The forest was silent except for the wind whispering past and the purple-hued doves cooing in the boughs above. Knowing by the sun’s low position in the sky that lastmeal time was approaching, Merid huffed and pawed at the ground. The large gryphon’s golden fur was so long near his feet that it nearly hid his black, dagger-like claws.
Still, Adelen lingered. If his pointed ears had been capable of swiveling, they would have been turning to every point of the compass, trying to find the nearly imperceptible sound that had made him halt.
After a long moment, he didn’t hear it again. But something within him had stirred at the sound, and refused to be ignored.
The tall elf dismounted from the gryphon and dropped the reins to the ground, his back to the road and his face to the forest. Merid snorted in disagreement and began to impatiently take a step forward.
Adelen turned his head slightly toward the gryphon without taking his eyes from the brush before him. He focused most of his conscious thoughts into one word: “Hush.”
Merid whined, but immediately quieted and stood still on the dirt path.
The elf scanned the trees and undergrowth with gray-blue eyes that were just a shade too dark to be merry. Though untouched by obvious infirmity, Adelen was clearly aged. His white hair, thick and even but cropped short, curled around the tips of his ears. His dark blue tunic blended into a faintly lighter shade, lightening as it met the silver cloak held on his broad shoulders by two golden clasps in the shape of leaves.
Black, leather boots muffled his steps as he wandered through the brush closest to the road, then into the thicker stuff growing farther beneath the unbroken canopy of green. He swept the ground at and around his feet with his sharp vision, wondering why he wasn’t on his way home to Mara and the hot meal she would have waiting for him.
Then he heard it. The soft, almost nonexistent sound that had made him stop.
This time it was nearly beneath his feet. He looked down into a bed of red ferns and gray moss.
Within the soft, leafy circle, there was a child.
Come back next Monday to find out what happens next!