Hristo travelled the northern woods making note of every possible inconsistency in the foliage. The scout was ever weary of a lutin trap, though out of habit rather than a perceived threat. The woman spent many years under the eye of the Castellan, DeMule. And more recently under Gorge the Patrol Master.
Lucky, she considered herself, as she evaded an overhanging branch; though born a man, she retained a practical form. Not for spy work as a ‘maiden’ or to travel into non-cursed lands just because she can, no, she had a functioning body which carried her through in applying the benefits of her arduous training.
Granted s-he has to sit to relieve herself after her cups. Though Hristo wasn’t sure how he would manage to take a piss if equipped with a sheath. How would he aim? Perhaps she should ask one of her furry friends, though it would be a tad awkward; it’s not the sort of thing you’d bring up at dinner.
The female human had no special full form – not counting the absurd bimbo spell – or fancy animalistic senses. However Hristo hadn’t spent those years being grilled by instructors just to sniff her way around.
Her tracking skills came from years of experience out in the wilderness. For her the trail was a shallow print in the mud, a broken tree branch with a tuft of hair on it and muddy paw prints along a stream bank.
Hristo came across a small picturesque clearing. The morning mist was still evident to an extent and the long, green grass remained damp where it appeared in places from the melting snow. Though the scout didn’t stop to gawk, Hristo noted what she needed and intended to keep moving. Then again, she had detected no threat thus far, perhaps if the surrounding area was clear she’d return here to break-fast.
The woman stopped in her tracks however, when a white tailed deer burst into the clearing in full view of her. But a moment later a... cat leaped in after it and lashed out with its fore legs, successfully tripping both of the deer’s hind legs. The stag slammed into the ground on its side, its antler grinding into the dirt as it slid to a halt on the snow.
Before it even had a chance to get back up the feline-thing pounced and latched onto its neck. The cat strained to suffocate the animal; struggling to twist its neck to further restrict air flow while the deer kicked its hoofs about in an attempt to get back up and escape the predator.
In all her years, Hristo had never seen such a creature in these woods, and it even ignored her presence; ether completely at ease with humans or completely desperate. After the initial surprise wore off, she snapped out of her musing and with a start realised this to obviously be a keeper.
She came to the conclusion just as the cat finished on the neck and tore into the stags’ hide. It was still alive. The prey creature hadn’t breathed its last breath though it was very weak and so the predator began to take apart its abdomen. The spotted cat, or perhaps cat-like animal, ate his meal without paying heed to the woman whom had by now approached much closer. Hristo could tell the deer was now – at least – dead.
Quickly the full form Metamorian finished eating and raised his muzzle from the kill, gulping and licking his mouth. The creature’s face and neck appeared to be completely bloodied. Finally the animal looked up at her.
Hardly a fascinating interaction though. He looked away once more but then something strange happened. The creature closed his eyes, after a few moments his torso began to reshape from cylindrical to a more narrow shape. Okay, so he’s becoming a morph, no, something different.
As the morph shifted to a more human chest, his legs became thicker. They soon divided, the front changed to look more like fore legs and the clones that grew from them shifted further back until they were far apart and he once more stood on all fours. What had formally been the forelegs and paws were now arms and hands, though still paw-like.
The animal’s face too changed; it looked less animalistic and now held more human expression. Further back from where his forelegs-turned arms had once folded to access the meal, two new forelegs stood up in the blood stained snow, raising the creature to full height.
Hristo stood in awe at the sight and found herself admiring the male’s muscle structure; not ‘buff’ but pronounced and athletic. The creature made a slight nod, “forgive me, but I haven’t eaten in days.”
The woman paused with an open gape yet managed to speak, “Oh, not at all. You are a keeper, yes?”
“Aye” He nodded again, “I assumed as much of you.” He said while trying to wipe away the blood.
“You are Stealth?” She asked bluntly. “And what are you?”
The taur frowned, “Yes, my name is Stealth.”
The scout was taken aback, “my apologies, Stealth; I’ve never seen a, I mean I have seen taurs before but... ah...” She trailed off.
“I understand, okay, fair enough. I am a cheetah morph usually but I can become a cheetah taur.” He conceded. Their breath was visible over the corpse. While Stealth had a coating of fur – an interesting fur coat at that – it clearly did not suffice in this climate at all. The woman idly wondered what happened to his clothes and how the cat survived the cold nights he would have had to endure.
“Ah, I see. Well Stealth, I am Hristo. I’ve been searching the woods for you.” The woman explained, “We’ve been looking for a large spotted cat, though you caught me off guard just now.” She reached out her hand to the cheetah taur who gave it a warm shake with his own. “I can assist you.” She offered and noted how cold his paw had felt.
Stealth smiled, “thank you, its good to see a friendly face. I hope you know your way around, you can see I haven’t had much luck.” He sighed.
She stepped over the carcass of the deer and pat the taur on the shoulder, “it can happen to the best of us, what’s important is that you are alive and well. And you’re in luck; I happened to be a seasoned scout and tracker.”
“Thanks H...” Stealth blushed under his fur.
“Hristo” The woman reminded.
“Oh! Right” The cheetah sighed.
She smiled and looked down at the deer, “Well, lets see about salvaging some of this meat before the wolves show up to strip it.”
“Aye, I think I can move it as necessary for you to cut it.” He offered.
“No! I’m stronger than I look and you are weak from starvation. Just rest while I take care of this.” Hristo took out a large knife and prepared to make the cuts.
Stealth couldn’t help but feel defensive of his kill; not due to predatory instinct, rather the fact that he caught this and he should be the one to prepare it. The taur assisted the female, mostly in moving it about to get at the meat as he had offered. The woman frowned at that, “I can manage this; I’m not a helpless damsel.”
“I don’t have doubts about your abilities,” he explained, “its just I’m not completely useless.”
Hristo nodded in understanding, “I know all too well about damaged pride.”
“I caught it so I just want to help.” Stealth added.
The woman smiled and offered no more objections. “Actually I may need your help; though I see no signs of an immediate danger it would be best to move this to a secure place while I cut it.” She figured. “But do NOT exert yourself, understand?”
“I won’t.” Honestly, he IS a cat.
Stealth tried to slide the front while Hristo grabbed the hind legs. They soon dragged it out of the small clearing and into a more secluded area which would hopefully be secure from the threat of attack.
Once there, the cheetah taur attempted to shift the kill about as he had before while Hristo cut around the damaged hide. The cheetah furrowed his ridges and took note of something on the dead animal’s foreleg. He examined it and began to laugh. The woman looked up and spared him an up turned eyebrow.
“I never thought I’d come across this again. See here? My friend did that after this beast gored me.” Stealth indicated to the foreleg and brushed a paw along what looked like a small healing cut just above the hoof.
Hristo looked in closer at the small cut, or rather cuts upon proper inspection. They appeared to be not the result of a weapon – at least not one man made – they looked more like teeth marks. “Your friend did this?”
“Aye, though I was indisposed at the time, he told me later of how he fought it off.” When he saw the gender morph still bore a confused expression he went on, “we were both hunting in full form. That was my first hunt.”
“I see, I thought something like that may have been the case though I wasn’t sure.” She nodded to him and continued working with the knife.
“Kinda sad to see it go, though.” The cheetah said, looking slightly reminiscent.
“Because it was your first quarry?” The woman asked absentmindedly.
“Aye, I suppose so.” He observed the scout cutting the animal’s abdomen. Its organs were visible for all to see. Gruesome as his short meal had been, the cheetah only partook of the flesh.
“Do you mind if ask a question?” Hristo asked while laying down the slices of venison.
“Something touchy you mean? Depends really, though you have a right to be curious.” Stealth shrugged.
“Why did you become a taur?” She looked up.
“Just now you mean? Well, I am currently lacking pants and this fur does nothing for modesty.” He explained. “Though this form does have other uses,” he pointed to the red meat, “I don’t think you can carry all that, no offence.”
“I don’t ether. I was about to say I removed as much as we can take safely; it wont do to carry around a ton of meat out here with the threat of ambush. Now are you offering to make good use of,” she motioned to his taur body, “that?”
“Aye, you can lay them out on my other back. It should be light enough.” The taur offered.
“Okay, I’ll just drape the venison over; it won’t be tied down in the event of trouble.” She reminded, “There have been no attacks thus far but this is still a dangerous place, Stealth.”
“I understand; I haven’t even seen the slightest sign of the enemy yet I wound up in this mess anyway.” His eyes turned down.
The woman laid out the deer meat and gave him another pat on the shoulder, “It’s very easy to get lost out here, it’s my understanding that you disappeared on a night patrol.” She brought his chin up with a finger, “you got separated from the rest of us in the dark, it happens.”
Hristo removed her winter coat, “here.” She wrapped it around the cheetah’s humanoid upper half. “I think you need this more than me, Stealthy.”
“Thank you.” He smiled and wrapped it tight. Though the cheetah had felt quite warm from his recent run he since cooled off considerably. “I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused” he mumbled.
“That’s alright, lad; it’s our responsibility to look out for the green members of our group.” She immediately silenced the cat with a forestalling finger, “no puns allowed.” Hristo ordered.
He nodded with a slight smile though his expression soon changed back, “how long have you been looking for me?”
“Since you failed to return to the camp that night.” She pointed out bluntly.
“Over three days,” He nods again, “how many people searched? How much terrain have you covered?”
“As many and as much as we can for a fellow keeper.” The female human informed with pride in her voice. “Okay our team and some other scouting parties in the area have assisted in the search.”
“I’m really sorry.” He face palmed.
“I’ll forgive you if you stop moping.” Hristo offered in a sharp tone.
“And the others?” Stealth asked timidly.
“I think they will appreciate going to the trouble for someone who isn’t a sulking pussy cat.” She winked.
“Understood.” His head was turned down though she tilted it back up again.
“Let’s get moving my spotted feline friend; we’ve wasted enough time here.” She pat the chunks of deer meat stored on the taur’s second back, “I’d guess they’ll appreciate this nice meal too.”
“I hope so,” the cheetah taur said as they emerged back into the clearing. “Hah! Who would have seen it? Me out in the woods hunting game.”