‘Hi, I’m Nadharine. What’s your name?’ Nadharine asked, as she stepped out of the lake, and, realizing that she probably looked like a drenched poodle, started to squeeze the water out of her hair and wings. In the background, her twenty-foot-tall wolf-like Thari’anok was playing merrily in the water.

‘A-Althean.’ The boy managed to stutter with only a slight quiver in his voice.

“She just fell from the sky!” He thought over and over again, as his thoughts ran wildly over all the stories he had heard as a child, of people living above the clouds, heroes who controlled light, and demons of the Eternal Darkness.

‘Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’ Nadharine asked in a concerned voice, an amused smile playing in the corners of her mouth.

‘I… You…’ Althean broke off, not even knowing what he should think, let alone say. Unable to control herself any longer, Nadharine burst out laughing. Her entire body shook with it, and tears welled up in her eyes while Althean just stood there, unable to decide whether or not he should laugh with her, or run like hell.

‘I’m sorry,’ Nadharine said, wiping away the tears. ‘it was a cruel joke to play on you. I know it’s not an everyday occurrence that a young girl with wing falls from the sky and splashes into the lake next to you.

’She walked up to him, and stretched out her right arm, offering a handshake.

‘Relax, I’m not going to hurt you.’ She said soothingly, and, seeing Althean glance anxiously first toward her outstretched hand, then toward the giant Thari’anok behind her, added: ‘And neither is she.’

‘What language am I speaking?’ Althean asked suddenly, genuine concern creeping into his voice. Nadharine was taken aback. The thought that the people of the ground spoke a different language hadn’t even occurred to her. What is more, the boy standing in front of her spoke fluent Arian, without the slightest hint of an accent.

‘What do you mean?’ She asked, puzzled. ‘How come you speak a language but not know what language it is?’

‘I don’t know!’ He burst out, his eyes turning suddenly from dark brown to a solid, shining black. ‘Something happened to me, and I haven’t got the slightest idea what it might be! Yesterday a giant wolf like yours ran headlong up to me, stopped short, sniffed me, then turned and left without even touching me. I can see in the dark, I have two shadows, and now I can speak a language I don’t even know?!’

Nadharine watched the white of the boy’s eyes slowly turn black as he spoke, and sudden fear rose up in her chest. “This is him!” she thought, as she called upon the Eternal Light within her, and with a quick deliberate motion touched her glowing palm to the boy’s forehead.

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