Who is the pet here? Pietas gets a panther "kitty" #SciFi #Pietas #MFRWhooksWhen Pietas is attacked from behind, the panther who’s been his shadow for months leaps into the frey and protects him. It costs the cat its life. But this panther is far more than what it seems. While Pietas watches, the cat revives and sits up, facing him. It’s as immortal as he is.

On the planet Kaffir, they had a word for loyal warrior. Pietas cupped the animal’s jaw, his face inches from the cat’s. “You answer to no man, but when I speak and think of you, I’ll call you Tiklaus.”

Tiklaus gave him a long, wet lick and nudged him before backing away. The panther made a huffing bark sound. From the group of cats, a smaller panther padded close, dropped and stretched out, belly up. With its nose, Tiklaus butted the cat. The smaller animal stood and came alongside Tiklaus. Side by side, the cat’s more noticeable rosette pattern showed, dark brown on black.

Six nudged Pietas. “What just happened?”

“Not sure. I get the sense they’re not mates.”

Tiklaus and the other panther walked toward the Ultras, who all backed away.

“Stand still.” Pietas raised one hand. “You’re not in danger.”

Leading the other cat, Tiklaus padded before the Ultras, pausing to sniff each one.

Pietas had hugged each of them. No doubt his scent remained.

Erryq went down on one knee as Tiklaus approached. “Hello, there.” She held out one hand and the panther put its nose in the center of it. Erryq stroked Tiklaus while the other cat sniffed her. Its breath ruffled the long red curls around her face. “That tickles.” She stroked the other cat.

Tiklaus moved past Erryq and headed for Helia and Dessy, the smaller cat keeping pace.

Helia remained at Dessy’s side. When Tiklaus approached them, his mother held down her hand. Dessy did the same. They stood still while the cats inspected them.

The smaller cat sat beside Helia and wrapped its tail around her feet.

Tiklaus trotted toward Six, who backed away.

“No.” Pietas held onto him. “Let the cat smell you.”

The cat snuffled Six’s legs, walked around him, and then did one more revolution, dragging its tail along him.

“Marking you, ghost. You’ve been accepted.”

Tiklaus plopped down between them, wrapped its long tail around Pietas’s legs and leaned against his thigh.

Six whistled. “I can’t tell if you just got a pet or became one.”

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