Sword slept in on the fifth day of his journey. He didn’t mean to. But he was so exhausted he couldn’t help it. By the time he woke the day was half gone. When he woke up, he found he was surrounded by birds and squirrels.
One of the squirrels had a rose stem in its mouth. With a beautiful yellow rose bloom on it. The bloom had bright red edges on each petal. The squirrel walked up to Sword, and put the rose in his lap. Then he squeaked several times, and walked back where he’d come from. At that point, Mystica popped out of nowhere, and said, “It’s from Rose. She sent her friends to check on you.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not really here. I’m just communicating. Figured I’d say good afternoon, and tell you what was going on.”
Sword smiled, and shook his head. “I’m just tired.” At which point his stomach growled, and he added, “And hungry.”
“Obviously,” Mystica smiled. And up walked several squirrels, making a small pile of nuts in front of Sword. “The squirrels told Rose they’d make sure you ate something.”
Sword looked at the nuts. Acorns. Walnuts. Pecans. Pine nuts. All kinds of nuts. He looked at the squirrels, “Thank you, my friends.”
“Well,” Mystica spoke, “I’ll be going now. You just follow the birds. They’ll guide you down the shortest path to get here. And they’ll make sure you find plenty to eat.”
“Yes,” Mystica smiled. “Rose asked them to.” And with that, the image of Mystica was gone.
Sword looked at the nuts, wondering how to open some them. It was like the squirrels could read his mind. One picked up two nuts, and cracked them together. Sword watched as the shells on the nuts cracked, and the squirrel was able to pull the nuts out.
“So. I’m having nuts for breakfast today,” he shook his head, and smiled. “Mom won’t ever believe this one.” And he sat there, with the squirrels, cracking nuts open and eating them. And every time he had problems opening up a nut, the squirrels would show him how. It was actually a lot of fun. And by the time the nuts were gone, he was laughing, and smiling, with a couple of squirrels in his lap, and one on each shoulder.
When he was ready to resume his journey, he said good-bye to his squirrel friends, shaking hands with each of them, and watching as they disappeared into the trees. He couldn’t help but smile. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”
A couple of sparrows landed at his feet, and flapped their wings. Then they flew off toward the West, and a couple of red-winged blackbirds flew to his feet. They also flew toward the west. And Sword realized the birds were saying, “Follow us.”
So he did just that. Moving from tree to tree, following the birds. Always there were birds that flew from the tree he was in, to the next tree he should move to. Sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, robins, bluejays, and even a few cardinals. Sword watched them all. He’d never realized how pretty birds were. He’d never studied the grace they moved with. And he had so much fun following them, watching them, listening to them sing.
When he got thirsty, he stopped, and declared he needed water to drink. And the birds showed him where the closest water was. Sometimes, to his surprise, the water was in the leaves of the trees. Sometimes, in little puddles in small indentations where limbs branched off from the tree trunk. He found he didn’t have to go down to the ground to find a drink.
The birds also showed him where nuts, and berries were up in the trees. And they watched him as he ate. He watched the birds too, and was surprised by how much they ate. The birds ate all the time. It was like they were born to eat. He never knew birds ate so much. But when he thought about it a bit, it made sense. The way the birds were always moving. Always flying around. They had to use a lot of energy. They would get hungry. And so, they would eat. All the time.
And every time he stopped to eat or drink, the birds would sing songs to him. Sometimes, a cardinal would even land on one of his shoulders, and just sing up a storm. And the songs always felt happy, making Sword smile as he ate.
As the sun started to set, the birds led him to a bigger tree. And he was surprised to find a set of branches that had formed a little flat floor. No other word applied. And there was a pile of leaves that could act as a pillow for his head to rest on. And a big pile of nuts and berries for him to eat.
He knew the floor was Mystica’s work. She’d spoken to the trees, and used her white magic to give him a place to sleep.
That night, Sword slept very well indeed. Thanks to the birds and squirrels, he wasn’t nearly as hungry as he’d been when he woke up. And having a flat surface to sleep on, and a pillow. As tired as he was, how could he not like sleeping on those.
And as he slept that night, he swore he could hear flute music. Beautiful flute music. Playing a tune he’d never heard. One that made him feel safe. And welcome. And loved. One that reminded him of friends he hadn’t seen in months.
Sword slept with a smile on his face that night. And dreamed sitting by the edge of the lake, with Rose. Holding her hand. And he knew that on the 6th day of his journey, he’d reach the lake. And maybe make that dream come true.