Chapter 5

After four months at the mill, I was starting to feel a bit… well… aimless. By following William to school each day (to the amusement of Brother Bartholomew and the other students at the school), I developed a fairly good grasp of this land’s written language. I also continued to practice speaking to the donkey and the horses… which could have rather amusing results.

One morning I was sitting and talking to the donkey when Henry walked in on me. As soon as I saw him I stopped talking. “Who is there?” he demanded. Briefly he glanced at me, then proceeded to search the stable for the source of the voice. I innocently played “cat” and pretended to wash myself (a disgusting habit of the primitive cats, which is why I usually bathed in a stream I discovered in the woods beyond the mill). Henry took a long stick and poked into the hay. It was all I could do not to laugh. He left, muttering to himself that someone had slipped past him.



Admittedly I started to make a game of it… mostly because I found Henry the most annoying member of the family. Sometimes when I saw him going into the stable, I would dash ahead and, as he entered, start talking. I never did this with the rest of the family. After a while, Henry decided the stable was haunted.

While this served as a small form of amusement in this technology deprived world, it wasn’t enough to really keep me occupied. I scavenged a few empty sacks and some rope. First I fashioned a pair of rough, uncomfortable, but serviceable shorts.

Once I had a way to preserve my modesty, I used the remaining sacks and some branches to assemble a crude tent next to the stream I used for bathing. Yeah, I had a “home,” so to speak, but sometimes I wanted some privacy… and some time to “be me.”

Playing cat had its fun moments, like my game with Henry, but most of the time it was degrading. Food had to be eaten from a communal dish. It wasn’t plentiful because the bulk of the cats’ diet was expected to be vermin they caught and ate. Bathing was licking yourself clean. Humans stroked you and expected you to “beg” for treats like pets. The lack of clothing, for me, was a huge source of discomfort – not just physical.

My hide-a-way gave me a place to resume my physical training regime. I was out of shape and I could feel it. Following William to school gave me something of a workout but did nothing for my fighting skills. I set up some crudely made practice dummies and began sparring.

I also began applying some of the “survival skills” I had learned as part of police training. By watching William, I learned to fish, then clean and prepare my catch. I also discovered simple ways to trap small game. A few times I followed William on his own little woodland trips, where I learned about some wild, edible fruits and nuts. Eventually I would need to become self sufficient in this world.

I knew Ogarius was on this world, and sooner or later, I would have to face him.

---

One evening at the mill, a man arrived with a horse cart. This wasn’t something out to the ordinary. Farmers came to the mill all the time to get their grain processed into flour. This cart was quite different. It had cabinets, chests, boxes, and barrels attached in odd places. Strange devices and objects hung all over. The man was as eclectic as his cart. His dress was higher quality than the farmers that usually came – it was closer to the things that the family wore as their “Sunday best.” I later discovered that he was a travelling merchant that passed by the mill on his way to town.

Jacob greeted the owner of the cart warmly. “Godfrey, I thought ye would’a come by a month ago.”

“Ah, Jacob, ‘twas a long journey getting here this season,” returned the man.

“Perhaps you would be willing to give us the news from afar for a warm bed and a hot meal?” returned Jacob.

“That would be most welcome.”

William continued to prepare dinner while Michael put the man’s horses into the stable (Henry was convinced the stable was haunted by ghosts) and Henry closed down the mill for the evening.

The sun had fully set by the time everyone gathered for dinner. Godfrey noticed me. “Beautiful cat,” he commented. “Never seen the likes of him before.”

“Bloody useless,” muttered Michael. “Cat refuses to catch mice.”

“I’d fetch a pretty penny for him in a city. Some court lady would love him as a lap cat,” returned Godfrey as I glared at him.

At that moment, I was ready to break my silence and tell the man off when William spoke up. “Puss is not for sale, sir.”

“Are ye sure, lad? I’d pay handsomely for him,” Godfrey cajoled.

“No sir. Puss is my best friend. He is not like the other cats, and I would not give him up for anything.”

“Too bad,” returned Godfrey as I heard Michael and Henry muttering and shaking their heads at what they thought was their brother’s stupidity. “Where did ye find him?” asked the merchant.

“I found him in the millstream, the night the star fell into the lake,” explained William.

“Another star fell?” Everyone stared in surprise at Godfrey’s exclamation – even me.

“Another star?” echoed Henry.

“I did not know a star fell here,” responded Godfrey. “But in the city of Carabas, witnesses saw a star fall from the sky.” My anger dissipated as I listened to the man. “The Marquis of Carabas was surveying his lands when the flaming star fell from the sky! They say ‘twas black magic, because the star landed on the marquis, crushing him in front of his courtiers. But that’s not all.”

Godfrey took a swig of ale from his wooden cup. “They say that the star opened up. A black robed figure crawled out. It grabbed one of the courtiers, who then fell down, dead. Then it turned to the remaining courtiers and announced that it was their ruler now. The land of Carabas is now in such upheaval that it is nearly impossible to travel through. People make sure their doors are locked and their windows shuttered at night. I had to travel around Carabas to get here. Everyone fears what they call the Ogre.”

The humans’ discussion turned to more mundane topics. My mind reeled as I processed what Godfrey said. I couldn’t be certain, since Godfrey’s word was the first any had heard in this area of an “ogre”. The star sounded like an escape pod. And the black robed figure could very well be Ogarius. I needed more information before I set out on what could be, as these humans called it, a “wild goose chase.”

Suddenly, I realized that William had taken a blanket. As the youngest, he was the one to relinquish his bed to the guest. I followed him into the stable and up the rickety ladder into the hayloft, where William made a makeshift bed out of a pile of hay. “What do you think, Puss?” he asked me as he stretched out onto the dried grasses. “I read about ogres in books. Is this really an ogre? Is it as fearsome as it sounds?”

If this “ogre” was Ogarius, it would be worse than any storybook ogre William might have read about. My mission was now clear: investigate this ogre and, if it was Ogarius, bring him to justice.
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