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Finding A Place

A five year old Marysh sat in her usual place, under the kitchen table, as Gran worked at yet another batch of tarts. This day, however, the littlest olvi of the knoll was quiet. Finally, Gran bent down to take a peek. "What ye be doin' under there, child? The sun be out and ye brothers be in the back yard."

Marysh sniffled before saying, "I don't want Truffenyi to strike me down for not bein' anything."

Gran blinked in confusion. "What in the...?"

"Like Papa be a locksmith, and the old woman down the path be a cleric," she explained. "That old woman says if ye be a lay-about like Mr. Flattervine, Truffenyi be strikin' ye down. And the twins telled me that a lay-about be not bein' anything. Like me!"

"Oh, that old grouch and her..." Gran cut herself short as Marysh sniffled even louder.

"Oh, child." Gran shook her head and smiled. "The twins be just teasin' again. Ye be havin' plenty of time to be findin' ye own place in the world." But Marysh would not be comforted. She was more than certain that Truffenyi would see her if she came out from under the table and strike her down. So, doing what Grans do, Gran got down on all fours and crawled under the table to her terrified daughter.

"Everyone has a place," Gran said, as she tried to find room for herself in the tight quarters. "But, findin' that place doesn't come as easy to some as it does others." Marysh sniffed again as she nodded unconvincingly.

Knowing that the child was as stubborn as her Papa, Gran pulled the little one into her lap and began to tell her a story....

A very, very long time ago, there were 13 children. They were ordinary children who played all day and had nae a care in the world. One day was pretty much like another.

Faenella sang and danced about as Everild and Chadatru dueled with wooden swords. Damaris lurked about the edge of the match watching and smirked every time the blind Chadatru connected. Kertigen sat near by, as he worked feverishly at the remains of an oak limb, building a bigger, better weapon to use against the winner.

Eluned splashed about at the waters edge totally oblivious to the mock battle. She giggled with glee every time the tide rushed in and sent Glythtide rushing back up the sand in a vain attempt to keep his bare feet dry.

Further up the beach, Hav'Roth busied himself building castles of sand and rocks while Hodierna and Tamsine fussed over a garden they had started just out of reach of the sand. Truffenyi sat back and offered helpful hints, pointing out weeds missed between the growing plants. Uninterested in anything, Urrem'Tier leaned back against a large oak, relishing the shade. Meraud sat quietly further down the beach, drawing squiggles and runes in the sand.

One day, as the children continued in their play under a bright sunny sky, a very strange thing happened. Everild and Chadatru were taking their turns at each other once again with the wooden swords. As Damaris circled the two combatants, he began to change. No one noticed at first, as he was very good at sneaking around very quietly. But this day, his mind was so focused on what he wanted to do that even he didn't notice.

"How did you do that?" came a voice from under the great oak. Urrem'Tier, who hardly ever said anything, stood and approached the combatants. When the others turned to follow his gaze, all fell silent. A big black panther was stalking around Everild and Chadatru. The surprised duo turned their swords away from each other and toward the cat. Wooden or not they were still weapons, and the children had never seen such an animal so close.

Then, just as all eyes bore down on the creature it began to change, until standing there before them in it's place was their friend, Damaris. "What are you all looking at?" he asked.

Excitement became the word of the day as all wanted to know how he had done it. The best he could tell, he was just thinking like a cat, and so had become one. The others immediately tried to change themselves into cats but had no luck at all. Tamsine did manage a purr, but that was all. After much discussion it was decided that Damaris was est fit to that particular creature anyway. He was, after all, as stealthy as a panther.

For many days to follow, the other children tried to change themselves into all manner of animal, but could not. Even Damaris could not will himself to appear as the panther again. Soon enough the excitement began to wear away and the children returned to their usual games.

Kertigen finally finished his latest weapon and took his turn on the training grounds. Damaris had decided to help his friend against the larger Everild. He stalked the warrior from behind and at the opportune moment lunged in with a small wooden dagger for a pretended backstab.

Well, Everild did not like this one bit. He was a proud warrior and would not be defeated by such a cowardly act. Damaris argued that all was fair in the matters of battle. "Each must defend themselves in the best way they are able," he insisted. The three voices raised louder and louder as the argument became heated. Chadatru had been sitting aside, awaiting the outcome of the match and grew weary of the fuss. The more he listened, the more he wanted it to stop. Finally having heard enough, he roared.

Then he blinked in confusion as all grew quiet. He had actually roared, a real animal roar. "You did it!" Damaris finally said. "You made yourself into a lion!" Again, they all wanted to know how he had done it. But he could not explain, any more than Damaris had been able to.

"No matter," Glythtide chimed in, "We must have a celebration anyway."

Urrem'Tier rolled his eyes. "Is that all you can think of?"

"There has to be a reason for this," Meraud continued. "Why you two? And why those particular animals?" Everyone spoke at once offering possible solutions. Of course each wondered if they would be the next to do this wonderful thing. Each also began to speculate about which animal they would be. All but Glythtide, that is. He didn't appear to care to turn into an animal.

In the days and weeks that followed Damaris did become the panther again, and he did it more and more often. As he was the first to change, he was also the first to start gaining a sort of control over when it occurred. As more and more of his friends found their own abilities and their own animals, it was finally decided after much discussion and debate, that they were the ones choosing the animals. They just had to put their minds to it. After all, Damaris had tried to be as stealthy and quiet as a panther when had first changed and Chadatru had thought himself to be as mighty as a lion when his change had occurred.

Hodierna had been the next to change. All agreed that she was indeed as beautiful, graceful and mysterious as the unicorn she had become.

"It's getting to be a zoo around here," Urrem'Tier snapped one day. He and Glythtide were the only ones yet to find an animal form by this time.

"Why don't you change?" said a black wolf with Meraud's voice.

"Aye," said a wild boar. "Ye still be a... I don't know what, but not an animal." A panther snickered from behind Urrem'Tier.

Well, that did it. His anger boiled up to the top. "Why should I want to be like you?" he snapped at the boar. Then he spun around to reach for the cat. "And you stop sneaking up on me!"

A collective gasp filled the air. Damaris lay in a heap at the feet of a huge black scorpion, stinger poised for a second strike.

Damaris, now returned to the shape of a boy, smiled up at his friend. "Well, I guess you really don't want to be a boar."

"That's everyone!" Glythtide exclaimed. "You all did it! This deserves a real celebration! And I have concocted the perfect drink for all of us to try."

Urrem'Tier chuckled and shook his head as he helped his friend to his feet. "Not everyone, little man."

"You haven't changed, yet," Faenella sang to Glythtide.

"Say," Meraud pondered aloud, "What animal would you be anyway? I can't think of anything that likes parties and fun as much as you do."

"We could help him find out," offered Eluned, "but I'm not sure how."

"Provoke him," Kertigen said with a nod. "Make him good and mad. That worked for me."

"It wouldn't work on him. Besides," Hodierna pointed out, "Faenella's wren always disappears when she gets angry."

"How about an otter?" Truffenyi offered.

"Nah," Eluned shook her head. "Otters like the water, but Glythtide definitely does not."

"Then what can we do?" a tabby cat purred in Tamsine's voice.

"Nothing," Glythtide replied nonchalantly. "It be my task to find me own animal. And it will be done..." he stopped and thought a moment before continuing, "when it be done. Besides," he added, "I nae be in any hurry to change. I be perfectly happy the way I am." He nodded affirmation and went about setting up for the celebration. Of course, everyone enjoyed the festivities as they always did when Glythtide was in charge of the fun.

More time went by and twelve of the friends were becoming more and more familiar with their ability to change. Damaris and Hodierna could almost change at will by now. While Everild, with his tendency to loose his temper, still had the most trouble.

One afternoon, the twelve who could change sat under the great oak discussing their littlest friend.

"We all know Glythtide is different," said Hav'Roth.

"You have room to talk," Meraud snorted.

"Oh, you two quit." Hodierna stepped up. "Our friend needs us. We do not want him to feel left out, do we?"

"He says he doesn't want to become an animal," Feanella reminded them.

"He just says that, so we will not worry. He just needs to figure out the right one," Eluned put in.

"But, which one? Everild asked, There is no animal that fits him. He's too ...." his voice trailed off as he blushed.

"Too what?"

"You know," the boar continued. "He's just silly. He's never serious. If he ever does figure out his animal he will not be able to concentrate long enough to change into the form."

A few snickers could be heard as the children walked away from the tree still discussing the possibilities. What they had not known, was that the little friend they were discussing had been on a branch just above their heads as they spoke.

"Why can they not see that I am perfectly happy the way I am?" Glythtide shook his head and sighed. " They worry themselves needlessly." He had told them several times that he did not need to be an amimal, but they did not believe him. He had even thrown more parties than usual, but they would not be distracted.

"This is just silly," he said, but, he knew something must be done. "I can not allow my friends this much worry on my behalf." And so, Glythtide decided it was time for him to choose. He climbed down from the tree and headed down the grassy path away from the beach.

As he walked, he thought how perfect the dolphin form was for Eluned, and how Hav'Roth's cobra was a perfect fit for him. Had Everild and Meraud been right? Had he not wanted an animal form because there was not one for him? Of course some of the choices had not been so obvious at first. Glythtide did have a little trouble seeing Truffenyi as an ox until he remembered that like the ox, his friend was strong and healthy yet at the same time very gentle.

Glythtide walked and thought, and walked and thought some more. Before he knew it, he stood at the base of a cliff. He looked up and saw his answer. A grin spread on his lips and he hurried back to his friends.

"There is no longer a need for you to worry," Glythtide announced, "for I have discovered my animal."

"You have?" came a chorus.

"Aye, indeed," the olvi grinned. "My animal form will be a ram."

The twelve were silent as they thought about this for a moment. Then Everild burst out laughing. "A ram?" He laughed even harder. "You?"

"Stop that." Hodierna scolded, then she turned to Glythtide. "Have ye taken the form?"

All grew quiet again as they awaited his answer. He took in a great swallow of air. "Not yet," he said, and quickly added, "But, have no fear for I have no doubt that I will. And soon."

Everild started laughing again, joined this time by Damaris, Kertigen and Urrem'Tier.

"What is so funny about that?" Eluned scolded.

Between laughs and gasps Everild said, "The ram is a proud beast, even good in battle with those horns. Glythtide is a... a goof-off!" The other boys laughed and snickered again.

"That's how you judge everything," Urrem'Tier snorted, "by it's battle prowess."

"Wait," Tamsine said thoughtfully. "He's right. He is the ram."

"Huh?" Everild stopped laughing and looked at her.

"He is?" asked Chadatru.

"Aye," Tamsine replied, "regal and proud is how you all think of the ram, but there is more. We have all been to the cliffs and seen the rams at play, hopping from peak to peak and laughing all the while."

"That's right," Truffenyi added, "and we've seen a ram come to the aid of a small one of his kind. One well placed charge with those horns in the lead..."

"That goblin took flight!" Everild laughed. "You would have thought it sprouted wings!"

"That was quite a sight," added Kertigen.

"Proud of who he is, loves to play and have fun, and watches out for the cares of others," Hodierna listed. "Does this not describe our friend in every way?"

Glythtide's heart swelled with pride and joy in his friend's defense of him. They way they explained it had him even more convinced.

"Look!" shouted Everild. "He did it!"

All eyes turned to see the laughing ram standing where Glythtide had just been.

"He did it!" Marysh squealed as she giggled and applauded.

That's right," Gran told her. "Glythtide found his place, and he did it in his own time. Just so, ye be findin' your own place when the time be right."

"Truffenyi won't strike me down for bein' a lay-about?"

Gran chuckled. "Mr. Flattervine still be walkin' around, child. And he's had a whole lot more time than you to find his place."
With as serious a face as a five year old can muster, Marysh appeared to be turning this over in her mind.

"Besides," Gran said, "ye be havin' a place already."

Marysh's eyes grew wide. "I do?"

"Ye be me own daughter and a fine one at that." Marysh squeezed the giggling little girl in a tight, warm hug.

 
 

2002 Taffei Snarfn'tart, a.k.a. Pamela Conard