Wet Season, 1949, was a plentiful year. The fish flailed their little bodies frantically against the rocks as they struggled to scramble upstream, paying no heed to their brethren or to the predators that lay in wait to sample their tender flesh. Their eyes shone wild with exhilaration as they attempted to leap over waterfalls three times their height. It was every salmon for himself that morning.
I gripped the rocks tightly with my claws, trying hard not to slip as the water trickled by underneath, tickling my soles. I focused my gaze once again upon the chaotic motions of the animals beneath me, but all I saw were snippets of fins and tails as the salmon slunk by, undeterred by the ursine threat that surrounded their breeding grounds.
Sehwen sidled onto my rock, knocking me aside in the process. I fell hard on my rump, causing a gigantic splash to ensue. Sehwen belted out another gruff noise – a warning.
Lowering my head, I ambled across the water in search of another vantage point, wincing as the current threatened to pull me downstream. When Sehwen wanted something, he got it.
I spent a few moments searching for the perfect spot but to no avail. Hearing a splash behind me, I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a salmon clasped in the jaws of the great black bear. Sehwen gave me a half-smile half-snarl in a way that only a bear's jaw could muster. He carried his prize to the bank to enjoy its succulent flesh.
That catch could've been mine.
But who was I kidding? I could not fish yet. The visions and emotions took up so much room in my mind that there was no space left for such trivial tasks as keeping my eyes fixed on the flimsy fish below.
Sehwen was aware of this. He knew that I was different. But I did not think he knew why. How could he? Father had kept it a secret from everyone, everyone except my mother and my brother.
"Sejka," Father had told me upon many occasions, "don't tell anyone about this. They are not ready to know. Sometimes the truth about things must be withheld until it is time."
But when would it be time?
Ten winters I had seen, and still, I could not tell even my friends about my true nature. Not that there were that many I could call friends. Xunnu I considered a friend. And then there was my brother, Koyah. I considered him a friend as well, even though he ruffled my fur and took my sea glass.
Father said it was not right to collect the glass. It was left on the beaches from the 'others'. I pretended I didn't know what he meant, that apparently there were others like us. 'Humans', they were called. They walked and talked like us, but they could not Change the way we could. They were locked to their first and only form, the one with two legs.
Of course, we chose to stay in human form for most activities. It allowed us to speak to each other and to weave our nets and build our homes. It allowed for a warmer, better embrace.
Yet I could not imagine life without the Change. It was all I knew. And though I was born Yeva'si – a shapeshifter – my spirit has known many incarnations.
It had taken me a while to remember, but in this past year, it had all flooded back to me in rivulets of succulent emotions and memories. Some of it was a little overwhelming. Trust me, when you are trapped in the body of a ten-year-old child, it is a little difficult to keep track of what you did centuries ago. You get the impulse to run and play all the time. But I remember most of my past lives now, and it is enlightening.
I remember the deal I made with a small, hungry, desperate group of people. I needed them to keep my true nature a secret as I worked to bring balance to the land. In return, I would give them a piece of myself. I would give them the ability to Shift at will, to bind their forms to the spirits of the animals they wished to mimic.
It would not come easily, as you can imagine. The humans would have to spend days in the wilds, learning as much as they could about the animals and the forests around them. They would have to wait until they were able to see the world through the eyes of other beings. Only then would they have enough of the earth's knowledge and energy to be able to bind their spirits to another form as I have always done.
Always is a strong word.
Always is almost synonymous with eternity.
I certainly haven't been around indefinitely. I was not here when the earth was new. In fact, I cannot quite remember my first incarnation. I'd like to remember, and you would think I would be able to – it being my first life and all. But it's so long ago and I have so many memories that it just isn't possible to think back that far.
What I do remember is that I was present when the Yeva'si, the shapeshifters of the great northwest, became a race. I was not only there, but I was the one who blessed them. I was the first Ru-Yeva, or Guardian of Nature, as my tribe calls me. I have reincarnated many times before and since.
I have kept the land green and healthy wherever I saw fit. I have been reincarnated all around the world. Flown with the eagles, swum with the dolphins and run with the cheetahs. I have felt the power of fire and of lightning, and I have meditated in the silent forests where man has not yet touched.
I am not human, but neither am I any other. I am Spiritborne – a manifestation of whatever I happen to be in this fleeting moment in time.
In my last life, I was known as Sejka of the Yáahl tribe.
But now, you may call me Skye Matthews.
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GUARDIAN | Book 2 of the Spirits' War Trilogy [excerpt]Fantasy
You mess with one of the Three, you mess with them all. The Battle of the Ritual may be over, but the war against the Covenant has only just begun. Skye and her companions head to Canada in search of more recruits and for Sejka's long-lost brother...