The clicking of teeth and the buzz of the wings filled the air as the black creatures filled the air. Somewhere that other huge thing howled, and it didn't sound any happier than we were.
And I wondered, suddenly, where Sheriff Creston -- Uncle Darman -- had gone. I had not seen him since we arrived in this wonderland of disasters, but I had the feeling he might be close.
The Bitters were on us.
Fae, it turned out, have a much better chance of dealing with these kinds of things. I watched them pointing fingers and downing a hundred at a time in a flash of light. They had spread out around Lord Cayman and me, and I found myself protected along with my father. Edmond even pulled his head out of my jacket and looked around.
"Hey, they have their use after all," he said.
Lord Cayman looked his way -- eyes narrowed for a moment -- and then he suddenly laughed. The sound was like . . . Like magic in the air. The area around us brightened. Other fae smiled, and as they continued to attack the lessening number of biters, I had the impression of teens with video games.
In a few more moments, the last of the biters disappeared, either dead or in retreat. We started out of the area in haste, their black bodies crunching under our feet. One leapt up and caught me on the hand, but Edmond bit the thing in half, spitting it out.
"Nasty," he said and licked his fur several times, apparently to get rid of the taste.
"Lord Cayman," I said, walking beside him. He glanced my way with a little frown, and I knew why -- but I simply could not call him 'father' at this point. We needed a little more together-not-in-the-middle-of-a-battle time before I'd feel that comfortable. "Do you think Darman has followed us here? I haven't seen any direct sign of him, but I have the feeling he isn't far away."
"True," Lord Cayman said. "He was wise to stay clear of the City of Glass, but now that it is coming down, I suspect he will try to make common cause with Potilia."
I glanced back. The glowing city had come at least halfway down the sky. Darman and Potilia teaming up did not sound pleasant. "The sooner we can get out of here the better," I said.
"Then we have to get to your companions," Lord Cayman said. He didn't sound upset, either. I wondered if I heard maybe a hint of pleasure in his voice. I had done the right thing in not abandoning them.
"We need to get beyond that hill," I said. "Then down to the bridge -- and not let anything throw us off it this time."
"No more flying," Edmond agreed.
"I would say the two of you have had an adventure," Lord Cayman said. "Which, like most adventures, are better in retrospect than at the time. And you need to worry so much about the cat. I will not take away what I gave him, and neither can anyone else. The two of you have done exceptionally well, considering how little time you've had even to realize your fae background."
"Yes, an adventure," I agreed and tried not to snarl. "And thank you about Edmond. And for Edmond, since he won't say it, being a cat."
Lord Cayman laughed again. From the way the others glanced at him, I had the feeling that maybe Lordly Fae were not known for their good humor. I was going to have to learn more about them and magic and about everything else. My world, their world, other worlds, this world -- and where were we going to go next?
I didn't really want to think about that part.
We reached the hill and worked our way around the side. I glanced back at the last moment and realized that the City of Glass had very little more to go before it landed. As I looked, though, I saw buildings crumbling into dust below it -- she did not want to destroy the beauty of the place as it came to land. Good. That gave us a little more time.
The bog sat before us. I stepped to the front, Lord Cayman at my back and Edmond in my arms.
"Hey, Bob -- you around?"
The ground moved, and the giant head appeared so suddenly that rock, dirt and mud pelted us.
"Oh hey, sorry!" Bog Bob said with a bright smile. "Didn't expect to see you again! Got thrown off the bridge, did you?"
"Yeah. You might have warned me, you know."
"Nah. No use in it. Just makes you more paranoid. But you've come back with powerful friends," he said, his dark eyes looking the group over. He stopped as he stared at me -- no, at the man who stood behind me. "Ah. Lord Cayman. An honor."
"We need down to the bridge, Bob," I said. "And fast. Portilia isn't happy with us."
"Portilia is never happy," he said and looked upward. He blinked. "Ah. You bright down the city, did you?"
"Let's just say we made it wise for her to take it down herself."
"Oh, she'll not be happy," he agreed and climbed out of the hole. "You know the way. Quick now, so I can get back in place."
"She'll know we went this way," one of the other fae said. "Some of us should try to lead her another way --"
"No," Lord Cayman said. I was glad to hear that answer. "We stay together. She'll track us all eventually anyway, and our only hope is to move quickly and to stay strong."
The others agreed and even looked relieved. They would have sacrificed themselves for him, I realized.
Instead, they followed me down into the ground as we worked to save the others.
To Be Continued. . . .