Roland and his older brother Jac watched the proceedings from the bough of a nearby tree, far away from the grim-faced gathering of adults that spoke of war and ill omens.

The large, metallic-looking bird shook off the remaining bits of shell and spread its wings, screeching triumphantly. The sky lit up in reds and blues as strange lightning coursed through it.

“What is that?” Roland asked in amazement.

“It’s a bird, dummy.” Jac replied.

“I knew that.” Roland was silent for a moment. “I meant, what kind of bird?”

The older boy looked at his younger brother in exasperation. “Don’t you know anything? That’s a StormHawk. It’s the Guardian for the entire valley. Now shush, it’s going to choose the Sacrifice.”

Roland held his questions as the StormHawk took to the air for the first time. It circled in the fierce winds and rain, falling and then rising again before dropping out of the sky like a stone. There was a loud cracking sound as it struck Roland squarely in the chest, knocking him out of the tree.

View this story's 5 comments.