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Monday, November 7, 2016

Neko



In the silence of the crypt, Neko’s exclamations of pain slowed. He looked first at his sister, and then each of the men standing in a semi-circle around him. He studied the faces, and apparently whatever he saw, had him trying to see for himself what had everyone looking shocked. He was twisting and turning trying to get a look at the area that had went from burning like molten lava had been dropped in the middle of his back; to it just feeling strangely numb. “What is it? Come on, someone tell me something.”

He had finally gave up trying to see it for himself, and instead sat waiting for someone to fill him in. Come on , cat can’t have all of your tongues. What has you all so wide eyed and alarmed? You’re starting to freak me out.” He jumped off the bench and went to where Dom was standing. “Dude, tell me!” He practically growled as he shook his best friend.

It was enough to break Dom out of whatever kind of spell he had been under. “Bro, why you got to shake me like that? Do you mind. You’re messing with my pretty.” As he said that he began wiping himself off. One thing you could always count on with Dominic was that his white fur was always pristine. He absolutely hated it to be dirty. “Is it still burning?”

Neko stopped shaking Dom, and just stood looking at him for a moment like he must have lost his mind. “No, it doesn’t burn anymore. Am I yelling that it’s burning? It just feels kinda weird. You know like it’s there, but not there. Now tell me what it looks like.”

CeCe finally spoke as she came over to her brother. She ran her hand over the spot, he face lit with awe. “It’s in the exact place where your birthmark was. Only now, instead of a bare white patch of skin mixed in your fur. The spot has a design. A very vivid design.”

Neko stood waiting for her to go on, when she didn’t, he prompted her. “What is the design? Don’t just say a vivid design and not tell me what it is. Come on, Sis. That’s just mean.”

CeCe had just opened her mouth to speak when Dominic beat her. “It looks just like the jewel. The one that just came to life. Dude you have an exact duplicate on your back.” CeCe gave Dominic a look that showed her exasperation with the energetic young man.

“Yes, it looks just like the jewel. I don’t know why it happened to you, but the more I think about it, the more I think it may have to do with who you are.” Now she had everyone’s attention, well almost everyone's. Azereus didn’t seem interested. He had walked over closer to the stairwell. His attention focused on some point above. “I think it all may be linked somehow.” She had sat on a nearby bench, and pulled the stone back out of its pouch.

Neko came over to sit beside her, and held out his hand, she placed the stone in his palm. Not sure what to expect after the recent activity. The stone remained quiet. “You always said you would tell me more about myself, when I was older. I got older, and we never had that talk. I think now is as good a time as any other time. What do you think?” He gave his sister a questioning look.

CeCe was about to speak when Azereus came over, “I think we should find a new place to have this discussion. I am picking up movements coming from the stairs. We may have unwanted visitors soon. I would rather not chance it be someone after the jewel or better yet, if they recognized you Princess. Someone coming for you. We have no idea how the survivors feel about your family, so I would rather not risk you.” Azereus stood awaiting her decision.

CeCe looked toward the stairwell, and then to Neko. “Can we have this discussion once we are away from the city. Azereus is right. I do not feel safe here suddenly. We can’t let the jewel fall into the wrong hands.” She reached over and took the stone from Neko and put it back in it bag before securing it inside her vest. “Come there is a servants passage way further in the back. We can make our escape from the castle using it as well.”

In silence the group gathered their gear and followed CeCe to the far end of the hall, where a simple wooden door stood. Bo came forward and opened it. The others rushed through it, into the darkness beyond. With the meager light from the re-lit braziers to guide them , they made their way out of the castle. When they reached an old rusted gated which was padlocked, Dominic  used his knife to break it, and they filed out into a moonlit glen.

Azereus took the lead from this point, and led them through the valley. They arrived close to dawn at an old cottage that had seen better days. “We can rest here. It is my old hunting place. It needs repairs, but it should shelter us for a couple days.” He pushed open the hide that covered the door and held it while the others entered. “We’ll need to gather some wood for a fire. After which maybe we can hear what the Princess has to say to Neko.”

CeCe had went in and on seeing a bed in the back of the room , she made her way there. "Fine, go gather wood. I am going to rest while you do what needs be done.” She removed her cloak and lay it on the bed before lying down. “The sooner you stop staring at me and get to moving, the sooner my brother learns his story. Go! Get out of here.”

Dominic grabbed Neko’s arm. “Come on, dude. Let’s go find some wood, and maybe we can scrounge something up to eat as well.” Neko let him pull him out of the cabin. Bo went to have a seat at the table that sat in the middle of the room. Donny had gone over and snuggled up with CeCe. It appeared that both were already fast asleep. Azereus went over to the fireplace to see if there might be enough wood to at least start a small fire. What he found brought a smile to his face.

“We’re in luck I can get a small fire started, let’s hope the boys return soon.” He opened a small tin on top of the mantle and took out some dry kindling, placing it in the grate before laying a couple sticks on top of it. He used his flint to create a spark, as the kindling lit, he gently blew on it. When he had a flame going he fed it more sticks, and then added a log. “There, that should start to warm the dampness from the room.” He said as he joined Bo at the table.

A short time later the gang were all gathered around the table, replete from eating the nice meal CeCe had prepared with the quails Neko and Dominic had managed to scrounge up. Neko took a drink from his cup. He sat it down and asked the question that had played in his mind while hunting. “Okay, Sis. Time is up. Tell me who I am. Why would the stone mark me? Why didn’t it mark you? It belongs to you after all.” Here he stopped, and tried to reach where his birthmark had been. “It’s not like I’m anything special. I’m just me.”

Bo noticed a look pass between CeCe and Azereus. He was really getting tired of their secret looks and communication. He fought down the green monster of his jealousy with an effort. CeCe had already began speaking by the time, he had controlled himself. He tuned into the conversation in time to hear her say “You are the last of your kind.” He looked at Neko and saw the look of confusion on his face. Well at least he wasn’t the only one perplexed.

CeCe had begun her explanation after taking her own drink. “Neko, you were brought to my mother as a newborn. One of the mystics brought you. He told my mother, and those closest to her, that you were the last of your kind.” She stopped here to take another drink. “Have you ever heard of the Pantheri? Of who they were? The mystic told my mother that you were the last prince of the Pantheri. That you must survive at all cost. And the stone is actually yours. It was the only thing that was brought with you. My mother gave it to me, telling me to always keep it safe. She then adopted you as her son.”

Dominic was the one to break the awkward silence. “Dude, you’re a freakin’ prince. And I remember learning about the Pantheri from the storytellers. They say the Pantheri were legendary warriors. They were the strongest, fastest, with amazing agility. They were also said to be the most clever of warriors. My best friend is a Pantheri warrior! Dude! Can you believe it?” Here Dom punched Neko in the arm. Neko swayed a bit, a shell-shocked look upon his face.

CeCe reached across the table and patted his hand. “Are you alright? I know it’s a lot to take in.” Neko looked down at her hand, he slowly pulled his out from under hers. Without speaking he stood and walked over to the fireplace. He stared into the flames, he looked so alone at that moment. It began to sink in that even among all of them, he would always be alone. He was the last one. Never in his life had he ever felt that more than at this very moment.

“Is it true they were the original inhabitants of Cameria?” Donny asked in the silence. “I remember hearing that somewhere. That the Pantheri were here, when our ancestors arrived.” Bo looked deep in thought as he ran what Donny had asked through his memory of history. Azereus stood up and began clearing the dishes from the table. Dom had gone to stand next to the silent prince.

Bo finally spoke to no one in particular. “I think Donny may be right. The Pantheri were here first. They are the ones who introduced magic into our lives. Before coming to Cameria, our people didn’t know anything of the mystical arts, or of magic. It matters not. That was a long time ago. We need to concentrate more on the now.” He was making a bed in the corner of the cabin as he spoke the last sentence.

CeCe watched him for a moment, before yawning. “I do believe Bo has a good idea. Let’s get some sleep, and we can think about what next to do in the morning.” She walked over to Neko, but for the first time that she could remember he turned away from her. “What? Why do you turn away?” was her hurt response.

Neko didn’t give her an answer, he gathered his gear and headed for the door. “I’m going to go stand watch, we still have no idea who was in the castle. They may have followed us here.” He stated as he made his escape.


Dom gave CeCe a small hug, before whispering in her ear. “Don’t worry, he’ll come around. I’ll go keep an eye on him.” He then gathered his stuff, and then followed after Neko. As everyone settled in for the night, each lost in their own thoughts of what the revelation about Neko would mean down the line. None more so than that of the dark Pantheri prince.

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