Khamet slipped right into the cold liquid believing he hit the water though the pool was much deeper than he thought it was. The ice cold liquid was thick and it swallowed him completely, the sound rushing past his ears as he continued to fall without breath.
All around him was pitch black and he could see nothing. His body felt long and it stretched out, manipulated like so much clay as if he were being sculpted over and over again. His fur was pulled, there was enormous pain and he imagined what it might be like being turned inside out. He cried out, but still there was no air and no sound. The pain subsided and still he was falling, now feeling weightless and tumbling not aware of which way was up. He could very well be falling sideways or upways for all he knew.
A great feeling of dread came over him in the darkness and the air began to thicken. The dreaded feeling was replaced then by a feeling of acceptance, of welcoming and warmth and he found himself wondering about his mother, Isetnofret. He recalled suddenly how he never felt very connected to her and that he never returned once after following the father that final day.
The liquid space squeezed tightly around him and Khamet found himself beginning to cry out. The liquid became even thicker and his chest constricted until he was being crushed and a moment later was in the air flying before he was aware of it. He threw all his paws out and clutched the first thing he contacted which was soft and warm. His eyes adjusted and he was standing on the Tweedle’s bed.
The room was dark and seemed different than when he left. The glass was still there, but it had tilted somewhat as if it wanted to fall. Khamet wondered how lucky he had been that it hadn’t fallen and cracked. He leapt down from the bed making note that he was now indeed larger than before and if he concentrated he could make out the symbols that had been stripes. They looked like numbers.
The door to the hallway was open and he crept down to the living room. It was in ruin.
The woman entered from the kitchen with a small tray with two large bottles of milk on it. She stopped suddenly exclaiming a loud, “OH MY!” stumbled back and dropped the tray. Both bottles went flying.
Without thinking Khamet shot forward, disappearing and reappearing snatching one of the bottles out of the air, vanished and reappeared again snatching the other as well. The tray had just about hit the floor when he appeared, and in one motion set the two bottles down and caught the tray.
The woman stood back staring at the cat. “You came back,” she said. “I told him you would be coming back. He thought you had gone to save yourself. Everything’s changed. The King of Hearts is dead and many more of the Hearts and Diamonds have been killed. The Bandersnatch is under control of the Ace of Spades and is snatching up red cards.”
Khamet looked around the room. “What happened here?”
“It came back,” she said with a wine. “It came back. It said it was looking for you.” She began to sob. “It took Mr. Tweedle. I thought it would take me as well or the children but…” she cried.
“What was it?”
She stopped and stared at him. “It has a name now.” she whispered. “The Popularopinion called it the Jabberwock.”
“What happened to Mr. Tweedle?”
She began to speak, but trailed and fell into silent sobs.
“How long have I been gone?” Khamet said looking around the room.
“You left?” she thought. “More than a month ago.”
Khamet sunk. Megette and the Jack have been in the Delirium with the Saedi for a month with no way of getting out. Everything came to him suddenly and he realized what he had to do and what he was capable of.
“I will return soon,” he said quickly and vanished.
The undercarriage of the Bandersnatch nest was in even worse repair than before. The Roadscholar was sitting on the floor in the corner quite literally falling apart. “Ah,” the sound of his voice had an arid dry sound to it now. “The big cat has returned.”
“You are coming with me.”
He began to laugh. It sounded as a choking hollow noise of contempt. “How?” he grumbled. “Where?” he asked half-heartedly raising his arms with the question.
Khamet didn’t have time for any of this. He reached out to the wall of the nest and grabbed a branch sticking out of it and pulled. The wall crumbled away and the branches rolled back to reveal a large hole that reached not out of the nest and into darkness. “Come along. You have an appointment.”
The Roadscholar stared at the hole in amazement then turned to the cat with questioning wonder. “Really?”
“Come along.” Khamet said waiting beside the entrance.
The Roadscholar had the sudden look of a school boy on an adventure and placing his hands on his knees which crumbled to bits he stood. His legs shaky and awkward he took a step forward to the dark hole and ducked his head at the entrance as he stepped inside. Khamet followed and once inside the branches closed as if the opening had never been.
Behind the old man a mist began to rise. It spun and everyone in the chamber looked up. The old man’s eyes gave a knowing twinkle and he smiled interested at what was about to arrive. “I have waited.” “Waited for this.” “For a long time.” “Long time.” “Yes.” “Great.” “Many somes.” “So many.” “It is coming as it was meant to.” “Coming to pass.” “It has been a while.”
The mist swirled and thickened until a dark hole formed. It got bigger and bigger until a crumbling earthen leg stepped out of the darkness followed by an arm before the Roadscholar stepped into the room looking around. “Where?” he asked.
Khamet was right behind him and the dark fog dispersed into mist.
“It has been far too long brother.” “Far too long.” “Time’s past the day long.” “The time’s moving and you never came.” “Locked us away.” “It has been far too long.” the old man said.
The Roadscholar had to focus a moment. He looked at the heavy long gray beard of the old man and brought his face close. “Brother? Is that you?” he seemed to be searching for something.
The old man shook his head, “You never gave me a name.” “Nothing for me.” “The man with no name.” “But not a man.” “Not like you.” “Remade of the road.” “We have no name.” “Though we don’t need one.” “Nothing for you to call us.” “Except.” “Brother.”
The door opened and the Jack and Megette entered the room, “Cat,” the Jack said. “You certainly have grown.”
“Yes.” Khamet said looking at himself. He was actually enormous now, “This is a bit uncomfortable.” There was a pop, as if the air in the room suddenly slapped together and Khamet was suddenly half his size. “That’s better.” He said looking up at the Jack. He turned to the old man and the Roadscholar. “I don’t know what the land has planned for you. The Saedi will not be locked away in the Delirium any longer.” And as he spoke the mists began to thin and the deafening sound of the Delirium began to dull. “I don’t know what the results will be after this, but if the land accepts it then it shall be.”
“Cat,” The Jack wanted to say more, but the look on his face told Khamet all he needed. He had been there for a month and the worry and weariness had taken its toll.
“Yes,” Khamet said. “But she is no longer the Princess of Hearts.”
Everyone in the room turned to the cat.
“The Suicide King is dead. The Princess of Hearts is now the Queen.”
The room released an audible shift.
“But rescuing her is not the only priority, we must defeat the Spades.”
Megette stepped forward, “For my Lady I will gladly…”
“As will I,” the Jack said stepping up. “My father will have to answer for what he has done.”
The door opened and the circle around them thickened with figures different, strange, and even nightmarish. The large figure with the eye patch and the hook for a hand stepped forward. “The Saedi will help in any way they can.”