I thought it would be fun to share a short story written with a younger crowd in mind.
In three installments, Part One:
The Wizard’s Cat
by Rose Guildenstern
It was Papa who named me “Justcat,” which irks Nana to no end.
He said that when he found me, I was fat and dark and mewling like a kitten, a human baby snuggled close for warmth against the dead witch’s familiar, a black cat.
He says I looked “just” like a little black “cat.”
I never knew who my real mother was. Papa says that the dead witch, although known for eating children, never had any of her own.
When Papa inquired about me in the village surrounding the old witch’s hut, the villagers, though relieved at news of her demise, were just as baffled by my existence as he. Not more than a few months old, I seemed to appear out of nowhere. So, Papa jokes that the witch’s cat, whom he named “Ferocious” because of how she spat and clawed at Papa when he first bent down to pick me up, must be my true mother.
Ferocious insisted on accompanying us the day that Papa brought me home, and she has slept by my side, protected me, and petted me like one of her own ever since.
Papa is known around these parts as The White Wizard—and they always say it like that, capitalizing “The” in a sort of hushed, awe-filled whisper—which has nothing to do with being good or evil, but refers to his attainment of the highest level of wizardry, the Order of the White Orb. His magic, which he calls his “art,” comes from his Intellect, the Divine Words, and the Stars.
Considered the greatest wizard in the land, all manner of adventurers and kings and other famous-type persons seem to always be traversing vast distances to accost Papa for advice and assistance of one sort or another.
My Papa’s housekeeper, crotchety old Nana, offers me the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever known. Wizards never marry, but Papa knew that I would need a woman’s influence about the house, as he often travels for months at a time and is apt to lock himself in his study and lose track of the outside world for weeks.
It’s difficult to grow up the only non-magical person in a decidedly magical household. Nana is what the locals call a kitchen witch, for her magic—which she calls her “craft”—comes from her intuition, herb lore, and the earth.
She’s the town midwife, druggist, and conscience.
Even Ferocious is a familiar, adept at vanishing at will, predicting the weather, and materializing any manner of small rodent or lame bird at mealtimes, although Nana insists that these are the skills of any cat “worth its whiskers.”
Frankly, I think it all stinks. I live in a house of arts and crafts, but I am painfully ordinary. And chubby. And short. Nana says I spend far too much time staring in our looking-glass and bemoaning my appearance, but she doesn’t understand me. I keep hoping I’ll wake up pretty, to make up for my complete lack of specialty.
This morning I notice two new pimples. One on my nose and another in a place that is none of your business.
I think the gods must hate me.
Then something strange happens, which is really saying something in this household. As I stand in the basement, scrutinizing my unsatisfactory image in the only looking-glass we own, a small bearded man wearing a tall, pointy red hat appears on the ground to my left.
He is riding a particularly large cockroach, with miniature saddle and reigns to boot.
“Be thou the Lady Justcat?” he asks in a surprisingly deep voice.
I’ve found that, when you don’t know what else to do, you just go with it. “Um…yes. That’s what I’m called.”
“Dog and I have searched long and wide for you, my lady. We hail from the kingdom of the gnomes. I am Mud, second child of King Dirt the Eighth.”
Gnomes! Of course. I’ve heard of them, but I thought they were myths. I look around for his travel companion, even more confused. “Dog? I see no dog.”
The gnome points to his cockroach mount. “Dog be the name of my trusty steed. The most resilient and noblest of creatures.”
Hey, it takes all types. Who am I to judge? “It’s nice to meet you…both. You say you’ve been looking for me?”
The cockroach speaks to me in a surprisingly cultured voice, sort of like what a butler would sound like if he were a bug. “We need your help most urgently, my lady.” Dog’s insect face stares at me in this tiny scrunched up creepy-crawly way that will probably give me nightmares for weeks.
It takes me a moment to respond. First of all, I didn’t know that cockroaches could talk. I also can’t imagine why anyone, no matter how down on their luck, would journey anywhere for my help.
“I think you may have the wrong person. Don’t you want the counsel of The White Wizard? He’s my father, and he’s upstairs. At least, I think he is. He actually hasn’t come out of his study in four days.”
Mud dismounts, standing remarkably tall for such a diminutive fellow, and says, “It is because of The White Wizard that we seek your guidance. He has gone missing.”
****Follow my blog to read the second installment, coming in two days!****