(As we near the end of the Elsewhere stories,
I thought I might share some pictures of the real Edmond)
"Well, that didn't go as well as it could have," Edmond said.
I was carrying him as I rushed back through the collapsing glacier. The beautiful magical city was already gone and all the Icelings had made it to safety. Alsia was gone, reluctantly, with them.
Lord Snow had dragged her through to Elsewhere, and now he was gone as well. Only the two of us left and we were heading right back out into the cold, snowy world. The collapse of the ice cave behind us kept me moving on toward the brighter light ahead. Light at the end of the tunnel? Probably a train, I thought.
But I kept going straight out into the falling snow of a cold, windy day.
"Ugh," Edmond said and tried to burrow his way into my jacket. His wings fluttered and the feather's tickled my face.
I got him settled as I started up a trail away from the glacier. I looked back when I heard a loud crack and watched as a huge part of the ice cracked, fell downward, and slid forward by several yards. We had barely gotten out in time.
"At least the others made it home," I said.
"We did good work, Mark," Edmond said, lifting his head out of the jacket. Not the most comfortable way to hold him, but it kept the cat warm and he helped me stay warm, too. "I'm sorry Storm is gone, too. But he took Alsia, and that's going to help us. We'll see Lord Snow when we get back to the Gate."
"What if he can't beat Alsia?" I asked, worried about something I had not named yet.
"That was the Ice Dragon's lands, you know," Edmond said. "The moment Lord Storm arrived with an enemy, the dragon was going to be moving in on her, especially since she did harm to his icelings. If she is wise at all, she won't stay around to try and fight it out, but escape as fast as she can."
"Oh. Good." Those words did make me feel better. We had done good work. And thought I didn't like the snow and ice, I wasn't particularly cold. "I think more of my magic is kicking in, Edmond. I don't think we'll freeze, at least."
"You are rather comfortable," he admitted.
I shifted him slightly again and wondered if a little magic might not make it easier to carry him --
It did. He suddenly felt like nothing more than a warm spot pressed against my chest and I had to check to make certain he was really still there. That fear gone, I concentrated on walking, heading back toward the train tracks. I hoped I was going in the right direction --
And yes, there was a train moving down the tracks and heading in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. I suspected we might have gone over the high pass sometime in the storm and other climbing, though there would still be more mountains to climb. The train gave me hope again, though. The train and tracks were a sign of civilization and a hope that we might find a ride on one heading in the right direction.
We would survive. I would hate to disappoint Lord Snow who'd had enough faith in my ability to leave me behind. I didn't want him to learn he'd been wrong.
Or maybe it was Edmond the big cat really trusted.
Edmond was napping.
By sunset, when I finally reached the train tracks and began to follow them towards the east, I had begun to consider a far more difficult problem. We had no food. I was going to grow weaker, both in body and in magic, if I didn't find something to eat soon. I had to hope that my friends would be looking for me. They had to know something had happened by now.
Just as it got dark, I saw an odd bit of a glow, just off to the right of the tracks and up against a tree. Worry made me cautious.
"Magic," Edmond said as he finally woke up. He even worked his way out of the jacket and dropped into the snow, which reached up to his chin in this wind-blown spot. "Ack. Magic, and it feels like Maggie's work."
That made me bold, especially when I saw a backpack. I opened the top and found it filled with food and a blanket imbued with such warmth it was almost too hot to touch. There was also a compass -- one I recognized. Maggie had given it to me once before so I could find the gate to Elsewhere. The glow of magic died now that I'd found it. Maggie had done her best.
"Let's eat," Edmond said and pawed at one of the sandwiches.
We had a nice meal. Another train passed heading in the wrong direction, though I was tempted to take it and catch another train in the lowlands. Instead, I kept going. Walking wasn't so difficult, and we slept finally with the magic blanket wrapped around us. We could not walk directly on the tracks now, though. There just wasn't enough room to maneuver out of the way there, so we climbed a bit higher. There had to be roads, too -- but those would be more dangerous. Drivers wouldn't be as willing to pick me up, and a winged-cat would be a problem.
Another day -- but towards sunset, I saw the glow of a town ahead. I gave a sigh of relief at the sight of a small train yard. We wouldn't have trouble finding a ride heading in the proper direction, at least.
Snow still fell and the wind blew papers through the air. Half a page of a newspaper caught at my leg and I grabbed at it, shocked to see my face on the front page.
Travels with a black cat.
To Be Continued....