Freya slowly relayed her story to Beryl. She didn’t mention the perfume or the airship, or anything that could betray her brothers secrets, but she told them about Lilith, what Lucas said, and everything up to the encounter in the Clockwork Close.
When she arrived at that point in the story she finally realized the full magnitude of the bandages covering Beryl and her fever. They were wounds she had received from fighting a lycanthrope. Freya kept her head lowered with regret as she added, “Their claws are as infectious as their bite. You’re going to become one of them now.”
The laugh that Beryl gave sounded delirious, even if their reply sounded oddly confident, “No, that isn’t going to happen.” Beryl paused for a moment, and then finally opened their eyes to look at Freya. “When a werewolf bites a human the human becomes infected and turns into a werewolf. When a werewolf bites a cat…the infection usually just kills the cat.”
Freya stared at Beryl in disbelief, “You mean you knew you were going to die if you fought them!?”
“I said usually,” Beryl corrected her with another slight chuckle that seemed to hint of delirium. “I have a stronger immune system than a normal cat.”
Freya couldn’t believe them. This had to be some sort of trick to make her betray her brothers. “But why would you even risk that? You didn’t even know that I was running away from Prometheus yet.”
“For me there was only a chance I would die from the infection, but if I had done nothing you would have died without any doubt. For me, for what I am, that was reason enough.” Freya was having a hard time believing anyone could be that altruistic but the phrase ‘what I am’ caught her attention. “Besides, you didn’t kill Tepic when you could have. Even he admits that if you had wanted to you could have killed him and his friends. You spared their lives. When I heard you crying for help I had to save you. I’d have said consider us even if you hadn’t stabbed me.”
Freya narrowed her eyes, it was true she didn’t recall the fight very well now but she knew one thing was wrong, “I never called for help. I may have screamed once or twice, but I never called for help.”
Beryl closed their eyes again before replying, “Not in that many words no, but you didn’t need to.”
Freya stared at them, she had known that lycanthropes were not the only things hiding in the world but had never encountered anything else before, “What are you? No ordinary cat, Moreau, or human could have fought off a werewolf. They couldn’t have been stabbed and then carried someone away without being noticed. What are you really?”
“Maybe I would tell you if you would share something about yourself. Why you were so helpless when I found you in the tunnel?” Freya bared her teeth in response and growled, though Beryl could only hear her. “It’s all right. I think we both have already guessed. Do you have somewhere else to go? Somewhere you would feel safer?”
Freya thought about that a moment and then shook her head. “No. The militia, my brothers, the urchins, everyone is going to be looking for me. I’m not safe anywhere in this city.”
“You have seven bottles of your medicine in your belt. How long will that last you before you get sick?” Beryl asked as they lifted her belt. “Kuga lasted about a week before he started to die.”
Freya had completely forgotten about her medicine in the cats possession. Without that… “I wouldn’t last three days without it.”
“So you have about fourteen to twenty one days depending on how you stretch it out. Last I checked it was September the seventh…eighth now. You have about two to three weeks to go back to your brothers, turn to the militia and New Babbage for help against Prome-.”
“I’m not going to betray my family!” Freya vehemently interrupted. Ordinarily she wasn’t this rude but the thought of turning her family over to anyone filled her with disgust.
“I doubt you could if you wanted to,” Beryl said honestly. “We know about the drugs and the conditioning.” After a long pause Beryl nodded one more time. “I’ll stay with you until you decide what you are going to do.”
“But you need to go to the hospital.” Freya did not want to be trapped here recovering with the cat holding onto her belt.
Beryl shrugged lightly remaining against the wall “I doubt they can help me. Make me more comfortable yes, but not help me. And unless you are willing to be captured and questioned I doubt you are willing to check yourself into the hospital either. We’ll just keep each other company while we recover. Tell stories to pass the time maybe?”
Freya stared at Beryl angrily. She was certain the cat was lying, but not about what. Freya was certain that the cat had set this up somehow, but at least they didn’t know how long they really could survive without one of their shots, not that the extra few days would really help…but it was a start.