"Shh! Follow me!"
He seemed to think he knew something interesting. Slight of frame as he was (and also of stature), he had no trouble slipping into the cave's entrance.
Not far along the passage the cavern widened slightly. Soft leaves and dried grass formed a sort of nest in a hollow tucked against a wall of cool, smooth rock. A sleeping heap of white fur turned out to be five adorable puppies. They were about the size of wolf cubs, but more resembled German shepherds. I lifted one out of the nest and examined it. To my surprise two small, soft, feathered white wings were attached to either side of its well muscled shoulders.
I returned it to the nest, but the man rattled off a series of unintelligible words and signed with his hands that I was to keep one. I guessed the extent of his English must have been a few key phrases, because whatever he was saying was very elaborate if I could only have understood it. I reached for my wallet and started to count out several large bills.
"No!" he said plainly, and again began rattling some very complicated phrases.
"You..." The man struggled to think. "...save...small...man," he said with great effort. "You..." He pointed to the dogs, and then to me, over and over again.
The little boy had fallen out of a ten story window in the ancient city of rock. Had I not been in the right place at the right time I wouldn't have broken his fall. As it was, we both tumbled to the ground and got concussions.
Ah, the cruelty of it! If I were to refuse his generosity, all the work would be undone. It had taken me five years to find the city, and it had been with great difficulty that I had won over the trust of its inhabitants. But now, if I accepted this puppy, this oddity, I knew that I could never go back to the "normal" world, for the dog and I were sure to become inseparable, and the people of my world would hound me endlessly for his oddness, trying to steal the dog, or his picture, or my time.
It really was a simple choice: commit to this world and stay forever, or lose my chance to learn about a place most thought did not exist.
Hiding my reluctance with a grateful smile, I scooped up an armful of fur and wings. The creature began snuffling my chin with kisses.
With a low bow, the little man led me out of the cave, and I began mentally making a checklist: dog food, bed, leash, shots...