And so it was that there was a cat. He was just an ordinary cat; quite large and tabby and strong, but with eyes that looked far and deep from beneath his whiskery brows. His paws were strong and skilled and he was well liked by those he knew, and approved of by those he worked for. Let us suppose that our cat was called Mallach.
Mallach was known for his skill and experience; in making the homes and places where cats go look beautiful and warm, and feel smooth and comfortable. His reputation took him far and wide, to the places that wealthy cats lived; and he saw many things.
In the desert, he saw fat cats with long necks and lazy paws, who lived in sandstone palaces, and ate the finest fish and softest meats. They were served in all ways by the little brown cats from the east, for the fat cats controlled the riches of the desert, and did not wish to call the little brown cats, “cats”. They did not give the little brown cats enough food, but they told them that the cats in the North were their enemy. Mallach’s eyes saw far and deep, but the little brown cats needed to hate on account of their hunger.
In the North he saw fat cats with rich fur of single and double colours, who counted and added and subtracted. The tabby cats of the cities and the plains did not know what the numbers meant, but the rich-furred cats told them that the grass would not grow and the rain would not fall, and the rabbits and the mice would die if the numbers were not added up, and then the brown cats would come from the East and the South and take all the food, and make nests in their homes. So the Tabbies bought food and worked hard for the the rich-furred cats, who kept all in check with their numbers; and they looked out for the little brown cats. The Tabbies’ eyes were dull with their work, and they didn’t think to ask, but Mallach’s eyes saw far and deep, and he saw straight through the numbers to the fat beneath the rich fur.
The cats in the West, were like the cats in the North, but madder and badder and stupider than dull. They postured and fought, and pontificated their grandeur. They made all cats their enemy, while they became ever more enslaved to the same breed of rich-furs that stultified the North and made wars and told lies to all and themselves.
The greed of the Fat Cats of the Dessert and the North and the West grew and grew. The Tabbies and the little brown cats feared each other at their master’s behest. They hunted and changed the land to feed the appetites of the Fat ones, who added and controlled. The kittens were slim and learned the ways of service not of hunting.They learned to value the favour of the Rich-furred, fat, lazy cats above their natural skills, and the lands began to lose balance. The plains grew quiet.
To satisfy the lust of the number-counters; as food became scarce and the land rotted, the cats ventured into the edges of the great forests, and even into the high places. They hunted and preyed, but they felt the eyes of the wild on them. The wolves watched silent and still, as the cats began to spread the sickness of the land to their woods and mountains.With their long eyes the wolves followed the cats to their cities and told all to their packs. The Alpha wolves howled in the dark of the sorrow that befell the world. They howled of the evil and the ignorance of the cats.
When the wolves trotted into the cities of the cats they spread terror and destruction. They hunted and savaged the cats they found, whether Tabby or long-necked, or rich-furred or brown. The wolves worked hard to cleanse the plains of the cats so the world might recover.
Mallach watched with his farseeing eyes. He watched the cats driven into the shelters they once revered. The wealth of the cats turned to squalor and hunger and fighting and betrayal as the wolves cleansed the land. Rivers and animals and grasses began to return, but the cities were filled with death. For all their foolishness and short-sighted greed, Mallach wished he could save the cats, in the hope that their lesson would be learned, but he did not know what to do.
And so he set out over the mountains, across the ice, and far into the great forests of the West, for there he had once met a rare and wise cat. She was a little cat with dark red fur, and delicate, dainty movements. She was a cat who cared for cats who were dying, in a comfortable place far from the great cities of the West. She had eyes that looked wide and true, filled with the light of distilled memories. Mallach hoped she would help him.
His journey was long and difficult, with trials of weather and hunger and the threat of the wolves, but at last he stood at her threshold.
“Erran?” he called, for that was the cats’ name.
“Erran, it is I, Mallach! who once helped you to make this place comfortable and warm”
He saw her eyes glint in the darkness, which shrouded the entrance to her home. He felt her assessing him, and he wondered if he was foolish. He returned her gaze, with respect and honesty, and she bade him enter.
“What do you wish of me, Mallach of the North who is not dying? Your journey has been long and difficult, so what dread purpose drove you?” she spoke softly as she circled him, tail twitching, “I have little time for the living”.
Mallach told her of the fate of the cats, and the terrible justice exacted by the wolves. He told her of his wish to save the cats, in the hope they would learn balance from their ordeal. She watched him carefully as he spoke.
“would you forgive the cats?” she asked,
“No” he answered, looking down, “but perhaps they have been punished enough?”
Erran’s brow furrowed in thought, “perhaps you are dying Mallach, for the the Wolves remember the time before the cats, when the humans almost destroyed the world”
“Humans?” Mallach questioned. “They are a legend, are they not?” his eyes narrowed in confusion? “What happened?”
“They destroyed themselves. I don’t know how, but it was by their own doing; long ago…..so long as to become a legend.” She whispered thoughtfully. She turned and looked him in the eyes, “The wolves remember the time of great suffering, and they see those times returning, I cannot blame them for their retribution.”
“Then what can I do,” sighed Mallach, feeling defeated.
“You must speak to the wolves, Mallach. Speak to the Alpha of Alphas, even if it means your death, ” she moved closer to him so her whiskers brushed his and her voice whispered in his ear and her scent and touch filled his head. “I hope you come to no harm, though I do not know if I can wish you success. You are a better cat than most of those you would save, whether greedy or blind”
Mallach rubbed his head gently alongside hers, and took his leave.
“how will I find this Alpha of Alphas?” He asked looking back.
“He is at the center of the forest. You must track the Wolves there!” she called after him in her soft, small voice.
Mallach thought about how to track a Wolf, and how to find the center of the forest. He decided to follow the scent of Death. He began his journey back to a city.
The Wolves did not live in the city, they raided it. They came day and night, slaughtering and hunting, but only for a short time before they loped off back to the forest. Mallach hid himself on the outskirts of the city and waited. The reek of Death strong on the breeze. Sure enough six Wolves trotted by, their sad watchful faces scanning the buildings as they passed.
Suddenly, in a blur of speed, two grey and white shadows, were on him as he watched the Wolves. He felt teeth and claws rip into his skin, and saw the flash of mad eyes and felt the scabby skin exposed in patches beneath the once rich fur. In anger and pity he had ripped out the throats of the two feral, desperate Rich-furs in the blink of an eye. As his hackles eased, he heard a long low growl; the Wolf pack had returned.
“Who are you tabby-cat? Why have you returned to this place? The sickness does not sit upon you” the six Wolves circled him moving and crossing.
“I would speak with the Alpha of Alphas” his voice was low and he circled keeping his eye on the Wolf who had spoken.
“Only a Wolf may speak with the Alpha. If you would become a Wolf, you must face one of us as your challenger” the Wolf’s teeth were bared. “or you can run?”
“I will face you, though I mean you no harm”
The Wolves continued to circle, but the Wolf speaker approach head lowered, eyes fixed on Mallach. As he rushed towards him, when Mallach could almost feel his teeth on his neck, he leaped, and twisted and his fore-claw ripped through the Wolf’s right eye. The Wolf yipped and snarled.
“Will you take me to see the Alpha of Alphas”, he asked “I do not wish to leave you blind”
The Wolf rushed in again, Mallach dodging and rolling, maddening the enraged Wolf. He sprang and gripped the Wolf’s neck holding his claw on the eye of the Wolf, the tip just announcing it’s presence.
” I mean you no harm, Wolf. I mean no harm to any Wolves.” he called raising his voice. “I beg you to take me to the Alpha of Alphas, so that I can speak to him”
Mallach dropped off his back and stood his ground, facing the Wolf with the ruined eye.
“Very well, brave tabby-cat, my name is Shen. Follow me, and I will bring you before the Alpha of Alphas, and tell him you fought me honorably and with mercy.”
So Mallach ran with the pack, until his paws ached, and they reached the center of the forest, and there were so many Wolves and young Wolves, and all their eyes were on him. He stayed close to Shen on the side of his good eye, and though he walked with his head up, he met no Wolf’s gaze.
The Alpha sat on a large-rock, like a table in a clearing and i the sunshine his coat shone like pale grey fire. He was taller than most of the other Wolves, and he had powerful shoulders topped with thick white fur around his neck. Scars criss-crossed his face and muzzle and his left eye was milky-white.
“Shen, you have brought a cat into our presence and so your life is forefiet” the words were deep, and softly spoken, like distant thunder. There was no anger, just the weight of fact.
Shen shuffled forwards on his belly with his head up and his snout down.
“Mallach the cat challenged me according to our way. He took my eye, and could have taken the other one, but spared me that I would bring him to you. I chose death over blindness, for I realized that he could not and would not kill me”
Shen turned his head towards where Mallach sat, watched by the Wolves, and said, “Mallach fought me with honour and mercy, and I say that in his heart he is a worthy Wolf. I beg that you will speak with him, Lord Kerrain”
“Approach little Mallach, whose eyes see far and deep. Shen has offered his life that we may hear your words, and his brothers agree that you fought with honour and mercy. What would you have of us before we decide your fates”
Mallach approached the Alpha of Alphas, Lord Kerrain of the Wolves; with respectful grace. His tail was high and his head and eyes looked slightly down. For a moment he met the lords gaze, seeing both justice and fairness, and then he bowed his head.
“Lord Kerrain,” he said, his voice feeling dry, “while i would wish to beg for the lives of the cats, I fear it must not be so; so why have I come” he said thoughtfully, and partly to himself.
“I understand that the cats have done great evil on the land, and they are all to blame for their greed and ignorance and must share in your retribution. So what I ask, is that you may spare some cats. Those whose minds are not gone, those who would go back to being cats and hunt in the wild. The cats who have lost their way, will not find it again. You do them a mercy to speed their passing. I would offer to help rescue the cats who can be rescued, but first, I must request that Shen be spared. If it must be so then I will give my life for his, if that is worth anything.”
“You offer your life for a Wolf who failed to kill you” an amused light was in Lord Kerrains eyes. “Very well; Shen and Mallach have three turns of the moon to rescue cats they deem worthy. None shall leave the cities save the ones they save. I have spoken and it shall be so”
Shen and Mallach searched tirelessly for cats who had honour and dignity, even in the hell of the cat cities, and they both acquired many new scars. They gathered them in the forest where Erran, the cat who cared for the dying cats lived; and taught them to hunt and survive, and not to be noticed. The wolves left them alone, but often Shen and Mallach would walk in the moonlight, and the wolves still watched for their memories are long.