Smilodon: The Forbidden House [Monarchies of Mau]

Pugmire

Eddy brings us this look at the forbidden seventh house of Mau.

Monarchies of Mau’s Aeris von Angora illustration for Monarchies of Mau.

The Fall of Smilodon

Although the official histories only mention six monarchies, in truth, there once existed a seventh.

Smilodon.

Say the name now, and upstanding cats will have one of two reactions: Some will hiss softly, cursing the fallen family beneath their breath. The rest will stare at you blankly, as though the name doesn’t register. For some — kittens especially — this is because they haven’t heard of the family. Over the centuries, the name has been erased from the monarchies’ records and teachings. Scholars who have delved deeper into their houses’ archives and learned the truth still might feign ignorance, but it’s the type of blank look given to a cat who has just revealed a secret in public. That polite, vaguely embarrassed stare that says, “Let’s pretend you didn’t say that, and I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it.”

The Smilodon family’s origins are lost to history. If they were once a branch of one of the noble houses, that house has eradicated all mentions of them from their archives. In fact, the best evidence that Smilodon existed is the gaps in the histories. It’s in missing records and pages torn from yellowed diaries. It’s in ink smudged to illegibility from a convenient spill of catnip tea. No house would admit to Smilodon being part of their own. No monarchy would admit to funding their fatal expedition.

No matter who founded it, the cats of Smilodon set off on an expedition over the northern mountains. The last person to see them go was a Siberian kitten, who watched their train of supply carts and people and horses wend its way into the hills. No one knew what lay beyond the mountains, whether monsters ruled the land on the other side, or whether there might be an endless sea, or whether the Old Ones might even be on the other side, awaiting their joyous reunion with the cats they’d served so long ago.

Cats in the monarchies spent months waiting for the expedition to send word of what they’d found.

They spent years.

When Smilodon hadn’t been heard from in a generation, the cats of the monarchies deemed them lost and assumed the lands beyond the mountains were simply too treacherous to be settled. Until the day the son of that Siberian kitten who’d watched the caravan leave spotted several figures picking their way down the mountain trails. Smilodon had survived.

While a pawful of the house’s members returned to the monarchies, most remained in their new home beyond the mountains. Yet something was odd about the cats who had returned. Those who’d known them before couldn’t quite tell what it was, but they set their former acquaintances’ hackles up. Suspicions grew, and the cats were watched carefully. Emissaries that the monarchies sent over the mountains returned wrong, if they returned at all.

Despite those misgivings, cats from House Smilodon resumed their place within the monarchies. The other houses traded with them. Cats from Smilodon defected to join other houses, and cats from houses both great and small left their own to append “von Smilodon” to their names. Though those names have been stricken from their histories, every house in the monarchies has ties to Smilodon in its past.

Eventually, a coalition of the wisest cats from across the monarchies investigated the cats of Smilodon and came to a grim conclusion: To a cat, they’d been corrupted by the Unseen. Ministers and mancers drew the truth out of their captives, and learned that it was the same on the other side of the mountains: Every cat in Smilodon had succumbed. The ministers tried valiantly to exorcise the possessed cats, but they were too far gone.

With heavy hearts, the rulers of the monarchies knew what must be done. One last expedition went over the mountains, guarded by champions from across the lands, outfitted with relics wielded by the most formidable mancers. A passel of ministers traveled with them, to heal their allies and fend off the Unseen. Half a year later, they returned, fewer in number, but uncorrupted.

All of them claimed that Smilodon was no more. But many cats quietly joined other houses and prepared for the time when they would return.