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This is the first short story in Les Miserables.

Without further ado...

Chains.

Chains

Rain. Neverending rain. A huge enclosure packed to the brim with exhausted bodies, cats who were little more than shells of their former selves.

This was Badger Claw, one of the many GreenClan prisons.

The cats inside each grasped a rope in their mouth, pulling with all their might as they struggled to heave in a giant cart, laden to the brim with prey. But not for the prisoners, no--prey for the guards and other keepers of the prison. Cats of all shapes and sizes toiled alongside one another as they struggled to bring in the rations.

Finally, the cart was inside the prison. Guards immediately swarmed around it to keep away the ravenous inmates, their neatly groomed pelts standing out greatly amongst the other mangy cats.

The felines stayed in their lines while the guards arranged in formation around the cart, murmuring amongst themselves.

"I've done nothing wrong," one muttered under his breath. "Why am I even here?"

"Because," the tom beside him meowed, taking on a mockingly prim imitation of the head guard, "his wonderfully amazing Royal Highness Viperstar demands that you foul beast be under lock and key." Laughs rang outbut were silenced by harsh yowls from the other guards.

"She'll wait for me," meowed a black tom with a torn ear. "She will, I swear. Brightsun wouldn't abandon me."

"Shaddup," growled the cat behind him. "You're forgotten."

"Single file line! All of ye!" The head guard's yowl rang out above the crowded mass of convicts. They all moved into single file without a word, heads bowed. After the line was arranged, the same guard's yowl rang out again. "Prisoner 24601! Where are ye?"

A smallish brown tom padded from the back of the line all the way to the front, where the guard was waiting. "Your time is up," the guard meowed. "You're on parole. Know what that means?"

The tom coughed, and blinked. "Means I'm free," he mumbled.

The guard laughed. "No, it means you're on parole. You're a theif. You don't just get free from that with a wave of the tail."

"I stole a squirrel and a mouse."

"You robbed a den!"

"I broke a part of the entrance!"

Silence ensued as the normally quiet tom, 24601's, voice rose. "We were starving, all because of Viperstar's stupid prey payments."

"You shut your mouth, scum, before I shut it for you. You'll starve again unless you obey the law."

A low chuckle escaped the convict's mouth. "I know the meaning of the law, being a slave of it for half my life."

The guard's lips formed a snarl, "Watch your mouth, 24601."

"My name is Adderclaw." His voice rang loud and clear. The other guards unsheathed their claws. Adderstrike remained unscathed by their actions. 

"How do you do, Adderclaw," the guard said mockingly. "I'm Talonstrike, want to get together for a bite of mouse?"

Adderclaw didn't move.

"On your way, 24601," Talonstrike hissed, "before I have you cut-throated."



~*~


Freedom at last. 

Adderclaw padded along a ridge on the steep side of the gorge. He passed many cats, toiling on their farms underneath the dreary gray sky. He had padded along all day, searching for work. No-one had accepted when they saw the small feather sewed into his ear--the mark of a paroled prisoner. They had sent him away quickly after that. 

I will never forgive them for this. Half of my life wasted in some dingy old prison.

They are guilty--every one of them.

"Work? Is there work here?" Adderclaw meowed to a smallish orange tabby tom. The tom quickly glanced at the feather in his ear and shook his head.

"Sorry. I think there's some down yonder, though." The tom pointed with his short, skinny tail to another farm a little bit away. Adderclaw sighed and continued down toward it. 

"Is there work here?"

A young she-cat, barely apprentice aged, stopped her work. She blinked, her whiskers twitching. "You can ask my father." She resumed her work.

"Sorry, no work here." The she-cat's father meowed, his gruff voice stinging Adderclaw's ears. The ex-prisoner sighed and continued on. 

tbc

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