Author's note – This story originally had nothing more than just a title when I wrote "Dowry of Stories". I was coming up with story names and nothing more for several of the first stories mentioned since I only wanted to list Rocatis's favorite stories. This one took me the longest to think of a good story to accompany it. It's a cute and short story about how a simple kindness can mean a lot to others. I hope you enjoy.
Little Lost Cat
The skinny black cat wandered into the town of Dakulon. Most people did not even really give it a second glance if they looked at it at all. It wandered down alleys and sniffed at rubbish heaps but did not find anything it could eat. Eventually, it found its way to the market and found a stall near the river that flowed through the center of town that sold fresh fish. It meowed pitifully at the owner of the stall but he yelled at it and nearly kicked it away so the cat ran off.
It wandered off and wandered the streets for a long while, looking up hopefully to all the people that passed it. It was ignored by them all – except for a group of boys that watched its progress down one of the town's streets. Those boys started to follow it and, when it had turned down an alley that was a dead end, the boys cornered the poor animal. They pulled its tail and kicked it and laughed all the while as they tortured the cat.
"Stop that!" A middle-aged woman came out of a door that was along that alley having heard the cat's cries of pain. She brandished her broom at them. They quickly ran off, laughing and jeering.
The woman was called Nadiem. She was a widow whose three sons had all moved away. And she went to the cat that lay mewling on the ground at her. "You poor little thing." She crouched down beside the little cat and rubbed it down its spine before she gingerly picked it up.
"Let's see if I can do anything for you," she said as she carried the cat into her house.
The woman laid the cat on her kitchen table and got a little saucer of cream for it and set it beside the cat as she went to cut up some of the cured ham she had. She brought that to the little cat, too, then sat down in one of the chairs at the table watching him sniff at what she had provided him.
"You're so skinny. I guess you're not all that good at catching mice." She smiled at the cat when it looked up at her. "If you stay, I'll fatten you up plenty."
And the little cat meowed at her before starting to eat the meat she had given it. She sat and watched it for a while before she rose to go finish the chores she had been doing when she heard the boys hurting the cat. She hummed happily as she worked, sometimes looking over at the cat who still lay on the table watching her and twitching its tail.
For the rest of the day, the cat watched her as she went about her daily routine cooking and cleaning and knitting. She would periodically pet the little cat and it would reward her with a purr. She was grateful for the company, however small and furry, since she had been lonely for many years without her husband or sons there. She shared her dinner with the little cat and it at the chicken and gravy it was given gratefully. When Nadiem went to bed, she brought the cat with her and let it curl up to sleep on her extra pillow.
And that was the way the next several days progressed. The cat would stay near her and keep her company and she would feed the little cat all the cream and meat it wished. The little cat was clearly gaining weight for its bones became less visible. It was also getting more energy, finding little things in her house to play with. She would smile as the cat played with an old nut shell it had found that she had to assume had fallen out of her market basket many months earlier.
It was on the ninth day after she had gained her little companion that it started to act strange. It hopped up into the window and stared out for the longest time as still as a statue. Nadiem wondered what it was doing but she knew that cats were strange creatures and did not worry about it – until she could not find her little black furred companion when she was getting ready to go to bed. She looked all over the house but could not find the cat. So, lonely and sad, she had to assume it had recovered enough and had found some way out of the house. It had been a stray, after all. It probably was not used to being cooped up in a house.
The next day Nadiem's life continued like usual, but she still missed the companionship, however minimal, the cat had given her for those few days. She set the nut that the little cat had played with on the mantel because it reminded her of the little cat and looking at it made her smile.
Several more days passed and she was starting to grow accustomed to her loneliness again when something amazing happened. As she sat doing her knitting late one night, a knock came to her door. Worried as to who would be coming to her home at such an hour, she cautiously opened it – and in walked the little black cat, who rubbed against her legs lovingly. She stared down at the creature in shock then saw it turn to the still open doorway and Nadiem looked up into the eyes of the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.
"My name is Breenali." The woman gave a gorgeous smile. "Kellas tells me you helped her when she was in great need."
The older woman just stared at her beautiful visitor. Her hair was a soft red and she was dressed in fine clothes, though they still seemed fit for traveling in and were earthy colors.
"May I come in, Nadiem?"
Shocked that this woman knew her name, it took her a moment to oblige the request.
The cat rubbed against the visitor's legs as she walked into the little home. Breenali looked around and smiled at the tidy home before she turned back to the woman's home whom she was in. "I am grateful that you helped my little companion. She lost her way and could not find me. She was gone for so long that I feared I might never find her again."
"I was happy to help her. I guess that was why she left me that night, to go find you."
The beautiful woman nodded. "Yes. I was close and she could sense that." She bent down and picked up the black cat, who was purring so loudly Nadiem could hear her across the room. "She said you were very kind to her. She said you saved her from some very mean boys and that you fed her from your own table and that you gave her a place to sleep right next to you."
But her words surprised Nadiem. "She told you those things?"
The woman nodded. "Kellas and I have a special connection. She can speak to me, but to no others. And she insisted that I know how kind you were."
While she was still shocked by the fact this woman could speak to the cat, she knew she probably should not pursue the subject. "I would do the same for any creature that was in need."
"Truly?" Breenali smiled brightly. "You have such a kind heart."
Nadiem could not help but smile in return. The woman's beauty and sweetness were beyond anything she had ever seen before. She wondered who this woman was…
"I would like to give you something in return for the kindness you showed to my friend."
"The company she gave me while she was here was enough for me." Though she was terribly lonely now that the cat had returned to her owner.
"There is nothing you would wish me to give you?" The woman seemed surprised. "I could give you anything at all. Whatever you desire. A nicer home. Enough money to live in luxury for the rest of your days. Youth and longevity."
It was that last thing that made her finally realize what the woman in her home was. Here was a faerie! That would explain her beauty and her grace. That would also likely explain the fact that she could speak with the cat. And this faerie was offering her anything she could imagine. And, while riches and a fine home and a long life were tempting and most others would jump such things, that was not what she wanted.
"You could give me anything I ask for?"
The faerie smiled gently. "Almost. There are a few things a wanderer like me cannot bestow."
Nadiem's eyes turned to the little cat in the beautiful woman's arms. "I'd like a companion like the one you have. I have missed the company she gave me."
That seemed to surprise the faerie. "That is all? You just wish to have a companion?"
And the woman nodded.
"Such a surprising mortal you are." And the beautiful faerie smiled and nodded. "Very well. A little cat will come to you within the week and will stay with you the rest of your days."
Nadiem smiled brightly, unable to believe how lucky she had been. "Thank you."
"I am happy to do it. But, since you have been so modest in your request, I am, myself, grateful to you." And she smiled her beautiful smile again. "Will you accept my company at some point in the future, Nadiem?"
Again, she was shocked by what the faerie had said. It took her a moment to nod, for how could she ever refuse? "I would be more than happy to welcome a faerie into my home whenever she wishes to grace me with her presence."
"Such a wonderful woman. I feel sorry that you are all alone." She continued to smile. "Should you ever need of me, you may summon me to you. All you must do is say my name three times to the wind and I shall hear you, but you must truly need my assistance for me to come."
All the mortal before her could do was stare for the longest time at this. "You say that I have been so kind to you for helping your cat, but you are being far kinder to me in return."
"It is my nature when I find a mortal such as you. Those that are truly helpful are often used or pushed aside. You are a rare mortal and, so, I am glad to help you. But you must continue to help others."
"I always try to…Breenali."
The faerie smiled. "I shall leave you so you may go back to your knitting and then retire for the night. You will have a new companion soon. Please look for him or her."
"I will be more attentive than usual while I wait for the cat you send my way."
And, with that, the faerie bowed deeply to the woman and left, her cat still in her arms.
The meeting with the faerie was so remarkable that Nadiem had trouble going to sleep that night. She wondered what sort of cat would come her way. She hoped it would be a cat like Kellas had been – sweet and playful and cuddly. She would have to wait to see.
It was four days later when she was out shopping that her new companion appeared. It was a little kitten, probably barely old enough to be away from its mother. It had a white belly but tabby markings on its legs and sides and face that darkened into solid black on its back and down the top of its tail. And it was an amazingly fluffy little thing, seeming to be more fur than anything else. It pattered alongside her as she shopped, rubbing against her legs happily. Then it followed her home and hopped up on the table in the kitchen as she started to put away the things she had bought in the market.
"You are the sweetest thing," she told the kitten as she sat down in her chair beside it – and it rubbed up against her, running its tail across her face.
"I suppose I should name you, if you're mine now. But, I need to find out if you're a little boy or a little girl first." So she scratched the cat down its spine, making its tail lift high into the air. Since she saw no obvious boy-bites, she had to assume she had gained a female companion. "Daenevi shall be your name. Do you like it, little one?"
The kitten mewled at her and rubbed against her face again, making her laugh. Her little gift from a faerie… It warmed her heart to have a companion that she knew would never leave her, that would be at her side for the rest of her life. And she would take good care of her little cat – and any other animals that happened to come her way.