Future Plans

Posted: March 6, 2017 in Panther, Sylvester, Tall Tales
Tags: , ,

They were escorted back into the tunnels within the hill to a large chamber. The chamber was large enough to comfortably fit a couple dozen cats in a pinch. It was used exclusively by the ruling caste, most days it was a social club for their elders. Today it was empty except for the silver tabby that had brought them to the Colony the day before. They were directed into the chamber before their escort left them alone with the silver.

The council and Her Majesty will be here momentarily,” the silver informed them, his voice surly and dismissive.

Panther nodded an acknowledgement. He prepared mentally for a quiet, uncomfortable wait. It never happened. They had barely sat down before four more cats shuffled into the chamber from an opposite entrance. The four newcomers were tabbies of varying shades of brown and orange but that wasn’t what stuck out in Panther’s mind. What stood out was that each of the newcomers were well fed, not just well fed but overweight. Their bellies were round and full and not a sign of bone could be seen on them. It seemed that at least some members of the Colony were regularly fed. Panther watched them line up against the chamber’s far wall and started quietly talking among themselves.

After a few moments of silence one more cat entered the room and moved to sit in the middle of the four tabbies. She had a pelt of white, brown, and orange fur, short in length. Her nose was short, she looked like her face had been squished in. Her eyes were a bright shade of blue. When she sat down she looked like a furred beach ball, her excess weight even more pronounced than the others. All talk ceased the moment she entered the chamber.

We wish to thank you for bringing the news of our missing hunters,” she began. Between each word she would pause to worry over one of her feet. “It has answered some questions we possessed while opening up others. To provide some of those answers we will be sending Captain Grey,” she indicated the silver tabby, “to seek out those dogs and eliminate the threat to our people.”

She looked up from her paw and surveyed the cats in front of her. She took a few extra moments to assess both Sylvester and Panther before she returned to slowly licking at her paw.

We invite you to join our brave troops on this most noble of quests,” she continued.

Do you think that’s a wise course, your highness?” Panther asked. “If you fail the dogs could track it back here and put all your people in jeopardy.”

You cowards,” Captain Grey spat into the room.

Anytime you’d like to test my courage,” Sylvester threatened the silver cat.

Sylvester,” Panther cautioned, his voice calm.

Captain,” the female cat spoke, “calm yourself. These are our guests, and our friends. They deserve our respect.”

Yes, my queen,” the silver cat bowed toward her.

We have considered the possibility,” the queen addressed Panther. “We have decided that the risk the dogs present is too great to ignore. We wish to be proactive in this matter. The Captain will lead his troops to destroy the dogs and end the threat.”

And if he fails?” Panther asked.

I won’t fail,” Captain Grey responded.

Failure is not an option,” the queen added. “Join in or not. The choice is yours.”

We respectively decline, your majesty.”

Very well,” she replied, “this audience is over.” She shrugged herself out of the chamber with the four councillors close on her heals.

Captain Grey moved forward, puffed out his chest, and pushed his face toward Sylvester. “When I get back,” he snarled, “we’ll finish this.” He held Sylvester’s eyes for a moment then turned his eyes on Panther and bared his teeth. He stalked out of the room.

We should leave before he returns,” Eve suggested.

I’m not afraid of him,” Sylvester stated.

I doubt he’ll come back,” Panther predicted.

That afternoon found them relaxing on the top of the Colony’s hill. Early that afternoon a hunting party had returned. Up until that point they hadn’t seen any sign of hunters, the bounty of mice brought back was poor at best and had Panther wondering if any of it would make its way beyond the ruling caste, a group Panther had learned was significantly larger in number than the five cats he had seen. Food was already in short supply, once they sent the force of cats out toward the human zone there would be even fewer hunters to bring back food. They would be better off sending cats out to hunt than to fight dogs, but their minds seemed steadfast in their decision.

What’s our plan?” Sylvester asked. He lay flat on his stomach enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun on his back.

I am concerned by the direction things are heading,” Panther said. “I think I want to see where things stand when they leave.”

You’re worried about food,” Eve declared. “So am I. Things are worse than I remember them being before I left.”

And it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Panther offered. He was a little surprised as he watched a small group of cats exit from the hill. He felt himself smile as he recognized the troupe of kittens he had met the night before. He added, “Let’s see if we can change it for the better in the next generation.”

The kittens noticed him immediately and bounded across the hilltop before their matron even exited the Colony. There were a dozen voices raised in excitement as they approached the three adults. They lined up as orderly as their excitement allowed.

Are you going to teach us to hunt today, sir?” the small grey female asked.

If it’s alright with your matron,” Panther replied. He nodded to their chaperone as she came up behind the row of kittens.

I think that would be a most wonderful way to spend the afternoon,” the white, orange, and black cat answered to a rousing round of cheers from the kittens.

Excellent,” Panther exclaimed. “Follow me. Everybody try to keep up.” Panther took off at a slow jog with a trail of a dozen kittens behind him. Their matron kept pace alongside the line of kittens with Sylvester and Eve bringing up the rear.

He guided the group away from the human zone. Panther had had the thought that in addition to some hunting he would also prepare an escape plan. He had huge misgivings over the Colony’s plan and felt having a plan for the non-combatants to get away, to survive, should things go wrong was worth a bit of effort. If the dogs came to the Colony it would be nice if there were some survivors. The current plan didn’t account for that possibility, in its current form the dogs would devastate the Colony and the cats would be no more.

Panther could hear the sound of rushing water ahead of them. They had been jogging for about twenty minutes and the kittens had managed to keep pace, much to Panther’s surprise and delight. He was sure they must be getting tired but there were no complaints to be heard. They would rest when they arrived at the flowing water, it would give him a chance to develop a more definite escape plan.

He broke out of the tree line and stopped in front of a river. He had seen a number of different brooks and creeks in his lifetime but nothing came close to the size and raw power of this river. There were calm, shallow waters along the side of the river, the further toward the centre of the river you got the deeper and faster the water flowed.

He heard a collective gasp from behind him as the kittens arrived on the shore. The kittens had lined up on either side of him. They sat or stood looking over the majesty of the sight in front of them. None of the cats, kitten or adult, had seen anything like a river before.

Did you know this was here?” Panther asked as Eve arrived behind him.

No,” Eve answered, the awe on her voice evident. “I have never heard anything about this…” She trailed off, she had no word for what she was seeing.

It’s a river,” Panther filled in the blank, “I think. I’ve never seen one before, but it’s similar to the descriptions I have heard.”

The kittens had started to explore the area and their matron had her paws full as she tried to monitor her charges. They had wondered in every direction, some explored among the trees, some examined the loose dirt between the river and tree line, and some were fascinated by the water and its movement. There was an excitement and a sense of wonder that emanated from them. Panther watched amused as these kittens experienced a piece of the wild that they had never been allowed to see before.

I wonder if there’s any fish,” Sylvester said as he started toward the riverside.

She must really like you,” Eve stated as she sat down beside Panther.

Why do you say that?” Panther asked.

She’s allowed you to take the kittens away from the Colony,” Eve answered. “Most kittens might visit another burrow but none ever leave the hilltop, until now. She is letting them run wild, watching them but not forcing any organized play. No kittens are given this much freedom. Opal is trying to impress you.”

Panther glanced sideways at Eve and grunted. None of that mattered. He was not going to be allowed to stay at the Colony long enough for anything to develop from it. All he could do was pass on some skills and hope these cats could survive the hard times that were coming. Cats were going to die even if the upcoming expedition was successful. New hunters would be needed to prevent mass starvation among the Colony.

They watched the activity around them. Cats played together; wrestling in the dirt, chasing each other through the trees. A couple of the young cats were indulging their instincts as they hunted insects among the grass and dirt. Most of the kittens had circled a shallow pond and were observing Sylvester as he displayed techniques for fishing.

What’s that?” Eve wondered. Sylvester had just flipped a small fish out of the water to fall among the kittens. A riot of pouncing and swatting erupted among his audience and drew in the rest of the kittens. Curiosity, the feline curse, drew Opal and Eve to investigate the wriggling object. It wasn’t long before they were all clamouring to join Sylvester in the water and the tuxedo cat was showing each one how to catch one of his favourite foods.

Panther left Sylvester to continue the fishing lessons. It seemed unlikely that they had ever experienced fish before. Something new in their bellies would do them well. They seemed to be taking to it, at least half of them had already caught and were working on devouring their first fish.

The ground on the far side of the river rose sharply. The rise looked climbable from Panther’s viewpoint. At the top of the slope was a ridge that was home to a forest far thicker than the woods behind him. The forest, Panther knew, would be home to a variety of prey species and a small community of cats could live quite comfortably within it.

What are you thinking?” Sylvester dropped a small fish at Panther’s feet. He turned back to survey his work. A dozen kittens and two adult cats quietly ate their catch. Sylvester sat with his chest puffed out while Panther gulped down the fish.

That there is probably enough food in that forest up there that we could spend the rest of our lives there and never go hungry. All of us.” Panther indicated a fallen tree that spanned the river. “If that will hold our weight, it might provide us a potential avenue of escape.”

It wasn’t a very wide trunk that crossed over the river, it was barely wide enough to accommodate a cat’s paws. It would be easy enough for a cat to use it as a bridge providing it could support the weight. The trunk cleared the top of the water by a few inches but a fall in the river would catch a cat in a current it might not escape from.

I’m a stronger swimmer than you,” Sylvester boasted. “I’ll cross it.”

Panther shrugged. They were both strong swimmers but Sylvester enjoyed being in the water more than Panther did. Panther was fine with Sylvester risking a dunk in the river rather than him.

Just be careful,” Panther warned, “the current looks pretty swift. It might be difficult to swim out of.”

He watched Sylvester jog over to the fallen tree. The younger cat didn’t hesitate before he jumped onto the log and raced across the river. The young tuxedo jumped down onto the shore and bounded up to the ridge. He turned back to look over the river and smiled. Sylvester raced down the slope and bounded across the makeshift bridge, there was some bounce to the log but it seemed capable of holding an adult cat’s weight.

It’s a perfect bridge,” Sylvester excitedly exclaimed as he ran up to Panther.

Do you think the kittens could make it across?” Panther asked.

These guys?” Sylvester glanced at the small felines all around them, “Easily.”

Good. We have a plan. Everyone,” Panther turned his attention to all the cats. He waited until they had all turned to face him.

Can all of you remember this place?” There was a unanimous positive response.

Could you find your way here?” Answered with another positive response.

Excellent. If anything happens we’ll all run here. Okay?” A rousing positive response was the reply.

Alright. It’s getting late, let’s get you home.”

Previous Episodes:

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