Dark, thunderous clouds loomed over the mighty Diamond Palace. A large group of royal cats waited in front of the opulent structure. Each was dressed in matching royal coats of arms, and branded on their rear with the royal seal ‘BVR.’ Some felines sat quietly – some were grooming, others hissed at their neighbor profusely, whilst others waited to pounce at one another, ears back.
Suddenly, a loud fanfare sounded. Their ears pricked up and their differences were immediately extinguished, as a stooped, elderly lady wearing grand clothes was escorted out by two Palace Guards. They walked over to a large alter to address the feline crowd. She was known as Baroness Von Retchenhosen, a feared and wicked leader of the Petrified Forest. Her voice bellowed as she spoke. ‘The time has come once again my little feline friends. At the stroke of midnight tonight – under the strawberry moon. The first to bring forth the three legendary Golden Stones to me will spend the rest of his natural life in complete luxury, here at the Diamond Palace. Please do bear in mind that most of you will not return.’ Her contorted face was almost as rouge as her smart, velvet, head scarf.
‘Piece of pike…’ Suggested Goliath with arrogant defiance in his voice. His chocolate coloured furry chin was stuck high in the air, his glassy, blue eyes looked up at the Baroness with great fondness. Fangs and Scruffy looked upon him unconvinced. ‘But Goliath, I’ve heard of the great difficulty in acquiring the Golden Stones,’ Purred Fangs nervously. ‘Yes, it’s no easy task Goliath? Even Mouser the Great couldn’t acquire them, and he was the best.’ Proclaimed Scruffy. Without taking his stare away from the Baroness, Goliath spoke eloquently down at them. ‘Will you two please be quiet, I’ve told you I have the perfect plan that will help us succeed.’
The sudden, shrill voice of the Baroness interjected their conversation. ‘Now my four-legged friends, go forth and return to me what is rightfully mine, so I can maintain my beautiful kingdom!’ She gave out an insane, wicked, cackle-like laugh as she stood and watched them move off. The large group of cats began to disperse, disappearing into the ugly, solidified, dead wilderness which surrounded the palace. Goliath, Fangs and Scruffy began to move off together.
‘So, what’s your great plan Goliath?’ Questioned Scruffy with a look of great wonderment. ‘Quickly, put these up your nostrils and I’ll show you…’ Replied Goliath adamantly. His blue eyes seemed to glow brighter than ever. They did as he said, then they sat watching all the other cats run wildly at something in the distance.
‘What is it Goliath?’ Questioned Fangs with a look of confusion. ‘It’s my catnip diversion – like a scarecrow, to draw in all the other cats so we can get to the Golden Stones first! Thus, the plugs up our noses! ‘How very clever!’ Exclaimed Scruffy. The three of them purred loudly before moving off towards the sacred place of the Golden Stones.
Meanwhile, many miles away a scrawny, three-legged, stray cat by the name of Zosimos was sheltering under a wooden fruit cart. His fur was matted and he’d not eaten properly for weeks. The village folk saw him as a pest, a disease carrying vermin, and were keen to be rid of him. Suddenly a pitchfork was thrust under the cart towards him. It just missed his disheveled, ginger fur by a hair’s width. Then he heard voices shouting out in all directions. ‘It’s under here, get it! Remember, there’re seven golden apples to the one who captures the dirty, rotting beast!’ Shouted a gritty man’s voice, who appeared to be the leader of the group.
Zosimos didn’t hang around, he ran for his life as fast as he could – right between the man’s legs and up the side of a steep, muddy bank. He almost slipped half way up, but got his footing right and made his way to the top. Looking down frightened, he could see thirty or so villagers, all waving their pitchforks in the air at him. It began to rain heavily, so he made his way off to find a new shelter. Up ahead he saw a withered, old tree and decided to take shelter in a hollow in its thick trunk. He edged over in silence, quite unaware that every movement he made was being observed meticulously. Suddenly and without warning, he felt something wrap around him and pull him in closer. Zosimos shuddered in the shadows hoping his end would be swift. One of his eyes popped open as a soothing voice spoke.
‘I am Jarvin – and you are?’ Jarvin’s words were spoken with perfect clarity. ‘My names Zosimos and I was looking for shelter for the night, please let me go!’ His breathing was fast paced and erratic as the branches held him firmly in place. ‘You’re not dressed like the others, and I see you aren’t marked? Have you come for the Golden Stones too?’ The branches began tightening around him. ‘What Golden Stones? I know not of them.’ His words were short as he was squeezed a little more. ‘I am the keeper of the stones, and my final question to you is where did you come from?’ His voice now had a sinister, darkened tone which frightened Zosimos. The thick branches slithered tighter, almost preventing him from speaking. His words were slow and laboured. ‘I was banished from the Royal Palace due to being born with only three legs, and left to die in the foreboding Petrified Forest where nothing grows. Fortunately, I survived and found solitude in nearby villages, until I was eventually cast out. So, ironically, you could say I’m extremely lucky to be alive.’ ‘A born survivor? I believe you are the chosen one I’ve been waiting a millennia for.’ The branches holding him slackened. ‘The chosen one? Chosen for what exactly?’ ‘Simply put, freedom. You see, the stones must be planted below a full moon by a cat, right in the centre of the Petrified Forrest, which the evil Baroness created countless years ago with her dark magic. She enslaved every single cat in the kingdom under a powerful spell because of her fear that one day a cat would find out the truth and plant the stones. Thus, causing a new forest to flourish as it once had, and her tyrannical reign would end.’
Suddenly there was a snapping sound nearby which caused Javin’s branches to lunge out into the darkened surrounding area. Three cries were heard as Goliath, Fangs and Scruffy were caught by their tails and were hanging upside down. ‘Let us down!’ Screamed Goliath furiously. Jarvin could clearly make out their royal markings and looked at them with distain.
The hollow at the base of the tree opened up revealing three perfectly ordinary looking acorns, albeit a little oversized and golden in colour. ‘Zosimos, listen very carefully. You must plant them now!’ ‘But, they’re too large, I can’t carry all those at once?’ The three cats were hissing and squirming high in the air. They wanted to tear Zosimos apart. Jarvin grasped the acorns and raised them and Zosimos skyward.
‘Being such a strong and brave cat, I’m positive you’ll land safely on your feet – good luck Zosimos!’ Zosimos gulped a little nervously – but nodded in agreement, knowing what was at stake. Jarvin’s powerful arm launched them towards the middle of the forest.
As he flew through the air he observed thousands of Palace Cats surrounding something at the edge of the Petrified Forest. They were rubbing and purring at it affectionately, completely unaware at what was happening. Goliath’s shady scheme had done Zosimos a huge favour also. The acorns landed with a thump and Zosimos naturally landed safely on his feet. Without any hesitation, he began digging under the full strawberry moon wildly, burying each acorn in turn.
Quite unexpectedly the ground began to shake violently as three gigantic, trees sprouted from the earth, before shooting into the heavens. The Petrified Forest began to crumble and fall, crashing to the ground into fine dust. Night became day. Fresh grass and flowers bloomed, and the dark, shadowy clouds were swept away, revealing a bright, blue sky.
Back in her opulent drawing room the Baroness was sipping an expensive flute of champagne. One of her servants ran over to her ungracefully. ‘Excuse me Ma’am!’ He was pointing outside the window looking extremely flustered. ‘How dare you disturb me, this had better be…’ She’d noticed his raised arm and followed it to where it was pointing to. Her eyes beamed outside with complete horror as she observed what was unfolding. ‘My beautiful kingdom!’ She screamed. However, it was far too late. A powerful shockwave raged towards the palace, hitting it forcefully and turning it into powder before being blown away. All the cats returned safely and were free once more from the evil Baroness Von Retchenhosen.