Here’s a sneak peak of Chapter 2 of A Cat’s Guide to Questing for Treasure, the sequel to A Cat’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom and the fourth book in the Dragoncat series.
You can pre-order the book from Amazon by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Chapter 2: Bombs Away
The worst thing about dogs is how they absolutely stink. I could smell this one before we landed, and now its stench was invading my space.
It didn’t look like the dogs we had in our neighbourhood back in South Wales. Instead, it had long droopy ears, a squat body with legs so short I wondered how it could walk on them. Its shaggy fur cascaded down from its back like polluted water. It was the colour of the chicken liver that the master and mistress back in South Wales used to put out in a bowl for me, when they felt I deserved a treat.
Hissing, my back arched, and hackles raised, I watched the dog run around the students, fawning for attention as each one dismounted their dragons.
The young woman I trusted the most, Initiate Ange – standing beside her Sapphire dragon, Quarl – laughed and bent down to pat him on the head, much to my annoyance. She had short brown hair, and slightly buck teeth, although she was pretty despite this. Other than Driar Aleam, she was the first human in the First Dimension to treat me as cats should be treated.
She was kind, which is why I guess the crystals had chosen her as a leaf mage. She was also incredibly hard working. During our library sessions at Dragonsbond Academy I don’t think I’d ever been able to tear her attention away from her book, no matter how much I meowed, rubbed my nose against her hand, and jumped on the table to tell her that I was much more important than the words on the page. She would simply pull the book away and turn away from me, until the owl-like librarian noticed me on the table, hissed at me so loudly that she sounded like a swan with a megaphone, and waved her arms frantically until I retreated to my place on the chair.
The lad I wanted to be her boyfriend, but who hadn’t quite sealed the deal yet, Initiate Rine, stood a good several paces away from Ange, his hair blowing gently in the warm summer breeze. He whistled to the dog, who snapped its head around, then bounded over to make another new “friend”.
Rine crouched to let the dog lift its front paws onto his shoulders. In response, the dog licked his face. I’d never seen Rine as particularly handsome, but human girls seemed to, and Rine revelled in this. He’d grown his mouse-brown hair just as long as Ange’s now, coming down to his shoulders in loose waves.
I’d thought after he’d dumped his ex-girlfriend Bellari and I’d seen him holding Ange’s hand after I’d defeated Astravar, that they’d become a couple. Instead, Rine had decided he wanted to be “single” for a while. Which didn’t seem to mean being single at all, but instead having a different girlfriend every week.
The dog then padded over to Seramina – the youngest human in our party and a dark mage just like me and Aleam. Seramina also knew mind and destiny magic, though she practiced the latter less and less, saying it was better not to know the future. She had flowing platinum blonde hair, that she never seemed to want to cut. She wore perfume that smelled like snowdrops, and sometimes when she was angry, you could see fire blazing behind her eyes.
Seramina was Astravar’s daughter and hence a warlock by birth, though she’d only discovered these facts recently. A vision in the ghost realm had also foretold that she might destroy the world during a battle with the remaining six warlocks, by using her staff to rend the ground apart. No one who had seen this vision – namely, me, Ange, Rine, and Seramina herself – had mentioned this to anyone. Besides, visions don’t necessarily come true. There are many possible futures and what we saw was only one possibility.
Seramina didn’t seem to want to give the dog as much attention as Rine and Ange. She simply looked down at it with her grey eyes and gave it a dreamy smile as it tried to nuzzle its nose between her legs. At least Seramina had it right. This was exactly how dogs should be treated. They needed to learn how to be independent, just like cats.
“I still don’t understand why you hate dogs so much,” Salanraja said as she lowered her tail and raised her shoulders to try and coax me off her back.
I growled and scrambled up slightly. “I don’t want to go anywhere near that thing. Let’s wait until it gets called back, shall we? Prince Arran surely won’t let it misbehave for so long.”
But the pompous Prince Arran didn’t seem to care what the dog did. Rather he was focused on calling the students towards the campfire and organizing them into neat rows. It would be a while until they noticed I wasn’t there, and so I had plenty of time to wait this one out.
The dog had lost interest. Or rather, its attention seemed to have shifted to the only dragon that hadn’t yet deposited a rider. In other words, Salanraja.
It padded softly and slowly over to my dragon’s tail, as if stalking through long grass to hunt a bird. Salanraja looked back at it and gave it a menacing look with one of her yellow eyes that seemed to say she didn’t seem to trust it either.
The dog spotted me sitting on Salanaraja’s back. It barked at me, wagging its tail violently. Having the gift of being able to understand all languages, I knew exactly what it was saying. From its tone of voice, I could also recognise that it was a male.
“Look, cat! Danger, cat! Scratch me not! Curse me not!”
I blinked at him and yawned. “I can understand you, you know? I speak every single language in all the Seven Dimensions, including your ugly dog one. I’ll have you know, cats can do a lot more than scratch, and we are not witches.” Witches, after all, knew lots of magical spells, while I only knew one. Well technically two – I could turn into a chimera without even needing the staff, but I hadn’t done that for an awful long time.
The dog completely froze in his tracks, and started to whimper, as it backed away from me slightly. At the same time the students and Driars on the ground spun around to look at me, clearly attempting to identify the second source of barking, or howling, or whatever noise I was making.
I relished the attention, and I sauntered down Salanraja’s tail towards the dog. I continued to speak in his language as I approached him. I really wanted to show my fellow classmates which was the superior species here.
“No doubt you’ve heard of me… My name is Ben, the Dragoncat, descendant of the great Asian leopard cat and also the mighty George.”
I called on my staff bearer – a giant, currently invisible hand – to reveal itself. It appeared suddenly in thin air, floating next to me, holding my staff with the crystal glowing purple.
“It was this cat that vanquished Astravar, the warlock who wanted to annihilate this and every other dimension. It is because of me that this barrier exists. Now, if you excuse me, I must join my fellow dragon riders.”
The dog had shifted his weight onto its hind legs, its front paws stretched out in front of it. He stared at me with those wide eyes, beating his tail against the ground. I could smell his fear, and I was proud of it. I kept my gaze on it for one moment, then I turned towards the students
“Come on, come on!” Prince Arran shouted out from behind the crowd. “Join rank and get into your lines. Animals will always be animals, and there is no need to pay them any heed. And cat, I order you to put that staff away. You know the law… Dark magic is not permitted in this realm unless necessary to preserve human life.”
I growled at him as my staff bearer vanished into thin air. The law wasn’t particularly fair, as it didn’t state that you could use dark magic to preserve a cat’s life as well a human’s.
The students had lost interest in me, and had their heads turned towards the barrier and Prince Arran, who stood in front of it. I took a few steps towards them, before the dog said more softly. “I know who you are. Word has it amongst dogs that you behave far too high above your station, Dragoncat. You’re just like the rest of your species. You don’t know how to behave as part of a team.”
I froze and stalked back around towards the dog. I was probably the first and only cat ever able to talk to a dog. Now, I didn’t just have to stand up for myself, but every single cat across every single dimension.
“Better to be independent than always in the hand of a human,” I said. “You dogs rely on your masters too much. Unlike dogs, us cats have perfected the art of not having to work for food or shelter.”
“Is that true? Because I’ve heard that cats are employed in this dimension solely to chase rats and mice.”
“That’s because they’re less advanced than cats like myself from the Fourth Dimension. One day, I shall liberate the cats here and free them from their catteries. They shall learn how cats are meant to be treated. We weren’t made to do ‘human work’.”
“What we do is not work,” the dog replied. “Not if we enjoy it. We like to hunt, just like you do. Besides, a bond between a dog and its master is more valuable than anything in this world, including ties to other dogs.”
At that I heard Salanraja laughing in my mind. He could hear the dog’s voice as it reproduced itself inside my head. “I should have chosen a dog as a rider,” she said. “Sounds like they respect bonds much better than you ever would.”
I turned back and glared at Salanraja. I really didn’t need to take insults on two fronts. “You couldn’t say anything more insulting, Salamander. I’ll deal with you later.”
I turned back to the dog. “What are you, anyway?”
The dog let out a couple of barks, literally translating to, “Yes, yes.”
This is one thing I’ve never understood about dogs. I mean if you wanted to make a point, there was no need to shout it. But they seemed to get either excited or agitated about everything, and this dog was no exception.
“My name is Max,” he continued, “and I’m a Sussex Spaniel, which means I’m from Sussex, the capital of the world.”
I blinked twice, as I let the words wash over me. When I’d acquired the gift of all languages, I’d also acquired knowledge of geography, and place names in particular. There was no Sussex anywhere but the Fourth Dimension – or in other words, the dimension which I’d been summoned from.
“You’re from where?”
“I’m from Sussex, the capital of the world.”
This was just ridiculous. Everyone knew that the capital of the world I once inhabited was the Alhambra Palace. The bravest of cats went on pilgrimages to the Alhambra, although this was rare. The old Ragamuffin back in South Wales said he’d been there once, when his master lived in the dry lands of Spain. He’d met lots of other interesting cats there who told him lots of interesting stories. That’s how he’d become so wise.
But the capital of the world wasn’t important at this moment, because the dog claimed he was from the Fourth Dimension, which meant someone had brought him here… And he belonged to Prince Arran…
Before I had a chance to question him about it, a high-pitched scream came from one of the students. The air had developed a sudden chill to it, caused by a sudden breeze rushing away from the Great Barrier towards a point in the distance. I turned to see a student standing, her finger outstretched towards that point. I followed this to see a line of flames stretching across the eastern horizon, concealed at its base by a thin line of purple mist.
Driar Yila was the first to react. She called out to us. “Fire golems at nine o’clock. Shield mages, form protective barriers. Now!”
Wind gusted all around me from a hundred dragons lifting into the air. They wouldn’t be much good against fire golems, but they needed to scout the terrain to see if there were any other threats. But dragon riders with their magical abilities would.
The only dragon that didn’t lift up was Corralsa – Prince Arran’s shiny jet-black dragon. Arran rushed over to her, wrapping his cloak around him to shield him from the wind. I watched him move for a moment, wondering where the whiskers he was going. Fleeing the battle, no doubt, because he’d probably created these fire golems, just as he’d brought Max over from the Fourth Dimension.
Without further pause, I willed my staff bearer towards me, ready for a fight, just as Corralsa lifted Prince Arran into the air.