The Panther's Cub
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Paws pad through the dense foliage, the golden rays of dusk barely filtering through the dense canopy of the flora above. A dark, lithe form weaved through the undergrowth, stalking within the shadows with a practiced grace that flowed not unlike a river. An ear twitched, and she let her gaze flick over her shoulder. Nothing in her stance giving away that she sensed something else on the floor of the endless jungle around her.

A soft rustle of leaves. The snapping of a few twigs. The small, faint whisper of a voice.

She continued padding forwards and waited, staring straight ahead at the small boar gorging itself on the roots of a long dead bloodbush. Crouching down she waited, form completely still as she judged the best way to play this game. Small adjustments. A shifting of her paws. She kept her eyes trained on the boar in front of her. Behind her there is a small quiver in the leaves, and a quiet exhale.

She pounces, but she does not aim for the boar.

A spear sails towards where she would have been, had she leapt for the boar, and sinks into the damp soil. A low growl pours from her chest. Large golden eyes burn, and stare into the creature from where she haunts the shadows of the tree. The boar has since run squealing into the jungle, swallowed by the underbrush.

“Who are you, to dare disturb my hunt? To think you could pierce my hide?”

More eyes open all along her body, burning gold pools melting into each other like macabre spots. There is no anger, nor malice, in her voice, only an intense, burning calm. She is a darkness deeper than the shadows themselves. A hundred thousand golden eyes from eras long since past stare into the creature’s soul, tearing it apart with a glance.

The human child before her trembles.

“I-I… I-I…

Their trembling worsens, tears flood their eyes and fall down their cheeks. They fall to their knees in the underbrush, voice hardly above a whisper.

“I-I’m….” They appear to sob, “I’m sorry…

The dark form tilts her head and closes her many eyes, leaping down from the tree. A grace not known to those outside the jungle ingrained deep within her.

“Why are you sorry child? For what reason do you cry? A hunter should not feel remorse for hunting their prey, only for failing to catch it.”

She stalks closer, head low. Her two large, golden eyes trained on the child.

“Or do you cry because you fear what I will do to you? What consequence awaits you for disrupting my hunt and trying to spear my hide?”

The human child leans back, backing away from her intense gaze. They raise their arms in a pitiful attempt to block her stare. A quivering lip. A shaky sob.

“D-Don’t… don’t hurt me….

She continues to stare at them, expression carefully neutral as she sits back and looks down at the child in front of her. Her head leaned forward, a soft breath of warm air leaving her snout, mussing the child’s bangs. She didn’t have lips, but gave a small smile regardless.

“I do not plan to hurt you child. Look me in the eyes.”

The child trembles but obeys. Lowering their arms they look up, wide eyes staring into hers. They shake with fear, but a small pool of staticky warmth builds behind their eyes as they look at her. If the child could see themself, the small ring of molten gold now circling the edges of their iris would frighten them. Her dark form looms closer, but never touches, staying just a hair’s breadth away. Her golden eyes burn with unspoken curiosity.

“What do you see when you look at me child? What about me makes you afraid?”

The child seems confused. A nervous swallow. A twitch of the hands. They take a deep breath, seemingly to calm themself, though it doesn’t appear to work. They look at her with the fear of a prey in the hunter’s claws. But within that, the furrow of a brow, the narrowing of eyes. Her curiosity is reflected back.


“Y-You… y-you’re a panther… aren’t you?”

She sits up, tall and proud. The distance seems to give the human the space to breathe. How interesting, that they had given her a form rather than a title. Her smile grows, fangs peeking out. The flick of an ear. A racing heart. Yes, this will do nicely. She gives a low, throaty chuckle.

“I have been called many things by others who've gazed upon me….” She stands, and pads over where the spear was still sinking into the damp soil. The jungle consumes everything after all. “…the God of Darkness and Grace, the Goddess of a thousand eyes, the Keeper Of Shadows and All Within… Death itself.” Golden eyes stare passively, “…useless, meaningless titles.” She grabs the spear in her teeth and rips it from the ground, placing it gently at the human child’s feet. “You’d do well not to leave your spear to the jungle child, it leaves nothing the same.”

She sits then. A shadow given solid form, not three feet away from them. Her eyes staring into their gold-ringed ones.

“You are the first to give me a form, rather than a title, when I asked you what you see…” She leans closer. Eyes burning brighter, like two stars on the verge of a supernova. “And you are the first to give my curiosity a companion, rather than just blind fear..”

With a small smile she straightens her back. The child trembles still, but softer. Fear ebbing away.

“There shall be a consequence for disrupting my hunt, and for trying to spear my hide… but it is one I feel you will not find unpleasant.”

Curiosity seems to win within the child. They lean forward. Eyebrows furrowed, but upturned. Eyes wide. Fear suppressed by their intrigue.

She lets out a small, rumbling chuckle. “You shall be my cub, child. This jungle is endless, as are its risks, and a child like you has no place facing them alone.” Once again, despite her lack of human features, she smiles. “I will raise you, and you will learn my ways.”

Eyes widened. Jaw tense. Resolve seemed to harden on their features as they stared her down. She feels her maw begin to curl upwards. Good. A strong resolve was necessary in the jungle.

“W-What… what if I don’t wanna go with you?”

Her smile sharpened, and suddenly, she was right in front of them, teeth bared in a wide, inhuman smile. They reeled back, not expecting her to suddenly be so close.

“Oh child….” Her smile widened. A thousand golden eyes opening once more. “It was not a request.”

There wasn’t time to even scream as two were swallowed by the shadows in a single blink.

The crunching of leaves. The echoing call of a bird, unlike any seen before. A beast with too many mouths and antlers where there shouldn’t be, holding galaxies in its teeth. Ants that have witnessed wars from planets we cannot fathom, yet will never see again. An ever expanding expanse of green that never stops growing.

The jungle is endless. It holds creatures from worlds long dead and not yet born. A never-ending landscape of infinite green. Always awaiting its next victim.

It does not end. It swallows those who try to tame it and grows with every attempt to cut it down. Those who enter never leave, and those who try come back changed. Hated or pitied, but never the same.

The creature moved with an unnatural grace. Sharpened fangs and footsteps silent, hiding in the shadows as though they were a second skin. In the darkness it dwelt, the only clue it was there were the bright, golden-ringed irises that glowed in the darkness. Two small, burning circles of gold, and a spear darker than the night itself. Golden rings were seared into their body, lighting only to signal the death that they bring with them.

They are the cub of the Panther and a child of Man. A being swallowed by the jungle and spit back out as something other. A void in human form. They know too much, have seen realities collapse at their feet, swallowed by the jungle they roam. They know of secrets that have never been spoken, and places that have no name. Of flora that no longer exist and creatures that were never meant to.

There are many names given to them by those who've seen their form; the Deity of Burning Rings… the Being of the Endless Void… the Spear of the Hunt… the Bringer of Death itself…

But there is only one title that they claim as their own.

The sharp cracking of twigs. The screech of a creature that might have once been an ape. Too many eyes. Too many limbs. Too many teeth. Body too small to handle the change yet forced to anyways. A creature that fought the jungle and lost. A silent climb. A raised spear. Fangs bared in a mockery of a smile. Burning rings and a death faster than the blink of an eye. The narrowing of eyes in a genuine, but inhuman smile.

They were the Panther’s Cub.

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