*For the previous chapters, please go here. These are posted first draft, as the brain dictates to the fingers which are remarkably stupid. Also there will be inconsistencies because until September or so, the timing on these is wonky, and I’ll forget stuff between posts. Eventually it will be cleaned up and fixed just before page is made secret/taken down and the book is published. At that time I will take lists of typos or volunteers to proof read. For now, it’s written in a hurry, usually an hour before it goes up. And, let me remind you, it’s free – SAH*
The Language Of Birds
“Fifi?” Lord Michael gave her the oddest of looks. Then looked back at the thing flying nearer.
“It’s a dragonette?
“My brother, Aaron got a dragonette and put it in my embroidery box.” She cleared her throat. “He…. set fire to the drapes.”
“There are no dragons in Avalon,” Lord Michael said. “Our world.”
“I know, but Aaron likes animals.”
And then Fifi was upon them, making sounds of great irritation and exhaling puffs of flame. And Lord Michael did the strangest thing, reaching out, with his hand cupped. She sensed the spell in the hand, but didn’t recognize it. His hand reached behind Fifi’s head and petted it.
The dragonette turned an eye towards him and blinked, and that eye caught all the reflections in the environment, so it looked iridescent. “Oh,” she said. “It’s beautiful. But I thought he’d be grown up.”
Michael looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Fifi is a he?”
“Aaron likes the name Fifi. He names almost all his animals Fifi.”
“What…. what did you use? We didn’t know how to stop him burning the curtains. Only when he was with Aaron he wasn’t destructive. The rest of the time….”
“I see.” Lord Michael scratched Fifi behind the little holes that Al thought were its ears. Fifi crooned, then perched on Michael’s shoulder and headbumped his chin.
“Is it…. what magic did you use?”
“Just a spell to make him feel safe.”
“Why is he here?”
And then they heard it. It was the trumpeting of a swan, and turning around Michael said, “Geoff?”
But the dragonette flew off Lord Michael’s shoulder to sit on the swan and at any rate, Al didn’t need it to, to know the swan, coming solemnly down the road towards them was, in fact, not Geoff but Aaron. It was the way he moved, the way he squared his shoulders.
And that’s when she realized she could understand exactly what he was saying with his Trumpeting, “Al, thank heavens. I’m starving!”
“Oh, you poor thing,” Al said, going to meet him, and hugging him awkwardly, because, even though he was larger than Geoff, he was still a swan, and so not human sized. “I suppose there’s nothing here you can eat? Or perhaps nothing here you want to eat?”
He trumpeted back, and it was obvious he was saying, “Nothing I could eat. It’s dangerous.”
“I see,” she said.
And then turning to Lord Michael. “Can we give him some of the cake, and perhaps some of the bread, and also, I think some water? He’s hungry.”
Lord Michael blinked. “You understand the language of the birds?”
“No, just my brothers,” she said, and thinking about it. “It’s his expression and…. the way he trumpets, you know….”
They fed Aaron, and then suddenly in the middle of eating, he gave a very startled squawk that made Fifi fly out.
And Aaron ran. He ran behind a tree, and there was some very odd rustling, before he emerged, wearing a suit that looked much the worst for the wear but was recognizably one of the suits the boys had had at home.
Oh, he was also human. Which was a good thing, because if he were a swan the suit would fit really oddly. “Al,” he said, and ran his hand back through hair that was much too long. He also had stubble. Well, frankly, an unruly over all beard. “You shouldn’t have come.”
“Well, that’s some fine way to thank me,” she said.
“No, you don’t understand,” he said. “I came out and I was …. captured by the first task I was asked to do.”
“Oh,” Lord Michael said. It wasn’t a question, but he made it sound like a question, anyway.
Aaron looked at him, then at Al, and Al realized that she had completely foregone introductions. Mama would kill her, if she knew. She hurried through the introduction, and Aaron looked confused. “Lord Michael,” he said. “I don’t know–“
“Too long a story to tell you,” he said. “If I understand you, like your brothers and father are under a spell where only one of you can be human at a time. So. you say you got stymied by the first challenge. Will you tell us what it is?”
Aaron bowed, then shrugged, then led them down the road, at a fast trot. A path led off from the one they’d started off on. He said “This is how you know you can leave.”
Al was conscious of Lord Michael doing something she wasn’t sure what, but she knew it was to determine that Aaron was who he appeared to be. He seemed to be satisfied, as he followed after Aaron.
The path climbed a steep hill. At the top of it, there was a castle. “In this castle,” Aaron said. “There lives a king, who has no servants and who is trapped in this pocket universe. He cannot return to his own world until all the wheat in these fields,” he gestured to acres vanishing into the distance. “Is bread in his larder. Until all the fish in that river,” he said, pointing to a creek running by. “Is smoked and stored in his pantry. And until all the game in that forest,” he pointed to the other side of the mountainn. “Is also smoked and salted and stored.” Aaron’s shoulders slumped. “I tried. I really did. but I could not do it. I kept changing into a swan, and I couldn’t even eat any of the food from here.” He looked on the verge of tears. “So, I’ve been stuck here, and unable to go on and save our father!”
Al looked around, and then she too felt like crying. “I don’t think it’s possible,” she said.
But Michael smiled. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I have an idea.”