A familiar and irksome jingle sounded softly in the feline’s ears. He sniffed about but could detect no scent, just a faint jingling. Stealth stood alone, seemingly, in the halls of the keep and felt a little unnerved. He’d finished his morning chores and headed to a session of training and now found himself in an all but empty labyrinth somewhere within the keep. The only company was the faint jingle...
With nothing else to do and in the assumption that no harm would come to him, unless Kyia wished for it, he followed the sound. After a few minutes the source of the noise changed direction, several minutes passed and the sounds changed direction again and again, leaving the cat disoriented and anxious.
Though he could not pinpoint it, the sound became louder and louder. Stealth came to a corner behind which he calculated would be a dead end; it was dark and to his keen senses the air smelt stagnant so there was no ventilation. Instinctively the cheetah turned to see if anyone snuck up on him though he was alone except for the irritable jingling... it was right around the bend now.
Steeling his nerves, the cat pounced. His quarry would have seen a frightful cat morph in an aggressive pose and fangs bared. However, if they were intimidated, the inanimate bells did not show it. Feeling dumb and confused, Stealth gawked and the jingling bells as they floated in mid air. After a moment he composed himself and angrily snatched them up, their jingle ceasing instantly.
The cheetah turned around, spooked to see someone standing there.
“Very funny.” He sighed.
Padraic’s muzzle was unreadable but he nodded, “It’s a practice, think of it as a test of your resolve. A good warrior never lets the unusual disturb his resolve to fight.”
Stealth was not satisfied. The cheetah glared and the bunny who casually stood against the wall.
“It wasn’t my idea but I did go along with it...” He said sympathetically, “I didn’t think you’d take it too hard.”
Stealth smiled and pet Padraic on the shoulder, “Don’t worry about it – I’m a cat so I like chasing moving things...” He said with an evil grin, “But now I get to choose the lesson.”
“A race?” The rabbit asked.
The feline held up the fist containing the infamous bells, “For these? No, I said I like to chase, not be chased.”
“I think I know what you have in mind. Follow me.” The lapin said and started to lead him down the halls, “And give me back my bells!”
Stealth placed the bells on Padraic’s belt and followed along side. They soon came to a change room.
“You went on a trip this morning, right?” Padraic asked, making conversation.
“Yeah.” Stealth shrugged, looking for a place to put his things.
“I enjoy hearing of your trips. You have some exciting and exotic adventures.” The rabbit began removing his expensive clothing. Though he wasn’t wearing anything for an occasion, the Long still dressed in fine, albeit casual, clothes.
“You and the other Longs.” Stealth mumbled through the tunic he wrestled with.
“We all enjoy hearing about what you have been doing. The strange and exciting seem to follow you.”
The cheetah sighed as he removed his pants, “It’s not as exciting as it sounds but it’s very strange, I’ve been feeding someone’s pet.”
“I see.” Padraic asked, now dressed only in his fur, “Is this pet unique?”
“Something like that.” The feline said and shifted, he wore his amulet so it made no difference to the conversation, “A real nasty thing, I hope to coax Ed into helping me out the next time I have to go.”
“What kind of creature is this?” The bunny, also in full form asked.
In the short time since his harrowing return, Stealth found time to have modifications done to his lingual amulet, at a short range other animals could chat with him too and all it took was a mind numbing configuration spell with the participant, applied by two mages and active at times and in areas with strong mana currents for good ‘reception’.
“Some big disgusting thing, that is, I could smell it but it seems to be scared of the light so I didn’t get a good look.”
“Who owns this creature, why are you looking after it now?”
Stealth paused, “I didn’t think it was that interesting...”
“I’m just interested in hearing what happened to you.” The lapin said and perched on the bench, looking expectant.
“The owner is a mage, she’s been injured in an unrelated accident so I’m looking after the creature.” The cheetah shrugged and headed to the door on all fours.
Padraic hopped after him, “What did this creature look like of what you could see?”
Stealth rolled his eyes, mildly irritated. The cheetah should have waited in the change room to give Padraic a head start but the rabbit insisted on learning more about his adventure so they walked together for a time as the feline explained what he could of Herbert’s appearance. And the feline did enjoy the lapin’s company and friendship.
The feline sat on his haunches for a moment, rubbing his nose with a foreleg when a little bunny hopped up to him.
“Why did you stop?” The lapin asked.
“You’re not supposed to fight back...” The cheetah pouted through his paw.
Padraic’s ears rocked, “I do what I need to WIN! It’s not my fault a ferocious carnivore is brought down by a bat to the muzzle.”
“Shut up.” Stealth said.
It had been scarcely a week since Stealth and Edmund returned from the woods with a prisoner in tow. In that time he’d endured a pouting vulpine, a grilling or ‘debriefing’ from George, a thing called Herbert and now a lapin assault.
“Your problem is complacency.” The brown lop-eared bunny intoned, “You ‘rawr’ and expect the enemy to scurry away.”
“But it’s a game! You’re supposed to run away and I chase... am I bleeding? I think I’m bleeding.”
The whites of Padraic’s eyes showed – he rolled his eyes, “You are not. And of course I’m going to fight back. I’m a warrior! A ferocious warrior.”
“A ferocious warrior rabbit,” Stealth commented.
Padraic glared at him for a long moment.
Stealth licked the bunny’s nose, “There’s nothing wrong with your form. You overcame the stigma of being labelled a prey animal and came out a predator, Padraic Cul Dethain.”
The full form Long turned his muzzle down in a lapin blush. Stealth knew of the Long’s ancestry; that of a proud clan that resisted the Seuilmans centuries past. “I know, still be nice to have become a wolf though.”
“Hah, we can’t afford for someone like you to be a wolf!” Stealth said and finally stopped rubbing his nose, “Padraic, if you were a carnivore you’d be like a savage, insane... huh, you’d be Misha.”
“Why thank you.”
“And you’re a cheat.” The feline finished.
“Yes, of course. Far be it from you to cheat...”
“Shut up.” Stealth said. “Hey, we’re still on pred and pray rules, right? No morph forms?”
The rabbit nodded, “Yes...”
“Good!” The cheetah exclaimed and bounded to the end of the hall before turning back and calling out, “I’m gonna steal all your bells!”
“Hey!” Padraic spluttered and hopped after him, “Don’t touch the bells! I’m gonna deck my self with, huff, even more and shake them all the time if you do, mark my words cat!”
Stealth laughed as he sprinted round the bend, his eyes wide with mischievous delight when he suddenly ‘urk’ed’ and his flight terminated. The confused cheetah squirmed and struggled in vain of what ever force held him but it was no use.
“No morph forms, you didn’t say taur form...” The rabbit taur said, perched over the predator, his mammoth lapin paws holding the cat easily.
Stealth managed to squirm onto his back and opened his muzzle to speak, his eye ridge twitching. However the feline sighed and just slumped his head back on the stone floor in defeat.
Padraic nodded in satisfaction.
From the ground, Stealth saw the muscular upper body of a humanoid rabbit, below that was a large torso, despite it’s size, looking more accurate for a bunny – a bunny who’s clawed forepaw rested on the cheetah’s neck...
“Get off me, bunny.” Stealth grumbled.
“No.” Was the surprising answer from Padraic, “Don’t yield and pout, fight back! There are many ways out of this.”
After the momentary shock the feline pondered, “It, I... it’ll sound dumb.”
“If it has a chance of working it is never dumb.” The lapin pointed out, sounding like several of the cheetah’s trainers.
Stealth’s ears folded in a blush, “Your genitals, they’re in striking range of my foot paws.”
Padraic’s eyes widened for a moment, his body flinching, “That would do the trick... not what I was thinking of but it would suffice in combat.”
The cheetah grinned, “You can thank Alia for that. So let’s say I just, well, kicked you in the nuts, you’re doubled over and I squeezed out...”
“Fair enough!” The rabbit yielded with a chuckle and allowed the cat room to slide out from under the mammoth lapin frame. “Forget about predator and pray. I want to see you fight, not as a human or an animal, it’s time you learned to fight as a taur.”
The cheetah sat on his haunches and shrugged, “I’m already learning that, Misha saw to that several months ago!”
“Wrong, he taught you to use and carry weapons, I want to see you FIGHT.” Padraic straightened up his upper body, his muscles shifting and flexing under his fur as his arms stretched to either side and ended in clenched fists, it looked like some sort of fighting stance though one that Stealth didn’t recognise. “Your body is a powerful weapon, second only to your mind.”
“But I’ve known how to street fight for years.” The cat argued, “I’ll just loose mobility as a taur.”
“Exactly, you’re proficient but not in your other forms, you can learn how to harness the strengths of your other forms. Stealth, you spend so much time in animal form but I bet you don’t even know how to fight in that form.”
Stealth raised an eye ridge, “I... guess not, but,”
The cheetah was cut short when the rabbit taur reared up and landed in front of his muzzle, Padraic instantly grappled Stealth and hefted him up, “No human could do that and now you’re at my mercy!”
“Okay, okay! You sure seem eager to teach me.”
The Long nodded and placed the feline down, “I told you I am a warrior! You can learn a lot.”
“You don’t have to prove anything.” Stealth said softly.
The comment surprised Padraic and he became quiet for a time, “I’m not setting out to prove anything.” He mumbled. His eyes distant.
Finally Stealth shifted, his animal form being replaced by that of a much larger animal with a humanoid upper half. The cheetah taur placed a hand on the rabbit taur’s shoulder, “Padraic, you know I respect you. I wasn’t kidding when I said you don’t need to be a wolf.”
He nodded, “I know, thank you.” Padraic sighed and surprised himself when he said, “Sometimes I just need to remind myself.”
“It takes a strong man to admit that.” Stealth intoned, “You’re the toughest warrior I know.”
“Thank you,” Padraic smiled softly and hugged him.
Stealth returned the hug, “Now, Padraic, teach me those moves!”
The rabbit slowly grinned, “All right, do as I do but make adjustments to your frame.”
The rabbit taur displayed different techniques over the course of the afternoon which Stealth followed as best he could. Padraic knew having the body of prey didn’t MAKE him prey. There were adjustments, of course, but he was still a fighter and a savage one at that and the curse could never take that away. Sometimes it took a good friend to remind him though, and he knew Stealth looked up to him as a warrior; if there was ever a reason needed why a cute, cuddly bunny could suffice as a ferocious warrior then training a cheetah did nicely!