Today’s update revolves around the unveiling (see what I did there!!) of another possible Arthurian race. Reading through the tales & legends of our three realms reveals a great deal of similarity between these stories. This is understandable given the relative proximity of the three realms and the mixing of the cultures and people over the centuries. One of the many things that these realms’ stories have in common is the central role that animals play in many of them. It is therefore not surprising that today’s race is drawn from one of those animal legends, the Cait Sith.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of cat-based races (one of my early MUDs had a cat-based race called Prendorians) whether they are the Thundercats, Kzinti and many others. So, naturally the thought of adding a cat-like race appeals to me. Cats have, of course, played a prominent role in many diverse and geographically distinct societies over the course of human history. In Scotland, the Cait Sith were feared (as well as placated if one was seeking aid) by local residents. They seem to me to be the perfect addition to the ranks of the Arthurians as one possible “legendary” race. While the Cait Sith (or Cait Sidhe) are present in both Scottish and Irish mythology, I’m going with the belief that the legends are derived from the Kellas cats that were unique to Scotland.
In bringing forth our interpretation of the Cait Sith, the goals I set were:
- They must not be like the Thundercats or other truly anthropomorphic cats. Not that I don’t love the TCs (huge fan, I would have loved to re-imagine the IP) but the world doesn’t need another cat-like race that is more human than cat.
- The CS must be badass. Cats are predators and our CS must look like the meanest, scariest, ”top of the food chain” being in the Realm.
- The CS must have a uniquely feline society. These are not cuddly, cute or sexy feline skin-suits but rather a race of beings that evolved quite quickly and have retained many of their feline traits rather than adopting human ones.
- The CSE should be tied them into the Arthurian legends in a way that could reflect both popular local opinion (fear) and the concept of Arthur as a unifying force within his realm.
- To consider the possibility of them being shape shifters as well.
While the artists are happily creating some really cool cats, I present to you the next Becoming™ tale, that of the Cait Sith.
The Becoming™: The Cait Sith
Younglings of Clan Kellas, gather around me to hear another tale of our people; there will be plenty of time to play furball afterwards, before the setting of the yellow orb. Today’s tale centers on how we evolved, aided by the Great Storms, from pets and helpers of the Furless ones to the perfection of our current form. As future leaders of our clan, always remember that those who do not know their own past will never be able to truly understand the future, so sit patiently and learn from this tale.
When the storms first lashed through this world, our ancestors were barely as large as our newlings and they walked upon four paws in the manner of food. Many of us lived in the wild, though others of us lived amongst the Furless, assisting them, comforting them and sadly, taking our food from their hands. It is for this reason that we will never take food from another’s hand, even if offered in friendship, for doing so implies subservience.
As the power of the Great Storms changed our land, so too did they change us. Over turnings of the world too numerous to count, we slowly grew in stature and intellect. Our minds were the first to exhibit the change and we awakened to things beyond the world of sights, smells and simple thoughts. Sadly though, as we gained intelligence, the Furless became ever more suspicious of us and of our ultimate intentions. Long-told stories of us as evil beings, stealers of souls and other such lies became accepted as truth. With their world crumbling around them, the Furless needed someone to blame for the disaster and as we had also grown in stature, many of the Furless vented their rage on us. We were driven even from the rubble of their homes, and hunted for sport. As a sign of their so-called superiority, they wore our beautiful fur and skin stripped from our slain.
Faced with our own extinction we did what any rational beings would do, we fled deeper into the Changing Lands (where the storms were strongest). Many of us died on this pilgrimage and to this day and till the end of all seasons, we will honor those that died on that journey. We still hold our Midnight Lament on the anniversary of our journey’s end.
When we reached the heart of the storms, we saw that we were mostly alone in a land that we could not recognize by sight or smell and we deemed it a good place to stop and lick our wounds. Fueled by the power of the storms within this area, our ancestors’ alterations accelerated and we soon became upright and gained the claw of clutching (referred to by the Furless as an opposable thumb) and even greater intelligence. Within but a few seasons we became the most feared predator in these lands. We hunted and killed what we needed for food and put the suffering out of their misery, yet we never hunted for sport, for that is the way of the Furless and we abhor it.
As the fury of the storms abated, our kind began to disseminate into what remained of the world. Without the power of the storms, the Changing Lands were no longer suited for hunters such as us. Unfortunately, when we did so we began to encroach upon the territory of our former subjugators. Observing the changes wrought upon us by the storms served to reinforce their fear and hatred of us. We quickly fell to them as we lacked their armor, weapons and strange magic. Once again we were forced to flee and we did so, back into the Changing Lands. Devoid of a home, our males were furious at what they perceived as cowardice and they argued for fighting to the very last. By this time though, the males were greatly outnumbered by the females of our kind. It was then that Moireach, whose bloodline was pure, took charge of our clan and our race. She used her cleverness, not just her claws, to lead us down a new path over the coming turnings.
Life was hard for a time yet over the many seasons, through guile and cleverness, we learned much about the Furless; their magic and technologies. Our society evolved and soon we were strong again. Moireach told us of a dream she once had before the coming of the storms, of a Furless who was lost in the world. In that dream she saw that he was both a victim and a leader, both weak and strong and that his life was going to be in our paws. During the dream there was a great storm and as his life hung in the balance, she woke up. She told us to wait for that day and so we did, patiently, quietly, forever watching the Furless, stalking them without the hunt, awaiting that sign.
And so it came to pass that many seasons later one of Moireach’s female younglings, was out hunting what the Furless call Abominations; our kind calls them the Suffering. This young one had not properly scouted the area and as a result, a simple hunt turned into an ambush. She'd disabled a handful of them when she heard a shout from the nearby woods and a young Furless emerged from the trees and ran as straight as a hunter toward its prey. Thinking that she was the target, she turned her attention to the oncoming Furless and swung her Clawsword at him. As the youngling tells it, the Furless let out a shout of surprise, ducked the swing, rolled, and ended the suffering of one of the youngling’s attackers. He then bravely engaged the remaining attackers but he found himself quickly overwhelmed and near death. Our youngling then shook her head in consternation and leapt back into the fray to save the Furless’ life. Together they dispatched the other attackers and sat down to clean their wounds, (the Furless didn’t have the decency to offer to clean her wounds as custom dictates) and they eyed each other warily. The Furless identified himself as Arthur and he told her that he had come to this land to hunt abominations and to see if the rumors of “cat people” were true. Yes, my younglings, he called us “cat people”, a vial phrase that insults both our ancestors and ourselves. Rather than immediately ending Arthur’s life, our youngling was gracious enough to simply stand up, grab a rock and hit him, gently, over his head. She then tied him to his mount and sent him back to his lands. She also left him with a very special scratch as a reminder of his visit. Upon her return home, she shared the story with the rest of the clan and much respect was shown her.
Many turnings later our seers felt that a particularly nasty Malevolence was heading our way soon. As we have done for many a season, we moved our clan into the subterranean shelters we'd built long ago. As we were completing the move, we sent out scouts to survey the land, looking for any younglings that may have gotten mislaid during the move. One of our scouts was the youngling who was out earning her stripes and who should happen to be there, but Arthur. Though he was aging in the way the Furless do, she recognized him and questioned him as to why he was foolish enough to be outside and so far away from his home during such a storm. “He has about as much sense as he has fur and claws!” she thought to herself. He explained that in his lands the seers (he called them Stormwardens) had detected an incoming Malevolence that was heading straight for our home and he came to warn us and offer us shelter with his people. Warn us? As if we, who were so changed by the storms, couldn’t feel it in our fur when a storm approaches or that we were as ignorant of ways to protect ourselves as we were in former times. The youngling couldn’t decide whether to be insulted, laugh, roar or just shake her head in dismay. What she did was to offer him the protection of our lair, for the storm was coming on quickly. He grudgingly accepted her offer and he became the first Furless to willingly, if not fearlessly, enter our shelter.
As the Malevolence raged above, Arthur told us of his vision for the future of his race and for this thing he called a Realm. He told us of how he wanted to bring all of the survivors of the Piercing together and build a new society from the rubble of the old world. This society would be egalitarian and would work together to create a better world than what had gone before. Surprisingly, his vision (while mildly insulting to us, after all, we are not mere equals with the Furless) stirred some of our hearts. We saw in Arthur a male who was not solely interested in showing off his strength but who wanted to lead his people. As the storm reached its zenith, Arthur’s vision became clearer and the youngling was visibly shaken. Like her birth mother, she had the capacity to have visions and this was her first. She refused to say what it was but she ran out of the room and down the tunnel. Arthur followed her, worried about what he had just witnessed and soon others of our clan followed as well. When they reached her, she was deep in the throes of the vision. First visions are sometimes turbulent and she lashed out with claw and tooth, wounding Arthur, yet he would not strike back. When she came out of it, she refused to share what she had seen and was visibly shaken by both the vision and the harm to Arthur. Arthur stayed with our clan until he was healed and when he left, the youngling was nowhere to be seen.
Turning upon turning passed and we had heard about the works of Arthur, and the eventual splitting of his liter-mates. One season after that sad day there was a gathering being held in the fortress of Arthur. Sneaking into that meeting was the youngling. Rather than harm any Furless, when one chanced to see her, the youngling allowed herself to be brought to Arthur. While others bowed before him, she simply purred but kept her mouth closed as to not display her teeth. Arthur, much to his credit, accurately interpreted the gesture and asked her why she was there. The youngling told him that when she heard of the Betrayal, she called on our clan to offer their help to Arthur. After much wrangling, the clan agreed and she was sent to tell him the good news. There was a tumult in the hall with many voices raised in disapproval and threats. Arthur silenced his people, walked over to the youngling and bowed most graciously and properly expressed his gratitude. As the youngling walked out the door Arthur called to her and said, “Wait. Before you go my lady, may I know your name?” Ignoring the insult of being called a “lady” (which the youngling knew was unintended), she looked back to Arthur and said “Your kind do not have the patience nor the vocal capacity to properly speak my full name. Some of your kind have called me, Gwenhwyfar, so you may call me “Gwen”. With a shake of her tail, the pure white youngling walked out the door but not before walking over to one of the most vociferous critics. Looking down at him she smiled and with a deft flick of her claw she cut a string that the man was using to secure his clothing. She exposed the claws in her right paw, and in her left she held the string up over his head, making it appear to jump by raising and lowering it. The man’s eyes grew wide, he reeked of fear, and a small trickle of liquid flowed down his pant’s legs. Gwenhwyfar then released the string and as it fell slowly to the ground she walked out the door, purring contentedly.
And now my younglings, you may go play some furball.
I hope you enjoyed this tale; it is my personal favorite so far.
We had a fun morning today at the studio. The Syndicate™ is holding their annual SyndCon here in Fairfax and the studio went en masse for a visit and Q&A. Much fun was had by all. There was also a surprise (at least to us) visitor; Richard Garriott dropped in before his meeting with the fine guys and gals of the guild. Between the Richard and myself we must be over 500 years old in "game developer years" especially when you factor in employment history, Kickstarter, multiple MMORPGs, etc. :) Talk about your two old war-horses. Man oh man; it does seem like forever since I first played Ultima on my Apple II in my girlfriend's (now my wife) apartment in MD.
Today's bonus concept art is a bucolic forest scene.
Have a good weekend everyone!