The thief shut his eyes tight and clutched his cape, pulling it tight across his chest.
The urchin looked at him calmly and beckoned with one
‘Come farther into the forest. We need to speak without the gaze of Rapaz on us.’
In a twinkling he was gone.
The man, shaking all over, pushed himself up
and walked deeper into the trees, desperate to get away
desperate to stay.
‘I know now how Orpheus felt…’ he said to himself
clutching for even a thread of his bravado.
He sank against the trunk of a huge tree
venerable and moss striped.
The urchin spoke from over his shoulder, making the man start.
‘Surely you knew that would not end well. You are a man of some magic, true, but only its trickery. Charms and glass jewels and deceptive hands. But none of it real. Hers is. Did you really think to match wits with her?’
Shaking his head the thief answered, ‘I never believed. I thought I could ask a few questions, thought it would be an adventure. I never thought she…it…’ he faltered
‘Would be that? the Guardian finished for him.
He continued, ‘From you she has learned about the living stone, knows now that it exists, that it is moving in the world. There is only one place it will be called to. And she knows this as well.’
‘But,’ the thief objected, ‘I never told her anything. I don’t know anything except for old rumors, some old songs. Fairytales..’
The urchin snorted. ‘She pulled it from you as easily as drawing a breath. Now you must get to the stone and the Guard before she does. They must be warned, there is more at stake here than you could possibly imagine.’
The man considered this, turning it over in his mind, looking for something he could turn to his advantage, ‘But you said she can’t pass the stones.’ he said, straightening his clothes and patting his numerous pockets.
‘She shouldn’t have been able to… unless she had a key. What did you give her?’
The thief stared. ‘I?’ he asked in disbelief. ‘You saw what she did, I gave her nothing. I have no magical keys. The only ones I have are here’, he said drawing a ring of jingling metal from his coat. ‘See? Nothing powerful.’
The guardian of the forest gazed sadly at the man. ‘Rapaz has no need of your door or shed key. You are thinking too literally, too human. For what is a key after all, but merely a way to open? What did she take from you?’
The man examined all his pockets and hiding places. Breathing a sigh of relief he said, ‘There is nothing of any importance missing. Only a whistle. Not even a musical one, just for calling a raven. And what harm could she do with that?’
‘A raven?’ the little being wailed. ‘What harm? Ravens are the keepers of thought and memory. They traverse across worlds, between the material and the spirit.They can take her anywhere she wants, they alone will know the way. You must go and go now. Hope dwindles with every moment.’
‘But how will I…’ the thief sputtered.
‘You will know, the urchin pulled and pushed the man determinedly with his wiry arms.
‘Trust in the forest. You will know…’