The cat found a place near the bottom of the mildly inclined slope face. He settled in under the outward thrusting branches of a huge pine. The aroma, the deep bed of needles no insects could inhabit, and the gentle wind that wafted its way among the easy waving branches gave the cat a sort of comfort that was similar to, but more distant, than what he felt when he was among the members of his new pride. His position under the pine was taken with studied purpose. He stretched his aching battered body out fully, extending it until his head barely protruded from under the lowest of the wide flat branches. He looked out over the river and could see, from his vantage point, the great white cloud of spray thrown up by the water plummeting over the distant falls, to impact on the canyon bottom below. The cat knew he was close to where he’d leaped into the river the night before, and his whole body shivered. That he’d survived the fall, and then been so very close to going over the falls, had not impacted upon him until that moment. He knew he should not have survived but somehow had not only done so but was once again up on the opposing slope viewing his human pride members working their way toward the stones they’d use to cross to the other side. He’d use the same stones, but his paws and his low balanced body made the crossing a simple routine, but that was not so for the humans.
Hasti could not understand the meaning of the word ‘worry,’ even if it could somehow have been communicated to him. But his breathing increased in its rate as the first human ran across the top of the rocks. The younger human moved quickly and adroitly without fear, the cat understood, but not the older of the two. That one moved from rock to rock, trepidation, and fear evident in his every leap, followed by his awkward balancing series of small steps atop each rock. It would have been amusing to the cat to watch him if it had not involved the potential loss of one of his pride and a key pride member at that.
There were now females. The cat looked over and down toward where the lean-to and encampment had to be, invisible in the distance, buried behind the normal floral growth and forest bracken that rose up before the clearing of the mud bank leading into the passing water. The cat felt satisfied that there were females. They were not cat females but they were females all the same, and many services he’d lived without since birth might be provided. He shook his heavy muzzle and twitched his great sensitive ears at the thoughts rolling through his brain. He knew nothing of females, other than the difficult competition to suckle his mother over the attempts of his competing birthright companions. He had no life experience with females, but he had a sense that they were very important for his survival and providing any measure of comfort during that survival.