These stories are fan-fiction, and are not intended to infringe on the rights of others in any way. The Thundercats characters are copyrighted by Lorimar Telepictures, Rankin-Bass Productions, Turner Broadcasting, or whoever owns the current rights. I post this freely, and make no profit other than the satisfaction that my fellow fans and I get from these stories. Enjoy!Chapter Ten: Circle of Life
Lion-o looked around at everyone then settled his eyes on the oversized jaguar. “Well, what do we do with you?”
Jaga the Mighty smiled slightly and rubbed a thumb on the end of one of his protruding canines. “I don’t know, little one. Aren’t you supposed to be Lord of the Thundercats now?”
Lion-o frowned. “Hey, I always was!”
Jaga gave a quick hissing laugh. “That’s okay. I don’t want your little sword anyway. Never had much use for the so-called Eye of Thundera, and that copy you’re playing with is a joke.”
Instead of reacting with anger, Lion-o tilted his head. “Still power hungry, aren’t you?”
Jaga sighed. “Not really.” He glanced at Jaga the Wise and continued. “Little Jaga was right, my time has passed. There’s no one like me anymore: the animal blood burns in me—I am a warrior!” He looked towards the ground. “A warrior without a purpose.”
“A warrior, huh?”
Jaga spun around to see Barbaria casually walking towards him. “That’s what I said.”
She unsheathed her battle-axe and let it fall to the ground, then placed her shield on top of it. “We’ll see.”
Jaga was impressed by her size—she was only a few inches shorter than him, and almost as muscular. He watched bemused as Barbaria started to circle around him. As she came back around to his front, he looked in her eyes and started to grin. He gave a slight growl that sounded very deep and started circling along with her.
Lion-o and WildKat looked at each other with expressions of confusion.
Suddenly, Barbaria took a swing at the huge cat. He blocked her and returned a backhanded blow which she in turn blocked with her other arm. Amazonian and thunderian circled some more, each trying to figure out the weaknesses of the other.
WilyKit looked over at Willa, who was taking in the spectacle with eager eyes.
The rest of the group started to back off, forming a wide semi-circle.
Jaga charged in with a running blow. Barbaria deflected it, then hit him square in the middle of his face with an open-handed blow. She followed up with three more rapid blows, each sending the huge jaguar reeling. She tried to connect with a right hook to his head, but he ducked and connected with a double open-handed blow to her body.
Lion-o started to step forward, but was stopped by Willa. She gave him a look that said no one’s interference would be welcome. He nodded and stepped back, joining Willa at her side.
Barbaria staggered backwards and held her stomach for a moment, then straightened up. She made a couple of feigning moves and landed two solid punches to Jaga’s body, three rapid jabs to his face, then jumped up and delivered the most graceful spinning side kick he had ever seen. Jaga nearly fell over and dropped to one knee, felt his cheek, then charged at the Amazonian woman. She blocked a couple attempts to hit her body, but she wasn’t quick enough to dodge a vicious uppercut that briefly picked her feet off the ground.
WilyKit looked over at Willa with questioning eyes, but her mentor just stood there with a clenched fist. She shook her head and watched as the huge combatants launched themselves at each other again. Jaga missed with a wild swing and Barbaria caught his arm. She twisted it over and downward, then proceeded to kick Jaga the Mighty three times in the ribs, and drove the sole of her other boot into the side of his head. She released his arm on the last blow, causing him to fall on his side. He backed up a bit and got to his feet again. He ducked and charged, feigning a blow to the body, but when she dropped her guard to protect her midsection, he launched his body upward and clotheslined her, making her fall solidly on her back. He continued the motion and twisted in midair, coming down hard with his fist. He intended to drive it into her upper chest, but she twisted out of his way. Jaga the Mighty yelped as his fist hit hard into the dirt, then yelped again as she drove her knee into his gut. She twisted back underneath him, grabbed his head by his sideburn-like ridges of fur, and delivered a vicious headbutt to his catlike nose.
Panthro cringed and Tygra’s mouth hung open as blood sprayed from the jaguar’s face.
Jaga the Mighty reeled backwards and tried to stand up, but his feet went out from under him. Barbaria tried to get up, but was having trouble getting to her feet. She rolled onto her stomach and slowly eased herself up. When she tried to finish her maneuver, her face was met by Jaga’s fist. She recoiled, then struck at him with a chop to his throat.
ThunderManx, DeathClaw, Stripe, and WildKat stood side by side entranced by this display of unbound truculence.
The Warrior Maidens silently cheered for Barbaria, except for Willa. She kept looking on in full concentration.
Lepraa and Trameea appeared as though they were in shock, clearly thinking this was stupidity on the combatant’s parts.
Kitara grinned feverishly, relishing the adrenaline running through her system, augmented by feedback from ThunderManx’s own adrenal glands.
Barbaria and Jaga staggered towards each other, each trading two wild punches to each other’s faces. They both reeled backwards, stared at each other for a moment while panting hard, then fell to their hands and knees. After a tense minute of hard breathing, Barbaria slowly rose to her feet and shuffled her way to Jaga, who was now sitting in the dirt with one hand propping him up. She offered her hand which he took with his other, and allowed her to pull him to his feet.
The thunderians, mutants, and humans looked among themselves and back at the two hulking figures as they stood, staring at each other for another tense minute.
Barbaria spit out some blood and wiped her mouth. She started to smile.
Jaga’s nose was running with his own blood, and he snorted some of it out as he nodded his head slightly.
Barbaria said, “You’ll do.”
Jaga was confused. “I’ll do?”
She smiled again. “Join me on my quest?” She offered her right hand and forearm.
Jaga the Mighty rubbed his face with his left hand and wiped some of the blood away. He glanced around at the frozen spectators and looked deeply into Barbaria’s steely eyes. He smiled and clasped forearms and hands with her. He said, “I’ve got nothing better to do.”
Barbaria twisted around and flashed her eyes briefly at Willa. “We’ll be back when it’s time to leave.”
Willa nodded and smiled as Barbaria retrieved her axe and shield, put her arm around Jaga’s waist, and led him towards the edge of the forest.
WilyKit broke the silence and said, “Tell me I didn’t just see that.”
Lepraa shook her head in disbelief. She was joined by Trameea and Racina. Racina said, “That was nuts, and I’m saying that as a mutant!”
Cheetara said, “I can’t say I understood that at all.”
Willa said, “She truly is a warrior.”
Panthro said, “Well, I’m impressed. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
ThunderManx made a similar gesture with his hand and arm as he approached Kitara. She looked up into his eyes and said, “I certainly hope you don’t want to go through a mating ritual like that.”
ThunderManx said, “Heh heh. You can kick my butt any day, babe.”
WildKat started laughing and joined Trameea, who put her arms around his waist. “Did we tell you we’re getting married?”
Kitara smiled and said, “Manx, let’s do that too. Let’s have… an Elvin Wedding.”
ThunderManx’s eyebrows cocked. “A what?”
Kitara said, “I’ll get my family here, and we’ll have a proper wedding as the elves do, with soul-bonding and everything!”
ThunderManx backed off a little. “Hey, wait a minute! Don’t I have to ask you to marry me first?”
Kitara shrugged her shoulders and said, “I suppose, if you really want to.”
ThunderManx looked back and forth between the assembled group. “Here, in front of everyone?”
ThunderManx groaned. “Okay, Kitara… um… will you marry me?”
Kitara slapped her mate on the backside and said, “Of course, silly!” After a couple tense moments of silence, she raised her eyebrows inquisitively. “What’s wrong, hon?”
ThunderManx shrugged. “I don’t know, that was sort of anti-climactic.”
Kitara started laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“You are, babe! Okay, be a man and spoil me.”
“You’re asking for it, you know.”
“Yes, that I am. Hee hee hee!”
ThunderManx growled and picked Kitara up over his shoulder, then started running with her towards Cat’s Lair, bouncing her in a way that made her laugh in spurts.
Everyone else laughed hard as they watched Panthro’s nephew and future niece leaving. WildKat said, “Elvin Wedding, huh? That sounds interesting.”
Trameea said, “We still haven’t planned ours, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s right! Um… when should we get married?”
Lion-o walked over to WildKat. “Hey, why don’t all four of you get married at the same time?”
Cheetara added, “A double-wedding? How romantic!”
Pumyra and Bengali walked over arm in arm and joined the group. Pumyra said, “Huh. Too bad we didn’t do that with you and Tygra.”
Tygra smiled. “Looks like we have some work to do.”
Cheetara giggled. “Yeah, lots of planning involved with a double wedding.”
The group started splitting into factions and dispersing. A large celebration dinner was planned for the following night, and most said their good-byes to each other.
Lion-o looked longingly at Willa, and Willa finally came over to him. “Since you’re descended from humans, this changes things.”
Lion-o said, “Does it? I mean, I’m the same person. I’ve always… liked you, Willa.”
Willa smiled. “Yes, you’re right. You’re part of the Circle of Tribes, no matter what you are.”
Lion-o smiled. “So, have you seen much of New Thundera yet?”
“Not really. Walk with me?”
“I would be honored.”
Lion-o and Willa nodded at the few who were still standing around and talking in the distance. As they walked, Willa took his hand in hers.
Stripe and Lepraa were standing near each other, and exchanged amused glances as they watched Lion-o and Willa walking off. Lepraa spoke nervously. “They look so happy…”
Stripe stared in their direction and absently said, “Yeah, they’ve known each other for so many year…” He was cut off as Lepraa suddenly appeared in front of him and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
Stripe stuttered. “What… what was that for?”
She smiled. “For being such a good guy.”
Stripe was blushing. “Umm… thanks. Uh… can I… uh… walk you home?”
Lepraa put her hands on her hips and said, “Nah, that’s okay, boy-o. I got me a ride.”
Stripe’s mouth hung open as she turned around and started walking towards the city.
Lepraa glanced back at the confused cheetah/tiger with a mischievous smirk and said, “Gotcha!” She started running at full speed away from him.
Stripe shook his head and started laughing as he started running, trying to catch up to her.
Most of the Warrior Maidens retreated to the camp they established in the woods on the opposite side of the lair. WilyKit wasn’t sure which direction to take at first, then decided to join her maiden family for this evening. She was stopped by the appearance of DeathClaw. He approached and tried to start a conversation with her.
“Do Warrior Maidens meditate?”
“It’s one of the things I learned in the order I used to belong to. I’d like to know if our techniques are similar to yours…”
WilyKit wasn’t really interested in him. “No, that’s okay. Maybe some other time.”
DeathClaw shrugged. “Okay. Take care of yourself, WilyKit.”
She said, “You too, TenClaws. Take care of my brother, huh? He needs it.”
DeathClaw laughed and said, “Will do, Kit. Good night.”
DeathClaw was startled by a soft voice behind him. “I would like to see your technique.”
He turned around and started to smile warmly. “You’re Willa’s sister, aren’t you?”
“Yes, my name is Nayda.” The young warrior princess extended her hand, which DeathClaw shook lightly.
“The kids call me DeathClaw, but my real name is TenClaws. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The party slowly made its way up the mountainside. “This is a little weird.”
Panthro cocked an eyebrow. “What’s weird, Lion-o?”
“All of us leaving Cat’s Lair like this.”
Tygra dropped back a few paces to approach Lion-o. “We’ve all left the lair before, many times.”
Lion-o chuckled. “Yeah, but this is different. We’ve leaving it for a whole day and there’s no emergency.”
Jaga the Wise dropped back with Tygra and laughed lightly. “Think about it, both Cat’s Lairs are under Warrior Maiden control now.”
Panthro snorted and chuckled. “As long as they don’t start planting flowers in my workshop…” that got a return chuckle from Tygra.
Snarf popped his head out of a backpack Lion-o was carrying. “You know what’s really weird? WilyKat getting married!”
Lion-o scratched absently at his chin. “Kind of makes me feel old.”
Snarf said, “Brrr… not as old as I feel, snarf snarf.”
Jaga the Wise laughed. “You two have no idea what being old is like.”
Tygra shook his head. “I do. Fortunately, it was temporary.”
Further up the trail, WildKat scratched his head. “Where is this place? Are we there yet?”
DeathClaw groaned. “You need to get out more, you know that?”
He flashed a slightly irritated look towards his friend. “I know you must have some sweet spot staked out for this, but geez, did it have to be in the middle of nowhere?”
“You’d rather do this in the middle of town and get mobbed by all your ‘fans’?”
He scratched his chin again. “That’s a thought.”
DeathClaw laughed. “Fact is, the Elves refuse to come near thunderian society, they hate steel and concrete, and besides, you’re gonna love it.”
WildKat laughed. “Yeah, I know. It’s just weird that all the women went ahead of us yesterday.”
Bengali sighed. “I miss my Pummy.”
Tygra added, “I miss my Cheety.”
Stripe absently said, “I hope Lepraa is up there.”
ThunderManx walked a little faster to catch up to Stripe. He spoke softly. “Yeah, she left with the others. You know, I never thought I’d see her warm up to anyone like she did with you.”
Stripe’s curiosity was piqued. “Why? I mean, why was she so cold to me?”
He lowered his voice as some of the others had conversations of their own. “She’s not cold, she’s just, I don’t know, hurt.”
“Yeah. When she was a kid, she lived in the Terraniux Colony. Her parents were killed, and she had to live with a bunch of other kids in the tunnels around there. Terraniux was hell from what she said: thunderians reverting to violence as a way of life. She survived, but I hate to think of the things she must have seen. When I first met her, she was maybe twelve years old, and she was terrified of everything. It was weeks before she would even let me touch her, and she always had this fear about men.”
Stripe nodded slowly and said, “Wow.”
ThunderManx smiled. “She’s come a long way, and from what I’ve seen so far, I’d say you’re very lucky. The only other guys she allows to get close to her are the ones in her band, because they’re all survivors of that colony.”
“Wow. No wonder they’re so powerful on stage.”
“You got that right, buddy.”
WildKat was in the middle of a conversation with Bengali. “So you two have a kitten on the way, eh?”
Bengali smiled proudly. “Yeah, it’s kinda scary really.”
“Heh. Just don’t leave your hammer unattended.”
WildKat and Bengali laughed together. Bengali growled. “Why did all the women have to go up there anyway?”
A lilting voice came from a nearby bush that made the party stop. “That’s because it is our tradition: the male and female minds are kept separate until the bonding ceremony, so everyone’s mental state is in harmony.”
WildKat grinned widely as the elf Priest came into view. “Sounds a bit like our tradition: it’s supposed to be bad luck to see my bride before we…”
The elf paused and looked curiously at the red-haired cat. “What is it?”
WildKat said, “I don’t know, I thought you guys would be little or something.”
He laughed heartily. “Almost every outsider we’ve met says something like that. It would seem there’s a lot of fairy tales floating around the universe, and people must have us confused with faeries.” The elf was tall: slightly over six feet in height. His build was slender but muscular in a way that looked perfectly balanced. He wore armor that looked like green steel leaves arranged diagonally, with extremely fine chain mail woven between them. Everyone stared as they noticed his armor was slowly changing color from green to a sandy brown that matched the trail they were walking. His face was slender, almost feminine, and his ears terminated in points, but points that were subtler than WildKat had expected.
The elf extended his hand. “My name is Elessar Calmcacil.” He proceeded to shake everyone’s hands, and ThunderManx noticed his grip was strong and icy against his.
ThunderManx said, “You… you’re Kitara’s adopted father!”
He smiled and nodded. “Yes, I am. It’s a pleasure to not only meet you, ThorrManx, but it’s also a pleasure to know you’re willing to make the sacrifice to heal her wound.”
Everyone went silent and ThunderManx looked embarrassed. WildKat said, “What does that mean, Manx?”
He cleared his throat and said, “It’s not something I’ve talked about before, but Kitara did a partial soul-bond with me.”
Lion-o looked concerned. “A what?”
Elessar started to walk backwards, encouraging the group to resume their journey. “Soul bonds are something we do. When an elf couple gets married, their souls are joined as one during the ceremony, and they forever carry a connection that lasts into the afterlife. They will always know each other’s feelings, and they will feel each other’s pleasure and pain.”
Tygra wore a look of concern. “That doesn’t sound good to me—don’t they lose their individuality?”
Elessar said, “No. Each half of the whole is still independent and thoughts have to be willed to be shared: it’s one level below speaking, but a strong thought can get through too. All five of their senses are always shared. It’s confusing at first, but the couple can draw great strength from each other as well. As a benefit, if the couple have children, they can feel strong emotions. If a child is in danger, the parents will be able to locate him or her.”
Stripe chimed in. “You said Kitara had some kind of wound?”
“Yes. She once fell in love with Galdor Anwamanë—son of the librarian. They created a partial soul bond between them, as most couples tend to do, but they were both too young and didn’t understand the consequences. Kitara couldn’t deal with the lack of the physical affection her species demands, and Galdor’s family objected to the union because not only was she too different, but her lifespan is much shorter and would dramatically shorten Galdor’s life if he were to fully bond with her. They forcibly removed the bond and separated them. Galdor went on to marry someone else several years later, but Kitara was devastated by the loss of the bond. It’s hazardous enough to bond with someone of a vastly different bloodline, but it’s even worse when a bond is removed. It’s like having a hole in your soul—an empty space that can’t be filled, and for Kitara, it was traumatic. It’s one of the reasons Kitara left us after she found out Thundera reformed: she needed to be with her people, and I’d say she made a fine choice in a mate.” He looked at ThunderManx and smiled warmly.
ThunderManx nodded. “So a full bonding with Kitara will heal her?”
“Yes, it should. This is the first time we’ll create a soul-bond between two non-Elves, so we don’t really know how safe it is. Unions between Elves and non-Elves have happened from time to time in our history, but there were no complications, other than the shortening of the Elvin half. The other half lived up to thrice as long as a result, though. Kitara’s situation is unique: the broken bond gave her the ability to create a partial bond with someone else, and that’s what ThorrManx has been dealing with.”
ThunderManx looked nervous. “If I understand this right, if one of us dies, the other will too?”
“Yes. Since your life force is shared, everything that happens to one will happen to the other. The good side is that your resistance to disease and other maladies increases four-fold, and yours and her strength will increase at least three-fold. There is great value in uniting the male and female halves like this.”
ThunderManx laughed. “I guess I’ll never be able to lie to her, huh?”
Elessar raised an eyebrow and looked very serious. “Why would you want to?”
He shrugged. “It’s just a joke.” He glanced around at the others to make a point of the smirks they were wearing.
Elessar nodded. “We always speak the truth. It’s one reason we do not deal with outsiders: deception is a way of life for other species.”
Lion-o said, “That’s not true! We pride ourselves on our honesty. It’s one reason the nobles of Thundera didn’t wear clothing in the past: we had nothing to hide from each other.”
Elessar waved his hand. “That’s not what I mean. What I’m talking about is what you would call ‘brutal honesty.’ We don’t hold anything back, because a lie of omission is still a lie, and most outsiders find us to be offensive for it. For us, it is simply a part of our culture.”
WildKat rubbed his shoulder and said, “Hmm, that would explain Kitara.” ThunderManx chuckled.
Another elf emerged from the side of the trail to join the group. Soon, more and more joined to make the group into a procession. DeathClaw said, “We’re almost there, folks!”
WildKat smiled nervously. “About time.”
“So what’s it like?”
Kitara tilted her head towards Trameea, who was being fitted by an elf girl named Itarildë Tulcakelumë. “It’s like a feeling of warmth inside. It’s hard to explain. The weird part is when he’s feeling something strong. I can sort of feel it too. It is nice, though.” She snickered and started running a single fingernail across her abdomen, making it cringe. After a moment, she started laughing and rubbing at a spot on her side.
Trameea watched this odd display of remote affection and shook her head. “That’s just too weird for me.”
An older elf woman entered the room. She exuded an aura of royalty. “Kitara, you need to stop doing that. Your partial bond must be used as little as possible.”
Kitara frowned. “Keeping the balance, right mom?”
The elf nodded. “It won’t be long before you have a complete bond, then you can have all the fun you want with your mate.”
Kitara laughed. WilyKit said, “Mom?”
The elf nodded again. “Yes. I am Séreméla Súrion, the wife of Elessar Calmcacil. We raised Kitara after we rescued her.”
Trameea had a puzzled look. “Excuse me, ma’am, but…”
“If you’re Elessar’s wife, why is your last name different?”
She smiled. “Our culture isn’t like yours. We don’t place preferences on gender—we are completely equal to our male counterparts. My last name came from my mother and his from his father. We do not change them upon marriage.”
WilyKit came over. “Interesting. So, what will you two do?”
Trameea said, “I’ll just do the normal thing and take Kat’s name.”
Kitara said, “Hmm… good question.” She looked at the ceiling for a moment and smiled. “What the heck, Thorr’s last name is good enough for me.”
A high-pitched scream froze the conversation. Racina said, “Uh oh, the twins are fighting again. I’m on it.”
Another elf girl known as Isil Elanessë entered with some elaborate armor. She briefly nodded her head towards the twins who were shouting at each other now. “I don’t know much about your species, but those two seem younger than they look.”
Trameea said, “Yeah. An ancient priest possessed them for over seven thousand years, and he kept going to our Canyon of Youth to keep them young. They’re something like thirteen years old as far as we can tell, but Tagalon must have taken them at an earlier age. They act like they’re six or seven.”
Isil said, “Looks like it’s going to be quite a job raising them.”
Trameea nodded. “They were the rhythm section of our band, but it looks like they won’t be playing bass and drums again for some time, if ever.”
Kitara said, “Who knows? It would give them something better to do than fighting.”
WilyKit laughed. “Well, at least they’re more or less normal now.”
Séreméla entered the conversation again and took the armor from Isil. “Okay daughter, this is for you.”
Kitara cast a mischievous smile towards Trameea as she undressed and briefly inspected the armor before putting it on.
Trameea said, “Itarildë, what’s the deal with this armor anyway? Everyone’s acting like there’s some secret.”
Itarildë giggled a bit, interrupting the measurements she was taking. “It’s ceremonial armor that’s only made for marriages. It has a special surprise.”
Trameea waited a moment for Itarildë to finish what she was saying, but the young elf returned to her task of measuring her arm with a length of vine that had bright green stripes woven at regular intervals. She looked questioningly into Séreméla’s eyes.
Séreméla smiled and pointed to Kitara’s shoulder. She fastened a final strap made of the silky-looking chain mail that was several times thicker than the rest and had some strange bronze characters melted into it. There was an elaborate set of cuts in the section that met the breastplate that suggested a breakaway function. “That is it. After the ceremony, you are meant to keep your armor until you get to your homes. You are to break this part of your husband’s armor, and he is to break yours. The armor will evaporate quickly.”
Trameea’s eyes went wide and she blushed a bit. “Huh! That’s… different.”
Cheetara and Pumyra were sitting together on a nearby log and stopped talking in time to hear that bit of news. Cheetara snickered a bit and said, “I guess you better be careful with that armor when you’re in front of everyone, huh?”
Trameea shot her a playful look. “If anyone’s in danger of losing it in public, it would be my Kat.” That caused several of the thunderian women to laugh.
Isil stood up. “Okay Trameea, I’ll be back in a minute with yours.”
Trameea raised an eyebrow. “Oh boy.” She looked over at Lepraa. “So, I hear you and Stripe are getting along okay.”
Lepraa was in deep thought and blinked a couple times. “Huh? Oh yeah. He’s okay.”
“Well, he and Claw are a bit mysterious. Hmm, I guess I should say Claw is the mysterious one. From what I understand, he was in some strange order of monks that rescued Stripe from Thundera before it blew. He was like two years old or something, and Claw was ten. They left the order to return to New Thundera four years ago.”
Lepraa said, “I met Claw, he is a bit weird. He’s really quiet, and Stripe is so… shy. I guess that’s why I like him.”
“He’s not as shy as you might think. He’s been in a loud argument or two.”
Lepraa smiled. “I guess I like him even more now.”
Nayda’s eyes sparkled at the mention of DeathClaw. She said, “TenClaws is… interesting.”
WilyKit said, “Well, he seems to be wise for his age.”
Trameea said, “He is. He has the most interesting point of view on the most ordinary things. He does have this odd habit of disappearing into the woods for weeks at a time, though. But, he always makes it back to play shows with Kat and the guys.”
Nayda smiled. “Sounds like my type of guy.” That got an amused look from Willa who had been sitting next to her. Nayda looked at her big sister. “So, how about you and Lion-o?”
Willa smiled. “I guess it was bound to happen after all these years. I thought he was forbidden because he wasn’t a human, but it turns out he is… sort of.”
Nayda said, “Yeah, it’s interesting, especially since the other races on Third Earth are forbidden too, but now we know they were once humans too.”
Willa shrugged her shoulders. “I guess tradition isn’t meant to be carved in stone. It needs to be improved from time to time. We did that when we started trading with the Bolkins and Wollos.”
Nayda sighed. “We have the Thundercats to thank for that.”
Willa thought about Lion-o. “Things sure have changed.”
There was a long pause between the women, which was broken by Isil returning with Trameea’s armor. Everyone had amused looks on their faces as she helped Trameea put it on.
Another elf woman named Silmarwen Ancalímon entered the tent. She said, “Séreméla? Good news: the men are here.”
Séreméla smiled and stood. She briefly looked everyone over to make sure their outfits were ready for public viewing. As the elder of the village, it was her prerogative to see to it the ceremony would be as elegant as possible. This was an unusual occasion in so many ways, and she wanted it to be perfect. She couldn’t wait for her husband to start the proceedings. “Silmarwen, we are ready. Tell Elessar to begin.”
Trameea and Kitara gave each other nervous smiles. Trameea said, “Here we go then…”
Elessar and the rest of the procession paused before entering a large stand of trees. He smiled and said, “Are you ready?”
WildKat tugged a little to adjust his ceremonial armor in a couple spots and dragged his finger across the breakaway strap. Elessar paused and gasped, making WildKat flinch his hand away. He offered a slightly embarrassed smile. “It’s too bad we can’t keep these—they look so cool.”
Elessar chuckled. “A lot of work goes into those, but they aren’t meant to be saved. It’s a symbol of love being more important than any worldly possession.”
WildKat smiled in complete agreement. “Let’s do it, guys.”
The men entered the clearing to find the trees had been enhanced. They were at their full-grown height, unlike the rest of the forest that had been planted when New Thundera was re-colonized. The clearing was natural: the floor was mostly rocky with veins and patches of moss and grass. The rocks themselves were encrusted with black and white lichens, and near the center of the clearing was an outcropping of rock three feet across that slowly flowed with water. The ring of trees featured decorations that looked like steely spider webs tightly woven amongst the branches to produce large vine, leaf, and Elvish rune designs. The runes seemed to have a coppery hue that made them stand out from the rest of the intricate weavings. It looked as if an army of spiders worked for years on it.
WildKat stopped and stared open-mouthed at the splendor. The rest of the thunderians had a similar reaction—even DeathClaw. His eyes scanned the green and silver panorama. “Wow, they really did a number on my favorite meditation spot. Look at the size of those trees!”
Elessar moved ahead of the group and held his hands high. Everyone froze as greenish sparks and spiraling trails of light left his fingers and wormed their way into the rock that comprised half of the clearing. The ground started vibrating, and to everyone’s surprise, foot-wide ridges of rock slowly rose in concentric half-circles with a higher level ridge on the trailing edges—making what looked like pews that were formed by mysterious natural forces. When the action subsided, Elessar told all but WildKat and ThunderManx to be seated on the left half of the semi-circle.
Stripe said, “Don’t the bride’s family sit on one side and the groom’s on the other?”
Elessar said, “No, this is a joining of families, and it is also a necessary arrangement for the bonding. Each and every one of you will share a little of your energy.” He glanced around and noticed a few concerned faces. “Do not fear—it is not harmful. You will act as conduits, strengthening the connection.”
Panthro still had a look of concern on his face, but it subsided when he saw the nervousness on his nephew’s face. ThunderManx smiled slightly, but he was clearly apprehensive about the process. Elessar had previously discussed it with Kitara and himself, and he said it wasn’t without risks because it had never been done between two thunderians. He thought about his Kitara and relaxed slightly. “It’ll be worth it,” he whispered to himself.
As the group found their seats, Elessar motioned for WildKat and ThunderManx to follow him and had them stand before the stone spring. He circled behind them and the spring then raised his hands again. The greenish sparks and trails flew, and he slowly rose a little over a foot on a pillar of stone behind the spring. He smiled and said, “Let it begin!” The male Elves sat along the far edge of the semi-circle in a fairly straight line from the front to back row, making a barrier of sorts on one side.
The women slowly filed in from a tent hidden behind the back stand of trees. They emerged from a hole in the foliage and made their way to the other half of the semi-circle. The elven women arranged themselves along the opposite edge of the semi-circle, sandwiching the guests between them and their male counterparts. The men looked across to exchange smiles and a couple furtive waves. Stripe left his place besides DeathClaw to sit near the middle and was joined by Lepraa on the women’s side. He smiled warmly in her direction, which she returned for a moment before nodding her head forward to direct his attention to Séreméla emerging from the opening with an angelic elegance. She stepped up on the ridge and joined Elessar behind the spring. They looked out over the gathered crowd and paused. When they had the group’s full attention, she and Elessar faced each other and started to sing. It was an ancient song in a language that was foreign to the gathered thunderians, humans, and mutants, but somehow the meaning came across. It spoke of the unbridled joy of marriage and the everlasting connection that Kitara and ThunderManx would experience—a connection that even death wouldn’t be able to sever. For Trameea and WildKat, the joy was not diminished by the fact they wouldn’t be joined at the soul like their friends. As the Elves sang, they extended their open hands towards each other. Ribbons of multicolored light cascaded between them and floated skyward, terminating in a beautiful exchange of silent fireworks that lit the ground and reflected off the silvery tree decorations. As they sang, the two brides emerged and slowly walked around to the front to join their grooms. Their ceremonial armor glowed a deep blue, and they left a slowly fading trail of light behind them. WildKat and ThunderManx were surprised as their armor started to glow an equally intense red.
The song ended with Elessar and Séreméla pressing their open palms together in a sort of diamond shape, and they bowed their heads to their hands where the colorful light was fading. When it went dark, everyone felt a slight twinge of sadness until they suddenly threw their heads back, separated their hands, and held them high. A circular wave of dim greenish light flew from the couple like a ripple in an invisible pond. When it reached the stand of trees, the silvery spider webs lit up with a pleasant whitish-green light, and the coppery runes glowed a grainy bright red that had the appearance of laser light.
Elessar and Séreméla slowly turned to face the awestruck group in front of them while WildKat and ThunderManx nervously glanced around.
Elessar started the ritual. “Friends and family, we gather on this occasion to strengthen our ties and renew our spirit as these four become two.”
Séreméla said, “Since the dawn of time, we have recognized that life is a circle. It begins, but its beginning cannot be found. It ends, but its end cannot be seen.”
Elessar continued. “The physical form is the center of the circle—with finite boundaries. The spiritual form is everything outside the circle—travelling into infinity.”
Séreméla finished. “As winter must give way to summer and return in an endless cycle, so must life end and renew. As joined souls, we experience this cycle as no others and break the bonds of infinity, and we pass on this gift so others may understand the circle of life.”
Elessar and Séreméla reached into the spring and pulled out two silvery chains that looked solid, but were flexible like snake chains without ridges. They stepped down and walked around the spring towards the front, standing on either side of the couples. Elessar said, “Trameea and WilyKat, Kitara and ThorrManx, you will now join hands.”
Both couples smiled as they clasped their left hands with their mates and interlocked their fingers as if they were playing “mercy.” Elessar wrapped his chain around Trameea and WildKat’s hands at their wrists, and Séreméla did likewise with the other couple. The chains hardened and gripped on both couples’ wrists lightly, weaving around themselves like snakes until the chains looked like ropes with spiraling strands.
Elessar spoke. “WilyKat of Caliphus and ThorrManx of Jescomo… do you agree to be bound with Trameea of Cervalis and Kitara of Jagran respectively: to love, to honor, and to cherish in the circle of life for all eternity?”
ThorrManx smiled broadly and said, “I do.”
WildKat nodded and said it too.
Séreméla said, “Trameea of Cervalis and Kitara of Jagran… do you agree to be bound with WilyKat of Caliphus and ThorrManx of Jescomo: to love, to honor, and to cherish in the circle of life for all eternity?”
Trameea had a broad smile as she said, “I do.”
Kitara raised an eyebrow and looked ThunderManx up and down. She said, “I don’t know…” which made Séreméla and Elessar frown in a parental way. ThunderManx opened his mouth halfway in surprise. Kitara giggled and winked at her mate. “Of course I do!”
Elessar shook his head slightly. Kitara was never one for traditions, thunderian or otherwise. “This is where the ceremony deviates from what’s normal for us. WilyKat and Trameea, would you please step forward?”
The smaller couple walked towards Elessar a few steps and looked intently into each other’s eyes. Séreméla joined on the other side of the two.
Elessar started. “With the authority possessed by us as elders of our village, we proclaim these two to be husband and wife. You may now seal this union.”
Sighs and cheers erupted from the crowd as WildKat and Trameea kissed for a good minute or so. Their ceremonial armor shifted colors until they met at the same shade of intense green, and the chain rope that bound their wrists together separated into matching bracelets that would always stay on them.
In the crowd, Panthro sniffled and wiped a tear away. Tygra looked over and said, “I didn’t know you cried at weddings.”
Panthro smiled widely, exposing his teeth. “Neither did I.”
On the other side, Cheetara and WilyKit hugged. WilyKit’s eyes started to water as she said, “He did it. He really did it.”
The Elvin couple waited patiently for the cheering to end. Elessar finally said, “You two can join your friends. Please seat yourselves in the middle, WilyKat on this side…” The couple did as they were asked, and looked up expectantly.
Elessar continued. “Okay, you are all new to this, so here’s what we’re going to do. I want all of you to close your eyes. Now, I want you to recall your fondest memory of ThorrManx. Take your time and remember the sights, smells, and tastes of that memory. Make it real in your minds.”
Several of the group smiled at their own internal thoughts. WildKat remembered a time when he and ThunderManx rescued a family of simians from being taken prisoner by Imperial Mutants, and WildKat realized he would always be a Thundercat no matter what.
Stripe remembered a time when he first met ThunderManx. He was showing off by climbing a tree with his hands alone, and lost his grip. He nearly fell and managed to catch himself halfway down. They ended up rolling with laughter when WildKat came around the corner and said, “What’s so funny?” That only made them laugh harder.
Lion-o recalled the ceremony he held after the mutants were rescued and Slythe was put behind bars for good. He remembered the look of happiness in ThunderManx’s eyes when he proclaimed him a Thundercat.
Trameea remembered a sad time when ThunderManx let her cry on his shoulder after her father died, and the warm feeling she felt for him in that moment. She knew ThunderManx would always be there for her like a brother, and her memory shifted to another time when he cried on her after he thought she had been lost when pirates tried to take over the spaceship they were travelling on.
Lepraa remembered the first time she hugged ThunderManx. She also cried—it was the first time she put her trust in another male outside her fellow tunnel dwellers.
Racina simply remembered a time when ThunderManx picked her up in a cradle position and repeatedly threw her into the air until her laughter threatened to interfere with her breathing.
Everyone paused in their thoughts as they felt a warm glow pass through them. Several opened their eyes and were surprised to see a reddish ball of light hanging in the air over them. Elessar told everyone to close their eyes again and do the same for Kitara.
WildKat remembered the first time he thought of her as a good person, kneeling on the rug behind the couch with a stupid grin that perfectly matched the one on ThunderManx’s face.
Trameea remembered her in a similar memory: forgiving her when she saw the intense love Kitara showed her adopted brother after they reunited.
The specific memories were fewer for Kitara since she was newer to the group, but those who didn’t know her felt warmth for her nevertheless. Another warm glow passed through everyone, and Séreméla said it was okay for everyone to open their eyes. A second ball of light with a bluish hue was floating beside the other one.
Elessar told them to hold their bound hands upward and repeated what was said earlier:
“With the authority possessed by us as elders of our village, we proclaim these two to be husband and wife, joined eternally as one in the circle of life. You may now seal this union.”
As Kitara and ThunderManx kissed, the twin balls of light combined and were absorbed by the chain around their wrists. The chain glowed a bright green but didn’t separate right away. Their armor shifted colors and met in the middle at green like the others, but the glow was brighter. ThunderManx and Kitara suddenly felt as though they were melting together. They wanted to open their eyes but couldn’t. Suddenly, they felt the world drop from underneath them. They were floating in a void, but they weren’t afraid. Kitara felt comfort in ThunderManx’s warmth, as did ThunderManx in her coolness. It was a moment that felt like a small piece of eternity, and they could see all of their life’s memories at once. They walked through them and shared everything with each other. Every triumph, tribulation, joy, and sorrow. They knew each other as no other thunderian couple had in history, then it suddenly ended in a bright green flash.
Kitara and ThunderManx opened their eyes as if they had awakened from a long dream. They were still kissing each other and they slowly separated. Their bracelets flashed and became two like WildKat and Trameea’s had, but a residual glow remained between them. Breathless, the two turned towards the gathered crowd. After a few stunned moments of silence, WildKat started a slow rhythmic clap. Panthro joined in, and soon everyone was applauding the overwhelmed couple. They stepped down and joined WildKat and Trameea who stood up to greet them. WildKat said, “Good luck, pal.”
ThunderManx smiled and said, “You too.”
Both couples exchanged hugs as everyone went wild with cheering.
As the cheers subsided and everyone started to mingle, Lion-o talked with Elessar. “I had no idea your people were living on Thundera.”
“Yes, we’re everywhere. Our species is ancient, and we possessed our own type of magic even before the great disaster.”
“Do you think we can live together in peace?”
“Probably not. We’re too different, and our species weakens when one marries an outsider.”
Lion-o cocked an eyebrow. “Is it really that wrong?”
Elessar shook his head. “Not really. It’s just not something we encourage. Besides, most species can’t live with nature—they modify and destroy it in the process. We enjoy our privacy.”
Lion-o offered his hand, which Elessar shook with a smile. “Just remember we’re friends. If we can do anything to help you in the future, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Elessar nodded. “Same here. May your life be long and plentiful.”
Lion-o said, “Thanks,” and joined the other thunderians.
WildKat was curious. “Dude, what’s it like?”
ThunderManx and Kitara wore matching smiles. He said, “It’s weird. It’s like we can look into each other’s heads now. I can see myself if I try.”
Stripe and DeathClaw joined the happy couple. Stripe said, “Wow, that must be intense.”
ThunderManx said, “You have no idea, buddy, and I’ve… we’ve only been this way for five minutes.”
Kitara kissed ThunderManx and said, “My man here will never tell another lie.”
ThunderManx would have looked astonished, but he knew what she was thinking. He played out his old reaction anyway. “I’ve never lied to you!”
Kitara rubbed her temple against his cheek and purred. “I know, because I’d kick your butt.”
DeathClaw laughed and said, “So you can feel everything she feels now?”
ThunderManx held his finger in the air and twitched his eyebrow towards Kitara. She repeated the gesture. He said, “Yep!”
WildKat smirked. “It’s gonna suck when she gives birth.”
ThunderManx froze with his mouth hanging open. Kitara flashed WildKat a bad look. WildKat felt guilty. “Uh, just kidding, bro.”
ThunderManx straightened up and said, “Yeah, of course you were.” Kitara stared a moment longer at the diminutive cat as Elessar overheard the last part of the conversation and led the couple away.
WildKat looked at Stripe and DeathClaw. “I was just kidding…”
DeathClaw shook his head and laughed a little. “Dude, I think you just ruined their honeymoon.”
Elessar spoke with ThunderManx and Kitara in a quiet corner of the tree stand. “Yes, you would feel her pain, but your bond will reduce it because it’s shared.”
ThunderManx shivered. “It still doesn’t sound like a picnic.”
Elessar smiled. “It’s okay. You are aware of the other functions of the bracelets?”
“Yeah, like we both have to agree to have kids before we can.”
The elf nodded. “That’s right. With a lifespan as long as ours, population control is a factor.”
Kitara said, “That’s nice, because I wouldn’t have the patience for kids. Or… at least I don’t right now.” She smiled at ThunderManx, and he pulled her closer.
Trameea pulled herself away from the other girls and women. “Hey Kat, what do you think of the soul-bond thing?”
WildKat shivered. “I wouldn’t want one. Not that I don’t… wouldn’t… uh…”
Trameea put a finger on his lips and smiled. “I know what you’re trying to say. I think it’s too weird, but it’s interesting.”
WildKat laughed once. “Yeah, imagine the pranks we could play on them now.”
She smiled slightly and shook her head as if she were about to reprimand him for being naughty. “I think those two will be playing more pranks on us. Think about ThunderManx with the ability to burn people.”
WildKat scrunched his features. “He wouldn’t dare!”
Trameea laughed. “Let’s not forget Kitara’s an influence on him now.”
WildKat rolled his eyes and said, “Oh boy.”
ThunderManx and Kitara rejoined the rest and announced a reception at their place, which everyone accepted except the Elves. Elessar and Séreméla wished the two couples well and said they had to return to their own world. Kitara fingered the black crystal hanging around her neck and told them to not be surprised if she talks to them more often through it. Elessar and Séreméla bid everyone farewell and walked through the opening where the brides had entered from. The other Elves soon followed.
Everyone noticed the webbed decorations starting to dim on the trees. In a few more moments, the webbing completely vanished. The modified rocks and trees remained, and DeathClaw thought it would make a fine open temple.
WildKat spoke up. “Okay everyone, party at our place!”
Trameea hugged him closely, and everyone started walking away down the trail together. It would be sunset by the time they got back to town.