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The Mrem are descended from cats, just as humans share an ancestor with apes. Which brings up the question as to why would any carnivore need intelligence. Squishy, tasty humans needed to evolve brains in order to find dinner and not be it. But with tooth and claw, why be smart too?

The ancestors of the Mrem faced just as great a challenge as we hairless apes did. It occurred simply because there are few asteroids in their solar system. Asteroids? Huh? Going a bit astray here? Actually it is straightforward. With no asteroid hits, there would be no great extinctions and the age of reptiles would never have really ended. Given tens of millions of extra years one of the descendants of the first reptiles would have reacted to their own fierce competitiveness by very slowly developing both their own kind of intelligence and more. Other creatures, even herd animals, would too have needed to develop better defenses and had time to do so. Mammals would have evolved, too, but always under pressure from the cold-blooded, reptilian Liskash.

The Liskash ruled unchallenged for literally millions of years. They developed a basically static society based upon local dominance by the mentally most powerful male. Then came the ice ages. In the colder northern plains, useless and ignored by the Liskash, the Mrem evolved from pack hunters to intelligence. At first the Liskash were slow to react. They saw the furry upstarts mostly as a source of slightly more superior slaves, and occasionally food. The Mrem fought back, as pack hunting cats would, forming fiercely independent clans.

At the end of the current ice age there are hundreds of Mrem clans all competing for the same limited grazing lands. The clans rarely cooperated. The population grew much faster than the glaciers retreated. There came a time when there was not enough land to support all the clan’s herds. Clans who could not keep or take grazing land starved. The battles between clans were fierce. So vicious that some clans chose to face the Liskash, living demons, and move south.

Then the entire world literally changed. A massive valley—picture our Mediterranean Sea as a dry basin—has sat through the now ending ice age as a warm, lush and Liskash controlled jungle. Some of the valley is hundreds of feet below sea level. Mrem tribes, the most aggressive or those driven out, have begun to also live in this valley. Some have even emerged to the cooler steppes south of it. But as the ice melts the seas are rising and in the east the great ocean finds an opening.

Suddenly a wall of water surges as the small width of land that had been holding the rising ocean out quickly erodes away. Within days the jungle becomes a sea. Tens of thousands of Mrem and hundreds of thousands of Liskash die. Those clans trapped south of the new sea find themselves outnumbered by Likash lords that have ruled there since beyond memory. The Clan of the Claw begins what was to be known as the Great Trek. Their only hope for survival as other than brain-dazed slaves is to march around this new sea and return to the Mrem-controlled northern steppes. Forced to cooperate, the other clans join them in the march or wait to join and assist in keeping the way open. The Trek and what the Mrem learn from it change their culture forever, starting them on the road to civilization.

This is the story of the Great Trek.

—Bill Fawcett

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