Chapter 1: First Hunt

Two hundred and seventy some-odd pounds of muscle rippled under the dark fur of the beast as it silently stalked its prey. The white stripes down its back, reminiscent of a tigers, helped it to blend into the dappled light of the woods; the enormous hunter was no more than a flitting shadow. A long, supple tail stretched out languidly behind, gently swaying in anticipation of the kill, as golden, slitted eyes, full of keen intelligence and sharp, tufted ears searched for the quarry. A pair of powerful clawed hands carefully fitted together a blowgun, as the jaguaresque face continued to track the quarry.

Myrmarch Lamusa crouched, lips curled, waiting, as his wicked claws dug deep into the soft forest loam. Unlike the village in which he resided, he needed no paint to stay hidden on the hunt, his fur giving him a natural camouflage. Even better, his scent wasn't nearly as strong as the humans in the village, he could come much closer to his prey. This was his first hunt, and by human standards, he was still too young to join the hunters, but this was his twelfth birthday, and already he was larger than most of the adults! When the village council met to discuss the hunt, stones had been cast for all the members of the village, and what Myr's said was a surprise to the them all.

"You are destined for greatness…" wheezed the wizened village head, an ancient man, but one with much power in the ancient lore. "You must go on this hunt. The stones demand it!" This of course, caused an uproar in the village, but after a vote, it was decided that his first hunt would come a year early.

And, Myr thought, I am going to make it count. Once again checking to be sure that his dart was secure in the tube, he looked up, slowly stalking forward. Suddenly, there it was! A large rabbit peeked out from its hole, and Myr froze, barely even breathing. The rabbit, cautious creature that it was, sniffed the air, and, sensing nothing amiss, took a step away from it's hole, then another. In slow motion, Myr raised the blowgun to his lips and sighted down the narrow tube. The rabbit stood up, looking around and sniffing. Myr exhaled sharply, sending the small projectile hurtling through the air, until it lodged in the rabbits ear canal. It dropped to the ground almost instantly, and after a short series of death throes, it lay still. He held his breath for a moment, watching it warily, then quickly pounced on his kill.

"Yes!" he whispered harshly as he removed the dart, cleaned it and put it back with its companions in his belt container.

"Hey lad, quiet!" came an even quieter command from behind. Myr jumped, but didn't turn around as he dismantled his blow gun and slid both it, and the rabbit into his game pouch. Getting up, he turned to face Logan, another of the hunters. The man had a chest like a barrel, but the man could move surprisingly lightly on the hunt. "You'll scare off the deer!"

Myr gave the hand signal he'd learned for "O.K.", then whispered, "I got a rabbit!"

The man grinned. "Good job! Head back to the village lad, see if anyone's hungry!"

Myr nodded, and melted into the woods, heading back to the village, wraithlike, while Logan watched him a moment. Whispering quietly to himself, Logan shook his head. "That boy is bloody amazing…" Shaking his head again, the big man turned back to the forest to join the line of hunters once more.

After a few hours walking, Myr had arrived back in the village. He looked around as he came to the outer edge, and sighed. His home for his entire life, Myrs parents had moved there from a nomadic tribe of Catfolk, but they had died when he was very young, so the village pitched in to raise him. When he hit puberty, he had started growing faster than anything the villagers had ever seen, earning him the nickname Bamboo. They were the closest thing to family he had. Coming to a decision, he turned from the bright light of the village square, and instead headed straight for his tiny hut. Crawling in, he retrieved his fathers knife, his bedroll, and a change of pants, and put them all in his pack. Casting one last glance at the fire, where the village head was telling stories of the spirits no doubt. Sighing, he shouldered his pack and slipped into the forest.

It would be the last time he looked upon his friends in life.