Lydia raised an eyebrow at Karen’s reaction. She wanted to comment, but Andrew beat her to it.
“Did you think they’d still be there?” he said. “Don’t be naïve.”
“I said I knew it, didn’t I?” she said. “Which part of that didn’t you understand?”
“The bit where you’re swearing about it. You wouldn’t be if you’d expected it,” he said.
Karen looked away and flushed. “You’re right. Part of me knew, but it was a shock when I looked back and they were gone.” She looked around with a determined expression. “So where do we go?”
“Hmm… Well…” Lydia said. “My gut is saying we should head for that.” She pointed at a small, partly ruined building nestled between two hills. Something about the white façade and the vaguely Grecian columns reminded her of photos of the Parthenon. Perhaps it had been a temple once. “It’s the only non-natural landmark and on a direct line of sight with where we arrived. It was the first thing I saw. It’s suggestive.”
Andrew looked at the building. “You’re right. What do you think, Kaz?”
“It makes sense,” she said. “Especially since we’re standing on the path leading to it.”
Lydia looked down. They were indeed standing on an overgrown path which led straight to the building. “I- I didn’t notice that,” she said. “But that makes it even more likely it’s where we’re meant to go.”
“It’s where whoever forced us to come here wants us to go, anyway.” Karen said. “I still don’t like this.”
Lydia wasn’t surprised. She was surprised that she didn’t agree. She glanced over at Andrew and knew he was thinking the same thing.
“So, we’re agreed?” he asked. “We head for there?”
“You go first,” Lydia said. “Then when you fall over you won’t knock me and Kaz flying in the process.”
“Hey! My sense of balance isn’t that bad!” he said. “I can walk downhill without falling over.” He did take the lead and looked back over his shoulder. “Riding a bike is much harder.”
“I suppose so.” Lydia started down the path after him.
About halfway down the hillside Lydia became aware of a tugging in her head. It felt like when one of the others was looking for her except she knew it wasn’t Daniel, and it seemed to be coming from the sky. She stopped and looked up, trying to locate the source.
“What’s wrong?” Karen asked.
Lydia shushed her and held up her hand to request silence as her eyes scanned the sky. Andrew stopped when he heard Karen’s question and looked back at them. Lydia motioned for him to be quiet as well. A dark speck stood out against the blue. She reached behind her and pulled her binoculars from their pouch and looked up at it.
A bird of prey wheeled in the air above them before diving directly at her. There was a click in her head as the seeker locked onto her. She doubted it was coincidence, but she sensed no hostile intent – just a yearning echoed by the depths of her own heart.
She dropped the binoculars to her chest and held her arm out to the coppery-feathered hawk. It back-winged and landed on her arm.
“Heart friend!” he said, “I knew you were coming! I’ve been looking for you.”
“Okaaaay… We’re in Narnia,” Karen said.
Lydia shot a glance at her and saw a strange expression flit across her face.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” Andrew asked.
Lydia looked down at her arm. Having a hawk attached to her by its talons should hurt, shouldn’t it? But it didn’t, and the sleeve of her Gore-Tex jacket was undamaged let alone her skin.
“No, no it doesn’t.” She shook her head and looked back at the bird. “What did you call me?”
“Heart friend,” he said. “The one who I’ve dreamed of since before I hatched. I’m Bennu.”
“I’m Lydia,” she said as she realised something. “I’ve dreamed of you too. Almost every night for as long as I can remember.”
“Of course. It works both ways. There’s a bond between us which can’t be broken.”
“Okay, that’s creepy.” Karen said. Bennu looked over at her and Andrew.
“Who are your friends?”
“Oh, of course.” Lydia held her forearm up to her shoulder. Bennu got the idea and hopped onto the offered perch. Once again his talons didn’t tear into her. “These are my brother and sister Andrew and Karen.”
“Ah, of course! Your litter mates! I remember them from my dreams,” Bennu said.
Andrew began to laugh. “Litter mates. Put like that it sounds so mundane doesn’t it?”
“Oh, sorry!” Bennu’s body language was hard to read, but Lydia sensed mortification from him, “Did I say something wrong? I’ve never met any humans before.”
“It wasn’t insulting,” Andrew said. “But humans don’t usually have ‘litters’. When someone has more than one child at a time it’s unusual enough to comment on. We’ve grown up with people acting as if it was the most notable thing about us.”
“Oh… I see. I don’t know much about humans. I’ll learn.”
“Well, we’ve never met a talking bird. Animals don’t speak where we’re from,” Lydia said. “We’ll just have to learn together.”
“That’s true,” Bennu said. He seemed unsurprised to hear that animals did not speak in their world. “We’ll manage.”
“Of course we will,” Andrew said.
“I hope so.” Karen nodded. “I don’t suppose you heard where that voice was coming from?”
“The one calling for help while I was looking for Lydia?”
“No. It seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. As if the whole world was crying for help.”
“Lovely. For all we know it could have been,” Karen said.
“You were looking for me?” Lydia asked.
“Yes, I woke up this morning knowing it would be today.”
“So what now?” Karen said. “Carry on as we were?”
Lydia thought about it and became aware of another strange pulling sensation at the core of her being which had not been there before Bennu’s appearance. It called her towards the ruined building they’d been heading for. “Yes, I’m sure we’ve got to go there now. It’s calling to me. I can feel it.”
“You can feel it?” Karen said and Lydia nodded. “Okay, that’s good enough for me.”
“Yeah,” Andrew said. “Lead on, Lyd.”
“Thanks guys.” Lydia stroked Bennu’s feathers. “Let’s move out then.” She headed down into the valley.