by surprise.  These were huge compared to golden retrievers.  Slow on there feet but still looked cute as their children, held a power not even the Watchers had.  She found one tending to her young, ten of them sucking on a row of nipples for their daily intake of milk.  She waved at the mother and the mother waved back, then went back laying her head on a bed of wheat.

She approached a pond, calm and filled with fish, as a couple of furdrakes tried to catch one for a meal.  There was a sign on the end saying, "Baker's pond."

"Wait, is this it?"  Looking around, about a few feet away and barely hidden by tall grass, was a massive hole.

She slowly moved up to the edge, not wanting to fall in.  She then crawled through the grass and with her paws on the edge, peered at the furdrake's cradle of life.

There sat flowers of amazing colors in a blow like structure.  A few wooden steps were built to accompany Watchers and furdrakes to enter and exit as they please.  She spotted three furdrakes sleeping and eating the springtime flowers.  In the center of it all was a rock shaped as a spire with holes on its sides.  It was a dull grey color and shot out of the ground two stories high.  Along its base were furdrake gems, piled high against it and sparkled in the late morning sunlight.

He must've dug it out by hand, she thought, meaning Jasmine's great grandfather.  Upon looking at the spire closely, it appeared that it was of unknown origins.  It was a stone not part of this planet.  Instantly she imagined of the time when it was a meteor in space, traveling until it found earth and crash in that very spot.  The cavern hollowed out by unknown ways.  From tiny microbes imbedded in the rock were the very first indications of the furdrakes.  In time they grew and multiplied underground, using the cave as a way to gather food and be safe from dangerous predators.

Her horns picked up a familiar voice to cut her away from her imagination.  She looked up from the grass.

"Claudia," Anthony called out.  "Where are you?  You've got to hear what I found out."

She saw him, then Jasmine, and a third Watcher she didn't see before.  The man had black and blue fur, wearing a cargo vest and nothing to cover his private area besides his tail.

"Over here," she said waving her hands.  They ran towards her.  "Look, I found what Jasmine was saying."

"Ah, I figured you would find it," Jasmine said.

As Claudia approached them, the third unknown occupant had a surprised and stunned look on his face that made Claudia worry.

"You will not believe this," Anthony blared and turned to the new guy.  "Tell her."

He was nervous and rubbing his paws.  Gazing at Claudia in taur form was all he could focus on, and Anthony wanted to tell her the truth.

"Cla…Claudia," she said, "is that you?"

Claudia curled the lip of her muzzle, feeling a little awkward.  "Yeah, so."

"It's me, Claudia.  It's dad."

She blinked for five seconds, trying to understand what this guy was saying.  The hair was familiar and so was the eyes, but her mind was trying to put the pieces together.  And when she did she breathed real slow and felt her knees ready to drop her weight.  "Dad?" she said.

Brandon looked down at himself.  "In the flesh, sort of."

And with that she went from and innocent little girl to a girl with a crying issue.  She ran towards him and plowed into his broad chest.  She hugged him tight.  Crying as she was she didn't know what to do but say between sobs, "This is insane."

"You better believe it, sis," Anthony said with surprise in his voice.  "This old fart's been lying to us ever since we've moved here.  He was building the nursery for both the city and the ranch.  By the time I realized it was him, I was punching him for being a jerk."

Claudia rubbed her nose against the vest and looked up.  It was the same eyes as her fathers, no doubt about it.  Even the crooked smile was there.  "Oh, dad."

"Why are you crying?" He asked her.

"Oh, it's just.  Wow."  She kept on weeping.  She tried to say that he was a stinky-faced liar.  But since he too was a Watcher, all that worry of keeping Citrus a secret from him flooded out of her in the salty tears, soaking the fur under her eyes.

"It's okay, sweetie," he said.  "Let it all out."

Jasmine shook her head.  "I'm completely lost her guys.  I never knew Brandon was your father."

Anthony coughed and talked in a sarcastic tone.  "Oh, gee, I'm shocked."

"I…I'm so happy," Claudia managed.

"Care for us to join in?"  After wiping the tears she saw her friend, Rogan, and a large furdrake of golden fur.  "My kids wanted me to see their rescuers," the large one said.

"You must be their mother.  It's nice to meet you."

The mother looked upon Claudia, then nodded once.  "Likewise, Miss Sheppard.  We're in your debt."  The mother brought them closer and licked their faces.

"Ah, mom," Rogan said with grief, "not in front of everybody.  It's embarrassing."

The Watchers laughed.  Jasmine asked them to come to the Watcher house to discuss their future.  She led them while the Sheppard family held each other.

"How did it happen dad?" Anthony said.  "How on earth did you keep this big of a secret from us?"

Brandon let go of his kids.  "Remember that contract I signed for the nursery?"  They nodded.  "Well the truth is I didn't know they exist until I read a little deeper in the statement.  Then after I talked with Jasmine and their family, the mayor had me sign a confidentiality agreement.  I didn't have the right to tell you guys how amazing this whole deal was, guys and there were times when I really wanted to.  It annoyed me so much.  Then I met my furdrake at the end of January, bonded, and been a big help in the process.  Now how long did Citrus and Rogan stayed with you?"

The kids summarized the story.

"So that's where they've been hiding," Brandon chuckled.  "Imagine that."

"You're not mad at us?" Claudia asked.

"Not at all, Claudia.  Not at all."

Their time at the ranch went into the afternoon.  Once Claudia and Anthony earned their trust with the furdrakes, they became new ranch workers.  They would be given a week before they went to work-in their furdrake forms.

They met Brandon's furdrake.  Apparently while he was raised, he stumbled upon the Watcher house's book collection.  He chose the name, Billy, based on his favorite character from a well-known series of a private investigator/wizard.  At any given or random moment, they catch him quoting from the books.

"And what will happen when the nursery is up and running?"  Claudia asked her father after getting seconds on a farm fresh salad for lunch.  They were in the Watcher house, including Jasmine.  The dinning room table was old and came with specialty made chairs for the taur bodies.  Other Watchers were there too.

Brandon swallowed a sip of wine and said, "Don't know.  Wait it out until the bond is over I guess.  What about you two?"

Anthony had enough food and felt it move in his lower body, a feeling he was noticing for the first time.  "I vote we stay.  Who cares about moving back."

Claudia smiled and nodded.

"Then so be it," Brandon acknowledged.  "I've also thought up a name for the nursery and I'm hoping you two approve."  He folded his arms and rested his muzzle on top.  "What do you say we name it The Jane Sheppard Memorial Nursery?"

Claudia blinked.  She knew she was over her death.  What Brandon was proposing was fitting.  After all, she loved flowers as much as her husband.

"I like it dad," she said.  Brandon rubbed her back.  "If Mom is looking down at us, she would be very proud."

"To Jane's Nursery," Jasmine cheered.  They all tapped their drinks.

Outside as Citrus and Rogan gazed at their Watchers from the porch into the window, they too cheered.

"Come on you two," their mother said.  "Time to eat."

"Coming, mother," they said and jumped on the paved path, walking together.  "By the way, is father around?"

"He is, Citrus.  He'll be with us at our den."  The three ran together to their little home.
Based on :iconakuoreo:'s furdrakes. By the way this is my interpretation of the creatures. Two more parts are coming, the next will be up next Friday.

The last part of the story. I ran out of ideas and it's about time for my midterms to get ready for.

If you catch any mistakes let me know.

Was listening to HTTYD's soundtrack and "Forbidden Friendship" worked well while writing the last scene. Here's a link to the song: [link] The scene that played with this song in the movie touched me.

Characters belong to me
Furdrakes belong to :iconakuoreo:
© 2010 - 2021 Cooper3
Comments12
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a1993's avatar
this story was always something great to read
Cooper3's avatar
Thank you. I enjoyed writing it as well.
KettouRyuujin's avatar
Nice job with making Brandon a Watcher, also. Very good story.
MaLAgua's avatar
Awesome story, really cute ^^
thelastgunslinger23's avatar
Great Story just like the other two, their are a few spelling mistakes and a couple spots where you got the names wrong,
"By the way, name's Jessica." She reached behind her seat.

Jessica asked them to come to the Watcher house to discuss their future. Jessica should be Jasmine.

Claudia started to cry. "The coyotes kept looking for us after we got lost," she said. "We had to mark our territory to keep them away."
Claudia should be Citrus.

But other than that it's a great story
Cooper3's avatar
Yeah i kinda get confused on that. Been using Jessica a lot in my book. will fix that soon.
writermartin42's avatar
Very nice story.

I like how the furdrake paired with Claudia and Anthony's dad is a Dresden fan.
Cooper3's avatar
nice you got that little clue
writermartin42's avatar
Well the wizard/private eye thing was kind of a dead give away when your familiar with literature.
Cooper3's avatar
It's the best i can do lol. It was one in the morning and i ran out of patients to make it cryptic.
writermartin42's avatar
One should NEVER work that early.
Cooper3's avatar
thats why im one of those crazy people, sucking down coffee like candy
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