Lisa set her paws firmly on the trail in the Dreamfields. She always felt more confident here, in her old feline form. Still, she knew it was going to be a tall order to find Beryl in this, so before she made a move, she sent a thought to Lord Firefoot, one of the Feline gods. It was almost a demand for help, rather than a plea, but it was certainly heartfelt. And with that done, she set off down the path.
She galloped quickly at first, passing familiar side trails that led to the Dreamfields of family and feline friends. As she continued her travels, she wondered idly how much time would pass in reality. Sometimes, when she came back from the Dreamfields, she found less time had passed than she expected; sometimes, it was more. Lisa was determined to stick this out to the end, no matter how long it took. She just hoped she’d be able to do it undisturbed.
Eventually, she reached a point where her surroundings were less familiar, and she slowed to a trot. She passed the turn that had led to Rasend’s Dreamfields – now obstructed by a wall and locked gate. The wolf had truly blocked her out, afraid, perhaps, that she might try to learn where he was, and then tell Captain Hienrichs.
Now Lisa was in territory to which she’d never ventured, and she continued at a cautious walk, pausing at each branching to assess the side trails with all her senses. But nothing drew her in – there was no hint of familiarity emanating from any of the paths.
Suddenly, she stopped dead in her tracks. Was that a cat’s call behind her? She whipped around, peering back along the path. There – was that a cat taking one of the paths? A black cat, with red paws? She trotted back, looking where it had gone. There was a path there, one she was sure she hadn’t seen before, one she could only see into a couple of feet, before mist shrouded it. She hesitated, still wondering how she’d missed this, when suddenly… the path was gone.
Lisa yowled in surprise and anger, and looked around wildly, wondering what she should do now. But a voice – whether inside or outside her head, she didn’t know – said, “Patience.” Patience was something every cat knew, and so she exercised it, sitting down where she was, and watching the empty space in front of her as if it was a mousehole.
She didn’t know how much time passed, but finally, her patience was rewarded, as the path – what there was of it – shimmered into view before her. Without another thought, she leaped forward, landing on the side path. She looked back, and could barely make out the main Dreamfields path where she’d been. This seemed to be where she needed to go, though, and so she inched forward, picking her way through the thick mist.
It was this slow pace that saved her from injury, as a mass of thornbushes suddenly appeared in front of her. She reared back, making sure no thorns were close enough to injure her eyes, and scanned the obstacle carefully. The branches and thorns looked quite thick; she didn’t fancy trying to creep through that. She scanned the outer branches, and thought she saw a way to climb up. Being above might help her see the best way to go.
Lisa set her claws into the wood, hauling herself up onto the branches and picking her way up. As she climbed, though, she suddenly felt something grab at her from behind. She whirled around, but saw nothing. Another grab from behind, and she yowled and leaped up. And suddenly, she was being gripped on all sides, and drawn into the thornbushes.
She craned her neck as best she could, trying to see what was attacking her. When she finally worked it out, she could hardly believe it. The thorns themselves had become claws, articulated and fully capable of gripping, as they were now proving with ease. For several seconds, Lisa was frozen in astonishment. Then she began struggling, trying to break free.
Now the thorns gripped tighter, and she could feel them poking into her skin and leaving scratches on her legs and body. The more she fought them, the worse it got. Blind, unthinking panic was building inside her, but before it could take hold of her mind, she heard the same voice she had earlier. “Calm.”
She fought to take hold of herself, and to cease her struggles. As she worked herself into a measure of frozen calm, the pressure from the thorns eased. It seemed that she had no choice but to go wherever the thorn-claws were taking her. For some time, she was carried along in the dim depths of the bushes, but finally, she thought she sensed more light around her.
The thorns slowed their passing of her body, and suddenly dumped her to the ground – clear of the bushes, thankfully. She shook herself, glaring at the thornbushes, which were sturdily unaffected. ‘Oof,’ she thought. ‘If I’d have to go through *that* every time, I think this will be my only visit to Beryl’s Dreamfields.’ Then she sat down and began cleaning herself, smoothing her fur and licking at a few of the worst scratches. A cat has priorities, after all.
Once she felt more presentable, she stood up and trotted away from the bushes. It wasn’t long before she began hearing many voices shouting and cheering. Ahead, she saw a large, brick and stone building. The entrance ahead of her had steps that curved unevenly upwards. The building itself, though, looked unfinished, with no roof and uneven walls. Pallets of bricks were lying about. Led by the noise, Lisa silently went to the entrance and climbed up the stairs, keeping to the shadows.
((To be continued…))