Young Ginger knows not what path lays ahead of her...
The moon shone brightly, illuminating the darkest parts of the forest. A single leaf spun off a grand oak, twirling gracefully as it spiraled to the ground. Only a moment after it touched the dirt, the paw of a cat crunched down on it, pushing it farther into the mud. The dark ginger paw was raised from the ground, taking pressure off of the leaf carefully.
A small, neat head raised, two pointed ears leaned forward, listening. Her whiskers quivered as she carefully put another paw down, this time careful not to step on a leaf.
The cat paused, frozen in place. Not far away, a tiny heartbeat pounded softly, as if it wasn't nervous at all. The she cat nearly smiled to herself, swiping her tongue over her muzzle in a swift movement before taking a few more cautious steps. She crouched down, her tail swishing lightly above the layer of dead leaves, and her emerald green eyes narrowed in concentration. The mouse was visible now, the soft fawn body very close to her unsheathed claws. She was ready to leap, her stance and timing perfect, when-
With a squeak, the mouse scampered off into the midst of the undergrowth. The she-cat swore silently under her breath as she trailed back to where her housefolk had called her.
Ginger meowed loudly as she reached a white painted fence, glowing bright in the moonlight. The claw marks were visible now, drawn out by the light of the night sky. She placed her paws in them, hauling herself over the fence and into a Nofur garden. One of the Nofurs that had heard her caterwaul opened the entrance to her house, and Ginger entered, her head and tail high.
She reached a dark corner, where a feathery bed lay out for her. She placed one paw in, then another, as she curled around for comfort. As she finally came across a comfortable spot, Ginger gaped her jaws in a yawn, her green eyes flickering to the window above her, sealed shut protectively. The moon looked like a claw, long, skinny, and curved. Light filtered in though the window, shining on Ginger's fiery pelt. She glanced out the window longingly, her gaze wide.
She absently reached up a paw to rub at her neck, then purred, remembering how the other Nofurs gave their cats scratchy or noisy collars to wear. She felt lucky to be held at such an honor of never having to have leather strapped around her neck, shocking her when she moved or keeping the pesky itches on her neck annoying her for hours.
At last, her eyelids sagged, and Ginger placed her tail over her nose. As she did, her gaze still fixed on the window, a blur, dark shaped and undetermined, swept past, so swift Ginger almost missed it. In an instant, her eyes flew open, and she hopped from her bed, to the small, decorative table beside her, to the windowsill, where she balanced dangerously. She gazed outside, her whiskers quivering. Ginger eventually shrugged, hopping back down neatly. She found a comfortable spot once more, and right before she drifted into sleep, the figure appeared again. It slipped away as quickly as it did previously, but this time, Ginger caught a distinction. Eyes.
Two huge, azure eyes.
The chirping of the birds awakened Ginger the next morning, and the sun beamed through the windows onto a russet pelt. Ginger stretched, her tongue curled in a yawn. The cat that had seen her through the window was still edged in her mind, and she wondered if he would return.
"Hey, Ginger," mewed a voice from beside her. Ginger turned her head to face her littermate. Bandit's white fur was ruffled from sleep, and her drooping eyes were hidden behind the black mask of fur across her face. Bandit got to her paws and arched her back in a stretch. Opening one amber eye, she gave Ginger a sidelong glance. "Catch anything last night?" She asked modestly, padding over to the food bowl.
"No," Ginger snorted. She eyed her sister as she willingly ate the dry, tasteless pellets. "It's impossible, with Nofurs everywhere."
"Pah!" Bandit spat. "Nofurs! If they weren't here then I could hunt for myself."
"No, you couldn't," another she-cat chimed in. Ginger slightly turned her head to face her other sister, who had padded out from behind question door. Lilly twitched her whiskers, her tail curled over her back in delight. "Ooh! Breakfast! Is it turkey flavored today?"
"Dunno," Bandit meowed through a mouthful of food. "They all taste the same." Ginger shrugged in agreement as Lilly made her way over to the food bowl, greedily taking a mouthful of the dry, tasteless pellets pellets.
"Chicken," Lilly recognized through a mouthful after chewing thoughtfully. Bandit shrugged.
"Still doesn't make a difference," she mewed, yawning. She faced Ginger, her amber eyes gleaming. "Wanna go outside?"
"Ew!" Lilly cried, crunching up her nose in disgust. "It's muddy out there! And what if we meet wild cats?"
"We fight," Bandit replied dryly, flexing her claws. Ginger snorted.
"Well, I'm going outside," she meowed, turning to face Bandit. She nudged Lilly, grinning. "C'mon, you'll like it!" Lilly shook her head, her eyes wide.
"Oh, no," she insisted. "I couldn't."
"Suit yourself," Bandit mewed, shrugging. The white she-cat dipped her head to say goodbye to Lilly as she padded out of the kitchen, Ginger close behind. Ginger followed Bandit outside, her whiskers twitching in curiosity. Her white sister placed her claws in the dented fence and hauled herself over, Ginger following behind the slender black-tipped tail. They paused for a breath of the chilling air before leaping off to the other side.
When they reached it, Bandit pricked her ears cautiously. There was an innocent bird twitter that echoed for a heartbeat. For a brief moment, Ginger wondered if she might be able to catch it, but immediately thought otherwise. The bird’s call was far away and high up in a tree, by the sound of it. But for an odd reason, the thought of hunting down prey in even the highest elm didn’t frighten Ginger the slightest. In fact, she wanted to hunt down the bird and tackle any towering branch that came her way.
“Come on.” Bandit jerked her head towards the forest. Ginger followed with a purr. Bandit went out far less frequently than she did, yet she always wound up leading. Ginger padded forward wordlessly, careful with her footing to not startle any potential prey.
Then Bandit’s ears pricked. Ginger hoisted her nose in the air suspiciously. Something wasn’t right. There was an unfamiliar scent wafting towards them from somewhere Ginger couldn’t place. There was a flash from the brush ahead, an uncolored blur. Ginger and Bandit crouched and bristled simultaneously.
Then the cat waltzed out. The tom was not expecting the black-and-white blur to leap at him, snarling. But to Ginger’s surprise, he jerked to the side, leapt over towards Bandit’s flank, and dug his claws into her side.
Bandit gave an angry screech as she smashed into the ground, but the tom only blinked.
“Not a smart choice, house-cat,” he mewed, whiskers twitching in amusement as he easily loomed over the struggling black and white she-cat. Ginger stepped back, but a chilling, ice-blue gaze that locked with hers made her stopped cold.
I saw you last night! She wanted to scream. But her mouth only hung slightly open, just wide enough to get a mangy scent of rogue. But somehow, it was pleasant.
“May I ask what you’re doing here in the woods?” he asked. Although his voice was icily cold, there was a sense of interest and calming in it that eased Ginger’s neck fur flat.
For a rogue, he was very handsome. His fur was sleek and well groomed, and was a lovely hue of grayish blue. There was hard muscles hidden underneath his pelt, and he had a slim, narrow face. His azure eyes were the ones outside Ginger’s window, just as chilling in the daytime.
Ginger swallowed and nervously locked her gaze with her sister.
“Hunting,” she replied quietly, eyes wide. He gave a nod and blinked.
“Ah. Could say the same about myself.” With that, he released Bandit, who scrambled to her paws in a hissing and spitting fit.
“And what’s your name?” she spat, bringing her nose up to his quite rudely. “A Clan name? Do you live with the Sky cats?” The tom brought up his paw and gently pushed her away from him.
“Live with SkyClan? No,” he answered, glancing over at Ginger. She shivered. His eyes are so blue… “In fact, I’m not exactly friendly with them. My name is Gray, if you’re so suspicious about me.”
Bandit did not reply. Instead Ginger padded up. Her paws tingled nervously.
“Where do you come from, then?” she questioned, genuinely intrigued. Gray’s maw hinted at a smile.
“Around,” he shrugged. “Glad you asked. I’ve traveled every pawstep around the world- and want to do it again. But this time, I’m having a companion.”
Ginger felt her heart sink, ever so slightly. “O-oh,” she stuttered. “Do you have a mate, then?” “No,” Gray replied simply, chucking. He neatly nipped away the dirt caught between his claws, and his gaze raked Ginger intently. Ginger lowered her head as her fur grew hot. “But I would still like to find a certain someone to take with me.”
“Cut the honey-talk,” Bandit growled, shoving her way between the two. Ginger shied back as she realized how far she had leaned towards Gray. Her sister gave a fierce glance towards the rogue. “I don’t know who you are, but you’re not terribly convincing.” She shot Ginger a sidelong glance. “At least, according to sane cats. You disrupted our hunting. Now leave.” Bandit stuck out her chin in defiance and sat down firmly.
“But-” Ginger protested. Bandit gave a low, annoyed hiss.
“Come on, Ginger. We have better things to do,” she snapped, stalking away. Ginger gave one last glance at Gray over her shoulder, who was giving her a slight smile.
In fact, Ginger was so intrigued with him that she didn’t realize she was on the road. Bandit gave a piercing scream, and the two burning eyes of the monster bored into Ginger’s. Something rammed into her, and the concrete rushed up to meet her.
Chapter Three Edit
Ginger gave a cough, and was relieved when no blood dribbled from her mouth. Bandit was behind her, breathing heavily, and the monster was roaring off, leaving behind a stinking trail.
Ginger didn’t notice until then how badly she was shaking. Her sister was wide-eyed with fury and fear. She risked her life to push me out of the way, Ginger realized, startled.
“You almost died!” Bandit spat, tail fluffed out to twice its size. Ginger shakily got to her paws.
“I’m sorry!” she replied in a thin, miserable wail. Bandit curled her lip.
“You’re sorry for almost dying?” she hissed. Ginger shrunk back.
“Let’s just go home,” she whispered, closing her eyes. Bandit took a steady breath and nodded. Bandit flicked her tail and went back towards their home, her tail dragging along the thundering road, Ginger cast one glance over her shoulder, but Gray had disappeared.
When they padded back into the house through the flap, Lilly rushed up to greet them, thrilled as always.
“How’d it-” she trailed off as she noticed Bandit scowling and Ginger bristling. Lilly gave them and up-and-down look and sat down, startled.
“I assume not well,” she finished finally, clearing her throat. Ginger gave Bandit a hostile side glance.
“One would say,” she growled. Bandit blinked angrily and lashed her tail.
“And someone almost got hit by a car,” she replied sharply. Lilly gasped and reeled back.
“Ginger!” she cried. Ginger rolled her eyes.
“Always assuming me first,” she muttered cheekily. Lilly ignored her.
“Be careful!” the gray tabby nagged. “Flower died that way, you know.”
Ginger closed her eyes, letting the memories of her calico mother relish in her mind. No cat knew what happened, but her body had been found by the road, splattered with blood and stinking of monster.
“I know,” she whispered, feeling Lilly’s fur brush up against hers. Bandit gave a sigh and joined them.
“We all miss Flower,” she murmured solemnly.
“And we need to stick together forever, right girls?” Lilly whispered, eyes alive with mischief.
“Agreed,” Bandit added quickly. Ginger hesitated. Gray flashed in her mind, but she let in.
“Of course,” she finished, bowing her head. A rogue can’t break my family.
The day passed by far too slowly for Ginger’s liking. When the sun finally set over the horizon and Bandit and Lilly curled into balls of sleep, Ginger gave them one last look before slipping out the window. The night air was refreshing on her tongue as the red tabby she-cat hopped down on the other side, darted across the yard, and scampered over the fence.
When Ginger reached the start of the forest, she paused. A familiar scent hit her and in the next instant, the bushes rustled. A gray tomcat slid out, striking blue eyes shimmering.
“Gray,” Ginger whispered. “What brings you here?”
“I’m a rogue,” Gray replied, chuckling and padding towards her. “Where else to go?”
Ginger couldn’t help a purr as Gray’s fur brushed up against hers.
“What about your plans to travel the world?” She murmured. Emerald eyes met sapphire, and Gray blinked.
“What about them?” he replied smoothly, circling around her. His tail trailed gently under her chin. “I don’t give up on my dreams.” Then he stopped in front of her and stared seriously at Ginger. His eyes really were beautiful, especially right in front of her. “I know you want to come with me, and my answer is yes, Ginger.” Ginger’s jaw parted slightly but she did not speak. You’re leaving with a stranger! Bandit’s voice mentally screamed at her. But the kittypet shook her head, clearing her sister’s voice. You can’t control me.
She looked back at Gray, determination sparking her gaze. “Of course I want to come,” she declared, rising to her paws. “The kittypet life is boring.”
Gray looked slightly surprised, but it was gone in the next heartbeat.
“Say a farewell to your sisters,” he responded quietly. “We leave at sunrise.”
Then he was gone. Ginger turned back towards home, heart racing. She did not pause to realize that Gray had known things about her that she had not yet told him. She was still trapped in his eyes.
Chapter Four Edit
Bandit and Lilly were not as easy to convince. “What?” Bandit nearly screeched, jumping back.
“I’m leaving at dawn,” Ginger repeated sheepishly, gaze not leaving the floor. Lilly’s eyes widened until the whites were visible. The sun was beginning to peak over the trees, and Ginger was sitting on the windowsill, haunches bunched up and ready to leave.
“When will you be back?” Lilly gasped dramatically, looking ready to faint then and there. Ginger shrugged, even though cats don’t have collarbones so it wasn’t physically possible.
“I promise I’ll see you again,” the tabby she-cat whispered. Bandit hissed.
“Get down from there,” she snarled. “Ginger, if you’re going off with a rogue, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Think it over for once!”
“I did!” Ginger wailed, impatience growing. “I can make my own decisions!” “But your decisions are stupid!” Bandit argued, sliding out her claws. Ginger snorted.
“So are your arguments,” she retorted. “Bandit, you can’t control my life. I love you, but let me do something on my own.” “The last time I left you alone you almost got hit by a car,” Bandit huffed. Ginger narrowed her eyes, then pushed through the window without another word.
By the time she reached the woods, Gray was already waiting.
“Took you long enough,” he teased, purring. Ginger laughed, all anger instantly fading.
“Sisters are a pawful,” she replied. Gray gave a sympathetic laugh before kinking his tail over his back.
“Come on, then,” he announced. “Let’s be on our way.”
Gray took Ginger through the thick parts of the woods, carefully missing every thorn that lashed out at his pelt. Ginger was not as lucky. By the time the trees spaced out more, she looked more like a walking bramble thicket than a cat.
“Up here are where the sky cats live,” Ginger remarked. “Bandit told me about them. They’re dangerous.”
Gray darkened. “Indeed they are,” he mused. “I stay away from them. Let’s get off their territory, quickly, before they-” “And just who do you think you are?” Ginger froze. Two water-colored eyes were glaring at the passing rogues.
“We mean no harm,” Ginger stuttered. “Just-” As she was speaking, a small, fluffy gray she-cat popped out from the shadows.
“Rogues, eh?” the little she-cat growled. Her voice was high-pitched and kitten-like. “Hate to say it, but I might just have to tear you apart.” “Air-headed kit,” Gray muttered. Then he cleared his throat. “We can stay as long as we like on your territory, erm-” “Willowpaw,” she she-cat added.
“Willowpaw,” Gray went on, sneering. “We’ll only be here for a bit. Now if you would-” he leaned down to her until his nose had almost touched hers. “Go away before I rip your head from your neck.” Willowpaw’s eyes widened and before Ginger knew it she was gone, scurrying away.
“That should teach her,” Gray mewed in satisfaction. Ginger laughed, but it had no jingle to it. Something about Gray’s threat made it seem like he would carry out the action without hesitation.
The two carried on, Gray talking about his adventures and Ginger adding to them thoughtfully. Then the woods emptied out into open fields, and soon Ginger could see a small shack in the middle. It looked like it had been abandoned years past and not touched since. But as she drew closer, she could see dark shapes crawling about.
“Are there cats in there?” she whispered to Gray. The tom nodded and grinned.
“Yes,” he answered, voice smooth as honey. “And this is always my favorite part.”
Ginger followed apprehensively, every step with more dread than the last.
“Ginger,” Gray began as they reached what had once been the door. Many small eyes peered back at them hungrily. Ginger stepped back, but Gray shoved her forward with his flank.
“Gray, who are they?” she whispered, eyes widening. Gray chuckled.
“Silly, silly me,” he remarked, leading her in with his tail. “How stupid I am. Ginger, let me introduce you to my friends, if that’s what you’d call them.”
Chapter Five Edit