AvatarCat12: Hey everyone! And welcome back to the Nightfang series! This time, we'll be doing Nightfang Potter And The Trophy Of Fire, the fourth book in this epic tale. Plus, Harry and his friends won't return here for quite a little while. When they DO appear in the commentary, they'll be here temporarily.
But anyways, here's the disclaimer and the blurb of the fourth book.
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling and Erin Hunter own both series. I'm just mixing them together for the enjoyment of others.
Blurb: The fourth book starring Nightfang and his coming of age story has arrived. He wants to get away from his malevolent Dursley kin and go to the Global AirBall Trophy with Redstone, Fawnwillow, and the other Weasley cats. He also wants to dream about his crush Rainleaf Chang (and do more than dream).
But Nightfang also wants to find out about the mysterious event happening at the Forest, School of Warriorism this year. An event involving two other warrior schools from around the world and a competition that hadn't appeared since World War 1.
All in all, Nightfang just wants to be a normal cat. A normal fourteen-year-old warrior cat. But sadly, he knows that he's not a normal cat, even by normal warrior cat standards. He knows that he's doomed to be different.
And in this case, normal can be deadly.
Publishing Date: July 6, 2012
The House Of The Riddles
The villagers of Mitkof Island still called it "the Riddle House," even though it was years since the Riddle family lived there. It stood on a mountain overseeing the village, some of its windows boarded, tiles missing from its roof, and ivy spreading free over the frost. Once, it was a fine-looking mansion and the largest and grandest building for miles. But now, the Riddle House was now humid, ruined, and empty.
The humans, cats, and dogs all agreed that the old house was "creepy." In the sixties, something strange and horrible had happened there, something that the older residents of the village still liked to talk over when themes for gossip were unusual. The story had been picked over so many times, and had been inflated in so many areas, that nobody was sure what the truth was anymore. Every version of the tale, however, started in the same place. Fifty years before, at dawn on a summer's cool morning when the Riddle House was still well kept and impressive, a maid had entered the drawing room to find all three of her master's Manx cats dead.
The maid had run screaming down the mountain path into the village and roused as many people and dogs as she could.
"Lying there with their eyes wide open! Cold as ice! Still in their dinner things! But no blood or claw marks!"
The police and their dogs were summoned, and the whole of Mitkof Island were boiling with pure shock, curious, and obviously excited. Nobody wasted their breath pretending to feel sad about the Riddle cats, for they were very unpopular. Elderly Mr. and Mrs. Riddle were very rich, snooty, and rude, and their grown-up son, Panther, had been worse. All the villagers cared about was about the identity of their murderer. For three healthy cat did not drop dead of natural causes on that night.
The Drooped Jowls, the village bar for dogs, seemed to be barking up a storm that night; all the dogs in the town seemed to have turned out to discuss the murders. They had been rewarded for leaving their fireplaces and kibble when the Riddles' cook's poodle arrived vividly in their midst and declared to the silent tavern that a cat called Drake Bryce had just been sent to the pound.
"Drake!" lots of cats and dogs yowled barked. "Never!"
Drake was the Riddles' gardener's old gray Chartreux. He lived alone in a run-down cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House after the war in Iraq. Drake had come back from the war in Iraq with a stiff hind leg and a great loathing of crowds, cats and dogs, and loud noises, and he had been helping out in working for the Riddles ever since.
There was a rush to buy the cook's poodle drinks and kibble to hear some more details.
"Always thought he was odd," she told the villagers after her fourth bowl of wine and first bowl of kibble. "Unfriendly like. I'm sure if I offered him a cup, I'd offer it about a hundred times. He didn't never want to mix."
An Irish Setter spoke up. "He had a hard war. He likes the quiet life. That's no reason to-"
But the poodle barked, "Well, who else had a key to the back door, then? There was a spare key hanging in the gardener's hut far back as I remember! Nobody forced the door open last night! No broken windows! All Drake had to do was just creep up to the big house while we was all sleeping..."
The dogs traded dark looks at this and began muttering among themselves. "I always thought that cat had a nasty look about him," a Dalmatian/pointer mix growled.
"If you ask me, the war turned him into a different cat," the landlord's mastiff added.
"Told you I wouldn't like to get on his bad side, didn't I, Abby?" an excited-looking Maltese told her pug friend.
The pug nodded ardently. "He has a horrible temper. I remember when he was a kitten..."
The next morning, hardly anyone in Mitkof Island doubted that Drake killed the Riddle cats. But over in the dark and dingy pound, Drake was stubbornly repeating again and again that he was innocent, and that the only creature he saw near the house on the day of their deaths was a cat, a stranger with no tail, black fur, and orange-red eyes. Nobody else in the village had seen any such cat, and the police dogs were sure Drake made this cat up.
Then, just when things were looking bad for him, the report on the Riddle cats' bodies came back and changed everything. The police dogs had never seen an odder report. A team of human vets had examined the bodies and had seen that the cats were not poisoned, stabbed, shot, choked, throttled, or harmed at all. In fact (the report continued), the Riddles were in perfect health...apart from being dead.
The vets did note (as if resolute on finding something wrong with the bodies) that the cats had a look of horror on their faces. But as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three cats dying of fright?
Since there was no proof that the Riddle cats were murdered, the police dogs were forced to let Drake go.
The Riddle cats were buried in the Mitkof Island pet graveyard, and their graves persisted as objects of curiosity for a while. To everyone's surprise, and in a cloud of suspicion, Drake had returned to his cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House.
"I'm sure he killed them, and I don't care what the police say," Abby the pug in the Drooped Jowls bar said. "And if he had any decency, he'd leave by tomorrow morning, knowing as how he knows he did it."
But Drake did not leave. He stayed to manage the garden for the next family who lived in the Riddle House, and then the next...but neither family stayed for long. Perhaps it was somewhat because of Drake that the new owners said there was a nasty feeling about the place, which, in the lack of people, fell into disrepair.
The wealthy human man who owned the Riddle House neither lived there nor put it to any use. They said that he kept it for "tax reasons," though nobody was sure what these might be. The wealthy owner still paid Drake to keep the mice and rats away from the garden. Drake was getting old now, very deaf and his bad leg stiffer than ever. But he was still seen hunting for rats in the flower beds in fine weather, though the rats were starting to be more cunning and creep up on him.
Rats were not the only things Drake had to worry about either. Human teenagers from the village made a habit of throwing stones through the Riddle House's windows. They would always ride their motorcycles over the lawns Drake worked so hard to keep clean of vermin. Once or twice, they broke into the old house for a dare. They knew that old Drake's devoutness to the house and the grounds amounted almost to a mania, and it amused them to see him limping towards them, hissing croakily at them. Drake, for his part, believed the boys persecuted him because they, like their kin, thought him as a cat killer.
So when Drake awoke one night in August and saw something very odd up at the old house, he merely expected the teenagers to have gone one step further in their attempts to punish him.
It was his bad leg that woke him; it pained him worse than ever in his old age. He got up and limped downstairs into the kitchen with the idea of replenishing his hot-water bottle to ease the stiffness in his paw, thanks to him living with no housefolk. Sitting at the top of the sink, filling the kettle, he looked up at the Riddle House to see lights twinkling in its upper windows. Drake knew at once what was going on. The teens had broken into the house again, and judging by the flaming quality of the light, they had begun to start a fire.
"Stupid kids!" he spat.
Drake could not and would not call the police, for he had mistrusted them ever since they took him in for asking about the Riddles' deaths. He hurried back upstairs as fast as his bad leg would allow and was soon back in his kitchen, shaking his short pelt and removing a rusty old key from its hook by the door. He locked the door, put his own house key under a rug, and set off into the night.
The front door of the Riddle House had no sign of being forced, nor did any of the windows. So Drake limped around to the back of the house until he reached a door completely hidden by ivy, leapt up to hang onto the knob, put the key into the lock, and opened the door without a sound.
He found himself into the hollow kitchen; Drake had not entered it for many years. Still, even though it was very dark, he remembered where the door into the hall was and felt his way to it. His nostrils were full of the smell of decay, his ears pricked for any sound of footsteps or voices.
Drake reached the hall, which was lighter owing to the large windows on either side of the front door, and started to climb the stairs. As he padded up, he blessed the dust that lay thick upon the stone, because it muffled the sound of his paws. On the landing, the Chartreux turned right and saw at once where the intruders were.
At the end of the passage, a door was standing ajar, and a flickering light shone through the gap, casting a long slice of gold across the black floor. Quietly, Drake edged closer and closer, able to see a thin slice of the room beyond, for the fire had been lit in the grate. This surprised him, for he had no idea the fire could be lit without someone around. Then he stood still and listened raptly, for a cat's meow spoke within the room, sounding timid and fearful.
"My Lord, if you still hunger, there is some more in the bottle."
"Later," a second voice rumbled. This somehow belonged to a bear...but it was strangely low and cold as a sudden icy wind. Something about that voice made the fur on the back of Drake's neck stand up. "Move me closer to the fire, Wormtail."
Drake turned one of his ears to the door, trying to hear better. Then the clink of a bottle being put down upon some hard surface came, and then the scraping noise of a heavy chair being dragged across the floor was heard. Drake caught a glimpse of a small cat, his back towards the door as he pushed the chair into place. He was wearing a long black cloak, and he appeared to be missing a toe on one of his paws. Then he went out of sight again.
"Where is Nagasri?" the cold voice rasped.
"I...don't know, My Lord," the cat mewled nervously. "She set out to explore the house some time ago, I think."
"Milk her before we go to bed, Wormtail," the second voice rumbled. "I will be hungry during the night. The journey has tired me critically, and I need my sleep."
Confused, Drake swiveled his ear still closer to the door, listening very hard. There was a pause, and then the cat named Wormtail spoke again.
"My Lord, how long we are to stay here?"
The cold voice growled, "Perhaps a quarter-moon...or longer. The place is soberly restful, and the plan cannot go on yet. It would be unwise to act before the AirBall World Trophy is over."
Drake injected a gnarled claw into his ear and slowly rotated it. Besides a buildup of earwax, he had also heard a word that was not a word: "AirBall."
"The...AirBall World Trophy, My Lord?" Wormtail squeaked as Drake still dug vigorously into his ear. "Forgive me, but...I do not understand. Why should we wait until it is over?"
"Because, you mouse-hearted fool, at this very moment, warrior cats from all over the world, big and small, are pouring into the country. And meddlers from the Government of Warriorism will be on duty, on the watch for signs of strange activity, checking and double-checking identities. They will be obsessed with security, for fear that the kittypets or Twolegs see anything. So we shall wait."
Drake stopped clearing out his ear and took his claw out of that ear. He had just heard the words "Government of Warriorism," "warrior cats," and "kittypets." Plainly, each of these words meant something secret, and Drake could think of only two animals who would speak in code: rats and crows. So the Chartreux crouched low again and listened more closely still.
"You are still determined?" Wormtail asked quietly.
"Of course." There was a note of malice in the cold voice now.
A slight pause...then this Wormtail cat spoke, the words tumbling from him in a rush. It sounded like he was forcing himself to say this before he lost his bravery.
"You know you could do this without Nightfang Potter."
Another pause, more delayed. Then...the second voice hissed softly, "Without him, you say? I see it now..."
The cat's voice rose squeakily, "My Lord, I am not concerned for him! He means nothing to me! I say that if we use another warrior, any if I may add, the thing could be done more quickly! If you let me leave you for a short while...you know I can disguise myself as a mouse very well...I could be back here in two days with a suitable cat."
"Not trying lure Potter into one of your summer jobs, are we?" a newcomer retorted scornfully. "Last cat that went in the Section of Secrecies never came out."
"Quiet," the cold voice rumbled again. To Wormtail, it hissed softly, "I could use another cat. That is true."
"It makes sense," Wormtail mewed, sounding relieved. "Laying your claws on Nightfang Potter would be hard. He is so well protected."
The cold voice replied, "And so you offer to fetch me a substitute? Perhaps the task of nursing me has become tedious for you, Wormtail? Could this idea of deserting the plan be a weak effort to forsake me?"
Wormtail shook his head. "No, My Lord! I-I have no wish to leave you, none at all!"
"Lies!" hissed the second voice. "I can always tell! You are lamenting on returning to me. You sicken me. I see you cringe whenever you look at me, feel you tremor when you touch me..."
"No! My devotion to you-"
"-is nothing but cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go. How am I to survive without you when I need feeding every few hours or so? Who is to milk Nagasri?"
Wormtail tried again, "But you seem so much stronger-"
But the second voice just breathed, "Do not lie to me. I am no stronger than a rat, and a few days alone would rob me of the little health I have regained under your inept care. So silence!"
Wormtail, who was spitting ramblingly, fell silent at once. For a few seconds, Drake heard nothing but the fire crackling, then the cold voice spoke again, in a hiss-like whisper.
"I have my reasons for using Potter, as I have already explained, and I will use no other. I have waited for this for thirteen years. A few more moons, and it will make no difference. As for the shield incasing him, I believe my plan will be successful. The only thing left is a little courage from you, Wormtail, courage you will find. Unless you wish to feel the full amount of power of Red Helmet's wrath?"
"My Lord, please!" Wormtail whimpered, panic in his voice now. "All through our journey, I have gone over the plan in my head. Wetnose Jorkin's loss will not go ignored for long. And if we proceed, if I murder-"
The second voice rasped, "If? If? If you follow the plan, Wormtail, the Government would never need to know that anyone else died. You will do this quietly and without any trouble; I only wish I could do it myself, but in my present condition...no. Now come, Wormtail, one more death and our path to Nightfang is clear. I do not ask you to do it alone. By that time, my faithful servant will have rejoined us."
"I AM a faithful servant," Wormtail mewled, a trace of glumness in his mew.
"Let me say this differently," the second voice countered coldly. "I need somebody with brains, somebody whose loyalty will never waver. And you, regrettably, justify neither necessity."
There was a sulky edge to Wormtail's mew now as he countered, "I was the one who found you. I brought you Wetnose Jorkins. Remember?"
The second voice replied with humor, "True. That was an extraordinary performance I would not have thought you would have done, Wormtail. Still, if truth be told, were you not aware of how useful she would be when you caught her?"
"I-I thought she might be useful, My Lord."
"Lies," the second voice hissed again, the cruel amusement more obvious than ever. "But I do not deny that her information was helpful. Without it, I would never have formed our plan, and for that, you will have your reward, Wormtail. This is your reward: I will let you perform a very important task for me, one that many would give their paws to perform."
"R-really, My Lord? What is my task?" Wormtail sounded terrified yet again.
"Ah, Wormtail, you do not want to wait for the surprise? Your part will come at the very end, but I promise that you will have the honor of being useful like Wetnose Jorkins."
"You...you..." Wormtail's voice suddenly got hoarse, as if his mouth went dry. "Are...are you going...to kill me too?"
The second voice hissed, "Why in the name of the Dark Forest would I want to kill you? I killed Wetnose because I had to. She became nothing after my inquiring, useless. Besides, awkward questions would be asked if she went back to the Government with the news that she met you on her vacation. Cats who are supposed to be dead would do well not to run into Government cats at roadside hotels..."
Wormtail muttered something so quietly that even old Drake could not hear it, but it made the "bear" laugh...a demonic laugh...as cold as his speech.
"Are you saying we could have modified her memory? Remember, Memory Charms can be broken by a powerful warrior, as I proved when I questioned her. It would be an insult to her memory not to use the facts I removed from her."
Out in the corridor, Drake became aware that his claws had sunk into the wood and his fur had started bristling. The bear with the cold voice had killed a cat. He was talking about it with no remorse at all...he was talking about it...with amusement. He was very dangerous, and he was planning more murders. And this Nightfang cat, whoever he was, was in danger.
Now Drake knew what he must do: time to go to the police and Alaska's best hunters. He would creep out of the house and head straight for the nearest police station, but the cold voice was speaking again. So Drake stayed where he was, frozen to the spot, listening with all his might.
"One more murder shall do it, and my faithful servant at the Forest shall perform it well. And Nightfang Potter will be mine, Wormtail. It is decided. There will be no more argument about this...wait. I think I hear Nagasri."
And the bear's voice changed, making noises Drake had never heard before; he was hissing and spitting without drawing any breath. Drake thought he must be having a heart attack or seizure.
And then he heard slithering movement behind him in the dark hallway. He turned to look and found himself paralyzed with fright. Something huge was slithering toward him along the dark corridor floor. As it drew nearer to the shard of firelight, he realized with a jolt of horror that it was a gigantic snake at thirteen feet long; it was big enough to swallow a caribou whole.
Horrified and transfixed, Drake stared as its surging body cut a wide curving track through the thick dust on the floor, coming closer and closer. He thought. What am I going to do? The only place to escape is in the room where the two cats and bear sat plotting murder. But if I stay where I am, the snake would surely kill me!
But before he made his decision, the snake arrived and then, incredibly and amazingly, passed by. It was following the spitting hissing noises made by the cold voice beyond the door, and in a few seconds, the end of its diamond-patterned tail vanished through the gap.
Drake was trembling, and his fur stuck out in all angles now. Inside the room, the cold voice went on with hissing, and Drake suddenly had a strange yet impossible theory. This bear could talk to snakes like he was talking to another bear. But Drake didn't know what was going on. He wanted to be back in his cat bed with his hot-water bottle and a catnip mouse, but the problem was that his legs didn't want to move. As he stood shaking and trying to toughen himself up, the cold voice switched to English again.
"Nagasri has interesting news," it said.
"In-indeed?" Wormtail whimpered.
The voice said, "Indeed. She says there is an old kittypet standing right outside this room, listening to our conversation."
Drake didn't even have a chance to hide himself. There were pawsteps outside the door, and then the door was flung wide open. A small black Sphynx cat with a pointed face and small watery eyes stood before Drake. He looked like he had a crazy sneering look on his face, but there was also a mixture of fear and alarm in his face.
"Let him in, Wormtail. Did you leave your manners in a barn?"
The cold voice came from the ancient lounger before the fire, but Drake couldn't see the speaker. The snake, however, was curled up on the rotting fireplace rug, like some awful parody of a pet dog. Wormtail beckoned Drake into the room, and though he was still deeply shaken, Drake took a deep breath and limped over the threshold.
The fire was the only source of light in the entire room; it cast long shadows upon the walls. Drake stared on at the back of the armchair, feeling confused. He thought there had been a bear in the house, but it seemed to be even smaller than his servant, for Drake could not see the back of his head or even the shoulder hump you would see on a grizzly.
As Drake got near, the voice hissed, "So you heard everything, eh, kittypet?"
"What's that you're calling me?" Drake spat defiantly. Now that the Chartreux was inside the room and it was the time for action, he felt braver. It had always been so in the war in Iraq, staying beside the American soldiers when they needed it.
"I am calling you a kittypet," the voice coolly replied. "One who is not a warrior."
His voice growing even steadier, Drake retorted, "I don't know what you mean by warrior, but I've heard enough to interest the police tonight. You've done murder and you're planning more murder! And I'll tell you this too," he added on a sudden verge of creativity. "My mate knows I'm up here, and I let my owner know I'm coming over. And if I don't come back-"
But the cold voice growled quietly, "You have no mate or Twoleg owner. Nobody knows you are here. You told nobody you were coming. Do not lie to me, kittypet. For I am Red Helmet, and I know all."
"True," the owner of the third voice, a brown tabby, growled. "Do not lie to our Lord."
"Is that right?" Drake retorted roughly. "Lord, is it? Well, I don't think much of your manners, My Lord, but I know how to fight! I've got teeth and claws! Turn 'round and fight me like a cat!"
The cold voice chuckled, his voice barely audible over the crackling flames, "But I am no cat, kittypet. I am much more than that. But why not? I WILL face you after all. Wormtail, turn my chair around."
The Sphynx cat gave a whimper.
"You heard me."
Slowly, looking as if he would rather have done anything also than approach his master and the rug where the snake lay, the cat walked forward and began to turn the chair around. The snake lifted its ugly wedge-shaped head and hissed slightly as the legs of the chair snagged a bit on its rug.
Now the chair was facing Drake, and he saw what was sitting in it. What he saw...was like the spawn of the Devil himself. The gray cat let out a frightened yowl, a yowl so loud that he never heard the words the thing in the chair spoke as a giant black bear's paw reached out towards him. There was a flash of green light, a rushing sound, a yelp, and Drake keeled down. He was dead even before he hit the floor.
Many miles away on Wrangell Island, the cat named Nightfang Potter woke up with a start.
To be continued...
AvatarCat12: What'd you think of that, huh? How was it? I decided to introduce...another cat on here that won't appear until much later in the book. But don't worry; I'm sure you all know who that is! And don't worry; I'll try to update often.
You all know what to do, right? Clicking on the review button and reviewing. By the way, why'd the reviewing stuff change now? Just asking. Anyways, flames will be used to make S'Mores, but constructive criticism and advice are welcome anytime.
See ya next time!