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Authors: Kathryn Lasky

Exile

BOOK: Exile
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GUARDIANS
of
GA’HOOLE
BOOK FOURTEEN
Exile

By

KATHRYN LASKY

New York Toronto London Auckland Sydney Mexico City New Delhi Hong Kong

The author is indebted to Ray Bradbury for his
Fahrenheit 451
and his brilliant depiction of a society in which book burning was the norm and intellectual freedom destroyed.

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Dedication

Maps

Illustration

Prologue

CHAPTER ONE A Reduced Harvest Festival

CHAPTER TWO Why a Blue Feather?

CHAPTER THREE An Odd Conversation

CHAPTER FOUR Simplicity

CHAPTER FIVE Windkins, Advanced Study of

CHAPTER SIX Burnt Paper

CHAPTER SEVEN The Blue Feather Club

CHAPTER EIGHT Deep Gizzardly Twinges

CHAPTER NINE Visions of Hagsmire

CHAPTER TEN Skart!

CHAPTER ELEVEN Page by Page, Book by Book

CHAPTER TWELVE A Mist of Gloom

CHAPTER THIRTEEN A World Gone Yoicks?

CHAPTER FOURTEEN Mists of Ambala

CHAPTER FIFTEEN Word by Word

CHAPTER SIXTEEN This Is Hagscraft!

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN The Wing Prints of Bao

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Imperiled Ember

CHAPTER NINETEEN The Stink of a Hag

CHAPTER TWENTY A Few Good Owls

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE The Enemy Within

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO A Singed Blue Feather

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Something Familiar?

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Once Upon a Time

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE Flames Within Flames

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX The Last Design

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN The Greenowls Are Coming

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT A Vigil Is Kept

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE An Old Friend

OWLS and others from the GUARDIANS OF GA’HOOLE SERIES

A peek at THE GUARDIANS OF GA’HOOLE Book Fifteen

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series

Copyright

Maps

Illustration

Their progress was slow as the load that Otulissa and Fritha carried was a heavy one. In the talons of each was a botkin of scrolls and strapped to their backs were books.

Prologue

“All right, Otulissa, how does this sound for the lead article?” Fritha, a very diligent Pygmy Owl and one of Otulissa’s best students, had become the assistant editor of
The Evening Hoot,
a newspaper that she and Otulissa had started shortly after Coryn came to the tree. Otulissa looked up from what she was reading.

“Yes, I’m listening.”

“‘The three-day Harvest Festival, one of the merriest of the great tree’s many festivals, is expected to be somewhat subdued this year in deference to the blue owl, the Striga, from the newly discovered Middle Kingdom, who was so instrumental in the rescue of Bell, one of the three B’s, daughter of Soren and Pelli. The Striga was also crucial in the thwarting of the heinous slink melf by the Pure Ones and their plan to assassinate our king and the Band. There will be no music or singing. Many here at the tree were looking forward to Blythe’s debut with an air composed by one of the new gadfeathers that have become so numerous in our kingdoms of late. In addition to these changes in our usual celebration there will be no brewing of milkberries.’” Fritha paused. “How is it so far?”

“Depressing,” Otulissa replied
.

CHAPTER ONE
A Reduced Harvest Festival

B
ut, Bell, I don’t understand. I’ve been practicing all summer with Madame Plonk for the Milkberry Harvest Festival and now you say I shouldn’t sing? I just don’t understand. She’ll think I don’t care.”

“But you shouldn’t care, Blythe,” Bell protested.

“Why shouldn’t I care? I’ve worked hard on this.”

“Singing is—you know—sort of prideful.” Bell squirmed a bit as she said this.

“Prideful?” Blythe blinked her huge, shining black eyes.

“Yes. It’s, you know, a vanity.”

Blythe blinked again. “Vanity” was a word often heard in the Great Ga’Hoole Tree since the arrival of the strange blue owl, the Striga, from the newly discovered Middle Kingdom. But the owls of the great tree were deeply indebted to Striga, or “the Striga” as he preferred to be called, especially her parents, Soren and Pelli, and her sisters, Blythe and Bash. This blue-feathered owl had saved the life of little Bell. The Striga had flown across the Sea
of Vastness and encountered Bell, who had been caught in a freak storm while out on a routine chawlet-training mission. She had been blown off course and injured. Had she not been found by the Striga she might have died. But that was only the beginning of Bell’s trials. During her recovery, she and the Striga were captured by the Pure Ones and held hostage in the Desert of Kuneer. For many moon cycles there had been no news of the Pure Ones and their maniacal leader, Nyra. It was thought they had been vanquished, that only a remnant survived, and perhaps even that Nyra had been killed. But such was not the case. They had found new recruits, gone underground in the Kuneer Desert, and built themselves an elaborate system of underground nest holes and tunnels masterminded by Tarn, a wily Burrowing Owl.

The Striga and Bell managed to escape, but during the course of their captivity they had learned of a dreadful plan, a plan to assassinate the Band and the great tree’s king, Coryn. This would have been a fatal blow to the very gizzard of the Great Ga’Hoole Tree. Had it not been for the Striga, all might have been lost. So it was not just Bell who owed her life to the strange blue owl, but the great tree itself. The Band and Coryn felt so indebted that they issued an invitation to the Striga: If he desired to come to the great tree he would be welcomed. Thus, after
many moon cycles, the Striga had arrived, leaving the Middle Kingdom and the strange Dragon Court, where he had lived a pampered life of indescribable luxury and indolence.

“Look,” Bell said excitedly, “you just give this singing up for the Harvest Festival and you’ll get a blue feather from the Striga.”

“Why would I want some old molted blue feather?” Blythe asked.

“It means you belong to the club, Blythe. The Blue Feather Club. Don’t you want to be a member? Clubs are fun.”

Blythe swiveled her head toward her younger sister. She didn’t know what to say. Why were clubs so much fun? Singing was fun.
Bell just isn’t the same anymore
, Blythe thought.

“I don’t get it,” Twilight said grumpily.

“Get what?” Gylfie asked.

The Great Gray Owl turned his head and peered into the tiny Elf Owl’s eyes. “Now tell me truthfully, Gylfie. Does this seem like the night before the Harvest Festival to you? Where are the milkberry vine decorations?”

“And where’s the milkberry brew?” Digger said, flying up to a perch in the main gallery in the Great Hollow. “I
don’t smell it brewing. And the harp guild hasn’t been practicing at all. Seems like more of a Final ceremony than the merriest festival of the year.”

“Agreed,” said Soren. “Although I have to say that last year things
did
get a bit wild. I mean, did you ever in all your hatched days think you’d see Otulissa getting tipsy? She nearly squashed Martin.”

“She loves to dance, though. I remember when she got you doing the glauc-glauc that first year we were all here,” Digger said.

“I was not tipsy!” Otulissa swooped down from an upper gallery. “Ask Martin. He was the one who stumbled mid-flight. If anybody can hold their milkberry wine, it’s me.”

“Yeah, but I think someone really did spike it with some bingle juice and the two don’t mix—at all!” Gylfie said. “It’s a bad combination. Gives me indigestion. And those autumn mice, my favorite, repeating on me for the next three nights after I drank the stuff. Makes me burp to even think about it now.”

“It’s because of your size, Gylf,” Twilight said. “You’re just too small to handle bingle juice—in any form.”

“Oh, now let’s just cut out the small-stature remarks,” Gylfie replied, sharply casting a harsh look at Twilight. As the tiniest of the Band she was sensitive about her size. In fact she had resurrected the SOS—the Small Owl
Society. It had been founded by Gylfie’s grandmother, and its charter was to prevent cruel and tasteless remarks about size.

“Gylfie,” Otulissa said, “this is not a reflection on your character. It is a scientific fact that smaller owls have a lower tolerance for milkberry wine and bingle juice. There is even a formula: You take your weight, multiply it by the square root of your wingspan, and then divide it by your head-to-tail length and that gives you the number of drams you can tolerate. Very simple. Your capacity is small. Maybe one one-tenth of a dram.”

“I find this conversation infuriating,” Gylfie fumed. “You’re the one who stumbled in the glauc-glauc. Madame Plonk, who is nearly as big as Twilight, passes out every year. All I do is burp—and you’ve got me pegged as a tippler.”

“I have said no such thing,” Otulissa protested. “I was merely giving you the formula to calculate your capacity.”

“Well,” Digger said wearily, “no such formulas are going to be needed this year because it appears that no milkberry wine is being brewed.”

“As a matter of fact,” Otulissa said, “it appears to me that nothing is being done for the Harvest Festival. A big fat nothing!” Otulissa was rarely so unrefined in her pronouncements. The four owls all swiveled their heads toward Soren. He wilfed a bit.

“I know…I know. The Striga is a bit strange. I think we just have to be patient while Coryn figures out what to do with him.” Soren resisted saying how indebted they all were to the blue owl. He did not need to constantly remind them of what he and Pelli owed to the Striga. They knew.

“But what does Coryn say?” Gylfie asked. “He seems sort of listless and distracted since our return from the Middle Kingdom. He should be rejoicing. We escaped the slink melf. The kingdom is intact. Not only that, we have a wonderful new ally in the Middle Kingdom. There is so much to be grateful for and yet he hardly ever comes out of his hollow these days.”

“Got the gollymopes, I’d say,” Digger offered. “Gone all broody on us—and I don’t mean ‘broody’ as in sitting on an egg nest.”

Gylfie blinked. Her yellow eyes grew bright. “You just gave me an idea, Digger!”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“Maybe we need to find Coryn a mate. He could use a little romance in his life.”

“Not a bad idea,” Twilight said thoughtfully. “He needs to settle down. Have some companionship in the hollow.”

“Speak for yourself.” Soren laughed. Of all the Band, Soren was the only one who had thus far found a mate.

“Oh, Soren, you know me. I play the sky! I’m not the settling-down type,” Twilight said. The other owls flashed quick, knowing looks to one another. They knew exactly what was coming. “You know me. I’m a product of the Orphan School of Tough Learning. I’d be terrible at coddling hatchlings.”

“I think,” Soren said softly, “you’d be a lot better than you imagine.”

“What in the name of Glaux are those owlets doing?” Otulissa suddenly asked as she caught a glimpse of a half dozen owlets flying around with feathery blue tufts in their talons.

“Oh, it’s something called the Blue Feather Club,” Soren said. “It’s a fad. It will pass. Bell wants Blythe and Bash to join.”

“Is Blythe going to sing at the Harvest Festival, Soren?” Gylfie asked.

“Yes, Madame Plonk says Blythe’s a natural even though she’s not a Snowy. I do hope she gets to sing. She’s been practicing so hard. But…” There was a wistful note in Soren’s voice.

“But what?” Gylfie asked.

“Oh, nothing, nothing really,” Soren replied.

But Gylfie, who knew Soren best of all, sensed that there was something worrying Soren deeply.

BOOK: Exile
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