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Title: Reunion
Author: opalmatrix
Rating: G
Warnings: Reference to near-future character death. Spoilers for end of series.
Prompt: Abhorsen Trilogy: Kibeth & Mogget, banter, "Don't flatter yourself."
Word count: : 1395
Summary: Old allies meet again, decades after the fateful confrontation described in Abhorsen.
A/N: Written for springkink VIII. Beta by the erudite smillaraaq and the enthusiastic artillie .

The night was full of the small, natural sounds of the wilderness: the musical creak of crickets, the swish and gurgle of the small river over its stony bed, the breath and sigh of the breeze. This clearing, along a tributary of the River Ratterlin, was leagues from the capitol and many miles from any village or farm, and empty of any influence of humanity or the Dead.

The peace was broken by an explosion of movement from a cluster of stones by the water. Something white and sinuous plunged into a small cascade, and the water there fountained and splashed and gave up a good-sized fish that landed on the gravel below the rocks, flopping and twitching and gasping out its life in the cruel dryness of the night air.

The fisher, a lithe white cat much larger and less shaggy than the wildcats that usually hunted these woodlands, shook water from one front paw and leapt down beside its prey. The struggles of the fish were stopped by a single, savage, well-placed bite that severed its spine just behind its head. The cat picked up its prey and carried it into the shelter of closely woven branches at the edge of the clearing. There, the living creature began to pick apart the dead, savoring each mouthful slowly, with half-closed eyes and an indolent expression of deep satisfaction.

A sudden rustling of branches deeper into the woods made the cat hunch protectively over its meal and pull its lips back from its sizable fangs, snarling in the face of whatever this threat might be, hair standing on end. The sounds came nearer, and the branches parted to reveal a large black-and-tan mongrel dog.

For a moment, the cat's ferocity seemed to fail. Despite its bristling fur, it seemed to yearn toward the intruder like a plant growing toward the sun. Then it blinked, took a breath. and resumed its hostile stance. "You!" it hissed, furiously, in a reasonable facsimile of a human voice.

"You!" barked the Dog, wagging her tail. "Well met! You look much larger than you used to. You've been doing some growing."

The cat's fur was sleeking back down, but it continued to snarl. Between one breath and the next, it grew half again as large. "As you see," it breathed, menacingly.

The Dog sat down and scratched an ear with one hind paw. "I can do that too, you know. I'm just a little puzzled about why you're bothering to shape as a cat at all, Yrael."

"Don't call me that!" The huge cat's hiss was a tremendous threatening rasp that should have frozen the heart of any foe. The Dog yawned.

"Whatever you say, Mogget. But why are you still a cat, of any size?"

Mogget stared angrily for a moment more, then looked away and shrank back to his former stature. "Things taste better in the natural forms of this world. And the hunting is more challenging, and hence more interesting." He crouched by his prey again, biting out another mouthful of raw flesh and savoring it.

The Dog lay down on her belly and watched with increasing interest. "I don't suppose you could spare a bit of that."

"You don't need to eat, Dog."

"Neither do you. Yet there you are, feasting while an old friend goes hungry."

"Friend! You flea-bitten, mud-footed, dung-scented ... !" Mogget savagely tore out another hunk of fish.

The Dog sighed, her eyes liquidly pleading. Mogget swallowed, then spat and turned his face away from that soulful gaze. There was a moment of near-silence. Both creatures could easily hear the sounds of the living wilderness around them, and feel, on another level, the myriad of tiny lives.

At last the cat hissed again: "Fine!" His face grew less feline, the jaws lengthening and the teeth growing as well, and he ripped the fish in two, closer to the head than the tail. Then he flung the smaller piece toward the Dog, who leapt up from her repose faster than should have been possible and snatched the offering from the air.

"Thank you," she wurfled happily, and set about devouring it.

Mogget resumed his former shape and started to eat again, far more daintily than the Dog. "They say that dogs aren't supposed to eat fishbones," he remarked, sardonically. "They can die of it."

The Dog looked up and licked her lips. "But I am the -"

"Disreputable Dog!" Both creatures finished in chorus, the Dog proudly, Mogget sarcastically. "The Disreputable Dog, who shouldn't be here at all." he added. "I thought you were as good as dead!"

"Curious, Mogget? They say that cats are always curious, and that they can die of it."

"Better than dying of boredom," said Mogget, lightly. "So why are you here?"

"I will have a task to do, shortly. My mistress is very old."

There was another near-silence, this one of a very different temperature than the last.

"So you came back to escort her through the Nine Gates, or something of that sort? How sentimental. And pointless. Your mistress is a bold spirit who has never flinched from Death. She will have no difficulties walking herself to her appointed place when the time comes. And until that moment, she is surrounded by loving family and allies in that big, busy palace in that huge hive of a city. Lirael Goldenhand, Remembrancer and Abhorsen, beloved by thousands upon thousands."

"But there is still one tiny place in her spirit that remains empty. Of me. There's no reason why that has to be so, in her last moments."

"I suppose not. After all, there is no end to the fond foolishness of human feelings."

The Dog growled, faintly. Mogget smoothed away his cynical expression and looked up at the night sky instead. When he looked back, the Dog had curled up on the ground, eyes closed. "You're not just going to sleep here, are you?"

The Dog opened one eye. "Why shouldn't I? I have a long journey tomorrow."

"On bare earth, so close to the damp, open banks of the river? The night is growing cold. You have less sense than ever."

"Well, what choice do I have? I don't want to take the time to poke around, now that I've found you, and eaten. I'm tired and want to sleep."

"Foolish creature. Do you imagine I've been living in the open, allowing the cold rain to soak me? Follow me."

Mogget slipped past the Dog into the undergrowth. The Dog rose to her feet and followed. After half a mile or so of steadily rising ground, they came to an opening in a hillside, with vines growing across it in a curtain. Mogget reared on his hind legs and shifted shape again, this time to a sinuous figure of human size and form. He carefully pushed aside the vines to reveal a solid, sturdy wooden door, oak bound with iron, which was unlatched and opened to reveal a small, dim chamber. The Dog smelled woodsmoke, wool cloth, fresh bracken. "Enter," said Mogget.

The room was stone-flagged, its walls of the natural rock and earth of the hill. There was a simple but well-made fireplace and a large mound of bedding against one wall, covered with luxuriously thick, soft blankets. The Dog nudged them curiously with her nose as Mogget closed and barred the door. "Where did these come from?"

"Prince Sameth the Builder. Fond human foolishness, as I said before. Not that I'm completely ungrateful." Mogget was replenishing the fire from a stack of dry wood. When the flames were leaping brightly, he looked around. "Why are you still standing there like a lump? Lay down on the bed."

The Dog grinned to herself and followed orders. The bracken was springy and comfortable, the blankets warm. "Where are you going to sleep?"

Mogget's form ebbed and flowed, until he was once more a white cat, only a bit larger than a wildcat. "Where do you think, you lackwit?" He leapt up onto the bed and snuggled up to the Dog.

"Huh. I knew you were glad to see me, Mogget."

Mogget spat delicately. "Don't flatter yourself, Kibeth." He curled into a ball, his sleek form pressed close to the Dog's comfortingly warm bulk, and closed his eyes. The fire crackled and whispered soothingly. Soon both were deeply asleep.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 27th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
I love this but...I think there's something more after the final comma? Yes?
Nov. 27th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)

Eeeek, no - didn't mean to be a tease. That should have been a period (full stop)!

Thanks for the kind words - but sorry, that's all there is! (They'll be going their separate ways in the morning - Kibeth's on a tight schedule ... .)

Nov. 27th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC)
Ah, okay. :D I understand.
Dec. 7th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, lovely!
Dec. 26th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
"Reunion" on springkink

Uh oh, I got trapped by Yuletide and never answered this. I'm glad you liked it!

Dec. 31st, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
What a great story! I'm glad to find some decent Old Kingdom stories!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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