Find Me Swallow

Hey there! This is Chapter 2 of our new novella, Find Me Swallow. Enjoy!

Chapter 2

I stared after him, my breath stuck in my throat.  I fair fainted against the moist bark of the logs, thinking about what my father had told me. “Find me, Swallow.” I finally tore my eyes from their target – dreadful Eldritch, causer of such pain and separation! – and turned around slowly.  I started to walk back towards our cottage, weak as an baby bird. How could Da do this? Leave me in such danger? I thought.  Da expected me, an fourteen year old girl weak in strength, to lead a revolution. The idea was preposterous. And to go after him into Eldritch? When he would be dead by the mutant Huns by nightfall? For the first time, I truly thought my father was honestly insane and not just commonly drunk.

As soon as I arrived back at the cottage, Mema was standing in front of the door, her arms outstretched, beckoning to me. I ran into her strong arms and stayed there, feeling safe and warm. She bent down and whispered something in my ear.

“You can do it Al. I believe in you.” As soon as I had registered her words, my head snapped up.

“You believe him?” I whispered back, confusion and amazement filling my mind.

She looked around, seriousness overtaking her expression. “We must not speak of this out here, they shall hear us and banish us before we’re ready.”

“Ready for what?” Mema grabbed my hand and pulled my suddenly into the cottage. The door slammed shut, and we were in the dark.

“Al, everything your father told you was true, every bit of it.” My mother had turned around to face me; her long dusty-auburn hair was dirty, and her face streaked with grime. She appeared to be close to tears. “Every single thing your father believed in. It was all true.” She grabbed my hand and began stroking it.

“Mema-” I began, but she cut me short.

“Al, I know it’s asking a lot  of you, but, when you were born, your father and I knew you were the one.” I looked at my mother in confusion.

“The one? Like in the old legends? They’re all true?”

“Every bit of them.”

The legend was that one day, the clannies would become oppressive. They would kill. They would become cannibals. They would desire to completely ruin the clan. Destroy it. Not leave anyone safe. But one, a special one, would deliver the clan from their tyranny; one weak in body, but strong in heart.  A redeeming one with a soul of iron, and the wise mind of a bird.  One who would be rejected at first. But then those of the clan would see. Those blinded would see the clannie’s oppression, and they would fight. They would fight, and fight, until they couldn’t fight any more. They would be close to losing everything, the rebel’s soldiers dead. But.

Nothing.

That was all the legend contained. The end of the prophecy had been lost many years ago, and not one soul knew how it ended.

And yet, prim, cool Mema, kin to Chief Fal, considered her weak daughter to be capable of fulfilling the famous words!  But Swallow ‘al Frond was only fourteen –

“Mema, I am too young, and at the shadow age, practically friendless!  An outcast of the children, because of my father…”  I sighed.  

“Bide a wee – after all, Sweet birds sing, but a swallow never cries.”  You, my child, are a rare bird, all others dance in the light, and you contemplate the dim to imagine – all others are plumed with fine beauty, hair of red, eyes of blue, or hair of gold, eyes of green; but you, my Swallow, have never allowed tears to fall across your pale face, or sorrow to grey your blacken locks.”

My heart grew warm, but my spirit still was sanken in the ice of sorrow and the chill of fear.

***

After a fitful night on the straw mats which covered our floor, I arose and went outside.  Muddy Creek roared at my feet.  Twas practically a spring flood!  I checked to make sure that our pigs were inside the hut, then pulled down the twig curtain – a panel formed of interwoven twigs, basketwoven into a rectangle.  Now the doorway was shut –

“Oh no.” I groaned.

Two popular, rebellious half-grown children floundered across the stream, in the direction of where I stood.  Sly grins flickered across their faces, and I stared them in the eye.  They kept coming.  I sighed.  Did Ibis and Hummingbird, who currently called himself Hummings, have to come mock me this early!  I groaned, and straightened my grey, windblown dress, where it hung limp and muddy against my bare legs. Ibis was that sort of sassy-to-younger-kids, favorite-of-the-elders child in the village.  Most villages had them, I was sure, although I’d never so much as set a foot over the fence.  Ibis had, like most of the clan families’ children, thick golden hair, which hung in a mat down to her skirt.  Hummings, a lanky boy with a kind heart although he was prone to be mislead – he was the possessor of a follower’s mind – followed Ibis everywhere, as he was sixteen and so was she.  I hated them.  

And yet here they were, coming to bully me, the day after my father’s exile.  I straightened my neck, hardened my heart, and fingered my dagger.  Ibis and Hummings splashed through the rushing waters, across the slippery creek bank, and up the muddy hill towards our hut with difficulty.  I heightened my back even greater as I watched.  Mema is already at her work in the gardens of the Chief, so I can fight back if I want to.  I thought, and my prideful mind elevated itself.  By the time Ibis and Hummings reached me, they were just about equal to my bedraggled, messy state.  

“So, Swalli-Frond, you consider yourself above us!  And you will likely end up an exiled, dead rebel, like your father is now!”

Hummings frowned, looking as though he wished he were not there, with Ibis, mocking me.  

“And look where you are – in your dirty dress, in your dirty hut!”  Ibis sneered.  Hummings began to back away, in the direction of the creek.

“Well, I think your hut is made of mud, same as mine!”  I returned, frowning.  How could I lead our clan when not even a girl would listen to me?  I worried, How could I live up to Da’s expectations?  

Hummers was dangerously close to the swollen, raging creek now, continuing to silently tread backward.  

“Yes, but my family is a lot more – how do I say it? – respectable than yours.”  Ibis continued.  

A splash.  Ibis whirled.  

“Where’s Hummers?  What’d you do to him!” she cried, hurrying towards the creek.  A long, tan hand reached above the waters, grasping, but closing around nothing.  

Hummers couldn’t swim.

“Hum!  I’m coming for you!”  I cried, careless of my loose dress as I plunged into the raging current. I suppose it was instinct. Although I hated the two, I couldn’t stand there and watch one of them die. The water was freezing, and my eyes burned when I opened them.   “Hum!”  

I’m sure that Ibis just stared.  She never was one for action.  The current pulled me along with it.  Muddy Creek was deeper than I thought…I touched something warm and soft – Hum…  as my strength ebbed away, I tugged his limp body towards the creek bank.  I grappled for one final instant with the deadly waves before heaving myself onto shore.  I coughed up muddy water as I pulled Hum onto the slippery bank.

“Ibis…”  I panted, light grey dress bedraggled and torn, “Could somebody – somebody…meaning you – fetch the healer?”  I allowed myself to faint into blissful sleep, unknowing – and this does change the story, mind you – that I was still gripping Hummer’s hand, in the same position as I had tugged him out of that creek of death.

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