Chapter 2: The Toothbreaker, part 1
A Few Months Before
It was a spectacular explosion. Lauren would have cackled in delight with the shining success of her handiwork…had she been awake to see it. The blast of the over potent potion left her unconscious on the stained stone with a nasty purple welt protruding disturbingly from her forehead.
Maybe I should have said something about the red bottle's leak. Now I was stuck with a knocked out witch and no idea how to move her, much less keep her alive until she woke up.
Normally in a case like this, I rely on the stores Lauren tried to keep hidden in the larder. But now we were in a very tight cell with a prickling dread working its way up my back. Just as I suspected, a heavy, bolted, iron door was blocking the only exit…except for that window up there. But that wasn't going to help Lauren much.
"Oi! Milk imp!" a condescending roar sounded through the door, causing me to trip backwards over Lauren's outstretched arm. "Dinner's here, so best back away from the door if ye know what's good fer ye."
Milk imp? I glanced around the room in confusion, but the cramped cell contained only me, the passed out witch, and her cauldron. Even if there had been a…milk elf person…whatever he said in the room, there wouldn't have been anywhere for them to back away to.
"Mrew!" the sharp edge of a milk laden bowl sliced into my arched back. A harsh chuckle followed my exclamation.
"Told ya ye should've backed away from the door, Rot-Tooth," the guard sneered before slamming the flap shut with a ringing "clang."
Sometime in the 1600s
The hunting party came crashing through the bramble, staggering against the persistence of their leashed hounds. I spat and clawed as best I could caught in the swinging mesh. My attempts were far from reaching anyone, but most of the younger whelps sprang out of my range, dragging their snarling beasts along with them.
The eldest of the lot, a sour wrinkled up old bad, charged right into our cozy little enclosure. His pinpoint pitch eyes scanned the fence of trees and shadows, not seeming to take any notice of me at all.
"Hush! Hush, everyone!" he snapped at his men. The very slight quaver woven into the forceful order was enough to quiet even the most unpuritan of crowds.
What was someone like him doing, acting frightened like that?
His icy glare ceased my hissing when it merely glanced through me. His complete apathy towards me, the potentially demonic kitty, shot me with more neck prickling shivers than an angered look ever could. What had averted his over-zealous attention to fear something other than a witch's cat?
The whole group started as violently as if the trapdoors for their own personal gallows had been pulled from beneath their feet. I didn't hear whatever imagined rustle of dead leaves it was that seemed to startle the lot. However, I did notice that many had dared to seek refuge by stepping closer to me, leaving the more immediate danger I presented foolishly unheeded.
Yowling like the wheels of a badly made cart, I lunged at the nearest boy. I left three lines slashed across his cheek. His hand shot to his wound, the sticky liquid trickling between his fingers.
The old bat's glower finally discovered my dangling cage.
"Someone shut that beast up!" he snarled, moving to help the injured man. Almost immediately my world was transformed to a tight grey knit as another young brat tore off his coat and flourished it over the netting.
Great. The stupid cloth was too thick to leave anything other than a fuzzy shadow-puppet display as my only means of knowing what transpired around me.
Well, that and my superb feline senses. At first, I couldn't hear anything other than the dogs whining at nothing. The patch of itchy wool close to my mouth had grown moist and the gummy rope started irritating the already sore skin under my matted fur. A tinkling, wicked giggle worked its way through the heavy folds and pricked maliciously at the corners of my ears.
What the fish guts? Even for me, a talking cat, this was beginning to reach freaky weird territory. A soft growl had replaced the pathetic canine whimpers. At least, it might have been growling. But it also might have been a disturbing strand of a half-recalled melody.
It tugged harshly at a drugged, bound and gagged memory someone forced into the recesses of my mind years ago. The captured thought had something to do with fire. And auburn hair. And stars…shattering onto cobblestones.
A strangled scream erupted from the subdued gathering outside, drowning what remnants of memory I had managed to resurface in the coppery stench of a fresh kill. The scream had lifted the curtain on a quandary of splattered shrieks, ignored commands, indiscriminate howls from either man or beast, a few flintlock blasts, and several crunching attempts to run away. They never got far. And they always ended mid-step with a squelch.
The humming hadn't stopped, nor had it increased in volume to overpower the chaos. It kept clawing at my mind as the reek urged bile to claw its way up my throat. I clamped my mildewing paws over my nose, which helped the nausea, but not the torrent of details flooding my mind too quickly to grasp or retain.
I would have given anything in that moment just to be able to reach the ground enough to create the teleport spell that would send me back to Lauren.
The noises of the struggling hunting party stopped with a final explosion from the gun, followed by the squishy snap of living wood breaking…or what I hoped was living wood breaking.
The coat began to inch its way down the sticky rope, bristling my fur into all the wrong directions.
Oh no. Don't fall. No. No. Nononononon-
It slid onto the haphazardly piled meat with a slow swish in the slight breeze. The almost peaceful scene presented before me was the last thing I was expecting. The whole group was gone, leaving only crunched foliage and slick circles of mud as the only indicators that there had been anybody there.
The enchanted humming had stopped, clearing my head substantially and leaving the clearing in quasi-silence.
Pained gasps began to distinguish themselves from the sigh of the wind. An anomalous form had snuck its way into the very outskirts of my field of vision. Oh no. I turned my head as slowly as I dared to face whatever pathetic creature could be left alive.
Of all the words to describe what it was, pathetic was not at all appropriate. Beautiful, maybe, in the same way a corpse made up for its funeral would be. Frightening, for sure, in the same apprehensive way an uneasy conscience settled on one's mind. But not pathetic.
It seemed to have the figure of a young puritan girl, except for the creamy green sheen of the blonde cascades that cloaked her crouched figure and the sharp elongated ears sloping gracefully up through her hair. She seemed to have injured her arm badly, as it was shining with sap colored blood. The rest of her attire was stained horrible shades of ruby and dirt.
As soon as I was facing her, a pair of piercing violet eyes cut into my vision sharper than the thorns of a vine.
"Well, well, well," she murmured in the same disturbingly melodious voice as the humming. My head started buzzing again as she floated to her feet. "What do we have here?"
To Be Continued...