The air was thick with smoke. Flames were licking the edges of some of the tents.

A gray shape was clutching a body. Nightshade heard sobbing noises. "No! You can't die! You can't! Please,

Graymoss! Don't die! Please! Stay with me! Please, Ama! Please."

Dreamcloud stepped forward, kneeling next to Starflower. "She's dead, child."

"No! She's not dead! She's not!" Starflower burst into tears. "She's not!" He let go of the body.

A green hand was placed on the owl's shoulder. "You will meet her again. In Jebuca."

Starflower sniffed, wiping his face. "It's not fair. It's not. She shouldn't have to die. She shouldn't. Quaro shouldn't have let it happen."

"There is no evil in Quaro, child. This is Tojo's doing."

"I hate Tojo. I hate him!" Starflower began wheezing. He pointed at Nightshade. "And I hate you!" He started hyperventilating, his words becoming an incomprehensible blubbering mess. He wrapped his arms around Dreamcloud, burying his face in his chest, sobbing.

"How much did you see, wizard?"

Nightshade stared at the frog. "I told you already," he grumbled. "I'm not a wizard."

"Fine, fine! Wizard's apprentice! What did you see!"

"Uh...not much, really. I only saw the beginning of the movie. I saw the...elder telling a story, and Starflower running off, then I saw...the intruder being caught, and you rescued Starflower, and you had to flee the village...and they were throwing spears through the movie screen."

"You saw what was happening." Starflower choked. "You could have done something." The little hands balled into fists. He let go of Dreamcloud, marching over to Nightshade.

"You could have done something! You saw what was happening! You could have done something!" The owl raised its fists and punched Nightshade in the stomach. It felt like a baby hitting him. Starflower sniffed, then let out an animal cry, throwing a flurry of weak attacks at him. "You could have done something! You could have!" The little fists pounded uselessly against the black body, until the owl tired and fell to his knees, weeping. "You could have. Done something."
"Had I known that anything could be done," Nightshade said in barely a whisper. "I would have."

One of the tipis burst into a bright orange cone of flame.

"We need to get out of here, Starflower."

Starflower sniffed. "Where is Falling Leaf?"

Dreamcloud moved around the tipis, looking around. "Here."

"Is he alive?"

Long pause. With a small choking noise in his throat, Dreamcloud said, "He is in Jebuca."

Starflower covered his face in his hands. "It's not fair! It's not!"

"Come, child. Everything is burning. We must get out of here."

Sniff. "What about their burial?"

Dreamcloud didn't speak for a long time. "Come. We must get out of here."

"But where will we go? This is our home!"

Nightshade turned toward what he thought was the movie screen and saw only a cluster of tipis. He stuck his hand forward. His fingers made contact with a wall of some type of animal skin. He waved his hands around, poking all about, but only found more of the same. Tipis covered in skins, nothing else.

His feet made contact with something soft. He heard a crinkling sound. He looked down and saw a pair of familiar looking plastic bags, and a spear. He picked them up.

Starflower blubbered something.

"Agreed. We do not know what kind of demonic terrors lurk in that evil place. It would be much safer to go to the North Forest."

Blubber. Snort.

"If I knew he would truly burn to death, I would leave him here. But he is a Projectionist. He might use his magic to escape. He has already used his powers to acquire a weapon and a bag of evil charms."

"If escape were truly my intention," said Nightshade. "I would have done so already. I could have slipped away while you were talking about Quaro and Jebuca. And another thing. Just because you don't understand something, that doesn't mean it's evil."

The frog narrowed his eyes. "My powers of observation are not as dull as you assume them to be. You would not have escaped unnoticed. Come with us, bat demon. We are going to the North Forest."

Nightshade followed them around burning tipis, stepping around bodies impaled by spears, bodies cut to bloody pieces, bodies with shattered skulls and ripped clothing. The village had been abandoned. Skins and other possessions were scattered everywhere. Tipis were ripped open. Nothing stirred. They climbed over a crude wooden fence, cutting through an area filled with thick clumps of weeds and brush. They crossed a field, entering a wide copse of trees. After pushing through dozens of branches and shoving through brush, they came to a small clearing scattered with leaves. A full moon shined down on them, touching tree branches and plants with a faint, surreal glow.

Starflower and Dreamcloud sat down on a decaying log.

"Now what do we do? How are we going to eat or sleep or do anything?"

Dreamcloud swallowed. "We will have to make do with what we can hunt or find. There are mushrooms and beans in this forest. Perhaps tomorrow, if the fire has died, we can go back and scavenge for what is left in the village." He paused. "It's not safe for you to hunt. A Hurut might attack you." He stared at Nightshade. "The Projectionist certainly can't be trusted alone, so I cannot send him to hunt for us, either. I would ask him to use his power to make a fire, but then the Huruts might spot us."

"How many times?" Nightshade growled, frustrated. "I don't... have... any... power. I was never trained as a projectionist, and even if I was, only the most skilled projectionists can create anything more than illusions."

"Illusion indeed!" Dreamcloud cleared his throat. "Your mentor obviously had some power, if he was able to bring us into your blasted cave!"

Nightshade sighed. "While we're on the subject, what in the wide world of extreme sports is a Hurut?"

"As if you didn't know. Surely your Magic Scream showed you. The Huruts are only the most unimaginably ugly creatures Quaro ever created. They are the uncomeliest shade of green, covered in warts, and they love bloodshed."

"Did one of them try to choke Starflower?"

The owl gasped.

"Yes."

"Oh."

Starflower stared at the leaves. "I'm hungry."

"There should be insects inside this log. You could eat them cold. In the morning, we can cook them, but not now. Mushrooms and beans would be better."

"I don't like beans."

"What about mushrooms? There may be some morels around here."

"Never mind. Let's eat in the morning."

"You don't like morels?"

"I don't like the way you cook them. Ama cooked them better. She put Gacoriho butter on them, and herbs. Plus, she always had a fire..."

Dreamcloud sighed.

Nightshade sat down on the ground. The three of them stared at each other in silence.

"I don't know how to do magic," said Nightshade. "I'm not a magic user. You can look in my bags in you want. It just has clothing and some clippers in there."

Dreamcloud stared at him. "You'll let me look at your charm bag?"

"Sure. Whatever. There's nothing in it but clothes." He threw the bags to the frog.

Dreamcloud jerked away in fright. When the contents settled, he cautiously edged toward the bag, poking it. He took a knife out of the pouch at his waist, driving it through the plastic several times.

"Hey! Someone paid good money for those!"

Dreamcloud opened the bag, pulling out the pairs of ripped pants. He held them up to the light, staring at them. The moonlight shined through the knife holes in the fabric. "I've never seen stitching quality like this before. Are these enchanted? Charmed? Do they have magical powers?"

Nightshade frowned. "Gee, what do you think!"

The frog frowned. "I...suppose...if they were enchanted, the knife wouldn't have gone through, though."

"No, really?"

Dreamcloud put the pants aside. He took out the manicure set, staring at the package. "Are these shears?"

"No, they're tools to make your nails look nice. You can rip it open if you want. It's just plastic and paperboard."

"Is this a trick?"

"No. If you want, I'll open it myself."

After a bit of fumbling, Dreamcloud ripped the paperboard backing off the package, and all the contents tumbled out. He toyed with the clipper and the Emory board for a bit. "Do these contain any magical charms? Hexes?"

"No." Nightshade crept over to the frog. "Want me to show you how to use it on your nails?"

"This isn't a trick, is it?"

"No." Nightshade stared at the frog's hands. "You don't have any nails anyway." He picked up the clipper, trimming his index claw in demonstration. He then filed away the rough edges with the emory board.

"That looks like a woman's craft," Dreamcloud remarked.

Starflower chuckled. He sighed, looking depressed again.

"What about the spear?"

Nightshade handed it to Dreamcloud, handle first. Dreamcloud examined it carefully, knocked it against the dead tree, then snapped it in half.

"Hey! Now what am I going to use for a weapon!"

"I suppose you will have to improvise. Explain this `Movic Scream' thing to me, bat demon. I do not understand how it works."

"My name is Nightshade."

"Very well. `Nightshade.' Explain the `Movic Scream.'"

"Uh...you see...it's a...machine. I mean, there's a machine up in a little room in the back of the theater, and it lights up, and they put rolls of film in it. And the film shows a moving picture on the screen up front. That's all it's supposed to do. There's nothing magical about it. All you do is watch what happens. I'm not really supposed to be here. The run time on this movie is only supposed to be an hour or so, I figure."

Dreamcloud furrowed his brow. "Why do you watch the `Movic Scream?'"

"It's supposed to be for entertainment. People watch movies for entertainment."

The frog stared at him.

"You know, for fun."

"For...fun. You watch my village burn. For fun."

The frog and the owl stared at Nightshade with upset expressions on their faces.

Nightshade swallowed. "Uh...I didn't even know you were real. There were movies about haunted houses and love stories in the theater. There were crime stories and some other stuff. Your movie just seemed interesting, so that's why I wanted to watch it."

Long silence.

"What is a movie?"

"Um...it's...a...it's like...it's...a bunch of moving pictures with sound and music."

"Moving...pictures?" Dreamcloud stared at Starflower.

"Maybe it is like a gallery," said the owl. "It sounds like there are many pictures."

"We do not have galleries in the village."

"I have seen them. They are a collection of pictures. Like sand paintings, except in a flat wooden box."

"Oh."

"So your paintings move, then?"

Nightshade nodded.

"Can you watch dances?"

"I think so. I think if I had watched a different movie, I would have seen dancing."

"Why didn't you watch that one, then? Why did you want to watch a painting about the horrible things that happen to us in our lives?"

"Well, I like stories about sword fights and magic and dragons." Noticing how bad that sounded, he quickly blurted, "But I don't know anything about magic. It's just fun to watch people doing magic on the screen."

"Nice try," said Dreamcloud. "You do know something about magic, don't you?"

"Well, not really. I saw a movie where a little cat turned a mouse into a teacup, but I have no idea how he did it." He paused, reaching into his pockets. They were empty. It's gone! He knew exactly what it looked like. A small stone carving of a bird of prey, with a foreign symbol etched into the outstretched wing. But it was gone now. Apparently the thugs had stolen it. He sighed. Oh well.

The three sat in silence again.

Nightshade heard the three branches rustling. There were footsteps, and guttural growling sounds. He heard howling, then a calm silence.

Starflower shut his eyes and went to sleep. Dreamcloud stayed awake, keeping watch.

Nightshade stared at the night sky. The constellations were odd looking. Unfamiliar. He glanced at the frog. "If you cannot trust me to remain awake while you sleep, then we are already at an impasse."

"If the truth is to be told," said Dreamcloud. "I am more concerned about the Huruts."

"I have almost certainly slept more recently than you have, and likely eaten more recently as well. On top of that, I have not engaged in any strenuous activity since I woke up. I do not doubt your ability to hold firm your resolve, but given the height of the moon, I imagine you're already beginning to tire. It would do you far more harm than good waiting for me to fall asleep before you let yourself do so."

"I have difficulty believing that you would protect us if we were under attack. I would prefer to keep watch to ensure Starflower's safety."

"I don't blame you. A child's life is always worth fighting for. But if you died because you were overtired, who then would avenge your tribe? I won't pretend to know how to fight these Huruts, but I won't back down either. Like it or not, I'm here and I'm willing to help. Might as well make use of the extra resource while it's there. Even if I can't fight, I can make a hell of a ruckus trying."

Dreamcloud frowned. "Honeyed words, doubtlessly designed for catching me with my guard down."

"Look. I'm willing to stay awake and keep watch. In my world, have something called 'jet lag'. Though it is late evening here, it was late morning when you asked me to come here through the movie screen. It will take some time for my body to adjust to this world's circadian cycle-the turning of day and night-and in the meantime, I won't need to sleep again until sunrise."

Dreamcloud frowned. "Circadian was a wise elder from long ago." He shook his head. "I'm not sure I understand. Did you dance with him?"

Nightshade shook his head. "Never mind."

Dreamcloud took a deep breath. "If you earn my trust, I will find a use for your odd sleeping habits. At this point, it is but an annoyance."

"The only way we will make it through the night is by forcing ourselves to trust each other. I propose we sleep and stand guard in turns tonight, and make a mutual promise that neither of us harms the other. Agreed?"

"I still doubt you are trustworthy or competent enough to stave off a Hurut attack."

The two fell silent.

Near dawn, the frog's eyelids became heavy and he nodded off.

A few hours later, Starflower began to stir. He sat up, blinking at Nightshade. "Did you get any sleep?"

Nightshade shrugged. "I come from another place. It feels like it's just afternoon."

"I see you have wings. Want to fly somewhere with me?"

The hybrid tried to stretch his wings out, but they were still sore. He felt a shooting pain run through them. "Ow."

"You hurt your wings?"

He shrugged.

"You should try putting some Bieie sap on it. Ama always put it on my wings when I hurt myself." He paused, looking around. "Let me see if I can find some." He stepped into the woods, moving aside leaves and various plants. He squinted at one of the trees, then drove his beak into it. A white gooey sap poured out. He scooped a quantity of the substance up in a piece of bark, taking it over to the hybrid. Nightshade felt a sting as the bandages were removed, then a cool, tingling sensation as the sap was applied. "There. Now just let that dry and you'll be feeling a lot better." He turned around. "Want to go hiking while it dries?"

"Sure."

The owl chick led him through an open field populated by weeds and wildflowers. There was a rustling sound.

Starflower put a paw to his beak.

They edged closer and saw something like a two foot tall bug with fuzzy ears and a broad, flat fuzzy tail. It hopped around in the weeds, chewing on flower buds.

"That's a Meoit."

The two wandered around through the fields and woods, crossed a hill and passed by the banks of a small lake, where the ground became marshy and filled with plants with papery flower growths filled with seeds the size of marbles. Starflower talked with Nightshade about the memories he had about the tribe and the land they were traveling.

Some hours later, they came back to the clearing. Dreamcloud was awake, and he didn't look very pleased. He lectured Starflower on how he could have been taken to a secluded spot and murdered, or worse. Starflower just swallowed and nodded, not arguing.

At about that time, Mr. Circadian caught up with Nightshade, and he decided to start spreading out some leaves to sleep on. He laid down. His eyelids closed.

"Action!"

An orchestral theme roared in Nightshade's ears. Black eyelids flew open. He was lying on the floor, staring up at the movie screen. The screen was displaying the image of a raccoon and a squirrel flying across a sound stage on a camera truck. The camera cut to a view of two owls fighting each other with swords. A large logo appeared on the bottom, reading, The Masters of Magoreho: The Making of Brotherhood of Cordero.

The camera cut to a head shot of a fox in a Hawaiian shirt. He was sitting in a chair in an office plastered with movie posters. The caption below him said, Rocky Spyker - `Nightshade.'

"I always found J.R. Mulholand's Nightshade character fascinating," the fox said with a smile. "So when Buckthorn offered me the part, I jumped at the chance."

The screen filled with an image of a fox dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He was sitting on the ground in the middle of a clearing in a forest, staring at an angry looking frog.

"I have almost certainly slept more recently than you have and I have not engaged in any strenuous activity since I woke up. I do not doubt your ability to hold firm your resolve, but given the height of the moon, I imagine you're already beginning to tire. It would do you far more harm than good waiting for me to fall asleep before you let yourself do so."

"How can you be so certain?" The frog asked.

"In my world, we call it 'jet lag'. Though it is late evening here, it was late morning when you asked me to come here through the movie screen. It will take some time for my body to adjust to this world's circadian cycle-the turning of day and night-and in the meantime, I won't need to sleep again until sunrise."

The frog frowned as he considered this information. "All right. You seem to know what you're talking about. Can anything be done about it?"

"The only way we will make it through the night is by forcing ourselves to trust each other. I propose we sleep and stand guard in turns tonight, and make a mutual promise that neither of us harms the other. Agreed?"

"Agreed."

The camera cut to an image of a hill on the side of a freeway, with cars rushing past. Two figures stood at a cave entrance, near a beat up looking red Fiat. There was a fox in a black t-shirt and jeans on one side of the cave. His hands were raised in the air. On the other side was a green figure with a bow and arrow pointed at him.

The green figure lowered the arrow. "I will let you live. I will certainly regret this decision. The world would be better if you were dead. It is likely that this is just a trick to get me off guard so you can destroy me with your magic." He bit his lip. "One false move, and you're dead! You understand me!"

The fox shrugged. "Can...I...get my spear?"

"No."

The fox glanced at the car. "Can I at least bring my friends along with me?"

"No. I do not trust them. I barely trust you."

The fox stared at the car, sighed and shook his head.

"We must go now. Hurry. Go through the gate."

The fox stepped inside.

The camera switched to a picture of a fat, bearded raccoon in a cardigan sweater. The caption below him read Luke Quebert, Director, Brotherhood of Cordero.

"J.R. Mulholand's books have been a constant inspiration to me as a director," the raccoon said in a gravelly voice. "Ever since I was a child, books like The Brotherhood of Cordero have been a constant fixture in our house. I always liked Mulholand's combination of myth and fairy tale. Making a movie about this book just seemed right to me."

The camera cut to a scene of the fox standing with Dreamcloud and Starflower in the middle of a cluster of burning tipis.

"How much did you see, wizard?" the frog demanded.

The fox stared at the frog. "What?"

"You stupid dugucoia! How much did you see!"

"Uh...not much, really. I only saw the...elder telling a story, and Starflower running off, then I saw...the intruder being caught, and you rescued Starflower, and you had to flee the village...and they were throwing spears at my chair."

"You saw what was happening." Starflower choked. "You could have done something." The little hands balled into fists. He let go of Dreamcloud, marching over to the fox. "You could have done something! You saw what was happening! You could have done something!" The owl raised its fists and punched the fox in the stomach. It tickled. The fox tried to look serious, but seemed to be trying hard not to chuckle. Starflower sniffed, then let out an animal cry, throwing a flurry of weak attacks at him. "You could have done something! You could have!" His little fists pounded uselessly against the black body, until he tired and fell to his knees, weeping. "You could have. Done something."

One of the tipis burst into a bright orange cone of flame.

The camera cut to a picture of "Nightshade" in his Hawaiian shirt. "The scene with Starflower punching me was awkward. Luke wanted to me to be this sort of character that has gone through a lot of abuse, so he'd almost find Starflower's attacks funny by comparison."

"He's ticklish, by the way," said a voice. The camera changed to a picture of a gray owl in a Polo shirt. "We had to do that take a few times before we could get it right."

The camera cut to a view of the fox, Dreamcloud, and Starflower standing among the tipis.

"If I knew he would truly burn to death, I would leave him here. But he is a Projectionist. He might use his magic to escape. He has already used his powers to acquire a weapon and a bag of evil charms." The frog glared at the fox. "Come with us. We are going to the North Forest."

"The scene with the burning tipis seems like it would be easy," said a gravelly voice. "I mean, anyone can set a bunch of tents on fire. But we wanted to get the timing right."

A beagle in a gray suit came forward with a fire extinguisher, putting out the flames on the set.

The camera cut to a scene of Starflower and Dreamcloud sitting on a decaying log.

"Now what do we do? How are we going to eat or sleep or do anything?"

Dreamcloud swallowed. "We will have to make do with what we can hunt or find. There are mushrooms and beans in this forest. Perhaps tomorrow, if the fire has died, we can go back and scavenge for what is left in the village." He paused. "It's not safe for you to hunt. A Hurut might attack you." He stared at the fox. "The Projectionist certainly can't be trusted alone, so I cannot send him to hunt for us, either. I would ask him to use his power to make a fire, but then the Huruts might spot us."

An extremely loud piece of orchestral music blasted in Nightshade's ears, the bass section thrumming through his entire body like he were a tuning fork.

The camera cut to a close-up shot of the owl in the Polo shirt. "I'm just really glad to have the opportunity to work on this project."

The credits rolled.

Nightshade felt someone shaking him. He groaned and sat up, rubbing his head. He was in the forest again, surrounded by trees. There was no movie screen, no seats, no cameras. Dreamcloud was staring down at him. "Bat demon! Use your magic to start a fire!"