All material contained within is copyrighted and may not be replicated without the written permission of the author.
Song Suggestion: Chapter 10 – Once Upon A Dream by Peter Gundry
When the golden light of a summer dawn came flooding into the vale, a girl named Bethany walked down to the village. Her cat rode upon her shoulder, though he was a large creature and heavy besides. He made not a sound and Bethany did not complain about his weight, for he was quite an old cat and she did not mind carrying him. Behind her came her ancient hound, and, when she turned to send the dog back to napping in the shade of their wagon, the cat shook his head. “Let her come; we are going to need her,” he said and Bethany did as he said, for if a cat decides to give you advice, you would do well to listen.
In the village, she found the wainwright in his barn and he was cursing so fiercely that her ears were soon burning. When the man noticed Bethany, he stopped blustering and apologized for his manners. “It’s these rats, you see,” he said. “They’ve gnawed the ropes and spoilt all the hay and soon, I believe, they’ll have the roof down on top of me.”
Here the cat set his claws deep into Bethany’s shoulder and though she was not a cat, she was still quite clever. “You are in luck,” she said with a smile. “I happen to have with me a first class ratter and hound that will end your rat problem, if you will but help me with my own troubles. My wagon has four broken wheels. I’ve no coin to pay for your services, but my cat and dog will clear your barn of all the rats, if you think it a fair trade.”
The wainwright knew a bargain when he heard it; if naught was done about the vermin he’d have nothing left, for they were no ordinary rats and seemed determined to destroy all his tools and materials and had set to work on his cottage as well. Four wagon wheels to save him from ruin was a welcome bit of luck.
“You’ve a deal,” he said, holding out his hand, for, in those parts, a handshake was better than a contract. “And if your beasts can clear my house as well, I’ll replace anything else that might be rotted; your wagon has been sitting quite a long time.”
Bethany shook the wainwright’s hand and, quick as thinking, the cat was off her shoulder and soon no rat was resting, for he was, indeed, a ratter of top caliber and his eyes were so sharp he could see an ant move a mile away. One by one, the gray tom sought them out and chased the fat, squealing beasts into the yard. There the hound was waiting and though she was old, she was not lazy or slow. She caught them and snapped their necks, bringing the creatures to Bethany where she sat and they lay around her in an ever growing pile.
Finally, the barn was clear, but the cat had not found what he was looking for; he knew these were no ordinary rodents and smelled the stink of dark witchcraft. He took to the house and, for a bit, the wainwright’s wife did squeal and screech until she saw how well the cat chased the pests out and opened every door and drawer to his clever claws. The dog waited patient at the door and each rat that fled the cat found her waiting. If her teeth were dull with age, not one of the invading beasts noticed, for she killed them before they even realized they had been captured.
Soon enough, the tom returned. In his jaws, he held a rat near as big as a small dog, grandfather to all those they had cleared away. This rat knew speech and was almost as clever as the cat that had caught him. He told the cat he had moved his nest into the wainwright’s barn and cottage by the desires of the witch of the plains, who bore the good man a grudge. The huge rat pleaded with the tom to spare him and the remainder of his nest, which the cat did on one condition. When he released it, Grandfather Rat ran as fast as he could from the wainwright’s land, never to return, intent on fulfilling the promise he had made to the cat.
All the rats were gone and never did another come to that place because cats are better at magic than people, which is why witches so often keep them. The witch of the plains, however, found herself soon suffering the need for a ratter herself, but, alas, she was allergic to cats and spent the rest of her days sneezing, usually when she was casting her biggest spells. Thus she never did any real harm to anyone ever again.
The wainwright was as good as his word and soon had the wagon sitting upon four new wheels with a new, strong floor of oak. As an extra gift – for he knew that without Bethany and her beasts, he’d have been lost – he gave her a new harness, good and strong, for her mare, though he did doubt the mare could hope to pull the wagon, no matter how well his wheels had been made.