Aramink

Engaged with the World

Tag: fantasy (page 1 of 2)

NaNoWriMo.

Reason in the Rock is over. I’m totally doing NaNoWriMo to unwind.

nanowrimo-2013-calendar

Calendar stolen from Dave Seah

 

I’m going to try to get The Wall finished – if I can stop editing myself long enough to get the last of it down on paper. Exoplanets. Aliens. Heroic kids. Telepathy. Resilience. Survival. The whole world is at stake.

And if I finish The Wall, I’ll revisit Chigger Hollow to see if Bigfoot has won the girl away from the dwarf with impulse-control issues.

My characters are calling me.

Karyan

Karyan was in a foul humor. He lagged behind the rest of the breck, muttering to himself. He knew they were going the wrong direction. Didn’t he have the best locus of them all? But no, Mauro was leader of the Keary Tynan, and if he said something was black then Mauro was determined to say it was white. If he said go east to get to the Gathering, Mauro would insist the way was southwest. Stupid Mauro.

Stupid Mauro and stupid Brenna. Had she not sided with Mauro the breck wouldn’t be wasting time. They had already traveled two hours under Mauro’s orders, and Karyan blamed Brenna as much as Mauro. Beautiful Brenna, with the laughing eyes and the perfect teeth, the raven hair that tended to slip and slide and shine in the sun…

Now he was going moony over her. She’s moony over Mauro and I’m moony over her, Karyan grumbled to himself. He was getting over his moony feelings, though, the more he saw her simper in Mauro’s shadow. Why was it that the women all thought Mauro was so great? Why did anyone think Mauro was so great, for that matter? He was muscular and handsome, sure, but he was as dumb as a rock. Mauro was only chosen Leader because he acts like he knows what he’s doing, Karyan realized. He doesn’t know any more that anyone else, and he knows less than I do about how to get to the Gathering. Stupid Mauro.

Malina and Tamal were beginning to fall behind the rest of the group, he saw. When they had slowed enough for him to meet them, he greeted them silently and waited for them to speak. The three of them kept walking, but allowed themselves to get slightly further behind.

“We should be there by now,” Tamal said at last.

Karyan shrugged.

“How far away do you think we are?” Tamal was attempting to get Karyan to speak against Mauro’s leadership decision, but after the argument the breck had over Karyan’s objection earlier in the day, Karyan was not feeling cooperative.

“Farther away than we were this morning,” Karyan replied.

“We think so, too,” Malina said.

“Then tell Mauro. Otherwise we’re going to be wandering in the wilderness for forty days and nights and we’ll just keep getting farther away.”

Malina twisted her mouth at his sharp tone. “We think Mauro will just change direction gradually and circle around to get to the Gathering. He won’t admit he made a mistake and turn around.”

“Maybe.” Karyan shrugged again. He hoped Mauro would be shown to be a complete fool in front of the entire breck. He hoped that by nightfall the breck was still wandering and would have to walk back an entire day to get to the Gathering. He hoped that they missed the Gathering altogether because of Mauro’s incompetence. Stupid Mauro.

“You should tell some of the others,” Malina said.

“Me? I tried to tell everyone this morning. No one listened then, including you. Why would they listen now?”

“Because my locus tells me that we’re farther away, too,” Tamal said.

“Right, well, maybe you should tell someone else, then.” Nothing would please Karyan more than to be proven right, but he wasn’t going to insist that the breck listen to him now. He was enjoying his sulk far too much for that.

“We should tell them together. Your locus is better than mine. I’m sure some of the others are also sensing the distance,” Tamal argued.

Karyan stopped. “Why should I tell anyone anything?” he demanded. “Mauro’s the leader. He knows all and sees all and hears all and locates all. I’m just a lowly Tynan, young and unproven, stumbling after my leader hoping someday to have his attention. Maybe he’ll let me repair his boots or something. They’ll need repairing after all this trekking we’re doing without reason.”

Tamal sighed and exchanged a look with Malina. “I know your feelings are hurt because of Mauro’s decision this morning, but…”

Karyan snorted in disgust.

“Really, Karyan!” Malina exclaimed. “You’re angry because of this and the fact is we need to get to the gathering. Mauro’s leading us the wrong way, and your locus is better than either mine or Tamal’s and we know it’s the wrong direction, too!”

Other members of the breck were stopping now, looking back at the discussion between the three of them.

Karyan crossed his arms. “I’ve already said what I think. Repeating it isn’t going to change the mind of the great and infallible Mauro.”

Malina put her hands on her hips. “You’re a mule!” she snapped. “You act like Mauro’s decision was a personal attack on you, and it wasn’t!”

“No, it wasn’t personal at all,” said Karyan agreeably. “When he said he wasn’t going to listen to one voice of dissent he wasn’t talking about me at all. When he said that my concerns were the ravings of a spoiled brat, he wasn’t personally attacking me at all.”

“Karyan, look, you’re acting like a child, just like this morning. You don’t want to do anything unless it’s done your way. We need to talk to Mauro and explain what we sense.” Tamal was trying to sound reasonable.

“I already did that, or did you forget? And besides, I am a child. You heard Mauro this morning.”

The rest of the breck was making its way back to where the three of them stood. Mauro was bring up the rear, the beautiful Brenna at his side.

Tamal and Malina opened the discussion to the rest of the group. A few had the grace to look uncomfortable.

“Actually, I was sort of thinking we were headed the wrong way, too,” offered Siyamak, his dark eyes looking toubled.

Karyan leaned against a boulder, his arms still crossed, still closed to the rest. He looked up, pretending to study the cloudless sky.

The other members of the breck came closer. Tamal and Malina led the discussion, and the Keary Tynan debated their location.

Abruptly, all discussion stopped. The Keary looked over Karyan’s head, their mouths collectively agape. Karyan, still closed to the breck’s discussion, noticed the shift in their attention nevertheless. He looked up, just as the two strangest Tynan he had ever seen jumped directly into the midst of the debating Keary.

A Trick of the Tail


“Katie, you’re supposed to be drawing a picture of your friend!” Emily’s voice was a shrill, plaintive, tattle-tale whine that crawled under Miss Simpson’s skin and set up housekeeping.“Emily, let me handle any problems, please,” she said, moving quickly to Katie’s desk. Emily’s words had already cut poor Katie, though. The tiny redhead had quit drawing and her face was scrunched into a fierce scowl. Her thin arms crossed, then uncrossed stiffly, then crossed again tight against her little chest as she hunched protectively over her drawing. She didn’t look up when Miss Simpson reached for the paper.

“I told you!” Emily trumpeted as the teacher’s eyes fell on the drawing.

“This is a very good drawing, Katie,” said Miss Simpson. “Emily, keep your eyes on your own work, please.”

“Well, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to!” protested Emily.

“That’s really no concern of yours, now is it? And if you don’t mind your own business you’ll sit in the hallway for the rest of art period.”

Emily sniffed audibly and glared at Katie. What a perfect victim the brat makes, thought Miss Simpson.

At time for recess, Katie was slow to leave her desk and even slower to pull on her jacket. Miss Simpson bit her lip, then made a decision.“Katie, would you talk to me for a moment before you go outside?”

Katie turned slowly and walked woodenly over to Miss Simpson’s desk.

“That really was a good drawing,” Miss Simpson said with a smile. The child’s eyebrows knit together and her frown became, if anything, darker. She stood to the side of Miss Simpson’s desk glowering at a mote perhaps two feet off the ground and somewhere to the left.

“It really was okay for you to draw a picture of a friend other people can’t see.”

This time the little girl cut her eyes at Miss Simpson. “Other people see him,” she muttered.

Miss Simpson sighed.

“Katie, I’m going to ask Mr. Carson to spend some time with you, okay? And you can talk to him about problems you might be having with Emily or with the other students, or even at home. He’s a really nice man and he’s a good listener.”

Katie shrugged. The motion was exaggerated, defensive. The mote had moved another foot to the left, and the child took a half step toward it, still glowering.

“Go ahead to recess.” Miss Simpson watched the child slowly stomp out of the room.

***

“Miss Simpson showed me the picture you drew of your friend. Why don’t you tell me about him?”

Mr. Carson’s cajoling tone seemed not to penetrate Katie’s sullen mien. She sat tight-lipped in the molded plastic chair kicking her feet alternately toward the metal waste can. The school counselor’s cramped office could barely hold the two chairs, his desk, a file cabinet, and stacks of papers, files and books that littered every available surface. Mr. Carson allowed nearly two full minutes of silence before he spoke again.

“I’m going to talk to your parents,” he commented decisively. Katie shrugged her exaggerated shrug and swung her feet harder.

***

Mr. Carson rang the doorbell at the house on the edge of the small town. A baby cried somewhere behind the closed door. Footsteps pounded rapidly closer and a boy about ten years old and as red-haired and freckled as Katie threw open the door. “Mom!” he bawled over the staccato barks of a terrier when he saw who the visitor was. A man dressed in a sleeveless undershirt came from what appeared to be the kitchen.

“Mr. Holden? I’m Fred Carson.” The counselor held out his hand for a shake and Katie’s father led him to a sofa covered with unfolded laundry. Thrusting the clothes into a plastic basket sitting next to the sofa, Mr. Holden waved at the counselor to sit. A moment later they were joined by Mrs. Holden.

“It isn’t abnormal for a girl Katie’s age to have an imaginary friend,” began the counselor.

“Tishapus isn’t imaginary,” said Mrs. Holden.

Mr. Carson cleared his throat. “What I mean is that children often create playmates when they feel isolated among their peers.”

“He’s not her playmate,” said Mrs. Holden.

Mr. Carson shifted uncomfortably on the couch. “Perhaps you don’t understand. Katie insists that she has a friend who looks like a faun, or a satyr – like Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I assume that’s where she got the idea, anyway.”

The Holdens exchanged a look. Mrs. Holden nodded slightly to her husband, and Mr. Holden rose. “Please excuse me a moment,” he said. Mr. Carson gestured permissively.

As her husband left the room, Katie’s mother turned to face the school counselor directly. “Mr. Carson, we don’t expect you to believe Katie. We hope you will believe your own eyes, though.”

Before he could respond, Mr. Carson’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. Accompanying Mr. Holden back into the living room was a creature about five feet tall which looked for all the world like it had the legs and haunches of a goat, the torso of a man, and wickedly curved horns on its head.

“Mr. Carson, meet Tishapus,” said Mr. Holden.

***

Detective Dennis P. O’Leary banged the empty coffee mug down so hard it should have broken. The sharp sound bounced off the bare walls of the interrogation room. The stranger on the other side of the table winced just slightly at the noise, then his expression smoothed out again.

“I told you, we don’t take to vagrants here in my town,” O’Leary barked. The stranger’s wide-eyed stare didn’t betray fear. Inexplicably, he only seemed curious, his head cocked slightly to one side.

“Why not?” asked the stranger in his odd, lilting accent.

“Why not? Why NOT?” blustered O’Leary. “Because we don’t!”

The stranger nodded thoughtfully. O’Leary had the notion the stranger was filing his response away to study later.

“What do you tolerate, then?” the stranger asked. His words were mild, not at all confrontational.

“What do you mean, ‘What do we tolerate’? We tolerate law-abiding citizens and visitors who know their place!”

“What place is that?”

O’Leary’s eyes narrowed as he leaned across the table, his out-thrust chin close to the stranger’s long goatee. “Are you getting smart with me, boy? Because if you’re getting smart with me you won’t be leaving my jail until a judge says you can.”

The stranger’s expression showed confusion for just a fleeting flash of a moment, then rearranged to display detached curiosity. “I am trying to become smarter, yes,” he answered. “Will you share your knowledge with me?” He held up his oddly deformed hand and reached toward O’Leary.

O’Leary slammed his big fist on the table so hard the empty ceramic mug jumped. The stranger jumped slightly, too.

“Boy, your mouth is getting you in deeper,” warned the burly policeman.

“Deeper?” This time the stranger’s confusion lingered in his expression for more than a split second. “I do not understand ‘deeper.’ Can you explain it to me in other words?”

O’Leary spun on his heel and banged on the locked door, which opened almost immediately to admit a smaller man who nodded to O’Leary as the policeman left the room. The new man took the seat O’Leary had vacated. He was silent for almost three full minutes, just studying the stranger through frankly appraising eyes. Then he cleared his throat.

“Do you remember me?” he asked.

“You are Doctor Will Handy. I remember you.”

“The police need your real name,” Handy said.

“I do not believe they will be able to pronounce my name. They may call me Tishapus, like the others do.”

“The police need your real name,” Handy repeated.

The stranger was quiet for a moment, then Handy’s head spun as a whisper of sound, emotion, and images assaulted his mind. Even seated solidly in his chair the psychologist nearly lost his balance.

“Tishapus is a good name,” the stranger explained.

“No, I need your name,” Handy objected. Again the feelings, images, and unrepeatable tones washed over him.

“Really, Tishapus will have to do, unless you prefer to use a different word for me.”

Handy’s head swam, but this time from understanding. “That’s your name?” he whispered. “How did you do that?”

The stranger peered intently into Will Handy’s eyes for several long moments. “My language works differently than yours,” he finally said. The statement was so obviously true, and so obviously impossible, that Dr. Handy’s mind reeled.

The psychologist rose shakily and paced the room. He returned to the chair, sat down, sat silently for a moment, then rose again and stood across the table from the stranger.

“Where are you from?” he asked Tishapus.

“The children call it Heaven, but it is not the heaven of your culture’s religious belief system.”

“The children are right,” Handy said it almost to himself, but the stranger heard and nodded.

“The young always accept notions foreign to them much easier than do fully grown creatures,” agreed the stranger. “In this case I believe they have imposed a familiar idea onto their new knowledge. It most likely makes the new knowledge easier for them to talk about among themselves and with others.”

Will Handy nodded thoughtfully.

“Where will you go if the police release you?” he asked after a few moments.

“Katie’s playhouse is comfortable for my present purposes,” the stranger said amiably.

“You understand that Mike and Beth Holden say you can stay in their home, don’t you?”

“Yes, but my studies will best be conducted if the local population has better access to me. Although it would probably be the best place for my research, Mike Holden said that I could probably not stay in the gazebo in the park.” The stranger hesitated. “Who could give me permission to station myself in the park gazebo?”

“You’re actually serious,” Handy said. It was a statement, not a question.

“Of course,” the stranger – Tishapus – said.

“And you have no money, so you can’t get a room at May’s boardinghouse.”

The stranger shrugged. “Money is a concept I had not planned upon when I came to study your species.”

“My species? Not my society or my culture, but my species?”

Tishapus nodded. “We must understand the basics of your species before we try to study your social structure in great detail.”

“You’re telling me there are more… people … like you?”

“You did not expect this to be true?” the stranger’s demeanor radiated cool amusement. “Interesting.”

Handy stepped back from the table. “Excuse me, please, Tishapus.”

“Of course.”

In the hallway outside the interrogation room Handy conferred with Detective O’Leary and Captain Mitchell. “I’ve not encountered anyone like him, that’s for sure,” he began.

O’Leary snorted. “Fellow’s crazy, ain’t he? We need to call the State Hospital and have him committed.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Handy disagreed.

“You don’t really think it’s okay to let him go back to that little girl’s playhouse and camp out, receiving guests like he’s visiting royalty, do you?” the big detective sneered.

“Come on, Detective. This is something different than a regular stranger in town. You have to recognize that. You recognize it, don’t you, Tom?” Handy asked the captain.

“He’s not in a costume, that’s for sure,” Mitchell replied.

O’Leary rolled his eyes. “The hell he’s not!”

“Dennis, for Pete’s sake. His knees bend the wrong way. That’s no costume.”

“Prosthetic legs. And he’s deformed. He’s as human as you or me. His mama was on drugs or something when she was pregnant is all,” O’Leary stated flatly.

“Detective, did you ask his name?” Handy inquired.

“Yeah. He wouldn’t say. He just kind of whistled at me.”

“Whistled at you,” Will Handy echoed.

“I’m saying we should take him up to the State Hospital and have him worked over by the docs there. Not that you aren’t a doctor, Doc Handy, but you know what I mean.” O Leary’s communication skills were better suited to interrogation than to diplomacy.

“No, Dennis, he’s done nothing wrong and the parents of those kids aren’t worried about him being a danger. The Holdens have even invited him to stay in their home. No one will say he’s a danger to himself or to anyone else, other than Dave Hernandez, that is, and you know he’s never happy about anything. We can’t have him committed unless we think there’s some problem.”

“Being delusional isn’t a problem?” O’Leary demanded incredulously.

“If the delusion isn’t harming him or someone else, then no, it’s not a problem. And to be honest, I’m not so certain he’s delusional.”

Captain Mitchell nodded at Dr. Handy’s words. “I’m going to release him, then. The Holdens are waiting and want to take him home with them.”

“Wait a minute,” objected O’Leary. “What if he’s a child molester? We can’t just let him go.”

“Detective, I have interviewed the fellow, and so has Dr. Jenner. Aside from possible eccentricity, we find no delusions that we can verify as delusions. The guy isn’t human. If he is, then he’s the next step on the evolutionary ladder and we can’t verify that there are similar mutations anywhere in the world. In short, he’s not from around here. We have nothing to indicate he is a threat.”

“Not only that, but if we lock him up then we’re going to have some angry citizens to deal with,” added Captain Mitchell. “Bill Costello has drafted a habeas corpus petition that he’s going to file with Judge Miller if we hold this fellow much longer. And Judge Miller’s kid is one of Katie Holden’s friends. She’s been playing with this … Tishapus. With her daddy’s permission, I might add.”

Detective O’Leary threw up his hands in disgust. “Fine,” he snapped. “But this won’t be the end of it. I can promise this fellow’s going to be trouble sooner or later.”

***

“The Bradford County Cantaloupe Festival is apparently getting off to a good start. We’ll check back with our weather team shortly and get a live update on weather conditions for the weekend. In other news, an event of a different sort seems to be going on in the small community of Pleasant Ridge. Candy Olsen is on the scene and will tell us more.”

The red light on the camera let Candy Olsen know she was being beamed live into the living rooms of television viewers across the region. She smiled directly at the red glow and began speaking.

“Thank you, Frankie. I am waiting at the home of the Holden family of Pleasant Ridge for an event that may be monumental indeed. The being that calls itself “Tishapus” has agreed to give Channel 8 an interview, and in a few moments I hope to be sitting with him at the picnic table you see behind me. There is a festival atmosphere here. It seems the entire town has turned out to observe the interview. We’ll be broadcasting the interview on the late news tonight.”

The red light blinked out as the anchor on the set, an hour’s drive away, resumed reading from the teleprompter.

The petite blonde television news reporter settled herself uncomfortably at the child-size picnic table in the Holden’s front yard. Despite her cheerful assertion, the little house on the edge of the middle class neighborhood on the edge of the small town didn’t really seem festive. Sure, people milled around everywhere, but their faces were solemn, guarded. No festival ever seems to be protectively distrustful of television cameras. When the lens would swing in their direction more often than not the people of Pleasant Ridge frowned and looked away. Candy Olsen was certain that people attending the Bradley County Cantaloupe Festival were grinning as they ate their melons and danced in the street. She was fairly certain people there would pose for the cameras and act silly. There was no foolishness or gaiety at the Holdens’ home, though.

A commotion by the small frame house drew the attention of the people milling about the yard. Indistinct voices hummed in a higher pitch of excitement and a knot of movement crossed the 30 or so feet toward the picnic table.

The creature had been described to her, but the reporter was not quite prepared for actually seeing it in reality. In one corner of her mind she was aware that she was staring stupidly and that her gaping mouth was being caught on film. She couldn’t pull her wide eyes away from the creature, though.

Its face was vaguely human, but the planes and angles were wrong. The face looked like one of those Photoshop images of the sheep-child that periodically appear on the cover of the sillier supermarket tabloids. The face was too narrow, too long; the cheekbones too high; the beard – no, there was no beard, except for the white tuft the grew in an elegantly thick corkscrew curl from the creature’s chin. Sleek silver-gray fur covered the creature’s torso and face, then became curly ginger brown at the crown of the creature’s head. At waist level, the ginger fur reappeared, longer, curlier and denser. What was it called when dogs had that kind of coat? Wire-hair. The mouth, almost a snout or a muzzle but not quite, curved upward at the corners. She wanted to reach out and touch the horns. Were they densely matted hair, like the horn of a rhinoceros? Were they light and woody, like the antlers of a deer, or bony like those of a ram?

Candy Olsen rose from her perch on the bench of the picnic table. Tishapus walked gracefully toward her. His knees bend backwards, went through her mind. Those aren’t hooves. I thought he had deer hooves, but those are pads, or paws. No, they are hooves, they just don’t look like any hooves I’ve ever seen. Her observations of the creature’s physical characteristics fled as she felt a nudge against her mind and the sensation of amusement, not her own amusement but someone else’s tickled the edges of her consciousness.

Tishapus stopped nearly three feet away from her and bowed slightly. She saw what she thought was a stubby tail tipped with a copy of his goatee. She started to say something, then wasn’t sure what to say.

“Hello.” That was inane, she thought. What a great first impression I’m making. She mentally shook herself. She wasn’t there to make a good impression. She was there for an interview.

The reported indicated the picnic table. “Shall we sit? I’m Candy Olsen.”

The creature bowed again and moved to one end of the table. Rather than sitting on the bench he sat on his haunches. He leaned forward and crossed his arms on the table.

“Please you will excuse me,” he said softly, “But it is not comfortable for me to sit on a bench or chair the way your kind does.”

“N-no, I suppose it wouldn’t be comfortable,” she replied, unable to take her eyes off the creature.

“You have questions you would like me to answer?” She heard his voice in her ears and in her mind at the same time. She wasn’t altogether certain that his spoken words were what she really understood.

“Yes,” she said, and nervously consulted her notes. The interview began.

***

“Candy, we can’t use any of this for the playback on the late news. You’ll have to summarize what he said.” The frustration in the editor’s voice dismayed the reporter.

“None of it? But he was eloquent and answered the questions beautifully! What do you mean you can’t use it?”

“Have you listened to the tapes?”

“No, why would I? You are the editor. I just do the interview.”

“Candy, the creature didn’t speak. He sang. Or, it sort of sounds like singing. And he didn’t use words. I don’t know how you talked with him.”

“What do you mean, he didn’t use words? He spoke plainly and clearly. Everyone there heard him!”

“Watch the playback, Candy. Just watch it.”

Sighing with exasperation, the reporter nodded to the cameraman. He began the playback.

Moments later, Candy Olsen stalked away to create a summary of her interview with the creature. No one had taken notes. It was all being captured on camera, so there had been no need for notes.

***

“I’m going to miss you. I wish you wouldn’t go.”

“I will miss you, too, little one.”

“Why can’t you stay?”

“When I left my home no one believed I could come here. I have learned about your race and now I need to go back home and tell my people about you.”

“Who’s going to tell other people here about you, though?”

“The ones here who saw me and knew me will tell. They will tell the people they encounter, and those people will tell others.”

“No one believed you were real until they saw you. Once you’re gone no one will believe in you, either.”

The creature looked at the human child with sadness. “Whether or not the people who hear of me believe, those who saw me do. They know. You know.”

The little girl sighed. “What if your family and friends don’t believe you about us?” She felt Tishapus’s wry amusement.

“They probably won’t. Creatures with no tails? And intelligent creatures without horns? And the odd way your bodies are constructed? They will laugh at me and call me crazy.”

“Then why tell them?”

Tishapus thought for a moment.

“I will tell them because knowledge is good, and if our races ever meet for trade my people should understand you people’s customs.”

Katie was quiet. Then she asked, “Is that why so many of the grown-ups are going with you?”

“Yes. They want to know how to get to my people. And I think some of them still don’t believe that my people exist or that my home exists.”

“I want to come with you, too.”

“I would like that. When you are older, perhaps you can be the ambassador from your race to mine.”

Katie smiled. She hopped down from her perch on the swing and hugged Tishapus. He hugged her back.

***

The vehicles had been left behind when the road ended. A group of eight men and women hiked the mountainous trail with the creature called Tishapus. Mike and Beth Holden, who had hosted him, Bill Costello, who had defended him, Candy Olsen, who had interviewed him, Dr. Willard Handy, who had examined his mind, and Dr. Emma Jenner, who had examined his body were the friendly people along for the trip. Dennis O’Leary, who had never stopped doubting him and Freddy Carson, who had reported him as a suspicious vagrant to the authorities, were there to represent those who refused to believe what was plainly in front of them.

They were above the tree line and the terrain had become more difficult. As the group crested a ridge, there was an area that was fairly flat before a cliff face rose again. Tishapus headed for a cave opening in the cliff.

“I thought we might camp here for the night,” he explained.

Detective O’Leary snorted. “You’ve brought us all the way up here to camp out. How nice.” He had grumbled and complained the entire trek.

Bill Costello shook his head. “Give it a rest, O’Leary,” he said in disgust. “You’ll get your proof in the morning.”

Talking quietly among themselves the group began making camp.

After eating their dinner, the Holdens, Costello, and the two doctors sat near the cave entrance and played cards. O’Leary and Carson sat off by themselves talking quietly. Tishapus had wandered away from the campsite to the open terrain. Candy Olsen fidgeted with her camcorder, then walked the short distance to the creature.

“I hope I can film the city better than I could film you,” she said as she seated herself next to him.

Tishapus glanced at her and again she felt his amusement wash over her. His melancholy mood dampened it somewhat, though. “That will be a difficult experience to explain to my people,” he said.

Candy snorted. “It was difficult to explain to mine,” she agreed.

They sat quietly for a time, gazing at the flood of stars that just couldn’t be seen from populated places. “Do they look the same where you live?” The reporter asked.

“The stars are the same,” nodded Tishapus. “And they are just as difficult to see from my city as they are to see from yours.”

“I suppose that is a price civilization must pay.”

“One of many prices,” agreed the creature.

“What do you believe is the steepest price we pay to live in a society?”

“Is this another interview?”

The reporter laughed softly. “I seem to have a habit of asking questions.”

“Yes. But they are good questions.” Tishapus fell silent and Candy contented herself with soaking in the sounds and ambience of the night. An hour passed, then two. She was content to sit silently beside this strange creature.

“Acceptance,” said Tishapus.

“Excuse me?”

“Acceptance.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The steepest price we pay to live in a society. We give up acceptance.”

Candy thought for a moment. “Acceptance of what? Acceptance by whom?”

“Giving up the acceptance of what our senses tell us.”

Candy looked at Tishapus quizzically. “Who rejects what they see and hear?”

Waves of sadness washed over Candy, and she knew it was a projection from Tishapus.

“How many of your people who saw me accepted me immediately?”

Candy hesitated. There were so many who had claimed Tishapus was wearing a costume or that he was a trained animal performing for his handlers. Twice Tishapus had been asked to travel with a carnival because his “costuming” was so good. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not™ offered him a lifetime billeting as a permanent attraction at its main museum, with travel benefits and luxury accommodations when he would travel to its locations worldwide. Tishapus was a freak, a sideshow attraction. Very few people believed he was a member of a real species. At worst they referred to him as a mutant. At best, they called him deformed.

“It’s hard to accept what is strange to us, what we’ve never before seen,” she said aloud.

Tishapus nodded. “When we live in a group the group’s opinion matters. If the group thinks something is odd, wrong, or somehow unacceptable, then the individual will adopt the same opinion. It makes learning new things very difficult.”

“Do your people act this way, too?”

“My people will not believe me when I tell of my visit here. They believe that creatures such as yourself are the creatures of myth.”

“I wonder if it has always been this way.”

“I believe it has not. I believe when both of our species were younger, we accepted strange and unusual things with curiosity, not disbelief. I believe that we once accepted things more easily.”

“It’s a shame our civilizations have advanced so far, then,” Candy remarked. “One voice cannot change minds.”

“The individual’s opinion matters for nothing unless he can convince the group to agree. I cannot imagine that this is anything new. Even in a primitive society, the individual needs the cooperation of the group in order to survive.”

“‘No man is an island,’” quoted the reporter.

“An apt description. No, no individual can really survive alone. Our species are both very social species. So despite the evidence the individual sees, he must sometimes reject what he knows to be true in order to be accepted, or he risks being ostracized from his society, shunned or ridiculed for his nonsensical beliefs. He rejects the proof and reality of his senses for the acceptance of the group, because that is how individuals survive.”

Candy didn’t respond immediately.

“You’re talking about acceptance on many levels,” she finally said.

“Yes,” agreed Tishapus quietly.

***

When she sun’s first rays flooded the floor of the high ledge, Tishapus leaped up with a glad cry. Candy Olsen, who had fallen asleep sometime during her vigil with the creature, opened her eyes to a flash of brightness that was gone almost as soon as she sensed it, but which left behind an impression of golden minarets against a turquoise sky.

“Do you see? Do you see?” Bill Costello’s excitement was met by a gasp of “oh!” from Beth Holden, who walked dreamlike toward the rising sun, and by exclamations of “yes!” from Will Handy and Emma Jenner. Mike Holder said nothing, but in three strides had caught up with his wife, grasped her hand, and joined her eastward movement.

Then Tishapus was gone.

“I didn’t see anything,” announced Dennis O’Leary.

“Me, either,” groused Freddy Carson. “Let’s have breakfast and head back down the mountain. I guess Tishapus ran off in the night.”

Meganeura Monyi

The story you are about to read is the second in a series I’ve written and told to children all over the Little Rock area. Jack and I started creating this series more than ten years ago – when he was in preschool. When he was little I would bring his dinosaur figures to the schools and teach the children a little about dinosaurs, fossils, paleontology, and (dare I say it?) evolution. I have about 30 of these stories.

Read Tony the Good T. Rex first if you missed when I posted it. You will then understand who Tony is and why he lives with plant eaters.

Meganeura Monyi

Tony the Good T. Rex settled comfortably into his life in the plant-eater part of the dinosaur jungle. He spent his days playing with his new best friend, Pete the Iguanodon. Pete introduced Tony to other dinosaurs who lived in the peaceful jungle.

The other dinosaurs soon learned that Tony was a helpful dinosaur to have in the peaceful jungle. Whenever a meat-eating dinosaur stumbled into the plant-eaters’ part of the jungle, Tony would politely tell it to go away. If the meat-eater didn’t leave, then Tony would tell it to go away in a way that was not so polite. Tony was very popular among the dinosaurs of the jungle.

But the plant eaters always hid when they saw Tony. Unless Pete or one of Tony’s other friends was with him, the plant eaters couldn’t tell if the T. Rex walking down the path was their friend or an enemy. Tony was sad that his new friends would hide from him, but he understood. He didn’t want one of them to greet a T. Rex and get eaten accidentally.

One day when Tony and Pete were lying in a field watching the clouds, a huge dragonfly flew overhead. The dragonfly flew back and forth looking for a place to land. Like the animals of the days of dinosaurs, the bugs back then were really big, too. This dragonfly was huge.

Tony sat up to get a better look at the colorful creature.

The dragonfly landed on Tony’s big head. Tony shook his head to make the dragonfly fly away, but the huge bug wouldn’t leave.

“Hey!” complained Tony. “Don’t block my eyes! I can’t see!”

“Oops. Sorry about that,” said the dragonfly. She crawled a step or two higher on Tony’s forehead. “Is that better?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Tony. He stopped shaking his head so hard.

“You look like you are wearing a dragonfly hat,” Pete told Tony, laughing.

Tony just grinned his big T. Rex grin.

“Why are you sitting on Tony’s head?” asked Pete. He was a curious little Iguanodon.

“I’m tired,” the dragonfly explained. “I have been flying all day and I need to rest.” She settled himself more comfortably on Tony’s head.

“My name is Pete, and the dinosaur who head you’re sitting on is Tony the Good T. Rex,” said Pete. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Meganeura Monyi,” said the dragonfly. “Call me Meg. It’s easier to say.”

“Meg, will you do me a favor?” Tony asked the big dragonfly.

“If I can, I will,” said the giant bug.

“Can you scratch right above my left eye? I’ve had a terrible itch there for quite some time but I can’t reach it with these short little arms of mine.”

“Sure!” said Meg, and scratched Tony’s eyebrow.

“Ahhh, that’s feels great!” Tony sighed. “You are very helpful.”

Just then a group of Hypsilophodons wandered into the field of flowers looking for good things to eat. They say the big T. Rex across the field and waved at him cheerfully. “Hello, Tony!” they called, and came toward him.

Pete was surprised and sat up quickly.

“How did you know he was Tony and not a meat-eater?” he asked the little Hypsilophodons when they came closer.

One of the little dinosaurs laughed. “A meat-eating T. Rex would never allow a giant dragonfly to sit on his head like that!”

Pete looked thoughtfully at Tony and the dragonfly hat. “If you could wear a dragonfly hat all the time, no one would ever think you were a bad T. Rex,” he said.

“You’re right!” Tony exclaimed.

“I could use a place to rest,” said Meg.

“Would you like to always be able to rest on my head?” asked Tony.

“Sure!” Meg exclaimed. “Your head is a nice resting place.”

From that day forward, there was never any question that Tony was the T. Rex walking through the peaceful jungle. No meat-eating T. Rex would wear a dragonfly for a hat.

Mother’s Eyes

Above Crystal City, in a hidden part of the Koneryl Mountains, a shadow shifted. The figure of a small man staggered out into the waning light of the afternoon sun. Weeks of searching and days of ritual without sleep and starvation had taken its toll but he had what he had come for. Dark eyes searched the mountainside for any sign of movement. Nothing. With slow, trembling hands, the figure took a small pouch from beneath his belt. He turned his back to the sun and, with another furtive glance about, emptied the contents into his palm. Five dark but rainbow-brilliant stones landed in his hand.

These small stones were the stuff of legends. Mother’s Eyes! The largest was smaller than a wren’s egg but that was no matter. A grin lit up his dirty face as he considered the possibilities. In his filthy, battered palm he held the wealth of cities. Each stone contained no less than the living spirit of the land itself. The stones emitted a warmth that sank into his very bones. Nothing was more rare; nothing was more valuable. In the right hands, one stone could bring forth water in the Sisseir. No, no, size didn’t matter at all.

A wave of dizziness struck him and he staggered slightly. Even his euphoria couldn’t push away his hunger or weariness. Carefully he slipped the precious stones back into his pouch, tucked it safely beneath his belt and tied it securely.

It wasn’t safe to stay here. Weeks playing the half-minded stable hand while sneaking his supplies piece by piece outside the city hidden in manure, of monitoring every word he said and every move he made, were no guarantee. Someone could have taken notice at how he lingered at dung heaps and decided to find out what he was taking such pains to conceal. Yes, someone could have taken notice.

He glanced around once again then went to the stream gushing madly from the mountainside near the mouth of the tunnel. The icy water stung his face but revived him somewhat. He drank deeply then filled his waterskin. He wasn’t far from the city but the climb down would be difficult. He wondered briefly if he should stay another night in the mine but decided against it. He had been too long without food and if he stayed he might not have the strength to get down the mountain. As it was, he wasn’t sure that he could make it at all. He had to go now and the quicker, the better.

The paltry weight of his nearly empty pack shifted and threw him off balance as he tried to put it on. A precarious moment passed before he regained his equilibrium. The tempting thought of just leaving it behind slipped briefly through his mind but was discarded immediately. No trace of his presence here must ever be found. Too much was at stake to risk it. It took several minutes for him to control his shaking hands long enough to strap the thing on securely. He cursed at his weakness and at the sun racing so quickly to end the day. Unable to do more for the moment, he sank down on an outcropping. He surveyed the mountain as he rested.

Nothing met his searching eyes but bare rock and a number of streams spewing heedlessly forth and down, down, down to more bare rock below. His path lay beneath more than one of these torrents. Tiny rainbows glimmered in the last of the day’s sun as mists settled onto the very rock he had to traverse if he were to leave this mountain today. He looked at his hands, felt their weakness and prayed to all the gods he had ever heard of to grant him safe passage down to Crystal City. Only the sound of the rushing water answered him. He sighed.

A brilliant flash of memory of the Mother’s Eyes spurred him forward. There were obligations to fulfill, reknown to be won and great riches to be had. Even so, it took tremendous effort to stand and even more to take his first step downward toward his future. As his foot touched the mountain again, a great weight settled onto him.

“No,” he groaned. The stones! The stones were fighting this leave-taking just as they had fought to remain hidden in the depths of the mountain. Oh gods! How could he make it down now with their resistance adding to his ever-increasing weakness? Tears of exhausted frustration threatened but he willed them away ruthlessly. Not now, not after he had come so far already. The stones were not going to defeat him nor was his exhaustion. He took a deep breath to steady himself and took his second step down.

A dozen painful, slow steps later he seemed to have worked himself into a kind of momentum. He told himself that so long as he could avoid climbing over the boulders strewn along the mountainside he could maintain his pace. He drew upon a mantra defining his task to refocus his mind away from his physical exhaustion.

*****

Two hours later he was forced to a halt when the steep mountainside dropped suddenly as a sheer cliff face. The cliff was only about ten feet down, but he saw nothing on which he could gain purchase for his feet or hands. The light pack would make his descent over this precipice even more awkward.

He sat at the ledge, his legs crossed. He considered jumping, but fear of a broken leg stopped him. Slowly it occurred to him that if he lowered himself the drop would be equivalent to twice his height, and surely he could survive that intact. He inspected the ground below for rocks and decided on place to land.

He removed his pack. Holding it by a strap he lowered it as far as he could, then dropped it. It fell open when it hit the ground below and one of the bowls used in his recent rituals rolled out. He must remember to get the bowl to prevent it from betraying his presence on the mountain.

He maneuvered his tired body around to face the small cliff. He hung by his waist, his upper body lying on the ground and his arms resisting his brain’s insistence that he push himself further back, to allow himself to dangle over the edge. He wiggled backwards, less and less of his body keeping him safely at the top of the small cliff, until finally his elbows, upper chest and forearms were all that helped him cling to the top.

He heaved with all his might, both physical and mental, and fell.

It was dark when he regained consciousness. The ache in his head almost caused him to lose consciousness again as he struggled to get the spout of his water bag to his mouth. His swollen tongue barely felt the cool liquid running over it, and some of the water dribbled out of his mouth. And then he did lose consciousness again.

*****

He awoke only moments later to the cold, wetness of his waterbag emptying its contents over his face and neck. Unthinking, he sputtered and struggled to get it off of him. Nausea struck him like a fist, hard and fast. He rolled over vomiting nothing but a little water and sputum then dry heaving endlessly it seemed. Each spasm sent waves of agony through his brain unmanning him utterly.

When at last the heaves left him, he collapsed in a heap, spent and in agony. His outstretched hand hit the bowl he had dropped earlier and sent it spinning into a nearby stream. He didn’t care. He no longer remembered where he was or why.

Disorientation consumed him. He wept like a child in pain and confusion. Soon, his weeping subsided into choked mewlings. He didn’t have the strength for anything else. As his own noises died within him, the sound of rushing water entered into his limited awareness.

An emptiness and thirst awoke in him howling and gnashing at his empty stomach with each passing second. Conscious thought beyond him now, instinct took over. He began to crawl.

It seemed hours before he even began to see the buildings in the city below clearly, but it had not even been one. The moon was beginning to grow bright overhead in the dark sky, but its light was lost at the edges of Crystal City where smoke and haze of the bustling occupants
blotted it out.

‘Home,’ the concept throbbed in his weary mind as he dragged his tired and broken body ever closer. Only one more bend of the river to cross and then he would be there. So close, but so tired, he dragged himself to the river’s edge and leant down to dip his hand in for a much needed drink. He never even felt as his legs began to slip from beneath him and the bankside crumble away. As the cold water began to engulf him as he slid as if in slow motion, all he could think of was the peace. He did not even care that the pouch carrying the stones- the valuable cargo that he had risked his life to bring back – had somehow fallen off his belt into the river as well… and that the Mother’s Eyes themselves had escaped and seemingly swam away to be lost, as was he, in oblivion.

Tony the Good T. Rex

When Jack was a little guy he was dinosaur crazy. Well, truth be known, his mama was (is) dinosaur crazy and she decided it would be a good thing for Jack to be crazy about them, too, so she made sure he knew about dinosaurs.

One of the main things I did was tell him stories. We told lots of stories, but his favorite ones were a series of stories about dinosaurs. The main character in all of the dinosaur stories was Tony the Good T. Rex, a vegetarian carnivore. We took The Tony Show on the road when he started school. I would bring his plastic dinos to school and tell his class stories. Each kid would get a dino and would act out the part that dino had in the story.

I continued this through fourth grade, when Jack’s teacher turned his class over to me for two hours every Thursday afternoon all year long. We had a great time. At the end of the year, I got some of my lawyer buddies together and we put on a trial for the class. I want to post that trial, because it was so much fun, but I have to work my way up to it. You need to have the same background as the kids did so the story makes the most sense.

Here is the very first story that introduces Tony.

Tony the Good T. Rex

Many, many years ago there lived a young Tyrannosaurus Rex named Tony. Tony lived with his family in the deep caves high in the mountains.

Tony did not like the food his family liked to eat. They liked hamburgers, steaks, and any other kind of meat they could find to eat. Tony preferred sweet fruits and vegetables, fluffy bread, salads, and berries from all sorts of plants. He hated meat.

In the mountains where Tony lived no plants could grow. The ground was much too rocky and steep. Tony had to wander very far from home to find the kinds of foods he liked.

Tony’s brothers and sisters laughed at him for eating fruits and vegetables. “What kind of T-Rex are you, anyway, Tony?” teased his older brother.

“Yes,” added his younger sister. “You eat the weirdest things. Yuck.”

None of the other young dinosaurs in the neighborhood would play with Tony either, and Tony was very lonely. He decided to go look for friends in other places. Surely there was someplace in the world where dinosaurs ate fruit and vegetables.

Tony’s mother was sorry to see him go, but she understood. Tony’s father was a big, tough, brawny T-Rex, was disgusted, because he always hoped Tony would develop a taste for meat. Tony’s brothers and sisters just laughed at him.

“Yeah, right! You think you’re going to find plant eaters to be friends with!” the other dinosaur kids taunted. Tony turned his back on them and headed down toward the lush green forest below his mountain home.

The further he walked, the greener the land became. Tony snagged a mouthful of pine needles. “Mmmmm, crunchy!” he thought as he munched happily. He dipped his head and took a bite of the broad leaves of a plant growing near water. What a wonderful taste! He came upon a bush that had lots of plump, juicy fruit. He picked the fruit with the claws on his hands and ate until he was stuffed. Yes! This was the place for him!

Tony spent his first night away from home lying in the lush green grass looking up at the stars. Somehow the stars seemed closer here, even though he knew the mountains where he was born were higher than the plains were he found himself now. He fell asleep thinking happy thoughts.

The next day Tony decided to look for friends. The food was wonderful, but everyone should have friends to share dinner with. He was very happy and began humming a little song and dancing just a little bit as he wandered along.

Before long, he came to the edge of a lake. Across the lake he saw two dinosaurs with incredibly long, thin necks and very. He decided to try to make friends with them.

“Hallloooo!” he called, and jumped and waved so the other two dinosaurs would be sure to see him. The strange dinosaurs turned their long, graceful necks to look at him, and almost before he realized what was happening, the both had walked into the lake and began moving away from him.

“Come back! Come back!” Tony called. “Let’s be friends!” But the two long dinosaurs swam away from him a little faster. Tony might have followed them, but he did not know how to swim.

Tony was disappointed that the two dinosaurs were not interested in making new friends, but he did not let it bother him. He knew he would find friends soon. Sure enough, as he continued wandering through the green land, he came upon two other dinosaurs.

These two dinosaurs were even stranger looking than the two with the really long necks and tails. They had little, bitty heads that were low to the ground, high arching backs, and spikes at the ends of their tails. And all along their tops they had funny looking rocks.

Tony knew how to make friends, though. “He walked straight toward them with a big grin and said, “Hi! My name is Tony and I want to be your friend!”

He was startled at the reaction these two dinosaurs had. The bigger one immediately turned his back and waved the spiky end of its tail at Tony in a threatening manner. The smaller one got into the same position right behind the first.

“Don’t come any closer or we’ll poke you full of holes!” shouted the bigger of the two.

“But I just want to be your friend!” Tony protested.

“Forget it!” yelled the smaller one. “Go away!”

This made Tony sad, but if the two strange looking dinosaurs didn’t want to be friends Tony knew he could not force them. He wandered on through the green places. He wasn’t humming his happy song, and he wasn’t dancing any more. He had no idea that making friends would be so hard!

Tony came to a wide open field. He saw a family of dinosaurs in the field. There was a mother, a father, and a baby. The mother and father had three long horns that stuck out from their heads. The baby didn’t have the long horns yet, but he looked as though he was trying to grow them.

“Haaalllllooooo!” Tony called across the field. “My name is Tony and I want to be your friend and play with you!”

The dinosaur family looked up and the baby dinosaur immediately started running across the field toward Tony. “Okay!” the baby called in a squeaky baby voice.

But his parents had other ideas. The huge daddy started to run toward Tony, too, but he ran with his long sharp horns pointed right at Tony’s soft belly. The large mommy ran toward the baby and blocked his way so he couldn’t reach Tony.

“Go away, meat eater!” shouted the daddy as soon as he saw the mommy had stopped the baby. “We don’t want your kind around here!”

Tony was horrified. He took two steps back and ran toward the trees near the field. He didn’t stop running until he was deep in the jungle. His sides hurt from running so far and he was out of breath. He saw a big boulder and sat down on it.

He thought about the friends he had not made. The two dinosaurs with the long, long tails and long, slender necks hadn’t said anything mean, but they had run away from him as fast as they could. The two dinosaurs with the spiky tails and the funny rocks on their backs had threatened to poke him full of holes. The father of the baby who was willing to play with him said that Tony’s kind was not wanted. Tony felt very sad. In fact, he felt so sad he began to cry.

This part of the jungle had never heard a T. Rex cry. Tony cried very loudly because the more he thought about his day the more he felt sorry for himself. And the more he cried the louder he cried. Pretty soon all the leaves on the trees nearby had fallen off because of how loud Tony was crying.

The animals who lived in that part of the jungle had never heard a T. Rex cry, either. One by one, then in twos, they came to see what was making such a strange noise. They all stayed hidden in the jungle, though, when they saw it was a T. Rex.

All of them stayed hidden but one, that is. A young Iguanodon named Pete, who was about the same age as Tony, finally decided to find out what the problem was.

“Why are you crying?” asked Pete.

Tony looked up and saw Pete standing a little way away. He blinked away his tears. “I’m crying because no one will be my friend,” he said.

“Why are you looking for friends in this part of the world?” asked Pete. “Why aren’t you looking for friends in the part of the world that has other dinosaurs like you?”

“Because they make fun of me for eating fruits and vegetables,” explained Tony.

The dinosaurs hidden in the jungle began whispering to each other.

“It’s a trick!”

“How does a T. Rex know about fruits and vegetables?”

“Pete had better be careful or he’s going to be that T. Rex’s dinner!”
Pete heard what the other dinosaurs were saying, and he knew that dinosaurs like Tony were not usually very friendly.

“I think everyone is afraid you’re going to eat them,” Pete told Tony.

“I won’t! I only like green food and sweet food! I hate meat!” Tony declared.

There was more whispering.

“When Dip Diplodocus and I were at the lake, this T. Rex called to us and said he wanted to be our friend,” said one of the long dinosaurs.

“He said the same thing to us, didn’t he?” exclaimed the little stegosaurus to her brother.

“That’s exactly what he said to us, too!” piped up the baby triceratops.

There was more murmuring and whispering among the gathered dinosaurs.

“I have an idea,” said Pete. “Let’s gather leaves and fruits and see if he really does eat them. If he does, then we will know he’s telling the truth.”

“Good idea,” agreed the Daddy Triceratops. Everyone knows that meat-eaters like him don’t eat salads. If he does eat it, then we’ll know he’s not trying to fool us.”

So the dinosaurs gathered the leaves that had fallen from the trees and brought them to Tony. They placed all the fruits and vegetables and leaves in a big pile.

“I hope you’re hungry for this,” said Pete.

Tony grinned his big T. Rex grin and started eating. “Yum, yum!” he said as he gulped down a huge serving of fruit. “This is delicious!” he said, smacking his lips after a mouthful of leaves. Pretty soon he had eaten the entire pile of fruits and vegetables and leaves.

“Do you ever eat meat?” asked Pete.

“No,” said Tony. “I don’t like meat at all.”

Pete grinned. He looked at the rest of the dinosaurs gathered around.

“What do you say?” he asked Daddy Triceratops.

“I think he’s telling the truth,” said the big horned dinosaur. The mommy triceratops, standing next to him, nodded. The two dinosaurs with the long, long necks dipped their heads in agreement.

Pete stuck his hand out toward Tony. “My name is Pete and I’m an iguanodon,” he said. “See how my thumb sticks up?”

Tony grinned and put out his own two-fingered hand. “I’m Tony, and I’m a T. Rex who eats fruits and vegetables,” he said as he shook Pete’s hand.

And that’s how Tony found his first friends in the plant-eater part of the world, and how he met his very best friend, Pete.

Further Developments for Wench’s Virgin Training School

Classes are forming and virgin trainees are lining up at the gates of Wench’s Virgin Training School!
I, Anne, Wench of Aramink, wish to extend a hale and hearty welcome to all of my students!

Please let me introduce you to the faculty:

SweetP, the undisputed Queen of 69, shall be teaching a class in – what else – 69! Retaining one’s virginity during 69s is of paramount importance for our virgins. SweetP’s qualifications are impeccable, seeing as how she got not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE 69’s on OhBilly’s Dusty Springfield blog! This woman is GOOD! We are so pleased to have her aboard! Her Teaching Assistant is none other than Melissa, who got three 69’s on the same blog.

CFBookChick, is chairman of our dance department. Her exhibition performance of the Dance of the Seven Veils is, of course, the industry standard. Belly dancing, pole dancing, and lap dancing are electives, but each virgin must reach mastery in at least one of these dance areas.

Mad Diane LeDeux, who is our Flogger of Recalcitrant Virgins, handles “special education” instruction at Wench’s Virgin Training School. Already Mad Diane has had to wield her whip a few times. We are sad to report that we do have disciplinary issues with some students. Shira is in the habit of sleeping behind her veil and Silly, keeps showing up for class naked. For some reason Mad Diane is particularly enthusiastic about Silly’s floggings.

Guy, High Priest of Meatloaf and proud owner of the famous Giant Cock, is in charge of Virgin Spiritual Studies. He definitely keeps our spirits high!

Ross D has generously offered his supervisory services for a laboratory practicum for aspiring virgins. The exact details of what will happen in these labs has not yet been revealed.

Queenie Beaudine will be in charge of Virgin Etiquette and Interpersonal Relations. Queenie comes to us quite experienced in the ways of behavior, having put up with her evil twin Cussy’s behavior since before birth. Students may have to bring dictionaries to class, though, because sometimes Queenie uses big words that are difficult to understand, even in context.

And now, a description of the facilities:

Despite Homeland Security’s accusations that the school is an Arab Training Camp, our Navy SEALs are quite devoted to us. Our SEALs, supervised by Basser, provide round-the-clock security in the bushes around the school, inside the FEMA trailers and on the way to and from classes. They make training films of our students and helpfully watch them over and over again to provide us with constructive criticism of our techniques. They even offer free breast exams to our Virgins. I believe that without exception the SEALs are one of the most popular and beloved aspects of Wench’s Virgin Training School!

Everyone is aware that the FEMA trailers left over from the Katrina SNAFU are at our disposal, thanks to David’s high-level government contacts in Hope, Arkansas. Each virgin has been assigned to a FEMA trailer and two of Basser’s Navy SEALs are with her at all times. The SEALs work in shifts, so each virgin actually has six SEALs for her pleasurable protection. These six SEALs are in addition to the numerous SEALs who keep the perimeter of the school secure and who are engaged in conducting breast exams at any given time.

The camels are being kept in a corral and I have plans to ask Lou, who has some experience with large beasts of burden, to be camelmaster. Lou, what do you say? Surely the transition from horses to camels won’t be too much of a challenge, will it?

Spy has offered his services in the realm of financial advice. Since Hachbar Vinmook posted the livestock exchange rate his accounting duties have been made considerably easier. Habib Aktar returned from his stay in the hospital (for the addadictomy) with a huge wad of cash in his pants – boy, was HE happy to see us! – which of course enriched us further. We have some problems with some of our assets, though, because it seems that both Ohio and Texas were at different points traded for virgins. Finding a place large enough to store two entire states has presented us with some difficulties, but I’m sure Spy has things worked out on the accounting side.

And, of course, the Curriculum:

There have been some modifications to the curriculum, and there are likely to be more as we obtain the services of new instructors in different disciplines. There are two required texts. The first text is “Virgins for Dummies.” As soon as that text has been completed, each Virgin begins intensive study of “The Pop-Up Kama Sutra.”

Certification of Revirginification is issued when the Virgin demonstrates mastery of all areas of study and passes her Orals.

Because this school is such a novel enterprise, all suggestions for the curriculum will be considered. Please advise the administration of any ideas you have.

Thank you for your support,

Anne, Wench of Aramink

Wench’s Virgin Training School

By popular demand, and because Hachbar left me in charge, I have now seen fit to open a Training School.

This is no ordinary Training School, Dear Readers. It is a Virgin Training School. And there is a valuable and lovely Tradition that has inspired it.  It started on the pages of Yahoo 360.

The Tradition started on or about Monday, November 6, 2006 (yes, a Day of Yore if ever there was one), when our belovedHabib Aktarprecipitously appeared on the scene with his herd of camels and his blog message, “I Want for Sex to You.” This is what started it all.

You see, Habib, that happy fellow who looks nothing like a terrorist and who adores Cleveland, comes to the West in search of Virgins. For some reason, he thinks America HAS virgins.

He approached KimberKat at 12:37 p.m., evidently having heard that there were virgins on her page. Kimber was helpless to confirm such an outrage, but Habib played on her page a bit longer. He desperately wanted virgins, and advised Kimber he was willing to trade camels for virgins. Such an offer is almost fatally irresistible, but somehow Kimber held on to her honor throughout the ordeal.

About the same time, Habib miraculously appeared on Bobbie-Lynn’s and Free’s pages. He suggested such activities as camel humping to them. He paused to flirt with Juls. (That evening he returned to Juls’ page, offering to “humpy humpy” with her, and noting that she was in harem dress, and asking her, “How many camels for you?” He appeared to Jen the very same afternoon requesting information about horny monkey sex. That evening, he could be found romancing Natalie, also known as Ms Medic. “Habib like you be in harem. Do you like humpy humpy camel love?” he flirted.

It was uncanny when, the next day, November 7, many female members of the Hornified Sex Monkeys were visited by ahmed s,who was obviously a friend or else a competitor of Habib’s. Once again, Jen got a visit, I got a visit, Kimber got a visit…

But Habib was making his rounds, too. For example, the tnbrneyedgirl, aka Lisa, heard from him.

But November 7 was also a day of great infamy. That was the day we met Virgin, that spicy, delectable bit of woman-flesh that Habib counts as his first true Western conquest.

At first, we Hornified Sex Monkeys were a bit nonplussed. You see, Habib figured out that Juls lived in West Virginia, which he thought meant “Western Virgin” or something. He was very excited. Both Kimber and Juls found Habib to be somewhat of a pest, and threatened to call Orkin. However, Virgin informed them that Orkin would not be necessary, because she was in high heat for Habib and would be taking him off their hands.

Habib wasn’t pesky to everyone, though. Gypsy Firecrackeradmitted the next morning that she had had one of “those” dreams about Habib the night before. Now every time she calls Tech Support she gets excited thinking she’s talking to Habib. Lisa traded herself to Habib for merely 4 camels, not realizing that she would be a bargain at any price and despite having already been sold to Liam for 100 goats. Two days later, Virgin put out a call for a catfight. Green-eyed jealousy had trumped brown-eyed Tennessee, and Virgin was mad. Fortunately, OhBilly immediately translated it into a snowball fight to diffuse the stemming violence. Meanwhile, Habib was trading recipes with women whose virginity he sought. Sue remarked in conversation with Kimber, “Habib said I could have some of his cockloaf, but only if I move to Virginia! He says it tastes just like chicken (or camel).” That crazy, culinary Habib!

On Saturday, November 11, Habib reported sadly that he had found no new virgins. Shortly thereafter, though, he was seen haunting the pages of Red Carol.

When Sunday, November 12 dawned, our beloved Virgin was distraught. She had lost track of Habib and was looking for him. For some reason she thought Habib might be hanging out with Jen, but no. He wasn’t at Free’s. He wasn’t at Juls’ place, either. Nor was he to be found on Tricia’s or Kimber’s or Natalie’s pages. She had no luck locating him at Gypsy’s or Bobbie-Lynn’s, either. Habib was looking hard for other Virgins to fill his harem, and had not had time to spend with the lovely virgin Virgin.

But Habib was not the only Arab Action in Our Town of 360 for long! No, Hachbar Vinmook appeared the night of Monday, November 13, and immediately began throwing his weight around. “Habib served walking papers. New Sharif in town. Hachbar take all virgin.” read his comments on the Jen’s page.

Habib was worried.

Hachbar warned Kimber, “You come to Hachbar. Habib Bad!”

Virgin, of course, took issue with Habib’s profession of love for Kimber. “Don’t listen to him Kimber, those missile launchers are STILL in front of our tent, and I told him to move em a WEEK ago! … and what’s this about love??? You got some ‘splennin to do chicky.” Another catfight was in someone’s future.

Appalled, Habib responded quickly. He was being forced to retaliate. “Habib only bad to you Hachboob,” he said.

“Keeemie no listen to lumpy bumpy camel humpy. You know Habib love you,” Habib declared to Kimber.

“No listen to Hachgoobers Jen. You help Habib find many virgins to bare Habibi-babies.” Then, showing his improving mastery of English, he corrected, “Habib mean bear not bare. No need have naked babies running all over.” Habib has been hanging out in Cleveland long enough to pick up the vernacular.

Habib’s desperate plea went out to Red Carol and Free: “Habib need you help to find many virgins.” Clearly, Habib was desperate.

Just after midnight, Habib notified Juls of the sad turn of events. “Habib need your help. Send many virgins to Habib. There is new Funny-Muzzy name Hachbar trying to steal Habib’s womans.”

“Habib have big plans for you,” he reminded Natalie, obviously hoping she would not defect to Hachbar’s camp.

Hachbar continued looting and pillaging throughout 360. On Tuesday the 14th, he hit on Superbitch, Sue, Gypsy, Lisa (he even offered to trade Texas oil wells for her!), and SweetP.

Hachbar didn’t stop with hitting on women Habib had already touched, though. No. He said to Shira, “You make good virgin. haboob old news. my harem small. no waiting.” He flirted with JeniT and for some reason thought she would be obedient to him (shows what he knows about Jeni! Ha!) He also hit on Nancy and Sherry.

It was with Hachbar’s entry into the emerging virgin market that I, the Wench of Aramink, recognized an entrepreneurial opportunity. Donning a harem costume, that afternoon I quickly penned a missive to Sue, Natalie, Shira, Browneye, Jen, Gypsy, and Juls. “I will train you to be a virgin for Habib and Hachbar. They pay me many camels to do this.”

Shira remarked with some amazement, “You can train me to be a virgin? All right! I’ll make a lot of money that way . . . er, I mean, Habib and Hachbar will be SO pleased.”

Hachbar WAS excited. That evening, he told Jen, “You make good choice, come to Hachbar. I see you have man so I tell Wench to give you good job somewhere pleasant. Maybe she need assistant training virgins.”

Gypsy suggested training Habib and Hachbar to be virgins for each other. They were both rather lukewarm to that idea, so revirginification is limited to women for the time being.

Since then, the ranks of my students have been swelled by Sus, Tricia, Selinda, and Sherry.
Although she claimed to Hachbar that she was a good cook, Jen hasn’t applied for an assistant virgin trainer position. I had planned let her do a work-study program as a lunchroom lady. But I have added other staff members who have agreed to work-study, or even full-time positions, in other areas.

I have been very pleased at the enthusiasm with which my virgins-in-training have taken to their studies. For example, Gypsy Firecracker noticed that Shira had cheated and read Lesson 3 already – something she would not have known had Gypsy not also cheated and read Lesson 3.

Now, it seems, just as Wench’s Virgin Training School is getting off the ground, I have competition. This Sultana Saibabie person has invaded the lives of the school and its students. “I understand you are one of Wench’s virgins. Come to me, instead. I will gain a higher camel price for your virtue than she will,” Sultana said to Sherry, Sus, Lisa, Kimber, Gypsy, Natalie, Juls, Shira, Jen, and Selinda. Sus and Sherry defended me nobly against this upstart tart, who somehow has managed to get MANY of our favorite men on her Friends List! What is she leading them around by, anyhow?

She seems to have gotten to the men before any of us women knew about her. Davidflirted with her as early as last Tuesday, which means she has been around almost as long as Hachbar. And just today, that Old SaltJack Tar suggested that he take Sultana’s virgins for a test drive, while DavidT (no relation to JeniT) thought it looked as though Sultana might have put on a rather enjoyable party. Humph.

Hachbar saw through Sultana immediately, I am pleased to report. For instance, he contacted my dear friend JeniT, and told her, “Jeni. Hachbar say go to Wench. Bring many bull who hate red.” Gotta love that Hachbar. He did so well that he wooed Lisa “Browneye” away from Habib with the romantic words in his Blast!

Meanwhile, Wench’s Virgin Training School continues to organize and revirginate. The school has officially adopted “Like a Virgin” as the school’s alma mater and “Midnight at the Oasis” will be the theme for prom.

The curriculum so far:

Lesson 1: Establishing a Man’s Desires
Lesson 2: Dress Pleasing to Men or “Showing Weenus”(Kimber and Gypsy have made Dean’s List for their mastery of this particular lesson)
Lesson 3: Camming for Quarters in Qatar

Oh, and I almost forgot. Mad Diane LeDeux,who claims no interest in being revirginated, has graciously accepted the position of Flogger of Recalcitrant Revirgins. Her place of Public Punishment at the Twisted Wench Daiquiri Lounge hasn’t been getting enough use lately since she’s threatened to turn those who cross her into zombies.

Matriculate NOW!

The Wall, Part 3

“But why can’t we go look for her?” Irem’s face is pale, and her voice is twisted.

The headman’s look of irritated impatience quells her momentarily. “Irem…”

“She’s a baby, Keiji!” the young mother cries.

“And the last trace of her is two days away!” The annoyance Keiji feels is apparent in his tone.

Fia speaks now, her tone consoling. “Nagge says the little wild people are searching for Bian.”

“Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?” demands Irem, turning furiously on the weaver. “Those wild creatures are here! They are not searching for my child, and they are not doing anything but making silly eyes at one another and grunting! How can you say they’ve sent out searchers when they’re nothing but animals?” She looks at Fia in disgust, and once again turns her demands on Keiji.

“Keiji, my little girl is out there, all alone, without even her doll to comfort her. And now you are telling me that you will not organize a search party even though Foy and Nagge can take us to where she was four days ago!” Irem would continue ranting, but her husband, a generally taciturn man, puts his hand on her arm.

“Fia, I want to hear what Foy and Nagge have to say about Bian,” Jarrah says, his gravelly voice steady, but taut.

His wife shakes his hand off and turns her attack on him. “You want to hear more ravings from children!” she shouts.

“The only one I hear raving is you,” he replies.

His wife gasps with the indignity of his accusation and tears begin falling from her wide eyes.

“Minna’s children can tell us more about this,” Jarrah says softly.

“The only child who matters is ours!”

“I agree, Irem.”

“Then go find her!” Irem turns away, sobbing.

Jarrah looks helplessly at his wife, then turns to Keiji. “I will hear what the children have to say,” he repeats.

* * *

They find the children still at Minna’s with their troupe of small brown companions. Keiji hails the door and Minna greets them.

“Where is Irem?” she asks.

“Hysterical,” the headman answers shortly.

“I wish to hear what your children have to say,” Jarrah tells her. His deep voice is soft but urgent. Minna beckons them inside.

The children are seated in a circle of small brown creatures unlike any Jarrah has ever seen. Each creature looks the same, a palette of sepia dressed in an odd cloth of the same hue. Almond eyes turn curiously toward him as he enters the gathering room.

“You remember Jarrah,” Minna says to her children, and they both nod to the man in greeting.

“Nagge, tell me how it is you know the creatures are looking for Bian,” says Jarrah simply.

The sister’s smile is serene. “They have called their kin to tell them where she was, and to look for signs. The Tynan look for her traces even now, and will learn what has happened to her and bring her home if they can.”

“Explain,” Jarrah growls in his gruff voice.

The girl does not answer immediately. She turns her attention instead to the sepia circle and one graceful arm dances to punctuate the unfamiliar words she speaks. The brown eyes are fixed on her, but none of the brown creatures with sound or gesture of their own. She turns back to Jarrah.

“The Tynan can communicate over long distances without speaking aloud,” she says simply. “They have communicated with their brothers and cousins. Many of their kin search for signs of your Bian right now.”

Jarrah looks at the girl’s younger brother. Foy’s expression is faintly smug, but appears to hide nothing. “How do you know this is true?” Jarrah asks, directing his question to the boy. The young man straightens his shoulders and looks to his sister, who nods.

“They speak with their minds, and distance does not matter. They taught us how, too.”

“Show me,” Jarrah says. His firm request does not challenge Foy’s words, but asks for verification.

Again the brother looks to his sister. “Do you want to see how Foy and I can do this, or how the Tynan can?” The girl’s placid look relays her confidence.

“The Tynan are those creatures,” Keiji interjects, waving his palm toward the creatures impatiently. Both Nagge and Foy glance at the headman, then their eyes meet each other’s.

“I want to see the Tynan communicate without speaking.” Jarrah’s answer is decisive, delivered without hesitation.

“Mam, will you take two of our companions to Grandmama’s room?” Two of the creatures rise, one from the girl’s left and one sitting directly across from her. They walk to Minna and look at her expectantly. Wordlessly, Minna turns and the creatures follow her into the back rooms of the home.

The sister turns back to Jarrah. “You will want the Tynan to come back and demonstrate that they can communicate telepathically.” Jarrah nods. “You must tell me something for them to do when they come back into the room. Something I can describe to them.”

Jarrah nods again. “I wish one to draw the sigil for the rain. The other – I would like Foy to step outside with me. I will tell him what the other should do.”

Foy rises and walks through the entry to the outside. He stops a little way from the door. Jarrah follows him out. A few moments later Jarrah returns alone. He nods to the girl.

“Mam!” At her daughter’s call, Minna appears in the doorway. “We need a slate and chalk for drawing, please,” Nagge asks.

Minna locates a gray tray and places it on the table. She finds a chunk of chalk and sets it on the tray. “Is anything else needed?”

“Thank you, no. Please have our friends return now.”

Minna retreats again to the rear of the home and the Tynan appear in her place.

One of the small creatures immediately walks to Jarrah, looks into his eyes, then circles him three times. Turning his back to the tall farmer, facing the circle of his people, the Tynan raises his left arm to shoulder height then crooks his elbow in a salute, which he holds. Jarrah nods and returns the salute and the small creature resumes its seat with the others. Jarrah looks expectantly at the other Tynan.

The Tynan is examining the chalk stick curiously. He lifts it with two fingers, scratches it gently, then tastes the powder that has crumbled on his fingertip. He makes an experimental mark on the slate, then wets his finger and erases it. Quickly the creature makes several marks. He sets down the chalk and resumes his seat in the circle. The headman walks across the gathering room and picks up the slate. He holds it up for Jarrah to see. The sigil for rain, the tiny slanted lines in their staggered rows, are there on the slate.

Foy appears at the door, steps softly inside. He approaches Jarrah and asks, “Do you need more proof?”

The big man shakes his head. “Do the creatures –”

“Tynan,” Foy reminds him.

“Tynan. Do they write?”

“No,” Foy shakes his head. They use paint for art or for ceremonies, but they do not write. They have no need.”

Jarrah looks at headman Keiji. “I am satisfied,” he says. “I will tell Irem that they can communicate. But I must know more.” He is looking speculatively at Foy again, and at Nagge.

Minna brings him a cushion, and he sits between the children. “Tell me about the Tynan,” he requests solemnly.

The Wall, Part 2

The small band of brown ones, led by the tall young man and woman, huddle close together for comfort. They have allowed the adopted strangers to lead them to this strange place, with its wall too high and its gate too narrow. They have allowed the adopted strangers to persuade them that life would be better here. All they sense now is hostility, barely disguised beneath the curiosity the strangers have for their adopted ones.

The adopted sister speaks next. She speaks in the strangers’ odd sibilant tongue. She directs her words to the older female stranger, the one in red. The woman in red takes a hesitant step toward the sister, then two. Then the sister steps forward, but not before taking a child from the arms of its brown mother. She meets the woman with the child in her arms.

“They are not so different,” the sister says to her old mother. “This child sucks its thumb, dreams of growing up, and plays just as I did.”

Before the mother has a chance to answer, the stranger man speaks again. “Where are the adults? Have you stolen their children to bring the wrath of the elders down on us and our city?”

The sister laughs. “The others are small people. The adults are here. When they captured us, we did not know that they meant us no harm. In fact, they did not intend to capture us at all.”

“Then why did you not return home?” blurts her mother.

“That is a story best told over a meal,” the brother chides gently. He directs his remark to his mother, not to the man whose out-thrust chin demands answers. He knows that his reminder that he and his sister have been denied their mother’s table for three years should prompt the woman in red to act. He is right.

“Yes, come. Have them all come.” His mother speaks quickly, as though she is afraid she may change her mind if she is given time to think about her decision.

Curious strangers wander hesitantly toward the small band of brown ones. They stare, but keep a wary distance even as they pace the mother, brother and sister. The hostile man, muttering to himself, keeps up a few paces to the right of the troupe. Apparently he has invited himself to share the bread and stew at the mother’s table, too. Clearly he wants to know the story the brother and sister have to tell.

* * *

The mother’s home has a large gathering room, which is fortunate. The brother and sister have directed the odd little brown creatures to sit in a semi-circle on the thickrug covering the floor. The mother calls to her neighbor to please bring more bowls. The neighbor, who has come to see if she can help, ducks out quickly to comply.

It is the first day of the week, the day the mother traditionally makes her hearty stew and bakes her bread. It will take a week’s worth of bread to feed all these creatures, but the mother does not think of that. She only hopes she has enough. If she does not she will call upon her neighbor again.

The silence that descends is awkward. This mother has imagined her children’s homecoming so many times, but never has she imagined that it would take place in an uncomfortable quiet, broken only by the shuffling of brown feet and the shifting of ragged garments.

The mother ladles the stew and her neighbor, who has returned with a stack of bowls, breaks off pieces of the dense bread. The sister delivers each bowl to one of the brown creatures, murmuring something to them as she hands them the stew and bread. Taking her own bowl, she drops to the floor, cross-legged, next to her brother. The neighbor gives the mother the last bowl and steps back. The mother sits on the cushion facing her lost children.

She soaks the bread in the stew, but does not take a bite. The brown creatures and her children all look at her, expectantly. She notices that none of them have begun eating. Hastily, she brings the wet bread to her lips. Her children mimic her, then the creatures begin eating. The mother is amazed. The creatures seem to have understood that it was polite to wait until the hostess took the first bite before eating. She glances back at her children. Her son is smiling as he chews a bit of stew-soaked bread. Her daughter daintily sips the warm broth and meets her mothers eyes over the rim of her bowl. Silent amusement sparkles in her expression, and the mother looks away, startled. She has no appetite. She has too many questions.

Adjusting the red fabric of her garment, the mother sets her bowl on the floor in front of her cushion. “Will you tell me….?” she begins to ask, hesitant, not sure what, exactly, she wants to know first.

The boy, the younger of her children, speaks first. “There was a misunderstanding,” he begins, but is cut off by his sister.

“We lost ourselves,” she says quickly. “And while we were lost, these friends,” she gestures toward the brown creatures, “took us in. They did not want to, but we really gave them no choice. We were afraid.”

Her brother starts to speak, then thinks the better of it. He takes another bite of stew-soaked bread and chews, looking at his sister thoughtfully.

The outspoken man from the gate speaks up. He is just inside the door, as if he believes the brown creatures and these wild children carry a foul odor with them. His sneer is evident in his tone. “Why did you bring our enemies here?” he demands. “Have you joined them? Need we destroy you with them?”

“Keiji!” a voice from deeper within the house is sharp with admonition.

The angry man’s head jerks toward the voice from within, and his arms cross one another over his chest. He sticks his jaw out defiantly as an ancient woman appears in the doorway to the common room. Her arms are crossed in an echo of his.

“My daughter offers peace and food to these people, yet you come into her home to threaten them?”

“They are enemies!”

“It does not matter if they are from the stars or from under a rotting log. Minna has opened her home to them.”

“These creatures are evil, Ciannait, and you know it! You, of all people, know it!”

“I know nothing of the sort,” the old woman snorts. As she walks further into the gathering room, her spine is straight and she holds herself tall. “I know that Minna has guests, and I know you are being extremely unpleasant.”

The man glares at the old woman. “A band of enemies has invaded our town and as headman here I am demanding answers!”

The brown creatures are wide-eyed at the heated exchange between the angry man and the old woman. Understanding none of it they are not alarmed, merely curious. They look to the brother and sister, who have stopped eating and have leaned their heads together to whisper.

The sister rises gracefully from her floor cushion. “We will give you answers, Keiji. But first, our friends are hungry. We have traveled a long way and we are tired. And Foy and I owe the first answers to our mother.” She speaks gently, respectfully, but her words fall like heavy weights in the room.

Her brother, acting unaffected by the strong words of the elders, takes another mouthful of stew-soaked bread and chews it slowly. He turns and smiles encouragingly at the brown creatures, who also resume eating.

Clearly Keiji is at a loss for words for a moment. Then he attacks the sister with his hard words. “You owe this entire city an explanation. You disappear for three years only to return in the company of those who have been our enemies for generations! As headman I believe those answers should come now!” His left hand is on his hip and he shakes an enraged finger at the sister, who smiles sweetly at him, then turns to the ancient woman.

“Grandmama, are there two more bowls? Perhaps you and the headman should join us.”

The old lady winks at the sister in approval. Yes, child, I believe there are two more bowls. Thank you, dear,” she nods to the neighbor, who has handed her a bowl and a hunk of the dense brown bread.

“I don’t need food,” growls the headman. “I need to know what is going on.”

“You will, Keiji. Did you not hear the child invite you to stay?” The old woman’s tone is sharp, exasperated. “Now, please, sit.”

Minna brings another cushion and places it near the brother and sister. Kieji takes his seat, but waves away the bowl he is offered. He scowls at the sister, waiting for her to begin.

The sister takes her time, soaking the bread, sipping from the rim of the bowl, and saying nothing. “Your stew is even better than I remembered, Mam,” she smiles sat her mother.

“Yes!” agrees her brother enthusiastically. “We have missed it! And we have missed you and Grandmamma, too.” His nod and smile is directed at both women.

“We want to hear about you,” says the grandmother. “We believe it is a miracle that you are home with us again.”

“No miracle,” says the brother, his mouth full. “A mistake, but no miracle.”

“You said that at the gate,” Minna says to her son. “How could it be a mistake? Why have you been gone so long, and why, now do you return with your … companions?”

The brother begins to answer, but the sister clears her throat. The sound hushes him, and he settles back, waiting for her.

“The mistake is that we thought we had been captured. In reality, we had startled them as much as they had startled us.”

“Captured!” exclaims the headman. “So you were kidnapped by these vile creatures?”

“She said nothing of the sort, Keiji, if you will clean out your ears and listen!” snapped the Grandmother.

“I heard what she said. She said they captured them.”

“No, Keiji. We were not captured. In truth, they had no idea why we followed them back to their camp. But we did not understand that at the time.” The sister speaks slowly, as if to a young child.

“Then what did happen?” the head man is impatient.

“Foy and I were playing just outside the gate that day, and we wandered farther into the valley than we should have. What we learned later was that the group of Tynan who found us were scouting for food and for caves for shelter. They were planning to move their camp and were looking for a likely place. They had wandered farther into the valley than they should have, too.”

“Scouting for ways to attack the city, most likely,” snorts the head man.

“Not true,” the brother speaks up again, sounding rather cheerful, even amused.

“They could not understand why we followed them,” agreed the sister.

“You weren’t forced to go with them?” Minna is not eating, but listening intently.

“Then why did you go?” This is the neighbor speaking. She covers her mouth quickly, embarrassed that she has spoken out when this is clearly a family and political matter.

The brother turns to his mother’s neighbor and smiles. “We went because we thought we had been captured.”

“Bah! This makes no sense!” declared the headman. “Either you were captured or you weren’t. Which was it?” He has jumped to his feet again in frustration.

“It makes perfect sense,” retorted the grandmother. “The children thought they had been captured, so they went along with these others. They were mistaken. Is that right?” she nods toward her grandchildren, who nod back in return.

“Yes,” says the brother. “They did not mean for us to follow them, and they led us on a very long, roundabout trip back to their camp because they kept hoping we would get tired of following them and go back where we came from.”

“What makes you think that?” the headman growls.

“They told us so,” shrugs the boy. His sister nods.

“Told you so! That’s ridiculous!” the head man stomps to and from in frustration.

“No,” offers the sister with a wry smile. “Once we learned their language they did not mind telling us how silly they thought we were.”

“Language!” scoffs Keiji.

“That’s true,” laughs the brother, ignoring the headman’s outburst. “We have been teased about it ever since.”

“You mean to say that you learned how to communicate with these beasts?” Keiji is incredulous.

The brother and sister exchange a look. The brother rolls his eyes.

“Yes, Keiji. We learned their language.” The sister again speaks slowly and gently, as if to a child.

“Once you learned of the mistake, why did you not come home?” asks Minna.

“It took us a long time to understand how they communicate, and then to learn how ourselves. By the time we had the communication skills to understand and ask about going home, the camp had moved too far away. A large enough group could not be spared to escort us back. There was too much work to be done,” explained the sister.

“And the camps moved with the seasons, farther and farther away, and it was not until this cycle of seasons that we began moving closer again.” adds her brother. “But we knew we were close enough to travel back when we found a doll with a dress made of Fia’s weaving. “ He nods to his mother’s neighbor and beckons her to him. From under his tunic he brings out a small figurine wrapped in a soft, woven blanket. The neighbor gasps.

“It is yours, isn’t it, Fia?” the sister asks, and wordlessly the neighbor nods.

“Do you recognize the doll?” asks the grandmother.

Fia nods again. She has an indescribable look on her face, part awe, part fear. “It belongs to Bian, the daughter of Jarrah and Irem.” The mother and grandmother sigh, almost as one.

The brother nods. “I remember little Bian. One of the dogs must have stolen the doll and dropped it. But it was found two days’ walk from here.”

“Two days!”Fia exclaims.

“When was it found?” Keiji demands.

“Four days ago,” answers the brother. I spotted it when I was out with a group…” he trails off after a warning look from his sister.

Minna catches her breath and doesn’t notice the signal between her children. “Bian disappeared six days ago!”

Keiji is agitated, but not hostile like before. “Can you find the place again where you found this doll?” he demands. “And is it possible these creatures have her?”

“Have Bian?” the sister shakes her head. “We would know if Bian or any other child were found by the Tynan.” She turns to face the brown creatures, makes gestures and odd noises which are answered by the strange little creatures, then turns back to Keiji. “No child has been found. But they will look. The camp is only a half day’s walk from that spot, and if she is there the Tynan will do their best to locate her.”

Fia speaks, now, “I will run to get Irem!” and she is gone.

The sister again turns to the brown creatures. Again she makes the gestures, the odd sounds. After a brief exchange with three of them, she turns back to Keiji. “They have sent their scouts to look for signs of Bian. They will let us know.”

“They have sent their scouts already?” asks the grandmother. “How?”

“Ah,” smiles the sister. That, too, is part of the story we have to tell.”

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