“So, I’m rescued,” Artesius said as they settled in the shelter of the forest to wait for the boy’s guardian to join them. “Now what? Those people aren’t going to be happy when they see I’m gone. In fact they are likely to figure out it was you who freed me – us.” He darted a glance at the other being the boy had rescued. “I’m Artesius, by the way.”

“Dwyn,” the boy said. He glanced over at the other being he had rescued. It was like nothing he’d ever seen. He could well imagine how it had ended up in a menagerie. “What – What’s your name?”

“You were about to ask what I was, child. I prefer honesty,” the being said.

“I prefer to be polite,” Dwyn whispered. “I was trying to think of a diplomatic way to ask.” He looked away and smiled at Artesius before adding, “I would like to know what kind of being you are.”

“My kind are known as ritsuin. We can take on any form but this is my natural form and as the centaur told you, I can see into your heart. You have a good heart, child, and a genuine desire to help.” The being stood and flapped its stubby wings. “I should be off,” it added. “Call me at need, Master Dwyn. I am called He’iry.”

Then the being flew away into the night. “So, what now?” Artesius repeated.