A casual walk, then a fantastic sprint! The air rushed past his face, his legs left the ground, he must be the fastest creature on the planet! ...And then another casual walk. If only he could sustain that speed he’d be unstoppable! ...Or something.
Soon the southern quadruped began another run, then, the terrain changed. One moment his paws trampled grass and dirt, the next, slick mud and stone. The cheetah tried to hop and dodge the obstacles until he could come to a safe stop, hope of that had been all but dashed by the patch of black ice yet to melt in it’s dark spot.
In the corner of the cat’s mind, he found comfort in telling himself that his species isn’t designed to counter such things as the ice! A moment later he lost control and began to slip and slide at high speed before the loosely bound back pack, he’d been meaning to secure that, came loose and fell before him.
This is what happens when you try to take a short cut through an abandon field with an intricate irrigation and drainage system that has been ruined by invading armies and neglect.
As the pack fell before him, Stealth grabbed the straps in his mouth and slid to a halt at the edge of a ditch. The back pack dangled over the edge. His hind legs and tail were positioned directly over his head where they ended up upon coming to a halt.
‘First things first, straighten yourself out, man!’ Stealth at times didn’t feel in the mood to replace traditional words with ones that would seem more appropriate since becoming cursed. Regardless, his lower half, now technically the upper half, uncurled and landed behind the cat’s front. Now at least he felt more comfortable.
Okay! Next up, rescue the back pack and the valuable item it contains. First Stealth had to get his footing; currently his four legs were slumped behind him. He adjusted himself and carefully pulled on the straps in his mouth.
At first the pack seemed quite heavy but he got the hang of it and pulled it up bit by bit until the bag finally emerged, the salvage operation was a success! Stealth nosed about the back pack, he had lifted it out... minus the package OR his clothing.
He finally peered over the edge to the mud below; he could see the items down there and prepared to jump down to them. The task was made a lot more simple for the cat when the ledge crumbled away, sending him tumbling in.
He landed heavily on a thick dry patch of mud. One side of the cat, first his spotted quadruped body then his head slammed into the ground.
There the cat lay, sprawled out and motionless. Scents hit his nose. Images, feelings and senses ran through his confused mind twisting and confusing him even more. His thoughts became more primitive and feral with each passing moment.
The cheetah yawned and stretched, he scampered up onto all fours and trotted out of the ditch, spearing a glance back the male trod off in search of a termite mound from which he could spot predators and perhaps a meal.
Just past midday Torquil the merchant had finished his appointments in town and had since returned to his small estate near Euper that had been rebuilt after the damage incurred after the winter assault. His tomes should have long since been delivered by this time, yet his servants had no news of it. He would need to head BACK to the lower ward of Metamor to find out what has happened.
Typical, there would be further delays due to a broken wagon wheel just outside the estate; the reptilian had to send someone ahead to report on the missing courier.
The male cheetah stalked through the tall grass and tree line, he could smell other creatures in the area; their scent carried through the wind and he hoped to avoid them. These creatures had an odd scent that the animal couldn’t understand, but they still smelt like predators.
The big cat stuck his head out of the grass into a clearing and spotted another mound on which to perch. There were other animals there, big animals! They were grazing in front of the mound but he was too small to take them.
He trotted into the clearing keeping his distance from the large prey and leapt up on to the level top of the mound. He could smell another creature near by but it shouldn’t bother him up here, he can see everything.
But then a lanky looking animal, yet one still bigger than him came out of the mound to protest the incursion. The cheetah quickly ran back down the side of the mound and escaped into the next tree line in search of another, unoccupied mound.
“What was it doing?” George asked. The scout master was seated behind his desk with his legs up revealing the expensive leather shoes on his paws.
“It was perching on the top of carriages and leaving a steaming pile” the woman explained. Tina was tired, worn out from chasing the cat all over the woods.
“What did this cat look like?”
“Thin,” Tina explained. About the size of a large dog but very thin. It had tan colored fur with large black spots all over. I’ve never seen a cat like this before.”
George shook his head. “It’s not a local breed. Get some rest. I’ll send Teague’s team. She can catch our crazy Keeper.”
The male cheetah soon found another mound, to this point all of them had prey animals outside and at least one predator inside. Some of those animals were like the first lanky one he saw where as others were in fact of different species all together.
At least half of those ones had smelt and looked like prey! But they were predators, they were prey-predators and he avoided them, although while some were very upset at his incursion others were more placid. But that was in the past. The male cheetah leapt up the side of the very steep mound and sniffed around. This one had a hole in it; it seemed like as good a place as any to scent mark.
Torquil grumbled about his never ending bad luck streak. First that stupid flea bitten fur ball went missing with his precious tome, now it’s starting to rain. The wealthy merchant looked up to close the hatch on the roof of his carriage. His face bore the visage of unspeakable terror, then, it hit him.
The male cheetah quickly scurried away, the animal that time was VERY mad.
“Why are you asking me to do this?” Misha asked. “I’m a scout George not a hunter.”
The two were seated in Misha's office in Long House. The fact that George had come over to the fox’s office to talk to him personally meant it was very important but not why.
“This is not a regular animal. It has to be a Keeper and I need someone who will act with restraint. Besides none of my other scouts can catch him.”
The fox took a drink of the wine he was drinking. "What makes you think
it's a Keeper?”
George was seated in front of Misha's desk and had already finished two full glasses of wine but the alcohol showed no effects on the jackal morph. "The animal form is a cheetah and they just can't survive the cold this far north. Besides no real, wild animal would act that weird. This has to be a Keeper.
The fox nodded in agreement. “A cheetah. This has to be someone who just changed. I only know one cheetah and that’s Edmund. I know he’s still at the Keep as I spoke with him this morning. I can ask him to help he might have some insight into how a cheetah thinks and acts.”
“A cheetah Keeper?” Edmund said. He and Misha were standing in Edmunds austere room. The paladin pondered things for a moment before answering.
"The scouts report it as a fast running, spotted cat" Misha answered. “The only creature that matches that is a cheetah and they don’t live any further north then the Pyralian Kingdoms.”
“I only know of a single cheetah besides myself and that’s Stealth,” the paladin answered.
“Is it him?” the fox asked.
Edmund shrugged. "It might be as I haven't seen him in over a week but
it doesn't matter. A Keeper needs our help."
"Good! Can you leave immediately?"
"Of course" Edmund answered. "How hard will it be to find him?"
"Finding isn't the difficult part. The real problem is what happens after we find him."
Edmund nodded in understanding. "We need to catch him without hurting him."
Misha knelt down to the ground and examined the print closely. “It’s not one of the local mountain cats,” he explained. “Those are larger and they would never come close to a road.” The scout was in his larger foxtaur form. Having four legs made for moving faster and further in the field.
“Are they Stealth’s prints?” Edmund asked.
Misha shrugged. “Not sure. It could be just another Keeper. The tracks come from that direction,” he pointed off towards a farmer’s field. “But they lead in that direction.” The foxtaur then pointed off in another direction.
The feline pondered for a moment before answering. “Let’s follow the tracks to where the cat came from. That might give us a clue as to whether it’s a wild animal or a keeper.”
Misha nodded. “Fair enough. This cat is leaving prints so easy to read I can easily back track to here and follow them further on.”
Four long hours of slow tracking down long roads, rough twisting trails and across farm fields finally brought them to a deep ditch where they found their first real clue.
The foxtaur held up a mud encrusted object. “Edmund! Does this look familiar?”
The paladin took the object carefully and examined it. “This is Stealth’s backpack.”
“Then lets go find him.”
Misha stopped in front of a large bush. "He's in there. I can smell his scent."
"Stealth?" Edmunds asks. "You in there?"
The bush shakes slightly.
"Stealth what are you doing in there?" The paladin asks. "Get out here."
"...no, I think I'll stay in here." He said from inside the prickly bush.
"Why are you standing naked in a thorn bush?" Misha asks.
Stealth cringed and huddled up more, his hands covered his face, the ears were flat against his scull.
"Stealth?" Edmund asks softly. "Please come out here. You cannot stay in there forever. Those thorns are really cutting your skin badly."
"I... can't, just don't worry." Why wouldn't they go away? And how did he end up in here?
"No we can't leave," Edmund answered. "We're your friend and friends help each other."
"Just throw in some pants, please. Just do that, okay?" He said and nicked another thorn, he didn't know what was more painful, the humiliation or the thorns. Probably the thorns.
"We don't have any extra pants unfortunately. But if being naked bothers you change to animal form," Edmund suggests.
"NO!" He snapped, "I don't feel like trying that right now... that may be bad."
"Why bad?" Edmund asks. "You can't stay in there forever Stealth, you are starting to bleed badly and I should mention the bee hive."
"Just go! Please!"
"There is nothing about your body to be ashamed of." Edmund says.
"...thanks, I'll make a note of that." Stealth mumbled back.
Misha shakes his head. "GET out here Stealthy or we'll come in after you."
The naked cheetah morph hissed at the foxtaur.
"If you don't want to be naked on two legs try four!" Misha comments. "You can try being a taur. A cheetah taur."
"No! Nonono! I told you at the party I'm not doing that!"
"Then you can walk around naked" the fox taur shot back
The naked cheetah morph slinked back further into the thorns and buried his head under his paws waiting for them to leave.
“You can't stay there; if the cold weather doesn't get you all those thorns will. And you do realize you’re near a bees nest?"
"But! But! I, It's, I, I don't know how to! I can't do it! It's too hard!" Stealth froze and hoped that everything would just blow over.
"Relax!" Misha says calmly. "You cannot change if you are too tense. Just close your eyes and picture your own body."
'Sigh, picture my own body, I don't need that!' He thought to himself. But he began to comply and settled.
Finally his tail stopped thumping the ground and his heart rate slowed.
“Good," Misha says slowly. "Now picture your body changing. Your two legs growing to four legs with a big, cheetah body above them."
Stealth pictured and pictured, nothing happened. And then he felt his feet tingle. Eight more claws suddenly gripped the ground and scraped up the dirt as they quickly shifted back further. Stealth broke his concentration with a start causing the bush to shake a little, a little that is in addition to the movement being caused by the sudden emergence of the extra weight.
Misha let out a yip of delight. "Open your eyes Stealth and take a look at yourself."
There was no movement.
"OPEN your eyes Stealth," Edmund ordered.
"You can't stay in there all day," Misha added.
An angry 'churrrr' emitted from the thorny bush followed by a few more moments of silence, then a gasp. For another moment, yet more silence.
With out warning a graceful, proud, yet panicky cheetaur leapt out of the bush, bowling over Edmund.
"Bees! Bees!" He shouted.
Misha shakes his head. "I did warn him." he said as the cheetah taur races about.
"Where are they!? Are they on me!?" He said and looked about his two torsos.
"Relax Stealth," Edmund answers. "They're long gone. Look at yourself. You've changed."
Stealth ignored the knight, coincidently distracted by the sight of his new body. The cheetaur's hackles rose and he almost ran back into the bush.
Edmund and Misha both grab Stealth by an arm. "No more bushes." the fox orders.
Stealth squirmed, Misha seemed undaunted but Edmund was almost thrown to the ground once more.
"I am three times your weight Stealth. You are NOT going anywhere." Misha comments coldly.
The flighty feline regarded him with wide eyes, nothing came out of his mouth but a squeak.
"If we let go of you Stealth are you going to stand still and not panic?" Edmund asks.
The other cheetah nodded quickly.
Edmund releases his grip but Misha is a lot slower. "Now look at yourself." Edmund says. "You've changed!"
Stealth slowly looked down, his legs didn't look right. They looked skinny yet they were quite big. Before what were just feet had now become foot paws, he adjusted the foot paws but the sensation was not from his 'front' legs but somewhere further back. The four limbs holding him up started to buckle, however he remained calm just as he said or franticly nodded so. And he didn't want to risk going feral again.
"See how easy that was?" Misha says. "You're a taur now! Four legs good! Two legs bad!"
Stealth trembled slightly. "...I, I need to sit down..." He announced in a whimper and folded his hind legs, resting on the haunches. He was still as tall as before!
Misha chuckles. "It does taking some getting used to."
Stealth put his hands on his... lower shoulders and bent his upper body forward slightly, looking nauseas.
"Are you all right?" Edmund asks. "Take deep breaths!"
And that he did for some time before speaking. "How can I be seen like this? I might as well run around nude!"
"You don't mind running around nude when you are an animal do you?"
"Tell that to my upper half!" The cheetah retorted.
"Stealth you are still covered with fur and that covers all the naughty bits," Misha jokes. "But if it bothers you..." He takes a vest out of his backpack and hands it to the cheetah taur.
The cheetaur stood back up on all fours and took the offered vest. "It will have to do." He said and slipped the leather armour over his head.
"There. Feel better?" Edmund asks.
He glared at Edmund but looked down when he let a smile slip.
Edmund laughed. "I saw that smile!"
Stealth blushed and made some animalistic noises in frustration. He then shook his head and sighed, "What will I do about my employer? I lost the package."
"We found your backpack," Misha says and holds up a mud covered object. "It's a bit dirty."
"That's ruined!" Stealth shouted.
"NO! Just a little dust. Some water and a rubbing." Misha spits on the case and rubs it against his fur.
"YES!" Misha shouted. "Silly and proud of it!"
The cheetah took the dirty back pack and made a half hearted swing with it at the fox.
"What?" Misha asks in mock surprise.
You can always throw it in the river," Edmund says dead pan.
"What for?" Stealth asked, "We have a cleaning service right here!"
Misha's eyes narrow. "A cleaning service?" he asks.
Stealth nodded with a grin. "A mobile cleaning service!"
Misha takes a few steps away from Stealth. "That's it. The cheetah has completely lost it!"
"Did you hear that, Ed? Misha says you're crazy!" He hid behind the pack, shielding himself from the two legged cheetah.
Edmund lashes out suddenly with his foot tripping Stealth’s two left legs.
Stealth lets out a shout and tumbles sideways into the mud.
"Ooops!" Edmund says cheerfully. "My foot slipped." and he laughs.
Stealth scampers back up. "You are mad!" His glares at Edmund. "Two can play at that game!" The taur scooped up the paladin in his arms and dropped him. With a chirp Edmund fell in the mud.
Edmund flails around in the mud for a moment. Then he picks up a big handful of mud and throws it into Stealth’s face.
"Ulp!" The cheetah taur mumbled and wiped the muck off his muzzle, revealing stained fur with unmarred black spots. He placed a mighty fore paw on the knight, fixing him in the mud.
"Hey!" Edmund says and takes hold of the leg holding him down. "Don't make me tickle you."
"Eek!" The cheetah taur jumped back.
Edmund slowly stands up covered in mud like Stealth is.
"If you two are done playing in the mud?" Misha says.
The two cheetahs try to clean their fur, one of them threw a gob of it at the Fox that hit his nose.
"I should have seen THAT coming," Misha muttered to himself. "This mud will take forever to get out of my fur."
"Let’s get you back to the Keep!" Misha orders.
The cheetah taur hesitated and took a deep breath yet made a show of determination, "Oh, what the hell, lets do this!"
Do what?" Edmund asks.
The cheetaur moved about on his four legs, his tail swayed slowly behind him and Edmund took in his entire form. "Head back of course." He announced as if his friend would refuse and began to hop from paw to paw for practice and growing excitement.
"Relax Stealth the Keep is several hours walk from here. Plenty of time to get used to that new body of yours."
"Seven hours? HA!" The cheetaur began a slow trot and almost fell on his side. "Whoop!"
"Ok Stealth. First you learn to walk. THEN you can try running.
"Okay... it should be just like full form." He said to no one in particular, just focussing on his fore paws.
"It is but just keep in mind your center of balance is different," Misha explained.
"Right, right, I... got it, just a sec. Whoa! Hang on..." Slowly he became more confident and the cheetah taurs pace quickened.
Misha and Edmund stay close to Stealth as he moves along. "You're doing great!" Edmund comments.
Stealth blushed at the comment; he felt like a little kid learning to ride for the first time. But he was still exited!
"Just relax Stealth and keep going along. Well have you running in no time!"
He blushed again and instinctively quickened his pace to a trot then a sprint.
"The taur form is not as fast as the full animal form but it is faster then 2 legs. But beware as a taur you are at least 3 times as heavy as either of the other 2 forms."
"And less manoeuvrable." He shouted back, awkwardly trying to turn back to his friends. He managed in a far larger ark than should be necessary for an agile cheetah.
"You have to get used to the size. As a side note that size can work in your favor. You are stronger and can carry a lot more. Also that helps a lot in a fight."
"But my abilities, whoop!" He almost lost balance again. "My abilities have been my speed and agility. Whoa!" He slowed to a trot and found that much easier.
"And they will be again. You just need to learn how to walk and run again.
"Got walking down!" He said in relief as he trotted up and came to a halt next to the other morph.
"Walking will do you good," Edmund comments. "You should get plenty of practice walking and running as a taur."
"Okay, let's get some practice!" He offers eagerly, moving about on his foot paws, almost into a pouncing stance.
Misha picks up his pace and keeps up with the cheetah taur. "Now you're moving along fine!" he starts to pull ahead of the cheetah.
"Hey!" Stealth called out and ran to out pace the fox. Edmund got back on his horse to catch up!
"No fair!" Edmund called out jokingly as he got on his horse. ""I'll catch up to you both!"
The cheetah taur still lagged compared to the fox taur who had to slow down to keep an eye on his friend. Edmund soon joined them with out difficulty.
"See," Misha said as Stealth catches up to him. "I told you it was easy." he pulls out ahead again staying just a little bit ahead.
Stealth glared at Misha, a fox wasn't gonna out run this cheetah! He risked a faster gape and caught up.
"You're going to have to run faster then that Spots!" the foxtaur kids and starts to really pick up speed.
The cheetaur hissed and took off after the fox, reservations all but cast away in his determination.
Stealth blasted past Misha and took off down the road. Edmund trotted up to the surprised foxtaur. "Wow! He learned fast!"
The cheetah taur didn't notice he had left the other two behind. He looked behind and caught a view of his powerful taur body. He's a taur! And he's running! For a moment Stealth forgot where he was and what he was doing. He almost lost balance!
Misha and Edmund had to hustle to catch up. "Good lord you are fast!" Misha shouted to the distant cheetahtaur.
Stealth slowed to a trot before he had another accident as he did earlier that day. The cheetah tried to give the impression that he slowed for the others to catch up, he couldn't be sure if they could spot the difference.
Edmunds still on his horse makes his way up to the cheeataur with Misha close beside him. "Even as a taur you are amazingly fast!"
"Only in short bursts." He pointed out to the two legged cat while catching his breath.
"You are a cheetah Stealth," Misha said as he comes even with the taur. "They're known for speed not endurance."
Stealth looked up and nodded, his mouth open as he panted.
"In a fight you might want to carry a good spear," Misha commented. "With that type of speed if you shoved a spear into someone it would kill them instantly."
"Whoa! I'll have to try that." The cheetaur exclaimed.
Edmund nods in agreement. "At that speed your spear would go clear thru a man’s armor and come out the other side. We'll have to see about getting you a good, well made spear."
Stealth put a paw to his muzzle, "A spear." He could just picture it.
"Nothing wrong with a spear Stealth. It's a powerful and dangerous weapon in the right hands," Edmund explains. "We can make it about 4 feet long."
Stealth made a motion of throwing an invisible spear and he smiled, "That sounds good, Ed, I could probably line up a few lutins too."
"You ever try using a bow?" Misha asked. "With bow you could shoot at people then race away before they realize you are even there."
"Hmmm, I've trained with one I suppose, what you're describing sound's like a scout or an assassin." Stealth thought with a tinge of anxiety.
"Scout," Misha answers. "Also no matter what task you are doing it helps to be able to reach out and touch someone at a long distance."
"A scout." the cheetah says aloud, "I like that!"
"You're going to need a little training and some target practice to be a good scout." Misha says.
"I know." Stealth replied and winced at the thought of what the patrol master would put him through.
"Don't worry. I'll make sure that George doesn't run you ragged too much."
The cheetah smiled, "Still, I'll probably send people diving for cover before I hit the target!" He joked.
Misha shakes his head. "You are not the worst person I've ever seen. Believe me. You cannot be as bad as Drift was with a bow. He is truely a danger to himself and everyone else."
"Drift?" Stealth asked as he recalled, "That guy with the flames?"
Misha and Edmund nod. "Everyone remembers the firedance!" Misha comments.
"He did that but he can't shoot an arrow?" Stealth asks slightly baffled.
"The last time he tried he almost killed himself with the arrow." Misha explained with a chuckle.
"When would I be able to begin my training?" Stealth asked timidly.
Misha shrugged. "That is up to you. Tell you what. When we get back to the keep I’ll ask George and you can start training whenever you're ready."
"I can start tomorrow!" Stealth offers eagerly to Misha.
"You might want to rest a few days and let your wounds heal." Misha comments.
"What? But it's just scratches! I'll live!" The cheetah taur insisted.
"You have spent the last hour rolling in the mud and grinding that mud into your cuts," Edmund answers. "Each one of the cuts needs to be cleaned out to prevent infection."
Stealth cringed; he knew the Paladin spoke the truth. Ironic he thought; usually someone like a Paladin would claim that infection and sickness were the result of sin, Edmund wasn't like that.
"Besides," Misha adds. "Nothing is better for a tired body then a nice, long bath."
"Hmmm" Stealth began, "I don't think water agrees with me anymore!" He laughed.
"You," Misha says and pokes the cheetahtaur in the chest. "Need a bath. You can either have a proper one in the Keep or we'll toss you in the river."
The cheetah taur stuck his tongue out at the fox taur. "You would have to catch me first!"
"And I can always just toss this into the river," Misha says and holds up Stealth’s backpack.
"What!?" Stealth trotted up along side Misha and brushed against his flank to push over the fox taur. The way a cat might trip someone.
Misha chuckles. "I out weigh you Stealth" he says and shoves back.
"A puny fox like you, Misha?" Stealth asks in mock tones and tries again, almost leaning on the fox.
"Be careful or I’ll have my horse lean on you both!" Edmund warns.
Stealth looks up at the Knight, "Ed, why don't you try it? ...going taur I mean!" He made sure to clarify.
"Me?" Edmund says. "I'll stay with my two legged and animal forms. At least for the moment."
"That's fair, I suppose." Stealth reasoned. He had no intention of becoming a taur before ether.
"Why not?" Misha asks the paladin.
"I have enough distractions already in my life."
"Is that possible?" Stealth asked dead pan.
"My life never seems to be peaceful. There is always too much happening," Edmund jokes.
Eventually the trio return to the gates of the mighty keep.
"Well, that was fun." Stealth said, "I have to at least get this to it's destination." He gestured to the back pack.
"The package should be fine. It was pretty well wrapped up. So nothing should have gotten thru," Misha said.
Stealth appeared relieved. "Thank you both." He replied wearily. After a moment of hesitation the taur trotted into the keep's interior.
Edmund nodded his head. "He going to leave muddy paw prints all over the keep isn't he?"
Near by in another part of the keep, the reptilian merchant jumped back a step and shielded his face from the creature approaching. Stealth still held the form of a cheetah taur dressed in leather armour that covered his chest.
If not for his appearance the merchant would surly rant and rave, instead, Torquil merely put on a brave face and snatched up his belongings when the cheetah held them out to him. The lizard didn’t demand recompense, nor did he pay anything to the courier.
Stealth didn’t complain and promptly left as quickly yet subtlety as his four legs would take him. Later, the cheetaur ran into someone down the hall. The Gender Morph shouted in surprise at the sight of him, shock clear on her face.
Stealth quickly made a disarming gesture and tried to calm the keeper. “Wait, I know it looks different, just relax, please, I’m not going to hurt you. I just have extra limbs.”
“You’re bleeding everywhere!!!” She shouted and pointed. Stealth looked down at his taur body and really noticed for the first time that his fur had been stained everywhere by blood. Some of it caked on, some of it yet to dry.
"I can't clean your wounds with all that mud on you," The assistant healer says. "Get to the baths and get cleaned up. Then I'll stop all the bleeding."
The woman herded the cheetah into the direction of the dreaded baths where he knew he would have company. Insistent company.
Misha is relaxing is a tub. On the floor around him is an impressive array of cheese, meats, crackers, bread and wine. "Stealth. Quite standing there and join the fun."
Stealth timidly walks over to the water, he cringed at his pads walking over the large puddles on the stone tiles. The cheetah slipped off the armour that the fox had given him, at least he didn't have to undress much, and looked down at the water of the large bath with a frown on his muzzle.
"Where's Edmund?" he asked nervously.
"HERE!" Came a voice behind him. Stealth felt a massive shove and suddenly he was tumbling head over tail into the water.
"ARRRRRR!" 'SPLASH' the taur flailed about in the evil, evil moisture.
Misha laughed as Stealth splashes around. "Relax Stealth it's only waist deep water."
Stealth stood on the floor of the bath with all four paws and rested his hands on the edge.
"Edmund! What the hell is wrong with you!? Are you deranged!?"
"I knew you would never go in alone and needed some help." the paladin slowly steps into the bath himself.
The courier quickly grabbed the Knight by his paws and pulled him in head first. "Like this?"
The paladin hit the water with a mighty splash sending water everywhere. After a moment he bobs to the surface. "I should have seen that coming."
"Just helping out!" Stealth splashes him.
Misha chuckles. The fox is a little ways distance from the felines and is sipping some wine and eating cheese.
"Nice show!" he jokes.
Stealth glanced at the Fox, he watched over them like a Suleiman Emperor at the Coliseum.
The fox holds up a bottle of wine. "Now that you're clean Stealth how about a reward."
Stealth waved a paw, "That's alright, Misha. But that block of cheddar looks nice!"
"Here you go!" Misha says and throws a small block of cheddar cheese at the feline.
The cheetah taur got thumped on the head by the block of cheddar. "Oww!" He still gobbled it up.
"Ooops! Sorry about that. I can't help going for the kill shot even when I'm not in combat."
"That's okay." Stealth sighed while gobbling the last of it.
The submerged spotted taur tried to climb out of the baths and managed to rest his fore paws on the edge of the hot water.
Misha and Edmund eye the taur carefully. "You're leaking a good amount of blood," Edmund commented.
"What?" The taur asks genuinely surprised, "The water must have opened the cuts up, that's all."
"Stealth," Misha orders. "To the healer. NOW! Before the blood loose gets bad."
"Awww, they're gonna make it worse, you know I'd just walk it off in the field."
"You're not in the field and some of those wounds are pretty deep. At least three I can see are going to require stitches." Edmund comments.
"What!?" Stealth panicked, "Where? Oww." He flinched when trying to turn around to see the damage.
"Stealth, just go to the healer and get it over with. After all the entrance to the infirmary is right over there." Misha points to a door that had just appeared in one wall.
"Damn it all!" The cheetah cursed to no one.
Edmund chuckles. "It seems Kyia agrees with us!"
As if on death row, Stealth walks sombrely to the door.
The woman pulled the taur by his bloodied arms into the infirmary which had conveniently spawned near by. Coe, the racoon healer was not in and so his assistant grabbed a large bronze coloured bottle with some cotton.
The cheetah felt his many hackles on two backs rise and he instinctively ran for the door where his path was blocked by a fox taur!
"Where are you going?" Misha asks coldly. "Healer, Stealth, and no more dodging the issue."
"No buts. Wounds like that can easily get infected and won't heal right."
As afraid as he felt, the flighty feline knew better then to argue, he forced his four paws back to the healer, she stood there patently with her hands on ether side of her waist but spared a grateful glance to the fox.
Misha nodded his head. "Good. Now relax and let the healer do his job."
Stealth put his fate in the hands of the healer and listened to her supposedly comforting words.
"This won't hurt a bit."
Many sharp stinging pains later the cheetah, still a taur and on orders to remain one until the wounds heal, sulked and limped back into the baths.
Edmund is the first to catch sight of the returned cheetah. "How are you feeling?" Edmund asks. "You look exhausted."
Stealth limped over to the edge of the pool, continuing to sulk and pout.
Misha holds up a glass full of wine. "Here! You've earned it. I've had my own run-ins with the healer and I know they can get over enthusiastic."
Stealth took the offered glass. "Thanks" 'sip' the cat blanched at the taste, it was so bitter. "Ugh, I should have mentioned, I don't drink."
Misha pulls a second bottle from the basket and hands it to the cheetah. "Cider! A good scout ALWAYS comes prepared."
The taur laughed. "I'll have to remember that. Thank you!" He took the bottle and handed back the glass.
Misha drains the glass of wine with no problem. "Feel free to try the cheese and meats! You need the food after all that exertion."
"Wow, you do come prepared, Misha!" Where did the fox get all that food!
Misha laughed. "I am free with my coins and all the servants here in the baths know what I like. They must keep a basket prepared for me just in case."
"I guess they learned something from you." Stealth said with a smile.
"I've never been stingey with my money. I like to enjoy myself and I never let collecting money bother me." Misha explains.
Stealth pat the fox on the shoulder, "I didn't mean that, my friend, I mean you taught them to be food-prepared!"
Edmund laughed, "I think they're just afraid of that big axe of yours." he joked.
"Hey, we’ve seen the instilling fear a coat is capable of!" Stealth laughed.
Edmund laughs but Misha just looks puzzled and confused. "I’m not sure I want to know what that means," Misha says.
Stealth looks pleased, "That's another one down!" He announced.
Misha looks from one feline to the other. "And people say I'M crazy!"
"Oh, you are crazy, alright." Stealth assures Misha, "But you don't have feline insanity!"
"Thank the great one for that!" the fox says in mock horror!
"Hey your loss, it makes the difference between feeling happiness and horror!" The cheetah pointed out.
"Huh?" Misha asks.
"What he’s trying to say is, if you were a cat, Misha, you'd find feline insanity fun but because you aren't - you'll just find it horrifying," Edmund explains for Stealth.
"I REALLY don't want to know what you are both talking about." he jokes.
Stealth face palms and sits down, resting all four legs on the smooth tiles. The cheetah procures a brush and comb proceeding to smooth out his sizable coat. He broke a few knots along the spotted, golden coat then the brush came across an obstacle on his lower torso that offered much greater resistance. Stealth grits his teeth and tugged on the stubborn obstruction.
"Stealth" Edmund warns. "Go easy. That's a stitch you’re trying to comb out. Pop it and you have to go to the healer again."
The seated taur releases the metal comb allowing it to clank to the ground. He scanned the area for any damage.
"You have to be easy for the next week or so," Misha commented. "Until all the wounds heal."
Stealth pouted. He was getting cold on the waters edge, afraid to get back in and conscious of his injuries to go anywhere.
Misha climbs out of the water and hands the cheetah a small packaged wrapped in leaves. "Here. I got you a treat for being so good and seeing the healer."
Stealth blushed under his fur. For the second time that day he felt like a child, although to be fair he had been acting like one half the time. "...thank you." He said with drooped ears.
The cheetah unwrapped the package and found it to reveal a pastry, he didn't really eat bread much anymore but it smelt great!
"A meat pie?" He took a bite out of it spilling some of the sauce on the tiles and his fur but he didn't care, it tasted wonderful!
"A person after my own heart!" Misha comments as he watches the feline dig into the pie.
The mince pastry warmed the cat anew, he licked his muzzle clean of every last drop of the sauce. Stealth brightened up for the first time since leaving the healers, his eyes glowed and the cuts didn’t hurt as much as before.
“Thanks again, Misha, I forgot how much of a difference good food makes.”
"I've been trailing the pike for a long time and I've learned that nothing beats good food to cheer a person up." Misha explains.
"Well if you two," Edmund pauses and looks at the two centaurs, "two by fours are done.
Stealth looked at the other cheetah emerging from the water, "Do I look like a plank of wood?"
"No but you do look BOARD!" Edmund joked.
"Hey, I'm a cat; I'm suppose to look bored!" Stealth retorted, "And I AM thin." He added.
Misha just shakes his head in amazement. "I don't know what you're talking about, no Idea at all" He insists.
Stealth raised his arms to the Fox taur, "Let's get going before Misha has a break down or something."
“Aye!” Edmund agreed, “I can fix a broken wagon wheel, but not a foot paw.”
“Enough!” Misha snaps at the felines and collects what ever toiletries he brought. The Long scout trotted past them without a word and stopped a few paces down, “Besides” he continues with his back turned, “You wouldn’t SPOT the problem.” He began to move off again.
The cats stare at the fox making his way to the exit, "He is crazy" Stealth observes.
A servant is cleaning up the fox taur's banquet and look up at them, "You're ALL crazy!"
"And you just figured this out?" Misha replied and then left the room.