A Shepherd's Tale


Ellis Acton Bell

Hello once again fellow bards and fellow patrons of this site. You like me you really like me. The emails were just great-just great, I'm still showing them off to everyone at the university.

I hope ya'll enjoy the next part too.

I'd like to thank my dear wife Anhelica, and the saints. As always this story is dedicated to those long gone, those forgotten, those far from forgotten, those missing from our lives for now or forever...to the faithfully departed, the candle is always lit in our hearts.

Blessed Be.


From the Book of Faith;

The tales of St. Tori

The Goddess saw enemies come to her island none of her heroes could stop them, for the time being there were no heroes Heraekles had long taken a place among the stars. The Goddess called for a saint and they all took arms against those who despised them, they went to defeat the people but lost in battle.

The Great Goddess took to the earth to search out a new hero, a pure heart who could look upon Her face and receive Her light. On Her journey the Goddess found a girl drowned in a bayou, she had fallen by the hand of her own envious sister.

The Goddess mourned the lost life, and breathed life into the girl who awoke and looked upon the Goddess and received Her light. The girl was Tori of a little village, and she swore to the Goddess that she would repay her and destroy all who despised her people.

To prove herself the girl killed the Gorgon's hind and presented its skull and skin to the Goddess who dressed in the skin in winter and named the girl a saint and a hero. Tori gathered her village men, women, boys, and girls and armed with shepherd's staffs, hoes, and shovels they defeated their enemy and chased them from the island like wilden sheep.

In times of war we're all the losers

there's no victory

we shoot to kill and kill your lover

fine by me

war child victim of political pride

plant the seed

territorial greed

mind the war child

we should mind the war child

War Child

The Cranberries (best band ever)

Part Two:

The Occupation of Chocolate Bayou

Chapter four: Crouns-step

By noon the next morning the head of each household was gathered in the Lucky Ram, the walls were lined with Crouns soldiers armed with their guns. Quarters were very close, and there was plenty of anger generating.

Skip prowled close to Flighty as she translated the new rules under the Crouns occupation, there was a large portrait hung over the hearth in the place of the buck horns, it was of Her Empress-Furher Enstah Walker, she looked a lot like Flighty, Skip thought, those same little green eyes.

"There is to be a curfew at night, beginning after dusk, anyone out past this time will be punished..."

Skip feared for Flighty the men were suspicious, but she, Patty, and Lillie took up for her.

Patty made it known that they were sweethearts and that Skip would never side against her people. Since the hind incident though she did not have much credibility, but for the time being the men were satisfied.

Flighty continued with the rules, this had been the Commander's idea though she spoke their language she had to implicate her sister in some way.

"The island of new Avalon I hereby occupied by the authority of Crousten anyone interfering with the authority of Her Empress will be punished."

"What does that mean?" Pendleson whispered to Doc Hawthorn.

"It means lie down and don't give ‘em any guff," The Doc said.

The Commander continued, and Flighty translated:

"The price of wool will be lowered fifty cents; all trade and import with Amertia and its allies is hereby discontinued, all wool with be sold to Crounsten at the new price."

"Bloody rip," Amoschild spoke up, "Now the rest of you can let this wild bitch come and tell you what to do and how but not me."

"Pardon?" the Commander asked.

Flighty paled looking at Skip for support.

A murmur rippled through the crowd and Amoschild's eyes darted wildly, the fool had not counted on her knowing their language.

"Arrest that man," she said, "Have him flogged and butcher ten of his sheep."

There was a short scuffle as he flailed his fists at the black clad Crouns soldiers ready to fight, his brother in law Fisherson tried to help. The both of them were quickly over powered and dragged out of the tavern.

"I know your people are peaceful, you should pride yourselves," the Commander said to the remaining citizens, "It is much easier to die fighting than to survive, to except your place and be humble, to follow the rules. We are not at war with New Avalon, it is Amertia who stole your boys-they are the ones that we hate, with your help Crounsten can make a better life for your island under the rule of the Empress Furher."

With that she stood straight, the soldiers did too saluting then lining up outside the tavern they marched down the street in perfect rows, chanting in their language, they kept their legs stiff extending them out, lifting their heels in an arc. It looked very impressive to Skip and she could see that other people watched their eyes were somber, but awe pulled at the corners of their mouths.

She went to Flighty's side,

"She has her example," Flighty said of her sister, "I am so sorry."

"Amoschild will be alright," Skip said though she was not sure, "Let's get out of here, we have to go to pasture."

Outside the crowd was slowly dispersing on foot, horse, and wagon, they collected Lightning and Bach from the railing outside the Lucky Ram.

"I don't rightly feel like it Skip," Flighty said, "Would you go for a ride with me? Just around?"

"Alright," she agreed, "What is it?"

"I don't trust Anhke, I feel like she will hurt you just to hurt me," she said, "I don't want to let you out of my sight."

Skip smiled,

"Nothing's going to happen," she said as they began up White Stone road, a few of the cars rolled past.

The Commander had set up just beyond town in the pastures just north of Shepherd's point.

"How about some music?" Skip asked removing her fiddle case from the saddle- bag.

Flighty brightened,

"Just a bit."

Skip played for her as they rode along, Flighty leading the way they rode over Chocolate Bayou, and nearly out of town.

"Where we going?" she asked.

"Away for awhile," Flighty smiled, "Keep playing, won't you Skip."

"Sure," she said.

Her friend finally stopped in Strawberry meadow, Skip blushed furiously, the spot was a known meeting place for lovers.

"We could leave, Skip," Flighty said, "We could ride away from here, I've thought about it since last night, I could put on a uniform and leave this island."

"You wouldn't," she said, "You're more a citizen here than I am."

Flighty sat in the grass, Skip stretched out next to her, the horses wandered on grazing.

"I fear things will get worse," she said softly, "This has been a very aggressive war, many people have died, Crounsten and Amertia both hide the numbers but there are many."

She lay down next to Skip and pulled closer.

"What is it like being such an officer?" she asked, "Did you Command a lot of soldiers?"

Flighty laughed,

"Curious Skip," she commented, "Yes, but what I liked best were the marches, my mother came up with the idea of having these great parades every week in different cities, and I got to lead them."

"Really?" she asked, "You? Short little Flighty?"

"Yes, I was quite good," she said.

"Well show me," Skip pleaded.

Flighty stood and looked around suspiciously,

"For you Skip," she said straightening and saluting, she grinned broadly and began to march the stiff legged march, she made a couple of paces away then turned and came back.

"What is it that you are saying?" Skip asked.

"I'm counting," Flighty smiled wryly, "Sish, Ni, Ka, Lem...one, two, three, four."

Skip laughed,

"You say it with such purpose though."

Flighty shrugged and winked,

"In Crounsten everything is done with much purpose," she said and began to march again,

"Sish, ni, ka, lem," she chanted, "Sish, ni, ka, lem."

Skip giggled, feeling giddy all of a sudden she sat in the grass laughing until her sides ached.

Flighty just kept right on, she was so short, and adorable in her baggies, and her face took on a very serious expression, which made Skip laugh harder.

"Flighty Walkerson, Skip Fairchild," Patty had arrived beyond they could see Toothy trotting towards the other horses,

"St. Elton save us," she said, "What are you two doing out here?"

Flighty froze, and Skip wiped her eyes with the back of her hands.

"Do you think this is some sort of game?" Patty asked, "I just convinced a bunch of very drunk men not to slaughter all your sheep, Flighty."

Skip stood,

"Aww we were just fooling."

"Well you picked the right time," she answered sarcastically, "Just be glad I ain't Greyson and Carrolson all up on blacksap."

"I'm sorry Patty," Flighty looked away.

Patty sighed,

"C'mon you two Rita's roasted the biggest turkey you've ever seen, and she's invited you for supper."

They gathered their horses and rode off to Patty's where Rita stuffed them full of turkey and pepper jam, bread and veggies.

"You know there was a bludgeoning last night, over at the Waterchild place," Lillie said after dinner as they sat around the fire,

"Sheep this time, heard someone say it was the Crouns all along."

Skip shivered and felt Flighty's hand close around her own.

"Fools," Gertie grumbled, Baby Lenny asleep on her ample bosom, "Next they'll be burning witches."

"Could be a scare tactic," Patty said, "Make us all afraid of our own shadows. Play on our suspicions."

Lillie laughed,

"Or it could be a bloody hind you fool."

"Or just a wolf," Flighty spoke up.

"You'd know wouldn't you Flighty?" Patty asked.

"How could she?" Lillie asked.

"I don't," Flighty said, "I've never heard of such a thing."

Skip spoke up,

"Just because she's Crounsten doesn't mean she knows all their secrets."

Lillie sighed,

"Calm yourself girl, we're all friends here," she yawned and stretched, "I suggest we all get home before dark, and get a good rest, tomorrow we see about grazing our sheep."

There was a knock on the door, Patty stood and called,

"Who is it?"

"Carrolson," was the answer from the other side of the door.

She opened the door and he stepped in looking around cautiously, he saw Flighty and narrowed his eyes.

"No one's radio will work no more," he said, "They've jammed the signals."

"Rot," Patty cursed, "No phones no radios."

"They've cut us off alright," Carrolson said, "But Mayor Starkschild told us about an old wire, Pendleson's the only one can work it, he telegraphed Affinity point..." he took a breath, and then another.

"Rest yourself," Rita said bringing him a cup of water.

"No time," he said still out of breath, "They got a message, Bitty McPherson's assassinated."

"What?" Lillie asked, "You sure?"

"The end of the wire is at the university there, and that's the message we got back, she was killed last week, shot down in the streets," he shook his head, "Those Crouns bastards have gone too far."

Skip sat there, numb, she drew her hand away from Flighty's she didn't realize she was doing it until her hand was tucked beneath her other hand on her lap. She felt a hand on her shoulder it was Gertie. She was saying something but Skip did not hear, she could only hear Bitty laughing softly and whispering in her ear as she touched her, calling her a sweet, sweet shepherd girl.

Carrolson left quickly proud of his task of carrying news from house to house.

"I must go now," Skip said standing.

"What?" Lillie asked, "I can't hear you girl."

She did not repeat herself only walked towards the door, Flighty caught her arm, she turned but did not see her, she only saw Bitty.

"Alone," she said, "I'll go alone."

Outside she could see the bloody red and white tower, The Crouns, they had been building it right there under their noses the whole time.

She went home and walked into the ring, she sat there among the sheep with her fiddle playing for Bitty McPherson now one of the faithfully departed.

~ e. a. b. ~

The little runt woke her up the next morning she had brought her into the house to keep her close by.

Skip groomed her self then fed the lammie and went out, Flighty was standing there waiting for her to come out.

"I'm sorry for Bitty," she said in greeting.

"Wasn't your fault, you didn't kill her," Skip said, "Why would I blame you?"

"I'm just sorry is all," Flighty said.

She began to saddle Lightning, a gathering pool of tears stinging her eyes.

"You cared for her more than you let on, she was a kind and lovely woman," Flighty said.

"Well she's gone, long gone," Skip tightened the saddle's belt and sighed, she grabbed the reigns and walked over to the ring gate.

"On lammies" she said as Sophie trotted out to greet her.

"Skip," Flighty said, "We could honor her, tonight if you'd like, you could say goodbye."

"No thanks," Skip said, "I'd rather forget her."

"Would you forget me too?" Flighty asked, "Would you just say ‘she was only a Crouns anyway' "

Skip mounted Lightning ignoring her,

"I got work to do," she said simply.

Flighty sighed,

"There was another bludgeoning last night, got some of more sheep..."

Skip nodded dumbly it was out there, the hind, fueled by the fears of the people of New Avalon fueled by their enemy.

She drove the sheep out to pasture, not bothering to check them for rat bites or ticks, it wouldn't matter once the hind got them.

At noon she did not go to Shepherd's point, she sat dozing in the grass humming to herself, the runt in her lap. Lately it felt like she should enjoy the nice days, she wished Flighty were there with her.

"Hey Skip," Patty called as she rode up, Lillie behind her

"Where's Walkerson?"

"I thought she'd be with you," Skip said.

"Nope," Lillie said, "Let's all go check on her then."

They took the road to get on quicker, in the distance there was the rumble of autos but they did not come across any. The friends found Flighty's flock, and Flighty herself sitting amongst them in the grass playing her great horn.

"Flighty Walkerson you fool," Lillie laughed seeing her.

She grinned back especially at Skip.

"Blessed be-blessed be," Flighty said cheerily.

"Well while we're all here let's have some songs," Patty said.

"Sounds right to me," Skip said.

They played a set, forgetting for a moment that New Avalon was occupied, that Bitty McPherson the great orator and lover was dead.

When they were done Skip lingered though Lillie and Patty readied to go on to pasture.

"Well," Patty said with a wink to Lillie, "Let's get ourselves on, I think they want to be alone."

"Well bug me," Lillie said with a crass smile, "Let us get then."

Flighty waved them goodbye, Skip stood behind her and hugged her around the waist.

"I'm the silliest girl in the world," she said.

"You're not," Flighty said.

"Oh yeah," Skip let go and she turned to see tears in her eyes,

"Well I am Flighty, too silly to know that death is final until Bitty McPherson dies, I just realized that I've been expecting Momma and Papa to just come home one day like they've only been away on holiday."

Flighty hugged her,

"Oh Skip, you are a silly thing, that's what I like so much about you, even when you're old and gray you'll still be a girl deep down."

"Why would anyone like that?" she asked insulted.

"You're a sweetheart," Flighty insisted, "That's why. An innocent. Not even this war can take that from you fully."

Skip smiled and kissed the side of her face.

Flighty grinned and blushed, then her expression sagged, Skip turned to see what was the matter and saw five shepherds coming; Callie Waterchild and her husband Heck, Young Hawthornson, Carrolson, and a fellow by the name of Greychild.

"Walkerson," Carrolson called out, "Got a talk to have with you."

"Ayeah," Flighty squeaked she gave Skip a little shove, and whispered,

"Get out of here."

"What for?" Skip asked frowning not yet done kissing her for the time being.

"You planning to sell us out about the wire?" Carrolson asked, obviously the speaker of the group.

"I would not do such a thing," Flighty answered.

Skip frowned, they were up for trouble she figured, there to bully Flighty or whatever, she could almost spit in Callie Waterchild's poxy, doughy-white face, she was the wealthiest shepherd in the area behind Flighty and that always angered her.

"Well you say that in the light of day, but at night..." he said.

"Let her alone," Skip said, "Someone already snitched that she was Crounsten in the first place or else they'd have never known."

This threw Carrolson and his mob for a loop.

"Stay out of this, Skip," Flighty said.

"We have only the interest of our families in mind," Waterchild spoke up, "Those of us with no family, bold in our head strong youth do not think of such things."

At that Heck pulled out a pair of old fashioned wool shears used for nothing but dirty work since the invention of the buzzers.

"If you're here trying to spook someone you can take your old sop of a man and take the road with that," Skip told them stepping in front of Flighty.

"Go home, Skip," she said, "I can handle this."

"Tartarus I will," she answered back.

"What a way to speak to and in front of your elders, " Callie Waterchild said, "Your folks should have married you off before they passed, you're too little to understand a thing, your Pa is probably rolling over in the temple yard that you're sweethearts with a bloody Croun."

"My Pa thought that Flighty was a good person," Skip said, "And he would be here in this very spot telling you the very same thing if he were alive, he would not let you threaten her like this."

"Enough then," Young Hawthornson said to them and then specifically to Flighty, "No this ain't right, but we got to protect the bayou and if having that wire means we have some advantage then I'll have to do what I have to do."

"You can't hide behind the youngun forever," Greychild said, it seemed that the foulest people were a part of this little mob.

"Off with you," Skip used the same tone she would to her lammies.

The mob left and took to the road with the aid of a wagon driven by Heck.

"Bloody cowards," Skip shouted and shook her fist.

"You are a silly girl," Flighty said a worried look on her face.

"What's that," Skip said and went to comfort her but she stepped away.

"You should have run," she said, and reached into her jacket and pulled out a gun just bigger than her hand, it was flat with a long skinny nozzle.

Skip gasped,

"You wouldn't have..."

"I can't say," Flighty said, "My sister gave it to me, I should have never taken it...oh Skip...I swore I'd never pick up one of these awful things again."

They stood in silence staring at the gun.

"I've taken lives before Skip, awful people, my enemies, it was part of my job," she sniffed tears running freely down her face, and it broke Skip's heart to see her cry,

"But to put a bullet into someone from the bayou who only mean to protect themselves from me because I've already lied to them....deep down they know I'm not right."

"No, Flighty," she said sitting in the grass and patting the spot next to her, "I just don't agree with that, and I won't sit around and watch someone hurt you."

Flighty sat and leaned against her shoulder, Skip kissed the top of her head.

"I'm lucky to have you, I'm going to get rid of this fool gun."

Skip cast her eyes to the blue sky and curled her arm around Flighty protectively, almost defiantly, as if to show the Goddess and all the fates what she would not part with.

~ e. a. b. ~

Chapter five: All Saints Day

Any other Mid-Summer end there would be ribbons all over Chocolate Bayou, tied to everything from lampposts to loan trees out in the pastures, around children's arms, and sheep's necks, ribbons of all colours, twelve in all, one for each month, one for each saint.

There were no ribbons for this Saints day, the Crouns believed in no one higher than their empress, and the people of Chocolate Bayou were afraid to openly honor their saints. So the holiday was hidden or barely celebrated at all.

Flighty was born under the month of St. Elton the lover; she wore a pink ribbon tied into one of the buttons of her jacket.

Skip was born under the month of St. Tori, the warrior, and wore a red ribbon looped around her cap, and tied into a clever bow.

Flighty laughed to see her as she arrived with a bunch of flowers, her fiddle under her arm and her little runty betcher trotting behind her for the private party they were holding at Lillie and Gertie's place.

Lillie was roasting a pig out in the open yard, it was her specialty, and she took pride in cooking it slow covering it with layers of sweet honey glaze.

She gave Flighty a big hug and they walked hand in hand to Lillie who had a gold ribbon tied around her knee, she had been born under St. Bruce the very first citizen of New Avalon who found the island after being adrift in a great flood.

"Happy All Saints to you ladies," she smiled at them.

"Happy All Saints," they said right back and Skip presented her with the flowers.

"How pretty," Gertie appeared with a tray of sweet bread placing it on a table tied with more ribbons, she herself wore a large brimmed hat trimmed in violet ribbons the color of the lusty St. Britney the muse of dance. She took the flowers and placed them on the table in the center.

"Sit down you two," Gertie grinned, "And tell me how it's been with you."

"Just fine," Flighty blushed, Skip sat and tore into the sweet bread.

"Oh you two," Gertie said, "You just take your time...so sweet the both of you."

Skip laughed nervously.

"There comes Patty," Lillie said from her spit, "Late as usual."

Up the road Toothy pulled her little family, her mane tied with green, blue, and gold, representing St. Sarah of the sheep: Patty's month, and St. Natalie of mercy, Rita's month. Like Lillie Baby Lenny was tied with gold ribbons.

Gertie went to fetch the baby and returned bouncing her in her arms, but Lenny was walking on her own and immediately wanted down.

Patty and Rita sat at the table and they watched Gertie chase the baby around the yard trying to cuddle her.

"You always did go about charming ladies the wrong way," Lillie laughed at her.

"I charmed you didn't I?" Gertie asked.

"Yeah but I never grew out of wanting to be close to a nice big set of bosom," Lillie said and they all laughed.

"Oh you have such a filthy mouth," Gertie chased Lillie around the spit.

Skip laughed until tears streamed down her eyes, she saw Flighty smiling at her through her tears and wanted to kiss her.

"Let me alone," Lillie said, "I got to mind this pig."

Gertie was out of breath so she sat with them puffing cheerfully.

Baby Lenny got hold of the runt and they tussled in the grass.

"That's a cute runt," Rita said, "What will you name her?"

Skip shrugged,

"I haven't decided yet."

"Well you've got to call her something," Patty said.

"How about Patty?" she asked.

"I'll smack you," Patty laughed.

Lillie came over,

"So you heard what happened to Belv Amoschild?" she asked.

Skip nodded, he had come back three days after the Commander laid down the law with hi leg broken, and some of his sheep had been slaughtered.

"A shame," Rita said, "I don't want to hear of it on All Saints."

"And the wire?" Skip asked, "Any new messages?"

"None," Lillie said, "Only that Affinity Point is occupied."

"And the Priestess?" Rita asked intrigued.

Lillie shook her head, passing out mugs to be filled by a pitcher of blacksap beer,

"No one knows."

"Bless her," Gertie shook her head.

"Come on now," Patty stood going for her flute, "Leave your old pig Lillie and play something with us."

They played then ate until they were stuffed even the runt was stuffed with fresh greens. She and Lenny gave up their game and lay in the grass, the baby's head on the sheep's belly.

As night began to fall Patty picked her up and she placed her sleepy head on her shoulder. Rita kissed them all goodbye, and they left in their wagon.

Flighty and Skip kissed Lillie and Gertie goodbye and thanked them for an intoxicating meal.

"You should stay with me," Skip said to Flighty as she delivered her safely to her yard.

"Don't worry," she said kissing her cheek, "My sister will meet me half way."

"Oh," Skip said, "And if someone sees you, they'll be suspicious."

"We're Walkers," Flighty grinned, "We know how to take care of ourselves," she gave her a sweet lingering kiss.

"I worry, I can't help it," Skip said.

"Don't," Flighty said and smiled, "When this is all over I want to marry you Skip Fairchild, and I'll make sure you never have to worry again, you'll see me so much you'll be sick of me."

Skip laughed,


Flighty got back on her horse, slipping a bit, she had drank a whole mug of beer and finished off Skip's.

"Goodbye my love," she grinned and galloped off into the darkness.

Skip stood in the darkness for a time then she had her little runt went inside and straight to bed.

Halfway drunk she drifted right to sleep and dreamed of the pastures and Flighty there among her sheep smiling and saying something pleasant Skip guessed because there was no sound.

Then in black and white like she had stepped from the screen of a moving picture show there was Bitty McPherson rising from mist a lot like the kind of prop used in a play.

Skip tried to yell to warn Flighty but she seemed not to hear her she just went on smiling and talking.

Bitty was dressed in her brown suit like the day Skip had met her, through the mist she could see that it was heavily stained with blood, heavy and wet at her chest, splattered in spots at her face and neck.

She pulled a gun from her fashionable jacket, a handheld one and pointed it at Flighty, her arm jerked as the gun gave a soundless explosion erupting a puff of smoke the wisped into the air.

Flighty clutched her chest and fell forward among the sheep....

Skip broke from her sleep gasping Flighty's name, her Crouns name, Asterme. She shivered and climbed out of bed not able to bear being there much longer, she moved about the house like a ghost.

Her mother had been good at interpreting dreams men and women would come from miles around just to tell her their dreams. Skip wished she had taken more interest in the practice like her brother Ash.

Skip paced before her father's bookshelf, his little collection she had always been more interested in his passion, books and history, and stories.

He had been a sensible man but believed there was more to the unseen world than the saints, and the Goddess. He liked to tell Skip about the day she was born, how he had been out tending to the sheep, and left the boys to keep an eye on their mother.

"She was bursting with you Skip," he would laugh, "But that woman is fool stubborn she sent the boys out fishing and those fools gladly went then decided she would ride to visit old Gertie who was down with a cold, your mother she set up Young Lightning to the wagon and drove herself halfway before she start getting the labour pains."

He would laugh and say how it was no laughing matter back then,

"Now I was out in the fields having me self a nap, and I get this dream come to me, more of a picture it was of your mother off White Stone road in a horrible pain on the wagon. Well I got right up, did not ask my mind one question, I rode out there on Gip the other mare we had back then and sure enough there she was, I hopped on the wagon and drove her to Doc, Hawthornson and an hour later this fat baby girl skips right on into the world."

Skip laughed to her self, and did not ask her mind any more questions she dressed, fetched Lightning, made sure she had the crossbow, and rode out to Flighty's.

The open air was liberating and the sleep and fear that had clouded her mind like vapor began to dissipate.

"Skip Fairchild they'll be shipping you off to the asylum," she said aloud to the night, but she didn't turn back.

She did slow Lightning to a trot, the mare grunted and tossed her head stopping and stomping the ground.

"Well I'm sorry," Skip told her, "I'll make up my mind here in just a bit."

Lightning tossed her head back and screamed.

"Hold it girl, easy-easy," Skip said, but the horse reared something the old mare had not done in years.

She turned an uneasy circle but Skip fought her back around,

"Now calm yourself," she said to the mare, she glanced out at the night and a clump of trees, her legs tingled numbly and she remembered the hulking creature that had gotten Rose.

She grabbed the crossbow and tucked it under her arm she clutched an arrow in her hand.

"On horse," she shouted kicking poor Lightning in the ribs the horse whinnied in protest but was propelled on fear.

They didn't get far.

A figure dashed out in the road in front of them, Lightning screamed and reared dumping Skip and galloping off the road.

"Lightning, come," she shouted sprawled out in the dust sitting up feeling around for the crossbow it had gotten away during the fall.

A growl came from the darkness and she gasped searching though did not want to look up to see that familiar shape.

Skip scrambled backwards her arm snaking out for the crossbow the other clutching the arrow. The creature before her on the road prowled and paced, before moving forward and halting, growling at her.

Skip whimpered, her arm trembled when her fingers brushed the curved wood of the bow, her fingers snapped around handle, she turned her head a bit, and when she looked out at the road again she saw a darkness, a shadows sailing above her as the Hind leaped for her.

~ e. a. b. ~

Chapter six: Flighty's Song

When she returned home from the All Saints party at Lillie's, Flighty parked by the house and a light on inside.

"Well sister feel free to make yourself at home," she announced when she walked through the door.

Ahnke was sitting by the heart with a stroung-board and all the red and white stick-peg pieces set up for a game. She sat on the white side leaving the reds for her sister.

"You're drunk," she said in greeting, "So am I."

Flighty laughed,

"You've always handled liquor better than I, among many other things."

"Not stroung," Ahnke smiled, "Even now you can beat me."

Flighty sat across from her,

"I haven't played in years."

"Me neither," her sister replied, "I could never stand to loose to anyone but you."

She went to move a piece but Flighty stopped her,

"Winner goes first, and I beat you last time we played."

"How could I forget?" Ahnke withdrew and let her move.

The stroung board was filled with rows of white and red triangles leaving a row of black squares in the center. The object of the game was to move the pieces up to dominate the center square row manipulating pieces until all red or all white were lined up.

"Tell me," Ahnke said, "Why is a place named for chocolate have not a drop to be found."

Flighty laughed,

"It's a fancy thing to them like fish egg paste is to us."

Ahnke made a face,

"Never did like it, you know the Furher outlawed it, says it's a waste of time and effort, and not a direct asset to our people."

Flighty laughed,

"She approves of nothing that is not working, making more Crouns, and fighting."

"She misses you," Ahnke said, "Before I left she told me to get you to write her and let her know you are still in this existence."

Flighty sighed and moved sacrificing one of her reds, keeping her eye on two corner ones that would end the game.

"So mother is not disappointed that she did not get to show what a fair ruler she is by using her own daughter as an example?" Flighty asked.

Ahnke seized the opportunity and captured the piece,

"She was always grateful that I stopped her, it still bothers her, a spot on her immaculate reign."

"I miss her too sometimes," Flighty said.

"I miss you too Asterme," Ahnke said, "You had fire."

"Fire that got Lisa killed," she answered moving into one of the empty center squares.

"The artist, you loved her," her sister frowned at the board.

"More than you," Flighty narrowed her eyes.

"The bitch betrayed us both for her cause," Ahnke said, "She had no right, she nearly got you killed."

"She only wanted equality for everyone no matter whom they loved," Flighty took another square.

"You should have never admitted to anything," Ahnke took a square.

"It was my duty," Flighty captured the white piece.

"I've convinced mother to pardon you, her conditions are that you write a recant, and join back as third commander," her sister looked at her pleading.

"I thought you hated me," Flighty went for a piece but paused.

"For a very long time I did Asterme," she said, "But you are my obnoxious little sister always into trouble...how could I hate you?"

She looked away,

"All I've ever wanted was your approval."

"And it can be yours," Ahnke said, "Write the recant."

Flighty shook her head and moved a red piece,

"That is something I cannot do."

Ahnke seized the piece,

"You're a stubborn ass."

Flighty laughed and moved a red piece dominating the center squares,

"It takes one to know one...I win."

There was a pound on the door,

"Commander there is something out here you should see" a muffled voice called from the other side.

"What is it?" Ahnke asked annoyed.

"A horse with the saddle on, there is no rider to be found," the voice said.

They went outside to the yard where another soldier had a grey horse by the reigns.

"Lightning, that is Skip's horse," Flighty said taking the horse.

"Your troublemaker," Ahnke smiled, "Now you see what I went through all those years."

She turned to her sister worried,

"Something is wrong."

Flighty trotted out into the darkness, calling for Skip, returning when she got no answer.

"I must go find her," she said to her sister, "Will you come?"

Ahnke sighed,

"I suppose it would be a waste of my breath to ask if this girl is worth stumbling through the darkness half-drunk."

"You can ride Bach," Flighty said.

"Bring some torches here," Ahnke ordered her soldiers, "Stay here until I return."

They did as they were told.

"I hate horses," Ahnke said climbing clumsily on to Bach.

They took to White Stone road shining the torches Flighty calling for Skip, Ahnke calling for little Fairchild.

"Perhaps we should add to search party,"

Flighty pondered a moment, she knew Skip was on her way to see her,

"Would one of the soldiers have detained her?" she asked her sister.

"They have orders to call me," Ahnke said, "Are you afraid to let your friends know you lost their beloved Skip?"

"Now is not the time," Flighty said staring into the darkness, "I'll find her myself."

"Fine," Ahnke said, lighting a cigar and puffing inspecting her worried sister in the smoldering flame, her lips curled into a smirk.

Flighty patted Lightning's neck,

"Where are you Skip? My love. Please be alright."

~ e. a. b. ~

Part two continued in Chapter six: In the Gloaming

Call on me at EllisABell@hotmail.com with any comments or even suggestions.

P.S. let's be thankful for this gift of play and the appreciation of this sport of the written word...we will always have a refuge from all the harsh realities of the world-if only for a little while.

Return to the Academy