Bubasti, also known as Shadowcats, are the werecats of Egypt.
The mystics of catkind, they are a shy and secretive race. They are, however, among the most social of the Bastet, and they tend to work closely with one another in most of their endeavors. The Bubasti were cursed long ago by the ancient vampire deity Set, and as a result, their lives are forever tied to the soils of Khem, their ancestral home. It is said that if all of the Bubasti of a given generation leave Egypt, that generation will be the last. None know the truth of this rumor, but none care to test it, either.
Like all Bastet, the Bubasti are bound by a Yava. These secrets are so deeply guarded that even the Tekhmet don't know them. The passing of the Yava occurs at the second rank for Bubasti, and involves blood oaths before the kheper.
- When all immortals of the tribe are slain, the tribe itself will die with them.
- The Black Soil of Khem is forever tied to the tribe; if all Bubasti in a generation flee the land, they will be the last of their kind.
- Bubasti are always hungry. Though no amount of food or drink will ease their craving, and they will always eat what's put before them.
The Bubasti trace themselves back to Cymaa, the original guardian of the lands of Khem by the grace of Luna. Kin to the great Kyphur cats, the first primitive humans worshipped Cymaa for hunting the children of Rat and keeping them safe. The Bubasti found a liking for the humans and began to tutor some of them in the mystickal arts. Bubastis, the city of cats, was erected to commemorate the union between the wizard-priests of Khem and the Bubasti.
Change began with the arrival of Osiris and the vampire Set, who brought with them their feud. Osiris's consort, Isis, was a powerful magician, rumored to be Kinfolk of the Bubasti by some. She convinced the Bubasti to join the Osirian League and to fight against the spawns of Set. However, after Set had cursed and driven away the Silent Striders, he turned his gaze to Bubastis. The city was plundered and and the cat Kinfolk were taken captive or killed by the Followers of Set. The Bubasti were forced to watch as the Followers of Set turned their Kin into ghouls and their curse unfolded: Eternal Hunger, both for secrets and for food.
The Bubasti maintain that they were charged from their creation with the task of guarding the mystics who walked among the humans, ensuring that they did not fall to the temptations of Asura. With the growth of humanity and the plague of Set's curse, however, these werecats have had to change their focus in order to survive. Now they tend to be scholars and researchers, devotees of all things arcane, constantly working behind the scenes in an effort to sabotage the darker forces in the world through indirect means. Many denizens of the World of Darkness count them as potential contacts or allies, even though they rarely take direct action against anyone.
The feud of the Bubasti with the Followers of Set is rather one-sided as the vampires still are in possession of the ghouled ancestors of the tribe. The Bubasti are determined to free them, even as they occasionally partake in deals with the Clan of the Snake to see their ancestors or even mate with them.
Bubasti culture is centered around their curse of hunger; a Bubasti can eat several table's worth of food without gaining weight and their minds yearn for secrets and knowledge, mystical or mundane, to comprehend. After the capture of the original Kinfolk, the tribe was forced to breed with lesser cats, such as the servals and caracals. However, weird magical rites, including experiments with vampires blood and enchanted human "hosts," have bred feline offspring from human mothers. Horrifying tales of women giving birth to cats in Cairo delivery rooms attest to the success of such experiments.
From birth, the Bubasti tend to be very quiet children. Books and questions are their passion, and they eat like there's no tomorrow. Most shadow cats are born to rich, scholarly families, but a growing number have come from the gutters. Until recently, they were a sickly tribe, mentally impressive but physically frail from their 2000 years of inbreeding. The millennia of Egyptian blood was given a shot to the arm when, in the 1800s, Napoleon's troops came through; the English and German occupations added another ethnic mix to the tribe's stagnant genes.
For Bastet, this tribe is fairly unified. Six elders, called kheper, maintain sanctums deep in the bowels of Egypt's large cities, and they meet once a year. Estimates vary; according to common wisdom with in the tribe, 52 Bubasti exist across the world. The kheper try to keep close watch on those they know of, at such number, every cousin is important. Although the kheper do not issue orders per se, their younger cousins know better than to refuse direct request of a very powerful Bastet.
During the height of the Bubasti's influence, the tribe worked as a fairly unified group, meeting every full moon in the necropolis and celebrating terrible rites in the Temple of Bast. Each year, human celebrants joined the cats for a wild festival which lasted from late April to early May. Both normal cats and larger Kyphurs were revered as sacred beasts, and their devotees flung themselves at the vampires and their agents. Allied spirits filled the night, scourging the bloodsuckers with pains and plagues. The eldest Bubasti (who, according to legend, received eternal life during that powerful age) recall those days fondly. Every so often, they speak of a gathering of Shadowcats and allies that will fill the streets of Cairo and return Egypt to its former glory. If the elders are as old and as patient as they claim to be, they might have set events in motion that could unite the tribe after all. Only time will tell this tale. In the meantime, the shadowcats lie still, emerging every so often to take a tidbit for their ever-present hunger.