The black long-eared Saber laid, staring uncaringly over the peaceful hills of Shadowglen. Every once in a while a Grell would skip up to it. The Saber would get up, savagely maul it, and then go back to laying down. Staring. It no longer wanted to think. It no longer wanted to have fingers for picking and mixing herbs, to be around the people-shaped ones, to try and think in words instead of smells. It wanted to be just another NightSaber, hunting, killing, eating, and eventually dying.
Occasionally a person would get close. The Saber would attack and drive them away. It didn't want to be close to any more people.
People left. And when they left, it hurt. The Saber was tired of hurting.
It saw two long-eared people in particular always watching, staring at it from the bushes. The Saber had attacked them once, and then they didn't get close again. The one said a lot of loud words to the other one.
The Saber fought. The Saber killed. The Saber ate and slept.
One day, just like any other day, it smelled another cat near. It was trying to sneak, but she could sense it. It was white with black stripes, and seemed familiar. Familiar was bad. The Saber growled. The scent of it...it was...
"Pook!" Dalin exclaimed, stepping from a bush. "Ah came fer th' bounty, but...it's ye! What're ye doin' out here, ye silly rascal? Look, here's a nice fish fer ye!"
The Saber growled fiercely. It didn't want to hear words and think and remember. It just wanted to be another dumb cat, not capable of feeling or wishing or trying to make sense of words. The Saber lunged at the Dwarf with a roar.
"Whoa! Pook! Wha's th' matter with ye?" Dalin said, stumbling backwards. He didn't even draw his rifle, but his cat Bangalash acted from pure instinct, attacking The Saber fiercely. Snarling, the Saber still tried to advance on Dalin, swiping with its full strength. Killing strikes. It couldn't move forward, though, with Bangalash sinking its teeth into its hindquarters, and by the time the Saber turned to fight it it was already exhausted.
Tired...tired of hurting...tired of people...tired of thinking...The Saber laid down and closed its eyes. Somewhere a ways behind them, there was a faint cry of "HURRAY!"
"Pook...What are ye' doin'?" Dalin said with a sigh and patted her on the head gently. Dwarves are notoriously hardened, obstinate and crusty, and Dalin Bronzebeard was even moreso than most. But for some reason he had a soft spot for the weird dirty Elf who acted like a cat.
The Saber didn't want anyone to have a soft spot for it. The Saber didn't want to have People anymore, to care for and leave. People like...like...
Pook felt her cat form melt away and she choked back a sob. "JinxJinxJinx!" She cried.
Dalin blinked for a minute and then held her a bit uncomfortably, like someone unaccustomed to doing so. Similarly, Pook was unaccustomed to being held. "Wha' abou' Jinx? Ah have'na seen 'er aroun' in a while..."
"P'kow! P'kow JinxJinx!" Pook cried.
"P...know?" Dalin said, still quite unsure what to do with the sobbing elf in his arms.
Pook sighed in exaspiration. Words were all a mix of stupid sounds. It struck her as an extremely inefficient method of communicating when trying to feel someone's intent, body language and gesture, smells and posture worked so much better. Granted, it only worked once she got to know a person pretty well, but still...
"JinxJinx..." Pook grabbed Dalin's hand and dragged him over to a nearby pond.
"Jinx...went fer a swim?" Dalin asked with a perplexed raised eyebrow.
Pook glared at him for a second, and then jumped into the water, floating face down.
"She was floatin'...she was...oh." Dalin said, realization finally penatrating his head. "So...she finally wen' an' did it, eh?"
"Rrrow..." Pook said with a nod, climbing out sodden and dripping to sit next to him on the bank of the pond.
"Ah have t'say, ah saw it comin'," Dalin said, shaking his head solemnly. "C'mon. Le's get ye outta this place. What made ye come here, anyway?"
"Rrrow..." Pook pointed up to a ledge just barely visible at the treeline on the edge of the Shadowglen. His trained Hunter's eye identified it as the den of a Nightsaber, unused for a while. A year, maybe less.
"Is tha'...where ye lived? With th' Nightsabers?" Dalin asked. Pook nodded sadly in response, but then pointed to one of the Elves standing guard at the World Tree and pointed back to the cave with a catching, grabbing motion.
"They...took yer family? Fer ridin' an' huntin' pets? The Elves? THOSE DAMN ELVES TOOK YER FAMILY??" Dalin exclaimed, generally needing very little reason to declare war on all of Elfdom. "YE DAMN LONGEARS! AH'LL MAKE YE PAY FER WHAT YE'VE DONE!!"
"Prrow? Rrrow!" Pook shouted after Dalin, running to pull him back. She repeated the catching gesture, then made a big gesture. It was a long time ago. "It was big?" Dalin asked. "A big Nightsaber! Ah say, Pook, yer really getting the hang of language! Woohoo!" Dalin exclaimed, starting to dance.
Pook sighed. The long-eared people had captured her Nightsaber mother quite some time ago. The natural lifespan of a Nightsaber, especially the ones living close to the World Trees, was almost Elvish in length, and the older they got the bigger they got until they were highly prized for capture and training to be ridden around by the long-eared people. The very thought chafed at Pook, their enslavement and their will being forced and bent to become a mere beast of burden.
"Rrrow!" Pook declared, becoming enraged. "P'kow!" she shouted at the long-eared man standing outside the tree, striding over to him and firmly kicking him in the shin.
"Pook! POOK! Tha's STAGHELM'S SON!" Dalin shouted, hurriedly pulling her away and then sighing. "All righ' enough o'this. Let's go...say, have ye ever been ta' Brill? Ah hear Alyonn's already there..."
They turned to go only to see someone with bright red hair approaching on the road. "Pook!" The Bright Haired Man shouted, jogging up to them. "THERE y'are! We've all been worried SICK about yah!"
"Prrow!" Pook exclaimed, dashing over and then dodging behind him to try and pull out one of his hairs...only to the thwarted by some kind of band holding it in.
"It was Jinx's last gift to me," he said with a sad grin. "A Pook-proof hairband."
"RRROW!" Pook exclaimed, thwarted. Behind them, Pook saw a movement and turned to see Dalin quietly mounting his Ram to ride away.
"Prrow?" Pook said, going to Dalin and tugging on his hand. "Rrrow?"
"Nah Pook, ah'm not one fer taverns much...The Wisps an' Spirits ain't meh place anymore. Ye go back an' be a good Pook," Dalin said with a sad smile.
Pook blinked up at him...at...
"...Lin?" She said. The Man with the Bright Hair and Dalin blinked in unison.
"LinLinLin! LINLINLIN!" Pook yelled, jumping up to hug him around the neck so ferociously she nearly pulled him up off his Ram.
"Bwahahaha! Ah knew ye were gettin' it, Pook!" Dalin exclaimed, and then took a flask out of his belt. Taking a swig of it, suddenly he spat out a giant plume of flame! "Dalin Bronzebeard rides into th' nigh'!" Dalin yelled, and in a green flash of Hearth magic he was gone.
The Man with Bright Hair, one who was a student of theatrics himself, smiled in appreciation and then beckoned for Pook to follow him. She did so happily, bouncing down the road and excited to see Her People again...
Because she could feel something. Deep down in her gut, the part that usually told her if a fish was bad or to take one path over another...
JinxJinxJinx was not really gone. She was coming back.
She stopped in the road for just a moment. For some reason, this thought did not fill her with joy like she thought it would. There was something...wrong...
She blinked and shook off the feeling. What could possibly be wrong? It was JinxJinxJinx! And if she had to, she'd follow her to the ends of the sky. Nothing could stop her from being with her again. Nothing.