THE WIZARD AND THE WILDCAT
Growl. The ferocious sound leapt from Perka’s stomach before she even stepped from the cave. She froze on tiptoes with eyes shut. She could take no chance of waking them.
Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. She took a breath and listened with her pointed ears. All she heard were deep sleeping sounds and a cough. She wiped her sweaty forehead. Her bare feet shuffled silently forward until she stepped into the forest bathed in early morning sunshine.
“Perka…” a voice called out.
Startled, Perka fell into a nearby bush. She straightened and glared at the tiny form of her little sister. She gathered her bag. “Ankla, what are you doing up?”
Ankla put hands on her hips. “What are you doing up? Surely, you’re not going where Mum has forbidden.”
Perka groaned. “Ankla… I must—for Mum. She needs the berries to be well.”
“But she said it’s dangerous with banbears and even dragons!” Her eyes widened.
Perka put an arm around Ankla. “Mum needs this. And I’m the only one who can do it.”
Ankla hung her head. “Okay, I won’t tell. But, be careful,” she whispered before slipping back inside.
At the clearing, she ran and leapt into the air and turned into a golden eagle. She flew up over the trees, across the forest, and toward the distant snow-covered mountain. She glided low in case a giant eagle spotted her. She had to be careful, but she had to find the berries.
Perka surveyed the mountain. She flapped faster until she reached it and changed into a mountain goat. The berries grew in rocky outcroppings. Her strong goat legs brought her easily up the mountain. She leapt to a sturdy rock ledge and looked around. A branch stuck out of a crack not far away. She gave a leap of joy when she saw pink berries.
She lowered her head to reach them, but her horns got in the way. She became a small wildcat and took the branch in her mouth and used a sharp claw to slice it. With the branch in her mouth she nearly gave a smile but stopped herself before she dropped them. She had to get home!
With a huge leap, she landed on solid ground and readied to turn into an eagle when a large dark object flew overhead and covered her—a cage!
Frantically, Perka rammed into the bars until she wheezed for breath. She couldn’t be caught. She would turn into a huge stag and break the cage. She readied to change. But nothing happened.
She opened her eyes to sparks coming off the cage. What was going on?
Then, she heard footsteps crunching in the snow. Two large men covered in furs approached. She heard one say in a gruff voice, “What have we here? A trespasser.”
“Ah, a little cat.” The other said in a high snarling voice. “The master will like this one.”
The next thing she knew they hoisted up the cage and carried her up the mountain. At the top, the snow whirled fiercely and seemingly out of nowhere a tall gray stone tower appeared. Where was she? And how would she escape?
They brought her inside to a huge chamber and placed the cage on the floor. The slight tap, tap of footsteps on stone sounded out,and a tall, thin man with a long white beard came in. He wore dark blue robes and held a thin stick in his hand.
He looked right at Perka. “So, you trespass on my mountain and steal my berries.” He paused and gazed at her a moment. “And I know what you really are.”
Perka swallowed. Why did she think she could do this?Now, her mother would also be worried about her.
The man’s voice rose. “You cannot change form again. For punishment,you will remain here forever as part of my—”He touched his fingertips together and glared at her. “—collection.”
The men took her away and into a darkroom. She curled up in a ball. It was all her fault.
Hairs prickled along her back. She peered into the darkness until she met the eyes of a fox. She jumped back, and then realized the fox was caged too. They stared until the fox closed its eyes and went to sleep. Perka did so too, but it was fitful.
The next morning, she stretched and yawned until her fur prickled. Her fur!She opened her cat eyes wide. It wasn’t a dream! The fox stared at her. Perka ran around the cage until the fox scratched its cage. It motioned with its paw to something scratched into the bottom of its cage.
Perka couldn’t believe it! Gnomish writing. The fox was a gnome named Rowyn. And she had a plan.
Hours later, they were taken to a large room filled with dozens of animals. The collection, Perka presumed. The man that Rowyn said was a wizard entered. He waved the stick and a metal collar appeared around Perka’s neck attached to a long chain. The cage disappeared. Her bag appeared in his hand. He placed the berries on a shelf. It was Perka’s one chance.
She lunged forward and wrapped the chain around his feet. She jerked it until he fell, and the magic stick flew into the air. Perka jumped off a cage and caught the stick in her mouth and snapped it in two.
The wizard screamed and ran from the room as the animals erupted in a chorus of growls and squawks. Perka’s collar disappeared. She turned into a gnome and burst open Rowyn’s cage, who changed too. Then, they released all the animals.
Perka grabbed the berries and rushed from the tower with Rowyn. They turned into eagles and flew back to Perka’s cave in time to bring the berries to heal her mother. And Perka vowed to never go near the mountain again.