The Cheetara Chronicles
Book 2: The Hunt
This is another backdrop character piece. I got the idea for this from "Survival of the Fittest." I wondered what might have happened if Cheetara had gone out on her own and actually done a hunt. Here's one take. The last section leads into the next story I'm working on.
Warnings: this story has National Geographic style violence. Also, from reading some of the fan discussions of the NS, it just seems like there is a lot of pain out there regarding some parts of the show. So, just be aware that this story talks about some of Cheetara's character relevant angst as she tries to work through some difficulties and get back to her mission.
Also, some of the words are made up, and some of the fruits and flora are geographically jumbled (creative fantasy license!) Updated 4-26-2013.
Thanks for reading.
Chapter 1: Memories
Cheetara lay low in the tall grass with her hind claws anchored in the dirt. She tucked her right knee against her breast and stretched her left leg out behind her. The young cleric listened to the wind and breathed as a light gust rustled the leaves of the beech trees and emerald brush beside her.
She stank of the civet fruit paste that she rubbed on her fur to mask her scent. The fruit's musty dung odor made her cough and frown. Ummph, the downside of hunting, she thought. The rotten smell reminded her that her fur had lost any hint of the essence of flowery oils her mother once imported from realms beyond the Sand Sea. The dung smell made her miss bathing in spring water her handmaidens perfumed with crushed citron and sandalwood. After her baths, the women used to pamper her shamelessly. They would coat her fur in clays made of earth from the ruins near the Geyser of Life in the southern realms. Then, they would rinse her and massage her fur with oils from Tuskanian orchids and other blossoms her father brought to her from his trade missions. When she was a small cub, Cheetara wriggled away from her handmaidens, but as she grew older, she would purr her appreciation for them.
The acrid air flowed past her; Cheetara refocused her gaze miles into the forest and pushed away memories of the comforts she had run from years ago.
She had run away from her people to stop a fire. She had known it was coming. As a cub, she had dreamed it. The dream showed a vision of herself, a trained cleric, disciplined, and strong, with devoted friends. The vision foretold that, as a cleric, she would stop a fire from destroying her homeland in the east. To prepare herself, she had sought out the noble few she hoped would help train her. But the vision had been wrong; the fire had been in Thundera. She trained for years as a cleric, but she had been powerless to stop it. Thundera had burned, surrendered, and fallen.
Now, these thoughts raised painful questions about the fate of the House she left behind. She did not know if her remaining family and the people on their lands survived The Fall, or, if the lizards had decimated her people as savagely as they devastated the cats of Thundera. She yearned to ask Lion-O to survey the lands of the east with the Sword of Omens. But she could not ask him; she would risk disclosing her secret, and things between them were already difficult. And their fragile mission could certainly not withstand further distractions. So, as far as Cheetara was concerned, she had no House and she belonged to no other clan. She was a ThunderCat now. That was the only thing anyone needed to know about her.
Cheetara looked behind herself and tensed her neck and shoulders. The smoky metallic ruins of the birds' sky city rested on scorched earth just beyond the edge of the forest. The Crash would have destroyed Avista City if General Panthro had not activated the city's emergency power; that final explosion from the engines had given just enough power to glide the enormous city to the ground. His quick thinking saved many lives. As it stood, the birds suffered few casualties. In the weeks following The Crash, the Elephants, Dogs, Fishmen, and Berbil robot bears, who had united behind King Lion-O during the siege of Avista, all stayed on to treat the injured and repair the city. Three weeks of sole-blistering work had sapped their energy, but a spirit of camaraderie rallied them onward. Their fellowship let them avoid the uneasy question of how Avista could return to the sky; Mumm-Ra had stolen the Technology Stone, the ancient force that powered the city's flight. And no one dared to speak of the role the ThunderCats themselves played in creating the disaster in the first place.
Instead, the immediate needs of water, food and shelter occupied the workers and the survivors.
"I'll lead the construction efforts," Tygra had insisted.
"Sword of Omens. . .Give me Sight Beyond Sight. . ." King Lion-O had mastered the call to the Sword, and he used it to find a nearby well to supply the makeshift camp with water.
With shelter and water in hand, it fell to Cheetara to find the food. Technology had always provided for the Avistans' every need, she assumed, so she volunteered to help the birds learn to gather food for themselves and the other animals.
"I'll figure out a way to get food to everyone that won't offend anyone," she had promised Lion-O. She enlisted the Avistan chicks in the effort, and together with the kittens, WilyKit and WilyKat, she collected plenty of earthworms, fruits and nuts for the Fishmen, Elephants and Birds. The Berbils only needed to recharge with the recycled candyfruit sugar they brought with them. General Panthro processed the fruit with energy from the ailing Thundertank; the tank had been all but destroyed in their bout with a soul sever and his necromechs.
"With all the damage, that blasted tank isn't good for much else," Panthro had grumbled.
That left the cats and the dogs, who needed to eat meat. Even if they had any money left for trade, on foot, the nearest trading towns were likely weeks away in any direction. And they could not wait for the tank to be repaired to carry them to civilization. The cats and dogs had gone as far as they could with fruits, nuts and leaves. Their tongues were sore, their moods irritable, and fatigue slowed their work. The increasing frequency of lonely, foul-smelling trips to the forest had forced the point, and even the elephants agreed. The cats and dogs would have to have some meat, and Cheetara planned to conduct a hunt by herself.
Don't worry, I am fully capable of hunting on my own, she had reassured Lion-O. Though she would never admit it to the other cats, Cheetara loved hunting alone. She had tried bringing WilyKit and WilyKat with her to train them, but they did not enjoy the hunt the way she did. The kittens tended to sympathize with the prey until it was fully cooked.
Hunting alone allowed her to quiet her mind and visualize the target as her mother had taught her to do when she was a cub. While alone, Cheetara didn't have to explain why she never used her gift of speed, or her cleric's staff, in a hunt. She thought it was a point of honor to at least give her prey a chance to escape from her. Speed or not, she knew, she was a formidable opponent. And while alone, she could meditate to hallow the sacrifice she required of her prey. Perhaps I ought to meditate now, the thought came to her and went away. She decided get the hunting over and done with first.
She exhaled emphatically, and not seeing prey in any direction, she relaxed her ready position and stayed hidden. Cheetara felt that a quarter rotation of Third Earth had passed before she finally spied something promising. She scanned a pasture to the west beyond the forest. There. Miles away in the clearing she saw a herd of tan-colored maka gazelles. They galloped together in a loosely formed pack heading in the direction of a small lake that lay to the northwest. Cheetara launched herself forward dodging the beech trees and evergreen shrubs that stood between her and the pack. Exhilaration carried her; she smiled feeling the lift beneath her feet, almost flying, silent so that her prey would not hear her approaching. She had miles of distance to cover, and this use of speed was fair, she supposed. She stopped short of the clearing, hid behind a bush of white rockrose flowers, and watched.
So beautiful, Cheetara marveled. The maka were elegant beasts, four-legged with tri-clawed hoofs, standing close to nine feet tall at their maturity. They had broad shoulders that spread out like desert plains, and humped backs that jutted upwards like rock formations hewn from sandstone. In the pale orange afternoon sun, the beasts' tan fur scintillated with reddish-gold flashes, and the bronze-colored antlers scattered the sun's rays to confuse and disable an unwary hunter. Three maka slowed to graze in the moist grass: a young female almost eight feet tall; a male at nine feet, likely her mate; and an older seven foot female that kept a respectful distance, possibly the mother to the younger female. Their meat would feed all the cats, and at least half the dogs for three days or more.
Cheetara decided to use her standard plan of attack for triads. She would first attack the older female, then separate and kill the couple.