‘You’re a cat.’
‘How good of you to notice. You’re not exactly fur-deprived yourself, you know.’ Mogget cocked what wasn’t an eyebrow but passed for one on a feline.
The Dog huffed and smacked her tail against the water, sending a spray of it over the white cat. Mogget yowled and shook himself, disgruntled. ‘What I mean is, weren’t you unbound? I thought that would be the end of you being a cat.’
Mogget sat down daintily on the border between Life and Death, checking first to make certain he wasn’t about to sit on a soul, and curled his tail around his toes. ‘Well, being a cat isn’t so bad, in many ways. Apart from anything else, all I have to do is meow at the right person and I get lavished with attention and food.’
‘The right person being anyone who doesn’t actually know you.’
‘I’m sorry, did you say something? Your yapping can be so incomprehensible at times.’
The Dog contemplated smacking some more water over him, but it was a wasted gesture when the water just rolled silently off back into the ever-flowing river. ‘Are you here for a reason?’
‘I wanted to see if you were really gone.’
‘Well, thank you very much. It’s so nice to know that you care.’
Mogget poked his little pink tongue out at her. ‘You’re doing well to still be here instead of beyond the Gates.’
‘I’m the Walker. I go where I want, when I want. But you shouldn’t be here. You’re supposed to be in Life, doing – whatever it is you like now, I assume. I take it you’ve given up attempted Abhorsen assassination as a hobby. You might as well go and enjoy the sunshine and chase mice or something. There’s nothing for you here.’ The Dog barked a particular bark and looked at Mogget expectantly.
Mogget just yawned at her.
‘I am the cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not go.’ Mogget sniffed, whiskers trembling. ‘At least, not until I get hungry, or bored.’
The Dog’s tongue lolled out as she laughed. ‘You came because you thought I’d be lonely, didn’t you?’
‘And because I thought you could benefit from my superb sense of humour,’ Mogget agreed. ‘It would be sad for you to have to go without a regular dose of drollness.’
‘Well, come on. You won’t last long in the water in that shape.’ The Dog looked over her shoulder; Mogget uncurled his tail and sprang gracefully onto the Dog’s back, settling there as she warned him, ‘No claws, or I’ll roll.’
‘I wouldn’t dream of clawing you,’ Mogget assured her. ‘Water is for drinking or catching fish out of, not splashing around in.’
‘That’s one thing we should get straight before we go anywhere. No matter what you think it looks like, nothing in this water is a fish, or indeed any sort of delicious aquatic creature.’
‘I could double-check for you.’
The endless shining border between Life and Death stretched out before them. It would take forever to walk its length, but time was one thing they had in abundance. Time, and wit, and companionship.