Unedited snippet from Through the Badger Hole
Once more the left-hand door slammed open. Brechal, the bartender, looked up from where he was wiping off the top of the bar. Those looking at him rather than looking at the door would’ve seen that his eyebrows rose in surprise and he stopped in mid swipe. Most of the bar patrons had turned to stare at the door. They had barely finished assimilating the last couple of people that had come through the portal and here was another. It certainly was an exciting afternoon at the Badger Hole Bar!
Walking through the door was a young woman, dressed in slacks and wearing a jacket that said “FBI.” She took two steps into the room and stopped to look around. The door had closed noiselessly behind her unnoticed. Carrying herself with assurance well beyond the years displayed by her face and figure, the magic users in the room could tell immediately that this was a witch. And one of uncommon power. Despite the attractiveness of her dark, almost black hair and trim figure, none of the mercenaries made any move to approach her. Instead, the 20 or so patrons in the bar simply stared.
The room was motionless and quiet until muffled cries could be heard. Emanating from what appeared to be the jacket of the young woman, those closest could hear a demanding little voice yelling, “Let me out! I want to see!”
A wave of interest flew through the postures and expressions in the bar. Curiosity, alertness, hunger, all of these reactions were present. The woman’s gaze had marked for consideration each person that was in the bar and had only lingered momentarily on the more unusual forms. Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, she drew out a small blue-and-white animated form.
“Where are we? Why did we go through the weird door?”
The small figure in the woman’s hand marched back and forth. Fascinated, one of the mercenaries leaned closer to see what type of small creature it was.
“Watch it, big guy! Come any closer, and I’ll skewer you with my horn!”
The large man drew back in surprise, “Gads Zug of the Hairy Beard! It’s a unicorn! And it talks!”
“Of course, I talk. Should I be surprised that you talk?” replied the little creature, straightening up and thrusting his chest out.
Before the conversation could go any further, Madrik came hurrying into the bar area. “Welcome to the Badger Hole Bar, please feel free to come in and sit down.”
The woman smiled in response, and said, “Thank you for the welcome. My name is Agatha, and my grandmother sends her greetings.”
Madrik responded, “Marcella’s granddaughter is always welcome. Please have a seat and allow me to bring you a drink.”
Whatever Agatha would have said in response was short-circuited as the spidercat dropped from the ceiling on an elastic strand of web to bob over Agatha’s hand.
“Ack! A monster!” was wrenched out of the throat of the small unicorn.
“Fergus! Watch out!” cried Agatha. She made an abortive grab for the small form just as he jumped frantically out of her hand to the floor.
Fergus dove under the chair closest to him but it was no bar to the spidercat. The 2-foot arachnid with the cat tail and face dropped to the ground in pursuit and scuttled toward Fergus. Multiple people tried to grab Fergus as he dodged and wove behind legs and other obstacles. They all missed as his deceptive speed, and his small size threw their reflexes off.
Finally, Fergus dashed across an open area of the floor. In the open space, the spidercat’s long legs were used to advantage, and it pounced. The arc of its jump was rudely interrupted by a battering ram in animal form. Slamming into the side of spidercat, a yowling tornado of fur, flashing claws, and glowing green eyes violently shoved the attacking animal to the side and onto its back. The attacking feline pinned the spidercat to the ground with a paw tipped with needle-like claws. Staring down into the face of the immobilized animal, a small feline creature announced in bored tones, “Bad kitty! No eating the guests!”
Holding the stare long enough to make sure the arachnid kitty had gotten the message, the small black cat turned back to Fergus. “Obviously, you missed the whole self-defense class for familiars.”
Fergus stood in the middle of floor shaking slightly but still standing in a defiant posture. The action had been too fast and too confusing for anyone to react quickly enough or effectively. He seemed to be somewhat stunned, but not from the attack itself.
“But… but… but you’re a cat!”
“Yeah! Horsey face can see as well as talk.”
The cat started to stroll back to a table toward the rear of the bar. Throwing another comment over its shoulder, the cat said, “My name is Dascha. You are welcome to come with me and meet my witch. Of course, you can take your chances with spidercat when she gets over being blindsided. If so, I hope you can run faster than you did before.”
Fergus shook himself and started out after the black cat with a clatter of small hooves.
“Hey! Wait up. What sort of name is Dascha? So, you have a witch too? Mine is really smart and really pretty. And she gets me pizza! What does yours do?”