The day started out much better than it was right then.
Standing near the bay window at the back of the second-story den that had once belonged to her father, Evaleen knew this. Of course, it did not take a genius to see why the thought had crossed her mind.
The dual oak doors across the room from her were blocked by a fairly large white Tiger of six feet four inches with disheveled white-gold hair, the locks of which were clumped with mud or possibly something worse, that clouded his sky blue eyes glimmering with an underlying feral intelligence. He was garbed in furs and skins of all sorts, primitive weapons and tools strapped to a makeshift belt about his waist. It was not the appearance or mere existence of the Siberian Tiger that caused a sudden mix-and-mash of emotions through the young Leopardess. It was the sight of her father's severed head dangling from the barbarian's clawed right hand that set it all in motion, his grey-silver eyes half-closed and glazed in death, his mouth partially open with a small trickle of blood from the corner staining the creamy fur of his underside dark, startling against its pale backdrop.
Beneath Eva's calm exterior was a raging boiling cauldron of feelings. Everything from completely collected to utter blood-rage was hidden behind those startlingly silver eyes of hers, her delicate silk-gloved hands wrapped around the hilts for a pair of swords that had been passed down her family for generations, the top of the bronze pommels engraved with the Romanov family crest. The blades were both considerably long and given a peculiar subtle curve, the tips of them dragging on the ground on her whereas they used to rest at her father's ankles. The hazards of being a five-foot-two-inch Snow Leopardess, now wasn't it? She had been trained to use the swords, but had never been allowed the use of the heirloom weapons in a battle-setting.
After all, a princess should never have to fight. That was the way of her people. The men did all the fighting and the women bore kits and kept the house. The restrictions were worse for her, especially since the tsar was dead and God only knew the fate of the tsarina, wherever Anya Romanov had disappeared to. Even the young prince, her brother Theodor, was missing. She hoped the cub of eight years had managed to escape if she prayed for any of her family. What of Vincent, the young male to whom she was betrothed? Had he not been on the wall surrounding the northern country town when the attack came?
Such thoughts as this and the fates of her closest friends in the family manor collided with the fear of the raid and the nervousness of holding the swords that had come to her. She remembered her father standing on the second landing of the grand curving staircase, telling her to 'go and get the swords'. She did not know what he had intended, only remembering pulling the heavy twin blades out of hiding and turning around to see the Tiger holding Melor's head.
With that sudden merging of emotions came an equally sudden surge of adrenalin. Her long already-fluffy tail frizzed almost to the point it looked like the fur would fall out with a slight twitch near its tip, her eyes widening with her pupils. That was the end of all rational thought, if only for the few seconds she needed.
The Tiger did not know what entirely happened; one second, he was tormenting the little princess by licking at the coagulating blood dripping from her father's torn throat in an attempt to dishearten her, the next he had a blade through his own throat. He never even saw her move, heard no steps to indicate she had moved. The last thing he knew, he was gurgling and trying to form words in that guttural language all the barbarians spoke, the coppery taste of his own blood in his throat, and his world went black.
Evaleen withdrew the sword as best she could with a small cry of effort and surprise, stumbling away from the Tiger as he fell forward. She was still awkward with all that new weight. She would have to practice to get used to it, if she lived that long.
Her father's head was relinquished from his murderer's grip, rolling lazily across the floor before coming to a stop looking upward, his glazed eyes reflecting her image. It was the calm expression in those eyes that made her determined now to make it through this raid.
Papa gave his life for me and his death will not be in vain.
She turned and ran down the hall to the main stairs, making an effort to ignore her father's headless body lying in the corridor some ways down, a long blood streak following the body's trail from his last stand alive to where he lay now.
She wondered how exactly he had gone out, his thoughts and concerns. Melor had most likely gone out fighting, as was expected of a Leopard worthy of the title 'tsar'. She left the den and the hall behind, beginning to descend the curved great stairwell that lead to the foyer. She found it odd that nothing of immediate material value was missing from the house, noticing that the ornaments and paintings were either broken, askew, or untouched entirely.
The Siberian clans from up north had never been known to just rush in and kill people while taking nothing. They barged into small villages even further north than Yeshnika and raided them, taking things that were valuable for both simple material reasons and for practical needs. Of course, they killed people in those villages as well, but there were almost always goods missing. It seemed even the smallest of trinkets were still there, a line of finely-crafted glass dragon miniatures from a Chinese Anole glazier above the dual front doors.
Everything was still in its place. A fast scan about the premises showed nothing amiss save for one of the heavy wooden front doors had been knocked partially off its hinges; there were some broken collectibles and paintings from scuffles unseen in the near past; and there was mud and what looked like drying blood everywhere. Evaleen half expected to find the same sort of thing throughout the rest of the walled town.
The northern-folk had come in and just blatantly killed. Something was wrong…
She had been so deep in thought that, as she came about off the bottom step to the first floor, she had barely noticed a pair of white Tigers come barreling at her from the corridor to the kitchen. Had it not been for a hidden door under the stairs that had opened at just the right moment, the young princess would have found herself at the mercy of the barbarians.
She snapped her head to one side at the sound of the collective thuds of the big cats' skin boots on the entry hall floor and was readying to brace herself for the onslaught to come when the wall under the stairs swung open right in front of the pair. There was a loud crashing sound as the two very solid, very large bodies hit the door. It held its hinges and shape with no more than a violent shudder, a very sturdy door.
There was a loud yelp from the one who opened the door accompanied by an equally startled yell from the princess. Evaleen's savior had disappeared into the confines of a passage just behind it. The Leopardess crept forward carefully after taking in her surroundings, peering into the dimly lit tunnel.
Soft soothing tones with a panicked undertone released from her lips without her conscious thought to the darkness beyond, her eyes adjusting fast to the inky black. Just within the door was a young vixen clad in a simple grey cotton cloak and an equally simple tan-colored dress who gave a sigh of relief as soon as the princess identified herself with her voice.
"My Lady Romanov!" she said, reaching a delicate hand covered in reddish fur with black-tipped fingers forward to gently grasp one of Evaleen's wrists. "Vhe must get out! Dhe barbarians from dhe north are bound and determined to kill you and your family!"
It was Cotesch, a female Fox just out of kit-hood and the Leopardess' lady-in-waiting. At the gentle tug of the vixen, Evaleen did not move at first.
"I know." she answered before moving forward into the passageway. "Dhey have killed dhe tsar already."
Though the shock was evident on the servant's face, she still moved with deft speed befitting of a Fox to close and latch the door behind them. In the foyer, it would seem a mere part of the wall and only a truly sharp eye could find the seam between the door and the wall.
"I … I am so sorry, my Lady Romanov…" Cotesch said before turning about and brushing just barely passed the princess. "Please. Come vhit' me. Dhere is a boat vhaiting for you at dhe nearby harbor. Take it and leave, find somevhere to hide proper. Vhe vhill send forth dhe Guard vhen all is calmed down and you may return to your t'rone, my tsarina."
Evaleen had been following the vixen closely up until that point. Of course; with the tsar dead and his wife and son's whereabouts and well-being unknown, the throne fell to the next able kin.
Evaleen had become tsarina of the southern Russian culture by default, since she was the only known living kin of the former tsar. If she were to disappear forever, then the throne would fall to an aunt or uncle or even a cousin. Maybe that would best for the country unless the Tigers got to them as well and that was a high possibility.
"Da, my Lady?"
"Did dhe Tigers seem more … organized during dhis raid dhan usual?"
The vixen remained silent for a moment. "…Da. Dhey did. All dhe more reason to get you out of here. Come along now. Vhe are almost outside Yeshnika's vhalls."
So it wasn't just her! The young fox had also noticed some form of organized attack.
Through the winding, narrow, earthen passageway the pair ran, the sounds of the swords the Leopardess refused to let go barely scrapping almost musically above the muffled sounds of their footfalls on the floor. The end of the tunnel was coming closer, a chill breeze ruffling fur and loose clothing of both parties, a pale grey light slowly covering them. As soon as they came to the end of the tunnel, Cotesch turned about to stop her charge.
"Stay here and let your eyes readjust to dhe light. I vhill go check outside if all is safe." the Fox assured her before dashing out into the light. There was a small bit of snow on the ground just inside the opening with more flakes falling to join their brethren on the tunnel floor. Typical Russian weather and how perfect for a day like today…
By the time Evaleen's eyes had adjusted to see out of the tunnel, there was the crunch of snow from just outside the passage's opening. Every muscle in the Leopardess' body tensed, ready to retaliate should it be one of the barbarians when it occurred to her that these footsteps were a light pattering instead of heavy and clumsy like one of the Tigers' would be. Her grip on the hilts of the swords at her sides loosened a tiny bit in time to see Cotesch come back into view.
"Dhe mist is still on dhe ground, but I do not see, hear, nor smell any sign of anyt'ing dhat would dare to cause you harm."
The vixen removed the grey cloak she was wearing and handed it to the Leopardess, who took it and wrapped herself in it. Eva knew why Cotesch had done it, seeing as a little mist would not have chilled her given her fur's natural aversion to water. The tsarina was wearing bright fire-colored silks that could be spotted easily in the fog-laden landscape.
The Fox added, "Use dhe mists to conceal yourself and your scent but bevhare. As you are concealed by dhem, so are your enemies to you. Keep a good ear on your surroundings and you should be fine."
The vixen looked surprised when the pair of heirloom swords was handed toward her with the words, "I cannot bear to take dhem vhit' me. Put dhem in dheir place once more and I vhill come to claim dhem again…"
The Leopardess stopped when the Fox pushed the weapons back toward her. "Take dhem vhit' you. You vhill need dhem more now dhan you ever did. Now. Godspeed to you and I avhait your return home."
It took a moment for Evaleen to comprehend what was said, but she did nod her head in acceptance. "I vhill return here one day. Keep dhings under control. I vhill not forgive you if you fall."
A nod was given from the young vixen and, with that assurance, the Leopardess disappeared into the thick fog with the farewell of, "Godspeed…" echoing after her.
Just outside the Australian township of Burramudgee, the phone in the Bush Rescue headquarters began ringing. The shrill tones echoed through the empty hangar-like building for a few moments before it was accompanied by another sound; footsteps.
It was followed by a grumbled tone of, "I'm comin', I'm comin'. Don't get your fur in a twist." The phone was picked up then, a greeting spoken in deep rough tones, calm though they seemed to be. "Oy?"
The voice on the other end of the line was also deep, but smoother in tone, a rolling chuckle the first thing to grace the ears of the one to pick up. "I see you've finally come off your rock there, Sly."
"Ah. Ken. Should've known it'd be you. Had t'pick up somethin' in headquarters, so I was in the neighborhood. Surprised Maurie isn't mannin' the phones…" By the way he spoke now, it seemed Sly had loosened up a bit. "So what's up?"
"You seen your bro anywhere, mate?"
"Not recently, no. I think he's runnin' 'round the countryside again."
"Think you could drop by South Beach for me on your way back, then? Rex just called in. Said he had somethin' wash up on the beach that he thinks we should all really see. Sounded pretty important."
A moment of silence followed this, a small choking sound accompanying it. Sly was trying not to laugh. "I'll be down there to check thin's out, mate."
Ken wouldn't scrutinize him for laughing; after all, the last time Rex called them out to 'check on something', it turned out to be a piece of driftwood caught in the tide that was reminiscent of some quirky sea creature. "Good on ya, mate. We'll wait for the report back." The phones were hung up, Sly walking out the door and turning toward South Beach.
Amazingly, it did not take the Thylacine long to scale his way to his destination. He was used to walking around and actually rather preferred it to riding on or in anything Shazza drove. The Dingo was good at getting places fast, but to put it simply, the handbrake was her best friend.
As he reached the beach, he was half expecting to see something like the last time, a piece of something caught in the tide. He was only half-correct. The remains of what had once been a small dinghy or some sort of smaller-end water craft was being tossed about viciously in the shallows just off the coast. But that wasn't necessarily what caught his attention.
There was a young cat standing soaked and looking like she had seen better days standing on the beach just out of reach of the water's chill grip. Red, orange, and yellow frayed and shredded fabrics were sticking to her body, the equally-soaked grey cloak covering her fairly well now and then. White hair sprouted from her head and fell to her waist, clumped with water and wet sand with a pair of sparkling ornaments of apparent value still dangling precariously . She was unlike any cat he had ever seen in Australia and she held Rex at a safe distance from herself with a pair of peculiar swords, uttering words with a smooth yet hoarse voice in a language much different from their own. A foreigner, it seemed, and she did not look like she would trust them all on a dime.
Sly walked up behind the Platypus in charge of the beach, nearly scaring him out of his wits when he said, "Well, now I know that at least this time it isn't a false alarm."
If Platypi could flush, Rex would have done it. "Can't take chances, mate…" he replied in a low almost threatening tone before returning to the situation at hand. "So what do you make of this?"
By now, the girl had fallen silent and was scanning the both of them warily with wide, cautious, frightened eyes of bright silver.
"Did you try communicatin' with her?"
Rex shook his head. "Nope. Won't let anyone near her at all."
A moment of stunned silence came across the Tasmanian Tiger. "You know you could just … try from right here, aye?"
Rex looked slightly taken aback. "Well. Never thought of that…"
Sly merely sighed before turning his attention to the newcomer. His next words were spoken slowly, deliberately, and above the sound of the crashing waves in hopes that she would understand even a little, if not just enough to count. "Hello. Welcome to Australia. My name is Sly. What is yours?"
There was more silence, those startling eyes turned now toward him. A pair of rounded ears that had lain flat to her head once before in a mixture of threat and fear perked forward, taking in his words before she took a moment to reply. He could see it in the way her face creased as she thought about it. She was not stupid. In fact, she was probably trying to process which language to use.
Her English was not very good, but it was just such enough that she could be understood when she responded. "Name Evaleen." She paused here, contemplating something before continuing. "Come north to … Aus…tra…lia … from Modherland."
She had spoken the name of the continent she had come to with slow yet almost frightening accuracy, mimicking what she had heard, pointing one of her swords out toward the ocean behind her. Of course, she was pointing south, but the other two got the gist. She had come from across the water. She came from the north, was probably caught in a current, and washed up on South Beach.
It seemed there was something else on Rex's mind, though, the Platypus nudging Sly in the side to catch his attention. As soon as the Tasmanian Tiger turned to face his friend, he said, "It's obvious she's not from 'round here an' who knows what would happen if that gallah Cass got his hands on her. She is a predator, after all, an' she could be manipulated easily in her current condition." A nod from Sly told Rex that his rust-furred friend understood, so he continued. "We need to keep her hidden from Southern Rivers, save the immediate friends an' family until she is more apt to fit in."
Sly looked at Evaleen. "Doesn't look like she would fit in too well to begin with, mate."
Rex waved his webbed hands in a sign that was not what he meant. "Until her English is better, learns how to walk the walk, talk the talk… That sorta thing. I don't think we could change her appearance or species any more than we could drain the ocean of all its water." A pause was given as though the platypus was afraid to say his next bit. "Well … I don't think Elle would mind horribly if I let her stay with us, but our little friend here seems to respond to you better an' all…" A shrug was given from the Platypus then.
"So you want to just dump her on me. Is that it?"
"You make it sound so blunt. Who knows what your parents would do with her an' that was going to be my next choice. Them or your sister, since Ty's always tied up with saving Southern Rivers an' can't afford the time…"
"I'll take her." Sly said suddenly, imagining a number of ways his parents or Betty could be overwhelmed by the newcomer.
He loved his family and Rex had a point. The cat was a predator and he would much rather keep an eye on her. He had the firepower, if he needed it, and knew how to fight should it come right down to blows.
Rex nodded. "There's my boy, Sly. I'll go radio Ken to tell him everything's fine over here." With a wave, the Platypus turned around and headed for the lifeguard's tower, where the radio was.
As soon as he was out of range, Sly gave out a small growl in his direction. He didn't mind being visited occasionally but the 'rang maker wanted to be left alone and God only knew how much of a mess their new friend Evaleen really would create.
He was drawn back to her, discovering she had moved forward silently to stand next to him, her nose twitching after Rex. "Vhat dhat?" she asked with a nod of her head in her target's direction, her tone demanding but curious.
Sly sighed. She was going to take some work, but at least she was not without the ability to learn and she seemed willing to do just that. "That was Rex. Good mate of mine." he muttered. "He's a Platypus."
She crouched down and looked up at him, sparkling but tired silver eyes making contact with his clear blue. "Plat…pus…" she repeated, adding an accomplished smile to the end. She seemed proud of herself that she could say it. Sort of.
Maybe not so much work…
He nodded to her, forcing a small smile. Slowly, cautiously, he took her arm in an attempt to help her up. She seemed to trust him well enough now that she knew he meant no harm, accepting his help up. "Think you c'n climb the terrain? I don't live too far from here. Else I c'n call Shaz to give us both a ride back home."
Her head tilted. "Shaz … friend?" she inquired.
He nodded. "Aye. Shazza is a friend." he assured her, reaching to pull a piece of kelp that had lodged itself in her hair off and discarded it on the beach.
Evaleen seemed to think long and hard on what she wanted to do. Sly could see it on her face, in the way she was holding herself. She was tired and probably only wanted a bath, some clean clothes, something to eat, and then a bed to sleep in. It didn't matter how she got there.
"Live no far?"
He shook his head. "Not far."
She nodded slowly before casting her quicksilver eyes into his blue. Her expression was proud, and her voice – though hoarse – reflected it.
Sly nodded in agreement, then reached forward carefully in her range of sight in an attempt to take her swords from her. "I'll just carry these for you…"
Her entire body seemed to spring into action at once, all her dirty salt-water-coated fur standing out in clumps. Her arms pulled the swords closer to her, her eyes wide and terrified, her delicate fingers clutching the hilts to her as though she were afraid their absence would cause her to die on the spot. "Nyet!"
The Tasmanian Tiger backed up, putting up his own gloved hands in a sign that he meant no harm to her. "Just thought I'd lessen the load a little for you. We are going uphill." A quick scan of her current appearance made him give a small sigh. She was going to need a bath, alright. And some new clothes. Something that would help her fit in more.
Evaleen had to think about this. She did not seem to understand the English for 'uphill'. Sly sighed yet again and tilted one hand up at an angle and walked the fingers of his other hand up the back. "Uphill."
The Leopardess got it then, nodding her reluctant approval to let him carry her peculiar pair of weapons. Her arms reached toward him, surrendering the hilts, which he took with an appreciative nod. He was not only being a gentleman. He was taking the things she could use to her advantage should she actually be working for Boss Cass.
The blades were incredibly light for their length, reaching in an odd subtle curve to his ankles. The engraving on the tops on the pommels caught his attention. It looked like a crest of some sort. He would have to make a copy of one of them, then talk to Julius about what it was exactly.
A small sniffle turned his attention back to the swords' owner, who was trying to hide herself in the folds of the soaked cloak that encased her form. The sniff he had heard was her blowing salt water from her nostrils, followed by a sneeze. He blessed her quickly and quietly and turned about to start out, motioning for her to follow.
A small cry caused him to stop and turn about once more, watching as the little Leopardess' barely bared legs shook and buckled under her. The cry had really been one of frustration that she could not get her legs to cooperate as she wanted them to than it was the surprise of the fall she took onto the sand, her ears flattening to her head. Sly decided right then that they would wait for Shazza. That way, he could also see if the Dingo could help in getting extra clothes and getting their strange visitor cleaned up.
"Stay there and rest. I'll go call Shaz." he told her as she tried to stand up again.
He ignored her protests against his taking the swords as he strode toward the lifeguard's tower to tell Rex to call the Dingo out to the beach and to bring some extra clothes she wasn't going to be needing anytime soon. Needless to say on his return, the Leopardess appeared to hate the 'rang maker.
Evaleen was terrified of the Fourbie as Shazza drove up, all her fur puffing in clumps again while she clung to one of Sly's legs. He grumbled lightly, but put up with it. Shazza exited the truck and started toward them, her clear blue eyes falling first on the dainty cat looking at the Fourbie as though it were a monster from beyond.
"Interesting find, Sly. She looks like the Fourbie's going to come to life and eat her." the dingo joked. "Kinda fluffy, too."
"'Kinda' is a bit of an understatement, Shaz." Sly replied, blinking as the puffed-up Eva let out an experimental hiss at the vehicle. She looked as though she would have a heart attack when the engine began to cool down, clicking lightly. "It's not gonna hurt you."
"Loud!" Eva accused, pointing toward the truck.
Sly opened his mouth to reply, but Shazza beat him to it. "It's loud, aye, but it gets us from place to place faster than walking."
The Dingo was a tough, bright girl and it obviously did not take her long to determine the Leopardess was a foreigner. Eva spoke again, this time with a hint of understanding.
"Not … going hurt?"
"No. It doesn't hurt." This time, it was Sly who responded and it not only surprised Shazza, it surprised himself as well. The only one who didn't give him a confused look was Eva. She simply gave an almost heart-melting charming smile. It was almost overwhelming how much charisma the cat had while appearing drained and exhausted.
Shazza slid next to the Thylacine, nudging him with an elbow. "Quit fantasizing, you, and let's get her 'home', aye?"
Sly felt his face burn for a moment as he looked bewildered at the Dingo. "I am not fantasizin'…" he growled lightly at her, turning away to move as fast as possible toward the Fourbie. Once there, he proceeded to take his designated seat in the bed of the truck, setting the twin swords he had confiscated between him and the wall nearest the cab.
Shazza had made a quick introduction of herself to the newcomer and followed Sly, leading a cautious Eva into the passenger side of the cab. As the Dingo passed the back of the truck to put the tailgate up, Sly looked at her.
"Take it easy from your normal drivin', Shaz. Don't want to kill the poor girl before her prime, eh?"
Shazza poshed at him. "I'm not as ignorant as you think, you hermit." she teased back. "I'll take it nice and slow until she's used to it. She's shakin' like a leaf in there. I'll be surprised if she survives me turnin' the engine on."
"That's a pleasant way to look at it…"
"And yours was any better?" At that, the Dingo continued on to the driver's side of the cab before the Tasmanian Tiger could retort in any way.
It took a few minutes before the engine started and even through the tempered insulated glass of the back window, Sly heard the tell-tale sign of a cat hissing and growling. After a few more minutes, it seemed that Shazza had calmed her down and reassured the Leopardess that everything was fine and that the Fourbie was not going to do her any harm.
They finally got going, the truck crawling along the roads to Sly's field and the rock on which his cozy little shack was perched on. Not that the 'rang maker was complaining too loudly about the speed. He rather liked it this way in comparison to the heart-stopping means Shazza went everywhere on a normal basis.
He could tell when Eva was getting used to riding in the truck. First, she stopped growling at it. Second, Shazza picked up the speed a little bit. Still, they were rambling along and from the Dingo's laughter, it was obvious that she was enjoying the company of the Leopardess or laughing at her antics. One of the two. Maybe both.
Finally, the Fourbie stopped in front of the familiar field of a wheat-like weed that stayed yellow-gold most of the year, the stone spire rising like a sore in the middle of it. By some mystery of aesthetics, it still managed to fit all together with the swirling carefully-maintained designs cut into the field around the stone.
Sly was the first one out, still holding the swords as he made his way across the field with slow steps. It never failed to strike him just how beautiful the landscape that surrounded his humble shack really was and the view from the structure at the very top of the stone mound never ceased to take his breath from him. In reflection, he couldn't have chosen a better place to isolate himself. He had never been one for the close quarters of towns.
Slowly, Sly made his way to one of the flat swirls that made up the protective design in the weed, looking down at it with a small smile of familiarity toward it.
"I'm home, Mana."
The Aboriginal design for the Creator Shark always appeared to be smiling back when he greeted it. It was a good welcome, something to feed all the day's stress into.
His rounded ears perked at the sound of something lightly rustling behind him that was not the wind moving through the weeds. He stopped halfway to the spire and turned around, seeing that Eva had left the confines of the Fourbie as well, having stopped some ways into the field. Her eyes wide, she seemed to be in some form of trance as she looked about at the plain that now stood before her. Shazza was coming from behind her, carrying a bag on her shoulders. It was not long before Eva's gaze fell on the shack at the top of the rock spire.
She pointed up to it and asked at a volume so all around her could hear, "Home?"
Sly nodded at her. "Aye. Home…" And with that, he turned around again and began the tedious climb up to the front door. He had expected Shazza to take a little longer than he did since she did not come up to the shack too often to be as used to the pathway up. He did not expect Eva to pass him on the path, her lithe form hopping with hardly a care up the rocky outcroppings and wood platforms. It was not too long after her that Sly met her on the front porch, turning around to see Shazza coming around the final turn. She gave a wave at him to let him know she was doing alright.
Eva, on the other hand, had fallen silent. She was stunned by the view from just the porch. Everywhere from the ocean nearby all the way to the base of the small mountains that sheltered Burramudgee was perfectly visible from her vantage point. Sly took a simple glance around, secretly enjoying the view as well, before he turned and opened his front door. An eyebrow quirked at the fact that it was unlocked, but thankfully, he knew who had keys to the door and who was more than likely waiting on the other side of it.
As expected, his golden-furred little brother was looking at a few of the plans Sly had drawn earlier and left on the workbench before his departure. As soon as he heard the door open, he turned around and greeted his elder sibling with a wide smile.
Sly set the pair of swords against a nearby wall, still within reach and eyesight, and turned to face him. "'Ello, Bro. What c'n I do ye for?"
Ty gave a small shrug. "Figured I'd … stop … " His voice trailed as the Leopardess sneaked across the floor of the room, her ears perked fully upright and twitching occasionally, though her little pink nose was always twitching, to investigate the workbench in one corner of the room. "Uhm…"
Sly sighed. "Yeh, I know. But she's my charge now. Ignore her for the moment. Shaz should be here in a second and takin' care of her…"
As soon as the words left the elder's lips, the Dingo came in and headed for the small bathroom in the back, shooting a soft smile to Ty as she passed. "Hello, Possum." she greeted before turning her attention to Eva. "Don't touch that, dear. Come with me."
Ty waved after her, watching with mild interest as the shaggy-looking newcomer stopped poking and messing around with the tools hung above the table and moved to follow the Dingo into the bathroom. Sly heaved a pent-up sigh and flopped down on the worn little couch on one wall, listening to the water pipes into the bathroom rattle to life. It was amazing that there was indoor plumbing up here, what with the near-impossibility of getting anything extensive up into the shack.
"I'm assumin' you're wantin' a 'rang upgrade then?" he asked, watching his little brother nod in response and move toward the pocket he kept the orb pouch in. He paused when Sly spoke up again. "Instead of takin' money this time, though, I'm thinkin' about givin' you a task instead."
Ty reached up and scratched behind one of his ears compulsively, then nodded. "Alright. Whaddya need?"
The elder tiger rose to his feet again, snatched up a small piece of blank paper and one of the drawing pencils he had on the workbench, walked over to where he had the swords set against the wall, set the paper over one of the pommels, and began to rub the pencil on the paper to create a copy of the crest engraved on the top.
"I need you to take this to Julius and see what he says the origins are for me, if you would." he said as he folded the drawing and handed it to Ty. "No need for a hurry; she seems harmless enough if only curious about everythin'."
His younger brother took the paper and stashed it carefully somewhere in his shorts. "I'll do that for you." he said with an enthusiastic nod, handing the pair of boomerangs in question to Sly when he held his hands out. "By the way. What is up with your new friend? She's … not from around here, is she?"
Sly shook his head as he headed for the workbench across the room from the drawing table. "No. She's not. She's Russian, actually."
Being on Cass' side for a while had its advantages. While Cass was busy planning and leading idiot lizards into battle, Sly was busy studying about the world until he was called for. He figured that it would come into good use someday and he was right, just not at the time. After all, Cass never DID make it to world domination status.
"She washed up on South Beach just this afternoon. Had Shaz come down to pick her up and bring her here." A set of tools was pulled out of one of the workbench's many drawers and the 'rang maker set to work, his gloved fingers moving with a learned and subconscious speed as he spoke. "Her name's Evaleen and she's a Russian. That's about all we know. Oh …" He smirked at the recent memory as it resurfaced. "…That and she's afraid of vehicles. Rather, she's afraid of the loud ones."
"She here to stay?"
"Afraid so. At least until we find where she belongs."
"You don't sound too thrilled to have her here."
There was a moment of silence and Sly was about to retort as he began working at the second boomerang in his hands when the sounds of the bathroom door opening caught his attention, stopping his fingers and drawing his gaze up toward the door.
Shazza was rubbing a towel furiously on the foreigner's head amid small noises of surprise and possibly hurt from her subject before she removed the towel and hung it on the knob of the door to the bathroom. "Now shake it out." At the command, Eva shook her entire body, causing her already-messed hair to become even more tangled than before. She stumbled in a dizzy haze for a brief moment, her tail flying up to help her balance more before Shazza moved her to sit on the couch. It was there Sly realized something.
For the first time, her tail was visible, a long sinuous thing that curved at her ankles, a good half a foot of fluffy tail still pointing up and back. Once it was no longer in use, it twitched idly right at the tip. She looked delicate, even in the borrowed faded blue jeans and pale blue short-sleeved blouse, her body as slight and sinuous as her tail seemed to be. Fine fur covered her frame, a silvery-white speckled with dark brown and black spots, her chin and down her front cream-white until it disappeared into the shirt. Her whiskers were long and stood stiff from just under a broad yet slender pink nose, a mass of tangled white hair falling to her waist.
Shazza seemed to be having a heyday, listening to her sharp yowls as the Dingo pulled the tangles and knots free with a hairbrush she had brought with her. Eva's rounded ears were flattened to her head in discomfort, black with white spots in the middle of them. Her dainty silver hands were crossed on her lap to keep them from lashing out at the one brushing her hair. Her silver eyes darted around, falling almost pleadingly on Sly.
He felt the fur up his spine begin to frizz as those eyes locked on him. The gaze was enough to make him want to drop everything and rescue her from that dastardly hairbrush. Instead of acting on his impulse, however, he instead turned back to his given task and once more buried himself in his work. At seeing her plea unanswered, the Leopardess opted instead for belting a slew of what could only be unladylike words in her native Russian.
Shazza punctuated through the verbal onslaught, quieting her charge down. No doubt, Eva was trying to pick up on the language.
"The boots are a little bit big on her, but they'll do until I can pick up a pair in Burramudgee more her si—Hold still please. I'm amazed that the rest of the clothes fit her really. I'll have to take her shopping when we go to get her boots. Get her somethin' for her new wardrobe… There!"
This last word was spoken with triumph as the brush sailed smoothly now through the white locks. Eva seemed relieved that she no longer had to endure the torture of her hair being wrenched from her head. Shazza examined the curves of the young girl's face, her face scrunching in thought. Eva's hair was picked back up and brushed through a few more times to get all the little hairs that were loose before the Dingo split the white mass into three sections and began to braid. When the braiding was complete, she wrapped it up close to the crown of her head in a bun, pulling the original hair ornaments seemingly out of nowhere and setting them to either side of the braided bun to keep it all in place. They were a pair of opal-inlaid clips, a pair of snowflakes, one larger than the other. They were linked with a small, thin white-gold chain.
The Leopardess got up, standing tall with perfect posture, and turned to Shazza, a bout of fluid movement as though a giving a deep curtsy performed to which she received a waggling finger. "A 'thank you' would be better; no one around here would know what to do if you did that to them."
Eva looked a bit ashamed but uttered a, "Cpyciba…", which everyone took to mean 'thank you', and walked into the bathroom again to stand in front of the mirror over the sink to examine the way she looked.
She exited the bathroom again in time to see Sly giving back the pair of boomerangs to his little brother, a series of words she did not quite understand passing between them as she walked over to sit on the couch.
After Ty walked over to the door leading out of the house, Sly turned to Shazza. "Thanks again." he told her, receiving a nod in return.
"No problem, Sly. If you need any more help with her, let me know and I'll be over here in the hop of that one wallaby Julius gave his antigravity juice." she replied, turning around to join the younger of the brothers by the door.
Sly raised an eyebrow curiously at her analogy. "Didn't we have to tie that thing down so he could cure it?" Coy smile started across his face following it. "Well. That aside, thanks again and come back any time, Bro."
Ty gave his trademark series of nods as he and Shazza left the confines of the shack together. "I will."
As soon as he saw the pair of them walk around the first corner down, Sly shut the door. It was there that it occurred to him that his Russian guest had been suspiciously silent. Cautiously, he turned his head to one side to check on her.
He realized that it had been a silly notion to think she would be trying anything. She had undoubtedly been through a lot in recent days and even in the last few hours. It was almost amazing how long adrenaline could keep someone going and no surprise that when the crash came, fatigue was felt. Eva had fallen asleep on the couch, curled up around herself with her thick sinuous tail pulled around her front, her head resting on her arms. From what he knew of cats, the fact that the tail was limp and not in motion now was a good sign that she had fallen already into a deeper sleep.
The Thylacine let a small smirk emerge at the sight, walking into the bedroom in the back and pulling a spare blanket from the closet to drape over her. Once she was covered completely, he walked over to the workbench to put the tools he had used back in their respective places before taking a seat and pulling the plans he had set aside earlier. After being set back due to the day's events, he really had to work on the most recent project given him.
Over the course of an hour and a half, every time the Leopardess moved in her sleep or made any sort of noise, Sly found himself watching her until she settled. It happened more than he cared to admit and something at the fore of his mind tried to sate him into calling such a need paranoia.
Something in the back, the subconscious, told him it was something else entirely. With a narrowing of his eyes and a flattening of his ears, he ignored it In the end, when he questioned himself about it, he kept the paranoia story.
Disclaimers: I do not own TY the Tasmanian Tiger. Ty, Sly, and other affiliated characters and locations are copyright Krome Studios. The rest is mine unless otherwise stated.
A/N: This is a little personal project of mine. I am aware of world history, so no need to go into detail with me on it. It's all fiction and a product of my odd and twisted mind, so just enjoy that and we'll be just fine. Feel free to review, comment, suggest, whatever else; I do take all criticism with a grain of salt.