CHAPTER 7

EVERYONE HAS A PAPA SOMEWHERE

Sniff! Sniff! What interesting smells. Runty soon forgot his fears as he climbed the path.

Stolly scampered behind.

catsoup ch07 v01Trees. More trees. The hooting of owls. The slithers of lizards. "I think I can hear the cat clan," mewed Runty, as they approached a clearing.

A large tom sat high on top of a boulder surrounded by hundreds of cats.

"He's a tabby, like me," said Runty.

"Sit down everybody," yowled two guards with mean faces.

The kittens hid behind a tree.

"This meeting is to announce the disappearance of more cats," the tom began, "including my dear wife, Mama Mao."

There were wails of shock and anger. The loudest and longest was Stolly's.

"Who's there?" the tom boomed.

Trembling, the kittens huddled together as the guards approached.

"What's your business?" Raw Skin hissed.

Stolly's mouth clamped shut. He could hardly breathe, never mind mew.

"You're cat food, mate," Scraggy Ear snarled, dragging the kittens to the tom.

"We were looking ... f-f-for our mother," stammered Runty.

The tom growled. His teeth were needle sharp. "You expect me to believe that?"

Something clicked in Runty's brain. "And I think you must be our father."

The tom jumped down and sniffed them. Sniffed again. "Meeting adjourned," he said.

Papa Mao led his sons into his cave. "Cats are being caught in traps," he told them. "A van takes them away. We've sent messages to the Lion Rock King but not heard back."

Runty's brain buzzed with confusion. He knew about the cat family mew network. But a van?

"We can report to the Lion Rock King," mewed Stolly.

Runty gasped.

Papa Mao blinked. "You're brave, like me, right? Because as my fluff and fur, I should warn you -- crossing human land is full of danger."

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