Artifact Stories

Cat's Claw

by Nyra

It was a late summer evening, the sun was nearing the horizon and the town still was baking in the heat. Ilchemwe sat at the window and enjoyed the warmth. A casual observer would have seen nothing but a young drakeling woman, yet she moved with more grace than was common for her race. As the light grew dimmer, that strange feeling stirred within her once again, and she looked into the sky. The moon could already be seen, and it was almost three-quarters full, so it might just be one of those nights again.

She settled down on the window ledge and looked into the garden. As the last shred of sunlight had faded, she instinctively licked her paw and stroked her black fur. She stretched delightfully, and then the black lynx jumped into the garden and disappeared in the night. Not much later, Ilchemwe had found an interesting place: an old decrepit building with lots of corners and hidden angles, and several rat nests. When she prowled the night, she was never challenged, for not only did her eyes glow with their own light, her claws were sharp and strong as needles of steel. She had never managed to break one of her claws, even when she tried, and her strength was astonishing at nights. Those claws made short work of rats as well as chickens or rabbits, and the few fights she had fought against guard dogs were extremely one-sided affairs.

Ilchemwe had eaten half a dozen rats (she was going to feel bad about this in the morning, but the lynx didn't care too much about the drakeling's delicate tastes) and killed thrice as many when she detected a little crack in the wall leading into a small hollow. Occasionally she had found hidden treasures on her nightly prowls, and curiously she wedged her paw into the crack, when suddenly the ancient walls shifted a bit and moved to close the crack again.

Ilchemwe barely got her paw out before it could get crushed, but one of her claws was stuck. Yowling angrily she tugged and pulled at her paw, but the claw would not budge. As the half-light of dawn broke through the empty window frames, Ilchemwe finally got loose, but only by pulling the claw out of the hand, hurting herself badly. And before the people got up for their day's work, a naked drakeling woman hurried back to her home, clutching a bleeding hand, cursing, hissing and spitting under her breath.

The nail grew back on the hand, but from now on whenever those moonlit nights called at her, she found it a fair bit more difficult to become the lynx.

The person who had hidden some stolen stuff in the old house returned two nights later. He cursed a lot, but eventually got a chisel and knocked a hole into the wall, to reclaim his wares. In the debris he found a slightly bent long iron needle, and seeing that it was extremely sharp he paid a smith to make it into a stabbing dagger.

Later, this thief was reputed among his colleagues to stalk and sneak "like a cat", he showed unusual prowess in his trade, and he proved very dangerous when it came to knife-fights. They called him the cat, and the dagger was jokingly called his claw. It also was whispered that in nights of a full moon, an unusually large black cat was seen near his house...

Updated January 25th, 2003
© Copyright by the authors and Andrew Williams 2000-2003