The days passed swiftly in the small birthing den and the newborn litter of five grew at a tremendous rate. The infant shadowcat Kivuli, first to be born, was also the first to open his eyes of all the five cubs. Brilliant green, like a sparkling emerald, his mother Usiku'ua noticed immediately with a smile. Blinking rapidly as the sudden imagery flooded into eyes brand new to light, the little cub looked up at his mother curiously and put a sight to the entity he knew instinctively to be his mother where before there had been only a gentle warmth, a soft purr, and a familiar scent. Usiku'ua gazed down upon her little shadow with deep blue eyes filled with love, and laughed quietly when the little cub reached up with a tiny paw and put it on her russet nose. Giving a small mew, Kivuli flexed his paw on his mother's nose and gave a faint smile.
A month passed and then two, seemingly in the blink of an eye. The cubs were all old enough to leave the protection of the den and their mother was taking them out for the first time. Already the snickers were beginning as Kivuli, blinking, stepped into the light. Usiku'ua's raps on the younger four's heads quieted them, but still they smirked inwardly. As soon as the other cubs had opened their eyes and noticed that their older and bigger brother was as black as the night, they had feared him immediately and had begun every effort to make themselves feel superior to him. Shoving matches to suckle had become common between them and often Kivuli had to fight just to eat. And now that he had come into the African afternoon's bright sun, it was painfully obvious just how different he really was. Kivuli resolved to ignore them though, as a butterfly flew by and caught his attention immediately.
Soon, Kivuli's four siblings were roughhousing and laughing with each other in the golden grasses without a care in the world. But the shadowcat cub himself became intensely curious in every little thing around him. The savanna stretched endlessly in front of his inquisitive eyes and new things lurked around every blade of grass; under every stone. Thus Kivuli refrained from joining in the wrestling match...he knew he would not be welcomed anyway...and stayed constantly by his mother's side. A small lizard ran by and he asked his mother in his soft voice what it was. A butterfly floated by on the breeze and he swatted at it with a paw before asking his mother why he felt he should do so. Looking up at the sun, he winced in pain as his eyes stung from the bright light and swiftly looked away, asking his mother why the big bright rock had hurt his eyes. Usiku'ua would simply nuzzle her son and answer as best she knew how, pleased at his curiosity of the world around him.
Kivuli's two brothers and two sisters soon noticed that their brother was not trying to join in and was asking their mother all kinds of, to them anyway, inane questions that they could not make out. Nqema, the oldest of the four spotted cubs frowned and narrowed his eyes. Usiku'ua bade her cubs to wait here and stay hidden while she acquired some food for them. It was time to have some more fun, he thought to himself. Nqema was by far the one that hated their shadowcat brother the most. Having been the second born of the litter, he felt it inexplicably humiliating to have been preceded by Kivuli, who was so different than they were. His other brother and two sisters, Mbuku, Kalea, and Siyamba respectively, carried no ill will towards their strangely furred brother, but they did not wish to go against the bullying Nqema and so joined in with him on a regular basis. "Hey Kivuli!" the leopard cub called, causing his brother to cringe and look at them with a frown. An expression he wore all too often these days, it seemed.
All four of them were advancing towards Kivuli in a line; Nqema slightly ahead of the pack. Uh oh...thought Kivuli. They had never been so bold as to gang up on him before and he was more than a match for any one of them alone. Two he felt he could handle, three was pushing it,...but all four even he could not hope to match. His tiny claws slid from his small ebony paws and his emerald eyes that his mother so cherished narrowed to slits. Nqema began to smile coldly as he and his siblings approached their older brother and stood across from him in a line. The tension thick in the air, the five cubs remained silent as death for many moments. At last, Nqema was the first to speak.
"So what's all the questions for, Kivuli?" the leopard cub sneered in his high, whiny voice. "Trying to figure out where your spots went?". A chorus of snickers from the rest of the cubs made Nqema swell a bit and he smirked, waiting for an answer. Kivuli stared back at them, his eyes darting to each of them in turn, never taking his eyes from them. But he gave them no reply. Nqema fully expected his brother's silence. After all, he had never spoken to them. Not once. "What's the matter, Kivuli? We want to hear you speak!" Nqema said at last, his brother's perpetual silence making him hate Kivuli all the more. When no reply was forthcoming he began to growl and started to advance on Kivuli, who flattened his ears and tensed for the expected fight. "Fine. . .I'll make you speak..." Nqema growled, to a few concerned looks from his other siblings. Then, without warning, Kivuli suddenly looked up at something behind the four and smiled faintly.
"Nqema!! Stop right where you are or I will beat you senseless!" came a loud roar from behind the leopard cubs, causing them to cringe and scatter before the voice of their mother. Usiku'ua, having returned once she had caught a small gazelle, came right up to Kivuli and glared at her other four cowering cubs. "If I catch any of you trying to hurt your brother again, I will hold you down while he beats you unconscious! Do you understand!?" she growled at her cubs, eliciting frightened nods from all four. They didn't know the meaning of unconscious but they figured it had to do with pain and did not argue. Kivuli cringed at the thought that his beloved mother would do such a thing; certainly he would never raise a paw against his siblings in anything other than self defense. But the warning had served it's purpose and the four of them would never band together against their dark-furred brother again.