The creature dashed towards us, a dark shape darting past walls and moving so quickly I couldn't get a clear look at him. I heard shouts of shock and dismay from the others. Worse, Edmond suddenly tore himself free of my arms and ran straight towards it, brave little guy! I shouted in fear and leapt forward to try and stop him, but he slid away from me.
And then the gigantic cat came fully into view.
"Mark! Praise the Goddess! And Edmond!"
The huge snow leopard skidded to a stop, head-butted with the tiny Edmond, and even purred. He looked like he'd seen some hard times. His fur was covered in mud and dirt, and maybe some blood. He had lost a lot of weight, too. He panted a bit, even though he hadn't run far.
I crossed to them, mostly to show the others that he was safe. I was glad to see him.
"We didn't think you had made it this way," I said, putting a hand on his shoulder. The others were still keeping back. I didn't blame them. "We looked when we first came through, but you were no where around."
"There was some sort of time dilation, I guess. We tried to wait to see if any of you would come through, but we were attacked within a few moments. Lord Cayman was captured. I tried to follow them, but they were rather too intent on killing me. I wandered around, looking for help for a while. There are a lot of unfriendly creatures in this reality! Then I sensed that you were near and came looking, but you disappeared, too."
"Sorry. We were underground."
"In an over sized mouse hole," Edmond said with a snarl of disgust. "And then they blew part of it up! These people are crazy - but they are friends. Have you seen Maggie and Davis?"
"No, though I think they might be near," he said, lifting his head to look around again. "I had a feel for them right before the rest of you popped up. I don't think they're very far away. I don't like that someone has taken Lord Cayman, though. And Darman has come through, too, with dozens of his cursed were-creatures."
I looked around at the others who were politely and quietly listening. I could see the worry in Beth's face. They'd abandoned and even partially destroyed their only shelter. The enemy had found it and there was no going back. If I didn't help them. . . .
"Lord Snow, this is Beth. She helped me and I promised to do my best to see her to safety."
"Ah," the cat said with a barely concealed little growl. "That does complicate matters. If only Darman hadn't put a guard on the door back to Elsewhere --"
"There's a door back?" I said, startled and hopeful.
"Yes." Lord Snow glanced around, his head up and his nose sniffing. "But even going close to it is dangerous. Darman is in the area and he expects you to go there. You didn't sense it? You've been heading in the wrong direction, I think."
"I had no idea." I lifted my hand and tried to feel out something -- but I still didn't sense anything. "I think I'm too new to the magic stuff."
"I hadn't considered that possiblity," he said. He sat down and looked like he really wanted to rest but knew he was going to move soon.
"Some of the locals were leading us to another door. Why didn't they know about this one?"
"It's new. Darman created it," Lord Snow said. "We have to get to Lord Cayman. I am obliged to see him to safety, you know. And I would think you --" But he stopped there.
I gave a nod. "I'll help you. But I also have to help these others. And the ones with Maggie and Davis. I cannot just abandon them."
"Oh, of course not," he said and seemed to understand suddenly. "So we see them to safety first and then find a way to rescue Lord Cayman."
That would suit me. "We need to move quickly, then, and find the others."
I sounded as though I knew what was doing. Amazing.
Lord Snow had an idea of which way to go. Beth looked at me, looked at the two cats walking away, and back at me again. "You have odd friends," she said. I looked over at Harvey and then back at her, one eyebrow raised. She sighed. "Well, okay, maybe not that strange."
I noticed that Harvey was keeping an eye on Lord Snow. I guessed maybe giant rabbits and big cats didn't get along so well, but so far everything seemed calm enough.
"Do you know where my -- where Lord Cayman is?" I asked as we started to walk away.
"They took him up to that damned floating city," the cat growled. "We're going to have a hard time getting there, but I know we'll figure something out."
"We've been living like mice," Edmond said with a sigh as he looked upwards. "I suppose we're going to take up living like birds next."
"If I could grow wings, I'd already have flown up there," Lord Snow said. "He saved my life when we came through. And he's my link back to my true place. I have my honor and my duty, just like you, Mark."
Since I was still having trouble with the idea of my honor and duty, I just nodded and glanced up at the sky.
Bad timing. That was when the werewolves attacked. They howled, cats yowled and the overgrown rabbit -- well he hopped up and down a lot. This, I thought, was not going to go well.
To Be continued. . . .