The wind sighed softly through the twilit sky, shivering the great fern trees that bedecked the lower slopes of the mountains the tribes called the Sisters. A dusky Mountain Cat paused in her silent stalking and raised her muzzle into the breeze, searching for the scent of prey.
High above, one of the great Stone Eagles added its voice to the whispering wind, a melancholy cry echoing through the mountains. The Cats’ eyes tracked upwards to regard the Eagle solemnly, one hunter to another, then she lowered her nose to the ground once more as the wind died and padded off further down the slopes, the Eagle forgotten.
The sound of the wind faded away and yet the tops of the ferns still swayed to and fro. As the winds voice was silenced, so to was the rustling of the treetops as the mountains became blanketed with an unnatural quiet. It rolled outward like a smothering fog, invisible, untouchable, leaving this perfect, deafening silence in its wake.
Confusion and fear vied for dominance in the great Cats mind as she felt the oppressive weight settle over her. Her hackles raised, ears flattened to her sleek skull as she yowled a soundless cry and crouched ready to pounce, every muscle taut as a bowstring. The ferns swaying now became a frenzied dance as some unseen, unheard force shook the earth, dislodging pebbles and rocks that tumbled this way and that, some striking the maddened Cat, who’s terror was so great the pain went unnoticed.
Had anyone been watching the sky they would have seen the first bashful stars of evening obscured behind a shimmering curtain. It looked like a heat haze high in the darkening sky. Streaks of yellow appeared and deepened to red, red deepened to blue and then to a rich, midnight purple. In the centre of this display grew an untidy circle of perfect black, slowly expanding, consuming the stars and the light of the burgeoning moon.
Now sound returned to the mountain, the Cats’ screeching briefly heard until it was drowned by a hideous rumbling and tearing. Lights flashed within the voidspace that hung in the sky and the cacophony intensified. The strange lights began to merge, slowly at first and then faster and faster, the quaking of the earth and the terrible noise escalating in sympathy.
Several of the mountain Ferns toppled and a number simply split apart as the sound and pressure increased further still. The great Cats’ bones began to grind together as she was forced harder and harder into the unyielding earth and her cries stopped altogether as her throat began to squeeze itself shut.
Suddenly there came a single terrible flash of light from the sky and the voidspace disappeared, admitting the stars back to their rightful places. The night sky rippled slightly as reality tightened its grip once more and the mountain became still again.
The Cat slowly pulled herself to her feet and stood on shaking limbs. Apart from the shattered trees and misplaced stones the slopes were as before.
But not quite.
A man now stood near the Cat, naked as a newborn. He examined his muscular arms, flexed his powerful fingers and gazed at his sculptured torso with an expression of pleasure, almost wonder, on his handsome, angular face.
He raised his head and looked at the Cat standing shaking before him. One look at his eyes told that he was far from just a man. They burned with lambent power and an almost palpable malevolence. He grinned and his face was now far from handsome. He stretched forth his arm and beckoned once, twice. The Cat moved forward on stiff limbs, every sense she possessed screaming at her to turn and run but her body unable to follow the commands of instinct.
Her will no longer her own, the Cat lay obediently at the creatures feet. He had seen similar beasts before as he had fed in the great wastes. Always considered strange by his peers he had sought to study such morsels of life rather than blindly consume as his brethren were content to do. He had hungered for more than the unthinking gluttony that marked his kind. The hunger for knowledge had grown even more than his unceasing appetite, although he had never been able to deny the call of his form for long.
His kind existed only to feed, little more than vast, gaping maws adrift in the great wastes. That he had cultivated his rudimentary intelligence over the centuries showed how markedly different he was from his kin.
The beasts had never survived long enough to sate his curiosity though, as the forces he generated in his original form had soon torn them apart. But now he had made the change. After millennia of desire he had found the way to take flesh and move from his own realm to this one. It was like nothing he had ever imagined, clothed in flesh, a true body of his own, feeling the night air on his skin, his skin!
And now he had his first subject to study at leisure. He stroked the Cats muscled back and gazed down onto the plains where his eyes, sharper than the Stone Eagles that now lay charred and broken some yards away, picked out the firefly lights of campfires. The hideous grin returned to his face and he giggled in malevolent glee as he anticipated studying the intelligent ones below. Of all the life he had studied and devoured it was the intelligent ones he had enjoyed most. The special taste that only his kind could appreciate as an entire culture was consumed.
This whole world was spread at his feet, his kingdom, his laboratory and his playground. Now the smile almost took in his ears as he wrapped the Cat in his power, selected a knife-like piece of flint from the ground and began to cut.