Alina Lycan watched her friends, the noble Hendrix, the prankster, Amor, the brainy, Alvis Cato, the gentle Irene, and the annoying Jax, chat, by a river that shimmered in the sunset. Alina gazed at the endless field of grass, that stretched as far as the eye could see, bathed in golden sunlight. Magnificent, and mighty, mountains loomed in the horizon, painted purple by the sunset. Alina sighed at the sheer beauty of the twilight world.
''Remember when we first sat here?'' Hendrix asked.
Amor nudged the ginger gold cat. ''I will never forget how mad you were when I knocked you into the river!'' He purred.
Hendrix shook himself. He looked bashful. ''Well. . . uh. . . I was a different cat then. Thank God I'm not who I once was.'' Lycan shook her head, amused. It's amazing that those two are best friends. She thought.
''How young we all were, then . .'' Cato meowed wistfully, a distant look in his eye. ''The Trials of Peril brought us together... .somehow.''
''It feels like we took the Trials of Perils yesterday.'' Irene mused, gazing at the mountains. ''I will never forget that Jax saved me many times.''
Jax narrowed his intense golden eyes. ''You'd better forget it then. I only saved you because you couldn't save yourself.''
''Fish!!'' Amor meowed suddenly. Lycan turned her gaze to the rippling brook. She could see the black grit at the bottom, but no fish. Her eyes widened in horror. Please tell me this isn't another one of Amor's pranks! Alina thought wide eyed. Something pushed her side, causing the cat to lose balance, and Alina landed in the ice cold water with a splash!
''Hey!'' She growled, fur dripping wet, shaking her paws dry crossly. ''That wasn't funny!''
Amor laughed, ''Oh come on Alina, you have to admit it was pretty funny. You never saw it coming!'' and he burst into a spasm of laughter. Hendrix shook his head, while Alina huffed and stalked away tail lashing with annoyance.
''Alina!!'' Jax called ''Stop being so emotional and get over here!.''
Hot anger boiled in her stomach as she turned towards Jax, and hissed fur bristling along her spine like a Halloween cat, ''Did you call me emotional?''
''Yes'' Jax answered insolently.
''I'm flattered you think I'm so temperamental.'' Alina spat. ''That's really encouraging, except for the fact that I don't need encouragement from a hotheaded, impudent cat who thinks he knows it all!'' Who does that cat think he is? Alina fumed angrily. He ought to be taught a lesson. With a screech, she raced across the blades of grass and knocked Jax to the ground. The world spun as she held the black cat down and clawed him, aware of nothing but her hot boiling anger. Then she felt teeth prick her pelt and pull her away from Jax. She struggled as paws hold her down. ''Calm down Alina!'' A voice ordered sharply. Her mind cleared. Lycan flinched feeling guilt churn in her stomach. The voice was Hendrix's. His green eyes were blazing. ''Alina Lycan I know you can do better than this.''
Lycan shook herself. I know. . . She thought wretchedly. ''I . . .'' the blue-gray cat began, scuffing her paws across the ground. What should I do? I can't apologize and whining would be useless...Sadness flooded her like water. ''I...I know . . .'' she murmured voice thick as her throat tightened.
''Well? What do you have to say for yourself?''
''Well I . . .'' Her voice dropped to a whisper ''I really am a mess aren't I?'' She looked at Hendrix, her stomach in a knot. He shook his head. ''You are difficult to figure out you know that right?'' He meowed.
I wouldn't be such a mystery if you understood what it's like to have both your parents killed or have your grandmother take you to this rotten homeless shelter where they treat you like dirt. Alina thought growling and clawing the ground, furiously fighting tears. Hendrix gave her a sympathetic glance apparently catching that sorrowful look.
''Follow me.'' He meowed. She followed him. He led her upstream where the grass grew in small patches and took on a vibrant yellow. It's beautiful!! Alina Lycan thought when she saw a blade that seemed to be as gold as the sunset.
''Here we are.'' Hendrix meowed, halting by a patch of sandy dirt. ''So tell me, what is bothering you?'' He asked locking his penetrating green gaze on her. I can't tell anyone about my past it's like my privacy...Alina thought but it was too late to pretend like her emotions didn't exist. ''Well...I . . .'' Don't think about it, her mind screeched. Alina shook her self. ''I had a painful kittenhood . . .'' She confessed breathing in deeply, ''And sometimes... .it just hurts to recall it.''
Alina Lycan looked at the ground.
''Ah I understand.'' Hendrix meowed softly, memories glittering in his eyes. ''Remember Alina, you are more than what others have done to you.''
''You have no idea what others have done to me!'' She hissed clawing the ground furiously. Does no one understand me? She wondered agony and sorrow tearing at her heart.
''You are not alone in your pain.'' Hendrix murmured an odd distant look in his eye. ''Do you think I have never felt the claws of grief?''
''You?'' Alina yowled in surprise.
He laughed half-heartedly.''I'm not immune to feelings you know.'' He paused before he went on, ''You Amur and Irene helped me get through it though. I guess what I'm trying to say is it doesn't matter if you fall down because we all will, what matters is getting up when you do.''
''But... .what if I can't get up?'' Alina asked.
''You will find a way. God made us able to rise, after all, do we not get up with the sun and moon?''
Alina turned her gaze away from Hendrix and thought about what he had said. You will find a way... .How will I ever do that?
An agonized screech pierced the air. Oh no! Alina thought, hackles raising, as her heart pulsed wildly. That's Alvis Cato!! She tore across the grass on winged paws, Hendrix close behind. The smell of ash and blood grew stronger, as they approached the main part of the stream. They halted by the largest part of the river. Alina's heart clenched at the sight of the river. The river was cracked, as though something hot had sucked it away until all that remained was mud and a few black stones.
Amur, and Jax, lay beside the river bank, deep gashes covered their skin and half their fur looked charred. Irene stood over them, furiously trying to revive them, her fluffy silver tail lashing anxiously. She lifted her head when Alina Lycan and Hendrix arrived and raced to greet them.
''I don't know what happened to Amur or Jax but both are weak and, as you can see severely injured. I've done what I can but . . .'' Her voice shook ''I don't know if they will make it.''
At the sound of voices, Amur tried to stand his mouth opening to speak but collapsed to the ground.
''Who did this!'' Hendrix growled. His eyes were mere slits of fury, burning with icy hate.
Jax whispered ''Attacked... .unknown race... .took Cato... .couldn't get to him in time. . .''
''This is war whoever did this will pay!'' Hendrix, he hissed voice low with rage. ''And they will pay with blood!''
Alina shivered, she jumped as a bat screeched a promise of doom. Alina bowed her head. There was only one thing left to do. God of love, the almighty one, keep careful watch over Alvis Cato where ever he is, lead us with your mighty hand, teach us once again to be one with each other. Father teach me to rise-even if I must rise in blood. A white dove appeared, gliding in the sky. Alina felt herself shiver in awe. The bird looked beautiful, with feathers fine as silk and flight as graceful as a ballet dancer. To the surprise of the cats, it dived and landed in front of them, changing into a tortoiseshell cat with a lion's mane and tail tuft complete with wings. Irene, Alina, and Hendrix all bowed for they felt as though they were in the presence of a high king.
''Could it be him?'' Irene wondered aloud. Alina hung back guilt making her feel queasy. It's him how can I face my maker when I... .have done so many wrongs thanks to my wild temper and my background? She wondered anxiety gnawing at her heart.
''I am the one you call Oscar and my people call Lord, God the Christ.'' The creature meowed. His voice sounded as soft as a lamb, but as strong as thunder. ''Rise my sons and daughters.''
The three felines did. Oscar turned his gaze to Hendrix, who still had his head bowed in submission. Gently, like a father comforting a scared child, the Lord gently nudged him up. ''You can look upon me. I know your good works and, your evil deeds but I see your heart and it is humble. I have forgiven you''
''But . . .'' Hendrix began but his voice faltered.
''Speak your heart.'' Oscar purred gently. Hendrix sighed. ''Will we ever find...Cato?'' There was a catch in his voice. The one true God, gently rubbed his cheek against Hendrix's face comfortingly, sorrow in his eyes.
''My dear son I know you grieve as do I, but do not fear for Cato is safe and you will find him. Your search will belong but I shall be with you.'' Then he turned to Alina. ''Dearest daughter you have seen the darkest of evil in the world, and you are broken but do not be afraid of death, pain, or guilt. I will heal you in deep compassion.'' Oscar faced the whole group. ''Seek deep in the heart, peer into the unseen, search the ages, and you will find him.'' And God vanished.
''What does he mean?'' Irene asked eyes wide in wonder at what they had just seen.
''I don't know,'' Hendrix meowed shaking himself. ''It doesn't matter anyhow we will find out. Let's find Cato, follow me.'' He leaped over the dry waterway. Alina paused to look out at the other side of the river; a trail of dead plants The dazzling Columbine flowers which once danced in the wind lay dead. The grass once so tall know lay fallen. As they prowled across the trail a sense of forbidding crept along her spine. Such destruction... .An awful smell unlike anything they ever smelled before. I know that smell... .but it can't be . . .Alina realized a dark sense horror flooding her like water.
''What's that smell? I don't like it.'' Hendrix meowed. He wildly turned his head to look around his muscles tense. Then he halted. You could tell by his stillness that what he had seen wasn't good. A sense of dread darkened Alina's heart. ''Guys . . .'' he meowed. ''Look at this . . .'' Slowly Alina made her way forward. Her heart sank like the sun. The ground was stained with something red as well as ash. It started as small droplets in a swirl pattern and ended in a heart-shaped blotch that covered half the field.
''It's almost shaped like a heart... .is this what God meant?'' Irene. ''To somehow go in there?''
''I think it means something else.'' Alina meowed. She looked at the stain closer, something didn't seem right about the heart-shaped blotch. It almost seemed like the outline of... .suddenly everything fell into place.
''Guys I think I understand it all. I know what were are supposed to do!''
Hendrix nodded. ''What God has revealed to you?''
''I think we are supposed to go to the center of the Earth and our entrance in is through that heart. See how it seems like it's outlining a hatch of sorts?''
''What about Amur and Jax?'' Irene asked.
''Don't worry I called the Medical Center . . .'' Hendrix started when a familiar voice meowed
''What about me and Jax?''
''Amur!'' Hendrix purred. ''What are you doing here?''
The heavy-boned gray tabby stretched and lashed his long fluffy tail. ''The healers gave me and all clear, so I followed you all here. What are you guys up to?''
''We're headed for the center of the Earth.''
Amur's yellow eyes widened. ''No way! I have always wanted to go to the Underworld! My mother used to tell me stories of when she lived deep underground, with my father. She told me my dad was what they call a Deep Earth cat. I always wondered what they were like and OH MY GOSH I CANNOT believe I am finally able to go!!'' He jumped tail lashing with excitement.
''Well what are we waiting for? Let's get going!''
''You heard the guy let's go!'' Hendrix meowed and they race over to the heart shaped thing as they followed it staircase after staircase opened up. He paused at the top of the first one. ''I think we should make a vow before we embark on this journey.'' They put their paws on top of each other and vowed in unison.
''I vow that we will complete this mission no matter what.
We will be brave an rise above what may come against us
We will die for each other if needed.
We will overcome our faults and reach where ever this tunnel leads as four cats united.''
For the first time in her life, Alina felt calm and at peace. She had meant her promise with all her heart. And the four raced down the stairs.
''Down to Earth, we go!'' Alina yowled
''To face the unknown!'' Amur joined in
''To find our friend!'' Hendrix meowed. Here goes nothing! Alina thought