Sareanne stared at me without an answer. Neither of us knew what to do. Tuug stood watch like a faithful dog and every time either of us moved he looked up and glared.
“Can you speak his language?” I asked Sareanne suddenly.
“I remember some of it, but most of the knowledge came with the curse that you broke.”
“How did I break the curse?” I asked. I didn’t really do anything except fight nausea and go down a long tunnel.
“It was your courage to find me even though you thought I might harm you once you were no longer protected, courage to continue on even when it would be in your best interest not to.”
“Oh,” I replied. I looked over at Tuug. “Do you think he would listen to you if you told him to do something?”
“He might, he trusts me.”
“If you told him to put his hand through the barrier do you think he would?”
“No, he’s afraid of the barrier. It burns,” she said matter-of-factly.
I thought for a few moments considering my idea. “Do you think we could expand the protection to include him?”
“But he’s a monster,” Sareanne said shocked.
“So were you,” I pointed out. “Maybe he isn’t what you think he is, maybe he’s cursed too.”
I tried to sound convincing even though I wasn’t completely convinced myself. I had to try though, it was the only way to escape Antheus’ little trap. I had to get back to the protected room.
Sareanne looked at me like I was crazy, but my persuasion must have worked because she glanced over at Tuug then shook her head and began whispering under her breath.
It was an almost unperceptable change, but I watched as the circle of rocks around us faded ever so slightly, then reappeared just a bit larger. The process continued until the edge of the protection appeared next to Tuug and then suddenly enveloped him.
The pitiful cry of pain that escaped Tuug’s mouth wrenched my heart. He writhed for several moments and then finally collapsed in a lump of limbs. The change happened slowly. We watched as the horrible scales blurred and then seemed to burn away revealing soft fur. The clawed hands became padded paws and the horrible fangs shrank into catlike teeth.
When the transformation completed we faced a furry animal that appeared to be a strange catlike creature.
“A tarrange!” Sareanne exclaimed.
She rushed over to the creature and began stroking its ears and murmuring in a purring, guttural language. The creature seemed to understand her and it purred back. This wasn’t what I expected, but it was an improvement nonetheless.