Paw steps echoed in the dark woodland, and small pink paws revealed themselves through dew laden blades of grass. The sun shone high above the horizon, giving away the season of new summer.
Tiny scuffing sounded as loud as a thunderstorm, the woods leaving no place for carelessness. White ears perked up at the sound of the blowing wind. Predators lurking around in the shadows were not something extraordinary.
A sniffing nose poked through a yew bush, the needles scraping against the animal's white fur. “Food, food, food. Always busy.” A young voice mumbled, through the lush green bush. A head pushed it's way through the large green ferns that surrounded the large bush-like tree, revealing bright black eyes that reflected the small amount of sunlight that the forest allowed.
Pine needles crunched delicately under the weight of the white animal, as the creature sat down on the forest floor, and a hairless pink tail lashed impatiently from side to side, ripping up dead leaves in the process. “But I can't find any food,” the creature sighed, ears drooping at the prospect of a failed food hunt. “Might as well go home,” it muttered in a matter of fact tone.
Slowly raising it's hind legs from the leafy ground, a sour tang filled the air and made the white hairs on the creature's back slowly rise in alarm. Hissing in disgust, it breathed in the strange scent. “Smells like blood,” it murmured to itself. “And lots of it...” The creature said thoughtfully, lifting a paw to scratch that sweet spot behind the ear. “Wait! The colony!” It breathed out suddenly, jumping up from the forest floor.
The creature broke into a run, fear scent rolling from it in waves. Paws crashed down on the ground, no longer caring for the lurking predators that could be waiting in the shadows of every tree. Harsh panting sounds vibrated from the trees that flashed by the white creature as it ran, it's mind showing horror filled visions of what the blood scent might mean.
New scents flooded the creature's nostrils, baffling its instincts with a new smell, and something old, something that told the creature that the colony was directly ahead. The white animal burst into the small clearing, that was once the colony filled with rats as himself, but now was empty from all the life that once lived there.
Familiar bodies lay in puddles of their own blood, staining their beautiful pelts and the bare ground. The white rat skidded to a halt, as he ran past the limp bodies of his friends, and froze when he spotted gray fur. His bright black eyes widened in shock as they locked themselves onto the clump of fur, barely recognizable behind the amount of dark red blood.
“Mother?” The rat asked, his voice breathless from his run through the woods and the sight of death in his own colony. “Kio... Kio, is that you?” A strained voice rasped. The flanks of the gray rat heaved slightly at the effort of speaking.
Light footed, the white rat, Kio, scurried over to his mother's crippled body. “What happened here?” He asked, his own voice trembling as the situation struck him. He was the only one not dyed red in blood.
“Run...” The gray rat managed to say through painful coughs. Her paws scraped feebly on the dusty ground, in a weak attempt of getting up.
Kio's eyes blinked as he tried to work out what his mother had said. When his brain had registered what had been shared between the two of them, he jumped to his paws, claws flexed in and out in anger.
“I can't just leave you here!” He yelled, unable to bear the thought of running from his only home. His stubbornness cracked as he saw his mother's eyes glazed over by something new. The smell of death hit his nose. She was dead.
“No,” he told himself. “This can't be true...” Kio whispered. His shoulders hung, his tail laid on the blood sodden earth, and his ears were flat against his tiny skull. The rat looked small and fragile as he pressed his warm white body to his mother's cold and bloody pelt.
Kio's eyes were filled with grief as he examined his mother's dead body. Lumps of fur were missing from her whole body and marks of sharp teeth grazed the raw skin that could be seen. The normal pink tail was no longer anywhere near her still body and her mouth was pried open in her last attempt at telling Kio to run.
Suddenly, Kio's ears perked up. What was he supposed to run from?
A low growl made Kio spin around. Claws flexed out as he laid eyes on a big animal, tongue lolling from it's deadly jaws. Its mouth watered with saliva and blood dripped from its large canines. Black bead eyes stared defiantly into slitted red ones.
“Did you do this?” Kio growled out, his voice shaking and betraying his calm posture. His front teeth were clamped together firmly, awaiting an answer from the strange creature in front of him.
The big animal continued to stare back at him. Not once making any move of giving away answers. It's brown fur stood on end as it watched him, the tongue swiped across its muzzle and red eyes shone hungrily at Kio.
Kio crumbled under the harsh and intense gaze, pressing his body as close to the ground as possible. His breathing rapid and his small heart thudding hard against his chest. The white fur was fluffed out, making him look twice his size. Blood roared in his ears as the massive creature placed one paw in front of the other, slowly but surely closing in on him. Kio's eyes stretched into pools of black as the animal was no more than a paw step from him.
It loomed over him like a cloud would with the sun. So close that Kio could smell the foul breath of the creature, rotten flesh and maggots. The smell made his eyes water, but fear held him in an iron grip.
Ice filled Kio's veins as he understood that death laid at his paws. He was trapped between the creature of death and the dead body of his own mother. He could no longer run. Run like his mother had told him as she died. He had been too stubborn to even realize what dangers that could have caused such destruction for the colony. Too stubborn to even think of his own safety.
A murderous howl heaved him from his thoughts. The creature had a new glint in its eyes. Pure savagery.
An angry screech sounded from the trees, and Kio's heart thudded even stronger against his chest. Did the creature have friends lurking in the shadows? His legs felt weak under him, as they gave way to the terror that roamed in his head.
A dark shadow hurled itself from the trees around the colony, and threw itself between Kio and the massive creature, as it let out a fearsome screech of hatred.
The new arrival lunged at the creature, claws raking the savage beast across its broad muzzle, leaving scratches on its nose. The newcomer watched with a grin as the big animal let out a yelp of pain. Kio watched in terror as the two, so called allies, continued to exchange vicious blows.
The dark shadow let out a hiss of annoyance as the creature started to bite, and the shadow jumped back in defense. The smaller of the two, the newcomer, sprung behind the bigger one and fastened small, but sharp, teeth in the scruff of the creature. “Are you just going to stand there?” A light voice called out, muffled by the considerable amount of fur the speaker had in it's mouth.
Kio looked up in surprise. Not only had this new creature stood up for him and saved his life; his rescuer was a female, that much he could tell from her voice.
“What?” Kio asked in astonishment. His body was still pressed firmly against the ground, his white fur almost made brown by the dusty ground and his voice had come out cracked and scared.
The bigger creature balanced on two legs as it tried to shake off its attacker. As a result, the smaller creature was flung off its back with strong force. The creature's eyes gleamed with satisfaction as its enemy bit the dust. “A little bit of help, will you?” the female huffed as she hit the ground. She quickly stood again, baring her teeth in a snarl that matched the bigger creature's.
“What do you want me to do? I'm too small.” Kio murmured, his voice laced with new found fear of death. Kio heaved himself from the crouched position beside his mother, to sit up with a face full of pain and grief, the pink tail drawn protectively over his shaken form.
“Fight.” She answered with a determined voice, as she hurled herself at her enemy one more time. Paws outstretched, she raked her claws down the side of the creature's flanks, dark red blood painting the brown ground in a familiar color.
Kio's eyes stretched wide with disbelief as he realized that the female was of no bigger size than himself, but her fighting spirit was as high as possible.
His jaw hung open as he stared, small sharp teeth gritted themselves as he watched the smaller creature fight without fear, without hesitation or fear of death. Blood matted her black fur, showing signs of bleeding wounds or the victory against an enemy.
Kio shook his head in confusion. Surely he couldn't fight like that? He would get killed!
“Fight!” The voice called again, coming out as a desperate plea for a comrade in battle. The smaller animal had been thrown back on the ground. Her tired limbs sprawled across the forest floor in a desperate struggle of getting up. Her breathing was nowhere near normal, her lungs gasping for breath, and craving for air.
For the first time, she swung her head directly towards Kio. Dried blood stained her forehead as if she had decided to headbutt the larger creature at one time. Small whiskers sprouted from her muzzle and eyes locked with his own. Strange eyes stared straight into his, as blue as the most clear sky and as green as the leaves in summer. Two mismatched eyes begged for his help, just as she had helped him, when fear had held him captive.
The bigger animal advanced on her. Dragging its paws along the forest floor, and leaving a sad trail in the dead fallen leaves. Its tongue hung loosely from its mouth, licking away fresh blood from its own face. Slapping its tongue over the wound on its nose. Grit and dirt had been caught up in the loose flesh around the nose, making it too painful to clean for any ordinary animal.
But this creature continued to walk forward, licking off the grit and dirt that was stuck in the wound. Its red eyes gleaming with satisfaction, despite the large wound on its flank that still bled from the smaller creature's sharp claws.
Her eyes still held Kio's, even thought the bigger animal had chosen her as its next victim. She had not dared to look away from him, afraid that he might turn tail and run. Her mismatched eyes shone like suns, pleading for the help and courage that they both needed so desperately.
Slowly, Kio rose from his place amongst the dust and dead bodies, placing one weak paw in front of the other. He held his ground as the larger creature swung its head towards him, removing all attention from the battered female on the ground.
The white fur was fluffed out again, making Kio look big and threatening, mouth open and his sharp teeth visible. Tiny claws dug into the earth, waiting in anticipation for the bigger animal to close in on him.
All of sudden Kio shot forward, darting in between the bigger creature's legs, teeth nipping and pulling at the larger animal's heels, making it howl in frustration as the white fluff ball bit down in its flesh, mixing new blood with old.
Teeth snapped close to Kio's neck, the deathly blow nearly hitting the spot that promised instant death. Instead, the big creature's savage jaws clamped around Kio's pink tail. Pulling and tugging at the exposed skin, drawing blood. It swung Kio around as if he was nothing more than a piece of prey, ready to be devoured.
As if a light had been turned on, realization dawned on Kio. His mother had been missing her tail when he had last seen her. By the look of it, the tail could have been chewed off. But now Kio knew better. The bigger creature had done the same thing to his mother that it was doing to him now.
Boiling with anger and hissing in rage, Kio wriggled out of the larger animal's grasp. He fell down on the ground with a sick noise. His body laid awkward in a patch of bloody earth, almost laying pelt to pelt beside the forgotten female.
Her eyes were wide with horror as she scanned Kio's body. His tail was torn and the flesh was raw were the sharp teeth had gone on a rampage. A line of blood ran down his back, blending in naturally with his messy fur coat. His eyes stared straight into hers, the black pools slowly closing from exhaustion.
With effort she got up. Stumbling a bit from the tiredness that surged through her body. She turned towards the bigger creature and let out a hiss. Her body aching, paws raw and bleeding, claws broken from the previous tussles, and whiskers twitched as she curled her lips and formed a furious snarl. The female engaged in a staring contest, her own mismatched eyes staring defiantly into big red ones. Silence had surrounded them like a carpet of frost, making everything quit. The only noise breaking the tranquility was the snarls and growls that emitted from the two animal's throats as they continued to stare each other down.
Eyes fluttered open and Kio stared at the scene in front of him. The female's sleek black body was arched as she let out frightening snarls, the bigger creature's body was motionless as it just stood there, staring at her and growling in anger.
He heaved himself up again, dragging his body through the dust until he was side by side with the female. His legs shook under him, threatening to let him hit the ground if he pushed on. Kio gritted his teeth in pain as he got up, and stood on all four paws. His tail held high and proud, daring the creature to take on the two of them together.
A mash of colored fur stood beside each other, painted with dust, blood and wounds. The two smaller animals held their ground, but not out of fear, as Kio had done earlier. They both stood proud of facing death without fear or regret, ready to take on any challenge they might face as consequences.
The larger animal watched in silence as its gaze rested on the white ball of fluff and blood. Painfully slow, it turned its back on smaller animals and proceeded back into the comforting shelter of the thicker forest. Its paws sounded loud as they pounded through the undergrowth and its huge body disappeared from sight. Leaving only memories and a trail of blood behind.
Kio shared a look with the female. He saw his own confusion reflected in her eyes, but they were also filled with relief and gratitude. For the first time he really looked at her, taking in all her features. The strange eyes, her sleek body, her black pelt and her jaws already parted, waiting for the next words to spill out.
“Are you okay?”