“When the imprisoned frees her mind, she will no longer be imprisoned, no matter how thick the bars,” intoned Tepic.
Vartanian nodded, staring at the wolf, “If she can heal, she can learn. And if she can kill you, it is only the first step of her journey back to sanity. Lisa, Tepic. Find a way to open that gate and stay out of her way. I’ll be sure this growler doesn’t reach you.”
Tepic had other ideas. “Fight this thing? This dog of an idea?” Growler swiped at him, growling, and Tepic skipped back as the professor struck a blow at Growler’s arm. “Catch me if you can! The fox is nimble, the fox is quick!”
Growler howled with pain and stepped back, blood from its new wound adding to the mess with which it was already covered. It rounded on Vartanian, growling. “Ah, what a tale to tell,” Tepic exclaimed as he snatched at Growler’s tail, then leaped back as it whirled again, apparently confused at whom to attack first.
Lisa, meanwhile, turned her attention to Myn, sniffing as she cautiously approached the gate. “Myn?” she asked. “Myn, can you hear me?”
The large black cat murred. “I can.”
“We want to help you. Will you let us? How can we free you?” She took a few steps closer, keeping her ears up and her claws retracted, her voice steady and soothing. From what seemed a great distance, she heard Tepic shout, “Turn the key, lady cat, the key in your hand!”
“I want to, but…” Myn looked beyond Lisa to the fight, then back, and Lisa could see fear shining clearly in her eyes. “How can I know it’s you?”
“I told you what I was. You see me now as I was, before I, too, was changed.” Lisa sensed, though, that this answer was inadequate. She held herself, and her mind, still, waiting, and after a moment, she knew what to do. Looking up at Myn, she put her nose right up to the gate and said clearly, “I do not fear you.” After a moment of hesitation, Myn slowly, cautiously lowered her head and touched her nose to Lisa’s.
Growler screamed aloud, now bleeding from several new wounds. “I will not lose her so easily! Do you not know what happens if you let her out? Has the Fox nothing to say of that?”
Tepic, still dancing around the wolf, cried out, “We die… die… Die!”
“Die, no,” averred Professor Vartanian firmly. “We can run as soon as she is free. Or, at least, you two can. If she tries to attack, I should be able to keep out of her reach. Perhaps I can lead her beyond this prison to start her way.”
Growler looked from the professor to Tepic, then beyond to Lisa. “Very well,” it finally said, its voice actually shaking a little. It suddenly whirled and leaped up and out of the courtyard.
“The enemy has fled,” crowed Tepic. “Left the field to the victors!”
Myn looked up, startled. “You… fought it away?”
“We only scared it away, for now,” the professor replied.
“But you fought it?”
He shrugged. “If you wish to call it that. Now we may find out if you are the true Myn ready to heal, or if we are simply releasing a new monster into her mind.”
“The image that is false fears no end, for gone, only truth remains!” interjected Tepic.
Remembering his words to her earlier, Lisa lifted up her paw and stared at the pad. She didn’t see anything like a key in it, but… She turned her paw outward and placed it on the gate.
Whether it was that action, or that Myn was finally reassured enough, or something else, Lisa didn’t know, but the gate began rising on its own. She backed up slowly, watching as the bars rose enough to allow Myn to step into the courtyard. As she did, though, a strong, swirling wind sprang up around them, whirling faster and faster, drawing in bits of masonry, roof tiles, and other elements of the dreamscape around them and flinging them upward into the vortex.
“Fear-filled feline, look to me,” shouted Tepic, “the image of your mind!” Even as he did, though, Myn was sucked up into the growing tornado. Lisa yowled, her claws hooked into a grate, trying to hang on.
“This land is unsteady!” cried Tepic. “True images, think well–best to stay, or best to flee! Take heed, mere mortals, run while running still can be!”
Lisa looked up where Myn had disappeared, still torn about what to do. “Wake up, Lisa!” shouted Vartanian. “We can always return, but if the dreamscape is drawn away entirely, we could wind up trapped with it!”
With another yowl, Lisa leaped up, driving herself to the Dreamfields path that would lead her back to herself.
((To be continued…))