This story takes place at least one year before "Sword of Kings". Also, I do not own ThunderCats!
Duty of a Cleric
The Sanctuary, Office of the Head Cleric
Lord Jaga, Head Cleric of his order, sat at his desk in the center of the office, scrutinizing the documents in front of him. He looked up to Lord Caprico, a young cougar that had recently inherited his father's estate.
The Head Cleric studied the documents once again. "This is a bold accusation that you are making, Lord Caprico."
The young cougar quirked one of his eyebrows. "Do you doubt the authenticity of the documents, Lord Jaga?"
"No, Lord Caprico," Jaga assured the young noble. "As all Clerics are trained to recognize forgeries, I have no doubt that what you have brought me is legitimate. But you do realize who it is you are accusing, do you not?"
"I do, Lord Jaga," Caprico nodded solemnly. "But I know within my bones that Baron Tass is behind this conspiracy."
Though officially a governor, he was self-stylized as Baron Tass. Not only was the overweight cat the governor of a mining settlement, but also had a seat on King Claudus's council. To accuse him of such treachery was almost unheard of.
Jaga sighed. "I'm sorry, Lord Caprico, but we cannot go forward with this until we have more proof."
"But we have the proof right in your hands!" the young cougar said incredulously, referring to the documents.
"Baron Tass will only say that these are forgeries," Jaga nodded to the noble, "and that you are only trying to frame him." The Head Cleric stood up and began to pace the room. "If we are to act against him, we must either catch him or his men in the act."
"But how?" Caprico asked.
"Have you forgotten the work of a Cleric?" Jaga asked. "We guard the Throne of Thundera from the shadows. We never seek glory, allowing anonymity to be all that we need. I will send one of my best Clerics to investigate."
"Are you sure of this, Lord Jaga?" Caprico asked unsure. "One Cleric against Baron Tass, such a thing is impossible."
The Head Cleric paused in his pacing to turn to the young cougar. "Not to worry, Lord Caprico. This Cleric is guaranteed to complete the task. I assure you, Tass will face justice."
The Sanctuary, Initiate Dormitories
Something kept Cheetara from sleeping this night. Even when she made herself as warm and comfortable as she could in her bed, the cheetah was unable to enjoy a restful slumber.
As she turned to her side, the young initiate had a feeling that something was about to happen. Cheetara felt it in her gut that a change was coming, though she could not tell if it was either good or bad.
The door to her dorm room opened, revealing a silhouette in the dim light. "Having trouble sleeping, Cheetara?"
The young initiate sat up from her bed, seeing Jaga standing in the doorway. "I have a lot on my mind," she said.
The Head Cleric nodded in understanding. "I need you to come with me now, Cheetara. I shall wait out here for you to get dressed."
Jaga closed the door to her room before the cheetah rose from her bed. Cheetara went to her dresser and changed into her usual attire of a brown top and matching pair of pants. She left her dorm room to see Jaga standing a few feet from the door.
She began to follow her mentor down the hall. "Jaga?" she asked. "Where exactly are we going?"
"We have business to attend to in the Grand Hall," the Head Cleric said as they left the dormitories.
"In the middle of the night?"
Jaga paused in his steps with Cheetara almost bumping into him. He turned to his protégé. "I assure you, Cheetara," the jaguar said, "this is of the utmost importance."
Cheetara looked down ashamed. "I'm sorry, Jaga, I—"
The Head Cleric placed a hand on her shoulder. "There's no need for that, Cheetara," he assured her. "I understand that patience has not always been your strong suit, but I have watched you grow from a young girl into a capable woman." He removed his hand and approached the doors to the Grand Hall. "Now, let us go meet your new family."
The doors opened before the Head Cleric as he entered, leaving a very confused Cheetara behind. She quickly composed herself before she entered the room, the doors closing behind her. The cheetah was surrounded by darkness for a few moments, and then the torches were suddenly lit. The fires showed the Clerics surrounding her, their staffs in hand.
Jaga stood in the center. "Initiate," he addressed her formally, "step forward and kneel."
Cheetara did as she was told, kneeling before the Head Cleric after she approached. She knew that a change was coming, but she didn't expect this.
"Cheetara," Jaga said, "you come before us today to be admitted into our sacred order. Are you ready for such responsibility?"
There was no hesitation; she had been waiting for this day her whole life. "I am, Lord Jaga."
The Head Cleric continued with the ceremony. "Do you swear your loyalty to the King and the Royal Family?"
"Do you swear to keep the anonymity that is expected of all Clerics and to never seek glory?"
"Do you swear, if that moment ever comes, to lay down your life in service to the King?"
Any cat would hesitate at such a question. Cheetara, however, was not just any cat. "I do."
Jaga nodded, and several Clerics stepped forward to the cheetah, enfolding her in the robes of Clerics. Another placed the lion mask on her head while Jaga took out a staff and placed it in Cheetara's hand. The Bo staff instantly began to extend in the grip of its new mistress.
Jaga began the final words of the ceremony. "As Head Cleric for King Claudus, First in His Name, I hereby proclaim you a Cleric of Thundera."
Cheetara rose from the ground, accepting her new title and duty. Her new brothers and sisters exited the chamber, leaving the new Cleric and her mentor alone.
"Cheetara," Jaga said, "Thundera is in need of dedicated Clerics like you. I have an assignment for you."
Cheetara could hardly believe what she was hearing. She already had a mission for the Clericy so soon after her initiation? "What do you wish of me, Lord Jaga?" she asked.
"Not here," Jaga hushed. "We will talk about this in my office."
Cheetara soon found herself standing in her mentor's office as he searched through his desk. Jaga procured a few documents from one of his drawers before he handed them to Cheetara. "This was given to us by Lord Caprico," the Head Cleric said, "though I must say that you may not believe some of the contents."
Cheetara read through the documents she was given. After going through them all, the cheetah looked to the jaguar with wide unbelieving eyes. "Is this what I think it is?" she asked.
Jaga nodded solemnly. "I'm afraid that it is," he said. "This is an intercepted message from Baron Tass to General Slithe, the War Chief of the Lizard Clans."
"Then Tass intends to betray the king to the Lizards?" Cheetara asked in shock. "How?"
"I am not exactly sure," Jaga admitted, "but we do have a lead. The message seems to mention a warehouse that the Baron owns in the market district."
"You wish for me to investigate this warehouse?" Cheetara asked.
Jaga nodded. "I want you to go down there tomorrow," he said. "But for now, you need your rest. Return to your quarters, and I'll see you in the morning."
Cheetara offered her own farewell before departing to her room, seeking the rest she needed.
The following afternoon, Market District
Dressed in her new Cleric robes, Cheetara navigated through the streets of the market. Using what she learned from the intercepted message, she wandered through the district in search of the warehouse.
After inquiring with some of the merchants, Cheetara was able to find the warehouse she was looking for. The cheetah took notice of the three burly alley cats that guarded the front entrance. Hopefully, they would be smart enough to do as the newly inducted Cleric told them to do.
The cheetah approached the alley cats. "Excuse me, sirs," she said with her voice full of authority.
The lead cat eyed her warily. "What do you want, Cleric?" he asked.
"I have been instructed to investigate the contents of this warehouse," Cheetara said. "I wish to gain entrance immediately."
The same cat spat on the ground. "I don't think so," he said. "We got orders not to allow anyone inside."
Cheetara narrowed her eyes from behind her lion mask. "You dare to refuse a request from one of the king's Clerics? We are charged to not only protect the royal family, but all of Thundera itself."
The alley cat gave a humph. "You could be Queen Leona back from the dead for all I care," he said. "You're still not getting in."
Cheetara did everything to keep her rising anger in check; it would not do to make a scene on her first day as a Cleric. Instead, she decided to turn around and walk away from the warehouse. Somehow, she would find a way in.
A merchant watched the Cleric pass by his stand before he lifted up his wrist and spoke into a strange metal band. "There's been a complication," he said.
Cheetara walked down the streets frustrated with her inability to enter the warehouse when the arrow hit the stone wall next to her.
The Cleric almost drew her Bo staff when she noticed that no one was attacking her. She looked to the arrow where it seemed that a small note was rolled around shaft. Cheetara unfurled the paper and read what was written.
Walk down the alley.
Cheetara looked to her left to see the alley the note was referring to. She was, at first, hesitant to walk down the passage, but knew that she would have to take that risk. Someone obviously had their reasons to get her attention.
The cheetah walked down a fourth of the way through before a rough female voice called out. "That's far enough, Cleric!"
She could barely see anything through the shadows, but Cheetara could see the woman's puma-like features. "Who are you?" the Cleric asked.
"Just call me a concerned citizen," the puma said. "If you're looking into Baron Tass, then you're definitely on the right track."
Cheetara narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "What exactly is in that warehouse?"
"Simple," the puma said, "weapons. Swords, spears, and shields, and all stolen from the Thunderian Army."
"Does Tass intend to betray King Claudus?" Cheetara asked.
"Of course not," the puma scoffed. "Tass isn't stupid enough to let the Lizards take over. Our dear Baron is merely selling the weapons to Slithe and making a good profit off it too."
Cheetara was a bit relieved; at least the Lizards weren't going to just march up and kill the king anytime soon. But knowing that Baron Tass was selling weapons to the enemies of his kind was still a treachery in its own right. The Baron's greed was leading to cats in the army and others victimized by Slithe's raiding parties being killed by their own weapons.
"Tass plans on sending a full shipment to Slithe next week," the puma went on, "but there are more weapons coming in tonight. If you want to stop the Baron and get the proof that'll put him away, tonight is the best time to do it."
"How do you know all of this?" Cheetara asked. "You seem to know a lot about this despite merely being a 'concerned citizen'."
"Let's just say it helps to have friends in high places," the puma chuckled. "I'd say we'll meet again, but that's highly unlikely."
And just like that, the puma ran off down the alley. Cheetara could easily pursue her, but what would be the point? She already had the information she needed. She only had to wait until nightfall before she would sneak into the warehouse and uncover the stolen weapons.
That very night
Cheetara—wearing her normal brown outfit instead of her Cleric robes—peered around the corner of the alley. It would not be practical to be wearing white when infiltrating the warehouse. She watched the alley cats lock the doors before departing down the street.
Cheetara took this moment to stride quickly to the warehouse. Pulling a skeleton key issued by Jaga out of her pocket, she placed it into the lock and turned. A sound click was heard, and the cheetah instantly gained access to the warehouse.
Leaving the door behind her ajar, she began her search. Stacks of crates were strewn around the warehouse, each container bearing the three diagonal claw marks that was the sigil of Rankin, Baron Tass's settlement. If what that puma said was right, the stolen weapons would be inside them.
"Hey!" Cheetara turned to see the three alley cats standing in the doorway. What were they doing here? Weren't they supposed to have gone home for the night?
"You made a big mistake thinking you could steal from us, girlie," the lead cat said. "Let's get her, boys!"
Cheetara extended her Bo staff as the alley cats charged. One of them lunged ahead of the others, but the Cleric quickly swung her weapon. Her attack hit dead on, striking the cat's legs and knocking him down.
The second cat wrapped his arms tightly around the cheetah, trying to keep the squirming Cheetara in his grip. The Cleric then slammed the back of her head against the cat's face, his hand cupping his broken nose. Cheetara then struck him in the side of his head with her staff, knocking him unconscious.
The lead cat came at the Cleric with a dagger in his hand, Cheetara using her speed to avoid the deadly blade. The first cat that attacked her tried to lunge for the cheetah again, but the Cleric's speed allowed her to dodge his attempt. Unfortunately, the lead cat had accidentally stabbed his dagger into his friend's shoulder.
"Shit!" the cat cursed as he watched his friend collapse, the other cat gripping his shoulder and crying out in pain.
Cheetara took this opportunity to knock the leader down, and he landed flat on his back with a loud thump. The Cleric pressed her foot on his chest as she pointed her staff at his face.
"You should have let me search this place when you could." she said. "Then all of this could have been avoided."
The alley cat's eyes widened as he recognized the voice. "You're that Cleric from today!"
"That's right," Cheetara growled. "Now, tell me where Slithe wanted these weapons sent."
The alley cat looked at her with a blank face. "What weapons?" he asked confused.
Cheetara only used her staff to pry open one of the crates, revealing the swords that it contained. "These weapons were stolen from the Thunderian army, and now they are here in this warehouse."
The cat scrambled up. "I swear," he said with his hands up, "I didn't know anything about these."
"Then tell me what you do know," Cheetara growled. "Who hired you?"
The alley cat gulped. "About last month," he said, "me and my friends were drinking at the tavern. Then some cat wearing a hood shows up and says he's working for Baron Tass. He said that Tass needed some hired muscle to watch over this warehouse; he even paid each of us three hundred gold coins in advance."
"But you had no idea about these weapons?" Cheetara asked doubtfully.
"We weren't allowed to ask about what was inside," the cat said. "Besides, with the coin we were being paid, who were we to ask questions?"
"Is there anything else?" the Cleric asked.
The cat scratched his head. "Well, there's this one other thing," he said, digging a brass key out of his pocket. "The hooded cat gave me this key to look after as well. It goes to a safe in the back."
Cheetara quirked an eyebrow. "What exactly is in this safe?"
"Beats me," the cat said. "The guy only came in every few days, and he would always put these documents inside.
Documents? This was getting interesting. "Show me," she ordered.
The alley cat led Cheetara to the back of the warehouse, where an iron safe rested against the wall. The cat placed the key in the lock and turned it, opening the safe. "See," he said, "these are the documents I was telling you about."
Cheetara swiped them from the safe and began to scan what was written. With every word she read, her stomach began to sink.
These documents listed troop deployments and mapped out trading routes. Not only was Baron Tass selling weapons, he was selling information as well, information that General Slithe would use to cripple Thundera, leaving it vulnerable to an attack.
Cheetara looked to the alley cat. "Listen here and listen well," she said. "If you and your friends testify against Tass, I'll make sure you're all without a single day in the dungeons."
The alley cat could only nod. "Yeah," he said, "whatever you say."
The Royal Palace, Council Chambers, Two days later
In her Cleric robes, Cheetara stood with Jaga as they both watched the king conversing with his council, going over business as usual. All the while, behind her mask, Cheetara kept her eyes on the over-weight cat that was Baron Tass. Lord Caprico, the noble who brought his treachery to their attention, stood next to the Head Cleric on his left side.
"We will have to go over the trade negotiations with the Bird Kingdom at the next meeting," Claudus said. "But first, there is some business that Lord Jaga must bring to the council."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the Head Cleric bowed as he made his way to the large lion, a collection of documents in his hands. "This is evidence that Lord Caprico brought forward to us. There are also other materials collected by one of our Clerics, along with testimonies from three individuals."
Claudus took them in his hands and looked them over, his eyes narrowed as he read them. He looked to the fat cat sitting at the council table. "Tass," the king snarled, "is there anything you wish to tell us?"
The Baron suddenly sat up straight, staring at his monarch in surprise. "What do you mean, Your Majesty?"
"Don't play dumb with me!" Claudus roared. "You've not only been selling weapons to General Slithe and his filthy Lizards, you've also sold him our secrets as well!"
The other council members gasped and began to mutter amongst themselves as Tass began to sweat profusely. "B-b-but, Your Majesty, it isn't true. I swear, it isn't true!"
"I will not hear any of your excuses," Claudus yelled, bringing his fist down on the table. "As King of Thundera, I hereby strip you of all lands and titles, and charge you with treachery against both the kingdom and the crown. Guards!"
A pair of palace guardsmen entered the chamber. "Take Baron Tass to the dungeons," the king ordered, "I'll deal with him later."
The guards seized the over-weight cat, dragging him out of the room as he shouted and squirmed. "NO!" Tass screamed. "IT WASN'T ME! I'M INNOCENT! IT WASN'T ME!"
The Baron continued to shout until only echoes could be heard. Cheetara knew that whatever punishment Tass would receive, it would be too good for him.
"Lord Caprico," Claudus addressed the young noble, "Jaga said that you brought Tass's treachery to his attention."
The cougar nodded slightly. "Yes, Your Majesty."
"Then as King of Thundera," Claudus said, "I hereby grant you Tass's old title as Governor of the Rankin settlement. I also reward you with the Baron's seat on the council."
Caprico bowed. "Thank you, Your Majesty," he said. "I will serve the crown faithfully."
"Then this meeting is adjourned," Claudus said. He approached the Head Cleric and Cheetara. "You and your Cleric did well, Jaga. I only hope you and the rest of the Clericy will continue to do well."
With that, Cheetara followed her mentor as they departed the council chamber and returned to the Sanctuary. They then found themselves in the Head Cleric's office.
"It is not for our order to seek glory, Cheetara," Jaga said. "But I want you to know that I am proud of you."
Removing her lion's head mask, the cheetah smiled. "Thank you, Jaga."
"Now that this business is out of the way," Jaga said, "I have a new assignment for you."
"Already?" Cheetara asked surprised.
"I planned to assign this to you before Caprico came to us," he said. "I need you help in locating Claudus's lost son."
Cheetara regarded her mentor with confusion. "But Prince Tygra isn't lost," she said. "He's…wait a minute. Are you talking about the Lost Prince?"
Jaga nodded. "Yes," he said. "Though some would say that General Panthro took him to Slithe and the Lizards, I believe that he may be here in Thundera."
"Jaga," Cheetara began, "are you sure of all this?"
"I am," Jaga assured her. "Though there are several leads, I will need your help in narrowing them down."
Cheetara nodded. "What do you want me to do first?"
The noble district, Lord Caprico's estate
Caprico entered his estate, his manservant taking his cloak as he closed the door. "Welcome home, My Lord," he said.
"Thank you, Bertrand," the cougar said. "Did anything happen while I was gone."
Bertrand nodded. "Yes, sir. Your guests arrived earlier than expected, so I served them tea in the sitting room."
"Excellent," Caprico nodded. "That will be all for now, Bertrand."
Caprico made his way to the sitting room, pausing for a moment before he opened the door. Inside were several cats wearing blue hoods drinking their tea as they turned to the young lord. But only one of the hooded cats caught the cougar's attention.
"Grand Master Valern," Caprico greeted, "I am so glad you and the council could come."
"Lord Caprico," Valern nodded, "or should I be calling you Governor Caprico now?"
"You should," the cougar said. "You'll also be happy to know that I have gained Tass's seat on the council as well."
Valern quirked an eyebrow. "Unexpected," he said, "but good as well. Then everything went exactly according to plan."
"Yes," Caprico said, "though I had my doubts about framing Baron Tass. For a second, I thought that Lord Jaga would have seen through all those forged documents."
"We worked hard to ensure that they would be as authentic as possible," Valern said. "But it's good to see that it is all worth it. The Rankin mining settlement is sitting on top of the largest Thundrillium deposit on Third Earth, which we need to power our Technology."
"I don't understand why you could not make some sort of deal with Tass," Caprico said.
"Because Tass is as greedy as a rat," Valern said. "He would work with us at first, but then he would turn us and our Order over to Claudus before we could do anything about it. Because of that, we needed to deal with someone we can trust."
"And I promise to keep the deal that we made," Caprico said. "I'll go to the settlement tomorrow and have the miners get to work immediately. You'll have your first shipment of Thundrillium within a month."
"This is good, Caprico," Valern praised the lord. "Ever since you came to us, you have gone beyond the call to show your devotion to the cause. Not only have you earned a place in the Order, you have also earned a place on our council."
The cougar's eyes widened in surprise. "Grand Master, I don't know what to say."
Valern brought out a necklace with a golden hand that held the ThunderCats symbol in its palm. "Just let me speak the words," he said, "and you'll be one of us." He motioned for the young lord to kneel. "Do you swear to devote your life to the cause and the Order?"
Caprico did not hesitate. "I do."
Valern continued. "Do you swear to keep our secrets and divulge them to no one?"
"Do you swear to help us ensure Prince Lion-O, the only true King, ascends to the Throne of Thundera?"
"Then rise, Lord Caprico," Valern said, placing the necklace around his neck. "Rise, and be welcomed as a brother of the Order of the Hand." The young cougar rose, pride showing in his eyes. "You should be proud. Today, you helped to bring us one step closer to bring Claudus to justice for what he did."
Valern raised his right hand as he spoke the words that all members knew. "We are the Hand that will guide Thundera," he said.
Caprico and the others raised their hands as well, his voice joining theirs. "We are the Hand that will guide Thundera."