Prelude

50 years ago

“Beasts of Land, Sea and Sky! Today comes your freedom!” 

The dog raises one fist to the sky. Beneath the raised podium upon which he stands, a myriad of onlookers teem in the shadows.

“For the Duality and Their guidance!”

The crowd echoes his words.

Above him, storm clouds bring the promise of disorder. For miles beyond to the far eastern coast of Neia, Taramaca City’s characteristic skyscrapers dominate the view of the horizon. But on this day, the skies blaze orange with the spirit of insurrection.

An Imperial Dualitist church lies to the left of the courtyard, its spires set ablaze by the resident clergy. Statues of martyrs have been forcibly removed from the interior altar and thrown amongst many other artifacts looted from Hallowed Empire establishments. Their beatific faces are now covered by stickers and spray paint, never to assist in offerings again. 

“For the Republic of Taramaca and her citizens!” the dog continues. 

The bestial roar of the wind surges overhead. Amongst the screams and gunshots, acrid smoke hangs in the air. The ground is shaking with the intensity of a tectonic shift as the stampede grows. 

Never should you make the mistake of keeping a beast locked in a cage, for he shall retaliate with ten times the fury.

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Distressed by the chaos surrounding him, a lion cub stumbles onto the cobblestone. His body is covered in dirt, cuts surrounding his face. His beige fur lies in clumps, matted with blood and tears.

Only yesterday, he was living a peaceful life. His Pa had stayed at home with him, producing pamphlets that would then be passed on to Ma, who had circulated them throughout the city. 

And then, in the early hours of the morning, they’d both been arrested by an Imperial Regent. 

Of course, he understands nothing about what had happened. He’d desperately called for them both to the point where he’d nearly burned out his vocal cords. For him, there are no tears left to cry now. 

It is the first time in his life that he has seen true violence. True hopelessness. 

His kind were once revered as fearless hunters.They took over their own lands, acting as the indomitable rulers their instincts commanded them to be. 

Are they now to be the hunted?

Cold raindrops fall around him. He can see his scarred reflection in the puddles, which only makes him more ashamed of himself. Flashing lights from police cars tint the floor an unnatural shade of red. Every second, another animal falls to the floor – unconscious or dead. 

A hand touches his shoulder. The cub gasps in surprise. Though his shrunken form has fallen limp, he is barely able to pull himself to his knees.

“I – I’m sorry.” he whimpers.

“No. I understand.” says the stranger. He’d half-expected them to be a cop or even a Regent, so hearing a calm voice reassures him.

He looks up to see a brown bear around his age. The larger ursine is similarly cut and battered all over, yet wears a beaming smile on his face.

“I don’t get it,” the lion says. “how can you look at all of this and not lose hope for animalkind?”

“Because if we give up, we’ll never win.” The answer sounds so clichéd, like something that Pa would always tell him before bedtime.

A myriad of thoughts cross his mind. What would my parents want for me if they saw me in this moment?

What if they’re looking for me too?

Is it really right for me to feel like this?

“Follow me.” the bear says.

Reluctantly, he takes his new companion by the hand. He doesn’t look back. Uncaring of the fact that he’s crying even more now, he holds the other cub’s hand tightly and runs onward into the unknown.
What he doesn’t know is that from this moment, his life – and the world – changed forever.