After the Funeral

This Week’s Prompt: 88. Lonely philosopher fond of cat. Hypnotises it—as it were—by repeatedly talking to it and looking at it. After his death the cat evinces signs of possessing his personality. N.B. He has trained cat, and leaves it to a friend, with instructions as to fitting a pen to its right fore paw by means of a harness. Later writes with deceased’s own handwriting.

The Prior Research:A Witch’s Best Friend

Dani’s house was a small and sorry thing, light blue turned grey and overgrown grass. I had already gotten half the boxes into the car when her orange-black friend started mewling at me, sitting in his bed atop some plastic boxes. I sighed and gave him an ear scratch. I don’t know how to explain to a pet that their mom’s not coming home.

If it wasn’t for Tigger, I probably wouldn’t be here. Not because there’s a lot of stuff. For someone who rarely left home, Dani kept very few things. It was a mostly spare building, and after she was diagnosed three years ago, it had started getting emptier and emptier. It was like she gave away another ten percent of what she owned whenever she went to the hospital.

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It was visit number three that she got Tigger. He was an angry little cat, but Dani swore she saw love in his eyes. She had a few scratches, and broken glasses to prove he was an ass even as Tigger purred innocently in my lap.

But he’s calmed down a lot. Especially when he plays with the light.” She said, pulling out a little laser pointer. Tigger’s eyes immediately followed the light that flickered back and forth on the floor—his tail brushed against my arms as I felt him prepare to pounce. He stared for a time, head moving back and forth, back and forth.

Most cats start lunging really quick, but Tigger takes a moment—he waits for it to–” The red light stopped on the floor. I groaned as the cat left off with full force, clawing at the red menance. “Stop.”

She laughed a bit as Tigger looked around confused and frustrated that his prey is gone. I reached over and gave him a little ear scratch in compensation.

Bit mean.” I said, as Tigger purred and nuzzled my arm.

I guess. Good for playing though. Besides, he knows it’s not real.”

***

The last ten percent of Dani’s things was a back breaking amount of books and unfinished papers, and small box of stuff for Tigger. Some toys, a bed—which I put in the front seat—and a small pen box. Tigger himself moved between the seats with familiarity—I wonder if Dani took him on drives? People did that with dogs, maybe cats liked it to. I’d have to keep that in mind.

There really wasn’t anyone else for the cat. I mean, I guess there was a foster house but…Even if Dani hadn’t left him to me in her will, I would have picked him up. He didn’t have any grandparents to go to, Dani never married, and while her neighbor and the local barista knew of her they didn’t really know her that well.

***

Oh, she…well, I was wondering why she hadn’t gotten the mail.” Her neighbor said, after stopping me from unloading the another box of handwritten letters from the house into my car. “That’s…that’s a shame.”

Yeah.” I said, pushing the cardboard box in. Tigger was sitting there, watching the neighbor intently.

Well if you need anything, let me know. I, uh…” His voice trailed off as I glanced up. He wants to say that he thought she was already dead. Or he wants to say he thought she was moving. Or when is the house going up for sale. Or something. Something he knows he shouldn’t, I’m sure. So he leaves.

Tigger glares after him as he goes. Solidarity cat, I didn’t like him either.

***

The first few days with Tigger are odd. He wakes up really early—six o’clock in the morning, every day. Worse, he wakes me up at six in the morning every day, on the dot. We sprung forward, and he still woke me up at six in the morning without fail. Which, well, it was an adjustment.

And even then, he was really picky about the food. I haven’t heard of cats begging for food, but the way he looked at my cheese and onion omlette was pretty close. It was…really weird, honestly. He curled up on the side of the couch, watching the tv and at first I thought it was in my head. But he was hissing at bad jokes like Dani would, and glared at me when I switched away from cooking shows.

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When I thought about it, he had picked up a lot of his owners habits. Not just waking up early, and liking cooking shows, but he even tried to drink green tea. And she did like omlettes.

Probably just Dani rubbing off on him. They spent more time together than Dani did with…anyone, so I guess some bleed over was to be expected? Or maybe he was missing her too, and trying to play along.

It’s just nice having a really good listener around, you know?” Dani said, as I tried balancing the phone and cleaning the dishes at the same time.

I guess.” I said, catching a loose plate. “How’s the new meds working out?”

Oh fine, yeah. Tigger’s a bit annoyed that I’m up and about when he’s trying to sleep, but he’s a cute grouchy cat.” Dani said. “He’s gotten better—he definetly knows when I’m talking to him.”

How do you know? I mean, does he talk back?” I said laughing a bit.

I mean, how do I know anyone’s thinking?” she said. I could hear her unblinking gaze. “And yes he does thank you. Particularly if he’s hungry.”

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Talked when he was hungry was right. He’d walk up, sit on his rear, look at me for a moment. And then, indignant that I hadn’t conjured food for him on the spot, he’d rear his head back and yowl. Follow me around yowling too, eyes closed until I replaced the food or at the least reached down and let my hand’s get examined.

He’s a picky eater, but I knew that. Dani complained about needing to buy him food a few times—something about how the cat ate better then her. Or maybe that was what I told her, and she said it back mockingly. I grumbled about it out loud and Tigger walked up and started yowling at me over it. Guess he had figured out what some words meant.

The last call we had was actually kind of hopeful. She’d started a new treatment, things were improving, she was back to writing her philosophy of the mind stuff. Which…which always seemed kind of grim, given the circumstances.

It’s just fascinating—like, how do you explain people? Is it memories? Is that all we are?” she said, after a minute of discussing an instance of a woman being apparently possessed by her great uncles ghost. “I mean, it’s not perfect—there are a lot of fraudsters out there and stuff, but people think their under the control of some strange otherworldly forces! And how does the mind trick itself that thoroughly?”

I was more than happy to nod along, even if I only kind of understood her ideas about the mind as a pattern replicating in itself or something. I’d given up asking about doctors and tests by then. She’d tell me if something had gotten better, she always did.

After that, we still…kind of talked. But more with letters then phone calls—she wasn’t feeling well enough to call. She’d send letters instead, letters that. Well. They hurt to look at. The handwriting’s decay is rapid, really. Crisp at first, complaining about a head ache and rambling a bit about authenticity. And then, in three letters later, it’s barely legible doctor scribble.

While unpacking her stuff, I found the note, with my name on it. There was some torn tape—it was attached to a package at some point. A small set of instructions, in barely legible writing—and a picture of a weird little glove for Tigger. He was nuzzling my leg as I read. It was…okay, well, who was I to say no to Dani’s last request?

I opened up the old penbox—there was a pen, with a small attachment, like a glove, for Tigger’s arm. A small button on the side turned on a slightly off frequency. Dani’s letter mentioned a light. At the sight of it, Tigger sat perfectly still, raising his right paw up. Making sure not to break the line of sight, I slowly placed slipped the pen on. Tigger tapped the table expectantly. I blinked as he tapped again, facing straight ahead.

I put a piece of paper down. Tigger slowly began to write.

And I started to cry, hand over my mouth.

Hi Leslie, its Dani. I know I probably look a bit different, but its me.”




 

This story was…interesting to write. Its conceptually very…grounded. Or aims for it—there aren’t any supernatural monsters, there aren’t any ghosts, and the mood I intended was a sort of weary melancholy. The idea to me was instantly one of the most captivating, and I think could serve as a solid start of a strange and some what sad story about grief. Unlike most stories, I think 1500 words roughly was the appropriate length. Dani and Leslie are rather thin characters, and certiaintly could have been built more, but with just the simple plot the length seems about right.

Next week, we go somewhere a bit familiar and a bit foreign, a place Mr. Lovecraft no doubt feared and a place that is full of conflicting folklore. Come and join us then!

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A Witch’s Best Friend

This Week’s Prompt: 88. Lonely philosopher fond of cat. Hypnotises it—as it were—by repeatedly talking to it and looking at it. After his death the cat evinces signs of possessing his personality. N.B. He has trained cat, and leaves it to a friend, with instructions as to fitting a pen to its right fore paw by means of a harness. Later writes with deceased’s own handwriting.

The Following Story:After the Funeral

Well this story just makes me sad. We’ll go over the full implications of this as a narrative at the end, but I’m almost touched by the notion of a friend finding their dead colleague still persisting in their pet. I half wonder if this is meant as a horror story at all. We’ll discuss that a bit later, after going over the ideas of horror.

The use of hypnosis is an interesting note, one we will go over in more detail when we can—the power of the gaze and hypnosis was often invoked during Lovecraft’s time to explain magical powers in the world. The philosopher here is therefore somewhat in the vein of a wizard or witch, albiet more scientific. The use of it on a cat is more fitting then—not only to continue the legacy of the familiar but because hypnosis was for a time known as “animal magnetism”. It’s also worth noting we did discuss cat’s before (here).

The animal familiar of a witch is a common feature of magic stories, often possessed in someway by the genius of their witches. One of the most famous non-cat examples, in my research, was that of a serpent. In particular, there was a large rattle snake that supposedly attended the Queen of Voodoo during her life—the creature slinked off into the swamp after her death, and had not been seen since. At least one informant claimed his magic came from the skin of said serpent, but whether this was honest belief or blustering and boasting for a credulous writer is difficult to say.

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The same book—and the issues of researching Vodou/Voodoo/Hoodoo will be discussed at a later time, believe me—refers to one wizard making use of a crocodile to work his magic, marked by a read handkerchief. Both creatures have stories of being sources of magic themselves—tools by which their owner cast spells as well.

In Scotland, we can add the toad to this set of wicked beings that aid in witchcraft. The toad is said to have been perhaps of more value dead then alive, however. The head of the toad supposedly contained a stone, and as we discussed in our witchcraft article, there are multiple rituals in Scotland and Nova Scotia that rely on feeding a toad alive to an anthill. One exception is from the end of the sixteenth century in Flanders. Here, a man tried to escape his threatening landlady by boat, but found the boat could not move. When he asked some soldiers for help, they too could not move the boat. At last, they suggested checking under the vessel—and there was a massive toad with fiery eyes. The soldiers stabbed the creature and threw it out. When the man asked after his landlady letter, she was found near death from unknown wounds.

The cat in Scotland has some significance—most prominently when it has a large white star on its chest. One source named these elfin cats, and claimed they were witches in disguise—not, as might be guessed, simple faerie cats. Others take the form of great tigers in Orissa, red deer in Cumberland, and in many parts of Europe a hare. Beyond this, Scotland has superstitions regarding cats as prognostics—washing their heads to indicate fair weather for instance—or as potential witches. In the same way that the earlier toad could be possessed by the mind of a witch, so too was there a story of a cat possessed by a witch. A rancher had lost a number of cattle, and determined he was bewitched. Seeing a cat nearby, who had been following his cattle, he hurled a red hot iron at the cat. By chance, a neighbor broke her leg that night.

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In North Germany, to tie in a way back to the witches sabbath, a miller became convinced that witchcraft was being done on his mill—every year, on Christmas Eve, the mill burned down. At last he convinced a solider to stand watch. As he makes a bowl of porridge, in comes a long troop of cats—and they discuss where to sit, as they plan to burn the mill down again. The young man hurls the porridge at one of the cats, and cuts off her paw with a saber. The rest vanish—and the next morning, the millers wife is found to be missing one of her hands.

A strange Flemish story of a man who went to tell his mother that she was now a grandmother follows. The grandmother already knew by some means, and on his way home he was swarmed by cats. Not just swarmed, the determined felines stole all his silver and pushed him into a brook! A local priest learned of this and warned him to not give anything to anyone who begged at his door. He held out for a time, until a piteous old woman with child begged for bread. When he gave the bread, both his wife and child died in…rather gruesome ways.

Japanese Bobtail

I couldn’t find Ainu art of a cat, so I present the Japanese Bobtail, one of two cat breeds native to Japan.

Ainu lore places the origin of cats, sometimes, with a strange demon. The demon conspired to kill a mole god, by tossing him in the fire. He ingratiated himself as a guest, and then tossed the god into the hearth. However, as he left, the god appeared at the entrance. Before the demon could speak, the mole god seized him and tossed him in the furnance. The mole god stopped him from becoming smoke or breath—but the demon’s life could not leave his ashes. So instead out emerged the first cat and fox to escape, and live on to do ill in the world. (For those interested in the power of dead shamans and demons emerging from burnt corpses, it is a reccruing theme in our research on mosquitoes and ticks you can find here on patreon). In a strange reversal of this story, there is a notion among the Ainu that ghosts of dead cats may possess their murderers. They slowly drive them to imitate the cats, wasting away their bodies until they die. Mewling.

That is, frankly, horrifying.

Of course, there are ways to avoid such things. One is to eat a part of the cat killed—this will keep the spirit at bay. Another is to find, kill, and eat an unrelated cat—this helps with cats that are simply lurking around and sending strange visions and manipulations to their victim.

The Black Cat has some saving graces—for instance, they were considered to be insurance by sailors wives. This made them very valuable indeed—and often stolen or wandering into homes on their own. Connected to this, throwing a cat overboard was considered a way to provoke a storm by sailors. The works on witchcraft by King James also note a ritual using a corpse and a cat to provoke storms by witches in Scotland.

But that seems rather far a field from our intentions—we are after all dealing more with possession, transformation, and transference then we are with black magic. So, what sort of story do we have in this prompt? The first thing that is apparent to me is the description of our philosopher—they are lonely. A lonely scholar kept company by their cat. They aren’t friendless—they have a friend who takes care of their cat afterwards. A cat that, I’m sure, would already be a living reminder of a departed friend. A new pet with new habits, new routines, used to the old owner in many ways.

And then, it starts making motions towards the pen. Or paper. Pawing at it. And the friend examines some of the contents of the box, and finds a curious crude contraption—a pen fitted for a feline leg. And then…its as if his friend is writing again, on the paper, starting to explain things.

I’m not sure what sort of story this is—while perhaps Lovecraft meant it as a horror story, of animal intelligence or of possession or the like. But honestly, given his love of cats and the general tone of this prompt, it feels more like a tale of wonder. A bit of magical realism, instead of terror.

Bibliography

Campbell, John Gregorson, Superstitions of the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland, J. MacLehose and sons, 1900.

Henderson, Williams; Notes on Folklore of the Northern Counties, The Folklore Society, 1879 

Hurston, Zora; “Hoodoo in America”, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol 44, No. 174, (Oct-December 1931), pp 317-417. 

King James VI and I, Demonology, Gutenberg Press. June 26th, 2008.

Batchelor, John. Ainujin Oyobi Sono Setsuwa. KyoÌ Bunkan, 1901.

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Maat and Apep

This Week’s Prompt: 45. Race of immortal Pharaohs dwelling beneath pyramids in vast subterranean halls down black staircases.

The Resulting Story:The Immortal[Imperial] Rites

We have an exquisitely preserved corpse today, my friends. For Egypt kept her kings intact, either with desert sands or by mankinds hands. And her pharaohs and pyramids are known the world over. We’ve discussed some of Egypt’s associations before, in more exotic contexts. Here we’ll examine some more or less concrete narratives.

The Pharaohs had a divinity ascribed to them, often but not always inherited from a divine ancestor(typically Ra and Horus, although lineages vary). The supernatural duties of the pharaoh and the kings before them predominantly focused on maintaining order (Maat) in the world. Examples of this include the Nile’s regular floods, which if poor were proofs of the failing power of the pharaoh. The pharaoh alternatively was key in Maat among humankind as well. The pharaoh by maintaining good and just behaviors among humanity promoted the maintenance of the eternal order of the cosmos.

This was a sort of microcosmic achievement, the actions of the kingdom extending out into the universe. This was also the purpose of state sponsored rituals and temples, to keep an order over all the cosmos. The rising sun and the flowing river needed to be maintained, after all, or all life would perish from the earth.

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Notably, then, there are agents of Chaos to be opposed. The most prominent of these is Apep, a great serpent. Apep dwells in the underworld, and daily assails Ra to devour him. He is defeated by Bast and Set, depending on the time period, or even Ra himself. Apep bears a resemblance to Leviathan, who we talked about here, in his role as serpent devouring the sun. Compared to other world destroying serpents, such as Jormungandr or Vritra, Apep is rather small, a measly 16 meters (or, roughly,48 feet). Sometimes however, he is said to be the vast horizon, or just beyond it. His roar will shake the underworld, calling to mind mythological the Kur dragon. Apep posses a number of powers, including the favorite of the serpent: a magical gaze. His wars with Set are the thunderstorms. His battles below with Ra’s entourage are earthquakes. In the end, often, Ra claims him in the form of a cat. His actions betray a greater, almost immortal chaos that is waiting to be unleashed. Apep is thus the eternal enemy of the pharaoh and Maat, more than any other. Appropriately, as an immortal entity of chaos, some suppose Apep to be the first god-king, overthrown by Ra. Others say he was born of Ra’s umblical chord after Ra’s birth.

Interestingly, his name derives by some accounts from the word ‘to slither’. Apep is thus a crawling creature of chaos….and the relevance of this expands somewhat when we talk about the odd detail this corpse has. A set of black stairs. Where is this familiar image from? Mr. Lovecraft would later ascribe such stairs to the entrance of the Dreamlands. The priests at the bottom of the stairs have distinctly Egyptian sounding names: Nasht and Kaman-Tha. Furthermore, the ruler of the Dreamlands is that dread lord Nyarlahotep, who’s name is meant to evoke Egypt.

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Nyarlahotep has emerged in our examinations before, but let us take a moment to note a few parallels. Nyarlahotep frequently has the form of the Black Pharaoh, a form used to create cults and according to some rule Egypt for an unspecified time. Nyarlahotep’s most eminent title is the ‘Crawling Chaos’, something akin to the description of Apep as a slithering force chaos. Bast, the Egyptian god who in many cases defeats Apep, persists as an Elder God in the Dreamlands, opposing the more chaotic elements of the Cthulhu Mythos.

We thus have the interesting opportunity of engaging with the Mythos in a more concerete way. It has been sometime before we dealt in the mythos themselves, instead of their shadows. More intreastingly, Nyarlahotep’s character is the sort that can be directly included and confronted in the story proper. Not only because such confrontations are frequent in the mythos (Quest for Unknown Kadath, The Witches House, the Nyarlahotep poem), but also because Apep was so confronted. Priests of the Egyptian faith published guides to the overthrowing of Apep, dismembering his body.

We thus have established perhaps a society of immortal pharaohs (and truly old pharaohs as well. Apep is first referenced it seems in 4000 BC, placing our Pharaohs as older than any hero of the Illiad or Oddessy, and older then the civilizations that made them), dedicated to the maintaining or binding of an agent of Chaos from the world. I would say the waking world, rather than the world of Dreams, as that way will allow some menace to the agents of darkness. Our pharaohs are perched then at the peripice, on the boundary line between reality and the land of dreams.

Now, to spin the eternal battle into a single narration requires an outsider. I’d posit an outside observer, rather than a change in the battle. Partially because a change in the battle requires an overlapping amount of work (explaining the significance of the battle, the battle itself, and presumbably an outside observer finding it) while adding more than can be expected in our word count (the after effects of the battle, finding the site of the battle, and an ending that hinges on undoing the chaos or merely witnessing a victory). An outsider then may descend into the land of Egypt, perhaps persuing some local legend of the steps of immortality, perhaps even pursing the great hall of immortals that is beyond the Silver Key.

The story would then be a report of a terrible mystery or seires of mysteries (what is the purpose of this place, what do these pharaohs protect from, whence comes their power, etc). Our reporters endeavors to find it would make it resemble one of our earliest (and my favorite) stories, who’s character I think we should revive as well.

To continue this, the primary difficulty of the story will perhaps be getting to the place. We could include signs of the chaos nearly breaking through. A peasants revolt, a plague, a famine (the three very often are found together), any of these could provide difficulties to cross into the path of interpid investigator. We know such works existed in the past (such as Ibn Battuta, who wrote a number of journals from his travels abroad), and the difficulties those explorers faced in their works could certainly serve as reference for our current character.

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The Great Mau and The Wolf

This Weeks Prompt:28. The Cats of Ulthar. The cat is the soul of antique Ægyptus and bearer of tales from forgotten cities of Meroë and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle’s lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten.

The Research:Everyone Wants To Be A Cat

 

Beneath the majestic sphinx, on a cloudy and moonless night, there was a parade that had not been seen in centuries. A gathering of the cats of the world, for the great Mau beneath the sphinx had come forth to speak. The message was sent to all corners of the world, engraved in the hides of rats and mice that the great Mau’s attendants had caught. The great Mau, eldest of living cats, would have all the cats that could attend. Black cats with white stars on their chests came from the Isles, kings of the many clans of Scottish and British cats. Tomcats and turtle cats, red cats and black cats, cats from the alleys of New York and cats that lived in the jungles came. Great Wampus cats from the woodlands came, in their feline form rather than their feminine one. The Tiger rajs came, the mountain king cougars came, the pride princes came, all gathered to hear that elder brother of the Sphinx speak.

The great Mau was adorned in Orphirim gold, with glittering earrings and necklaces. Already a large cat for his kin, the great Mau was even larger to the wise eyes of cats. Cats, as many a man will tell you, can see past the body and into that numinous land of souls. And the soul of the great Mau was mighty indeed, vast and towering over his younger sister. It washed over the crowd, covered in rat pelts and the scars of many battles with his long lost fellows.

Such was the great Mau that spoke to the mighty congress of cats. The language of cats is strange to human ears, involving much mewling and purring and motion. It is hard then to say what the Mau sounded like. His voice, as it was, was slow. Deliberate. Thumping and melodic, loud but not shouting or echoing. And he spoke thus.

“My little kittens, my children so far removed that I barely recall where to begin, dark tides have spread. Things that only can be discussed in this most sacred hall. You recall, that this hall was built to resemble my sister. That this land is our land, our holy land where we are gods still. This land, this desert, is what remains of our great glory and power. Here, we cats need only fear the alligator and the stars for dominon. And only here can I speak and live, for my power would collapse without.

“But time does not care for our wants. The workings of humans do not care for their powers, or their lurking foes. Our enemies and us have worn down our powers. My respect to the tomcats, to the wild cats, and the lap cats. But you are not the great gods which compelled man to offer reverence. You are not the watchful lords that fought the plague, nor the muses of Sekhmet and her slaughters. You are not of the kind to be placed at Ishtar’s chariot. You are, like all things it seems, so small now.

“Our enemy has shrunk as well. The wolf, the great wolves of yore, the dire wolf and the mountain wolves, have become as small. Surely, some are vast and large, but many now are pups even when fully grown. No longer do they lure the soul of man to wild hunts, but rather are content as we in domestic bliss. And our wars, our wars in the halls and alleys while fierce in some places,” the great Mau said, bowing to the alley cheiftans, “are small still. But such is known. Why would I call, to remind you how far we have fallen? Why summon cats to say dogs are small?

“Because not all are. A great wolf stirs still, to wolves as I am to cats. He is old as I and long slept at his owners feet. Waiting for the day where, as all things say, when the dead shall rise. He hoped, perhaps, to see that day. But he hopes no longer. And he is dread and doom filled. Where he roams, now in the world, his soul shifts and shakes the souls of men. His rage and fear, his howls are now threatening all we have done.

“I would, my kittens, sally out to fight him once more. But I have grown complacent. His might is not the same kin as mine. Mine is divinity, mine is holy, mine is regal. And such things cannot with ease leave the palaces and the halls. His, his is a different sort. His is the sort that is found in all places, that bubbles up in the cities and flows freely in the wilds. The great wolf cannot be allowed to stand. He must,” the great Mau’s voice faltered for a moment, uncertain, “he must be opposed. Or even our sacred land may be undone. Thus, from you my masses, my children I love, I need a champion. To face the wolf with our blessing. To close his sanguine maw. Else he might rally the forgotten lords among them, and the black dogs of the Isles return. And the great hounds of the north return. And Anubis and Set return. And his majesty bring our war to an end, gruesome and vile.”

There was a silence among the crowd of cats. They had heard, even the mighty rajs, of the wolves of old. How their might ancestors, with sword teeth and dagger claws fought against them across the seas. And in story, the phantom of such beasts began to grow larger than ever was. The Tomcat chiefs, the alley cat lords, they still had injuries from skirmishes with the lessers. None of them dared to face such a beast as the wolves of old, lest they suffer an injury they could not recover. The Cat Sith, lord of isle cats, with his proud on his chest, avoided the gaze of the great Mau. He knew the great black dogs of the fens well. He would not sally out. The Wampus Cats were likewise afraid, but their fear was mixed with confidence. Surely, if the war went wrong, they might hide in human form for sometime. They knew little of the great dogs hunting habits.

At last, a small kitten arose, with a spotted coat. She came from across the seas. A simple pilgrim, she was, a common kitten among the crowds of panther pashas and Leonid lords. She lacked the stars of the cat sith, the claws of the tiger. Her teeth were, like many kittens, small. But she stepped forwards, the little thing, and spoke softly.

“If a wolf needs to be sent away, I can try. I can learn. I have sought out mice and rabbits, even at my young age. I have frightened off greater dogs before, and I have lived in the cities and houses of men. I can try to send off this great wolf.”

“Little one, smallest one,” the great Mau said, with a chuckle as best he could, “your bravery commends you. But you cannot fell such a beast as this on your own. Come then, who will aid the kitten in her venture?”

Again silence for a time. But then, slowly, one of the elder tigers came forth. He was older than the mortal Raj of india, and his fur gave testament to his age. All over him were scars. A number of his teeth had fallen out, his claws once great and sharp were dulled with time. One of his eyes a man had put out ages past.

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“I have little to lose, great Mau, even to such a beast. Death comes to me like a memory, and soon I know he will be upon me with his ancient words and fatal touch. I will protect the kitten, while you find another greater champion.” the old tiger said.

The great Mau, reluctantly, assented. And so the two cats went out from the gathering, to find the old wolf that rose from the crypts. The land of dogs and foxes was well known to the old Raj. He, limping, let the kitten ride on his back. If the great Wolf had risen again, no doubt it rose in the homeland of their kin. Lupine beasts held sway in the deep dark forests of the world, but they were holy in the North and among the hills of Italy and the Black Forests. There the old and young began their search.

The wolf, it must be known, is a carrion creature. While the noble tales tell of wolves as fighters, honorable and strong, they are often famed for feeding on the dead. The cats, even the young as the white kitten, prided themselves in being absent from those tales. It wasn’t cats that Achilles attempted to feed the corpse of Hector to, no feline friend stood in Odin’s hall, and certainly none was every folly enough to feed on the bodies of man in fields. At least, as was admitted.

Knowing this, their search was easier. A great wolf, reasoned the kitten, would be on the look out for great carrion. For piles and bodies of men and beast alike. And the old tiger was silent, limping as he did, toward Cairo. For he knew where they would find the wolf in the countries of men. There were few places of old slaughter, very few. But new slaughters, the old tiger new, had grown vast in size.

They traveled for months before the raj could smell the wolf. Months north of the holy land of cats, years away from lost Ulthar. There, on snow fields, even the kitten could smell the great wolf. But there was more than him here. For the Raj in his jungle had received word that the sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve had begun to war again. And here, on a snow plain, he had heard the blood ran the worst.

Great clattering and grinding machines wound across the plain. Thunder bolts seemed to clatter on either side. Herds of humans ran across the fields, letting lose their new fangled spears and swords to strike from afar. And the fell in droves. More of them fell as the old raj and kitten watched then the cats had ever known existed. Man was truly an abudant animal, the old raj said.

The pilgrim kitten mewled and wept.

But it was there, among the freezing bodies and the crying men, that they saw the wolf. The great Mau was right. There was some clear kin between them. The wolf, like the Mau, was not a particularly large or fearsome wolf to the sights of men. No more terrible in form than any other of his kin. He lurked around the field, and made no sign of attack. But the cats.

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The cats saw his form, large and terrible. He towered over the field, with jaws large enough to swallow armies whole. His eyes were a deep sanguine red, his teeth covered in gore and blood, his coat stained with the remains of slaughter. This visage stood looming, waiting, eager again to feast on mortal flesh. Around it, the raj (who saw more clearly than the kitten) could make out smaller forms. Wolves, smaller wolves were gathering to the great Lupus. Swarming to form one great pack, for now only in spirit. But soon, the raj guessed, soon in body as well. And it was a dread host indeed. The raj knew some of those forms, from distant Asia.

“Let us return little pilgrim. We have seen what it is, where it lies, and what it’s strength is. There is no need to risk our lives.” The old raj said.

The kitten did her best to frown. Sadly, she had not learned the feline trick of appearing perpetually displeased with the world. Still, she bounded off the raj and onto the snow, her spotted coat clear as day.

“Is not so big nor dangerous for me. You are old and wounded, stay if you want. I’m off to slay the wolf!” she said, her eyes glittering with pride. For you see, like all small animals, the kitten was convinced she was larger than life. There is a courage that permeates tiny creatures and persuades them that no matter the opponent, they are mightier. Among small dogs, there is a similar belief, if not as well articulated.

So out ran the kitten in front of the wounded raj, darting in the snow beneath the hail of fire and rumbling metal treads. The lurking wolf did not see her as she ran forth. But as she grew close, his visage grew more like his soul, more dreadful and frightening. This was the beast that had inspired Fenris, this was a beast that could eat the sun.

And the kitten bit him in the paw as hard as she could.

The wolf howled for a moment, surprised by the sudden sting. His coat turned a coal black, his eyes a vicious red, as he looked down at the kitten. The raj waited off to the side in earnest, unable to leave and unwilling to charge into the beasts maw.

The kitten proceeded to bite the wolf again.

The great wolf turned down, now aware of what insect was causing him so much grief in the winter snow. Slowly he lowered his head over the kitten and began to growl a warning. The kitten continued biting and clawing as best she could, unable to speak dog. The wolf barked and snarled at the kitten in rage, showing a full set of spear like teeth.

The raj considered running across the field, through the lines of fighting men, when he heard a particularly loud thunder clap. A boom echoed, and the wolf turned for a moment. And then he was splattered against the floor as one of the man made machines went forward. There was that boom of thunder and the wolf was struck by some might spear meant for the machine. The kitten came loping back to the raj, covered in blood and gore.

“See? I told you. I maybe small, but no dog is too big for me.”

The raj merely stared ahead in shock. The wolf’s spirit still loomed howling in pain. But it was not but a spirit now.

“Perhaps, little one, we have been wrong about the threat.” the old raj said. “Perhaps it is not the dogs that we should fear in coming years, but our old charge man.”

I’m not super fond of the ending for this one, but I didn’t want to extend it into a full multi-part story. So the end is a bit rushed, certainly. Also, the time of year constrained me some.Still, it seems servicable. What did you find with the Cats of Ulthar? Where did they come from where did they go? Let us know in the comments! Next week: We go to Providence Rhode Island!

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