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Youth and the Puritan
By RD Rivero

“Youth And The Puritan”
By RD Rivero
June 13, 2000

It was Liono’s day off and he was determined to enjoy those free hours
the best that he could.  Lately he had not been himself and more than
anything he needed to unwind.  He packed sandwiches into a knapsack, he
walked down the length of the extended bridge and headed to the
surrounding forest.
He left Cat’s Lair and told no one, not even Snarf where he was going to
or where he was staying at -- not that he knew anyway.  Usually, when it
was his turn of the week to rest, he would either stay in at home and
work on his studies or he would hike out to the delta of the northern
rivers -- a long, arduous journey that by the time  he reached the
turbulent waters he had no choice but to start the trip back home.
Not that time, no, not again, not ever.
Something had changed, something was different and it bothered him to
wit’s end that only he had noticed.  He was sad and depressed, painfully
aware of how different the world had become, of how things had changed
to suddenly yet so casually.  He was afraid for he no longer saw through
a child’s eye.
Large, white clouds floated and glided above in the sky, caught in the
sharp currents of the air.  A loud howl, a stirring alarm rang and
echoed through the trees.
Before him without warning the forest came to a complete and total end.
Confused and disoriented, he stood on a large, gray rock to catch his
bearings.  He had done more than stumble upon a large clearing, he had
come to very edge of the continent.  For countless miles left and right
the tall, enshadowed evergreens and pines towered high into the
heavens.  To the west the ground loosened and acame from fertility of
black soil to a wasteland of small rocks, smooth pebbled only to fade
further into ocean-sprayed sand.
It had taken him two hours on foot but at last he had reached the
tranquil shoreline of the beach.
The summer air was warm and still.  The sky was overcast in white vapors
that though dense let ample sunlight fall onto the virgin earth below.
The ocean, too, was calm and scarcely rippled and out beyond the water
was flat and featureless.  Foamy crests formed near the sand where the
effect quickly vanished in a spreading haze.
Liono contemplated the situation.  He stopped to listen and heard
nothing but the distant drone of the vast ocean.  The forest had not
fully awoken from the slumber of the night and was unnaturally mute.
He began to walk along the length of the shell-covered beach.  He was
satisfied -- he was convinced that indeed he was alone, that no one else
had been around the area at least in some time.
The sand was hot and stung his flesh -- it got into his boots and it was
more than quite uncomfortable.  On the indeterminate edge between the
water and the dry land he sat and took off his shoes.  He patted the
sand out from within and with the salty foam that inched up to his body
he wash the silicates that were on his toes.
Without reason he was struck by an overpowering sense of aroused
excitement.  It was a sensation that he had only recently begun to
notice and that seemed to reoccur more and more frequently.  His heart
beat faster, his breath was equally paced.  He did not want to be out,
visible even though he had convinced himself that he was alone.  He
stood quickly and with his boots immediately in front of him he ran to a
large group of rocks and hid there, there in the shadows.
Liono waited for a while for the sensation to pass.
He wanted to be normal again and thought that if he could revert to his
earlier behavior that then he just might, yes, he just might be himself
again.  He took off his clothes.  His shirt -- he could still do that
with the least shame and yet he was conscious, overtly conscious of
himself, of his bulging, developing muscles that had gradually acquired
an definite and overt tone under his short, soft fur.  He could feel the
pressure of eyes upon him -- but there, but even there alone?  His
shorts -- that was something else and it was not that he was ashamed of
his body, at least he did not believe he was ashamed of his body, but he
could not deny that in the past he had never had reservations about
being naked or exposed, even in front of women.
After all, back on Thundera no one ever wore clothes.
But it was the way the others looked at him.  Cheetara, Tygra.  Cheetara
and her games, her strange games that she would play with him.  Odd that
he found himself drawn to her breasts, odd that she would let him fondle
them.  Tygra and his workouts, his medical exams, the monthly exams that
turned weekly, the weekly exams that turned daily.  It bothered him
because he just did not understand why his friends would spend so much
time and attention on those parts of him -- he cupped himself and petted
himself slightly -- he had noticed that they had grown as abruptly as
the rest of his body but that was that and no more.
Why did the others have to treat him different?
The discarded clothes he wrapped around the sword and the shield.  He
placed them safely under the cover of one of the gray rocks.  Satisfied
that those times were secure he ran fast to the water, stark naked.
It was terrible how it was cold but gradually he got used to the
temperature.  He treaded for a while in the shallower areas only several
feet from the dry land.  The sand under his feet was deceptively smooth
for there were seashells and corals scattered everywhere.
Liono ventured further out.  The ocean was blue and clear and for the
longest time he could see down to the bottom without having to dunk his
head in.  Few fish swam near him -- not that he had expected to see
many.  He was shocked but not harmed when he spotted a single,
brown-tinged jellyfish glide past by his legs.
He dashed out of the way and when he was far enough from the shoreline
that the large rocks disappeared into obscurity and the tall trees just
barely rose above the horizon there was no longer sand beneath him.  The
water had dropped twenty feet but to be sure there was no darkness yet.
He could see the bottom quite well -- and for that more than for any
other reason was why he dived down.  An object had caught his eye but he
was not sure what it was.
The water was warmer, not colder but Liono noticed that while he sank he
passed a strong, side-winding current of cold water that veered him off
course considerably.  He landed in a much deeper spot but he had not
panicked -- he had enough breath to last a while longer.  He crawled to
where he had seen the object and felt around.  He realized that just
below an inch or two of sand was a series of long, wooden planks.  Other
details slowly came into focus.
Liono went up to the surface and down to the bottom frequently in the
space of what must have been an hour or more and still he had managed
only to explore a small fraction of the wreckage.  He had discovered the
remains of an ancient ship, much of which was buried in the encroaching
The object that had caught his eyes was a square, hinged door badly
eroded and warped.  He opened the hatch -- on the other side there was
no sand but there was darkness.  He wanted to go in but he did not have
enough air left in his lungs.
He wasted more time getting to the surface but once there he made sure
to fill his lungs with more than enough fresh air to last even longer
than before.  He had already made a mental not that for the next
excursion he would bring the necessary gear for extended, underwater
trips.  He only hoped that the ocean would remain as calm and as
agreeable as it was that day.
Liono dove and crawled into the submerged vessel -- that part of the
vessel that the hatch opened to.  Because of the pervasive darkness he
was afraid that if the hatch fell and trapped him then he would be
unable to find it again.  He did not venture far from the entrance and
with the light that poured from above he saw a bright and sparkling box
on a worn and beaten table.  He reached out to grab it but drew his hand
back instantly.
He could have screamed and for the first time he panic.
But he had drawn back so fast that he was no longer under the hatch and
he had to struggle with his fear to reach it again.  His heart raced and
he was dying for air.  The large fish that he had aroused followed him
on the way up and no sooner was he choking for breath on the surface of
the water but he was struggling to swim back to the shore for it
followed him effortlessly.
He could tell very little about the fish other than the fact that it was
huge and dangerous.  Its head was as large as his own chest, its mouth
was wide and open in the most terrifying way.  He did not see teeth,
only two large barbs at the tip of its upper jaw.
He reached the sand and doubled over.  He crawled on his hands and knees
until he reached the safety of the gray rocks.  Only then did he look
back to see -- to see if that fish had followed him onto the land.  That
was when he panicked for the second time -- he looked down, his clothes
were gone, the sword and the shield had also been taken.
Liono calmed himself enough to realize what he had to do.  He called for
the sword and waited.  In a few moments he heard a familiar buzz in the
air and then in his hands the sword placed itself.
“Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight, show me where the claw
shield is, show me who’s taken my clothes --”
The sword reacted to his command and through the eye-holes that had
formed in the hilt he saw what he needed to know.  Without a further
thought he ran through the trees of the wilderness -- the forest had
come to life and the sounds of nature were everywhere, confounding and
damping his oncoming approach.  He knew by instinct where he had to go
and he had to act fast.
When he was only feet from the scene he stopped.  He wanted to be silent
and stealth -- the sword was already fully extended and ready but he was
afraid that the glimmer of the blade might give away his hidden position
in the entangled mass of the undergrowth.  Yet the trees obscured enough
light to keep him safe in the shadows.
“Now!  The bag, woman!” one of the thieves spoke sternly.
“Give us what we want and we might let you live,” the accomplice said.
He pointed a dull, metal piston at the woman’s face.
“You’ve had enough time --” the angrier robber darted across the
leaf-covered earth.
Liono noticed that the strange man had his claw shield around his waist
along with his clothes and his knapsack.
“That’s enough for you --” he jumped from the bushes and with the blade
of the sword he swatted the weapon in two.
The woman, as if on cue, as if she knew what to do from the start,
backed up soundlessly onto the brittle bark of a wide tree.
Liono elbowed the thief and knocked him to the ground.  The man was not
unconscious but in pain and he lumbered on all fours.  The other thief
was more of a challenge but he made a mistake by lunging at him -- he
had been perfect otherwise, with quick, chaotic motion.
Meanwhile the man who Liono had knocked down was back on his feet and
coming toward him from behind.  At the last moment he dashed out of the
way.  The two thieves collided comically into each other.  Liono ripped
off the claw shield from the robber and the rest of what he had stolen
fell to the ground.  Satisfied he roared and the two men who where on
their feet again scurried into the forest empty-handed.
He crouched to retrieve his items and then remembered the woman who then
approached him.
“Hello,” she said, “my name is Cressida.”
“My name, my name is, Liono, I am the Lord of the, Thundercats.”
“Yes, I know, I know about that.  You saved my life,” she said, she
reached out and touched his tensed arm.
He was aware that he was naked and tried desperately to cover with his
hands while at the same time holding the sword -- the rest of his stuff
he let fall to the ground with a slight thud.
The woman took notice and looked.  He was prepared for her to scream or
to react but -- she smiled and did not blush --- “Silly, you don’t have
to be ashamed.” She tried to draw his hands back and away.  “It’s not in
your nature to be, covered.”
“What, what do you know about that?”
“Well, you’re not exactly, human, are you?”  She ran some of her fingers
down the side of his exposed nipple to his waist.  “I didn’t mean
anything by that.  You are different in that way, you have no
inhibitions.  I can tell that, don’t hide behind pretended morality.”
She hugged him.  “You saved my life, Liono, the least I could do is --”
“Where you injured?” He asked, trying to change the subject.  He drew
back and crouched down softly to regain his clothes and such.  The sword
would not retract, it would not return to the shield.
“Those two only tried to steal this handbag of mine.”  She showed him
the article.  “Fools, inside I had herbs only.”
“Not money?  Then why didn’t you give it to them?”  He reattached the
shield onto his leg then arose with the crumpled clothes in his hands
over his crotch.
“The medicines are rare and potent and dangerous and besides, I knew you
would come.”  She approached him once more and wrapped her arms around
his waist.  “Come with me, you are tired and you need your rest.”
She had let her hands drop, wander onto his hips.
Once again Liono stepped back further into the shadows.  “You don’t have
to --”
“I must, it is the least that I can do -- to take care of you.  Are you
“A little --” he had forgotten about the sandwiches.
She could tell that he was nervous by the intense glare in his eyes.  “I
don’t want you to be nervous, you have nothing to be nervous about.  You
are strong,” she ran her hands down his heaving chest onto his sword --
that he had managed to secure in the claw shield nonetheless even though
fully extended.  “You are very beautiful.”
“Thank, thank you --”
“Do you know how beautiful your body is?”  She took his hands into her
own and spread them away from between his legs.  She pressed her body up
against his and kissed him.
“Cressida.”  Liono did not know what to do.  He heard her ask if he
wanted to come with her, he nodded, he may have spoken but memory was
all a blur.  It had all happened quickly.
She was so beautiful that she could affect even the trees, the rocks.
Those deep eyes, those watery eyes.  The way her long hair covered her
cheek.  The way her body was sculpted -- she was nothing like Cheetara,
she was not even like Willa or Nayda.  She was a goddess incarnate and
she commanded his every intimate attention.
He stopped her while the two walked over a clear trail through the woods
toward the sound of rushing water.  He looked into her and gave her a
kiss.  “I should have done that earlier, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to
make you feel --”
“No, you don’t have to apologize for anything.  This is knew to you and
I know that it must frighten you a little.”  She kissed him back and ran
her fingers down his cheek to rub him under his chin.
He looked up and around though the very leaves of the trees, the blades
of grass, the buds of bloomed flowers, though even the rocks had eyes
pressed against his flesh, watching what he was doing everywhere forever
in that surrounding wilderness.
“Will those two be back?”
She smiled once more:  “No, they will not return.”
Her cabin was built from aged, firm and sturdy hardwood in the edge of a
peaceful and silent clearing in the heart of the forest.  Everything
everywhere in sight was dwarfed beyond the power of words by the immense
stature of the surrounding trees whose branches did not begin until
about twenty feet above the ground.  Dense bushes and hedges lined the
shadowy earth next to the house in neat rows -- brightly colored berries
dotted the vines that grew within them.  A stream flowed across the side
of the small house and widened into a small pond around whose rim shrubs
and plants from a well-organized garden grew over and into and spread
thin, green leaves across the rippled, sparkled surface.
She led him to the pond of clear, cool water.
“Why don’t you take a dip and wash that salt water from your fur.”
He nodded -- she had taken with her his clothes and knapsack.  He put
the sword and the shield on the ground and treaded into the water, into
the deeper parts of the lake.  The cool, misty pond was greatly
“Wait,” he said under his breath, “wait.  I didn’t tell her I was in the
ocean -- or how could she tell?”
He was confused a little then left the water.  He shivered but she was
there already with a warm towel to dry him.  She wrapped him around her
arms again.
“There, there, does it feel better?”
“I’m not ashamed to be around you but --”
She pressed her fingers upon his lips to silence him:  “Kiss me.”
After several hours it was well past noon and the sun was no longer
visible through the impenetrable wall of the tops of the trees.  The sky
was still bright but the rest of the land had acome to the cold shadow
of the early evening.
Liono was in the cabin -- the two had spent most of the time picking the
ripened berries from the bushes and talking.  Talking.  She was a wealth
of information and had done much to answer the looming questions he had
tried alone to silence in his mind.  Questions about what had happened
to his body, about what he had been feeling.  Why he was so alone, why
the others treated him different.  She had opened his eyes much to his
relief and to his horror.
He was seated on the wooden floor in the main room where the stone and
water sink were visible in the background.  She sat herself next to him,
behind him, around him.  She let her hand fall upon him and tried to him
but he reluctantly took it away.  She had not touched him so overtly
before, no one ever had.
“Cressida --”
She put her hand there once more.
“I have to --” he drew it away once more but he took a while longer that
She petted him and then cupped him and that time he did nothing and said
nothing in protest.  That was when he noticed that she was naked too.
He turned to face her and she let him, guided him to return the favors.
She helped him fall back gently onto the floor and she got on top of
“You have to leave, it’s your way, it’s your nature to,” she spoke into
his ear.
“I’ll come back, I’ll come back again.”
She ran her hand down his disheveled mane.  She kissed him deeply on the
lips and spoke softly, so softly under her breath that even Liono could
not hear her though her lips were merely inches from his ears.  She
slipped from his embrace and receded into the cold darkness of the cabin
He could not see her anymore -- the lights, the fires had extinguished
and there was silence absolute.  Not the slightest hint of motion was
perceptible.  He stood and walked to the open door in confusion.  He
found his clothes and his knapsack on the ground just outside the door
along with his shield and his sword that had only then realized and
He stepped through the bushes next to the pond and looked behind.  The
cabin door was shut but he had no recollection of closing or of hearing
it close.  Overall, too, he noticed that the clearing had also changed.
The house, the gardens had the undeniable look of decrepit, unkept
Liono trekked through the wilderness in the twilight of dusk.  The sun
was only moments away from sinking under the distant horizon for the
night.  The horizon -- it was completely and totally invisible and
obscured by the massive, gigantic trees of the forest.
She was on his mind -- he was still admiring her, her supple figure, her
soft, silk skin.  The way his fur rubbed against her flesh, that more
than anything he could not ever forget.  She seemed so fragile and so
vulnerable that he felt so guilty for having done that to her -- though
it was at her insistence and at her direction -- he felt he had taken
advantage of her and hoped he had not done anything to hurt her.
He was determined to go back to her, yes, he would see her again and be
more gentle that next time.  He was so enthralled in the spell of that
mysterious woman that not once did it occur to him to stop and put on
his clothes.
He reached Cat’s Lair after two hours.  The bridge was extended and
waited for him.  The front doors he opened and entered into the lobby.
He was oblivious to the time, oblivious to the fact that the rest of the
Thundercats were in the room, too, eagerly awaiting his return so that
dinner could begin.
It was Tygra who shook him out of the ethereal trance the moment he was
entirely within the building.  “Liono?  Liono?  You look spooked, what
is it?”
The two men had stopped under the glow of hanging, swinging lamp.
Liono, whose eyes were unfocused in the distance, turned to face Tygra
with the most spaced-out, zoned-out countenance.
WileyKit began to giggle although she and her brother tried hard to stop
Once again he was brought back to reality and looked down upon his
nakedness and gasped.  He tried to hide it but in vain.  He turned
quickly and darted into a side passage without a word.  He ran up to his
room and slammed the door shut behind him in the torrent of a storm of
Tygra knocked on the door once or twice.  “Liono?  Liono?  What is it?”
He stopped -- silence, no answer.  He knocked once more.  The door
opened the instant his knuckles contacted the metal body.  He was
nervous and afraid and did not know what do to so he waited for a
The tiger swung the door back and entered.  Liono’s room was in darkness
-- the only light came from the bathroom in the back.  He could not see
his lord at first until he was up next to one of the windows.  He felt a
warmth and looked to his right.
Liono was in the shadows but clothed.  He looked angry and Tygra backed
away some.  “What’s wrong?”
“There are going to be a few changes around here,” he began.
“What sort of changes?”
He snarled:  “You’ll know when it’s your business to know.  I am the
Lord of the Thundercats around here, don’t tread on me.”
“I would never presume --”
“Oh, wouldn’t you.”
Tygra paused -- he had sensed the tension growing in Liono for weeks but
had never expected that his friend would act out the way he did just
“I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to see you again today, tomorrow,
not ever -- no workouts, no exams!”
“Something has happened to you.”  He stepped forward and tried to hold
onto Liono’s shoulders.
“I said don’t touch me.  You should be glad I don’t tell the others what
you’ve done to me in those, exams.”
Tygra could not believe what he was hearing.  “What did I do to you?
Measured your weight, your high.  I took readings of your heart --
“You know perfectly well what you’ve done to me!”
“You’ve always loved that, you’ve always wanted to play with the
stethoscope.  You said you never wanted that to change.”  He looked down
onto his outstretched hands, his empty hands.  He knew sooner or later
that that phase would come, but so soon, but so violently.
Liono shook his head.  He tried to cover his eyes with his fists.  “No,
no, no!  You know what you were doing.”
Tygra was about to cry.  “What happened to you, Liono?”  His voice was
weak, it was hardly above a whisper.
Liono was beginning to cry and, enraged, he shouted:  “Enough!  I must
be strong now, I am an adult, now, no.”  He stopped, he tried to reach
out to Tygra, who was then on his knees shaking, his head wrapped in his
arms but he went no farther.  “Go!  Go.”
Alone, he stormed around his room and took out his rage on anything and
everything in his sight.  He shouted and he screamed, not curses, not
words any longer but the guttural expressions of anger and guilt.  He
regretted what he did to the noble tiger even though he knew, even
though he was convinced that he was in the right -- but he did not want
to hurt anyone.
With the aid of the sword he saw that Tygra was in his own room, huddled
in bed, in pain.  The rest of the Thundercats remained below.  Dinner
had not been memorable and they found that their stomachs were filled
quite quickly.  The adults tried to busy themselves in work, in silence,
the children and Snarf tried to play games to divert attention.
Liono had calmed considerably.  He had sat himself down on the corner
and looked around -- his room had become just like her cabin.  Dark and
murky and above all mysterious.
He had cried his eyes out and now he was hungry.  He was determined to
grab even a small bite but before that he wanted to see Tygra.  He had
to see Tygra.  Tygra.
He stood and walked to the door and was about to open it when he stopped
-- he saw his arm, he saw the exposed skin of his arm and drew back his
hands from the light.
In the large mirror of the bathroom he saw himself entirely.  He was
clothed but bare.  His flesh showed even under the blue outfit.  It was
too tight, it was too formfitting.  He needed something looser,
something that would cover him completely, something so that not one
muscle could be seen by those eyes, those horrible eyes.
He rummaged through his closets and through his drawers but he found
nothing that would do what he wanted.
He remembered something, vaguely and ran down into the garage.  Panthro
was there -- he took notice of Liono’s presence immediately but said
nothing except for a singular growl.  The panther was not exactly
pleased to see him and continued with his welding.  The sounds of the
metalwork drowned out the noises that had echoed from within Cat’s Lair.

Liono found an outfit in a utility closet, a smock that would do the job
nicely.  Back in his bathroom he changed into the full-body coverall,
black and dense.  His arms were covered to the wrists, his legs were
covered to the ankles.  Baggy and loose and no detail of his body could
be seen through its numerous folds of plastic fabric.
He smiled his work to see -- and then he noticed something else,
something new.  Slight and imperceptible and yet he saw it.  It had
formed very recently but he dismissed it and went on.
Liono was on his way to see Tygra when he stumbled upon Cheetara.  She
was nude and he stopped cold.  Awkward silence followed -- no, no, there
was no silence.  She was speaking but he did not hear her over his
bulging rage.  He uttered, having cut her off mid-sentence:  “Put
clothes on this instant.  What?  What? What do you think this place is?
I’ll not have fully-formed adults run around, naked.”
She was stunned silent, her mouth was gaped open.
“Get out of my face, now and put clothes on woman!  No one, ever, no one
is to ever go around naked in this place, in any place, near me, around
me, away from me.  I don’t care about Thundera, I don’t care about how
things were done over there!  It doesn’t exist anymore, can’t you see
it?  It doesn’t exist!”
He stumbled upon his knees and wrapped his arms around his head.  She
backed away, further away into the hall.
“What is wrong with you all?  Why can’t you all be normal again?”
“I’m sorry, Liono, I thought it would make you feel better.”
“I’ll decide what makes me feel better.  Your games were never for me to
feel better -- how you enjoyed teasing me.  But you’ll never do that to
me again, I don’t need your, your, --” he ran back to his room and
barricaded himself within.
Though the climate cooled things continued to be tense in Cat’s Lair for
the rest of the week before Liono returned to her cabin.  Moody and
irritable, he began the gradual and unstoppable process of distancing
himself from the others.  He no longer appeared at the dinner table,
instead he ate alone in his room.  He no longer talked, rather, he
barked orders.  Only Snarf could still approach him with impunity, he
could go in to or out of his presence freely but he was afraid.
Snarf was assigned the task of creating new, full-bodied uniforms for
himself and for the other Thundercats.
Liono’s official duties began to suffer.  His relationships began to
wane, except with her.  He gave no notice to Cheetara who had retreated
without struggle and spent most of her time with the kittens who had
also been alienated.  Panthro withdrew to his work that he had kick up
in the ensuing weeks.
He tried to apologize to Tygra but no words could come out.  In the
course of time, though, there had formed a new, silent understanding
between them that to the others seemed cold and antiseptic.  The tiger
was still very much saddened and depressed but of all of the Thundercats
he continued to trust the young lord, he continued to believe that Liono
would grow out of that strangely rebellious phase soon.
For a while he showed up for his regular exams but the interaction was
different, impersonal.  He saw sadness in his friend’s eye and tried to
reach out to him but Tygra was withdrawn -- he, too, had distanced
himself rather than be hurt so deeply once more.  Then Liono missed one
appointment and then another and when he did come on that third try his
friend was not there and did not return there anymore afterwards.
He grabbed his chart from a cabinet and thumbed through the pages.  The
earliest entries dated back to when he was seven and was back on
Thundera.  The notes were elaborate and exquisitely detailed -- Tygra
had paid attention to him, in a loving, paternal manner that persisted
until that terrible day.  From then on there were dates and numbers,
there was nothing else, all previous care had been lost and in the final
entry only the first two digits of his weight were written -- he had
broken away completely by then.
He stopped going to the examination room or to the workout room but that
thing he had noticed on himself was still there, still there and had
even grown more visible and more acute.
“You are so tense,” she said.
He was naked on her bed, she was behind him, massaging his back.
“There, there, that’s it.  Doesn’t that feel better?”
Liono moaned softly.  “Yes, you always know what to do.”  He turned
around, her hair was longer than the list time he had seen her.  He drew
it back like a veil to reveal her face and her bare breasts.  He kissed
her exposed flesh and then looked into her vibrant eyes.  He hugged her
tightly.  “You are so beautiful, Cressida.”
Yes, she was very beautiful -- and young.  Each week that he saw her she
seemed to have become younger and younger.  The clearing, too, had
become trimmed and well kept and infused with a new life and respondent
vigor.  The flower’s zealous colors, the bushes strong and firm, the
small pond with bright and pleasant fish -- the whole place had come to
life magically.
He took her hand and pressed it against his flesh but that time it was
she who drew back.
“No, not now, not now Liono.”
“But I’ve come all this way --”
“I know.  I knew you’d come back to me,” he had once a week for nearly
six months, “but is has to be tomorrow.”
“Oh, because you know how special if feels, Liono,” she petted him
across the face, rubbed him under the chin, “it would not be the same
anymore, it would not be as pure or as intense.  Trust me that I know
what’s right.”
He kissed her on the lips.  “You are very special to me.”
“Any you to me.  Come.  We can kiss.”
“Can we sleep in the same bed?”
“If you promise you won’t touch, or force yourself --”
“I would never do that to you, I would never hurt you.”
The two remained on the bed in cuddled closeness while the night passed
in the wilderness outside.  He had come to her in the middle of the
night, far, far earlier than ever before.  He knew that the others were
concerned about where he would go off to every week, especially since he
told no one.  Snarf had threatened to follow him if he did not say just
where he was going so he left in the middle of the night while everyone
else was still asleep.
Liono awoke first the morning and was deadly tired.  He looked at his
hands -- his skin was wrinkled, his fingers were gnarled and bent though
in an attack of arthritis.  His legs were sore and stiff and his body
ached everywhere.  She awoke second ever so vibrant, ever so full of
She pulled back the sheets and exposed them both.  She had to help him
out of bed.  She had his hands in her own and he looked at them in
wonder.  It used to be that their hands were about the same size, that
their fingers were about equal but in the clear daylight the broke
through bare, open windows he saw that her hands had shrunk a little,
that her fingers were not as long as they used to be.  Her body, too,
had become smaller, her breasts were especially less developed.  It used
to be that he could hardly cup one with both hands but now with one hand
alone he could completely cover her.
She had moved away from him and was already at the door.  He struggled
on his lazy feet to try to come to her.  “Hey, are you exhausted
kitty-Kat?  Oh, Liono, I want you well rested for tonight.”
“Tonight will be extra-special.”
He treaded past the small pile where he had left his unformed and when
he had arrived hours before.  She walked him to the cool, flowing
waters.  The two sat in the pond while fish swam close to them and
tickled them.
He giggled, his strength had returned to him.  He grabbed her and
secured her between his legs gingerly while she, too, laughed in
amusement.  She liked to laugh like that -- always, but especially while
he pleasured her, always but especially around the time that the sword
would roar.
Of course he did not understand, why the sword was always extended in
her presence, why it always growled in their most intimate moments.  It
must have been too much a distraction for her, he reasoned and that must
have been why she was nervous around his weapon.  In any case, he kept
it wrapped tightly in his clothes away from her and the cabin -- he did
not need those things around her.
“No, Liono, not yet, not yet.”
“All right, but it’s so hard, to stay away.”
“Oh, you men!”  She giggled and kissed him on the lips then broke from
his light hold.
Liono remembered something while being in the water.  Yes, he had
completely forgotten about the ship, about what he had seen in it.  He
recalled that he had told himself that he would go back but had in the
meanwhile become so enthralled and captive to her that he had --
“Cressida, I’m sorry but there’s something I have to do.”
“You are going so soon?”
“I have to do something that I’ve been putting off for too long.  I will
be back, I always come back.”
The two were out of the pond by then when she said:  “You don’t have to
worry, I know you’ll keep your word, just don’t touch, don’t do anything
He smiled and held her in an embrace while he whispered into her ear:
“I always do what you tell me.”
Liono clothed himself and, reinvigorated, he ran to Cat’s Lair in only
ninety minutes.  He could have gotten there faster but he did not want
to exhaust himself after that dreadful morning.  He came upon his home
and he found to his horror that the bridge was no extended.  He shouted,
he called, he yelled the Thundercats by name but there was silence,
there was no response to his frantic call.
“Damn you all!” he said while he kicked up dirt in disgust.  “I came
back for this?  I came back this!”
He stopped and sat and waited for almost a half hour alternating between
anger and sadness.  He broke into tears and then stomped back toward the
wilderness.  If he had not been as emotional, if he had not been as
irrational he would have seen that -- no, no, he would have never
noticed it anyway.
He reached the ocean and ripped off his clothes, he literally tore them
to sunders.  He had given up -- he did not need them, any of them
anymore.  Dare to rebel against him? -- he would teach them.
“I bet Tygra’s responsible.”
He dove into the water and began to swim to where he remembered the
wreckage had been.  He did not have the apparatus that he had intended
to bring on the trip from Cat’s Lair so he had to act fast, clear and
concisely.  He popped up onto the surface five times until he found the
wood of the hatch -- it had broken and the pieces were scattered on the
flat sea bottom.  Inside the ship was still dark and before he entered
he looked up -- the ocean was far more active and far more dangerous
than it had been that fateful day.
With his lungs full of fresh air he stormed into the submerged chamber.
He could not see the terrible fish but he could make out more details
than before once he was calm and collected.  He saw that in the back
there were two doors, one that was shut, one that had broken off and lay
in shards on the floor.  That opening led to a hall that wound out into
other, deeper parts of the ship that were perhaps still intact.  At the
moment he did not have the ability to explore any further so he
concentrated his efforts on the room he was in.
The table was still there but it leaned to side -- apparently it had
been slightly damaged from the scuffle ha had had with the fish.  Upon
it was a small, metal box.  It shined in yellow although most of it was
corroded and had amassed thick mineral deposits on its six faces.
He grabbed it and surfaced immediately.  Upon the shore by the rocks he
opened it to reveal jewels, pearls, rings, diamonds, coins of gold and
silver.  It was a treasure trove of wealth and he wondered how much more
there was still in that ship just buried under mere inches of sand.  He
was very pleased with himself.
Naked and drenched, he kept the box under his arm and began to walk into
the forest.  The Sword of Omens and the scraps of his clothes he left on
the rocks to rot -- yes, he would teach them a lessen they would not
soon forget.  He took one last look -- and he was perplexed for a moment
because he saw that there were more imprints on the sand, more
footprints that he knew he did not produce.
“Perhaps someone’s been here, perhaps Cressida been around.  She doesn’t
live so far, yes, she probably saw me dunk in the water.  Won’t she be
Liono hiked to the clearing.  It was already well past noon.  He had
wasted four hours going to and from Cat’s Lair and he was still upset at
the matter but was satisfied because -- he would his way.  No mater what
he would have his way.  If the rest of the Thundercats wanted to play
like that he would show them.
She greeted him cheerfully while she picked the fresh berries from the
bushes -- it was present for later.  He put the box down where she could
not see it and went to her side.  He rubbed his body against hers -- he
was dry once again and she did not mind.
“Where are you clothes, your sword?”
“I don’t need those things anymore.  I want to be with you forever.”
“Oh, Liono --”
The two pricked the ripened fruit from the vines until all the baskets
were full to the rim.  He helped her bring the foodstuff into the
cabin.  It was odd, he thought, for he had never seen her eat -- indeed,
all the food he had ever seen her cook was for him only.
He remembered the box and before he showed it to her he removed one of
the items and while she was in the kitchen preparing a meal for him he
wrapped his arms around her and showed it to her --
“Where did you find this?” she said.  She had the ring in her hands
examining the diamond that sparkled in the dying light.
“That’s where I went today.  There’s a ship wrecked in the sands
offshore the beach.  I found it by accident a few months back and I’ve
been meaning to take another look all this time.  Today I went back and
I found a whole box of treasures.”
He showed her the box -- by then the ring was firmly around her finger.
“It’s for you, it’s all for you,” he said while he clothed her with his
“You are my greatest treasure.”
Closely in contact, intimately in contact he felt weak again.  His skin,
his muscles had become loose and flimsy.  His body was not as tight or
as built as it had been even that morning.  Wrinkles had formed on him
everywhere, and was worse, far worse than what he had noticed so many
weeks ago.  He flexed his hands and his fingers -- the grinding of bones
and joints made a sound that was incredibly audible.  He looked down at
her -- she was no longer at his eye level, her head barely rose above
his shoulders and her lips were around his nipples.
The ring came off her finger and was sent down to the dark, wooden
floor, spiraling to a stop, shimmering in the dimming glare of the sun
from the open, cabin door.
“We must do it now,” she said, in a voice so keen and so young that for
a moment he was reminded of WileyKit.
“Now?” his voice came out old and frail.
“Come to the bed --”
“I don’t think I can make it.”
“Then here, then here on the floor.”
She dragged him to clear part of the hardwood and lay him down on his
back.  He was aroused and his breathing was heavy -- unnaturally heavy.
It was a labor that was too intense, too difficult.
She got on top of him:  “I’ll do the work, you just stay there and
enjoy,” she whispered into his ear and kissed him.
>From no where, from the thin air came a distinct and familiar growl.
She looked to the open door -- he had not noticed, he was too enthralled
in ecstasy, too weak to notice.  She stopped and screamed.  The Sword of
Omens was in the cabin, extended, the eye was opened and roared.  The
weapon was in the air, hovering in the air -- it moved in determined
strides to her.
Another growl came from the spectacle but it was not from the sword, it
was from elsewhere, disembodied.
A sound of rushing came but it was drowned by Liono’s violent moaning
and uncontrolled panting.  The sword struck her in the chest and pushed
her off of his frail, old body.  The sword was firm in her body and
blood squirted into the air.
Liono erupted in vehement pleasure, his seed wasted on the earth.  His
body quaked and shivered violently -- he was exhausted beyond bearing
and contorted in dire pain, in the throws of death.
The sword was withdrawn from her and immediately she transformed -- she,
too, was at that point of death.  She no longer had the power to keep
the falsity of the veneer of her image.  A bright, blue light flashed
and was followed by the revelation of her true from.
Tygra, no longer invisible, let the sword fall on the floor with a heavy
thud -- it was not extended anymore and the eye was closed shut.  He
knelt down next to Liono, lifted up his upper body and tried to help him
catch his breath.
The youth was stunned, he had no idea what had just happened.
“Tygra --”
“Don’t speak, don’t waste your energy.”  Though his voice was stern his
face gave away the utter fear and sadness he felt.
Liono saw what was left of her.  “Cressida?”  She was not a ‘she’, not a
‘he’ either.  It was a thing.  Gray, wrinkled, the skin had the texture
and consistency of an elephant’s.  It had no head, it had no real head.
The upper parts of the body was a featureless cone from which two arms
budded out to the side.  The face was down between the thick, gruesome
legs.  The eyes are almost invisible under the folds of blubbery skin.
The nose was not there and the mouth was a vertical slit from which a
thin, pointed tongue whipped snakelike in the air.
The rent Tygra had made had caused internal organs to spill out along
with the squirting blood.  It was still alive, if such was the word and
steadily began to crawl to Liono.  The tiger kicked it back once with
his foot and hit the legs of chair and stopped moving though its arms
and legs quivered.  The force of the impact was so strong that it had
collapsed into itself in a soundless implosion.  In seconds it
transformed once more -- into a mound of dust that the gentlest breeze
swept away to reveal roaches and worms crawling through the putrefied
“The pond,” Liono said under his breath, “take me to the pond.”
Tygra lifted him off the ground.  Outside, the cold water had lost most
of its healing powers but Liono managed to regain enough strength to
“I am so sorry, Tygra, I never should have, snapped at you.  You never
did anything to me, I --”
“That’s all right, Liono, I understand, I forgive you.”
“No, but I can’t.  I have to make peace somehow.  I had imagined and
convinced myself that you had done things to me, that you and the others
didn’t like me because, somehow, I had to explain why I felt the way I
Tygra was in the water with him and not invisible -- he was so worried
and afraid that he had forgotten his own limitation.  “One moment you
were a child and then your body grew into an adult.  All but your mind.
You had no way to cope.  The fault was ours for not knowing.  You were
just acting out in that foolish way that teenagers do.  We were selfish
to think you would not go through that but, we were wrong, we should
have seen that.”
“Does Cheetara hate me?”
“No one hates you.”
“I never wanted to hurt anybody.”
“I know.”  He kissed him on the cheek.  “I know.  You were my little boy
for a time --”
“How did you know?”  Liono looked up at him.
“We all saw how you were aging and I knew that there was something
wrong.  That thing --”
“Cressida.  She was getting younger.”
“She?  You mean you saw a woman?”
“Didn’t you?”
“No, I saw that thing -- it must have been fooling you.”
Liono nodded, weakly.
“It fed off your youth and vigor and now I must find a way to restore
you.”  He looked down on his dear friend.  His eyes were shut.  “I’m
going to make it better, I’m going to save you, Liono.”  But Liono had
stopped breathing.  “No!  No!  Survive, by Jagga, don’t die on me!
Liono was cold and his body shriveled before him into a sack of bones
that themselves withered into dust that was swept in the currents of the
stream, into the winding, spreading foam of the pond until at length
Tygra held nothing in his arms but water.

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