All Catkin characters are copyrighted 2001 and are the sole intellectual
property of Madeline Clerico.
But relax! It’s all in good fun.
The wildcat is the real cat, the
soul of the domestic cat;
unknowable to human beings, yet
he exists inside our household
pets, who have long ago seduced
us with their seemingly civilized ways.
~ Joyce Carol Oates
“So this is the Dark Forest?” Lion-O asked, scanning the primordial expanse
of green before him. “It’s not that dark.”
“The Dark Forest is what it was called on Old Thundera.” Lynx-O said.
“Before the cataclysm, it was a strange and dangerous place. And it seems it’s
reverting to its old state.” He led forward a young Thunderan woman, a toddler
clinging to her skirt. Her eyes were red from crying and it looked as though
sleep had not been a nightly companion. “Felina’s husband disappeared into
the forest two days ago.” Lion-O smiled kindly at her.
“Can you tell me exactly what happened, Felina?” Felina bobbed a quick
curtsy that sent her son wobbling.
“Y-yes, Milord Lion-O.” She pointed to a path leading into the Dark Forest.
“My Ferhad went into the wood two days ago to chop wood. He had a late
start, because the cow got out and we had to chase her back in. I told him. . . I
told him—“ Tears welled up in her eyes, but she dabbed at them bravely and
continued. “I told him to be back before dark. That forest is a cursed place.
But, but, what with the cow. . . . and it started to get dark and I couldn’t go
after him because of Little Ali-ot.” She patted her son’s head. “And then we
heard the singing . . . oh!” Felina buried her face in her apron and began to
sob. Lynx-O patted her on the back consolingly.
“What singing did you hear?” Lion-O asked, frowning. Felina mopped at her
eyes with the already-soaked end of her apron and bobbed another curtsy.
Little Ali-ot weaved back and forth dangerously.
“There’s evil spirits in that forest. At night you can hear them singing. Ferhad
used to think it was nice! He’d go out onto the back porch in the summer time
and listen to them!”
“Can you tell me what the singing sounded like?” Another curtsy. Ali-ot was
looking like he was in serious trouble.
“Milord Lion-O, it was happy music. Music that made you want to dance.”
“Is it always happy music?” Another curtsy. Ali-ot seemed to be considering
the best way to fall.
“Not always, Milord Lion-O. Sometimes they sing sad songs. Sometimes it’s
“You can actually hear the words?” Another curtsy. Lion-O felt his knees
start to bob in sympathy. Little Ali-ot sat down hard on his bottom. With the
practiced ease of a mother, Felina grabbed him by the back of his romper and
hauled him to his feet without even looking down.
“Please, Milord Lion-O, please find my Ferhad!”
Several hours later, Lion-O walked down a wide, grassy path in the dreaded
Dark Forest. Lynx-O and Bengali kept pace with him. At first they had written
off the disappearance as a simple accident in the woods; maybe Ferhad had
fallen on his axe, or been crushed by a falling tree, but as they tried to fly the
Feliner over the Dark Forest in a quick scan, all of their electronics had shut
down. A satellite imager had produced nothing but static. Trying to land an
aircraft in the Dark Forest was a fool’s errand. At a distance of approximately
twenty feet above the trees, engines would cut out, forcing the pilot to glide to a
higher altitude, where everything would begin working again. Land-based craft
proved to be just as useless. The Thundertank stalled out. Hover boards went
kaput. The Braille board fizzled. Even the Sword of Omens had shown Lion-O
nothing but gray fog. In the end, Lion-O and the others had to settle for
walking into the dread Forest. To carry their supplies, Felina had volunteered
her cow. Lion-O had never been this close to a cow before and within the
space of ten minutes, he had decided he never wanted to be this close to a cow
again. The three ThunderCats had planned on dashing dramatically into the
dark confines of the wood, but the cow had instantly made it clear that the act
of her going any faster than a walk would have to include a forest fire, an
earthquake, and a cow-eating monster. All at once. The wretched beast’s
name was Taffy.
“You know, this place really isn’t that bad.” Bengali announced.
“Hhhm?” Lion-O asked. The white tiger was studying the flora around them
“It’s just that I expected this place to be a little more daunting. You know;
dead trees, lots of thorn bushes, black sky, but this forest is really green and
beautiful.” A sky-blue butterfly flitted across the path in front of them. “You
certainly don’t expect butterflies in an evil forest.”
“I suppose not.”
“The flowers are nice, too.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Maybe we just don’t understand. Maybe it’s just an enchanted forest, not an
evil one.” Lion-O was about to agree when Taffy, having finished clearing her
nose (with her tongue) chose to give her head a mighty shake. The Lord of the
ThunderCats was anointed with cow slobber. Bengali bit back a laugh.
“By Jaga, this is the most disgusting thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Lion-O announced calmly. Bengali did laugh out loud then. “Oh, you think it’s
funny, do you?” Overcome with mischief, Lion-O scraped the slime off of his
face and attempted to flick it on Bengali.
“Eeeeewwww!!!! Gross, no!”
“Would you two try to take this seriously? A man is missing!” Lynx-O
chided. Taffy suddenly stopped, head up and ears forward. Bengali hauled on
her lead rope.
“Come on, old girl.” Taffy bawled in alarm, whirled with amazing agility and
took off back down the path. Bengali ran after her.
“Bengali! Let her go!” Lion-O called.
“All of our food is on that cow!” Bengali yelled, rounding the bend.
“By Jaga, he’s right.” Lion-O tossed down his pack and gave chase. “Nice
Taffy! Good girl! Stop, you stupid cow!” He rounded the curve just in time to
see Bengali heading around the next bend. “Stupid cow.” Something slammed
into the back of his head. The path came up to meet him and Lion-O knew no
When he came around, it was in the dark of night and to the sound of four very
familiar voices arguing.
“Whoo hoo, you take it off of him!”
“Not on your life, you stupid monkey! That sword is bad luck!”
“Nobody even look at me, I didn’t even want to come on this wild goose
“Cowardssssss! The Sssword itssself is harmlessssss!” Lion-O squinted up
through his mane. He was tied to a tree and his head was pounding. The four
mutants were hotly arguing. Monkian was holding a good-sized rock that bore
a bloodstain. Lion-O realized that was probably his blood. He shook his head,
trying to stop the pounding, but that only made it worse.
“Look out, he’s awake.” Vultureman observed. Slithe stared at Lion-O for a
moment, then stomped over, grabbed him by the hair and wrenched his head
“Why are you ThunderCats so interested in this forest?! You’ve been
swarming around it all day! When we tried to do our own scan, our craft
crashed.” Lion-O fought back a grin.
“Oh, this place is cursed.” He said casually. “The evil spirits who live here
have kidnapped a man and we’re trying to rescue him.” Vultureman, Monkian,
and Jackalman’s eyes widened. Slithe scowled and bashed Lion-O’s head
against the tree trunk.
“I’ll ask you again, ThunderCat. Why are you so interested in this forest?!”
The reptile bellowed. Lion-O had to wait until the church bells stopped ringing
in his skull.
“I speak the truth, Slithe. We’re searching for a missing Thunderan.” Slithe
glared at him, as if he couldn’t decide whether to believe him or not. Almost
imperceptibly, Slithe’s hand started to shake.
“You are lying to me, yessss?” His gaze swept down to the Sword of Omens,
resting in the claw shield. “At leassst this trip wasssn’t a total losssssss.” He
started to reach for the Sword, his hand trembling.
“Wait!” Lion-O cried, desperate to buy some time. “You heard Jackalman;
this Sword is bad luck to anyone who would take it from its rightful owner.”
Both of Slithe’s hands were shaking now.
“Rubbish!” The tremors moved up to his arms.
“Then why are you shaking, mutant? Could it be from fear?” Lion-O
challenged. Slithe struck him across the face.
“Don’t even think of trying your trickssssss on me! I’m shaking becausssse
itsss ssso cold!” The other mutants and Lion-O gave the reptile a puzzled look.
“But Slithe, it’s not cold at all.” Jackalman interjected.
“Eassssssy for you to ssssssay; you’re covered in fur!”
“Slithe, it’s not cold.” Vultureman agreed. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I-I-I’d be f-f-fine if it wasss-sss-ssn’t f-for thisssss infernal c-cold!” He was
shivering violently now. Slithe wrapped his arms tightly around himself and
dropped to his knees. Jackalman rushed to his side, trying to help Slithe to his
feet. After touching the reptile’s skin, he drew back in alarm.
“He’s freezing!” Ice was starting to form on Slithe’s skin. The other mutants
gaped, then turned a questioning look to Lion-O, who shrugged.
“Whoo hoo! This placed is cursed!” Monkian yelled. Before anyone else
could react, a blinding flash of light erupted in the middle of the group. The
mutants yelped. Already spooked, they hefted Slithe between the three of them
and had it away as fast as they could put foot to ground. Lion-O blinked away
the after-images to see Bengali and Lynx-O standing before him.
“Are you two ever a sight for sore eyes!” He cried.
“Sorry we took so long; it took us forever to catch the cow,” said Bengali.
Lion-O rolled his eyes.
“Stupid cow,” he muttered.
“Lion-O, are you all right?” Lynx-O asked.
“I’ll live.” Lion-O shook his head a little more gently than the last time.
“Sneaking mutants hit me on the head with a rock.”
“The Sword of Omens didn’t warn you?” The elder ThunderCat wanted to
know. Lion-O’s eyes widened.
“No. No, it didn’t,” he whispered. Bengali knelt by the tree and began to
free his Lord.
“Let’s get you out of these ropes,” he proposed. Lion-O nodded absently.
The Sword of Omens hadn’t warned him. Why hadn’t it warned him?
“Does anyone else hear that?” Lynx-O asked, his ears pricking upright.
“Hear what?” Lion-O answered. The blind ThunderCat craned his neck,
struggling to pick up the sounds.
“It sounds like . . .. music.” Bengali stopped wrestling with the knots.
“Singing?” he whispered.
“No, just music.” Lynx-O’s ears twitched. “Pipes.” They twitched again.
“And violins.” Pause. “It’s getting closer.”
“Is it happy music?” Lion-O asked. The older ThunderCat nodded the
affirmative. The younger warriors held their breath. Very faintly, it came to
them. A very light, sprightly tune sang on the night breeze. Growing louder by
the minute, it sang to them of summer nights and festivals. It sang of wedding
ceremonies and birth celebrations. It sang of a finished autumn harvest with a
mouth-watering feast for all. It sang of youth and vigor, of whirling in a dizzy
dance in the arms of a pretty girl until you thought your heart would burst, but
you didn’t dare stop dancing. It sang of the joy of being alive and celebrating
that joy with a merry jig. Lion-O caught himself tapping his foot. In the bright
moonlight, the players came into view. Whatever they were, they weren’t
Thunderans. They were vaguely cat-like, with large triangular ears and long
tails. A woman led the group. Her body color was a soft orange, decorated
with darker red-orange stripes and specks painted across her limbs, ears and
tail. Her long curly orange hair bounced against her back as she came dancing
into view. She was dressed in a cropped green tank top that didn’t cover
nearly as much as it should have and a tiny green skirt that looked like it
belonged on a twelve year old. Simple black leather shoes encased her dancing
feet. She had a black violin tucked under her chin and was coaxing notes out of
it that would have made Stradivarius cry. Next to her was a man a few inches
taller than her. He was mostly white with large spots of the red-orange on
orange pattern. He had on a pair of loose black pants and a purple vest. His
chest was bare. He also had a violin, this one red. His playing ability matched
the woman’s. Behind the man danced another young woman playing a flute.
She was pure white and wearing an outfit that matched the first woman’s, only
in pink. Another man danced behind them all. He was slate gray with vivid
green eyes. He wore a loose white shirt and brown pants. He was hitting a
drum with a stick. Considering the rhythm he was beating out of that drum,
there should have been a more poetic way to describe it. The group danced
up to a spot merely ten feet away from the ThunderCats without seeming to
notice them. The woman fiddler stopped and gave her male counterpart a
challenging look. She began a low sweet tune. The male fiddler grinned and
picked up the melody. They began to play a duet. The woman shot him
another challenging look and picked up the pace. Suddenly it was more a duel
than a duet. The sound of wailing violins flooded the darkened forest, bringing
it’s sound of joy to all who cared to hear it. The other pair danced around them
in delight, providing back up on their own instruments. Suddenly the piper
butted in with a matching tune. The fiddlers paused while she played a
complicated solo. With a whistle of cheer and a: “Go Manx!” They resumed
their parts. Then the drummer butted in for his solo. Then it was a challenge
open for all. The players sawed, blew and beat their instruments for all they
were worth, finally ending the song panting and out of breath. There was only
one response for such a performance. The ThunderCats burst into applause.
“Bravo!” Lion-O cried.
“Encore!” Bengali added. The players whirled to stare at them, eyes wide.
They seemed to stop breathing for a moment. Lion-O frowned. They were
afraid. Why should they be afraid; after all, this was their forest. Three of the
players turned and bolted into the forest, disappearing within an instant. Only
the female fiddler stayed. She studied them carefully with jade green eyes. At
this distance, Lion-O could see she had a strange symbol on her forehead; it
was an orange crescent lying on its side with another, smaller crescent lying face
down inside the first one. A small, pointed triangle protruded from the inner
curve of the smaller crescent, pointing straight down. Bengali approached her
“Please don’t be afraid of us, Miss. We mean you no harm.” The look on her
face clearly stated that the devil would be skating to work when she was afraid
“We’re looking for a missing Thunderan man. Could you take us to him?”
Lynx-O tried. The woman grinned a particularly unpleasant grin.
“Of course.” She purred. Literally. She lifted her fiddle to her chin and ran
the bow over the strings. She began to sing in a strange language. Lion-O
stiffened. The last music had encouraged one to dance with its sprightly tune
and happy air. This music didn’t encourage; it commanded. Liquid silver notes
invaded his ears and quick-marched to his feet without stopping by his brain
Dance. It whispered. Lion-O’s legs spasmed, desperately trying to obey the
command given to them. Lynx-O and Bengali stiffened then began to dance
jerkily, like puppets at the hands of a child. The fiddler began to dance off into
the distance, the two warriors trailing behind her like children after the Pied
Dance. Lion-O fought his bonds, feet plowing up dirt, desperately trying to get
up and follow the music; that beautiful music.
Dance. The young Lord slammed himself against the trunk of the tree then
heaved forward, trying to loosen the ropes.
Dance. He roared with frustration. He had to follow the music! Why couldn’t
he follow the music?!
Dance. He fought the ropes like a wild animal, the harsh fibers tearing his skin.
The wound on his head re-opened, sending blood pouring down his neck. The
music was growing fainter.
Dance. “Wait.” Lion-O whimpered. “Please wait for me.” The song began to
die in the distance. He realized in horror that he would never hear such music
again. “Wait!” He had to hear the music! “Wait for me!” He screamed,
launching one last desperate struggle for freedom. There was silence. Lion-O,
Lord of the ThunderCats, Ruler of New Thundera, bowed his head and began
Monkian, Jackalman, and Vultureman stood several miles away, staring at the
frozen remains of Slithe. Vultureman reached out and flicked the reptile.
“He’s frozen solid.” He muttered quietly. “How could that happen? I’ve
heard of spontaneous combustion; maybe this was spontaneous refrigeration?”
“Poor Slithe.” Monkian sighed. “He was a good friend.”
“And now he’s an icicle.” Jackalman finished. The canine mutant thought for
a moment. “If we hit him with a rock, do you think he’d shatter?” Monkian
“Whoo-hoo! That would be something to see!”
“Idiots!” Vultureman shrieked. “You three would smash the world if you
think it would make a pretty noise!”
“We two.” Monkian corrected him. All three cast sorrowful looks at Slithe,
then looked at the ground and sighed. There was a moment of silence.
“How big a rock do you think we’d need?”
Lion-O didn’t know how much time had passed. One hour? Maybe six
hours? Had he fallen asleep? He wasn’t sure. He had to get out of these
ropes. He managed to wriggle one hand free and grasped the Sword of
Omens. Holding it at an odd and uncomfortable angle, he managed to slowly
saw through his bonds. Standing, he considered the Sword he held. Was there
something wrong with the Sword? Why hadn’t it warned him of the mutants?
Or the fiddler? He didn’t know of anything that could silence the Sword of
Omens. He held it aloft.
“Sword of Omens: give me sight beyond sight!” He commanded. The
crossbars began to curl, then returned to their dormant position. Lion-O stared
in horror. The Eye of Thundera flickered weakly then went dormant again.
Was this placed so horrid that even the Eye of Thundera couldn’t even open?
Lion-O clenched his jaw. He had to rescue Bengali and Lynx-O, no matter
what the obstacles. He thrust the sleeping Sword back into the Claw Shield
and set off down the path the sorceress had taken.
Two pairs of eyes watched him go from the underbrush.
“We found him! We should attack him now; while he’s not expecting it!”
“I don’t think we should attack him at all.”
“What?! But, he’s a Thunderan; he’s dangerous!”
“He doesn’t look dangerous to me. Tired; yes, confused; you bet, hungry; I’d
put money on, and even wounded, but not dangerous.”
“But the Empress-“
“Empress Koshka is a Thunderpaw moron who wouldn’t know a sensible
solution if someone hit her over the head with it. I had no intention of following
her orders when I left the city, and I don’t intend to change my mind today.”
“Watch it, ‘Purra. I happen to be from the House of Thunderpaw.”
“I know, Cala, and I forgive you.”
“You little . . . !”
“He had the Sword of Omens.”
“Indeed. That makes him Lord of the ThunderCats. And he doesn’t know
why the Eye of Thundera won’t open in this forest.”
“He’s probably come to wipe us out, like what happened in the Ancient
“If he wanted to wipe us out, he would have brought an army. I don’t think he
would bring two people and a milk cow if he were planning on wreaking
genocide. Use your head, Cala; I know you’re not used to it.” The voice
referred to as ‘Purra fell silent.
“What do you think?” Cala asked.
“I think I’m tired of living in shadows. I think I’m tired of hiding from the rest
of the world.”
“I think I’m heading back to Grimalkin and telling the Empress you’re
“Tell her I hope she contracts a disease of the genitals that can only be cured
with sandpaper and iodine.”
“She’s going to have you assassinated one of these days.”
“She’s welcome to try.” The Cala voice made a disgusted noise. There was
no sound, just a sense that she was gone.
“Lord of the ThunderCats.” The ‘Purra voice mused softly.
Lion-O was starting to lose his patience. He had only been in this wretched
forest for 24 hours and so far he had been slimed, attacked, beaten, tied to a
tree, enchanted, disarmed, and now he was lost. And he was hungry. It was
almost mid-day and he hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday. What was wrong
with these woods? On Third Earth, you couldn’t walk ten feet before you were
tripping over some sort of edible fruit. He had seen no sign of the two missing
ThunderCats or anyone else. Those beings that played the music last night . . .
they reminded him of something, something from his childhood; some kind of
stories. Catkin tales! That was it! Catkins were beings of magic and wisdom
that were always casting spells on some poor Thunderan for slighting them in
some tiny way. His favorite had been the one about the evil Catkin who sent
the castle to sleep for one hundred years because she wasn’t invited to the
christening of the newborn ThunderCat princess. He couldn’t remember much
else about them; the women were supposed to have the strongest magic and be
insanely beautiful. Catkin men really didn’t appear much in the stories. That
was about all he knew. He was going into what could have been a whole city
of Catkins by himself with those two whole facts. He had to find someway
to--. There was a scream behind him. Lion-O whirled. A wild boar was
In a castle on the other side of reality, a black Catkin woman smiled into her
crystal ball. On her forehead was a red mark: a crescent lying on its side with
another, smaller crescent lying face down inside the first one. A small, pointed
triangle protruded from the inner curve of the smaller crescent, pointing straight
“Gotcha, ThunderCat.” She whispered. In the shadows behind her, a
broad-shouldered Amazon of a Catkin mirrored her smile. The beefy one
towered over her companion. She was around six feet tall. Her face, while not
beautiful, was at least attractively interesting. Her fur color was a confused
swirl of orange, red and black. Her hair cascaded straight down her back
almost to her waist. A mark like a gray stylized ‘M’ adorned her brow. Given
her over-abundance of muscle, one would expect her to be wearing chain mail,
exotic furs and not much else, but in fact she was wearing a silky purple dress.
The dress had been made for a svelte, willowy woman. There were definite
signs of conflict. The black Catkin tore her golden eyes from her mystical orb
to flash a triumphant grin at the calico warrior.
“He’s pig slop, your Majesty.”
Wild boar could be nasty, but he should be all right. A dozen more appeared
behind the first one.
“Eep.” Lion-O whispered. The lead boar screamed and charged, followed
by the other twelve. The ThunderCat Lord turned and bolted. He knew there
was no way he could outrun them for long, but maybe he could outrun them for
just long enough. The boar pack galloped behind him, screaming in rage and
gaining by the yard. All he needed was a low branch or a river or something to
slow them down. There was a crash from the brush next to him and a giant elk
cow burst from the undergrowth.
The black Catkin sucked in her breath.
“The elk of the House of Tonkinese!” She cast a frightened glance over her
shoulder. “W-who do you think it is?” The Empress’s face twisted with
“I know exactly who it is.” Her voice dripped with poison. “That uppity little
bitch. She’ll roast on a slow spit for this. I’ll see her choke on her own
blood.” The black enchantress looked back into her crystal.
The elk cow loped gently along beside Lion-O, obviously not at her full speed.
She kept looking at him meaningfully and wagging her ears like semaphores.
Crazy as it sounded, Lion-O got the feeling she was trying to tell him
something. He could only think of one thing that might be. The ThunderCat
Lord leapt aboard her back. He had barely gotten seated when the elk
bounded forward, her speed unbelievable. The boars fell behind him as she
dashed through the forest. She left the path at a sharp angle that nearly left him
in the dust and charged up the hill. She came out of the wood into a small
meadow at the crest of the hill. There was a bull elk in front of them. He was
enormous, even larger than the cow, with a huge rack and a thick ruff around
his neck. There was a Catkin woman sitting astride him. She was white with a
sliver of gray on her forehead. Similar bars of gray marked her ears and tail.
She was dressed in some sort of lightweight armor; it looked as if someone had
wrapped rods of wood in brown silk and sewn them together. She had a pair
of greaves covering her shins, a pair of gauntlets on her forearms, a set of
shoulder guards that looked like someone had made them as flat rectangles then
bent them until they were the right shape. Encasing her torso was a breastplate
that bore a striking resemblance to an armored corset. Her hair was gathered
at the back of her neck and wrapped into a thick cylinder with black ribbon.
Around her neck was a black choker with a large round bell on it. A quiver of
arrows was slung around her mount’s thick neck and she held a bow in her right
hand. The things that caught Lion-O’s attention were her eyes. Eyes should
have no business being that green. It was as if some master craftsman had
carved them from living emerald. They glittered with intelligence.
“Lord of the ThunderCats, I presume?” She said.
“I am.” Lion-O answered sternly. After that business with the fiddler, he
wasn’t letting his guard down, not even for lovely archers with emerald eyes.
“And who might you be?” The archer lifted her chin proudly.
“I am Queen Singa-Purra Silverhair Stardust the Precocious of the House of
Tonkinese. And if we’re going to be friends, you should tell me your name.” A
subtle smile tugged at her lips. Lion-O wasn’t falling for it.
“Why would you want to be my friend?” Queen Singa-Purra leaned forward.
“You look like you could use one.” She confided. When he didn’t respond,
she sighed. “Listen, I just want to make peace between our people. I’m willing
to help you free your countrymen. If you can’t handle that, give me back my
elk and I’ll let you go back to playing with Lady Shannon’s boars.” Lion-O
hesitated. Could he trust her? Could this be a trap? ‘Purra’s expression
flickered. Within the space of a second, her bow arm came up while her right
hand snatched an arrow from the quiver, notching it onto the string. Lion-O
didn’t even have time to duck as the missile whistled past his ear making a noise
like tearing silk. Behind him, there was a scream of pain. A large boar
crouched on three legs, the arrow sprouting neatly from its shoulder. Lion-O
looked around at the Queen.
“Lion-O, Lord of the ThunderCats.” Queen Singa-Purra smiled brightly.
“Jolly good. We can get acquainted on the way.” Both elk dashed into the
“On the way where?” The Queen treated him to another grin.
Lady Shannon lay on the floor of her summoning chamber, an arrow sporting
the fletching of the House of Tonkinese imbedded in her collarbone. Empress
Koshka Windrifter looked down at her.
“Pig food, eh?” The black sorceress’s golden eyes were wide with pain.
“Highness, I need a medic.” She whispered hoarsely.
“Failure. I’m surrounded by total failure. I should just hand Stardust a sword
and expose my throat. That’s what you all want, isn’t it?”
“I was voted onto the throne by the Council of Queens, you know. Each of
the six Houses voted for me. Except for the House of Tonkinese.” Koshka
added darkly. “The other five welcomed me with open arms. The Houses of
Mau, Ashpurr, Thunderpaw, Saroko, and Angora all support me. The way
you’re acting, I think you want me to be assassinated.”
“Highness, I’m injured! I need a medic!” Empress Koshka seemed to hear
her servant for the first time.
“The House of Ashpurr produces the most medics.” She announced.
“Physician, heal thyself.” The Empress of the Catkin nation turned and walked
out the door, leaving Lady Shannon writhing on the floor.
“nuh . .”
“sleepin’ . . .”
“Bengali, wake up right now!”
“Can’ hear yuh; g’way.” Lynx-O gave Bengali a vicious shake. He’d always
been a heavy sleeper. The unconscious tiger shoved him away roughly. The
blind ThunderCat caught himself against the wall of their cell. When he thought
about it, there was really no reason to wake his compatriot now. Bengali rolled
over onto his back and began to snore. Then again, maybe there was.
“Goodness! It sounds like one of them is sleeping well!” A cheerful female
voice outside the cell door announced.
“Lady Scarborough, I can’t let you in.” A male voice said wearily. The male
voice sounded beaten, like the owner knew he was going to lose this fight
before it even started.
“Of course you can, dear boy! See, you have the keys right there on your
belt. Now please open the door.”
“Lady, I can’t. The Empress gave explicit orders.”
“Did she? And what were they?”
“Her Highness said: ‘Don’t let any of those bossy tarts from the House of
Tonkinese stick their noses in.’” This drew a peal of merry laughter from Lady
“In that case, I’ve brought Princess Calabash from the House of Thunderpaw
along with me; you can let her in and I’ll just follow.” There was a throaty
chuckle from a second female voice.
“Lady, please! The Empress will have my guts for garters!”
“It will be a vast improvement on her current taste in clothing.” Lady
Scarborough said smoothly. There was a gentle clank of armor, as if the
wearer was sagging in a defeated manner. “Oh, never mind, I’ll let myself in.”
There was a sharp, coppery taste in the air for a moment and the sound of
tumblers clicking in a lock. Lynx-O caught the scent of lavender. One set of
footsteps entered with quick efficient footsteps. The second pair were irregular,
and accompanied by the ‘tap, tap, tap’ of a cane. The smell of lavender
“Good Goddess, can he ever snore.” The Princess Calabash voice
observed. Her voice was low and husky; it was the kind of voice that could
make ‘Good morning’ sound like an invitation to bed.
“Indeed. Wake him up, there’s a good girl.” Lynx-O wondered what sort of
person could order around a princess with such ease.
“Lady Scarborough?” Lynx-O inquired.
“Oh, you may call me Scarborough. And your name is?” Lynx-O sensed a
hand coming towards his chest. He didn’t know where he was or what was
happening, but with all the titles of nobility being used, he decided to resort to
his days at the Inner Council on Old Thundera. He grasped the delicate hand
of a lady, swept back into a courtly bow, and gently kissed her knuckles.
“Lynx-O of the ThunderCats, at your service madam.” There were gagging
noises from Princess Calabash. These were instantly followed by the sizzle of a
stick moving through the air quickly, the crack of said stick impacting with soft
flesh and a yelp of pain.
“It’s a pleasure to meet such a gentleman, Lynx-O.” Lady Scarborough
seemed completely unaware that her walking stick had scored a direct hit on
Calabash’s rear end. “Let us take you out of this unpleasant place.” She gently
took his arm. “Cala, I thought I told you to wake him up!”
“He won’t wake up!” Cala protested.
“Use your imagination, dear.” Scarborough steered Lynx-O out of the cell.
The guard was muttering:
“I’m dead. I’m so dead.” The sharp taste of copper permeated the air again
and there was the crackle of electricity. There was a yelp from Bengali.
“I have a feeling we’re in a very strange place.” Lynx-O announced to no one
“Spot on, dear.” There was endless amusement in Lady Scarborough’s voice.
“This is a quick run-down; your men have been taken to Grimalkin, our capital
city. The Empress wants them destroyed; she’s quite afraid that history will
repeat itself. They’ve been imprisoned pending a vote from the Council of
Queens, which can’t be completed because I’m not there. In addition, I’ve
sent my grandmother to get your men out of prison. They’ll be taken to our
manor. They should be safe there. The Empress may be dumb, but she
wouldn’t dare try to force her way into a citadel full of Tonkinese. We have to
come up with some very fast way of convincing the rest of Grimalkin that you
want to make peace. I have an idea, but it’s very drastic and it’s going to take
a certain degree of deception. Think you’re up to it?”
“What history?” Lion-O asked, ducking branches as the elk loped easily
through the forest. Singa-Purra blinked.
“What?!” They stared at each other, both trains of thought thoroughly
“What history?” Lion-O repeated. ‘Purra blinked again.
“You know, in Ancient Times when the Thunderans and Catkins lived
together?” At Lion-O’s blank look, she continued. “And the Thunderans grew
jealous of Catkin magic? A big war broke out? Any of this ringing a bell?”
“I’ve never heard of any of this. Before yesterday, Catkins were just
made-up stories to entertain children. I never in my wildest dreams thought
they were real.”
“Then, you don’t know?” ‘Purra stared at him, then threw her head back and
laughed. She laughed loud and long, like someone who has taken a long look
at life and finally seen the joke. “He doesn’t even know!” She bellowed to the
skies then broke out laughing again. “The irony of this is just disgusting.” She
“Can I get in on the joke now?” Lion-O asked.
“I’m sorry.” ‘Purra panted. “In Ancient Times, the Thunderan nation and the
Catkin nation lived side by side. The Thunderans were strong and powerful,
great warriors. The Catkins were less physically powerful, but possessed
powerful magic. A Lord of the ThunderCats named Chobe became jealous of
the magic the Catkins possessed. He found the most powerful magical item in
existence at that time: The Eye of Thundera.” The ThunderCats Lord’s eyes
flicked to the Sword. ‘Purra nodded. “At the time, The Eye of Thundera was
in the possession of Maricole, Queen of the House of Tonkinese. She wore the
Eye on a crown on her brow.” ‘Purra pointed to the gray sliver on her
forehead. “Legend has it that the shape of the Proof of Royalty for our House
came from the Eye at rest. Lord Chobe seduced Maricole, swore his love to
her and publicly announced their betrothal. As a wedding gift, Maricole took
the Eye from her crown and had it forged into a magical sword for her
beloved. The wedding was legendary, attended by all the Royalty of the Catkin
nation. At the ceremony, she presented her husband-to-be with the Sword of
Omens, a symbol of the merger of their two nations. Lord Chobe took the
Sword, held it aloft for all to see, then promptly drove it through the heart of
Queen Maricole. At a signal, Lord Chobe’s men fell upon the wedding guests,
slaughtering them all. Maricole cursed her false husband with her dying breath;
vowing that the Sword of Omens would never again be used for evil. With all
of their leaders dead, the Catkin nation fell into chaos. Lord Chobe feared
retaliation for the mass murders and gave orders that any Catkin should be
destroyed on sight. The survivors withdrew to this forest, finding the power
spots where the barrier between this world and the next are the thinnest. We
kept to ourselves for thousands of years, only straying from other world at
night. That is how we survived the destruction of Old Thundera. We’ve lived
in fear of your kind for countless generations. And you thought we were old
stories told to scare children into eating their vegetables.” ‘Purra shook her
head and laughed again. “Isn’t that a fine joke?”
“A rather sick one, I’d say.”
“Sometimes you have to laugh or you’d just lose your mind.” ‘Purra murmured
in a quiet voice.
“So that’s why the Sword won’t work in this forest? It feels guilty?”
“I hadn’t thought about it that way. I could probably get it to work for you.”
Without hesitation Lion-O offered her the Sword, handle first.
“Wait until we get to the gate to the other side.” As if on cue, a clearing
opened up ahead of them. In it, a dozen roughly hewn stones, twice as high as
a man, stood in a circle.
“Is that the gate?” ‘Purra nodded.
“Anywhere in this forest that you find the standing stones, you’ll find a gate to
Grimalkin on the inside.”
“Isn’t it risky to mark them so obviously?”
“To a certain extent. It’s one thing to mark a gate, but first you have to know
what it is.” The Catkin Queen gave Lion-O a wink. “And second you have to
know how to open it.” She slid off of the bull elk’s back, taking her quiver and
slinging it over one shoulder. For the first time Lion-O realized she was
extremely short. He slid off of the cow’s back carefully. He towered head and
shoulders above the little queen. With her height and youthful face, she could
very easily pass for a child. Well, the height and face and the fact that she
didn’t appear to have much to put into her breastplate. Lion-O blushed. He
shouldn’t think things like that; maybe the breastplate just kept them flattened.
Yes, that was probably it. ‘Purra nodded to the elk and the pair turned and
loped off into the trees. “Now let’s see the Sword.” The Lord of the
ThunderCats handed the Sword back to what he really felt should be it’s
rightful owner. The ThunderCats of ancient times had committed such atrocities
against her people, but she was willing to put everything in the past and help
him. She was even fixing the Sword for him.
“It really doesn’t want to open up, does it?” She inspected hilt. “It’s prettier
than I thought it would be. None of the ancient pictures surviIIIIIIEEEEE!”
The blade of the Sword of Omens shot out to its full length so fast it clipped a
lock of hair from Lion-O’s mane. Singa-Purra screamed and doubled over, the
Sword clenched tightly in her right hand. The tip of the blade grazed Lion-O’s
chest, leaving a deep scratch. The Sword throbbed with light, repulsed by the
taste of ThunderCat blood. ‘Purra staggered several steps backwards then sat
down hard. The Sword she clutched tightly against her chest, her breathing a
fast pant, her eyes glazed and unseeing.
“’Purra!” Lion-O shook her gently. ‘Purra saw a swirl of green, blurry and
indistinct. In a few moments, it coalesced into the scene of a beautiful garden.
There seemed to be some sort of party going on; there were a lot of people
dressed in their very finest. They were all looking at something. ‘Purra craned
her neck, but still couldn’t see. She began to gently elbow her way through the
crowd; when she had made her way to the front, she saw a very elegant couple
standing on a dais. The woman was a Catkin, tall, white and beautiful. Her
Proof of Royalty marked her as a member of the Royal House of Tonkinese,
but she lacked the bars of gray on her arms and tail. She was also very tall,
which was unusual for Tonkinese. The man was a Thunderan, broad of
shoulder and heavily muscled. He wore very ornate armor and had a mane of
astounding blond hair. It seemed to have a life of it’s own, just like Lion-O’s.
‘Purra’s heart sank into her stomach. This wasn’t what she thought it was, was
it? The woman held out an object wrapped in silk. The man took it and gently
pulled off the covering. It was the Sword of Omens. The man, who could only
be Lord Chobe, smiled and held it up before the crowd. Cheers and applause
drowned out ‘Purra’s scream of “Look out!” She tried to fight her way
towards the royal couple, but the wedding guests held her fast. Lord Chobe’s
smile took on an obscene delight and he turned, Sword pulled back for the
killing stroke. ‘Purra clawed her way free of the crowd and dashed forward.
She reached for her bow, but it wasn’t there. She tried her quiver, still nothing.
She still wore her armor, but had been effectively disarmed.
“Maricole, look out!” She screamed. Whether the queen heard or not was
anyone’s guess. She was staring at her traitorous beloved with a look of
heartbroken betrayal. The Sword of Omens plunged forward and extinguished
the life of its maker. Maricole fell backwards, her life’s blood gushing forth.
Lord Chobe stood over her, his face an expressionless mask. Queen
Maricole’s face twisted into a snarl.
“Bastard.” She spat. Behind ‘Purra, screams erupted as the massacre began.
“Now, now, don’t blame me for your blind naiveté. I couldn’t leave the Eye
of Thundera in the possession of someone so weak. And thank you for forging
it into a sword for me; I didn’t have to expend any effort at all.” Blood poured
from Maricole’s mouth and nose.
“You coward.” She snarled. “I swear by my eternal soul, the Sword of
Omens will never take an innocent victim again. The ThunderCats will be
purged of your evil and will be allies with the Catkins again. Your reign will
have been for nothing and even the future Lords of the ThunderCats won’t
recognize your name.”
“I have nothing to fear from you.” Chobe announced and with as much
emotion as if he were retrieving the Sword from a practice dummy, braced his
foot on her chest and pulled the Sword free, then turned his back, leaving her to
“Bastard!” ‘Purra snarled, hurling herself forward. Weapons or no weapons,
she would tear this turncoat apart with her bare hands if she had to. She
launched into a powerful spinning kick . . . . .and passed right through him.
With a cry of surprise, the little queen lost her balance and landed on her
stomach. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the image of Lord Chobe, along
with everything else, fading into nothing.
“I admire your bravery, child, but these events can’t be changed.” ‘Purra
looked up at Queen Maricole, who was standing whole and uninjured before
her. The ancient queen offered her descendant a hand up. ‘Purra took the
offering and stood.
“But—how is this possible?” Maricole smiled warmly.
“Did you know you’re the first Catkin to touch this Sword in 5,000 years?
And you’re of the House of Tonkinese. I forged this Sword myself with love in
my heart and hope in my mind. If things had gone differently, the Sword of
Omens would have been yours.” ‘Purra considered this.
“I don’t need it.” She announced after a pause. “I have my own magic. Lord
Lion-O needs it more than me.” Maricole’s smile was one of pure joy.
“Oh, well done, child! I’ve waited 5,000 years for such an unselfish heart.
You and Lord Lion-O will forge a new peace with the help of this Sword.”
“You keep saying ‘this Sword’ does that mean . . .?” Queen Maricole
nodded. “We’re inside the Sword of Omens?!”
“We’re inside the Eye of Thundera, actually. I had to make sure your motives
were pure. I have served as the soul of the Sword of Omens since its creation.
My goals are so close; I couldn’t have left any room for failure because I
thought my descendants were above evil.”
“We’re not evil, just troublemakers.” Queen Maricole laughed out loud then
her demeanor sobered.
“You have great strength; more than anyone you know. And you will need
it.” Something about the way she said that struck ‘Purra.
“Um, . . what exactly do you mean by that?” ‘Purra recognized the look that
came over the Queen’s face. It was look of someone who had said more than
they meant to.
“To use an old saying; you will live in interesting times.” ‘Purra looked
“That’s an old curse.” Queen Maricole looked at her feet and sighed.
“Take heart. When all is said and done, you shall have your final reward.”
Singa-Purra stared at her ancestor.
“Before or after I’m dead?”
“It’s time for you to return now.”
“You’d send me back on such a dismal note?” Queen Maricole shook her
“Don’t worry; you’ll enjoy your life. It will just be . . . interesting.”
“Living in interesting times is still a curse!” Queen Maricole had faded into
nothing. ‘Purra became aware of the smells of the forest then her sight cleared.
She was staring at the grass, her back pressed against one of the standing
stones. Lion-O was kneeling beside her, a concerned look on his face. ‘Purra
held up the Sword of Omens.
“She’s working now.” She announced then toppled forward.
Bengali had been floating in the warm pink fuzzies of sound sleep. He had
become aware that someone from a very far distance was trying to get his
attention, but he ignored them. Then a mild jolt of electricity zipped through his
body. Bengali yelped in an embarrassingly high pitch. He was lying on the floor
of a stone cell. Standing over him was a woman, like the one who had
enchanted him. This one was built like an Amazon. Her height was somewhere
between six feet and heaven, and she was more muscled than most men he
knew. She was dark gray with black stripes. A Proof of Royalty that
resembled a stylized ‘M’ adorned her forehead. Jet black hair tumbled in
loose, wild curls around her face and shoulders. She had sleepy green eyes and
incredibly plush lips. She was dressed in skintight black leather that left nothing
to the imagination. Her tail was a great deal fluffier than the other woman’s and
tipped in white. Her leather bodysuit was unzipped practically halfway down
her ribcage, revealing cleavage you could lose a small child in.
“It’s about time!” She announced, then turned to leave. “If you want to get
out of here alive, I suggest you hurry!” She snapped. Bengali had realized long
ago that the best place to be in a cell was on the outside, so he scrambled to his
feet and followed her. Out in the hallway, Lynx-O was on the arm of a small
woman who walked with a cane. Her long white hair was loose down her back
and about half of her tail was missing. He approached the woman who had
“What’s happening?” Her green eyes were darting around nervously. She
was scared, Bengali realized. He forgave her for snapping at him.
“We have to get to the manor of the House of Tonkinese before the Empress
catches us or she’ll have you put to death.”
“Oh.” That was pretty bad, he had to agree. “What’s your name?” The
woman blinked at him.
“I’m Princess Calabash Stormbringer the Strong of the House of
“My name is Bengali.”
“Hey!” The shout came from behind them. Without even turning to see who it
was, Princess Calabash broke into a run. Bengali followed. In an unspoken
agreement, they each caught Lynx-O’s companion by an elbow, lifted her
bodily into the air and continued their flight.
Lion-O lifted ‘Purra and carried her into the shade. What had happened? It
seemed like she had been in another place. And what did she mean by ‘She’s
working now?’ He could hear a small stream not far from where they were.
He made his way down through the brush, tore off what was left of his ruined
shirt and soaked it in the crystal clear water. By the time he had returned to the
clearing, ‘Purra was sitting up rubbing her head.
“Don’t you get cold running around half-naked all the time?” She asked.
“Not that I’m complaining.” The little queen had a distinct talent for throwing
him off guard. Lion-O shook his head and pressed the water-soaked cloth to
“I spoke to the spirit of the Sword of Omens. It’s Queen Maricole.” Lion-O
sat beside her.
“The Catkin queen who forged the Sword?”
“Yes. She’s been residing in the Eye of Thundera since her murder. She’s
been guiding the ThunderCats to become the force of good they are now.”
Lion-O was silent. Even more proof that the Sword of Omens truly belonged
to Singa-Purra. The little Catkin rolled to her feet. “We have to go save your
countrymen.” She grabbed his hand and tried to pull him to his feet. She might
as well have tried to push over a mountain. Lion-O stood up on his own before
she could hurt herself. Together they walked into the stone circle.
“Try to think of opening.” Okay, that didn’t help much, but he would do his
best. ‘Purra took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her Proof of Royalty
began to glow a brilliant white. The feeling of weightlessness gripped Lion-O,
mostly by the stomach. The standing stones disappeared, replaced by a
blinding array of lights streaming by from below. Far below, Lion-O could see
a simple circle of a raised dais, approaching at a rate that could only mean they
were falling. ‘Purra still had her eyes closed. She seemed totally unconcerned.
Lion-O fought back an urge to scream. ‘Purra wasn’t scared; that meant
everything was fine. Just as he thought his legs were about to be driven through
the wood of the dais like straw in a tornado, he was standing on the boards in a
small round room. The lights disappeared. Gravity resumed its grip on him.
‘Purra opened her eyes.
“There, now we—you look like you just saw a ghost. You didn’t have your
eyes open, did you?” Her tone suggested this was extremely foolhardy.
“Was I not supposed to?”
“I guess you can if you want, but it scares the living hell out of me. I feel like
I’m going to go splat all over the ground.” Lion-O groaned.
“Where are Lynx-O and Bengali?” ‘Purra grinned and slid aside a section of
the wooden wall. They were outside, in what appeared to be a street of a small
town. There was a thriving marketplace ahead of them, filled with Catkins.
Trees leaned over from behind and between the buildings. The only really clear
space was in the middle of the street. It was like the Catkins didn’t believe in
cutting down trees, so they just built around them.
“We’re a few blocks from the palace. We had better hurry.”
“This is Grimalkin?”
“It looks so small.” ‘Purra grinned.
“Grimalkin is a city of 1 million souls and almost as many living people. And
that doesn’t even start to cover all the pocket universes within it.” She grasped
his hand and pulled him into the street. There was a stifled cry from somewhere
in the crowd. Countless eyes turned to stare. The entire street fell silent.
‘Purra cursed. “Everybody move!” She ordered, gesturing wildly with her
arms. A path opened up. Lion-O and Singa-Purra dashed down the street. A
short distance away, a mammoth wall rose to encompass a fortress. There
were sounds of a struggle coming from behind a pair of double doors. As the
pair reached them, the doors burst open. Bengali came running out with an
older woman who bore a striking resemblance to ‘Purra tucked under his arm.
Lynx-O was right behind them. Fighting a group of guards was a strange
woman who looked like she was wearing latex paint. It didn’t seem like a very
practical outfit for combat, but it wasn’t stopping her from keeping a dozen
guards at bay with what looked like a roof timber.
“Granmama! Cala!” ‘Purra made a few quick gestures. “Energy Sphere!”
She declared, sending a ball of bright blue energy flying towards the guards.
They were knocked aside like bowling pins. Twelve more promptly replaced
them. ‘Purra took her place next to Cala.
“Cala? I thought you supported the Empress.” ‘Purra cried.
“Yeah, but what kind of person would I be if I didn’t help my best friends?”
She tossed the roof timber aside like it was a broomstick.
“A living one.” A commanding voice answered.
“Oh feck.” ‘Purra muttered. Lion-O didn’t recognize the word, but he got
the gist. Countless guards poured into the street, blocking any escape. Coming
down the steps was the Empress of the Catkin nation. She was tall, an exotic
calico and well muscled, not nearly as muscled as Cala, but powerful
nonetheless. She was dressed in a gown that had been made for someone
much more slender and dainty. It looked quite horrible on her.
“Queen Singa-Purra. I never thought you were a traitor. A troublemaker, oh
yes, but never a traitor.” ‘Purra scowled.
“I’m trying to end a feud that has continued for 5,000 years!” ‘Purra cried.
She gestured to Lion-O. “This is Lion-O, the Lord of the ThunderCats! He
wants to make peace! I’m tired of hiding in shadows. I offer a chance to be
free, and you dare to call me a traitor?!” There was a low murmur. The crowd
that had been thronging the marketplace had gathered around the ring of
guards. People leaned from second story windows and some keen individuals
were climbing nearby trees to get a look. The Empress’s eyes took in the
growing audience with trepidation.
“Kill them!” She roared. The guards charged forward. Cala held out her left
arm like she was holding an invisible bow and completed the illusion by pulling
back an invisible bowstring.
“Ice Shaft!” Ice crackled along the non-existent arrow like wax pouring into a
mold. Cala released the ‘bowstring’. The icicle flew forward and hit one of the
guards in the breastplate. The ice erupted and covered him completely, along
with both men on either side of him and the legs of the men at their sides. This
halted their attackers for just long enough. ‘Purra held her hands out in a
“Hear me O spirits of time and space,
Heed now the power of an ancient race,
Take my mystical energy and complete this hex;
Now I command you, O spirits,
O spirits: Vortex!” With the final word, a cloud of purple smoke swirled up
to engulf them. The smoke whirled like a tornado, quickly shrinking in size until
it disappeared, taking the ThunderCats and their new companions with them.
“Damn, damn, and three times damn!” Empress Koshka bellowed. “They’ve
teleported to the House of Tonkinese manor! Seal them off! I don’t want
those Thunderans to leave Grimalkin alive!”
Three Thunderans and three Catkins materialized in a hall with beautiful
hardwood floors. Singa-Purra fell to knees then toppled forward, hugging
herself and shivering.
“’Purra!” Lady Scarborough squirmed out of Bengali’s grip and rushed to her
granddaughter’s side. Lion-O knelt next to the pair. Cala’s green eyes were
“She teleported six people at once. Just like that.” The tabby snapped her
“Is that good?” Lynx-O asked.
“That’s not good, that’s amazing. I never realized how powerful she was.”
Bengali was inspecting their surroundings.
“So this is the House of Tonkinese?” Cala scowled at him.
“A House isn’t a building, it’s a collection of bloodlines.” She seemed to take
notice of where they were for the first time. “This isn’t the House of
“That’s the first place they would have looked for us.” ‘Purra gasped.
“Are you Okay, sweetie?” Lady Scarborough asked, brushing the Queen’s
hair away from her face.
“I’ll survive, Granmama. It’s just—that much power; it hurt.”
“Just you wait until tomorrow morning; you’ll have a Summoning Headache
like you wouldn’t believe.” Her grandmother announced, patting her cheek.
‘Purra groaned and pulled herself into a sitting position, leaving heavily again
“So, if this isn’t the House of Tonkinese, where is it?” Bengali asked.
“This is the House of Saroko. The manor of the House of Saroko.” Cala
corrected herself. She scowled at Bengali. “Now you’ve got me doing it.”
Lion-O put his arms carefully around ‘Purra.
“Can you walk?”
“Yes.” She said proudly, pushing herself upright. She seemed a little stiff, but
otherwise all right.
“Why did you teleport us to the House of Saroko?” Lynx-O asked.
“Neko-chan!” Cala exclaimed. “She’ll hide us!”
“She’ll help us.” ‘Purra corrected. “Neko-cha’ has intelligence on every
noble in the Catkin nation. Hell, she has the name of every person who ever
shook hands with a noble.” ‘Purra’s pronunciation of the name was much
sharper and dropped the ‘n’ completely. It sounded more correct.
“How do we get the attention of this Neko-chan?” Lion-O asked.
“She knows we’re here already.” ‘Purra announced calmly. “And you
shouldn’t call her Neko-cha’, that’s only for close friends. You should just call
her Lady Neko.”
“She can’t know we’re here already.” Lynx-O protested. “We’ve disturbed
“Oh, she knows.” A new voice announced. A Catkin man stood at the end
of the hall. He was about Lynx-O’s height, but not nearly as bulky as the blind
ThunderCat. He was dressed in black armor that closely resembled ‘Purra’s,
except for some differences in the breastplate. His face was a light slate gray,
his ears a creamy, off-white color. He had slanted almond eyes of an
astounding blue color. A slate-gray tail swung low behind his legs. He carried
a long sword in a red enameled scabbard in a sash at his waist. He bowed low
at the waist.
“Queen Singa-Purra, Queen Mother Scarborough, Princess Calabash,
honored guests. If you’ll come with me, please.” ‘Purra stepped forward and
bowed at the waist.
“Captain Netsuke. It’s good to see you again.”
Lady Neko Tsuki of the House of Saroko sat before a large round pool. It
was a beautiful indoor pond; water lilies graced the surface and multi-colored
carp swam throughout, leaving small v-shaped rippled in their wakes. No one
who saw it thought she used it to see into the future. Crystal balls, mirrors in
darkened rooms, and even pools of ink were favored by most seers, but Lady
Neko preferred pure clear water. She really loved water; it was so versatile. It
was impossible to live without, yet incredibly dangerous to be near. Most
Catkins didn’t like water for more than drinking or bathing in, but Lady Neko
loved a nice long swim. Neko kept her aquaphile tendencies under wraps,
though. The unusual love of water was attributed to a rogue shinobi by the
name of Tsunami. Many a noble had secured themselves in their manor,
confident in the knowledge that the only way in was through the water cisterns
only to find a black-clad figure looming over them wielding a katana. It was
often the last thing they ever saw. Lady Neko turned away from her pool as
servants brought in a meal for her guests. It was probably unwise to get
involved with Queen Singa-Purra’s little rebellion, but the diminutive queen had
a knack for inspiring unshakable loyalty in her allies. Captain Netsuke entered,
the ragtag group trailing in behind him.
“Neko-cha’! It’s so good to see you.” ‘Purra cried. Lady Neko rose to her
feet in one fluid movement and glided across the floor to hug the little queen.
“’Purra-cha’! You’ve really done it this time, haven’t you?” Neko asked,
laughing. ‘Purra sighed.
“Unfortunately, it looks like I have. I just wanted to end this feud and make
“Peace is much harder than war.” Neko released her hold on ‘Purra and
turned to her guests. “Let’s leave this mess for a little while and eat.” Her eyes
flickered to Lion-O briefly. “I’ll send for some new clothes for you. The rest
of you, please join me.”
Captain Purrurin was having a bad day. She had been minding her own
business, supervising the new recruits sparring with bo, when the sound of the
gate being pulled shut reached her ears. It was the middle of the day; why was
the main gate being shut? Before she could even start towards it, another
sound reached her ears:
“Captain!!!!!” That was Lieutenant Sharif-Beh, usually calm and collected,
but now sounding like he needed a change of trousers. Purrurin stepped
outside of her office and nearly collided with the man.
“Lt., what the hell--?”
“We’re being attacked by the House of Thunderpaw!” Sharif-Beh bawled.
“The Empress is leading the entire City Guard to the gate to take the Queen
into custody!” Purrurin stared at her subordinate’s terrorized expression.
“Well, we should inform Commander Pudi.”
“He’s on holiday!”
“Then Lt. Commander Meyu.”
“She went to her son’s graduation.”
“He’s at a retirement ceremony.”
“He’s at the ceremony, too.”
“His wife went into labor.” Cpt. Purrurin took another mental step down in
the chain of command and realized she was in charge of the whole Manor.
“We have to confront the Council of Queens at the Inner Circle. That’s the
only place where they have to listen before they act.” ‘Purra announced,
shoveling another pile of noodles into her mouth.
“Why is that?” Lynx-O asked, struggling to master the chopsticks that had
been pressed into his hand.
“The Inner Circle is ringed with the strongest magic-dampening spells in the
nation. It’s almost impossible to cast spells inside it. They were cast on the
room so that no debate would end up with the Queens blasting each other with
magic.” A concerned look passed over Lynx-O’s face.
“This way, we can only resort to words and fists.” Concern changed to
“Fists? That doesn’t happen often, does it?” ‘Purra thought for a minute.
“’Often’ like every few weeks or ‘often’ like every few days?” Lynx-O
forced a smile and leaned towards Bengali.
“I’m starting to wonder about these queens’ ability to govern a nation
properly.” He murmured.
“Bengali’s on the other side of you.” Lady Scarborough announced coldly.
Lynx-O blushed. Bengali couldn’t stop staring at Lady Neko. She was
beautiful; not inordinately tall like Cala, but not as miniscule as ‘Purra. She had
a face as round and lovely as the moon, with high cheekbones and lovely blue
eyes set at a slight slant. From her nose and above, a rich chocolate brown
gave her a natural mask, with her lower face a creamy beige color. Her ears
were chocolate brown, and her seemingly infinite cream-colored hair was pulled
back into a simple ponytail. A Proof of Royalty that resembled a stylized ‘V’
marked her forehead. She wore a simple blue kimono decorated with a wave
pattern. The kimono revealed just enough of her figure to pique his interest, but
still covered her enough to be modest. The conversation going on around him
had faded to a background hum. He only came out of his adoring reverie when
a side door slid open and Lion-O rejoined the rest of them.
“I’m not sure about these clothes.” He announced, flexing his arms
experimentally. “I’m not used to clothing being so loose.” Every female in the
room gave him a long, head-to-toe-and-back-again look.
“You look good to me, Lion-O.” ‘Purra announced a tad breathlessly.
Lion-O was dressed all in black. A loose black shirt was wrapped around his
chest. The sleeves had been left off and it was probably a good thing. Judging
by the way the shirt was straining just to cover his chest, the sleeves would have
burst as soon as he flexed his biceps. A black vest was thrown over the shirt.
He wore a black obi belt at his waist. Somewhere, they had found a pair of
black trousers big enough to be loose on him. Finally, he had a pair of tabi
socks on, the tips of his toe-claws peeking out from the material. All that black
against his fair skin was striking, and his astounding red hair was the icing on the
“Tell him about the Inner Circle.” Cala prompted. ‘Purra stayed silent, her
eyes playing up and down the ThunderCat Lord. Cala stared at her for a
second, then a horrible knowing grin twisted across her face. Plucking a water
chestnut from her bowl, she expertly flicked it across the table and scored a
direct hit on ‘Purra’s left ear.
“Tell your beau about the Inner Circle, ‘Purra.” Cala murmured softly. The
little Tonkinese queen gave her friend a sly look.
“Bite me, Cala. It’s worth a shot.” She retorted, also in a soft murmur. The
she raised her voice and called out . “Lion-O, we’ve decided how to confront
Captain Purrurin stared down at the full force of the City Guard, hoping her
terror wasn’t showing. Empress Windrifter stood at the front of the soldiers,
looking pissed and ridiculous in her silly dress. Purrurin had attended nobles
before, and several times she had accompanied Queen Singa-Purra to the
Council of Queens, but Empress Windrifter just creeped her out. She always
looked ready to lash out at the world around her. Her wrong-woman dresses
only helped her look unstable. As a final insult, she looked exactly like the girl
in primary school who used to beat Purrurin up and take her milk money at
recess. The Commander of the City Guard stepped forward.
“We desire entrance to this Manor, Captain. Open the gates.” He
commanded. Purrurin hesitated. Sharif-Beh was cowering behind her, even
though he was about twice her size. A fair number of the guards were raw
recruits; most of them didn’t even know the difference between a marquis and a
baron. She wondered if the Guard would consider going away and coming
back when there was someone of higher rank in charge.
“Um . . . why?” The Commander scowled.
“It is not for you to question me. Open the gates now!” He roared. Captain
Purrurin felt a hot flash of anger. She may not have been nobility, but she had
pride you could bend horseshoes around.
“What do you mean, no?! I command you—!”
“First of all, you are the Commander of the City Guard, while I am a Captain
of the Tonkinese Guard, so command to your heart’s content, because it ain’t
going to do you any good! Secondly, my job is to protect the House of
Tonkinese from all threats foreign and domestic, and that means you!” The
Commander was gaping at her. Sharif-Beh was gaping at her. Most of the
other guards were staring at her. Empress Windrifter was giving her a lethal
glare. “We’re not going to open the gates, so push off!” The Commander
finally recovered from his shock.
“You may say that to me, but what do you say to a command from the
Empress?” He asked. Purrurin locked eyes with the Empress of the Catkin
nation. Purrurin may not have been the sharpest spear in the armory, but she
recognized a bully when she saw one. She knew, without a doubt, that even if
Queen Singa-Purra herself had appeared and stopped everything right then,
Windrifter would hunt her down afterwards and make Purrurin’s life as short
and painful as possible.
“Open the gates, peasant.” Empress Windrifter said. Purrurin’s pride rose
once more. This time it was surprised to find her rebellion waiting for it. One
said to the other: ‘If you’re going to be boiled for a lamb, you might as well be
roasted for a sheep.’ Purrurin’s hand rose towards the assembled crowd then
turned over, a single digit stabbing at the sky.
“Sit on it and swivel, your highness. Swivel until you squeal like a pig on her
honeymoon.” Every jaw in the area dropped, including the Empress’s.
Purrurin turned to Sharif-Beh, her head swirling with the unaccustomed roar of
rebellion. “Power up the protective runes. We’re not letting them in without a
fight. She’ll never take anyone else’s milk money again!” Lieutenant
Sharif-Beh gave her the look one gave to people who have a tenuous grip on
reality. He thought about telling her she was completely nuts and relieving her
of duty, but that would leave him in charge. As long as Purrurin had sole
responsibility, she could lead them to the ninth level of hell. Sharif-Beh ripped
off a textbook salute.
“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”
“I don’t like this one bit.” Cala announced to the world in general. “You
know I hate water.”
“Quit your bitching.” ‘Purra said soothingly.
“You could certainly use a bath, Cala.” Neko announced. Cala suggested
Neko perform a particularly filthy, not to mention physically impossible, act with
a small pony, a pair of roller skates, a kitchen utensil of her choice and the
strange man who always swept the steps in front of the asylum muttering,
“Surrender, Dorothy!”. Neko laughed like this was the funniest thing she had
ever heard. Lion-O shook his head. They were standing in the bowels of the
Manor of the House of Saroko, clustered around a cistern that led directly into
the city’s underground water supply tunnels. If Lion-O had even snapped at
one of the other ThunderCats, the person in question would be hurt. The other
ThunderCats would be at his side in five minutes demanding to know what was
wrong and insisting he apologize. The Catkins seemed to treat each other with
a more-than-healthy disrespect. They insulted each other constantly and
casually, but no one got offended. They thought the verbal abuse was funny.
Lion-O had even seen Cala hit ‘Purra in the ear with a water chestnut at
supper. Lady Scarborough seemed to be the only one off limits of this kind of
mean-spirited teasing. The servants themselves had also been treated very
formally, with great respect. Of course, the Catkins he had met without a
Proof of Royalty had treated the noblewomen with a great deal of respect.
Lion-O had a feeling he could spend the rest of his life dissecting the Catkin
social structure and still not understand it.
“I’ll go first.” Neko announced. She had exchanged her long blue kimono for
a black bodysuit that was covered in pockets and pouches bulging with things
Lion-O probably didn’t want to know about. A long, curved sword like the
one Hachiman carried was strapped against her back. It didn’t look like
clothing one wore when doing something legal. It made him wonder what else
Neko did besides gather information.
“What I really, really hate about this is those damn fish!” Cala sounded close
to tears. She had changed her own latex paint for a ninja outfit. Apparently,
they didn’t have this sort of clothing in her size; the shirt left her stomach bare
and was also missing the sleeves.
“What fish?” Bengali asked.
“If you can hold your breath for half an hour, you’re more than welcome to do
this without the breathers.” Neko announced, sounding as if she were losing
her patience with her friend’s fear.
“What fish?” Bengali repeated.
“Cala.” ‘Purra touched the Amazon on her arm very gently. “Don’t worry; I
won’t let anything happen to you.” Extra-petite ‘Purra vowing to protect a
warrior woman twice her size should have sounded ridiculous, but Cala looked
genuinely relieved. ‘Purra looked very sincere and solemn. In a second, her
expression returned to the dismissive, half-bored expression she used when
joking with the others. “Besides, whoever heard of a Thunderpaw who was
afraid of water?” ‘Purra had ditched her armor in favor of ninja clothing, and
taken her hair out of it’s cylindrical wrap and bound it in a tight bun instead.
“Hey!” Everyone turned to look at the white tiger. “What fish?!” Without a
word, Neko reached into the water and withdrew a net full of large, slimy,
black fish. Pulling one out, she showed Bengali the head of the creature. The
mouth was one enormous sucker. Neko took a deep breath and brought the
fish to her face. With a noise like a pair of rubber hip-waders encountering a
hidden drainage pipe, the fish’s sucker formed a tight seal over Neko’s mouth
and nose. She dived into the water and gave them the thumb’s up. The
breather fish hung from her face, apparently content with its lot in life.
“I’m not doing that!” Bengali cried in dismay. Cala pointed at him quickly.
“See?! He agrees with me!”
“Cala.” ‘Purra said the name like it was a statement. The Thunderpaw tabby
“All right, I’ll wear the damn thing. If I drown I’m coming back to haunt you,
“I’m still not—“
“Bengali.” Lion-O did his best to ape ‘Purra’s tone. When he was a little boy
he had once seen how far he could push his father, Claudus. When he hit the
line, that was exactly the tone his father had used. By just saying the person’s
name, you were stating precisely how dangerous continuing the argument could
be. It got impressive results. Bengali fell silent.
“Right. Neko will lead the way. She will have a rope tied around her waist
that we’ll hold onto. Don’t worry about running out of air; the breather fish will
take care of that. Everybody can swim, right?” This drew a round of nods,
two of them extremely reluctantly. ‘Purra nodded sharply. “Right, then; let’s
not hang about here all day.” She reached into the fish bag and withdrew a
“Don’t get killed, ‘Purra.” Lady Scarborough called. She would be staying
behind in the Manor of the House of Saroko.
“I’ll do my best, Granmama.” ‘Purra suctioned the odious fish to her face
and vaulted backwards into the water. Lion-O steeled himself and placed one
of the slimy things against his face. The sucker clamped onto his face, the beast
hanging on like grim death. Lion-O couldn’t breathe. The fish was clamped
over his face and it wasn’t letting go, even as it’s tail flapped frantically against
“Get in the water!” Lady Scarborough yelled. “If the fish can’t breathe,
neither can you!” Lion-O staggered over to the channel and fell in. Almost
instantly, air rushed into his lungs; true, it was damp, fishy air, but it was air
nonetheless. Bengali and Cala were prodded into the water, fish and all, and
the group disappeared into the murky water beneath the city of Grimalkin.
Captain Purrurin was starting to come down from her power high. The City
Guard was throwing everything they had at the gates of the Manor of the House
of Tonkinese. The protective runes were smoking gently and making soft
hissing noises, but they were holding. The Commander of the City Guard
bowed before the Empress.
“Their protective runes can’t hold up forever. We will be inside before
nightfall, your Highness.” Koshka Windrifter frowned.
“Something about this isn’t right.” The Commander blinked.
“Stardust isn’t the sort to send some peasants to bar the way while she nips
out the back. It’s not like her; she’s too confrontational.” Koshka rubbed her
chin thoughtfully. “I don’t think they’re here.” The Commander looked back at
the gates, which were currently being savaged by a serpent of fire.
“Should I call off the assault, Highness?”
“No. Keep attacking. When you get inside, bring me that smart-mouthed
“If you like.” Empress Koshka muttered distractedly. “I’m going to address
the Council of Queens. After this fiasco, I’ll have the support to dethrone
Stardust for sure.”
‘Purra wiggled a finger under the sucker of the breather fish and managed to
pry it off of her face. Cold water rushed in to chill skin warmed by the heat of
her own breath. The fish wrenched itself free of her and disappeared into the
inky darkness. ‘Purra pulled herself out of the water, drawing in a deep breath
of cool, fish-free air. Neko was crouched silently a few feet away, on a set of
rather musty stairs. The Saroko noble made no sound as ‘Purra approached.
Neko made a living out of being silent. When she wore dark colors and sat in
the shadows, people mistook her for furniture.
“Anyone around?” ‘Purra whispered. Behind her, Lion-O and Cala surfaced
as quietly as possible.
“One person in the room at the top of the stairs.” Neko flowed up the steps
and peered cautiously over the threshold. After a moment’s observation, she
retreated back down the steps just as gracefully. “There’s a wine steward
collecting a couple of bottles. Get the rest of the mob together and get ready to
tail him back up the stairs.”
Queen Sharia of the House of Angora was enjoying herself immensely. The
Council of Queens had convened to decide the fate of the two ThunderCat
prisoners, but they were missing Queen Singa-Purra. Since a Council couldn’t
be adjourned without all Queens present, the other five Queens had been stuck
in the Council Chamber for about thirty-six hours. Word had it that Queen
Singa-Purra was out traipsing around with the escaped prisoners and the Lord
of the ThunderCats himself. After the first twelve hours, the queens had
ordered the servants to bring ale and cakes. The cakes had been finished
quickly, but the stewards were ordered to keep the glasses filled to the brim.
The Council now had the air of a sorority party after a few kegs too many.
The five queens reclined in various states on their respective thrones, which
were situated around a great round table. The throne of the Catkin nation,
reserved for the Empress herself, sat against the back wall of the Council
chamber. It was up to the six queens to hammer out the affairs of state; the
Empress did little more than cast tie breaking votes. Queen Sharia felt a new
kinship with her fellow queens; she had known most of them practically all their
lives, but she had never really gotten to know them. Queen Tarsi of the House
of Mau, whom Sharia had hitherto considered an insufferable priss with a stick
up her ass, had put away four pints of ale then calmly announced that beer was
for pussies and ordered the wine steward to keep her supplied with the hardest
liquor available. She was currently face down on the table, sleeping off her
bender. Queen Anastasia of the House of Ashpurr, who put the ‘sassy’ in ‘fat
and sassy’, had been through the state of being drunk to sobriety twice now,
and was working on her third buzz. She was in earnest conversation with
Queen Kami of the House of Saroko, who was too drunk to know which way
“I have never in my life done anythin’ illegal. I even got a license for my pet
parakeet.” Queen Kami was slurring loudly.
“You don’t need a license for your parakeet, luv.” Anastasia announced.
“I won’t be caught wi’ such a trick!” Anastasia fought back giggles.
“Luv, I promise you; there’s no such thing! You don’t need one!”
“I’ve bleeding got one!” Kami dug around in the drawer under her chair and
whipped out a small square of paper, which she thrust in Anastasia’s face.
“What’s that, then?” The Ashpurr Queen took the offending parchment and
stared at it for a full minute.
“This is a dog license with the word ‘dog’ crossed out and ‘parakeet’ written
in in pencil.” She announced quietly.
“The man didn’t have the proper form.” Kami muttered.
“The man from the Bird Detector Ministry.” Anastasia’s face turned red.
Placing the license in front of Kami, Anastasia reached for her wine glass.
“I’m not drunk enough to hear this.” She muttered to herself.
“He said they had equipment that could pinpoint a cheep at 400 yards and
Mr. Peepers, being such a happy bird, must have been a piece of cake.” Kami
announced openly. Anastasia exhaled a thirty-year old merlot through her nose.
“Oh Madame Secretary!” She called out to Sharia. “You might want put this
down in the minutes: Kami’s a riot once you get a few drinks into her.” Sharia
was about to agree when a whistling noise distracted her. Looking to her right,
she saw Queen Adriana of the House of Thunderpaw. The brawny queen’s
eyes were protruding comically and her cheeks were puffed out. A multitude of
veins were bulging from her neck and forehead. Sharia looked at her pocket
“That’s five minutes, Adriana, you win the bet.” The resulting exhalation blew
papers off of the round table and rustled tapestries on the far wall. Sharia dug
into her money purse. “We have to pay her.” She told Anastasia. Adriana
tilted her head back, and then reeled gently in her chair. Her eyes met Sharia’s.
“Mom?” She asked.
“I don’t think we do, actually.” Anastasia announced with a wicked grin.
Adriana’s heat hit the table with a bang. Sharia gave a happy sigh, her body
and mind warmed by the alcohol.
“We should do this more often.” She announced. The large double doors at
the far end of the Council chamber flew open. Singa-Purra strode through them
dramatically. The effect would have been more striking if one of the doors
hadn’t rebounded off of a waiter and caught ‘Purra a crack on the shin. As it
was, she had to settle for limping purposefully to her throne.
“Sisters, hear me!” She cried, wincing only slightly.
“’Purra! Now that you’re here we can finally vote on . . . . .what did we have
to vote on again?” Kami asked.
“Prisoners. Of some description.” Anastasia muttered.
“Well, we should definitely have prisoners. Otherwise, what would we call the
bad people?” The Saroko queen slurred. ‘Purra frowned. Her gaze took in
the multitude of bottles, Queen Tarsi sleeping on the table, Queen Adriana
gently hyperventilating at her throne. ‘Purra jumped to an educated guess.
“You’re all drunk!” She cried, clearly outraged.
“We have been drinking. We are not drunk. There’s a difference.” Queen
Sharia corrected, shaking her finger at her young peer.
“For some of us, anyway.” Anastasia added as Kami quietly fell out of her
“’Purra?” Everyone conscious in the Council chamber turned back to the
doorway. Lion-O stood there, dripping regally. Cala, Bengali and Lynx-O
stood behind him. The young Lord wrinkled his nose at the smell of alcohol.
“Please tell me this isn’t as bad as it looks.” He requested.
“I would, but you’d have to close your eyes first.” ‘Purra sighed, rubbing her
forehead. The other queens finished giving Lion-O the old elevator eyes.
“Who’s the beefcake?” Kami asked in a stage whisper, “He looks yummy.”
Anastasia burst out laughing. Lion-O inspected the tapestries with the air of
one who’s going to pretend he didn’t hear what was just said. ‘Purra looked
“The beefcake happens to be Lion-O, Lord of the ThunderCats!” She
announced loudly. Queen Adriana reached over to pat ‘Purra soothingly on the
“Calm down, sweetie, no-one’s trying to steal your boytoy.” ‘Purra turned an
astonishing shade of red. A blush started to creep across Lion-O’s face as he
carefully studied the intricate Saroko-woven rugs. Cala snickered to herself.
‘Purra looked as if she was on the verge of setting the other queens straight by
force, but a young maid dashing through the council chamber doors crying
interrupted her: “Queen Singa-Purra!” The girl looked absolutely terrified.
“What’s the matter, child?” The woman in question asked gently. Tears
glistened on the girl’s cheeks.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered. ‘Purra hesitated for only a moment, but it was a
moment too long. She tried to throw herself to the side, but something caught
her around the neck and hurled her face down on the Council chamber table.
Cala was already powering up a spell, but the magic-dampening spells reduced
her lightning blast to a few measly sparks.
“I swear by all the Gods, Stardust, you are such a troublemaker.” Empress
Koshka Windrifter emerged from the shadows. She had traded her whimsical
dress for some sensible armor. She looked half way decent for once.
“Singa-Purra’s been collared!” Anastasia cried in horror. ‘Purra had rolled
out of Windrifter’s range and sprang to her feet. Around her neck was an
ugly-looking iron collar, spikes protruding from all around and a large
horseshoe hung on the front.
“Cala, what is that?” Lion-O demanded. Cala’s eyes were the size of dinner
“It’s a magic-inhibiting collar. You can’t conjure so much as a light spell with
one of those on. It’s highly illegal even to possess them!”
“I don’t understand. Magic can’t be used in this room anyway, why would
the Empress bother collaring ‘Purra?” Bengali wanted to know. Cala looked
“The collars are used on criminals . . .. just before they’re executed . . . . . it
keeps them from fighting back.” She whispered.
“That’s right! I’ve had about all I can stand from you, Singa-Purra. Just
because Mommy didn’t love you, it doesn’t mean you can live by your own
rules.” Koshka announced. ‘Purra’s face twisted with hatred.
“Don’t think I’ll forget this.” She hissed.
“I don’t plan on leaving you alive for that long.” Koshka held up what
appeared to be glowing pink ball.
“The magic-dampening spell!” Sharia cried. “Stop!” Her pleas went
unheeded. Koshka tossed the spell above her head, where it exploded with a
belch of smoke. Lion-O felt his ears pop. Before anyone could move, a wall
of blue fire erupted from the floor, sealing off Koshka and ‘Purra in the back
half of the Council chamber.
“BWAHAHAHAHA! It’s the end of the Stardust dynasty! You’re helpless
even to shield yourself from my attacks! I’ll take you apart with my bare
hands! Prepare to die, kitten!” Koshka’s eyes took on the maniacal gleam
found in despots and gym teachers everywhere. ‘Purra’s body snapped into a
“You forget; I am a mistress of the ancient arts! I don’t need magic to deal
with the likes of you! This kitten has claws!” She declared.
“I didn’t know people really talked like this.” Kami announced, finally starting
to sober up. With a cry of rage, Koshka lunged forward. ‘Purra was waiting,
elbow extended. She brought the larger woman’s charge up short with a blow
to the windpipe. Without even waiting a moment, the little queen extended her
right leg up past her right ear in a sharp kick that caught Windrifter under the
chin. The Thunderpaw choked and started to fall forward. Somehow, ‘Purra
managed to roll onto her back, legs still spread in a perfect split. Koshka’s fall
passed right over her.
“Wow! Did you see that?!” Bengali exclaimed. With an equally acrobatic
spin, ‘Purra rolled back to her feet. Koshka ripped the leather belt from
around her waist and whipped around ‘Purra’s forearm, yanking the younger
woman forward into a powerful punch to the side. Everyone on the other side
of the wall of fire could hear the crack of damaged ribs.
“Oh no! ‘Purra!!!!” Cala let loose a stream of lightning at the magical barrier,
which had about as much effect as a cup of water on a forest fire. ‘Purra
lashed out with her claws, slashing Koshka across the face. Windrifter
bellowed in pain and threw the smaller woman away from her. The little
Tonkinese queen twisted in a way that defied medical logic and landed on her
feet. She snapped into another stance.
“What’s the matter, Koshka, dear? Can’t take a woman half your size?”
“Oh fuck this.” Windrifter announced, powering up a fire spell. ‘Purra let out
a squeak and dived behind one of the thrones.
“You coward! At least give her a fair chance!” Lion-O cried. While ‘Purra
was avoiding the flames, Koshka dashed to the Empress’s throne and tore
open the cushioned back. Before the assembled party, she reached into the
ravaged fluff and pulled out a gleaming war axe.
“The Axe of Ymir! You hid that in our very midst! You traitor!” Anastasia
“No weapons in the Council chamber, I take it?” Lynx-O asked.
“No weapons, no magic. And she brings a magical weapon!” Adriana
“Weapons. That’s it,” Cala murmured to herself. “’Purra! Try to take the
Axe from her!”
“Are you kidding?!” ‘Purra demanded. Koshka bellowed a word of power
and slashed with the Axe. Even though the blade connected with nothing but
thin air, the table and chairs in the path of the slash erupted in a shower of
“I thought she couldn’t use magic with the collar.” Lion-O protested.
“Magical weapons have their own power. She can use the Axe if she can get
it away from Windrifter!” Cala announced.
“’Purra couldn’t even lift the Axe.” Kami added. ‘Purra dived to avoid
another devastating slash. She was rapidly running out of things to hide behind.
“No, she couldn’t lift that axe,” Lion-O said quietly, “but she can lift the
Sword of Omens.”
“What?!” Bengali cried. The ThunderCat Lord already had the Sword and
Claw Shield free.
“HOOO!!!!!!” The blade blazed to its full length, light dancing across the
surface. The combatants stopped, distracted.
“’Purra! Catch!” Lion-O roared, heaving the Sword at her handle first.
‘Purra barely got her hand up in time to catch the Sword before it struck her in
the face. Koshka’s eyes widened and she growled her word of power, raising
her enchanted Axe over her head for the killing blow. Lion-O threw the Claw
Shield. It smacked firmly onto ‘Purra’s left arm without a moment to lose. The
force wave from the Axe shattered the stones and shredded the tapestries
around the Tonkinese queen, but the power of the Claw Shield kept her safe.
The light in the blade of the Sword of Omens pulsed gently as a purring cat.
The Claw Shield seemed to ripple, then re-shaped itself around ‘Purra’s small,
delicate forearm. Almost as an afterthought, it’s color lightened to white. The
Sword of Omens vibrated gently for a moment, then the blade lengthened by
nearly six inches, adding a slight curve. The hilt lengthened as well, curving
around so that ‘Purra could grasp it with both hands. The observers watched
with astonishment. ‘Purra eyed her new weaponry and moved her gaze to her
opponent, a particularly unpleasant smile tugging at her lips.
“Give up now, or it will go very hard on you.” Singa-Purra murmured softly.
“I won’t surrender to you. I’m bigger than you, stronger than you,” Koshka
“But not better than me. On your own head be it. Attack!” ‘Purra ordered.
Koshka showed much better skill at fighting with a weapon. Her first swing,
which ‘Purra simply sidestepped, shaved fabric from the sleeve of ‘Purra’s
shirt. Her second swing snipped a lock of hair from ‘Purra’s bangs. The
blue-white blade of the Sword of Omens blocked Koshka’s third swing. The
Axe of Ymir screamed as the Sword of Omens notched the ancient Axe’s
blade. ‘Purra threw Koshka back with a strength that didn’t originate in her
“Give up or I’ll have to hurt you!” She ordered.
“I am Empress of the Catkin nation! I’ll kneel to no one!” Koshka roared,
lunging forward with a half-crazed, desperate on-handed swing. The Sword of
Omens flashed. The Axe of Ymir hit the floor and slid through the firewall, the
Empress’s right hand still clutching the haft tightly. There was moment of
pregnant silence. The ThunderCats and the watching queens reeled away from
the severed hand as if it were diseased. Koshka’s wrist erupted in a spray of
blood, the arteries still pumping madly, not knowing what had hit them. The
Empress’s expression was almost comical.
“Hey, that’s my hand.” She protested in a weak voice. Then the pain hit her.
The once-proud warrior collapsed around the stump, screaming in agony. The
firewall evaporated like morning mist. ‘Purra calmly wiped some of her
enemy’s blood from her face. She paced slowly around the Empress until she
was standing directly in front of her. She reached out with one foot and tilted
Windrifter’s chin up with her toe.
“You’re kneeling to me,” ‘Purra whispered, “Never forget it.” The little
Tonkinese queen let out a slow, ragged breath. “Someone go get a medic.”
One of the servants backed out and dashed down a hallway. ‘Purra found a
mostly-intact throne and set it back on it’s feet. She collapsed into it like sitting
down was an incredible joy. Distractedly, she reached up with her left hand
and grabbed the cursed collar. The Claw Shield gave her the strength to tear
the iron collar away like it was made of paper. The maid collapsed at her feet,
“I’m so sorry, my Queen! The Empress made me do it! She threatened my
family!” The girl sobbed. ‘Purra sighed.
“Yes, yes, it’s all right, just go away.” She muttered. The grateful servant
made a hasty departure before she could change her mind. Several medics
came in and took the Empress away. ‘Purra looked up as Lion-O’s shadow
fell over her.
“Oh. These belong to you.” She pulled off the Claw Shield and held it and
the Sword of Omens out to the Lord of the ThunderCats. Bengali and Lynx-O
visibly relaxed, but Lion-O simply looked at the offered weapons silently.
“You didn’t kill Koshka,” he observed. ‘Purra shook her head.
“She would have killed you,” he informed her.
“It’s a worse punishment to leave her alive with her failure. Losing to me is the
worst fate she could have imagined. If I had killed her, she wouldn’t have
known that she lost.”
“That’s very wise,” Lion-O said quietly. ‘Purra looked down at the objects in
“Don’t you want the Sword back?” There was a long, expectant silence.
“No, I don’t think I do.” The four queens gasped in delight. The two
ThunderCats gasped in dismay.
“But it belongs to you,” ‘Purra protested.
“I don’t think I deserve it. You’re twice the leader I’ll ever be,” Lion-O said.
“It was stolen from your House by my ancestors. Now I’m returning it. It’s the
just thing to do.” ‘Purra looked down at the Sword of Omens and thought
about her conversation with Queen Maricole. She looked up and met
“You’re giving up the source of all your power because it’s the just thing to do
and you think you don’t deserve this? That act alone warrants the Sword’s
possession.” ‘Purra pressed the Sword and Claw Shield into Lion-O’s hands,
where they returned to their former appearances. “My House has thrived on
our own magic for 5,000 years. I couldn’t live with myself if I took this Sword
away from someone who needed it.” The four queens gasped in dismay. The
two ThunderCats gasped in relief. Lion-O smiled warmly.
“I won’t forget this.”
“You’d better not,” ‘Purra teased. “And now, I think I could use a medic,
too.” The diminutive queen crumbled over, clutching her ribs.
One day, four hours sleep, a feast, a bath, and the retrieval of a certain
woodcutter later, Lion-O, Bengali, Lynx-O, Ferhad, ‘Purra and Cala stood at
the edge of the Dark Forest. Ferhad had been found trying to tunnel out of a
holding cell in the Palace dungeons. Singa-Purra had called forth enough elk for
them to all ride to the edge of the forest. ‘Purra had traded in her ninja clothes
for a crimson and black dress. The garment left her shoulders bare, but the
sleeves came down well past her hands. The bell necklace now rested on a red
ribbon and her snow-white hair was loose and cascaded down past her waist.
A red and black coronet rode between her ears. Cala had changed her
skintight leather for more of the same. Bengali was rubbing his left shin and
“I couldn’t let you give out Neko’s secret. No one but us knows she’s a
shinobi. That’s why she took off before we got into the Council chamber. If
you didn’t have such a big mouth –,” Cala began.
“You didn’t have to kick me so hard!” He protested. The Thunderpaw
princess ignored him.
“So this is the Other Side, huh?” Cala didn’t seem impressed. “I thought
there would be more buildings and people and things. I guess it’s all right if you
“I’ll have you know the palace is the most impressive building on the planet!”
Bengali began. Lynx-O shook his head and began walking with Ferhad
towards the farmhouse.
“Ferhad!” Felina came running out of the farmhouse and threw herself into her
husband’s arms. “I was so worried! When the cow came back home without
the ThunderCats, I thought you were lost forever!”
“Stupid cow.” Lion-O muttered darkly.
“Yeah, whatever, ThunderCat, I’ll just go back to my big, bad, enchanted
forest now!” Cala announced, leaving Bengali fuming as she headed back into
“This forest is enchanted. Something . . . very strange happened to one of the
mutants in there,” Lion-O informed them.
“You mean the reptile?” ‘Purra asked knowingly.
“You-?” Lion-O started to ask.
“What did you think happened to him? Spontaneous refrigeration?” She
“I should have known.”
“I have to ask you something serious,” ‘Purra announced.
“What is it?”
“How did you know I would give the Sword back?”
“I didn’t. I just really, really hoped you would,” Lion-O said casually. ‘Purra
stared at him for a moment.
“You gave the source of all your power to someone you had only known for a
matter of hours and just really hoped I would give it back?”
“You’re crazed,” ‘Purra diagnosed, shaking her head.
“I’m sure Bengali and Lynx-O thought so.” There was a moment of
comfortable silence. “So . . . will I ever see you again?” Lion-O asked softly.
On the outside, ‘Purra averted her eyes and blushed faintly. Inside, her libido
was jumping up and down, screaming: “Yippee!”
“Don’t think you’re getting rid of me so easily,” she murmured. “We will
definitely meet again. You can take that to the bank.” She promised. Lion-O
smiled, even though he didn’t know what the hell he should be taking to the
bank. ‘Purra smiled up at him, the evening wind ruffling her hair and clothes. It
was a moment he would remember forever.
“’PURRA! QUIT DICKIN’ AROUND; I WANNA GO HOME!” Cala
“IN A MINUTE!” ‘Purra screamed back over her shoulder. She turned
back to the ThunderCat Lord, but the moment was gone. ‘Purra’s bull elk
knelt beside her and she slid onto his back gracefully. The beast turned back
towards the safety of his forest.
Singa-Purra gave him one last, brief smile.
“Until we meet again, Lord Lion-O!”
“Until we meet again, Queen Singa-Purra!"
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