((this and some of the other posts to follow will give some background on the events leading up to Panther's reunion with S'jira as seen in The Return
His still half-unconscious mind registered the cold and instinctively a hand searches about in the darkness for the quilt he surely threw off himself while he slept.
As his hand finds nothing, that's the next thing his mind registers. Cold and wet.
Ok, he's awake.
Eyes open, blinking in the darkness, but their feline nature quickly picking out the shapes of pine boughs almost directly overhead. So close they are, had he sat up in his confusion he would have been struck back down after hitting his head on them.
His eyes closed again as he let out a slow breath. Unfortunately, this was not the first time he woke like this. It wasn't often, but often enough. He had changed... something triggered him in to becoming fully feline. So he spent the night out in the woods, doing whatever a large feline would do when left to his own devices. At least he was in the woods, away from prying eyes... for when he awoke like this, it was usually in his human form. A form that offered no protection from the elements... or protection for his humility. Clothing did not survive the changes such as the one he went through.
He lay there for a few moments, letting himself fully awaken when it dawned on him. He was still cold. And wet. Nude or no... he was cold? It was mid-summer.. why... ? He open his eyes again, and there amongst the green of the evergreen boughs was the rather distinct white of... snow?!
This got him sitting up, at least propped up on elbows as he took a full look about him. There was a lot of white... he was in the recess under the boughs of a tree, with nearly two feet of snow surrounding it. More blinking was had. Despite what the cold and wet were telling him, his brain was not quite registering it. A deep shiver, brought on by both, is what brought him back to the here and now. A deep breath, eyes closed and he focused... willing his body to make the somewhat painful transformation from this ... rather exposed form to that of his were-form. One that at least offered up some protection from the cold in the form of a nice thick, covering of fur.
Scrambling out from under the tree, the snow crunched under his paws. this was not fresh snowfall, it was not powder, it was hard, and barely gave under his weight as he moved about trying to get his bearings. The sun was just starting to break the horizon, casting a dull glow through the lingering clouds. At least he knew what direction was what... but he had no idea where he was.
A hand reaches to his head, rubbing lightly at the temple as he strained to focus on the last thing he could remember.
S'jira's birthday... giving her Trygg.. the horse... ?there were a few weeks after that. Glimpses of nights spent together. Him finally admitting his love for her. Her putting her own touches to the loft. "Arghhh!" It was nearly a snarl, the cry of frustration as he paced about near the tree he awoke under. All these things happened in mid-summer, and here it was now... dead of winter. Months... he had not had a lapse like this since... since Mika. Something similar happened after he had spent months searching for her. He found himself lost in his other form for a number of weeks before finding his way back to RhyDin once again.
Emotions were flooding him. Grief relived from that time in his past. Guilt, at how S'jira must be feeling the same after his being gone for nearly two seasons. Anger and frustration over this. Over not even knowing where he awoke from such a nightmare of his own making.
Stop it! He shouted inside his own head. Stop. Breath. Think.
Closing his eyes, he just breathed. Slowly, deeply inhaling. Slowly exhaling. It was minutes before his eyes opened again, the sun was nearly fully over the horizon.?
Ok, first things first. Figure out where I am, then I can get back to RhyDin. To 'jira. He slowly turned about, taking in the full panorama around him, the rising sun shedding enough light to finally start seeing things in the distant. Trees, lots of trees.?
His own tracks, well those of the cat, were just barely visible and the scent was fairly strong. He had come to this spot from the North. The wind was out of the west and carried only woodland scents, nothing more. Some more investigation of the area around where he slept showed no signs of a fresh meal. His stomach confirmed it had likely been nearly a day since he last ate. Of course that didn't tell him much about where he was, just that he was hungry.?
Ok, a choice had to be made.
He would follow his own tracks, back in the direction from which he came. Maybe he would get lucky and they would cross a road, at least that would narrow his choices down from any direction to just two, and at least he was traveling somewhat into the wind, that would be helpful as well.