Welcome to installment #7 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
Hunger drove Kecil from her hut. Though fruits and vegetables filled her home, fresh meat kept the tiger in her strong.
Teman had long since left, preferring the sanctuary of the trees to the enclosure of walls. No need to worry about his whereabouts. Never one to travel too far, he’d catch up when ready.
Kecil made her way to the outskirts of the village but paused at the sound of Gemuk’s voice. She ducked behind the nearest bamboo shelter. With his most recent threat, she could only hope he had not seen her.
“How far?” Gemuk asked.
“Five days south of here at most.”
Kecil recognized the voice of Kasut.
Good that he’d returned. Though his mate was as cruel as any, she was the sole cub-bearing wehr-tigress in the clan. With fertility so highly valued, Kecil couldn’t bring herself to harbor ill will against Kasut’s mate.
A long pause followed, and Kecil forced herself not to peek around the corner. Leave before you’re caught, she told herself, but the hope of learning about more females kept her in place.
“And you’re sure?” Gemuk broke the silence. “He was the same one who killed Setia’s mate?”
Kecil’s heart missed a beat at the mention of her mother and father.
“Positive. A little older but still the same face.”
The jungle rippled as if underwater. Despite the dense foliage hiding much of the sun, the world became too bright and threatened to topple Kecil with sensory overload. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t hear with the thunder in her ears. She slid to the ground and blinked, trying to force meaning back into her world.
They found my mother’s killer. She repeated the statement again and again, letting it take form on her lips though she made no sound. Eventually, the forest stabilized, allowing Gemuk’s voice to filter through the fading roar.
“And he defeated Tebal?”
“No,” Kasut said. “There was another—a dark one.”
“A dark one?”
“He had black fur. A shadow cat, but he looked… foreign.”
Silence stretched until it was unbearable. Just as Kecil was about to lean forward, Gemuk spoke. “It doesn’t matter. We need to find him. Now that we have a lead, we can track down the murderer and eliminate him once and for all.”
“How are we going to do that?” Kasut asked. “We were already spread thin even before we lost Tebal. And Setia will never leave his daughter.”
“Forget Setia and his runt. The two of us will go.”
“I’m tired of searching for this and that. I’ve been away from my mate long enough.”
A dull thud accompanied Kasut’s grunt with the scrape of scattering rocks following.
“If you want to keep your mate safe, I suggest you take care of this matter first.” Rage deepened Gemuk’s voice as the tiger rose to the surface. “Get up. We leave tomorrow. Whatever time you want with your mate, you better get it now.”
Kecil drew her legs close to her body and flattened herself against the hut at the approaching footsteps.
Kasut walked past. Though his head was bowed, she didn’t miss his bleeding lip, nor the look of defeat mingled with anger.
With no mate or cubs, nothing prevented Gemuk from abandoning the clan to the dangers lurking in the rainforest. But Kasut had everything to lose… even more so with a daughter only three years old—the only cub in the clan to survive beyond two summers in the last six years.
Kecil understood the reservation of a parent, but she had none. Her mother’s murderer remained unpunished. Kecil lived a life of heartache and guilt as she watched her father fade a little everyday.
With each passing year, his chance to find a new mate lessened. Meanwhile his false sense of obligation forced him to stay with a dying clan and protect an unworthy daughter.
Small but resourceful, Kecil was determined to bring her mother’s killer to justice. Perhaps then both she and her father could find peace.