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The Sisters Dukhov in King of the Cats



The Sisters Dukhov in: 

King of the Cats 

 

The Speakers of Kilcara were widely respected throughout the country of Erin. They were an old institution, having spoken the word of the soil practically since its inception. They traveled here and there about the land, telling tales of pious heroes and goodly maidens of old. However, the people of Erin were also afraid of the speakers, for they possessed that so fickle and biting of powers: the art of satire. 

 

It was said that many years ago, a king had offended the head speaker, who then wrote and recited a poem so scathing that the king simply died of a heart attack right then and there. 

 

Needless to say, when traveling to and from the city, people gave a wide berth to the speaker’s hall. 

 

That wasn’t to say that it was a particularly foreboding place. The hall and the enclave around it, located just a twenty minute ride from the city proper, though old, were well-maintained and quite inviting. Many a low- or third-born son would reject worldly pleasures and throw in their lot as an apprentice to the speakers. 

 

Recently, however, there seemed to be a lot less of those. New apprentices, that is. Seanchan, the current head speaker, couldn’t help but notice how empty the bunks in the apprentice quarters were, how quiet the grounds had become. And there were less and less people around to do all the little menial tasks. For the last few months, he’d even had to draw the water for his baths himself

 

Perhaps it was all these little inconveniences that caused him to be so grumpy. Perhaps in his old age it was bitterness from seeing the people moving away from the soil—and their order. They only worshiped science and reason now. Seanchan always scoffed at this. What good was science and magic? The only thing of note that had come from either of them were the wastes, far to the north. 

 

Whatever the reason, the rats had been the last straw. One morning, while at his writing desk, he’d spotted one of the blighters run right up and swipe a bit of cheese that he’d been using as brain food. 

 

Seanchan: 

“Nasty, conniving little thief!” 

 

He threw his ink pot against the hole in the wall into which it disappeared. This only succeeded in making a mess of course, which made his temper even more foul as he realized that he’d have to be the one to clean it all up.  

 

Seanchan 

“Have even the cats abandoned this place now?” 

 

He didn’t know what caused it, this sudden wave of anger, of fiery red inspiration, but in this moment he raised his fist to the sky. 


Seanchan: 

“Cursed be to all the cats of Erin, for they have grown to be pampered and lazy; worthless creatures not even fit for their one role and purpose on this earth. And to whoever rules these sad excuses of flesh, a double curse on you, for you are not fit to be called the King of the Cats!” 

 

As a man who made his living on words, Seanchan should have been well aware the consequences this little outburst could cause. Alas, in his moment of rage he had quite forgotten himself, and didn’t spare it a single thought. 

 

However, his memory would soon be jogged over the next few days as the cats began to assemble... 

 

~~ o ~~ 

 

Tep: 

“I can’t believe you two have done it again,” 

 

Tep glared at both Maibe and Ide as the three of them bumped down the well-trod dirt road. The back of the rickety wagon didn’t help matters, but despite the shaking, and the fact that he was squished in between two crates of potatoes, Tep still managed a highly impressive stare. 

 

Ide: 

“Done what?” 

 

Tep: 

“Took in another charity case, is what!” (Dramatic Sigh) “How am I gonna afford that two tons of gin I was going to drown myself in now?” 

 

Maibe: 

“Not whiskey? I thought that was your favorite.” 

 

Tep: 

“It is, but gin is way better for swimming in. Smells like pine.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Well, cheer up, love. It wouldn’t take quite that much to get you swimming.” 

 

Tep’s cheeks turned an even deeper red than usual, but before he could retort, Maibe continued. 

 

Maibe: 

“Besides, he’s a speaker. ‘S not like he’s got any money.” 

 

Tep: 

(Huffy)“I don’t get these speakers. Why in the Lady’s hairy minge would you want to beg for food and a place to stay when you could just cut out the middleman and sell your stories? Bards do it all the time.” 

  

Maibe: 

“Well, Tep, I think you live a bit too much of a hedonistic lifestyle to really understand.” 

 

Ide: 

“The concept is becoming antiquated though. Case in point:” 

 

The other two stood and flew upwards respectively to see what Ide was pointing at. Ahead of them was the speaker’s enclave. It had clearly been a grand, stately establishment at one point, but now the stone walls were crumbling, the paths were overgrown, and very few people milled about the central garden. There was an antiquated feel about the place, like when you’ve entered an old building which has gone unoccupied for far too long. 

 

However, the spell was broken as the wagon trundled past the archway and a peculiar sound reached their ears: meowing. First they past one cat, a thin, grey tabby with a scarred ear, then another. As the wagon stopped in that central garden, Maibe, Ide, and Tep followed with their eyes a trail of cats big and small, goblins and furballs, that led right to the cottage on the far side of the courtyard. 

 

Tep: 

“Holy shit they weren’t kidding.” 

 

Tep peaked over Maibe’s hair to get a better look. 

 

Ide frowned.  

 

Ide: 

“You should be in your pouch, Imp.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Ah, he’s alright. There ain’t that many people around. Plus he fits right in with me hair.” 

 

Tep: 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, ha ha. Look at me! From a distance I resemble a fucking tomato.” 

 

Maibe: 

“You said it first.” 

 

Tep had to hide himself as a younger man in speaker robes approached them. It wasn’t as if he had to hide, of course, but his presence was rather difficult to explain to every passing Rita and Sean. 

 

Zachery: 

“Are you two the hunters?” 

 

The speaker stepped gingerly around the cats, several of which turned to him with interest, getting under his legs in an attempt to trip him. 

 

 

Maibe: 

“Aye, that would be us.” 

 

Maibe grinned broadly in spite of—or perhaps to spite—the odd circumstances. 

 

Zachery: 

(Relieved sigh) “Thank the soil. The master’s waiting for you just inside.”  

 

He gestured to the cottage.  

 

Zachery 

“He regrets not being able to greet you himself, but the cats... well, as soon as he steps outside they get... violent.” 

 

Raising an eyebrow, Maibe met Ide’s gaze. This was a little strange, even for them. But they followed the speaker through the hoard of purring furballs and up to the door of the cottage. 

 

Seanchan: 

“Zachery! Zachery are those damned hunters here yet? I told you to contact them yesterday! I’ll have your hide if they’re not here within the hour!” 

 

Zachery: 

“They’re with me right now, Master Speaker.” 

 

Zachery turned back to the hunters.  

 

Zachery: 

“You’ll have to forgive him. Master Seanchan can become rather ornery at even minor inconveniences, so this...” 

 

Maibe: 

“Say no more. We handle ‘moods’ quite frequently.” 

 

Ide: 

“Part of the job, unfortunately.” 

 

Seanchan: 

“Well, what are you waiting for, halfwit?” 

 

The Honorable Seanchan continued shouting through the door. 

 

Seanchan: 

“Send them in!” 

 

Clearly wanting to leave the general vicinity as fast as possible, Zachery bowed them in and shut the door behind them as quick as he could, to prevent any of the cats from getting in. 

 

Inside was a somewhat small, dark room, with only two dusty windows providing light. Towards the back were two rough doorways, presumably leading to a washroom and bedchamber. The only furnishings in this main room were a desk tucked away in the corner and an old table adorned with a faded cloth. 

 

Seated at the desk, surrounded by heaps of crumpled parchment, was a somewhat small, scraggly old man with a stringy white beard.  

 

Seanchan: 

“Ugh.” 

 

He didn’t seem to notice their entrance.  

 

Seanchan: 

“It’s no use. I simply can’t work with this infernal yowling.” 

 

Maibe: 

“It sounds like you might be in need of a wee bit of assistance.” 

 

Seanchan: 

“Well look, it’s got eyes.” 

 

The man still didn’t look up from the desk. 

 

Tep felt Maibe tense, but she didn’t say anything. 

 

Seanchan: 

“So you’re the hunters, are you?” 

 

He finally turned towards them.  

 

Seanchan: 

“Don’t look like much to me...” 

 

Ide took a step forward, and his voice fell away as he glanced up to her full height. 

 

Maibe: 

“It seems like you have a cat problem.” 

  

Seanchan: 

“Yes, night and day they surround my rooms, constantly yowling. I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep in two days, and every time I look out the window, there’s more of them! And yes, before you get all smart with me, I’ve tried leaving,”  

 

He rolled up his sleeve to reveal a series of deep claw marks running up his forearm.  

 

Seanchan: 

“Blighters pounced on me. Nasty, vicious little things.” 

 

Ide: 

“You know they can hear you, right? You might want to be a little kinder.” 

 

Seanchan: 

(Scoffing) “They’re just bloody animals.” 

 

But Ide just shook her head.  

 

Ide: 

“Not cats. They’re smarter than we give them credit for.” 

 

Seanchan: 

“I’m not here to argue philosophy with you! Will you solve my problem, or not?” 

 

Maibe: 

(Sigh) “Yes, we’ll take the job.” 

 

Tep: 

(Muttered) “Nuts, the both of you.” 

 

They spent the next few minutes trying, and failing, to get anything else from the old man, who merely continued to insist that they get rid of the cats as soon as possible. 

 

Maibe: 

“I don’t think you understand, sir. If we just ‘get rid of the cats’ they’re jes going to come back. We have to get to the source of the problem, and that might take a wee bit longer.” 

 

But the speaker wasn’t having it, and in the end, the sisters fled outside to confer with each other. They sat on the front step, and within a few minutes, all of the cats had flocked to Ide. She had one on her lap, gently checking its teeth and eyes, flexing its pads to see its claws. Next to her, Maibe had a book open, an old one, with dog-eared, yellow pages. 

 

Ide: 

“Well...”  

 

Ide put one cat down and picked another up, giving it a good scratch behind the ears.  

 

Ide: 

“As far as I can tell, these are all completely normal cats.” 

 

Maibe: 

“You’re sure?” 

 

Maibe flipped back and forth between several pages.  

 

Maibe: 

“Well there goes my cait si (cat shee) theory. How odd...” 


Ide: 

“You think it could be a curse of some kind? The Master Speaker is a bit of a...” 

 

Tep: 

“Liver-lipped cunt munch?” 

 

Ide glanced both directions to make sure no one had heard the vitriol against the master of this enclave.  

 

Ide: 

“That wasn’t quite what I was going for.” 

 

As if she hadn’t even heard the last minute of conversation, Maibe looked up from her book.  

 

Maibe: 

“I dun think it would be a curse. Oddly specific, don’t you think? Cats that won’t let you leave your house? Though I suppose I’ve heard stranger.” 

 

The two went back and forth, discussing possibilities, and Tep’s attention slowly drifted away from the conversation. Though initially his mind wandered to the iced whiskey that would be waiting for him at the end of this hot summer day, something began to register in the back of his mind. 

 

He was absently watching the cats, when he saw one lick its paws, then steal away into the thick forest, only to be replaced by another a minute later. This happened several times over the course of the next few minutes, meaning that the amount of large, purring nuisances always remained exactly the same. With a start, Tep’s two braincells happened to clash, and he experienced a thought: they were organized. 

 

Why and how, he didn’t know. Tep almost went to fly into Maibe’s face and pinch her cheek a little, but who was he kidding? They were the hunters, and he was a bitchy freeloader. Like they’d both said earlier: alcoholic, hedonistic freeloader. They wouldn’t listen to him, or if they did, it would be far too much effort to get them to take him seriously, and Tep was very lazy. Instead, he flapped his leathery wings a few times and began to float idly in the general direction of a cat that looked about ready to leave the party. 

 

He had no idea how he was going to follow it; Tep wasn’t even close to the quietest person he knew. But the cat, a grey tabby with a white chest, was leaving now; he didn’t have any time. So at the last minute, Tep dive-bombed the poor creature, gripping at the fur on its back desperately. The cat hissed and twisted, trying to pry him off. 

 

Tep: 

“Fuck. Piss. Shit. You fucking. Flea-ridden. Piss stick.” 

 

Tep swore loudly with each violent motion of the animal’s body. Of course, by this point, it had also begun streaking through the forest, rubbing against tree-trunks and other bits of foliage as part of its attempt to utterly annihilate his very existence, so they were too far away for the sisters to hear him.  


Tep was just about to give up and let the damn thing fling him off through the trees, when the cat stopped abruptly, freezing in place. At first, Tep thought it had gone mad, but then he heard it: a strange voice that seemed to echo through the trees. 

 

Irusan: 

“Wait. Bring the esprit to me.” 

 

The cat turned its head to fix its luminous green eyes on Tep. If looks could kill, he would have been dead two weeks ago. But the cat straightened out and without any fuss began to pad calmly through the trees. It was taking him somewhere, to that voice. So far the trail of destruction would be pretty easy for Ide to follow, but now the cat was avoiding touching anything, much less creating any sort of trail that could be tracked. So here and there Tep reached out and broke some flower stems, or low-hanging bracken. Whatever he was about to discover, he couldn’t do much about it, but at least he could lead Maibe and Ide right there. 

 

Tep: 

(Mumble to self) “If they ever notice I’m gone, of course.” 

 

They were approaching something, as Tep noticed small, cat-sized paths on the forest floor, and more of the beasts themselves, who all peered at them curiously with large eyes. Tep’s current beast of burden seemed rather humiliated by the attention, for it lowered its ears and made an unpleasant noise at the back of its throat. But it still kept moving towards something deeper in the trees. 

 

Finally, they stopped, just in front of a particularly thick bush. The cat apparently thought it was a soprano, for it went for that high C. However, it seemed that this cat would be forever stuck in mezzo-soprano hell, for it couldn’t quite reach the note, the mewl cutting out halfway through before coming back just at the end. 

 

Irusan: 

“Come.” 

 

It was that voice again, though this time it seemed to have a place, a direction. And that direction was right in front of him, for his steed pushed through and into a small clearing. Before him, the light pouring down just right to highlight an elaborate throne of bird and mouse bones, was an absolutely enormous cat. It was at least twice as big as Tep’s escort, with thick fur that made it even bigger. 

 

The cat laid eyes on Tep and laughed heartily.  

 

Irusan: 

“I see you’ve caused my servant quite some trouble. We cats are quite adept at dealing with taller-folk and small rodents, but not ones with brains.” 

 

Tep: 

“Your servant?” 

 

Tep peered down at his great enemy and shook his head, disappointed.   


Tep: 

“So, wait, does that make you some sort of—?” 

 

Irusan: 

“King? Why, of course, my boy. I am Irusan, the king of all cats, so it has seemed.” 

 

Tep narrowed his eyes. Something about this character was rubbing him the wrong way. 

 

He must have been right, because Irusan quickly turned towards his servant.  

 

Irusan: 

“You may leave us, Mr. Baby.” 

 

The cat sneezed coldly and made that back of the throat noise again, before running off into the trees.  

 

Irusan: 

“What? That is what they call you. We don’t pick our names, you know!” 

 

It took Tep another second, but his eyes widened as it clicked into place.  

 

Tep: 

“You’re not a cat at all. You’re an esprit.” 

 

Irusan: 

“As are you, I’m sure. What is your name, lad?” 

 

Tep hesitated, briefly considering giving a false name. But his nickname was vague enough, he decided in the end.  


Tep: 

“They call me Tep.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Tep... Hmm... It seems somewhat familiar, I must admit. But I don’t think I remember you from before.” 

 

Tep: 

“How long have you been, you know...?” 

 

Tep tried to change the subject. 

 

Irusan: 

“Here? In this plane? A long, long time. Ages and ages ago, I was a proud member of a young, rapscallious party of Fey who enjoyed our Samhain excursion to this plane a little too much. I became too inebriated by the festivities and missed the deadline to return, and well, here I am.” 

 

Tep plopped down on the packed dirt floor.  

 

Tep: 

“You don’t seem too broken up about it.”  

 

He remembered being devastated by the change when it first occurred, being suddenly trapped in a body that was not your own, let alone the pain that accompanied it. He still shook a little at the thought. 

 

Irusan: 

“I was, I suppose, at the time.” 

 

 he shrugged, at least as much as a cat was able.  

 

Irusan: 

“But I was fairly lucky, as I understand it. Instead of becoming something hideous, or grotesque, if you’ll forgive the comparison, I simply became a cat. It’s not a bad life, as far as lives go, and soon I had all these cats worshipping me as their king. I’d never gotten that sort of treatment by the other Fey.” 

 

Tep: 

“Not a Noble, I take it?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Great Cosmos above, no. Just a lowly soldier, I’m afraid. What about you?” 

 

It was one of the first questions he’d asked Tep, who wasn’t quite prepared for the abrupt shift in topic. He’d have to be even more careful what he said here. It seemed as if Irusan didn’t have such a high opinion of the Fey. It wasn’t as if Tep did either, but the past could come back to bite him. Of course, he didn’t really know what sort of person Irusan was, or had been, for that matter. Tep didn’t remember him, but there were a lot of guardsmen and soldiers that he didn’t. 

 

Tep: 

“I guess I was noble-born, sort of. It’s all so damn strange. It seems like everything that happened in Magh Mell was an eternity, and yet somehow just a... a single moment.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Well of course. (Laugh) It was a single moment. It seems as if you haven’t been away all that long.” 

 

Tep: 

“Twelve years.” 

 

Tep shrugged, then paused. 

 

Tep: 

“Wow, that’s a really fucking long time, now that I think about it. Time just... moves so fast out here.”  

 

  

Irusan: 

“Kingdoms rise and they fall, and yet, at the end of it all, we’ll still be here. The curse still holds sway over us, even now.” 

 

Tep: 

“Yeah...” 

 

He didn’t know why he suddenly thought of it, but it just hit Tep at that moment how much Maibe had changed since they’d first met, how much older she was. He hadn’t really noticed, because she’d grown so slowly, so imperceptibly. It creeped him out, almost. 

 

The cat seemed somewhat disappointed in Tep’s answers. He settled further down into his throne and his whiskers drooped. Probably he’d been hoping for something a little less vague. For now, it was best to let him wonder. 

 

Irusan: 

“But, enough reminiscing. How did you come here, friend?” 

 

Tep: 

“Well...” 

 

This was going to be somewhat delicate. Irusan had to be behind the speaker’s cat problem, but Tep didn’t want to fight him. For one, he’d probably get his backside handed back to him on a fancy platter. Mostly, however, Irusan didn’t seem like a bad man—err, cat spirit—and it was so rare to find an esprit who wasn’t either depressingly nihilistic or drooling at the mouth to get back into the Feys’ good graces. 

 

Think. What would Maibe say? 

 

Tep: 

“See, the thing is—” 

 

Tep found he was not very good at this. It was hard enough just focusing on not cussing every-other word. How did Maibe do this whole “talking” thing?  

 

Tep: 

“You’ve caused a lot of trouble for the speakers.” 

 

The cat tilted his head.  

 

Irusan: 

“Why bother yourself with such a trifling human problem?” 

 

Tep: 

“I came here with two hunters, part of an agency, I guess.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Hunters?”  

Irusan’s fur stood straight up.  

 

Irusan: 

“Here? How did you escape? Do they know where you’ve gone?” 

 

Tep: 

“No, no, we, uh... work together.” 

 

Tep cringed, preparing for the worst. 

 

Instead, Irusan just sat back and pondered this.  

 

Irusan: 

“An esprit, and hunters, of all things, working together? You help them... deal with our kind?” 

 

Tep: 

“Well, see, this group is a bunch of bleeding hearts. They’d much rather work out a peaceful solution on the rare opportunities that they can. Really boring, but there it is. They keep a roof over my head and stuff and I... well, I mostly just eat all of their food...” 

 

Irusan: 

“How very interesting.” 

 

Irusan relaxed, sitting back again. 

Tep: 

“But listen, we’re trying to sort out this cat business, so I gotta ask: what’s with the paw patrol?” 

 

Irusan: 

“That speaker is a coward and a liar!” 

 

Irusan’s hackles raised.  

 

Irusan: 

“He has ‘proclaimed’ with that mighty mouth of his that all of my people have become contented, useless lay-abouts. Plus, he has called me out specifically. This cannot stand, my boy.” 

 

Tep: 

(Sarcastic) “Oh well, now you just have to act, right?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Precisely. My—I mean—our reputation is at stake.” 

 

 Tep: 

“So you set all your servants on him until he recants?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Of course.” 


Tep: 

“Well, see friend, there’s just one problem with that. None of the lads you sent to harass him happen to speak human, do they?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Well, no, but—” 

 

Tep: 

“So how’s he supposed to know that one poem of his, or whatever, is what caused the fur brigade to assemble outside his door?” 

 

Irusan: 

“I—... Oh...” 

 

Tep: 

“Ya seein’ the problem now? How’re you supposed to get him to retract his curse if you can’t communicate?” 

 

Maibe: 

“Speaking of ill-communication...” 

 

A new voice came from the general direction of up.  

 

Maibe: 

“What on the soil’s green have you been doing all this time?” 

 

Maibe and Ide were standing above them, peering past the vegetation into the little clearing. Irusan became little more than a fuzzy beach-ball as he puffed up in fear, but Tep merely sighed. 

 

Tep: 

“I mean, I did leave a trail. So what the hel took you two so long?” 

 

~~ o ~~ 

 

Well, see, the thing was that it took an embarrassingly long time for either of them to notice he was gone. They were so focused on figuring out what was causing the sea of cats that they didn’t pay him even a little mind. Once they’d crossed off all of the most likely candidates, curse, demon-spawn, etc., the two had finally just taken to going through the pages of Maibe’s bestiary one by one, to see if they could find anything that might even lead them in the right direction. 

 

The book was old, and leatherbound, more of a journal than a formal text, written by a hunter at least fifty years ago, who’d passed it down to his apprentice, and on and on until it had at last reached Maibe. Several different hands had drawn sketches of monstrous anatomy and scribbled notes in the margins, and recently, her own loopy, jerky handwriting had joined them. 

 

Ide: 

“Your handwriting really is terrible.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Oi! Bad handwriting’s a sign of intelligence, you know. Plus, it’s only b’cus I’m left-handed.” 

 

Ide: 

“I think it’s because you don’t have any patience.” (Chuckle) 

 

Just as the sun was beginning to touch the horizon, Maibe yawned and stretched, and Ide sighed. 

 

Maibe: 

“Well, there’s nothing we can do with no light. I suppose someone has to go tell grumpy-gills that we’ll be back in the morning.” 

 

Ide: 

“I don’t wanna do it.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Neither do I. We could make Tep do it. Give ‘im a right scare.” 

 

Ide: 

“Don’t you dare.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Oi, squirt! What dya think of that?” 

 

Maibe looked down to his leather case, but there was only silence in response.  

 

Maibe: 

“Tep?”  

 

She opened the latch, but the interior was empty.  

 

Maibe: 

“Where is that little blighter?” 

 

Ide: 

“He’s gone? That’s strange, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him just... wander off on his own before.” 

 

Maibe: 

(Panicking) “He doesn’t.” 

 

Ide put a hand on her shoulder.  

Ide: 

“Are you okay?” 

 

Maibe: 

“Sorry, it’s just that he’s so small. How on earth are we going to find him?” 

 

Ide: 

“Have you never lost him before?” 

 

Maibe: 

“Never.” 

 

Ide: 

“Okay, it’s gonna be alright. We’ll start in the immediate area and fan out.” 

 

Maibe: 

(Crack) “Immediate area? You mean the enormous mound of cats?” 

 

Ide: 

(Quiet hiss) “Shit.” 

 

But as the two stared helplessly at the lake of fur, Ide noticed something. Every once in a while, a cat would sneak off into the trees and just like clockwork, another would take its place. And then she saw it, faint of course; no other person probably would have noticed: an indentation in the foliage, a couple of snapped twigs. None of the cats would have made such a mess if they were being as cautious as these cats clearly were. 

 

As she moved closer, Maibe followed behind.  

 

Maibe: 

“You see something?” 

 

Ide: 

“Possibly.” 

 

She took a step into the trees, and there she saw evidence of a miniature struggle; flattened grass, bark rubbed off of trees, all in a zig-zagged line through the forest floor. And through it all, the hurried pawprints of a startled cat.  

 

Ide: 

“Well, this could be a long shot, but I think he might have hijacked a ride.” 

 

Maibe: 

“He probably noticed it leaving. He has always been compulsive like that. But why didn’t he tell me?” 

 

Ide: 

“Could be any number of reasons, really. You know him better than I do.” 

 

She started off into the trees, pausing every few seconds to find some new piece of evidence. It was only a few minutes later that they started to hear voices through the trees... 

 

~~ o ~~ 

 

Tep: 

(Grumble) “I can’t believe you two forgot about me,” 

 

Maibe rubbed a hand through her hair sheepishly. But Tep’s gripes were swiftly forgotten as he looked down from his perch on Maibe’s shoulder to see Irusan looking at the scene in horror. 

 

Ide: 

“What is that cat doing?” 

 

Irusan: 

(Squeak) “I... I am not just any cat, Madam. I am the King of the Cats.” 

 

Tep: 

“You’re not even a cat at all. This is Irusan, He’s actually an esprit shaped like a cat.” 

 

Maibe: 

“How peculiar.” 

 

Maibe tried to get closer, but Irusan hissed violently.  

 

Maibe: 

“I’ve seen Leprechauns and Merrows and Pookas, but never a cat.” 

 

Ide frowned downwards at the poor, frightened thing.  

 

Ide: 

“Are you alright, uh, your highness?” 

 

The king turned to Tep instead.  

 

Irusan: 

“How are you just sitting on its shoulder? Aren’t you...? Well...” 

 

Tep: 

“Nah, it took a while to train her, but keeping a human or two around is actually quite useful.” 

 

Maibe: 

“I resent that.” 

 

Tep: 

“I don’t care.” 

 

Tep turned back to Irusan.  


Tep: 

“Alright, you’re gonna have to fill me in, cuz I don’t talk to, uh, our kind much. What’s wrong with the humans exactly?” 

 

 

 Irusan: 

“Well, the Fey, you see...” 

 

Tep: 

“Oh, I get it. Since the Fey think that humans are the equivalent of literal rat shit, you’re afraid that—” 

 

Irusan: 

(Ashamed) “—If we have too much contact with them, they’ll never... take us back.” 

 

Tep: 

(Sharp, bitter laugh) “Well that’s just silly. You think they’ll ever take us back? Look, I know its probably been a long time since you’ve been a Fey, but you think they hate humans? If humans are rat shit then we’re... well, something worse than rat shit.” 

 

Ide: 

“Maggots?” 

 

Tep: 

“Thank you. We’re maggots on the rat shit.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Yet, as silly as it is, boy, there’s always the hope...” 

 

Irusan looked upwards, the night sky shining in his enlarged pupils.  

 

Irusan: 

“The hope that maybe they’ve changed.” 

 

Tep: 

“You know they can’t do that.” 

 

There was silence in the clearing for a long time. 

 

Maibe: 

“Right, well that suddenly became unbearably awkward. So I’m not going to try to unpack all of that and focus on the matter that we’re being paid for.” 

 

Tep: 

(Grumble) “Not enough.”  

 

Maibe shot him a look that could liquify nitrogen and he quickly filled the sisters in on what he had discovered. 

 

They both looked a little confused.  

 

 

 

Maibe: 

“So, if I’m hearing you right, you’ve locked a man in his house with an army of cats because he poked at you in a poem.” 

 

Irusan: 

“It was a satire. A very ancient and serious art.” 

 

Ide: 

“And you never thought to just... confront him?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Well, of course not. He’s a human. We esprits just cause things to happen and they know what did it.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Somehow I don’t think so. See, that’s why he hired us. Because he has no idea what caused the cat circus to come to town.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Well, I never. Folk have been whispering my name for ages.” 

 

Ide: 

“Times are changing. Especially near the city.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Ah, we’ve got a problem, though. The plan would be to just have the two talk it out, right?” 

 

The others nodded. 

 

Maibe: 

“Well, somehow, knowing our client, I doubt he’d be too keen on compromising with—I beg your pardon, sire—a cat.” 

 

Irusan: 

“My dear. You’ve forgotten one thing: I am an esprit, not a cat. I have one or two tricks up my sleeve...” 

 

~~ o ~~ 

 

The last visages of twilight were fading behind the trees and Seanchan sat by candlelight at his desk. He was trying to focus on his writing, but the soft rustling of the large amounts of felines outside was bothering him. 

 

Seanchan: 

(Moaning) “Oh go away you horrible creatures. I’m sick of your mewling.” 

 

Irusan: 

“As are we sick of your vitriol.” 


Seanchan nearly fell backwards out of his chair.  

 

Seanchan: 

“In the name of the soil what is that now?” 

 

Irusan: 

“You have sinned, Seanchan the Speaker, and this is why you are being punished.” 

  

The speaker realized that he had to get a grip on this situation quickly.  

 

Seanchan: 

“Sin? What has this old man ever done to deserve his peace being disturbed?” 

 

Irusan: 

“You don’t even know? Is your regard for others so insubstantial that you can’t even tell when you’ve wronged someone?” 

 

Fuming, Seanchan’s ears grew red. Who was this man—voice, what-have-you—to judge him, the head of all the speakers in Erin?  

 

Seanchan: 

“I haven’t done anything wrong, and if I have, I believe I deserve the respect to be told to my face.” 

 

Irusan: 

(Laugh) “Very well, so be it.” 

 

There came for a second a strange series of thumps from the chimney, and then from the fireplace emerged, its long hair covered in soot, a rather large cat. 

 

Seanchan: 

“What sort of joke is this? (Cackle) Stop playing me for a fool and show yourself.” 

 

Irusan: 

“There are very few who would dare laugh at me.” 

 

With a shock, Seanchan saw that it was in fact coming from the cat. A little too late, as the cat rapidly grew in size until, after only a moment, it filled the entire room. 

 

Irusan: 

“I am Irusan, the King of the Cats,” 

 

The cat’s voice shook the very walls of the cottage.  

 

Irusan: 

“You have insulted me and my title with your slander. Do you recant?” 

  

Seanchan: 

“I will when you start catching these mice!” 

 

If Seanchan believed himself to be beyond reproach, that did not last as Irusan grabbed him by the back of his cloak. The door to the cottage opened, allowing the cat to squeeze though it and out into the night, still with Seanchan clenched in its jaws. 

 

Irusan: 

(Little muffled, speaking around Seanchan’s collar) “We’ll see how you feel about it in the morning.” 

 

The last thing the speaker saw before being stolen off into the night was the shorter of the two hunters standing behind the door, waving him a pleasant goodbye. 

 

~~ o ~~ 

 

As the dawn light broke over the horizon, Tep waited at the edge of the trees as Irusan deposited the speaker safely back in his cottage. The old cat caught sight of him immediately and bounded over, shrinking in size as he did so. 

 

Tep: 

“That was quite a display.” 

 

Irusan: 

(Laugh) “It was quite an idea, my lad.” 

 

Tep: 

“I’m assuming it worked out for you?” 

 

Irusan: 

“Absolutely wonderfully! I took him around the countryside, threatened to drop him off a cliff; we’ve come to an understanding.” 

 

Tep: 

“Good, that jackass needed to be taken down a peg... or five.” 

 

The two had a good chuckle, before Irusan sprouted a somewhat mischievous smile.  

 

Irusan: 

“By the by, whilst I was gallivanting through the countryside, it dawned on me why your name sounded so familiar. I never would have guessed I’d run into a member of the Il’istar family out here.” 

 

Tep glanced around frantically.  

 

Tep: 

“Can it, would you? You don’t know who could be listening.” 

 

Irusan: 

“Of course. Your secret’s safe with me. Just... if you ever find your way back there, to Magh Mell, remember who kept it, yes?” 

 

Tep: 

“Ahh, yes, you haven’t lost any of that damned Fey slyness, I see.” 

 

Irusan: 

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” 

 

Tep: 

(Smiling) “You shouldn’t.” 

 

Maibe: 

“Tep!” 

 

Maibe was shouting from the clearing.  

 

Maibe: 

“Please don’t tell me you’ve gone again. I’ll leave you, ya wee cunt, you know I will!” 

 

Tep: 

“Welp, that’s my cue.” 

 

Tep stretched his stiff wings.  

 

Tep: 

“It was... interesting meeting you, Irusan.” 

 

Irusan: 

“I hope we have the pleasure again.” 

 

Tep: 

“Hopefully in better circumstances.” 

 

He made to take off, but Irusan stopped him.  

 

Irusan: 

“Oh, one more thing my boy. I recall that you were awfully concerned about the payment of this endeavor, and I somehow don’t think your client will be willing to supply that now.” 

 

Tep: 

“Oh, yeah, probably not, huh?” 

 

Tep scrunched his face, embarrassed at how he’d forgotten entirely. 

 

Irusan: 

“I don’t have much to give you, but if you ever need anything, you have me and my people at your command.” 

 

Tep tried to stop himself from laughing as he pictured himself leading an army of cats. It would be the raid of the fancy liquor cabinet that Maibe wouldn’t let him into. 

 

Tep: 

(Trying not to laugh) “T-thank you, Irusan,” 

 

He nodded, before flying off brazenly in full daylight over to Maibe. 

 

Maibe: 

“There you are!” 

 

Her face bore a rather unusually pained expression for her. 

 

Tep: 

“Were you worried?” (Cackle) 

 

Maibe: 

“Of course not! I jes know that if we went and drank all the whiskey without you, you’d throw a temper tantrum, that’s all.” 

 

Tep: 

“You know me so well.” 

 

Maibe: 

“But, if you run off without telling me ever again I will cry, and Ide will not be happy about that, ya hear?” 

 

Tep: 

“Hey, I did bag our monster, even if it happened to be our client in the end, didn’t I?” 

 

Maibe: 

“I s’pose, that you did.” 

 

Tep: 

“Point for Tep?” 

 

Maibe looked down at him with her strikingly green eyes, shook her head, and chuckled. 

 

Maibe: 

“Aye. Point for Tep.” 

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