Taylar lay in bed staring at the walls of his hovel, his mind picturing the lush hangings and paintings that decorate the houses of his companions. In his minds eye he overlaid the pretty wall hangings from Tamarack’s mansion over the filthy patched walls of the shack he had liberated from the tall oppressors. Jealousy started to brew inside him, but then he remembered that his shack was better than sleeping by the road or under crates, rags, or garbage on the streets of the city where over-zealous watchmen or bored thugs could target you whenever it suited them. Taylar watched as a cockroach slowly climbed his wall,the movement piercing his mental projection of opulence onto the ragged wall. He watched the fat cockroach struggle up the wall despite the rough easy to climb surface. Confused his keen eyes focused on the cockroach until he noticed the translucent white eggs that the fat mother cockroach carried stuck to her rear end. For a moment he shuddered imagining the cockroach as Hetty carrying him in a satchel through the garbage heaps of the city; Taylar then remembered that his hovel was doubtlessly safer than the mansions of his companions and would attract less attention, after-all who searches for diamonds in the trash-heap? “Well besides me” he laughed aloud.
Taylar had been thinking about the were-bear; it intrigued him, a beast within a man. He was thinking about the strength of the beast and he envied the power of having a beast leashed ready to attack like the Gnoll with his hyena pet. He imagined being a posh human, a diplomat perhaps with a bear inside him. He would be able to be posh and hobnob with the rich and famous, but still not be afraid of being mugged because at a moments notice you could unleash the beast within. Civilization without the downside of being soft and weak, what an idea! Taylar thought of the decisions he had made in his life, he thought of the persona he had crafted for himself, the savagery he had bred into himself to that full grown humans would be afraid of the feral savagery in the diminutive person in front of them. He wondered if there was a way for him to tether his feral nature so that he could fit in better with the companions he had spent most of the last year with. Maybe he could reign in the inner beast that had bitten out the throat of a mugger, had slain attackers with a pot shard, and that allowed him the savagery to intimidate drunken sailors. He knew that the beast was a tool, but he resented the liability that it sometimes was. The problem with tethering the beast was that it limited the beasts perception, and while the soft shell was nobbing about he wasn’t being careful enough, wasn’t skulking enough, wasn’t blending in enough. Maybe he could allow his persona to be tamed, to be civilized, to eat with cutlery, to respect other people’s property, as long as his inner beast was still available when he needed it to drive a shiv into someone’s throat, to dredge up foul threats, or to serve parts of an opponent’s corpse to their families and friends. Maybe he could cage the inner street-rat like the ranger had caged his inner bear.
That thought made Taylar hungry and he pulled out a squashed bag of dried meat gathered from the bodies of the fallen. He selected a piece and dusted it, removing mould from one corner and placing into his mouth; for a while he sat there his mouth salivating and moistening the leathery meat until his teeth could start working away at it the way a beaver chews its way through a tree. His jerky bag was getting empty; hopefully their next wander would refill it with something as tasty as dinosaur, hyena or unicorn.