The Cats of the Castle

Book One: Quest for the Key

by Bart Scott | Release Date: November 4, 2016 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Move Over, Mickey

Deep inside Sleeping Beauty Castle, in rooms secretly built by Walt Disney himself, live the true champions of Disneyland. Not princes, not Imagineers, not Mickey. Cats. Cats of the Castle! Their mission: to preserve the magic of the park from the villains who would destroy it.

Given speech and intelligence from a pinch of Walt's pixie dust, the cats enjoy (nine) lives of luxury in Disneyland, but in exchange must hold up their end of the bargain with Walt and patrol the park at night, fighting vermin, rogue cats, and human adversaries alike.

Led by the wise Thurl, the cats—geeky Kimball, plucky Lilli, tough Elias, and brave Oliver—now face their greatest challenge.

A deranged man named Mintz seeks a hidden key that has the power to expunge magic from Disneyland. Aided by his rat enforcers and a monstrous, enchanted raccoon named Scavenge, Mintz will stop at nothing. The battle rages throughout the park, culminating in a showdown on Splash Mountain, the forbidden domain of a clan of evil felines.

The cats may need all of their nine lives to save Disneyland!

Bart Scott

Bart Scott is a podcaster, writer, husband, and dad in reverse order of importance. Sadly, this Bart Scott never played in the NFL. He lives in the suburbs of Chicago where he enjoys Chicago Blackhawks hockey, watching cartoons with his kids, and the pursuit of the perfect chili dog. As you may have guessed, he also loves all things Disney, especially the Disney theme parks.

The cats learn what they're up against—and it's not a scratching post.

Oliver found Thurl curled up in the brown leather chair with the high back that sat in the corner of the gathering room. The chair had been a favorite of Walt’s, and it was where he would sit when the first Cats of the Castle met. Now it held a place of honor, under a dim, warm light in the corner. It was understood only Thurl would sit, or at times such as now, doze off in it.

“Thurl!” Oliver blurted out. He immediately felt bad, fearing he might startle the elder feline.

“Huh, what, where is the dragon?” Thurl sputtered, quickly snapping to attention. His white beard and whiskers were plastered up over his pink nose. Sensing his own disheveled look he quickly licked a paw and smoothed himself out.

“Thurl, it’s me,” Oliver said. “Sorry to wake you up. Something strange happened tonight. Wait, did you just say dragon?”

“What, dragon?” Thurl said, confused for a moment. “Oh, well, I may have. Er, just a silly dream, of course. What is it, my boy? What’s the matter? What’s happened?”

“You were right,” said Oliver, dismissing the dragon comment. “This was not a typical night after all.”

Oliver went on to recount the night’s events. He told Thurl about overhearing the guards on Main Street and sneaking into the Haunted Mansion to look for rats. Then he told how he spotted the strange man he’d nicknamed Doctor Owl in the Doom Buggy. Oliver told him how he’d been attacked by the oversized rats, and how they’d chased him out near the exit with the doctor giving them orders.

“They understood him,” Oliver said. “The same way we understand humans here in the park. And they speak and walk on two legs. They called him their boss. Thurl, I didn’t think any animals could speak with humans, except us.”

“They can’t. Not usually anyway.”

“I thought so,” said Oliver, shrugging his shoulders. “But then, how?”

“I suppose there may be other ways, but the only one I’m aware of requires blue pixie dust. And ours is safely locked away. There’s no way anyone could have gotten to it without my knowledge.” Thurl slid down from the chair and began to pace the room, his staff clicking along the stone floor.

“This is certainly cause for concern,” he went on. “Who is the human doctor? And how do these rats come to be in league with him. In my experience, humans despise rats as much as we do. Maybe more. It’s what’s kept us Castle Cats employed these six decades.”

“There’s something else,” Oliver said. “One of the rats said they were looking for something. He said if they caught me, they thought I could tell them where to find a key.”

“A key?” Thurl stopped. He thought for a moment, then his green eyes widened. “You’re sure they said a key?”

“Yes. The key, in fact. He specifically said he’d find where the key was hidden. We don’t keep keys. We don’t even need them.”

“No, not us.” Thurl was quiet a moment, staring up at Walt and Mr. Lincoln’s picture. “I wonder…but how could it be? How could they know?”

“What is it?” Oliver asked.

Just then the door swung open. Kimball and Elias came bounding in, seemingly in the middle of another argument. Elias was going on how he’d seen a monstrous cat beast skulking around Tom Sawyer Island. Kimball was trying to explain the unlikeliness of that.

“A big coyote, maybe,” Kimball said, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “How would a monster get to the island? Is it a swimming monster? Did it paddle a canoe?”

“Maybe it did,” Elias growled. “You don’t know. Ever heard of Loch Ness. That’s a swimming monster.”

“Nessie was likely a dinosaur. A plesiosaur to be exact, and that’s beside the point because she doesn’t exist! How would a lone reptile, or any monster, survive all this time in a cold lake in Scotland?”

“I don’t care about Nessie,” Elias growled. “How about I paddle you over there? You’ll be begging me to save you when this thing’s got you up a tree.”

“Boys, please,” Thurl said firmly. He gestured to the other chairs around the table. “Save your argument and sit. Where is Lilli? Has anyone seen her?”

“Nope,” said Elias dropping into a chair.

“Not in a couple hours,” Kimball answered, looking at the pocket watch he kept in his sweater.

“Should I go find her?” Oliver asked.

“Should I go find her, sir,” Elias repeated in a shrill, sing-song voice.

“Do we have a problem?” Oliver said, stepping toward Elias’ chair.

“If we did, I’d solve it,” said Elias, eyeing him back menacingly. He flicked out one claw and began picking at his teeth.

“Boys!” Thurl raised his voice.

“Not again,” came Lilli’s voice as she appeared in the doorway. “It’s getting so a girl can’t leave the castle without you two getting into some kind of quarrel like two-month old kittens! In fact, I’d say you’re both behaving like dogs.”

“Ah, Lilli,” said Thurl with a sigh. “Please, have a seat. I’d like Oliver to enlighten all of you about his adventure inside the Haunted Mansion.”

“You were in the Mansion?,” Lilli whispered to Oliver. He nodded back with a smile, then caught Thurl’s disapproving glance and straightened up.

“Oliver ran into some unusual trespassers this evening,” Thurl said. “Three rats. Rats that spoke and stood upright.”

“Come again,” said Elias, raising his eyebrow.

“That might not be the worst of it,” said Thurl. “They seem to be in league with a human. They spoke, and it seems followed his orders.”

“He’s a real character,” said Oliver. “They said he’s some sort of doctor. I called him Doctor Owl. If you see him, you’ll understand.”

“Wait, did you say they spoke?,” Kimball choked. “But Thurl, that’s not possible. Not without the blue….”

“Blue fairy dust,” Thurl finished his sentence. “Yes, I know. I’ve already thought the same thing. Nonetheless, Oliver saw them—he spoke with them. Ultimately had a close, and dare I say dangerous, encounter with the trio and their human master.”

“Luckily, I found the Bride’s Ring,” Oliver added. “Security showed up just in time. They chased them into the trees between the mansion and Critter Country.”

“I knew it was there,” Kimball whispered.

“We must assume now that they are aware of the intrusion, park security will increase their patrols,” Thurl said. “Best you all remain inside the rest of the night while we let the humans do their jobs.”

“Yeah, that usually works out,” Elias mumbled.

“Nevertheless,” said Thurl, shooting him a look. The tough cat quickly shut his mouth. “This is a new concern for us. Until we know more, we must exercise extreme caution.”

“But Thurl,” said Oliver, “we’ve all faced thousands of rats.”

“Not like these. You said so yourself, my boy. You’ve only chased the standard variety of scavenging rodent. Not since the great war of my youth have we encountered rats such as you describe.”

“The great invasion of ’89,” Lilli said softly.

“You know about this?” both Oliver and Elias asked at once.

“They appeared on a summer night,” Thurl spoke softly, distantly. “A great horde of them. Some standing as tall as me, and I barely out of kitten hood. These rats were savages. They came ready for a fight.” Thurl paused, staring absently at a glowing lamp on the wall. His lip quivered as the memories flooded back to him. “While we did not know anything about them, somehow they were well aware of the Order. Thankfully, there were more of us in those days. A terrible battle ensued. Injuries were great, on both sides, as were casualties.”

“Casualties?” Oliver repeated.

Thurl nodded. “It was a dark day. The Cats of the Castle prevailed and the rats were defeated, but it is hard to say we won. The leader of my order, Fulton, a short but stalwart gray Himalayan, determined there must be other pixie dust out there, somewhere, beyond the borders of Disneyland. We couldn’t think of any other explanation. That was the first time we realized the thing that made us what we are could also be used against us. I must say the Order never entirely recovered. It was after that battle that Baxter….” His words trailed off.

The elder cat looked around the table at his four noble young cats, their eyes glued to him. He straightened his shoulders and tugged at his beard with a smile. “Well,” he started “let’s simply say where once we were many, there were soon extra chairs at this table. However, since the four of you assembled, my hopes are renewed that one day the Order will be complete again.”

“What about the key?” Oliver asked. “Is that what they came for that night?”

“The key?” Thurl asked , as though he’d nearly forgotten. “No. Their motivations were simpler. They sought a new home with plenty of food. Their own kingdom, as it were. If these rats are looking for the key, they are a different breed altogether.”

Continued in "The Cats of the Castle"!

In Splash Mountain, Lilli finds herself alone against rogue cat Baxter and his henchmen—until an even bigger monster enters the fray.

“I’m taking her now,” the voice growled. “Let go of her, and walk away.”

“Boys, seems we have another intruder in our midst,” said Baxter. “And apparently his momma never taught him ’bout minding his manners. Deal with him. I’ll watch the girl.”

The three cats pushed Lilli toward Baxter who quickly snatched her by the arm and spun her around roughly. She was finally able to see the large, thick silhouette making demands from the darkness. The dim light reflected off its glassy red eyes. The thing, for there was no telling at first what it was, stepped forward into the orange-and-pink light. It was a raccoon, more or less, though unlike any she’d seen before. This creature was enormous, by raccoon standards, with dirty, matted gray fur and uneven black stripes, hunched over by strong, heavy shoulders, which made his head hang low. His left eye, yellowed and bloodshot, bulged out further than it’s squinty counterpart, which blended into its black mask of fur. A single long fang peeked out from a tear in his lip that never healed properly.

The raccoon wore ripped corduroy pants about to burst at the stitches around its massive thighs, but revealed impossibly thin gray calves and clawed black feet. In his paw, Lilli noticed he was gripping a crumpled cowboy hat. This was clearly not just an ordinary scavenger out tipping over garbage cans. Scars cut across his face and body from many late-night scrapes. His big eye zeroed in on her.

“Where’s the key?” he asked directly, as if the other cats weren’t even present. He sounded like he’d been gargling broken light bulbs. This monster knew about the key, Lilli thought? He must be another minion of Doctor Owl.

“You know I’ve heard just about enough about this infernal key,” Baxter moaned. “Fang! Ernie! Nip! What are you ignoramuses waiting for? Get him!”

The cats looked at each other, unsure about this character. Ernie just shrugged. “It’s only one raccoon,” he reasoned. “Come on, boys.”

All three lunged forward, claws out, ready for a fight. The intruder leapt back, drawing the hill cats into the shadows. There was ear-splitting hissing and yowling. The sounds of scuffling and hollow punches and claws swiping. Within seconds, Fang’s thin gray frame came soaring backwards through the air, tumbling to the ground at Baxter’s feet. His eyes were shut tight and his lips mumbled gibberish they couldn’t understand. His visible fang had been knocked crooked in his mouth.

“Fang!” Baxter exclaimed. Lilli felt his grip loosen a little. His paw trembled. He was shaken.

Shortly after they heard a terrible cry of pain, followed by a splash. Ernie, the stout brown and currently unconscious hill cat rolled by, slumped in the front seat of a ride log. He was headed helplessly for the mouth of Chick-A-Pin Hill and the waiting drop.

“Aren’t you going to help him?” Lilli asked in shock as Baxter stood by, watching his incapacitated friend being whisked toward the flume.

“He was a good soldier,” was all Baxter said, removing his hat and holding it at his chest.

“Hard to believe you were ever a Cat of the Castle,” Lilli said.

“What would you have me do? Dive in after him? He’s in a log. He’ll be fine. I think.”

“It’s what any one of us would do for another. That’s our code. Don’t you believe in honor?”

“Honor,” Baxter spat. “That what you call it? I tried honor once. All it ever got me was a nightly plate of tuna. My way is better. Besides, I’ve still got Nip. He may not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but he’s a fighter. Nip’s too dumb to know fear. You watch, kitten. This masked bandit doesn’t stand a chance! Ol’ Nip will send him to the great garbage dump in the sky. Then, of course, we’ll get back to carryin’ out your sentence.”

There was a horrible merrower!

A blur of furry patchwork colors sailed over their heads and landed with a smack against the wall. Poor Nip slid down the rock and disappeared into the shadows behind the attraction scene. The raccoon stepped forward, unhurt and unfazed. He held out a black paw and opened his clawed fingers, letting a clawful of brown-and-white fur drift gently to the ground.

“Now, give me the girl,” he grumbled at Baxter. The orange cat was speechless.

“My dear kitten,” Baxter finally spoke after taking a moment to size up the situation, “I have decided the honorable thing to do is grant you a full pardon.” He pushed her forward toward the raccoon. “I’m afraid you’re at the mercy of this, er, gentleman’s justice now.”

Lilli spun around and watched in disbelief as Baxter, who’d always been described as a fierce, terrible fighter, tipped his hat, gave the raccoon one last, terrified glance, and hobbled off quickly. He headed for the last ride scene featuring Br’er Rabbit tied-up and begging for his own life while a shadow of the fox laughed over him. Baxter pushed his orange paw against a stone in the wall which opened up a cutaway door. Baxter paused for just a moment, glancing back toward them. Lilli was certain she saw an embarrassed, ashamed look cross his orange face. Then he disappeared into a secret passage, letting the hidden door slam shut behind him.

Lilli turned slowly and faced the raccoon. He glared at her, his mouth hanging slightly open. He breathed loudly and his clawed fingers continually opened and closed. He made no moves. In fact, he seemed strangely relaxed. This was just business for him. He was indeed the scariest thing she’d ever laid eyes on.

“The key,” he finally spoke. “I heard the black-and-white cat say it’s here. Show me.” He spoke slowly and without emotion. Just a deep, guttural growl of a voice.

Continued in "The Cats of the Castle"!

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