• "Who was the man with the girl?" asked Salo, the young man that had led Karan to the meeting.
    "I'm not really sure exactly who he is," Karan said. "He said his name is Gihan."
    "He may be helpful," said Rona.
    "He will be more than helpful," said Jok. The rest of the group turned to look at him.
    "Gihan is very valuable to our cause," he said.
    "How?" Rona asked.
    "Do none of you know of Gihan?" Jok asked. The others shook their heads.
    "Gihan is a seer," Jok said.
    "What is that?" Karan asked. As the youngest member of the group, she knew the least about her kind.
    "A seer is a protector and a teacher," Jok said. "They know their destiny from childhood, and once they do, they set out to learn as much about us as possible."
    "How does this Gihan fit in with our cause?" Jono asked.
    "For centuries, it has fallen to the seers to accompany, teach, and protect any of us they may meet," Jok said. "Gihan is one such seer, as well as one of the more well-known of his kind."
    "If he's so well-known, then why haven't I heard of him before?" Salo inquired.
    "Rona, do you remember that journal I gave you to read?" Jok asked, and she nodded.
    "Go and get it, please."
    Rona rose and vanished into a hidden room, returning a moment later with a leather-bound book.
    "Open it to October 13, Year of the Horse," Jok said. Rona sat down again and opened the journal to the requested entry.
    "Read the second full paragraph from the top, please," Jok said.
    "'A deadly fire ravaged Cabana early this morning'," Rona read. "'Among those who survived this calamity was Canole Swiftfoot, who was saved from death by the heroic act of the historian Gihan Mohamo. Mohamo emerged from the burning library carrying Canole in his arms, handing her over to firefighters before collapsing on the ground. Neither sustained any injuries, other than minor smoke inhalation'."
    "As I said, it is the duty of the seers to protect us," Jok said. "Canole Swiftfoot was one of the best-known shape-shifters of our time. I know because she and I were good friends before she died."
    "How did you meet her?" Karan asked.
    "That is not important now," Jok said. "What is important is that one of must meet with Gihan and the girl and lead them to a meeting place."
    "I'll do it," Karan said. Jok shook his head.
    "I'm sorry, Karan, but we need to send someone who knows every back street and secret passageway possible," he said. "Someone who knows how to keep himself and those with him hidden."
    "The only one who can do that is Jayrod," Salo said.
    "He isn't even in town," Rona said. "We'll have to send someone to fetch him."
    "Does anyone even know where Jayrod is at?" asked Jono. Jok nodded.
    "I do," he said. "I'll send Kali for him in the morning. In the meantime, where should we meet Gihan and the girl?"
    "What about the back room at the cafe?" Rona asked. The others nodded.
    "That's fine," Jok said. "Now, go home and get some rest. We must meet with them as soon as possible."
    The group dispersed, each member exiting a different way. Karan left the same way she had arrived, making sure that she wasn't seen. She went to her home, a run-down apartment near the inn Gihan and Jana were staying at. She ate a quick meal, then went to bed.
    Over the next few days, Gihan and Jana went to the city archives every day, to learn about the history of the city. Sure enough, just as Gihan had said. there were several times the word "shape-shifter" was mentioned. Once, there was even an article about the same fire recorded in the journal Rona had read.
    "Gihan, look at this," Jana said, picking up the article. "It mentions a fire that happened here in Cabana."
    "Yes, I remember hearing about that," Gihan said, taking the article from her. "It nearly destroyed all the city archives."
    "How did it start?" she asked.
    "Someone accidentally knocked over a lit lantern," he said. "The burning oil spread quickly and caused a blaze that nearly wiped out the entire city, which was a lot smaller back then."
    "How did the fire spread so quickly?" Jana asked.
    "The city was built almost entirely of wood back when the fire occurred," Gihan answered. "It took hours to finally put it out.
    "How long did it take to recover from the fire?" she asked.
    "It took many years to rebuild what was lost," he replied. "For some, it was simply a matter of picking up where they left off. For others, it was a matter of starting over completely."
    They continued reading through the archives for several more hours. Finally, at four o'clock that afternoon, Gihan and Jana left the archives and headed for the inn they were staying at. Before they could reach it, however, they were stopped by a short, stocky man with straggly gray hair.
    "Ye're ter follow me," he said.
    "Says who?" Jana challenged him.
    "Ye'll see when we get there," said the stranger, turning and heading down the street. They had no choice but to follow him as he led them through several disused tunnels under the city. After about half an hour, the stranger stopped and held up a hand as he listened, and they did the same. A moment later, the stranger stepped out into the street and walked toward a small cafe. Gihan and Jana followed silently until the man stopped and turned to face them.
    "Ye're ter go inside and walk ter the back o' the room 'til ye come ter a door marked 'Private'," he told them. "Knock three times, pause, then knock twice more. They'll let ye in."
    "Who is 'they'?" Gihan asked.
    "Ye'll see when ye get there," the man said, as he turned and walked away. They exchanged a look, then entered the cafe. They followed the stranger's instructions, walking to the far side of the room. They halted at a door marked 'Private' and knocked three times, paused, then knocked twice more. Immediately, the door opened to reveal a small, dimly-lit room. They entered the room and closed the door behind them, then turned to face the room and discovered they weren't alone. Seated at a round table in the middle of the room were four others, who appeared to be waiting for them.
    "Welcome, friends," said a bearded man directly in front of them. "Please, have a seat."
    They did as they were bid, sitting down in empty chairs at the table. A moment later, they were joined by another person, and Jana was surprised to see that it was Karan.
    "Karan, what are you doing here?" she asked. "What's going on?"
    "If you are who we think you are, you should be able to tell," said the bearded man.
    "What do you mean?" Jana asked.
    "Can ye not smell anything odd?" asked another man, seated at the bearded man's right side.
    Jana inhaled through her nose and immediately noticed five different scents. Karan's was one, but the others she couldn't identify. Just then, she realized what the scents meant, and she turned to Gihan with surprise in her eyes.
    "We knew Karan was one, but so are these other four!" she whispered. Gihan blinked in surprise.
    "All four of them?" he asked. She nodded.
    "Yes, we are all shape-shifters," said the bearded man. "Or, as the seers call us, changelings."
    "How long have you all been here?" Jana asked.
    "I have been living in Cabana since before the time of the great fire that nearly wiped out the city," said the bearded man. "I was friends with Canole Swiftfoot."
    Gihan gave a slight jerk beside Jana, and she turned to look at him.
    "What is it?" she asked.
    "I lied when I said I had only heard about the great fire," he said. "I was living in Cabana at the time. Canole Swiftfoot and I were studying the history of the town when the fire started."
    "You saved her life when you carried her in your arms from the burning library," said the bearded man. "Do you remember my name?"
    Gihan studied the man hard for several minutes before he shook his head.
    "I am sorry, but no," he said.
    "Maybe this will help you remember," said the bearded man. "'A light burns in the forest. The hunter answers the cry from the trees'."
    "Jok Sharpclaw," Gihan said. The bearded man nodded.
    "You were the one who taught me that, many years ago, when we were both still young," he said.
    "Who are these other three that we do not know?" Gihan asked. Jok turned to the man on his right.
    "This is Jono Mightywing," he said. "The red-headed woman is Rona Nightshade, and the young man next to Karan is Salo Ironback."