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Charlie Bone and the Shadow
(Book 7) Charlie Bone and the Shadow

The winds of Badlock were the cruelest in the world; they came from every quarter, screaming against the giant's broad back, tearing his hair, and lashing his eyes so that he could barely open them. At every step, great gusts swept around his long legs until at length he was forced onto his knees.

Behind the giant lay a vast plain of wind-torn scrub and ever-shifting stones. It had taken him and his child a night and a day to cover this inhospitable terrain. They had come from the range of snow-capped mountains that surrounded the plain like a massive wall.

The giant drew hic cloak tight around the boy in his arms. They had been making for a little hollow, where a shelter of trees could be seen, and the gleam of water.

"Forgive me, Roland," moaned the giant. "I can go no farther."

"You are tired, Father," said the boy, twisting out of the giant's arms. "If I walk, you can move more easily."

The giant marveled at his little son's spirit. It must come from the boy's mother, he thought. It shamed him to see Roland still so unafraid after their long ordeal. Gathering his strength, the giant got to his fee again and battled forward, while his son staggered bravely at his side.

"Look!" Roland suddenly sang out. "I see a light in the hollow."

"The moon," murmured his father.

"No, Father. A flame."

The giant brushed a hand across his eyes and blinked. Yes, there was indeed a light flickering at the edge of the hollow. But how could he tell if it meant danger? They were unlikely to find help in such a godforsaken place.

All at once, Roland suddenly sprinted ahead. He had always been inclined to rush headlong into things that excited his curiosity.

"Wait!" called the giant.

But Roland, his arms wide as if embracing the wind, forged through the swirling gusts, whirled away toward the trees, and disappeared from view.

When the giant arrived at the hollow, he found his son talking earnestly to a boy of around ten years with startling snow-white hair. The stranger raised his rush light, the better to see the form that stood at the lip of the hollow, and the giant noted his large violet-colored eyes. A goblin, thought the giant. What fairy tricks has he come to play on us?

"Roland, come here," the giant commanded, stepping closer to the pair.

All of a sudden, as if from nowhere, another figure moved into the circle of light: a tall young man with raven hair and a cloak made of some dark, shiny material.

"Don't be afraid," said the dark young man. "White-haired Owain is no fairy. He has sought you for many months."

"Me?" The giant's eyes narrowed.

"You are Otus Yewbeam?" asked the boy.

"That is my name."

The boy bent into a deep bow. "I am so happy to find you, sir. No one could tell me where you had gone. It was an old woman in your village who, nearing the end of her life, overcame her fear of punishment and told me that you and your son had been taken prisoner by a knight clad all in green."

"Count Harken." The giant gave a snort of loathing.


Illustrations(c) 2004 Chris Sheeba
 
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