As promised, here's your sneak peak at the first chapter of the sequel to The Slayer and the Sphinx!
Tick's wagon bounced over a pothole, throwing the young chimera on his side so he struck his head on the splintery wooden floor. Picking himself up with a whimper, he pressed his back into the corner and wrapped his tail around his ankles.
The wagon looked like nothing so much as a rolling circus cage, the kind used to display lions and tigers for paying customers. The bars were made of solid iron and placed so closely together that even a child like him couldn't slip through. Who were these people, anyway? At first he'd thought they were Slayers, but that couldn't be true. The Slayers didn't take captives, they just left bodies.
Tick had been in this cage for… how long had it been? He'd lost count sometime after the first week. All he knew for sure was that it had happened three days after Porter had put him on Joseph's back and told them to run.
Joseph… Tick grabbed the tip of his tail with both hands and squeezed as hard as he could. That spineless satyr had bolted at the first sight of these men. Porter wouldn't have done that. He would have fought all of them, even if it still meant being captured afterward. He would never have just abandoned his friends.
"I'll find you, I promise. You just have to wait for me."
Tick trusted him. Porter would never break a promise like that. It was just… how could Tick even be sure he was still alive? The last time he'd seen him, Porter was about to ambush the entire Slayer army. For all he knew, Porter was…
No, he was live. He was!
"Stop the cars!" someone shouted from outside.
Tick's wagon came to a halt, almost throwing him on his face again. Getting to his feet, he went to the bars and peered outside. Over the past few days they had made it clear that they were in a hurry to be somewhere, though Tick couldn't figure out where they could possibly be going. Even more wagons were lined up in front and behind his, and as far as Tick could tell they all held Mythics just like him. They were avoiding the roads, choosing to travel the long way through the woods instead.
"What's going on?" someone else shouted as Tick sat back down. "Why are we stopping?"
"The guards caught something. It was sneaking around, trying to steal food."
This caught Tick's attention, and he looked up again.
"Huh," one of the men mused. Their voices were getting closer to his cage. "A little scrawny, but it'll do. Throw it in there with the other mutt."
Mutt? Another chimera like him?
Two large men stepped into view, and Tick scrambled backwards so that his back was pressed against the wall. They didn't even glance at him. Instead, they opened the door and threw something in with him like a sack of potatoes.
"Got yourself a little friend," one of them sneered before walking away. "All right, let's get moving!"
As the wagons began to roll again, Tick suspiciously eyed the newcomer. He couldn't make out much about it except that it was dressed in rags and curled up in a ball. Minutes went by, but it never budged.
"H-hello?" he finally asked.
The newcomer replied with a frightened whimper. Its side rose and fell quickly, and Tick realized that it was crying.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Leave me alone!" it yelled without turning around to look at him.
It was a girl, Tick realized from hearing her voice. And just about his age, if he wasn't mistaken. Slowly, he got to his feet and tentatively made his way around her so he could look at her face. She was pale skinned, except for a spot of black that covered her left eye like an eyepatch. Her hair was black, and two furry, round ears poked out from the sides of her head like a panda's.
"My name's Tick," he said gently, trying not to upset her further. "Are you all right? Did they hurt you?"
The girl looked up at him, her eyes red and full of tears. "No," she said at last.
Tick nodded and sat down next to her. "Good. What's your name?"
"Manchi," she whispered.
Tick nodded slowly. "Do… you know who these people are?"
Manchi looked up at him in surprise. "You don't know?"
Tick's face turned red. "Not really," he replied as his tail curled around his leg the way it did when he got embarrassed.
"They're slave traders," Manchi whispered again, looking at the bars like she expected them to hit her just for saying it.
Tick froze. Capturing Mythics. A long train of wagon cages.
"It's the Caravan," he said as realization dawned on him, and he sat back down again. After everything Porter and Sarah had done for him, he'd ended up being caught by the Caravan anyway.
Manchi let out a whine, bringing his attention back to her, and she buried her face in her arms again. Hesitantly, Tick reached out and put a comforting hand on her back.
"Don't worry, we're going to be okay," he said.
"How can you say that?" she demanded without looking at him.
"I'll find you."
Tick looked up and out through the bars, into the distance. The sun was starting to rise over the hills. He took a deep breath and forced his voice to sound confident.
"Because a hero is coming to save us."
Stay tuned for more news about The Protector and the Peacemaker!