Chapter One Preview: Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon
It's time again! Time to tease the first chapter of my next book. In this case it is a children's chapter book called Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon. My six-year-old really loves this book, and that is why I wrote it. It's a read aloud adventure for the younger set, and if your kid is 10-12 they'll be able to read it to themselves and enjoy the adventures of a tiny orange kitten, a large green dragon, some rats, a princess, and a couple of wizards.
Sound interesting to you? The kindle version is up for pre-order right now. Just click the link below.
If you're more a paperback type, you'll have to wait until March 1st, but in the meantime, here's chapter one.
Thaddeus and the Wizard
Thaddeus F. Whiskers had been presented to Princess Clarice upon her eighth birthday by the palace wizard. He was therefore the most famous and beloved kitten in the entire world. Yes, the world contained many kittens, but none of them could claim the title of royal companion. None but Thaddeus.
The wizard chose Thaddeus because of his brilliant orange coat and jewel-like green eyes. The clever wizard had woven enchantments about the kitten, blessing him with a state of eternal kittenhood. Almost two years had passed, and Thaddeus still fit comfortably in Clarice's hands.
Thaddeus's purple pillow lay at the foot of Princess Clarice's golden throne. Her throne stood beside the towering seat of her father, King Victor the Third. While Thaddeus’s seat was the smallest, this was only due to the ungainliness of human bottoms. Thaddeus knew he was every bit as important as those with larger seats.
Visitors to the court marveled at how tiny Thaddeus remained. Clarice, also small for her age, beamed while lords and ladies fawned over her precious pet. Thaddeus would puff out his chest, stick up his nose, and regally twitch his whiskers.
Today, Thaddeus wore a golden collar, for it was Clarice’s tenth birthday, and he was the guest of honor. Clarice had demanded it be so. Clarice always insisted that her kitten receive as much attention as she did. It was one of the many things he adored about her. One by one, the inhabitants of the palace approached the throne and laid their gifts at the princess's feet where Thaddeus inspected them. He sniffed at packages and pulled at ribbons. All seemed perfectly acceptable as gifts for a princess such as Clarice. He nodded his approval.
The palace cooks brought baskets of cookies, many in the shape of kittens, frosted in orange butter cream. The royal seamstress had sewn a lovely gown. Thaddeus gazed at the silken skirts and imagined how soft they would feel against his paws. The palace jeweler had made Clarice a charm bracelet, each charm an image of Thaddeus in a different pose: Thaddeus napping, Thaddeus pouncing, Thaddeus stretching. Thaddeus batted at the bracelet when Clarice dangled it before him.
As the procession of presents ran on, he tucked his paws beneath him, curled his tail about his body, and yawned. Clarice wiggled in her seat.
King Victor glanced at her from the corner of his eye and smiled. “Don’t fidget, dear. Soon there will be cake.”
“Thaddeus is bored,” said the princess.
Thaddeus’s ears twitched at the mention of his name. He gave an inquisitive, “Meow?”
“Tell Thaddeus there will be chicken and cream for dinner if he waits just a bit longer.”
Thaddeus listened politely as Clarice relayed the information. He always wondered why the king didn’t address him directly. He was right there, for fish’s sake.
The last gifter approached: Hermes the Great, the palace wizard. The old man’s title seemed a bit of an exaggeration to Thaddeus. Other than having the wisdom to give Thaddeus to Clarice, Hermes never did anything the kitten felt was “great.” Last year his gift had been a sugar plum tree that constantly yielded encrusted, sticky plums. Clarice had gotten a stomach ache, and several of its treats had stuck in Thaddeus’s fur. The tree was quietly moved to a far corner of the garden and forgotten.
This year, Hermes’s hands were empty. Thaddeus suspected the wizard hadn’t remembered the party until the last minute, or perhaps he hid something up the long sleeves of his crimson robes. Thaddeus didn't particularly care. He was ready for his chicken and cream.
“My king, my princess, and my royal feline.” Hermes bowed low.
Thaddeus sat up and eyed the wizard.
“Upon your most illustrious tenth birthday, I must thank you, Princess Clarice, for a decade spent making the world a more beautiful place.” The wizard’s blue eyes twinkled.
The princess nodded, reached down, and rubbed Thaddeus’s ears. Thaddeus purred. Clarice knew just how to pet him, not too fast or too slow. Her fingers were small and soft. Most things bored Thaddeus, but not Clarice. She was wonderful. He gazed up at her appreciatively.
She smiled and scooped him onto her lap. He settled into the folds of her pink damask gown. Her hand ran down his back, smoothing his orange fur. He snaked his tail around her wrist, then whipped it back.
“On this birthday, I am focused on improvement. Your furry friend, his name is Thaddeus F. Whiskers, correct?” Hermes asked.
“Yes.” Clarice muffled a yawn with the back of her hand. Thaddeus stood on his hind paws and tried to rub up against her chin, but was simply too short.
Poor Clarice. She's probably as bored as I am. When we get to our room, we shall play hide and seek. That will make up for all this sitting around, Thaddeus decided.
“If I may be so bold as to ask, my princess, what does the F stand for?” The wizard stuck out his white beard, as if pointing at Thaddeus with his chin.
“Fluffy.” Clarice blushed.
Beneath his fur, Thaddeus blushed as well. Fluffy had, in fact, been his only name for several weeks, before eight-year-old Clarice decided the moniker too childish and had chosen Thaddeus, a more dignified name. Thaddeus appreciated the re-dubbing. He never felt like a “Fluffy.”
“He is more sleek than fluffy, is he not?” Hermes continued.
Thaddeus’s short, orange fur bristled. Did Hermes dare to suggest Thaddeus was in some way inadequate? Such foolishness! He sniffed and wiggled his nose.
“Yes. He is perfectly sleek.” Clarice twirled Thaddeus’s tail.
Hermes flushed, the tip of his nose glowing like an ember. “Of course, he is perfect, but how would you like it if he were perfect . . . er?”
He waved his hand and a white dandelion appeared between his fingers. The court “oohed” though Thaddeus's quick eyes had seen it come out of those cavernous sleeves.
“I have a spell, a marvelous spell, to make him as poofed as this posie, a perfect, purring powder puff.”
Clarice’s fingers kneaded into Thaddeus’s non-poofy fur.
Thaddeus’s glare stayed on Hermes’s spindly fingers. The wizard drew the flower to his lips and let out a stream of breath. The fluffy white dandelion seeds separated from the stem and danced through the air. They twirled towards the throne. They brushed the king’s nose, and he sneezed.
One parasol-shaped seed touched down on Thaddeus’s snout. It balanced for one moment, and the kitten’s eyes crossed trying to focus on it. Then it exploded in a miniature starburst. Thaddeus inhaled the sparks. They trickled through his body, cold and tingly. His fur expanded, lengthening and puffing.
Clarice cried out. She held Thaddeus up, his hind legs dangling. Though her hazel eyes were poor mirrors, Thaddeus could tell, from the extra warmth, that he was now undeniably fluffy.
“That is remarkable.” The king clapped his hands. “Hermes you have done it a . . . ah . . . choo!” The king let forth a thunderous sneeze.
“Bless you!” exclaimed the entire court.
The king’s eyes watered. His nose wrinkled. Another sneeze exploded through the throne room. As if in answer or echo, a lady in the crowd kerchewed. Soon lords and ladies, knights and knaves, were caught in the throes of sneezing fits.
Thaddeus winced and turned away from the scene. Humans could be nasty. Cat sneezes were much quieter.
“What has happened?” King Victor wheezed. “This isn’t . . . the . . .right season. . .for . . . hayfever. Ahchoo!”
All eyes, the dry and the watering alike, turned to Hermes.
The wizard stroked his beard and shuffled his feet. “Er, it seems I have miscalculated the consequences of this particular enchantment. I shall try to reverse it.”
He took Thaddeus from Clarice. His big hands felt awkward around Thaddeus. The kitten turned up his nose in protest. He waved his hand over the kitten. Thaddeus’s fur turned blue, then red, then twisted into braided strands. His skin prickled and his whiskers vibrated.
Hermes tried magical words and mystical gestures. However, Thaddeus’s fur remained long and fuzzy, and half the court still sniffled. Hermes snapped his finger causing Thaddeus’s coat to go orange again. Thaddeus mewed in displeasure. He hissed at Hermes. “Turn me back now, you idiot!” Unfortunately, humans didn't understand cat language, and no one rushed to Thaddeus's rescue.
Hermes cleared his throat. “Perhaps I should take him to my tower and work with him there.”
“That . . . ah . . . is the best idea . . .ahchoo . . you’ve had all night.” The king waved them away.
Thaddeus shook his head. He did not want to go with Hermes. He tried to wriggle away to get to Clarice. Clarice would save him.
Clarice stood. “I want to go with Thaddeus, Daddy. I don’t get hay fever.”
“Hermes will fix him and bring him back,” the king said. “Let’s not allow this to ruin your party.”
Thaddeus kept his eyes on Clarice’s beloved face until the door to the throne room shut between them.
“Clarice!” he mewed sadly.
Hermes’s tower stuck out from the rest of the castle like a candle in a birthday cake. The wooden steps creaked beneath the wizard's feet. Thaddeus glanced through the gaps between the boards. The stairs seemed to spiral down forever.
Hermes took him through a trapdoor into a cluttered round room. A chandelier of dripping candles sprang alight at their entrance. The wizard put the kitten on a work table between a bouquet of dried herbs and a stack of dusty books. Thaddeus sneezed.
Hermes grimaced. “We’ve had enough of that for one day.” He pulled a massive handkerchief from his sleeve and wiped down the area.
Thaddeus glanced around the room. Mounted skeletons of various creatures, one of which looked suspiciously like a cat, gazed back at him from a shelf. Books were scattered everywhere, like the aftermath of a windstorm in a library. They even filled a giant black cauldron in the fireplace.
Red orbs of light floated in circles about the room. One passed near Thaddeus, and he swiped at it. His paw sank through, coming into contact with nothing, but the orb changed course and hurried away from him.
The wizard opened a heavy tome. “You’d think they’d mention such a virulent side effect to a simple spell,” he grumbled. He removed his hat and laid it on top of Thaddeus. The kitten mewed and scrambled out, knocking the hat to the floor. “Oh sorry.” The wizard picked it up and placed it on a stuffed dodo bird. “I forgot I’d put you there. . . Ah ha! An asterisk! A sure sign of ill intent and deception.”
He set the book on the table beside the kitten and stabbed his finger at the sunburst shaped mark on the page.
Thaddeus scowled. He couldn’t read.
“An asterisk, my little friend, indicates important information has been left out and hidden elsewhere. In this case . . .” Hermes licked his fingertips and turned the page. “See, here is what I missed. ‘The Fluffication spell should never be used in the vicinity of those sensitive to hay fever or similar complaints, for the spell is irreversible, and irritation . . .’ Irreversible? Come now, nothing is irreversible.” He flipped back and forth.
Thaddeus slapped the edge of the pages with his paw, but his heart wasn’t in it. Surely the wizard couldn't mean he'd be this way forever? Well, at least Clarice didn't have hay fever. He could still be with her even if he had to avoid the king.
“Come in,” Hermes said.
A young man in a page’s uniform poked his head and shoulders into the tower room. “Mr. Wizard, the king still can’t stop sneezing; neither can most of the staff. His majesty swears the irritation to the royal nostrils is as bad as when the cat was in the room.”
“Not surprising. According to the small print, the effects may spread as far as a quarter mile. I need time to research if I am to fix this.”
The page cleared his throat. “His majesty says he can’t breathe and if you do not amend the situation immediately, he will be forced to reconsider your contract with the crown.”
Hermes licked his lips. “Did he, now?”
Thaddeus’s eyes widened. His whole body trembled. He wanted Clarice. He wanted chicken and cream and his silk cushion and perhaps a lengthy nap, but most of all he wanted Clarice.
Hermes shook his head. “I will fix this, Mr. Whiskers, I promise. For now, however, the king needs to breathe.” He turned to the page. “Tell the king I shall deal with the difficulty post haste.”
The page disappeared through the hatch. Hermes pulled a wire bird cage from under the table. Alarmed, Thaddeus scratched at the old wizard, but his tiny kitten claws didn’t pierce the man’s callused skin. Hermes shoved Thaddeus into the cage and covered it with a heavy cloth, leaving the kitten in darkness.