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Astrodrake

     

A man in a blue robe covered with stars, planets and strange symbols burst unannounced into the office of the mayor of People's village. He bowed dramatically. "Your Excellency, I humbly present myself as the magnificent Astrodrake, astrologer extraordinaire and all round seer. I offer my services as court astrologer and consulting advisor."

Mayor Friend's ample belly  jiggled as he laughed at this audacious stranger. "My, but you've a good opinion of yourself. In the first place, Mister Astrodrake, I've no need of an advisor nor an astrologer. Besides, you could be a nothing but a charlatan."

Astrodrake bowed again. "As mayor, a very important post indeed, you need advice from someone who can see dire events before they occur. Suppose a terrible disaster were to strike your village. You'd want advance notice in order to prepare. As for my qualifications, as a demonstration of my astrological prowess, allow me to cast your horoscope. If the events that I predict for the following week do not occur, I'll leave your village, never to return."

"Fair enough. If your prediction comes true, I'll hire you as a consultant."

"That's all I ask. Please give me the date and time of your birth. I'll return tomorrow with my predictions."

After Mayor Friend gave Astrodrake the information, the astrologer bowed his way out snickering internally. Actually, he was an evil sorcerer who'd been expelled from his native land because spells that he'd cast went bad, causing the death of the king and queen of that land, the demise of his own sister and the disappearance of two infants.

***

While Astrodrake was cajoling the mayor into hiring him, Alicia, Friend's lovely, young daughter, was in the arms of Tom Goodboy, the dashing captain of the guard. "Oh I love you so much, Alicia," he whispered into her ear as his hands wandered to a place where they had no business.

Alicia gently moved his hands to her waist and kissed him on the lips. "Oh  Tom, I love you too. You must ask my father for my hand."

Goodboy played with his thin, feathery mustache. "Would he give his approval? I'm but a common soldier."

"And my father is a politician. We're not nobles."

"Ahem. I'll speak with him tomorrow, perhaps."

"No. You must ask this very instant. C'mon." She dragged him through the garden door to her father's office.

Friend's chin rested in his hand. Sighing he glanced up and smiled at his daughter. "Greetings Alicia, I'm glad you're here. I want your advise on an important matter."

"Good day, Father. Captain Goodboy wants to ask you something."

"He can ask later. Right now, I need to talk to you. Captain, please leave us alone."

Goodboy wiped sweat from his brow and headed for the exit. Before he could escape, Alicia whispered, "Stay nearby. When we finish our conversation, return and ask for my hand."

Goodboy nodded and bolted out the door.

"What is it, Papa?"

Friend gave her a worried glance. "Why was the captain of the guard with you? Did someone molest you?"

"No. We met in the garden by happenstance. He wants to ask you something."

"I want to ask you about an important matter too, dear Alicia."

"Ask away."

"Considering the importance of my office, should I hire an advisor?"

"Why Papa? People's is only a tiny village."

"But suppose there was a disaster, like a flood or a forest fire. I wouldn't know what to do."

"Why evacuate everyone, silly. Rescue people with boats in the first case. Form a bucket brigade in the second. What brought this on?"

He told her about Astrodrake's visit. "He claims to foresee the future and warn me whenever disaster threatens."

"I hope that he's not a fraud. Remember that salesman last year? Let me be here when this astrologer interprets your horoscope."

"Don't remind me about that stock I bought, PowerCon or EarthCon or something. I'm not even sure what the company sold. Yes My Dear, you must be here. You're good at spotting phonies."

"Was there anything else, Papa?"

"No. You may send in Captain Goodboy."

Alicia opened the office door and looked to the left and right. Goodboy was nowhere in sight. "He must've been called away to duty," she muttered.

***

Actually Goodboy had hurried away to the arms of the buxom temptress, Lady Luscious. She was a few years older than Alicia and Goodboy and experienced in the affairs of the heart. She was posed lusciously on her sofa in indecent lounging wear. "Did you break up with that little commoner?"

Goodboy wiped additional perspiration from his forehead. "Not exactly. She's a delicate naive thing, who'll go all to pieces. But I'll must do it soon. She's pressuring me to ask for her hand."

Luscious squinted poisonously. "Why Tommy love, there must be fifty ways to leave your lover. Just slip out the back, Jack. Leave a note, Lote. Have a spat, Matt. etc. etc."

"But she's the mayor's daughter. If I broke her heart, Friend would fire me. I'd have to get a job involving actual toil."

"I see. What needs to happen is for her to dump you."

"That would work. If she felt guilty about it, she might ask the mayor to promote me."

"Come here, Lover Boy." When Goodboy took her in his arms, she patted his cheek. "I know how to take care of your problem."

"You're so good to Goodboy," Goodboy said, nibbling her ear.

***

Astrodrake returned to his room and summoned the demon, D. Sastor, who appeared like a combination whirlwind, conflagration, earthquake and volcanic eruption. Astrodrake cowered within his protected circle, holding his arms in front of his face.

"Do you wish something destroyed, smashed and obliterated little man?"

"Yes, Your Destructionly," Astrodrake choked out. "But only a small disaster, nothing spectacular."

"How about a terrible plague that kills everyone in this village?"

"Too drastic. I want to annoy the hell out of people but not harm them too much."

"How about a rain of toads?"

"Ugh. I hate the slimy things. Make it something furry."

"Rats?"

"Perfect. But not immediately. Let's say one week from today."

D. Sastor bowed, breaking the wardrobe into splinters. "As you command." It disappeared in a blaze of smoke, fire and flood, charring the carpet.

Astrodrake moved the bed over the burn spot and swept the wardrobe remains under it. He drew up a horoscope for the mayor and invented a prophesy to suit a plague of rats.

***

At the appointed hour, Astrodrake appeared at the mayor's office. To his delight, also present was a wide-eyed young woman with a ponytail hanging down wearing Chantilly lace.

"Astrodrake, this is my daughter, Alicia, my current advisor. She's here to advise me on the advisability of hiring a new advisor."

Astrodrake was instantly smitten. He bowed in a courtly manner and kissed Alicia's fingertips. "The pleasure is mine, Alicia. You're the loveliest advisor I've ever seen."

Alicia blushed prettily. "It's nice to meet you, too, Mister Astrodrake." She looked him over approvingly. The  tall, well proportioned Astrodrake, with his dark beard and chiseled features, usually struck a cord with the ladies.

"Simply Astrodrake, please."

"Ahem," interrupted Friend. "Shall we get down to business."

"Of course." From his voluminous garment, Astrodrake retrieved a folding easel and a sheaf of charts. Using his wand as a pointer, he explained a chart of the zodiac with symbols designating the planets. "You have great leadership qualities and astute perception. In the past you've experienced happiness and tragedy. One you loved greatly has gone to the great beyond." He knew that the mayor was a widower. "A beautiful young woman gives you great happiness and good advise." He smiled at Alicia. "Much prosperity and good fortune lies ahead --  if you make the right decisions. Someone with mystical powers will aid you."

Friend clapped his hands together. "You have my qualities down well."

"It's all in your chart."

Alicia knitted her brows. "But what of his future? And the town's? You promised to make a prediction to prove that you're not a fraud."

"Of course, My Dear." Astrodrake flipped to a second chart. "This shows the heavens a week from today." He shook his head in dismay. "Danger lies ahead."

"What sort of danger?" cried Friend.

Astrodrake pointed. "As you see, Mars and Mercury are conjoined in the Dragon, Venus is in opposition to the Moon in the constellation of The Rat."

"But what does it mean?"

"There'll be an invasion of a furry creatures one week from today."

"Ohmigosh. What should I do?"

"Have your guards practice archery. Purchase small beasts traps and order a lot of cheese."

Friend scratched his head. "Strange advise. What do you think, Alicia?"

Alicia shrugged. Her mind was elsewhere. She hadn't heard from Goodboy since he'd mysteriously disappeared the day before. "It wouldn't hurt to do as he says in case his prophesy comes true."

Astrodrake grinned, sure that Alicia was attracted to him. Why else would she completely agree with his advise. He kissed Alicia's fingertips again and bowed to the mayor.

 

***

Goodboy remained in the barracks practicing swordsmanship, a skill that had earned him his rank. No one in the Neerg army ever best him in fencing. Swordplay helped him relax and think He hoped to solve the dilemma of which woman to continue seeing. He hated to give up either woman. He lusted after Lady Luscious for her curves and expensive presents. Nonetheless, he couldn't see marrying her. Alicia was cute and demure. If he married her, the mayor would promote him to chief of the town guards. Now both were pressing him to make a decision, something he wasn't ready to do.

He bested Sergeant Druck in moments. As they drew beers from the barracks barrel, he told Druck his dilemma. "What would you do, Druck?"

"We-ell, during the last war with Retslu, a woman on each side of the border wanted to marry me. So I married 'em both."

"But that's against the law."

"Not really. Since each country didn't recognize the laws of the other, it was perfectly legal. Besides, neither gal knew that I was wed to the other."

"What happened to them?"

"Oh, they's widows now. I had my commanding officer notify them that I was killed in action." He and Goodboy burst out laughing.

"Good story, but has nothing to do with my situation."

"Do what I did. String 'em both along. Get engaged to the mayor's daughter, but tell this Lady Luscious that your broke it off with her."

Goodboy slapped Druck on the back. "You're a smart man. I'm putting you in for promotion to Lieutenant. I'll do what you said."

The soldiers clinked steins and drained them.

***

Soon after Astrodrake arrived home, he had a visitor. It annoyed him, as he'd been studying an ancient necromancy text to learn a transformation spell, but not getting it. He'd tried to turn a vase into a goblet but transformed a dinner plate instead. Also, he'd turned a dog into a goose instead of a serpent. He had Alicia's sweet face on his mind and wondered how to transform her slight attraction to him to ardent desire. 

Lady Luscious was at his door. Astrodrake eyed her up and down, admiring her luscious figure. "May I help you?"

"Are you Astrodrake, the sorcerer?"

"My name's Astrodrake, but I'm a simple astrologer. I know nothing of sorcery."

Lady Luscious shook her finger at him. "Don't lie. My cousin lives in Rus. I know all about what you did."

Astrodrake frowned. "Apparently your cousin spreads vicious untrue rumors about people. But, suppose I do know a little sorcery. Why would that concern you, whoever you are?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I haven't introduced myself. I'm Lady Luscious, widow of the late Count Luscious. I live in that stupendous castle on the hill."

Realizing that she was someone of influence, Astrodrake bowed her in and poured brandy. "Now Lady Luscious, what can I do for you?"

"I want you to mix a love philter. I'll pay handsomely."

Astrodrake made a sour face. "I don't do love potions. I'm sure your cousin has written about the disastrous results of such a thing to the king and queen."

"That's why I know you can do them. I'll pay any price you ask and use my influence to help you in your ambitions." She got an evil look in her eye. "If you don't help me with this matter,   the letter from my cousin could accidentally fall into Friend's hands."

Astrodrake rubbed his chin. "Who do you want to fall in love with you? A woman with your obvious charms should have no trouble enchanting any man."

"Oh it's not to get a man to fall in love with me. I wish to give it to the mayor's daughter so that she'll fall in love with someone other than Captain Goodboy."

"Alicia?"

"Yes. Captain Goodboy is torn between me and her. If he caught her kissing another man, he'd give her up and marry me."

"Is Alicia in love with this Goodboy?"

"She keeps pressing him to ask Mayor Friend for her hand."

This information dovetailed well with Astrodrake's own plans. "Very well. But first give me the letter from your cousin."

"No. First give me the love philter."

"My potions are too potent to be used by amateurs. I'll administer it myself."

"In that case, when she dumps Goodboy, I'll give you the letter."

They sealed the deal with a handshake.

***

The next day Goodboy called on Alicia. "I'm ready to talk to your father."

Alicia threw herself into his arms. "He's in his office taking a nap. Come."

When they entered Friend's office, he was fast asleep. Alicia tickled his nose with her hair, waking him with a start. He smiled at Alicia. "Up to your old tricks, waking poor old papa from his nap."

"I'm here on an important mission. Captain Goodboy has something to say."

Friend stared at Alicia and Goodboy. "You look so serious. Has Astrodrake's prophesy come true?"

"No papa. Tom, ask him."

"Sir. I'm but a lowly officer in your service, but Alicia and I are in love. I wish to ask her hand in marriage."

Friend's eyes went wide. "What? Marry Alicia? She's but a child."

Alicia made a pouty face. "No, I'm not. We celebrated my eighteenth birthday only a month ago."

"Are you in love with the captain?"

"With all my heart." She held Goodboy's hand to her breast.

"What of you, Captain? Will you give my daughter the good things in life and make her happy, forever?"

"Yes sir."

Friend's head swiveled. He sighed. "Very well, You have my permission and blessings. So that you can afford to shower my daughter with gifts, I hereby promote you to major and raise your salary ten kopecks a week. Come here, my children." He kissed his daughter and embraced Goodboy. "When will the great event take place?"

"We haven't decided yet," replied Alicia.

"Allow me to make the arrangements. I want your wedding to be a grand and glorious affair."

"Ahem," coughed Goodboy. "We should keep the engagement secret for a while. The other men might get jealous. First I'll let announce my promotion. After they get used to the idea, we'll let them know that I'm marrying your daughter."

It didn't make much sense. Nonetheless, Friend and Alicia went along with keeping their engagement secret.

 

***

Goodboy went directly from the mayor's office to Luscious's castle.

"Darling, what a surprise. What brings you here so early?"

"Alicia and I are no longer a couple."

"Wonderful. Was she devastated?"

Goodboy thought for a moment. If he told Luscious that she was, he couldn't justify his promotion. "She dumped me. I think she's seeing someone else."

"Marvelous. Astrodrake works quickly."

"Astrodrake? What does he have to do with this?"

"Never mind. Sit by me, Dear Boy."

 

***

Actually Astrodrake had not seen Alicia nor her father. He'd been busy practicing his transforming spell and mixing a batch of Love Potion Number Eighteen, which was twice as powerful as Love Potion Number Nine.

Exactly a week after the day that he'd predicated rats, he called on Friend. As he strolled from the inn, he noticed a rat running across the street. He smiled. D. Sastor had done its work. On the next block a whole group of them were chasing an old lady. He grinned broadly and thought that this would be great fun.

At the mayor's office, he found Alicia and Friend standing on the desk screeching and hugging each other. Twenty rats pranced around the pair. Astrodrake covered his mouth to disguise his mirth.

"Help us," cried Alicia. "Your prediction has come true."

Astrodrake took a chunk of cheese from his garments, opened the door and tossed it out. The rats stopped harassing Friend and Alicia and ran after the cheese. Astrodrake slammed the door when the last one left the room.

After Friend and Alicia climbed from the desk, Alicia hugged Astrodrake. "Thank you for saving us." While her arms were around him, Astrodrake sprinkled love potion on her neck. She stiffened. "Oh my. I feel strange." She gazed into Astrodrake's eyes and kissed him with great passion.

Friend said, "Alicia! I know he saved us from the rats, but what you're doing is unseemly. Stop now. You're an engaged woman."

 

***

All week Goodboy thought about what Luscious had told him. He'd wormed out of her her deal with Astrodrake. If he actually used the potion on Alicia, Goodboy knew his plan to marry Alicia and keep Luscious as a mistress would be ruined. Kicking rats out of his way, he followed Astrodrake to Friend's office, peeked in the window where he saw Alicia and Astrodrake necking and petting.

He drew his sword and burst into the room. "Unhand my sweetheart, churl." He poked the sword into Astrodrake's butt, drawing blood.

"What in the Lowest Region of the Netherworld?" cried Astrodrake, holding his injured posterior.

"That's where I'll be sending you, you seducer of engaged women."

"You tell him," cried Friend.

Alicia gazed at Goodboy and Astrodrake, burst into tears and ran out of the room.

To defend himself, Astrodrake cast a transformation spell on Goodboy to turn him into a bug. Instead, Goodboy became a werelion. He had the head, mane, claws, and tail of a lion, but the stance and mind of a human. He roared as he went after Astrodrake with his sword.

Astrodrake hid behind the mayor, holding his body in front of his own until he could run out the door. Goodboy chased after him. Thousand of rats impeded Goodboy's and Astrodrake's progress, biting their ankles. In desperation, Astrodrake cast a transformation spell on the rats. In his panic, he stumbled over the spell's wording. The rats remained rats. Instead, the people all around him metamorphosed into cats. For the most part the people had been running from the rats. A few swatted at them with brooms, hoes and pitchforks. Once they became cats, however, the rats became their prey. The cats chased the rats all over town, pouncing on and killing them.

With the streets cleared of rats, the chase went on. Astrodrake ran as fast as his long legs could carry him. Goodboy chased after him waving his sword and roaring. Astrodrake ran past the inn he and headed up the trail to Luscious's castle. Panting, he pounded on the gate and hollered, "Let me in. He'll kill me. Help me, please."

Luscious's haughty butler opened the door and asked, "Who shall I say is calling?"

"Astrodrake!" He rushed past the butler and slammed the door. Panting, he said, "Don't let that creature in. He wants to kill me."

"Sorry sir, but I only take orders from the mistress."

By that time, Goodboy was pounding on the door and roaring.

Luscious appeared. "What's all the racket?"

Astrodrake said, "Goodboy saw me kissing Alicia. He wants to kill me."

"He does, does he. We'll see about that. Jeeves, you may go. I'll handle this."

Jeeves bowed. "As you wish, Mistress." Nose in the air, he left the foyer.

Luscious opened the door. "Who or what are you?" she cried, seeing Goodboy's lion head.

"It's me, Goodboy. That sorcerer Astrodrake cast a spell on me. Let me in so I can slice him into sandwich ham."

"Wait. Why did he cast a spell on you?"

"Well, I ... uh ... caught him ... uh ..."

"Kissing Alicia? Why should that concern you? She had dumped you."

"Uh ... she's so young ... and inexperienced. This man is a cad."

"And you wanted to rescue her from the big, bad sorcerer. Liar. You asked for her hand in marriage."

"How did you know that?"

"The mayor's a blabbermouth. It's all over town. Get out of here. Don't bother coming back."

She slammed the door in his face. She turned to Astrodrake sitting on bench trying to recover from running uphill to her castle. She laughed. "So, that's why you wanted to administer the potion to Alicia. You desired her yourself."

"Yes. But everything went wrong. She became engaged to Goodboy before I could make her fall in love with me. Friend is angry because she and I kissed and I turned everyone in People's Village into cats."

"What! Why?"

"It was an accident. I was trying to transform the rats." He blurted out his scheme to become the town wizard.

Luscious laughed. "Oh this is rich. I guess we'll have to change the name of the town to Cat's Village. If I were you, I'd make myself scarce."

"Oh I will. I'm going to King's Town to enter the king's tournament. The winner is to marry his. I'll call myself, Mordrake."

"She's a spoiled and demanding."

"Don't worry, I'll take care of that." He jiggled the bottle of love potion.

***

Alicia lay down on her bed bawling. She was in love with two men and didn't know what to do. She hoped that Astrodrake had escaped from Goodboy. Suddenly, she felt different somehow, more feline. Were those whiskers sprouting? She looked at her hands. They'd turned into claws. In the mirror she saw that she had the face of a comely cat. She felt better looking than when she had been human. She posed and said, "I'll call myself, Tiger Lily."

She looked out the window, saw the rats being chased by cats and decided to join them. She realized that she could change herself into a small white cat whenever she wanted. She'd become a werecat.

***

After the rats were gone, including Astrodrake, Mayor People's Friend became Mayor Cat's Friend. Alicia, calling herself Tiger Lily, was about to marry Goodboy, now known as Dandy Lion, when she caught him making love to Pussy, her bridesmaid, a Persian werecat.

 

The End

         

 

 

         

 

 

         

 

                 

   

If you liked this story, you might like to read one of my anthologies. Click on the word anthology for more information. 

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