The dream begins with a blue-tinted jungle. The jungle shadows feel heavy. Ominous.
The panther is tense, alert. On guard.
The wolf shadows the panther as usual but it somehow seems worried. Distracted.
Suddenly, a clan of hyenas surrounds them, howling and screaming. Harrying the panther.
The panther turns on the wolf viciously. Rebuffing him with snarls and slashes that draw blood even when he crouches low and licks the panther's muzzle, whining and lowering his tail in submission. At last, the wolf yields, retreating. Leaving.
The harassment from the hyenas worsens. They press close, snapping. Threatening.
The panther is trapped and helpless. The hyenas move in for the kill.
But when they attack, it is not the panther beneath their jaws for the already-wounded wolf flings himself in their path, protecting the very one who wounded him.
The panther screams in protest and flings himself forward to protect the wolf. To save his mate. But it is too late. The wolf is dying and, as it dies, it changes. Shifts...
He wakes, screaming. He still hears the echoes of the panther's despairing cry, the wolf's last heartbeat, even as his Guide's frantically racing heart and anxious call reach his ears.
He pulls off the sleeping mask and glares at the man hovering uncertainly at the top of the stairs. Opens his mouth to snap and snarl.
Sees the hurt, the hopelessness. The resignation and determination.
Sees the wolf, wounded, sacrificing himself to save the panther.
And suddenly, he understands. Understands that, once again, he has been given a warning. That once again, he has a choice to make. To heed that warning... or to ignore it.
And in so doing, once again fail his Shaman, hurt his Guide, abandon his partner.
Kill the one meant to be his mate.
He knows that visions are not always literal. That the death may be symbolic, something other than a physical death.
It doesn't matter; he can't take that chance.
Not again. Never again.
"I dreamt," he croaks in a voice hoarse from screaming, "about the panther."
The Guide drifts a few steps closer, the lure of the vision battling his uncertainty of his acceptance. "What about him?"
"The wolf was with him."
Delight flickers over the Shaman's face and he ventures nearer. "Yeah?"
"They were surrounded by hyenas. The hyenas were harassing the panther."
The delight vanishes and the approach halts.
"The panther turned on the wolf. Attacked him. Drove him away."
The halt becomes a retreat.
Jim swallows hard. "The panther was wrong."
"I was wrong." Jim holds his hand out in silent entreaty. "I should have listened."
His friend takes a hesitant step towards him.
"I'm listening now. Talk to me?"
The remaining steps are taken in a rush. Hands meet and clasp.
The Sentinel pulls his Guide, his Shaman, his partner, his friend, into his arms. "I'm sorry," he murmurs. He holds on as hard as he can.
His partner grips him just as tightly.
They talk. And plan.
The dream begins with the blue-tinted jungle. The jungle shadows feel just as heavy. Just as ominous.
The panther is still tense, alert. On guard.
The wolf shadows the panther. Once again, it seems worried. Distracted.
The clan of hyenas surrounds them, howling, screaming, and harrying the panther.
Again, the panther turns on the wolf. Rebuffs him with snarls and slashes that draw blood even when he crouches low and licks the panther's muzzle, whining and lowering his tail in submission. And again, the wolf yields. Begins to retreat. To leave.
But now, the dream changes.
The panther yowls. Calls the wolf back. Soothes the wounds he caused.
Together, they face the hyenas. Hold them off. Face them down. Till finally, the hunting pack backs off. Gives up.
Left in peace, the panther and his mate take shelter. They curl up, bodies pressed together, and sleep.
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