September wasn’t happy that we walked through a river, even though the water wasn’t wet. I have to say I wasn’t thrilled with the experience either, but getting out of the mirrorland and back to somewhere solid was worth dealing with water that didn’t feel like any liquid I’d ever touched before. For as terrifying as the mirrorland was though, I started questioning if the Goblin Deeps were any better the moment we stepped out of the fog that surrounded the river and saw the vast city descending before us.
I felt the hairs on my neck and arms rise up in awe as the sheer scale of what lay before us swept my breath away. I thought we were heading to a little village nestled under the earth somewhere. What I saw instead was something that seemed to plunge down to the heart of the world. To their credit, the Goblin Deeps weren’t as dark as I imagined they would be though. Lights of all colors and size hung at thousands, or maybe millions, of irregular positions. Together, they illuminated a giant cavern in the center of which there was a pit which lead down at least a mile before mists obscured its true depth.
In the mirror realm, I’d seen a vision of the Earth turned upside down and looking down at the giant city it felt like that vision had come to life. The difference here was that I couldn’t walk past this vision and see another. This was my destination and I had to find my shadow wherever she was far below.
Looking at the descent into the pit, I was able to pick out details one by one. There were a few houses and odd, ramshackle dwellings on the top of pit, for example. Most were free standing but where tunnels ran into the giant cavern denser clusters of the odd buildings had been constructed. That meant there were people even up here, maybe ones who could show up where we needed to go.
Below the downward sloping expanse the houses sat on there was the pit. I didn’t have a ruler handy to tell how wide it was but a huge central road spiraled down into it and the part of the road near us looked like it was as broad as a four lane highway. Only without the guard rails. Because those probably aren’t needed on a spiral road over a bottomless pit.
For a moment my mind played out a scene wherein someone would intentionally leap off the road, run down the walls and have something like a super magical kung-fu battle the entire way down to the bottom. The crazy part of my brain urged me to give it a try but the sane part of me remembered something important; I’m brand new to any kind of magic, running down the walls would mean I’d need to figure out how to get back up them (assuming I miraculously survived the fall), oh and most importantly, I don’t know Super Kung Fu.
I could forgive myself for being a little crazy though. I’d walked through a mirror and wound up in a place that couldn’t possibly be a part of my world. Being knocked a little off balance by the alienness of it all seemed kind of appropriate.
“The Deeps smell as I remember them,” the wolf by my side said. “It’s been so long, I didn’t imagine that they would.”
All I smelled was fire and meat mingling with the watery scent of the mist behind us.
“We upheld our part of the bargain,” I said, and watched the not-at-all tame creature turn his head towards me.
Leaving the mirror realm hadn’t restored his eyesight, but with the distance between us that didn’t really matter.
“As have I,” the wolf said. “And here our paths part.”
“No, you’ll be heading to the same lockup,” said a green skinned man just a bit shorter than me. He stepped out of a shadow no more than ten feet away from where I was. I watched as a trio of other small people did the same.
“These the ones we’re looking for?” asked a grey skinned woman, about the same height as the man.
“Two witches and a Mirror Lost?”the green skinned man said. “Nah, these are just some interlopers who were looking to sneak in where they don’t belong.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“If you were supposed to be here, you’d know the answer to that question,” the man said. “Seveth Brass with the Deep Watch and you’re coming with us.”
I heard a low growl fill the wolf’s chest and Sweepy floated back and up a few inches, buying room to maneuver if flight was necessary.
“We weren’t looking to sneak in anywhere,” I said.
“Then where’s your invitation?” Seveth asked.
“We’re not within the pit,” the wolf said. “You have no authority here on the border Watchman.”
“You’re working off old laws,” Seveth said. “We’ve expanded the border, and the Watch has authority everywhere now.”
“How would we get an invitation?” September asked before the wolf could growl any deeper.
“Takes a pile of coins and the proper time so that we can check your background out,” Seveth said.
“Is there any chance we could get a temporary invitation?” I asked. “I only need to get back something that’s missing and then we can leave.”
“Oh you’re not leaving until we’re good and ready to let you,” Seveth said.
And that was how I got arrested on my first full day as a witch.
Seveth and his patrol escorted us down the wide path into the pit. The wolf didn’t seem at all happy about that but even he kept his distance from the spears they carried that flashed with sparks of red and blue.
“What are we going to do?” Rosie asked as we marched along behind Seveth.
Sweepy looked eager to fly away but since Rosie wasn’t willing to leave me, the flying broom stayed close as well.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe they’ll let us call someone and I can see if Grandma Apples can help us?”
I was scared out of my mind about being dragged into a goblin jail, but I was distracted too. I had such a clear sense of where my shadow was, and Seveth and his people were walking us closer and closer to her.
“So all those reports of strange creatures on the border and all we found are these little things?” Celoph, the grey skinned goblin woman, said.
“Something’s out there alright,” Seveth said.
“I’ve patrolled the border for three days now and I’ve seen nothing,” Celoph said.
“That just means they’re very good at hiding,” Seveth said.
“No one’s that good,” Celoph said.
“They’re going to be surprised to find out otherwise,” someone whispered in my ear. They didn’t sound friendly and they didn’t sound kind but they did sound like they were having fun.
I don’t know which of those scared me most.