[ Another part of the cut plotline about the Apple of Dis and the little cat's mission to Thira. This section went at the end of the scene. ]
The pitter-patter of tiny soft paws echoed among the stone women. Pricking up her ears, the Queen rose in a smooth languid motion to find that one of her lost daughters had returned.
“Oh, worst of kittens, bad, wretched!” The Queen knelt, taking up a small black cat, its fur tangled with burrs, matted with oil and tar, into her hands. Her nostrils flared and she turned her head away. “Gah! What a smell of fish-heads you have!”
The little cat’s yellow eyes blinked at her and it shook its flat black head from side to side. There was a soft metallic rattle and the Queen turned the cat, revealing a treasure held at its neck. Small and perfect, cunningly wrought, the apple glowed like a failing sun, lighting the Dark Queen’s face and bringing out the bright colors in the statues that surrounded her.
“Oh, beloved creature…” The Queen’s laugh was of unfettered delight. She lifted the golden apple from the little cat’s neck and held it up, letting the light from it fall across her, washing over the broken tiles and pools of fetid water on the roof. “Mine at last, as it should have been in the beginning!”
The Queen kissed the cat soundly on the cheek, making it squeak in outrage, then brought the golden chain over her head, letting the apple fall between her breasts. This done, she drew her cloak around her and slipped off through the gray twilight, eager to be out of sight.
Opening her hand, the Queen let the golden light wake to life, illuminating a high-ceilinged chamber with mossy brick walls. Though not as luxurious as her previous residence, this one had the benefit of great secrecy and substantial protection. The roof above held up part of the Imperial palace that housed the Faithful Guard. Considerable sustained violence would be required to disturb her. She did not have much – a cot covered with furs, a wardrobe of ancient black wood, a chair and some books packed away in a wicker basket. The little cat hopped down, mewling piteously. The Queen ignored her for a moment, opening the wardrobe and removing a casket of iron bound with bronze. This she opened, letting the gleam of many jewels shine on her face, and then emptied with an annoyed look. What dross, she thought.
Shining emeralds, rubies, sapphires, a cluster of pearls, all spilled into the bottom of the wardrobe. When the casket was empty, the Queen laid the apple in it, breathing softly on the perfect golden surface. The light died, letting darkness flood back into the chamber. Then the Queen put the prize away, closing the door of the wardrobe with a soft click.
“And you, my fine smelly friend, you have done me a great service.”
The little cat looked up and meowed again, showing a pink mouth and white teeth. It curled around the Queen’s ankles, making a hungry sound.
“You will eat, soon enough.” The Queen picked up the cat again and stepped to a low table that had been hidden behind the wardrobe. “There will be cream and fresh, sweet fish. You may eat until you are as fat as a plump, tasty, red-faced daywalker child!”
She sat, the little cat on her lap, and took hold of the scruff of its neck. The cat blinked at her, puzzled, then made a hissing sound. “But first, you will be clean!”
The Queen began to rub a wet cloth around the cat’s head, taking off black grime and tiny balls of tar and fish-grease. A wailing cry issued from the little cat, but it could do nothing but suffer. “Then we will see about you growing up.”