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Cat Steps Chapter 2.6

by Rosendorn


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.

I had finally gotten my hands on the purchasing logs for the past week. Considering how recent the attack was, I doubted it was much earlier than that. Of course, those logs would happen to be the biggest we’d had in months, because the kitchen was planning for the official announcement of my choice of husband in four days. Not like half the palace didn’t know from gossip already.

Hopefully I would be able to make some progress into this beast before—

Walking back into my room cut that plan right off.

Nitika sighed upon seeing my face. “I dismissed the servants for exactly that reason.”

“I thought I had an outfit…” I muttered, ignoring the pile of fabric on the central table of my room and going straight for the ‘desk’ portion of my workbench.

She stood in my path towards the ‘poison’ end of my workbench, with the required sample of almonds. “A summer one, and now we are nearly winter because you took so long to evaluate possibilities, and everyone is looking towards you for fashion ideas with Ranya and Vyoma gone.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Can’t they look towards one of Father’s dozen other wives?”

“They will, but you are still an important member of Court we’ll all be taking our cues from.” She put her hand on her chin, mock sizing me up with a twinkle in her eye. “I think the next trend will be dagger belts, knowing you.”

I laughed. “Exposed daggers lose the element of surprise. Mesh sleeves.”

She knew amusement would disarm me, and poked me towards the fabric. “Once you’ve planned this out to properly subvert all of Father’s expectations you can get back to work.”

“Alright, alright…” I broke away from her grip and went to my closet, where I kept my packet of plans. “They are not getting a new design with three days to do it. Court gossip for the next week will be how I wore the same thing again.”

She shook her head. “Jalil told me how long you spent with seamstresses to create all of those…”

I rolled my eyes and flipped through. “He would. He was thoroughly exasperated with the Court attention we were getting with Ranya, meanwhile the two of us were busy creating a wardrobe fit for a crown princess and her accompanying servant. All he had to be was… an accountant.”

She giggled. “A very handsome accountant.”

“Who got a beautiful wife once he had the clothes to match,” I replied in kind. “He should be thanking me for forcing him down to all of those appointments. I thought weapons talk would intrigue him. And it worked!”

I had to admit, Jalil had struck absolute gold with this match. One of the particularly inquisitive minds of the Empire had taken a liking to our gardens and science facilities I had just begun to use, them newly renovated when my father had been on the throne. He knew his herbologist daughter would love them. An Imperial match two ways, Ranya leaving for the Tijals and Nitika coming to be with us, just strengthened power.

Thank the gods she knew how to detect her own poisons. I didn’t have the skill to protect her at the time.

I shuddered to think just what I had missed when I was twelve. And where I would be without her skill.

“At least I have the most for winter…” I muttered, trying not to glare at the pages upon pages of gala-worthy outfits. Diplomats arriving in summer and leaving in spring had their advantages. “And the more Palahira-influenced they are, the more practical they are.”

She shook her head. “I still don’t know how the women here manage to be beautiful and warm in winter. You wear mesh sleeves!”

I was about to reply when I felt the buzzing excitement of children. I glanced at Nitika, her with a very specific type of yearning and me with long suffering resignation as the often-heard cry of “Aunt Cat’s door is open!” rang through the cavernous halls.

The sign I was normally unoccupied.

I closed my filebook of patterns and got up. Nitika just raised an eyebrow at me. “You were most certainly upset when I interrupted your work.”

I shrugged. “You know what’s at stake. All they know is I’m either busy, or I’m not. I’d rather they not know anything more than. Not while they’re still children.”

Not even guard children knew what they were training for, when they began. Unless a parent died, unless they were forced into it, they didn’t learn until they graduated four years later. I tried to make sure as few people learned prematurely as possible.

The break would do me some good, regardless.

They all ended up piled in my room, clamoring on every surface available to see the fabrics and patterns. Suggestions of which ones to use for what just made me laugh, seriousness of it all lost for a few moments.

Nitika would make a wonderful mother, for how attentive she was to the younger ones, and the ones who needed a little more time to understand all of the input around them. Jalil was hardly a sensor, but maybe their children would inherit some genes from our father. It ran in the Palahira bloodline almost as much as our claim to the land.

Eventually their nurses and mothers all came and found them. Lessons, naps, or some combination of the two demanded their attention. A few whined “can’t Cat be my teacher?”s just had me promising to teach them the basics of Imperial Standard tomorrow.

I shut my door and exhaled as the bubbling energy vanished, leaving me exhausted now that I didn’t have to be energetic around under ten year olds. “I hope Suraj gets a second wife quickly…”

Nitika laughed. “Not looking forward to your eventual household?”

I shook my head vigorously. “Me. Pregnant. Unable to go help people. Do you think that would actually work?”

She sobered. “I suppose not…”

“Hopefully things settle in a few years,” I muttered, going back to my patterns. “Well, according to the youngest and most important people in the house, this is what I should wear.”

She looked more at me than at the image in my hand. “Any child of yours would have you wrapped around their finger.”

I managed a smile, as small and hollow as I felt. “I don’t want any of them to experience war.”

Her face was unreadable to me. “Jalil keeps… refusing to say, what made you like this…”

I tipped my head back, fingers lacing behind my head. “It’s not his story to tell. It’s not like it… matters, really. I learned how to avoid it ever happening again.”

Guarding my heart. It was second nature by now. I’d avoided showing I was ever in love again, and now I was about to make the largest declaration of love a woman was supposed to make. It meant tolerating dozens of comments I was behaving improperly— again— by being too cold of all things. Don’t show love, then show it on command.

I wished they’d make up their minds.

“Do you want me to take it to the seamstress?” Nitika asked, pulling my attention back to the present.

I looked back at the design, pressing my lips together as all the adults’ voices in my head started playing. This was a very simple design, a simple salwar kameez with a scarf pinned and draped to hide the dagger hilt protruding out of the loose pants. It wasn’t even a proper anarkali suit, favoured by the Empire for its floor length frock. This was the outfit kids had seen me in the most, and I had it in five shades of golden-orange with ten embroidery patterns.

Father would hate it. Wearing something so simple for something so grand.

I pulled out a sari design Isra had shown me, for her dancers who had no aspirations to work in the Mahalas. Beautiful yet deadly, with full freedom of movement and more please than necessary to hide as many knives as I wished. She had taken the design from some nuns in an eastern women’s temple, when they had allowed her to see.

“Bring her this.”


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Wed Jul 04, 2018 6:46 pm
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Vervain wrote a review...



Hey Rosey! It's been for-freakin'-ever, so it's about time I jump straight back into Cat Steps! So I've skimmed the other reviews and I'll try to bring something new to the table here. Let's start!

I'll start with your grammar and style, because you know that's where I like to focus when it comes to issues with clarity. And do we have some issues with clarity here -- while the chapter as a whole is absolutely brilliant (as per usual), I felt like some of the smaller ideas had a hard time coming across, and that can build up to your big ideas.

First off, your description is lacking a bit in this chapter. It makes me sad, because I love being in Kerani's head, but I also wish we could experience the world -- as it is, we're being told about it right now, and it's missing some key details. Like here:

Hopefully I would be able to make some progress into this beast before—

Walking back into my room cut that plan right off.

Nitika sighed upon seeing my face. “I dismissed the servants for exactly that reason.”

“I thought I had an outfit…” I muttered, ignoring the pile of fabric on the central table of my room and going straight for the ‘desk’ portion of my workbench.
That second sentence/paragraph is the perfect place to add some description. Walking into her room cut her plans off -- why? You answer it a couple sentences later, but there's nothing in the way of really describing the pile of fabric. That phrase is awkwardly inserted into the last sentence, and I feel like if you described it in the second paragraph, you could skip that in the last sentence.

Some more nitpicky grammar bits include this:
“Can’t they look towards one of Father’s dozen other wives?”
Which makes it sound like Kerani is one of her father's wives. Obviously that's a setting choice you could make -- and she's referring to her mother here, if I'm correct -- but the phrase "other wives" makes it unclear. I would maybe cut it to "Father's dozen wives" instead, and have her think about (or pointedly not think about) her mother as an aside.

“He would. He was thoroughly exasperated with the Court attention we were getting with Ranya, meanwhile the two of us were busy creating a wardrobe fit for a crown princess and her accompanying servant. All he had to be was… an accountant.”
This feels awkward as dialogue -- like you're telling it to the reader. I think the most tell-y sentence is the second one. I know it's Kerani speaking to Nitika, but I feel like the dialogue itself could be shortened to a more... sarcastic "He would. All he had to be was an accountant." and have Kerani remember or reflect the social pain of trying to create a wardrobe for Ranya.

One of the particularly inquisitive minds of the Empire had taken a liking to our gardens and science facilities I had just begun to use, them [then] newly renovated when my father had been on the throne.
Simple typo here. Side note, I really love what we see of Nitika's direct characterization. I want to know everything about her, she's so brilliant. <3

On to good stuff because I need a breather, too!

Thank the gods she knew how to detect her own poisons. I didn’t have the skill to protect her at the time.

I shuddered to think just what I had missed when I was twelve. And where I would be without her skill.
I... love this. I love this a LOT. I want to feel more of what Kerani's feeling here, I want to know more about what happened -- I think we'll be hearing more about what's made Kerani this way, though, and I'm loving all these hints and drops and the way she reacts to things and honestly it's leaving me so awestruck because all these little puzzle pieces are starting to make the edges of a picture. I can't wait to see the whole thing!

Nitika would make a wonderful mother, for how attentive she was to the younger ones, and the ones who needed a little more time to understand all of the input around them. Jalil was hardly a sensor, but maybe their children would inherit some genes from our father. It ran in the Palahira bloodline almost as much as our claim to the land.
Yes I love this. <3 So so much! Like, Nitika is just such a good person (from what we've seen of her so far) and she's so patient and so willing to learn and I can't wait!

Now some stuff about character and setting/exposition:

They all ended up piled in my room, clamoring on every surface available to see the fabrics and patterns. Suggestions of which ones to use for what just made me laugh, seriousness of it all lost for a few moments.
So I really want to know more about Kerani's relationship with the kids. Obviously she's Aunt Cat, she's there to entertain them and keep them safe from the big bad world, but I want to know how close she is to them personally. (Obviously don't go down a list like "this was little Johnny who I'd known since he was born and he was such and such, this was little Jimmy..." but maybe single out a kid or two to show more of as a character, and develop their relationship with Kerani.) I feel like it would add another tether between Kerani and her household, and make it more emotional if/when she's torn away from it, because there's more than just a handful of people who would hate to see her go.

I shook my head vigorously. “Me. Pregnant. Unable to go help people. Do you think that would actually work?”
More visceral reactions! More emotions! Give me more give me more <3 I love Kerani and her reactions so much but stuff like this falls flat if you don't have her actually emotionally backing it up.

I want to see all of this world and then some. I want to explore everything about Cat Steps that I can. I love everything about this scene -- it's a good way to calm a bit of the tension while still developing Kerani and Nitika as major characters -- and I think it's a great piece of writing. It could just be a little better.

Keep writing! <3




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Kaylaa wrote a review...



Hi there Lima Bean! This is Nikayla here dropping in for a review at the very end of this lovely Review Day! This one is a little longer though I'll attempt to make this as thorough as possible in the forty minutes I have to do this. Without further ado, let's jump right in.

I had finally gotten my hands on the purchasing logs for the past week. Considering how recent the attack was, I doubted it was much earlier than that. Of course, those logs would happen to be the biggest we’d had in months, because the kitchen was planning for the official announcement of my choice of husband in four days. Not like half the palace didn’t know from gossip already.


Tiny nitpick--I suggest changing 'I had' to 'I'd' to condense that, but that's a personal preference. The start of this chapter is a little weird to me? Now we're on the topic of the wedding when the last part left off about the poison which is mentioned later on--I just hope that this chapter takes more of a focus on that than the wedding because poison is most definitely more important than a wedding. Well, not necessarily a wedding, just an announcement of who Kerani's husband will be.

She stood in my path towards the ‘poison’ end of my workbench, with the required sample of almonds. “A summer one, and now we are nearly winter because you took so long to evaluate possibilities, and everyone is looking towards you for fashion ideas with Ranya and Vyoma gone.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Can’t they look towards one of Father’s dozen other wives?”


Kerani pinches the bridge of her nose a lot--I'm wondering how long of a gap there is between this chapter part and the last. Is there any? Second of all, I can't tell if Kerani's father is actually in a polygamous relationship with many wives or if this is an exaggeration/different meaning. I know Kerani can't be her father's wife herself because...father. Just wanted to ask about that before moving on.

“They will, but you are still an important member of Court we’ll all be taking our cues from.” She put her hand on her chin, mock sizing me up with a twinkle in her eye. “I think the next trend will be dagger belts, knowing you.”

I laughed. “Exposed daggers lose the element of surprise. Mesh sleeves.”


I love Kerani's response here. I also am still wondering about the Court. Is this basically her family and maybe another group of people? To me this sounds royalty-ish and I know that she is...important? That's the most I can say. I know her and her family are important in this world that the novel takes place in.

The sort of gossip and banter that goes on between Nitika and Kerani is nice. They don't seem to be...the closest to each other? At the same time, I still enjoy their interactions especially in this chapter where the both of them are highlighted. I enjoyed the end of the chapter with Isra's design being shown by Kerani. This once again doesn't go as I expected it to but I think it was about time to bring the plot with Kerani's future husband back into the mix after having a couple chapters based purely on Kerani's family being in potential danger. I realize I like those parts more when looking back seeing as that is a goal of hers--to keep her family safe.

This displays that without going into the actual plot, kind of like her first mission to doing this. Mmm, not the most happens in this chapter once again. Maybe i'm expecting for too much of a faster tone when this is slower paced and probably going to be a longer novel. Still, this keeps my interest! Looking back I'm probably more of a fan of the first chapter so far because of the amount of intensity but this one does well too.

If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! I hope I helped and have a great day.

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Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:19 pm
Sins wrote a review...



On the bright side, I'm finally here to review this! On the not so bright side, I'm uncertain I'll have anything very constructive to say (per usual, really) :P

Sincere apologies for taking a decade to get to this, I had uni exams throughout most of January, then just got really lazy once they were over. Oops. Alas, I'm here now, so hopefully will be able to make some use of myself.

Now I'm really quite fond of moments in stories where the more human aspects are explored (whether it be a fantasy, sci-fi, realistic, action, whatever--I love me human aspects), and so I have quite a soft spot for this extract. I love how it explores Kerani's human side, what with her love for children, her intense need to protect them from the world, alongside her need to guard her heart (as she put it). It really helped build empathy, and as a character who's renowned for hiding emotion, it's nice to see her acknowledging how much repressed emotion the poor lass actually has. Bravo for that, seriously. Even though I have been whining about the assassination storyline dragging a teeny bit over the past few reviews, it didn't bother me here (partly because of the soft spot I have for character-based, 'human' storylines). I think the subject matter here (Kerani's repressing of emotions, attitude towards kids, wedding planning etc) was interesting enough for that not to be a problem. So yeah, I mean, I guess I kinda really super like this extract.

Criticisms, hm.

I don't really have any specific criticisms for this chapter, if I'm perfectly honest. I think the only thing I have to say is that I would've maybe liked to have seen you explore Kerani's time spent with the kids a little more, as it only lasts a paragraph or two at the moment. We get the impression she's super fond of them because of her internal monologue, and with what Nitika said about the way she is with them, but I'd like you to actually show us that more. It would help build even more on Kerani's more emotional, vulnerable side, and further create a higher degree of empathy with her. It's not that the way you have it now is bad or anything, I just think there's potential to build on it even more. Err, does that make sense? I just want to see Kerani getting more involved with the kids, really show us the fondness she has for them.

There's not really anything else constructive I can think of, least not specifically based on this chapter. I have something that's more of a question than a critique, though. I'm going to apologise in advance because this is something that may have come up in the past, and I've forgotten about it completely, but where is Kerani's mother? I'm hesitant to mention this because knowing me, we've literally met her several times, and I've just 100% forgotten because I'm an idiot. Buuuuut I can't recall doing so, so I'm warily assuming we've not really seen or heard from her much/at all. So yeah, I mean, if I'm not mistaken with all this, what's the deal with Kerani's mother? Is she still around? I know her father has several wives, right? Even though it's custom and normal in society, does she have any feelings towards her numerous step mothers? I'm just curious about Kerani's maternal influences, really, so would like to see that explored maybe a little more.

That's it, I guess. Bit of an anti-climax of a review considering I took my damn time to get to this, but hey, that's all part of my lovable charm. I hope the points I have raised have been able to provide some kind of positive impact, but if not, I think it's safe to say you can rest easy in the knowledge that this is a good, solid addition to this novel's second chapter. Hopefully I'll be able to respond a little more quickly to your next post (which I do realise I say every time), and be able to give some more solid constructive comments!

Keep writing,

xoxo S(k)ins




Rosendorn says...


Thanks for the review!

You haven't actually met her at all, and I'm not actually sure I remember putting it in as a mention. Her mother is with Ranya in the capital city to help her transition into becoming a crown princess.

Which, now that I type out, doesn't 100% make sense. But her mother is... Difficult, and I am not sure I want to incorporate her into the dynamics lol

(if you hadn't noticed my general attitude with Cat Steps is "family??? what do")



Sins says...


Ah that's okay then, I was dreading you replying with 'err, we've met her about 10 times?' But nah, I totally get that. Maybe just give some kind of brief mention/explanation of her whereabouts, just to acknowledge her existence. You don't ever really have to incorporate her into anything!



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Kaylaa wrote a review...



This is Nikayla here for a review!

I've heard you talk about Cat Steps, but I've never really read it, so let's jump right into the review! One of the first things that I learned is that you have a bit of a calm writing style, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I did want to point that out. I like fantasy novels that can still be fantasy but at the same time not have to have a huge epic battle scene, and that's why I enjoyed this chapter. It's rather laid-back in what it's displaying and even though there is a bit of action hinted in this chapter, it still keeps that cool-feeling at the same time.

I was a fan of the dialogue of the chapter and it happens to be one of your strengths here. One of the things that I felt to be a bit lacking because I feel like you only have the bare minimum of is description. I'd like to see the description displayed while the story is still actively moving along because that'd be a good advantage due to the slower pacing that you have in this point of the novel. I'm also a little in awe since this is part six of the second chapter and I'm wondering at this point how long your chapters end up being?

I know this is rather short, seemingly being only around 800 to 1000 words, but still. The chapter just felt a little hollow when it comes to describing things like the atmosphere of the story and while you may have a writing style like that I think having a bit more would help you out. The voice that you use in this chapter is one that's crafted quite masterfully and it's one of the other strengths that I happened to find here. I love how you can have it be in first-person without having to be really spontaneous with how you write the voice--you just kind of write it as it is.

I hope I helped and have a great day!




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Dest wrote a review...



“A summer one, and now we are nearly (at) winter because you took so long to evaluate possibilities, and everyone is looking towards you for fashion ideas with Ranya and Vyoma gone.”


The last part of the sentence sounds a bit awkward. In regular speech, most people would say "at" than "towards." Another way, "Everyone is asking you for fashion ideas with Ranya and Vyoma gone." Unless, of course, this is supposed to be old time dialect. I'm just jumping in midstory here.

I glanced at Nitika, her with a very specific type of yearning and me with long suffering resignation as the often-heard cry of “Aunt Cat’s door is open!” rang through the cavernous halls.


"Long-suffering" needs a dash.

The sign I was normally unoccupied.


This reads a bit awkward. I had to keep re-reading it. I feel as if there was suppose to be a sentence before or after it.

It meant tolerating dozens of comments I was behaving improperly— again— by being too cold of all things. Don’t show love, then show it on command.

I wished they’d make up their minds.


I like this a lot.

Really good! I especially like the dialogue about the fashion. Oh-so-stylish dagger belts!




Rosendorn says...


Thanks for the review!

I'm not sure why you replaced "looking" with "asking"? Nobody is actually asking her about fashion for the party; they're looking to important royal women to set the tone for what fashion is going to be. It's a very common noble custom that the queen dictates what every fashionable lady should do, and this court is no different.

As for the dash/hyphen, British English uses a lot less than American. Considering I'm Canadian and therefore use British English, I'm not actually 100% sure I need a dash there.




It's all a matter of perspective. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and the villain of another's.
— James