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One of the deep truths of the Outdoors, which includes Pine Meadow of course, is that language is powerful. The screech of an owl. The howl of a wolf. These intonations are invested with meaning and the animal world knows certain things are true when they hear these sounds. Language is powerful. Words—whether human or animal—can change reality, can create a new reality. The reason language is powerful is that it takes the future imagined by a single person or animal or pack or group and places that imagined future before a larger audience. When that imagined future is compelling enough, its gravitational pull draws so many persons or animals into a cooperative effort that that imagined future moves from intangible vision to concrete reality. Sometimes words are so powerful that the mere mention of them sets off a trajectory from imagination to reality that is apparent from the first audible breaths across the larynx.
In the darkness of Pine Meadow, the wisest among each kind of animal were all coming to the same realization.
The defeat of the shadow hunters depended on the power of language. But not any language would work. Just as animals respond to the language of some species (different than itself) but not others, so the shadow hunters were only affected by human language, other than their own. In fact, most animals could understand the communication of several species. This was not true, however, for shadow hunters. Only the human language, other than their own awkward grunts, could break through to them.
The animals would have to teach the boy Eli to speak. Only he could drive away the shadow hunters. Only he could speak the word that imagined a future without their menacing presence in Pine Meadow. Only he could speak the word. What word would be their deliverance? How could they teach him to speak?