Welcome to installment #15 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. I totally expected to have this book published by now. Alas, here we are with another week of Making Amends. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page. So… where are we with the progress of Chasing Shadows?
Well, I hit the last chapter–which still needs to be edited, by the way–and wasn’t satisfied. I just didn’t like how the relationship transitioned. So, I’ll be going back and writing a few more scenes and modifying parts of the story line so everything fits well.
I still plan for an August release though. Until then… enjoy!
They headed northeast, the distance to Kecil’s goal increasing with every step. She looked back the way they’d come. Already she’d backtracked half the journey she’d made from her clan. Perhaps it was a sign from the Great Spirit her plan to find her mother’s killer was not to be.
Mujur led with a determined stride, not once glancing her way, never easing his grip. Strong. Firm. Everything she was not.
Her doubts grew. Maybe setting out on the journey was a mistake. She should insist Mujur escort her home. They were so close, it would be more efficient for him to do so.
Mujur paused. He looked to the thick canopy, and his top lip curled into a sneer. “We hunt.”
Without warning, he released her. His skin mottled orange and sprouted fur as his body contorted into the shape of a tiger. Within seconds, he completed his transformation.
His tail flicked impatiently, and her eyes drew to its white tip—a sign of luck and an explanation for his name. Mujur—lucky.
So unlike her. Kecil brought her hand to her neck so her forearm crossed her chest and covered much of her birthmark. Heat rose to her face, and she quickly took on her tiger form to mask her shame. She only wished she could hide the mud color spatter on her neck and chest as easily, which appeared even as a cat.
Small, insignificant, and marked. She refused to meet Mujur’s eyes and see the disgust and pity she knew they’d hold.
Mujur took a leisure pace, his footsteps sure.
Kecil followed, but her focus was not on the hunt, but rather on Teman trailing in the trees. Normally, her friend’s presence was a boon. His companionship was a constant source of comfort, and he’d been with her long enough to know the hunting rules of silence. As a bonus, prey were more likely to keep to everyday activities after spotting a binturong taking a carefree stroll. All that mattered little when Mujur had already taken the binturong for prey.
Mujur’s ears perked, and he made a sharp change in direction.
Though she heard nothing, Kecil didn’t hesitate to follow. It was difficult not to trust the instincts of one who exuded such confidence.
Mujur came to a tree and paced at the foot. His white-tipped tail flicked, and the air charged with his agitation. The fur on Kecil’s scruff rose in response.
Without warning, Mujur rounded on the tree, dug his claws into the trunk and climbed until he stretched to his full height and roared. Birds vacated the canopy in a flock of feathers and squawks. As bold as ever, Teman answered with his own fearless screech.
Flakes of bark fell as Mujur sharpened his claws. Tail a straight point, ears laid back, his nose crinkled as he snarled.
A dose of adrenaline hit Kecil and sent a tremor down her spine. She hunched low and backed away. Her heart beat in her chest like a bird fighting for release.
Mujur’s head jerked to her, and she froze, willing her body to become as inconspicuous as a log. He pushed off the tree and trotted closer. His eyes bore into her like a claw piercing flesh.
Run, her mind screamed, but her limbs were too rigid to respond.
His fur receded as he shifted and stood. “Let’s go. It may have gotten away this time, but eventually it’ll slip, and I’ll be there.”
Mujur walked away, but it was a long time before Kecil’s muscles unknotted.
Flee. With the distance, she’d have just enough of a head start to make escape possible… unlikely, but possible nonetheless.
A bump against her leg sent Kecil whipping around. She pulled her claws short, within inches of Teman’s face. Her friend nuzzled close and forced himself beneath her chin.
“Are you coming?” Mujur stood at a distance, arms folded. “The sooner I destroy the penanggalan, the sooner I can escort you to safety.”
Safety—a foreign concept to Kecil. All her options presented a set of dangers. She could wait for an opportunity to escape Mujur and journey alone, but if the penanggalan were close, it’d come to her each night, paralyzing her in dreams, sucking her life-force bit by bit. Returning to her village meant facing Gemuk and the consequences he’d impose… punishments he’d mete out in secret. She’d never be able to hide from him indefinitely. And finally… Mujur.
His promise of protection was tempting, but he was a stranger. At least with Gemuk she could predict the upcoming abuse, while Mujur’s brief bout of irrational behavior during the hunt added to her wariness. Still, Mujur had yet to cause her harm, and his rage hadn’t been directed toward her.
Instincts said run, yet at times his presence gave her a sense of safety she hadn’t experienced since her mother’s death. In truth, she didn’t know what to do with the turmoil of confusion swirling within her.
Mujur stepped closer, and the irritation melted from his features. “We’re wasting time.”
Teman brushed his muzzle against her cheek then abandoned her for the trees. His easiness to leave her in the care of the stranger made the choice easier.
Kecil shifted to stand on human feet.
A quick nod from Mujur and he returned to the mission, his steps unfaltering. Kecil shadowed in silence and tried to wrap her mind around the sense of foreboding weighing down on her even as Mujur gave her a strange sense of security.
Once Mujur destroyed the penanggalan, perhaps he’d help eliminate her mother’s killer. The murderer may not steal souls, but he was just as much of a threat to the existence of her people as a penanggalan.