Here’s a sneak peak of Chapter 3 of A Cat’s Guide to Meddling with Magic, the sequel to A Cat’s Guide to Bonding with Dragons.
You can download the book from Amazon by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Chapter 3: Dreamwatcher
Winter had come to the Illumine Kingdom, and for the last five days, a thick blanket of snow had settled on the ground. I wasn’t human, and so I wasn’t foolish enough to want to go out in the snow. Things froze in such conditions, and animals died if they stayed exposed to this stuff too long.
As you’ve probably gathered, therefore, I don’t particularly like snow. In fact, I absolutely hate it. ‘Bah humbug to it’, as you might say in the human language.
With each step through the snow, I sank into it, leaving my paw prints trailing behind me in two neat lines. Rine’s footprints followed a much wonkier pattern beside them. Fortunately, we only had to trudge for a little way before we reached the Council’s courtyard, behind which, I’d learned by this point, stood the keep that housed the most important rooms of this castle, including the council room and treasury.
Two snowmen waited for me at the archway leading into the courtyard. Both of them had eyes made of raisins and courgettes as noses. The guards had built these on watch, apparently, and then they had put two helmets on them to make them look like guards. Apparently, they thought it might help scare away the crows.
Rine stopped by the archway and pointed at one snowman. “Handsome fella, isn’t he?”
“I have absolutely no opinion of him,” I said.
Driar Rine looked down at me and smiled. “Apparently, Captain Onus decided how he should look.”
“Then I’ve changed my mind. This snowman is much better looking than Captain Onus.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
I peered around the snowman and looked into the courtyard. The three elders hadn’t arrived yet, it seemed, but there was a girl with light blonde hair standing at the bottom of the dais, her back to me. She seemed to be staring up at the crystal, though I couldn’t see enough of her to read her expression.
“What exactly does the Council want of me?” I asked. “And what do they know of my dreams?”
Rine tutted and smirked. “Tut, tut, Ben. Been dreaming things you shouldn’t?” He gave me a wink.
“I’m not going to tell you about my dreams.”
“Why not? I’ve always wondered what a cat might dream.”
“Because they’re personal. Why, would you tell me yours?”
Rine gave a curious frown. “I don’t see why not.”
“Fine, what did you dream last night?”
“Well, I dreamt that…” Rine scratched his chin as his words trailed off. “Actually, you’re right, I probably shouldn’t tell you any of that at all.”
“Typical adolescent boy stuff, then. I can imagine.”
“Probably better than dreaming of fish and chicken all day,” Rine said.
“That’s not all I dream of. I’ll have you know that I have very intelligent dreams.”
I opened my mouth to say something else, but a tinny female voice shouting out from the other side of the bailey interrupted me.
“Rine, there you are.” Rine’s girlfriend, Bellari, stepped up to us. Her long blonde hair framed her face which was red, perhaps because of the cold or perhaps because of her allergies to me. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. We start our shift in five minutes. Come on, we’ll be late.”
She tried to pull Rine away, but he broke free from her grasp and turned back to me. “Bellari, I was ordered to deliver him to the Courtyard. The Council told me to keep close to him at all times.”
Bellari sighed and stepped around Rine, keeping as far away from me as she could. She peered around the snowman. “Ben,” she said. “What are you waiting for? Go on… They want to see you. And the new student’s there already.”
“New student?” I asked, starting to get curious. I had thought there was something about the girl I’d just seen in the courtyard. I moved towards the archway. As I did, I closed the distance between me and Rine’s girlfriend. Bellari backed away and hid behind Rine.
“Ben, I told you to stay away from me. Rine, do something. Oh, that cat, they should never have Initiated him.”
Rine shrugged, and then he lifted his staff off his back. It had a blue crystal at the top, glowing slightly, meaning it was full of magic.
“Okay, Ben,” he said. “Either you do as you’re told, or I play a game of cat cricket. Which will it be?”
Before I’d come to this world, my reaction might have been to run away shrieking. But I knew if I did that, Rine would send an ice-spell from his staff right after me and freeze me on the spot. Frozen, I might make a suitable cricket ball.
I growled deeply, then I slinked towards the archway that led into the courtyard. The student still stood there, now with her head turned slightly so I could see the side of her face. Her skin was white and unblemished, and she couldn’t have been older than thirteen, if that. She had long straight platinum blonde straight hair that cascaded over a fur collar attached to a thick beige coat.
I turned back to Rine, as I caught a gust of cold air that washed away the taste of the morning’s meal on my tongue.
“Go,” he said again with a sly grin, and he made a low sweeping motion with the bottom of his staff, which glowed blue slightly as it moved.
I mewled, unhappily, and then I walked into the courtyard. The snow here was even thicker than in the bailey, and I hated the sensation of my paws pressing into it. I groaned as I went, then I thought that maybe if I approached the girl, she could pick me up so I wouldn’t freeze.
My only other option was to step onto the dais, but if the Council of Three saw me doing that they might turn me into a frog or something and I’d spend the night trying to work out how not to get eaten by a cat.
I stepped up to her brown leather boot, and I meowed.
She looked down at me. “You!”
When I saw her eyes, I immediately shrieked and scuttled behind the dais for cover. Her eyes were red – I could swear they were – and they glowed like embers.
“I’ve seen you, many times,” she said.
“And I’ve seen you,” I rasped back. “Somewhere…” But I couldn’t quite put a claw on where.
“It isn’t your place to know who I am… But I know you and your dreams all too well.”
Her eyes stopped glowing and took on a lifeless grey colour just like Astravar’s. I assessed this girl, unsure whether I should flee or stay put. A creaking sound came from my side, and instinctively I fled to the other end of the courtyard.
But it was nothing to be afraid of yet, as the three Driars of the Council of Three – Driar Yila, Driar Lonamm, and Driar Brigel shuffled onto the dais and took their places by their lecterns. Well, I say nothing to be afraid of, but they were all pretty scary, being powerful magic users and all that.
“Typical Initiate Ben. Always scared of something.” Driar Yila bawled out. She was the tallest and thinnest of the three Driars, with long grey hair and a staff that could shoot fire.
I took a deep breath, then I composed myself. I walked back with my head held high towards the dais. “I don’t have magic to protect myself, Ma’am. And what do you expect when you leave me to contend with this witch!”
“Seramina is no such thing,” Driar Brigel said. He was the only male in the Council of Three – a gentle giant with thick, muscular arms hidden underneath his tunic. “She’s our new dreamwatcher among other things. We’ve been bereft of one for a good ten years.”
“What the whiskers is a dreamwatcher?” I asked. Then I remembered myself. “Sir…”
Brigel smiled and glanced at Driar Lonamm, who lowered herself on her stout frame to peer down at me. “Initiate Ben, you promised us you’d inform of all strange going’s on. And yet, here you are holding a tremendous secret from us.”
“Your dreams,” Driar Yila said. “Your dragon told me all about them… Ben, you must be punished for this. You know the rules. You’ve risked letting Astravar inside Dragonsbond Academy by not telling us this.”
“But it was a dream!”
“It doesn’t matter. There are many ways to penetrate a castle. Young one, it appears you still have a lot to learn.”
That caused me to stop in my tracks. I felt the rage boil up in my chest all of a sudden, almost as if I had dragonfire burning within. “Salanraja,” I said in my mind. “You promised you wouldn’t say anything to them.”
“Correction,” Salanraja said. “I told you I would give you time to tell them yourself. But once the dreamwatcher told me what had happened in your last dream, I realised I didn’t have a choice.”
“And what exactly is a dreamwatcher?”
“Exactly what the name says. She walks around at night watching people’s dreams.”
“So, when does she sleep?”
“She sleeps as she walks…”
I looked back at the girl who was staring up at the massive crystal above the three Driars as if nothing else existed in the world. Her eyes had that red glow to them again. Another gust of wind came, kicking up the snow around her feet. It whipped her hair into her face, but she didn’t even flinch.
The three Driars were watching the girl, each of them with their heads cocked and expressions of curiosity on their faces.
“He’s here again,” she said. Her mouth moved, but she didn’t even blink or change her expression. It was as if she was channelling the words from another dimension.
Driar Lonamm cocked an eyebrow. “Astravar? But who would be sleeping at this time?”
“Not a student,” Seramina replied. “The fae. The Cat Sidhe.”
“Ta’ra?” I asked.
“She’s moving,” the girl said. “She’s on the walls… With Astravar inside her head.”
“Go,” Driar Yila shouted out. “Ben, go after her and wake her up at once.”
“What, why me?”
“Because you’re the only one fast enough,” Driar Lonamm said. “Ta’ra is under our protection, and we can’t risk losing her to the warlocks. Go!”
I growled at the Driars for making me move in such cold weather, when all I really wanted to do was curl up by Aleam’s fireplace and sleep.
“Don’t test us, Initiate,” Driar Yila said, and she banged the butt of her staff against the floor. That was enough to startle me out of the courtyard. I heard Seramina’s feet pattering behind me, but she wasn’t as fast as me.
In front, a crow lifted into the air, cawing loudly. It joined a flock of other screeching crows wheeling above the academy. Ta’ra was already on the castle walls, looking up at the flock. She turned to me and yawned with her eyes closed. Then, without opening them, she jumped down off the other side of the wall.