Scout soared above him, seeming to hover for a moment in the air before giving a half-turn and heading away from the sun. 

Danny ran full pelt, hoping that he would at least catch up with his bird eventually, if not actually keep up with him.  He kept the bird in his sights, taking long strides. 

In minutes, he had reached the woodland on the edge of the village.  Scout was now flying in small circles, maybe a mile ahead.  He carried on, through the wood, ignoring the low branches and brambles tearing at his legs.

Just as the woods started to become less dense, he saw Scout dive.  He left the woods behind and ran in the direction of the dive. 

He was at the edge of a lake, and after a scanning the area, he saw Scout, perched on a fallen tree, pecking at the wood.

''Hey, girl!'' he panted, bending over, with his hands on his thighs, catching his breath.   ''What was the big hurry?''  He walked over to the tree trunk, and sat beside his bird.

As he sat, his body began to tingle all over, and his head was suddenly light.  Running too fast, on not enough food or water, he thought, and closed his eyes. 

When he opened them, a woman stood in front of him.  He had not heard her approach, and he started.  The tingling intensified.  He opened his mouth to speak, and found that he could not.  He could only look.

Her looks were singular.  He had never seen a woman like her.  He could not put an age on her.  Although her hair was devoid of any pigment, it was long, straight and glossy, and her face was like a young girl's, though her eyes held great wisdom and sorrow, not usually seen in youth.  Those eyes.  The pupils were large, like a child's eyes, before age has had a chance to tighten and calcify the tiny muscles of the iris.  Her irises were unusual.  Both were blue, but one was such a pale shade as to be almost translucent, and the other as dark as the twilight sky.  The effect should have been displeasing, but it gave her a look of some other world.

A name came into his head, and he opened his mouth to speak, but his breath was still caught in his chest and he could only mouth it:  ''Tanith?''

''Daniel.  You know me.''  It was a statement, not a question. She held out one slender hand, and he took it,

Danny found a remnant of air and managed a reply.  ''Yes, but... how?''

She smiled.  A kind smile.  ''You just do.  Just as I knew Randolph.  Come, child, we have much to discuss.''  She turned to face the lake, still holding his hand, and he stood, and followed her.  He stopped at the edge of the lake, looking back at Scout, who was perfectly still, on the tree trunk.

''My bird..'' he said.

Tanith gripped his hand tighter.  ''Scout will wait for you.'' she murmured.  Danny wondered how she knew the bird's name.

They walked around the lake shore, to the other side, and Tanith led Danny into the woods at the edge.  After a few minutes, she stopped at a clearing.  She walked in and gave Danny's hand a sharp tug.  He almost fell, then gasped.  The woods were gone. 

He was inside what appeared to be a shop.  There was a table by the window, with a cash box and a large ledger.  On the many shelves surrounding him were many, many books and papers.  Some of them were very old, with hand-tooled leather covers.  The shop was dingy and ill-lit, but the air was fresh and fragrant.  He could still smell the woods.

''Is this yours?'' he asked, gesturing around him as he walked over to one of the shelves and picking up a small volume with a burgundy cover.  He opened the book.  He could not read it.  The pages were covered with strange, foreign symbols.  He selected another book - it too was filled with unrecognisable shapes, but he somehow knew that this one was in another language, different for the first.

''It was, Daniel.'' said Tanith, taking the books and replacing them on the shelves.  ''It is yours now, or will be.''

''What do you mean?'' he asked, rubbing his forehead.  ''Who are you?''

''Your friend, your sister, your teacher, your mentor, your... friend.''  She smiled, a sad smile now, her odd-coloured eyes glinting with sudden moisture.  ''Though you may, to begin with, consider me to be your greatest enemy.  That does not matter.  The time will come when you will stand in my place, say the same things to another, who will resist you, just as you are bound to resist me.  It has always been so.  But it matters not at all.''

She sat at the table, and waited.  Danny knew that she expected him to sit, too, on the chair opposite her.  And he did.  He wanted nothing more than to leave, find Scout, and tell Sal all about this strange young-old woman.  But he stayed.  And he listened.  And he learned about the Chosen Ones.

The End

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