Thinking about what I couldn't see made me dizzy. After all, both Uncle Harry and Riley had enhanced supernatural sight and heaven or hell only knew how Parrot saw. I knew from my brief visit into its mind that it was all predator and never had been prey. Even when it was trapped and caught Parrot had taken out a dozen or more meat puppets -- Parrot's way of thinking not mine. That was pretty much how I saw from its mind that Parrot's entire image of all the creatures that roamed the earth both above ground and down here below were simply fodder for a future moment. My letting it go earlier from its cell granted me a pass, but that could easily be rescinded if I failed in some way to appease it. Parrot had been a god figurehead for far too long to tolerate us lesser human beings and supernaturals.
Shaking my head at my musings I caught Uncle Harry looking at me sharply. He slipped in my muddled thoughts briefly to ask, "Is there something wrong, Emma?"
At that I laughed aloud and spoke for both Riley and Parrot's benefit, since I didn't need all of them trying to sneak a peek inside me. I wasn't sure that either Riley or Parrot could get into my thoughts without permission, but Uncle Harry pretty much had a free pass.
"Okay, I know this is all some supernatural prison system beneath the state that obviously is warded with magic and other assorted nasty traps." I had yet to stumble across one but I could tell from how Riley tensed up that the werewolves had told him about traps and not me.
Which was yet another reason that I was glad to have left Gordon and crew behind -- they really weren't good at sharing information. I didn't like the clannishness of the werewolves' pack mentality and if I had been on my own, I would have quite possibly have been trapped or killed. It was a prison to hold creatures with uncommon amounts of power for eternity. That Stefan, the Gatekeeper of the place, had used his position as the warden to get polluted by the inmates only further caused me concern. It had been poorly crafted in the long run, and definitely allowed more than just the warden to get out of control.
"Go on," Uncle Harry had a slight frown etched on his forehead as he was trying to figure out where I was going with my comment. He didn't have to wait long.
"There was something that decided to use this prison as a holding tank for huge amounts of toxic magic in order to cull from it. The Gatekeeper truly is just that. And not exactly on the werewolves' side from that last little scene," I said as I continued to wander through the wide twisting tunnels. I felt we were going slowly up and down and from Uncle Harry's own admission that could be part of the magical constructs used to disguise the place from humans.
Riley hissed softly then admitted, "Yeah, Kirk didn't deserve to die like that and Stefan should never had attacked him. Gordon was pretty fucking shocked."
Like Riley wasn't? I knew better than commenting, but arched an eyebrow at Uncle Harry, unseen by Riley who waved his hand over his shoulder as it seemed that something must have fallen from the ceiling. Parrot was ahead of us so it wasn't anything it had done. He stopped suddenly and stumbled. Then to my shock he fell to his knees and gasped as if in pain. Uncle Harry swore and smacked Riley's hand away from his shoulder.
Hissing himself, Uncle Harry said, "Stay back, Emma. And whoever is ahead protecting you should get closer."
Parrot looked as startled as the arrogant creature could be since it was practically invisible to everyone but Sapphire and me unless it wanted to be seen. I doubt it realized that Uncle Harry had even noticed it was there. Despite the command tone, Parrot flitted closer, right near my shoulder, behind me but close enough to Riley and Uncle Harry to be able to suck down any creature that showed itself should the need arise.
Uncle Harry muttered something in Latin and pulled a folded handkerchief out of the inside of his shirt. He tossed the sparkling contents into the air and chanted some more odd-sounding words.
A ripple of light, and then there was a small gnarled creature perched on Riley's shoulder with claws dug into him, and it snarled at Uncle Harry.
"Well, what have we here?" Like I knew?
Parrot's feathers appeared and then its entire body was visible. I don't know if it was because of Uncle Harry's spell or because it wanted to. It dipped its head towards the creature on Riley's shoulder, then tipped it back and forth as if trying to see where the best place was to drill.
Uncle Harry said, "Ah, there you are, winged creature. You have helped my Emma and for that you are welcome."
There was something in how he spoke that told me he had sensed Parrot and didn't trust the creature at all. Given what I'd seen Parrot do in my thoughts and in person I really didn't blame Uncle Harry. Seeing the way Parrot was looking at the creature on Riley, I knew perfectly well that Parrot was ready to snap it up and swallow it whole, with or without permission.
Something in the predatory glance was noticed by Uncle Harry. Looking directly at Parrot, Uncle Harry said, "If you do that, my friend Riley will die."
Riley's head lifted up from the crouched position he was in, and I could see he knew the truth of what Uncle Harry said. Pain was radiating off the werewolf as was an acidic scent of angry wolf. Riley wasn't in his werewolf shape, so he was probably feeling more pain than he was used to. The creature had sharp talons on its hind quarters and smaller clawed arms that it had on Riley's head now. If I wasn't so scared I would have teased Riley about a monkey on his back. It wasn't exactly a monkey, but there was something vaguely simian about the posture. The creature's eyes were huge and it looked frightened by us. Uncle Harry seemed to recognize it because he added, "Riley, it doesn't want to kill you, but if that friend of Emma's tears it free, the talons will release a poison immediately and I have no remedy."
"Is there one?" I asked thinking I could possibly snatch Riley up and transport him away.
"Yes, Emma, but not somewhere you've been or that you could get to quick enough." His tone was soft and reasonable, but I saw fear slice through Riley as his situation was slowly dawning on him.
"If he flips to werewolf form can I get him there safely then?" I was grasping at straws at seeing the pain pulling the life from Riley before my eyes. His hair was not as thick and I swore there were now some gray strands framing his face that hadn't been there earlier.
"No." Uncle Harry instead crouched closer to them and asked, "Emma, you have any candy in your backpack?"
"Ah, I think so, why?"
"Can you get it and slowly hand it to me?"
"Okay." I set my sword down slowly since it probably wouldn't do me any good from what Uncle Harry said. Parrot made a noise that was meaningless to me but Uncle Harry said, "Not for you. Poisonous."
Parrot tipped its head back and forth then seemed to agree and settled back. The eyes on the newest creature were large with black pupils that seemed to fill every available space except for a small ring of white at the very edge. It had eye lids that matched its muddy gray coloring. It blinked rapidly while watching me dig into my bag and pretty much ignored Parrot. Since Parrot was all but salivating, I thought the creature was either incredibly brave or extremely toxic. From the rapidly aging Riley I figured the latter.
I found one Payday bar and one Snickers. I handed both to Uncle Harry.
He ripped open both at the top and nibbled on each before tossing them just out of reach of the creature forcing it to decide between Riley and something new. Go figure -- the beast launched free from Riley and snatched up the candy before any of us could move. A brief tussle with the wrapper then it shrugged and stuffed half the Snickers bar in its rather fierce-looking mouth. It had tearing teeth and rapidly devoured both treats. It sat back on its haunches when finished and spat out some of the wrapper noisily onto the salt floor. The spittle sizzled as it hit the salt. I guess its bite was also toxic. Riley looked green and was still on the ground.
"I suggest you change now, Riley."
"Harry, that sounds like a good idea," he groaned while stretching, and then while I blinked was suddenly before me as a werewolf. His clothes had disappeared when he shifted and I wasn't sure how that worked, but Parrot looked disturbed by the change. I found that odd, since the werewolves had been in the tunnels going from one shape to their other on and off for a while.
The creature that had been digging into Riley's shoulder looked happy as it stuffed more of the candy into its face, a good foot away from the now-shifted werewolf. When the creature wasn't able to peel off the wrapper it simply spit out the pseudo plastic. I wondered what exactly this creature was and looked at Uncle Harry, knowing my question was in my eyes and probably on my face.
"I think that the prison allowed some odd couplings. From what I see, Emma, this is part gargoyle and something in the simian family. It's a baby, so it still is trying to figure out what exactly is real, and what is prey." Uncle Harry kept his voice soft as he watched the creature sniff the air and look around with a wide-eyed expression.
Knowing it was a baby aberration didn't exactly help me. The creature had talons laced with poison and spit out toxic whatever. Yeah, I was able to relax -- not.
Riley suddenly switched back with thankfully his clothing intact.
"Well, Harry, that little baby is lethal." He looked like himself. I guess the magic in the mines quickened his healing. The gray hairs had disappeared and he didn't look nearly as drawn. Parrot ducked its head and looked at me directly.
Laughing, I said, "I don't have a damn clue. Do you?"
Other than inside my thoughts, I hadn't yet heard Parrot speak above a whisper. I shouldn't have been startled when Parrot actually answered, but I was.
"Yes, this is one of Stefan's tools." Parrot's voice was deep and resonated throughout the space. I mentally checked 'male' after having no clue for the past few hours what Parrot was. It seemed the creature was a boy. Not that I'd say anything, because Parrot had demonstrated his anger rather vividly in my thoughts, and I wasn't willing to risk Parrot being a very deep-voiced female. I hated such little challenges, but I smiled and said, "Thank you, Parrot."
Uncle Harry and Riley looked vaguely startled, but the creature didn't. Instead it hopped up to Parrot and began to chatter. There was a nod then Parrot said, "The creature is sorry for harming your werewolf."
Okay then, good to know.
Uncle Harry nodded and said to the gargoyle mix, "Thank you."
There was more speaking between the creature and Parrot that nobody seemed to understand but Parrot, who answered in a very similar manner. We all tried to look like we cared, but I knew perfectly well we were all mentally rolling our eyes. It took all my patience to keep still and wait. Both Parrot and his new friend were, after all, deadly.