The Colony

Posted: February 27, 2017 in Panther, Sylvester, Tall Tales
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The silver cat followed through with his offer. It was not the most pleasant experience that Panther had ever had, they marched at a brisk pace for close to a day before they arrived at the Colony. That final part of the journey had started off poorly and never improved.

What a jerk,” Sylvester offered in a whisper to his two companions. The silver cat had left them by the tree while he went to gather his two missing subordinates. It was obvious to all of them that Sylvester was frustrated but at least he showed the presence of mind to be circumspect about it.

Panther nodded his agreement. He turned to Eve, “Do you know him?”

No,” Eve shook her head. Her eyes were wide and she had pushed her body as close to the ground as she could. There was a slight tremble in her voice as she added, “but he’s a captain in the guard.”

So he knows how to fight,” Panther mused. “But the other two are green. Moved from different duties, perhaps?”

Maybe,” Eve answered. “They’re young enough that they could be fresh from training.”

They watched the silver cat as he collected the two skittish cats together. They were too far away from them to make out what was being said but the body language spoke volumes. The two younger cats cowered as the silver cat paced angrily in front of them. Back and forth he stalked, he stopped after each circuit to cuff whichever cat he had stopped in front of. Even from the distance he was from the cats, Panther could tell the hits were substantial. The silver handed out six hits to each cat before turning to Panther.

Let’s go.” was all he said before he turned and marched away.

Panther, Sylvester and Eve fell into step behind the silver cat. The two other cats brought up the rear. They kept to this walking order throughout the entire silent march to their destination.

Upon their arrival at the Colony they were escorted into the labyrinth of underground rooms and corridors. They were ushered through large corridors of firmly packed dirt and into a small antechamber. They had been instructed to wait and then their three escorts disappeared deeper into the tunnels. The small chamber they were left in was dimly lit and had just enough room for one of them to walk around at a time.

We dig small holes straight down to let a bit of light in,” Eve mentioned. Panther sat beside her while Sylvester paced back and forth in front of them. “The burrows are not that far from the surface. When the Colony was first founded they made the light holes too wide and the burrows would flood during rainstorms. We now make them no wider than a paw, you get a little bit of light and it stays relatively dry.”

That seems like a smart way to do it,” Panther admitted. He was grateful for the brief distraction the information brought. Anything that took his mind off his current situation was a blessing. He had never liked enclosed spaces, his preference had always been for the wide open spaces. Being underground with no sign of the sky was uncomfortable. What if they were attacked? How would they escape? All he could see were dirt walls, the smell of cat was so strong in the tunnels that he wasn’t sure you’d be able to discern any other scent. In this underground world they were blind in every sense. He preferred to sleep in a tree than this far underground.

If it flooded,” Panther mused, “there would probably be a lot of cats trapped under water. A lot of drowning, a huge loss of life.”

Eve nodded, “That’s what happened so long ago.”

Has there ever been an attack?” Panther asked. “Underground, I mean.”

Eve thought for a moment. “Not that they ever mentioned in the histories,” Eve answered.

Eve,” a voice came from the corridor, “the council will see you now. Just Eve,” the voice added as Panther started to rise. “You two are to remain here.”

Panther lay back down and watched as Eve was escorted down the corridor. Within moments she had disappeared into the darkness of the burrows.

How long will she be gone?” Sylvester wondered. His pacing had only stopped for a brief moment while Eve was called away.

There’s no way to tell,” Panther commented.

Why’d we get left here?”

Eve witnessed the event, not us,” Panther answered. “We don’t have anything to add, really.”

Sylvester paused his pacing, shrugged his shoulders, and continued to pace in silence.

Panther retreated back into his own mind. The environment felt oppressive; there were too many cats in one area that there smell was overwhelming, the shelter underground was too close that it felt like he was buried in the dirt. He could feel his body tremble from the effort he put out not to flee the dark prison. He wanted so much to be out of the tunnels and beneath the open skies, to taste the fresh air.

Excuse me, sir,” a small voice interrupted his worries. Sylvester stopped his pacing and both cats stared out into the corridor where the voice had come from. Staring at them from the corridor was a line of a dozen miniature felines under the careful watch of a larger cat who waited further down the tunnel. The kittens came in a variety of colours and ranged in age between two and three months. Their chaperone was about Eve’s size, primarily white in colour with splotches of orange and black.

Sure,” Panther answered a small grey and brown tabby.

Are you a feral?” the kitten asked.

No,” Panther answered, “I am not.”

Are you going to eat us?” a solid grey girl asked.

I’m not feral, so no,” Panther replied.

Are you from another burrow?” a voice popped up from the back of the group.

No. This is the first time I have ever been here. We live in the wild,” Panther answered.

How do you live in the wild?” the grey kitten again.

You spend a lot of time hunting for your food. Finding places to sleep. The usual cat things.”

I’m going to be a hunter one day,” a quiet voice offered up from within the mass of kittens.

No you won’t, Chester,” another kitten responded, “you’re too gentle.”

All cats can hunt,” Panther broke through the mass of laughter from the kittens. “Hunting is part of being a cat, it’s natural to all of us.”

Only some cats are trained to hunt,” a kitten informed Panther.

Maybe here,” Panther retorted, “but out in the wild all cats hunt. All cats learn to fight. In the wild cats learn to do anything and everything they need to survive.”

Alright kittens,” the older female interrupted, “it’s time for bed. Say thank-you and let’s leave these gentle cats alone.”

Thank-you,” the kittens chorused. The chaperone nudged the kittens to start moving down the corridor.

Can you teach me to hunt?” a small black kitten with a white star on his chest and a soft voice pushed himself forward.

Chester,” the guardian admonished as she nudged the kitten on his way.

Panther reached out and gently touched her shoulder. “I can teach all of you to hunt,” Panther offered to the group, although his eyes remained on her.

Maybe we’ll take you up on that offer, sir,” she smiled at Panther. A cheer erupted from the kittens as she herded them onward. “Come on, little ones, get a move on.”

You seem to be popular,” Eve remarked as she approached from the opposite side. She was alone as she returned.

How’d it go?” Sylvester asked as she returned.

I told them everything,” Eve replied. “No one else from my party has returned. In fact all the hunters that were sent out in the direction of the human zone have not been heard from since they left. A few have returned from the other directions, but as of this moment it is less than half of the cats that went out.”

That’s not a good sign,” Panther put in. “Every single one that went the same direction you did just vanished?”

Yes,” Eve answered. “The council would like to speak to all of us tomorrow. After that we are free to go.”

You’re not staying?” Sylvester asked with a tinge of happiness in his voice. “You’re coming with us?”

I will be,” Eve replied.

Great!” Sylvester exclaimed.

They won’t let you stay,” Panther mused aloud, “because of the scar on your face.”

And the limp,” Eve confirmed.

What?” Sylvester was confused. “I’m sorry. You’re better off with us anyway.” He gently pushed his head against her head.

Yeah,” she agreed. “I’m tired.”

I want to sleep outside,” Panther said. “Under the stars. Up in a tree.”

That sounds good,” Eve said. “I’ll show you the way out.”

Panther and company passed the night in a large tree. Panther had found it to be a rough night, he drifted in and out of sleep until the sun rose the next morning. He lay in the tree enjoying the cool morning breeze blow across his body, the breeze waged war with the ever increasing warmth of the rising sun. Below him came the muffled sound of Sylvester and Eve engaged in conversation.

The morning was quiet, the sounds of nature subdued and distant. A strong smell of cat came from the treeless hill to the east. The Colony was dug just under the surface of the hill and was home to many cats. With so many cats living so close together on the hill the smell was noticeable and kept prey animals at a distance. It would be a bit of a hike but there would be some food for the feline inhabitants to hunt.

It seemed odd to Panther that so many of the Colony’s cats were underfed. On their journey here food sources didn’t become scarce until they were about a day away. It made no sense to him to go anywhere near the human zone. Even without knowing how many cats made the Colony home it seemed unlikely that the surrounding woodlands wouldn’t have the wildlife to support it.

He felt more relaxed in the tree this morning than he did under the ground the previous night. There was comfort to being out where he could see, hear, or smell danger before it found him. It also gave him a good view of the comings and goings of the Colony, which at this point seemed to be none.

Eve,” Panther called down to the white cat, “where are the hunters and the sentries?”

I don’t know,” she replied after a moment. “The hunters should be leaving right now. The sentries should have been active throughout the night. Normally they are always active.”

Maybe that’s a hunter,” Sylvester pointed out a cat that had appeared on the hill. Panther watched as the strange cat stood up on its hind legs. It turned its head back and forth as if it was looking for something. It focused its eyes on the three cats, it dropped its front feet to the ground and began running in their direction.

Panther dropped from the tree and gracefully landed on the ground. His two companions joined him as they walked to meet the newcomer.

There you are,” the cat gasped out as he ran up to them. Like most of the Colony’s cats he was a black and brown tabby, too skinny and too distant in speech. He took a handful of deep breaths before he continued, “the council requests your presence. I am to escort you to chambers.”

Lead the way,” Panther shrugged.

Previous Episodes

  1. The Bird
  2. A Partnership Begins
  3. And Winter Makes Three
  4. Eve
  5. Panther
  6. On the Road

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