Chapter One: The Upcoming Storm
His paws treaded on the cold, rocky floor. His sleek, black fur contrasted against the gloomy, gray atmosphere of the world around him. The sky was covered by clouds, and walking on the ground for so long made his paws ache.
Thunder crashed over his head. A storm is coming, he thought. More thunder boomed and crashed above, as lightning streaked the sky.
The cat sat back on his haunches, thoughts whirling in his head. Where was he going to sleep? Where would he find food and weapons? But most of all…
Were there other survivors?
Claws of fear ripped through his heart. What if there was no one left?
Get it together, you whelp! He thought angrily to himself. But he was still scared that he was the only one left after all of the chaos that ensued.
He had nothing. He had no food, water, or weapons. He was alone, exhausted, and terrified that he was the only survivor. And to make matters worse, he was sitting alone in the middle of an incoming storm with no shelter.
He decided he would travel more, to see if he could at least find a pile of rubble to hide under. Rearing up on his hind legs, he took slow, sluggish steps. He put his paws to his head in despair and sighed.
Oh, Ace, you old fool, what are you going to do now? He scolded himself. A voice inside of his head was hollering at him to give up. To lay on the ground and curl up into a ball and die. Without family or friends or anything else. Just to die in this barren wasteland, alone. But he wouldn’t do that. He may have been scared, hungry, and bursting with fatigue, but he refused to die here.
It seemed like several hours when he finally found shelter. It was a small cabin, old-looking and dusty and crippled. He cautiously stepped towards it, and knocked on the battered door.
He knocked again.
With the light, eerie wind chilling his ears, the cat pushed the door open slightly. Clouds of dust swirled where he stood. There wasn’t much in the house; just a simple bed, a box of books, and an open chest filled with medieval weapons.
Ace let his curiosity get the best of him, and inched closer to the chest, turning his head every few seconds to check if anyone was there. Then he shrugged to himself. It was probably a stupid idea to knock. There must be no one here.
He gazed down at the intriguing weapons below him. He knelt down and picked up a dagger, and gripped the handle. He stood up and twirled it in his paws in a pretend expertise, then set it back in the box. He stared with wonder at the clutter of weapons. There was a large variety of daggers, dirks, kunai, katana, and swords, including broadswords and machetes.
Where in the world would anyone get this much weaponry? He thought to himself. Then he spotted several arrows inside as well.
He picked up one of the arrows in his paws. It was light as a feather, the shaft being made of smooth wood and had a silver-metal arrowhead.
The wind was now howling, and it was getting cold. He placed the arrow carefully back into the trunk. He continued to look inside, and found a beautiful belt among the weapons. He fastened it around his waist. It was made of brown leather, with a gold belt-buckle. The belt also had a pouch to hold a knife. He took out the dagger he found before and placed it in the pouch. Fortunately, it fit in well.
Good. Now I have a weapon at last. He thought to himself, a small smile spreading across his face. He sat down and sighed as he leaned against the wall of the house, next to the chest of weapons. He closed his eyes and tried to slip into sleep, with the wind in his ears and worries partly forgotten. Whoosh!
"Gah!” the cat exclaimed. He hissed in pain. Someone threw something at him. He turned his head slightly to see his ear pinned to the wall by a knife, blood trickling down the side of his head.
“Who are you?” a deep voice snarled. A tall cat with dark brown fur stood by the door. He strode towards him, lumbering forward on his hind legs. Ace tried to escape but he couldn’t move. The knife was lodged firmly in the wall, through his ear, and if he jerked his head forward, the knife would surely rip his ear clean off.
“What are you doing here?” the voice growled again.
The other cat growled again, a guttural growl that sounded more like a lion’s. He looked down at the belt Ace was wearing. “Why are you wearing that?” he asked, menace lacing his voice.
“I f-found it in…in the…” he was too frightened to finish his sentence. The stranger’s appearance terrified him. He choked on his words, not sure what to say. He pointed to the chest lying next to him.
The other cat whipped his head sideways to look at the chest. “Why were you looking in there?”
“It was just…I…”
“That’s private property, you fool!” the brown cat bared his teeth. “That chest is none of your filthy business! How dare you steal from others! Idiotic thief!”
Before he knew it, Ace felt the pain in his ear loosening as the stranger pulled the large knife out of his ear and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. “You’re coming with me,” he told Ace.
Ace touched his ear with a paw. It was slightly ripped in the middle, with a large gash that wouldn’t stop bleeding. But he was at least grateful it wasn’t ripped off.
“Where are we going?” Ace almost whimpered.
The grip on his neck tightened. “I’m going to introduce you to the crew, Thief.”
Chapter Two: The Crew
“The. . .crew?”
“That’s right,” the brown-furred cat huffed. They walked for quite a while until they came across a large cellar door lodged into the ground. Without letting go of Ace’s scruff, he pushed up the door and shoved Ace inside, closing it as he entered.
It was like a tunnel of some sorts, slightly curving downward. The two cats trampled over the damp soil in almost complete darkness. The brown cat made Ace walk in front of him so that Ace wouldn’t escape his sight.
Then, they finally made it to the main room of the underground cellar, the walls made of overlapping planks of wood, with assorted tables and bookshelves and sacks of food. A fire burned in the center of the room, with a few other cats huddled close to it. Ace gazed upwards. A hole of medium size was built into the earthy ceiling so that the smoke of the fire would escape outside and wouldn’t spread everywhere throughout the room.
As soon as Ace set foot in the cozy-looking room, the brown cat grabbed his scruff again and hauled him over to the other cats.
“Look who I found, crew. A thief, stealing from one of our houses.”
A cat with pale gray fur stood up. He was about half a head taller than the brown cat, and was much bulkier in form. A quiver of arrows was strapped to his back.
“A thief, eh?” the gray cat had a rumbling voice like thunder. He looked down and saw the belt and dagger on Ace’s waist. He glared at Ace. “That’s my belt you’re wearing, ya know.” Ace gulped. He was in big trouble now.
Both tomcats were staring down at him with burning hostility. So, Ace quickly took off the belt and handed it to the gray cat. “H-here, here’s your belt. I’m really sorry, I didn’t know it was yours, I never meant any harm…”
The gray cat snorted and grabbed the belt from him, setting it on the floor. “You should be grateful we didn’t kill you right then. Thievery is a serious crime here.”
“Is it? I never knew…heh…” Ace chuckled nervously.
“Yes, it is.” The brown cat’s eyes gleamed at him. They were an intense dark green. The gray cat’s eyes were a pale yellow. Both pairs of eyes seemed to stare into his soul.
“It would be easy to kill you, being the weak, frail type you are,” said the brown cat, looking the black cat up and down. Ace hung his head in shame as the cat smirked cruelly.
“Now, now, Bran, let’s not become bullies. We’re simple survivors, not thugs.”
Ace’s body went rigid. His eyes widened. His mind was so cluttered with thoughts, but now he finally realized: he wasn’t the only one left.
He wasn’t the only survivor.
He was still standing there, slack-jawed at the realization, when Bran, the brown cat, looked at him. “What are you gaping at?”
“N-nothing,” Ace stammered, “I just thought I was…the only one..”
“The only what?” Bran asked.
“The only survivor,”
There was a tense silence. Ace shut his eyes tight. Now what? He mentally screamed.
The gray cat relaxed his shoulders, and the hostility in his eyes faded away slowly like a dying flame. “It seems you are no harm,” he said at last, “You may stay here through the storm if you wish, but keep in mind we’ll be keeping a very close eye on you. One false move and you’re dead. Understand?”
Ace nodded dumbly.
“Slit, are you CRAZY?” Bran exclaimed, his face contorted with fury. “We can’t let a damn thief join our ranks! I’ll bet he doesn’t even know how to fight!”
I have to fight?! Ace breathed heavily. He wasn’t an experienced fighter, and he knew he wouldn’t win a match against these brawlers.
Slit’s yellow eyes hardened. “We don’t need to let him know of everything yet,” he stated calmly, “But we can surely be of hospitality to a traveler, can’t we?”
“B-b-but-“ Bran stuttered as Slit retreated to the fire, crawling on all fours, dropped his quiver of arrows to the floor, and curled up in a gray ball beside the fire. “Goodnight, Bran.”
Bran gave up and glared at Ace one more time before he joined his comrade beside the fire, tail over his nose. His body tense and frozen, he closed his eyes at last. “G’night, Slit.”
Ace slumped to the ground with a sigh. How was he going to get along with these cats? Just then, another cat who was sitting by the fire stood up and turned to Ace. She had a silver pelt with thin black stripes, and soft blue eyes. She stepped cautiously toward him. “Are you alright?” she asked shyly.
“I guess so,” Ace grumbled.
The she-cat sat back on her haunches. “Don’t worry about those two,” she reassured, gesturing her tail toward the two tomcats sleeping by the fire. “They’re just grumpy ‘cause of all this stuff going on. Bran, also known as Branden, is the tough one, while Slit is the wise leader-type around here.”
“Oh,” Ace simply replied.
“Y’know, I bet you’re a nice cat,” she said suddenly.
Ace turned to her with a sudden hardness in his voice.“I’m not nice. I’m nothing but an “idiotic thief.” He spat.
The silver cat shrugged. “Everyone has to steal stuff once in a while, don’t they?”
Ace was surprised the she-cat would say something like that.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, here, in this place, we need to do anything to save our skins. So stealing from others is just survival instinct, really, since there’s barely anyone left after…what happened.” Her ears began to droop.
“…I see.” Ace responded.
“I bet you didn’t mean to steal Slit’s belt, right?”
“Yeah, I…I thought the house was unoccupied. But then…” he shook his head at the thought of that knife lodged in his ear.
She looked at Ace’s ear wound. “Bran hurt you, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” he replied bitterly.
She rose to four paws and padded over to a small satchel lying on the floor in the corner of the room. She took out a bandage and began to gently wrap it around Ace’s ear. He winced at the pain, but stood still through the process.
“There! All done!” she smiled sweetly when all the blood was cleaned off of his head and face.
“You’re welcome! Oh, by the way, what’s your name? I forgot to ask you,” she chuckled lightly.
“Well, it’s my pleasure to meet you, Ace. My name’s Sylvia, but my friends here call me Sylvie or Sylv.”
“Well, okay…Sylvie.” A faint smile drifted across his muzzle. Then his ears perked up. “Hey, by the way, does anyone else live down here, or it just you and these guys?” he hated the thought of this kind cat living alone with such hostile tomcats.
“Huh? Oh, well, Holly’s here too. I don’t live alone with these brutes, you silly mouse!” she nudged him lightly in the shoulder.
Yep! My best friend. She’s just in another one of the smaller rooms. She prefers to sleep alone.”
“Ah, okay,” Ace nodded.
Sylvia grinned again. “You can meet her tomorrow morning. Anyway…” she yawned loudly, showing her flashing white teeth. “I’m gonna go to bed now. I’m sure Bran and Slit will explain everything tomorrow morning.”
“Why we’re here, why you’re here…things like that. It’ll be clear to you tomorrow, don’t fret about it.” She grabbed a blanket next to her and pulled it over herself. “I often get cold at night. My fur is quite thin; the fire isn’t enough to warm me up.” The sound of thunder rumbled from above. She sighed. “Another storm tonight. Oh well…” she looked over at Ace. “Do you need a blanket?” she turned her nose to a small pile of other blankets crumpled in the corner near her satchel.
“No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine.” Ace responded, curling up into a tight ball. The cold air coming in from the hole in the ceiling brushed his fur, making him shiver.
And with that, the two cats drifted off to sleep.
(Work in progress)