“He is not home.”
Walter looked around, but saw nobody. The psychai tugged on his sleeve to get his attention then hid behind him. He turned again and almost fell backwards in fright. Two large figures loomed over Walter.
“Don’t be afraid,” one said. “We won’t hurt you.”
“We normally don’t eat children,” said the other, “unless you bring harm.”
“I-I bring no harm.”
“Of course you don’t. You came to see Archibal,” said the first.
“Who are you?” Walter asked.
“We are gargoyles,” said the first. “I am Amias. This is Agi.”
They were enormous, as large as boulders, but Agi was broader. They were friendly indeed, though their appearance was ferocious.
“Are you the one I see up on the ledge?”
“That is me,” Amias said. “We live up there, high up on the manor.”
“Are you the gargoyles Archibal told me about?”
“That is right, Walter,” said Amias.
“You know my name?”
“Of course we do; Archibal told us about you.”
“We’ve watched you from above,” Agi explained.
“Where is Archibal?”
“He hasn’t been home in a while,” Amias reported. “He left before the rains came. Cadi went with him.”
“Where did they go?”
“Archibal will tell you when he returns,” Amias assured him. “For now, no one is allowed in the manor. He bolted it shut. No one can go in and no one can get out. The magic protects the inside, but we are always here.”
“We never leave,” Agi added. “Well, we sometimes like to stretch our wings.”
“I see you brought along a friend with you,” Amias glanced at the psychai, timidly hiding behind Walter.
“I-I was in the woods,” Walter said. “She was trapped by some branches when something came after us—”
“This is the time of the month when you see things,” said Amias. “Horrible things.”
“The woods are no place for you this time of night. What were you doing there?” Agi asked.
“I was…I was following a light in the mountains.”
“The light! You can see the light? Not many can see those lights or even get close to it.
Walter nodded. “I can hear it too.”
“I dissuade you from chasing the light,” Amias warned him. “Nothing good comes from chasing it. You need to ignore what you see and hear.”
“I also saw something flying in the skies.”
“That was probably the other gargoyles.” Agi blushed. “This is the only time when we don’t have to hide. We can roam free in the skies and not fear that people will see us. They think we are dragons.”
“The witching hours is what they call this time of year,” Amias explained. “The light glows scaring the animals away, but it brings something else: these figures that live in the darkness. We sometimes can see them from a distance. We think that’s what scares the animals. Archibal should return soon. In the meantime, you need to go home. It will be safer there.”
“Oh, Amias,” whispered Agi. “What about the psychai? She can’t stay here.”
“No, she can’t. Not until Archibal comes back,” Amias agreed. “And it’s too late for her to leave. The others have already left.”
Walter glanced at the psychai. She looked heartbroken, scared, and cold. He realized the stampede of animals he saw that one night was the night they were escaping for safety and she had been left behind.
“She can come with me,” Walter offered. “That is, if she wants to.”
The psychai smiled and nodded.
“You better go home now,” Amias repeated.
Walter nodded, and the psychai took hold of him. He pulled out the ring and went home. When he arrived in his room, the rain was coming down. He made a bed for his guest in one of his dresser’s drawers, grabbing a blanket and tucking it in. The psychai quickly snuggled in and fell asleep. Walter yawned, feeling tired himself. He changed into his pajamas, dove in bed, and fell asleep to the soothing sound of rain outside.