Bringing himself fully to his feet, Artemis started towards the distant spires. As he walked, he gazed around him in utter amazement. It was soon apparent to him that he was deep beneath the waves. He could see sea creatures swimming at measured distances away from him.
He could breathe easily, and he wasn't wet, so he must be in some kind of dome. The closer he got to the spires, the tinkling sound he heard earlier became louder. The soft light became brighter, and the spires came sharply into focus. He gaped in awe as he entered the city, for that is how he thought of it.. a fantastical city beneath the sea.
"Beautiful, isn't it ? "
The explorer stiffened and inhaled sharply in surprise. He looked down to where the voice was coming from. The fuchsia cat sat at his left side and looked up at him with a smile on its face.
"You again. What do you want from me?"
" To follow, I am your guide."
"Alright, I'll follow you, but first I want to know a few things. To begin with, where am I?"
The cat began to amble forward and looked back and up at the man.
"Otherworld,” then faced forward and continued further into the city.
As the two of them continued, the feline guide kept up a running commentary of points of interest , they passed along the way.
"There's the Terminal Spire, and those are the Inlet and Outlet spikes right beside it. Over there is the Community Orb, and the Habitat Bulbs are in rows behind it."
Artemis followed in silence, his eyes darting back and forth as they walked, trying to take it all in. A number of entities shimmered in and out around them as they went. They were there and gone so quickly, he couldn't get a fix on what they looked like.
Finally, they came to a structure so immense, he couldn't make out what sort of over all shape it might have. All he could see was an opaque wall rising far above and on either side of him. In this wall was a series of portals that weren't round or oval, or any particular shape, because they kept changing as entities flitted in and out of them.
As they walked toward the wall, an empty space opened in it, big enough for the man and cat to go through it. When they entered the structure, chimes tinkled briefly, then faded away. The cat stopped abruptly, and disappeared.
"Wait, Guide, come back!" Artemis called.
The cat reappeared in front of him.
“What is, it ?”
"What do I do now ?"
" You wait until something comes for you."
“Don't you mean someone?”
He stared down at the cat, whose fuchsia fur glowed softly.
"Aren't you coming with me.?”
" No I'm not. My commission was to get you here in one piece, and so you are.”
With that, the cat disappeared again.
As he tried to focus on his surroundings, which seemed to be constantly changing, he felt a sharp tap on his right shoulder. The explorer shot straight up, veered left, and returned to his original spot.
"I should warn you that sudden movements tend to get disconcerting results."
This voice came from a large burgundy and cream coloured St. Bernard dog sitting at a beautifully carved ribbon striped mahogany desk that was situated about a metre in front of the man.
"Weren't you just behind me?" gasped the man.
" I was, and now I'm not, " shrugged the dog.
The man bantered back and forth with the dog, as he approached the desk.
"Who are you?"
"Who do I look like?"
" A St. Bernard."
"Well, since I'm not a saint, Bernard will do."
Bernard leaned forward and pushed the clipboard toward the front of the desk. As he did so, a comfortably cushioned captain's chair pushed against the back ofthe man's knees, and he abruptly sat down.
"Please sign in, Mr. Scout, "
Bernard pushed what seemed to be a writing instrument toward him. It was a braided piece of willow with a sharp tip on one end, and an ostrich feather on the other.
"You know me?" inquired Artemis, as he leaned forward to take the willow pen.
"Of course, but why so surprised? It is you who are looking for us. That chart you carry in your pouch led you right to us."
With that, the leather pouch Artemis had been carrying over his shoulder opened it's flap, and the hide bound chart floated out, across the desk, and into the waiting paws of the dog.