THE RELUCTANT PRINCE

Chapter 4: Making Allies

Callie and Abi didn't cry as their captors seemed to have expected them to. Which unsettled both the guards and the female's they'd been left with. Shaking their heads, the guards left, obviously thinking they were no threat and needed no real guarding, though there was no doubt a guard or two had been left outside the chamber.

Callie didn't think much of that mindset but understood it a little since her own males had a tendency to be over protective and think she-kats couldn't defend themselves well. She smiled secretly, amused by that false idea. It meant the males here would totally underestimate her and Abi if they found a way to escape because they would never expect them to try. She needed to find a way to speak to Abi alone so they could plan.

The females of the harem stared at the strangers. They were used to seeing kats without wings as the females were not the first to have appeared from beyond the veil. However, these two she-kats were different. They were upset by their capture but neither wailed nor acted panicky. No tears were being shed. Instead the pair eyed the winged females with interest and no one missed their watchfulness.

"Why do they not cry and wail their plight as all the others have before them?" One sang softly to another.

"I don't know. These two are very different. See how they watch us, study their surroundings, and say nothing except to trade meaningful gazes with each other," the other observed in a low, contralto voice.

An older female stared at the pair of wingless females with narrowed eyes. "They are strange. They bear watching so stay alert around them. Until they do or say something to us, we have no idea what's going through their minds. I must admit, however, they behave like noble fems rather than servants. It makes me wonder what they do for a living on their world," she mused, thoughtfully, her singing voice had a deep, smoky quality to it.

"They are certainly pretty...most likely why they were brought here..." another sang.

Callie eyed the she kats staring and singing to each other as they studied she and Abi. It was obvious to her, this was some kind of harem as the females were dressed in revealing clothing and the room was rather over decorated with an eye to comfort and sensuality.

Their clothing were made of the sheerest material and in many colors. Chains of some kind of orange, colored, metal hung around their necks and waists. A medallion hung at the center of the necklaces and had the same symbol as was on the tapestry they'd seen entering the castle. She realized it was the symbol of the King which, from Feral's behavior, was a usurper to the original royal line that had been the Commander's.

She sighed and kept very close to Abi who was also studying their surroundings closely. Callie felt sorry for Feral. Something truly bad had happened while he'd been away. How long he'd been gone from his homeland and why he'd left, she had a feeling the guys were getting to find out while she and Abi were left in the dark.

Abi spoke for the first time since they'd been put in here some ten minutes ago. "I'm assuming we're going to be used as either slaves or handed off as the price for some deal the usurper needs to continue holding this kingdom. Wonder how long he's been in possession of the throne?" She asked curiously, more to herself than Callie.

"Wish we were still with Commander Feral. I'm guessing the guys are getting an update we could really use right now," Callie sighed, annoyed.

Abi glanced over at the deputy mayor. "I'm certainly with you on that. I feel so sorry for the Commander. It must be such a shock and anguish to him to find his father gone and this person in his place," she said shaking her head.

The older female's eyes widened in stunned surprise when she heard the wingless female's words. She excitedly spoke their language in song. "The Prince is alive and has returned?"

Callie and Abi stared at her in stunned surprise. Though the words had been sung, they clearly understood her.

The female rushed up to them, making them lean back and eye her warily. "Speak! Has Prince Ulysses returned?"

"Yes, but he was hauled away to your prison with the rest of our group," Callie said carefully.

The older female dropped to her knees, wrapped her arms around herself, and lowered her head to cry, singing a song that sounded both sad and joyful at the same time.

Concerned, Callie reached out hesitantly to the distraught female and touched her shoulder.

"I'm sorry to have upset you. Are you close to the prince?" She asked, trying to get some information.

The female's head came up, tears falling down her cheeks. "He is my nephew," she sang softly.

Callie gasped in surprise. "Really...I'm sorry. How long ago did he turn up missing?"

"He was but a stripling youth of nineteen summers when he vanished in anger at my brother-in-law's decree that he marry the King of Janoria's daughter. Ulysses knew as did most of our people, that a marriage tie with that kingdom would mean the loss of who we are but our father was too grief stricken by the loss of my sister and the war that followed that he wanted peace at any cost. Though he hadn't spoken to me, I guessed Ulysses hoped to force his father to listen to the other allegiance, that of my family's people for help, but his father wouldn't hear of it. So Ulysses disappeared and never returned then the Janorians came in and took us over without much of a fight. We lost more than half our army, many of our noncombatants, and his father was taken prisoner," the female sang sadly.

"Oh no, that's terrible. Is he still alive?" Callie asked, concerned.

"We don't know. No one has seen him since," Feral's aunt moaned. "But now Ulysses is here...perhaps we can dare to hope for things to change..." she sang, hesitantly.

Lowering her voice, Callie murmured, "your nephew is very brave and has several warriors with him. If there's a way, he and the two of the warriors with him, known as the SWAT Kats, will find a way out of this mess."

Feral's aunt stared in Callie's eyes searchingly. "You sound certain of this...I wished I could have seen my nephew...do you know why he disappeared so long ago?" She asked beseechingly.

"No, I'm sorry I don't. I only know he rose up the ranks of the enforcers to become our Chief Enforcer. He is the leader of our military forces that protect our city called Megakat. We have been plagued by super criminals over the past five years and he with his enforcers and the help of the SWAT Kats, have been able to keep our city safe. He is a formidable warrior." Callie told her proudly.

No matter what she might truly think of the Commander, his aunt deserved to hear how well her nephew had handled being stranded in their world and what he'd accomplished. She didn't need to know he and Callie were generally at odds with each other.

She sighed mentally. Now she better understood why Feral seemed so gruff, abrasive and aloof all the time. He must be terribly lonely being stranded for as long as he was living among people who were only vaguely like himself. And to be denied his song and wings...her heart clenched with sorrow. She had been horribly unkind to him but, to be fair, she simply didn't know.

Well she would rectify that now. Whatever she and Abi could do, they would help the Commander as well as the SWAT Kats in escaping and maybe helping these people. But to do that, she needed much more information. Her attention was dragged back by Feral's aunt.

"At least he proved himself and is revered but I wish I knew why he never returned," the female sang, sadly.

Callie gently patted the female's back. "I suspect he would have returned immediately, if he'd been able to but obviously, there was no way back except in the manner in which we got here this time...by accident."

"I believe you are right. There have been many 'accidental' arrivals of your people to our world. I never truly thought that the reverse could certainly be true...it would certainly explain some of the disappearances we've suffered over the centuries as well," the female sang, thoughtfully.

"Sounds quite logical to me and is probably the case," Abi joined the conversation for the first time.

The older female eyed her a moment. "Forgive my lack of manners. I am called Princess Regina. May I ask your names and what you do in your world?" She asked politely, wiping her tears away with an embroidered handkerchief one of the other females gave her.

The other females came close and formed a circle around the newcomers, all listening intently.
Abi studied them closely while Callie made the introductions.

"I am called Calico Briggs, Callie for short. I am the Deputy Mayor of Megakat City and this Dr. Abi Sinian, Curator of the Megakat Natural History Museum."

Regina stared at them in puzzlement. "What do these titles mean?"

Callie smiled lightly, "my title means, I am the elected, secondary leader for our city. Abi is responsible for maintaining and running the place that keeps all the artifacts of our past on display so the public is constantly reminded of our history."

"Oh, a historian, perhaps?" Regina asked.

"Yes, but much more than that. However, for this purpose it's a good enough description," Abi said warmly.

Regina nodded, then looked at Callie, "...and you hold a leadership position?"

"Yes."

The princess eyed them in amazement. They were not royalty yet they were permitted to hold such important positions. It was astonishing. The other females around her were whispering in excited and amazed wonder.

"I am honored to meet two such important females. Only royalty is allowed to hold any kind of important positions here if they are female so you are very usual to us," Regina admitted.

"Somehow, I'm not surprised. Your males are a bit overbearing," Callie said archly.

Regina laughed, surprising herself. This she-kat was very perceptive. "They are indeed."

Callie thought a moment and looked around then leaned closer to Regina. "Your highness, pardon me if this seems rude, but would it be possible for Abi and I to speak with you in private and away from being overheard by the guards?"

Regina eyed her in surprise. Thinking about it for a moment, she looked around the room then came to a decision. She turned to her ladies and sang some instructions. The females looked both surprised and unhappy but did as asked immediately. They moved to form a small group before the only doors to the room from outside and began to sing some songs, do some knitting, and gossip.

Turning back to her guests, Regina signaled for them to follow her as she stood up and walked toward an archway to the left of the entryway. Through it, Callie and Abi discovered a tiled hallway that led to many rooms. All had open doorways covered with only fabric for privacy except for one which was a solid oak door. Regina opened this one and gestured for them to enter.

The room was only a little larger than Callie's living room in her apartment. There was an enormous wooden bed against one wall, a heavy armoire against another wall, a beautiful rug laying in the center of the room's floor, a small writing desk with a heavily cushioned chair was against the opposite wall and a small table with female toiletries and a mirror with a small stool sat next to the armoire. A fireplace was on the wall beside a large window that had bars across it. Before the fireplace were more cushioned chairs. She gestured for them to have a seat.

"It is safe to speak here. This is the only privacy I'm granted because of my position in the deposed royal family," she sang sadly.

"Even though very nicely decorated and comfortable, it is still a prison," Callie observed, quietly.

"It is indeed," Regina agreed. "Now, what is it you wish to speak to me about?"

"We need information so we can find a way to escape from here," Callie said, grimly.

Regina blinked in shock. "You seriously think you can?" She sang in disbelief.

Callie leaned close. "I won't know until you provide us with answers to our questions. This is a tough place and we're not familiar with your ways but we will get out of here...I promise you!"

Eyeing the two she-kats thoughtfully, Regina asked, "I have a strange feeling you two have been in tough spots before this?"

"You'd be right, your highness."

'Wow! Maybe there is hope after all,' Regina thought in dazed amazement. "I will pray you succeed then. Ask me what you want and I'll do my best to answer as thoroughly as I can."