Prologue: Orders

"So. You think she's ready for this, do you?"

"Oh, yes." The queen had to work to contain her excitement. "Let me assure you, you have no cat more loyal—"

"I'm not questioning her loyalty," the tom cut her off impatiently. "I think my little example served to ensure that no one will soon betray me. They have all seen what happens to disloyal cats." The queen shuddered, then picked an imaginary flea out of her black coat, hoping her leader would think that that was the trouble. The ginger tom was not convinced.

"Ah, I see it did have an impression," he said with a smile. Any cat would have seen his smile as genuine; but not a henchcat. They had learnt to see the way his eyes glinted.

"Sir," said the queen carefully, "I know you do not doubt my daughter's loyalty, but she wants a chance to prove it, all the same. She wants to show that she is not a traitor like…them." No one was permitted to say the traitors' names. One still lived, but he was treated with scorn, and was never addressed by his name; the older cats called him 'traitor', the younger cats, 'One-ear'.

"Yes, of course, I understand," the ginger tom nodded. "And that is well, for only a young cat can do this job I have in mind. There are others I could ask, of course, but your daughter was always more clever than the others, even as a tiny kit." The queen couldn't prevent her eyes sparkling with pleasure, and the tom noted this with amusement. It didn't take much to please his queen henches, so long as they had kittens he could flatter. "Here is what she must do." The black queen leaned in to listen.

"I am yours to command, Macavity!"