“Where are we now?” she asked, not even bothering to look for Ercen or Kimar.
“In a different place,” replied the deep, grumbling voice of Kimar.
“Well, that isn’t especially helpful, now is it?” quipped Danielle.
“Child, we needed to part from the cavern of Osberg the Great. We were being followed.” Ercen spoke quietly, looking intently at Danielle with her large amber eyes.
“OK, fine. We had to leave in a hurry, I get it. You took me from the cul-de-sac I was collecting on for my newspaper route, because I had been ‘foretold’ to you. And you waited two months to snatch me, right? What’s that all about, then?” Danielle’s voice sounded jittery. She realized her hands were shaking noticeably, so she sat on them.
Kimar, who had been standing, sat down on the ground. The tops of the huge firs were glowing red from the setting sun. Aimlessly, Kimar pulled a fallen tree branch to his lap and began peeling the bark off of it, like Danielle had seen her father do many times on their family camping trips. The difference was that her father’s branches were twigs, and he used a pocketknife. Kimar’s was the size of the branches her father cut for firewood to bring home, and instead of a knife, Kimar used the talon above his first finger. First, he drew his talon the length of the branch, angling it into the bark so that, as it cut away from the branch, it curled tightly. When he reached the end, his talon twisted in such a way that the angle was perfectly reversed. A moment later, another curled ribbon of bark dropped from the opposite end of the branch.
Ercen paced nearby. Her movement reminded Danielle of the motion of herons she’d watched near her school. Slow. Elegant. A bit awkward.
“You were foretold to us in the early days of our people,” Kimar began. “For millennia, we had been creatures of peace and beauty. But many generations ago, there was a rift amongst us. We had been a unified tribe. But, as with many races of creatures, there arose one gargoyle who worshiped strength over peace. Instead of harmony, he desired domination. So great was his lust for power, he swayed others to follow him. He led a revolt against his own kind, but was eventually defeated and banished—he and his followers—from the realm of Osberg. So strong was his thirst for domination that he continued to delve deeper into the dark magics. In time, he became a very powerful wizard, conjuring the blackest of incantations…”
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