TO THE GROUND
Khamet stood in the small enclosed space with his eyes blazing in shock, “What was that?”
“Well,” the Roadscholar said as calmly as possible. “Obviously they still work though they may have lost some of their potency.” He looked the cat over. “I dare say we are both lucky.”
“What was all that?”
“Some of these make you larger and some smaller.” The Roadscholar explained.
“Okay, then which did what?”
“Well,” The Roadscholar stared into his at his hand and frowned. “I’m not certain.”
Khamet made a face.
“We need to be careful because if you get too big, well you can imagine. But if you get too small then…” he paused.
“Ok so let’s take it slow. Stick out your tongue.”
Khamet did as he was instructed and the Roadscholar selected a single piece and touched it too his tongue quickly and stepped back. They both waited several moments before the tickling sensation came again and Khamet suddenly imploded with a muffled pop and he shrunk several inches.
“Excellent! Okay now we are getting somewhere. This is a cookey.” The Roadscholar put the rest back. “Okay here you go, just a bit more.”
They did it three more times until a large portion of Khamet’s claws were able to sink into the smooth barkless tree and he could get a good grip. He was less than half his original size and the Roadscholar could now hold him in the palm of his hand.
“You are going to be the first one to make it out of here. If you could see your way clear to finding some help for me as well I would most sincerely appreciate it.” The Roadscholar said.
“I have no idea where I am or what I will be able to do, but I promise I will find a way to get you out of here,” Khamet said and suddenly thought of Chione and the baboon’s parting scream.
“Keep this with you. The effects shouldn’t wear off for several hours, but if you feel yourself growing larger then take a small nibble.”
Khamet slipped the piece of cookey between the toes of one of his front paws to hold it. Then he stepped into the Roadscholars hand. The Roadscholar leaned into the hole and stretched his long arm down the side of the tree as far as he could and waited until the cat had a good hold before releasing it.
“Take it slowly and be careful.” The Roadscholar called from the hole. He watched as Khamet began making his way down. “You’re doing great!”
Khamet climbed backwards with no problem. He had decided from the beginning he was not going to look down and tried not to think about it. From the hole he couldn’t even see the ground and had no idea how high he was. It was a far easier climb than any he had done in his life. His claws were so small and sharp that when he needed a rest, he simply dug all of his claws in deep and hung for a moment.
After a while his back paw struck something different. Khamet risked a look down and saw it was bark. The going should be much easier now he thought. His claws slipped into the jagged grooves of the trees outer skin with no problem. He looked up, the distance he had come was equally dizzying and he shut his eyes for a moment. He was still much higher than the tops of the trees, but the bark had small ledges as well and made it so easy he could almost turn around. He began to move quickly down the tree. Finally he passed the tops of the trees and slowly descended into the darkness of the forest.
Khamet climbed down to the first limb that would support his minuscule weight and decided to rest. The climb had taken him hours. It was almost night. He needed to sleep. He clutched the limb as best he could just in case he had a nightmare, balled up against the tree and drifted off to sleep.
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Is it alive?”
“Well it must be alive silly, it is breathing.”
“Is it… can we eat it?”
“Well I… I don’t know. I suppose, but it’s got an awful lot of… what’s all that.”
“Yes, that’s it fluff. I’ve eaten fluffy things before.”
“Not worth the trouble really. The little tasties you do get isn’t worth the coughing up all the fluff or the little bits you have to pick out from your teeth.”
“So what do we do then?”
“Well I suppose… Since we aren’t going to eat it I guess we could be neighborly and ask it what it is doing here.”
“And, ask what it is.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well of course. Hello then? Hello? Excuse me, hello?”
Khamet’s eye’s bolted open. Two great yellow bulges with great black irises regarded him. They were so large he could see his reflection in them, even in the dark. He sat up and tried to squirm backwards, but only pressed up against the tree with his own green eyes as large as they could be. “Whoa???” he found himself speaking reflexively. On the other side of him a much smaller set of eyes though still larger than him regarded him as well. It was dark, but the eyes eluded light and their glow illuminated him.
“Well hello then,” a beak with a mouthful of sharp teeth said trying to smile. Unfortunately the smile looked more like a hungry stare than any sort of grin.
“Whoa???” Khamet repeated.
“What are you?” the smaller set of eyes revealed its own sharp teeth.
“Ay now, hold on there. He’s a bit startled to see us coming on him like this isn’t he?” The large eyes moved in even closer, “We aren’t going to eat you dear.”
Khamet looked terrified for a moment and turned from one set of eyes to the other. “No,” the small set of eyes said. “Momma says fluffies aren’t worth the trouble for the tasties you get out of them.”
“Now now,” a large burst of black and white suddenly shot up from beneath the branch and cut off the smaller set of eyes. “I’m sorry about that dear. The point is we don’t plan to eat you and we were wondering what sort of creature you were. We don’t get much this high up after all.”
Khamet still huddled at the trunk, frightened and not sure what to do. These creatures were enormous and there was no way he could get away from them if he wanted to. “Mau…” he mumbled.
“Mau? Never heard of a mau, is that a type of bird?”
Khamet shook his head.
“Well then how did you get all the way up here then?”
Khamet was still trembling, he looked up. “I climbed down.”
The eyes suddenly looked suspicious and worried.
The smaller set of eyes suddenly appeared from beneath the black feathers. “From the Bandersnatch nest! Really? How? No one ever escapes from the Bandersnatch, but sometimes they fall and we get a free…”
“That’ll do then,” the large eyes said pulling the wing down again. “Forgive the excitement of youth.”
Khamet now began to relax. The excitement of the smaller set of eyes made him believe he was in no danger. “I was making my way to the ground from the Bandersnatch Nest.”
The large set of eyes stared hard at him. “Never heard of anyone escaping the Bandersnatch, usually the Jubjub takes them.”
“Excuse me,” Khamet said. “But who are…”
“Oh…” The large set of eyes blinked and the head that had been regarding Khamet reared up. The great pale feathered body with black and white wings leaned back and flapped. “Forgive my manners. I am Furryjen and this is my latest offspring, Burtie.”
“Hi,” the little set of eyes popped up again.
“And you are?”
The large eyes of Furryjen leaned in, “Hum, Khamet the Mau? Were you named?”
“Who named you? Your mother?”
“Well, not exactly.”
“Aha, that must be it, but mau is also not familiar.” Furryjen seemed to be thinking hard and smacking her lips… “No doesn’t ring any bells. I am afraid you have no name.”
“I…” but before Khamet could protest the bird removed her head from his vicinity.
“Say goodbye Burtie.”
The little set of eyes looked sad, “But momma.”
“Say goodbye. We have much more hunting to do tonight.”
“What are you?” Khamet called out looking from Burtie to Furryjen.
“What?” Furryjen turned back with a shocked expression. “You mean to say you have never heard if Lemur Owl’s. I find that very difficult to believe.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not really from…”
“Burtie.” The voice sounded indignant and with a great flap of wings Furryjen was off into the deep black of the forest. “Come along.”
Burtie looked at Khamet with an evil mischievous smile. Then he began flapping and before Khamet could do anything he rose up opened his mouth and snatched the cat by the nape of his neck. Khamet’s claws were out and he was preparing to strike when suddenly he found himself falling at an incredible speed straight down through the trees and the blackness of the forest. He barely had time to register what was happening when a heavy flap jerked him slowly and he fell a few feet and landed on the ground with a crunch of leaves. There was a great fluttering of wings moving away above him. Then he was alone.