Warnings: Main character injuries and violence.
This story best read if you like all the main characters and if you are flexible about 'ships' [sigh]. The pairings are NS canon.
Author's note: These stories are mostly from the POV of Cheetara.
This story explores some of the mistrust and emotions that plague the friendships between the ThunderCats, and shows one take on how Cheetara might have felt about "the love triangle."
Bullying is a topic I also wanted to explore. If this speaks to anything that anyone is going through, if you just hang in there – things definitely get better.
Big shout and thanks to AI, Bronwynn, Heart of the Demons, Jet556, IrishBug74, dickory5, FYI, Thunderfan1181, JustLucky05, XRanger13, Idstealer, Classic Cowboy , gir201, xQueen Nothingx, Guest, LydiaMartins, TransformersPrime, NeoMiniTails, wildcard999, Edhla, Winged-Violoncelle, Persevera, CloudyRaven, Attune, Lady Elizabeth of New York, LaughingLadybug, Leonidas701, and Madame Tortilla for reading and giving useful feedback.
NOTE: Panthera Awesome I revised. Light revisions to II, III, and Bullied.
Thanks for reading.
TCC Book Three synopsis: In a flashback, Cheetara's childhood story and her subtle hidden prejudices are revealed. In the present, Cheetara teams up with the birds' Deputy Prefect Horus, finds the Staff of Panthera and uses it to pry her way into the Astral Plane; while there, she is forced to face some personal demons. She finds and confronts Grune, defeats him, and saves Lion-O from Grune's attempt to strangle him. She finally gets up the courage to ask Lion-O for the Book of Omens. She runs away from the camp in a fit of anger when he says no.
Book Four of The Cheetara Chronicles
"The Wounds That Heal"
Chapter 1: Bullied ("Life of Tygra")
The best soil in Thundera lay in the lavish grounds of the southern royal courtyard, in little Tygra's experience. His mother, the Queen, had grown the best malva blossoms for tea in all the realms. The gossip whispered by the ladies of the court was that the Queen enriched the soil with zinc and other minerals to sweeten the flavor of the blossoms. Tygra knew better. The Queen's secret ingredient was ants. When he became aware of it, Tygra was still a tiny cub. A tummy ache had brought the cub tearfully into his mother's arms. The Queen herself picked fresh malva blossoms for him so that Tygra's wet nurse, Pamy, could brew him a thin pot of tea to soothe his rumbly stomach. On occasion, when in a hurry, Pamy strained the leaves too quickly and a tiny soldier or two found its way into Tygra's cup, to the toddler's delight. As a young boy, Tygra had been allowed to scoop ants from the southern courtyard into buckets for his own garden. He found that the ants, alongside earthworms and other creatures, added a richness that supported a diverse plant life.
In the balmy light of the mid-morning, the little tiger gathered a full bucket of soil from the southern courtyard and leapt up the stone stairwell into King Claudus' private study. He found his father sitting alone in his favorite blue-cushioned chair, reading reports from the generals, a fragrant cup of hot tea in hand.
"May I go to the elm forest now, Father? I have to refresh the soil, and do the watering for the week," Tygra asked. Claudus brought his enormous paw down gently on the crown of Tygra's striped head and stroked it.
"Be back before lunch," Claudus instructed Tygra. The boy scampered down through the gates of the palace past the cleric's compound into the elm forest where he could be alone to cultivate his own private garden. Tygra lay down on his belly and grinned letting the ants and worms glide down his fingers into the earth. Tygra kept six varieties of blossoms that, at times, served as salves for Claudus' gastric challenges.
The site Tygra had chosen for his garden was near a gentle stream that flowed past the homes of some of the lower nobles. The soil there was moist and in it Tygra grew his favorite plants, including the deep burgundy-colored roses he loved so much. After he transferred in the soil from the royal courtyard, and brought in water from the stream, he tended to the roses, carefully pruning their lush green bushes, content in the privacy and solitude of the morning's light. He brushed aside his awareness of the shadowy presence that had been following him from the cleric's compound.
A bouquet of roses and lilies might be nice to bring to Pamy, he thought. He clipped the thorns from the rose stems, and tucked them behind his ears and into his hair to hold them. He sniffed the perfume from white lilies he planted around the roses, trying to decide which he should choose. Immersed in his work, Tygra had not noticed a crunching, thumping sound of footsteps approaching, and he looked up suddenly aware of gray shadows being cast over him and his plants.
"What are you doing with red flowers in your hair, tiger? That's not going to help you look like a lion!" A gruff voice spouted and pointed to the crown of burgundy roses Tygra had tucked into his fur.
Tygra saw the speaker, a boy of twelve or perhaps thirteen, slightly older than he. The boy was a lion he had never seen before, likely from one of the families who lived near the stream. He had a rusty mane and a thick build; the lion had not come alone. Tygra counted six of them. Four were lions, one was a lynx, and one was a golden-colored leopard with dark spots. The speaker was the tallest of them.
"Hullo," Tygra greeted them in a small voice. "I'm Prince Tygra." He had never met other children in this part of the forest before. His garden had given him a bit of privacy until now.
"We know who you are, tiger. What's in your little basket there, basket boy?" The speaker smiled as his question drew giggles from the other boys.
"Oh." Tygra looked down into the buckets he had brought with him. "Just some ants, and dirt, and water . . ."
"I don't really care what's in the basket, tiger." The speaker moved in closer and put a booted foot on top of the lilies Tygra had rested on the ground. "I want those roses out of your hair." Tygra froze as the gray shadow grew taller and darker, towering over him and his plants. The lynx stepped forward, pulled Tygra's arm and jerked the tiger backwards into the dirt; the leopard dropped down onto Tygra's legs and pinned them to the ground. The tall lion leaned over, made a fist and socked Tygra hard in the eye. He picked a rose from Tygra's fur and stuck it in his own.
"See, it looks better on me," he said. Taking their cue from the speaker, the boys took turns slapping and punching the tiger until they had removed all of the roses from Tygra's hair. Tygra panted, wide-eyed, looking to his right and left; his eyes searched the brush and peered through the elms, seeing no one.
"Now. I better not see you with roses in your fur again, tiger, or I will kill you. I swear it." The lion's hot breath blew into the face of the tiger. "If you tell anyone about this, I'll kill you, and I'll kill Prince Lion-O, too. Who's next in line for the throne after that?" he asked the boys, grinning at their delighted giggles. The speaker turned on his heel and the boys followed him, leaving Tygra sweaty and bruised, alone in the dirt.
Bewildered, little Tygra sat still for a moment, forcing back tears, touching a tender cut under his left eye. He felt a hovering presence near, but could see no one. Where is he? Why isn't he here? This cannot keep happening. I cannot bear this anymore. He shut his eyes and steadied himself. His small hands shaking, Tygra gathered his clippers and shovels, placed them in his soil bucket and headed back to the palace. He put away his things, and gathered himself together in the privacy of his royal bath. His chambers were the most beautiful and decorative in the palace, designed by the Queen herself. His bath had large east-facing windows through which the late-morning sun streamed in on him. Tygra no longer wished for Pamy to dress him; he changed his own clothes and met his father and brother for lunch.
"What happened to you, Tygra?" King Claudus furrowed his brow as Tygra entered the crimson-colored dining room where the family liked to take afternoon meals. Tygra bowed his head. He had not been able to cover up a faint brown ring around his left eye. Luckily it had already begun to heal in the hour since the attack.
"I was climbing a tree . . . and I fell. I'm sorry, Father." Tygra sat in his chair on the old cherry-colored cushion his mother had sewn for him. The little tiger positioned his chair across from Jaga, who had joined them for lunch.
"Jaga, Tygra is always climbing trees and falling. He has too much time on his hands. He finishes his studies so quickly." Claudus frowned. "Can't you find something for else him to do?"
"We could use additional men at the cleric's compound, Sire. Perhaps the Prince would enjoy service with the cleric's guard," Jaga suggested.
"Would you like that, Tygra?" Claudus studied the boy's expression.
"Yes." Tygra nodded, his face brightening a bit.
"Could I go too?" Young Lion-O looked up from the drawing he had brought to the table, his curiosity piqued.
"No, Lion-O," Claudus thundered. "You will extend your sword practice later into the mornings. And when you finish, you will add extra readings to your studies. Your knowledge of Thunderan history still requires a great deal of work." The small lion leaned across the table and shot a pleading glance at Tygra.
"I could help Lion-O with his history, and then he could come with me," Tygra offered.
"No," Claudus replied. "Lion-O will complete his studies on his own, as you have, and he will do as I command." Lion-O slumped in his chair and glared at Tygra; Tygra shrugged and frowned back at Lion-O. Lion-O picked at his lunch and dropped small pieces of meat onto the dining room carpet for his pet Snarf. He glanced over at Jaga and met the old jaguar's lavendar-gray eyes. Lion-O took comfort in Jaga's soft and inviting gaze.
"Prince Tygra could start tomorrow morning after sword practice," Jaga said.
"Very well," Claudus agreed.
Tygra glanced over at Jaga and searched the jaguar's face. The boy felt his chest sinking as he watched the blankness of Jaga's soft and placid expression. Jaga did not seem concerned or curious. Had Jaga suggested working with the guards on purpose? Was it to give him self-defense training? Did he know what had happened that morning? And did Jaga know why his cleric was never there? This time there had been many boys, and these boys had not only struck him, but threatened to kill him, which had never happened before. They had threatened Lion-O, too, but they would not dare to attack the Crown Prince. Would they? Tygra ate very little as he pondered these questions. He excused himself from the table and announced that he would take the early afternoon to read a bit, as was his custom. Tygra padded up to the east wing of the palace past his library to his bedroom. Looking at his face in a mirror, he felt relieved that at least the skin around his eye had completely healed itself during their lunch. He often wondered how his cuts and bruises always seemed to heal so quickly. Exhausted, he sat on his bed against rich silk pillows and covers. Finally in the privacy of his chambers, he allowed himself to shed his tears.