The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 2
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.
Published by Wittegen Press
Copyright 2011 Natasha Duncan-Drake
Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake
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Titles in "The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman" (In reading order)
Cat's Call (The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 1)
Cat's Creation (The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 2)
Cat's Confidence (Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, Book 3)
Link to series webpage:
Thank you to my husband Rob and my sister Sophie for their help and support.
Charlie threw himself to the ground and just missed being decapitated by Diallo's sword. Nearly the whole of their first group training session since he and Alexander had returned had gone the same way. They were just off; it was as simple as that. He had arrived back after being home in England full of high spirits, but his optimism was beginning to sag.
"Let's take five," he said, just shrugging at Diallo's apologetic expression.
Before the first task and before Deborah had been removed as a mentor, all seven Questors had been working well together, but their cohesion had slipped. Since he had been chosen by the Cat Spirit and brought to Between to be trained, he had only seen improvement in the way all of them worked as a team, but not anymore. He couldn't even blame it on the injuries he, Alexander and Junko had sustained during the first task, because they were all completely healed.
Their group dynamic was off and there was tension in the team. It was clearly going to take work to put what they had had back in place.
"It's Yesenia," Alexander said as they stepped away from the others.
Charlie opened his mouth to jump to the girl's defence; after all she had been through a great upheaval losing Deborah. Mentors were trusted above all others and given the task of training their Questors, that Deborah had betrayed them all, betrayed Yesenia, must have been an incredible blow.
"She has retreated behind a wall and we are all being too careful around her," Alexander finished before he could speak.
Charlie stopped and then nodded; he couldn't argue with that.
"It might be me as well," he added, unwilling to let Yesenia take all the blame, "I don't feel ... well ... balanced."
"Then you're hiding it well," his friend told him; "it's not you."
There wasn't a lot Charlie could do about that except accept it. He trusted Alexander's judgement and the vampire was not one to mince his words.
Glancing down, Charlie looked at the spirit mark on his arm, with the added design from where he had bonded with the Ring of Darkness. The gold and black ring ran round his wrist and tendrils came off it, down around the cat, so that the two were inextricably bound together. The magic given to him by the Cat Spirit was still there at his beck and call, but he could feel the power from the magical object as well, linked as obviously as the designs on his arm that represented them. He couldn't help wondering if it was causing problems.
"What do we do about it?" he asked, glancing at where the others were sharing out cups of water.
Having spent the last week with the vampire out of their normal setting, Charlie felt closest to Alexander. Taking his friend to his home, showing Alexander around and basically just having fun had been good for them both. They were supposed to be the leaders of the team, chosen specifically by the Cat and Dragon spirits for some qualities that Charlie still often doubted were there, and, briefly, he had really begun to feel as if they might manage it. Now he was having doubts again.
However, he definitely hadn't been chosen because he had a defeatist attitude and he mentally shook himself. He was not willing to lose Yesenia because of Deborah's failing and he didn't think Alexander was either.
"I don't know," were not the words he wanted to hear from his friend, "but for now I would suggest we switch to less dangerous exercises. Perhaps our animal forms will be easier."
"It's worth a try," Charlie agreed; it wasn't as if he had any instant fix-it plans either.
Taking a deep breath, he turned and walked over to the others, putting his fears to the back of his mind.
"Let's see if our animals have gone less soft than we have after the break," he said, grinning and trying to make a joke of the tension he knew they could all feel.
"Speak for yourself," Thane said, already working on his buttons, "some of us did not get a holiday."
"Well you've still gone soft without Charlie and I to keep you in line," Alexander said in a very dry tone.
"Ooh, that's fighting talk," Thane joked back.
Charlie rolled his eyes and began to strip, as did the others. As he gathered his magic and concentrated on his lynx form he felt the magical atmosphere in the room shift as the others did the same. Alexander had chosen his small dragon shape and the other five all flowed into their given animals.
Kaelyn flew up to perch on one of the high platforms, watching them all with her sharp, hawk eyes and Thane sped off down the pool in the middle of the arena, his dolphin tail splashing water at his land-bound brethren. That started a race, because Diallo charged off along the side of the pool, claws clicking on the wooden floor and tongue lolling out of his huge wolf muzzle. At least the pair seemed to be having some fun and Charlie could not begrudge them that. That left Junko, who shook out her main and stamped her hooves as she finished transforming, and Yesenia.
Charlie had to work very hard not to shudder when Yesenia achieved her spider form and scuttled off to climb the platform framework. His arachnophobia was still a problem he was trying to overcome. When he looked at Alexander he could tell his friend was mentally laughing at him; Alexander found such a silly fear highly entertaining. He put his ears back to show what he thought of that reaction and then bounded after Diallo; they had training to do and he refused to be laughed at by a vampire.
Two hours later Charlie was no happier and given the way Alexander stalked off, neither was his friend. As Charlie went through his usual warm down routine and then headed to his room to shower, he decided he needed some advice. Hair still wet and the rest of him barely dry under his clothes, he headed off to see the one person who seemed to be the fount of all knowledge.
"Greetings, Questor," the Seer said as he stepped into her apartments, "please, make yourself at home."
The doors had been open and he wasn't really surprised that she had been expecting him.
"Hello, Seer," he said, "thank you."
He walked over to the woman's pile of cushions and sat down, waiting patiently as the Seer calmly poured him a cup of her special tea. At times like this the Seer always appeared so young and delicate with her long dark hair and pale skin, but only when he couldn't see her eyes. As soon as the Seer looked up at him again and he was pinned down by those dark green orbs, he sensed her great age. It was comforting in a way he never would have guessed at before he had come to Between.
"Now," she said with a smile as she passed him the drink, "you are worried."
It seemed that today the Seer was willing to get straight to the point and he nodded.
"Before I left I knew that things didn't feel right, not since ... well Deborah," he replied, not quite sure how to phrase it, "but I thought given time it might settle down. I know Yesenia doesn't have a mentor at the moment, but I'm sure that won't be for long ..."
He realised he had no idea how that was being dealt with.
"Matters are in hand," the Seer assured him with another of her smiles.
"But it's not getting better, it's getting worse." He felt like he was confessing and that he was a horrible failure.
Taking a sip of his tea, he hoped the Seer could point him in the right direction.
"What do you believe is the cause of the tension you feel?" the Seer asked and he couldn't help being a little disappointed; he had been hoping for instant sage advice.
"Yesenia," he said, because it was the simple truth.
Alexander had been perfectly right and there was no point denying it. The rest of the training session had only backed up what they had both seen through the first half of it.
"And what is she doing that is causing this problem?"
"She won't trust us," he said and it came out a little louder and more vehement than he had expected.
It only occurred to him then that he was feeling frustrated as well as worried. The Seer reached out and patted his knee in a gentle, placating gesture.
"We were working so well before," he said, knowing that they had taken a huge step backwards, "we were becoming a great team. I have to admit, when I first came here I thought the Cat Spirit was insane for choosing me and I thought we'd never be able to work together. Then we started to train and all of us began to bond. In the first task Junko, Alexander and I, we had no problem working together. When we were in Japan we seemed to work seamlessly. We used our skills to find the Twin Rings and stop Kyo and we didn't question each other, we just got on with it. It all felt so natural, but now, with everyone there is something off and it's because of Yesenia."
"Why do you think Yesenia is withdrawing from you?"
He had been hoping the Seer would just give him all the answers, but, since she asked, he thought about the question carefully.
"Because she was betrayed," he replied, "and she doesn't want to be betrayed again."
It was more than obvious why things were going downhill.
"But you will not betray her, will you?"
He had been staring into his tea, but he looked up at that and was caught by the Seer's green eyes.
"Of course not," he said, just a little afraid he was being reprimanded.
The Seer favoured him with another of her gentle smiles.
"Then how do you plan to prove to her this is true?"
"I don't know," he admitted helplessly.
Usually he just went with his instincts and tried to engage people, but he'd tried to talk to Yesenia at least three times in their training session and she had barely responded at all. The whole flower day incident when Yesenia has asked if he wanted to have sex popped into his mind and he briefly wondered if that might be an avenue, but dismissed it quickly. Yesenia would probably see right through him and then accuse him of betraying Junko, even though he hadn't actually approached Junko about how he felt, which was actually a whole other thing he had not figured out how to deal with yet.
"Do you think there is a way to make her see past the trauma which has led to this?"
"At the moment I don't think she trusts human beings as far as she can throw them," he said.
As far as he could tell Yesenia wasn't talking to anyone. The girl had not only been betrayed by her mentor, but by what was supposed to be an infallible system. Between was supposed to be safe from such petty things as betrayal and yet they had been sabotaged from within. Charlie really couldn't guess what effect being so close to the situation would have on someone's psyche.
"But, Charlie," the Seer said in her usual gentle tone, "you are not just a human being."
That caught him a little off guard. He looked down at his arm and the spirit mark. Of course he knew there was a cat inside him, he'd been using the power only half an hour previously, but he didn't see how that helped.
"How ...?" he began to ask.
"Perhaps it is not a human being she needs at the moment," the Seer said before he could go on.
"Not a ..." he trailed off as he thought about that and let the idea take root in his mind.
It was kind of crazy, but then his life wasn't exactly sane at the moment and slowly it actually made sense. Yesenia was not talking to any of them beyond what needed to be said for practical matters, so maybe talking wasn't the answer.
"Thank you, Seer," he said, putting his tea aside and standing up.
He found that he was quite excited now that he had the beginnings of a plan. Still thinking it over, he was moving more on instinct than anything else and he bent forward and gave the Seer a quick peck on the cheek goodbye and walked out. It wasn't until he had left the room that he realised that was something he did with his family and he had just done it to the most important person in Between. He looked back at the door, panicking and wondering if he should run back and apologise.
[Be calm, Questor,] the Seer's voice filtered into his head with an amused, affectionate tone, [you are most refreshing.]
He was pretty sure that he was blushing cherry red at his social faux pas as he hurried back to his rooms.
Sitting outside Yesenia's door, Charlie scratched at the base. After talking to the Seer he had decided to just go for it, but it was a tossup if it would work or if he would end up eaten by a spider. Given that the second option was his worst nightmare, he thought he was pretty brave sitting there in his house cat form.
"Yes?" Yesenia asked, sounding tired.
The girl had opened the door and was looking for someone at head height. Charlie took the opportunity to slip into her room and brush up against her ankle.
"What?" she said, clearly confused and then looked down.
He gazed up at her and chirped a meow before trotting further into the room and looking around. He had been in Yesenia's rooms before, but they seemed to have changed since he had seen them. It wasn't really very surprising, since half the things in them appeared to be organic. If he remembered correctly, the furniture was actually grown rather than made, which sounded utterly bizarre to him, but Yesenia had assured him cutting up trees to make chairs was totally weird to her.
The walls had plants growing up them in several places and there was natural light coming in through a skylight from above. Everything had a very organic feel and the air was filled with the light perfume of flowers which made him want to sneeze, but he managed to hold that at bay. It was seeing his friend's home environment that reminded him how they were all so very different. They all came from completely different worlds, different value systems, different habitats and the only thing they had in common was their calling to be Questors. He knew he had to get this right or it would hurt them all.
Yesenia was glaring at him, but satisfied he wasn't about to be eaten, at least, he hopped up onto one of the chairs and sat down, looking at his hostess.
"What do you want?" the girl demanded.
There was no doubt in his mind that Yesenia wanted to kick him out, but he just turned his head on one side and looked at her.
"You cannot be stuck again," she said, shaking her head.
At that he made an indignant noise, which was quite bizarre from a cat, but he hadn't managed to get stuck in his cat form for a very long time. Yesenia raised her eyebrows at him.
"If you're not stuck you better have a very good reason for being here," she said and gave him a glare.
He licked a paw and deftly cleaned one of his ears, which was about as close to a nonchalant shrug as a cat could get. It earned him a long suffering sigh.
"Look I'm not in the mood," Yesenia said, which meant she had said more to him in the last few minutes than virtually the whole of the training session, "would you just go?"
Charlie lowered himself down and placed his head on his front paws while keeping his eyes firmly on the other Questor.
"Are you deliberately trying to annoy me?" Yesenia snapped at him.
He lifted his head and cocked it to one side. It was something he had seen his neighbour's cat do and he was pretty positive it was adorable and impossible to ignore, because the last thing he wanted was to make Yesenia mad.
"That is not going to work," she said and went to storm past him.
Yesenia was wearing a casual, loose dress which was belted at the waist with a long belt that dangled down. As the young woman stepped level with him Charlie took a leap of faith and let his cat instincts out. The belt was swinging right at his eye level and he reached out with a paw, batting it and trying to catch it with a claw. Yesenia stopped and stared at him as if he was insane.
"May the Mother save me from imbeciles," she said and shook her head.
Charlie batted the belt again and gave her his best innocent look.
"Argh," was the rather incoherent response and Yesenia stormed into the other room.
It had to be the bedroom and Charlie wasn't about to push his luck that far, so he sat down and tucked his paws underneath his body to wait. As a cat he had infinite patience and he was pretty sure even Yesenia's stubbornness could not match that.
Luckily for him they didn't actually have to find out, because about ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. Yesenia strode out of her room, favoured him with a glare and went to answer the knock. He wasn't overly surprised when she came back with a tray, because he had smelt the food from under the door. It was dinner time and he knew the others would all be in the refectory and he had guessed that Yesenia would not be joining them. Diallo had mentioned that the girl had only been to two meals while he and Alexander had been away.
"That is my chair," she said, giving him another glare.
He was sitting on the one right in front of the table, so he hopped onto that instead and perched on the opposite side to the chair. There was plenty of room on it for him and the tray. Yesenia eyed him suspiciously, but did not seem to be in the mood to argue with him as she placed the tray down and took her seat.
"I will not share," she said and pulled the lid off the first dish; "if you want food you will have to go and get your own."
Since it was clearly another ploy to get rid of him he ignored it and set about cleaning one of his paws. His cat shape leant itself to pretending to be indifferent, making his life much easier. When he was human most of his thoughts travelled straight across his face and he knew it.
Yesenia stabbed at what looked like chunks of fish viciously with a fork and began to eat in silence. She was obviously annoyed, but she hadn't tried to stab him yet, which he counted as a win.
Dinner was a tense, silent affair where Yesenia glared at him and he just sat there watching. It wasn't as if he could talk as he was, which, given his tendency to say anything and everything, usually taking him into very dodgy territory, was probably a good thing. He was pretty sure Yesenia did not need his inarticulate babble just at the moment.
When she had finished eating Yesenia picked up the tray and put it outside her door before returning and glaring at him. If looks could have killed he'd have been grilled, fried, roasted and dismembered.
"Why won't you just leave me alone?" she finally screamed at him.
He couldn't help how his ears flattened against his head as she loomed over him, but he refused to back down. Yesenia seemed to be more than simply angry and he was almost sure the volatile young woman wanted to strike out. Instead she just stood there shaking. The moment seemed to go on forever, but with a yell of frustration she turned away from him and he thought he might have seen the shine of tears in her eyes.
For a few seconds he stayed exactly where he was, but when Yesenia didn't move again he stood up and carefully approached her. She was still shaking and he could all but sense her pain. Yesenia was acting as if she was alone in a strange world that had betrayed her and Charlie did not want her to feel like that anymore. Knowing that he was walking a very fine line, he leant forward and very gently bumped his head into Yesenia's hand.
She looked down at him and laughed, a harsh, derogatory sound.
"You just don't know when to give up do you?" she said and her voice was so sad.
This was his friend, his teammate and Charlie felt his heart breaking for her. In human form he could have talked to her and asked her to trust him, but he was pretty sure he knew how that would have gone. As a cat he was limited, but that made communication much more fundamental. Very deliberately he bumped his head against her hand again and then rubbed his chin along her fingers.
When he looked up at Yesenia again she was frowning at him, more lost than angry.
"What do you want from me?"
The words were heartfelt and there was no way he could reply. He really had no idea what he was doing, all he knew was he wanted to help. When his eyes caught the movement of Yesenia's belt again he went with it. Reaching out a paw he batted it once and then sat back, just looking at his companion.
"You want to play?" she asked, tone incredulous.
Charlie turned his head to one side and gave a small meow of agreement; it sounded like a good idea to him. Yesenia didn't look so convinced, but after a moment she shrugged and shook her head.
"Wait here," she said and headed towards her bedroom. "You are not shredding this, it's my favourite."
When she came back she was holding something that looked similar to what she was wearing around her waist, but it was definitely older and more battered.
"This one has seen better days," she said and dangled it in front of him.
For once he didn't remotely try and fight the feline instincts that immediately tried to take hold of him and he batted at that old belt. Yesenia jerked it up a little so it was out of his reach and dragged it along the table top. It was impossible to resist the need to pounce. Now he knew exactly how the cat next door felt when he teased it with a cat toy.
Of course Yesenia was fast and competitive, so she didn't go easy on him. Really it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Yesenia yanked the belt up and to the side, he lunged at it and promptly fell off the table. He landed on his feet, but definitely not in what could be called a dignified manner. He might have been embarrassed except that his antics were greeted with laughter. When he looked up at Yesenia the girl appeared to be genuinely amused.
"You are ridiculous, Charlie Waterman" she said, shaking her head.
Charlie knew how to play to the crowd and so he sat up and haughtily washed a paw; the universal cat signal for 'I meant to do that'. As hoped, Yesenia laughed at him again and he was almost shocked that things were actually going well.
He had no idea how long they played chase the belt, but by the time they finished he was definitely knackered. It took a lot of effort to be a ruthless hunter and when Yesenia actually let him win his prize he turned on his back and chewed and scratched at it in victory. He didn't even mind being laughed at for it.
Quite a while after that found him sprawled next to Yesenia on what seemed to be some kind of sofa, although what it was made of he had no idea. Yesenia was reading from an electronic book and idly scratching him behind the ear. It was surprisingly relaxed. However, when Yesenia yawned, Charlie decided it was time to make a move. The whole petting thing was something of an unconscious gesture as far as Charlie could tell, so he extricated himself before Yesenia could realise exactly what she was doing. He stood and stretched, arching his back and giving a huge cat yawn of his own before jumping down and looking pointedly at the door.
"You're finally going to give me some peace then," Yesenia said, but she didn't sound particularly annoyed as she put her book aside and stood up.
Charlie did not give her a verbal response and just trotted to the door and waited patiently.
"Cat's are pushy creatures," Yesenia observed as she opened it for him.
That was definitely one thing Charlie was not going to argue about. Putting his tail in the air he padded off down the corridor, all in all, rather pleased with himself. It was only when he reached his own rooms that he realised he was more than a little hungry. Throwing on some clothes, he hurried towards the refectory, hoping that some kind soul would be able to find him some supper.
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:
Cat's Call (Chronicles of Charlie Waterman #1)
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.
Cat's Cconfidence (Chronicles of Charlie Waterman #3)
The Seer says that a Questor is always prepared
for the Task for which they are chosen, but it never occurred to him that being
ready would mean specific training for a specific Task. Charlie, Kaelyn and
Alexander are given six weeks to become a Dragon Warrior team: all they need to
do is master magical telepathy, archery, flying and, the trickiest of all, how
to put on a dragon-harness in under five minutes! http://www.wittegenpress.com/catsconfidence
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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.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
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