"Of What May Be"

Part 3 of 4…

"She didn't trust me. The Oracle ignored me for some time, long enough to get that insipid melody stuck in my head for all eternity." Cheetarah rubbed her temples. "But, I refused to leave until I found what I was looking for."

"What did the spirit do?" Kit asked the elder female, teetering on the edge of her seat.

Cheetarah cracked a weak smile. "It took some convincing…"

Days ago, Inside the Book of Omen's index…

"I'm not certain if my visions can help you the way you would like." The Oracle finally spoke, still sorting her thoughts through her sitar.

"Jaga told me you would give me the insight I require-"

"Perhaps This Jafa was wrong."

"JAGA is never wrong." Cheetarah defended her former master.

The Oracle gave her a look that asked "oh really?" The notes she plucked became harsher, crunchier, more befitting her souring mood. "You do not want insight. You want what everyone else wanted- to know you will be happy in the end. I can see it now! You're unhappy with this future so you will keep pestering me to see more futures until you see that tiger back in your arms." She started to play a flowery love song. "I'm sorry your love didn't last, but the risks far outweigh the benefit. You know what they say; "it's better to have loved and lost" and all that muck." She opened one eye, surprised. "You're still standing there…"

"I'm concerned with much more than that and you know it!" Cheetara fumed, her fur standing on end. "I don't understand. If the time line crashed because I entered a future book inside the present book why didn't it crash when my present- self enter my future- self?" She switched subjects.

"Your present self was here in the fountain the whole time. You're operating your future body through my eyes." The Oracle explained, shedding an old layer of skin for a new form. "Try to keep up, blondie." The Oracle batted her eyelids as she plucked out a short arpeggio solo.

Insulted, Cheetarah crossed her arms, frowning. "This isn't fair. I was unprepared the first time."

The Oracle hissed venomously, skin shedding, practically ripping off. "You wish to know the meaning of unfair?" She leaned her head back under a spout, allowing the cascading quicksilver to pour over her face.

Images from the Oracle's life appeared in the pool. The black pyramid (well, the black octahedron technically when in orbit) ship of the distant past reflected off the quicksilver. Cheetara kept still so not cause ripples and warp the memories.

She witnessed painful experiments on the creatures of first earth conducted by former (and most likely original) minions of Mummra with the will and tech stone. She witnessed the Oracle's artificially developed egg hatching in a puddle of quicksilver and a short lifetime spent imprisoned in a cell that much resembled their present surroundings. She witnessed the Oracle being forced to wait on Mumm-Ra's beck and call, gazing into the future on his command at the expense of her health and development. She witnessed the harassment the Oracle endured from her fellow hybrids, especially the felines. She witnessed the poor she-lizard grow ill and insane from the heavy metal poisoning then the moment before she collapsed dead in the fountain only to be thrown away and forgotten in the emptiness of outer space.

The Oracle pulled her head upright, still picking at her sitar. As the quicksilver ran from her eyes, the images disappeared. "Do not gripe to me about what is fair!"

Cheetarah looked to the lizard spirit with a deep sense of sympathy. "Mumm-Ra misused and mistreated you, but I can help you use your future sight against him."

"But my future sight is the only way I can leave this miserable place."

"Why do you linger here if the memory of it is so painful?"

The Oracle's tune became slow and melancholy. "Only through future sight have I experienced the worlds around me. I'm afraid to leave." She confessed, expression heavy with shame. "If I abuse my future sight it will be taken from me and I will only know darkness and silence for the rest of eternity. I really enjoy your company, Cheetarah, but to ask me to put my visions on the line for you is asking too much."

"For the sake of all the good people still alive on Third Earth and every other world Mumm-Ra could ruin, send me back. I know you're a good soul. You would have never helped him with his conquests willingly. You're free now."

"It's safer here in the astral plain."

"Not if Mumm-Ra ever gets ahold of the Book of Omens or the spirit stone. He already has the tech." Warned Cheetarah.

The Oracle sighed. "Very well." She caved in. "One more quick glimpse. Whatever it is you need to know, find out quickly then signal me. If anything goes wrong this time I might not be able to pull you back. Be careful." She shed her current skin, whatever type of lizard she was, for the skin of her gila monster form once again then leaned towards Cheetarah.

Cheetarah took a step back. "Is there any other way you can-?" Before she could finish her sentence the Oracle snatched her in her arms and pulled her in close for a kiss. Cheetarah winced as a stinging sensation pierced her bottom lip. Her knees started to buckle as the venom coursed through her veins. The Oracle clutched either side of her head, forcing Cheetarah to continue standing upright and to look straight at her.

"Please don't make me regret this…"

As Cheetarah's vision started to swirl, so did her guide's luminous green eyes. They seemed to multiply and circle, melting together in a hypnotizing green halo. The longer she focused she started to feel nauseous. Cheetarah clenched her eyes shut.

"I should have quit while I was ahead. I kept running into things I never expected to see…"

Cheetara's tale was interrupted by soft snoring. The kittens, as delighted as they were to be regaled with tales from their future, drifted off. They rested their heads on the tabletop, fast asleep.

"I think they have the right idea." Panthro mused, stretching as he stood. "That's enough fortunetelling for one evening."

"Just as well. I'm not sure if a crystal clear look at our futures is healthy." Lynx-O thought aloud.

"Me neither." Cheetarah admitted.

"We did get a few things out of it. We know never to allow the four stones to fuse together." Lion-O reminded them. "Were you ever able to find out where exactly we find the fourth stone?"

She shook her head no, disappointed. "I heard someone mention someplace called Darkside. That's it."

The others looked to each other, stumped. Lion-O looked to Lynx-O. "Ring any bells?"

The old general shrugged. "Not this time. What of our Thundrillium predicament?"

Lion-O paused. "The secret vault you mentioned isn't the most promising option, but it's our closest. We'll sneak into the sewers and search Thundera's catacombs at dawn. Lynx-O and Cheetarah will lead. We move in and out as quickly as we can. Refugees are still trying to settle in the ruins. If Mumm-Ra is awake, I want as little attention drawn to the city as possible."

"What of the vault itself? They changed the combinations immediately after every deposit." Lynx-O pointed out.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Panthro assured him.

"Out of Spidera's caves and into the sewers. We deserve medals." Tygra joked as he scooped the soundly sleeping Kit in his arms. "We'll put them to bed."

In the rear of the tank Tygra watched as Cheetarah placed the snoring Wiley Kat next to his sister on their designated cot and draped a blanket over their shoulders. They curled up under the blanket, hugging their tails. "They look so peaceful when they're sleeping." He whispered to her.

"Hm." She half nodded, too lost in thought to give a better response.

"Are you alright? Besides in council you have been eerily quiet, more so than usual. We're so close and I still know very little about you beyond that of what I used to observe from afar as a cub. You should speak more often."

She inhaled deeply. "Lately, it-"

"You said the other day you never want to have kittens," Tygra brought up the subject, unconsciously cutting her off. "Obviously you didn't mean that. Why say it?"

"I decided this after my encounter with the Oracle." Cheetarah explained.

"Did you decide to give up on us after you spoke to her too?"

"I haven't given up on us. Why would you say that?" She looked to him, wide-eyed and hurt.

"You do eventually. She told you so. Why? Our cubs don't seem "bad" and they're ours." He took her hand in his. "I don't want to exist in a future where we're not together and happy."

"I'm not sure if that future is possible, at least not with cubs."

Tygra frowned. "Did that crazy lizard ghost tell you that?"

"She's not craz and she didn't tell me anything. I interpreted what she showed me for myself. You don't understand. It's not you or our cubs."

"Then what? What are you not telling me?"

The Thundercats, Lion-O especially mastered the art of ignoring conversations to give the illusion of privacy to each other during long road trips cross country in the Thundertank. During his brother and former crush's rather heated conversation however, his will power weakened. He caught himself listening in while settling for the night.

Cheetarah paused to sort her thoughts. "It was more painful than watching Thundera fall…"

Days ago inside the Book of Omen's index…

Cheetarah took a step back. "Is there any other way you can-?" Before she could finish her sentence the Oracle snatched her in her arms and pulled her in close for a kiss. Cheetarah winced as a stinging sensation pierced her bottom lip. Her knees started to buckle as the venom coursed through her veins. The Oracle clutched either side of her head, forcing Cheetarah to continue standing upright and to look straight at her.

"Please don't make me regret this…"

As Cheetarah's vision started to swirl, so did her guide's luminous green eyes. They seemed to multiply and circle, melting together in a hypnotizing green halo. The longer she focused she started to feel nauseous. Cheetarah clenched her eyes shut.

A peaceful of moment of silence passed. Cheetarah took a deep breath. Naturally, unconsciously she thrusts her staff forward.

Multiple rows and columns of cleric-in-training mimicked her every move.

It worked! The Oracle successfully sent her to the future. Cheetarah found herself the head cleric once again leading the morning drills in the Lair courtyard. She repeated the routine Jaga spent years engraving into her memory, taking a minute to study the determined young faces in the crowd. Most of them were peasant cubs from mixed clans, probably once orphaned by the war of Mumm-Ra. They flocked for her in need of a proctor, a teacher and healer.

Fond memories of herself as a student flooded her memory. After Jaga sacrificed himself in Thundera she feared the cleric hood would perish with her. It felt good to Know the guardians of the crown carried on to the next generation (with her help). Thundera's security and spiritual well-being rested in the hands of the clerics. Thundera needed them and these cubs needed her guidance as she once needed Jaga's… Suddenly Cheetarah realized why she must have ended her union with Tygra...

Emotionally overwhelmed Cheetarah nearly fumbled her staff. Her students eyed her, shocked and concerned. Cheetarah pretended it never happened and continued with the drill. The warm early morning sun shined light onto her students' bored expressions. Cheetarah wondered how many hours this routine had gone on for by now. She decided to add some flair by passing her staff behind her back and twirling it high in the air. Her students all successfully mimicked the new move-

All except for a cat in the far back corner. Leonne, the one non-cleric accompanying the holy order in the morning exercises fumbled her staff as it dropped down. Instead of catching it and twirling it the opposite way behind her back as the others did, the staff slipped out of her grip, smacking her in the face and chest. Leonne exhaled a loud yowl as the force of her own staff knocked her on her butt. Down the center of her face formed a bright red welt. The crowd tried to conceal their laughter, some more successful than others.

Showing no such restraint, her baby sister Lenessa pointed and laughed hysterically at her expense from the sidelines. The pink snarfer on her lap had a good hardy snicker himself. Leonne snarled at them. "Piss off! I said you couldn't watch!"

"You're not our mother; I don't have to listen to you!" Lenessa repeated for the thousandth time since their mother's passing before blowing raspberries. Her snarfer stuck out his tongue as well.

Cheetarah gave the stone beneath her feet a quick, powerful thwack, creating a loud BOOM that deafened the crowd, and causing little Lenessa to fall backwards in her seat, startled. While the student-clerics held their ears Leonne picked herself and her pride off the ground.

"You can all drop and give me five hundred." Cheetarah ordered as she approached the princess. "Not you." Cheetarah motioned for Leonne to stay on her feet. She led her off to the side. "What are you doing here?"

Leonne sighed, frustrated. "I know father doesn't want me to train with the clerics and I'm not good enough to join yet, but I'm still going to try until I AM."

"No, I mean, you lost your brother yesterday. Maybe you should take today to-"

"Le-M was father's cub, not mine." Leonne hissed bitterly.

"Show some respect." Cheetarah flashed a scolding frown at her. "You're lucky I don't boot you out just for the incident in the lionesses' chamber last night."

"Forgive me, Lady Cheetarah." She bowed her head. "But I cried enough when mother died. I can't cry anymore."

Cheetarah patted her on the shoulder. "You're a tough girl."

Leonne's nose crinkled, lips curled in a malicious grin. "Besides, I want a good warm up before I kick Wuss Kat's a-er butt later." She ground her fist into her palm.

Cheetarah sighed, though a smile did form. "It's as if your father and Tygra never grew up."

"I'm sorry if I'm causing more conflict between you and Tygra." Leonne shifted meekly. "You don't have to cheer me on today. Father won't so-"

"Don't think that." Cheetarah brushed her mane out of her face. "Do you know why I think Lord Lion-O picked Wylde Kat for his first choice?"

Leonne shrugged wearily. "Why?"

"Because he sees a lot of his young self in Wylde Kat. When your father was a cub he wasn't so keen on the idea of being Lord of the Thundercats until he had to be. Lord Lion-O LOVES you. He just doesn't want to burden you with too much too soon."

"No, father just doesn't trust me anymore." Leonne looked to her feet, saddened. "He blames me for Le-M."

"That's not true. Le-M had a team of lionesses looking after him and he still slipped away. There's nothing you or anyone in this Lair could have done."

"But I was his big sister. Father expected me to watch out for him just like Lenee and Loelle. He'll never trust me with his kingdom if he can't trust me with his cubs." Leonne tried to hold it in, but she choked out a sob. Cheetarah embraced the cub, allowing her to cry on her chest a moment.

"Snarfer says you shouldn't be all mad and sad all the time." Lenessa approached her, hugging her snarfer close to her chest, letting his back paws dangle. Lenessa put on her cutest kitten smile. "Would a new dress and toe rings cheer you up?" She wiggled her painted toes from under the hem of her dress.

Leonne wiped away a tear. "Not now, Lenee. Dress up helps you feel better more so than me. I'd prefer to be the queen, not the princess."

"Why do you want all this responsibility and power so badly?" Cheetarah was forced to ask.

"I don't really want power, and I'm used to responsibility…" The young lioness struggled to put her feelings into the appropriate words. "I just want to look in the mirror in the morning and believe I'm worth something."

Cheetarah understood her plight all too well. "Tell me; does my training make you feel like you're worth something?"

"It's the only thing that does anymore."

Cheetarah knelt down to eye level with Lenessa. "Could I borrow your snarfer for a little while, sweetie?"

"Sure, Lady Cheetarah." She passed her the snarfer.

"Come with me." She motioned towards the temple. "I think it's time you ran the obstacle course."

"Really?"

"Can I watch?" Lenessa trailed behind them, lion's tail swishing cheerfully behind her.

"No!" Leonne spat almost simultaneously as Cheetarah replied "Yes."

Leonne groaned. "Eventually you have to learn to concentrate around distractions." Cheetarah explained.

"What about us?" One of her other students asked out of breath, still in the middle of pushups.

"I will return shortly." Cheetarah assured him. "Whip out your staffs and spar until then."

"aww…" Groaned her other students.

"Dear Jaga…" Leonne exclaimed inwardly. Her jaw dropped as Cheetarah swung open the massive doors to the temple of Thundera, revealing a deadly and lengthy obstacle course. She knew from speaking to Cheetarah's students that the "entry exam" was not easy, but this…? "I'm… I'm not sure if I'm ready." She expressed her doubts to the head Cleric as they approached the starting end.

"I never made it all the way through my first try. You won't have to either."

Leonne breathed a sigh of relief.

"All you have to do is catch Snarfer." Cheetarah patted him on the head before gently placing him on the ground.

Leonne cocked her head, eyeing the snarfer questioningly as he groomed his inner thigh. "Um…?"

Lenessa put her thumb and pointer to her lips and whistled loudly in the snarfer's ear, startling it into a mad scurry through the obstacle course. "Go!" Cheetarah urged.

Leonne nearly tripped over her own feet as she sprung forward after Snarfer. Cheetarh and Lenessa watched Leonne closely, nervously.

Being surprisingly nimble for such a chubby, silly little creature, Snarfer had little trouble maneuvering. The same could not be said for Leonne's footing, however. She lost several inches off her mane and nearly a few appendages trying pry Snarfer off the bladed, rotated pillars. Snarfer leaped from pillar to pillar, slipping through both the dicing blades and Leonne's grip.

Cheetarah was beginning to regret her decision to put the princess through the tests, realizing too late Leonne indeed looked feline but lacked any and all feline grace…

Snarfer squealed with terror as it weaved spastically under the bladed pendulums. Leonne skidded to a halt as the first pendulum blade sung past her nose. She backed away a step then raced towards the menacing obstacle, but rather than try to race through the opening she scrunched down low then jumped high. She grabbed onto the pivot of the pendulum then proceeded to jump from pivot to pivot until she bypassed all the swinging blades from overhead.

Cheetarah noted her creativity, but also noticed Snarfer already made it three quarters of the way across the floor of retractable spears. Lenessa covered her eyes and held her tail as Leonne stumbled her way across after her sissy pet.

After an amusing series of bends, twists and jumps Leonne rubbed the bottom of her sliced up feet as she squeaked past the last round of spears. She heard Snarfer snickering at her. She pretended not to notice him at her feet, and then dove for him, but Snarfer slipped past her grip once again. Using the back of her head and then her behind, Snarfer jumped onto a large metal ring dangling high overhead. He leapt onto the next ring and then the next just one second before the rings would disappear lest he fall onto a long bed of hot embers.

Leonne jumped for the first ring, missing it just barely. She tried once again and succeeded, but the ring disappeared on her. She yowled in pain as she landed on her hand and knees in the embers. Leonne scrambled for safety then tried again, her timing right. Leonne swung across the bed of embers with relative ease. She landed safely on the other side greeted by a wall and no sign of Snarfer.

Something in the ceiling shifted. A box with four blades for walls dropped from above, surrounding her. The blades rose and fell one at a time randomly, giving enough space for only a creature as big as, let's say, a Snarfer to slip under. Every so often for an instant almost too quick to notice all four blades would rise at once just above knee level, revealing a ladder made of woven reeds on the other side.

Leonne watched the blades rise and fall. Climbing over was not an option this time. When she convinced herself she memorized the pattern she shut her eyes and dove forward. Cheetarah exhaled a sigh of relief as she watched the determined, yet at this point battered princess roll under the blades then scale the wobbly, narrow ladder. As she climbed higher and higher the reeds weaved tighter around each other until the rungs formed only a solid rope. Leonne bore her fangs as she pulled her way to the top of the high ceiling of the temple where on a scaffold Snarfer sat comfortably, eating dried candy fruit.

Leonne grinned as she neared the top, ready to snatch him when Wily Kub drops down from a sun window. He gently scoops Snarfer in his arms and scratches behind his ears. "Hey, Lenee, did you lose Snarfer again? I saw him from the roof!"

"What were you doing on the roof? It's dangerous!" Cheetarah scolded him.

"Um… Not gutter surfing." He forced a light-hearted laugh, trying to nonchalantly wipe his gunky feet.

"Crap…" Leonne, too disheartened to concentrate, lost her grip. She slid down the rope quickly, unable to stop. She landed on her butt, her palms and the pads of her feet red and raw. "OW OW OW OW OWWW!" She whimpered, blowing on her hands and feet to cool them.

Cheetarah sped across the course to the finish line to aid her, safely carrying Lenessa with her. "Way to go, dummy!" The kitten hissed up at her cousin as Cheetarah placed her on the ground.

Wiley Kub slid down the rope safely. "What did I do?"

"Leonne was in the middle of a test. She was supposed to catch Snarfer." Cheetarah explained.

"Oh… I'm sorry."

"It's alright, Kub. You didn't know." Leonne winced as she should, paws still raw from rope burn. "How was my time?"

"Three minutes- forty-four seconds and technically you didn't catch him." Cheetarah frowned, empathetic.

Leoone exhaled a slow, disappointed sigh. "I can't do anything right."

"Wylde Kat should have challenged you to an obstacle course race for the crown instead." Wily Kub thought aloud.

"Kub-" Cheetarah nudged him roughly in the shoulder.

"I- I didn't mean it like that." He smiled up at his cousin. "Don't worry, he'll probably forget to show to the duel. He's busy racing off to see his girlfriend."

Leonne couldn't help but perk up after hearing that news. "Oh really?"

"Yeah. I see him sneak off from his room in the morning. I follow him sometimes, but he loses me when he reaches top speed." He turned to Cheetarah. "Mother, may I have my slingshot and trick rocks back?"

Cheetarah removed the items from her bets and handed them to him. "Certainly, but outside with them quickly, please. This is a sacred hall." She shooed the kittens along. "And stay off the roof."

"Yes Lady Cheetarah."

"Yes, mother." Wiley Kub nonchalantly slung a trick rock at Lenessa's feet. It popped loudly, flashing blue lightning. Lenessa screeched in terror. Snarfer scurried off, startled. Laughing, Wiley Kub disappeared around a corner, giggling. Huffing, his cousin chased after him, using one hand to hold up her skirt while the other she clenched in a fist to shake at him angrily. "Get back her! I ORDER YOU!"

Cheetarah frowned displeased as a chorus of yowls, giggles and snarfer chatter echoed through the temple. Leonne motioned towards the path of their commotion. "Would you like me to round them up?"

"Yes please." Cheetarah held her back a moment. "Tell the others to freshen up and meditate. We'll try this again tomorrow morning."

"Really? But what if I'm just as awful tomorrow morning?"

"Then we try again the morning after and the one after until you make it through with a respectable time."

Leonne smiled. "Thank you Lady Cheetarah."

"I will see you in the throne room in a few hours." Cheetarah started to limber up.

"Where are you going?"

"Out for a sprint," She replied. "I think I'm going to follow Wylde Kat a while, see if I can't catch a glimpse of his girlfriend."

"Ooh. Keep me posted." Leonne flashed her mentor a wink then turned for the exit.

Cheetarah took off like cannon through the temple doors across the Lair courtyard and through the nobles' district. She zigzagged through the market and artisan districts, startling the pedestrians who could feel the rush of wind as she passed by almost too fast for the naked eye to process. On the way she ditched her traditional garb for a bejeweled mask and new, less conspicuous, summer outfit.

She slowed to a brisk run as she entered the slums, keeping an eye out for anywhere that Wylde Kat may be. She suspected the cub had yearning for danger. No shortage of danger around. The slums like in her day are filthy, unorganized and full of lowlifes. There was a pretty efficient monorail and catacomb subway system running however.

She marched through the littered streets head high and fearless. Pedestrians avoided her or looked away, intimidated by her demeanor accept for one foolish old alley cat.

"Hey baby where are you doing in lizardville-? OUGH!" Cheetarar grabbed the hand he placed on her shoulder and kicked his foot to the side. With the creep put off balance it gave her just enough to through off his weight and use it as leverage to sling him over her shoulder. He laid on his back to the concrete, groaning in agony towards the sky.

Cheetarah left the creep to reflect on the lesson he just learned. A few blocks farther she spotted Wylde Kat, also in street clothes entering a canine butcher shop/ deli. As a reflex she took a quick step back behind the corner, waited and watched. A few minutes later, Wylde Kat exited the shop with a cylindrical parasol suspiciously shaped like a femur bone neatly wrapped in white paper. Wearing a pleased smile he strolled across the street into an establishment built at the bottom of a messy cluster of establishments constructed from stone and war machine scrap metal.

She waited a few moments then followed her adventurous son through the colorful beaded door. Her eyes immediately started to itch from the smoke. As she first suspected, this is a lizard lounge. Several dozen cold bloods and a handful of rodents and birds gathered to smoke herbs, but also to listen to live music, munch and watch exotic reptilian belly dancing. Such places only existed in Baleful Swamp last she knew. They were outlawed and burned down in Thundera in her generation.

While searching for Wylde Kat she noticed another, rather perturbed face in the crowd scowling at her through a translucent veil. The Oracle sat among the flupe/ tambourine band, plucking away the rhythm of a fun folk tune on her sitar. She approached nonchalantly (or as nonchalantly as a cat in a lizard lounge can).

"You're tampering with the timeline too much." The Oracle hissed.

"How are you here?"

"It's just a telepathic projection. I can't maintain it for long." She explained. "Well, care to explain yourself?"

"I'm only trying to play the role as…well…me."

"Stop getting so into it."

"They're my cubs and my friends' cubs. I can't just ignore them." She finally spotted Wylde Kat sitting with Illio sitting at the all-fruit hibachi grill. The young cub was too engrossed in the moment to notice his own mother halfway across the room. "Wait, there he is." Cheetarah took a seat at a low wooden table for two. A lizard waitress offered her an assortment of herbs. Cheetarah declined. She ordered tea instead.

"Is this really a productive use of my vision?"

Cheetarah shushed her, trying to listen in.

"It's hot in here." Wylde Kat observed.

"Feels gut, jag?" Illio nodded, smiling.

"The stable boy's dad grows this catnip. I've sold a killing to the squires and other foot scouts. It's good stuff." Wylde Kat offered his new uncle a packed pipe.

Illio shook his head. "No thanksss, Wyldes. Keep it for later. I'm not fond of catnips, I prefer lizardnips."

The cub cocked his head, intrigued. "That's a real thing?"

Illio and the other lizards around the fruit-hibachi bar laughed, even the stony old chef/bartender. Illio nudged him and whispered. "Don't be embarrassed. The stuffs never grew in my home village eithers. Too colds, jag? Your aunty turned me onto ists."

A she-snake waitress offered an assortment of "lizardnip" herbs.

Kit's husband thought it over a minute. "I will take a pinch of balefulberry cush and dawndaisy haze… and some sour slither." Illio paid the waitress. She proceeded to grind the herbs, mix them and wrap it in a cigarette.

Illio passed it to Wylde Kat who eagerly lit it with a match and puffed.

"No, no, hold it in." Illio corrected him. Wylde Kat held it in until his lungs hurt then he exhaled, hacking violently. "You like that salad, jag?" Illio asked, taking a long drag for himself, exhaling perfectly smoothly.

"Hells- jag." Wylde Kat playfully teased his thick lisp/ accent, still choking, took another drag. He coughed slightly less the second exhale. "Wow… I like this. It doesn't make me twitchy." He tried to pass it back to Illio, but he declined, motioning left with his thumb.

"You pass it on the lefthands side; awlays on the lefthand side." Illio corrected him. "If you pass it right again we'll gets kicks out."

Wylde Kat's ears drooped. "Sorry, didn't know." He passed the burning cigarette to lizard left of him. He snatched it out of the cub's fingers, flashing him a dirty look.

Illio laughed. "That's okays. You are a gut cubs, jag? I am glads you agrees to lounge arounds with me before Kits and I leave for homes. I was under the impressions you disliked me as much as general Kats."

"He's my commander and a great Thundercat. I love and respect him like a second father, but Uncle Kat and I don't always agree on everything." Wylde Kat explained. "I was actually hoping you could give me some advice. You know, from your perspective."

"What perspectives?" Illio asked, eyes half shut and hazy.

"Your perspective … Interspecies marriage." Wylde Kub whispered.

"Oh jag!" Illio recalled, laughing.

Cheetarah's eyes narrowed through her mask. "What is going on with cubs today?" She asked herself aloud as he waitress handed her the tea she ordered. Cheetarah took a sip and spit it back out, realizing the tea was strained from the same herbs she rejected earlier.

The Oracle frowned. "You wasted it. You're the worst kind of feline."

Cheetarah shushed her once again, still trying to listen.

Illio shrugged, hunched over the counter. "It is difficults sometimes. The only place Kits and I can be seen togethers in public without being stares at is in the Pachyderm territory. It has puts a strain on alls our relationships, between Kits and her family especially. I feel bads about it alots, but we always haves eachothers."

"How's the sexual aspect of it? I mean, is she alright with you going to places like this?" He nodded towards the belly dancers entertaining their table.

Illio flashed them a dismissing hand gesture. "I'm not here for that's." He took a drag after the half burned away cigarette was passed to him. "Wes are pretty open with eachothers on the matters. We kind of haves to be. If she wanted a kitten, I wouldn't hold it against her if a male cats pleased hers. Sex is an acts only. Love is most important, jag?"

"I believe so." Wylde Kat patted him on the back. "Thanks, friend. You helped me out a lot." Wylde Kat waved a shiny Thundererian coin at the bartender. "Hey, boy! Two Serpent Sunsets for myself and my recently wed pal here."

The bar tender and the other lizards sitting within ear shot glared at Wylde Kub, hissing venomously at him. "That'sss momma you're ssspeaking to." The she-snake waitress informed him. Illio looked to his lap, shaking his head.

Wylde Kat looked the bartender over. Could this big mass of scales really be a female? "Excuse me, ma'am, I-"

"Never mind…" Momma snatched the coin out of his hand then threw it in her drawer and slammed it shut. She quickly cut up a basket of various fruits, blended them together and mixed the sunsets.

She slid Wylde Kat his drink roughly, but gently placed Illio's drink in front of him.

Wylde Kat took a sip and frowned. "This is a virgin sunset!" he complained.

"Asss if I would ssserve a kitten alcohol. I'm not losssing my lounge for you." Momma turned her spiked back to him, mixing drinks for other customers.

"I'm twenty-two!" He lied.

"Sssure you are."

Wylde Kat stood, slamming his fist on the counter. "I am a soldier. I'm old enough to risk my life for this kingdom in the Thunderguard! I'm old enough to drink your cheap reptilian rum!"

Illio yanked him back down into the sitting position. "Cools it down about thats soldier stuffs. I don't thinks that's goings to be a winnings arguments here."

Wylde Kat forced a friendly smile. "Right... Shutting up."

"I know who you are cub. I'm not ignorant. Watch your friend'sss mouth for him. He'sss about to get hisss teeth punched in." Momma gave them a friendly warning.

Illio nodded in agreement. "Yesss, ma'ams."

"That's a thick lisssp, ssstranger." Momma noted Illio's accent. "Where are you from?"

"The Viviparous tribe in the cores of Hooks Mountains." Illio explained.

"How do you live in the cold?"

"Not comfortably. We do nots go to the surface mouch. You're froms Thundera, jag?"

"No, I'm from the island of Sssquamata. Do you know where that isss, cub?" She glanced over her shoulder at Wylde Kub.

He shook his head no.

"It's a small lump of sand in the Serpentine Archipelago. They call lizardnip ma-ja-ja there." She specified. "I wasss hatched there on a ma-ja-ja plantation, but was sssold and ssshipped off to Thundera when I was very young, ssso I grew up in the marshes around here."

The old bartender peaked Wylde Kat's interest. "Wow, you were alive when Thundera still imported lizard labor?"

"Yesss, yess I wasss." Momma confirmed, frowning.

"That's heavy stuff. I admire lizards like you, you know."

Momma half chuckled, rolling her eyes at the cub. "No kidding?"

"Really; the adversity you went through and-"

"Went through?!" A drunk lizard sitting at the tablenext to them slurred as he slammed his drink on the table, outraged. "Cub, what are you talking about went through?"

"Who'sss bright idea wasss it to put the sss sssound in the word lisssp anywaysss? Catsss try to make usss think we have a ssspeach impediment! That'sss only a bunch of pussy devil bullssshit they use to keep us down if you asssk me!" The cold blooded drunkard's equally drunk friend added.

"If you want to talk equality, let'sss talk sssalary." Another lanky lizard female chimed in, rolling her own tobacco. "You know the cat seamstresses at the mill make three bits more by the yard than I do? I ssspin more sssilk a day than any molly there! That'sss sssome pussy devil bullssshit."

Momma let out a groan. "I've been listening to lizards piss and moan about the catsss for over sssixty yearsss. Do you really want to know why we never progress as a ssspeciesss? Because all we do isss lounge around, sssmoking our brainsss out all the time."

"That'sss hurtful and racistsss, momma. This kingdom doessn't need any ssself loathing lizards." The she-snake waitress scolded her.

"She has a point though. You people never really take initiative with anything until you're forced." Wylde Kat kicked himself mentally for opening his mouth.

Cheetarah winced as the lizards started to get up from their seat with malicious intent in their eyes. Wylde Kub inherited Tygra's knack for saying the wrong thing to the wrong people. The Oracle sighed as Cheetarah immediately rose to defend Wylde Kub.

With a few effortless strikes she knocked out the entire circle of reptiles about to pummel her son. "Mother?!" Wydle Kat cried in disbelief.

Momma broke a bottle of rum over the counter and with an unexpected burst of strength, leapt over it. "The three of you, OUT!" She ordered, pointing the jagged, broken bottle at them.

The lizard and the cleric exchanged cold glances. Cheetarah bowed respectfully to her. "Our deepest apologies." With that she yanked Wylde Kub out the door by his wrist. Illio gulped the rest of his drink and took one last drag off his herbs and followed.

Cheetarah led her son around the corner.

"Did you know that old lizard lady?"

Cheetarah disregarded his question. "You better start explaining yourself."

"I suggested we comes heres. It's my fault." Illio spoke in the cubs defense.

"Be that as it may, Wylde Kat needs to use his better judgment."

"I didn't do anything wrong. I don't need to defend myself to you or anybody." Wylde Kat pouted. "And you still owe me a new PCom."

"I owe you nothing! You have no business in the slums getting drunk off rum and herbs!" Cheetarah snapped. "Especially before you duel Leonne. Lion-O has faith in you as a king someday. How can you take his trusts so lightly?"

"You have no business following me! I'm a grown man and I'm NOT one of your paw licking disciples!" He roared in her face."

"You're still a thick-headed cub who doesn't have the common sense to avoid a bar fight."

"Illio and I could have taken them!"

Illio motioned for the others to ignore him. "I promised Kits I wouldn'ts fights."

"Maybe your father is alright with you racing across the continent, looking for trouble and strange females, but I'm not."

"I don't care if you are! DON'T talk about father and DON'T spy on me! There's no female either! Whatever Leonne told you is a lie!"

Cheetarah tried not a smirk when she noticed him blushing. "Actually Wiley Kub told me."

"Little TURD!" Wylde Kat mimed a throttling motion. "He's the biggest liar in Thundera!"

"It doesn't matter. Until further notice, you're grounded from top speed. If I catch you running off to the slums again, I'll drag you back by your nostrils." She warned. "Back to Cat's lair NOW before you're late!" Cheetarah ordered, pointing north.

"You can't do this to a loyal thunderguard." Wylde Kat crossed his arms in protests.

"I can't…?" Cheetarah snarled as she pulled out her staff.

Wylde Kat swallowed a lump in his throat. "Right…" He looked to the sun. "Oh look, almost noon. See you around, Illio!" With that, he raced off from zero to top speed in seconds.

Cheetarah leaned against her staff wearily. "What should I do about him?"

"He really didn't means any harms. Neithers dids I." Illio assured her.

Cheetarah flashed him a cold, stern look. "With all due respect, please don't fill his head with anymore strange ideas. Your relationship with Kit is your business. Wylde Kat is too impressionable."

"Understoods. Forgives me, ladys Cheetarah." He motioned south. "I have to meets Kits at the sand docks." He rushed off for the nearest monorail station.

She left a trail of dust rising behind her even as she slowed to a jog through the halls of Cat's Lair. She forced herself to a stop beside the throne. The other Thundercats with the acceptation of Lynx-O and Wiley Kit sat/ stood beside Lion-O, waiting patiently. "Ho!" She noticed Tygra and her smile faded to a frown instantly. "Ho."

"Ho." He greeted his former lover with just as little enthusiasm.

"Cheetarah, you're the last one here… and you look flustered." Lion-O noted, raising a curious brow at her. "Are you well?"

"Forgive me; I had personal business to tend to." Cheetarah replied, still catching her breath.

"You shouldn't overexert yourself after a night spent in the book. Have you spoken with Leonne yet?"

"Well,-"

"Father, I'm here!" Leonne saluted as she entered the throne room, sporting sleek new sparing armor. "I'm ready. Where's Wuss Kat?"

"You and Wylde Kat will not duel today." Lion-O informed her.

She frowned. "Why not?"

"I'm sorry, but the duel for the crown must be postponed. Last night the book of omens-"

Wylde Kat skidded across the clean, polished floors past Leonne. He managed to stop inches before running into Lion-O's lap. "Sorry I'm late. Messages to deliver to other battalions and stuff." He paused to catch his breath, eyes still a little red and squinty. "So, um, what did I miss?"

"Father is postponing the duel." Leonne announced, expression heavy with disappointment.

"Sweet, really? I-I mean, what an injustice! Why, uncle-lord?" Wylde Kat quickly shifted his tone to match Leonne's disappointment.

"Because I need you two to work together. Last night, inside the Book of Omens Cheetarah and I successfully confronted the guardian sprit of its texts. It presented us with a solution, but as I feared we must accomplish this in a very short time frame. We cannot completely syphon the divine stone of its energies, but we CAN stunt its evolution by dividing it into the four power stones once again."

"How?" Inquired Bengali.

"We will have to split up and collect the *eight immortal treasures then present each treasure at the twenty fourth hour on the anniversary of the divine stone's waking. By activating all the treasures at once with its raw power we can pull it apart before it reaches maturity."

Tygra revealed a holo projection map of Third Earth onto the floor. "We have two of the treasures in our possession currently. Cheetarah has the Cosmic Key and Bengali has the Thunderhammer. The Oblivion Blade, formerly the sword of Omens and Sword of Plun-Darr is still trapped in the remains of the Black Pyramid." The locations of the treasures glowed on their respective points on the map. "That leaves five immortal treasures; the Pure Prism, the Emerald Hydra, the Helmet of Xaxx, Luna's Belt of Five Blessings and The Shuriken of Hachiman." Tygra explained further.

"Tygra will retrieve the Pure Prism from the abandoned Academy of the Necromechs while Cheetarah unearths the Emerald Hydra in the Caverns of Cold and I collect the Shuriken of Hachiman from the savage Man-clan of the Treetop Kingdom floor." Lion-O instructed the others, motioning to the map, arranging the markers that represented himself and his fellow Thundercats. "General Wily Kat, I have arranged a vessel to bring you to the depths of the Boiling Sea to retrieve Luna's Belt. Leonne, Wylde Kat, you two must travel to the Shrine of PinYin and ask their guru for the Helmet of Xaxx. Whatever you do DON'T put it on."

"We know, father." Leonne assured him.

Lion-O nodded. "Bengali, because the Thunderhamer is the only thing on Third earth that might do the trick, you must try to remove the Oblivion Blade from the clutches of Mumm-Ra's idols in the Black Pyramid. There in its ruins we will present with the immortal treasures and confront the divine stone."

"If we leave now we have less than two days to collect everything. Even with the Feliner and a submergible tank, can we really gather all eight treasures?" Cheetara's ears drooped with doubt.

"We have to try. Can I count on you two to fetch the Helmet of Xaxx together?"

The cubs saluted him. "Yes, my lord." They replied in unison; Leonne with a little more certainty.

"What of the Tower of Omens?" Inquired Wiley Kat. "Grune's marauders may attack if they suspect no one is there to command them. All this will be for nothing if the gyroscope is wrecked."

Lion-O paused to consider. "We will have to trust Lynx-O's ears and brail board. Send a falcon to the Thunderguard battalion stationed there. Tell them Lynx-O is temporarily in command and to stay on red alert. That is the best we can do."

Bengali rested his Warhammer over his shoulder. "Well, if we're going to do it, let's do it." He quoted Panthro, kicking himself mentally immediately afterwards. "I know; it just isn't the same when I say it."

Lion-O smiled. "No, well put actually. Let's do it. Thundercats…" The others joined Lion-O in their traditional salute.

"Ho!"

"This all makes for a great campfire story, but none of it explains why you decide to give up on our relationship." Tygra interrupted.

Present

Cheetarah shook her head. "Your love is everything to me."

"Sounds to me as if being a cleric means more to you than being my mate."

"Tygra, if I am no longer a cleric then I go back to being the cat I was before."

He lifted her chin gently so her eyes would meet his. "Would that really be so bad?"

"Yes." She pulled away, trying to hold in a tear, but it flowed down her cheek anyways.

He raised his brow at her, dumbfounded. "Why are you doing this? What were you before?"

"It doesn't matter; that's passed. It's the future I can't face."

Cheetarah sat on the bottom cot, doubled over in grief. "We feared the divine stone, but Mumm-Ra was waiting in the chaos the whole time..." An icy chill ran down her spine. She shivered, spooked by the notion. "Mumm-Ra tries to live again inside our cubs… he forced me to take them…" She started to sob silently. "I barely know them, but I LOVE them…I can't give birth to them just to end their life."

"We can beat him, you have to believe that. Preventing them from ever being born isn't the answer…" Tygra tried to pull her in for a hug; to let her know it would be alright, but she froze, teary and unresponsive. He could only stand to see he so upset for so long. Unable to reach out to her, he crawled behind her and curled into a sleeping position.

Lion-O and Snarf exchanged worried glances. Cheetarah up to this moment had been the most calm and collective of the whole team. It disturbed them to watch her break down into tears from across the tank from his bunk. Lion-O was about to get up and try to comfort her, but decided against it at the last moment and rolled over instead. His gut told her to leave her be awhile.

Author's note: Long chapter is long… Didn't intend to end this chapter on such a sad note. *I think I may have screwed up and said there were six treasures last chapter. I intended for there to be eight. The lesson once again here kitties is don't write on catnip :3 Some of the treasures are homages to certain treasures of Thundera from the final 80's season, and others are complete fan ideas. Most of the immortal treasures won't be relevant again until when and/or if I decide to write a sequel fic to this.

Please do not be offended by the use of marihuana in this chapter. This is a fanfic. Obviously, on television smoking has no place in a Thundercats story. It was more of prop to create a setting that compared the acceptance of different species in New Thundera to the civil rights movement of the 60's. *Cough* I ripped off a scene from Fritz the Cat *cough* (distasteful? Maybe, but the theme seemed fitting to me none the less.)

Please do not dismiss Cheetarah's behavior towards Tygra as petty, even though the way I'm writing for her. She's going through some things. It will be explained in greater depth later. (When Cheetarah claimed to have no clan even though she is obviously a cheetah made me think…)

Disclaimer: I am not overly concerned with who pairs with who. I am an asexual. Shipping does not matter to me. Romance does not matter to me. I'm not saying all romance is stupid and all fics with romance in them are stupid because that's not true. I am saying that other things CAN happen in a story other than people hook up. Please fellow fan fiction writers (with the exception of a handful, you know who you are) focus more on story and less on shipping. For love of Jaga and all that holy…

PS: Thanks for reading. Double thanks for reviewing and triple thanks for any suggestions. Hoooo!