Daughter of the Sun
Cult of the Cat Book 1
by Zoe Kalo
Genre: YA Contemporary Mythological Fantasy
Print Length: 364 Pages
EGYPTOLOGY. MAGIC. MYSTERY. AND CATS, LOTS OF CATS...
Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.
But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.
Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.
Goosebumps snaked up my spine. I'd had the same sensation last night while gazing at the moon, when for an instant I’d picture it red, bathed in blood. Then the rippling, bristling feeling had come back this morning as I brushed my teeth and stared at the reflection of my eyes in the bathroom mirror. In a flash the green orbs had turned crimson. I’d blinked, struck by a wave of vertigo, the cold tiles shifting under my feet.
“Trinity...you all right?” Brianna nudged my arm, bringing me back to the present. We were walking down the main staircase of the orphanage—where we’d lived all of our lives—toward the open-air playground for our usual half-hour break after lunch.
“Fine. Just restless.”
“Maybe lunch did it. All those veggies. They take you for a rabbit.” The touch of humor in her voice didn't lift the dark cloud hovering over me. I shot her a sideways glance. “No, not the veggies,” I muttered. “Something else.” She stopped in the middle of the staircase and her hazel eyes studied my face. “What?” I stopped, shrugging. “Don't know.”
“I saw you in the dormitory last night, staring out the window. You seemed so far away.” Red moon. The sky had been so clear, the stars twinkling like gems, so unusual for the common grayness of the English countryside. Blood moon. I’d been mesmerized, as if its eerie splendor had spoken to me in an ancient, alien language. I hadn't been able to understand it, but I’d felt faint by its allure.
“It's nothing. You know me. One day up, one day down.” I looked to the bottom of the staircase, past the hall to the open doors to the courtyard. Now the sky was gray. The girls played outside, chatting incessantly. The little ones ran this way and that, their black and white uniforms a blur. When I looked back at Brianna, I saw she was staring at something past my shoulder. I turned around and glimpsed a flash of black through the window.
“Did you see that?” I asked. “Looked like a limousine.” Not that I’d ever seen one in real life, only in the movies we were sometimes allowed to watch in the weekends. “I wonder if it’s coming here.” But Brianna didn’t answer. Her spaced-out gaze was still fixed on the window. There was something odd about her expression.
“Brianna. Hello. I’m talking to you.” She blinked, startled. She looked at me. “What? Oh. Right. You know…I just—I just remembered… I have to help Sister Anne at the library.”
“Now? All of a sudden?”
“Like I said, I just remembered.” I made a dismissive gesture with my hand. “Tell her you forgot.” I did feel a twinge of guilt. Sister Anne was one of the nice ones. “She's so old, she won't even remember.”
“Don’t be mean. I promised her.”
“You know, people take advantage when you’re always nice.” She didn’t answer, but I read the gentle reproach in her eyes.
“All right, all right,” I muttered. “I'll see you later.” She smiled and, to my surprise, gave me a tight, warm hug. “Cheer up. I don't like it when you get the blues. I want you to be happy.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled. Her chestnut hair, streaked with copper and gold and woven into a braid like we were all supposed to wear, smelled like soap, clean, fresh. Which reminded me: I had not braided my hair today. Brianna was my best friend in the world. Nearly seventeen years ago, when we were tiny babies, we had been found at the door of the orphanage only a day apart—averyodd event, according to the nuns. When we were babies we were often put in the same crib and we sucked each other’s thumbs and took turns crying for attention. We drew apart and she hurried up the stairs, the old wood creaking under the rubber soles of her shoes. I moved in the opposite direction toward the courtyard. Outside, the sky was covered with virulent clouds, promising a downpour. A cool breeze hit my cheeks, made me instantly alert. The air was redolent of fertilizers from the nearby farms. The temperature was unusually cold for late May. Sister Eveline and Sister Celeste already kept guard, but as one of the older girls, my duty was to keep watch during playtime. The courtyard was big and was enclosed by high, rusted, spiked iron gates crawling with vines and wisteria. Beyond the gates, on one side, a massive weeping willow loomed, its leaves rustling in the breeze. On another side, rolling hills made most of the landscape, dotted here and there with the silhouettes of nearby farms. The courtyard was made of concrete and had swings and see-saws for the younger girls. The rest was just empty space with a few stone benches for us to sit. The Sisters strolled across the courtyard toward the main doors, their heads tilted downward, deep in conversation—or so I thought. In their wimples and flowing habits, they looked like two big black birds. Sister Eveline suddenly turned toward me with a hard expression and made a gesture about my hair.
“I’ll braid it after the break,” I said, trying not to sound annoyed. I gave her a lovable grin and pointed to the younger children. “I have to keep an eye on them, as you know.” The look she gave me told me she didn’t buy my sweet disposition, but she let it drop and continued her way to the doors. I crouched and chatted with the little ones for a while, and pushed their backs at the swings. I giggled at their silly, innocent tales. Sophie, a sweet five year-old with red corkscrew ringlets, wrapped her small arms around me and I whirled her in the air. When I put her down, I spotted Beth Thompson and her two evil minions emerging from the corner of the orphanage. A cat trailed behind her. I narrowed my eyes. Beth had tied a string around the cat’s neck and was pulling it along like a pet—but, as I knew only too well, girls like Beth didn't keep pets. Then Beth did something she shouldn’t have done: when the cat refused to budge, she yanked the string, almost choking the animal. I winced, feeling the pain as my own. A shiver rippled up my spine. Again.
There were two things in life I had no patience for. One was animal cruelty. The other one was Beth Thompson.
“One more time,please!” little Sophie begged, clinging to my waist, her high-pitch voice a tiny silver bell. I unhooked her arms from around my waist. “Later, darling.” For a moment I stood there, watching Beth and the cat. There were always cats wandering around the grounds of the orphanage, and during the past weeks I’d seen this particular cat several times. It had amber eyes and a long-haired coat with patches of orange, red, cream, chocolate and black. Beautiful. Maybe it was what they called a tortoiseshell cat. I wasn’t sure. A female. Intelligent but shy. On two occasions I’d taken the risk of smuggling a saucer of milk. But the cat didn’t seem particularly hungry and appeared in healthy shape, which made me think it probably came from one of the farms nearby in spite of the fact that it didn’t have a collar. I happened to share DaVinci's opinion that cats are the masterpieces of nature. In fact, all my life I'd always had a special love of cats. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to have pets here. Go ahead, Beth. Ask for it. I could hear Brianna's voice in my head:Trinity, please. Control your temper. I strode with a purpose across the courtyard. A bunch of girls moved aside to let me pass. I was so annoyed I barely registered their whispers.
“Guess who's going to bed without dinner tonight--again,” someone muttered. I heard chuckles. I didn't care. When Beth and her friends saw me approaching, they stopped momentarily and stared at me, slightly surprised. But their surprise lasted only a second before their expressions turned cold and arrogant. I met Beth’s gaze levelly before glancing at the cat. The cat let out a mournful yowl and tried to move toward me, but Beth jerked her back to her side. The cat meowed at me, her intelligent amber eyes locking with mine. There was a heavy cloud of expectancy in the air as the girls waited to see what I would do next. I glanced around, but there was no sign of the Sisters. Beth talked first. “What brings you to this part of the woods, Robin?” she mocked. Her two minions giggled. Beth had nicknamed me Robin Hood years ago after we've had an argument—well, a fight, really—when she’d picked on a girl from a younger class. Once, she’d tried to bully me, too, but she had soon realized her mistake. Luckily, I’d been born with an athletic body. I wasn’t muscular, but my muscles were firm and strong. I had a quick hand, too, quicker than my tongue. And she knew it.
“You're making kittens cry now, Beth?”
“And who, exactly, invited you here to play?” She shifted and stood straighter, her stance wider. It made me think of a soldier—except she wore the same tasteless, black and white dress uniform we all did. “What’s it to you if I want to keep a little pet?” Beth pulled the string again, jerking the cat to her side. This startled Beth’s friends, as if they weren’t expecting her to do this. One of them actually looked uncomfortable. Sadly, she wasn’t strong enough to show disapproval to her leader.
“Don’t make me laugh. Better to stay homeless in the street,” I said. Beth snorted. “You should know.”
“Let the cat go, Beth.”
“I advise you to look the other way and turn around, Trinity.” This time her voice had lost most of its condescension. It was colder and had an edge of threat in it.
“Always playing the hero,” muttered one of her minions. I ignored the comment and grated my teeth, trying to remain calm. “The string is too tight. Let her go!” Beth's expression changed. She hit her head with her hand dramatically as if she’d suddenly realized something. “As a matter of fact, it isn't as tight as it should be. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.” And she leaned over to adjust it.
“Beth, come on.” One of her minions. She actually avoided my eyes. The other one looked around uncomfortably, wondering who else was watching. Still no sign of Sister Eveline or Sister Celeste. I prayed they wouldn’t show up. I wanted to handle this on my own. A sudden waft of wind swept my hair, fluttering it all over my face. I glanced up for a second and felt a raindrop on my cheek. Lightning cut through the sky. A moment later, thunder rumbled. I looked again at Beth. I could feel the blood dashing through my hands, pulsing at the tips of my fingers. “I’m warning you.”
“Or else?” She straightened, her eyes drilling mine. “Will you make me?”
“You're bloody right I will.” Beth took two steps toward me, tugging the cat along. We were both equally tall and I felt her hot breath on my face. But it wasn't her cruel, callous expression that did it. It was the way the cat stumbled when Beth pulled her, the way she had to twist her body to keep up with Beth. That was it. I punched Beth in the face. As she twisted and then staggered backwards, I finally caught sight of Sister Eveline, hands on hips, head shaking, marching in my direction.
I trudged behind Sister Eveline down the hall to Mother Superior’s office while listening to her sermon about my “disobedient, argumentative and hot-head nature.” Words like “bad seed,” “born trouble-maker,” “repentance,” “prayer” and “confession” entered one ear and went out the other. Sister Eveline had a talent for making me feel evil. I rolled my eyes, but deep down I wondered if she was right. I sometimes had the fantasy that one day I would buy the convent and change all the rules. Bully nuns would be severely punished, meat would be served daily, there would be dancing lessons, girls would go to bed however late they wanted. Rain pelted against the windows and the sky had turned a dark shade of slate. I rubbed my arms to get rid of the goosebumps. While arguing outside, a drizzle had started and my hair and clothes were slightly wet. Not that it worried me. Inevergot sick. Sister Eveline’s face was still flushed with anger. Beth had staggered backward and hit the floor from the impact of my blow. The string tangled around Beth's leg and the cat scrambled all over her, hissing and yowling. She then dashed off, trailing the string, and leapt over the gate. I had expected Beth to jump to her feet and strike back, but her hand flew to her cheek and, for an instant, her eyes widened with genuine fear—or so it seemed, unless she had put on an act to make herself the victim and me the villain. Surely I hadn’t punched herthathard. Before Sister Eveline had the chance to examine her cheek or ask questions, Beth sprang to her feet and dashed off with her friends. Now, walking to Mother Superior’s office, I couldn’t help inspecting my fist. My knuckles looked flawless. I stroked them with my other hand. I mouthed a silent curse. It was utterly unfair that I was the only one being taken to Mother Superior’s office when in fact it had all been Beth’s fault. Finally we arrived at the office and Sister Eveline knocked. The words “Come in” came from inside and Sister Eveline opened the door and, stepping in, respectfully said, “Sorry for the delay, Mother Superior. Unfortunately, we had a situation on the playground.” She stressed the word ‘situation’ while shooting me a reproving look. “Step inside, Trinity.” I obeyed, biting my lip. But before I could control myself, I rushed to Mother’s Superior’s desk and the words started to spill from my mouth like waters from a broken dam.
“This is absolutely unfair,” I protested. “You see, there’s this cat, this beautiful calico cat—or it could be a tortoiseshell cat, I’m not quite sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s homeless—and Beth was torturing it. Haven’t you taught me to be just and morally correct and do the right thing? Well, if defending a defenseless animal—an innocent creature of God—from a bully isn’t morally correct, I don’t know what is. So yes, I confess it, I punched her. And I’d do it again. Go ahead, punish me. It doesn’t pay to be good—” Clearing her throat, Mother Superior waved off the words and pointed to someone in the room I hadn’t seen. I turned around. Lightning struck, momentarily dimming the lamps. For a second or two, the room lay in shadows and I couldn’t make out the stranger’s features. A shiver raised the hairs on my arms. Malevolence. Then the lights flickered back to life and the cloud of malice vanished. Sitting in a chair was a woman I had never seen before. Sixty-something, maybe. Dressed in a fine, expensive-looking suit. Her black hair was gathered in a severe bun. An exotic, Egyptian-looking gold necklace adorned her throat and a crimson jewel gleamed on the middle finger of her right hand, matching the lipstick on her lips. But what struck me the most were her eyes, keen, deep, penetrating eyes, expertly rimmed with charcoal. They reminded me of a bird of prey’s as they studied me with the most profound curiosity—though I wouldn’t have been able to fully read what lay behind her charismatic gaze. And then it dawned on me. Of course. The black limousine. Flustered, Sister Eveline gave a respectful nod to the woman before turning to Mother Superior. “I apologize for Trinity’s behavior,” she said, shaking her head. “This girl needs some serious—”
“That will be all, Sister Eveline,” interrupted Mother Superior, crossing her hands on her desk. “I’ll handle it from here. You may leave us now.” Sister Eveline bowed slightly and left the room, closing the door behind her. I started to have a nagging feeling that I was here for another reason. “Mother Superior…Um, am I here for punching Beth?”
“No.” She gestured me to another chair. “Sit down, Trinity.” Now I was even more intrigued. Mother Superior hadn’t invited me to sit in one of her chairs in years, not since I had caught a mouse and hidden it under Beth’s pillow when I was ten years old. And of course, there was that time I got caught dancing ‘lecherously’—Sister Eveline’s words—in the chapel. I sat down. The woman was still observing me with acute interest. I squirmed in my seat.
“This is Dr. Bithiah Nassri, Trinity,” Mother Superior said. “She’s come from very far to make your acquaintance.” I frowned, looking questioningly at them. “Hello…” I said to the woman.
“Hello, Trinity,” Dr. Nassri said. Her voice was throaty and she had an accent I couldn’t place. There was a brief silence. Mother Superior seemed to hesitate. It was a well-known fact that she liked to drink water when perturbed. There had always been a glass of water on her desk, though I had never seen her drinking it. Now the glass was empty. I stared at her expectantly, my pulse quickening.
“There’s no proper way to say this that won’t alarm you, Trinity. So I’ll be clear and I’ll be brief,” Mother Superior began. “There’s been an… unexpected development, for lack of a better term.” She paused. I waited. She continued, “It appears you have a living relative—a grandmother by the name of Margaret Walford. Dr. Nassri is here on her behalf. You’re to pack your things immediately and join her as soon as possible.” It felt as if someone had wrenched my heart out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe.
“I know this must be a shock—” I rose to my feet so abruptly and with such force that I knocked the chair on its side in the process. “What?” Mother Superior recoiled, startled. “Trinity, please…” My hands went to the sides of my head and I shut my eyes. A grandmother?A grandmother? I opened my eyes. A million questions rushed through my mind, but I was so upset I couldn’t articulate them. “So where has she been all these years? Why didn’t she show up before? I’m supposed to leave now? Rightnow? This precise second?”
“Sit down and let me explain,” Mother Superior said, not unkindly.
“Perhaps it’s better if you allow me to do that,” Dr. Nassri said. I turned to her sharply.
“Your reaction is perfectly understandable, Trinity.” She shifted in the chair, moving slightly forward and leaning her elbows on the armrests. “I would be just as distressed if I were in your position, but believe me, Margaret didn’t know about your existence until only a few days ago.” Perfect English, in spite of the accent. I swallowed. “How is that possible?” Dr. Nassri sighed. “Over the years she hired various private detectives to try to find you. None of them were successful… until now. Believe me, she--we—were as shocked as you are. I immediately made arrangements to come for you. Your grandmother wants nothing more than to have you by her side as soon as possible.”
“If she’s so eager to see me, why didn’t she come herself?” I was having a hard time believing this wasn’t a nightmare. My heart, my soul was filled with a dizzying sensation of unreality. I had a family. A grandmother. Margaret Walford. All my life, I’d always felt this painful longing, this burning conviction that I belonged… To someone. To something. To anything.
“She wanted to,” Dr. Nassri said. “Very much. Unfortunately, she’s ill, so she sent me.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’ve known Margaret for many years. I’m her assistant. I’m also her friend.” I frowned. “Assistant? Aren’t you a doctor?”
“Not a medical doctor.” Dr. Nassri’s expression subtly changed. She leaned back against the chair and crossed her legs. I got the feeling she was choosing her words before speaking. “Let’s just say your grandmother is a powerful, wealthy woman.” I’m sure my eyes widened. Not because I was impressed, but because this only added to the sensation of unreality. So not only did I have a grandmother, but she was rich? I waited, expecting to hear more, but obviously the woman didn’t want to talk. As if reading my thoughts, she said, “You must have many questions, and that’s perfectly natural. But Margaret has insisted on telling you everything herself when you meet.”
“Where is she?”
“Presently, on an island in the Sea of Marmara, off the coast of Istanbul, where she always spends her summers.” Then… the inevitable question. She had to know it was coming. “What about my parents?”
“I really think—”
“Are they dead?” Time stood still for a fraction of a second before she nodded briefly. I turned to Mother Superior. All this time she had watched us in silence. She nodded, too. I wasn’t sure what to feel. I’d never known my parents and you can’t love or miss what you’ve never had, especially if you’re surrounded by other orphans. But some part of me, some very deep part of me had thought they were alive. Why else would I have had such a strong sense of belonging all these years? It didn’t make sense. Dr. Nassri glanced at her watch and turned to the window. She frowned and her red lips closed in a firm line at the pouring rain. “We have a long trip ahead of us, Mother Superior,” she said. Mother Superior looked at me, and her eyes swept over my face with unease. Did she expect me to burst into tears?
“Yes, of course,” she said, rising to her feet. She took a deep breath and her mouth curved in a weak smile. “Well, Trinity, this is certainly good news! You should consider yourself fortunate. In all the years I’ve been here, few girls have been able to reunite with their close relatives. You better head to your dormitory right away and get ready. I’m sure you’re anxious to meet your grandmother. I’ll instruct Sister Eveline to bring you a small suitcase.”
“What for? It’s not as if I have anything to pack,” I said, appalled at the quick way this nun, this nun who had known me since I was a week old baby, wanted to get rid of me.
“When you’re done, please come here again,” Mother Superior said, ignoring my rude remark, and something in her deliberate tone made me frown. “I’d like a few private words with you before you leave.” She turned to Dr. Nassri. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to assemble the girls for a proper farewell dinner. It isn’t fitting to have Trinity leave so abruptly without saying goodbye to her friends.” Dr. Nassri had formed her hands into a steeple. The tips of her fingers tapped each other lightly and the red gem on her finger caught the light and shimmered. “But of course,” she said, observing me with what seemed like thoughtful contemplation.
“If you wish,” I said to Mother Superior, turning to the door.
“And Trinity—” Mother Superior. I stopped and looked at her.
“Please put the chair the way it was.” I obeyed and left the room without another glance at either of them, trying to control the terrible knot tightening at the base of my throat, choking me.
Storyteller at heart...
A certified bookworm and ailurophile, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has remained. Today, Zoe passes her stories to you with lots of mystery, adventure, a hint of romance, and the delicious sweep of magic.
Currently, she balances writing with spending time with her family, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.