The silver tabby ran in-between legs and leapt at the Escher Spider who had led Unexpected halfway into the side of the stairway. The non-Euclidian arachnid skittered away to a parallel geometric space.
“Merci brave lion,” said Unexpected as she squeezed her eyes shut.
“Is that your cat?” asked L’Horloge.
“No, though it’s been said that one cannot truly own a cat.”
“True,” said the Repairperson.
“You never struck me as a cat person,” said L’Horloge.
Unexpected, now clear-headed, scratched the silver tabby behind the ears. Purrs ensued.
“Did mademoiselle Maxi send you to watch over us?” wondered the Chevalier.
Meows, trills, and chatter filled the stairway.
“Is that a ‘yes?’” inquired L’Horloge.
“Perhaps it’s a bit more complicated than that but I suspect it is true,” said Unexpected.
With an impatient flick of his tail, the silver tabby climbed three steps, turned back, regarded the rest of them with an imperious glare, and continued upwards.
“Well then, we have our marching orders,” said Unexpected with a wry smile.
Three humans followed the cat.
“Why are Escher Spiders afraid of cats?” ruminated L’Horloge aloud.
“Cats and spiders are ancient foes,” said the Repairperson, “It is a war that has been fought for as long as either side can remember.”
“Are you saying that all cats and all spiders are in some sort of endless conflict?” asked L’Horloge incredulously.
“Was I not clear?”
“No, it’s just a little…,” said the watch-master as he attempted to choose the correct word.
“It’s news to us,” piped in Unexpected.
“Yes, that’s it,” added L’Horloge, “Why though?”
“Why are cats and spiders mortal enemies? That I do not know.”
“I wonder if they even remember?”
A yowl punctuated with some hisses came from the front of the line.
“I guess they do. It’s amazing that an Escher Spider would back off. The size difference alone should put the cats at disadvantage.”
“Size is not the only factor in a battle,” said Unexpected, “In fact, I was once almost bested by a Lutin only as high as my knee. Tricky little bastard nearly took my head.”
“How did you escape?”
“It was pure fortune that some salt spilled between us. Did I mention we were fighting in a kitchen?”
“You left out that part.”
“So, he couldn’t cross the salt which gave me the opening and voilà! He lost his head and I kept mine.”
“Aren’t Lutins helpful creatures?” asked L’Horloge.
“Some are. Others prefer to slaughter and cook people.”
“Agreed. But the thing is that a smaller fighter can best a larger one if they are clever,” pointed out the Chevalier.
“And cats always land on their feet,” added L’Horloge.
“That is why Escher Spiders fear them. They understand what side is up,” declared the Repairperson.
L’Horloge and Unexpected considered this.
“It makes sense.”
“Yes. I agree.”
A low growl was heard, followed by a hollow skittering. An Escher Spider slid out from beneath the steps behind them just as another folded up from the landing ahead of them.
“Close ranks!” shouted the Chevalier.
Unexpected and the Repairperson stood on either side of L’Horloge. Strikes came rapidly, parries and ripostes followed. Blood, both crimson and fractal stained the steps and littered the air.
The silver tabby leapt to and fro, keeping the extra-dimensional creatures at bay, but he could not be everywhere. In the distance, the clattering sounds of others could be heard approaching.
“We won’t last much longer,” said the Repairperson.
“I have a terrible idea!” yelled Unexpected.
“Please don’t!” replied L’Horloge.
“Repairperson, now is the time for heroics!”
As she said that, the Unexpected Chevalier was pulled sideways into the top of the stairs, followed closely by the silver tabby. The opening sealed itself with the sound of shuffling cards, leaving the upward path open.
L’Horloge was grabbed by the Repairperson who calmly said, “Run.”