Tacenda:

(n.) things better left unsaid, matters to be passed over in silence

He doesn't know that she's here. If he had known the truth before she left, she wouldn't have made it two steps outside of the barn before being dragged back. Lying isn't an easy thing for her, no trifling matter, but it had been important to tell him that she was visiting family. She hadn't liked it, but it was necessary.

After all, what is this entire mission of hers but one lie after the other?

Twolegplace is cold at night, and it surprises her that the city that had once been so familiar to her is foreign now, only leaving her with a powerful longing for the rolling hills that surround her barn. The she-cat is wary as she pads down streets she hasn't laid a paw on since her father's death. Her unsheathed claws click against the dark, rough stone, and she lifts her head high as other cats pass. She knows what they see, is all-too aware of it: a lone she-cat walking the streets at dusk, a little feline lacking the hardness life in Twolegplace brings to a cat's eyes.

It is only when they meet her eyes do they see the cool, fierce light that lingers like madness in her gaze, just daring someone to approach, the subtlely dangerous look of one who has fought her way to the top by tooth and claw alone. Below her manic glare, her expression is stone.

No one approaches this cold young thing as she slinks down alleyways long abandoned by the Twoleg denizens of their city, and so she walks on.

When she finally finds the nest she seeks, the small she-cat cannot help feeling impressed. It would take a cat of great power to secure one such as this for himself. It towers over the other Twoleg nests of the city, rising higher, higher, higher, taller than most of the trees at Griffin Hill. Glancing around, wary eyes spying the sentries lurking in the shadows, the she-cat hesitates for a moment before padding inside.

They descend almost immediately, huge brutes that seem faceless in the dusk, almost as large as Shackle and his brothers. One steps ahead of the others, glaring down at her with narrowed amber eyes. "State your name and purpose here, she-cat."

She feels her heartbeat quicken, although her expression remains one of cool disinterest. Let's play pretend, shall we? She can almost hear her mother crooning the words to her when she had been but a kit. What was it like, to stand as Fetter had stood once he had healed? Effortless, subtle menace that can be glimpsed in every gesture, an easy ferocity that slips into each word, a contempuous look that measures, weighs, and finds its object of attention wanting.

Yes, that's it.

"I have business with your master," the she-cat replies archly, raising a withering eyebrow at the larger feline, "and my name is Sabine." The name of her father's first mate, long before Sita had ever appeared. A young queen who had, in the end, martyred herself for love. How very fitting indeed.

The tom bristles, just the slightest ruffling of his hackles, before he nods grudgingly. "Follow me," the gruff voice orders, and the she-cat does as she is told, head held high and proud as she dares any of them to challenge her place there.

If Twolegplace is cold at night, then this place is colder still. Shadows cloak the structure's walls as she follows the three hulking felines. The wind's soughing rings in her ears like the lamenting of wandering spirits, and the she-cat idly wonders if she will join them by the night's end.

They lead her to a back room nearly hidden by old boxes and other Twoleg waste left behind. She neatly slips between two large crates and blinks as she steps into a room even darker than the front of the nest, pupils swelling to round, dark moons as they adjust.

"Wait here," one of them says, a different one, this voice higher with a scratchy rasp to it like claws over stone. "If Castion wishes to speak with you, he will approach. If not, you will be escorted out." It is painfully obvious by the tom's tone which option he prefers, but how can she blame him? She wasn't herself now; no, she was a cat she would dislike immensely, proud and pretentious, throwing her weight around just because she can.

"Very well," she drawls, irritation evident, and the tom disappears into the shadows just beyond.

There is a pause, and two dark masses emergy. "And what do I owe to this pleasure?" a new voice asks, and the she-cat feels her skin crawl as he steps close enough for her to get a proper look at him.

She has not expected for the executioner of so many to look quite this pleasant. He is completely ordinary, with plain tabby fur that is, perhaps, graying around the edges, and the kind of clever green eyes she associates with trickers in stories.

Proud won't work with this one, no. It would only irritate him, inflame the temper that had sent so many cats to their graves. Think meek, small, unassuming...

A silver tabby pelt flashes before her eyes, and she dips her head respectfully to the tom. Perfect. "The pleasure is all mine, sir," she mews, voice soft as the look in her liquid green eyes.

He laughs, a smile curling over his muzzle, and suddenly the she-cat understands where the killer hides. His smile brought the demons out to play in his eyes, an enthusiastic, dangerous kind of sanity gleaming there. It is one thing to fear the cat who has no mind to guide him, but quite another to fear the one who does.

"Charming, Miss Sabine. Now, why is it that a young she-cat such as yourself would call upon me at an hour like this?" The devils dance playfully in his green gaze, boring into her face with intense interest, and she draws a deep, steadying breath before looking up to meet them.

"I've come here seeking your help," she murmurs, expression suitably timid. A small tremor runs through her slender frame, and she is not sure if it is only acting. "My family...my family is starving. There's not enough food for everyone, and it's only getting worse as the season goes on." She pauses, expression turning frantic.

They're usually willing to help, at a price.

Yes, Stone had taught her more than she likes to admit.

"In return...I offer myself." She rushes on, paying no mind to the surprised expression that flickers over his face lightning-fast before being replaced with that detached sort of amusement.

"You rule a large kingdom, sir, one that stretches from one end of Twolegplace to the other. And a large kingdom needs heirs. My mother is from old blood, old city blood that still holds status. I'm young, and I can give you the kits you need."

There is a moment of silence, and laughter trickles through the air. It's a pleasant sound, just as pleasant as everything else about the large tom's exterior. "You," he says, grinning at her as the evil in his eyes sparks and gleams, "are an extremely clever cat, Miss Sabine, very clever indeed."

"Thank you, sir," she mumbles, although she takes a tiny step closer, wanting to hear his verdict on the matter.

Silence hangs in the dark, and unbearable, deafening quiet that seems to sap the life from the room. Feeling almost compelled to do so, she holds her breath and counts the heartbeats that pass the time.

One.

Two.

Thr-

"I accept your offer, Miss. Guards, you may leave us for the evening."

Just as quietly as they had appeared when she had first entered the nest, the three cats ghost out, leaving her alone in the shadows with Castion and his wolf's eyes.

Fur brushes against hers, and the air around her is suddenly filled with the scent of him, and she shivers, no longer playing a part. Haughty, dangerous Fetter is gone, meek Mackerel disappearing like smoke on the breeze. All that is left is Alifair, hiding within herself until it is over.


They lay together in the darkness once it is over and done with, those green eyes half-lidded in silent contentment as he brushes his muzzle over his new mate's. "You'll give me strong kits," he murmurs in her ear, his mind caught somewhere between sleep and waking. He thinks he sees her smile.

When Alifair cuts his throat as he drifts off to sleep before padding out of this cold, shadowy city, she does not feel a thing.


They are a silent pair, her and her huge protector. Quiet is comfort for them, an escape from the chaos of their lives in the barn. He does not ask what truly happened in the city when she returns home, her eyes bloodshot and her claws flecked russet.

Yes, they are a quiet pair, and when she silently curls up beside during those long, cold nights, knowing that he is safe from all that would harm him, Alifair knows that it was worth it.