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This is the third chapter in Sky of Stone, from Geb's point of view.

Light and Shadow

"What do you mean?" The boy, whom Sabazios had called Zephyr, immediately eyed Geb with suspicion. He had barely begun talking!

So he did it now. "You spoke of the shadows just before," he said to the girl named Iris after they had all settled on the flat house roof. Above all, Iris seemed to enjoy not being surrounded by Elmen, who were so much bigger than her. She could see the sky again, letting her eyes wander across the rooftops. Geb was almost sorry to stop her. "Is it true that they attack your tribe?"

"Why should we -" Zephyr began, but Iris immediately interrupted him. She was back again.

"Yes, they do. And a few other tribes also, if one wants to believe the rumors. "

That was even worse than Geb had thought. "Yesterday they were back," he nodded. "I thought they would leave it to our tribe, but they seem to be doing the whole of Elysia."

"I'm only a little surprised," said Zephyr. "They are getting ready for the big day. The more shadows, the better."

"What great day?" Did he speak of the prophecy? He was at least talking about the darkness seizing power. That would really be a significant moment, though not a very good one.

"He has waited a thousand years," quoted Zephyr. "Of course I didn't count, but the abductions took place only a few weeks ago. The shadows are preparing for the downfall, so much is certain. "

"And nobody does anything about it," Geb replied frustrated. "Not even the captain wants to hear about the matter."

"The hero of light will save us," Iris said calmly.

Not you, too! Geb groaned in thought. "You sound like one of the adults."

"I know!" She grinned, winking. "Seriously, we all know this is ridiculous. Let's assume that these heroes really exist: why didn't he take care of the shadows?"

"He will not come until the situation seems futile," reminded Zephyr. "Brightest light in the deepest darkness. That's what it says in the prophecy. "

"A great hero is that! I wonder when he thinks it's necessary to show up. Surely we are all dead. "

"Or shadow," nodded Geb. "Really, folks ... if you ask me, we should do something."

"And what? Most don't even let you talk about it, we know that already." Zephyr shook his head. "You can look for the hero and ask him personally to finally fulfill the prophecy. But this is likely to be extremely complicated because its name is not mentioned anywhere. "

"Tell us again, Zeph," Iris asked, sounding as if she were just now hearing him. "Perhaps your clever brain has found something."

"Well, thank you, too." He raised his chin. "Brightest light in deepest darkness, fearlessly, he braves the night. No tribe could beat the mighty powers he will use to win the fight."

"Maybe he's a light-elm," Geb thought. "Sounds strong after all."

"Then it will be difficult to find him, let alone reach their palace."

"Not if we do it right," Iris said resolutely, but Geb also had his doubts. The Palace of the Light Elms lay on the legendary plain of Lumeon, but no one except the light elms had ever been there, so no one knew where they were. And even if they could change that, it would not be permissible for simple students to enter them.

Zephyr crossed his arms. "What exactly am I hearing?"

Iris grinned triumphantly. "We're going to the ore tribe."

At first Geb misunderstood. They were already with his tribe! But she had said ore, not earth. That just did not make any sense. "There are only five tribes. One per guardian." On the other hand, he had not been very often outside the city walls, while the other two had already seen much of Elysia.

"There is no evidence that the ore tribe exists," Zephyr said, and Geb could not help breathing more easily. Now they could not make fun of him.

Iris, however, insisted on her suggestion. "This does not mean they do not exist. There are stories about Elmen living under the earth. "

"Yes, stories! Stories that someone has thought up."

Geb did not pay attention to Zephyr. His interest was aroused. "Why do you think this tribe can help us?"

Iris's face brightened, glad that at least he seemed to believe her. "The stories show that they never leave the caves, but they are getting information from all over the world through individual people. And they are written down, so they have gigantic libraries. If anyone knows how to find the light elms, then it's that tribe."

"That sounds fantastic." Geb could not wait to get to know this tribe. All the knowledge kept... Geb was attracted to it. He did not know much about the world far from Earth's territory, but perhaps he had the opportunity to change that.

"All right," said Zephyr. "Suppose this tribe actually exists. So you would travel to them, get the information about the Light Tribe, and then? Surely you want to go straight there, by yourselves, even if the hero is on the other side of Elysia. You persuade the hero of the light to hurry to save the world, and then everything will be back in order."

"Something like that," Iris nodded. "I mean, if nobody wants to take care of us ..."

"Because there is no reason for it!" Zephyr had stopped talking quietly. Now he sounded... desperate. "Iris, listen to me this time. Your escape alone would bring you a huge amount of trouble. My uncle would be very angry - "

"Your uncle can handle me."

"And Geb's tribe with certainty also. Did you forget that our two tribes were still fighting a few years ago? I tell you, Iris, this will happen again, if you both disappear."

"That was thirty years ago," Iris said, but Geb had hesitantly agreed with Zephyr. He had not witnessed the desert war, but he knew about the many elves who had died because of a completely banal reason. Something like this must not happen again. They were not allowed to give the adults any reason to bicker.

And if they asked for permission? No, it would not work. The adults obviously had no particular interest in actively resisting the shadows.

Unless...

"It does not have to be noticed to anyone." Iris glanced at Zephyr. "You just have to distract them long enough until we have a good lead. And then you think something out. You're good at that."

"Not at all!" Zephyr's feathers stood up. He dared a last attempt to change their minds. "You're in huge danger. Do you ever realize what your intent is? You would have to travel through Elysia, into the territory of a tribe that might not exist, and which, if it were, could be warlike and aggressive! And if you are unfortunate, the shadows will be a threat to you, and you will be hunted."

Geb swallowed nervously. These were not positive prospects. But he would do everything to protect at least one Elm from the shadows - and if there was the possibility to save them all, the better. "I still prefer to stay here and do nothing."

Iris half-strangled Zephyr. "I am one of the fastest flyers of our tribe, Zeph. Nothing will happen to me."

Zephyr's sigh was exaggerated theatrically. "Whatever I say, I can not change your mind, can I?"

"That's right." Iris looked at Geb. "So, what do you suggest?"

"I?" Since when did he have to decide? He was usually told what to do. Above all, he first had to work out to which absurd idea he had just agreed. Only Iris and he on their companions, while saving the world. Absurd - but it was the right thing to do. "Well, hm ... I'd say we'll get some food."

"Before you think about the meal, I'd suggest you have a good escape plan," Zephyr reminded him, who had accepted his defeat. And he was not wrong.

So Geb thought hard. "We want to go north, right? Then we should go through the North Gate. "

"... where both your colleague and Sabazios are waiting for you," Zephyr finished the sentence.

"Sabazios will not come in a few hours," said Iris. "And anyway, you could stop criticizing everything. At least we try to make ourselves useful."

"I'm just making sure you do not run into failure right away. If anything happens to you, I do not want to think that I could have prevented it." He looked at Iris and spoke again. "Well, how about this: You pack your things in three hours and I'll distract the guard. I'll tell him someone is coming to take his shift, so he leaves his post voluntarily. And as soon as he is gone, you will disappear. "

"I knew you could be useful, too!" Iris smiled and patted him on the shoulder. If Geb had done this, he would probably have broken Zephyr something, he suddenly became aware of it. So he decided not to.

"Sounds like a plan," Geb agreed, looking at the nearest clock. Sabazios had left them shortly before noon, and it was only half-past; they had more than enough time. "So, Zephyr, you go to the North Gate while Iris and I take care of the preparations. You just have to ask for directions. We'll give you some sign when we're ready."

"Well ... I still can not say it is a very good idea."

"You can thank us when we have saved the world," said Iris. "But ... thank you for helping us anyway. You should not have done that, Zeph."

"I know," replied the embarrassed sky elm. "Now go ahead before time flies away."

They climbed from the roof and back to their companions. Zephyr and his bird quickly pointed the general direction into which they had to go, and Geb took another path with Iris.

"Do you see anything down there?"

Iris seemed to be concentrating on keeping Boulder in sight and not getting lost. So she needed a moment to register the question. "What? No, not really, but it's all right. "

"Wait, I have an idea." Geb turned around and grabbed his new friend with both hands. It was surprisingly easy to lift her up, since she was not only a few heads smaller than him, but also significantly light. She protested, when she suddenly had no ground under her feet for a moment, and found herself again on Boulder's back. "Better this way?"

"Yes ..." she marveled, as she could even see more than Geb. "Thanks."

"No problem." She had to sit sideways on the rhinoceros as she had an uncomfortable wide back for her legs, but she did not complain. Geb turned around a few times to make sure that Iris's companion followed them and watched as the bird stole small objects from the elms' pockets. Normally, Geb would naturally have tried to return all the items, but today they were under pressure. I'll just do it on our trip back, he decided.

At first he bought a large bag, which he could fasten to Boulder. Iris and her companion had one at a time, but they would not be enough for all four of them. As before, the two strangers had all the attention, but Geb was sure that most were only curious. They had nothing to fear.

"Looks like you've found new friends." They had arrived at his favorite stall: Ren's, where they were going to buy food.

"Right! Ren, this is Iris. She comes from the tribe of sky. "

"I see that," said Ren, smiling at Iris, who replied the expression. "You are certainly a dealer, or you would not be here."

Iris nodded. "We want to buy some provisions - or are we given them as gifts, because I am also a dealer?"

Ren laughed. "You wish! But who do you mean 'we'? But not - "

"Me," Geb finished her sentence, trying to speak quieter, which was quite difficult in his generally loud voice. "The main man did not want to help me, so we will take the matter ourselves."

"Great," Ren said, not sounding enthusiastic at all. "I hope for you that you know what you are doing. This is a serious matter. "

"We can do it." Geb was convinced of this. They only had to believe in themselves. If the hero of the light continued to wait, they were Elysia's only chance.

"Well, I will not stop you anyway. That'll be work enough for others." Could not she be a bit more optimistic? But at least she helped them. "What do you want to take?"

"Shimmer and I still have enough, thank you," said Iris, Shimmer being her bird. "We do not eat much."

She was right: so more remained for him and Boulder. He bought a whole lot of mangos directly, which he stowed safely in his pocket, so that Boulder could not steal them. Then came a few other fruit varieties for Geb himself.

"Thank you, Ren," he finally said. "And watch out for the shadows and so on."

"You too. Always remember, the light will guide you." As a confirmation, her hippo whispered as the small group headed for the North Gate again.

"Hey, Baby! Would you like to hang out with us again?" Geb and Iris had approached the city gate, where there was much less crowding on the streets than in the inner part of the city. For this reason, most Elmen didn't come here. Instead, a group of boys of Geb's age usually stayed here, driven out of the city by beatings.

"No time," Geb answered the question.

"Right," one of the boys said. "He's busy with his girlfriend."

"Where did you get her?" another asked. "I can not imagine that the main man likes it."

"Shut up!" Iris shouted, which only provoked the boys.

"Ah, he needs a girl for defense. So cute."

"Let us go," Geb whispered. He did not want to go further into this group.

"What's going on? Are you really going to tell us where you're going?"

"I would not like to."

"We do not." Geb felt a strong gust of wind that brushed his arm, and before he knew it, the boys lay on the ground while Iris grinned happily. "Now we should really be gone."

"What did you do?" Asked Geb, still puzzled, as they crossed the group and approached the city gate again. The fact that Iris possessed elemental armor was logical; after all, everyone was capable of her age, but not to a degree that could sweep several people off their feet. "How did you do it?"

"I'll tell you later." When they were out of sight, Iris took advantage of this and slipped elegantly from Boulder's back. Instead, she climbed up onto Shimmer, for she would cope better with the flee from the city flying. As she had already assured Zephyr, Shimmer was very fast, and she would do well.

Geb also took his place on Boulder, as soon as he could see the city gate. Together with Iris and Shimmer, he hid behind a house wall. "Now we must give Zephyr a sign."

"No problem," said Iris, nodding to Shimmer, whereupon the bird emitted a loud scream.

Zephyr must have heard it. And indeed: from a few meters away, there were now also bird sounds. Not just a short scream, but many calls in succession - and even of different kinds!

"How does he do that?" asked Geb, bewildered.

"He loves watching birds," Iris explained. "But I didn't know he could do that."

In any case, it had the desired effect: Emesh was alert to the noise and set off to find out what was going on. He left his companion at the gate.

"Does he let us pass?"

"No idea," Geb said, relieved that he did not have to talk to Emesh to help them escape. He would have betrayed them by mistake, and then their whole project would have failed. "But we do not get a better chance, so I'd say we just try it out."

"Then go!" Shimmer had already lifted into the air and raced toward the city gate.

"Hey, wait for me," Geb yelled after her, as Boulder also began to move. He clung to his friend in surprise, not knowing that the rhino could run so fast. They approached the gate and the Zorilla, blocking the path. It was no longer possible to brake any more, but it was already too late. Geb could only hope that the Zorilla ran aside in time.

Fortunately, it was decided not to be overrun by a rhinoceros. It ran off, and a moment later Boulder was already rushing through the city gate.

Out of the town.

And into the adventure.

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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