I awoke to the ringing of bells, finding myself bound and gagged. Anyway I think I would have been enraged, for as you can imagine I am unused to such treatment, but then to hear the imminence of the tragedy I had attempted to prevent so brazenly announced was provocation enough to set my senses on fire. Struggling against the ropes which encircled my body, I blazed from every nerve ending, my skin let out a flood of sweat, I shivered and groaned, my heart thumped in my chest as if it was ready to burst. So intense was the experience that I thought I might well die. Unable to break free, I started to scream. Even though I was gagged, the noise that came out of my mouth was quite something, and I think I must have been close to catching someone's attention, for then I heard a voice in my mind.
'Calm her down' said the voice.
'Why not just kill her?' said another voice.
'Stick to the plan' said the first voice.
I felt a pricking in my arm, and then the sensation of some material being pushed into my body, almost as if I was being injected with a needle, but of course there was no one near me to do such a thing. At first this only served to increase my level of stress, but then I began to feel a soothing sensation sweep down through my veins from my arm. Stopping to inspect what was happening to me, I ceased both struggling and screaming. My thoughts, which until then had been an expression of pure protest, were dragged in a series of different directions.
Why should I think about my father at a time like this I asked?
How could I be nostalgic?
It wasn't much use wondering of those things I would like to achieve as Sultana if I couldn't escape from my present predicament.
But then something caught my attention. I had a vision of Izabel, who was sat before a mirror, I suppose still somewhere in the Grand Bazaar, having her fur combed by some obnoxious-looking black cat. Her eyes were barely open, her head nodded to one side, and then another once it had been nudged back upright by her attendant.
'Izabel!' I cried in my mind. 'It's me, Esma!'
I saw in the mirror her eyes open a little.
'Can you hear me?' I asked.
'Yes' I heard her reply.
'Can you hear the bells?' I asked. 'What does it mean? Please tell me the wedding isn't today!'
'I have consented' said Izabel. 'It's no use resisting. You must give up Esma. You can't beat them you know.'
I screamed. It had to be an impostor. Izabel could never be so crude.
Meanwhile, somewhere else in the Grand Bazaar, Mr Respectable was conducting his own preparations for the wedding. My attempt to rescue Izabel had surprised both he and those evil humans he served. They had thought the plot a success, the story now concluded, but with the collapse of the cats' civilisation things had only sped up, and so much so that now the evolution of events had moved beyond the scope of their planning.
Possibility might be seen in geometric terms, perhaps as a portion of a circle extending from the centre of oneself, the length of arc available to one's future defined by any number of variables which are yet to be decided. People with positions in processes sluggish and slow, or those regimented according to rules, will find that the variables through which their course of action is set upon are easily anticipated by others, and should be warned that indeed there are those that wish to do so. The future then becomes constrained, forces close in upon the degree of freedom from which things may evolve differently than desired by our enemies, one becomes caught in a web spun for the benefit of those spiders spinning out of sight. But it should not be forgotten that our enemies have an end towards which they aim, the point at which they can do exactly as they please, enjoying the gains they have made at our expense, and at this point we find that the room to right those wrongs done to us increases.
The circle which had enclosed our civilisation with the fall of the cats blew up immediately: Izmir found the gutter cat refugees; Izmir asked for my help; I called for Yavuz and Zara to assist me; I went to the Grand Bazaar to rescue Izabel. These actions produced a mass of new variables which no one had thought of before, had never anticipated and could not prevent from producing results favourable to the good, the inclination of nature.
Mr Respectable panicked at seeing the future free itself from his clutches. He thought best to close the circle once more by marrying Izabel as soon as he possibly could. Problematically, this left him with little time to plan the wedding that he had long dreamed of. This conflict, of wanting to present himself in a manner as befits a king, of needing to organise a wedding in a matter of hours, made him utterly stressed. He had thought about many of the relevant topics, but had been happy to wile away his spare hours debating the pros and cons of those options available to him. Now everything had to be finalised on the spot. None of it was satisfactory, and it made him feel that the start to his reign was grubby. Nothing could be less acceptable to a cat that was committed to living as apparently respectable. There was the ceremony, the vows, the music, the speeches, the rings, the best cat, the feast, and a cake all to be organised, and of course there had to be guests!
Yet worse, he was further distracted by other issues. I had killed Mr Security. A replacement had to be found, but that was a task of the greatest importance. He, Mr Respectable, was now number one, and with that came a perspective of only looking down and holding on to what one already has. Without a Mr Security, who would command the enforcers? There would need to be someone, for of course with the wedding came great risk, he would have other things to think about and could not be constantly watching out for retaliation from the rooftops or the gutters, which, given the brutality he had just subjected both tribes to, was not exactly an unlikely occurrence.
Neither would the humans leave him alone. Remember the gold collar. Perhaps you could give one to all of the guests. You should put it on her in public so the others want to wear it. She has to look happy or they'll know you're forcing her, but she must be drugged to some extent or she might pull a move on you. Don't forget the three cat treasures. Keep holding on to the light at all times, for with that in your paw you'll be able to see everything before it gets close to you. We'll be keeping a close eye on you at all times, but don't get too drunk or you're bound to make a mistake.
Oh why he thought, why would they not leave him alone! When he made his deal, he had never expected to them to be so demanding. After all, was he not now a king?
A client king, they said, and don't you forget it.
But he didn't need them anymore…
And so the humans increased the pressure on him, which yet further prevented him from thinking clearly.
Finally he was ready. He had to be, for the ceremony was due to start in one hour. The hall in the Grand Bazaar had been cleared of shopkeepers and then decorated (oh there were flowers and ribbons, and it would just have to do); Mr Caring would have to conduct the ceremony and so Mr Ordinary would have to be best cat, which was an issue, for his speech would inevitably fail to hit the conjugal spirit, but he would terribly annoyed if passed over; Mr Security's second-in-command would now be the new Mr Security (and who that was had fallen upon the cat that had first proposed himself, because of course Mr Security had entirely flattened the hierarchy beneath him), but he was ungracious and unkempt, so would have to wait outside and just make sure that they were not interrupted; the vows and the music would be traditional; the speeches would be more improvised than polished; the rings and the cake had been bought; the feast was being prepared.
For guests, well, of course he didn't have any friends. The voices in his mind asked to be invited but it was out of the question that there could be humans present at such a sacred event. There was no option for it but to bring in the rooftop lords and ladies, of whom he had always been jealous, and thus found pleasing as witnesses to this most winsome of weddings. Jezabel he supposed could also attend, for at least she was pretty. Hasbi, and the other mercenaries, would simply not be invited.
To have the guests chained up or not, that was the question. What an unseemly thought it was, and to have the noise of clunking and clanking during the ceremony. No, that settled it, it could not be done. After all, with the Grand Bazaar surrounded by the enforcers, what could go wrong?
Finally there would need to be staff, for the serving of food and drink, and for the clearing of plates. Elvan he decided was best suited to such a task, and Ahmet and Fatma, the kitten adventurers, were suitable as trophies, and then whoever else Elvan wanted, but of course not Kadir. Those not selected to serve would have to be chained up, all in one group would be best, and so in Taksim Square, the only space large enough, they would wait until the business was concluded. Now it was time to end it all.
The lords and ladies were sat down in chairs before a stage. Mr Caring stood on top of it, holding open a book in which the ceremony and vows had been noted. Mr Ordinary stood at the front, propping up Izabel, who had caused so much of a fuss that an extra dose had been unavoidable.
The music started.
'Dum di di dee, dee di di dee…'
Mr Respectable, holding the sword in one paw and the light in the other, swooped through the doors and flew down the aisle, looping several times before landing next to Izabel.
'Dear cats' said Mr Caring, 'we are gathered here today to join Mr Respectable and Izabel, and so too the two great houses of cats, both rooftop and alley, together in matrimony.'
The lords and ladies could not stop themselves from groaning. Oh it was sickening to see such a thing as this happen. It was clearly void they thought, never would they acknowledge it.
'This union is blessed' he continued, 'for not only does it embody the true love of our times, it will also bring an end to the conflict that has so upset our civilisation in recent years.'
Of course the rooftop cats were not given a chance to object. They waited for the words - if any cat can show just cause… - but Mr Caring moved swiftly on.
'Mr Respectable, do you take Izabel to be your lawful wedded wife.'
'I do' he replied, gazing with apparently adoring eyes at his slumping bride.
'Izabel, do you take Mr Respectable to your lawful wedded husband.'
She opened her mouth to object but could not find sufficient grip on her tongue to do anything but slur.
Mr Ordinary stepped forwards and took Izabel's paw, sliding a ring over one claw, and then repeated the process with Mr Respectable.
'By the power vested in me by the world of cats, I now pronounce you husband and wife.'
The hall fell into a stony silence, through which the clapping of Mr Ordinary echoed painfully.
'You may now kiss the bride' concluded Mr Caring.
Izabel dipped her head into her chest and shut her eyes, so that when Mr Respectable came forwards to kiss her he instead smacked his nose against her forehead. She would come round to the idea over time he told himself. After all, she had no choice.
Izabel was escorted back down the aisle, all the while doing her best to push off both Mr Respectable and Mr Ordinary, but instead simply falling from one side to another.
'I now invite you all to share in the wedding breakfast' said Mr Caring from the front.
Slowly the guests filed out, all silently repeating their vows of revenge. Soon after that they were sat down before trestles which had been set only on one side - all the better for seeing Mr Respectable, and all the better for him keeping an eye on them - and positioned to provide a good view of top table, on which Mr Respectable and Izabel sat in the centre, and Mr Caring and Mr Ordinary on either side.
Ahmet and Fatma came round with trays and offered the option of either cream or white wine. After they had finished pouring, Elvan came out. He would serve the first course by himself. He walked in from the kitchens with a gold platter lain across one arm and a fork and spoon held in his free paw. He held an air of noble servility, as might be expected from one of our butlers, but he too wished only for the right moment to hit back against this foe. He knew that he would probably die, for there were no way near enough cats in the hall, even if all of them joined in the fight, to punch their way through the encampment of alley cats outside, but what now did it matter he reasoned. Until then everything would be perfect. He started at Mr Respectable.
'The entree, lemon sole and caviar supreme.'
He placed one on every plate, serving the guests one by one with perfect ease. Wellington tried hard to catch his eye. Such a face as his could not be believed. There was no way that Elvan had accepted his lot so happily. And so, he concluded, at least there was one other cat up for the fight.
Even when Elvan reached the last guest, Jezabel, who had been stuck in the back corner, he did not flinch. She gazed longingly up at him but found that his eyes gave off almost no light at all. But, he assures me, inside he was burning brighter than ever.
And so the feast began. Some gypsy cats were brought in and they struck up some pleasing tunes on their instruments. Conversation broke out amongst the lords and ladies. The food at least was decent, they remarked. The service was not deliberately obnoxious, even if the effect of those words uttered was horrid. Thank goodness they had not been made to serve, and it was refreshing not to be enchained. Lady Thatcher said she had found the manual labour enlightening. Lord Salisbury commented that even they must be evolved from cats capable of working, and he too had found the exercise brought about a certain energy that was not to be ignored. Lord Wellington raised an eyebrow, action was not at all awful in times like this, it had its uses, and he had found himself quite enthusiastic when breaking up rocks. Lord Churchill couldn't find anything more appropriate as preparation for the future. It was clear amongst them that this opportunity would not be wasted.
'Won't you try the fish Izabel?' asked Mr Respectable. 'At least have a sip of wine? You won't be able to soon you know once the time to bear my heir has arrived.'
Izabel retched, bending down towards the table with the force of her reaction.
Mr Respectable had left the sword lying on the table in between them. She too was prepared to die rather than suffer this fate. She placed a paw in front of it, as if to steady herself, and then heaved again.
'Oh god I feel so sick' she cried.
Mr Respectable put down his cutlery and stood up, still holding the diamond, which for some reason he could not stand to let go of. He leant down to whisper something in her ear, whether words soothing or threatening we shall never know, for at that moment Izabel called time on his reign.
She grabbed the sword and swung it round, hoping to chop off Mr Respectable's head, but missed, then falling backwards in her chair.
She had one more chance.
With all her might she swung the sword again, aiming to cleave his body in half, but Mr Respectable put out his paw, still holding onto the diamond, to block the blow.
The meeting of these two treasures let off a terrific flash, an electric shock of such brilliance that the hall was for a moment filled entirely with blue light.
'Get them!' roared Wellington, but the lords and ladies of Istanbul did not need to be told, and neither did those gutter cats waiting-on. Every single one of them jumped over the tables and charged towards the front.
Mr Respectable, coward that he was, dropped the diamond at the sight of such a stampede, and, finding that he still held instinct enough, decided to flee. He shot up into the heights of the hall and flew out.
'Enforcers' he cried, 'follow me!'
He then sped down the corridors and left the building. Looking about, there seemed no better place to make his stand than on the rooftop of the Grand Bazaar. The rooftop cats couldn't get to him without coming through his enforcers. Hopefully they just wouldn't make it and he could go on being king, pretending that this horrible incident had never happened.
Inside, Wellington reached the remaining two cats of the moment first. He blocked the path of the others.
'Let us take them as prisoners' he said. 'I would get to the bottom of this before they meet their end.'
This being done, the rooftop cats and gutter cats turned to each other and agreed to fight henceforth as one tribe. All those that stood against them would be dealt with severely.
Meanwhile, finally, Yavuz had come to my rescue. The manager of the Grand Bazaar was summoned. All of the shopkeepers and all of the shoppers were cleared out. He and Izmir swept along the corridors calling out my name. I screamed when I heard them and before long I was being untied.
The sound of fighting cats came drifting across from the hall.
'We owe them our country' I said. 'We must go to help them.'
'Agreed' said Yavuz. 'To arms!' he cried, and before I knew it we too were charging into the fray.
Zara of course had her own idea of how to help. On hearing that the wedding was underway, she had thought to save her tribe, and on inspecting the gutters for their place of keeping, had found everyone together. More humans were brought in and so too the gutter cats held in Taksim Square were released.
Zeynep had a surprise. She had waited behind a little with Serkan, who still refused to fight, for he had promised her that if she did then he would provide her with an unusual force to support her efforts. They watched in amazement as the whole of Istanbul was lit up in blue light by the strike of sword against diamond, but had found no time to dwell on what it might mean for at that moment the first cart of Izmirs arrived, not long released from prison by one of Serkan's counter forces.
Zeynep soon persuaded them to come with her and so they too set off to the Grand Bazaar to join in the fight.
And so the alley cat enforcers were surrounded. I think only a few hundred of them died before the new Mr Security surrendered. Live to fight another day, he told himself. With any luck I might soon make Mr Respectable.
Up on the rooftop, Mr Respectable was sat with his head against his knees. He had seen the streets fill up with gutter cats and rooftop knights. He knew that his time was over. He prepared himself to say sorry, and to plead for mercy, but he did not expect what was about to happen next.
Longshanks, left to rot on the floor, had picked himself up, dusted himself down, and then walked off, so too waiting for his moment. Keeping watch over Istanbul from his favourite minaret, he had seen Mr Respectable fly out of the Grand Bazaar and up onto the rooftop.
As he crept up behind Mr Respectable he gave the heavens a quick nod, thank you dear gods, thank you he said to himself, and then twisted the false king's head around upon his neck. Mr Respectable died, and so ended the war of the cats.