“Oh, Panther!” Ebony panted. “Never in my life have I faced anything like that. I was terrified!”
“You were?” Panther sounded surprised. “The way you charged right in, I just couldn’t believe it. I am very proud of you. But, are you all right? Did they get you?” He looked her over carefully, as she did him, and they were both amazed to see that neither of them had even been scratched. Finally, they both took a drink, and settled down again. Ebony snuggled the kittens close, only to sit up again, mewing sadly. Panther looked over from where he had bedded down before the ruckus had started. “Ebony, what is it?” He turned and went over to the blanket nest.
Ebony was licking and nosing at one of the female kittens. “It’s Dusky,” she sighed. “She’s dead.” She nosed at the other female kitten, and sighed again. “And I don’t think Velvet is going to last the night. They were born too early. They were not ready for life outside my womb.” She looked at him, her face radiating sadness. “Oh, Panther, what if I lose them all?”
“Aw, Ebony, I’m so sorry. But what about Raven and Shadow? It seemed to me that Shadow, at least, was strong enough to make it.” He looked into the nest, stretching his neck to nose at the three kittens.
“Shall I take Dusky out and bury her? You shouldn’t have to do that yourself, and I’ll make a deep place for her, so the feral cats, or other animals won’t find her.”
“But it’s dark out, how could you find a suitable place?”
“It is almost sunrise, Ebony. That fight lasted for a good hour or more, and it was very late when we settled down to sleep. I’ll have no trouble – in fact, I think I know just where I’ll put her. I saw a sheltered little area just below the pond, near a rock, and partly hidden by vines. And in there, the soil will be soft and easy to work with.”
“Thank you, Panther. Better make it deep and big enough for three. Velvet and Raven are gone, too.” Ebony’s voice was filled with pain and sorrow. “Please Bastet little Shadow will survive.”
Panther rubbed his head against hers and sighed. “I am so sorry, Ebony. You have gone through so much, the least our goddess can do is save one of them for you. Rest now, and I’ll go and prepare the place. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He touched noses with her, and went out.
It was about an hour later, and daylight was seeping into the shelter, when he came back, paws covered in soil. Quietly, he lifted one of the dead kits from the nest, and went out. Twice more he did it, and Ebony followed him the last time. Together they went to the sheltered little nook. Panther laid the last little body in the bottom of the hole, and stood back for a moment, giving Ebony time to say goodbye to her babies. She looked at him, then said “wait a minute, please,” and moved to the edge of the pond. There, she pulled at a small flower, breaking it off and carrying it to the grave. As soon as he saw what she was doing, Panther joined her, and together they dropped about a dozen of the small, sweet smelling violets in. then Panther went to work, filling in the hole, and walking on it to flatten it. He clawed and scratched dead leaves and bits of bark over it all, and pulling the vines down to hide it.
“That’s all I can do, Ebony, but I think they will be safe from everything now. But we need to see about a better place for you and Shadow. Do you think you are up to a walk? I want you to come to my home with me. I am certain that the family will be happy to have you and the little one join us.”
“After last night, I think you are right. I guess my family are not coming back for me, but if they do, they will be glad that your family cared for us. And, after last night, I can walk anywhere I must to get out of this woods. I couldn’t rest at all there, for thinking about that terrible gang. And Shadow needs a safer place until he’s grown big enough to fight for himself. “
“Then lets get him and head out. The sooner we start the sooner we will be safe. I’ll take turns carrying the little guy, and we can find sheltered places to rest while you feed him.”
It was close to noon when they walked across a well mown lawn to a large, friendly looking house. As they approached the front steps, a boy about ten years old came charging out the door, shouting “Mom! Mom! Come look – Panther’s back, and he has another cat with him, and a little kitten!”
In a short while, they were surrounded by the family, everyone petting them and talking. Finally, Mom said “I think we should get them inside. They are probably hungry and thirsty. Billy, why don’t you find a box in the garage, and Sally, you look in the attic and find an old blanket. We can make a nice place for the mother and kitten right next to Panther’s, and then let them settle in.” The children scurried off and by the time they had eaten and had a drink, all three cats were comfortably settled. The family looked at them and smiled.
“But Mom,” Sally asked “What are their names? “
“Hmmm…” Mom thought. “The mother is so black and her fur is so smooth, she looks like Ebony. How about naming her that?” The children agreed. “That’s a great name, Mom! And the kitten is more kind of… I don’t know … like a shadow.”
“Then, Shadow he is,” Mom agreed. They all sighed, happy that they had been able to make a home for the mother cat and her baby, and proud of Panther for bringing them home so they could.