This is the second chapter of Sky of Stone, where we meet Iris, Sabazios, and Geb.

Riders of the Wind

"Wait, I'll get you!"

The wind blew into Iris's face, but she didn't mind. On the contrary, she loved the adrenaline rush that the fly gave her. On the back of her companion, she raced through the sky, whizzed through clouds, and made smooth curves, always following her goal.

She could scarcely hear anything, as the wind swallowed any voice before it could reach the ears of the other. And yet her target seemed now to accelerate his own flight and took a steep dive. Scarcely had Iris and Shimmer followed him, it changed the direction in seconds and shot back upwards like an orange flash that passed directly in front of her eyes.

But Shimmer was quicker. She used the same tactic, and now she also flew into the sky. With skillfully planned wing beats, she deliberately shared her strength to cope with the steep flight against the force of gravity - quite contrary to her opponent, who found it very difficult in this respect.

"And we have you!" Iris laughed as the bright bright spot in front of her grew bigger and bigger. They came nearer to him and his rider until they could almost touch him. Just a little farther...

"Leave the nonsense, you two!"

Her goal instantly stopped at the sound of this powerful voice. Shimmer could not brake in time and raced into the other bird. He fell victim to gravity for a moment, but could quickly return to a horizontal position. Even Shimmer had caught herself shortly after the clash and flew beside them, while Iris sighed, only annoyed. "You always have to spoil the fun!"

The Elm, whom the voice came from, flew before Iris and her friend. It was Sabazios, her extremely tedious teacher, who simply did not understand her. His companion was a giant goose that had been flying in one direction for hours, while Iris tried to make the trip at least a bit interesting. Flying was absolutely fantastic, as every elm of heaven could testify, if you did it right. You had to feel the wind, the adrenaline - and not feel like falling asleep.

"That's because we're on an excursion, and you know that." The goose flew so unbearably slowly that Sabazios could turn around and look at the two teenagers. "We are traders, so we will visit the Earth Tribe to strengthen our diplomatic relations. You know why this is necessary. "

Iris's friend Zephyr, the horseman of the glider, nodded. "They still do not trust us after the desert war."

Iris groaned. Not this topic again. Sabazios had insisted that they knew exactly how the tribe of heaven had taken part of its territory from the Earth Tribe. "You and I weren't even alive, Zeph. If they hate us because our ancestors conquered one of their insignificant peninsulas, that's their problem, not ours. "

Sabazios sighed. "You are the future of our tribe, and want as little as I do to repeat the events of thirty years ago. So behave and fly in formation. This shows the Earth Tribe that we respect them. "

"They will not start the war again just because we have a bit of fun," Iris replied, communicating with her companion, who answered with a short chant. "And even if they do, they can't get us up here."

"I've heard that the Earth elms are among the physically greatest tribes," Zephyr said. "Then maybe they can beat us."

"They're not that big," said Sabazios. "Nevertheless, I ask you to remain in formation. This is especially true for you, Iris. "

"Zeph was also flown out of formation," she complained, then the boy gave her a stern look. "What? It's true."

"Zephyr is the son of my brother. He learned early on how to behave. That you're such a bad influence on him is not his fault. "

Bad influence? "Before he knew me, he did not even know what fun was at all."

Zephyr himself was visibly upset. Nervously, he looked back and forth between the others, his hands fiddling around his scarf. But he did not dare to interfere. As always.

"Iris," said Sabazios in a terribly arrogant tone. "You should be honored to be trained by someone like me. You will open up opportunities that other elms can only dream of. "

"Zeph is one of the reasons I agreed to this. You are not." From the corner of her eye, Iris noticed Zephyr's face brighten. Suddenly, he even seemed to be interested in participating in the conversation, if only to escape the quarrel.

"Why don't we fly closer to the ground? It's more interesting. "

Down there is nothing but sand, Iris wanted to contradict him. She had seen enough desolate landscapes since her departure a few days ago, when they had been forced to sleep on the ground. On the other hand, it was even better than staying here, where she could see except the clouds beneath her only a dull pale-green goose. "Fine with me."

"An excellent proposal," said Sabazios. Certainly he was just glad, at least for the moment no longer to speak with Iris. "Follow me."

His goose went into the descent without any hesitation, and Iris looked at them in amazement. She had not expected the bird to react so quickly.

Quickly she followed the man with Zephyr, and took the time to see only the endless steppes of the days before. But as she broke through the last clouds, her breath stopped.

In front of them lay a gigantic city, which seemed to extend to the horizon and was bounded by gigantic mountains. They were, of course, not so great as the mountains where the tribe of heaven lived, but Iris had not expected such a sudden change after the placid desert.

"You knew we were there, didn't you?" she asked Sabazios, almost instinctively joining in the V formation.

It was the goose who answered with a satisfied chatter, and then landed a few yards from the great city wall. Sabazios dismounted and ran straight to the city gate. Iris and Zephyr hastened to follow him.

The two guards at the city gate had already noticed the group and were staring at them, but fortunately, they seemed more curious than hostile. With her brown skin and the rock-like horns on her head, they looked more than funny, which Iris and Zephyr immediately saw.

He, on the other hand, was visibly uncomfortable: he had been right with his apprehension. Of course, the Earth Elms were not so huge that they could grab birds from the sky, but they even surpassed Sabazios by more than a few centimeters. And if Zephyr and Iris had stood directly in front of them, they would have had to stand on each other's shoulders to meet the faces of the two.

"Surely they'll find you ... well, unusual," Zephyr noted insecurely.

Shimmer clattered her beak at him, and Iris could not help smiling.

"Leave the talking to me," said Sabazios. "After all, we do not want to embarrass ourselves."

He faced the guards, which made the difference in size even more striking, and the two students came closer to meet for the first time in their lives members of the Earth Tribe.

Sabazios leaned his head forward arrogantly, though the guards were much younger and bigger than him. Iris was sure that this gesture was definitely not necessary. She rolled her eyes and saw that one of the guards smiled at her. Next to him was a large animal with two horns on his nose, one big and one smaller behind, and suddenly Iris knew: It was unlikely that the steppes of Xiro lived the same animals as in the mountain range. She would not recognize a single animal in the city.

"Greetings, Guardians of the Earth Tribe", Sabazios interrupted her worries and again Iris was just annoyed. The two guards were also mere pupils, which she saw by their markings, which did not go beyond the shoulder area. Why should they be so respectable to them?

She had no intention of correcting her mentor, so she just said nothing.

"We are traders from the tribe of heaven," he continued. "My name is Sabazios and this is my companion North star. We are accompanied by two pupils and their companions. "

Their names obviously do not matter. "I am Iris."

Sabazios gave her a warning look, which she simply ignored.

"Geb," grinned the younger of the two guards and wanted to shake her hand when the older man pointed out that he was not supposed to do that.

Neither the guards nor Zephyr made arrangements to meet - Zephyr not fond of resisting anyway.

"So you are here to pretend," the older guard noted.

Sabazios nodded. "It is understandable that you mistrust our tribe. We are here to change this. Can you show us the way to a market?"

"Naturally. Come, Geb, take care of it. "

"On my way. Come along, folks!" The boy was instantly sympathetic to Iris; he seemed to be as uninterested in formalities as she was. She followed him without hesitation, and the other two Sky elms came after Sabazios had thanked the remaining guardian.

"I still can not believe you're here," Geb said as he led her through the streets. "I've never seen anyone from your tribe!"

But the rest of his tribe did not seem to share his happiness. Nearly everyone stared at her, which not only annoyed Iris: even Sabazios avoided eye contact and tried to cope with the path as quickly as possible. This turned out to be difficult, however, because the streets were incredibly busy. In the tribe of sky there lived many elms, but here their companions were bound to the ground.

They were small, colorful dots in a large, brown mass. Zephyr was the least noticeable with its peach-colored feathers, but Iris and Sabazios looked quite different. Light blue and pale purple were recognized here from a distance - at least if they had been larger. For now, Iris simply blindly followed her teacher, whom she could still distinguish better from the mass than Geb, and was completely disorientated: the guardian was not the only one who was so huge - his whole tribe. Iris saw everyone only to the kidney, if at all.

"I can not wait to be back home," she said to Shimmer. The magpie, too, was much smaller than the companions of the Earth Elms, but she took advantage of this. There were some who did not pay attention to them despite the unfamiliar aspect, and Shimmer could pull money or small items out of his pockets in seconds, without anyone noticing. Iris grinned and let the captured objects move quickly into her shoulder bag. She would later look at what she could use.

"How is it with your tribe?" asked Geb, as they continued to walk through the city. "Are there any difficulties?"

"Nothing important," Sabazios replied, but Iris knew he was lying. They had problems, and they were nothing to hide. Geb had certainly not intended to use their weaknesses as a cause of another war.

"Aside from the shadows, of course," she added.

Immediately her mentor turned to her. "I'm talking, I said."

"As you say." Iris was not interested in his comment. She had noticed how Geb had also turned to her in surprise. Did he know about the shadows? She had to find more, but asking him now could turn out badly. Not in such a large crowd, and certainly not in Sabazios' presence. She had already provoked him enough for today.

No, she had to think about something else.

Fortunately, she received unexpected support.

"Well, we're here. The Market Street!"

Iris could not see any change because she was still surrounded by giants, but when Geb said that, it must have been right.

Sabazios, too, seemed to trust his word only when he looked around, and Iris, too, did not see much. But he nodded. "Well. Zephyr, Iris, you look around and try to trade your goods. Put out all that I have brought you. I'll see you at the North Gate in three hours and see how well you turn out." He turned to Geb. "Is it possible that you keep an eye on her?"

Geb shrugged his shoulders. "No problem. You can rely on me. "

"Thank you." Sabazios nodded to them again, then disappeared into the crowd.

They were alone with Geb.

"He's in a hurry," he said. Iris had to agree with him - it did not suit her mentor to leave her alone in a completely strange place. Especially in view of the fact that the Earth tribe did not like them very well.

"He'll have his reasons," said Zephyr. "I would be more interested in how we should know when the three hours are over."

Geb looked at him in surprise. "Is there no clock in your tribe?"

"Yes, of course." Iris rolled her eyes at Zephyr's superior tone. This is how he always sounded when he presented facts. "The tribe of heaven has a specially trained swarm cuckoo, announcing every full hour with the characteristic call of its species."

Geb found this rather funny, for he laughed. "Well, we just have a few clocks." He led her to a side alley that was a little less busy, and used a few stacked crates to climb onto the flat roof of the adjoining house. His companion, the strange beast with the nose-horns, waited below. Iris followed Geb immediately, while Shimmer decided to stay with the animal.

"I don't really want come up here with the guards," complained Zephyr, who was less athletic and struggled on the way up.

"That is not the point," Geb replied, who had now reached the top. "I just wanted to get up here so no one could hear us. I think we have a lot to talk about."

Sky of Stone Chapters
 Prologue  Prologue
 One: Earth  1: Summer Solstice2: Riders of the Wind3: Light and Shadow4: Opposites5: A Strange Encounter6: Across the River
 Two: Ore  7: Dark Omens8: Underground9: His Radiance10: The Forbidden11: A Boy and His Goat12: The Story of a Tribe13: Keeper of Earth14: At the Bottom15: Changes
 Three: Sky  16: Back to the Start17: Against the Darkness18: Old Acquaintances19: Change of Plans20: Unexpected21: Sky Holes22: Wind and Water
 Epilogue  Epilogue