They were free spirits, sprites, denizens of a land covered in trees. They followed the calls of birds and chased squirrels who vanished into hidden lairs. They lived in a house dropped into the fork of Vrksha, the great old oak, and swinging on a thick rope they plucked leaves from her high branches. They defended their territory from a fortress of rocks.

In summer they rowed the lake and bothered the water creatures, Manduka the frog, Matseya the fish, Krouncha the heron, and Kurma the turtle. They were most troublesome to Matseya, who made many offerings, mostly thrown back. On winter nights they cut curves into the blue ice and warmed themselves on the sideline bonfire burning in a hearth of boulders.

They were a tribe of two, accomplices in adventure, one always taking the lead with the other following close behind, skipping across the narrow bridges, pulling through knee deep mud, and sliding along oily tunnels. Stealing into the forbidden estates of reclusive neighbors they would devise skillful escapes, having been taught to leap by Manduka, where to take shelter by Kurma, and how to hold absolute stillness by Krouncha.

But inside under watchful eyes, their conspiracies were disguised in obedience. Impulses were confined, contained and restrained until an explosion of energy might cause scissors to fly and teeth to pierce flesh, and their animal-like behavior would send them to separate corners. But, even with the alliance fractured, there was that silently known, never-uttered, unbreakable vow.

Betsy Ceva
April 29, 2016

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