25.6% The Tiger Within / Chapter 179: Meeting of Stripes

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Chapter 179: Meeting of Stripes

Three days later outside the Bazaar, at the Tiger's Peak

The moon had slowly risen into the sky again, casting a silver glow on the village. There was a tone of silence and morning among the tiger clan. Near the center of the clearing, seven tigers sat in a circle. Each had their heads held high but their gazes low. The sadness here was stifling as a pair of tigers stepped off their pedestals.

A large graying male stood beside his son. The Vibrant oranges of his son contrasted against the fading gold of the elder. The pair faced each other, pain and suffering in their eyes. After clearing his throat the elder chose to transform.

Moments later, a battle scarred warrior sat before them on the stone. His body covered by his long grey hair. He took the cloth from behind the rock and settled it around his hips, a loin cloth. He folded his hands, standing tall, and began to address the gathered family.

"My dearest family, and friends, the tiger clan has been struck yet another low blow. Earlier this year, we lost our Fair Princess, Kyera Shade of the Moon to the net. There is still no news to if she survived or not." he spoke loudly as the tigers listened, no one daring to break his flow. A few nodded and others looked away to hide their grief. Each felt the pain of not knowing. "We hope to have news of her fate soon and pray she is still with us and simply unable to return home as of yet. Her separation may indeed not be permanent." He sighed heavily as his son transformed at his feet, knowing it would soon be his chance to speak.

"Then, last night my sons went hunting. Talis and Verone are well known to us all and have taken up the mantel as leader since Kyera was lost to us." he continued, the general within him forcing his voice not to shake. The young man beside him sat straighter, looking rather alone without his brother at his side. "Speak." the general whispered looking at his son. There was a heaviness in the air as everyone began to suspect what was to be said. A unease filtered through the crowd.

"I indeed went patrolling with my brother. Traps have been hidden better as of late. He seemed to notice something at the last trap we dismantled. He wanted to check something so we separated, as is to be expected since it would cover more ground. However, when it was time to meet, he did not rejoin me. I went searching for him when I came across a unfamiliar sent. A tiger I had never smelled before. I could also smell my brother on this trail and he was more a tracker than I had ever been." he explained softly, the effort it took to recall past the shock. Too much loss too much death… how could their clan process it?

He pushed on "I followed the scents to the river bank. I think they both waded through the water. On the bank, I found blood mixed with earth. A lot of it. And signs of a fierce battle. I never heard a sound. Yet the evidence was fresh. It had to have been within the hour of my arrival. The blood was still warm despite the fall chill. Immediately I ran back for my father, knowing I needed more help to decipher the scene. I have never been to battle." the younger tiger spoke firmly but his voice cracked. His father took pity and stepped forward. The rest of the story needed to be told by the elder.

"On the river bank I found blood and signs that two tigers fought. Adult males. One wounded to the point of death. The other barely scratched. I think the body if the dead went down river, along the waterfall. The other passed through the river. Neither scent left the location." he explained as the clan stared at him. His own wife stepped down and turned human among the clan. Vines and earth formed her gown with a flick of her wrist.

"Whose blood was it, Warren." she asked tears welling in her silver eyes. Years had turned the black streaks white and her soft red fur now faded. Her anguish showed on her face, desperation for him to tell her she was wrong. The words in her heart could not be true.

He cast a mournful look at his wife. They had buried a their sisters and brothers during the war. The pale scar across his Falda's chest result of a human's sword. They had come to terms with their enemy… but who would have thought it would not be a human to strike down their next kin.

"The two scents I found were Kan, the tiger who betrayed Kyera and now betrayed our son… and the blood.." he took a deep breath "Belonged to our Verone. Im sorry Falda. He is gone. The body washed down river… injured and passing over the falls… he is in the shadow King's hands now."

The anguished screams of a mother pierced the night. Miles away, within the palace gardens a tigress' ears twitched as pain shot through her chest. The cry was so faint… barely audible but the wind carried it to her on the shadows. Kyera raised to her feet her ear flicking again. She couldn't quite make it out… but something was wrong. So, very wrong.

She stood and roared, her voice carrying through the trees. Mally's eyes opened on the mat, her eyes filled with tears. She couldn't say if it was the pain of her newly sealed wounds or the pain in her sister's voice that truly caused those drops to glide over her smooth cheeks.

Valinteena Valinteena

Sooo I did this as a longer chapter so you don't have to worry about cliff hangers...



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