The Pagemasters Vol 1 Chapter 17

 


Author: Literataku


Chapter 17:
All These Worthless Visions

 

 

I followed Master into the forest, prowling behind on four paws, and grumbling to myself. It had taken about three tries to get myself to transform. This card is certainly quite the cat itself, doesn’t listen at all. Maybe I should have said dog something instead.

The forest creatures would have fled in my human form, and Red didn’t have an animal transformation. So I was stuck with doing this, too my great displeasure. That and of course being the only who could seal books was also a problem.

Now it wasn’t entirely that I had to be an animal that was my big issue. It was more that I still wasn’t used to the cat-like instincts and thought running through my meo- mind! Dammit! Why do I have a speech problem as a cat?

Padding along through the forest was quite a new experience in this form. Everything was bigger and the smells were stronger and numerous. How did I never know how many smells could exist beyond my normal senses?

A bush quivered and I knew it was a field mouse without even seeing it. Maybe I had time to hunt… No! Not doing that. Another cat thing I was having no interest in experiencing to add to the list.

I wasn’t hungry anyway. No reason to even think that kind of thing right now. There was a mission to work on. We had been walking deep into the eastern side of the village well past the Old couple’s ruined cottage. I could hear the sounds of other animals gathering together and talking.

“This is a stupid idea. He’ll never beat Hare. It’s just how things are supposed to be.”

“Hare needs a lesson in humility. Maybe Old Man Tortoise can teach him that.”

“Sure… the slowest guy in the forest. Outrunning the fastest.”

I slipped in quietly, watching the other creatures gossiping amongst themselves. Wolves and squirrels chattering and arguing over betting rules. A deer having an excitable conversation with a cougar about who might win. A sight only seen in fairy tales. Oh right. That is what this is.

“Well bless me soul. The beatstick bird finally shows up to officiate.”

I looked over and saw Fox trotting up with a sly smile on his muzzle. He looked at master than to me tilting his head a moment in confusion. I guess I still retained my human smell in this form. He looked to the bird and then back to me and gave a fox style shrug before turning back to the rest of the crowd. I guess he decided I wasn’t any of his business.

“Ahh, good! We’ve been waiting to get things started. Hare’s been bounding back and forth across the clearing for a while now. It’s getting annoying.”

The cougar stood up and licked her paw as Master set himself down on the ground, me coming up behind him and taking a seat in the dirt behind him, curling my tail up around my feet as I’d seen some cats do. The one thing I had to be glad about was this tail wasn’t getting in the way as long as I let the cat side of my brain handle it. Don’t ask me how. I’m not about to make the mistake of the caterpillar.

The animals all looked toward Master as he opened his wings and signaled for all to gather around. It was quite the sight seeing this diminutive bird having an array of forest creatures gathered around to listen to him speak. They all looked to him with keen interest, the tortoise pulling up slowly to the front of the crowd. While the Hare bounded up and looked like he would bolt away any second. Not from fear but just from being incapable of standing still for any length of time.

“We’re here to settle this debate. Hare versus tortoise in a race through the forest. I have scouted an appropriate length of course for our racers to run through. But to ensure that both parties follow the race properly we shall have impartial judges at key points along the race to prevent cheating.

The five points must be reached, in order, before returning here and the finish line. Each checkpoint is made to be sure that the fastest route is staying in line so no shortcuts or cheating…”

“Or else I get to eat the cheater.” The cougar declared to the crowd, everyone else exchanging slightly worried glances, myself included. And Master expects me to fix a race where this guy wants to eat me? My tail flicked slightly at my feet worriedly before I caught myself and pulled it tight to my paws, willing it to stay curled up.

“Ehem. Now let’s talk about the route around the forest.”

Using a wing, Master began to draw out the path he had chosen in the dirt, pointing out the landmarks for each checkpoint. I didn’t really pay attention since I was more concerned about the being eaten part and trying to hold a cat-poker face even though no one was paying me any mind, they were all focused on the race course.

My mind started to wander a little as I sat and waited, going back to those flashes of things that didn’t happen. What was that? I could feel something starting to tingle in my mind again and I thought toward the future.

A flash of teeth in front of my face, bloody and snarling opening wide and lunging for me as I stabbed forward with a scimitar style blade. A red sword glimmering in the light as it set fire to the forest around the village, I looked out with a grim expression. A woman’s scream as violet light swarmed around me pulling down into someplace strange… Someplace familiar…

“-Blue, the cat, will be placed here at the fourth checkpoint, near the meadow over here.”

“What?” My ears twitched as I came back to myself. The animals all looked at me with mixed reactions. Mainly annoyance and disappointment. I could feel my cheeks warming slightly underneath my fur.

“Ye will be here as the next to last judge, Blue. Right here at the meadow crossroad.” Master pointed to the map he was drawing. I looked at it with blank eyes, I had no idea where anything was or what they all represented. To me, it might as well be a star chart, without streets or roads labeled I was completely lost.

“Right… There, by the meadow… Sounds good.” I muttered a quick confirmation, trying to at least make it sound like I had paid some attention to the discussion. Master gave me a side glance, fortunately, he didn’t look angry, just mildly annoyed.

The wolf muttered toward the fox quietly. I only really caught it due to my superior cat hearing. “Hrmph. This is why I hate town cats, no attention span and almost nothing between the ears.”

Says the creatures that sniff butts, I retorted in my mind. Flexing my claws into the dirt slightly, looking down to make sure my tail was keeping them covered so they didn’t know I was agitated. Wait… why was I getting defensive about this? I wasn’t much of a cat person before this, myself.

“Now that everyone has their roles, everyone get to yer posts and I will make sure everything is ready to start the race.”

The forest creatures began to disperse, some toward the starting line and others toward the Master looked to me and tilted his head in a direction signaling me to follow him. I padded along behind him as he took off, following along and trying to ignore some of the snickers and jeers coming my way.

“Wonder where that bird found that cat….” “Looks like a house pet, no wild cat has fur that shiny…” “Looks too nice to be living this far out…” “think some noble abandoned him?”

I couldn’t help but look over myself in a half vain mindset. Did I really look that pampered? I really didn’t have a baseline to go determine if I appeared like a housecat or not. And I wasn’t sure if some of that talk was an insult or just getting marked to become dinner later on.

Hopefully, this would all be settled and I could be human again before anyone decided on trying to have me as the guest of dinner. I sighed to myself and picked up the pace, running a little ahead of Master as we approached a wide flowery meadow.

“This should be pretty simple. We have to wait for the end of the race but this story is pretty easy to handle and there are no signs of any fairies, humans or magical creatures that could screw this up.”

“So what am I to do, Master?”

“Watch out for the racers and mark off when they get here. Then make sure the Hare takes a nap in the meadow, and then doesn’t wake up until well after the Tortoise gets past and on his way to the finish line.”

He takes a stick and plants it into the ground at the shadow’s edge. “Just mark the shadows’ position when you see them. That way someone doesn’t get upset or call cheating when we can prove that they showed in proper order.”

I nod my head slowly, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to make the Hare sleep away a good portion of the race. I wonder how many hours I’m going to need to knock that guy out. That tortoise didn’t look like he was going anywhere quickly.

“Keep vigilant for other creatures and make sure no one sees you doing anything.”

“I’ll do my best, Master.”

Let the games begin, huh?


 


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