The Only Fair Game…,
Shaper of Swords charged down the hallway, his ears folded flat
against his head, his tail whipping back and forth. His claws flexed
impulsively, his teeth overhanging his lower lip, his mouth drawn into
an unpleasant snarl.
Normally, Kzin do not interrupt one another. Especially not when
one is in a rage such as Shaper’s, although few Kzin in the hallway with
him could imagine the reason for such ferocious anger. So when K’narl
reached out a hand and grabbed Shaper by the shoulder, many took cover.
“Shaper,” he called out.
Shaper spun, claws flying for the face of the interloper. But
K’narl was a named Kzin for good reason. Seizing the youth’s wrist, he
slammed Shaper up against the wall and stared into his face. “CEASE.”
Shaper blinked, his chest heaving, his claws flexing in and out of
their recesses in his hands. He snarled, a deep and angry sound, before
collapsing against the wall. He looked away. “Sir.”
K’narl smiled tolerantly. “You have a problem, Shaper of Swords?”
“It is not something to be discussed in public.” He paused, then
“If it is not to be discussed publicly, you will discuss it with me
privately. In my home, for meal, now.”
Shaper’s ears fanned open, as if unsure of what they had heard.
What K’narl inviting him to his house? A mentor? An offer? He was
dumbfounded. The rage he had felt drained away, leaving him shaken.
“Come,” K’narl said, seizing the younger Kzin by the arm and
hauling him down the passageway. Out into the street, K’narl continued
to handle him like a bundle of meat until they reached the elder Kzin’s
residence. Once inside, K’narl indicated a small chair made of wood.
“Sit, young Shaper. I will bring out food.”
Still bewildered by the sudden turn of events, Shaper sat, staring
around. The walls were, predictably, covered with weapons. K’narl’s
collection predominated with weapons of melee’ rather than of range;
only two rifles were in evidence, and those were of exceptionally fine
modern design. The rest were knives, swords, hand-held weapons of
beauty. The blacksmithing knowledge that had granted Shaper his title
and what respect he owned came to him as he stared, appreciating the
artistry of such fine blades. He wished to rise and examine them, but
he had been so ordered to sit by his elder, and so he would remain.
The nets, bolas, whips, and other weapons meant to entangle rather
than kill a running prey fascinated Shaper. Those were not common
items; only scientists wanted to trap prey for examination rather than
for food. K’narl was not a scientist, but a warrior, one of great
strategic knowledge. He was known to be overly cautious at times, but
the Kzin empire had learned from its mistakes with humans in that far,
far too often it had screamed and it had leapt when it was not ready to
K’narl returned with two trays. “It is my understanding that you
enjoy the rare taste of Kandet.”
Shaper turned, startled by K’narl’s return, then ashamed by his
lack of attentiveness. He attempted to bluster through his
embarrassment. “A weakness.”
“Nonsense,” K’narl replied, placing a large tray with a Kandet leg
before Shaper. “Kandet is a fine meat, rare and difficult to preserve.
If you have the respect necessary to obtain it, you should enjoy that
Shaper was stunned by K’narl’s phrasing. K’narl had just come so
close to offering to petition for his name that his brain, already
confused by the day’s events, refused to consider the offer. K’narl
gave him a fanged smile and said “Eat. Before the blood in that piece
Shaper looked down at the plate, picked up the meat where the bone
protruded, and proceeded to gnaw on it, tasting it carefully before
taking large chunks and swallowing it down. Kandet was a prized running
carnivore, and to have hauled one down by oneself was considered an
honor. To have permission just to hunt a *fooch* stocked with such
beasts was honor in and of itself.
When they were finished eating, K’narl sat back in his chair and
patted his belly. “Fine food.”
“Agreed, sir,” Shaper said.
“Now then, my young friend… tell me why you rode down the hall in
a mood to rip out the entrails of anyone who stood in your way.”
“Sir…” Shaper began uneasily.
“You will tell me,” K’narl said, a dark shadow crossing his face.
“Yes, sir,” Shaper agreed. He swallowed momentarily. “I mated for
the first time today.”
“Mated?” K’narl asked. “Or attempted to mate?”
“Mated, sir,” Shaper said. “I did not fail in my duty to
contribute. It was an honor to myself and my father and his before him,
and I did not fail in that honor.”
“Excellent,” K’narl agreed. “Then why such youthful rage?”
“Sir,” Shaper began again. “Forgive me, sir, but the act… the
act is so unworthy of a Kzin as to be ridiculous!”
“The weak, soft, fat, pathetic whimpering of that passive female.
The way the priests watched. The position, the act itself… I have
never felt so ill. It made my shaft firm and it made my blood race in
ways that only occur in the *foochs* themselves, but I had to be so
controlled. I could not damage the female, yet my every urge told me to
be wild, to be a Kzin. I could not.”
“Yes,” K’narl said, his lips curled into a common snarl. “Combat
and mating; they both make our hearts pound, yet only one is truly the
act of an adult Kzin. The other is a sad shadow, necessary but
“Not during the act,” Shaper interrupted. “My head did not work
then; I was loosed upon her. But all the time I knew the priests were
there with their stunners and their nets to protect the females. It was
later, when I was leaving and knew what I had committed, and how ugly it
had been, that my rage became so…”
“I am told,” K’narl said, interrupting Shaper, “That human females
have some fight in them, as far as a human’s fighting strength is
“Human females are not insentient!”
“No, they are not. But compared to the males they are not so much
better than ours. They have a little fight, but with the proper
training I am sure they are as pliable as our own. I imagine there is
always that little spark of fight, because they might find a knife or
some other weapon and turn upon their mate. But any proper male knows
how to control and take a female properly.” Leaning forward across the
stone table, he said, “Shaper of Swords, what if I were to tell you that
I knew of a… an organization, that had an answer to your frustration.”
Shaper gave K’narl a look of surprise. The wording of that offer
sounded like K’narl was proposing something improper. A heretic cult,
perhaps? “Your organization has human females to mate with?” he said,
allowing a little sarcasm to creep into his voice. The tone may have
seemed a little insubordinate, a risk to his very life.
K’narl smiled. “Better.”
Shaper blinked. “What then?”
“In the northern hemisphere, there remain some small zones that
managed to escape the devastation of the War with Man. In some cases,
there is still tube service to those locations. We have a *fooch* in
one of those locations. The radiation is as low as background; it is
completely safe. The *fooch* is small, a little over two thousand
*yarrach*, but it is private, and safe.”
Shaper waited. K’narl continued. “You have had a successful
mating, Shaper. Yet you found no pleasure in the act… there was no
blood, there is no memory to treasure. In this *fooch* we hunt the
deadliest of all game, not to kill, but to mate… in combat, with claws
and teeth. For there is only one thing on all of Kzandi worthy of the
aim of another Kzin’s mating lust.”
Shaper stared at K’narl, unfathoming. “What?”
Shaper’s fur stood on edge to see the elder Kzin smile. “Another
“WHAT!?” Shaper shouted, standing up and knocking over the chair he
had been sitting in.
“SIT!” K’narl commanded. Shaper stood, stunned, then slowly picked
up the chair and sat down again. “There is a hunt tomorrow, and I have
been given permission to invite you.”
“But…” The obscenity of what K’narl was proposing horrified
Shaper. But worse than that… it fascinated him. He wanted to know
“Losing is an indignity one faces in these games,” K’narl said.
“It is painful, but not dangerous.” He smiled that chilling smile
again. “It is something you bear with snarls and cries and clawing at
the ground. It is more painful in the lesson than the rape, young
Shaper. I have lost before.” Shaper just stared, so K’narl went on.
“But to win! To mate, to climax buried deep in the struggling body of a
warrior who has lost to you, lost utterly… there is nothing better, my
young Kzin. The mating pressure, the fighting lust, all rolled into
one. There is no match in this universe, Shaper of Swords.”
Shaper could find no words to express the outrage he felt… or the
desire. “So,” K’narl said. “Now that you have heard my proposal, would
you like to attend such a game?”
Shaper did not hesitate. “I must participate?”
“You must. You have hunted; you have learned to be a warrior. You
have mated. Now you must learn to do all three.”
“No easy matter.”
“We have ways. Will you attend?”
Shaper nodded, slowly. “I shall.”
“Excellent. You will not regret this. Meet me at the subkzandor
transit tube seventy-one six *izit* after dawn. Understood?”
“Understood, sir,” Shaper said.
“You had best be on your way then; even a Kzin of my name cannot
keep a student such as you from his studies for long. Tomorrow is a day
of rest for us both, and so a day of adventure. Study well, Shaper of
Swords. Your life changes tomorrow.”
“It already has, sir,” Shaper said, bowing his head and closing his
eyes in respect. Then he departed.
At the sixth *izit* past the dawn, Shaper stood in the designated
transit station, awaiting K’narl’s arrival. He did not wait long; a
short transit train rolled out of the airlock with the stripes of a
privileged user emblazoned upon the sides soon rolled out. Shaper noted
that the priority markings were very low for an urban vehicle; most
metropolitan vehicles would have priority over this. The door opened
and K’narl’s head poked out. “Come, my young Shaper of Swords. Come
meet your companions.”
Names and labels were passed around as Shaper stepped into the
train. The names stunned him; some of the Kzin in this tube were among
the most famous on all of Kzandor! He asked K’narl.
“The training one receives in this field will serve you well on the
field of battle. No worship of Gods, Kzin or Human, will serve you as
well as the secrets of stealth and defense you learn here.” K’narl was
silent for a moment. “I must warn you, Shaper, of a danger in this
“A danger, sir?”
“Yes. When I interviewed you, I asked if your mating had been
successful. I wanted to be assured that you functioned fully as a male
Kzin before inviting you to this most male of games. As you can well
imagine, for every success there is a loss; someone must lose.” K’narl
paused for a moment. “Some learn to enjoy losing.”
“Impossible!” Shaper said. “No self-respecting Kzin would want to
“They hide it well,” K’narl said. “Those we find in that state we
exclude from the game; they are not worth the fight. Sometimes we use
them for… amusement.” He chuckled, rumbling. “We are a very decadent
lot in many ways. But there is a pleasure in losing, even to those of
us who hate it. To know you have met an irresistible force, and that
force is one like you, and that you may one day be like him… There is
a pleasure in that. There is even a bodily pleasure, Shaper, in the act
of losing. You enjoy the burn of a deserved wound as well as any Kzin.
This is much like that.
“Do not learn to like losing too much. You must put your muscle
and bone into winning, Shaper. As your sponsor, I will not be
“I shall win, sir.”
The train came to a halt and the occupants departed. Shaper felt
lost amidst such eminence and fame, but he managed to keep something of
a proud demeanor to himself as he conversed respectfully with the other
participants in the day’s *fooch*. They were led into a large room,
walled and floored in stone, apparently buried underground. Shaper was
surprised to watch an older Kzin mount a platform at one end. “Who here
is the newest one?”
Shaper realized that the elder must have meant him. He approached
the platform and knelt. “I, sir.”
“Welcome, then. You know not what awaits you. This is your order.
Take this package. Down that hallway are doors. Find the eleventh.
Close yourself within and open the package. Follow the directions
“The rest of you know which rooms are yours, and you know how to
Shaper took the package as directed and walked down the hallway;
several other Kzin followed him, taking to other doors and passing him
by. He found the eleventh and entered, closing the door behind him.
He tore open the package. A sheet of paper within directed him
that a signal would be given for him to leave the room and enter the
fooch, following the yellow lights to the door he was to use. Also in
the package he found a foil packet that fit easily within his hands.
The directions instructed him to stroke himself to excitement, and to
apply the contents of the packet to his erect penis as he masturbated.
Shaper manipulated his sheath as instructed, embarrassed at first,
but as the blood flowed into his groin and his excitement grew he became
more aroused. The embarrassment faded. His erection grew, standing out
from his body. With a pause, he tore open the foil packet. A thick
white fluid flowed onto his palm, and he applied it to his shaft,
stroking insistently. The fluid was slick, greasy. He smiled,
recognizing it… the priests had offered him much the same substance.
No! he realized as he breathed deep. There was more to this than
merely a grease to make penetration easier. There was mating scent in
this fluid! His heart began to pound, his erection grew solid as stone
as he masturbated. He laughed, his wildest need to take someone,
something overwhelming him.
Then the door flew open.
Startled at first, Shaper realized that was the sign for him to
leave. He leapt for the door, grabbing the doorway just in time to keep
from slamming into the far wall in his haste. He glanced left, then
right; nobody was to be seen. He found the yellow lights; they led him
up a sloping hallway with an open hatch at the end. He nearly leapt
into the air as he exited into the darkened *fooch*.
He was alone. His instincts as a hunter overtook him, and he
rolled for brush. There were no *foochseth* in this park, no game to be
hunted but his fellow Kzin, and no reason for rest until the act was
over and you claimed your kill. And he knew that he, too, was hunted.
Someone desired him as their “kill” as well.
He froze, unmoving, and listened. Not an easy task; his own heart
beat like the throbbing drive of a fusion ground tank. But as he
listened he heard the subtle sounds of someone moving in the brush.
Was it a trap? The thought that two or more Kzin might join up and
“share” a “prize” occurred to him. To be raped by one was enough, he
thought… to have two or three take their turns with him was more
horrible than he wanted to imagine. He shuddered. Nothing to be done
about it. He merely thought about his training. “You scream and you
There wouldn’t even be a scream this time. He crawled slowly,
silently, through the thick jungle brush. A light rain began, and he
smiled; it would cover his noise. His target wasn’t too far away. He
was downwind of the other, even; he could smell his victim. And from
the wetness in his fur Shaper knew he had a Kzin and not an animal.
He caught a glimpse of orange through the green, a sight of Kzin
moving slowly through the brush, looking back and forth. He leapt,
roaring only after his feet had left the ground.
The other Kzin whirled, dodging. Shaper cursed, recognizing the
move. A human trick. Akido.
But not entirely. The other Kzin was still Kzin. He answered the
challenge, leaping upon Shaper as Shaper rolled and came to a crouch.
They tumbled against a heavy bush, and it gave way underneath their
They were not here to wrestle, Shaper reminded himself. The
thought of losing ran through his mind, feeding his rage. He shoved the
other Kzin off of him and sent him sprawling against a tree. The Kzin
roared in pain and spun, digging claws into the bark of the tree to
scrabble to a standing position. Shaper circled through the covering
brush until he was behind his victim. The other Kzin kept looking back
and forth, searching for his attacker. He turned all the way around
only in time to see Shaper leap and scream once again, his shoulder
landing square in his victim’s chest. The other snarled in pain and
surprise as a claw came down and ripped against his arm.
Shaper smelled the blood, and like the mating scent slipped into
the grease it drove him into a wild frenzy of lust. The other Kzin
wasn’t doing well, but he was trying. He was fighting. Shaper knew he
liked it that way, knew he liked this hunt. If only females were like
The other Kzin, slowed by his pain and bleeding, attempted to
strike a blow to Shaper’s kidneys, but Shaper seized his arm and tossed
the Kzin over his shoulder, sending him sprawling along the mud-strewn
ground face-first. Brushing the falling rain from his eyes, he looked
down and saw his victim’s buttocks shoved in the air. He remembered
again why he was here. Looking down, his erection was insistent within
his body, and he slid it out into his palm. The other Kzin was
attempting to rise, but Shaper snarled and shoved him back to the mud.
“Down!” he roared.
He closed his left hand about the scruff at the back of his
victim’s neck, and with his right aimed his penis downwards, shoving
hard. The loser howled in despair as Shaper penetrated his anus.
The heat, the tightness, were things Shaper was completely
unprepared for. He growled in appreciation as this male Kzin gave him a
pleasure he had earned fully and with a warrior’s prowess. He raped the
losing Kzin, listening with pleasure to his howls of agony, watching as
the other clawed desperately at the ground, trying to crawl away from
the penetrating dishonor of Shaper’s sex buried within his guts.
Shaper took his pleasure viciously, clawing his victim, watching
the rain take the blood in little rivulets. He bucked against his
buttock, feeling the hardened warrior’s flesh give way underneath him,
lose utterly to him. As he approached his climax, he lost all control,
becoming nothing but the feral beast that was his animal heritage, his
He roared as he climaxed, shoving himself deep within his victim
over and over to take as much of his final moments as he could. And
then it was finished.
He rose, slowly and unsteadily, listening. The room had had no
more than thirty Kzin in it; it was easily possible that none had been
in earshot for much of the fight, but surely everyone had heard his
Someone had. A party of four Kzin, each wearing the black of a
*fooch* administrator, came running through the brush. Shaper pointed
down to the figure in the mud. “I…” he gasped. “I claim my kill. He
requires medical attention.” He felt tired, almost faint. He looked
down and saw the enormous bloody tears in both thighs the other Kzin had
clawed during the struggle. Just before he passed out, he said “As do
“How long have I been unconscious?”
“Only a few *izit*,” K’narl assured him. “You were in no danger.
We have healed your legs; the fur will grow eventually, and there will
be no scarring. You did not give us directions regarding scar
treatments, and we fall on the side of discretion.”
“I understand,” Shaper of Swords replied.
“Your honor is intact, as is that of your victim. He lost, but he
went down fighting, as did you. Congratulations.” Shaper nodded,
sitting up off the thin mattress. “Tell me what you think.”
“It is a dangerous game,” Shaper said, answering the elder’s
command instantly. “The prey is always your equal; we could have killed
“There is no shame in that. You are nameless, still, although I
will petition Shufthah-ritt to have that changed soon. You are
deserving. Your art is of no mean quality, and your talent as a warrior
is well and powerful. You would be a welcome addition, should the
Fourth Truce with Man ever collapse. Welcome, Shaper of Swords, to our
“Thank you,” Shaper replied. “I shall honor your welcome.”
“See that you do. Now, rest. The train leaves in four *izit.*
Heal until then.” K’narl rose and left.