DD – I called a meeting and got reports from the various teams who had explored the house and the barn. This was a formality. We knew what we’d found in the ranch buildings. As soon as we regained energy, we’d get on the buses and get the Tupac out of here.
Most of the changelings milled around or flopped in the meadow. The triplets walked around Bruce’s scene, with their identical white mice running up and down their arms while they studied it. They acted like they recognized the scene. I’d have to ask them about that. After we were out of here.
I found Aunt Axi, who was stopping to talk with every changeling. “Should we burn the buildings? I don’t want to just leave them.”
“I doubt these structures will accept fire and I agree that we don’t want to turn our backs on them. Let’s talk with Franklin about our options.”
I followed her toward the bus. Until I crashed onto my knees and clutched my ears. Immediately, Aunt Axi and Paul were helping me stand again. My knees stung. I’d hit the dirt with enough force to rip my jeans and the skin underneath. I was glad for the pain, it made the sound less intense.
No one else seemed to hear what I was hearing. Dozens of animals in their dozens of voices, squawking roaring barking chirping yowling in a single tone, over and over. Like they were chanting.
Somebody pointed toward the barn. Somebody else pointed toward the house.
Each building was surrounded by changeling animals. Grayfast stood at the front of one group, Sariah at the front of the other. The animals were chanting at the buildings.
The straight lines of the buildings began to waver and buckle. Every board, every shingle, every piece fell into itself and began to throb, with pulses of bright light as white as tonight’s moon. The buildings shrunk, smaller and more distorted, until finally the shapes were gone and only the throbbing light blazed. If snow could burn, that’s what it would look like.
The animals’ mouths went wider, their bodies stiffer, like they were yelling as loud as they could. A rumble built and the remaining hills sent their boulders into the pond. Water spread in two long fingers that flooded the places where the buildings had been. The throbbing lights went out.
The animals closed their mouths and went to their changelings.
Sariah cast a huge shadow as she rose and flapped our way.
“Noooo!” I cried. Sariah’s shadow was flapping this way and that. She couldn’t control her flying. Her wings were distorting in the moonlight, shrinking and throbbing with snowy light. Natalie had done something to that owl. Something that had now been reversed. Was Sariah being destroyed like the buildings?!?!
The owl’s light went out and a speck of an ember fell out of the sky. With total calm, Paul reached out and caught the speck.
The ember. Her. Sariah. Same owl, same markings, same head tilted to one shoulder. But now she was small enough to fit in one of Paul’s hands.
Whispers of amazement from all directions. Changelings and their animals made way for Grayfast, who galloped across the meadow to us.
Paul whispered like he was praying, “This is Sariah’s real size. She feared she’d never get back to normal again.” He set her on the ground in front of Grayfast. The tiny owl flapped her miniature wings a dozen times to fly to Paul’s shoulder. Before she was majestic. Now she was cute.
Paul froze like you would if a butterfly landed on you. “What’s she doing? I don’t want to startle her,” he murmured.
“Dude,” Lourdes figured it out about the same time I did. “Move all you want. She won’t leave. She’s your animal now.”
“You understand what this means?” I told Paul. “You knew what Sariah was thinking. You’re not an Everweer. You’re a changeling who started as an Everweer.”
And just like that the night went from horrible to wonderful, watching my beloved Paul’s face change. A dream too great to be imagined had just come true. – sE