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The Long Tailed WIllowbird and the Siberian

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Waving at the tall, dark, and long haired man she had been asked to track down, Lilly shouted, “Hi! What are you doing in this section of the Citadel? Your tour guide sent me to find you. They're this way.”  She pointed off in the general direction of the tour group and started to move that way as well. “Come on, let's go. I think they had something else planned for you visitors today and you don’t want to miss it.”

Tall, Dark, and Mysterious™ just raised an eyebrow and made a questioning noise at her. She rolled her eyes at the man and took a step around him, herding him in the correct direction to meet up with the guides. Every once in a while something would catch his interest because he would veer off the path in a random direction. She would have to step in front of him and block off that path to get him to continue. Each time he didn’t say anything but watched her closely, a single eyebrow raised in her general direction.

Eventually they get back to the remainder of the group and the guide asked, "Did you find him?"

“Yeah he’s right behind me.” She looked over her shoulder and saw the man inspecting something in a different direction already. “Oh no you don’t. Get back here.” She chased him down and returned him to the giggling group for the remainder of the tour

Ignis approached the group as the tour guide droned on about the historical importance of the statue of King Tonitrus the Fierce. "Ah Lilly, you found Mr. Talen, good. Welcome to the Citadel. I'm Ignis and I will lead you to the meeting room. If you'll follow me, please. Lilly, you need to get moving you are expected."

"Fine. Going. Nice to meet you Mr. Talen. See you soon!" She waved and dashed off to meet up with her Master in one of the many conference rooms.

She ran into the room and almost collided with her Master when she slid, scrambling to a stop on the floor in bare feet.

Prince Noctis grabbed a hold of her shoulders to steady her. "Lilly! There you are. I thought you'd be late. Where are your sandals? People are starting to think I don't take care of you."

She looked down at her feet and shrugged. "I was outside in the grass. I met someone strange out there. The tour guide asked me to find one of their members and he had wandered off into the gardens. I must've left them out there."

"Strange? Stranger than the usual around here?" Noct asked.

"Yeah. He smelled, Wild I guess you could say. He smelled of Magic and a hint of Other. Very different than your magic. I don't know how else to describe it. I want to smell it again though. Ignis came and shooed me away to get here on time. He said the man's name was Mr. Talen I think."

Noctis looked behind her towards the door. "Looks like you'll get your chance. Here comes Ignis with Mr. Talen. He and his hunters are here to talk to us about the monster hunting in their area. They've been gathering data for us."

She turned and waved at them but followed Noctis to his chair and settled next to him on her cushion. She leaned against his legs and let out a small purr when his hands settled in her hair. She loved head rubs, active or idle.

After an hour she was bored out of her mind. The hunters were knowledgeable but their reports were as dry as the desert outside of Insomnia. Must've been awed by talking to the Prince of the place. She hated politics and all the toned down nonsense it entailed. Totally over it she laid down and Changed silently. One second a girl was there, the next a female tiger was in her place.

No one batted an eye at the shift, except one. Talen stiffened as the magic next to the Prince shifted suddenly. He said something the Lucians couldn't understand and one of the hunters looked sharply towards the Prince. "We were told there would be no magic. Yet you're using it?"

"Magic? Oh, you must mean —that's Lilliana. She just shifted into her feline form. She must have been bored and wanted to take a nap because she isn't a participant in this conversation. Lilly up. Show them what I mean."

She grumbled a bit but stood up and put her head on to the table. She yawned wide, showing off her large teeth then rumble purred, making the table rumble with her. Most of the hunters looked at her in shock. "What the? Where did she come from?"

Noct hid a grin and motioned for Lilly to move out from next to him. "She's been here the entire time. She's my pet and a shifter. Lilly. Don't be rude. Now go show off."

"Your slave, pet, animal? She seems very ill trained." One of the hunters observed out loud after getting over his shock.

She flicked an ear at that, giving him a full, 'oh really?' feline glare. Noct chuckled at that. "I do give her a lot of freedom, she is fully trained and obedient. You can pet her if you like. She's very soft and won't bite."

Someone muttered she probably couldn't bite any harder than that coeurl they fought last month. She eyed the speaker with a glint in her eye. Noct poked her as she walked past him and told her that wasn't a challenge. She huffed at him and made her way around the table stopping at each person.

They all smelled so exotic to her. She took the opportunity to sniff each person as she paused by them. Some smelled of power, some of wilderness. She may have sneezed on the one guy when she passed him. There weren't many of them so it didn't take her long to get to everyone.

The last one she went near was the Mr. Talen. She walked right up to him and put her head right under his hand. She nuzzled it getting a good whiff of his scent and rumble purred in his hand.

A slow smile bloomed on his face as he felt the purr and her fur. He brought his other hand around and buried both in her fur giving her a good scratch that was more enthusiastic the more she purred.

She moved closer and buried her head in his lap letting her pet and scratch her as much as he wanted. Somehow she ended up on her back with him scratching her tummy fur, her paws in the air.

"Oh no, not again." She heard from one of the hunters. "I'm sorry your Highness. You've lost your cat. Good luck getting her away from them."

"Let them have their fun. It's been a long time since she's received so much attention from a stranger. Let's continue."

A few hours later the Prince and the hunters somehow separated the two and gave the giant kitten back to her Master. She was extremely reluctant to leave her new friend but the call of her Master, and food, did the trick.

"Did you get all the scent you wanted? You looked like you were enjoying yourself there."

"Yes I did. He gave good scratches. He kept muttering in different languages at me. It was very nice to be honest. I'm pretty sure he was telling me animal facts too. I could understand some of it, or at least the names of the animals."

He smiled at her, "You can probably ask him before he leaves. Their group is sticking around for a few more days before departing"  She grinned back in anticipation of the next few days.

"Hey Mr. Talen!" Lilly looked down at tall, dark, and handsome, from over the railing of the main staircase. "How are you? Got a question for you." He had just passed below where she had been waiting for him.

The man looked up at her and cocked his head to the side. "Talen." At her confused look he continued. "Not Mister, just Talen. You have question?"

His accent was thick and he chose his words carefully, like he was translating in his head as he went. It wasn't a bad accent though. It was quite pleasant to listen to, in her opinion. She wasn't going to be distracted by it though. "Yeah. I think I understood some of what you said yesterday during the meeting. You were talking about Anak Calfs weren't you?" At his slow nod she continued, "So how long after they're born do they take to start running?"

His confusion was palpable and she grinned. "I heard from one of your colleagues that you know a lot about animals. Care to talk with me about them? Or would that not be a good thing?" If she had ears they would be drooping, "I don't want to make you uncomfortable if you don't want to talk to a shifter."

"You are magic user, correct? You change to coeurl shape. There are others like you in this city. Over there and there." He pointed discreetly at a few people she knew were shifters. She nodded at each indication. "You special even with them. Not feel bad to talk to you. Anak Calf runs after one hour of birth." She smiled as bright as the sun shining outside.

"Talk more later. Have good day, Lilly," He gave her a short bow before continuing on his journey past the stairs.

The next day Lilly was padding after the Prince in feline form when they passed Talen sitting in a chair under one of the windows in a little used hallway. Lilly tugged on Noct's shirt and bounded over to the man. She stopped right before she got to him and laid down on the ground. She knew having a large cat run at you suddenly was startling, or at least usually. He just smiled at her and held out his hand for her to rub against. His single braid ran down behind his chair and twitched when he moved. She was watching it when she noticed something strange. One of the pieces of his hair wasn't moving naturally. It was moving in a different direction than he was.

After nuzzling his hand she shuffled forward and put out a paw to bat at the piece that refused to obey physics. It twitched on its own! She tried to grab it with her paw but it kept moving out of her way. She got more and more into trying to catch it when the Prince nudged her and called her away. Stupid life getting in the way.

She was drawn away reluctantly but looked over her shoulder at the man still sitting in the seat. He just smirked mysteriously at her and she had to force herself to not pounce him for answers.

As the day wore on he showed up randomly and she tried to figure him out. She failed miserably, but it was extremely fun for her to try and sneak up on him to get answers. She tried in both animal and human form but every time he didn't want to answer he just smirked at her and walked away. She would fume for a moment and just try harder the next time.

Finally it was time for the hunters to leave off for their next bounty. Everyone said their goodbyes in the lobby of the citadel. No fanfare, no red carpet. Lilly was laid out, in feline form taking it easy, next to her Master, who was standing. The hunters were turning to walk out the door when tall, dark, and mysterious turned around and waved at Lilly. She was on her feet in an instant and was staring after him.

Noct was startled and grabbed onto her collar to stop her from bolting forwards. He needn't worry though, she was just shocked, not attacking. She Changed suddenly and her mouth dropped open. She turned to Noct who still had hold of her collar, "His freaking hair WAVED at me."

She would definitely look forward to the next time that group visited.