A/N: This was written for the July 2011 Lackadaisy Writing Contest. Yeah it doesn't have much to do with the actual Lackadaisy comic, but I wasn't sure where else to put it, so it ended up here. Enjoy! :A/N
Limit. Boundary. Oppression. That is what I feel right now. Freedom. Liberty. Fun. That is what I want right now. Courage. Strength. Numbers. Weapons. Purpose. Support. Confidence... That is what I need to get it.
My name is Catherine. But hardly anyone remembers that anymore. Most folks just call me the Renegade. It fits, I suppose, since I've been running an underground rebellion for over five years now. We've been ruled by a tyrannical king for far longer than that. His name is Joseph Brown. But we like to call him Pancake-Face. His fur is a mustard-yellow color, and his face seems to be squashed in, hence, Pancake-Face. He is extremely short, that he has to sit on a stool in order to reach that high expensive dinner table of his. When he speaks, his voice has a high, whining tone that makes me sick and his eyes are small and dark, always glancing from one place to another nervously. Of course, all I just mentioned makes him disagreeable enough, but what makes him absolutely despicable is his cold heart. He takes all our crops, and most of our livestock, and supplies us with minimal rations of grain and meat while he feasts like, well, a king.
The elders, or at least those who live a bit longer than the rest of us, used to tell us stories of the old king, William, and how good and fair he was. But he had always favored his eldest son, who was also the heir to the throne. When William died, his son took over the throne and was at first just as good a ruler as his father. Soon, however, the new king met a violent end. Pancake-Face, who had spent most of his life in his brother's shadow, rose to power. Even as a kitten, I had known that he had somehow murdered his brother. He took out the anger, jealousy, and pure hatred that had built up over the years on the people. The good, kind people of Riverdale, who would give until it hurt; even though it already hurt far before they started giving.
Five years ago, at eighteen years old, I decided that I had had enough. I knew that everyone in Riverdale had the same mindset, but not everyone had the courage to make a stand. It happened quickly. I was on my way home, after visiting some of the older citizens. One of Pancake-Face's soldiers was walking toward a small house with a low roof. I knew that house. It belonged to Labelle Snow, single mother of five. Once the taxes came, they couldn't feed all seven stomachs, and her husband starved himself in order to make sure that his wife and children were alive. Never will I meet anyone else with such pure selflessness.
I ducked into the shadows of a nearby wall, where my own black fur hid me perfectly. When Labelle was dragged out of her home by her left arm, I almost gasped. Her youngest daughter, Aretria, ran out of the house as fast as her tiny brown legs could take her, tears spilling out of large brown eyes. She just managed to clasp her mother's hand when a soldier peeled her off and flung her away. The soldier that was holding Labelle roughly shoved her down onto the stone.
"You haven't paid your taxes in a month, Snow." the soldier said in a deep voice.
"I don't have anything to pay you with."
"I don't care. The law's the law, miss, and we gotta keep it that way." He pulled his sword out and placed it at Labelle's white neck.
"Mom!" came the cry from the house as the eldest son, who was named William after the old king himself, came running out. He didn't see me in the shadows. But he saw what happened next. I turned my head, unable to look. I heard William's scream. I heard the sobs of the other children. But I heard no sound from Labelle. To this day, she is the strongest woman I will ever know.
As the pandemonium in the street unfolded, I caught one last look at William, who had buried his face in his hands and fallen to his knees beside his mother's body. Silently, I slipped around the corner and broke into a full run to my cottage at the edge of town. I slammed the door behind me, breathing heavily, not daring to close my eyes. Even with my eyes wide open, images of what I had just witnessed continued to flit across my mind's eye. I huddled down on the floor, trying to block it all out. My father came around the corner.
"What's wrong?" he asked tenatively.
It was only then that I realized that I was crying. "Labelle's gone," I managed to choke out. It wasn't the most meaningful sentence in the world, but from the look on his face he understood what I meant. We both knew that William, at nineteen years old, would be expected to care for the rest of his family- his four younger siblings. Several days passed before the incident was mentioned again. One day my father called me into the kitchen. He got out a basket and began packing various items: food, blankets, what little money we could spare. "We already have a shortage." I said.
"I know," my father replied, "but William needs it a lot more than we do." He pressed the handle of the weakly woven basket into my hand. "I want you to take this to him, as soon as you can."
I pulled my green scarf over my mouth and pulled the hood of my cloak up over my ears and walked out the door onto the cobblestoned road. The snow was swirling in the air, and the few people that were outside were scrambling to get back in as soon as possible. I squinted in order to see where I was going, and had to hide the basket inside my cloak to ward off the snow and the thieves. It felt like hours before I finally found myself in front of the Snows' door. I knocked lightly, trying to hold the basket and my cloak at the same time. Aretria answered, her eyes red from crying. I stooped down to hug her, and walked inside, closing the door behind me. I found William and the other three kittens, Opal, George, and Rhee, crouched around a small, dying fire. As I walked in, William turned and looked at me.
"Hey, stranger." It was his usual greeting for me, since I usually came in all wrapped up like this, but today it just sounded empty. I didn't blame him, though.
I pulled back my hood and unwrapped my scarf. "It's so... empty here." I said, looking around and noticing that many of the paintings, chairs, and stools were missing.
Will sighed and smoothed the white fur on the top of his head back. "I had to sell a lot of it just to get by these past few days. I've been trying to find work, but nobody seems to want an underfed teenager as an employee."
"Well..." I pulled the basket out from the folds of my cloak, and Will's blue eyes lit up immediately.
"Catherine, that's an awful lot of stuff. Are you sure that you want to give it all to us?"
I smiled, which was very rare. "Of course." As I stayed to talk to William, the snow piled higher and higher outside. When it was finally time for me to go, it had piled all the way up past the door. I tried vainly to open the door, but it was no use. I was snowed in.
"It's not so bad," Will said. "It's not like we're strangers." But I felt so bad, staying the night after all that had happened to the Snows.
So for most of the night, we ended up talking about various things, from the foulness of the weather to the foulness of the king. Eventually, the conversation turned into a rant against the government. "I wish that someone would do something about it." I said, after one particularly insulting talk about Pancake-Face.
Will draped an arm across my shoulders. "Why don't you?" To that, I didn't have an answer.
It was then that the soldiers rapped on the door. "Open up!" one yelled. The snow was still high outside, so they must have dug their way to the door.
"Hide!" Will hissed at me as he stood to answer it. I dove into the corner, where my black coat gave me some disguise. Will opened the door and a very agitated soldier came in.
"Are you going to continue your mother's habit of laziness? Or are you going to actually follow the law?" I felt anger rising up inside of me as I recalled all of the dreadful things that had happened in this village because of those soldiers. Will reached for the basket, which he had left on the floor, but I came out of hiding and stopped him.
"He doesn't have to answer to you." I said, coldly glaring at the soldier. He and his companions laughed.
"Really? Are you gonna do something about it?" I narrowed my eyes.
"Yeah, I am." I slammed the door in his face. I heard a shout from the other side.
"You just made a heap of trouble for yourself, renegade!"
Both William and I stood in silence for a while, the four kittens watching us timidly. Finally Will spoke. "I think that nickname's gonna stick with you."
So, that's how it all started. That's how I got into this mess, and it's why I have to get everyone out of it. At first, I was just standing up for weaker villagers, using the small skill I had with broadswords, but soon I began to gain support and more people began to fend for themselves. Will and the other Snows have been wonderful companions for these past five years, and they continue to be my driving force.
Everyone knows about the network of catacombs underneath Riverdale, but I was one of the few with extensive knowledge of it. When I was small, they served as a great playground, and I would roam around in there for hours. So it became our base. Guarded at all entrances 24/7, the only way in was the secret knock and the password. In there we stored our weapons, trained our own troops, and held meetings planning the day of the rebellion. December 31st. The start of a new year, with new beginnings. Tonight.
The plans are set. Everything is in place. We have our infiltrators, black cats like me, poised around various important buildings: the police station, the arsenal... But not the palace. That is left to me and my elite team. Once the clock tolls midnight, all hell will break loose. If everything goes according to plan, the kingdom should be ours by daybreak.
I dispatch my messengers, Beryn, Lapis, and Halen, to the other villages that I have also led into rebellion: Rubivale, Doran, and Julset. As I stand here, they are also making preparations for their own rebellions. Each messenger will carry the same message: "May strength and courage be with you this night as we throw off the burden that has hindered us for so long! Signed, the Renegade."
Aretria tugs at the hem of my cloak. I look down, and she stares up at me.
"Opal wants to know what squad she'll be assigned to." Five years ago, these words would have never come out of her mouth. Five years ago, Opal would have never been assigned to a squadron. But those days were history. Opal and Will had both shown considerable talent as sharpshooters, and both were a crucial part to the rebellion.
"32," I say to Aretria. "Tell her to look for Jonen." Aretria nods and runs off to tell her sister. I have to take care of a few more errands- supplying weapons, assigning last-minute soldiers positions, repositioning misplaced soldiers- before I can have a moment to myself. When I do, I go to find Will. He's in our barrack, huddled on the floor.
I sit down next to him and he hugs me. I snuggle into his soft white arms. "Are you sure this is going to work?" he asks.
"Positive. Most of the soldiers will be out in the square to monitor the 'celebration'. The rest will go down soon after." I reply. "I've spent five years planning this, you know."
"I know. I just needed to hear it again."
My hood is pulled up over my ears, and my green scarf is wrapped around my mouth. I look around the packed square, picking out the members of my team by the color of their scarves. Leonard, red. Vince, orange. Charlotte, yellow. Damsen, blue. Miran, purple. Peter, white. One missing. Where's...
"Hey stranger." his voice startles me. I turn around to find Will, with his black scarf.
"Thought I'd lost you." I whisper as we turned to face the clock tower that will at any minute start the attack. My renegades tense, waiting for the bell to sound. I clasp Will's hand. And then...
BONG! I count them off in my head. BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG!
"Happy New-" the soldiers shout, cut off by the unexpected attack. The elites fight their way out of the battle, slashing viciously at any soldier that comes in their way. I never let go of Will's hand. I look around quickly, to see that everything is going according to plan. The villagers are fighting back the soldiers, and winning. The infiltrators have successfully entered their assigned buildings. All that is left is our task- to assassinate the king. As I make my way out of the crowd, Jonen pats me on the back and says, "Good luck, Renegade." I smile and make a dash for the palace, which lies in the middle of the four villages- Riverdale, Rubivale, Doran, and Julset.
The palace is, as I expected, heavily guarded, but elites from the other three villages have come to our aid. Together we quickly dispatch the first layer of guards. William and Damsen sink two lines in the raised drawbridge and swing across. They fight off the two guards and lower the bridge so we can cross. I leave ten of our thirty to keep soldiers from entering the palace. We continue in this fashion throughout the palace, dispatching guards and replacing them with our own soldiers, until only Will and I remain, standing in front of the one door that separates us from him. I take a deep breath.
"Are you ready?" I ask.
"As ready as I'll ever be."
I kick the door down, and Will shoots the two guards that stand by Pancake-Face's chair in the heart. Will nocks another arrow, and draws back his bow.
"Wait!" I shout. Pancake-Face is crying. Will notices too, but doesn't seem to care.
"You can't possibly feel any sympathy for him." I search his face, and find that I am not looking at a cruel ruler, but a sad, tormented boy who had none of his father's love.
"I don't." I answer to Will. "I feel pity." Will looks at Pancake-Face, disgusted.
"So this is it, then?" I ask. "One person killing another, for power? Again and again and again..."
"You're just going to let him go, then?"
"No! Certainly not. But I can't bring myself to kill him either."
"Well then, I'll do it for you." Will raises his bow, preparing to shoot.
"What would Labelle do?" I ask. Will lowers his bow and turns to look at me, tears filling in his eyes.
Pancake-Face, the once-terrible king, is dragged out onto the street with my sword at his neck, ready to kill if the need arises. We drag him into the catacombs, followed by the rest of the rebels, who had taken back the city from the soldiers. I shove him into an empty room and lock the door. I turn to the large crowd, which has gathered in the main room of the catacombs, and William walks up beside me.
"Thank you for your bravery and strength tonight. Because of your efforts, the king has been thwarted! Riverdale is now ours! We are now a free people!" At this, cheers erupt from the crowd and I turn to Will. Both of us are on the verge of tears. He pulls me into a hug.
The following events are a bit of a jumble. We repair the damage done to the town, we pick up on our old trading partners, and, most importantly, we elect a new, fair leader: King William.
Many people ask me if we were married. Officially, no. But we might as well be.