GUDRUN WOKE UP WITH A START. Her head still resting on Tiny’s and her mind still cloudy from a strange dream she’d just left, Gudrun couldn’t tell if she’d really heard something or if it was Tiny’s swishing tail that awakened her.
Yawning, Gudrun sat up. Then, she reared back into the sitting couch.
“Please, do not be alarmed,” said the gargoyle, standing at the end of the room.
At first, Gudrun wondered why she hadn’t screamed. Then she realized that it was, at least in part, because Tiny hadn’t barked. In fact, Tiny trotted over to the gargoyle and sat next to it, wagging his tail vigorously. The gargoyle’s voice was surprisingly comforting to Gudrun, almost lyrical in tone.
“Are you…are you one of Paign’s friends?”
“Yes. I am Ercen.”
Gudrun breathed deeply, not realizing she’d been holding her breath. The voice of the gargoyle was pleasant, though gravelly.
Before she could say anything, Gudrun and Ercen both turned their heads upwards, towards the second floor of the Skulstads’ farmhouse. Sounds of chaos thumped on the ceiling overhead, followed by shouting. Finally, many feet thundered down the narrow stairs and Freida, then Anders, bounded into the living room.
“Ercen! Ercen! We heard you through the floor!” Freida cried.
It was clear to Gudrun that they were delighted to see Ercen. Finally, Heidi and Johann came into the room, welcoming their gargoyle friend enthusiastically.
Several hours later, the humans had finished a speedy breakfast, completed the farm chores, cleaned up and quickly packed. They had finalized a plan to find Paign with Ercen’s help.
Gudrun’s nerves were shot. Her hands had a constant, mild shake to them, which embarrassed her. Still, she felt so much more focused than the day before. She was utterly relieved—almost hopeful, she realized. It was so much to take in, these gargoyles. She’d always been a simple woman, with simple needs and goals. Gudrun had loved being a farmer’s girl, even more a farmer’s wife.
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