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To the left is the sky; to the right is the cave wall. I hang suspended from the cold rock and take in the lights: violet, yellow, green, turquoise, and blue. They remind me of a city at night, although I dare not say which one: I have seen too many and their impressions have blended into one in my mind.

Then comes the Scent.

It wipes away the lights as it wafts into the cavern. With renewed strength, it occupies all my senses--sweet, alluring; it creates a fire that shoots down from my throat through my body and settles in my claws.

I consider myself a wise man--I have certainly outlived many fools. Yet still the Scent holds me in a merciless grip whenever I chance upon it. It awakens a primal urge that no number of years of civilized life can suppress. As drinking or eating, the Scent is not a matter of if, but rather of when, where, and how.

It causes a tingling that dulls the mind--or at least, the rational part of it--and awakens the predator, the wild hunter inside. Its power over me has not diminished since my early days when it made me restlessly search the Belfries--the caves beneath the frozen surface of the dwarf planet where I was hatched. I roamed in pursuit of a vague calling that was not of the mind, but rather of the memories the flesh holds, passed on from generation to generation to generation.

A strong wind blows up the jagged crags and into the mouth of the cave. The gale cools my body and it disperses the Scent and my overwhelming consciousness of it. I regain hold of my mind, and I find myself suspended still above the cave entrance. The Scent is diminished now, but I see more clearly whence it came, and what way I must go to find it.

A century has passed since my days in the Belfries, but the hunt for the Scent has come again as many times as years have passed. And I have become better at it, much better.

As I hang by my four legs, head down, a dark shape is cast against the cave’s bright lights. Unerringly, it proceeds towards the cave. It moves quickly, as if driven by a primal urge; it does not consider its surroundings as it moves--it does not see me. . .

In the Belfries, I did not succeed. I followed the Scent blindly, scurrying left and right in search of passages that led towards it. I saw nothing and I thought of nothing save how sweet the Scent lay on my tongue and how I could taste its richness in the back of my throat.

In the Belfries, I learned that the hunt for the Scent is not undertaken by one man alone: competition is fierce.

The shape now stands directly below me.

In the Belfries, I learned how to fight.

I let go, and I soar down, claw and mandible at the ready.


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