Chapter 18: Cats

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I only had time to open my mouth in fear before the front of Marrianna lifted up, and then too where I sat, in the same rippling motion. The only thing for me to hold onto was a thin spike between me and Jack that didn't even come up to my belly button. I clutched it for all I was worth and closed my eyes as I had in her claws.

Jack whooped ahead of me, and I squinted at him. My eyes bulged. He had half risen in his seat and was only holding on with one hand. The constant swerving motion became too much and I closed my eyes again. Why had I climbed on? I longed for Marrianna's claws to close around me once again. At least that would afford some illusion of safety. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn't have to hold on constantly, teeth clenched, whole body braced for movement. Sure I'd have held on anyway, and been tense enough, but this was far worse. Each twist and turn nearly jarred me from my perch on her waving back.

"You okay?"

My only response was a moan.

"What on Sky's Ground. . ." Marrianna muttered. (As even her mutters had some volume to them, I had no problem picking out her voice through the wind.)

"What is it?" Jack asked. (Even he could hear it, which was saying something.)

Marrianna didn't answer for a moment. We hung there long enough that for a fraction of a second I considered opening my eyes. Then she shot forward. "Metal beasts."

I felt myself slip back and tightened my grip, whole body trembling.

"Metal beasts?"Jack asked.

"Partly metallic creatures. They just appeared out of the blue not too long ago. No one knows why or where they came from. That's where Zi and Ze went- to follow one herd. It's-" She cut off and abruptly dropped.

I opened my eyes. "What happened?" I yelled over the wind whipping in my ears.

Jack partly turned around. "Something shot at us. I don't know-"

A ball of steel spikes appeared, shooting towards us, and Marrianna dropped again.

"What are those things?" I yelled.

Jack shook his head. "They kind of look how porcupines do when they're curled up in balls, but..." 

I shook my head. Leave it to Jack to know the name of a dangerous monster.

"Hang on!" Marrianna yelled.

No need to tell me twice. Jack, however, nearly got his wish to fly. We were now moving so fast- far faster than any Horse I'd been on- that I almost couldn't believe he managed to hang on.

The force of the wind brought tears to my eyes, but through them I could just make out more metal beasts. 

We were on a collision course.

They were smaller than Jack's horses and larger than his snakes and porci. . . porca. . . things. Actually, they looked kind of like the creature I'd called to yesterday. The cat thing. These ones didn't have wings and were striped orange and black (and, you know, partially made of metal), but other than that, they really looked the same.

"Marrianna!" My voice rose an octave. She didn't move to either side, just kept shooting towards them as they shot towards us.

My hands had at some point left the spike; now my arms were wrapped tightly around Jack. When had that happened?

The metal beasts' legs weren't still. Like with the snakes, it seemed they needed to propel themselves forward. All four legs pumped, almost like instead of flying, they were running on air. 

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