“He can’t be found,” leopard insisted nervously. “He’s dead. I’m sure he’s dead.”
“You don’t sound sure,” Carol Ann stated. “Do you know for certain he’s dead?”
“No, but if he were able don’t you think he’d reclaim his kingdom?”
“Not if the enchantress put him in prison or something,” Carol reasoned.
“You saw the cells were empty,” leopard continued. “He wasn’t there. He’s dead I tell you.”
Carol Ann eyed the leopard suspiciously. “Nonetheless, we are going to make certain. Now let’s get out of here before the guards find us.”
Slowly, the foursome made their way out of the castle. Once outside, they made a dash for the tall grass, falling into it just seconds before the outside guards made their next pass around the structure.
“Whew, that was close,” Carol Ann whispered.
Out of nowhere, a flock of black birds flew overhead. They turned the skies black with their thickness.
“Stay down,” warned raccoon excitedly. “Those are the enchantress’s spies. If they see us, they’ll report our presence to her. Then we’ll all be dead,” he predicted.
Soon the flock of birds flew out of sight. Once the sky returned gray once more, Carol Ann popped her head up to see if they could escape. The coast was clear as far as she could see.
“Back to the forest,” she commanded. Then she stood and began running with the others following behind her. But just as they started to enter, a single blackbird cawed at them.
“Oh no, we’ve been found,” raccoon screamed in panic.
Everyone froze in place. Carol Ann stared at the bird. He stared back at her.
“What are you doing here?” The black bird asked without a hint of movement.
“Just visiting,” Carol Ann said sweetly. “I’m Carol Ann. What’s your name pretty bird?”
The bird looked shocked at being called pretty plus no one had ever asked his name before. Without thinking he answered.
“I’m Balthazar but you aren’t supposed to be here. This land belongs to the enchantress.”
“Well, I’d love to go home,” Carol Ann moaned. “However, the truth is I don’t even know how I got here in the first place.”
“I’ve heard many excuses over the years, but that’s the best one ever,” the bird returned. Then he stared deeper into the child’s eyes. “But it seems yours is true. Plus I’ve never seen a creature like you in Myopia.”
Carol Ann laughed. “I’m not a creature. I’m a little girl.”
“Girl? Girl? What is girl?” The black bird looked perplexed.
“I’m a girl; a female child,” Carol Ann explained.
“We have no children in Myopia,” the bird returned. “Therefore you must be lying.”
“How can I be lying when I’m standing right in front of you?” Carol Ann crossed her arms to show her displeasure at being called a liar. “I thought perhaps we could be friends.”
“Friends? You use a lot of strange words,” the bird sighed.
“These are my friends,” Carol Ann said pointing to her crew. That is raccoon and leopard,” she pointed out. “And the big fellow there is Teddy.” We all take care of each other. That is called friendship.
“Teddy is very strange looking,” the bird said laughing.
“That’s because he’s a stuffed animal,” Carol Ann explained.
“Stuffed? What is stuffed? Please speak Myopianese. I do not understand your language.”
“He isn’t living,” Carol Ann explained. “Well, at least he wasn’t until we got here. Now he is.”
The bird looked frustrated. He stared at the foursome with uncertainty.
“I should report you to the enchantress,” he groaned. “But something inside of me does not want to do that. I like the sound of your friendship.”
“Good, then let’s be friends.”
“What would I have to do to be your friend?” The bird looked skeptical.
“Nothing,” Carol Ann answered. “That is, unless you want to help us defeat the evil enchantress.”
“Why would I do that?” The bird began flapping its wings in confusion.
“So we can turn Myopia back to its people – including you.”
“Then who would rule?”
“You all could elect someone to do that,” Carol Ann responded. “By vote.
“Another word I do not understand. Will you explain it to me if I join you?”
“Yes, I’ll tell you anything you want if you decide to be our friend. That is, if you don’t tell the enchantress you saw us.”
The bird seemed deep in thought for several seconds before answering. He moved back and forth on the perch of a giant elm tree.
“I won’t tell,” he said finally. “I’ve always dreamed of returning Myopia back to those who love it. The enchantress hates this land and intends to destroy it and everything in it. She would eventually get to me I think.”
“Probably so,” Carol Ann agreed. “Good, then let’s go deep into the forest and hatch a plan. The first thing we want to do is find the king.”
“Find the king?” The black bird stared at Carol Ann once more. “Why would you need to find him? He’s right there,” the bird said, pointing to the leopard.
Carol Ann turned to face her cat friend. She walked close to him before speaking.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were the king?” The child let her anger show as she pumped her fists in frustration.
“Because I figured you would stop being my friend,” leopard admitted. “I was a very bad king. I admit that. If I had not brought the enchantress here, she could not have destroyed so much of my kingdom. Don’t you see I’m to blame for it all?”
“You may be responsible for some of the blame,” Carol Ann admitted. “But she’s the one who has been killing your subjects; not you. You should have done something to stop her.”
“Stop here how? I’m just a big cat now. What can I do to stop her?”
It was Carol Ann’s turn to be deep in thought. At last she put her arms around the cat and hugged him gently.
“You can help now by telling us all about the enchantress. Somewhere in the information inside your mind will be a way we can stop her. Now you have us to help.”
“Her hugs are good, are they not, your majesty?” Raccoon bowed slightly as he spoke to the king.
“Do not bow to me,” leopard said earnestly. “It is I who should bow to you. You are very brave and I’ve been such a coward.”
“Then let’s change that,” Carol Ann said brightly. “It is time to make a plan. Operation Evil Enchantress is on!”
Everyone nodded including bird. One by one, the five friends moved into the forest. They made camp for the night and opened discussions.
“There is one thing I want to make clear,” Carol Ann said. “We will not kill the enchantress. I don’t believe in killing.”
“Then how will be rid Myopia of her?” Leopard looked skeptical.
“Can’t she be sent back to her own realm?”
Leopard thought for a moment. “I suppose she can be but what is to stop her from coming back?”
“We’ll think of something,” Carol Ann stated firmly. “But death is out of the question. Do we all agree on that point?”
Raccoon and Teddy nodded immediately. Bird and leopard hesitated for a moment and then finally shook their heads. Sadly, they knew their job just got a whole lot harder.