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Moving quick and quiet ...
Slipping among the shadows of the tall trees ...
The Monkey Sage is loose within the woods ....
Tremble, you kings. Hide, you mighty dragons....
"What was that, Monkey?" Thom asked in a low voice.
It took me a moment to collect my thoughts from writing my little epic. "What was what?"
"It was a flash of blue." His eyes searched the forest around us.
I looked all around the trees but didn't see anything. People called it the Green Darkness, but they ought to have called it the Green Bore because it was green wherever you looked. Leafy vines and even shrubs grew on the trunks of the giant trees, so we were surrounded by monotonous green walls and even the light that managed to fall through the leaves high overhead was green and gloomy. And it was so hot and humid in the forest that I felt as if someone were dragging me through a tank of algae. Personally, give me a nice pine-covered mountain with plenty of waterfalls.
"I don't see anything," I said.
"It was right there." Thorn pointed.
Now Shimmer, being a dragon, was automatically sure that her eyes were better than a human's. "it was probably a bird, you fool ape," she insisted.
Thorn looked at Indigo's hair, which was still greased into blue spikes. "It looked like a human with a hairdoa Kingfisher hairdo."
Indigo's robe had gotten snagged on a bush, and she stood there dumbfounded as if she didn't know what to do next. But then I reminded myself that she had been raised undersea in the dragon kingdoms, so even the experience of walking was something new and different. She gave a preoccupied mutter, "It was probably a bird.Maybe even a kingfisher. "
And that was when Civet-of all people-stuck up for Thorn. "I saw it. And it wasn't a bird, because it didn't look like a bird."
Before she had lost almost all her powers as a Witch, she had done terrible things to Shimmer's people; and even now, despite all her oaths to help us regain their sea, none of us were too sure. "You've got very good eyes," Shimmer said skeptically.
A breeze blew through the trees and the leaves rustled. Civet's head lifted suddenly; and for a moment, just for a moment, the sullen look left her face. "I was born in a forest much like this one. A kingfisher would have been nearer the water."
Indigo tugged her robe free and there was a tearing sound. "So maybe one of my people is out hunting for berries."
Civet nodded her head at the thorny bush in amusement. "Judging from that bush, it's the wrong season for berries."
Indigo's momentum made her take a step backward, almost onto a large beetle that clicked its wing case in warning. She backed up in distaste until she bumped into Shimmer. "This is my forest, not yours."
In contrast to Indigo, Civet was gazing around her as if she were in paradise. "What do you know? You were raised in a dragon palace under the sea."
"But my parents told me about this place," Indigo I countered angrily . She always seemed to have a chip on her shoulder.
"Of course they did,,, Shimmer soothed her.
Poor Thorn. I could see that he was doing his best not to feel jealous, but Indigo had become a kind of pet to Shimmer ever since the dragon had rescued her from the dragon palace kitchens-from the salad dish, for all I knew.
Civet put up a hand. "Quiet."
We were silent for a moment, but the nervous girl couldn't stay still for long.
"I don't hear anything," Indigo finally said.
Civet smiled in a superior way. ,Thaes just the point. A forest should be full of noise-birds, monkeys, bugs. Or didn't your parents tell you?"
As Indigo swelled herself up with some angry response, I cut in quickly. "Perhaps it was hunters," I suggested, "from Indigo's clan."
Civet scanned around her. "They're awful hunters then, because they're scaring away the game."
"My people are expert hunters," Indigo insisted.
Shimmer grunted. "Well, Civet's point is well taken. Someone unused to the woods is near. We should be more cautious. New disguises, everyone."
"I want to be a boy," Indigo said quickly.
"Done," Shimmer spread out her forepaws and paused theatrically. If she hadn't been a dragon, I think she should have gone onto the stage. With a touch to the power of the pearl hidden in her forehead and a muttered spell and a sign, Shimmer changed Indigo into a boy in a ragged robe.
Civet became one of the Kingfisher clan, Indigo's folk. And the next moment so was Thorn.
"And now for this." Shimmer set her cauldron down. She never let it out of her sight if she could help it. It could boil away the waters of an entire ocean. With it she hoped to gather the sea that Civet had once stolen and restore it to her old home.
The next moment there was an old gourd there. Indigo and Thorn lunged for it at the same time, but Indigo snatched it up first. "I'll carry it," she said, giving Thorn a shove. Thorn looked as if he wanted to protest; but when Shimmer shook her head at him, Thorn held his tongue.
I had the good sense to disguise myself as an elderly man in an ordinary green robe. But when Shimmer had transformed herself, I nodded to her gown of green silk with designs in gold thread. "Why bother with disguises? That robe of yours announces to the whole world that you're a princess."
Ever since she had returned to the dragon kingdoms after a long exile, Shimmer had become harder to deal with. . .