Last month, I posted the first chapter of A Cat’s Guide to Bonding with Dragons. Here’s Chapter Two.
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Chapter 2: The Sprint
I didn’t just run; I sprinted like a jaguar. I let my two hind legs carry me across the ground, imagining myself back in the jungles my ancestors came from, or dashing across the plains like the cheetahs the Savannah cats from my South Wales clowder claimed inhabited their ancestral lands. I didn’t stop once to look over my shoulder, mind. There’s no better way to kill momentum than to stop looking where you’re going and then tumble into a rock or trip over a lump in the ground.
A strange purple mist enveloped the land, smelling more of death and decay than anything natural. The air here felt almost choking, and I found it difficult to breathe. But still, I soldiered on.
The ground beneath me wasn’t great for running. It was marshy and cold. The water came up to my knees in places. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t go near such a place, even if I knew a vast field of catnip lay on the other side of it. But then, anywhere was better than that tower.
My legs got tired after a while, but I didn’t stop. I doubted that the mage could outrun me, but he might send something after me that could – a demon cheetah, perhaps. Or he could even use that portal to cross time and space and materialise right in front of me. I didn’t know which possibility I feared more.
Fortunately, nothing came for me, and soon enough I managed to get out of the terrifying place. The sun also broke out of a thick grey layer of clouds. The sensation of warmth against my fur and naked nose, after so long without it, caused me to slow a little. I found myself on much firmer ground, thick with long dry grass and rich in pollen. Dragonflies buzzed around overhead, and I spent a little while chasing some of them. But, after running for so long, I tired quickly, and so I lay down to have a little snooze in the sun.
It was then that I noticed something wheeling by overhead. Now, back in South Wales, our little clowder had a rule. Everything that flew was good for hunting as soon as it had landed. We didn’t have eagles or hawks or anything like that in South Wales, so nothing in the sky would get us into any danger, except perhaps an occasional aggressive seagull.
But the thing that cast a shadow over me was enormous, to say the least. Even being whiskers knows how many miles up in the sky, it still looked bigger than me.
It had these long wings like those of a goose, but much broader and webbed rather than feathered. As it passed by, it let off a roar that cut apart the sky. The creature had come from a snow-capped mountain range in the distance, much more impressive than the Brecon Beacons back in Wales.
I yawned, deciding that as long as that creature didn’t mind me, I wouldn’t mind it either. So, I closed my eyes, and I slept fitfully, occasionally waking from nightmares of Astravar dropping out of a portal and putting me in that horrible cage again. But after a while, the dreams also faded away, and I awoke underneath the amber glow of the setting sun, which caused the high strands of grass around me to cast long shadows.
That was when I decided it was a good idea to go hunting. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for then. But regardless, there was no running water nearby so I wouldn’t have a chance of catching any fish. Unless I went back to the marshland, of course, which I wasn’t going to do for obvious reasons. I tried chasing some starlings, but they lifted themselves up from the ground whenever I got within a few yards of them. Instead, I scouted around for voles or mice.
That’s the thing though – small rodents are easy to hunt indoors. You just trap them inside their holes and scoop them out with a paw. But outside, they had places to run away to, so the tiny critters would just scramble away from me.
After a while of stalking across the land looking for food, I came across a rock over what looked like moist ground, just next to an oak tree. I was desperate, so I turned it over, to find it crawling with earthworms and woodlice. They didn’t make for a particularly appetizing meal – I hated eating creepy crawlies. But they satisfied the hunger pangs somewhat.
That was how I lived for the next several days or so. Eating insects and worms from underneath the earth, carrying on across the land hungry and tired, but at least grateful to once again be able to see the sun rise and set. I tried to travel and hunt at night. But the night didn’t reward my hunting. I could swear there was something about the mice and rabbits here – they just knew to stay well away from me, as if they had greater dangers to deal with than a mere cat. They dug deeper into their burrows and curved their holes down into the ground so I couldn’t reach into them successfully.
During the day, I slept in the long grass. Occasionally, one of those strange and massive beasts flying overhead would wake me from my slumber – always either going to or coming from the mountains, and always flying in the same direction.
When I saw them from the right angle, I would imagine something was sitting on top of them. Perhaps a human in bright clothing. But I thought it must be my imagination. I was hallucinating, and it wouldn’t do me any good.
After a while of living this way, and the intense hunger pang in my stomach, I could literally feel my ribs pressing out against my chest. I realised my problem then. I needed to be around humans, and I’d lived without them for far, far too long.
It was ridiculous, I know. A great beast like me – a Bengal – not being able to hunt for himself. But I had to face the facts. I was domesticated, not bred to live in such a wild world.
But there was no way I would turn back to the marshlands to live with Astravar. Whiskers, if I returned there asking for food and a ticket back to my owners in South Wales, he’d probably skin me alive. But I had no idea where I would find a town, or a city, or any place where I could find a nice family to feed me. I only had one lead – the massive creatures that flew overhead, always coming from one direction towards the mountains in the morning and returning the other way in the evening.
It was then that I decided that I’d follow their trail and find out where they were all returning to.
Chapter 3 is now available. >> READ NOW