The courtyard appeared idle and barren. The stone walls of the keep all around imposed themselves on the small open ground with its scarce foliage. Colour and movement remained all but absent save one figure standing on the ground, looking up at the night sky.
The figure was illuminated in the moon light. He looked up and spotted another standing atop the roof far above, though, he could only see a silhouette. However the man standing on the ground knew his visitor and glared up in contempt and defiance, then the silhouette spoke.
“Greetings oh spotted feline. Fellow sprinter, friend and rival.” The stranger held out his arms as he spoke.
The figure on the ground continued to glare.
“Still bitter about your loss?” The silhouette tilted his head and asked, “How does the saying go? The better man won, or is that morph? Or does it matter?”
“Cathal!” Stealth shouted, “Face me now!” The cheetah demanded.
“But why?” The rabbit asked genuinely curious, “Does my victory bother you so?”
Stealth un-sheathed his long sword and slammed it into the stone paved ground, “Now!” He demanded again.
“As you wish...” The rabbit sighed. Cathal leaped from the roof into a flip before unfolding and landing on the ground with a tremor.
Stealth lifted his blade and ran at the rabbit. The cheetah swung his sword about and hit air; the rabbit warrior had already jumped and landed on a window sill. Stealth snarled, he adjusted his grip on the sword while Cathal looked down at him with an amused grin.
The rabbit leapt from the sill and landed behind the feline. Stealth spun around, swinging down at the annoying creature who jumped back. The cheetah used his sword to propel himself slightly into the air and perform a flying kick at his adversary who just jumped back a bit more on his large feet.
Stealth tried a new tactic and swung the long sword about in an arc and used the momentum to throw it at the elusive quarry. Cathal leapt far above as the sword imbedded itself in the courtyard’s wall. The rabbit had landed on another window sill higher up and put a paw to his chin.
“You won’t catch me like that.” He observed.
“Silence” Stealth hissed and attempted to remove the blade from its place in the wall though it wouldn’t budge.
Cathal dropped from his perch forcing the unarmed cat to abandon his salvage attempt. The bunny removed the weapon from the wall with little trouble and examined it, “you know this sword is too much for you.”
Stealth remained silent, though not so much in defiance and contempt as before but rather in confusion and fear.
“You’re place is that of speed and agility, not brute force.” Cathal states and throws the blade into the night sky.
The confused cat threw up his arms and called upon a flaming stone from the oblivion and sent it roaring toward the rabbit. Cathal unsheathed his own blade and make quick work of the fiery projectile; it landed before his foot-paws in a pile dust.
Stealth quickly called upon more flying objects and those too were sliced into a fine powder as Cathal cut through them with lightning speed. The cheetah sent one more object, this time a sphere of energy which Cathal evaded by leaping once more into the air.
This he anticipated; the sphere hit a nearby window which shattered into a million shards, all of which went in different directions – at first – then halted in mid air and shot toward the rabbit. Cathal’s terror was clear in his eyes; it was the same look he had given the cheetah during their race which triggered Stealth’s cold-potion-induced feral state to take complete hold.
Predictably though, the rabbit jumped once more to the safety of another ledge while from immediately behind where he had been standing, a small shrub was cut to pieces and collapsed in a pile of compost.
“Very good, Stealth, I underestimated you.” Cathal notes, “You are a contender, though nothing more.”
The cat seethed at his quarry whom stood out of reach.
“I grow tired, I take my leave.” The rabbit announces.
“Face me!” The cheetah demanded again.
“Fair the well, oh spotted feline.” And with that the rabbit leapt one last time, into the sky leaving the cheetah alone with his rage.
Stealth ran up and shouted at the void, “Cathal! You are NOT faster than me!” Though he wanted to shout it again, the sky to which he looked began to fade. He felt his centre of gravity shift and then nothing.
Stealth opened his eyes. Dimly the feline could make out the room illuminated in a soft gray light visible only to his keen sight.
The curse seemed to have wrought a complex modification to his eyes in that his colour-vision didn’t merely fall into disuse in poor light; it would cease to exist at all. Instead his night vision took hold. Though it would relent once more when he went into good light where upon his colour vision could serve its purpose.
In his present situation, Stealth’s feline eyes were far more adapt to detecting his surroundings. They allowed him to discover that he was currently lying on the cold stone floor staring up at the rafters in his apartment. He fell out of bed. Actually, from the feeling in his back he didn’t need keen eyesight to figure that out.
He grumbled and forced himself to his feet – which had remained in the bed. Thankfully the room was warm – not toasty – just warm enough that it wasn’t freezing for the thin coated cat. Thanks to a wonderful rune-incrusted object courteous of his dragon friend, Rugger.
For the moment, Stealth forgot about his restless nights sleep and instead walked over to the window. He could faintly make out the hazy oil lamps dotting the town as well as a blue radiance on the horizon whereas all else remained shrouded in darkness. Interesting, he found the dawns; everywhere the night could remain so until the blue horizon blossomed into a warm yellow glow finally banishing away the darkness.
Okay, dawn was approaching; perhaps his night vision isn’t as good as he thought, Stealth mused, as a form of light existed to see by. However in the darkness above the cat could make out a wonderful sight. Outside Stealth’s window two Gryfin frolicked in the pre-dawn sky. He knew these creatures to be real Gryfin rather than morphs or at least that had been the word around the keep.
They were his new neighbours, Kiska and QuickPaw. Or rather, he’s their new neighbour as the mythical pair claim to have resided in a tower nearby since before the attack the past winter, though they returned only recently from a very long trip.
Stealth turned to his dresser, on top sat some objects one of which was on loan from the infirmary. During his recent recuperation from a cold-potion-crash, he was restricted to full form as a precaution. He’d been entrusted with a talisman granting him telepathy, though it had gone mostly unused.
The cat decided to put it to some use and draped it around his neck, sensing its runes glow and activate. Stealth opened his windows with a creek. Cold air swept in though it felt refreshing. The feline peered through to get a better view of the avian-feline hybrids.
“Kiska?” He asked in his mind trying to distinguish the pair in the poor light. One of them, the dark creature, turned its beak toward him. Stealth’s heart skipped a few beats when the large flying predator folded its wings and shot right toward him! Stealth jumped back from the sill and fell on his tail a good two meters from the window.
Kiska flared his wings as he grappled the inside of the window sill with his talons and poked his avian head through the portal. “Greetings oh spotted feline.” The Gryfin said directly to his mind.
The cheetah raised an eye brow; where had he heard that before? He would have remained grounded had it not been for his aching tail. Slowly he stood though remained wide eyed. “Uh, Kiska... hello.” Now that the creature heard he was here, Stealth had no need of the talisman for sending though he relied on it to hear Kiska speak.
The Gryfin knew the spell for what it was and payed it no heed. He adjusted his talons on the window sill, “Tis a fine morning for a hunt.”
“Aye...” There was just something immensely un-settling about being greeted by a Gryfin sticking its head into the window of your room in the morning. “Although, I prefer heading off later. How are you today?”
“We are well; it is always a good day when the weather is fine so we can stretch our wings.” He thought to the cat then tilted his head, “I’m afraid you have me at a loss; my mate and I have seen you about but I don’t know your name.”
“Oh, you can call me Stealth.” He had been meaning to say it, “I’ve seen you two about, too.”
“Well met, Stealth. How are the?” The avian creature bobbed its head about, looking cute. And scary. “Why are you up at this hour?”
The cat stretched out his back and yawned, “restless night to be honest; I had a strange dream.”
“A strange dream?” Kiska all but had a death-grip on the window sill; he wasn’t going anywhere. “Would you care to tell me, Stealth?”
It was very hazy though he recalled as best he could, “I was in a duel. My opponent was a rabbit, he was much better.” Stealth paused, “He was faster than me.”
The Gryfin nodded his large avian head, “often our dreams are reflections of ourselves. Of our hopes and desires, even our fears.” Kiska explained. “May I presume who this rabbit was?” The Gryfin asked.
Stealth paused, “Go ahead.”
“Cathal, I take it?” Kiska guessed.
“Aye.” Stealth tilted his head, “you know him?”
“Indeed, on many occasions I’ve grown to know him” The Gryfin explained. “I can’t tell you the meaning of this dream.” He conceded, “However, I can tell you that this is a way for you to learn about yourself, perhaps you feel you should have won.
“Cathal bested you though not at your own ability; rather he excels in his agility. If you become more familiar with your abilities and hone your skills I doubt you would not become a formidable opponent.”
Stealth nodded slowly, “I understand”
Kiska flexed his talons. “Cathal has a great deal of pride. Though despite his tough demeanour he is actually a good person and enjoys the company of others, never mind the outer-shell.”
Stealth nodded again, “I see, thank you.”
“Not a problem.” The Gryfin shifted his grip on the sill, “Fair the well, oh spotted feline.” Not a moment more and he dropped back from the window. Kiska kicked his mighty forelegs off the castle wall, repelling himself back into the void. Spreading out his wings, the mythical creature half dived as he turned and banked up to meet his mate who quickly admonished him to at the very least not try that when the walls are wet, not that Stealth heard her.
The cheetah closed up the window, cursing himself at the amount of warm air that had escaped. Stealth decided it was best to just start the day. He made the bed and got properly dressed. There was still plenty of time before work; perhaps he’d get in some practice on the training grounds. With that thought, the cat headed off, intent on locating the kite.