- Publication Date: January 6, 2021
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Book Design: Book Covers by Cherith
- ASIN: B08SCJMN8C
- ISBN: 1735299847
For Mafdet, the territorial expansion by humans onto shifter land, the spread of capitalism and so-called democracy weren’t historical footnotes to be glossed over in the retelling of a nation’s formation but premeditated violence played out on a grand, bloody scale against shapeshifters.
Named after a feline deity of capital punishment, Mafdet only wanted a life of peace, quiet, and security. But glory often falls to the cruel and wicked instead of to the righteous and just. And so it was for the Nation of Swiftborne and the woman who would become its protector.
But resistance often comes at a great price. A price that not even Mafdet Rastaff, Great Cat of the Nation of Swiftborne, could anticipate.
What is a woman to do when everything she loves is threatened? Her husband and children. Her parents and friends. Her cheetah nation and allies.
Worse, what is a woman to do if all she loves is taken away?
Submit and Die?
Kill and Live?
The twelve members of the Council whistled in unison. Once.
Competitors fell to their hands and knees.
Skin stretched and bones broke. Jaws reconfigured and ears elongated. Nonretractable claws broke through flesh, digging into grass and dirt. Gums darkened, teeth grew and sharpened, and fine hair thickened into fur.
Eighty-nine cheetahs took off through the valley. Their sleek, graceful bodies were beautiful to behold. She watched them run. A smile formed and awe bloomed.
“Why are you smiling? They’re your competitors and now they have a lead on you.”
“No, not competitors. Friends. Allies.” She turned to see her parents marching toward her. Rugare’s saddle bag hung from his shoulder, and she could smell the gamey scent of deer meat as he neared.
Chatunga slapped Mafdet on her back. His swift retreat, before her parents reached her, would’ve made her laugh if she weren’t so intent on divesting her father of his midnight meal.
“When you agreed to participate,” Onayi said before she even reached Mafdet, “I thought you did so in good faith.”
“What makes you think otherwise?”
Rugare and Onayi stopped in front of Mafdet—both taller than her five-ten height.
The meat in the saddle bag drew her attention away from their frowns and her lifelong annoyance at being one of the shortest people in town. “Baba, may I?”
“Your stomach will be the death of us all. Here.” He tossed her his bag.
“Why are you rewarding her deplorable behavior?”
“Deplorable, Amai, really?” Mafdet kissed Onayi’s soft cheek the way she always did when she raised her mother’s ire. “If you want to see deplorable, I could take a nap before being on my way.”
Onayi’s hands flew to wide hips she had not passed on to Mafdet. “You wouldn’t dare, especially not with the other members of the Council still here.”
Mafdet and Rugare ate while Onayi fumed. She relieved her father of most of the surprisingly good dried deer meat. The second Onayi paused, she shoved a piece of meat into her hand. Thankfully, she took it as the peace offering it had been intended as, and ceased her complaining.
“Starting fast, isn’t the same as ending first.” She wiped her hands on her thighs. “The journey is long.”
She wouldn’t insult her parents by comparing the task of running from one end of Felidae Territory to the other to the months of walking they had endured. Although, she sensed the elders created the route as a close approximation of the Felidae trail of death. The thought of them making such a decision was disturbing on many levels.
“Endurance and strength. Patience and cunning, as well as ag-gressiveness tempered with rationalism.” Mafdet kissed Onayi’s cheek again. “You and Baba trained me well. Whether I become one of the Swiftborne Five matters not.”
Long ago, Mafdet had learned it best not to add to her parents’ burdens. Her dreams had scratched at wounds that had never fully healed despite their pretense. She hadn’t understood, at least not in the beginning, what her dreams meant. Worse, what the retelling of them had produced within her parents.
Profound grief and misplaced guilt.
But, on the night of the shadein competition, Mafdet felt com-pelled to say: “I’ve never killed anyone but I would rather choke on the blood of my fallen enemies than permit harm to come to you again.” She hugged her father and kissed his cheek. “Not a Swift-borne Five vow, but a daughter’s.”
The threat to murder innumerable nameless and faceless people shouldn’t have come so easily but the surety of her words settled like an owl’s feather in her stomach—lightweight and insubstantial.
Leaving Rugare with his saddle bag, Mafdet couldn’t put off the competition any longer. She might not care if she won, but she had enough pride to not want to finish last.
Mafdet ran in the same direction as the others. Her body tensed, shivered, and then transmutated; all without breaking her stride.
Not normal for a Felidae. But Mafdet was named after a goddess, so normal was relative.