“I will not have my daughter named a whore in MY town! You will cease this madness!”
“Participation in the worship of Calistria does not make me a whore, Father! You have yourself been treated in Sarushna’s shrine when injured in the past! You know that it is not so!”
“Do not bring Sarushna into this! She is a first-generation exodite, and you are not! Our family has been here for four generations, leading Haven! Ever since the Saint brought our people…”
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“…from slavery in Cheliax. And ever since then, we have been rulers of this town along with the other chieftains and their clans She rescued. I know!”
“Iomedae brought us from ignominy to our own home, Vrischika. Along with the other Chieftains, we have thanked Her for Her guidance and protection ever since. It is only proper!”
“It may be proper, Father, but Iomedae does not need my worship or support to protect Haven! She has Terrenhault, just up the road! If anything were ever to happen, their knights would come riding, and no amount of MY prayers would make a difference! Sarushna has taught…”
“Do not talk to me of Sarushna’s teachings! They are from a different world! Osirion is far away, as are its ways! We do not follow them anymore!”
“I do! Sarushna has offered me something more…”
“She has made your name synonymous with the word ‘whore’ in the town your father rules over! Do you realize what that does to me? To my credibility!? To your family’s well-being!? You have turned from the Goddess of Justice to the Goddess of PROSTITUTES!”
“The Lady in the Room is more than just a goddess of prostitutes, Father… She is also the patron of vengeance! How many times have YOUR people come to you begging for protection from someone who has committed no actual crime but has wronged them anyway? Calistria answers THEM as well!”
“Your ‘healing’ includes sexual contact, does it not?”
“It can, yes…”
“Because Sarushna taught you this?”
“Fine. I will send Sarushna away. She will find another place to practice her… prostitution … in the name of religion. I will not have my daughter being involved in such things!”
“No! She is as much a part of this town as anyone else, and you have no right!”
“I have every right! She has ruined the reputation of my daughter!”
“She has upheld the beliefs of HER goddess, just as you uphold the beliefs of your own! What JUSTICE is it to exile her from her newfound home, among her own kind!? How many exodite communities of catfolk do you think there are across Avistan!? She would be back where she started! You cannot lay that on me!”
“I can and I will if you do not cease this foolishness! I will not have it in my household! In my town! NEVER!”
“Then you leave me little choice. I will leave in her stead. After all, her leaving will not remove the stain upon your honor that my ‘reputation’ brings you. I will leave, and your precious reputation will be salvaged. After all, it is not as if you need a useless daughter, right? You have my brothers to rule after you are gone. What purpose a half-catfolk girl in a catfolk town? I will find my own way.”
“You cannot be serious!? You would leave Haven? All that you know? Because of this?”
“If I am not free to worship as I please because of your reputation, Father, I would rather be anywhere but here. Iomedae does not need another priestess, or even worshipper, in a region filled with them. Terrenhault hosts her cathedral, Haven is filled with her followers. The Saint made sure of that.”
“You cannot leave.”
“You cannot make me stay without further damaging your reputation. Would you rather the people of Haven continue to call me by words that ruin you or would you be rid of the problem? After all, I have never been aught but a problem in your eyes. What better way to relieve the pressure than be rid of it?
“I will gather my things and be gone. It will be as if you never knew me, ‘Father.’ Give Mother my love when she returns from Terrenhault. I’m sure she too will be pleased to be rid of your ‘black cat.’”
And that is how I found myself standing on the trade road south of my hometown, a backpack and bedroll and a few personal objects stored away in a variety of belts and pouches about my person. Sarushna (a black cat in reality, her fur being black from birth) gave me her own silver icon of Calistria — the three-bladed-circle on a matching necklace — to wear in my travels. She kissed me and hugged me tightly, thanking me for my sacrifice and telling me that Calistria had Her reasons. She knew that I had a better chance than she did of surviving elsewhere. After all, she was a black catfolk who spoke with a heavy Osirioni accent and I was… unique.
Since my great-great-grandmother’s time, over a hundred years ago, my family has been blessed with… unusual progeny. You see, ‘The Saint’ (as everyone refers to her) married a female catfolk rather than the young noble-born bishop she had been promised to early in life. They went on a number of adventures together and eventually even returned to Osirion (where my other great-great-grandmother was born a slave), and obtained an artifact that allowed the both of them to get pregnant with each other’s child.
The Saint was human. Her wife, catfolk. Their children were both and neither. Nor were their children. Since then, any child born of the Lockheart lineage has been ‘half-blooded,’ whether the child was a boy or a girl. Regardless as to which parent was the half-blood, their children are half-blood as well. We ‘Half-Bloods’ are born with cat ears, a tail, and claws. Our eyes are slit like a catfolk’s, but we have human skin instead of fur (though our ears and tails are furred). We see well at night, like catfolk, but we share nothing else of their heritage or appearance. Unlike half-elves, who are seen as neither human nor elven by their progenitor races, we are seen as proof of The Saint’s holiness. Hell, some even consider us attractive, on both the human and the catfolk side.
Haven is blessed to have several half-bloods, it being the center of catfolk culture north of Osirion. Ever since The Saint rescued a ship full of slaves in the Chelaxian city of Corentyn — half of whom were catfolk recently bought from the slave markets of Osirion — catfolk around the world have told stories of the ‘refuge in the north.’ Here, they say, those of cat-like appearance can live in freedom and harmony with others instead of as a subjugated slave race like in the South. My mother, Chrystel Lockheart, is half-blooded as well, being the daughter of Verrin Lockheart, whose brother Vrael is the current Duke and sits on the Throne of the Inheritor at the Grand Cathedral of Terrenhault. Grandmother Verrin and Uncle Vrael are the children of Felicia Lockheart, sister to Sophia, who was born from The Saint and her wife, so long ago.
Okay, so that’s a bit more information than you’re probably looking for, but at least it gives you an idea of how many generations of us half-bloods are out there running around. Not many, right? Outside of the great city of Korvosa and parts of eastern Varisia, we half-bloods are practically unheard of except in stories associated with The Saint and her exploits.
Unfortunately, at least where it comes to your typical catfolk ex-slave/expatriate, we are at least seen as curiosities by those who meet us. Most catfolk are used to being treated as oddities and segregated due to their appearance and ‘feral-nature.’ That the males tend to be clannish and territorial (and bad-tempered in general) does not help. The rare single female who travels on her own is usually either an adventurer or in service to someone, using her shamanic ‘gifts’ (brought with her from Osirion) or more likely, a trained thief or assassin. There’s something about being able to leap to a second story window with a single bound (along with the generalized anti-catfolk mentality of the common man) that makes catfolk tend toward thievery and activities better suited to the dark hours of the day, more often than not.
Now, extend that to a recently-freed catfolk with black fur and a known interest in the Goddess of Lust and Vengeance, and try to imagine what her life would be like if she were suddenly evicted from Haven. In addition to chafing for years under my father’s rather disinterested leadership of our family, I at least have been to Terrenhault and seen parts of the world beyond — all the while not being treated like a second-class citizen simply for my appearance. Growing up, I used to pretend I was on the grand adventures of The Saint and her wife, imagining myself in distant lands on grand quests. Visitors to Haven would see my brothers and I in the streets and smile, knowing our appearance was a direct link to such an auspicious figure as The Saint, who walked those same streets so long ago. A black-furred catfolk has no chance and, as my father so rightly pointed out, prostitutes favor Calistria; meaning her predilection to serve The Lady in the Room would likely see her serving in a brothel somewhere.
At least I could travel and see the world. My dreams had come true!
It’s one thing to say you want to see the world. It’s entirely another to be standing outside the gates of your hometown knowing you cannot return without destroying another’s way of life. Especially when that person taught you everything that you just walked out of those gates to defend. My ‘grand adventure’ had just begun, and I hadn’t even thought about where I was going to go once it actually happened.
My name is Vrischika Lockheart. This is my story.