Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Josie and the Kittens, Chapter Three

I asked Dad to get some stinky goodness to share during today's story, and he's pulled out some extra blankets for everyone to snuggle up in. But no catnapping ... there's a little too much going on in this chapter!

Chapter three in which Huggy Bear and Maggie join the fray

Huggy Bear and Maggie had been on an early morning stroll of their own, but they were enjoying less philosophical discussions and more hunting and clowning around. Even before the rains came they were wet from head to tail from the dew as they chased and dueled each other. Maggie was much smaller than the strong, intimidating Bear, but she was quick and he enjoyed the challenge of matching wits with her.

Once the downpour started, then the lightning, they knew they needed to head back. They were about halfway back to the palace when they ran into two palace guards, winded from sprinting from the stream bank.

“Jasper sent for help,” the one guarded managed between breaths. “Josie was carried away by the stream.” He managed to point back toward the stream, but it wasn’t necessary because Bear and Maggie were already on their way.

In all their play fighting, they had explored the grounds better than any other, and they knew exactly where Jasper and Josie would have ended up. They also knew where the stream led, and the kinds of ruthless creatures who stayed on the other side.

Despite the hard rain Bear was able to track Jasper easily. He had left deep tracks in the mud along the edge of the stream. They could tell that Jasper was moving quickly, but also a little panicked. Usually he wouldn’t leave much of a sign at all.

The rain was lessening, but the current of the stream remained strong as they followed Jasper’s tracks. Eventually the stream began to widen, allowing the current to slow some. That’s when they saw Jasper. He had made himself large – larger than he already was – and was turned sideways, with his head facing across the stream.

Maggie was about to call out for him when Bear grabbed her and pulled her into the underbrush. He recognized Jasper’s defensive body language and knew to assess the situation first. Maggie can be a little headstrong, but Bear had been in enough skirmishes to know to size things up first.

* * *

Josie had advanced toward the wolf. She was terrified. He was huge, and she knew if she wasn’t careful he could take her in one quick swipe. But she also knew she needed to put herself between the wolf and the sleeping kittens.

As the wolf made a step toward Josie a horrific hiss cut through the air. With a jerk the wolf flinched his glance across the stream and saw Jasper, puffed up and arched, an intimidating mass of orange fur matted with mud. The wolf was barbaric, but not intelligent, and paused to figure out what threat Jasper posed from across the water.

For a second, Jasper thought he sensed the hint of a laugh from the wolf, as if to say I’ll come for you next. The wolf returned his gaze to Josie, now nearly close enough to reach her in one powerful pounce.

From the underbrush behind Jasper Maggie whispered, “We’re here, but I don’t see a way across.”

Jasper continued to glare at the wolf, now still again and sizing up Josie, but slowed with the knowledge of Jasper across the bank. “There are kittens under that branch.” He could hear Bear’s quick gasp as Maggie and Bear learned that this just got even more dire.

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