Tess and the King of the Wild Cats
Tess and Jack snuggled closer and closer together on the cargo net that was stretched between the two glorious Golden Eagles as they sored higher and faster towards the Scottish Highlands. Jack the boat dog felt his best friend shiver in the freezing November air and covered her shaggy black and white fur tightly in the blanket that Owl had given them.
The two dogs were used to adventure without a doubt, but as they looked at each other on that freezing cold flight to Scotland, they both knew that their comfort zone was well and truly 500 feet below them!
It was almost a year since Tess, Jack and Tom the circus cat had rescued the tired circus lion Samson. With, I must add the meticulous planning of Owl, who had orchestrated the whole adventure. Tess had met Owl when she was a very young puppy. She had been shouted at by the father of her human boy, Billy, for chewing his slippers! It was the end of the world for the young Tess, who decided there and then that she must leave home, as we all do when we're young...
Arriving at the pond near Owl’s tree, the very young Tess had looked down at the clear water and was puzzled not to see a waggy tail in her reflection. After explaining thing's to Owl she was told to retrace her steps. As she got nearer home, Billy who now home from school was calling her. She raced towards him and realised she'd picked up her wag! Just as Owl had said.
Since that first meeting Tess and Owl had become best friends. It was a friendship sealed with trust and a compassion for their fellow creatures that soon proved to be the motive behind them helping many of their animal friends.
However, events past and present had taken a tole on Tess who's hightened sense of empathy stretched her emotions to breaking sometimes.
Today she'd been in her all bed all morning staring into space without really thinking about anything. The morning became afternoon, still she lay still in her bed.
Three days passed without change and Tess hadn’t eaten properly in all that time.
The situation had gone unnoticed by Billy's Mum who'd been looking after Tess on auto-pilot since divorcing Billy's Dad.
This had suited Tess in the past, her freedom to come and go without being missed was integral to many adventures. Tess did look ill, if she was it was time someone noticed and got some help.
After the third day Tess was visited by a friend who'd noticed or knew already that Tess was feeling very depressed.
The dog flap flipped opened and Tess saw a pretty fox nose followed by the rest of her friends face
“Hello Tess, its Fox - are you ok? I've missed you, thought I’d come and say hello.
I was walking through the garden saw the shed where I hid after you saved me from the fox hunt. It was years ago but still sent a shiver up my back!
What a day that was! I was still shaking as you took me into the that old shed…
Must have been terrifying as they chased my scent on you to the edge of the garden and Billy’s dad must have given them a proper shouting at for sure. Do you still think of it Tess?”
“Hello Fox yes I do I was terrified!” She looked at her foxy friend with genuine affection.
“I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, Fox. I’ve just felt like staying in my bed all the time. I’ve been feeling sad for no reason and… oh it’s so nice to see you!”
Fox tilted her head and smiled “You know it’s ok to feel sad every now and then Tess. I don’t know an animal who doesn’t! Even Owl has her sad moods but they normally just make her very very grumpy!”
“There you’re laughing already see. It’s ok to be sad Tess but it’s not ok to make yourself poorly. Will you try and eat something? For me?”
Tess stepped delicately out of bed and walked slowly towards the pretty face of her friend.
“Love you, Fox.” she said. Nuzzling her nose.
“Love you too, Tess. Come visit when you feel better. Owl has something to talk to you about, I get the feeling it’s very important!”
“I will, Fox.” Tess assured her. “Tell Owl I’ll visit her in the morning I’m intrigued now. If I’m honest an adventure of any kind will do me good!”
As Fox said goodbye Tess walked to her food bowl and enjoyed breakfast. She felt so much better, but decided on one more day in bed.
Her little voice inside hinted she might need the rest, just in case…
Tess slept until around 3am then awoken by the loveliest lick from her closest friend in the world.
“Jack! What are you doing here?!” she gasped. “How on Earth did you get here?”
“Not ‘on earth’ Tess! And well I could tell you” teased Jack the boat dog,
“But you wouldn’t believe me! You’d better just come and take a look.”
Tess stretched and with sleepy eyes followed her best friend out into the garden. What she saw as she lifted her head was the most amazing sight she'd ever seen.
She wasn’t frightened, even though it would've been natural to be so.
Most animals would have been terrified, because in the garden stood two mature Golden Eagles.
Tess just about heard the familiar voice of Owl through her amazement. She was sitting on the shed . roof with a very serious face.
“Tess I was going to speak to you tomorrow but things have moved too fast. Jack will explain but it’s important you both set off for Scotland as soon as possible. Please trust me, Tess,” Added Owl.
Tess was still taking in the spectacle as she listened. She'd also noticed a thick netting with a blanket on, stretched between the two gorgeous eagles .
“Are you joking?!” Tess said as loud as she dared. “You… are joking?”
“Tess, it's fine,” Said Jack.“ They flew me here from the boat, it's ok!”
“Since when were you an expert in flying suspended in a net, stretched between two Golden Eagles Jack?!”
Jack turned to face his friend putting his nose next her's for a nuzzle.
“Since about two hours ago Tess.”
Tess looked at Owl then back at Jack.
“You're serious aren’t you, I really have to do this?”
Tess was moving ever so slowly towards the glorious Golden Eagles, who both lowered their heads cooing with affection at the animal hero Tess had become.
“Tess meet Gordon and Gloria,” said Owl, “They're husband and wife Golden Eagles and know all about you. They will protect and fly you safely Tess, because they love you just as we do.”
Tess was now in touching distance of Gloria. She felt the great bird’s powerful beak gently touch her nose with a warmth she hadn’t felt for years.
Jack was already in position by now.
“Come on Tess, this is the best bit! Come and settle in.”
Tess walked toward's the cargo net and climbed on next to Jack.
“Get on the blanket Tess, it's really cold at five hundred feet.”
“You really are an expert Jack, Owl do I get any information?”
“Trust me Tess,” said Owl, “Everything will unfold, I'll meet you in Scotland tomorrow and explain the whole thing. Love you Tess.”
Tess only just heard the ‘love you’ because the Eagles lifted off with a whoosh of their enormous powerful wings. Tess and Jack were soon hundreds of feet into the early morning sky, headed for another adventure together in the Highlands of Scotland.
The two friends snuggled together on the blanket as the Eagles sped them swiftly to Scotland. The flight over the lochs and mountains coincided with a sunrise so breathtakingly beautiful Jack and Tess shared a moment together they'd never forget.
Soon after they were jolted back to reality as the two Eagles slowed and began to descend. They were both sure they were nearing their destination, what then?
Suddenly they'd landed, so smoothly before they could even think.
Tess and Jack climbed off the cargo net and Gloria lowered her head towards them trying to communicate.
It was hard for Tess to understand what she was trying to say.
“Shall we wait here for Owl?”
With her powerful beak Gloria gently nudged Tess in the direction of what looked like a cave in the distance, partially concealed by a thick wooded area.
“A cave?” Said Tess, “Wait in the cave?”
The beautiful Eagle cooed to answer. She understood, they had to wait in the cave for Owl.
Then, as if they were only half way through an important mission, the two beautiful eagles were gone.
Tess and Jack looked at each without speaking, then reassured each other by nuzzling noses together as they always did.
“Ready?” said Tess.
“Let’s find this cave,” replied Jack.
They set off in the direction that Gloria had directed them, but the cave was further away than it looked. The woods were thicker as well, now Tess and Jack realised why the Eagles hadn't been able to land them closer to the cave.
“There the cave Tess!" said Jack, as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Wait here, I’ll have a look.”
"No Jack, we stick together remember?” said Tess and together they walked cautiously to the mouth of the cave into the darkness.
“Love you, Jack.” Said Tess.
“I’m Glad.” Replied Jack. “Love you, too.”
The cave was pitch dark and narrow at first, but soon became wider, somehow brighter much to the relief of Tess and Jack!
“I wish we'd taken the blanket from the cargo net,” Whispered Jack. “We’ll be chilly in here until the day warms up. If it ever does…”
“Oh well,” said Tess reassuringly, “We’ll just have to snuggle up and...”
Before she could finish, Jack had leapt to her side, snarling fiercely bearing his teeth. Jack was small but his bravado and ferocity was formidable. Especially when he was protecting Tess.
“What Jack, what is it?”
It wasn’t Jack who replied but she recognised the voice, knew immediately it was the voice of a friend.
“This is the last time I creep up on you Tess, I promise!”
Tess and Jack were in complete confusion for a second or two, then emerging from the darkness they saw Tom, the tom cat! He'd appeared so large, his green eyes flashed a wildness they hadn’t noticed before.
“Tom!” Cried Jack and Tess together.
“Yes!” Purred the beautiful cat who slinked to the ground in front of them, enough to show his beautiful Ocelot markings.
“Oh Tom I hope you can explain what's going on? What are you doing here? Is this your home?”
“I'll explain Tess but first there's someone I want you to meet.”
Tess and Jack followed Tom further back into the cave.
“Wait here.” the beautiful cat told his friends as he walked on further.
“Ok Tess come through.” said Tom, his voice filled with emotion.
“Be warned he’s very ill, he was attacked by a wolf, it’s a long story but Tess - Jack.
This is my father ‘Streets’ King of the Wild Cats.”
To say Tess and Jack were deeply moved when she saw Tom’s father is an understatement. It was clear he'd been badly mauled by a much larger animal. He wasn't as big as Tom, no where near, in fact he was the same size of a normal male tom cat.
“I don’t look *that* bad, do I?” smiled Tom’s dad. “Hello Tess. Jack, I’ve heard all about you both. I just wish we could have met in better circumstances.” He groaned, “Aahhh.”
“Dad, please rest now - you need to rest.” Said Tom. “I need to talk to Tess and Jack, so we’ll leave you to sleep.”
Tess, Jack and Tom walked back towards the open part of the cave.
“Tess, Jack… my father has been living with the wild cats for five years now. In the past they have struggled to survive, but with my dad’s help and his cunning, city tom-cat ways, he has helped them. So much so, that even though he was just a feral domestic tom, his wisdom and survival skills have been so invaluable that the wild cats made him King of all the wild cats.
All was fine, until the Scotland powers-that-be decided to reintroduce wolves into the Highlands. Of course, this was a worry for my dad and the wild cats. Not on a food chain level, but on a predatory level. All seemed fine, but gradually reports of skirmishes were being reported. Wolves were, quite naturally, staking their claim on the territory. Dad tried to intervene. He arranged a meeting with the wolf pack leader, but was attacked before he even reached the arranged meeting place.
Jack was first to sense that something was wrong. His hackles pricked up. Suddenly Tess and Tom realised that there, standing at the mouth of the cave, were four large wolves.
The wolves started snarling and moved further into the cave, edging closer to the three friends.
“Stand behind me,” said Tom to Tess and Jack, “If I launch into a frenzy at them, they may decide to leave us alone. I have to protect my Dad though!”
Jack and Tess moved to stand beside their friend, “We’re tougher than we look Tom” Stated Jack, although they all knew that any attempt to fight off four angry wolves would be futile.
Gloria and Gordon, the two beautiful Golden Eagles had indeed, as Tess had suspected, been half way through a mission. The mission in question however, had just been completed as Spike one and Spike two were landed in more or less the same place as Tess and Jack had been just two hours earlier.
The two Spikes were large Pit Bull Terriers that Tess had given love to when they were puppies. They had subsequently endured a terrible life, forced into fighting until meeting Tess again and they didn’t need to be told where Tess was. They smelt her trail immediately and were running at full pelt to find the one creature they loved most in all the world.
As the Two Spikes approached the cave, they saw the wolves threatening their beloved Tess and went ballistic with protective rage. From inside the cave, Tess hardly recognized the Spikes, but now understood why Gloria and Gordon had left in such a hurry. Owl had known that Tess might need the protection of her loyal Spikes.
Tess moved forward to towards the cave opening, “Spikes! Stop!” she yelled. “I’m ok! We’re ok!”
As the Spikes heard Tess they were already facing down the wolves who were backed up against the wall of the cave opening, disarmed by the unnatural ferocity of the two fighting dogs. The Spikes were bred to be without fear and the wolves sensed this. They were wondering where on Earth these dogs had come from. They were half the size of a wolf but were as wide as they were tall, with the largest heads and muscled jaws that the wolves had ever seen on any dog.
Introducing the wolves into Scotland had been a controversial decision. Although they were originally native to the Highlands, it had been many years since they had become extinct, due mainly to the interference of man. The wolf pack that had been introduced into the wilds of the Scottish Highlands almost a year before also had problems. The pack had been raised in captivity, but had been living as wild animals in a reserve for almost two years before the transfer.
The leader of the wolf pack, who had been named Caesar, was a very experienced and intelligent animal. He was aware of the situation and with help of the animal council, which Owl, along with two others had headed, had tried to prepare the pack for the move. They had explained as much as they were able to, about what the wolves could expect in their new habitat. They had described it well and all the pack were looking forward to the move. Not just to the new life, but to living in one of the lost wolf habitats, having the chance to restore their species and work towards an equilibrium with nature, as nature had intended.
When everything was set for the move of the wolf pack, the animal council had provided Caesar with guidelines that they knew would be very important for their integration. One of these guidelines was stressed to the wolf pack by Caesar many times.
“We must NOT attempt to have any conflict with the Scottish Highlands’ indigenous predators. Namely the wild cats. These animals are trying to survive against all odds and we will live with them and hunt alongside them!”
This was the number one rule. The animal council had considered it the largest threat to the wolves’ success and every wolf had it imprinted in their mind, even the adolescent, boisterous male wolf named Natas, a vain pretender who looked at his reflection every day, longing for the time he would be the leader of the pack. Even Natas knew the importance of this rule.
What then happened a day before the move could not have been foreseen by anyone. The one thing that was supposed to help the wolf pack leader. The veterinary care and quarantine of Caesar had failed. A stupid mistake meant that the powerful, intelligent wolf pack leader had been infected with Canine Distemper. A cruel disease that killed dogs and foxes by the hundreds. But worse, three of Caesar’s most trusted and experienced wolf companions had also been affected.
Owl had called an emergency meeting of the animal council as soon as she had heard the terrible news.
Of course there was nothing they could do. The wolves would be rehomed as planned, the male wolves would find their position within the pack, without any trusted experienced leader and Caesar would re-join them as soon as he recovered from this life threatening disease…
The situation at the mouth of the cave had escalated. Tess and Jack had joined the Spikes trying to calm them but as they did so more wolves were arriving. Tess was all the while attempting to calm the Spikes, as she and Jack backed further into the cave and thus further into what seemed like a hopeless situation.
Soon after the wolves had been relocated to the area allocated for them, Natas, the once boisterous young male had taken control of the wolf pack. He was by then the dominant male and even though the majority of the pack knew he was not experienced enough to lead them, they had to concede to hierarchy to ensure the survival of the pack.
At first the wolves adhered to the guidelines, but soon Natas started encouraging the pack to intimidate any wild cat whenever they could. He never went as far as to actually fight the wild cats, even for him this would have been too far. But it was surely only a matter of time.
With Caesar’s very life hanging in the balance, many of the younger wolves now looked to Natas as their leader, for what choice did they have? But what Natas wanted in their new environment was not a harmonious existence with nature. He envied the power that Caesar had held and, like all bullies, it was dominance that he desired.
Meanwhile, Streets, the King of the wild cats had been surveying the situation carefully. He saw the fires of anger building in the hearts and minds of the proud cats. They had also been told by the Animal Council the importance of accepting the wolves into their environment. They had been assured that a mutual respect between them and the wolf pack would be of paramount importance; yet time after time, they were pushed, prodded and provoked by the wolves. Streets knew he had to act, and sent his bravest friend with a message for Natas. The message would contain details of a meeting between himself and Natas. Tom’s dad had felt certain that the two leaders would be able to meet and negotiate a solution to a problem that should have been easy to resolve.
Tess, Jack and the Spikes were pushed further back into the cave. Tess was now afraid she would not be able to stop the Spikes acting violently in her defence. Tom, the tom cat had left the scene and ran back deep into the cave to explain to his ailing father about the situation.
“I’ll protect you, dad”, he said as he relayed the situation unfolding at the mouth of the cave.
“Tom, I have to get up. You have to walk me to the mouth of the cave.” Said the king of the wild cats, firmly.
“Dad you’re too sick, just stay in your bed.”
“You don’t understand, Tom”, he said, standing. “It will be war! Get Tess!”
Tom heard the urgency in his dad’s voice and ran through the cave towards Tess. As he reached her he heard a horrific sound. He had heard it before, but this time it was amplified as if it were the voices of many cats.
“What is that noise Tom?” said Tess turning to Tom.
“The sound of my dad protecting my mum, Tess! The sound of hundreds of wild cats protecting my dad! You have to go to my dad, Tess! He needs you! Go now!”
As Tess raced towards the back of the cave she heard and felt a sound building and echoing behind her that she would never forget. She was tempted to stop and look behind her but something told her to press on.
Tom’s dad was on his feet already and as Tess helped him inch his bruised body towards the mouth of the cave he told Tess he feared the wild cats would now wage a terrible war on the wolves unless he could talk to them.
The meeting between Tom’s dad and Natas was arranged by the messenger, but as Tom’s dad had set off towards the allotted meeting place, ready to speak of truth and peace with the wolf leader, Natas had attacked him. After all “He wasn’t a wild cat.” Natas, in his twisted sense of perception had reasoned that he hadn’t broken any rules, because the rule set out by Caesar was specifically about wild cats!
He hadn’t however, anticipated the fight he faced from the feral Glasgow street tom-cat. Natas, even though he took Streets by surprise and was six or seven times his size, couldn’t understand how the cat kept coming back at him! Time after time, the brave tom cat refused to be beaten until finally he lay still and the wolf assassin was certain that he was dead.
Streets had sustained injuries that would have killed most animals. It would seem however, that the size of an animal’s heart and spirit is more important to its prospects of survival than just its physical size. Somehow Tom’s dad Streets, was able to get a message to his son, who, whilst fighting back years of tears, was somehow able to find his father and, to the indignation of this proud, courageous animal, managed to carry him several miles into the safety of the cave.
The injuries sustained by Natas as he fought with Streets were of great importance to his status within the pack. The so-called leader of the wolf pack, embarrassed by his injuries, laid low for over a week. This gave the Animal Council enough time to act. In real terms, it gave Owl time to get Tess and her friends to the scene just in time to help save the day!
Tess and Streets reached the mouth of the cave and looked in horror at the scene before them. Jack and the two Spikes were now just a side show as the entire wolf pack were now confronted with a hissing sea of wild cats.
“Get me to the very edge of the cave, Tess!” Exclaimed Streets. “Quickly!”
As Tess helped the severely injured cat King to the mouth of the cave an extraordinary silence washed over the melee.
Because of this unexplained silence, Tom’s dad’s words echoed across the woods and sounded loud and clear for many miles, reaching all the wild cats far and wide.
“Don’t fight the wolves! He shouted, “We can share our lives and the land! Don’t fight the wolves!”
Streets collapsed onto the floor as soon as these words had left his lips and Tess knelt down trying to support him. Was he dying from his fight injuries?
Tom, the tom cat rushed to his father’s side and licked at his wounds.
The silence outside of the cave was still so deafeningly loud, it felt unnatural! Tess stood up as she heard the familiar voice she had been waiting for! It was Owl!
“Are we too late, Tess? Please trust him!” Owl pleaded.
For a second Tess didn’t understand, “Trust who?”
Soon the reason for Owls comment and the silence became clear. The entire wolf pack had parted and through the middle of it, walked a wolf that, although powerful, seemed somehow weakened with the burden of responsibility for the sadness of his pack.
The wild cats’ presence outside the cave was formidable and intimidating, but they had respected their King’s words and, apart from several cats who had rushed to protect their frail leader, now stood still, silent and waiting.
Tess was standing over Streets and saw the pain as he watched his father fight for life. She had cause to hate the wolves, but again she heard Owl’s voice.
“Please! TRUST him, Tess!”
Slowly and carefully, the large wolf drew nearer then stopped. The Spikes were now fiercely guarding Tess and Tom’s dad. Tess had been calming the Spikes down the whole time but they would not let anything get within five feet of her.
The wolf spoke in a low voice. “Tess, my name is Caesar. What has happened here is my fault. May I approach you?”
Tess was completely puzzled, but as she looked up she saw a glance of approval from Owl. The enormous wolf walked slowly towards her through a chorus of growls from the Spikes and bowed his head, sinking onto his belly at the same time and licking with an unexpected tenderness the tom cat that lay almost lifeless next to him.
Tom was by his father’s side and Caesar turned to face him. “You’re Tom? His son?” he asked.
“Yes. You say you’re Caesar?” Tom responded.
“Yes, I’m Caesar. Owl has told me that the injuries to your dad may not be life threatening. I will stay with him day and night until he recovers. During that time I hope to make you my friend.”
As Caesar finished speaking, Streets lifted his head.
“Caesar - will the wolf who attacked me be forgiven by you and the rest of the wolves? If we stand any chance of living together peacefully, we must try to put this behind us.”
The wise wolf replied. “I’m not sure yet, I’m going to talk to him to try and find out why he did what he did. If that’s ok?”
Caesar’s command of the situation was becoming very clear. After just a few words to his highly trusted generals who had returned from quarantine with him, the whole of the wolf pack were calmed and started returning quietly to their lairs.
“Of course.” Said Streets, “Now, where’s my son?”
“I’m here, dad,” called Tom, “Owl says you’re going to be ok. Are you? How do you feel?”
“I’m ok, Tom. Very tired, but I’m not as young as I used to be and this has been very stressful as well as physically exhausting. I am worried about the future, the mentality of the wild animals.
“Why are you worried, dad? What can you do? Why can’t you just go back to being a cat?
“Because I’m too involved!” he snapped! “Because I care!” The cat King bent forward and Tom moved closer and licked at his face.
“It’s ok Dad,” he said, “I’m sorry. When you’re well dad, and like Caeser, I’ll be waiting right here until you do get well…then... then we… us…as in me and my dad, who is much smaller than me by the way...” he joked.
“Pushing it...” Whispered his aching dad who had often shared a joke about being smaller than his son since the two were reunited.
“Then you will meet my lovely friend Samson, a proper lion dad!” Continued Tom.
“A proper lion?” his dad enquired. “Not a pretend one…?” At which point they both laughed.
Tom’s dad went on “Can we call in to see Tess and her friends on the way? Or did you even stop to think to ask me if I wanted a ride with a Golden Eagle…?”
Tom’s dad was getting well alright! Tess smiled as she listened to the conversation and good natured banter between father and son. Tom was right of course, animals had to be animals. Life had to go on in its own natural way, but Tess shared Streets’ worry about the future of the two species.
“Are you ok, Tess? Jack’s voice interrupted Tess who was miles away in her own thoughts.
“Owl had to go off in a big hurry. She told me to let you know that she loves you. She also insisted I give you the biggest cuddle you have ever had on the blanket as we fly home. Look Tess, Gloria and Gordon are waiting for us - we have to leave now.”
After saying a quick goodbye to Tom and his dad, Tess and Jack made their way to the place where their Scottish adventure had started. Tess couldn’t help thinking that the situation they were leaving behind was not completely solved.
“The blanket is still here Tess! Come on, let’s snuggle up. This is the only way to travel...”
The two glorious Golden Eagles were soon souring high in the sky carrying Tess and Jack home. After a crafty thought, Tess leaned forward with a twinkle in her eye and whispered something into Gloria’s ear who cooed her agreement.
“I told them I’d drop you off Jack, after we take a small diversion.”
“Where to, Tess?” Asked Jack as the two eagles banked to the left. “Where are we going?”
“To see the sea with you, Jack! Now snuggle up!”
“Was this… is this a dream, Jack?” Sighed Tess as she and her beloved friend soured so low over the sea that they could feel the spray from the waves on their faces
“A dream I’ll never forget shearing with you, Tess!” He replied with affection, feeling overwhelmed by the breath-taking beauty of the night sea.
Everything has to come to an end, however. Even magical eagle flights and they soon arrived at Jack’s drop off point for home.
“Love you, Tess,” Jack called out, as the two eagles lifted her high into the sky towards her home and comfy bed.
“I’m glad!” Tess called back, as her lovely friend watched her disappear into the night. “Love you too!” she added, but Jack already knew that.
Saying goodbye to the eagles was very emotional for Tess. She had become incredibly emotionally attached to those beautiful birds, even after such a short time; especially Gloria, who kept turning for more goodbye touches with her beak long after her husband had left for Scotland.
“Please come and see me soon, Gloria? Oh - and please look out for Tom and his dad whenever you can?”
The glorious bird finally said her last emotional goodbye and soured into the night, elegant and graceful, silently powering across the skies to catch up with Gordon.
It felt strange for Tess, getting into her lovely comfy bed after all that excitement. Very strange, yet exceedingly blissful. Tess began to go over the events in her mind, then drifted into one of her special sleeps as her tired eyes closed on another fantastic adventure.