Tepic Harlequin had been invited to the Lionhearts home, and with an offer to be fed forever, so that he could help in finding Arnold…wherever the cat had happened to be and no one had been able to provide a good answer for that yet…
“Metier’s ghost said nowhere. Kristos says in the void at the end of things. I am not sure which is correct, and according to Phaedra, we need a mirror.”
“Blimey…” the young fox said as he scratched at one of his ears with his free hand, the other holding the dapper zapper. “…errrr….. did any of em say HOW we supposed ter find him?”
“Phaedra told Helio and me what she’d do,” Miss Lionheart responded.
“Yer gotta be a bit careful with Mrs Phaedra, she’s a bit… errrmmm…”
“She said, “A round mirror, something the creature was attached to and call ‘here kitty kitty’ until he answers..” Will that work, Tepic?”
“Errr…” Tepic paused as he considered his answer for a moment, “Dunno Miss, depends on the kitty, i would guess, if they want’s something they come, if not they ignores you!”
“He won’t ignore me. I promise. I’ll have to fuss him to make him hear me, but he’ll come. I promise.”
“Cats go where they please, cus they know where they should be…Mr Arnold don’t always seem ter be in one mind as to where he should be..if yer got something as was important ter Mr Arnold, i might be able ter take it to him..?”
The Dr. assured him that she had something in mind, the only possession he’d carried with him the past few months had been that bed, and though he hadn’t written in them in months she also had his journals. “Now, how do we stand on a round mirror? She also mentioned washing the mirror in salt water and rosemary. I have those in the cupboards.”
“Eh?” Tepic tilted his head slightly. “Sounds like magic that, Miss, Mr Tenk don’t like that….”
The psychiatrist waved her hand dismissively, “Mister Tenk will have to live with it. I need to find Arnold and quickly. Will you help me?”
“Sure Miss…. just dunno quite how….Miss Bookworm seemed ter think i could help, an that ghost fella…” Tepic shrugged to show he didn’t know what they expected him to do.
Dr. Maddox Lionheart smiled and assured him that it would be all right, “Tepic, dear. Don’t worry on the how just yet. We’ll try things and see what works, all right?”
Tepic smiled in return and agreed, and they turned to the only mirror in the house.
“This is all I have. it isn’t round, but do you think we should try it?”
“I guess so…. errrrr…. hang on….” Tepic Harlequin reached into his pockets and took out a soft wax crayon from his pocket. He then quickly drew a large circle on the mirror… “righty ho, we just use that bit!”
“Ah. Thank you. Now, can you go downstairs and get a bowl of water with some rosemary in it? Everything should be clearly marked.”
They set to bathing a mirror in rosemary, though they skipped the salt-water when Tepic said that salt wasn’t good for elves…so they began the process with water and rosemary.
“Ummm…… you an Mr Arnold been friends fer a long time, ain’t yer?”
The doctor nodded and then sighed. “Yes. We have. He’s been with me for a long time, and I can’t be without him as part of my family that I’ve got now. You wouldn’t want to lose the other urchins, would you?”
“Oh no, we has ter look out fer each other….” Tepic assured her.
“That’s how I feel about Arnold. He looks after me, and when I can, I look after him.”
Tepic frowned at her, not that she could see it through his gas mask, and he told her something that she might not want to hear, “Sometimes, when yer lost……yer just need somethin ter remind yer where yer should be….course…. urchins grow up an go off all the time…sometimes it’s just time they headed off, maybe it’s that way fer Mr Arnold?”
“Perhaps…. though I am not entirely sure that it wasn’t somehow Metier’s fault. But that’s for me to worry on.”
“Guess as long as he wants ter come back, he will….” Tepic concluded as they finished their work.
Dr. Lionheart nodded her head and turned to Tepic, “Now, for calling out to him. What I want you to do for me, Tepic is watch the circle for any movement or anything that looks like him. Tell me when you see something and I will keep an ear out.
Tepic Harlequin settled down cross-legged on the floor, watching the mirror like a fox, and the doctor turned and raised her voice, “Arnold, you talk to me right now! I want to know if you can hear me and I want to know if you can see me!”
There was no answer immediately, however an image came into view shortly after as well as a clear cry of, “HELP ME DAMNIT!”
“Cor!” Tepic exclaimed as they saw Arnold sitting next to a giant unblinking eyeball in a place where nothing else was around him but floating debris of some kind. “Durn’t think that place looks too much fun!”
“Tepic, you heard him. Just keep watching and we’ll do what we can.” She turned back to Arnold, “What should we do? How can we help you? Tell us how to get you home!”
“I don’t know! I’ve been trying for….I have no idea how long! It could have been years or a few months or something!”
“You come home NOW! Come to us!” Dr. Maddox cried at her familiar.
“You don’t think I tried?!” Arnold asked her, looking about in all the wrong directions for her. “I hate it here and everywhere else I’ve been!”
“eh! ask im if he can see us!” Tepic told her.
“Can you see us, Arnold?” Maddox asked.
“No!” Arnold yelled.
“I’m putting my hand to the mirror now. I want to see if I can pull you through.” The psychiatrist told him, and the moment she said that Arnold turned and looked at her finally…and he saw something he didn’t like at all in between him and that mirror about to pounce on it’s prey.
“Don’t! Something will grab back!”
“As long as I get you home, what does it matter?” Maddox told him, unable to see the danger she was in, and having never been taught the dangers of what else could make it’s way through a mirror used as a gateway…
“Find me another way, somethings watching you right there!” Arnold cried out to her, as the thing finally moved between him and her and he could no longer see her.
“I don’t KNOW another way….” He heard her say vaguely, but that was it, the rest became jumbled on his end.
The only thing now in the mirror that Maddox or Tepic could see was a terrible eye and a presence as if it was about to choke them as words entered their heads telling them how insignificant they were.
“It’s like that one Dr Sonnerstien keeps seein! Wipe the Circle Miss!” Tepic cried out to her.
“ARNOLD, I’M WIPING THE CIRCLE! WE’LL BE BACK FOR YOU LATER! I’LL BRING HELIO IF I CAN! JUST HOLD ON!” She hurriedly wipes the circles away and turns to Tepic, as the images start to fade away the feeling of wrongness remained in the mirror. They got salt water and cleaned it as best they could and Dr. Lionheart sat on the couch distraught. That had been the only thing she’d known how to do…and there was something in between her and Arnold which would prevent her from ever rescuing him.
She was crying when Tepic spoke up with a small question, which reignited her hope, “why don’t Mr Arnold just follow the thread back?” She asked him what thread and Tepic Harlequin pointed to a space in front of her…
“Does he see it too?”
“Dunno Miss, I didn’t see it til yer saw him in the mirror….” Tepic confessed. :An’ I don’t think he’s in a very nice place… ummm… do yer want me ter go an get im?”
“Perhaps you can. Tepic, if you see it, can you follow it? Please?”
“C’n try…. course, if’n he can’t see it, he might not be able ter follow it…. an i don’t know if he can follow me…”
“If you find that it doesn’t work, come right back. It’s something to try.”
Tepic reached out in front of Maddox, circled the air with a finger and thumb, getting the thread around his fingers well and good so he wouldn’t lose it and stepped around the mirror following the thread…not quite sure where it would take him, but he knew Arnold would be at the end at least, and that was good enough he supposed.
Arnold sighed as it had all vanished and sat back down on his own back legs again. He was alone again, except for the giant eyeball near him (which just so happened to be a giant eye ball and was completely unrelated in any way) that hadn’t done anything but stare at him since he got here. He waited in the same location for a long time, hoping they’d re-establish some kind of connection again when Arnold saw Tepic approaching from afar, and then appeared beside him.
“‘ello Mr Arnold!” The young fox said, he sounded pleased.
Arnold was so relieved that he did something he had never done in his life to show his appreciation, he hugged the young fox.
“Bit sort of gloom here ain’t it?” Tepic asked as he looked about at the nothingness around them while keeping hold of the thread. There were floating rocks and an eyeball and a ground…but that was pretty much it.
Arnold set the fox down and waved dismissevely, “I’ve been in worse places the past few weeks.”
“So what yer staying here for?”
“I remembered that when you’re lost you should stay put for awhile and let someone find you.” Arnold explained. “And no one has bothered me here. Unlike in those…other places.”
At this point Arnold had come to a few new conclusions from all the places he had been. One was that as much as he had wanted to walk through walls or do the things that his ancestors had been able to do easily, that he would give it all up this moment to be stranded on two feet to gravity in one time and space. Two, was that even if he could reach other dimensions, fae realms, dreams, imaginary lands, or whatever the hell he was ending up every time he tried to get home…he was never, EVER, going to try again. He would live the rest of his life in Babbage before ever attempting something like this again, because he was thoroughly convinced there was nothing worthwhile in any of these realms!
“Heheh yep, sometimes best!” Tepic agreed. “You an yer other half sorted stuff out yet?”
“To a degree,” Arnold said, though they hadn’t spoken at all since he’d turned away from her that day. To him her not speaking to him was their agreement.
“Blimey! that’s a bit… uggggyy!” Tepic said as he stared at the eyeball, who just stared back, blinking rarely.
“Forget about it…I’ve been here for days and all it’s done is look. For now I just want to find a way home that isn’t through that…thing.” Arnold said, while he remembered what he thought he saw between him and Maddox…between him and home…
“Yer know you an Miss Sinclair are linked by a thread?”
“Yes, I’d been trying to follow it home ever since I finally noticed it. Apparently I can’t follow a thread worth anything.”
“‘s what i followed ter get ter you…yer a cat ain’t yer?”
“Yes, I know.” Arnold said dejectedly, “Apparently I’m not very good at being a cat yet.”
“oh dear……errrr…… just checkin, the thread yer been followin, it’s this one?”
Arnold looked at the thread, and nods his head… “Yes, but something keeps knocking me off course when I get close, or at least when I think I am and I wind up somewhere else…maybe it’s the dark aether. I don’t know…can you maybe lead me to Armada or somewhere close?”
“Oh…… ummmm…. no one has been able ter follow me before, dunno why….”
“We can try,” Arnold said and tilted his head as he stared at Tepic…he’d seen him approaching…but then again how had he seen him walking…had the fox walked up to him or had he seen something else and he perceived it as walking. He had no idea…it was just a sort of feeling he had that the young urchin could help him.
“Be easier ter follow the thread…” Tepic said and then lifted his hand holding the connection, “And lets follow it back ter where ya get lost, then you try steppin though me fingers….”
Arnold was on the bed next to Maddox when she opened her eyes, though she couldn’t recall laying down or falling asleep…actually she was sure she’d been standing a moment ago and he’d tackled her, but it was rather fuzzy at the moment so she couldn’t be sure…and it didn’t matter. Arnold was back, and so was Tepic…who was in Arnold’s cat bed having a nice nap apparently.
Neither one of them were very forthcoming on how they had managed it, Tepic seemed to think the entire conversation since the mirror had been a dream and Arnold didn’t seem to have much more to offer in ways of explination. But it didn’t matter to the doctor very much. Her family was complete again and she didn’t really care how.