The Wild Cats of Piran focuses on Europe's most magical cats in a battle for their nine lives! In an engaging and witty, very short novel that brings alive its setting—a charming and historically redolent small, seaside city on the ravishing coast of the Adriatic Sea in Slovenia—the wild cats encounter the ghosts of Piran … and the wicked General Rat! Join the beautiful Queen Felicia, faithful warrior Dragan, and the feral feline family for nine tales of adventure and enchantment. Each chapter is accompanied by a full-page stunning color illustration by Italian artist Moreno Christe.
Scott Alexander Young is a busy working actor, as well as a TV scriptwriter, author, artist and travel writer. Scott has written scifi and comedy for people like SyFy UK¾and been an editor of Time Out magazine on three continents. He was also the madman behind Max's Midnight Movies, a 26 x 30 minute TV series about cult cinema produced by Sony Pictures Television. Funny yet educational, 'MMM' breathed new life into the midnight movies genre.
From his studio in Trento, northern Italy, the Swiss/Italian artist Moreno Chistè has produced thousands of lively and colorful illustrations for companies such as Disney, Warner Bros., and Mattel. His work ranges from comics to advertising artwork, storyboards, merchandising, and entire collections of greeting cards for the major European card companies.
"Action aplenty ... The avuncular narrator can be quite funny... . Chistè's full-color illustrations add grace notes, recalling animated films in their line and composition." ⎯Kirkus Reviews
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The Wild Cats of Piran
By Scott Alexander Young, Moreno Chistè
Steerforth PressCopyright © 2014 Scott Alexander Young
All rights reserved.
Queen in the Moonlight
Introducing two of the most important personages of the wild cats of Piran — and two of their greatest adversaries.
It was an absolutely still night in a little seaside place called Piran, sometime in the recent past, the present day, the near future, or just before.
A cat with a midnight-blue coat, as smooth as a silk top hat, tipped along the highest point of the old city walls. This cat's name was Felicia, and she was perhaps the boldest and doubtless the most dashing of a legendary band of feline fatales they call "the wild cats of Piran." These walls were the highest possible vantage point in all of Piran, unless of course you were a bird. Felicia pulled herself up to her full height to survey the little town, which was made up of old stone houses with whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs, a few medieval churches, and a couple of little piazzas and one main one.
It was a serene, picture-perfect place surrounded by cypress-and-olive-tree-covered hills, facing out over the Adriatic Sea. More and more, to the cat named Felicia, the old town of Piran had become everything to her; every place she had ever been or would ever go. As time went by, Felicia found it harder to remember much from her childhood and early lives in Naples. Just occasionally a memory would flicker through her mind of the delicious odors of the fish markets on a summer's day. Or she would recall the Neapolitan slang words her childhood friends had taught her, and her eyes would turn a different shade.
In this world where appearances are so terribly over-important, Felicia was rather a surprising sort of stray cat. After all, she was so elegant and graceful. She was an Oriental Shorthair cat, with a deep and intense gaze that could take your breath away, and eyes, they said, that "sparkled like dewdrops on a lotus leaf." Sitting up straight as she was now, she looked like an Egyptian statue, an immortal. As well as great beauty and charisma, she had extraordinary powers of hearing, sight, and scent. She could sometimes be a bit of a show-off about all this, but who could really blame her? One could easily imagine any number of humans wanting to adopt Felicia, to pet her and proudly have her sit on their laps, kneading her claws into their skirts or trousers. But Felicia had tried living with humans more than once before. As she put it:
"That relationship was not always successful — especially for them."
This night in Piran, from her favorite spot on the old city walls, Felicia tilted her precious little face in the direction of the moon. She summoned all the wisdom of her former lives and all the strength of her ancestors. She gave thanks to the stars for the joyous feeling of freedom in Piran and for the summer that was on its way. Standing up as high as she could, Felicia fixed her gaze on the moon above. Never taking her eyes off of Earth's lonely satellite, she began to chant.
"Gaze at the winged lion," she sang of herself — a lion indeed, with her slight frame and her tiny, delicate-looking paws!
"Gaze at the winged lion that grasps territories, seas, and stars!"
She would have gone on. But she was rudely interrupted.
"Grasps at territories and stars!? Grasps at fish and mice and beetles and the grass on the ground, more like it!"
Another cat's voice from below had interrupted her happiness.
"And what was that, my dear? Winged lion? Ha-ha!"
Felicia, not the least bit surprised, looked down to find Dragan, lolling on the grass and massaging an itchy back as he did so.
"Dragan, what an unpleasant surprise!"
She was only partly serious, for Dragan was Felicia's right-hand-cat, the fighting feline she could always depend upon. A tubby gray Chartreux cat, Dragan was large and muscular, with short fine-boned limbs, big paws, and very fast reflexes. He was frequently admired for his blue-gray and water-resistant, short double coat. Due to the shape of his head, together with the long, tapered muzzle typical of a Chartreux, Dragan often appeared to be smiling. But there was nothing comforting about his devilish Chartreux cat grin. It was the sort of smile you might expect to see on the face of an anarchist bomb maker who enjoys his work.
"A winged lion! Now that is a vision, to be sure," he said, scratching above his eye with the shin of his paw.
"Silenzio!" said Felicia.
"I barely said a thing."
A raw feline instinct took hold of Felicia. With her sixth sense, she all of a sudden had the feeling that they were being watched. Once again she rose up to her full height, also screwing up her face, so that her lips curled back and her teeth were exposed.
If you'd like the scientific explanation, this is a process called Flehmening. It is something every cat does — not only the wild cats of Piran. With their mouths wide open, more chemical aromas are able to pass into what is called a cat's "auxiliary olfactory sense organ." Goodness! That sounds complicated. Well, really it's just something inside Felicia and in every other cat's body that enables them to detect trouble, and that's just what Felicia was sure she could smell. Trouble!
It was, in fact, the overpowering stench of a hulking, pubescent lad, and now here he was, running toward them both. He had a neck like a tree trunk and fists the size of grapefruits, a large-size rock in his throwing hand. And he was coming right at them, rock first!
Dragan knew enough to know that a "meooove" from Felicia meant business. He shot sideways as fast as he could to dodge the rock being thrown at him with tremendous force by this kid with big hands. Felicia, with her acute sense of split-second timing, could see that it was not going to be fast enough. The rock was speeding toward a head-on collision with Dragan's noble, if grumpy, head. And then it would all be over for him, for as far as she could remember, Dragan was now living his ninth and final life.
There was only one thing to do. Felicia cried out a Meeeeeeeeooooow, and the world turned upside down.
The rock the lad had thrown stopped in mid-air, hovering there for a moment or two. Then, as if giving up on the idea of floating, it dropped to the ground. It seemed to take its time doing so — as if someone or something had rewritten the laws of gravity for about half a minute, which is either a long or short time depending on how you think about it. In any case, the boy was vaguely aware that he had witnessed something unusual. But he was not the sort given to speculation about such matters. He was angry, plain and simple. He'd been cheated of a victory. Why, he'd almost dealt that fat cat a mortal blow, something he would've referred to as a "result."
Instead, he'd been outfoxed by a cat! Well, actually by Majikat: the use of magic to alter events. Something more than just Felicia using her supernatural superfeline strengths to disappear in a flash; or, for that matter, to pull the shoelaces from the boy's sneakers. Incidentally, when it came to Majikat, the wild cats of Piran didn't need to waste a lot of time with hocus-pocus or mumbo jumbo or abracadabras. A single, distinct sounding Meeeeeeeeoooowwww in the right frequency would do the trick. It also meant that the wild cats would have to ration their use of Majikat until the next New Moon — but more about that in due course.
Dragan went to pick himself up, but in an instant, the teenage boy had leapt on top of the tubby chartreux, putting all the weight of his body into it. Dragan squirmed and clawed and bit for all he was worth. But the boy was strong, even stronger than he looked. Felicia had slid down the wall and was now hiding in the shadows, where she had found the rock the boy had thrown at Dragan. Without a second's more hesitation, she picked up the rock and threw it at the cruel adolescent.
"Owwwwww!" It bounced off his forehead with a boing, which is not how rocks usually behave. Then again, Majikat had a way of affecting everything it touched.
The nasty, cat-taunting teenager fell to one side, giving Dragan just enough time to get up and make a run for it. Although the plump cat may have looked "generously proportioned," Dragan could be a fast mover. But the young brute of a human had soon scrambled back to his feet. His face was crimson with rage.
"If only Thor were here," he said. This was something that didn't make much sense to Felicia or Dragan at the time. He looked around him wildly, trying to find the cats' eyes shining in the darkness. Dragan had run to Felicia's side, and they stood huddled together in the shadow of the city wall. They dared not move or make a sound.
"Come on, you little pussycats. I'm not going anywhere until I find you."
The wild cats of Piran are constantly being underestimated. And this would be one of those occasions. No adolescent boy, bristling with superfluous energy, could match a cat for patience.
And so he waited.
And the wild cats waited.
And he waited a little more.
Finally, after around forty-five minutes, the boy gave up. Felicia and Dragan stayed perfectly still until they were sure he was a safe distance away. Then, silent as a tear falling from a statue, the two wild cats of Piran disappeared softly into the night.
You will find the charmingly sleepy town of Piran on the coastline of Istria, which is possibly a place you have never heard of, so don't pretend if indeed you haven't. That's really perfectly all right. Istria is the largest peninsula on the Adriatic Sea — which, as has been established, is the body of water Piran looks out over. And Piran is, more precisely, on that part of the peninsula that lies within Slovenia, another place you might not be very familiar with. Slovenia is a small and not unhappy European country that shares borders with other countries whose names are croatia, Austria, Hungary, and Italy.
It is hard to believe, but the greater metropolitan area of Piran contains some 4,000 human beings. It's therefore probably not surprising that out of those thousands, there should've been one really nasty piece of work. We won't name-and-shame this fourteen-year-old oaf by giving you his real appellation and exact address. It's enough to say that "Fisko" — as we shall call him — was very large for his age indeed. His parents, who were away most of the time, gave Fisko far too much money to spend on stupid activities and possessions. Fisko was old enough to have grown out of pulling the wings off flies, but he hadn't. Grown out of it, that is. The larger the animal, so long as he could dominate it or cause it pain, then the better, as far as this rather nasty piece of work was concerned.
This destructive, pubescent monster was nothing but bad news as far as the wild cats of Piran were concerned. When they were both sure they were safely hidden, Felicia and Dragan watched the hulking teenager traipse slowly back to a quite large villa on the hills over the town, kicking a can as he went.
"He is larger than others like him, e anche piu brutto (and uglier than most)," whispered Felicia in the Human Italian language to Dragan.
"No argument there, Queenie. Listen, I'm sorry about that, fooling around ... you are a winged lion, truly you are, Felicia."
"It's alright, Dragan. You don't have to thank me for saving your life." Dragan squirmed, a little embarrassed. A light went on briefly inside the villa when the boy stepped inside. A dog also started barking somewhere near or inside the house, but then stopped as abruptly as it had started. The old villa into which Fisko disappeared had been sitting vacant for some time, and the wild cats of Piran had played inside it once or twice, making a mess in the fireplace.
"Now this monster moves in," said Dragan. "Dobry! (That is, "Great!" in the Human Slovene language.)
As it would turn out, the boy Fisko, though not the least of the wild cats' problems, was not perhaps their greatest threat to peace and happiness; for while Felicia and Dragan made their way home, a single, beady little eye was watching them from several hundred meters away. And this particular eye belonged to a repugnant example of an especially unpleasant species. The animal in question was nearly half a meter in length. He must have weighed eight kilograms — seventeen pounds, that is — making him enormous for this type of creature. His whiskers twitched, and he creased up his shiny fat snout to smell the early morning sea-breeze.
Now this rat, for a rat it was, had no name. Rats do not really believe in names, but he did have a rank, and was known by all who followed him simply as "General Rat." And every single rat in Piran did follow him. (Well, all except for one who lived with a thirteen-year-old teenage girl who happened to be a self-professed "Goth" and kept her rat — who showed no interest in local politics — as a pet.) The General was a rat who by ratlike standards was a strategic, tactical, military, and political genius. This was because his IQ exceeded fourteen and he could plan ahead more than sixty seconds at a time. This was an enormous leap ahead in rat physiology, and not to be sneezed at, because, potentially, an extra percentage or two of anything that combustible could be the tipping point in the cat-and-rat power balance. General Rat was indeed a rat among rats, a rat for all seasons.
If you are sensibly wondering how the General was able to watch the cats from such a distance, it was due to a telescope he had found on the promenade one day early in the spring. Intelligent enough to understand its purpose, the General had worked out a system whereby he could use the telescope to watch the cats' activities at a safe distance. A safe distance meant well out of the cats' range of smell and hearing. One of the General's eyes was covered with a patch; part affectation, this was, for he was not really blind in that eye. He fancied that the patch made him look more handsome and dashing. He was mistaken.
The telescope was held aloft by two particularly obedient rats, whose names, like those of so many other rats, were simply "rat" and "rat." Balancing himself on the back of another obligingly complaisant rat, whose name too was "rat," the General would stare with his one beady little eye through the viewfinder at whatever he wanted to observe at closer quarters. "I love this system of observing the cats at a distance," the General said, to no one in particular, as he watched the two cats amble home.
"I love this system of observing the cats at a distance," of course sounds completely different in the Rat tongue. Just like Cat, the Rat language is seldom spoken in the presence of humans. Unlike Cat, however, which is a beautiful-sounding language, Rat is an exceptionally unpleasant tongue. Thus, the observation, "I love this system of observing the cats at a distance," came out as, "Ypkxnf, Jwbnq, Ctgexi!" In any case, one of the rats answered the General's statement with a question completely irrelevant to the matter at hand. This is what Private Rat had the nerve to inquire:
"What are we going to eat?"
"What are we going to eat!?" General Rat shouted back in reply, his voice charged with fury. Private Rat looked back at him meekly, trying to smile.
"I mean, er, when are we going to eat?" Did the private really believe this was an improvement? General Rat's one working eye narrowed to a squint.
"I'll tell you when you're going to eat," he said in a quiet voice that was more frightening than if he had yelled. But then, bellowing, he exclaimed:
"Guards! Seize the prisoner!"
The General motioned to two of his most fearsome-looking personal guards.
"Let's not just eat any old thing at any old place. The private deserves the very best in town, and nothing less will do as far as I'm concerned!"
The two guard rats grabbed Private Rat and restrained him. He squealed and squirmed under their weight, frightened by the no-doubt grisly fate that awaited him. The General was quite gifted when it came to administering punishment. The other rats rather enjoyed this sort of thing, too.
"I wonder what's in store for the private," one rat said to another in what he thought was a whisper. They would not have long to find out.
However, you, dear reader, may have to be a shade more patient. Granted, there may be some who prefer a yarn that spins itself undone from the beginning of its thread all the way to the end. But in Piran, in wild cat circles, at any rate, they like to begin their yarns in the middle, make as big a mess as possible, and then find their way to either side. It may be that you have to be a wild cat to understand this. And it may be that you have become one, by the end of these chronicles.
Stranger things had happened, and were about to again.
Excerpted from The Wild Cats of Piran by Scott Alexander Young, Moreno Chistè. Copyright © 2014 Scott Alexander Young. Excerpted by permission of Steerforth Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER 1 Queen in the Moonlight, 1,
CHAPTER 2 Eight Lives and Counting, 15,
CHAPTER 3 Kitty-Napped, 29,
CHAPTER 4 Something Fishy at Lunch, 41,
CHAPTER 5 Night Visions, 54,
CHAPTER 6 The Lady in Waiting, 67,
CHAPTER 7 The Battle of Cape Madonna, 80,
CHAPTER 8 Like Herding Cats, 93,
CHAPTER 9 The Merchant of Venice, 106,