My next release will be a collection of stories 4-7 of my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series. Here’s the blurb for the collection:
Baastians, Rotters, Empress Isabella, Lord Phylo and his Canine Armada – they all want a piece of Herc Tom. See how our champion saves the Empire at least three more times in this collection of Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire stories 4-7. Includes the stories “Baastard’s Revenge,” “Imperial Purrogative,” “Cats Out of the Bag,” and “Reining Cats and Dogs.”
(These stories follow the stories “Purr Mission,” “Nipped in the Butt,” and “Cat and Mouse,” which can be found in the collection Cats of War I.)
And here’s this week’s excerpt (from “Imperial Purrogative”):
Another day, another ball at the Imperial Palace. When you’re Champion of the Empire you get used to it. It doesn’t mean you enjoy it.
Kat, Marpha, and Baathsheba had gone off to powder their noses, or whatever my mates do when they disappear together at one of these events. A gentleman is never supposed to ask – it would destroy the mystique. They of course encouraged me to continue dancing, and there are ladies aplenty who would relish a dance with me, but I’ve grown tired of the jockeying and so beg off when I can. I watched the proceedings from my seat a couple of steps below Emperor Maxamillian’s throne.
The courtiers swirled about the dance floor in all their finery – cats pretending to be peacocks, trying to look their best for the Emperor – well, not their best, really, just preening to what they thought would make them seem the most interesting, the most attractive. It was all show and no substance – a subterfuge of color hoping to be noticed by the Emperor.
Emperor Maxamillian lounged on his throne, resplendent in his white dress uniform with its clusters of medals. They were all hereditary of course, earned by Felizi emperors of the past; other than a brief stint in the Fleet during his youth, Maxamillian had never really seen any action in the service, but it would not do for underlings to appear more decorated than the Emperor himself. Yes, even the Emperor sought to impress.
Empress Isabella sat to the Emperor’s left, with three of their ladies in waiting seated on cushions about her. Law dictated that the Emperor could only have one official mate, and that the imperial line would be traced through that queen, so the official representation that the Emperor only had the Empress was maintained for appearances sake. Another ineffective subterfuge; it was common knowledge that some of those ladies were waiting on his pleasure, not that of Isabella.
Prince Octavio, first in line to the throne, sat to his father’s right. He wore a similar white uniform, but with only one or two unobtrusive medals festooning it. Unlike his father, Octavio chose not to embellish it with the addition of Felizi family heirlooms; he wore a simple pair of Flying Crosses he had earned in the Imperial Marines. He was a serious young tom who drew loyalty easily. He also had that rare thing – the common touch that made him far more identifiable with the masses than his remote father. The only person in the Empire who might rival Octavio’s popularity was, well, yours truly. A couple of half-brothers had come close, but they had died under questionable circumstances.
I saw Baron Linwallis approaching along the periphery of the dance floor. The Baron was afflicted with having no sons to carry on his name, and had decided to make the best of a wealth of daughters by placing them with the right families. He had succeeded in seeding them about the aristocracy, but had decided that his youngest – Mirabelle, might make a good addition to my pride.
“Good evening, Colonel Tom,” Baron Linwallis said.
“Baron,” I nodded.
“I could not help but notice that your partners have deserted you. My Mirabelle is available should you need another,” the Baron said with a smile.
Of course, he said it in such an ambiguous way that I could assume this was a reference to a dance partner, rather than the more likely offer of a fourth mate for my pride. Conversations at court could be tricky like that, full of double and triple entendre. It wasn’t that I found Mirabelle unappealing – she was an attractive young thing, but I had my hands full with Marpha, who had yet to lose her kittenish exuberance. Not that I was in any way past my prime, mind you, but I found myself wondering now and again why I had chosen to disrupt my solitude with so many responsibilities. I longed for the much less complicated past, when it was just me and Kat. Mirabelle would have been a good match for my cub Jock, but he was away at our embassy on Baast, and still had his sights set on Vivian Pompuis as his prima. At any rate, he was not available to shield me from Linwallis’ machinations.
“Your daughter is a marvelous dancer, Baron, but this leg of mine has been acting up,” I said, patting my knee gingerly. “From my exploit on Lamia, you know.”
“Ah yes, the Morient Plague,” the Baron nodded.
It was true that my leg had been injured while obtaining the cure to the Baastard’s virus, but it hadn’t given me trouble in ages. It was a useful and totally believable excuse, however; we all have our deceptions.
“I would be most happy to perform this duty in your place, Colonel,” Octavio said.
I hadn’t noticed that the Prince had come down the steps and was now standing beside me.
“I’m sure that the Baron would much appreciate your offer, Prince Octavio,” I said.
“But of course, my Prince,” the Baron said, and he led Octavio to where Mirabelle stood waiting.
“Of course you would,” I whispered to myself.
I watched the two as they danced together. They were as perfect a pairing as you could imagine; to be expected from two partners who have had frequent opportunities to learn each other’s moves. They had danced before – this was not the first time that Octavio had rescued me from my plight, and I was beginning to suspect that I was not the son-in-law that the Baron was angling for. And unless I missed my guess, Octavio was not an unwitting victim.
“Cousin, come join me,” Maxamillian called from the dais, indicating the chair that Octavio had vacated.
“Certainly, Imperial Majesty,” I said.
I ascended the stairs and sat, trying to appear perfectly relaxed. Rubbing elbows with the Emperor is not something I had planned on, but it was part of Champion of the Empire territory. I tried diligently not to give any sign that I looked for Imperial favor, and the truth was I did not. I was not comfortable with Maxamillian. I was not really his cousin – the historians had dug up some obscure connection after my becoming Champion of the Empire, but I was certain that would be revealed as a mistake if I were to fall from favor. You’d be surprised at how many people have difficulties with my popularity.
“Does the Baron’s kitten not appeal to your tastes? Perhaps you would enjoy one of our more experienced ladies?” Maxamillian asked.
By my whiskers, he sounded as duplicitous as the Baron. I had no desire to start further gossip by taking advantage of such an offer; as I said, I was not that comfortable with the Emperor, and if he really meant a more… intimate sort of liaison with one of his ladies, well…that sort of association would unsettle the ladies in my pride. I like to me on good terms with my mates.
“A generous offer, Imperial Majesty, but it is merely my bad leg acting up,” I said.
“I’m sorry to hear that, cousin. If I had noticed you limping I would not have asked you to climb these stairs,” he said.
I should have thought to limp.
“It is nothing,” I said.
“Odd, how Octavio always seems to be the runner-up in the Baron’s attempts to settle his daughter on you,” the Emperor said.
This is why I hated being at court. Was he offended that the Baron appeared to be choosing me over Octavio, or was it that he suspected a plot between the Baron and me to snare him?
“I wish that some parents would learn to leave such matters alone,” I said.
I had intended it as a knock at against the Baron’s machinations, but I saw Empress Isabella’s eyebrow raised.
“So, you think they look well together, Cousin?” she asked.
“My Empress, I should never presume –” I said.
“Precisely!” said Maxamillian. “We will choose the next Empress ourselves, Colonel Tom, regardless of what you and the Baron feel.”
I considered denying the implication that I was in league with the Baron and putting some distance between myself and his manipulations, but arguing with your Emperor isn’t good form. Especially since I had just ceased to be “cousin.”
“Certainly, Imperial Majesty,” I said.
We sat silently for a time. The Empress drummed her claws audibly on the arm of her throne while Octavio and Mirabelle continued dancing. I saw my mates return to the ballroom and sit at our table; there would be no rescue for me from that quarter – one did not approach the throne without being invited.
The music stopped and as the dancers – and specifically Octavio and Mirabelle – went their separate ways, the tension seemed to ease from the Emperor, if not the Empress.
“Our peace initiatives with Baast seem to be taking hold,” Maxamillian said.
“Yes, relations have significantly improved since I exposed Tong’s conspiracy and reinstalled Pang,” I said.
I reflexively fingered the Baastian Order of the People that Comrade Pang himself had awarded me for that service. The Emperor looked at me long and hard.
“That is a popular misconception. I believe that Ambassador Pompuis is to be commended for his diplomatic skills,” he said finally.
“Of course, Imperial Majesty. My cub Jock says things have been going quite well there,” I said.
“I am sure that the Ambassador will be grateful that he has your son’s endorsement,” Maxamillian said.
I glanced longingly at my mates, wishing my paws were on them instead of in my mouth.
“I have been thinking that we do not need as much of a military buffer between Ramses and Baast,” Maxamillian said.
The next day I was summoned to General Machiavelli’s office for some surprising news. Well, maybe not so surprising.
“Why have I been removed from command of Quartz sector?” I asked.
“Oh, stop your whining – it wasn’t my idea,” Mack said.
To be fair, I wasn’t whining. I wasn’t even complaining. My periodic tours in the Quartz sector to run our operations there had been keeping me away from my pride more than I liked, and it took a lot of work to maintain relationships long-distance like that, especially with my mates. So, it would be no great personal loss to not be spending a month at a time guarding against some yet to occur incursion from Baast.
“If I had my druthers, we wouldn’t be withdrawing our claws – we’d be digging in on Baast itself,” Mack said.
“Seems like they’ve been almost friendly since Comrade Pang resumed leadership,” I said.
“Baast was a problem long before Pang was removed from power. As far as I’m concerned, the current peace is an aberration, and most likely a trap,” Mack said.
Mack had always been the untrusting type – I would almost say paranoid, but certainly not anywhere that he’d hear it. And truth was, he was better than most at sniffing out plots. It was Mack who sent word to the Admiral – my father-in-law – which resulted in thwarting the Baastards’ most recent invasion attempt. With the help of yours truly, of course.
“Well, Emperor Maxamillian wants it done, so it will be – no matter how foolish and short-sighted it is,” Mack said.
I knew he would never have spoken of the previous Emperor that way; he, the Admiral, and most of the old guard had a respect for Reginaldus that always made me wish I had been able to serve under him. And they all shared a similar disdain for his son Maxamillian.
“You must have really made His Imperial Majesty hissy; he has also dictated that you be assigned as Adjutant to Vicomte-Brigadier Pelage on Cancer,” Mack said. “You’re to report there in two days.”
Cancer – the prison planet the rotters had been exiled to for twenty years, now. Not the most prestigious position for a Champion of the Empire. And it most likely meant three to four-month tours.
“Well that’s certainly a step down,” I said.
“You’re to replace Lord Du Claw,” Mack said.
“Du Claw? What was he doing in that gods-forsaken place?” I asked.
“Thank the fickleness of some Emperors,” Mack said.
“May I assume that Lord Du Claw has regained the Emperor’s favor, then?” I asked.
“Perhaps. Lord Du Claw suffered a couple of accidental leg breaks and has returned to Ramses to recover. Of course, if he was still on the Emperor’s list of felis-non-gratis, he could have as easily recovered on base, so the Emperor may indeed have welcomed Du Claw back into the fold,” Mack said.
“So maybe Emperor Maxamillian and I will be friends again someday,” I said.
Mack also wasn’t the type to walk about on cat’s paws about anything.
“Emperor Maxamillian is not your friend,” Mack said. “Haven’t you learned anything from me?”
“You mean ’Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’?” I asked. “If anything, I think I kept too close,” I said.
“Well, I won’t have you to keep an eye on him any longer; I’ll have to rely on others,” Mack said. “I think there’s more to this than a simple reprimand, and I’d keep my whiskers tuned if I were you.”
“Count on it,” I said.
Mack may be paranoid, but he’s a smart paranoid.
The release date for Cats of War II is November 22nd, but the collection is available for preorder now at a REDUCED PROMOTIONAL PRICE at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
You might want to read about Herc Tom’s earlier adventures to be ready for Cats of War II. – these are also available in a collection (strangely called Cats of War I.) There is a coupon available for the next ten people who purchase Cats of War I on Smashwords – use coupon code MZ95U to receive a 67% discount – that’s only 99-cents for three Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire stories – such a deal!):
Swordsmaster – my first novel (which only took me forty-some years to write) is ready for reading.
Fate is neither something to run away from, nor something to run towards.
The first bright-eye to be seen on the mountain in living memory, Sandrik didn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he had worked hard to keep his special abilities hidden. But there was more to Sandrik than even he knew. Now that it was time for him to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld and be declared a man, what other changes might he be forced into?
Swordsmaster is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
(there is also a paperback on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1691904910 )
William Mangieri’s writing can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
To CONNECT WITH HIM (and LIKE and FOLLOW), go to
• His site on WordPress: https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri