Welcome to installment #10 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
A day into Mujur’s journey, the cat returned, trailing him like a cub. The critter had become a constant companion—an annoyance more than anything—darting beneath Mujur’s feet, nearly tripping him. More than once, the idea of devouring the tiny morsel had crossed Mujur’s mind, just to get the nuisance out of his fur.
Mujur slowed and took a step toward the bite-sized snack, rolled his shoulders in preparation for the shift.
As if knowing how precarious the situation had grown, the flat-headed cat skirted away and climbed the nearest tree.
Mujur watched the red fur of the little beast blend into the foliage with a wry smile. At least now he could concentrate on the penanggalan trail, not exactly a trail per se, but rather a beckoning.
He sensed the unnaturalness of the creature, was drawn as if the penanggalan wanted him to find it, called to him like an irresistible lure. And he would find it. His honor depended on it. Only this time, he’d be alert for any trickery.
Mujur set off again while scratching his shoulder. He’d already depleted the salve Bryan had supplied him. Only a few minutes after each application the itching had returned, forcing him to reapply the ointment constantly. And none of the other treatments he tried had alleviated the symptoms—not the bamboo poultices, the coconut pulp, or even the betel leaves which seemed like a cure for everything. He’d even tried combining some of the healing plants, but the rash only worsened.
As aggravating as the constant itching was, he couldn’t let it interfere with his duty. Once he destroyed the penanggalan, he’d return to Berani for healing. Like all wehr-tigresses, she was trained to cure simple ailments, but Berani’s abilities exceeded the basic skills of most, her powers enhanced by the Great Spirit. Yet, the idea of facing Berani or her mate for help, gave him a sense of unworthiness… making him more beholden than he already was.
Already she’d risked her life for him. He was supposed to protect Berani, but he’d done nothing more than put her in danger. Now once again he needed her help. Eventually, she’d send him away, believing he brought more trouble than good, and he wouldn’t blame her. Bad luck seemed to follow him.
He laughed without amusement. Mujur—lucky—his mother apparently didn’t realize luck went both ways with him on the losing end.
Good luck. Bad luck. Surely Berani would do something as simple as heal him. She’d come after him when he’d been captured, which likely meant she cared greatly for those within her clans… even unworthy wehr-tigers like himself. If nothing else, keeping him healthy meant he would be more effective at protecting her. As it was, the rash had become an incessant plague which wore on his mental state.
He’d go to Berani. If he returned victorious, the clan would see he was more than just a stray who hungered for dwindling resources.
Mujur winced as his nails dug too deep and cut into the skin.
Enough. He attempted to shift into a tiger, but his shoulder burned as hair sprouted through the bleeding rash. He almost didn’t complete the transformation, reversing the progress slightly before following through and landing on padded feet. At least this way, his paws were forced to concentrate on walking rather than his hands scratching his flesh raw. Still, he couldn’t help twitching the skin of his shoulder from time to time or twisting to rub his head against it.
Mujur picked up speed, and the flat-headed cat landed beside him. He ignored it. Too involved with staying the path and unsuccessfully keeping his mind off his shoulder, he didn’t have the energy to worry about eating the little pest. But if the bold little cat wanted to keep itself fresh for later, Mujur certainly wasn’t going to scare the thing away. If nothing else, it made an interesting companion with its steady purrs and occasional meows.