Jul 30, 2005

HR, 28

The squirrel was next in line to speak.

"I'm with the mice," he said, in a reedy, old voice. "If you really do get the man to help, I'll do what I can to help you."

Peg spoke for the birds:

"We'll serve you to the death!"

The sound of cawing above set all eyes to the sky: Sergei flew with great speed and kicked up a great deal of dust as he scampered to the ground. Ignoring the crowd, Sergei rushed to Harlequin and spoke between gasping breaths.

"We did not make it to the rookery. We met some of our brethren foraging on the northeast road and spoke to them of the news. As we spoke, the Pack appeared around the corner. The little one pointed at me and said that I was with the Chipmunk, and the General told the dog-things to catch us. They caught us and treated us most roughly to make us talk. The General said to tell you that he would come at sunset. He said he wants to fight the creature who destroyed Attila!"

Harlequin's face fell at the last piece of news. Sergei continued:

"Pavel has flown to rookery to tell them news. I come here to warn you to run away. You seem to be good creature, and I would not like to see you come to harm."

Harlequin looked around him: the rest of the creatures had not heard Sergei because of hushed breathless voice, but looked generally concerned after seeing Harlequin's crestfallen face. He stiffened his lip resolutely and called Hubert and Pegasus to his side, while pulling Sergei in a little closer.

"A brief war council," he explained to the crowd. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Sergei, we plan to fight the pack; Hubert and Pegasus are my lieutenants. Don't look so shocked: we have a good chance if we stick together, and we've got the whole field behind us. Sergei, I've put aside a pile of treasure that I'm going to use in return for the claw. I'll need you to watch that for me until just before sunset." A few more words and Sergei was dismissed to the tree, questioning Harlequin's sanity, but enraptured by the new piece of treasure: Attila's claw.

Harlequin brought his voice even lower for Hubert and Pegasus. "Unfortunately, I've already promised them Homeless Tony, and he's still not with us. I think he's a good enough sort, but I can't get him to believe I'm real. If we can make him believe it, I can get him to help us."

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