Tom and the others moved to the far end of the building and huddled together, talking. That annoyed me, even though I couldn't blame them for not trusting me yet. I wanted to yell and be rude and --
Have a temper tantrum? I suspect it was way past my nap time.
I looked at the beds and crossed to the nearest set of bunks, throwing myself down on it. I knew the bed belonged to someone else and right then I didn't care. I had been cramped into that little cage for too long and even letting my legs stretch out and relax brought a moment of agony.
I was too weak and emotional for all of this. I needed to think this through. I had been home, and had hoped -- which made this so much worse, I supposed. For a brief moment, I had thought I would go home and pretend to be normal again. Yeah, just me and my flying, talking cat.
Okay, that wouldn't have worked out so well. I worried about Edmond. Where had he gone? Was he hiding in the woods? While the rest of us were large and noticeable, including Lord Snow, a little black cat might have slipped away into the woods when he realized things were not going well. He was smart. He would survive.
The others were smart, too. I needed to stop panicking about them. I had the feeling Tom had told me the truth that sometimes people arrived later. I held onto that thought as I drifted away to sleep.
I was aware of Tom leaving the room and the others going on about their business. I drifted farther into sleep, glad for the escape --
Only it wasn't really. I had nightmares about the others dying and I wasn't there to help them. I tried to reach them, but I couldn't even find where they had gone, though once I thought I heard Maggie cry out and then fall silent.
I sat up too fast and hit my head on the bunk above me. I couldn't have slept long, but I swung my feet over the edge and sat on the thin mattress, staring at the floor again. At least that was more restful than the nightmares.
Tom and some others came in a little later and waved him over to a table. They were a grim looking group, but I supposed being trapped here would do that to someone. From the looks they gave me, I suspected I might be in trouble. No surprise there.
"This is Smith, Bailey, Westerfield, and Franklin," Tom said. "They keep watch over the other four barracks that we use. There are about two thousand of us here, not counting the nons --"
"Nons?" I asked.
"Non-humans. We don't have much contact with them and they seem to want to keep to themselves. We don't press it."
I got the distinct impression that I shouldn't ask more questions about them. This was a divided camp -- divided into three, in fact, as they explained it to me. The prisoners like us, the nons and the people running the camp."
"You are a Protector," Westerfield, leaning over the table to stare me in the face. She had the eyes of a fanatic; gray, piercing and rarely blinked. "A Protector won't be much help here."
"Probably not," I agreed. I knew better than to back down before a stare like that one. "Unless, of course, the guards move against you."
"Or the nons," she snarled.
"Yes, or the nons."
"Unless you side with them."
"That all depends on what you do, doesn't it?"
She sat back, still snarling, but I thought a little less antagonistic.
"I have helped others in other places," I said. Then I shook my head. "But the truth is that I only recently found out what I am and was sanctioned. I am not trained."
That won nods all around the table. Maybe it had been obvious that I didn't know what I was doing. I really couldn't say that I cared much. I did want some answers, though.
"What happened here?" I finally asked.
They told me a tale about problems starting in my home state and spreading. Were-creatures began to go wild and attack everywhere, and then to make matters worse, anyone who tried to stop them with magic got rounded up and sent to the camp. It was not the most logical move, but here they all were.
I nodded, feeling much the same way about dumping me here when my friends and I had helped save them. "The town where I grew up, there was a Sheriff named Creston. Only later I found out he was really a fae named Darman and he'd been creating the were-creatures."
"Darman," Tom said. He frowned a little. "Isn't that Lord Cayman's brother?"
So he knew more than he was saying. I nodded. "Yes. And he's come back now with help. That's going to be trouble.
The others agreed. There was not much we could do from here, though. I learned that they had various plans for escape, but the problem was the desert.
"We could take over the camp, I think," Bailey said with a glance at the door. "But we need transport and they're very careful about not letting us near anything."
"What kind of powers do the people here have?" I asked.
"Minor bits and pieces of things," Tom said. "I can't say about the nons, though. They might have more powers."
I nodded, trying to think what to ask next --
Shouts came from outside and suddenly the door slammed open. I was already starting to stand and lifted a hand, but Tom caught hold of me. The men at the door were shouting and waving their rifles, telling us to back up to the chairs. We did. All but one left, his rifle still raised.
I knew there would be trouble soon.
To Be Continued....