The Crown of Thira

[ Since the Golden Apple plotline was cut, there's no reason to have the little black cat appear at the end of this scene, is there? ]

Warm morning light was shining in the windows of the Matron's room as she
entered. Her hair was clean and brushed, lying in a shining wave down her
back. The dawn funeral had required a lengthy ceremony and feast to cleanse
the corruption attendant upon the dead. She was getting too old for such
things. Her heart was troubled by the Crow Queen's news and this spiritless

"I must send messengers to Rome," she said to the empty air.

Sighing in weariness, she sat on the edge of the simple wooden bed and
removed her slippers. Thankfully, she could rest, though she should be
discussing these matters with the Council.

"Later!" She said to herself, smiling. "Weary feet need a bed!"

She flipped back the quilts, then she stopped, frowning. A scratching sound
came from the door. Eyebrow raised, she stood and padded across the carpeted
floor. Usually curtains separated rooms on the island, but hers possessed a
door of wood.

Frowning at the interruption, the Matron opened the door and peered out
into the passage. A lamp burned on a nearby shelf. There was no one in

"It's not Prank Day." The Matron looked up and down the corridor, frowning.

"Mrowp!" A sound came from her feet and then she felt something soft and
warm coiling around her ankles. She looked down and found a small black cat
with round yellow eyes and thick plushy fur rubbing up against her.

"Here now," she said, bending down to pick up the kitten, "what is this?
Someone's lost?"

The Matron held the cat up in both hands, letting its furry tail twitch in
the air, and stared at it severely. The cat stared back, eyes narrowed to
bare slits. It felt wonderful in her hands, with thick rich short-napped
fur. "Oh, I suppose I could take you in, if just for the night."

The Matron tucked the little black cat under one arm and closed the door.
She put the cat on a low wooden table, then sighed, put her slippers on and
went out. The cat sat quietly while she was gone, cleaning its fur and
looking around the room. It seemed satisfied with the accommodations. After
a bit, the Matron returned carrying a dish and a stone ewer.

The Matron poured a portion of cream into the dish. Having satisfied her
guest, she climbed into the bed, drawing up thin quilts. The cat sniffed the
cream, found it acceptable, and lapped it all up with a quick little pink
tongue. When she was done, the little cat jumped down onto the floor, padded
across to the bed and hopped up. The Matron was already asleep, snoring
softly. The little black cat nosed about at the edges of the blankets, then
gave up and curled up on the Matron's breastbone, purring contentedly.

Outside, in the lagoon, the newest students at the Temple strained against
the oars of a rowing galley, learning to pull and stroke in unison. The ship
of bleached white pine cut through the clear azure water of the hidden bay.
Above, silhouetted against a perfect blue sky, gulls and terns wheeled,
crying in the hot sun.