Chapter 4 – Graywood
Xan panicked. Chester was dead. She would have nightmares about snakes for months. The raven was loyal, she would deliver his note.
Xan swooped over the rows and rows of trees and could make out the high towers of Graywood in the distance. She missed Chester already. She was tired and dove down to rest in the nearby clearing. When she was preening her feathers, she remembered Chester – his gray fur against her black feathers, the white streak on his muzzle and the encouraging words he used to say to her. The memory of his support drove Xan on. She spiraled upward, up and up. Finally she spotted Graywood and flapped her wings twice, then plummeted toward the city.
Suddenly, Xan heard a loud screech from behind. She whirled around, a hawk! As the raptor hurled closer and closer, Xan dove toward an old badger burrow, safe. She decided to stay that night there.
Once she drifted off to sleep, Xan had a dream. She was flying above the clouds higher than any bird could go. Suddenly she caught a whiff of mice, “Chester?” she wondered, but the scent wasn’t her rider’s. Could it be Gwen? Xan heard voices.
A girl mouse commanded, “Those are fox tracks. We should go that way so we don’t get eaten.”
And then a boy’s voice, “Good idea, Zia. I think we should go that way so we don’t get gobbled up.”
Xan recognized Gwen’s voice, but not the others.
Suddenly, a reddish brownish mouse poked its head into Xan’s hiding place. Xan squawked in surprise. For a split second she thought the mouse was a hawk. But she calmed down, the mouse in front of her was Gwen! Xan remembered that Gwen used to feed her hunks of cheese when Chester visited Blackthorn. She excitedly poked around at Gwen, maybe she had a tasty snack, but to no avail. Xan grunted hungrily.
“Xan? Is that really you?” Gwen asked.
Xan squawked with agreement.
As the two friends embraced, the mouse called Zia suggested that they fish and get something to eat. After the group caught a few unlucky minnows, they had a meager feast. Xan licked her beak as she bedded down for the night with a half full stomach alongside Gwen. She missed Chester, but crying wouldn’t help. Finally, sleep found Xan.