Calvin watched the flames dance and his parents bodies turn to ash. The shifter hunters had taken more from him. First his older brothers and sister, then his best friend and now his parents. He was alone and he couldn't even go avenge his family and friend. He was a runt and runts weren't strong enough to even hunt for themselves, let alone go off killing trained killers. Tears welled up at his weakness and his loneliness. What was he going to do?
"Calvin, don't cry. You are showing weakness again and it won't be tolerated. Your parents might be dead but you are still a male of breeding age, even if you are a runt. Shape up!"
His tears immediately dried and his face cleared of all expression. Calvin knew better than to show any emotion in front the Kan, the meanest Elder Cat here. He would take a chunk out of Calvin's hide faster than he would take down a doe.
Besides if he was here, that meant 'they' were coming. And he had better get ready.
His parents had been one of the strongest hunting and breeding mates in the Pride. Five cubs and always bringing in prey to feed the Pride had made them respected in the Pride. Even if their youngest was a runt. Every litter had one and that they had four other cubs that were perfectly healthy, at least until the hunters got to them, was a miracle.
The sky slowly darkened and the fire slowly died down. He sat on the hard ground beside the dying pyre and waited. Calvin knew they would come. He had no one to protect him anymore. They were all dead and the Pride suffered no weaklings unless they were protected.
The first one that entered the clearing was Lysander, the Alpha. He always entered first. He was the biggest, the fastest and the strongest. Calvin bowed his body and bared his neck as was custom.
"Do you know why we are here, Calvin?" the Alpha asked him.
"Because I am runt and with no one to protect and care for me, I am bringing down the Pride, Alpha."
"Very good. Then you know what must happen."
"Yes, Alpha. May I leave at dawn and bring some of my family's things with me?"
"Leave at dawn, but all of your family's things will be put into storage for you so when you find somewhere else to live, you may get them."
There were snarls and growls at that. And Calvin could understand why. The Alpha was giving him a great kindness. Things were never left to the runt; it was always distributed among the Pride after the Alpha took his pick.
The Alpha turned and looked at the ones who had disagreed. His eyes flared and everyone in the clearing immediately cowered and bared their necks. Everyone that is except Calvin. He was to full of shock to follow protocol.
"Alpha, may I ask you a question?"
"Ask all you wish, little runt."
He answered quietly after turning back to look at the kneeling runt before him. There was curiosity and a little fear on his face. Feeling through his Pride bonds, Lysander was surprised to find that Calvin wasn't afraid of him, even after the dominance show, but was afraid that Lysander was playing with him. And he was curious as to why he would bother playing with a runt.
"I am merely curious and am grateful that you did but why are giving me my family's things. I am runt."
Again there were snarls and growls, though this time they were full of disbelief and anger. Calvin was questioning an Alpha. A runt was questioning an Alpha. This was not done. Ever.
Lysander smiled at the braveness of the little runt and answered him, ignoring the still howling Pride around him.
"I did it because one, I am Alpha and anybody who questions my authority will be punished for it."
He said this for the benefit of the Pride, not for Calvin. And he was surprised when Calvin understood that and was grateful for it. His emotions were easy to make out through the Pride bond. For a runt, that was unusual.
"Two, I am not a cruel Alpha. And three, because your parents made this request and as one of the strongest breeding and hunting mates in this Pride, this request I can grant. They asked on the event of their death that their things be given to you. Besides, I like you. For a runt, you show amazing bravery and willingness to learn how to be stronger though not through physical strength.
The Pride had fallen silent at their Alpha's words. For he was right, as always. The Pride might not like it that traditions were broke but they had loved Calvin's parents and Calvin had grown on them even as a runt. He might not be physically strong but his mind was always working, always learning. Even the Elder Cats had a few moments of unguarded likeness towards him.
Calvin blinked his eyes once, the only physical sign of his impending tears of happiness. He understood why the Pride had to get rid of him, he was runt and runts brought down the Pride. But it had still hurt being kicked out of the only home he knew. That the Pride would miss him and even help him a little was the greatest goodbye they could give him.
"Thank you, Alpha, for your undeserved kindness."
Lysander nodded his head at the bowed head of the runt, turned and left the clearing. The pride followed him out one by one, each nodding their head or patting Calvin as they went by.
Once each and every one of them had left, he turned back towards the now cold pyre and curled up beside it. He would not be bothered. Not in his time of grief. He would leave tomorrow but for now he was left alone.
When he turned, he missed the glowing eyes that appeared in the darkness of the woods. He missed the snarl and the lust-filled growl. He missed the danger that would be coming for him and for the kind Alpha.