Daniel’s eyes widened with terror as the enormous bird of prey descended toward them with the speed of a hawk.
“This is going to be close, Daniel.”
He could feel the grip of her pinions tighten around him, securing the boy to her body, then she suddenly changed the angle of her descent, making an almost vertical dive for a group of trees at the edge of the plains. She twisted so she presented her belly rather than her back to the roc’s talons in a desperate effort to protect the ten year old.
He felt the shudder of an impact and heard Olivia cry out, and then Gerald was ascending.
“He’s going to come around again.” Olivia leveled out her flight a scant meter above the ground. A vast flock of sheep was just ahead. They ran in a panic, expecting the owl to attack, but as she flew over them, she abruptly braked with her wings as she also released her grip on Daniel.
“Olivia!” He fell among the herd with a thud, then he felt the wind from her wings as she rapidly attempted to gain altitude. Now he could see the single gash torn into her abdomen.
She flew up directly toward Gerald as the mythological beast once again went into a dive.
“Shut up and get down, kid.”
The whispered voice came from one of the sheep next to him.
“What?” Daniel was torn between his concern for Olivia and a sheep talking to him.
“I said get down.” The child felt the grip of the teeth of a number of the sheep pulling him to the grass. The last he saw of Olivia was the impact between the two avians. Their battle cries were carried off with the wind.
“No, Olivia,” Daniel sobbed. His companion was no match for the enormous roc. She had sacrificed herself to save him.
“We’ll look after you kid, but you’ve got to blend in. The roc and his subjects have no idea we’re anything more than dumb sheep and we want to keep it that way.”
“Blend in?” Daniel wiped the tears from his face and tried to pay attention, but he couldn’t keep the image of Olivia and what had happened out of his mind.
“Here, try this.”
Something was put over him, a covering. “Don’t worry, it’s not real sheep skin, but it’ll do. From the air, no one will be able to tell the difference between you and the rest of us, not even the roc.”
“Yeah,” another sheep piped up. “He’s a regular boy in sheep’s clothing.”
“Just shut up and say ‘Baa’.”
Daniel began to bleat with the other sheep as they slowly moved out of the area. He drew the line at actually eating grass, though.
“Where are we going?”
“Your next stop, kid. With any luck, the roc will completely overlook it.”
Daniel risked a look up and saw Gerald high in the sky. If his eyesight was anything like a falcon’s or eagle’s, he wouldn’t have to get close at all to have a detailed view of the flock.
Minutes passed and finally the bird of prey disappeared, presumably fooled by the deception of the sheep.
“Oh, Olivia. I am so sorry.” Daniel felt hot tears well up in his eyes but forced himself to focus on being an ersatz sheep.
The flock steadily ambled across the terrain. After a few days, the ground became more rocky, but still had ample grass to feed his large group of companions (they managed to sneak Daniel some fruit and nuts smuggled in by friendly squirrels).
“We’re getting near, kid. We won’t be able to go with you on the next part of your journey.”
Before the sheep could answer, Daniel heard a sound that was totally unexpected.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best.
The previous story is R is for Rabbit.
The next story is T is for Train.
I’m back home now, and I have a little more time to write. I took photos of each of the remaining puzzle pieces, so I should be able to continue writing regularly. My schedule will be interrupted again next Thursday, but hopefully, I’ll have several other chapters published by then. Enjoy.