Now revised, because it desperately needed it.

Disclaimer: The books Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen belong to Garth Nix, who is not me.

Bindings of Duty

Somewhere, beyond the snow and the night, she was coming.

Elsewhere, in the darkness, a sliver of green glowed, set among a pale, silken expanse of fur. It shifted, shining white in the sparse threads of moonlight, and revealed a cavernous pink mouth.

A small, cattish tongue darted out as the Mogget yawned, opening his emerald eye fully to scan the room. None of the surroundings, cloaked in midnight, appeared remotely remarkable or out of place, yet it must have held some hidden sign for the creature, for he now stirred and rose to his paws. Stretching, he pricked his claws into the thick blanket covering the bed—the sendings would have had a fit if they'd seen—before leaping off.

Wraith-like, he padded down the cold stone hallways, aiming for the study. The House's spell-woven servants ignored him as they patrolled the dark corridors, the pale glow of their Charter marks reflecting strangely in the feline's eyes. They, too, seemed restless; indeed, the entire household held an air of tense waiting, though few knew the true reason why.

Mogget darted into the library, disregarding the books and the Charter marks that had illuminated at his arrival. Instead, he focused his attention on the ceiling, only to leap away with an indignant yowl as a ladder thumped down from a trapdoor directly above the spot he had occupied only a moment before. His tail lashed angrily, but it was his own fault for antagonizing and provoking the sendings.

He'd leapt up the rungs of the ladder in a moment's time, using paws, tail, and a cat's impeccable balance, combined with some indefinable force that proclaimed him to be much more than a mere cat—though what the Mogget might be was a mystery.

An observatory lay at the end of this endeavor, a circular room sheathed in glass. He crossed the thick carpet depicting a celestial map, looking like a lone white star dancing across the heavens. From there it was a mere bound to perch upon a stool and gaze out the windows. Chilled by the winter air, the glass frosted with each small puff of the cat's breath.

An expansive view of the cliffs bordering the River Ratterlin stretched before him. He focused intently southward, searching for something only he could see, listening for something only he could hear.

At his throat Saraneth tinkled faintly, as though recognizing the same call that had summoned Mogget here. The miniature bell, hanging from a red leather collar, seemed innocuous enough—but like Mogget, it was so much more than its simple appearance.

"Soon, sister," the cat hissed softly. "Soon."

His suspicions confirmed, the alabaster shadow abandoned the observatory tower. He raced down stairs and halls, almost eagerly, until he had crept out the front door of Abhorsen's House. Settling down on the front step to wait, he mused quietly to himself.

"She will come, and she will accept it, though Charter knows if she can succeed. Abhorsen is a weighty title to bear, though they pass like autumn leaves, each brilliant but fading into the multitude, names forgotten. Yet still I wait." He mewled with dark mischief. "After all, if I don't wait for an Abhorsen, how else shall I ever gain my freedom?"

The Binder rang reproachfully, but Mogget appeared to ignore it.

"See what my cunning wit has gained for me? The constricting collar of servitude, chains held by the hands of a betrayal that was not mine. If I had been as ignorant and soft as the mortals, Sister, perhaps I would have willingly submitted to your designs. But human greed leads to destruction and downfall, as Orannis well knows, and now you've bound him tightly. So I chose the middle road, and while smartest, it carries the pitfalls of both other paths.

"It was easier when we didn't complicate our lives with these morals and feelings," he spat bitterly.

A white cat-shape, outlined by a sky-blue door, waited in the courtyard for the first rosy tinges of dawn to appear over the walls around the island. The new day would herald the next catalyst in his fate, though none could predict what might happen or where it might lead. Not that he was in much of a hurry—the fate of the world didn't concern him very deeply.

However, he seemed to sense some unspoken question in the air, for it irritated him and prevented him from dozing off.

"Do not question my loyalty," Mogget hissed sourly, "for it is you who holds the bindings tight. And even I, for all my cunning, cannot even indirectly force your hand to slacken, for someone else must freely choose to end your reign. I resent your dominion, but I also acknowledge it.

"Tomorrow is another day, another game, another life to be won or lost. Perhaps I shall help in what ways I can. But bear always in mind—though I must work under your directions, I have my own set of rules to play by as well."

Yet, no matter anyone's resolutions…

Soon, she would arrive.


The End

-Windswift