|Destiny of the Clans Series|
|Preceded by: |
|Falling Down||Succeded by: |
A dark tortoiseshell she-cat limped forwards through the snow. Her sides were stained scarlet and as she struggled on she left little drops of blood behind her. As she came into a pool of moonlight it became visible that she only had one eye. The other eye had been ripped from its socket. She looked odd in the darkness, with only one glowing amber eye, but that was an old injury. It had happened moons ago when she had first met Aidan.
She had been stalking a mouse by the lake when she had heard rustling in a nearby bramble bush. Turning around she had seen two glowing green eyes and then a well-muscled tom stepped out. Her eyes had lingered on his missing front leg but she managed to ignore it.
“Who are you?” she snarled. “This is my territory you know.” The ginger tabby hissed, the fur on his back rippling, his claws unsheathing. The she-cat stared for a second as his lips curled to show his teeth. He looked terrifying.
“I go where I want, thank you very much,” growled the tom, taking a step forwards. The she-cat moved closer too. Her fur was on end now, teeth bared and claws unsheathed, ready for battle. She crouched down to the forest floor, studying him closely. The tom copied. She leaped to the side, an instant too late. The tom had pinned her to the ground and was raking her belly fur with thorn-sharp claws. She let out a cry of pain and tried to throw him off. He was surprisingly strong, despite his missing leg. She tried again and again, but it was half-hearted. She was beginning to tire. The tom could sense it. He became more gentle and was about to back off when she leaped upwards. His claws slipped and slashed her eye. The she-cat howled in agony as her eye was taken out. Dizzy with pain she staggered around for a bit until the tom pressed against her side, supporting her.
“I’m so sorry!” he gasped, and she could actually feel the shock coming off of him. “I didn’t mean to...” She was trembling furiously, her vision was blurred.
“Its fine,” she meowed, her voice much higher than usual and shaking slightly. “I shouldn’t have gotten up like that.”
“Look, I’ll get you to shelter and make up for that mouse you almost had,” he meowed. “I’m Aidan by the way.”
“I’m Tawny,” she replied and let him carry her to safety.
Now Tawny was desperately searching through the blizzard. She knew she couldn’t make it much further; if she could just find Aidan...
Then she saw him, hurrying towards her. His green eyes were wide as they ran along her injured body. He pressed himself to her side and Tawny let herself fall into him.
“What where you doing?” Aidan demanded with a hint of a snarl in his voice. “What do you think you were doing, endangering yourself and the kits?” Tawny sighed. She was deeply regretting the thought of going out had ever crossed her mind. If only she had left it to Aidan and the others...
“I’m sorry,” she meowed tiredly. “I just didn’t think.”
“I know you didn’t!” snapped Aidan. “Now come. Bolta and Utri are waiting up ahead.” Tawny swayed slightly.
“What about the others?” she asked. “Are they all right?”
“Rory has sprained his paw and Lido has torn a claw but the rest are all right,” Aidan assured her. Tawny nodded and padded onwards. She could just make out the silhouettes of Bolta and Utri up ahead. Utri looked terrified, swinging around at the slightest sound. Bolta just sat still, staring ahead at nothing. Utri leaped forwards as Tawny and Aidan approached them.
“Are you both okay?” he demanded. Aidan nodded calmly. Utri relaxed slightly.
“I’ve been so worried!” he cried. “Can we go now? It creeps me out to be in the dark when it’s snowing. You can’t see or scent anything!” Aidan nodded and Bolta padded to Tawny’s other side and pressed against her. Tawny let them carry her back to the old abandoned two-leg nest where they lived. They went single file through the crack in the wall and then Bolta and Aidan carried her up the steps to one of the rooms. Lily and Smudge sat sharing tongues on the window-ledge; Rory was licking his paw tenderly underneath them while Lido and Angel were curled up on the old cobwebbed sofa. Utri and Bolta went to join Lido and Angel while Aidan and Tawny curled up together on the armchair. Aidan began to lap soothingly at Tawny’s blood-stained fur and before she knew it she was fast asleep.
“They’re coming!” Tawny cried. Lily and Angel purred calmingly. Lily put her paw upon Tawny’s stomach and felt. A moment later Tawny scented a warm, new, milky smell and Angel put a tiny kitten in front of her nose. Tawny began to lap it and very soon it began to breathe. She purred in delight and rubbed her cheek against it. Very soon Angel gave her another kitten. She did the same.
“Oh,” gasped Lily suddenly. Tawny pricked her ears and craned her neck to look at the pale she-cat. Something was wrong... “I’m sorry Tawny...” Lily sighed. “These two are still-born.” Tawny felt a wave of grief and tried hard not to wail. How could she be upset about two kits she didn’t even know? But at the same time... Lily gave her the two dead kits. One was a ginger tom, the other a smoky grey she-cat. Tawny stared at them for a while and then began to clean their fur.
“Shall I get Aidan?” Angel asked. “I think that’s it.” Tawny said nothing, still lapping the two tiny kittens’ fur.
“No,” she decided. “Tell him I’ve gone outside and I’ll be back in a moment. Say nothing about the dead kittens. I’ll bury them.” Tawny picked up the two dead kittens and padded outside on unsteady paws. She was unbelievably tired, but this was important. It had to be done. She set down the kits on the snow and began to dig a hole. She didn’t stop when she reached the grass. No fox will get my kits. Soon she had a deep hole. She picked up the first kit, the tom, and set him down at the bottom. Tawny grasped the other kit in her jaws and was about to lay her down when she squirmed in her mouth and gave a huge squeak. Tawny quickly put the she-cat back down on the snow and nosed the tom. It was stone cold. Even if it had been alive it was dead now. She began to put the earth and snow back over the hole. Tawny picked up the she-cat and hurried back inside. This kit needed warmth. And quickly...
Bolta watched Cleo, Spike and Jay play with a pang of sadness. Tawny was so lucky to have such beautiful kits and Aidan. Bolta shook her head as memories began to rise in her mind. She turned and padded to the top of the staircase were Lido already sat. Her sister wrapped her tail around Bolta and purred calmingly.
“Utri and Rory were wondering if you wanted to go hunting,” Lido mewed. When Bolta shook her head she added gently, “It might take your mind of things.”
“No,” Bolta meowed. “I’d rather stay inside.”
“You know,” Lido mewed. “You could be like Tawny some day.” Bolta snorted.
“What, with one eye and a whole lot of scars?” she meowed. “No thanks.” Lido let out an exasperated sigh, shaking her head.
“No,” she meowed. “I mean Utri.” Bolta stared at Lido. Utri? What had Tawny got to do with Utri? “If you paid attention, you’ll see,” Lido told her. She got to her paws and leaped down the stairs. Bolta watched until her white tail tip disappeared outside. She was still confused. Utri? she kept asking herself. Deciding to forget about him, Bolta followed Lido down the stairs and headed into one of the rooms. It was dark, cobwebbed and smelt musty but at least it was empty. At last she was alone with her thoughts. But was that what she wanted? Bolta shuddered as images kept popping up at the back of her mind. Images of Henry and Flora and Finn... She closed her eyes. It was too much for her to take. She curled up in the corner and let sleep lap over her like a wave.
It was morning when Bolta woke. Her fur was ruffled and cold and she realised she had fallen asleep by a hole in the wall. Bolta lay awake staring into the old and ragged room. Her dreams had been haunted by nightmares just like every other night. But at least she had been able to sleep for a little while. Yawning hugely, she scrabbled to her paws and stretched.
As she came away from the hole, frosty sunlight filtered through it, dimly lighting the room and warming her fur. Bolta padded carefully out into the hallway. She could hear Tawny’s kittens mewls and shrieks from upstairs.
“Come on Jay!” Spike was calling. “Come on Jay, or you’re a mouse!”
“No way!” Jay replied, her voice high in fear. “I could die!” Bolta pricked her ears. What, that was upstairs, could possible kill Jay? She took the stairs two at a time and stopped at the top.
“Scaredy mouse!” taunted Spike. “Scaredy mouse!” Jay kept on protesting and finally Bolta understood. Spike was daring Jay to jump out of the window! She lunged forwards towards the voices.
“Stop!” she yowled. Bolta skidded to a halt in front of Spike. She puffed out her fur, unsheathed her claws and drew back her lips to show her teeth. Spike squealed in alarm and leaped back, terrified at the sight of Bolta so furious. Bolta let a growl escape her jaws and she jumped across the room to pick up Jay. The tiny she-cat was crouching by the open window. She looked like a limp bundle of smoky grey fur. Bolta carried her out of the room and into the other. This room was full of sunlight, but still just as dusty as all the others. Aidan, Tawny, Lido and Rory all sat on the same sofa. They looked up as Bolta padded in, eyes narrowed and Jay hanging from her jaws.
“You should keep a closer eye on your kits,” Bolta growled, dropping Jay in front of the sofa. Jay leaped up and hid in her mother’s fur.
“What did you do to her?” Tawny hissed, glaring across at Bolta. Bolta held her glare.
“It wasn’t me, it was Spike,” Bolta replied. “He tried to make her jump out of the window.” Tawny continued to glare. She obviously didn’t believe the truth.
“Why don’t you ask Jay,” suggested Rory. He looked down kindly at Jay. “What happened?”
“It was Spike,” meowed Jay simply. Bolta nodded and stalked out of the room. She needed fresh-air. Brushing through the crack in the wall, Bolta padded out into the snow. She kept going until she reached the crumbling wall. There was a cat there. It was definitely a she-cat. She was a pretty grey tabby with delicate white paws and tip of the tail. Bolta would have thought this cat was a kittypet; it had no scars and did not look as if it could catch so much as a mouse, if she had not been so skinny. Every one of her ribs showed beneath her thick grey coat. Bolta approached her cautiously. The she-cat turned before Bolta had reached her.
“Who are you?” she demanded, slightly cautious. “Are you one of Death’s followers?” Bolta narrowed her eyes.
“If I was would I tell you?” she asked. The she-cat stiffened, her fur rising. “But I’m not,” Bolta assured her, slightly amused. “I’ve never even heard of Death.”
“I’m Bella,” the she-cat meowed. Her clear green eyes swept across Bolta. “Who are you?”
“I’m Bolta,” she told the she-cat. Bella blinked as if the name stirred something. “I live just over there.” Bolta flicked her tail towards the old two-leg nest.
“I live nowhere,” Bella meowed and turned to leave. Bolta felt a stab of sympathy for the pretty grey tabby. She knew what it was like to be unwanted, to have nowhere to go.
“You can shelter with me and the other cats that live in there,” Bolta blurted out. “There’s plenty of space.” Bella turned and leaped back onto the wall, green eyes glowing. A rumbling purr rose from her throat.
“Thank you!” she cried. Bolta nodded, she beckoned with her tail for Bella to follow her. She began to trudge through the snow, Bella panting behind her. They soon came to the crack in the wall; she ducked down and crawled through. Bella was so small she didn’t have to duck, she just padded through easily. Bolta leaped up the stairs to find the others. They were still in the sunlit room.
“Hey guys,” Bolta purred. Lido and Rory looked up.
“What put you in such a good mood?” Lido asked, looking amused. Before she had time to answer Bella appeared at the doorway.
“Hello,” she mewed shyly. Rory’s eyes widened at the pretty she-cat. Lido whacked him with her tail and he looked away quickly. Bolta’s good mood disappeared instantly. It was replaced by hurt.
“Hi,” meowed Aidan. “And who are you?”
“I’m Bella,” Bella mewed. “Bolta said I could shelter here.” Tawny snapped her head up.
“She did, did she?” she asked. Bella backed away a few paces looking alarmed. Bolta knew it was Tawny’s one eye. Just wait until she sees Aidan’s got a missing leg!
“Well I’m Rory,” Rory mewed. “That’s Tawny and Aidan and this is Lido. Lily, Smudge, Angel and Utri have gone hunting.” Bella nodded. Bolta realised Bella’s eyes were fixed on Aidan and not Rory. Good.
If you liked Falling Down, be sure to read Shattered Hopes!