Next thing he knew, Ryan was on top of a floating piece of rock with trees on it, drifting in some trippy looking rainbow colored void, next to him a colony a zebra-ants were carrying their food and a orangutan with an elephants face was sitting on a tree, absent mindedly grooming itself for ticks. " Where am I?" Ryan wondered and immediately heard the shamans laugh, the man himself was suddenly sitting next to the orangu-phant " Yes I would like to know that, seeing as you seem to be procrastinating on your mission." Ryan remembered how the shaman previously contacted him in a similar dream to meet him on Kilimanjaro, the boy angrily asked him why he was only contacting him now,but the shaman laughed it of " Oh Ryan don't you realize how much concentration it takes to keep a portal open, I`m a shaman not a miracle maker, but enough of that I sense that a lot has transpired since we last meet....."
Ryan told him everything that happened and after recalling his last memory he temporarily feared that he was killed by the panthers, but the shaman reassured him that they couldn't have had this dream discussion if Ryan had bitten the dust, however not even he could answer the boys question about his current whereabouts since Ryan was still unconscious, " Well those phantom cats were an unexpected twist, bet you regret not taking the Tern now, could have avoided this whole catastrophe." as he laughed at his own lame joke while Ryan groaned and told him to knock it of and to just tell him how to solve this problem, the shaman quite bluntly told that he could do nothing for them now and that Ryan and Cameron had to get out of this mess on their own, but he did have one helpful bit info to give " And I have a hunch which artifact you found, the Octopus of Metamorphosis, am I right? (Ryan nodded) Well I don't think I need to explain it's special power, but don't worry the transformations won't be bothering you for long..." Ryan asked him what he was talking about, the shaman elaborated " If it was together with all my other artifacts the Octopus could transform anyone into a new form permanently, but on it's own it's effects are only temporary (Ryan went wide eyed), normally it's effects would last less than a day but because it layed dormant for a long time it must have gathered enough energy to make your transformation a little more lasting..."
Ryan looked down dejected and crushed, he should have known this was too good to true, he quitely looked away before a bright light started forming on the horizon, blinding them both " Oh well it seems you're waking up, I wish you the best of luck!" said the shaman as the light engulfed everything before it went black. Ryan soon started regaining consciousness, he was on his back laying on something soft. He saw lights and trough his blurry vision he made out the shape of man looking over him, " Be on your guard, we don't know in what state of mind he`s in." the man said. As Ryan finally got a sense of his surroundings, the sight of people surrounding sent him in a blind panic, but as he tried to attack he got restrained by paramedics, and the doctor tried to calm him down " Please calm down son, we mean you no harm, your safe!" Ryan stopped struggling, he saw that he was in a hospital room, he felt bandages wrapped around his arms and legs, he had been caught by the humans, he was in trouble, he tried to supress his anxiety, before he went limp for a moment and groaned in pain " Where am I what's going on?", seeing that he was calming down the medical staff let him stand up, Ryan looked at himself " Why am so dirty? (he pulls on his zebra loincloth) Why am I wearing this? What happened to me?" he asked naively, the doctor studied his behavior, as the boy was seemingly experiencing amnesia, he calmy explained to him how the police where informed last night that what appeared to be feral child was running amok trough a small town, attacking a man and his dog before retreating into the woods, after which a search party was made to find him and found him being attacked by 3 panthers, the animals ran of after being shot at and he was brought to the hospital. Ryan tilted his head in confusion " But what does that have to do with me?" the doctor and his staff exchanged glances, making silent agreements, before the doctor asked him about the name of his parents to contact them, but Ryan couldn't remember, neither could he remember his own name, he clutched his face and sobbed lightly " My head hurts, I can't remember anything.". The doctor tried comforting him, saying him not to worry before he started discussing how this was definitely amnesia. Ryan peeked trough his fingers, feeling a sigh of relief " They`re buying the act, but I have to get out of here, fast." he thought.
Ryan was shuffling nervously trying to find a way to escape, he looked trough the window and to his horror saw that he was on the third floor, outside it was noon and he saw that the hospital was in the middle of a larger town. He heard the nurse walking towards his room and quickly went back to his bed, as she entered with a food tray he did his best to keep up the amnisiatic and traumatized boy facade, he heard some commotion bellow wondering what it was about "Oh don't worry about it dear." the nurse said in a friendly manner " Those are just some journalists being led out..." Ryan became nervous. Journalists? How many people knew about him already "...some people just care about money more then morality." the nurse shook her head before asking Ryan if he needed anything else, Ryan asked to be left alone so he could sleep, lying that he still felt dizzy. The nurse did so, but not before dropping a bomb, the police would be coming around 6 p.m to talk to him, seeing the boy unease, she asured him that he was in no trouble and that they just wanedt to ask him some questions, but Ryan didn't bealive her, now feeling even more anxious to get out.
Half an hour later Ryan was alone in his room, desperately trying to think of a way to get out, he already had to find Cameron, find that artifacts he left behind in the forest and still escape those panthers, and on top of that he could change back into a wereleopard at any moment in the middle of this town. Ryan looked at his hand and already saw yellow hair starting to grow on it, Ryan palmed his face "Great, just great, how could things possibly get worse.", but luckily this line didn't turn into a jinx, as 3 small, winged animals squeezed themselves trough the window and hung themselves upside down from the ceiling "It`s him!" "I told ya so!" they started chattering with their high pitched voices, Ryan recognized them as part of the bat colony he encountered, " We have a message from Cecil!" one of them said, suprising Ryan. What they told him was even more suprising, apparently the fox was worried about Ryan and needed to know where he was alright and if he could still help him, Ryan was confused at the foxes sudden change of heart, but right now he wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, this was an opportunity to salvage this situation, he gave one of the bats a specific message.
" Tell Cecil that if he really wants to help me, he needs to find my handbag and the statue in it and to keep it safe, but tell him under no circumstances to touch the statue, just to carry it and wait for me to return. And he finds my feline friend Cameron, to tell her to wait for me with him. The other 2 stay here, and you go!" " Aye,aye sir!" exclaimed the bat before flying away. Ryan soon heard a knock on the door and told the bats to hide under his bed. The nurse, having heard him talking, came in asking if he was alright, Ryan continued acting innocent and thankfully she left, immediately one of the bats flew out from beneath the bed carrying a cockroach, his friend followed and started chasing him trough the room " I saw it first!" he yelled. Ryan watched the aerial show with amusement, before his tounge felt something sharp inside his mouth. Ryan grabbed a nearby mirror and quickly saw that his teeth had already morphed back into fangs, he didn't have much time left.
Back in the forest Cecil was impatiently awaiting for his messengers return, but only one returned and told him of his task, the fox reluctantly agreed " Say what's with the sudden helpfulness? You used to worry only about yourself!" asked the bat, Cecil glared at him annoyed " That's not your concern you flying rat!" he barked back "Now beat it! " the bat made a high pitched laugh before swooping over Cecil " You're feeling guilty! You used him, but he still saved your worthless arse!" the bat giggled, feeling he figured the fox out before flying away " And bats aren't rodents!" he exclaimed leaving Cecil to mumble angrily as he went to find the hanbag " Guilt? Rubish! Rotten little brat, what`s with his pathological attachment to handbags or statues? Better find them quickly so I can finally be free of this annoying gut feeling."
Ryan trail was getting cold, Cameron remained persistent however until she, came across 3 unwanted figures. She observed them from a tree, and heard them, particularly Blake, arguing over something, before picking up a sent coming from them, the sent of blood, Ryan`s blood! This set of a primal rage within Cameron, any fear she previously felt was gone. The panthers only heard a rustling from above before a wild cat leaped down on Blake`s head. He screamed in pain as the cat started viciously bitting and clawing at his face, he threw her of, but she landed on her feet and hissed " What did you do to Ryan!", however she got no answer. Blake just glared at her before he lunged at the cat, Cameron finally came back to her senses and started dodging the leopards attempts to catch her, she fled underneath Blakes legs, both Kurt and Kruger tried to catch her, only to end up bumping heads, allowing her to escape.
As Cecil was carrying the bag, he suddenly picked upa familiar sent, he recognized it and thought about following it, but Cameron soon crashed into him " Watch where your going you buffoon!" she yelled before running over the poor fox. Cecil got himself up, about to make a retort, but hearing the sound of roaring behind him made him yelp in fear and run after the cat. Hearing the panthers getting closer Cecil frantically looked around until he found a crack between two boulders and squeezed himself in. He was soon met with a hostile and unwelcoming wildcat, making him back of in fear, before Blake`s came trough the opening, growling and trying to grab them with his paw, Cecil cowered in terror, but Cameron remained stotic and once again demanded an answer from the black leopard. Blake and his goons started laughing " Don't attack us pipsqueak. We did our best to slaughter the little brat ,but some humans took him away first!" Cameron didn't know if she should have beeen relieved or concerned by that revelation, Blake started glaring at her " You made a huge mistake attacking me. You will pay for that." with that he let out a roar, frightening Cecil, before he and his gang left.
Once they were gone Cameron set her sights on the fox, noticing the familiar hanbag he had with him, " Where did you get that?" she asked threateningly, Cecil gulped, feeling tense he tried to explain but was immediately pinned to the ground with an enraged wildcat glaring down on him " Alright talk! What's your part in this!" she demanded menacingly, shaking with fear Cecil told her everything he knew, she let him go and stared of into the forest worrying about Ryan, she then ordered the fox to lead her to Ryan, Cecil argued against it, saying that Ryan explicitly told him to wait for him there, but Cameron ignored him, once again ordering the fox to lead her to Ryan, this time with the threat of physical violence if he didn't. Poor Cecil had no option here, so he reluctantly agreed " She's definitely Ryan`s pet, his foul temper sure rubbed of on her." he thought as he led her towards the town hospital which was a good 3 miles away.
Back in the hospital Ryan could feel his transformation furthering, hair was slowly starting to grow on his arms and legs, Ryan was panicking, he dreaded having to see his bestial self again, but remembered that this also meant that he would regain his heightened strength and agility as well " Maybe that way I can escape!" he thought as he tried lifting the bed up, but to no avail, he tried jumping high but couldn't do it either " Damn it, still not there!" he thought as looked at himself in the mirror again, now seeing side burs growing on his face. " Uhh that's some rapid facial hair!" quipped one the bats, both of them however hid when they heard the door being opened , Ryan tried not to face the nurse, hiding himself behind his blanket, he quickly lied that he felt sick and ran towards the bathroom, confused the nurse tried to tell him that 2 police officers had arrived, but he didn't hear her as he already slammed the door shot. Looking at his arms Ryan saw that they were already covered in hair and his nails were forming into claw tips. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, his teeth were sharp fangs, hair was forming around his cheeks and throat and his brown irises turned green. " No, how am I going to escape now!" thought a horrified Ryan while looking at his reflection, then he heard it, 3 people walking up the hallway.
".....we`re honestly baffled by this officers, we thought he might have been under the influence of drugs, but the blood tests don't show that....
"....Don`t worry about it doctor, we`ll get to the bottom of this...."
" No, not now!" thought Ryan as he started to panic, the nurse heard him locking the door as the doctor and 2 police officers entered the room. Ryan had no where to go, he was afraid, that feeling of being a cornered animal resurfaced, he felt the urge to fight and claw his way out. He heard the cops loudly knocking on the door, demanding for him to get out. "No!" Ryan gasped, feeling terrified, "Stay away from me!" he screamed, but that only alerted the cops that something was wrong and they tried to bust the door open. They were gonna get him, hurt him, lock him up in a cage, kill him. All these thoughts ran trogh the boys mind, as his animal instincts to fight to survive started taking over, Ryan screamed as clutched his head and knelled down.
The cops kicked the door open to find the boy recoiling in distress and soon went wide eyed as they saw him grow fur and sprout a tail. " Oh my god!" exclaimed the doctor while the nurse screamed in terror when they saw what was happening. Looking at them with feline eyes Ryan roared and lunged at one of the cops and clawed him across the face. His partner, stunned and horrified at what he saw tried to reach for his gun, but Ryan grabbed his arm and swung him across the room until he crashed into the bed. The bestial Ryan turned towards the othe cop who pulled the gun at him, Ryan reacted quickly and grabbed his arm and pulled it up, causing the man to shoot at the ceiling and shatter the ceiling lamp. Ryan punched him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him, before throwing him to the ground. Ryan started pummeling the man with his fists, before stopping himself after finally regaining his faculties, he looked at the cops, then at the terrified doctor and nurse cowering in the corner, "No I wont kill another human being, not again!" he told himself before leaping out of the window. He managed to land on his feet and instantly bolted away towards another building, it was already dark so luckily no one saw him, he climbed up the drain pipe until he reached the roof. Frustrated and exhausted, he looked at himself, he was a beast once more, a vicious animal, with anger boiling up inside of him Ryan let out an agonizing roar under the moon. "Wow cool trick!" "How`d ya do that!", panting Ryan saw the 2 bats flying in, looking at him with curiosity, " No time to explain, I must get out of here... (Ryan said between pants).... you must lead me out of this town."
Meanwhile a cargo truck parked near the outskirts of the town, 2 small stowaways jumped of it, " See I told you this was the best way to travel." said Cecil " Shut up and lead me to the hospital!" Cameron retorted. Cecil obliged, and with Ryan`s handbag still strapped around his torso, he led her towards where the bat directed him to find the hospital. " By the way do you care to explain your attachments to this artifact?" Cecil intrigued, Cameron pretty bluntly told him about what it could do and about her true form, Cecil struggled to keep a straight face and not to giggle, afraid to awake her wrath " This cat is stark raving mad, hope Ryan knows a good veterinarian." he thought. " You think I'm crazy, don't ya?" Cameron glared at him accusingly, the fox nervously tried to deny it, but she saw trough his facade and simply growled before they were interrupted by the messenger bat, telling them that Ryan had escaped......
Ryan leaped from one building to another following the bats, he had to admit having the ability to do feats like this again was pretty neat, however he was soon out of buildings as he was faced with a park forcing him to climb down and continue his escape on ground level. As he was near the parks entrance he ducked behind a wall, as a police car passed by, observing the area, once he was sure they were gone Ryan entered the park, the bushes and trees along with the darkness of the night provided good cower, but as he reached the heart of the park he found it full of visitors and street lights. He had to be more careful, the bats followed him and said that the outskirts of the town were just beyond the park. Crouching down on all fours Ryan tried to sneak trough the park, bolting from one hidding place to another while no one was looking.
He reached a large tree and hid behind it while watching the humans, when suddenly he felt his tail being tugged, " A big kitty!" Ryan turned and was horrified to see a 3 year old pulling his tail and giggling. Ryan struggled not to panic, but seeing as the little boy showed no fear of him Ryan calmly spoke to him " Eh yeah I'm a big kitty, but can you please keep your voice down I`m in a big hurry." he whispered as gently as he could, the toddler tiled his head curiously, astonished that the"kitty" could talk and asked him where he was going, trying to think of the quickest way to appeal to the kid, Ryan asked him if he loved his parents, after the kid happily nodded Ryan claimed to be looking for his mother and that he mustn't be disturbed, " Okay, I won't tell anyone." the kid whispered, Ryan patted him on the head " Thanks, you're a good kid." , but no sooner did he say that did he hear a woman calling for her son and a subsequent scream of terror. Ryan turned around only to be smacked in the face by a purse by the screaming woman who hastily grabbed her kid and fleed the scene. The other visitors saw the commotion and started screaming and pointing at the beast. " So much for stealth." thought Ryan bitterly while rubbing his face, before charging at the humans roaring and showing his fangs and claws causing them to scatter as he ran towards the end on the park.
As the sreaming humans scattered out of the park, Ryan nearly reached the exiting gate, only to stop in his tracks as several cop cars parked outside of it. Ryan retreated and tried to hide by the tree line, soon multiple policemen started searching the park with flashlights and several German Shepards searching for the beasts sent. Ryan knew he had to act now, being half leopard again he had the element of stealth on his side, he snuck up to the nearest cop and pulled him back into the bushes while hand gagging him, he punched the man in the back of his neck, knocking him unconcious. Ryan quickly ran, jumping into another bush before a flashlight was pointed into his direction. He climbed up and pearched on a tree, as soon as a cop walked bellow him Ryan tackled him and knocked him out. He heard barking and quickly grabbed hold of the attacking police dog and threw him into 2 officers knocking them of their feet. Seeing the gate in front of him Ryan climbed up a tree leaning against it and without a thought jumped over it. However he landed on a moving police car, right on the hood. Ryan grabbed hold and was meet face to face with the driver, who screamed in the terror and was blindly driving car until he hit a fire hydrant. Ryan was thrown of and hit the pavement, picking himself up Ryan ran trough the suburbs, seeing the forest right on the horizon. He was almost there, but the bats appeared telling him that they spotted someone close by....
" I told you this was a bad idea!" Cecil shook with fear as he and Cameron were cornered by 3 feral dogs, the flee bitten mongrels closed in on them bearing their teeth, Cameron once again felt weak and afraid, she tried to supress that fear, telling herself that she could take them on, as one dog lunged she attacked his face, viciously bitting and clawing it, but she was no match for them and was pinned against the ground as the dog was brutally bitting into her torso. " Leave her alone!" a voice growled, the dog yelped and let the cat go as he was grabbed and pulled by it's tail. Ryan swung the canine around and threw it into a dumpster. He easily tackled another one grabbing it by the leg and slamming it aganst the payment, the last one jumped on Ryan`s back, but Ryan grabbed him by the neck and easily tore him of and slammed him against the other one. He grabbed both dogs and stuffed them into a trash can before kicking it and seending both of them rolling down the street." These mutts wouldn't last a day in Tanzania." Ryan smirked.
" Ryan you're alright!", before he knew it Cameron jumped in his arms, hugging him. He started hearing her sob " I`m so sorry I abandoned you, I failed you as a guardian.", " It`s alright Cammy, it wasn't your fault." he said reassuringly while hugging the cat, happy to be reunited. " Yes it is, I was a coward, I couldn't defend you, I...I understand if you hate me..." she spoke between sobs, Ryan chuckled " Please, I would never hate you, I`m just happy that you`re alright." she looked up at him, a tear still dripping down her face " Besides the Cameron I know wouldn`t cry over little things like this." Cameron then finally noticed something about him " Ryan you're back to normal........eh I mean I`m so sorry that you changed back..." Ryan sighted "Yeah I have some news that you'll like a lot." " Eh excuse me?" a dumbfounded Cecil aproached them " I`d hate to break of your reunion, but can someone please tell WHAT THE HELLS GOING ON!" gasping after his outburst Cecil started at them wide eyed " Ryan? Eh...why...how did you turn into a .....cat? " Cecil was sounded like his mind just got broken. " Don't worry Cecil I can explain this, but not here, we gotta move!" with that Ryan urged his small comparisons to follow him.
With the police still on their trail, Cecil led Ryan and Cameron to a gas station where they found another cargo truck, heading towards the highway leading back to the forest, the 3 managed to sneak onto it and were soon on their way out, then it was time to explain things to the fox. " So let me get this straight..." Cecil stammered " You were once a normal human, but then some.......sorcerer turned you into.....this... and now your traveling the world collecting these artifacts for him, that have supernatural powers ( Ryan nodded).... and you (he looked at Cameron)... you really are a giant, exotic cat like those phantom cats...." the wild cat also nodded, satisfied to see him eat his words. " So do you understand it now?" Ryan asked after telling his long backstory 3 times over to the confused fox, who stared at him, still dumbfounded " No I still need to process this." Cecil said meekly before laying down, trying to reevaluate his understanding of reality. The 3 bats, perched on some boxes, were laughing at him " This story broke Cecil! Hihihihi...."
Sitting on Ryan`s lap Cameron started complaining why he had changed back, but she still hadn't , he too couldn't explain it " Maybe it's cuz I was already half human, so I was just half way transformed so it wore of quicker? Ryan said sheepishly only to get glare from the cat " Look it's weird Swahili magic, what do I know about this mumbo jumbo. Point is the shaman said the transformations are only temporary..." " They better be, for his sake..." Cameron mumbled while resting her head " Oh I don't know Cam, I think I like you better this way, you`re a lot more cuddly and adorable now." Ryan joked while petting her, she only let an ominous growl before changing the topic, asking about what they were gonna do about the panthers if they crossed paths with them again? Ryan mood changed, a feeling of dread and hatred consuming him, he knew at this point that there was no reasoning with them, they would have to fight them.
The truck stopped, and the group exited and entered the woods, Ryan and Cameron had to find shelter for the night, tomorrow they would likely face a battle for life or death, the bats were willing to scout out the area to find one. Ryan looked at Cecil and kneeled down to him " Well Cecil we might not have started out on the best of terms, but just know that I`m grateful for your help. Thanks twerp and your free to go now." The fox once again felt that annoying guilt before getting nervous " Wait no, you gotta let me stay, those beasts know that were are allied, if they find me they`ll surely kill me!" Cecil was begging the 2 to stay with him for protection, Ryan agreed much to Cameron`s dismay. They then heard something moving towards them, until a familiar badger emerged, carrying a bucket full of worms, " You!" Cameron growled while extending her claws, but Ryan held her back to prevent her from doing something she would regret. " Ah it's you lad, I see you and that no good Cecil found your kitty." Bart then tilted his head and rubbed his eyes " Are me old eyes deceiving me or did you get..... hairier?" " Eh yes, it's a long story." Ryan rubbed his neck before noticing what the badger was carrying " Say where did you find that bucket?"
Inside of his cabin, a lone middle aged hunter was trying to go to sleep, but as he tried to doze of he was awoken by noises from the outside, sounding like a wildcat`s yowling and a fox`s yelping, he tried ignoring them, but they wouldn't stop, eventually causing the cranky hunter to storm out. " Keep quiet you bloody pests!" he threw one of his boots at the animals, scaring them of, he then groaned when he realized that he threw his own boot into the woods and went to retrieve it. When he returned he slammed his door shut, he saw his 2 shadows on the ground as he went towards his bed....wait 2 shadows? His blood froze as he slowly turned around, " Ah Mr.Mustache, we meet again!" said Ryan.
Ryan and his group searched the cabin, trying to find any weapons for Ryan to use, he found a net and a gun which would come in handy against the panthers, but even more so he found a detailed map of the area, he and Cameron observed it and found a potential shortcut leading from the cabin to an isolated cavern in the middle of the moorlands, no doubt where the portal was. " And what if those goons find us?" Cameron asked, she still hadn't shown any signs of changing back, Ryan said that that happens he would take them on and kill them if necessary, " Oh I very much support that, these woods would be a lot better of without those lunatics." Cecil chimed in, but Cameron wasn't so thrilled with the idea, she jumped up the table and faced Ryan " You can't take them on your own. They`ll kill you!" her voice was filled with concern, Ryan petted her gently " We don't have an option here, but don't worry I know what I'm doing. Besides you might as well change back by tomorrow, and as your old self you will certainly kick their sorry asses with ease." , Cameron grew a weak smile, feeling a boost of confidence." If I lost you I don't know how I would live with myself....." she said somberly, " You won't, I promise you that." Ryan reassured her confidently. The bats came back, saying they saw no evidence of the panthers in the surrounding area. Ryan hoped against hope that this meant that they could reach the portal without meeting them, " All right guys.." he yawned " we`ll stay here for the night, then...(Mmmph! Hmmmmmph… )... ugh... Bart can you please shut him up!" he pointed at the tied up and tape gagged hunter squirming around before being slapped by the old badger, " Aye I haven't had such fun in ages!" Bart exclaimed. " Eh why do we need the human here again?" asked Cecil, Ryan shrugged " We don't, but if we let him run into the woods he could easily have a fatal run in with those creeps and I can't have that on my conscience.".
It was the late wee hours and the group was still sleeping the cabin, when Ryan was woken up by what sounded like taping on the wooden wall, he rose up on high alert and looked around, still a bit sleepy, everything was quiet now and just when he was about to shrug it of as a dream a large black figure broke through the glass window with a loud roar, waking up everyone inside, causing them to panic. Ryan instantly knew who this was, but before he could react he was attacked by the panther, the force of his attack made them break down the old door and continue their fight outside.
Feeling a primal range, Ryan mercilessly assaulted his opponent who was taken of guard by his enemies sudden increased strength and ferocity. When Ryan finally managed to kick him of, Cameron, who had watched the whole thing worried, retrieved the hunters gun and threw it to Ryan. Blake finally got a good look at his opponent and was stunned for a moment, before suprising everyone by bursting out with laughter " So it's true then. I thought these stories about humans transforming into animal-like beasts was a myth, but it seems I was wrong." " There's a lot you don't know about me, and If you wanna make it alive you better stay out of my way...." Ryan growled before shooting a bullet right next to the panther, but Blake barely flinched and continued laughing, Ryan pointed his gun at him, wanting to shoot him but kept hesitating, Blake noticed it and mocked him " Too much a wuss to finish me of huh? How pathetic!" Not wanting to push his luck any further, Blake slowly started retreating into the forest " It's all clear now, you were trying to use that trick of yours to infiltrate the forest and flush us out, so your fellow humans could hunt us down!" Blake accused them like a paranoiac, Ryan was stunned by his logic leaping conclusion, while Cameron made her angry retort " You're raving nonsense!" " You can't fool me, my pack and I will get you before you can get us....." said Blake as he disappeared into the night. Ryan regretted not shooting him, why couldn't he do it? Either way Ryan knew now that it was either him or them.
With no time left, Ryan and the group were laboriously setting traps around the cabin,made from whatever content they could find within it, but progre1was slow, after finally finishing up setting up one trap, Ryan and Cameron meet up with Cecil who had disappeared for the last few hours, Ryan asked him where the hell he was and was subsequently surprised to learn that the fox had been gathering up nuts for a colony of squirrels to fill up their tree for the winter. Feeling exhausted and humiliated Cecil then proclaimed that the squirrels had agreed to lend their assistance as hundreds of little helpers to help build their traps quicker. Ryan was impressed, the fox was learning how to cooperate. Once the traps were finished, the sun was on the rise, and roars were echoing trough the foggy forest, Ryan knew this would be the deciding fight, he brought Cecil and a protesting Cameron to hide in the cabin, telling the concerned cat not to worry and that he would be alright. As they watched him run of, Cameron looked on dejectedly, Cecil also worrying actually tried to say some comforting words " Don't beat yourself over it, there's nothing we can do to help him, that's the reality when you`re at the bottom of the food chain......wait did you grow taller?", upon Cecil`s comment Cameron started feeling that same sensation she felt when she initially transformed, and soon noticed that the fox was looking up to her. " Finally I`m changing!" she thought happily before bolting after Ryan without a second thought, leaving a confused and protesting Cecil behind, " Does she want to commit suicide?!" the fox thought worryingly.
" Alright Blake show your ugly mug, unless you're a scaredy cat!" Ryan shouted into the dark woods, he remained on high alert, scanning his surroundings, until he was struck in the face. He picked himself up and sent a death glare to his attacker, as Blake revealed himself from the dark shadows and lunged, Ryan ducked, grabbed his fallen gun and slammed it's handle into Kurt`s face when the cougar tried to blindside him. Ryan made several shots at Blake, but he managed to dodge them all. Kruger joined the party as they surrounded Ryan, they all charged at him, Ryan leaped high at the last second, causing the 3 to slam heads with each other, he landed back on the feline pile and ran of, " Catch me if you can!". As they kept pursuing him, Ryan led them towards the traps, he cut trough a rope with his claws causing Kruger`s leg to be snagged in a rope trap and suspended in the air, Ryan fired several more shots at the other 2, but they kept dodging them. Then Ryan was suddenly out of bullets " Damn it!" he cursed as Kurt attacked him, using the gun to hold the feline back Ryan hit him in the face with the gun several times until the dizzy cougar let go. Ryan escaped and ran further into the forest until he was meet with an eerie silence.
Suddenly Blake lunged at him and they were tumbling down a hill, locked in combat, until they hit a river. Ryan grabbed hold of his enemies throat and was strangling him in an uncontrolled fury, but Blake kicked him of, as he hit the shallow water with a splash Ryan got up and faced his opponent, as they started each other down, Ryan saw a collapsed stone bridge behind Blake, realizing where he was Ryan jumped over the panther and ran up a familiar trail, he soon found his old campsite and his old weapon imbedded in a tree. But before he could pull it out he was tackled by Kurt, he grabbed the cougars throat with one had and punched him in the jaw causing him to let go. Ryan ran back to get his machete, but was tackled by Blake and Kruger, with Kurt soon joining in. The trio pinned him down ready to finish him of, when suddenly Kruger was attacked by Cameron, who had grown in size, who bit into his face, but the jaguar threw her of into a bunch of bushes and ran after her.
" CAMERON!" Ryan screamed as he was once again tackeled by Blake and Kurt, but as they were about to maul him, a roar erupted from the bushes, confusing the 2 panthers as they looked up, but to Ryan that familiar roar made him smile as if he witnessesed a miracle.
Cameron, once again a leopard, emerged from the bushes with an unconscious Kruger lifted in her jaws. She violently threw the limp jaguar in front of his 2 companions who looked at her in confusion. " What? How?" Blake stammered, " Uhhhh, a she-cat!" Kurt said suggestively, completely failing to read her body language. The leopardess was absolutely livid, claws extended, fangs beared, she made a bone chilling growl while developing a murderous look in her eyes. " You guys just made a dire mistake. " Ryan stated before a pissed Cameron attacked Kruger, he used the distraction to kick Blake in the face and grab his machete. " Alright you wanna fight! You got one!" Ryan proclaimed.
Blake attacked, only to be repeatedly slashed by the sword, he attacked again and again only for Ryan to swiftly dodge him and slash him again. As they moved trough the forest, Ryan finally spotted the net trap and tried pushing Blake towards it. Ryan spotted the panthers old stab wound in his shoulder and managed to slash him across it. As Blake was distracted by the agonizing pain Ryan kicked him right into the trap, and before he knew it Blake was suddenly lifted into the air.
As the trapped leopard hung suspended by the net and squirmed, Ryan closed in, his instincts telling him to deliver the final blow, Blake looked at him with an hateful glare as he raised his machete. His heart pumping, he readied himself to slay his enemy but when the time for it came he couldn't do it. " Well come on! Finish me!" the panther yelled furiously as Ryan just stood still seemingly holding back, seeing this Blake became even more inraged " Pathetic you don't even the guts to..." Ryan swung his sword but instead of hitting Blake he cut trough the net, causing the panther to fall while still tangled in it, Ryan pointed his machete at him, "Oh you wanna torture me first, huh?" Blake spat out.
" No I let you go because I don't want to hurt you don't you get it? I told you we don't have to kill each other!" Ryan made one last attempt to reason, Blake narrowed his eyes " I told you to spare me your lies. Now are you gonna kill me or are you too soft to even do that!" , " I know what you've been trough, I understand why you hate humans, but I can help you, return you home, if you would just trust me, if you stay the humans are gonna kill you, what do you have to loose." Ryan was nearly pleading at this point, trying to avoid bloodshed. He cut the net open, allowing Blake to stand up. He glared at Ryan, seemingly contemplating his choice, after a prolonged silence he agreed in a dejected tone. Remaining cautious Ryan told him to follow him in order to break up the fight. But the moment he turned his back something felt of, he didn't hear the panther following him, Ryan hastily turned as Blake made one final lunge at him, soon a blood-chilling roar echoed trough the forest.
With his machete deeply impaled in the dying panther, Ryan pushed him aside and pulled his weapon out. He looked over the bleeding panther who was gasping his final breaths, " Well looks like you beat me, nice job kiddo, never thought I'd die this way thought ..." Ryan was suprised by his relaxed and casual tone while on the verge of death, " Why did you do that, I told you you could trust me." Ryan said somberly, but Blake remained calmly indifferent " Meh I never trusted anyone, in this hellhole of a life the only language I ever learned was violence...." he struggled to catch another breath ".....but that's behind me now, thanks for putting me out of my mysery...." and with that he closed his eyes, never to open them again. Ryan stared at his lifestyles corpse, feeling empty, even though this animal tried nothing but kill him he felt empathy for this cat, he lost his innocence do to forces out of his control. Then hearing sounds of a fight reminded Ryan that he needed to help Cameron.
Ryan arrived just in time to kick Kurt of while he and Kruger had tackled Cameron, while Ryan fought of the cougar, she tackled the jaguar, the 2 fought viciously, while Kurt tried attacking Ryan, but the latter easily dodged him and repeatedly slashed the cougar with his sword until his opponent collapsed. Turning his attention towards the jaguar who had Cameron pinned down, he charged and stabbed Kruger in his leg, the jaguar roared in pain as Cameron clamped her jaws around his throat and grabbed hold of his neck, she held him down now, while Ryan stabbed the jaguar into his chest . Once Kruger went limp the two turned their attention towards Kurt who stood up and saw Kruger lying dead and not too far away Blake as well. They both saw a look of shock and sadness on the usually unhinged puma before he yelled " You'll pay for this!" as he charged at them in a blind fury, but Cameron easily tackled him and pinned him down. Ryan came to them and pointed his machete at Kurts throat, realizing his predicament the cougar lost any courage and started begging for his life. Exchanging glances Ryan sighed " Let him go.", " Are you crazy, this piece of filth doesn't deserve mercy !" Cameron retorted " No he doesn't, but we aren't ruthless killers like them, you need to show them that you're better than them." , with that Cameron reluctantly let go of him, Kurt started backing of, cowering and with his tail between his legs, Ryan bluntly told him to leave this forest for good or he would suffer the same fate as his friends, needing no second warning Kurt turned tail and ran into the distance. Both were relieved that it was finally over, before being joined by Cecil and the other animals, to be applauded for their victory.
Later Ryan, Cameron and Cecil had arrived at the cave, the fox was in awe at the sight of the glowing cave. " Well twerp, this is where we say our goodbyes, hope you stay out of trouble." said Ryan while petting him on the head, " Oh that's the least I can do on behalf of all the animals in this forest. They lived in fear of the phantom cats for years, but now you have finally liberated them. And bealive me my days of tricking others are over, I see that cooperation is the way of the future. Now if you'll excuse me I have to help Bart, the squirrels and the bats to loot a farm, so we can all have enough food for the winter. Farewell my friend." and with that the wily fox was of. "
Ryan then looked back at the portal " Well Cam it's time to head home." " Yes this mission was more than long enough." the leopardess felt relieved that this madness was almost over. Ryan was too, they got the artifact " Now we only have to save my friends and all of the animals trapped on the island." Ryan said optimistically, as the 2 leaped trough the portal.
Well finally this story is over, took me a bit longer to finish it up do to a creative block so I'm glad to finally be posting it. Originally I intended for the panthers to accept Ryan`s offer and follow him to Africa, but I realized that this would have been a contrived happy ending as they were too far gone following their traumatic upbringing to be reasoned with, this probably won't be the last time I mix the psychology of anthropomorphic animals with man`s more callous and unethical actions towards them, like trying to make pets out of exotic beasts you can't control. And yes the scene were Ryan and co. take over the hunters cabin and tie him up is a nod to the movie Madagascar where the penguins do the same to the captain and his crew on a boat, love that scene it always cracked me up. And this was the first time that a large number of people in a heavily populated area saw Ryan in his werebeast form, which might have some consequencesmin the future. Till next time.....