instincts with which a gizzard might distract you. A gizzard could prove dangerous! Do you understand?”
“In this mission, there is simply no room for emotions. You must do nothing that would jeopardize the mission.”
“No, never! Never!” Lutta felt a strange twinge in her belly. Something squirmed deep within her. She had experienced the first turnings of gizzard, not a true owl gizzard, but nonetheless it was a queer feeling. A sensation that she did not completely dislike. In fact, it was a sensation that made her feel more…more…She searched for the words: more complete.
Her mission was to fly to this island in the south and steal the ember, the Ember of Hoole. She must not let this so-called gizzard distract her.
When Kreeth had first heard about the ember and the great tree ruled by this idiot who wanted to rid the owlworld of all magic, she had started to devise her strategy. She had, thanks to Lutta’s half-hags’ reconnaissance flight, heard the facts. But she realized that what she needed was not more information but knowledge of a deeper sort. She needed to know the nature of this owl named Hoole who was in possession of the most powerful magic in the world, yet wanted to rid the world of it. She plucked a withered gizzard from her collection, which hung on ice picks. Placing it in a solution, she began to mumble peculiar words. It was a dream-sight divination that had to be spoken both forward and backward without a single mistake—“Veeblyn spyn crynik spyn veeblyn Hoole Elooh nylbeev nyps kinyrc nyps nylbeev.”
It took her three tries, but she finally succeeded. She could now enter the dreams of Hoole. Not every dream, and not all the time. Some dreams would prove useless and give no insight into his nature. But others would be quite valuable. For several days as she slept, she was stirred by the dreams of Hoole, but they were, for the most part, unremarkable. The usual ones: a succulent prey that slipped through one’s talons, flying the starry configurations of a night sky to suddenly find it daytime and a mob of crows closing in. There were a few dreams of the Battle in the Beyond, but not as many as she would have liked. These battle dreams yielded a wealth of information aboutHoole’s fighting strategies, and she was intrigued by the strange devices that he and three other owls wore on their talons, which extended them into fearsomely sharp weapons. But then one day, late in the afternoon just before her usual time to rise, she entered a dream that she knew was crucial to her understanding of Hoole and the success of the mission.
Kreeth found herself flying through thick fog that was beginning to thin. It seemed that shimmering stars were suspended in the pearly mist. But they were not stars at all. They were the white dots of a Spotted Owl. Hoole was dreaming of the owl Emerilla for whom they were searching. Nothing unusual about that. She had known that the Spotted Owl was the object of their search. But though Kreeth herself had no owl’s gizzard, she could see that Hoole’s gizzard was in turmoil. He was drawn to this owl, concerned for her safety, fascinated by her courage.
Kreeth snapped awake. “It makes our task so easy!” she exclaimed.
Kreeth stepped to the sleeping Lutta and patted the feather she had earlier woven into her primaries.
“Now, my Lutta,” she whispered. “You will truly become Emerilla. Don’t you feel it?”
Lutta did begin to feel different, but then again she was not sure what it was she was feeling. More thananything, Lutta was confused, but she dared not ask any more questions because Kreeth was in a highly agitated state, and when she got this way it was not a good idea to pester her. Still, Lutta wondered what exactly she was—Hagsfiend? Owl? Snowy? Spotted, Pygmy, Elf? Or Great Horned, as she had appeared soon after she hatched? She sometimes felt split up into a hundred different pieces. Yes, it could be