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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors'
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Copyright Â© 2005 by Harold M. Konstantelos and Terri Jenkins-Brady.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN : 978-1-101-14908-9
1. CatsâFiction. 2. Christmas stories. I. Jenkins-Brady, Terri. II. Title.
WITH ALL MY LOVE,
MY ONE AND ONLY,
TOLEMY HAD GAZED at the night sky from the window in the tower until his neck ached. There was indeed a star beginning to glow a bit brighter than its neighbors. He sighed and left the windowsill, seating himself on the hearth. Only a few fading coals still glowed. The last hours of the night were small indeed.
“There is no other way,” he said softly to the dark room surrounding him. “But I do regret sending such young ones out into the world. There are many dangers that could befall them.” He thought for a minute of the three he would soon bid farewell: Kezia, the coquettish tabby, who could catch a mouse as quickly as one could blink; Abishag, who felt she could overcome any adversity after being orphaned at only four weeks; and Ira, youngest of the three and boldest because of his youth. They counted four scant years among them all. Whether that small amount of living experience would be sufficient for overcoming the inevitable mistakes and pitfalls upon a journey was yet to be seen.
He tucked his front paws under his chest and settled himself to wait for the other three cats. They would regard his news as a call to high adventure. But here in the astronomer's tower room, he would wait anxiously for their return. “If they return,” he said slowly, as dawn slipped past the window, “they will bear news such as this earth has not yet seen.”
“ I DON'T SEE why you can't go, too,” Kezia hissed, lashing her tail from side to side. She drew her small mouth into its cutest pout. That usually convinced even humans to do as she wished.
“All of us cannot go on this quest,” Ptolemy said for the fourth or fifth time. “It would not fulfill the prophecy of
the three finding the one
, if I accompanied you. Andâ” He glanced at the elderly astronomer and religious scholar, dozing again amid a desktop clutter of papyrus rolls and parchment maps.
“I cannot leave him; his time grows shorter with each labored breath he draws. I do not know whether he has years or merely months left, but it would be cruel to leave him totally alone in this tower. At least I can meow and scratch at the housekeeper's door until someone hears me and brings us both water and something to eat.”
Abishag got up on her sturdy legs and walked over to the chair in which the aged astronomer slumped.
“He looks very frail,” she said, looking up at him. “He wouldn't last long at all if we tried to take him with us.” And shaking her head, she went over to the bowl of water in the corner.
“That wouldn't fulfill the prophecy either,” Ptolemy reminded her.
With a loud yowl, Ira uncoiled from another corner, where he had been nearly invisible, and leaped at Kezia.
“Stop that!” Kezia slapped at Ira with her paw. “I think we ought to leave you here and take Ptolemy with us, that's what I think. So there!”
Ira grinned at her. The effect was startling; he had such very white teeth and such very black fur.
“Nah,” he answered, skipping nimbly away from Kezia's continued efforts to land a blow on his head. “We'll travel fast and we'll travel far. Our twelve legs all together aren't but a quarter as old as Mr. P. here.”
The old cat shook his head, refusing to be baited or teased. “Know that you will be able to take nothing with you. Hunting will be your only means of provision, unless you meet some extraordinarily kind humans. Seeing Abishag at the water bowl reminds me: Once you get to the far desert lands, the water well belongs to the town. Visitors and strangers are forbidden to drink from the well.”
“Then what must we do? Ask for water?” Abishag's cautious nature asserted itself. She was beginning to feel more worried than pleased at being asked to go on such a momentous journey.
“That would be the wisest course, I think,” Ptolemy said and then leaned close to her and rubbed his head against hers. “Don't worry. Your two companions have been carefully chosen also, and the three of you will somehow surmount all obstacles.” She sighed, gathered her paws underneath her, and settled back onto the cold flagstone floor.
“I'm listening. Please go on, Ptolemy.”
“You will be on your journey a very long time,” Ptolemy began. “I believe you may travel for a longer period than even I did as a small kitten. I left my home in the Far East as a gift from the powerful Muang king to our astronomer, who had saved the king's life by foretelling great danger. We were traveling the desert silk route with a small army to protect us on our way to Alexandriaâ”
“What!” squeaked Kezia. “You've been in the presence of kings, seen palaces and great fortunes, and done all this traveling yourself, and you never told us any of this?”
Ptolemy frowned and continued. “A band of brigandsâcutthroats, the worst thieves in the known worldâset upon us in spite of the armed men riding on all sides. Had I not been hidden by the astronomer in the sleeve of his robe, I should have been taken as a rarity and sold for a small fortune, for many men had never seen a cat of my markings before in their lives.