Unimpeded, Rue made her way to Percy.

She crashed the axe down hard on his chain.

Nothing happened. Except everyone jumped at the noise.

“Sorry,” said Rue into the quiet that followed.

Percy looked embarrassed to be causing a fuss.

None of the Vanaras tried to stop her. They merely looked amused at her puny mortal efforts.

How am I supposed to get Percy to safety if I can’t even break him free? Clearly I have no other choice – I have to steal Vanara form.

Rue left the axe with Percy, so as not to appear threatening, and advanced towards the nearest Vanara. She strolled casually, hands behind her back, swaying slightly – all innocence. If she hadn’t felt it too theatrical, she might even have whistled. Never taking his gaze off the werewolf pack, he slid out of reach.

Lady Kingair returned to her previous position, back to the forest, flanked by her pack, facing the bonfire. The Vanaras were arrayed on the other side, backs to the temple, and there were a good deal more of them. Either they hadn’t the same procreation problems as werewolves or they formed bigger groups. Rue supposed monkeys naturally preferred large collectives so perhaps the Vanara followed primate tradition.

Rue arrowed in on the next nearest Vanara.

He too shifted away.


Rue snorted and tried for a third victim.

It was turning into a slow-moving quadrille – Rue with multiple weremonkey dance partners. Without appearing to watch her, each one deftly moved away the moment she was within arm’s reach.

Rue grumbled under her breath, “We could do this the easy way – you could simply unlock him.”

One of the werewolves at the back of the pack, a smaller, almost fox-like creature, looked as if he were trying not to laugh at that. Not that he could laugh in wolf form, but Rue knew wolf amusement when she saw it.

Rue was nowhere near as fast as any supernatural creature, so she couldn’t dart in and grab a Vanara. But she might be a tad more cunning. If nothing else, the Vanaras had shown themselves to be curious by nature.

So Rue pretended a sudden scarf malfunction. Humiliating in the extreme, but she could think of no other ruse. She gave a squeak of alarm and bent over to adjust the knot at her waist, casually letting the fabric slide, exposing the top bit of her fundament for all the world to see. She went red at the thought of Quesnel, who might, very possibly, faint at the sight.

She heard Prim, behind her and above, give a squall of horror.

Percy said, “Oh, my word.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Rue saw one of the Vanaras bend in to see what all the fuss was about. Just a little bit closer and… there.

Rue threw herself forwards, trusting in her metanatural abilities to steal monkey form before she actually hit the ground, saving her from any major injury.

Gravity was unpleasantly quick.

Supernaturally fast, the weremonkey dodged but not far enough. Rue’s fingertip touched his wrist. He lost his advantage. And Rue shuddered in pain as her muscles shifted, her bones lengthened, and her hair turned to fur all over her body.

Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama was once more a weremonkey.

She didn’t know what she expected. Perhaps for the Alpha Vanara to set his other warriors to attack her. Instead, he gave her latest victim a disgusted look and made an aggressively dismissive gesture, his monkey face disappointed.

The now fully human Vanara, ashamed, made a subservient half-bow and turned to run into the temple, presumably to get away from Rue as far and as fast as he could in order to snap her tether.

Which meant Rue didn’t have much time in her stolen form.

She leapt over to Percy, grabbed up the fallen axe and, before anyone could stop her, began hacking through his shackles.

The chain broke.

Rue scooped Percy up with her tail, despite his protestations, and carried him bodily back to her ship. She climbed the temple and most of the way up the rope ladder with amazingly graceful ease, before using her tail to toss Percy up and over the railing onto the main deck of The Spotted Custard.

Percy landed with a thud but was already yelling, “My satchel! Rue, you fiend! They still have my books! I can’t leave without them!”

Rue said, surprising everyone on board the Custard with the fact that she could talk in wereform, not to mention the low slurring of the voice coming out of her massive monkey chest, “I’ll try. You find a copy of the Act. Now, Pershy.”

She looked to his twin. “Primrosh, given a chansh, steal back the tea bubbles.”

Prim blinked. “What?”

“You hearsh mesh.” Rue hadn’t the time to explain further.

She didn’t wait to see if either followed her instructions, nor did she join her crew on deck as they expected. Instead, she leaned out on her long monkey arms, swung the rope ladder twice, and with an elegant flip dropped back down to balance on the wall.

“No,” cried Quesnel. “Don’t!”

Rue ignored him. There was still Miss Sekhmet to rescue. Her loyalties were unknown, but Rue was tolerably certain the werecat wanted to prevent conflict. In this they were allies. And frankly, Rue liked her.

She leapt over to the cage and gave the bars a test tug. Yes, the silver burned Vanara flesh just like werewolf. The palms of her hands, free of fur, were tender and exposed. Before she could further pit her supernatural strength against the silver and the pain, a new agony suffused her body. Her monkey muscles were shrinking. The world shifted, her senses altering. She was a mortal human once more. Her Vanara victim had reached the edge of the metanatural tether.

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