I couldn't see anything of the person who was draped in cloth and walking with an economy of movement that hid everything. I carried Edmond. He said nothing.
Something small leapt and bit my finger. I yelped, shaking it off. The thing hit the ground with a metallic click and I stomped with the foot still wearing a shoe. I felt an unnatural welling of pleasure at the destruction.
"We best go quickly," she said. "Once they get the scent of blood, they'll swarm."
Edmond made a soft whimpering sound.
I kept my curses to myself. We were moving at a good pace, but even so, the biters were getting closer and louder. Then something howled, not nearly far enough away.
My quiet companion turned and I caught a glimpse of pale skin beneath the hood but nothing more. Vampire? Should I look around for a stake? Why the hell didn't someone warn me of all the things I needed in Elsewhere -- and other places. I needed to talk to Maggie.
My guide kept going and I followed, hoping somehow that my friends would find me. Hoping they were safe.
She stopped and shoved aside a boulder that was either not as heavy as it looked or she had exceptional strength. I was betting on the second, to be honest. Things had gone that way for me lately.
"Down. Inside, quick."
I looked over the edge and saw the glow of light and stairs leading downward. Edmond shifted to my drape himself across my shoulders. I glanced at the woman, but she stared behind us. Something howled. Biters clicked. Down looked like a good idea.
Right until she gave a shout and shoved me.
I tumbled. Edmond yowled and launched himself from my shoulder before he went under me. I feared I would break my neck, but I managed to roll and only got more bruises on top of other bruises. I got to my feet and spun, ready to go at my attacker --
She held tight to a door and tried to pull it into place while something with long claws tried to yank the door open. I scrambled back up the stairs to help her, grabbing the covering -- metal, the first I'd seen here -- and yanked it along the track over the opening. Our combined weight smashed the thing's fingers. The creature howled and pulled back in haste and we got the door into place. She shoved metal rods over it and then wrapped an iron chain around everything and secured it all with a lock.
"Well, we won't be going out that way any time soon," she said, sounding remarkably calm. "Are you and your cat okay? Sorry I had to shove, but that ugly was going to come in right behind us otherwise."
"I'm fine," I said. I looked around in haste and found Edmond disappearing down a hall. I almost called him back. "And I'm sure Edmond is fine. I saw him walk away."
"I hope he is careful," she said as we started down the stairs. I still couldn't see her face. "We try to keep the tunnels clear down here, but things get in."
She finally pulled back the hood of her cloak. Pale skin, gray eyes, auburn hair, maybe twenty-five or so: normal, I thought, though I was starting to have trouble deciding how to define normal.
"I assume you fell into this lovely land, too?" she asked as we reached the bottom of the stairs. Boxes and crates sat against the walls. Supplies?
"More or less," I answered. I considered saying nothing more, but saw no reason to mistrust her with a little more information. "I came with two other friends, but that creature in the wind caught me."
"You are lucky to have gotten away," she said and waved her hand to the tunnel on the right. Edmond had gone left, which I didn't like much, but I said nothing. I did wish he had gone on ahead of me, though, so I had a little warning.
That would have helped when I walked into the room filled with. . . .
Many, many things, all of them alive, and all of them turning to look at me.
"What did you bring for dinner, Beth?"
I swear my heart stopped.
"No good hunting tonight," she said a moment later and walked on. "A Mad Wind, Clickers and some other nasties were out there. This is --"
She turned to me. I was almost able to breathe and talk again.
"Mark," I said with a nod of my head to the things.
"Mark," she said. "There's bread and cheese, maybe a bit of soup left, if you want some. Go ahead and find a place. Oh and people? There is a cat in the tunnels. Do try not to scare the poor little thing."
I thought about Edmond being called a 'poor little thing' and went over to the sideboard, taking a piece of warm bread, soft cheese and a cup of water. Should I eat? Should I not eat?
Beth sat down by me. "You look a bit frazzled, kid."
"Mark," I corrected, but then I smiled. She had saved me. "Sorry. I'm worried about my friends. And, nothing personal, but I really just want to find the door and get back out of here."
"If you find a door, you let us know, eh?" someone said down the table. I thought it might be the big, lean, white-furred creature with long ears who looked like a Harvey, the invisible rabbit, made real. Except for the very sharp teeth that could tear a hand off. "Some of us would be happy to get out of this hole."
"We go out and look sometimes." Beth played with her bread. "Especially when the days are longer and we have time to get back to cover. But we don't have much magic --"
"I do," I said.
All eating stopped. I had their attention now.
To Be Continued. . . .