Maybe it was because of their reduced height and slight builds, but being surrounded by a troop of clearly inhuman goblins didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Being arrested by them was quite a bit less fun, of course, but they were casual enough about it that I didn’t even feel like we were in all that much trouble.
Or at least not as much trouble as I was in for losing my shadow. I didn’t think she was in immediate danger, but she was definitely miserable and I had a growing sense of uncertainty and concern over what was going to happen to her.
I’d thought that because she was a shadow, she wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Nothing should have been able to touch her. In the normal world, I was probably right, but as I watched a crew of goblins in overalls marching straight down the wall of the pit without any support it sank in that this wasn’t the normal world at all.
I was congratulating myself on accepting that insight and being ready to understand the Goblin Deeps on their own terms when someone I couldn’t see whispered right in my ear.
“They’re going to be surprised to find out otherwise,” the unkind voice said in response to the Goblins claiming that no one could out sneak them.
In my defense, I’d had an amazingly scary day up until that point. So what happened next wasn’t really my fault.
What I meant to do, as much as a reflex action can have a “meant to do”, was to flinch away from the sound and throw my hands out to push whoever was near me away. What I hadn’t accounted for was the surge of strength that a burst of fear can imbue you with. Or how close we were to the railing-free edge of the great road that led down into the bottomless pit of the Deeps.
I’d like to point out how ridiculous that was too. The Great Road is enormously wide. There was no reason we had to march near the edge of it. It was poor planning on the goblin’s part and so, if anything, they’re the ones who deserve the blame.
Some very aggravated part of my mind made it a point to jot down that note as my startled leap carried me gracefully up and over the edge of the Great Road.
I had just enough time to start screaming before gravity took hold of me and decided to show me why people like free fall.
As I plummeted away from the road I heard shouts, which were easy to explain, and the clang of steel on steel which was less explicable.
What was weirder though, was feeling like I was blacking out only to open my eyes and find that I was seeing things from Shadow Penny’s point of view.
She was in distress, terrified, and out of ideas for what to do. With no one else left to turn to, she at least wanted me to see the person who was taking her away.
Given my own situation, that struck me as hysterically funny. Poor Shadow, I had bad luck but hers was truly terrible, especially if she needed me to bail her out.
With nothing else to do though, I studied the face of the man she was looking at. Dark skin, short hair, heavy muscles, thick eyebrows, wide lips, crooked nose, powerful neck. I tried to commit all of the details to memory so I could describe him if I needed to. It also helped take my mind off my own predicament.
Too soon the distraction was done though and I felt Shadow Penny’s focus lessen which snapped me back to my own body. The Goblin Deeps looked endless, so I expected I’d still be falling, maybe even forever, and as far as I could see that turned out to be correct.
What I hadn’t expected was to see September falling beside me.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You jumped, so I followed.” he said.
“What are we going to do!” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I thought you’d work something out.”
There are times when people trusting you can be a awful thing.
“I think we’re going to go splat!” I said.
“I don’t like that plan!” September and reached out to cling to me..
I wasn’t fond of it either, but my mind was a blank, frozen wasteland.
Looking up at the Great Road far above us, I saw another tiny speck go over the edge. Less than a second later I felt a great blast of wind as Sweepy flashed past me in a mad dive. I was falling one moment and in the next I felt Rosie’s hands clamp onto me and pull me to a soft landing on Sweepy’s back.
I looked for September and found him sitting at the front of broom, calm and poised like he’d been there the whole time. Typical cat.
“Please don’t do that again!” Rosie said. Her breath was rapid and her grip was like a vise. I sometimes forget the upper body strength she has from wheeling herself around everywhere, and she was squeezing my arms so tightly I think she’d forgotten too.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I freaked out! Did you see anyone up there?”
“No, but I think the goblins did,” Rosie said. “As soon as you jumped, they pulled their weapons out and started fighting…something.”
“There was someone else up there,” I said. “They were like a half inch away from me!”
“We probably want to keep going then,” Rosie said. “The goblins won’t be happy if they catch us again, and invisible people are definitely out of our league.”
“Yeah, and my shadows in trouble too,” I said. “Someone’s moving her!”
“Could this day get any weirder?” Rosie asked.
“It’s not good to ask questions like that,” September said.
“You’re right,” Rosie said. “So where do we go?”
I tried to focus on where my shadow was. Since we’d come to the Goblin Deeps, I’d had a much clearer idea of her position relative to my own, but this time when I reached out to her, something was different.
I could feel her presence, she was still alive and confused and scared, but I had no idea where she was!