The Three-Eyed Cat strolled casually through the Forest. He was the last of his kind, and he was watching as his King dragged a dead Hunter behind him. The Three-Eyed Cat, for the nine lives of him, couldn’t remember when or why the King had become to adamant on keeping the Forest free of humans.
The King was silent. He always was. When he twisted any Hunter’s neck, or when he was bathing in the moonlight, he was always silent.
The Three-Eyed Cat glanced at the Hunter. He hadn’t stood a chance. None of them ever did. The King was ruthless. The Hunter’s eyes were closed, his golden hair dragged listlessly through the dirt.
The King stopped suddenly. They were standing at the Autumn Tree. He set to work. With ease, the King slipped the Hunter’s furs and clothes off. He piled them neatly on a boulder, as well as the chain that hung off the Hunter’s neck. The King paused, looking at the golden ring on the chain, and then continued.
The Three-Eyed Cat waited patiently. His mouth watered, and his stomach rumbled. The King dipped his fingers into the Hunter’s face, and with a wet pop, one of the Hunter’s Eyeballs came out. The King tossed it to the Three-Eyed Cat, and then popped out the second eyeball, also tossing it to the Cat.
The Three-Eyed Cat bowed and met the King’s eyes. He ate the meal that had been graced upon him, they were blue. Blue eyes were his favourite, because they tasted of innocence.
The Three-Eyed Cat watched as the King resumed his work, tearing the eyeless head off of the naked body. The Autumn Tree reached impatiently for the body, and the King complied. He lifted and draped it across the limbs of the Tree.
The Autumn Tree grasped the body, and sighed with relief as it savoured its meal.
The King picked up the Hunter’s head and clothing. The Three-Eyed Cat followed once more, his belly full. Their Next destination was the Dancing River.
Crows and Ravens called to each other and gathered in the sky. They flew, loudly, to the River, and awaited the King’s arrival.
The Wind whispered while they walked. ‘Another job well done.’ And then the Wind was silent.
The Three-Eyed Cat didn’t trust the Wind. It whispered in the King’s ear, and brought storms that kept away the Stars and the Moon.
The Crows and Ravens circled above the River, some landed on the banks. The King placed the Hunter’s head upon an orange-stained rock. At once, the birds landed and picked off the hair, and the skin, and then pulled the brains from the skull.
The Three-Eyed Cat eyed the large birds. Soon-to-be parents in the flocks carried away the hair and fought for the empty skull. The rest of them ate the brains, the ugly mass disappearing into their slimy beaks.
The King rested upon the banks. He slipped his legs into the River and gave it the Hunter’s ring and chain as a gift. The River rejoiced and accepted the gift, taking it to somewhere hidden in the murky water.
The River danced. And it licked away the blood and grime that covered the King. It polished his antlers and massaged his legs and hands. It kissed the King’s cheeks and cleaned his Moss Cloak, and the Hunter’s clothing.
Once clean, the King left the River to it’s dancing. He gave the Hunter’s clothing to the Three-Eyed Cat, and watched as he disappeared into the Forest. He walked back to the Autumn Tree.
It finished its meal. Bright, cardinal-red leaves sprouted from the Autumn Tree. On the ground, the Hunter’s naked body had been discarded once it was empty. It was covered by dull, orange leaves.
The King picked off the Hunter’s arms and gave them to two young foxes that waited in the brush. The yelped their thanks, and scampered off to their families.
Two packs of wolves came. They moved separately, but shared their meal silently. The pups took the bones with them, to work the marrow out as a final meal, and there was no trace of the body left.
The King left the Autumn Tree and quietly walked to his Castle. It was high on a hill, in the centre of the Forest, secluded. He picked up a stone on the way, it was no bigger than the King’s palm.
The Castle was a cave that opened to a large cavern. A pile of clothing and furs sat unused in the corner. The King’s stone throne stood in the middle of the rom, empty. Small statues lined and littered the inside of the Castle. Each stood hardly taller than the King’s palm.
The King sat upon his throne and began chipping away at the stone with his thumbnail. It took the shape of the Hunter. When he was finished, the Three-Eyed Cat jumped down from his ledge and took the statue.
The Three-Eyed Cat trotted around, looking for a place for the statue. He found two similar statues, their hair and outfits were almost identical. He carefully placed it, and yawned. Hopping back onto his ledge, he prepared for a nap.
The King left his Castle. The Moon and the Stars were out, accompanied by their blanket of Night. The King wandered to the top of his hill and looked up.
The Moon ignored the King. It always did. It was a King of a separate domain, and the King wondered if he could join the Moon eventually.
The King waited in the light of the Moon. The Moon left, and the Sun rose. Time passed, and the Moon passed many times too. The Moon was just leaving the sky when the Wind woke up the King wish a small whisper. The King stretched out the passage of time, and followed the Wind to the next Hunter.
It didn’t take long to find the Hunter. It didn’t take long for the Hunter’s life to disappear. The King dragged the Hunter to the Autumn Tree and did his work. The Three-Eyed Cat approached, ate his meal, and followed the King.
The River didn’t dance, or rejoice. It was worried.
The Wind called out to the King, ‘another has appeared.’
The King left the Hunter’s clothing with the River, and followed the Wind once more.
She was dressed like a Hunter, but she was a Lady. She was confused, frail, delicate. Her breaths echoed through the Forest.
The Three-Eyed Cat approached first. The Lady froze, but the Three-Eyed Cat purred and rubbed its face on her leg. She released a breath, and reached down to pet the Three-Eyed Cat. She seemed familiar.
The King stepped out from the Shadows. The Lady gasped and fell over. She didn’t move as he approached. He circled her. Her hair was longer than any Hunter’s. Her heart beat fast, but it was weak.
He held out his hand for her, and she took it, to rise from the dirt.
He touched her hair and face. The Lady flinched and met his eyes.
She reached up, and cautiously felt his antlers. The King flinched, and moved away from her gentle touch.
The King started walking towards his Castle. She followed. The Three-Eyed Cat purred.
The Wind was quiet. It didn’t whisper in the King’s ear. He didn’t mind.
The Hunter’s body at the Autumn Tree would wait until later. The King needed to bring the Lady to a safe place. Day passed faster in the Forest than it did outside, and humans shouldn’t be in the Forest at Night.
The King glanced behind him. The Lady was following, far behind him. They approached the entrance to His Castle. She didn’t follow him in, and he didn’t mind. The King sat upon his throne and, as the Night fell, waited.
The Three-Eyed Cat stalked into the Castle first and hopped onto the piles of furs in the corner. The Lady followed, warily taking in the scene of the Castle. She looked closely at the statues on the ground.
She glanced at the King in his throne. He gestured to the pile, where the Three-Eyed Cat was making himself comfortable. She joined the Three-Eyed Cat.
The King watched as she got comfortable, and the left his Castle. He listened to be sure the Lady didn’t follow, and then went on his walk. He went to the Autumn Tree, but found that the foxes and wolves had already had their meals. The King returned once more to the Castle, with a new stone in his hand.
Again, he sat in his throne. Again, he began chipping away at the stone in his hand. It took the shape of the Hunter from that day, and the Three-Eyed Cat woke from his slumber to take it to it’s place with the rest of the statues.
The King went back outside to listen to the Wind while the Three-Eyed Cat went back to sleep. The Moon was past the hill, so the King remained outside the Castle entrance.
‘Another approaches,’ the Wind whispered, beckoning the King to the next Hunter.
The King found the Hunter easily. He babbled loudly, as some humans do. When he found his babbling didn’t work, he fumbled for his weapon. Before the Hunter realized what had happened, his head was backwards and his weapon was on the ground.
The King hesitated, and then started bringing the Hunter to the Autumn Tree. It was still dark, so he was surprised to see the Lady standing behind him with a weapon of her own in her hands. She shook, her heart pounded weakly, her cheeks were wet.
She too, babbled. It was a delicate babble, and the King looked her straight in the eye. The Wind encouraged him, and He twisted her neck the same as he had the Hunter.
His gut was heavy as he dragged the Hunter and the Lady to the Autumn Tree. The Three-Eyed Cat ate the Hunter’s brown eyes first, and then the Lady’s blue eyes. The Autumn Tree drank impatiently, as though it hadn’t been fed in years.
The Crows and the Ravens fought over the Lady’s golden hair.
The River danced and licked away the blood of the King’s work, and accepted two matching rings that had been on the Hunter’s and the Lady’s fingers.
The two foxes brought their companions to take the arms of the Lady and the Hunter. The Wolves each took a body for their packs, and didn’t eat beside each other.
The King idly wandered back to his Castle and picked out two stones, both the side of his palm.
The Three-Eyed Cat watched as the King carved the first stone. He took it into his mouth and found a place for it. When he came back for the second statue, the King had already started waiting for the next Hunter. The Lady stared up at the King from his hand.
The Moon wandered across the sky and wondered in passing where the King had gone.
The Wind called from outside the Castle. The King awoke, and stretched his slumber from his body. The Lady was still in his hand, so he walked to a ledge hidden by a large rock. He moved it, revealing a small statue of his Queen. She stood the same height as the other statues, but with more beauty and elegance than any of the Hunters could muster.
The King placed the Lady behind his Queen, trying not to look at the bundle in the Queen’s stone arms. The King replaced the rock, and left his Castle to find the Hunter.
The Three-Eyed Cat followed quietly.
As a kid, Alyssa liked to dream of dragons taking over the world. Now that she’s grown up, she just writes about them. As well as writing fantasy and sci-fi, she’s a dedicated musician who also loves journals and colourful pens.