Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Two Sans, Two Mothers ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Two Sans, Two Mothers

A tired young woman, clutching a small bundle to her chest, sprinted
through the unknown woods as if her life depended on it. There was a very
good reason for that- her life, as she knew it, DID depend on it.

She stumbled slightly when her foot snagged an exposed tree root, and,
unable to completely recover, spun so that her all-important package was
not hit with the impact of her fall.

Breathing heavily, the woman sat up, glancing behind her. 'Good,' she
thought to herself anxiously. 'I lost them.' She dusted the leaves off of
her back and slowly stood up. Her legs were too tired, though, and she
promptly collapsed again, though with a little better control over herself.

Sighing, she glanced down at her bundle. It seemed to her that her life
was spinning out of control all of a sudden, and this was the only thing
which mattered to her now. This precious cargo, this little joy- her
daughter. A painfully weak but nonetheless passionately demanding wail
erupted from the child. "Don't worry, darling, mommy will protect you.
Are you hungry?" Opening the tattered remnants of her robe to expose a
milk-filled teat to her baby, the woman started looking around, hoping
against hope that there was somewhere she could escape to when she was
strong enough to stand.

She was lucky she had the strength to have gotten as far as she did. The
men who were after her were powerful, skilled hunters. She was barely
recovered from childbirth, herself. Her baby had yet to be weaned, and,
she realized, that was probably a good thing at this point. She had no
food on her other than that small amount of milk she could produce herself.
She smiled down at her child, glad that she had this respite.

A rattling sound jarred the woman as she sat, her worries momentarily
forgotten. She glanced up, and saw it was little more than a kodama,
gazing at her curiously. Nothing to worry about, if she remembered her
forest lore correctly, but it reminded her that she had run to an area
known for its extreme danger to humans in order to escape her own pursuers.

"Hurry up, Miko," she whispered anxiously, using her daughter's name for
the first time since she had escaped. "We will have to run again in a few
minutes, and I need you to be done before I do." She knew it was futile
trying to speed the little girl up, but she didn't care- she just had to
say something.

She coaxed the babe into finishing as best as she could before standing up.
Her legs were tired- very sore, very weak, and shaking slightly. She knew
she didn't have a choice, though. She had to keep running. If she
didn't... dazedly, she glanced back down at the bundle in her arms. If she
didn't, then nothing mattered any more.

* * * * *

A massive wolf, larger than any in history, stood proudly on top of the
rock which served as the den of her clan. Glancing up, she saw that the
sun was in the right location- it was time.

A howl erupted from her mouth. A second, slightly different howl escaped
from the same maw. Finally, in a slightly gravelly voice, she called,
"San! I want all three of you here, now!" Two much smaller wolves-
puppies, really, though they were about the same size as a normal wolf-
bounced up to her from out of the small cave in the den. The larger wolf
looked around, took a slight sniff of the air, then bellowed out again,

"Coming, mother," came a quite despondant whine from the cave. "Why did
you have to give me a human name, anyway?"

The large wolf glared at her two boys. It appeared as though they were
teasing their sister again- something they wouldn't DARE do in front of
their mother, especially since she also had taken a human name as well.
"I've told you before, San. Back before you were even weaned, my mate and
many others in our clan were killed by humans because of a misunderstanding
which could have been easily avoided if we were able to communicate better
with those creatures, so our clan will now do whatever it can to keep these
misunderstandings from happening. We do not have to like the humans, but
we also do not want to fight them- that would be suicide." She paused.
"If that means we take human names, so be it."

"Then why don't my brothers have human names?"

"Because they don't need them. I do, however, because I am the alpha of
our clan. You will when I am gone, because I am raising you to be the
alpha in my place. You will only succeed in that, however, if you come out
here and get your hunting practice in, so that you get as big strong as
you're supposed to!" the giant wolf snapped.

Finally, a third wolf pup, this one slightly larger and stronger looking
then her two brothers, emerged from the hole in the rock, moving somewhat
reluctantly. "I'm ready to go, mother," San growled out, sulking.

"Oh, quit whimpering, San. You may have a human name, but you ARE a wolf.
Act like one," one of her brothers answered.

"Quit fighting!" the mother wolf snarled. "I was thinking about keeping
this hunt short today, but now I think we need to tire out those tempers of
yours. After the first kill, I will bring the meat home, but YOU three
will have to keep running until the darkness falls. And no food until you
get back, either!"

The two older wolves glared at their sister. "Yes, mother," they growled.

* * * * *

The woman continued running through the forest, but she already knew it was
too late. They had followed her, and knew exactly where she was.
Furthermore, they were running faster than she was, and some of them were
moving to cut her off...

"Come on, Eboshi!" one of her pursuers called out. "You're trapped! Give
the girl up! Kojiro wants his child back!"

"NO!" she cried out. "I don't care if he is my husband, I won't let him
have my little Miko. Not if he plans to just turn around and give her
away!" She stopped running, however, noticing that she was now surrounded.

"He is her father. He should be able to say which way her life is going to
go," the hunting party's leader reasoned. "All he wants is for her to be
molded into her namesake. And a temple priestess is an honorable
profession to be raised in."

"I've seen the temple he wishes to SELL her to!" Eboshi spat angrily, tears
running down her face as she realized it was over. "That isn't a holy
place at all! The miko there are nothing more than prostitutes- he wants
me to send her to be raised in a BROTHEL! I won't let him turn my daughter
into a whore just because he's a drinking buddy of some shinto priest! I

The man sighed. "Well, I tried to reason with you. But, if you won't
co-operate, I have no choice." He made a brief hand signal. "Farewell,
Eboshi. It was a great chase, but I'm afraid it must end."

The arrow struck her right between her breasts, inches above the spot where
she held the little girl. Staring down at the shaft in disbelief as the
blood from her wound leaked out into her clothing, she didn't even notice
as she fell to her knees.

* * * * *

"Moro?" came a voice that was both pleasing and terrifying. The great wolf
looked around- all she could see, wherever she turned, was the face of the

"Moro?" the voice repeated.

"You don't talk," Moro replied definitively. "This is a dream."

"Yes, this is a dream," Shishigami said. "But I do wish to talk to you. I
only can in your dreams, and so I am here."

"Why?" she growled suspiciously.

"Because I must tell you something important. The future is dark... the
time of the forest gods is ending, and the time of humans is approaching.
Your clan, though, must survive. You are to fight it with all of your
might. A human will become your ally. You are doomed to die unfulfilled.
A human will become your child. Your child is doomed to die in pain. Your
ally will keep your child alive. Your enemy is approaching. I will spare
your enemy, though she will destroy me. Your enemy will save me, yet I am
doomed to die at her hand."

"What riddles are you speaking, Shishigami?" Moro interrupted, confused and
worried. "I serve you well... do I not deserve something more
understandable than this?"

"I am sorry, I cannot tell you the future in the order that it will happen.
You must try to kill the one who destroys me, but you also must not
succeed. Wound her, yes, for in doing so you will save her, and therefore
me. Your ally will value life. Your child will want death. Your ally
will love your child. Your child will both love and hate your ally. Warn
your ally he cannot succeed, that he should run. He will stay anyway, and
be even more determined. You must tell your child to live with your ally.
She will reject you, but in time will learn you were right. You must learn
to talk in dreams, for that will be all you have in time. Your child and
your child will never meet, but your child will be loved by your child.
All riddles, yes, but you will know them in time."



Moro awoke, noticing that three feet in front of her were the feet of the
forest god she had just been talking to. Confused, she looked into the
other's eyes.

All Shishigami did was smile.

* * * * *

San, flanked by her brothers, strode through the forest at a furious pace.
A whiff of a vaguely familiar scene caused her to stop suddenly. Her two
brothers continued running for a few seconds before they realized their
sister was no longer with them and doubled back.

"What is it, San?" one of them asked.

San was sniffing the air hesitantly. "I smell something... I think it's
blood, but I've never smelled the blood of an animal like this, before."

Her siblings started sniffing the air, as well. "I smell it, too. Lots of
it... but I can't tell what it is, either."

Slowly, San started moving in the direction the smell was coming from. Her
brothers followed only a few steps behind, until finally they came upon its

"What is it?" one of the brothers asked.

"I don't know," San said, nudging the creature with her nose. "It seems to
have been stabbed with some kind of stick, however." She noticed the
furless skin, the much longer hind legs, and the oddly shaped paws. "I
think this is a human- it looks like what mom described a human as looking

"I thought humans had fake furs made from skins and plants. This one

"Most humans do, yes," San said, examining the body. The human seemed to
be still alive, but she couldn't tell for certain. Remembering her
mother's desire to avoid a war with the humans, she wondered if aiding this
creature's return to health would be helpful. "Then again, most humans
also don't have sticks stabbed into them." She howled out the name of one
of her brothers. "Go get mother. She will know what to do with this

"Miko..." the human breathed out weakly, attracting the attention of all

"I'll do it," the other wolf growled. "But don't order me around. You
aren't alpha wolf, yet!"

* * * * *

Moro raced after her son, hoping to find the animal that her daughter
thought was a human before it died. Her mind, however, was not on the
problem that he relayed to her, but instead was on the words of the
Shishigami. Possible interpretations of the incredibly vague riddles
soared through her head. This was a human she was going to investigate-
would it be the enemy, the ally, the child to adopt, or perhaps someone who
was not related to the prophecies at all? Moro doubted the last of these,
as the coincidence of the human's arrival was just too strong, but that was
still a possibility.

She sighed, and set her worries aside. There was probably no way to change
the future. She would understand what Shishigami's words meant when the
time was right, and so be it. Despite that, while the wolves of her clan
did not fear death, the thought of a child of hers dying as Shishigami
appeared to be saying would happen worried her. They were already so

Finally, she caught a whiff of the blood which attracted San to the
creature in the first place. "Oh, yeah- that is DEFINITELY a human," she
said. She approached the area where her daughter and other son waited.

Moro approached the human and looked at it. She sniffed it all over.
"It's a female," she explained. "A young one. And I think another human
did this to her, because that stick is a weapon humans use called an
arrow." She sniffed some more. "It smells like she's been afraid... and
has recently been... I think the human term for mating against their will
is 'raped.' Possibly after she was shot."

San snorted. "Humans do that? Disgusting."

"Yes, I agree," Moro said. "But not all humans are quite so evil. This
one appears to be the victim of what even they consider a crime, so I
suspect she's somewhat innocent." She frowned, noticing that the body was
barely breathing. She knelt down. She howled out her sons' names. "Go
home, and wait for me. I don't know how to save this human now, but the
Shishigami may revive her. San, place her on my back. I must take her to
the Shishigami's island."

* * * * *

Eboshi blinked her eyes open. For some reason, she was half-floating in
the water. Water? There weren't any springs near her home.

Oh, right. She'd run away, trying to save... "MIKO!"

Frantically, Eboshi looked around her for any sign of her baby. It was
then that she noticed that she was on a tiny island surrounded by a shallow
lake- a place she couldn't ever having seen before. She was naked, and her
daughter was nowhere to be found.

What, exactly, had happened? She remembered running, being pursued,
surrounded, and then...


Eboshi continued to look around, hoping to find clues about how she had
gotten to this island. Standing on the water, walking away from her, was
some kind of weird beast- a deer, or something with lots of antler-like

'Wait... standing ON the water?' she thought dazedly.


"He can't speak," another voice said. She turned in surprise and saw that
a pair of wolves, one of which was unnaturally enormous, were standing
behind her. "But he's still quite powerful. You were dying, and he saved

Eboshi gawked at the giant talking beast in horror. "You... you can talk!"

"So can you," the giant wolf said. "Is that really so strange?"

The woman shook her head in shock. "I thought it was only a myth... though
I suppose that if the kodama exist, you should as well. Then, you're one
of the forest gods?"

"In a sense," the wolf explain. "My name is Moro, and this is my daughter,
San. The one who saved you is Shishigami. My clan, in human terms, would
be considered the honor guard of Shishigami, the god of life and death in
this forest. The protectors of this forest are the boar gods, and the
craftsmen are the ape gods." She frowned. "Or they were the ape gods-
their blood runs thin, and many of them are only half-breeds with the
common apes. They can barely communicate, these days. They do have their
skills, however, and can mimic many of the arts you humans do. I have
talked to them, and they will produce some clothing for you. I doubt you
wish to walk around furless, despite the warm nights in this area. It may
not be very, what is that human word, STYLISH... but it will be effective."

Eboshi shook her head to clear it. "I don't care about that. What I do
care about is my baby. What happened to my baby?"

Moro's eyes slimmed. "What baby?"

"My daughter," Eboshi explained. "My husband was trying to sell my
daughter into prostitution... I was running from him, trying to save her.
He sent mercenaries after me...." Tears started forming in her eyes when
she realized how much had happened. She closed her eyes to try and blink
them away. "Oh, gods... they got her. They got my baby...."

A paw patted her shoulder comfortingly. She opened her eyes to see the
smaller wolf, San, standing in front of her. "You have our sympathies,
human. We will do what we can to ease your pain."

Eboshi nodded. "Thank you." She tried to stand up, but found her legs
were too weak to move.

Moro noticed the attempt and sighed. "San, drag her onto my back, again.
She is much too weak to move on her own."

"Yes, mother."

"Where are we going?" Eboshi asked.

"Off this island. It is dangerous to stay on this land- the only reason
you would wish to do so would be to ask the Shishigami to heal you."

"What would happen?"

Moro's lips curled up into something vaguely resembling a smirk.
"Shishigami is the god of both life AND death, you know."

* * * * *

"Well, we're here," Moro announced.

"Where is here?" a somewhat stronger Eboshi asked, now sitting up slightly
on the wolf-god's back.

"We're just outside the home of the ape-gods. In addition to making those
clothes for you, they also have food which you can eat. I don't believe
you would be able to stomach what my children and I hunt," Moro explained.

Eboshi suddenly realized just how hungry she was- she had not eaten in
several days. That hunger managed to temporarily banish the depression she
felt over the disappearance of her baby. "Food- yes, that WOULD be nice."

"That human?" came an oddly deep, rumbling tone from above the two of them.
Eboshi blinked, making out some vague shapes in the trees.

"Yes," Moro answered. "This is Eboshi, a human female. Do you have
clothes and food for her?"

"Clothes, yes," the ape god answered slowly, coming out of the shadows.
Eboshi flinched at its appearance- it looked rather dangerous. "Make good
clothes. Keep warm." The ape glared at her. "Food, no. No waste good
food on human."

Eboshi felt like crying again. Something which had finally gotten her mind
off of her daughter, taken away just like that. Feeling weaker than she
had before, she leaned further down on Moro's back.

"Shishigami spared this human- surely that is a sign that she is worthy of
being given better treatment than most, yes?"

"No," the ape-god answered. "Even most important human not worth that of
least important ape. Apes need food. Food scarce now." The ape-god
backed off, slightly. "Will help other way, if possible. Have many human
skills. Can do many things they need."

"If I supplied meat, could you prepare it for human consumption?" Moro

"Yes. Can prepare. Make smoked meats for travel, too, but take long

Moro nodded. "San, get this human off of me and then go to our den. Tell
your brothers to bring what they haven't eaten from the carcass we caught
this morning here, and then go and hunt down some more food on your own. I
doubt that our little bounty will be enough to get this human back to

San bowed her head in acknowledgement. "Yes, mother."

"I will stay here and tend this woman." The glint in Moro's eye told her
daughter that she didn't trust the ape-gods alone with the human. "If you
find nothing by morning, then return here, and I will teach you how to tend

"Okay, mother," she replied, pulling Eboshi off of Moro's back.


San scampered off. Moro growled slightly in frustration and turned back to
the ape-gods. "Where is that clothing you promised me, ape?"

* * * * *

San tore through the woods, looking for prey of any kind. So far, she
hadn't been able to find so much as a rat scurrying in the forest, and she
was getting frustrated. It was already well after dark, and she was still
reeling from the argument she had with her brothers over her willingness to
'give orders' to them- not caring that she was just telling them what their
mother had said to tell them. Perhaps the anger was clouding her senses,
slightly, but she couldn't help it. Not after the last thing she'd heard
from them was how much they hated her. She shook her head, trying to clear
it, and slowed her pace to listen for any sounds which might be a nocturnal
animal moving about.

"Look, I'm telling you we have to stop. A baby delivered late is MUCH
better than a baby delivered DEAD, don't you think?"

'A voice!' San thought, amazed. She stopped, stalking the source of the
sound. 'A human voice, maybe- though much deeper than Eboshi's. Maybe a
male human?'

"Fine!" came the angry reply. "We make camp, here. But I don't know what
you think this will do. It's not like we've got anything to feed her or

'Baby? Didn't Eboshi say that HER baby was stolen!? These are almost
certainly the thieves! Humans almost never travel through this forest- the
chances of two human babies travelling here are almost none.' San crept
towards the clearing where she could tell the voices were coming from.
Crouching under a bush, she could see an encampment being set up by about
two dozen humans.

"She needs rest," the man who was holding the baby said. "And warmth. We
need to get a fire going. Also, we might not be able to feed her anything,
but grab a piece of cloth and soak it in water- at least we can give her
something to drink."

Another man nodded. "Right. You two, forget the tents and help him get a
fire going. We'll probably need one tonight, anyway. This is a dangerous
area, we'll need it for protection. Once the camp is squared away, I'm
going to need a number of you to establish a defensive perimeter around it.
We'll arrange two watches."

"Yes, sir!" two other voices, out of San's eyesight, replied. The man
holding the baby set the girl down, and two others joined him carrying
several sticks and rocks. They started building a fire pit, leaving the
baby unattended.

'This is my chance!' San thought. 'I can rescue Eboshi's baby and be out
of there without being seen. That'll help her recover better than food
will, I bet!'

Creeping out from under the brush, she stealthily approached the unwatched
babe. She reached the child, but then was unsure of what to do. Where did
she grab the human by? At that age, she knew, most animals bones were
softer than normal. If she clamped down hard enough to lift her, would she
hurt the human girl?

San decided she was glad humans were furless, because the false fur the
human was wearing made a good handle to grab her by. She picked up the
child, and started to move away. A silvery flash appeared in front of her,
and she found the child she was holding fell out of her grasp, and only the
cloth remained. Spitting out the scrap, she staggered back.

"A wolf! Dammit, and she was trying to eat the baby!" the man who had been
caring for the girl cried out.

"I was NOT trying to eat it- I was trying to take it back to its mother,
you baby-stealer!" San snapped at him.

"A talking wolf!" one of the other men cried out. More and more of the
mercenaries were arriving, some of whom holding shiny sticks and others
holding another odd tool made out of wood and fake vines. San moved to
stand over the baby, but one of the men slashed at her with his shiny

"It's one of the wolf-gods," the man who had been giving orders earlier
proclaimed. "But it's just a pup. We can handle it- archers, use those
special arrows we had prepared."

"We don't have to fight," San growled. "All I want to do is give the baby
back to Eboshi. But if I have to fight, you WILL regret it."

"Sorry, little wolf-god, but we can't let you take away our prize.
Archers, fire!"

Several of the sticks that San's mother told her were weapons flew at her.
She dodged the volley, but was struck in the hind-leg by one of the arrows
shot at her. It hurt- it hurt a lot- but San thought she could still fight
despite the injury. Using all of the skills her mother taught her, San
charged into the line of humans, trying to use the sheer bulk of her body
to knock them over, and gain some advantage.

She successfully tackled one of the men, but found her body was responding
sluggishly when she tried to recover, and found herself taking as bad a
fall as her victim. Shaking her head to clear it, San bit down and ripped
out the jugular of the human, then turned her attention to the others.

Unfortunately, her reaction time was off. The human leader approached her,
swiping at her with the silver stick. San staggered back, barely avoiding
it, then fell. She tried getting back up, but found herself floundering.
Her leg hurt, and badly, but there was also a strange fire in it that was
spreading across her body and weakening her severely.

The leader approached her again, poking her with his stick. She felt the
pain as it pierced her, slightly, but felt herself unable to react to the
attack. Her body didn't even flinch, despite how much it hurt.

"Good," he said. "The poison is working. The beast will live for a couple
hours more, but it won't be able to move in that time."

"Captain," the caregiver called out. "The baby's clothing was destroyed,
and I can't salvage it. We can take care of diapers and things, but it'll
get cold. We need to find something warm for it."

"Hmm," the captain said, glancing down at San. "Skin the wolf and turn
that skin into a blanket for her. That should be good enough, right?"

"More than adequate, sir!" came the response, the man moving towards the
fallen wolf. The last thing San would ever remember was the agonizing pain
of being skinned alive.

* * * * *

Moro was pacing furiously, looking quite agitated. Her sons noticed, but
said nothing. Eboshi, however, had no qualms about speaking her mind.

"What is wrong? Why are you so upset?" she asked, breathing heavily. She
still felt awfully weak, but was now able to stand and walk short distances
on her own. The effort of walking over to where Moro was pacing, however,
wore her out more than she thought it would.

"I don't know," the giant wolf-god replied. "I've felt something was wrong
since last night, and San has not returned from her hunt. I am...
concerned." She did not mention part of that concern came from a prophecy
she had receieved from the Shishigami.

"Then why don't you go find her?" Eboshi suggested. "Though something in
the back of my spine tells me not to trust these ape-gods, I know I will be
fine in the care of your sons."

"San is four years old- as a wolf-god, she is as mentally developed as a
sixteen year old human," Moro explained. "She does not need me looking out
for her all of the time."

Eboshi paused to consider her response. "Moro... how old are you?"

"In human terms, I'm almost four hundred years old," Moro said. "We
wolf-gods are immortal."

Eboshi blinked in surprise. "In all those four hundred years, have you
raised any children other than these?"

"No," Moro admitted hesitantly.

The human woman smiled. "Well, Moro, if I had a sixteen year old child, I
would know that however independant she may seem she STILL needs me from
time to time. This may be one of those times, you know."

"Maybe you're right," Moro growled. In truth, she just wanted an excuse to
go after her daughter, and was thankful that Eboshi had given her a reason.
"I will go. I suggest you try and sleep while I'm gone. You have eaten,
yes, but you still need your rest."

The giant wolf disappeared in the blink of an eye, much to Eboshi's
amusement. The concern Moro was showing reminded her of many of the other
mothers in her village...

The thought of motherhood suddenly reminded her of what she had lost.
Sighing, she went to the small bed of straw that had been laid out for her
by the apes. She still didn't trust them- whenever they looked at her, she
felt as though they were hoping to get something from her. What, she
didn't know, but she didn't like the feeling. Thankfully, though, San's
two sons were also sleeping nearby, and she was fairly sure she'd be
protected by them. For some reason, she TRUSTED the wolves. Maybe, if she
were their enemies, she would be afraid, but since they seemed to be
friends right now she knew she was safe with them.

These thoughts gave way to sleep, and sleep to dreams. And those dreams
were... disturbing... to say the least. Visions of some kind of pyramid
burning, of great battles with gigantic boars, of Moro's head snapping off
her arm, of fighting a girl dressed as a wolf, of a boy with black...
worms, for lack of a better term, growing out of his arm. And, finally, of
a tall, ethereal creature stalking the night, raining death down upon the
forest and... and who were all those people? They seemed familiar, but
she'd certainly never seen them before.

"They are people you will meet in the future," a voice said from behind
her. "Or a possible future, I should say. If you want it to be the

Eboshi spun, trying to find the source of the voice. A perpetually
smiling, ancient face appeared before her. "I am the Shishigami," the
voice said, coming apparently from the smiling face. "I can only talk to
you in your dreams, so we must be brief."

"Why are you here?" Eboshi wondered, terrified.

"To show you the future, child. Or what the future may be, that is."
Shishigami stepped forward and kissed Eboshi on the forehead, soothing her
fears. "Now tell me, and tell me truthfully... if it meant you could get
your daughter back, would you cause all of those things to happen?"

"I... yes, I would," Eboshi said. "I love my daughter more than anything.
I want her back."

Shishigami nodded. "She will not be raised by you, if you do this. And
you will hate her, and she will hate you, for a time... she may always hate
you- that is up to you, when you get her back. And she will be taken from
you again, though taken by the love of a man and not the obsessive greed of
your husband. You will be able to see her in peace when you lose her the
second time, if you can get her to no longer hate you, but it will be hard.
Very, very hard. Do you still want your daughter back?"

Eboshi sighed. "My daughter is my blood. I cannot abandon her. I love
her." She paused. "Even if I have to hate her for a time, if I can love
her again it will be worth it."

Shishigami pulled in a deep breath. "I know. I needed you to say it,
however, because you are our doom. The power of the forest-gods is waning,
and will disappear shortly. You must hasten our destruction. I will try
to stop you, but if you want your daughter back you must destroy me. You
must destroy the protectors of the forest. Finally, you must destroy the
mother of your daughter. This is not the time for you to do these things,
but they must be done."

"I must destroy myself!?"

"No, you must destroy the mother of your daughter. You will understand in
time. However, you will forget most of this when you awake, and recall it
only when you need it." Shishigami kissed her forehead again. "I am
sorry, child, that you must go through this pain. But if we rely on the
forest gods to continue to protect it, the forest will stagnate, much like
the apes have. Our time is ending, and we need to end it fast so we can
find the new protectors and bring them our way."

Eboshi awoke in a cold sweat, remembering nothing of the encounter. In the
distance, she could here a voice echoing a certain name....

* * * * *

Moro could smell the blood from quite a distance away, the stench was so
strong. Struggling to keep hope alive, she stormed forward at an
increasingly faster pace, until finally the burst into the clearing which
was the source of the blood.

The skinless carcass was in so many pieces it was not identifiable, but
Moro knew immediately who it was. "SAN!" she bellowed, roaring as loud as
she could. The sound of her outraged cry went across the entire forest,
and animals for miles around could hear her. "What did they do to you...
my poor little girl..." Moro whimpered. After a moment, she couldn't stand
to see the body and more, turning around. She staggered down to her knees
and started vomitting.

San was gone. San was the one of Shishigami's prophecy. But... why did it
have to be San? The favorite of her litter? The one she was grooming to
become the alpha? WHY?!

Anger flashed in Moro's eyes. Anger and whoever had done this. She could
see the evidence- she knew it was humans who did this- and she vowed to
destroy those who slaughtered her baby girl. And anyone or anything that
got in her way. If war between her clan and the humans were to result from
this fight- if the entire forest was destroyed as a result of this fight,
so be it. Moro didn't care any more.

The glint of madness in her eyes, she started tracking the humans who had
dared start this conflict with her. Flashing through the woods at a faster
pace than she ever had before, anger consuming all reason, she quickly
overtook the small force of humans.

It was time for the human species to be reminded that they should not tread
in the Shishigami's forest.

"Holy shit!" one of the men cried, seconds before he was bit in half by the
enraged wolf-god. Moro spit out the half she had clamped down on, and
charged through the rest of the line, plowing several of them into the
trees and trampling others. Several were hurt or killed, and it was
obvious she couldn't do anything.

The captain of the human mercenaries saw the giant wolf, and his eyes grew
huge. He knew the gods of the forest grew to abnormal sizes in these
woods- on his first trip through the woods, he'd seen a twenty year old
wolf who was larger than his horse, and had heard that there were several
who were even larger than that- but this one was a monster. Much larger.
"EVERYONE, RETREAT!" He saw the man who was in charge of caring for the
baby girl they had been sent to retrieve, and shouted to him, "Give her the
child! Better to get out of here with our lives than to not get out of
here at all!"

"But-" he started.

"DO IT!"

The caretaker glanced from the baby to his captain and back. Shrugging, he
tossed the baby- and her new wolf-skin blanket- towards the wolf-god and
ran. All of the surviving men started running, and he went along with it.

Moro ignored the bundle, concentrating on the man who appeared to be in
charge. The first man she had killed, she knew, was San's murderer- there
was more of the scent of blood on his body than any of the others. Now she
was going to kill the man who lead these people into the woods to kill her

The captain drew his sword, stabbing it into the wolf as it charged. Moro
never even felt it, devouring the man in one bite. Spinning around, she
tensed to strike at the next human she could.

Most of them had already fled, but there was something else left behind
which caught her attention. A ball of white fur, moving around slightly as
if it were alive. "San?" Moro, in her insanity, assumed.

When she got closer, she knew it wasn't San, but a baby wrapped in San's
skin. Moro was furious- was that why they killed her daughter? To make a
baby blanket?! She decided that, in revenge, she'd eat the baby.

Something stopped her, however. An antler was lowered between her and the
child. San blinked, looking up into the face of the Shishigami.

A kiss was pressed upon her nose, and Moro suddenly calmed down, her
insanity gone. The prophecy came back to her, and she remembered she was
to adopt a human into her clan. And this appeared to be the human.

"My daughter, San, is dead. But you wear San's skin, and you will become
San in her place," Moro stated. Picking up the baby by the skin around
her, Moro decided to return to the ape-village... and get that human woman
out of her forest.

* * * * *

Eboshi stretched, working some kinks out of her muscles. It had been
almost four hours since she awoke, hearing that horrible shriek. She
feared for San, and for Moro, and desperately hoped that whatever was wrong
would be solvable. From the sound of that shriek, she feared the worst.

One of the wolf brothers, who had been pacing in concern since the cry came
out, sniffed the air. "Moro is coming back, and it smells like San is with
her. But something is not quite right about San's smell... and there's a
lot of blood in the air, too."

The other wolf and Eboshi stood, awaiting Moro and San's appearance. Moro
appeared out of the forest, but San was nowhere to be seen. However, there
was an odd bundle of fur hanging outside of San's mouth.

"Moro?" Eboshi said hesitantly. Then she noticed a large amount of drying
blood at the great wolf's side, and a sword hilt sticking out of her.
"MORO! YOU'RE HURT!" she cried, concerned. She ran to look at the wound.
"Here, let me help you."

Moro glanced at Eboshi with mixed regret, hatred, and sympathy in her eyes.
Cautiously, she put down the bundle. "I... well, go ahead."

Carefully, Eboshi pulled the sword out of Moro's body, moving it slowly to
avoid widening the wound. Once she'd gotten the weapon out of the body,
she carefully examined the injury.

"It looks serious... I'm not sure how to patch a wound that severe. But
I'd better do something to stop the wound from getting infected..."

"I'm a god. That won't kill me."

"But it might if it gets infected," Eboshi said stubbornly. She leaned
over and started sucking blood out of the wound, spitting it to the side.
She repeated the procedure a few times, making sure that the wound was
clean. Wiping the blood off of her face, she said, "I think it'll be okay,
but be careful until that wound heals."

Moro nodded. "Thank you."

"So, what happened?"

Moro didn't say anything for a while. "Mother?" one of her son's asked.

"That fur is San's," Moro said cautiously.

For the first time, Eboshi turned her attention to the bundle that Moro had
brought with her, as it moved slightly. She gasped- that was her baby in
there! But, then again, didn't Moro just say the fur it was wrapped in was

"Oh, Moro, I'm SO sorry!" Eboshi exclaimed. "What happened? And how in
the world did you get my baby back!?"

Moro's eyes narrowed. "That is not your baby any more. It was given to me
as payment for the life of my daughter, so I own its life, now. And so I
will raise her to be my San, once more."

Eboshi jumped back, horrified, and looked at Moro with a growing sense of
betrayal. "You... you're stealing my daughter?" Even her sons looked
somewhat shocked.

"Yes," Moro growled. "She is mine!"

"Mother..." one of her sons whimpered slightly.

Moro's eyes softened. "Eboshi, you cannot protect her. I can." She
paused. "Right now, they believe your baby is dead. If you return with
her to the human lands, they will know she is not and try to hunt her down

Eboshi closed her eyes in anger. First her husband tried to sell her baby
into prostitution, and now this... this MONSTER was trying to steal it.
But she knew, the wolf was right. There was nothing she could say to deny
it. She would still try, however. "She hasn't been weaned, yet. Unless
you can still produce milk, she won't survive without me. Let me stay here
and raise her- they believe I'm dead, too, after all."

Moro shook her head, stretching slightly to become more intimidating. "No.
I will not allow any more humans into this forest. Your baby is no longer
a human, but is a wolf. You, however, can never be anything BUT a human."
She paused. "I am dry, but there are ways I can feed her, anyway."

She knew it was over. There was nothing Eboshi could do against a wolf-god
probably driven insane by grief... as she felt, now. She started crying,
but wouldn't let sobs get out of control in front of the beast. She was
too proud for that. But she wasn't too proud to beg for one last thing.
"May I... may I nurse her, one last time?"

Moro considered for a second, then nodded slowly. "Yes, but stay in sight.
I do not want you running away on me, and if you try I will hunt you down
like I did the people who murdered my San."

Eboshi nodded, picking up her baby and walking away. The two child
wolf-gods couldn't look her in the eye, but WERE able to stare, in horror,
at the skin that had once been part of their sister which she left behind.
Moving to a spot where she could speak to her daughter in private, she
parted the ape robes she'd been given and raised the baby to her breast for
the last time.

"Don't worry, little Miko," she cooed in a soft whisper. "I'll return for
you one day. I'll deal with your father, then learn how to fight these
beasts, and then I'll come back. I'll come back and destroy all those who
keep me from you, and then you'll be my daughter again. You'll see. I'll
be back."

When her baby was done, she kissed her on the forehead and then brought the
child over to Moro again, placing the baby in the fur blanket. "If I find
any harm has come to my daughter," Eboshi warned, "I will find some way to
kill you and destroy everything you hold dear. I will let you raise her
for her protection, but she is still MY daughter, do you understand?"

Moro sniffed. "Boys, take her out of my forest. I never want to see her
again." Eboshi started to leave, following the two siblings. "If I ever
do, Eboshi," she called, "Then it will be as an enemy, do you understand?
As will be ANY human who enters this forest again."

Eboshi nodded. "I understand. When next we meet, we are enemies. To the

"To the death."

* * * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------ ---
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