CHAPTER FOUR

The boys took the news as Moore had thought they would. While not the total independence hed hoped for, his son was grateful for that chance to test the waters. Avery on the other hand seemed crestfallen.

Lad, I can read you like a book, his uncle said, throwing an arm over his shoulder Avery during their lunch break. His sons were all surrounding their older brother off in the distance, congratulating Kei on the news. Look, your aunt and I arent trying to punish you with this, or discipline you by sending you away.

Averys eyes filled with sorry, nearly letting tears loose. But this is the only life Ive known, he said. I dont know what do outside Lain.

Son, youre still a young man, Moore said. He lead the boy further from the group and motioned him to sit down on a log. It would be a crime for us to keep you locked up here in this small village of ours.

Avery frowned, and looked at his lunch. Im not a knight, or a soldier, or anything like that, uncle. I would just slow Kei down.

Its only for a few weeks, kiddo. And to be honest, youre not cut up to be a fisherman. He noticed the boys eyes darken. Well, not for all your life. Youre good at what you do for me, but I dont want you to live the life Ive liven.

But you and aunt seem so happy, Avery said, his voice raised.

And we are. But you have so much talent. He smiled. Even if I cant understand your need to draw and chalk up a storm on your free time, he sighed. You have more talent than this old man. His nephew smiled. Look, we both know how hot headed your cousin can be. He has too much of your aunt and I in him. He craned his neck, to see his oldest showing off for the other boys, and chuckled.

He does have a talent for getting himself into trouble, Avery nodded.

Youve helped Torrance go from a wild child to calmer since coming to our house. Last night was the first time Ive seen him snap like that in years. He blinked and slunk against the trunk, so that he had look up at his nephew. Maybe you can do the same for Kei.

Again, Avery took a good look at his lunch, and then looked at his uncle. I suppose. But, I lost my art supplies last night. And I dont have near enough money to buy a new set. Id have nothing to show the people in Arges.

Well then, when you get back into the village, the first thing youre going to do once our haul is off the ship is go looking for it. Moore stood to his feet and patted his nephews shoulder. Ill let you enjoy your lunch in peace, kiddo. Ive got to stop Kei before his head gets so big hell sink the boat! the two laughed, and his uncle walked back to the others.

He sat there thinking. With a heavy sigh he took a bite of his lunch and stared deep into the woods. The pines seemed as sad as he was now, and their smell seemed a bit tampered with. Almost watered down. It was as if so much rain had fallen that their needles could not release the strong aroma that hed become accustomed too. For the first time in less than twenty four hours, Avery actually felt that he was no longer home here.

He ate slowly, taking time. Just about the end of his meal, he caught sight of bizarre movement. He blinked, took another bite, and stared off into the woods again. It seemed as if there was a human staring back at him just off into the distance, but it wasnt a normal human. Nearly a foot in a half, and dressed like a harlequin dancer hed read about in the royal courts from history books, the small female seemed to bob and weave as she stared at him. It almost looked as if she were balancing on a ball, the way she moved.

Curiosity got the better of him. He rose up slowly, so not as to startle her. His caution must have seemed humorous, as her face broke into a grin. Uncle Moore? he called out. He turned to look back at his family, who sat on the blanket, finishing their meal.

His uncle turned his head and looked at the boy, frowning to see the confusion on his mind. Yeah?

Avery turned back to look at the small girl or woman, and was startled. There was nothing there. It wasnt like any fey hed told stories about when he was younger. It was definitely human looking, where they werent but how could she have moved so fast.

Something wrong, Avery? his uncle asked. The boy turned to see his uncle beginning to stand, to see if something was wrong.

Its nothing, Avery said, picking up his belongings. The light must have been playing tricks on me. I thought I saw a small skunk.

In this weather? Andrew laughed. In this season? Someone better tell it that is very late for its nap. The other boys laughed.

Avery made himself chuckle and join his family. Well if it was a skunk I should hope so. I imagine hes very cold out here. He turned back to the forest, where he could swear he saw a shadow weave for a split second, matched by a high pitched giggle. But it was probably the light. Who knows, maybe I fell asleep for a second.

Dreaming of skunks, Dwaine cackled. Well theres a new one for the books.

Maybe he thinks the whole adventure with you is going to stink, Kei, Andrew teased.

He better buck up, because I wont have time to baby sit him during this trip, his eldest cousin said, ruffling his hair.

That will be enough boys, Moore warned. Now, pack it up, and lets get back to work. He watched them file in and enter the boat. His eyes stared steadily at his young nephew, turning quickly towards the woods before entering the ship himself.