. . . Aeriel whistled, but the grey beast would not come back. With an effort, she started after it. The road began to climb rapidly.
Rounding a turn, she came upon an orchard suddenly, all blighted and spoiled, the leaves lying crisp upon the ground, the fruit shriveled, black upon the boughs. Solstar, very low in the east, cast long black shade. Aeriel heard screaming, then sobs.
The gargoyle dashed away through the bars of darkness and light. Aeriel began to follow, and nearly stumbled over a girl. She was dressed in fine garments; bangles upon her ankles gleamed. Her head and face were veiled but for the eyes. All her skin had been painted black, save little dots and swirls where the pale showed through.
It was she that had screamed. She was panting now, straining hard against a chain that held her to a tree. The metal of the shackles gashed her wrists. The bark of the trunk flaked away where the chain chafed it.
Aeriel threw back the hood of her traveling cloak and went toward her. The girl started, staring, shrank from her with a cry, then lost her footing in the leaves. She fell heavily, then struggled awkwardly to one knee.
"Spirit," the painted girl gasped at last, sinking again. Behind the tree, the chain had slipped: she could not rise. "Spirit, for the love of the old gods, help me. I must get free. . . ."