“I am Carling, from the village of Duenton. This is my friend, Higson, from the same village. We have been sent here by the Wizard of Crystonia to collect the Stone of Courage.”
At this, the creature lifted himself up to his full height, making him only slightly taller than Carling, and roared a great roar from deep within his chest. The stalactites and stalagmites shook. Pebbles fell from the ceiling and sank into the moss. The few bats still in the cavern left their perches and circled over Carling’s and Higson’s heads. The creature raised his hands toward the bats and said, “It is okay, my pets. I will handle this.” Then he dropped his gaze back to the young intruders and, with teeth clenched, said in a voice that sounded more like a growl, “I want you to leave. Leave this instant!”
Carling and Higson scrambled to their feet. “We cannot leave until we have the S-S-Stone of Courage,” Carling said, wishing more than ever for some of the courage she hoped the stone would provide.
Instantly, the creature spun around. When he was facing them once again, he was bent over as he had been when they first saw him. His long fingers clutched the cane with both hands and his smile reappeared. “Forgive me. Forgive me, my dears, for being so rude. It is I that you are seeking. I am Shim.”
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