Mortifying Man-cub

I knew I should just keep walking but I can’t abide bullies. A ragged looking man was being pushed around by five burly humans. The victim was scarred heavily, confused obviously, and talking to someone not present besides. Aside from the bullies the others in the village were absent or distant. I sighed to myself and began to walk over to the building altercation wondering whether it was my druid training, tribal upbringing or simple stubbornness that prompted me to interfere.

“Leave him alone lads,” I said as neutrally as possible.

“Make us,” one of the bullies spat.

“I haven’t killed anyone all day,” I replied with a sigh. “Don’t make me mess it up now.”

“It’s alright Tom! Don’t worry,” the scarred one said to the air on my left.

I couldn’t sense any spirits in that direction, and saw no evidence of an invisible being either. Still, the victim had a glowing light on the end of his staff, so it was possible he had some arcane servant about.

“Yeah Tom,” one of the bullies spoke to me. “Don’t worry; we’ll only beat you down.”

“My name isn’t Tom,” I answered.

That seemed to confuse them a bit, but then the lack of intelligence on their faces indicated confusion wasn’t unusual for them. Somehow, in his stumbling and circling, the scarred one had managed to miss my presence and now had his back to me even though two of the bullies faced me.

“Get the ugly one first,” one with a leather headband ordered.

Plainly there was some question as to which of us he meant, but being simple folk, they chose the simplest route and attacked the closest; which was the scarred one that they’d circled originally. His eyes changed from yellow to orange and he screeched an incantation, sounding like a boy just changing to manhood as his voice warbled.

An orb of force leapt from his staff to the nearest bully, stopping him in place with considerable force. The orb then burst outward to the two on either side of the first, giving them bloody noses and bruised faces. The scarred one had no idea what the two behind him were doing however, and since one of them had drawn a sword, he was in serious trouble. I shifted into my panther form, streaking forward in a blur of black fur and gleaming claws. The swordsman went down first as I pounced upon him, knocking him out of position and ripping cloth and skin alike from his back. The last untouched bully screamed and stumbled back when he realized he was within arm’s reach of a vicious jungle cat. The three that had been hit by the orb of force quickly reassessed the situation. Like bullies everywhere, they were more cowards than fighters and chose to flee.

As they ran away in several directions, the scarred one spun around again and saw me. Or at least he saw a panther when he looked at me.

“Kitty!” he squealed, his eyes changing to green.

I blinked my vivid blue eyes. That was hardly the reaction I was used to.

He rushed over and hugged me around the neck, pausing only to say “Light!” and touch the end of his still-glowing staff. I growled in warning but he either didn’t hear or ignored it, rocking back and forth on his knees as he hugged me, dragging me from one side to the other like a stuffed toy.

“Kitty, kitty, kitty!” he chanted inanely. “See Tom? Kitty!”

I managed to extricate myself from his hug by dropping back on my haunches. He had the choice of releasing me or being dragged to the ground. Unfortunately even this didn’t dissuade him. He reached over with his free hand and started scratching behind my ears! I was about to snarl but paused. It wasn’t like it hurt and he was merely expressing his gratitude. If I thought of him as a cub it was tolerable. At the edge of the village I endured the hugs and scratching for a while longer with my eyes closed. At least the human cub hadn’t seen me except in panther form. I was spared that at least. I opened my eyes at the sound of a shifting leaf. A squirrel was watching in amusement from a low branch. I narrowed my eyes at the little rodent and swore that if I heard anything of my current predicament repeated there wouldn’t be a live squirrel within a mile of the village by nightfall tomorrow.

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