A Penguin Comes to Tea

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How the Cat Got its Name

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Whoever heard of a cat called Blanket? Well let me tell you how it came about.
Not so long ago it was the custom for every self-respecting Prince to slay a dragon in order to prove his worth before seeking the hand of a Princess in marriage. Naturally every self-respecting dragon took exception to this custom and, when not breathing fire and brimstone over the hapless Princes, kept themselves well out of the way. In time this led to a shortage of dragons and some very short-tempered Princes.
The Princesses were also unhappy, because the stream of suitors asking for their hand in marriage dried up, for no Prince would dream of seeking a bride without having at least one dragon slaying to his credit.
“Daddy, it’s not fair!” shouted Princess Materi, “Lucy and Genevieve had at least three Princes each come and drool over their hand before they were married, and Terena even has a bracelet of dragon’s teeth and a dragon scale rug. And now it is my turn to be courted and not a single Prince has turned up in a month!”
“There, there, my dear,” murmured the King, wondering if he would be asked to give up half his kingdom to get her married off.
“Who would want to drool over your hand anyway?” asked Prince Luand. “What about me? I haven’t ever seen a dragon, let alone fought one. Just my luck to get stuck in the castle with you for company.”
And the two siblings continued their bickering day in and day out. It was the same in neighbouring kingdoms; state visits were a thing of the past, for who would want to visit another monarch without bringing tales of daring and gifts of dragon’s teeth or scales?
“Your Majesty,” said the court Wizard one day, “I have an idea.”
The King glanced listlessly at the Wizard, expecting another display of rabbits popping out from goblets of mead.
“Why don’t we breed our own dragons?”
“What? Have those dreadful creatures in the castle, breathing fire all over the tapestries?” said the Queen.
“No, Your Majesty, we’d keep them in the barn, then when visiting Princes came we’d release one at the far end of the field. Nobody would know.”
The King thought about this new idea for a few days and the more he considered it, the more it appealed to him. So the next week the Wizard conjured some dragon eggs and set them to hatch in the barn. Day after day he went to look at them but there was no change.
“When are the eggs going to hatch?” Prince Luand kept asking. “I want to start practising dragon killing right away.”
“But you can’t kill them when they are babies!” cried Princess Materi, “besides, my suitors will need dragons themselves!”
The King became impatient; the whole court became impatient and still the eggs did not hatch.
“Who is sitting on the eggs, my dear?” asked the Queen one morning, when she could bear the tension no longer.
“Sitting?” asked the King.
“Sitting?” asked the Wizard.
“Yes, you know, keeping the eggs warm; incubating them.”
The Queen looked at the King, the King looked at the Wizard and the Wizard looked behind him where he saw the cat sleeping, curled in a ray of sunlight.
“The cat is!” he cried, scooping up the indignant cat and running out of the castle, all the way across the field to the barn.
“Here you are, kitty,” he said, placing the cat gently on the eggs, “here’s your new bed.”
The cat hissed and arched its back and the Wizard got ready to cast a calming spell when all of a sudden it looked beneath it, sniffed at the surface of an egg and began to purr. Louder and louder the sound became, until the whole barn was filled with a roaring thrum.
Two days later the first egg hatched. The little dragon unfolded its sticky wings, took one look at the cat and flew out of the barn. The cat did not appear to care.
The Wizard replaced the egg with a new one and the cat continued as before, while the court watched the progress of the young dragon, flitting around the countryside, eating sheep and cows, getting bigger by the day.
“Can I go and fight the dragon, Father?” asked Prince Luand.
“No!” shrieked Princess Materi, “we need a dragon for my suitor to slay!”
The problem was solved the very next day with the birth of a second dragon, who followed its elder sibling to ravage the countryside.
The King was delighted.
“I’ll be the envy of all the land! Every Prince from far and wide will come here to face the dragons. My daughter will have the best husband, my son will soon have a score of dragon pelts to his name!”
“But what if you run out of dragon eggs?” asked the Queen, “you can’t just keep conjuring them out of nothing.”
“I won’t need to conjure them any more, Your Majesty,” explained the Wizard. “You see, a fallen dragon’s tooth grows into an egg if planted the same day it falls out; provided we collect all the fallen dragons’ teeth and plant them immediately, we’ll have a constant supply of eggs.”
“Hmm, I see. And what about that cat, the blanket,” asked the King, “will it stay on the eggs?”
“You don’t need to worry about her,” replied the Wizard, “the dragons have scared all the mice into the barn. She’ll live there happily ever after.”
And that is how Blanket the cat got its name.

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