The Pastmaster’s Castle – Flashback…
Callie stared out the window as she had done since her capture. Nothing changed, and she was bored to tears.
Ever since the mass escape of his prisoners, the Pastmaster had simply ignored her. Oh, he made sure she was fed, sent frightened servants to take care of her personal needs and such, but she was never allowed out of her tower prison, and, except for that first day of her imprisonment, he never visited her.
Once in a great while, one of her fellow kats from the future would be her servant and they would talk about the SWAT Kats and Commander Feral rescuing them some day.
“Trust me. They haven’t forgotten us, but they must find a way to get us home before trying to rescue us,” Callie reassured Jessie Freeclaw as the female swept and changed the she kat’s bed linens.
“But, why couldn’t they just save us and hide us where they are?” Jessie demanded. Being a slave was harsh and miserable, plus she rarely got to see her husband at all.
“If they tried to do that, they risk everyone else they have managed to save. They’ve been lucky so far that the Pastmaster is too busy to bother with finding them but should they attempt to rescue us, it would anger him. He would drop what he was doing and track them down and he just might be successful the second time. Besides, this castle is simply too well guarded, and they are not that well armed and don’t have enough skilled fighters among them to storm this castle unless they get help.”
“But, who would help them and how would that get us home?”
“There is a Queen here who is just as powerful as the Pastmaster. She is why I’m here. He intends to cast a spell, using me as part of it to capture her then steal her magical energy, combine it with his and take over this country. It is she that the SWAT Kats and Feral have to see to get any help.”
Jessie looked excited at this news and asked anxiously, “If that’s true, then why hasn’t she helped get us out of here by now?”
Callie shook her head. “I don’t really know. Their powers may cancel each other out or they may have to wait until some special day for their magic to work. I think the latter reason is the most correct. During the Pastmaster’s many visits, I learned from his rantings that casting spells on certain days and/or times give them the most power they need for them to work.”
Jessie sighed and rolled her eyes. “I’ll be happy if I never hear or see magic again. It’s nothing but trouble. Alright, Ms. Briggs, I’ll try and be patient, and I will tell the others what you’ve told me so no one does something foolish and dangerous.”
“Anyone thinking of doing something like that?” Callie asked anxiously.
“Yes. A few of the younger hot heads, but the four strong willed older males have managed to keep them in check. This information will at least make them see that waiting might be our salvation. I just hope it isn’t too much longer. We’re all worn out, angry, and losing hope fast,” Jessie said wearily.
“I think you’re very brave and smart, Jessie. Don’t let them win. Keep strong and don’t loose faith in the SWAT Kats. They have always found a way to win. It might be taking longer this time, but I haven’t lost my faith in them,” Callie urged her.
Jessie nodded then gathered up the soiled linens and knocked hard on the door. “Stay safe, Ms. Briggs. As long as you’re here… alive… we have hope.” The door opened to reveal one of the brutish soldiers that guarded her door. He growled at Jessie to move her butt before he smacked her down the stairs as he closed the door shut on Callie.
Callie gritted her teeth and held her tongue from launching a scathing remark at the guard. That would only make the male angrier, and he’d take it out on Jessie as he was forbidden from harming her. She was too important for the Pastmaster’s spell for him to risk being immediately crisped by the sorcerer’s watch.
All the guards feared their master, which left a pall of fear, anger, and hopelessness over the castle at all times. It was like a lead weight hanging over them.
Tears fell unheeded down her lovely face as she walked to the window and stared down at the empty square below. Nothing moved. This castle had none of the usual activity one would find elsewhere as the villagers weren’t allowed within its walls and the soldiers were mostly out of sight except for those at the gate and on the walls surrounding the keep. There weren’t even any animals running around. It truly was a castle of the dead. Supplies needed to feed and care for its few inhabitants had to be brought in by wagon each morning, and that was the sum total of the activity she saw to liven the day with.
It was hard to keep her hope alive as each day passed exactly like the one before it. To insure she didn’t turn fat or weak, she did calisthenics and ran back and forth across the small room.
Marking a wall, hidden by a tapestry, with a piece of charcoal from her fireplace, Callie kept track of the days they’d been in the past. Today marked the end of two months. And, tonight was a full moon. She knew that because the Pastmaster had startled her just after breakfast that morning by bursting into her prison, letting the door slam with a resounding thud against the wall.
“Your long wait is over, my dear!” He cackled with glee. Smiling widely only made his dead face look even more hideous as he danced closer to her. She backed up in disgust and fear. “Tonight, with your help, I will finally be ruler of all and the most powerful wizard in the world!”
“What are you going on about?” she dared to demand.
He halted his mad dance and stared at her with that one glowing eye. “Oh, you’ll find out. When the moon rises tonight, you’ll be brought to the ceremonial room. You will wear the clothing I will have sent to you after you’ve been cleansed thoroughly. Don’t think to resist or try to refuse. You don’t have to be conscious for the spell to work,” he warned her evilly. With one last shout of laughter, he whirled around, his blue cloak swirling out like bat wings as he strode out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
She stayed frozen in place as the implications of what he’d said sank in. He was going to initiate the spell tonight! Shaking, she walked to the window and stared off toward the mountains in the distance.
“If we’re ever to get home, now would be a good time to show up, SWAT Kats, with reinforcements and a Queen leading the way,” she said aloud. Goddess, she truly hoped what she’d said to Jessie all those weeks ago wasn’t just wishful thinking.
While Callie was praying for a miracle, a tense group sat together in a huge tent, eating very hot pepper pot stew and discussing their plans for this night.
Queen Callista set her bowl aside then drank deeply of her flagon of milk before leaning closer to Razor and asking, “So, the plan is for my troops to storm the front of the Pastmaster’s castle and rescue all thy still missing comrades while a select few of thee will climb the tower to strike the sorcerer and stop his spell? Be this correct?”
“Yes, my Queen,” Razor said.
She eyed him a moment longer then shook her head. That caused the group from the future felt a chill run up their backs. Was she not going to help them now?
“My apologizes, Sir Razor, but thy plan is flawed but through no fault of thy own. Thee have no knowledge of how a castle is designed nor what is necessary for the Pastmaster to complete his spell. I believe thee assumed, since I used a tower chamber for my spell work to send thee home, the evil one might do the same.”
“Unfortunately, for a working this large and powerful, he must conduct it under the light of the moon herself, which means a hidden courtyard open to the sky with a huge scrying pool…most likely at the heart of the castle.”
Hearts fell as the future kats gave each other shocked and unhappy looks.
“Oh, that is soo not good!” Morgan blurted.
“Why?” Steele asked, confused.
Disgusted, Morgan glared at the idiot and said, “Because it means they will have to charge in with the Queen’s troops and hope to hell they can get past the army arrayed against them in the outer courtyard. Then, if luck is with them, they have to try to find some hidden courtyard at the heart of said castle. And, to make things even harder, that courtyard is certainly going to be protected by dragons, trolls, gargoyles and more soldiers.”
“Oh…” Steele said in a small voice as he realized the magnitude of the problem and felt sick. They couldn’t possibly succeed, which meant never going home.
“Peace!” Callista interrupted, holding a paw up. “It does not have to mean the quest is hopeless. It simply means we will have to alter our plans a little.”
“Your pardon, your majesty, but that is a lot of ridiculous barriers to try and get through. Your army is large and well trained but his is made up of monsters and a small army. How are we supposed to push through all that then try to find a hidden courtyard in a huge castle with hostile enemies without dying first? On top of that, if we did succeed in getting that far, how do we pluck a watch, book, and Ms. Briggs from under the Pastmaster’s nose? Oh, and to make things even more difficult, we have to find our missing members and do this whole mission before we lose the moonlight,” Feral said flatly. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how we can pull this off no matter what plan you come up with.”
It did sound insurmountable alright. Just knowing what they faced made Feral angry, frustrated as well as sick with despair. To be so close to freedom…
“Do not give up hope, Sir Feral,” she murmured gently, touching his paw in commiseration. “Yes, the odds are stacked against us, but I have fought this battle for many years and this is the closest I’ve come to actually being rid of this foul nuisance. I’m not ready to give up.”
“Neither are we, my Queen!” Razor jumped in stoutly. He’d been silent as he went over all the variables until he could come up with a plan that had some chance of succeeding.
“Ahh… you have a plan?” she asked, smiling encouragingly.
“Yes. But, it means we have to take a risk and contact Ms. Briggs. We need the help of our fellow kats still imprisoned in the castle. Only with their help will we be able to get into the castle, sneak through the hazards waiting for us, and get to the secret courtyard,” Razor told her then turned to Feral. “As for equaling the odds between us and the Pastmaster’s army… haven’t you been noticing what I’ve been experimenting with, Commander?”
“No, thought you were just keeping busy,” Feral said, wondering where the SWAT Kat was going with this.
“Naw, he was making weapons that would work in our glovatrixes and with bows and arrows,” T-Bone smirked knowingly. “That’s my buddy… he’s always thinking and inventing.”
Feral’s eyebrows crawled upward as he stared at Razor with new eyes. “Okay, so what have you managed to design?” he asked, cautiously optimistic.
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