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This is the fourth chapter in Sky of Stone, from Iris's point of view.

Opposites

"We did it!" Iris could not help but cheer loudly as soon as she had passed the city gate. At last they were out of the oppressive narrowness of the city and back under the open sky, where the wind passed through their feathers and they felt the intoxication of the speed. How could there be Elmen who did not like that? Most had probably just not tried it yet.

Geb, for example. He was sitting far below her on the back of his companion, who was moving quite fast-but it was not the same, Iris was sure. Down there they were tied to the ground, but here they were completely free. Still, she asked Shimmer to fly down to him.

"Hey how are you?"

"What?" Geb glanced around in surprise. He had probably not seen her coming. "Oh, I just can not believe we're out there."

"Have you ever been out of town before?"

"Yes, of course. Well, not very often ... I can only remember the one time that was."

"Last year, right?" Iris knew exactly what day he said: his twelfth birthday. The day when every Elm and his companion set off to preserve the mighty elemental martyrdom.

"Exactly," Geb replied as they rode side by side over the steppe. "But I did not come here. Terrai's pit lies further west, in the desert. "

Terrai was the guardian of the earth, Iris knew. Just as the preacher of prophecy, Lumeon, was the guardian of light. She had no idea, however, how to imagine the two of them. On her twelfth birthday she had only stood opposite Aricel, the guardian of heaven. And that was the pure embodiment of her element: a gigantic bird of paradise in all the colors of the sky with a splendid display of feathers, riding the air with breathtaking beauty in the wind. Certainly Terrai was far less elegant. "And where are we riding?"

"Not in the desert, at least," Geb. "And otherwise ... well, just north."

"Doesn't sound like you have a plan."

"Maybe we should stop. Then we can think about how we continue."

"By no means," said Iris. "I think we should expand our lead over the rest of the day. I do not want to be caught by Sabazios before we have achieved anything. "

Nevertheless, Geb's companion walked slower, so that Shimmer had to adapt to him. "And how do we know where we ride?" Geb asked, now as Iris realized that they had not thought of anything.

We should have taken Sabazios's goose, she thought frustratedly. North Star knew where to go. Perhaps the bird was not so boring. But although he was not here, he brought Iris to an idea. "We want to go north, right?"

"Logical."

"And do you see the mountains there?"

He followed her gaze to the right. "This is the Twilight Range. But does it help us? "

"Sure." She grinned. "The Twilight Mountain forms the eastern edge of Xiro, so we just have to make sure it is to the right of us, so we can not get out of the way - until it gets dark, of course."

Geb hesitated. "You do not want to go on in the dark?"

She laughed. "Of course not, fool. I do not intend to meet the shadows. As soon as the sun goes down, we can look for a place to sleep, and tomorrow we will move on. "

"Sounds good." After a while, Geb added, "I'm really glad you're here. I would never have thought about navigating using the mountains, although now it is totally obvious. Without you, Boulder and I would be pretty lost."

"So is your ...", Iris paused as she still did not know what an animal was riding, "Companion?"

Her hesitation seemed to have betrayed what she was thinking. "You do not even know our animals!" he thought. "I'm sorry, I should have noticed that. Boulder here is a rhinoceros. "

Creative name for such an animal. "It's not so bad, you have the same problem with Shimmer. She is a magpie."

"Honestly? I can hardly tell your birds apart. To me, they all look the same."

"You're kidding, right?" Geb did not mean to be rude, but Iris was still offended. "You can not really find my elegant Shimmer resembling the clumsy North Star even remotely."

"All right," Geb tried to appease her. "I just have not seen so many birds, that's all." Then he beamed. "What do you think of showing me a few differences as soon as we see any bird? I can do that if you do not know any animal. Then we can learn from each other! "

She returned his grin. "Betting, I can name more animals than you?"

Seconds later, a gray bird with a long neck and yellow headdress flew past them.

"Ha!" Iris shouted triumphantly. "Crane. Looks like I'm winning. "

But after this encounter she was not so lucky. Geb showed her antelopes and giraffes and many other animals, while she only discovered two other bird species.

"All right," Iris finally admitted as they rode comfortably through the steppe after a few hours. After all, their companions could not race all day long. "You won. But wait until we are in the territory of my tribe. Then I will beat you. "

"Your tribe?" Geb repeated. "But we were going to the ore tribe, did not we? We do not have to visit your tribe at all." He suddenly sounded sad. "Or do you want to go back?"

"What? No!" How did he come up with such an idea? "By no means, I leave you alone, Geb. Let's stop, then I'll show you what I mean."

"We should look for a place to sleep anyway." Geb sounded infinitely relieved when he said that. Had he seriously believed that she would give up their plan so quickly? "How about there?"

He pointed to some rocks that did not offer them any shelter. Nevertheless, Iris agreed. She had already slept in the open during her journey with Zephyr and Sabazios, which she was much more than any cave where she could not see the sky. And it did not look like rain either.

They rose from their companions and Iris decided to feed Shimmer after the long flight. She opened the bird's bag of food, who immediately ate the grains that were in it.

"Is that enough?" Geb asked, giving Boulder just a few mangoes. "I would starve if I were to feed only on grains."

"You're not a bird either," Iris said, putting a few of them in his mouth. She got along well with little food, and the seeds were nourishingly nutritious. But she was also smaller than Geb, who needed more food than she did. She sat down on the ground and leaned against the rocks, before she drew into the earth with one of her heel lines.

Geb watched her and shook her head. "I still do not understand how you can walk with your legs. They're so thin ... and the toes are creepy. "

Iris could not be distracted from her sketch. "My tribe does not live like yours on the ground. You can use these legs well in the sky. "

"Perhaps we should look there. I'd like to see how it looks with you ... and if you're right with the legs. "

"That's how it's on the way," said Iris, waving her friend to himself. She had sculpted a map of Xiro into the earth. "Sunstone is here," she said, marking a spot in the east, on the western side of the Twilight Mountain. "We rode to the north, so we will pass this end of the mountains in a few days." The Twilight Mountains were mostly from the south to the north, but they described a curve to the west, which they would meet soon. "Then we cross the Xiro, the river, and continue to the Blade Mountains, where we will visit the ore tribe. Since I assume that the search for the hero of the light will lead us to the west, we will pass the Sky Mountains. There I can show you how it lives with us. "

"Wow," Geb said only. "I'm glad you know so much. Without you, Boulder and I would be hopelessly lost. "

"You said that already," Iris laughed. "And I just remembered a few things that you as a trader need to know. You surely know about guardian things. "

"Well, as a guardian, you do not really need to know much," Geb. Answered. "You just have to take care of order, which is enough if you are strong and you know the law."

"That would not be for me," she admitted. "I only follow rules if it is necessary."

He nodded. "You stole a few things from my trunk, did not you?"

Iris paused. "What makes you think that?"

Geb shrugged his shoulders. "I've caught Shimmer."

"You must have misunderstood something."

"Certainly not," replied Geb. "Stealing is bad, you know? And lying is almost worse."

Iris laughed. "No wonder Terrai has made you a guardian. Are you planning to punish me?"

"In town maybe. But not here ... as long as you do not get us into trouble. "

She winked at him. "Lies do not bring me into trouble. On the contrary, they save me from dangerous situations. You will thank me one day, believe me. "

"We'll see." Geb sounded unconvinced. But they both had no desire to argue about it. Iris was grateful to him when he changed the subject. "Do you think we should keep watch? Because of the shadows and all?"

Iris yawned. After the long ride she could tolerate more than just a bit of sleep. Above all, she had not the slightest desire to sit alone in the dark for hours. "Shimmer will awaken us if something is. She has a light sleep. "

"Sounds good," Geb said, yawning too. It was now so dark that they could see the first stars. "If we are going to sleep now, we are more alert and can break quickly. Then we'll have a long way to travel tomorrow." Iris already knew that this was no more than a good intention. Not every tribe was as early on its feet as that of sky.

But at least for this evening, Geb held up to his suggestion and was already asleep deeply as Iris saw him next time. She, however, did not want to fall asleep now, as she would be awake at one time or another. And above all else, she would miss the stars, the tiny light spots that stood night after night. If you see the stars, Hero of Light, take an example. This silent message was all she could do against the shadows at the moment.

As she looked into the sky, her thoughts turned back to the city.

How was Zephyr? Of course Sabazios had noticed her absence, just like the rest of the town guard. Had Zephyr given them the plan? He was not a good liar. Would they look for her and Geb? All the worries about them were guaranteed. Or, what was more likely, they would get a lot of trouble when they finally found it. Was it really such a good idea to stay out here, where you could see them so easily?

The adults must also sleep somewhere, thought Iris. And they are much too afraid of the shadows to look for us at this time. And the shadows themselves? They did not know what Geb and they were doing. Iris would be able to sleep peacefully tonight, because the shadows did not consider her a threat.

Not yet.

And with a satisfied smile, she sank into her sleep.

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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