Feline Savior

Defending Sovereign, Church, and Country from the Forces of Darkness

All heroes have an origin story, some series of events that triggers their actions. Few if any ever started out to be heroes, or chose it as a career path, whereas most if not all were recruited, or sometimes shanghaied, into that position, but when heroism was demanded of them they all rose to meet the challenge despite their own personal misgivings and fears.

This is part one of Sir Differel Van Helsing's three-part origin story. However, this part has a twist, in that the true hero of the novella is not Sir Differel herself, nor is it even Human.

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Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength. If we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.
— Old Tibetan Saying

When Differel Van Helsing arrived at the end of the tunnel, she wasn't surprised to find it blocked. Because she was in pitch blackness, she couldn't see the door, but she had seen it numerous times before. It was a concrete slab, disguised on the opposite side to look like native rock, but on her side was plain cement. She put her back against it and pushed. It was counterweighted, so while massive it moved freely, but it grated against the ground, creating resistance. Fortunately, she didn't have to push it open very far, just enough to squeeze through. Once on the other side, she shoved it back into place to conceal the tunnel from any searcher.

She took her father's lighter out of her shirt pocket and lit it. Having been in total darkness for some time, she was temporarily blinded by the flame, and she held it over her head to give her eyes a chance to adjust. She knew where she was without having to see it: the dungeon beneath the keep inside the motte-and-bailey on her family's estate. However, she knew from previous explorations that it could be dangerous, especially from oubliettes and unstable walls and ceilings, and it was too large and labyrinthine, both from collapsed debris and the original layout of the cells and corridors, to stumble around in the dark. Even so, she knew her way through as long as she could see where she was going. Nothing had changed since her last visit, and soon she found the stairs that led up to the ground floor of the keep.

She extinguished the lighter as she emerged into the great central chamber. The keep was designed very much like a broch, essentially a hollow, double-walled, drystone tower with no roof, except that it had once had several wooden upper floors. Time had rotted most of the timber planks and beams, and she could see clear though to the open sky. It was just before noon, and the sun shone all the way down to the floor, illuminating every square foot. She had a long wait ahead of her, assuming Aunt Mandy didn't find her first.

I hope they're still searching house and grounds, or at worst the woods, she thought. Then she smiled. Assuming my little diversion worked.

Even so, she needed somewhere to hide, just in case a diligent searcher decided to check out the ruins on his own initiative. Fortunately, that was not her first visit, and she knew the perfect place. At some point in the past a part of the inner wall had collapsed, forming a mound of rock and rubble that contained a natural recess and opening because of the way the blocks had fallen together. Over the many years, continued weathering had filled the nooks and cracks with dust, cementing the blocks into place. To casual observation, it would simply look like a jumble of stones. In fact, the opening was partially obscured and far from obvious except by direct line of sight, and one would have to squat down and peer inside to see if anything was present. She had found it herself only by accident a couple of years before, during one of her frequent exploration forays. With any luck, if someone did search the keep, they wouldn't discover her, but she could see out into the keep, and so judge by the amount of light if it was dark enough to continue on.

A small tuxedo cat jumped up on top the mound and mewed at her. She recognized him as one of the stable cats. She had named him Mr. Mistoffelees, from the cat in T. S. Eliot's eponymous poem. Sometimes she talked to him, when she felt lonely, or sad, or frustrated.

He stared at her in an expectant manner, as if expecting a treat. I wish I had one. But his presence comforted her, as it often did.

"I should have expected you to show up," She scratched him behind the ears. He purred, closed his eyes, and rubbed his head against her hand. "But I'm afraid this isn't one of my usual outings. Would you stay with me, though? I'd really be glad of the company."

The cat meowed, and she took that as a yes. She got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the recess all the way into the back, then sat down with her back to the stone blocks. Fortunately, it wouldn't be a hard wait. She had used that spot before as a secret hideout for when she wanted to be alone, and had previously hidden a cache of candy bars and a couple of bottles of water. The only thing she would miss was a toilet. Still, she never thought it would save her life.

I wonder if all this was meant to be, like destiny or the Hand of God. Only time would tell, and only then would she know if she was meant to succeed or fail.

Mr. Mistoffelees followed her in and lay down beside her. Picking him up, she cuddled him in her lap, and he closed his eyes and began to purr.

...

Differel peered out from the opening of her hiding place, up through the open roof. She noted the sky had deepened to violet. It would be night in another couple of hours, and then she could make her way to the cemetery. She crawled back inside and lit the lighter. Holding it over her upper left arm, she examined the deep graze wound. She had torn off her sleeve and wrapped it around the laceration as a makeshift bandage, and she could see the large red spot in the fabric, now a dull, dark brick. Fortunately, it seemed to have stopped bleeding, but she knew she would need to clean it out really well and have it closed with stitches for it to heal. She wasn't feeling feverish, so infection hadn't set in yet, but she realized she might not live long enough for that to be a problem.

She closed the cap on the lighter and slipped it back into her pocket. She didn't like feeling defeatist, but she figured she had to be realistic. She had been lucky so far, there was no doubt about that, but the chances of her seeing the dawn were slim, while those of her surviving the week were practically nil. Her only hopes lay in whatever she would find in the family mausoleum, and the possibility Aelfraed and Mr. Holt might find her before Aunt Mandy did.

Either would be miraculous, but the former's somewhat more probable.

She laid her hand by her side and stroked Mr. Mistoffelees's back. After she had saved him, she had kept an eye on him as he grew up, and she had been thrilled to discover that he was a friendly cat and would spend time playing with her. She had given him his name after he demonstrated abilities similar to the cat in Eliot's poem.

He's the closest thing I have to a friend, and he makes my loneliness bearable.

He hadn't stayed with her the whole time she was in hiding, but his errands, whatever they were, were usually brief, and he returned each time. She was glad of that. She felt that as long as he did not abandon her, she could still have some small hope.

As she stared out at the darkening keep, she couldn't help reliving the events that had led her to that time and place. So much had changed in the past twelve hours, even over the five weeks before.

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We Hold the Line, and This Line Shall Not Be Crossed!