Telling Tales 96
The Dancing Parliament
Ivan looked down as the birds lifted him up again so that the spiders and badger could lay in the soles. “If you don’t mind my asking,” he said with some hesitation, wondering why now of all times he was asking the question, “you seem to be going to a great deal of trouble on my behalf…”
One of the gunmetal birds in the tree sang back to him, “You saved our uncle when his wing was broken. You raised him to a branch where he could wait for assistance from our family. We exchange the debt to you with one to the badgers and spiders, who work on our behalf on your behalf.”
A second bird laughed and it sounded like shop bells announcing a customer. “Pay him no mind. This is not all and always about debt and owing. Sometimes it is about nothing more than dancing.” Ivan wasn’t sure what the bird meant by “dancing,” as all he could see and hear was a great deal of work.
“You are related to the animals that were wounded by the giant? Or near the giant, at any rate? I saved a hawk, a trout, and a wolf.”
“Who do you think taught us to dance?” sang a bird.
Given that the question made no sense on its face, Ivan could not begin to see how to answer. Before he could pursue any further information, however, the birds as dropped him back to the ground, the badger and spiders gave his tall boots experimental taps and tied off loose threads. The boots looked like peeling copper and felt like supple leather. Even the patina-ed edges had been curled back to remove any sharp edges.
“You should make haste, for we have lost you a great deal of time.”
“Wait!” came the song, and a stag cantered forward and bowed its antlered head. Resting across the prongs was a remarkable looking sword. Its handle was polished copper wood. Its hilt was smooth bronze bark. Its blade was a line of the silver switch grass woven together by platinum spider silk. “For your travels,” finished the bird. “And now. Hasten ahead. The boots will protect you from the worst of the grass, but be sure to keep your hands high.”
Ivan thanked them all profusely and ran into the field. Metal blades sang across his boots and it was all he could do to not be lulled into the thought that it was but simple music. When he glanced down, however, he saw the some of the taller grasses that reached beyond his boots were slowly and steadily shredding his pants. “Which will be a problem for practicality and modesty alike,” he thought. He couldn’t be sure how long the animals had kept him waiting, but however long it was, he would not have survived the run on his own. If he hadn’t walked so far with the soldier, he wasn’t sure he would have been able to keep a reasonable pace, either, but his travels and travails had strengthened his arms and lungs as well as his legs.
At long last, after what felt like hours of running, he reached the end of the silver field. He had seen the end long before he had reached it, a golden wall rising inexorably higher and higher as he grew closer. Strong as he was, he quailed at the thought of trying to get over it. He could see no door and time must be running short. “What will happen to me if I am still here when the princesses leave?”