Toadmila tried to position herself between the cat and the raven while they walked, as if the cat could somehow feel inclined to attack the bird in his human form. The cat, however, kept her distance, looking as if she were about to run away any minute. Patch, on the other hand, had grabbed hold of Toadmila's clothes and would not let go.
“You're all free to go wherever you like,” Toadmila said when they were out of The Arc.
Patch looked at her with large, tearful eyes.
“You don't want us?” he asked.
Toadmila looked from the dejected puppy to the frightened cat and finally to the raven.
“Or you can come and stay with me, if you want,” sje said, wondering how she would ever afford to pay for their food and clothes.
Patch began to wag his tail again. The cat looked like she was trying to make up her mind, looking in all directions, as if she might run off at any moment. The raven alone stood impassive, and Toadmila wondered if the complimentary strengthening potions they'd given him had been enough to restore his strength.
“Do you want a servant?” the cat asked.
“I'm a witch,” Toadmila said proudly. “I don't need servants.”
“My last mistress wanted me to be her maid,” the cat said. “She dressed me up in black dresses and white aprons with frills and ribbons, and she had me pour tea for her guests. Until she got bored of me and brought me here.”
She gestured toward The Arc and the corners of her mouth stretched back in a bitter grin.
“My mistress got bored of me and said she wanted a unicorn,” Patch said, pulling at Toadmila's uniform with both hands to get her attention. “Why couldn't she turn me into a unicorn, Miss? I would have been a good unicorn.”
Toadmila suddenly realized she hadn't introduced herself yet.
“You don't have to call me 'Miss',” she told Patch. “I'm Toadmila.”
She tried unsuccessfully to pry her uniform out of his hands.
“And I don't want a maid,” she added, turning to the cat.
The cat studied her for a moment, then she edged a bit closer.
“I'm Kitty,” she said. “I'll come stay with you, to make sure you take good care of Patch. He seems to like you.”
Toadmila turned to the raven.
“You can call me Raven,” he said, looking at her sideways. “It's been so long since anyone has called me anything else, it doesn't feel like I have any other name anymore.”
“But you do have a name,” Toadmila insisted.
His face turned grim for a second.
“That's... personal,” he said.
“Well, Raven, you're free to go, if you want,” Toadmila said. “But you can come with us too, if you want.”
Raven looked up at the sky.
“Can you change me back?” he asked.
Toadmila shook her head.
“I can try,” she said, “if I can figure out how the spell was made. But it will take time. I've never seen anything like it.”
“I have nowhere to go,” Raven said, looking at her from the corner of his eye, without turning his head. “I'll stay with you until you can find a way to turn me back.”