Cory looked, wide-eyed, around the room. There was a four-poster bed, a little dusty, and a table, also covered in dust. In the corner was a spider web, in near perfect condition, the sunlight from the window catching beautifully in its gossamer threads. Ezra hung, unconscious, from the ceiling, a large, menacing creature standing over her.
The creature was shaped like a person, but wrong somehow, as if someone had made a portrait and then smudged the wet paint with their hands. It stood half in sunlight, half in shadow, its shaded half glowing a gentle blue. Cory wanted to reach out and touch the thing to see what it was made of, but Muffin empathically and empathetically suggested that this might not be a particularly wise decision.
"What is that?" Katryn asked Lorien.
"I don't know," said the wizard, tapping anxiously at his staff. "I've never seen anything like it before."
"What are you?" she shouted at the creature. "What did you do to Ezra?"
The creature looked at her blankly through what Cory thought might be eyes. It made a hissing, chittering sound, like a treeful of cicadas on a midsummer day. The noise bothered Muffin, who growled gently, drawing on his magic and preparing his fire breath.
Cory, feeling Muffin's nervousness, reached in his bag for a small explosive. Katryn held a hand out, signaling to wait for her order. Before anyone could do anything, though, the creature swept toward the window, vanishing into the daylight outside.
Ezra dropped from the ceiling, only to be caught by Katryn, who stepped up quickly, dropping her sword aside and grabbing her friend with outstretched arms.
"Her magic's been drained," Lorien said, rushing forward.
Cory and Muffin watched, worried, as the wizard examined Ezra carefully. Then Cory noticed a mouse in the corner. He watched its whiskers twitching in fascination, wondering if he could replicate the movement with machinery.
By the time the mouse had crawled away, Lorien announced, "I stabilized her. She'll be fine. She just needs some rest."
"Thank Pratchett," said Katryn in relief.
"I don't know what that thing was. Looks like one of Darghzin's chimeras. Whatever it is, it's gone now."
"I guess Darghzin's not here," Katryn said with a sigh.
"And they key's gone too," said Lorien. "I guess there's no reason for us to stay here, then."
"Shall we go to the city?"
"Yeah, sure," said Katryn with obvious distaste.
Cory wondered if there would be a nice inn in the city. He had an idea about the mouse, but needed a quiet place to work on it.
With Katryn carrying Ezra, the team walked out of the castle. Out of the corner of his eye, Cory thought he saw something blue, but when he turned around, it was gone.