“Sit down, Warrior,” Zyhaneve commanded. “Place the sword on the ground.”
Umard shook as he stumbled into his seat. He made sure to sit with both hands on the table, unable to look at the sorcerer where the creature hunched near the doorway. The sword rested on the ground by the rior’s feet. He didn’t dare move. He could only hope he hadn’t drawn too much of the sorcerer’s ire. Freed, the creature could take its revenge. Still, somehow the Rider remained more intimidating. What hideous monster hid behind the shadow? Perhaps face revealed, the thing would have no more charisma over him. He shivered. He wouldn’t dare discover that.
Zyhaneve circled the table. This meeting was a disaster. Only the lord was supposed to be here! Not the warriors or industry leader. They weren’t supposed to be arguing or attempting to kill each other. Then there was Tymoss. Now he was a surprise. He should have never escaped! For the first time in a year they could grab him. The Rider glanced at the table. Tymoss wasn’t there any longer. Actually, the cat was nowhere in sight, probably hiding beneath the table again. Taking Tymoss right now would have to be rethought.
“You do not trust me do you?” Zyhaneve said, looking back at the leaders. “You do not like my proposal. You do not want to help. Yet I am sure, one of you is willing to hear me and accept the magi. To help them. You should reconsider your hate.”
The Rider had reached the front of the chamber. Zyhaneve peered at Haijka. The sorcerer wasn’t laughing now, although he maintained an unconcerned composure. Far from the confidence he’d exuded before, Haijka was pale as if all the blood had rushed into from his head. The Rider could see his hands shaking. Would Haijka be able to keep his feet? Could he even manage a spell?
“Take us out of here,” Zyhaneve whispered, then faced the table.
“What do you think would have happened if the magi had not been driven out years before?” the Rider asked. “Would the mages have overthrown the lords and ruled again as is the often told rumor? I highly doubt such. Many magi desire to live like you or I and have families, live in peace. I want you to think about it for a while. We will be back for your answer.” Then both sorcerer and Rider were gone.
The doorknob rattled. They did not know how long they’d sat in silence. Now they flinched as the person on the other side of the wood found the door to be locked and pounded with fists against the barrier. The sound was enough to rouse the leaders from their stunned stupor. Foreman Armol rushed to unlock the door. It swung open. Enraged warriors poured in, cudgels drawn.
“Where’s the trouble?” asked one of the lower guards.
just left,” Eyen uttered. He slumped in the chair, eyes closing.
“It didn’t have a face,” Umard shook his head and stared at his hands. He should have been breathing easier now that he wouldn’t be slain, but the unease that seized his back would not relent.
“I don’t even remember what he sounded like,” Benvle whispered.
“T-they’ll come b-b-back!” Lady Sylva stuttered. “T-they said they would!”
“Who? What, Lady?” asked the lower guard. He was trying to be calm, but the leaders appeared to be greatly disturbed. There was nothing here for him to arrest.
“The Rider and his sorcerer,” Lord Eyen said, sitting upright once more. His voice was calm, but his eyes were creased with worry and his face was as pale as a cloud. He reached for his wife, comforting her before turning to the lower guard. “I believe it is about time to tell our warriors that the mages are threatening. We should tell the remaining city lords about this menace.”
“But first, would you tell us about the cat?” the lower guard pointed at the ginger tom by his feet. That inspired laughter in the leaders. They laughed until there were tears.
“What is it?” asked the troop leader, still bewildered.
Tymoss, meanwhile, cleaned his ears. He licked his paw and rubbed it over his head. Not too long ago, he’d been inside the chamber with the leaders. The mug had shattered against the floor, startling both Zyhaneve and Tymoss. Tymoss had jumped to Benvle’s lap, but the man had paid him no mind, too numb to be of any use. There was no safety there. The cat jumped to the ground. He hid between the table legs while the leaders sat frozen around him, watching Umard and Haijka. In a moment he saw that the door was unguarded. He dashed for the entry. He reached forward as if to scratch at the wood. It would have been a useless gesture, if only his paw hadn’t gone through. It felt like water, something to be pushed aside. Without thinking, Tymoss continued. He felt no splinters tug at his fur as he passed through the wood. Suddenly he was on the other side, standing on the brick-laid street, the sun high in the sky. Two cats stared at him. He took a step back his tail thumping into the door, unyielding once more.
“What? How did you?” Claire was speechless for once. Her eyes were dilated and wide.
Her stunned expression was amplified on Seal’s face. The gray cat’s fur had fluffed, doubling her size.
“We need to get help,” Tymoss yowled. “Warriors! Where can I find them?! Are there any nearby?”
“There’s a barracks behind the meeting hall.” Claire gasped out.
Tymoss ran for the back of the building. The two she-cats were after him as though he were a mouse. Against the far wall of the small canyon slot, was the other building. This time they got in the barracks by regular means when the door was opened by a human leaving. The man tried to stop them, but they leapt through his hands and legs. With so many cats rushing past, he caught none of them, not knowing which to grab. Once in the corridor Tymoss didn’t know where to go, but he followed the sound of voices until they were loudest. He found the mess hall. The warriors appeared to either be finishing a very late breakfast or starting an early mid-meal. Tymoss leapt onto the nearest table. He yowled a wordless cry, drawing attention.
A sudden silence hushed the chamber. With all eyes on him, Tymoss blurted in Paltan, “Follow me! Your leader is in trouble!” He jumped off the table and rushed to the front door, hoping that was enough to rouse them. A cat speaking human was all it took, it seemed. He could hear the pound and click of nail-cobbled boots behind him as he, Clare, and Seal raced for the entrance. Another lower guard was on his way out. The three cats sped through the entry. Tymoss paused to see if the warriors were on their way out.
“What are you?”
Tymoss turned. Seal was staring at him. Her wide eyed expression hadn’t diminished. Her ears were nearly flat against her skull. It looked as if she expected him to attack at any moment. Tymoss swallowed. He hadn’t expected anyone else to find out about him. After warning the leaders he’d thought, he’d foolishly hoped life might go back to normal. That he’d continue to live in the mansion under the lord’s protection. That forewarned, the Woappin leaders would sent Zyhaneve out of the city as fast as a feather in a whirlwind. With the threat eliminated Tymoss could live in luxury, the lord and lady dealing with the impending threat of the mages.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Tymoss glanced at the doorway where he could see the dark shadows of the warriors through the glass. He wanted to be out of sight before they reached the entry, he looked for something to hide behind or under. The bricks between barracks and meeting hall were barren. They’d have a better chance on the square. He flicked his tail for them to follow.
Seal just stared at him, backing away. Tymoss could smell her fear. “Claire, lets go.”
“Now, Claire! We shouldn’t be here.”
Tymoss paused and watched Claire stare between them. Her ears were half lowered. She wasn’t scared like Seal, but her tail fur was just as on end.
“City Cats must be noticed as little as possible,” Seal hissed in one last attempted. She was backing away as fast as she could. The sounds of the warriors were louder.
Finally she must have realized what Seal was saying because she side-stepped toward the gray she-cat. They were in danger if they stayed with him. They might be labeled as magic if they were seen with him. Or perhaps, more selfishly Seal just wanted Claire to flee with her, terrified of the talking cat. Tymoss hoped it was the first, because he didn’t want Claire to be killed if he was.
“Go,” he whispered. “Bell will want to know, right?”
That seemed to be all she needed. Without a word of farewell, Claire turned, and Seal exploded forward, racing for the other side of the meeting hall. Tymoss darted for the side of the barracks. Around the corner would be good enough protection for now. He made it in time as the glass door opened. The men burst forth, weapons in hand. See no threat outside, the men headed for the meeting hall. The two she-cats may have been spotted, but they weren’t in sight for long. Hopefully they found the nearest alley to hide in.
Tymoss peered from around the corner and watched the flow of men head for the meeting hall. Some entered a door in the back of the hall, while many went around the front. When none were in sight as far as he knew, he made his way to the front of the building. The door was open, the warriors milling about. Tymoss padded between the men’s legs, crouching and dodging feet until he came to the entrance. The Rider and sorcerer were not in sight.
When the lower guard in charge of the operation mentioned him, Tymoss glanced up. He licked his paw, swiping it over his ear as much as to act calm and cat-like, but to sooth his own pounding heart. Here was the moment he’d dreaded. Was he nothing more than a magical creature to be killed or would his effort in trying to save the leaders be rewarded?
“He’s been very useful,” Benvle said reaching down.
Tymoss let himself be picked up. Benvle stroked his head. “He’s not dangerous.”
“That is what you think,” Umard muttered.
“We heard him speak,” the lower guard said. “He—he brought us to you.” The man glanced at his fellow warriors who nodded or muttered agreement. They looked uneasy as if they weren’t sure they had heard the cat talk after all.
“He’s under our protection,” Lady Sylva said. She breathed deeply as if to calm herself. “He might be able to talk, but he’s safe.”
“He’ll help us stop the Rider,” Benvle said.Tymoss felt warmed by the praise. He purred and settled on Benvle’s lap while Umard was forced to explain the situation to the warriors. Rior Umard summoned the troop leaders from the main warriors’ quarters and then he and the lord discussed the Rider and sorcerer with the warriors. In the span between after-mid and evening, a plan developed. Satisfied that the humans were finally heeding his warning, Tymoss curled in Benvle’s arms, listening. His work was done. The humans could take care of everything. He was content enough to let his mind drift while Benvle carried him back to the warriors’ quarters.