I’d never had a cat sit on my shoulders before. By all rights, it should have been really uncomfortable. I mean there’s the claws to think about if nothing else. Having September perched beside my left ear though wasn’t weird at all. It felt like a missing part of me had been reattached.
“Will you be ok up there?” I asked him, wondering how he was able to perch so easily.
“I feel safe here,” September said and coiled himself in a small ball of anticipation.
The mirror world version of the Miser King’s castle wasn’t the sort of place that promoted feelings of safety. It especially didn’t feel safe to be sneaking in there without an army at my back, but somehow having September on my shoulder made me feel a little safer even without a horde of Marines behind me.
“Will Penny be okay without you?” I asked. It felt a little greedy to steal September from my witch, but it had been his idea and she hadn’t objected to it, so I wasn’t actually going to complain.
“I’ll keep you safe,” September whispered, drawing himself up into a readied ball of anticipation as I crept to the edge of the shadows that hid us from the people in the castle.
We were still in the mirror realm, my home turf, so there were only a few people wandering around in the reflection of the castle, but seeing even one of them was enough to make me nervous. Reflections are never exactly the thing that they mirror. We’re usually distorted or twisted a bit. Sometimes the changes are almost imperceptible, other times they’re comical. The creatures in the Miser King’s palace didn’t seem to fall in either category though. They belonged to the third folder, labeled “Nightmarish”.
Oddly those weren’t what worried me the most though. The real trouble came from the things that clearly weren’t reflections. I knew there were dangerous creatures in all worlds, even within the mirror world and even for me. What I didn’t know was exactly what sort of things a sapient blob of inky blue darkness could do. I did however have someone I could check with.
“What are those things?” I asked September.
“Shadow Snatchers,” he said.
“Do they steal your shadow?” I asked, worried about what that might mean under the present circumstances.
“No,” Septemeber said. “They’re shadows who snatch you up and take you back to their dark lairs.”
“Dark lairs where no reflections are cast?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “It’s not good for mirror people to be in places like that for too long.”
In an area without light, I become invisible, but since my whole being exists to be viewed that sounded like a particularly horrible trap to leave for mirror folk.
“Let’s avoid getting caught by those things, shall we?” I said.
“You have good plans,” September said. “I like them.”
From the edge of our safe space, I watched the mirror world sentries of the Miser King’s castle and waited for an opening to sneak closer.
It was an easier task than it sounded like it would be. The reflection of the castle sat alone on wide open plain of broken rocks and lava flows. The castle itself wobbled and morphed slightly since the only mirrors the reflect could draw its surface details from were the polished faces of the black rocks that surrounded it. The spikes on the top of the castles thirty foot high walls were serrated and coated in pitch and it’s gates were like maws of metal teeth just waiting to consume the unwelcome. None of those were active threats though and none of them could see me when I started sneaking across fields towards the small side gate which had been left open when Mulgrave brought my classmates inside.
It wasn’t a mistake that they’d left the side gate open from what I could see. The main gate was so big, and nasty and well defended that it looked like it would be a monumental effort to get it to move. Having a giant house that no one can get into is all well and good, but that does tend to make it just a little bit less useful as an actual place to do things.
“I’ll show you where to go,” September said, and hopped off of my shoulder.
I followed him across the field of rocks, hopping and skipping to keep up with his bounding movement. I was barely able to watch where my feet were going but he was able to not only pick out a safe path, but keep an eye on the windows of the castle and freeze in place whenever anyone came near. We didn’t have any cover on the rock field, but just being still was enough to avoid attracting attention until we reached the wall.
“We’ve almost made it!” I whispered. Atop the castle wall, torches of green and orange flames burned and below me I saw the weird puddle of shadow formed by the strange light.
“Made it right into our trap ya did!”
I looked behind me and saw a man made entirely out of the black rock that surrounded the castle rising to his feet. Beside him four other rockmen were getting up too.
“Run!” I said and dashed for the door with Septemeber leading me by a few feet.
The door guard in the mirror world was alert enough to come to attention, but not quite quick enough to stop us from getting through the gate. That wasn’t a big deal from his perspective though. He was able to slam the door after we entered and the rock men followed, thereby trapping us in the castle with no chance of getting out.
In the end, September and I lead them on a pretty good chase. It was a good fifteen minutes before they finally managed to corner us in one of the halls and grab the two of us before we could get away. I felt good that I’d managed to reach through into the regular world and break a bunch of things that I’m sure the Miser King would be irritated to have to replace. Even better than that though, I had to cheer because with my capture we had the Miser King’s forces right where we wanted them.