Chapter 2 here
Malina, who was a Princess of a very long name and had until very recently been lost in the desert, regarded the castle before her. She looked over the door hanging off its hinges; she looked at the lovely, ornate doorframe.
She took a breath. She’d come this far, let the cat and the mustang lead her. She was letting the cat rush her. She was still lost in the borderlands, even if she now had a destination.
She held her breath and stepped forward through the doorway, moving the door aside.
The door moved slowly under her hand, the bottom corner dragging in the sand. Malina glanced at the cat, who was walking very close to her, and then pushed the door again.
She made it through the doorway; the door was far easier to urge back closed than it had been to open. She latched it, feeling silly – there was nobody around, for one, and for another, it was still missing a hinge & only half connected to the other.
Still, she felt better for having it shut and latched.
The cat darted ahead and then hopped back to Malina. “The tower, this way. That is the best place to rest.”
“This place…” she was standing not quite in a courtyard, but in a very wide walkway, open to the sky above but shaded in parts to the left with a lattice. To the right, where the cat had darted, the pathway turned; in front of her was another door, this one in better repair.
“The tower,” the cat repeated. He darted back to the tower door – the wall curved there, as did the door.
“The tower.” Malina looked at the cat, then turned her attention back to the door in front of her.
The cat made a noise of distress, much more feline than most of the things it said. “Everything in its time, Child of Dominika. Everything in its time, and it is the tower’s time first. This way. Please.” He turned back to her, tapped her sanded foot lightly with a paw, and turned back again towards the door.
“All right.” she was letting the cat bully her. Of course, he had also rescued her.
The door to the tower opened far easier than the first door had, as if its hinges had been oiled just yesterday.
Malina found herself regarding a stairway directly ahead, curving up to the right, and, to the left, a small sitting room. The sand had snuck in here and there; the upholstery was a little tattered and a little faded, but it looked comfortable enough.
“Not here, not yet.” The cat sounded apologetic now. “I know you’re tired. But up, first. Up we must go.”
“Up,” she sighed.
But up, Malina went. The stairs were some sort of grating made of metal but looking like leaves underfoot & the railing was designed like a vine. The windows she passed, one for every quarter-turn, she thought, were tall enough that they reached from her knee to over her head, their stained glass looking like the patterns on the tattered banners.
She passed a small landing, another sitting nook.
“Not yet, I’m afraid,” the cat repeated. “Up we must go.”
“Up,” she sighed again, and up she went.
She passed another landing; this time, the cat did not even have to tell her. The tower seemed quite tall inside, but Malina thought that might be her sore feet talking. When she reached another door, she looked down at the cat.
Even the cat appeared tired. “Welcome home,” he repeated, “Malina, Dominika, O Alexandre. Open the door to your home.”
What could she do but open the door? The knob was warm under her hand. The door swung open silently.
Malina stared. The tower room was not big, but it was bright, the windows letting in all of the sunlight. And it was full, two wide tables built to fit the curve of the walls.
To the left; piles of documents. To the right; a map in sand. To the center: a throne. Or, at least, a very ornate chair, carved in leaves and vines and tree branches.
“Welcome home.” The sandcat hopped up into the throne and curled up on the cushion the same color as its fur. “Your home is glad to see you.”