'The prophecy was dictated to me two thousand years ago' said Melchior, 'in a city that you now know as Istanbul, but at the time was called Byzantium. On the seventh day of the seventh month, of the seventh year of the first millennium, a cat called Izla called to me that I should come, and there I went, to the seventh hill of the greatest city on earth. This prophecy, for which so much blood has been spilled, and now on which the world depends, was granted to me so that I might keep hope alive. I am happy to tell you that now, seeing you at last in the light of my eyes, I am sure I have succeeded.'
Fatma turned to her left and to her right, hoping to see that both Ahmet and Izmir felt the same as she did, but was then unsurprised to see that both had fallen captive to this story. To see them lulled by myth only strengthened her resolve - she would not let this situation get the better of her again. What she needed was time, and to gain a little time she needed the plot to stay still, if only for a few days. That she was prevented from having what she needed, apparently deliberately, persuaded her that she must be in the midst of the most seamless of set-ups.
'Melchior, excuse me, but can I ask you how you've managed to survive for quite so long?' she asked. This cat had to be an impostor. It was not difficult to catch impostors, for lies never held in the detail.
Melchior only looked slightly annoyed.
'By my duty to the prophecy of course. The energy that is spent in an average mortal life consumes the flesh so that it must soon die; the energy that has sustained me is not mortal.'
'I see' said Fatma. Although she found this unlikely, there was perhaps some sort of truth to it, for she could not dismiss it as inherently false.
'And what about the prophecy itself? You don't expect me to believe that this scroll has been floating around for two thousand years do you? I've been to museums and seen manuscripts that aren't nearly as old, and no one is allowed to touch them for otherwise they would turn to dust.'
Again Melchior was largely unphased, only a flicker of irritation passing over his face before the right answer arrived in his brain. Ahmet however she knew, without looking, was becoming angry.
'As I have already explained to you dear kitten, the rate of decay of any substance depends on the nature of the matter. Most paper draws only on the tree from which it was made, but this is not so for the prophecy, which draws its energy from the entire race of cats. Indeed, had you witnessed what I have, you would know that the scrolls on which the prophecy is written are stronger now than they were a thousand years ago, and that is because you are here, and because the yearning of your tribe is reaching its peak.'
'Now' he continued, 'time is of the essence. You are surrounded by an evil that will not wait for you to debate every detail that you come across. The forces of darkness move daily against the cats, and there is much work to be done before these forces meet their end.'
'Excuse me Melchior, might you first explain what exactly the evil we face consists of? I really think that if this is as important as you say it is then we must stop to consider what we're doing. I can't help thinking that you're trying to rush us.'
With that Ahmet, within whom pressure had been building with every word she spoke, snapped.
'Fatma stop! I won't let your stupidity be our downfall. Can't you see that the world is depending on us? We have one chance, and because of you we're going to fail. If you don't stop interrupting then I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Izmir and I will manage fine without you.'
So rarely was Fatma called stupid that if ever it happened she was shocked. But to hear Ahmet insult her in public, in front of Izmir, and threaten to leave her behind, emptied her of confidence and left her gasping.
'Very good Ahmet, you are indeed a beacon of hope. The prophecy tells of three treasures. Of course you must be wondering what and where they are. This is the first way in which I will help you.'
'Thank you Melchior' said Ahmet.
'The first treasure you must seek is kept at the top of Galata Tower. The wings of the cats have been guarded by a magical swan for nearly three thousand years, ever since they were lost in mortal combat by the infamous cat king Ramses. The swan defends these wings with her life, for she has otherwise lost the ability to fly. Once you have recovered these wings, which only Izmir can do, you will be gifted the power of flight, and this will leave you in a position to recover the second of the treasures.'
Fatma's mind screamed in protest. Never had she heard anything so absurd. A magical swan living at the top of Galata Tower! Three thousand years old! She tried to summon up the nerve to interrupt Melchior again, but her mind froze, the thought that there was nothing she could do gripped her chest and blocked her throat.
'The light of the cats, the most precious diamond in the world, was stolen first by Alexander the Great, who demanded it as ransom for the King Pericles' family. Since then it has changed hands numerous times, but now, most conveniently, is being kept in the treasure room at Topkapi Palace. The light of the cats is said to bring its bearer great insight, and perspective enough to see through the foulest of fogs.'
'Finally, the sword of the cats, without which no war can be won, but once recovered will restore the strength of your ancestors and thus grant the ability to rout your chosen opponent on the field of battle. The sword of the cats, a most provocative injustice, is being held by the dog king in his cave in the hills beyond Sakarya. You will find it only a short flight from Istanbul.'
'The treasures, once united, will bring great power to the world of cats, and so inspire an overwhelming reversal in your fortunes. Now, one final piece of advice. I could not help hearing that you are planning to bring Izmir back to Istanbul, and introduce him to the elders of your tribe. The elders of course are not what they once were. Zara has passed into another world; Zeynep is lost and far away; Serkan's strength is fading; Elvan alone bears the weight of the gutters' misfortunes. However, this is not the main point. You must understand how unwise it would be to announce the coming of Izmir at this premature stage in the story. If you bring him to the gutters now the news will spread like wildfire and your chance will be lost. What opposition you face in uniting the treasures will increase tenfold. Alternatively, you might return to Istanbul in secret and pursue the prophecy unobserved and largely unobstructed. Once you have the treasures, nothing will be able to stop you.'
'I must go' he concluded, 'my time on Earth is done. Stay true to your cause, no matter the distraction, and all will be well.'
With that, in a flash of white smoke, he disappeared.