((Dedicated to all new RPer's and their attempts to be taken seriously and with respect in an ambiguous land where no one is truly in charge of the rules.))

I suspect I am a skeptical soul, no - in fact, I know it. It's not often someone slides something past me without me thinking of ten thousand different outcomes. You may think this is a gift. Think again. Curses befall me as my mind rains possibilities and the action continues on, me staring on aghast and in awe at the reactors around me. How do they DO that anyway? How do they know for sure what really happened? Reality is so damned... relative.

Oh, sure, I can react. Touch the arch of my foot and you're going to get kicked in the teeth! I guarantee it. Insult my friend and a vicious slap will echo through your mind long after the sting of my hand wanes. But trying to ascertain what is happening in the heat of trouble is such an art to me! One I have so very much to learn about.

This is why, last night, when I was gathered with my co-workers and friends around our typical Monday night firechat, I hesitated. I like our fires and all the teasing that occurs. I admit it! I like poking at Saidivh about his penchant for... (almost said an animal here but in deference to our truce in which he subsequently pronounced his pure love for me in spite of his pure love for half the women I know, I shall refrain) ...beautiful women. I like the satisfaction of racing to beat Tai to place the fires before he notices one has lost its air, because it's not often anyone beats that quick mind of his to anything!

Come to think of it, while introducing a new friend of mine to the regulars, with Tai and Kennia listening in blatent horror at my descriptions... I should have introduced Tai Jiang properly. He is The Boss Man, the man who fails to hide his nervousness when one of us is missing, who cares about us so deeply he often loses sleep at night to provide closure and unwavering support. He is perhaps the only human in the land more skeptical than I... AND... I swear this is true, every time a new bright female comes to visit, she invariably is disappointed when Felena or I laugh and inform her that yes indeed Tai is taken. All the good men are, you know. There, have I gushed enough yet for today? I'll leave it to Kennia to finish that up in private.

So yes, I absolutely adore the curious ones who come to listen and end up staying, adding a thought or two to the mix. Our world is a strange one, and creatures and beings can be even stranger. Some are more endearing than others, I suppose. Some are more interesting. Some are downright imbeciles. I never fail to be shocked, though, when a complete stranger moseys up behind me and whispers, "Come over here... to the three trees, I need to see you." Who the heck is this? Someone wanting to hire us? Someone shy trying out pick-up lines? Someone I know in disguise? Whatever their story, I want to hear and I try to get the gist of it. I love trying to react, even if I am lousy at it! So I try to draw him out, get him to spill it... listen with my ears wide open.

He whispers from the shade of the trees a question I can barely hear "Do you have a cat?" What the Fel?! A cat, sheebies! He took me away from setting fire to Helenn's toes with my hasty fire placement so he could ask me about a CAT? "Well of course I have a cat! But why the heck are you asking?" He is interrogating me, I could swear it! I pull out my comm device and whisper to my co-workers "Ok guys, if I scream, everybody come running with a 26 pound catfish and beat this guy to a gutted mess." They know I am dead serious, and Kennia puffs up a bit in her armor to come over and give him The Look. Now to me this may well have been humorous because she's so blonde and pretty in her armor; and if you ask her she will tell you it was entirely intimidating; but if you ask this boy looking at her assess him, he is likely to tell you she has the freakin' HOTS for him! See what I mean about reality? It's all in the eye of the perceiver!

What really happened I suspect none of us will really know. I do know I hid a laugh. But when she left again I was not laughing at this guy's interrogation of me, "Show me the cat!" My head was reeling then, because the man who gave me the cat was a Hound and as you might not know, we Tigers have a little friendly animosity with them because Kennia used to be one and it's fun to pretend they hold that against us. Again, anytime I have seen a Hound they think I am a Kennia impostor simply because my name starts with a K and I am human, but that's not my reality. I tell you I do NOT have blonde roots!

So I am wondering several things at once. Is this man trying to glean info out of me for spying purposes? Do I need to protect anyone here? Is this that cat dealer in disguise with a new and improved slim look? I did not know the cat dealer well; I just took a liking to him because he adored cats and gave me one that day. He hisses at me "Tell me the name of the man who gave it to you!" Was he being unfriendly? The mystery gripped me and my curiosity kicked in, "Why should I tell you anything about my cat, hmm? You're the stranger here and what's it to you anyway? And why are we hiding in the trees?" He got frustrated then and kept asking me about the blasted cat. But wait! Come to think of it, he got a little emotional then, or maybe he had been all along and I just thought he was harshly interrogating me. He then nearly sobbed telling me that his father was dead, killed by the Hounds last week, and that his father was the cat dealer.

My goodness, the SHOCK of this! The rain in my brain begins and I am pondering the possibilities. He wants us to do a little sly deal avenging his father's death! No, wait! He needs us to investigate the circumstances. Hrm... I have it, since I can read his mind! Surely he wants the cat back because it is all he has left in this world of his father to remember him by! But, alas, the rug is pulled out from under me as he says sorrowfully, "My father named you in his will, and he wanted you to have a few things of his." Ah, of course, now I am skeptical! "Well, if he really IS your father, and he truly did die and wanted you to bring me his things - he would have told you what kind of cat he gave me, right?" I thought for sure I had caught him in a huge fish tale. So smug I was when he said quietly, "Siamese." Oh! If I had known that man better, I might have teared up and grieved him in spite of reality now bearing down on me. What else could I do but let this poor boy see the cat his father had given me as he so simply asked at the onset. "You can pick him up if you like." I did not have the heart to tell this sad boy I never let anyone touch my kitty. Heck, he'd just lost his father.

"I never really knew him," he shrugged when I offered my condolences. Oh grand! Wrong again, I was. Why is it I never get used to being wrong? It then occurred to me that this young man might not have a family or home anymore, and that he might enjoy sitting by the fire, so I asked him to join us. Besides, he'd pulled me away from my friends and I just knew I was missing a fine rendition of someone's latest exploits! We went back to the fire and the evening progressed like many others, in good cheer with Helenn's superlative cooking and smiles all around while the dwarves belched. Or could it have been Domo belching? I cannot really be sure; he did not sit in one place too long for me to know what really happened. I tried to listen to some guests who were saying something about liking cake, but I never got much of a chance to for a business associate came out of thin air, so dramatically, and scared the living daylights out of me. I had to go off to the side to discuss a few things with him and by the time I came back, the cat dealer's son was bored to tears, it seemed. It could be he was too self-conscious to jump in and dance the verbal dance of give and take. It could be others were bent on telling their own stories and not pausing to listen. It could be our fireside chats had grown to a size too big for any meaningful real interaction to take place.

Whatever the reason, I will never know. The boy wandered off without much in the way of explanation. Oh, others were pressing me to sit and chat. I really wanted to ask Iilbitty how she was and tug on her ponytails fondly! It was then that my clairvoyance kicked in and I distinctly heard the boy say straight into my mind, "You were supposed to follow." This does not happen often, you know. My sister Torryn is the one with the visions, not I! I must have imagined it, but still... what if it was real? I had to go find him.

I searched around the outskirts of Menethil and low and behold there he was by the northern shore! Well, by then I was feeling mighty smart! Coincidentally, a newcomer had just signed up to join our Shipping Company and I was giving a glowing welcome over the comm to him. I think back now, was I that distracted that I had no clue what was about to descend? Suddenly awareness came out of the clear moment of stillness just prior to a knife being shoved to my back. I froze. The boy was yelling at me to RUN AWAY RUN KYA RUN! The newcomer to the company was calmly saying over the comm device that he had it. Had what? Me? Under his control? HOLY CRAP, I was being absconded by Hounds! Of course! This newbie was a ruse, an agent in cohorts with the cat man's son and OH MY GOD! Understanding rushed over me like a dam breaking free. (Did I say I was the Queen of Skeptical? Yeah, well, never mind that. Talk about gullible!)

I had been set up. Oh yes, these sly two friends had been planning this from over a month ago when the supposed father came and lured me with his gifts, gaining my trust! Now one was covering the other and convincing my co-workers I did not need help! I could do nothing but whimper softly, unable to even use my comm because newbie man here had it all under control! Did I say mighty smart before? Uh huh, well... I felt mighty stupid about then. I wrestled some with whatever imaginary forces were holding me imprisoned and managed to squeak out the universal Tiger call for help, "Tai!!! EEEP!" Oh yes, I could just feel my co-workers scrambling to come running to my aid. They were... uhm, well... hmm; one was casually shining his boots and asked if anything was wrong. There I was being held at knife point and my reality was near death!

I suppose it is a good thing then that I noticed the knife was not really truly in my back. In was in the hands of the newbie, who was behind me. And as I watched, he gave the location over the comm and he circled around in front to protect me from the boy who was still yelling at me to run. Oddly, I stood there trying to decide who had the knife and who needed to run. Someone said the word Worgen and I knew then I was screwed. I had not read my fairy tales about Worgen! I had no idea what their nature was like. Sighing, I decided to not say a word and just go with the flow of everyone else's actions. I screamed a little here and there to show I was alive. I distinctly remember wondering why any Hound would want to kidnap me anyway, as I was just a common Tiger, after all.

I saw before me the cat dealer's son turn into a Worgen. He was snarling around with foamy spit seething from his teeth. After I fully understood the truth of what was happening, I felt pretty danged idiotic when my entire company came to save my butt. He was just a silly little scraggly pup who now wanted to sniff my hand... cutie little mangy guy. Why then was Kennia shoving me back away for my own safety? Why was Tai demanding to know what I wanted him to do with my transformed friend? How did all my co-workers believe they needed to draw weapons... one shoved in the guy's back, one at his neck; someone apparently shot him in the arm at one point, heck... I saw no blood but maybe Worgen have none. I do think my loyal Tiger family loves me so much they overwhelmed and smothered this guy to save me. I will have to remember to thank them for that!

Well I am still not sure the truth of how it all ended. I thought I asked Tai to drug him so he could wait for this spell to wear off. I am quite sure it was just a nasty curse placed upon the lad. Did he end up drugged or was he hit on the head from behind? If you ask 6 Tigers how he was subdued you might well get 6 differing answers. I think he was tied up and he managed somehow to escape. That seemed to be the common end to the struggles.

Now my question remains, what REALLY happened? I don't think any of us will ever know. In the complexity of the moment with far too many wills overriding others, it's possible that no singular person has the whole truth. Not even my young worgen friend. (Is that contradictory?) I could guess his soul is anguishing over the events, replaying how he wanted the evening to end. I'd like to believe my young friend is out there somewhere tending his wounds and preparing a dream to come back and tell me whatever his sniffing nose was trying to nudge into my thick skull. It's hard, this attempt to discern reality and I truly fail. I know things don't always go according to my plans. I know all of my co-workers are learning to reassess reality daily... for if we cannot find that flexibility, we are merely self-serving egotistical elitists, right? That is a mirror I am willing to hold up to anyone who cares to look... and I can only do so effectively, by looking in it first.

I may not know a thing about reality, but I can hope beyond hope that I one day learn to see in that mirror clearly and conduct myself in a way that asks others to treat me how I myself long to be treated. Hrmm, I guess that now means I must go look a friend in the eyes and tell him I was truly horrid with my comment about sheep, and hope beyond hope that he heard me and yet saw past my stupid reality. Maybe he can even forgive me for messing with his truth.

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