Mister Blinky had not been ‘out and about’ for long when Blomdorf woke up and discovered him missing.
In fact, it had been Ripper's antics with the elf girl that had woken the blinkus cat. The screeching of the cage being opened had been enough for the cat to open one eye to investigate the disturbance that dared wake him.
The blinkus cat didn't have its master's sense of moral discomfort, and he watched dispassionately while the brute yanked the elf girl out of her cage and kicked her to the floor. It watched while she struggled vainly to resist being dragged and splayed onto a log in front of the dying campfire. So much movement first thing in the morning was annoying.
Mr. Blinky was feeling peckish. He sat up on his best friend’s chest and stared at the sleeping man’s face while he slept.
Blomdorf was by no means a master, for no being could ever truly be master over any feline’s divine being. Mr. Blinky did find the large human person to be a worthy companion, however. His best friend, in fact. One who was both his favorite bed and the supplier of tasty fish delights that came from a can. Surely, his best friend would have some food for him now that he was hungry.
Mr. Blinky pawed at Blomdorf’s face with a delicate paw. He did it again. Blom wasn’t waking up. He looked over at the obscene human person struggling with the elf person then back at his best friend.
He might not wake up for an hour. The sun was just starting to rise and even if the bandit captain's antics woke the cat, it was unlikely to wake Blom-Blom. Her best friend was a heavy sleeper.
Mr. Blinky hopped off his person and left the camp behind. Shortly after, he broke off in a run and soon was deep in the forest.
Eventually, the blinkus cat stopped under the tall tree it had decided was its favorite for the moment. Its branches looked sturdy and even the lowest smaller ones gave a decent enough view down the hill.
With a flick of its mind that was as natural to the cat as breathing, Mr. Blinky blink teleported to the branch it had spotted and waited the split second his mind and body would need to adjust to the change in vantage point. The disorientation that came from teleporting was always minor, but increased the more variables were introduced. This was a vertical and slightly horizontal jump, and as such required the cat to adjust its body weight upon the branch the instant its feet touched down upon it as it shifted slightly under its weight. The cat performed this feat expertly and beheld the view, satisfied with its choice.
From here, his superior cobalt eyes could scan the area for movement and easily spot prey.
There were birds in some trees of various colors that did not interest him as they would be too much work for too little meat.
There were squirrels, a few snakes, and...
Yes, that would do. A suitable candidate was spotted only moments later.
Mr. Blinky watched the tiny rodent, a field mouse as it scurried through the grass some distance away. It would have been too far for the cat to catch it if it began its pursuit on foot, but that was not the cat's intention.
The blinkus cat's ears tilted back as he crouched, its eyes focused on the target... then leapt forward.
Mr. Blinky’s short tiger-striped fur rippled as he soared through the air and then down at an alarming speed toward the ground. that would certainly cause injury if it smashed into the ground. An instant before the cat touched the ground, it blink teleported. It appeared several meters ahead, its momentum reversed as it sailed upwards and forwards in a graceful arc. It used this moment in the air to overcome the spatial disorientation and refocus on its target. By the time the cat landed, it did so at a full sprint, three quarters of the distance he needed to cover having been chewed through in an instant thanks to its masterful trick of employing magic and gravity to great effect.
The field mouse sensed the movement, despite there having been no sound to warn him. Perhaps it was the preternatural danger sense of prey animals, or a slight shift in the wind. The field mouse turned to look for what had triggered its mental alarms, but that proved to be a fatal mistake. If it had immediately sprinted in another direction, the blinkus cat would not have had time to adjust its trajectory... probably.
As it was, the brief pause to turn and look was all the creature had time for, as its tiny eyes beheld the jaws of death open and close on its face. The blinkus cat struck the field mouse like a furry torpedo, and the two critters tumbled a few paces as Mr. Blinky expended his forward momentum. The mouse was already dead before they came to a stop.
Mr. Blinky proudly pranced as he carried his prize a little further down the hill and proceeded to eat the critter to the sound of the flowing river. It was a peaceful morning and he had a delicious meal. Even if the blinkus cat was not as introspective as Blomdorf gave him credit for, the blinkus cat was capable of appreciating the finer things in life, like the pleasurable sensation it experienced upon crushing the life from his helpless prey, and then the equally gratifying sense of eating on an empty stomach.
The blinkus cat was by no means full from this pittance of a meal. He was looking forward to the treats his best friend had in his bag. Mr. Blinky knew they were there and his best friend had promised him one in the morning. So it had no doubt there would be a fresh can of sardines waiting for him when he got back to camp.
He watched the river flow. It was deeper and slower here than it was further up the mountain. Here, Mr. Blinky could see fish as they swam close to the surface. Occasionally a fish would leap out of the water to catch bugs.
Mr. Blinky had tried hunting for fish once before using blink teleport skill. It had not gone well. Yes, he had caught the fish in its kitten-sized jaws, but the fish had been too big and the splash upon falling into the water had been to terrifying and unpleasant for the blinkus cat. He had clawed his way out of the water hungry and unhappy, and vowing never to try that again.
Sure, he had gotten wet on occasion since then. When the sky got hungry, it rumbled and made water. Mr. Blinky didn't understand, much less care why, but he was grateful that if not by sound, then by scent he knew it would rain and could find shelter.
Blomdorf had even offered him a bath once. Mr. Blinkus had politely refused and that was that.
This is to say that Mr. Blinky didn't have a lot of experience with water apart from watching it warily from afar and wishing someone else would catch the yummy fish for him.
So when Mr. Blinky walked along edge of the river and saw a strange creature curled up on the grass just shy of the riverbank up ahead, he didn't know what to make of it.
Mr. Blinky's sense of smell, hearing, and eyesight were all better than a dogs, and even better than most cats. They were better than most creatures, in fact, with a few notable exceptions. As a kitten his senses had overwhelmed him for the sheer number of new experiences every second of ever day provided. He had been a thoroughly curious cat, diligently cataloging all mater of sights, sounds, and smells. In his travels with his best friend he had occasionally discovered new things, but the older the blinkus cat got, the less often he was surprised by the information his senses provided him.
Suddenly, however, here was something that didn't make sense and reawakened curiosity in a way he hadn't felt for a long time.
Curled up in a little ball there was a creature that smelled like an infant, but wasn't. Newborns always scented strongly of their mother's amniotic fluid. Even as the stronger scent faded, they kept some of that newness with them for a long time. Mr. Blinky didn't much care for the scent of newborn baby as much as their mothers always seemed to, but he knew that by the time a creature with this particular shape -- this people shape -- reached a certain size, they no longer smelled like this.
Mr. Blinky stepped carefully closer to the ball of 'person' who smelled like a baby but couldn't be one and began cataloging his observations, tasting the air gingerly with his superior nose.
It was a person shape curled in a fetal position, certainly a baby-like position, but it was sized like one of the children Blomdorf's companions kept in the cages. Mr. Blinky didn't know why they kept them in cages. They always smelled afraid. But it was one of those things the cat just catalogued as a people problem that didn't concern him.
It was young, but not a baby. Its head was bald like some babies, and its pinkish skin with its many exposed veins on the surface was similar to a newborn's.
The creature bore many scratches and bruises on its body. Not too far from the body there was a scent of vomit. Perhaps the creature was sick.
Mr. Blinky continued to catalog the information, satisfying his curiosity regarding the baby-not-baby creature. He walked in a circle around it and, discovering the part of it that was a face, he sat down to study it. There was something off about the way this baby-not-baby's face was configured that truly seemed alien to him.
It was not like a baby or a person at all. It was close, but had none of the obvious landmarks that Mr. Blinky had come to expect in people.
Mr. Blinky was not well traveled enough to have met every race in the planet, but he had met all the common ones. Each had a distinctive smell and certain trademark features. There were enough variations between all the people races that there could be crossover, but enough consistency that the observant blinkus cat could distinguish between them easily, if not always 'at a glance.'
Blomdorf had the human smell of his companions, but his smooshed face and boxy head, along with his abnormal size made him unusual enough that Mr. Blinky had gotten curious. That curiosity led to his approaching the large man and discovering the best friend of his life, who fed him all the good foods and was the most comfortable bed/sleeping-person in the world.
Elves had the long-pointed ears and smelled somewhat like flowers in spring or grass under the sun after a hard rain.
Dwarves were hairy and stocky and had a lot of earthy smells like clay or overturned dirt -- and beer. A lot of them smelled like old beer and cheese. Other races could have that smell too, but dwarves by far were the most pungent, especially if they were heavy drinkers.
There were other smells and templates of people that Mr. Blinky was familiar with, but this creature before him had none of the familiar features. Save for the reproductive organs. Those indicated this was a male, though that was not enough to determine its race.
Yes, it smelled like a baby human (though not quite). The amniotic smell was on the surface. Underneath where the human scent should be there was an unusual tingly non-smelling smell that was truly baffling in its having been scented at all.
As for the creature's facial features, they were exceedingly strange. Its ears were flat and seamless against the sides of its head in a way that was unlike any of the races. Its mouth had lips that were very thin from what the cat could see above the bunch of grass partially covered that part of the face. There was a bump where its nose should be with two holes for nostrils. These flexed as the creature breathed its shallow, irregular breaths-- (this strange breathing pattern reinforced Mr. Blinky's opinion that the creature must be sick.) Its eyes were closed, but at least they were in the right place, despite having no eyelashes or eyebrows.
Had there been a casual observer, they would have seen the unusual sight of an alien creature curled around a little bush of grass, and a cat sitting near the creature's face with its head slightly tilted, staring, and occasionally inching its face forward as it sniffed the air.
The cambion opened its eyes and Mr. Blinky's cobalt blue eyes met pale grey, almost white eyes without any irises.
Mr. Blinky's guard was completely down. There were several factors that contributed to his shamelessly studying the naked and sleeping cambion without a care in the world. The first was the creature's smell. It smelled like a newborn, and it smelled sick. Both of these smells the cat associated with weak and dependent 'baby persons' who were incapable of indpendent movement. The cambion was dissimilar enough in appearance to a newborn that he did not expect the creature to behave like one, but its sense of danger had been completely overwhelmed by the last and most significant factor that had completely subverted his danger sense... Curiosity.
In retrospect, it's easy to turn over and over the factors that influence our destiny. Armed with the gift of hindsight, we can appreciate the way this or that decision led to this or that outcome. We can appreciate how if we had been ten minutes late or five minutes early at any given convergence of factors in time, we would potentially stand tall at the end of a completely different thread of fate. Or, looking back on our experiences, we can learn from them.
Here's the lesson.
There is only factor that truly precludes our ability to learn from a mistake. When it kills us.
Not unlike a certain field mouse who was caught offguard with little time time to react, the last thing Mr. Blinky saw the moment his danger sense finally awoke inside him, but not fast enough that he could blink teleport or even turn to escape, was an amorpheous jaw extended beyond the limits of what should have been possible for a creature of its size, as it enveloped his head whole and clamped shut.