Khamet sensed he was not like his family, a fact Femi and Isetnofret seemed to sense as well. After a few months he took to sleeping most of the day and venturing out at night. It was somewhat safer and much less crowded. At night the city was owned by the cats. Even though they were royalty in the day, when the city slept they thrived. Khamet wondered where they all went when the sun rose; there were so many at night.
Khamet reached the top of the wall and peered into the night. He watched for everything that was up and about at this hour. He was still a small dark cat and his spots hadn’t fully formed. He chose a direction and moved along the wall, low and silent. He moved across to the next dwelling, then over to the third. There was a break in the buildings and he stared down into an alley that felt familiar. The ground was higher. It was slowly filling with sand and garbage. He leapt across to the roof of the next building and paused for a moment to sniff the air. There was a strange scent he didn’t recognize.
Quickly he moved along the ledge, ran down the slope to shoot across the street, then up to a linen tarp. The ledge was occupied by another mau and it crouched, startled at his sudden arrival. The two cats recognized each other and nuzzled in greeting as Khamet moved past. He was rarely friendly in the day, but the night was different. It reminded him of his dreams. Even though they terrified him they had a sense of freedom that was beyond where he was now.
Khamet moved to another ledge and the same strange scent came at him again. He ran fast across the street and up another wall. This one was higher than most in the vicinity and the ground sloped down giving him a clear view of the area. It spread out beyond him and held everything huddled in the blue haze of moonlight. The stars were a canopy of candlelight, so bright they looked just out of reach. Khamet didn’t have a destination in mind tonight, but he had one set for the future.
In the far distance was an extremely large structure that was always illuminated by fires and torches. It had a large tower and a few structures beside it and two enormous statues stood on either side of the center building. The place was too far to travel in a night, he had already tried, so he would have to plan when to go and investigate. He had never ventured that far, but he would one day.
Khamet moved to the next ledge and peered down. The scent seemed to be everywhere here. He scanned the area and sniffed the air. He suddenly realized there were very few cats out tonight. Where had they all retreated to? Usually arguments, challenges, even battles could be heard in the distance, but tonight nothing made a sound.
In his mind he sensed something… he saw the shadow and heard a faint ‘whoosh.’ Danger! …talons descended and grabbed him, a beak stabbed at his body for a moment… he was held to the ground dying… then he was hauled into the air… In the vision Khamet saw where it came from and without thinking he crouched low and dashed. He shot fast across the ledge as a large hazy shadow ran over the ground past him. Something scratched at his rump. He continued to dart forward and then shifted direction. There was a low screech as he reached a dark corner near the ledge and balled up tight. This was no place to be.
He paused a moment for the shadow to pass again then shot back in the opposite direction. He didn’t stop as he hit the ledge and leapt off where he knew a tarp would be below. He landed on the linen tarp, ran up to the wall and across to the ledge of the second story, his tail down, his ears flat. The shadow of the bird, a hawk or a falcon, moved over the ground tracking in front of him. The shadow dropped off the edge as Khamet leapt.
Khamet had jumped to the tarp on the building across the street many times, but never so blindly or so desperate and without checking first, which was unfortunate. He was already in the air when he saw that the tarp was gone.
Khamet instinctively spread his paws out to catch the wall, which was going to be impossible. He waited for the impact of the ground several feet below as another low screech sounded. The bird latched onto him in midair.
The owl was hungry. The mau had seemed to land right in the middle of his hunting grounds and though the mau meat was a bit tough they were tasty. The raptor was already descending when the mau leapt off the edge of the wall and the owl caught it with ease. The large bird had a good hold, but they were still headed for the house across the street. The mau thing was heavier than it had seemed and it was squirming. The owl flapped its wings trying to slow and pull up to no avail. As preservation won out over hunger, the owl spread its wings wide and released the mau.
The owl flew up and around for a second pass as the cat flipped end over end. It landed right side up on all fours and shot down the slope to the middle of the street and around the corner of the next building. By the time the owl came around, its meal was gone.
Khamet darted down the street through alleys and around buildings to the darkest corner he could find. He balled himself up as small as he could and waited a long time before daring to look up to see what happened to the owl. He pulled his tail in and crouched even further making himself as small as possible, then shrunk down to wait for the rest of the night.
After that, Khamet didn’t venture vary far away from familiar grounds and no longer did so at night. He went back to his day watch.
Anum was Umayma’s father. When he left he was gone for days at time. Curious, Khamet decided to follow him when he left one morning. It was not very crowded when they set out, but many others were up and going about business as well and the first place Anum went was the bazaar. There was a square set up with numerous tents and it was absolutely teeming with people. With so much blocking his view, Khamet found it impossible to keep track of Anum and lost sight of him. When the father returned several days later, Khamet waited for him to leave again. The mau encountered the same problem.
The third time, Khamet went to the bazaar ahead of Anum and waited for him to arrive. He chose a vantage point at the opposite end and perched himself on a ledge to wait. He hoped he would be able to spot Anum entering the bazaar and then leaving so he would be able to follow.
The day broke and sunlight crawled into the area. Vendors opened their tents covered in linen to ward off the sun and started calling out the wares they had for sale. Slowly the area began to fill with people. Khamet remained crouched and alert, watching as the people mingled about. He smelled fruits, vegetables, and some sweet scents as well as fish. Khamet stared hungrily down at the fish vender like a predator and almost forgot why he was waiting. Someone began playing a flute off to one side and some drums joined in from another.
Khamet’s head came away from the fish and he snapped back and forth over the crowd trying to catch every face. Perhaps he had been mistaken or perhaps he had missed Anum. Frustrated he released a slight ‘meow’.
Something suddenly caught his attention. He was staring at a head moving through the crowd. He couldn’t see the face, but the top of the head was familiar. It came bobbing through the crowd towards him and just as it came into view it turned and moved off down another alley.
Khamet was up in a flash. He ran over the dwelling where he was perched. He avoided any cats he came across, for he didn’t recognize them and all they did was hiss at him. Khamet was over the top of the ledge in a flash running and jumping from rooftop to rooftop headed for the next street over. This took some doing as it was not familiar territory.
Khamet was a mau, and even though he was a very unique mau, he was not familiar with any sort of structure or class concerning people or where they lived. In his mind everything was the same, but this part of the city was decidedly different from his. The odors were different and he noted far less cats. Of course they didn’t all appear at once in his part of the city either, but there were many more dogs in this part of town. Khamet found this fact most disturbing of all.
Khamet stopped on a ledge and saw the familiar head moving down another narrow street. He moved along a wall, found a slope and ran down, avoiding people he moved to follow the man who he believed to be Anum.
The vicious barking started without any sort or warning and Khamet was well aware that if one hears barking, one should move away from it rather than look to discover where it is coming from or why. Khamet shot forward and climbed a quick pole to the top of a tarp where he found another mau who was also not happy to see him.
The mau hissed and Khamet hissed back holding his ground for a moment before leaping to the next ledge and running across to continue the pursuit. He ran on, leaping and moving from ledge to ledge along the street trying to follow the familiar man who suddenly turned down another street.
The mau had to shift direction again. For over an hour he went from building to building and across the linen overhangs trying to follow Anum. The man was carrying a small sack and his water skin was slung over his shoulder. Khamet saw an opportunity and shot forwards to move past the man, to wait and rest. He got a drink at one of the community bowls and waited for the man to approach. The man reached Khamet and the mau saw that it was not Anum. More than that, he no longer had any clue as to where he was.