For a moment, she thought perhaps she was back in the cantina, in the cellar where Doug had slept. Wherever she was, it was most certainly cool, damp, subterranean.
She was stretched out on some sort of rough, woven mat. She tried to sit up. Couldn’t.
Someone spoke, low and quickly, in a language that was completely alien to her.
She turned her head and found a pair of faintly luminescent, multi-colored eyes shining in the dark just inches from her nose. She recoiled and cried out weakly. Her elbow struck stone, which made her yelp again in pain.
A light appeared. The eyes’ owner was making soothing gestures and repeating the same sound, “Id . . . id, id, id, id, id . . .”
Kate realized she was lying on a very narrow stone shelf, dug out of the wall. The light was coming from some flaky, spongy-looking stuff he had set on the shelf by her feet. She flattened herself against the curve for a moment, breathing hard, and stared at the creature.
It was standing next to the shelf, leaning toward her as if in earnest. It – he – was not wearing any type of clothing. His body was utterly smooth and hairless, giving him a peculiar, childish quality. Also making him appear child-like was his short stature. Kate guessed he couldn’t be more than 5’ tall, and very thin. His skin was paper-white, every vein shockingly visible like ink on an overhead projector transparency. The blue-and-white contrast gave him a slight alabaster-type glow.
Most disturbing of all though were his kaleidoscopic eyes: wide, heavily-lidded, framed by fine, white lashes like silverfish antennae. Right now, those eyes were peering at her anxiously, clearly distressed by her distress.
She relaxed a little, allowed her body to creep forward a bit out of the corner.
The creature also relaxed, but held himself very still, waiting for her to make the next move.
“Well, you’re . . .” she reappraised him, “Neat.”
He spoke again, quick and lyrical. He pointed to her throat.
She felt around her neck. Her fingers found the amulet bag. The leather was still intact, but she could feel no energy emanating from the spell she’d woven into it before.
“Mm,” she said to her companion, “That is a problem, isn’t it?”
He gestured excitedly, evidently pleased that he had successfully communicated something to her, and spoke again. Gibber, gibber. Meep, meep.
“All right, all right, all right,” Kate said, holding up her hand. “I don’t understand you and you don’t understand me. Just let me get my bag, I’ll do another spell. . .” Her voice trailed off as she realized that she had left the bag at the campsite when she took off after—
“My friends!” she burst out. “Where are my friends?” She tried to stand up, but wound up collapsing back on the pallet, wondering also what had happened to her wand.
The creature put out his hands frantically so they hovered over her chest, gesturing that she was to stay down. His voice rose to match hers, and – it didn’t seem possible – but the speed of his language actually trebled. He pointed vaguely in a direction somewhere behind him, which she took to mean Murphy and JD were somewhere nearby. Then he began repeating himself about something—she recognized the sounds from ones he’d made earlier anyway.
He bent over and picked something off the ground. It was a clear, uncut crystal, like quartz, jagged on one side, glassy on the other.
He pressed it on her, gesturing over and over again to her amulet bag.
She took the stone, cool against her hot skin, peered at it, then back at him. The crystal thrummed slightly in her hand, imbued with energy. She slipped it into the amulet bag.
“Testing, one, two, three, testing,” she said dryly.
“I do not understand,” he said, cocking his head.
“Join the club.” He tilted his head even further to the left. “Never mind,” she said and held out her hand. “I’m Kate.”
He took a reflexive step backward. “I am called Kudin. Forgive me for not touching you. It is not our way.”
“Oh.” She let her hand drop back to her side.
“How do you feel?” Kudin asked.
“Weak,” she replied. “I have got to stop waking up like this.”
If he understood that comment, he did not respond to it.
“Where’s my wand?”
“Your tools are safe, though not near.”
“What about my bag?”
“All of your belongings, even your moving dwelling. But we cannot have them in Canungra. Please understand, we do not consume flesh. We do not inflict death.”
Kate nodded respectfully.
“Water?” He offered her a small, earthen bowl, holding it out with both hands.
“Is that a yes?” He cocked his head to the left again, slightly.
He handed her the bowl, careful not to brush her fingers. She drank and handed the bowl back to him. “Where are my friends?”