As promised, here’s the first chapter from A Cat’s Guide to Bonding with Dragons. You can currently preorder a copy of the book on Amazon for 99 cents (or local currency equivalent). Please note that this hasn’t been through the final proofreading stage yet, and so you might still find the occasional error. Please feel free to reach out if you find anything and I’ll be sure to fix it.
Chapter 1: The Tower
My story doesn’t start, unfortunately, in the hills of South Wales where I once had a good life, dashing through the long dry summer grass chasing butterflies with the heat from the sun beating against my fur. It doesn’t start eating salty tuna straight out of the can every Sunday morning, and the remains of the roasted chicken in the afternoon. Nor does it start with me propped up against a velvet cushion that was tossed onto the sofa as I watched Tom chasing Jerry on television, amazed and slightly offended at how stupid the creators made Tom.
Instead, it starts on a muggy day, where the only way of telling the weather was the pressure on the sides of my head and the moisture I could sense in my whiskers. It starts in a stone tower with no windows, built of roughly hewn stones, sealed together with magic rather than mortar. It starts trapped under the service of an evil warlock who teleported me into a world that took me back to a time where humans only kept cats like me to chase mice and rats.
I’m not a usual cat, both in these magical lands and my original home. I’m a Bengal, meaning I’m larger than your average house cat. But not as large as a Savannah Cat, two of whom inhabited my previous neighbourhood. Nor am I as large as that beast of a cat called a Maine Coon, I saw once on television – that was the biggest domestic cat I’d ever seen. But I am a descendant of the great Asian leopard cat, which makes me special in my own right.
My fur is a kind of amber colour, and I have these black patches on me. If you caught a leopard cub in the warm light of sunset, maybe I’d look a little similar. Except I’m not quite as lazy as a leopard, and not quite so stupid as to start a fight with a wildebeest. Also, don’t mistake me for a tabby, a calico, or a tortoiseshell, those are the three worst things you can call a Bengal. I’m proud of my heritage and the way I look.
I have a name, but there’s no way you’ll be able to pronounce it in your language. You think Russian’s hard, then try hissing and sputtering and mewling out one of our long names. The humans called me Ben as I’m a Bengal, imaginative as they were. The younger kid had a little more imagination and decided that because of my breed I should be called Bengie.
He was cute, that one, when he didn’t try throwing me around the room.
I won’t tell you much more about my life back in Wales, because it’s probably uninteresting to human ears. Instead, I’ll tell you about the evil warlock who whisked me away across time and space from a nutritious breakfast of milk and salmon trimmings right into the centre of a pentagram drawn in red chalk on his floor.
His name was Astravar, though I only learned of his name later, and I’m sure you can imagine the miserable-looking man he was. Like most men of misery, he liked to keep himself neat, not letting a single bobble of fluff grace his purple cloak and always ensuring his collar kept as straight as still water. He had a long face, so gaunt you could see the bones underneath his eyes, cheeks, and chin. He had cruel grey eyes without a tint of colour in them, incredibly unnatural for a human.
At first, I looked up at him in shock. Then I thought, might as well make the most of it. Maybe at least I could get this strange man to pet me. So, I mewled for a little comfort, and you know what he did? He slapped me in the face.
I was quick to react, so I swiped at him with my right paw, scratching through his trousers. That was when he dragged me over to this tiny and cramped cage, and he locked me in there for two days straight without food and water. At least I think it was two days – there was no way of telling when day moved to night in that place.
When Astravar went out, I remained there in complete darkness, so cramped I couldn’t even pace, my paws cold against the floor, without a blanket for comfort, where I could just feel the cockroaches crawling all over my paws and I couldn’t do anything about them.
Those were the worst two days of my life.
You can probably imagine the rest of my life there wasn’t easy, either. Astravar eventually let me out of the cage, but he never let me outside, and he kept the room so pitch black when he went out during the day, that I couldn’t see a thing, even with cat vision.
Meanwhile, I would lie there on the thin mattress on the bedstead in this circular room, mewling away, hoping someone would pass by this tower, take pity, and knock down the door and steal me away. All the dust in here just made me sneeze all the time. Astravar didn’t leave food in a bowl on the floor. Not even that cheap processed meat stuff – not that they had it in his days – and I couldn’t help but long for the tuna, salmon, and roasted chicken and other delicious feasts that my previous owners would spoil me with every other day. He didn’t even leave proper water down, just some algae infested swill from the bottom of some dirty pond.
In all honesty, I don’t know where he got the water from. Maybe it had magical properties. Maybe if I drank enough of it, I’d be able to grow wings and fly. But where would I go? Like I said, this tower didn’t have any windows, so I couldn’t even sit on the sill and gaze out at the wilderness.
Astravar often went out foraging during this time, and he’d come back with a bag full of things like mandrake roots, deadly nightshade, and all kinds of other plants you wouldn’t dare touch with a paw, let alone a whisker.
Other days he’d bring back heavy shiny rocks like the one that hung above his enchantment table. Each time, he’d bring home all this stuff for who knows what nefarious intention, and he didn’t even think to throw in a sprig of catnip.
Then, he’d work under the light of a transparent crystal above a stone table, engraved with red, yellow, and purple runes. This crystal hung too far out of reach for me to access, unfortunately. It would shine bright white, allowing him to get to work grinding his herbs with a mortar and pestle, etching more runes into the table, hammering at shiny rocks, making a racket far too intense for my sensitive ears.
It wasn’t terrible living in Astravar’s tower for the first week or so. There were mice here, lots of them. Mind you, with the way this place had been put together, with stones thrown one on top of the other, there were plenty of places for mice to hide.
They hid in holes underneath the spinning wheel, behind the cold obsidian stone of the enchantment table, underneath the bed frame – full of nasty splinters, that one. There was even one in the pantry, which is the worst place to have a mouse hole, if you ask me. Particularly in a world where they haven’t yet invented tin cans.
That’s probably why Astravar summoned me here and, being a good cat, I got rid of them pretty quickly. I even ate a few of them, because I was hungry. Mouse tastes okay, but I can’t stand all those sharp bones in awkward places. To be honest, I also prefer my meat cooked.
You would have thought a wizard would be selective about who he brought into his abode. Well, he was really, other than the mice, and the cockroaches, and the single rat who made it up there one morning. The rat didn’t find his way through a hole, a window – because I already told you there weren’t any – or even the front door. It found its way through a portal that Astravar summoned in that same pentagram he’d brought me through, bang in the centre of the tower.
Oh, and I didn’t tell you it was a demon rat. That’s right, a demon rat that I had to kill nine times. But that demon rat was only the first of them. After I had killed it, Astravar seemed to think it a good idea to summon more of them from his portals. Each day, after returning from his foraging, he’d enter his pentagram and mutter some strange words. Then the portal would open up, only for a few seconds mind, but it was enough for these infernal rats to swarm out of them. Then, I’d have to go chasing after them, and beating them down. It was exhausting, I tell you. By the end of it all, I just wanted to collapse on the bed.
Then, Astravar would sweep them all into some kind of open closet that he never let me anywhere near. Really, he must have picked up thousands of those demon rats after a while, and their bodies never seemed to decay.
I got no rewards for my efforts, no extra smoked salmon or chicken liver or anything like that. Trust me, I really didn’t want to be eating any of those demon rats.
Anyway, here I am rabbiting on – don’t you just love rabbits? – about my terrible life I had in the tower, when I have so much else to tell.
My story really starts one day when Astravar came home from his foraging. He’d just been picking some kind of mushrooms from a nearby cave, and the spores must have made him a little drowsy. So, he neglected to close the door properly.
I admit it, I thought twice about sneaking out the door, as I wasn’t sure how long the mushrooms’ spell would last on Astravar. If he woke up and saw that his prized Bengal was missing, he might hunt me down and turn me into a mouse or a frog, and then feed me to another cat.
Perhaps even one he teleported across time and space to hunt the demon rats he accidentally let through his portals. He’d probably pick an even bigger cat, just because Astravar liked to be ironic. I’m guessing he’d choose a Maine Coon.
But then it would be an equally fitting end to die of starvation in some conceited warlock’s tower, and that thought made me bat open the heavy wooden door with my paw, slide out the gap, and make my way down the cold, stone, spiral staircase. I squeezed through the cold iron bars of the gate at the bottom of the tower, and I sprinted out into a cruel and unfamiliar world.