Ell slept, the warm sun on her back easing her ever more deeply asleep. So deeply did she sleep that she was utterly unaware of the violent events transpiring around her. This was just as well, and just as it should be. The One watched over her as Ell dreamt.
Before her sat an enormous Guardian, tail gracefully curled around her foreclaws resting on what Ell thought of as the ground beneath her. The Guardian glimmered emerald, jade, and citrine as if the sun shone off every scale on her body. Yet there was no sun here but an ambient, glowing white light that infused the whole area.
The Guardian looked at Ell with golden, round pupiled eyes. She’s so beautiful, thought Ell. Ell did not question how she knew that the Guardian was female. Nor did she question who the Guardian was. She knew. This was Gran Bryl, her dam, and her teacher.
Gran Bryl looked into Ell’s eyes and Ell felt tingles starting in her hind quarters and traveling up and down the length of her body from tail tip to muzzle. It was delicious, ecstatic and filled with love and deepest acceptance. Ell breathed it in, taking in as much as she could possibly hold. Then letting out her breath quickly, she breathed in again and took in more and more still.
May the One bless you Gran Bryl! Thought Ell. May the One fill you as you have filled me.
Ell floated in that tingling, ecstatic state for she knew not how long, filled, wanting nothing but to be.
Ell… Gran Bryl’s thought voice was filled with love. It’s time Ell.
Ell opened eyes that she was unaware of having closed and saw that her vision had expanded. She was looking at crystalline walls surrounding Gran Bryl. The crystals throbbed with a sparkling, iridescent energy and she felt herself drawn closer, drawn in, felt herself enfolded right into the crystalline structure. It felt nurturing, reminding her of her time in the egg, held, supported and cared for. The energy of the crystals throbbed into her, filling her more full still, as if that were even possible.
Then she was pulled through the crystalline structure, out the other side, and out through thick, grey stone. She was aware of the rough texture of the black speckled grey rock even as she moved effortlessly through it. She found herself floating outside, hovering above a great, crater topped mountain. She could see that it was surrounded by foothills, looking like hatchlings gathered closely around their dam. As she turned her gaze to look further, she saw dense, green forest crowding the foothills on all sides. She felt a deep love for the mountain, and an aching longing in her chest.
Come home. Ell heard Gran Bryl’s thought voice.
Home, thought Ell. I want to go home. She woke.
When Lisle entered the Guardian’s clearing, she found Gareth, looking exhausted, dark circles under his eyes. She listened with increasing horror as Gareth told her of the events of that early morning. She knew he had been watching a man, even as the man watched them. She had followed Gareth’s guidance and pretended that all was as usual, going about her normal day with the Guardian, though inside she was shivering with apprehension. Now it was over.
She knelt beside the Guardian who sat upright now, looking at Gareth alertly, carmine head ridges erect. Her arms stole about the Guardian’s neck and she leant in close. The Guardian draped her head over Lisle’s shoulder and partway down her back in embrace.
“The Guardian is safe. That flier you call Moss is quite the little warrior.”
Moss appeared as if called, hovering over the Guardian and Lisle, chittering and patting first one and then the other.
“Th…th…thanks Mm… Moss.”
Lisle looked at Gareth then, “Th….th….th…”
“Just doing what I stayed to do,” said Gareth, not waiting for her to finish.
“Why did I stay?”
Lisle shook her head with annoyance.
“Why did that man try to hurt the Guardian?”
Lisle nodded her head, a tear slipping down her cheek.
“I don’t know, but I think we’d better move her someplace else.”
Lisle nodded again. She stood up. The Guardian stood as well. Lisle gathered together the few things she kept in the cave and started to march out of the clearing. The Guardian followed her.
“Rend and tear it Lisle, don’t you think we should make a plan?” called Gareth, sprinting after them.
Lisle and the Guardian turned to look at him, oddly identical stony looks on their faces.
“Right, no plan. Let me get my things.”
They stood and waited as he hurried to gather his pack together and sling it over his shoulder, grumbling all the while.
“No plan. No sleep. Just go, Gareth.”
He fell into step behind the Guardian. Moss flitted about them.
It was slow progress with the Guardian’s waddling walk. A half-sun later they managed to find a rock face and overhang that provided shelter, with a small clearing and water close by.
“This’ll do for now,” said Gareth. “I need to sleep some so I can watch tonight.” He unrolled his blanket. “Keep your eyes and ears open, both of you.” He looked at Lisle, small for twelve changes, brown hair curling in wisps about her face, and then at tiny Moss. Shaking his head as if at his own thoughts, he wrapped himself up and lay down.
Lisle nodded as she sat down close beside the Guardian. Moss took position in the crook of the Guardian’s elbow, leaning against her scaled forearm. Moss crossed her arms in front of her chest, looking serious. She looked at Lisle and nodded once, then looked out at the surrounding woods, scanning with slanted, green-flecked eyes.
Lisle couldn’t help but smile. Who would have thought that a small being like Moss could be such a stout defender? Maybe it’s not about size, she thought. Maybe it has more to do with how fierce you are.
Suddenly her twelve changes and body of a human younger didn’t seem so powerless. Maybe I can be fierce. Fierce like Moss. Lisle assumed what she thought of as a fierce expression, gritting her teeth and narrowing her eyes. She tossed her brown braid back behind her shoulder, grasped her stone shot in one hand, crossed her arms in front of her chest just like Moss, and stared intently out at the woods.
Moss flicked a glance in her direction, looked back at the woods and smiled, a surprisingly feral expression.
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Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
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