Aug 13, 2005

HR, 42

When the steam parted a few minutes later, Peg appeared, flapping her way over the northwest wall. She cooed and squawked and beat her wings together to rouse the creatures of the field from their holes and hiding spots.

"Dogs all gone. General gone. Big mean dog gone. We win! We win!" She repeated this last part excitedly as she flew around the field.

Humboldt jumped to his feet and led the mice in a series of cheers. Sergei and Mitzi cawed happily. The old squirrel danced about with bewildered pigeons, tripping over his own trip wires.

Harlequin sat in the midst of the celebration, his face blank and his eyes fixed on the door in the alleyway. Peg swooped to his side and landed gamely on her sole foot. She cackled in laughter.

"The Big Dog chased me right into human building. Humans were very angry, caught dog. Didn't catch me," she crowed.

"We won battle," she continued, smacking precociously at Harlequin's slumped back with her wings. "Dogs all gone!"

"Hubert's gone," Harlequin mumbled. "The man..."

Peg blinked. She did not understand. Harlequin sniffed a little and shed one tear. With a cough, he cleared his throat, and turned to face Peg, bright resolution renewed in his face.

"You're right. We did win." Harlequin hopped spryly to his feet and joined in the celebration. Within a few moments, Harlequin's sadness departed, replaced by the glorious new ideas he had for the field.

"We're to make this field an animal city for all the animals lost in the human city!" he shouted to cheers led by the zealous Humboldt.

Indeed, they did. The legend of the mighty chipmunk who defeated a demon cat and an entire pack of dogs spread far and wide, and with it travelled the hope of freedom and safety in the city. Animals of every stripe, feather and scale would flock to the field: new friends, new resources and new problems for Harlequin and his band.

THE END (Rough Draft)

Aug 12, 2005

HR, 41

Billows of steam swept over the field, enveloping Harlequin, the General and the creatures hiding from him.

Though sure of his own death, Harlequin found strange comfort in the steam. It had the light, pleasant scent of rice, and it warmed his aching limbs.

The General was apparently hypnotized by it; he stopped his dreaded approach and remained still.

A footstep sounded from the alley; it was a heavy step, certainly much heavier than a dogs. It sounded again rhythmically. These were sure, steady footsteps.

Harlequin, momentarily relieved of his fears, cracked an eye open and strained to perceive a shadowy figure of a man moving forward through the steam. He saw the form reach with it's arm and bring up an object in it's grasp. Light caught the object and reflected back sharply, rays cutting paths through the steam; it was a blade, a butcher's knife.

Harlequin turned, dazed to see the shadow of the General. He was crouched defensively. A growl rumbled from his belly; it was a fearful growl, Harlequin noted with astonishment. The man approached the General, moving forward in great steps as the General slowly backed away. Silently, the man raised the butcher's knife above his head. It's deadly edge glinted in the sun.

The General did not wait for it to come down; he sprang backwards and bounded off the field, his image vanishing in the steam.

Harlequin saw the man come closer. His face was still obscured, but Harlequin saw that we was robed in black, with bright red stitching visible through the cloudiness.

"Ahhhh, the good dog," an accented voice sounded from the direction of the man. It suddenly struck Harlequin that this had been the same voice he'd heard just before Attila had disappeared.

The man bent down and coddled Hubert's limp form into his arms and lifted him quietly. Turning away from Harlequin, he walked off into the steam. Harlequin heard the creak of the door and a thud as it closed.

Aug 11, 2005

HR, 40

The General was obviously angry and not in the mood for dimplomacy, but Harlequin tried anyway.

"Listen, General," he said, his paws poised at their stations on the lighter. ""There's really no reason we can't live peacably in each other's presence. There's ample food for all," he nodded his head towards the Chinese restaurant, and then produced a pristine sytrofoam container he'd found in one of the white trash bags. He opened it to reveal an untouched meatball, glistening under sweet and sour sauce.

"Man-made filth," spat the General, his eyes fixed on Harlequin. He moved steadily forward as he spoke. "Fool of a chipmunk. This is my field, and all who remain on it are mine, to command or to eat; whatever I wish. You have no scheme, no skill, and no game that will stop me. Run if you'd like, I will catch you."

Harlequin shook his head grimly and sparked the lighter. A small bluish flame hovered from it's tip; he immediately set the stone-and-leaf ball in the spoon alight. The General closed and leapt towards Harlequin, mouth ajar, teeth bared. Hubert released his paw; the fireball rocketed from the shuddering spoon and disappeared into the General's open mouth. The General was bowled over: he staggered about, his face contorted in pain.

"You don't think we've killed him, do you?" asked Harlequin horrified.

With a terrible cough, the General spat the ball from his mouth; it rolled along the ground, slobbery but still sizzling.

The General laughed hoarsely. "Hubert, old friend. I hope you didn't mean to do that. Strange courage from an old heap like you."

Hubert looked down sadly at Harlequin. His eyes were bigger than ever, and his folds drooped even more so than before.

"You better run away, now, little one. You done good," Hubert whispered in his deep baritone. With his padded paw, he swept Harlequin behind him, and turned to face the General.

"Out of my way, old one," rasped the General, looking around him to try and see Harlequin.

Hubert leapt up and brought his two front paws crashing onto the General's unsuspecting head and knocking him to the ground. Harlequin watched from the grass as Hubert bared his teeth in a snarl; it was the first time he'd seen him look angry.

With a roar, the General snapped his scarred head upwards, catching Hubert full on the jaw and knocking him backward. In a flash, the General was on him, bringing his powerful jaws down with crushing on Hubert's unprotected flank. Hubert struck back in pain, his paws pounding desperately on the sides of the General's head. The General batted them off and raked at Hubert's face.

Harlequin couldn't bare to look, but he couldn't bring himself to run. He dug his claws in the ground as he heard the sounds of the struggle. He heard a great cry and then silence; he looked up anxiously. The General, rose from the ground, bloodied and limping. Hubert lay still on the ground.

The General grinned with crimsoned teeth. Harlequin could not move; he closed his eyes.

He heard the the General's dragging footsteps and then, from somewhere behind him, he heard the familiar creak of a door.

Aug 10, 2005

HR, 39

Jasper, Scout and Toothless followed Dorian's lead and bolted from the field.

Hell, still unable to untangle himself from the wires felt the full force of the birds' attack. He writhed about violently, knocking the wind from several would-be opponents. With a thundering series of barks and snarls, he sought to scare off the weaker-minded birds.

Peg was undeterred. Again and again she dove within a wing's breadth of Hell's gnashing teeth, to peck and scratch at his sensitive ears and cheeks. Hell became more and more enraged, foaming at the mouth in his fury.

Ignoring Peg's attacks for a moment, Hell twisted his barrel-like neck towards his hindlegs, which were coiled in copper wire. With a powerful tug from his jaw, he snapped the wires like old thread and sprang to his feet. Peg had just begun her dive, and desperately spun away as she saw white teeth rising up to her. Hell came away with a mouth full of feathers.

Behind him the General, fighting off a crow, shouted for Hell to aid him in destroying the bright light. Hell ignored the voice, spitting out feathers. Peg the pigeon was now in retreat and Hell gave chase. Hopping a few paces on her one leg, and flying awkwardly for a few feet was Peg, maintaining a short distance from Hell's eager jaws. Soon she was off the field and out of sight, and Hell followed without so much as a look back.

The General set himself into a barking rage at the disappearance of his Pack.

"No more games!" he roared. Ignoring bird pecks and mouse bites, he pressed on, pushing through wires and towards the painful light. The distance closed quickly and he thrashed the makeshift mirror with his paw. The animals around him scattered for cover. The General could scarcely see: light-spots still blocked his vision. He saw a form trying to make its way out from under the cardboard of the mirror. With cat-like agility, he brought his paw down on its tail setting it squealing in panic. Squinting at it, he thought it might be Harlequin the chipmunk.

"If it isn't the chipmunk who spoke so boldly? Tell me: is this how you killed Attila?" The General laughed. The creature could only manage frightened whimpers in response.

"You're fight's with me General," came the distinctive voice of Harlequin, a few yards ahead.

The General squinted at the source of the voice and made out to blurry figures. He released the creature under his paw, a mouse, and proceeded towards them with a growl.

Harlequin stood by his spoon catapult, lighter in hand. Hubert, recently escaped from the wires, held the bowl down, and panted anxiously as the General drew nearer.

Aug 9, 2005

HR, 38

The Pack appeared from behind the wall, looking fierce and confident. They had scared the man away and we're ready to feast on the lesser creatures.

When Dorian saw Hubert some ten yards ahead of him, tripping and stumbling over unseen objects in the field, he merely laughed scornfully and made a mean comment about Hubert's long ears and floppy skin. His laugh was cut short as one of his paws stopped on something in the grass and he fell painfully onto his snout.

All around him, the rest of the Pack were unwittingly discovering similar traps and hitting the ground.

"They've rigged the whole field," the General growled, trying to regain his footing. "Think they're real clever, don't they? Take it slow, you lot. You'll only fall down harder if you run."

Jasper had just tried to overcome the obstacles by running as fast as he could and now lay stunned on the ground.

"Show them the mirror!" came a shout from further ahead in the grass. It was Harlequin. The dogs looked up to find the chipmunk, and saw a cardboard slab raised a few yards ahead of them.

"Arrgh!"Dorian squealed. He was the closest and received the bright flash of reflected night with no warning. The rest of the dogs looked away, blinking their eyes, but quickly became re-entangled in the wires.

The General snarled inwardly, rolling about to get his hindpaw out from under a copper-wire. The chipmunk and his gang were more resourceful than he'd imagined. He heard flapping just above him and saw a crunched up bottle of motor oil land beside him, splashing blackish ooze all over his face. The powerful smell drenched his sensitive nose, sending him into a coughing fit.

All around the dogs, birds dropped whatever smelly pieces of garbage Humboldt had found; a particularly aromatic package of spoiled, bloody meat landed on Hell's massive head. Hell thrashed about wildly, thinking some beast was upon, inadvertently tying himself up in lengths of copper wire. The rest of the Pack was in similar disarray, fumbling about in the wrong directions, tripping, sneezing and cursing.

Dorian's eyes had begun to recover and he pressed on angrily to bite whoever held up the bright light. Glancing forward under heavy eyelids, he thought he saw black silhouettes approaching. He sniffed to sense if his eyes were deceiving him, but he could only smell the bleach soaked rag a bird had droped in front of him. Suddenly, sounding from just beside his ear, he heard the chipmunk yell shrilly.

"Bite and run! Bite and run!"Dorian heard him say and felt something brush past his side. He snarled and yapped blindly; the cursed light kept him from seeing anything.

"Yeeeeoooww!" he yelped. Something had just bitten into his paw. He clawed at the ground, bot no one was there. He leapt in pain as something sank it's teeth into it's tail. He reacted quickly enough to send a mouse flying off into the grass this time.

He felt two taloned feet strike at the small of his back, knocking him to the ground. Sparrows pecked and scratched at him, black shadows against the blinding light. Dorian sprang to his feet, yelping helplessly. Again the birds came, this time from behind him. He heard the pained cries of dogs around him and saw nothing of the General or big, old Hell.

When he saw another black outline rushing at him, he didn't bother to snap at it; he ran as fast as he could the other way.

Aug 8, 2005

HR, 37

Harlequin gulped.

"Come now," rasped the General. "I'm not that much bigger than Attila. At least you won't have to fight Hell over here." He nodded his head in the rottweiler's direction.

"General, this conflict isn't about me and a duel between the two of us would accomplish nothing. There are others who wish to live free of the Pack: countless inhabitants of the field behind me are with me, as is Peg, and Hubert." Harlequin paused dramatically before pointing to Homeless Tony. "And a human: Homeless Tony!" He shouted to Homeless in English: "You're with me, right, Tony?"

Homeless Tony's eyes were fixed nervously on the growling rottweiler, but responded with a weak "yeah." The General was amused.

"Quite a chipmunk; learned the human tongue, have you? And I suppose you think I'm frightened? Hmmm..." The General trailed off in mock thoughtfulness. "Tell me, Hell," he said to the rottweiler. "Are you frightened?" Hell's jaws were twisted in such a fierce snarl that his response was undiscernable. Harlequin did not think he was frightened.

Hell flexed into a leaping stance, suddenly; Homeless Tony jumped. The dogs laughed and circled him. Homeless Tony was wild-eyed; Hell rushed at him snarling. As Homeless backed away hastily, the General ran behind him and tripped him up. Already a little unbalanced, Homeless went down heavily, arms and legs kicking helplessly at the air. Overcome with panic, Homeless scrambled madly to his hands and knees, clawing at the cement of the sidewalk to get away.

He pushed himself to his feet and sprinted down the sidewalk and out of sight. The dogs gave token chase, but turned back quickly and trotted back towards Harlequin, grinning.

Harlequin watched, stunned, his mouth and eyes wide. Peg pecked at him harshly. "It's war time," she said. Harlequin shook himself out of his reverie.

"Quickly, back to the field!" he commanded, running nimbly back through the grass. He hopped over one of the squirrel's cleverly placed tripwires. He turned to shout a warning to Hubert, but before the words could excape his lips, one of Hubert's great drooping paws had caught on some string and he'd tumbled to the ground.

Harlequin arrived at the small dirt mound he'd previously designated as headquarter's. Humboldt and his mirror and Sergei were waiting with questioning looks. Peg landed behind him. Harlequin saw a few mice disappearing into holes by the south wall.

"They're afraid," explained Humboldt. "We still have a few brave ones."

"Good," said Harlequin, catching his breath. "Peg, I'm going to need your birds to drop all this nasty smelling stuff Homboldt's collected on the sidewalk. If the dogs can't smell us, we'll be able to evade them better. Humboldt run up their right now and set up the mirror to reflect the sun in their eyes when they come round the northwest corner. Hopefully that will distract them enough so they get tangled in the wires. Then, Peg, attack with your birds, and we'll do our best from the ground. Once Hubert gets here, we can operate the catapult."

The animals sped to do as they were bidden. The Pack was getting closer.

Aug 7, 2005

HR, 36

One dog was significantly larger than the other. He was a rottweiler. Huge muscles powered his massive form forward; his eyes were great and empty like a shark's and his powerful jaws parted to reveal a gleaming row of cruelly pointed teeth.

The smaller of the two was somehow more frightening. Hubert whispered that this one was the General. He looked to be a German Shepherd, though he was so covered with scars that he looked like no other of his kind. His eyes were bright and aware, sizing up Harlequin in the distance. His manner unnerved Harlequin; he walked calmly, with measured steps, ignoring the babbling dogs around him, looking only at Harlequin.

"Let's stand our ground. Homeless, wait for my signal." Harlequin's voice trembled. Homeless Tony was visibly agitated at the sight of the big dog and looked fearfully at Harlequin.

The dogs stopped a few feet in front of them, the littler ones watching from the safety of the rear. The General stepped ahead of the Pack and spoke only to Harlequin.

"It's the chipmunk I've heard so much about." His voice was hoarse and rough. "They say you've killed my cat, Attila. That's a strong claim, from something as small as yourself."

Harlequin answered with as much bravado as he could fake and prayed that hsi voice wouldn't shake too much. "What's said and what's true are two different things. What do you want here?"

The General bristled a little. "This is my land. I am the law. I am the leader of the Pack. No one does anything without my permission." He softened his tone. "Now, let me explain your situation. Beasts get to thinking you killed Attila, and they get to thinking foolish thoughts. Thoughts about you maybe getting rid of me. Now, I can't have that."

The General broadened his smile. "It seems to me only fair that we decide this in combat. Defeat me and all this land will be yours. My dogs are too weak and cowardly to oppose you."

Aug 6, 2005

HR, 35

Harlequin landed back on the field he was greeted by his worried friends. He was genuinely confident and spoke to them in eagerly assuring tones.

"It's just the little dogs up front. Perhaps, we can scare them away."

A pigeon perched on the northeastern wall squawked in warning. The dogs were arrived.

Harlequin sprang into action, scampering about at a hectic pace putting his recruits into their proper position and then sprinting to the front as Peg and Hubert desperately tried to catch up with him. Homeless Tony lagged behind, still looking confused over the whole spectacle.

The field came to an end north at the sidewalk, with a wall it's western border. Harlequin was there at the edge, flanked by Peg and Hubert when the dogs appeared onto the sidewalk from behind the wall. Dorian sneered in recognition. He was a little worse for wear from his fight with Jasper, but did his best to look intimidating.

"You know you're in trouble, chipmunk? Attila was a good friend of ours, and the General don't take kindly to no rodent talking about bumping him off. Getting smart with one of the Pack didn't help you out much. But, seeing as we are the law, and we like to keep justice, we'll give you a chance. If you get out of here, the General won't rip you to pieces when he sees you here. I make no promises about myself or the boys here, but at least it would be one less dog to worry about." Dorian snickered evilly. Behind him, Toothless looked at Harlequin with a disturbing interest that resembled hunger.

Harlequin smirked. Something about Dorian brought out the competitor in him. "Listen, runt. You don't give orders here. This field is free now, and you can either enjoy that like the rest of us like a good little dog, or you can be foolish and try to cross me. What's it going to be?"

Dorian snapped his teeth and prepared to strike, but Hubert stepped forward with a surprising air of authority.

"Keep your paws off, Dorian. If you know what's good for you, you'll leave. These beasts are prepared to fight. And I'm with them."

Dorian rolled his eyes grotesquely. "The horror! A ferocious basset hound, a one-legged pigeon and a cat-killer chipmunk. I'm scared, aren't you boys?" Toothless, Jasper and the other dog, named Scout, growled, fur standing on end in anticipation of a fight.

"I think you missed someone," said Harlequin dryly. He cocked his head back towards the field and shouted in English: "Homeless! I could use your help here!"

Homeless Tony staggered out from the wall, prompting the dogs to yelp in fear and step back snarling.

"Get rid of them, Tony! Scare them!" Harlequin encouraged.

Homeless Tony took a lumbering step towards the dogs, and they stepped back slowly. Suddenly he charged them, hollering "shoo!" and "scat!" and waving his arms wildly over his head. The dogs tripped over themselves in trying to get away and bolted back down the sidewalk, not looking back.

Harlequin whooped triumphantly and jumped high in the air, praising Homeless Tony profusely. He ran over to Hubert and hugged his leg.

Hubert looked down and smiled a little, as best as his drooping lips could manage. A familiar scent caught his nose, and his head shot upright. His face fell. Harlequin turned to see two new dogs appear a dozen yards away.

The little dogs had stopped running and now followed these two dogs: Harlequin's heart sank as they came closer. They were the biggest, meanest dogs he'd ever seen.

Aug 5, 2005

HR, 34

"Let's try to talk this over with them first," Harlequin said to the whole group. He turned to Peg, Hubert and Homeless. "You three, wait for my command. (He translated in English for Homeless Tony). The rest of you: take your battle positions." Humboldt's group scattered behind their cardboard slab and grasped it firmly, while the old squirrel and his mice and birds headed into the grass to attend to their trip wires.

Harlequin summoned Sergei and Mitzi to his side.

"Can you carry me?" he asked. Sergei took stock of him with his eyes and squawked a "yes."

After a few whispered directions from Harlequin, the crows took hold of his two forelimbs in their talons and lifted him a few inches from the ground. There was some awkward flapping and Harlequin hit the ground a few times before they were safely in the air. Silently, they flew high above the field and northward.

The feeling of flight was new and thrilling to Harlequin. It felt as if he had jumped and kept on rising. So fresh was the wind in his face, that he nearly missed the sight of the dogs for excitement. He shouted for the crows to let him down on top of a square little building just ahead of the dogs; they landed quietly.

It was an uncomfortably hot roof: Harlequin stifled squeaks of pain as he gingerly stepped to the edge and peered over. The dogs were approaching on the sidewalk, looking about cautiously for the sign of humans. There was Dorian at the front, the smallest of the group. Trotting behind him were three scraggly looking dog; one was an ancient looking labrador, covered in gray fur, with a bit of an ear missing and gaps where his fangs used to be (Harlequin assumed this was the one Hubert had called toothless); the other two were medium-sized dogs of uncertain breed.

Toothless slowed his pace and came to a stop just beneath Harlequin. Dorian turned about and barked impatiently.

"What's holding you up, Toothless?"

"I just smelled some critters nearby. I think we're awful close to the chipmunk and his gang. We'd better wait for the General."

"His gang? Still going on about the babbling of that crow?" Dorian was incredulous. "All he's got is mice and crows, and he's just a scrawny mouse himself."

"How do you suppose he killed Attila, then, eh?" one of the other dogs interjected. "That cat could have torn you to shreds with one claw and fetched a sparrow with the other."

Dorian snarled and stared down the dog. "Shut your yap, Jasper."

Jasper grinned cruelly and went on. "And if he was so scrawny, why'd you come running to the General with your tail 'tween your legs, whimpering like a scared pup?"

Jasper yelped furiously and leapt on Jasper. The two yapped and nipped at each other, rolling about on the pavement. The other two dogs watched eagerly and barked out encouragements.

Harlequin gestured to Mitzi and Sergei. "Now's the time," he said; "take me back."

He felt their feet pull at his shoulders and he was airborne once again.

Aug 4, 2005

HR, 33

The various inhabitants ran or flew to see what had produced the fireball. Some concerned murmurs made their way through the ranks.

"What you've just seen," boomed Harlequin, "is just an example of what sort of hell we can loose on the Pack should they choose to be disagreeable. This," he pointed at his new contraption, "is our secret weapon. Hopefully, we won't need to use it, but should the need arise, they will know we have fire on our side. Humboldt and my friend the squirrel, won't you give us a report."

Humboldt stepped forward and gestured at the mice behind him. With a great deal of squeaking and heaving the brought their cardboard slap over and tipped it to make its surface visible. A bright flash of white light made the animals look away. The surface of the cardboard was covered with mirror shards, flashy aluminum foil and gum wrappers that reflected the sun. The mice quickly pointed it away to spare their audience.

"This will render the pack blind if they choose to be hostile," explained Harlequin, blinking and rubbing his eyes. "And that's where the squirrel come in."

"We've done everything you said," piped the old squirrel. "Wires set up all over the north side of the field. Any beast that isn't paying careful attention won't be able to move a paw's length without tripping up and getting tangled."

Hubert had been digesting all this information in thoughtful silence; he sniffed deeply and spoke up.

"This is an excellent plan Harlequin, I must admit. However, you have forgotten a dog's most powerful sense: his smell. If you take away a dog's eyes and paws, he'll still hunt you down with his nose."

Harlequin nodded. "Sage advice, Hubert. I thank you for it. Humboldt, did you run across any terrible smells in those dumpsters you were rummaging through?"

Humboldt whistled in the affirmative.

"Take your crew and fetch the worst of it then. And be quick about it, we haven't much time left!"

Humboldt and his mice scampered away into the alley. As soon as he had left, Harlequin began to assign battle positions when Sergei rawkously flapped his way into their midst.

"The little dogs are approaching. The General is not far behind. Is time to stop them now, before they get closer."

Harlequin battled back the nervous twitch of a whisker. "The moment of truth, friends. Pegasus, Hubert, Homeless: to me!"

Aug 3, 2005

HR, 32

Harlequin set the spool on the ground and placed the spoon on top of it, the long handle under the taut spring. He sat on the bowl of the spoon warily: it slowly descended to the ground, the handle straining under the pressure of the spring. As hee jumped off, the bowl rocketed upwards, coming to a sudden, vibrating halt as the spring brought the handle back to the ground. He clapped his paws together happily.

Hubert growled in confusion. Harlequin wagged a claw at him and gave a "tsk, tsk."

"Just you wait," he said. "There's more."

He produced some stray wire the squirrel's group had missed and set it down; after a few minutes of foraging, he brought back piles of dead grass and leaves and several medium sized pebbles and set them next to it. Taking a pebble, he wrapped a brittle old leaf orund it and stuffed in the browned grass; holding the assembly together with his feet, he coiled the wire around it and tied it off with a twist. He held up the resulting ball up for Hubert's observation.

Hubert still did not understand. Harlequin placed the ball in the bowl of the spoon and beckoned Hubert to come over. Under Harlequin's guidance, Hubert set a heavy paw on the edge of the bowl and brought it to the ground.

"Don't let go until I say, you hear?" said Harlequin sternly. He fetched the lighter and brought it close, fumbling with the metal wheel at the top. He got a few sparks, but he couldn't produce the flame.

"Tony!" he bellowed in English. Homeless Tony, who'd been sitting in the alley with a dazed expression, stumbled out from behind the wall and approached.

"How do you work this thing?" Harlequin asked, holding up the lighter. Homeless Tony plucked it from his grasp. With a powerful thumb he turned the wheel and produced a slender flame from the lighter.

"Hold it! Hold it!" shouted Harlequin excitedly. "Now bring it down here." Hubert shrank from the flame as Homeless Tony brought it close to the bowl. The ball caught fire and Hubert drew his paw away instinctively.

"Not yet!" Harlequin wailed as the bowl sprang upward, launching the flaming ball into the air.

Hubert gasped, watching the the fireball travel far across the field and arc downwards, smashing into the the ground in a great shower of orange sparks. The sparks dwindled harmlessly in the dirt.

"Well," Harlequin sighed, "at least you've seen what it does. That should put some fear into those dogs, eh?" Harlequin elbowed Hubert in the ribs.

Hubert nodded quietly, eyes fixed on the dying embers. "Amazing," he mumbled.

Aug 2, 2005

HR, 31

Harlequin met with Sergei and exchanged the claw for a huge mound of crows' treasure.

"I'm hoping you know what to do with this," Hubert said bleakly.

Harlequin did know what to do: he organized his crowd of curious recruits into three work groups, picking an intelligent mouse named Humboldt (the one who'd been so enthusiastic before) to head the first, the old squirrel for the second and himself for the third. The three of them spent sometime in intense discussion, before each led his own group his separate way.

Humboldt, excited at the prospect of leadership, sprinted towards the dumpster. In a feat of impressive cooperation, several mice formed a chain by linking tails and paws and lowered Humboldt into the blackness of the dumpster. After some chewing and scratching echoing from within, he emerged with a large, flat piece of cardboard.

Meanwhile the squirrel led his group in a search through the treasure pile to extract all the wire and bits of string available. When each member was burdened with a hefty pile, they disappeared into the long grass purposefully.

Harlequin's group consisted of himself and Hubert, and they took their time sorting through the pile. Harlequin had a mysterious spark to his eye as he pulled out a shiny silver soup spoon, the lighter, a spool that had been stripped of its copper wire by the old squirrel and a penknife. He also stole a rusted spring from the old squirrel's pawful.

Hubert watched with big eyes, as Harlequin snatched a stick fallen from the tree and sharpened it with the pen knife. After a great deal of study of the terrain, he took the rusted spring and wordlessly handed one end to Hubert. Stretching it as tight as his muscles could manage, he took his sharpened stick and drove it through an end coil, pinning the spring to the ground. Marching to Hubert's position, he repeated the maneuver, this time with the penknife.

Aug 1, 2005

HR, 30

Homeless Tony settled into a nervous crouch and stared at them, open-mouthed.

"Listen up," piped Harlequin, trying to reign him in before he got going again.

"I'll do whatever you say," said Homeless Tony.

"That's perfect," shouted Harlequin, gleefully. "It won't be much, I assure you, but it will be very helpful. The whole field will be indebted to you."

"You mean there's more of your kind?" Homeless Tony pointed at them curiously.

"Oh, yes. Much more. And first off, I'd like you to say a few words to them. You know, to improve morale and all?"

Homeless Tony did not know, but he nodded obligingly. "Lead on, spirit," he mumbled.

Harlequin decided that it would be to greater effect if he could stand on the palm of Homeless Tony's hand and speak. It would be an inspirational sight to his timid followers. Under Harlequin's direction, Homeless Tony scooped him up and trudged towards the alley, Hubert following at his heel.

The sight of a man approaching sent the crowd of recruits skittering and flapping away, but Harlequin rallied them with a cry.

"Don't be afraid! This is the human I spoke to you of: he's here to help us scare off the Pack."

The creatures slowly reassembled in front of Homeless Tony, gaping at Harlequin's confident stance in Homeless Tony's giant hand.

"Tell them you mean no harm, Homeless Tony."

Homeless Tony ran his free hand over his stubble.

"Woof?" he said.

"Oh, I forgot you don't speak the common animal tongue. Never mind: perhaps you can pet them?"

Homeless Tony bent to one knee. "They'll really let me?" he asked.

One by one the mice approached and let Homeless Tony stroke their fur. Curiosity got the best of the rest of the crowd and they bunched up around Homeless Tony's feet. He grinned and set Harlequin down to pet two at a time.

Harlequin sidled up to Hubert and pulled back his drooping ear to whisper into it.

"They've really taken to him, haven't they?"

Hubert shook his head in amazement. "I've never seen such a thing. I might be crazy, but I'm beginning to think this crazy plan might work."