It’s that time of the month: FREE FICTION.
Today’s excerpt comes from a collection of fantasy short stories—featuring cats. For those of you who’ve been following me long, you know I’m a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady.
I had so much FUN writing “The Tail of Two Kitlings” for this anthology.
Read on for an excerpt from my story:
Once upon a full moon, Furlined Catdom’s ruler prowled the Royal Study, awaiting the birth of—hopefully—the heir to his island home’s seat of power. His plush, silver tail flicked in increasing agitation. Today was the second day since his queen’s labor began, and kitbirth never took so long.
A long-haired page skidded to a stop inside the door. His Highness Tomcat Leopold curled his tail toward the interruption.
“Majesty.” The page slouched to his belly and stared at his fore paws, the respectful posture due his ruler.
The tomcat’s tail whipped as he whirled to face his subject. “What news, page?”
“Her Highness has delivered…” The pause elicited an electric hum from the wind fae circulating above the tomcat’s head. “Siamese twins.”
“Twins.” A rush of delight fluttered in the tomcat’s chest. He puffed it out. “Toms?” He forced his tone to neutrality.
“And the queen?” He relaxed onto his haunches.
“Well, considering the extended labor.”
The tomcat nodded his dismissal, pacing a few lengths of the room. Names swirled through his mind. They’d tentatively agreed on Simon, after his great-grandfather, the fourth tomcat ruler of the island in the era of peace following the birding. Should the second name rhyme? Or should there be alliteration? His queen would surely have an idea.
He padded into the wide hallway. From a nearby alcove, his Chief Advisor rose from behind a tower of parchments and fell into step beside him.
“Congratulations, sir. Two sons are better than one.”
“What do you know of Siamese twins?” The tomcat’s whiskers twitched. He should know the terminology.
“Siamese twins.” His advisor cleared his throat with something less than a growl. “They are conjoined at some part of their anatomy.”
“Conjoined? As in attached to each other?” His alarmed tone sent a mouse maid scurrying into the nearest servant passageway.
“Can they be separated?”
“Depending on where the joining occurs—anatomically—it might be surgically possible.”
The air around the tomcat hummed and spun in circles. His bonded fae set his whiskers tingling. Never a good sign. Generally a precursor to doom.
The pair of cats wound through the wide hallways and up the graded ramps to the Royal Quarters. Servants bowed and melted away. Activity buzzed in the circular hallway outside the four bedroom suites. The guard toms rapped their claws twice on the slate flooring before one of them opened the door and announced the tomcat’s presence with a rumbling yowl.
Inside, two nursemollies circled an oversized cradle that stood where the special crib artisans had sculpted during the month of the queen’s confinement had been. The tomcat’s fae compelled him to see where his sons were conjoined, but he resisted. The physician hovered at the queen’s bedside. His tail feathers ruffled at the tomcat’s entrance, but his wing stayed near the queen’s face, fur still matted from the strain of kitbirth.
“Darling. You’ve done well.”
Her whiskers trembled, and tears pooled in her wide amber eyes. The tomcat denied his urge to smooth his tongue over her face. He compromised with an audience-appropriate greeting, ducking to butt his forehead gently against hers.
“They’re handsome, but…”
“We’ve only one name.” He cut off her quavering admission. She wasn’t ashamed of the tomkitlings, surely. “Simon for the firstborn. It is a tomcatly name.”
Her whiskers stilled. A pensive look chased the moisture from her eyes.
The tomcat turned wide eyes toward the physician. “Physic Owl, I understand the conjoining can be surgically undone.”
The physic’s unblinking stare made the tomcat’s spine tingle. He refused to let it ruffle his fur. He ruled this room, even if he needed the owl’s expert advice.
“Come see the kits.”
To keep the physic from reaching the cradle first, the tomcat sprang over his wife’s bed, landing soundlessly beside the cradle. The nurses cowered, backing away with bellies scraping the ground.
Two black-masked faces writhed beneath a heavy blanket. The kits had silver fur, lighter than his own, puffing beneath their chins. The unusual face markings sent his wind fae into another spinning gyration around his head.
The owl swept the blanket aside, exposing pale bellies and curled black paws.
“The coloring.” He had a pale stomach, and his wife had light striping, but neither of them had such dark paws.
“A sign of the Siamese, Highness.”
The tomcat scanned the mewling figures, but only saw two wholly separate bodies. Although their hindquarters abutted each other. He shivered with dread.
With a sweep of his wing, the owl turned the kits over.
A single black tail with two silver rings near the tip curled across the two backs. They shared a tail? A glorious tail was the signature of royalty. His own fluffed and bristled with hair longer than that of his body. The queen’s was black-tipped but elegant, waving proudly as they paraded through their daily lives.
“Only one of them can have it.” The owl’s voice was a mere hiss of sound.
The tomcat gulped, his sandpapery tongue glued to the roof of his mouth. Must he pronounce eternal disgrace on one of his sons? His chest ached at the thought.
To keep reading, you can download a digital copy of the book FREE.
Once you see how delightful all the tales are, I know you’ll want a paperback copy. I have several available, autographed by four of the authors. Order yours here.
Do you enjoy reading stories about cats? Magic?