So many questions started popping up in the young traveler’s mind, did he just hear a cat speak to him? Is there an unnatural grin meeting his coming from a feline he has just met? What a bizarre and strange situation he has found himself in, but somehow he was not scared. There was no fearful thought in his mind telling him to seek help, or do run into the forest once more, as whatever beast the townsfolk have warned him about is standing right in front of him. It was not a Jabberwocky, no majestic beast that is part of the woods. It was a grinning cat like in the fairy tales. Perhaps his grin was sighted within the darkness that made people give its very Looking Glass-inspired name. Has he found a mysterious being long believed to be but a tale of fiction? There, right in front of him, stood a Cheshire cat with a wide grin upon his face, almost as if he was about to mock him for his treachery into his realm.
“I’d ask if the cat got your tongue, but my guess is you’re wondering if I am in fact real.” That was not a thought that has crossed his mind, but in a forest such as this it would not be too surprising that the fog would mess with one’s mind. “Do not fret, you’re mind is not playing tricks. You are the first in many years to attempt wandering through the forest. It’s been so long since a lost soul has found his way through here. The last one only got in a few steps before running away from me climbing the trees around him!” The strange creature seemed to enjoy that very fact, as he took a short break to lick his paws. Many would consider a cat to have a soft voice given their rather majestic stance and rather isolated temper, but this voice was rough. There was a strong voice that would echo throughout the forest with each spoken word, almost as if it was in fact representative of every tree and creature that lived here. They were his pride and he their lion.
“May I ask your name?” he asked kindly while bowing his head in a form of respect towards the stranger in front of him. “Never thought I’d meet a talking cat with such kind manners. I go by Nero Jaeron, but you can call me Nero if you so desire.” The cat was intrigued by the name that was given to him. Nero? The man that once burned down Rome has passed down a name to a simple traveler. How many cities may he have burned down on his path to where he stands now? “Would it not be courtesy for you to tell me your name?” was his answer given to the cat before him, as he found a place to casually sit down and continue his most interesting conversation.
“My curiosity truly wasn’t paying tricks on me, you are quite an interesting one! Faced with a demonic creature, a two-tailed cat and you continue a conversation as if nothing happened. I must wonder what would make one man’s eyes so full of life not fear this situation.” He kept rambling on, as if he was a king holding a speech to a man of simple life. Lying down on the brick wall he started climbing, the gatekeeper continued his speech. “Well then, burner of cities, I was given the name Cheshire. Given my grin, it does seem quite appropriate, but I have carried this name long before I am what you see before you!”
A rather interesting detail he has revealed. Could the grinner once have been a normal cat, or was he even human? One misdeed has cursed him to this form, making him something he never wanted to become. The way he moves and the look in his glowing eyes point to quite an age, a lot of experience, but no answer to that question. “Given your name, I would assume it was given to you through resemblance? While you may share a grin, I would say it is your fur that has given you the privilege of that name.” Cheshire stood up and put his chest out with pride, almost like he was trying to make sure that Nero understood the importance of his fur. “I may be but two colours, but I do hold joy in my striped nature. It does share some duality with my own existence. Maybe I am grey with black stripes...” and before he could continue his sentence, the person he was holding a conversation with continued with “...or black with grey stripes. No matter which truth is correct, the nature of it all does seem quite interesting.”
“May I ask you what has brought you to this place?” Cheshire wondered as he stared down the man before him. “Perhaps you were seeking some form of treasure, or hidden legacy that was kept within this forest. Have the tales simply pushed your curiosity into what you could gain from traversing these ill-forgotten woods?” Nero leaned back and gave it some thought, trying to figure out what exactly was that lead him towards this place. He heard nothing about a treasure. There was no benefit to him risking his life entering a place condemned by society of being cursed. Was there others that tried to fight their way through the forest for the simple fact that something worth exploiting may be hiding out here? “Personally, I just found the stories curious and wanted to understand what truth and deception have found their way into them over the generations. I would not have guessed that the more mystical elements were in fact true...well, to some degree.”
After a short laugh, Cheshire started moving closer towards the man he was staring at all this time. “So, you only seek answers? Is that enough to keep one man motivated? I always assumed earthly desires were much more, simpler.” They both shared a laugh, as the traveler suddenly got up to inch his way towards the rather curious cat. “With the answers found, what do you intend to do now?” he asked cautiously as he was passed by with Nero staring at what was hiding beyond the gate. “Answers are not so simply found, they are not gathered. This is not the writing a thesis to uncover a substantial truth from a universal perspective. I am but a simple traveler. The answers I seek do not lead to anything, as they hold no change towards the world. My curiosity has brought me to this place, but whatever reason it holds, that is beyond my power of understanding.” A small gust of wind passed by them, as they looked into each other’s eyes. Like mirrors reflecting themselves upon each other, they could do nothing more than just grin at their bizarre situation. “Whatever understanding I cannot reach, maybe you could show me the way around these parts?” he asked, as Cheshire walked in front of him, leading him towards the village. The gatekeeper allowed him into the mysterious place he was guarding. A place that may be filled with memories, good and bad, and lost souls trapped within forgotten bricks.