Knight looked up and up at the huge tiger-man. He stood taller than even Knight, who was tall, broad, and bulky. This man – this creature – was at least one and a half of him.
The creature sniffed at him, and then smiled, baring huge fangs. “Welcome,” he said, “come in, come in.” He threw the door wide and Knight stepped inside.
They stood under an archway which led out to a small garden, and doors leading out from the garden. “I am Rakshasa,” he said, offering a small bow.
“Knight,” he said, and looked around even more. The garden path was in an “L” shape, with two doors to one side, and one door in front of him. A low wall was to his left, and a pond with a perpetual gentle waterfall flowed there.
Rakshasa was walking, and Knight jogged to catch up. “What brings you here to my door?”
“I heard,” Knight said, lightly accenting the “d”, “Tha’ you c’n help weres.”
“Yes,” said Rakshasa, “but first, allow me to quench your thirst after your journey. Please, take off your coat and stay a while.”
Rakshasa led Knight through one of the doors. Knight took off his coat, revealing a well-muscled, broad man in a tank top. No scars or tattoos marked him. He had fair skin, not suntanned like his face. He removed his glasses, and gray eyes stared out at the room he was in.
Before him was a kitchen area, with an island and three chairs. Knight took one of the chairs, draped his coat over it. He sat down on it.
Rakshasa set a bottle of beer in front of him. Knight nodded at the brand, Heineken, and popped the top off with his thumb. He drank deeply, while Rakshasa said, “Knight. Is that your real name?”
“No,” Knight said, and drank again.
“Ah, a man of mystery. I will tell you my story, then you must tell me yours.”
Knight nodded, “All right.” He crossed his arms and waited.
Rakshasa said, “I came here two years ago. Werecats were relegated to bars, forced to sell their bodies for a moment of interest by humans. They were not taken seriously, even warriors.” He grinned again, “They soon learned the error of their ways, when engaging us in battles.”
Knight agreed silently.
“I decided that the best thing to do would be to establish a haven for the werecats. I bought this place, and have changed it from a temple to Guatama Buddha to a temple for our own use.”
“How many ‘re here?”
“Four at the moment. Myself, Colin, Leo, and Qualmi, but we have visitors from a different pride often.” He turned and went into the fridge. “Are you hungry, my friend Knight?”
“I could eat,” he said.
He took out a tuna fillet and started cutting strips of it, putting it onto a small plate. He served it to Knight, and cut more pieces. “Now, what is your story?”
Knight shrugged, looked around for some utensils. Seeing there weren’t any, he picked up a piece with his fingers and ate it. It was heavenly – he’d never had this before. But then, he had been taught to not give in to his catlike cravings. “I ride around an’ look f’r wars, an’ I fight in ‘em.”
“Wars? Like a mercenary?”
“I fight in the SCA.” At Rakshasa’s curious look, he said, “Society f’r Creative Anachronism. Medieval re-enactment.”
“Ah,” Rakshasa said. “Rennaissance Faires.”
Knight’s lip curled in a sneer, “No’ quite.”
“My apologies,” he said, again offering a small bow. “This ‘SCA’, they have wars?”
“An’ tourneys. I fight in ‘em all, take on all comers.”
“And do you defeat them?”
“Most of th’ time.” He could count on one hand the battles he had lost, compared to the hundreds of battles he had participated in. He was just that damn good.
“Good. We need more warriors.” Knight finished his tuna while Rakshasa started to eat some of his own tuna. “So you are a real Knight.”
Knight shook his head. “Not in th’ SCA I’m not. I jus’ got a title.”
“This is good, is it not?”
“Bein’ a Sir takes more’n a title.”
Rakshasa looked very confused.
“It’s complicated,” Knight said, finishing his beer. “They give out titles like candy, but Knighthood…y’ gotta earn’t by bein’ a warrior.”
Rakshasa nodded. “Anything worth while you need to earn.” He put another beer in front of Knight, at the same time a young man came bounding in, saying, “Rak! There’s a motorcycle parked out front – oh, hello.”
Knight said, “Yeah. It’s mine.” Knight looked the man over. Small, coming up to Rak’s abdomen, with wavy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, he looked a bit like a trickster. He had hugged Rak tightly, and Knight could see a huge gash on the young man’s throat. He swallowed, wondering what had made that.
Then he looked at Rak, grinning, those huge fangs apparent – and that’s when Knight realized where the gash had come from. He was marked, Knight realized. Knight put a hand to the side of his throat instinctively. If he stayed, would he be marked?
“That your bike?” the young man asked as Rak said, “This is Colin.”
“Yeah, tha’s my bike, an’ hello, Colin.”
“Going to be staying a while? You should park it in here somewhere.”
He almost choked on his beer. “Staying?”
Rak smiled, putting an arm around Colin’s shoulders. “You can stay for as long as you wish, leave whenever you want. And Colin is right – you must park your motorcycle in here so that it does not get stolen.”
“Nobody steals Kitty,” he said and got up. “I’ll bring ‘er in.” He took two steps, stopping at the door, then he turned around. “Whaddaya call a group o’ cats?”
“A pride,” Colin said.
“I ain’ gonna be part o’ nobody’s ‘pride’,” he said firmly, focusing on Rak.
Rak raised his claws in a surrendering motion. “I never asked you to, Knight. I never would, either.”
Knight turned back and cross the threshold, heading to his bike out front.