The snow was falling fast and thick. The three cats illuminated by the moon were struggling against the wind. A small black shape was just beside the pine tree that marked the start of the field. The silver tabby queen curled up with the two ginger kits.
"Mum, when is Panther going to get up and follow us? He'll get left behind!"
The lighter kit watched his mother.
"Panther is just....uffff..Panther is dead! He won't catch up! You will never see him again!"
The kits cried letting their tears freezing into tracks on either side of their muzzles, the fur turning stiff.
The dawn was pale and cold. Five moons ago Silver had given birth to the kits in a barn unaware of the cold snap that was brewing. Now the race was on to get them home to her no-furs. She was desperately searching for the scent of the Flat-rock. But the scent of a barn puzzled her. She was sure if there had been a barn this close to home she would have kitted there. She could see it now as she listened to her kits crying in their sleep over their brother. Her heart ached for her kit. She was sad she had left him behind but what else could she do. She nudged Fox and Vixen awake.
"We need to get to the barn. There is not that much shelter out here, the barn will be warmer."
"Mum, can you teach us how to hunt?"
"If you beat me to the barn!"
The cats raced each other towards th barn letting their guard down as they let themselves enjoy the feeling of skimming over the ground and tunnelling under the snow. They marvelled at their breath crystallised in front of them. They stopped at the hole in the wall of the barn. The air was heavy with the scent of mouse. Tentatively, Silver stepped inside.
As the sun went down Vixen went outside. She licked the scraps of mouse fur from her lips. She groomed herself calmly. The evening air was still. The only thing that troubled her was the acidic, burning scent.
"Are you okay Vixen?"
Silver stared at her.
"Its the scent, can't you smell it?"
Silver frowned and opened her mouth letting it hit her scent glands. Her eyes shone.
"The Flat-rock! We are close!"
Vixen smiled. She hoped that home was close. She was tired of being out in the cold. Her mother stiffened beside her.
"Dog! Run Vixen, run."
The cats began to run towards the barn calling out to Fox. His screams ran out into the air. Vixen found unexpected speed and anger. She could taste blood already. In the barn a black and tan dog snarled at her. A ginger scrap of fur soaked in blood was in it's jaws. Vixen growled. Silver saw her last kit leap at a snarling dog. She joined her daughter in the battle as the desire to protect her kit overloaded her system. Vixen scraped at the dog's muzzle as her mother swiped at his belly. Vixen did the leap-and-hold as her mum gave a back kick. As the dog whimpered and turned tail, a no-fur came out holding a pan. The cats ran out of the barn.
They had spent a dangerous night