Not for Brevity Quest, but I just had to share it with you.


Well, now, you're asking not who I am but what I am? Strange way to ask someone about themselves. But sit down and I'll tell ya.

ONCE UPON A TIME, in a land far from here, in a great grand valley, there was a stork.

There are a lot of storks in the world, of course, but only some of them deliver babies. This one, though, didn't deliver a human baby at all. It delivered a cat, an adult cat, a cat wearing big tall boots. And it didn't drop the cat in a swaddling bundle, oh no. The cat was hanging onto the stork's legs. And the stork didn't place the cat gently down, but dropped it from a height.

Well, some folks in the crowd were a little dismayed to see this spectacle, but a great height is no trouble to a cat, especially one wearing boots. So the cat landed with a thump and a yowl, but it picked itself up and it dusted itself off and then licked itself clean, and everyone could see that it was indeed a cat.

But you'd expect a cat wearing big tall boots to also have a sword. That's the proper form for a cat in boots. Ah, but you know as well as I do that cats rarely do as they're told. IN place of a sword, this one had an onion tied to its belt. Everyone did, of course, that was the style at the time -- but the cat did too, and that meant something, though no one was sure what.

So a man in the crowd said "It's a strange little cat alright. We should take it to the Mayor."

And the cat said, "Oh, I was heading that direction myself, if you'll join me."

And so the cat led a big crowd of people towards the Mayor's palace, and not a few of them wondered why the cat wanted to see the man.

The Mayor, whose name happened to be Mister Mayor (everyone said he was a shoo-in for the job, and not just because it was hereditary), stomped out of his palace in his own big tall boots, and he looked at the little cat with the boots and the onion, and he said, "What do you mean by it, eh? Why've you got no sword, cat? Cats in boots are supposed to have swords. That's how it's done."

And the cat said, "Why, Mister Mayor, to be sure, it is the proper form, but I care for what is effective, not what is proper. And I must tell you, the thing heading toward your city will not respond to one little sword, or a hundred. But with an onion, I can make it weep."

And so the little cat with the big boots was put in charge of the city's defenses. Just in time, too, for soon people saw the wine in their goblets rippling, and on the horizon there appeared a great monster, a gigantic lizard on two big hind legs with two tiny little arms in front, and a head so big it looked like it could take a bite out of a mountain, and teeth as long as the spire on the church. And it roared, so loud that it shook everyone's bones, even from far away.

And the big lizard stomped its way toward the city -- Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! And as it got closer, everybody jumped with each stomp. And as it got closer, everybody had to put their hands over their ears as it roared. And as it got even closer, everybody had to hold their noses because of its stinky breath.And then it drew closer, right up to the city walls, and its head was so big it looked like it could take a bite out of the sky, and it roared so loud everyone stumbled backward.

And the cat said, "Batter up!" And it wound up and chucked the onion as hard as it could. And the onion smacked the big lizard right in the top of the open mouth, which startled it enough to stop it in its tracks. And then it started to cough, and big tears fell from its eyes, tears so big that they made a pond as they fell. And the cat said, "Big lizards don't like onions! Everyone chuck your onion into its mouth!"

And so everyone did, and the big mouth was so big it was easy even for a little bitty child to toss an onion in. And the big lizard ate all the onions, and it coughed and it coughed and it coughed, so hard it blew everyone off the walls, and it cried so many tears that the pond beneath it became a great river. And then it fell into the water, raising a mighty splash that swept some of the wall away.

Well, after that there was a fair amount of repair work to do, and there were many farmers to compensate for their flooded fields, but there was more than enough lizard meat to salt and smoke and store away to satisfy everyone for the next fifty years. So everyone hailed the little cat as a hero, and they gave it all their onions.

Which was a problem, because cats don't like onions either. So the cat in the boots chucked all those onions at an army that was trying to invade the city from the north, and the army cried so many tears that they made another river.

And Mister mayor said, "Cat, if you keep doing that, we're going to wind up in the middle of a big lake. Why don't you go out questing, and if you do enough for us, we will reward you."

So the cat left the city limits with its big bag of onions, and it went on many quests for the sake of the city, vanquishing monsters and making many foes weep, so that everywhere the cat went, there was a new pond, a new lake, a new river.

But, by and by, the cat's foes got wise to the onion trick, and they started wearing goggles and gas masks. And the cat could not vanquish them as it had done so easily. So one day, the cat went to the witch of the woods, and said, "Witch of the woods, I'd like to ask you a great favor. For once in my nine lives, I need a sword."

And the witch of the woods said, "I can make you a sword, but what materials have you brought me?"

And the cat handed them the bag of onions and said, "I would like you to make me an onion sword."

And the witch said, "Oh, goodness, I hardly know what that is! But I will make you an onion sword, little cat. All I need in return is five bees."

And the cat said, "Will a quarter-dollar piece do?"

And the witch said, "Quarter? Dollar? I said bees, cat, not coin. Real bees."

So the cat went into the woods with an onion and searched for a bee hive. When it found one, it realized it had no way to make smoke to smoke the bees out. So it took the onion and broke it in its hands, and crushed the pieces, and the smell was enough to make the bees fill up with honey and hide anyway. Save for five little bees who had been asleep, and were woken up by the smell, too late to escape. The cat scooped them up and took them back to the witch.

"Five real bees," said the cat, "and my apologies. Where I come from, we call five-cent pieces 'bees', for reasons I cannot fathom."

"That's quite alright," said the witch of the woods. "Now I shall make your onion sword." And the witch went to their forge, and took the onions and beat them and smelted them and did all the things a blacksmith does to make a sword, and the witch chanted many strange things no one has ever heard, and by the end of the task, they had made a sword, and a sheathe to go with it.

And they handed the sheathed sword to the cat, and said, "Mind you wear a gas mask when you draw that sword, little cat, and only draw it in direst need."

So the cat took its new sword, and went questing again. It vanquished foes left and right with nary more effort than drawing its sword a little out of the sheathe, and they could cough and cough and cry many tears, and so the land became soggier and soggier.

One day a cat in big tall boots and a gas mask came up to the gates of the city wearing an onion sword, and it demanded entrance. But the mayor, whose name was Mister Mayor, stood on the wall atop the gate, and said, "We cannot let you enter."

"Long have I fought for you," said the cat. "I have earned my place in your city, I have earned my place on your councils. I have vanquished your foes. Will you not reward me?"

"You have turned all the land into bogs and swamps and ponds," said the mayor. "You have made it a soggier place, when the people are used to growing onions in dry earth. We will not reward you."

"Then I will show you what you have earned," said the cat, and it drew its sword fully out of its sheathe.

And all the people of the city coughed and coughed, and they wept and they wept, and they cried all the tears one could cry, so many tears that all the land was flooded even more, connecting swamp to swamp and pond to pond and river to river, until it was all one, and the great grand valley became a great grand lake, the widest the world has ever seen or will ever see. Though it was very shallow.

All the people scorned the cat and hurled curses at it. But the cat cared nothing for their annoyance.

By and by, the city adapted to its new circumstance, turning to the fishing trade and building small fishing boats for all and sundry, sending small trading ships far and wide and growing richer than before. But this put it in competition with a greater city on the other side of the lake. The people of that city decided they would send a navy to conquer their rival.

The people of the cat's city were frightened. They had not had time to put together more than a few small fighting ships, so focused had they been on building fishing boats. They did not have time to hire mercenary fleets, because the enemy was already on the horizon.

So they turned to the cat, and the cat said, "If I save you, you must reward me this time. But if you would have me save you, you must brace yourselves, for I will do just as I have done." And the cat drew the onion sword fully out of its sheathe, and all the people coughed and coughed, and they cried many tears, and all their coughing stirred up the rushing water, and sent it in a great wave straight at the enemy fleet, and sank every ship. And the water was now as deep as the sea.

The city was good to its word, and they made the cat the new mayor, and sang many songs of praise to the cat for their deliverance. So the sea came to be called the Cat's Paean Sea,  though many years have passed and the name might have gotten muddled by now.


Now, in all that, I bet you're wondering where I was. Well, I'm not the cat. I'm the witch. Always helping people if they ask, otherwise keeping my own counsel, busy with my own unpredictable business. If you will excuse me, I have to go plant some onions.

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