To a housecat, the life of a stray is nothing more than an alluring fancy to muse over as he lays purring in his master's warm lap. To Orion it was much more. Living the life of a stray meant living his life free of rules and walls. There were times when the young tabby believed noticing felt as good as laying in a pile of autumn leaves while the wind ruffled his whiskers.
That is not to say that Orion lived a sheltered life like his housepet cousins. Everyday was a game of survival from sunrise to sunset. With enemies all around, life for a stray was perilous. As Orion watched the glowing sunrise, he knew that the perils were about to begin.
A warm, friendly smell mingled with the forest air tempting the animals just rousing from their sleep. Though al wanted to follow the scent to its source, only one was brave enough to leave the wooded sanctuary.
Nose to the air, Orion followed the scent trail until the woods began to thin then disappear all together. A large human-house stood downwind from Orion, the house was the bearer of the pleasant smell.
The house and the cleared land around it belonged to a human, and old hound, and two young kittens. Usually, Orion would walk into the clearing to find the hound napping , the human inside cooking, and the kittens playing. Today things were different.
The small of cooking began to get harsh and overpowering while the bays of the hound were heard clashing with the yowls of several cats. Orion's hear skipped a beat, but only one beat for he was quick to get into action.
His paws barely touched the earth as he sprinted around the house. Though his loyalty did not lie with the human and her pets, he knew that the old dog and young kittens were not equipt to defend themselves.
The massacre around the house was like nothing Orion had ever seen. The human was holding three rabid cats at bay with a broom while the hound had one cat pinned to the ground. The two kittens hid under a bush with their backs arched. with their backs arched. The eldest kitten shielded his sister, hissing threats at the unaware enemies.
Orion leapt from the ground and landed on a rabid, female calico. Orion's hind claws dug into the calico's tender belly while his front claws sunk into her chest for leverage. The calico spit and hissed madly as it struggled for freedom. Orion held the calico down firm until its struggles slowed down a bit. There as a calculating glint in the calico's eyes; Orion tightened his grip.
In a moments time, a blue-gray tom landed on Orion's back, all four of his claws dug deep into his skin as rabid jaws sunk into the side of his neck. Orion was caught by surprise. He immediately let go of the calico and began rolling on his back. the brave tabby slammed his back against the ground trying to knock the tom loose. In his moment of weakness, the female calico jumped atop of Orion followed by a younger, male calico.
Outnumbered and over powered, Orion curled his hind legs to protect his belly as he waited for an opportunity to strike.
The weight on Orion felt instantly lighter. He noticed that the female calico was not longer on him, and the human was standing over him aiming for another cat. Orion used the distraction to wiggle our of his foes' grips. The opposing toms were still in a daze when Orion was free, but they had enough sense to realize that the battle was over. With a final, threatening hiss in Orion's direction, the blue-gray tom vanished into the surrounding brush.
Orion did not stay in the clearing long either. He sped off in the direction opposite of the gang of cats. As he ran through the forest, he thought about the cats. They mush have been rabid to attack a human and her pets randomly, but if they were rabid that meant Orion would soon be rabid too. He had more than enough scratches and bites to set in a serious rabies infection. The battle wounds ached his with every stride, but he did not linger on them.
Surely Mandarin, the oldest cat in the forest, would have enough advice to help solve all of his problems.
Orion found Mandarine in his usual spot, meditating atop a tree trunk. His cream coat took a darker hue in the early morning shadows making the Siamese nearly evanesce into the pale darkness.
The atmosphere around Maunderine seemed to silently meditate along with him. Orion stood still for fear that even the tiniest breath would set a reaction like an acorn falling in a puddle, but it was the Siamese who broke the silence.
"Orion," the soft rasp of his voice sung. Orion took a step forward and nodded his head. Mandarine smiled amused then leapt from his place on the trunk. Orion noticed that the aging Siamese's legs were thin, but still strong. Unlike his own build, which was mostly muscle, Maunderine was stretched with a tail the length of his body.
The aging Siamese sat down in from of the tabby warrior. "Young one," he said, "you have been breaking so many laws."
Orion did now want to say anything. A shameful look from Maunderine was his only weakness.
"You leave the forest," he continued, "fraternize with tame animals, and refuse to live within a community. But you have not come here to converse about your offenses."
Orion shook his head. The Siamese was as omniscient as ever. Orion almost thought that Mandarine knew about the rabid cats already, but his expression afterwards changed his mind.
"I know of these cats," he said, his voice was breathy and losing its rasp. "They are mad but not rabid. These are a dangerous bunch who are working together to rid the forest of humans and tamed animal pets."
"I'm not going to let them do that," Orion said suddenly.
Maunderine raised a brow. "You are one cat against many who fights for a cause the entire forest believes in."
Maunderine bowed his head as a motion of dismissal. Orion nodded back, and walked into the shadows.
Midday was near, and Orison's' empty belly rumbled. He had missed his morning meal, and his trip though the forest kept his too busy to catch a snack. Busy, Orion though, was an understatement. He had spent the past few hours visiting all of the different forest communities hoping to find someone to help fight off the rogue gang of cats. The best he could manage was a young fox who only told him when the human would be attacked next. The rest of the animals either gave him the cold shoulder or circled around him hoping he would start a fight if provoked enough. In defeat, Orion left with no backup and armed with a fox's word.
After a moment of meditation, he decided to go back to the human's home. He could not simply sit down and observe the attack like Maunderine, nor would he join the rebelling cats and their army. He would walk onto the human's land, speak with the old hound who lived there, and wait patiently for midday.
Orion felt a shift in his whiskers as soon as the sun went into the noon position. the old hound's ears perked up. Perhaps he had felt it too, or maybe he picked up the sound of thousands of paws padding against earth, all coming to one spot.
The tabby gave the old hound a sideways look. The dog held his head low, and his hind legs bound together read to spring. His teeth were bared, and a low growl rumbled in his throat.
Beside the hound was the oldest of the kittens. He was barely six months old and was undoubtedly and inexperienced fighter, but he was eager. Anger and adrenaline mixed in the green eyes that were focused ahead.
Orion shared the fighting spirit both the kitten and the hound seemed to have. He lay low to the ground and flexed his claws. The animal army was close, jogging bravely to the future battle site. Orion's ears lay flat against his head. The world seemed to slow. Each heartbeat seemed to take and eternity as the opposing arming reached the surrounding brush.
The tabby cat could not wait any longer. The odds were against him, and he still had wounds from his last fight, but he would not let himself walk away. As soon as the brush began to rattle, Orion sprung from his position to run headfirst into danger.