Disclaimer: As you all know only Rose and Cougara are my characters.
The portal opened to deposit Elisa and me into the Control room of Cat’s Lair. The two of us landed on the floor with a thud. Even though the portal opened on ground level, the wind inside it knocked us off our feet. The thud caught the attention of the Thundercats there. I noticed that Lion-O and Lynx-O were not there.
“Jasmine, Elisa. Perfect timing,” Panthro commented.
“What are you talking about?” I looked at Panthro with a quizzical look on my face.
“You mean Lion-O didn’t tell you?”
“It’s almost time for your trial,” Bengali spoke up.
“Every lord of the Thundercats must pass the trials of every Thundercat,” Tygra explained.
“Lion-O is the lord, but he must pass all the trials to be worthy of the title. He must compete against each Thundercat’s special ability,” Panthro added.
This sounded interesting. But what “special ability” would Lion-O have to face in my trial? I looked at Panthro.
“What exactly is my trial about?”
“It’s called The Trial of Combat. It’s your combat skills against Lion-O’s. Your job is to try to stop Lion-O from completing the trial. Of course, there are rules to this trial.”
“What are they?”
“Well, for starters, you can’t help Lion-O during the trial. That includes saving him.”
I stared at Panthro, open-mouthed. I couldn’t save Lion-O?
“No. But you and Lion-O will be trying to stop each other from winning.” Panthro gestured for me to follow him to the control screen. I followed him and watched as he turned the screen on. A rough map of Third Earth appeared. A section of it was suddenly enlarged. It was a rocky terrain, perfect for challenging and helping a gargoyle’s climbing ability. It had jutting edges and smooth vertical walls. Panthro described to me that this area was where the trial was to begin at dawn tomorrow. I was to race Lion-O to the top of the tallest rocky cliff. There we would fight it out until one of us tired out or gave up.
“Lion-O and Lynx-O should be here soon, so you need to get to your assigned area. Do you have any questions?”
I shook my head. I saw that Pumyra’s and Bengali’s insignias were gone and I assumed that if Lion-O wins, I would turn over my insignia to him. I also reasoned that I would get it back. The other five had theirs.
“Good. You better get going.”
I left the room and glided out the nearest window. I headed for the battleground. As I made my way there, I made out two small figures on the ground. I didn’t bother calling out to the two Thundercats, figuring that Lion-O and I weren’t supposed to see each other until tomorrow. Getting to my destination didn’t take long since I was gliding. Landing near the ground, I lay down and went to sleep.
I woke up to the feeling of something approaching. Looking around, I realized that it was my gargoyle instinct telling me that it was almost dawn. I tested the chain of my amulet. Good. It was secure and tight. Getting up, I stretched my limbs, then I climbed onto a small plateau that was at the entrance of the terrain. This was where I decided to stay and wait for Lion-O.
Dawn came and I still waited. I knew that Lion-O would be here soon. And I was right. I spotted him a short distance away from me. I suddenly became nervous and excited. I understood the main point of the trial and the test that Lion-O and I would have to face, but could I do it? Could I really resist the instinct to protect that was so crucial to my species? Well, I guess that was what I was going to find out.
"I have to reach the top of that tall cliff before sunset," I heard Lion-O say while looking at a map. "And Jasmine is supposed to confront me there and fight me with her combat skills."
As he approached the plateau, I called, "Lion-O!" He turned to see me standing above him, the wind blowing my hair behind me.
"Ho, Jasmine!" he called back. "I'm ready."
"It will be quite a test for both of us."
"What do you mean?"
"You have to try to win in today's trial. I have to resist my instinct to protect."
"Yes. The gargoyle way. Well, let's get started."
"Very well." I jumped off the plateau and somersaulted onto the ground where I landed on all fours and started running. I didn't even pause to see if Lion-O was following. I knew he was finding some way to get ahead in the race.
I glanced behind me to see Lion-O running toward me. I turned back to face the path in front of me. I jumped over a rock that blocked my path. Suddenly, a shaped loomed over me and the next thing I know, Lion-O is in the lead. Determined to reach the destination first, I sprang for one of the cliff walls on either side of me and sunk my claws into it. I then jumped off the wall with all my leg muscles and gained the lead again. I kept repeating the procedure. I would run for a good while, then spring onto one of the walls then spring off it and be a good ways ahead of Lion-O.
At last, I reached the tallest cliff in the area. Pausing long enough to see the sun's position, I noted that it was noon. Good. I could scale this cliff, thwart Lion-O's climb and reach the top before sunset. As I climbed, I had nagging feeling. It was telling me that stopping Lion-O's climb was wrong. After all, he was my friend. I pushed that feeling away. That was my gargoyle instinct. I couldn't listen to it. At least for today.
I looked up the cliff and movement to the right caught my eye. Looking right, I saw Lion-O climbing and he was getting ahead. I couldn't let that happen. Then I saw Lion-O grab a rock. The rock broke loose from the cliff and Lion-O began to fall. I tightened my grip on the cliff wall. I repeated to myself, "I can't save Lion-O. I must not listen to my gargoyle instinct." Looking down and saw Lion-O had managed to grab a handhold. I also saw a chance to push the young lord back even further in this race. Gliding toward him, I pulled up above him at the last moment and used my tail to force him to let go. I watched in guilty satisfaction as he landed on a ledge. I anchored myself into the rock a few feet above him and continued my ascent.
Suddenly, a laser blasted the rock to my left. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Slithe on a skycutter. I got the impression that mutants were not involved in any Thundercat trials before and certainly not this one. Lion-O had enough trouble facing off a gargoyle, for heaven's sake! Knowing that I would have to get Slithe out of the trial, I waited for him to make another pass. He came closer to me, preparing to fire, when I glided over to the skycutter and, with two good slashes, I damaged the vehicle and caused Slithe to take it home for repairs. My ascent once again continued.
Somehow, during my little fight with Slithe, Lion-O managed to get ahead of me. Looking up at him, I growled slightly under my breath. I clawed up faster. Unfortunately, I think that's what Lion-O wanted. Because, when I caught up, He let go of his hold and landed on me. I sunk my talons into the cliff and slowed my fall. Lion-O was now in the position I had been in a couple of minutes ago.
I decided to try another climbing technique to regain the lead. Loading lots of power into my legs, I sprung upward and anchored myself into the wall. I repeated this move again and again. It really helped cover the distance I lost when I fell. Lion-O and I were now climbing at the same level. My jump maneuver took a lot of energy, so I didn't do it very much. It would be useful in covering a short climb. I made a note to myself to show this move to the clan when I got home.
It was late afternoon by the time the top of the cliff was within easy reach. Lion-O and I were still tied. Using my last burst of speed, I began to climb quicker. Lion-O did the same.
We arrived at the top almost at the same time. Lion-O was a few seconds ahead of me. It didn't matter, however. This was the big moment of the trial.
I was on my knees at the top, breathing deeply to get my breath back after that long climb. Lion-O was breathing hard, too. Now, that we had reached the top, the final combat was next. And Lion-O would have to make the first move since I won't attack unless attacked first.
"So, it finally comes to this," Lion-O said.
"Yes, it does," I agreed. I got to my feet, jumped back two feet and assumed a defensive position. The Thundercat also got up and took a position. The two of us circled around and around. Neither of us made a move.
Suddenly, Lion-O lunged toward me. I stood my ground and locked hands with him, which was a little awkward. He had five fingers and I had four claws. But the movement worked out. We pushed against one another, then I took my tail and knocked Lion-O onto his back. I jumped on top on him. I had him pinned and my mind was in complete combat mode.
I thought that I had won and was so pleased at that thought that I didn't see my opponent's legs reach up and push me off. I fell to the ground landing on my back. Lion-O jumped for me. I rolled out of the way and got to my feet. I saw Lion-O on his feet with his back to me. I quickly moved up behind him and wrapped my arms around his arms, pinning them to his sides. One of his legs swept my legs and I went down, releasing my hold.
Now I was in a pinned position. Lion-O was catching up in his skills. I was forced to pull out all the stops and use every move I had. Since I was facedown with the young lord on my back, I moved my wings slightly, then threw them back with all my might. The move released the weight keeping my on the ground. I quickly spun around on all fours and pinned Lion-O again, this time keeping all four of his limbs down. Unfortunately, Lion-O was prepared for me to pin him like this and one of his arms managed to get free and shove me off. I skidded across the ground. I popped back to my feet in time to see Lion-O tackle me. I hit the ground hard and had the wind knocked out of me. Looking at Lion-O, I saw a few scrapes and bruises on his arms and was sure that I probably did, too. I was too tired to fight anymore and said, "Enough, Lion-O. You win."
He got up and offered to help me up. I took his hand and stood up. Now that the trial was over, my gargoyle instincts on winning and losing combats against friends came back stronger than it had during the trial. Sticking out my hand, Lion-O looked at it for a moment before sticking out his hand. I clasped Lion-O's forearm, which got Lion-O to clasp mine. Finally, we released our holds and lowered our arms.
"What was that?" Lion-O asked.
"It was a traditional gargoyle warrior's handshake." I, then noticed that sunset was here. I reached up to my sash and detached the insignia from it. I held the circular object in my hand and passed it to Lion-O. He put his hand on it. The insignia glowed red and a cat's roar filled the air. It was official. Lion-O had passed my trial of combat. Now, Elisa and I had to wait one night before we could return home.
"Let's head back to Cat's Lair and I'll give the insignias back," Lion-O said.
"You go on ahead, Lion-O. I'll be there in a while." I watched Lion-O as he quickly headed down the cliff. Once he was on the ground and heading back to the lair, I jumped off the cliff and spread my wings. I soared up into the sky that was now dark with tiny white stars twinkling in it. I glided in the opposite direction from Lion-O. I wanted to enjoy the view I had from the sky. No matter how many times I looked down at the land from the sky, it was still breathtaking.
As I passed over a rocky plain that was between the rocky cliffs and the nearby forest, I saw a figure walking toward the cliffs. Curious, I glided behind a rock and watched. The figure came closer. In the moon's light I could see the figure clearly. I gasped softly. It was a female Thunderian. Her skin was like that of most Thundercats, flesh-colored. I saw white hair that came just past her shoulders. Her clothing was like the outfit Pumyra wore, except there were two shoulder straps that were the same color. She looked to be almost my age.
The female heard my gasp and she looked around, alarmed. "Who's there?" she demanded, her voice threatening yet soft. I wanted to call to her, but I didn't want to frighten her. This wasn't the first time I wanted to call to someone and yet not frighten them. I slowly and softly backed away from my hiding place. I decided to head back to Cat's Lair and tell the Thundercats what I found. Suddenly, I tripped over a rock and hit the ground. That thud did not go unheard by the Thunderian.
"What was that?" I heard her say. I also heard her approaching my position. I quickly folded my wings and attempted to make a quick exit, but a slight pain shot through my right ankle. Looking at it and feeling it gently, I came to the conclusion that I twisted it. Wonderful. I was injured and about to scare a potential friend off.
I heard the female gasp and say, "What in Thundera-," I didn't meet her face. Instead, I tried to get up, but each time I tried, pain shot through the ankle and I would gasp and go down again.
"Oh, you poor creature. You're hurt," the female said.
"It's twisted," I said to her, knowing that I would surprise her that I talked.
"You-you can talk!"
"Yes. My name is Jasmine."
"You're from Thundera, right?"
"How do you know about Thundera?"
"I know the Thundercats."
"The Thundercats are here?"
"Yes. I was going to tell them that I saw you and then I fell."
"Let me help you." Cougara helped me up over to the cliffs. There, I put my talons into the rock to hold myself up.
"Thank you. I'll be able to make it." I looked at her eyes and saw they were a chocolate brown color.
"Not without me. You won't be able to get to the Thundercats without my help."
"Get on my back, Cougara."
"Trust me. Get on my back."
Cougara climbed onto my back and I began to claw my way up the cliff using only my hands. Once I was high enough, I spread my wings and glided toward Cat's Lair.
Upon seeing the lair, I glided lower and allowed Cougara to land safely in front of the stairs. I had a problem. Would I be able to land in my condition? Only if my right ankle didn't touch the ground. Slowly and cautiously I landed on the ground with Cougara nearby to steady me. Suddenly the lair's doors opened and I saw Tygra and Panthro come down the stairs.
"Jasmine, what happened?" Panthro asked.
"I twisted my ankle. But it'll start healing once I become human."
"Who is this?" Tygra asked.
"This is Cougara."
"You're a Thunderian," Panthro stated.
"I wouldn't have been able to get here if Cougara didn't help me."
"Well, let's get you inside and seated at the Counsel Table." Panthro helped Cougara get me inside the lair while Tygra went ahead to tell the other Thundercats what happened.
We went into the Counsel room and I was seated in my chair. Panthro and Tygra sat in their chairs while Cougara stood on the sidelines with Elisa.
"I have passed the trials of Lynx-O, Bengali, Pumyra, and Jasmine and won their insignias. Now, I will return them," Lion-O began. Using the sword, the insignias were levitated. One by one, they floated toward the empty holes in our clothing and were reattached. When the ceremony was over, our attention turned to Cougara and how she got here.
"I was aboard the spaceship I was assigned to," she began. " One day, while we were flying through space for about two years, we were under attack. I got away in the only escape pod available. Everyone else is probably dead or prisoners."
Her story was sad. The other Thundercats told her that they would try to find the other Thunderians that she had been traveling with.
Cougara's face brightened, however. "But when I got to know Jasmine, I knew I would be alone anymore."
"Do you know what Jasmine is, though?' Lion-O questioned.
Cougara shook her head. "No." She looked at me. "What are you anyway?"
"I'm a gargoyle." I looked at the window in the Counsel Room. "But in a few minutes I'll be a human." I concentrated as dawn came. In addition to the tingle I felt, there was an extra warmth around my right ankle. I knew my ankle was starting to heal. I opened my eyes and looked at my new friend. She was staring at me in amazement.
"Wow," was the only opinion I got from her.
I explained to her how I was also human and part fay. Then Elisa came up to me and reminded me that we needed to get home. I agreed and promised my friends that I would come back another time. Cougara and I promised to talk to each other for a while when I came back. The portal spell was spoken and Elisa and I were sent back to our home in Manhattan.
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The Lord and his Queen