It was that stupid cat again. “Dumb thing, always getting stuck on top of my roof.”
Elaine set down her sewing and murmured a quick spell to stop the soft ambient music in the room. If she didn't get that cat off the roof by nightfall, it would start crying for help and there was no way Elaine would be able to sleep through the racket. She'd tried.
So, Elaine stepped out into the bright daylight outside her house— a single story house that a cat ought to have no trouble getting down from if it got up in the first place— and squinted up at the roof.
Sure enough, there it was, looking as pleased as ever with itself for being up there.
"Pretty smug face there, for a cat who's going to realize pretty soon that she's too incompetent to get back on the ground."
The cat, of course, just stared at Elaine with indifferent orange eyes as she got her ladder and leaned it against the house with a grunted spell of stabilization.
"And now for the fun part," Elaine sighed, watching the cat saunter out of her reach, giving her a head-on view of its furry black butt, skinny tail swishing. "Do we have to do this every time?"
As always, it took the better part of half an hour to get close enough to the thing to pick it up, and going down the ladder with a cat in her arms was definitely not something Elaine had ever wanted to have to do once a day. There is no casting spells on cats, even if Elaine had enough power to cast on any living animal; legends about why that is abound, but Elaine was pretty sure cats were just too stubborn and annoying to let something like a spell get in the way of doing what they wanted to.
Anyway, Elaine had gotten better at getting the ornery thing off her roof over the last few weeks, magic or no. And now, as she watched the cat saunter off, its tail flicking irritably, she still had some time to finish the project she'd been working on before the interruption.
Elaine turned to head inside, thoughts of the cat already drifting away, when:
"Hey! You there!"
Elaine stopped in her tracks, startled. Slowly, she turned around again, to see a well-dressed man standing outside her fence, staring at her.
"Yes, you. What'd you let that cat go for?"
Elaine was at a loss. "What did I… Well, it's not my cat. Is it yours?"
The man looked bewildered for a moment, then laughed. "Were that it was!" His laughter continued until he seemed to realize that Elaine really hadn't been joking. "Don't you know whose cat that is?"
Elaine shrugged. "I can't say that I do, though I supposed it must belong to someone who can afford to give their cat a collar with a fancy key attached like that one. Clearly made with magic, that's for sure."
The man nodded. "Indeed, rich she is, and also the prettiest, most magically endowed lady in the city."
He gave Elaine a significant look, which she returned blankly. Finally, he added, "You know, Enchantress Katherine, Lady of Light and Dark?"
Oh. Well obviously Elaine had known that, but how was she supposed to know that the Lady had a cat? Or that the man hadn't been exaggerating about his own wife? "Of course, I see. And I suppose you hoped that you might return the cat to her or something, so she'd give you money?"
The man frowned. "Of course not. I don't need money, anyway. Hasn't the Lady's decree reached this part of the city?"
At this, the man looked around as if he'd just realized he didn't know where exactly he was. Which was fair, Elaine supposed, considering that most people didn't know quite where they were by the time they made it to her home. She wasn't sure if it was the spell on the house, or just that few people really required the one service she could provide.
To answer the man's question, Elaine asked, "What decree? I don't get much news this far from the city center."
"Ah, well you see, the Lady has recently come of age to marry, but only the man who can catch her cat, alive, with that collar round its neck, will be the one to marry her. They say the key is magic, not only protecting the cat and lending it supernatural abilities, but also ensuring that only when the man is holding the cat will the key allow him through the Lady's door.
"The creature has been causing a regular riot in the city streets, but no one seems to know how to get it for all their trying."
"I see." Elaine hadn't realized the Enchantress was so young— really probably about her own age— but the rest of the story sounded ridiculous and wasteful enough of magic to fit what she understood about what the people in the city were like. "So, you're trying to catch the cat… why?" He looked too old to be thinking about marrying someone Elaine's age.
"For my son, you see. But it's no matter to you, I suppose. The cat's gone now, and if I don't get after it soon I'm sure someone else will."
The man started to leave, but Elaine said, "Actually, that cat is on my roof most every day. Goodness knows I'd be happy to be rid of it; perhaps we could make an arrangement? One hundred coin?"
Facing her again, the man smiled. "Miss, I'd give you five hundred coin if you could get that cat for me."
Elaine blinked. One hundred had seemed like a stretch to her. But, "Okay. Five hundred coin and the cat is yours, Sir…"
"Strickland. Edward Strickland. And your name is?"
"Elaine. Just Elaine."
Sir Strickland blinked. "Very well, Elaine. I'll come by next week to see if you've got that cat for me."
And the two went their separate ways, the man no doubt looking forward to seeing his son marry the most powerful woman in the city, and Elaine already imagining the things she would do with her small fortune.
Author Notes: This is, as I've already said in the title and description, part 1 of this story, based on a writing prompt I found on Pinterest (spoiler alert - https://i.pinimg.com/564x/a4/c6/85/a4c685e7a01dd3528fda5ba33ca97243.jpg). It's a complete story, but it's long so I'm posting each part with a few days in between.
Let me know what you think!
Part 2: https://www.shortstories101.com/story/cat-part-2/