OKay, it's a double header! :) Here are two more fics for you. The second one is the wrong season, and not long, I know, but I kinda like it... -Kashmir
M'Lady's Carriage Horse
A pretty white cat lay curled in a basket. Her paws were tucked neatly under her body, and her tail was wrapped around her nose. "Mmffix?" she mumbled in her sleep, and rolled over.
The tips of two black ears rose up over the edge of the basket, followed by two bright blue eyes. The sun was slowly rising over the trees, reflecting their light. "Well," Mistoffelees said to himself. "It's high time she was up."
He stretched and prepared to pounce. His eyes found their own way to glint mischeviously, and a second later, he leapt into the basket, aiming so that his paw just brushed the other cat's face.
Victoria jumped up, her heart pounding. "I'm up! I'm up!" she cried, surrendering. She looked around. "Oh, it's you." Mistoffelees pretended to be hurt and ashamed while Victoria glared at him disapprovingly. She couldn't hold it for long, and burst out laughing. "I don't know how you do it," she giggled.
"I know I won't tell you," Misto teased back, equal to the challenge. "Come on, let's go to the junkyard." He flew out the window from a standstill and Victoria followed, shaking her head.
Due to Misto's early wake-up call, the two were one of the first to arrive. Only Munkustrap and Jemima were already sitting on the car trunk. "You're hear early," Munkustrap commented as he approached them. This caused another crop of fresh laughter while Munkustrap stood looking at them, confused.
"Inside joke," Misto explained, and Munkustrap new better than to broach the topic.
They were one of the first, but not by much. Cats were beginning to appear in ones and twos. Coricopat and Tantomile were the first to appear, with Skimble close behind, muttering something about, "Can't find that blasted cousin..." Demeter came, leading Bombalurina by the paw, and Rum Tum Tugger was fashionably late. When they were more or less assembled, Munkustrap stood up.
His eyes swept the crowd before him. "I say," he remarked suddenly, "where's Kashmir?"
"Here she is," came a familiar voice, and a small, dark brown cat came slinking quietly into the area. "I'm sorry I'm late."
"I should hope so," Munkustrap said sternly. "Where were you?"
"Well, you see, I was at the barn, and I was reading this book, and-"
Munkustrap lifted his head. "The barn?"
"Yes, the barn." Kashmir paused. "You haven't seen it? They just built it a week ago. It's a personal barn, you know, only one horse. It belongs to someone..." She screwed up her face, concentrating. "I honestly can't remember. No one with a cat. Anyway, I was reading this horse book and kinda forgot the time."
"Ah," Munkustrap said. "I suppose you could show us?"
"I guess I could bring a few of you to see it," Kashmir said uncertainly. "But only a few."
"Very well, do we have any volunt-"
"I'll come," Tumblebrutus announced very decidedly.
"Can I come?" Misto asked. He was curious about the equine race.
"I'll come, too," Victoria added.
"Can we come?" asked Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer simaltaneously.
"Um, no," Munkustrap said. "I don't think that's a good idea. Vicki, Misto, Tumble, you go. See what you can find out about this 'barn' thing. We ought to know."
"Well, that's just fine then," Rumpleteazer whispered to Mungojerrie in a complaining tone as the others left. "We'll just follow them." Jerrie nodded.
Meanwhile, Misto, Vicki, and Tumble were following Kashmir along the back alleys of the town, stopping here and there to make sure the coast was clear. "So where is this place, anyway, Kashmir?" Misto asked, coming up beside her.
"I'm not exactly sure," Kashmir said thoughtfully, "I mean, I know how to get there, but I couldn't pinpoint an exact location. But we're almost there," she added.
At that moment, they came to the end of the streets, and the suburbs lay before them. Only about a quarter of a mile away, a large wooden building stood at the foot of a hill. A large area was fenced off around the barn, presumably for the horse to graze and be ridden in. When Tumblebrutus voiced these thoughts to Kashmir, she smiled. "Oh, no, this isn't a riding horse," she chuckled shyly, "it's a carriage horse. I've seen the carriage. But I guess they could ride it if they wanted to."
They covered the distance to the barn easily, and entered through a tiny gap in the wood near the ground. Inside, it was dim, and the air smelled sweetly of hay and wood shavings. A large box stall was at one end of the barn, and the other held tack and equipment. Misto immediately streaked to the stall, eager to see the horse inside. He leapt to the door with a grace that came naturally to him, but nearly fell off when he saw the horse, a large dapple gray with a flowing mane and tail. Or rather, when he saw the back end of the horse. He didn't exactly relish the idea of being kicked.
Kashmir and Vicki jumped up on either side of him. "Does it talk?" Misto asked Kashmir.
The kitten shook her head. "I tried to talk to it, but it's an Andalusian. Speaks only Spanish. Muttered something about 'Yo soy muy guapo'. I don't suppose you speak Spanish?"
"Nah, but Munkustrap might."
A large 'thump' caught their attention. They spun around, and there was Tumblebrutus, buried to his chin in a large haystack. "What?" he said in response to their stares. "Hay is almost as good as a mattress! Except I landed on something pointy." He grimaced and reached into the hay. He pulled out a metal hoofpick. "What's this?" he asked curiously. "Did I actually find the needle in the haystack?"
"Nope, sorry," Kashmir told him between giggles, "that's a hoofpick. It's used to clean the frog."
"The frog?" Misto remarked, puzzled.
"Does it bounce?" Tumble asked seriously.
"No!" Kashmir was in hysterics now. "The frog is the sensitive shock-absorber on the bottom of the hoof. And no, Tumble, I don't think it exactly bounces."
Victoria was still laughing up on the door. "You guys are pathetic," she gasped. "Where did you learn all this stuff, Kash?"
"I told you," Kashmir grinned. "I was reading a book this morning that tell you all kinds of stuff." She jumped onto a shelf at the other end of the barn and pushed a large, green book off of its perch. It landed with a 'thwup'.
"'The Basic Book of Horsemanship,'" Misto read off the cover. "Well, I guess that would just about cover it."
The bookshelf was surrounded by everything you could imagine. As Kashmir had said, a large carriage was pushed up against one wall, along with a pitchfork, wheelbarrow, and a large bag of wood shavings for bedding. A corner housed Tumble's haystack and a sack of feed. Next to the bookshelf was a giant trunk, the lid wide open. Several boots, bandages, and blankets peeked out.
"What's this?" Tumble asked, pulling out a bell-shaped, rubber boot.
"A bell boot," Kashmir answered knowling.
"Makes sense," Tumble nodded, and returned it to the trunk.
On the other side of the bookshelf was a saddle rack, with a fancy close contact saddle and two pads, one quilted and one a fleecy contour. "I guess they do ride it after all," Kashmir mused. Tumblebrutus enjoyed finally being right. A finely tooled bridle hung on its rack just above the saddle, and its bronze name plaque shone brightly in the dim light.
"Conquistador," Mistoffelees read off the nameplate. "How creative."
"I wonder what his real name is," Vicki said.
"Yo Soy Muy Guapo?" Kashmir tried.
"Somehow I don't think so," Misto laughed. "Maybe Munk'll translate. And if he can't, I'm sure Old Deuteronomy can."
"Undoubtedly," Kashmir said. "Tumble, where are you going now?"
The brown and white cat had been running to the other end of the barn. "Wanna see Conquistador - or Yo Soy Muy Guapo, or whatever his name is - again."
"What's there to see?" Misto grumbled under his breath. Vicki laughed at him gently and ran after Tumble.
Conquistador had turned around, and they could now see him fully. He was really a very pretty horse. His liquid brown eyes were large and expressive. His dark gray forelock spilled over his eyes, and he looked at them with mild curiosity. "Yo soy guapo y modesto," he said unhesitantly.
"Um, yes," Kashmir said. "Speaky de English?"
Tumblebrutus burst out laughing, and the horse looked at Kashmir quizzically. "Yo soy guapo," he repeated. Tumble clapped his paw over his mouth, but it really didn't work because his laugh was too loud to be muffled.
However, his laugh was soon replaced by an even louder giggle. Tumble stopped laughing and looked around. The giggle was awfully familiar... Tumble looked up.
"Jerrie! Teazer!" he cried in astonishment.
"You guys aren't supposed to be here!" Kashmir said with both a touch of anger and amusement.
Jerrie grinned. "Yeah, well, we ain't ever worried about what we is s'pposed and not s'pposed ta do."
"I should say you haven't," Victoria said, trying to look annoyed but failing utterly. Mistoffelees stood still, staring.
"Um, Jerrie, Teazer," Misto said slowly, "if I were you I'd get down from there if I were you." The two con cats were balancing precariously on one of the stall divinders.
"Aw, Misto," Rumpleteazer said, "we've got balance good as any of ya's!
We're oll roight!" And to prove it, she shoved Jerrie in the shoulder once, hard.
The cats watched in horror as he teetered a few moments, seemed to regain his balance, and then fell like a stone. Luckily, he landed on something soft - Conquistador's back.
The horse's eyes flew even wider than they already were, and he reared, his hooves slashing at the air. Mungojerrie dug his claws into the gray back, desperately trying to keep from falling under and getting crushed by the powerful hooves. This seemed to infuriate Conquistadore, and he went completely wild, bucking and snorting and twisting about. Misto sensed even more danger coming their way. "Get away from the door!" he screamed. The cats were quick to obey, and it was a good thing they did. At that moment the horse seemed to just loose it. With a final shudder, he crashed through the door, galloping away.
"Let go, you dolt! Let go!" Tumble cried to Mungojerrie, who, for once, followed the orders. He landed with a groan and rubbed his back.
"I don't recommend that," he said weakly to the stern faces that looked down on him. Jerrie and Teazer exchanged a look and fled.
"Get back here!" Kashmir called, angry, but was ignored. "Oh well," she sighed. "I guess its up to us to right their wrongs." She smiled wryly. "It always is."
"Okay," Victoria asked as the cats exited the barn. "What do we do now?"
"Well," Misto said slowly, "I suppose we could start by getting help. Or we could chase after the horse. Or we could do both. But that would mean splitting up," he added thoughtfully.
"What good would getting help do?" Victoria asked bluntly. "Munk'd only look at us like we're nuts."
"True, but maybe we could get a couple others to help track the thing at least," Kashmir cut in. "On the other hand, we might be able to get Yo Soy whatever without any assistance from Munkustrap. So, what do you think?"
"Split up," Tumblebrutus said earnestly. "And can I go get help? I think I can explain the whole mess to Munkustrap without getting Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer in really big trouble. The don't mean any harm, really. They just do."
"Right," Mistoffelees said. "Vicki and I will track Conquistador-" and here Tumblebrutus cracked a grin, which Misto ignored, "-And Tumble and Kashmir will get help."
"Aww, do I have to get help?" Kashmir complained. "I want to track Yo Soy Muy Guapo."
Misto glared at her. "Just go, okay?" he commanded, "and quit calling him Yo Soy Mu... um, that."
Kashmir, still mumbling, took off with Tumble in the direction of the junkyard. Kashmir was rather annoyed that she didn't get to go after the horse. She was fascinated by the equine world and would have loved it if she could have made friends with Conquistador. Tumble was an okay guy, though, so she didn't mind too much.
"Do you think Munkustrap knows Spanish?" Kashmir wondered aloud.
"Probably," Tumblebrutus answered, only half paying attention.
"Do you think he'd teach me?" the dark brown kitten continued.
"Teach you what?"
"I don't know." Tumblebrutus frowned. "Why would you want to learn Spanish?"
"I'd love to be able to talk with Yo - I mean, Conquistador."
"Why in Heaviside would you want to do that?"
"There's so much he could tell me!" Kashmir's deep green eyes opened wide. "Who he is, where he comes from, what he does. He could explain what it's like to be a horse. I've always wondered. It must be lovely, to be so big and beautiful and free."
"So you want Munkustrap to teach you Spanish so you can become a horse?" Tumblebrutus interrupted, amused.
"No, silly! I want to learn about horses. So there."
"I don't know, that guy seemed pretty empty-headed to me."
"Yeah, well, so are you," Kashmir retorted.
Tumblebrutus laughed. "Nice shot. Pretty good for a kitten."
"Hey!" Kashmir said, pouting, "who are you calling a kitten, Mr. Let's All Jump in the Hay!"
And so it went on in this manner, all the way to the junkyard. They arrived in a flurry of excited shouting, and several cats came out to investigate. Kashmir and Tumblebutus explained the whole little equine matter, saying as little as possible about Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, and got Pouncival and Jemima to help, naturally. Unfortunantly, no one noticed a crouched figure in the shadows.
Macavity listened in with interest on the conversation. A loose horse, hmmm? My, this could be interesting. Maybe he could have a little fun with this predicament. Yes. Yes, indeed...
Misto and Victoria trotted quickly down the road in the direction that they had seen Conquistador go last. It wasn't hard work, running aside, because every once in a while there was a muddy patch which housed a clearly defined hoof print. Nevertheless, they ran in silence, partly due to the fact that Misto was still extremely shy.
"So, what will we do when we find this thing?" Vicki asked after a while. She didn't believe in the saying, 'We'll cross that bridge when we come to it'.
"That's okay," Vicki answered, for she felt he needed reassurance, as always.
"Just the same," Misto insisted, "I think we should proceed with extreme caution, and I beseech you-"
"English," Victoria said impatiently.
"No, that would have been to easy," Misto said with a wry smile. "We would have found Kashmir and Tumble and told them, no prob, we caught the horse. And we would have been heroes. But things never happen like that. At least, not to me," he added as an afterthought.
As if to prove his theory wrong, a strange neigh-like sound suddenly filled the area. It was loud and shrill and painful to the cats' sensitive ears.
"What is wrong with that horse?" Vicki said over the noise. "Does it have a really bad cold or something?"
"It sounds like it's being tortured," Misto agreed, holding his paws over his ears.
"Oh come on," Victoria said, stamping her foot. "Let's just get the horse and get this over with. I'm sure you can protect me from all the scary monsters," she added sarcastically.
Misto scrunched up his face, but allowed himself to be led forward. He began to get nervous. "Is it just me, or is it getting darker?"
Victoria dropped her tough act. "Um, I think you're right. You would save me, Misto, wouldn't you?" She was dead serious.
"That's what I love about you, Vicki," Misto said when it was his turn to be sarcastic, "you're the first to jump in and the first to jump out." But secretly he thought, "Of course I'd save you. You're Victoria." His sensors were screaming, "Turn back!" But he couldn't. First of all, the last thing they wanted to do was get in trouble for setting the horse loose, so they had to find him. Second of all, Misto just couldn't give up in front of Vicki. Even if she was scared, too. It turned out, he couldn't have turned back if he wanted to. Someone - or something - grabbed Misto by the scruff of his neck, and Vicki with the other hand. Stifling their cries with a huge cloth, they were drawn back into the shadows, unseen by any friendly eyes.
"Okay, we've gotten help, now what do we do?" Tumblebrutus said to Kashmir as the group stood outside the junkyard. "You seem to be in charge."
"Well, it is kind of my fault," Kashmir whispered, looking down and blushing.
"Regardless of whose fault it is, can we get going?" Jemima said, stamping a foot impatiently. "I want to find Misto... and Vicki."
"Where did you last see the horse go?" Pouncival inquired.
"Why, Pouncival," Tumble gasped, "I do believe you're being sensible. My, that's a first."
Pouncival swatted at Tumble, who dodged easily. "Oh, shut up," Pouncival said.
"It went that way," Kashmir said, returning to the beginning of the conversation. She pointed her paw in the direction of an old field. Behind it was a small dirt road, and then a forest that housed a trash pile of its own, though none so big as the junkyard.
"Well," said Jemima eagerly, "let's go."
The distance across the field was no trouble. Misto and Vicki had already broken a path through the grass, and every once and a while you could catch a whiff of Victoria's scent. You could never smell Misto. That's what comes from being magic. Maybe he could of had a scent if he wanted to, but apparently, he didn't.
They crossed the road with a little more caution, what with humans and their motorized machines and all, and were soon at the edge of the wood. It was dark and cold in there, and they could hear the squeaking of rats.
"Can you say, 'Macavity'?" Kashmir whispered to Tumble, pressing up against him.
"Unfortunately, yes," Tumble answered. "And I will." He turned to the entire group. "Macavity!"
"No dip, you dummy," Jemima said. She got snappish when she was scared.
"The question is, what're we going to do about it?" Pouncival asked. Tumble gave another astonished look, and Pouncival glared at him. "I mean, I'm not exactly sure we're the right material to be fighting Macavity. And I get the distinct feeling that someone's going to have to..." He sniffed the air and paused a moment. He pawwed at his head. He turned suddenly on Jemima. "You did say Misto has ESP, didn't you? You hear that?"
Jemima nodded. "Now what?"
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Misto suddenly awoke from a deep sleep. He felt smothered in something - darkness, maybe, or a real object. He lifted his head, and it banged against something smooth and soft. He looked up - blackness - he looked forward - blackness - he looked behind him - blackness. "Well," he thought to himself, "that settles it. I'm in some sort of bag."
The 'I' froze his brain. "I'm in a bag," he mused. "Where's Victoria? Is she in here too?" He didn't dare call her name. Instead, he began feeling around for something solid, and preferably furry and white.
"Misto?" Vicki's voice answered. "Where are we?"
"Does inside a large bag qualify as an answer?"
Vicki reached forward and pulled herself closer. "Seriously, where are we?" She came closer.
Misto frowned, but couldn't help feeling happy with Victoria snuggling close, regardless of the circumstances. "Well, who's always behind practically every single case of kidnapping that happens to a Jellicle?"
"Macavity," Misto confirmed.
Victoria practically yanked herself into Mistoffelees' side. "Oh, Misto!" she whispered. "What's going to happen?"
"I'm hoping that Kashmir might follow our tracks. She's quiet, but sensible. Maybe they've gotten help by now? I'm sure that Tumble's been staying in line, considering Kashmir's around. But if worse comes to worse, there's always magic. I've got more up my fur than just lightning, you know."
"I sure hope so," Victoria said seriously.
"I appreciate your confidence in me."
"So what do we do while we wait? Sleep?" Victoria said a little snappishly.
Misto smiled. It was always a good sign when Victoria acted feisty. "Sleep will work," he agreed, even though he knew she hadn't meant it. He pulled her even closer, and they curled up together and tried to get some rest.
They were awoken about an hour later by a loud, hair-raising cackle. It was just the sort of cackle you would expect a mad scientist to belt out in a bad horror movie. The cackle ripped through Misto's dreams like Macavity's claws - and there were Macavity's claws, right in his face.
"Well, isn't this sweet," he cackled. "The hero and heroine curled up in each others' paws, united to face the villain." His cackle turned to a sneer. "And how is your magic going to save you now, Mistoffelees?" He spat and the black cat's cheek. Victoria wiped it away, and it stung her paw. Macavity glared at her but continued his speech. "And no one but that puny runt of a kitten you picked up off the streets and her crush know you're here. Isn't that a shame. Not even Munkustrap can save you from my clutches, magic boy."
Victoria sat up, clutching Misto's fur for support. "You're wrong Macavity," she spat. "Kashmir's my friend. Even if Munkustrap can't save us, Kashmir and Tumble will. As for Mistoffelees-"
"And you, my pretty little manor-born," Macavity interrupted smoothly. "What a queen you'll make."
Victoria's eyes opened wide. She darted behind Misto and peeked out from behind him.
Macavity laughed outright. "You really think he can protect you? This little runt? This kitten?"
Mistoffelees mentally resisted the taunts. "He's only trying to bait you," he thought. "Don't listen to him. He's just trying to taunt you into using your powers too soon. Save your energy for when you really need it." The thoughts strengthened him, and he narrowed his eyes at Macavity. "Victoria is mine, Macavity," he hissed.
This made Macavity laughed even harder. "You? Maybe before, but not anymore. Say, that rhymes! I'm a poet and I don't know it." It was almost pathetic, the way he laughed at himself. Realizing his prisoners were not amused, he regained his composure and beckoned to his rats. "Close the bag and take them to - oh - somewhere, I don't care, but don't do anything to them. Wait, that rhymed, too!" He coughed. "I'll attend to them when I'm ready." He cackled with glee one last time before Misto and Vicki were taken away.
"What do you mean 'Are we going in?' Of course we're going in! I don't care who's been captured, but we got them into it and we'll get them out of it!" Though normally a quiet kitten, Kashmir got very passionate when she knew what had to be done. Particularly if it involved rescues. Macavity was a very large part of every Jellicle's life.
Kashmir glared at the other kitten. Jemima was slightly older, but Kashmir had more presence. "Do you have a better idea? Where else would he be?"
Jemima didn't answer. She only nodded and blinked back tears.
"Well then, let's get going!" Pouncival said, eager to get thing over with.
"I guess we should pair up," Kashmir mused, "but how should we attack? Are we even going to really attack?"
"Um, considering it's Macavity, I'm not at all sure attacking is a good idea," Tumble said nervously. Why don't we send a scout to see if they can find Misto and Vicki and then report back to us? Then, if they're not back within three hours, or something, we send somebody else. Once the scout comes back, we can figure out what to do depending on where the cats are." An excellent idea," said Pouncival, a tad grudgingly. "But who's going to be the scout?"
All eyes turned toward Kashmir.
"Me?" she said, surprised.
"Who else?" said Jemima. "You're small and quiet, and dark brown is the closest we have to black."
"What, are you making me do this because I resemble Misto or something?"
"You don't have to go if you don't want to, Kashmir," Tumble said softly. "I'll go."
"No, that's all right," Kashmir said. "I'll be the scout. But it wouldn't have been natural if I hadn't given you a hard time, would it have?"
"Considering you're Kashmir," Tumble answered, "no."
Kashmir shot him a glare, but lost it and grinned. She slipped off into the night.
Finding just Misto would have been extremely difficult, but finding Victoria was a decidedly simple ordeal. Her white coat shone softly out of a corner in a junk pile. Kashmir had arrived at about the time that Macavity was giving his little speech to Misto and Vicki, and the kitten was just in time to hear Macavity's bad rhyming jokes. More importantly, she was also just in time to hear him tell the rats to do what they liked with the two. "Well," Kashmir thought. "There's nothing for it but to follow them." And she did.
"Kashmir?" came both voices at once.
"Don't say anything else," Kashmir said in a decidedly more relieved voice. "It's too dangerous. I'm getting help. We can't just leave now, firstly because rats do a mean sailor knot, and secondly because Macavity would be sure to come after us. But I'll be back. Cross my heart, hope to... um... live?" With that awkward remark, Kashmir leapt away. Kashmir navigated through the woods with ease, and soon came to the edge of the forest. She nearly laughed when she saw what her friends were doing.
"All right," Pouncival was saying. "You're the helpless kitten, Jemima, Tumble, you're the dragon. Now, I come swooping down on you, because I'm the knight, and I rescue Jemima. The object of the game is to either have the dragon kill me, or I kill the dragon."
"But what do I do?" said the damsel-in-distress. "I just stand around and watch you fight?"
"Yup," Tumble answered cheerfully.
Kashmir couldn't take it any longer. "What are you doing?" she giggled, bounding into the field. All three cats jumped and looked around.
"Kashmir! You're back!" He looked down. "Um, would you believe we're trying to find something to amuse us while you wait to get back?" Tumble tried sheepishly.
Pouncival pretended to check an invisible watch. "Yes, and you're late. You should be back by now! I say, if you aren't back in five minutes, we send out a search party. Why, you could be anywhere! Now-"
"Knock it off, Pounce," Kashmir teased, grinning. Then her grin faded. "I found them."
"Misto?" Jemima said eagerly.
"And Vicki," Kashmir added.
"Who? What? Where? When? Why?" Tumble said.
"You knock it off, too," Kashmir said, beginning to become annoyed. "Yes, I found them. About a half a mile into the woods. They aren't guarded, but they're bagged."
"Bagged?" Tumble questioned.
"Yes, bagged. Macavity's got them both in a big black bag. Did I mention that rats do a mean sailor knot? I can't make heads nor tails of it."
"They're together?" Jemima asked. "Same bag?"
"Yes," Kashmir said, exasperated. "Will you guys stop asking such darned stupid questions? What we've gotta do is decide what we've gotta do! I, for one, feel that it would take way too much time to go and get Munkustrap, considering how long he takes to get organized. So we'll have to rescue them ourselves. I guess we could shred the bag if need be; can't waste time tugging at knots."
Tumble sighed. "I'm afraid you're right. Let's go."
Kashmir led them through the woods at an excellent pace. Sometimes they had a little trouble seeing her, for although she didn't blend into the black night, she did blend into the brown dirt. Still, there was no trouble getting there.
The bag was still unguarded, and Kashmir slipped up to it, beckoning the others to follow. "What do you think of the knot?" Kashmir whispered with a bit of wry humor.
"Very impressive," Pouncival said. "Do you suppose the rats would teach me how? I could knot Tugger's fur-"
"Pounce," said Tumble. Pouncival became silent. "Now, let's get started. You're right, as usual, Kashmir, we will have to shred the bag." He leaned down so that his mouth was an inch from the cloth. "Misto! Vicki!" he whispered. "You still awake?"
"Yes," Misto answered.
"Good. Back up."
"Back up?" Vicki.
"Yes," Kashmir said, growing impatient. "Back up. We're going to shred the bag."
"Ah! I see." Misto hurriedly pulled Vicki back from the side of the bag where Kashmir was. About twenty claws inserted themselves into the material, and gingerly pulled themselves down as to make the smallest ripping noise possible. The rends were large enough for the two cats inside to slip through.
"Am I glad to see you!" Kashmir whispered.
"I could say the same," Vicki answered, shivering slightly.
"And am I glad I caught you before you left!" said an unfamiliar voice.
Kashmir hid her nose under Tumble's flank. "It isn't."
Tumble nodded sadly. "It is."
"He's insane," Pouncival whispered.
"No," Kashmir said, pretending to cower. She held her pose for a moment, then rocketed foreward, landing on Macavity's head. She leaned forward, glaring into his face. "No," she repeated. "I don't laugh in the face of danger. I hiss." And she did. Loudly. Macavity flailed his arms about, cursing, and scratched at Kashmir. She jumped down, scratching him with her back claws as she went. "Take over, Misto!" she yelled.
"You got it!" Misto said, grinning in anticipation. One lightning bolt in the eyes, coming up! He gathered his power and watched it streak through the air, landing in Macavity's face. It scorched his eyes, and Macavity tore at them in pain.
"Would you like fries with that?" Tumble asked, laughing hysterically. Then the group took off before Macavity could do any more damage. For a while, the trip back was a fearful one. They had no idea whether or not Macavity would be sending anyone after them. Of course, due to Mistoffelees' handiwork, Macavity would probably have a bit of trouble seeing for a while. There was a small run in with a large rat, but since it was alone, they had no trouble finishing it off.
They were all extremely happy until Misto remembered something. "Oh, great," he mumbled. "What about the horse?"
"Yeah!" Vicki said. "We heard it a little while ago, but I think we've figured out by now it was Macavity."
"Granted. But where do we look now?" Kashmir exclaimed. She was really rather excited about the horse. "I told you, you should have let me help look for the horse in the first place."
"All right, Super Kashmir, let's see you in action," Tumble said. "Lead the way."
They took off down the road, Kashmir leading the way. Jemima, who hadn't said anything for a long time, followed between Pouncival and Tumble. Misto and Victoria took up the rear, talking about something.
"Say, that has a nice ring to it," Pouncival said thoughtfully. "Super Kashmir. I wonder if we could write up a strip, sneak into an animator's studio and make it into a cartoon? I mean, it'd beat 'Samarai Pizza Cats'."
"Pizza what's?" Jemima said, seeming to find her voice.
"Pizza? Pepperoni?" Tumble commented, licking his lips.
"No, it's a cartoon." Pouncival looked at them strangely. "I thought I was the weird."
There was no retaliation, because the second Tumble opened his mouth, Kashmir screamed, "There it is!"
"Where's what?" Pouncival replied.
Misto came running up behind him. "The horse, you dummy!"
"Now, are we sure this is the horse, and not Macavity?" Jemima cautioned.
"What do you call that?" Kashmir said, motioning to a field where a tall gray creature of the equine race was grazing as though nothing had happened.
"I'd call that the horse," said Tumble. "Let's go!"
Victoria stuck her paw in front of him. "Wait a sec," Vicki told him, "you might scare it." She turned to Kashmir. "So, you have a plan?"
"You betcha!" Kashmir confirmed cheerfully. "But it involves a five pound bag of carrots, courtesy of the one and only Magical Mr. Mistoffelees." She shrugged. "We could get Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer to steal some for us, but I think we've had enough of them."
"Right," Misto agreed. "A five pound bag of carrots for your approval." And there they were, right in front of Kashmir.
"You've got to teach me how to do that," Kashmir said in wonder.
Misto laughed. "Yeah right. Now get this horse home before we all die of exhaustion."
"At your service."
"What are you going to do?" Tumble asked.
Kashmir grinned evilly. "Lure him home."
"You mean carrot him home."
And she did, too. Kashmir approached Conquistador quietly, careful not to startle him. That was the last thing she wanted to do! She set a carrot in front of him and waited. The horse came over and sniffed the vegetable, and then ate it. And then another was set in front of him, farther away. That's how she did it - she carrotted him home!
It took a little doing to get him through the barn door, however. It took a little of Mistoffelees' doing, in fact. They had tried scaring him in, luring him in, even pushing him in - but Conquistador had decided he would much rather be a wild mustang roaming the woods with the Exmoors than m'lady's carriage horse. Even Misto, when called upon to magic him in, had a bit of trouble. Lightning didn't work. So Misto decided to actually push him in using magical power. One thrust and the horse went flying into his stall, eyes wide and ears pinned to his head. Vicki slammed the door shut, and Kashmir locked it.
"Whew!" she exclaimed, sinking to the ground. "I thought we'd never get him home. Am I glad that's over."
"Yeah, you started it, and you finished it," Tumble teased, curling up next to her.
"Let's go home," Pouncival said. "Hey Misto, can you make us disappear and reappear in the junkyard?"
"I could..." Misto paused. "But I won't. Because I'd much rather watch you guys trudge home while I float above the air."
"You're kidding," Pouncival groaned.
"Yes and no. I'm not mean enough to float above the ground, but it's too dangerous to magic more than one cat around at the same time. So, forward march!"
Arriving at the junkyard, the cats were greeted by a worried Munkustrap. "Where have you guys been?" he asked. "We've been looking all over for you! I wouldn't have sent you guys to take a look at that barn if I knew it would take this long."
"Oh, we had a bit of an adventure," Kashmir yawned.
"Yes. Involving a Conquistador," said Tumblebrutus, leading Kashmir off so that they could get some sleep.
"And a Macavity," Misto added, as he and Victoria went to bed.
"And a lot of bad jokes!" Pouncival said as he departed.
Munkustrap looked at Jemima. She shrugged, smiled, and left to get some rest of her own. It had been some day!
Munkustrap shook his head. When Kashmir was involved, anything could happen.
Misto and Vicki were curled happily in their basket about a week later. They were no longer haunted by their run-in with Macavity, but the horse was an amusing subject. Though still half-asleep, Misto cocked an ear when he heard the door bell ring, and the front door was opened by the master.
"Excuse me, M'am," a strange voice said. "I was wondering, see, m'lady's become deathly sick, and can't keep her estate. She's come up on some bad times, and I was wodering if you'd like to buy m'lady's carriage horse?"
Vicki's eyes opened wide, and Misto shot out of the basket and looked around the door. He pushed it with his head and slammed it in the man's surprised face. "There now!" said the master. "What did you do that for?"
But Misto had already returned to the basket. But it was a long time before he and Victoria got back to sleep.
Whose Woods These are I Think I Know
Author's Note: The poem included in this fic is by Robert Frost. If you don't know him, well, uh, you should! :)
The soft, delicate snow gave way under Exotica’s paws as she trudged along the side of the road. The sky was a dusty gray, dressed for twilight. Each step the cat took left a tiny paw print, another one in the endless line behind her.
It was a long way home.
Exotica blew a breath of steamy air and watched it rise above her, taking on mysterious shapes as it went. Yes, it was a very long way to the junkyard. What with the snow and everything, she might not get home before the morning began.
She turned. The sound of a jingling harness had reached her ears, traveling closer and closer. Her eyes cast about frantically for a place to hide, but she saw nothing. Silently, she cursed her dark brown coat, which made her show up so clearly against the snow. She could only hope that the light snowflakes cascading gently from the sky were thick enough to hide her.
Exotica needn’t have worried. It was only a horse and sleigh, with two men inside that couldn’t be bothered with small cats out in the snow. As the sled glided past, Exotica was suddenly struck with an idea, one that would shave several hours off her trek. As the sleigh passed her, she jumped onto the carriage, clambering onto the horse’s broad back. She grinned when she recognized Conquistador, who didn’t seem to notice her. Misto had told her the whole story,
“Well, lookee here,” one of the men commented, motioning toward the passenger with his whip. “It’s feline.”
“That it is,” the other agreed, “and a mighty smart one, too.”
They traveled on in silence. Mile after mile rushed by, the wind blowing sharply against each upturned face; the horse, the men, the cat. They came upon a lone forest, with no companion but a frozen lake, still, quiet, serene. One of the men pulled the horse up, and they stood there, watching, thinking to themselves.
Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village, though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
The snow swirled by, sticking to anything it could. Exotica closed her eyes, inviting the cold. Conquistador shifted his weight.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Conquistador shook his mane, eager to be off again. He turned to look at Exotica, who looked back steadily, unafraid. “Yo soy muy guapo,” the horse said quietly. Exotica smiled and nodded, though she didn’t understand a word of it. It was so much easier to just agree and bask in the quiet.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only sound the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.
The night slowly approached utter blackness, and yet the full moon made the woods shine eerily, yet beautifully, in the faint light.
Both men stirred simaltaneously. “Gaddup, horse,” the one with the whip murmured, and flicked it out of habit. Conquistador moved forward briskly.
Exotica jumped gracefully off of the horse’s back and climbed to the top of the carriage. The watched the woods gradually leave, growing smaller, departing as quietly as it had come. Fading... fading... fading...
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep...