Chapter 7: "I Am Bird and Bird Is Me"

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn
 copyright Christina Wald
Chapter 7
"I Am Bird and Bird Is Me"

King Omicron did not know about the book, even though it had belonged to his grandmother, Queen Mu. Wordsworth did not know about the book. In fact, no one in the castle knew about the book except Princess Rho. And only Princess Rho knew how to use the spell on the page now open before her. 

 She went to her window. Leaning slightly against the ledge, she made several sharp cries from the back of her throat. Then she waited. In a few minutes, a dark, winged shape appeared against the bright blue sky. In another minute, a small falcon landed on the ledge. Bracket gave a frightened yip and scooted under the bed.
The falcon cocked its gray head and fixed its bright eyes on the princess. She stroked the speckled white feathers on the bird's throat, and the falcon gently touched her hand with the tip of its beak. 
 "It will be like the other times," she told the falcon. "Only I will need to go farther. I must find Wordsworth and make sure he is safe."
The bird gave a short, harsh cry and began to preen its feathers. Princess Rho reviewed the spell quickly to make sure she remembered it correctly. She lit a candle and gazed into the flame. She took a deep breath and quietly spoke the magic words: "Z to A and A to Z
Wings and beak, sharp eyes to see
Z to A and A to Z.
I am bird and bird is me."

~ * ~
The shadows of the forest grew darker and deeper as Wordsworth and Klause made their way along the narrow path. Soon there would be no light at all. At lunch, Wordsworth had finished nearly all the food Phrasia had packed for him. His stomach was rumbling. To take his mind off his hunger, he stared between Klause's spiraled horns, thinking about how useful they might be if a muddletongue attacked them.
"How much farther do you think it is to the village?" he asked.
"Not sure," the cavabok replied. "Maybe not far."
They rode for a few minutes in silence, then Wordsworth spoke again. "Klause, have you ever seen a muddletongue?"
The cavabok snorted. "No."
"I hear that they are mean and wild."
"Yes," said Klause. "Very big. Red eyes. Yellow teeth. Smell like rotten eggs."
Wordsworth felt sick in the pit of his stomach. I don't have to fight them, he told himself. I will find out where the letter is hidden, and report to the king. I just have to make sure the muddletongues don't find me first! 
Wordsworth saw firelight and heard music at about the same time the rotten-egg smell hit him. Ewww! he thought. He pinched his nose with his fingers, but soon realized he couldn't do that forever. He would have to get used to the stench. 
Peering through a break in the trees, he saw a large clearing. The moon was nearly full, and by its light Wordsworth could see mud huts with thatched roofs arranged in a circle around the clearing. In the center burned a large fire. At least 20 muddletongues were dancing and singing in loud, gravelly voices. Some of them pounded on drums.
Wordsworth wasn't sure which was worse: the smell or the noise. He couldn't really see what the muddletongues looked like -- just that they had long, wild hair and walked on two legs like people, only a bit more bent over. 
"I'm going to sneak up behind the huts and look in the windows," he whispered in Klause's ear. "Maybe I'll see the letter."
While Klause stayed hidden in the forest, Wordsworth crawled up to the back of one of the mud huts. Trying to ignore his pounding heart and queasy stomach, he put his ear against the wall. He heard nothing. Slowly, he stood up, keeping to one side of the window with his back against the hut. 
The bonfire in the middle of the clearing cast enough light through the doorway for him to see a room with a dirt floor. There was a large flat rock that Wordsworth thought might serve as a table or chair. Piles of straw, shaped sort of like beds, were pushed against the wall. Wordsworth thought about the comfortable bed and nice furniture he had in his room at the castle. He started to feel sorry for the muddletongues. Then he remembered all the trouble they had caused. 
He didn't see anything that looked like the letter "C" in the hut. Crouching down again, he crawled to the next hut and peered through the window. Seeing no sign of the stolen letter, he moved to the next hut. As he stood behind the fourth hut, the muddletongues in the clearing gave a loud shout. It was an angry sound, not like the singing Wordsworth had been hearing. He dashed into the woods and hid behind a tree, gasping for breath.
"Wordsworth!" said a strangely familiar voice. 
It almost sounds like Princess Rho, Wordsworth thought. But that's impossible.
Klause stepped out of the bushes. To Wordsworth's surprise, a bird was sitting on the cavabok's back. It looked like a small falcon. 
"Lady knows you," said Klause.
Wordsworth straightened up. Lady? What lady? He didn't see a lady.
"Wordsworth, it's me, Princess Rho," said the falcon.
Suddenly Wordsworth couldn't focus. It seemed like everything was spinning The next thing he knew, Klause was nudging him with his cold, wet nose. How did I get down here, flat on my back? Wordsworth wondered. Great Gamma's ghost!  I hope I didn't faint. Knights don't faint!
The falcon stood on the ground beside him. "I'm sorry, Wordsworth," she said. "I didn't mean to frighten you."

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