Silence. No doubt they were all shocked by how horrible my storytelling had been. I couldn’t bear to look at Father. After an eternally awkward moment, a few very generous souls clapped half-heartedly. Chief Bear once again stood by my side.
“Thank you for… that, Rider. And now I believe Brother Fox wishes to say a few words.”
The shaman stood. “Yes. I can never thank you enough for saving my daughter. As a small token of our gratitude, we would like to present you with a gift.” He held out his hand and suddenly, there was Sage, smiling shyly at me, and holding the cougar’s pelt.
At a nod from both the chief and her father, she walked up to me and wrapped it around my shoulders. Then she slipped a leather cord strung with cougar teeth and claws around my neck.
“Thank you,” she whispered before returning to Brother Fox’s side.
Everyone rose and the applause was deafening. As soon as I politely could, I left the center of the circle. Sage motioned for me to sit beside her. I couldn’t deny her, even though Grey Wolf sat on her other side.
“Nice story.” Grey Wolf smirked. “Now let me show you how it’s really done.” He strutted to the fire and addressed the villagers with an annoyingly perfect mix of humility and swagger. “Chief, if I may, I would like to repay your hospitality through entertaining these wonderful people.”
“Of course.” Chief Bear seemed relieved to have something take attention away from my abysmal failure.
“Have I yet told of the time I fought a bear?”
I scowled as everyone, including Sage, leaned forward eagerly.
Grey Wolf was an excellent story teller. Perhaps even better than Father—a fact which didn’t escape Father, if the scowl on his face the rest of the night was any indication.
BEYOND THE GOLDEN GATE
“You know we’re in the twenty first century and people don’t do that anymore. Well... at least not against their will.”
He turned to give her an odd look but remained silent. She took it as an invitation.
“Unless in Africa people are still that far back in time? Maybe you should hurry and catch up.”
“Africa gone. Now only Zindobo. You not know?” he asked genuinely puzzled.
“Huh? What do you mean Africa is gone? I was there a couple of days ago before all this weirdness, including you.”
He shook his head and gave her a shrug. Then with a firm tap of his legs he urged his elephant on a bit faster. The discussion was over.
Later in the day Yawa heard more explosions but they were always far in the distance. It seemed her captor was doing his best to keep them away. As the sun started to set on the horizon they came across a group of men dressed like her captor except their garments weren’t of the same fabric and quality.
He sat a lot straighter as they exchanged salutations in the foreign language she didn’t understand.
As Doodle Dog continued to make quick tracks behind him, soon the tracks followed him all the way to the park and the floppy-eared puppy found the tracks slowing down when he saw a group of people seated quietly in rows of white fold-up chairs, dressed in their best. But the people didn’t notice the little curious puppy who changed his pace as their collective gaze was on a princess making her way down the center of the rows of chairs. No, not a princess… Bundled in a soft white coat and holding a bouquet of brilliantly-hued buds, the not-princess followed a trail between the guests. Rose petals tipped with silver from the frost lined the center aisle, sparkling like the glitter on the bride’s dress, and led the way to the front of the group where an arch covered in spirals of white tulle, twinkle lights and more frosted flowers framed a handsome man waiting patiently in a stylish suit for his love to reach him.
Doodle Dog sat quietly at the edge of the square of chairs and smiled when a little girl in a petite party dress waved at him from the front row. Apparently the flower girl noticed the four-legged guest…