The Black Cat’s Advice
The witch stared at her books with an open mouth while scratching her head. Something wasn’t right. The words all made sense, but somehow they
just didn’t fit. She couldn’t possibly be expected to procure such items here. She was all the way back in these dreadful swamps with few avenues of travel available to
her. Besides, where was she supposed to get a unicorn horn. I mean really, where would you find that anyway? The last unicorns had all died or vanished if they had ever really
existed at all.
Then there was the salamander wool. That sort of thing didn’t even exist. Salamanders don’t have fur she thought pensively. She knew swindlers
and the like procured cloth covered in asbestos and said it was such, but it couldn’t possibly mean that, could it?
Toad’s eyes and pearls she could find. Dragon’s blood was no problem if one considered the giant reptiles here close enough. Bat hearts were simple enough,
and powdered human bones were only a cemetery away. She had but to visit the old churchyards nearby. But where was she going to find such items as she required that were beyond
She poured over her lists of substitutions. Kappa blood and parts sometimes stood in for demon blood and parts in the Orient. Tiger’s essence could replace
chimera breath. The scales of some small fish for mermaids’ were acceptable. Even harpies’ feather’s could be replaced with eagle or falcon feathers when in short supply. But damn
it all, where do you get a unicorn horn when you’ve never even heard of where to find them?
She glared at the book. It was just a stupid book anyway. She had volumes of spells and potions books that were more reliable. This one was written by
some witch she chanced upon dead some years ago. It had taken her six months to figure out that the book was written in some obscure Arabic, and then she spent two years translating
it. She hated it, but it did have some very useful spells and potions in it.
Her latest attempt from this book was a love potion. She was smitten with some young man on the plantation at the end of the swamps, and she could never get him
to outright accept her. No, she wasn’t ugly. She may have been over five hundred years old, but she was still a handsome woman. Her bright blue eyes had never lost their sparkle, and
her blonde hair still had that golden sheen of a teenager. Her chest was still full, and her waist was still slim. She had never had any trouble with men before, but she wanted a more
permanent arrangement. Leaving her chosen occupation was not an option, and she could not see that her looks would keep him here for long if at all.
“Damn this book!” she cried when yet another ingredient didn’t seem to fit her capabilities.
In the corner a black cat snoozed idly, and jumped at the sound of her screams. “What is the matter with you?” the cat hissed.
The witch stared at her cat. She seldom spoke at all, and in the nearly two hundred years she had been with her she said so little she sometimes forgot she could
“I wish I had never found this book at all. These ingredients are impossible to find, and I don’t want to spend forever looking for them.”
The cat pondered her predicament. Her large green eyes closed while she concentrated. She purred contentedly while she stroked her silky black
fur. Then she spoke.
“Why not take the trouble to look up another spell, or better yet, catch yourself a man with lower rank. They seem to be more tractable.”
She didn’t even consider it. “You’ve been alive long enough to know where to find this stuff too. Now, be a good kitty and tell me what you know.”
She rolled over on her back and allowed her to stroke her belly, a sign of trust, and purred adorably. “Unicorn horns are too rare for you to go chopping them
off, but why not try a nice narwhal? Or maybe you could just use salamander skin. There are enough of them around here to make a nice pair of boots.”
She knocked the cat off the table. She could be so incredulous when she chose. She did have a point. A narwhal horn was easy to come by, and it would
look and be similar to a unicorn horn. A solution that was eminently practical and affordable was very rare, but here it was. She dashed out the door and headed for her little boat and
poled herself to the town.
About an hour later she returned with her supplies, but her cat was gone. It wasn’t unusual, so she didn’t worry. She mixed them all as instructed, and performed
the necessary rites. She waited three days and then poled herself to the edge of the swamp where the plantation sloped down to meet the murky water. She poled up to the shore that was
covered by willows and made ready. He rode daily around the plantation, and he was sure to be nearby. She was right. There he was. His stunning blue eyes sparkled, and his dark
hair flowed. He was standing with some lovely girl, and he was holding her left hand. Then he dropped down on one knee.
The witch jumped out of her little boat. The girl was certainly pretty, but she was no match for her beauty. She quickly unfastened her
cloak. Her dress was low-cut, and her bosom heaved appropriately. She stepped out from behind the long branches and strode to meet him.
He dropped the girl’s hand and stared directly at her. He couldn’t take his eyes from her while she absently, or so it seemed, butted the other girl out of the
“So Devon, it seems I’m too late,” she said tragically laying her arm across her forehead, “you have fallen for another while I had my back turned.”
He looked back to the other girl who stood nearby. Her long red hair blew in the gentle breeze, and her deep green eyes were filled with dismay. He looked
from girl to girl, his face showing his agony.
“Well, I uh, that is….” he was floundering very well at this point.
“Surely you didn’t forget me so quickly?” she purred, “I know I didn’t forget that afternoon in the stables.”
The other girl’s eyes went wide.
“You seemed all too pleased to play with me then. Could it be you only used me?” Her eyes filled with mock tears.
“It’s just that, well, I think Abigail here might be having my baby. I can’t let her father find out. He’d kill me.”
Things were deteriorating rapidly now.
The witch snarled, “I am also carrying your child. You can’t marry us both, so choose!”
He looked back and forth helplessly. Each woman was now glaring at him and tapping her foot dangerously while menacing him with her belly. He dropped
to the ground and began to weep. “If only I could have something to drink!”
“That’s easily done,” the witch said sweetly. She pulled a small flagon from her little bag. “Here, drink this.”
The other woman made a strangled cry, “You have no idea what you’re doing! Stop!”
The young man drank it down quickly. “It burns my throat, but it’s quite sweet. Funny, it tastes a bit like almonds.”
He drank thirstily while the women watched: one with joy and the other with horror. Then he turned to the witch. “Since I know your baby will come first
I’ll marry you, but what about Abigail?”
The witch shrugged, “Me first. I have no family to care for me or my child.”
He looked at the other girl, “I’m sorry, but she’s right.” The girl smiled wickedly, but she walked away in a dignified manner.
What’s important happened next.
The witch and the young man, Devon, got married. She didn’t have his baby, but she did get her man. They were only married a few months when he was trampled
by his own horse. The young man’s father couldn’t seem to find any trace of his daughter in law’s so-called family, and she did match the description of the swamp witch people had seen for
years. He suspected her, and he chased her into the swamps, all the while intending to burn her.
She returned to her humble cottage in the swamp. She knew her cat could fend for herself, and expected her to return when she realized she was home. Much to
her surprise, the cat was sitting in the window with a look of knowing on her face.
“All did not go well, did it?”
The witch snarled, “No, they think I killed him. Then the old man got wise and hunted me down. So, I guess I’m back.”
The cat jumped down from her perch and went out the door. She called out softly and then came back in. She stared at her mistress, “I hope you plan to repay
me for all my suffering.”
The witch started towards her pots and books, “Oh, I’m sure you managed. You don’t need me to feed you. You can do for yourself, but I am sorry I left
The cat hissed, “You are as foolish as you are old. I told you not to bid for the attentions of that boy. His father was certain to figure it out. You
go into town too often, and they have seen you not age too much. Anyone else would not have bothered.”
The witch looked at her, “And what did I do to you? You can care for yourself!”
The cat made such a face, “This!” she hissed. She pointed to three black kittens with glowing blue eyes. They all chattered and fussed merrily with one
another in piping voices.
The witch stared at them with an open mouth, “Where did you come by these?”
The cat made a face, “I sent you after those substitutions to keep you busy, and I knew you had to take three days to make it, but I didn’t know he was gone until
that afternoon. You were supposed to get there too late! Then you wouldn’t listen. You lied to get what you wanted, and then you had no pity.”
“You were the other girl?”
“Yes,” hissed the cat, “And now, these are your kittens! If you had listened to me we would both be happy, and I wouldn’t be alone with three kittens!”
The cat jumped down and darted for the door. The witch still listening to the chattering and mewing looked bedraggled already. “Surely you aren’t going to
leave me here with your kittens?!”
The cat looked over her shoulder with a mocking face, “Maybe next time you’ll take the advice of a black cat.”
She took a few more steps and then stopped, “By the way, I’m well over a thousand, not two hundred, and unicorns still live in this swamp if you still want to catch
one. But take my advice and catch some nice fish instead.”
Without another glance she laughed wickedly and disappeared into the swamp.
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