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Pleasant Days: Birthday Surprise
By Mummraa



  Cheetara awakened to the gentle music of birdsong outside her window.
She opened her eyes.  Judging from the soft grey light filtering in
through the window, it was not quite dawn.  In a few moments, the sun
would appear on the eastern horizen, and rays of golden light would warm
the sleeping countryside...but for now, the stars still shone faintly in
the pale purple sky.  It was a quiet time; a sacred time.
  Ever since she and Tygra had escaped from the castle of the mutant
baron Kamork, several months ago, she had been savoring life quite a bit
more.  Her brush with death, along with all the suffering she had seen
and endured within that accursed fortress, had made her appreciate that
subtler beauties of the everyday world.
  She turned to look at Tygra, and was surprised to find him awake.  He
was sitting up in bed, bare except for the bedcovers pooled in his lap,
watching her with a little smile.  "Morning, love."
  She sat up and wrapped her arms around him, kissing him softly.
"Morning," she whispered.  "How long have you been awake?"
  "Just a few minutes.  Happy birthday, Cheetara."
  "Oh, that's right!  I'd forgotten."  Thirty, she thought.  I am thirty
today.  Gods, how the years have flown by.  Stretching out her
sleep-stiffened muscles, she gazed out the window, at the lightening
sky.  Dawn was approaching; the others would be awake soon.  "Come.
Let's go downstairs and get started on breakfast."
  "So early?" he grinned.  "There's still plenty of time before dawn.
Let's stay here a little longer."  He leaned closer to her.
  Cheetara nestled against his broad chest.  "Sounds good to me," she
breathed.

  "Snyaaarf...where d'you suppose Lion-o's gone off to, Panthro?  He's
nowhere in the Lair."  Snarf waddled into the kitchen, wringing his paws
and looking around anxiously.
  Panthro sipped his coffee.  "Don't worry about him, Snarf.  Lion-o can
look after himself.  He's probably just gone out for a little fresh
air.  In fact, I could do with a little fresh air myself."  Rising to
his feet, he stretched and strolled cheerfully out of the kitchen.
  Snarf sat back on his haunches.  "P-r-r-r, I just don't like it!  It's
not like Lion-o to wander off without telling anyone."  Frowning, he
propped his furry chin up on one paw and made a little "tch-tch" sound
of disapproval.  "Snyarf, with Lion-o gone and the kittens helping out
at the Berbil Village, Cat's Lair is just too quiet!"
  Cheetara and Tygra entered the kitchen side by side.  "What's the
matter, Snarf?" Cheetara asked.
  "Ohh, nothin', it's just..."
  "Hey, Cheetara!" Panthro called out sharply.  He entered the kitchen,
carrying a polished wooden box.  The box was inlaid with delicate gold
patters--leaves and flowers--and a yellow ribbon had been expertly tied
around it.  Attached to the ribbon was a card.
  Cheetara's eyes brightened.  "Is that for me?  Thank you, Panthro!"
  "It's for you, but it's not from me.  I found it outside Cat's Lair.
Take a look."
  He handed her the box, and she took it, inspecting the card with a
dubious little frown.  "'To the Lady of the Thundercats, from a Secret
Admirer'?"
  Panthro shrugged.  "I assume 'Lady of the Thundercats' means you,
Cheetara."
  "Yes, probably, but...who is it from?"  She turned the card over,
looking for some clue, but it was blank on the other side.  She glanced
at Tygra.
  "Sorry.  It's not from me," he told her.
  "Snyaarf, and it's not from me either."
  Panthro grinned teasingly.  "Well whaddaya know...Cheetara has a
secret admirer."
  Jealousy darkened Tygra's face.  "I don't know if I like this."
  Cheetara set the box carefully down on the kitchen table.  "Don't
worry, Tygra, I'm sure this is nothing serious.  It's just a simple
birthday gift."
  "I don't know.  That box looks pretty expensive to me."
  "Aw, lighten up Tygra," Panthro remarked with a deep, rumbling
chuckle.
  Cheetara sat down at the table, inspecting the box.  It did look
expensive...it was masterfully carved and crafted of a dark, rich,
exotic-looking wood...and she was fairly certain that was real gold
enlaid in that elaborate design of plantlife.
  "I think I know who sent this," Panthro declared suddenly.  "Ha!  No
wonder Lion-o vanished this morning...he had to find the time to put
this box in a place where it would be easily found."
  "Lion-o?" Cheetara asked skeptically.  "You really think he's the one
who sent this?"  She allowed her fingers to brush across the cool,
smooth surface of the wood, tracing the delicate gold patterns.  "He
never struck me as the romantic type."
  "Well, you never know."
  "Go ahead, Cheetara," urged Snarf.  "Open it.  I want to see what's
inside!"
  Cheetara felt a little tingle of excitment, and she discovered that
she, too, was eager to see what was inside this mysterious gift-box.
She undid the yellow ribbon and carefully set it aside.  Holding her
breath, she lifted the lid of the box.
  At first, she was confused...she saw the glassy, staring eyes, and the
vibrant tufts of red mane, but she couldn't seem to piece together what
she was seeing, as if her brain would not allow her to comprehend...
  ...then her eyes widened and she began to scream, shocked, choking
screams that rang harshly in the tomblike-silence of the kitchen.
  Cradled in the velvet interior of the box, blood-covered, eyes blank
and sparkling in the soft morning light, was Lion-o's head.

  A note had been stuffed into Lion-o's mouth:

Dear Thundercats,
  As you can see, Lion-o finally bit off more than he could chew.  Soon,
you'll all share his fate.  In the meantime, have a GREAT day!!
  Love,
  Mumm-ra.
P.S.  Enjoy the birthday gift, Cheetara


                              To Be Continued...





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