The group followed Tipper’s advice. They were bone deep tired and couldn’t find an excuse to keep their eyes open. Perceval totaled up to the flickering fire and eat the remaining embers. He then padded back to Lila and cuddled next to her side. She stroked his fur as the comrades huddled together and closed their eyes. Sleep soon caught like a wild fever.
Three more days passed.
The children tried practicing techniques with their weapons. Glue Pot joined in on target practice, giving Perceval a break. The centaur would galloped from one tree to another, letting Zane, Gabbie, and Ginger take turns at shooting arrows or throwing knives. Glue Pot wore a pack to protect the vulnerable parts of his body, and the pack soon ended up with so many holes that he could no longer participate in the training.
Alastair spent time blocking hits from Lila. He wasn’t entirely interested with honing his sword skills. He was more worried about the approaching city of Crat, and so he defended himself with the effort of someone only skimming a book for vital information.
Digitalis and Gabbie entertained the group with lore about Soielle and stories about Earth. It was as though they were listening to an audiobook full of rich history and valor. There was no need to be quiet. They had not encountered a soul since leaving the haunted remains of Rockestel. There were small creatures that flew from one tree branch to another. They Had the heads and wings of birds, and the bodies of squirrels. They chattered at the party like the chipmunks had so long ago at the Mermaid Waterfall. Some things never changed, and in a way, the party was comforted to see the tiny animals. If no one else was in the forest with them, then that meant there was a possibility of danger.
Silverskin spent his time musing about what the Lake God wanted. He wondered if the Lake God was hungry for magic and that the presence of Gabbie and him was what triggered the beast. But then he would backtrack and recall that sometimes patrols were forced to skim the lake’s edge. The patrol had magic. Why didn’t the Lake God awaken during those times? He pondered aloud—why would the Lake God yell out the word danger? Silverskin was convinced that the children heard the beast true. It did indeed say danger. But wasn’t the beast itself the danger?
No one had the answers the elf boy wanted.
“All we can conclude is that the Lake God is somehow related to the disappearances,” Tipper offered. The Kitsune took a sip from his water skin. “The monsters, the Lake God, the disappearances—none of this happened before.”
“None of it happened until we got here,” Gabbie added. She fiddled with her throwing knives.
“We’ve already ruled that out. The disappearances were going on before we got here,” Zane commented. “I think whatever is going on is the reason why we’re here, and not the other way around.”