The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 3
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Copyright © 2013 by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake
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Titles in "The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman"
Cat's Call (The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 1)
Cat's Creation (The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 2)
Cat's Confidence (The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 3)
Link to series webpage:
Thank you and love to my wonderful husband for his ongoing support, without which I just couldn't do this writing thing that I so love. Also thanks to my sister and my parents for their love and encouragement.
For a writer, writing is like breathing, it is simply a thing that has to be done, so I would also like to thank my readers who give me an audience for this compulsion.
There were no two ways about it; Charlie was worried. The previous evening the most he had had to be anxious about was where to take Junko as a surprise date, something he still hadn't decided. They had been officially a couple for just over three weeks, but there wasn't really anywhere to go for an evening out in Between and he wanted to visit somewhere different. After all Junko had done all the work in getting him to admit they made a good couple, so he figured he owed her a real date in return. Something special was going to take work, but of course he wasn't quite sure what Junko would expect from a proper date. He'd even gone so far as to question Alexander since the vampire and Junko came from the same place, but had only received the unhelpful reply of: "I have no idea how humans go about courting."
Of course that paled in comparison to what was going through his head now.
He had arrived at breakfast expecting to find everyone waiting for him, because he was running a couple of minutes late, only to find the table light two people. Junko and Thane had been missing and everyone else had been looking pensive. As it turned out a third Task had been called the previous evening and only Junko and Thane had been summoned, which was why Charlie was staring at his cereal and not eating it.
He had never stopped to think what it might be like for there to be a Task and not be one of the ones chosen for it. The fact Junko was on the Task while he found out what it was like to be left sitting at home, was not helping at all.
"They are both well prepared," Yesenia said.
"Totally," Diallo agreed with a nod, but it didn't help Charlie settle.
Everything had been going so well: Yesenia seemed very happy to have Barr as her mentor; they were all settling back into training; everyone they had told seemed really pleased that Charlie and Junko had finally acted on their mutual whatever it was.
Now, suddenly, things were so serious again.
"It's so soon," he said, since that was one thing that kept coming back to him and was possibly the only thought that wouldn't make him sound like a melodramatic twelve year old.
"It does not seem that such matters work to a particular timetable," Alexander said, "but yes, it does seem somewhat expedited."
Kaelyn nodded as well and patted his hand, giving him a small supportive smile.
He was overreacting, he was sure. He was well aware that both of his friends were superb fighters, as well as being able to blend in, adapt, and were more than capable of taking on anything that came their way. It wasn't that he doubted either of them, he just couldn't help thinking up nightmare scenarios in his head. He'd always had a vivid imagination and it wasn't a blessing in such situations.
That he didn't know anything about the Task was also preying on his mind. They might have only had two Tasks prior to this one, but he had become used to always being in the loop. Questions were going round and round in his head as he tried to figure out why Junko and Thane might have been chosen above the rest of them. The fact he was supposed to be a leader and had no idea what was going on did not sit right, or at least that was what he was telling himself.
"The Task probably just needed someone who can swim and someone he might actually listen to when they told him to get out," Yesenia said, clearly attempting to cheer him up.
He did his best to give her a smile for trying, but breakfast was rapidly becoming awkward. This was not a scenario he had imagined happening so soon and it was harder to deal with than he would have guessed.
"Sorry," he said, pushing his bowl away and standing up, "I'll see you later."
He left quickly before anyone could try and convince him to stay. There was no point staring at food he was not going to eat and he really wasn't in a pep talk kind of mood. He didn't know what to do in his current situation and he was torn between trying to find Akari or going to visit the Seer, so he let his legs decide while his brain just worried. The door to the Seer's rooms was open when he arrived and he went up to them and knocked quietly to announce his presence. It probably wasn't necessary, but he liked to be polite.
"Come in, Charlie," the Seer said where she was eating her own breakfast, "please join me."
The Seer was among her pile of cushions with a small table just in front of her and Charlie walked in and sat down to her right. He was handed a cup of tea before he even opened his mouth.
"Thank you," were, hence, his first words.
"What troubles you?" the Seer asked.
"Am I allowed to know about the third Task?" he asked, since there was no point in beating around the bush.
"Why would you wish to know," the Seer asked, sipping her own tea, "it is not yours to complete?"
That was the kind of answer Charlie had been expecting.
"I know," he replied, "but I'm supposed to be one of the leaders of the group and I don't want to interfere," well he did, but he knew that wouldn't be right, "but I want to be prepared."
He had to think about that, because he was still sorting out everything in his head.
"In case Junko or Thane needs something when they come back," he finally replied, because he knew it was the most he could do.
"Are you sure it is Thane you are worried about?"
That made Charlie stop and think again even though he wanted to say yes straight away.
"Yes," he eventually decided, "but I am more worried about Junko. Not because I think she is less capable or ..."
The Seer smiled at him and patted his knee as he ran out of words and blushed.
"Allowing our loved ones into danger is always hard," the Seer told him and he was completely unsurprised that she knew about his fledgling relationship even though neither he nor Junko had specifically told her.
"I'm crap at this," he finally confessed. "I don't know what to do."
"There is nothing we can do," the Seer said, taking his hand gently in her own, "except try not to worry too much."
"Do you worry?" he blurted out.
That earned him another gentle smile.
"All the time. You are my children and yet I must send you into danger, but I trust in your strengths and your weaknesses and the power the Great Spirits have entrusted to you. It was a very long time ago, but I still remember the first time I sent Questors to a Task. To let them go when I had seen what awaited them was one of the hardest moments in my life. It has not become much easier with time."
Charlie had never thought of it like that. Of course the Seer had also been there when Questors had not come back, which had to make every time even worse. It was hard to imagine.
"I'm trying to trust," he said, "but it's hard."
"Each Task is different," the Seer told him, "but I can see the reasoning behind the choice of each Questor as they are summoned. I do not think it will help you to explain what the current Task is about. In the end that will just give you more definite ideas to worry about. Just know that Thane and Junko are well suited to what they have been sent to do. They are strong and thanks to you and Alexander they work well together."
"Me and Alexander?"
"It is your example which brought this group together," the Seer said and handed him a piece of fruit from her own plate. "You have done far more than you realise."
Feeling it would be rude not to eat what he had been given, since it was in fact the Seer's breakfast, Charlie popped the fruit into his mouth. Only after he had done this did he realise he needed to reply.
"They're really well prepared?" he asked, swallowing quickly and deciding to skirt round talking about himself; for once he wasn't worried about that.
The Seer smiled at him and gave him half a buttered bread roll.
"Of course," she said in her usual serene manner.
By the time Charlie left the Seer he had been fed a decent breakfast without the Seer so much as mentioning the fact she was doing it. They kept talking once all the food was gone and he felt a little better, both thanks to the food and thanks to the talking. The Seer hadn't given him any concrete information, but, as usual, she had seen right to the heart of his problem and helped set his mind a little more at ease. He was still worried, but it felt less like someone had just dumped a house on his shoulders without even so much as a polite, 'here, hold this'.
It was only as he walked out of the Seer's rooms that he realised he was running way behind his usual schedule.
"Sorry I'm late," he said as soon as he hurried into his training arena, "I was talking to the Seer."
Akari gave him a very hard stare, one that Charlie knew was appraising him. When his mentor felt like it the man had a look almost as penetrating as the Seer's.
"Run," Akari finally said and Charlie resigned himself to going in circles for at least an hour.
The thing about running was that it required his body, but not his mind. At first his thoughts were churning. He'd think of one thing and then that would lead to another, which would cause an avalanche of more thoughts, none of which were very settling. On his first lap alone he'd managed to conjure up all sorts of possibilities, most of them horrible, that he had honestly thought his talk with the Seer had put to bed.
"Do not think, run," Akari said as Charlie went past on to lap two.
"I'm trying," he replied and did his best to put his worries aside.
It worked about as well as a chocolate tea pot.
He'd always had the same problem; his brain refused to not think. The reason he had originally taken up reading as a hobby was because he could never get to sleep at night just by lying there. At home he had had to read until he was too tired to keep his eyes open. Of course since coming to Between he didn't often have that problem anymore.
"Focus on your breathing," Akari told him. "Verbalise your breath inside your mind."
Once upon a time Charlie would have found that cruel and unusual punishment, but right about then he grabbed at the instruction with both hands. His brain had a nasty habit of not obeying instructions and his thoughts did try to rebel. He wanted to ask questions and run over ideas, but he refused to let it happen. Bringing his stubborn side to bear, he forced himself to only think about in and out. It might have been silly, but he started muttering it under his breath as well.
It was probably less than a minute before his focus failed. Without him even realising it he was back to worrying. Mentally chastising himself he forced his mind back to his breathing. Practicing his telekinesis had taught him focus, but he wasn't usually anxious about anything when he did that and it was harder to put aside real worries. With an effort of will, he used sounding off his breaths as a mantra. He point blank refused to allow any other thought to filter into his head, bringing his breathing into time with the thuds of his running feet.
The instruction came as something of a shock as it dragged Charlie back to reality. It was almost a surprise as he realised he was covered in sweat and all his muscles were aching from continuous use. He had no idea how long he had been running, but he felt a lot calmer for it and his brain was blissfully empty. Akari was holding a large beaker of water and a towel and Charlie jogged over, feeling strangely refreshed even though his body was tired.
"Once you are recovered, pick a shape you have not yet used and transform into it," his mentor told him, holding out first the water and then the towel; "something of a medium size."
Charlie just gave a slight nod as he sipped the water. Akari had a plan to keep him occupied and he was perfectly happy to go along with that. Undoubtedly he would be paying for it the next day as his whole body rebelled, but it beat worrying.
As he stepped out of the shower, Charlie was still worrying about Junko even though he was trying not to. He had worked hard through his entire training day and mostly he'd managed to concentrate, but once left to his own devices the anxiety had come back. It was muted to what it had been, but it was there.
He was wandering back into the bedroom with a towel over his hair when the summons hit. The Seer's voice sounded in his head, smothering everything else and he had just about enough wherewithal to grab a robe as he walked past it before he was heading out of the door. His hair was still dripping when he walked into the Seer's rooms and joined Kaelyn sitting on the floor. He had not noticed Alexander behind him as he entered, but his vampire friend was close beside him almost immediately.
As soon as Alexander settled next to him, Charlie had the distinct impression their company was complete, but the Seer did not raise her head. In fact they were left sitting silently for what seemed like some time before Akari, Jersan and Pavaan also entered the room. However, Charlie had no time to wonder why, because as soon as their mentors appeared the Seer moved.
"Questors, you have a Task."
The familiar words pulled his mind into the depths of the Seer's dark eyes and his consciousness opened. The first thing he saw was a dragon and not one which was familiar. He had seen several different types when training with Alexander, but this one was sturdier than any of the forms he had seen his friend take. It was emerald green and black, with scales that shone in the light that bathed it, and it had a huge wingspan. A crest along its spine and over the top of its head gave it a regal air as it lifted its snout and bellowed a cry to the light purple sky.
Charlie felt the roar reverberate through his bones and he heard loss and pain that cut deeply into his mind. Everything about the sound was wrong. It spoke to something in his soul and, if he could have, he would have reached out.
Even as he was still reeling, his thoughts moved on to yet more dragons, however, these were not quite as regal, but just as sturdy and they were flying. All of them were deep red or black rather than green and each was carrying two people on its back. One of the riders was sat at the front, ahead of the large wings and appeared to be directing their dragon and the other was at the rear, facing backwards just above the tail and looked to be armed. Charlie realised he was seeing an aerial battle, or rather, as a projectile from one of the shooters bounced harmlessly off another dragon's hide, leaving a splotch of colour behind, a mock aerial battle. He could almost feel the excitement and fun the riders were having in their game as they swooped through the air with skilful grace. Their whoops and calls echoed in his ears.
As the vision moved on he saw the face of a young woman. She looked angry, her wild blonde curls falling round a pretty face with icy grey eyes that was marred by a scowl. She seemed to be saying something, ranting at someone Charlie could not see, but he could not hear the words, so he had to assume they were not important. There was something regal about her, even as she shouted into the silence of his mind and he gained the impression of responsibility and power. She was fundamental to what he was being shown, that much was clear, but little more information was given as the vision changed again.
This time Charlie saw a man. At a guess Charlie would have said he was older than the woman by at least five years, but still young. He had dark eyes and dark hair and where the woman had been fair skinned, his was olive and tanned and he was laughing at something. In Charlie's opinion he seemed to be completely the woman's opposite in appearance and temperament, but there was something similar about them. This man had authority, just like the woman; Charlie could feel it before this mental image melted away as well.
The man and the woman were definitely the protagonists of the Task and once he had their measure the vision moved on and Charlie found his mind's eye full of a gleaming city. It was breathtakingly beautiful, made out of grey and white stone with high towers and the walls reflected the pale light of the sun as it teamed with life. The whole scene was dramatic and bustling, until it suddenly wasn't. In an instant the towers were fallen, the white walls were stained with blood and soot and all life seemed to be gone.
The destruction filled Charlie's heart with a sadness which was not quite his own. It felt like an old grief, as if he was looking at something far in the past and the vision lingered for a few moments. This was history, he knew it without understanding how and it was a tragedy. When his mental landscape shifted this time it was to two banners. One was made of blue, silver and white and showed a dragon rearing. The other was red, gold and black and showed a dragon breathing fire. As Charlie watched, the banners moved together and merged until the two dragons were curled around each other and it was difficult to tell if they were embracing or fighting. This almost felt like a question rather than a reality.
Charlie blinked as the vision slowly released his mind and found himself once again looking at the Seer. However, the young looking woman lifted her head further to stare over the top of him and his other two friends.
"Mentors, you must prepare your Questors for this Task," the Seer said.
Charlie had no idea what happened next as he sat there still partly in thrall of the summons. He could sense power moving at the edges of his consciousness, but it was not meant for him, so he could not see into it. It was as if he was part of the experience, but only to a small extent and his thoughts drifted around what he had already been shown. He honestly had no idea how long it was before the Seer's gaze shifted back to him and his two companions.
"Dragon Questor, learn this shape," the Seer said and Charlie felt rather than saw Alexander react and shift position beside him. "Questors, in six weeks you must go here," she finished without giving Alexander any time to recover.
The image of a snowy mountain pass flashed into Charlie's mind and burnt itself into his memory. It was as if he could feel the biting wind and smell the clean, crisp air and he knew he would never forget the crystal clear vision.
Thank you very much for reading this sample chapter. If you enjoyed it, you can find the full novel at many of the major eBook retailers. Please click the link for more information:
Other Books in the Series
Book #1 - Cat's Call by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Charlie Waterman is eighteen and until he is assaulted by a cat figurine and wakes up with a tail, he is boringly normal. Seven great Spirits guard the universal Balance against the forces of chaos and it is time for them to choose new Questors to wield their power and be their mortal advocates. Charlie is supposed to be the Questor of the Cat Spirit, but no one bothered to ask him if he wanted to be. Taken to Between to explore his new powers he meets his fellow Questors: dragon; wolf; horse; spider; hawk; dolphin. They all seem to know what they're doing, but, fighting to maintain control, Charlie's two years too old and accidentally turning into a cat while asleep, which is plain embarrassing.
Book #2 - Cat's Creation by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Life goes on for the residents of Between as they struggle to recover from the events that nearly destroyed their home and left a gaping hole in the structure of their world. As one of the leaders of the Questors, Charlie feels responsible for helping them to remain strong and together, but he's not sure how. To make his problems worse, his magic has become unreliable, and yet there is another task to deal with; one that requires all seven Questors to be at their magical peak. The difficult road before them ends in, Mydarec, a world run by mafia-style families, where sorcerers and vampires are a part of every-day living. Forced to play a role that could cost him his life and plagued by a vision of death, Charlie must struggle to overcome his own insecurities and, with his friends, figure out why they have been sent to such a dangerous world.
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Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in England. We publish on a diverse selection of eBook sites. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
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