- Ch1: Two Cat's Lives
- Ch1: Chicken Chase
- Ch2: Leehar Creek
- Ch3: Temporary Refuge
- Other Chapters
Tac and Tod viewing Pokerweild Village
Chapter 1: Two Cat's Lives
Tod and Tac were sitting at the side of the road.
Cool air and soft darkness hugged the overheated village of Pokerweild. At that moment the summer night was clear of clouds, allowing onlookers to enjoy the show of stars scattered on its dark blue canvas. From where they sat on the hill, the two saw the bright and low-hanging moon illuminate the open spaces of their village, leaving the rest in mysterious shadows.
The full moon always had a strange power over Tac’s imagination. A game of light and shadow made places that he had seen many times before look different. His own neighborhood had become an unknown, frightening territory and at the same time he was tempted to look deeper into the dark shadows of the bushes, which grew at the side of the road, for possible predators or prey.
The place which Tac had chosen for his meeting with Tod was at the exact spot where the road made a sharp turn to the right and then sloped down towards a small stone bridge across a large creek, separating the village into two parts. The bridge and the sandy country road glimmered with small silver sparks that were created by reflections of moonlight from the surface of countless bits of seashell that had not yet completed their transformation into sand. The road, exposed to the sun, was very hot close to midday and radiated soft waves of heat for many hours after dusk.
A few young village children, coming home late from a movie, were unable to resist the pleasure of walking along the road barefoot. Warm sand soothed and relaxed the tired muscles of their feet and made a nice playground. Usually one of the boys would start a game by stamping on the sand to make it spurt from between his toes like small explosions. This often made his friends laugh, then all of them would get busy trying to find more ways to play with the warm sand by kicking it, or chasing and knocking each other down onto the mat of the road.
Eventually, their mothers’ voices calling them would finish their fun.
Tac had selected near to midnight as the time for the meeting for good reason. He knew that the road would be empty at night and the view from the top of the hill would allow him to see the bridge and the road clearly if someone did appear unexpectedly.
Below the bridge, the road divided itself into two parts. One part branched to the left where the village continued with rows of bungalows built on both sides of the road. Cherry trees, planted on the front lawns, shaded the round, stone walls which were painted in pale blue and surrounded the properties. Instead of having lawns, some village women had preferred to decorate their front yards with great displays of flowers such as different types of marigold, some of which were reddish-brown with single petals in the form of stars whilst others were shaped like big, sunny orange blossoms. Clusters of mint topped with scented, oval flowers were mixed with irises and impatiens. Tall, white and yellow daisies stood in the background like big sisters watching over the children at play. But the night favored other flowers that preferred to bloom.
The Chicken Chase
Lana’s mouth turned into the shape of a puzzled letter ‘O’ and her eyes centered on the ceiling as she tried to make a decision. After some time, she nodded agreeably and started to unload things that had not been mentioned by her father. Nicholas sighed with relief, happy that the peaceful matter of shopping for pets had not turned into a spoiled day for both of them.
Free from any worries, Lana pushed the shopping cart to the car while she balanced with one leg on the edge of its metal frame and kicked the ground with the other. She was very excited by the thought of showing everything she had bought to her mother.
Tac and Tod did not realize that they were different, being a cat and a dog, Instead, they simply thought they were brothers, despite their differences in size, color and the matter of one barking and the other one meowing. They understood each other perfectly and worked as a team when they played forbidden games.
Their favorite game was called ‘chicken chase.’ At first, Tac would quietly sneak into the chicken-coop where the hen would be sitting peacefully on her nest and scare her out. Then Tod would chase the hen along a wooden fence which separated the yard from the front lawn. The frightened bird would run in an effort to escape back into her coop or would make an attempt to sneak through the gate into the garden to seek the protection of her husband, the rooster. Except that Tac would stop her and send her back to Tod. The chase would continue until the hen realized that the only way for her to get rid of these two was to fly over the fence. A chicken after all is a bird. With frenzied squawking, the hen would finally manage to fly her heavy body over the fence and run into the arms of her family, continuously cursing the cat and the dog in her own bird language.
With looks of disappointment, Tac and Tod would follow the hen until she had reached her destination and then both of them would run back to dig in the garden.
Lana would lift and carry them to the washroom to clean their dirty paws. Neither troublemaker argued over this procedure and only Tac, who did not like water, made the low cry of a cat approaching the end of his life.
Validar, Lana and Lachin at Leehar Creek
to rely on her sense of touch and, to her relief, this something felt like a human hand. She tried to pull it away from her eyes with both of her hands to see who was holding her but was only pulled closer to the attacker. Crushed and powerless against him, she could feel that his body was tense and vibrating. She didn’t know for how long this went on but was on the verge of fainting when the muscles of his body relaxed and the stranger eased his hold.
Lana angrily ripped the hands off her and looked towards where she expected the cloud to be preparing itself for the next attack. She saw only a pile of gray dust lying on top of the rocks.
Turning round to deal with the other danger, she met the calm and curious look from the dark brown, almost black eyes of a stranger.
“You scared me to death!” She cried out angrily. “I hope you are proud of yourself!”
The stranger said nothing and continued to study Lana with interest. Angrily she straightened her clothes and looked at the stranger for herself. His hair was as dark as his eyes, the face definitely needed shaving and his hands were not very clean. It appeared that he had spent a long time in the forest but he did not look like a forest Ranger.
Lana’s curious eyes rested on his clothes, noticing that the shirt had lost its whiteness and did not look new but was made from good quality fabric. He was dressed more like a knight from past centuries than a modern man, with the sleeves, the collar and the front of his shirt being decorated with skillful embroidery. His pants and jacket had lost their color and were ripped in some places but had been properly repaired. She thought to herself. “He has definitely seen better days, judging by the quality of the expensive fabric of his clothing, but now, for some reason, life has stopped favoring him and he must take good care of what remains. This man has somehow managed to destroy this horror and to save my life.”
“I am sorry that I was so terrified by what happened that I completely forgot to thank you for saving me.” She looked into the eyes of the stranger, waiting for his response but not a single muscle moved on his face and she thought. ‘What is wrong with him? Did he not understand me?’
“I am Lana. What is your name?” He did not answer but only continued to look at her with interest.
“Validar.” He finally answered.
Lana heaved a sigh of relief, glad that she had managed to move the conversation forward at last. “What are we going to do now?” She asked.
Validar shrugged his shoulders, to show that he did not understand, and walked towards Don’s dried-our corpse. He looked at it for some time, thinking, and then started to cover the remains with stones to make a grave. Lana, ignoring the sickness in her stomach, went over to help him finish the work while Validar cut a couple of branches of fir, joined them in the middle and inserted the long end between the gravestones. Then he froze, with a sorrowful look upon his face, and uttered a short prayer.
Having finished praying, he looked in the direction of the forest and shouted something. Immediately a large, brown horse, with white spots on his forehead and around his hoofs, appeared from under the branches. Validar jumped into the saddle and reached his hand down inviting her to join him.
‘Very well. Now I am going to be kidnapped.’ She thought, but didn’t appear to have any choice but to give her hand to Validar who lifted her up like a feather and placed her in front of him on his cloak which he had rolled up like a cushion for her comfort. He touched the horse with his heels and slowly moved the animal towards the river. As they approached the shore, Validar asked her something in his own language, pointing to the right and then to the left.
‘He is probably asking for directions?’ She mused, starting to search in her pocket for a ...
The Dragon’s Temporary Refuge
Tac sat on the ground, embarrassed by his irrational impulse, and tried to calm his feelings as he visualized everything that had happened in his life during the last half year. Images floated into his mind, replacing one with another-Tod, Lana, Natalie, Nicholas, Alisa, Home and Natalie’s baby. He was sure that he had found the right key to open the gate. ‘My family is expecting a baby and I am sure that there cannot be any more important reason for me to be at home than this?’
Almost immediately he felt Galibur’s touch on his shoulder. The eagle pointed at the wall which had started to pulsate to allow the Portal to open. The movements in the wall increased accompanied by an intense, rumbling sound and, as the pulsations completed their cycle, they felt the hair and the feathers on their bodies being ruffled by the Force. Both of them did not resist this time, allowing it to embrace their bodies and take them into the depth of the vortex. The second time it was not so terrifying because now they expected to see their green and habitable world again. One thing that they did not expect was that the injured dragon that had chased them on the lake, and fled from the battlefield, had taken refuge on a nearby slope. The shoulder of the dragon had continued to bleed so he had decided to give his body a rest on this ground and, by chance, he observed the disappearance of Tac and Galibur into the mountain.
The dragon felt a strong urge to follow them so he jumped down and glided on one wing to the wall. Anger made him forget about the danger of this action. Naturally, he was sucked into the gate too and moved towards the other exit, completely confused and disorientated. He arrived at the other side of the mountain at the same time as they did and, in his confusion, he had knocked them down from the little platform where they had felt themselves safe.
So, as it happened, Tac and Galibur fell down on the top of a small tree which grew right beneath the slope, while the dragon rushed over them trying to reach the top of the mountain where he expected to arrive at his home. When the creature could not find his nest in the usual place, he became even more scared. The pain of his wounds increased and he started looking for any place where he could rest and take time to think over his dilemma. His eyes caught a glimpse of a vertical crack on the mountain on the opposite side of the narrow valley and, since he was happy to have a place to hide, he squeezed into its tight entrance and found that it led to a spacious, but dark and silent, cave.
The smell which was in the cave appealed to his senses. He quickly found a small pool of raw oil close to the wall, licked up all of it and then he lay down to rest. Living on the hard rocks of the mountain, he did not need any special bed and was used to sleeping on the open ground. Another strange quality that he had inherited from his ancestors was the gift of being able to hibernate for a long time and he decided to use it now. He put his heavy head on the floor of the cave and closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of relaxation which gradually came over him. Slowing the beat of his heart, he concentrated all of his strength on the healing of his terrible wounds and slowly fell into a deep, long sleep.
Tac and Galibur, after the unpleasant experience of the free-fall, had landed on the sharp branches of a tree. “Now I know the purpose of a tree that grows in this place. It is placed here to catch unlucky travelers from a parallel world.” Joked Tac, stretching out his hurt back.
“Why do you think we were knocked down?” Asked the eagle.
“I think it's more correct to ask who knocked us down.” Responded the cat.
“I saw the shape of a big body flying above us before I concentrated my attention on your falling figure, thinking about whether I should grab you in my claws or let you grow wings before you had reached the ground.” The skin around Galibur’s round eyes closed into laughing lines.
“I am glad that I did not need to do it but, at one moment, the idea of growing wings appeared in my mind too.” Tac admitted. “Do you think that we should stay here until morning.
She had known Maggie since she had started middle school. Her slim figure, topped by a cloud of red curls, had caught Lana's eye right away. Being easygoing and sociable, Lana had not hesitated to go over to her to introduce herself, saying. "I'm Lana Vladner."
Maggie's green eyes had critically looked at the plain jeans and T-shirt on her but, as her eyes had drifted over her soft and gentle face, brightened by an open and genuine smile, she could not resist smiling back.
"Are you an elf?" She asked, scared by the sudden change inside of herself.
"I think I'm a girl." Answered Lana, bending her head and examining her little body with curiosity.
"Well, that's interesting, but now it's time to go to class and, by the way, I'm Maggie O'Donnell." Was the rejoinder.
Tac's eyes were focused on the girl that wore the tiara, understanding that she was the most important person in the group. Another reason why he concentrated his attention on this girl was because of the expression of sadness on her face. She quietly left her friends and, deep in thought, sat alone on a stone looking at the girls who continued to enjoy the freedom of playing on an empty shore. He made a slight move on the tree to get a better view of the girl's face and revealed his presence with the creaking noise. The girl lifted her eyes and met the frightened gaze of his green eyes.
"Who are you?" She questioned, displeased that somebody had seen her not completely dressed. "How dare you spy on me! I will make you pay for this. Come here!"
Tac did not move, being frozen to the branch. The girl made a motion with her hand and he was lifted by force and transferred to the spot in front of her.
"Let's just see who you are, you shameless thing." She made a circle with her hands. "Ahh!" She smiled when nothing untoward happened. "You are a real animal, despite my suspicions that you were a human being. Sit with me, unknown animal."
Chapter 3 : Tac and Galibur Fend Off the Monster's Attack.
Tac was again thrown out of the pouch, desperately digging his claws into the pillow but the fabric barely held his weight and started to give out so he pushed one of his free paws under the strap for support. His second paw ripped the fabric into shreds after his body was again thrown to the side. Since he was unable to do anything except hang-on to the cushion, the man-bird decided that the cat would be an easier target for his next attack and concentrated on him. The creature made a half circle and, before Galibur understood exactly what its intentions were, the wicked animal swooped down towards the rider and tried to grab him with a greedy hand. At the last second Galibur strongly flapped his right wing and, with this maneuver, saved Tac's life. Instead of ripping the cat from the eagle's back, the man-bird only managed to scratch his shoulder with its sharp claws. Pain first scared and then angered him to the point that he forgot that he was clinging-on in a very vulnerable position and his face turned into the mask of a cat in a rage, sending out menacing looks. Showing his small, but sharp, teeth he growled and hissed at the creature.
The monster stopped for a moment, surprised. His hesitation gave Tac enough time to make a fast attack, ripping the skin of the man-bird. It flew away screaming, losing speed and it's dominating position in the battle.
When they had managed to get two thirds of the way over to the island, the water around the canoe suddenly came alive. Streams of bubbles came up to the surface from the depths below followed by the large head of a lake creature emerging from the water dangerously close to them. Validar froze in surprise but Shmata stood up to watch the monster. The creature studied them, turning its dragon-like head from side to side, then stretched its neck out in the direction of Validar trying to sniff him.
Shmata stepped forward and hit the lake guard on the nose with his paddle and cried out. "Have you become blind, Lammess, it is me, Shmata, and he is none of your business?" In response, the creature shook its head and immediately dived under the water.
Chapter 6. Bessa and the Star.
"I don't know yet." Validar dismounted his horse and crept towards the edge of the opening to get closer to the light. He stopped, hiding behind the tree nearest to the water, and saw that the star continued to move slowly towards the shore, hanging low above the water. Its dull, blue light gradually came closer and closer until the first beam touched the sand, blazed up brightly for a moment and then dimmed down. Only, instead of seeing a star, Validar and his friend saw a figure resembling a fuzzy, human shape. Slowly it came into focus in the form of a woman's body, dressed in a very long dress adorned with narrow long sleeves. Both of the spectators felt that the clothes were not just dressed on the figure but were an integral part of it. They did not see any line between the clothes and the skin, in just the same way as the hem of the dress did not show any feet. The girl was just floating above the ground, dragging a long train of light behind her. A long shawl, composed of a fine thread of light, draped from her shoulders and appeared to be kept up only with her bent elbows. Silence followed her until the dark figure of Bessa jumped out from somewhere and plucked at the edge of her shawl, stopping the animated star that now looked in innocent surprise at the creature that had caught her.
"I have got you!" Shouted Bessa, triumphantly. "I will give this shawl to my Mistress and she will forgive me for my failure to fulfill my task." And he pulled harder on the shawl but the star decided to protect her belonging and held onto it firmly. "No, I will bring you to her to make a good lamp-post in her yard." Bessa cried out.
"Don't tell me that you don't know it. Go and open the door!" Replied Validar, turning Bessa towards the house.
"Okay, okay! But remember, I told you that the Mistress does not like intruders." And he walked up the stairs again, put his lips right up to the crack between the door and the wall and whispered the spell. What happened next made Validar and SanFar back off a few steps. The log cottage suddenly stood up, revealing a giant pair of chicken legs attached to its underside. It bent itself on an angle, shaking poor Bessa from the porch, and gave him a powerful kick that made him roll over his head.
Chapter 7. Leubarta and The Magic Dance.
Following this, she took a sip from the glass but poured the rest of the wine into one of the long sleeves of her dress. She then ripped a wing from the roasted swan which had been placed on the table for the guests to eat. Having eaten the meat, she threw the bones into the other sleeve.
The onlookers watched her, fascinated, and waited patiently for her next move. Leubarta asked the musicians to start playing some music and she moved slowly and gracefully, almost floating, over the floor. After making a full circle, she waved with one hand and a small pond appeared right in the middle of the room. The Princess then waved with her other hand and three white swans jumped from her sleeve to land on the water and began to swim in a circle.
Eventually, Ruslan saw an oval lake surrounded by white and yellow Lilies. The feather dropped into the water and sank, its task fulfilled. He looked around and spotted the white, feathery end of his arrow rising up from the mass of leaves and flowers. The water in this place barely reached up to his waist, but masses of stems attached to the bottom of the lake made his walk towards the arrow a very slow one. The view from a closer distance revealed to Ruslan that his arrow was not alone on the pierced leaf. A big frog was sitting next to it, looking at Ruslan without fear. When he stretched out a hand to remove the arrow, to his surprise the frog caught the narrow body of the arrow in a green hand, claiming ownership of it.
The Prince stopped, puzzled by the meaning of it, and at this time the frog said in human language. "Your arrow has hit my home and, according to the rule, you must take me as your wife."
Chapter 8. Animals Parade in Murraydale.
The animals were all waiting for him. They formed a half circle, some sitting and some standing. Carl opened the back of the platform and said to them. "O.K. fellows, come inside. Your boss is sick and you must listen to me. I don't know how to work with you, so please co-operate." He then paused, searching for words, feeling like a fool.
Tac decided that it was a good time to interrupt and gave an ordering "Meow."
Tac, on the other hand, did not need to hurry so he straightened his fur and muttered to himself, ironically. 'It looks like stealing bank papers has become a specialty of mine.'
Chapter 10. Carfield's Narrow Escape.
Angry and frustrated by his loss, the creature then made an attempt to attack the poor, old crow by jumping high out of the water and barely missed Carfield's legs. The beast fell back with a splash of water that almost knocked Carfield into its wide-open jaws. Fear, and a desperate desire to stay alive, made him forget all about his tiredness and his age and made him work miracles with his wet wings. Screaming hysterically, the crow made it to the shore, followed by the living submarine while Tac and Galibur only watched, terrified, but unable to help.
"The collapse of the side of the mountain attracted the attention of my cousin, Seran. He was searching for injured animals. But, instead of food, he found a beast and was lucky to escape undetected to relate this story to me. For him it was just amusement, but for me it was a real concern. Therefore, I flew to the mountain myself but I could not find the dragon in the western part of the mountains. As I was circling above the area, another member of my family crossed my path and, during our greetings, he mentioned that he had noticed a strange structure that resembled a tower. The dragon had built his new home on the northern mountain of the chain, where two sharp peaks with poorly vegetated slopes have created a deep valley.
Chapter 11. Astrou and The Happy thought.
"Let me try to surprise him." Tac closed one of his eyes to concentrate his thoughts on the figure of the clay beast. The creature moved towards the group with a low growl but suddenly stopped, blinded by a large white flower that suddenly grew out of his forehead. The monster hit it with his heavy fist, but the cheeky flower was sucked inside his body before its petals were crushed. Teasing the monster again, the flower opened itself on his shoulder and then on his knee. Growling in anger, the clay monster forgot about Tac and his friends in order to chase the annoying plant all around his body.
Tac was tossed onto the Prince's shoulder and dug his claws into the metal section of his chain mail to hold himself in place. Ruslan's own hands were fully tied-up keeping the shield up in front of both of them. The impact of the fire that the dragon shot their way was so strong that both of them were pushed from the smooth surface of the stone platform onto the burnt soil which surrounded the trench.
Chapter 11. The Second Astrou.
"Do not be scared." The happy Thought advised them. "He is an Astrou and is dangerous only if you are afraid of him but, if you start to laugh, he will be disarmed." Seeing that her friends were too frightened to understand the meaning of her words, Funny laughed and flapped with her hands like a child. At this, the savage man made a fast turn and transformed himself into a grotesque figure dressed only in a pink tutu and a helmet with a large, pink bow on each horn. Instead of a club, he was holding a stick with a sparkling star on the end of it. The man looked at the star in astonishment and then lifted the tutu to discover that his leather pants had disappeared, leaving his fat, hairy legs exposed. Now it was his turn to get scared and the expression of fright on his face made even the most fearful burst into laughter. Terrified, the man ran away to leave the way clear and the company of friends continued to walk along the pathway that, in some places, had disappeared under the bushes.
The Council members had already taken their places at their appointed stones and all wore breast plates that showed their high positions at this important gathering. Rory and his band, as special guests, were seated in a half circle next to Ruslan's chair and the native animals sat on the opposite side. The low sound of casual conversation between the animals present at the coronation hung in the air like the buzz of working bees but was replaced with loud cheers when Tac quickly crossed the open circle in the middle and jumped onto the cushion.
Chapter 12.Troy and His Geese Kidnappers.
My presence scared the geese but, before they left the shore, three of them lifted the baby up and carried him over the bushes. I could not do anything, realizing that if I attacked the kidnappers they could easily drop the baby and I was not sure that I would be fast enough to catch him before he hit the ground. Whilst he was in the air, it would be safer for him to be with the geese because I had noticed that they cared for him.
Troy was sitting on the back of the largest bird and two other geese were holding him to prevent the child from slipping from the back of the leader. It was probably his first experience with birds and he appeared to be very intrigued, touching the soft feathers with his hands.
The little one probably decided that I was playing with him and giggled happily, but his parents did not see the fun in this. They became scared and wanted to take the baby back but I showed them my teeth, as had been planned. After that, most of the humans jumped up, screaming, until Tod appeared on the scene. He hit me with his shoulder and growled through his teeth. 'Move farther away from Troy so that we will not scare or scratch him accidentally.'
'I do not think that he is frightened. He thinks that we are the hired entertainment.' I growled back, although I did jump aside for the sake of the baby.
We attacked each other, chest to chest, and pretended that we were trying to rip out each other's throats.