The black-billed gull bobbed its head nervously. “I see your children attempting to sneak up on me,” it squawked. “You know that the ancient and unwritten law both our kinds follow demands that a messenger not be accosted.”

A slight twitching of the matriarch’s ears and the younger cats withdrew into the bushes. “Speak, then, that we may satisfy the old ways and have our repast of you.”

“I come on behalf of the wrens,” the gull said. “They bade me speak to Tibbles, which I can only assume is you.”

“That is a name bestowed upon me unbidden,” the matriarch hissed. “You will not use it.”

“What am I to call you, then?”

“My true name is of our secret tongue and not for your ears,” the cat said. “You need not address me by name to deliver what paltry tidings you bring.”

“Very well.” The gull spread its wings. “My brothers, the wrens, have lived on this isle of Takapourewa from time immemorial. The rats chased their forefathers from Aotearoa after the arrival of man, and this is the last outpost of their kind. They are simple, trusting, and guileless, with no defense against those such as yourself as they cannot fly. They believe and practice total nonviolence against all but the insects they eat.”

“You tell me nothing I do not already know,” the matriarch cat said.

“The flightless wrens of Takapourewa have, in council, decided that their commitment to nonviolence overrides all, up to and including their lives and those of their children. They will not take steps to secure themselves against your predations.”

Purring the matriarch cat nodded in approval. “Then you bring us glad tidings! Thank you, messenger. You may depart this once with your life.”

“That is not the extent of my tidings, o cat,” the gull said. “The elder of the wrens bade me come, as one of a tribe who has known their kind for aeons and for whom flight offers a modicum of protection. They ask that you and your children cease your slaughter of their kind and allow them to live in peace.”

“Does our elder brother the lion live in peace with the gazelle? Does the wolf live in peace with the cat? That is not the way of our kind nor of any other kind.” The matriarch bent to casually lick her paw. “Your friends ask the impossible and we have no power to grant their request.”

The gull bobbed its head. “The wrens feared as much. They bade me tell you that, if your numbers continue to explode with the slaughter of wrens, when their kind is gone, your children will starve.”

“The weak ones, perhaps, but the strong and worthy will find other prey.”

“They foresaw that answer as well. The wrens bade me say one thing more. They have noticed that the humans have become interestied in them, in their rarity as the last of their kind. Even now they collect wrens as curiosities for display, and humans the world over ask for wrens of their own that they might study them.” The gull cocked its head. “If you exterminate them, the humans will be angry. You more than anyone must know what that anger can mean.”

Its last statement gave the matriarch pause. Her ears flattened for a moment before resuming their erect posture. “It is a risk we will assume,” she said at length.

“I am saddened to hear so, but I will bear your reply to the wrens,” the gull said. It launched itself into the air before the hidden cats nearby could pounce.

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