The bird flew on in mock anger.
"Hurry up, Jocy; we're gonna be late!" exclaimed the mouse to her ride.
"Have I ever been late before?"
The mouse smiled. "You'd be late to your own funeral."
The eagle suddenly and furiously flew upside down, then up as high as she could, only to dive down again. She slightly brushed the grass and flowers as she veered up just in time to avoid crashing into the ground.
"You're not much of a flier, Jocy," the mouse said lightheartedly. (She was used to the eagle's stunts--in fact, she somewhat enjoyed them.) At the mouse's good-natured comment, though, Jocy turned her head angrily.
"I'll bet you can't go without any stunt flying for five minutes," dared the mouse.
"You're on, Hi-lee," replied Jocy, always eager to accept a challenge.
The eagle behaved herself (for once) as she glided all the way to a gate in the large, well-kept, three-foot-tall stone wall that surrounded several miles of military ground, along with the queen's castle and a town outside the fortress. However, she couldn't resist a trick landing. She folded her wings to her sides and dropped like a rock, flapping her pinions to stop herself mere inches before she hit the ground. Jocy figured she had lost the bet, but she also knew that Hi-lee had a very short memory--at least about unimportant things.
"Come on, Jocy," said the mouse excitedly jumping off the eagle's back. She had already forgotten about the bet, and had discovered a new challenge. "Let's see if we can sneak past the guard."
"We're expected here," said the eagle, annoyed. "If we present ourselves, he'll let us in!"
"I know. But that's not any fun."
"I'm not sneaking in," Jocy said stubbornly. "There's no reason to. And the last time we tried sneaking in we almost got--"
"It's practice! If we can't sneak in to our own Sela's land, how can we sneak into someone else's?"
The eagle glared, unconvinced.
"Fine. I'll go in by myself," said the mouse in an 'I'll show you' voice. The eagle bowed respectfully to the short-haired guard and was admitted. Hi-lee tried to dash between the guard's feet but had her tail stepped on instead. When she squeaked out in pain, the guard saw her and picked the mouse up roughly by her lavender cloak. Hi-lee grinned sheepishly.
"Remember me?" she asked, waving slightly.
"Aren't you the rat that always tries to sneak in here?" asked the guard sternly, hiding his amusement.
"Hey! I'm a mouse!" yelled Hi-lee angrily. Although she was nearly a hir tall (or 8 inches; a hir is the primary unit of measurement of that country), she was a mouse. The rats were around two hir tall.
"All right," said the guard, smiling as he put her down. "Sela Kotu told me to let you in. But don't try sneaking in any more, okay? You're going to get hurt."
"Oh, sure," said Hi-lee confidently. She strolled past the guard and into the grassy military plains beyond as if nothing had happened. The eagle had seen her capture, however, and puffed out her feathers, which were now golden, in a manner which clearly said 'I told you so'.
"All right, don't rub it in," said Hi-lee. "We have to go see the Sela."
In another part of the area outside of the castle, a tireless hyena was making his rounds yet again. He was more well-groomed than hyenas of our world, with a short mane and surprisingly soft grayish-brown fur. He wore a simple gold necklace, with a lovely violet stone as the setting, which sparkled beautifully in the sunlight. Right now, the hyena was questioning a group of young military cadets that didn't look as if they were part of a military. This was somewhat due to the fact that no one wore a uniform--they merely wore necklaces to symbolize their membership and rank. Also, the military was made up of all sorts of different species. Besides humans, there were horses and lions and dogs and birds and just about anything else you'd care to imagine.
Including dinosaurs. There were two young velociraptor cadets in the military. They weren't stupid (or brilliant), nor were they as cruel as most people here would expect. No one knew where they were from, and no one cared. Jet-a-Miray was a country where one was not assessed by his species or the faults of one's relatives. One was judged solely by his or her own personality and talent.
Any citizen was free to join this military, or Dumix (though children weren't allowed to fight), but misbehavior would not be tolerated. Therefore, several mice had enlisted, and one was even an officer. The head officer and leader of the Dumix, however, was the aforementioned hyena. You may think that you'd feel silly, as a human, taking orders from a hyena, but people in Jet-a-Miray weren't brought up with that type of attitude. Sadly, most of the citizens of the other countries had been. This led to resentment and conflict on both sides.
The hyena's name was Zobo, which means 'I don't care.' Fortunately, in Jet-a-Miray, one wasn't judged by the stupidity of his or her name, either.
Zobo was conducting an inspection, and decided to question one of the raptor cadets. "Cadet, what do you know?" he asked her sternly.
The raptor responded as she watched Jocy fly closer in the distance. "I know my name, sir."
Zobo asked, "Do you know anything else?"
"Eagles fly, sir," replied the raptor.
All the cadets tried to restrain their laughter at the unexpected reply until the hyena started to laugh as if it had been the funniest joke in the world. Once he was rolling on the ground in amusement, they decided they could giggle a bit. The raptor turned very red in her embarrassment.
The eagle landed next to the hyena about two minutes later. Zobo was still snickering about the line 'Eagles fly, sir,' which wasn't very funny anymore. The cadets had all stopped laughing by now and were merely teasing the raptor.
The one thing about Zobo that really make him stand out was his sense of humor. Once Hi-lee asked him, 'Why did the chicken cross the road?' and he went into hysterics at the mere stupidity of the punch line.
"What's so funny?" asked Jocy.
Zobo told her. Hi-lee chuckled (though she also pitied the embarrassed raptor), and Jocy debated whether to giggle or hit Zobo with her wing. She finally decided to do both at once. In fact, she hit Zobo so hard, he fell to the ground. This made Jocy snicker even more. She never missed a chance to laugh at the hyena. Zobo laughed after being hit, too, obviously thinking his fall quite humorous.
"I hate to ruin the fun," frowned Hi-lee, "but I think we're going to be late to the meeting."
Jocy started to fly toward the castle with Hi-lee still on her back, and Zobo set off in a run. He didn't want to be late again. Fortunately, Hi-lee had reminded him to do one thing before he dashed off to the castle.
"You are all dismissed," he said to his troops.
"Thanks, Hi-lee," shouted a mouse cadet as the three animals left. They all knew that, if Zobo hadn't dismissed them then, then he may have forgotten about it for days. The hyena wasn't really too absent-minded, but he was a flagrant procrastinator. He might have 'put off' walking out all that way from the castle to dismiss them for quite a while--certainly until well after the meeting was finished. Zobo ran toward the castle, following the eagle, as fast as his legs would carry him.
The mouse, hyena, and eagle were admitted into the queen's stronghold, though the whole process of being checked out and having the drawbridge lowered and gate houses opened took over fifteen minutes. The trio stole into a protected tower room in the northwest corner of the castle. It had just one small window, and was lit by some feeble candles. The unicorn, physician, and the Sela herself were already there, waiting around a rather plain, low wooden table hardly larger than a typical dining room table. The arriving animals arranged themselves--Zobo crouching near a chair, Jocy on a nearby perch, and Hi-lee on the wooden surface itself, near the queen.
"Zobo," asked Sela Kotu in mock concern, "what's wrong? You're here early!"
The hyena would have glared at her angrily had she not been Sela of the land. Just because of those few times when he had been a little past the appointed hour...
Turning serious, Sela Kotu continued. "Now that we're all here, let us address the matters at hand."
Go on to Chapter 3
Go back to The Stories of Julie Bihn