Black Bullfrogs and Lily Fairies:

The Grove of the Whispering Pines

 

keith harmon snow

1995

 

Beyond the sunshine of orange oaks and yellow maples, where Sunbeams courted Wood Nymphs with brass trumpets and accordion ballads, a grove of solemn Pines stood cool and gray like Gaelic warriors prepared for battle.  Garbed in mails of tarnished silver, their limbs were knotted with black fists and broken fingers, their petrified roots thrust into the iron ground like Arthur’s sword.  From evergreen helmets they whispered the cosmic secrets to the watchful breezes, secrets they had won like prizes over the eons as they fought – firm and resolute – against the invasions of time.  The wisdom of the Whispering Pines was known to all.  Though the glade was dark and alien, it hummed with the sentient energies which rule all things.  In the white light of midday, even as Sun’s anger boiled with flame, dark shapes and shadows danced with the imperious Pines:  The ashen grove was possessed.

This was the sanctuary where the wild creatures gathered for the Truce of the Oak Seedling.  Who called the Truce no creature could say.  Deep within their hearts, the spark of their ancient genesis called them like a maternal flame.  To some, though they could not have articulated their sentiments, it shone like a beacon of hope in a sea of wild despair.  They departed for the Whispering Pines with great haste.  Others simply lifted their weary eyes and – with hearts bowed and souls subdued – marched with the pain of the unloved creatures they had become.  While all knew they were being drawn to a place most had never been, none were surprised.  There were many omens of late.

When the Mulberry Fairies danced the Ritual of the Mulberry Leaves they fell out of step.  Mulberry Tree no longer shed her leaves.  Beaver found nowhere to whittle a wood home with his great white teeth.  The Water Nymphs complained of their diminishing powers.  But when Pine Grosbeak failed to return to the Whispering Pines on the warm breath of spring, a shiver of fear ran through the old Pines, shaking their pine needles loose, leaving trunks raw and exposed.  The pine needles pierced the earth like spears, driving off the visitors who came seeking wisdom from the Whispering Pines.  Only the wood snails, protected by the armor of their shells, dared venture forth in this pine needle storm: Sticking a spongy foot out in foot out in front like a tongue, glistening with spit, they carried their shells of polished turquoise on their backs like crosses.  Change visited even the drippy corridors of darkness where Termite and Maggot and Worm churned Life out of Death.  The omens raised a stir in the ashen grove.

            Thus came the day when the Pines whispered to the Watchful Wind: Let the Truce of the Oak Seedling begin.  Then, and for the time that it took young Acorn to split and sprout, and Oak Seedling to climb as high as Forest Toad could leap, the Truce of the Oak Seedling would protect all creatures as they gathered to gain wisdom and strength from their nascent bond to Mother Earth and to each other.  For this brief and solemn rite, the great hunters and their many prey met eye to eye with an absence of fear or malice.

            All the great hunters came.  The Wing-eds, with eyes of polished diamonds to focus light and burn through night, talons to grip and tear flesh.  The Four-leggeds, hooded and masked, stealthy and sly, whose teeth flash like silver daggers as they scheme and plot to swallow the moon.  The Fang-eds and Fork-eds, whose tongues spit the bloody juices of their victims as they slither through mud and moss, whose greasy bodies coil and sleep with the patience and stealth of the millennium.  The Gill-eds, whose teethy hearts cease to beat as they lurk unseen in watery pools as black as blood.  And the Webb-eds, whose hunger skulks in silk houses spun in the drippy shade of surprise.  All the hunters respected the Truce of the Oak Seedling, and they and their prey gathered together in the Grove of the Whispering Pines.

            So it was when dewdrops gathered on forest leaves cascaded downward and spilled into streams trickling with Polywogg.  It was then that the blue fins and bloody gills of Trout broke water to join the creatures gathered in the ashen grove.  It was then that Oak Seedling was born, as Acorn split her heart and sent a tiny root into the soil, a tiny shoot into the sky.  Forest Toad watched over her like the silent sentry that he was.

            “The Intruders are stalking the wilds,” spoke the gray Pines, after welcoming each of the many creatures by name.  “All must beware.  They are taking the forests.  They are taking the wood.  Streams have been sullied.  Creatures been bullied.  The Intruders are coming.  And no Being is safe.

            The Pines spoke at length of the siege of the Wilds, the constancy of Change, the twisting of Time – and the many omens which arrived like the screams of Hawk on the Watchful Wind.

            “But Strangers have come who are not Intruders,” said the Pines, at last.  “They stood amongst us, inhaling the scent of our souls.  They broke none of our reaching fingers, scuffed no root.  As they lay together on the pine needles shed from our bones, they spoke at length of the magic of the Wilds.  Their communion, here, has filled these Pines with a warmth not seen since Pine Grosbeak departed forever.  Like the pale white breasts of the Seraph in the golden sunshine of spring, these Strangers brought truth.”

            “They crushed no Wood Snail,” shouted the many Wood Snails, nodding their turquoise shells in unison.

“Their spirits were pure energy,” said White Wolf, her voice as sexy and calm as the flesh of Wild Strawberry.  “Though they did not see me, I followed them from the forbidden place, where no creature sings and no wild thing grows, through the shattered souls of the Broken Wood, to Honeysuckle Meadow and on to Whitetail Bog –

“It’s true, it’s true,” shouted Emerald Butterfly.  So excited was Butterfly that she lifted from the Bluebells for an impromptu offering of the Dance of the Quartz Rainbow.  The many creatures watched in awe as Emerald Butterfly danced the sensuous but chaotic dance with the Sunbeams.  The Caterpillars crowned her Princess of Light as her stature rose even in Hummingbird’s eyes.  Of all the Wing-eds, only Hummingbird could rival the beauty of Emerald Butterfly on the wing.  The animals loved her.  The young Flycatchers were enraptured: They imagined consuming this succulent Princess, much as they imagined consuming the lovers to whom they would give their virgin split-tails.  For Emerald Butterfly, the Dance of the Quartz Rainbow expressed her belief in the fatalism of all life.  It was the meander9ing of Fate, Butterfly knew, which had synchronized the Strangers’ energies with her own.  She was meditating in the blossom of Last Lonely Ladyslipper, painted with sweet cream and lavender, when the Strangers passed nearby.  “It is a good sign,” said Butterfly, shyly returning to the Bluebells from which she had alighted.

White Wolf praised Emerald Butterfly until Butterfly flushed as pink as Flamingo.  “I followed as the Strangers splashed through Red Rock Brook, and on to these Whispering Pines,” said White Wolf.  “Goldenrod glowed and nearly fainted as they passed.  From here to the icy heart of Aurora Borealis, I have seen no others like these.’

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” bellowed Crow, able to contain herself no longer.  “They are Intruders!  They must not be trusted!”  Her wings outstretched, Crow was choked with rage and sorrow: In the cornfields of her life, the kernels of her memory grew bitter with the many lovers she had seen fall from the sky, never to rise again.  Her lonely heart trembled as the last words of her fallen lovers burned – “Why? – Why? – Why?” – unanswered.

All hearts went out to Crow then.

“No,” said gentle Pinecone, after a respectful silence.  “Though they are Strangers, these two are not like those others.  They touched me as gently as First Snowflake hails the coming of Winter.  They spoke in hushed whispers.  I know they can be trusted.”

And then Black Bullfrog spoke.  “Chigger-dee, chigger-dum,” he moaned, in a voice as black as mud.  “Chigger-ree, chigger-rum.”  And all the creature waited.

Though every creature knew Black Bullfrog well – senile old Bullfrog, gnarly and cynical, snorting and huffing and snapping at Fly – they all knew that none knew Black Bullfrog well-enough.  Mystery and magic rained over bullfrog pond.  The same cancerous tongue with which Black Bullfrog lashed out at his peers, his friends, his enemies, even at his own kin blood, lashed out with a vitriolic maelstrom of unpardonable and portentous truth, bitter as the wart-rot between his toes, a scandal to the wisdom of the Whispering Pines, was the same sweet tongue with which Black Bullfrog – senile old Bullfrog, gnarly and cynical, snorting and huffing and snapping at Fly– had drawn the virgin Fairies out of the lily blossoms for all to see.  And the Lily Fairies showered him with the sweet candy of honey buttercups and raspberry daisies.  And the Fairies danced, naked and pink and sensuous, like tiny ballerinas, wings of red silk stuck to the soft flesh in the small of their backs with Honeysuckle and Sagetree.  And the Fairies had lain with Black Bullfrog, holding him with their tiny arms as only lovers hold lovers, while cuddled in his black-backed arms, on a belly as slippery as eggwhitesegg whites.  And the Lily Fairies sang the most beautiful song the ashen Pines had ever heard.  In the morning they were gone.  After that night, with each full moon which cast the shadow of Old Blue Spruce over his pond, Black Bullfrog uttered poetry – for which creatures gathered as never before – of Edenic bliss and eternal love.  Old Black Bullfrog lived those nights in ecstasy.  And while all things around him decayed as the season’s passed, Black Bullfrog’s eternal flame burned away half his age.  But when Black Bullfrog spoke at the Truce of the Oak Seedling, his portentous voice was a black and as deep as the blackest whirlpool in the bottomless swamp:

 

Witches hair and slaver’s cotton,

ne’re the suffering e’re forgotten,

tinfoil heart shines white as sin,

with gargoyle’s lip, the blood drunk in.

 

On rosy cheek red nectar stings,

eyes of bluebells, black tongues ring,

piercing star in twilight’s mate,

blackened lies of former hate.

 

Morning mist on crimson thigh,

my precious love, for you would die,

bittersweet, in gangrene world,

love in sandstone’s omen furled.

 

My soul for you with hurried gate,

the end of time together wait,

no song, no curse, these rattled bones,

beyond your flesh, my humble throne.

 

As Black Bullfrog stilled his strange tongue, he Forest squeaked a collective squeak of terror.  None could interpret Black Bullfrog’s black words.  Not even Wise Old Owl.  None tried.  Like a startled animal frozen in its tracks, ears up straight and eyes open wide, sniffing the air but unsure which way to flee, the Forest stood in terror.  The creatures found no solace in the silence.  The words of Black Bullfrog passed undigested through the bowels of the many creatures’ hunger to interpret the here and now.

After an ominous pause, all eyes turned to Birch Spider.  It was Birch Spider whose tiny words the creatures had gathered to hear.  It was Birch Spider who had seen what no other had seen.  It was Birch Spider who urged the Pines to call the Truce of the Oak Seedling.  And so White Wolf and Trout and Centipede and Red-tailed Hawk all pricked up their ears and sniffed the Wild Wind once again, and listened as Birch Spider spoke.  Oak Seedling had grown.  Forest Toad jumped over it with ease.

“As you know,” said Birch Spider, “my web reaches from the boughs of Ashen Pine to the stem of Larch Fern on the forest floor.  My web is spun with the hearts of captured flies, devoured as my nature tells me, a nature as old as the Blue Centaurs which often roam amongst the ghosts of the Gray Wood.  As you know, I am wont to kill any creature beyond my needs for, survive as I must, mine is a creed of justice and peace.  As you know, these are the ways of all the forest beings, as all who gather here must admit.  Even Weasel – sly and sleek and toothy on the prowl – must respect these simple laws of the forest.  As you know, to ignore the ways of the forest would bring the Evil Spirits from the bowels of Time to haunt us as they have haunted the forests of our history.”

As Birch Spider spoke the Forest nodded in agreement.  And though he hid his toothy grin between slippery lips and fidgety whickers, Weasel nodded in agreement too.  And the flies whispered amongst themselves in confirmation of the justice of Birch Spider – though they shuddered to hear his words, slurred and twisted by the drool which dripped from his hairy fangs.

“As you know,” said Birch Spider, “Evil Spirits have risen once again.  They have captured the shrill cry of Hawk before it has left his breast.    They have stilled the pitter-patter hearts of Rain.  Evil Spirits run like blood amongst the laughter of the Buttercup Nymphs.  That the Evil Spirits have risen, even Meadow Mole can see.

When Meadow Mole heard his name spoken he jumped from Mushroom, where he had been listening, squinting through his blindness, his whiskers twitching, and he ran blindly in the direction of Birch Spider’s words.

“What?” he shouted, even as he came close – far too close, some said – to Cottonmouth.  “What?” he shouted, once more, by then transfixed in Cottonmouth’s sights.

“Sssssssssss-snake!” hissed Cottonmouth, angered by Meadow Mole’s impertinence, fighting the urge to swallow him whole, Truce of no Truce.

Meadow Mole flipped over backwards in terror.  He knew this terrible sound as the horror of Cottonmouth prowling over his burrow at night.  Meadow Mole ran for his life.  No creature dared laugh, though some found humor at Meadow Mole’s expense.  The smaller creatures were heartened that Meadow Mole survived the encounter with Cottonmouth unscathed.  Their faith in the Truce of the Oak Seedling was redoubled.

Birch Spider continued.

“The thunder in the peat moss has shaken earthworm.  Whole forests have vanished.  Many trees are sick with disease.  Salmon can no longer run uprivers.  Wolverine can bear no young.  And Ladyslipper has found no mate.  Her tears have been heard throughout the forest.”

“Evil Spirits threaten all life,” said Birch Spider, suddenly filled with grief.  “From the neighborhood of my delicate web, members of my own family have perished.  My blood too has been spilled.  My children live in perpetual fear.”

As he spoke, tearlets fell from the microducts of Birch Spider’s sad blue eyes.  Trout rose above the ripples of the Water Spirits to catch the sadness of Birch Spider’s tears, dripping from Birch Spiders cheeks, onto his web and down, over trout’s gills.  As Trout swallowed the tearlets of Birch Spider’s pain, Trout shared the sadness in Birch Spider’s heart.  And Trout felt his own pain.  And Trout wept.  And then all the creatures wept the pain which had filled their hearts in recent moons, pain of lost friends, pain of broken nests and shattered homes, pain of lost loves.

Willow wept a solemn song at the edge of the forest.  The Flowers drooped over and cried.  Porcupine turned her head into her quills, where her tears could fall, hidden from all, on her bristly heart.  Doves rubbed cheeks together, cooing sadly, as tears dripped onto the pine needles below.  With each tear which hit the ground a yellow Daffodil sprouted and blossomed, until the ground beneath the doves was covered with tiny Daffodils.  Mantis whispered the Prayer of the Broken Heart.  Turtle pushed his head out of his shell, stretched his neck as far as it would stretch, and wailed the pain of many sorrows.  Chipmunk, sitting on Turtle’s back, tried to console him.  In the end, Chipmunk threw himself over Turtle’s back and cried too.  Though saddened to its deepest roots, Oak Seedling continued to grow.  Forest Toad, his rubbery legs unsteadied by sorrow, could barely jump over it.  Barred Owl turned his bright but bitter eyes to the ground.  “I have shed all my tears,” he whispered, sadly.  “Those long, empty nights, where I called and I called – Who? Who? Who? and listened and listened, for my lover.  But there was no answer.  There was no “Me, Me, Me,” to answer.  There is no lover for me.  Burned by the fire of an endless search, Barred Owl burst into tears once more.

For several days, all creatures shed their tears.  But none sobbed as sorrowful and sad as Great Cat.  Great Cat sobbed as he thought of his lonely mate – her tasseled mane, the flash of her tail, her golden breasts, the twinkle in her eye – and her soul wandering, alone, in the tinfoil wilderness of Intruders who came with the roar of thunder and took his precious love from him.  The sobs of Great Cat echoed through the forest and shook the Cherry Hills beyond.  With his head hung proud and high, Great Cat shared his great and bottomless pain without shame.

Hearing the sobs of Great Cat, the Lily Fairies poked their tiny heads out of the Lily blossoms.  When they saw Great Cat sobbing, they lifted, one-by-one, with tiny blue wings and soft pink skin, and together they tried to soothe Great Cat’s soul.  But all their power and all their magic could not stop Great Cat’s sobbing:  So great was Great Cat’s pain.  With their own tiny pink hearts broken, the Lily Fairies broke down too.  From tiny heads buried in tiny hands, their tiny tears rained over Great Cat.  And as each tiny tear of the Lily Fairies struck the flesh of Great Cat, a tiny note twinkled through the forest.  The tears of the Lily Fairies twinkled like wind chimes.  Still Great Cat sobbed and sobbed.

When the river of tears was so deep that it began to carry the smaller creatures away, when Oak Seedling had climbed to one-half the height of Forest Toad’s leap, then Birch Spider spoke once more.

“Together we shed our tears alone,” said Birch Spider.  When he said this, Great Cat’s whiskers sank low and his eyes began to water once again.  But Birch Spider – afraid that Great Cat’s sobs would again cast them into mourning – spoke quickly, with much clarity of purpose, with great valor.  Forgetting his own sorrows, nodding the sorrows of Great Cat, surveying all who had come to hear him, Birch Spider spoke with the red truth of Robin’s breast.

“They were two,” he said, speaking of the Strangers.  “They came in peace and tranquility, seeking peace and tranquility.  Before my tiny being, causing me great terror, they appeared as large and powerful as Grizzly.”

As Birch Spider pointed at Grizzly, a lightning bolt struck the air behind him and his words exploded with a force that startled even cynical, old Black Bullfrog.  The force with which Grizzly heard his name spoken brought him up on his hind legs, his giant paws flailing, where he roared the angry grief from his own heart.  Many creatures had heard of Grizzly’s might, but few had ever seen:  In fear they ran for their lives, diving into rotted logs or woodpecker’s holes.  The Gill-eds plunged underwater.  The Fang-eds hid in the leaves.  The Wing-eds lifted above the forest like a dark cloud.  Grizzly roared and roared.

In his careless anger, with a single swipe of his giant paw, Grizzly felled Old Cedar.  The creatures shrieked:  Old Cedar was as old and wise as Oak Seedling was young and innocent.  As poor Old Cedar fell to the ground, crushed and broken before his time, the creatures broke into hysterical tears: Grizzly had broken he Truce of the Oak Seedling.  Grizzly stood before them then, naked, confused, his mangled heart shattered with regret.  After much deliberation, and with much sorrow, Grizzly was banished from the Grove of the Whispering Pines.  With his head hung low and his tail between legs, with his heart dripping from his eyes and running over his face, Grizzly left in silence.  All creatures watched in horror as Grizzly left them, lonely and forlorn, lost in the wilderness of his own wild heart.  Behind him a trail of blue tear-drops sprouted from the earth where his tears had fallen.  The tear-drop blossoms opened then, one-by-one, each revealing a choir of Angers singing within.  As the blue tear-drops blossomed in Grizzly’s wake, the song of the Angels grew and grew until it was heard by all.  The Angels of the Tear-drops sang a melancholy chorus and with the banishment of Grizzly, the loss of Old Cedar, and his own sorrow, it sent Great Cat to sobbing once more.  Grizzly was gone.

As the creatures once again mourned with Great Cat, the Cedar Waxwings gathered together the many shards of Old Cedar.  Wrapped like treasure in the tart flesh of Elderberries and carried on the wing, they scattered Old Cedar over soil and sky and water like seeds of wisdom.  And still Great Cat sobbed and sobbed.

When Birch Spider finally spoke, again he spoke of the two Strangers.  “It is true,” he said, “that these beings are Intruders.  But I and I alone have seen the embers of a wonderful fire which burns in their eyes, a fire which glows red and hot like the passion in their hearts, a fire which not even the Spirit of Rain could smother.  It is the Fire of All Beings.  Huddled in fear at the center of my web I watched these Strangers approach.  They spied me there.  Shaking with fear I fell from my web – but the Stranger caught me in his hand.  Together they looked into my eyes as he held me there.  I saw peace and love and wisdom within them.  And then he set me free.

At these words the many creatures moved closer to Birch Spider, sure to hear.  The flies trusted Birch Spider with their lives as they perched on his web:  Birch Spider nodded their security.  With blue fins and bony tails Trout slid themselves onto slippery rocks, while the nearby hunger of Martin and Otter sitting up, on hind legs, leaning close – ate only of Birch Spider’s words.

“He took her hand as they shared our world,” said Birch Spider.  “They showered happiness over all as they explored the mysteries known only to the Whispering Pines.  They spoke, as Blue Jay will confirm, of the sanctity of the Earth.”

As Birch Spider said this, all eyes went to Blue Jay.  Puffing up her chest and the tuft of feathers on her head, using the talents endowed her of which all were familiar, Blue Jay mimicked the voices of the Intruders for all the creatures to hear.  The creatures listened with wonder.  The sounds Blue Jay made were strange but clear: There was no mistaking the intent of the Strangers.  After Blue Jay had finished, Birch Spider spoke once more.

“And so you see,” he said, “they are of us.  They are not Intruders. They stood here, cheek to cheek, their eyes burning with the passion of the wilderness, seeking the Wisdom of the Whispering Pines.  They believe in us.  In you, Rabbit.  In you, Copper Beetle.  In you, Great Cat.  They too suffer for our losses.  They would shed tears were you to perish, Flicker.  They would revere the Dance of the Quartz Rainbow, Butterfly.  And they would sob as sad and sorrowful as Great Cat, were they to see hi fallen love before them.

As Birch Spider said this, Great Cat heaved his sullen frame up off the mossy ledge where he had lain throughout the Truce, and with a roar so fierce that it startled even Grizzly who was by then far, far away – Great Cat leapt from the cliff with all the agility and speed of the angry Warrior he had become.  Great Cat scattered the many creatures once more.  On the ground he stood as firm and resolute as the Whispering Pines, his solid frame as vibrant with emotion as the seas of a terrible storm.  And with all the power of justice and truth and compassion, Great Cat roared his mighty pain for all the Intruders to hear.  Like an ominous wave Great Cat’s roar spread over the Earth, shaking the inveterate ignorance of the Intruders to the pillars of their uncaring and denial.  Great Cat roared and roared such that all would see and hear and feel the Pain of the Last Lonely One.  Like Ladyslipper, like Barred Owl, Great Cat was alone.  He could search no more.  And for every roar of Great Cat, all heard – from far, far away – the great and sorrowful roar of Grizzly.

And so Great Cat roared. And Grizzly roared.  And Great Cat roared.  And Grizzly.  But as Great Cat roared, all life went out of his broken heart and, on this day, his legs wavering, his roar weakening, Great Cat fell, brokenhearted.  All life went out of Great Cat.  His great roars faded into soundless mews, his chest shuddered.  And with his tears frozen on his whiskery cheeks and his sad blue eyes locked open in disillusion – a testimonial to unrequited love, a passionate reminder of what once was, another historical monument left to crack and crumble for those who would not miss what they never knew Great Cat was turned to stone.  Grizzly kept on roaring.  But Great Cat was no more.

Whether the creatures felt greater pain in the silence of Great Cat’s earthly passing, or whether the incessant sobbing of Great Cat had hurt them  more, none knew for sure.  In their hearts all creatures bled for Great Cat.  In their eyes the silver tears gathered and fell like icicles in the spring.

For twenty moons Grizzly roared and roared.  Did Grizzly know, the creatures wondered?  Many remembered the words of Bullfrog.  What did Bullfrog mean?  Even as Oak Seedling grew eye-to-eye with Forest Toad at the height of his leap, none could reconcile the intense pain of the forever loss of Great Cat.  The Whispering Pines had not foreseen such a sad event.  The many creatures were badly shaken.  But in their common love for life and for truth and for the two Strangers whom they now trusted, the creatures gathered together once more as the Truce of the Oak Seedling came to a close.  There was much confusion and despair until Birch Spider spoke.  Again he spoke of the two Strangers.

“As I have said, the Strangers are of us.  They came, here, to mingle with our souls.  They did not come to draw our blood.  They came to share themselves.  Our destinies are linked like the seasons.  We must touch them.  We must speak to them.  We must invite them to return, to share our world, to breathe the wild scent of our beings.  We must run from the Grove of the Whispering Pines and show them we are still here.  Remind them, for they know not what they do.  Invite them back to make love on the soft blanket of the Grove of the Whispering Pines.  It is there that they will find solace and comfort for their long journey.  Their destiny is mingled with ours.  Surely they will not choose to travel the millennia alone.”

The voice of the tine Birch Spider had grown very loud though no creature could understand why.  “Go!”  he shouted.  “Go friends!” Go enemies!  Go!  Speak to the Intruders from your hearts.  Sing them songs.  Go!  Remind them of our fragility.  Break through the uncaring crusts of the Intruders.  Bring them the love which I saw in these two Strangers.  The love in his eyes, as he looked at her.  Go!  For Great Cat and for Grizzly.  Spread the ferocious love of these two Strangers to the hearts of the many Intruders.  The Intruders have done much harm.  The Intruders will return.  Go!”

As Birch Spider said this he pointed toward the sunlight of the orange oaks and yellow maples, beyond the Grove of the Whispering Pines.  The creatures, still greatly saddened by the fall of Great Cat and the banishment of grizzly, began moving away.  Some creatures resigned themselves to fate.  Others were troubled by Black Bullfrog’s words.  But remembering the two Strangers’ love for them, there was renewed hope in the hearts of all.  And so the creatures departed, in ones and twos, in packs and in flocks, young carrying old, friends carrying enemies, on hoof and on wing and on the blue fins of Trout, until all had disappeared from the glade and only the wisdom of the Whispering Pines could be heard on the Watchful Wind.

Turning back to the tiny neighborhood of his web, Birch Spider spied Fly there.  Intoxicated by words of justice and wisdom and hope, Fly lingered where he had perched to listen.  With the indifference and blood of violence, Birch Spider snared Fly where he lingered.  As the last energies of the doomed creature shuddered from its mangled body, Birch Spider quickly surveyed the forest.  Basking with the Sunbeams on the ochre moss in the Polywogg stream was wise old Trout.  Having witnessed Birch Spider’s treachery, Trout laughed like the icy Moon of winter’s night.  “Selfish fool,” he said, as he slid into his watery realm.  “The cowardly creed of the Intruder.”

Forest Toad had jumped for the duration of the Truce but he could no longer jump as high as Oak Seedling had grown.  He no longer tried.  The Truce of the Oak Seedling had ended.  Forest Toad hopped away.