i_love_freddie: (Freddie)
[personal profile] i_love_freddie
“Cory?” Phellan called, as he watched his friend anxiously. “Are you okay?”

The young assassin nodded tensely, his concentration focused on easing his way across the rooftop. He was comfortable with heights, for his training had involved scaling high objects and working off the ground. Unfortunately it had been raining and the tiles were wet and slippery, so it was a struggle to keep his balance. Nonetheless Cory persisted, slowly getting closer and closer to the nervous cat, which sat perched on a nearby chimney watching him out of green eyes.

Just as he got close enough to grab at it, the beast took a flying leap, landed on a nearby wall, and jumped down into the street.

Cory cursed loudly.

*****

It had all started very early that morning. Cory had woken before sunrise and hadn't been able to fall back to sleep, so he had decided to take a walk around the city. Of course, Phellan had heard him go and immediately followed him.

The city was never silent, day or night, but those early morning hours were usually the most peaceful. The thieves and the prostitutes had finished their business and retired. Most citizens were still asleep. The taverns were mostly silent. Mostly it was just the market traders who liked to set up early, and the fishermen and the sailors who came in from the docks after a night at sea. So Cory enjoyed strolling around quietly, lost in his own thoughts or answering Phellan's many questions.

Walking in the alley behind the marketplace, Cory didn't see the little girl until he almost tripped over her. She couldn't have been more than six or seven years of age. She was wearing a pink dress and leather sandals on her feet, and her long blonde hair was pulled back into pigtails. The reason he didn't see her was because she was sitting on the dusty ground crying.

Immediately concerned, Cory knelt beside her. “Hey kid,” he said calmly. “Are you okay? You should be home in bed – won't your parents be worried about you?”

She looked up at him, her blue eyes shining with tears. “I've lost my kitty. She ran away, and now she's lost and I can't find her. She'll be so scared all alone.”

“Look, what's your name?”

“Elvira,” she sniffed and wiped her eyes. “Kitty is called Serenity. She has never been to the city before.”

“That's a pretty name. I'm Cory and this is Phellan. Would you like us to help you find your little cat?”

The girl looked up at him hopefully, “Can you do that?”

Cory smiled at her. “Sure we can. Phellan here has the best nose in the city. Do you have a toy or a collar or something that has your cat's scent on it?”

Elvira opened her hand to reveal that she was clutching a little blue collar with a bell on it. “Kitty dropped this when she ran off. I hope she is all right.”

“You just stay here, and we'll be right back.” Taking the collar from her, Cory held it out to Phellan. “Can you track it down?”

The wolf-man nodded and took off like a shot. Cory smiled at the little girl and ran off after him.

*****

After chasing the cat down from the rooftop, the two friends followed it to the marketplace. It was attracted by the fish stall, and they attempted to corner the creature there. Unfortunately it was too quick for them. Grabbing a piece of fish, it bolted into a back street. Phellan, unable to slow down, crashed right into the stall, sending bits of fish and plates flying all over the street. Cory fell over him, knocking over a pile of crates. The stallholders shouted at them as they picked themselves up and fled the scene.

Having sensed a rat, the cat gave chase, leaping over the boxes of rubbish that had been left outside all night. Phellan tried to avoid it too but his frame was too bulky and he didn't have the graceful movements of a cat, so some mess was unavoidable. Unfortunately he was so intent on chasing the cat that he failed to notice that his tail was sweeping the rubbish up and throwing it everywhere. Cory was just grateful that his training had taught him to be quick on his feet, for he had to duck his head and twist his body to avoid getting hit by it.

As the cat leapt over a wall, Phellan bounced upwards and finally succeeded in catching hold of its tail. The creature – a beautiful, sleek animal with markings of black and white – struggled and hissed, but the wolf-man managed to hang on until Cory caught up with them.

“Serenity seems like a very odd name for this cat,” the half-elf commented, as he picked her up and received a swipe on the cheek from a very sharp claw. “I think it is supposed to mean calm, peaceful – and this thing doesn't fit that description in the slightest.”

“I don't like that cat,” Phellan eyed the animal warily. “It scratched me. I don't think it wants to be friends.”

“No, I don't think it does.” Cory finally managed to restrain the fighting cat by wrapping it up in his cloak. “Still, the kid should be happy to have her back.”

*****

Little Elvira was waiting just where they left her. She had stopped crying, and was instead focused on playing some kind of skipping game using the cracks in the cobblestones.

“You found kitty!” she cried as Cory released the cat from his cloak. “Oh thank you, she must have been so scared, lost in this big city all alone.”

“I think she can take care of herself,” Phellan muttered, licking his scratch wound.

“Thank you for helping me. I don't have anything to give you, but you can keep kitty's collar.” Happily she scooped the cat up in her arms. “Come here, Serenity, you bad kitty! It is time to go home, this plane is too dangerous for you.”

As the animal rested contentedly in her arms, the little girl began to change. She grew taller, her features became twisted and deformed, her skin turned yellow and leathery. Her hands turned to claws while her legs fused together into a tail. A ball of light appeared, shimmering and growing until it became a door-like shape. Without a backwards glance, Elvira stepped through and the portal closed behind her with a faint whistling sound. Cory and Phellan were left frozen to the spot, unable to believe what they had just witnessed. Cory spoke first, in a strained voice that did not sound like him at all.

“Did I just imagine...?”

“No.”

“Did you see...?”

“Yes.”

Cory looked at Phellan. Phellan looked at Cory. Without another word, they turned on their heels and fled.
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