Black Beak’s Game

Flick vs. Black Beak - Midjourney v6.0

MewMew and Flick scurried across the golden field under an open sky and for a squirrel an open sky means danger. So, when a shadow draped over the ground around MewMew, she became a long flat stone in the tall grass, her tan cloak a dead leaf flapping under the gust of wings. Flick had not seen the shadow and so marched on, oblivious.

Seet-seet seeeeet!” MewMew warned but Flick would not become a stone.

The shadow formed a great black bird on the ground in front of Flick and Flick stood firm, his nut shield aloft and his bone blade at the ready while his tail, crooked and thin as it was, flashed up and down behind him.

Kuk-kuk!” He barked at the bird. “Stay B-back Black b-beak.”

The bird bowed, flashing his tail feathers and inflating his craw to mew. “You are tall for squirrel.”

Kuk-kuk! I am T-treekind.” Flick pounded his walnut cuirass.

Black-beak cocked his head, aiming an amused eye at Flick. “All squirrels to my eye. No trees here.”

MewMew slid between them, paws pleading peace. “Muk-Muk, how does Black-beak know tail-speak?”

Black-beak bowed again. “Muk-muk. Black-beak knows many things, young princess, daughter of MukMuk. Black-beak has many trades with wizard MewQua. MewQua trades words for trinkets. Why small princess far from trees?”

“We seek the tailless hermit in the middle-marsh.”

Black-beak hopped and cackled. “Black-beak knows hermit. Hermit plays game, gives Black-beak different words, tailless words. Hermit lives deep in middle-marsh, near stone-tree.”

MewMew nodded. “Can you take us there?”

Flick moaned. “Quaa-unnn! MewMew, we are almost there.”

Muk, Flick, muk. He can see the whole land, we can only see the grass and stones.”

Black-beak tilts his head. “Black-beak helps, what MewMew trades?”


“Princess trades for help.”

“But this is important, the growth has spread into the treeline. Many Treekind are becoming sick. We have nothing to trade but you will have the gratitude of Treekind. You can trust us.”

Black-beak’s feathers ruffled. “Kaw! Trade is trust, gratitude is spurious. MewQua trades with Black-beak, Black-beak trusts MewQua. MewQua trusts Black-beak. Princess trades, Black-beak trusts princess.”

MewMew’s tail flattened as her shoulders fell. “What could you possibly want?”

“Trinket under cloak. Black-beak sees from far above. Glows like eye of razor-wing.”

MewMew clutched at the nearly-forgotten burden hanging from her neck. To Flick, “Unn. He means the key.”

Kuk-kuk! S-see, he is no help to us.”

“We cannot give you this trinket, Black-beak. But we must find the hermit, the trinket is for him.”

Black-beak tilted his head right and then left and flashed his tail feathers again. “Princess plays game.”

Flick stomped the ground. “Grrr. We don’t have t-time for g-games.”

To Flick, “Muk-muk.” To Black-Beak, “What are the stakes?”

“Princess wins, Black-beak guides princess and tall squirrel to hermit.”

“If I lose?”

“Princess gives trinket. Fair.”

Flick twirled his tail in exasperation. “Quaa! We d-don’t need him.”

Black-beak bowed, his beak close to MewMew as he chittered. “Middle-marsh dangerous. Razor-wings, screech-lights, darkness. Black-beak takes you safely.”

Flick twitched his tail. “If he doesn’t lead us into a ch-chomper nest when our b-backs are turned.”

Black-beak fluffed his features and rose to his full height. “Black-beak cheats not. Princess wins, Black-beak abides.”

Unn. Don’t listen to him, MewMew, we can find the hermit on our own.”

MewMew faced Flick, her tail flared and eye stern. “We barely made it through the brambles. If we win, we have a guide through the middle-marsh.”

Flick’s tail fell flat. “B-but if you l-lose the k-key?”

“If we don’t find the hermit, then the key is worthless.” MewMew nodded and closed her eyes. “Muk-muk, I won’t lose.”

Flick lowered his shield and nodded.

MewMew turned to the raven. “Black-beak, I will play your game.”

Black-beak bowed and then got busy clearing a square of brush around them. Cackling and hopping as he went, he scratched lines in the ground with his beak, and dug out pebbles. He gathered the pebbles in piles according to color, dark ones and light ones. He laid one of each color before MewMew.

“Princess picks color.”

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