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Authors: Nicola McDonagh

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BOOK: Echoes from the Lost Ones
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“If that is what you want,” Odelia said and stood. The bitch got up too. “You stay now Bliss, stay. Good girl.” Bliss sat on her bottom and wagged her tail. To my relief, she did not follow when we left her to continue our journey to the where the chikkles abided.

“The coop is not far, just around the back of the bathing house, which you may use when we are done.”

“Good, fine, let’s get on then,” I said and walked all fast-like to the building Odelia pointed at.

The unadorned hut stood at the far end of the courtyard, directly opposite the Meetinghouse. It was raised from the ground by four wooden struts, leaving quite a large space beneath. I tilted my head and peered into the dark gap to see if more dowgies were hiding, and to my relief saw nowt but blackness.

We passed the front and went round the corner of the bathhouse to an enclosed rectangled area. Metal posts no higher than my waist, supported a thick mesh stretched between them that formed a cage-like structure. In the middle of the place was a long wooden box with a sloping roof, and all around that were a dozen small birdies with tiny wings and stumpy legs. I watched them dig their beaks into the earth and scritch- scratch the soil with their talons.

“Chickles,” Odelia said. The birds raised their heads on seeing us enter and gave forth a low chuckling noise that sounded as if they were telling jibes to each other and could not help but snicker at their own jollities.

“Do you eat these fowl?”

“Oh no. They are our companions. We only take the eggs they lay.”

“I have never tasted real negginegs. Just the ones that come in powder form.”
 

“The packet stuff has not a trace of egg in it, you know. It’s made from corn flour, yeast and soya. I can assure you that the taste is nothing like that of real yolks.”
 

“Do they cough them up?”

Odelia put her hand over her mouth to hide the grin that spread across her face at my dumb words. “No, they squeeze them out from their behind.”

She bent down, plucked a hefty brown feathery thing from the ground, swivelled it around, put its head under her left arm and lifted up the rear of the bird. Then to my and no doubt Wirt’s utter agahstness, she parted its plumage from around its bot and said, “Do you see that little opening?”

We nodded quickly lest she had a mind to poke the thing in our faces for a better look.

“When the chickle is about to lay, said tiny gap expands and out comes a nice big egg.”

“What?  Eggs get  plopped out like... Plop?”

“Sort of,” she said and carefully placed the bird back onto the floor. It ruffled its feathers, gave out an indignant “Buck, buck, buckaw,” and then strutted off.

“As you saw, their seed, for want of a better word, escapes from a place not that dissimilar to your reddy opening. In fact, their eggs are ejected much in the same way that all ripe fems ova are.”

I touched my belly and wondered if chickles felt the same heavy pain that I did each month. I looked to Wirt and his face resembled a slowly rotting peach.

“Yeuk  in the  extreme,” he said. “Will ye cease describing in utter detail a subject that churns my tum?”

Odelia laughed and Wirt turned away from the chattering birdles. I stood for a sec and tuned my hearing to their sound. It was full of clicks and short sighs and was the cosiest noise I’d ever heard. The bird song I was more used to had an eager quality to it that smacked of fear and menace. But no such angst filtered through these creature’s soft peeps.

Odelia knelt amongst them and beckoned to me to lower myself too. I did and remained quite still. After no more than a few secs, they came to me and set to scratching and clucking around my squatted form. I bent my head, closed my eyes and let their jabberings fill my brain. When I had listened to more than enough, I set to mimicking their chatter. The busy birds ceased their machinations and stared at me. I clucked again and they answered with a similar sound. After a few more attempts at communication, I sat back on my heels and in their own language, asked them to come right up to me.

Wirt opened his mouth wide and Odelia clapped her hands at the sight of chickles swarming towards me. They cluck-clucked all friendly like and stopped. I reached out and a small white one bent its head. I put my fingers against its neck and stroked. The thing made the sweetest little chuckle noise and I became quite lost in its gentle guttural clicks. Its plumage was so soft that I thought I’d put my hand into a cloud. It remained that way for a bit then raised its head, cocked it to one side and gave me a penetrating stare as if to say, “And what about our dear friend who’s missing?”

I rose and looked to the sky. Then closed my eyes and focused on an image of a chickle. All went quiet. I took in a deeply breath and let out a, “Buckaw-buck-buck-buckaw,” several times. Then faint and in the distance-like came a response not too dissimilar from the sound I made. I clucked again and the answer came back louder.

The henlets became quite excited and joined me in calling until the air was filled with the sound of rapid “buck-buck-buck-buckaw.” With a flurry of red-brown feathers, the missing chickle appeared above the hedgerow and landed with a soft thud at my feet.

Wirt and Odelia hugged each other and I stroked the silky downiness of the birdie. The other chicklets gathered around their pal and nudged and bumbed her until she flapped her stubby wings and strutted off to the far corner of the enclosure. The others trundled after her. I shook my head and sank to the floor. Three encounters with real-live animals in one day! I confess that I was overcome and let a tear stray down my cheek. Odelia fairly flew to my side and helped me up.

“Ah, so much to take in. So much you have learned and achieved.”

I sighed, wiped my forehead and noticed a creamy residue on my hand. “Euk and yack. Is that birdie plop?”

Wirt and Odelia nodded.

“I know what you need, a bath. All hot and steamy, and filled with scent. Many a thank you for bringing our chickle home. We will all be forever in your debt. Come, to the bathhouse,” Odelia said.

We took our leave of the birdies and made our way to the bathing house, which was but a few steps from the chikkie coop. Following Odelia, we walked up eight steps before she opened a rather plain black door. All was dark and I wondered why there were no windows. Odelia lit some giant golden candles that were held in what looked like an overturned flower head that hung from the ceiling. They were goodly candles indeed and soon the room became a fiery glow. Wirt and I entered and she closed the door. Everywhere I looked was splendour and opulence.
 

In the middle of the red tiled floor was an extensive bath sunk deep into the ground, Ancient Roman style. Spiky black mats where placed around it to prevent tumbles from wet feet. The walls were all hung with multi-coloured tapestries depicting males and fems cavorting and the like. Some in so much detail, that I was forced to lower my gaze. I felt Wirt nudge me in the ribs.

“I have nowhere to look to avoid my eyes being flashed with pics of immodest acts,” he said.

“That is not a worry to me as much as the fact that there is but one place to sploosh.”

“Let there be no shyness between ourselves, for we are as like sisters all,” Odelia said and twisted on a silver tap shaped like an eagle’s outstretched wings. Steaming water flowed from out its spout and she took a green bottle from behind an arras and poured in the scented liquid.

“Come. Disrobe and plunge into the bath. I will bring absorbent cloth for you to dry your skin when finished. Go. Do not hesitate.”

I stared at Wirt and he at me. Odelia giggled, shook her head then left us wondering where to fix our eyes. Wirt coughed and smiled.

“I have never seen a fem without her attire.”

“And I have never ogled a male without his.”

We looked to the floor then into each other’s eyes, and I felt a strangeness pull at my belows. I gulped and so did Wirt.

“Perhaps we can close our spyholes.” I blabbed all-quick like.

“I like ye scheme. This we will do”

I shut my eyes and trusted Wirt to do the same. I took off my garments and heard Wirt’s heavy skirt land upon the floor. I summoned up all of my pluck and stood straight.

“Take my hand, Wirt,” I said. He did and together we leapt into the hot and dreamy water.

Chapter Ten

Mayhem In The Meeting House

The Ladies at the Meetinghouse thought us quite without reason when they heard of Wirt’s blind ablutions and mine. He gave such an entertaining account of our stumblings and bumpings that I found myself a-laughing with them instead of reddening at the memory. I reclined upon the comfy cushions and selected delectable edibles from a platter resting at my pampered feet. I peeled a boiled neggy and bit into its softness.

Wirt wrinkled his nose at my groans of delight and said, “How can ye chomp with such relish upon things that could be fertilised? It is as good as eating meat.”

“Fear not, dear Wirt, we have no cocks to impregnate our girls. These eggs would go to waste if we did not partake of their goodliness.”

“Will you not try one?”

“Nay, I’ll not, Odelia.”

“Come, Wirt, let me finish smoothing your nails then,” she said and took his hand.

I wiped mine on a fine napkin and let another Lady seesaw my nails until they became all smooth. These Ladies had taken it upon themselves to treat Wirt and I to a preening and we both sat dressed in the softest cloth. I wore a pale yellow tunic decorated with hand-sewn green petals and a crisp cream- coloured wraparound that made the faintest crackling noise when I moved. Wirt was decked out in a maroon shirt and ankle length kilt. It enhanced his features so that he looked more like a leader of Manlymen than an awkward teen. I caught his eye and as one, we smiled a satisfied smile.

Three Ladies stood at the back of the room and played upon small stringed instruments. It was a mellow sound that added to our already relaxed state. Full to bloating on delicious fresh-fresh food, I almost forgot about my bro-bro and his plight. That was until a Lady I had not seen before entered.

The sight of her roundness put me in mind of the first time I saw my mam all mumsly heavy with my sibling. The Lady shuffled straight over to Wirt, knelt before him and pressed his hands against her bulging tum. He closed his eyes, lowered his head then spoke, “Ye will surely bring forth a girlybub. Her name will be, Devona, the protector.”

I stared at Wirt as he delivered this portentous news to the wide bellied Lady. She embraced him fondly and all gave out a mighty cheer. He yawned and I quickly followed suit.

Audrey noticed and gestured for all to be quiet. She stood and said, “The hour is very late my friends and I can see that darling Wirt is fatigued beyond tiredness. Ladies, to bed and escort our treasured Wirt to his place of rest.”

Wirt left the hall all floppy against the preggy fem’s shoulder and the other Ladies followed. I stood to leave but Audrey stayed me.

“I would speak more my dear, if you can bear it?”

“I can and will kind Lady. But first I must attend to the needs of my bursting bladder.”

“Ah yes, my dear. You will find the rest room to the right of the bathing hut. Here take this lamp; the dark is sweeping in fast. I promise not to keep you long from your slumber.”

I thanked her, took the glass orb that contained a merry flame in some kind of ether, and walked out into the fresh night air. The stars were out again and I stood for a sec and watched them sparkle. All thoughts of my bro and his rescue, fading with every twinkle that caught my eye.

A chickle chuckle brought me back to my senses and I hurried to the place where I could let go. It was a small hut with several cubicles and three bowls and jugs on stands, for the washing of hands no doubt. So much nicer than the Nearly camps efforts at ablution. I entered one of the small rooms and released all the wet that I had consumed. With a sigh, I wiped myself on soft white tissues, washed my hands and meandered back to the Meeting place.

As I neared, I heard Audrey chatting with Odelia in hushed tones. For reasons I am not sure of, I hid behind the entrance and listened.

“We must be cautious. Adara is in our charge now. The plan is opening before us and we must not waver.”

“I know, but to hear of Wirt and his plight makes me wish to keep him here in safety.”

“His path is with the Auger.”

“He told me that her parents succumbed to a bug when visiting the Beyondness, and died from a contagion caught there.”

“That does not ring true. Why would anyone, let alone a Citydweller, wish to go to such an inhospitable place? I wonder if it was not a tale told to a child to keep her from knowing some awful truth.”

I put my hand over my mouth to prevent me shouting “What the huff are you trying to say?” and slowed my rapid breaths lest they heard me stifling a cry. Moving in close to the slatted door I put my eye against a small opening and could just make out both Ladies sat opposite each other at the splendid table. Audrey leant forward and took Odelia’s hands in hers.

“More Meeks are going missing. Adara searches for her little brother. Agros are plotting something foul to be sure. What do they want with these kiddles?”

“Well, guesses flow from all. Some believe they are to be a sacrifice to help the Agros with their ailing crops. Some say they are to be nookyslaves for some Peado’s pleasure. Whilst others theorise that they are eaten as meat.”

Audrey dropped Odelia’s hands and sat back into her chair. Her face took on a look of solemn and a feeling of anxious crept over me like maggots upon a dead thing.

“We do not know for sure what the Agros mean to do with them, but whatever it is, it will be to the cost of the rest of us. Some things I have learned from various males. Things I have come to not disbelieve, since the same info has been delivered from many different mouths. There is tell that the Agros have a purpose for said kiddles. A purpose that will benefit some more than others. Adara has much to achieve if she is to free her bro and the other Meeks.”

I could control myself no longer. These two fine Ladies appeared to know more about my fate than I did. I let out an, “Embellish me with further info regarding my bro Deogol, or I’ll…”

BOOK: Echoes from the Lost Ones
3.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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