The cat laid down on the floor of the cathedral gripping his side and panting after his encounter with Moriarty, which had almost gone the other way. Adrenaline and desperation had fueled his movements, but they were fading away now. While he rested he heard what sounded like a hymn begin to sing outside in Greek, which he didn’t understand.
He tried to ignore it until a voice next to him sang the same song softly, but in English, “Where do you go, from here?” He looked around wildly, but it didn’t seem to have a source, it sounded like Dr. Maddox, “Where do you go, from here?”
A deeper voice joined in, Heliotrope Lionheart’s, “Your battle’s done, and you kind of won, so you sound your victory cheer. But where do you go…from here?”
The cat had no idea. He’d seen the Soothsayer, performed all the tasks they had demanded, and while he had learned more about himself than he’d dreamed–he did not know his true name.
“Why is your path unclear? When you know help, is near?” Dr. Maddox and Helio sang in unison. “Understand: we come hand in hand, but you walk alone in fear. Tell me, where do you go, from here?”
It was then that he saw her, Zaros standing before him with her arms outstretched with a welcoming smile. He heard two things, one of them he did not understand at all, but he ignored that as he heard her also humming the song.
He tried to focus on the cabbit, “I did your tasks…went on your adventures…what was the point if I didn’t get my name?” There was no answer from the Zaros on this plane, but he heard answers on the other side that he forced himself to ignore. “I’m not Arnold, I’m not the hero, I’m not the nurse, not even the pirate. What am I?”
He heard two different answers, but that only confused him. But the Zaros of this plane walked over to the pool that Moriarty had him drink out of, and then she gestured for him to follow.
He rolled over slowly and made his way to the pool of liquid. It wasn’t dark anymore like it had been after Moriarty had touched it. It shone like the color of his eyes, or eye now, and showed him memories that he had not seen when he drank from the pool before.
He took several laps at it and then felt himself fall as the good memories, that had been denied to him by Jason, came back. Moments of triumph like when he had used a steam shovel to clear Fae Way instead of the shovel Emerson had provided, and fulfilling Mumsy’s impossible tasks, and when he had chosen to live rather than cease to exist.
But other things came back…he had remembered getting shot, but he had not remembered that he had done so while pushing Dr. Maddox and Beatrixe Rouse out of the line of fire. Where he had tried to bring Doctor Dinosaurs attention onto him and him alone. He saw his acts that others saw as heroism, but he also saw points in time where he had chosen not to act. Where he had ignored or walked past acts of theft and vandalism with amusement, usually committed by street urchins.
He was not a hero who saved people indiscriminately, nor was he an adventurer at heart: He was a guardian. Someone that protected those he considered his charges; Maddox, the cats, the urchins, and whomever he deemed worthy enough that he would risk his life and even die for theirs. With that one understanding his true name came to him, a name he would never share with anyone.
It also meant guardian.
–The cat woke up a few minutes later with a full understanding not only of his entire journey, but his previous life. He explained the situation to Zaros and Lilith, and when Stormy came in with a slingshot the cat just massaged the spot where the white haired boy shot him.
The feline was exhausted so he spent the night in that room. That was the first night he reached the dream fields, though Id walked them with Heliotrope often enough. He was alone and did not wish to search for Lisa. He was perhaps more panther-like than he was while awake, and he was only clothed really in the tattered urchin hat and jacket, which was undone.
He spent the night where he lay, simply relaxing, but it wasn’t long before he felt the pull again to that other Babbage. It seemed that he had one last thing to do there–
–’Cuffs was filled to bursting as music and laughter reverberated off its walls and filled the port with its mirth. The rest of the city might as well have not existed for this moment in time, and the cat didn’t even care how he had gotten here. Everyone was there, the Melniks sitting on their fireplace and clapping their hands as Petra, Leon, Tepic, and Loki provided the music, though once in awhile Lapis did insist on playing a tune as well.
The Lionhearts, the Pearse’s, the Daggers, the Clockwinder and Maggie, Junie and Emerson, Avariel, Beatrixe, Blackberry, Bookworm, Dr. Cyberfausus, Sonnerstein, Victor, Mack, Zaros–dozens of dancers went over the paper that had been thrown about haphazardly on the floor. Others such as Underby, Phaedra, and Mumsy were just watching the festivities from the side with cool smiles. Gilhooly and Max, Tubby, were in an eating contest, with no clear winner in sight, Chess Clowes and Nymlet were setting their robots to battle in a corner, while Momoe and many others wobbled on their feet drunkenly after entering into a drinking contest with the Emperor, who was winning.
The cat clapped his paws merrily along with everyone else to the music and encouraged her to keep going. It was a night filled with laughter, dancing, boasting, practical jokes (Petra seemed especially fond of pranking the Squire), and music that seemed to go on forever, even the sewers nearby seemed almost active in a way.
When it was finally going to end, when he felt as if he was going to leave this Babbage for the last time, Tepic came to him grinning, “Did yer find out yer name?”
“Yes, I did,” he said simply. His true name he would never tell anyone, not even a realm that he might never see again, but he already knew what he wanted his friends to call him now, “Beryl Strifeclaw.”