July 5th, 2022
Feed the cat. Save the world. Fall in love?
Israfil isn't a cat person. Or a people person. Actually, he doesn't like anyone or anything, yet for some reason, once he's released after millennia from his prison, he accidentally acquires a feline.
But Kitty, and her many—many—demands, is nothing compared to the human he encounters.
Serafina is a treasure hunter, and she won't let anything get in her way, not even a horseman of the apocalypse and his talkative cat.
As they explore dangerous catacombs in search of a magical artifact, she not only has to watch out for traps but keep a tether on her attraction. A losing cause since she is tempted to find out if dragons are big all over. The good news? If this confirmed bachelorette succumbs to allure, it will be a temporary fling because he's not into commitment.
What they didn't count on? A meddling Kitty and love.
Before Kitty almost ended the world, she—a female of a mature five years, who’d thankfully managed to avoid the impregnation trap suffered by her other litter mates—roamed the streets, stealing scraps and hunting rats whilst evading death. Good thing she still had seven lives left, as the streets could be hard and existence often short.
That all changed when she freed a Jinn from a glass bottle—rolled that sucker right off the edge of the shelf where it taunted her. The smoky presence she released initially scared her. In a panic, Kitty wished to be somewhere else and poof! She appeared in the middle of a desert, where she encountered a dragon in human form. It should be noted she had little use for the two-legged unless they had food to give.READ MORE
She couldn’t have said what appealed to her about the oversized male atop the boney beast that carried it; however, when he scooped up Kitty and placed her in the most regal of positions—in front of him on his steed—she decided to keep him on as her servant.
Thus far, it had worked in her favor. He fed her from his plate, the best parts of course. Scratched her with the right amount of pressure behind the ears. Stroked her fur until it became sleek. He also led an interesting life that involved much exploration—oftentimes in places with prey for her to hunt.
When they weren’t scouring the world for his enemies, they stayed in a lovely home with plenty of holes in the walls for her to investigate, mice to eat, and a chance to show off to other less fortunate felines who envied her majestic nature and devoted, two-legged servant.
A servant deeply troubled.
Her little brain had a hard time grasping why he seemed malcontent. How she wished she could understand.
And suddenly she did. The street cat went from having simple thoughts and desires to being a complex being with insight thanks to the jinn she'd released. Everyone knew jinn—also known as Shaitan and genies depending on the level of power—always gave three wishes. She'd now used two.
The second allowed her to perceive the world in a new fashion that fed her curiosity. A dangerous thing for a feline with several lives left and one last wish.
But first… Where was her servant with her dinner?
The cat in Israfil's lap purred as he stroked its silken fur. He'd never been one for felines, or canines for that matter. The only thing close to a pet that he ever owned was his horse, Kliiv, who'd served him well and continued to do so even after death.
Years spent carefully carving runes in a bone left behind by his steed meant when he returned to the world, he could count on Kliiv's solid presence. Magic gave the soul he'd kept a corporeal form, with a few modifications such as a coat dark as night, eyes blazing red, and height. Kliiv now stood several handspans taller than he had in life, and when Israfil’s mount huffed through his nostrils, the smoke held a hint of sulfur, while the hooves left sparks when clipping across rock.
"I really don't see why we came here, Kitty."
Israfil bestowed upon the feline a simple name because she rejected everything else. Kitty had a very distinct way of making her feelings known. Feed her the wrong thing? She'd slice your hand open. Didn't give her petting when demanded? More scratches.
Her demanding nature actually endeared her to him, not that he'd ever admit it. It would ruin his reputation. As to how they came to be a pair…
She'd been in the desert when he'd emerged from a three-thousand-year imprisonment, sitting calmly on her haunches, expression haughty, clearly waiting for him to pick her up. He'd been carting her around ever since. At times, he felt like her servant.
Ridiculous, of course. As if he'd ever serve a cat.
Kitty glanced at him and blinked.
"Don't give me that look. I'm aware of why we came, but I'd still rather be anywhere else. Maybe I'll get lucky and admitting I need help will kill me." A man could hope, even if it hadn't worked in the past.
“Meow.” Kitty uncurled herself and leapt from the high back of the horse to the ground.
"I'll whine if I want to," he huffed, slipping off his mount. How far he'd fallen. A dragon mage arguing with his cat. A cat who couldn't even speak!
Used to be, Israfil didn't have to ask for help because he'd been a knowledgeable person with all the answers. But that was in the old world. Time passed while he essentially stood still. The modern world arrived, and he'd yet to completely catch up. For all he'd learned since his release, there remained much he didn't understand. Technology being a prime example. He still didn't grasp phones and how they allowed people to talk across great distances. And this thing they called television? Why watch a performance on a box rather than in person?
Blame humans. Since they couldn't wield magic, they built. Roads, buildings, vehicles that could fly. The world was a much different place now, and the dragons he used to lord over had changed with it. His kind had gone from being top of the evolutionary chain to hiding from humans. They hid their existence because, apparently, dragons had been almost wiped out. Their own fault for banishing the dragon mages!
He still couldn't believe their arrogant nerve. Even now, the descendants of his people refused to properly bow to the mages who not only beat them in power but age. Their lack of respect would lead to Israfil teaching them a lesson about honoring their betters, but only after he got rid of all the Shaitan.
Nasty creatures from another dimension. They'd caused such havoc in his time. He'd lost many friends and family in the Shaitan wars to the invasive race determined to bring about the end of the world. It might be an improvement, given the blight of humans upon it.
There were so many of them now. What a waste of space. Why couldn't some tasty sheep or delicious goats have been the ones to multiply in the billions?
He returned to the moment and tucked his Kliiv-summoning bone into his pocket as he observed the electrified fence in front of him. It surrounded the compound owned by the Silvergrace family, a Sept of silver dragons who served a golden king. A king who wasn't a mage and who'd married a shifter. Appalling. But he'd not come to discuss their lack of etiquette or politics, but rather—
"The chef is serving pecan pie, if you're hungry."
The sudden feminine voice by his side startled. He'd never heard her approach, and neither had his cat. A discomfited Kitty quickly climbed Israfil to sit on his shoulder. He'd learned to not wince at the pinprick of claws when she did this.
What he couldn't ignore was the woman who’d appeared, heavily pregnant, wearing a yellow frock. How had she suddenly appeared? She wasn't a mage, nor did she wear any invisibility tokens.
"Did the cat actually get your tongue?" she teased with a grin. "I've seen it happen in a few of your futures. Which reminds me, warning, don't forget to feed Kitty."
At her words, he suddenly placed who this woman was despite their never having met. He left communication with the lesser dragons to Jeebrelle, who appeared to have a fondness for one called Babette. He didn't pay much mind to what the modern Septs did; however, this woman? He'd heard of her. "You are the seer, Elspeth."
"And you're Israfil, mighty horseman of the apocalypse, also known as War." The seer beamed at him. "I've been looking forward to meeting you."
He frowned. "Why?"
It never boded well when a seer showed an interest. Just look at what Maalik had done to the original thirteen dragon mages. Claimed the world would end unless they agreed to be frozen until they were needed again. It didn't sound horrible at the time. The reality proved different than expectation. The frozen part only applied to aging because they lived—and had been tortured—every second of every day as they waited to be spit out upon the world again.
Kitty leaped from his shoulder and paced around the pregnant woman before seating herself at her feet.
"You're going to do wonderful things, you and your adorable Kitty." Elspeth crouched and reached for the feline.
Kitty tilted her head and allowed the scratch.
Traitor. She was only supposed to purr when he did it. He scowled. "Don't you dare predict my future."
Elspeth glanced at him over her shoulder. "I wouldn't dare because you'd do anything to avoid it. Especially once you find out what it is. But fear not, while it will be scary, it will turn out to be the best thing ever. If you're not a dumbass about it. " The enigmatic statement didn't reassure.
"You're not making sense," he grumbled.
"Because you asked me to not say anything. Fear not, you'll soon see." Elspeth clapped her hands and rocked on her heels, lost her balance, and landed on her rump. "It's going to be such fun."
"So convinced everything is bad. Relax. Let yourself feel. It might change your outlook on life."
"I feel." Annoyed. Angry. Maybe a little hungry for that aforementioned pie.
The woman's laser stare pinned him, and he almost squirmed. "You've been holding back for a long time. It's time for you to find what makes you happy. " Elspeth's strange gaze focused on the cat. "And you need to allow it to happen."
Kitty sniffed and turned her head, dismissing the seer.
He completely understood. He wanted to get away as well. "I'm looking for Jeebrelle. She told me to meet her at the Silvergrace property." He'd agreed but only if she promised to do it outside the house. Too many dragonesses lived inside, with more than a few looking for a mate.
Never him. A man with his violent past was better off alone.
"Your friend is here." Elspeth went to rise, and he offered the pregnant woman a hand, hoisting her.
"Close by, but you might want to give her a few more minutes since she's spending time with Babette."
"Who I'm also meeting with. Which direction?"
"That way. In the heart of the hedge maze," Elspeth pointed. "But take your time or you might see more than you want, if you know what I mean." She winked.
The implication brought a grimace. It would appear his mage sister had fallen into the same trap as Azrael and Mikhail.
Nasty emotion. Made smart men do stupid things. He'd never allowed it in his life. Loving things never ended well. It was why he didn't have a hoard like the other dragons. Everything he owned he wore, and if he lost it, then he replaced it.
The cat butted against his hand, and he petted it.
"Oh, my, you're in for such a surprise when you realize you're not as hardhearted as you think." Elspeth giggled as she bloody read his mind.
A grave trespass. "Careful, woman, how you speak to me. Push me and I will kill you."
"Are you threatening my mate?" A gravelly query.
The man who appeared from the shadows could have been dragon with the menace he oozed. And yet…
Israfil sniffed and recognized the scent. Demon. Rare for this world and not someone to trifle with. He inclined his head. "You should teach your woman to mind her tongue."
"My mate's tongue does just fine as is," the man drawled, placing his arm around her.
Elspeth giggled. "Luc, I know what you're thinking, and it's so bad."
"Bad for who? Because it ain't bad for me," the man murmured.
Kitty hacked up a hairball, and Israfil almost joined her. "I'm going to find Jeebrelle." He turned and headed away from the happy couple.
A demon and a dragon. Mating. In his day, that kind of blood mixing never happened. Made him wonder what kind of child they'd have. Probably a strange one.
He found the labyrinth easily enough. The hedges were taller than him, thick with bushy branches, the trails in it tricky—if you didn't have a nose. He easily found Jeebrelle and her companion in the center of it, their hair in disarray and Jeebrelle's dress buttoned improperly. The two women looked flushed and rather pleased with themselves.
It reminded him that he'd not been with anyone since his imprisonment. Still had no interest. Sex led to expectations, either of money or affection. He currently had neither.
"Israfil," Jeebrelle exclaimed, the ends of her pale yellow and green hair swirling. "How unexpected."
"You invited me."
"I didn't actually expect you to show." Jeebrelle suddenly noticed her misbuttoned blouse and blushed bright, whereas Babette smirked.
"Fine, then I'll leave," he grumbled. A good thing he didn't care or the humiliation of her reply might have stung. As it was, it reminded him why he hated pretty much everything.
Except his cat. She understood him.
Kitty once more climbed him and hissed at Jeebrelle. He turned on his heel. A sulky dragon mage might have muttered that he didn't want to come. He preferred a silent exit.
"I didn't say go!" Jeebrelle exclaimed.
"If the drama llama wants to leave, then let him. I can think of better things to do, like finish what we started." Babette didn't hide the flirtation in the suggestion.
"Finished? Didn't you, er, um," Jeebrelle stammered.
"Fuck yeah, I did," Babette exclaimed. "But I'm a greedy dragon. I want more."
"Oh," Jeebrelle muttered softly.
When they kissed, Israfil gagged. "Must you do that in front of me?" He came from a time when affection was done in private. Never mind the fact the walls were thin and he heard everything; he had no interest in watching.
"Prude," teased his almost-sister.
"More like some of us are focused on what has to be done." He'd returned to rid the world of Shaitan. It was the only purpose left in his life—along with feeding Kitty.
"The big bad was defeated. We've killed a few of the Shaitan with the God Killer, and Daava, a fount of Jinn information, is now playing for our team. Ain't nothing to worry about," Babette reminded.
"Don't be so sure. I believe the Shaitan have a new plan." His ominous prediction.
"Based on what?" Jeebrelle asked. "There are too few left to open a door to the Iblis." The Iblis being an all-powerful being who wanted to eradicate all living things.
"Just a feeling." He couldn't really explain it any better than that.
"Try taking an antacid for that or smoking a fat doobie. Because that's just your anxiety talking," Babette suggested. "Let's be real, the worst we gotta deal with is another one of those genies getting loose, and we've got a weapon against that now. Worst-case scenario, we shove it in a bottle."
The downplay of his instinct annoyed. "If you don't want to help…"
"Of course, we do," Jeebrelle soothed. "Why else did I invite you but to further our original mission?"
"Does this mean you know where to find one of the artifacts?" Three thousand years ago, seven Shaitan had been imprisoned. Now, all but a few had been released. He'd made it his mission to locate and dispose of them.
"As a matter of fact, I do have a possible location. However, it's going to be awkward getting to it."
"Where?" he asked.
"If the research is correct, it's hidden in some catacombs." Jeebrelle held up a phone. How progressive of her. The screen displayed an image of a stone and bones that could have been located anywhere in the world.
"Where is that?"
It was Babette who replied, "We're going to Paris."COLLAPSE