The Powers That Be

In the deep dark heart of the Ludine Forest, lives many things, many animals. From monkeys and snakes, to beetles and fish, many things live here. But none are so reclusive, nor terrifying than the jaguar. It is a creature who lives on it's own, many regarded the jaguar as a god of battle. For the Aztecs, the highest rank for a single warrior was the Jaguar Warrior, but in order for one to reach this rank, they would have to capture four enemy soldiers and feed their hearts to a jaguar. Only then would they be granted this rank. Yet this forest held many secrets of it's own, it is said that a Guardian looks over the woods, though no one has ever seen it. There had only ever been witnesses to it's destruction upon those who dared to disturb the well-being of the woods. The Guardian had a special power, only those stupid enough to awaken it has seen its power. It's mysterious ways are what cause great awe with the human realm, if only they had known how close they were to awakening it's power yet again...

A light rain descended upon the lands, covering the mountain tops in deep misting. Birds were cawing in the trees as monkeys jumped from branch to branch. It seemed as if the whole forest was unaware of what was going to take place, for unknown to them, was the passing of a predator. Her sleek spots were great at camouflaging her through the underbrush, each carefully placed paw was in effort to assure that she was not heard. She would take up to an hour, or however much time was required to make sure she got her kill. Jaguars have great mechanism of hunting, like most cats they stalk their prey, they have fast bursts of speed and great agility. But none can compare to their bite, it is so powerful that the way they hunt, is primarily through crushing their prey's skull. This cat had in mind to follow this to the 'T'. The deer was just mere yards in front of her, she was not going to mess this up. With each step she got closer and closer, then with a burst of speed, she ran and jumped at the deer. Her teeth piercing it's skull before it had time to react; another successful hunt. But before she would eat, she was going to drag this deer back to her home. Unlike most cat breeds, her home was in the trees, high above the ground where she could keep her meal from being taken by other predators. It wasn't that she couldn't start eating it right there, but she had to get back to her cubs, they were young, but old enough that they could start to eat meat.
Her powerful body effortlessly dragged the carcass hundreds of yards before finally reaching the tree; in hearing little growls she let go of the meat and looked up. One, two and three, all of the cubs were looking down expectantly at her.
"Come on mom!" Mutke, the youngest called down to her.
"Yeah, I'm starving!" Andy, the eldest agreed.
"If you're so hungry why don't you come down and get it?" Necahual challenged. Really if they wanted it so bad they could just as easily descend the tree and get it themselves, but she wouldn't do that right now. Picking up the deer once again she started to climb the tree. Many would think that it would be hard to carry something as heavy as a deer up a tree, but Necahual was experienced in this line of work, for she had learned it from her own mother. After nestling the deer securely in the tree it was time to eat, all four of the jaguars dug into the flesh, but the cubs had all eaten their fill way before their mother. Mutke and Andy went off to their own branch and started to nap, while Georgiana stayed close to her mother. For now all was perfect, or so it seemed. Unknown to the forest a being that they tried their best to stay away from was on the move. Man. It was well known throughout the forest that man occupied parts of it, they created small villages and even temples reaching high into the sky. Now man all by themselves were not that threatening, it was their devices of which they used to hunt. And what did they hunt or other than meat? Pelts. The last thing anyone would want in this jungle was to be caught and killed by man.
Licking her maw, Necahual gazed out from the tree, she couldn't quite place it, but something seemed off. Terribly off. Her black ears rotated backwards as she looked to the left then to the right, her green eyes caught a bird on the move, it was her friend; standing up she nodded to the macaw. Nudging Georgiana over to her siblings, Necahual waited for the bird to land. As it did Necahual noticed that the bird looked flustered, "Is there something wrong?" She questioned.
"More than just something," the bird replied. "Man is back in the forest, they are moving in this direction. I'm notifying everyone in the vicinity."
Necahual nodded to the bird once again and the bird took flight; glancing back towards her cubs she gave off a short huff to get their attention. "Come along children, we're leaving."
"Where to?" Andy asked in excitement. Apparently he thought this was all fun and games, but Necahual was unwilling to make the children worry.
"To a better place. Come on." and with that she descended the tree. The three cubs followed shortly as their mother waited at the base of the tree, they needed to get moving and fast. As soon as her cubs were behind her, she took off in a good even paced trot, weaving in and out of the way of bushes; stopping every now and then to let the cubs catch up. She could tell that after a while they were beginning to become tired, but despite this she would not let them rest, they could not rest. She was their mother, and by golly she would protect them.

To the cubs following behind they tried their hardest to keep up with their mother, but it was easier said than done. Her legs were longer, which meant she took larger strides, plus her stamina was higher than theirs. Much to their happiness they saw their mother stop ahead of them, she graciously waited for them to catch up before going ahead again. The cubs would whisper amongst themselves with the purpose of their move, they were more curious than worried which was why they slackened in their pace every once and a while, often tackling each other before their mom would come back and scold them for wasting precious time.
"Aw but mom!" Mutke would whine.
"We were just having a bit of fun…" Andy tried to reason. But one sharp look from their mom would be the end of it.
They traveled for another hour before Necahual decided to take a break, her three cubs panted heavily as they came to a stop near a creek. Her sharp green eyes looked about, as if deciphering the woods around them. She knew her cubs would become hungry, but she couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched. The three cub, after drinking, started to explore, though they wouldn't stray too far from their mother. All of them, except for Andy, he was a little more into this exploring round and strayed a little too far.
Necahual did a head count, there was Georgiana, right next to her was Mutke, yet where was Andy. Raising from her sitting position she looked over the heavy brush, "Andy?" she called out. Yet there was no response; looking to her other cubs she gave them a 'stay there' look, both of the girls obeyed. Padding off lightly she started her search for her son. Where could he have gotten to? Then with the sounds of snapping and a sharp snarl she jumped through the brush. Up ahead there was a hole in the ground, with sticks and leaves protruding from the sides. As she came to the hole she slowed down, looked around, then proceeded to the hole. Then there in the hole, was Andy, his frightened form lay at the bottom of the hole, this was a man's trap, that much she could tell just by looking at it. Humans often made this kind of trap to capture any animal unlucky enough and heavy enough to set it off. "Andy…" she sighed. The hole was at least six feet deep, once in it was hard to get out. Looking at her son, she knew there was nothing she could do to help, and that broke her heart. Her ears pricked to the sound of voices; raising her head she looked in the direction they had come from, she knew who those voices were. It was man. "Andy," she would say again, "I love you." then she quickly jumped into the underbrush nearby. Her eyes intently stared at the hole, the humans had come carrying a cage of some sort. She knew what they were doing, they were going to use him for their sacrifices. As they had done the same with her when she was younger, yet she had broken free from them.
She watched as they used rope to pull her son up from the hole, despite every effort he had made to try and break free, it all proved to be futile. Then they forced him into the cage, his golden eyes widened with each passing second as growls came from his maw in his displeasure with what was going on. The humans just spoke to one another, pointed at him, then continued to speak amongst themselves. It seemed like they cared nothing about his protests, nor that he didn't want to be there. He wanted to be back with his family, then there in the bushes, he spotted his mothers eyes. He called to her with all the loudness he could muster, yet Necahual just stayed there, her eyes were slowly tearing, there was nothing she could do, the men had spears. She knew what havoc they could create, and the death that they could bring.
As the men began to pick up the cage, Andy called louder and louder. "Mom please!" he yelled, "Help me!" yet she just stayed there. "Please…" he whined longingly. But the farther and farther they took him away, he saw his mother walk out from the bushes.
Her ears laid back upon her head, she knew what she would have to do, she knew how to do it and she knew where they were going. They were Ludine priests, that much she could tell by the garb they wore and their headdresses. As her son called to her time and time again, she resisted the great urge to roar in response, instead after the humans were out of her view, she waked back to her daughters, who upon her arrival asked where their brother was, Necahual remained silent for a better part of the day. When the sun began to set and the two cubs had gotten enough rest, the black jaguar began to pad off again, when Mutke and Georgiana saw her leave they followed in quick suit. A heavy aura surrounded the black jaguar, her thoughts only around one thing: rescuing her son. But there was a problem that she just could't ignore, as it had to deal with her daughters being taken care of, she wouldn't bring them into this mix, if only there was someone who could take care of them for her, then it hit her. This forest had many things, but the most sacred of all was something the forest animals had only heard of and not seen. It was the Guardian of the woods. If was easy to find the Guardian, that is, if you know where to find her. Unlike most of the creatures in the woods, the Guardian stood out like a sore thumb, for her pelt was completely white. Odd as it was, for she was a jaguar that had no spots.

Thankfully they were rather close in distance, so picking up her pace, Necahual turned to the left and started a gentle lope. Oh she knew exactly where to find the Guardian, despite no one knowing where she lives, she had her dwelling in a old temple that was covered in vines, from the bottom to the very top. It was well hidden in this rainforest, for it lies deep within a maze of tall brush. Trees stretched high to the darkening sky, good. It would be harder for random animals to follow the black Jaguar in the dark, though following her lighter colored cubs would be easier.
Coming to a halt a smile came to her maw, well what lay ahead was certainly letting her know that the Guardian was here. Vines had now covered the area, stretching from tree to tree and scaling even to the top of the trunks with just a hole for an entrance. It was clear that the Guardian had made this, especially for one who did not want to be found easily. Looking back to her cubs when they had caught up, her green eyes softened. "We're here." She would say to them.
"Here? Where is here exactly?" Questioned Georgiana in a grumbled tone.
"Yeah mom, where are we?" Mutke agreed.
"You'll see." Necahual responded. Turning her attention back to the wall of vines, she walked forward, each step filled with a sense of confidence. Lowering her head, she walked into the hole. It was like a cave, the vines wrapped around each other in an intricate design forming a perfect tunnel. A pride of the Guardian was that things were kept in order if at all possible, as was shown in every inch of the tunnel. The two cubs followed close behind, whispering to themselves, coming up with their own ideas of what lay at the end of the dark tunnel, they didn't know why their mom was so fascinated with this place, she seemed to see something they didn't. As they reached the end of the tunnel, the cubs' maws opened wide, they had never seen a old building like this before, the vines that covered it looked as old as the building it covered. "Now," Necahual began, "I want you two to be silent for now, alright?"
The cubs nodded in agreement, they still had no idea where their brother had gone off to, but they figured that they could find out soon enough.
"Halt!" a voice growled from the entrance. "How did you find this place?" It demanded to know.
"You should know, you taught me." Necahual chuckled.
"And who are those two with you?" The voice asked.
"They are your grandchildren, well two of them."
"There was a third, wasn't there?"
"Yes. But the priests took him."
"Did they now? Come. I shall speak with you three in private, who knows who or what may be listening."
Necahual nodded and started to walk up the stairs, the figure was still unseen but she didn't need to see the one who spoke, for she knew what the Guardian looked like, for she was Necahual's mother. "Come along." She would say to Mutke and Georgiana who were standing still, they looked to each other and whispered, but made no move to catch up. Turning her head to face her mother's retreating form she continued on.
Noticing that their mother wasn't going to wait for them, they ran forward with all haste, they didn't want to get left behind in this strange place. When they caught up with their mother, it was noticed that a light blue light began to illuminate the hall in intricate lines. Yet they still couldn't see who their mother was following.
The trio was led into a great hall where a giant chair (which looked more like a bed) made of stone lay, every light was lit, greatly illuminating the large room. In size it was large enough to hold over seven hundred men, at best. It had large pillars, stretching from floor to ceiling. Despite the old and decaying outward appearance, the inside looked as new as it could ever be. There were deep burgundy draperies by the chair, flowing down and over the sides. As the cubs looked to the moving form their eyes widened, it was a Jaguar, but not just an ordinary jaguar, it was pure white. The only part of her body that had color was her dark pink nose and paws, and her blackened muzzle. Her long slender form looked ageless in the light, but what was possibly the most shocking of all, was her eye color, they were a very light violet, she did not have pupils. And to the cubs she looked almost like a ghost. True enough she was old enough to be considered a ghost, for a Guardian, unless they are killed they will never die. Yet eventually through some happenstance, the Guardian started to only be born every several hundred years. The current Guardian, Casablanca, was over nine-hundred years old. As Casablanca moved to the chair, she climbed upon it and laid down. Her ever capturing gaze was upon the trio before her, never blinking.
"So," the Guardian began. "Tell me, what do you plan on doing Necahual?"
"I'm going to get him back." Necahual stated.
"How? You can't just have these two girls tag along."
"I know, that's why I'll leave them here with you."
Casablanca seemed to ponder this for a moment, looking from the cubs to Necahual and back again. "Alright. I'll take care of them. But if you say he was captured by the priests, you'll need to get him back soon, you know this."
"I know. I'll get to him within the month, before they start to do anything too horrible to him." Necahual replied. Her green eyes started to glow.
"As my successor, you need practice. Go now."
"Yes, mother." And with that she turned to her cubs, licked them on the heads and started to head out. Her eyes filled with determination. She would bring him back, make no mistake about that.