Does it puzzle you that our natures should be twofold, threefold, yet one? Do you wonder why the gods, who have decreed a place for each thing, have offered us so many places in one? Sit, Tekhmet, while I tell you a truth. It is but one of many, but it will serve. Our kind began long ago, outside a village near the mountains. Some tales place those mountains near the Indus Valley, while others place them in the Ethiopian highlands. The location is no matter; what matters is that those lands were fertile and inhabited. For many years, perhaps centuries, the people of those lands lived in harmony with the true cats. No Bastet yet existed. No Bastet were needed. The people kept to themselves, and they respected the land. The cats remained in the forests, and everyone was pleased. But in the time of Saraam, fierce men came down from the mountains with weapons in their hands and serpents in their hearts. These serpents were the essence of Asura, the Snake with 10,000 heads who eats at the core of the world. The snakes, with their overran the land. Serpents filled the air, crept along the ground, bloated the babes and men with fiery poison. Spirit-snakes slipped into ears and crawled down throats, possessing the bodies and driving them to evil. Dakats with a hundred heads stalked the forest cats, ripping their flesh and spitting poison into their eyes. Women wailed in the night as the serpents fed deeply on the people of our land, and the cats yowled as their ribs were crushed and their skin bubbled from their bones. The snakes drove the people to madness, and the cats followed. Hunters crept into the forests to skin the cats for their beautiful coats, and cats raced through the villages, bearing off children to eat in the night. Violence became war, and men and cats clashed in horrible battles. Days and nights rang with screams. When the monsoons came, they
carrie driv-ers of blood to the seas. Now, Saraam was the wisest and most beautiful girl in her village. She was spirited and strong, yet disobedient. In later days, it would be said that she had been touched by Uma, but had the temper of Kali. She had
not yet wed, but had a host of young men waiting upon her word. But one night, Saraam awoke to see a serpent crawl between her brothers and her parents.
It sank its fangs into each, and laid babies in her mother s ear. Horrified, Saraam fled into the night. She ran far from the village till she collapsed
in a clearing beneath Mother Moon, then cried and raged at the sky. "What can I do," she wept, "to save my family and my people? The snake poison them and turn them bad. The cats run through our village, for the vipe men skin them alive. Our lands are cursed! Mother, what can I do?"
To Saraam's surprise, Mother Moon answered in a cold yet loving voice. "The serpents' name is judgment, and they answer the dark calling inside each mortal secret. As one, the vipers seek corruption and breed where they find it. Each mortal carries snake seeds inside. The serpents and their viper men merely bring out what is already within. This is the Age of Twilight. You can do nothing." "I cannot leave my family this way!" Saraam snapped.
"It is not your place to change them, or to cleanse their sins."
"I do not care about my place!" The girl surprised herself with her own temerity. Who was she to argue with the Sacred Way? Yet she continued, cursing the sky and the order of things. "What can I do? This cannot continue!"Moon Mother sighed. "The cat kings will visit you next evening. If you would make peace, lay with them."Saraam was horrified. Take wild cats as mates? Throughout the next day, she shivered in the rain, fighting the urge to return to her dry but poisoned home. That night, the rains subsided. Mother Moon bathed Saraam's clearing in merciless light . Eyes glowed from the shadows at the clearing s edge. Saraam shivered, but did not run. "Have you decided?" The voice came from above.
Saraam stood. "I have." The cat kings approached the girl, one deep black, the other light and spotted. Each one regarded her with cold interest "I am wisdom," said the black cat. "The secret-keeper who rumbles in the night. Call me Gyani, the watcher from the forest." "I am anger," said the spotted. "The raging claws with a thousand eyes. Call me Agun, the watcher from the plain."
"1 am both of you and more," said Saraam. "I have the wisdom to call the gods,
the anger to fight, and the love to give myself for my people. Call me Saraam , welcomer of the cat kings." So saying, she opened herself to them both, and they loved her with fierce tenderness.
The monsoon howled and rain poured down. Three times, she loved the cat kings. Once in daylight, once at twilight and once at night. When the sun rose, they all lay spent upon the ground, washed by sun, moon and elements. The cat kings stayed with Saraam as their children grew within her. The labor was hard, but Gyani and Agun lay by her side. As each child emerged, they licked it clean, and held it to her breasts. Ten children Saraam bore, five babes and five kittens. As Mother Moon emerged, She looked down upon Saraam and her family and smiled.
"Blessed are you, Saraam, and blessed are the sires of your children. Blessed most of all are the fruit of your union. They shall be agents of salvation." So saying, She touched each child in turn. Her cold bright hands changed each to its opposite, cat to human, child to cat. With a breath,
She rose them up full-grown and kissed the belly of Saraam, from whence the children came. Saraam slept well that night.
The children of the three went forth across the land. Gyani had taught them magic. Agun had taught them war Saraam had taught them wisdom and told them of the Mother. Iff time, they drove the serpents from the land, and thus began our time, the one we continue to this day. It is our dharma to keep the truce between the cats and people.
We seek out the serpent of corruption and crush its head between our jaws.
We are cat and human, wisdom, love and anger. We chase the serpents and judge the mortals and sometimes we die for the good of all. For our mother's sacrifice, we can do no less.
Werepanthers and wereleopards are one and the same, brothers and sisters of a common tribe that hails from India and upper Africa. Their existence carries on a pact which began during the Impergium and continues to this day — a bargain in which humans and big cats keep peace between each other and cull the worst elements of both. Legend states that Bagheera came from a forbidden love between cats and humans, and remain close to both. Over the millennia, they've urged their cousins to end the Impergium, striven for peace with the Silent Striders, Children of Gaia and Black Furies, and policed their own kind for the Unmaker's taint. Unlike many cats, most Bagheera keep close ties to their human and
feline Kinfolk; this bond may account for the tribe's strength and numbers. No other Bastet race is as plentiful or as respected as the children of Saraam. Even so, no one who's met a Bagheera wants to risk her temper.
The panthers are renowned for their threefold nature. When calm, a werepanther can be wise, inquisitive and even-tempered; when her passions are aroused, she becomes aggressive, wanton and temperamental. If she grows angry, look out — a frenzied Bagheera lays waste to
everything around her. Like the goddess Kali, she becomes a cyclone of destruction. Even the Simba steer clear of a panther's wrath. Bagheera are perhaps the most well-traveled cats of all. Curious and scholarly, they enjoy new experiences and take advantage of modern conveniences to wander as much of the earth as possible. Most panthers go through three distinct phases in their lives: .
the o/cari, or "searching"; the pourra, or "foundation"; and the doyala, or "passing on." During the first, a werepanther revels in her new identity. Anything she cares to do, she will do with total abandon. The second phase is one of calm and contemplation. The cat finds a serious mate, raises a family and sees to their well-being. Many Bagheera set up semi permanent homes in their pourra phase, and establish libraries and networks of friends. Finally, the cat reaches the doyala stage, where she shares the wisdom and lore she's discovered in her youth. A Bagheera never really stops moving, but she tends to bond more closely with her community than most Bastet do. Supposedly, the Bagheera were originally supposed to fill an arbitrator's role in Bastef society. Although the post never materialized (much to the panthers' relief), they still carry a collective authority in their bearing.
Perhaps it's the Bagheera temperament — calm and relaxed by Bastet standards — or the caste-oriented cultures from which many of them come. In any case, a werepanther, it is said, can be counted upon to be fair, honorable and wise. So long as one stays on her good side. The Arthashastra says "Government is the science of punishment. " The Bagheera certainly live by that rule. Panthers tolerate a lot of free-spirited behavior, but serious crimes (rape, cannibalism, oathbreaking, etc.) warrant stern justice. Outlaws — human, cat and Bastet alike —
find themselves hunted by Bagheera war parties. Like the possesif the Old West, these taklah gather quickly, bring a target to bavjils patch it and disperse. The quarry is judged by a combination of Gifts and intimidation. If he's innocent, the group's leader turns the taklah around to apprehend the real culprit. If he's guilty, the panthers often kill him on the spot. At the very least, the offender is branded (often with an Exile Rite)
and sent on his way. Some Bagheera practice justice as a vocation, and travel the world hunting down criminals of all three species.
Truly outrageous crimes have provoked massacres led by leopard-men and screaming black panthers. In recent years, the tribe has run afoul of Pentex,
and this has cost the cats — badly. Even the largest werecat tribe is no match for Corruption, Incorporated.
As a rule, a Bagheera is generous, trustworthy, playful and fair. Stye's slow to rage, but when she does, nothing but total destruction will satisfy her.
The greatest werepanthers can call up Gifts that turn them into huge, multiarmed killing machines, and even foung ones can drop a Cape buffalo with a good hard swipe. "Vishnu birthed the cat, Uma stroked it and Kali set it in motion" is a common expression. Although most Khan claim it applies to them, the Bagheera certainly fit the bill.
Like their feline Kin, Bagheera range from Africa to southeast Asia. The greatest number of the tribe, which may claim as many as 500 members
worldwide, settle in the jungles and cities of India. Before they reach pourra, however, most panthers rove widely, gathering gossip for later life.
Culture arib Kinfolk
Raised among Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, tribal cultures and Catholics, most Bagheera have very strict ideals of honor. A youngster is expected to be a little wild, but there are rules, even for Bastet. The Litany is taken very seriously by Bagheera elders, and cats who spit on it are punished quickly and without mercy. Bastet This sense of justice marks relations between the panthers and their Kin. Humans across India and Africa still go into the jungles at night to find werecat lovers, and they revere the children as gifts from Heaven. Four great societies — the Ambari Macho, Chui Mal, Beral Meye and Leopard Men of Chupa — worship the panther and leopard as deities. Many Bagheera Kinfolk come from these societies, although modern Folk
choose lovers from across the world.
In the wild, leopards are the most common wild cats alive; between the zoos, preserves, jungles and plains, Bagheera have no trouble finding feline mates. Thus, the tribe enjoys a healthy mix of homids and felines, with almost no metis members.
Bagheera remain very loose; most lower-ranking panthers remain in touch with their elders, and often respect any advice or command she might give. Other than that, the cats are left to their own devices unless a war cry sounds. This summons, often conveyed by spirits or through Kinfolk networks, calls a war party together. The Bagheera of highest Rank leads the group, judges the accused and decides the punishment. Such calls used to take weeks to assemble, but modern communications allow most elders to call a hunt in a day or so.
A Bagheera who responds to a war cry agrees to do as she's told; she may sometimes dispute a judgment, but most cases favor the elder. After disastrous fights with Black Tooth, Pentex and the Nagha-Rackbur Khan, the tribe has put a moratorium on large-scale cries unless some disaster threatens. The tribe has lost too many members in recent years to risk more one-sided battles..
Secrets Sought Top
Bagheera prefer learning cultural lore, supernatural puzzles, languages and political gossip. Their innate sense of honor keeps most away from forbidden occult research, although some Bagheera cultivate
• Bagheera sleep deeply during the New Moon. Once they slumber, nothing short of violence can awaken them.
• Make a trail of salt; a panther will follow it from beginning to end without stopping.
• Blessing a leopard's prey with Aabhaya (a hand gesture meaning "protection") will force the cat to flee unless his rage is just.
The Bagheera are sleek and graceful Folk. While the majority of them have black fur in their cat-forms, some African members of the tribe have spots and yellow-brown fur instead. For some reason, the black line runs truer in women than in men, while the yellow-leopard genes run stronger in males.
An exceedingly rare bloodline has the tricolor markings of the clouded leopard of southeast Asia; these markings favor neither sex — they're just plain rare. Bagheera heads (in cat-forms) tend to be flat and boxy; in human form, they often have strong cheekbones and prominent noses. A werepanther's eyes are said to be the wisest among catkind — even the youngest of them appears to be deep in contemplation. Of all werecats, the Bagheera are perhaps the most attractive — they're choosy when picking their mates, and have very good genes on both sides. Many favor the arts and sciences, and enjoy high-tech toys or the performing arts. As world travelers, they dress however they please; some prefer the simple garments of Indian villagers,
while others love ostentatious eastern designs or comfortable western fashions.
Their choice of weapon and ornaments are likewise eclectic — if making generalizations about werecats is hard, making them about Bagheera fashion choices is impossible.
Str:+l Dex: +1 Sta: +2 Man: -1 App:-l
Crinos Chatro Feline
Str: +3 Str: +2 Str:+l
Dex: +3 Dex: +3 Dex: +3
Sta: +3 Sta: +3 Sta: +2
Man: -3 Man: -3 Man: -3
App:0 App: -2
Our wisdom is older than the Brahmans, more ancient than the sutras. We have seen the Aryans, the Greeks, the Mughals and the British pass through,
and we have been unmoved. In the First Days, we learned our place under Heaven: to observe, to destroy and to usher the soul to its next life's destiny.
• Balam: They are wiser than their fury suggests. Listen to them in good spirits and watch the visions they bring.
• Bubasti: Creatures of Cahlash. They bargained their souls away long ago, and cannot be trusted.
• Ceilican: It's said their kind is dead, but I am not certain. Every so often, a breeze carries their scent. I've met impostors that claim to be of our own tribe. Are these Ceilican? Anything is possible.
• Khan: Our cousins are honorable Folk, but they need to curb their rage. It weakens them.
• Pumonca: I cannot trust anyone so landless. They believe they walk alone upon the earth, but they are wrong.
• Qualmi: Wise liars and grand tricksters.
• Simba: Long ago, I've heard, they were noble. Not now. We lost many good cousins to Black Tooth and his brood, and all their race must wear his shame.
• Swara: I've never spoken to one long enough to learn much, but I've heard they keep the sacred places safe. That is enough to earn my respect.