The dead both fear and loathe cats for they are the guards that patrol the gates of the underworld.
They fear them because they hold the keys to their escape and hunt down those who have made it into the open. The Leathermen were particularly wary of cats even though not all of them had the power to be their gaolers. The Children of Pan had rarely encountered anything that caused them fear or consternation, they were the hunters and it was for others to fear them.
Arthur had seen too much to be afraid anymore. He had watched as the ‘rats’ slaughtered his keepers, he had fought with those dreaded creatures and had survived. He had witnessed the attack of the Leathers and remembered their defeat. In truth, only Michael had the power to move him towards trepidation, but not this Michael.
Arthur, knew the witch before she even knew herself. The woman they called Maria had a much older name and from within her came power. She had spoken in the old words and he had understood what she wanted of him. Their situation was desperate, but no more than any of the other ones they had escaped from.
The cat settled into the shadows and waited, its hind legs sprung ready for action as the clumsy step of a Leather approached. Even with his acute senses, Arthur did not detect the Child of Pan until the very last moment.
The boy, if boy is what it could be called, had slunk out of the shadows as if emerging from another world. Only instinct, a sense honed by a millennia of evolution and survival, alerted it to the danger that was about to fall upon it. Arthur shifted onto its coiled hind legs and sprang forward as a blade swept the air where he had been.
In leaping forward, the animal shot into the path of the Leather it had been watching. Slow-wittedly, the Leather’s head craned downwards to take in the thing that had bumped into its shins. With a much faster reaction, the Leather realised that the creature at his heels was more than anything he would expect to meet on this side of the great divide. It was then that it would, if it was possible, have shot out of its own skin to save whatever was left of its being.
In other areas of the dark, its carcassed companions were awakening to the threat as were the youthful hunters. They were all turning towards the place were the first Leather had stalled and stupefied. Only the growing scream, that rushed from within its empty innards, indicated anything that approached animation.
Yet this scream grew and grew until it reached a pitch that rang out throughout the courtyard with the clarity of a warning bell. Even the Children of Pan were not immune to its resonations.