After a night in the village, each of us sharing clean cottages by sturdy barns on freshly swept streets, I arose and wandered off in search of Hum or Ibis. I couldn’t find them, however, and later Ibis told me where she had been.
Ibis pushed the tan curtains aside from the doorway of the clean cottage where she stayed in Eldritch’s village. As she watched the sparkling waters of the fountain, from which the villagers gathered water rather than hiking to a muddy creek, a faint sigh caught her ear. Startled, Ibis slipped silently from the sleeping house, careful to not wake the dreaming tenants. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw who it was, forlornly slipping into the forest, tripping fast towards the waterfall.
Hum. Where could he be going?
Tiptoeing silently after her friend, Ibis watched him stumble blindly through the woods.
Where could he be going? Hum and her – he would not leave her? Hum would not betray them, would he? Oh well, Hum couldn’t even swim, he could never get back up that –
fall… Oh lichen-foot. Why were there a group of Huns by the pool. Ibis burst from the shadows of the woods, just as Hum reached the cluster of Huns by the falls.
“HUM!!! Don’t leave me!!! Where – are – you – going!!!”
“Shut up Ibis, okay! I had to make a deal with these men when I was fighting that Hun with Swallow.”
“MEN?!?! Don’t you mean savages!” Ibis screamed, anxiety taking over, rather than sense. The four Huns began to converse carelessly with her friend, ignoring her.
“HUM!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!” Ibis shouted, her voice reverberating across the pool. Shouts poured suddenly forth from the village.
Oh good. The villagers could help stop Hum and his evil Hun-friends. Ibis stopped and thought for a moment, then, gripping her dagger, she plunged across the pool, wondering all the while, “How did the Huns get down the waterfall, anyways?”
The Huns, hearing the voices of the villager army being raised and seeing the crazed girl swimming after them, scampered behind the waterfall.
Ibis had reached the place where Hum stood, only to find all of them vanished. Villagers crowded the banks of the falls, swooping across the stream with strong strokes, Plover Frond among them.
“Ibis! We heard you shouting for Hum! Where is he?” cried Plover, brandishing a bow boldly.
“He was conversing with four Huns. He is a cowardly traitor – Hum is against us – he showed the Huns the location of our village and they vanished into a tunnel…a tunnel behind the falls!” Ibis hollered back tearfully.
Plover, already clambering up the bank near Ibis and a few other swimmers, froze mid leap, frowning deeply. “Well, we must speed up our attack plans, fellow Freemen!” Plover cried courageously, but his voice trembled and his brow furrowed even more deeply with worry.
Ibis and the others glanced at him for direction, and Plover made a split second decision. His daughter Swallow and most of the village stood beside him now.
Taking a deep breath, Plover Frond shouted commandingly, “You there, Brown-Finch! You’re the nearest to the tunnel by now, I would ask you and Ibis to investigate it. Ibis, this is a time of action. Please dry your tears and hold your dagger at ready.”
How could no villager have yet discovered this tunnel behind the falls? Ibis wondered, as she followed the boy called Brown-Finch under an overhang which blocked the thundering canopy of water. The two found nothing. Brown-Finch even climbed up a little ways but merely discovered a seeming dead end. Disappointed, they returned to the villagers on the bank, and Plover, after consulting with Swallow, determined that he would set up some of the villages strongest men to investigate and guard thoroughly the passageway from evil users. Leaving ten villagers to guard the falls, and sound the alarm if invaders were ever sighted, Plover, Swallow, and Ibis returned to the village to make plans of battle. The battle against the Clan and the Huns must happen the next day.
After a hurried conference with my father, Ibis, and some important men of the village, I, Swallow sank down. Hum really had left us. But wasn’t Ibis his friend? His best friend? Whom Hum would never leave? Hadn’t I, Swallow, saved the boy’s life in the village creek? What was the cause of his betrayal to the Huns, then? Could the Hun my friend had supposedly fought by the forest creek have allowed him to escape if he promised to show the malicious peoples the location of the village? Had Hum made an unwise promise to the Huns? Were the Huns working together with the Elders to destroy us? Were –
I stopped my worrying at the sound of clashing iron. I ran through the trees with extreme emotions running through my mind and body, all reaching a tumultuous climax when I saw Da, Ibis, and all the warriors of our newfound village madly tearing through the shrubbery from our Eldritch village. The boy called Brown-Finch led the way through the waterfall passage, all the village scrambling through the dank space behind him, trying to keep up. After an hour or so of beeline-straight, guided running, our attacking rebel group reached the outskirts of the clan. I noted that several of the villagers ground their teeth in anger at the sight of its dreaded stockade. Da had already discussed the plans with the village, so all were in readiness. We would strike, silently, leaping over the walls, catching the elders off guard. Brown-Finch and I were the first to mount the stockade, the distant sound of rising chaos, as though the clannies already fought some unknown invader, reached our ears. The sight we beheld was not at all what we had expected.
The Huns were fighting against the clannies.
They hadn’t betrayed us.
We were going to win.