posted Oct.23.16 at 03:00 pm

Teige went racing across the valley floor, the dogs at his heels, Parker and Minnie and Abi all clinging to one another on his back, Hawk flying low overhead. The dogs kept pace all through the thin mist that had built up in the moonlight, until Teige reached the border of the valley, where a shallow ravine cut through the land before it rose again into the dark forest that climbed the foothills beyond.

Without hesitation, Teige leapt the ravine; it was not deep or very wide, and the stream running at the bottom was not fast, but the bluff on the near side was steep enough that the dogs all came skidding to a barking, angry halt at its edge. Hawk tilted his wings up to slow his forward motion as he approached the dark, indistinct trees beyond the ravine--and then a horrible animal scream made him look back over his shoulder.

The raiders were almost unseeable now. They'd started fires near the vehicles still parked in the grass, and the glow made the individual figures harder to pick out. Much easier to see, in a spray of crimson light from whatever projectile spells they were firing at the monsters, was Aram.

He was in the massive one-horned-ox-like shape he'd been in when Hawk had first met him, and he was staggering sideways away from the raiders--Hawk could see very clearly now that there was a long thin object stuck in the muscle of his rear leg, and it was this object that was spewing the red light and a simple runic spell that began to curl around Aram's horn and hooves like ribbons. In the glow Hawk could also see Kim--back in the shape a white-faced, striped unicorn--at Aram's feet.

Without thinking, Hawk wheeled around midair. "Keep goin'!" he shouted to the others below, as Teige was picking his way quickly and carefully up the rocks into the dark forest, before the dogs worked out how to follow him across the ravine, "I'm right behind you!"

This made Teige start, and he and Parker and Abi and Minnie looked up in time to see Hawk banking away into the night again, back towards the raid. "What?! Hawk, no!"

But it was no use--Hawk was receding into the distance, and there was nothing for it for the moment but for Teige to continue his way up the rocky hill, cursing as he went.