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This is the twenty-first chapter in Sky of Stone and the sixth in part three: sky.

Sky Holes

She is so strong. During Sabazios's speech, Iris had not moved an inch. Even her determined facial expression remained unchanged.

She was silent. This was exactly what Geb would have done in her place, too shocked by the harshness of the words. Iris, on the other hand, could not be intimidated, and even if she was, she could always cover it up perfectly. That she had no answer, however, was new.

"You've always been an impressive speaker, Sabazios." Geb did not like the way Caelus was talking. He could not get rid of the feeling that the chief was making fun of them all. "But that will not save you either. It's nice to see that you can admit what a terrible person you are."

Even Sabazios thought it better to say nothing, and instead bowed his head respectfully.

Actually Geb should be happy. They had drawn attention to Sabazios so Caelus would not punish them for their journey. But after all that Sabazios had told them, it was simply not right that he was now the culprit.

"You should not punish him," Geb said. Was it courage or stupidity to talk to Caelus like that? He himself was only an apprentice of another tribe, why should the chief listen to him? He had not taken him seriously before.

At least Geb was not laughed at this time. "I'm sorry for him. But if I had pardoned anyone who had 'good intentions' in his evil deeds, the sky holes would have been uninhabited for years. "

Sabazios's head jumped back up. Geb was sure: He would have become pale if his feathers had allowed that. "... my chief?"

"You heard me, Sabazios." Geb didn't believe that he was sorry anymore. Caelus seemed to delight in his anxiety. Did it really only matter to him that he was entertained? "You have committed treason; The worst thing you could have done. To your luck, a sky hole has just become available since the previous inhabitant has passed away. What a shame."

"What are sky holes?" Geb asked.

"Pits on the plain between the palace and the other three mountain peaks. You see the sky, and yet you are surrounded by earth. In addition, thousands of birds fly this route every day. "

Some viewers laughed at this remark for some reason. It was not until he saw Sabazios' disgusted expression on his face that Geb understood. No wonder Iris was so afraid of punishment. Even if one was not as noble as Caelus or Sabazios ... the mere idea of wasting away in such a literal dump was horrible.

"I see you understand. What do our guests think of this kind of punishment?"

One of Kishar's envoys spoke up. "It's disgusting," he said. "But fitting for a tribe like yours."

Caelus nodded with pride. "A century-long tradition. And the Impures are those who have the honor to clean the rest of the plain daily."

"A good use," agreed the Earth-Elm. Geb, on the other hand, kept silent. His opinion was not the 'right' one, he knew. He was too good-natured for this world.

A question, however, did not let go of him. "What about North Star? His companion. No matter what Sabazios did, he had nothing to do with it. You can't imprison him, he's a bird."

"The boy is right," said Sabazios quickly. "I ... I accept my fate, of course, but I ask you to spare North Star. He did not do anything to anyone."

Caelus leaned back, preferring to look at his fingers rather than at Sabazios. "I did not mean to imprison him with you, let alone kill him. I may be your chief, but that does not make me heartless."

The earth-elm who had spoken earlier, frowned. "You're going to keep this man locked up for life, right?"

"Naturally."

"Then we consider it a terrible idea to keep his companion in the tribe. Knowing that the companion is alive without ever being able to return to him is the worst thing to do to someone. It may be effective for the Elm, but it is absolutely inappropriate for the bird."

"As I said, I am not heartless. We will spare his companion all sorrow. It would be pointless to let him keep his elemental stone. It's the same with his companion."

"You can't be serious." Geb looked at Iris to confirm that he had understood it wrong. She did not pay attention to him and had instead looked at Sabazios, who looked at Geb again.

Instead of rejecting him, the man simply sounded miserable. "That's what is done with all who end up in the sky holes. The bird travels to Aricel one last time. She reverses the bonding process ... and he will lead the life he would have had without us. North Star, he ... he'll forget I ever existed. This is better for him."

Geb was speechless. Sabazios did not even try to convince his chief otherwise. He simply accepted that he would never see his companion again. "But -"

"Let it be. Caelus knows what he's doing."

Not at all! You have not betrayed your tribe. Not voluntarily. He can not punish you so hard.

"Sabazios knew from the beginning what he was getting into," Caelus reminded him. "If he prefers to save his own feathers instead of protecting his tribe, that's his problem. To this extent, I declare this discussion as finished."

Geb waited for Iris to take the conversation, but she still seemed to be somewhere else. He had to jump in for her.

"So... we're free to leave?"

"I would support that."

Geb did not believe it. Sabazios? Why did he suddenly support them?

The man felt the urge to explain himself. "The shadow I was talking to ... she thought you were a serious threat. That means there must be something to your plan, I reluctantly admit. If you think you can help the tribes, do it. I want to protect my tribe, that's all."

"You only wanted to secure the peace that Iris and Geb had risked with their journey," said Sedna. "I think it is obvious that the two did not want to start a war. Send the three earth elmen back to their tribe and let them explain everything there, then everyone is satisfied."

"How boring," commented Caelus. "We're here to punish lawbreakers, aren't we? However ... well, Sabazios's future is terrible enough, so I suppose I can let you go. In any case, you will not get far before the next tribe stops you."

"We can do it," Geb said firmly. "Thank you for helping us."

"I'm not helping you," Caelus laughed. "I'll let you go. That is a small but subtle difference." He stretched and suppressed a yawn. "Are there any questions? No? Good. Guards, accompany Sabazios to his companion so they can say goodbye to each other. Earth Elmen, return to your tribe and make sure that nobody has the idea to start a war anyway. And you, children, you leave before I change my mind."

"Is everything really okay with you?" A few of the sky elmen who had watched the trial had been so impressed with them that they had provided Geb and his friends with food without any consideration. The friends stood with their companions at the foot of the palace, ready to leave. And Iris still had not said a word.

"Wonderful," she replied curtly. At least that was something.

"Are you sure? I feel quite different."

"Of course not everything's okay with me!" she shouted. "...I'm sorry. I just have to think of Sabazios. Of what he said."

"That everything is your fault?"

Sedna let out an unnerved sigh.

It was just a question. "Well, ... I don't think he's right. And even if he is, I don't care. I will not stop being your friend because you weren't really a good apprentice. I know you for a few weeks now and I like you the way you are. You told me the same thing, remember? Karzelek, Sedna, you and I - we would not be together now if we did not believe in ourselves. And I mean not only ourselves but each other. We're all there for each other. So believe in us if you doubt yourself, because we believe in you. "

"And then you also believe in yourself," Karzelek added.

"Thanks, guys," Iris smiled. "I don't know what I'd do without you sometimes."

"I said it yesterday," Karzelek said. "Until we have found the Chosen One, I believe that Geb is our light."

"The rock in troubled waters" Sedna nodded. "Speaking of which, we should get going, don't you think?"

"Wait!" Geb looked up. There he discovered the outlines of two large birds that landed next to them a few seconds later. One of them was North Star, the other's name Geb didn't know. He knew the bird, however, for its rider, Zephyr, jumped off it.

"Are you coming with us?" Iris asked in disbelief.

Horrified, Zephyr looked at her. "Me? By Aricel, no. You're already four, that's enough." He focused completely on the end of his scarf he started fiddling with again. "Besides ... I have to stay with Sabazios. My father will try to change Caelus' mind somehow. I do not think he can convince him, but at least I have to make sure that Sabazios is doing well."

"According to the circumstances," Sedna said. "It's impressive that you're still on his side."

"He's my uncle. I'm loyal to my family - especially when they have done nothing wrong. Voluntarily, anyway... that's why I want you to take North Star with you."

"Of course he can come," Geb assured him. "After all, we all want to go to Aricel. Also, we have enough space - because carrying three people would be quite uncomfortable for Boulder in the long run. "

This gave Iris a smile. "The question is, who's flying, other than me."

"I can ride North Star," said Sedna. She hesitated. "I mean ... Karzelek and his companion will want to stay with Geb. I'll get along up there."

"North Star flies so slowly that you can't really fall down," said Iris.

"He just doesn't fly as risky maneuvers as you do," Zephyr defended the bird. "But you misunderstood me. He shall not accompany you to Aricel. Instead, I want you to ride to the Beak Bay first. There is surely someone who will take him in until my father was able to help Sabazios. Because if he did that and North Star was already at Aricel ... then it wasn't worth it."

"True," Iris nodded. "We wanted to drop Sedna there anyway."

"Good, then. So, what I wanted to tell you ... take care, Iris. You others too. "

Iris nudged him in the side. "You just missed a very moving speech. Don't worry about us, we'll be fine. Just make sure you don't get into trouble."

"What? I'm not going anywhere. I'll wait here until you're back."

"Right here?" Geb asked.

"No, algae brain," said Sedna. "With the tribe. At the Claws."

"That's what I meant," he mumbled. "But Iris is right, buddy. We've made it through everything so far."

"Very reassuring. But alright, I won't stop you any longer. If you ride past the Sky Mountains on the left, you should get relatively far before it gets dark."

"Why not on the right?" Geb had actually planned to memorize a map of Elysia. So far, he sadly had not had time for this, though.

Iris, too, remembered the day she had sketched their way. "I think you agree with me that Boulder travels better on grassland than in the forest."

Of course she was right. After all, they had already gained enough experience on both terrains. "Then we'll turn left," he confirmed. "See you, buddy."

"If you ever come back to the Claws," said Zephyr.

"Or you visit me at the Earth Tribe."

"Good poing. So then, good luck. And success."

"One more thing," said Iris. "Can you do me a favor?"

"Depends."

"I forgot to ask Caelus for something. Do you remember Autolycus?"

"Whom?" Geb asked, but Iris did not answer him, as did Zephyr, who was not exactly enthusiastic.

"How could I forget him?"

"Well, I promised him that I'd make Caelus help the Crows. Can you take care of that? He'll rather listen to you than to me anyway."

"... I'll see what I can do. Because it's you."

"Thanks." She gave him a warm, honest smile, whereupon he was again busy with his scarf.

"...you should leave. You still have a long way to go, remember?"

"Right." Geb helped Karzelek and Four-leaf on Boulder's back before he sat up as well. Sedna had no problems with North Star, they seemed to get along right away. Shimmer shifted her weight from one leg to the other. She could hardly wait to start flying.

Iris did her the favor. "What are we waiting for? Let's go!"

Shimmer spread out the wings and rose into the sky, just like North Star.

When Boulder began to trot after them, Geb turned around again. Zephyr looked after them-no, just Iris, the way he was staring into the sky. Nevertheless, Geb waved to him.

At first, Zephyr did not notice him. When he finally saw him, he was surprised at first. Then he waved back until, for Geb, he could only be seen as a small point on the horizon, and finally disappeared completely.

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

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