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Felisa sat with her brother, Fourclaws, outside the back wall of Babbage’s newest pub; she’d heard someone call it the Mariner’s Revenge. The opening of a new eating or drinking establishment was as much an occasion for the feral cats of the city as it was for the humans. Such places generated trash that attracted mice and rats, and these, of course, could provide a steady food source for cats. Fourclaws was one of the cats who had claimed the area, and Lisa had dropped by to see how he was getting on.
“It’s not bad,” Fourclaws said as he cleaned his whiskers. “We’re already seeing an increase in prey population. Of course, we’ll be careful not to hunt too much here, not until it increases more. But I think this will work out very nicely for us.”
“Good,” replied Lisa.
Fourclaws cleaned one ear meticulously. “Large-cat was in here last night.” Felisa nodded, knowing he meant Arnold. “There was a raven outside at that time,” Fourclaws continued, starting on his other ear. “It seemed to be watching Large-cat.”
“Really? That’s odd.” Lisa frowned, wondering if she should tell Arnold about it. “Did Large-cat see it?”
“No. He wasn’t seeing much of anything. He was not… happy.”
“He is never happy.” She smiled wryly.
Fourclaws paused in his ablutions, looking at her intently. “Are you happy?” He waited a moment, but when an answer wasn’t immediately forthcoming, he returned to washing his face.
Felisa stared at him for several long minutes. Finally, she said, “I am… pleased whenever I can help our family, or any of the other Folk. But happy? No… not on this side of the Dreamfields.”
“And why not?” Fourclaws finished with one last swipe of his nose, and tucked his tail neatly around his paws.
Felisa considered that question carefully also. “I think because I have not yet found my place as a M’an. I’m just… drifting–staying with the other urchins, scrounging food. I need to find something I can do.”
“I thought you were going to learn things in the big glass place.”
“I want to.” Felisa grimaced, thinking about the Brothers. “But the males who work there always make me so wary. If I still had fur, it would always be on end around them. And the one female who was there… well, I’ve not seen her for some time.”
“Perhaps you can find someone else to teach you,” Fourclaws said seriously. “I should like to see you find some way to be happy among the M’an-folk.”
Lisa replied, a little startled, “I’ll—I’ll think about it.” After a moment, she continued, “As for Large-cat, he takes too much on himself. Everything that goes wrong must somehow be his fault, his responsibility. He’ll never be happy that way.”
“Well, don’t you fall into the same trap.” Fourclaws put a paw on her knee. Felisa looked down at him, and though she didn’t smile, her eyes were soft. “I won’t,” she replied. “Not with you to help me.”