I’m not sure why I thought that hugging my shadow was a good idea. I’m not even sure why I thought it was possible. Somehow though it just worked.
One minute I was standing in the entryway of the Miser King’s estate trying to figure out how we were going to make our escape, and then next the giant doors were shattered inwards and a mirror wolf with a shadow on his back was sliding to a stop on the polished granite tiles of the foyer. I glanced up at the familiar canine form and instinct told me to run. Something else in my agreed, except instead of fleeing like a sane person would I ran towards them.
“Oh my god! You made it!” I’d felt my Shadow getting closer, even planned for it, but part of me hadn’t really believed she’d actually get here.
I may have had a, very brief, moment where I had to sniff back a few tears, but in my defense, it had been a really difficult day.
“How are you here?” my Shadow asked. I don’t think shadow’s can cry, but they can definitely be surprised.
Before I spoke, I remembered how she’d run away from me in the first place and I let her go and backed away, not wanting to frighten her off again. Somehow just having her nearby was calming. There was no sense pushing things as far as I could see.
“We got the guards to take off after Sweepy,” I said. “We don’t have that long though before they’re back.”
“Where are the others?” my Shadow asked.
“Back in the garden prison,” I said. “Follow me and I’ll explain.”
The mirror wolf nodded.
“Lead on little witch,” he said. “Unless you would betray me again?”
“Betray you?” I asked. “You were the one that let me fall off a bridge! You’re fast, and you were right beside me! Why didn’t you grab me before I fell!”
“You spooked like a rabbit,” Wolf said, sounding oddly sheepish.
“And you can’t catch rabbits?” I asked.
“I didn’t think you would like being caught like a rabbit,” Wolf said.
I shook my head and started walking back to the garden prison.
“I wasn’t going to like falling into a bottomless pit either,” I said.
“It’s not bottomless,” Wolf said. “Far below the starlight realms, you would have reached the Demon Webs.”
“Those sound friendly,” my Shadow said.
“They’re not,” a new arrival said. He was a black guy with a linebacker’s build and a somewhat battered set of strangely ornate formal wear. His expression wasn’t exactly a happy one, but something about it was reassuring rather than fear-inducing.
“I told you I’d lead you to her Inspector Brooks,” my Shadow said. She sounded pleased with herself in exactly the tone of voice that told me Inspector Brooks’ scowl was mostly directed towards her.
“And so you have,” Brooks said. “Which means this is the part where I’m supposed to arrest all of you.”
I froze. I had no desire whatsoever to be locked up again, but something about Inspector Brooks suggested that I would have a hard time outrunning him.
Behind the Inspector, and noticeably more out of breath, a boy arrived at the shattered frame of the door.
“The grounds look clear Inspector,” Ulwin said. “I don’t understand why though.”
“That is very odd,” Brooks said. “But I’m willing to bet our friendly witch here had something to do with it.”
I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I’d managed to clear away the estate’s defenders from Brooks’ point of view, but I was keenly aware of the limited time that the guards were going to remain away.
“We need to leave before they come back,” I said. I noticed as I spoke that I didn’t feel the odd compulsion I’d been under to tell the truth and to speak it immediately.
“That we agree on,” Brooks said.
“We can’t go yet though,” my Shadow said.
“You’re not leading me on any more chases young lady,” Brooks said.
“No, she’s right. We still have to get September and Rosie and Sweepy!” I said. “Come on!”
I set off at a run towards the garden prison. Neither Wolf nor Brooks had any trouble keeping up with me but poor Ulwin lagged behind pretty quickly.
“So why are there no guards here?” Brooks asked, jogging beside me.
“We pretended to escape and Mortimer ordered all of them to chase us,” I said.
“Who’s Mortimer?” my Shadow asked.
“The head guard,” I said.
“And why did the head guard help you?” Brooks asked.
“Because he’s been magical bound by the Miser King,” I said.
“That doesn’t seem like a very good magical binding,” my Shadow said.
“He can’t act against the Miser King,” I said. “But there’s nothing stopping him from not acting at all.”
“Where is this Mortimer?” Brooks asked.
“He’s tied up in the garden prison,” I said.
“You tied him up?” Brooks asked.
“It was his idea,” I said. “But I don’t think we should leave him here. If the Miser King gets back and finds out what Mortimer did, he’ll chop Morty to bits.”
We arrived at the garden prison just in time for Morty to hear the last thing bit of what I was saying.
“I’m not a fan of being chopped to bits,” the bat man said.
“Penny! You found them!” Rosie said. She was climbing up onto Sweepy as we got into the room.
“Yep, and now we all need to leave!” I said. “Is Sweepy ready for another rocket flight?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Brooks said and with a snap of his fingers all of us, Morty included were standing in a fairly untidy office.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Back in the Goblin Deeps,” my Shadow said. “Oh and don’t try to leave, Brooks likes to electrocute people.”
“Now Miss Penny I believe it was?” Brooks said. “I’m going to need you to tell me everything that has happened to you today, starting with the part where you let your Shadow roam loose and without boundaries and ending with everything that the Miser King told you about his plans. Oh, and before you try, believe me that I will know if you lie.”