Montrose stood, stunned, then raced forward to hew at the beasts limbs. Its grip on the door frame loosened under the assault and retreated. Both bears tumbled through the portal which slammed shut behind them.
They landed in a corridor of cold stone, lined with steel doors. The creatures limbs were disappearing around a corner.
“After it! The fight will be worse if it gets into the open!” Racing through the halls, hacking at the creature whipping around one corner after another, the bears struggled to keep up. It wasn’t long before they passed through the last set of doors and emerged into an alien world. Buildings of rough stone loomed overhead. They seemed to curve, creating a partial canopy and threatening to close in on themselves. Montrose immediately felt claustrophobic at the sight, but a moment later his attention shifted to the creature. It’s sibilant murmering began to bore into his ears. If there were any other sound they drowned in the noise.
The other bear had not ceased his headlong charge. He shouldered aside attacks, deflecting them with his body, aggressively pursuing his quarry. There was little wasted movement to his actions as he relentlessly chopped through the limbs grasping at him. Montrose leapt at the nearest one, which now looked more like a tentacle than an arm, and easily sliced through. More and more of the hazy appendages sprouted forth as they attacked it. The creature was obscured by the writhing and whipping mass. There seemed no end to them.
In the span of a breath, the monstrosity leapt back, causing both bears to stumble forward from momentum. They spared a confused glance before Montrose saw him: The child was across the street, huddled at the base of the opposite buildings. Shouting, he began to run, knowing that it was a race to reached the small, huddled boy. The other bear charged to his right, intercepting the grasping tentacles that now sought the child it tormented. Unexpectedly, the creature pounded the ground around them, cracks spreading out in a web. Montrose dived for the boy, the other bear changing course to help. Both were within reach of their charge when the ground gave way, sending all three tumbling into darkness. The child’s screams mixed with the roar of the other bear as he and Montrose struggled to reach him.
Montrose grabbed the child’s clothes as the other wrapped his arms around them both. He tried to shout something into Montrose’s ear, but a rising sound of crashing water drowned it out. He realized the other bear was turning them as they fell, taking the brunt of impact when they struck a deep pool of water. Everything went black, and all sound disappeared.
Montrose awoke to a feeling of weight and realized his stuffing was soaked through. That would be a problem. He couldn’t afford to be slowed down. Gently, he began to wring out, feeling the water seep out through the stitching. His surroundings became clearer as he did so. They were on a ledge at the edge of a dark pool, the boy sitting a short distance away, and the strange bear pacing impatiently.
“Finally awake, are you? You need to learn to absorb an impact better than that,” he growled. “How young are you?”
Montrose stood and looked at his reflection in the water. He was made to look like an old bear, streaked with grey, and thoughtful, hooded eyes. He wore trousers with a tweed vest over what had been a crisp, beige shirt.
“A few months,” he answered. “You?”
The bear seemed to soften as he said, “Generations. Let’s just leave it at that. His makers gave him a general appearance of youth wearing red boots, jeans, an untucked crimson shirt, and a grey blazer. There was the flat cap, also crimson, and the large cross-hilted sword. Montrose assayed all that in a moment. What stopped him were the eyes. While his were a soft amber, this bear had violet eyes, glittering in the gloomy light around them. They bore into him with an intensity that quickly became uncomfortable.
“What’s your name?”
“Look, Montrose, you just look after the child. I’ll deal with this. Keep him safe and out of sight. Silence and speed are our best means of getting out of here.”
Bristling, Montrose retorted, “You have no authority over me! This child is mine to protect and I will do so until the last wad of stuffing is pulled from my body. You have the audacity to give me orders?”
The bear’s eyes grew cold, two pieces of amethyst boring into Montrose.
“You are a teddy bear, Montrose,” he spat,” and seem to have no idea what that means or how to exist. Your place is to protect people from the nightmares, the sound under the bed, the odd shadow in the corner, and you have so far made little difference for this child. Yes, if you continue, every last stitch will be pulled from you and he will be defenceless. You have a duty, one that needs to be learned fast. I can teach you, but right now, right this instant, you need to listen to me.” The voice was harsh and tired, as though the bear was pushed past all endurance. Swinging his sword up, he rested it across his shoulders.
“Also, there’s one thing you need to know right now.”
Montrose waited, but the bear simply stood there.
“What is that?”
“I am Barnabus,” he said, before giving a wide, mirthless grin that exposed a mouth full of unnaturally realistic teeth.