My mistress's chanting was growing in volume, but I feared she would be too late. I let out a piteous mew, but the hawk did not falter, all mercy erased from his fierce visage. I tried to twist from its grip, but that only increased the pain emanating from the claws dug deep into my fur. Again I yowled hopelessly, but this time the hawk seemed to notice. His wings were beating more rapidly, and his entire body was writhing. I closed my eyes out of sheer terror, as I did not want to see my own death. Would he eat me now, right here in the sky?

    But no, instead the sharp talons released me, and for one heart-wrenching moment I was falling through the air. I had flown with my mistress many times before, but that was completely different. With nothing under me, death above me, and endless sky everywhere between, I felt as  trapped as ever before.

    Then she caught me. My mistress's hand was warm and inviting, though it was soaked with sweat. Slowly her hand eased me down until I was nestled comfortably against her breast. "My dearest Graymalkin, you mustn't scare me like that. Now look what I had to do."

    I obeyed, raising my head so that I could view my former captor. The forsaken bird was twisting to and fro, its beak wide open in a silent cry, its wings beating with a great amount of urgency despite the fact that it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Slowly, however, its wingbeats were reduced to less than a forlorn flapping until, its body contorted in pain, the hawk fell from the very air. "Ah, poor thing..." cooed my mistress, "But it had to be done. There was no other way to stop it. Oh, Graymalkin, my dearest, dearest, dearest..." Her rasp trailed off until there was naught but silence, and the reassuring feeling of her fingers stroking my fur as we flew back to our home.

    I closed my eyes contentedly, but with the throbbing in my side where the hawk's talons has torn into me, sleep was out of the question. And so I thought. I thought of the poor hawk, and though it had tried to kill me, it hadn't deserved to die for, as my mistress had said, it didn't know that such was wrong. I thought of that terrifying feeling of falling before my mistress had caught me. I thought of my own origin, which my mistress had never explained to me. She had not ever said anything but one word, one which I did not yet know the nature of: Reincarnation. And while pondering over the meaning of such a word, somehow my mind was able to drift to sleep.

The End

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