With a start, the old man awoke. Outside his little cottage in the Commoner's District, the sun slowly sank below the walls of the town. As the days of summer cooled and shortened into fall and winter, he was feeling more and more tired. He has intended to only take a short nap after supper, but by the fading light, he knew it had gone too long, and yet he was still very much tired.
On his lap, two bright blue eyes and a yawning pink mouth told him that his little cat could understand how he felt. He caressed the creature's fur with a withered, calloused hand. "Time for bed, eh, Caduceus?"
The mostly sand colored cat licked his nose and blinked lazily. The old man chuckled. "Well...bed for me at any rate, my little companion." He gently shooed the cat from his lap and struggled to get out of the old wooden rocker. Quickly, before all natural light disappeared from the cottage, he lit a short candle of animal fat with flint and rock.
He turned to go into his tiny bedroom, the only room separate from the main room in his home, and nearly stumbled over Caduceus, who was rubbing around his shins, purring loudly. He was about to scold the cat and push him out of the way with a foot, but the cat bounded towards the door and mewled loudly, pawing at the aged wood. Again, the elderly man chuckled. "All right, all right. I'll let you out, but don't get into too much mischief, my friend. And try not to stay out too long this time. The cottage is lonesome without company."
Caduceus appeared to purr in response as the man shuffled over to let him out. As soon as the door was open enough to for Caduceus to squeeze through, he did so and bounced off into the gathering darkness of the dirt and cobble streets. The old man closed the door behind him and the disappearance of light from under the door signaled him going to bed...
Caduceus had slowed and turned around to watch the light disappear, his eyes glinting when it did. He flicked his ears, and looked up at the stars as they began to appear, one by one, in the night sky. A large tawny female soon approached from a nearby alley and sat next to him. A long scar pulled up the skin on her left cheek, exposing several teeth. The whiskers on that side were clipped short. "Evening, Cad," she said to him, in a growling, purring resemblance of human speech. "Are you waiting for us?"
Caduceus nodded, not speaking.
The tawny turned her head to the left, looking at a roof over Caduceus's head, her eyes following a small black shape. "You invited him?"
Again Caduceus nodded. "Why?" the tawny asked, incredulous. "He's far too young to be joining us...and you know why..."
Caduceus sighed through his nose and looked down. For the first time, he spoke, his voice clear and accented more like a human's than the tawny's. "I know...but none of the rest of us can manipulate human mechanisms like he can, and we needed to find a replacement for Velvet after she got wounded last month...She assured me that her eldest was ready, but we'll see."
The tawny sniffed, her eyes still following the dark shape warily. "Who else is coming?"
Caduceus took a moment to clean his paws. "I expected Aria to arrive before you, honestly. And we have to go retrieve my apprentices from the little one's room before we get our supplies."
The little black shape jumped down to reveal itself as a small, thin black cat in the starlight and slunk over to Caduceus and the tawny. "Sirrr," he said, greeting Caduceus with a nod, his voice thickly accented with purrs. He turned to the tawny. "Mizz Gingerrr. Will we be getting underrr way soon? I don't think my suppliez will be safffe ffforrr too much longerrr."
Ginger grumbled. "I hate that name," she muttered under her breath.
"Calm, Ginny," Caduceus said. "We must live with the names we are given. Besides, he's not making fun of you."
"Easy for you to say, Caduceus. At least your owner wasn't barely out of the nursery when he named you...or you for that matter, Obsidian."
Caduceus assented with a nod. "Fair enough." He turned to the small black cat. "What do you mean, Obsidian? Why wouldn't your supplies be safe?"
Obsidian flicked his ears to get some water droplets off of them. "I hid them well enough away fffrrrom the humanz," he said, "But ifff we wait too much longerrr, they'll eazily be discoverrred by the rrrats in ourrr distrrrict."
Caduceus frowned and shared a look with Ginger. She nodded at once. "I'll go find Aria," she said. "We'll meet you at the usual hiding spot soon."
With that, Ginger bounded into the night once more. Caduceus looked at Obsidian disapprovingly for a few moments, who crouched low, ashamed, under the gaze. Caduceus laid a paw on the younger cat's head and sighed. "At least your mother taught you to hide your things," he said, offering a smile to him. "I will show you where to hide anything you need in the future." He stood and stretched. "Come along. Let's retrieve your things, then we'll fetch my apprentices before we meet Ginny and Aria. Later, I'll tell you about your mother and Ginny's first adventure," he said, chuckling. "Come along. And remember, while we're still in the streets - four paws only."
Caduceus bounded towards the Nobles' District of the town without another word. "Y-yes, sirrr," Obsidian called, pouncing after him...