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2004-01-29 - 9:00 a.m.

The Tattooed Infant

This chase, this “hunt” was one of duty for the Lioness, rather than one of hunger - her Bloodthirst sated in the village slaughter.

She is Rearguard and it is on her cue that the flanking sisters would attack. The Bonzo Trackers never joined the fray; it was not their specialty, although none doubted the ferocity and confidence required to act independently of the Pride.

The “Four Who Walk Most Silent” had been hunting while the Pride killed. It was their turn to eat.

As she catches the first glimpse of the herd, numbering five in total, the Shadow Tracker leaps from her perch high in the air, all but completely removing the largest male’s head from his shoulders. These fleeing packs were a free-for-all, a first come first eat kind of affair, and there is no denying the Bloodthirst.

Her two sisters charge from the darkness like large shadows and before the near-headless male’s body hit the ground, they’d dispatched three more.

A single female Human, a new mother she smelled, ran blindly, terrified, straight towards her, oblivious (or careless) of the danger lurking in the dark.

The power of the Lionesses attack knocked the young mother backwards a full two cat-lengths and she was soon on top, drinking deeply.

her senses were always sharper during feeding; she could hear the rips and cracks of relenting flesh and bone and knew the hunt was over...

...but she smelled yet another. A Human in the bushes - hiding.

Retracing her prey’s footsteps through the black, moonless night she clearly sees, where the spoor comes from. Instinctively she crouches low - tail twitching left to right.

It was a Human youngling; tiny and brown with big curious cat eyes. She was holding her hands out and making “pick me up” gestures towards where the Lioness thought she was hidden. Cover blown, she walks over and looks down at the little refugee.

She thinks of the cubs growing in her own belly. Devil-spawn, every last one and she cringes unconsciously. The little one was gurgling the language of all Younglings - babble - and the Lioness grinned at the little one, despite herself.

She knew this child would not die this night.

From the bone-brush the Lioness hears someone moving towards her, senses it’s her little sister and she leaps three cat-lengths to intercept the smaller lioness, growling low and menacing.

“THIS MEAT IS MINE, DEVIL-WHORE! Go and be satisfied with your own catch.”

And her sister, being a cat and merely curious, flees back to where she came - scolded and sulky she resumes her meal.

Above the infant girl, the Lioness knows what story she will mark on the child’s soft, new back-flesh.

“This little one will carry OUR story,” she speaks into the night, “so that one day, we may be understood, if not forgiven.”

Inhaling the child’s breath, the baby falls asleep and the Lioness, a once Queen Chosen, begins the Ritual Tattoo. A tattoo, up until that night, reserved for Lionkin Nobility - mother to cub. A mark she knew she would never again make on a Lionkin.

She cut deft and swift, careful not to cut into the Little One’s fat. When the Lioness was through, the child’s back was flayed and bloody.

Lion magic is resembles nothing of Humankin’s. It is wild and brutal and impossible to understand. With Noble Scars, a Denmother of Nobility imparts on a newborn male three specific things: a Name, a Story and a Blessing. These are meant for no one but the Denmother to ever see, for they are her silent gifts to her young Prince.

Left behind, on the child are wide gashes of pink – bright against her dark skin – an inverted tree of intricate whirls and branches that were, to Humankin, of unique and special nature. She would carry this gift until her Gods come to take her spirit from her body.

Spinning 180º, the Lioness squats over the still sleeping little girl and empties her bladder. And soon the baby is cleaned of blood and grime; her back is a mass of brightly coloured scabs – the engravings near healed underneath.

Sniffing her work, the Lioness is satisfied and picks the small Human up lightly in her powerful jaws. Retreating to a cairn of stones she’d passed earlier, the Lioness remembers seeing a nook and at this time considered it the safest place for her adopted child.

Looking into the darkness of the cairn, even with her discriminating night eyes, the Denmother can see no end. It slopes back and down, but she could smell no living spoor, so it was at the mouth of a small nook in the Human cairn, that the Denmother left her little Human to sleep safe and blessed.

The little girl who would be Queen would not see the light of day for thirteen years more.

The girl was left alone at the top of that dark passage to sleep safe in the cairn that had been covered by ancient men to seal the old dangers forgotten by all but Storytellers. There she dreamed of cats.

Cats of all sizes falling from the sky like rain and each landing gracefully on their feet - looking at the nearest, they’d nod and walk off.

It was in this sleepful restlessness that the little girl rolled onto the slimy chute that was meant to remain forever sealed and slid down

and down

and down.

Down and east the little girl traveled in pitch darkness, sometimes down long narrow passages, other times in great swooping downward spirals – never fast enough to awaken her from the Denmother's "Cat Nap".

Many hours later, her descent deep into the belly of the Great East Mountain ended in a glowing green room, cushioned by a bed of spectre-green toadstools.

And still she slept.

And it was there, laying curled up in the carnivorous Bright Blight patch that the Dark Dwarf, the Mad Andvarian Alchemist, Clang-Bang, quite unintentionally came to the little Human’s rescue.

Previous Chapters:

I. The Slaughter

II. The Hunt

III. The Devil

Spit it OUT, Snapperhead!

1 of you fuckers have been accounted for.

old shit. - newer shit.

Y'can't Keep a Fringe Man Down. - 2005-08-03
So Long, Fucko's. - 2004-02-02
Feedback. - 2004-01-31
Chapter 1 - Clang-Bang - 2004-01-30
The Tattooed Infant - 2004-01-29

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