As safe spots to rest and spend time considering a reasonable next course of action went, floating on Sweepy in the middle of the Great Pit of the Goblin Deeps was rather low on the list.
“We’re starting to attract attention,” Rosie said and pointed towards the nearest wall.
There were houses attached to the surface but they stuck out with their top pointing into the pit. In several of the windows and along the roads that wound between them I saw goblins who were no longer going about their business. Instead they were looking up, or I guess across, at us. It was like gravity was working at a different angle on them and their “down” was pointing towards the wall, rather than towards the bottom of the pit like it was for us.
“Can you take us further down?” I asked. I couldn’t tell where my Shadow was any more but I still had a sense of where she’d been.
“Yeah, maybe Sweepy can do something to hide us too,” Rosie said.
She reached back and ruffled the straw that formed the broom end of Sweepy’s body.
“I know you’ve got a whole bunch of tricks you can do right?” Rosie asked Sweepy.
A tremor ran through the broom that felt like a giant purr. A moment later there was a loud “fwoomp” noise and we were surrounded by a vast cloud of dust. In the center of the cloud, right where we were floating the air was clear but otherwise the view of us seemed to be blocked from all angles.
“Going down,” Rosie said and directed Sweepy to swirl out into the dust below us.
We exited the cloud no more than ten seconds later, but at the speed we were moving that meant that we were nowhere near the goblins who’d seen us.
“I think she was over there,” I said, pointing down a little bit further towards a collection of low buildings that were clustered around a much taller one with a golden cage perched atop it.
Rosie guided us closer and I saw the streets around the golden cage building were deserted. That was a win in my book. No goblins meant no guards to catch us again.
Except of course the guards had been able to turn invisible. My concern for my Shadow had helped me block out just how much danger I’d walked us into. For a brief moment, I wanted the wolf back. For as scary as he’d been, he at least knew this place and understood it rules. I was leading us in totally blind to the things that could go wrong.
In retrospect, I saw what I should have done with what felt like perfect clarity. I should have had the wolf lead us to Grandma Apple’s place. She could have made sure he wasn’t going to eat us and she would know how to get my Shadow back.
As is usual with hindsight though, it didn’t help me in the slightest to think about that. Grandma Apples was a world away, or maybe farther. My wolf was still with the goblin guards who arrested us and my Shadow was missing. The last thing that I wanted to do was to risk meeting anyone else in the Goblin Deeps, but what I wanted and what I had to do were two different things.
“Take us down at the back of the big tower,” I said. “Maybe we can find some clue to where my Shadow is there.”
“Are you sure? It’s pretty dark down there,” Rosie said.
“I know, maybe that will hide us better,” I said.
“Assuming they can’t see in the dark,” Rosie said and starting flying us over to the side of the pit.
There was a weird moment when we passed some unseen boundary and gravity shifted on us. I felt like I was going to tumble off into the abyss below us, but between Rosie’s grip and Sweepy’s grace I avoided that long and unpleasant fall.
We touched down in a narrow alley between the brick backside of the “Gilded Nail” and the bleached wooden backside of a small house that didn’t seem to be occupied by anyone.
“This is not a good place,” September whispered.
“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking of hundreds of different options for how it could be bad.
“It smells wrong,” September said. “There’s danger here.”
“To us specifically or in general?” Rosie asked.
“In general,” September said. “It smells like despair here.”
“How did Shadow wind up here?” I wasn’t so much questioning that as complaining about it. When we parted, Shadow had seemed overjoyed. I couldn’t figure how she’d been caught in a literal pit like this just a few hours later.
“Better question, why isn’t she still here?” Rosie asked.
“She was captured, but from what I can tell that happened a while ago,” I said. “Something changed just as we were coming down here.”
“Someone’s trying to hide her from us?” Rosie asked.
“I know what he looks like if that’s the case,” I said.
“How?” Rosie asked.
“While I was falling I was able to look through her eyes,” I said. “I saw the guy who took her away.”
“Should we try that again then?” Rosie asked. “Maybe you can get a bead on her if we drop you?”
“No chance,” I said. “The fall was bad enough the first time, and I don’t think that triggered it. I think she was pushing her vision over to me if that makes sense.”
“Yes, it does,” September said. “I think that’s something witches can do. And familiars too.”
“You could let me see what you see?” I asked as an idea sparked to life.
“I think so, but I haven’t tried it yet,” September said. I saw a look of concentration pass over his kitty face and jerked in surprise as I found myself looking out through his eyes. He blinked and a moment later I was looking out from my normal eyes.
“That’s incredible!” I had to fight to keep my voice down. “Try it again!”
This time there wasn’t any shock at all. In between blinks my vision shifted over to September and then back again. It was as easy to control as focusing on something far away or close by as long as we were both open to it.
“I have an idea how we can make this work,” I said.
“You’re going to send September to spy for us?” Rosie said, guessing at my plan. “Can he do that?”
“What? No, I’m not going ask September to go out there! He’s just a little guy,” I said. “I’m going to check things out and let September see what I’m seeing. That way none of the rest of you need to get in trouble.”
“But you can’t go in there alone!” Rosie said.
“I won’t be alone!” I said. “I’ll have you for backup.”
“I don’t like this,” Rosie said.
“I know, but if something does go wrong, someone has to get back to Grandma Apples and get her help in straightening this out,” I said.
“And leave you here?” Rosie asked.
“I’d rather be here and know that you were out there and getting help than be together but with all of us in some goblin prison,” I said.
“I can’t leave you here,” Rosie said. “I mean that literally, I can’t walk through mirrors. How would I get out if you were caught?”
“My Shadow got in here somehow,” I said. “Do you know a regular path that leads out of the Goblin Deeps Sweepy?”
The broom bobbed in the affirmative.
“Good then that’s settled,” I said. “I’m going to go ask the people what happened to my Shadow. If anything bad happens…”
Rosie cut me off.
“We know exactly what we’ll do in that case.”
She and September exchanged a look that I couldn’t read, but I could tell they were in agreement on whatever it was.