The Furling was furious. Not at Kanan, which was at least some comfort under the circumstances, but furious enough to make Kanan worry just how accurate his genetic memories of the Furlings were regarding their ability to lie. Cat Sith seemed likely to murder him on principle just for having seen the Furling Lord so vexed.
Exactly what had barred the Furling noble from accessing the Kingdoms of Sun and Snow after tossing Selmak through the portal was unclear, but the gateway slammed shut in violent bust of blue and purple sparks - frying the Furling's whiskers as he tried to drag Kanan into the shutting portal. He screeched a meowling cry that couldn't be mistaken for anything other than the vilest of curse words, clawing at the empty air with his talons. His claws ripped open shimmering pockets of air that allowed small glimpses into the other world, only for those pockets to sear shut with the same perverse lightning.
Kanan didn't dare speak or move for fear that he would draw the creature's ire upon him. He sat on the bed, trying not to allow the scent of fresh rot upon the dead bodies turn his stomach. The crimson of their blood stained most of the walls and ceiling, congealing with the vague touches of frost where the beast walked. Somehow, Cat Sith's massive paws made no imprint though they ought to have tracked blood everywhere by now.
Curse the Warden - curse his black heart, would Kanan never be free of the man? The man had schemes upon schemes and Kanan felt like he was only now beginning to understand the degree of depth to which the Goa'uld Lord had invested into whatever endgame the Warden was building towards. He'd had no shortage of time to consider them while the Furling tried and failed to open a portal to the other side. It was time that he used to consider and reconsider the events of the past few days with his host.
There were too many convenient coincidences for the Warden's actions to be mere chance. Every action the man had taken felt impossibly calculated in retrospect, regardless of how insane it felt while one was living through it. It was terrifying really, Kanan couldn't be sure how much of the Warden's plans were ad hoc and how many were pre-planned schemes but all seemed to be working in the Warden's long term favor. So either he was abundantly lucky or had a frankly terrifying spy network and no will to live. Given that he was staring at a favored killer of the Winter Court, the latter seemed entirely plausible.
Had he known that Kanan was coming for him? It was oddly fortuitous that "Heka" had changed routes at the last minute rather than walking into Kanan's ambush. He'd spent a long time working his way into Baal's hierarchy to position himself properly to take out the ancient God of Magic. The Semitic deity was well positioned to prove a rival power for Sokar, especially with the acquisition of Heka's repositories of knowledge. And with a little careful nudging, the Tok'ra could set things in motion to ensure that the armies of Baal, Sokar and Chronos would be embroiled in a war for control of Nekheb – weakening all of them.
But that implied a reliable intelligence source on the Tok'ra, meaning that either the Furlings had breached Tok'ra warding or that one of their own was a double agent on the Warden's behalf. He wasn't sure which possibility was less appealing. Especially given that any source capable of providing information on his plans to assassinate Heka would have plausibly been informed of the separate plan to destroy Netu. It was all speculation, but it was disturbingly plausible.
And, given the Warden's apparent senility, it would be difficult to plan responses around him. Heka had always been a tinkerer. Even back in the early days of the Goa'uld Empire, before their prolonged use of the Sarcophagus started to rot their minds, he'd been at the edge of his sanity. If ever there was going to be a System Lord who would try something dangerous in order to restore their former powers, it would have been Heka. Well… him or Thoth.
He blinked in surprise when he realized that Cat Sith's most recent comment had been directed at him. "Sorry," He apologized. "I didn't catch that."
"We need to move – quickly." Replied the Furling. "There are powers at play that were not supposed to be here."
"Powers other than the ones who is coming to kill me?" Kanan replied, unintentionally allowing an edge of his caustic mood to seep into his speech.
"You would do well to keep a civil tongue in your lips child." Snarled the massive feline as he lapped at the pooling blood on the floor, wetting his muzzle as he carved strange symbols in the dead guards faces with an outstretched talon. Frost stretched out from the symbols he carved, turning the flesh of the bodies blueish and cracking their flesh. Their wounds froze over as the corpses rose, crimson icicles hanging from their frostbitten skin. "Or I will gladly remind you of exactly why the race of mortal man fears what lurks in the shadows."
"What have you done?" Ban asked, horrified as the eyes of the resurrected guards shattered - exposing glowing motes of blue light within the frozen orbs.
"The Slaugh Sidhe are never far from the restless dead, they flock to the scenes of mortal transgressions and carnage." Cat Sith's maw turned up in a terrifying feline grin. "We have an… understanding…"
The two possessed creatures stared at Cat Sith expectantly, a murderous edge to their barely relaxed posture.
"Friends, I have a task for you. There is someone who has placed wards and a threshold above those placed by the Summer Queen. You are to find those responsible and correct this arrogance." The predatory creature's tail swished irritatedly, slapping the now frozen pool of blood. "In exchange you may do whatever pleases you with those responsible."
The Slaugh Sidhe hissed something close to language, making chittering gripes with their frozen tongues. Cat Sith's eyes narrowed, "I am no fool. You will settle for the price I have offered - no more - or I shall cast you back to the nothing."
The two Slaugh hissed in disappointed accession.
One of the Slaugh opened it's lips, speaking in a voice of honeyed nightmares. Kanan couldn't understand a word of what it said, but it made Cat Sith cackle in amusement. "No. Lamentably you may do no harm to those under mine own protection nor to the armies of this fortress, except to defend your own lives."
The other Slaugh made a similar keening intonation. The Furling just continued to grin. "I leave that to your discretion. Suffice it to say, I expect you to leave an impression."
The two possessed corpses grinned, their frozen faces cracking as their cheeks dimpled. Frozen shards of pinkish blue skin broke off and fell to the ground to melt in the still pooling blood. They picked up the weapons of the Tau'ri discarded by the men they were possessing and turned to the door. Their skin rippled with a translucent blue Aura as they simply walked through the door.
"Well that isn't unsettling or anything." Ban spoke in deadpan horror.
"We don't have the luxury of "comfortable" allies. I am unable to open a path to the Nevernever while the wards are active." The Furling griped. "We must rely upon those resources at easily at hand."
"The warriors of the first world are going to slay those monstrosities on sight, you know." Interjected Kanan.
"They'll certainly try." Grinned the Furling Lord in apparently gleeful anticipation of the carnage to come.
Kanan briefly found himself wondering if he might not have been better off staying with the Warden's retinue. Kanan understood the Goa'uld.
"Come child, we must make our own way." The Furling growled moving towards a wall in the exact opposite direction from the door. Kanan flinched, briefly considering his chances of making it out the door before the feline had the opportunity to catch him. If he could lock the door behind him perhaps it would delay the creature long enough to reach safety. But if the creature was to be believed, something far worse than the Hunter of Frost was coming to kill him.
Fighting every instinct in his body, Kanan stood up and followed the furling into the shadows in the corner of the room - taking care not to slip on the frozen blood. There was no reason for the shadows to cast on the space into which the Furling walked, there was no apparent source for them given their seeming direct exposure to light. Nor was there a logical reason for the shadows to continue far past where the room should have stopped. Kanan followed the Furling into the darkness, walking into the inky nothing that seeped out from the wall. His feet continued to find open ground long after he should have found nothing, one step after the other into impossible geometry.
By the time he mustered the courage to look behind him there was no room, only the shadows and the Furling ahead of him. Ban's thoughts were troubled as he directed a question at Kanan, "I thought couldn't take us to the lands of Sun and Snow."
"He did," Agreed Kanan mentally.
"Then where in the thirteen hells are we?" Ban asked, a twinge of fear in his voice as there was a rustling shiver of shadow that brushed past Kanan's leg in the darkness. Kanan gasped in fear as the black tendril wrapped briefly around his leg before disappearing into the distant shadow. He yelped in shock as two pinpricks of orange light regarded him from the either.
"Do not linger!" Scolded Cat Sith, a furious roar in his throat as the pin pricks disappeared back into the shapeless nothing. "We do not want the attention of the others."
"Others?" Kanan gulped.
"I am not the only creature who lurks in Shadow." The Furling admitted as it turned on the spot, pointing a paw behind Kanan. "Now I need you to open the door."
"What door?" Kanan replied in confusion as he turned around, only to find himself in yet another of the drab grey rooms of the Tau'ri base. A supply cupboard of some sort by the looks of it, there was as bright yellow bucket with a mop in it and a tall shelf covered in brightly colored cleaning solvents. "Egeria's blood! How?"
"There are spaces between spaces if one knows where to look." Replied the Furling. "Now, quickly, open the door. I would do it myself but … well." It raised a taloned paw that looked poorly suited to twist the knob.
"Oh, yes." Kanan replied, opening the door and standing to the side as the large cat walked out of the closet. It walked carefully, stepping over the metal strip along the floor that delineated where the corridor ended and the closet began.
It was suspiciously bereft of people. A fortress of this size, even as secure as that of the Tau'ri, ought to have had a multitude of people going about the day to day business of a military. The admittedly brief time that Kanan spent walking the spaces of the SGC had been typified by dozens of men and women in blue jumpsuits and camouflage fatigues wandering hither and thane piled high with papers and folders. There weren't even apparent signs of guards in this corridor.
"Where is everyone?" Ban asked in confusion.
"Not here." Cat Sith hissed, "Now stop drawing attention to us or they will gladly correct that error."
Kanan's eyes widened in horror as they rounded a corner and Cat Sith tackled him into an alcove, holding his massive paw over the Tok'ra's mouth to keep him from yelling in surprise. The two of them disappeared from view, wrapped in the shadows extending from the Furling's body.
A cadre of chitinous creatures strode down the hallway, holding the weapons of the Tau'ri as they pushed cart down the hall with a woman upon it. She was apparently unconscious and purple chitinous biotech was attached to her body at odd intervals. There was a greasy taste in the back of his throat as they passed him, their chitin clicking on the stone floor as they walked.
Cat Sith's eyes widened in shock as the creatures passed him, but not nearly as wide as Kanan's did. He recognized the creatures from Egeria's memories - Stragoth. They were one of the species Chronos reportedly had under lock and key on the prison planet of Pibotagilnasjo - a planet that had been removed from the gate network when the Goa'uld were forced to retreat after it fell to the Unspeakable in the early days of the ancient conflict before the Folly of Thoth. They were a lesser servitor race of the enemy, a byblow's byblow in the hierarchy of the Unspeakables, condemned to the prison world by Chronos when he'd used one of Ra's ancient weapons to destabilize subspace to prevent access to either the Kingdom of Sun and Snow, Hyperspace, or the Gate Network in the solar system of Pibotagilnasjo. For thousands of years the Titan had garrisoned a fleet of star ships above the planet to prevent anything from escaping and to ensure that the subspace weapon's effects continued to isolate the planet.
Either by arcane sorcery of the Unspeakable or their own technological advancement, the inmates of Pibotagilnasjo had gained access to the gate network. The quarantine had failed. The inmates of Pibotagilnasjo were loose. Even Egeria had been unsure which of the ancient forces slumbered on the nightmare world of Pibotagilnasjo. He had to live through today - the Tok'ra needed to know of this danger to the galaxy.
The Furling let loose a growl that might have been a feline set of swear words once the Stragoth were out of earshot. "Bitch of a Leananside - she must have known. I thought that it was his presence that brought the Russian, not this. Very well. This changes nothing in the immediate but we must move quickly if we are to correct this issue before your escape. Mine own Queen would not approve of them gaining control of this edifice."
"Where are you taking me?" Kanan's footfalls, careful though they were, sounded thunderous to him in the otherwise silent corridor.
"Worm, we are 16 stories deep below the spine of the earth. One enemy is knocking at the gates as another festers within. I cannot take you outside this fortress' wards else I expose you to the one who would see you dead. I cannot keep you here else you fall prey to whatever force the Stragoth have bound to them in order to subvert the will of the Summer Queen. Their sorceries are potent, and they are prepared for the forces of Summer and Winter. Look how they adopt the ferromantic weapons of the Tau'ri rather than using their own techologies!" Cat Sith shook his head. "No - I cannot reasonably say that I will be able to bring you to safety."
He paused for a moment, his lip curling in disgust at an admission of his own limitation. "Don't mistake my meaning. I would of course survive, even if you died. But I would fail in my bargain - and the consequences of your early death would be publicly embarrassing for me."
"Oh good." Kanan replied caustically. "I'm glad to know the only thing saving me from a painful death is your desire to save face."
"It is." Agreed Cat Sith. "Any sane person would call your situation a lost cause. So we are going to the patron saint of those with nowhere else to turn. The deal of last resort for fools and the desperate."
"That is not an answer." Kanan growled as they reached a broad set of unguarded double doors beneath a placard that said "Stockade" in the language of the Tau'ri.
"We are visiting a specialist in lost causes and impossible wars, Worm." The feline purred, pushing the double doors inward in spite of an impressive array of locks that Kanan was convinced had been locked when the Furling's paw met the wooden barrier. It swung inward, exposing a small room lined with cells.
They were simple things, utilitarian facilities equipped with a bed, washing facilities, a work station and monitoring cameras. Kanan noted that the red lights on each camera suspiciously turned off as soon as Cat Sith moved into their field of view. The cells were mostly unoccupied, though a disturbing number of them seemed to have signs that their occupants had been forcibly removed. Bedding was tossed asunder in several of the cells, with splatters of blood where someone's face had met the bars of their cell. There were smudges of crimson where someone had been dragged out of the stockade.
In fact there was only a single occupant of the Tau'ri prison. A dark skinned figure wearing a slightly ripped T-Shirt and jeans. Kanan wasn't sure why, but being in the man's presence made him deeply uncomfortable - it was different from being in the presence of a Re'tu but still disturbing. The man's brow quirked in surprise as he regarded the Furling. "I'll admit, this I was not expecting."
"Sir Knight." Crowed the Furling Lord, obviously enjoying the man's incarceration. "Have I come at a bad time?"
"Da." Replied the man as he took several steps back to ensure the thick iron bars were protecting him from the Furling. "I find that any time that I cross paths with a Lord of Sidhe ends up being a bad time. But given that you are not a terrifying crab person who is here to drag a screaming and bleeding man to his presumptive doom I am willing to concede that this is an upgrade from my last visitor."
"You wound me, Sir Knight." Growled Cat Sith, smiling in a mocking Cheshire grin.
"Not yet, but give it time. I'm sure the moment will arise." Replied the man in his thick accent. "Now, you have not yet murdered me so I assume you want something unreasonably difficult for a seemingly worthwhile price that will turn out to be a colossal nightmare for me and a giant boon for you, in the long run at least."
The Cat's tail twitched eagerly as the man sighed in exasperation. "Very well, what are you terms?"
"I am going to let you out of this cell then help you find your sword and in exchange you will continue your duties as a Knight of the Cross and protect the innocent." Cat Sith continued his terrifying cheshire grin. "I will, in exchange, agree to a truce between us for the next twenty four hours - provided that you take no actions to harm those to whom I am sworn to give aid."
"это пиздец" The man pinched the bridge of his nose. "This is going to be a remarkably bad day isn't it?"
"Probably." Conceded the Furling.
"Whose your friend?" He gestured to Kanan. As Kanan felt another ripple of discomfort run through his spine he wondered what manner of beast was this for the Furling to seek it out as a "deal of last resort." He didn't like being in the man's gaze, it felt like he was an insect beneath a magnifying glass. At any moment the holder might change the focus and burn him to ash.
"You would consider him an innocent." Replied Cat Sith. "Now, do you want out of this cell or do you intend to wait for a more 'divine' exit? Your 'crab people' are busying themselves while we bicker."
The man nodded, grinning. "This will be fun. I am a big man with a sword, you are a large cat, we will kill monster people. It will be like cartoon with Castle Greyskull."
"We have an accord?" Cat Sith's eyes flashed eagerly.
"Da." The man cracked his fingers. "We have an accord."