World Map and Insignias!
August 27th, 2017, 8:04 pm
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#3 - Chapter One
From the Author
August 27th, 2017, 8:27 pm
(Just a note: due to technical difficulties anything in italics [thoughts, emphasis, etc.] will be shown in between stars. For example: Blue, would you *please* post things quicker?)
Vega yawned and stretched, opening her eyes to see a gray, shadowy wall. Among the dusky gloom, other cats lay curled in their nests, tails and paws twitching as they silently explored the realm of dreams. Like Vega, these cats were explorers for a group known as the Wanderer’s Guild. After a successful outing, a well-earned rest was definitely in order.
Fully awakened now, Vega trotted out of the sleeping quarters and into the main part of the cave. This area had better illumination, largely due to the setting sun’s rays drifting through the entrance. In the dying light several items, lined along the cave’s walls due to rocky ledges and cracks, shone dimly. Cats were idly chatting with one another, about topics such as past adventures and future exploits.
“Well, if it isn't the hibernating bear!” a mocking voice called. She turned her head with an exasperated sigh to see a black and brown tom, gazing at her with malice. “Hibernating bear” was his mean-spirited nickname for Vega, both for her stumpy tail and for her tendency to sleep longer than needed.
“What do you want, Plateau?” she asked, a slight hint of annoyance creeping into her tone. She was in no mood for his antics.
“Well, I thought I should inform you that you just missed Gulf’s departure. Oh no,” her peer continues in fake horror as Vega jerks in surprise, “Don't tell me that you forgot he was leaving today! I can't imagine how he felt, going out on a lonely journey without a goodbye from his best friend.”
Vega let out a barely audible hiss, angry at Plateau for his taunting and at herself for missing the chance to see Gulf off. Now he's probably plodding onwards, thinking she doesn't care about him.
*No*, she thought, suddenly feeling determined, *Plateau said he didn't leave too long ago. If I hurry, maybe I can catch up to him before it's too late!*
She was just about to spin around to run and find Gulf when she saw a golden pelt approaching, green eyes glinting softly in the dim lighting. Vega kept respectfully silent, even though she didn't have to- she didn't want to appear rude in front of Curiosity, the leader of the Wanderer’s Guild.
Plateau, who was obliviously unaware of the long-legged golden tom’s approach, jumped in surprise as Curiosity mewed, “Good evening, you two; I hope I didn't interrupt anything important. Vega, could you please meet me by the Navigator’s Sketch? I have an assignment for you.”
“Yes, sir,” Vega replied, despite feeling an itch in her paws urging her to run after Gulf. Curiosity gave her a nod and padded back the way he came, only to stop suddenly. “Oh, and Plateau… if I were you, I'd hurry over to Tundra. You were tasked with assisting her today, correct? I'd hate to be in your pelt if you kept her waiting…”
With a terrified squeak the black and brown cat raced off towards the cave entrance. Even though Vega despised him, she couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity. Tundra was a cranky old she-cat with a bitter temperament to match her icy name. It was her job to safely sort and store all of the supplies the explorers could need. If Plateau was late to help her, he'd be lucky to get let off with a hard cuff around the ears.
Curiosity had already gone to the meeting spot, so Vega hurried to catch up. As she went farther into the cave, the sun became more distant and the smooth floor grew colder. Eventually it became so dark that a cat that didn't live there wouldn't be able to tell if they were blinking or not. But Vega knew where she was going, and soon a faint glow appeared in the distance. Sunlight floated down from a hole in the roof, its spots and patterns dancing on the ground. The golden tom sat adjacent to the pool of light, gazing calmly up at the leftmost wall.
The stone wall was the flattest in the whole cavern, so the navigators of the Guild made good use of it. Digging their claws into the stone surface, they used charcoal to sketch out a map of all the places that had been explored. So many locations were drawn that it looked like a map of the whole world. The myriad of lines, coming together to form a comprehensive mural, was one of the most important resources the Wanderer’s Guild possessed.
“Ah, you're here,” Curiosity meowed warmly, “Come, sit by me.” As Vega did as he said she noticed that there were three balls of dried moss on the floor beside his paws.
“So, here's what I want you to do. The group we sent to the border of The Few hasn't come back yet, and that worries me. You should travel through the forest in this direction-” he casually flicked his paw, sending a moss ball flying toward the map. It hit the area of their territory closest to the sea. “-and then walk along the shoreline here-” another ball hit the upper shoreline marks- “and then turn back inland close to the border, so that you avoid that hazardous bluff up north. I instructed them to make a camp close to the shore part of the border, should they need to rest or scout for any reason. Once you find their camp, head back through the woods until you find the gorge-” the last ball was tossed towards the heart of their territory- “because it’ll be easier to climb down it on the return journey. Any questions?”
“No, sir,” Vega replied. She nervously wondered if she could follow Gulf’s trail before going after the expedition party. However, just as she had opened her jaws to ask Curiosity if that was okay the golden tom slapped his tail across her mouth. “I already know what you’re going to ask; I heard that conversation with Plateau. Gulf just so happens to have gone down the oceanside route to investigate the tidal caverns, so he’ll be heading in the same direction as you. You can say hello to him if you run into him, but your mission is more important. Understand?”
Somewhat satisfied, Vega murmured, “Yes, Curiosity. I'll go get some supplies from Tundra.” The speckled brown she-cat went back the way she came in, plunging into complete darkness once more. The ground was cool underpaw, which often felt lovely to the explorers’ weary feet. There were the occasional patches of moss, pleasantly springy to the touch. Sometimes the Guild members would lurk in the shadowy tunnel to relax on the moss clumps and quietly reflect on their last job, or even softly chat with their peers. Even now, Vega could hear the barely audible sighs and whispers. She had not noticed them earlier amidst her excitement and curiosity.
Coming back into the lighter part of the cave, she immediately spotted Tundra’s storage area towards the back of the main cavern. The white she-cat’s system of nooks and crannies could be seen clearly among the rocks and along the wall. Various shiny stones and scraps of foreign leaves stuck out from some of the holes, which were filled to the brim. Bumps on the wall’s surface made it possible to go up and down to each space- if one had strong enough muscles to climb up the massive rock face, which was even taller than the Navigator’s Sketch.
On the ground, however, Tundra wasn't thinking about doing her job. Oh no, all her attention was on the cowering Plateau in front of her. The white she-cat certainly had an appearance that made others uneasy- a matted pelt, gray paws caked in dust and grime, and two differently colored eyes that seem to pierce into your soul, one ice blue and the other a sharp yellow. In her younger days she could have been one of the prettiest she-cats, and rumor has it that she was very sweet as a kitten, but now she was about as charming as an angry badger with a toothache.
“You bumbling idiot!” Tundra spat as Vega approached, lashing a paw at Plateau with unsheathed claws, “First you show up ridiculously late, then you forgot your assignment for today, and now you've broken Desert’s precious crystal!” For the first time Vega noticed a heap of shards and grains of dust on the floor. Desert was a laid back and lazy tom, but Plateau could expect no mercy for breaking his favorite item of all: a translucent rock, as round and smooth as a pearl. Or, at least, that's what it used to be.
The black and brown cat had some cuts across his muzzle, and a small trickle of blood flowed down the back of his ear. Feeling sorry for the bully, Vega loudly cleared her throat.
“What?!” Tundra snarled as she turned her attention away from him. Her hackles fell down a bit as she realized who it was. “Oh, its you,” she sniffed impatiently, “What do you want, kid? I don't have all day to dilly dally, unlike some cats around here.” She glared at Plateau as she said this.
“I'm sorry to intrude,” Vega began apologetically, “But Curiosity sent me over here because I'm needed for a mission. I'm supposed to go to the border of-“
“Okay, okay, I get it!” Tundra gave an exasperated hiss, her ears flicking in annoyance. “You young cats all chatter like starlings in the springtime. I know what you need.” She lumbered off to the largest hold of all, carefully avoiding the hard scraps of stone, and used her teeth to pull out a massive leaf wrap. Dropping it at Vega’s paws, she said, “Here ya go, traveling equipment. There's some sturdy vines, bindweed, and traveling rations. Whatever you do, do *not* get this pack wet- the honey keeping it together will be washed away if it's too damp.”
Vega nodded, grabbing the leaf pack in her teeth. It was made out of multiple layers of fern leaves, stuck together with a large amount of thick honey. Tundra gave her an approving glance. “Good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to lecturing this worthless lump of flea food.” Her hackles began to rise again as she casted a gaze of venom at the young tom. “Don't think I've forgotten about you.”
As the speckled brown she-cat stepped outside, sun was finally beginning to disappear behind the trees, though it was still high enough to cast a pink glow on the clouds. The grass was nicely soft after the hardness of ground inside the cave. As a breeze blew through the air the trees swayed, creating a calming cacophony of rustling and creaking. Vega relished feeling the wind in her pelt, as well as being able to see the brightly dyed sky above.
Glancing at the stretch of grass ahead, she looked for the trail that she needed. Each path was marked on the trunks of the trees to the right, riddled with a set number of scratches to denote which was which. Sure enough, there it was: a dirt road, well trodden, next to a trunk scored with seven horizontal slashes. It was the way to the seashore.
Vega started at a run, eager to begin her journey. The light was abruptly cut off as the canopy above covered the sight of the sky. All of the leaves above made sure that the plants below rarely saw the sun, causing a dim gloom to fill the woods. Not a single bird’s chirp or mouse’s squeak penetrated the silence- the only noise in the air was the rapid thudding of Vega’s paws as she sped along the dusty path. She felt as if she was overflowing with bubbling exhilaration as she leaped over each rock and tree root with extra vigorous hops.
Not even a twenty minutes later Vega felt her stomach growl its displeasure. Only now did she realize that she didn't pause to eat before leaving, and she hadn’t had anything since dinner last night. Up ahead, a patch of grass could be seen, and where there was a patch of grass, there would surely be a meadow. The bobtail slowed her pace and trotted over to it, telling herself that she'd only have a brief lunch-dinner break before continuing on her merry way.
The field was small, and as such the trees still blotted out the sun. Not a single blade of grass stirred due to the lack of a breeze. Dotted throughout the green expanse were a few withered brown stalks, evidently flowers that had failed to survive the absence of light. The grass, however, was much more hardy, and grew so well that the strands covered Vega’s paws.
Coming to a halt in the center of the clearing, she sat down and carefully peeled open the top of the pack. She reached into it, fishing around for the rations. She gave a victorious lash of her stumpy tail when her claws hooked into-
The sound of a snapping stick reverberated throughout the clearing.
Vega glanced up from what she was doing, let the food drop back into the bag. She couldn't see any other animals nearby, so what had made the noise?
Hunger forgotten, Vega paced the clearing, searching for the source of the noise. As she approached a nearby shrub, a squirrel ran out of it, chittering angrily. The spotted she-cat let out a sigh of relief as she watched the fuzzy creature scuttle up the side of a tree trunk with frayed bark. It was only a harmless squirrel. Why was she so on edge?
She turned back to her pack, but paused in shock.
A pair of yellow eyes shone from the depths of the forest.
Then a green pair.
And a blue pair.
An array of colors started to appear from the woods. Vega stood there, frozen in fright. Who were they?
A blur of pale gray launched itself at her, yellow eyes narrowed. With a terrified yelp Vega turned and ran for her life back the way she came. The earth vibrated with the sensation of multiple paws racing after her as the attacker’s companions sprang into action. Growls and hisses of fury sounded out from behind her, but she didn't dare look back, lest she trip over a root.
Her pursuers occasionally let out pained snarls; they probably didn't know the terrain as well, and stubbed their toes on the numerous stones and sticks.
Vega lost track of time, swerving around each turn and running as if her life depended on it- which it probably did. Her assailants never stopped for a second, clearly unwilling to let their quarry make it back home.
A pale flash of illumination appeared up ahead, and the brown cat almost shrieked in relief. She was almost home!
Putting on a last burst of speed, she sped out of the forest, screeching, “Invaders! Someone help, inva-”
She was cut off as a cat slammed into her, bowling her over. It was the pale gray tom from before, and he did not look happy. He glared and Vega as he pinned her down, teeth bared in obvious frustration that she had gotten far enough to warn her friends. Claws glinted in the dusk, and Vega yowled in pain as they sunk into her left shoulder. Scarlet material flowed freely from the wound as he slashed it even wider.
A black tom ran up and gave the yellow-eyed cat a hard cuff around the ear. “Lynx, you blithering idiot! You just had to let her get this far, didn't you?! Come on, we need to find him in order to secure victory!”
Lynx spat in fury, giving Vega one more cut on her ear before dashing after his ally, calling, “Don't get your tail in a twist, Coal, I’m coming!” Ignoring the fiery sensation in her ear, she rose to her paws, gasping frantically after her long race back to the Guild. *The Guild!*
She hadn't noticed the screams erupting from the cave until now. She quickly sped over, already noticing the blood spatters on the walls. The attackers must have rushed past her while the pale gray tom distracted her.
A writhing mass of fighting cats covered the floor, and droplets of red soared through the air as flesh was torn. Each individual fought brutally, putting their full strength behind every swipe of claws, every powerful kick, every snap of fangs hungry for blood. But there was one main difference between the two sides: one was fighting for gain, while the other was fighting for survival.
A flash of ginger caught Vega’s eye as an unfamiliar tom pounded towards the supply storage. Over there, Plateau was fighting a cat twice his size; judging by the deep nick in his ear and the dark, soaked patch on his chest, he had his fair share of wounds. The black-and-white she-cat who opposed him fled with a screech of panic as he lunged at her throat. Watching her retreating, Plateau obviously didn't see the ginger tom coming for him.
“Plateau, MOVE!” Vega screamed, starting forward to stop the foe. However, she knew she wouldn't reach him in time. The ginger cat lunged for Plateau’s throat as the young cat turned and saw him too late to do anything.
Then a blur of white put itself between Plateau and his attacker. “Leave him alone!” a rough voice yowled. Vega halted in shock. Of all the Guild members to come to the bully’s rescue, she doubted anyone would have ever guessed it was Tundra. But there she was, covered in scratches and hissing defiance at the ginger tom.
Tundra hurled herself at the intruder, swerving to the side to knock him off his paws. As he thudded to the ground, slightly dazed, the white she-cat lashed her tail in triumph and slashed repeatedly at the prone figure. Plateau stood there in stunned silence, unable to comprehend what just happened.
But abruptly the ginger tom burst upwards, closing his jaws around Tundra’s neck. A ghastly crack sounded above the din of battle, and Tundra fell limply to the ground.
Vega, her surprise vanishing, let out a howl of anger and jumped at the tom, slamming into him and banging his head against the wall. He slumped down on the floor, unconscious. As the speckled she-cat glanced at Tundra, she saw that the once icy and bright eyes were clouded over, their light extinguished forever. She had died instantly.
Plateau stumbled over in a dumbfounded haze. He seemed to be in a trance as he whispered, “She hated me. She hated me, but…” Vega glared at him- it was his fault that Tundra was killed, but she didn't linger on the thought. The cries and snarls of the turmoil raging around her assaulted her ears.
Frantically looking at the waves of chaos, her gaze rested on a small gray-and-black cat sneaking up behind Autumn, a dark ginger she-cat, as she nipped at an enemy’s ear. Vega leaped, landing on the smaller cat’s back, and clawed at her eyes. The screech of agony stabbed her brain, and she reflected that she didn't know anything about fighting, but it certainly didn't feel good to hurt another cat.
The gray-and-black cat rolled over onto her side, sending Vega thudding against the earth. As she scrambled to her feet she saw that the small she-cat’s right eye was bleeding profusely. Up close, she realized that she looked young and inexperienced when it came to combat. She spat in fear and fury before turning to run, only to be bowled over by Autumn, who had finished her own fight.
Every muscle in Vega’s body ached and screamed for her to stop fighting. The cluster of pelts and tufts of fur on the ground momentarily blended together to make an incomprehensible mixture of colors. Her mind felt fuzzy, and she knew she wouldn't last much longer. Her heart sank as an infuriated tortoiseshell loomed over her, ready to strike.
“Stop! All of you, stop!”
A familiar voice shouted the command, strong and clear enough for everyone to hear. Each cat paused, ceasing the conflict but keeping their claws out just in case it was a trick. Further into the cave stood Curiosity, his belly covered in red and his cheek torn open. Despite his injuries he stood up tall, proud and full of authority even in the face of immense danger.
His eyes burned with a cold fire as he yelled, “All cats of the Wanderer’s Guild, gather here with me!” Slowly, the Guild members staggered forward, gathering in a tightly packed group around their leader. Vega limped over with them, aware of the jeers and insults being thrown at her from all around.
“Giving up so soon, Curiosity?” a mocking voice crowed. Vega glanced over her shoulder to see the enemy’s ranks parting to let a reddish tom through. He walked up with an arrogant strut, his fuzzy tail kinked high over his back in triumph.
“Power,” Curiosity growled, hackles up. Vega stifled a gasp; this was Power, leader of the Order of Power? She had expected him to be a big, brutish cat covered in scars. But though he was well-muscled, his pelt was sleek and he seemed to be unmarked. *Maybe because no one has ever injured him before*, Vega thought with a shudder.
The red tom glanced about the cavern with a smug expression. “I expected more resistance from your ragtag band, given that you're defending your home.” He let out a small mrrow of laughter before adding, “Oh wait, that's right- almost all of your followers are away, aren't they? What a coincidence.” He put extra emphasis on that final word.
“You're a cowardly rat, Power,” Curiosity snapped. Vega had never seen him so angry before, as he was usually calm and collected. “You knew exactly what you were doing. You're a cat without honor!”
“A cat without honor, eh?” Power said with amusement, swishing his tail idly, “You see, we have very different views on my actions: you call it cowardly, I call it strategic and opportunistic. It's not my fault that the majority of your cats aren't here, you have no one but yourself to blame for that.” He examined his claws as if in boredom, then glanced back at the golden tom and mewed threateningly, “In fact, why not just stop exploring new lands? Surely you have enough knowledge to be satisfied, right? Any sane cat would say that your group has gone too far in that regard.”
Curiosity flattened his ears. “Is that what this is about?! You know that it is our calling to ascertain information on the lay of the land. How does that affect you in any negative way?”
An exaggerated sigh came from Power as he explained: “Come on, Curiosity, save your dignity and tell the truth. You only scope out uncharted territories because you plan on invading every other nation using the new routes you discover. You don't fool anyone. Do us all a favor and drop the act, will you? Admit it, and I might be willing to accept your offer of surrender. Go on, do it.” The red cat sat down and blissfully drew a paw over his ear.
Vega held her breath. It was a clear attempt to humiliate her leader, and she had her doubts about Power’s offer of mercy. Would Curiosity confess to something that wasn't true, just to try and save the cats of the Wanderer’s Guild?
Slowly and rigidly, Curiosity padded up to the short-haired red tom, pausing right in front of him. His limbs were stiff and his tail swept back and forth against the floor. Green eyes met yellow as he hissed, “You know very well that we have no such intentions, but if it’s a fight you want, it's a fight you'll get.”
Power bared his teeth in a gleeful grin and answered, “So be it!” He flung himself at Curiosity, bowling him over and easily pinning him. To Vega’s dismay he couldn't shake him off, weakened from blood loss and outmatched in terms of strength. He lashed a paw at Power’s face, but the feeble blow didn't even make him flinch. Power gazed at him with a sort of mad hunger, and without looking away called out, “Tear them to pieces!”
Three things happened in that one heart-stopping moment.
The Order of Power cats lunged forward, screeching their bloodlust.
The cats of the Wanderer’s Guild braced themselves for a fight for survival.
A third set of yowls clashed with the murderous shrieks and a cluster of unfamiliar pelts crashed against the invaders from the entrance.
The excited yells turned into screams of stupefaction as the newcomers fell upon the attackers. Each individual voice merged into one burst of sound that rang with an obvious dissonance. Vega longed to cover her ears and cower on the ground, but as her peers overcame their initial surprise, she joined in their emboldened retaliation.
Ignoring the ache in every bone of her body, she flung herself against a dark brown tabby, knocking him to the ground. Vega lashed out desperately at his exposed belly, tearing out pawfuls of fur. With a pained grunt the tom rolled onto his side and kicked out at her with his hind legs, catching her flank. The bobtailed she-cat flew threw the air for a few brief heartbeats. Then she landed on something unexpectedly soft.
For a while she lay there, winded. When she finally scrambled to her paws, she noticed that she had fallen onto a clump of soft moss. Trying not to think about what could have happened if that hadn't been there, she prepared herself to spring back into the battle.
Much to her astonishment, the skirmish was just about over. In the center of the cave the interlopers had surrounded the Order of Power’s forces. The cats of the Wanderer’s Guild stood nearby, battered and bloody.
Vega staggered over to join them, trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening now. In the middle of it all stood three cats- Curiosity, Power, and an orange and white tom. The unknown tomcat stood between the two heavily panting enemies, facing Power with his claws unsheathed.
“Power,” he mewed firmly, “You have crossed the line. You may hate what the Wanderer's Guild stands for, but attacking them without provocation isn't right.”
The red cat growled in frustration; he now had a gaping wound on the side of his neck, as well as some scratches on his muzzle and shoulder. He glared at the orange and white tom with a look that could kill. “If Karma wishes to interfere with our affairs, then she should have come here instead of sending a lackey to do the dirty work.”
The orange tom took a step forward, unflinching as he gave a low hiss. “Leave. Now. We have been merciful this time, but if you do something like this again we won't be as kind.”
Power haughtily drew himself up and responded with, “Oh, I'm *so* scared. This isn't even our full number of cats- we can easily overpower you the next time we fight claw to claw!”
His adversary didn't give him the dignity of answering. He casually flicked his white-tipped tail, and at once the crowd parted so that the Order of Power could reach the cavern entrance.
“I'd run, if I were you.” he said simply.
Power glanced about, seemed to take the hint in his foes’ bristling fur and unsheathed claws, and shouted, “RETREAT!”
At once the Order of Power cats began to race outside, followed by the yowling felines of the Just. They were swallowed up by the darkened forest- the sun had finally vanished, plunging the outside world into shadow. Their calls faded as the chase ensued further into the woods.
A moment of silence filled the cave. Vega felt the blood roaring in her ears as she stood there, trying to comprehend what just happened. When she eventually forced her legs to move, she stumbled aimlessly towards the way the others had ran. She didn't even hear Curiosity when he called, “All of the injured, let Prairie see to you. Those of you who have very few wounds, please… please gather the dead.”
As soon as Vega left the carnage behind her, her legs wouldn't support her anymore, and she had to sit down on the cold grass. She glanced up at the sky, catching the scent of rain on the way. It was a shaded mass of clouds, as opposed to the vibrant setting sun that had been there earlier. It felt like a lifetime ago that she had excitedly set off on her expedition, with no care in the world except for finding Gulf. “What went wrong?” Vega whispered to herself.
She sat there for a while, lost in thought. A howl of grief echoed from within the cave behind her, and only then did she remember that the Wanderer's Guild was hit hard by the invasion. Before Vega went back inside to help in any way she could, she glanced one last time in the direction of the intruders.
A troubling thought came to Vega: there was no way that Power would give up after today's loss. *Trouble is coming, but are we prepared to meet it?*
August 22nd, 2019, 7:05 pm
August 27th, 2017, 8:36 pm
I can't see it on my phone or my computer. Either the picture is broken, or my smackjeeves account is being a jerk. Arceus forbid the latter XD
EDIT: Never mind, I see it! Thanks, when I tried practicing earlier it wouldn't work :/
August 27th, 2017, 8:45 pm
: Believe me, I've tried! Post image never wants to cooperate with me. Hopefully I can figure it out before my next chapter lol.
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August 27th, 2017, 9:04 pm
If you want I can post the images for you
Smiffy SMF <3
August 29th, 2017, 4:22 am
August 29th, 2017, 4:41 am
Nice comic story (:
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