A Partnership Begins

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Panther, Sylvester, Tall Tales
Tags: , ,

He sized up the smaller cat as he perched atop the bird’s corpse. His gaze was alert and direct, tinged with curiosity but lacked the malice that had been present in the bird’s eyes. He had watched the encounter between the young cat and the bird as he had snuck up on the two. The other cat was fast and brave, perhaps too much so on the latter.

The younger cat was slim, streamlined. He seemed built for speed which made sense based on what the black cat had witnessed earlier. The other cat still had time to grow so his musculature could still change. The black cat had had a similar build when he was younger and was now broad chested and wide of shoulder, he had grown from a sprinter into a bruiser. The same could happen as the younger one aged.

The little cat had longer fur than the black cat had but it was still short enough to avoid the matting that plagued most long haired cats. The kitten was primarily a black cat. His feet, part of each leg, his chest, his nose and chin were as white as newly fallen snow. His back was still arched and his tail still puffed out, there was shock and confusion in his pale yellow eyes.

Do you want to fight…,” he stretched a black paw out toward the kitten. He flexed his fingers and displayed his claws. “Or would you rather eat first?”

W-what?” The black and white cat stammered out, confused.

Your stance,” his black head motioned to the other cat, “seems a tad hostile. Lower your back, raise your tail, and face me head on. Show me you’re friendly and we can share this feast.”

Oh, right,” the young cat relaxed his body and approached the other cat, his tail pointed to the sky. The black cat returned the gesture and the two cats met part way to rub noses together in a formal greeting.

Help yourself, kid, you earned it. Just keep the head for me,” the black cat maneuvered himself to the far side of the bird’s body. He waited until the other cat moved in to start eating before he started eating himself. The young cat moved slowly, cautiously, almost as if he were unsure of what was before him. He became bolder after his first bite and settled in to fill his belly.

The two cats settled in to enjoy their feast. They tore the feathers and flesh off the bird in silence, they both enjoyed the taste of blood and meat on their tongues. The black cat stepped back from the meal, his hunger satiated, and took a good look at the smaller cat. The young cat bit into the bird like he hadn’t eaten in days. The little tuxedo would sink his teeth into the bird’s flesh and then shake his head vigorously tearing the meat from the bones. There seemed to be an almost single-minded focus on his eating.

The black cat settled down on his side and continued to observe his small companion. While he watched he dampened one of his paws and rubbed his face and nose. The cleaning was habitual, he could do it without focusing. This allowed him to maintain his cleanliness while still observing the world around him.

You seem hungry,” he offered after a bit of cleaning. “How long has it been since you last had a meal?”

Oh, a few weeks,” was the reply between mouthfuls. “I didn’t go without food. Just ate insects mostly.”

Eat as much as you’d like,” the black cat offered. “Without your distraction I might not have been able to get this guy. Its good eating. My belly is full. No sense letting it go to waste.”

Thank-you.” The young cat seemed to slow his eating a bit. The realization that he would not lose his meal allowed him to relax and savour his meal. There was a little bit of embarrassment at his feeding situation but survival was more important than bragging rights.

My name is Panther,” the black cat said. “What do they call you?”

Sylvester.”

Are you from the Colony, Sylvester?”

What’s the colony?”

The Colony is a collection of cats who live together for safety and convenience. There’s a lot of cats, you can think of it as sort of a very large litter,” Panther answered. He kept his eyes on the other cat. The younger one had finished his meal and was now sitting politely as the older cat talked.

Do you come from the Colony?” Sylvester asked.

No,” Panther laughed, “I’m like you. We’re what the members of the Colony would refer to as a feral.” He watched as Sylvester silently considered his words. “They consider anyone not part of their utopia a feral. Don’t pay it much mind. Are you finished eating?”

Yes. It was good,” Sylvester replied, “I have never tasted that before. What kind of bird was it?”

That was a crow. Delicious but dangerous. They are highly intelligent, have a nasty temper, and almost no sense of fear. They are a lot of work to catch but taste so good. Well worth the effort,” Panther paused for a bit and examined the young cat. He sighed a little as he made up his mind. “Clean yourself up. I’d like to make it down to the brook before we find a place to sleep for the night. Unless you’d like to go your own way…”

He watched as Sylvester quickly cleaned his paws. As Sylvester rubbed his paws across his face Panther stood up and began to stretch his legs. He had met a number of cats in his lifetime, none that he had ever cared to maintain an extended connection to. This suited him fine as he wasn’t really fond of other cats to begin with. Self-reliance was at the core of his being.

This Sylvester seemed to have a fair amount of potential. The youngster seemed a little lost at the moment but with some guidance he could really flourish. Panther found himself wanting to provide that guidance. The cub seemed like a nice sort, he could provide a bit of knowledge in exchange for the distraction a travelling companion would bring.

He headed off through the long grass, he could hear the other cat’s faint footsteps behind him. There was a trail not far from where they had eaten that would take them right to the creek. Some fresh water would be perfect before they settled down to sleep off their meal.

Uhm, you forgot your head,” the small tuxedo cat observed as they crossed into the trees.

That’s alright. I just put that out there to see if you’d listen.”

It was cooler under the shade of the trees. The dirt was cold and soft on the pads of their feet as they moved across the woodland floor. Panther was walking at a relaxed pace, he wasn’t interested in expending more energy than he needed and he knew his new companion would need to work twice as hard to keep up with him. There was no point tiring themselves out unnecessarily.

You walk strange,” the observation came from Panther’s right shoulder.

Panther grunted in agreement. There was truth to the observation. Since birth he had had issues with his balance. He had developed his own way of standing and walking, moving in general. His adaptation resulted in his body being kept close to the ground. His back legs were held wider apart than other cats did. He had to swing his back legs slightly out to the side as he moved, it made his walk look awkward but allowed him to maintain his balance. He didn’t suffer from any lack of speed, he could match and even exceed most cat’s running speed. His accuracy was even better, he had never miscalculated his abilities and missed a jump. It had taken a lot of hard work but he excelled at running, jumping, and climbing.

Its always been like that,” he dismissed the topic.

Does it hurt?” came the question after they had walked on a bit.

No more than your legs hurt from walking, I’d guess.”

They continued on in silence. All around them were the sounds of nature. Birds chirped, insects buzzed, squirrels chattered, the wind blew through the leaves, and in the distance could be heard the gurgling water of the brook. They arrived at the creek and quietly settled in to quench their thirst.

The water was as clear as a window, its surface almost as still. The water wasn’t overly deep, it would have barely come up to Panther’s shoulders at its deepest point. Either of the cats could have cleared the creek in a single leap. A variety of insects played across the surface of the water. The water was cold and had a clean, crisp taste.

Panther lay down on his side in the shade of some long grass beside the creek. It had been a good day; the crow had made for a plentiful meal, the weather had been mild, and there had been no sign of other predators in the area. Outside of Sylvester, of course. The soft gurgling of the brook was soothing to his ears, he closed his eyes partially and allowed himself to drift off into sleep. Just as sleep began to overtake him he felt Sylvester curl up tight beside him.

The smaller cat was sound asleep when Panther opened his eyes. The afternoon had progressed and the sun had lowered in the sky. Night approached but there was still time to relax before the evening hunt.

Panther gave the top of his companion’s head a few gentle licks to rouse him. The black cat rolled over onto his back and stretched his legs out as far as he could. Claws were exposed as he revelled in the feeling of his muscles stretching. He had had a good nap and, although he could have napped longer, he was eager to get started on his evening hunt. The crow was a wonderful victory but hunting was an activity he never tired of. Success or failure didn’t matter, all that mattered was the process. It was the activity of the hunt that he enjoyed.

Panther righted himself and watched, amused, as Sylvester mimicked his stretches. The youngster had eaten well and slept solidly so now it was time to see where his skills sat. There would be a lot of that in the near future, if they were going to be journeying together Panther would need to make sure the kitten had some basic skills. He had courage and speed, adding some skill and finesse would move him from surviving to thriving. Any length of partnership would need to benefit both cats or it would have no lasting value.

Sylvester sat upright, his eyes locked on Panther. The little cat seemed calm and expectant as he waited on the older cat. There was an almost statue-level of stillness to him, his breathing and a slight twitch at the end of his tail was the extent of his movement.

You ready to get started?” Panther asked.

Yes, sir!” was the reply.

Good. Let’s see what sort of hunting skills you possess.”

The two cats moved off toward the woods. Sylvester would be leading the hunt tonight while Panther provided backup and evaluated his skills. Their next meal would be reliant on the kitten’s skills and after that their partnership would truly begin.

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