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The Key of Kilenya

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Chapter 2. The Rog

 

I left the castle to meet Aldo and Ezra at the cottage. But when I arrived, I found that Ezra was dead. Someone had broken into the cabin and ransacked it. Aldo was nowhere to be found, and neither was his mother.

 

I spotted a piece of paper crumpled in Ezra’s hand. Several notes were scribbled on it: “Lorkon behind attack?” “What motive?” “Pregnant.” “Fury of the Elements.” What is a Lorkon? And how will I know where to find my Arien?

 

I plan to return to the cottage as soon as I can.

 

***

 

Jacob jumped with a start, hands swinging, but it was too late. Nothing was there. The tree door opened, and he was momentarily blinded by the late-afternoon sunlight before the door shut.

 

“Hello?” Jacob called out. No answer. He shook himself, trying to get rid of the creepy feeling that surrounded him.

 

A roar from outside made him jump. Oh, no, not the wolves again.

 

He forced himself to calm down. Wolves don’t roar, and it didn’t sound very close. Maybe he had time to get away! He couldn’t stand the idea of being trapped again. Jacob raced to the door, but jerked to a stop as soon as he’d swung it open.

 

The biggest bear he’d ever seen charged at top speed toward the tree—and it was coming straight for him.

 

Terrified, Jacob slammed the door shut, then backed as far away from it as he could. Bumping into a staircase, he dashed up a couple steps, and tensely waited for the impact. Only, there wasn’t one.

 

He could hear heavy breathing outside—it must be the bear. The knob shook … then jiggled a bit. There was a thump and Jacob froze, expecting the bear to break through at any second. Another loud roar, and the knob jiggled again. Jacob stared at it, wondering if the bear had the intelligence to figure it out. He hoped not. The crack of light around the doorway shifted as the bear continued looking for a way in.

 

The knob turned, the latch released, and the door swung open. Jacob straightened in fright. The bear roared, opening its mouth wider than Jacob thought possible—the largest set of teeth he’d ever seen dripped with saliva. He stumbled backward, nearly falling, as he tripped over the edge of the step behind him.

 

The bear roared again, then lunged toward Jacob, who spun around and dashed up the stairs.

 

Jacob felt the bear grab at his back. He expected pain, but felt nothing. Relief flushed through him, but it was short-lived. There seemed to be nowhere to hide in this tree. He kept running up the stairs, passing rooms as he did so. Beds, books, shelves—what was this place? He could feel the hot breath rushing over his neck, making his skin crawl.

 

The bear took another swipe at him, but again, the claws didn’t catch. Still tripping over himself, Jacob finally reached the top of the stairs, a room with no exit—just windows. He ran at them, hoping to jump through, but his body merely slammed against the glass. Jacob whirled as the bear roared and pounced, knocking him to the ground. Spittle flew across his face.

 

Expecting to have his head bitten off, Jacob was surprised to feel large fingers grip his shoulder and start dragging him down the stairs. He jerked around, looking for the person who’d grabbed him, but only the bear was there. It had a human hand? How was that possible? More surprised now than afraid, Jacob twisted so he could see the other hand—it was human too! His surprise lasted merely seconds as pain shot up his back and rear with each step he hit on the way down. He flailed around, screaming for help, desperately trying to escape, but nothing worked. The fingers dug into his shoulder too tightly.

 

The bear—or whatever creature this was—dragged him out of the tree. It paused for a moment, but didn’t loosen its grip on Jacob’s arm. It seemed undecided as to where to take him—it looked to the forest on the left, where Jacob had come from the night before, then looked to where the forest continued on the right, leading up the canyon. Canyon walls towered above them to the front and right. Jacob hollered for help when he saw groups of people scrambling down a rope ladder that led to a large cave-like split in the rock. The meadow wasn’t very big—he was positive they’d hear.

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