Short Story: Whiskers & An Inquisitive Heart
Written November 2012. A Sequel to Whiskers & a Keen Mind.
A cat quietly rested in a towering oak, delighting in the dawn’s gentle warmth. Completely at ease, Kieron almost didn’t notice his elderly companion’s absence. Almost, but not quite. Edur had agreed to meet Kieron this quiet spring morning, and Kieron was beginning to worry for his friend. Edur was very particular about timing, considering punctuality a cardinal virtue for any self-respecting cat. His absence was both strange and worrying for Kieron.
Just as Kieron was considering heading out to look for his misplaced comrade, he noticed another cat ascending the tree’s thick trunk. Relieved, Kieron turned to greet his friend only to stop short. This was not Edur. Rather, it was an elderly she-cat gazing at him curiously from another branch. “Good morning, my name is Inza,” she greeted him softly.
Kieron immediately felt gears begin spinning in his head when he heard her name. There was something vaguely familiar about this polite newcomer. “I’m Kieron, nice to meet you.” he offered.
“I’m here to meet an old friend of mine.” Inza explained apologetically. “I hope I’m not interrupting your morning.”
“It’s absolutely fine.” Kieron assured her as the last details clicked into place in his mind. “If my assumption is correct, I’m awaiting the arrival of the same feline. He is Edur of Glendale if I’m not mistaken. And you’re his erstwhile companion Inza.”
A quiet purr escaped from Inza. “I can see you do know him. You do remind me of my old friend. So, how has Edur been?”
“Altogether quite healthy, but I expect he’d never admit it. Sometimes I think he enjoys being irritable. Lately he’s been especially crotchety as allergy season has begun.” Kieron responded. “However, being late isn’t like him. He was supposed to meet me here today. He finds the view less objectionable than most. I expect he’s on his way.” A sudden thought crossed Kieron’s mind, and curiosity clawed at him. “What brings you to see your old friend anyway? You haven’t seen each other since…” he trailed of questioningly.
A look of discomfort crossed Inza’s face. “We parted ways a few seasons ago. It was…for the best.” The old cat abruptly changed the topic. “Where might he be?”
Kieron decided to leave the topic for the moment. “A very good question. Although Edur has no permanent area of residence, he has recently become very fond of an old hazel bush by the Jennings’ Farm…it might be wise to check up on him there.”
Inza nodded. “That is a wise course of action. I will accompany you. Edur and my reunion has been long delayed.”
The two cats made their way down the tree, and shortly came upon the aforementioned hazel bush. At first glance it was very clearly vacant. Had Kieron not seen Edur here so recently, he would never have guessed that anyone had ever inhabited the thick shrubbery.
“This is unfortunate.” said Inza. “Edur is evidently not here. This is reminiscent of the mysteries we used to solve together, such as the time we assisted the dog Gillard with the Case of the Twin Gaeas…”
Kieron narrowed his eyes. “Yes, very nostalgic,” he said in a strange voice. “Edur thought very highly of you. Always going on about how you never forgot a name.” He paused. “Do you see those trampled branches over there?”
Inza looked to where he pointed with his tail and nodded. “I see. He must’ve been here recently. Are there any tracks after that?”
Kieron carefully sidestepped the trampled area and peered out of the bush, his head brushing an open flower. An abrupt thought flitted through his head.. “Inza,” Kieron said carefully. “It seems that Edur has already left to meet us.”
“Then we’d best be going back to the oak,” Inza replied.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Kieron said calmly. “He might already be returning. If we attempt to meet up with him, we may run in proverbial circles. It would probably be best to remain here.”
“That is logical.” Inza admitted reluctantly and settled down to wait.
“While we are awaiting our mutual friend, why not relate an old adventure of yours?” Kieron said coolly.
An unidentifiable emotion flitted across Inza’s face. “I may have one of interest. It may not be a mind-bending mystery like Edur’s tales, but it should suffice.” Kieron wrapped his tail around his legs expectantly as Inza began her story. “Once, when Edur and I were younger, and relatively new to the world of intricate mysteries and scandalous plots, we were passing through a forest home to a small population of cats. However, during our stay a fierce storm swept through and we found ourselves taking up temporary residence with the populace. Soon we discovered that we had been caught in an age-old clan feud. Our hosts, the Grimmclaws, had been locked in a never-ending war with the Darquetails for centuries, battling over land, prey, and glory. Raven, leader of the Grimmclaws, agreed to allow us to organize a gathering. Edur and I hoped our neutral standing would give them cause to listen to us.
“Edur had used his famous wit to ensure that the two clans were in a position where none could hurt one group without hurting their own. The audience was ordered so each Grimmclaw sat next to a Darquetail. As Raven and Caleb began to discuss a cease-fire, a Darquetail rose and killed Heron, Raven’s lover and second-in-command, forfeiting his own life and setting into motion a bloody free-for-all. Edur had underestimated the hate of the two Clans. Having failed, he and I fled the forest.”
“I think I know how this story ends.” Kieron interrupted her, purring despite himself as all of the puzzle’s pieces slipped into place. “Raven seeks vengeance, so she tracks down Edur and Inza. Finding herself at Glendale, she faces the dilemma of how to get close enough to her enemies to enact revenge.”
“Inza” silently slid her claws out.
“Finding that Edur is no longer accompanied by Inza,” Kieron continued, “Raven approaches a cat who has never met her, passing herself as Inza and hoping to be led to Edur. However, the cat wasn’t a stupid as she thought. He knew the real Inza would have remembered Fredric’s name, as she never forgets a name and he knew that the real Inza would have known not to look for Edur in a flowering bush during spring, as Edur suffers from terrible allergies.”
With a yowl of rage, Raven abruptly tackled Kieron, pinning the smaller cat to the ground. “You may have discerned my identity, but you’re missing a very important part of the story.” Raven leaned down, and Kieron could smell her foul breath as she snarled, “I killed Inza, and now I’ll kill you.”
“I’m sure you would,” said Kieron calmly, “But there were quite a lot of cats interested in the newcomer. Quite a lot of cats who saw me signal for them to stay outside when I poked my head outside. Quite a lot of cats who I’m sure will not be particularly pleased with you if I’m dead.”
“A bluff, nothing more,” Raven screeched, and readied her claw for the kill blow.
“Actually, it really isn’t.” Edur growled as he came up behind the maddened she-cat, flanked by at least a dozen other cats.
“You!” snarled Raven, tossing aside Kieron and turning to face Edur. “You deserve to die. You killed my people.”
“I did nothing. You were destroyed by your own hate,” said Edur impassively.
“You know! You know you’re guilty! If you’re so innocent, why did you not tell this pitiful kit the tale?”
“Because I was embarrassed.” Edur spat, angrier than Kieron had ever seen him. “But not for the reason you think. I follow the mistakes of humans. I watch as they destroy themselves. I love to tell myself that we’re better than them, that we cats are more than blind hate and fear, but how can we claim that when such meaningless fear perverts our hearts?”
“It’s justice! They wronged me, and so have you.”
“And you’ve wronged me! You killed the cat I loved!” Edur strode up so he was muzzle-to-muzzle with Raven. “Do I kill you now? Do I hurt you more just so I can be chased by a vengeful relative of yours?”Nobody moved. Every cat was paralyzed, intoxicated by this dramatic scene. “No, Raven,” Edur said softly. “That’s not justice.” Edur turned and began to walk away.
Raven roared angrily and flew at him, but was blocked by Prince and Terry, two muscular cats who had answered Kieron’s silent summons. “Leave, Raven.” Edur said, not turning around. “You’re outnumbered.”
Furious, Raven retreated. “Watch your back Edur. You and that little whelp are enemies of the Grimmclaws. You will die.”
As Raven vanished into the distance, the cats began talking frantically, congratulating themselves over their victory. But Edur, normally one for self-congratulation, did not stay for anything of the sort, simply walking away. Kieron fell into step beside him.
“I just wanted to let you know…I’m sorry about Inza.” Kieron said softly.
“I hope you’ve learned something today.” His companion replied wearily.
Kieron nodded, choosing to say nothing. The two friends walked home together in silence, as a single crystal tear slipped down Edur’s cheek.