The bright flames flared like a beacon, and the sounds of laughter drew Gladius from the trees. The bonfire burned in the middle of a great clearing. Flowers, closed for the night, lined the outer ring of the clearing. Many people had gathered to the fire. A few had musical instruments – oh! That one was a fiddle, and that one a flute!
Gladius smiled. A musician had taught him about instruments once, and a pudding-head rarely forgot!
One man drew a bow across the violin, and another man blew into the flute. The song was a happy traipsy kind of song, with notes tripping all over each other as if they all wanted to be first in line. A few men and women danced.
Gladius spied Artur and his woman in a knot of other people, all huddled together a short distance from the flames. They didn’t pay any attention to the music.
Gladius decided to tell Artur the good news. He strode over on his long, long legs and raised a finger to interrupt their muttered discussion. “Hello, Artur! Hello, woman!”
The woman stared at him a long time with a neutral expression on her face. That meant something, Gladius was sure. He wished someone would tell him what it meant!
“I talked with the little chattery thing. He gave me some fruit! It was very tasty. He said that we could eat the fruit from his tree as long as we told him it was his tree. I thought it was silly, but I did it anyway.”
Artur spoke up, “His tree? What does it think it is? No one owns the trees!”
The woman just kept staring at Gladius. He addressed her, “When I begin staring like that, it means I am tired. Are you tired?”
“You were dead!” she exploded.
“Oh, I assure you, I was not. If I was dead, I do not think I would be talking with you. I have never seen a dead person talk. Have you?”
She nuzzled back into her husband’s chest. The others in the knot of people inched away.
“Are you hungry? We can go back and talk to the owner of the tree. Maybe he will explain why he was gone so long.” Gladius cocked his head. “Why are you all going away?”
Artur cleared his throat. “You aren’t normal.”
“Of course not! I’m a pudding-head! If I were normal, you would be like me!” Gladius laughed.
“What’s your name?” Artur asked.
“Like the sword?”
“Oh, is a Gladius a sword? I thought I was named that way because I am always smiling. You see? I am glad. Glad to eat fruit and glad to learn. I am glad to be told things so I know them. And that’s why I like sharing what I know, so other people can be glad to know things, too! Like when I told the woman that’s stuck under your chin I wasn’t dead. She should be glad to know something new!”
“I’m not stuck under his chin!” the woman spat, separating herself from Artur. “And I have a name!”
“Oh! Well, how would I know that unless you told me? Please tell me your name.”
She stared at him with that neutral expression again, but Gladius waited. Pudding can be very patient, you see. Finally she answered, “Tamara.”
“It’s fine to meet you, Tamara. Should we go back and talk to that strange animal about getting you some fruit?”
This is the eleventh chapter of Summers’ End.