The Shadow Cat Geographic Location in Enthion | World Anvil
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The Shadow Cat

Trigger Warning: The legend of the shadow cat involves a male criminal and a female victim with themes of suicide and loss.

The Meridian Trail winds through the foothills of Mt. Arikan. It's fairly well-traveled, but it's not a major thoroughfare by any stretch of the imagination. It connects the small coastal town of Niris with the inland town of Kerivale, all within the freehold of Nineday. It serves, primarily, to balance local trade and provide goods, each to the other, avoiding the higher costs for shipping tacked on if the goods have to make a wider circuit. For the most part, then, fish and textiles travel from Niris to Kerivale, and iron products, especially nails used by shipwrights and carpenters, travel from Kerivale to Niris. The trail is also a scenic wonder, winding through hills and over gorges and canyons. It is beloved by hikers, and in several places, the trail splits, offering more direct passage for traders and more scenic passage for hikers.

One of those scenic splits is called the 'shadow split' or Shadow Cat Pass, though it's informal and none of the splits have any official designation beyond Meridian Trail A (hiking) and Meridian Trail B (trade route). Most maps don't even bother with that, as the trail is the same trail more than 2/3 of the way. In any case, Shadow Cat Pass is so named for the eponymous Shadow Cat, a massive hunk of granite rising up on a wooded swell above the trail. It's unclear if it looks like a cat by accident of time and fate or if something or someone intentionally shaped it. It's smooth enough to believe it's natural, but it's so uncannily like a cat sitting regally with one eye on the trail that it's easy enough to believe it was, at some point, worked of the stone to achieve that appearance.

Legend tells of a house cat traveling with its owner, an unusually energetic and athletic cat that regularly managed the pass without much trouble and hunted for its food along the way. A large black cat with a white star on his chest, the cat was named Rosco and loved his owner, an elven exile who had settled into a peaceful life in Niris on the coast after whatever ignominy drove her there. Her name was Genevieve, and she was known for her exceedingly good looks, her kindness, and her gullibility, the combination of which had spelled trouble for her before. A man who introduced himself as a trader stopped to talk with her on the trail and offered her a gift, a pendant which she reached out for, but as soon as Rosco could see the offered pendant, he snarled and attacked. The startled man disappeared in a crackle of dark energy, and the pouncing cat disappeared into the portal as it closed. From there, versions of the legend vary. Some say Genevieve used the pendant to find a way to the shadow realm, hunting the man and trying to get her cat back. Others say the pendant, cursed, drove Genevieve insane when she wore it and led to years of pain and blaming herself prior to a lonely suicide. A happier version also exists, wherein Genevieve looks for Rosco for years until one day he just reappears on her doorstep without explanation, but some believe that it isn't actually Rosco who returns.

The end result is a trail that both draws and repels people, a massive rock that may or may not be a statue, a local reverence for cats, and unfortunately, some disdain for black cats from those who believe the shadow man supplanted Rosco's soul with his own. Teens in the area regularly dare each other to camp by the granite cat, and stories of dubious authenticity cats seen in the area, people appearing and disappearing in the shadows, and shrieks commonly associated with Genevieve, some mystic echo of her sorrow.

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Cover image: Castle by jameschg


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