Gale took a step back, matched by a step forward from the leopard. It crouched low, its tail twitching, drool spilling over the fangs of its lower jaw. It growled, muscles bunching, then leapt at her. Gale fell to her knees, throwing up her arms in an instinctive effort to protect her face. The sword lay on the floor a few feet away, offering no help.
But the leopard never reached her.
A second beast collided with it in midair, bearing it to the ground. Gale saw a great black panther locked in a death roll with the leopard, both animals yowling as each sought the other’s throat, each trying to reach the other with its kicking hind legs, to sink its claws into the other’s soft belly. Then the panther slipped from beneath its spotted opponent, and its jaws snapped closed on the leopard’s neck. Gale heard the cat’s spine crack. The black panther shook its dead adversary, the leopard crumbling to dust as it did so.
The panther turned to look at Gale. She didn’t know whether to run or to hug it. She got the chance to do neither.
The stain of the Darkness at the end of the corridor spread outward. The panther vanished as the Darkness reached it. Then the Darkness swallowed Gale.