Torn Loyalties

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Chapter 10

Tia’hin holed up in the trees after leaving K’oughser. It had hurt her to leave him like that…but he needed to believe she was the enemy. If he came to her now…well his mother would kill her. She trembled faintly, no good to any creature while shock rampaged through her veins. Her ears flicked back faintly and she sighed softly, dropping her head to the trees. She heard him leave before she ran, not trusting herself on the ground. She needed to return home. She knew she did…

Bounding through the trees, everything was dark and she enjoyed it. As she ran, she grew ever steadier on her paws and that helped her…though the flash of spotted fur in front of her forced her rush to a halt. So suddenly did she stop that she almost slipped to the ground. She shuddered and flattened her ears, stepping back onto her branch and then dipping her head.

“Evening, great hunter. Can I pass? I won’t harm you.” She knew…or had been told, that they shared a language. That wasn’t something she wanted to prove though…it wasn’t something she’d enjoy.

“Evening, lyk’osk’in, lyko’a…huntress. We have lost one of our own; blood is scented where you once were. Tell me what happened.” The cat’s face was implacable. With claws clenching almost threateningly deep into branch, there wasn’t much for Tia’hin to do. She dipped her head in a gesture of respect before steadying herself on the branch and sighing.

“One of my small kh’in’sha found a body, great hunter. Humans had killed your kin. We buried the body, so that nothing could eat from it. Predator should never become carrion.” The cat paused, eyes imperturbable as he looked at her before yowling.

“That was Riveja. Riveja was my son. My name is Lyhun, remember it lyko’a. We owe you a debt of gratitude for treating us with such respect.” Tia’hin watched in amazement as he took off, small yowls of mourning following his final roar, her ears folding back for a moment. The lum’ar’ine followed an odd naming habit that she didn’t begin to understand, but with every branch she jumped towards her den, their names repeated, resounded in her head.

Landing from the trees, she tilted her head faintly and then shook it. The pair were curled almost naturally together. There wasn’t much she could do but smile. They’d behaved about as she’d wanted and that was all she could ask. Her ears perked as she stalked forwards before pausing and turning with a resounding snarl.

“Who was here?! Itsy’ia? I trust you dealt with it?” Her voice came out more biting than she realised, but she needed to know who had intruded.

“Yes ath’er’in. Sak’kar was his name. A male who roams alone…sl’rod’or.” The word made them both flinch. There was something about it that just spoke of loneliness and of a lyk’osk’in that just couldn’t keep themselves in a kh’in’sha. There was something wrong with them inside, which stopped them from being a decent part of the others. Sometimes a lyko that wanted to be a loner went sl’rod’or. Lyko’a were rarely that torn inside about something though occasionally a lyko’a ath’er’in who had lost her mates and pups would go sl’rod’or.

Rap remained in the den until he judged himself safe enough to leave, protected by the pair of lyko’a. His tail flitted about faintly before he frowned.

“Itsy’ia saved me, Tia’hin. And why are you back? I thought you’d spend the night with the kh’in’sha. I’m not the I’ee’di, am I?” He looked proud as he revealed the extent of his knowledge, pride lingering in his eyes as she flicked her gaze at him.

“Not I’ee’di at all, little one. And I’m here because I decided we’d make this our permanent kh’in’sha. We may as well, there’s no reason not to proclaim our intentions to the word now, is there?” Her head tilted to the side as an enigmatic grin slipped across her muzzle and her tail swayed faintly. “And we no longer need to fear the lum’ar’ine. They owe us a debt. I told them about the cat here, and he was one of theirs. They thank us for treating him with respect…but Itsy’ia. Tell me now. Sak’kar. What is he like as a lyko? Would he follow?”

She kept her voice as emotionless as she could, but excitement sparkled in her blood and she trembled imperceptibly.

“He would be a good one, ath’er’in, but he’s unpredictable. He doesn’t follow rules easily, which makes him a problem for us. I know how you like those that follow your commands. And he’s strong…strong enough to almost overtake me in the trees. I was once fast, but he almost hounded me, until I became like…this.” Tia’hin found her maw wrinkling in disgust for the lyko as she realised that he was one of the causes for her emaciated state.

“So he thinks he can hound a lyko’a, does he? I think we should trap him, when he returns. Prove to him that lyko’a are the stronger ones. We use our brains while he thinks with his strength and doesn’t seem to realise that that isn’t all there is to life.” She got a devious look in her eyes at the thought, narrowing them slightly before growling in amusement. “And maybe, just maybe, we should bring the humans ideas to life. We’ll let things they do teach others not to mess with us.” At the mystified looks in the eyes of her new, tiny kh’in’sha, Tia’hin grinned widely. Her tail wagged back and forth before she dipped her head down and began to speak, unaware of the silver eyes ringing them at her back.

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