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.

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