FREIDA WAS INCONSOLABLE. And Anders wasn’t in much of a mood to try comforting her, even though he felt he should. His initial shock at seeing Danielle was, literally, breathtaking. Now that she’d gone with Lohxnahr and Mrs. Macy, he felt as if he’d been left terribly sunburned on the inside. Burnt and raw. He figured that was pretty much how Freida felt, too, but didn’t have it in him to do anything about it.
As bad as they felt, Anja was in a much worse state. In the minutes following the rescue parting, Danielle’s parents had explained to everyone their experience with Lohxnahr, since no one else “heard” their conversation with the gargoyle. Not that Danielle’s parents seemed content with what happened, but at least they’d known what was coming: Danielle’s parting. Of course, Anja knew nothing of the sort.
For several minutes, Tiny had chased around after Anja, hoping to bring her some comfort. Only with strong intervention by Mr. Skulstad did Tiny finally seem to understand that chasing was only making Anja even more distressed. With that problem resolved, at least for the moment, Peter was eventually able to coax their family dog into sitting down. He was not successful, however, in keeping her still. Anders thought it a pitiful sight—Anja’s quaking body and darting sienna eyes.
Anders shifted his gaze to watch Mrs. Skulstad stroking Freida’s hair, as her father stood stolidly next to his womenfolk like a palace guard. But why should I even bother with trying to comfort Freida? She’s well taken care of at the moment. Anders felt an acute sense of isolation. He was bereft of his cousin’s companionship. His good friend, Freida, was very upset and paying him no heed. Her parents focused on her alone, while Danielle’s parents were huddled in hushed conversation with Ercen and Kimar, with Anja now lying at Mr. Wheelen’s feet.
“So, everyone is provided for, except me,” Anders muttered into his lap, his head bent low.
“Only if you don’t count us,” Conomorg said quietly. Anders recoiled at the gargoyle’s voice.
“We walked over here a few minutes ago,” Ita-Mudak added.
“You were, to our eyes, very distracted,” Conomorg continued, “as you still appear to be, even now.”
“It is not well to be friendless at times such as these,” Ita-Mudak said flatly. “The others have family with them. We would not wish you to feel on your own.”
“Uh, thank you,” Anders mumbled. “Tusen takk. I would have been…I mean, I’m fine.”
“Perhaps,” Ita-Mudak stated.
“Anders,” Conomorg began, “it not for naught that we have spent much time with you and your countrymen. In solitude and community, in the midst of great joy as well as much grief, through mountain chills and valley’s heat, welcome serenity and unwished-for battle, all of these we have shared with you and your kind, one among the other.”
Ita-Mudak nodded solemnly.
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