2 - TWO WEEKS LATER
WHEN JULES BLAZE peered out his living room window, the sky was still dotted with a million stars. He craned his neck out farther and stared at the branches that cast dark shadows upon each other like black bones crisscrossing. Out of the corner of his eye a shadow passed, but it swooped so fast he couldn’t say what it was.
He’d planned this too carefully to let anything spoil it. He couldn’t believe Grandpa had died. Just like that. Swept away, some Elfie neighbors had said. Or maybe they were on the Handover bank. Surely a sixteen-year-old could go to Handover to seek answers?
But should he leave his mother and his younger siblings? Like this? Without him could they fend for themselves? Especially with the rumors he’d heard? But he wouldn’t go for long, he promised himself.
Between the foliage, tearing the darkness, a bright line whizzed in the inky sky. It was as if someone had drawn a silver line across the expanse.
Was it lightning?
But when he strained to hear the rumble of thunder that should follow only the whispers of the forest came. Jules blinked several times and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands. Had drowsiness made him see things?
Without another thought he whisked his cloak off the peg by the front entryway, grabbed his pouch of jeweled stones by his feet and headed for the outdoors. Before he crossed the threshold he glanced at the closed door to his mother’s room. What would she say when she found him missing? Ralston would have to take charge, at least until he got back.
Jules was about to step off the porch when the whole sky lit up and a golden glow brightened the deep forest. And then everything darkened again, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
What was that? Jules’s heart quickened, and he steadied his breathing as he sprinted down the pebbled path away from his home, one hand clutching the pouch of stones over his shoulders. When he rounded the corner of the last spruce, the one that had burned into a charred stump and marked the beginning of the meadow, crunching footsteps stopped him in his tracks. Who was awake this late? Following him?
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