NOTICE: I'm re-doing bits of the story so it may be a little jumbled for a bit!
SPOILER: Dove's not going to die! Yet... And they may be living in a cave in the mountains...
Bella – grey tabby she-cat with one white paw and green eyes
Dove – long-haired white she-cat with silvery blue eyes
Iris – slender black-furred she-cat with large amber eyes
Aisha – dark grey she-cat with blue eyes
Arianna - dark grey she-cat with one white paw and blue eyes
Lily – dark ginger she-cat with amber eyes
I stared longingly over the fence, into the forest. The forest was where my daughter lived, where my daughter and Dove lived. I had visited little Bella only once since I had given her away. It was important that Bella never knew I was her mother, no matter how much pain it brought me, no matter how much pain it brought both of us. If they ever found out that it was I who had given birth to three kits, that it was I who had fallen in love with Arran and that it was I who had broken the rules... Well, if I had told them, I probably would be dead by now.
A small breeze stirred the lush green leaves of the trees. They were tinted brown now, autumn was approaching quickly. I just hoped Dove was okay out in the forest, that she had remembered what I had taught her, what Arran had taught me. I sighed as his last words echoed in my mind.
“I’m going out now. If anything happens to me while I’m away, just lie low and remember what I taught you. Remember that I will always love you no matter what.”
“Arran-“ I had begun. He had slapped my mouth shut with his tail, quieting me.
Then he was gone.
I never had told him of my pregnancy. He had died not knowing that his three kits would be born any day. Tears welled in my eyes but I gulped them down and turned towards the stretch of moorland behind the twoleg houses. Ryan and Leah up there with Stelmaria.
Since Dove had nly had enough milk for one, my kits had had to be separated. Bella had gone to live with Dove and Ryan and Lily with Stelmaria. I knew that Dove would take care of Bella as best as she could, teaching her the skills she would need to survive.
I trusted Stelmaria with my life. That was why I gave her Ryan and Lily, since Iris had no kits. She had lived in the wild long before I had and already knew everything there was to know. Stelmaria was also Arran’s sister so she was the very best of hunters and fighters.
A slender black she-cat leaped up onto the fence beside me.
“They'll be okay,” Iris mewed, confirming my earlier thoughts. “Dove and Stelmaria know what they are doing.” I nodded.
“Yes,” I agreed. “But I will never stop missing them. I will never stop missing him.” Iris’s eyes were pools of sympathy.
“You know what they would do,” she meowed. “You know very well what they would do.” I sighed.
“They’d through me in the hollow,” I meowed. “Like they do to all the other rule-breakers and dirty-bloods.” I turned and leaped from the fence, making my way through the rows of houses, back home to Aisha. She would be wondering where I was.
Chapter One - New to the World
I could hear the birds singing outside of the bramble bush. I could hear the wind roaring, sweeping across the ground, and smell the smell of damp leaves. But yet I couldn’t see anything. I could only see darkness.
My mother’s warm body was snuggled against me, keeping me cosy. Her long, fur was mixed with mine. I breathed in her familiar scent, letting it soothe me. I wanted to open my eyes. I wanted to see, not just to smell and hear. But maybe I would just have to wait until I was a little bit older.
I went back to exploring the outside world with my weak senses.
A small creature – I think it was called a mouse – was scuffling about in the dead leaves. My mother had often brought them back to the bush to eat them.
A squirrel was nibbling at a pine cone at the foot of a tree, its bushy tail sweeping the ground, making a sound much like the wind. A bird was on a low down branch opposite the squirrel. It trilled a beautiful, high-pitched song.
The outside was magical and crawling with life. I couldn’t wait to see it all.
“Sleep Bella,” my mother’s soft voice flowed like the wind. It sounded as soft and silky as her fur. “You’ve got a big day ahead of you.” I felt my mother’s tongue rasp around my ear, felt her breath warm on my cheek. My jaws stretched in a huge yawn and I drew in her milky scent.
Suddenly I was very, very tired...
I woke to the sound of paw steps. A mouth-watering smell wafted towards me, even better than the smell of milk. I opened my mouth and drank the scent in, letting it dance on my tongue.
Suddenly I could hear my mother’s purr. The smell came closer to me and so did my mother. What was it?
“It’s a mouse, Bella,” my mother told me. “Why don’t you open your eyes and we can share it.” I wanted to sink my teeth into the mouse, to let the juicy flavour soak into my mouth.
Very slowly my eyes began to open. At first just a crack. Light almost blinded me. But I wanted to taste the mouse. I wanted to explore. Ignoring the brightness, I pulled my eyes the rest of the way open and blinked, waiting for them to adjust.
The first thing I saw was my mother. She had long, silky, silvery fur that sparkled in the sunlight and silvery blue eyes. I purred. My mother was beautiful! My eyes then floated downwards, towards the mouse at her paws. It was tiny and grey, its eyes staring lifelessly up at the bramble branches that arched above our heads.
“Come on, Bella,” my mother mewed softly. “This will be you’re first taste of proper food.” I nodded and heaved myself up onto shaky paws. Very, very slowly, I stepped forwards, my tiny legs trembling dangerously.
I soon got the hang of it and padded the rest of the way across the bush. My mother wrapped her tail around me and pushed the mouse to my nose. I gazed hungrily down at it and took my first bite.
It was delicious, a lot different from milk. I glanced up at my mother and she nodded. I took another few bites, letting the flavours dance on my tongue.
“I’ths yummy,” I tried to say. My mother purred happily.
“I know,” she mewed. “And later, you can try some other types of prey. There’s bird, squirrel, vole, shrew and rabbit and each one tastes different.” I nodded eagerly and pushed the mouse back to my mother with my paw. She looked down at me and then finished it off.
After it was all gone, my mother got to her paws and bounded across to the exit. She beckoned to me with her tail. I followed more slowly, a sudden thought popping up in my head.
“Mami,” I meowed. “Whath’s your name?” My mother turned around, her silvery eyes thoughtful.
“My name is Dove,” she told me. Dove. It was a beautiful name and suited her perfectly.
I leaped forwards, following Dove into the outside world.
A gust of icy wind hit me in the face, knocking me from my paws and onto the ground. The ground was hard and frozen. I could feel wetness slowly seeping into my fur. So far I wasn’t enjoying this.
“Mami!” I cried. “Wait up!”
Dove turned and lifted me back to my paws.
“Here,” she mewed. “Grab my tail. I’ll take you some place more sheltered.” I grasped onto her tabby tail and was towed forwards.
Looking down at the ground, I placed my paws in the prints Dove left behind in the frosty white stuff. I looked at the size of my small paws compared to the size of Dove’s. Some day mine would be that big too.
Dove pulled me into the shade of the forest. The ground was wet hear and my paws slipped on the leaves.
Suddenly I felt my paws slip from under me and I tumbled to the ground. I dug my tiny claws into the leafy earth and pulled myself up again. Dove had stopped and was gazing down at me.
“The leaves are very slippery!” I exclaimed. Dove nodded, her silvery blue eyes dancing with amusement as I picked sodden leaves off of my dark tabby fur.
When I had finished I grasped my teeth gently around Dove’s tail and went plunging into the undergrowth.
I fought my way through bramble thickets, feeling the thorns rake through my fur, struggled over gorse bushes and fell over a lot.
At last we came to a halt at a still clearing, free of tree roots, brambles and gorse bushes. A small stream wound its way through the trees at the very edge. The grass and leaves glittered with dew.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad outside – once you got the hang of it.
“I’ll go get something for us to eat,” Dove mewed. “You must be hungry after our trip.” I nodded. I had been so caught up in trying not to slip and trying not getting tangled in brambles I had forgotten how hungry I was. My tummy growled loudly.
Dove dropped into a crouch and stalked across the clearing. I watched, amazed. If you hadn’t known Dove was there, you wouldn’t have noticed her. She crept across the grass, silent and quick. Then she disappeared. It was as if she had never been here.
I looked around me, eyes wide in admiration. Dove had just... disappeared.
Her pale body soon became visible as a bramble bush parted. A plump robin hung from her jaws. I gazed at it, my mouth watering.
“That was quick,” I mewed. “You are very very good at hunting!” Dove shook her head.
“I know much better,” she mewed, twitching her ears. “Now, let’s eat.”
We settled down on the mossy tree roots at the edge of the clearing and took it in turns to take a bit of the robin.
“It’s a bit fluffy!” I mewed, spitting feathers out of my mouth. “I like mouses better.” Dove purred.
“Birds can be like that,” she told me. “Shrews are a bit stringy. Rabbits are a bit scrawny. Voles are a bit watery. No food is perfect.”
“Oh,” I meowed. “I didn’t know that. I can’t wait to try them all!”
As soon as we had finished Dove took me to the edge of the stream. I gazed down at the rushing icy water.
“This is the stream that separates us from the twoleg place,” Dove told me. “You must never ever cross it. Got that, Bella? You must never, ever cross it.” I looked ahead of me but all I could see was more forest.
“Why not?” I asked. “Twoleg place doesn’t look scary or hurtful.” Dove looked down at me crossly.
“Twoleg place is the most scary, hurtful place you could never go,” she warned me. “Only cross that stream if you want to die.” I shrank down slightly. Twoleg place did sound scary now.
“But,” I meowed after a while. “I can smell other cats. Why are they still alive?”
“Those are kittypets, Bella,” meowed Dove firmly, though her voice kept breaking. "You never want to be a kittypet. They have to eat rabbit dropping food and mush out of a metal bowl. They only ever get to see sunlight if they stay behind their fence.”
“What’s a fente, Mami?” I asked. “It doesn’t sound very nice.”
“A fence is very nice,” Dove meowed, flicking her ears. “It’s what separates us from them.”
“Oh,” I meowed, gazing across the stream. “Can you take me there someday?”
“No!” Dove snapped. “You never, under any circumstances, cross that stream!” I leaped back, feeling frightened. I had never seen Mami so angry.
“Sorry,” I squeaked. Dove softened and wrapped her bushy tail around me.
“I think you’ve had enough for one day,” she mewed. “Let’s go back home.” I nodded and followed her back into the forest.
Chapter Two - The Thunderpath
I woke alone. Dove’s nest was empty, but still warm. She had gone hunting. I got to my paws and stuck my head out of the bush.
A thin layer of white stuff covered the ground. It wasn’t like the – I think it was called frost – that had covered the ground yesterday. This stuff looked all fluffy and bouncy. It reminded me of clouds.
I could spot Dove’s perfect prints in the stuff. I placed my paw inside her print. It was freezing cold and sent a shiver down my body. But the feeling was exciting and I wanted to go further outside.
Maybe I could follow Dove...
Puffing out my grey tabby fur to keep out the cold, I moved further outside. I placed my paw carefully on to Dove’s second print.
Soon I was hopping from paw print to paw print across the narrow strip of white covered grass. I followed the tracks into the forest, an excited thrill rippling through me from the tips of my ears to the points of my claws. It was fun breaking the rules!
I trekked further and further into the forest, always placing my paws carefully in Dove’s prints.
Dove’s tracks lead me to the clearing that we had gone to yesterday. I followed them to the edge of the stream and stopped. The prints continued at the other side. Should I follow them? Mami had said never to cross the stream. But she had crossed it...
Squeezing my eyes tight shut and bunching my muscles, I leaped over onto the other side. Quickly regaining my balance back, I bounded into Dove’s prints and followed them into the forest.
The trees soon thinned and I came to a big space of deserted land. At the end of the space of land, tall wooden planks were sticking up from the ground. They were placed so close together that there was no gaps between them. The only way to get past them was to jump over them. And that was exactly what Mami had done. Her tracks stopped and at the base of the wooden planks and flecks of white stuff were left at the top.
I focussed on the white stuff and lowered myself to a crouch, preparing for the big leap. I sprang upwards, my claws just digging into the top. I managed to heave myself up.
The planks were thin and I swayed precariously. It took a while to regain my balance and look at the scene ahead of me. A black path of hard stuff, untouched by the white stuff, lay in a straight line in front of me. Rows and rows of cave like things were placed evenly away from each other. Each cave place had a path of neat grass and lower planks of wood separated one cave from another.
But what I saw next I couldn’t possibly forget.
A huge brightly coloured shiny thing came rushing towards me along the black path. It sounded as loud as thunder and reeked of smoke and hotness. Every hair on my felt sprang up, my ears flattened against my head and I leaped back down from the wooden planks, not waiting for the monster thing to get any closer to me.
I ran the rest of the way through the forest, never stopping until I reached the bramble bush. Mami had been right! Twoleg place was the most terrifying place you could ever go! I don’t see why any cat could possibly want to be a kittypet if they had to live there.
I tried to calm my breathing, tried to prick my ears up and flatten my fur. Mami would be back soon; she couldn’t see me like this. She couldn’t know I had crossed the stream.
“Are you okay, Bella?”
I almost jumped a tail-length as Dove padded inside the den. She carried the strange scent of twoleg place on her fur. I had never noticed it before.
“F-fine Mami,” I mewed, trying to keep my voice as normal as possible. “I just had a bad dream, that’s all.” Dove purred soothingly and wrapped her tail around me. She pulled back almost immediately.
“You’re freezing!” she exclaimed. “Did you go outside?” I shook my head quickly, trying not look guilty. Dove narrowed her eyes but didn’t say anything.
“Would you like to come on you’re very first hunting trip?” she asked, changing the subject. My face lightened up. In an instant I forgot all about twoleg place and the scary shiny monsters.
Dove dropped a mouse at my paws.
“But first you’ll need to eat this,” she mewed. “You’ll need all the energy you can get.” I gulped down the mouse in several bites and then sat by the exit, flicking my tail impatiently. Dove flicked her ears and ate the last scraps of her bird.
“All right, all right,” she purred. “I’m coming.”
We ran out into the icy morning. I danced about in the white stuff, throwing it up into the air.
“It’s called snow,” Dove told me. “Its winter now and there is lots of snow everywhere. In spring it will melt and new life will grow.” I nodded, making paw print patters in the... snow.
“Ok, Bella,” Dove meowed with a slight edge of impatience in her voice. “Are we going or not?” I stopped messing about and leaped over to Dove. By now I had gotten the hang of walking.
Dove lead me back into the forest. I bounced along after her, buzzing with excitement.
We went to the same clearing as yesterday. I then remembered the twoleg place and spotted Dove’s paw prints that led to the there.
“Mami,” I meowed hesitantly. “Why did you go to the twoleg place? I thought it was scary and dangerous.” Dove flicked her ears uncomfortably.
“I’m a full grown cat,” she meowed. “When you’re eight moons old I’ll take you there. You’ll need to learn how to cross thunderpaths.” I cocked my head to one side.
“What’s a thunderpaths?” I asked.
“A thunderpath is a black path that twoleg monsters run along,” Dove told me. “Cats have died there so you have to be very very careful.”
A shiver ran down my spine as I remembered the huge shiny stinky thing. That was a monster.
“Ok,” Dove meowed. “That’s enough about twolegs. Let’s start the lesson.”
They practiced the hunter’s crouch all afternoon but Bella didn’t manage to catch anything. It was winter so there was a shortage of prey – well that’s what Mami said anyway. I learnt how to crouch as if I were stalking a bird and a rabbit and a mouse. I learnt that you always stay downwind from your prey. It was a brilliant lesson.
We trudged through the snow back to the bramble bush. I was tired out and my belly was roaring. Dove had caught us a few shrews. I was dying to try them.
We brushed inside the bramble bush and I flopped down immediately into my nest. I had been practically sleeping on my paws.
Dove tossed me a shrew and I mewed my thanks. Staring at it hungrily, I devoured it in three ravenous bites. Dove purred in amusement and I looked up to see her watching me.
“What?” I demanded.
“You remind me so much of your father,” Dove told me. “He used to eat every meal as if it were his last!” I flicked my tail indignantly, raising my chin.
“I do not!” I protested. “I was just hungry, that’s all!” Dove’s blue eyes danced playfully.
“Yes,” she mewed. “That’s what he would say!” I batted a ball of moss towards her, the fur on the back of my neck rising slightly.
Very soon Dove and I were wrestling each other on the den floor. Soon I started to notice silvery moonlight filtering through the branches and yawned. My grip loosened slightly and I stopped raking her belly with my back paws. Dove seemed to realize that I was getting tired and got up.
“Right,” she meowed. “It’s time to sleep.” I nodded and slumped down back into my slightly messed up nest.
“What are we doing tomorrow?” I yawned. Dove looked thoughtful for a moment.
“I’ll show you all of the different herbs and berries,” she told me. “They may come in handy some day.” I nodded and lay my head down on my soft bedding.
I wanted to spend every day like this. I loved Dove and life in the forest. Nothing could possibly be better – certainly not kittypet life anyway. I would never ever change anything. Except maybe...
“Mami,” I asked nervously. “What is my father called?” Dove jerked her head up. Her blue eyes seemed alarmed for a second but they soon calmed. The changing emotion happened so quickly I could have imagined it.
“You’re father was called Arran,” Dove told me. Arran. I liked the name as much as Dove or Bella.
“When can I see him?” I asked. Dove flicked her ears. For a moment I thought she would say not ever.
“I don’t know,” she meowed. “It depends when he comes to visit.”
That night I dreamt of a large grey tabby tom with green eyes just like mine.
Chapter Three - The Strangers
The next day Dove taught me all about the different herbs and berries you could get. She took me into the forest, setting me the task of finding as many edible plants of berries I could find. I managed to get juniper berries, yarrow, watermint and horsetail. I also found yew berries but yew berries are the most poisonous berries ever. Dove told me that even one could kill you.
The rest of the days past in a blur, each similar to the first I had spent out in the forest. Some days we would hunt and others we would stock up our herb supplies or do battle training. Soon I had almost as much knowledge on wild plants as Dove and could hunt just as well. When I was six moons old I managed to catch a squirrel and a rabbit on the same leaf-bare day.
But I was seven moons now and I’ll be eight tomorrow. Tomorrow Dove was going to take me to twoleg place. I couldn’t wait! I woke early the morning before and slipped out of the den. I would hunt early for Dove and me and then we could set off into the forest.
The air was heavy with the scent of snow and it was freezing. Frost crunched beneath my paws as I crept forwards into the heart of the forest. I could tell it would snow soon so I’d have to get a move on if I was going to catch anything. I pricked my ears and dropped into a catch. If I wanted to eat I would have to eat here, even if there wasn’t much undergrowth.
My ears pricked and I listened for movement in the bushes. As I slunk forwards I could hear the thumping of a rabbit’s paws. It was running from something. I purred. It was running towards me.
As the rabbit came into view I hid behind a hazel bush. When its paw steps sounded from right outside of the bush, I leaped out and killed it with a swift nip. But there was something strange about this rabbit. It had a very strong fear-scent and it hadn’t even seen me. But how... Why?
Then I remembered that the rabbit had been running. It must have been running from something; maybe a fox. I relaxed and dragged the limp body of the rabbit back to the den. It was big so it would feed both me and Dove.
Dove was already waiting outside, looking up at the gathering storm clouds. Her eyes glowed as she saw the rabbit in my jaws.
“You’re up early, Bella!” she called. “Great catch, by the way! How on earth did you find it?” I flicked my ears, dropping my catch at Dove’s paws.
“It was running towards me,” I meowed. “Dove, I think there’s a fox somewhere in the forest. The rabbit has fear-scent all over it.” Dove’s eyes narrowed slightly and she sniffed at the rabbit. She paused for a moment and I could tell she was thinking through what she had just smelt.
“That’s not a fox scent it carries,” she meowed finally. “It’s cat scent.” I gasped, my claws unsheathing and my neck fur bristling.
“You mean there’s another cat in our territory?” I demanded. Dove nodded. I hissed furiously.
“But we re-do the border marker every day!” I cried. “How can any cat ignore them?” Dove shook her head.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “But let’s eat. We will need our strength if we are to go out looking for this cat.” My green eyes widened. I was surprised. Dove always liked to avoid trouble; I didn’t see why she was taking me into the forest to look for the trouble.
“Can you remember the battle moves I taught you? If we find this cat you may need to use them,” Dove told me. I nodded.
“But Mami,” I protested. “Why are we going looking for this cat? What if it’s dangerous?” Dove flicked her tail, narrowing her eyes.
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid?” she meowed. I bristled, lashing my tail from side to side. I hated the challenge in Dove’s voice, the strange glint in her eyes that I had never seen before.
“Of course I’m afraid,” I meowed, my eyes narrow slits. “Why wouldn’t I be? You’re dragging me into the forest to search for some dangerous cat.” Dove hissed and I shrank back.
“We’re defending our territory!” she growled. I glared at her.
“But can’t we just mark our borders more clearly?” I asked. “If there is real danger I’ll fight but right now, why bother? This cat might just be passing by.” Dove’s eyes were roaring with silver fire.
“You know,” she meowed. “Maybe you’re less like you’re father than I thought. He was always ready for a fight; he wasn’t a co-...” I snarled.
“I am not a coward!” I hissed, turning my back on Dove. “You’ve changed. You never used to be like this. You liked peace but now suddenly you’re encouraging me to fight!” I leaped away from my mother and back into the forest. I’d show her! I’d scare away the intruder without her!
My paws skidded on the frosty ground as I ran further into the forest, following my scent trail from earlier on. But before I could get very far a silver tabby she-cat overtook me, blocking me from going any further.
“You’re right,” Dove sighed. “I shouldn’t have been encouraging you to fight. I’m sorry.” I closed my eyes.
“Okay,” I meowed. “I forgive you.”
We hunted after that, having forgotten about the rabbit we had already caught. I managed to catch a starling and Dove got a couple of mice.
We were just padding into the den with our prey when Dove immediately stiffened and I realized there was a strange smell in the air. Had this cat been in the bramble bush - their bramble bush? I smelt harder, and realized it was more than one cat. What were they doing in here? It was one thing hunting in our territory, another strolling into our den.
“Let’s eat,” Dove mewed though her voice sounded faraway and empty. I could tell she was itching to chase away these cats. I nodded and settled down in my nest. I gulped my starling down in a couple of bites. Although I should have felt sleepy and full all my senses were alert and I was just dying to find out who had been in our den. So I squeezed my eyes tight shut and curled up into a ball.
I waited until Dove’s breathing slowed and opened my eyes a crack. She was sound asleep.
Very slowly and quietly I crept out of nest and made my way silently to the den exit.
Cool night air made me shiver. I looked up to see tiny white flakes dancing down from the sky. I would have to be quick. I scented the air and looked down at the ground. Sure enough, two sets of paw prints went in and out of the den. How could I have not noticed? I followed them into the forest.
I could still be curious – couldn’t I? Even if I didn’t want to fight?
Chapter Four - Curiosity
The night was cold; I could see my breath coming out in clouds. Flakes of snow came down heavier and I had to follow the strangers scent rather than following their paw prints.
The scent trails sent me weaving around trees, brushing against bushes, some even leading up trees. I followed the trails right into the heart of the forest were there was the most undergrowth. Mami said this place was the place you were most likely to catch prey. I clambered over bramble thickets and wriggled under tree roots. At last the forest came to an abrupt halt.
In front of me was a long stretch of snow-covered grass that sloped down steeply. At the end of the slope of grass were a rocky pathway and three large caves. I ran down the stretch of snowy grass and leaped onto the rock pathway. That’s when I saw them. Two cats sat on the other side of the path, their furs almost blending into the snowy night.
“That was fun, Harry,” mewed the smaller of the two cats. I crept forwards, eavesdropping on their conversation.
“Nice to stretch my legs,” agreed the larger cat. “And now we know that the legends of the wild cats are true.” The small tom purred.
“I can’t wait to tell Lily and Bonnie,” he mewed. “I’d love to see their faces!” Harry flicked his ears.
“I can hear my human calling,” he meowed. “See you later, Smudge.”
“See you, Harry,” mewed the small tom. I watched as Harry disappeared into the shadows. Then Smudge turned. I froze.
“Hi there!” Smudge purred happily. “Are you new?”
A sudden idea struck me. I nodded.
“I’m Anna,” I told Smudge. “I live at the other side of the thunderpath.” Smudge looked over to the small bunch of cave things at the other side of the thunderpath.
“Are you from Nina’s newest litter?” he asked. “If you are you’d better watch out. I heard the first litter have disappeared. Leah thinks the humans have re-homed them!” I gasped, pretending to be interested.
“I live up the thunderpath from them,” I meowed. “That’s Maia, Scorch and Spider isn’t it?” Smudge flicked his ears.
“Maia, Scorch and Spider?” he echoed. “I’ve never heard of those kits.” He shrugged.
“Well I suppose I better get going,” he mewed. “My humans will be wondering where I’ve got to.” I nodded understandingly.
“See you around,” I mewed, turning around. I leaped up the slope and back into the forest. I was very tired now.
When I returned to the bramble bush I froze. I knew from the second I saw her that I was in huge trouble. Dove stood outside of the den, her tail lashing from side to side and her eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. Never in my life had I seen her this mad.
“What did you think you were doing?” Dove demanded. “Sneaking off in the middle of the night without telling anyone! You realise other cats – dangerous cats – have been here. They were in our den!” I shrank back.
“I just thought I’d find out who they were,” I squeaked. “And they weren’t dangerous. They were just two kittypets.” Dove’s eyes were burning blue fire.
“You mean you went to twoleg place!” she raged.
“I didn’t cross the stream,” I whispered, my ears flat against my head. Dove looked as if she might claw my ears off.
“You are confined to the den for two sunrises,” she snapped. She turned and disappeared into the den. I followed more slowly, my tail drooping and head hanging. Then I remembered something. I lifted my head and tail and looked smugly up at Dove.
“You went to twoleg place too,” I meowed triumphantly. “You should be confined to the den as well.” Dove spun around, her claws unsheathing and a mad glint in her eyes.
“How did you know?” she spat. “Where you following me?” I ignored her.
“Why did you go there, Mami?” I asked. “There were lots of scary monsters. They were coming right at me.” Dove glanced down at me, the anger dissolving from her eyes and turning to worry.
“You didn’t try and cross it, did you?” she asked. I shook my head.
“I just went on the wooden planks,” I meowed. Dove sighed, stroking me with her bushy tail.
“Tomorrow I’ll take you to twoleg place,” she told me. “It seems you’re ready.” I stiffened slightly.
“Do we have to cross the thunderpath?” I asked. Dove nodded.
“Yes,” she mewed. “But you’ll be quite safe with me. I’ll show you some of the kittypets there.” I was suddenly very confused.
“But you said –“ I began.
“Forget what I said,” Dove interrupted. “If anything ever happens to me, go to twoleg place. They will look after you there.” I nodded, still feeling confused and very sleepy. I curled up in my nest thinking about what will happen tomorrow.
Dove curled up beside me, warming my freezing fur. At least I was forgiven – I think.
Dove woke me the next day. Milky dawn light flooded through the branches, lighting up the den. I yawned hugely, realising I had had hardly any sleep. I got to wobbly paws and blinked the sleep out of my eyes.
“We’ll hunt on the way,” Dove told me. “I reckon you can catch something now.” I nodded eagerly and followed her outside. When we got to the clearing we ate out catches quickly and crossed the stream.
“We have to go early because there won’t be as many twolegs around,” Dove explained. “We’ll have to have just a quick visit today.” I nodded as we trekked along the open stretch of land towards the fence. My whole body was shaking nervously as we approached the fence.
Twoleg place was waiting for them at the other side.
Chapter Five - Twoleg Place
Twoleg place stretched out in front of us. I was glad to see that the thunderpath was deserted. We could make it across safely.
Dove leaped down off of the wooden planks and approached the edge of the thunderpath. I followed more slowly, landing heavily on a pile of snow. I struggled to keep my head above it and waded through the piles towards Dove.
“When I say `now`,” Dove meowed. “Run.” I crouched at the edge of the thunderpath, my belly fur brushing against the snow. No monster seemed to be coming. The whole place looked empty.
“Now!” Dove yowled.
I sprang forwards, running faster than I have ever run before. Fortunately nothing came and it took only heartbeats to cross the thunderpath.
Dove skidded to a halt beside me.
“Now,” she meowed. “It’s very important that you do anything and everything I say. If I say hide, what do you do?”
“I hide,” I mewed.
“Promise you’ll listen to me?” Dove asked, looking at me straight in the eye. I didn’t flinch or look away. I nodded.
“I promise,” I agreed.
Dove began to move forwards. She jumped onto some of the lower planks, beckoning to me with her tail to follow. I bounded forwards, leaping easily onto the planks beside her.
“Mami,” I meowed. “Why do twolegs put these planks up?”
“This is a fence, Bella,” Dove told me. “It’s a bit like a twoleg border marker. It separates one nest from another.” I looked at the cave-like things on the other side of the fence. They must be nests.
“Twolegs often keep dogs as pets,” Dove meowed. “So we better get a move on before they wake.” I followed Dove forwards, trying hard to move reasonably quickly without losing my balance.
We followed the fence until it stopped and then leaped down at the end. Dove took me around the back of the houses to a small area of grass.
At the end of the grassy area was a small wall made up of some kind of twoleg rock. Lots of different plants grey up the wall, covering it in greenery.
“I’ll show you around,” Dove meowed. I nodded eagerly.
Dove took me all around twoleg place, stopping to point out interesting facts. I listened to everything, taking in everything. Everything seemed so different from the forest. It was as if the fence was a border line between two different worlds.
“Have you seen enough yet?” Dove asked me. “You must be getting hungry.” I shook my head.
“I want to see everything,” I mewed. Dove rolled her eyes.
“Let’s go back to the forest and hunt,” she meowed. “We’ll go to the other twoleg place after.” I nodded reluctantly.
We trekked through the snowy park and back to the thunderpath. Monsters were running along it, letting out puffs of grey air. I wrinkled my nose at their foul smell. I crouched at the edge of the thunderpath, nervous trembles shaking my body. I watched as monster after monster thundered by.
“Now!” Dove yowled.
I leaped forwards, springing to the end in three bounds. I didn’t stop until I was on top of the fence.
“You have endless energy!” Dove purred, stroking her tail down my back. I purred happily and we followed our tracks from this morning into the forest.
I followed Dove down the snowy slope and onto the rock path. This twoleg place was just a bundle of nests. It was a lot smaller than the one we had just been to.
“Right,” Dove meowed. “Bella, we can’t come here. I scent blood in the air.” I stumbled back a few paces, alarmed.
“Blood?” I demanded. Dove nodded, her eyes wide. I sniffed the air and sure enough I could smell it. The irony tang made my nose tingle.
Dove and I turned around but the bushes swayed. A creature moved.
I gasped, my fur rising and an icy feeling forming in my chest. Dove’s tail wrapped around me, pulling me to her side.
“Stay close to me,” she whispered. I nodded and we crept forwards. But the thing – whatever it was – followed.
“Right,” Dove murmured into my ear. “Be quick and whatever you do don’t make a sound.”
I trudged as quietly as possible through the snow. We were almost running up the slope. All the time the icy feeling was growing bigger and bigger.
Once under the shade of the forest I began to feel even more scared. The trees cast sinister shadows and I jumped at every little sound.
We followed the path back to the bramble bush. Except Dove lead me straight past it. We turned sharply into the forest again.
Dove took me to the clearing and I hopped over the stream. I followed her onto the fence and down onto the other side,
The thunderpath was busier than I had ever seen it. Monster after monster raced by, their bright lights lighting up the darkness. We ran to the edge and watched the things thunder along the black path.
“Now!” Dove cried. I sprang forwards and sprinted across, landing in a heap at the other side.
“Get up!” meowed Dove urgently. “Quick!”
I scrabbled to my paws and plunged after Dove into the rows of nests.
Dove took me behind the first row of nets and to the base of the wall. I looked up nervously.
“I can’t go up there,” I protested. Dove flicked her ears.
“You’ll have to,” she growled. “It’s the quickest way to the other side.”
I gulped, staring up at the impossibly high wall.
Dove kicked upwards with strong hind legs. She clawed her way easily to the top.
I crouched to the ground and looked up at Dove. I kicked upwards, air rushing against my face. I can do this. But soon I felt myself slowing down. I was barely even halfway up.
I clawed on to some of the plants to keep myself from falling. The plant sagged dangerously and I heard a faint snap!
I tumbled down into a pile of snowy green stuff.
Behind me I sensed. Dove stiffened about me.
“Quick!” she called down to me. “Quick!” Feeling rushed and slightly sore, I got back up onto my paws
This time I had to do it. Glancing behind me, I leaped up. As soon as I felt myself slowing I clung onto the plants and clambered up.
Scrabbling and clawing, I finally made it to the top Dove sighed in relief.
We jumped down onto the plants on the other side. Dove broke into a run as we moved up a space between two nests. Soon we came to a small fence were a black cat was waiting. My ears instantly flattened against my head and my fur bristled furiously. But Dove was taking me straight towards her. We sprang onto the fence beside her.
“Dove!” gasped the she-cat. “I knew they were coming tonight! I warned you!” I glanced up at Dove, scared and confused. Dove shot the she-cat a sharp look.
“Bella,” Dove meowed. “This is Iris. Iris this is my daughter, Bella.” Iris nodded.
“Nice to finally meet you Bella,” she mewed. “You better come with me.” I looked up at Dove, eyes wide in fear. Why did I have to go with this strange cat?
“Go on,” she mewed, nosing me towards Iris.
“Why aren’t you coming Mami?” I whimpered. Dove looked towards Iris.
“I have to go and do something,” she meowed. “And it’s too dangerous for you to come along.” With that, Dove leaped down off of the fence and disappeared into the darkness. I was left alone with Iris.
“Don’t be scared,” mewed the sleek black she-cat wrapping her tail around me. I flinched away. “Let’s go somewhere sheltered.” I looked up at the darkening, star specked sky. Small flecks of snow had began to fall. I hesitated before following Iris into the icy night.
Chapter Six - The Runaways
Iris took me to a tiny nest at the bottom of a twoleg garden. The door was hanging open but it was dry and sheltered. I was glad of the warmth. Iris sat down on the wooden floor and wrapped her tail around her paws.
“So,” she mewed. “How do you like Cloud Forest? You’re mother tells me there is plenty prey.” I narrowed my bright green eyes at her.
“Who are you?” I demanded. “How do you know so much about us?” Iris sighed, looking down at her paws.
“Me and your mother go back a long time,” she meowed. “I’ve known her ever since I was a kit. The mischief we used to get up to!” I tipped my head to one side. I was even more confused than ever now. How did Dove know Iris as a kit?
“Yes,” Iris continued, her eyes full of longingness. “It used to be just me, Dove, Arianna, Ginger and Lisa. The things we got up to! But of course, this is when we were kits. Cats change and grow apart.” I was interested now. Who were the other cats Iris mentioned?
“What happened?” I asked. “What did you get up to?” Iris jumped and looked at me as if she had only just realised I was there.
“The five of us were the best of friends,” Iris began. “We spent every day together. It was when Dove suggested that we went to Cloud Forest that it happened... We all agreed of course and set off the very next day. Dove was obsessed with the wild cats that were supposed to be living up in the forests. Ginger and Lisa both believed in these cats too. Ginger was so excited and forgot to be careful when she was crossing the thunderpath...
"That’s the last time I saw her, so broken and small. She had been my best friend...” Iris paused, choking back tears. My eyes were pools of sympathy. I was about to reach out to comfort her when I heard banging and yowling in a different language.
“That’s the twolegs coming,” Iris gulped, blinking away tears. “We’d better get going.”
I followed her outside, glancing up at the twoleg that had just opened the door to its nest.
I leaped back onto the fence, following the sleek black she-cat around the back to a third row of nests. I had been here only briefly with Dove, but in the short time I’d spent there she’d pointed out that these nests were bigger than the others. Iris took me to the fourth nest. I saw a dainty grey she-cat with white paws sitting under a sheltered bit by the door of the nest. Could that be Lisa or Arianna?
“Aisha!” Iris called. Maybe not... The pretty she-cat lifted her small head.
“Iris!” exclaimed Aisha. “So you were right; they are back tonight!” I followed Iris to sit under the sheltered bit. Aisha looked curiously down at me.
“Is this the famous, Bella?” she asked Iris. Iris nodded.
“Dove has gone to them,” she meowed. Aisha gasped but quickly hid it with a yawn.
“I’ll go and get Arianna,” Aisha told us, getting to her paws. “Bella must be tired.” An icy wind hit my side and I puffed out my fur in an attempt to keep out the cold. Iris huddled close to me and soon black fur was mixing with grey tabby. I could see why Dove liked her now.
A few moments later a cat appeared from the little door on the big door. I would have thought it was Aisha if she didn’t have the one white paw. They were identical from the delicate black tips of their ears to the small dainty paws.
“Hello Iris,” she meowed. “You said they were coming tonight, didn’t you? I assume Dove has gone already...” Arianna trailed off, looking meaningfully at Iris. The black she-cat nodded.
“Arianna, this is, Bella,” Iris mewed. “Bella, this is, Arianna.” Arianna nodded, looking down lovingly at me.
“Yes,” she murmured. “I’ve heard so much about you, Bella.” I blinked up at her, green eyes meeting blue. I couldn’t help staring longer than I should have. Arianna was absolutely beautiful. Her dark grey fur was kit-soft; her white paw blending into the snow and her blue eyes sparkled in the darkness. She had a sleek, dainty body much like Iris’s except smaller and more fragile looking.
“You must be tired, Bella,” Arianna mewed. “I’ll take you to a place where you can sleep."
With that, Arianna leaped gracefully past us, disappearing into the curtains of white snow. Iris and I were quick to follow.
Chapter Seven - A Sanctuary
More to come soon!