devan lwa

The band broke down somewhere past Houma. Erik had said something about finding his own path, Caitlin had decided that her voice required a night's rest with hot tea, and Oz was left to phone up the club and tell them that Ancient Spirits wasn't coming. He did it with his usual calmness, the slow speech and quiet attitude hiding the simmering anger at another canceled gig, something that he would have never done with the Dingoes.

But the Dingoes were in the past, and he was just the roadie, as Erik liked to remind him on a regular basis. And even the Dingoes would have to pass up a gig when the moon hung fat and full in the sky, as it would tonight. And despite Oz's irritation, he silently thanked whatever god was responsible for the disintegration of the band, if only because he wouldn't have to listen to Caitlin complaining the next morning about how he was supposed to get her water, and how he disappeared in the middle of the gig, and how she'd get revenge for what she considered great crimes against her.

He made the call, and walked back to the van, enjoying the afternoon. Summertime in the swamps was a strange experience for Oz. The thick hot air enveloped him like a blanket, making his breathing shallow and slow. It was like the womb, it was like death, and the heavy scent of vegetation and earth was heady, making him want to lie against the intensely green grass and just...exist.

He had been traveling for five years now, moving from place to place in an attempt to keep himself hidden. He had heard that Angel was keeping tabs on him since New Mexico, more than likely because Willow was paying him. And Willow was just a memory, something in the past that he could never return to.

He made his way back to his van, filled with the equipment of the seemingly defunct band, and slowly, carefully, unloaded everything into a single motel room. The band nodded at his comment about not wanting their equipment stolen, and then nodded again when he looked out at the mid-afternoon sky and said he was going out for a long drive....just to see what was out there. He had been with the band for over six months, and his drives had become a part of the band's routine -- three nights a month, just getting away from it all. They all had demons they were attempting to lose in the journey, and they just assumed that Oz's was as metaphorical as theirs were.

He climbed back into the van, the cassette player clicking on with the sound of hypnotic guitars, and pulled out of the parking lot.

The road was long and empty, two lanes of tarmac surrounded by greenery. He remembered driving from New Orleans to Baton Rogue, driving along the highway built out of the swamp, how it surrounded them in the bleakness -- water water everywhere and only the finest of concrete pillars separating them from the mud. He briefly wondered what it would be like to be in the swamp, to fall gently into the mire and water, to drown amidst cattails and swamp grass.

Another small town appeared in the distance, the faintest glow of electric light and humanity, and, as the sun slowly lowered, he parked the van on a small patch of grass near the road, right nearby the weather-beaten sign. "Welcome to Plen Lelin," it said in cracked paint, the wood faded to a gray-like sepia. A full moon rose behind the lettering, and Oz smiled slightly at the sign. Plen Lelin. Full Moon.

And as the moon rose in the sky, fat and golden in the Louisianan summer air, Oz felt the change come upon him -- his joints cracking, bones twisting, hair thickening. His groan of pain (because it hurt. It always hurt. No matter what he wished.) slowly became a low howl, and Oz-the-wolf ran through the swamps, laughing a canine laugh as the water splashed against his paws and the trees stroked his fur.

The scent of woodsmoke and humanity came from the edge of town. Oz was curious, and loped his way across, stopping only briefly to capture a nutria, its flesh firm against his teeth, its blood tangy down his throat. The small rodent was enough to sustain him for some time, and he continued his way towards the town, the scent of humanity now drawing him closer.

He made his way to the edge of a clearing, the empty space in front of him making him wary. A group of people stood around a fire, their dark skin given an orange tone by the fire. The scent of cooked meat flowed over Oz and he sniffed the air as he looked, watching the people and their feast. Slow drumbeats began, and the people began to chant.

"Nou sèls!" they shouted into the night air. "Nou sèls! Nomm kondwi bezwan!" The chanting grew louder, more desperate, as the drums continued. "Nou sèls!"

Oz felt the drums match the rhythm of his blood, the pulse of the people and the drumbeats matching in his ears. He yawned, suddenly lethargic in the drumming.

"Gran Bwa," a voice suddenly whispered right next to him. "To Gran Bwa."

Oz leapt up in horror, surprised by the voice. He smelled nothing, he saw nothing, but the voice was still there, whispering directly to him. "To Gran Bwa. Lete Gran Bwa. Jordi Gran Bwa."

Oz growled, a low warning to the voice, then backed up, not realizing that he was backing into the clearing. A sudden shout surprised him, and he looked around angrily, realizing that the people had moved around him.

He was trapped and he lowered himself to the ground, whimpering. The crowd whispered softly, chanting in unison, "Gran Bwa..." they whispered. "Loup-a... Nomm-a..."

A small coffee-colored woman walked up to him, resting her palm against his head. Oz whimpered again in fear, then slowly relaxed when she petted him slowly. "Loup Garou-a..." she whispered to him. "Disang fort...disang chanje..."

Oz whimpered again, his voice shifting from the wolf's howl to a human's, soft and weak, like a newborn pup's. Oz laid on the ground nude, looking up at the people surrounding him, looking up with now human eyes. "I..."

"Gran Bwa..." the crowd whispered again. "Astè Gran Bwa..."

Oz's eyes closed again, and he sobbed, a low breathy shudder running through his body. The voice returned, speaking only to him, and in a language he understood... "Become me, m'petit..." it said, the voice deep and booming. "Become what you were born to become..."

"What...what do you mean?" Oz said, inaudible to the crowd.

"The forest. Gran Bwa. The wolf. Loup-a. The man. Nomm-a. Ensomm. Together. Through you."

"I...I don't understand..." Tears sprang to Oz's eyes again. "I...I don't..."

Soft hands stroked his face and his body. "Shhh..." said a soft feminine voice. "Shh, m'piti... Ezili proteje..."

"Come with us, Daniel..." the deep voice again. "No more running. Pli kouri."

Oz shut his eyes tightly, his body still shuddering with sobs.

"Nou bezwan..." the feminine voice said. "We need you..." The soft hands Oz believed were the woman's slid down his stomach, stroking his hips before sliding against his crotch, bringing him to erection. "We have been alone for so long.... Sèls longtan..."

Oz gasped as he felt legs straddle his hips, as the slick wetness of a woman surrounded him. "Please..." he whispered. "Please don't..."

The deep voice laughed. "M'frè, you are one of us."

"M'lem," the woman said, her voice rough with pleasure. "My love..."

"To Gran Bwa," the deep voice said. "You are Gran Bwa. You are the forest."

"I..." Oz groaned softly. "I..."

"Become..." the voice whispered. "Become me..."

Oz's eyes closed even tighter, then he shuddered again, a shudder of lust and release. "Gran Bwa!" he shouted. "Mo Gran Bwa!"

The woman tightened around him, shouting. "M'lem! M'Gran Bwa!"

A deep voice -- Gran Bwa's voice -- groaned as Oz came, filling the woman with his seed.

And the voice was Oz's.