Written by Bertie
Read by Natasha
Introducing a new catty character who purrs to us down the ages
Hello, This is Natasha
Since we have not met before, I had better introduce myself properly. My name is Lapis, like the blue stone. That’s because my eyes are beautifully blue. And I am a cat. Not just any cat but a magical cat. Well to tell you the truth, I am still training to be a magical cat, but I plan to be brrrrilliant at magic one day. I live a long time before you will be born, more than two and a half thousand years before you will even be thought of. My country is Egypt but I am told that you will call it Ancient Egypt.
I am here to tell you stories. The subject of my tales is eternally fascinating. They are all about ME!
What’s that? Someone is asking how it is that if I am truly ancient Egyptian, that you can hear my voice? Should I not be a mummified cat by now? Shouldn’t my stories have been written in pretty picture words called hieroglyphics, inscribed on scrolls of papyrus, torn by time into thousands of teeny shreds, and blown around by the African winds along with the sands of the desert?
Well it is a good question. Yes I live a long time before you, and Amon the priest-scribe does write down my stories, and being a skilled magician, naturally he uses magical talking letters. That’s how I can speak to you directly down the millennia.
What’s that you are saying now?
Is “millennia” a word?
Oh, so you are asking me, an ancient Egyptian Cat, to explain English to you now, are you? Well little one, the perfectly good word, ‘millennia’ means ‘thousands of years.’
You kids of the future think that we couldn’t do anything without your “modern” technology. Yes technology is sort of smart but let me tell you - it is nothing compared to magic of the past. And the most magical time and place ever was in Per-Bast on the river Nile.
Some people will tell you that Memphis is the capital of magic. And yes it is for humans. But the cat capital of Egypt Is Per-Bast. And it is far more magical than Memphis. As even you Kids of the future probably know, we cats are the most magical creatures of all. Magic comes to us naturally. You humans might try for years to make yourself invisible. A few especially talented individuals will succeed - eventually. But we cats, if we have a good teacher, can learn to do such things in under a year.
I’m still learning my magical lessons, but Amon the priest believes in me. Here at Per-Bast I have thousands of sisters and brothers. We cats call each other sister or brother even if strictly we aren’t from the same parents. The steps of the temple are literally crawling with cute kitties, scraggy strays, and sly bandit cats. But Amon says that The Cat Goddess, Lady Bastet, picked me out. She said to Amon, “There are as many cats with green eyes as there are grains of sand in the desert, but this gorgeous little kitty has blue eyes, and she is a chosen cat. She stands apart from all the others with her great beauty. You must train her up to honour me by performing wondrous magic.”
That means I am a special cat.
If anyone harms me, they’re in for it. Divine retribution will follow swiftly.
One day I shall by mummified and my spirit shall travel to the kingdom of the past cats. But I don’t want that to happen too soon, thanks. I’m having a nice time in this world. So if anyone is thinking of becoming my enemy, listen up: I’ve got friends in high places. Amon the priest, and Lady Bastet the cat goddess, are my friends, sponsors and protectors. Harm me and you shall have to answer to them.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. There’s a priest at the temple called Simon the Greek - he got that name because he was born in Greece and came to Egypt when he was a boy. Simon the Greek does not even like cats - so what is he doing here at Per-Bast, the temple of cats you may ask? He’s in the wrong job. But presumably it pays him well so he stays. But he hates cats, unless they are mummified, so he sells them to the pilgrims as souvenirs.
One time, when I was asleep, stretched out in the sun on a step outside his office, he gave me an almighty kick. It was a vicious enough swing of his leg to break a few ribs or even to kill a cat. But Bastet the cat goddess was watching over me, and she made his foot miss my side. Instead of booting me, he stubbed his toe on the stone step. How he howled and hopped about with pain! MEEEEEOW! That’s what comes of messing with me, Lapis, the favoured cat of Bastet and her high priest, Amon.
But right now, I am not entirely sure that I am in Amon’s good books. He seems a bit cross with me.
You see, he wants me to learn my magic faster. But it is not easy and I can only do my best.
A few days ago, he picked me up in his big hands and looked directly into my blue eyes. I didn’t like that. It was kind of scary.
‘Listen, Lapis,’ he said, ‘Bastet told me in a dream that you are a chosen cat. But I am starting to wonder if it was a false dream that I saw. I have been teaching you for six solid weeks now, and you have made almost no progress. You can not even magic a mouse to stand still. If it was not for the words of Bastet in that dream, I would put you down as a lazy little feline. But Bastet is a great goddess and she knows better than I do. So here is what I’ve got to say. You learn your lesson well today, and you will receive a nice reward. I will have a solid gold earring made for you. It means getting your ears pierced, which might hurt a little, but after that you will have a pretty piece of jewellery to wear all your life, and to take later to the world of the cats on the other side of the dark river. You would like that wouldn’t you?’
Meeow! I said. Of course I would like a solid gold earing. It will make me even more beautiful and distinguished than I am already.
My lesson was to learn the spell for turning Natron Salt into toothpaste - a handy domestic trick and a profitable one too because the priests sell it as a sideline. Pilgrims are usually in a jolly mood when they come to the cat temple, and they are ready to buy gifts to take home to their family. A pot of our famous Luxury Natron Toothpaste is a popular choice. It’s not just for teeth, you know. It can also be used for shaving foam, or for exfoliating lady’s skin, and at a pinch you can use it to embalm a relative. The priests sell it at a fancy price in the shop by the temple.
Amon showed me how to wave the magic sign with my paw, and left me with 10 sacks of Natron - a valuable stock. I set to my work. My task was to have it all packaged up in smart little earthenware pots bearing a pretty symbol of our cat goddess, Bastet.
I tried waving my paw and swishing my tail like it said in the magic book. Nothing happened. I tell you, this magic business is not as easy as it looks. It takes loads of practice.
So, I went for a walk by the river to see if I could find some fish. When I dipped a paw in the water, an old crocodile snapped at me. SCREEECH! I scuttled back home in a somewhat nervous state before I and had another go at the paw waving magic. And this time it worked - or so I thought,
When Amon returned that evening and found rows of pretty pots full of toothpaste he was well pleased with me. He fried a large piece of fish for my supper and promised me the gold earring as soon as the temple’s goldsmith could get one ready.
But that was before anyone tried the toothpaste. Last night, he came back from work in not a pretty mood.
‘We sold 12 pots of the toothpaste you made,’ he said.
I rubbed myself up against his leg.
‘One of the customers was a princess,’ he went on.
‘PRRRRRRRRR!’ I replied with pride.
‘Don’t purr me!’ said Amon. ‘She’s furious, Her teeth have turned black and her breath smells of rotten fish!’
‘That’s toooo bad,’ I said, ‘But don’t blame me. The Natron salt must have gone off! You know, you can’t leave fish in the sun for long, because it will start to sink. It’s the same with salt, I’m afraid.’
‘That’s the stupidest excuse I ever heard’ he shouted, ‘ Salt doesn’t go off. It’s you that’s a lazy, careless cat, who doesn’t learn her lessons!’
He was waving a finger at me, quite agitated, and I feared that he might do me some harm.
‘Now, now, don’t forget, I’m a favourite cat of the goddess,’ I reminded him.
But Amon hurled a pot of toothpaste In my direction. Of course it missed me, because the goddess protects me, but I thought it would be wise to make myself scarce while he calmed down and saw sense. I sprang through the window and found a shady spot on the other side of the temple where I could hide out for a while.
I will slink back in the morning. I hope the goddess will tell him in a dream to be patient with me. I might be a slow learner but I am destined for great things. You shall all see!