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Cats and Rivers: Chapter EighteenCATS AND RIVERSChapter EighteenThe colossal stone hand, even partially covered in vines, creepers and growth as it rested in the underbrush among the trees by the riverbank, was kind of hard to miss. It was lying palm-upward, its fingers open and the stone deeply weather and cracked. Garadun, ever on the alert for possible danger, had been the first to spot it. Almost a week had passed since the Queen's minions had left Arborea and this was the most interesting thing they'd seen since then. "Would you look at that," said Garadun, standing and pointing. "There's something you don't see every day," Lilyglade remarked. Shilling miaowed cheerfully, wanting to contribute. "It must have been part of a freaking huge statue." Garadun quickly turned the boat towards shore. It didn't take him long to bring them close to the riverbank, and Lilyglade flew off to investigate the giant hand. Meanwhile, he came alongside t
Cats and Rivers: Chapter SeventeenCATS AND RIVERSChapter SeventeenThe rolling, crack-bam-badaboom of thunder was the herald of the oncoming tempest, and it came without any warning at all. One moment the sky was clear and the breeze light, and the next there were dark, sinister clouds pouring in from all directions and the wind was gusting fiercely. Rain lashed down, and when drops hit hands or face, they stung. It wasn't quite full-on hail but there were icy particles in the water. The wind howled, whipping the leaves and branches of the trees, and as Garadun frantically tried to make for shore he thought he might've heard the faint cry of fell voices on the air as well. Frightened and wet, little Shilling clawed her way up his chest and scrambled into the safety of his pocket. Thunder cracked and boomed again, and the darkened sky was lit up brilliantly for a second by a screaming bolt of purplish lightning that struck one of the forest's mighty trees and blew off a huge upper section.&
Cats and Rivers: Chapter SixteenCATS AND RIVERSChapter SixteenWaking up at dawn hadn't been much of a problem because, like Garadun's last trip to Elysium, the birds of Arborea decided to crank up the volume at first light and start tweeting their damned heads off. Shilling was able to sleep through it, but he wasn't. Cursing the entire lot of feathery gits, he pulled on his boots, unsealed the tent flap and crawled outside. Apart from the stupid birds there didn't seem to be anything else around. He took care of nature, went down to the river for a quick wash (he was glad to see the boat was right where he'd left it) and then came back and eradicated the fire pit as best he could, tossing the stones onto the beach and covering the ashes. You couldn't predict what the forest spirits might consider offensive. He put the gear in the boat and then crawled inside the tent to wake Shilling. His kitten yawned hugely, then gave a little mew and started purring. She always wanted a
Cats and Rivers: Chapter FifteenCATS AND RIVERSChapter FifteenIt wasn't an easy thing to do, leaving a candle in the window, but Ceraline had promised herself that she'd light one every night and place it in Garadun's bedroom window in the hope that he would somehow see it and find his way home. She stared out on Actual Alley below and the rain coming down, and sighed. It seemed like forever since Garadun and Shilling had been lost in Ysgard. The search along the River Sylgir had turned up nothing, and when they'd stopped at the small town of Langihýsvik and asked around, no-one had seen him. Flatnose Grim had decided to turn back at that point. If Garadun and Shilling hadn't drowned, then they would have made it to the town. Even if for some reason Garadun had decided to keep going, the townsfolk would have seen him. If they were alive, as Ceraline and Laurewen insisted, then the Watergate hadn't sent them to the River Sylgir. He couldn't afford the time to start searching the two other
Cats and Rivers: Chapter FourteenCATS AND RIVERSChapter FourteenWaking up in a strange bed can always be a little disorientating, and it took a moment or two as he cleared the cobwebs for Garadun to remember where he was. Shilling was still asleep on the pillow next to his, curled up and looking incredibly cute.† † He lay there for a time, slowly becoming fully awake and letting his eyes wander idly around the room. Then he carefully pulled the covers back and swung his legs out of bed and sat up. The house was quiet. He sat there, staring at the wall without really looking at it, and ran things through his mind. He was the proverbial stranger in a strange land, and had only his wits to keep him and his kitten alive.† † Going on short trips to gate towns was so routine as not to even be considered. As for spending a day or two in somewhere like Elysium, where you knew where the gate was, well that was simply a holiday in his mind. So was walking across some of the Outlands with your friends, when you
Cats and Rivers: Chapter ThirteenCATS AND RIVERSChapter ThirteenCeraline stood near the prow of the longship, her hands gripping the gunwale tightly as they got underway. Laurewen leaned on the ship beside her, feeling equally anxious. Behind them sat twenty of Glorium's fighting men, lined up on the benches with oars in hand. Thorik stood beside Flatnose Grim near the till, as did Gungnir. The longship, Sleipnir's Foal, had a noble horse's head on the prow and was a magnificent vessel, built for Grim by the Freki twins, the finest shipbuilders in Glorium. The ships they created were twice as strong as any normal craft and were of course more expensive. But Flatnose Grim believed in the idea of you got what you paid for, and when he sailed the waters of the planes he wanted only the best. The men rowed powerfully and in perfect unison, as any crew that has served together for years should. Flatnose Grim only had to give them short, brief commands now and then. The sai
Cats and Rivers: Chapter TwelveCATS AND RIVERSChapter TwelveFlatnose Grim kicked open the door of Hoskuld's simple longhouse and stepped inside, closely followed by his dog. He was a big animal and in truth part wolf. His name was Gungnir, in honour of Odin's spear, and had been Grim's loyal companion for ten years, ever since he was a cute little pup gnawing on Kostbera's best shoes. People said his nose was so good that he could smell what colour a man's clothes were from half a mile away and was so tough that he had a horseshoe for a chew toy.† † People said a lot of things in Glorium, often exaggerating, but they weren't too far off when it came to Gungnir. He did have an exceptionally keen sense of smell and was a fearless scrapper who'd fight anything. But he was also a good dog who would never bite anyone without cause and had a soft spot for kids.† † But standing there in the middle of the longhouse, Grim didn't need his dog's nose to tell him Hoskuld was gone. Flatnose Grim was the best ra
Cats and Rivers: Chapter ElevenCATS AND RIVERSChapter ElevenTwo nights later they were still alone on the river. Garadun had brought the boat into shore on the first night and made camp, setting up the tent and getting a fire going. He had chosen a landing near where a small forest met the riverbank, using the trees as shelter and to help block the light of his fire. Ysgard wasn't horrifically deadly the way the Abyss or Baator were, but it wasn't entirely safe either. There were wild beasts and a few monsters, as well as the occasional wandering giant. But he took the risk of a fire because he wanted a hot meal and the comfort heat and light a campfire provided. He was on his own in the wilds of Ysgard but was determined to make the best of things. Shilling had no such worries. She was with her daddy on what for her was a big adventure and he was there to protect her. Keep her warm and dry with a full tummy and she was a happy cat. The night passed without incident.
Cats and Rivers: Chapter TenCATS AND RIVERSChapter TenLaurewen came downstairs into the kitchen the following morning to find, as was so often the case, breakfast laid out on the table. Shilling looked up from where she was drinking from her bowl, miaowed in greeting, and then resumed lapping up her milk. Garadun was at the stove flipping pancakes. "There's some scrambled eggs and toast for you," he said, glancing over his shoulder. "As well as bacon. Cera's pancakes are almost ready." "All this, and after the night we had." Laurewen sat down with a sigh. "You really don't have to go to all the trouble, you know." Garadun shrugged and went to the pantry to fetch maple syrup. He put it on the table and poured Laurewen a tall glass of orange juice. What he'd prepared for her was her favourite breakfast; the coconut pancakes were Ceraline's. "You okay, love?" she asked in concern. "I'm fine." Laurewen could see he did