She turned, about the crouch down again to slink off into the woods when a dark gray form leapt from the shadows and tackled her to the ground. She let out a feline shriek, and then dissolved into giggles as the wolf-man proceeded to tickle her. She swatted at him playfully.
"Ishtan, you sneak. How do you do that?!"
The wolf-man grinned back at the girl, "Not telling!"
The girl stuck her tongue out at him, then proceeded to lick her paw, "Well I let you catch me..."
"Mmmhmmm", Ishtan replied and settled himself against a tree in the soft moss. The cat-girl curled up beside him and for a while they sat in silence, her white tail a stark contrast against his dark fur.
"Meera, do you ever think about the past, our old homes?"
She looked up at him, her green eyes questioning, wondering where this moment of nostalgia came from. "Sometimes. I wonder what my litter-mates are up to. Why do you ask?"
He shrugs, yellow eyes staring off into the trees. But it wasn't the forest he was seeing, it was the Mountains where he was born. He was one of a litter of 4 cubs, and they were all quite the pawful. Their mother was constantly fetching them out of crevices into which they managed to get stuck, or plucking them off the side of the cliff when they climbed higher than they were brave enough to get back down. His father thought it was funny, and whenever he'd laugh she always threatened to make him cub-sit. That usually wiped the grin off his face quickly enough.
When they were older, they went hunting with the rest of the pack. That was when he met her. He'd always had this inferiority complex, though heaven knows why. He was stronger and quicker than his siblings, though admittedly he was the smallest of the group, and his fur was darker, almost black. His father told him about his grandfather, whose fur had been the same shade, but somehow it didn't make him feel better, he was still different from those who were living. He found no comfort in the dead.
So he went to hunt on his own. Waited till the others had run off after something or other in the Mountains, while he turned back and headed to the Forest. The wolf-men rarely went to the Forest, it was not forbidden, but most creatures of the Realm tended to stay in one place, not mixing much with the other regions. And that was exactly the reason why he decided on the Forest.
Of course, it wasn't long before he got lost, silly pup that he was, but he was thickheaded enough not to admit this to himself and continued wandering deeper and deeper. And that was when she popped out of nowhere. Knowing her now, she was probably watching him from the trees, but at the time he didn't know that.
She was a pure white cat-girl, long and lithe unlike his short stocky form, and with all cats come a healthy curiosity. She swayed around him, looking him up and down, sniffing at his coarse fur then finally coming nose to nose with him. "Your nose is too long," was the first thing out of her mouth.
How was he supposed to respond to that?! "Well, yours is too flat."
She giggled, it was a sweet bubbly sound. "Your voice is all rough, and your fur is all dirty. Here, let me get this spot..." and before he knew it, she had licked the fur from around one of his ears.
ICK! He pulled his head back, scratching at the wet spot with his hairy hand. "What was that for?" She gave him a look that obviously meant he had a lot to learn.
And so he did. In the next few days she taught him much about the forest, about the cat-people, and about personal hygiene...though he still thought the whole licking oneself kind of gross. They spent their days playing games in the trees. Both were of a playful, happy nature and they enjoyed the little pleasures the Forest provided. The hiding places so the could seek each other, the paths where they could run, the little animals to eat. Ishtan never could quite figure out the point of playing with one's food, wasn't the point to eat it? But Meera took her play very seriously, so he didn't argue.
Eventually she brought him back to her family. Oh, what a lesson he learnt there. He learned about hissing, and spitting. He learnt all about retractable claws and their effective use. And the two of them turned tail and fled towards the Mountains. She didn't have to go of course, but she wanted to be with him.
The response wasn't much better there either. The wolf-people growled and snarled, baring fangs, and his father gave the ultimatum. No wolf-cub of his was going to take a cat for a mate.
And so they found themselves here, the Pine Forest. They chose this place over the Woods and the Desert and the Grassland. It was similar enough to the Forest of Meera's home, but there were no other cats here.
And that was perhaps what Ishtan was thinking about. Yes, they were together, but at the same time so alone. No family, no friends. Both of them had been brought up as social creatures, creatures needing the comfort of the group. But the denizens of the Pine Forest took little interest in the pair. He looked down at her white fluffy form and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, finally answering her question, "No reason, just asking."
Nearly a year had passed when Meera had been off exploring on her own. Ishtan was asleep, snoring, and she wanted to see if she could find something to surprise him with...like a big slimy worm or a giant icky spider. As she peered under rock and dug around in the bushes she felt a strange tingling sensation. Looking up, she realized she was no longer in the woods of the Realm! She had heard of the wandering portals of the place, but had never fallen into one before. She had always assumed that you'd see it coming. Apparently some were invisible. But where was she?
A soft kind of whickering whimper caught her attention. Moving carefully through some brush, the cat-girl approached the sound. Naturally cautious, for she tended to rely on the larger and stronger Ishtan to protect her from dangerous beasts, she moved in silence, coming upon a small form in the grass. It looked like a foal, or a fawn. Meera had never seen anything like it before. And then it looked up at her.
It was like another world opened up in her mind. A feeling of loneliness, and a little fear, and a great joy. Meera didn't understand and became confused. As she watched, the same confusion appeared on the face of the youngling. Oh, it was empathic, maybe telepathic. And Meera very strongly wanted to take her home.
She placed a hand on the little thing and the same tingling sensation flowed over her body. This time she found herself back in the familiar woods. A happy cry escaped her lips as she brought the young Regali to show Ishtan. A much better surprise than an overgrown spider, no?
It took a while for the wolf-man to get used to Syndassal Leafchaser, his mate's new companion. At first jealously burned through his veins as the foal appeared to take all of Meera's attention. But over time she just became a part of the cat-girl. And sharing his mate's emotions, couldn't help but like him. The fact that the mare adored him eventually wore him down and he had to concede that he kind of liked her too.
Syndassal grew into a beautiful creature, Meera pleased with how her colours reminded her of autumn in her old home, the colour of fallen leaves. Here in the Pine Forest the colour never changed, except in the deepest winter when things went white, but the green was always there underneath. Now she was always in the presence of reds, and golds and warm browns.
And though leaves were far and few between, Syndassal would never fail to find them if there some around, and race them as the wind drew them up into a dance. Ishtan secretly took pleasure in sitting back and watching the pair of them running about like lunatics chasing the elusive foliage. The cat-girl letting out screeches of joy, Syndassal making her strange music sounds with her horn.