JOHANN’S FIRST THOUGHT was that his gargoyle companions had mis-parted them into hell. Smoke and ash choked him. He heard Heidi hacking next to him against the blackened, putrid air. Through the shredding gloom, he could see that four of his eight recently harvested hay mounds were fully engulfed with flames sprouting twenty meters into what otherwise would have been a brilliant blue sky.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled from heat, even though he was facing the burning hay. Instinctively, he threw himself into Heidi, forcing both into the field’s leftover stubble, just as a fireball roared over their heads and crashed into the fifth hay mound.
Rolling onto their knees to assess what they were up against, the Skulstads’ eyes glittered from the licking flames nearly surrounding them.
“Oh, Johann!” Heidi cried.
Johann had already counted seven gargoyles in his field, not including Conomorg and Ita-Mudak, who were hotly pursued in close combat.
“No, this way!” Heidi shouted, turning her husband’s head towards their farmhouse.
Four more gargoyles lay crumpled near Uud-Rement. The intense flurry of movement around the old warrior made it impossible to precisely count his remaining opponents, but Johann put the number at five.
“What do we do?” Heidi cried, choking on the fumes.
“Whatever we can!” Johann bellowed. Grabbing his wife by the shoulders, he pushed her up onto her feet and ran toward the barn. So far, it was intact and not the focus of any attacking gargoyle.
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