To love would be an awfully big adventure.

July 17, 2011

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten
the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Bludd meandered past a wild thicket, a nice and quiet one she played in often when she was bored. White patches of bishop’s lace met her before the unfurling expanse of the abbey causeway ahead. The corsair could smell salt in that air as the flowers fluttered in place before her, a fine captain with a heart so bold that lightning would crack at the straightening of her cravat.

It was strange to see the path so empty for midday. To the left, the kitten glanced furtively at the high walls of the abbey archives. Maybe she could get some kind of reaction out of Brother Aloysius? Loping forward, she peeked between the mullions of a tracery window, stretching her haunches for a better look. The books she had scattered with Eilonwy were still in shambles.

A sad mewl escaped her gullet. She hoped her new friend wouldn’t get in trouble because of her, like Ripple had with those silly bees. The kitten sighed and waggled her paw; her ring gave off a comforting twinkle in the sunlight. She decided she’d be back to apologize later. All she wanted to do now was give Ripple a hug and be on her way. Foweller too after what he had done for her in Carter’s-

The kitten blinked for a few seconds.

She scrambled toward the Abbot’s house, her tunic flapping in the wind as the thorns of the rose beds magnified in size before her like the needle ends of some domestic comb. Bludd stopped short when she saw two shades standing before her under the grasping trunks of the curling hazel trees. One of them spoke.

“Lass.” She recognized the rat Isidore’s voice, the same one whose hive she had melted. “Come to me.” His voice was calm, like smoldering brimstone.

“What fer?” the kitten said, shifting a bit. “Where’s Abbot Carter? ‘M s’posed ter be seeing ‘im.”

“What’s she talkin’ about?” Rigg demanded. He was sitting on a bucket, picking at his teeth with a claw.

“Me… my training,” Bludd said, lost. “Abbot Carter. He promised he’d be teaching me a few things.”

Isidore shook his gray head. “If still you have respect for the Abbey, then you’ll come with us. There are responsibilities you owe.”

Stepping back further, Bludd flashed the rat a toothy grin. “The only responsibility a Cap’n’s got is to ‘er crew.” The dirt below the kitten’s footpaw felt soft; it was the consistency of sand.

“Enough of that, lass,” Rigg commanded. “Yer not a cap’n, not a corsair, not even a swimmer. Have ye even seen the ocean?”

With a kick, the kitten tried to blind the otter with soft earth, but it missed. She darted in the opposite direction, hearing the bucket swivel as he rose. The southern wind wailed from behind, as if granting haste to the legs which scampered beneath her billowing tunic.

She flew past the second cellar and the infirmary, confident in her own agility. From the sound of the steps behind her, she could tell that she was out-running them- or was it one? She dared not turn back to see, but she couldn’t help a snigger. If it was the riverdog chasing her, he sure wasn’t as good at running as he claimed to be at swimming.

Bludd dashed toward the Abbey graveyard, sliding under a loose bar in the iron fencing. Bounding past, over, and on wooden gravemarkers and slate sepulchres. A large marble statue of Gonff and Martin stood prominent in the site’s center. The kitten hid behind the base, its cool slab pressed against her cheek as she peeked around a corner for her pursuer.

Rigg huffed and puffed toward her from the distance. She could feel the eyes of the frozen warriors looking down at her. Were they angry?

“Cluny’s shaft!” Rigg cursed as she watched him struggle to hop over the fence. His slacks had caught on the wicked metal tips.

A pair of voices rising together in laughter caught her attention. She should warn Foweller and Tamarack while she had the chance… and the gravemarkers begged for her paws. The brownish waves lapping all around would never take her alive.

— —

“Fowel! Tam!” Bludd cried, hopping from gravemarker-to-gravemarker. Her eyes shone, her head was held high. She looked every bit the usual kitten. Foweller hated her, suddenly, fiercely. The bullet of emotion ripped through him in an instant, leaving a hole he packed tight with regret. She was so blithe, so very much like he wished he could be right now.

Foweller felt Tamarack’s hot breath as she snorted. “Don’t jump on the markers, you stripy-faced terror. Papa’ll yell at me.”

“But I’ll fall int’ the sea,” Bludd whined, motioning to the half-dug grave the otter and vixen stood in.

“Worse things than the sea to fall into, Bluddy.”

She cocked her head to the side, considering this, then nodded. “Veggible salad’s the worst, aye.” The kitten glanced back in the direction she’d come from. “Lissen, Rigg the Pigg an’ Dizzy Isi are after me. I’m gonna be hidin’ fer awhile. Don’t tell ‘em ye saw me. Cap’n’s orders!”

Foweller raised his paw to salute on reflex, but Bludd was already racing away, ignoring Tamarack’s plea for respect toward the gravemarkers as her claws scraped stone and marble.

“That kitten’s battier than a belfry.” He heard the vixen sigh, but when he turned to look at her, she was smiling, a soft expression for her wiry features. “Nice she can still play, though.”

“Aye.” He rested a paw on the hilt of Isidore’s knife. “Somebeast should after what’s been happening.”

“Though the way I hear it, if she’s made Mr. Isidore mad, she’s not long for this world.” Another smile, this one thinner. Foweller knew that sort of smile well. He plastered a grin on his own face and punched her arm lightly.

“I expect she’ll go out with her boots on, when the time comes, that one! Anyway, they’ll have to catch her first.”

“Oy, ye two!” They both started and turned to see Rigg running along the side of the graveyard fence. “Ye seen that kitten, Bludd?”

“Aye, sir,” Tamarack called.

“She went that way.” Foweller aimed his claw west to the infirmary while Tamarack pointed east into the orchard.

Rigg slowed to a jog, his impressive brow furrowing. “Right, then… which way, kits?”

“Headed for the kitchens, sir.”

“Toward the pond.”

The furrow deepened, splitting the older otter’s forehead like a great ravine. He muttered curses Foweller might reserve for a jammed pistol and sped up again. The younger otter and vixen stood in silence for a moment, staring after Rigg. Then, Tamarack snorted and started giggling. Foweller couldn’t help joining in; somebeast had to after what had been happening.

— —

Bludd navigated the roots of ancient hollies and alder trees, stringy moss tickling her crown as she ran deep into the Abbey woods. There was an old whitebeam there whose limbs she knew well. It waited for her, loyally as a ship does in port. She climbed it, easy as the ratlines of a foremast and felt the bark beneath her claws.

“Come off it, lass!” She heard Rigg’s voice close behind her from the base of the tree.

She had been chased before, but nobeast had ever come this far into the forest, not into her hideaway. Once she had tried to bring Ripple here, but he whined about the idea of treacherous tree snappers and magic pollen so he went back to his card game like he usually did. At least he had promised to take her sailing one day. He said he’d let her have his toy ship so she could build a real one of her own. He said-

Rigg’s burly paw closed around her footpaw. The kitten screamed. She kicked her protracted claws into the otter’s paw on impulse. Rigg let out a bark of pain but she could still fell his tight grip as her legs wiggled and she thrashed her tail.

“Hold still ye bloody brat- nothin’ t’ be worryin’ about if ye just behave!” Bludd could hear more footsteps below, and she swiped down from the left, the nails of her right paw still sunk desperately into the pulpy bark of the whitebeam. Going for the smallest digit of the otter’s paw, she curled around the crevice of his grip and pulled quick, satisfied at the sickly crack that answered. He recoiled, bawling in pain as the kitten climbed to the highest bough.

She crouched, then leaped, plummeting as she inhaled ocean air for a few sweet seconds before being caught by the yews’ tangled arms. Through the canopies of leaf, sun splattered the branches like paint, marigold and gray, and the kitten lifted herself and skittered into the recession of the parting light.

— —

Rigg believed in fate. He felt that it twisted like the graceful spine of some coy lady, undulating in and out of his grasp, to be his own at the right opportunity. He had tangled with it before, had anticipated the flamboyant fancies of its whim, no stranger to victory at the brush of a well-aimed stratagem.

But this time he had grabbed too soon.

Spitting a slew of curses, he descended the base of the whitebeam and anchored his bottom on its jutting roots.

Brother Isidore tramped up to him. “Are you hurt?”

“Mattimeo’s stinkin’ mug, she broke one of me claws!”

“Let’s see it then.” Isidore took his paw. “It’s out of the joint.”

“And nothin’ else?” His fur bristled.

“It may be broken too. I’ve not the eyes to tell. The infirmary would be the best place for you now, my friend.”

Rigg cursed again. “Though tell me ’bout that nasty little witch in the wood, what’re we goin’ t’ do about that?” He pulled his paw away from the rat and yelped.

“I brought Brother Clacher.”

Rigg looked past the rat into the tunneling wood and saw nothing. He heard nothing too, just the wind’s whistle through the reeds, the rocks and the logs stained with lichen. Clacher. He remembered well what the badger kept in his house, not just in the open but in his pantries, and the cellar.

“’s he at?” The otter asked at last.

Isidore tapped a claw on his nose and smiled.

— —

Twilight had descended, and the woods were bathed in a crimson light, and she heard the bell ringing – more rings than the hour warrented. Skittering down the downcast branches of an elm, the kitten landed with grace, a soft crunch on the forest floor. She wiped off some of the nettles and sap that clung to her and patted her tunic. One of her pretty buttons were missing. She mewled just a bit before holding back.

Calming herself, she held up a paw to her forehead. A few strings of light were penetrating the forest from the west but that was all. She had found her secret spot, a rocky outcrop of mica where the mushrooms glowed and lit up the stone with a blue aura. There was a great big moldy log that sat beside it, too. Bludd really liked this log, but she was scared because she knew it would last for very much longer. The bark had long ago chipped away, its body cracking, its insides rotting into dust, things she wouldn’t be able to ignore for very much longer.

“Cor,” she chirped. She couldn’t hear the usual chorus of green leggy jumpers or whizzing silk bugs, just the creaking of wood and the usual shifting of leaves. It was odd. Her ears perked; a twig had snapped some distance behind her.

“Tam?” she called out, turning to look. A thicket occluded her view, but she could hear light steps from behind, rustling for an entrance. “That you, Fowels, matey?”

No answer. But who else could have known about here? The only beast she’d ever told about-

“Ripple?” she cried, all smiles. “You finally came!”

She waited for a bit but heard nothing. A sob was welling up in her throat but she suppressed it, then she continued.

“It’s so shiny here, Ripple! I just wanted you to see for yourself. See, the mushrooms shine like your cards. Isn’t that great?”

Still no answer. The light steps went away.

“Wait! I wanted to say I’m sorry!”

Silence.

“I’m sorry for the bees, and being bad, and making messes. I don’t think I want to be a captain anymore! I don’t care about pins and paw dragons and maniac adults, I just want to play. I want to play while we still can.

She curled her arms around her knees and rested her head there.

“I might not be able to stay here anymore, Ripple. I-” There was a cracking noise.

Warm blood trickled down her face, but it wasn’t from a nosebleed.

The club fell on her again, and again until she couldn’t feel anything anymore. She couldn’t tell if her face was covered in blood or tears or both, but all she knew was that she was disappointed in herself. Ripple wouldn’t have lost like this, he never-

*Written and posted by Bludd’s sub.

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