They say I was 7 when I was found. That I stared fiercely at the butcher until the guard showed up, and would tell them nothing more than that (my age) and my name. But I remember much more.
I remember the animals. How they would flee in screams, or cower with eyes shut tight. I remember the forest, the occasional beam of sunlight cutting through various hues of green. I remember the plains before that, the ground unending lines of gold in most directions and the sky as blank as blue can get. I remember nights being cold, days being empty.
I remember the bear. My first actual fight. Not like those games we children played at being grown and fighting as if we had a clue. Nothing like the bloodless scrapes we gave each other, and cried as if they truly hurt. This was real, this was life vs life, intense, painful, where you learn the lesson of retreat. Some things are not worth your life, despite what your hunger tells you.
And so, some of those cowering animals made the wrong choice. Then again, some of those that fled merely provided lessons in stalking. When there were animals. When there weren’t, berries and roots and even bark makes do. And when there isn’t any food… you simply keep moving.
I don’t know how long I traveled. Which direction, or even where I was headed. I simply couldn’t stay. That’s what I knew.
Then, the butcher. Like the bear all over again. Easy prey, so it seemed. Turned out the meat was spoken for, and I in for the consequences. Only he didn’t fight, not any more than to keep me at bay. He yelled words I didn’t understand, and a woman appeared briefly enough to flee away.
I hadn’t seen a house before, not like this one. Nor a village. I had no idea there were to be reinforcements until they arrived. Too late to run. They easily caught up and surrounded me. They chattered and rumbled, finally finding words to talk to me. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to leave. I wanted to eat.
They were very cautious. I, too, trying to find the right moment, the right escape. But when finally one touched me… I had forgotten what it was like, to be with other lionmen. His hand was gentle on my shoulder, like when my mother used to direct me. Firm enough so I couldn’t break free, but no pain, no pressure, just there as a guide indicating which way to go. So I let him. I let him lead me back to life.
It was a while before my new journey led to a new home. Many guiding hands came and went. But there was food. And clothes and blankets and even a bed at night, if I wanted. It took some doing before I could sleep in a bed again. To this day I’m still not sure if I prefer them.
My first benefactor was a non descript couple who had volunteered to the local magistrate they would care for me. They dressed me in clothes that I saw girl children in. I wasn’t sure I liked them, but fur only helps so much and I preferred any clothes to none. They were pleased with me up until the day a neighbor child picked a fight. Bad choice. I don’t rightly know what became of that child.
I was quickly moved to another house with children all older than me, and one guard who was rotated on a schedule. There (in that place) there was testing. By paper, and questions, and even fighting. Much fighting, until I stopped winning.
Then I was moved again. A larger place, more children, more rules. I both like rules and don’t. You know what to expect, and what is expected. But you can not be yourself when you want to be, if at all.
The almost last time I was moved, it was into the royal guard barracks. Which became my first actual home in years. I don’t have the details of what led to this decision. I was met to a man called Duncan, but who goes by the name Man-at-Arms. He told me he asked for me. My training began that same day.
Duncan showed me all sorts of trainings. We worked together on what I thought I’d like and what I’d learn best, heavy emphasis on fighting. He taught me about the world: Eternia, past and present; Mongo, now and evermore. He kept details to himself, but occasionally told me he had plans for me.
In the meantime, I learned how to interact with people again. I even made a couple friends. I was easily the youngest living in the barracks, and I didn’t go out on missions with the others. Otherwise, my life was like theirs, and the commonness caused a sense of bonding. I especially liked to hear tales of their organized outings gone awry.
My life had gone from innocent yet ignorant child, to the constantly unknown, to the evenly predictable. I preferred the last state.
When I was 12, by all best guesses, Ducan took me aside and told me I had done better than he’d expected the last 3 years and it was time. He lead me to a part of the palace I had never been in. There I was introduced to Myanmar. A boy about 2 years my younger, and third in line for the throne. We were informed that we were being paired up, but not why. I was to be his personal body guard. We would train together, go to classes together, spend our free time together, even eat together – when he wasn’t in meal with his family.
So we did.