© Vyacheslav Miroshnikov, 2021
Created with Ridero smart publishing system
LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF!
Hello, my dear friend! Let’s get acquainted. My name is Marquis de Richelieu. As you understand, I am a cat. Yes, yes, a real cat, but not a simple, not an ordinary one. I am from that very breed of remarkable cats, about which there are myriads of fairy tales and other different stories. My ancestors became known to the whole world just due to the fact that they knew how to talk, work miracles and make friends with people no worse than people themselves make friends with each other.
I can’t tell you exactly who my great-great-grandfather was or where he was from, but I can definitely assure you that he gave birth to a whole generation of talented and funny cats, and that is a fact. Of course, not all my brothers and sisters got the gift of being able to speak to people in their native language, but what can you do about it! This is a serious thing. You probably think how great it is! And you also probably would like to have such a four-legged speaking friend? But just imagine where such luck might lead you? What if your buddy will be an incredibly chatty cat who suddenly wants to talk in the middle of the night? Or he will scream loudly at the yard dog, who barks all the time just because he is lonely! You jump out of bed from someone’s loud indignation, look at the clock that shows three in the morning, and at that moment your favorite cat jumps at your feet and asks quietly, “Master, you too can’t sleep because of that barking Bobik?” You will lay your head on the pillow in the hope of falling asleep, and he will lie down next to you, lick you in the ear and whisper quietly, “And how about a nice little saucer of sour cream?”
But, this is not the worst thing one can expect from us, talking cats. We, our dear owners, love your secrets very much, and we know quite a lot about you. We often hide in some secluded places, sit quietly, and we can stay there for a very long time until we find out everything that you share with your best friends. Unfortunately, by far not everyone of us knows how to keep one’s mouth shut, so some of us often might spill the beans.
But, this has nothing to do with me! I am honest, loyal to friends and always happy to help them. I have an interesting, albeit difficult, life story. As a kitten, I was taken to the town of Irpen and given by my owners from Paris to one noble person. My new family loved and petted me until I once spoke. To make things worse, I apparently said something superfluous, which plunged them into the state of utter and complete shock. They got rid of me. So I ended up in the forest – a lonely, but at the same time, a freedom-loving cat. I lived only for my pleasure and did not reckon with anyone, but one day there, in the forest thicket, I met my new friends who turned my life and consciousness upside down. I made a lot of acquaintances and got a real home, which I loved incredibly much. In order for you to find out how my life has changed and what has happened to me recently, I decided to tell you some interesting stories filled with adventures. My readers and listeners, to keep you really interested, I, cat Marquis de Richelieu, promise not to let my thoughts flow all over the tree and not get carried away with unnecessary details. My story will be as fast, contrasting and fun as it actually was from the moment when I woke up one early morning and decided to ride down the hill over slippery grass covered with clear dew that shimmered in the rays of the sun.
After yesterday’s rain with a thunderstorm, the morning was incredibly beautiful and sunny. Marquis De Richelieu opened his right eye and looked up. Then he slightly lifted himself on one paw and opened his second eye, after which he turned his head around in different directions. He still lay under a huge oak tree, and only now, in the morning sunlight, was able to appreciate its centennial grandeur and beauty. He slowly made a little stretch, pressing against the tree trunk with his hind paws and, pushed away from it and immediately jumped up. Having felt the hot rays of the sun, De Richelieu arched his back, closed his eyes for a moment and shook his back several times. He straightened up and immediately drew attention to a long, sloping hill, overgrown with thick tall grass. It was covered with morning dew, and he immediately felt a strong desire to ride down from it. Having run a few meters forward, Marquis jumped up, and right in the air turned over on his back and rolled down the hill at great speed. Thanks to the dew he felt how easily his body glided along the soft grass.
“Uhhhhhh,” De Richelieu cried out loudly, and at that very moment he felt with horror that his body ceased to sense the earth and hung in the air for a second. At that very moment he flew down like a stone. And already falling, he managed to see a man beneath him, who patted a horse slightly with a whip, so that she would carry a cart on which he rode faster. Also a green slide flashed before the eyes of Marquis and with a rumble he landed in a heap of odorous hay, and slightly bumped into some kind of wooden board.
“My sweet mother Marquise!” the cat shouted loudly in surprise. “This is not what I wanted!”
“What on earth is going on here?” De-Richelieu heard the man’s voice, “I don’t understand!”
The man jumped off from the cart and immediately ran to him.
“How did you get here, cat?” he asked with surprise in his voice and looked up. There was not a single tree above them, but only high hills with woodland along their edges.
“I… I…,” Marquis wanted to say at least something, but everything went floating before his eyes and it seemed to him that there were several identical twin men leaning over him at once. But they all had one and the same question in their eyes: where could this cat possibly fall down on us from?
“No need to feel sorry for me…,” Marquis wanted to say arrogantly, but all of a sudden he felt that he was losing both his gift of speech and his consciousness.
After a while, when De Richelieu came back to his senses, he immediately felt that he was not quite firmly standing on his paws and it felt like kind of shaking a little from side to side. But this was not due to his general weakness, but to a somewhat shaky ride. Around it smelled of dry, fragrant hay, which already tangled in his fluffy wool, and it also smelled of a horse who was slowly pulling the cart. Marquis got up on his hind paws and looked around. Their cart slowly moved between the trees; at its very edge sat a man with his legs dangling. He hummed some tune and slightly twitched the reins. He was obviously glad to notice that the cat woke up.
“Look, Lisa,” the horseman cried with enthusiasm, “our wonderful guest, who fell down straight from the sky, seems to have come to his senses.” But look how ugly he is! Never mind. We will surely wash him clean and make him a real handsome cat, if he doesn’t run away before it.
Marquis understood perfectly what the horseman said. But not everything he heard in fact pleased his ears. He did not consider himself a strange and unprecedented wonder that fell down straight from the sky. And he didn’t agree on bathing either, because he was already soaked enough by that yesterday’s rain. In addition to the above, he considered himself the most beautiful and smart cat in the world without any additional intrusion required.
Once again he could not restrain himself having forgotten that silence is golden. Emotions ran their course, and De Richelieu got really excited.
“I…, I am Marquis of De Richelieu!” the cat shouted out loud, jumping onto the board. He got up on his hind paws, arched his chest like a barrel, which made his belly swell a little. The cat laid his front paws on his hips and proudly repeated, “I am a marquis…”
But he could not continue. At that moment, the cart abruptly stopped. By inertia, he fell forward from the edge of the board and buried his whole body in the hay. Frightened that he had done something wrong and needed to run away as soon as possible, in an instant the cat jumped up and back and showed his readiness to leave the cart any moment. His naughty temper, however, showed again.
“Why are you staring?” Marquis addressed his companions with his inherent arrogance, and blew a couple of times on a straw hanging from a shaggy forehead. “Have you never seen a learned cat?”
A stunned horseman sat in front of him with his mouth and eyes wide open. It could be seen how he froze at the very moment when he wanted to pull the reins. But there was no need in doing it anymore, as the horse stopped by herself, turning her head in their direction. It was evident that she was no less astounded than her master.
“Well, what are you staring at?” the cat asked once again, feeling how his own eyes narrowed with anger and fear, “Yes, I am a marquis and in this locality I am one of a kind!”
De Richelieu saw curiosity of his new acquaintances literally growing before his eyes. And he almost felt good and not afraid at all except there was something unpleasant behind his right ear, bothering and pricking him in the neck. He rubbed that spot with his paw and pulled two spines-splinters out of there.
“A talking cat,” said the man quietly and even with some kind of fright in his voice. He heard the horse giggle, as if agreeing with his words, “A red and half-shabby cat can talk,” the man continued, as his eyes began blinking. “Well, it seems like some sort of devilry to me…”
The horse turned towards him even more, and the look of her large and sad eyes said only that she could not understand what was happening to her at that moment: either she actually saw the cat speaking in a human voice or she simply went crazy…
De Richelieu wanted to give her a couple of mewing phrases in order to at least somehow reassure her, but then he changed his mind.
The man continued to stare at the newcomer, noting in his mind that in front of him stood a cat of unusually large sizes and a bright red tint. At first glance, one could think that this animal was composed of two different breeds, connected together directly in the middle of the body. The part of the hair that scattered from the middle part of the belly to the head looked as if it had been licked all over too much and never washed, and some bathing was very strongly required, while the second half, extending from the middle part of the belly to the tips of the hind paws, was incredibly fluffy and clean. De Richelieu’s pupils were dark green in color, and his eyes were kind of saying that he was and incredibly smart cat and possibly very cunning.
“Yes,” said the cat proudly, as if sensing the impression he was making. “My name is De Richelieu. Marquis de Richelieu. I come from a noble family and belong to those cats whom nobody throws out, but who themselves run away… if I don’t like something!”
He did not want to talk anymore about himself, and even less did he want to dive into details. In particular, he certainly did not want to tell how he had been given as a present to one of major merchants, as a gesture of gratitude, and how his new owners had brought him to these lands. At first they loved him, but one day he accidentally committed one act, for which he was thrown out to the street. The feelings of pride and self-esteem that were inherent in him from the very birth did not make him more nice or complaisant. But, despite this, De Richelieu always dreamed of a good family, a home where he would live with good owners and a huge circle of friends who would love him.
The horse made a long snort with her lower and upper lips, not trying to hide her attitude to this unexpected fellow traveler. “Yes, this talking impudent cat is worthy of surprise,” she thought, and turned her gaze to her master.
“In the Gorge of the Black Peaks, you’ll say everything you think about it, my dear Lisa, but now I still don’t understand you!” said the horseman and made it clear that they had to move on. Snorting again, the horse turned her head toward the road and immediately pulled the cart forward. The trees slowly sailed past them, but the marquis still stood at the same place and in the same pose as when he met his new acquaintances, without moving an inch in any direction.
“Do you want to stay?” the horseman asked kindly, and, not waiting for an answer, suggested, “Stay if you want to! But I have to warn you right away that we are heading to the Gorge of the Black Peaks!”
Marquis heard uncertainty in the man’s words when he said them. The man still could not believe in the unexpected appearance of a talking cat and were trying to mentally convince himself that this could not be true, although his ears and eyes made it perfectly clear that it was real. No, the man
did not get scared and did not chase the cat away. De Richelieu could not know or even imagine that this man had already been in a place where people could talk with animals, and he’d been there more than once. It was a special place, an amazing, magical, dangerous one, from where not everyone managed to return alive, because many those who had gone to the Gorge of the Black Peaks (yeah, that’s the place we’re talking about), no one had ever seen again. And this was exactly the place where they were heading now.
“I agree,” answered the cat, gladly anticipating that now he would have company and some bearable food as well.
He was not at all interested or worried about such questions as what is the Gorge of the Black Peaks and where it is located. He had no idea what awaited him there. After a nice conversation that he had with the owner of the cart, he relaxed and took a step forward. Marquis dropped down onto his back right in the hay, looked at the horseman who had turned away from him, pulled out another prick from his neck, after which he looked around at the blue sky and clouds floating somewhere into the distance.
“So you say your name is Marquis de Richelieu?” a man, who this time did not even turn to him, suddenly decided to continue their conversation.
“Exactly!” the cat answered proudly, whisking away a fly that flied buzzing over him.
“And my name is Bogdan. I live on the outskirts of the town of Irpen. It is very beautiful there. Immediately behind the garden begins a huge pine forest, and then a river flows there. My wife’s name is Belava, and my daughter’s name is Velena. My handsome dog’s name is Bobik, my cat’s name is Sima, and our horse is called Lisa.”
Marquis saw that Bogdan looked even happy with the new guest. It was felt that he wanted to talk to someone and at least somehow dispel loneliness. Lisa had no choice but to slowly pull the cart, listening to the same stories for the thousandth time. And now there was a new passenger, Marquis de Richelieu himself, with whom you could not only have a word, but also hear something new any moment.
“And how did you live, Marquis, all these years?” Bogdan asked him without turning around.
The cat picked the straw that happened under his paw and, holding it between the pads, he lifted it up. He directed the edge of the straw toward the Sun, as if he wanted to shoot and hit a luminous point, but the straw was so thin that it immediately bent, and its edge pointed to the horseman, who was occasionally twitching the reins.
“If you do not want to tell, then don’t!” said the man, with some boredom in his voice, wanting to nevertheless draw a new fellow traveler into the conversation.
“Well, why not?” answered the cat hastily, throwing a straw aside. “I have no secrets! And I can tell you about my origin and my royal pedigree!”
“We have lots of time!” said Bogdan with interest, looking at the cat lying comfortably, as if he was at home. “But first, I would like to know how you learned to talk?”
“This is an old story related to one royal family, which had one big secret related to our cat dynasty. Like all my other brothers, sisters and distant relatives, I descend from the Marquise of Lavroix-La-Pargenier, my great-great-grandmother. Her portrait was painted by the most famous painter of those times, who received a very good reward for doing it.
“And how was your great-great-grandmother different from all those other cats that roamed the attics and basements at night in search of mice?” asked the horseman with a grin.
For some reason, it was at this moment that a huge brown fly landed on De Richelieu, the very fly that ran over Lisa’s buttock a few moments before. The marquise was very unpleased. He wanted to catch her, but as a mirage the fly flew between his paws, mocking his patience.
“Oh, you…,” Marquis did not manage to say what he wanted, because just before his nose flew the tip of a whip, which caught a boring fly and nailed it directly to the wooden board.
“At first she bothered Lisa, and then she would not let me listen to what you were trying to say!” Bogdan said.
Having pulled back the whip, he winked at the cat and again turned his face towards the road.
“Come on, my new found friend, tell me!”
But then all of a sudden the cart rushed forward, and although the man attempted to pull the reins and slow down at that very moment, it would not help. The horse, no matter what, only ran faster. What is the matter with her, the man thought, and accidentally glanced up out of the corner of his eye. His face twisted.
“Zaldan! This is Zaldan!” he cried excitedly. “Lisa, run faster into the forest! We need to make our way there before he flies out of the clouds!”
De Richelieu stared in horror at the rapidly darkening sky. It was covered with clouds, but those were not rain clouds, but rather something kind of artificial in appearance. There was something intimidating and menacing in them. But not only that. At the same time, a black dot appeared on the horizon, very rapidly growing in sizes, and then it was already circling above the forest in front of them.
“Faster, Lisa!” shouted the horseman, and cut the air with his whip. “Speed up, we are almost there!”
Lisa dashed the best she could, and literally in a moment later they were in the dense shadow of the nearest trees. They had no other protection at that moment. De Richelieu was seriously scared. And his fear got only stronger, his paws trembled, his ears stuck up, his mustache was moving. His heart was pounding furiously, and in the usually reasonable head of a talking cat there was a feverish thought: no forest could save us; we need to run and run as far away as we can, or like a mole, dig ourselves deep into the ground.
“My sweet mother Marquise!” the cat whispered with trembling voice, seeing how quickly the plain-looking black dot not simply grows in size, but turns into a huge and mighty bird.
It was an outlandish black eagle about twice as large as a horse, with an immense wingspan, and with knife-sharp claws. And the size of each claw was far bigger than the size of a small cat. His eyes were bright green, and it seemed that they pierced right through this dense dark forest.
And yet, our fugitives managed to dodge the merciless predator. They literally crashed into a loophole between the densely growing trees, but the eagle did not calm down and kept ramming the branches of tall trees at the same tremendous speed, trying to reach the people and animals he had chosen as his victims. At some point, he almost made it, and yet a densely overgrown forest protected the fellow travelers. The angry eagle flew up sharply again in no mood to let them go, and again began to look for an appropriate crevice between the trees.
“Zaldan is already above us! Quicker, quicker into the forest!” the man continued to scream, hurrying a horse who already was choking from running, “Quicker!”
And events were taking an ever more dramatic turn.
De Richelieu also saw how Zaldan rushed down straight at them. However, fear did not make the cat defenseless, but, on the contrary, woke up his instinct of self-preservation. Without hesitation, De Richelieu jumped off the cart and immediately ran as fast as he could, not knowing where, just to get away from this impudent and importunate bird, from these terrible gloomy clouds, which could be the only shelter of the black eagle. Marquis turned back only once to see what was happening behind his back. He saw the horseman jump off the cart and run away, and the horse rushed to a huge oak tree and jumped into a deep moat together with the cart.
“Zaldan! Zaldan!” Marquis continued to yell meanwhile, as if he wanted to warn the inhabitants of this whole forest about the terrible danger that threatened them, but, to his surprise, not a single animal was at his sight. I was as if they all knew in advance and hid all as one in a timely manner.
Real clouds began to quickly overtake the sky; somewhere high above flashed a lightning, and then rolled a thunder. De Richelieu was still rushing between the trees and just when he wanted to stop to find shelter, again he saw a huge shadow, as if it was pursuing him. Yes, it was the same Zaldan with his terrible green eyes. Marquis immediately lost the desire to stop and seek shelter. Fear drove him forward, and he ran over hedge and ditch and not knowing where, until he finally crossed the forest. Ahead of him some houses appeared on the outskirts.