Chapter Seven
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Dracca flitted onto one of the branches of a large birch tree, changed from a sparrow back into a Draeya and peered up at the sky. There was a sliver of light now and the previous black sky dotted with silver, had begun to turn into a dull grey. They had been searching for the seed for half the night and now the night was done. He scampered to the edge of the branch where it was very thin and looked around nervously.

How much time did they have left? Dracca raised his nose to the air and sniffed. This area was at least unaffected by the... decay. He winced as that word popped into his head. Decay... their whole forest was decaying. Dying before their eyes. He closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to rid himself of those thoughts. Even if the forest couldn't be saved, they had to find that seed.

A loud whimper caused him to raised his head. Dracca cocked an ear to the sky, listening. There it was again. He raised his tail in the air and catapulted himself forward and over to the next tree. Dracca did the same thing again and again, until he finally came to where the noise had come from. Scampering over to the edge of this branch, he gazed ahead at a little finch diving at Gale's eyes. Trying to blind him most likely. Nikko... he thought to himself.

“Nikko!” Dracca said loudly and lept off his branch and into the other Draeya. Him and Nikko were friends, or at least they had been. Why was he trying to stop one of the great ones? They tumbled over each other in the air and as they did, Nikko changed back. “Nikko why?” was all he could say before they hit the ground with a quiet thump.

“Thank you,” Gale said and then he bounded away.

Dracca hardly even noticed as he grappled with the other Draeya. “Why?” he asked again. “Why were you attacking one of the great ones?”

“Because,” Nikko said and kicked Dracca off of him. “To prevent him from chasing after it.”

“The seed?”

“Yes the seed!” Nikko yelled. “Of course the seed!”

Dracca rose to his feet and stared at him for a long moment. Then he said in a quiet voice,” I don't understand.”

Nikko scoffed at him. “You wouldn't.”

“The great ones are supposed to protect it and keep this forest safe,” he said. He couldn't understand why it would be bad if Gale, the alpha's brother, found it. If any Ilmari found the seed they would return it to where it belonged... wouldn't they?

“That's why,” Nikko said,

Dracca's eyes went wide and he stepped forward. “You... you don't want it to be found?”

“I wanted it stolen and used, but if it gets lost that would be fine too.”

No... no... the Draeya were supposed to also protect the forest. To help the Ilmari by planting trees, so why would he want to do such a thing? “No, no, no!” he said and balled his little fists up tight. “I don't accept this!”

“You can accept it or not. Regardless, the damage is done.”

Before Dracca could say or do anything more, Nikko changed back into a finch and flew away. Dracca watched him go and then folded his arms behind his back and started to pace. The reason for what Nikko had done completely alluded him. Or maybe there was more to this then what he could actually see. So the seed was stolen, but by whom. Nikko would have been too small to carry such a thing, but as one of the forest's creators, he knew where it had been placed. He must have shown the thief where to find it. The thief... Gale then? Dracca shook his head. No, Gale would need a guide to find it. Then it had to be someone in the forest he barely knew or had still yet to meet.

Frustrated with his inability to come up with an answer, Dracca changed into a sparrow and took to the air. Maybe the lord would know more. His airborne path took him downstream and over the waterfall. He stopped, flapping his wings in place. The decay, it was spread across almost half the valley now. Still slow moving, but in time it would speed up affecting all of their home. I have to start warning people, he thought to himself. The problem was that he also had to talk to the great lord. There was no way he could possibly be down there though. One touch of that black stuff and he would be affected by the decay as well.

“Then it's settled,” he said. “I'll start warning others. The great one will probably show up along the way.” then in an instant, he went from being a tiny sparrow to a falcon which was just a little bit larger. Dracca wobbled in the air for a moment, before regaining their balance.

While the Draeya were capable of shifting into almost anything, they generally didn't. Staying the same size or smaller was a lot easier. Because like any form of magic, shifting took energy. Only shifting was a magic that took energy straight from the body. For the Draeya, that mean anything too large would most likely use all that they had. But these were desperate times and he needed to hurry.

Folding his wings up tight, Dracca dived into the trees. Weaving around them, flying over and under branches. “Run!” he shouted as he flew over a human village. They looked up at him, but did not move to leave. Dracca flew down to them and perched on a nearby branch. “What are you doing?” he asked. “The forest cannot be saved so you have to run and get out!”

One of them stepped forward. A man with chocolate brown skin. “My son,” he said. “He's missing.”

Missing? “Did he go to the festival last night?”

The man nodded.

“Then he should have returned by now,” Dracca told him.

The man shook his head slowly. “He hasn't returned, I'm worried.”

Dracca turned his head to see a couple of Ilmari burst through the trees. “I'm sorry,” one of them said. “But we have to go now.”

“But my little boy,” his voice was beginning to break.

“You have to go now,” Dracca said. “But we'll find him and if there's a chance for us to reunite you together, we will.”

The man seemed to accept that and nodded his head. Then he placed a spear up against a small, wooden house. “This belongs to him,” he said. “If you have time, please come back for it.”

Dracca nodded and then the small group of humans and their children, picked up their bags and followed the Ilmari away. Dracca watched, pained at knowing that he would have to leave as well.