To continue the sample, here’s Chapter 3:
Please feel free to reach out if you notice any errors, and I’ll be sure to fix it before the publication date.
Chapter 3: The Sprint
The trail led me to a hill, with what looked like a castle on top of it. Back in the hills of South Wales, we had a castle nearby on top of the hill. But while the one back home was in ruins, with stones that had crumbled apart hundreds of years ago and no one living there save for the occasional badger and hedgehog, this castle was teeming with life.
It wasn’t ruined for a start, and had these tall towers, six of them, in fact, that rose up into the fluffy grey clouds, vanishing behind them. Those flying creatures wheeled around the towers and, once I was close enough, I saw them to be massive flying lizards with long necks and tails. They were like nothing I’d seen before, really, not even on the television.
Some beasts were red, some yellow, some green, some purple, some black, and some white. They flew in these brilliant aerobatic patterns that I could swear would put a swallow to shame. They dived through the clouds, almost touching the castle walls with their claws, before sharply veering upwards in the air.
It was then, watching from a slight rise with a cooling breeze passing through my fur, that I saw humans were riding these things. They carried long staffs across their backs, with crystals just like the ones Astravar used to collect, affixed onto the top of them. Sometimes, they took their short swords out of the sheaths at their hips, raised them up in the air, and swooped down with them. Other times, one of them would lift the staff off of their back, point it at the ground, and bathe the earth in brilliant displays of lightning, fire, and ice.
I’d never seen anything that could do that. I mean, back in South Wales, they had blocky machines that could create ice and blocky machines that could create fire. But they had to be closed to do so, and these staffs were creating brilliant effects all by themselves. I had to be dreaming.
I also found the behaviour of these people incredibly strange, even for humans. I mean, if you wanted to fly a creature like that, I would think you’d use it to get food. But they didn’t seem to be trying to kill anything, but just attacking the ground and making pretty patterns on it. They brought nothing back from their hunts, not even a mouse.
None of it made any sense.
I tried to ignore them, as I realised a place with so many people in it would also likely have a kitchen with lots of food. In fact, I could smell the aroma of some smoked fish coming from somewhere within.
I sprinted towards the castle. The grass shortened as I approached, and I passed a stable with horses grazing outside. A scruffy-looking man was outside with the horses, tossing hay to one side of the wooden fence with a pitchfork. He had a strand of straw in his mouth, with smelly smoke rising from the tip.
The man glanced at me as I passed and uttered something. Not being human, of course, I didn’t understand. I imagined he said something like, “Not seen too many of you fellows lately. We need a good mouser in the kitchens.” But I have no evidence to suggest whether or not that is true.
For all I know, he could have accused me of being one of the demon incarnations that Astravar had summoned up from his portals. Although the man didn’t seem afraid of me or anything like that.
I passed over an open drawbridge, and I stopped before I stepped underneath the portcullis. There was water in the moat, and I hadn’t drunk a drop all day. I lowered myself down the bank – steep for humans but not for cats – and I lapped up several mouthfuls of the freshest water I’d tasted for months. It had a tint of rose in it and was strangely warm.
Several moments later, thoroughly hydrated, I found my way into the castle proper. There were people in there, hundreds of them. Some of them were sitting on a stone wall eating apples. Others, in pairs, sparred with each other with wooden swords – for who knows what reason. A man stood in the centre of the sword-wielders, shouting out at the top of his voice in a punctuated rhythm.
He was loud, and so I didn’t want to go anywhere near him. Instead, I passed through the courtyard and pushed my way through a heavy looking door which was only slightly ajar. The corridors were cold and dusty, but I could smell my goal. The aroma of food was more intense than a chicken roast fresh out of the oven.
There was fish, there was chicken, there was pork, there was beef, and I swear I even caught the whiff of rosemary. I entered the kitchen, ducking between the feet of men and women scurrying around. I found a rather stout looking woman stirring something in a pot over a fire. I mewled at her, purring deep within my chest, and she turned and looked at me. Her expression suddenly turned to one of disdain, and she shouted out something at me.
She kicked me, and I shrieked back at her, and swiped with my paw, ripping through the fabric of her trousers. She shouted out at me again, and lurched at me with the spoon, dripping hot specks of a yellow mustardy sauce. But I darted away before she could hit me, finding my way between tangled feet and under the table.
I couldn’t find any scraps of food on the floor, so I scurried out of the kitchens, and around the castle, looking out for a plate of something, sniffing around as I did. I stopped to spray a few times, of course, to let other cats know that a Bengal was now interested in this territory.
Soon enough, I found another door, with some steps leading up a thin spiral staircase. I followed this upward and took the next room out, to find another straight and dusty corridor. Along the left-side edges of it, the stone peeled away into massive chambers. I turned into the first one, and I found a massive deer’s carcass half-eaten on the floor, set in front of an opening, looking out towards the mountains in the distance. The brown roasted meat emitted this amazing smoky scent that drew me towards it like a magnet draws iron filings.
I was so hungry I didn’t even bother to check what else might be in the room. I sprinted over to the meat, tore an enormous chunk off one of its ribs and started chewing it apart on the floor.
Then, there came a clear voice in my head. I’d never heard such a language before, but I understood it as clear as bowl-water. It was as if a human was speaking inside my mind, and I could put meaning to every single word they said.
“What in the Seventh Dimension do you think you are doing, youngling?”
But that voice couldn’t have belonged to anything, surely. I was starving and clearly hearing things.
“You dare ignore a creature of magic… Look behind you, you fool.” I felt a sudden searing sensation of heat passing over my head, and a jet of flame hit the wall right in front of me.
I shivered, and then I turned around and shrieked out of shock, as hackles thrust out of my arched back. I looked right into a massive yellow eye, set into a red reptilian head which must have been around five times the size of me, if not more.
“Finally,” the voice said. It sounded like a female human, yet still low-pitched at that.
“Now, I’m starting to see some well-deserved respect.”
Chapter 4 is now available. >> READ NOW