Our. Final. Chapter!!! Enjoy!  Feel free to leave feedback if you have read some of the story. ~Kat

Chapter 12

“Swallow…Swallow.”

Something’s shaking me… an earthquake?  Or is it the clannie, ready to finish me off…?

“Wake up, Al!”

I cracked open one eye, and saw a blurry image of myself.  My body was stiff with dew.  My left arm was numb, and my torn dress was crusted with blood.  

“Hum?”  I questioned, trying to sit up.

“Yes, Al, it’s Hum.  Everything’s okay.  Just keep calm, your Mema and I are going to transport you to the village.  Ibis is up with the others guarding the stockade.  The clannies are gone, stay still!  You don’t need to fight us.  

I stopped kicking.  Hum grinned.

“Whoa, great lichen foot!  That’s quite the slice on your arm there.  But it’s okay, we’ve got you covered.”  

Two pairs of gentle hands raised me from the ground.  Hum bore the brunt of the stretcher, a soft voice answered him occasionally, as he kept up an ever-running stream of questions.

That voice – Mema.  She’s still safe!  I smiled weakly.

Through one eye, I noticed the ransacked stockade field.  Villagers were tending the wounded and burying the dead there.  Some villagers stood still, pausing their grave-digging, in quiet thought.  A few appeared to be in a state of shock.  Others danced for joy, although they were surrounded by such sorrow and suffering, they were free!  A child danced toward us.

“Oh Liberators!  Ma’am and sir, can I speak to the Miss?”  A rosy-faced little girl cried, running alongside my bearers.  

Hum smilingly nodded his assent.  

“Thank you so much for freeing us from the Wicked Ten Elders and their guardian clannies!”  She cried, bestowing me a grateful smile.  “And which of you Bold Ones will lead us now?”  The noon sunlight streamed upon her face, which was alight with childlike admiration.  I glanced at Hum and Mema, who bore my wooden stretcher.  They lowered me to the ground in a cottage doorway, and Mema began to answer our admirer.

“Clan Princess Ibis will lead us, I assume, now that the enslaving Chief Fal and the Wicked Elders have been slain.  The rest of their tribe is scattered among the great woods of Eldritch, and we shall never let them regain what we have rightly won back from them.”  Mema said.  Her voice rang proud, although sorrow ran its rhythm still along its mellifluous strains.  A tear slipped down her cheek.  

Nonetheless, she continued, “My husband, the Brave Plover Frond, founded this movement, Swallow recruited two good warriors for the rebels, and she and her newly betrothed friends, Hum and his soon-to-be-wife Ibis, enacted upon their mission.”

“They weren’t betrothed when they left here.”  The eight-year-old spoke with sagacity, looking up into Hum’s big blue eyes.

“Well, young Robin, as the last stream of injured clannies were fleeing our village – our free village –  leaping over the stockade, as we inhabitants finished off their elders – “

“Do get to the point, Mr. Hum!”  Robin cried, although her eyes clearly watched him in rapt admiration.   Mema, now tending my wounds as I lay on my side on the stretcher, laughed in spite of herself.  Little Robin sounded like an old woman!

Hum smiled, and glanced up at the overhang of the wooden hut’s roof.  “Well, I smiled at Ibis, after the fight, and she, in great satisfaction, threw her battle-stained arms around my neck and kissed me…”  

“Oh, how grand!”  Robin cried, and I winked at Hum.  

He winked back at me, as a blissful grin spread across his face while he remembered that happy moment.  “Well, as our emboldened residents used whatever weaponry or hunting and farming tools they had to herd the Elders over the stockade, shoving them into the dangerous, Hun-infested Eldritch Forest, I-”

“Truly, Hum!”  Mema said, winking at me as I winced under her cleaning syrups and healing scrubs, “You are most annoying!  Tell cheeky Robin what she wants to know and get on with it!”  

Hum sighed, laughing.  “So, to get to the point, after the battle and Ibis’ embrace, I asked her to marry me.  She consented – of course, who wouldn’t consent to such a handsome fellow as I – and now we shall be the luckiest couple in all the Clan!  And, Robin and Swallow, it is our hope that in a month’s time we shall be wed by the ford at the creek.  Where you, Great Swallow the warrior, first rescued me from drowning!”

I grinned, and managed to summon the strength to say, “And you have my blessing, Hum!  You have more than repaid my swim in the creek since, saving my life several times, I should say…”  

However, my heart ached just a bit at the thought of losing Hum, my brother-through-trials  and my friend, in marriage to Ibis, the warrior-princess that I had once despised.  However, they would lead our new clan excellently, that I was sure…

Nevertheless, I groaned, in spite of myself.  

“Sorry, Swallow, but these battle wounds and bruises must be cured.”  Mema said, scrubbing away at my raw back, beaten sides, and scabbed arms.  “After all, just a short time ago you were scrubbing my wounds!”  Her brow furrowed, and I knew that she was remembering the pain of that time.  Her husband’s exile, her daughter’s bullying and wounding, the pain of separation when both Swallow and Plover had been engulfed by the forest…  And now, their village victorious, Mema’s body and soul freed… but her husband dead, and her child marred and weak!  

I knew I would heal, though.  I was young, but I was Swallow the Fierce.   I was wise beyond my years…

I read my mother’s confusion in her eyes, as Hum and Robin turned to me, waiting for their Warrior Leader’s reply.

I smiled.  

Taking a deep breath, I whispered, “Sweet birds sing, but a Swallow never cries…”

It was then that I knew everything was going to be all right.

And great Lichen-Foot!  If life isn’t meant to be an adventure, I don’t know what is!

***

Finis.

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