GUDRUN WAS GONE!
Johann’s head was already turning back and forth, scanning their campground, even as he slid to a crunching stop, grit and dirt flying up from his boots. The canvas bag holding the remains of their cooking kit smoldered on the shelf of rock where Heidi had left it minutes earlier.
Spinning around, his sword at the ready, Johann quickly scanned the area, hoping to spot some telltale of Gudrun. His mind swam with questions, dismayed at the prospect that his wife’s childhood friend, the mother of Paign, might now be captured. Or worse.
Muttering under his breath, he frantically hastened around their camp, peering behind outcrops and stalactites.
Did the obsidians get her, then? Why would they want her? Why would Ercen risk a fireball when Gudrun could be killed?”
Johann stewed on these questions, his head down low, while grinding grit under his right foot.
With barely a whistle of wind, Ercen flew into the ring and alighted on a squat, charred stalagmite. She quickly lowered Freida and Anders to the ground. Anders’s hair was mussed up from the flight.
“Why did you fire on her?” Johann asked Ercen, his face tight with anxiety.
“Fire on who?” Heidi asked, trotting into the camp ring, with Tiny just in front of her; they’d run not far below Ercen’s flight path with the children. Quickly looking around, she faced Johann. “Where’s Gudrun?”
Johann first stared at Ercen, then turned to his wife. “Gone. Gudrun was gone before I could reach this place. She…I couldn’t see whether…” He paused, struggling to actually say out loud what he feared in his heart. “The obsidians were flying very fast and low. My view was obstructed most of the time.”
Heidi’s face wrinkled with care. Her shoulders slumped as she anticipated the meaning in her husband’s troubled eyes.
Anders walked silently around their camp, quickly leaning to the right or left of roughly a dozen stalagmites, as if hunting for something. Freida was motionless, except for her eyes, as they moved from her mother to her father.
Johann breathed deep. “Look, I couldn’t see…she may have been taken by the obsidians. But I believe she was destroyed by Ercen’s fireball!”
Heidi dropped to her knees as if her legs had been knocked out from beneath her.
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