Suddenly, Shasta jerked upright. Had she been asleep, she wondered. What had woken her up? She glanced around the room and then at her clock. Six-thirty, her mother would be home in half an hour. She had to get dinner started or her mother would be upset. Stretching and rubbing her eyes, Shasta managed to get to her feet.
She was almost to the door when she heard it again, someone had knocked on a door. She glanced in the direction of the front door, puzzled. No, the sound had come from ... from her room she realized with sudden fear.
“Who’s there?” she asked, her voice shaking in fear.
She heard the knock again, it was coming from her closet!
Trembling, she edged her way over to the door and flung it open. There stood a little boy – no, it wasn’t a boy, it was a little man.
“He must have escaped from a circus,” she thought, glancing down at the strangely dressed man.
Homgloff smiled. “Yes, you must be very thirsty after walking through the Forbidden Lands of Eternal Mist.” He offered her a goblet of green liquid. “Although most of us call it the Place Between.”
The goblet felt warm as she accepted it, but the green liquid inside was very cold. She had expected water, but this was sweet. As she drank it, she could feel the strength returning to her legs. “What is it?” she asked as she returned the goblet to its owner.
“Just a little something I came up with, a sort of tea.” He smiled for the first time.
Flewder stood up. For the first time Shasta could see the amazing archer who had saved her life. Her jaw dropped in amazement.
It was a boy, maybe as old as eight. His skin was yellow orange and his eyes large pools of chocolate which shone as he smiled down on her. His dark brown hair was short and went every which way, and needed a good combing. He had no shirt on, but a large bow was slung over his shoulder and a strap held a container of arrows. He reached down a hand. “Hi Shasta. I’ve been expecting you. I’m Elroi.”
She shook his hand and then rolled over to get to her knees and stand. She was in for another surprise, for just as she looked up to stand, she realized a pair of hooves stood before her. “Hooves?” she thought. She struggled to her feet and looked down at the boy in astonishment. He had no legs! Well, he had legs, just not human legs. He looked like a goat from the waist down and had four hooves instead of feet.
“Never seen anything like me before, have ya?” the boy giggled. “I’ll bet you think I’m a little boy too. Not true. I’m forty-three years old!”
“Jay,” Rosánna gasped as they stepped into a clearing, “Jay it’s beautiful. This little clearing in the middle of the woods, just you and me, nobody else. I do wish I didn’t have to go tomorrow. I’ll be so lonely after I leave.”
“So will I,” Jay said with a sigh, “you’re so much company. Traveling with the other six rangers on that mission is going to be very boring. That is compared to the last month, even if it is very dangerous. Say, after I get back, I get sort of a vacation. I can come see you then.”
“That would be nice,” Rosánna said wistfully as they sat down on the long soft grass. “I will be looking forward to your visit. I’m positive that you’ll come back from that mission all right. Seven is said to be a lucky number, and you’re the seventh.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Jay said with a quick smile, I’m young and strong and …”
“And you can shoot well, very fast,” Rosánna interrupted.
“Yes, that too. I’ve made it this far and I’m still alive. Why can’t I make it further?” he finished.
“That’s the spirit,” Rosánna said encouragingly.