hi! i'd love to hear what you think would have happened if wyldon hadn't let keladry stay after her first year!! love your writing :^)
“Mindelan, it may be that the best thing said of my tenure is that you were my student. Should that be the case, I am the wrong man for this post. I did all I could to get rid of you. Your probation was wrong. You know that, I know it. I was harder on you than any lad. Thank Mithros I remembered my honor and let you stay when you met the conditions—but it was a near thing. Next time, I might not heed the voice of honor.”
– Wyldon of Cavall (Squire)
Kel sat and thought about it all through the long summer– thought about joining the Riders when she turned sixteen, or going back to the Yamani Isles with her parents, or running away to become an unlawful bandit hunter.
She drank tea with her mother and accepted her quiet sympathy. She wondered what was going to happen to Peachblossom. She did her morning glaive practice dances in the heady air of the tiny courtyard garden of her parents’ townhouse, where the cook grew herbs and spices in big overflowing boxes.
Summer rolled on. She sat, and she thought, and she did not tell her thoughts to anyone. On the first day of what would have been her second year of page training, she woke before the sun and had a quiet breakfast with her father, and then she jogged up the big dusty hill to the palace grounds.
When the pages trailed out of the building to the practice yards with dubious enthusiasm, she was waiting just outside their ground. Her chin was high, her shoulders loose while her hands gripped her weighted staff.
“Probationer,” Wyldon barked out her, when one of the boys went to fetch him. “Was I unclear in the spring?”
Kel stared him down, fingers white on her staff, and said, “I’m not a probationer anymore.”
“She’s a private citizen, just enjoying the fresh air,” Neal called from the other side of the practice yard fence. He got armor cleaning punishment for a week for his cheek and Kel lifted and lowered and struck with her staff to the call of the masters. Her staff hit thin air. The clack of the pages’ staves colliding hit her ears.
“That’s palace property,” Wyldon said ten minutes in, and plucked the staff out of her grip, so Kel followed the lesson with empty hands and brought her mother’s spare walking stick the next day.
They started calling her trespasser, after that, and Kel stood calm on the public grounds just on the other side of the practice yard fence, practicing her high blocks.
While the pages had riding practice, she sat in the dirt outside the riding yard and did the homework Neal smuggled out for her. He handed the finished assignments in for her, too, even though only Myles and the one Mithran priest who had never learned anyone’s names graded them. She took notes on what riding exercises the masters were assigning the pages and watched Neal where he sat on Peachblossom’s back like a sack of mulish peanuts.
“When I heard you weren’t t’ be coming back,” Stefan the hostler told her. “I wasn’t sure what would happen to the old lad.”
“Me, either,” said Kel, looking down at her math and trying to keep her face smooth and still.
When the pages went in for their seated classes, Stefan let her take out Peachblossom to try to exercises herself. Days the gelding was too tired, he found other mounts for her and Kel learned all their names– gentle Aubrey and fastidious Starfall and distractible, clever Redding and poor anxious Terence, who almost threw her more than once. “He comes by the fidgets honest,” Stefan told her and Kel brought extra apples for Terence when she could.
She still took on Lalasa when Gower found her feeding the sparrows in the courtyard beside her old rooms and asked her. Her parents’ townhouse had the funds to hire another maid, though Kel didn’t need or want a personal servant.
Lalasa pinched Kel’s torn clothes from her room all the same and returned them better hemmed and beautifully mended. Kel barely saw her, though she tried to leave a coin from her allowance on the piles of clothes she thought the young woman was most likely to steal away next.
She didn’t ask for the help and she told herself she didn’t want it, but she jogged up the big dusty hill to the palace grounds every day with her weighted harness weighing on her shoulders.
She stood just outside the low fence of the practice yards and ignored Joren’s comments and Zahir’s sneers and the rebukes of the swordfighting teachers– distraction, they said. Lump, waste, failure.
The sun beat down on her aching shoulders and she thought I could stand here forever, thought you are just noise and wind, I am a mountain. I will be here long after you cease howling.
Neal landed blows on Joren’s fingers, apologizing blandly to the masters for his clumsinesses, because Kel had ordered him to get in no fights for her honor. The sun beat down on the careful stitches of Kel’s cotton shirt, which fit as perfectly as Lalasa could manage from a shy distance.
She told herself she didn’t want the help, didn’t need it. Her harness weighed down her shoulders, her makeshift staff weighed down her arms, but the cotton laid light and kind on her back.
Some pictures of our latest students at HeroRAT College. Trainers Saidi and Nasoro’s baby rats enjoyed a nap before some socialisation training including experiecing passion fruit and flowers for the first time. The names of the HeroRATs are Burani, Ngusa, Guse and Monalisa.
Kitties! The source for the never-ending squee (for those of you unfamiliar with anime or internet culture, “squee” is the word for that high-pitched squeal of delight when someone sees something incredibly cute… like a kitten). Cats have a wonderful, loving relationship with most of the world, and have solidified their place in internet culture due to their antics. And, of course, many of us are lucky enough to be the loving and subservient human to a feline master or two (or, in my case, four).
But, as often seen when the stores begin their commercial takeover of the Halloween season - when we witches prepare for Samhain and take delight in popular culture’s enjoyment of our New Year’s - cats and witches go paw-in-hand.
Yes, Josh. This couch is comfortable. Now pet me. ~Whitney
Cats have a very long history alongside humans. Most famously in ancient culture, the Egyptians revered cats as a sacred animal. However, something that has always puzzled archaeologists is when and how humans started domesticating cats. With dogs, it’s much easier to track (just like their muddy paw prints on the carpet…), but cats are fittingly mysterious in when humans chose to add them in their societies. (Let’s face it. Humans did not choose the cat. The cat chose the humans. I think that’s where scientists and historians keep getting it wrong.)
As far as we can tell today, cats can be traced to several areas in early human history, but the two most significant areas from which modern kitties can be traced back to are the Middle East and China. As early as 12,000 years ago, the rise of agriculture had begun attracting rats, mice, and other rodents. In turn, wild cats began being drawn closer to human settlements. Clearly, having a friendly animal around to help keep your grain safe is ideal, so these cats would then be fed and protected by the humans that they’d begun helping.
Over the centuries, these two breeds of cats began to evolve, growing closer to humans and starting weave their ways into our lives (if we trust them and love them, it’s easier for them to accomplish their goal of world domination).
A Divine Link
Cats eventually began to find their way into our spirituality. In the Middle East, cats were respected as guardians of spiritual texts and sites. In Egypt, cats were deified. This was the case so much so that to be accused of having killed a cat in ancient Egyptian society was to face punishment by execution. In fact, cats were so revered that they were mummified and treated with the same respect as royalty.
To the ancient Egyptians, cats were associated with the goddess Bastet (or Bast). And sure enough, what is her domain within the Egyptian religion? Protection. As a lioness protector, she was a goddess of great importance, and was a prominent goddess long after Egypt’s civilization began to fade.
Toward the end of Egyptian civilization, the Greeks had come to respect Bast, as well, and connected her with another goddess - Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon (a goddess often associated with Hecate).
The Romans came to respect cats, as well. While more secular than the deeply spiritual Egyptians, Romans respected cats for their independent natures and wild demeanors, and attributed cats to two of their goddesses: Diana and Libertas.
What? You said I’m a protector goddess. So I protect. I protect your PS3 from the cold. ~Whitney
Demons, Witches, Plagues, and Cats
Unfortunately, the high status that our feline overlords deserve would not be respected into the Middle Ages. With the rise of witch hunts, anyone who welcomed an animal into the home would be faced with accusations of witchcraft and heresy. Cats in particular were targeted due to their independent and nocturnal natures.
The ambivalence with which cats rule their lives was seen, particularly by witch hunters, as a link to demonic nature. For a man or woman to welcome cats into their home was surely a sign that the feline was truthfully a demon performing fiendish deeds for the evil magician inside.
This was the origin for the modern stereotype of witches and black cats. Just as men and women were rounded up on accusations of witchcraft, cats were killed by the hundreds.
Little did Europe know how much it needed its feline population. As the number of cats began to dwindle, the number of rodents exploded, and with the rats came plague. The protection cats long provided against disease (something Bastet was long honored for as a goddess of healing) was no longer present, and the bubonic plague ran rampant and caused the world population to drop by more than 100 million. Of course, reactions did not help cats or witches any, for often witches and cats would be accused of further spreading the plague.
Eventually, when the focus was taken away from the cats, they began to resume their time honored magical duty of rat hunting and disease prevention.
Yeah, we’ll hunt those rats… after our nap.~ Whitney, Lilly, and Barnabus
A Return to Glory, and a Witch’s Best Friend
Every so often after the Black Death, cats would be the subject of witchcraft accusations, both in the old world and the new. But their popularity as mousers would earn them a respected job for both the navies of the 17th and 18th centuries and of the United States Postal Service clear up to the early 20th century.
By the end of the 19th century, cats were walking beside humans again without fear, happily going about their way as humans began to rely less on their utility and more on their company.
Up until some rather important innovations of the 20th century (namely refrigeration, the invention of kitty litter, and the rise of spaying and neutering), the thought of having an indoor cat was on the preposterous side. Even the President’s cat had free reign to wander in and out of the White House. But as these amenities became prevalent, kitties started to have a place as permanent indoor companions, safe from the dangers of the outside world, and more comfortable than even their own humans!
Today, cats have come to dominate not only the world of pets (much as many dog owners would refuse to admit, more pet owners have cats than dogs), but also the Internet. They’ve become the penultimate companion to the millenial due to the ease of care (food? water? easy. Litter? unpleasant, but easy. Love and cuddles? Well, these kitties will never want for attention!) and the stress-relief that cats often provide in a world that tends to promote stress and anxiety.
To many witches, cats are perfect companions. In addition to the connections with gods and goddesses worldwide, cats also have a role to play in witchcraft! Cats are natural teachers for us when we need to focus on our independence, confidence, and overall attitude towards life.
As familiars, cats can provide us with a link to the divine, to Hecate and Bast, while also helping to magnify our magical energies and naturally cleansing energy from spellwork (even Feng Shui acknowledges the natural abilities of cats in energy cleansing - it is believed that wherever a cat spends a considerable amount of time, chances are that stagnant energy is pooling there, and the cat is doing what it can to get it flowing again).
Don’t mind me. Just cleansing away the negativity! ~Cody
When working spells that involve cats, pay attention to what goddesses you use - Diana, Freya, Bast, Isis, and Cerridwen are all great picks for cat magic (Cerridwen was often accompanied by white cats… which is probably why I can’t seem to cast a spell in this house without Whitney showing up and helping!). Then, think about what aspect of the cat you want to emulate or encourage in your spell:
Getting in touch with your inner kitten (er, child)
Promoting restful sleep, or banishing insomnia
Protection (from evil spirits, disease, and anxiety and depression)
Connecting with Spirit
Communicating with the dead
Helping the dead move on
Love Spells (Especially self love)
There are many more aspects to cats in witchcraft. Whether you have a cat or use cat imagery, a witch is bound to find quite a bit of assistance from our feline overlords. If you are blessed enough to be owned by a cat, and wish to have the cat as a familiar, be sure to ask it first. Chances are, it will agree. Sometimes, it will simply decide to be your familiar anyway (like I said, Whitney never seems to miss a spell).
Cats are sacred. Both in the eyes of the ancients and in their own eyes. To be a witch working with a cat is a blessing and a joy, and there is so much that our feline masters can teach us about ourselves. When working magic, they are both inspiration and mentors.
As usual, my bestiary entries are meant to be a stepping point to help you in your own research. If you plan on making cats a central feature of your practice (as I’m sure that our kitties are intent on us doing), be sure to research and do some digging. Every tradition sees cats in a different way, and there is a lot of history that is shared between humans and cats.
And above all, treat all kitties as royalty. They are gods and goddesses in their own right, after all!
Blessed Be! )O(
*This article was brought to you in part by my four beloved furry masters: Whitney, Lilly, Barn, and Cody.