Bilal enjoyed the warmth of the setting sun on his fur. The moment was so blissful that he was able to block out the sounds of a busy city. He prefers the morning light, slowly heating the world and driving back the darkness. It was a signal of a respite from the constant hunt for the things that go bump in the night.
The last rays were fading over the horizon before he sighed, turning to leave. The bear paused when something appeared in the corner of his vision. Fog was slowly creeping through the streets, but some of it was rolling through a side street. It was moving with a purpose, drifting into alleys before drawing back, only to flow in another direction. The mist was being controlled by some manner of intelligence.
Bilal squinted his eyes, trying to see within the murk, but there was no sign of a form hiding inside. Slowly, two swirling shapes appeared, resolving themselves into large, murky eyes, one noticeably larger than the other. Staring, he realized this was nothing known to these lands. If that is not born of the desert, Bilal thought, then where did it come from?
Staying on the rooftops, Bilal began following the mist. No real sense of malice emanated from the thing, but he was certain it was in pursuit of mischief. Whatever the creature was, there was no evidence of concern regarding Bilal’s presence. The route was convoluted, marked by numerous false trails it seemed to Bilal, but as they traveled further, the fog moved with more certainty. The bear could learn nothing from observing the thing and heartily wished that Barnabus was close enough to contact.
No sooner had Bilal thought of the old bear, there was a shout in his mind.
“I am a twitch busy right now, Bilal.”
Barnabus’s voice was clear, but there were other, fainter speakers behind his words.
“Pug, just tell them to be quiet! I need to concentrate on too many things for all this racket!”
The buzz of voices subsided.
“Barnabus, where are you?”
“The Nightmare Planes. Something is consuming them one by one.”
“Who is with you,” Bilal asked.
“Just you never mind. Were you needing something?”
“Yes, yes, there is some manner of intelligent fog drifting through Amman. There is nothing like it in my experience.”
“Walk where it may be seen. I am able to see through your eyes.”
Bilal was recalcitrant to allow the old bear such access to his faculties, but recognized the need. When he looked down at the fog again, the eyes swirled open once more. Barnabus spoke in a language Bilal did not understand, but still readily knew it to be a swear.
“Mind your language, old bear,” he chided softly.
“What is one of them doing there,” he exclaimed. The buzz of other voices resumed, but louder than previously. The touch of those voices made Bilal’s fur bristle.
“Barnabus, what are you traveling with,” he gasped.
“Never mind! You have a caillech on your hands to deal with, and that is paramount to what I am up to!”
“Caillech. An Irish hag, or witch, or whatever you choose. It seems peaceable enough, but that could change at any time.”
“How do I approach it?”
Barnabus sighed. “With greater care than I would,” the bear admitted. “I cannot get to you, but I may be able to get Marley there. Take no action without her. She’s dealt with hags before.”
Bilal tried to ask another question, but the touch of the bear’s mind was gone. The sound of heavy boots caused him to turn. Standing before him was a bear in a crimson abaya, clothes of grey further trimmed in deep red, and casually holding a large, wooden sword of a design Bilal had never seen.
“Marley, I presume,” he said, lowering his gaze and giving her a bow.
Returning the gesture, the strange bear looked at him quizzically.
“And you must be Bilal. Something must be significant for the old bear to expend so much energy to throw me halfway around the world to you.”
Bilal met her gaze and saw the same violet eyes as his own. This caused him considerable curiosity, but filed it away for later.
“Barnabus said this fog is a caillech,” he began, but his words trailed off as Marley rushed to the roofs edge to confirm. She made a small groaning sound after seeing the fog.
“That old bear owes me for not responding himself,” she said, the words flat and emotionless.