Honor and Blood©
by James Galloway (aka Fel)
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The morning air was cold, crisp, something that seemed unnatural for being just a few days past midsummer. The dry air, devoid of moisture, would lose the fiery heat of the day very quickly after sundown, plunging the dry savannah into surprisingly cool temperatures. The sun was a dim reddish disc on the horizon, calling the creatures of the day to awaken and begin their daily search for food and water, their daily watches for danger, their daily inspections of their territories. It also called to the nightdwellers as well, a call that their night of searching for food, of stalking, was complete, and that they had earned their rest. It was the changing of the guard, the transfer of ownership of the arid steppes from one class of creature to another, it was a cycle that had taken place countless times in the past, and would continue countless times in the future. The first stirrings of the wind, which blew as the air heated during the morning and again as it cooled after sundown, had begun to unsettle the widely spaced raintrees and other exotic flora of this strange land, causing stirring herd animals to shiver as the sun's warmth began to heat the cold air, causing small burrowing creatures to retreat into the warm safety of their dens. The huge herd animals, large, shaggy brown beasts with large horns, had started to move again, along with the white-and-black striped horse-like animals that tended to group with them, beginning to search for water.
But not every animal belonged to this ecosystem of great beasts. Sitting on a small, dead log was an animal that looked as if it belonged in a woman's boudoire than on the massive savannahs of Yar Arak. It was a cat, a large black cat, wearing a simple collar of black metal. The log was on a gentle rise, the closest thing approaching high ground in the flat terrain, and the small animal was surveying the movements of the great herd animals with mild curiosity. The cat blinked slowly, turning its head to look at a pride of great cats, lions, as they began to settle down in an area of high grass, done with their night's hunting. Predator and prey shared this great land, supporting one another and forming the web of interdependence that made life possible. The singular cat understood this, deep in its soul, for it was indeed a part of the great cycle that existed here.
Only in different ways.
The cat was no normal animal. It wasn't even a true animal. It was a Lycanthrope, a Were-beast, a being that was both human and infused with the essence of a specific animal. Part man, part animal, these unique beings existed in both worlds, living on the narrow ground that existed between human civilization and the great engine of nature. Within the small cat was the instinctual knowledge and impulses of his animal kind, as well as a human intelligence and comprehension. Unlike the animals around him, the small cat had more on his mind than food, water, and safety. He had a great many things on his mind, and very few of them were pleasant.