Dionté blinked placidly. The tiger’s eyes contract and expand, its nose inching forward.
“You are Dionté, aren’t you?”
Dionté clamped his fingers into his brother’s arms; determined Darrell would protect him.
“And who is with you?” asked the tiger, rooting her eyes to his brother.
Dionté restrained his breath, believing that any second now Darrell would pounce. Instead, Darrell shook off his little brother and stepped forward.
“I’m Darrell,” he said.
“I’m Dionté’s older brother.”
The tiger nodded, an odd look of sadness shadowing her eyes.
“Nice to meet you. I’m called Larissa.”
Darrell took another bold step forward.
“How do you know my little brother?”
Larissa returned her yellow eyes to Dionté, studying him intently.
“What do you do, Dionté?” Dionté shrugged, unsure of her question.
“Your brother is strong. What magic do you possess?” she asked again.
Dionté shook his head.
“I don’t think I can do anything.”
Larissa nearly seemed to grin.
“Think about it. It should hit you like an instinct”
Dionté looked up at his brother. He wanted to throw boulder and rip trees apart, but he also didn’t want to be just like Darrell. He wanted to be different.
“Do you know?” asked Larissa.
Dionté shook his head, saying, “Maybe I’m not special.”
“I’m sorry,” cut in Darrell, “but how did you know my brother’s name?”
Larissa tore her eyes from Dionté to the neighboring trees, her carpet fur bristling.
“They can’t know he’s here,” said Larissa, stepping over to them.
“Who can’t know?” asked Darrell.
“The giants. We have to keep him hidden.”
“What?” exclaimed Dionté, alarmed and confused.
Darrell didn’t miss a beat. His eyes followed Larissa’s, assessing the danger.
“What should we do?” he asked.
“I’ll take Dionté. You can fight them off.”
“Do you know how many there are?”
“Three, maybe four. Watch out for trithium. If they trap you with it, you’re no longer strong.”
“What’s it look like?”
“A blue fire spit from a dragon’s mouth.”
“Ok, I’ll take care of them,” said Darrell, lifting his brother and planting Dionté on Larissa’s back. “Keep him safe.”
Dionté looked from Darrell to Larissa, disbelieving his brother was about to cart him off with a tiger to embark on adventure alone. Nor did he understand their cryptic banter. Indignant, he kicked the tiger’s sides with his heels.
“Get me down! I’m coming with you!”
“Dionté, I don’t have time for this,” said Darrell, glaring intently.
Every sinew within screamed in defiance, yet oddly Dionté obeyed. His legs clenched and fingers wove through rough layers. Larissa bounded through forest, Dionté twisting his neck to take another look at his brother.