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:
Hercules Tom is a popular cat; Minister Tong, Inga Quin, the Rotter Dame, Empress Isabella, Lord Phylo and his Canine Armada – they all want a piece of him. See how our hero 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 tales 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 “Reining Cats and Dogs”):
It was easy enough for me to become lost in this crowd. Prince Octavio was another matter; I could see him all the way at the other side of the chamber, his height added to by that ridiculous red turban. There were other Archduke Le Grandes at the party – as I had known there would be – but somehow they did not draw the eye as did the Prince. In hindsight, a slightly less conspicuous costume might have been in order; I was mulling this over when I heard an odd sound – a very wet, and prolonged sniff.
I turned to find myself face to face with the canine Lord Phylo, accompanied by two slobberer guards. They made quite a bizarre-looking trio with their long snouts and floppy ears, all a head taller than me. Lord Phylo sniffed again as he looked down his wet nose at me.
“Do I know you?” he asked, his eyes glistening as they tried to bore past my mask.
I thought to say something witty, but there was a rope of drool descending from his jowls that made it difficult to think. For a creature to be so grossly uncivilized in its daily habits was bad enough, but to display this level of crudeness at an event such as this… Words evaded me.
“You seem somehow -,” he said, then sniffed yet again, “- familiar.”
But just as I was about to spout a clever bit of misdirection, there was a shout from immediately behind Lord Phylo.
“Well, you’re a big ugly thing, aren’t you?”
Phylo turned and stood towering over Captain Butcher, without my mates. My annoyance that he and they had come along despite the plan we had all agreed to warred with my gratitude that Phylo had someone else to focus his disgusting attention on.
Butcher was very drunk. Not that this was unusual for the Admiral’s second – he had a habit of polishing off several bottles of Crème d’Ambroisie at a sitting, particularly at fancy gatherings such as this where he felt more ill at ease. He stared steadily with his one good eye at the Supreme Slobberer, although the rest of Butcher swayed about as though unsure of exactly where to stand.
“I am surprised that they let you in. Of course, they let me in, too, so I guess ugliness is not a disqualifier,” Butcher said.
“Really,” Phylo sniffed, nose in the air.
He turned as if to walk away. Butcher made to follow, but he tripped and fell against Lord Phylo’s back. His guards attempted to extricate their charge from Butcher, but he had become so entangled in Phylo’s coat that they almost ripped the pockets extracting the cat’s claws before they finally flung him to the floor. Phylo straightened himself and marched off through the crowd in a huff.
“Well, that is a fine how do you do,” Butcher whined after them, but I was busy putting some distance between myself and the attention that he was drawing. I had some serious work to do here – time to get to it.
I slipped out of the Grande Hall and into one of the many corridors branching away from it. There was a scattering of attendees who had also wandered back here for the restrooms, or an illicit rendezvous in side passages, but there was a guard posted at the end of the hall to prevent revelers from traveling into more restricted areas. I would need to get past that guard and door.
There was an extremely amorous couple between me and the guard – an impressively large male and a chubby, petite female. They could not seem to keep their paws off each other, and in their passion they were inching closer to the guard. He was terribly discomfited by the situation – he looked like a first-lifer and must have been a recent recruit. The poor fellow was pointedly trying to not watch or interrupt the couple, but he would have to say something soon, before he became entangled in their – activities.
“Excuse me,” he finally blurted, but that was as much as he was able to say before they were on him and the three of them slid to the floor in a heap.
I averted my eyes and squeezed past the writhing jumble of limbs and through the door, then hurried down the hallway, then hurried to the right, and on to the maintenance closet where Octavio and I were supposed to rendezvous. To call it a closet was absurd – the room was large, more like a warehouse for the army of workers needed to maintain the Great Hall of State. There were racks and racks of cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, and the like.
My fears about Octavio’s conspicuous disguise seemed unfounded – he was coming through the door at the other end of the room, turban in hand. Or perhaps I was right, and if he hadn’t stood out quite so much, then maybe Lord Phylo and his two guards would not have been following him in.
Of course, the slobberers could have simply sniffed him out of the crowd. They obviously had the noses for it.
“Ah, the miraculously resurrected Prince comes to meet with his most infamous henchman,” Lord Phylo slurped. “I thought I recognized your scent.”
Yes, the noses had it. Or a little of both – they had caught Octavio first, after all. I inched my paw around my back to where my mouser was hidden, but one of the bodyguards shifted the aim of his pulser from Octavio to me, so I raised my paws instead. I decided to play drunk – quite believable at this party, and their encounter with Butcher had already prepped them to believe it. I staggered slightly, and grabbed at a shelf for support.
“Looks like you have us, Phi-do,” I slurred.
I saw anger glaze the eyes of all three of the slobberers at that mispronunciation; there was obviously something about it that flustered them. Maybe I could take advantage of their sensitivity. Or maybe not.
“You will not address Lord Phylo in that manner,” the guard aiming at me said, and the other hit Octavio hard on the side of his head so that the Prince buckled to his knees.
So that was how it was going to be.
“No need to be so sensitive. My apologies, Lord Phy-do,” I said, still slurring. “We are yours. Take us to the Empress so she can pass judgement on us for our crimes.”
“Just so you understand your position,” Phylo said, and he kicked Octavio so that the Prince fell to the side.
Then the anger seemed to drool from his eyes, and he recovered what passed for dignity in his kind. He and one of the guards sauntered across the room to me, and Phylo waved his paw toward the floor, so I sagged to my knees peacefully. No sense antagonizing him at that moment.
“Yes, of course, I will take you to experience justice,” he said, and then barked with laughter. “So that the masses can hear your story? I think not.”
“You are in total control – who would believe us?” I asked.
“Enough of your species that it would become problematic. This was supposed to be such a simple operation, and I don’t need further complications,” Phylo said. “No one will miss you when you are already dead. Guards -”
Don’t worry yourself too much – I told you Wednesday that I’m working on Herc Tom #8, so Hercules must get out of this fix – but you’ll need to read to find out how.
The release date for Cats of War II is TODAY, and the collection is available for at a REDUCED PROMOTIONAL PRICE at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
AND there’s a paperback, too! https://www.amazon.com/dp/1704627494
You might want to read about Herc Tom’s earlier adventures if you haven’t already – 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
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