As always the standard disclaimer applies: I do not own the Happy Tree Friends; they are the property of Mondo Media. Also Crush belong to the original HTF forums user MrKaos. In addition the character of Fresko the Feline belongs to the Deviant Art user Rainbroach (formerly known as Yoshi Lord). I own only my own characters and this story.

86 – THE CLAN FELINUS

It didn't take long for word of the coming raid to spread through the camp, and, as the leaders had expected, almost everyone who could fight wanted to be a part of it. Crush, Carina, and Squonk knew that they would have quite a job deciding who would go on the raid and who wouldn't.

As it was now well into the day Lifty and Shifty were invited to join the camp for lunch. It was a fairly haphazard affair as the Placeless Pack tended to live largely on whatever they could scavenge. Actually a lot of their food came from raids on the Marauder camp. Many of their members were very good at stealing supplies from the Marauders, who, try as they might, were rarely, if ever, able to catch them. So they managed to keep themselves supplied although it was a precarious existence. Everyone shared what they had so no one went hungry although many times an eater didn't get as much as he might want.

During lunch the two raccoons became better acquainted with the camp. They saw Zeff's area where she treated anyone who was hurt or sick, and also watched over any unsupervised children. There were a large number of unsupervised children since many of them had lost their parents either before joining the Placeless Pack or on raids against the Marauders. The leaders of the pack were very aware of this problem and they had recently decided that any single parent animal whose child was not old enough to be independent, and who didn't have any other relatives to step in, was not to take part in Marauder raids.

It was the wolves and cats who were the least affected by this decision as they were large extended families with many adult members who could help rear the kids. They had their own arrangements within their groups as to who would be a fighter and who wouldn't so that there would always be a secure number of adults around to look after the kids. This arrangement was especially important to Carina who had herself given birth to three very rowdy pups just seven months before. With the demands placed on her as the alpha female of her family and co-leader of the Placeless Pack she was very glad that there were other responsible adults available to help look after her children when she had to be away. Mara also appreciated the arrangement, more so because the cat group was much bigger than the wolf pack so there was always someone around to look after the kittens (either hers or someone else's). Usually that person was Jet since Mara's kittens were also his kittens.

It was while they were finishing lunch that Lifty and Shifty found Mara and Jet near them on the grass.

"That was an interesting meeting we had there" said Mara speaking first, "you two have a big job cut out for you."

"We know" said Lifty, "will you really attack the Marauders just to help us?"

"We said we would, didn't we?" said Mara, "oh yes, we'll do it. Don't worry about us, we do this sort of thing a lot."

"That's amazing" said Lifty, "at our city we'll defend ourselves if we're attacked but we don't usually pick fights with our enemies."

"But you have a permanent home" said Jet quietly, "it's not like that here." A far away look came into his eyes. "We had a home once" he murmured.

"Yes we did" said Mara, "but we lost it when XL-Jack-3 sent an army of Marauders with long range weapons to attack our community. All of the cats in this camp are either survivors from that attack or their children."

"We're luckier than many" said Jet, "a lot of us got out and we managed to stay together. But there were many others who didn't."

"We gave them a hell of a fight" said Mara, "but we were badly outnumbered. Still I think every cat who died that day took at least two Marauders with him."

"Of course they did" said Jet fondly to Mara, "that's only to be expected if you're stupid enough to attack anyone from the Clan Felinus."

"The Clan Felinus?" asked Lifty, "is that your family name?"

"You might say that" said Mara with obvious pride. Lifty looked thoughtful.

"I know I've heard that name before" he said slowly, "When you say 'Felinus' are you referring to – "

"The greatest cat warrior who ever lived" Mara replied firmly, "I'm directly descended from him. Actually all of the cats in this camp are descended from him by one route or another."

"You too?" said Shifty to Jet, and Jet nodded.

"Yes, by a different line" he said, "Felinus had many different mates during his lifetime, but Mara is his heir. She's the eldest child of an eldest child all the back to the eldest child of his very first mate."

"There's no need to get pretentious" said Mara, "he wasn't a king you know, just a great warrior – well okay, the greatest warrior of our kind and I'm proud to have his blood in my veins, but it's not like it gives us special privileges. Besides, all of our community is descended from him."

"He lived several centuries ago" explained Jet to the raccoons, "we haven't in-bred if that's what you're thinking. He knew we'd need his strength so he had kittens by as many mates as he could and spread his genes around."

"Did he ever come to the Animal City?" asked Lifty suddenly.

"Certainly" said Mara, "he was born there."

"I knew it!" said Lifty, "I knew that name was familiar. He was a City High Commander. There's a statue of him in the Pantheon of Heroes back home. He was a blue cat too, yes?"

"Yes" said Mara, "I'm glad the Animal City remembers him."

"I should think we would" said Lifty, "he had charge of the city defenses in his time – ."

" – But he was more interested in actually getting into the fights himself, yes we know" said Mara, "so he traveled far when he was a very young cat and eventually made his way to Metramegopolis where he lived for a while. It was there that he met my ancestor, the first of his mates (and he had a bunch of mates in Metramegopolis too but that's another story) and while he was there he served in one of that city's Marauder wars. He even faced XL-Jack-3 himself – and lived."

"We've heard the story" said Lifty, "but there's a lot of doubt that it actually happened."

"That's foolish" said Mara sharply, "it happened all right and I carry the proof with me even now. Look at this."

When the raccoon brothers had first seen Mara they had noticed she wore a pendant around her neck but couldn't tell what it was except that it was rather bulky and silverish. Now she removed it and held it out for them to see. It was a bolt, a really thick bolt, quite a bit thicker than one of her paws.

"This bolt" said Mara with pride, "once formed part of XL-Jack-3's left ankle. Now, unless he's found another bolt to replace it, there's only a hole where this bolt once sat."

"You're joking!" exclaimed Shifty, "how can that be?"

"I don't really know" said Mara, "that part of the story isn't known anymore. How he did it I can't say but there's no doubt that what I've told you is true. He gave the bolt to his oldest child to keep when he left Metramegopolis and returned to the Animal City and my family has had it ever since.

"As for the rest of his story, when he got back to the Animal City he eventually rose to the rank of City High Commander – but you already seem to know that part."

"Sure" said Lifty, "he defended the city against several attacks, and he usually fought on front lines himself. It's amazing that after all of his adventures he actually wound up dying of old age!"

"Just lucky I guess" said Mara with a smile.

"But if your ancestor was born in Metramegopolis," asked Shifty, "how do you come to be here?"

"A few generations after Felinus' time a bunch of his descendants, my own ancestors included, decided to leave the city and start a community of their own out at the northeastern edge of the great mountain range in which we currently happen to be. A community was founded and it prospered for a long time, centuries in fact. It was a strong community; everyone in it had a large claim on the Felinus lineage if not necessarily as direct as my own. Anyway the community lasted. It suffered attacks now and then but we fought them off. We were still living there until just a few years ago (both Jet and I were born and raised there) when the Marauders came again. This time they came in much greater numbers and they brought weapons to strike us at long range. That was the attack that destroyed our community. Those of us who survived kept together. We decided to head west because Metramegopolis was closer than the Animal City. Along the way we met up with the rest of this camp. That was two years ago and we've been part of this group ever since."

Lifty and Shifty listened to this narrative with amazement. When it was done Lifty said:

"We know about Felinus, of course, but we never knew he had so many descendants."

"Oh yes" said Mara, "We've never forgotten him. His blood keeps us strong, and we're proud of our heritage, proud to bear his name. We tend to be stronger than the average cat. We have bigger claws, sharper teeth, and more powerful bodies – all of which we get from him. And we train hard to be as good as we can with the tools he left us. In his memory we call ourselves 'Felines' and that is how you will always know one of us."

"Are all of you felines?" asked Shifty.

"Yes" answered Jet, "all of our family but we're not the only ones. Like we've told you, he had many mates, both in Metramegopolis, and afterwards when he returned home to the Animal City. I'm sure both cities have plenty of cats who have some claim on his lineage, although to be a full-blooded feline like the members of our family is relatively rare."

"Maybe" said Lifty wryly, "but I think we know one."

"I'll say" said Shifty. Mara and Jet gave them an inquiring look and so Lifty and Shifty told them about Fresko.

"He's a blue cat too, like you" said Lifty.

"Yeah but not nearly as good looking" said Shifty with a touch of malice.

"Does he have claws like this?" asked Mara, unsheathing hers, which were long, sharp, and fearsome, "and does he have teeth like this?" and she bared hers which were incredibly sharp. Both Lifty and Shifty nodded.

"Can he fight like there are three of him all at once?" asked Jet.

"Can he ever!" said Lifty, and Shifty grimaced at the memories of their various encounters with Fresko over the years. Jet and Mara looked at each other and nodded.

"Sounds like a real feline to me" said Mara, "I hope we get to meet up someday."

"So do I" said Jet, "but this is good news. It means there's hope for the Animal City after all!" Mara laughed and rubbed up against her mate affectionately.

(To Be Continued)

A/N - The concept of being a "Feline" as opposed to simply being a cat was introduced by Rainbroach in the story Fresko, College Cat which was originally posted on the old HTF fan forums and can now be read over on Deviantart where it's simply called College Cat