This week I’d like to welcome author A. J. Bakke, author of Caffeine Fatale.
My favorite things to do are writing books and riding horses! It’s interesting saying that out loud because ‘riding’ and ‘writing’ sound similar. I write humorous fantasy adventure for middle grade and young adult.
Caffeine Fatale originated from the simple question: “What would happen if I didn’t get my morning cup of coffee?” And then it turned into an entire novel! It is the second book in my Worlds Akilter Series.
Now that she is back on her own world, Deart, Ti decides to return to the home from which she had been unjustly banished. Now she has proof that magic does exist. She has Bree, a mage who accidentally turned herself into a mouse. She also has Nataniel, another lidra, who grew up in a mall on Earth. Perhaps not the ideal proof, but with that, Ti has hope of being able to return to her old life with her family and fellow lidra again.
What she returns to is anything but expected. Something horrible has happened to her people. Now she and her companions have another mission before them.
Her human friend, Amiah, gets roped into it, too. Amiah is unaccustomed to so much adventuring. She had been used to watching it on television or reading about it in books. Now she has her work cut out for her as they desperately strive to save Ti’s people.
(Amiah is a rotund human gal who was brought from Earth to another world, Deart, by a powerful individual who is monitoring the planets. Chloe is a magical person called a Resonant who lives in a place called the Grove that was build to protect people like her. The lidra are small, golden skinned folk around 6-7 inches in height. Cats are attracted to magic so there are a lot of them in the Grove.)
Amiah had explained to Chloe and Kale how she had ended up on Deart. Neither of them were aware of any impending doom so the fact that she had been brought to help them was worrying. What was happening that they weren’t aware of?
Amiah and Kale wanted to go looking for Ti, Nataniel and Bree, but Chloe kept assuring them that they would be back.
“Anytime now! Anytime now!” The strange lady sang as she wandered around her garden, pulling weeds and checking on the welfare of each plant.
This was probably the one million and eighty seventh time Amiah had insisted that they needed to go search for her friends. She would’ve gone to do so of her own accord but she had discovered that she couldn’t leave the Grove without Chloe’s permission. Walking far enough in one direction brought her entering from the opposite side as if the land wrapped around itself as its own miniature planet within a planet. It was extremely annoying.
Kale was perched on her shoulder, clinging to a lock of her hair. He was in full agreement with her, but nothing they said could convince Chloe to release them.
Chloe pulled an onion from the ground and randomly threw it at Amiah. Amiah caught it on reflex. “What’d you do that for?”
“You’ll need it for your mission. Put it in your pocket,” Chloe instructed her.
Amiah sighed and looked down at the onion. It was small and covered in dirt. She doubted she would need it for anything except, perhaps, teary eyes and a lesson in layers. “Is it a magical onion?”
“No no,” Chloe responded musically. “It’s just an onion. Odd little things, aren’t they? But not as odd as turnips. Those are good for stone soup, though I don’t know why anyone would make such a thing. They’d break their teeth.”
“I’ll tell you what else is odd,” Amiah said as she began brushing dirt off of the onion.
“What?” Chloe inquired mildly as she kindly relocated a worm to a spot where it wasn’t in harms way from her work.
“Me being brought here as if there is this terrible emergency and you not letting me go find anything out about it.”
Chloe straightened and flicked some dirt off of one of her gloves. “I don’t find that odd. I think it’s perfectly reasonable.”
Amiah scowled as Kale spoke up from where he sat on her shoulder. “What if they are in trouble now?”
Chloe waved a hand at them in a dismissive fashion. “Shall we go in for tea?” she offered.
Amiah looked up at the sky. “I’m surprised I don’t have tea coming out my ears by now.”
“If that happens, dear,” said Chloe with concern, “Do let me know. There are treatments for that.”
Amiah sighed and followed the woman towards the house. To Kale, she asked, “Is there tea coming out my ears?” She felt a tickle as he peered curiously at her ear.
“No,” he answered with a quiet chuckle. “This one looks fine. Should I check the other?”
“Naw.” Amiah laughed slightly, but she wasn’t able to feel very cheerful while worrying about the rest of her friends. She put the onion in her jacket pocket. It was a light jacket since the Grove was always a moderate temperature. She liked to wear it because it gave her a sense of security though why she felt that way, she couldn’t explain. It didn’t matter. She wore it anyway.
She was about to enter the house when the cats lounging around abruptly burst into a flurry of activity. They bounded towards one side of the Grove, purring and meowing and making a general caterwauling cacophony.
“What the…?” Amiah turned around, trying to see what all the fuss was about. It was difficult to see through the snow fall of fur coating the air. A tortoise-shell cat came racing into the Grove with little people clinging to her back.
Amiah instantly recognize the white mouse. She was overjoyed. “Bree! Nataniel! Ti! And…” She didn’t know who the other fellow was but Nataniel took care of that as the cat stopped before her.
“Tylev. We found him at Ti’s old Nest,” Nataniel informed her.
“Hi Amiah!” Bree chirped. “Didn’t expect to see you here!”
Ti waved but she didn’t look happy. Amiah waved at them with an uncertain smile.
Chloe held the door open so the cat could go inside. Amiah quickly followed. “Are you guys alright?”
The cat jumped onto the couch where she gently laid down to let her passengers off. Then she bounded away towards the kitchen where the food dishes were laid out. The rest of the cats had calmed down and there were many interested gazes turned on Amiah and company.
Chloe set a first aid kit on the couch and then got down on her knees beside it. “Oh, hold still,” she chided the injured lidra when he began to scoot away from her.
He scowled at her. He was tense and there was mistrust in his eyes.
“This is the first time he’s seen people your size,” Bree explained to the Resonant.
Chloe brandished a pair of small scissors at them, but not in threat. She just happened to have them in her hand. “That’s no reason to be uncooperative. I’m only trying to help.” She began to carefully cut away the bandages.
While she was fussing over Tylev’s injury, Nataniel explained what had happened. “The whole Nest was wiped out by things called spidels.”
“No it wasn’t!” Ti snapped in fervent denial.
“Hey now,” Amiah scooted the coffee table away from the couch so she could sit carefully on the floor. It put her closer to the lidras’ level. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
Nataniel cast wary glances at Ti as he elaborated on the story with the correction that the lidra had been taken, not wiped out. Tylev threw in a detail here and there through grit teeth as Chloe used a q-tip to clean what was left of the wound. It looked like it was healing well, but tender yet.
Amiah raised an eyebrow when he got to the part about how the lidra couldn’t get up in the morning without their kaffey. “Sounds like humans without their coffee,” she remarked.
“Or tea,” Chloe threw in.
“They were too weak to defend themselves,” Kale said softly, figuring it out even though he hadn’t been there.
There were sober nods from the others.
“How does he know English?” Amiah asked, slightly derailing the subject. She had understood what Tylev said, but if he was native to Deart, she couldn’t figure out how he’d learned her language so fast unless Bree had used magic to teach him as she had done with Ti and Kale during their visit to Earth.
“He doesn’t,” Bree responded. “The Grove lets us understand each other no matter what language we speak.”
“Oh…” Amiah’s brows furrowed. It would’ve hurt her head to contemplate how the Grove did that, but there were more important things to think about.
“My family is gone,” Ti sobbed, sitting despondently on a baby blue doily. “They took them. They took everyone!”
“Do you know where?” Amiah asked.
The forlorn lidra shook their heads as Tylev spoke tersely, “No…but we will find them.” His tone of voice implied that the spidels would be in big trouble when they did.
“How?” Amiah asked. “If you don’t know where they went?”
Tylev’s expression hardened. “We will find them.” As if by sheer force of will they would succeed.
“Of course we will,” Amiah assured him. “I was just wondering if maybe you had a general direction?”
Tylev waved a hand. “To the East. That’s where they claimed their city was.”
Amiah frowned. “But if their intents were less than honest, they may have been lying about that too.”
Chloe finished up by wrapping a colorful band-aid around Tylev’s leg. He stared at it, aghast. “I cannot pursue my enemy while wearing this!”
“Oh don’t be ridiculous,” Chloe responded brightly. “You wouldn’t be able to catch up to them, anyway.”
He scowled at her. He seemed to be handling the introduction of the existence of giants well, all things considered. He wasn’t cowering or blubbering in a corner.
Amiah pointed to a strange, crystal stick they had brought with them. “What is that?”
Bree cheerfully grabbed it and held it out to her. Trusting the mouse despite an impish gleam in pink eyes, Amiah took the shiny object.
Ti gave the object a look of disgust. “The leg of a spidel. Tylev insisted we bring it along.”
Amiah started and dropped it. “A leg!” She gave Bree a jaundiced eye.
The mouse grinned and rocked back and forth on her hind legs, fore paws innocently behind her back. “Sorry! Couldn’t help myself! Just wanted to see the look on your face!”
Amiah sighed and picked the leg up to set it gingerly on the coffee table. “Too bad there aren’t any dogs here.”
“Why?” Kale asked.
“If we had a good bloodhound, it might be able to track the scent.”
Nataniel shook his head. “These things live in trees. A bloodhound wouldn’t do us much good.”
“But a cat would!” Chloe sang out, making them all jump.
Nataniel snorted derisively. “Cats don’t track things,” he pointed out. “Cats are essentially use–” It was pretty obvious how he was going to finish that word, but he suddenly realized how many feline gazes were pinned on him. “–ful,” he amended mid-word. “Cats are very useful,” he continued slowly and warily, “In…other aspects.”
The cats were suspicious, but appeased enough to return to whatever they had been doing before he had dared speak against them.