With a single, graceful leap, Itaea sprung onto the tabletop. She too stared upwards, her head cocked. She listened while the room remained hushed, everyone holding their collective breath as they gazed up at the ceiling. The clip-clop of hooves trotted across the tiled surface of the roof, the noise echoing loudly throughout the room. A small scattering of dust fell from the rafters to land on the floorboards below like sprinkles of sugar.
Taylor looked around nervously. Was she about to meet the dreaded Fabula
"Bah," Geodhun said in disgust. He blew out a short stream of flames, along with several curling plumes of smoke. He flew across the room to land on Taylor's shoulder, settling with a small thud next to her ear. "It's just Eos. Who told the unicorns we were here"
"Geodhun," said Itaea gently. "Curb your impatience. Eos knows much from his travels though the skies and he can help us, too." She lept down from the table in a single, flawless motion to land silently on the floor. "Everett, could you please let him in"
Everett unclasped his arms from around his brother and scrambled of the chair. He hurried over to the door and began to pull back all the locks, one by one. Finally, he yanked open the door and a chill breeze blew in to cool the cosy warmth of the cottage. Geodhun settled down into a crouch on Taylor's shoulder and closed his eyes with a loud, ill-tempered sigh. From her position by the fire, Taylor stared through the open doorway and into the fields beyond. Outside it was very dark and she could see a smattering of stars in the inky night sky. The whistling noise sounded again and moments later, Eos landed softly on the stone step. The unicorn shook himself, his mane flowing and shifting around his long, elegant neck, and placed one delicate hoof inside the cottage.
"Eos." Itaea greeted him warmly. "Do come in and join us. Everett, shut the door quickly. We do not know who is about so late at night."
The unicorn stepped into the cottage, his hooves tap, tapping on the floorboards. His horn glowed by the light of the fire as he folded his soft pink wings to lay against his back. He stood very close to Taylor and she resisted the urge to reach out and touch one of his downy wing feathers with her fingertip. She moved back to allow him some room, while Geodhun snored loudly and erratically, as fake as Amy's boy giggle, from his position on her shoulder.
"Greetings, Eos." Hammond said cheerfully. "The girl is here with us. At last she has come."
"We have met," Taylor said quickly. "Eos helped me cut my way through the trees in Torwood Forest." She smiled at the unicorn but he tossed his head and looked away from her without acknowledging her comment.
"Well, isn't this all just so cosy and nice" Lyric clapped his paws together and beamed around the room. "We're going to have a wonderful crowd of friends together for breakfast today." He threw another hopeful look at the empty kitchen.
"Breakfast" Everett looked over his shoulder as he slid the last of the locks into place. "Is it breakfast time now I have so much to do!" Taylor thought he sounded a lot like her mother.
Itaea sighed. "Sometimes I think that you all purposely conspire to make things difficult. Everett, yes, do go ahead and start to prepare some food. As we all know the night is long, and we still have many things to discuss."
Ulysses flew down from where he stood on the rafters and landed on the glossy strands of mane that lay between Eos's ears. The dark fairy sat down where he landed, crossing his legs beneath him and propping himself up against one of the animal's long ears. He began to pick at his fingernail and hum softly to himself. Taylor was very aware of how close he was to where she sat.
Everett strode happily towards the kitchen and Taylor got up to follow him. "Can I help with anything, Everett"
Geodhun, awake now, dug his talons sharply into her shoulder. "Let the goblin do it. Lyric and Waskel can help him. Stay here with us. We need to talk to you and we have already wasted far too much time."
"Ow. Watch your claws." Taylor shrugged her shoulder crossly.
"Taylor." Her name sounded sweet when Itaea uttered it. "Please, come closer to the fire. You can have Lyric's chair."
Taylor scrambled into the seat Lyric had just vacated. Geodhun hopped down her arm to sit on her knee, his scales shining in the firelight. Itaea padded forward and lay down in the center of the floor while Hammond respectfully moved his feet to allow her some space. Eos lifted his hooves impatiently one by one, tap-tapping against the floorboards, but he stayed where he was. Ulysses rolled over onto his stomach and placed his chin in his hands to gaze at the fire from his lofty position between the unicorn's ears. Taylor could hear Everett and Waskel talking quietly with Lyric in the kitchen.
"Taylor, you have been chosen to help us. As we started to explain, you have free will and the ability to make your own decisions. If you want to help us, we will do everything we can to support you. However, if you decide to return to your own world we will not stop you." Itaea watched her closely as she spoke.
"Ok," Taylor said slowly. "Maybe I can help. What is it that you want me to do I can't make a decision unless you give me some details." She glanced at Ulysses, despite telling herself not to look in his direction, to see if he was listening. She was startled to see that his eyes were fixed intently on her face. She swallowed hard and quickly turned her gaze back to Itaea. "I have asked a lot of questions since I arrived here, but no one has given me any real answers."