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Drained and discouraged, they returned to the great bird’s eyrie. Inquiry after inquiry had produced nothing. Zack stared in defeat at the frozen turf and assumed Aviar was doing the same, but when he looked up he saw that the master hunter was watching something. He followed Aviar’s gaze to what, at first, seemed like an ordinary cloud, but then realized it was denser and more cauliflower-like.
The moment it arrived at the cliff’s edge, he heard Liulah’s voice: “Zack! Zack! I know where your sister is!” He ran over to the cloud and pushed his way inside. The cloud shepherd dove onto him, hugging him with her whole body like a toddler. “Zack! I found out where Gina is! She’s—”
“Ahrrrrmm-errrr-hrrmmm!” Aviar’s massive head pierced the chamber wall. Liulah screamed and fell back onto the ground.
Zack laughed. “It’s OK. He’s…”
Aviar raised a feathery eyebrow.
Remembering Aviar’s formalism, Zack said, “Aviar, this is Liulah, the cloud shepherd. Liulah, this is Aviar, the, uh—”
“The greatest of the Sheyar!” Liulah rose to her feet. “In the name of Uol, I greet you, Revered Predator.”
Aviar’s eyes widened. “May Uol bless your eyrie with many eggs, Esteemed Shepherdess.” He bowed his huge head. Liulah touched her forehead to his. Aviar turned, bumping Zack hard with his beak, and said, “You need to take lessons from her, manlet!”
“Liulah,” Zack suddenly recalled, “you said you found my sister?”
“Yes! Well, I didn’t. She was seen tumbling from the sky into Frenga. It has to be her! They said a human girl fell into the Light Forest.”
“The pixie’s Sacred Circle,” said Aviar, “of course. It takes two strangers to fulfill the prophecy, ‘one who must choose and one who cannot.’ Though what in the name of Keldubar’s droppings that’s supposed to mean, no one knows!” An ominous rumble began in the back of his throat.
“Aviar,” said Zack, “My sister won’t betray the Prize Region, I swear.”
“None can swear for another. And it’s ‘Prime Regent!'” Aviar brought his eye close to Zack’s face. “I believe you, manlet. We’ll see about your sister.” Then he bowed his beak to Liulah and said, “Glorious skies, Shepherdess. We must wing. Onto my back, Shak.”
“But I have to say goodbye to Liuuuulllllaaaaaaaaaaaa…” Zack said as the immense Sheya scooped him up and streaked off with him into the twilit sky.
Outside the Frengan forest, Gina was staring vacantly as a haughty little voice said, “The great warrior queen J’nah!”
She looked down and was grateful to see a semi-familiar face, but a bit startled at the presence of a large muscular crow as well. “I…I couldn’t find the Sacred Circle.” Gina hoped she didn’t sound completely pathetic.
“I will take you,” the pixie princess replied.
Thoughts: Have you ever been so lost that unless someone rescued you you would never find your way home again?
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