I am on my feet before Sawyer even stirs; I wonder if he even heard it. I race towards the source of the sound, stopping occasionally to listen with my well-trained warrior ears. It is almost as if I am hunting.
I can hear sounds of a scuffle as I approach the noise, which seems to be in a well-concealed clearing surrounded by bushes and other shrubbery. I push my way through and what I see almost makes me fall over in shock.
Two cats are battling, but not in the same way that a battle would occur between two Clan cats. Their fighting styles are different and each seems to be taking advantage of it. From smell I can tell that one cat is a tom. His eyes are narrowed in concentration as he leaps on his opponent, a slender she-cat who seems determined to simply get out of this alive. Her fear scent is one of the strongest I have ever come into contact with in my entire life.
My warrior blood boils as the she-cat is tackled once more; her squeal of pain and surprise is almost too much to bear. Memories of home crash over me and I think that no cat deserves this pain. Before I know it have the burly tom by the neck on the forest floor and cats are yowling in a strange tongue that I cannot understand.
"He was going to kill her," I plead, but they do not understand me.
But then I hear another yowl of fear, very close. We all look at the same time, in my surprise I free the tom, he gets up to see what is going on. In a strange language a cat calls out, the noises now are of sadness and despair. What could have caused this?
The cats part to allow me to see the issue: there is a dead body on the ground. I hear a name being called: Kartik. What kind of name is that? A cat steps forward and he is surrounded by this group. Kartik is, if even possible, stronger than the tom who fought the she-cat, and as he steps towards me, I think how lucky I would be if I could tell Sawyer about this.
Kartik tells me one word that I take to mean as "leave" so I turn around and leave the clearing. But I am not leaving them completely. I am intrigued. I hear them rustle the shrubbery and I am off, tracking these cats through the forest. The she-cat stays behind, and I see her look back once. A word is called at her, Malaya, and she speeds up to catch them.
Malaya. I tell myself that I will ask her if she is okay, in secret of course, and then I will leave.
Then a hiss behind me, "What are you doing?" it asks. I turn around to see Sawyer, angry, half-awake, fur on end. "You disappeared," he hisses at me again, and I realize that I must have. "I'm sorry," I say, "it's just there was stuff and-" I am walking again- "I have to follow those cats."
So I leave Sawyer behind but he is following me, telling me to "come back or I'll be stranded" but I don't care, I have to see what is going on with these cats and why the dead cat is so important. Is he a normal cat or what? What kind of Clan is this?
Their scent is getting stronger. I can still see the she-cat, a few steps behind everyone else, weaving through the trees. They are approaching their home I am sure. But each time I think they will disappear from sight they reappear, until their scent fades away.
Sawyer is still behind me, calling things, but I only tell him to quiet down, I'm doing something. He eventually stops just as the cats reach what I can guess is their main camp. Their yowls in strange tongues make my head spin, and just as I think it can't get any more strange, they all sit and face where they came in and bow their heads. A chant starts, it gets louder and louder and I cannot believe what my eyes are seeing. Sawyer beside me nudges my shoulder and tells me to "look," but I am looking and looking and still don't believe.
It is a lion.