I pulled Edmond closer to me -- and Collins grabbed me by the arm and threw me inside the room. I had the impression of guards coming our way and I quickly got out of sight.
"What the hell is going on?" Collins demanded before anyone else could speak. "What was that?"
"Don't know. Sounded like it hit your roof --"
"Not ours," Collins said. I felt a little touch of magic with those words, just enough to make them seem more true than the others would have thought at first. "I need to get the door closed before we have a real problem!"
The others agreed. The door closed. Collins waved me back from the opening and I retreated, holding Edmond close. He was purring as I sat down and put him in my lap. I had never felt such relief before.
"This -- this is Edmond?" Tom asked as he sat back down. Collins took a place across from us and seemed rather more happy than shocked.
"Yes, I am," Edmond answered for himself. He looked at me, and I could tell he didn't get this reaction either. Strange people.
"Edmond is a talking and flying cat," Tom said. "You never said what he was."
Edmond was a non, and that suddenly worried me. "How did you get here, Edmond?" I asked, trying to forestall other problems.
"Lord Snow put up a bit of a fight and I slipped into the cage with him. He's trying to work with the non-humans, but they're not very cooperative."
I looked around with a frown. "No one is. Is there going to be a problem about Edmond and Lord Snow since they are both non-humans?"
Edmond's ears went back as he looked at the others around the table, but I saw something odd in their faces. Relief?
"There will be no trouble," Collins said. "In fact, that was the last of the worries gone. We found that the best way to test people trying to infiltrate was to find out how they reacted to non-humans. Magical or not, we did not want anyone who couldn't work with nons as part of the inner group."
"But you said I should stay away from them," I complained.
"Just to see how you would react. We couldn't get a feel for you," Tom admitted. "You talked about your friends, and you never mentioned that some of them were nons. We hadn't thought to ask the nons about any new people with them."
"Maggie -- Davis --" I began.
"In other barracks," Collins said. I didn't know if I should hit him or hug him for those words. I'd been damned worried.
"I think it is time we have a meeting," Tom said. "Get them. I have the feeling we are going to be moving soon."
Those words gave me hope on several levels. Edmond still looked around at the others with a bit of distrust, though. I just wanted to see the others, though when Collins left, I did worrry.
"What about the guards?" I asked.
"Most of them are ours," Tom replied. He leaned back in the chair and looked Edmond over with a bright smile. I felt better again. "And the ones who are not ours simply won't notice anything wrong. We keep up enough show so that any one from the outside looking in will not notice anything worrisome here."
Show, I thought. Most of this is show, but I couldn't put together why.
Lord Snow arrived before the others. I was so glad to see him that I actually hugged the huge snow leopard which got a bit of a laugh, and maybe a purr, out of him. "Edmond said you were here," Lord Snow said as he looked around. "They have explained why they kept us apart. I am glad that part of the business is over."
"Me too --"
Maggie and Davis came in. More hugs, more sounds of relief. I had been worried about Maggie, but her wounds were healed. Her metal wings flickered a little now and then, which told me she was agitated and the glances she gave the others showed she didn't trust them much either.
Davis looked relieved, though. I hoped that he was seeing things clearly.
"What about Lord Cayman?" I asked.
"He escaped back into the woods," Maggie said. She didn't sound happy. "That's going to be a problem if he goes up against Darman and Potilla. We need to get back there and help, Mark. Otherwise, we may lose the one real hope we have of winning. If Darman defeats Cayman, he not only gets this reality, but he won't have much trouble taking over the faelands, either."
No one liked that idea.
"The best way might be to take the next delivery truck," Edmond said. He'd clearly been watching things -- not trapped in a barrack like I had been. "A group of us could head back to the real battle. If we win, we can get the rest of the prisoners out of here. If we don't go and help, we'll only make matters worse."
I nodded and so did Davis and Maggie. We sat around the table and discussed what we could do. Noen of it sounded reasonable, but at least we were talking about doing something. The relief that I was back with my friends almost made me shaky. If there hadn't been more trouble brewing, I would have been happy to just stay here for a while longer.
I couldn't abandon Lord Cayman, though. Not just because he was my father.
"I'm glad we're going to get moving back to where we're needed," Edmond said. "Humans and their ideas of what to do are going to drive me crazy. Why move us from where we might help? Why not keep us close, just in case?"
"That," Tom said, "is a smart question."
And then he began to change.
To Be Continued....