Here’s a sneak peak of Chapter 3 of A Cat’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom, the sequel to A Cat’s Guide to Meddling with Magic.
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Chapter 3: Meditation
Seramina sat on Aleam’s mahogany bench with her eyes closed, her legs crossed with both feet resting on her thin thighs, and her hands resting lightly on her knees, palms facing upwards. Dust motes danced around her like fairies, visible in the light coming through Aleam’s gauze curtains. Seramina had removed the velvet cushions from the bench, and they instead stood propped up against the wall underneath the window.
Aleam’s study always felt kind of empty nowadays, with Ta’ra – my old Cat Sidhe friend – no longer being there. She’d gone to look after the other Cat Sidhe’s in the Caldmines Forest. I’d wanted to visit her, but before I’d even had time to do so the warlocks had set up camp on the horizon and visits to and from Dragonsbond Academy became highly restricted. So, in other words, I hadn’t seen her for quite a few months.
Now, only one bowl lay for food on the floor, and only one bowl for water. There was no cat there for me to snuggle against and get warm. But it was the lessons I missed the most. I’d taught Ta’ra a lot about what it’s like to be a cat, and she’d taught me a lot about what it’s like to be human too, even if she was a fairy.
I guess I had Salanraja, and I had people like Aleam, Ange, Rine, and even Seramina to keep me company. None of them made a suitable replacement for Ta’ra.
I’d tried interacting with the other cats here, but they just didn’t seem to understand me. For a long time, I’d felt a foreigner to the humans and had to learn to deal with it. What I hadn’t considered so much was that to my own brethren I was a foreigner too.
So, every time I saw Seramina sitting there, I just felt kind of odd. Still, she was a lot kinder than she used to be, and I didn’t want to deal with her old scary self again. So, I made sure to keep in her good graces. As she sat, she took deep breaths, and she didn’t seem to notice anything around her at all.
I really didn’t enjoy entering the room and not getting the attention I deserved. So, I went up to her and mewled. Seramina ignored me a moment until I jumped on the sofa and rubbed my nose into her belly.
She shuddered, backed up against the sofa, and then looked down at me with those scary fiery eyes that I’d learned to fear. This only lasted for a moment, before her eyes reverted to that pale shade of blue grey.
“Oh, hello Ben,” she said softly. “I’m sorry, I’m trying to keep under control. You must be quiet, now. Aleam’s sleeping in the next room.”
I pushed my nose up to her, and she raised her head and stroked me. But her movements didn’t seem quite real, as if she wasn’t completely there or didn’t realise I was there. “What do you call this again? This thing that you do?”
“Meditation,” Seramina said. “It’s something that they taught us to do in mind-school, but I never took it seriously until now. I’ve heard rumours it didn’t come from our world, but our sages actually learned it studying yours from afar.”
“And it calms the mind, soothes the soul you say?”
“You should try it. I think it would do you good.”
“I can’t cross my legs like you can,” I said. “And I can’t sit for that long without sleeping or needing to groom myself.”
“I’m sure if you learned to still your mind, you could do it too.”
“No,” I said. “It’s impossible.”
Seramina looked at me with a passive gaze. A long time ago, her stare had frightened me so much, I’d not wanted to go anywhere near her. But now – it’s strange to say – but when she was calm, after doing this meditation thing, her gaze seemed the most natural in the world.
I pushed myself up against the crook of her elbow, and then I lay down on her lap, purring. She moved slowly to stroke me, and I rolled over on my back to let her rub my belly. It was so relaxing being there, in such calmness, that I almost fell asleep. Maybe I would have, if I hadn’t remembered I needed information from Seramina.
“Say, have you heard about the prince’s arrival?” I asked.
Seramina raised her eyebrows. “I haven’t, no…”
“I just saw him arrive. I was with Ange, and you should have seen the way he treated her.”
“And which prince do you mean?”
“Prince Orlan, the marshal. Apparently, I should know who he is.”
“Oh,” Seramina said, and she looked towards the door which was slightly ajar and Aleam’s soft snores emanated from behind it. “I’m sure he has a good reason to be here.”
“I’m sure he has, and I was hoping you’d be able to tell me what it is.”
Seramina held her breath for a moment. “Ben,” she said. “I don’t do that anymore.”
“Use my magic willy-nilly. Now Astravar has met me, I’m just at risk as him finding my way into my mind as you are. So, I only use my gifts when absolutely necessary. Unless you have a good reason to need to know why the prince is here, I can’t tell you. There’s too much at stake.”
Come to think of it, Astravar hadn’t visiting my dreams much lately either. It was if, after defeating his demon chimera that he’d lost interest in me. Or perhaps, somehow, I’d got rid of him once and for all.
“I need to know,” I said.
“Because he was rude to Ange and me, and I don’t trust him.”
“That’s not a good enough reason,” Seramina said. “You didn’t use to trust me either, if you remember. But, with me, you had nothing to fear, and I’m sure it’s true with this prince too.”
Suddenly, I caught a whiff of smoked trout coming from my bowl on the floor. I groaned, and I stood up shaking my legs and dropped off the chair. The fish in the bowl was dry, and in another bowl the water was full of fur balls. This meditation thing might have been great for Seramina, but she wasn’t doing her duty in replacing the food on time. She still, it seemed, had a lot to learn.
“If you’re hungry, I’ve just roasted up a whole deer,” Salanraja said in my mind. Really, I was incredibly glad to hear her voice.
“Great, dinnertime,” I said. And I thought about saying goodbye to Seramina, but she already had her eyes closed and was back in her trance, as if she had already forgotten my visit. “But I thought you were angry with me and would not let me have any of your meal.”
I could have eaten in the dining hall. But the food had been pretty bad lately, apparently because of the warlocks cutting off supply routes.
“I changed my mind,” Salanraja said. “Unless you don’t want it.”
“No, no, I’m on my way,” I said. I glanced once more at Seramina, who was completely oblivious to my presence. I groaned deeply, and I left the room.