The young otter struggled in the water, his every limb useless due to the ropes on them. Despite the roaring of the thunder above and the howling of the fierce winds, there was only one thing the otter could hear. Long, low, cruel laughing.


Sapling yanked her long climbing rope off the oak branch. There was no such exercise as climbing to the top of the massive oak that was her home. Sapling did the climb every day, using less and less of her rope every time. She sighed and stepped back to admire her tree.
"Yikes!" She yelped as she tripped upon something, falling backwards. She picked herself up and saw a young otter in rags, clutching a small necklet with a little wooden panel. Sapling inspected the carved star, then proceeded to drag the unconscious otter back from the beach. The castaway was alive. The castaway was alive!

"It's done, sire." The young cat bowed low. "The slave has been drowned in the storm."
The ginger cat fixed the soldier with a stare. "Is there any proof?"
The young soldier scuttled from the room, a look of utmost terror on his face.
"Felius." A beautiful white cat entered the room. "Calm yourself. There is no need to vent your rage on some worthless fool, that has done, to the best of his meagre abilities, what you ask. I would treat young'uns better, they are the closest you will ever get to a child." Queen Althera's mouth twisted into something like a smile. "After all, Felius, you no longer have one, and I would not risk seeking it."
King Felius' face relaxed slightly. "Perhaps I will not need to. Perhaps... perhaps it will come to me."
The young otter opened his eyes. He shivered. He was lying in thick puddle of cold mud. He sat up, and bashed his head against a springy root.
"Get up not, otter, 'twill not do you good." A pretty, young squirrel landed with a thump in front of him. She pushed him down. "I am Sapling. My true name I know not. There are few beasts other than you that I know, I being a loner. But healers will come soon. Down, I say! Snapped Sapling. "You'll find out who the are soon enough. I only know little about healing."
Sighing, the otter laid down again. His ears pricked as he heard other voices.
"Why do we always need to do this? Right now, I could be playing by the river."
"Neema, there are vermin there! Have we not brought you up to be aware of vermin, and to go wherever one in need is?"
"Aye, Fillin is right."
The speakers appeared. They were a mixed crew, as there were three tiny squirrels, an old shrew, an aging female mouse and a white cat. Something about the cat jogged rather vague memories in the otter's head, ones of fear and anger.
"So this'll be the patient, eh? Wot's yore name, young sir?"
The otter shook his head and managed to croak out "Name? I don't... know." The old shrew moved closer and inspected him
"I think you have a case of amnesia, my friend. You may never recall some memories, I would not know. But in any case, I'd say you used ter be a slave, one of the kind that gives your owner trouble, judgin' by the state of yore tunic, and those rips on the back. I think you were attacked by a cat once. Is that right?"
The old mouse frowned. "Skim, I think you are forgetting that our patient wouldn't know."
The otter stared at the shrew confused. What was going on?
"Well, young otter, you choose a name. If you had to choose a name, then what would it be?"
For the first time, the otter noticed his necklet, lying close by, and the carved black star. His mind was made up in an instant. "Star..... Dark Star!"


Auran Veritas thrust out her jaw. "It's not right!" She shouted. "You shouldn't keep your daughter cooped up when she wants to go! You would've, before.... before Mother died!" She shut her eyes tightly and shook her head. "You're not... you! Get over her death! She's not coming back, so if you keep on going on about it you'll never be happy again!"
Honouris gritted his teeth. "How could I be happy? She was the best otter ever lived! She would not want you to leave, not now! I knew her better than you did? Being happy means forgetting her... that would be an insult! She would not want you roaming around, with that great big Shilly thing! Letting go... never, ever ever cpuld I do that, young miss!"
"Let go!" Auran screamed. "I haven't let go of all those memories. But did you always think of her when she was alive? When you went fishing with your mates, where you still thinking of her? Letting go... that's what you need to do. You can't mourn forever, that would mean you'd be miserable for ever! She wouldn't want that, would she?"
With tears pouring from her eyes, Auran staggered out of the cave with her bizarre weapon. "That's the truth, Father- Let the truth set you free! But I can't live with you like this!"
Dark Star limped around the big oak. Sapling said, "Dark Star, you 'kay now? Skim d' bes' healer I knows. He heal me too, once before, long ago, but that a loooong story. I will not tell it to you now."
Dark Star nodded. "Aye, as you say miss. And I don't trust the cat... she gives me a bad feeling."
"Yah? Well Neema, she was washed up on the shore too as a little kit, I'm told. 'Course, she only about the same age as you or I, thirteen, fourteen mebbe fifteen, yeah. But aye, she's been a little troublesome lately I heard. No' so eager to help anymore, wants to go sail the sea and find out where she come from... and yah, you're right, I gets a little feeling that niggles at d' back o' my mind when I sees her telling me 'Nah, nah, she's a cat, she's gonna be no good.'"
Dark Star pondered this. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

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