THIS LANDSCAPE IS ALMOST LUNAR, Peter thought. It was difficult to make out much in the near-total darkness. In the silvery glow of a waxing crescent moon, he could see nothing that resembled vegetation. The air was warm enough to be comfortable, and the arid terrain reflected moonlight off of stone and glittery soil. Peter felt a tingle steal down his back. Otherworldly…man, this place kind of gives me the creeps. He was cross with himself for feeling uneasy, even with Conomorg and Ita-Mudak standing like sentries nearby. And he knew he was being absurd. How do I know what “lunar” looks like? Watching the moon landing on TV hardly makes me an authority on the subject. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d come to a place…to a place—he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Danielle, looking somewhat ghostly, showed no concern on her face, for which Peter was grateful. But then she had Anja next to her, an imposing sentry in her own right. He again felt a rush of gratitude to Amy for picking out such an enormous beast of a dog. Anja was panting but seemed happy.
Amy stared unblinking at Danielle stroking Anja, but her mind wasn’t on Danielle. In fact, Amy was fully engaged in the memories of her previous experiences with their gargoyle protectors. While the outcome of those encounters was positive—they were alive, after all—she found her reminiscing was not pleasant or encouraging. They’d all been so close to a horrifying end. What’s going on? Where’s Lohxnahr? Amy shuddered. Are they after Danielle, again? And what about the others?
As if he’d heard her thoughts, Conomorg said, “Lohxnahr will be here soon.”
“Hey, wait a minute!” Peter yelled out, startling Danielle and Amy. Anja barked at him. “I figured out where we are! At least, I think so. Isn’t this ridge near the village of Taksar Bhojpur? Ames! Look around, Hon. Don’t you see? Smell! Take a deep whiff! Can’t you smell the sissoo and sapwood trees? It’s just like when we were here years ago!”
Amy stood quickly and took a deep breath through her nose. “You’re right, Peter! I’m sure of it,” Amy replied, excited. “That explains this headache I’ve got. How high do you think we are?”
“Hm.” Peter thought for a moment. “Best as I can recall, if we’re where I think we are, we’d be at least 2,800—maybe 3,000—meters.”
“Dad, that doesn’t help me,” Danielle said, irritably. “You should know by now that I haven’t learned metric yet. How high are we?”
“Dani, if I’m close to being right about our location, we might be just a tad below 10,000 feet up. We’re certainly high enough to experience altitude sickness.” In the thin moonlight, Peter couldn’t tell if his daughter’s face was truly pale. “How are you feeling, Honey?”
Danielle yawned and stretched her arms over her head. “Oh, OK, I guess, Daddy. I’m just tired. Sleepy, you know. And I have a whopper of a headache. What time is it, anyway?”
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