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FICTION: Tails of Aspabibia, Part 19

"Our kittens are no strangers to fear," Oupawatt replied with a lift of his chin. "Don't overlook this latest litter's incident with the rodents in the granary."

"Yes," mused Alex. "They did hold their own over there, didn't they?"

"Still," said Zenobia, "dealing with rats, no matter how large and nasty, is one thing. "Dealing with catnapping Hoomans is quite another."

"All the more reason for better training," Oupawatt answered. He was hemming and hawing trying to relax the always testy Zenobia. "Which brings me to my point."

"Point?" asked Zenobia. Her tone was again thick with suspicion.

What you've missed: Two talkative, rebellious kittens, from a royal family of vocal, rambunctious cats, connive, plan and then descend into the cellars and caverns below Aspabibia, one seeking milk, glorious milk, the other seeking adventure, glorious adventure but disaster occurs and we play catch up with the family earlier.

"These are difficult times. The Hooman terrorist catnappings and the internal unrest the Rogue Ferals threaten have created a situation unprecedented in the history of Aspabibia."

"The point," Oupawatt answered, "of why I asked you to come to Aspabibia prior to the convening of the College of Ambassadors."

"Ah," said Zenobia peering at him out of the corners of her large, grasshopper like eyes. "So this was not strictly a social visit?"

"Not entirely," Oupawatt answered glancing away.

Zenobia began pawing at her collar again. "I cannot believe that I obtained this new and exceedingly uncomfortable collar just to come here for a lecture," she said in an irritated tone. "What about the caviar and shrimp porridge?"

"There shall be caviar and shrimp porridge," Oupawatt assured her. "I give you my word."

"Mmmmmm," Zenobia responded bug-eying him with a look of distrust. "In the meantime, what exactly did you have in mind?"

Oupawatt looked sternly from one to the other. At length, he said quietly, "These are difficult times. The Hooman terrorist catnappings and the internal unrest the Rogue Ferals threaten have created a situation unprecedented in the history of Aspabibia."

"Water piracy, is it?" asked Alex. "With the Rogues?"

"Yes," Oupawatt answered. "We believe they are trying to divert the Mother Of All Springs."

"Good grief," whined Zenobia. "What is this world coming to?"

"Unfortunately, Aspabibia now faces a threat from without and a threat from within," Oupawatt went on.

Alex frowned and squinted his eyes. "I thought Ferallon had the Ferals under control," he said.

"Not altogether," admitted Oupawatt. "There's a small faction ..."

"Rue Shadow," Queen Ruby Red said very close to his ear.

Shadow jumped straight up in the air with a squeak. "Cats don't like surprises," he managed to say as he sank down beside the doorjamb, heart pounding.

"Cats don't like eavesdropping," the Queen responded dragging him away from the door by the scruff of his neck. "Eavesdropping is the height of rudeness, not to mention an extreme infraction of the Rule of Privacy." "I'm sorry, Mother," Shadow said shaking himself free and trotting along beside her. "But I was just passing by and..."

Queen Ruby Red paused and threw him a look that would stop a mouse dead in its tracks.

"Sorry," he said, starting over. "What I meant was, I found out that Zenobia and Alex had been summoned and I ... well, I ... wanted to know what was going on," he admitted.

"So you were infringing on their privacy to assuage your curiosity," responded his mother.

"Something like that," Shadow admitted with a flick of his tail.

"Exactly like that," the Queen chided. "You know that we will tell you when the time is right."

"But I hate to wait," Rue Shadow complained.

"Don't we all," replied Queen Ruby Red. "Your sisters and brother are in the garden. There are still a few minutes of Chase left before Literature class." Rue Shadow didn't move. The Queen gave him a firm lick on the head. "Scoot!" she commanded. "Now! Off with you!"

Rue Shadow turned and sauntered away. Looking back over his shoulder several times, he could see that his mother had seated herself right in the middle of the corridor outside the door to the Great Hall of Receptions. Her ears were straight up in the air and she was watching his every move. Something weird was definitely in the air. Maybe he could find out more at the feast tonight. He gave up and ran off toward the garden.

The slightest breath of a breeze rippled through the potted flowers in the sunlit courtyard, scattering errant petals on the warm ground. Red Pearl's burnished fur gleamed as she completed a stretch and began to make her way toward the garden in search of her littermates. Chase time was nearly over for today. She could hear them scrabbling in a corner of The Cutting Garden, practicing their hunting skills on a dead mouse from the sound of it.

They came into view amid a profusion of herbs and brightly blooming flowers, and she saw that her guess had been correct. With a flick of his reddish tail Rue Shadow was flipping the carcass high into the air for Fawn Doll and Pink Buddha to chase.


TAILS OF ASPABIBIA
by Linda Towne
Part 19

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