Macaloon Chapter 29

macaloon-29The Arrival of Belden 

As the early morning light streamed in through the chinks in the forest, Theobald waited to watch the sun rise above the horizon.  He’d woken early and was relieved to see Manley had returned, lying asleep just inside the tunnel he’d dug near the tree wall.  He couldn’t tell if the Boars were awake yet.  And though he expected to be, he was surprised that he wasn’t afraid.  In point of fact, he thought, remembering Rollo, he felt a strange kind of exhileration, as though he were living in a dream.

“Theobald?” whispered Malcolm.

“Yes?”

“You’re awake.”

“Yes.  What do you think they will do?”

“I don’t know, but we should be prepared to run.”

“I agree.”

“So be prepared to hang on.  If I make a run for it suddenly and I’ll shout, ah… “

“Rats…?”

Malcolm smiled.  “Yes, I’ll shout ‘rats’.”

“What about Miranda and Manley?”

“I’ve discussed it with her.  She’ll take to the treetops and Manley will burrow.  The question is where and how will we all meet again?”

“Somewhere by the water?”

“Yes, somewhere by the water.”

“Where?” asked Manley, waking. “It’s a large pond.”

Theobald was pleased to see him.  “How do you know?”

“The frogs I met last night.  We could meet past the boar stench on the shore to the east.”

Theobald noted Miranda lying quietly, listening.  “Miranda?”

“Let’s leave now and catch them off-balance.”

Malcolm smiled and lay down for Theobald who mounted his back.  Then, up on his legs, he strode forward through the opening.  The two boars lying almost asleep beyond the wall, rousted themselves and started grunting.  “Where are you going?!”

“We demand to see Belden,” Malcolm bellowed.  “We demand to see Belden.”

Theobald almost laughed to see the dumbfounded expression on the boar’s faces.

“Why isn’t he here?”  Malcolm demanded.

One of the boars seemed to recover, “who are you to demand to see Belden?”

“I am Malcolm Moose.  Malcolm Moose, Protector of the Realm of Feckly Forest and all who reside in her.  I demand to see Belden.  I demand all the respect due an animal of my height.”

Malcolm surged forward past the boars and into the clearing, stopping on top of a little knoll.  “Where is Belden?” he cried.  “We demand to see Belden.”  Hearing the commotion, groggy, other boars began rising, gaping about for the source of the yelling.

Boris Boar came running up.  “You can’t stand there.  That’s where Belden stands.”

“Where is this Belden?  Let him show his face.”

“Shhhhh,” whispered Boris, anxiously.

“I must say,” continued Malcolm, loudly, “I’m not impressed by the courtesy shown to myself and my friends thus far.  You would not come to FecklyForest and be treated in such a shoddy, unfriendly manner.”

“Shhhh… he’ll hear you.”

“I have no intention of waiting for this Belden to arrive, my friends and I …..”

“WHAAAAAAATTTTT,” roared a loud voice from behind them.  Theobald craned his neck to see an enormous, ugly boar, barely able to stand, rolls of fat running off all sides of him, glaring at them a tree length away.  Malcolm turned slowly and peered at Belden.  “Oh, oh,” he whispered to Theobald.

“REMOVE… THAT… ANIMAL!” roared Belden.

All at once, all the boars surrounded Malcolm, nudging him roughly from the knoll, keeping him in abeyance at a spot just below it.

“Careful,” Malcolm admonished them, “careful!” as they joustled him about with  Theobald watching nervously for a boar tooth to impale Malcolm.

Looking for Manley and Miranda, he saw they were just behind, guarded by the two boars who had beseiged them in the tree place.  He glanced back at Belden, who, wheezing with much effort, was lumberously making his way to the top of the knoll where he then collapsed.  Boris Boar ran to his side.  “Oh most honourable, most venerable Belden Boar.  Guide us with your perspecacity, with the sagacity of your all-knowingness.  By the wisdom of the Rock of the Dell, your words shall speak to us of justice.  Our hearts will know that you will anguish in the resolution of your decision which we know will be a fair and just one.  We are only your humble subjects, but you are the great Belden.  Hear, your Loyalness, the denouncements and let us know your thoughts.”

Still wheezing, Belden seemed to have trouble breathing.  Not even glancing at Malcolm, the old, fat boar looked at Boris, and wheezed, “Where are the truffles?”

“What, Your Honourableness?”

“The truffles.  Where are they?”

“Ahh, not here yet…”

“GET… THE… TRUFFLES… NOW!” bawled Belden, his eyes wide and vacant.

As Boris ran off, Bracken trotted up the knoll.  “This meeting, “ he said, turning his full attention to Belden, “is to determine a course of action to be presented by the Honourable Fellows to your loyalness against certain creatures who have appropriated Federation property.”

Belden, struggling to breath, realized that Bracken was speaking to him.  “What?”

Bracken paused, staring at Belden.  “These creatures have absconded with Federation property.”

“They’ve stolen the truffles?” wheezed Belden, alarmed.

“No, no, but, most honourable Belden, they have transgressed Federation property, and violated Macaloon.”

“It must not go unpunished.” screamed Byrce Boar.

“They must die,” cried Bellicose.

Soon all the gathered Boars merrily vented their anger on Theobald and the others.  He could feel his shell quaking.  Why were these boars tormenting them?

“These creatures,” continued Bracken Boar, “ or so I have been informed, have taken water and forage from our land.”

Theobald felt Malcolm move forward again.

“I must insist,” he stated firmly.  “That we be shown the utmost courtesey.  You were not present to welcome us as we left… ah, Macaloon, to provide us with forage and water.   You have, it seems, ignored the basic courtesy to which any animal is entitled.  This would be unheard of in FecklyForest, and when they hear of it there, you may depend on a reckoning for the Boars of Grattie Brina.  So, if you do not wish to provoke us further I suggest you provide us with forage and…”

“Pigeon poo!” shouted a boar at the rear.

“Kill them,” shouted Bellicose again.

“WHERE… ARE… THE… TRUFFLES!” roared Belden.

“Where are the truffles,” yelled Bracken impatiently.

“Where are the truffles?” yelled two more boars.

Bentwood began to sing again.

Belden wants his truffles, 

                He wants no loosey-goosey

                These creatures from the Macaloon

                Had better hope they’re juicy

Bracken Boar again threw himself into the mud, rolled about, stood on his feet and stared at the other Boars.  “I put it to the honourable Boars that the very life of our esteemed leader Belden has been threatened by this unwarranted attack upon our most precious and…uh, so forth.  We must not let our vigilance die.  If animals can ravage our forage and water, can our fearless leader, the wise and all-knowing Belden, be safe from danger and….uh, and so forth.   No, I say to you, we must be merciful but we must be strong….”

Theobald gaped at the old Boar.  What was he talking about?

“WHEREEEEEE…” screamed Belden, “ARE… THE… TRUFFLES?!”

Bracken shouted out, “Where are the truffles?” then flung himself back into the mud, as Brooks Boar stumbled to his feet.  “August members of this truly respected body.  I submit to you, that while this is the most heinous action ever committed against Grattie Brina, we must not respond in kind.  We must demonstrate justice for all.  Have not other animals said that we are the fairest of the fair?”

The other Boars murmured agreement.

“I believe that the punishment must fit the offence, and again suggest a life of servitude.”

“Nay, nay, nay,” shouted some of the Boars.

Bellicose Boar sputtered with indignation, “they must not live!  They must not live!”

“Yaaaaaaaayyyy,” shouted two boars standing beside him.

Bracken Boar stood and waited for silence.  “Fellow Boars,” he declaimed.  “We must take our guidance from our most ablest and august Fellow.  His words will guide us to make a just…”

“We must kill them,” shouted Bellicose.

“… and fair decision.”

Boris Boar suddenly yelled above the din of boar rumbling, “the truffles have arrived.”

Theobald looked off to see two boars approaching, through the crowd, each with the end of a conveyance of branches gripped in its mouth, heaped upon which were a pile of truffles.  The look of avaricious anticipation on Belden’s face, with gobs of saliva dripping from his jaw, frightened Theobald.  All the boars, grunting hungrily, milled about the knoll, up which the two boars with the truffles marched, laying the conveyance before Belden who, emiting a loud ravenous grumble, immediately shoved his snout into the pile of truffles.  Theobald glanced at Miranda, saw that the two boars guarding her had their eyes on the pile of truffles, and that she was nodding at Malcolm.  Under one of the boars, he could see Manley burrowing into the soil.

Then Malcolm yelled, “Rats, rats, rats, run for your lives!”  He jumped the boar behind them, and made for the water.  Theobald gripped tightly, feeling that he might fall but, closing his eyes, amazed himself by hanging on.

“Theobald,” he heard Malcolm yell, “brace yourself, here comes the water… ugh!  What a stench!”  Opening his eyes as Malcolm trotted in, Theobald saw the surface of the pond fouled by excretement and scum.  Theobald turned to look behind and panicked seeing two of boars coming after them.

“Here we go, Theobald!  Aggh!” he yelled.

“What?”

“My hooves are sticking to the bottom.”

“Sticking?”

“I’m being sucked down.”

Not knowing where the idea came from, Theobald yelled, “float.”

“What?”

“Float!  Fall down.”

Theobald was flung from Malcolm’s back, hitting the surface of the scummy water as the wave from the moose’s body slapped at him, and the smell of boar excretment and urine rose to his nostrils.  He opened his eyes to see the two boars almost at the water’s edge and Malcolm floating away from the shore.  Theobald dove down to escape the scum, propelled himself out into the pond and surfaced, relieved to find Malcolm floating calmly on his belly further out in the pond.  Theobald noted that the water was cleaner and that, to his amazement, he could barely see the far side of the pond.  It must be huge, he thought.  “Malcolm,” he shouted.

Malcolm, swimming, stopped.  “You saved me, Theobald.  How did you think of that?”

“I don’t know.”

“I hope the footing is firm further on.”

“What do we do now?”

*

At Malcolm’s call of “Rats, rats, run for your lives!” Miranda had struck out for the tree line, jumping tree stumps, racing through the muck as fast as she was able.  She heard a boar bellow behind her but didn’t stop.  Reaching the trees, she grabbed at the first large one and climbed.  She felt the tree shudder and, looking down, saw a boar trying to extricate his large teeth from the tree’s trunk.  He freed himself, then ran at the tree again, and again impaled his teeth.  Boars were as smart as rats, she thought.

To feel safer, she knew she had to go further into the woods.  She ran out onto a branch and jumped for one on the tree beside it.  Her body hung in the air then began falling, coming in contact with a branch of the tree opposite.  The branch bent then lifted her in an arc.  She felt herself flung upwards.  She floated and, as she started to descend, reached out, clutching at a branch which bent enormously with her as she fell.  She hung on and the bough took her upwards again.  She judged the distance and let go.  Her body flew towards the taller tree approaching and her paws wrapped themselves around a branch which now bent under her weight.  She slid along the branch and clutched at the tree trunk itself.  Had she lost her pursuers?

Looking down, she saw that none of the boars had followed.  Through a small gap in the branches, she could see boars at the edge of the clearing hurrying towards the pond, while some angrily trotted up and down in the mire at the tree line.

She decided to move as far away from the clearing as possible, but remain in the trees near the pond.  She couldn’t see the water, but she could hear the splashing and grunting of the boars in the distance.

She knew she would make better time on the ground, so she came down the tree cautiously and, seeing no boars about, jumped to ground and started running.

It wasn’t much of a forest, she decided, when she had stopped some distance away to rest beside a fallen tree.  There were no enormous trees, most were thin and scraggily.  And though she’d heard birds, she realized she’d seen no other animals.  Had the boars chased them all away?  She wondered about Manley and if he had gotten far enough off before surfacing.  Maybe he was still below.  She hoped he was safe.  She thought she caught a familiar scent on the breeze.  It reminded her of Wode Dog.

Suddenly, she heard a boar’s grunt quite close.  She stopped.  For a breath, she heard nothing, then, the grunt sounded again, closer it seemed.  To escape, she would have to move quickly, but she would need to distract the boar somehow.  She needed to know exactly where the boar was, to avoid those teeth.  She jumped quickly onto a fallen tree, looking everywhere.  There was no boar.  Puzzled, she gazed at the trees around her again.  There was no boar and no place for a boar to hide.

Then she heard the grunt again.  This time, it seemed to be above her.  She looked up and saw a black bird with a heavy beak staring at her placidly.  She stared back, feeling that somehow the bird had something to do with the sound of the boar.  The bird didn’t move, didn’t take its eyes away from her.  She looked away, and heard the grunt again, above her.  Her eyes flashed back to the bird who was still staring at her, not moving.

“That doesn’t sound much like a boar,” she said, intuitively.  “It sounds more like a moose.”

“Boar,” said the bird quickly.

“A boar grunt is deeper than a moose’s.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’ve been travelling with a moose for some days now.  I have a pretty good idea of what they sound like.  They sound like the sound you’ve been making.”

“I wasn’t making any sound, at least I wasn’t making any moose sound.  I’ve never seen a moose or heard one.  What kind of animal is a moose anyway?  And speaking of which, what are you?”

“I might ask you the same question.”

“Yes, you might, but I asked first.”

“I’m a Fisher Marten.  What are you?”

“Of all the birds we are the favorite.  Can you guess?”

Miranda appraised the bird.  “You don’t look like an eagle.”

The bird sputtered, “Eagle?  Have you ever seen an eagle?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“Eagles are big.”

“Why do animals always think that because a thing is bigger it’s better?”

“I don’t, but others do.”

“So…?”

“What are you?”

“A raven.”

“Why do you imitate boars?”

“It amuses me.”

“Why don’t you do something useful?”

“Such as…?”

“Warning animals instead of scaring them.”

“Of what?”  The raven was decidedly haughty.

“Other animals are about to attack them.”

“Why would I do that?”

“To help them.  If you helped them, they might help you.”

“That’s remarkably silly, and I’d be sacrificing a chief source of forage.”

Miranda knew that her stance on eating animals seemed ridiculous to others, but she could never resist trying.  “If everyone helped everyone else we would all live easier, don’t you agree?”

“I don’t worry about such things.  I leave it all up to the Yaglimth.”

“Who?”

“The Yaglimth.”

The raven looked at her as though she were hideously stupid.  Various males of various species had gazed at her in exactly the same way before.  “And what is the Yaglimth?”

“The Greatest of us all.”

“What makes it so great?”

“It’s all powerful.”

“What does it do?”

“Everything.”

“Where does it live?”

“Macaloon.”

“Where’s that?”

“Don’t you know anything?   It’s up there.”

“Up where?”

“In the sky.”

“In the sky?”

He sighed.  “Yes.”

Miranda tried to understand.  What the Raven was telling her made no sense.  “In the moon?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Has anyone seen this Yaglimth?”

“Of course not.”

“So no one knows what it looks like?”

“It’s said to resemble a giant raven.”

“How do you know if no one’s ever seen it?”

The Raven sighed.  “There are some things that are too apparent.”

“And what exactly does it do?”

“Do?”

“Yes, do.”

“It created everything.”

“It created everything?”

The Raven sighed.  “Yes, it created all animals, and the trees, and the rocks, and the bushes, and even those dumb eagles.”

“How?”

“How?”

“Yes, how?”

“With a swoop of it’s giant wings, I guess.  I don’t know.  Somehow.”

Would she be able to drag any useful information from the raven.  “What you say is interesting.  Does the Yaglimth live on the water over there?” she asked pointing in the general direction of the pond.

“Yes.”

“And in the water?”

The raven sighed.  “Yes, of course.  What’s your point?”

“I have no point, I just wondered, if the pond being so big, how the Yaglimth could live everywhere.”

“The Yaglimth,” stated the raven, letting his boredom show, “lives in Macaloon, lives with the boars; it lives here in the forest; it lives on the hill by the pond where the Yawlers live; it lives in the wetland beyond with the ja-jas; it lives in the pond with the fish.  In short, the Yaglimth lives everywhere.  Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“Good.”

“Can I see this Yaglimth?”

“See him?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Have you ever seen him?

“No.”

“Then how do you know he exists, or that it’s a he, or a raven?”

The Raven gazed at her sternly.  “Do not joke about the Yaglimth.  Many animals do not have my sense of humour.”

“It was a simple question.”

“Far more moons and suns ago than you can count, on a night in which the Forest choked in the great heat, when the sun flashed upon the Rock of the Dell, and the…”

“The what”?

“The Rock of the Dell.”

“What’s that?”

“A place of yohl, where we give thanks to the Yaglimth.”

Miranda wondered if the Raven was mocking her.  She was having difficulty understanding what he was telling her.

He suddenly looked about and flapped his wings.  “Well, I’ve enjoyed our chat, but I’m getting peckish.  Don’t bother thanking me.  Bye, bye.”  The Raven flapped his wings, rose up into the air, and flew off.

Maybe she was asleep, having strange thoughts.  She’d never encountered animals who behaved this strangely.  The question was, were they dangerous?  Loping towards where she hoped the pond lay, she hoped the others were safe.

*

Manley woke with a start.  It was dark and close, then he realized he was in a tunnel.  A tunnel he made.  Where was he?  Back in the Forest?  No.  He remembered their journey, and their escape from the boars.  He remembered feasting on grubs—quite tasty ones.  He must have fallen asleep.  Had he come far enough to be able to surface again?  Was it night or day?  He dug further, hoping to find a tree root, did, and carefully broke ground.  He was relieved to smell forest, and hear birdsong.  But where was the shoreline?  And how close was he to the Boars?  He couldn’t hear grunting or any other boar sound, or even scent them.  He must have come some distance.  Had he travelled away from the pond?  This would make finding Malcolm and Theobald difficult.  He couldn’t tell which way to go.  He couldn’t smell water, nor could he hear it.

He decided to travel above ground in the direction of the sun which, if he remembered, had been over the pond in the sky where the Boars lived.  As he scurried along the woodland floor, the scent of pine reminded him of home and he began to feel less afraid.

The smell stopped him.  A pungent odour of weasel.  He had hurriedly started to burrow when a stentorian voice stopped him.

“Who there goes?”

“No one.”

“Who there goes, I say?”

Manley was aware that a weasel might be done with him in less time than it takes to burrow.  Maybe if he didn’t reveal too much.  “It’s just me.”

The scent of weasel slipped up to him.  “A mole it be.”

“Er, yes.”

“You in territory that belongs to the Great Society of Yawlers are.”

“Ah…”  What was the weasel saying?

“What reason being here you have?”  The weasel’s tone was unfriendly and suspicious.

“I… that is… I’m not sure where I am.  I might be lost.”

“Where you going are?”

“To the pond.”

“You there can’t go.”

“No?”

“That also the exclusive domain of the Great Society of Yawlers is.”

What kind of weasel was this?  Manley couldn’t understand why he was having trouble understanding what the weasel was saying.  “What is that?”

“What what is?”

“The Great Society of Yallers.”

“Yawlers,” corrected the Weasel sternly.

“What is it?”

“What it is?” the Weasel repeated rapidly.  “That what you said was?”

“er… yes.”

“The Great Society of Yawlers not know?”

“No, I mean, yes.  Yes, I don’t know.”

The Weasel examined him closely.  “You not from Grattie Brina are?”

“Ah, er, no.”

“Where you from are?”

“The Forest.”

“This the forest is.”

“FecklyForest.  A great distance away.”

“With me not frolic do.”

“I, uhm, wasn’t.  I have been travelling here many days.”

“Why?”

“Why?”

“Why you have come?”

Manley was tiring of suspicious animals.  “To escape the rats.”

This information seemed to surprise the weasel.  “Rats?  Why you they would chase?”

“To kill us.”

“Us?”

“I’m here with others, friends.”

“How many?”

“Three.”

“Where they are?”

“I don’t know.  I’m looking for them.  May I go now?”

“No.”  The weasel thought.  “You with me will come,” he said and set off.

Manley knew that if he burrowed the Weasel would follow and dispatch him at once, so he followed.

Not bothering to watch Manley, the Weasel led the way a short distance up an incline, then down into a glen, in which Manley realized there were many other weasels moving about industriously.  To his amazement, he realized that some of these weasels were carrying barks.

“Barks,” he muttered, involuntary.

“What?”  said the weasel.

“You’ve got barks.”

“Barks?  Do you mean ‘Yawls’?”

“Yawls?”

“Brother Wembley,” said a sharp-eyed weasel stepping up to them, “what you us have brought?”

“Brother Wetley, a mole,” said Wembley Weasel, “who to himself lost appears.”

“It then to us does belong.”

“What?” said Manley.

“I suppose it does.”

“What do you mean ‘yours’?” asked Manley timidly.

Wetley Weasel closed his eyes, sighed, then recited at great speed, “Subsection 5.3.1. The Great Society of Yawlers to grant a proactive direction to a animal, herein ‘the animal’ as referred to shall not refuse, without first the animal notice of the objections to it and of the grounds for those objections as well as a reasonable opportunity of representation with respect thereto giving make.  The Great Society of Yawlers may a proactive direction withdraw if, and notwithstanding, the Great Society of Yawlers that the animal to whom an undertaking was given satisfied is, whether or not for lucreous means, not proceedings pursuant to section 27 to institute, or a breach of the undertaking by the animal given pursuant to subsection 27.3 occurred has.  With such modifications as the circumstances, in respect of the withdrawal of a protective direction, as that section in respect of the revocation of the rights of the animal applies.  As soon as an application for the grant of animal rights that an application for a protective direction disposed of is includes, whether by grant or refusal those rights or otherwise to grant, the protective direction if it is in force at the time of that disposal lapses.”

“I’m just a mole,” said Manley.

“What with it shall we do?”  said Wembley, ignoring him.

“First, we to catalogue it will need.  Brother Wegli fetch.”

Wembley Weasel darted into a burrow, emerging a few moments later with a stout, grey-haired weasel wearing a sour expression.  He squinted at Manley, methodically examining him from head to tail.

“Brother Wegli?” asked Wetley Weasel.

Wegli Weasel muttered thoughtfully, “Possibly.  I of course it to verify will need.”

Manley didn’t understand what they were saying, or like the way they were looking at him which didn’t appear friendly, although it was not unfriendly.  “May I ask who you are?” he said, as politely as he could.

Surprised, slightly irritated, the three weasels stared at him.

“Brother Wegli,” Wembley Weasel stated with some emphasis, “to many the great Specificifier known is.  He with Brother Wetley all the yawls bescratcheth.  He with a yawl each animal doth note, for everyone specified must be.”

“Yawl?”

“Yawl.  Yawl.”

“Yawl?”

“Yawls,” repeated Wembley.   “You in your Forest yawls do not have?”

“Er, I don’t think so, unless they’re called something else.”

“What else called they would be?” asked Wetley Weasel.

“I don’t know,” said Manley, hopelessly.

“Without Yawls we amok might run.  How else you to behave would know?”

“Yes, I see,” said Manley, hopefully.  He didn’t see, or understand, but he wanted to appear positive.  These seemed like animals who would not want to hear a negative word like “no”.

“Brother Wegli, moles in yawls are mentioned?”

Brother Wegli cleared his throat and recited, “Moles ideal are.  Directive 179, informers of their conversion and collaboration.  Operational control of animals.  Use of investigative Forces.  Smell sampling.  Informers a stable character need; honest, faithful and trustworthy to be.  The ‘M’ initiative,” said Brother Wegli, peering at Manley—“Marmots initially to be used—all investigative units on the Operations team on the tree model up ramping, various branches with personal knowledge and experience invaluable to the findings of assessments.  New System Development.  Outsourcing and hosting.  Help tree support.  Ordered dialogue with function and analysis.”

“Brother Wegli, it could fit?” asked Wetley Weasel.

“Possibly.”

“It,” said Wembley Weasel, “quite useful for burrow cleaning I think should be.”

Manley listened intently.  Was he the ‘it’ they were referring to?

“Once I the requisite information have, a determination able to make will be.”  Brother Wegli stepped closer to Manley with a finely knarled stick.  Manley, not certain if he should—or how he could—defend himself, was relieved when Brother Wegli placed the stick beside him flat, then straight up and down, then behind.  He muttered to himself.  No one seemed to want to disturb Brother Wegli’s thoughts and all were silent.

“Brother Wetley,” said Brother Wegli at last.  “I further instructions shall need.  The name of the mole,” he said, pointing to Manley, “what limitations necessary shall be, etc. etc.”

“Of course,” said Brother Wetley.  “I them to you at end of day shall bring.”

“We precise instructions as to range of motion to include shall need, as well occasions upon which no restriction may applied be, etc. etc.”

“End of day.”

“Whether the mole, whose name properly in the yawl shall be identified, free to intercognate with others should be, whether…”

With a curt “end of day,” Wetley Weasel stopped Wegli’s final question.  And Manley could hear Brother Wegli tramp off.

He wondered what they would do now.  He needed to look for Malcolm and the others but was certain that the Weasels weren’t about to let him leave.

“Now then, what sort of things you do eat?”

“Worms, grubs,” said Manley warily, “why?”

“You with same yourself will provide?”

“Why?”

“The question answer.”

“If the ground is good.”

“Our ground as good as any if not better is.”

“Yes, I see.”  Manley didn’t see, but sensed the weasel wouldn’t care for disagreement.

“You something to eat can find?”

“I can burrow?”

“Yes, I suppose, but within reason.”

Manley was hopeful of escape, but in which direction to go?  Where did the pond lie?  And he needed to find out where the boars lived to avoid running into them.  He attempted to phrase his question so as not to alert Warren Weasel as to his intentions.  “Are there other animals who live in your forest?”

“Such as?”

“Moles?”

Warren thought a moment.  “No, no moles.  Not many underground creatures.”

“Ground not rich?”

Brother Warren sounded vague.  “I expect as rich as any.”

“Any ferocious animals?”

“No…?”

“No large animals… bears, boars…?”

“Boars at pond but of no consequence to think I should.”

“Pond?”

“Yes, there a pond is.”

“And these boars live at the pond?”

“Yes.”

Pointing vaguely off to where he thought he must go, Manley asked, “Nearby?”

To Manley’s relief, Warren Weasel pointed in the opposite direction.  “Somewhere down there.”

“Not close?”

“No.”

“Good.  Well, I will burrow then.”

“Shortly return.”

“Of course.”

Manley started down.  To his joy, the earth smelled dark and rich.  Grubs and beetles would be falling into his tunnel, if he went back for them, but he had no intention of going back.  He needed to find Malcolm, Theobald and Miranda.  These weasels and their “specifications” would have to make their “yawls” without him.  Did they really think he would wait because they had told him to?  Were they that dim-witted?  Their “yawls” made no sense—he’d understood nothing the weasels had said.  How did the animals of this forest find so many bizarre, time-wasting activities?  Wasn’t it difficult enough just to get through the winter?  He would not be waiting for the specification of yawls concerning one Manley Mole.  By the time Wegli Weasel had specified his yawl, Manley would be, if he were fortunate, back with his friends, if only they were at the pond, in the direction of which he hoped he was now headed.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail