The Cedi, or "Apecat", is a rather unusual creature of the Plains of Zhun. Combining some of the best traits of apes and cats in one animal, this versatile creature can both annoy and amuse those it meets with its antics, but can also be a steadfast ally if it so chooses. It is commonly classified as a cat, rather than an ape, although the debate on this matter rages on amongst scholars versed in fauna-lore until this very day.
From a small distance, the Cedi Apecat appears as nothing but a fairly large
housecat, about nine to ten
palmspan in length, frolicking in the fertile Fields of Zhun. With a dusty
brown coat splattered with a marvelous golden line pattern unique to each
individual, they blend in exceptionally well amongst the grassy vegetation. It
must be mentioned that young Apecats are a pale grey in colour, a hue so easily
recognised it has been named "Cedi Grey". As a result, the young are more easily
spotted, and require constant vigilance of the adults, even though the Cedi has
no common predators of note. Their fur turns from grey to brown during their
second summer, after which a Cedi can be considered an adult.
When seen up close, several definitely un-catlike features draw the eye that clarify the name "Apecat":
First and foremost of these is the Cedi's prehensile tail. It is always exactly the same length as the body, and is used by the animal to grab items, seek support, and communicate with others of its kind either by using it as a signal indicating their mood, or by using it as a means to seek physical contact. Often an Apecat can be seen devouring some kind of prey up a tree, holding the meal wrapped in its tail and carefully dissecting it with its paws. (As they are notoriously reluctant to eat fur or feathers.)
Second, there is the muzzle which is, contrary to most cats, not 'pushed up', but rather elongated, with a longer, pink, nose than is usual for cats. The snout is smooth, and the fur is quite short, just barely long enough to cover the skin. On older Cedi, it is not uncommon to see a receeding hairline here, further enhancing the likeness between Apecats and true apes. The snout is also quite expressive, although it would be unwise to assume that a Cedi's expressions have the same meaning as similar ones on a human face.
The eyes are a deep eophran brown, with myriads of scattered tiny green specks, and have a characteristic greenish-white glow at night, which has scared more than one nightly traveler witless as they encountered a Cedi on its midnight stroll. They are often called "expressive", and seem to portray the Apecat's emotions much like human eyes tend to do.
The Cedi has reasonably long legs for a cat-like being, which helps it to maneuver the tangle of unkempt grasses and weeds that cover most of the wild Plains of Zhun. It is a very powerful jumper, able to leap more than a ped into the air from a standing position, and even more when it can make some speed beforehand.
Apecats have large, triangular ears with a small line of long, white fur along the outer rim of each. They are quite flexible, and are used to indicate the Cedi's mood to others of its kind. Although humans can learn to interpret ear stance with some effort, it is never a good idea to place too much importance upon such a fickle trait.
Its paws also deserve special attention. Unlike normal cats, the Cedi has thumbs, and is therefore able to grab objects without using their claws to gain a firm hold. it is not as flexible as, for instance, a thumb, but it enables the Cedi to manipulate rather small objects with precision, a skill their feline relatives lack. All digits of the paws are equipped with short but sharp retractable claws. While even the longest of these does not exceed a nailsbreadth in width, they are curved downwards and fairly thick, making the Cedi capable of inflicting serious slash wounds upon a prey or enemy.
The main special ability of the Cedi Apecats is also one of the traits that gave
them their name. Their tail, whilst looking quite ordinary for a cat, is
actually fully prehensile, and can be used to drag things along, anchor the
cat whilst sleeping on a branch, rescue cublings
from tight situations, and so on.
Whilst they appear to be frivolous and carefree creatures, one should not underestimate the Cedi's sharp senses or intelligence. They know every rock and tree in their territory (or every person and street, if they live with humans), and immediately notice any changes thereof. Would this change involve a threat, a remarkable transformation takes place, as the Apecat suddenly becomes very quiet, almost disappearing into the background as it either makes for safety, or stalks the invading being without making as much as a sound. Many people who absent-mindedly wandered near a fresh litter have found their face suddenly assaulted by an Apecat dropping from an overhanging branch, or simply rising from the grass to claw its way up along their legs, the former being a technique also used for hunting which has been humorously named "Death from Above" by Apecat enthusiasts.
Territory. Apecats can be found all over the plains of Zhun, even penetrating the large cities such as Cusca, Hostar, Kimbar and the like from time to time (Marmarra being a notable exception). They are also sometimes spotted within the fringes of the Jungles of Shar, but rarely do they stay for more than a few days in such an alien environment before they head back to the open plains they are accustomed to.
Secondly, 'tame' Cedi can be found as far north as the Municipen Di Fa, and as far east as the Aca-Santerran east coast. However, there are no reports of wild populations forming in these areas.
Habitat/Behaviour. Cedi Apecats are serious animals. They can, and often will, devote themselves to a single cause or task once they are certain it needs doing, and are quite capable of working with their whole group as a team to accomplish their goals, be it in hunting, digging a new burrow, or raising their young. However, they also enjoy spending their free time with frivolous play and relaxation, something that often leads people to underestimate their abilities and tendency to construct intricate tactics to get where they want to be.
As a social animal, the Cedi spends much time simply reinforcing their bonds with the family and troupe by grooming, play, and simply being close to one another. This is possibly one of the reasons they like spending time with humans, as few can resist stroking, cuddling or petting the Cedi when it looks up at them with large, pleading eyes.
The Cedi has no set rituals or patterns when it comes to hunting prey or defending their burrow and territory, instead their habits seem to differ from time to time and from troupe to troupe, as they adapt their methods to suit the situation. There are reports from Apecats cracking seashells such as gnackers for the flesh, robbing eggs from high-up nests with their tail, even distracting serpents with a branch held by the tail, in order to avoid being bitten when attempting to kill it.
Diet. Apecats eat just about anything they can get their paws on. Their diet ranges from rats and small birds to insects, fruits, and even grains and other healthful seeds. They prefer to hunt or otherwise feed at dusk and dawn, when their coats render them nigh-invisible and their prey is either about to fall asleep, or barely awake yet. Cedi living with humans readily adapt to feed off whatever their 'owner' might be eating, and many of these apecats have no qualms against taking whatever they feel like from storage rooms or kitchens, leading to the Zhunite expression "A Cedi in the Cupboard" indicating an unexpected, yet fairly humorous setback or accident.
Mating. Cedi mate in late summer, during the warm Zhunite nights that are so typical for the region. The females go in heat around this time, and their scent will attract males from all directions. The female is not particularly fussy when it comes to picking a partner. They will mate with several males throughout the following three to five nights, often finding multiple partners each night. By next spring, the females will produce a litter of between one and six blind and naked cublings, hidden safely underground in a communal burrow used by several females at the same time. The females take turns in guarding the entrance of this lair against anything that might want to enter, be it humans, myrmex, or other Cedi, and the remaining females usually tend to the cublings of the guards as well. The young drink from their mother for six weeks, during which they grow a smooth, pale grey fur and open their eyes. During the last few days of their stay in the burrow, the female on guard is often more occupied with dragging the curious cublings back down into the main chamber than actually watching for dangerous visitors.
Once the young are 'released', they will start to explore their surroundings intimately, already showing the characteristic universal curiosity that seems to drive the adults to endlessly roam the vast plains of Zhun.
Usages. A Cedi makes a great pet, provided one can win its trust. They are perpetually cheerful, completely loyal to their owner as long as they are treated with care, and have the uncanny ability to accurately read the mood of people around them and cheer them up with some antics when needed. A downside of keeping a female Cedi however, is their tendency to find a mate amongst wild apecats given half a chance during the mating season and return from their romantic endeavours carrying a litter of cublings, which can result in a whole colony of these furry creatures accumulating over the years in one's back yard. Fortunately, these young are ever popular amongst your friends and neighbours, and many of them will become attached to one particular human and leave their mother.
Apecat fur is warm and soft, but once removed from the original owner, loses its capacity to withstand rain rather quickly, making it useful for ornamental purposes only. However, many Zhunites frown upon the slaughter of their furry friends for this purpose, making Cedi fur rarely used. A notorious exception to this is the Citystate of Marmara. As Marmarans generally prefer animals such as the lisdra serpent for pets rather than the more warm and cuddly Apecat, high-ranking nobles of Marmaran origins often have a few pieces in their wardrobe lined with the soft, warm pelt of these cats.
Researchers. The Nybelmarian scholar Miraran Tehuriden is said to have befriended a wild Apecat during a visit to his Marmaran colleague and friend Decipher Ziron. Fascinated by cats in general, as they are notoriously absent in the Kaerath region, he took it back home to the Drifting Woods upon completion of his visit. He has reported it to be a favoured playmate for the younger Tehuriden, and claims it has adopted the Tehuriden community as a whole as its family.