“I have heard the two-legs talking,” purred the cat in a voice both soft and satisfied. “You are to be taken to a great pride-leader of theirs as a prize and curiosity.”

“It matters not,” replied the Huia male, gently rubbing his thick beak against the dark plumage of his mate, “as long as we are together.”

“Oh, you will be,” said the cat, shifting her balance slightly as the ship bobbed amid light waves. “The two-legs will stuff you with sawdust and wires, side by side. I have heard of it from toms in port.”

“As long as we are together,” the female huia said. She cooed softly and returned her mate’s gesture with her long beak like a curved needle.”

“Bah, such mawkishness is no kind of sport,” snarled the cat. “No wonder your kind is rare enough to be a curiosity.” She turned to the next cage in the ship’s hold. “What about you, owl?” she said. “How does it feel to be among the last of your kind, taken from your home to be stuffed by a pride of two-legs?”

“Ah..ahah..AHAHAHAHAHA!” one of the owls cackled. “Hehehehe…you want to have a bit of sport with us, two-legs, is that it? Maybe agree to, heh, open our cages and let you end our misery early? AHAHAHAHA!”

“And why not?” said the cat, speaking the patois common to predators in a low and mewling voice. “A quick snap…I would do it clean. You’d die a warrior’s death. Who knows, you and your queen there might even best me and fly away to safety.”

“Ahahaha…AHAHAHA!” cackled the female laughing owl. “We’ve heard things as well, you know. There was a sort of…ahahaha…little bird that once lived not far from where we did. Killed by cats they were, all of them! And do you know what the two-legs did in return? They killed the cats, all of them!” The owls chortled together.

“So…ahaha…so you see, cat, we may be bound for a stuffing, but you’re surely not” the male cackled. “Eat one feather of ours or our amorous fellow-passengers and the two-legs will snuff you out like a blind cricket!”

The cat hissed and snarled in return. But, recognizing the futility of the gesture, it turned and sulked out of sight.

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