A shiver ran up Star's back. Her friend was gone, and she was left behind. The Fruits of the Laborer ceremony, the noise, the singing, faded into the background. Star stretched out a hand to steady herself against a tree trunk, feeling the tingling of electricity hanging in the air where Jon had stood just moments ago. She felt dizzy . . . and utterly alone.
What just happened? she asked herself. It couldn't be a Blink Out, right? Jon couldn't really be gone. Not Jon.
But in her heart, she knew he was. And another question kept running through her mind: Why now? Why didn't he stay for the Fruits of the Laborer ceremony? Wasn't that the ultimate reward?
And then, tensing up, she realized there was another problem. She wasn't . . . alone. She spun and peered deeper into the dark forest—then gasped.
In the trees, not far away, a young Highlander stood, transfixed. Incredibly, he seemed to have seen Jon's sudden disappearance and was now watching her.
Disappear! her mind screamed. Fade away! But she couldn't. Or didn't want to. Some strange force was holding her there.
She saw the Highlander turn slightly and talk to the older Highlander next to him. "There's something going on over there, in the trees," he said
The woman glanced at where he pointed, saw nothing, then scowled. "Look, I don't have time for games right now, Ian. Let's just get this stupid thing over with so we can get back to the village. I have more important things to do."
Suddenly, Star came ...