Of Cats And Dragons

Ventarian Silence Cover

Ven'tarian Silence

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A new Of Cats and Dragons novel!

Guided by troubling visions and chased by death-dealing horrors, Omen Daenoth and the feisty talking cats find themselves center stage in the city of Ven'taria, a place of uncanny magic and jaw-dropping revelry.

But when Omen and his companions -- an eminent Sundragon scholar, the notorious prince of Terizkand, a child prophet, and a paranoid Machelli spy -- unravel the dark source of the Ven'tarian Socerium's incredible powers, a desperate countdown begins.

Can our young heroes and their chatty felines break the dreaded Ven'tarian Silence or will they bring on the forbidding reign of endless night?

OF CATS AND DRAGONS, where the epic meets the adorable.

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A bit about the novel!

We're happy to bring our latest book in the Of Cats And Dragons series! This is book 6 in the sequence and takes place in Winter of the year 14,022 in the world Of Cats And Dragons.

Basically this book comes after everything else -- if you want the full experience I would read Lilyth's Midwinter first. While it is not required to understand anything in this book, there is an event in that story that adds some further explanation to something that happens in this book.

There is also a short story that goes with this book: Longest Night. That absolutely should be read AFTER you finish the book as it contains spoilers for the book.

That aside, this book could be read as a stand-alone story -- in other words, you don't need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one. Certainly if you have read the other books, the characters would all be far more familiar to you, and you will likely enjoy the tale more. But you could technically start here.

The book is quite a bit longer than the others -- it comes in at just over 160,000 words! We didn't want to break it up into sections, so when we realized how long it was getting, we just decided to keep going. It's an exciting tale from start to finish. And there's plenty of Tormy and Tyrin to keep you entertained.

Below you'll find Chapter 1 to get you started.

Chapter 1: Bacon


A blue, rodent-shaped glow began to materialize on Omen Daenoth's outstretched palm. The confluence of small magic warmed his skin against the ocean breeze. He slowly let out the breath he'd been holding and shifted closer to where his friends were sitting in the sand.

Silencing the soft melody that helped him create the spell, he presented the mouse — blue, glowing, twitchy, and lopsided.

"It's a mouse cantrip." Omen's hushed tone barely rose over the crashing waves.

Templar, the dark-haired crown prince of Terizkand, leaned closer to inspect the little construct. Two years older than Omen's nearly sixteen, Templar possessed magical knowledge that belied his age.

Bet Templar has never come across this one before!

A sudden gust blew in from the roaring surf and flung sand into the air. Templar raised one jewel-covered hand to shield his eyes.

Liethan Corsair, reclined against an eroded rock formation, stretched out his legs and buried his bare feet into the warm sand. He didn't even bother to open his eyes.

Omen could tell his friends were not particularly impressed. He tried not to let the disappointment show on his face. He'd been quite proud to have remembered the spell, considering he'd only seen the magical pattern once. Not sure about the curly bit in the center — maybe that's why the ears are crooked.

"A mouse spell?" Liethan didn't move. "What good is that?"

"It's from 'The Book of Cats,'" Omen said defensively. "It's a light cantrip, in the shape of a mouse. Light spells are useful."

Itty-bitty rodent claws dug into his palm as the tiny illusion became more substantial and grew curious about its surroundings.

"Careful, little guy," he addressed the blue form. Mother says they're not self-aware. Says I'm anthropomorphizing.

"The. Book. Of. Cats?" Openly skeptical, Templar rarely kept his opinion to himself. "Watch out!"

Omen snapped his hand closed to trap the glowing mouse, but its magic light leaked through his fingers and flowed to the ground. Reforming instantly, the blue rodent scampered away, burrowed into the fine sand, and disappeared several feet from where the three young men were lounging.

"That's not how that was supposed to go."

"Why bother with a mouse?" Templar settled back against the rocks.

His friend's cynical tone had disappeared, but Omen felt somewhat mollycoddled. He didn't like the feeling.

"Because!" Omen waved his hand in the direction of the ocean surf. "Giant cat, remember?"

Omen's giant orange cat bounded over the wet sand, followed by a gaggle of children. The enormous feline dashed back and forth on the vast Corsair beach. "Whoohoohoo!" he hollered as if his tail were on fire.

Tormy hopped sideways like a clumsy kitten, back arched, tail puffed.

"Tormy needs—"

"Entertainment." Liethan, golden locks tangled and tossed, lingered on the syllables, sounding even more like a Corsair now that he was home. "Understandable."

Templar's yellow eyes had closed to slits. "But light cantrips need to go where you want them to go and stay put. Not run away and hide. Or melt — that looked more like melting."

"Still have a few problems to work out." Omen crossed his arms and looked past the cluster of children frolicking around Tormy. His eyes cut toward the violet and red glow of the horizon where the sun was setting.

"That mouse spell is from the Divine Library of The Soul's Flame." Omen hoped that mentioning his half-brother would lend him just a smidgen of credence with his friends.

Liethan let out a non-committal grunt.

"Etar — The Soul's Flame — taught you to conjure a magical mouse?" Templar laughed. "You have access to a god's library and his tutelage, and all you've learned is a dodgy mouse spell?"

Omen opened his mouth to argue, but no good retort came to mind. He's right. Etar could teach me much bigger magic.

"He's busy . . . with deity stuff . . . sculpting and being important. Rat's teeth! I'm busy too." Omen cocked his head. "Like with this solstice trip. Not exactly what I'd had in mind. Didn't know I'd be going. My mother insisted I help Shalonie."

"Your mother wanted you out of the house," Liethan reminded him, "because you wouldn't stop baking solstice cookies."

"If she doesn't like my baking, why did she tell me to get pie recipes from Ven'taria?" he defended himself.

"Think about it." Liethan rolled his eyes skyward.

"She likes my cookies," Omen grumbled but silently conceded Liethan's point.

"I just came for lunch," Templar countered. "Next thing I know, I'm on a boat. Not that I'm complaining."

"Curious that," Liethan commented. "Noticed you didn't even ask your father for permission. You even brought luggage." While Liethan had simply been catching a ride home from Melia, Templar had joined last minute.

"Who wouldn't want to visit the Corsair Isles," Templar said quickly.

Liethan tilted his head toward the Terizkandian. "Even if it's just a stopover?"

"Especially this time of year." Templar took in a deep, exaggerated breath. "Much milder than the frost and snow in my country."

They'd arrived on the island by ship less than an hour ago, and Omen had to admit he shared his cat's desire to run free. Though the ocean voyage to the Corsair Isles was short, he'd quickly suffered from the extended confinement and had taken to experimenting with his spells. Not that anyone is impressed by the results.

Omen poked a finger at the lump of sand where his mouse was hiding. It wiggled, and he gently dismissed the flow of magic humming through him. The bump flattened. "Stay put next time," he muttered.

He slowly titled his head from side to side, enjoying the mild, salty air. A mouthwatering aroma caught his attention, and he raised his nose. Someone's roasting fish!

Winter had been on frigid display back home in Melia — snow on the ground, cold wind blowing in from the sea.

Solstice preparations had kept Omen occupied for weeks, and he'd stopped visiting his favorite beach because Tormy had taken to whining about the cold wet sand between his toes and the frost on his whiskers. Not that the cold keeps Shard out of the water, he thought, amused. His sister's roly-poly kitten loved the beach, regardless of the cold.

But here on the Corsair Isles, the warm trade winds kept winter at bay, and Omen had brought the cats, Kyr, and Kadana's children to play on the beach as soon as they'd disembarked. Tormy hadn't even balked at the delay before dinner. He'd been ready to run.

The enormous feline, grown to the size of a large horse in the last few months, flounced and pounced in the evening breeze, his brilliant orange and white fur fluffing as he capered wildly at the edge of the water.

Perched on Tormy's head, Tyrin — identical in coloring to his much larger twin — shouted instructions like a miniature feline general riding into battle on his great cat steed.

"Grab the &↝%*$!^ birdies by the &^∉!*!" The kitten's naughty words sailed across the near-empty beach on the humid breeze.

Omen winced. Hope the kids don't repeat that. But the children, Kadana's four and Kyr, didn't seem to take note of Tyrin's imprecations, continuing to play and run with abandon.

The birdies so maligned by Tyrin — glimmering lunar wavedancers — flittered weightlessly through the air, but whenever a cat's paw or a child's grasping hand neared them, the creatures whooshed away with the swiftness of hummingbirds, always staying just out of reach.

Omen tugged at his collar, growing too warm in his overly formal attire. Sitting upright, he removed his brocade dress coat and placed it next to his sword and scabbard which he'd discarded on the sand when they'd first arrived. He stretched his arms and arched his back, coaxing his stiff muscles to lengthen.

The sea voyage had been one of stormy weather and days trapped below deck. He was looking forward to the formalities at the Corsair family estate being over, so he could throw off his uncomfortable attire and go cliff diving.

Liethan said the cliffs on the other side of the island are wicked high.

He joined Templar and Liethan's laughter as they watched Kyr, Kadana's young children, and the puppy Howler, chase after the glowing wavedancers. Up and down the wet sand the motley bunch ran, occasionally tumbling into the foamy surf and punctuating the moment with squeals and bellows.

"Never-ending energy." Omen pushed a strand of copper hair from his eyes, and then retrieved a crumpled piece of parchment from the leather pouch on his belt.

"Hope the nippers settle down soon," Templar said, his Terizkandian accent sardonic and mocking as usual. "If Tormy stays this wound up, he'll break every sculpture in the Corsair palace."

"Not likely." Liethan seemed to roll the idea around in his mind. "We Corsairs favor over-sized statuary."

"Tormy is an over-sized cat," Templar countered.

"In that case," Liethan considered, "I think I'll direct him to the Lethune statue in the courtyard. The thing is ghastly. Wouldn't mind if some accident were to befall that work of hideousness."

"Let's have dinner before Tormy rearranges the art," Templar quipped. "I'm starving."

"Don't say D-I-N-N-E-R near Tormy right now," Omen hissed. "Kadana told us to have them play on the beach until we're sent for. If he hears the D-word, we're done."

Like Omen, Templar was dressed formally — armor over padded tunic, brocaded long coat over armor. Unlike Omen, the Terizkandian prince also wore rings on every finger, and numerous jeweled studs pierced each earlobe.

Liethan, clearly happy to be home, was barefoot and clad in a knee-length tunic over leggings. And though Templar and Omen carried their weapons, the Corsair boy was unarmed.

The three of them watched as Tormy tripped, rolled head over tail, and then sprang forward, barely missing a cluster of the glowing wavedancers.

Mid-fall, Tyrin leaped from Tormy's head, paws outstretched to grab one of the fluttering creatures. He missed his target and landed with a plop in a pile of slimy kelp — curses erupted from the little kitten.

"They'll never catch those wavedancers," Liethan remarked.

"Critters are native to the island, right?" Omen asked his friend, curious but confused by what he was looking at. "Are they birds or giant moths?"

The creatures' delicate, glowing white wings might have had a hint of feathers, but to Omen they looked powdery. And the long trailing wispy appendages on their heads could have been either fancy feathers or antennae. Omen wasn't sure.

Never seen the like anywhere else.

"My grandmother claims they're some sort of air elemental, but she may have been making that up," Liethan replied.

"The kids and Tyrin have no hope of catching them," Omen agreed with Liethan's assessment but watched Tormy's footing closely.

The large cat was always just one paw behind the fragile wavedancers, never quite catching them as they flittered away. But Omen knew that Tormy could have taken to the air. Yet he doesn't, Omen mused to himself. He doesn't want to catch them. Omen rather suspected that his cat would think it unfair if he could catch them and the others could not. "I think Tormy's holding back."

One of the glowing wavedancers darted past Omen, nearly brushing his face as it raced toward the thick canopy of trees winding up the enormous mountain behind them.

Omen spotted the white columns of the Corsair estate nestled within a clearing of trees. The evening lamps were being lit, bathing the sprawling manor in golden light.

"My money is on the dog." Templar eyed the lean and muscular hound. "Those kinds of dogs are made for hunting. He's still young, but you can't tell me a Deldano hasn't trained the pup to retrieve."

"Caia is a compassionate soul," Omen countered. "Remember her with those herb animals at Wood Frog Pond? She's more likely to have trained her dog to gently carry a small critter in his mouth than hunt something down."

Omen directed his eyes back to the neatly written list still in his hands.

Got a few items scratched off. The thing with the well, the stolen coin, and the gulch. But how am I supposed to find a lost mural?

"You still have your list?" Templar scoffed. "I left mine at home, in the old library tower, on the ancillary scrivener's desk, under a stack of books. Can't complete what I can't look at."

"I lost mine." Liethan sounded almost remorseful.

"You could ask for another," Omen suggested.

"I don't want to bother anyone." The young Corsair gave a conspiratorial smile.

I'm not the only one trying to finish, Omen thought stubbornly. I know Shalonie is already halfway through her tasks. Had me help her fish those cantillating shells out of the tidepools. And, of course, now she's working on the Corsair portal. She's making me look bad.

"I'm supposed to help Shalonie build the portal," Omen told his two friends, motioning to one of the items on his list.

The girl had been anxious to get right to work — she along with Nikki and Devastation had gone with Kadana directly to the Corsair home.

Though Kadana did check on her ship first, Omen thought, amused. When they'd arrived by Corsair vessel earlier, Kadana had finally been reunited with her husband Diatho and her two sons, who'd been waiting on the Corsair Isles for her. Her reunion with the Golden Voyage, her wondrous Ven'tarian ship, had been almost as emotional as the reunion with her family.

"How are you going to help Shalonie with the portal if we're going cliff diving?" Templar asked. "And swimming, and fishing, and hunting for the haunted treasure of the lost mariner — though I'm pretty certain Liethan made that up."

Liethan grinned mysteriously.

Omen was quite proud of the piece of rationalizing he'd developed, anticipating Templar's question. "I'm going to keep Tormy and Tyrin busy, and away from Shalonie. That's how I'm going to help." His two friends looked relieved. "Have the two of you really abandoned your lists?"

"I helped find those singing seashells!" Liethan protested.

"That wasn't on your list," Omen reminded him.

Liethan shook out his blond locks, his eyes seeming to search the darkening sky for answers. "I learned how to make scones," he tried again.

"That wasn't on either of our lists." Omen shoved his parchment back into his belt pouch. "You were hungry, and I had a new recipe."

"Seashells and scones?" Templar's voice pitched up. "I spent three weeks helping the people of the city of Blevin rebuild their bridge after the autumn floods. I'm doing actual physical labor, while you two are off looking for seashells and scones!"

Omen knew that Templar's father had insisted that Templar complete several tasks before agreeing to let him head off on another adventure, but he hadn't realized that had entailed building bridges. "You built a bridge?"

"Don't sound so surprised," Templar gruffed, but the grin he shot Omen showed that he wasn't actually offended. "I'm quite good at engineering and figuring things out. Mostly though it was just a lot of digging and chopping down trees." He scooped up a handful of white sand and rock fragments from the ground and cupped his two hands together. The rings on his fingers gleamed in the fading evening light. "I did learn this though."

Liethan and Omen leaned forward curiously as Templar's cupped hands began to glow softly. A moment later the light faded, and Templar held out his palm much the same way Omen had held out the glowing rodent.

A solid but lumpy stone lay in the center of Templar's palm.

Omen's eyes widened. "You turned it to stone! That's impressive!" Better than a runaway mouse.

Templar shrugged rather self-deprecatingly and tossed the rock aside. "Be far more impressive if I could transform larger amounts — but I'm still learning. And I didn't really transmute it. It's still mostly sand. My tutor turned the entire muddy bank under the Blevin bridge to solid granite for the foundation. That was impressive."

The red sky darkened to a deep purple, the sun no more than a sliver on the far horizon.

Omen felt a serene calm settle over him. Down at the surf, he could hear the children laughing. Rask and Reeve have grown again, Omen noted. The twelve-year-old twins had been eager to be reunited with their younger sisters. He watched as Reeve lifted golden-haired Caia over his head and "sailed" her after one of the wavedancers. Tokara and Rask chased after them.

So peaceful. He listened to the rhythm of the waves pushing against the surf. Gentle but relentless. A composition started to take shape in his brain, calm and new.

I'll dedicate it to the Corsairs.

Despite the proximity to the winter solstice, the temperature of the island was more akin to late summer. A bead of sweat ran down Omen's neck and beneath his armor. He started debating whether or not to remove more layers.

Omen and Templar had both dressed up, as expected, to greet Liethan's family at the port, but Liethan had done the opposite, dressing down.

Think Liethan has the right of it, Omen mused while lifting his longish hair, letting the breeze cool the nape of his neck. But I better stay dressed. Dinner with nobles and all.

Following Kadana's instructions to her daughters, Omen had told his little brother to put on his best outfit as well. But once they'd docked on the main island and been greeted by a swarm of golden-skinned Corsairs in casual beach clothes, Kyr had swiftly thrown off the upper layers of his clothing and was now running barefoot along the wet sand in little more than draw-string breeches and a white billowy undershirt. The half-elvin child looked carefree and wild, pale hair tangled, skinny body wet and coated with sand.

"That's quite a mountain," Templar remarked, drawing Omen's attention back to the landscape. The prince was looking over his shoulder at the great peak behind them. His yellow eyes narrowed. "Ever climbed it?" he directed his question to Liethan.

"Many times," Liethan replied. "There's a shrine to The Lady about halfway up — that's an easy walk, takes about an hour. And we're going to go cliff diving on the far side tomorrow. At the top are the nests of the golden hawks of The Lady. But it's forbidden to interfere with them."

That caught Omen's attention, Templar's look of intrigue mirroring his own. "Forbidden?" Omen and Templar said the word together.

Liethan slowly shook his head. "The hawks are sacred, one does not disturb them." He sounded as if he were reciting a lecture he'd listened to many times. "The gods will smite you if you disobey."

"Really?" Again, they spoke in unison.

"No, probably not." Liethan laughed again. "But my Aunt Arra will. She gets smitey when she's angry. And she's quite fond of the hawks."

Omen knew nothing about sacred hawks, but he remembered that the Corsairs' crest was blue and gold — the colors often depicting a great golden hawk against a sky-blue background.

At the surf's edge, Tormy turned suddenly and raced toward Omen. The cat's huge paws dug furrows in the sand and sent it flying.

Fully grown now, the enormous feline was more than large enough for Omen to ride.

Tormy's been practicing his flying. Bet it's only a matter of weeks before we can soar through the skies together. Not sure who's looking forward to that more — me or Tormy.

"Omy, Omy!" Tormy called out, amber eyes big and bright as he pranced in front of their rocky seating area. "I is forgettingnessness to tell you. I is not eatings the magic eggs! I is promising! Honest, honest."

Omen started to chuckle at the sheer earnestness in his cat's voice, but the word combination of magic, eggs, and eatings alarmed him. "Tormy, do you have a magic egg?"

"No." The cat shook his head, ears flicking backward.

Tyrin, who'd hopped after his enormous brother like a grasshopper traveling alongside a tiger, came to a halt next to Tormy. The little orange cat, smaller than one of Tormy's paws, narrowed his eyes and flattened his ears briefly. "I is not eatings the magic eggs neither," he promised, though he sounded somewhat more reluctant than Tormy had. "On account of the fact that Kyr is having bacon."

"Kyr?" Omen hesitated. "Does Kyr have a magic egg?"

Both cats shook their heads emphatically.

"Do any of you have magic eggs?" Omen had learned the hard way to never ignore any unconventional discourse coming from Kyr or the cats.

Again, the cats shook their fuzzy heads.

"But we are talking about a magic egg, right?" He tried to clarify.

"Kyr is sayings that the bacon is not being for servings with the magic eggs, so we is not allowed to eats them. Only the bacon," Tormy explained blithely. "But we is not having a magicnessness egg which we is not eatings when we is eatings the bacon."

Omen groaned as the bacon portion of the conversation finally registered in his brain. "Kyr!" he shouted toward his little brother. "Did you put bacon in your pocket again?"

Rather than answer, Kyr, who was kneeling in the water and digging for shells at the surf's edge, reached into the left pocket of his breeches and pulled out a piece of bacon. He thrust the fried morsel triumphantly into the air, holding it aloft for Omen to see. Then the boy popped the small nibble into his mouth, never looking up from the sand.

Immediately, Tyrin raced back toward the source of the bacon. He paused just out of reach of the water and waited, tail swishing.

The boy tossed him a piece of bacon, and the kitten caught it out of the air. Kyr then offered bacon pieces to Kadana's children, each of whom declined with a shake of the head. Golden-haired Tokara and Caia didn't look surprised, but the dark-haired twins Rask and Reeve — who hadn't known Kyr long — seemed perplexed.

"Take it," Caia gave Howler leave to collect his treat, and the large puppy wasted no time in stomping through the water and snapping up Kyr's offering.

"That explains why I kept smelling breakfast," Liethan remarked, an eyebrow raised.

"I've been trying to break him of the bacon-in-the-pocket habit." Omen tugged at his ear in annoyance. "He knows we aren't going to let him go hungry. But he keeps hiding food on his person."

"He's also never far from the cats, who are always hungry," Templar reasoned. "Probably not a bad idea to carry bribes around."

Tormy, only briefly torn between staying with Omen and getting his own piece of bacon, wiggled his entire body, sending fur and sand flying, and then galloped for Kyr.

"So, just out of curiosity," Templar turned toward Omen, "on a scale from good to bad, how terrible do Kyr's predictions about breakfast food usually turn out?"

"Not bad so far," Omen mused. "But I suppose there's always a first time."

They all knew from experience that Kyr's words carried layers of meaning.

Magic eggs — that could mean anything.

"Maybe it means—" Liethan began, only to be cut off as a roll of thunder rumbled across the sky. The violence of the rumble startled them all. Down by the surf, the children spun in circles, looking skyward to see where the mighty sound had come from.

The thunder rumbled again, low, deep and deafening, drowning out the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

"No clouds." Omen looked skyward, Liethan and Templar doing the same.

"There!" Templar pointed down the beach where a billowy puff of black clouds had started to form over the water. Night had given way to a violet gloaming. The sun gone, the nearly full silver moon over the tree line gave off just enough light to mark the swirl of clouds forming against the sky.

"There too!" Liethan pointed in the opposite direction. The three of them scrambled to their feet. Another mass of clouds was forming farther up the beach. Both billowing swirls spread out like ripples on a pond, growing in density. A deafening crack of lightning flashed across the sky; thunder boomed in its wake.

"Is that normal?" Omen demanded of Liethan, already knowing the answer.

"Never seen that before!" The Corsair boy's easy smile had disappeared.

The clouds spread, grew, swelled, and surged forward, moving both toward them and the mountain behind them. It took them all only moments to realize that the billowing shapes were not actually clouds, but rather masses of dark, winged creatures appearing seemingly out of nowhere and flying at them. The shadows rolled and tumbled over one another in a mad dash to swarm forward, most swerving inland toward the mountain.

"Bats?" Omen gritted his teeth.

"Too big." Liethan shook his head. "We have fruit bats, but they're tiny, and don't appear out of thin air." Lightning sparked again; a deafening blast followed. "And they don't belch lightning or thunder!"

"That's summoning magic," Templar exclaimed, his voice dark. He took a step forward, yellow eyes narrowed as if trying to see more clearly.

A blast of wind struck them, cold and harsh. It smelled of crushed stone and wet ash, and lingering in the acrid mix was the scent of something putrid and rotten.

The dark cloud, comprised of the writhing shapes, was growing larger, moving closer, though Omen could see the main bulk was reaching toward the mountain. He could make out individual forms, individual creatures.

Not bats! he confirmed immediately. They were far too large, and their dark bodies seemed misshapen masses of leathery wings and trailing tentacles with too many claws and hooked protrusions, a nightmarish mash of insect, reptile, and something unnameable. Asymmetrical, they shifted and changed shape in mid-flight as if made of smoke, not flesh. As they neared, he could see their eyes glowing with yellow flame.

"Nightlings!" Templar hissed.

Omen had learned that the term Nightling did not reference any one single creature, but a collective of different types of servants created by dark masters using terrible spells, the kind that bound, enslaved, and killed.

He quickly snatched his sword from the sand, closing his fist tightly around the scabbard. Evil magic. And they appeared the moment night set in!

"Aren't Nightlings supposed to be invisible?" Liethan shouted.

Omen flashed on the memory of the Nightling they'd encountered in Khreté that summer.

"Only when they don't move!" Templar reminded them.

While the bulk of the two different masses were swirling upward, a group of the winged creatures broke away from the edges of the collective and headed not toward the mountain, but toward the children and cats standing at the water's edge in stunned silence.

The moment they realized the threat to the children, Omen and his two friends sprang forward, running across the sand toward the surf. "Run!" Omen bellowed.

The children and cats scrambled toward them, the pup, Howler, barking and braying in defiance as he raced after little Caia.

They're going to get them! Omen realized in a panic, the dry sand beneath his feet slowing him down.

Omen saw Caia turn back for her dog. Her brother, Reeve, grabbed her, never breaking stride. Caia, tucked under his arm, reached for Howler and cried his name.

Kyr had snatched up Tyrin the instant the cloud had appeared, holding the kitten clutched to his chest as he sprinted. But even over the wind and rolling thunder Omen could hear the little cat's shout of, "Run you &%↔@* doggy!"

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