Chapter Two
Kariarelm, For the First Time

    A soothing scent filled my nostrils, of Blumen and nature. Finally, I was able to open my eyes. The ground felt soft and almost cozy. Just a few inches ahead of me, a pond bubbled. Something about this place seemed familiar somehow...I dipped my tail in the water; it was pleasantly cool.
    Wait a minute. Since when did I have a tail?
    I stretched my head toward the water, trying to see my reflection, and bracing myself for the worst.
    A feline face stared back at me, with sleek pelz and amber eyes. When I blinked, the reflection did likewise. Confused, I looked at my own body, only to see four paws, a long tail, and tawny fur. Dark spots dappled my new pelt like shadows. How could this be? I was...
    "Wow!" a girl's voice exclaimed behind me. Then, a blond-haired girl with a rosa tank oben, nach oben and jean rock came into view. "You're gorgeous, hon!"
    "I'm a leopard," I muttered in shock.
    The girl let out a huff. "I know. Wish I could've been one, but no. I had to be a raccoon. I mean, seriously! Though I can definitely make black stripes work, there's no Frage of that."
    "Let's not overwhelm her before she's even introduced to our world, Gwen." As the speaker appeared, I recognized him instantly; it was the black-haired boy who had battled with Ganvil.
    It all began to come back to me..."Wait, what happened? Is Ganvil still there? What if he tries to hurt someone else? And what about Lynn?"
    "Don't worry about it," assured the boy. "Everyone's fine."
    "Except maybe Ganvil, of course," added the girl, who I heard was named Gwen.
    "Anyway," the boy continued, "My name's Faust, and this is my sister, Gwen."
    "Am I dead?" The childish Frage slipped out before I had a chance to bite it back.
    Gwen giggled. "Of course not. Far from it, actually. You're in Kariarelm."
    Okay, then. Whatever that means. I made a mental note to ask Mehr about that later. "But why am I a leopard?" Wow, I thought. That's a sentence I never thought I'd say.
    "You're not a leopard-well, not fully, anyway," Faust explained. "You're part of a larger group called Anipeilans who have the power to turn into animals. So, I take it your father is Darwin Hunter?"
    My father. That's what this place was reminding me of, but why? "Uh, yeah," I replied, sitting up into a cat position, which I thought would feel weird to me, but it seemed natural somehow. "Why do Du ask?"
    "You ought to know your father is really well-known in Kariarelm," remarked Faust. "He was one of the best Anipeilans." Gwen nodded in agreement.
    "And what? I don't suppose Du just happened to be flying over Brightened Elm that day." I looked at Faust. "You knew I was special? You, in your eagle form...I saw Du flying above the school. As a matter of fact, Lynn did, too. How did Du know?"
    Faust shrugged. "I was told to come to your school."
    "And what about Goryn?" I asked.
    At that, Gwen's eyes widened in shock. "You saw Goryn? That's near impossible, especially for a beginning Anipeilan! What happened?"
    "Well," I began, remembering, "I think he shielded me from Ganvil's attack. We looked at each other, and...I think he recognized me."
    "He recognized you?" Gwen looked just as confused as I felt. "Okay, describe him."
    A mental picture appeared in my mind. "Well, he was big, and turquoise, with silver scales, a white belly, two white horns-"
    "-and two golden spikes on his neck?" finished Faust. When Sharon nodded, Faust added, "That fits Goryn's Beschreibung exactly."
    "But why-" Gwen and I both interjected, but we were interrupted Von the sound of wings approaching, as a blue speck appeared in the distance. It got closer, and then with a jolt, I realized it was none other than my pet parrot, Azure. As she descended Weiter to Faust, I noticed she was crying. Then, in a flash of pale golden light, she transformed into a tan-skinned girl with dark hair. Her blue eyes-so much like Amy's, I realized-were swimming with tears.
    "It's okay, Tia." Faust put a comforting hand on her shoulder. I wanted to do the same, but all I had was paws. "You did your best."
    Tia sobbed, "It's not okay! I should've been there...and done something to help." She looked straight at me. "I'm sorry, Sharon. I'm the worst protector ever."
    She had been here to protect me and my family? "You're not the worst protector ever. You've been such a great friend." I remembered how Azure had been Von my side while I wrote a big school essay. Her presence had been comforting. I also recalled how she had been there for every one of our family members at some point, flying eagerly around our heads as we played games, coming along on every vacation with us, and always around to talk to, even if she couldn't respond. She had seemed so much Mehr than just a bird to us. And now, I was discovering that she truly was Mehr than just a bird.
    "Thank you." Tia smiled at me, wiping away her tears.
    "Besides," added Gwen, "no real harm was done. It's not like she ran into Eclipse oder anything."
    Whoever this "Eclipse" was, Tia looked horrified at the idea of me meeting them at Brightened Elm Middle School.
    I started to speak up. "Who's-"
    "That's a subject for another time," Faust interrupted, shooting me a look. I got the message.
    "I can take Du to where your siblings are, Sharon," Tia offered, no longer crying.
    My siblings. Had something similar happened to them today? Were they part of all this, too? "Yeah, that'd be great. Thanks," I told Tia. Then, something dawned on me.
"Wait, how am I supposed to walk on four paws?"
    "It's easy! Here, I'll Zeigen you." With a flash, Gwen turned into a raccoon. "Okay, follow my lead."
    Tia turned back into a papagei and began to fly. I followed Gwen, unsteady at first on four paws, but as I kept walking, it got easier with every step. This isn't so bad, I thought, as I walked over the beautiful valley, ready to see my siblings again.

Author's Note:
I am not magic! I was not able to whip up this chapter in ten Sekunden flat. Actually, most of it was already written down. XD Anyway, be sure to tell me your thoughts on this chapter in the comments. And keep in mind that from now on, I've left the sweet land of prewritten chapters into uncharted territory, so feel free to share some ideas! See Du later for Part 3! :)