This story is not directly related to the prompt.
“Rise and shine!” shouted Lillian, bursting into my room.
I rubbed my eyes, covering my face with my wings.
“Come on, get up! We rise with the sun here- most of us, anyway. Meet Celeste in the cafeteria in exactly one hour. Move, move, move!”
Lillian left the room as Zoe entered.
“What’s up with her?” I groaned.
“She’s always like that,” responded Zoe, spreading aside the leaves that covered the window. “She was just too in shock yesterday to insult you. Now come on, we have to check out that bump, then we have to meet Celeste about… well, you.”
“Me?” I asked, stretching my wings.
“Yeah, you. Since you’re the daughter of an All-Beast, you should be an All-Beast as well, and that means- well, you’ll see. Now Come on! Celeste is waiting.”
I sat at the table next to Celeste, my eyes roaming the room, taking in the scene. Luke and Varsha were seated in front of me, whispering in each other's ears. To their right was Zoe and Felicity, discussing recent patients of theirs. To the left of Luke and Varsha were two people I didn’t recognize. The first had dark purple hair that faded to gold at the edges, her amber eyes flicking from person to person. Her white fox ears and tail twitched in irritation at what the person next to her had said. Her dark purple diamond earrings dangled as her gaze landed on me. She shifted, the sound of metal prominent. I could feel strange vibrations from under the table, and I came to the conclusion that she had an artificial leg. I snuck a glance under the table to confirm my suspicions when the other person tapped the table spot in front of me.
“Hey, who are you?” her long, wavy black hair cascaded down her back, her bright blue eyes gazing into mine. I recognized her as the one that came to rescue me at the facility with Ethan: Liz I believe. A bow was wrapped around her torso, a sheath of arrows strapped to her back.
“Hello, can you hear me?” asked Liz, waving her hand in front of my face.
“Liz,” hissed her purple-haired friend. “She’s Mother Heather’s daughter.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know?” whispered Liz. “You’re the one that’s always eavesdropping, Cirah.”
“It’s not eavesdropping,” replied Cirah. “I just… overhear sometimes.”
“Uh-huh,” muttered Liz, shaking her head.
I was about to say something when Palak walked up and sat next to Celeste.
“Palak!” exclaimed Celeste. “How’s it going?”
“Not bad, Cel. What’s up, Harp? Heard about your… well…”
She was interrupted by several other people walking up and sitting down next to me. I gasped softly when I recognized the orange tail and ears, the reddish-brown hair, and the bright green eyes.
“Ethan!” I exclaimed.
Ethan smiled. “Hey, how’s it going?”
Celeste looked past me and frowned at Ethan. She turned back to Palak and started whispering in her ear.
“She’s still mad at me,” explained Ethan. “From when I took some of her pollen. I only needed a little, but she wouldn’t budge.” He winked. “Anyway, I brought some friends I thought I could introduce.”
He gestured to the people seated next to him. One had big, blue eyes and a hijab concealing her hair, delicate white wings protruding from her back, similar to Zoe’s. Her backwards knee and talons also resembled Zoe’s, except this person’s was thicker and stronger. She rubbed her eyes as she spoke.
“I don’t understand why we have to be up so early, Ethan. Why couldn’t it be at night?”
“Because not all of us are nocturnal, Wish,” smirked Ethan.
“But you’re a cat. Aren’t cats nocturnal?”
“Yeah, but we can handle daytime, unlike snowy owls.”
Wish yawned and laid down her head.
Her friend shook her awake, and when that failed, she pulled off her shoe and lightly tapped Wish’s back.
“Come on, get up lazy-bones. Don’t make me use this.” she said, her thick latino accent mushing her words together. She waved her shoe, her brown hair draped down her shoulders.
“I’m up, I’m up,” mumbled Wish, lifting her head. “And don’t you dare use that shoe on me again, Rainhart.”
“Then at least stay awake through the rest of the meeting,” retorted Rainhart, putting on her shoe. She smiled teasingly, revealing her large, sharp teeth, her grey eyes shining. Whiskers freckled her cheeks, and peaking through her back was some orange and black striped fur.
“Is everyone here?” asked Celeste. The group nodded, turning their attention to Celeste.
“Ok, so here’s the deal… as most of you know, Harper here is… well, she’s Mother Heather’s daughter. And since Mother Heather was an All-Beast…”
“She’s an All-Beast too,” nodded Felicity.
“I am??” I asked. “What does that mean?”
“It means that you can transform any of your body parts into any animal,” responded Wish, lifting her head from the table.
“Exactly,” said Celeste. “So, uh… try to think of an animal part, like claws or… cat ears.”
I shut my eyes and pictured cat ears emerging from my skull, orange just like Ethans…
I opened my eyes. “Did it work?”
Celeste shook her head. “Maybe you weren’t concentrating enough?”
I shut my eyes again, this time thinking of a slick orange tail protruding from my back.
Why was I thinking of Ethan?
“It’s not working,” said Celeste, shaking her head. “You keep trying. In the meantime, we have an important mission ahead of us. Predator troops were spotted near the field.”
“They’ve never ventured so close to Adapter territory,” commented Felicity, lightly tapping her deer hooves on the floor.
“Exactly,” responded Celeste. “We need some scouts to survey the field for any clues as to where the Predator’s base is. A dropped map, bootprint, anything. Ethan, Rainhart, and Liz will explore the northern side. Luke, you will be with Sia to search the eastern side- once Sia is done with her previous mission, that it. Zoe and Felicity will stay here in case something goes wrong. Varsha, Wish, and Cirah will venture to the winter side, since they are best equipped for cold weather and snow. Palak and I-”
“No,” said Luke.
“I said no. Varsha and I are always together for missions, I refuse to separate from her. What if something happens? I can’t risk her safety.”
“I can protect myself, Luke,” said Varsha. “I’m not helpless. I don’t need you stalking my every move like I’m some child!”
“I can’t risk it!” shouted Luke. “We cannot risk that they capture you, Varsha. We can’t have what happened to Treasure to happen to you!”
“She went willingly, and you know it! You just want to pretend that she’s still out there, scared and helpless, wishing you were with her. News flash, Luke, she doesn’t need you! And neither do I!”
“Then leave!” His last word echoed, leaving us all in stunned silence.
“Then maybe I will,” whispered Varsha, rising from the table and fleeing from the room.
“Varsha, wait!” shouted Cirah, running after her, her metal leg clunking against the wooden floor. Liz glanced at us before following with her.
Luke huffed and left the room, tearing the leaves from the doorway and crumpling them in his fist.
Everyone remained silent, unsure how to react.
“Who’s Treasure?” I asked tentatively.
Celeste sighed. “She’s Luke and Varsha’s sister. She and Luke got into a big fight and she left. She joined Azazel’s army and is now the head sergeant there.”
“Oh,” I mumbled.
“Achlys is part of the Predator army, too,” whispered Rainhart. “We used to date. He would give me flowers every day, whispering promises in my ear. But then…” She dropped her head, a silent tear running down her cheek.
“My friend is part of the army,” said Celeste, fiddling with something under the table. “Draco. But he found out Scarlett had joined and he followed her. He was captured, given the choice of joining Azazel’s army or facing death. He chose to join, not caring about the lifetime of friendship we once had.”
“Wow,” I whispered. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“No, it’s okay,” said Rainhart. “This is why we need to win this war. They don’t understand what they’re doing, they don’t understand that Azazel is manipulating them. He knows their weaknesses, Harper. He uses it against him.”
“But not anymore,” said Zoe. “We won’t let him do this any longer.”
“Are you crazy?!” shouted Nainika, slamming her fist against the table.
“Are you sure there isn’t another way?” asked Achlys, his face still splotched with bruises and swelling.
“That’s Azazel’s direct orders,” responded Treasure, her ear flicking in irritation. “We have to venture that area now that we know where their base is- at least their general direction.”
“Who knows how many of them are there?!” yelled Nainika, her green eyes blazing with rage, her black tail swishing back and forth. “We don’t have very many of us here, in case you hadn’t noticed! They could have thousands on their side!”
“But we are more powerful,” commented Draco, his snake tongue flicking out instinctively.
“Yeah,” agreed Nina. “We are the strongest warriors on Azazel’s side. They probably have a bunch of trainees.”
Scarlett raised her hand, a bubble of water forming in her palm. She shifted the shape to a bird, its translucent wings flapping in the air.
“Scarlett’s right,” said Draco. “There’s the new All-Beast to worry about. How do we know she won’t be a problem?”
“You must know how to solve that problem, Scarlett,” sneered Nina, revealing her sharp fangs. “Since you’re sooo perfect, right?”
Scarlett glared at Nina, turning her water bird into ice and crushing it in her fist.
“What’s wrong, Scarlett? Can’t use your words? Is the poor swan scared?” Nina stalked forward, placing her hand on Scarlett’s throat.
“Go on, speak. Tell me how much you hate me. What’s wrong, too tongue tied?” Her tongue flicked out as she spoke, drawing out the S’s.
“Nina,” warned Draco. “You know why she can’t talk.”
“Ah yes,” responded Nina. “Muted in battle. Couldn’t handle a teensy blade to the neck. Let me help you add another scar to the collection.”
“Nina,” said Draco, grasping her arm. Nina whipped her head around before her skin went cold, the warmth leaking from her body. She gasped for breath as her hand released from Scarlett’s throat. Scarlett had her arm raised towards Nina, manipulating the water in her body.
“Scarlett!” shouted Draco. “Leave her alone.”
Scarlett glared at Draco before dropping her hand, returning Nina’s body temperature to normal. She stayed on the floor, gasping and shivering, the birthmark on her eyebrow prominent against her pale skin.
“T-taking advantage of a c-cold-blooded creature now, are we?” sneered Nina. “N-nice to finally have you show the real y-you.”
Scarlett snarled at Nina before stalking out of the room.
“Scarlett, wait!” he turned to Nina. “Do you enjoy making her miserable? You know what she’s gone through, yet you insist on making it all worse.” He left the room, leaving a shivering and heart-broken Nina on the floor.
“We’ve all gone through something,” whispered Nina before rising from the floor.
Treasure cleared her throat. “Nina, you may go to the medic.”
“I don’t need to,” she retorted stubbornly, sitting at the table.
“Fine,” said Treasure. “Everyone else, prepare to leave at dawn. Scarlett will be taking Squad W to take the winter side. Draco and Nainika will take the northern area. Achlys, Nina, and I will take the rest. Meet back at the center zone. Capture anyone you can find, kill them if necessary. But leave the All-Beast to Azazel. He will deal with it himself. This war will end here and now."