I frantically looked around for a place for us to escape to. There! I yanked on Waffle’s ear, and pointed at a set of panels barricading a storage area under a building. “Look!”
I don’t know if Waffles could see my paw or not, but he swerved and wheeled around, scattering snow, and headed for the hole I’d spotted in the panels. “I see it!”
The black dog’s jaws snapped at the spot we’d just occupied, then let out a yelp as it crashed into a tree.
We made it through hole moments later – panting, sweating, and shaking.
Waffles backed up against a support for the building above and turned.
At least a minute crawled past, though it felt like an hour, then a black nose poked through the hole followed by most of the dog’s head. Growls escaped it, and the panels shook as it shoved at them, but the wood held.
We were safe – but we weren’t going back out that way any time soon.
Once my eyes adjusted to the faint light that the panels let in, I scanned the area.
Again, nothing. Rat droppings, old spider webs, rocks, but no other holes I could see… and no other way out.
I tried to calm my racing heart by reminding myself that I had killed a gigantic fae not long ago. You also had a magic sword, my brain countered. Shut up, brain.
The dog barked and scratched at the snow at the opening, then at the dirt, for two stressful minutes before a shadow passed by the wooden slats. A moment later something started shouting in words I didn’t understand, and the dog’s nose vanished from the hole. Peeking outside, I could see a large, bipedal form dragging the dog away by its collar.
We all waited until the sound of the… whatever it was… and the dog were long gone before anyone spoke.
Dichall jumped down and faced Waffles. “I think you’d better wait here.”
Waffles snorted. “What are you talking about? I just saved your bacon back there!”
“If you hadn’t been there, that dog never have even found us.”
“I didn’t see you running away, Councilmouse. You just held on to my fur and hid!” Waffles snorted a puff of vapor into the cold air.
“We could have climbed the building to get away from her. That’s more than you can do.” Dichall’s voice was raising.
“Boys!” I couldn’t believe they were bickering like this. “We’re all on the same side here. We all want the same thing.” I favored Dichall with a withering glare – being pregnant didn’t help my mood and his attitude made it worse. I winced and hugged my belly. “I meant it, you both stop, or you both can stay here!”
Gretchen jumped down, too. “Keep your voices down, men!” Her own voice was a hiss but carried enough venom for two snakes.
I took a deep breath, then took charge. “Everybody hush! I looked around at the others as they stared back at me in silence. “Better. Now, we’re going to get back on Waffles and go further in. We need to know what we’re dealing with. And we are not going to fight with each other!” I glared at Dichall again.
He opened his mouth.
I narrowed my eyes and locked gazes with him.
His mouth squirmed, but he didn’t say anything.
I nodded, then relaxed. “Okay, let’s go.” I turned my back on him, grabbed Waffles’s fur, and scrambled up.
When we were all settled once more, he stuck his head out through the opening and looked around.
Nothing but the silent, falling snowflakes.
More slowly this time, Waffles padded to the next intersection. Some large, bipedal beings were moving about, but they looked straight ahead and paid us no attention. We hid behind some refuse, watching until there was nobody visible.
The tower’s stonework spiraled up and around on the outside, and the windows held glass that appeared to be so thick that it warped the light going through. Looking at a window I thought I saw the bottoms of booted feet walk across the inside of it as though it were a floor, standing sideways on the glass, parallel with the ground we were standing on.
I blinked. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Dichall looked around. “No. What was it?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. Some… body… thing… in an upper window. Gretchen, do you want to send in Emerson to check it out?”
Gretchen licked her lips. “I don’t feel comfortable with that. Not just yet.” She reached her paw up and the moth’s antennae touched them affectionately.
The base of the tower had a door that was ajar. When the coast was clear Waffles trotted through it.
We immediately fell over.
The ground just beyond the door twisted to the wall. Waffles had tried to right himself, only to find that the gravity had shifted. He righted himself once again, and we got our bearings. We were standing on the inside of the outside wall of the tower.
Gretchen let out a deep sigh. “Ja, this is new.”