Nature of the Beast

By: Hannah Howell

At the mere thought of casting Evanna and her brother out of his home, Berawald felt a pinching pain in the area of his heart. Despite his best efforts, both Masseys had wormed their way into his affections. Evanna had such a tight grip on his heart and his lust he was not sure he could push her out of his home even if she was guilty of some heinous crime. And each time he considered the possibility that she was guilty of something, it was only a fleeting consideration. He feared his opinion was being influenced far too strongly by soft green eyes, sweet smiles, and a beautiful voice.

No matter what he decided to do with the Masseys in the end, he still needed answers. It was all right for him to make an error in judgment when only his own life was at risk, but he would not share that risk with his whole clan. There were men hunting his kinsmen, men who wished to put every MacNachton in a grave. Berawald had seen what those men were capable of and he could not allow sentiment or lust to cloud his thoughts.

There was also something a little strange about David and Evanna Massey. In the week they had lived with him he had seen few spirits. Since the day when he had begun to change from a boy to a man he had had little peace from the visitations of the dead, yet he had known it from the moment the pair had entered his life. He could still see the occasional ghost, but the constant noise of them, the constant rattle of voices in his head, had gone away. It was as if the Masseys had brought some shield with them, one that thickened the wall between the dead and the living. He had never experienced such a thing before, or even heard of it, but he wanted to know the secret of it. Such a skill could help him to finally live as normal a life as any MacNachton was capable of.

Unlike many other Outsiders he had known, the Masseys did not seem to crave the sun. Evanna did not bemoan her inability to go outside, and David never did more than watch the sunsets, and occasionally the sunrises, with him. That a boy of five would be so content inside for day after day did not seem right, not when he was one of those who could go out and enjoy the summer sun the few times it deigned to show itself. Berawald knew fear could be keeping the boy close and hidden, but he could not shake the suspicion that it was more than that.

There were other things that he had noticed that troubled him. The Masseys did not even blink an eye when he ate his meat barely seared; David had even requested some for himself and Evanna. Berawald doubted that was because they had had so little meat in their lives that they had no idea how it should usually be served. He felt sure both Masseys caught sight of the occasional spirit that still wandered through the cave, yet they said nothing. And Evanna was healing at a very rapid rate for an Outsider. With their red hair and bright eyes, he could not believe they were MacNachtons, and yet he began to wonder if there was some of his clan’s blood in their veins. The problem would be in trying to verify his suspicions without exposing the secrets of his clan.

Berawald was yanked from his thoughts by a soft noise from Evanna, and he turned his head to find himself staring into her sleepy green eyes. The slow smile she gave him made him ache to pull her into his arms and join her on that bed. He crossed his arms over his chest to keep himself from giving in to that urge. She was a weakness with him, and until he knew the truth, he could not allow himself to give in to it.

Evie’s smile faded away. For the first time since she had met the man, Berawald’s beautiful face had a predatory cast. She felt a tickle of fear but smothered it. He was not her enemy; enemies did not save their prey and heal the wounds of the ones they were hunting. Something was troubling the man, however, she decided as she struggled to sit up.

“Is David all right?” she asked as a sudden fear for her brother swept over her.

“David is fine,” Berawald replied, feeling a little guilty for frightening her and fighting to not allow that guilt to make him back off from demanding some answers. “I have been waiting for ye to wake up. ’Tis time to remove your stitches. In truth, I think they could have come out soon after ye woke up several days ago. Ye heal verra quickly.” He noticed the way she briefly glanced to the side, fleeing his gaze, and suspected she was about to lie to him. He wondered why that should hurt him as it did.

“I have always been a fast healer and ’twas but a shallow cut,” she finally replied. “Ye said as much yourself.”

“Aye, I did. ’Twas a sword cut.”

She sighed. “Aye. I was a wee bit slow to move aside, I fear.”

“Evanna, why would someone try to kill you?”

She could tell by the look on his face that he would not cease to question her until he had an answer to that question. Evanna knew he deserved at least some of the truth. He had aided them and now sheltered them. She was afraid to say too much, however. The truth was why she and David were running for their lives, why both their mother and their father were now dead. She did not think Berawald would ever try to kill them simply because they were different, but she knew he might turn away from them. Just the thought of his dark eyes looking at her with disgust, with even a hint of fear, turned her heart into a cold stone in her chest.

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