1. One scared kitten
A reverberating tattoo of frantic paws on the hardwood floors stirred Momma from her nap in the paper box under the computer desk. She cocked an ear towards the sound coming from the hallway. There was a soft thud as a little body slipped onto it's side. It was followed swiftly by a jarring crash. Momma opened her eyes. Someone had crashed into the closet door outside the den. A scant second later, a small fuzzy black body raced into the room and ran towards the paper box.
"Momma! Momma!" The frantic cries of the black kitten echoed about the den.
"Little One" Momma called back to her kitten.
Little One crossed the floor as fast as his little legs could carry him. He had not yet achieved the elegant gait of adulthood. His back paws still kicked out behind him; more like a rabbit trying to run through snow than a swift cat chasing prey. He crashed into Momma and buried his little head under Momma's chin.
"Momma" he cried as he flopped down and further tried to hide under his mother's chin.
"Settle down, Little One." Momma reassured her kitten as she began licking the top of his head. "Why are you so scared?"
Little One rolled on to his back and exposed his underfur for his mother to groom. His frightfull cries were slowly replaced with a low contented rumble deep inside his chest.
"I was talking to Bandit, and he told me about..." Little One was quickly silienced by a shrap growl from Momma.
"What did Bandit tell you?" Momma's voice was tense and edgy.
"We were playing." Little One stammered an answer, sensing the anger in his mother's growl. "And I asked him about Miss Rabbles."
"She went to the Rainbow Bridge. Little One." Momma replied, as she continued to groom her little kitten. "I told you that when she went to sleep."
"But I wanted to know what the Rainbow Bridge was, Momma. " Little One started to fuss under his mother's forceful grooming. "I asked you, but you said that it was not something for kittens to think about."
"It still isn't, Little One." Momma gently released her squirming kitten. "You are strong and there is no shadow about you. You do not need to worry about the Rainbow Bridge."
"But I want to know were Miss Rabbles went." Little One pleaded.
"When it is time, you will know all that you need to, Little One. Until then I don't want you to think about these things."
"No more, Little One." Momma sternly warned Little One with a faint growl and sharp smack from her paw. "And I don't want you pestering Bandit about it"
"All right. I won't ask Bandit about the Rainbow Bridge." Little One asceded. "Bandit said that only those of the Bound go to the Rainbow Bridge and that those of the Free follow the Darkening Road instead."
"He told you what?" Momma's growl deepened.
"He told me about the Bound and the Free." Little One shrank away from the fury in his mother's voice.
"I want no more talk of the Free and the Darkening Road, Little One." Momma sternly warned her kitten. "It is not something you need to think about. And I don't want you scaring your sisters with this talk either. It took me forever to convince your sister that there wasn't a monster in the litter box after your last discussion with the other cats."
"But that's what Uncle Magoo told me." Little One replied. "He swore on his fuzzy mouse that it was true."
"Uncle Magoo had other reasons for telling you that." Momma snickered as she nuzzled Little One towards her teats. "He's not too fond of having to share his litterbox with three kittens. Now have something eat. I don't want to hear anything more from you until you've had your nap and settled down."
"Okay." Little One suddenly realized that he was hungry and he eagerly found an available teat. "Momma?"
"Yes, Little One?"
"You're not going to the Rainbow Bridge, are you?" Little One asked between his kneading and suckling.
"Not anytime soon that I know of, Little One" Momma reassured her kitten. "Now eat and no more talking."
Momma leaned backwards and let her kitten nurse. She winced slightly as she felt his newly formed kitten teeth. The sound of other uncoordinated paws on the floor let her know that her other two kittens had remembered it was feeding time. Momma flinched again as the two little girls, Eppy and Alysa, each latched onto a teat and began nursing. Soon she would start weaning her kittens from their main food source. Momma was not worried for she had already seen that her TwoLeg NoFur had placed some smaller kibble near the paper box. Momma relaxed and thought about her kittens.
"I hope your lives lead you to the Rainbow Bridge, my beloveds." Momma thought. "As long as you are in the heart of a TwoLeg Nofur, I will see you there."
Momma knew the stories that Bandit was telling Little One. Those of the Bound, who were held dear in the heart of a TwoLeg Nofur, were guaranteed a place at the Rainbow Bridge, a place of peace and pleasure or so they were told by the TwoLegs. Those of the Free, who had no ties to the TwoLeg Nofurs, were slated to follow the Darkening Road. Momma did not know anything about the Darkening Road. She had been one of the Bound all of her life as had her mother and her mother's mother. She knew that Bandit had been born one of the Free and had been told all of the stories of the Free. She had heard him tell the kittens some of his other stories. Most she had agreed with for they taught the kittens to be wary and watchful, but she had warned him not to talk about the Darkening Road. Those were tales not fit for little kitten ears. She would have to remind him of the rules of the House; her rules.